Sunday, October 7, 2007

[wvns] 20 Taliban Killed in Kandahar Clash: -

Twenty Taliban Killed in Kandahar Clash: -

KANDAHAR Afghanistan - Afghan troops backed by NATO-led forces clashed
with suspected Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan, leaving 20
militants dead, a provincial police chief said Thursday.

The authorities recovered three dead bodies of the militants alongside
numerous weapons after the clash in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar
province late Wednesday, said Kandahar police chief Sayed Agha Saqib.
There were no injuries among Afghan and NATO troops.

Retreating militants took 17 bodies off the battlefield, Saqib said.

NATO officials could not immediately confirm Saqib's account, and said
they were checking the report. The clash could not be independently
verified due to the remoteness of the area where it took place.

In a separate incident, militants attacked a police checkpoint in
Arghistan district, also in Kandahar province, wounding three officers
on Wednesday, Saqib said. There were no report of militant casualties
from that clash.

Violence in Afghanistan has peaked this year, with nearly 5,100 people
killed in suicide bombings, gun battles, airstrikes, and roadside
bombs around the country through the first nine months of the year,
according to an AP count based on figures from Afghan, U.S. and NATO

The number represents a 55 percent increase over the first nine months
of 2006, when the AP count recorded 3,288 insurgency-related deaths.
The AP count recorded 4,019 deaths in all of 2006.

Most of the violence occurred in the country's south, the center of
the resurgent Taliban movement that was ousted from power in the
U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.


Taliban seize Afghan district:

GHAZNI (Afghanistan), Oct 3: Hundreds of Taliban captured a remote
district in Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing two policemen and
driving out the rest, officials said.

Militants separately gunned down two intelligence agency employees,
while another in a rash of suicide bombings targeted Nato troops but
only gave one of them a bump on the head, Afghan and Nato officials said.

The rebels attacked the Ajristan district centre in the province of
Ghazni, about 200 kilometres southwest of Kabul, with artillery and
rocket fire, the interior ministry said.

They torched the main government building, Ghazni police chief General
Alishah Ahmadzai said. Police pulled out in a "tactical move"
following heavy attacks, interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary
said. Two policemen were killed, he said.

"We have sent reinforcements and will retake the district." The
Taliban militia, which has stepped up its campaign against the
government in the past two years, has captured several remote
districts over recent months.

Most have been retaken fairly easily but several parts of southern
Afghanistan are in rebel control.In another attack, militants on
motorbikes shot dead two employees of the National Directorate of
Security – Afghanistan's intelligence agency – in the eastern city of
Khost, said Mirajan, the provincial deputy head of intelligence.

And a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb close to an International
Security Assistance Force convoy in the central town of Tirin Kot,
causing only a bump to the head of an ISAF soldier, an alliance
spokesman said.

The attack in the province of Uruzgan comes a day after a suicide
attack on a police bus in the capital on Tuesday killed 13 people.—AFP


US Military Bombards Targets Inside Pakistan
By Peter Symonds

In an aggressive new step, the US military shelled and destroyed
targets across the Afghan border inside Pakistan on Sunday. While it
has received scant coverage in the American and international media,
the attack foreshadows more extensive US cross-border operations that
have the potential to further destabilise Pakistani President Pervez
Musharraf's uncertain grip on power.

The US-led coalition in Afghanistan issued a statement declaring that
Pakistan had given permission for an attack on Taliban positions
inside its borders. Occupation forces in the eastern province of
Paktika used artillery and mortar fire to destroy six positions—three
inside Afghanistan, and three across the border in Pakistan. According
to the statement, at least 12 insurgents were killed in the barrage.

Pakistani officials emphatically denied giving approval for the
assault. Military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad declared,
"There was no attack [from Pakistan], no firing from our side of the
border. And there was no permission asked by them or given by us."
Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam dismissed further
US claims that Washington had an understanding with Islamabad to allow
cross-border attacks as "speculative and fabricated".

Late Monday, the US military belatedly conceded that no permission had
been given. "We regret the miscommunications in this event," Brigadier
General Joseph Votel, deputy commander of NATO's eastern region,
declared. However, he made no apology for the attack itself and gave
no guarantee that US forces would not engage in further cross-border

The incident follows a series of statements by Bush administration
officials indicating that the US military would take unilateral action
inside Pakistan against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets. Late last month,
Bush's Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend was asked on Fox
News why the US was not sending predator drones and special forces
into Pakistan. "Well, just because we don't speak about things
publicly doesn't mean we're not doing many of the things you're
talking about," she replied.

During a press conference earlier this month, President Bush dodged a
question about seeking Pakistani approval before sending in US troops.
While noting the Pakistani president's past cooperation and shared
concerns about "terrorism", Bush stressed: "I'm confident, with real
actionable intelligence, we will get the job done." US and Afghan
officials had been demanding for months that Musharraf take tougher
action against anti-US insurgents based in Pakistan's tribal areas
along the border with Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that the US military has already taken action inside
Pakistan. An Associated Press report published last week revealed
that, as early as 2004, the rules of engagement for elite US special
forces had authorised "hot pursuit" of anti-occupation fighters into
Pakistan without seeking prior approval from Islamabad. The documents
laid out circumstances in which US troops could penetrate up to 10
kilometres into Pakistani territory. Pakistani villagers have
protested on a number of occasions against US incursions and attacks,
including aerial bombings.

To date, the Bush administration has played down cross-border
operations to minimise the political fall-out for Musharraf, who
confronts widespread domestic opposition over his support for the US
occupation of Afghanistan and the bogus "war on terror". For its part,
the Pakistani regime has trod a fine line: publicly insisting that the
US military observe its borders, while collaborating closely behind
the scenes. The Associated Press article reported that the US military
had established a liaison office in Islamabad that was responsible for
notifying local authorities of US incursions into Pakistan.

US demands for tougher Pakistani action against Islamist militants
have made Musharraf's position even more precarious. Last month's
bloody end to the siege of Islamabad's Red Mosque, or Lal Masjid, in
which more than 100 people were killed, provoked widespread revulsion,
denunciations of Musharraf as an American stooge and calls for his
ousting. Attacks on Pakistani security forces by Islamic extremists
have sharply escalated, with clashes taking place on a daily basis in
tribal border areas. Major General Arshad told the media last Friday
that around 250 militants and 60 troops had died over the previous
month, including in suicide attacks on soldiers and police.

Musharraf is also facing concerted pressure from the major opposition
parties. Exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by
Musharraf in a military coup in 1999, declared he would contest
national elections after the country's Supreme Court ruled last week
that there was no barrier to his return. Another exiled former prime
minister, Benazir Bhutto, has engaged in talks with Musharraf to reach
an arrangement that would enable her to return and take part in elections.

Musharraf is confronting growing demands to step aside as the
country's military commander if he seeks re-election as president. In
the first sign of overt opposition in his own administration, one of
Musharraf's cabinet ministers resigned on Monday and called for him to
step down as head of the army. The dilemma for the increasingly
beleaguered military strongman is that the army will only remain as a
secure base of support if he stays at its head. The fighting in border
areas has already opened up rifts in the army, which has had close
ties to Islamist groups, includes significant numbers of Pashtuns, and
previously backed the Taliban in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan.

US cross-border attacks into Pakistan will only compound Musharraf's
political problems. While the clash on Sunday has been minimised,
Washington has not ruled out further attacks. Faced with a
deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan and the contorted
logic of his "war on terror", President Bush is under pressure to act
against so-called Al Qaeda sanctuaries. Earlier his month, Democratic
presidential contender Barack Obama publicly called for US troops to
move against Al Qaeda forces inside Pakistan—with or without
Islamabad's approval.

Inside Afghanistan, US and coalition troops are confronting a rising
tide of attacks by insurgents as well as widespread popular opposition
to the five years of occupation, which has brought nothing but death
and destruction to large parts of the country. Another five foreign
troops died in fighting on Monday, taking the death toll for the year
to more than 150. The 2007 figure is set to pass last year's toll of
more than 190—the highest since the 2001 invasion.

Last Sunday's attack on alleged Taliban positions inside Pakistan may
indicate the start of more aggressive US interventions, regardless of
the impact on the country's stability. One of the first casualties of
such American action could well be Musharraf, who has been an
important ally in legitimising and prosecuting the Bush
administration's "war on terror".


Pakistan's newest threat: Army officer turns suicide bomber
B Raman
September 14, 2007

According to reliable sources in the local police, a Pashtun army
officer belonging to the elite Special Services Group, whose younger
sister was reportedly among the 300 girls killed during the Pakistan
Army's commando raid on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad between July 10
and 13, blew himself up during dinner at the SSG's headquarters mess
at Tarbela Ghazi, 100 km south of Islamabad, on the night of September
13, killing 19 other officers.

The incident coincided with United States Deputy Secretary of State
John Negroponte's visit to Kabul and Islamabad for talks with leaders
and officials of the two governments.

According to the same sources, the Pashtun army officer belonged to
South Waziristan, but Tarbela Ghazi is not located in the tribal belt.
The SSG, to which General Pervez Musharraf [Images] belonged, was
specially trained by the US Special Forces for covert operations and
for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency duties.

The usually well-informed News of Pakistan reported as follows on
September 14: 'The area where the incident occurred is the
headquarters of the Special Services Group also known as SSG and
Special Operation Task Force of the Pakistan Army. Sources said the
blast was so powerful that it destroyed the Officers Mess. There are
also reports that a company known as Karar of the SSG based in the
area had taken part in the operation on Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa in
Islamabad where hundreds of religious students, including religious
school administrator, Maulana Abdur Rashid Ghazi, were killed.
...There were rumours that CIA personnel were also present in the area
where the blast occurred.'

According to the police sources, a training team of the Central
Intelligence Agency and a team of technical intelligence personnel of
the US National Security Agency were also stationed at Tarbela Ghazi.
The NSA personnel were reportedly running a monitoring station to
intercept communications of Al Qaeda [Images] and the neo-Taliban.

While there are no reports of any American casualties, there have been
rumours that the NSA's monitoring station was badly damaged. It is not
clear whether it was damaged by the impact of the explosion inside the
officers' mess or by a separate explosion.

Pakistani army sources initially projected the incident as due to the
explosion of a cooking gas cylinder. Subsequently, they said it was
caused by a remote-controlled improvised explosive device and then
that it was caused by an unidentified suicide bomber, who drove a
vehicle filled with explosives into the mess at dinner time.

They have not so far admitted that it was actually caused by a Pashtun
officer of the SSG itself and not an outsider. No other details are
available so far.

The daring attack came two days after another attack of suicide
terrorism in which at least 17 people, including three security forces
personnel, were killed and 16 others injured when a 15-year-old Mehsud
suicide bomber blew himself up in a passenger van at Bannu Adda in
Dera Ismail Khan district of the North-West Frontier Province on
September 11.

The Pakistan army has not been able to re-establish its writ over
South and North Waziristan, where the Mehsuds and the Uzbeks
supporting them have been holding in custody 240 members of the
security forces captured by them and have been repeatedly attacking
posts of the army and the Frontier Corps. Repeated use of helicopter
gunships by the army has not had any impact on the various sub-tribes
of Pashtuns, who have been attacking the security forces almost daily.


Musharraf protesters arrested
September 24, 2007

ISLAMABAD — Riot police arrested dozens of opposition activists
protesting against President Pervez Musharraf on Monday as Pakistan's
Supreme Court dismissed three legal challenges to his re-election bid.

However, the court was still weighing seven other petitions arguing
that General Musharraf's dual role as army chief and president is
illegal and that he is ineligible to seek another five-year term.

Opposition parties said hundreds of their members have been arrested
after police began taking their leaders into preventive custody late
Saturday for allegedly planning to foment unrest. Officials imposed a
ban on gatherings of more than five people in the capital.

Ahsan Iqbal, spokesman for the party of exiled former prime minister
Nawaz Sharif, said more than 150 party workers have been arrested in
raids across Punjab province.

"The government is bent upon picking up every opposition man," Mr.
Iqbal said. "All fascist tactics are being used and all the state
machinery is being exploited for the illegitimate rule of one man."

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q party nominated Gen. Musharraf for
the presidency after he offered last week to quit as army chief if he
wins another term as head of state.

Opposition parties claim Gen. Musharraf cannot legally run for office
while still in uniform, and on Friday, an opposition alliance vowed
that its legislators would resign from the assemblies on Sept. 29 to
deny the presidential vote legitimacy. A presidential vote by federal
and provincial legislators is now scheduled for Oct. 6.

Presiding Judge Rana Bhagwandas dismissed, without explanation, two of
the petitions against Gen. Musharraf's bid.

The first was filed by a retired government official arguing that Gen.
Musharraf should step down immediately as president. The judge also
rejected a complaint that the courts had failed to stop a
constitutional amendment in 2003 that allowed Gen. Musharraf to serve
as both president and head of the military. Judge Bhagwandas said it
was too late to address that grievance.

The court is expected to rule later this week on the other petitions,
which include complaints from opposition parties and a lawyers

Also Monday, Pakistan's legal fraternity named the first candidate to
challenge Gen. Musharraf in the vote by federal and provincial

"We have nominated well-respected Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed as our
presidential candidate," Munir Malik, President Supreme Court Bar
Association, told the Associated Press. He is expected to file his
nomination papers Thursday, the same day Gen. Musharraf plans to do

Mr. Ahmed is not seen as a legitimate contender, but his candidacy can
be used to mount further legal challenges.

Roads leading to the court were blocked with barbed wire. TV footage
showed some would-be protesters sprinting away as riot police
approached, but dozens began regrouping later, punching their fists in
the air as they chanted slogans against the president.

Police arrested about 30 who congregated a few hundred yards from the
court shouting anti-Musharraf slogans. "The U.S. government hired a
dog in uniform," protesters shouted, referring to Gen. Musharraf's
alliance with Washington.

Detainees were bundled into police vehicles. Others were chased off by
police down the road, away from the court.

The government threw a chill into the opposition movement with the
crackdown. In addition to the leaders arrested in police sweeps
Saturday night in Islamabad, others who were targeted went into
hiding, calling the detentions a sign of desperation by the president.

"The government has ordered the arrests of opposition leaders because
they were threatening [to create] a law and order problem in the
capital," Deputy Information Minister Sen. Tariq Azim told the
Associated Press on Sunday, confirming the detention of "five or six"
senior figures in the opposition coalition, the All Parties Democratic

"Nobody will be allowed to take the law into their own hands," Mr.
Azim said.

The sweeps mirrored tactics used to ensure no crowds turned out to
welcome Mr. Sharif when he tried to return from exile two weeks ago.
Hundreds of opposition activists were briefly jailed to prevent them
reaching Islamabad's airport. Mr. Sharif was swiftly expelled to Saudi

Gen. Musharraf's popularity and power have eroded since his botched
effort to fire the Supreme Court's chief justice earlier this year.
His administration is also struggling to contain a surge in Islamic

Gen. Musharraf has called for moderate political forces to unite to
defeat extremism and has held talks on a possible power-sharing deal
with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who has vowed to return
home Oct. 18 after eight years of self-imposed exile.



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