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Islamic World News (05 Dec 2009 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Suicide bombers assault mosque in Rawalpindi, kill 40

Hillary Clinton praises Nato allies' Afghanistan pledge

NATO chief: 25 countries to help in Afghan war

Islam: Another Wrinkle in Dubai’s Default

Taliban Detainee Says Bin Laden is in Afghanistan

Did Headley visit Pushkar to plot attack on Jews?

LeT duo admits role in B'lore blasts

Suicide bomber kills senior Iraqi police official, 4 others in Tikrit

Bangladesh hands over Ulfa chairman Rajkhowa to India

Somali Islamists deny responsibility for bombing

Jail term for threat against anti-Islam MP

Bank Islam targeting 5,000 new cardholders via latest offering

Muslim family killed in Thailand's restive south

Report: Anti-Muslim Discrimination Up, Hate Crimes Down

Bid to rid Bible of ‘liberal’ additions kicks up a storm

‘Spiked salad killed Iran whistleblower’

Arab Leader Aims to Hold Obama's Feet to the Fire

Iraqi insurgent fighter falls to his prey

Lebanon: an End to Sectarian Politics?

Lebanon Mufti: The equal Muslim-Christian powersharing should not be undermined

Turkmenistan slightly improves attitude towards freedom of religion: U.S State Department

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/suicide-bombers-assault-mosque-in-rawalpindi,-kill-40/d/2189

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Suicide bombers assault mosque in Rawalpindi, kill 40

By Bill Roggio

December 4, 2009

The Taliban have struck again in the heart of Pakistan's military garrison city of Rawalpindi. A Taliban suicide assault team estimated at between three to five men entered a mosque in the city and opened fire on the worshippers and detonated their vests, killing 40 and wounding 83 more. The attack killed a senior general and wounded another.

Two of the members of the suicide assault team have been killed. The assault team was not interested in taking hostages or negotiations, according to the Pakistani military.

"They exploded bombs inside the mosque," Major General Athar Abbas, the top military spokesman told AFP. "They opened fire on the worshippers... There is no hostage situation. Two terrorists have been killed."

The blasts caused parts of the roof of the mosque to collapse.

The attack took place in a mosque that is used by Army officers on a day when the mosque is sure to be filled; Friday is the Muslim day of prayer.

"There were about 200 or 300 worshippers in the hall," an eyewitness told AFP. "Army officials mostly offer their Friday prayers in this mosque."

Major General Bilal Omar Khan, who had served as the commander of the Pakistani Rangers, and the son of the Peshawar Corps commander were both killed in the attack, according to Samaa. General Mohammad Yousuf, the retired former Vice Chief of Army Staff, was wounded.

The Taliban and allied terror groups have struck at the military and police forces in Pakistan's major cities to counter the ongoing military operations in South Waziristan, Khyber, Arakzai, Kurram, and Swat.

Today's Rawalpindi attack is the latest in a wave of Taliban violence that emerged in the beginning of October. Suicide bombers have struck in Islamabad, Peshawar, Shangla, Kohat, and Charsadda, and assault teams have targeted police in Lahore and Peshawar as well as the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Just two days ago, a suicide bomber detonated outside the gate of the Naval headquarters in Islamabad.

The Oct. 10 assault on Army General Headquarters shut down Pakistan's military command for nearly a day, as hostages were held. The Taliban are reported to have obtained sensitive data from computers and files during that assault.

The Taliban have also conducted targeted assassinations of senior military officers. Two Brigadiers have been killed and two more wounded in four separate assassination attempts in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

The Taliban have repeatedly attacked their enemies in mosques and other places of worship. There have been 19 such attacks in mosques and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal.

Major attacks at mosques, religious events, and Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007:

Dec. 4, 2009: A suicide assault team stormed a mosque in Rawalpindi that is frequented by Army officers, killing 40.

Oct. 20, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests at Islamabad's International Islamic University, killing five.

June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed five Pakistanis, including anti-Taliban cleric Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, in an attack on a mosque during Friday prayers.

June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six worshipers and wounded more than 90 in an attack inside a mosque in Nowshera. The attack collapsed the dome of the mosque.

June 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 49 worshipers in an attack on a mosque in a remote village in Dir.

April 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 worshipers and wounded more than 100 in an attack outside a Shia religious center in the Chakwal district in Punjab province.

March 27, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 70 worshipers and wounded more than 125 in an attack at a mosque in the Khyber tribal agency.

March 5, 2009: An attacker threw a hand grenade into the middle of a mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, wounding 25 worshipers.

March 2, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six people during an attack at a gathering in a mosque in the Pishin district in Baluchistan.

Feb. 20, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 32 Pakistanis and wounded more than 85 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia elder who was murdered in Dera Ismail Khan.

Feb. 5, 2009: A suicide attack outside a mosque killed more than 30 Shia worshipers and wounded more than 50.

Nov. 22, 2008: A bombing at a mosque in Hangu killed five civilians and wounded seven.

Nov. 21, 2008: A suicide attack on a funeral procession in Dera Ismail Khan killed 10 mourners and wounded more than 25.

Sept. 10, 2008: The Taliban attacked a mosque filled with Ramadan worshipers in the district of Dir in northwestern Pakistan. More than 25 worshipers were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

Aug. 19, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 29 Shia mourners and wounded 35 after detonating in the emergency ward of a hospital.

June 17, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in a bombing at a Shia mosque in Dera Ismail Khan.

May 19, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed in a bombing outside a mosque in Bajaur.

Jan. 17, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 10 and wounded 25 in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar.

Dec. 28, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a mosque in Charsadda in an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao as he conducted Eid prayers. More than 50 were killed and more than 200 were wounded.

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/12/suicide_bombers_assa.php

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Hillary Clinton praises Nato allies' Afghanistan pledge

4 December 2009

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has welcomed a pledge by Nato allies to send at least 7,000 extra troops to support the US surge in Afghanistan.

She said beating the Taliban insurgency there was a "crucial test" for Nato.

She spoke in Brussels after talks with Nato foreign ministers and other partners with forces in Afghanistan.

Nato's top official, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said at least 25 countries had promised more forces in 2010, providing at least 7,000 more troops.

He suggested there would be "more [troops] to come" over and above that number once other nations had reached decisions on deployments.

The US has called on allies among the 43 nations with troops in Afghanistan to send about 10,000 extra soldiers.

Some major countries are holding back, however. France and Germany, for instance, have not yet committed themselves to sending extra troops.

'Lives and treasure'

Mrs Clinton welcomed what she described as a "significant commitment" by Nato allies, saying she was extremely heartened by their positive response.

She also acknowledged the sacrifices made by those countries "in lives and treasure", as they promised military forces and civilian resources to back the new US Afghan strategy.

Earlier this week, US President Barack Obama announced he was sending an additional 30,000 troops to help battle the Taliban insurgency.

Speaking earlier in the day Mrs Clinton had said the need for additional forces was "urgent, but their presence will not be indefinite".

Mr Rasmussen told delegates at Nato HQ that the coming year would "see a new momentum in this mission".

The BBC's Nick Childs, in Brussels, says the main thrust of Mr Rasmussen's speech was to insist on a message of solidarity, despite the challenges, and of unity behind the mission.

"In addition to the clear pledges already tabled, we have heard indications... that other allies and partners will probably be in a position to announce contributions in the coming weeks and months," Mr Rasmussen said.

"Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] will have at least 37,000 more soldiers in 2010 than it did this year. That is solidarity in action."

Meanwhile more than 1,000 Nato soldiers, most of them from the US, as well as Afghan troops, launched a major offensive in southern Afghanistan on Friday.

A US military spokesman said Operation Cobra's Anger in the northern part of Helmand province was aimed at cutting off insurgent supply and communication lines.

Warning for Kabul

But many Nato governments face publics even more sceptical about the mission than those of the US and Britain.

Even if more public announcements are forthcoming, turning these into firm pledges of the right troops at the right time and for the right missions may take longer, our correspondent adds.

Mr Rasmussen said several countries had pledged additional funds for development assistance as part of the mission's new approach in providing basic services to benefit the local people in Afghanistan.

But he warned that Kabul had to play its part in the reconstruction process.

"None of these initiatives are of any use if it is not backed up by good governance, efficient governance in Afghanistan, including a determined fight against corruption, a determined fight against the drug trade," he said.

"So the international community stands ready to assist Afghanistan in promoting economic and social development but it also takes a strong effort from the Afghan people and not least the Afghan government."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8396162.stm

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NATO chief: 25 countries to help in Afghan war

By Mary Beth Sheridan

Friday, December 4, 200

BRUSSELS -- NATO leaders said Friday that 25 countries have pledged to back up the U.S. escalation in Afghanistan with 7,000 extra troops, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pressed American allies to firm up their commitments.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that additional countries "probably will be in a position to announce further contributions during the coming weeks and months."

U.S. military officials have sought about 10,000 troops to augment the surge of 30,000 American forces announced Monday by President Obama. Clinton told reporters traveling on her plane to Brussels that she was "encouraged" by the response she had been receiving.

Clinton met Friday morning with foreign ministers from NATO and other countries contributing to the international security force in Afghanistan. She urged the allies to back the new U.S. strategy, acknowledging that some faced political pressures at home to start withdrawing.

"Today, our people are weary of war. But we cannot ignore reality," she said, according to a transcript of her prepared remarks. "The extremists continue to target innocent people and sow destruction across continents."

In announcing the new troop commitments, Rasmussen declined to give country-by-country specifics. Officials said the 7,000 total appeared to include both new troops and soldiers who had been sent temporarily to Afghanistan to help with elections, who will stay on.

Some countries are not expected to make commitments before an international conference on Afghanistan scheduled for Jan. 28 in London. They include Germany and France, who are among the largest contributors of troops, with 4,200 and 3,750, respectively. Britain has promised 500 soldiers; Italy has said it will send about 1,000; and Poland has said it is likely to provide at least 600.

U.S. officials have asked Germany for a number of extra soldiers "in the low four figures," said one senior diplomat. The request to France was for 1,500 troops, according to a report in LeMonde.

The U.S. government is also seeking contributions for training, equipping and funding the Afghan army and police.

In the meeting Friday morning, countries also discussed how to coordinate the unwieldy civilian aid effort -- which involves the United Nations, dozens of nations and hundreds of non-governmental organizations -- in the war-torn country,

"We have a unified military command but we have an 'un-unified' international effort" on civilian aid, U.S. special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.

Clinton said her goal was for the international community to establish a "coordinating mechanism" for civilian assistance, but U.S. officials denied they were seeking to appoint a high-level representative to oversee the effort. European countries are wary that any such position could marginalize the United Nations' representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide.

The number of non-U.S. military forces in Afghanistan has jumped from about 17,000 to nearly 44,000 in the past two years, according to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. But some function under strict domestically imposed rules that limit where and how they can operate.

The United States had more than 71,000 troops in Afghanistan at the end of November, according to the Pentagon.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/04/AR2009120400621.html?hpid=topnews

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Islam: Another Wrinkle in Dubai’s Default

Dec. 3  2009

Yesterday, while Dubai citizens celebrated National Day with parades and exuberant flag-flying, government officials were grappling with an uglier commemoration: the city’s first debt freeze, first potential sukuk default and in many ways, its first major embarrassment.

If the $80 billion debt burden, plummeting real estate market and general loss-of-face weren’t enough, Dubai and its lenders have an an additional problem in that the $3.5 billion in loans which property developer Nakheel owes in less than two weeks are no ordinary securities. They are sukuk certificates, Islamic bonds which, in compliance with Shari’ah or Islamic Law, do not pay interest.

Rather than receive interest payments, lenders assume a kind of partial ownership of a company’s underlying assets. It typically works like this: Company X sells the investors a piece of paper stating the investors own a piece of them, the investors then “rent” their share of the assets back to Company X at a predetermined rate. Company X also signs a contract promising to buy back that share they sold to the investors at par value at a future date. Voila: Company X gets immediate cash, the investors get a steady, regular return and no deities are offended.

Sukuk bonds skyrocketed in popularity with Western investors starting around 2005, round about the same time Dubai was ramping up its pitch to the world. In 2006 Dow Jones launched the first-ever index dedicated to tracking global sukuks. By 2007 the global sukuk market reached a record value of $51.5 billion. Like every other exotic, convoluted financial instrument at the time, sukuks were raging hot.

That sukuks would be flattened along with bonds in the credit crunch was inevitable. But the hitch with sukuk- which Nakheel lenders are discovering now- is that there is practically zero precedent of what happens in the case of default. As the Wall Street Journal noted this morning:

    But with no precedent in the United Arab Emirates for a restructuring of this size, and its government ownership, creditors are in the dark as to how the process may work. As a result, investors will be watching events related to the Nakheel bonds for a road map for future restructurings in the region.

    Via Dubai World Restructuring Poses Questions – WSJ.com

There have been a few cases of default, but the phenomenon is stunningly new. The very first sukuk default in modern history occurred less than six months ago when Kuwaiti firm Investment Dar admitted it had defaulted on a $100 million certificate. As of now, there are no clear-cut guidelines from either Islamic, Western or international courts on what creditors receive in the event of default. If they theoretically own a piece of a company’s assets can they lay claim to it?

Dubai_500_500

Which creditor gets what? In the case of Nakheel, could a creditor claim an island on its signature gaudy fake island- say, Brazil- in exchange for their lost scratch? What if everyone wants Brazil?

And although the Islamic bonds were formed under British law, the restructuring would take place in Dubai courts, which as the WSJ notes, could be problematic:

    It isn’t clear that Dubai courts would enforce any rights that holders may have to seize Dubai World’s assets, either land used to secure the Nakheel sukuk or other property the parent company owns, as Western courts might.

Whatever happens, you can bank on the process being long, contentious and rife with red tape. Nakheel, or rather their parent Dubai World has until December 14 to persuade sukuk-holders to accept their previously-announced standstill. Otherwise they better get to precedent-setting. The Islamic financial world will be watching closely.

http://trueslant.com/devonpendleton/2009/12/03/islam-another-wrinkle-in-dubais-default/

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Taliban Detainee Says Bin Laden is in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD | DEC 04, 2009

A Taliban detainee in Pakistan has claimed that one of his contacts met al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan early this year.

"In 2009, in January or February I met this friend of mine. He said he had come from meeting sheikh Osama, and he could arrange for me to meet him," the detainee said.

"The sheikh (bin Laden) doesn't stay at any one place. That guy (the contact) came from Ghazni, so I think that's where the sheikh was," the detainee told BBC.

He said his contact met bin Laden 15 to 20 days prior to their meeting.

The detainee, who was not named for legal reasons, said his contact is a Mehsud tribesman responsible for getting al-Qaeda operatives based abroad to meetings with bin Laden.

The contact helps "al-Qaeda people coming from other countries to get to the sheikh, so he can advise them on whatever they are planning for Europe or other places", the detainee said.

He also claimed to have met bin Laden numerous times before the 9/11 terror attacks.

The province of Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan has a strong Taliban presence. Large parts of it are "no-go" areas for foreign and Afghan forces.

But the detainee said militants were avoiding Pakistani territory because of the risk of US drone attacks.

"Pakistan at this time is not convenient for us to stay in because a lot of our senior people are being martyred in drone attacks," he said.

The detainee's claims about the whereabouts of the world's most wanted terrorist cannot be verified, BBC reported. However, former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel said his story is plausible and should be investigated.

"The entire Western intelligence community, CIA and MI6, have been looking for Osama bin Laden for the last seven years and haven't come upon a source of information like this," Riedel said.

"So if it's true - a big if - this is an extraordinary and important story. We know Osama bin Laden is alive. We know that he is living somewhere in the badlands along the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.

"What is extraordinary about this story is we have someone who has come forward and said, really for the first time, 'I met with Osama bin Laden and I had the opportunity to meet him again in the recent past'."

A Pakistani security official said the detainee has close ties with Taliban leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan and was involved in kidnapping and fundraising operations.

BBC was given access to the detainee twice in November in the presence of a Pakistani interrogator.

Amidst pressure from Western powers to do more to trace bin Laden and to take action against al-Qaeda elements, Pakistan has maintained that the terrorist leader is not on its soil.

http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?670495

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Did Headley visit Pushkar to plot attack on Jews?

4 December 2009

AJMER: Was Pakistan-born American David Coleman Headley in Pushkar plotting an attack on Israeli tourists

visiting the holy town? Intelligence bodies, including a National Investigation Agency (NIA) team, are pursuing some specific leads which hint that Headley had done a recce of the Bed-chabad — the prayer hall of the Jews — where hundreds of them gather every evening for routine prayers. After 26/11, Headley visited Pushkar a couple of times and spent about a month there.

Besides, there are certain calls and e-mails sent from Pushkar cyber-cafes that the special team of NIA is following up. Officials on Thursday searched log-books of almost all the cyber cafes in Pushkar and questioned a barber Headley had visited.

‘‘So far, we have confirmed inputs that Headley stayed in Pushkar and was monitoring his operations from here,’’ said an NIA team member. The team said Headley stayed in hotel Oasis on March 11 and 12 near Bed-chabad. ‘‘The hotel staff has confirmed that he had taken a room facing the road where the Jewish prayer hall is located,’’ said an investigator. ‘‘We’re going to suggest that the security around the Jewish prayer hall be beefed up. There is a strong possibility that Headley oversaw the place to execute a terror attack in the future,’’ said an IB official.

Meanwhile, the IB is searching forms submitted by the hotel that day to learn the name and passport Headley used. Every hotel has to fill in a C-form and submit it to local IB. Sleuths hope to find out more details soon. The team also got the name of two more hotels, one near Pushkar Sarovar and the other near the Brahma temple. The owner has identified Headley’s sketches and confirmed his stay in their hotel last December/January.

Local intelligence has gathered that Headley came to Pushkar on a local bus and talked and behaved like an American tourist.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Did-Headley-visit-Pushkar-to-plot-attack-on-Jews/articleshow/5298166.cms

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LeT duo admits role in B'lore blasts

3 December 2009,

SHILLONG: The two Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) militants, who were handed over to India by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) near the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya on Wednesday, have reportedly admitted their involvement in the serial blasts that rocked Bangalore last year.

"Nazir Tarian Dabede (25), alias T Nazir, told interrogators of Meghalaya Police and BSF that he had planted the bombs along with another person, Rahim," a top police official said here on Thursday. "The duo did not admit their involvement in the 2005 terror attack on the Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) in Bangalore," the official said.

Nazir, a bomb expert, and another LeT operative, Siraj Shamshudeen Shamas, 33, were handed over to BSF by BDR on Wednesday at Erbamon village in Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills after the two security agencies had shared intelligence inputs about their presence in that country.

The militants, who were on Thursday remanded to a day's judicial custody by the additional district magistrate, are likely to be taken to Bangalore on Friday.

A team from Bangalore Police, led by an ACP, has arrived here and formalities were on to take the two militants to Karnataka, officials said. Incidentally, the LeT duo is from Kerala.

Nazir and Siraj, who were in Bangladesh about a year, have reportedly revealed some "vital information" about their bases in south India during the interrogation.

Nazir's name surfaced in February last year when Mohammed Yahya Kammukutty, 31 was arrested as part of a probe into a SIMI network in Karnataka that has already led to the arrest of six youths, including four medical students, from the northern part of the southern state. Kammukutty is a resident of Mukkom in Kerala's Kozhikode district.

The police officer said Nazir also revealed during interrogation that five new LeT recruits had gone to PoK for a five-month training after the Bangalore blasts. "Four of them were killed by the army, while the whereabouts of one are not known yet," the official added.

Nazir and Siraj reportedly told of the existence of the LeT's bases in UAE, Qatar and Bahrain. The duo was first interrogated at the Pynursla police station and later brought to Laban police station in Shillong where they were being quizzed by a special Meghalaya Police team and central security agencies, the sources said.

Intelligence agencies suspect that a Lashker "commander" had been in touch with Nazir and the duo was on a "recruitment spree" following ISI's orders.

Nazir was arrested after FBI's inputs to Bangladesh about LeT's plan to carry out attacks on the US embassy and the Indian high commission in Dhaka last month. The US agency had unearthed the LeT plan after interrogating the terror duo David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana in Chicago for plotting attacks on India and Denmark.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/LeT-duo-admits-role-in-Blore-blasts/articleshow/5297055.cms

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Suicide bomber kills senior Iraqi police official, 4 others in Tikrit

By Ernesto Londoño and Muhanned Saif Aldin

December 4, 2009

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber killed a senior Iraqi police official in the northern city of Tikrit on Thursday in an attack that authorities blamed on al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The bomber ran toward Lt. Col. Ahmad al-Fahal, who headed the city's anti-terrorism and anti-riot force, as he was walking in a crowded market, according to Lt. Ibrahim al-Duri, a police spokesman in Tikrit.

Duri said the bomber yelled the colonel's name before detonating the explosives, which also killed two guards and two civilians. Nine people, including two policemen, were wounded. Tikrit was the home town of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Violence in Iraq has ebbed in recent months, but the Sunni Muslim insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq is seeking to destabilize the government by targeting key government facilities and officials.

Fahal was known for his dogged approach to battling Sunni insurgents. Colleagues at the Interior Ministry referred to him informally as the "terrorism destroyer," an Iraqi police official said. Fahal once boasted in a TV interview of killing 168 foreign fighters, a term used to describe non-Iraqi Arabs who travel to Iraq at the behest of Sunni insurgent groups.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, expressed optimism that the impasse over legislation to organize upcoming national elections will be overcome soon.

Iraqi political leaders have reached a tentative deal to resolve complaints from Sunnis and Kurds, but the Kurds have yet to sign off on it.

Hashimi's office said the vice president retains the right to veto the legislation until Sunday. Hashimi's veto of the original bill sent it back to parliament. The amended legislation was passed last month over the objection of some Sunnis who said they would be disenfranchised.

Aldin, a special correspondent, reported from Tikrit. Special correspondents Qais Mizher and K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/03/AR2009120303300.html?hpid=moreheadlines

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Bangladesh hands over Ulfa chairman Rajkhowa to India

4 December 2009

GUWAHATI: Ulfa’s top leader Arabinda Rajkhowa, his wife and another key militant were on Friday handed over to the Indian authorities by Bangladeshi agencies at an outpost along the border in Meghalaya, paving the way for peace talks with the banned militant outfit. ( Watch Video )

The custody of 53-year-old Rajkhowa along with 9 others, including Ulfa's military operations deputy chief Raju Barua was given to the BSF at the Dawki outpost in the Jaintia hills district, official sources said.

Along with them were Rajkhowa's wife and two children, his bodyguard Raju Borah, Barua's wife and son, and wife and daughter of Ulfa's self-styled foreign secretary Sashadhar Choudhury, they said.

They were later flown to Guwahati where they surrendered before the Assam Police, the sources said. They were immediately taken into preventive custody for completion of various legal formalities, the sources said.

Rajkhowa, founder member of the outfit, was detained in Bangladesh recently. He is among four people who founded the separatist outfit on April 7, 1979.

Indications of government opening talks with Ulfa were given by home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday when he told the Rajya Sabha that the outfit is likely to make a political statement in the next few days.

"Ulfa is in disarray today. In next few days, the Ulfa leadership will make a political statement. Our government is prepared to talk to Ulfa provided they abjure violence and there is no demand for sovereignty," he had said.

The government is moving cautiously in its approach towards talks with Ulfa, given the militant outfit's track record and the group's leaders going back on their promises to take the peace process forward.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had said in Guwahati on Thursday that his government has received "encouraging signals" from Ulfa for holding peace talks and favoured safe passage to the group's leaders if they came to the negotiating table.

Government is hoping that other top Ulfa leaders including the outfit's 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Barua, will also join the dialogue process. Barua, who is believed to be holed up in a southeast Asian country, has been opposed to the talks process and has been harping on the sovereignty plank.

Rajkhowa, whose real name is Rajib Rajkonwar, is the son of a freedom fighter Umakant