Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pakistan forces 'clear' Khyber town

Pakistan has claimed success after a major military offensive cleared anti-government fighters from a town in the northwest of the country and troops returned to abandoned outposts.

Paramilitary troops were on Sunday seen patrolling Bara in the Khyber region in tanks had set up sand-bag checkpoints. "The government has been successful in the operation in Khyber which was carried out to safeguard Peshawar," Rehman Malik, the interior ministry chief, told a high-level meeting in Peshawar.

He did not say when the offensive would end. The government launched the operation after attacks on supply convoys for the US-led force in Afghanistan and reports of fighters threatening the city of Peshawar.

There has been growing concern about threats to Peshawar since a Taliban force from Khyber entered the city two weeks ago and seized 16 Christians, before later releasing them.

Around 1,500 troops and police commandos were deployed along the Peshawar border with the Khyber tribal region and its suburbs to protect the city's more than 1m populace.

Buildings destroyed

Muhammad Siddiq Khan, a local official, said that a tribal force that had been forced to abandon its posts in the region several months ago returned to the checkpoints on Sunday, he said.

In a nearby village on Sunday, soldiers blew up a building belonging to the Ansar-ul-Islam group, which is purportedly linked to the Taliban and has been accused of sending fighters across the border into Afghanistan.

"There was no resistance as the building used by Ansar-ul-Islam as their centre was empty," a security official said.

The previous day troops had demolished the house and headquarters of Mangal Bagh, head of the separate Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) group, which officials have said is not linked to the Taliban.

Bagh's group has been accused of robbing vehicles on the Khyber Pass, although officials said his men were not responsible for cross-border attacks on the US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Bagh told a newspaper that he did not know why he was being targeted and said his men had never attacked security forces.

"I have told LI volunteers to go home and not to resist any action," he was quoted as saying by The News, an English language newspaper.

Peace talks halted Baitullah Mehsud, a senior pro-Taliban leader in Pakistan, has reportedly called off peace talks with the government following the start of the offensive.

"The talks will remain suspended until the government stops talking about operations and attacks against us," the Reuters news agency quoted Mehsud as saying.

A large military contingent was also reported to have reached the Jandula area in South Waziristan.

Another armed group said that an offensive in the area would only create further problems. "If the government thinks there is any issue to address, that should be resolved through talks not by the use of force," Munsif Khan, spokesman for the Virtue and Voice organisation, said.

"We are ready for talks with the government."

Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, denied that the government had launched the offensive after pressure from Washington and said negotiations with armed groups in the northwest would continue.

"This is our war and it is for our own survival," hei told reporters after a meeting of former premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party in Lahore.

"Nobody will be allowed to execute others publicly, kidnap minorities, set fire to girls' schools and barber shops in Pakistan. "We do not take any pressure and I have also explained my policy to US President Bush that we believe in dialogue and want development, health, education and to eliminate terrorism from the country." Gilani was in Peshawar on Saturday but insisted that his trip was not related to the military operation.

Via Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saudi crackdown on terror suspects

Saudi Arabia has over the past six months arrested 701 people suspected of plotting attacks, officials have said. Releasing the information, the country's interior ministry said in a statement the fighters had plotted attacks against oil installations in the kingdom. Among those arrested, 520 are still in detention. The interior ministry statement read out on Saudi television said those detained were of various nationalities and were part of a wider plot managed from abroad. The statement said: "Security forces managed to arrest one cell in the Eastern Province led by African residents ... their concern was to get close to people working in the oil sector in order to find work in oil installations. "They planned in fact to attack an oil installation and security target with rigged cars [car bombs]." Other cells were said to have been broken up which planned attacks on economic targets in the world's largest oil exporter.

Foreign co-ordination

Some of the plots were said to have been hatched in co-ordination with Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda second-in-command. The statement said that those organising people to come from abroad had taken "advantage of the facilities granted to the Muslim faithful to come to Mecca for the annual pilgrimage or to do the omra," or minor pilgrimage". One cell member was said to have been found with a taped message from al-Zawahiri. The kingdom has suffered several attacks blamed on al-Qaeda and mainly targeting westerners since 2003, but a crackdown has quelled attacks over the past two years.

Via Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Government's writ extended to 95% of Afghanistan: Saleh

Ahmad Khalid Moeed - Mar 3, 2008 - 12:03

KABUL (PAN): The intelligence department head considered eight districts in various provinces paralyzed and said that Taliban were moving in those districts in group.

Amrullah Saleh, told a press conference on Monday that Khak-i-Afghan district of Zabul province, Gizab of Daikundi, Disho, Khanshin, Bughran, and Washer of Helmand, Manawal and Dawaba of Nuristan province were the districts where governance is paralyzed.

He added that no group had captivity on these districts, but Taliban can freely move there.

Amrullah also considered the recent remarks of CIA head as base less.

Michaal Mekonil, head of CIA, recently told the US senate that Karzai government has control only on 30 per cent of the country.

He added that 10 per cent was under control of Taliban and 60 per cent was controlled by local power holders and tribal elders.

However Amrullah said that 95 per cent of land was under control of Afghan government and only 2 per cent population was not controlled by Afghan government.

Amrullah reminded that 18 per cent of people live in areas where the security is not safe, but the government controls it.

According to Amrullah, during last 12 months the districts of Mai nashin and Ghorak of Kandahar, Jani khil and Mangal of Paktia, Giro, Rashidan and Arjistan of Ghazni, Gomal, Yahya khil, Dila of Paktika, Bala murghab of Badghis, Kajran of Daikundi were among the districts which were recaptured by government and currently administrations are active in these districts.

He said seven people involved in Baghlan bloody suicide attack has been identified and five of those have been arrested.

On November 7, 2007 a blast killed over 90 school children including six MPs.

Amrullah said Mula Salih Muhammad, an official of Taliban intelligence and Mir Hairder master minded Baghlan attack, but they have not been arrested yet.

He informed reporters that Musa Kalim and Dil Muhammad who were involved in Kandahar recent suicide attack have been arrested.

He said the two people had prepared explosive vests and helped suicide attackers to cross border from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Amrullah said all suicide attacks are conducted by Muhammad Arif in Kandahar city

He said the recent suicide attacks launched in Kandahar which were aimed to kill Commander Abdul Hakim, one of the government supporters in Kandahar province was also conducted by Muhammad Arif.

Amrullah added that Qahir who kept the suicide attacker of Kabul Serena at his house was also arrested.

Amrullah Salih, said according to a survey during last five month 27 abductions have taken place in Kabul and 101 in the country

The survey showed that most abductions were in Farah, Helmand and Herat provinces and were on criminal basis.

Via Pajhwok.


Saleh is not exactly an unbiased observer, but this is still the most detailed account of who controls what in Afghanistan I've come across.

Taliban targeted near Kandahar

At least two Afghan soldiers and about 20 Taliban fighters have been killed after Afghan and Nato forces launched an operation near the southern city of Kandahar.

The fighting in Arghandab province on Wednesday came after Taliban fighters staged a raid on Kandahar jail freeing hundreds of prisoners and took control of a number of villages.

"A group of enemies of the people was targeted by Nato air force in Ta-been village in Arghandab [district]," an Afghan defence ministry statement said. "Based on information received, 20 local and foreign terrorists were killed."

Another statement said two Afghan soldiers were "martyred".

Meanwhile, four Nato soldiers died and two were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in Helmand province.

The British defence ministry confirmed the deaths on Wednesday, saying that one of those who died was a female soldier.

She would be the first British female soldier to die in Afghanistan.

Roads blocked

The Arghandab operation began at 8am local time [0300 GMT], the deffence ministry said.
Mark Laity, a Nato spokesman in Kabul, told Al Jazeera: "The operation is pretty much on track.

"There have been a number of engagements with the insurgents, but they have been minor rather than major battles. "We have killed some insurgents but we have not yet suffered any Isaf [the International Security Assistance Force] casualties." The number of troops involved in the operation is "substantial", he said. "The bulk of the troops are from the Afghan army. They are leading that operation and we are backing them," said Laity. Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Kandahar, said that the main road leading to Arghandab was blocked and that more army reinforcements were heading towards the district, including tanks, armoured vehicles and soldiers. "The threat from the Taliban in Arghandab is being taken very seriously by the Afghan army and the coalition forces," he said. "They are concerned that with the military operation going on, the Taliban could retaliate using suicide bombers and attack inside [the city of] Kandahar."

'Made progress'

Zemarai Bashari, spokesman for Afghanistan's interior ministry, said "the operation is going very well". "Afghan security forces have made progress … the initial reports are stating that 16 enemies have been killed and around four others are injured." He said that Afghan and Nato troops were carrying out the operation as a joint force with neither leading the other. "This is a joint operation … everyone is playing their role and we are seeing very good co-ordination and implementation of this operation," Bashari said. However, Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, denied that his group's fighters had been dislodged by the Afghan-Nato offensive. "The fighting started today in the morning but they have not been able to take a metre of the land under our control. We do not intend to leave Arghandab at all," he said. "We will use Arghandab for specific attacks with motors and cannons on targets in Kandahar city. We have also planned a suicide attack which will be carried out in Kandahar."

'No resistance'

Afghan and soldiers from the multinational force soldiers sealed off the Arghandab district on Tuesday, after the Taliban claimed its fighters had taken control of 10 villages. The Taliban said it met no resistance as it took control of the villages. Ahelbarra said on Tuesday that hundreds of Taliban fighters had taken up positions in the area.

It was unclear if the group was just trying to make a statement as it did late last year when it captured the same area for just a few days before retreating under heavy bombardment, or if it would try to take back control of large swaths of the country.

As soon as news of the Taliban takeover circulated, residents fled their villages, some of them with cattle and all their belongings. The Taliban encouraged them to leave.

"We left the area to protect ourselves from the bombing and the risks of a military confrontation. There are many Taliban fighters - some told us they are more than 800," one resident said. Gholam Razeq, the district chief of Arghandab, said "the enemy wants to create insecurity in Arghandab which was the most secure area". Haji Ikramullah Khan, a tribal leader from the region, cautioned that the Taliban fighters could use the cover of the district's grape and pomegranate orchards to mount an attack on Kandahar itself. "All of Arghandab is made of orchards. The fighters can easily hide and easily fight," he said. "It is quite close to Kandahar. During the Russian war, the Russians didn't even occupy Arghandab, because when they fought here they suffered big casualties."

Via Al Jazeera.


The location of the village mentioned, together with the mention of closing off "the main road leading to Arghandab", effectively confirm my suspicions that the Taliban struck from Khakrez district, which borders Arghandab to the northwest. The two districts are divided by a small mountainous region traversed by a single major road, the terminus of which is in the vicinity of Ta-Been. This indicates that Khakrez is held by the Taliban. I suspect Ghorak district is (or was) as well, as that would result in a continuous swath of Taliban or formerly Taliban territory stretching from Khakrez to Sangin and Musa Qala (which were retaken during Operation Achilles).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kandahar braces for Taliban battle

Afghan and Nato forces are redeploying troops around the southern city of Kandahar in preparation for a possible large-scale battle with the Taliban. The soldiers have sealed off the Arghandab district just 30km north of Kandahar where the Taliban claims around 500 of its fighters are now in control of 10 villages.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Kandahar, said the authorities had imposed a curfew and soldiers were building defensive lines, taking up positions on rooftops and patrolling just about everywhere as they await reinforcements for a counterattack on the areas taken by the Taliban.

Mark Laity, a Nato spokesman, said Nato and Afghan troops were being redeployed to the region to "meet any potential threats".

The Taliban offensive comes just few days after a suicide attack on Kandahar's main jail freed more than 1,000 prisoners. "It's fair to say that the jailbreak has put a lot of people [fighters] into circulation who were not there before, and so obviously you're going to respond to that potential threat," Laity said.


And with hundreds of its fighters controlling a large area north of Kandahar, the Taliban seems to be sending a message that seven years after being toppled, it is still a major force in Afghanistan.

The Taliban said it met no resistance as it took control of the villages and announced plans to march towards Kandahar city. Our correspondent said that hundreds of Taliban fighters had taken up positions in the area and taken over villages in a well organised manner.
But it was unclear if the group was just trying to make a statement as it did late last year when it captured the same area for just a few days before retreating under heavy bombardment by international forces, or if it would try to take back control of large swaths of the country.

Villagers flee

Local residents were paying a heavy price for the instability. Mohammad Farooq, a government official in Arghandab, said on Monday that around 500 Taliban fighters moved into the area and took over the villages. As soon as news of the Taliban takeover circulated, residents in Arghandab fled their villages, some of them with cattle and all their belongings.

The Taliban also told residents to leave. "We left the area to protect ourselves from the bombing and the risks of a military confrontation. There are many Taliban fighters some told us they are more than eight hundred," one resident said. Gholam Razeq, the district chief of Arghandab, said "the enemy wants to create insecurity in Arghandab which was the most secure area". But while he said the Taliban takeover of the whole area was just a matter of time, he also vowed that "as soon as we get reinforcements we will attack". However, Haji Ikramullah Khan, a tribal leader from the region, warned that the fighters could use the cover of the district's grape and pomegranate orchards to mount an attack on Kandahar itself. "All of Arghandab is made of orchards. The fighters can easily hide and easily fight," he said. "It is quite close to Kandahar. During the Russian war, the Russians didn't even occupy Arghandab, because when they fought here they suffered big casualties."

Via Al Jazeera.


According to my topographical maps, Arghandab contains approximately 50 settlements, of which the Taliban has captured only ten. If my memory serves me correctly, the last time they captured this district, they took the whole thing (though I may be wrong). This leads me to suspect that this is just a show of force on their part, though NATO seems to be taking the threat fairly seriously.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Taliban seize Afghan villages

Taliban fighters have taken control of 10 villages in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province in Afghanistan, and have said they plan to march towards Kandahar city.

Mohammad Farooq, a government official in Arghandab, said on Monday that around 500 Taliban fighters moved into the area and took over the villages.

Arghandab lies 30km north of Kandahar city. Haji Ikramullah Khan, a tribal leader from the region warned that the fighters could use the cover of the district's grape and pomegranate orchards to mount an attack on Kandahar itself.

Launching pad

"All of Arghandab is made of orchards. The fighters can easily hide and easily fight," he said. "It is quite close to Kandahar. During the Russian war, the Russians didn't even occupy Arghandab, because when they fought here they suffered big casualties."

The Taliban offensive follows the escape of more than 1000 Taliban and other prisoners in a suicide attack on the main jail in the southern city of Kandahar on Friday night, which also left many prison guards dead.

Mark Laity, a Nato spokesman, said that Nato and Afghan military officials were redeploying troops to the region to "meet any potential threats".

"It's fair to say that the jailbreak has put a lot of people [fighters] into circulation who were not there before, and so obviously you're going to respond to that potential threat," he said.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Kandahar, said that hundreds of Taliban fighters are taking up positions in the area and taking over nearby villages.

"Ultimately, it is local residents who are paying a heavy price for this increasing instability," he said.

"The Taliban are showing impressive capability in manoeuvring in and around the area."


Friday, June 13, 2008

Talks on US-Iraq pact at 'dead end'

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, says talks with the US on a new long-term security pact have reached a "dead end". The US and Iraq are negotiating a new agreement to provide a legal basis for US troops to stay in Iraq after December 31, when their UN mandate expires.

They are also negotiating a long-term strategic framework agreement on political, diplomatic, economic, security and cultural ties.

"We have reached a dead end, because when we started the talks, we found that the US demands hugely infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq, and this we can never accept," al-Maliki said during a visit to Jordan on Friday.



Thank God. If Bush had successfully been able to push this through, it would have been a catastrophe. Not only would it have tied up the troops that are so badly needed in Afghanistan, but it would have eliminated any credibility that the Iraqi government may have had, almost certainly throwing the country into turmoil as the current fragile political coalition disintegrates. This would have made it immensely more difficult for President Obama to redeploy.

Speaking of Afghanistan, I am making progress on figuring out which districts are currently held by the Taliban. Most of the country is actually much quieter than I had realized, with almost all of the fighting being confined to a relatively small area.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

US court deals blow to Bush

The US Supreme Court has said foreigners held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison have the right under the US constitution to challenge their detention in US civilian courts. The court ruled on Thursday that detainees in the US jail in southern Cuba "have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus".

The ruling, passed by a vote of five to four, is a setback to the administration of George Bush, the US president.

"It's a very significant milestone in this very long running battle," Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, said.

"Really its a victory for the proper system of justice. The reason that Guantanamo was chosen was because it was not on American soil ... the White House believed that because they would be on foreign soil they would be beyond the reach of American justice," he said. "It's been a very long process but through a series of lawsuits ... the justices have chipped away at the unusual means under which these individuals are being detained."

Constitutional rights

The court ruled that even if the base was officially on Cuban territory, it was in fact operating as if it were on American soil and therefore detainees had the same constitutional rights as all Americans. The ruling is the third on Guantanamo that has gone against the Bush administration. Detainees and their legal teams could now demand that the government reveal the evidence against them to justify their continued detention. The government has refused to do this arguing it would be against the interests of national security. Detainees have long protested that they had been mistreated, and rights groups have questioned the legality of the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals.

Via Al Jazeera.


Hallelujah. Justice returns to America.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fact is far stranger than fiction

Oil barons court Taliban in Texas


THE Taliban, Afghanistan's Islamic fundamentalist army, is about to sign a £2 billion contract with an American oil company to build a pipeline across the war-torn country.

The Islamic warriors appear to have been persuaded to close the deal, not through delicate negotiation but by old-fashioned Texan hospitality. Last week Unocal, the Houston-based company bidding to build the 876-mile pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, invited the Taliban to visit them in Texas. Dressed in traditional salwar khameez, Afghan waistcoats and loose, black turbans, the high-ranking delegation was given VIP treatment during the four-day stay.

The Taliban ministers and their advisers stayed in a five-star hotel and were chauffeured in a company minibus. Their only requests were to visit Houston's zoo, the Nasa space centre and Omaha's Super Target discount store to buy stockings, toothpaste, combs and soap. The Taliban, which controls two-thirds of Afghanistan and is still fighting for the last third, was also given an insight into how the other half lives.

The men, who are accustomed to life without heating, electricity or running water, were amazed by the luxurious homes of Texan oil barons. Invited to dinner at the palatial home of Martin Miller, a vice-president of Unocal, they marvelled at his swimming pool, views of the golf course and six bathrooms. After a meal of specially prepared halal meat, rice and Coca-Cola, the hardline fundamentalists - who have banned women from working and girls from going to school - asked Mr Miller about his Christmas tree.

"They were interested to know what it was for and what the star was," said Mr Miller, who hopes that Unocal has clinched the deal. "The first day, they were stiff and cautious. But before long they were totally relaxed and happy," he said. Unocal, which heads an international consortium of companies from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Japan, has been bidding for the contract since vast oil and gas reserves were discovered in Turkmenistan, one of the southernmost states of the former Soviet Union, in 1994. The fuel has so far been untapped because of Moscow's demands for high transport fees if it passes through Russian-controlled territory. The quickest and cheapest way to get the reserves out is to build a pipeline through Afghanistan.

It will supply two of the fastest-growing energy markets in the world: Pakistan and India. The Unocal group has one significant attraction for the Taliban - it has American government backing. At the end of their stay last week, the Afghan visitors were invited to Washington to meet government officials. The US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban's policies against women and children "despicable", appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract. The Taliban is likely to have been impressed by the American government's interest as it is anxious to win international recognition. So far, it has been recognised only by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Unocal has promised to start building the pipeline immediately, despite the region's instability. There is fighting just 87 miles from the planned entry point of the pipeline in the northwest of the country. The Taliban has assured Unocal that its workers and the pipeline will be safe, but it cannot guarantee that it will not be attacked by opposition forces.

The consortium has also agreed to start paying the Taliban immediately. The Islamic army will receive tax on every one of the million cubic feet of fuel that passes through Afghanistan every day. Unocal has also offered other inducements. Apart from giving fax machines, generators and T-shirts, it has donated £500,000 to the University of Nebraska for courses in Afghanistan to train 400 teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters. Nearly 150 students are already receiving technical training in southern Afghanistan.

But it was the homely touches which swayed the Taliban. When the delegation left Texas, one of their entourage stayed behind. Mullah Mohammad Ghaus, the former foreign minister and a leading member of the Taliban ruling council, remained in Texas for medical treatment. Years on the front line damaged his eyesight. Unocal bought him a battery-powered magnifying glass and are paying for him to go to an optician.


Pakistan blames US for border raid

Pakistan has blamed US-led forces in Afghanistan for an "unprovoked and cowardly" air raid near the border that killed at least 11 Pakistani soldiers.

However, the US military on Wednesday has said that the air and artillery assault was aimed at Taliban fighters and had been co-ordinated with Islamabad.

"...Coalition forces informed the Pakistan Army that they were being engaged by anti-Afghan forces," the US military said in a statement.

It said the operation "had been previously co-ordinated with Pakistan".

The alleged attack came after Pakistani paramilitary troops in the Mohmand tribal area clashed with Afghan forces in an area fought over by the two countries, Pakistani officials said. "The spokesman condemned this completely unprovoked and cowardly act on the FC [Frontier Corps] post and regretted the loss of precious lives of our soldiers," a Pakistani military statement said on Wednesday. "A strong protest has been launched by the Pakistan army and we reserve the right to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression.

"The incident had hit at the very basis of co-operation and sacrifice with which Pakistani soldiers are supporting the coalition in the war against terror," the statement said. The Afghan military has not yet responded to the allegations.

Afghan operation

The Afghan army, backed by the US military, is understood to have entered the area in an attempt to secure the release of seven soldiers held by the Taliban in Pakistan. But Pakistani officials said Afghan forces tried to capture parts of the Soran Dara area, which borders the Afghan province of Nangarhar and which Pakistan claims is its own territory. "There is confusion over what happened," Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said. "Officials have confirmed that Pakistani troops were killed … in an area where Americans and Afghans were conducting joint operations."

Another Al Jazeera correspondent based in Islamabad said that military sources had told him that a US spy plane was used in the air raid.

'Spy plane' spotted

Damagh Khan Mohmand, a local tribesman who witnessed the outbreak of fighting late on Tuesday, said that the clashes lasted for four hours. He said that Afghan and foreign forces traded fire with both Pakistani tribesmen and troops.Two aircraft then bombed several locations, hitting two Frontier Corps posts, Khan Mohmand said.

Hyder said the incident is not the first attack on a Pakistani military post. "A little over a month ago there was an attack at a post not far from Chopara checkpoint," he said. "Al Jazeera sources in Kabul say that the Nato-led coalition is investigating. The coalition has not released any official statements; nor has the Pakistani military.

"There has been anger from the tribal groups, who have an armed group. They are now saying they will retaliate across the border for the strike."

Pakistan's foreign office issued a statement condemning the "senseless use of air power" urging the US-led international force to hand over the results of its investigation into the incident.

"The attack also tends to undermine the very basis of our co-operation with the coalition forces and warrants a serious rethink on their part of the consequences that could ensue from such rash acts," it said. Border dispute A series of missile attacks have been attributed to US-led forces in Afghanistan in recent months. More than a dozen people were killed in one such incident in the tribal region of Bajaur in May. There have been several disputes over the 2,500km Pakistan-Afghanistan border recently.

Both countries, whose governments are both allies of the US in its so-called "war on terror", have also argued over how to tackle fighters loyal to the Taliban. Foreign forces within the Nato-led coalition and the government in Kabul have alleged that Pakistan is not being tough enough on the opposition fighters. Pakistan's new government entered peace talks with Taliban loyalists shortly after allies of Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, were beaten in recent elections.

Via Al Jazeera.


This is bad. It's too early to know for sure what happened, but I suspect that the attack was indeed coordinated. I could see the Afghan military carrying out a mission in disputed territory, but the US has a little more common sense than that. I would be very surprised if we hadn't alerted the Pakistani government before, or at the very least during, the operation.

So what does that leave us? An error in communication on the Pakistanis' part? I sure hope so, because if they are intentionally trying to create an international incident, there's going to be serious trouble, for everyone involved.

Friday, June 6, 2008

9/11 Trial Begins

So. This is Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the man who bears the single greatest responsibility for the horrors of September 11.

I'll have a more detailed analysis of the trial later on, when I'm more awake.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

'Al-Qaeda' claims embassy blast

Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad which left at least six people dead, according to an internet site purporting to represent the network.

According to a statement on the site on Wednesdsay, the attack in the Pakistan capital two days earlier was a reprisal against the republication in Danish newspapers of cartoons insulting the prophet Mohammed.

"One of the heroes of 'Qaedat al-Jihad' carried out a suicide operation on the morning of Monday," said the statement, signed by Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, one of Al-Qaeda's leaders.

'Infidel state'

The attack was "in revenge against the state of infidelity, called 'Denmark', that posted cartoons hostile to the messenger of Allah," the statement read, according to an English translation provided by Site, a US-based group which monitors Islamic militant internet websites and chat rooms. "This operation is a warning to the infidel state and those who ride with it, so that they are deterred from their sin ... and so that they apologise for what they did," Yazid added.

Site said the message was posted across several forums.

Danish intelligence officials said earlier on Wednesday that the attack had been meticulously planned for a "long time and with precision".

Denmark's secret services have sent three experts to Islamabad as part of their investigation.

Victims of attack

One Danish citizen of Pakistani origin and two Pakistani employees were among the dead in the blast that badly damaged the embassy and the offices of a UN-backed aid agency.

Al-Qaeda called for attacks on Danish targets after Danish newspapers ran caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

Danish newspapers first published the controversial cartoons in 2005, sparking violent protests in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. Several dailies reprinted the sketches in February this year.

Yazid said al-Qaeda congratulated "the Pakistani mujahideen ... the pioneers of the religious fervor and Islamic zeal, who participated" in the attack.

Via Al Jazeera.


When the attack first happened, I strongly suspected that al-Qaeda was behind it, though I unfortunately did not have time to put together a post to that effect. At the time, one of Al Jazeera's political analysts had been quoted as saying, "The timing is very strange ... It is not an issue right now, it's over. No one, not even in the tribal areas, is talking about the cartoons."¹ To me, however, this explained the situation, rather than confusing it. Al-Qaeda doesn't want people to forget about it; it wants to keep them riled up. To this end, it organized a not so subtle reminder.

What is really interesting to me, though, is that Mustafa Abu al-Yazid is the one taking responsibility for this. He is the Emir of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, so you'd think that Islamabad would be somewhat outside his area of operations. It would be expected that one of the Pakistani hirabis, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani or Baitullah Mahsud (or perhaps the Emir of al-Qaeda in Pakistan, except that, curiously, there does not appear to be one). This is not the first time that al-Yazid has been connected to attacks in Islamabad, either; when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, he allegedly claimed responsibility. I had expressed a great deal of skepticism at the time, but this seems to reinforce the notion that he is involved in attacks in both nations. It would certainly make sense for al-Qaeda to combine Afghanistan and Pakistan into a single administrative region; the fact that many of their operations take place in the area around the border means that such an arrangement would eliminate frequent jurisdictional conflicts.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

9/11 'mastermind' to face tribunal

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001, is set to face a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay on nearly 3,000 counts of murder. Mohammed and four other detainees will be arraigned for the first time on Thursday inside a high-security courthouse at the US naval base.

The United States claims Mohammed confessed to masterminding the September 11 attacks but his lawyers say the confession was extracted by torture. Mohammed, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003, will be given the chance to address the tribunal, officials said.

Death penalty

All five suspects could face the death penalty if convicted. They were transferred to Guantanamo in Cuba in September 2006 after spending about three years in secret CIA prisons. Thursday's arraignment poses the highest-profile test yet of a US military tribunal system that faces an uncertain future. The US supreme court struck down an earlier system as unconstitutional in 2006, and is to rule this month on the rights of Guantanamo prisoners, potentially delaying or halting the proceedings. With less than eight months remaining in office for George Bush, the US president, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both say they want to close the military's offshore detention centre.

Via Al Jazeera.


Nobody tortured him into starring as himself in an Al Jazeera documentary on the attacks.