BRUSSELS - The European Union may send an observer team to Afghanistan to monitor its August presidential elections, but only if the security situation allows, officials in Brussels said Monday.
"(EU foreign) ministers underscored that the EU had an important role to play in funding the election and deploying a substantial election observation mission across the country," said Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency, at a meeting of top EU diplomats in Brussels.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the EU wanted to send an observation mission, but that "we have to assess the security situation before taking a decision."
EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU would first send an exploratory mission to the country in the coming weeks. "According to the assessment of the exploratory mission, I will take a decision," Ferrero-Waldner said.
The EU has deployed a number of election monitoring missions to the world's hotspots. But the August vote, in which Afghan President Hamid Karzai may vie for re-election, is considered particularly fraught with dangers due to Taliban insurgency.
If you're worried about security, how about sending some soldiers along with the election monitors?
The EU's main contribution to Afghanistan has been to set up a team to train the country's fledgling police force. But the team, which is mandated to have up to 400 police and justice experts, currently has just 177 international staff, according to EU figures. On Thursday the United Nations' special envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said that he was disappointed over the slow pace of deployment.
The EU pledged 8 billion euros (10 billion dollars) in reconstruction aid for the period 2001-10.
Earlier Monday, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said his country would soon double the number of its troops in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan to some 200. Neutral Finland is not a NATO member but takes part in the alliance's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, which operates under UN mandate. "We will double our presence from about 100 to 200 for the elections, and in that sense I hope that we have responded to the requests (for more troops) that have come from the United States," Stubb told journalists in Brussels.
The majority of Europe's involvement in Afghanistan is carried out under the banner of NATO. Just under half the troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are European. But deep divisions remain between countries such as Britain and Denmark, who have committed large numbers of troops to the combat zones, and those such as Germany and Italy, which are reluctant to follow suit.
"We are not talking about more troops, we are talking about implementing a comprehensive strategy, because military commitment is not enough," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said. "We need political engagement, rule of law, we need stabilization at the border region, and so we need much more than only military commitment," he said.
New Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad urged Islamist hardliners Monday to end attacks on African peacekeepers after 11 Burundian troops were killed in the deadliest assault on the force. Sunday's suicide attack in Mogadishu, claimed by the Islamist Al-Shebaab militia.
Somalia's hardline Islamist movement Al Shaba'ab pledged on Monday to carry out further attacks against African peacekeepers after the deadliest strike yet killed at least 11 soldiers from Burundi.
"This is our land and you are non-believers," said a statement in Somali on a website used by the militants, who are fighting against the Somali government and a 3,500-strong African Union (AU) peacekeeping force. "Leave us for your safety or we shall never tire of increasing your death toll."
The site, www.kataaib.info, posted photos of two young men it said were suicide bombers who detonated explosives in a jacket and a car next to an AU compound on Sunday in a former university of Somalia's coastal capital Mogadishu. The militants' internet statement said 52 people died and 34 were wounded in the attack.
The AU said the compound was targeted by mortar bombs, not suicide bombers. It said 15 were injured, as well as 11 killed.
Witnesses, however, appeared to back the version of a suicide attack. They described a car speeding towards the gate before hearing a blast and seeing plumes of smoke rise.
Somalia's new leaders - President Shaikh Sharif Ahmad, a moderate Islamist, and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the Western-educated son of a slain former president - were due in Mogadishu later yesterday. They have been in neighbouring Djibouti to select a cabinet under a UN-brokered process intended to form a unity government and end 18 years of conflict in the failed Horn of Africa state.
Their biggest threat is from Al Shaba'ab which, together with allied militia, controls large swathes of south Somalia including the strategic towns of Baidoa and Kismayu.
By contrast, the government controls only parts of Mogadishu.
An explosion in a popular tourist area of Cairo on Sunday evening is likely linked to recent regional tensions, according to Egyptian experts.
"Foreign sides may be involved in this blast with the aim of destabilising Egypt and hampering its efforts to establish a permanent truce in the Gaza Strip," said Mokhtar Nouh, an Islamist lawyer.
The explosion of a home-made bomb in the main plaza of the bustling Khan Al Khalili bazaar killed a French girl and injured at least 20 people.
Police yesterday took into custody three suspects for questioning, said security sources. They declined to say if those arrested were Egyptians or foreigners.
Security agencies are, meanwhile, hunting for three Palestinians linked to the Islamic movement Hamas, the semi-official Cairo newspaper Al Mas'aiya reported yesterday. Quoting an unnamed senior security official, the paper added that the three people had sneaked into Egypt through tunnels between Gaza and the Egyptian Rafah border crossing. Police would not comment on the report.
Egypt tightened security measures at main entrances to Cairo and its suburbs in the aftermath of the explosion in a bid to detain suspected perpetrators.
"I think foreign quarters may have manipulated locals, who adopt ideologies of violence and subversion," Nouh told Gulf News.
In April 2005, an explosion killed two French visitors and one American in the Khan Al Khalil bazaar area - a popular tourist attraction.
"In my view, Sunday evening's blast and other terror attacks in Egypt over the past five years herald a new wave of terrorism which is politically motivated," said Fouad Allam, an ex-security official. He explained that the assaults, which occurred in Egypt in the 1980s and 1990s, were perpetrated by militant Muslim groups, who wanted to set up a purely Islamic state. "The recent attacks, however, reflect a political agenda. They were mostly unleashed by disillusioned young people."
In Allam's opinion, the latest explosion might be in reaction to Israel's deadly onslaught on Gaza, which left more than 1,300 people dead. Egypt is hosting inter-Palestinian reconciliation talks tomorrow.
Between 2004 and 2006, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula was the scene of a series of terror attacks, especially in the resort town of Sharm Al Shaikh. "This blast bears no imprint of major violence groups in Egypt," said Omar Al Shubki, an expert on Islamist groups.
"Nor is it linked to Al Qaida," he told this newspaper. "It is a continuation of the so-called haphazard and individual violence blamed on frustration triggered by social and economic hardships.
"This is evidenced by the fact that the Sunday explosion was primitive."
His case illuminates a key challenge facing the Obama administration as it considers how to close the U.S. military prison and resolve the futures of the approximately 245 incarcerated there. Once detainees are sent home, even to friendly nations, the United States has very little influence over what happens to them. Convictions are not guaranteed. Neither is surveillance by home countries. And for those allowed to go free, assistance in resuming a normal life is rare.
When W was in office, only neocon neanderthals wanted to keep Gitmo open. Now that The One is in, it's a difficult thig, a thought choice.
"And for those allowed to go free, assistance in resuming a normal life is rare."
Of course, WaPo's assumption here is that this toad actually had a "normal life" to resume. As if his training in a Pakistani Madrassa was...you know...like summer camp. Because we all know if it weren't for his time at GITMO and the lack of "assistance" he would return to those happy go lucky days of smoking cigs and shit-hooks in daddy's car.
Give Abdallah a break. He was trying to get to the Spring Break party at Pismo Beach but took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and, poof, ended up in Afghanistan. Could happen to any gay, fun loving muslim boy.
Too top it all off, Abdallah was just trying to get to the Dubai Ramadan Bacchanalia (Hef and the Bunnies were featured) and as luck would have it, took a wrong turn on the Kuwait City interchange and ended up in northern Iraq with an exploding Pinto. It's almost like allah was against him.
But there is also a view in some quarters of the U.S. government that cases such as Ajmi's are the inevitable result of locking up 779 foreigners in an austere military prison, without access to courts or consular representation, and subjecting them to interrogation techniques that detainees say amount to torture. Some of them are bound to seek revenge, these officials believe.
Banned Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) "prepared to assassinate" former prime minister Khaleda Zia at an election rally in Chandina, Comilla, on December 23 last year.
Alleged JMB operative Masum Bin Abdul Hye, 32, admitted this yesterday during his five-day remand.
Chittagong Metropolitan Police arrested Masum on December 31 last year and he was shown arrested on February 22 in a case filed in connection with the attempted attack on Khaleda in Chandina. Debidwar police of Comilla placed him before a Comilla court seeking a 10-day remand.
Masum in his statement to Debidwar police claimed that he knew nothing about the JMB operation and he was brought to Chandina on December 22 to take part in an Islamic mehfil. He spent the night at the house of one Mostaque at Nabiabad of Debidwar upazila.
He claimed that during the night of December 22, JMB operatives Naim, 20, Abu Ansari, 22, Habib, 22, and Asad, 21, held a meting where they planned to kill Khaleda saying the country was not being ruled by Sharia law.
He said on December 23, they gave him a bag full of grenades. Masum claimed that he planned to flee from the JMB men. He said he gave the bag to Naim at Chandina Bus Stand and secretly got on a bus heading for Chittagong.
Officer-in-charge (OC) of Debidwar Police Station Md Jahedul Islam, however, told The Daily star that Masum is a JMB operative and he, during interrogation, gave police vital information regarding the attempted attack. Jahedul claimed that Masum confessed his involvement in the incident.
After the RAB was done with him he also confessed to the Hindenberg bombing ...
Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) on December 23 arrested Naim and Abu Ansari with five grenades, a large bomb, bomb-making materials in Comilla. Three cases were filed in this connection. Their statements to police had led to the arrest of Masum.
Britain's High Court is looking into applying the Saudi rehabilitation program to give counseling to extremists, according to a press report Sunday.
The new program will be modeled after the munasaha (Arabic for "advice") program in which the Saudi government enrolls repentant terrorists and returnees from Guantanamo or militant camps outside the kingdom, the London-based newspaper al-Hayat reported Sunday, said
The program would place an Islamic scholar or an imam in each prison to provide counseling to inmates with extremist ideologies According to High Court Judge Sir Christopher Pitchers, who headed a delegation that met with Saudi Minister of Justice Abdullah bin Mohammed Ibrahim Al Sheikh.
" If a terrorist attack takes place in the U.K., we could benefit from the experience of Saudi Arabia in countering terrorism "
"We will need the help of Saudi Arabia," Pitchers was quoted as saying. "However, it is the British government that should decide, not the court."
He referred to the positive results the Saudi program has yielded, especially with respect to terrorist operations..
"If a terrorist attack takes place in the U.K., we could benefit from the experience of Saudi Arabia in countering terrorism. We can also help them if we can. Mutual interest is the purpose of this visit to Riyadh," he said.
The Saudi advisory program is supervised by the Saudi Ministry of Interior has garnered support and acclaim from the West, according to several reports in the Western media.
The advisory program is hailed by many countries as an extremely important step that precedes rehabilitation. Repentant extremists stay at hostels that have all the required medical, psychological, and cultural facilities to prepare them to re-integrate in society and switch to a moderate ideology.
Program officials continue to follow up with the prisoners after they are released, and Saudi officials have said their approach has been quote successful so far.
Binyam Mohamed, a British resident held at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years, was released and returned to Britain on Monday, accusing the U.S. government of orchestrating his torture. "I am pleased that Binyam Mohamed has today returned to the U.K. following his release from Guantanamo Bay," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement, as television pictures showed what they said was Mohamed's plane landing at RAF Northolt airbase in northwest London. "This is the direct result of our request for his release and return and follows intensive negotiations with the U.S. government."
The United States agreed to release Mohamed last week after 18 months of pressure from the British government. He is the first prisoner to be transferred from Guantanamo since U.S. President Barack Obama took office last month and promptly pledged to shut it.
Tortured in "medieval way"
After his release Mohamed issued a statement via his lawyers saying he had been "tortured in medieval ways--all orchestrated by the U.S. government."
"I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, 'torture' was an abstract word for me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim," he added.
Miliband added that Mohamed had been accompanied on the flight by Foreign Office officials, Metropolitan Police officers and a doctor and that Mohamed's family and lawyers had been informed. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said Sunday that Mohamed would be granted temporary admission into Britain, where he has refugee status. She added that a final judgment on his immigration status would be made based on "the facts at the time" and said he would be treated fairly. The Foreign Office has stressed that Mohamed will not necessarily be allowed to remain here permanently.
From Pakistan to Morocco
" the very worst moment came when I realized in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence "
Mohamed was detained in Pakistan in April 2002, where his lawyers say he was held for nearly four months, during which he says he was tortured and abused by Pakistani intelligence officers in the presence of a British intelligence agent. He was taken to Morocco on a CIA flight in July 2002, his lawyers say, and again subjected to torture and abuse.
Morocco has denied holding him and the U.S. government has denied that he was subjected to "extraordinary rendition."
Mohamed has been accused of receiving al-Qaeda training in Afghanistan and Pakistan and of plotting to detonate a "dirty bomb" on the U.S. transport network, but all charges brought against him have been dropped and he has never been tried.
(ABC News)- With a buy it says is in the mid six figure range, the group Military Families United says it will launch a new TV ad, as soon as tomorrow night, on national cable stations.
The add features no spoken words, but rather very spooky music and images of court documents as these words are typed on the screen:"Binyam Mohamed. Enemy Combatant #1458. Alias: Talba al Kini, Fouad Zouaoui, Binyam Ahmed Mohammad, John Samuels.
"Trained in Al-Qaeda camps to use weapons and create explosives. Given money by Al-Qaeda leaders to fly to the United States. Arrested trying to leave Pakistan.
"In February 2009: Enemy Combatant #1458, RELEASED."
North Korea has deployed medium-range missiles since last year as part of its arsenal, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing South Korea's 2008 defense white paper issued Monday. North Korea's intermediate-range ballistic missiles can travel up to 3,000 kilometers -- enough to reach northern tip of Australia -- while carrying warheads of up to 650 kilograms.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has named Gen. O Kuk Ryol as vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, state-run media reported Friday. The decision was made Thursday, the Korean Central News Agency reported. It follows the appointment of the country's new minister of the People's Armed Forces last week.
Republican Sen. Jon Kyl is hosting a film screening at the Capitol building on Thursday for a far-right Dutch lawmaker who claims that Islam inspires terrorism. Kyl is sponsoring the event for Geert Wilders, who was denied entry to London earlier this month because British authorities said he posed a threat to public order.
Wilders' 15-minute film juxtaposes verses from the Quran with images of violence by Muslims. Wilders has called the Quran a "fascist book" and said it should be banned. Kyl agreed to facilitate the event because "all too often, people who have the courage to point out the dangers of militant Islamists find themselves vilified and endangered," said spokesman Ryan Patmintra.
Thursday's event was being sponsored by the International Free Press Society, headed by Danish activist Lars Hedegaard, and the Center for Security Policy, a think tank in Washington led by Republican Frank Gaffney. The event is closed to the public and press, but the film is being shown to members of Congress and their staff in the ornate "LBJ room," a Senate office once used by Lyndon B. Johnson as majority leader and later vice president.
Hedegaard, who helped sponsor Wilders' visit to the U.S., said Europe's hate speech and blasphemy laws do not make any sense. "The way to deal with controversial, offensive or even hateful statements -- unless they are directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action -- is to expose them to public debate and criticism," Hedegaard said in a statement advertising Thursday's event.
While it is unusual for U.S. lawmakers to grant Capitol access to such a controversial figure, it was unlikely Wilders' appearance would produce the same outcry as it did in Britain. Several leading senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, declined to comment.
Indias 670 million voters may be about to set back President Barack Obamas campaign against Islamic militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Indias ruling Congress Party, which heeded U.S. calls to avoid threatening its neighbor after Novembers Mumbai terrorist attack, is heading for elections that might push it from office. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which accuses Congress of a "soft approach" toward terrorism, says India should consider blockading Pakistans main port and severing ties unless the government extradites 20 suspected militants.
A less cooperative India would hamper Obamas effort to keep Pakistans army focused on fighting the Taliban and other guerrillas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
"The BJP is more hard-line now than when it was in power," says Gareth Price, head of the Asia program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. "Theres no question they would increase the pressure on Pakistan, and that would complicate matters for the Obama administration." The likeliest outcome, he says, may be a weak coalition government led by one of the two large parties and including some of Indias burgeoning small parties.
This month, Pakistan ceded effective control of the Swat Valley, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Islamabad, in a truce with local Taliban. The Talibans gains threaten to further destabilize Afghan President Hamid Karzai and diminish pressure on al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whos believed to be hiding in the region.
The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, visited all three countries last week to, in his words, "listen and learn."
Holbrooke said last week on PBSs NewsHour program that the administration was "troubled and confused" by the truce in Swat. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have criticized Karzais government, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month is "plagued by limited capacity and widespread corruption."
Obama on Feb. 18 ordered 17,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan as a first step in a new strategy likely to be unveiled late next month. By then, Indias election will be in full swing: Voting in the worlds most populous democracy is to take place in several phases and must be completed by May.
Congress enters the campaign without history on its side: No ruling party has won re-election after serving a full term since Indira Gandhi led Congress to victory in 1971. Since the start of 2007, the party had lost ground in nine of 11 state elections, before winning three out of six late last year.
It isnt even clear wholl lead the party. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, was hospitalized last month for cardiac bypass surgery and had to reduce his workload. If he isnt able to carry the party banner, the succession is murky.
Party leader Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has declined to assume a direct role in government. Congress hasnt said whether it will name her 34-year-old son, Rahul, to lead the party their family has dominated since India won its independence six decades ago.
"Rahul Gandhi is not ready," political scientist and commentator Harish Khare wrote in the Hindu, a national newspaper, on Jan. 30. Congress, he said, should avoid "pitchforking the young man into the race."
The campaign comes at a time when the global recession has crippled Indian exports, cutting growth in Asias third-largest economy to its slowest pace since 2003.
India has lost 1 million jobs, the government said Jan. 29, and companies such as Bangalore-based Gokaldas Exports Ltd., the countrys largest clothing exporter, predict more firings. Meanwhile, an accounting scandal at Satyam Computer Services Ltd. has undermined Indias appeal to foreign investors.
Indias benchmark Sensex stock index tumbled 50 percent in the past year, led by declines in Tata Motors Ltd. and property developer DLF Ltd. The rupee fell 24 percent against the dollar in the same period.
"The economy is the key to a very tough fight for Congress," says Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst at Delhi University. A nationwide poll last week by Indias CNN-IBN television network found 32 percent of respondents named the economy as the main election issue, compared with 21 percent who cited security and terrorism. No margin of error was given.
India, with a population of 1.1 billion, will elect its lower house of parliament for a five-year term. Thirty-seven parties sit in the current chamber; since the early 1990s, governments have been coalitions headed by Congress or its main rival, the BJP, with smaller parties playing an increasing role.
The BJP, which draws support from groups seeking to make India a more overtly Hindu state, criticized Congresss patience with Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks, which killed 164 people. It suggested a naval blockade of Karachi, Pakistans largest city, and on Feb. 8 urged Congress to consider breaking off "all trade, transport, tourism and cultural ties."
No improvement in India-Pakistan ties is likely during a three-month election season because of political pressures, says Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a research institute in Washington.
"It will probably be more difficult if the BJP wins to get back to an Indo-Pakistan dialogue, but I dont think its impossible," Curtis says.
Still, the BJP, headed by L.K. Advani, 81, might not bring a radical departure from Congresss foreign policy. While the BJP-led government of then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee mobilized Indian troops against Pakistan after a 2001 guerrilla attack on Indias parliament, it later opened a process of detente with Pakistans then-ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.
"Under a BJP government, theres no question the rhetoric and language will be much tougher and aggressive, but it will just be rhetoric," says Olivier Louis, head of the India and South Asia program at IFRI, the French Institute for International Affairs in Paris.
The election probably will sustain the growth of smaller parties rooted in the ethnic and linguistic groups that dominate many of Indias 28 states, says Walter Andersen, a retired State Department India specialist who heads the South Asia Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
Rangarajan says "the unknown quantity" is the socialist- leaning Bahujan Samaj Party, which aims to mobilize minority and lower-caste groups. It swept aside Congress and other parties in Uttar Pradesh, Indias most populous state, in 2007.
With all parties seeking votes by showing their readiness to get tough on terrorism, the biggest challenge to the Obama administrations calls for moderation would be another attack similar to Mumbai, says Vikram Sood, a former chief of Indias main intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing.
In such a case, "India would have to make at least a symbolic strike" on Pakistani targets, Sood said in an interview. In such a case, Clinton "should go to Islamabad and tell them to quietly take whats coming."
Someday, Obama may look back on all of this and realize that the "Good Days" were when he was running for the presidency, not the days he spent running the presidency. Ther can be no doubt now that he had swallowed whole the complete leftist take on things. The indigestion is only just begun.
Posted by: Richard of Oregon ||
Vermont and Alaska are the two best states for gun owners.
I live in Vermont. Nuts in Vermont are concentrated in three cities, the rest of the state is relatively sane (unless you count the fact that we live in a damned cold state with more dirt roads than paved roads, more cows than people, more ..., well you get the idea.)
Don't even get me started on the senators and the rep.
Posted by: Whiskey Mike ||
"...and if the boys wanna fight,
you better let 'em."
-- Thin Lizzie
You never, ever, EVER describe your own government's position as "troubled and confused" in a diplomatic context - ESPECIALLY if that accurately describes the situation in the head offices. Holbrooke just demonstrated his incompetence. He needs to be fired right now. It's not as if he was a regional specialist. He made his bones in the Balkans, for the love of Christ!
I can't believe I was mooting him for Sec'y of State four months ago. Boy, was *I* fooled.
Posted by: Mitch H. ||
He made his bones in the Balkans
Under sniper fire?
Posted by: Mullah Richard ||
Louisiana is a pretty easy place for a resident to buy guns. And it's warm and flat too.
Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband on Sunday said it regarded India as Dar al-Aman or a "Muslim-friendly country". It ceased to be Dar al-Harb or hostile for Muslims with the end of British rule.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)'s Dharm Raksha Manch, or Forum to Protect Hinduism, last week issued a letter to the Deoband clergy demanding a fatwa, or an edict, to declare India as "friend of Islam to end religion-inspired violence".
"How can a country where you choose your own government be Dar al-Harb?" the seminary's vice-rector Abdul Khaleque Madrasi said, adding: "If VHP has doubts, a fatwa can be issued, provided the organisation follows the prescribed procedure for obtaining a religious edict."
Darul Uloom Deoband is a widely respected centre of Islamic education in Uttar Pradesh. Its rulings on religion, philosophy and lifestyle are obeyed and followed by Muslims all over the sub-continent.
Vice-rector Madrasi said according to some scholars, Dar al-Harb conditions automatically take effect if the state snaps a Muslim's right to pray. "Does such a condition exist in India? The VHP's demand stems from lack of knowledge. We have already said conditions for jihad don't exist (in India)," he added.
In Islamic theology, geographical territories are often described as Dar al-Harb, Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Aman. The distinctions have been crucial in Muslim thought and action, said Qari Mohammed Usman, one of Darul's senior-most teachers.
Dar al-Harb literally means "abode of war" or territory that is not under Islamic law and, if threatening to Islam, can be brought into Islam's fold by jihad.
In contrast, Dar al-Islam denotes territory under Islamic law, he said. Dar al-Aman or "abode of peace" is used to describe territory that is not under Islamic law but where Muslims can live in peace and harmony without interference in their practice of Islam.
One example was India, Usman said.
The VHP had also asked clerics to state that Hindus were not kafirs or unbelievers and therefore jihad did not apply to them. Madrasi said the term kafir meant a person who did not follow Islam and not necessarily an enemy of Islam.
Around 1803, Maulana Shah Abdul Azis, a Delhi cleric, had declared India Dar al-Harb to drive out the British, said Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind secretary Niaz Farooqui. Apart from Darul Uloom seminary, the VHP had addressed its letter to the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind and the All-India Milli Council.
Tanzeem Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad, while expressing concern over the activities of the militants in Swat after the peace agreement, asked them on Monday to stop their militant actions.
The TNSM, whose black-turbaned activists are staying in a mosque here till žrestoring peaceÓ, asked NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haidar to visit the Taliban-infested Swat Valley, where until recently ministers and even MNAs and MPAs could not go.
Unabated activities by the militants even after a ceasefire have been causing a serious setback to the peace deal. The militants picked up the newly-posted District Coordination Officer (DCO), Khushhal Khan, and three other people on Sunday, who were released after six hours of talks.
However, cashier of the National Bank of Pakistan Yousaf, Akbar Zaman and Bakht Ghulam, who were kidnapped from Odigram area near Mingora, are still in the captivity of the militants. Sufi Muhammad, who has been making unflinching efforts for bringing back tranquillity to Swat, was perturbed and intended to have a direct contact with the militants in near future.
Unveiling a nine-point plan for restoration of peace here at a press conference, he asked both the militants and the government to fulfil their responsibility by taking measures for bringing back calm to the valley. Sufi, who was unwell, started the press conference with emphasis on a life in accordance with Shariah. He, however, asked the TNSM spokesman, Amir Izzat Khan, to read out the plan.
Before going into the details, Izzat thanked the government for enforcing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation and doing away with certain check-posts.
The nine points of the plan are:
1) The government should shift the Army from schools, houses, mosques, hospitals and other places to safer locations and remove all the žobstaclesÓ so that the problems of the people are addressed.
2) The district administration and police should be taken to their respective positions with the help of the TNSM activists and the people.
3) The government should immediately reinstate those police and Levies officials and FC personnel who had been sacked or imprisoned.
4) People's losses, particularly human, should be compensated and the process should commence in line with the announcement of Chief Minister Ameer Haidar Khan Hoti. He should visit Swat to accomplish žthis noble task.Ó
5) Tehrik-e-Taliban Swat's leaders should direct their Taliban fighters to immediately remove the barricades and stop checking people there.
6) The Taliban should stop armed movement and other militant activities.
7) The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan should not create obstructions on roads for vehicles taking soldiers or their ration. Also, they should not interfere in the affairs of the administration and police.
8) Both the sides should release all the prisoners straightaway.
9) The people (IDPs) should come back to their homes.
The document said that incident of Musa Khankhel murder and kidnapping of the DCO had created panic among the people and hindered the process of establishing peace.
The TNSM urged the people from all walks of life, including the civil society and political parties, to help the TNSM in restoring peace and implementing Nizam-e-Adl.
"Particularly, I appeal to the media to help restore peace," Maulana Alam, deputy chief of the TNSM, requested on behalf of Sufi Muhammad.
Earlier, talking exclusively to The News at Madni Mosque, Saidu Sharif, Sufi Muhammad said he wanted to remove fears from the hearts of the people and provide them with an opportunity to move freely. "The people will be able to move freely if the check-posts are dismantled and Taliban's movement is restricted," Sufi added.
To a question, he said that some undesirable elements were out to sabotage the peace efforts but he hoped they would be exposed. To another query, he said that Maulana Fazlullah had agreed to remain non-violent during the recent meeting with him. "He will stick to that," he hoped.
AFP adds: Meanwhile, schools reopened in Swat valley on Monday but attendance was extremely low despite a fledgling truce between the government and insurgents, officials said. "Our schools reopened today. The attendance was very poor. Only up to 10 percent attended," Swat education ministry official Sher Afzal told AFP.
Schools reopened a week earlier than scheduled after the winter holidays, but Afzal said many parents were unaware of the new term start date.Syed Mohammad Javed, a top local government official, appealed the students to return to school, promising to accord them full security.
The government reopened all boys' schools on Monday but only the primary section up to the fourth grade in girls' schools, local officials said.A spokesman said attendance at private schools -- all of which reopened -- was only 40 percent because of security fears.
"This is because of the recent (unstable) situation. Another reason is that many families are still frightened and thousands more left the valley because of the fighting," said private schools association spokesman Ziauddin Yusufzai.
Residents said girls attended classes veiled after militant leader Maulana Fazlullah announced on his illegal radio station that girls could take examinations, but only after covering themselves according to shariah.
Of the total 350,000 pupils registered in Swat, 250,000 are enrolled at government schools and 100,000 at private schools, said Afzal.Militants have destroyed 191 schools in the valley, including 122 girls' schools, leaving 62,000 pupils without schools to go to, said Afzal.
Militant spokesman Muslim Khan said girls could go to school provided they observe "Pardah". "We have sent proposals to the government to rebuild the schools, which will cost around 800 million rupees (10 million dollars)," Afzal said.
APP adds: Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Athar Abbas on Monday said the operation in Swat has been halted. Addressing a seminar organised by the Sustainable Policy Development Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad, Athar Abbas said that the state could not control the external elements, as the militants were continuously getting funds from žinimical forcesÓ.
He said that a vacuum was created as the administrative machinery stood paralysed in Swat and it was imperative to gain confidence of the people for some success over there. He welcomed the political approach to deal with the situation in the area, saying žthis may bear fruitful results without causing any further loss of lives."
He said the Taliban have gotten themselves mixed up with the people, using civilians to shield themselves. Athar Abbas said that establishing the government's writ and restoring peace were the main objectives of the Army while the operation has been halted under the new political strategy. He said the troops will stay in the area.
Answering a question, he said that the troops were not withdrawn from the Afghan border when some were deployed on the Indian border. To another question, he said the Army was not carrying out any operation in Balochistan, saying the Frontiers Corps was dealing with the situation in the province.
Regarding the FM station operations in Swat, he said that mobile FM transmitters were being used to carry out the illegal activity and whenever these were spotted their transmission was jammed.
Security forces to regain the control of Bajaur region by mid-March, Inspector General of Frontier Corp Major General Tariq Khan said on Monday. Major General Tariq Khan, who has described Bajaur as a " centre of gravity" for militancy in the region, told a foreign news agency that militants had to be removed from two valleys in the region. During the interview at the Frontier Corp''s headquarters in historic Balahisar Fort, in the northwestern city of Peshawar, Khan received word that his forces had taken the strategically important village of Barchina. ¬"It means that Charmang is now in our hands," he said, referring to a valley leading to Afghanistan. He said only two more valleys remained. He foresaw the offensive continuing until mid-March, but added: "These are not deadlines, they''re judgments." He said he was forced to carry out an offensive in neighbouring Mohmand tribal area after militants launched a major attack on his forces last month. Khan said his forces had eliminated several middle-tier militant leaders but that "we should have finished these operations much earlier". The delay in completing was due to a particularly severe winter and tensions with India in the aftermath of an attack on the Indian city of Mumbai by Pakistani militants last November. Khan denied a report in American daily that 70 American military advisers were in Pakistan training the army and paramilitary forces.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama plans to order that all U.S. combat troops be withdrawn from Iraq by August 2010, administration officials said Tuesday, ending the war that defined his upstart presidential campaign three months later than he had promised.
Obama's plan would pull out all combat troops 19 months after his inauguration, although he had promised repeatedly during the 2008 campaign that he would withdraw them 16 months after taking office. That schedule, based on removing roughly one brigade a month, was predicated on commanders determining that it would not endanger U.S. troops left behind or Iraq's fragile security.
Pledging to end the war in 16 months helped to build enormous grass-roots support for Obama's White House bid.
The withdrawal plan - an announcement could come as early as this week - calls for leaving a large contingent of troops behind, between 30,000 and 50,000 troops, to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to protect U.S. interests.
Also staying beyond the 19 months would be intelligence and surveillance specialists and their equipment, including unmanned aircraft, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public.
The complete withdrawal of American forces will take place by December 2011, the period by which the U.S. agreed with Iraq to remove all troops.
A senior White House official said Tuesday that Obama is at least a day away from making a final decision. He further said an announcement on Wednesday was unlikely, but he said that Obama could discuss Iraq during a trip to North Carolina on Friday.
About 142,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, roughly 14 brigades, about 11,000 more than the total in Iraq when President George W. Bush announced in January 2007 that he would "surge" the force to put down the insurgency. He sent an additional 21,000 combat troops to Baghdad and Anbar province.
Although the number of combat brigades has dropped from 20 to 14, the U.S. has increased the number of logistical and other support troops. A brigade is usually about 3,000 to 5,000 troops.
Obama's campaign promise to withdraw troops in 16 months was based on a military estimate on what would be an orderly pace of removing troops, given the logistical difficulties of removing so many people and tons of equipment, a U.S. military official said.
The 19-month strategy is a compromise between commanders and advisers who are worried that security gains could backslide in Iraq and those who think the bulk of U.S. combat work is long since done.
The White House considered at least two other options to withdraw combat forces - one that followed Obama's 16-month timeline and one that stretched withdrawal over 23 months, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
Some U.S. commanders have spoken more optimistically in recent months about prospects for reducing the force.
Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, who just left his job overseeing U.S. operations in Anbar Province, said Tuesday that he saw violence drop to an almost "meaningless" level over the past year.
Kelly told reporters Tuesday that in the area that was the home ground of the Sunni insurgency, American combat forces don't have enough to do and most could have pulled out months ago.
"There is still a security issue there, but in the province I just left the (Iraqi) army and the police are more than handling the remnants of what used to be al-Qaida," Kelly said. "There's other parts of Iraq that aren't going quite as well but all of Iraq is doing pretty well."
According to officials, Obama had requested a range of options from his top military advisers, including one that would have withdrawn troops in 16 months. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had recently forwarded withdrawal alternatives to the White House for Obama's consideration.
In addition to the U.S. troops to be withdrawn, there is a sizable cadre of contractors who provide services to them who would pack their bags as well. There were 148,050 defense contractor personnel working in Iraq as of December, 39,262 of them U.S. citizens.
There are more than 200 U.S. military installations in Iraq. According to Army officials interviewed by the Government Accountability Office, it can take up to two months to shut down small outposts that hold up to 300 troops. Larger entrenched facilities, like Balad Air Base, could take up to 18 months to close, according to the GAO.
As of Monday, at least 4,250 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. More than 31,000 have been injured. An additional 35,841 have received medical air transport due to non-hostile incidents.
Congress has approved more than $657 billion so far for the Iraq war, according to a report last year from the Congressional Research Service.
A Sunni politician accused of orchestrating a 2007 suicide attack on the Iraqi parliament and a host of other bombings and gangland-style killings said on Monday the allegations were false.
Mohammed al-Daini, a member of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, said allegations made against him by the Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were revenge for criticism he made of the treatment of prisoners.
" The suicide bomber entered with an authorization paper from Mohammed al-Daini and blew himself up at the parliament "
Riad Ibrahim al-Daini
Reporters were shown the confessions--also broadcast on Iraqi television--by a nephew and a security guard of the accused MP who said they had carried out several attacks for Daini.
"The suicide bomber entered with an authorization paper from Mohammed al-Daini and blew himself up at the parliament," nephew Riad Ibrahim al-Daini said on the video, adding that he had taken the assailant to the scene. Al-Daini said filmed confessions were extracted by force. "The physical and psychological torture which those people were subjected to was so obvious," Daini told a news conference. "We knew there would be a price to pay for supporting the innocent, but we did not expect the exaggerated actions taking place that are beyond all legal and constitutional limits."
Military spokesman Qassim Moussawi said authorities were waiting for the courts to issue an arrest warrant for Daini, after which they would ask parliament to lift his immunity.
A warrant already had been issued for his brother, Ahmed al-Daini, on terrorism charges, Moussawi told Reuters on Monday. "We have enough evidence to incriminate Mohammed al-Daini," Moussawi said.
Exiled Hamas politburo chief rejects Prime Minister Olmert's demand Shalit's release be tied to long-term ceasefire agreement after meeting with Arab League secretary-general, accuses Israel of impeding Egypt's mediation efforts.
By the way, what does the Red Cross/Crescent/Thingy have to say about Gilad's current condition? When was the last time they saw him? When was the last time they DEMANDED access to him? Same questions to the various International Human Rights Whatevers. Hello? Bueller...?
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suspended his point man for the Gaza truce talks in Egypt for launching a scathing tirade against the outgoing premier last week.
I'm sure he didn't say anything I wasn't thinking. Then again, he's supposed to be a diplomat, and I'm not ...
The move came several days after Amos Gilad, a senior defense ministry official who has shuttled between Egypt and Israel for weeks, blasted Olmert for changing his position in talks to forge a lasting Gaza truce with Hamas.
The Maariv tabloid newspaper quoted Gilad on Feb. 18 as saying the Olmert government had an inconsistent approach to the talks that was "insulting" to the Egyptians. Gilad pointed to Olmert's demand that Hamas agree to free a captive Israeli soldier before Israel eases a blockade on Gaza, as demanded by the Islamists.
The Defense Ministry is concerned that US President Barack Obama will cut military aid to Israel in an effort to pressure the new government to take action against illegal outposts and settlement construction, defense officials said.
The officials spoke with The Jerusalem Post ahead of both a visit later this week by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and the Obama administration's anticipated release of the fiscal 2010 budget, which includes funding for foreign aid. "Mitchell is a known opponent of the outposts and the settlements," a senior defense official said. "The Americans may try to use the military aid as a way of pressuring the new government into dismantling outposts and freezing construction in settlements."
Already last week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak held consultations on the matter.
But the Defense Ministry's jitters regarding US military aid were not shared by the Prime Minister's Office or the Finance Ministry.
Officials in the latter two offices said they had not heard of any plans to cut American military aid to Israel, which was set out in a 2007 memorandum of understanding signed by both countries.
It should be noted that the US typically gives Israel little "aid", instead giving loans that are paid back. The aid is mostly technical knowledge and innovation, which often the Israelis want to make themselves, so they will not become dependent.
While US Jews might support Democrats, Israeli Jews have learned how fickle they are.
A gadfly Jewish friend once suggested that if he ever wanted to start a fight at his synagogue, all he would have to do is ask a group if they thought Israel should stop taking US loans, because it is "like heroin".
(Of course, once he started the fight, he would take off.)
Btw it not just equipment. 95% of the Lavi development was paid for by the US taxpayer. Perhaps the feds should sue to get some the the Chinese money. The Chicoms won't be buying treasury bonds forever. Or 90% of the Arrow missile system. Or most of the other weapons that have US technology that even closest allies do not have access to.
Given Baraq Hussein in Washington and Bibi as PM such an outcome approches certainty.
95% of the Lavi development was paid for by the US taxpayer
If you gave the same monye to American company, you'd get zip. If you gave them 10 times the money you'd get something that costs 3 times as much and performs half as well. You think Microsoft and Intel are the only ones who have to rely on imported/offshored brain power?
We also got Israel fighting on the American side in the war on jihadis, ed, instead of no Israel not being a focus of Arab jihadi efforts, splitting the attention devoted to Iraq. These things are not entirely omni-directional, it seems to me... especially given how many effective -- as opposed to claimed -- allies we have in the region. How much do we get for what we pay out to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the P.A., Pakistan, etc and so forth interminably?
Instead we got an enemy warplane crammed with 80's American tech
(a) Lavi contains no "American Tech". If you don't want China to have your technology---don't give it to Pakis.
(b) That enemy is USA #1 trading partner---and, the one who your government hopes will bail you out (Edward, I don't think you realise how deep in shit USA is---and not just economically).
The United States and the LAVI
Airpower Journal Vol. IV, No. 3, (Fall 1990): 34-44. On paper, the Lavi was becoming very similar to the F-16 and F-18. In reality, however, Israel possessed neither the technology nor the capital required for such a project. According to a 1983 General Accounting Office (GAO) study,
Israel will be significantly dependent on US technology and financing for major portions of the aircraft. Israel will also require US approval for the planned third country sales because of the US engine and the significant amount of US origin high technology used in the Lavi's airframe construction, avionics and planned weapons system.13
Examples of this technology include Pratt and Whitney PW1120 engines; graphite epoxy composite materials; electronic countermeasures (ECM) parts; radar-warning receivers and their logarithms; wide-angle, heads-up display; programmable signal-processor emulator; flight-control computer; single-crystal turbine technology; and computer and airframe system.14
By 1983 the estimated research and development (R&D) costs for the Lavi had increased to approximately $1.5 billion, and the cost per aircraft had jumped to $15.5 million.15 At this time, the US began a unique involvement with the Lavi program. Before the project was terminated, the US would set far-reaching precedents in the areas of FMS and technology transfer and would finance over 90 percent of the Lavi's development costs. In 1987, because of the massive outlay of US money on the Lavi, both the GAO and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were commissioned to study the program. GAO estimated the cost per aircraft at $17.8 million and OMB at $22.1 million.16
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers appealed Monday for international action to halt a major offensive against their shrinking territory, but the island's military rejected any talk of a truce.
With rebel forces cornered in the northeast of the island by a massive attack by government forces, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) urged foreign powers to step in and arrange an immediate truce.
"Hurry up! We're getting killed here!"
The LTTE said the United Nations, United States, the European Union, Japan and one-time peace broker Norway had to pressure the Sri Lankan government into accepting a ceasefire "so the miseries of the Tamils ... are brought to an end."
"We also wish to inform the international community that we are ready to discuss, cooperate and work together in all their efforts to bring an immediate ceasefire," LTTE political chief B. Nadesan said in a statement.
But the Sri Lankan military said it would accept nothing short of complete surrender and disarmament. "Our position is they must lay down arms and surrender," said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara. "There is no shift in our position."
The government withdrew from a Norwegian-brokered truce at the start of last year, after accusing the Tigers of using a peace process only to re-arm and consolidate their de facto mini-state in the north of the island.
Subsequent fighting has seen the LTTE lose control over nearly all their territory, including their one-time political capital of Kilinochchi and main military base of Mullaittivu. The Tigers, who are fighting for an independent ethnic Tamil homeland on the Sinhalese-majority island, are now hemmed into a narrow strip of coastal jungle.
The government has vowed to completely defeat the Tigers by April, when the country marks the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
The fighting has stoked concern for tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone, and the government has accused the rebels of holding Tamil civilians as human shields.
The LTTE statement, however, charged that dozens of people were being killed and wounded daily in the relentless bombardment of rebel territory and rejected calls for it to disarm.
"The world should take note that calls for the LTTE to lay down its arms and surrender is not helpful for resolving the conflict," said the statement. "The protection of the Tamil people is dependent on the arms of the LTTE," the Tigers said.
"When a permanent political solution is reached for the Tamil people with the support and the guarantee of the international community, the situation will arise where there will be no need for the arms of the LTTE."
The rebels also appealed for international recognition of their cause. "The international community ... must re-examine our point that an independent state is the only permanent solution to the Tamil-Sinhala conflict," the statement said.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels renewed their call for a ceasefire to allow aid in and civilians out of the conflict zone, but made no mention of stepping in to arrange terms. "The EU is deeply concerned about the evolving humanitarian crisis and vast number of internally displaced people," the group of foreign ministers said.
The government pushed on for outright victory Monday, saying its troops had encircled the village of Puthukkudiriruppu from where the Tigers launched suicide air attacks Friday.
Al-Qaida's No. 2 warned Palestinians in Gaza against accepting a truce with Israel in an audio message posted on extremist Web sites, an Internet monitoring service said Monday.
Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri said Israel's Arab aides are trying to impose a truce in Gaza to defeat the Palestinians and he called on them to be steadfast while Jewish targets are attacked around the world.
"The jihad to liberate Palestine and all the homelands of Islam mustn't cease, and if the field tightens in one place, it widens in other places, and Crusader and Jewish targets are spread all over the world," he said in a transcript of the speech provided by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamic extremist Web sites.
Al-Zawahiri described ongoing negotiations for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip as plots and conspiracies to defeat the Palestinians after Israel's aircraft and artillery failed.
Egypt has been mediating between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers in an effort reach a long-term truce after three weeks of fighting in December and January. Israel attacked the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27 to put a halt to Hamas rocket fire in a campaign that killed nearly 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
Al-Zawahiri said Islamic militants would help the Palestinians by mounting attacks everywhere, for the entire world is our field against the targets of the Zionist Crusade.
The recording, which focused primarily on Islamic militant successes in Somalia, was the third al-Zawahri has posted this year dealing with the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza. The terror network's chief, Osama bin Laden, also issued an audio message on Gaza in January, urging Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel.
Al-Qaida holds little influence among Palestinians but the network's Gaza-related postings are likely meant to harness Muslim anger about the Israeli offensive and direct it against Arab regimes friendly with the Jewish state.
The authenticity of the 25-minute recording could not be independently confirmed, but it was posted on an Islamist militant Web site known as a clearing house for al-Qaida messages.
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.