Air Assault On Texas IRS Offices?

Texas Small Plane Crash Might Be Intentional Act, Officials Say

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Officials are investigating whether a small plane that crashed into an office building in Austin, Texas, Thursday morning was an intentional act, an NTSB official told Fox News.

An NTSB spokesman, however, told FoxNews.com that “we can’t confirm any of that.”

Authorities said they have identified the pilot as Joseph Andrew Stack.

The small single-engine plane crashed into a seven-story office building in Austin around 10 a.m. local time Thursday.

The FAA said a Piper Cherokee took off from an airport in Georgetown, Texas, at 9:40 a.m. and crashed into the building in Austin shortly thereafter. Officials are investigating whether Stack, 53, owned the plane or stole it.

Stuart Newberg, who was in the area right before the crash, said the plane was flying low and fast, according to The Statesman.com.

“It was flying low and fast and I did a double take,” Newberg said, according to the Web site.

“I thought it was a play remote control plane. Then I saw the smoke.”

He told the paper he thought the plane seemed “very controlled.”

Harry Evans, an assistant chief with the Austin Fire Department, said one person from the building was unaccounted for. He said two have been taken to a hospital.

“There may be other injuries, we are unsure at this time,” Evans said during a news conference Thursday.

An Internal Revenue Service office is located inside the building.

IRS Agent William Winnie said he was on the third floor of the building when he saw a light-colored, single engine plane coming towards the building, TheStatesman.com reported.

“It looked like it was coming right in my window,” Winnie said, according to the Web site.

Winnie said the plane veered down and smashed into the lower floors. “I didn’t lose my footing, but it was enough to knock people who were sitting to the floor.”

The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reported several “walking wounded” at the scene of the crash. Paramedics have set up a triage center at the scene.

Heavy smoke could be seen coming from the building at 9420 Research Boulevard. Several local witnesses on Twitter reported seeing flames coming out of the building and lots of broken glass.

Dozens of fire trucks were on scene and the building was evacuated.

Early reports that the building housed the FBI field office in Austin later turned out not to be true. An FBI spokesman told Fox News that the FBI office in Austin is near where the plane crashed, but not in the same building. There are some federal offices in the building, though authorities couldn’t identify which ones.

The NTSB is sending staff out of Dallas and DC to the scene.

Click here for more from MyFoxAustin.com.

NewsCore contributed to this report.

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A is for Allah, J is for jihad

[Is the author of this article the same “Craig Davis” who was arrested and deported from Peshawar, allegedly working for “Blackwater”?   I tried everything to contact the author of this article, Craig Davis, even contacting former colleagues at Indiana State Univ., but no response could be obtained.]

Pakistani security officials apparently became alarmed by reports that Blackwater was operating from the office of CAII on Chinar Road, University Town in Peshawar. The man in charge of the office, allegedly an American by the name of Craig Davis according to a report in Jang, Pakistan’s largest Urdu language daily, was arrested and accused of establishing contacts with ‘the enemies of Pakistan’ in areas adjoining Afghanistan.  His visa has been cancelled, the office sealed, and Mr. Davis reportedly expelled back to the United States.
It is not clear when Mr. Davis was deported and whether there are other members of the staff expelled along with him. When I contacted the US Embassy over the weekend, spokesman Richard Snelsire’s first reaction was, “No embassy official has been deported.”  This defensive answer is similar to the guilt-induced reactions of US embassy staffers in Baghdad and Kabul at the presence of mercenaries working for US military and CIA.

“A” is for Allah, “J” is for jihad

By Davis, Craig
Publication: World Policy Journal
Date: Monday, April 1 2002

Craig Davis is a dual Ph.D. candidate in the departments of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Religious Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. He conducted fieldwork on Afghan education in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1999-2000, as a David L. Boren graduate fellow.

In the late 1980s

and early 1990s, the Education Center for Afghanistan, located in Peshawar, Pakistan, and operated by the Afghan mujahidin (holy warriors), published a series of primary education textbooks replete with images of Islamic militancy. These schoolbooks provided the mujahidin (who, after a ten-year struggle, drove the Soviet occupying forces from Afghanistan in 1989) with a medium for promoting political propaganda and inculcating values of Islamic militancy into a new generation of holy warriors prepared to conduct jihad against the enemies of Islam. Consider the following introduction to the Persian alphabet in a first-grade language arts book:

Alif [is for] Allah.

Allah is one.

Bi [is for] Father (baba).

Father goes to the mosque…

Pi [is for] Five (panj).

Islam has five pillars…

Ti [is for] Rifle (tufang).

Javad obtains rifles for the Mujahidin…

Jim [is for] Jihad.

Jihad is an obligation. My mom went to the jihad. Our brother gave water to the Mujahidin…

Dal [is for] Religion (din).

Our religion is Islam. The Russians are the enemies of the religion of Islam…

Zhi [is for] Good news (muzhdih).

The Mujahidin missiles rain down like dew on the Russians. My brother gave me good news that the Russians in our country taste defeat…

Shin [is for] Shakir.

Shakir conducts jihad with the sword. God becomes happy with the defeat of the Russians…

Zal [is for] Oppression (zulm).

Oppression is forbidden. The Russians are oppressors. We perform jihad against the oppressors…

Vav [is for] Nation (vatn).

Our nation is Afghanistan…. The Mujahidin made our country famous…. Our Muslim people are defeating the communists. The Mujahidin are making our dear country free.

As in this passage, the promotion of violence for the sake of Islam is the predominate theme throughout the mujahidin textbook series in both mathematics and language arts for grades one through six.

Although these violent images were officially edited out of the schoolbooks in 1992, my fieldwork in Afghanistan and among the Afghan refugee population in Pakistan in 1999 and 2000 revealed that the unedited versions of these textbooks were still in use in both countries. Aid workers reported that the unedited versions promoting violence occasionally surfaced in classrooms in Pakistan and were sanctioned by the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Peshawar’s secondhand bookshops regularly stocked the old textbooks, which are filled with messages of Islamic militancy and illustrations of tanks, rocket launchers, and automatic weapons.

When I visited Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, in May 2000, I discovered that the stores stocking Taliban-approved textbooks were selling freshly printed copies of the old, unrevised mujahidin texts. Reports coming out of Kabul confirm the continued use of these schoolbooks, even as the new interim government assumed power. These textbooks glorify martyrdom, celebrate jihad, and speak of execution of “the enemy.” However, such messages and images of violence aimed at children are by no means a recent phenomenon. Consider this poem from a first-grade language arts textbook, published in 1970:

On the road

to our independence,

Our bodies, our heads, our possessions,

We will sacrifice,

We will sacrifice.

If, with designs on our land,

Our dirty enemies

Come forward one step,

We will cut off their feet,

We will cut off their legs,

We will cut off their legs.

If, in the direction of our land,

If, in the direction of our land,

The unjust enemy

If he casts a sharp glance,

We will pluck out his eyes,

We will pluck out his eyes.

A joke in fifth-grade language-arts schoolbook from the same period displays a macabre sense of humor: A boy returning from war was asked, “What did you do in the war?” He answered, “I cut both legs off an enemy at the knees.” When asked why he did not cut off the enemy’s head, the boy answered, “Someone else had already cut it off.”

These are but two instances in which educational materials were used to train young minds in a fanatical form of loyalty to the nation. The hostile imagery was part of the official curriculum during the reign (1933-73) of King Zahir Shah, the 88-year-old exile who has lived in Rome since 1973 and to whom many Afghans still turn for a sense of legitimacy and stability.

A new series of Afghan textbooks was developed during the period of communist government in Afghanistan, which stretched from 1978 under Nur Muhammad Taraki’s rule–and the subsequent Soviet invasion in 1979–to Muhammad Nagibullah’s fall in 1992. These textbooks promoted Marxist ideology within an Afghan cultural context. In “Martyrs,” a poem printed in a fourth-grade textbook, the students learned that they were the “martyrs of Western oppression.” Martyrdom and sacrifice were stressed as necessary components of the communist revolution and resistance against the enemy: “agents of the British,” “agents of colonialism,” and “agents of Western oppression.” These all were euphemisms for the mujahidin, who formed the militant resistance against the communist government after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Ironically, the term “mujahidin” was avoided in the textbooks of the time.

This series was still in limited use in May 2000 in some Afghan schools in the region, including in Estiqlal Lycee, a small coeducational Afghan elementary school in Islamabad, Pakistan. Almost half of the 236 students then at the lycee were girls, many of whom had come from Afghanistan after 1996, when the Taliban seized power and implemented policies that denied girls access to education past grade three.

One reason the school uses these books may be because women tend to fare better in the communist-era textbooks than in most of the other series. The textbooks attempted to appeal to young Afghan girls by stressing the important role that women played in the April Revolution, as the Afghan communist revolution was called. Mothers, female combatants, and the women of the proletariat were elevated to hero status at the expense of the revolution’s enemies: “Eternal glory to the nation’s heroic martyrs who have sacrificed their own lives in the struggle against the enemies of the April Revolution and of the people of Afghanistan…. Women combatants of the nation! Become active participants in the social, political, and economic life of the homeland, and strengthen…the April Revolution…. Boundless glory to the mothers of the heroes and the proletariat women of the nation.”

Ironically, the emphasis these textbooks placed on women’s participation in Afghanistan’s communist revolution may have played into the hands of the Islamic extremists who stripped Afghan women of their rights when they gained control of the country.

Far more violent, religiously oriented, and potentially damaging to Afghan children was the next generation of textbooks, developed in Peshawar in the late 1980s by a committee of Afghan educators under the auspices of the seven-party alliance of mujahidin, who formed the legitimate political and military resistance to the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul. These textbooks aimed both to counterbalance the Marxist ideology of the communist series and to indoctrinate young Afghan children in Islamic militancy. Thus this subtraction problem, from a third-grade mathematics textbook: “One group of mujahidin attack 50 Russian soldiers. In that attack 20 Russians were killed. How many Russians fled?”

A fourth-grade mathematics textbook poses the following problem: “The speed of a Kalashnikov bullet is 800 meters per second. If a Russian is at a distance of 3,200 meters from a mujahid, and that mujahidaims at the Russian’s head, calculate how many seconds it will take for the bullet to strike the Russian in the forehead.”

Another irony is that this textbook series was underwritten by U.S. grants. One of the responsibilities of the mujahidin-operated Education Center for Afghanistan was to write, print, and distribute textbooks. The ECA was funded by the Education Program for Afghanistan at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), under a $50 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development that ran from September 1986 through June 1994. The UNO program staff chose to ignore the images of Islamic militancy in the children’s textbooks during the first five years of the program.

Raheem Yaseer, an Afghan educator who worked at the UNO office in Peshawar during the early years of the program and now acts as the campus coordinator for the program in Omaha, defends the decision to allow the mujahidin parties to develop the violent content of the textbooks free of outside intervention. The staff, he says, was acutely aware of Afghan “religious and cultural sensitivities” during the war with the Soviets. Moreover, the University of Nebraska did not wish to be seen as imposing American values on Afghan educators. 1

After the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the Education Program for Afghanistan–under increasing pressure from Afghan parents and teachers, and various aid organizations–decided in 1991 to remove the militant images from the mujahidin textbook series. The revision process was completed by 1992. Educators commonly refer to the edited versions as the revised UNO textbooks, which are widely used in Pakistan and Afghanistan today.

However, two years ago, Joyce Gachiri, a project officer on education for the Afghanistan Country Office of UNICEF located in Islamabad, reported seeing many of the unrevised mujahidin books in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as well as in the province of Badakhshan, which was then in the hands of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. 2 During my visit to Kabul in May 2000, I purchased an entire series of the unrevised textbooks.

According to Ahmad Shah Durani, the printing press manager at the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) in Peshawar–the organization responsible for printing the revised UNO textbooks–the unedited mujahidin textbooks were not printed by ACBAR after 1992. When I confronted him in June 2000 with new copies of the violence-filled unrevised textbooks I had purchased in Kabul, he said that the inferior quality of paper and ink used pointed to an independent printing press in Peshawar.

The appearance of these unedited textbooks freshly printed in Peshawar and sold at textbook shops in Kabul some eight years after they were to have been replaced suggests that the Taliban wished to inspire a new generation of militants with the message of jihad. But the Taliban, who came to power in 1996, may not be entirely to blame. Between 1992 and 1996, militant factions of mujahidin ruled and battled over Kabul. Thus it is likely that these textbooks never fell out of favor with the mujahidinleadership, who were responsible for the militant content in the first place.

Much has been written since September 11 about the madrasa (theological school) system of education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, extremist Muslims in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere helped to fund the madrassas, many of which have become vehicles for inculcating militant values in students. The most violent product of the madrasa system are the Taliban, who promoted absolute theocracy, public militancy, violent repression, and jihad in conjunction with terrorist groups. Even though the Taliban has been crushed, it would be a mistake to underestimate the political force of the madrasa system. Because of the inability of both the Afghan and Pakistani governments to provide universal education within their respective nations, many parents still look to madrassas to fill the void. In other cases, many students attending secular schools in the morning regularly study at madrassas in the afternoon. Recent estimates suggest that between 10 and 15 percent of Pakistan’s 45,000 madrassas promote violence; if true, the next generation of graduates will likely be a political force to be reckoned with.

One of the greatest challenges to the establishment of a lasting peace in Afghanistan and to the success of representative government there may lie in reforming the country’s educational system. But as the new interim government assumed power in Kabul, the future of Afghan education was unclear. Will the mujahidin, who are once again in a position to influence policy, insist on teaching Islamic militancy to school-children? Will Afghan children once again be exhorted to cut off the legs and pluck out the eyes of their “dirty enemies”? If so, Afghanistan’s road away from violent unrest will be a long one indeed.

The translations from the Persian for the textbook illustrations were provided by Nahid Seyedsayamdost.

Notes

This essay is drawn from a longer, unpublished analysis, “Nationalism, Revolution, and Jihad: Images of Violence in Afghan Primary Education Textbooks,” the research for which was made possible by a David L. Boren graduate fellowship. The author would like to thank Jamsheed Choksy, Paul Losensky, and M. Nazif Shahrani for their comments and insights.

1. Interviews with the author, December 5 and 7, 2001.

2. Conversation with the author, March 30, 2000.

Illustration (Children with weapons marching to flag of Afghanistan)

Excerpt: I is for Infidel

Excerpt: I is for Infidel

Former AP correspondent in Afghanistan Kathy Gannon shares firsthand observations of a country in collapse, gained through two decades spent reporting there

By Kathy Gannon – July 31, 2006

Prologue

Friends or Foes

Karim is not his real name. I know my friend’s real name, but he is too afraid to use it.

Fear, war, and repression are like threads woven into the fabric of Afghans: fear of the Russians, of the mujahedeen, of the Arabs, of al Qaeda, Pakistanis, Americans, B-52 bombers, and of each other.

My friend is a man with a history. His left arm is slightly disfigured, the elbow smashed by a Russian bullet, a battlefield scar gained fighting the invading Soviet soldiers in the 1980s. Back then, he was a brave mujahedeen, unmoved by the sight of the Russian enemy, unafraid to heave a rocket launcher onto his shoulder, take aim, and fire. But in 2004 near the border of Afghanistan, as he sits across from me, he is too afraid to be identified.

"Do you want me to be killed?" His smile is nervous. He doesn’t say anything else. He just looks at me, silently. I wonder what to do.

We’re sitting at a long wooden table that is hidden beneath a coffee-stained tablecloth at a hotel in Pakistan’s frontier city of Peshawar, not too far from the border with Afghanistan. It’s a rugged little city largely inhabited by fierce Pathan tribesmen, who live on both sides of the border, here and in Afghanistan.

Peshawar is about 400 kilometers from the Afghan capital of Kabul and relatively safe for my Afghan friend. I’ve always loved Peshawar. There is a romance about the city, which looks eastward to the Khyber Pass, a historically treacherous stretch of road that nineteenth-century British colonialists could neither tame nor travel without being massacred. Peshawar sits at the crossroads of the ancient silk route. In its heart, snuggled in the middle of aromatic spice bazaars, where everyone is deafened by a cacophony of screaming rickshaws and blaring car horns, is the storyteller bazaar. Its name harkens back some 2,000 years to a time when caravans of weary traders, their animals bundled high with exotic silks and spices, would stop for the night, bed their tired beasts, and trade stories of the road they had just traveled and the dangers they had faced.

The first time I visited Peshawar was in 1986. Then, nearly 5 million Afghans, who had fled a Soviet invasion of their homeland, lived as refugees in camps that crowded in on Peshawar.

RELATED: Holy War, Holy Terror: A Correspondent Inside Afghanistan

A lot has happened in the intervening years. The Soviet Union withdrew its occupation troops and a brutal civil war among Islamic mujahedeen groups followed; their feuding ways gave rise to the repressive Taliban regime, which was cut down by the U.S.-led war in 2001, bringing in Hamid Karzai’s government and returning many of the same feuding mujahedeen to positions of power. So much has changed, yet so little has changed.

I look down at the tablecloth, finger the teaspoon, wait for my friend to say something. I pour another cup of coffee. It’s cold now, and the milk, which had been boiled, has coagulated. There’s a television on in the corner of the room. The picture is fuzzy, but it’s easy to see it is a cricket match, a popular sport in this part of the world.

Finally, my friend decides. He doesn’t look directly at me and I don’t try to make eye contact. I can feel his nervousness, and that he is ashamed of his fearfulness. When at last he speaks, his head is slightly bowed.

"Please, my friend, don’t say who I am."

I agree, and that’s when we decide to call him Karim.

Karim isn’t much older than thirty-eight. An ethnic Pashtun from Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, he’s fluent in Arabic, weak in English, but improving every day. His face is handsome, with deep brown almond-shaped eyes and a neatly trimmed black beard. He studied Arabic in Peshawar at the Institute of Imam Abu Hanifa, which is funded, he tells me, by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

I understand his fear. The topic of our conversation is a dangerous one. Karim was in Jalalabad in May 1996 when Osama bin Laden arrived from Sudan. He knows the details of his arrival, details that implicate powerful men in today’s Afghanistan, men who sit with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who are welcomed at the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy in Kabul to meet the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan. These men were returned to positions of power by the United States and its coalition partners in 2001, men like Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.

One August day in 2004, when I was having breakfast with Hamid Karzai on the lush green lawns of the presidential palace in Kabul, he described Sayyaf as an ideologue in a way that sounded complimentary. But Sayyaf is a vicious man, whose followers have carried out unspeakable atrocities and horrific massacres of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras.

Abdul Rasul Sayyaf inspires violence in others: Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine terrorist organization, was named for him by its founder, Abdurajak Janjalani. Janjalani was a disciple and a student of Sayyaf’s who received military training from him. The Indonesian Mohammed Nasir Bin Abbas, alias Solaiman, who was arrested in Indonesia in April 2003, was trained under Sayyaf between 1987 and 1991. Bin Abbas used the terrorist training he received from Sayyaf to set up Camp Hodeibia in the Philippines, according to Maria Ressa’s account in Seeds of Terror (New York: 2003). This camp was later taken over by Umar Patek, an Indonesian who has been implicated in the 2002 bombing on the resort island of Bali in which more than 200 people were killed.

A report put together from information collected by more than one Western intelligence agency and revealed by the newspaper Al Watan Al Arabi tells of a particularly terrifying meeting held soon after bin Laden’s arrival in Afghanistan, before the Taliban took power and while Sayyaf and his mujahedeen colleagues were ruling the country. My friend Karim had also heard the details of the meeting, although he hadn’t been present at it.

It was convened in northwest Pakistan’s remotest tribal regions, tucked away on an arid plateau surrounded by hills and guarded by hundreds of men hidden in the trees and crevices of the mountainside.

The high-level secret meeting brought together some of the most radical of groups and nations, who accused the West then in 1996, a full five years before the September 11 attacks, of waging a war against Islam. The participants urged a counteroffensive and spoke of attacking the United States and the West. They spoke of their hatred for the West and their revulsion for governments in the Middle East that sympathized with the West.

Fundamentalist organizations in Egypt, Yemen, Iran, and other Gulf states were represented, as were militant groups from Pakistan, Algeria and Sudan. They sat beside dissidents who lived in London, Tehran, and Beirut. They had come together to plot a war against American and Western interests.

Convinced that the West had already begun a war against Muslims, they wanted to retaliate, go on the offensive, and take the battle to the enemy on their own terms. This was not their first gathering. There had been at least one earlier meeting in Iran to lay the ground for this gathering, to settle religious and ideological differences that would allow these men to come together to wage a single war against a single enemy—the West.

And so a huge tent was pitched on the high plateau, under the watchful guard of the sentries in the ring of hills. A noisy generator provided light. Ghostly shadows were visible from outside, backlit against the walls of the tent as the participants moved inside. It was an eerie sight.

Men arrived in four-wheel-drive vehicles that had rumbled up the tortuous roads. The first to arrive was Osama bin Laden’s lieutenant, Aymen al-Zawahri. The conversation focused on Benjamin Netanyahu’s rise to power in Israel. One man, who seemed to have come from a European country, spoke of a vicious offensive being readied against Islam.

The men talked for another two hours until Osama bin Laden joined the gathering. At his side was Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. It was Sayyaf who spoke first. Bin Laden listened. Sayyaf shared bin Laden’s revulsion for U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. He praised the violent bombing one month earlier in al-Khubar in Saudi Arabia that had killed more than twenty U.S. servicemen, for which al Qaeda had been held responsible. Sayyaf’s small brown eyes seemed to glow as he recounted the bombing. He reveled in the description of it, saying it should be a lesson to America to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia. He likened it to the 1981 and 1983 bombings in Beirut of the U.S. Embassy and its military compound that had killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers and led to the American withdrawal from Lebanon.

Sayyaf’s speech inspired an Iranian to call for an all-out offensive against America. He was frenzied. He warned that the Muslim world was facing its gravest conspiracy. It wasn’t clear whether he had been sent by the government or whether he represented a jihadi group. Another speaker joined in, this time from Bahrain. His words were angry, his voice rising as he spoke: "We are enduring coercion and humiliation in our own country." Then an Egyptian spoke. He castigated his own government for spurning an offer from Syria to mediate its differences with Iran.

The men talked into the night. As dawn broke, a man from London looked to Sayyaf for direction. What should they do? What strategy should be adopted?

Sayyaf’s voice was low. "Let us wait until this evening, when we resume our discussions. I will then speak and give my opinion as one who believes in what you believe and who is ready to fight in the same trench as you."

When they reconvened, it was brief, the decision firm. They would confront the United States and the West. The organizations represented at the meeting would work together, they would devise strategies, plots, coordinate. In this way, in mid-1996, high in the lawless tribal lands of northern Pakistan, the terrorist networking began.

After the meeting, Sayyaf returned to Kabul to resume his role in the mujahedeen-led government of Afghanistan, a government that owed its existence to the support it had received from America.

**

As I sat across from Karim in the noisy hotel coffee shop in Peshawar, I began fully to understand his fear. Sayyaf’s men had been among those who had welcomed bin Laden to Afghanistan in 1996, along with others from that mujahedeen government who had also been returned to power by the United States in 2001. These same men had encouraged and allowed terrorist training camps when they were in power from 1992 until 1996. They had lied to the CIA in September 1996 when the agency had requested their help in finding bin Laden. The CIA’s intelligence was so flawed that it wrongly said that the Taliban brought bin Laden to Afghanistan in 1996 and that the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, knew bin Laden before he came to Afghanistan in 1996. He didn’t. It was Abdul Sayyaf, America’s "ally," who had welcomed bin Laden.

My friend Karim didn’t see the United States and the West as a source of comfort or protection. He fidgeted with his beard. His voice broke. His usual speaking voice is a baritone, but when he gets excited or worried it rises and cracks, becoming squeaky sounding.

I worried for him. He knew who had been present at a series of April 1996 clandestine meetings among the mujahedeen, meetings held in lantern-lit rooms to discuss giving bin Laden sanctuary in Afghanistan. Then Sudan, under relentless pressure from the United States, wanted bin Laden gone.

A friend of Karim’s went to Khartoum to meet bin Laden. Karim’s voice dropped to barely a whisper as he recalled the conversations. I strained to listen.

My friend met Osama. Osama had a question. He said to my friend: "I have more problems with America and the problems that Sudan has today with America; maybe tomorrow Afghanistan will have these problems and what will your reaction be?" My friend didn’t have an answer for him. He had to return to Jalalabad and ask the mujahedeen.

The mujahedeen knew that America wanted Osama, but they didn’t mind. They called a shura [council meeting of elders] and the shura gave its decision: "Afghanistan has had twenty years of war. It has been destroyed by all these wars and fighting. We have thousands of problems and if Osama is one more problem, what is that? He is a Muslim. We should help. What are problems for Afghans? God will solve all our problems. Tell him to come." Among the key figures at the shura that April day in 1996 were lieutenants of Sayyaf and of other mujahedeen leaders, who today hold positions of power in Afghanistan.

Kathy Gannon served as AP correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1986-2005. She was born in Timmins, Canada. In 2004, she was the Edward R. Murrow fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her work has been published in Foreign Affairs and The New Yorker. She is now based in Tehran where she lives with her husband.

Recalling the Ojhery blast

Recalling the Ojhery blast


Thursday, April 10, 2008
On a bright sunny morning on April 10, 1988, an explosion rocked Rawalpindi. A mushroom cloud of black smoke bellowed up thousands of feet into the sky followed by an incessant rain of rockets and projectiles that continued the whole day. The flying rockets hit unsuspecting people several kilometres away from the scene of the fire in an ammunition depot in Faizabad at the junction of Rawalpinid and Islamabad.
Not many people were even aware that an ammunition depot existed in the midst of a densely populated locality. Many suspected that Pakistan had perhaps been attacked. Some others suspected a mishap at one of the nuclear installations. The blasts continued at almost regular intervals. When the initial salvo died down the sound of secondary blasts could be heard for the next several days. There was chaos all around. All at once the city roads and streets were littered with the dead and the dying.
Official estimates put the dead at about one hundred and over a thousand injured. Unofficial count placed the dead at several hundreds. The damage would have been worst if a large number of rockets that fell several kilometres had also exploded. These rockets did not explode just because they were not fused. Initial official reaction said that the blast was caused by an act of sabotage. Later however it was claimed that the blast had been caused by an accident and it was an act of God. Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo publicly declared to hold an inquiry and also to make its findings public. The deadly stinger missiles provided by the US for the Afghan mujahideen were also reportedly sucked into the blast raising all kinds of suspicions.
Many questions were being asked. Why was the ammunition stored in a densely populated area? Who decided to store ammunition for Afghan mujahideen in a populated area? What happened to the stinger missiles? When Junejo insisted that the findings of the official military Court of Inquiry be made public, Zia quickly moved sacking the prime minister and dissolving the assemblies, accusing Junejo of not doing enough to bring Islam to the country.
The explosion may have been an accident or sabotage no one knows. Apparently no one was punished. The top military generals heading the agencies continued in their careers although an elected prime minister and an elected assembly were sacked.
A question was asked in the Senate in 2004 as to whether and when the findings of the inquiry into the Ojhery fire would be made public. There was deafening silence for several months. Finally the question was disallowed on the ground that it involved a sensitive and secret issue. Nothing remains secret forever. Twenty years is a long enough period for the inquiry findings to be made public. We owe it to the victims of Ojheri blasts. We owe it to ourselves.

20 years on, Ojhri Camp truth remains locked up

20 years on, Ojhri Camp truth remains locked up

By Amir Wasim

 

ISLAMABAD, April 9: Twenty years have passed but the images of destruction caused by the Ojhri Camp disaster are still fresh in the minds of many residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Over 100 men, women and children were killed and many times more were wounded by the missiles and projectiles which exploded mysteriously and rained death and destruction on the twin cities on this day in 1988.
Physical scars of the tragedy may have healed but the nation is unaware till this day what, and who, caused that disaster and why. An investigation was conducted into the disaster but, like in the case of all other probes into national tragedies, its report was not made public.
The then prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo appointed two committees, one military and the other parliamentary, to probe the military disaster. His action so infuriated military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq that he dismissed his handpicked prime minister on May 29, 1988 – the main charge being that he failed to implement Islam in the country.
While the parliamentary committee, headed by old politician Aslam Khattak, went out with the Junejo government, the military committee under Gen Imranullah Khan submitted its report before the government’s dismissal.
Subsequent governments of prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif which followed Gen Zia’s fiery death in a mysterious plane crash on August 17, 1988, also kept Gen Imranullah Khan’s findings under covers.
Some opposition members called for making it public during the last five years of Gen Pervez Musharraf’s military rule but the PML-Q government took the position that it would not be “in the larger national interest”.
Neither political observers expect the PPP and the PML-N doing so even when they have been swept into power again by the people and run a coalition government.
Interestingly, when contacted, leaders of both the parties agreed that the Ojhri Camp inquiry report should be made public but refused to commit to do so.
Junejo’s defence minister Rana Naeem Ahmed had told Dawn in an interview last year that he had received the report but said it did not fix responsibility on any one and declared the huge disaster an accident.
Even then the ISI seized it in a raid on his office the day after the Junejo government was dismissed, he claimed.
“They returned all my belongings, except the briefcase that contained the report,” he said, disclosing that the report was inconclusive and focused just on the causes of the blast.
It was a bright and sunny morning on April 10, 1988, when the citizens of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were startled by huge explosions and swishing sounds as if fireworks were going off.
Thousands of missiles and projectiles soon started raining down on the two cities the Ojhri Ammunition Depot, situated in the densely-populated Faizabad area, blew up.
Officially the death toll was 30, but independent estimates put the figure much higher. Prominent among those killed was a federal minister Khaqan Abbasi whose car was hit by a flying missile while he was on his way to Murree, his hometown.
His son accompanying him was hit in the head. He went into deep coma and died some two years ago after remaining on artificial respiration for 17 years.
The Ojhri Camp was used as an ammunition depot to forward US-supplied arms to Afghan Mujahideen fighting against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. There were reports that a Pentagon team was about to arrive to take audit of the stocks of the weapons and that allegedly the camp was blown up deliberately to cover up pilferage from the stocks.
Some reports said that Ojhri Camp had about 30,000 rockets, millions of rounds of ammunition, vast number of mines, anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, anti-tank missiles, multiple-barrel rocket launchers and mortars worth $100 million in store at the time of blasts that destroyed all records and most of the weapons thus making it impossible for anyone to check the stocks.
Prime minister Junejo had promised to the National Assembly that the inquiry report would be made public and the guilty would be punished but was sacked by Gen Zia.
Senior members of the PPP and the PML-N admit that their governments in the past made no serious effort to make the report public.
A PPP member however claimed that the second Benazir Bhutto government did attempt to do that but failed due to resistance from the “concerned quarters”. There are some elements in the Charter of Democracy, signed by the PPP and the PML-N, which could be pursued to make such reports public, he said.

LOSING THE PLOT (DREAMING DULLES)

[The author of the following claims to be a “fiction” writer, but it seems like here description of Islamabad in 1988, at the end of the war against the Soviets, was extremely believable.  Decide for yourselves.]

LOSING THE PLOT (DREAMING DULLES)

By Maniza Naqvi

Poppyblossom

“Stanley imagined himself in conversations with the founding father the legendry and long dead CIA Director Allen Welsh Dulles –In Stanley’s day dreaming he would be sitting beside Dulles in his study in front of a crackling log fire in a beautiful home in Georgetown along a tree lined street near Dumbarton oaks….So you see Stanley it’s all been done before there’s nothing new—no phenomena at all. No surprises. Besides—in your case—the country you’ve grown so fond of—Pakistan is as old as we are, the Agency. I mean. It is our lover, our mistress—-it is our sibling in a way isn’t it—if not our very own child?

Stanley must have grimaced at this suggestion because Dulles seemed to have admonished him: Now don’t go getting ideas Stanley that anyone of these shits including that chit of a girl that Bhutto’s daughter was any different. They are all our products. Not worth losing any sleep over. All created, groomed and taught by us. All of these so called leaders—right and left—belong to us—belong to each other—they’re our quislings—can’t do without our commodities, our luxuries—our way of life. Don’t expect them to rise up against us, do you? They are us. More us than we are us. Indebted to us.

And Stanley had interrupted: The question is: who will rise up against them?

Well now that’s what we need to look out for and look into. That’s what we’re forever trying to fix aren’t we? The non-quislings’ rebellion.

Funny, how everything here involves the Generals—and the truckers.

I was here on April 10, 1988 when the arsenal depot at Ojheri camp, the ammunition depot to supply the Afghan war, which was located in Islamabad exploded, days before a Pentagon investigation panel was supposed to arrive to take inventory of the Stinger missiles and other weapons that were supposed to have been in there.

Thousands of civilians were killed by the debris and exploding weapons. No problem. Zia used that to dismiss the civilian stooge Prime Minister who was beginning to make noises against him. No problem. Evidence of missing Stinger missiles—sold by a weapons cartel—gone.

We know that a C-130 exploded over Bahawalpur on August 17, 1988. We know that the plane carried the President of Pakistan and the Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq and his top seven generals: We know that the plane carried the US Ambassador Arnold Raphael and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom.

We know that by 1988—the Soviets had left Afghanistan—the drug trade was at its peak—and the Generals in Pakistan were making money hand over fist on this trade. We know that the CIA was using the drug trade to finance their war in Afghanistan. We don’t know whether the guys handling the Generals and supervising the whole operation were involved in making money for themselves.

What if the Generals and their American friends including the Ambassador had forged a loving relationship in a drugs and arms cartel? What if they staged their own deaths—and are now running the whole drug mafia operation under different names—different identities, different faces? What if General Zia, General Rehman (CJCSC), Lt Gen Afzaal (CGS), Maj General Nasir (DGCD), Maj General Abdus Sami (VCGS), Maj General Awan (GOC 23 Div) Arnold Raphel and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom are all alive and well? What if all eight of them Generals and the Ambassador are living in Houston, Miami and Dubai and operating the world’s most successful and lucrative drugs and weapons cartel? What if the rest of the guys on that plane—are dead? Those poor saps, the pilots and the ADCs etc murdered before the plane took off-the plane was flown by two cartel pilots. What if the C-130 took off and landed safely—what if what exploded in mid air—was a drone?”

(Read “Dreaming Dulles” HERE)