49 rebels killed in sweeping Russian anti-terror op

49 rebels killed in sweeping Russian anti-terror op

Federal Security Service’s special forces perform a special operation to liquidate illegal armed groups. (RIA Novosti / NewsTeam)

Russian security forces killed 49 militants in a long-term, sweeping operation across Russia’s volatile north Caucasus. Nine of those killed were considered to be “odious” guerilla commanders in the drive to carve out an Islamist state in the region.

The “large-scale and massive” September-October operation in several republics in the region involved forces from both the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry, Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee (NAK) said on Sunday.

“The coordinated action helped terminate the activities of several odious gang leaders, gang members and their associates, substantially damaging the system under which the bandits operate,” Interfax quotes a NAK statement as saying.

Thirty people with alleged connections to the insurgency were also arrested, along with 20 others who gave themselves up to the authorities.

The operation further resulted in the destruction of 90 rebel bases and the seizure of thirty homemade explosive devices, 100 kg of explosives, 109 weapons, 530 mines, shells and grenades and 19 thousand rounds of ammunition.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently stressed the importance anti-terrorist operations in the run-up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup.

On Tuesday, Putin announced that 313 militants and 43 militant leaders had been killed within the past three months.

The self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate, headed by Russia’s most-wanted terrorist Doku Umarov, has vowed to stage attacks during the Games.

Karzai govt, Nato downplay Fazlullah’s presence in Afghanistan

Karzai govt, Nato downplay Fazlullah’s presence in Afghanistan

KABUL: The Karzai administration and Nato here hardly give any sign of launching operation against Maulana Fazlullah as his group again came under focus after the recent attack on Malala Yousafzai.


In fact, Afghanistan is in a state of denial about the presence of Fazlullah, a Pakistani Taliban commander who was driven out of Swat Valley in a massive military operation in mid-2009. “We want to assure the Pakistani people that we will not allow any terrorist to use Afghan soil,” said Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqi, indicating that no “terrorist” was attacking Pakistan from Afghanistan.


Maulana Fazlullah, Pakistani officials say, has been maintaining sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s Kunar province for the last few years. His group has organised deadly cross-border raids into Upper Dir, Chitral and Lower Dir districts and has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings and targetted attacks against opponents.


Malala Yousafzai, who spoke against his brutalities in Swat, is believed to have been targetted on his behalf and the alleged perpetrator, Attaullah, has reportedly moved to safe havens in Kunar.


When Sediqi was confronted that Fazlullah had been operating from Kunar for the last three years, he said: “Well, there are terrorists living on the Pakistani soil for many, many years.” His answer suggested the Afghanistan government had no intention to move against Fazlullah.


A similar answer came from Foreign Ministry spokesman, Janan Mosazai. “Any comparison between the vast system of sanctuaries, training camps, support system, financial support and the strategic advice that Taliban and other elements receive from Pakistan with a few anti-Pakistan Taliban that might be in Kunar or Nuristan is completely against the fact, unfair, unjust and a statement against the reality in this region,” he said.


Pakistan says governor of Kunar and elements of the Afghan intelligence agencies have been providing support to Maulana Fazlullah. “There are some people in the intelligence at the local level who are supporting them. I don’t think it’s the policy of the Afghan government but there are people in the Afghan government, in the Afghan set-up who do support him because without their total support it will not be possible for the TTP people to move so freely there,” said Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan.


“The governor of Kunar has actually declared jihad against Pakistan Army. So that could be on their loose top. But the fact is when the governor of a province says something like this, we expect the Kabul government that there will be some action against that governor,” he told The News in an interview.


“It’s very clear that they are here. We have confirmed reports that people who raid Pakistan and who get wounded are brought back here and we know the places where they are treated,” he said.


He said the issue had been raised with Afghan government and Isaf headquarters here but both had taken the position that they did not have the capacity to go into Kunar and address this problem.


Dominic Medley, a Nato spokesman in Afghanistan, said they knew “insurgents and terrorists” were moving freely across the border but Afghanistan and Pakistan should fight this “shared fight” together.


“Between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Nato there are regular meetings, diplomacy continues, the tripartite commission, there is coordination at the border-all that must continue to ensure that the security between the two countries is tackled by both countries,” he said in an interview with The News.


He said the UN mandate to Nato to fight terrorists up to the border of Afghanistan was recently renewed. However, when asked why the alliance failed to take action against Fazlullah who has built sanctuaries within the border of Afghanistan, he failed to answer the question. “I don’t know about that particular group. I am sorry. I can’t give an answer on that group. It’s too specific for me to know about that group,” he said.


It was learnt that the US and Nato would have to shift 40 percent of their military assets to eastern Afghanistan to fight Fazlullah and other militants. Therefore, they are not willing to take action against him. The unwillingness and inability of Afghanistan and US and Nato to act against Fazlullah gives him freedom to organise attacks on the border and inside the country, posting serious security threat to Pakistan.


Faheem Dashti, a senior Afghan journalist, said the US had failed in defeating Taliban but succeeded in building security forces for Afghanistan. He said the Afghanistan government and the security forces were too weak to take action against Fazlullah.


Sediqi said Afghanistan considered Fazlullah a terrorist but any action that would be taken against him would be “based on the international rules and regulations.”


The Afghans are complaining about cross-border shelling. “So far more than ten people have been killed and many, many houses destroyed and animals killed and thousands of people displaced because of these rockets,” Sediqi said. He said the reason Pakistan was providing was a weak one. “That means that the Afghan Army should also fire rockets on the other side because all the terrorists are stationed on the other side of the border,” he said.


Janan Mosazai demanded a complete halt to shelling. “The solution is that they (Pakistan) stop it immediately and completely,” he said.


Ambassador Sadiq admitted shells had landed in Afghanistan but no or little casualties had been caused.

Putin Oversees Successful Major Test of Russian Nuclear Triad

Putin flexes muscle in big test of Russia’s nuclear arsenal

By Steve Gutterman | Reuters

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with members of All Russia People's Front at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool

Reuters/Reuters – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with members of All Russia People’s Front at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin took a leading role in the latest tests of Russia’sstrategic nuclear arsenal, the most comprehensive since the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

The exercises, held mostly on Friday, featured prominently in news reports on state television which seemed aimed to show Russians and the world that Putin is the hands-on chief of a resurgent power.

Tests involving command systems and all three components of the nuclear “triad” – land and sea-launched long-range nuclear missiles and strategic bombers – were conducted “under the personal leadership of Vladimir Putin”, the Kremlin said.

An RS-12M Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched from the Plesetsk site in northern Russia, and a submarine test-launched another ICBM from the Sea of Okhotsk, the Defence Ministry said.

Long-range Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers fired four guided missiles that hit their targets on a testing range in the northwestern Komi region, it said.

“Exercises of the strategic nuclear forces were conducted on such a scale for the first time in the modern history of Russia,” the Kremlin statement said.

“Vladimir Putin gave a high evaluation to the combat units and crews and the work of the Armed Forces General Staff, which fulfilled the tasks before them and affirmed the reliability and effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear forces.”

The exercises included tests of communications systems and “new algorithms” for command and control, it said.

Russia says it is modernizing a nuclear arsenal that was largely created during the Cold War and will continue to use nuclear weapons as a key deterrent.

In the 2010 New START treaty, Russia and the United States set lower numerical ceilings on the weapons tested in the exercise.

But Putin has made clear further cuts depend, among other things, on Washington assuaging his concerns about anti-missile defenses it is deploying, including a European shield Russia says will make it more vulnerable.

Russian and American leaders say nuclear war between the Cold War rivals is now unthinkable.

But critics say Putin – in power since 2000 and back as military commander-in-chief since his return to the Kremlin in May after four years as prime minister – is exaggerating potential threats from the West to bolster support at home.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)