Afghan Soldier Kills 3 US Servicemen in Taliban Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Afghan Soldier Kills 3 US Servicemen in Taliban Attack

Achin

Kabul, Kandahar – The Taliban claimed on Saturday an insider attack by an Afghan commando that left three American Troops dead US and Afghan officials said.

One US soldier was wounded in the incident.

Nangarhar provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP the Afghan commando had opened fire on US troops during an operation in the volatile Achin district.

“The (Afghan) soldier was also killed in the return fire,” he said.

The Pentagon said the families of the three dead soldiers were being informed.

“One US soldier was wounded and has been evacuated for medical treatment,” a spokesman added. “This incident is under investigation.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths, saying the attack was carried out by an infiltrator.

This is a latest in a line of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks where Afghan soldiers have turned their weapons on international forces they are working with.

It also comes as the Taliban ramp up their campaign against the Western-backed government in Afghanistan, and as US President Donald Trump mulls sending more troops into the lengthy conflict.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that four US soldiers were killed in the attack. The insurgents are known to exaggerate battlefield claims.

Achin is also contested by militants of the ISIS group.

In April, the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on a complex of caves in Achin used by ISIS fighters.

The deployment of the so-called Mother Of All Bombs killed dozens of extremists, but fighting in the area has continued.

American troops have partnered with Afghan soldiers in raids against ISIS Khorasan, claiming the local offshoot of the militant group based in Iraq and Syria is steadily losing ground in Afghanistan.

Green-on-blue attacks have been a major problem during NATO’s long years fighting alongside Afghan forces.

Western officials say most insider attacks stem from personal grudges and cultural misunderstandings rather than insurgent plots.

Saturday’s attack came just hours after an errant US air strike killed and wounded at least six Afghan policemen in southern Helmand province, in the latest “friendly fire” incident.

Such strikes have bred deep mistrust between local and foreign forces.

Three US troops were wounded in March when an Afghan soldier opened fire in Helmand, in the first known insider attack on international forces this year.

Similar incidents have also plagued Afghan troops, depleting morale and causing mistrust within security ranks.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Afghanistan cancels friendly T20s against Pakistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ESPN)

Afghanistan cancels friendly T20s against Pakistan

The ACB did not offer any official reason for cancelling the T20s AFP

The short-lived détente between the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) and the PCB is seemingly over, barely a week after it had begun. In the wake of a bomb blast in Kabul on Wednesday that killed over 80 people, the ACB has cancelled the friendly T20 matches it had scheduled with Pakistan, to be played in July and August in Kabul and Lahore.

No official reason has been provided by the ACB but the board tweeted:

@ACBofficials cancells friendly matches including initially agreed terms of mutual cricketing relationship with @TheRealPCB

 

The two boards had come to an agreement last week to revive broken ties by playing two friendly matches in each country. As part of the agreement, the PCB was also to provide Afghanistan with venues for training and conditioning camps, and the possibility of reciprocal tours between the youth and senior teams.

A similar deal between the boards was also struck in 2013, when Afghanistan cricketers were given access to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. Eventually, however, the ACB took to using facilities in Greater Noida in India to train players for tournaments.

Last Saturday Atif Mashal, the ACB chairman, met his PCB counterpart Shaharyar Khan in Lahore and after the meeting stressed that both boards were eager to renew ties. In it he hinted at the complex geo-political scenario that inevitably has an impact on cricket relations.

“We want this relationship and rebuilt this relationship with mutual respect and mutual understanding,” Mashal had said. “Relations with Pakistan doesn’t mean we don’t have relations with India. We’re always thinking of balancing the relations between Pakistan and India.

“India is also a strategic partner, a friend, and they also support Afghanistan cricket. Pakistan did a great job in the development of Afghanistan cricket and we value both nations.

“We know there is tension in the border but it’s my job to keep this interaction between two cricketing nations going and to help governments start something positive. We are trying our best to keep sports, especially cricket, away from politics as well as looking for our national interests.”

The PCB was set to write a letter to the Pakistan government seeking permission to play in Kabul. And a number of Pakistan players – including Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir and Kamran Akmal – were part of the auction for the Shpageeza T20 League, Afghanistan’s six-team franchise-based tournament.

But ESPNcricinfo understands that Pakistani participation in the T20 league may now be in jeopardy.

Bin Laden’s son steps into father’s shoes as al-Qaeda attempts a comeback

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Bin Laden’s son steps into father’s shoes as al-Qaeda attempts a comeback

May 27 at 6:10 PM
The voice is that of a soft-spoken 28-year-old, but the message is vintage Osama bin Laden, giving orders to kill. When the audio recording began turning up on jihadist websites two weeks ago, it was as if the dead terrorist was channeling himself through his favorite son.“Prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved,” Hamza bin Laden, scion of the Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind, says in a thin baritone that eerily echoes his father. “Follow in the footsteps of martyrdom-seekers before you.”

The recording, first aired May 13, is one in a string of recent pronouncements by the man who many terrorism experts regard as the crown prince of al-Qaeda’s global network. Posted just two weeks before Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester, England, the message includes a specific call for attacks on European and North American cities to avenge the deaths of Syrian children killed in airstrikes.

The recording provides fresh evidence of ominous changes underway within the embattled organization that declared war against the West nearly two decades ago, according to U.S., European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials and terrorism experts. Decimated by U.S. military strikes and overshadowed for years by its terrorist rival, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda appears to be signaling the start of a violent new chapter in the group’s history, led by a new bin Laden — one who has vowed to seek revenge for his father’s death.

Encouraged by the Islamic State’s setbacks in Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda is making a play for the allegiance of the Islamic State’s disaffected followers as well as legions of sympathizers around the world, analysts say. The promotion of a youthful figurehead with an iconic family name appears to be a key element in a rebranding effort that includes a shift to Islamic State-style terrorist attacks against adversaries across the Middle East, Europe and North America.

“Al-Qaeda is trying to use the moment — [with] Daesh being under attack — to offer jihadists a new alternative,” said a Middle Eastern security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss counterterrorism assessments and using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “And what could be more effective than a bin Laden?”

Hamza bin Laden is hardly new to the Islamist militant world. His coronation as a terrorist figurehead has been underway since at least 2015, when longtime al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri introduced him in a video message as a “lion from the den” of bin Laden’s terrorist network. But in recent months, he has been promoted as a rising star on pro-al-Qaeda websites, with audio recordings from him urging followers to carry out attacks or commenting on current events. Longtime terrorism analysts say the promotion of Hamza bin Laden appears calculated to appeal to young Islamist militants who still admire Osama bin Laden but see al-Qaeda as outdated or irrelevant.

“Hamza is the most charismatic and potent individual in the next generation of jihadis simply because of his lineage and history,” said Bruce Riedel, who spent 30 years in the CIA and is now director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project. “At a time when Zawahiri and al-Baghdadi seem to be fading, Hamza is the heir apparent.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the Islamic State’s leader.

But Hamza bin Laden is not advocating his father’s style of jihad. Osama bin Laden was notorious for his ambitious, carefully planned terrorist operations, directed by al-Qaeda’s generals and aimed at strategic targets. His son, by contrast, urges followers to seize any opportunity to strike at Jewish interests, Americans, Europeans and pro-Western Muslims, using whatever weapon happens to be available.

“It is not necessary that it should be a military tool,” he says in the May 13 recording. “If you are able to pick a firearm, well and good; if not, the options are many.”

The faceless man

Strikingly, for a man who aspires to be the jihadist world’s next rock star, Hamza bin Laden insists on keeping most of his personal details hidden from public view. Even his face.

No confirmed photographs exist of the young terrorist since his boyhood, when he was portrayed multiple times as an adoring son posing with his famous father. He is believed to be married, with at least two children, and he lived for a time in the tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, although his whereabouts are unknown.

His refusal to allow his image to be published may reflect a well-founded concern about his personal safety, but it complicates the militants’ task of making him a terrorist icon, said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that monitors Islamist militancy on social media.

“People loyal to al-Qaeda and against the Islamic State are looking for inspiration, and they realize that he can provide it,” Stalinsky said. “But for today’s youth, you need more than audio and an old photograph.”

What is known about Hamza bin Laden comes from his numerous recordings as well as intelligence reports and scores of documents seized during the 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALS on Osama bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Included in the document trove were personal letters from Hamza to his father, as well as written instructions from the elder bin Laden to his aides on how Hamza was to be educated and provided for.

The documents reveal a special bond between Hamza bin Laden and his father that persisted despite long periods of separation. The 15th of Osama bin Laden’s estimated 20 children, Hamza was the only son born to the terrorist’s third wife, and by some accounts his favorite, Khairiah Sabar, a Saudi woman whose family traces its lineage to the prophet Muhammad.

He spent his early childhood years with his parents, first in Saudi Arabia and later in Sudan and Afghanistan, where his father began to assemble the pieces of his worldwide terrorism network. A family friend who knew Hamza bin Laden as a child said he showed both promise and early flashes of ambition.

“He was a very intelligent and smart boy, very fond of horseback riding, like his father,” said the friend, a longtime associate of the al-Qaeda network, contacted through a social-media chat service. “While his parents wanted him to stay away from battlefields, he had arguments with them about it.”

Then came the 9/11 attacks, which brought the bin Ladens international notoriety and made Hamza’s father the world’s most wanted man. As U.S.-backed Afghan militias closed in on al-Qaeda’s mountain redoubt at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden dispatched several of his wives and children to Iran, believing that the Islamic republic’s leaders could offer protection from U.S. airstrikes.

Hamza rarely, if ever, saw his father after that. He was still in Iran in his early 20s, living under a kind of house arrest, when he wrote a long missive to his father complaining about his life “behind iron bars” and expressing a longing to join his father as a mujahid, or holy warrior, in his fight against the West, according to a copy of the letter found in bin Laden’s safe house.

“What truly makes me sad,” he wrote in 2009, “is the mujahideen legions have marched and I have not joined them.”

Iran allowed the bin Laden clan to leave the country the following year, and by the time of the 2011 Navy SEAL raid, Hamza’s mother and other family members were living at the elder terrorist’s Pakistan hideout. Notably absent from the Abbottabad compound was Hamza. On Osama bin Laden’s orders, aides had kept him in a separate hideout with the intention of sending him to Qatar to be educated, according to U.S. and Pakistani counterterrorism officials. Already, the patriarch was beginning to see his son as a future al-Qaeda leader, judging from the letters he wrote to his aides shortly before his death.

“Hamza is one of the mujahideen, and he bears their thoughts and worries,” Osama bin Laden wrote in one such letter. “And at the same time, he can interact with the [Muslim] nation.”

Jihadist royalty

Hamza bin Laden’s sense of personal destiny only deepened with the death of his father and half brother Khalid at the hands of U.S. commandos.

By 2015, when Zawahiri introduced Hamza to the world as an al-Qaeda “lion,” the then-26-year-old already had the voice of a veteran Islamist militant, urging followers in an audio recording to inflict the “highest number of painful attacks” on Western cities, from Washington to Paris.

A year later, he delivered a more personal message intended as a tribute to his dead father. Titled “We are all Osama,” the 21-minute spoken essay included a vow for vengeance.

“If you think that the crime you perpetrated in Abbottabad has gone by with no reckoning, you are wrong,” he said. “Yours will be a harsh reckoning. We are a nation that does not rest over injustice.”

Terrorism analysts have noted several recurring themes in Hamza bin Laden’s audio postings that distinguish his Islamist militant philosophy from the views expressed by both his father and putative al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri. One difference: Unlike Zawahiri, Hamza bin Laden has eschewed overt criticism of the Islamic State, perhaps to avoid antagonizing any followers of that terrorist group who might be inclined to shift to al-Qaeda.

The bin Laden family friend suggested that the omission is deliberate, part of an effort to position Hamza bin Laden as a unifying figure for Islamist militants. The associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment freely, noted that Hamza bin Laden enjoys multiple advantages in this regard, as he can claim to be both a descendant of the prophet as well a son of jihadist royalty.

“The calculation is that it will be very difficult for the Daesh leadership to denounce Hamza, given who he is,” the family friend said.

The other distinction is Hamza bin Laden’s persistent calls for self-directed, lone-wolf attacks against a wide array of targets. Here, he appears to be borrowing directly from the playbook of the Islamic State, which has fostered a kind of Everyman’s jihad that does not depend on instructions or permission from higher-ups. His Internet postings have lauded Army psychiatrist and convicted Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 people in a rampage on the base in Texas in 2009; as well as the two Britons of Ni­ger­ian descent who hacked British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a street outside his London barracks in 2013.

None of those assailants were known al-Qaeda members. Yet, by applauding such attacks, Hamza bin Laden appears to associate himself with a more aggressive style of terrorism that appeals to young Islamist militants, analysts and experts said. Such messages also convey an impression of a terrorist network that, while battered, is far from defeated, said Bruce Hoffman, a former U.S. adviser on counterterrorism and director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

“He brings assurance that, even though al-Qaeda has been hammered in recent years, it’s still in good hands, with a junior bin Laden who is ideally situated to carry on the struggle,” Hoffman said. “Since a very young age, Hamza bin Laden wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. And from al-Qaeda’s perspective, now is the critical time for him to come of age and assume the reins of authority.”

15 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

15 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base

Taliban

Taliban militants attacked an Afghani army base, killing at least 15 soldiers following similar assaults earlier this week.

The Defense Ministry said that the attack took place in the Shah Wali Kot in the southern province of Kandahar.

The attack late Thursday came just three days after 10 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants stormed another base in the same area.

“The Taliban launched a coordinated assault on an army base last night (Thursday) in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province,” ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP.

“Fifteen Afghan army soldiers were martyred and five others wounded.”

Waziri said the insurgents were driven back and 20 of their fighters killed. There was no immediate response from the Taliban.

A provincial official who spoke on the condition of anonymity gave a higher death toll of 20.

The attack comes as Taliban insurgents intensify their annual spring offensive and their strength is growing, more than 15 years after they were toppled from power in a US-led invasion.

It highlights a growing insurgent offensive in Kandahar, where security has relatively improved in recent years under the leadership of police chief and regional strongman General Abdul Raziq.

Raziq had lashed out at the central government in Kabul on Thursday, accusing them of a plot to destabilize his province.

“Some political figures within the National Unity Government are trying to destabilize Kandahar like (neighboring) Helmand and Uruzgan provinces,” Raziq told a public gathering.

“Whenever there is an attack in Kandahar, the central government does not help.”

Also on Thursday, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at a security post in southern Helmand province killing three intelligence officials, a police spokesman said.

The attack also wounded four intelligence officials, said the spokesman, who gave his name only as Zaman. The provincial governor’s spokesman, Omar Zwak, confirmed the attack.

The Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility, saying the explosion killed Tor Jan, intelligence director for the Washer district in Helmand.

In western Badghis province on Wednesday, Taliban fighters attacked security checkpoints, killing six security forces, said Anwar Ishaqzai, provincial governor. He said five others were wounded, while 16 Taliban militants were killed in the fight with government forces.

The attacks mark another setback for NATO-backed Afghan forces. They come just a month after the Taliban killed at least 135 soldiers in the northern province of Balkh in the deadliest insurgent attack on an Afghan military base since 2001.

And in another deadly Taliban attack on security outposts in southern Zabul province on Sunday, local officials made desperate calls to Afghan television stations to seek attention because they were unable to contact senior authorities for help.

The battlefield losses have raised concerns about the capacity of Afghan forces, beset by unprecedented casualties and blamed for corruption, desertion and “ghost soldiers” who exist on the payroll but whose salaries are usurped by fraudulent commanders.

The Taliban launched their annual “spring offensive” in late April, heralding a surge in fighting as the US tries to craft a new Afghan strategy.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last month warned of “another tough year” for security forces in Afghanistan.

The United States and several NATO allies are considering sending thousands more troops to break the stalemate against the resurgent militants.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

As thousands of soldiers mass at Kim Il-sung square, Pyongyang tells US to end its dangerous ‘military hysteria’

Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday.
Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday. Photograph: AP

North Korea has begun a vast military parade to celebrate the birth of its founding father, Kim Il-sung, and warned that it was prepared to take the “toughest” action unless the US ended its “military hysteria”, as speculation grows that the regime is preparing to conduct a nuclear test.

On a sunny morning in the capital, Pyongyang, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung square as a band played rousing military music, the instruments falling silent for oaths of loyalty to the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Dressed in his trademark black suit and flanked by senior military and Workers’ party officials, Kim applauded and occasionally smiled as he watched the tributes to his grandfather, who was born 105 years ago today.

But the “Day of the Sun” was clouded in uncertainty as the world waited to see if Kim Jong-un, the country’s third-generation ruler, would provoke a potential regional crisis with what would be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in just over a decade, or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its strike group sailed towards the peninsula in a show of force, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, warned of “merciless” retaliation against any US provocation.

Donald Trump’s decision to send an “armada” of warships to waters off the tense peninsula, coupled with recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, were proof that Washington had chosen the path of “open threat and blackmail”, KCNA said.

“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” it added.

It said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” has reached a “dangerous phase that can no longer be overlooked”.

It added: “Under the prevailing grave situation, the United States has to come to its senses and make a proper option for the solution of the problem.”

Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking party official, earlier told crowds North Korea was ready for war. “We will respond [to a US attack] with an all-out war … and nuclear attacks with nuclear strikes,” Choe said in a speech, according to Yonhap.

As the parade unfolded in Pyongyang, China’s state-run media warned that the US president was mistaken if he believed that piling military pressure on North Korea would resolve the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Global Times said Trump’s decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan was clearly “a new gimmick in US military deterrence” designed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

“North Korea must have felt the shock wave travelling all the way from Afghanistan,” the Communist party-controlled newspaper said in an editorial.

However, the Global Times, which sometimes reflects government views, said the use of such a “vicious weapon” was in fact likely to make Pyongyang even more determined to upgrade its own arsenal. “[Trump] has demonstrated a certain level of obsession and pride toward US military prowess,” it said, adding, that the US president “may go down in history as the ‘war president’”.

As North Korea’s only ally and biggest trading partner, China has come under unprecedented pressure in recent days to use its influence to persuade Kim not to risk conflict with a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch.

On Friday, China again called for talks to defuse the crisis. “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing.

Speaking to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Friday night, Wang said steps were needed to prevent “war and chaos” on the Korean peninsula.

US officials have said the policy of “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration has ended, after years of diplomatic pressure and international sanctions failed to slow North Korea’s progress towards developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland – a milestone some experts believe is only years away.

In echoes of the bellicose rhetoric that reverberated around the Korean peninsula during its last major crisis in the spring of 2013, KCNA said North Korea would respond in kind to any perceived US military provocation.

Referring to the country by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it warned: “The army and people of the DPRK will as ever courageously counter those who encroach upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and will always mercilessly ravage all provocative options of the US with Korean-style toughest counteraction.”

Pakistani Military Kill More Than 100 Jihadist One Day After ISIS Murder 81 Worshipers In Sufi Shrine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

More than 100 militants were killed in a sweeping crackdown launched by Pakistani security forces a day after a suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State left 81 dead at a crowded Sufi shrine.Thursday’s attack at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh province was preceded by suicide attacks in Lahore and the northwest. The surge of violence that has claimed more than 100 lives in a week has shaken the confidence of Pakistanis after a recent improvement in the security situation.

The attacks also came at a time when Pakistan’s civil and military leadership had been congratulating itself for defeating terrorism across the country. Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa pledged to avenge the deaths and said there would be “no more restraint for anyone”.

Crackdown targets militant groups across the country

The army and paramilitary forces launched operations in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces and the tribal areas. “Over 100 terrorists have been killed since last night and sizeable apprehensions also made,” said a statement from the military’s media arm.

Eighteen militants were killed in different parts of Karachi alone since Thursday night and scores were arrested in different cities.

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Afghan embassy officials were called to the army headquarters in Rawalpindi and asked to hand over 76 terrorists “hiding in Afghanistan”, military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted. The border with Afghanistan was also closed for security reasons, he added.

Pakistani volunteers stand beside the bodies of suspected militants killed in an overnight raid on their hideouts by security forces as they lie in a mortuary in Karachi on February 17, 2017. (AFP)

The death toll in the suicide bombing at the Sufi shrine at Sehwan in Sindh province rose to 81 on Friday and more than 250 people were admitted to different hospitals, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

Amaq news agency, which is affiliated to the IS, claimed the attack. The shrine attracts large crowds on Thursdays and the suicide bomber struck when thousands had gathered for ‘dhamaal’, a Sufi ritual of singing and dancing.

Questions raised on military’s claims about wiping out militant groups

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he would do everything in his power to protect the country but people questioned how terrorism had raised its head again after claims that the military operation in the tribal areas had wiped out most militant groups.

Read | Pakistan launches security crackdown as nation mourns Sufi shrine blast victims

The military began its operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in Karachi in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Former army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, had declared two years of success and said Pakistan was safer as a result of the campaign. Violence-related fatalities dropped from 7,611 in 2014 to 4,653 in 2015 to about 2,560 in 2016, and observers agreed the overall security situation had improved significantly.

But this week, all claims of success were turned on their head. Though the Pakistan Army has asked Afghanistan to hand over terrorists hiding in its territory, analysts believe this isn’t the solution.

“We cannot keep on insisting the problem is elsewhere. It is here. It is in our midst,” said security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi. Others such as analyst Ayesha Siddiqa pointed to the proliferation of militant groups in southern Punjab and upper Sindh. Hundreds of madrassas have been established by militant groups, which use them to recruit and train young men and collect funds.

No operations in Sindh or Punjab

Despite repeated promises, the federal government has not allowed any operation in upper Sindh or southern Punjab because many of the militant groups are patronised by elements in the ruling PML-N party.

“A number of sectarian and extremist organisations are political allies of the PML-N,” Rizvi said.

The military is ready to start a sweep and even announced its intention to do so after the suicide attack in the heart of Lahore on Monday. But the military also patronises other militant groups which are used to launch attacks into India and to aid in security operations in Balochistan.

A view of the deserted tomb of Sufi saint Syed Usman Marwandi, also known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, after it was closed to the public following Thursday’s suicide attack in Sehwan in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. (Reuters)

“Because there is a difference of opinion on whom to arrest and who to let go, the operation against militants remains a non-starter,” said Rizvi.

Thursday’s suicide bombing was also the biggest attack claimed by the IS. Most of the other attacks this week were claimed by the Taliban. The government has denied the IS has a presence in Pakistan and its links with other groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which mainly targets Shias.

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Main opposition Pakistan People’s Party leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said the government had miserably failed to eradicate terrorism. “It’s very easy to criticise the government of the PPP but the present government has protected terrorists,” he said.

Siraj-ul-Haq of the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami party said the government “appeared helpless”. He said the terrorists had shown “they can attack anywhere and at any time”.

Pakistanis fear violence could spiral out of control

Ordinary Pakistanis were fearful that the situation was again spiralling out of control just when things seemed to getting better. The terrorism could also have an impact on the economy, which had shown some signs of recovery.

Angry relatives of those who were killed in Thursday’s attack surrounded the chief minister’s motorcade in Sehwan and accused the provincial government of corruption and incompetence. The father of a girl killed in the attack told chief minister Murad Ali Shah that no help was available for several hours and his daughter died as she did not get medical attention.

A policeman walks past a pile of shoes left by devotees after Thursday’s suicide blast at the tomb of Sufi saint Syed Usman Marwandi, also known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in Sehwan town in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. (Reuters)

A number of people turned to social media to express their anger with the poor security arrangements at most public places. In a tweet, Dr Waqar Abidi said: “Nawaz Sharif himself is a security risk.”

There is also growing anger at the government’s inability to implement the National Action Plan devised in 2014 to combat terrorism after a deadly attack on an army-run school in Peshawar killed more than 130 children. Analyst Sajjad Haider said the delay in fully implementing a plan agreed on by all stakeholders was unforgivable,

“It shows that the priorities of the Nawaz Sharif government do not include fighting terrorism,” he said.

President Trump Call India’s Prime Minister Modi “A True Friend And Partner”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Trump tells Modi India ‘a true friend and partner’, invites PM to US ‘later this year’

WORLD Updated: Jan 25, 2017 07:26 IST

Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington

Highlight Story

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a scheduled telephonic conversation at 11:30pm IST on Tuesday.(Agencies File)

In a phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the US considers India a “true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world”, according to a White House statement.The two leaders also discussed opportunities to “strengthen the partnership between the United States and India in broad areas such as the economy and defense”, the statement said without citing specific areas, sectors or goals.

Modi and Trump, who were speaking for the first time after the new US president took charge last Friday, also discussed “security in the region of South and Central Asia” and, once again the statement left out details.

South and Central Asia cover many areas of mutual interest to both India and the United States including Pakistan and Afghanistan and it could not be immediately confirmed if they discussed the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan.

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But the two leaders resolved, according to the White House statement, “that the United States and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism”, which has been a priority for both of them and both countries.

Trump is hosting Modi later in the year, but it was, once again, not immediately clear if that will be in September-October when the Indian prime minister comes to the US for the UN general assembly meeting, or some other time.

But the two, who first spoke in November when Modi was among the first foreign leaders to call Trump on his election, are likely to meet during the next meeting of the G-20, which is scheduled to take place in Hamburg, Germany in July.

Since that first call, India engaged with Trump on two separate occasions: The first was a meeting between Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar and then Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, and the second on December 19 when Ajit Doval, national security adviser to PM Modi, met Trump’s NSA Michael Flynn.

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And now the call. The US statement contained no details and it was not known if trade in services, read H-1B, came up during their phone call, as many had expected, since it being the one issue that had agitated New Delhi the most about Trump.

The fate of the temporary US visa programme for high-skilled foreign workers, which is at the heart to India’s burgeoning IT exports to the US, seemed uncertain, given the president’s own reservations about it, and those of leading members of his team.

They believe the H-1B programme is being abused by the US companies to outsource American jobs to temporary foreign workers, a large number of them from India, and they have been considering ways to make it harder for that to happen.

“There is no other area of potential dispute or differences with the United States under President Trump,” said an Indian official, who spoke strictly on background. He added, “H-1B is the only problem for us as of now.”

In response to a question about India-US relations, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had said Monday that as with other countries, the Trump administration is focussed on access to markets in manufacturing and services.

Since being sworn-in last Friday, the new president has begun engaging with world leaders and has spoken to prime minister and president of neighboring Canada and Mexico first — with whom he plans to renegotiate the NAFTA trade deal.

He has also talked since with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who he has invited to to a meeting in early February. And he meets Teresa May, prime minister of America’s closest ally the United Kingdom, on Friday.

The Tuesday call with Modi, on the second day of Trump’s first week in office, is being taken as sign of the priority he is attaching to the relationship, after an unprecedented outreach to the Indian American community during election.

At an election rally in New Jersey, Trump had said on his watch as president that India and the US will be “best friends” and, added in a typically Trumpian hyperbole that “there will be no relationship more important to me”.

At the suggestion of the Republican Hindu Coalition founder Shalli Kumar, who had organised the rally, Trump recorded a campaign call modeled on Modi’s election slogan “Abki baar Modi sarkar”, replacing Modi with Trump.

Also, Prime Minister Modi appears to have an admirer in Steve Bannon, chief strategist and senior counseller to the president, who had in 2014 called Modi’s election a “great victory … very much based on … Reaganesque principles”.

Bannon was then chief executive officer of Breitbart News, a stridently conservative news publication, and would become in 2016 a leading and early supporter of Trump, and later went on to head his campaign in August.

Russian Intelligence Fears Chechnya Mujahideen Fighters Leaving Aleppo Are Headed To Lebanon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘ONLY LEBANON’ NEWS)

“During the Russian operations to eject the Syrian armed opposition groups from eastern Aleppo, the Russians expressed their fear through private channels from the possibility of transmission of “Mujahideen Chechnya” from Aleppo to Lebanon. There in the eastern districts of Aleppo dozens of Chechen jihadists involved within the “Aleppo local organizations,” has no organic link to “Ahrar al – Sham , ” or “Isl.

Russian intelligence began chasing them finally wary that they may be trying to get out of Aleppo in the direction of Lebanon, not to the countryside west of Aleppo under the paths accessible to the control of Russian-Syrian tight.

Moscow fears that the “jihadists” Chechnya in Syria, may prefer after losing a refuge Aleppo escape to a safe place is not for the Russians Regional eyes in it, and Lebanon is to be Bdelhm to move him instead of going to Idlib region and its countryside, which has Turkey harmonious militarily and politically this period with Russia, a big influence them, exposing them to the risk of extradition to Moscow.

This information sheds light on Lebanon as one of the candidate countries to continue because the destination subsidiary of terrorism UN takfiri cells, as sometimes “Square haven”, and at other times “Square clash” for the liquidation of Arsal and Qalmoun war accounts with the Lebanese army and Hezbollah, etc .. It may be also the time, according to the Russian fear, unintended Square jihadists from Amman, including Chechnya to filter the results of the battle of Aleppo with Russia in Lebanon accounts, or used yard assemble them and expressing to arrange for their return to their country.

Papers highlight the introduction of an international conference on the fight against terrorism, internationalist, that between 2011 and 2016, was settled by “terrorists Maolmo nationality”, Lebanon, and they have the extraordinary tasks. And indicates their presence to the operators for them to have a special look to the Lebanese arena, beyond it, “Square victories” Background to Syria, in the interest that a certified passages from Syria to the world and vice versa, and concentrated fear now is that the “terrorists globalized” in Syria (estimated to number between 10 and 15 alpha) may choose to Lebanon to assess it after their displacement from Syria, as the forms for them when having to get out of Syria, the same role that formed by Pakistan in relation to the “Arab mujahideen” after being forced to get out of Afghanistan, any yard assemble them in preparation for returning to their country by stealth or implementation of the liquidation of the account operations, and from which, against the interests of the forces that participated in the defeat of their project jihad in Syria. “

Offer a quick look at the regulations «jihadist» globalized names appearing in front of the Lebanese judiciary, whether Jahia or in absentia, since 2011 until 2016, Proceedings of the important implications:

First, the number of nationalities of those involved using Lebanon to carry out various targets terrorist operations (planning and carrying out operations, reconnaissance and falsifying documents and deport cells to other countries) 0.13 nationalities, are: «Egyptian, Iranian, Algerian, Turkish, Jordanian, Bakedzana, diagonal, Saudi, Iraqi, Australa, French, Yemeni, Tajkstani ».

The order seemed especially dangerous belonging to Yemeni nationality who, despite their association with factions operating in Syria, the fact that party affiliation has been linked to global takfiri operate across continents. The most prominent model for Yemeni jihadis who worked in Lebanon «Salim Abdul Karim Saleh» aka «Abu Turab», who was arrested on 10/7/2013 on charges of belonging to an armed organization and carry out terrorist acts.

Activities «Abu Turab», especially within the Roumieh prison, was the most prominent of its success has shown to be his employers have an important communication Bouklayahm capabilities, regardless of the places of their existence, as evidenced by its implementation (ie «Abu Turab») dangerous terrorist operations even during his detention in Roumieh prison the introduction of «material Alcarper» to prison, and his success in escaping from it.

We have adopted a «Daesh» since its appearance in Syria, and to a lesser extent «Nasra Front» Also, terrorists operating in Lebanon Maolim strategy every time you wanted to implement quality strikes do not polemical terrorist strikes.

These are usually people of Lebanese origin have Western nationalities for many years. And described as «strategic reserve terrorist qualitative» for «Daesh» or «victory» and their dispute. As an example of them, stand out French terrorist cell of Lebanese origin Fayez Youssef Bhoshran who tried to blow himself up in June 2014 during a raid Lebanese security «de Roy» hotel in the locality Raouche with the dawn of his companions actually themselves.

In addition to cell Australian of Lebanese origin «unknown Amer Haddara» who was attending to one of the largest bombing harming of civilians, as well as Australian of Lebanese origin «Walid FAQ» plans to assassinate Lebanese politicians.

Second, the period is short adopted Lebanon «hotel» and «sanctuary» quiet for specialists codes communications and bombings manufacturing, and to the families factions terrorist leaders and Zana in Syria, in the forefront of «Daesh» and others, indicating that Lebanon is a rear bunker quiet cadres terrorist related capabilities distinctive and is required to maintain investment in the tasks of scientific production and innovative means of recruitment.

Iraqi temper Hamid Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, al-Baghdadi, the former wife and her daughter from him amounting to ten years old, lived in Lebanon for the purpose to hide. And also the Iraqi «Ziad Alolaan» He is looking for an electrical engineer of Baghdad, an expert manufacture of toxic gases and packing missiles and monitoring US movements around the world, use a remote place to Lebanon to carry out its missions.

The same applies to the Kuwaiti «Mohammed Al Dosari» and Tajkstani «Mohammed Patarrov» experts to establish links to the organization «young people across the world» innovative ways for the benefit of terrorist organizations, and Iranian Bishara Shirazi

6 of 7 Nations With Worst Record of Christian Persecution Are Muslim

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CREEPING SHARIA’ WEBSITE)

6 of 7 Nations With Worst Record of Christian Persecution Are Muslim

 

Source: Top 7 Nations With Worst Record of Christian Persecution: Report

Persecution watchdog group Aid to the Church in Need released its 2016 “Religious Freedom in the World” report on Thursday, highlighting the growing cases of intolerance around the world, particularly between the time period of June 2014 and June 2016 — coinciding with the rise of the Islamic State terror group.

The report included case by case studies of a number of different countries around the world, and the religious discrimination people of faith face. Some of the most extreme forms of oppression were experienced by people in Iraq and Syria, including Christians and Yazidis, who have been targeted in an ongoing genocide campaign by IS.

One Yazidi boy trained for jihad in Syria shared the chilling words his radical instructors told to him: “You have to kill kuffars [unbelievers] even if they are your fathers and brothers, because they belong to the wrong religion and they don’t worship God.”

The report revealed that 196 countries were examined, with 38 showing “unmistakable evidence” of significant religious freedom violations. Twenty-three of those countries were placed in the top-level “Persecution” category, while 15 others in the “Discrimination” group.

Religious freedom conditions “clearly worsened” in 14 countries, the report added, and only three — Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar — showed signs of improvement since the last study in 2014.

The seven nations where persecution was branded so extreme that “it could scarcely get any worse” include: Afghanistan, Iraq (northern), Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Syria.

“A virulent and extremist form of Islam emerged as the number one threat to religious freedom and was revealed as the primary cause of persecution in many of the worst cases,” the report noted.

It added that “religious hyper-extremism,” such as the actions of IS in their quest to build a caliphate and kill off minorities, has been on the rise, characterized by mass killings, ‘horrific’ forms of executions, rape, and extreme torture such as burning people alive, crucifixion, or throwing victims off buildings.

The atrocities committed by Islamist radical groups in nations such as Syria, Iraq and Libya were called arguably some of the “greatest setbacks for religious freedom since the Second World War,” with victims being subjugated to a system which “insults almost every tenet of human rights.”

Other watchdog groups, such as Open Doors USA, have called on the global Church to resist being too self-centered, and instead reach out to help its brothers and sisters in need.

Open Doors President David Curry told The Christian Post in October that the factors that led to 2015 being the worst year for Christian persecution have stayed in place for 2016 as well.

“You still have rogue nations like Eritrea, North Korea, Sudan and others, who are not concerned about international justice laws, and are persecuting Christians within their government,” Curry told CP at the time, ahead of the International Day of Prayer.

“I’m not encouraged yet by the response of the global Church, but I’m hopeful that they are going to wake up and see what is happening,” he added.

Former Special Forces Officer: Gen. ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Left ‘My Men to Die’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

NEWS
DEC 2 2016, 2:00 PM ET

Former Special Forces Officer: Gen. ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Left ‘My Men to Die’

A former Army Special Forces officer is accusing retired Marine General James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be defense secretary, of “leaving my men to die” after they were hit by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2001.

Mattis has not commented publicly on the incident, which was chronicled in a 2011 New York Times bestselling book, “The Only Thing Worthy Dying For,” by Eric Blehm. The book portrays Mattis as stubbornly unwilling to help the Green Berets.

His actions, which were not formally investigated at the time, are now likely to get far more scrutiny during the retired general’s Senate confirmation process.

Trump’s transition team did not respond to request for comment from NBC News. Nor did Mattis, whose 2013 retirement from the military means he would need a waiver from Congress to serve as the civilian Pentagon chief.

Mattis is a highly decorated former wartime commander who became famous for leading the 1st Marine Division’s lightning fast movement into Baghdad during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Image: James M Mattis on the USS Peleliu before Afghanistan mission
James M. Mattis (2R), U.S. Marine General, aboard the USS Peleliu in 2001. JIM HOLLANDER / EPA

On December 5, 2001, as the wreckage of the twin towers still smoldered in lower Manhattan, a team of Army Green Berets accompanying Hamid Karzai, the future president of Afghanistan, was hit by a U.S. smart bomb in a case of friendly fire.

Two American soldiers died instantly and a third was badly wounded. He would later die. Dozens of Afghans also were killed, and the CIA officer who now runs the agency’s spying arm protected Karzai with his body.

Mattis, then a brigadier general commanding a nearby group of Marines, refused repeated requests to send helicopters to rescue the Green Berets, people involved in the operation tell NBC News. The helicopters under Mattis’ command at Camp Rhino were about 45 minutes away, according to the book.

And, as commander, Mattis had final approval for the decision not to dispatch a rescue mission from there.

Who is Gen. James Mattis? 14:50

“He was indecisive and betrayed his duty to us, leaving my men to die during the golden hour when he could have reached us,” Jason Amerine, who led the Army special forces operation as a captain, said in a Facebook post Friday morning.

“Every element in Afghanistan tried to help us except the closest friendly unit, commanded by Mattis,” added Amerine, who retired as a lieutenant colonel and made news in recent years as a prominent critic of the Obama administration’s hostage policies.

The 15th anniversary of the Afghanistan friendly fire incident is Monday. Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, 39; Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Henry Petithory, 32; and Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, 28, were killed.

Ultimately, an Air Force Special Forces unit based three hours away, in Pakistan, sent older helicopters to rescue Amerine and his men. Three more Afghans and a badly-wounded American, Brian Cody Prosser, died on the way to the hospital, according to the book. It is not known whether any of them could have been saved.

Image: File picture of Gen. James Mattis testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing
FILE PICTURE: General James Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington July 27, 2010, on his nomination to be Commander of U.S. Central Command. YURI GRIPAS / Reuters

Mattis declined to be interviewed for the book, Blehm, its author, told NBC News. Other witnesses quoted Mattis saying that he didn’t want to send a rescue mission into an uncertain situation.

According to witness accounts in the book, Mattis reportedly questioned why a rescue mission was needed and worried about whether the situation on the ground was secure.

Later, when a special forces Sergeant, David Lee, protested his decision, Mattis threw him out of his office, Blehm wrote.

The Obama administration was criticized for years by many Republicans—including Vice President-elect Mike Pence — for failing to mount a military rescue when a diplomatic post was attacked in 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, despite military officials saying no rescue was possible.

In this case, another military unit had to act because Mattis did not, Blehm said.

“The Air Force Special Operations Command had the same exact information as Mattis. They launched immediately,” he said.

Image: FILES-US-POLITICS-TRUMP
Mattis with President-elect Trump and Vice president-elect Pence. DON EMMERT / AFP – Getty Images

Blehm spent three years researching the book, including a long interview with Karzai, he told NBC News.

He interviewed six of the surviving eleven Green Berets involved in the operation.

“Every one of them said, when they were this mass casualty situation, either wounded tending to the wounded of their buddies, every one of them were thinking, where in the hell are the Marines?”

In his Facebook post, Amerine — who declined to speak on the record to NBC News — said it was ironic that Mattis later became famous for relieving a battalion commander for alleged indecisiveness during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“The delay of Mattis in launching MEDEVAC on December 5th was never in question, not even by him,” Amerine said. “The only debate was whether it was justified and how many died as a result.”

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