Mother of captive American issues appeal

22 02 2009

21 Feb 2009, 1730 hrs IST, AP
Source: Times of India

QUETTA: The mother of an American kidnapped in Pakistan appealed for his freedom in a message released on Saturday, describing her son as a “verygentle person” devoted to his humanitarian work.Rose Solecki asked for help from the people of southwest Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, where her son John Solecki was serving as the head of the regional UN refugee office when he was taken captive Feb. 2. The UN has been trying to establish contact with the kidnappers, who have threatened to kill John Solecki.

The kidnapping has underlined the overall deteriorating security situation in nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is battling al-Qaida and Taliban-led militants in its northwest. In her message, Rose Solecki expressed bewilderment at her son’s predicament.”I simply do not understand why this is happening to our dear John,” said Rose Solecki, 83. “I cannot begin to explain the sorrows and pain that I am going through right now. My husband and I are old. We want to be with John again.

We cannot bear losing John.”The audio message was released through the United Nations along with a photo of Solecki and his parents.The UN has said the matter is very urgent because Solecki has a medical condition. In a 20-second clip released by his kidnappers on Feb. 13, a blindfolded Solecki said he was “sick and in trouble.”Rose Solecki noted that she and her 91-year-old husband Ralph are both archaeologists and that she had lived in Baluchistan many years before. The couple visited their son in the provincial capital of Quetta last year, she said.”This recent happy memory quickly turned into a nightmare,” she said. “To our friends in Baluchistan, please help us find John and have him returned safely to his family, friends and colleagues.

John has helped many people in Baluchistan, and now my son needs your help.”In the Feb. 13 message, Solecki’s captors threatened to kill him within 72 hours, but later said they would extend the deadline for a “few days.” It was unclear exactly when the new deadline would expire.The kidnappers have identified themselves as the previously unknown Baluchistan Liberation United Front. The name indicates the group is more likely linked to separatists than to Islamists. The kidnappers have demanded the release of 141 women allegedly held in Pakistan, but Pakistani officials have said no such group of women are being held.Earlier Saturday, a suspected Shiite gunmen killed two members of the rival Sunni Muslim sect in the northwest city of Dera Ismail Khan, police said, a day after a suicide bombing at a Shiite leader’s funeral killed 36 and set off sectarian riots.

Three other Sunnis were wounded Saturday when the gunmen rode by a market on a motorbike and fired, area police chief Miran Shah said.The attack occurred despite the presence of troops sent to patrol the city after Friday’s suicide attack at a funeral where about 1,000 people had gathered to mourn Sher Zeman, a local Shiite leader gunned down the day before.After the bombing, angry Shiites fired on police and a public bus was torched. Three people were shot dead in the melee, officials said. A mass funeral was planned Saturday for victims of the Friday bombing, which also wounded more than 60.Extremists from the majority Sunni community view Shiites as heretics, and the two groups have long engaged in tit-for-tat killings in Pakistan. Attacks have increased in recent years along with violence by al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni groups.Taliban-led militants have seized control of pockets of northwest Pakistan despite military offensives and analysts say they are likely directing or supporting the sectarian violence.

On Monday, Pakistan announced it would agree to the imposition of Islamic law in the northwest’s restive Swat Valley as part of a deal aimed at restoring peace there. The pact was spearheaded by hard-line cleric Sufi Mohammed who is negotiating with the Taliban in the valley to give up their arms.The government has rejected criticism that the pact would create a Taliban sanctuary less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the capital, Islamabad. But US and European officials are worried the deal could be a major concession giving the Taliban a safe haven.

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3,000 ex-Maoists line up to join Chiranjeevi’s party

22 02 2009

22 Feb 2009, 0840 hrs IST, TNN
Source: Times of India
HYDERABAD: Hundreds of former naxalites, who jettisoned the Maoist movement in the last ten years, will join the Prajarajyam Party on February
24.

According to party sources, around 3,000 former militants of various factions of the CPI (ML) and CPI (Maoist) will join the newly-floated party in Hyderabad in the presence of PRP chief Chiranjeevi and Yuvarajyam president Pavan Kalyan.

This was the culmination of around six months of hardwork to mobilise the former rebels and bring them into PRP. The association of Marxist-Leninist singer Gadar and other pro-naxal intellectuals with the actor are said to have coordinated the move.

First meeting of the former naxalites was organised in Guntur in December last attended by over 800 people. The meeting was addressed by Dr P Mitra, party’s senior leader.

“In fact we wanted to organise a meeting in each district. But, due to logistic reasons and lack of time, a state-level meeting is planned in Hyderabad on February 24,” former People’s War activist I Satyanarayana told STOI.

Satyanarayana, a native of Guntur, was a member of the erstwhile Radical Youth League. He quit the extremist organisation due to personal reasons. “Even though thousands of people left the movement long ago they are not able to lead a peaceful life because of the hostile attitude of the police and lack of support from the government. So, they feel only PRP can restore a sense of security among them,” Satyanarayana said.





US launched air attack inside Pak after verifying ISI-Taliban link

22 02 2009

: Book22 Feb 2009, 0854 hrs IST, PTI
Source: Times of India

NEW DELHI: The US national security agency (NSA) has intercepted messages to indicate that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was in”complete coordination” with the Taliban, according to a US journalist.
New York Times’ White House correspondent David E Sanger has claimed in his latest book that the US decision to launch air attacks inside Pakistan’s western borders was taken after “one such high-level conversation was intercepted” in which a speaker said the Taliban was a “strategic asset” for Pakistan.

Excerpts of the book ‘The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the challenges to American power’ were published by Pakistani newspaper The News.The daily said former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf called a press conference recently to “repeatedly deny” allegations in the book that he had held a series of parleys with slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto about her security, following which she returned to Pakistan.The book also claimed that NSA had intercepted messages indicating ISI officers of helping Taliban in planning a big bomb attack in Afghanistan although the target was unclear.

After some days, Kandahar jail was attacked by Taliban and hundreds of their militants were freed, it said, adding that the US decision to invade Pakistani territories was taken “after CIA reached a conclusion that the ISI was absolutely in complete coordination with the Taliban”.According to the Pakistani daily, Sanger also wrote that the telephones of all senior army officers, including its chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, were bugged by NSA and CIA.The author “claims that American intelligence agencies were intercepting telephonic conversations of army officers and the decision to attack Pakistan through drones was taken after one such high-level conversation was intercepted claiming the Taliban as a ‘strategic asset’ for Pakistan”, it said.

The US scribe “seemed to have been given direct access to the secret record of several meetings held at the White House before George Bush left on January 20,” the daily said.The book said NSA had picked up intercepts like someone giving advance warning of what was coming to Taliban when the Pakistan Army was getting ready to hit places in tribal areas.According to ‘The News’, the book also claimed that the Americans were in “full knowledge of the facts on the ground and they started attacking territories inside Pakistan as they thought the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies were no more interested in fighting the Taliban.”It also speaks of a two-star general as saying that supporting Taliban was absolutely necessary as “Indians will rein when Americans pull out”.

The Pakistani daily said it had sought a detailed response from the Inter Services Public Relations to its report and promised to give it “equal and similar space”.





Obama widening missile strikes inside Pak

22 02 2009

: Report21 Feb 2009, 1107 hrs IST, IANS
Source: Times of India

NEW YORK: The Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) inside Pakistan by attacking amilitant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government, the New York Times reported on Saturday.Two missile strikes over the last week, on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud, represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft, the influential US daily said in a report from Washington.
Under President George Bush, the US frequently attacked militants from al-Qaida and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.The strikes are another sign that President Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, the Bush administration policy of using American spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do during his presidential campaign, the Times said.

Mehsud was identified early last year by both American and Pakistani officials as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and wife of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

Bush included Mehsud’s name in a classified list of militant leaders whom the CIA and American commandos were authorised to capture or kill. The Times said it was unclear why the Obama administration decided to carry out the attacks, which American and Pakistani officials said occurred last Saturday and again on Monday, hitting camps run by Mehsud’s network.The Saturday strike was aimed specifically at Mehsud, but he was not killed, the Times said citing Pakistani and American officials.

The Monday strike, officials cited by the Times said, was aimed at a camp run by Hakeem Ullah Mehsud, a top aide to the militant.By striking at the Mehsud network, the US may be seeking to demonstrate to Zardari that the new administration is willing to go after the insurgents of greatest concern to the Pakistani leader. But American officials may also be prompted by growing concern that the militant attacks are increasingly putting the civilian government of Pakistan, a nation with nuclear weapons, at risk, the daily said.The strikes came after a visit to Islamabad last week by Richard C. Holbrooke, the American envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.





Illegal migration of Bangladeshis continues Special Correspondent

22 02 2009

Source: The Hindu

NEW DELHI: About five lakh Bangladeshi nationals came to India on valid travel documents during 2007 and 25,712 were reported to have overstayed. The government could deport 12,135 in the same year, official data available with the Home Ministry shows.

Admitting that illegal migration and infiltration from Bangladesh into various parts of the country was taking place clandestinely, the Ministry said specific details were not available as to how many persons entered the country through illegal means.

“While foreign nationals, including Bangladeshi migrants, are not entitled for inclusion in electoral rolls or benefits of various government schemes, the possibility of such benefits being availed by some illegal migrants and foreigners cannot be totally ruled out,” according to official documents.

It said the powers of identification and deportation have been delegated to the State governments and the Union Territories under Section 3(2) of the Foreigners Act.





Militants answer distress call Sushanta Talukdar

22 02 2009

Source: The Hindu

Rescue Tamil Nadu surveyors abducted by another outfit in southern Assam

Abductors talked to each other in Nagamese

DNLF militants demanded Rs. 14 crore for release


Guwahati: For 15 days they only cooked rice, salt and some biscuits to eat as they were made to trek for hours through deep jungles, even during late night, in southern Assam’s North Cachar Hills district as their abductors – nine tribal youth heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and other sophisticated weapons – kept guard all the time.

Captives’ ordeal

The ordeal of being held captive in an unknown place began on February 5 for D.S.K. Shathrac from Chennai, C. Suresh from Vellore, Nitish Kumar from Jharkhand and Mahinder Kumar from Kanpur – all four working as surveyors for a Chennai-based private company, Eagle Marketing Consortium, when they were abducted at gunpoint by militants of the little-known Dimasa National Liberation Front (DNLF) from Khelma Basti village under Langting police station in N.C. Hills district.

The four were rescued by militants of another underground outfit – Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Gorlossa faction) – after a brief encounter between the cadres of the two outfits and handed over to the Langting police station on Thursday night.

It was Senior Vice-President of IOT Infrastructure and Energy Services Limited Ashok Saikia, who sought the help of DHD (Jewel faction), also known as Black Widow, for rescue of the surveyors in lieu of facilitating ceasefire and dialogue between the outfit and the government.

The company had bagged the contract awarded by Oil India Limited for a seismic survey in Karbi Anglong and N.C. Hills in connection with oil exploration and it gave a sub-contract to the Chennai-based firm.

“There was an exchange of fire between the cadres of DNLF and DHD for about 10 to 15 minutes on February 17. Two bullets whizzed past us.

Luckily, no one was injured. As the DNLF cadres guarding us fled after the gun battle, the DHD militants told us that they had come to rescue us. During captivity we used to pray for over 45 minutes as we had nothing else to do.

The DNLF militants liked the handset of Shathrac and promised to pay Rs. 2000 for it. They took the handset but could not pay Shathrac the money as they had to flee following the encounter,” said Nitish Kumar.

Mr. Kumar said their abductors were talking to each other in Nagamese and told them they were returning from Bangladesh.

Mr. Ashok Saikia, son of two-time Chief Minister, the late Hiteswar Saikia, told journalists here on Saturday he had decided to seek the help of DHD (Jewel) after the abductors, who claimed to be DNLF militants demanded an astronomical ransom of Rs. 14 crore and threatened to kill the surveyors if it was not paid in a week.

“Since we were against paying ransom, I decided to seek the help of DHD (Jewel) as I knew that the outfit was keen to have a ceasefire and initiate a dialogue. I told them that I was ready to facilitate it, utilising the good relationship my family had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, if they rescued the abducted employees,” Mr. Saikia said.

He also distributed copies of his four-page written appeal to the self-styled commander-in-chief of the DHD (Jewel) Niranjan Hojai.

Mr. Saikia said the DHD agreed to rescue the surveyors and wanted him to immediately commit himself through the media on facilitating the proposed dialogue, and to highlight the four key demands of the outfit.

“Not a single pie was paid for the release of the captives,” he said.

His company would soon resume its work and he would keep his end of the bargain — facilitate the peace process.