Pakistani Journalist Found Dead After Reported Abduction By Intelligence Agency (NOT by “Al-CIA-da”)

[SEE:  ISI Purportedly Holding “CIA Mouthpiece”]

Pakistani journalist found dead after reported arrest by intelligence agency

Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, shown in a Nov. 28, 2006 file photo, was found dead Tuesday.Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, shown in a Nov. 28, 2006 file photo, was found dead Tuesday.

BANARAS KHAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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By Rick WestheadSouth Asia Bureau

NEW DELHI — The deadliest country to be a journalist in just got deadlier.

Pakistan is reeling after news late Tuesday that journalist Saleem Shahzad’s body was discovered near his abandoned car in Islamabad.

Shahzad went missing Sunday night, his family said, after he left his home heading for a local TV station.

Almost immediately after his disappearance, Human Rights Watch issued a release saying it had reason to believe Shahzad had been arrested by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. His body was found with signs that he had been tortured, according to local news reports.

When Shahzad went missing, many locals in Pakistan feared the worst.

Operating as an objective, honest journalist in Pakistan is like navigating a minefield.

Reporters Without Borders has noted news media freedom in Pakistan has plunged in recent years and it is now among the world’s most dangerous places to report from. Last year, 11 journalists were killed in Pakistan, the organization said.

Shahzad was certainly known to Pakistan’s ISI.

He vanished two days after he wrote a story for the Asia Times that said Al Qaeda attacked a naval base in Karachi on May 22 because its negotiations with the Pakistan navy had collapsed. Shahzad wrote Al Qaeda orchestrated the attack as retribution for the arrest of naval officers who were suspected to have ties to Al Qaeda.

Human Rights Watch was told Shahzad would be returned home by Monday evening.

“The relevant people were informed that his telephone would be switched on first, enabling him to communicate with his family,” a Human Rights Watch official told Time magazine. “They were told that he would return home soon after.”

A Human Rights Watch researcher on Twitter released an email that Shahzad had forwarded him Oct. 18, 2010. The human-rights organization had instructions to release it if Shahzad disappeared.

Shahzad told Human Rights Watch he had been summoned to the ISI’s headquarters on Oct. 17, 2010, a day after he published another controversial story. He met with two ISI officials: Rear Admiral Adnan Nawaz and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz.

Pervaiz has just been appointed head of the naval base in Karachi that was just attacked, Time reported.

Shahzad’s October story alleged Pakistan had released the Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baradar from custody. Baradar was Mullah Omar’s deputy and Shahzad reported he’d been freed to negotiate with the Pakistan army.

The Oct. 18 email, purportedly from the ISI to Shahzad, was labelled “For future reference.”

“I must give you a favour,” the ISI officer wrote to Shahzad. “We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know.”

Infighting among North Waziristan groups could provide opening for Pakistani army

Infighting among North Waziristan groups could provide opening for Pakistani army

By: Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press

 

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Crumbling unity among militants could provide the Pakistan army an opening to conduct a limited offensive against a particularly vicious Taliban group in a strategic tribal region, according to analysts and a senior military official.

The target of such an operation in North Waziristan would be the most violent factions within the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is believed to be increasingly isolated after executing a prominent former Pakistani official over the objections of senior militant leaders.

Although Mehsud has been linked to attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan, his main focus appears to be in plotting carnage elsewhere in Pakistan. And that makes him a prime target for the army.

Washington has long urged the Pakistanis to launch an operation in North Waziristan, a region overrun by an assortment of militant groups including al-Qaida. Most U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan take place in North Waziristan.

Already there are more than 30,000 soldiers in North Waziristan, and some analysts say the Pakistani army could quickly redeploy to the area. The army has 140,000 soldiers in the tribal regions that border Afghanistan

The Pakistanis, however, are unlikely to target the Haqqani group, which the U.S. considers its greatest enemy in Afghanistan. U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, complained last week that Pakistan’s secret service maintains links to the Haqqani network. The Haqqanis are Afghan Taliban who control parts of eastern Afghanistan and have bases in North Waziristan.

If the Haqqanis and other militant groups in North Waziristan co-operate with a military assault against the Pakistani Taliban, that would give the army more options.

The fissures among the militants were laid bare in February, when Mehsud released a gruesome video that confirmed the shooting death of former Pakistani spy Sultan Amir Tarar, better known as Col. Imam, according to a senior Pakistan army officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

As Pakistan’s consul general in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province during the Taliban’s rule, Imam was the conduit for money and weapons to the religious movement. A former Pakistani intelligence officer, Imam met regularly with Afghan Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Imam was known to have kept contact with leading Taliban in hiding in Pakistan since the U.S.-led coalition ousted them from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

Mehsud’s group had held Imam for 10 months. The killing confounded Pakistani military officials. They had long believed the Haqqanis held sway over the myriad of groups — including militants from Uzbekistan, Chechnya and the Middle East — operating in North Waziristan.

“We always thought that the Afghan Taliban had a sway over these groups, but Col. Imam’s killing shows that no one is in control of anyone there,” he said. “His death was a shock for us.”

Taliban members who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they feared being arrested said Mullah Omar made a personal plea for Imam’s life. Also requesting that Imam’s life be spared was Sirajuddin Haqqani, a key leader of the Haqqani group.

The senior military official said Mehsud defied Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani and went ahead with the execution after the government and army refused his demands to free several of his imprisoned men.

Not only that, Mehsud boasted on a jihadi website about the killing, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. The same website carried an Urdu language condemnation of Mehsud’s organization, calling those behind the execution “beasts” and “ignoble killers,” SITE said.

The divisions that Imam’s death revealed among the militant groups could provide an opportunity for the army to hit hard at insurgents in the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali, where Mehsud set up bases after fleeing last year’s military assault on his headquarters in neighbouring South Waziristan, according to Mahmood Shah, a retired army brigadier and former security point-man for the government in the tribal regions.

Mir Ali is about 20 miles (32 kilometres) from the town of Miram Shah, where the Haqqanis are based.

Tribal elders from North Waziristan, all of whom were too afraid to talk on the record, fearing retribution from militants, said the landscape in their home region has undergone massive upheavals since the army operation in South Waziristan.

They said Mehsud and his men were among the most troublesome of the militants, largely because of their affiliation with criminal gangs.

Mehsud and his followers are also among the richest, having accumulated wealth through kidnappings for ransom, thefts and extortion, said a tribal elder from Shawal district of North Waziristan.

Mehsud’s close affiliation with Lashkar-e-Janghvi, a Punjabi-based Sunni Muslim militant group blamed for dozens of attacks against minority Shiite Muslims, has also provided him with a reservoir of suicide bombers. They have carried out dozens of attacks throughout Pakistan and in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject said the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed six CIA operatives in Afghanistan’s Khost province in December 2009 was trained by Lashkar-e-Janghvi’s Qari Hussain, who was also a member of Mehsud’s group. Hussain was killed in a drone attack but was quickly replaced by a cousin and fellow tribesman of Mehsud’s (SEE: Another rumor of Qari Hussain’s death in October Predator strike ).

Mehsud has overseen the Pakistani Taliban ever since his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a CIA missile strike on Aug. 5, 2009. Hakimullah Mehsud is affiliated with the Taliban’s most violent factions and has survived U.S. and Pakistani attempts on his life.

In recent years the United States has identified Mir Ali as the site of a reconstituted al-Qaida. Also on the run in Mir Ali is Ilyas Kashmiri, a confidante of Mehsud’s. The United States this month put a $5 million bounty on Kashmiri’s head.

___

Gannon is The Associated Press special regional correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

North Waziristan Operation Anti-Taliban Only, Haqqanis To Slide By?

Is Pakistan going to attack the Taliban in North Waziristan?

By BILL ROGGIO

 

Pakistani sources are telling The News that the military has agreed to launch “a careful and meticulous military offensive” in the tribal agency of North Waziristan. The report has not been confirmed, and we’ve heard multiple reports over the past two years of an impending operation in the Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold that never occurred. Here is the meat of The News report on the latest yet-to-be-launched North Waziristan operation:

The understanding for carrying out the operation was developed during the recently-concluded visit of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. Pakistan has always maintained that any such operation would be at its own time of choosing. It argues that its 140,000 troops committed to the northwest are too stretched fighting militants who pose a domestic threat.Highly-placed sources told The News that the strategy drawn up for action in North Waziristan had been worked out long ago and accordingly the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will be put in operation in first place. It will be softening the targets already determined and pointed out by the intelligence network and that would be followed by the ground action. A joint operation with the allies has also been discussed but no decision has yet been made for it since it involves numerous sensitivities. In case the two sides agreed to go for a joint action, it would be for the first time in the present war that foreign boots will get a chance to be on Pakistan’s soil with the consent of the host country. It will be done after a careful assessment of the situation and deliberations by the armed forces’ command in Pakistan.

The sources reminded that the armed forces are already present in North Waziristan. The target of such an operation in North Waziristan would be the most violent factions within the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Their leader, Hakimullah Mahsud, is believed to be increasingly isolated after executing a prominent former Pakistani official over the objections of senior militant leaders.

We’ll leave aside the deteriorating US-Pakistan relationship and the years of US arm twisting, begging, and pleading for an operation. If the Pakistani military is indeed planning an operation in North Waziristan (and again, we’ve all heard this one before), it will be, according to The News, extremely limited in scope. Here are some things to keep in mind, at least based on this report:

  1. The primary target is the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. This does not include Taliban groups such as the Haqqani Network and Bahadar’s Taliban faction. This would be similar to the limited operation in South Waziristan in the fall of 2009, when the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan was targeted but Mullah Nazir’s forces were left intact (Nazir, who recently affirmed he is an al Qaeda commander, openly controls half of South Waziristan to this day, and continues to shelter al Qaeda and other terror groups).
  2. The location appears to be limited to Mir Ali, one of two main towns in North Waziristan. Abu Kasha (or Abu Akash) al Iraqi, an al Qaeda commander and vital link to the Taliban, is based in Mir Ali.
  3. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is known to operate three major suicide training camps in the Mir Ali area.
  4. Mir Ali is one of three major hubs for terror groups, the two others being Miramshah and Datta Khel. Al Qaeda and terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are also based in Mir Ali.
  5. The military is telegraphing this operation, giving the top leadership of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, the IMU, and other groups ample time to flee. The report notes that the operation will begin with airstrikes. The same thing happened in South Waziristan in the fall of 2009; the blockade and airstrikes gave the top leaders time to leave, and a rearguard was left behind to attempt to blunt the Pakistani military assault. No senior Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan leaders were killed during the South Waziristan operation.
  6. As noted above, the Haqqani Network and Bahadar’s Taliban faction, both of which are viewed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence services as “good Taliban,” will be spared, despite the fact that these two groups have violated a two-year-old peace agreement with the military that prohibited them from hosting the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, and other allied terror groups. The Haqqanis and Bahadar’s Taliban faction have violated this agreement from the very beginning, but the Pakistani state has refused to hold the groups accountable.

One other point: Remember when the Pakistani military made the false claim it was conducting a “surgical” operation in North Waziristan? This claim was even repeated by top US commanders. So is the Pakistani military now admitting that the previous “operation” failed, or are Pakistani officials admitting it never occurred in the first place? Don’t expect anyone else to ask that question.

ISI Purportedly Holding “CIA Mouthpiece”

[SEE:  “CIA Mouthpiece” Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Goes Missing]

Missing journalist in ISI custody, says HRW

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has, through credible sources, learnt that journalist Saleem Shahzad is in custody of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), HRW’s Pakistan representative Ali Dayan Hasan told Daily Times on Monday.

Dayan remarked that the ISI remained a major human rights abuser in Pakistan and it frequently kept abusing and torturing those journalists it disagreed with. He further said the HRW had previously documented similar cases of abduction and torture on journalists by security agencies.

People close to Shahzad told Daily Times that he was picked up by officers of an intelligence agency who have promised through anonymous calls to release him soon. Shahzad, who was working as bureau chief of the Asia Times Online in Islamabad, was whisked away by unidentified people on Sunday evening when he left his F-8 Sector residence to participate in a television talk show. His mobile phone remained switched off and his car could not be traced.

People close to Shahzad stated that he had received numerous warnings from security agencies for his reporting in the past, adding that his recent reporting on the issue of terrorist attack on PNS Mehran might have become the reason of his abduction.

Meanwhile, a case has been registered against the unidentified kidnappers in the F-8 Sector Police Station.