Taliban say Qaeda escapees safe in guerrilla haven
Thu Jul 14, 4:53 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Four Arab al Qaeda militants who escaped from a heavily fortified U.S. detention center in Afghanistan this week reached a Taliban guerrilla haven safely on Thursday, a spokesman for the rebel movement said.
"The Taliban found and recovered four al-Qaeda mujahideen (holy warriors) this morning," Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said from an undisclosed location.
Hakimi, whose information has often proved unreliable in the past, declined to say where the escapees were, but added: "They are far away from Kabul. They are safe and now taking rest."
The U.S. military said it was pressing on with an "aggressive" hunt for the four men who broke out of the detention center at Bagram Air Base 50 km (30 miles) north of Kabul on Monday, and declined to comment on the Taliban claim.
"The only comment I have is that the search is ongoing and we are investigating the circumstances of how they were able to escape," Lieutenant-Colonel Jerry O'Hara said.
The escape was the first known from the Bagram base and a major embarrassment for the U.S. military, which has refused to identify the escapees except as "dangerous enemy combatants."
But Afghan officials named the men as Syrian Abdullah Hashimi, Kuwaiti Mahmoud Ahmad Mohammad, Saudi Mahmoud Alfatahni and Libyan Mohammad Hassan.
The U.S. military provided Afghan security forces with photographs of the escapees, which showed bearded men in orange prison uniforms whose ages appeared to range from 20 to 40.
A U.S. spokesman said on Wednesday it appeared the men had changed into less distinctive clothes to make their escape.
The Bagram detention center has housed hundreds of militant suspects since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to give up al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
They have included senior al Qaeda suspects arrested in neighboring Pakistan and elsewhere. The U.S. military said at the weekend about 450 militant suspects were held there.
Monday's escape followed a painful two weeks for the U.S. military during which it suffered 19 deaths in a clash in the eastern province of Kunar, its heaviest losses in a single combat operation in Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban.
The losses have made 2005 the bloodiest year for U.S. forces in the country and came amid stepped-up militant violence ahead of Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, the next big step in Afghanistan's difficult path to stability.
Separately, a Taliban leader told Al Jazeera television on Thursday that the group's insurgents possess anti-aircraft weapons and are seeking to obtain even more powerful arms.
"We cannot reveal our military secrets but, by the will of God, we will obtain weapons more powerful than what we have," Mullah Dadullah, a member of the Taliban's leadership council, told the Arabic satellite television station in an interview.
"We have weapons that can down aircraft but we cannot reveal what they are," he added without elaborating.
(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin and David Brunnstrom in KABUL and by Saeed Ali Achakzai in SPIN BOLDAK)
Taliban says has anti-aircraft weapons - Jazeera TV
July 14, 2005
DUBAI (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents possess anti-aircraft weapons and are seeking to obtain even more powerful arms, a commander with the rebel movement told Al Jazeera television.
"We cannot reveal our military secrets but, by the will of God, we will obtain weapons more powerful than what we have," the commander, identified as Dadallah, told the Arabic satellite television station in an interview broadcast on Thursday.
"We have weapons that can down aircraft but we cannot reveal what they are," he added without elaborating.
Last month, Taliban insurgents shot down a U.S. helicopter, killing all 16 troops on board, in the biggest single combat blow to U.S. forces since they overthrew the Taliban in 2001.
Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi had said the guerrillas shot down the helicopter with a "new type of weapon".
U.S. military officials, however, said the aircraft had probably been shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade and there was no indication that a more sophisticated ground-to-air system was involved.
Upgrade for Kabul airport
via Afghan Press Monitor - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (No 110, 14 Jul 05)
(The Kabul Times) An new air traffic control system at Kabul International Airport was inaugurated by the second vice president, Mohammad Karim Khalili on July 12. The system cost three million US dollars and was funded by the World Bank. Transport Minister Enayatullah Qasemi said that with the installation of the system, Kabul will be able to communicate with high-altitude aircraft.
(The Kabul Times is a state-run newspaper published every other day.)
Former Afghan Mujahedin Attacks Report By Human Rights Group
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Daily Afghan Report - July 13, 2005
Abd al-Rab al-Rasul Sayyaf, the leader of a former mujahedin party, has called a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report an attack on Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion, Kabul-based Tolu television reported on 12 July. HRW released a report on 7 July titled "Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan's Legacy of Impunity," in which the organization urges Afghan President Hamid Karzai to set up a war crimes court (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 July 2005). The HRW report named several senior past and current Afghan government and political personalities, including Sayyaf, over their alleged involvement in war crimes. An Afghan government spokesman, Mohammad Karim Rahimi, described the HRW report as "incomplete and controversial," according to Tolu television. Rahimi objected to the authors' decision to cover rights violations during one period of time while ignoring other dates. "People who were buried alive [by the communist regimes in the 1980s] were also human," Sayyaf said. "Those who were hanged because they were Muslim were also human." Sayyaf called the HRW report anti-Afghan and anti-Islam. AT
Exports to Afghanistan stood at Rs 71.2b in 2004-05
By Sajid Chaudhry / Daily Times (Pakistan) / July 14, 2005
ISLAMABAD: The $1 billion export target fixed for Afghanistan was surpassed in the fiscal 2004-05 by $ 166 million, an official told Daily Times on Wednesday.
The exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan stood at $ 1.166 billion in last fiscal year against the exports of $ 616.66 million in the fiscal 2003-04, the official said.
The exports from Pakistan during the last financial year stood at Rs 71.200 billion against the exports of Rs 37.717 billion during July-June period of 2003-04, showing an increase of Rs 39.483 billion.
According to official data, Pakistan’s exports during 2004-05 included wheat and flour of Rs 8.260 billion against their exports of Rs 3.466 billion in the year before the last, showing an increase of Rs 4.794 billion.
The exports of rice during last fiscal stood at Rs 2.421billion against the exports of Rs 1.776 billion in 2003-04, showing an increase of Rs 645 million. The exports of ghee to Afghanistan during last fiscal stood at Rs 5.519 billion against its exports of Rs 2.622 billion in 2003-04, indicating an increase of Rs 2.897 billion.
The exports of sugar from Pakistan to Afghanistan during the last fiscal year stood at Rs 2.687 billion against the exports of Rs 1.423 billion in 2003-04, showing an increase of 1.264 billion. The exports of cement from Pakistan to Afghanistan during last fiscal remained at Rs 3.343 billion against the exports of Rs 1.260 billion in 2003-04, indicating an increase of Rs 1.920 billion.
The exports of paints and varnishes during last fiscal stood at Rs 2.989 billion against the exports of Rs 91.882 million in 2003-04, projecting an increase of Rs 2.070 billion. Mild steel products exports during last fiscal to Afghanistan remained at Rs 4.179 billion against the exports of Rs 1.478 billion in 2003-04, showing an increase of Rs 2.701 billion.
Sanitary wares exports during last fiscal to Afghanistan stood at Rs 107.196 million against the exports of Rs 86.678 million in 2003-04, registering an increase of Rs 20.5 million. The exports of constriction materials during last fiscal to Afghanistan stood at Rs 1.248 billion against the exports of Rs 838.572 millions in 2003-04, registering an increase of Rs 409.428 millions in the last fiscal year.
The exports of electric goods to Afghanistan during last fiscal year stood at Rs 626.663 millions against the exports of Rs 289.221 millions in 2003-04, showing an increase of Rs 337.442 million in the last fiscal. The exports of electronics goods to Afghanistan during last fiscal remained at Rs 186.234 million against the exports of Rs.55.265 millions in 2003-04, indicating an increase of Rs 130.969 millions in the last fiscal year.
Exports of medicines to Afghanistan during last fiscal stood at Rs 525.572 million against the exports of Rs.328.611 million in 2003-04, indicating an increase of Rs 196.961 million.
The exports of other grains and pulses to Afghanistan during last fiscal stood at Rs 256.612 million against the exports of Rs 121.536 million in 2003-04, indicating an increase of Rs 135.076 million in the last fiscal year. The exports of fruits and vegetables to Afghanistan during last fiscal year stood at Rs 1.514 billion against the exports of Rs 2.189 billion in 2003-04, indicating a decrease of Rs 675 million in the last fiscal year. The exports of milk and cereals to Afghanistan during last fiscal year stood at Rs 922.382 million against the exports of Rs 1.542 billion in 2003-04, indicating a decrease of Rs 619.618 million in the last fiscal year. The exports of miscellaneous goods to Afghanistan during last fiscal stood at Rs 35.896 billion against the exports of Rs 20.141 billion in 2003-04, indicating an increase of Rs 15.755 billion.
Pakistan has imported from Afghanistan goods amounting to Rs 3.488 billion during the last fiscal year 2004-05 against the imports of Rs 2.619 billion during 2003-04, indicating an increase of Rs.869 million in the last fiscal year. Pakistan imported vegetables, fresh fruits, dry fruits, seeds, country drugs, spices, timber, scrap and miscellaneous goods from Afghanistan.
The trade between two neighbouring countries is mainly routed through Torkham and Chaman boarders by trucks. As many as 188,339 trucks transported goods from Pakistan to Afghanistan during the last fiscal 2004-05. As many as 117,501 trucks carrying export cargoes crossed into Afghanistan through Torkham and 70,838 trucks through Chaman.
AFGHANISTAN: Child marriage still widespread
KABUL, 13 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - The United Nations, government officials and rights bodies in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have expressed grave concern about the widespread practice of girls marrying early, as the country marked World Population Day on Tuesday.
Nearly 60 percent of marriages in Afghanistan involve girls below the legal age of 16, according to reports from the Ministry of Women's Affairs and NGOs. Some girls are married as young as nine.
Rights and health activists say that such marriages increase the maternal mortality rate and deny young women an education or any kind of independent life. Often, after a child marriage, husbands and/or parents-in-law refuse to allow the child-wife to go to school under threat of violence.
“Badakhshan [northeastern province] has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country and one of the main reason is under-age marriages - even as young as seven in some cases. This needs to be addressed,” Paul Greening a project officer of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said on Wednesday in Kabul.
Afghan minister of women’s affairs Masouda Jalal, called early marriage “a violation of equality” and condemned the traditional practice as harmful to girl’s health, their education, political participation and economic opportunities.
“Child marriage and early childbearing mean an incomplete education, limited opportunities and serious health risks,” Jalal said.
Child brides are not physically mature and can sustain injury during sexual intercourse.
“It is a shame to say that even in the capital Kabul we treat pregnant mothers as young as 12 years of age,” said a midwife at Malalai hospital, the leading maternity and gynaecology unit in the capital.
Afghanistan's new constitution sets the minimum age of marriage for females at 16 and for males 18 but in rural and even some urban areas, the tradition of marrying off daughters while even younger in order to receive money remains common among the poor.
A recent study by Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has found 500 girls who had been given away or traded as part of local conflict resolution practices. Of these, 90 percent were under 14 years old. Most become the 'property' of the family or individual who receives them.
Pakistani general threatens offensive on militants
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, July 14 (Reuters) - A Pakistani general warned tribes in North Waziristan on Thursday of an imminent offensive to flush out foreign militants, including al Qaeda fighters, hiding in the region close to the Afghan border.
The threat came as the government once again prepared for international media to put Pakistan's war on terrorism under the spotlight following revelations that British-born Pakistanis carried out last week's suicide bomb attacks in London that killed at least 52 people.
At a meeting with tribal elders, Major-General Akram Sahi, commander of Pakistani troops in North Waziristan, gave the tribesmen 24 hours to hand over suspected militants.
Tension has been building for months in North Waziristan since the army completed a series of offensives to dislodge al Qaeda bases in neighbouring South Waziristan.
"I want you to hand over these foreigners or send them out yourselves or we will launch an operation against them after the deadline," Sahi told a tribal council in Miranshah, the main town of the semi-autonomous region.
"No one should then complain to us after the operation is launched."
In April, Pakistan bridled over comments made by Lieutenant General David Barno, head of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, that it was planning a big offensive in North Waziristan.
Pakistan risked the wrath of the volatile Pashtun tribes when it first sent the army into their homelands in late 2003 to hunt suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Sahi assured the council, or jirga, that foreigners living peacefully would not be harmed but resistance would be met firmly.
"This time we will not show a soft hand. There will be no delay in the operation if the foreigners are not flushed out," he said.
A Pakistani soldier was killed during a search operation in Miranshah two weeks ago, and Sahi demanded that the killer be handed over.
Religious extremism in Pakistan
By Bernard Gabony / South Asia editor, BBC News website / Wednesday, 13 July, 2005
Suspicions that at least one of the alleged London suicide bombers may have been radicalised while in Pakistan raises questions once again about religious extremism there.
Most analysts agree that the London bombers - three of whom police say were Britons of Pakistani descent - were probably trained by "minders" far more experienced in the use of explosives.
UK investigators will be keen to know if the London bombers had been trained at any time in Pakistan or neighbouring Afghanistan.
The family of one of the suspected bombers has confirmed that he studied religion in Pakistan, although it is not clear that he went to one of the Islamic schools which have been accused of fostering extremism.
The path to Pakistan is one that has been taken by many high-profile extremists.
British-born Omar Sheikh is currently languishing in a Pakistani jail after being found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi.
Before that Omar Sheikh had fought in Bosnia and Indian-administered Kashmir.
Recent evidence indicates he was also the mastermind behind assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
UK national Richard Reid was sentenced to life in prison in the United States in 2003 after being found guilty of trying to blow up an airliner with explosives hidden in his shoes.
Investigators believed he received training in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the late 1990s.
Then there is Saajid Badat, raised in Gloucester in the west of England. He was found guilty by a UK court this year of conspiring with Reid to blow up the airliner.
"I have a sincere desire to sell my soul to Allah in return for paradise," he said in a letter to his family, believed to have been sent from Afghanistan.
Proliferation of militants
The spawning of a network of Islamic militant training camps in Afghanistan during the fight against Soviet control there and, later, during the rule of the hardline Islamic Taleban has been well documented.
So too the role the CIA played, hand-in-hand with Pakistani intelligence services, in training and arming anti-Soviet fighters.
The unwanted spin-off for Pakistan was that areas of the country became awash with guns and saw a proliferation of different militant groups.
The unwanted spin-off for the West was that Pakistan became a country where it was easy for militants to take refuge and get backing.
What is less clear is how much all this has changed since President Musharraf threw in his lot with the United States after the 11 September attacks and declared war on extremists within.
There is little evidence that his attempt to rein in extremists in Islamic schools (madrassas) has worked.
"I want to go back and fight the Americans, I can't wait anymore," was the typical comment of a madrassa graduate to the BBC well after Gen Musharraf's stated clampdown on them.
Banned militant groups have tended to reappear under different names.
On the other hand substantial numbers of suspected militants have been captured or killed by the security forces, particularly in the wake of the assassination attempts on Gen Musharraf towards the end of 2003.
President Musharraf's government maintains that it is unrelenting in the fight against Islamic extremism. But others are not convinced.
In recent weeks the head of the CIA and the US ambassador to Kabul have come as close as they can to saying that Osama Bin Laden is sheltering in Pakistan, without actually saying the words.
The ambassador was furious when a Pakistani TV station interviewed the man believed to be running the Taleban's resurgent fight against US-led forces in Afghanistan.
The interview took place inside Pakistan, but the TV station has been tight-lipped about the exact location.
Most analysts believe it was carried out in the southern city of Karachi.
So critics will argue that the networks supporting extremists are still alive and strong in Pakistan.
Wednesday's revelation by Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao that his country supplied information to the UK government which helped prevent an attack in the UK before May's general election will do little to dampen that view.
Analysis: how Pakistan became a hotbed for terrorists
The Times (UK) / July 13, 2005
Zahid Hussain, The Times's correspondent in Pakistan, explains how religious zeal is used by extremists to lure credulous teenagers visiting from Britain
"A lot of Pakistani families living in Britain still have roots in Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab region, and visiting relatives are seen as an important part of maintaining those family links.
"When children complete their formal education in Britain there is also an inclination among Pakistani families to send them to complete their schooling at a religious institution.
"They send them to the mosques, often in Britain but also sometimes away from home, and as well as receiving religious instruction they will inevitably come into contact with more hardline elements.
"For quite some time, there has been a network of contacts between British extremists and the Jihadi organisations based in Pakistan. Once contact has been made with these young people, they become influenced by them and are encouraged to visit the training camps.
"For the last two decades, sections of Pakistan have been under the influence of guerillas who were involved in the war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan - with, it's important to say, American support.
"They had offices in all of the neighbourhoods and were recruiting people to fight in that war. A culture of jihad developed which has continued to this day. Many are still involved in the fighting in Kashmir and through this they have become battle-hardened fighters while others have gone over to Iraq.
"Since September 11, the Government has attempted to curtail these militias, but they have close links with the Taleban and have now become tremendously powerful. The militia organisations have become a state within a state.
"There has been an attempt to restrict their activities but more often than not the Government is turning a blind eye. They have created a monster, and it has come back to haunt them."
US professor gets life in prison for attempt to recruit for Taliban
Wed Jul 13,12:41 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US-based Islamic studies professor was sentenced to life in prison by an Alexandria, Virginia, court for attempting to recruit for Afghanistan's extremist Taliban militia.
Ali al-Timimi, a professor in his 40s from the Dar al-Arqam Islamic Center, was convicted in April, after seven days of jury deliberations.
A resident of the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, Timimi was accused of encouraging at least five men to support Afghanistan's Taliban militia immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and urging them to wage war against the United States.
Wednesday's hearing lasted for an hour, with Judge Leonie Brinkema presiding. Brinkema has also been overseeing the case of French national Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in April to having played a role in the September 11 plot.
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