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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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.





US claims Gulf donors fund Taliban fighters

26 03 2009

By James Blitz in London and Daniel Dombey in Washington
source Financial Times

The US has told its Nato partners that funds from individuals in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia now rival drug money as a source of financing for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The US launched a high-profile push to reduce Gulf funding for the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militant groups operating out of Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001. As a result, in recent years insurgent links to Afghanistan’s burgeoning heroin trade have become the principal focus.
But Richard Holbrooke, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, expressed fresh concerns to Nato ambassadors during a briefing this week on the US’s strategic review of Afghan-Pakistan policy, which is expected to be announced on Friday.

“He said that the prime source of funding for the Taliban is not from narcotics but from private individuals in the Gulf region,” said a western diplomat, without giving further details.

Another official attending the meeting said Mr Holbrooke had suggested that much of the funding from poppy production appeared to go to individuals linked in some way to the Afghan government.

“There is real concern about funding for extremists in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region coming from the Gulf, which we understand rivals or exceeds the money they are getting from drugs,” said another diplomat, quoting estimates of $150m-$300m for insurgents’ drugs cash.

Diplomats made clear that the money did not appear to come from Gulf governments but from groups and private individuals.

The US has for some time been pushing Saudi Arabia to ensure that funds raised for charities do not ultimately finance Islamist militants.

The drive has been headed by Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary in the administration of George W. Bush, who was this week formally retained in his post by Barack Obama, Mr Bush’s successor as president. Mr Levey has pushed for years for Saudi Arabia to oversee effectively the international activities of Saudi-based organisations through a charities commission.

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately reply to a request for comment late on Wednesday.

Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a US think-tank, said the Saudis had made improvements since the September 11 attacks.

But he said: “The Saudis are generally reluctant to concede either that there is Saudi-based financial support for terrorism or that Saudi counter-terrorism efforts are inadequate.”

The Afghanistan-Pakistan review will be one of the centrepieces of attention at next week’s Nato summit, with the US still looking for more aid from its European allies to boost Afghanistan’s security forces.

Some diplomats complain it is more difficult to secure consensus for such aid when the US review has not been released barely more than a week before the summit. Some Europeans worry that if the summit is seen as little more than a rubber-stamp for barely digested US conclusions on Afghanistan, it will be hard to win support for more resources for the conflict.





LeT owns up to Kupwara, Army fears worst not over

26 03 2009

Source: IBNLIVE

New Delhi: Terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba has claimed responsibility for the six-day long gunbattle between the Indian Army and terrorists in Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir.

Seventeen terrorists and eight Armymen are reported to have been killed in the gunbattle – one of the bloodiest in recent months.

The LeT on Tuesday sent a letter to a local newspaper in Kashmir last night owning up to the encounter. In the letter to Kashmiri daily Rising Kashmir, LeT spokesman Dr Abdullah Gaznavi writes, “We received prior information about the army movement and laid an ambush in the forest. Indian forces have lost 25 army men including a Major while 50 of them have been injured. Ten LeT Mujahideen also achieved martyrdom in the gunfight. India should understand that the freedom struggle in Kashmir is not over. It is active with full force”.

While firing in the area has stopped, combing operation is on in the area. Four AK-47 rifles and some ammunition have also been recovered from the site.

Among those killed are Major Mohit Sharma, a decorated Army officer and a 19-year-old trooper of the special forces Shabir Malik.

In a press conference organised by the Indian Army on Wednesday, Brigadier Gurmeet Singh confirmed the death toll and said most terrorists had been gunned down.

“The weapons that have been recovered from the terrorists in the two encounters signal that they were trained,” Singh said adding the infiltrators included “foreign militants”.

In what seemed to be a confirmation of Gaznavi’s warning, Brig Singh said Army feared an infiltration attempt by 300-400 terrorists in the area.





‘Militants waiting to infiltrate across the border’

26 03 2009

Mir Ehsan Posted: Mar 25, 2009 at 1427 hrs IST
Source: Indian Express
The senior army commander said that the militants killed in the encounter were highly trained, well equipped.The senior army commander said that the militants killed in the encounter were highly trained, well equipped.

The senior army commander said that the militants killed in the encounter were highly trained, well equipped.

Srinagar: As the combing operation in the forests of Kupwara is still going on, Army claims that all the slain militants were foreigners owing allegiance to Lashkar-e-Toiba. So far, seventeen militants and eight soldiers have been killed in the operation.

Brigade General Staff 15 Corps, Brigadier Gurmeet Singh said the operation is going on in the thick forests of Kupwara in the difficult mountainous terrain. “The militants were primarily an infiltration group attempting to infiltrate and a reception party,” he said. “The slain militants were foreigners owing their allegiance to Lashkar e Toiba.”

Singh said that the majority of the militants have been killed. “Remnants if any, will also be eliminated.”

The senior army commander said that the militants killed in the encounter were highly trained, well equipped. “We have received latest weapons, communication system and maps from the slain militants,” he said adding that the items recovered from the slain militants are being used by the state.

Brigadier Singh termed it as a first major infiltration attempt and said that more militants from across the Line of Control are waiting to sneak into the Valley. “As per intelligence reports 300 to 400 militants are awaiting on other side of the Line of Control to sneak into the Valley. We are prepared to tackle any infiltration attempt,” he said.

Singh said this is the time when militants try to infiltrate into the Valley as not only border fencing is buried under the snow also the snow starts to melt. Besides, huge quantity of war like ammunition, army has so far recovered 23 AK rifles from the encounter site.





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.