Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Radical Muslim paramilitary compound flourishes in upper New York state
Situated within a dense forest at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains on the outskirts of Hancock, New York, Islamberg is not an ideal place for a summer vacation unless, of course, you are an exponent of the Jihad or a fan of Osama bin Laden.
The 70 acre complex is surrounded with "No trespassing" signs; the rocky terrain is infested with rattlesnakes; and the woods are home to black bears, coyotes, wolves, and a few bobcats.
A sentry post has been established at the base of the hill.
The sentry, at the time of this visit, is an African American dressed in Islamic garb - - a skull cap, a prayer shawl, and a loose fitting shalwat kameez. He instructs us to turn around and leave. "Our community is not open to visitors," he says.
Behind the sentry and across a small stream stand dozens of inhabitants of the compound - - the men wearing skull caps and loose fitting tunics, the women in full burqa. They appear ready to deal with any unauthorized intruders.
The hillside is blighted by rusty trailers that appear to be without power or running water and a number of outhouses. The scent of raw sewage is in the air.
The place is even off limits to the local undertaker who says that he has delivered bodies to the complex but has never been granted entrance. "They come and take the bodies from my hearse. They won't allow me to get past the sentry post. They say that they want to prepare the bodies for burial. But I never get the bodies back. I don't know what's going on there but I don't think it's legal."
On the other side of the hill where few dare to go is a tiny village replete with a make-shift learning center (dubbed the "International Quranic Open University"); a trailer converted into a Laundromat; a small, green community center; a small and rather squalid grocery store; a newly constructed majid; over forty clapboard homes; and scores of additional trailers.It is home to hundreds - - all in Islamic attire, and all African-Americans. Most drive late model SUVs with license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The locals say that some work as tollbooth operators for the New York State Thruway, while others are employed at a credit card processing center that maintains confidential financial records.
While buzzing with activity during the week, the place becomes a virtual hive on weekends. The guest includes arrivals from the inner cities of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and, occasionally, white-robed dignitaries in Ray-Bans from the Middle East.
Venturing into the complex last summer, Douglas Hagmann, an intrepid investigator and director of the Northeast Intelligence Service, came upon a military training area at the eastern perimeter of the property. The area was equipped with ropes hanging from tall trees, wooden fences for scaling, a make-shift obstacle course, and a firing range. Hagmann said that the range appeared to have been in regular use.
Islamberg is not as benign as a Buddhist monastery or a Carmelite convent. Nearly every weekend, neighbors hear sounds of gunfire. Some, including a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, have heard the bang of small explosives. None of the neighbors wished to be identified for fear of "retaliation." "We don't even dare to slow down when we drive by," one resident said. "They own the mountain and they know it and there is nothing we can do about it but move, and we can't even do that. Who wants to buy a property near that?"
Islamberg is part of a larger organization, legally classified as a "charity," that operates compounds around the country. Over the last few decades, they have been linked to a number of terrorist attacks, especially attacks against Hindu ("idolatrous") temples, as well as other illegal activities. Their founder is suspected of having links to al-Qaeda, and was arrested in Pakistan for abducting Daniel Perle. A member of this organization was arrested for taking part in the first attack on the World Trade Center. These guys are not exactly humanitarians.
This may just be me being paranoid, but doesn't this seem like just a wee bit of a threat to our national security? We attacked Iraq because someone with the same ideology as Osama bin Laden received medical care there. Isn't the presence of actual terrorist training camps linked to actual terrorist attacks against actual American citizens in the actual United States at least as good a reason?
Friday, May 25, 2007
He said: "The number of fighters is increasing. The support they receive from Muslims in Afghanistan is almost total." Abu al-Yazid said that al-Qaeda fighters trained during winter to carry out massive attacks in the current season. [More]
Interesting. As I had previously understood it, the al-Qaeda group operating in Afghanistan and the main al-Qaeda "High Command" were one and the same. Either I was gravely mistaken, which in this case seems unlikely, or al-Qaeda has reorganized itself to make the High Command a little more global in nature, while emphasizing the local nature of "al-Qaeda in Afghanistan."
It's also interesting, though hardly surprising, that the Apostates in al-Qaeda and the Taliban lie so freely. The Qur'án says, "a painful doom is theirs, because they lie,"¹ yet they have no problem whatsoever claiming near universal support when things like this happen:
...suspected Taliban insurgents clashed with villagers in western Afghanistan, leaving three militants killed and one villager wounded, an official said Sunday. The clash occurred after militants attacked a group of Afghan and Indian engineers surveying a dam in Bala Buluk area of Farah province on Saturday, said Anwar Khan, a spokesman for the province's police chief. Some 150 villagers came out to help the engineers and exchanged fire for some 20 minutes with militants, he said. Three militants were killed and one villager was wounded in the clash, Khan said.²God alone know how they justify their actions, and I sincerely doubt he accepts their excuses.
UPDATE: It seems that I was, in fact, "gravely mistaken." According to Afghanistanica, that al-Iraqi fellow who briefly popped up in the news not to long ago was the former head of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. I'm not sure why it took them so long to find a replacement. You can read the rest of Afghanistanica's analysis here.
¹ 2:10, Pickthal translation. Incidentally, the Apostates would do well to heed the next two verses as well, which state, " And when it is said unto them: Make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are peacemakers only./ Are not they indeed the mischief-makers? But they perceive not."
² From an article by FOX News.
Via Al Jazeera.
Friday, May 18, 2007
He said that operations were continuing as planned, led by Mansour. Mansour was freed in March as part of a prisoner swap for the release of Daniele Mastrogiacomo, an Italian journalist kidnapped while working in Afghanistsan. [More]
I wonder what the political repercussions of this will be. The Afghan government took a lot of heat for giving in to the Taliban's demands; now one of the people they released has become commander in chief.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
"As you have chosen the crusader and Zionist Sarkozy as a leader ... we in the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades warn you that the coming days will see a bloody jihadist campaign ... in the heart of Sarkozy's capital," the group's "Europe division" said in a statement addressed to the French people. [More]
This represents quite a conundrum for the non-O'Rielly Right. On the one hand, these people belong to al-Qaeda. On the other hand, they want to attack France. What to do, what to do?
Monday, May 14, 2007
"One Isaf service member was killed and four Isaf service members wounded when they were ambushed by unknown assailants near Teri Mangel, Pakistan, after leaving a border meeting," the statement said on Monday, referring to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). [More]
This is mostly just an update of the previous post, though I'm not sure whether it clears things up or just makes them even more confused.
It's interesting that the Afghan emissary's account of the incident differs, significantly, from the official accounts of the two parties involved. Barring unforeseen events (which are almost certain to occur), it appears to me that the nascent Afghan government may be attempting to foment ill will between Pakistan and America. While this would be a good thing (a milestone of development, sort of like when your teenager crashes your car for the first time), it would be preferable if it were to assert its growing sense of independence in a way that did not involve alleging that one nuclear power had committed an act of war against another.
"There was no clash today. The things are very much under control. There is no cause of concern," Major General Waheed Arshad, a Pakistani army spokesman, said. Sunday's fighting was the worst outbreak of violence between the neighbouring countries in years.
"Eight policemen and four civilians have been killed since yesterday," Sami-Ul Haq Badar, an Afghan army general, said on Monday.
Despite the end to the army battles, reports have emerged that two US soldiers were killed on Monday in Pakistan's northwest Kurram region. US and Pakistani army soldiers had met to discuss moves to bring a lasting end to the clashes between the armies of Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to an Afghan government spokesman. "At the meeting, a Pakistani officer rose up and fired at US soldiers, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers and wounding of two others," Zahir Azimi, an Afghan defence ministry spokesman, told Reuters. He said US soldiers had returned fire, killing several Pakistani troops. Major General Waheed Arshad of the Pakistan army said it was unclear what had happened in the incident. "We don't know who fired. We have ordered an inquiry. We have cordoned off the area," he said.
According to Afghan officials, Sunday's fighting erupted between after Pakistani forces took some areas in a border region in Paktia. Pakistan said paramilitary forces retaliated after Afghan troops started "unprovoked firing" on border posts in the Kurram tribal region in northwest Pakistan. Afghanistan said thousands of civilians joined government forces in fighting Pakistani troops after two Afghan children were killed.
Relations between the neighbours have deteriorated badly in recent months. Afghanistan says Pakistan is not doing enough to stop Taliban insurgents operating from the Pakistani side of the disputed border. Pakistan, the main backer of the Taliban before the September 11 attacks in the US, says the root of the Taliban problem is in Afghanistan. Pakistan is building a fence along parts of the border, disputed since Pakistan's creation in 1947, in an attempt to stop infiltration by Taliban fighters. Afghanistan opposes fencing a border it has never recognised.
This is bad. Let's hope that this incident spurs both sides to improve relations and ensure this does not happen again.
Via Al Jazeera.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's chief military commander, has been killed in southern Afghanistan according to government officials. James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent, was shown a body the authorities said was Dadullah's on Sunday morning.
The body was shown to media in the governor's compound in Kandahar.
A sheet was removed from the body up to the knee to show that part of one of the legs was missing. Dadullah lost a leg fighting Soviet forces in the 1980s.
An Interior Ministry statement said Dadullah was killed in fighting with security forces in Helmand's Girishk district on Saturday night.
Officials from Nato and the US-led coalition could not confirm it and Bays says a Nato source had told him privately that there was still some confusion over the reports but that they did believe the body was Dadullah.
Bays said the Taliban was still confused over whether Dadullah had been killed. Some sources had confirmed the body was his while some others said it was another military commander who also happened to only have one leg. A Taliban spokesman had earlier rejected the government's claim labelling it "propaganda".
Standing next to the body Bays said that although he had never met Dadullah face to face, the corpse was either him or someone bearing a striking resemblance to him.
Television stations interrupted routine broadcasting to give breaking news of the killing.
'Commander of commanders'
Dadullah is the most important rebel commander to be killed since the Taliban was driven from government by a US-led coalition in late 2001, the Afghan intelligence department said. Asadullah Khalid, the Kandahar provincial governor, said Dadullah was killed "in an operation carried out based on very accurate information." Sayed Ansari, the Intelligence agency spokesman, described him as the "biggest Taliban commander ever killed." "He was the commander of commanders," he said. Dadullah was known as the key military strategist in Taliban and was said to be close to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive Taliban supreme commander. He has bragged to the media about having thousands of men at his command, including hundreds of suicide bombers.
While it's a pity that he wasn't captured alive (see a previous post in the Dungeon), this is an immeasurably great victory for the Coalition. Moreover, it looks as if he was killed by the Afghan military, which speaks well of their growing competency. Hopefully this victory will persuade the Afghan parliament to let us continue on our mission, and hopefully it means we deserve to.
Via Al Jazeera.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
The move came as news emerged of US air strikes in Helmand province, southwest of the capital, Kabul, where at least 21 civilians were killed as US and Nato forces went after Taliban fighters. "Twenty-one civilians, including women and children, were killed," the governor of Helmand said. [More]
So, it has finally come to this. Who would have thought, back in 2001, that Osama would end up getting away with it? Who would have thought that the mightiest nation on the face of the earth would take so long to defeat a single civilian that it would overstay its welcome and be forced to leave? Who would have thought that we would fail?
I remember, in 2002, walking home from school, seeing the newspaper still in the driveway, and reading that fateful headline stating that Bush had accused Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction. I remember feeling my heart sink, an almost sickening sensation, and thinking, "This is the beginning of the end." We were on the verge of victory, and then the president abandoned his promise and set off on a quixotic quest of his own. Five years have gone by, and still Osama walks free. If this bill passes, he will die free as well.
And even if it doesn't pass, what then? It would be nice if we could quadruple the size of our forces there, send the fatigued and the strained home to recuperate, fully equip our army with the latest technology, as we once would have done. But we cannot. Our soldiers are in Iraq, there are no reinforcements, there is no left over funding. The right wing has accused the left of being defeatist, of wanting to surrender. In reality, it is President Bush who surrendered when he pulled our forces out of Afghanistan without capturing bin Laden. He left enough to maintain a stalemate, but a person who chooses stalemate over victory has given in and given up.
It figures that it should have worked out like this. America was to great a nation for any outside force to defeat it. It took one of our own to bring us to our knees.
Afghan Legislature Passes Bill To Open Talks With Taliban
Afghan Bill Calls for Talks With Taliban
Saturday, May 5, 2007
"Soldiers with high levels of anger, who had experienced high levels of combat or who screened positive for mental health symptoms were nearly twice as likely to mistreat noncombatants," Major General Gale Pollock, the acting army surgeon general, told reporters at a press conference.
The most common mistreatment reported by soldiers and marines was that of insulting non-combatants in their presence, the report said. The survey showed that 55 per cent of US army soldiers, and only 40 per cent of marines, would report a fellow serviceman for killing or injuring an innocent non-combatant. The survey, which shows increasing rates of mental health problems for troops on extended or multiple deployments in Iraq, was the first to include questions on ethics and ethical training. As such, the report stresses the findings cannot be compared "with any other group of military personnel".
Oh, boy. This is exactly what I've been saying all along. I'd been planing on finding some statistics on the relation between longer/multiple tours of duty and mistreatment of civilians, but I hadn't expected it to be this bad. We simply cannot expect to bring peace to either of these two countries unless we stop making them want to kill us. The full report will be posted in the Documents section.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan — A Libyan Al Qaeda commander was likely behind the suicide bombing that killed 23 people outside the main U.S. base in Afghanistan during a February visit by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a U.S. military official told The Associated Press.
Abu Laith al-Libi, who was featured in an Al Qaeda video last week, is believed to have trained bombers at terror camps, including one busted by U.S. forces in the eastern province of Khost in 2005, said Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.
Cheney was deep inside the sprawling Bagram base at the time of the attack and was not hurt, but the bombing added to the impression that Western forces and the shaky government of President Hamid Karzai are vulnerable to assault by Taliban and Al Qaeda militants.
"Our information suggests that Abu Laith al-Libi was the terrorist who planned the Feb. 27 suicide bomb attack at Bagram Airfield," Belcher said.
"We have information that the planning of this attack was falsely attributed to Usama bin Laden by (Taliban commander) Mullah Dadullah, in order to boost the morale of bin Laden's followers worldwide, in an attempt to reassure those followers that bin Laden is not ill or dead," he said. [More]
I thought that seemed a little suspicious. I am slightly skeptical of Maj. Belcher's explanation, though. How is a lie so transparent that even most invertebrates aren't fooled supposed to boost morale? Is Dadullah's opinion of his followers' intelligence really that low? And who in their right mind would hire someone named "Belcher" to be their spokesman?
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Iraq's government had said that al-Masri had been killed either by rivals in al-Qaeda or by Sunni tribesmen. "The Islamic State in Iraq assures the Islamic nation about the safety of Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, may God save him, and that he is still fighting the enemies," the group said.
Earlier, the Iraqi authorities said they were investigating reports that al-Masri had been killed in a battle within his own group. Iraq's interior ministry said on Tuesday it had received intelligence information on al-Masri's apparent death, and that Iraqi security forces were not involved.
"Some information ... needs confirmation, but this information is very strong," said Brigadier-General Abdel Karim Khalaf, interior ministry operations director. "The clashes took place among themselves. There were clashes within the groups of al-Qaeda. He was liquidated by them." Khalaf said al-Masri was apparently killed in a battle near a bridge in the town of al-Nibayi, north of Baghdad. He said that Iraqi authorities did not have al-Masri's body. Another interior ministry source said al-Masri had been killed. [More]
Well now, isn't this interesting. Al-Masri may not have had the celebrity of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, nor his criminal genius, and his attempted establishment of an "Islamic State in Iraq" defies comprehension, but he nevertheless succeeded quite well in maintaining the savagery¹ Zarqawi had created. If he his dead, let us hope that his replacement is to him what he was to Zarqawi.
More importantly, though, if he is dead this will be the second time I know of that al-Qaeda has murdered one of its own². I will have to watch closely as events unfold.
¹As defined by Abu Bakr Naji.