Who Else Is Hiding In Pakistan?

Mullah Mansour’s gone, but who else is hiding in Pakistan?

dw

Time and again Pakistan has denied the presence of high-profile terrorists on its soil, and time and again the US has targeted them inside Pakistan. Should former Taliban chief Mansour’s death be a lesson for Islamabad?

On Wednesday, June 1, Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif said the US drone strikes within the South Asian nation’s territory were a violation of his country’s sovereignty. They “must stop,” he insisted.

The general was referring to the US aerial attack on May 21 that killed the former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in the western Balochistan province near Afghanistan.

At first, the Pakistani authorities denied that Mansour was killed in the US drone strike along with his driver.

But on Sunday, May 29, the Islamic country’s interior ministry announced that a DNA test confirmed that Mansour had been killed in the attack.

“All indicators” confirm that Mansour was killed while travelling under a false name with fake Pakistani identity documents and a passport, according to the foreign ministry.

That means the feared Taliban leader, who was responsible for killing scores of civilians and government troops in Afghanistan, had actually been living in Pakistan and travelling back and forth to different countries in the region using Pakistan as his base.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour Experts say it is worth asking what Mansour was doing in Balochistan, where US drones hit him

 

Fake identity

Many Pakistani analysts and commentators, however, criticize the drone attack, accusing Washington of violating their nation’s sovereignty.

The curious case of Mullah Mansour and Pakistan’s much-touted sovereignty took a dramatic turn over the weekend when the security agencies arrested two government officials for allegedly issuing the former insurgent leader a national identity card.

One man named Sarfaraz Hussain was arrested from Quetta – capital of the Balochistan province – and the other, Rafat Iqbal, from the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said Thursday, June 2, that Mullah Mansour had obtained not only an identification card and passport, but also a local residence certificate under the name Wali Mohammad.

According to an FIA official, the certificate, which was issued in 1999, showed that Mohammad was a resident of Qila Abdullah district in Balochistan. “We have initiated an investigation into the issuance of the certificate,” the official said.

Mansour had allegedly entered Pakistan from Iran using Wali Mohammad’s documents when his car was hit by the US missile.

‘Embarrassing’

Policemen stand guard near the partially demolished compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces last May, in Abbottabad February 26, 2012
(Photo: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood) Bin Laden’s assassination in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad was dubbed as the end of an era

 

“It is really embarrassing for the authorities that Mullah Mansour was killed inside Pakistan. Now the authorities cannot say they had no knowledge about Mansour’s presence inside the country. If the government did not know about his whereabouts, what role can it play in Afghan peace talks?” questioned Talat Masud, a retired Pakistani general and security expert.

“If Pakistan is angry over the US drone strike, then Washington also has the right to ask why Islamabad provided shelter to Mansour,” Masud added.

It is not the first time that a high-profile terrorist has been found inside Pakistan, or who had been living in the South Asian country for a number of years. It is also not the first time that Islamabad has criticized the US for breaching its territorial integrity.

Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, confirmed shortly after the Taliban announced the death of their founder and former chief Mullah Omar that the militant had died in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2013.

“He (Omar) was very sick in a Karachi hospital and had died suspiciously there,” Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, spokesman for the Afghan intelligence agency, told reporters in July last year.

On May 2, 2011, American Special Forces unilaterally raided a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden – the former head of al Qaeda – who had been hiding in the garrison town for around six years. The Pakistani military and civilian government protested against the raid, saying the US violated its sovereignty.

“Five years ago, bin Laden was killed inside Pakistan, but a commission investigating the case gave a clean chit to the military leadership and civilian government. The Supreme Court should have taken notice of Mansour’s death and ordered an independent inquiry in to it, but it didn’t,” Tauseef Ahmed, a former lecturer at the Islamabad-based Federal Urdu University, told DW, adding that Pakistan continued to evade self-accountability.

A handout image released by Bagram Air Base in Kabul in 2007 shows a wanted poster with picture of Siraj-ud-din Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani group faction of Taliban militants
(Photo: EPA/BAGRAM AIR BASE / HO EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES) The US government has a bounty on Sirajuddin Haqqani, a deputy to new Taliban chief Akhundzada

 

What to expect from Islamabad now?

It is a positive sign that Pakistani authorities have finally launched an investigation into Mullah Mansour’s death, say observers. The Taliban have already appointed their new leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada – a little-known figure who had served as Mansour’s deputy and a military court judge for the insurgent group.

One of Akhundzada’s deputies is Sirajuddin Haqqani. His Pakistan-based Haqqani network has been blamed for high-profile suicide attacks in Afghanistan and has the alleged backing of Islamabad. Washington considers the group a terrorist outfit, and recently it urged Pakistani authorities to launch a military operation against it.

But so far, Pakistan – particularly the country’s military establishment – has been reluctant to act against the Haqqanis.

Pakistan is a key player in Afghan peace talks, and its cooperation with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government is considered vital. It can also use its influence on Haqqani to bring the militant group to the negotiating table.

After the latest embarrassment the country had to face following Mullah Mansour’s death, analysts say Islamabad should stop playing a “cat and mouse game” with Afghan authorities and Washington.

“Supporting this or that group is not in our national interest,” said security analyst Masud. “What are we gaining from it? Pakistan hasn’t achieved anything following this policy.”

Additional reporting by Sattar Khan, DW’s Islamabad correspondent.

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Floating Armories in the Indian Ocean

“In 2014, most floating armories were converted tugs, but others included offshore supply ships, patrol vessels, diving support vessels, anchor handling vessels, research or survey vessels, pleasure craft, trawlers, and general cargo ships.
In 2012 and 2013, various sources estimated that there were between 10 and 20 floating armouries operating in the HRA (Chapsos and Holtom, 2015; UNSC, 2012, annexe 5.4, para. 9).
Research carried out in 2014 identified around 30 floating armouries in the HRA—mostly deployed in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman, while one was in Sri Lanka. At the time of writing, governments in and around the HRA were not known to own or operate any floating armouries.–Floating Armouries in the Indian Ocean
FLOATING ARMORIES INDIAN OCEAN
[The fact that there were an estimated 30 armory ships floating around the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman in 2014, despite the fact that none of the vessels were linked to local govts, is stark testimony to the level of international meddling and arms-smuggling in the targeted countries, which are NOT YET experiencing war.] 

Russian fighter jets destroy ISIS oil facilities close to Turkish border

Russian fighter jets destroy ISIS oil facilities close to Turkish border (VIDEO)

Russia-Today

 

© Ruptly
Russia’s defense ministry released a video of Su-34 bombers destroying an Islamic State oil-refining plant near the Syrian city of Ras al-Ayn on the border with Turkey, as Russia intensifies airstrikes on the terrorists’ oil smuggling routes.

The video released on Thursday shows Russian jets hitting oil reservoirs located on territory under Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) control.

“Strikes took technical equipment out of operation and inflamed oil products, causing a large fire at the plant,” reads the bulletin of the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria from June 1.

Russia has repeatedly blamed Turkey for enabling IS and other militant groups to conduct illegal oil trade. Addressing the students of Belarusian State University earlier in May, Russia’s FM, Sergey Lavrov, argued that “Turkey did nothing to stop” the smuggling of oil, artifacts, and other goods through the porous Turkish-Syrian border. Moreover, there is “reason to believe that it [Turkey] even benefited from this.”

The new strike is part of intensified efforts by Russia to cut the funding of the terrorists’ activities in Syria.

General Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff, said last week that the Russian air force had increased its “airstrikes against illegal oil production sites and smuggling routes to Turkey.”

READ MORE: Putin hopes Russia-US cooperation will lead to fundamental changes in Syria

On May 31, Russia carried out strikes near the Syrian city of Al-Taura, only 42 kilometers [26 miles] from Raqqa, Islamic State’s stronghold. Bombers “destroyed illegal terrorists’ oil production facilities” during the operation, the ministry of defense said.

Russia launched a major anti-terrorist campaign in Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of President Bashar Assad. The bombing campaign proved to be a success, destroying more than 200 oil producing and refining facilities that had been seized by terrorists.

Russia’s Security Council deputy head, Evgeny Lukyanov, estimated that up to 28,000 Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front militants were killed in the Syrian Army and Russian air forces’ joint operation, amounting to roughly 35 percent of their total number in Syria.

With the support of Russia’s air strikes, Syrian troops managed to liberate the city of Palmyra in March. More than 500 populated areas in total have been recaptured from the hands of the terrorists, said Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, noting that Russia’s involvement in the conflict helped to “achieve a radical turn in the battle against militants.”

Although Russia ended its campaign and withdrew the main part of its forces from Syria in March, it has maintained a military presence in the country, in particular at the Tartus and Khmeimim airbases, with the objective of assuring that all parties to the ceasefire regime brokered with the US on February 27 are in compliance. While the US-led coalition and Russia have agreed not to target armed opposition groups that joined the truce, Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, along with other internationally recognized terrorist groups, were excluded from the agreement.

Baghdad’s Envoy To Ankara Demands Turkish Troops Out Of Iraq

Baghdad’s envoy demands Turkish troops out as Iraqi forces vow to free Fallujah ‘in a week’

Russia-Today

© Sertac Kayar
Baghdad has sent an envoy to Ankara to discuss withdrawing Turkish troops from Iraq, the country’s ambassador to the US, Lukman Faily, told Sputnik. It coincides with report that Iraqi troops are planning to free Fallujah from Islamic State “within a week.”

“We have recently had our ambassador, new ambassador, sent to Ankara about last week, so we have given another sign to Turkey that we are serious about discussions and dialogue,” Ambassador Faily said.

The move comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the Turkish troops’ presence in Iraq as unacceptable.

“We demand that Turkey withdraw its troops from Iraqi territory, where they are deployed, as former Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu put it, to ‘strengthen’ Iraq’s sovereignty. This position is absolutely unacceptable,” Lavrov told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Tuesday.

In December, Turkey deployed around 150 troops and 25 tanks to a base in Iraq’s Nineveh province, without Baghdad’s permission Ankara argued that its soldiers were sent to northern Iraq after a threat from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) to Turkish military instructors training anti-terrorist forces in the area.

In response, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that the Turkish troops were acting in violation of the country’s sovereignty and demanded the forces withdraw immediately.

A week later, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraq is out of question. “Our servicemen went to Iraq as instructors, their mission is limited to training,” Erdogan said back in December. “It is out of the question, at present, that Turkey will pull out its military from Iraq.”

Fallujah to be free of ISIS ‘in a week’

Meanwhile, Iraqi government liaison for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Bassam Al Hussaini also claimed that the country’s troops would free Islamic State-held city of Fallujah within one week. He added that the success would mean that IS will soon kicked out of Iraq.

“The only reason that we slowed down a little bit is just because we were getting a lot of reports saying there were still civilians [in Fallujah] that Daesh [Islamic State] was using as human shields,” he said. “We are hoping three, four days from now, at the most a week, that Fallujah will be free, 100 percent.”

READ MORE: Iraq offensive delayed: ‘20,000 children’ among civilians trapped in ISIS-occupied Fallujah

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Wednesday that the Fallujah offensive has been temporary halted, as 50,000 people, including 20,000 children, are feared to be trapped inside the city.

Iraq’s ambassador to the US, Faily, added that Baghdad will continue to look to Russia for support when buying the arms it needs to battle against Islamic State.

“We have sought support from others, including Russia, and mainly in the provisions and purchase of arms and we’ll continue doing that as well,” Faily added.

Fallujah witnessed some of the heaviest fighting during the US-led military intervention of 2003-2011, and in January of 2014, it became first city in Iraq to fall to Islamic State fighters. The extremists declared a caliphate in territories they had seized in Iraq and Syria in late June 2014.

France Outraged Over Govt Plans To Teach Arabic To 6-Year Olds

Outrage as French govt reveals plan to teach Arabic in primary schools

Russia-Today

French Education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. © Eric Feferberg
France’s Education minister, Najat Vallaud Belkacem, has found herself on the firing line since revealing a plan to teach Arabic to primary school kids as young as six. Belkacem has suggested including Arabic among the language choices for French pupils.
Read more

Protesters from far-right movement Generation Identitaire take part in a demonstration against migrants on May 28, 2016 in Paris. © Matthieu Alexandre

“Arabic will be taught in primary schools if the human resources are there and if parents ask for it,” the Minister told French broadcaster BFM on Tuesday.

Vallaud-Belkacem’s words have outraged a number of French politicians, who gave the socialist minister a public tongue lashing.

“Young people do not need this heresy, but [need] strengthened courses of French and History for successful assimilation,” Louis Aliot of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party wrote on Twitter.

“In France it’s the French culture that one must study first,” French MP Bruno Le Maire told BFM.

“Apparently, you do not like France,” Jean-Frédéric Poisson of France’s right-wing Christian Democratic Party concluded, while calling on the education minister to resign.

Annie Genevard, an MP for The Republicans, has warned that teaching Arabic would be “a Trojan horse” leading to “Islamic indoctrination.”

© Mushtaq Muhammad

Meanwhile, the education minister has stressed that Arabic is the official language of 26 nations in Africa and the Arabic peninsula. However, in French elementary schools it represents less than 0.1 percent of the foreign languages taught – far behind English (95%) and German, according to Le Monde.

READ MORE: Eagles of Death Metal dropped from French festivals after ‘anti-Muslim’ Paris attack comments

France is home to the largest Muslim community in Europe. Although there are no official figures, as French law considers a person’s ethnic and religious background a private matter, it is estimated that from six to ten percent of French residents are Muslim. A report from the Brookings Institution titled “Being Muslim in France” estimates that there are 5 million people “of Muslim descent” in the country and calls Islam a “second religion” after Catholicism.

The majority of French Muslims come from Arab-speaking countries in North Africa, namely, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, says the report, which focuses on the challenges Muslims face in integrating into French society. Half of them are believed to be 24 years old or younger.

Right-wing political forces have long criticized the government’s integration policy. Last week, about 500 activists from the anti-migrant movement “Generation Identitaire” took to the streets of Paris to protest the so-called “Islamization” of France. The protesters chanted slogans including “No to Islamization” and “the French are angry,” while linking recent Islamist attacks in France to what they called a “migrant invasion.”