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Obituary: Velupillai Prabhakaran

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 18, 2009

BBC NEWS

Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead, the Sri Lankan military says. State television made the announcement shortly after the military said it had surrounded him in the north-east.

 

Velupillai Prabhakaran

Prabhakaran was a secretive figure who was rarely seen in public

To his followers, Vellupillai Prabhakaran was a freedom fighter struggling for Tamil emancipation.

To his adversaries he was a secretive megalomaniac with a complete disregard for human life.

Under his leadership, the Tamil Tigers became one of the world’s most highly-disciplined and highly-motivated guerrilla forces.

But in recent months they fought a desperate rearguard action as the Sri Lankan military inflicted defeat after defeat on them, ending their dream of a separate homeland in the north and east.

The youngest of four children, Vellupillai Prabhakaran was born on 26 Nov 1954, in the northern coastal town of Velvettithurai on the Jaffna peninsula.

Described as a shy and bookish student, he became involved in the Tamil protest movement after being angered by what he saw as discrimination against Tamils by Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese population.

He claimed he was influenced by the lives of two Indian leaders, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, both of whom were involved in the armed struggle for independence from Britain.

Cult of martyrdom

In one of his rare interviews he also said that he was fascinated by the lives of Alexander the Great and Napoleon and had studied many books on the two commanders.

It is believed that Prabhakaran founded the Tamil New Tigers in 1973 or 1974, although the exact date is unknown.

It was just another in a series of pressure groups and organisations protesting against what they saw as the marginalisation of the Tamil people in the post-colonial Sri Lanka.

In 1975 he was accused of the murder of the mayor of Jaffna, who was shot at point blank range while he was about to enter a Hindu temple.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, pictured in his family album (Photo released by Sri Lankan government)

Prabhakaran dedicated his life to his dream of a Tamil homeland

The killing was said to be in response to an incident in Jaffna the previous year when a police attack on a crowd led to the deaths of about seven people.

A year later Prabhakaran’s group was renamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers.

The Tigers became a formidable force numbering upwards of 10,000 soldiers, including women and children.

They were also well-equipped with weaponry funded by Tamil expatriates and, according to some reports, by sympathisers in India.

Always outnumbered by the Sri Lankan army, Prabhakaran led his forces in a series of guerrilla actions against a range of targets.

He encouraged a cult of martyrdom among his followers which led to the first use of suicide bombings as a common form of attack, often against civilian targets.

Central Bank bombing

He was also reputed to carry a cyanide capsule around his neck to be swallowed in case of capture, a practice soon emulated by many of his soldiers.

In 1991 he was accused of involvement in the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed in a suicide bomb attack near Madras (Chennai).

It was alleged Prabhakaran had personally ordered the attack in revenge for Ghandi’s posting of Indian peacekeeping troops to Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s.

 

Prabhakaran

Under Prabhakaran’s leadership the Tigers were branded a terrorist group

An Indian court signed a death warrant in his name and Interpol issued a wanted notice on the grounds of terrorism, murder and organised crime.

Under his leadership the LTTE was branded a terrorist organisation by many countries and he was wanted by Interpol, the global police network for murder, terrorism, organised crime and conspiracy.

He was a shadowy figure, constantly under threat of arrest or assassination.

At one of Prabhakaran’s very rare press conferences, in 2002, he refused to answer any questions about Ghandi’s murder, referring to it as a “tragic accident”.

Instead he repeated his demand for self-determination for Tamils and said he was prepared to die in the fight to achieve it.

Secretive figure

In 1996 more than 90 people were killed and a further 1,400 were injured when a suicide bomber crashed a lorry through the gates of the Central Bank of Colombo and detonated its cargo of explosives.

Most of the casualties were civilians in what was then the Tigers’ deadliest attack, with a number of foreign nationals among those killed and injured.

In 2002 a Sri Lankan court issued a warrant for Prabhakaran’s arrest in connection with the attack and, in his absence, sentenced him to 200 years in prison.

When the latest attempt at peace talks broke down in 2006, the Sri Lankan army launched a huge offensive against Tiger strongholds, eventually capturing large areas of what had been Tiger-held territory.

In early 2009 Prabhakaran suffered a major reverse when the Sri Lankan government captured the Tigers’ administrative capital of Killinochchi and there were rumours he had fled the country.

Vellupillai Prabhakaran remained a secretive figure throughout his life, his movements between his various jungle hideouts carefully planned to avoid capture or assassination.

At the height of its powers at the end of the 1990s and the early years of this decade, the LTTE controlled nearly one-third of Sri Lanka.

But Prabhakaran was unable to translate this authority into his dream: an autonomous Tamil homeland in the north of the country.

His single-minded determination in pursuit of his goal never wavered: he once claimed he had ordered his own men to shoot him if he ever gave up his demands for a Tamil state.

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Bloody Urban Battles Could Lie Ahead in Pakistan

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 18, 2009

 

FOX NEWS

ISLAMABAD — 

PakistanPakistani security forces fought Taliban militants on the outskirts of the main city in the northwest’s Swat Valley and entered two other Taliban-held towns there, the army said Sunday, foreshadowing what could become bloody urban battles.

 A top government official said the offensive near Afghanistan had already killed more than 1,000 Taliban fighters, while a group of pro-government religious leaders endorsed the operation but condemned U.S. missile strikes in the northwest.

The developments underscored Pakistan’s resolve and frustration in its battle against militancy.

Washington has pressed Islamabad to crack down on Al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds along the Afghan frontier, saying the militants threaten not only U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan but also nuclear-armed Pakistan’s future. But many in Pakistan believe the militancy here has metastasized because of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan.

Recent Taliban forays into a district just 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad, seem to have swayed many Pakistanis to support the most recent military operation, but that could easily change if the toll on the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced mounts, and if more U.S. missiles strikes stoke greater popular discontent.

In giving the 1,000-plus death toll Sunday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the operation in Swat and surrounding areas would “continue till the last Taliban are flushed out.” It was not possible to independently verify the figure. The territories bombarded over the past three weeks are now too dangerous for journalists to freely visit.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, the army said 25 militants and a soldier died in the previous 24 hours.

Security forces were facing off with militants in “intense fire engagements” on the outskirts of Swat’s main town, Mingora, where many of the estimated 4,000 Taliban fighters in the valley are believed to be holed up, the statement said.

It also said security forces had surrounded and entered the towns of Matta and Kanju to take on the militants, and it requested civilians still in those areas stay away from the Taliban hide-outs. Troops were making gains in remote Piochar area, the rear base of Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, it added.

“The operation is going in the right direction as we had planned,” Malik said in a televised news conference from Mardan, where he went to relief camps to see some of the new refugees. “I cannot give a time but we will try (to complete the operation) at the earliest.”

The military did not detail how many ground troops were involved in the latest advances.

Pakistan’s army is geared toward fighting a conventional battle again longtime rival India on the plains of the Punjab region using tanks and artillery, and it has limited experience battling guerrillas in urban settings.

Complicating the fight is the widespread belief that Pakistani intelligence has offered a degree of support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“They’re maintaining contact with these groups, in my view as a strategic hedge,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview with “60 minutes” broadcast on Sunday, “They are not sure who’s going to win in Afghanistan. They’re not sure what’s going to happen along that border area. So, to a certain extent, they play both sides.

Its most recent major offensive, in the Bajur tribal region, drew praise from U.S. officials for dismantling a virtual Taliban mini-state but was criticized for the large amount of destruction it caused. The number of civilians killed in Bajur is unknown.

At a convention in Islamabad, hundreds of religious scholars and leaders — many of them Barelvis, a Sufi-influenced strain of Sunni Islam — denounced suicide attacks and other Taliban tactics in urging the government to continue the operation until peace is restored.

The attendees also criticized the U.S. missile strikes, saying Pakistan should take up the matter at the United Nations.

“Internally, terrorists were attempting to weaken Pakistan by spreading terrorism and killing people and on the other hand drone attacks are on … This is a conspiracy against Pakistan and we will foil it,” said Sahibzada Fazl Karim, one of the speakers.

Most Pakistanis are relatively moderate Muslims, and many subscribe to Sufi-influenced traditions. However, hard-line versions of Islam have a significant following here, though the Taliban’s approach is unusually extreme.

U.S. officials say the missile strikes are a critical tool in killing top militants. Pakistan has protested them, though many analysts believe the two countries have a secret deal allowing the attacks.

The Taliban’s ability to overrun Swat, once a premier Pakistani tourist destinations, had proved particularly embarrassing to the Pakistani military and the weak civilian government.

Many of the main militant safe havens, however, are in Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas, with South Waziristan serving as the primary base for Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

Britain’s Sunday Times reported that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said military action would follow in the tribal belt.

“Swat is just the start. It’s a larger war to fight,” the newspaper quoted Zardari as saying in an interview.

In Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi, meanwhile, police said a tip off led them to arrest four alleged militants of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned outfit linked to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The men are suspected of planning attacks on high-value targets in Karachi, senior police officer Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam said.

U.S. Probes Whether Afghan Forces Colluded With Taliban in Deadly Attack

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 15, 2009

AFGHAN WAR

FOX NEWS

By Wade Zirkle

 

Kunar River Valley, Afghanistan —  A pre-dawn attack by the Taliban that killed three American soldiers and six other coalition troops earlier this month is raising new questions about many of the Afghan soldiers who were supposed to be fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

Officials are investigating whether the Afghan troops may have colluded with the Taliban in the brazen assault on the remote coalition outpost along the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Their findings could complicate further the already difficult challenges U.S. trainers are having with the Afghan Army.

American officials have questioned 11 Afghan Army soldiers and one Afghan interpreter who were taken prisoner after the battle and later released. Many U.S. troops in the area suspect that the Afghan POWs may have passively helped their Taliban attackers by laying down their arms, or even actively colluded with the enemy in the attack.

Details of the battle have been sketchy, since all three Americans at Observation Post Bari Alai were killed in the fight. Of the four Latvian NATO soldiers who were also defending the post, two were killed and a third was badly wounded and evacuated to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. According to a U.S. official, the remaining Latvian soldier was “shellshocked” by the attack and has been flown back to Latvia for treatment.

Three Afghan National Army troops also were killed.

U.S. officials are declining to comment on specifics until their investigation is complete. But conversations with American troops familiar with the situation reveal that in the early morning hours of May 1, more than 100 Taliban fighters launched a coordinated uphill attack on Bari Alai, a tactically critical, fortified mountaintoop outpost that overlooks the convergence of the Hel Gal, Durin, Marin, and Kunar River Valleys, as well as a bridge that spans the Kunar River.

While Taliban fighters pinned down coalition troops with machine gun fire, their comrades scaled the mountainsides and advanced on the post. Coalition troops killed 19 Taliban fighters, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. William D. Vile, 27, who was wounded, continued to return fire as he called on his radio for reinforcements and artillery support. He was killed by an explosion and has been posthumously recommended for the Silver Star Medal, the Army’s third highest decoration for battlefield valor.

The blast breached the perimeter of the post, and the Taliban poured inside. Sgt. James D. Pirtle, 21, and Specialist Ryan C. King, 22, were killed defending the base and were both posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

After overrunning the post, the Taliban fighters captured 11 Afghan soldiers and one Afghan interpreter and transported them into the Hel Gal Valley, where they were held captive.

In the days following, U.S., Afghan, and Latvian forces embarked on joint operations to recover the dozen POWs. On May 6, approximately 400 coalition troops made a forceful push toward the Hel Gal Valley, where the POWs were believed to be held. But the mission was halted two hours after it began when the Taliban freed all 12 POWs after coalition forces broadcast radio messages demanding their return.

When asked what kind of condition the freed Afghan troops were in, Marine Lt. Col. Ted Adams replied, “Good condition. Too good, actually,” — a sentiment echoed by other officers, which has led many to suspect that the POWs were complicit in the enemy attack.

The 12 Afghans were questioned for six days by U.S. and Afghan officials before being returned to duty on Monday. U.S. officials are declining to comment on the conduct of the Afghan troops during the attack on Bari Alai, citing the ongoing investigation.

The incident highlights the increasing level of frustration U.S. trainers are having with the wildly inconsistent performance of their Afghan Army protégés.

Additionally, American officials are becoming increasingly concerned about more sophisticated enemy tactics and massed enemy formations as evidenced at the Bari Alai post. While most of Afghanistan remains relatively calm, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region has seen larger and more brazen enemy operations accompanied by a marked increased violence.

Observation Post Bari Alai is now back in Coalition control.

TALIBAN – ALL LOCAL LEADERS MUST QUIT

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 14, 2009

CNN.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — A Taliban spokesman issued a series of threats and ultimatums against Pakistani officials Wednesday as the country’s military continued its offensive against the militant group in the Swat Valley.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan has courted local and international media in jovial telephone conversations.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan has courted local and international media in jovial telephone conversations.

Speaking on the telephone with CNN, Muslim Khan announced that all national and provincial parliament members from the Malakand Division, the northwestern region where the Swat Valley is located, must resign within three days.

“Otherwise, we will arrest all their families,” Khan threatened, “and we will destroy all their buildings.”

The Taliban spokesman issued a separate directive aimed at prompting a public show of support for the militants from Pakistan’s Islamist political parties. “All these parties must help the Taliban,” Khan said. “They must give a press conference to show the people that we need sharia [Islamic law] in the Malakand Division.”

Members of the Islamist party Jamaat-i-Islami have spoken out against the military’s offensive in the Swat Valley, but they have stopped short of announcing support for the Taliban. Video Watch more about the victims of the war »

Throughout the fighting over the past three weeks, the gray-bearded Khan has been the public face of the Taliban, enthusiastically courting local and international media in jovial telephone conversations. In an earlier phone interview with CNN, he described how he had spent four years living in the United States, working as a painter in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

On Wednesday, Khan denied reports from many refugees emerging from the Swat Valley that Taliban militants had carried out a campaign of violence and intimidation in the region for the past two years.

Several terrified Swat residents, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the Taliban, described how insurgents kidnapped and killed their critics, beheaded government informers and blew up girls’ schools.

Khan denied the accusations.

“We are killing the people which are only no good for society, like thieves and people who are making problem for the poor people, like people who are working for army,” he said. “We are only killing these people.”

On Tuesday, the Pakistani army announced that it had dropped special forces soldiers by helicopter into the Peochar area of Swat, which is thought to be the headquarters for the region’s Taliban’s leader, Maulana Fazliullah. Local media report that the Taliban have training camps in Peochar.

Khan confirmed that Pakistani troops had attacked Peochar, which he described as a “place for mujaheddin,” or holy warriors.

The Taliban spokesman said militants and soldiers have been fighting in the mountains around Peochar since Tuesday, and that the clashes continue. He said two Taliban fighters had been killed so far in the battle, along with five Pakistani troops.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Taliban militants attacked NATO supply terminals, torching at least 10 supply trucks in northern Pakistan, local officials said.

About 70 Taliban fighters attacked the facility in Peshawar, police said. A gunfight ensued between the insurgents and police.

No casualties were reported.

Peshawar is the capital of the North West Frontier Province, which intelligence officials say is rife with Islamic extremists and has been the site of recent clashes between Pakistani security forces and militants.

Because Afghanistan is landlocked, many supplies for NATO-led troops fighting Islamic militants there must be trucked in from Pakistan. Convoys carrying food and military supplies have regularly come under attack in the area.

PAKISTAN CONFLICT MAP

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 14, 2009
BBC NEWS
 
A map produced by the BBC suggests only 38% of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and surrounding areas is under full government control.

The map, compiled by the BBC’s Urdu language service, was based on local research and correspondent reports as well as conversations with officials.

It shows the Taleban strengthening their hold across the north-west.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari rejected the findings, telling the BBC it was an “incorrect survey”.

 

Pakistan conflict map
The map illustrates the spreading strength of the Taleban in Pakistan’s north-west, something both army and government officials have vowed to combat
BBC correspondent Barbara Plett

He was speaking after talks in London with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who pledged £12m ($18m) in humanitarian aid for north-west Pakistan.

Mr Zardari said the two countries were united in fighting the threat to their countries’ democratic way of life, and also repeated assurances that his country’s arsenal was in safe hands.

There was an international outcry recently when the militants moved into Buner district, just 100km (67 miles) from Islamabad.

Pakistan has continued its military offensive to regain control of the region, and has reported the deaths of 11 militants in the Swat valley in the past 24 hours.

Residents trapped in Mingora, the main town in Swat, told AFP news agency by telephone that militants had planted mines and were digging trenches.

“People are becoming mentally ill, our senses have shut down, children and woman are crying, please tell the government to pull us out of here,” said one shopkeeper, who did not want to give his name.

“Forget the lack of electricity and other problems, the Taleban are everywhere and heavy exchanges of fire are routine at night.”

Mapping lawlessness

The report the BBC map was based on covered the 24 districts of NWFP and the seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

 Pakistan’s president tells the BBC’s David Loyn that the survey is ‘incorrect’

The researchers analysed reports from BBC Urdu correspondents over the past 18 months, backed up by conversations with local officials, police officers and journalists.

They concluded that in 24% of the region, the civilian government no longer had authority and Taleban commanders had taken over administrative controls.

Either the Taleban were in complete control or the military were engaged in operations to flush them out.

Another 38% of the region was deemed to have a permanent Taleban presence, meaning militants had established rural bases which were restricting local government activities and seriously compromising local administration.

 

Pakistani Taleban at a rally for their leader Sufi Muhammad in Mingora, 19 April

Thousands attended a Taleban rally in Mingora just before the offensive

In those areas – three districts in FATA and 11 in NWFP – the Taleban had repeatedly shown their capability to strike at will, says the report.

Militants had made their presence felt by carrying out periodic attacks on girls’ schools, music shops, police stations and government buildings.

The map gives a snapshot of the current situation. However continuing fighting between Pakistani troops and the Taleban means the situation on the ground could change in the future.

The Pakistani army’s spokesman, Gen Athar Abbas, rejected the BBC map as “grossly exaggerated”.

“The ground situation doesn’t give any indicator of such influence or control of Taleban in this area,” he told the BBC in Rawalpindi.

Thousands flee

The region is notorious for its lack of law and order, so the researchers applied a series of rules to differentiate Taleban activity from general lawlessness.

The incidents had to be of a recurring nature, there had to be an official recognition of Taleban presence, Taleban militants must have appointed local “commanders” and religious schools sympathetic to the militants must be operating in the area.

Pakistan has been stepping up its campaign against the Taleban in the north-west.

Tens of thousands of people have fled from the region to escape the fighting.

The research also indicates areas to which researchers believe Taleban-style militancy may further spread inside Pakistan.

The report found that, based on current perceptions of religiously motivated violence, there were strong indications that in 47% of Punjab Province there was a high likelihood of an increase in Taleban militancy in the near future.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that while the research indicates the strength of the Taleban in the region, the various factions and groups are only loosely co-ordinated.

Observers have warned against overstating the existence of one unified insurgency against the state, says our correspondent.

Alarm Grows Over Pakistan’s Failure to Halt Militant Gains

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 24, 2009

The New York Times

Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press

Taliban militants on Thursday outside a mosque where tribal elders and members of the Taliban met in Daggar, the main town in the Buner district of Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — With 400 to 500 Taliban fighters newly in control of a strategically important district just 70 miles from here, Pakistani authorities have deployed only a poorly paid and equipped constabulary force — numbering just several hundred — to the area.

The Taliban appeared to be consolidating control in the district, Buner, on Thursday after moving in and establishing checkpoints on Wednesday. Residents said Taliban militants held a meeting, or jirga, with local elders and the local administration on Thursday. The residents said the meeting yielded a truce similar to the one reached with local leaders in the Swat Valley, which resulted in the agreement by the government of President Asif Ali Zardari to allow the imposition of Islamic law there 10 days ago.

“This concession represents a serious development and reflects both the growing strength of the Pakistani Taliban and the inability of the Pakistani army to conduct successful counterinsurgency operations,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who just returned from his fifth visit to Pakistan.

The fall of Buner has raised new international alarm about the ability of the Pakistani government to fend off an unrelenting Taliban advance from the Swat Valley, where as part of the truce agreement, the Pakistani Army remains in its barracks. The Taliban have moved to within a few hours’ drive of Islamabad, the capital of this country, and the neighboring garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The Pakistani military does not have a presence in Buner, Pakistani and Western officials said. From the hills of the district, the Taliban have access to the flatlands of the district of Swabi, which lead directly to the four-lane highway that connects Islamabad and Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, where much of the Pakistani Taliban operate.

On Thursday, four platoons of the paramilitary police constabulary force moved into Buner (pronounced boon-AIR), which is home to about a million people and is a gateway to another major Pakistani city, Mardan. Four platoons had arrived Wednesday.

Each platoon has about 40 officers. They face Taliban militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Intimidated by the militants, the local police have retreated into their stations, residents said. At least one constabulary officer had been killed and another seriously wounded already, the police said Thursday.

“The news over the past several days is very disturbing,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, told reporters. “The administration is extremely concerned.”

Reflecting the deep concerns of the Obama administration, the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was in Islamabad for the second time in two weeks to meet with Pakistan’s top military and intelligence commanders.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been underlining the alarm over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. On Wednesday she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the deterioration of security in nuclear-armed Pakistan “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”

On Thursday, she said referring to the country’s nuclear arsenal: “You know, we spend a lot of time worrying about Iran — Pakistan already has them. And they are widely dispersed in the country.”

On Thursday morning, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, called Mr. Zardari, “to get his personal judgment and hear what his strategy is,” Mr. Holbrooke said. He did not disclose what the answer was.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, visiting Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, also urged Pakistan’s leaders to act swiftly to a profound danger.

“My hope is that there will be an increasing recognition on the part of the Pakistani government that the Taliban in Pakistan are in fact an existential threat to the democratic government of that country,” Mr. Gates said. “I think that some of the leaders certainly understand that. But it is important that they not only recognize it, but take the appropriate actions to deal with it.”

At the Pentagon, several senior uniformed and civilian officials also expressed worry.

One senior Defense Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on policy matters, called the deployment of the constabulary force “a cosmetic effort.”

A senior counter-terrorism official called the fast-moving Taliban operations “frightening.”

The Taliban told the local Buner leaders that they would not interfere with nongovernmental organizations or government installations, nor openly display their weapons. Negotiations would be used to sort out friction with local residents, and there would be forgiveness for those who killed Taliban fighters in earlier combat.

To read more please go to :

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/world/asia/24pstan.html?ref=global-home

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Bodies of Mumbai terrorists unburied

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 18, 2009

CNN

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) — The bodies of the nine suspected Pakistani terrorists — all believed to have been involved in the attacks on Mumbai — are still lying in a hospital morgue almost five months after the attacks occurred.

 

art_security_afp_gi

Security is tight for the trial of the only surviving alleged Mumbai terrorist.

The public prosecutor trying the lone surviving suspected gunman in the Mumbai attacks told CNN the dead suspects have not been buried because no one has come to claim them and local Muslim officials are refusing to bury the men in Mumbai’s Muslim graveyards.

Public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam said he will soon be in discussions with officials to decide what should happen with the bodies.

The burial issue has stoked controversy. Groups such as the Indian Muslim Council don’t want the people buried in Muslim cemeteries because they have defamed the religion. Other Muslims have disagreed, saying burial should be available for any Muslim.

John O. Voll — professor of Islamic history and associate director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington — said the Abrahamic religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have very often set restrictions on grounds they have sanctified for burials. One stricture, for example, has been prohibiting burial of a person from another faith.

“The non-burial” of the suspected terrorists “is making the statement that they are acting so contrary to Islam they are not acting as Muslims and therefore they are judged as being unbelievers and not worthy of being buried in a Muslim cemetery,” Voll said.

India, which has a population of over 1.1 billion people, is 81 percent Hindu, 13 percent Muslim, and 2 percent Christian, according to data from the World Almanac.

One surprising aspect about the burial issue, Voll said, is that the Indian Muslim community is usually not very proactive publicly and tries to avoid publicity.

“In this particular case, it’s very important for the Indian Muslim community to make it clear that they have nothing to do with the people who claim to be Muslims who engaged in terrorism in Mumbai,” Voll said.

Nikam is prosecuting a case against Mohammed Ajmal Kasab the 10th suspected Pakistani terrorist.

Police say the 10 men gunned down more than 160 people in the November attack on Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

The attack went on for four nights and three days including the siege of three luxury hotels and a Jewish center.

Police say Kasab is the only suspected gunman caught alive. The alleged actions of the nine suspects who were killed in the attacks will likely play a role as the prosecution builds its case against Kasab.

After months of delays due to security concerns and difficulty finding an attorney to defend Kasab, his trial finally got under way Friday. Kasab is being charged with 12 criminal counts including murder, attempted murder and waging war against India.

Police say he was caught on a surveillance camera holding a gun as he stalked and killed people inside Mumbai’s main train station, formerly known as Victoria Terminus. Kasab is also accused of shooting people at Mumbai’s Cama hospital.

Kasab’s newly court-appointed defense attorney, Abbas Kazmi, argued that Kasab was under age and should be tried in Juvenile Court, but Judge M.L. Tahilyani disagreed saying Kasab was more than 20 years old and could not be considered a juvenile.

In his opening statements Nikam read from Kasab’s alleged confession on how he trained for the attacks. The terror attack was in order to capture Kashmir, Nikam said.

The Kashmir territory has long been a source of tension between India and Pakistan.

Kazmi said Kasab is now retracting his statements because Kasab says he confessed under police pressure. The court hearing is continuing.

 

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Key suspect in Mumbai attacks heads to trial

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 15, 2009

MUMBAI, India (CNN) — The main suspect captured alive from last year’s deadly terror attacks in India’s financial capital goes on trial Wednesday, nearly five months after the siege killed more than 160 people in Mumbai.

Soldiers patrol in Mumbai on the eve of the trial of a key suspect in last year's attacks in the Indian city.

Soldiers patrol in Mumbai on the eve of the trial of a key suspect in last year’s attacks in the Indian city.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, 21, is accused of being the only one of 10 gunmen to survive the late-November, three-day siege, which targeted victims at hotels, hospitals and railway stations in Mumbai — formerly known as Bombay.

The Pakistani national faces more than a dozen charges, including murder, conspiracy to wage a war against the nation, and terrorism.

Prosecutors last month accused him of trying to delay the trial by insisting that the 11,000-page document detailing the charges against him — which was written in English and the local Marathi language — be translated into Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. The court rejected his request.

truth_exposed_mumbai_attacks1An Indian court appointed one defense lawyer, Anjali Waghmare, just two weeks ago to represent Kasab.Wednesday’s trial will start in a makeshift court set up in an Indian jail where Kasab — who has been communicating with the judge via videolink — is being held.

Indian authorities have long blamed the Mumbai attacks on Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistan-based militant outfit, but the group has denied responsibility. The violence heightened tensions between the two nuclear states in its immediate aftermath.

India has urged Pakistan to destroy what it called terrorist infrastructure in that country. The two counties are longtime rivals who have fought three wars since independence, and conducted countering nuclear weapons tests in 1998

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Somali pirates hijack 2 freighters in 1 day

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 15, 2009

art_yacht1_bfmtv1(CNN) — Pirates off the coast of Somalia seized two freighters Tuesday, proving they remain a force to contend with just days after the U.S. Navy dramatically rescued an American captain held by other pirates.rates in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday hijacked the MV Irene EM, a 35,000-ton Greek-owned bulk carrier, according to a NATO spokesman and the European Union’s Maritime Security Center.

The crew of the Greek carrier was thought to be unhurt and ships have been warned to stay clear of the area for fear of further attack, the Security Center said.

Later Tuesday, pirates on four skiffs seized the 5,000-ton MV Sea Horse, a Lebanese-owned and Togo-flagged vessel, said Cmdr. Chris Davies of NATO’s Maritime Component Command Headquarters in Northwood, England.

Details about the ship and its crew weren’t immediately available.

NATO has an ongoing anti-piracy mission off Somalia called Operation Allied Protector. The mission involves four ships covering more than a million square miles, Davies said.

A U.S.-led international naval task force, Combined Task Force-151, is also patrolling in the region.

Tuesday’s hijackings came two days after sharpshooters from the U.S. Navy SEALs killed three pirates who had been holding U.S. Captain Richard Phillips hostage on the water for days.

Phillips had offered himself as a hostage when pirates attacked his vessel, the Maersk Alabama, on Wednesday, officials said. The ship had been on its way to deliver an aid shipment to Mombasa, Kenya.

The pirates set off with Phillips on one of the Alabama’s covered fiberglass lifeboats. They then drifted about 300 miles off Somalia as the U.S. Navy sent ships to the region.

After a five-day high seas standoff, and with negotiations faltering, Navy snipers managed to kill each of the three pirates on the lifeboat with a single bullet to the head, a senior defense official told CNN.

The fourth pirate had been aboard the USS Bainbridge when the shootings occurred and was taken into custody. 

Federal prosecutors will now determine whether that pirate will be prosecuted in the United States, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

The 20 crew members of the Maersk Alabama, who remained free during their captain’s ordeal, are already in Mombasa awaiting a reunion with Phillips. They are relaxing at a beach resort in the coastal city under the watchful eyes of the Kenyan military while the Bainbridge takes Phillips to meet them, a U.S. military spokesman said.

Maersk, the company that owns their vessel, announced Tuesday that Phillips and the crew will return Wednesday to the United States aboard a chartered flight from Mombasa.

They are to land at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, where they are to be reunited with loved ones in a private reception area.

The two freighters seized Tuesday are the third and fourth vessels hijacked in two days off the Somali coast.

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Somali mortars miss US politician

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 14, 2009

BBC News

 

Donald Payne (L) talks with Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke (R) on Monday 13 April 2009 in Mogadishu

Donald Payne (L) met Somalia’s president and prime minister

A US congressman has had a narrow escape on a visit to Mogadishu after Somali insurgents fired mortars towards his plane as it was about to take off.

Airport officials told the BBC one mortar had landed near the airport as Donald Payne’s plane was due to fly and five others after his plane departed.

Mr Payne had just met leaders of Somalia’s government in the capital.

The al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the mortar attack.

“We carried out mortar attacks against the enemy of Allah who arrived to spread democracy in Somalia,” a spokesman for the group named as Sheikh Husein Ali Fidow was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

“This government is welcoming America, which is our prime enemy and we will never stop attacking them.”

The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says Mr Payne had just left a half-hour news conference at the presidential palace in the capital when the attack happened, according to airport officials.

Abukar Hassan, a police officer at Mogadishu airport, told Reuters news agency: “One mortar landed at the airport when Payne’s plane was due to fly and five others after he left and no-one was hurt.”

Three people were wounded when one of the mortars hit a nearby neighbourhood, residents told Reuters.

Mr Payne earlier met President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, among other Somali officials.

He had discussed ways that the international community might be able to help war-torn Somalia.

The New Jersey Democrat said it was his first visit to Somalia since the early 1990s, when the country last had a stable government.

Fragile government

During his brief stop in one of the world’s most dangerous cities, Mr Payne was escorted by African Union (AU) soldiers, who are deployed in Somalia on a peacekeeping mission.

Hardline islamist militia in Mogadishu on 2 February 2009

Radical Islamist guerrillas control swathes of Somalia

An AU official told AFP on condition of anonymity: “The plane of the congressman was leaving and the mortars started falling. There were no casualties, but the attack was aimed at the congressman. He flew out safely.”

Mr Payne discussed with his hosts Sunday’s hostage drama in the Indian Ocean, when US forces shot dead three Somali pirates who had been holding an American ship captain for five days.

They also discussed peace and reconciliation in Somalia and possible co-operation between Washington and Mogadishu, our correspondent says.

The Somali prime minister said: “We discussed the current situation of Somalia, including the latest piracy incident, the progress the Somali government has made so far and the need for co-operation between the two countries. Our meeting ended in mutual understanding.”

At the news conference earlier, Mr Payne said he was sure the Obama administration would look favourably on the Somali government, inaugurated earlier this year after a UN-backed peace process.

“We realise that the government cannot do things overnight,” said Mr Payne, 74, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Africa.

“It’s going to take patience and time for the government to be able to start to provide services to its people.

“But the government will have a responsibility of proving that it’s in the process of benefiting people,” the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus added.

Radical Islamist guerrillas who have sworn to topple the fragile transitional federal government control parts of Mogadishu and much of central and southern Somalia.

The former top US diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, became the first high-ranking American official to visit Somalia in more than a decade when she landed in Baidoa in 2007, but the security situation kept her from visiting Mogadishu.

US foreign policy on the Horn of Africa nation has been overshadowed by the killing of 18 US soldiers in Mogadishu in 1993.

Somalia, a country of about eight million people, has not had a functioning national government since warlords overthrew President Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.

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