Sarkozy’s Office Claims Libyan “Al-Qaeda” Leader Rehabilitated

French Taunt

France defends Libyan ex-jihadi rebel commander

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office defended on Wednesday a Libyan rebel commander who once reportedly led a jihadi group with ties to Al Qaeda, insisting Libya’s revolution is not led by Islamists.

A senior official in the Elysee told AFP that Sarkozy’s senior own military aide had met Adbelhakim Belhadj, the rebel commander who led the assault on Moamer Kadhafi’s bunker complex, and had no concerns about his affiliations.

Previously, Belhadj was reportedly “emir” of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group — an Islamist guerrilla movement once allied to the Al Qaeda network — and he was arrested in Malaysia in 2004 on suspicion of extremist activity.

After his arrest he was said to have been interrogated by the US Central Intelligence Agency before being sent back to be jailed in Libya.

Belhadj renounced violence while a prisoner of Moamer Kadhafi’s government and was released in March 2010. This year he joined the revolution against the regime and is now commander of the rebel fighters in control of Tripoli.

His return to the frontline has raised concerns in some quarters that the revolution against Kadhafi, which was warmly supported by France and several other Western countries, might include un-democratic forces.

But the Elysee official, speaking on condition on anonymity, insisted France has no concerns about Belhadj nor about the National Transitional Council, the rebel political body now recognised as Libya’s interim government.

“As it happens, the head of the president’s military staff met him very recently, and was able to form the personal opinion of him that does not correspond at all to the accusations against him,” he said.

The official did not say where the meeting took place, but last week Belhadj attended a conference of the Libya contact group in Doha, Qatar, and Sarkozy’s military head of staff General Benoit Puga could have met him there.

“There is a very important distinction between practising Muslims and Islamists who want to lead a jihad,” the Elysee source said, insisting that the CNT was neither infiltrated nor controlled by extremist elements.

“There may be cells but we are certain of one thing: They neither represent a threat nor a large slice of Libyan public. We are not worried,” he said.

“There are a lot of fantasies. There are religious people in the NTC, but that doesn’t make them Islamists.”

When the Libya revolt erupted in March, Kadhafi and his son Saif Al-Islam branded the rebels Al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation firmly denied by the NTC and its supporters, who have promised to form a broad-based government.

A rebel spokesman in Tripoli has denied that Belhadj has a jihadi agenda, insisting that shares the NTC’s “moderate” vision of a democratic Libya.

Like Al-Qaeda, the LIFG was formed by former Muslim volunteers who fought the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Its leadership split from that of Al-Qaeda, but its members have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NATO Propaganda Leaflets Found in Tripoli

NATO Propaganda Leaflets Found in Tripoli

The existence of the fliers, urging soldiers to give up, suggest greater Western involvement in the Libyan conflict

nato1aug31p.jpgMarc Herman

TRIPOLI, Libya — These two fliers were provided by a member of the neighborhood militia in Gorji, in central Tripoli. Tripoli residents say they found them on the ground starting at least two months ago.

Though certainly less lethal than bombs, the leaflets, which bear NATO insignias, are only slightly subtler. The above leaflet shows an unmanned drone and an aerial view of a tank. The text takes a position of overwhelming force, declaring, in somewhat stilted Arabic, “Warning: You are neither a match nor an equivalent to the superior weapon systems and air force of NATO. Continuing to do what you are doing will result in your death.” The flip side shows the tank blown up and repeats the promise of death if they do not stop fighting.

The above translation is courtesy of Uri Horesh, former military translator and director of the Arabic Language Program at Franklin & Marshall College. “This was not written by skilled Arabic writers with good knowledge of how to write about military topics in idiomatic Arabic,” Horesh added. “NATO needs some training on this front, it seems.”

nato2aug31p.jpg
The second, white leaflet, pictured here, issues the following warning in legalistic language:

Dear officers and soldiers of the Libyan Army, the International Criminal Court has indicted Gaddafi for committing crimes against humanity in Libya. It is advisable that officers and soldiers of the Libyan Army refrain from carrying out Gaddafi’s orders and committing any military actions against the Libyan people. Any officer or soldier who commits crimes against humanity shall be in violation of International Law. Many officers and soldiers have chosen to stand against Gaddafi’s orders and refrain from fighting against innocent civilians. Do join these men for a prosperous, peaceful future for Libya.

The flip side depicts a collage of images depicting loyalist and anti-Qaddafi forces squaring off, and places Qaddafi opposite the image of Omar Muqtar, a Libyan independence hero. The text between them is a quotation attributed to Qaddafi. “He who kills another Libyan destroys Libya,” is a common translation. Below the quotation a man is sobbing. It looks a bit like a page from a junior high school history book.

Several native and non-native Arabic speakers were able to verify these translations, though giving slightly different versions of some phrases. If a native speaker would like to add their translation in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

It’s not clear how widespread the propaganda effort was in the months that Qaddafi held Tripoli against protesters. The fliers are not common in Tripoli — you won’t casually encounter them in garbage piles, or blowing around in the street. NATO does not have a public representative in Tripoli and has not commented on the campaign in any overt way of which we are aware.

They do suggest that NATO’s role in the war may have been more complex than the coalition has acknowledged since its operations began in March. In addition to conducting propaganda operations, it is now tacitly acknowledged that NATO spotters and advisers were on the ground in Libya as early as April.

“Two French and an American,” said Khalid Azibah, a fighter from Nalut, in the Nafusa mountains. “They were three months in Nalut, just left a month ago.” It was about a month ago that NATO forces hit three targets near Nalut, precipitating the offensive that ended last week in Tripoli.

“I don’t have boots on the ground,” a NATO spokesman in Naples told me in an interview in early July. Unless the spotters were all wearing sneakers, that comment was, it appears, false.

Pakistan bans online encryption for the good of state security

Pakistan bans online encryption for the good of state security

by Steve Ragan

Pakistan bans online encryption. Image: Rpongsaj/Flickr.Pakistan bans online encryption. Image: Rpongsaj/Flickr.

A new order issued to ISPs from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) directs them to block all encrypted traffic on their networks. A PTA spokesperson told local media the reasoning was to prevent militants from using VPN traffic to coordinate themselves.

According to a memo sent to ISPs, the PTA has ordered them to immediately block and prohibit the use of “…all such mechanisms including encrypted virtualprivate networks (EVPNs) which conceal communication to the extent that prohibits monitoring.”

The new order is in line with the Monitoring and Reconciliation of Telephony Traffic Regulations, which were established in 2010. In the letter to ISPs outlining the halt on encryption, they were told that the “…aforementioned directive has not been followed in true letter and spirit as EVPNs are heavily being used on the Licensees Network.”

According to the wording of the Monitoring and Reconciliation of Telephony Traffic Regulations, the licensee (ISP) is to ensure that, out of their own pocket, they install and maintain monitoring systems tied to the PTA. These systems are to monitor voice and data traffic in real-time, and the ISP cannot otherwise filter or block traffic, unless the Authority (PTA) orders it.

In addition, the ISP is to ensure that “…signaling information is uncompressed, unencrypted, and not formatted in a manner which the installed monitoring system is unable to decipher using installed capabilities.”

If that is not possible, the ISP will need to let the traffic pass and do whatever is necessary, including purchasing format conversion tools and hardware, so that the traffic is able to be properly monitored.

According to the PTA, the block on encryption is aimed at preventing militants from using secure communications when they coordinate. However, the PTA representative also noted that average citizens will be caught in the middle, unable to use VPNsoftware to surf the Web in private.

In the past, Pakistan has blocked Facebook and YouTube, over disputes with content, but news of the VPN blocks emerged as an insider at an Islamabad ISP admitted that they could not block a single URL on RollingStone.com. Instead, when one article was deemed offensive because of its author, they filtered the entire domain.

With competence like that, one has to wonder how effective the monitoring and VPN restrictions really are.

Car bomb blast kills 11 in Quetta

Car bomb blast kills 11 in Quetta

Local residents gather at the site of a car bomb blast in Quetta.—AFP

 

QUETTA: A suicide car bomb blast killed at least 11 people on Wednesday and wounded 22 others celebrating Eidul Fitr in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said.

The bomb exploded in a car park next to a mosque where prayers marking the festival were taking place, senior police official Mohammad Hashim told AFP.

Quetta police chief Ahsan Mehboob said a bomb disposal team had concluded that it was a suicide car bomb, as he raised the official toll from 10.

“The death toll is 11 now as one of the wounded men died at the hospital,” Mehboob said.

“Remains of a badly mutilated body were found in the car. It appears that he was not wearing the explosives on his body but he had planted those in the car and detonated when he could not go beyond the parking lot,” Mehboob told AFP.

“Our security was alert, so he could not go beyond the parking, otherwise he might have caused a lot more casualties,” he said, adding that all the dead had been identified by relatives except the suicide bomber.

Quetta police official Hamid Shakil said two women and a seven-year-old boy were among the dead.

Several cars parked nearby caught fire from the blast and one house suffered blast damage, witnesses said.

Live television footage showed swirls of thick black smoke rising from the area as people ran into the street, some pushing their cars to safety, while ambulances carried away the wounded.

Hashim said there had been no immediate claim of responsibility and police could not speculate who might be behind the bombing.

Pakistan’s Balochistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, has seen a recent surge in violence linked to a separatist insurgency, sectarian clashes and Taliban militants.

Libyan Rebel Leaders Reject UN Peacekeeping Role

Libya’s interim leaders reject UN military personnel

Libyans paint anti-Gaddafi grafitti in Tripoli
Celebrations have been continuing in the capital Tripoli

Libya’s interim leadership has rejected the idea of deploying any kind of international military force, the UN envoy to the country has said.

Ian Martin said the UN had considered the deployment of military observers.

Earlier, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) said the country did not need outside help to maintain security.

The news came as fighters loyal to the council approached the pro-Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte from east and west.

The town’s defenders have been given until Saturday to surrender.

However, fugitive ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, rejected the ultimatum, the Associated Press reports.

“No dignified honourable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs,” he said in a telephone call to the AP on Monday night.

Mr Ibrahim reiterated Col Gaddafi’s offer to send his son Saadi to negotiate with rebels and form a transitional government, the agency said.

‘Special case’

Libya’s deputy representative to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told the BBC that the situation in Libya was unique.

“They [the UN] put the possibility of deploying peacekeepers on the ground but in fact the Libyan crisis is a special case.

“It is not a civil war, it is not a conflict between two parties, it is the people who are defending themselves against the dictatorship.”

However, Mr Martin said the UN did expect to be asked to help establish a police force.

“We don’t now expect military observers to be requested,” he said after a meeting of the UN Security Council.

“It’s very clear that the Libyans want to avoid any kind of military deployment of the UN or others,” he said.

Mr Martin added that one of the greatest challenges for the UN would be helping the country prepare for democratic elections.

“Let’s remember… there’s essentially no living memory of elections, there’s no electoral machinery, there’s no electoral commission, no history of political parties, no independent civil society, independent media are only beginning to emerge in the east in recent times.

“That’s going to be quite a challenge, sort of organisationally, and it’s clear that the NTC wish the UN to play a major role in that process.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that growing humanitarian shortages in Libya demand urgent action and appealed to the security council to be “responsive” to requests from the transitional authority for funding.

Though stockpiles of medical supplies and food stashed away by the government were found over the weekend, water supplies are short.

“An estimated 60% of Tripoli’s population is without water and sanitation,” he said. The EU’s humanitarian office says that pro-Gaddafi forces are responsible for cutting supplies.

Ultimatum

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council let Britain release 1.86bn dinars ($1.55bn; £950m) in frozen assets to buy aid for Libya but an attempt by France and Germany to release an additional $8.6bn remains blocked.

Diplomats said that Russia was holding up Germany’s request to release about 1bn euros ($1.4bn) in seized assets and France’s move to unfreeze about five billion euros ($7.2bn) to buy humanitarian aid, Agence France Presse reports.

As anti-Gaddafi fighters converge on his birthplace of Sirte, interim leaders gave the town’s defenders an ultimatum, telling them that they had until Saturday to surrender or face military force.

It has also emerged that Col Gaddafi’s wife and three of his adult children fled to neighbouring Algeria in the early hours of Monday morning.

Col Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, with suggestions he may be in Sabha, Sirte or Bani Walid. However, the deputy head of the NTC, Ali Tarhouni, said they had a good idea of where he was and were confident that they would catch him.

Map of Libya

 

What “Combat Zone” In Central Asia?

[IRS.GOV names the following as combat zones in support of Afghanistan:  Pakistan, Tajikistan and Jordan – Sept. 19, 2001, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – Oct. 1, 2001.  The reported Central Asian combat zone will be somewhere much more hostile than Kyrgyzstan.  This lets the cat out of the bag.  More proof that the Pentagon has big war plans for Central Asia (SEE: Smashing Greater Central Asia – Part One ).]

Group from Kingsley to deploy to Central Asia

Twenty-six airmen from Kingsley Field are preparing to deploy to a combat zone in Central Asia.

The Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Security Forces Squadron will ship out in early fall and be stationed overseas for at least six months, said Col. Curtis Waite, mission support group commander at Kingsley Field. The unit will provide security for Air Force personnel in a combat zone, he said.

The security forces squadron was stationed at a support base in Kyrgyzstan about four years ago. But this deployment will be the unit’s first to a combat zone, Waite said.

“They’re going to be in the middle of it,” he said.

Of those set to deploy, many are from the Klamath Basin, said Lt. Col. Martin Balakas, spokesman with the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing, stationed at Kingsley. It’s an exciting an anxious time for those about to ship out.

“You’re excited to go and do what you’re trained for; you’re excited to undertake your mission,” Balakas said. “At the same time, it’s awful hard to leave family and friends behind.”