Suicide blast kills child, four Afghan policemen

9 04 2009
Source: AFP

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) — A suicide bomber killed a child and four anti-drugs policemen in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, police said, as the US military reported killing 10 militants in overnight raids.

The blast occurred in the town of Lashkar Gah, capital of the turbulent southern province of Helmand, the heart of Afghanistan’s opium production — a lucrative trade that helps bankroll a Taliban-led insurgency.

A man walked up to a four-vehicle police convoy and detonated explosives strapped to his body, deputy provincial police chief Kamaludin Khan told AFP.

Four counter-narcotics policemen and a nine-year-old child were killed, while seven policemen and two civilians were wounded, Khan said.

The policemen were heading out to eradicate opium fields south of the town, he said.

Khan blamed the attack on “enemies of Afghanistan”, a term often used to refer to Taliban militants who are waging a bloody insurgency that profits from the huge opium and heroin industry.

Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, most of it coming from Helmand, where some of it is also manufactured into heroin in drugs labs.

The 1996-2001 Taliban government was able to radically cut back Afghanistan’s opium production but the insurgents now earn millions of dollars a year from the trade, officials say.

They take a “tax” from opium farmers and also earn money from protecting trafficking routes and fields, using the cash to buy weapons for their insurgency, according to Afghan and Western officials.

Part of an international effort to stabilise Afghanistan and rid it of extremists linked to Al-Qaeda in neighbouring Pakistan is a costly effort to tackle the drugs trade, which also feeds government corruption.

The Taliban swept to power in 1996 and were removed five years later in a US-led invasion after they did not hand over their Al-Qaeda allies following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The militants rose from Kandahar province, which is still one of their strongholds.

The US military said that Afghan and international troops raided a Taliban cell in the province’s Maiwand district overnight and killed six militants.

The cell was involved in attacks against Afghan soldiers and their international counterparts, it said.

A separate US military statement said four militants, one of them a woman carrying weapons, were killed in the eastern province of Khost in another overnight operation.

The raid targeted the Haqqani network and a separate outfit called the Islamic Jihad Union, it said.

The Haqqani group falls under well-known Soviet resistance commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is believed to be close to the fugitive Tailban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Al-Qaeda.

Haqqani’s sons are said to have taken over militant activities from their now elderly father. The Islamic Jihad Union is also linked to Al-Qaeda.

There was no independent confirmation that the dead were all militants.

Last year was the deadliest of the Taliban-led insurgency, associated with extremist violence also picking up across the border in Pakistan.

US President Barack Obama has launched a new sweeping strategy to combat the mounting threat from extremists and turn around the insurgency in Afghanistan, including a focus on eliminating Al-Qaeda bases in Pakistan.

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Film piracy funding terror: US thinktank

26 03 2009

7 Mar 2009, 0425 hrs IST, S Balakrishnan,
Source: TNN

MUMBAI: The leading US thinktank, Rand Corporation, has confirmed what Indian intelligence agencies have been maintaining all along— Dawood
Ibrahim has graduated to terrorism and is siphoning off millions of dollars earned from film piracy, drug-running and other crimes to finance his operations.

According to sources in the film industry and police, the moment a film is released in Mumbai, the ‘D-Company’ makes camera prints and sends them to Karachi or Kuala Lumpur where millions of DVDs are made and marketed across the world. But after the Mumbai-based Valuable Group introduced satellite transmission of films directly to cinema halls, it has become difficult for the gang to make camera prints as each cinema hall has a secret identity number encrypted into the movie. To avoid this, gang members have established links with small-time theatres in Gujarat where the camera prints are taken at the first show of any new film.

The gang also receives advance prints of the films financed by it through front companies. “Contrary to general impression, the D-Company is still active in Bollywood,” a film producer says.

“Dawood is India’s godfather of godfathers who runs criminal gangs from Bangkok to Dubai. His gang syndicate, called D-Company, engages in strong-arm protection, drug trafficking, extortion and murder-for-hire,” the Rand report says.

It says that film piracy can be more paying than drug-trafficking. The report says a pirated DVD made in Malaysia for 70 cents is marked up more than 1,000% and sold in London for about $9. “The profit margin is more than three times higher than the mark-up for Iranian heroin and higher than the profit from Columbian cocaine,” the report says.

Identifying Al-Mansoor and Sadaf brands belonging to Dawood, the report says he has acquired extraordinary market power in the distribution of pirated films throughout the region. The report says the D-Company has got control of Sadaf Trading Company based in Karachi, and thus allowing it to manage distribution network in Pakistan and also acquiring the infrastructure to manufacture pirate VHS tapes and VCDs for sale.