Tribal chief 'hanged by Taleban'
BBC News / Saturday, 16 July, 2005
A tribal chief has been kidnapped and hanged in southern Afghanistan. The Taleban say they carried out the act.
Malik Agha, a supporter of President Hamid Karzai, was abducted on Friday, police in Zabul province say. His body was found later in the day.
The Taleban have been blamed for the killing of a number of Mr Karzai's supporters in the run-up to September's parliamentary elections.
Fighting between the Taleban and US-led forces has increased in recent weeks.
More than 30 people, most of them Taleban or their allies, are reported to have been killed since Thursday.
'Against the Taleban'
There are conflicting accounts of the details of Malik Agha's kidnapping. Some say it happened shortly before or after Friday prayers at a mosque in the Ataghar district of Zabul.
Taleban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said the Taleban had hanged Mr Agha because he was a spy for America.
High-profile supporters of President Karzai have been targeted on several occasions in recent months.
Four clerics have been killed in separate incidents in different parts of the country blamed on the Taleban.
News of Friday's kidnapping came after Pakistan said it had found the bodies of 24 suspected militants in north Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan.
A Pakistani military spokesman said the bodies were thought to be those of men killed in fighting with US-led forces stationed on the Afghan side.
In another incident on the Afghan side of the border, seven Afghan police are reported to have been killed by the Taleban.
Pakistani men vent anger over US counter-attack
By Haji Mujataba / July 16, 2005
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen shouted anti-U.S. slogans on Saturday as they buried three of 24 suspected Islamist militants killed inside Pakistan by U.S. forces operating out of Afghanistan.
Mourners chanted "Down with infidel America" and "Long Live Islam" at the funeral held in two villages in the North Waziristan tribal region, 300 km (180 miles) southwest of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
"These 24 people are martyrs and our entire Waziristan region is ready for jihad (holy war)," Maulana Abdur Rehman, a local prayer leader said at the funeral of two suspects.
Pakistan's tribal belt is overwhelmingly Pashtun and most people are deeply conservative Muslims, sharing common religious and ethnic roots with Taliban fighters trying to oust U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan.
Tension has been building for months in Pakistan's North Waziristan since the army completed a series of offensives against al Qaeda militants in neighboring South Waziristan.
On Thursday, a senior U.S. administration official in Washington said the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to squeeze insurgents along the rugged border where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might be hiding.
The same day, Major-General Akram Sahi, commander of Pakistani troops in North Waziristan warned tribesmen of an imminent offensive unless they handed over foreign militants.
Pakistan military officials said the militants killed on Thursday night near Lowara Mandi, a border village, included Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.
The U.S. military said its forces killed the suspected militants after coming under rocket fire from across the border. One Afghan soldier was killed in the insurgents' attack.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jerry O'Hara, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said the militants fired 25 rockets, while U.S. forces replied with eight artillery shells and fire from aircraft.
Pakistani officials said they were checking whether any territorial violation was committed by the U.S. forces while hitting the suspected militants.
Despite its status as a key U.S. ally, Pakistan has bridled in the past at U.S. sorties across the border.
Intelligence officials in North Waziristan said they had rounded up four suspected militants on Saturday, raising the toll of detained suspects to 11 in two days.
Afghanistan launches regional air control center
July 16, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
KABUL , Afghanistan –History was made for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with the official opening of the Kabul Air Control Center on July 12 in a ceremony led by the second vice president of Afghanistan .
“This achievement offers significant potential for the people of Afghanistan to revitalize their military and commercial infrastructure in the 21st century, reaping the benefits of today’s globalized world trade,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Allen G. Peck, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command’s Combined Forces Air Component, during the ceremony.
The Kabul ACC took control of the high-altitude air routes over Afghanistan on May 15, servicing commercial airliners and cargo aircraft over-flying the country, then took control of the low-level routes July 11. By July 15 Afghanistan had handled more than 10,000 aircraft in the high-altitude routes and 500 aircraft in the low-altitude routes.
Each flight generates hundreds of dollars of revenue to improve infrastructure and promote the establishment of a comprehensive aviation structure for Afghanistan .
The ceremony also inaugurated the installation of an instrument landing system at Kabul International Airport . The ILS allows aircraft to land in all types of weather.
“The Coalition maintains a commitment to support this achievement and all goals ensuring the speedy and effective transition of airspace control to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” Peck said.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the July 11 milestone was hosted by Dr. Enayatullah Qasemi, Afghanistan ’s minister of transport, at the Kabul International Airport terminal. Afghan school children kicked off the ceremony with traditional songs for the Afghan and U.S. government officials who attended, including Karim Khalili , Afghanistan ’s second vice president.
More detainees released under Takhim-e-Solh program
July 16, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Twenty more detainees were released from Coalition detention facilities today as part of the Government of Afghanistan’s Takhim-e-Solh or “Strengthening Peace” program.
The detainees were given a medical examination, given their personal effects and transferred from Coalition custody to the Government of Afghanistan. They were transported to the PTS commission office in Kabul to be registered in the program and allowed to return home under the supervision of tribal elders.
A total of 199 detainees accepted participation in the program. The first group of 57 was released July 2 and 76 were released July 9. The rest of the participants will be released in the near future.
In Afghanistan there has been progress in women's rights
By AMANDA CUDA Connecticut Post (USA) July 16, 2005
Women in Afghanistan may still wear a burqa to cover their bodies and faces. They're also largely uneducated, and often the victims of domestic abuse. But, according to one Milford woman who has lived in the country for several years, there has been progress in women's rights in that war-torn country since the fall of the Taliban, even if it isn't readily visible. "There's no doubt that being a woman in Afghanistan is difficult. But the changes that need to happen will happen over decades, not years," said Mary Louise Vitelli, 42, an attorney who has done international development work in a number of countries overseas. She will speak Monday at a meeting of the Retired Professional Women of Milford about her time in Afghanistan and the social and economic climate in that country. Her mother, Mary Lou Vitelli, 68, also of Milford, is a member of the organization and said her daughter spoke to the group a year ago and got good response. "The advantage that she has is that she gets into the people there," said Mary Lou. "She lives their lives."
The younger Vitelli opted to move to Afghanistan a year ago — although she still has a home in Milford — because she felt it was an interesting time in the country's history.
"I really fell in love with the place," she said. "And right now, it's going through such dramatic changes on every front."
For the past year she has had her own international development business, Vitelli & Associates, in Kabul. In the time she's lived in Afghanistan, she's been funded by the World Bank to assist Afghanistan's government with mining and natural resource development. Before that, she worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development as its senior energy adviser in Afghanistan. She's back in the states for about a month, but will eventually return to Kabul, where she plans to stay for a while, she said. She's even become conversant in the Afghan language of Dari.
Among the topics Vitelli plans to discuss is the country's attitude toward women, which she said is more evolved than many people think. For instance, she said, there was a time when it was illegal for women to sit in the front seat of a car or leave the house without a male relative. Her own experience as an American woman living in Afghanistan has been largely positive. "The Afghan men treat me with absolute respect, and the women treat me with even more respect," Vitelli said.
In addition to women's rights, Vitelli plans to discuss social and economic issues in Afghanistan, issues that are close to her heart.She said the country is obviously poverty-stricken and in need of serious help, but she's hopeful that it's moving in the right direction.
"There's incredible poverty and a lack of development," Vitelli said. "Having elections [in Afghanistan] was important. Now they need electricity. They need roads. They need basic things." Vitelli will speak at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Milford Senior Center, 9 Jepson Drive. Public welcome to meeting. Non-members should call 877-5131 to register.
Math Students Shine Abroad
Four Afghan students win top prizes in international competition and change some minds in the process.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Mohammad Jawad Sharifzada in Kabul (ARR No. 178, 15-Jul-05)
Four young Afghan students did more than merely stun their competitors when they came away with some of the top prizes at an international mathematics competition held recently in Almaty, Kazakhstan. They also changed how students from 22 other countries perceive Afghanistan.
Ahmad Mustafa Naseri and Mustafa Naseri, both 17 (and unrelated), students at the Turkish-run Afghan-Turk School in Kabul, won gold medals while Omid Sadiqyar and Mohammad Rafi Firoz, also 17 and students at a similar school in the northern Shiberghan province, were awarded silver medals following a day-long algebra competition in May.
Ahmad Mustafa said that while he was proud of his gold medal, he was saddened to discover that students from other countries thought of Afghanistan only as the home of terrorism, drugs production and internecine conflict.
“One competitor from Australia told me, ‘I was very surprised that Afghans were taking part in this competition – we always hear that Afghanistan is a major drug producer and a country for terrorists who are always fighting one another,’ " said Ahmad Mustafa.
But now, Ahmad Mustafa said, the Australian promised to return home and talk of the talented and brave Afghans he had met.
Mustafa Naseri smiled as he recalled the moment he heard he had won gold.
“Even though the other participants were happy that there were Afghan students in the competition, they never thought that we would get such positions. They were all left wondering after the results were announced and the Afghans were awarded two gold and two silver medals,” he said.
Maths teacher Hilmi Engoren, who started teaching at the high school two years ago and accompanied the students to Kazakhstan, praised the boys, adding, “Afghan students are talented – I am sure that if the way is paved for them, they will be successful in any field.”
The Afghan-Turk schools, supported by a Turkish non-governmental organisation, were first established in 1995 but were quickly attacked by the then-ruling Taleban regime, which accused them of spreading Turkish propaganda.
Today, there are 35 teachers, including 18 from Turkey, for the 500 students at the Kabul school. According to Abdul Fatah Sabar, deputy director at the school, the teaching system is more concentrated than others in the country, with students attending classes 46 hours a week, compared with the 36 hours normal at Afghan schools.
The schools only accept male students. “These schools were established during the Taleban regime and girls were not allowed to go to school at that time,” said Sabar. “So only boys are still educated here.”
Mustafa’s father, Abdul Wasay Naseri, is full of praise for his son’s school. “If my son didn’t go to the Afghan-Turk School, his talents would be wasted like those of thousands of other Afghan youths,” he said.
Mohammad Sediq Patman, a deputy education minister, said that if Afghanistan had the means to educate its children, "I am sure they would amaze the world in different fields.
“Unfortunately we don’t have enough schools or teachers and we are not on top of things in the regions; we can’t dismiss any teachers in the provinces. Most of the teachers who were appointed during the war era [in the Nineties] don’t have diplomas."
Winning the math award was almost too much for Mustafa Naseri. “When I was given the gold medal, my heart began beating so fast I thought I had a heart disease,” he said.
Mohammad Jawad Sharifzada is an IWPR staff reporter in Kabul.
Spreading the Internet
New government programme plans to bring internet services to the masses.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Amanullah Nasrat in Kabul (ARR No. 178, 15-Jul-05)
In a country where communications are often either poor or nonexistent, the Afghan government has launched a major effort to make internet access more widely available by introducing a digital wireless network.
Currently operating only in the capital, the network will soon be available in 12 provinces and should be operational throughout the country by the end of the year, according to Communications Minister Amirzai Sangeen.
So far, the government has spent 70 million US dollars on creating, and expects to spend another 50 million to complete the project this year. Sangeen said that 9,000 digital phones are ready to be connected to the network.
Linking Afghanistan up via wireless internet connections is seen as vital to both economic and political development, as the government in Kabul continues to struggle to exert control over some provinces.
"Trade centres, government offices, schools and other institutions will benefit from the internet network," said Sangeen.
Deputy Communications Minister Baryalai Hasaam said the government had contracted two Chinese telecommunications companies – ZPE and Huaway – to build the network.
In addition to providing improved communications for the government and private business, officials hope ordinary people, who until now have been unable to afford internet access, will benefit as well.
Currently, access to the web is available through the internet cafes that dot Kabul. But prices, as much as one dollar an hour, mean using the internet is too expensive for most people in a country where civil servants and teachers often earn as little as 60 dollars a month.
Although specific rates have yet to be set, the government plans to charge 30 per cent less than these private firms, and night-time rates could be as low as 20 cents per hour, said Sangeen.
In addition to having their own computer, said Hasaam, customers will need to buy a wireless digital phone, costing between 140 and 160 dollars, and have it installed. They will also have to buy a pre-paid card that will provide them with a certain number of minutes. In addition, the government will impose a four-dollar-a month tax on such connections.
Hasaam said the government plans to provide the first two months of service to new customers free of charge.
Not everyone is happy with the new network.
Hasaamuddin, who runs the Sabah Internet café in Kabul, said the lower costs offered by the government network will hurt his business. "This new system of the ministry of communications will damage our business by 50 per cent. People will get web access at a low price, and no one will walk through my internet café door any more," he said.
But the Afghan Wireless Communications Company, one of the largest of the 12 private companies currently providing wireless communications in the country, said it welcomed the government’s new project.
Mohammad Naeem Haqmal, a spokesman for the company, said, "We are in favour of peaceful competition. Whether it is the ministry of communications or other companies that are providing facilities to ordinary people… it is still a kind of service."
Amanullah Nasrat is an IWPR staff reporter in Kabul.
Daily Afghan Report
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - July 15, 2005
Neo-Taliban Claim To Be Harboring Prison Escapees In Afghanistan
An unidentified spokesman for a neo-Taliban group has claimed to be hosting four suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists who recently escaped from a U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 14 July. The spokesman, speaking on behalf of an organization that is purportedly associated with the neo-Taliban and that has ties to an individual named Mawlawi Mahmud on 14 July told AIP that the four Arab escapees "arrived at a Taliban center... in a remote area south of Kabul." It is not clear who Mahmud is or what his relationship with the mainstream neo-Taliban militia is. Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, who normally speaks for the neo-Taliban, also confirmed to AIP that the militia is providing shelter and medical assistance to the four escapees. The suspected terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda escaped on 11 July from the U.S. detention facility at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. The U.S. considers the four to be threats to Afghanistan's security and to the war on terrorism. The official Afghan news agency Bakhtar on 12 July reported that one of the Arabs was arrested, but that report was later rejected by Afghan and U.S. authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 July 2005). The four have been identified as citizens of Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. The neo-Taliban have not presented any evidence to their claim of holding the Arabs. AT
Alleged Foreign Spy Arrested In Southeastern Afghanistan
Afghan military forces have arrested a foreign national in Paktiya Province for allegedly spying, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi said on 14 July, Pajhwak News Agency reported. The suspect, identified as Jalat Khan, was arrested while in possession of "some secret document," according to Azimi, who refused to disclose the suspect's nationality. Afghan intelligence figures indicate that 37 foreign spies have been arrested in the country since 2002, according to the news agency. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a recent speech that the presence of foreign intelligence agents inside the Afghan government pose a great danger to Afghanistan, and he called for measures to be taken to purge such threats from the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). AT
Former Taliban Official Appointed To Afghan Supreme Court Position
Mawlawi Pir Mohammad Rohani, who served as the rector of Kabul University during the rule of the Taliban regime, has been appointed administrative chief of the Supreme Court, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 14 July. Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari recommended Rohani for the position, and his appointment was approved by President Karzai. It is not clear whether Rohani's appointment is part of Karzai's efforts to reconcile with most members of the former regime. AT
Drug Raids Carried Out In Northeastern Afghanistan
The Afghan Special Narcotics Force (ASNF) began a series of raids on 14 July at a reputed "drug bazaar" and associated drug laboratories in Badakhshan Province, according to a press release issued by the Afghan Interior Ministry. "Drugs are illegal, against Islam, and prevent development," an unidentified ASNF commander said. He added that the ASNF will "strike at drug dealers wherever they seek refuge." Badakhshan Province is one of country's top opium-poppy producers. AT
Pakistani Expert Says Grief Over Afghanistan's Plight Led To London Bombings
Former senior Pakistani military officer and current political commentator A. R. Siddiqui has said that he believes that some of the perpetrators of the bombings in London on 7 July, three of whom were ethnic Pakistanis with British citizenship, were most likely trained in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, Inter Press Service News Agency reported on 14 July. According to Siddiqui, the bombings were not a reaction to historical conflicts between the West and Islam, but were a response to the recent hardships Afghanistan has endured. "Everybody talks of Iraq and Palestine but they are not comparable with the kind of atrocities that have been committed in Afghanistan [since 1978]," Siddiqui said, calling Afghanistan "the forgotten front." AT
How London brought terror on itself
By B Raman / Asia Times Online / July 16, 2005
That three of the suspected perpetrators of the bomb attacks on London on July 7 were British youths of Pakistani origin should not only have been no surprise to British intelligence, it should have been anticipated: the radicalization of Britain's Muslim youth of Pakistani origin began in the mid-1990s with the full knowledge and complicity of British and US intelligence agencies.
In the mid-1990s, the Pakistan-based jihadi group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM - previously known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar, HUA ) sent a contingent to help Bosnian Muslims in their fight against the Serbs. They were sent by the government of Benazir Bhutto at the request of the Bill Clinton administration. The contingent, which was raised and trained by Lieutenant General (retired) Hamid Gul, former director general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who himself used to visit Bosnia, included a large number of British Muslims of Pakistani origin.
According to estimates, about 200 Muslims of Pakistani origin living in the United Kingdom went to Pakistan, received training in the camps of the HUA, and joined the HUA in Bosnia with the blessings of London and Washington. Among them was Omar Sheikh, who went on to mastermind the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
A decade before Bosnia, the CIA had raised and funded a large corps of jihadis of Arab origin - including Osama bin-Laden - to help the Afghan mujahideen in their jihad against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
By the time of the Serbian crisis, these Arabs of Afghanistan vintage had already started creating mayhem beyond Afghanistan, notably in Indian-held Kashmir, so Western intelligence wanted to avoid the use of Arabs in Bosnia. They turned to Pakistanis, particularly Pakistanis living in Britain and other countries in Western Europe. Thus began the radicalization process of Muslim youth of Pakistani origin in western Europe.
Links to Pakistan
The first three of four people believed to have carried out the four London attacks have been named.
Shehzad Tanweer. Aged 20 to 22, lived in Leeds. Believed to have blown himself up on a subway train near Aldgate station. He sometimes worked at his family's fish and chip shop in a suburb of Leeds. Described as a good student who played cricket for a local team. Reportedly went to Lawnswood school in Beeston, before studying sports science at Leeds University. He did not have a regular job. According to the Guardian, he recently travelled to Pakistan. His father, Mohammed Mumtaz, was originally from the Faisalabad region of Pakistani Punjab.
Mohammed Sadique Khan. Aged 30, from Dewsbury, a town about 14 kilometres from Leeds. Believed to be responsible for the explosion in a subway train at Edgware Road station. He was married to a Muslim woman from Gujarat in India, whose family had migrated to South Africa and then to the UK. He met her while the two were students at Leeds University.
Hasib Hussain. Aged 19, also from Leeds. Believed to have blown himself up on the number 30 double-decker bus near Tavistock Square. According to The Times, he had gone "a bit wild" as a young teenager, but had become devoutly religious about 18 months ago after returning from a trip to Pakistan to visit his relatives. He lived with his Pakistani-born factory-worker parents. He studied at the Matthew Murray High School and never went to university.
Questions are already being asked whether any of these suspects had previously come to the notice of the British police. There is some confusion. British Home Secretary Charles Clarke strongly denied a reported statement by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy that he (Clarke) had told a Europran Union counter-terrorism meeting on July 13 that some of the bombers had been arrested last year by British police.
Following this denial, Sarkozy clarified that he did not say that Clarke had said this, but he had only said that he (Sarkozy) had heard that some of them had been arrested last year. According to the BBC, Shehzad Tanweer was arrested by the local police in 2004 for disorderly conduct and cautioned. Hasib Hussain, reportedly a good friend of Shehzad Tanweer, was arrested in 2004 for shoplifting and released after a caution.
After the naming of the three above, a fourth suspect was named: Jamaican-born Lindsey Germaine, who lived in Buckinghamshire.
Shadows of Daniel Pearl
This development recalls the case of Daniel Pearl, the American Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and then killed by members of the HUM and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in January-February, 2002.
Pearl's murder was orchestrated by Omar Sheikh, a British citizen of Pakistani origin who had studied at the London School of Economics before joining the HUA to go to Bosnia.
Omar then infiltrated into India and participated in some acts of terrorism, for which he was arrested and jailed by Indian authorities. In December 1999 he was released in a deal following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Afghainstan by the HUM. From Kandahar, Omar crossed to Pakistan, joined al-Qaeda and opened its office in Lahore.
In the beginning of 2002, meanwhile, Pearl had heard that the instructions to Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, whose father was a British resident of Caribbean origin, to carry out his terrorist strike had come from an unidentified source in Karachi belonging to an organization called the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra (JUF), based in Lahore. Its leader, Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, had four wives, two of them African-Americans.
The JUF differed from other Pakistani jihadi organizations in some respects. It focused its activities on Muslim communities in the US, Canada and the Caribbean and its membership consisted largely of blacks recruited in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. It laid emphasis on the need to penetrate the armed forces of the US and the Caribbean by recruiting blacks serving in them. It was a highly secretive organization and not much was known about its leaders other than Gilani. It never issued any statements and never circulated any pamphlets or ran any websites.
It became a jihadi organization of major concern to the intelligence agencies of the US and Canada after its members in the US were involved in a series of attacks on Hindu and Jewish targets and its supporters in the armed forces of the Caribbean almost successfully staged a coup to captured power in the late 1980s.
In 1995, the HUA also started focusing on the black community in the US. It recruited nearly a dozen blacks there and brought them to Pakistan for jihadi training in its camps, and sent them back to the US. While the HUA and the JUF kept away from each other in Pakistan, they cooperated in the US and built up a network of sleeper cells. The HUA did not show much interest in the Caribbean and left that area to the JUF.
While it has been established that the HUM and the HUJI had a leading role in the kidnapping and murder of Pearl, it is not clear whether the JUF had any role. Omar has been sentenced to death by a lower court but an appeal is pending in a higher court. On July 14, the hearing was adjourned for the 32nd time.
Reports from Pakistan indicate that Omar continues to be active from jail, reportedly keeping in touch with friends and followers in the UK. Statements purported to have been issued by him from jail calling on the Muslims of the world to retaliate against the US for descecration of the Holy Koran are disseminated every Friday in many Pakistani mosques controlled by jihadi organizations.
In the meanwhile, unhindered by Pakistani authorities, the JUF continues to recruit volunteers from the US and the Caribbean, take them to Pakistan and train them in its camps before they are returned to their places of origin.
On June 20, 2003, before the arrival of Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf in the US for his Camp David meeting with President George W Bush, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials disclosed that they had arrested one Lyman Faris, also known as Mohammad Rauf, originally a resident of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. He had migrated to the US in 1994 and was working as a truck driver in Ohio before being arrested and charged with having links to al-Qaeda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, said to be Osama bin Laden's operations chief, who is believed to have coordinated the September 11, 2001 attacks.
According to FBI officials, as quoted in the US media, Faris visited Afghanistan and Pakistan a number of times between 2000 and 2002, met bin Laden and worked with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in organizing and financing jihad causes. After returning to the US from Pakistan in late 2002, officials said, he began examining the Brooklyn Bridge and discussing via coded messages with al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan ways of using blow torches to sever its suspension cables. He is also believed to have been associated in the past with the JUF.
Reports on the investigation into the London blasts so far point the finger of suspicion at the Kashmir separatist group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the JUF (many Pakistanis who have migrated to the UK are Punjabi-speaking Mirpuris from Pakistan-administered Kashmir). Pakistani sources say that while Shehzad Tanweer, one of the suspected bombers, was trained in two LET camps at Muridke, near Lahore, and in Karachi, Lindsey Germaine had a history of association with the JUF.
B Raman is additional secretary (retired), cabinet secretariat, government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai and distinguished fellow and convener, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter.
Iran says it has dismantled Al-Qaeda cell
July 16, 2005
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran dismantled an Al-Qaeda cell in the east of the country in recent days that was preparing to launch attacks, Intelligence Minister Ali Younessi told the student news agency ISNA.
Al-Qaeda had "organized and formed different groups to carry out terrorist acts primarily in the east of the country," the minister said Saturday.
Eastern Iran borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and contains a large Sunni community. The majority of Iran is Shiite.
The cell was discovered last week, the minister said, but he did not specify whether the group planned to attack Iran or another country.
The militant network had sought out "theology students and religious Sunnis," he added.
Younessi said the formation of this network constituted the "fifth wave" of Al-Qaeda actions in the Islamic republic since the 2001 demise of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan.
Since then, the minister said about a thousand Al-Qaeda operatives have been "identified, arrested, extradited or judged, and at the present time 200 of them are still in prison."
The figure is the highest announced by Iranian authorities to date.
Younessi said Iran was first subjected to an influx of "several thousand Afghans and other nationals" who came into the country illegally after the fall of the Taliban regime, and who were later sent back out.
Then, some Al-Qaeda operatives who had taken refuge in Iranian cities were arrested "because they intended to use Iranian territory to launch terrorist strikes on other countries," he said.
"The third wave of Al-Qaeda was operating mainly under the cover of Ansar al-Islam, which is based in Iraq. We arrested and tried a number of this group's militants, who are still in prison," he said.
According to Younessi, Al-Qaeda members were then linked to a criminal and drug-trafficking gang planning attacks in Tehran and other large cities. "These elements were also arrested and imprisoned," he said, adding that their chief was still on the loose.
"Some of the cells we identified act autonomously without being linked to a central command because today Al-Qaeda is disorganized," he said.
"Some of these groups are used by intelligence services of countries in the region or by the United States and Israel," he charged.
He accused the United States of having wanted to "use some of these networks against Iran's national security," but added: "We intervened and we identified the cells."
The United States has accused Iran of supporting Al-Qaeda.
Why Musharraf needs another crackdown
By Aamer Ahmed Khan / BBC News, Karachi / Friday, 15 July, 2005
"We are acting as if we are under some kind of a contractual obligation to support jihad (holy war), no matter where in the world it is being waged."
Not many outside Pakistan may be able to appreciate the significance of these words, spoken by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on 12 January, 2002.
It was the first public admission from a Pakistani head of state that the policy of jihad nurtured by Pakistan for over a quarter of a century needed to be brought to an end.
For most Pakistanis, this was the point where the country was finally abandoning its highly contentious policy of using Islamist militants to further its foreign policy agenda in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
To many, it was also a promise for a brave new world regulated by rationality and pragmatism instead of dogmatic ideologies.
But a little over three years ago, the brave new world has proven to be elusive.
President Musharraf's latest call on Friday for renewed efforts against Islamist militancy is the clearest indication to date that all has not gone well in Pakistan's anti-terrorism efforts.
The three-year period between the two presidential declarations of intent have seen two assassination attempts on President Musharraf, one on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and one on Karachi's former corps commander and the current vice chief of army staff Ahsan Saleem Hayat.
There have also been at least six major mosque bombings claiming over 100 lives in various Pakistani cities.
Bombings causing lesser damage have been too numerous to count.
More worrying for the authorities are the persistent reports over the last few months of a regrouping of militant elements - especially in the North West Frontier Province that borders Afghanistan.
Renewed activism from religious extremists has also soured Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan, which accuses its neighbour of providing safe havens for a resurgent Taleban.
Not many may be ready at this stage to declare Pakistan's anti-terrorism efforts a failure.
Categories of militants
But many Pakistani analysts are convinced that the country's problems with tackling extremism are intrinsically linked to the curious nature of its anti-terror campaign.
Background discussions and interviews with senior security officials indicate that since the 11 September 2001 attacks, Pakistan seems to have divided its "extremist problem" into three distinct categories.
The first includes the non-Pakistani militants - mostly from the Arab world - against whom Pakistan has followed a "zero tolerance" policy.
They say the policy is reflected in the large number of arrests of Arab militants - the last being that of Libyan militant Abu Faraj al-Libby.
Senior security officials in Pakistan say that even the deadly campaign by the security forces in the Waziristan tribal belt along the Afghanistan border - in which the Pakistani army has lost 500 soldiers - has been focussed exclusively on Arab and Central Asian militants and their local supporters.
The second category comprises a huge cadre of home grown militants once aided and abetted by successive Pakistani governments to fight in Kashmir.
Many of Pakistan's top militants - including those suspected of plotting to assassinate the country's leaders - are known to have once been members of the myriad militant organisations engaged in Kashmir.
Yet they appear to have been totally exempted from the campaign.
Even in cases where high profile Kashmir-related militants have been arrested, the government has shown little interest in pursuing their prosecution.
It is true that British born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is in jail. He is currently contesting his conviction in the murder of Wall Street reporter Daniel Pearl.
But most militants linked to Kashmir have been spared altogether.
Leaders of three of Pakistan's largest militant organisations engaged in Kashmir - Lashkar-e-Toyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkatul Mujahideen - roam free to this day and are reportedly in touch with their cadres.
"The level of mistrust between India and Pakistan is such that irrespective of how badly they may want peace, there is still little faith in the peace process," says a top security official.
He says Pakistan will not abandon the Kashmiri militants until it is absolutely clear about the exact terms on which peace can be secured.
The third category is that of Pakistani and Afghan militants currently battling the government of President Hamid Karzai and the US-led troops in Afghanistan.
There seems to be a near consensus in the Pakistani security apparatus that the Karzai government is bound to collapse.
Should that happen, Pakistani security analysts are certain that the US will turn to "moderate Taleban" to keep Afghanistan together.
By not extending their anti-terror campaign to the Taleban and their local supporters, Pakistan is hoping to revive its badly eroded influence in that country.
Irrespective of the merits or demerits of this policy, trouble arises from the fact that the three categories can only be separated cleanly on paper.
On the ground, Pakistan's various militant organisations - with the possible exception of Lashkar-e-Toyeba - have been sharing human resources for years.
"It is impossible to tell which of the militants earlier engaged in Kashmir are now wedded to the al-Qaeda ideology," says a senior security official.
The big question now is whether President Musharraf's order for a fresh crackdown is based on a recognition of the limitations of a policy in which one militant is distinguished from the other on the basis of his ideological moorings.
Otherwise, one may find the same kind of tactics that followed General Musharraf's 12 January, 2002 speech but which have failed to solve the problem.
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