|Dera Ismail Khan
Suspected Taliban hiding among civilians
|Two boys held by Zainuddin on suspicion of being suicide bombers|
|Dera Ismail Khan
Suspected Taliban hiding among civilians
|Two boys held by Zainuddin on suspicion of being suicide bombers|
In the week that the US military pledged a new effort to avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Channel 4 News has video evidence of an attack that may have killed up to 140 civilians.Airstrikes have long been a lethal coalition tactic, but the question of how targets are assessed refuses to go away.Late yesterday around 70 people were killed across the border in the south Waziristan region of Pakistan, when a US drone struck mourners attending the funeral of a militant. It is not known if civilians were among the dead.A previous attack in May saw up to 140 civilians die in Farah province in a US airstrike.The United Nations estimates that in 2007 there were over 1,500 civilian deaths in Afghanistan. In 2008 there was a 40 per cent increase, with over 2,000 deaths recorded, although over half of these were due to the Taliban.Our report by our diplomatic editor Jonathan Rugman contains some distressing images.
This is footage from Radio Teleginen, Haiti’s largest and privately owned television station, that captured the UN shooting at crowd level from the back of a small pickup truck on June 18, 2009. Mourners had just left Haiti’s national cathedral to begin a procession when Brazilian troops with the UN attempted to arrest one of their numbers. During the arrest they are followed by the crowd and they begin firing into the air.It is true that you don’t have one camera focused on the victim at the point of impact to see the bullet rip flesh and shatter bone. What you do have is a camera that captures a shot fired by Brazilian soldiers and a horizontal plume of gun smoke (showing the angle at which the firearm was discharged at crowd level) (1:19). This is followed by a second magazine flash fired in the direction of the camera and (1:21) towards the cathedral.Thirty seconds later it is clear that a victim is discovered (1:51) with what appears to be a gunshot wound to the head (other photographs and video will soon published that show more details of the victim).The trajectory of the shots, timing and condition of the victim is not consistent with the U.N. assertions:1. They ONLY fired into the air and therefore their troops are not responsible for the death2. That the victim was felled by a rock thrown by the crowd or was hit from behind by a blunt instrumentAt minimum, the U.N. must be held accountable by submitting to an independent autopsy of the victim’s body and the release of the full results of their own investigation and autopsy to the public. This should be done immediately as the corpse of the victim continues to decompose.This tragedy is another in a long list of shootings targeting Lavalas events and demonstrations in which the U.N. stands complicit and ultimately responsible. They stood by, watched and turned a blind eye for years as the Police Nationale d’ Haiti (PNH) and their sharpshooters picked off peaceful demonstrators with high-powered rifles. June 14 was the fifth anniversary of the current U.N. military mission in Haiti and four days later their presence is commemorated with blood in the streets once again.Read the complete story at:http://www.sfbayview.com/2009/a-funeral-and-a-boycott-%E2%80%98the-struggle-continues%E2%80%99-in-haiti/This is not the first time the UN has murdered innocent Haitians in cold blood and tried to cover it up:http://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/7_13_5/7_13_5.htmlhttp://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/12-another-massacre-in-haiti-by-un-troops/
KOHAT: The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan confirmed on Friday that its camp in lower Orakzai Agency had been attacked on Thursday night.
Thirteen militants were killed in the attack and TTP sources said the toll could rise because the rubble of the camp was still being cleared. They, however, said no important TTP leader was killed or injured.
According to officials, jets pounded hideouts in remote Chappri Ferozkhel and Bezote areas in the agency and camps run by TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, a prime suspect in suicide attacks on Peshawar’s Pearl Continental hotel and the Rescue 15 building in Lahore.
Hakimullah has also been accused of sending dozens of suicide bombers to Kohat, Thall, Darra Adamkhel and other parts of the country.
The officials had initially put the death toll at four.
WASHINGTON: The anger and desperation of the displaced people and the growing public outrage over civilian casualties in drone attacks show that the US strategy for fighting insurgency in Pakistan is not working, warns a key lawmaker.
Congressman Gary Ackerman, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, also warned that the US military and economic might could influence government policies but cannot change ground realities.
During a congressional review of US policies for South Asia, another lawmaker, Edward Royce, a California Republican, noted that excessive restrictions placed in a house bill for tripling US aid to Pakistan would stifle efforts to increase trade between the United States and Pakistan.
‘The anger and desperation of this population should give us pause if the continued growing public outrage about civilian casualties caused by our drone strikes was not enough,’ said Congressman Ackerman while referring to more than two million people displaced during the Swat offensive.
‘What is becoming clear is that while our own understanding of regional, security, ethnic and tribal dynamics is growing, so, too, is the popular backlash against the methods we’ve been using.’
Although Mr Ackerman strongly backed using force to defeat the extremists, he also underlined the need for changing the US strategy.
‘Something needs to change. Albert Einstein’s warning holds true today: We can’t solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’
Mr Ackerman also acknowledged that before 9/11 the United States did not have a ‘sustained, deep or serious’ commitment to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. ‘We used them and they used us, and we assumed their dysfunctional governments and failing economies were problems of little consequence to us,’ he said.
Congressman Royce pointed out that an administration-backed move to establish Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be useful in improving economic conditions in the troubled regions of those countries.
But ‘unfortunately, because of the way in which this legislation has been written in Congress – with the restrictions, with the burdensome requirements, I think that that legislation is not going to do anything to increase trade with Pakistan. And that trade with Pakistan right now should be an important goal.’
As the aid to Pakistan bill moves to conference with the Senate, Mr Royce urged both chambers of the US Congress to remove the clauses that were too restrictive. ‘This provision must be liberalised if it’s going to affect Pakistan,’ he said.
He then asked Robert Blake, the new Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department, if he concurred with that judgment.
‘Sure,’ said Mr Blake, who appeared as the key witness before the panel.
The United States, Mr Blake said, was working more closely to knit Afghanistan and Pakistan with their neighbours and with their region and to open up foreign markets to their products.
The establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, he noted, would be an important step in stimulating economic growth in both countries and drawing people away from extremism.
Congressman Jim Costa, a California Democrat, said he believed that the ‘recent positive performance’ of the Pakistani government in the Dir and Swat valleys, was going to continue, notwithstanding the internal political differences between the Sharif brothers and President Zardari.
‘We’re very encouraged by the steps that President Zardari and his team have taken recently in Swat, in Buner and elsewhere. They’ve taken the fight to the Taliban, and that’s a very encouraging sign,’ said Mr Blake.
The offensive, he said, not only hurt the Taliban, it also had helped improve the Zardari government’s standing with their people. ‘And there’s much greater support now for the Zardari government, which, again, is a very positive sign,’ he added.
‘So as long as they continue to do that, as long as they continue to take concerted action, the United States will continue to support them.’
The State Department’s new pointsman for South Asia told the panel that a major new focus of the Obama administration ‘will be to dramatically increase economic assistance to – to help address a lot of the economic problems and also a lot of the governance problems that have plagued Pakistan.’
Congressman Ackerman noted that in a recent statement Pakistan’s army chief not only vowed to continue the military offensive but also said that the head of the Taliban organisation in Pakistan must be eliminated.
He wanted to know if the US administration believed the Pakistanis were serious and had the capacity to succeed.
‘I think there has been a turning point, sir, and we’re very encouraged by the progress that has been made in Swat valley,’ said Mr Blake. ‘Much more needs to be done still and I think they do have the capabilities to undertake that.’
Why doesn’t our military leadership learn from history? They are certainly making history on our western border by waging war against their own countrymen.
The nation is beginning to see the rapidly unfurling consequences of Gen Musharraf’s fateful decision to join the “coalition of the coerced.” Dragged into a proxy war at gunpoint, America’s dreaded war on terror has indisputably arrived on Pakistan’s soil. Pakistan is slipping into a Dantean hell. The belle époque days for us Pakistanis are over. Pakistanis cannot continue deluding themselves by the romantic notion that they could go on living happily and peacefully under the American umbrella. Pakistan stands on the brink of civil war. A perfect storm is looming on the horizon. Fasten your seatbelts. It will be quite a ride.
The irony is that far from being an autonomous power waging its own parallel war, Pakistan has been reduced to no more than a lackey. Jinnah’s Pakistan, I regret to say, has ceased to be a sovereign, independent state. Today it is not just a “rentier state,” not just a client state. It is a slave state with a puppet government set up by Washington.
Euripides said: “Whom the Gods destroy, they first make mad.” At a time when Pakistan is extremely ill-prepared for adventurism on any serious scale, with the war in Malakand still not conclusively won and over three million internally displaced persons–men, women and children–living under inhuman conditions in Mardan and Swabi, this government decided to open a second front against its own people in Waziristan. The match is lit, the blaze will soon spread like wildfire throughout the tribal areas and beyond. That is for sure. The decision to launch a military operation in this highly sensitive border region is ill-conceived, ill-advised, ill-timed, and would almost certainly turn into a prolonged bloody conflict and, in time, prove a massive self-inflicted wound.
Today the killing or capturing alive of Baitullah Mehsud has become a top priority for the Pakistani government. Anybody who knows anything about Waziristan will tell you that looking for Baitullah or Osama bin Laden in the rugged mountains is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Baitullah, the central focus of the current American and Pakistani military operation in Waziristan, is not the first warrior to confront the administration in the mountains of Waziristan. The Faqir of Ipi led a similar revolt against the British in Waziristan in 1936. It set Waziristan on fire, and this lasted until after 1947. The British failed to capture Ipi and the operation had to be called off.
In the early years after Waziristan’s annexation, the British maintained only a skeleton administration in the agencies. All this changed in 1919 when they decided to build regular garrisons in Waziristan. Consequently, troop movements became routine, which caused resentment among the tribes. Then came the fateful decision to send troops into the Khaisora valley in November 1936, which transformed Ipi’s agitation into a full-scale uprising almost overnight.
The judgment displayed by the British and the poor intelligence upon which they based their decisions were chiefly to blame for the disasters that followed. This was the last major rebellion in Waziristan which stemmed from an abrupt change of policy. The tribesmen’s unrivalled fighting record, their ability to intervene in Afghan affairs and to involve Afghans in their own affairs, were factors ignored by the British that made Waziristan different from other Frontier areas. This disastrous attempt to “pacify” Waziristan was the last of several major incursions into tribal territory during the hundred years of Britain’s presence in north-west India.
When the British left, Pakistan had reason to be glad that it had inherited a secure North-West Frontier. In September 1947 Mr Jinnah took a bold decision to reverse the “pacification” policy, withdrew regular troops from Waziristan and entered into new agreements with the tribes. Cunningham, the new governor of the NWFP appointed by Mr Jinnah was a Frontier expert. His disillusion with the “pacification” policy was complete. “I think that we must now face a complete change of policy. Razmak has been occupied by regular troops for nearly 25 years. Wana for a few years less. The occupation of Waziristan has been a failure. It has not achieved peace or any appreciable economic development. It ties up an unreasonably large number of troops, and for the last 10 years there have been frequent major and minor offences against the troops.” The change in policy produced dramatic results and paid rich dividends.
All this has now changed. Mr Jinnah’s Waziristan policy, which had stood the test of time, has been reversed under American pressure. Our troops are back in Waziristan in aid of American troops looking for Baitullah Mehsud and bin Laden! The result is a totally unnecessary and avoidable state of armed confrontation between the Army and the tribesmen. Those who know the Frontier are deeply concerned. Our civil and military leadership is playing with fire. By reversing Mr Jinnah’s Waziristan policy, at the behest of the Americans, they have alienated powerful tribes in Waziristan and unsettled our western border which had remained peaceful since the birth of Pakistan. Pakistan would be well advised to profit from the mistakes of its forerunners in Waziristan and to avoid any shift of policy which cares only for immediate advantage and takes no account of the ultimate effects.
It all started when Gen Musharraf succumbed to a telephone “ultimatum” from Washington and promised “unstinted” cooperation to the Americans in the so-called war on terror. The Afghans never stabbed us in the back when we were in trouble and at war with India. No Afghan government was as friendly to Pakistan as the Taliban government. By allowing Americans to use our territory as a platform for bombing Afghanistan, we antagonised the Afghans, especially the majority Pakhtun tribes who live in the Pakhtun belt along our border. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a military government laid the foundation of permanent enmity with the Pakhtuns across the border. A civilian government has now compounded the problem by taking on our own tribesmen in Waziristan.
Said Voltaire: “I fear that in this world one must be either hammer or anvil, for it is indeed a lucky man who escapes the alternatives.” Waziristan has been on the anvil for centuries. The Mehsud and Wazir tribes living there are no strangers to foreign military interventions in their country. On each occasion the tribes and the mountains won a strategic victory, the troops were forced to withdraw back into the plains of the Indus Valley. The British soon learned that you can annex land but not people.
As they say, “it is a wide road that leads to war and only a narrow path that leads home again.” In the early 1900s, a crusty British general, Andrew Skeen, wrote a guide to military operations in the Pakhtun tribal belt. His first piece of advice: “When planning a military expedition into Pashtun Tribal areas, the first thing you must plan is your retreat. All expeditions into this area sooner or later end in retreat under fire.” Let us hope the current expedition ends differently.
Decision-making in today’s Pakistan is bizarre. Many questions swirl. Were other options available, only to be peremptorily rejected? Who decided to plunge Pakistan into a guerrilla war raising the spectre of a war on two fronts dreaded by military strategists and the general public alike? Who took the final decision to open a second front in Waziristan? The president? The prime minister? The cabinet? The Parliament? The Army? Who decides questions of war and peace in this country? In public perception, everything points to one inescapable conclusion: that the decision to open a second front in Waziristan was not an internal decision. It was taken in response to irresistible pressure from the United States.
Today we are experiencing a failure of leadership that bodes ill for the country. Nobody knows who is in command. The result is the mess that we are in today. How will it turn out to be tomorrow? “The morrow, as always, is with the Fates.” One is reminded of Stalin’s angry expletive which he uttered when the German army was only a few miles from Moscow and the very survival of the Soviet Union hung in the balance. “The great Lenin left us a great country,” Stalin told Mikoyan, “and we, his successors, have … up.” This is precisely what we have done to the great country left behind by Jinnah.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Friday that the government was waging the war against terrorism and extremism to protect the youth from falling into depression, mistrust and negative activities so that they could become patriotic citizens and play their role in national development.
“To save the future of our youth, the government is confronting the menace of terrorism and extremism,” he said, while addressing an award-distribution ceremony in connection with national internship programme at the Prime Minister Secretariat.
He said the government would arrange an inter-provincial youth exchange programme so that they could share their experiences and develop understanding. “It will help eliminate misperception and bring harmony among the youth and develop brotherhood among the provinces,” he added.
He urged the youth to get technical and specialised education, which would benefit them and they would be able to have jobs abroad and the government would facilitate them.He said acquisition of technical education was imperative to meet the modern day challenges. He said the government was endeavouring to send the talented youth abroad on scholarships.
The prime minister said the new education policy would soon be finalised, and it would fulfil the requirements of the modern age.He said in this regard the draft of the policy had been sent to provincial governments and Azad Kashmir to take their input in the finalisation of the policy so that a vibrant policy would be evolved to benefit all the stakeholders.
Gilani said the government had constituted a sub-committee of the cabinet to finalise the draft of the Youth Policy. He said the government was endeavouring to develop the human resource sector with an aim to provide maximum facilities of education to the youth and in this connection a significant allocation of Rs 3.6 billion had been made in the budget. “It will provide an opportunity to about 30,000 youth to enrol in the internship programme.”
The prime minister directed the Finance Ministry to examine proposals to set up the Youth Fund for providing assistance to the youth. He rejected the request of Youth Affairs Minister Shahid Bhutto to increase the age limit for getting internship. At presently, the youth in the 19-25 age limit are eligible for internship.
[Which "charade" was Zardari referring to--the one where the militants pretend to be religious, the one where the Army and the militants pretend to be waging war against each other, the one where the Pakistani Army and the US Army pretend to be at cross purposes, or the one where the United States is not controlling both Pakistan and India?]
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has said the government is determined to take the ongoing drive against the militants to its logical end.
“The militants have to give up militancy and submit to the state authority or they should be prepared for physical extermination as the charade cannot be allowed to go on,” he said this while talking to NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani, who called on him at the Presidency on Friday.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that matters pertaining to the ongoing drive against the militants in Waziristan, relief and rehabilitation of displaced persons and plans for the return of Swat IDPs were discussed during the meeting.
The president, reiterating the government’s determination to provide relief and rehabilitation to the IDPs, stressed that all necessary measures should be taken to ensure their smooth return to homes.
He also appreciated the provincial government’s contribution to relief efforts. The governor updated the president on relief and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari directed the NWFP government to devise a plan for providing financial assistance on a regular basis to the vocational training centres set up in the province for the dislocated people.
The National Vocational and Technical Training Commission is managing a number of vocational centres in the province for the IDPs.Babar said while going through different projects developed for the rehabilitation of the displaced persons, the president noted that the vocational training centres would not be sustainable if they were not linked up to some viable financial support programme.
President Zardari, therefore, directed the provincial government to devise a well-thought-out plan to link these vocational technical centres with some suitable financial support programme to make them viable and sustainable.
He said apart from exploring the financial support programmes in the public sector, the plan should also consider involving the private sector. He asked the NWFP government to keep the Presidency posted with the financial support programme for the vocational centres.
By Mushtaq Yusufzai & Irfan Burki
PESHAWAR/WANA: Seven people — four of them Armymen — were killed and 33 others, including 21 soldiers, injured in attacks on a military convoy in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and air strikes in South Waziristan Agency (SWA) on Friday.
The attack on security forces’ convoy jeopardised the Feb 17, 2008 peace accord between the government and Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led Taliban militants in the volatile North Waziristan Agency, bordering Afghanistan’s restive Khost province.
Military officials based in the North Waziristan Agency blamed the local militants for the attack. They claimed to have intercepted conversations of senior militant commanders, asking their fighters to continue attacking security forces and government installations, as their peace accord with the government had already been scrapped.
They said militant commanders, however, decided not to make public their decision of scrapping the peace deal, as they could lose sympathies of tribesmen. “We were aware of their terrorist activities and attacks on security forces but we kept silence in the larger interest of poor tribesmen. But now I must say the government might launch a full-scale operation in the North Waziristan Agency,” said an official, wishing anonymity.
Official sources told The News a military convoy, which had left Miramshah, headquarters of the North Waziristan Agency, for Bannu came under attack near an abandoned flourmill in the town.
Militants had planted heavy explosives material close to the wall of the roadside factory, which went off when the heavily-guarded military convoy was passing through the area. Four soldiers died on the spot while 18 others were injured, some of them critically. The injured soldiers were later airlifted and shifted to a military hospital in Bannu.
Security forces immediately cordoned off the area and blocked the Bannu-Miramshah road for all kinds of traffic for four hours. Later in the day, security forces arrived in large numbers and started demolishing the factory building with the help of bulldozers so that the militants could not use it for terrorist acts in future.
The owner of the flourmill had closed it several years ago and portions of the building had been demolished by tribesmen. The same military convoy again came under attack when it reached the Naurak village in Mirali subdivision. Suspected militants attacked the military convoy through an improvised explosives device (IED). Three soldiers were injured in the blast, which caused damage to a few vehicles.
The military officials finally decided to stop their journey on the dangerous Bannu-Miramshah road when another IED was recovered near the Kajhori post in Mirali. The military convoy was then taken to a nearby FC camp and ordered not to leave the area till the situation became normal.
The violence-stricken Utmanzai Wazir tribesmen in the North Waziristan Agency were in great shock over the attack on the military convoy. They condemned the attack and termed it an invitation to disaster.
“Like the rest of the areas, the militants will remain safe but we will suffer in case of a military operation,” a seemingly-terrified tribal elder remarked when approached by The News in Miramshah.
Sources close to the militants said though the Taliban in the North Waziristan Agency had not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, they were demanding an end to the ongoing military operation in Janikhel and Bakakhel villages of FR Bannu.
Meanwhile, three suspected militants, including an Uzbek national, were reportedly killed and 12 others injured in air strikes carried out by PAF planes and gunship helicopters on alleged hideouts of Baitullah Mehsud in the adjoining South Waziristan Agency.
Official sources, however, claimed higher death toll in the bombing and artillery shelling. Three fighter jets pounded suspected positions of the Taliban commander at Ladha, Seegagarai, Ladha Sarai, Ashanki Gudawai, Makeen, Dwatoi and Piaza villages.
According to the sources, the PAF planes after making a few rounds of flights over the region started heavy bombing on the militants’ positions. The tribal region reportedly echoed with two dozen explosions. Tribesmen in Miramshah said they heard heavy explosions when the planes pounded Makeen in the South Waziristan Agency.
However, they were not aware of any human losses as communication to the area was suspended since the military operation was launched. Military officials said three militants, including an Uzbek, were killed in Makeen.
According to the sources, 12 injured militants were brought to a private health centre in Makeen, five of them in serious condition. The sources among the militants said they had now started burying their dead during night time after the recent drone attack on the funeral procession of slain militant commander Khwaz Wali Mehsud in Makeen. Tribal sources said several shops were destroyed in Shamankhel village of Ladha subdivision in the bombing.
TTP claims responsibility
By Sayed Abid Hussain Shah
MUZAFFARABAD: Two soldiers were killed and three others injured in the first-ever suicide attack on security forces in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Friday.
A suicide bomber ripped through an Army vehicle near Shaukat Lines, Muzaffarabad. Two soldiers embraced martyrdom, while three others sustained injuries in the attack, official sources said. The injured were shifted to the Combined Military Hospital, Muzaffarabad.
Agencies add: Local authorities strongly condemned the blast and demanded a swift investigation and ordered the law-enforcement agencies to step up security. Police and security forces cordoned off the blast site and started combing the area for clues.
“We have beefed up security and started a search operation,” top administrative official in Muzaffarabad, Chaudhry Imtiaz, told AFP. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, said that the assault was launched to prove that Mehsud had not been weakened by more than a week of strikes on his suspected hideouts in the South Waziristan Agency.
“We are in a position to respond to the Army’s attacks, and time will prove that these military operations have not weakened us,” Hakimullah Mehsud said. President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Muhammad Zulqarnain Khan strongly condemned the attack and said India’s hand in the incident could not be ruled out.
Talking to media persons and various delegations, he said: “Terrorists who are trying to disrupt peace in the Valley have the support of India.” Former prime minister, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry also strongly condemned the Muzaffarabad blast. He pointed out that it was part of a conspiracy to spread terrorism to Azad Kashmir. In his message, he said the perpetrators of this heinous act were the enemies of Islam and Pakistan.
CAMP LEATHERNECK: A new wave of US Marines sent to Afghanistan by President Barack Obama to turn the table on Taliban insurgents is in position and ready for action, the military has said.
About 10,000 fighters of Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade have arrived in Helmand, an opium-growing southern province where the Taliban have widespread power despite being ousted from government by US-led forces in 2001.
“All the Marines being deployed have now got here,” Lieutenant Abe Sipe, spokesman for the brigade, said Friday. “Our overall troop number is 10,700, of which 7,000 are at Camp Leatherneck and about 3,000 elsewhere in Helmand.
“These Marines form the major part of the US troop increase.”
A total of 17,000 US troops and 4,000 military trainers have been pledged for Afghanistan as part of Obama’s new strategy to defeat the Islamist Taliban, who have been gaining in strength over the past few years.
A pair of California Congressmen – one Democrat, one Republican – urged the U.S. to “get out of the way” of an ex-patriate group of Iranian militants. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde says the group is on a U.S. terrorist watch list.
Kitty Felde: Democrat Bob Filner from San Diego and Republican Dana Rohrabacher from Huntington Beach want U.S. support for the Iranian resistance movement. Congressman Filner says instead of invading or appeasing Iran, the U.S. could follow a third course: take the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq off the terrorist watch list.
Congressman Bob Filner: The MEK is a democratic non-nuclear secular group fighting for freedom for all the people in Iran and we should be doing what we could to help them and not get in their way.
Felde: The Council on Foreign Relations describes the MEK as the largest and most militant group opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran. It participated in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, but the MEK clashed with the Islamist regime that took over and moved to Iraq.
It landed on the State Department’s terrorist watch list for its cooperation with Saddam Hussein in attacking Iran. Congressmen Filner and Rohrabacher also want protection for 3,000 MEK fighters currently under American protection at an airbase in Iraq.
MUZAFFARABAD: Two soldiers were killed and at least three others were wounded here on Friday in what was the first ever suicide bombing in Azad Kashmir, police and military officials said.
The early morning attack in an army barrack in Shaukat Lines, housing many army installations, caught security personnel unawares although according to a police official ‘they were on alert for the past four months.’
Witnesses and official sources said the suicide bomber who appeared to be in early twenties walked through a ground, used by army personnel for physical training and local youths for playing cricket and football, and entered into the adjacent residential barrack of non-commissioned army officials where he blew himself up at 6:25 pm after engaging some soldiers in conversation ostensibly to cause maximum casualties.
‘On the premises of barrack the bomber was intercepted by a soldier whom he tried to engage in conversation presumably to attract other soldiers around for maximum physical losses,’ the sources said, adding, the bomber then exploded himself, killing one soldier on the spot and wounding four others who were evacuated to the Combined Military Hospital where one of them died of his wounds.
An army pick-up parked 5-10 yards away from the bomber’s position turned turtle while another one was also damaged by the impact of blast which was heard in most parts of the town.
An intelligence source who reached the affected barrack within moments of explosion told Dawn that he saw the ground splattered with blood and lower limbs and also some parts of the upper limbs of the bomber.
‘But I could not see his head and torso,’ he added.
AJK Inspector General Police Javed Iqbal and other senior officials of AJK administration reached the site of the explosion shortly afterwards and discussed various aspects of attack, its fallout and investigation techniques with military officers who were later joined by the Murree based General Officer Commanding of 12-Division.
It may be mentioned here that the junior section of Army Public School is located in the closest proximity of the barrack that came under attack and several other educational institutions as well as the 5-AK Brigade headquarters also exist nearby, at a distance of two to four hundreds yards.
Several parents were heard voicing concern about the security of their children in the area.
AJK minister for social welfare Mrs Noreen Arif who lives hardly 100 yards away from the targeted barrack also visited the place four hours later and termed the incident ‘very tragic.’
‘We ought to devise a comprehensive strategy to ensure security of our people and combat the menace of terrorism,’ she said, but declined to give a direct reply to the question if the need had arisen to shift the army installations away from civilian populations.
Though Pakistan is in the grip of terrorist attacks, mostly targeting the security personnel, it was the first time that such bombing had taken place in AJK.
A senior police official who did not want to be named told Dawn that the masterminds of Friday’s attack had chosen an army installation in Muzaffarabad for some definite reason, most probably to realise the authorities that they could expand their activities and retaliate the security forces anywhere including Azad Kashmir.
It may be mentioned here that the targeted barrack falls under 5-AK Brigade which is part of Azad Kashmir (AK) Regiment, reportedly carrying out operation against the militants in Swat and adjacent areas.
A Pakistani Taliban sAJKesman claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, told The Associated Press the attack was launched to prove that Mehsud had not been weakened by the recent strikes on his suspected hideouts in northwest Pakistan.
The Israeli army has stepped up its presence along the border with Lebanon deploying armored tanks and setting up fortifications as it intensified airspace violations in the area, the National News Agency reported Thursday.
In “unusual military activity,” the Israeli army deployed Merkava tanks and soldier carriers, among other armored vehicles, along the barb-wired fence separating Shebaa Farms from liberated Lebanese territories, the NNA said.
Israeli tanks were also amassing along a five-kilometer area, stretching from Tallat Sobaih army post to Jabal al-Sheikh observatory. Sporadic gunfire was also heard throughout the day, the NNA reported.
Meanwhile, the Israeli air force carried out several flights over Shebaa Farms, al-Arqoub villages, Hasbaya, Marjayoun, western Bekaa and Iqleem al-Tuffah. Israeli choppers were also spotted over the Farms from 6:00 am till 8:30 am.
On the outskirts of al-Abassiyeh, the Israeli army set up fortifications and barricades as part of a military workshop around al-Dohaira post, off the town of al-Ghajar. Heavy machinery was being used including bulldozers, drills and large cranes. A similar workshop was taking place at Jabal al-Sheikh’s observatory with soldiers setting up military equipment.
U.N. peacekeepers have found around 20 Katyusha rockets that were ready for launch in southern Lebanon, Israel’s Jerusalem Post reported Friday.
The newspaper said that UNIFIL has increased its operations in southern Lebanon and begun entering villages in search of Hizbullah weapons caches in an effort to prevent a flare-up along the border with Israel.
According to the Israeli army, Hizbullah has deployed most of its forces and weaponry – including Katyusha rockets – inside homes in southern villages.
The Post also said that UNIFIL has recently succeeded in thwarting attacks that were planned against its own personnel.
UNIFIL’s increased activity comes amid concerns in Israel that Hizbullah will launch an attack along the border to avenge the assassination of its military commander Imad Mughniyeh in a Damascus car bombing last year.
The newspaper quoted foreign sources as saying that Hizbullah was behind a thwarted attempt earlier this year to attack the Israeli embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan.
According to the daily, the group has also tried using Palestinian proxies for attacks within Israel, without success. “These frustrations, Israel fears, might lead the group to try a retaliatory attack against the northern border, which would be easier operationally.”