Beijing suspects false flag attack on South Korean corvette

Beijing suspects false flag attack on South Korean corvette

By Wayne Madsen
Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 28, 2010, 00:18

(WMR) – WMR’s intelligence sources in Asia suspect that the March attack on the South Korean Navy anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvette, the Cheonan, was a false flag attack designed to appear as coming from North Korea.

One of the main purposes for increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula was to apply pressure on Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to reverse course on moving the U.S. Marine Corps base off Okinawa. Hatoyama has admitted that the tensions over the sinking of the Cheonan played a large part in his decision to allow the U.S. Marines to remain on Okinawa. Hatoyama’s decision has resulted in a split in the ruling center-left coalition government, a development welcome in Washington, with Mizuho Fukushima, the Social Democratic Party leader threatening to bolt the coalition over the Okinawa reversal.

The Cheonan was sunk near Baengnyeong Island, a westernmost spot that is far from the South Korean coast, but opposite the North Korean coast. The island is heavily militarized and within artillery fire range of North Korean coastal defenses, which lie across a narrow channel.

The Cheonan, an ASW corvette, was decked out with state-of-the-art sonar, plus it was operating in waters with extensive hydrophone sonar arrays and acoustic underwater sensors. There is no South Korean sonar or audio evidence of a torpedo, submarine or mini-sub in the area. Since there is next to no shipping in the channel, the sea was silent at the time of the sinking.

However, Baengnyeong Island hosts a joint US-South Korea military intelligence base and the US Navy SEALS operate out of the base. In addition, four U.S. Navy ships were in the area, part of the joint U.S-South Korean Exercise Foal Eagle, during the sinking of the Cheonan. An investigation of the suspect torpedo’s metallic and chemical fingerprints show it to be of German manufacture. There are suspicions that the US Navy SEALS maintains a sampling of European torpedoes for sake of plausible deniability for false flag attacks. Also, Berlin does not sell torpedoes to North Korea, however, Germany does maintain a close joint submarine and submarine weapons development program with Israel.

The presence of the USNS Salvor, one of the participants in Foal Eagle, so close to Baengnyeong Island during the sinking of the South Korean corvette also raises questions.

The Salvor, a civilian Navy salvage ship, which participated in mine laying activities for the Thai Marines in the Gulf of Thailand in 2006, was present near the time of the blast with a complement of 12 deep sea divers.

Beijing, satisfied with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il’s claim of innocence after a hurried train trip from Pyongyang to Beijing, suspects the U.S. Navy’s role in theCheonan’s sinking, with particular suspicion on the role of the Salvor. The suspicions are as follows:

1. The Salvor engaged in a seabed mine-installation operation, in other words, attaching horizontally fired anti-submarine mines on the sea floor in the channel.

2. The Salvor was doing routine inspection and maintenance on seabed mines, and put them into an electronic active mode (hair trigger release) as part of the inspection program.

3. A SEALS diver attached a magnetic mine to the Cheonan, as part of a covert program aimed at influencing public opinion in South Korea, Japan and China.

The Korean peninsula tensions have conveniently overshadowed all other agenda items on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visits to Beijing and Seoul.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2010 WayneMadenReport.com

End blockade of Gaza, EU tells Israel

End blockade of Gaza, EU tells Israel

The European Union has called on Israelto immediately end the three-year blockade of Gaza and to allow theFreedom Flotilla to enter the enclave,Press TV reported.

“The continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive,” EU foreign policy chiefCatherine Ashton said in a statement on Friday.

“We would like to reiterate the EU’s call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza,” she added.

The Freedom Flotilla, a multinational relief mission heading for the Gaza Strip, consists of nine vessels from Turkey, Ireland, Britain, and Greece that are currently off the coast of Cyprus.

The mission was organized by the Free Gaza Movement.

Ashton made the remarks after Israel threatened to divert the flotilla to its southern port of Ashdod and to detain the activists onboard, AFP reported.

The Freedom Flotilla is carrying about 10,000 tons of supplies to the 1.5 million people of Gaza, who have endured many hardships during the three-year blockade.

Obama Supports Nuclear-Free Greater Middle East, But Only After Pacification

U.S. supports Middle East zone free of mass destruction weapons
29.05.2010 07:28
U.S. supports Middle East zone free of mass destruction weapons

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday welcomed the agreements reached at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and reiterated support for establishing a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, Xinhuareported.

“The United States has long supported such a zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment,” Obama said in a statement.

The month-long NPT Review Conference concluded on Friday with a final document in which 189 member nations agree on measures toward disarmament and the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Gitmo Taliban Leaders–Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen

[The following is proof that American brainwashing efforts at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan's secret prisons is behind three of the militant insurgencies we fight, either by accident or design.  The main leaders of the Afghan, Pakistani and Yemeni Taliban were imprisoned at Guantanamo for years.

Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, aka Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, second in command Afghan Taliban.

Abdullah Mehsud was a Taleban veteran of Guantanamo Bay, founder of Pakistani Taliban.

Othman Ahmed al-Ghamdi spent four years in Guantanamo prison, now commander "al Qaida" in Yemen (Yemeni Taliban).]

DUBAI – Khaleej Times
A file picture taken on January 26, 2010 shows an armed member of the Yemeni anti-terror unit stands next to relatives of suspected al-Qaeda members outside a court in San'a. AFP photo.
A file picture taken on January 26, 2010 shows an armed member of the Yemeni anti-terror unit stands next to relatives of suspected al-Qaeda members outside a court in San’a. AFP photo.

A fugitive Saudi Arabian man, who was once detained at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, was named as a senior member of al-Qaeda’s Yemen wing, theKhaleej Times website reported, citing al-Arabiya television, which published a tape by the group on Friday.

The tape also confirmed the deaths of three leaders killed in December and January during Yemeni air raids, the Arab broadcaster said.

Among those killed were Abdullah al-Muhdar, the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen’s Shabwa province, Mohammed Amir al-Awlaki, and Mohammed Saleh al-Kazimi.

Uthman Ahmed al-Ghamdi, the 31-year-old man named as a leading al-Qaeda operative on Friday, had been added to a list of the 85 most wanted people by Saudi Arabia 15 months ago, al-Arabiya said.

He spent four years in Guantanamo prison after he was captured in Afghanistan and was released in 2006.

Yemen, neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a key Western security concern since the Yemen-based al-Qaeda arm claimed responsibility for a failed December attempt to bomb a U.S. bound passenger plane.

Last month, the group tried to assassinate the British ambassador to Yemen, Tim Torlot, when a suicide bomber voluntarily jumped into the path of the convoy taking the ambassador to work in capital San’a.

The envoy was unharmed and only the suicide bomber died, but the bold hit signaled that a recent crackdown by San’a on the global militant group has done little to curb its ambitions to carry out attacks on international targets.

Western countries and Riyadh want Yemen, grappling with a northern insurgency and southern separatism, to quell its domestic conflicts in order to turn its focus on fighting al-Qaeda, which they see as a bigger global threat.

Guantanamo prison was set up by U.S. President George W. Bush in Cuba in 2002 to hold foreigners captured after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan to root out al-Qaeda and the Taliban in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Moscow, Washington–One Voice On Kyrgyzstan

English.news.cn 2010-05-29 20:36:47
MOSCOW, May 29 (Xinhua) — Russia and the United States have agreed to coordinate efforts to help stabilize the situation in Kyrgyzstan, an official of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday.

The agreement was reached after a meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary of State George Krol.

The senior diplomats discussed the situation in Kyrgyzstan, including the preparation for the June 27 referendum on the country’s new constitution and parliamentary elections scheduled for October 10, according to Russian media.

The official said Moscow and Washington had similar assessments of the situation in Kyrgyzstan which suffered bloody uprising in early April that killed over 80 people and ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The Unravelling Of Pakistani Society

Lahore terrorist attacks, military actions and future prospects

– by Dr Omar Ali

Terrorists (Punjabi Taliban) simultaneously attacked two Ahmedi sect mosques in Lahore during Friday prayers and killed over 80 people. First thoughts on this evil attack:

1. The choice of target is easy to understand. Ahmedis are a persecuted and vilified minority in Pakistan and “mainstream” news organizations feel no compunction about attacking them, so the ground is already prepared. e.g. GEO TV’s religion presenter (and phony doctor) Amir Liaqat Hussain, a former minister, encouraged people to kill them if they “overstepped their bounds” and an Ahmedi doctor was promptly killed; there was some fuss in the liberal press but Jahil online is still on TV and writes a particularly vicious column in a major newspaper.
2. The day is also significant. It is the anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear explosion and is a national day of jingoism, so the jihadis probably regarded it as appropriate for such an action.
3. There will be talk of stepped up security and other such BS, but the fact is that such terrorism is unstoppable until you get at the infrastructure that trains and guides these terrorists. This infrastructure of support and guidance is known to everyone in Pakistan, but decisive action is difficult because:

A. The army set up and protected this monster and knows better than anyone how big the operation is. Arif Jamal (in the book “shadow wars”) estimates that the army and its subcontractors trained half a million jihadis. That’s a lot of trained killers even for a country as big as Pakistan. Even if some of the top brass now want to proceed against them, they would prefer to do so slowly and in small increments. Slow and steady action also ensures a long-term American GWOT subsidy, so the top brass may not see any need to hurry.

B. Because the army does not like to admit mistakes, it has never really let the general public know that mistakes were made and enemies within were created by the blessed armed forces themselves. Instead, they rely heavily on the narrative of “foreign hand” and “Indian-zionist agents”. This means the “information war” is a total mess and the general public (whose cooperation is essential for any counter-insurgency) remains confused about who is fighting whom and for what purpose. Again, the confusion may suit the general staff just fine (letting them hang on to some shred of their jihadist/islamist bona-fides while collecting American subsidies and gradually taking action against terrorists who refuse to limit themselves to anti-Indian or anti-Afghan actions. ) but is not helpful to anyone else. Public officials, politicians and media personalities not only add to the confusion, they THEMSELVES remain confused, which inhibits decisive action and allows terrorist supporters to operate unchecked.

C. Several decades of officially sponsored jihadist propaganda have created a significant jihadist constituency in the educated classes. What the Marxists of yore would call the “class interests” of this elite force them to be anti-jihadi (because those “class interests” are intertwined with a capitalist global economy and the modern world in general, and the modern world currently has low tolerance for the jihadist project). But their ideological vocabulary (the story they tell themselves about the world) is heavily colored by Islamist and Jihadist elements. The resulting cognitive dissonance not only gives migraines to the American embassy, it also undermines the anti-terrorist effort in significant ways.

D. And ALL THIS is layered on top of the “baseline” level of violence one expects in any mismanaged, unequal, unfair, over-populated, under-represented, mis-educated and ethnically divided third world population. Some level of organized and unorganized violence against the corrupt state shows up in the Hindu kingdom of Nepal, the secular republic of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, etc. in various forms, ranging from large scale criminality to Maoist insurgencies. In remote places, the weakness of the state also lets the people organize on ethnic and religious basis and local armed gangs are a feature of all these societies. It sounds almost unbelievably stupid, but our brilliant general staff actually played a role in creating ethnic militias in our largest city as well. These alone would be a large enough set of headaches for any country, but the general staff added an islamist insurgency on top of all these “normal” South Asian problems (and of course, the two merge in various creative ways). When it rains, it pours.

But all this does not mean that Pakistan will not survive. I still think it will survive. In fact, I will stick my neck out and predict that:

1. Very slowly, painfully and very very incompetently, the ruling elite will fight the jihadist insurgency and eventually bring it under control (and some in the elite will get very rich doing so).
2. The baseline “Maoist” component of the insurgency could potentially have grown into a serious problem, but Islamism will co-opt all other grievances and will save the ruling elite in the long run because the hardcore Islamists are so insane, the corrupt and vicious ruling elite will look better by comparison.
3. India, China, Iran and America will spend sleepless nights figuring out how to keep Pakistan in one piece and while their efforts will occasionally work at cross purposes, the overall impact will be positive.

4. Islamism as it currently exists is not compatible with coexistence in the modern world. It will be modified and replaced with a more flexible Islamist vocabulary, but it will take some time. Flexible and accomodating versions of Islam that freely borrowed from local traditions and were more aligned with actual human needs in our part of the world were dominant in folk Islam in India. These flexible forms were mostly sufi-derived and transmitted via everyday folk culture, not through “high church” texts. Now that literacy and concrete thinking are more prevalent and folk culture is increasingly disconnected from people who have moved to new cities and live new lives, the folk versions are at a disadvantage and literal-minded modern people are susceptible to the jihadi-oriented orthodox version. Saudi money, CIA ingenuity and narrow-minded versions of Pakistani ideology did their magic and an entire generation grew up hostile to the flexible and humane folk Islam of our ancestors (usually dismissed as “Hindooana rusoom”).

The Islam regarded as orthodox and correct by these new literate Muslims is susceptible to jihadist interpretation. The elite encouraged this interpretation in the mistaken belief that it would help them gain the upper hand against India. Now that whole project has blown up in their face. Many of them realize that a change of course is needed, but they lack the vocabulary and the stories that would flesh out this new course. Infidels, lacking local knowledge and empathy and frequently having other interests in view, probably do more harm than good when they try to identify “sufi” and “moderate” versions to encourage. But in the long run, the needs of the elite will demand a new orthodoxy compatible with modern needs and the demand will be met. Its hard to see right now because these are still early days in this turnaround. But economic and social pressures are pushing in that direction and will prove unstoppable. Until then, the show must go on. And even when this monster is brought under control, the “normal” problems of South Asia will still remain to be solved.

A Taliban apologist perspective on the Ahmedi massacre in Lahore

A Taliban apologist perspective on the Ahmedi massacre in Lahore

There are a number of Taliban / Sipah-e-Sahaba / Al Qaeda supporters active on the internet in Pakistan and abroad. These people (usually hired by the Hizb ut-Tahrir or Jamaat-e-Islami) have different names and aliases. For example, on Pak Tea House and Pakistaniat, they are active with names such as Mazbut, Adnan Siddiqui, Addu etc. On pkpolitics, they adopt names such as geog, shimatoori and nota etc. As sham writers, they adopt aliases such as Earthman / International Professor, Syed Adeeb, Abidullah Jan, Dr Shahid Qureshi etc.

Here are two gems from Punjabi Taliban apologists, from two Pakistani blogs, commenting on Lahore’s Ahmedi massacre:

geog47 said:
28 May 2010 at 5:17 pm

Correction, these were not Masajid, as Masjid is a place where Muslims worship not Kafirs. These Qadiyanis are Kafirs, hence their structures are defined as places of worship, not Masjid. Plus it should be understood by now that we should be marking these non-Muslims on their ID Cards and Passports. Also, the Pakistanis should know very well that these Qadiyanis do not fit in the catagory of Kafirs, rather a far worse catagory which in Islam is’Wajib-ul-Qatl’ (Permitted to Kill). Kafirs are disbelievers, they know it and they do not accept Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihi Wassallam as the Prophet of Allah Sunhanaho Wata’aalah.

However, these Qadiyanis invoke the anger of Allah Subhanaho Wata’aalah because they impersonate Muslim/Islamic beliefs and call themselves Muslims. Globally, a Muslim is one who submits to the will of Allah Subhanaho Wata’aalah and accepts Muhammad Sallallaho Alaihi Wassallam as the final Prophet of Allah Subhanaho Wata’aalah. This is where they (Qadiyanis) are worse than Kafir and it is permissible in Islam to kill them. It is a duty unto all Pakistani-Muslims to kill and/or kick out Qadiyanis from our lands (Pakistan). Perhaps india, which is where they originate from anyway.

Source: pkpolitics

mazbut
May 28, 2010 at 3:17 pm

The attack on Ahmadiya temples is condemnable but at the same time cursing others is tantamount to spreading more sectarian hatred.

Praising the Mirzais for what they have or haven’t done for Pakistan doesn’t mean that they are infallible.

The Constitution declares them as non-Muslims and minority yet they root cause which led to the present attack on their temples seems to be ‘impersonation of Islamic signs and symbols”. How can a non-Muslim call its place of worship as a Mosque??

No place is a mosque where any Muslim is not allowed to enter and worship. Sadly enough, sectarian divisions among Muslims have barred one Muslim to worship in another Muslims place of worship marked as Imam bargahs , Jama’at Khana, Mosque, etc etc . The present attack seems to occur due to adamancy of Mirzai’s to call their place of worship as Mosque and the objection by all other Muslim sects to that effect. After having invented a prophet of their own they have breached from the Islamic fundamentals and as such ought to refrain from playing with the sentiments of other Muslims by faking Islamic ‘names and symbols’.

Only this way can they be said to be minding their own business and others minding their own!!

…The Sikhs also believe in One God….does that mean they are Muslims and mimic Muslim Kalima or signs and symbols?? No. They have a distinct identity as a religious people of Sikhism. Likewise if the abusive Mirzai’s declared their true identity as non-Muslims and refrained from the profanity of faking Islamic customs they would create less uproar and unrest in the Islamic world!

Source: Pak Tea House

It’s Cool To Kill Ahmadis

Wajibulqatl Ahmedis killed in Lahore, what is the fuss about?

– by Saad Mansoor

At least ninety five people killed and hundreds wounded but what I failed to understand was that what was the fuss about? My family and friends were truly horrified, in fact saddened, disgusted and many other things, but I remain confused, why?! Were not those who died Ahmedis? Correction; Qadiyanis? Were those not Ahmedi Mosques? Correction: Qadiyani places of worship? Didn’t the maulvi sahab say these people were wajib-ul-qatl?


Not long ago I was in a debate with someone at my workplace who advocated how and why ahmedis are wajib-ul-qatl i.e. those whom a Muslim is duty bound to kill. The fact that the term was never present in the days of Prophet Muhammad pbuh or the four succeeding righteous caliphs aside, the term is accepted by almost all the clerics of Pakistan who rely on jurisprudence of the clergy of medieval age of Islam when religion was abundantly used to crush any dissenting voices against the Ummayad, Abbasid and Ottoman caliphs.

The point?! Point of the matter is that all these clerics like Mufti Muneeb and religo-political leaders like Munawar Hasan, Fazal-ur-Rahman and others firmly believe that Ahmedis should be killed. They are not alone, they are joined in the fray by almost the entire educated middle class of Pakistan who firmly believed until a year back that Taliban are good and their version of shariat will prevail, as Islam will emerge victorious over the West.

They also believe that, tazeers that is man made punishments like killing the apostates and the blasphemer, flogging the alcoholics and the unveiled and stoning the adulterer are necessities without which our faith would be incomplete.

They believe that Taliban are on the right path, in fact many women among this ‘educated’ middle class of ours firmly believe that Taliban’s prohibition of female education was entirely justified. Obviously a major chunk of these women remain in denial and would have us believe that it was all media propaganda and not Taliban but Indian agents destroyed these schools in disguise.

The media, staffed by this exact middle class, sympathizes with Taliban. It is the same media who was madly criticizing the government when it was reluctant in signing the Swat Nizam-e-Adal pact and when it was conducting an operation. But today it was a new low altogether, the shameless display of yellow journalism in their relentless effort to link this event with India, the US and Israel was unbelievable.

Today every deobandi, salafi, ahl-e-hadis and ahl-e-tashee madrassa in Pakistan tells its pupils that Ahmedis are wajib-ul-qatal. Every imam of every mosque believes that Ahmedis are to be killed on sight. Our media refuses to call those killed ‘jaan bahaq’ i.e. lost their lives-the proper Urdu term but prefer to use halaak i.e. died and maaray gaye i.e. got killed for the victims of terrorism. And the biggest media group runs a television show where by the faithful are told to take matters into their own hands unhindered by any threats of suo moto notices.

So my point is, what is the fuss about? Is this not what we belief in? Did we finally realize that the mutant in the mirror is us?

The term crocodile tears is not befitting here because there are no tears, just a lot of noise about whether we should be using the words mosques and sect of Islam for the victims. A lot of complains but not a lot of condemnations, be it media, clerics, politicians or the educated workforce every eye is dry. Pakistan committed murder today!!

Russia bombing: Jihadis or sign of other trouble in north Caucasus?

Russia bombing: Jihadis or sign of other trouble in north Caucasus?

A Russia bomb that killed six people in the Russian city of Stavropol has led to speculation about jihadis or Islamic militants. But analysts worry about a widening circle of instability – and players – in the north Caucasus.

Rescuers and investigators work at the site of a deadly Russia bomb that killed six people and wounded 40, outside a cultural center in the southern Russian city of Stavropol, Wednesday.

AP

By Fred Weir

MoscowA deadly Russia bomb that killed six people and wounded 40 outside a theater where a Chechen dance group was about to perform in the southern Russian city of Stavropol has security experts worrying that the circle of instability in Russia’s troubled northern Caucasus may be widening.

Unlike the Moscow metro bombings of two months ago, which were carried out by suicide bombers from the north Caucasus republic of Dagestan and claimed by Islamist “emir” Doku Umarov, analysts are not so sure that the latest bombing fits neatly into the jihadis vs. Russia narrative that is favored by the Kremlin.

“There are a lot of suspects in the Stavropol bombing, and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions,” says Andrei Soldatov, editor of the online journal Agentura.ru, which reports on the security services. “It speaks of rising instability around the north Caucasus region. We may be seeing some dangerous new developments.”

The stakes are high. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who put his personal reputation on the line to win the 2014 Winter Olympics for Sochi, now sees his pet project under dire threat amid growing regional turbulence.

“Putin needs to demonstrate peace and stability in the north Caucasus before the Sochi Olympics, not just to ensure the security of the games but to affirm success of the Putin era,” says Nikolai Petrov, a regional analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “Therefore Putin is very vulnerable. Many different forces have an interest in stirring up instability, with an eye to forcing him to make a deal with them. It’s not just the usual suspects. I fear we’ll see a good deal more trouble down there.”

The blast hit outside a Stavropol community center just minutes before the Vainakh musical troupe, which enjoys the sponsorship of pro-Moscow Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was about to perform.

That has led some commentators to suggest that it was carried out by Islamist insurgents against Mr. Kadyrov, the local strongman whom human
rights groups accuse of imposing iron-fisted rule over the tiny republic at the Kremlin’s behest.

Other analysts point out that it is almost exactly the third anniversary of ethnic riots in Stavropol, a Russian city on the edge of the seething north Caucasus that houses a large Muslim minority, that broke out after local Chechens were accused of murdering two Slavic students, in an apparent revenge killing that remains unsolved to this day.

“This could have been an action by right-wing radicals,” such as Skinheads or neo-Nazis, who are a growing force on Russia’s political underbelly, says Alexei Makarkin, director of the independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “They hate minorities from the north Caucasus, and have as much a stake in sowing panic and chaos as the Islamist extremists do.”

Sending a message?

It is also possible the bombing was intended as a message to Alexander Khloponin, a former Siberian governor and businessman who is now the Kremlin’s powerful special emissary to the newly-created “North Caucasus Administrative Zone,” who was due to visit Stavropol on Thursday. Next month, Mr. Khloponin is scheduled to release a plan to fight terrorism and restore stability to the troubled region, which may include firing scores of officials and re-allocating millions of dollars in Moscow aid.

In an unusual interview with the government newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta on Thursday, Khloponin admitted that Islamist militants might be the least of his problems in the increasingly unsettled region.

“The problem is that criminals and organized crime engaged in property redistribution are trying to operate under the guise of terrorism and religious extremism within the (north Caucasus) district,” Khloponin said. He added that if economic reforms take hold, the small numbers of Islamist insurgents will be easy to deal with. “Those bandits who are running around in the forest may be repelled without any need to impose the counter-terrorism operations,” he said.

The Kremlin has granted Khloponin extraordinary powers, including sole authority to appoint and dismiss the heads of all federal agencies throughout the sprawling region, which includes the Russian territories of Stavropol and Krasnodar (where Sochi is located), plus seven mainly-Muslim ethnic republics strung out along the mountain line between the Caspian and Black Sea.

“Khloponin will make his program public in June, and it seems likely that he will emphasize social and economic development, which is very important in a region where unemployment is soaring and corruption is the number one problem,” says Pavel Salin at the independent Center for Political Trends in Moscow. “His task number one will be to try to stop the theft of federal cash by local elites, who are helped by Moscow officials. This will make him a lot of enemies.”

Though the Stavropol bombing has grabbed headlines this week, Mr. Soldatov says a bigger challenge for Khloponin is unfolding in the formerly peaceful ethnic republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, where there have been at least three terrorist attacks in the past two weeks. He says they are likely connected to a botched Kremlin policy of backing ethnic-Kabardins, who have been seizing the lands of their neighbours, the Balkars.

“There have been few victims in these attacks, but they are indicative of a new process going on in the region that amplifies the challenge facing Khloponin,” says Soldatov. “There are many sources of instability, becoming aggravated all at once. As the Sochi Games approach, it only looks like it will get worse.

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As Planned, Pakistani Militants Fill American-Created Vacuum In Nuristan

Taliban fighters seize district in east Afghanistan

KUNAR

Afghanistan (Reuters) – Taliban insurgents overran a remote district in eastern Afghanistan after days of heavy fighting in the area, a provincial police official said on Saturday.

The battle erupted earlier this week in Barg-i-Matal district of mountainous Nuristan province, a remote area bordering Pakistan, when hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed the district center, said Qasim Payman, police chief of the province.

“The police force in the area has tactically retreated from the district after days of fighting,” he told Reuters, adding there were no signs of reinforcements despite repeated requests.

Hundreds of armed villagers, known as Lashkar-i-Qaomi (the army of tribes) have joined with police to try to push back the insurgents, Payman said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said insurgents inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan police and villagers fighting them.

In October 2009, Taliban insurgents killed eight American soldiers after storming their remote outposts in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan province.

U.S. forces announced plans to withdraw from the area as part commander General Stanley McChrystal’s strategy to focus his forces on population centres.

Since the withdrawal of foreign troops from Kamdesh and Barg-i-Matal districts, Afghan police say the area is under immense threat from insurgents infiltrating from Pakistan.

Military Blames Slaughter On Unprofessionalism

US admits blame for civilian deaths

A US drone attack which left 23 Afghan civilians dead when they were mistaken for Taliban fighters occurred due to the “unprofessional” approach of the soldiers involved, an internal military report has found.

The civilians died on February 21 in Uruzgan province when three vehicles were hit by Hellfire missiles fired from a drone on the orders of a special forces commander on the ground.

The report into the incident, released on Saturday, concluded that remote drone pilots, operating from Nevada, USA, provided “inaccurate and unprofessional reporting … which deprived the ground force commander of vital information”.

“The strike occurred because the ground force commander lacked a clear understanding of who was in the vehicles, the location, direction of travel and likely course of action of the vehicles,” the report said.

“Information that the convoy was anything other than an attacking force was ignored or downplayed by the Predator crew.”

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Kabul, said people across the country were extremely angry at civilian deaths caused by foreign forces.

“I dont know how much this information, three months after the event, will help,” she said.

“Certainly people will be glad to have an admission of guilt, but these things happen again and again. On a national scale, I don’t know how much of an impact it will have.”

Children ignored

The report paints a damning picture of miscommunication in the hours leading up to the strike, compounded by “poorly functioning” command posts that “failed to properly analyse the situation”.

The investigation reveals how the drone operators saw children near the convoy, but went ahead with the strike regardless.

“Two children were spotted near the vehicles, but inaccurate reporting from the crew of the unmanned Predator aircraft to the forces on the ground led the Operational Detachment Alpha [the special forces unit] to believe that the vehicles contained only armed military age males.”

The US military said that it was planning to improve its training to avoid further civilian deaths in the country. Four officers had been reprimaded as a result of the findings.

“We must always be honest with ourselves about what we do well and what we can do better,” General Stanley McCrystal, the commander of US forces in
Afghanistan, said in a statement released with the report.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, described the incident as “deeply regrettable” and said that he believed that the investigation had been “exhaustive.”

“I am also confident that appropriate actions are being taken with regard to those involved in the incident, and most importantly, to ensure measures are taken to prevent such accidents from happening again,” he said in a statement.

The US military has come under intense criticism over civilian deaths in Afghanistan and has repeatedly pledged to do all it can to avoid such incidents.

U.N. Official to Ask U.S. to End C.I.A. Drone Strikes

U.N. Official to Ask U.S. to End C.I.A. Drone Strikes

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — A senior United Nations official is expected to call on the United States next week to stop Central Intelligence Agencydrone strikes against people suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, complicating the Obama administration’s growing reliance on that tactic in Pakistan.

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Thursday that he would deliver a report on June 3 to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva declaring that the “life and death power” of drones should be entrusted to regular armed forces, not intelligence agencies. He contrasted how the military and the C.I.A. responded to allegations that strikes had killed civilians by mistake.

“With the Defense Department you’ve got maybe not perfect but quite abundant accountability as demonstrated by what happens when a bombing goes wrong in Afghanistan,” he said in an interview. “The whole process that follows is very open. Whereas if the C.I.A. is doing it, by definition they are not going to answer questions, not provide any information, and not do any follow-up that we know about.”

Mr. Alston’s views are not legally binding, and his report will not assert that the operation of combat drones by nonmilitary personnel is a war crime, he said. But the mounting international concern over drones comes as the Obama administration legal team has been quietly struggling over how to justify such counterterrorism efforts while obeying the laws of war.

In recent months, top lawyers for the State Department and the Defense Department have tried to square the idea that the C.I.A.’s drone program is lawful with the United States’ efforts to prosecute Guantánamo Bay detainees accused of killing American soldiers in combat, according to interviews and a review of military documents.

Under the laws of war, soldiers in traditional armies cannot be prosecuted and punished for killing enemy forces in battle. The United States has argued that because Qaeda fighters do not obey the requirements laid out in the Geneva Conventions — like wearing uniforms — they are not “privileged combatants” entitled to such battlefield immunity. But C.I.A. drone operators also wear no uniforms.

Paula Weiss, a C.I.A. spokeswoman, called into question the notion that the agency lacked accountability, noting that it was overseen by the White House and Congress. “While we don’t discuss or confirm specific activities, this agency’s operations take place in a framework of both law and government oversight,” Ms. Weiss said. “It would be wrong to suggest the C.I.A. is not accountable.”

Still, the Obama administration legal team confronted the issue as the Pentagon prepared to restart military commission trials at Guantánamo Bay. The commissions began with pretrial hearings in the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee accused of killing an Army sergeant during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, when Mr. Khadr was 15.

The Pentagon delayed issuing a 281-page manual laying out commission rules until the eve of the hearing. The reason, officials say, is that government lawyers had been scrambling to rewrite a section about murder because it has implications for the C.I.A. drone program.

An earlier version of the manual, issued in 2007 by the Bush administration, defined the charge of “murder in violation of the laws of war” as a killing by someone who did not meet “the requirements for lawful combatancy” — like being part of a regular army or otherwise wearing a uniform. Similar language was incorporated into a draft of the new manual.

But as the Khadr hearing approached, Harold Koh, the State Department legal adviser, pointed out that such a definition could be construed as a concession by the United States that C.I.A. drone operators were war criminals. Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department general counsel, and his staff ultimately agreed with that concern. They redrafted the manual so that murder by an unprivileged combatant would instead be treated like espionage — an offense under domestic law not considered a war crime.

“An accused may be convicted,” the final manual states, if he “engaged in conduct traditionally triable by military commission (e.g., spying; murder committed while the accused did not meet the requirements of privileged belligerency) even if such conduct does not violate the international law of war.”

Under that reformulation, the C.I.A. drone operators — who reportedly fly the aircraft from agency headquarters in Langley, Va. — might theoretically be subject to prosecution in a Pakistani courtroom. But regardless, the United States can argue to allies that it is not violating the laws of war.

Mr. Alston, the United Nations official, said he agreed with the Obama legal team that “it is not per se illegal” under the laws of war for C.I.A. operatives to fire drone missiles “because anyone can stand up and start to act as a belligerent.” Still, he emphasized, they would not be entitled to battlefield immunity like soldiers.

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Notre Dame University law professor who has criticized the use of drones away from combat zones, also agreed with the Obama administration’s legal theory in this case. She said it could provide a “small modicum” of protection for C.I.A. operatives, noting that Germany had a statute allowing it to prosecute violations of the Geneva Conventions, but it does not enforce domestic Pakistani laws against murder.

In March, Mr. Koh delivered a speech in which he argued that the drone program was lawful because of the armed conflict with Al Qaeda and the principle of self-defense. He did not address several other murky legal issues, like whether Pakistani officials had secretly consented to the strikes. Mr. Alston, who is a New York University law professor, said his report would analyze such questions in detail, which may increase pressure on the United States to discuss them.

US Planners Prepare Pakistan’s Big Surprise

US considers options for strike in Pakistan



Pakistanis outside one of two mosques attacked by gunmen wearing suicide vests in Lahore

WASHINGTON : US military planners are looking at options for a unilateral strike in Pakistan, for use if a successful attack on US soil is traced to Pakistani tribal areas, The Washington Post reported late Friday.

US retaliation would be contemplated only under extreme circumstances, unnamed senior military officials told the Post.

These circumstances might include a catastrophic attack that convinced President Barack Obama that the ongoing campaign of CIA drone strikes was insufficient.

“Planning has been reinvigorated in the wake of Times Square,” one official told the newspaper.

The report comes in the wake of the failed May 1 attack on New York’s crowded Times Square, which is in the city’s busy theater district.

Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-born naturalized US citizen, was arrested apparently trying to flee the country on a flight to Dubai 53 hours after street vendors alerted police to smoke coming out of a vehicle there.

The van was found to contain a bomb consisting of timers, wires, fireworks, gasoline, propane tanks and fertilizer.

Shahzad is due for a federal court hearing in New York on June 1.

US officials say Shahzad is connected to Pakistani Taliban insurgents and Obama has sent two senior national security aides to Islamabad to join the investigation into the May 1 car bombing attempt.

According to The Post, the US administration is trying to deepen ties to Pakistan’s intelligence officials in a bid to head off any attack by militant groups.

The two countries recently established a joint military intelligence center on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar, and were in talks to set up another one near Quetta, the paper said. – AFP/jy