Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pakistan: Al-Qaeda claims Bhutto's death

Karachi, 27 Dec. (AKI) - (by Syed Saleem Shahzad) - A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the death on Thursday of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen,” Al-Qaeda’s commander and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location, speaking in faltering English. Al-Yazid is the main al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.

It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.

Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto.

Bhutto had just addressed a pre-election rally on Thursday in the garrison town of Rawalpindi when the bomb went off.

She had come to Rawalpindi after finishing a rapid election campaign, ahead of the January polls, in Pakistan's volatile North West Frontier Province (NWFP) where she had talked about a war against terrorism and al-Qaeda.

Reports say at least 15 other people were killed in the attack and several others injured.

As news of Bhutto's death spread throughout the country, there are reports that people have taken to the streets to protest the death of the leader of the PPP, which has the largest support of any party in Pakistan.

In the southern port city of Karachi, Bhutto's hometown, residents reportedly threw stones at cars and burnt tyres.

Via AKI, whoever they are. H/T to Konservo.


Hmm... Now that I've looked into this, I'm extremely skeptical. The only news agencies reporting that Yazid was responsible are AKI and Asia Times Online, not exactly media giants. Both claim to have been contacted personally by Yazid. Why would he contact them and not, say, Al Jazeera, or the Associated Press, or some other group with actual readers? Furthermore, the Pakistani government is making contradictory claims (which, needless to say, are also suspect). I smell BS.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My question for Zawahri

In the glorious Qur'an, it says:
"It is not for a believer to take a believer's life except by mistake; and he who kills a believer by mistake should free a slave who is a believer, and pay blood-money to the victim's family unless they forego it as an act of charity. If he belonged to a community hostile to you but was himself a believer, then a slave who is a believer should be freed. In case he belonged to a people with whom you have a treaty, then give blood-money to his family and free a believing slave. But he who has no means (to do so) should fast for a period of two months continuously to have his sins forgiven by God, and God is all-knowing and all-wise. Any one who kills a believer intentionally will be cast into Hell to abide there for ever, and suffer God's anger and damnation. For him a greater punishment awaits." (4:92-3)
On September 11, 2001, the following believers were killed:

Samad Afridi
Ashraf Ahmad
Shabbir Ahmad
Umar Ahmad
Azam Ahsan
Ahmed Ali
Tariq Amanullah
Touri Bolourchi
Salauddin Ahmad Chaudhury
Abdul K. Chowdhury
Mohammad S. Chowdhury
Jamal Legesse Desantis
Ramzi Attallah Douani
SaleemUllah Farooqi
Syed Fatha
Osman Gani
Mohammad Hamdani
Salman Hamdani
Aisha Harris
Shakila Hoque
Nabid Hossain
Shahzad Hussain
Talat Hussain
Mohammad Shah Jahan
Yasmeen Jamal
Mohammed Jawarta
Arslan Khan Khakwani
Asim Khan
Ataullah Khan
Ayub Khan
Qasim Ali Khan
Sarah Khan
Taimour Khan
Yasmeen Khan
Zahida Khan
Badruddin Lakhani
Omar Malick
Nurul Hoque Miah
Mubarak Mohammad
Boyie Mohammed
Raza Mujtaba
Omar Namoos
Mujeb Qazi
Tarranum Rahim
Ehtesham U. Raja
Ameenia Rasool
Naveed Rehman
Yusuf Saad
Rahma Salie & unborn child
Shoman Samad
Asad Samir
Khalid Shahid
Mohammed Shajahan
Naseema Simjee
Jamil Swaati
Sanober Syed
Robert Elias Talhami
Michael Theodoridis
W. Wahid

Has Osama bin Laden undertaken to fast for ten years, as is required by the most generous interpretation of Qur'anic law?

And what of those killed in the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? The suicide bombing tactics you use produce many civilian casualties. These are undeniably intentionally killed believers. Does this not mean that those who carry out such attacks, and those who facilitate them by such means as procuring the explosives and administering the organizations, are destined for hell?


Now all I need to do is figure out how to submit it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Zawahiri invites media questions

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second most senior leader, is to answer questions submitted by journalists, the outlawed group's media outlet has said. "Anyone who would like to ask him a question must be concise and precise," a statement published on December 16 by media outlets As-Sahab and Al-Fajr said.

People are invited to pose questions to al-Zawahiri in writing via the two websites before January 16 and both media organisations and individuals are welcome to take part, it said. Al-Zawahiri will then answer the questions "as much as he is able and at the soonest possible occasion".

It did not say whether the answers would be in writing or on video or audiotape. Al-Zawahri, a former eye surgeon born in Egypt, is second-in-command to Osama Bin Laden.

Media presence

Al-Zawahiri has become more prominent in the media than his leader in recent months, releasing at least 16 videos this year in comparison to four from Bin Laden. Last week al-Zawahiri released a video in which he said the British handover of security in Iraq's southern Basra province proved that fighters in Iraq are gaining the upper hand.
He also criticised the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference in a separate video earlier this month, calling it a "betrayal". Al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden are both thought to be in hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The US, which has indicted him in relation to his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, is offering a $25 million reward for his capture.

Via Al Jazeera.


I may well take him up on this. Any suggestions on what to ask?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Al-Zawahri: Annapolis a 'betrayal'

Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, has purportedly condemned Arab leaders who attended the recent US-sponsored Middle East conference in the US city of Annapolis.

In an audiotape posted on the internet, a voice said to be that of al-Zawahri labelled the talks a "betrayal" to Palestinians.

Al-Zawahri said: "The Annapolis meeting was held to turn Palestine into a Jewish state."

"The tsar of Washington, the crusader, brought together 16 Arab countries and their paralysed league [as well as] Amr Moussa, the secretary-general, to sit at a table with the Israelis."

He also denounced the government of Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, saying he had turned the country into a "base to supply the crusader war on Muslims and Islam."

The message was the 15th tape or video released by al-Zawahri this year, following an audiotape released in November in which he criticised Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, and announced that fighters in Libya were joining ranks with al-Qaeda.

However, the latest 20-minute statement has not been independently verified.

Via Al Jazeera.


The "tsar" of Washington. Now there's an interesting choice of words. Is al-Qaeda perhaps trying to emphasize its roots in the Afghan jihad? I'll have to keep an eye out for any future references.

Closer to home, it's crunch time here at UC Berkeley. If I don't seem to be posting as much, it's because I'm trying to memorize the spelling of Cuauhtémoc in preparation for my final.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Joint assault on Taliban-held town

Afghan and Nato troops have launched a major offensive on a town in southern Afghanistan. Musa Qala in Helmand province has been under the Taliban's control for 10 months. The country's defence ministry said troops had surrounded the area and were using heavy fire and air strikes to regain control of the town.

A Nato soldier, two children and a dozen "terrorists" were killed in battles to reclaim the area from the Taliban, the defence ministry said. Ground troops were approaching Musa Qala, which is in the middle of the country's poppy-growing belt, from three directions, the ministry said.

Between 200 and 300 civilians had fled the fighting in the area, it said. The two children were killed when a vehicle they were travelling in was caught up in a gun battle, said General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, adding five civilians were also wounded in the incident. The Nao soldier was reportedly killed by a landmine. Musa Qala had become a base for "foreign terrorists," Azimi said. "Hundreds of terrorists had massed there." However, A Taliban spokesman downplayed its importance as a base. Qari Mohammad Yousef Ahmadi told Al Jazeera: "Musa Qala is not the only district for our Mujahideen to be there, we have bases in other districts that are still in our control".

Heavy fighting

The Taliban took control of Musa Qala in February and the town and the region around it have seen heavy fighting this year.

A deal which saw British troops hand control of the area back to tribal elders lasted only a few months before the Taliban returned. They briefly imprisoned the elders. Afghan and international troops have been keeping a watchful eye on Musa Qala ever since. Speaking to Al Jazeera on Saturday, Lutfullah Mashal of the Security Council of Afghanistan said: "The Afghan nation army is the lead element in this operation. "We are sure that with the co-operation of the local tribes, the Afghan national forces will be able to recover the area from the foreign terrorists who are holding the people of Musa Qala hostage."



Musa Qala has been one of the few (indeed, nearly the only) districts in Afghanistan that the media has openly admitted are in Taliban hands. It is good to see that it is finally being retaken.

It is also interesting that the Taliban spokesman said, "Musa Qala is not the only district for our Mujahideen to be there, we have bases in other districts that are still in our control". This does not seem like the language the Taliban would use if they were in control of half the country, as SENLIS has claimed.

Monday, November 26, 2007

And now for something slightly different

Up to this point, I've been analyzing terrorism from a fairly secular standpoint, largely because my religion doesn't really have a whole lot to say about it ("Don't"). However, I have just recently read a fascinating article in the New York Times magazine entitled "Where Boys Grow Up to be Jihadis". It's about the neighborhood of Jamaa Mezuak in the city of Tetouan, Morocco, from whence have come much of the cell responsible for the Madrid bombings, as well as several Iraqi suicide bombers. While it puzzled scholars, it provided me with valuable insight into how Apostasy spreads.

It began with Jamal "Chino" Ahmidan's fall from grace. Chino had emigrated from Jamaa Mezuak to Spain, where he became a drug dealer. He fathered a child outside of marriage, and killed a man during a visit home. It was around this time that he first came in contact with the concept of the Apostasy, apparently through "videos of the mujahedeen" in Chechnya. For some reason — probably guilt over killing the man — he became a "born-again" Muslim, and, for some reason, an Apostate. During an extended stay back in Morocco, he converted four of his friends to Apostasy. Returning to Madrid, they met up with another Apostate, and together they planned and executed the attacks. Those not killed during the attacks themselves died in a stand off with police.

The people of Jamaa Mezuak were at a loss as to how such nice neighborhood boys could have become cold-blooded killers, and some of the terrorists' friends decided to find out. They investigated Apostasy, searching for an explanation. In the end, they themselves became Apostates. They made contact with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb at a local mosque, and with its help, left for Iraq. Some were arrested en route, others became suicide bombers. Now, at least one of the family members of these bombers also appears to be in danger of falling to Apostasy.

The article is mystified by this pattern. Neither it, nor the experts, can explain why some people radicalize and some don't. According to the article: "The notion that poverty is to blame has been debunked again and again. And while religious extremism can feed militancy, many experts prefer to emphasize the anger generated by political conflicts, like the war in Iraq or the Arab-Israeli struggle." The article also discusses the "Bunch of Guys" theory, which identifies peer-pressure as a major factor.

For me, however, the article confirmed what I have long suspected: that Apostasy is a "spiritual disease." Let me explain.

In my religion, the Bahá'í Faith, there exists a curious phenomenon called "Covenant Breaking." On several occasions in Bahá'í history, someone has attempted to seize power. These attempts invariably fail, however, because unlike most religions, the Bahá'í Faith has a very clear and unambiguous line of succession. It's just not possible to assert legitimacy. Nonetheless, some people have tried, and some people have followed them, and they have caused us innumerable headaches over the years. The Bahá'í scriptures explain this odd behavior as being a spiritual disease. Like most diseases, it is contagious, so Bahá'ís are urged to avoid contact with Covenant Breakers (which isn't difficult, since there are so few of them. In my entire life I've only even seen a Covenant-Breaker once, and that's a lot more than most people).

If we look at the course of events outlined above, we can see a similarly epidemiological pattern. The first to be "infected" was Chino, who apparently picked it up on the internet. He spread it to his friends, and together they pulled off the Madrid bombings. Even after their death, though, they were still infectious, and the disease spread via social ties to family members and friends, who then became infected. They went off to Iraq. Now, someone else with ties to the second wave appears to be battling infection.

I realize that few, if any, readers of this blog are Bahá'ís, but I hope that this post has provided at least some insight. It certainly has helped me get my thoughts in order.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Not so fast

Fifty four percent, indeed.

I just obtained an actual copy of the SENLIS report discussed in the previous post. While I do not doubt that their raw data is accurate, their analysis and presentation are... flawed, to put it mildly. They got the 54% figure by analyzing Afghanistan at the provincial level. This is stupid, because Afghanistan's provinces, especially in the relevant parts of the country, are enormous. A well-done map would show the data by district, if not continuously. Furthermore, I am highly suspicious of their definition of "permanent Taliban presence." For one thing, they don't bother telling you what it is. For another, they show about half of Pakistan, including Islamabad itself, as being under Taliban control, despite the fact that most of this area is currently under martial law due to Musharraf's new War on Democracy.

So don't just take this report with a grain of salt, take it with the whole shaker.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

54 percent Afghanistan under Taliban control: Think-tank

KABUL, Nov 21 (KUNA) -- A leading London-based think-tank has said that 54 percent of Afghan territory is under the control of the Taliban, who were ousted as a result of US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

In its report based on analysis and research, the Senlis Council said in order to bring peace to the war-battered country, an 80,000 NATO plus troops must be required to be stationed in that country. The report was issued in London. However, a copy of the report was received to this correspondent via e-mail on Wednesday. "The security situation has reached crisis proportions. The insurgency now controls vast swaths of unchallenged territory including rural areas, border areas, some district centres, and important road arteries," said Norine MacDonald QC, President and Lead Field Researcher of The Senlis Council. The disturbing conclusion is that, despite a universal desire to 'succeed' in Afghanistan , the country was in grave danger of becoming a divided state, said the report. The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south, it adds. "It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears not to be whether the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when this will happen" said MacDonald. "Their stated aim of reaching the city in 2008 appears more viable than ever, and it is incumbent upon the international community to implement a dramatic change in strategy before time runs out. Defeat in Afghanistan would be catastrophic to global security, and risks making NATO irrelevant." To succeed in Afghanistan, NATO members must increase their presence in the country, but NATO partners should share this burden equally. A 'NATO Plus' force of 80,000 troops is needed, stressed the report. Senlis also called on NATO forces to urgently enter Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, "which has become a training ground for Taliban and al-Qaeda elements". According to the Senlis report, such an increase in their activities would never have been possible without a sanctuary outside Afghanistan.

Via Kuwaiti News Agency.


Christ. I hadn't realized it was this bad.

We need to get the troops out of Iraq. We need to deploy them to Afghanistan. We need to deploy a UN peacekeeping force to the North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. And we need to do it now.

It has gone on long enough. We defeated a global superpower when we were but a colonial backwater. We conquered a continent. We waged total war on two fronts, against enemies that had seemed undefeatable. For half a century, we vied for global supremacy, and we achieved it. We are mighty, we are legion. We are Juggernaut, we are Nemesis. We are not about to be defeated by a band of common criminals because of one man's pride.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Giving face to the faceless

This is a foiled suicide bomber. He tried to blow up an army bus in Kabul yesterday, but spooked the soldiers and was stopped.

It's amazing to actually see the face of a suicide bomber. In our minds, terror is abstract. "The terrorist" is a masked, faceless concept, studied and discussed but not personalized, little more than a number in a set of data. Now here we have the real thing, in the flesh, armed and ready to detonate. It is somewhat startling to look at this meek, passionless, unassuming man and realize that he actively desires the violent death of everyone around him, and would kill them all if not restrained. He offers none of the expected outward signs of a mass murderer — no struggling to break free, no shouting epithets at his captors, no venomous gazes. He just stands there, observing disinterestedly, almost as though bored. He doesn't even appear nervous. He's a prop. There is nothing in his demeanor, nothing in his expression, to indicate that he feels strongly enough in a cause to not only give his own life, but to take those of others as well. There is no sign of unholy ideology, no hint at outrage at his country's occupation, no inkling of desire for independence, or repression, or anything at all. There is nothing.

And I'm not sure what to make of that.

(h/t to Konservo)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pakistanis die in sectarian clashes

At least 30 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shia Muslims in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, officials say.

Clashes broke out on Friday in Parachinar, the main town in Pakistan's northern Kurram tribal region.

Haneef Jan, head of Kurram tribal agency hospital in Parachinar, said: "Nineteen bodies have been brought from different areas while a woman died of wounds at the hospital.

"More than 100 people are also being treated mainly for bullet wounds, of which some 10 to 12 are critically injured."

Mohammed Nadeem, a local police official, said fighting escalated after clashes began when armed men opened fire on a Sunni mosque.



This is bizarre. I am at a complete loss to explain it.

I doubt that the Shia are the instigators here, it just doesn't make sense. For one thing, they're surrounded by potentially vindicative Sunnis; if a sectarian civil war breaks out here, they will not win. Also, there doesn't seem to have been anything to set them off. The fact that the Pakistani government is currently preoccupied with oppressing its own citizens doesn't explain it, as the Pakistani government never exerted much of a restraining influence here in the first place. I suppose some new preacher railing away at the evil Sunnis might explain it, but no such preacher is ever alluded to. I suppose the Shia could have grown nervous about the agency's Sunni siding with the increasingly problematic Taliban, but that doesn't seem right, either. These actions will serve only to incite the Sunnis, and besides, it doesn't make sense for the Taliban to have designs on the agency, either.

According to the Federally Administered Tribal Area's website,¹ Kurram has a population of 448,310. The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, which is more than four and a half times its size, has a population of 883,873 — larger, but not overwhelmingly so. All of the sources I've seen say that Kurram is "majority Shiite" without providing an actual percentage, so the most specific we can be is to say that the agency contains between 224,156 and 448,309 Shia. If the area were to be taken over by Waziristan, that means that Waziristan would be at least 16.8-33.6% Shia — quite a sizable minority. I just don't see why the Apostasy would want that sort of demographic headache; it makes much more sense for it to expand elsewhere, in friendlier territory (which is exactly what it's been doing in Swat). I suppose it's possible that the Apostates are trying to set up a "Shia menace" in order to try to scare non-aligned Sunnis over to their side, but that's extremely speculative, and seems a bit more trouble than it's worth.

It may well be that a group of Sunnis living in Kurram has become radicalized (e.g. by attending extremist madrassahs elsewhere in the country) and is acting on its own. Until more information comes in, that's the best I can think of.

Friday, November 16, 2007

US-Iraqi assault 'targets al-Qaeda'

Reports from Iraq say 600 US and Iraqi soldiers have launched an air and ground assault on two villages allegedly sheltering al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters. The soldiers are reported to be searching villagers' homes to try to flush out al-Qaeda fighters hiding among them....

Meanwhile, a top British commander in southern Iraq said attacks plunged 90 per cent across the country's south after the UK withdrew its troops from the city of Basra. The presence of British forces in the centre of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, was the single largest instigator of violence, Major-General Graham Binns said on Thursday on a visit to Baghdad's Green Zone. About 500 British troops moved out of a former Saddam Hussein palace at Basra's heart in early September, joining some 4,500 at a garrison at an airport on the city's edge.



Holy cow. Ninety percent.

One of the most important parts of winning the War on Terror is resolving the situation in Iraq. Even though al-Qaeda's plans for establishing an emirate in that country have all but collapsed, the ongoing occupation is still one of their best recruiting tools, generating anger and outrage throughout the Middle East — and the world — that the Apostasy feeds on. The problem, of course, is how to end it; you can't just wave a magic wand and create a stable society. Due to the weakness and ineffectiveness of the central Iraqi government, conventional wisdom has been that simply pulling our troops out would result in a power vacuum, causing Iraq to implode in much the way Somalia did. It now appears, however, that for whatever reason this is not the case.

Clearly, more information is required than is provided in this one article. Is the unexpected stability due to increased effectiveness of the Iraqi government, or is it due to its absence and the dominion of a few groups that are acting as mini governments? If it's the later there's a problem, because it means that a general withdrawal would end up splitting Iraq into warring regions, internally stable but in bloody conflict with one another. In addition to the obvious undesirability of this for the people of Iraq, it also would not help much in the War on Terrorism, since al-Qaeda recruiters would be able to point to the corpse of what was once a functional nation and say, "America did this". Another question is what the crime rate is like in Basrah. Few military attacks won't mean much if the region is reduced to mob rule.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I am still alive

This is just to let everyone know that I haven't dropped of the face of the Earth. I've been extremely sick for the last few weeks, but am beginning today with a renewed sense of hope that I'll be feeling better soon (by which I mean I'm actually awake this morning).

There seem to have been a number of very important events in the War on Terror while I was unconscious, not least of which has been Musharaf's suspension of the constitution, but as it's still a bit of a task for me successfully use a keyboard I'll keep things relatively short. Musharaf's using the War on Terror as an excuse for granting himself omnipotence is clearly nonsense, unless the Taliban has been infiltrating Pakistan's supreme court. As for any effects that this will have upon the real war, that's kind of hard for me to say right now, though bear in mind I am still partially in hibernation. It's clearly not going to win him the love and admiration of the people, that's for sure, but it might also upset the US enough to alter the current dynamic. What all, if anything, this means will have to wait for some time when I'm a little bit more awake.

Speaking of waiting, I believe I've mentioned, or at least alluded to, a post I was preparing on al-Qaeda's internal organization that would have been up a week or two ago if the Horrible Death Plague of Deadly Doom hadn't descended upon me. It's still not ready, of course, but in the course of my research for it I did come across Khalid Sheikh Muhammad's testimony for the trial of Zachrias Moussaoui. It's fascinating reading, and can be accessed here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pakistan cleric's base under siege

Troops have surrounded a pro-Taliban cleric's hideout in northwest Pakistan, leading to heavy clashes with his supporters, witnesses say.

Supporters of Maulana Fazlullah responded by beheading three paramilitary soldiers and a police officer and displayed their heads in a village near the town of Swat, according to a provincial official.

However, an Al Jazeera cameraman said that pro-Taliban fighters had beheaded 12 soldiers and killed another by shooting him in the head.

The battle broke out on Friday in the Swat valley in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), where Fazlullah has based a campaign to introduce pro-Taliban laws.

Two civilians were killed in the fighting that broke out at the village of Imam Dheri, where Fazlullah has a religious school.

A day earlier, a blast hit a security forces vehicle in Swat, killing about 20 people and wounding another 35, after the arrival of more than 2,000 Pakistani soldiers in the area earlier this week.



This has the potential to become another Red Mosque. In fact, it may even be worse, because Swat is deep in the heart of nowhere, where the Pakistani government does not exert meaningful control. The locals could well view this as an act of aggression.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bin Laden issues Iraq message

Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, has released a new audiotape calling on fighters in Iraq to unite and stand shoulder to shoulder. In the tape broadcast by Al Jazeera on Monday, a voice sounding like bin Laden admitted that mistakes had been made in Iraq and exhorted the fighters to rectify them.

"Some of you have been lax in one duty, which is to unite your ranks," bin Laden said. "Beware of division... The Muslim world is waiting for you to gather under one banner."

In the audio recording, entitled A Message to the People of Iraq, bin Laden called on tribal leaders and the leaders of armed groups to initiate an agreement between the different groups. "The interest of the Islamic nation surpasses that of a group," he said. "The strength of faith is in the strength of the bond between Muslims and not that of a tribe or that of nationalism."


Bin Laden said fighters in Iraq should admit "mistakes" and try to correct them in the interest of unity. The recording was aired as Iraq's government reported violence had dropped by 70 per cent since the end of June, following a series of US-led offensives.
Iraq's wing of al-Qaeda is one of the groups fighting US-led forces and the Baghdad government, but bin Laden's followers have angered other Sunni groups and tribes through their interpretations of Islam and indiscriminate killing of civilians. "The mujahidin are the children of this nation ... they do right things and wrong things," bin Laden said. "Those who are accused of violations of God's commandments should face trial," bin Laden said. In the recording, bin Laden mentioned battles in the province of Diyala, indicating that he made the remarks since the start of a US offensive there in June. He said he was addressing "mujahidin [holy warriors] in Iraq", Sunni Muslim groups fighting US-led forces. Last month, bin Laden issued three messages, including a video marking the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington in which about 3,000 people were killed. Bin Laden said in the video that the United States was vulnerable despite its power and insisted only conversion to Islam would end the conflict.


Phil Rees, who has written on al-Qaeda, told Al Jazeera: "I think there's always been a tension between the leadership [of al-Qaeda], wherever that is ... and elements such as, say, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "We know there were various communications condemning some of the sectarian attacks and feeling that al-Zarqawi was something of a loose cannon." He said the tape could be an attempt by bin Laden to re-establish control over Sunni fighters in Iraq. "Maybe its a sign that he is in charge and he is trying to rein in these people," he said. In recent months Sunni tribal groups have formed alliances and worked with US forces to confront al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Via Al Jazeera.


It had been my intention to wait a day or so for Al Jazeera to publish the full text of the message, but unfortunately it doesn't look like that's going to be happening any time soon. All they've released in English has been excerpts, and apparently even those haven't been released in Arabic.

Going by what's in this article, I'd say it's pretty clear that al-Qaeda's feeling the heat. While Osama is not, as was claimed by FOX News, "apologizing to the people of Iraq", he was definitely trying to salvage a very bad situation. He seems to have blamed everyone except al-Qaeda — individual "mujahedin", Crusaders who've infiltrated their ranks to make them look bad, the tribes, he even brings up the Jews at one point (though I'm not sure what the context is). The problem, though, is with al-Qaeda itself. Wherever it goes, whatever it does, people die. Its methods are terror, oppression, and the very disintegration of society, and any who oppose it are held to be apostates and dealt with accordingly. Osama has called for the Iraqis and the members of al-Qaeda to unite under the banner of Islam. He does not realize that this is impossible, for he has removed himself from the fold.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Afghan suicide bomber kills own family

A mother who tried to stop her son from carrying out a suicide bomb attack triggered an explosion in the family's home in southern Afghanistan that killed the would-be bomber, his mother and three siblings, police said Monday.

The would-be bomber had been studying at a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan, and when he returned to his home in Uruzgan province over the weekend announced that he planned to carry out a suicide attack, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said.

Surviving family members told police that the suicide vest exploded during a struggle between the mother and her son, said Juma Gul Himat, Uruzgan's police chief. The man's brother and two sisters were also killed.

Family members said the would-be bomber gave his family $3,600 before telling them he intended to carry out the attack, Himat said.

Bashary said the explosion happened on Sunday, but Himat said it occurred on Monday morning. It was not clear why the two accounts differed.



Sorry about the post hiatus, there was an unexpected development in my life that kept me somewhat preoccupied.

I posted this story as a reminder of the personal toll of the conflict. It is easy to get caught up in the grand machinations of state and system, and to forget that this war is being fought by real, individual human beings, each with their own story. Moreover, the battlefield itself is alive, filled with an elaborate tapestry of individual civilians; each one trying to life their life as normal, though chaos descends around them. On the broader analytical level, this story is of no importance. It was just another suicide bombing, and not even a particularly deadly one. On the incident maps I've been working on, it would just be another little red dot. But how much more is it to those whose lives it touched or ended! It is the single most momentous instant of their entire lives, the climax of their stories, and sometimes their end. What would not merit so much as a footnote in a history book would rival Shakespeare and Sophocles if fiction. But it is not fiction. No, this is all too very real.

This is the soul of war.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Curfew lifted in northwest Pakistan

Pakistani forces and fighters have reached a ceasefire in northwest Pakistan where fighting killed some 250 people last week, according to a tribal leader and officials. The Pakistani army lifted a curfew in the region on Tuesday after a tribal council brokered the truce on Monday in the area around Mir Ali near the Afghan border.

Major-General Waheed Arshad, the military spokesman, said the curfew had been lifted to help civilians while authorities were considering a request from the fighters for a ceasefire. Tribal leaders said the situation was returning to normal after talks between elders' council and the fighters.

"There is now peace in the area," said Maulana Faizullah, a tribal leader who was involved in the negotiations. "The Taliban will not attack security forces unless they are attacked." Fighting in North Waziristan, and violence in other parts of northwest Pakistan, has intensified sharply since July when a nine-month pact broke down and commandos stormed a mosque complex in Islamabad supported by fighters from Waziristan.



The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan poses a bit of a problem. Virtually unknown to most Americans, it lies in Pakistan along the Afghan border, and is one of the two regions to have reached stage three of the plan (referenced in previous posts). While it is not technically a state, per se, the central Pakistani government has no real control over it, so it is de facto independent. It appears to have the support of the local populace; the absence of anyone crying for liberation, as well as the huge difficulties that would be involved in removing it, argue strongly for leaving it alone.

Unfortunately, stage three of the plan does not call for a life of peace and solitude. Instead, these Emirates are expected to expand the area of Apostate control by assisting terror groups in neighboring regions, and ultimately invading. Indeed, Waziristan has been crucial for the Taliban's continued existence, providing them with a safe haven beyond the Coalition's reach. Were it not for the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would be little more than a fading memory.

What, then, to do? Pakistan has been trying to deal with them, but lacks the muscle and support to do so effectively. It is in Musharraf's best interest to establish a lasting cease-fire. We can't come marching in, because a) our military is busy elsewhere and b) Waziristan is technically Pakistani territory, and one of the most sure-fire ways of alienating an ally is bombing them. However, we can't just let them continue to cause problems in Afghanistan. There are no easy answers.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ramadan bombs rock Afghanistan

On the eastern fringes of Kabul, Abdul Mobin, a doctor, is home early from work, but he cuts a lonely figure as he walks down the hill from his house. Last week his wife and two children died, killed in a suicide attack on a bus taking police officers to work. "Every day they left home 15 minutes before me, every day they said goodbye, my son Munir, on that day, I'm not lying, he said goodbye three or four times. He even came back to the house and said father goodbye." The Taliban claimed responsibility and said it was part of an offensive to mark the holy month of Ramadan.A surge in the number suicide bombings has wracked Afghanistan during Ramadan making it one of the mostly deadly periods in the country since the invasion of foreign troops in 2001. Forty-nine civilians were killed during Ramadan as a result of the Taliban's 'Nasrat' (victory) offensive, according to the Afghan public health ministry. The campaign involved a spate of at least 14 suicide bombings and a series of roadside explosions, most of which were aimed at foreign military as well as Afghan police and army officers. Civilians, however, were among the casualties in almost every attack. Ramadan has seen a distinct shift the type of violence in the Afghan conflict, and there are increasing similarities with the conflict in Iraq.



This is a fairly long article, but one which I strongly recommend reading all of.

The Nasrat offensive, according to the article, indicates, or at least illustrates, a change in the Taliban's strategy. It seems that the war in Afghanistan is becoming less and less of a classical military struggle and more and more of a terrorist insurgency, as is seen in Iraq. In particular, the article notes, attacks have been focusing more on "soft" targets, such as convoys, than more fortified positions. Also, there is a growing "disregard for civilian casualties" — a disregard that may prove costly in the long run, as al-Qaeda has been discovering in Iraq.

I am preparing a map showing the various suicide bombings of the Nasrat offensive. It should be ready later today.

EDIT: There are more technical hang ups than I'd anticipated. In the meantime, here is a simpler map made with Google Earth. I actually quite like it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Management of Savagery

I've finally posted a link to The Management of Savagery, a book I've referred to several times in previous posts. It's available in the Documents section.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

'Al Qaeda leader' killed in Iraq

A senior leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has been killed in an air strike near Baghdad, according to a US military commander.

Brigadier General Joseph Anderson identified the man as Abu Usama al-Tunisi, a Tunisian reportedly viewed as the successor to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the Egyptian previously the group's most senior figure in Iraq.

"Abu Usama al-Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders within al-Qaeda in Iraq," Anderson said.

The general said a precision strike on Tuesday near the town of Musayyib killed al-Tunisi and his death was a "significant blow" to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

He said al-Qaeda may shift its forces from Iraq to Afghanistan in order to try to expand its operations there.

"All we can tell you is that by numbers and how the groups are operating in very remote locations and not collaboratively they're fractured, ruptured, mitigated here. "The question becomes, where would they go? What would they do?" he said. Handwritten note Anderson said: "United States Air Force F-16 aircraft attacked the target. "Reporting indicated that several al-Qaeda members with ties to senior leadership were present at that time. Three were killed, including al-Tunisi," he said. "His presence was confirmed by one of the two detainees from the operation, one who left the target area just prior to the air strike, who we eventually captured minutes later," he said. Ground forces recovered a handwritten note at the site that was believed to have been written by al-Tunisi, Anderson said, displaying a slide with photographs of the note. "The key points in this hand-written note include, he's surrounded, communications have been cut and he's desperate for help," he said. "What I make of that is that we're having great success in isolating these pockets." Anderson said al-Tunisi oversaw the movement of foreign fighters in Iraq and designated areas to them from where they could launch suicide attacks and car bombings in the Baghdad area.

Via Al Jazeera.


Well, we may not have gotten Osama, but we have killed Abu Osama, which is progress, I suppose.

Seriously, this article is very good news. If al-Qaeda is forced to retreat from Iraq, it will be a cataclysmic blow to its reputation. It would be one thing if Iraq was just another front, but it's not. Al-Qaeda's plan foresees three stages: the stage of "the power of vexation and exhaustion", during which the existing order is torn down, resulting in chaos and anarchy; the stage of "the administration of savagery", in which a sort of pseudo-state is set up within this area of anarchy; and the stage of "the power of establishment", in which the pseudo-state matures into a full fledged nation.¹ Had operations in Iraq been in the first stage, withdrawing would not be a problem; operations are expected to be fairly fluid in this stage. When al-Qaeda announced the formation of the "Islamic State in Iraq", however, operations moved into the second stage. Withdrawing now would be admitting that their plan had failed. The subtitle of the book The Management of Savagery is "The Most Critical Phase Through Which the Umma Will Pass", this certainly seems accurate, since this is where they have failed.

¹The Management of Savagery, translated with funding from the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ISAF authorization extended another year


Strongly condemning the violence that continued to destabilize Afghanistan, the Security Council decided this afternoon to extend the authorization of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in that country for another year beyond 13 October 2007.

By resolution 1776 (2007), adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by a recorded vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (Russian Federation), the Council also called on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and funding to strengthen the Force and make it more effective.

It stressed, in addition, the importance of improving Afghan security services in order to provide long-term solutions to the violence in the country, and encouraged ISAF and other partners to sustain their efforts to train and empower the National Police and other Afghan forces.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said his country had traditionally supported ISAF and the continuation of its mandate as the Force continued to be important in combating the terrorist threat posed by the Taliban and Al-Qaida. However, the Russian delegation had abstained in the vote because the new issue of maritime interception had yet to be clarified.

In statements after the vote, the representatives of Italy and China said they had voted in favour of the resolution because it gave the best support to Afghanistan’s stability. China’s representative, however, expressed the hope that future decisions on the issue would be made by consensus.

The meeting opened at 5:20 p.m. and closed at 5:30 p.m.

Via UNSC Department of Public Information.


The source link includes the full text of the resolution.

While it is good to see that the Security Council is still backing us on this, some of our allies have been growing frustrated. In Canada, opposition to the war in Afghanistan has been growing. As one Canadian I know told me, "There has been little if no progress with the original mission due mostly to the shift in focus to Iraq by the U.S. administration. As a basically peace loving liberal population we have grown tired of this bullshit. This is a major issue with our country. We are no longer willing to support a 'War on Terror' when the main player has decided to move on for other reasons." Canada's contribution to the war has been immense, with the 2,500 or so Canadian troops responsible for securing volatile Qandahar. If they were to withdraw, we would face a serious problem. At the same time, though, my friend does have a point. Canada is under no obligation to continue helping us defend ourselves if we ourselves have stopped doing that.

Russia abstained because of the clause in which the UNSC states that it is "Expressing its appreciation for the leadership provided by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and for the contributions of many nations to ISAF and to the OEF coalition, including its maritime interdiction component" (boldface mine). What, you may ask, does a mission in a landlocked country have to do with naval activities? Well, according to, Japan currently has some naval forces in the Indian Ocean, which are refueling various US forces involved in Afghanistan. This is regarded with suspicion by Russia, which is evidently concerned that they might be used in a US attack on Iran, and is outright opposed by the Japanese opposition party. The inclusion of the phrase in question was apparently meant to bolster the majority party's efforts to extend the Imperial Navy's deployment.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Iraq tribes vow to avenge murder

Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar, the western Iraqi province, have vowed to avenge the killing of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, their leader. He died in a roadside-bomb attack near his home in Ramadi, the provincial capital, on Thursday.

Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of clans that supported the Iraqi government and US forces in fighting al-Qaeda in the province. An al Qaeda-led group said on Friday it carried out the killing of Abu Risha, according to a posting on a web site.

The Islamic State in Iraq said the killing of Abu Risha was a "heroic operation", but the authenticity of the statement could not be verified. "Allah enabled your brothers ... to track down and assassinate the imam of infidelity and apostasy ... one of the dogs of Bush," said the statement.

Funeral crowd

Thousands of people gathered in Ramadi on Friday to attend Abu Risha's funeral. "We blame al-Qaeda and we are going to continue our fight and avenge his death," Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, brother of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, said on Friday. Ahmed Abu Risha was elected the new leader of the Anbar Salvation Conference just hours after his brother's killing.

Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar, the western Iraqi province, have vowed to avenge the killing of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, their leader. He died in a roadside-bomb attack near his home in Ramadi, the provincial capital, on Thursday.

Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of clans that supported the Iraqi government and US forces in fighting al-Qaeda in the province. An al Qaeda-led group said on Friday it carried out the killing of Abu Risha, according to a posting on a web site.

Pallbearers carried Abdul Sattar Abu Risha's body from Ramadi to the cemetery 10km outside the city, while the funeral procession shouted "revenge, revenge on al-Qaeda." Others mourners chanted "there is no God but Allah and al-Qaeda is the enemy of Allah" and "Abdul Sattar is the pride of Ramadi". Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, was represented by Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, his national security adviser, who condemned the killing. "It is a national Iraqi disaster. What Abu Risha did for Iraq, no single man has done in the country's history," al-Rubaie told the mourners gathered in the sheikh's house. "We will support Anbar much more than before. Abu Risha is a national hero."



"There is no god but God and al-Qaeda is the enemy of God." That's some pretty powerful rhetoric. For those of you who don't recognize it, that's a variation of a phrase called the Shahada: "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God." The Shahada is the central creed of Islam. To elevate opposition to al-Qaeda to such a level is so extreme that I'm actually somewhat taken aback. In any case, though, I think it's probably safe to say that al-Qaeda's plan for Iraq, as set out in the terrorist text The Management of Savagery and the Zawahri-Zarqawi letter, has failed. The Management of Savagery describes trapping America "in a state of war with the masses of the region"*. However, it is al-Qaeda that has become so entrapped.

This is not the first time this has happened. Back in May, when this blog was just starting out, a group of Uzbek terrorists responded to the Pashtuns' hospitality by assassinating a tribal leader. The Pashtuns responded by completely annihilating the Uzbeks. Apparently, though, al-Qaeda still has not learned that you cannot solve tribal problems simply by smashing them.

According to the article, Abu Risha has become a national hero, along the lines of Ahmad Shah Masoud in Afghanistan. It says that "'His programme now against al-Qaeda has become a national programme. Diyala province, Salahuddin province, Baghdad province are following now his programme.'" It is unfortunate that I was not aware of him prior to his martyrdom, as it would have been an honor to cover his achievements. He was a true hero, and Iraq needs heroes badly in this day and age.

*Funding for this translation was provided by the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.

Friday, September 14, 2007

NES 10

I am currently taking the class NES 10 (Introduction to the Near East) at UC Berkeley, and am going to be using some of the posts on this site for the diary we are supposed to be keeping. Such posts will be tagged "NES-10", so that it will be easy to call them all up. I will also be giving the graduate student instructor the dates of the posts.

Speaking of the GSI, he requested that I give some indication that I am indeed the author of this weblog, since the name appearing beneath each post is not the one he was expecting. As he surmised in an email he sent me, "Sergei Andropov" is a screen name, which I have been using for quite some time. It's a take-off of "Pickup Andropoff", the fictitious Russian chauffeur mentioned in the end credits of the radio show Car Talk. Anyway, consider this the confirmation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The day began like any other...

It happened at 8:46 am. The clip begins at 8:31 am. Footage is from

Monday, September 10, 2007

al-Qaida Says 2nd Bin Laden Video Coming

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Osama bin Laden will appear for the second time in a week in a new video to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, presenting the last will and testament of one of the suicide hijackers, al-Qaida announced Monday. Each year, al-Qaida has released videos of last statements by hijackers on the anniversary of the 2001 attacks, using the occasion to rally its sympathizers. But this year's releases underline how bin Laden is re-emerging to tout his leadership - whether symbolic or effective - of the jihad movement. While past anniversary videos featured old footage of bin Laden, the latest appears likely to include a newly made speech. [More]


After having been pent up in the mountains for so long with nobody to talk to but the sheep and the goats, Osama evidently has a lot to say. Needless to say, this coming video will totally reframe the discussion about whether or not September 7th's was real, so the discussion of that issue, which I had hoped to post on today, will have to wait for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Full bin Laden video

Azzam al-Amriki

In my previous post, I speculated that Azzam al-Amriki may have written the bulk of Osama bin Laden's. Having read of his life, and having viewed his video messages, I am now fairly certain that that is the case. He is a highly disturbing individual, because he reminds me so much, in his mannerisms and speech, of those that I know, yet he has fallen into the clutches of the Apostasy. He is, as I had suspected, something of a disaffected Leftist; he was born to a pair of hippy goatherds living in seclusion in Southern California and grew up feeling and perceiving the emptiness that most of today's youth have either observed or experienced themselves. He first sought to express that emptiness through the Death Metal subculture, and later sought to fill it with religion. The religion he found, based on its true merits, was Islam, but through an unfortunate quirk of fate the mosque that he found had a strong extremist presence. He fell in with and was assimilated by these extremists, and was radicalized through them. Despite having spent many years in the Middle East, his old ties to the Grumpy Young Californian Liberal culture are still readily apparent — at one point in one of his tapes he refers to Bush as "Dubya" — and he is thus almost certainly the source of the familiar, though perverted, tone of the middle part of Osama's speech. He does seem to have laid it on pretty thick, though, in comparison with his other videos, which leads me to suspect that he may have been trying to reach out to the 71%.

An excellent article on him can be found here, and some of his videos can be found here and here (part one of six).

Friday, September 7, 2007

Bin Laden shows his face again

Osama bin Laden has finally ended his longest-ever communications silence, though not entirely on his terms. The half hour video, which was supposed to have been released on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, was somehow obtained by the SITE Institute, which released its pirated copy on September 7. A number of transcripts have been made available by assorted news organizations; the most legible is available here.

This is a somewhat peculiar video. While As-Sahab's make-up team seems to have done a fine job making bin Laden look as healthy and photogenic as possible,
whoever it was that put the speech together did considerably shoddier work. I have read from various sources speculation that Azzam al-Amriki influenced the content; while I am unfamiliar with Amriki's rantings, I am still inclined to agree, because much of the speech does not seem to have been put together by bin Laden, and indeed appears to have something of an American touch. Compare, for example, the following, from a 2006 audio tape:

As for us, we do not have anything to lose. The swimmer in the sea does not fear rain. You have occupied our land, defiled our honour, violated our dignity, shed our blood, ransacked our money, demolished our houses, rendered us homeless, and tampered with our security. We will treat you in the same way. You tried to deny us the decent life, but you cannot deny us a decent death. Refraining from performing jihad, which is sanctioned by our religion, is an appalling sin. The best way of death for us is under the shadows of swords. Do not be deluded by your power and modern weapons. Although they win some battles, they lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are better than them. What is important is the outcome.¹

with this, from the just-released video:

It has now become clear to you and the entire world the impotence of the democratic system and how it plays with the interests of the peoples and their blood by sacrificing soldiers and populations to achieve the interests of the major corporations. And with that, it has become clear to all that they are the real tyrannical terrorists. In fact, the life of all of mankind is in danger because of the global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations, yet despite that, the representative of these corporations in the White House insists on not observing the Kyoto accord, with the knowledge that the statistic speaks of the death and displacement of the millions of human beings because of that, especially in Africa. This greatest of plagues and most dangerous of threats to the lives of humans is taking place in an accelerating fashion as the world is being dominated by the democratic system, which confirms its massive failure to protect humans and their interests from the greed and avarice of the major corporations and their representatives.

Since when does Osama bin Laden care about the Kyoto Accords? He's pissed off at us because of our alleged war against Islam, not our lack of concern for the environment. He cares about the smoke rising from our bombs, not the smoke rising from our smokestacks. These seem more to be the words of a former American Leftist than of a former Arab mujahed. Either Osama spent some time cruising the blogosphere for issues he thought Americans would identify with, or the issues were selected by someone who was himself an American — al-Amriki.

There are also important stylistic differences. Osama is fond of using flowery metaphors like "the swimmer in the sea does not fear rain" and "[George Bush is] like the one who plows and sows the sea: he harvests nothing but failure." This seems to me to be a very Arab way of speaking; I am reminded of the words of the Prophet Muḥammad when He said, "By God, if one man were to be guided at your hands, it would be better for you than red camels." (Bukhari 2942). This presumably made a lot of sense to 'Alí, to whom t was addressed, but it seems a mite peculiar to Americans. Although parts of this speech are in this highly Arab style, other parts seem to be in the much more direct manner of speech characteristic of Americans. This is also noticeable in terminology; compare the above mentioned audio tape's "influential people and war merchants in America" with the new video's much blander "major corporations".

Also present are things that I just can't imagine Osama bin Laden saying on his own. In particular, his depiction of Islam as tolerant of Christians and Jews seems inconsistent with "Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews and hates Christians."² Also somewhat curious is the sentence, "This innocence of yours is like my innocence of the blood of your sons on the 11th - were I to claim such a thing." Osama has, in fact, claimed precisely that, and I doubt he would have voluntarily risked drawing attention to
this dishonesty.

It seems to me that this speech was most likely written by Azzam al-Amriki and then sent to bin Laden who, after making some adjustments, read it for the video. As I said, though, I know very little about Amriki other than that he is an American convert to Salafism; a follow up post profiling him should shed further light on the situation.

UPDATE: The follow-up has been posted.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Suicide bomber strikes in Algeria

At least 15 people have been killed after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of people shortly before a visit by Algeria's president. Abdelaziz Bouteflika visited some of the 60 wounded in a hospital in the eastern town of Batna, 430km from the capital, Algiers. The president accused the attackers of trying to damage his policy of national reconciliation, which is aimed at ending 15 years of fighting between the army and rebel groups. There was no immmediate claim of responsibilty for the attack. [More]


Maybe not, but there's only one really active terrorist group in Algeria, and that's al-Qaeda. Some things go without saying.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Germany says bomb plot foiled

German security services arrested three Muslim activists on Tuesday and foiled a plan to carry out "massive bomb attacks" against US installations in Germany, officials say. Monika Harms, federal prosecutor, said on Wednesday in Karlsruhe that the men, two German nationals and one Turk, had been on the verge of launching their attacks after acquiring enough material to make a bomb with explosive power equal to 550kg of TNT. [More]


The three belonged to the Islamic Jihad Union (also referred to as the Islamic Jihad Group), which is a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and has been responsible for several high profile bombings in that nation. The IMU, while a separate organization, has very close ties with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, from whom it has received substantial sums of money. The IJU's al-Qaeda ties appear to be even closer, due to the extreme sophistication of their attacks. The IJU's apparent branching out into Europe is disturbing, to say the least, as is the temporal proximity of these events to the anniversary of 9/11. Al-Qaeda had originally planned to launch a follow-up attack on US soil on September 11, 2002; it looks like they may have taken that idea back out of cold storage. When considered in conjunction with the recent arrest of eight terror suspects in Denmark, an ominous trend begins to emerge.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Freed hostages arrive back in Seoul

Nineteen hostages released by the Taliban have arrived back in South Korea more than six weeks after they were captured in southern Afghanistan. The group of Christian aid workers looked tired and subdued as they stepped off a flight from the United Arab Emirates at Incheon airport early on Sunday. [More]


Al Jazeera has reported that a ransom of $20 million has been paid, but this has been denied by the involved parties. In this case I am inclined to believe them, since the hostage situation has become something of a public relations fiasco for the Taliban and I doubt that such a high ransom would have been necessary.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Progress is being made

As those of you who have been following this blog for some time know, it has long been an objective of mine to provide maps showing the various incidents in Afghanistan. I am pleased to report that significant progress towards this goal has been made, and I have successfully created a rudimentary base map of the region, as shown above. Now all that needs to be done is devising a way to depict the incidents themselves, and I have been making progress here, too (although not as much).

The above image was produced with the Maya Personal Learning Edition using NASA's Blue Marble satellite imagery and data from the same agency's World Wind DEM.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


This is just a brief update to let readers (if any) know that I have not forgotten about my blog. I've been fairly busy lately, but will hopefully do a real post in the near future.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

South Korean hostage talks 'fail'

Taliban officials have said they are deciding what to do with 19 captured aid workers after talks with a South Korean delegation in southern Afghanistan ended unsuccessfully.

"The talks ended without any result and have failed as our main demand was not accepted," Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, said on Saturday. The announcement came as the Afghan interior ministry said a German woman had been abducted by unidentified armed men in Kabul.

The woman was taken from an area in the southwest of the capital where several aid groups have offices, Zemarai Bashary, a spokesman for the ministry, said. Twenty-three Christian volunteers from South Korea were taken from a bus as they travelled on the main road south from Kabul last month.



The Taliban still hasn't decided what to do with them. Let us pray for their safe release.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Real Story of John Walker Lindh

I believe the case of John Lindh is an important story and worthy of this audience's attention. In simple terms, this is the story of a decent and honorable young man, embarked on a spiritual quest, who became the focus of the grief and anger of an entire nation over an event in which he had no part. I refer to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The reason I think this story is important is because our system broke down in the case of John Lindh. My goals today are first, just to tell you the story of John Lindh. Second, to ask you to reflect, based on the fact of John's case, on the importance and the fragility of the rights we enjoy under our Constitution. And my third point is to suggest that the so-called war on terrorism lacks a hearts and minds component.

I want to begin by asking you to call to mind the September 11th terrorist attacks and the shock and horror they engendered in the hearts of everyone. On that awful day, a band of terrorists, who claimed Islam as their cause, hijacked four airplanes and flew three of them full of passengers into occupied buildings without warning -- the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. They crashed the fourth airplane, also filled with passengers, into a field in Pennsylvania. Three thousand innocent Americans lost their lives that day.

But for those attacks, John's activities, which I will describe, would have been treated with indifference, or perhaps curiosity here in the United States. But, viewed through the prism of the September 11th attacks, those very same activities caused this young man to be vilified as a traitor and a terrorist.



When I was directed to this article, I was disgusted that the people who so directed me — people that I ordinarily have a very high opinion of — would defend such traitorous scum. Yes, I realize that the Bush administration has a very long and very accomplished history of lying, but that doesn't mean that the opposite of what he says is by default true. I was especially disgusted given how clear cut cut the facts of the matter were, and intended on telling them as such — in no uncertain terms — once I had read the article. It's a good thing I did decide to read the article first, because, to my great surprise, the article turned out not to be the wishful thinking of a parent in denial (e.g. "My little Johnny would never do something like that. He's a good kid!"), but rather a persuasive, well researched piece that just so happened to be written by the subject's father. To my great surprise, I learned that most of what I had been led to believe about the basic facts of the case was simply not true. I admit to not having followed his case closely — I had other things on my mind at the time, and was in any case much younger and less aware of current affairs — but I had been under the impression that Lindh had gone to Afghanistan after 9/11 in order to fight against our retribution for the attacks, that he had been captured in combat against American troops, and that he had been convicted of committing treason.

Nope. It turns out that he had gone to Afghanistan some time earlier in order to fight the Northern Alliance, who, it turns out, were supported by the Russians (i.e. the successors of the evil atheist empire that had invaded the Realm of Islam in an effort to supplant Islam with Communism, and against which a jihad — a real one, not like Osama's unholy war — had been declared). His objectives had nothing to do with America, or the Apostasy. He wasn't captured fighting American troops, either. He actually surrendered his weapons to the Northern Alliance, which then betrayed him. Finally, he was not convicted of committing treason, or of belonging to a terrorist organization, or anything like that. He was convicted of violating the trade embargo by importing his services as a soldier.

I am aware of, and have read, both Robert Young Pelton's and Johnny Spann's rebuttal's of Mr. Lindh's speech, and I have found them wanting. Both, unlike Mr. Lindh's speech, rely on emotionally loaded language, make unsupported claims, and generally ignore facts. Moreover, both make the same two basic mistakes: they effectively treat "Taliban" and "al-Qaeda" as synonyms, and they look at al-Qaeda — and thus the Taliban — from the perspective of today, after 9/11 made it the ultimate incarnation of evil in our time (rather than just another terror group, which is what it had been). In short, they both operate under the assumption that the other grunts in Lindh's unit were evil.

In war, on the ground, there is no good and evil, only death.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bin Laden and the Binladens

Prince Abdullah, the effective regent of Saudi Arabia, placed a soft, plump hand on his young compatriot's shoulder, smiled and spoke of friendship and loyalty. His words were smooth and conciliatory, but there was no doubting the harsh threat that lay beneath them.

"The family of Mohammed bin Laden have always been faithful subjects of our kingdom and have helped us greatly in our times of need," he told the gathering. "We are sure that nothing will be allowed to mar our good relations in the future."

It was the autumn of 1990 and Abdullah was addressing Afghan veterans in a beautifully furnished lounge in his palace in Riyadh. Although the men nodded respectfully at the prince's words, the man to whom they were directed could barely conceal his anger. "He was seething," one of the Afghan commanders said. "You could see it in his eyes."

A few months earlier, on Aug. 2, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. Osama bin Laden, then living in his home town of Jedda, had immediately sent a message to the Saudi royal family offering to form an army of 30,000 Afghan veterans to defeat the Iraqi dictator. The men who had defeated the Russians could easily take on Saddam, he said, and he was clearly the man to lead them.

Bin Laden was in for a rude -- and profoundly upsetting -- shock. The last thing the House of al-Saud wanted was an army of zealous Islamists fighting its war. Bin Laden was received by senior royals, but his offer was firmly rejected.

Worse was to come. Instead of the Islamic army he envisaged protecting the cradle of Islam, the defense of Saudi Arabia -- and thus of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina -- was entrusted to the Americans. Bin Laden, seething with humiliation and rage, could do nothing but watch as 300,000 U.S. troops arrived in his country and set about building bases, drinking Coke and alcohol and sunbathing. Bin Laden saw their presence as an infidel invasion. It even appeared to defy directly the dying words of the Prophet Muhammad: "Let there be no two religions in Arabia." The 33-year-old started lobbying religious scholars and Muslim activists throughout the Gulf. Playing on his celebrity status, he lectured and preached throughout Saudi Arabia, circulating thousands of audio tapes through mosques.

He started recruiting his army and sent an estimated 4,000 men to Afghanistan for training. The regime grew uneasy, raided his home and put him under house arrest. Bin Laden's family, worried that his activities might jeopardize their close relations with the ruling clan, tried to bring him back into the fold but were forced eventually to effectively disown him. The pressure mounted....


The above is excerpted from the excellent article "The making of Osama bin Laden." It details the time, and motivation, of Osama's split with his family and the House of Saud. Other parts of the article clearly demonstrate how Osama's fall into Apostasy was not influenced by, or shared with, the rest of his family. Far from growing up in some harsh Salafi dungeon, he was just a normal kid. It was later events that corrupted him.

It's a long article, but a very good read.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bomb kills Iraq Sunni leaders

Five Sunni tribal leaders opposed to al-Qaeda have been killed after a suicide bomber drove a minivan packed with explosives into a house north of Baghdad. The men were meeting in Jurf al-Milih, near Taji, about 20km north of the Iraqi capital, to discuss joining US and Iraqi forces in fighting al-Qaeda.

A police source said another 12 people were wounded in Sunday's attack and the death toll could rise. An Iraqi army source said the tribal chiefs were meeting after talks with local Shia leaders were held in Taji on Friday under the protection of US forces.

Special units

US military commanders have been trying to expand their plan, first used in the violent western province of Anbar, of recruiting local Sunnis who are tired of al-Qaeda violence into special provincial police units. Al-Qaeda is blamed for stoking sectarian hatred and violence between majority Shias and minority Sunni Arabs who were dominant under Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader. The US military began a security crackdown in Baghdad five months ago which initially helped bring down the number of sectarian murders but which also pushed al-Qaeda fighters out of the capital and into surrounding areas. US and Iraqi forces later launched another big operation in the middle of June coinciding with the arrival of the last of 28,000 extra US troops in Iraq.

Via Al Jazeera.


This was a rather foolish move on al-Qaeda's part. You'd think that the Uzbek incident of earlier this year would have taught them that it's usually a bad idea, when dealing with tribal peoples, to assassinate their chiefs, especially if their followers are so heavily armed they even carry AK-47s with them in the shower. Al-Qaeda has just ensured the undying enmity of these five clans.

Ironically, al-Qaeda may be one of Iraq's greatest hopes for peace. True, they have done everything in their power to sow discord and calamity, but in doing so, in fighting against all of Iraq, they are slowly uniting the nation against them. Consider the meetings described in the above article. Iraqi Sunnis, talking with Iraqi Shiites? Under the auspices of the US Army? And then going on to another meeting, to discuss joining forces with the government and the Coalition? Much has been made of the need for reconciliation. Isn't that what appears to be happening here?

This is reflected in the numbers. Another Al Jazeera article¹ provides the following statistic: "From July 13 to July 19, 2006, Anbar saw 428 incidents, including small-arm fire, indirect fire, rocker attacks and roadside bomb attacks. In the comparable period this year, that has dropped to 98 incidents." Anbar province, you will remember, is the center of the insurgency, home to Falluja, Ramadi, and Qa'im. Remember, too, that this is during the surge, which has been pushing militants out of the capital. Impressive, isn't it?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Waziristan Peace Treaty Ends

From the Al Jazeera article Attacks kill troops in Pakistan:

...Also on Sunday, tribal elders in the North Waziristan region called off a 10-month peace deal with the government after accusing authorities of violating the pact...

...The collapse of the North Waziristan peace deal did not appear to be linked to the Lal Masjid assault, but is likely to add to the problems security forces are facing. Under the pact, the authorities agreed to stop operations against the tribes in return for their pledge to not send fighters into Afghanistan or launch attacks on security forces. While US military officials in Afghanistan said the pact had not stopped armed raids into Afghanistan, it did lead to a sharp fall in attacks on Pakistani forces in North Waziristan.

A tribal leadership council said it was abandoning the pact because security forces had launched several attacks on them and the government had deployed more troops in the region. The council said in pamphlets that it would refuse all dialogue and co-operation with authorities after the government had failed to meet a Sunday deadline to abandon 25 new military checkpoints. The Pakistani army has been moving more troops into the tribal areas after Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, said last week he would crush extremists and "root them out from every corner of the country". Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan, said many analysts feel Musharraf is plotting a dangerous course in the region where the military is at risk of confronting its own people.

Hyder said the president's policies are not going down well and there is a definite risk that attacks in the area will increase.

General Assad Durrani, former head of Pakistani intelligence, told Al Jazeera: "If you look at the pattern of the last five to six years, ever since we joined the so-called 'war on terror', there have been enough warnings from the people of this area to suggest that there would be some reprisal attacks.

"The warning from the president may be now ... but experts had already said many years ago that this was likely to happen."


It will be interesting to see what the repercussions of this will be. Unfortunately, I do not now have time for a detailed analysis, but God willing I will add one soon.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Al-Qaeda threatens war against Iran

The leader of an al-Qaeda umbrella group in Iraq, who was thought to have beeen killed by US forces, has threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shias in Iraq within two months. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing to wage a battle against Shia-dominated Iran.

Al-Baghdadi made the announcement in an audiotape that was posted on a web site commonly used by armed groups. The 50-minute audiotape, which was released on Sunday, could not be independently verified.

US forces had earlier claimed to have killed al-Baghdadi. Major General William Caldwell, the commander of the multinational force in Iraq, told a press conference in Baghdad that US forces had killed Muharib Abdulatif al-Juburi on May 1. Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf, operations director at the Iraqi interior minister, told state television that al-Juburi was also known as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Audiotape "We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two-month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shia government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," al-Baghdadi said. Iraq's Shia-led government is backed by the US but closely allied to Iran. The United States accuses Iran of arming and financing Shia militias in Iraq, charges Tehran denies. In the recording, al-Baghdadi also gave Sunnis and Arab countries doing business in Iran or with Iranians a two-month deadline to cease their ties. "We advise and warn every Sunni businessman inside Iran or in Arab countries especially in the Gulf not to take partnership with any Shia Iranian businessman, this is part of the two-month period," he said. Al-Baghdadi said his group was responsible for two suicide truck bomb attacks in May in Iraq's northern Kurdish region. He said the attacks in Irbil and Makhmur showed the "Islamic jihad" was progressing in the Kurdish areas.

Via Al Jazeera.


This is an interesting—and somewhat disturbing—development. On the one hand, al-Qaeda launching a war against Iran would do wonders for Iranian-US relations. This silly "I'm not talking to you, so there!" mentality has gone on quite long enough. Also, I doubt there is a doubt in anyone's mind—except the Far Right's—that a war with Iran would completely break the US military. Our army was designed to be able to fight to a standstill on two fronts simultaneously (why it wasn't designed to win on two fronts is something only Rumsfeld knows); three fronts is too many. We need that army for fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, so as much as Bush might like to roll around Khorasan in a tank, blasting away at random buildings, anything that makes peace with Iran more likely is good.

On the other hand, of course, are the repercussions this would have on the people of Iran. First and foremost, being the target of a concerted campaign of terrorist attacks is no fun, in fact it is quite often fatal. Attacks on civilian targets would cause a great many casualties, attacks on Iran's precarious supply of gasoline would greatly exacerbate an already unpleasant situation, attacks on religious targets, such as the Shrine in Mashhad, would even further inflame sectarian tensions across the world, and attacks against cultural landmarks, such as Persepolis or Azadi Tower, could contribute to internal strain between Iranian Persians and Iranian Arabs. Also, as you may have heard, the Iranian government is not exactly benevolent. A war with al-Qaeda would further damage the Iranian democracy, which is already dominated by theocrats and weirdos. Of concern to me personally, the government would also almost certainly use it as an opportunity to ratchet up its persecution of the Bahá'ís. True, the notion of a Bahá'í-al-Qaeda link is so far fetched as to be laughable to the point of hilarity, but common sense has never stood in the mullahs' way before.

Another reason this is somewhat disturbing is that it indicates al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to get back on course. The original plan was to drive out the British, Americans, and miscellaneous crusading infidels, then use their existing resources and popularity among the pious masses to create an Islamic state, the stability of which the Iraqis would flock to as their world disintegrates around them. Unfortunately for al-Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi screwed up that plan by exterminating as many civilians as possible, brutally beheading captive noncombatants, and generally being twisted, maniacal, and evil. By the time Osama and Zawahri woke up to what was happening and exterminated Zarqawi, it was too late, and the pious masses loathed al-Qaeda with a passion. Equally problematic was the rise of the Mahdi Army, which would have been in a far better position to take over as Iraq's de facto government even if it weren't for Big Q's image problem.

Al-Qaeda had been responding to these difficulties via the always effective Ostrich Method, wherein al-Qaeda continued on as though everything was normal, and God sends down a plague of locusts or something to defeat the Mahdi Army and the Coalition. Unfortunately, they now seem to have noticed that God, for whatever reason (and God, verily, has the best of reasons) is failing to come through, so it's up to them to do something constructive. Going after the Mahdi Army's funding by threatening—much less attacking—Iran won't work, as no sane government would give in to a terrorist demand unless it had absolutely no other choice, but I still don't like it that al-Qaeda is beginning to demonstrate some awareness of reality.