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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Alan Krueger: Civil Liberties and Terrorism

8 04 2009

Princeton University economist Alan Krueger finds an interesting connection between civil liberties and terrorism that undercuts the idea the economic conditions are the driving force behind terrorist acts:

Murdercide, by Michael Shermer, SciAm Skeptic: … The belief that suicide bombers [murdercide] are poor, uneducated, disaffected or disturbed is contradicted by science. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, found in a study of 400 Al Qaeda members that three quarters of his sample came from the upper or middle class. Moreover, he noted, “the vast majority—90 percent— came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5–6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.” Nor were they sans employment and familial duties. “Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children. . . . Three quarters were professionals or semiprofessionals. They are engineers, architects and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion.” …

[A] necessary condition for suicide is habituation to the fear about the pain involved in the act. How do terrorist organizations infuse this condition in their recruits? One way is through psychological reinforcement. …[T]he celebration and commemoration of suicide bombings that began in the 1980s changed a culture into one that idolizes martyrdom and its hero. Today murderciders appear in posters like star athletes. Another method of control is “group dynamics.” Says Sageman: “The prospective terrorists joined the jihad through preexisting social bonds with people who were already terrorists or had decided to join as a group. In 65 percent of the cases, preexisting friendship bonds played an important role in this process.” Those personal connections help to override the natural inclination to avoid self immolation. “The suicide bombers in Spain are another perfect example. Seven terrorists sharing an apartment and one saying, ‘Tonight we’re all going to go, guys.’ You can’t betray your friends, and so you go along. Individually, they probably would not have done it.”

One method to attenuate murdercide, then, is to target dangerous groups that influence individuals, such as Al Qaeda. Another method, says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that “countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.” …





Bombs kill six in Afghanistan: officials

6 04 2009
Bombs kill six in Afghanistan: officials

KABUL (AFP) — Bomb blasts in eastern Afghanistan on Monday killed two members of the Afghan security forces and four insurgents, officials said, in new incidents linked to a growing Taliban-led insurgency.

The bloodshed came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited German troops based in the north and the top US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, wound up a visit to assess efforts to reverse the flagging war.

One of the blasts struck a joint Afghan police and army operation aimed at “halting terrorist activities” in the eastern province of Khost on the border with Pakistan, the interior ministry said in a statement.

“One soldier and a border policeman were martyred while another policeman was wounded during the operation when their vehicle was blown up,” it said. Six suspects were arrested.

Elsewhere in the same province, four militants were killed in an explosion in a house.

“It seems that they were making a bomb that exploded,” Sabari district chief Dawlat Khan Qayomi told AFP.

Pakistan’s semi-autonomous North Waziristan tribal area across the border from Khost is a stronghold for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, whom Afghan and US officials say mount cross-border attacks against troops in Afghanistan.

There are 42 nations contributing to a NATO-led force, dominated by the United States, that is helping Afghanistan fight the rebels.





Militant training camps in a number of Bangladeshi Madrassas By Manoj Saxena

6 04 2009

According to press reports, more than 700 militant training camps are in operation within the 69,000 Koranic Madrassas in Bangladesh. Talibans, returned from Afghanistan battle field or Kashmir, Palestine and Chechen war fields are giving training to the young students of the Madrassas with the agenda of shifting Bangladesh from present democratic structure to Caliphate state.

Dhaka’s prominent Bengali newspaper The Janakantha published an opinion editorial on April 5, 2009, where columnist Laila Najnin Harun said, in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, a huge Madrassa cum militant training camp is openly operating at Kamrangirchar area, while law enforcing agencies are showing ignorance to this fact. She questioned the role of law enforcing agencies for such ignorance stating, this will allow the militants in further gaining strength.

Kamrangirchar’s Noria-Alia Madrassa was earlier used for militant training purpose by Harkajutl Mujahedin Bangladesh (HuJI) under the command of Mufti Abdul Hannan. Madrassas principal Moulana Ahmadullah Ashraf is the patron of such activities. During the Afghan war, Ashraf’s son took part in militancy with Talibans and died there.

Noria-Alia Madrassa in Kamrangirchar is the main base of Dhaka’s ultra radical group Bangladesh Khulafah Andolen (Caliphate Movement of Bangladesh). War criminal and Islamic terror mastermind Mufti Fazlul Haque Aminy is the advisor of this Madrassa. According to Bangladesh intelligence report, this Madrassa continues to receive large amount of money from different foreign donors on a regular basis.

According to expert reports there are more than 69,000 Madrassas in Bangladesh, mostly Koranic, which breeds militants. Bangladeshi law minister Barrister Shafiq Ahmed said, clerics in these Madrassas allure the students with the dream of heaven thus finally motivating them in Jihad against all non Muslims. Raping Hindu females are taught to be a sacred obligation of every Muslims. Madrassa students also consider all progressive people as ‘Murtads’ as well non-Muslims and consider killing them as holy task. These students attempted to assassin Bangladeshi progressive poet Shamsur Rehman in 1999. Same sects of people were behind the brutal attack of another progressive writer named Humayun Azad, who died in Germany while on treatment. Attackers injured Humayun Azad, a prominent writer and teacher of Dhaka University with sharp weapons.

Secularist forces are under attack in Bangladesh. When secularist and anti Jihad political party – Awami League (AL) won a landslide victory during December 29 election last year, anti secularist forces started conspiring to oust AL from power. With this agenda in mind, they plotted a bloody massacre inside BDR headquarters in Dhaka during February 25 this year. Several army officers were killed by the militants and their affiliates. While government started investigating the matter, some fanatic newspapers and forces in Dhaka became active in shifting the focus of the investigators to blank by pointing some secularist leaders as the ‘collaborators’ of this incident.

World renowned Bangladeshi peace worker and minority rights activist Shahriar Kabir in a commentary said, for the offense of only a few hundred BDR jawans, there is conspiracy of dismantling the entire para-military force. Referring to statement made by Col. Shams, who was saved from the mutiny, Shahriar Kabir said, outsiders were behind murders inside the BDR headquarters, and the investigators should find out these killers.

He vehemently opposed trying the BDR jawans and others related to the mutiny in Court Martial. Mr. Kabir referred statements by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which said, trial in Court Martial will be a great injustice. He appreciated the efforts taken by Awami League government in compensating and rehabilitating the families of killed army officers during the mutiny.

Shahriar Kabir has also rightly raised the illegal arrest, torture and murder of hundreds of people during ‘Operation Clean Heart’ conducted by Bangladesh Army under the command of Lt. Gen. Hassan Massud Chowdhury, who recently resigned from Anti Corruption Commission due to various allegations. He said, killer army officers and soldiers as well members of RAB and police, who took part in brutality during Operation Clean Heart were given impunity by BNP government.





New Afghan law worries Nato chief

5 04 2009

Women in Afghanistan

The law has been described as “oppressive” for women

Nato’s head says it could be difficult to persuade European countries to contribute more troops to Afghanistan because of controversial new laws.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the planned laws violated human rights and were unjustifiable when Nato troops were dying to protect universal values.

Critics say the law limits the rights of women from the Shia minority and authorises rape within marriage.

Aides to President Karzai insist the law provides more protection for women.

Permission

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told the BBC’s Mark Mardell: “We are there to defend universal values and when I see, at the moment, a law threatening to come into effect which fundamentally violates women’s rights and human rights, that worries me.”

Nato chief’s Afghan law fears

He added: “I have a problem to explain and President Karzai knows this, because I discussed it with him. I have a problem to explain to a critical public audience in Europe, be it the UK or elsewhere, why I’m sending the guys to the Hindu Kush.”

France’s Human Rights Minister Rama Yade also expressed her “sharp concern” at the law, saying it “recalls the darkest hours of Afghanistan’s history”.

The UN earlier said it was seriously concerned about the potential impact of the law.

Human rights activists say it reverses many of the freedoms won by Afghan women in the seven years since the Taleban were driven from power.

They say it removes the right of women to refuse their husbands sex, unless they are ill.

Women will also need to get permission from their husbands if they want to leave their homes, unless there is an emergency.

The law covers members of Afghanistan’s Shia minority, who make up 10% of the population.

It was rushed through parliament in February and was backed by influential Shia clerics and Shia political parties.

Defenders of the law say it is an improvement on the customary laws which normally decide family matters.

A separate family law for the Sunni majority is now also being drawn up.

Nato is holding its annual summit in Strasbourg.

President Obama is to present his new Afghan strategy to his allies.

Ahead of the meeting, a number of leading charities warned that an increase in military deployments in Afghanistan could lead to a rise in civilian casualties.

They called on Nato leaders gathering in Strasbourg to do more to protect the population.

Last year more than 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan.

In a report titled Caught in the Conflict, 11 aid groups including Oxfam, ActionAid and Care called on Nato to change the way it operates.

“The troop surge will fail to achieve greater overall security and stability unless the military prioritise the protection of Afghan civilians,” Matt Waldman, head of policy for Oxfam International on Afghanistan, said.





Lahore siege ends

30 03 2009

Lahore: Heavily armed terrorists gunned down at least 22 policemen, including eight officers, and injured 90 others as they stormed into police training centre near Lahore on Monday, barely a month after the brazen attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in this city.

The nine-hour hostage drama at the police training academy at Manawan near Lahore ended on Monday afternoon with police officials claiming to have killed or arrested all the attackers.

All the arrested terrorists have been taken to an unknown location.

Lobbing grenades and opening indiscriminate fire, the terrorists, said to number between 10 and 16, struck the academy as trainees prepared for the morning drill, killing guards at the gate and later holed up inside with hostages.

Authorities clamped curfew and called in Army and paramilitary rangers, who along with police, laid siege to the sprawling complex where an estimated 800 unarmed policemen were present.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that four terrorists were shot dead in the gunbattle.

But some reports also claimed that one terrorist managed to escape from the academy.

TV channels showed Pakistani commandos involved in the gunbattle with the terrorists celebrating on the rooftop of the academy building and firing in the air from their assault rifles.

Earlier, two attackers were reportedly shot dead while one suspected terrorist involved in the attack was arrested.

The death toll in the deadly strike stood at 20 while the number of injured was about 150.

Helicopters and armoured carriers were deployed by the security forces to monitor the situation inside, which authorities described as a hostage crisis.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said the suspicion in the attack was on Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e Mohammad as intermittent firing and sounds of explosions continued to emanate from the centre.

While Malik said the attack bore resemblance to the Mumbai terror strikes, former Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub said it “is similar to the one on the Sri Lankan team”.

“It is the same type of people and same style of operation,” he said.

Prior to the attack, which started between 7-8 am, a series of at least five blasts were heard at the training centre at Manawan, located near the Wagah land border.

The explosions were followed by an exchange of fire between the attackers and policemen that continued for over two hours.

Most of the casualties occurred near the gate of the centre when the terrorists lobbed several grenades as they launched their attack and then fired indiscriminately.

Deputy Inspector General (Investigation) Mushtaq Sukhera told PTI that 850 recruits were present in the centre at the time of the attack.

Policemen and Pakistan Rangers, including snipers, had taken up positions on rooftops of buildings adjacent to the centre, Sukhera said.

Lahore Police Commissioner Azam Suleman said 34 people have been admitted to the hospital.

“I cannot say anything about the number of dead and do not want to speculate anything. It is an emergency situation right now,” he said.

An emergency was declared in all hospitals in Lahore and a red alert was sounded in the city.

Eyewitnesses, who escaped the carnage, said that militants clad in police uniforms and carrying backpacks, had entered the training centre and took up positions in several buildings and exchanged fire with the security forces.

M Latif, a recruit who escaped from the centre with a dozen colleagues, told PTI the policemen were busy training when the terrorists stormed the centre and threw grenades and opened fire.

A visibly shaken Latif said many recruits, all of whom who were unarmed, were still inside the centre.

Another recruit named Jehangir, who was injured, said he had seen about eight terrorists enter the centre and spray bullets at policemen. “A number of my colleagues fell as they were hit by bullets. Then blasts occurred. Everyone was running for their lives and I was hit by a bullet in my left arm,” he said.

Hundreds of policemen, including members of an elite anti-terrorism squad, surrounded the centre and cordoned off the nearby area. Police also fired teargas at the attackers as helicopters were used for aerial surveillance.

Dramatic footage aired by TV channels showed bodies of several policemen strewn across the ground. Dozens of policemen scaled a wall to escape from within the centre.

Police used armoured vehicles to bring the dead and injured out of the centre after rescue workers were unable to approach them because of the firing.

Lahore has witnessed several terrorist attacks since last year, including an assault on Sri Lankan cricket team on March 3 that left eight persons dead and over 20 injured. Suicide bombers also struck at the Federal Investigation Agency office and a naval college in Lahore last year.





Suicide blast kills 50 at mosque in Khyber

27 03 2009
Friday, 27 Mar, 2009 | 05:28 PM PST |

Source: DAWN

Tribesmen gather as they take part in rescue work at the site of a suicide blast near Jamrud in the Khyber agency tribal region, about 30 km from the Afghan border, March 27, 2009. — Reuters

LANDI KOTAL: A suicide bomber killed at least 50 people when he blew himself up in a crowded mosque near Pakistan’s Jamrud town, about 30 km from the Afghan border, on Friday, government officials said.

The bomber set off his explosives as an imam, or prayer leader, began the service.

Eyewitnesses believe the casualty figures are being under-reported and that at least 70 people have been killed, first by the explosion, and secondly by the collapsing of the mosque’s ceiling.

‘The moment the imam said Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), the blast went off,’ said Tauseer Khan, 70, from a hospital bed in nearby Peshawar.

‘It was huge. I still can’t hear properly,’ said Khan, who had wounds to his hands and face. His son and grandson were also wounded.

Rahat Gul, a spokesman for the Khyber administration, said 50 people were killed and 75 wounded.

Between 250 and 300 people were in the mosque, said Tariq Hayat Khan, the region’s top administrator.

‘It was a suicide attack. The bomber was standing in the mosque. It’s a two-storey building and it has collapsed,’ Khan said.

Worshippers searched through piles of bricks, pulling out bodies and carrying them to ambulances in sheets and on rope beds, television pictures showed.

Police caps, prayer caps, prayer beads and mobiles telephones were later lined up on a wall outside the mosque.

Dawn’s Khyber Agency correspondent Ibrahim Shinwari explained that the Friday prayer congregation at this mosque is quite large as it is frequented by Frontier Corps personnel and members of the Khasadar force who are stationed at the adjacent check post. Moreover, those who travel to and from Torkham for work stop at this mosque to offer prayers. There are also many tribal households within a two-kilometre area from where people come to offer prayers.

TTP militants had warned of a blast of this nature, Shinwari said, adding that a shoot-out between militants and security forces at the nearby checkpost one month ago left one militant dead and two injured, and they were thus seeking revenge. Following that encounter, a TTP spokesman in Khyber Agency had said that there would be consequences if Nato supplies are not suspended and if FC personnel are not disbanded.

‘ENEMIES OF ISLAM’

Police initially said a bomb blew up at a police post next to the mosque, which is by the main road leading to the Khyber Pass and the Afghan border beyond.

‘It’s surprising, those who claim that they are doing jihad (holy war) and then carry out suicide attacks inside mosques during Friday prayers,’ Khan told a private television channel.

‘They are infidels. They are enemies of Pakistan. They are enemies of Islam,’ he said.