Crackdown on Islamists in Azerbaijan

Crackdown on Islamists in Azerbaijan

by   IWPR    January 17, 2011

Detentions come after Muslim party leader compared president with villain.

Several Islamic activists have been arrested  in Azerbaijan after a leading figure compared President Ilham Aliyev to one of the most hated figures in Shia history.
Movsum Samadov, head of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, was arrested on January 7, along with his deputy Vaqif Abdullayev, his driver Mirhuseyn Kazimov and party activist Elchin Hasanov.

The interior ministry and prosecutor general said the men were suspected of planning terrorist attacks, and they were immediately sentenced to between ten and 15 days in prison for disobeying police orders.

The arrests did not end there. On January 10, police detained theologian Zulfuqar Mikayilzade, Mehdi Mammadov, head of a group called National Moral Values, and as several Islamic Party activists.

On January 11, the interior ministry and Azerbaijan’s chief prosecutor said police had found hand grenades and bullets in the homes of two of Samadov’s cousins, who had also been arrested.

Analysts believe the arrests were prompted by a speech that Samadov made on January 2. In remarks widely circulated on YouTube, Samadov criticised a ban on girls wearing headscarves to school, official corruption and restrictions on freedom of speech.

Most controversial, however, was his comparison of Aliyev, who inherited the presidency from his father in 2003, with Yazid ibn Muawiya, whose forces killed the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Huseyn and precipitated the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

“Ilham Aliyev has made an idol of his father and forces people to worship him. But the majority of Azerbaijan’s population is Muslim, and must rise up against this merciless regime and put an end to the rule of this man who resembles Yazid,” Samadov said.

The people of Azerbaijan, like neighbouring Iran, are mainly Shia Muslims.

Analysts say the government all but snuffed out the secular opposition in elections last year, when the two main opposition parties failed to win seats in parliament, and is now turning its attention to Islamic groups.

“As a result of fraud at the 2010 elections, not a single opposition representative entered parliament,” Elkhan Shahinoglu, head of the Atlas research centre, said. “If the authorities intend to totally eliminate the civilised, secular opposition, then they must be ready for religious or ethnic political forces to appear in its place.”

Samadov has been active in politics since 1993, and studied in Iran’s main Shia clerical centre Qom in 1996-97. He became head of the Islamic Party in 2007.

All the activists are being held in a detention centre in Baku, apart from Samadov, whose location has not been revealed by officials.

Interior ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov declined to comment on Samadov’s whereabouts to IWPR, and suggestions that he was at risk of torture.

Azerbaijan’s official Muslim body, which is close to the state, issued a statement roundly condemning Samadov.

“The comments made by Movsum Samadov… have evoked protest among the country’s believers,” the statement said. “These comments are directed against the people and the state, and serve to provoke social tensions. Believers will not countenance remarks made against Ilham Aliyev who has followed in the footsteps of the great Heydar Aliyev, and illuminated the state of Azerbaijan and the Azeri people for all his conscious life.”

Zardusht Alizade, a well-known political analyst and director of the Baku School of Journalism, views the detained Islamists as political prisoners.

“You cannot fool the nation – these people aren’t terrorists. They were arrested because of Movsum Samadov’s fierce comments. The authorities want to intimidate opposition-minded people who are critical of their actions,” he said.

At the same time, some believe the Islamic Party ultimately seeks the end of Azerbaijan as a secular state.

“The Islamic Party of Azerbaijan and its members share the views of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Shahinoglu said. The party’s main aim is to create an Iranian-type state in Azerbaijan. Although not everyone will admit it, a strong Islamic opposition has formed in Azerbaijan, in opposition not just to the Aliyevs’ rule, but to all western values.”

Idrak Abbasov is a correspondent with the Ayna-Zerkalo newspaper.


USCENTCOM Wants Us To Believe That Baloch Pashtun Lashkar Has Been Formed

[Straight from the desk of Petraeus, comes word that the Pashtuns have gathered themselves together to make war in Balochistan.  Bullshit!]

Balochistan to form tribal force against militancy

By Ghani Kakar
For  [ is a website sponsored by USCENTCOM]


QUETTA – Pashtun tribal leaders in Balochistan have formed a committee to establish tribal force to address the militancy and threats to peace.


A 50-member joint committee was formed January 13 at a grand tribal jirga in Pishin, southern Balochistan.


More than 600 tribal leaders from across Balochistan participated in the jirga, chaired by Khan Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai.


“The new tribal force will be trained and equipped with latest technology,” Jirga spokesman Ulasyaar Khan told Central Asia Online. “They will take actions against those elements which are disturbing the law and order situation and creating hurdles in peace at Pashtun areas.”

Anti-Terrorism Court Prepares Determined To Try Sufi Muhammad, January 31

[If Pakistan hopes or intends to contain the wave of radical Islamists which it has set in motion, then it will begin in these court proceedings, set to take place inside Peshawar Central Prison, the only place deemed to be safe enough for the trial.  I have never been to Pakistan, but I have always held the Pakistani people in the highest esteem, simply because of their exceptional bravery of spirit, made evident by their decades of dedication to their partnership with America, through thick and thin.  They are seeing that bravery of spirit put to the test right now, as never before, in the ongoing fight to save Pakistan from its own militancy.   This is their point of national testing, again, on our behalf.  Pakistan would not be in the explosive mess it is in were it not one of America’s most reliable friends.

Pakistan became the international hotbed of “militant Islam” simply because we asked (and paid) them to, and now real threats of civil war are hanging over their heads because we asked them to reverse directions and fight to eradicate the “Islamist” threat we have together created.  Crazy old mountain mullahs like Sufi did their parts over the years to radicalize and militarize the locals into “Islamic” militias and jihadi fighting forces.  Watching Pakistan try to put Sufi Muhammad back into the bottle through their democratized Islamic legal system, we see the only possible form of defense against “Islamo-fascism” play out.  Pakistan’s legal system is based on interpretations of Islamic Shariah Law, just as Western systems are based on Judeo-Christian Law (whether we like it or not), but that Shariah Law is not the same jihadi “Shariah” of Sufi Muhammad.  If the prosecutor is worth his salt he will highlight the differences between the two belief systems as the basis for eradicating it from the system and the ranks.

These proceedings are an excellent format for working-out the differences between “radical Islam” and true Islam.  For a true effort to clean-up the mess made by the infusion of jihadi ideology, into a nation like Pakistan, where terrorists have never been prosecuted, one trial, against one radical agitator, is a good place to start.]

ATC frames charges against Sufi Muhammad

By Akhtar Amin

PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court on Monday framed charges against banned Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad in various cases and fixed January 31 for recording evidences against him.

Sources told Daily Times that the anti-terrorism court judge, Asim Imam, conducted the proceedings inside the Peshawar Central Prison in about nine cases against Sufi Muhammad and 68 others charged in the same cases. These cases were registered over a decade ago with different police stations of Swat and Dir districts.

Sufi Muhammad, the sources said, informed the judge that he did not believe in the current judicial system as it was not in accordance with Shariah. The TNSM chief also refused to hire a lawyer to defend himself in the cases, the sources added.

The public prosecutor said the government had reopened old cases against the TNSM chief and he was also facing fresh cases lodged with Mingora and Saidu Sharif police stations. One of the cases registered at Mingora police station pertained to the killing of PPP MPA Badiuzzaman.

Sufi Muhammad had launched a movement in June 1989 to replace these courts with Shariah courts in the Malakand Division.

Guatemala–Caught in the crossfire

Caught in the crossfire



My friend — from an eastern region of Guatemala that empties into the Gulf of Honduras — spoke in hushed tones as we met in a coffee shop in that Central American country recently.

One of the region’s wealthiest families, whose interests run to transportation and construction endeavors but also to more illicit forms of entrepreneurship, had recently received an offer that they couldn’t refuse.

Called to a meeting in the jungle-covered department of El Petén, the family’s scions found themselves face to face with members of Los Zetas.

Originally members of a Mexican army unit, the Zetas (named after a radio code for high-ranking officers) defected from the military to become enforcers for the Cártel del Golfo in the late 1990s. Subsequently jettisoning their new employers to become an international organized-crime entity in their own right, in recent months the two groups have waged a brutal battle for control of drug-smuggling routes in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León.

The Zetas’ message to their erstwhile Guatemalan competitors was clear and chilling: Join forces with the Mexican cartel or make a $1.5 million down payment and deliver monthly payments in the sum of $700,000. There would be no negotiation.

Since Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared war on that country’s drug cartels in late 2006, two of Mexico’s largest cartels, Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán’s Cartel de Sinaloa and the Zetas themselves, have sought the path of least resistance, filtering through the 541-mile border that Guatemala shares with its northern neighbor.

Though the presence of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations in Guatemala is nothing new — Guzmán was arrested there in 1993, and Guatemalan soldiers have joined the Zetas in the past — the intensity of the groups’ invasion of the country over the past two years has been unparalleled.

In Guatemala, the cartels have found a country with a state designed to be weak and ineffective by a rapacious oligarchy. Only 15,000 solders and 26,000 police patrol its rugged terrain, though there are more than 100,000 active private security personnel. Scaled down after the country’s 1996 peace accords following decades of atrocities, today’s numerically small and poorly trained Guatemalan security forces have made way for the armed enforcers of the country’s various criminal monarchies.

This past November, the government of Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a state of siege in the department of Alta Verapaz, a stronghold of the Zetas. In response, men claiming to be from the cartel took to the airwaves of three radio stations and threatened to attack shopping centers, schools and police stations if government pressure did not cease.

Further afield, the region between the border town of Tecún Umán and the Pacific coast municipality of Ocos has become a no-man’s land, the redoubt of Juan Alberto “Chamalé” Ortiz López, an alleged Guatemalan drug kingpin who is said to have been the first person to bring the Zetas into Guatemala in 2007.

Unexplained assassinations, such as that of former government deputy Obdulio Solórzano this past July, have once again become the norm, and a United Nations-mandated commission tasked with looking into criminal entities and their links to the state can barely keep up with its ever-expanding caseload.

With multiple-casualty shootouts occurring throughout the country, Guatemalans could be forgiven for looking to their politicians for protection. However, the wide perception in Guatemala is that the major political parties have been so deeply penetrated by organized crime that they themselves are part of the problem.

“You have no idea what kind of power they have,” a former Guatemalan official told me recently, speaking of organized crime’s influence on the upper echelons of the Guatemalan political establishment. Faced with such violence, a social movement to demand effective, capable law-enforcement and a transparent, non-corrupt judiciary has yet to emerge from Guatemala’s fragile civil society.

Fourteen years after the end of Guatemala’s civil war, successive governments have failed to break the stranglehold of corruption and impunity on the country. For many poor Guatemalans who survived that conflict, the very concept of Guatemala as a country at all was mostly a theoretical one until the army came calling.

It is an equal tragedy to see them once again victimized by today’s conflict, a war in all but name.

Michael Deibert is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Coventry University and the author of Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti.

19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Blow Your Mind

The United States is rapidly becoming the very first “post-industrial” nation on the globe.  All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing.  It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution.  It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes.  It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II.  But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America.  Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone.  Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period.  The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little.  Do you know what our biggest export is today?  Waste paper.  Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us.  The United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now  just a shadow of what it once was.  Once upon a time America could literally outproduce the rest of the world combined.  Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world.  If the deindustrialization of America continues at this current pace, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our children?

Any great nation throughout history has been great at making things.  So if the United States continues to allow its manufacturing base to erode at a staggering pace how in the world can the U.S. continue to consider itself to be a great nation?  We have created the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world in an effort to maintain a very high standard of living, but the current state of affairs is not anywhere close to sustainable.  Every single month America does into more debt and every single month America gets poorer.

So what happens when the debt bubble pops?

The deindustrialization of the United States should be a top concern for every man, woman and child in the country.  But sadly, most Americans do not have any idea what is going on around them.

For people like that, take this article and print it out and hand it to them.  Perhaps what they will read below will shock them badly enough to awaken them from their slumber.

The following are 19 facts about the deindustrialization of America that will blow your mind….

#1 The United States has lost approximately 42,400 factories since 2001.

#2 Dell Inc., one of America’s largest manufacturers of computers, has announced plans to dramatically expand its operations in China with an investment of over $100 billion over the next decade.

#3 Dell has announced that it will be closing its last large U.S. manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in November.  Approximately 900 jobs will be lost.

#4 In 2008, 1.2 billion cellphones were sold worldwide.  So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States?  Zero.

#5 According to a new study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, if the U.S. trade deficit with China continues to increase at its current rate, the U.S. economy will lose over half a million jobs this year alone.

#6 As of the end of July, the U.S. trade deficit with China had risen 18 percent compared to the same time period a year ago.

#7 The United States has lost a total of about 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since October 2000.

#8 According to Tax Notes, between 1999 and 2008 employment at the foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies increased an astounding 30 percent to 10.1 million. During that exact same time period, U.S. employment at American multinational corporations declined 8 percent to 21.1 million.

#9 In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of U.S. economic output.  In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.

#10 Ford Motor Company recently announced the closure of a factory that produces the Ford Ranger in St. Paul, Minnesota. Approximately 750 good paying middle class jobs are going to be lost because making Ford Rangers in Minnesota does not fit in with Ford’s new “global” manufacturing strategy.

#11 As of the end of 2009, less than 12 million Americans worked in manufacturing.  The last time less than 12 million Americans were employed in manufacturing was in 1941.

#12 In the United States today, consumption accounts for 70 percent of GDP. Of this 70 percent, over half is spent on services.

#13 The United States has lost a whopping 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#14 In 2001, the United States ranked fourth in the world in per capita broadband Internet use.  Today it ranks 15th.

#15 Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

#16 Printed circuit boards are used in tens of thousands of different products.  Asia now produces 84 percent of them worldwide.

#17 The United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that the Chinese spend on goods from the United States.

#18 One prominent economist is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040.

#19 The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept.

So how many tens of thousands more factories do we need to lose before we do something about it?

How many millions more Americans are going to become unemployed before we all admit that we have a very, very serious problem on our hands?

How many more trillions of dollars are going to leave the country before we realize that we are losing wealth at a pace that is killing our economy?

How many once great manufacturing cities are going to become rotting war zones like Detroit before we understand that we are committing national economic suicide?

The deindustrialization of America is a national crisis.  It needs to be treated like one.

If you disagree with this article, I have a direct challenge for you.  If anyone can explain how a deindustrialized America has any kind of viable economic future, please do so below in the comments section.

America is in deep, deep trouble folks.  It is time to wake up.

Border Dispute With Nicaragua Causing Costa Rica To Question Wisdom of Pacifism

By Adam Williams
René Castro tells a Dutch radio station that external forces are causing Costa Rica to reconsider their official pacifist stance.

In a candid interview with Dutch radio station Radio Nederland Wereldomroep in the Netherlands on Thursday, Foreign Minister René Castro said that he thinks the time has come for Costa Rica to reconsider its non-military status.

“We are going to have to do a thorough analysis to decide about being an unarmed and peaceful nation, and the new reality of this multilateral world,” he said. “Being a pacifist is in the Costa Rican soul, but external forces are causing us to consider our historic stance.”

Rene Castro

Castro also added that he felt that “Costa Rica is obliged to make a thorough revision to prepare for the future” and that the nation should consider creating a border defense unit, rather than an army.

“There is a considerable difference between an army and a police force,” he said. “The army has an offensive capability to attack. Here we are basically talking about creating mobile teams. We don’t want heavy artillery for defensive police…Our capacity for defense is very limited. We don’t have the necessary equipment for communication, aerial vigilance, or to defend maritime boundaries 10 times the size of our territory.”

Castro’s comments came after the conclusion of a 3-day case between Costa Rican and Nicaragua at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands. Throughout the case, Castro seemed to become increasingly frustrated with the Nicaraguan claim that Costa Rica had provoked an “international scandal” by stating that Nicaragua “invaded” the Isla Calero. Nicaragua also frustrated the Costa Rican contingent by claiming the border between the nations established in the 1858 Jeréz-Cañas Treaty was subject to interpretation due to the Río San Juan’s change in course over the last 150 years.

“(Nicaragua) again made an unfounded statement, manifesting that the incursion, occupation and use of Costa Rican territory has given Costa Rica motive to initiate an international scandal,” said Edgar Ugaldo, the Costa Rican agent to the world court. “Nicaragua has made us believe that they have prerogatives to penetrate into the territories of neighbor states, cause damages, disrespect resolutions of international organizations, and even then, remain unable to take any international responsibility.”

Echoing President Laura Chinchilla’s words earlier in the week, Castro said that he feels Costa Rica needs to consider making “serious investments” into national defense forces. On Tuesday, Chinchilla said that it was “very probable” that the upcoming fiscal reform would include a national defense tax.

“We did a study of the investments of Latin American countries and found that they invert 2-4 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) into defense funds,” Castro said. “That is a large amount of money. Our country invests that into public universities. We will have to consider investing similar amounts of money into our forces to have modern defense force.”

Castro also cited defense and special police units in Panama, Colombia and Chile as examples of forces Costa Rica could consider emulating. He said approximately three years of training would be necessary to prepare sufficient resources and create a viable defense force.

Beefing Up the Other Side of the River

While Costa Rica mulls the option of amplifying police forces, Nicaraguan military presence on the Isla Calero is growing exponentially, a source in the area told The Tico Times.

“The amount of troops on the Nicaraguan side [of the Río San Juan] has gotten heavier, much heavier,” said the source that chose to remain anonymous. “In the last few weeks troops have at least doubled, if not more than that.”

The source said that, in addition to more checkpoints for travelers along the Río San Juan, dozens of troops have been deployed to the grass airstrip in the area of San Juan del Nicaragua known as Old Greytown. Construction materials arrived in Old Greytown in recent weeks to begin construction on a new airstrip, a project that has been delayed for years.

“The airport in Greytown has already been approved for construction and should be completed by the beginning of 2011,” Lucy Valenti, president of the Nicaraguan National Tourism Chamber (Canatur), told The Tico Times in November. “The runway will be top quality and will allow for small planes to fly in and out of that region of the country. Currently, it is very difficult to get to San Juan del Nicaragua and the airstrip will provide much more access to the area.”

With the arrival of the construction materials to the region, more Nicaraguan troops were deployed to protect the area and widen and lengthen the landing strip. Currently, troops are stationed in camps and tents on the long, narrow plot of grass.

“(The troops) are most likely there to protect the materials at the airstrip, but they’re probably also there to provide back up along the border,” the source said. “Should there be some kind of threat or disturbance on the border, the airstrip is only half a kilometer away. They could be there in about 10 minutes.”

Why Do We Try To Radicalize the Taliban?

Back in February, when the blogosphere was all aflutter at the capture of Mullah Baradar, a high-ranking Taliban official, I tried to issue a caution:

We paid a price for this, keep an eye out for what it might be… Much like the assassination of Nek Mohammed is what gave us five years of Baitullah Mehsud, there is a chance that Baradar’s successor will be much worse.

Of course, later it came out that the CIA-ISI operation was meant, in essence, to undermine the first stages of political reconciliation talks with the Quetta Shurt Taliban—something I can only call unproductive at its most charitable. This kind of behavior is, sadly, not out of the ordinary for the U.S. in Pakistan: we have an established, consistent record of rejecting talks, rejecting negotiations, and reneging on agreements in favor of violence and arrests. This, too, will force us to pay a very high cost when our leaders eventually wake up and realize they have to demonstrate good faith to get anything done.

Anyway, so now Newsweek is reporting on who comes after Baradar. And it raises a lot more questions:

A top Taliban intelligence officer and several other knowledgeable insurgent sources tell NEWSWEEK that the insurgency’s top commanders named two replacements for Baradar last month at a shura—or senior council meeting—near the Pakistani frontier city of Quetta. The anointees: Abdul Qayum Zakir, a former Guantánamo inmate and ruthless field commander; and Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, a portly financial and logistical expert who commands a large militia force…

To this end, the Taliban are emphasizing that Zakir’s and Mansoor’s appointments were made with Mullah Omar’s explicit consent. But according to other fighters, few people truly believe Omar had any say in the matter. The mullah has not been seen or heard from since November 2001, when he fled Kandahar on the back of Baradar’s motorcycle. As a result, most Taliban are skeptical of claims or rumors that Zakir and Mansoor—or any Taliban commanders, for that matter—have had direct contact with their missing leader.

There’s a lot to unravel here. For one, I’d be curious as to what, exactly, a “top Taliban intelligence officer” really is. They do not, as best I know, have a formalized intelligence organization, even though I’d describe their intelligence gathering capability as highly complex. If they do have members dedicated to analyzing and acting on intelligence—if their organization is not, as most assume, so cellular and distributed that individual groups run their own, local collection—then that is actually very interesting information, and suggests a hierarchy I’d never really had reason to assume exists.

Secondly, if Mansoor’s appointment was only decided last month—December of 2010—then why was Syed Saleem Shahzad reporting on it last February? It could be that they were confirming, or re-upping Mansoor’s promotion, and maybe adding Zakir to the mix. But that description sounds damned fishy. The Taliban wouldn’t take 10 months to name a replacement for a senior official like this.

Lastly, there’s the claim that Mullah Omar hasn’t been seen or heard from since 2001. That is, flatly wrong, unless you plan on discounting (for example) data like this intermediated interview with the New York Times in 2007. Later that year, Taliban commanders said Omar had reached out to them to expand their suicide operations. And in 2010, a senior ISI official who once trained Mullah Omar was giving out hints about how much the one-eyed Mullah loathes the Taliban (interestingly, he was later abducted in Waziristan and hasn’t been seen since a ransom video posted to the Internet last July).

Anyway, so the Newsweek story has some weird omissions and a few twists of what I thought were facts, so I am expressing skepticism that is means very much. But here’s what I find interesting: assuming the bare bones of the story are true—that the relatively moderate Baradar (he wrote the latest Taliban conduct manual, in which he urges less violence and less abuse of opponents and civilians) has been replaced by men like Zakir and Mansoor—then we are far, far worse off because of last February’s capture. Zakir has a reputation for viciousness that is matched only by maybe Hekmatyar—and he commands the Taliban forces in Helmand and Nimroz. Mansoor runs a militia force in Kandahar. Neither of these men are more moderate than Baradar, and in fact we can safely assume they will double-down on their fighters and on the spread of militancy come Spring. We can also safely assume they are less interested than Baradar in any sort of negotiated end to the fighting.

So, in the last year we’ve seen a moderate voice for reconciliation arrested by the CIA, and the promotion of two vicious, more extreme, and less amenable commanders rise to take his place. The prospects of a negotiated end to the war gets further away the more we try to radicalize the Taliban. Yet, this is what victory in Southern Afghanistan looks like to the U.S. military leadership.