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.

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NY shooting: Pak Taliban claim responsibility

5 04 2009

TALIBAN STRIKES BACK: Baitullah Mehsud (center) says the New York attack was carried out by his men.

TALIBAN STRIKES BACK: Baitullah Mehsud (center) says the New York attack was carried out by his men.

New Delhi: Pakistan’s Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack on a US immigration centre in New York in which 13 people were killed, Pakistan’s Geo TV reported.

He said it was carried out by a Pakistani and another man to avenge the missile strikes by US drones in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“I accept responsibility. They were my men. I gave them orders in reaction to US drone attacks,” Mehsud told media men by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan warned that “such attacks would continue” to avenge missile strikes by US drones in tribal areas and “brutalities in Palestine.”

Mehsud also pointed out that he had said a few days ago that his militants would carry out attacks on American soil.

The claim by the Pakistani Taliban commander came hours after a US drone attack in North Waziristan tribal agency killed 13 people, including women and children.

A man armed with two handguns killed 12 people at an immigration services centre before turning the gun on himself, said authorities in Binghamton, upstate New York.

They identified the killer as Jiverly Wong, an immigrant from Vietnam.

Mehsud had recently claimed responsibility for the terrorist siege of a police training centre at Manawan near Lahore that killed eight persons and injured over 90 as well as for two recent suicide attacks.

WHO IS BAITULLAH MEHSUD?

  • He is the leader of militant group Tehreek-i-Taliban

  • He belongs to the Mehsud tribe from South Waziristan

  • Mehsud commands about 20,000 pro-Taliban militants

  • His group includes some foreign fighters

  • He is known to provide sanctuary to militants fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan

  • Mehsud is the main accused in the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister, Benazir Bhutto





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.





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.





Bomb Blast Kills Afghan Lawmaker

20 03 2009


19 March 2009

Wrapped body parts of lawmaker Dad Mohammad Khan and others killed in Helmand province on 19 Mar 2009
Wrapped body parts of lawmaker Dad Mohammad Khan and others killed in Helmand province on 19 Mar 2009

A roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan has killed a prominent lawmaker who was openly critical of the Taliban.

The attack Thursday killed Dad Mohammad Khan and four other men in southern Helmand province, the heart of the Taliban’s growing insurgency.

Khan was a member of parliament, former intelligence chief and a longtime critic of the Taliban.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing and praised Khan as a leader who worked to bring peace to the region.

Khan fled Afghanistan during the Taliban rule and returned after the extremist government was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

He is the 10th member of parliament to be killed since democratic elections in 2005.

Elsewhere, international and Afghan forces say they killed two suspected insurgents and captured four others in a raid on an al-Qaida cell in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province. But the district’s chief is condemning the raid.

Bati Kot district chief Khaibar Momand said those targeted were actually civilians. He told the Associated Press that three of those detained are the district’s development director and his sons.

Separately, NATO led forces said they captured 18 suspected insurgents in eastern Logar province, including a suspected insurgent leader.





Jihad TV in Europe:It’s time to shut down Hezbollah and Hamas broadcasts to the Continent.

18 02 2009

Their propaganda notwithstanding, Hamas and, two years ago, Hezbollah suffered devastating military defeats that may diminish their ability to attack Israel with rocket fire. But these Iranian-backed terrorist organizations are deploying another dangerous weapon in their war against Western democracies — terrorist television stations.

[Commentary Europe] AP

Watching terror programs at your home in Duisburg.

Thanks to Arab satellite companies, Hezbollah’s al-Manar and Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV stations can still beam their incitement and hatred into European living rooms, radicalizing Muslim immigrants throughout the Continent.

Al-Manar, however, is not a mere propaganda tool. Founded in 1991 by Hezbollah guerillas, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization. Following a 2006 letter to then-President George W. Bush signed by a majority of the U.S. Senate, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Treasury Department designated al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. This designation placed, for the first time, a media outlet on the same terrorism list as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah itself.

The designation highlighted the role of al-Manar as more than just a station with objectionable content. The Hezbollah outlet was actively involved in recruiting and fund raising for Hezbollah, and providing preoperational surveillance for terror attacks. Undersecretary of Treasury Stuart Levey has observed that al-Manar is an “entity maintained by a terrorist group” and is therefore “as culpable as the terrorist group itself.”

Europe has also taken several steps against al-Manar. In 2004, the European Union and the governments of France, Spain and Holland determined that al-Manar violated a European law prohibiting incitement to hatred in broadcasting. This encouraged European satellite providers Eutelsat, Globecast, Hispasat and New Skies Satellite to cease transmission of the station.

Five non-European satellite providers have ended their broadcast of al-Manar, and multinational corporations discontinued about $4 million in annual advertising on the channel after their ad buys on Hezbollah television were exposed. In December 2008, two U.S. residents pleaded guilty in Southern District Court in New York to material support for Hezbollah after they were found to be broadcasting al-Manar and selling satellite equipment.

Yet the Saudi-based, Arab League-owned Arabsat and the Egyptian government-owned Nilesat still allow al-Manar to broadcast incitement and violence to Europe’s Muslim population on their satellites. During the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy, for example, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah urged al-Manar’s viewers “to take a decisive stand.” He said that “hundreds of millions of Muslims are ready and willing to sacrifice their lives in order to defend the honor of their Prophet. And you are among them.”

Al-Manar has become alarmingly popular with Europe’s young Arabic-speaking Muslims. On one German television program, young Muslims in Berlin cited al-Manar as a factor influencing their hatred of the U.S. and Jews. In November 2008, Germany banned the terrorist station on the basis that it promoted the use of violence. This ban prohibits al-Manar from doing business in the country, although its hate and incitement are still accessible in Germany via Arabsat and Nilesat.

Hamas, designated by both Europe and the U.S. as a terrorist entity, followed al-Manar and took its own brand of jihad to the airwaves in 2006. Today, Hamas’s al-Aqsa television disseminates its violent message on Arabsat. Eutelsat, France’s leading satellite operator and the world’s third-largest satellite company, also began broadcasting al-Aqsa on its Atlantic Bird 4 and Eurobird 2 satellites, enabling Hamas to incite, recruit and raise funds throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Al-Aqsa TV is notorious for its uninterrupted speeches of Hamas leaders calling for suicide bombings, for its youth-oriented music videos that incite viewers to murder, and programs aimed at children which glorify suicide bombers. Faced with world-wide outcry for using Disney-like characters, the show’s producers dropped the Mickey Mouse character — they told kids that Israel had killed the popular rodent — and found bees, bunnies and other animals to tout the virtues of jihad.

Policy makers, law enforcement officials and regulators should be worried about al-Aqsa, but so should every European parent. One haunting music video produced by al-Aqsa shows a mother preparing a bomb in her bedroom. Her young daughter naively asks whether she is bringing her a toy. Mama leaves home and explodes on her suicide mission. Her child says, “Instead of me, you carried bombs in your hand. . . . Only now I know what was more precious than me.” The little girl continues, “My love for Muhammad will not be merely words. I am following mama in her steps.”

Another broadcast shows mothers donning suicide belts and calling on women and girls to blow themselves up. The “martyrs” are assured that the “Zionist Entity” will be destroyed.

Al-Aqsa is an integral part of Hamas’s global strategy of radicalizing Muslims, subverting the peace process, raising funds for future attacks, and disseminating propaganda in the Palestinian territories and beyond. Like al-Manar, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization.

While “free speech” activists decry action against these terrorist media outlets, European officials should recall prior campaigns against enemy media outlets. In 1999, during the Kosovo war, NATO planes bombed the Belgrade-based headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia. While 16 employees were killed, NATO defended the action as a legitimate attack against Serbian broadcasting of Slobodan Milosevic’s violent call to arms against Kosovo’s Muslims.

European states also have prosecuted hate speech as a war crime, first at the Nuremberg trials against Nazi officials after World War II and then at an international court in Tanzania in 2003, when three Rwandan media executives were convicted of running a radio station and publishing a newspaper calling for the systematic extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsis. In supporting the convictions, Reed Brody, legal counsel to Human Rights Watch, said, “If you fan the flames, you’ll have to face the consequences.”

Europe can act against Hamas TV under its own legal authority governing television broadcasting. France should enforce the warning its own audiovisual authority issued on Dec. 2, 2008, warning Eutelsat that al-Aqsa programming violates French communications law. Eutelsat’s recent decision to stop distributing al-Aqsa on only one of its satellites is not sufficient compliance, and Eutelsat should be held accountable for its continued broadcasting of al-Aqsa.

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama called for “a new way forward” with the Muslim world. But he also called for a strong defense against those who “seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents” and addressed leaders “who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West.” Working with Cairo and Riyadh to cease satellite broadcasts of these Iranian-backed, terrorist-owned media channels is key to addressing the radicalization threat in Europe for the continent’s leaders. But France should first get its own terrorist-media house in order.

Mr. Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Ms. Bonazzi, executive director of the European Foundation for Democracy, are co-directors of the Coalition Against Terrorist Media.