Lebanese Navy Intercepts Ship Carrying Weapons from Libya To Syrian Terrorists

Lebanon detains 11 after consignment of arms found on ship

RTE

Lebanese authorities have impounded a ship after a large consignment of arms and ammunition were found on board.

Eleven crew members of the Lutfallah II have been detained.

It is believed the consignment was destined for rebels in Syria and was due to unload in Tripoli in northern Lebanon.

Lebanon said it had intercepted three containers of heavy machine guns, artillery shells, rockets, rocket launchers and other explosives destined for rebel forces on a ship originating in Libya.

Syrian authorities have repeatedly charged that weapons are being smuggled from Lebanon to rebels.

Yesterday, government newspaper Tishrin wrote that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “avoids talking about abuses by armed groups and focuses his blame solely on Syria, as usual. He encourages these groups to continue to commit more crimes and terrorist acts.”

The Russian foreign ministry said “we are convinced that the terrorists operating in Syria need a decisive rebuff, and that all domestic and outside players need to prevent any support” from reaching the rebel forces.

Government troops killed at least ten rebel fighters in the Damascus region on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Twenty-two civilians also died – eight in flashpoint central Hama, two in nearby Homs, three in Idlib near the Turkish border, four in Aleppo, four in Damascus province and one in Al-Raqqah in the northeast.

Separately, the official SANA news agency reported three soldiers and two “terrorists” killed in Syria’s second-biggest city Aleppo in clashes between troops and “armed terrorist groups.”

An activist said the fighting began as “officers and soldiers of a military base near the presidential palace… deserted with their weapons.”

And in what was believed to be the first case of Westerners going missing in the violence-swept country, Budapest said two Hungarians had been kidnapped.

Reports from Syria cannot be independently verified as state authorities have barred international journalists and rights groups.

A truce of sorts, which technically came into effect on 12 April, has taken a daily battering, and the European Union on Friday expressed extreme concern about the persistent bloodshed.

The latest violence came as veteran Norwegian peacekeeper Major General Robert Mood was en route for Syria to take the helm of a fledgling monitoring mission after being appointed by Mr Ban, diplomats said.

General Mood takes over a mission already facing major obstacles before the full 300-member force approved by the UN Security Council has even gathered.

He has himself highlighted the “abyss of suspicion” between President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, in the face of an uprising that has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011, according to UN figures.

Can the Northern Alliance Forces Win the Next Round?

Will the Northern Alliance fight?

Published: April 29, 2012

The writer is Director South Asian Media School, Lahore khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

The Americans are leaving behind an Afghan National Army (ANA) which is more than 250,000-strong, and historically the largest in a country ravaged by state failure. Its officers’ corps is filled by a majority of non-Pashtuns: Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras. The rank and file is plurally dominant Pashtun, apparently undivided but subject to intimidation by the Taliban.

Chances are that the ANA will fall apart after the Americans leave. But one must remember that even in a state of internal division, all of them hate the Taliban. The Afghan Pashtuns who have been polled also show that they overwhelmingly hate the Taliban. The ANA will be somewhat buttressed by the US which has pledged to maintain its military presence in Afghanistan till 2014 in a strategic agreement with Kabul to be signed in Chicago next month.

Dilip Hiro’s latest book Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadists in South Asia(Yale University Press 2012) talks about the past muster of the Afghan Army after the Soviets left: “The civil war erupted about three years after the pullout by the Soviet Union. On the eve of their departure, Afghan president Najibullah declared a state of emergency and appointed a new 22-member Supreme Council for the Soviet military academies, and raised 45,000 Special Guards to replace the departed Soviet troops…In March 1989, his soldiers frustrated a bid by Afghan Mujahedin’s interim government to capture Jalalabad”.

Najibullah, in January 1990, gave autonomy to Hazaras and Uzbeks, which won him the backing of the ten thousand-strong Uzbek militia led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who defected from the Mujahedin camp. Yet, his rival Tajik warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud boasted the best army in Afghanistan, numbering 30,000. Will the Tajik faction inside the ANA now fight the Taliban after the American exit?

Will someone additionally help by binding the Uzbek-Tajik rift in the Northern Alliance? Hiro tells us that in the past, when Pak-Saudi backing sent the Taliban into Afghanistan, Iran and the Central Asian states panicked and approached Russia for help: “Central Asia and Russia remain resolutely opposed to the Taliban while Iran tries to juggle its position between the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, stiffly opposing the US, and maintaining clandestine contacts with the Taliban”.

The Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO) has six members: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It assumed anti-terrorism functions in 1998, held military exercises in 2000, established a secretariat in 2004 and changed its name from the Shanghai Five to SCO in June 2001 when it admitted Uzbekistan as the sixth member. Russia doesn’t want the Americans to leave Afghanistan. It describes terrorism as “threat from failing states” which is presumably how it looks at Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Will the Central Asians again seek help from Russia? “In 1989 after the exit of the Soviets, the Taliban’s triumph alarmed the five Central Asian republics. Their leaders met in the Kazakh capital of Alma Aty on October 4-5. The Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, urged his counterparts to strengthen Dostum’s Northern Alliance government, which controlled six provinces. He provided it with military and economic aid”.

This time the war is going to be more chaotic. The Pakistan-backed Haqqani network sits atop all of the Punjabi non-state actors that Pakistan is scared of: the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the Jaish-i-Muhammad, Uzbek warriors of IMU and all others that Pakistan evacuated from Kunduz after 2001 when Dostum fell on them in the wake of American invasion. If the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan has had a decade in which to prepare itself against Pakistan, the non-state actors of Pakistan are also sure about what they will do to Pakistan after triumphing in Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune

Kazakhstan To Erect 2.5 thousand kilometer Fence On the border with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – Fergana – International News Agency

Kazakhstan will strengthen the border with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

 

Ferghana

 

Kazakhstan to build on the border with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the system of engineering structures with a total length of about 2.5 thousand kilometers, according to Tengrinews.kz . Director of the Border Guard Service (PS) KNB Nurzhan Myrzaliev talked about this on the sidelines of the 67th meeting of the Council of Commanders of border troops of CIS countries.

Civil Engineering from the region Zhetysai (South Kazakhstan) to the Caspian Sea will be built in 2012, which will strengthen the southern borders of Kazakhstan.

Such structures left over from Soviet times, successfully working on the border with China and act on the borders of the CIS in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Strengthening the border will contribute to the fight against illegal migration, human trafficking, drug trafficking and terrorism.

The international news agency “Fergana”

via  – Fergana – International News Agency.

Dictators Supporting Other Dictators

 against honey bees ::.

Charter’97

Lukashenko and Berdymukhamedov will work together to protect human rights.

Belarus and Turkmenistan have agreed to continue the practice of mutual support for initiatives and candidates of the two countries in international organizations, as well as interact on international platforms on the issue of human rights.

This is stated in the joint Belarusian-Turkmen communiqué, which is now on the results of the talks held in Minsk have signed Alexander Lukashenko and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov .

There is no doubt the way in which Belarusian and Turkmen regime may “protect” human rights. In violation of these rights, both succeeded the dictator. From the report of the UN Committee on Human Rights, published this month, it is clear that the tools of repression with Lukashenko and Berdymukhamedov is not much different – there are restricting access to the Internet, torture and humiliation of prisoners, harassment of journalists and human rights, denial of entry into the country international observers.

Among the major issues of concern, the Committee called the denial of freedom of expression, suppression of civic engagement, torture and ill-treatment in detention and the lack of judicial independence.

As part of the infringement of freedom of speech and the suppression of civil activism Committee expressed concern at the fact that the government “systematically failed to comply with freedom of expression”, “harassed and intimidated journalists and human rights,” as in “tracks Internet usage and blocks access to certain sites.”

The Committee criticized the government of Turkmenistan in connection with “refusal to issue visas to international human rights organizations,” referring to the long-term prevention of the country independent human rights observers, including at least 10 UN Special Rapporteurs, the International Committee of the Red Cross and NGOs.

The Committee expressed concern about the “increasing number of reports of torture and ill-treatment in detention, where they are often used to compel the accused to confess, and in the absence of an independent body to investigate violations of the law enforcement and carried out regular visits to prisons and other detention facilities. ” Another problematic issue the Committee has called the government’s refusal to allow international human rights observers in places of detention.

However, Lukashenko still have much to learn from his Turkmen other. Turkmenistan has banned all opposition parties, independent media and labor unions. According to the Western analysts and media Berdimuhamedov appropriates 80 percent of state revenues. More recently, the country has also banned the rural health clinics and currency exchange offices, and all students were required every day before the training to read the “oath of allegiance to” Turkmenistan and its ruler.

via Gundogar

Syria accuses U.N. chief of encouraging ‘terrorists’

Syria accuses U.N. chief of encouraging ‘terrorists’

AP

A Lebanese army military police vehicle, centre, escorts flatbed army trucks carrying three containers where the weapons were believed to be hidden, as they leave the port of Selaata, north of Beirut, Lebanon, on Saturday April 28, 2012.
APA Lebanese army military police vehicle, centre, escorts flatbed army trucks carrying three containers where the weapons were believed to be hidden, as they leave the port of Selaata, north of Beirut, Lebanon, on Saturday April 28, 2012.

On Saturday, the country’s state-run news agency said military units stationed off the Mediterranean foiled an infiltration attempt by “armed groups” from the sea in the early hours of the day.

A Syrian state-run newspaper accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday of encouraging “terrorist” rebel attacks by focussing his criticism on the government, while other government media reported that the navy foiled an infiltration attempt by gunmen who tried to land on the Syrian coast in rubber boats.

The editorial in Tishrin daily came a day after Mr. Ban said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s continued crackdown on protests has reached an “intolerable stage”. It also followed what the state media said was a suicide attack in Damascus that left 10 dead.

Ban said the U.N. will try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors to Syria. Only 15 are there now.

The Syrian comments were the harshest against the U.N. since a plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan proposed an April 12 cease-fire to be followed by peace talks. Since that date, the U.N. has said the regime has broken many of its truce promises, such as withdrawing forces from towns and cities. Rebel fighters have also kept up attacks on Syrian security forces.

Mr. Annan’s plan aims to end the country’s 13-month crisis that has so far killed more than 9,000 people according to the U.N..

Tishrin said Mr. Ban has avoided discussing rebel violence in favour of “outrageous” attacks on the Syrian government. “The continued disregard of the international community and its cover for armed groups’ crimes and terrorist acts … is considered as direct participation in facilitating and carrying out the terrorism to which Syria is subjected,” the editorial said.

“Such a stance seemingly encourages those groups to go on committing more crimes and terrorist acts,” Tishrin said.

The Syrian capital was hit by four explosions on Friday that left at least 11 people dead and dozens wounded. President Assad’s government blamed the blasts on “terrorists”, the term the government uses to describe opposition forces that it says are carrying out a foreign conspiracy.

Infiltration attempt

On Saturday, the country’s state-run news agency said military units stationed off the Mediterranean foiled an infiltration attempt by “armed groups” from the sea in the early hours of the day. SANA said the navy forced the boats to flee, but a Syrian service member was killed and several others wounded.

Saturday’s attempt was the first reported rebel infiltration from the sea. Syrian authorities have said in the past that they clashed with infiltrators trying to cross from neighbouring Lebanon or Turkey.

In Lebanon, military prosecutor Saqr Saqr told The Associated Press that the army confiscated weapons that were found aboard a ship off the Lebanese coast. Prosecutor Saqr added that an investigation is under way, adding that the 11 crew members are being questioned by the Lebanese military police.

On Friday Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said Lebanese authorities intercepted a ship off the coast near the northern city of Tripoli called “Lutfallah II” suspected of carrying the weapons.

The ship was coming from Libya, via Egypt and then to the port of Tripoli apparently on its way to Syria, NNA said.

The ship was taken to the port of Selaata, north of Beirut, where three containers where the weapons were believed to be hidden were seen being placed on Lebanese army flatbed trucks and taken away Saturday morning.

In Afghanistan, a kind of suicide

In Afghanistan, a kind of suicide

The Hindu

PRAVEEN SWAMI

TERROR STRIKES: An Afghan soldier keeps watch near the Provincial Reconstruction Team on Sunday as a NATO helicopter flies over the site of an attack in Jalalabad province.
APTERROR STRIKES: An Afghan soldier keeps watch near the Provincial Reconstruction Team on Sunday as a NATO helicopter flies over the site of an attack in Jalalabad province.

President Karzai has staked his all on a peace deal with the Taliban. Sunday’s attacks show his efforts aren’t working.

Late one June evening last year, as Taliban negotiators hopped between Islamabad, Doha and Munich for secret talks meant to bring peace in Afghanistan, a rocket arced over the east-central city of Ghazni. It ended its journey at Khatera Rezai’s home in Tauheedabad, just as the nine-year-old was getting ready for supper. She died eight hours later, her legs torn apart by shrapnel.

Musa Khan Akbarzada, Ghazni’s governor later told Afghanistan’s High Peace Council what had happened. “The Taliban,” he said, “were under pressure from their superiors for showing willingness to reconcile with the government, and for not firing rockets at Ghazni.” “We therefore permitted them to fire just two rockets at the city.”

Sunday’s savage Taliban assaults on Kabul, mirrored by simultaneous strikes in Paktia and Logar, make clear the lesson the Rezai family learned last summer: peace, like war, comes with a price.

In spite of their spectacular media impact, the Kabul attacks mean little. Even though the Taliban retains the ability to stage complex terrorist operations, it has lost swathes of mid-level commanders in targeted operations. Most military analysts agree the Taliban no longer retains the ability to stage force-on-force operations even against Afghanistan’s much-reviled army — the kinds of full-blown assaults that could lead it to overrun key towns and cities.

The real question is whether the fragile kingdom President Hamid Karzai has built will hold together when international troops begin to leave Afghanistan in 2014 — or be swept aside by dangerous political fractures his efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban are opening up.

The searing spring

For more than a fortnight now, the fighting that has marked each Afghan spring has been joined. Kunduz residents — in particular, the districts of Chahar Dara, Dasht-i-Archi and Aliabad — have reported the presence of new groups of jihadists who have arrived from camps in Pakistan, pressuring the sons of peasant families to join their ranks. Insurgent commanders in Ghor have been imposing taxes to pay for weapons and maintenance. Fines and public lashings have been reported when residents defy the Taliban’s social codes — one mandating that no family ask for a bride price greater than the equivalent of 1,50,000 Afghanis, 80 sheep and 15 cows.

Last week, Afghan special forces launched operations in Kunar — a remote mountain region which has seen a surge of insurgents from Pakistani jihadist groups. Mullah Muhammad Fazlullah’s Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, local residents claim, have even resurrected a Taliban-era Department for the Preservation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — handing out beatings and whippings for local residents who fail to trim their beards, listen to music, or eating the local naswar tobacco. Maulavi Mohammad Hashem Munib, the head of Kunar’s Higher Peace Council, was killed in a suicide attack earlier this month — part of a campaign intended to degrade the Afghan state’s already-anaemic presence. Haji Mohammad Dawran Safi, a Taliban commander closely linked to al-Qaeda, recently said his organisation had earlier “tried to make American targets the priority, but the damage created by Afghan forces has become more and more every day.” “Now,” he concluded, “they are our priority.”

Politics and peace

Even though the Taliban campaign presence is most felt in areas ungoverned by the state — reports that the jihadists have “occupied” regions are misleading, since these regions were not held in the first place — their creeping growth causes concern. “People who remember the Taliban years,” says Kabul-based commentator Husain Yasa, “all fear what lies ahead. Perhaps the Taliban will overwhelm Kabul, and perhaps they won’t — but perhaps the time has come to prepare for the worst.”

Hours before Taliban assault teams attacked Kabul on Sunday, President Karzai announced the appointment of a suave, western-educated diplomat to head the Higher Peace Council — the body charged with negotiating with the Taliban. Salahuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan’s former Ambassador to Turkey, had returned home after his father, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed by a Taliban envoy who turned out to be a suicide bomber.

Few questions about the assassination have yet been resolved. Afghan military sources say it was likely carried out with the support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, who feared that the elder Mr. Rabbani’s efforts might marginalise their own clients in the jihadist movement.

Ever since that assassination, palace insiders say, President Karzai became certain of one thing: Pakistan alone held the keys to peace in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai’s pursuit of peace was, from the outset, driven by political pragmatism, not high principle. From 2006, the Taliban began a relentless assassination campaign targeting traditional tribal leaders in the Kandahar region, Mr. Karzai’s traditional power-base. The campaign, which is estimated to have claimed over 150 lives, ensured that Mr. Karzai’s efforts to reach out to Alokozai Pashtun leaders collapsed, and that his prestige among his own Popalzai clan diminished. His controversial half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, was killed last summer.

In the 2009 elections, it became evident the President had little support among southern Afghanistan’s ethnic Pashtuns. His victory against key rival Abdullah Abdullah was secured because of support from ethnic Hazaras, grouped around Haji Muhammad Muhakik, and Uzbeks loyal to Abdul Rashid Dostum.

In a desperate effort to rebuild his political foundations, Mr. Karzai turned to the networks of Mr. Rabbani’s Jamiat-e-Islami — the centrepiece of the Islamist movement which, from the 1970s, dethroned Afghanistan’s traditional elite. He also sought help from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami, a party which though still ostensibly insurgent, has proxies in the political system. Inside the palace — as it became clear western forces would draw down in 2014 — figures considered close to Pakistan acquired critical importance, among them, his chief of staff Karim Khurram.

From 2010, Mr. Karzai initiated an ever-more desperate search for peace with the Taliban, alienating large swathes of the opposition. Even though Pakistan proved unwilling, or unable, to rein in Taliban operating from its soil, Mr. Karzai continued to reach out, hoping a deal could be struck. In 2010, Mr. Muhaqiq resiled on his earlier support, warning: “the new political path that Karzai has chosen will not only destroy him, it will destroy the country. It’s a kind of suicide.”

The attacks will be a moment of decision, though, for representatives of Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities like Mr. Muhaqiq. Figures like 2009 presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and Yunus Qanuni have been in talks to build a united front ahead of the 2014 elections — hoping to create a broad coalition that could include leaders from the south, like United States-based scholar Ali Jalali. “In the last ten years,” says political analyst Omar Sharifi, “there are many in Afghanistan who have developed interests in keeping the peace. There are businessman and contractors with stakes in the system; young people who have invested in an education; even druglords, whose business will be disrupted by war. The question, though, is how to keep it in these circumstances.”

President Karzai also faces a moment of decision: it is clear that the Taliban he hoped he could make peace with has no intention of accepting any kind of deal that Afghanistan’s political system as a whole could live with. In 2010, Mr. Muhaqiq had warned: “the new political path that Karzai has chosen will not only destroy him, it will destroy the country. It’s a kind of suicide.”

Those are words Afghanistan’s President ought be carefully considering.

praveens@thehindu.co.in

Israelis being fooled on Iran ex-security chief

Israelis being fooled on Iran ex-security chief

Israel's former security chief Yuval Diskin. (Photo: MOSHE MILLNER/GPO/AFP)

Israel’s former security chief Yuval Diskin. (Photo: MOSHE MILLNER/GPO/AFP)

JERUSALEM: Israel’s former security chief Yuval Diskin on Saturday accused top ministers of misleading the public about the chances any pre-emptive military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities succeeding.

Diskin singled out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak for criticism over their increasingly bellicose comments in the standoff with Iran over its nuclear programme.

“My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a regional war,” Diskin said in comments carried by army radio and the Haaretz newspaper.

“I don’t believe in either the prime minister or the defence minister. I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,” he said.

“Believe me, I have observed them from up close … They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off. These are not people who I would want to have holding the wheel in such an event.

“They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading.Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”

Diskin, who stepped down as head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service last year after six years in the post, was addressing a public meeting in Kfar Saba in the Tel Aviv suburbs.

In March, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan also spoke out publicly against a military option on Iran. He told US network CBS an Israeli attack would have “devastating” consequences for Israel and would, in any case, be unlikely to put an end to the Iranian nuclear programme.

On relations between Israeli Jews and other groups, Diskin said: “Over the past 10-15 years, Israel has become more and more racist. All of the studies point to this. This is racism toward Arabs and toward foreigners, and we are also becoming a more belligerent society.”

Diskin also said he believed another political assassination, like that of then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a Jewish extremist, could occur in the future.

“Today there are extremist Jews, not just in the territories but also inside the Green Line — dozens of them — who, in a situation in which settlements are evacuated, would be willing to take up arms against their Jewish brothers,” he said.

– AFP/wm