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Islamic World News (16 Dec 2009 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Somnath temple, Bollywood and Shiv Sena leaders on LeT hit list: FBI

Muslim students brilliant in Sanskrit

China calls 22 Muslims Uighurs seeking asylum 'criminals'

Pakistan market blast 'kills at least 22'

Military Victory in South Waziristan or the Beginning of a Long War?

Transnational Terror Plots Expose Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Global Reach

Jihadis Debate Growing Rift Between al-Qaeda and the Taliban

Terror alert after suicide bombers enter India

Rana knew well in advance about Mumbai attacks: FBI

Liberhan report high on agenda of Muslim Law Board Lucknow meet on Dec. 20

Kashmir shutdown in protest at 'cover-up' of deaths

Muharram 1st paid public holiday for private sector workers

15 rebels, 5 soldiers die in Pak clashes

Bomb blast 'kills 16' in central Pakistani town

Suicide bomb hits Afghan capital

Leicester man tore a Muslim woman's veil

Markets rejoice: Abu Dhabi to aid Dubai

“Pakistan Army, CIA threat to government”

Omar sees democratization of foreign policy

Pakistan rebuffs US on Taliban crackdown: NYT

Trouble for Gafoor, clean chit for Maria

‘No plans to hold talks with rebels’

CBI rules out murder, rape in Shopian deaths

Iranian jailed in US for arms trafficking plot

Terrorism: Muslim families as first line of defense

Jail guard assisted in Basilan jailbreak – report

Al-Qaida No. 2 blasts Obama, honors 9/11 suspect

Muslims In 21st Century America: Home Grown Terrorism

Ten killed in Philippine clashes: military

Caucasus Muslims Office chairman calls on Sunni and Shia to perform azan together

Fatwa on beginning of Muharram month issued in Azerbaijan

Serbia charges former Bosnian Serb officer with war crimes

Muslim Americans' arrests add to concerns

Fashion chain’s Christmas trees unfashionable in Israel

Taliban Predict President Obama’s “Colonial Strategy” Will Lead To American Collapse

New Hezbollah Manifesto Emphasizes Political Role in a United Lebanon

“Obama’s Choice”: The Afghan-Pakistan Dilemma

Compiled By: New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/somnath-temple,-bollywood-and-shiv-sena-leaders-on-let-hit-list--fbi/d/2226

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Somnath temple, Bollywood and Shiv Sena leaders on LeT hit list: FBI

15 December 2009

WASHINGTON: In a new disclosure, the FBI has said that the famous Somnath temple in Gujarat, Bollywood stars and Shiv Sena leaders in Mumbai were also the targets of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was planning to carry out strikes with the help of two Chicago-based residents of Pakistani origin.

These three possible LeT targets were revealed for the first time by the FBI in a footnote to the fresh evidence and chargesheet submitted by it against Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana, the terror suspect whose bail plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in a Chicago court.

Earlier, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had said that the National Defence College in New Delhi was on the hit list of LeT.

"In the September 7, 2009 conversation, Headley discussed four targets with Rana - Somnath (a temple in India) and Denmark, Bollywood (a reference to the Indian film industry) and Shiv Sena (a political party in India with roots in Hindu nationalism)," the FBI said in a foot note on page nine of the 10-page fresh affidavit.

"In his post-arrest statement, Rana falsely claimed that these were references to potential business ventures. It is difficult to imagine why a person who praises the work of a designated terrorist group that attacks India would look at an Indian temple or a Hindu nationalist party as a business venture," the FBI noted.

"It bears note that, as set out in the complaint, 'business' and 'investments' were code words used by Rana, David Coleman Headley (Pakistani-origin American terror suspect has been charged for plotting Mumbai terror attacks), "Pasha" (a retired Pakistani Army Brigadier) and others to describe terrorist plots," the FBI said.

The Somnath temple, located on the western coast of Gujarat, is the most sacred of the twelve Jyotirlings (lingas of light) of the God Shiva and is a revered pilgrimage center.

The FBI said in his September seven conversation with Headley, Rana discussed the National Defense College in India as a "target".

"Headley added this target to their list of previously discussed targets, saying 'sorry not four, five,' and identified the 'defence college'. Rana responded, 'right, this is it, I knew already'," the investigating agency said.

"Rana said he 'thought it is the target' using the English word 'target'. Headley explained that he would ask LeT Member A to 'do that first' (attack the Defence College). Rana responded affirmatively, 'in this matter, do the defence," the FBI said in the affidavit.

"After Headley stated that 'we' would use LeT Member A to carry out the attack on the Defence College, Rana again offered praise for Let Member A and the terror outfit: 'they should be really commended. I appreciate them from my heart'," the FBI said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Somnath-temple-Bollywood-and-Shiv-Sena-leaders-on-LeT-hit-list-FBI/articleshow/5338790.cms

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Muslim students brilliant in Sanskrit

BIRATNAGAR, Dec 15: Samsil Mahamad two years ago passed SLC in first division for which his covetous 70 marks in Sanskrit contributed significantly. Now he is doing his +2 in education faculty at Adarsha Higher Secondary School in Biratnagar.

"My family had pressed me to study Kuran but intense interest in Sanskrit led me to take on education," he said. "Initially I found it hard to pronounce Sanskrit. However, I am now quite used to."

Gyatri Sanskrit Secondary School, where Samsud studied himself, at Saraswoti Tole has now 24 Muslim students studying Sanskrit.

The school has been witnessing an increased flow of students from Muslim community to study Sanskrit. The 12-year-old Subeda Khatun of class six received this scribe there on Monday, saying ´Bhabanatam Atra Swagatam Bartate´--you are welcome. "Though I am from Muslim Community, I feel comfortable to understand studying in Sanskrit," she said.

The school, which stipulates Sanskrit as a compulsory subject, acquires students from a wide range of communities like Muslim, Tharu, Rajbanshi, Khatwae, Paswan, Magar and Tamang in contrary to a general trend of only Brahmins following this ancient language of eastern civilization. "Brahmins and Chhetris rather do not seem to prefer studying Sanskrit," said Kishor Acharya, a teacher at the school.

For Chakrapani Upadhya, a Sanskrit teacher, it is a matter of gratification that Muslim families readily send their children to study something beyond their religious sphere.

Sanskrit covers 150 full marks under two titles--linguistics and grammar-- in lower secondary level and 200 marks for secondary level of which the 100 mark Sanskrit Literature is an option.

http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=12912

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China calls 22 Muslims Uighurs seeking asylum 'criminals'

By CARA ANNA

2009-12-15

China alleged Tuesday that 22 Muslim Uighurs who fled to Cambodia after deadly ethnic rioting this summer are criminals and said they should not be granted asylum.

The Uighurs were smuggled out of China with the help of a secret network of missionaries and Chinese Christians, according to missionaries who helped them. They arrived in Cambodia in recent weeks and have applied for asylum at the U.N. refugee agency office in Phnom Penh.

"These people are involved in crimes," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a press conference, without giving any evidence.

The U.N. refugee program "should not be a haven for criminals," Jiang said.

The ethnic rioting in July between Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese was China's worst communal violence in decades. The Chinese government says the violence left nearly 200 people, mostly Han, dead.

Overseas Uighur groups say Uighurs have been rounded up in mass detentions since the violence. China has handed down at least 17 death sentences over the rioting.

Ilshat Hassan, the U.S.-based director of interior affairs for the World Uyghur Congress, has said the 22 Uighurs are the first large group to leave China after the riots, and they fear they will be returned by Cambodia, which has close ties with China.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Chinese Embassy sent the ministry a note about the Uighurs last week, but he said he didn't know what was in it. The Cambodian government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will conduct a new round of interviews to see if the Uighurs qualify for refugee status, he said.

Earlier this month, Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the country has the right to deny a deportation request if the people involved are political asylum seekers, but "if they are purely criminal people and there is a request, we may deport them."

Kitty McKinsey, a UNHCR spokeswoman at the agency's regional office in Bangkok, said Tuesday that it does not discuss individual cases. She described its mission as "to protect any people in the world who cannot receive protection from their own government."

"Sometimes the UNHCR and the government have a dispute over the kind of people in need of protection," she said.

http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1133306&lang=eng_news

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Pakistan market blast 'kills at least 22'

15 December 2009

Aftermath of the attack in Dera Ghazi Khan

At least 22 people have been killed in a bomb attack in a market in central Pakistan, officials say.

About 50 others were wounded in the blast in Dera Ghazi Khan, which badly damaged a number of buildings.

TV footage showed rescuers struggling to reach people trapped in debris. Officials say the target may have been a provincial official, who was unhurt.

Pakistan has recently been hit by a string of attacks that have left hundreds of people dead or injured.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says Dera Ghazi Khan lies close to the region where Pakistan's army is carrying out an offensive against the Taliban.

The government has said that that operation has gone well but many Pakistanis fear the militants have simply escaped to neighbouring towns and cities like Dera Ghazi Khan, where they will continue to cause chaos.

Police believe Tuesday's blast was caused by a car bomb.

"The whole market has collapsed," Raza Khan, a local resident, told the Associated Press news agency. "There is smoke and people running here and there."

Heavy machinery, including cranes and bulldozers, are being used to move large chunks of concrete from the scene of the blast, amid fears that people may be trapped underneath.

An emergency has been declared at all local hospitals.

District health officer Dr Pervez Haider Altaf told AFP news agency that people were frantically searching for survivors.

"The hospital in the town has been crowded by people looking for their relatives. Rescue efforts are still going on," he said.

Dera Ghazi Khan deputy police inspector Gen Mubarak Ali Athar, visiting the site, said it may have been a suicide attack.

The house of a senior provincial government adviser, Zulfiqar Khosa, was damaged in the blast but he was not among the injured, officials said.

Our correspondent says Mr Khosa recently presided over a meeting of religious leaders that had declared suicide-bombing un-Islamic.

Mr Khosa's son, Dost Mohammad Khosa, told AP the bombing was "a direct attack on us" and that two of his cousins were injured.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8413579.stm

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Military Victory in South Waziristan or the Beginning of a Long War?

Imtiaz Ali

There is hardly any doubt regarding the critical importance of the military operation in Pakistan’s troubled South Waziristan tribal agency, which is considered to be the epicenter of jihad and the nerve center of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and their allies. The latest military operation started in mid-October and has been widely described as successful in capturing most of the TTP bases in the difficult terrain along the Afghanistan border. After years of setbacks and failures in containing the rising power of the militants, Pakistan’s military has finally managed to dismantle militant bases in this critically important region, famous for its rebel movements and legendary tales of resistance. To encourage his soldiers, Pakistan’s military chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, went in person to advanced positions in Waziristan. Pakistan’s western allies, who have long been critical of its military performance against Taliban militants, have also shown appreciation for Pakistan’s military performance. Even President Obama mentioned the Waziristan military offensive in his much talked about December 1 speech on America’s Afghanistan policy at the U.S. military academy at West Point, in which he referred to extremist militants as a “common threat” to both the United States and Pakistan.

Pakistan recently announced that its military has completed the offensive in the tribal region of South Waziristan and that military operations may now be expanded to the Orakzai Tribal Agency, where many Taliban commanders are thought to be hiding. However, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani quickly backed away from this announcement, describing the operations as “ongoing” (BBC, December 12).

The success achieved by Pakistani forces in South Waziristan is vitally important to the country’s lingering war against terrorism. The Waziristan counterterrorism model could be applied to other areas where the Taliban have strongholds and wreak havoc on the lives of innocent people. However, the latest wave of terror attacks clearly demonstrate that merely disrupting the Taliban bases does not mean that the strategy has worked. In fact, it seems the Taliban have successfully expanded their war beyond the mountains of South Waziristan. They are claiming responsibility for many of the latest attacks, most notably the attack targeting senior officers in the Pakistan Army while they were praying in a highly secure mosque in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. This attack revealed that the fight against Taliban militants is far from won, and the Taliban suicide squad is still intact (Dawn [Karachi], December 5).

“The Path to Salvation”

While highlighting the importance of this offensive, Pakistani officials said that the military operation in Waziristan is a war for the country’s existence and will continue to a logical end: the complete elimination of militants (The News [Islamabad], October 21). Code-named Rah-e-Nejat (Path to Salvation), the operation was launched on October 17 after months of preparation that involved amassing nearly 30,000 troops near the South Waziristan agency and shelling of the Mahsud tribes in order to weaken the Taliban position. In the full-fledged offensive, Pakistani forces not only started using heavy weaponry, but also fighter jets and helicopter gunships. Initial reports suggested that the government’s 30,000 soldiers were taking part in the operation against what officials described as 10,000 hardcore militants. This number included between 1,000 to 1,500 foreign fighters, mostly Uzbeks (Dawn, October 18). Military officials have said that more than 600 militants and 70 security personnel have been killed in the six-week long military operation (The News, November 30).

Many analysts quickly described this much-awaited operation as the “mother of all battles,” saying tough resistance from the militant side would provide the army with its greatest challenge yet (Daily Times [Islamabad] October 8). Many also referred to the setbacks faced by Pakistani forces in this region since the start of the current insurgency in 2003-2004. Besides dozens of minor clashes and skirmishes, the three major previous operations in the South Waziristan tribal agency in 2004, 2005 and 2008 all ended in embarrassment for the Pakistani forces, leading the government to resort to controversial “peace deals.” Unfortunately, all these so-called peace deals not only provided the militants with a respite, but also helped them in strengthening and re-organizing themselves (Dawn, October 18).

Several events paved the way for the Pakistani Army’s operation in South Waziristan. First was the successful military offensive earlier this year in the Swat Valley against militants led by a local radical cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, which served as a morale booster for the military and inspired confidence in the people. The Swat Valley was taken over by Fazlullah’s forces and they implemented a strict version of Shari’a based on the Afghan Taliban government of the mid-90s. Second, the killing of Baitullah Mahsud in an August 5 American drone attack led officials to believe the time would be ripe for a military offensive while the TTP were mourning the death of their leader. A final catalyst was the spectacular attack on the Army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi in October that left 20 people dead. The Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for the attack on the GHQ, Pakistan’s Pentagon, in which ten gunmen disguised as soldiers infiltrated the heavily guarded building (Daily Times [Lahore], October 13).The attack left the civilian and military leadership with no choice but to go after the TTP and target their main hub in South Waziristan (The News [Islamabad] October 20).

As was the case in the Swat military operation, there was again strong public support for the offensive in South Waziristan. For the first time, the Swat military operation was seen by the local people as Pakistan’s own offensive, not something done at the behest of the United States. A day before the launching of the Waziristan operation, the military leadership received significant political support from all of the mainstream political parties - ruling as well as opposition – except the pro-Taliban religious parties.

The Waziristan offensive was a much more difficult campaign with many more casualties than the Swat operation earlier this year. Surprisingly, Pakistani forces easily captured some important places like Makeen, Sararogha, Laddah, Kunigaram and Kotkai in four weeks without any tough resistance. These areas once made up the stronghold of the slain TTP commander, Baitullah Mahsud.

TTP Leadership Has Survived

Few military operations have received as much advance “publicity” as the South Waziristan offensive. Military strategists usually want to capture the enemy off guard. In South Waziristan’s case, the first formal, well-publicized statement came in June from the governor of the North-West Frontier Province, Owais Ghani, when he announced the government had finally decided to go all out against the Pakistani Taliban and its leader. There were warnings from many different quarters that a delay in the operation could provide the opportunity for militants, particularly the TTP leadership, to leave for Afghanistan or slip into other areas of Pakistan. In fact, there were strong voices in favor of a quick military operation while the Taliban were on the run after the military’s success in Swat.

Now that the first phase of the military operation in Waziristan is almost complete, with the major towns captured and officials claiming to dismantle militant’s bases, it is clear that top TTP leaders have survived and successfully managed to escape to other secure regions. This includes the movement’s current leader, Hakimullah Mahsud, and his top lieutenant, Wali-ur-Rahman. It is not obvious where they have gone, but it is quite clear that they have unleashed a fresh wave of terror by sending their suicide squads across the country.

The official story is that the three-month operation was meant to blockade the Mahsud tribal territory to stop the flow of TTP supplies and to provide an opportunity for the local civilian population to leave the region. Since the Army was still maintaining order in parts of the Swat Valley with a troop presence of 20,000 soldiers, the government did not want to open another front immediately and delayed the Waziristan operation (Daily Times, July 21). The Waziristan operation may not ensure peace in the region because the TTP leadership is still at large. It is likely that militants retreated to their hideouts in secure regions where they can easily regroup and launch a guerilla war with terrorist attacks across the country (Daily Times, November 8).

Conclusion

The mountainous border region of South Waziristan is of critical importance not only to Pakistan’s struggle against militancy, but also for the U.S-led war on terror in the region, soon to be reinforced by 30,000 more U.S troops in Afghanistan. It was South Waziristan where the current insurgency began in 2003-2004, and it was this same region which gave birth to the Pakistani Taliban phenomenon that later expanded to other parts of the tribal region, finally culminating in the formation of the TTP in December 2007 under the leadership of Baitullah Mahsud. The region has been under the control of militants who have used this space not only for terrorist acts inside Pakistan but also for staging attacks across the border in Afghanistan. Terrorists were openly trained here and suicide bombers, mostly teenage boys, were trained and indoctrinated in these mountains. At times, South Waziristan also served as a nerve center for the militants’ poisonous propaganda against the Pakistani state and the United States and its allies (The News, Islamabad, October 23).

All this makes the physical occupation of South Waziristan by the Pakistani forces a major success, particularly after years of setbacks and embarrassments which included losing military posts, the surrender of troops to the TTP and failed peace deals with the militants. The jihadis have lost control of Waziristan, but they have successfully taken the war into the more secure urban areas of Pakistan, where they have been able to carry out terrorist strikes on the civilian population. The South Waziristan operation could be just the beginning of a long and difficult war.

Imtiaz Ali is a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C.

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Transnational Terror Plots Expose Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Global Reach

Animesh Roul

The two day visit of American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials on December 8 to brainstorm with their Indian counterparts in the newly established National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other Indian security agencies provided a much needed thrust to the slow-paced Mumbai terror investigations. The investigating agencies of both countries reportedly shared intelligence to establish the missing link between last year’s terror events in Mumbai and the recently foiled Lashkar-e-Taiba Chicago plot. The NIA was formed in response to last year’s Mumbai attack to deal with terrorism-related threats.

The Chicago Conspiracy

Two suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives, Pakistan-born U.S. citizen David Coleman Headley (a.k.a. Daood Gilani) and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana were arrested in Chicago for allegedly plotting to launch attacks on major landmarks in India and Denmark, using U.S. territory as their base. Headley was arrested on October 3 by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, while Rana was arrested on October 18 in Chicago (Chicago Tribune, October 27).

The latest LeT plot targeted vital landmarks, installations and elite boarding schools in India, including the National Defense College in New Delhi, the Doon School in Dehradun and the Woodstock School in Mussoorie. It has also been reported that the suspects planned to target American and Israeli nationals in India and were involved in plotting last year’s Mumbai terror attacks at the behest of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Pakistan-based leadership.

According to the FBI investigation into the Chicago case, Headley visited Pakistan a number of times in the past and was constantly in touch with his LeT handlers through email. He also attended several LeT training camps in the past decade. Headley was reportedly planning to travel to Pakistan in the near future to meet Ilyas Kashmiri, the chief of the Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), based in Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK). Headley reportedly used the code-name “Pir Sahib” when referring to Ilyas Kashmiri. In the Kashmir jihadi world, however, Syed Salauddin, leader of the Kashmiri Hizbul Mujahideen organization and the United Jihad Council, is known as “Pir Sahib.” It seems Salauddin is one of Headley’s handlers, but Headley might be trying to waylay a connection to him by keeping the investigation focused on Ilyas Kashmiri alone to save his real mentor. Kashmiri narrowly escaped death in a September missile attack and is closely associated with Syed Salauddin.

The email communications revealed that a LeT mastermind in Pakistan placed a higher priority on using Headley to assist in planning a new attack in India than on completing the planned attack in Denmark, designed to target the facilities of the Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper which carried cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. The Denmark plot was codenamed “Mickey Mouse” by the suspects (Reuters, December 2).

Headley has been charged with 12 counts of conspiracy to “bomb public places in India, murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, provide material support to Lashkar and aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India” (Hindustan Times, December 7). Headley was also charged for providing material support to LeT and for conducting extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai preceding the November 2008 terrorist attacks (Press Release, US Department of Justice, December 7; Wall Street Journal, December 7). Headley traveled to Mumbai five times in less than three years, the last trip being in July 2008. He carried out video surveillance of locations including the Jewish Chabad House, two luxury hotels, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and many other public places. The FBI charges suggest Headley met with other Pakistan-based co-conspirators and discussed sea-routes and potential landing sites.

Military Connections?

The ongoing FBI probe has included a retired Pakistani army officer, identified as Major Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (a.k.a. Pasha). Abdur Rehman was one of two Pakistan-based terrorist leaders mentioned by Headley who helped him in his frequent trips to Pakistan by providing local logistics. In February, the FBI sought access to another accused in the Mumbai terror events presently under Mumbai police custody, Fahim Arshad Ansari, in connection with ongoing investigations related to the Mumbai terror events. (Indian Express, February 1). Fahim’s lawyers attempted to prevent FBI questioning on the grounds that there was no legal provision that would allow a foreign agency the opportunity to interrogate prisoners within India. Their efforts failed and the FBI was given access, though Fahim later alleged sexual harassment by a female FBI officer that caused him “severe itching and wounds on his body, including his private parts” (Hindustan Times, February 9; Indian Express, February 10). Other than Headley, Fahim is also accused of carrying out pre-attack reconnaissance for the LeT.

Information on Abdur Rehman surfaced during the investigations and he was charged in a Chicago court on December 7 on two counts of conspiring to commit terrorist acts. The other LeT accomplice is yet to be identified (Times of India, December 8, Indian Express, December 8; The News [Islamabad], December 9). The other unidentified Lashkar mastermind could be the Lahore-based Sajid Mir, another former major in the Pakistani army.

It is also suspected that Rehman facilitated Headley’s communications with Ilyas Kashmiri and other Pakistani terror leaders. According to Headley’s email records, Abdur Rehman was arrested by Pakistani authorities in the summer of 2009 and later released. Pakistan army spokesman Athar Abbas recently indicated that no serving officer has been detained in the case and denied reports of the involvement of five other army officers, including two serving Colonels and a retired Brigadier questioned in late November 2009 (Daily Times [Lahore], November 25). However, Abbas has admitted the news of a retired army Major’s arrest for his alleged links with two Chicago terror suspects.

From Denmark to Mumbai

Meanwhile, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Mumbai Police are now planning to file a supplementary charge sheet against David Headley and Tahawwur Rana for involvement in the 26/11 attacks (Economic Times [New Delhi], December 9). The NIA has sought details of Headley's links with people in India, including his association with Indian nationals Rahul Bhat and Vilas Varak, as well as some diplomats and business personalities who allegedly helped Headley in India (Mumbai Mirror, December 9).

Headley made his first appearance in a Chicago court on December 9, where he denied his connection with last year’s Mumbai attacks and the plot against Jyllands-Posten. Now India is awaiting the next hearing scheduled on January 12, 2010. The FBI is planning to send a team to Pakistan before then as part of the ongoing investigation into links with the Chicago terror plot. Pakistan, however, has kept silent over the whole LeT-Chicago conspiracy until now.

LeT spokesperson Abdullah Muntazir (a.k.a. Gazhnavi) has denied the organization’s presence in the United States and refuted any links with Headley and Rana. The same Gazhnavi who had denied any LeT role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks indicated in his latest conversations with media that “LeT cadres are only fighting Indian security forces in ‘Indian-held Kashmir,’ not elsewhere” (Dawn, November 23; Daily Times, December 1). In fact, LeT has plotted against India from its overseas cells in the past. In June 2003, the FBI arrested at least seven Lashkar sympathizers or would-be terrorists from in and around the Washington D.C. region for providing material support to LeT (Indian Express, June 28, 2003).

LeT Targets the U.S. and Indian Missions in Bangladesh

Muntazir’s denial of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s external agenda notwithstanding, LeT has also plotted another round of attacks in Bangladesh, targeting the U.S. Embassy and the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. Investigating agencies in Bangladesh said that a Pakistan-based LeT commander identified as Abdur Rahman Saeed had transferred Bangladesh Taka (BDT) 6 million ($86,000) to one Faizullah for the attack on the U.S. Embassy and Indian High Commission. A string of arrests were made in Bangladesh following information provided by arrested LeT militants from Chittagong in early November. Bangladesh police detained Mufti Harun Izahar, Shahidul Islam and al-Amin (a.k.a. Saiful) on November 4 for their suspected link with a plot to attack the U.S. embassy and Indian high commission in Dhaka (Daily Star [Dhaka], November 23). A fortnight after the first round of arrests in Bangladesh, police arrested a LeT operative and alleged terrorist mastermind identified as Mohammad Motalem (a.k.a. Majnu) from Dhaka’s Motijheel precinct. According to Monirul Islam, the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Dhaka Detective Branch, Majnu has confessed to recruiting LeT operatives in Bangladesh and arranging their passage to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan (Daily Star, November 23).

Conclusion

After lying low for a while subsequent to the Mumbai episode, the LeT’s undiminished desire to launch transnational operations has reemerged. The two recently foiled Chicago and Bangladesh plots have exposed Lashkar-e-Taiba’s transnational character and reach not only in South Asia or the Middle East, but also in Western nations such as the United States. Undoubtedly, any audacious mass casualty attack on India, Denmark or the U.S. embassy in Dhaka would guarantee Lashkar-e-Taiba a position parallel to al-Qaeda in the international terrorism arena. These failed plots prove that the LeT aspires to a global reach and may have the capability to launch large-scale attacks on foreign soil beyond South Asia.

Animesh Roul is the Executive Director of Research at the New Delhi-based Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict (SSPC).

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Jihadis Debate Growing Rift Between al-Qaeda and the Taliban

Abdul Hameed Bakier

Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s statement on the occasion of the end of Ramadan festivities, published in al-Somod Islamic e-magazine, was seen by many Salafi-Jihadi forum participants as a retreat from true Salafi-Jihadi practices and a sign of unacceptable moderation and concession to the United States and the Western world in general (alsomod.org, September 19). Jihadi forum members discussed Mullah Omar’s Eid statement in anticipation of a major rift between al-Qaeda and the Taliban (muslm.net November 25).

The most contentious points in Mullah Omar’s statement from a Salafi-Jihadi perspective are as follows:

• The Mullah promises social reforms. “We would like to say, we are victims of the black propaganda of the enemy media. This has created doubts between us and a number of countries of the world. They have wrongly depicted us as a force being against education and women’s rights.” The Salafi-Jihadis of al-Qaeda, as the name suggests, represent an ideology that regards any reform as deviation from the true path of the Salaf, the pious first three generations of Muslims.

• Mullah Omar’s determination to hold Taliban members accountable for wrongful behavior and the liquidation of rogue elements within the movement also applies to al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan, for the latter are obliged to abide by the Muslim Amir’s rulings. The directive would strain al-Qaeda’s freedom to conduct terrorist operations. The Islamic Emirate “obliges all mujahideen to strictly observe the rules and regulations so that all mujahideen will continue to wage jihad as sincere sons of the country for the prosperity of the masses under the framework of Islamic Shari’a …The Islamic Emirate considers the purge of its ranks and self-accountability an everlasting and necessary obligation.”

• Mullah Omar’s emphasis on international norms and his promises to establish friendly bilateral relations with other nations and respect the sovereignty of its neighbors are in stark contrast with al-Qaeda’s global war against “Jews and Crusaders.” According to the Mullah, “We consider the whole region as a common home against colonialism and want to play our role in the peace and stability of the region. We assure all countries that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as a responsible force, will not extend its hand to cause jeopardy to others as it itself does not allow others to jeopardize us.”

• Islam rejects extremism. The Taliban is only concerned with expelling foreign troops from Afghanistan.

However, parts of the statement appear to contradict Mullah Omar’s remarks regarding Osama bin Laden. The Mullah argues that his decision to grant Bin Laden safe haven was based on principles. The opposing parties should have expressed their point in a logical manner without provocations. “Afghan ethics and religion forbid us from extraditing Bin Laden. The man participated with us in jihad against the Soviets and spent his money helping us and our Muslim jihadi guests. They are all welcome as long as they respect our traditions and law,” says the Mullah (al-Somod, November 5; muslm.net, November 13).

A debate in one of the jihadi forums was triggered by a posting entitled “Al-Qaeda’s agenda is different than that of the Taliban’s Mullah Omar” (muslm.net November 25). A forum member, nicknamed “Asif al-Zubay,” said the Taliban’s first and last mission is to rid Afghanistan of U.S. occupation and extend the Taliban’s control over all Afghanistan as well as win the support of Islamic countries. “This is a clear indication the Taliban agenda is shifting away from al-Qaeda’s global war strategy against Islamic and non-Islamic countries,” says al-Zubay. Other chatters criticized Mullah Omar for declaring the Taliban’s intention to recognize Islamic countries after the liberation of Afghanistan, contradicting the Salafi-Jihadi/al-Qaeda principle of not recognizing the “infidel-ruled” Arab and Islamic states. “We must not look for excuses for what the Mullah said. The Mullah and the Taliban leaders must know that we are angry and denounce his stated shift in policy. We demand that the Mullah apologize or renounce the statement. We expect Shaykh Osama to denounce the statement as well,” said one jihadi forum member whose style of Arabic suggests Iraqi origins.

Other more realistic jihadi forum members do not believe that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are two sides of the same coin, and doubt that Mullah Omar will ever rule Afghanistan again. Even if the Taliban forces the Coalition to withdraw, that would be a big setback for al-Qaeda, which has failed so far to bring the Taliban to Salafism. The Taliban eventually realized its entire misfortune stems from al-Qaeda and the safe haven extended to Osama bin Laden. Having learnt this lesson, Mullah Omar will no longer allow any actions that would harm the sovereignty of Afghanistan. If the Taliban prevails, al-Qaeda will have to either obey the Amir or, most probably, in some other members’ opinion, break ranks and fight Taliban rule. In case the Coalition leaves Afghanistan, al-Qaeda still has the religious justification to maintain an international terror campaign in the guise of “offensive jihad.” Forum members concluded that al-Qaeda and the Taliban differ in the following areas: political agenda; strategies; military techniques; and prospects for the future, as al-Qaeda does not appear to have any future plans. Moreover, the terrorist activities of al-Qaeda have not only led to the collapse of the nascent Islamic state in Afghanistan, but were a disservice to the Muslim cause all over the world.

Optimistic Salafi-Jihadi chatters believe the Taliban and al-Qaeda enjoy a cooperative relationship. Al-Qaeda works globally, whereas the Taliban offer an incubator for the group and a refuge for Muslims in general. Taliban Afghanistan is a safe haven and a launch pad that will lead to an eventual bright future for Muslims. Afghanis’ love for Islam and Arabs is genuine, as is evident from their sacrifices for Arabs on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

The impact of Mullah Omar’s statement still echoes in jihadi circles and forums. If the Mullah’s policy revisions prove to be genuine, al-Qaeda’s operations would be disrupted significantly. If the attempts of al-Qaeda supporters to mitigate the repercussions of Mullah Omar’s statement fail, Mullah Omar might become, in al-Qaeda’s eyes, the “Shaykh Sharif” of Afghanistan. [1]

Abdul Hameed Bakier is an intelligence expert on counter-terrorism, crisis management and terrorist-hostage negotiations. He is based in Jordan.

Notes:

1. Somalia’s Islamist president, Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmad, was formerly a co-chairman of the Islamic Courts Union and commander of the Alliance to Re-liberate Somalia (ARS). Since joining the government, he has been roundly denounced by both al-Qaeda and the al-Qaeda influenced al-Shabaab movement, which has tried several times to kill him.

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Terror alert after suicide bombers enter India

15 December 2009

NEW DELHI: ‘Pashtun-looking’ suicide bombers, trained by Taliban, have entered India and are positioned in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and a couple of

cities in Gujarat to carry out LeT’s plan to launch a fresh wave of attacks in coming days, security agencies have said.

Though the exact number of fidayeen who entered India is not yet clear, Indian agencies have come across inputs stating that suicide squads have already been in touch with their facilitators - who entered India as an advance party - for necessary logistics for the operations.

An official said, “It is possible that one or two suicide bombers could be positioned in each of the cities, which are on terror radar. They have been trained by Taliban and pushed into India by LeT.”

The suicide bombers’ targets include BARC, Trombay; Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and Siv Sena Bhavan in Mumbai; American consulate and sea port in Kolkata; RSS headquarters in Nagpur; National Defence College in Delhi, and some defence establishments and civilian targets in other cities including Ahmedabad.

Indian agencies have got the inputs from FBI, which got the details from US-based terrorist David Coleman Headley during his interrogation.

After being tipped off by FBI, the home ministry has now alerted Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi and Gujarat asking them to beef up security of all such installations and high-risk individuals - like Narendra Modi and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray - and remain fully vigilant.

The official said states had also been asked to keep watch on soft and potential targets and intensify patrolling, especially at airports, railway stations, bus terminus and hotels. He said the inputs also suggested that terrorists were ‘‘Pashtun-looking’’ and drawn from Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. A few days before the terrorists’ entry, some of their ‘‘facilitators’’ had visited different cities for recce and to provide information, the official said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Terror-alert-after-suicide-bombers-enter-India/articleshow/5336480.cms

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Rana knew well in advance about Mumbai attacks: FBI

15 December 2009

Pakistan-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana "knew well in advance" about the deadly Mumbai terror attacks, blamed on Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taeba (LeT), and offered congratulations to the killers, according to "fresh evidence" filed by the FBI.

In papers filed in federal court in Chicago Monday, prosecutors said Rana, who was arrested last month along with another Pakistani-American terror suspect David Headley, learned an attack was about to happen while travelling in Dubai days before the Nov 26, 2008 attack on India's financial hub.

Rana, 48, a Canadian citizen who is charged with providing material support to terrorists, told Headley, 49, after the Mumbai attacks to pass along his congratulations to the terrorist group for its excellent planning and preparation, prosecutors said.

"Rana was told of the attacks before they happened and offered compliments and congratulations to those who carried them out afterwards," Assistant US Attorney Daniel Collins wrote in the court filing.

Refuting Rana's claims that he believed in non-violence and that his beliefs are akin to those of Mahatma Gandhi, prosecutors said: "Ironically, in invoking the name of a man who embodied the principles of non-violence and speaking the truth, Rana seeks to mislead this court as to the extent of his admiration and support for mass murderers," federal prosecutors said.

"Even if one were to credit Rana's false post-arrest claim that his compliments were directed to 'one of the main planners' for LeT - a designated terrorist organisation - only related to attacks in Kashmir, it is quite clear that Rana is no Gandhi," the FBI said.

Referring to the taped telephonic conversation that Rana had with another terror suspect David Coleman Headley during a long car drive on Sep 7, 2009, the FBI said the duo had discussed about the Mumbai terrorist attack in Nov 2008.

"It is clear from the conversation and extrinsic corroboration that Rana was told just days before the Mumbai attacks that the attacks were about to happen.

"Elsewhere in the conversation, Rana asked Headley to pass Rana's compliments directly to the specific Lashkar-e-Taeba member they both knew who had coordinated the attacks," the FBI filing said.

"Later in that conversation, Rana and Headley both discussed targeting the National Defence College in Delhi, India for a future attack. Simply put, Rana's own statements in this conversation, among others, completely belie his argument to this court that he is either a dupe or pacifist," it said.

The FBI alleged that Rana met Abdur Rahman Hashim Syed, a retired Pakistani Army Brigadier, who is known as "Pasha" in Dubai.

"Pasha" is a retired Pakistani military officer who was allegedly Headley's direct link to Ilyas Kashmiri, one of Pakistan's most wanted terrorists and a direct link to Al Qaeda.

The FBI produced portions of the transcripts that discuss how Rana had learned during an in-person meeting between him and Pasha in Dubai that the Mumbai attacks were to happen.

Full report at: http://www.dailypioneer.com/222839/Rana-knew-well-in-advance-about-Mumbai-attacks-FBI.html

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Liberhan report high on agenda of Muslim Law Board Lucknow meet on Dec. 20

15 December 2009

Patna: The Executive Committee of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is holding its annual meeting on 20th December at Darul Uloom Nadvatul Ulema in Lucknow. The Committee will discuss various burning issues confronting the Muslim community today, with Liberhan Commission report and its implementation on top of the agenda.

Established in 1973 and represented by all groups of the Indian Muslims, AIMPLB has been working to protect Shariah law and providing guidelines to Muslims since the day of foundation. Muslims have given due respect to the decisions of the Board.

Main issues featuring the agenda of the meeting include Liberhan Commission report and its implementation, cases related to Muslim Personal Law in different courts and Central Madarsa Board.

The meeting to be attended by members and officials of the Board will be presided over by Board’s president Maulana Syed Mohammad Rabe Hasani.

Other issues to be discussed in the meeting are the programs to be held in major cities of the country on protection of Shariah, reformation of the society and spiritual training of youths and women.

http://twocircles.net/2009dec15/liberhan_report_high_agenda_muslim_law_board_lucknow_meet_dec_20.html

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Kashmir shutdown in protest at 'cover-up' of deaths

15 December 2009

Protesters brought Indian-administered Kashmir to a standstill on Tuesday amid claims that a federal inquiry into the deaths of two women is a cover-up.

Locals allege the women, who died in the town of Shopian in May, were raped and murdered by security forces.

But on Monday India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the high court in Srinagar they had died by drowning.

The families of the women told the court that the CBI report was trying to protect the guilty.

The discovery of the women's bodies led to weeks of violent protests earlier this year.

'False reports'

Tuesday's protests shut shops across the Kashmir valley and brought traffic to a standstill, reports the BBC's Altaf Husain in Srinagar.

People in the Muslim-dominated valley believe the CBI report is a cover-up, our correspondent says.

One resident Mohammad Yusuf said: "How could two women drown at the same time in a canal which had a low water level?"

Afroz Hussain, another resident, said: "Why did [chief minister] Omar Abdullah repeatedly apologise to people for calling it a case of drowning in the beginning if he was convinced that the women had not been murdered?"

In its report presented to the high court on Monday, the CBI accused 13 people - six doctors, five lawyers and two civilians - of fabricating a false case.

The CBI report says the doctors gave false post-mortem reports and sent slides that had been tampered with for DNA examination.

It absolved four police officers arrested for destroying evidence, saying the charges against them had not been substantiated.

Campaigners told the high court the CBI had not recorded vital information provided by the relatives of the two women.

Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8413155.stm

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Muharram 1st paid public holiday for private sector workers

Dec 15, 2009

the first day of Muharram, 1431 Hijri, which marks the start of the new Hijri calendar year, is a paid public holiday for all workers at companies and establishments of the UAE private sector, the Ministry of Labour today announced in a circular.

The decision is based on Article 74 of Federal Law No. 8/ 1980 (and amendments) which regulates the relationship between employers and employees.

The Ministry of Labour took the opportunity to congratulate President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and their brethren Members of the Supreme Council Rulers of the Emirates and express best wishes of prosperity and glory for the people of the UAE and peoples of the Arab and Muslim nations.

http://www.wam.org.ae/servlet/Satellite?c=WamLocEnews&cid=1258110985273&p=1135099400124&pagename=WAM%2FWamLocEnews%2FW-T-LEN-FullNews

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15 rebels, 5 soldiers die in Pak clashes

SHAFQAT ALI

ISLAMABAD

Dec. 13: The Pakistan Army on Sunday killed at least 15 militants in its operation against the militants in the lawless tribal areas while five soldiers also lost their lives.

"The security forces’ action against rebels is underway in Kurram Agency and in Swat Valley. At least 11 suspected miscreants were killed in different areas of Kurram while four others were killed in Swat on Sunday morning," a security official said.

He added, "Five security men also lost their lives during the ongoing operation. The forces have the upper hand and will clear the area soon." Security forces’ gunship choppers pounded militants’ suspected hideouts in the fresh assault. A military statement issued here said, "At least 22 miscreants have been killed so far and five security men martyred (killed) in last 24 hours." The recent action by Pakistan forces against the hiding miscreants has lasted for a month in many parts of Kurram Agency.

Meanwhile, people living in central Kurram Agency have been asked to move to safer places.

A notification was issued in this regard on Sunday ordering immediate evacuations of Nalai, Sultani, Tarali and Jani Koat areas of the Kurram Agency.

http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/news/international/15-rebels,-5-soldiers-die-in-pak-clashes.aspx

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Bomb blast 'kills 16' in central Pakistani town

At least 16 people have been killed in a bomb attack in the central Pakistani town of Dera Ghazi Khan, officials say.

More than 20 others were wounded in the blast which badly damaged a number of buildings, causing parts to collapse.

TV footage showed rescuers struggling to reach people trapped in debris. Officials say the target may have been a provincial official, who was unhurt.

Pakistan has recently been hit by a string of attacks which have left hundreds of people dead or injured.

The latest comes amid a continuing army offensive against the Taliban's stronghold in the north-west.

Police believe the blast was caused by a car bomb.

"There are many people trapped in the rubble after the powerful blast demolished some 10 shops," senior local official Hassan Iqbal told AFP news agency.

He feared the number of casualties could rise.

The house of senior provincial government adviser Zulfiqar Khosa was damaged in the blast but he was not among the injured, officials said.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8413579.stm

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Suicide bomb hits Afghan capital

15 December 2009

At least eight people have been killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, officials say.

The blast happened near a hotel in Wazir Akbar Khan district, home to several aid agencies and embassies.

Two bodyguards of former vice-president Ahmad Zia Massoud were among the dead, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said.

The attack took place shortly before President Karzai opened a three-day conference on corruption there, amid pressure from the West to clamp down.

Kabul has been hit by a number of explosions in recent months.

Last month, a car bomber struck outside a Nato base in Kabul, injuring three foreign soldiers and three Afghan civilians.

Tuesday's blast is the first such attack since President Karzai was sworn in for a second term in office last month, when he pledged to tackle corruption and insecurity.

Meanwhile, Red Cross (ICRC) officials have paid their first visit to detainees held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The humanitarian organisation said its officials twice visited three members of the Afghan security forces held in Badghis province in the north-west of the country.

"We welcome this breakthrough. We plan to conduct and repeat visits in other regions, and hope to visit people held by other armed opposition groups...," said Reto Stocker, ICRC chief in Kabul.

'Suicide attack'

An eyewitness was quoted as saying that a black four-wheeled drive vehicle blew up as it passed the Heetal Hotel in the upmarket area.

"It drove very slow to the checkpoint of the hotel. And then it blew up," Humayun Azizi told the Associated Press news agency.

The blackened, smouldering carcass of the car bomb has been blown onto its roof, the remains of the attacker still inside, says the BBC's Ian Pannell at the scene.

Hundreds of police and investigators are at the site, he says.

It happened in one of the most heavily guarded areas of Kabul, and is just the latest attack in what's been the worst year for security in Kabul since the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001, our correspondent adds.

Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8413163.stm

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Leicester man tore a Muslim woman's veil

15 December 2009

Rehana Sidat said she felt frightened

A man who tore a Muslim woman's veil from her face as he passed her in the street has been ordered by a court to pay her £1,000 in compensation.

Stephen Ard, 29, of Gypsy Lane, Leicester, also received a jail term of 16 weeks, suspended for a year, and 150 hours of community service.

Leicester Magistrates' Court heard victim Rehana Sidat felt "invaded and scared to walk down the street alone".

Ard pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated assault.

'Psychological injury'

Ms Sidat, who runs a drop-in centre for people with learning difficulties in Leicester, said: "He pulled my veil off and said 'get that off', he was really quite angry, it was shocking.

"I felt frightened."

She added she has chosen to wear the niqab, which covers most of her face, for the past 15 years.

The court heard Ard was "ashamed and embarrassed" about his actions.

He was drunk at the time of the incident, which happened on Melbourne Road, Highfields, according to defence lawyers.

Magistrates told Ard he had caused significant emotional and psychological injury, and he would have been sent straight to jail if he had not entered an early guilty plea.

After the court case, Ms Sidat said: "I was born in this country, I love this country and I've lived in Leicester most of my life.

"I just want to be treated like everyone else and have the same rights as everyone else.

"We should be able to wear what we want and go about our lives."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/leicestershire/8412968.stm

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Markets rejoice: Abu Dhabi to aid Dubai

15 December 2009

Stocks rose globally and the euro edged up against the US dollar on Monday after Abu Dhabi's decision to throw neighbour Dubai a $10 billion (Rs 45,000 crore) lifeline to repay its debts.

Gold prices rose and copper prices firmed on news that Dubai had averted a debt default.

Much of the money will be used to pay off debts owed by the state owned Dubai World conglomerate, and its subsidiary Nakheel, whose admission on November 26 that it needed to restructure its loans triggered the entire crisis.

Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee, said the UAE central bank, based in Abu Dhabi, was also prepared to support Dubai banks. The Dubai stock market's benchmark DFM Index soared over 10 per cent to 1,871.20 points. Strong trends were seen in the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange too.

In Asia, Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index jumped about one per cent. Markets in Europe witnessed a strong opening with Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's Dax and France's Cac 40 all gaining 1 per cent.

Abu Dhabi threw its flashy but debt-laden neighbour Dubai a $10 billion lifeline to head off a bond default, cheering Gulf and global markets but raising questions about the undisclosed terms.

The surprise rescue should enable Dubai World to repay a $4.1 billion Islamic bond its property developer unit Nakheel was due to honour on Monday, but which has a 14-day grace period for payment.

Full report at: http://epaper.hindustantimes.com/default.aspx

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“Pakistan Army, CIA threat to government”

Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: The differences between Pakistan’s civilian government and its all powerful military spilled out in the open on Monday with a lawyer representing the government telling the Supreme Court that the army and an American intelligence agency posed a threat to the country’s democracy.

Later, Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani called on Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. It was an unscheduled meeting, and came after he had already met the Prime Minister once before in the day along with the visiting U.S. Centcom chief, General David Petraeus.

No details of the meeting were available. An official release from the Prime Minister’s office said only that they discussed issues relating to national security.

A stunned full court, comprising all 17 functioning judges, heard from Kamal Azfar, a senior lawyer representing the federal government in the NRO case, that the elected government feared destabilisation by the Pakistan Army and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The lawyer, a former Governor of the Sindh province, last week filed an application on behalf of the government that the full court should restrict itself to hearing the petitions against the National Reconciliation Ordinance, and that the arguments should be confined to legal issues.

The petitions, that were pending before the court since October 2007, demand that the NRO should be struck down as an unconstitutional law as it is discriminatory in nature. The government had earlier decided not to defend itself in court against the petitions, but seemed to have changed its mind after the court started an impromptu inquiry into circumstances surrounding the closure of cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Swiss courts under the NRO.

Full report at: http://www.hindu.com/2009/12/15/stories/2009121555701200.htm

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Omar sees democratisation of foreign policy

Shujaat Bukhari

JAMMU: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday called for a pro-active foreign policy saying that public perception and common mass mood have come to influence the foreign policy.

Gone are the days when foreign policy was framed in the South Block in isolation. Nowadays we observe direct impact of the people’s opinion on foreign policy formulation, he said.

Delivering the inaugural lecture at 3-day International Conference on foreign policy — ‘People and Peace-democratization of foreign policy in parliamentary democracy: Canada, India and beyond’ at Jammu University here, Mr. Abdullah, who is also the Pro-Chancellor of the university , said that democratisation of Indian foreign policy is gaining ground with the growth and development.

He identified three important ingredients of strong democratic institutions, spread of education and growth of media as major aspects for democratisation of India’s foreign policy. He said that these days people are proactive in reacting and expressing their views on the international issues bearing direct and indirect impact on the country.

Our democratic institutions, intelligentsia and media actively and openly discuss issues like Nuclear Deal, Copenhagen Conference, Environment policy etc. and thus influencing the policy. The pros and cons of the foreign pacts and agreements are being extensively deliberated upon in various forums, conference and media. This influences foreign policy framing and helps democratizing foreign policy.

debates

The threadbare debates in the Parliament on foreign pacts and issues and the candid views of Members all the more influence the democratization of Indian foreign Policy he maintained and said it was not surprising that foreign issues were becoming a part of regular main stream politics in the country.

The Chief Minister said the people in Jammu and Kashmir were all the more alive to the development of foreign policy especially vis-a-vis Pakistan and China as it has a direct impact on the peace and development contours of the State.

The 3-day Conference was has been organized by the Centre of New Literatures, Culture and Communication and Department of Political Science of University of Jammu in collaboration with Canadian High Commission.

http://www.hindu.com/2009/12/15/stories/2009121555471000.htm

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Pakistan rebuffs US on Taliban crackdown: NYT

Washington

Demands by the US for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to the New York Times.

The Obama administration wants Pakistan to turn on Haqqani, a longtime asset of Pakistan's spy agency ISI who uses the tribal area of North Waziristan as his sanctuary.

But, Pakistani military officials and diplomats cited by the influential US daily said, Pakistan views the entreaties as contrary to its interests in Afghanistan beyond the timetable of President Barack Obama's surge, which envisions drawing down American forces beginning in mid-2011.

The demands, first made by senior American officials before President Obama's Afghanistan speech and repeated many times since, were renewed in a written demarche delivered in recent days by the US embassy to the head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, American officials cited by the Times said. Gen. David Petraeus followed up on Monday during a visit to Islamabad.

The demands have been accompanied by strong suggestions that if the Pakistanis cannot take care of the problem, including dismantling the Taliban leadership based in Quetta, then the Americans will by resorting to broader and more frequent drone strikes in Pakistan.

The core reason for Pakistan's imperviousness to the suggestion is its scant faith in the Obama surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a major regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave, the Times said.

It considers Haqqani and his control of broad swaths of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran in the post-American Afghan arena, unnamed Pakistani officials were quoted as saying.

Pakistan is particularly eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan.

"If American walks away, Pakistan is very worried that it will have India on its eastern border and India on its western border in Afghanistan," Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is pro-American in his views, was cited as saying.

For that reason, Fatemi said, the Pakistani Army was "very reluctant" to jettison Haqqani, Pakistan's strong card in Afghanistan.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/222841/Pakistan-rebuffs-US-on-Taliban-crackdown-NYT.html

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Trouble for Gafoor, clean chit for Maria

15 December 2009

Maharashtra government on Monday said it would take action against former Mumbai police chief Hassan Gafoor for alleging that his colleagues and politicians didn't respond adequately to the 26/11 attacks.

The state also cleared Rakesh Maria, joint police commissioner (crime branch), of charges made by slain officer Ashok Kamte's wife Vinita. In her book, she alleged that Maria, who was in the main police control room, did not respond to her husband's demand for additional force.

Home Minister R.R. Patil, who made these announcements, said the state has rejected Gafoor's response that he made the allegations in an informal chat with a journalist, which was not meant to be printed.

In the interview, Gafoor accused four police officers of not responding to the 26/11 situation. He also said Patil and then state police chief A.N. Roy had asked for the withdrawal of the NSG from the attack sites.

"The home department will initiate strict action against Gafoor because he didn't tell his grievances to the head of his department... but used the media...," Patil said.

Responding to the clean chit to Maria, Kamte said: "The world knows the truth through my book."

PRADHAN PANEL REPORT ONLY FOR A FEW After much haggling with the Opposition, the state will now table the Ram Pradhan Committee report on December 21.

But the government has ensured that the report remains beyond the citizens' reach as it wants only 30 legislators to know the document and discuss it officially with the government.

The state is likely to conceal sensitive parts of the report.

The government had formed the committee last year to probe the handling of the 26/11 attacks. But it refused to reveal the findings, fearing they would affect the trial of Ajmal Kasab.

However, some parts of the report were published and CM Ashok Chavan, Patil and others were accused for leaking it.

Patil said,"...only 15 legislators each from both the houses will be allowed to read and discuss the report with the government.

You will also know if the report published in media was fake."

Every party will select its legislator(s) on the two panels.

Speaker Dilip Walse Patil said that any document would become a public property after getting tabled in the house. "But I will have to check if every other person, including all legislators, will get the copy of this report."

http://epaper.hindustantimes.com/ArticleText.aspx?article=15_12_2009_010_003&kword=&mode=1

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 ‘No plans to hold talks with rebels’

15 December 2009

Islamabad, Dec. 13: PM Yousaf Raza Gilani indicated that his government had no plans to hold talks with militants and made it clear that Pakistan’s armed forces will act whenever the administration’s writ is challenged by rebels.

"The armed forces are alert and will take action wherever there is militancy or insurgency or the government’s writ is challenged," Mr Gilani told journalists in his Multan after he was asked about the possibility of his government holding talks with militants. "After the successes in the (military) operations in Malakand and South Waziristan, why hold talks?" he said. The offensive against the Taliban in Waziristan tribal region has been "very successful" and militant strongholds in the area had been captured, he said. Military action was the last resort in the government’s policy of tackling militancy though dialogue, development and deterrence, he said. —PTI

 http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/news/international/15-rebels,-5-soldiers-die-in-pak-clashes.aspx

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CBI rules out murder, rape in Shopian deaths

15 December 2009

M Saleem Pandit

SRINAGAR: The CBI on Monday concluded that the two women found dead in a stream near Shopian in south Kashmir on May 30 had drowned and ruled out

rape and murder that the residents had alleged in the case. The CBI report has left the family of the two dejected and angry.

The deaths triggered one of the longest-running street protests in the Valley in two decades with people alleging that security forces had raped and murdered Asiya Jan (17) and her sister-in-law Neelofar Jan (22). At least two people were killed and 400 others injured during the agitation.

The CBI, which submitted the 66-page report before the Jammu & Kashmir High, said it had chargesheeted 13 people, including six doctors, five lawyers and two locals for conspiring ‘‘to defame, discredit and cause injury to the security forces and get them wrongfully convicted by creating false reports and fudging the slides said to contain the women’s vaginal smear’’.

CBI counsel Anil Bhan said the chargesheet was filed before a local court in Srinagar on December 10. The accused are yet to be arrested.

The report said some Shopian Bar advocates and residents made ‘‘a concerted effort to create further false evidence for implicating the security forces after the falsification of the postmortem reports and the fudging of evidence by the doctors involved in the duo’s medical examination’’. It said the two had died due to ‘‘ante-mortem drowning’’ and rape and murder couldn’t be proved.

‘‘The investigation also proved that in furtherance of the conspiracy to defame the personnel of the police/ security forces and injure or get them convicted of a capital offence, the advocates in league with the private persons induced, assaulted and threatened the witnesses to make false statements implicating the security forces for the commission of offences of rape on the deceased ladies. Such false statements were made both before the Jan Commission as well as the CJM, Shopian,’’ said CBI spokesperson.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/CBI-rules-out-murder-rape-in-Shopian-deaths/articleshow/5338238.cms

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Iranian jailed in US for arms trafficking plot

US Attorney David C. Weiss

Attorney David Weiss revealed the unsealed Ardebili papers this month

An Iranian man has been jailed for five years in the US after admitting plotting to procure and smuggle arms to Iran, prosecutors say.

Amir Ardebili was seized by undercover US agents overseas in 2007 following a five-year investigation.

In May 2008, he pleaded guilty to arms trafficking, but this was only revealed two weeks ago.

Iran complained to United Nations officials in October about how the US had seized Ardebili.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has likened the case to three US hikers who were detained after crossing the border from Iraq.

'Acquiring components'

A federal prosecutor in the state of Delaware, Assistant Attorney David Hall, said Ardebili had acquired thousands of items, including military aircraft parts, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal (file images)

Iran has linked the case to that of the detained US hikers

Mr Hall said Ardebili had been arrested in the Republic of Georgia in October 2007.

The defendant was extradited to the US in January 2008.

When the documents on his case were unsealed this month, US attorney David Weiss said: "For years, the defendant was in the business of acquiring components, many with military applications, for the government of Iran.

"The government's investigation and prosecution has put the defendant out of business and removed this threat to our national security."

Ardebili, also known as Amir Ahkami and Alex Dave, is reported to have said his intention was to protect Iran from missile attacks.

His court appearance in May 2008 was reportedly conducted under high security.

The windows of the court room were covered and a guard placed outdoors, the Delaware News Journal reported.

Ardebili is one of a number of Iranian citizens Mr Ahmadinejad noted last month that the United States was detaining.

Analysts say Iran may try to use these detentions in negotiations for the release of the three hikers.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the hikers, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, would stand trial, although he did not specify on which charges.

They have previously been accused of illegal entry and spying.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said any charges would be unfounded and she called on Tehran to release the three immediately.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8413051.stm

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Terrorism: Muslim families as first line of defense

December 15, 2009

There is a heartening aspect to the otherwise unnerving story of five young American Muslims who flew to Pakistan Dec. 1 with the apparent intention of enrolling in a jihadist group. Law enforcement officials received crucial cooperation from anxious relatives of the five young men. The family members told imams and the Council on American-Islamic Relations of their worries, and CAIR officials swiftly arranged a meeting with the FBI . The five were then found in the house of a Pakistani man associated with an extremist group and detained by Pakistani authorities.

It would be hard to exaggerate the value of having Muslim community leaders take the lead, as they did in this instance, in guarding against terrorism - and in rescuing impressionable young Muslims from the effects of indoctrination in an alluring ideology rooted in a disfiguring of Islam.

Americans have thus far been spared the sort of mass killings perpetrated by locally grown terrorist groups in London, Madrid, and Bali. But recent incidents of Muslim Americans coming under the influence of Islamist extremists raise the specter of the jihadist pathology coming to this country. The first line of defense against that threat will have to be alert families, clerical authorities, and Muslim-American community groups.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2009/12/15/terrorism_muslim_families_as_first_line_of_defense/

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Jail guard assisted in Basilan jailbreak – report

By ELENA L. ABEN

December 15, 2009,

A jail guard from the Basilan provincial jail was said to have assisted a group of Muslim militants who stormed the facility early Sunday morning and freed 31 inmates, including an alleged sub-commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and several Abu Sayyaf bandits, in exchange for P200,000.

Intelligence reports revealed that the jail guard, identified as a former security driver of a congressman from Mindanao, was paid the amount by relatives of Hadji Dan Laksaw Asnawi, the alleged MILF sub-commander who was among the escapees. Asnawi was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by the Isabela City regional trial court for murder and frustrated murder of Philippine Marine troops on July 10, 2007, wherein at least 10 Marines were beheaded.

At least 30 Muslim militants stormed the Basilan provincial jail in Isabela City shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday and freed the 31 hardened criminals, including Asnawi, who reportedly carries a bounty on his head, and three other alleged MILF members and several Abu Sayyaf bandits.

A brief firefight ensued, resulting in the death of a jail guard and one of the bandits.

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/234106/jail-guard-assisted-basilan-jailbreak-report

 

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Al-Qaida No. 2 blasts Obama, honors 9/11 suspect

By SALAH NASRAWI

CAIRO — Al-Qaida's deputy leader said Barack Obama has deceived Arabs about his efforts to restart Mideast peace talks, and claimed in a message posted Monday that the American president has done nothing for the region so far.

Ayman Al-Zawahri also vowed the terror network will not forget militants held in American prisons — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaida's mastermind of the September 11 bombings.

Mohammed and four others, held for years at the military base in Guantanamo Bay, are due to stand trial on charges they plotted the September 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Last month's announcement of the trial, which will be held just blocks from where the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, has sparked concerns about the security risks involved.

Al-Zawahri issued no threats in his new audio message, but singled out Mohammed and two others — Ramzi Youssef, convicted and serving a life sentence for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, and Omar Abdel-Rahman, serving a life sentence for conspiracies to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"We are not forgetting our brothers ... and urge all Muslims not to forget them," al-Zawahri said. "We are not forgetting Omar Abdel-Rahman, Ramzi Youssef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."

But the bulk of al-Zawahri's new message focused on Obama.

Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant has repeatedly criticized the U.S. president, playing on Arab disillusionment over the stalled peace process and trying to undermine Obama's outreach to Muslims.

"Obama's plan, though wrapped in smiles and calls for respect and understanding, aims only to support Israel," al-Zawahri said. "Obama's policy is nothing but another cycle in the Crusader and Zionist campaign to enslave and humiliate us, and to occupy our land and steal our wealth."

The authenticity of the statement could not be independently verified, but it was posted on a Web site commonly used for militant messaging.

Al-Zawahri also scoffed at key American allies in the region — the Egyptian president and the Jordanian and the Saudi kings — for supporting peace with Israel. He urged Muslims and Palestinians to wage holy war, or jihad, both in and outside of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He praised Muslim militants fighting in Pakistan, saying the conflict there was a "war of Muslim dignity and pride" and warned the Palestinians against any negotiations with Israel.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Muslims In 21st Century America: Home Grown Terrorism

December 14, 2009

by Frosty Wooldridge

Americans fantasize that they remain safe from Islamic terrorists because U.S. military forces conquered Iraq and wage an endless war in Afghanistan. Except, last week five American Muslims terrorists surfaced in Pakistan—asking to be trained for jihad.

Associated Press, December 10, 2009, “Pakistan: Detained Muslim Americans admit jihad plans.” Sargodha, Pakistan — “Five young American Muslims arrested in Pakistan met with representatives of an Al Qaeda-linked group and asked for training but were turned down because they lacked references from trusted militants.”

The five wanna-be American Muslims terrorists included Ramy Zamzam, Eman Yasir, Wagar Hasan, Umer Farooq and one other.

“Farooq's father, Khalid Farooq, also was detained,” said AP writer Devlin Barrett. “Pakistan police officials say the elder Farooq had a computer business in Virginia and shuttled between the U.S. and Pakistan. Investigators are still trying to establish what role — if any — he played in the men's alleged activities, officials said.”

President Obama, with an Islamic father and stepfather, praised, “the extraordinary contributions of the Muslim-American community, and how they have been woven into the fabric of our nation in a seamless fashion."

That declaration may seem a bit premature while 2009 surfaced with Muslim honor killings in many states in the United States of America. Honor killings by Muslims average 5,000 a year in Islamic countries and now with nine million Muslims in the USA, the rise in honor killings coincides with Islamic immigrants. The practice, perfectly legal in the Middle East via Sharia Law, allows fathers or sons to kill wives, daughters and sisters for disgracing the family for such things as wearing western style jeans or being too “Westernized.” Obama’s pronouncement appears drastically unrealistic with the Fort Dix Six Muslims that planned to shoot as many U.S. Army soldiers as possible. In Michigan, Muslims engaged in a shootout with FBI agents last month as they attempted to bring Sharia Law and a new Islamic order to the Wolverine state. Additionally, states like Colorado created new laws to stop Islamic female genital mutilations. The Muslim assassin, John Muhammad, executed last month, ‘snipered’ a dozen people from the trunk of his car in the Washington, DC area several years ago. Last month, U.S. Army Muslim Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounded 28 in a shooting spree for Jihad. Another Muslim, U.S. Army Sgt. Akbar threw a grenade into a tent of American Army officers at the beginning of the Iraq war.

Full report at: http://www.officialwire.com/main.php?action=posted_news&rid=43784

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Ten killed in Philippine clashes: military

15 December 2009

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines — Nine communist rebels and one soldier were killed after the military raided a guerrilla camp in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, the army said, adding fighting was ongoing.

Soldiers backed by two helicopter gunships clashed with gunmen from the communist New People's Army (NPA) around Valencia town on the violence-wracked southern island of Mindanao, spokesman Major Michelle Anayron told reporters.

The military was tipped off about the presence of the NPA camp near Valencia, prompting commanders to send five teams of soldiers to converge on the site where they found about 60 guerrillas hiding, Anayron said.

"We suspect that the camp is really important because the NPA does not want to give it up," he said.

So far, the bodies of nine rebels, along with their rifles, have been recovered by the military, according to Anayron.

The farming town of Valencia is in Bukidnon province and about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Cagayan de Oro, a major port city.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the NPA, have waged a campaign to seize power for 40 years.

Full report at: Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

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Caucasus Muslims Office chairman calls on Sunni and Shia to perform azan together

15.12.2009

The Caucasus Muslims Office calls on Sunni and Shia to perform the azan together.

"The zzan must be performed by the Sunni and Shia simultaneously. A calendar of the azan was prepared to be performed together. The time for the azan is indicated for both the Sunni and Shia. We hope this problem will be solved," Caucasus Muslims Office Chairman Sheikh-ul-Islam Haji Allahshukur Pashazade said at a meeting of the Council of Gazis today.

The azan is performed at different times in many Azerbaijani mosques. First the Sunni perform the azan, later the Shia.

Pashazade said there is no ban on the azan, although it should not be performed too loudly.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at: trend@trend.az

http://en.trend.az/news/society/religion/1600690.html

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Fatwa on beginning of Muharram month issued in Azerbaijan

15.12.2009

The Caucasus Muslim Board \(CMB\) issued a fatwa in connection with the beginning of Muharram month. The CMB Board of Gazis announced Dec. 18 as the beginning of Muharram month. Ashura Day will occur to Dec. 27.

The CMB calls on all believers to observe the public order in all mosques and mass prayer areas on the Ashura Day.

"Collision of interests of different circles is inadmissible on this day. The sanctity of Maharram should be preserved,' the fatwa said.

In Maharram the Board of Gazis calls on believers to avoid self-torture.

"We should hold the ceremony on a high level, no matter where it is held. It is necessary to show the right way to the people on that day," the fatwa said.

The Day of Ashura is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the REmebrance of Muharram. God created Heavens, Lands and angels. Ashura is the Day of Godsend of Great Grace to Ten Prophets.

The word ashura means simply tenth in Arabic languages; hence the name of the remembrance, literally translated, means "the tenth day". The Prophet Muhammed fasted on that day and ordered the Muslims to fast on that day. "This is a great day, God had mercy on Adam," the Prophet Muhammad said.

It is commemorated by the Shia Muslims as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on Oct. 10, 680 (AD). This day is well-known because of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali A.S the grandson of Muhammad and the third Shia Imam, along with members of his family and close friends at the Battle of Karbala.

http://en.trend.az/news/society/religion/1600529.html

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Serbia charges former Bosnian Serb officer with war crimes

15/12/2009

BELGRADE, Serbia -- War crimes prosecutors filed charges Monday (December 14th) against a former Bosnian Serb soldier, accusing him of murdering three Bosnian Muslim civilians in 1994. Along with three other Bosnian Serbs, Dusko Kesar, 46, is suspected of instigating and participating in the murders, in the town of Prijedor. In 2005, his alleged accomplices were sentenced in Republika Srpska to a total of 50 years in prison. Kesar has Serbian citizenship.

In other news, Hague tribunal chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz is in Belgrade on Tuesday for a roundtable on the UN tribunal's work. Local prosecutors, judges and representatives of other institutions are participating in the conference. (RTS, Tanjug, AP - 14/12/09)

http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/newsbriefs/setimes/newsbriefs/2009/12/15/nb-04

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Muslim Americans' arrests add to concerns

Dec. 15, 2009

In a speech this month in New York, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned: "Home-based terrorism is here. And like violent extremism abroad, it is now part of the threat picture that we must confront."

That warning came prior to the arrests last week of five Muslim Americans in Pakistan on suspicion of links to terror groups and planning terror attacks. The men, believed to be college students from Virginia and Washington areas, were arrested during a raid on a house in Sargodha, a large city in Pakistan's prosperous eastern Punjab province, which of late has been plagued by rising militant violence despite its distance from the tribal regions where leaders of various Islamist terror groups are believed to be hiding.

Napolitano's warning reportedly was partly based on recent cases in the United States including those of Najibullah Zazi, and David C. Headley.

Zazi, 24, a Denver airport shuttle driver who was arrested in September, is accused of planning attacks on the New York subway system.

Headley, who was born in the United States but was raised in Pakistan and allegedly changed his name from Daood Gilani, was arrested in Chicago in October and since then has been accused of conspiring with members of Lashkar-e-Toiba, an extremist Islamic group in Pakistan, to plot attacks in Denmark and in India. He has denied the charges.

Napolitano warned that those sympathetic to al-Qaida and its fellow groups and those inspired by their ideology are present in the United States and would like to attack the homeland or plot overseas attacks.

Seen in the context of Napolitano's warnings, the Pakistani arrests of the five men assume greater significance. After their arrests, the FBI joined in questioning the suspects, some of whom were reportedly carrying American passports.

Pakistani investigators have alleged the five were planning to take part in jihad in Afghanistan.

Full report at: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2009/12/15/Muslim-Americans-arrests-add-to-concerns/UPI-43451260892800/

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Fashion chain’s Christmas trees unfashionable in Israel

December 15, 2009

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- A Spanish fashion chain has removed many of the Christmas trees in its Israeli store windows after customer complaints.

The Zara chain added Chanukah candles to its displays this week in recognition of the Jewish holiday being celebrated, Ynet reported Tuesday.

The stores had Christmas trees in four of its main stores across the country and no Chanukah symbols, the news site reported.

A ZARA customer service representative told Ynet that franchisers are obligated to act in accordance with global ZARA rules.

"We have Christian, Jewish and Muslim customers, and we are a melting pot for all clients," the representative said. "Therefore, the Israeli branches don't deviate from the international concept and don't look any different from the branches in Spain."

http://jta.org/news/article/2009/12/15/1009742/fashion-chain-removes-christmas-trees-from-israeli-stores

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Taliban Predict President Obama’s “Colonial Strategy” Will Lead To American Collapse

In the midst of extensive coverage of President Obama’s decision to send another 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the Taliban’s response was little noticed. A formal statement from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was carried by the Afghan Islamic Press on December 2.

The statement describes the President’s decision to pursue a “colonial strategy” as one taken under pressure from “Pentagon generals, U.S. neo-conservatives and U.S. major investors.” While protecting the “colonial interest of American investors,” it ignores the economic and financial crisis facing the American people.

The statement suggests that the increase in troops will only result in an increase in casualties as the Muslim people of Afghanistan consider the Karzai regime to be “depraved puppets of the invaders.”

The Taliban leadership employs the statement as part of a continuous effort to distance themselves from the global jihad of al-Qaeda. “We do not have any bases in Pakistan and do not need to have any bases outside Afghanistan… The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has repeatedly clarified to the international community that we do not intend harming anyone in the world. Therefore, the presence of the aggressive foreign forces in Afghanistan has nothing to do with world security.”

The Taliban response ends by reminding American officials that a continuation of their strategy will result in the sure collapse of America, as happened “to other boastful invaders in the past.”

In a further statement carried on the Taliban’s Pashto-language Shamat website, the Taliban state their belief that America’s allies have told President Obama “frankly and firmly” that they are no longer interested in pursuing the war in Afghanistan and are not prepared to send new troops.

The statement goes on to mock the President’s announcement that he would send 30,000 new American troops to Afghanistan:

"Obama and the American people should know that the former Soviet Union sent many more troops to Afghanistan and that their puppets were much more powerful and warmongering then the current puppets. However, since Afghanistan is the graveyard of the invaders and colonialists and this nation has the historic honor of bringing down invaders and those who claim to be pharaohs [i.e. tyrants], therefore the Americans should also start the countdown for facing the same fate."

Noticeably absent from the Taliban statements was the racial invective found in earlier Taliban references to President Obama. This may be part of Mullah Omar’s more conciliatory approach and the movement’s new effort to position itself as a legitimate and responsible alternative to the corrupt Karzai government.

The Kabul government took a more optimistic approach to the President’s commitment of more troops. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said the additional deployment was exactly what the government was looking for, “so that we ourselves should eventually take the responsibility and our guests can return to their homes safe and sound as soon as possible” (Tolo TV [Kabul], December 2).

AFRICAN UNION PEACEKEEPERS WARN OF AL-QAEDA PRESENCE IN SOMALIA

The hard-pressed Ugandan and Burundian troops of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are the last line of defense for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which now controls only a few neighborhoods of Mogadishu. With the recent defeat of rival Islamist militia Hizb al-Islam, the radical al-Shabaab movement has emerged as the main challenger to the TFG.

The African Union’s special representative for Somalia, former Kenyan MP Wafula Athanas Wamunyinyi, has issued dire warnings of an al-Qaeda takeover of Somalia, “considering the grip they have on the country” (New Vision [Kampala], December 3). Wamunyinyi says al-Shabaab has recruited 1,200 fighters in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and the United States. "With the involvement of foreign fighters, we need to adopt a new approach towards the conflict in Somalia, away from the perception that these are clans fighting." Kenyans are reported to represent half this force, being recruited from the same ethnic-Somali community in northeast Kenya that the TFG is also drawing on for recruits (New Vision, December 4).

Wamunyinyi claims that al-Qaeda is operating training camps in Somalia, and named several foreigners who now hold leading positions in al-Shabaab:

• Saudi Arabian Shaykh Muhammad Abu Fa’id is the group’s financier and “manager.”

• Abu Musa Mombasa is a Pakistani who has replaced the late Saleh Ali Nahbhan as the head of security and training operations for al-Shabaab.

• The American Abu Mansur al-Amriki heads the finance and payroll department of the foreign mujahideen.

• Sudanese national Mohamoud Mujajir is in charge of suicide bombing operations (New Vision, December 3).

A Ugandan AMISOM officer, Major Bahoku Barigye, reported that he had personally spoken to three al-Shabaab members from Uganda, who said they knew where he lived in Kampala and threatened his family. One of the militants told Major Barigye he was a member of the Alliance of Democratic Forces, an Islamist militant group that has operated along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1996 (see Terrorism Monitor, December 5, 2007).

AMISOM commander, Major General Nathan Mugisha (Uganda), is less emphatic regarding al-Qaeda’s physical presence in Somalia. “I think there’s a relationship between activities here and al-Qaeda… There’s mutual support and I think the way they behave is similar” (AFP, November 28).

The question is whether reports of a substantial al-Qaeda presence are intelligence-driven or politically inspired as a means of obtaining greater military and financial support for a mission that is badly undermanned and underfunded. Still 3,000 troops short of its mandated force of 8,000, AMISOM will soon receive reinforcements from Djibouti; but Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi and Sierra Leone have yet to send the units they promised.

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New Hezbollah Manifesto Emphasizes Political Role in a United Lebanon

Rafid Fadhil Ali

On a giant screen in his stronghold in Southern Beirut, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced his party’s new manifesto on November 30 (Lebanonfiles.com, November 30). Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, Nasrallah has been avoiding public appearances. Even his press conferences have been held via video conference. The new Hezbollah document is the second of its kind since the emergence of the Shi’a Islamist party in the mid-1980s. The new manifesto bore the title “The Political Document of Hezbollah” and was agreed upon during the party conference concluded a few days earlier (Al-Manar, November 29). The document outlined the aims and policies of Hezbollah and its military wing, al-Moqawama al-Islamiyah (The Islamic Resistance).

Hezbollah started in the 1980s as an Islamic revolutionary organization calling for an Iranian-like Islamic state in multi-sect Lebanon. In 1992 the party joined Lebanon’s parliament and now has alliances among the other sects. In 2005 it joined the government and has been part of every cabinet over the last four years.

The first Hezbollah manifesto was announced from southern Beirut on February 16, 1985. That document was called “The Open Message.” The party defined itself then as part of a “nation” led by Iran and its then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini. The message called on the Lebanese to adopt Islamic rule and even invited Lebanese Christians to convert to Islam. The message also called for a continuous jihad against Israel. [1]

Unlike the 1985 manifesto, the recent document contained very few Islamic terms or expressions and had no indication of the Shiite identity of the party. The manifesto is divided into three parts: Domination and Revival, Lebanon, and Palestine.

Within the first paragraph of the introduction, the document leaves no doubt that Hezbollah and the Islamic Resistance are one in the same. The introduction begins with two verses from the Quran that promote jihad. The text then builds on what it sees as the contrast between a course of resistance and refusal on the one hand, and a course of American-Israeli domination and Istikbar (arrogance) on the other. The resistance is progressing despite existing challenges, while American-Israeli domination is retreating, politically and militarily. The introduction claims that the recent international economic crisis will affect the status of the United States as the only superpower in the world.

The first part of the document presents Hezbollah’s version of history from the Second World War to the present. The terminology and the analysis look more like the product of a leftist movement than an Islamic one. America, according to Hezbollah, has had a domination plan: “The American strategy, which goes along with the capitalist economic plan, has a global nature and there is no limit to its greed.”

The Bush administration is heavily criticized, as is the neo-conservative movement and the War on Terror. “That administration initiated equality between the concept of terror and the concept of the resistance in order to deny the resistance its legitimacy…. Terror has become a pretext for American domination, which used tools like rendition and detention without fair trial, as in Guantanamo.”

While indicating that America is the origin of every terror in the world, the manifesto says nothing about the Obama administration, even though it has been in office for a year. President Barack Obama is mentioned only once and then only as George Bush’s successor.

In the Middle East, Hezbollah analyzes what it sees as an American strategy—one which includes supporting Israel and the Arab dictatorships, psychological and media wars against the peoples of the region, establishing military bases in strategic spots and inciting civil wars. This chapter was heavily covered by the influential pan-Arab al-Jazeera network, in a report titled “Nasrallah: America is the origin of terror” (al-Jazeera, November 30).

In the second chapter, Hezbollah indicates its basic political principles:

• Israel is a threat to Lebanon. Hezbollah should keep arming itself to defend Lebanon and this should also be part of the state’s strategy. The political opponents of Hezbollah have always called for the party to be disarmed.

• In order to have real democracy in Lebanon, political sectarianism should be eliminated. [2] Until that goal is achieved, political agreements should be the basis of the political system and government, not just election results.

• The party opposes federalism and stresses the rejection of any divisions in this small country (10,400 square kilometers). Upset with the increasing demographic gravity of the Shi’a, some among the once-dominant Christian community have called for a federalist system.

These principles, particularly the first two, were strongly criticized by politicians from the mainly Sunni and Christian majority bloc in Lebanon’s parliament (Al-Hayat, December 2)

On regional aspects, the manifesto called for relations with Syria to return to normal after the breach in relations over the last few years. Iran is mentioned only in the second chapter, in which appreciation is expressed for Iran’s role as a backer of Arab issues and the Palestinian cause. The document indicates that the differences existing between Iran and some of the Arab nations serve American and Israeli interests, and called for these differences to be resolved.

In the third chapter, the party stresses the right of the Palestinians to resist occupation by all means. The document condemns and opposes peace negotiations in principle. Hezbollah goes on to pledge not to recognize Israel even if the whole world does.

The content of Hezbollah’s discourse has clearly changed from the radical Shiite rhetoric of the 1980s to that used by a classical revolutionary movement. However, the main aspects of the group’s regional and international strategy have changed little. In Lebanon, the party has chosen to stress its increasing military and political power and make it part of its doctrine.

Notes:

1. See Tawfiq al-Mudaini, Amal wa Hezbollah, al-Ahali, Damascus, 1999. See also Waddah Sharara, Dawlat Hezbollah (The State of Hezbollah), second edition, An-Nahar, Beirut, 1997.

2. The political system in Lebanon is based on the concept of sectarian power-sharing. Accordingly, the president’s post is occupied by a Christian, the premiership by a Sunni Muslim and the post of the parliamentary speaker by a Shi’a Muslim. Since 1989 the 120 seats of parliament are divided equally between Christians and Muslims. Every sect has a designated number of seats in the cabinet. This system is based on the percentage of the population of the various communities at independence. Muslims, especially the Shi’a, have been increasingly critical of the system as they believe they are under-represented.

Rafid Fadhil Ali writes frequently on political and security issues in Iraq and the Middle East for Jamestown's Terrorism Monitor and various Arabic publications.

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“Obama’s Choice”: The Afghan-Pakistan Dilemma

December 15, 2009

By Yoram Schweitzer and Sean London

On December 1, President Obama unveiled the administration’s new approach towards the wars raging in the Afghan-Pakistan (AfPak) arenas. Entering into office with a message of peace and detente toward the Muslim world, Obama did not make his decision lightly. Yet in light of the alternative strategies proposed by his inner circle, it appears that the president has chosen a solid course regarding the AfPak campaigns.

By late 2008, top US commanders were openly admitting that the US and its allies were losing significant ground to their adversaries. The Afghan branch of the Taliban had already regained effective control of over 80 percent of Afghanistan and was moving aggressively upon the remaining areas.

Their Pakistani counterparts (Tehrik-i-Taliban, or TTP) were also enjoying considerable success against government forces. Further, in complete abrogation of the region’s traditional ethnic hostilities, the brother Pashto organizations had begun working closely with militant Islamist organizations in neighboring countries. Al-Qaeda (AQ), positioned in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), had completely recovered from the blows dealt it by the US and its allies during Operation Enduring Freedom, with its replenished cadres augmenting the capabilities of both Taliban branches.

Upon assuming office, President Obama immediately deployed 17,000 troops to the arena as a stopgap measure. Subsequently the president appointed General Stan McChrystal as the new head of allied forces in Afghanistan and commissioned a thorough review of the war effort from him and other senior advisers.

Three schools of thought emerged in Obama’s inner circle led, respectively, by General McChrystal and his sponsor General Petraeus; Vice President Joe Biden; and Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates. All concurred that it was only through a strong counterinsurgency (COIN), or “hearts and minds” campaign, that the Afghan quandary could ultimately be solved; that the US had to spur Pakistan with much stronger carrot and stick incentives than before to excise the extremists nesting in its borders and destabilizing the region; and that stepped up air and sea based attacks, joined with frequent raids, offered the surest rout to eliminating AQ.

The three approaches parted ways, however, over the particulars of the campaign and, correspondingly, the optimal withdrawal date for US and allied troops. McChrystal’s approach, contending that after eight years of neglect Afghan forces were in no way equal to the task, argued that allied forces should bear the brunt of the mission, even as they prepared Afghan forces to shoulder the burden.

Accordingly, the US and its allies would need to significantly bolster their forces in the region with between 40,000-80,000 troops. As there was no way to estimate when Afghan forces would be ready to assume responsibility for the situation, America’s withdrawal date would be not be predetermined, rather linked to a series of readiness benchmarks for Afghani forces.

The Biden approach, while recognizing the weakness of the Afghan forces, argued that a continued let alone heavily reinforced US presence would simultaneously fuel the insurgency and undermine the Afghan government’s ability to contain it. With Pathans innately hostile to any foreigners on their soil and the Afghan government likely to become dependent on foreign support, the government would not cultivate the ability to stand on its own two feet.

As such, the US would be best served by reducing its forces quickly and reinvesting resources to hasten the Afghan forces’ deployment. In 12-18 months, the combination of resources and increased pressure on the Afghani government to master the challenge would enable the US and NATO to remove all soldiers from Afghan soil.

Urging a middle ground, the Clinton-Gates approach apparently agreed that only the US and NATO could shoulder the burden of a COIN operation. Yet to allay concerns over a foreign presence and to prompt the government to muster its power swiftly, it urged a smaller deployment of Western troops and a fixed withdrawal date. These would presumably forestall the developments that were of particular concern to the Biden group.

Obama’s recently unveiled strategy appears to draw most heavily from the third approach: American troops, bolstered by roughly 40,000 US and allied reinforcements, will “clear” Afghan troublespots, “hold” them against Taliban and warlord resurgence, and “build” infrastructure sufficient to provide Afghans with security and sustenance. This, while aggressively wooing the Afghan population and finessing moderate warlord and Taliban factions away from the militant cause. Correspondingly, the US will invest heavily in Afghanistan’s ability to shoulder the burden and in Pakistan’s ability and willingness to deny militants sanctuary on their side of the border.

Has Obama made the right choice?

All available reports indicate that with very few exceptions, Afghan forces are indeed incompetent. Thus at least in the near future, relegating the COIN campaign solely to Afghan forces would be tantamount to surrendering the country to the Taliban. A smaller force combined with a clearly stated date for the allied withdrawal should indeed forestall the scenarios raised by the Biden camp, provided the Afghan people are made aware of these two points.

It seems, then, that Obama has selected the only viable route that fends off serious consequences. This is no doubt a gamble that could end badly, yet Obama could not afford otherwise. It is more than likely that upon the allies’ withdrawal, the Afghan Taliban would move aggressively to reassert control over all Afghanistan. The TTP too would probably move more aggressively against Pakistan.

In such a scenario they would likely be supported by their Afghan cousins and AQ accomplices, and would thus at best severely destabilize the already fragile state. At worst, they or an Islamist movement sympathetic to them would gain control of Pakistan, thus placing nuclear weapons within grasp of radical hands – a remote but real possibility. It seems equally likely that the Taliban’s terrorist counterparts in neighboring countries, emboldened by their partners’ successes, would flower in their respective areas, destabilizing, or with the active support of the two Talibans and AQ, even taking control of large areas.

More disturbingly, though, the Afghan Taliban might once more grant AQ free reign in Afghanistan, allowing the organization to add fresh recruits, including experienced combatants from jihad hotspots such as Iraq or Algeria, to its already battle hardened ranks. While it is far from certain that the Afghan or for that matter Pakistani Taliban would allow AQ to operate freely from its territory, the possibility cannot be discounted. On the run from the US over the last eight years and operating with severely curtailed resources, AQ has nevertheless managed to execute some serious attacks against the West, and has come close to carrying out several others. Thus were the Taliban to allow them to recruit and train operatives and operate from its territory, AQ would presumably intensify its efforts to execute attacks and become more likely to succeed.

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/17978

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