Tag Archive: al Qaeda

There is yet another stamp of India in terrorist activities inside Pakistan; the female suicide bombers which were first introduced by India in Sri Lanka through LTTE or the Tamil Tigers as the Sri Lankan insurgents are known. Probably they have nothing to do with Taliban who have always been accused of condemning the womenfolk to the four-walls of the house. They did not approve of any role for the fair sex in any activity except pleasing the husbands and raising children. It was for this reason that women who dared to come out of their houses during Taliban regime in Afghanistan were forcibly sent back. Even the widows and destitute women were not allowed to work for earning livelihood. But now it seems that Taliban have decided to make use of the special status of the women and the symbols of Muslim culture specific to women. Burqa, for example, which is in Muslim women use can be used as a lethal tool for carrying out terrorist activities. It was a common perception that Taliban still do not approve of any role for women and they only use burqa to disguise the suicide bombers as was done by them in 2007 crisis of Lal Masjid, Islamabad.

But the Long War Journal has reported that Taliban and al Qaeda have established female suicide bombing cells in remote areas of northwestern Pakistan and northeastern Afghanistan. The female suicide bombers have struck in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The existence of the cells, which appeared evident after female suicide bombers attacked twice over the past five months in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was confirmed by a 12-year-old Pakistani girl named Meena Gul who said she was trained to be a “human bomb,” and that women suicide bombers were trained for their deadly task in small cells on both sides of the porous border and were dispatched to their missions with a sermon, ‘God will reward you with a place in heaven.

Gul said her cell was led by Zainab, her sister-in-law, who dressed as a man and fought alongside the Taliban against Pakistani troops. Prior to the two attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there have been no recorded instances of female suicide bombers carrying out attacks in either country. A female suicide bomber struck for the first time in Afghanistan in Kunar province on June 21, 2010. Two US soldiers were killed and two Afghan children were wounded in the attack. Gul claimed her younger sister carried out that attack.

The next female suicide attack took place on Dec. 24, 2010, in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Bajaur. The suicide bomber killed 42 Pakistani civilians in an attack at a World Food Program ration distribution point. The Taliban and al Qaeda cells are under the command of Qari Zia Rahman, the dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda commander who operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Qari Zia claimed credit for the June 2010 suicide attack in Kunar.

Qari Zia is the Taliban’s top regional commander as well as a member of al Qaeda. He operates in Kunar and in neighboring Nuristan province in Afghanistan, and he also operates across the border in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Bajaur. Earlier this year, the Pakistani government claimed they killed Qari Zia in an airstrike, but he later spoke to the media and mocked Pakistan’s interior minister for wrongly reporting his death.

Qari Zia is closely allied with Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban’s leader in Bajaur, as well as with Osama bin Laden. Qari Zia’s fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations. He commands a brigade in al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army, or the Lashkar al Zil, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

Who are these Taliban? Are they the same breed which brought death and destruction for Afghanistan? If they are the same Afghan Taliban finding excuse for every extremist act in Islam, then they are not followers of Islam, for sure. They are the true followers of Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka who were equipped and funded by India.

As soon as the parcel bomb plot started unfolding, it immediately got shrouded in mystery again. It was initially reported that a 22-years old girl, a medical student, was arrested in Yemen along with her mother for allegedly sending the parcel containing deadly explosive, it was subsequently reported that the cell number of the girl was found written on the parcel invoice which led to her arrest. Her lawyer has said that she has been unwittingly set up. It has now been reported by Reuters quoting a US official that a Saudi bomb-maker believed to be working with al Qaeda‘s Yemen-based wing is a key suspect in the parcel bomb plot against the United States.

Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who tops a Saudi Arabian terrorism list, is the brother of a suicide bomber killed in an attempt to kill Saudi counter-terrorism chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef last year. That attack, as well as another attempt on a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009, involved the use of pentaerythritol trinitrate (PETN) — a highly potent explosive that appears to be the weapon of choice of al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

At least one of the two U.S.-bound parcel bombs sent from Yemen addressed to synagogues in Chicago and intercepted in Dubai and Britain on Friday employed PETN. The U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Asiri was being closely looked at by authorities in view of his experience with explosives. There were also indications he may have been the bomb-maker behind the Christmas Day attempt and the failed attack on Prince Nayaf last year, the official added.

Saudi Arabia, which provided intelligence that helped identify the parcel bomb threat, put Asiri at the top of its terrorism list in 2009. Authorities are scrambling to track down any AQAP operatives behind the latest plot. Yemeni police earlier on Saturday arrested a medical student believed to be in her 20s in Sana’a, but her lawyer told Reuters he feared she had been unwittingly used by others.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the parcel bombs sent from Yemen had the hallmarks of al Qaeda, and in particular AQAP. White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan has called AQAP “the most active operational franchise” of al Qaeda outside its traditional Pakistani and Afghan base. The Obama administration has been increasingly focused on the al Qaeda wing, which authorities have said was behind the failed attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner on Christmas Day last year with a bomb that a Nigerian man hid in his underwear.

AQAP is headed by Nasser al-Wahayshi, a Yemeni former associate of Osama bin Laden. But it’s Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Islamist preacher of Yemeni ancestry, who is now drawing considerable attention in Washington. Awlaki, who argues al Qaeda’s extremist views using Western ideas and the Internet, has called the Christmas Day bomber one of his “students” and he traded emails with the U.S. Army psychiatrist who went on a shooting rampage at a military base in Texas last year that killed 13 soldiers. U.S. officials have said Washington has authorized the CIA to kill or capture Awlaki, a rare act against a U.S. citizen that shows the degree of threat he is believed to pose. They have also said the United States will likely increase strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen, seeking to apply the same degree of pressure there as covert drone attacks in Pakistan have had on the core group.

Infamous NRO is not the only misdeed of President Musharraf so dear to the present government. There are some other decisions of the military dictator which the present government not only feels unable to reverse, it wants to implement those decisions more zealously than Musharraf himself. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani revealed Friday for the first time that former military ruler Pervez Musharraf gave approval for US drones to make surveillance flights over the country. It implies that his government gave a tacit nod to replace surveillance with lethal bombing.

“The previous government gave them permission for surveillance and reconnaissance flights by US drone aircraft but not to launch missile attacks,” Prime Minister told diplomatic correspondents. The United States does not officially confirm the drone attacks, but the campaign is unpopular among the Pakistan public who see military action on Pakistani soil as a breach of national sovereignty.

Gilani said “we will find out” when asked about reports that US drones use Shamsi base in southwestern province Balochistan, but denied that drones were taking off from a military base in southern province Sindh.

“We have not provided them space (to fly). This is wrong and I have contradicted that drones were using Shahbaz base (in Sindh) for this purpose.” A covert US drone campaign has dramatically increased the frequency of drone strikes in the tribal belt in response to intelligence claims of a Mumbai-style terror plot to launch commando attacks on European cities. Officials in Washington say drone strikes are highly effective in the war against Al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies, killing a number of high-value targets, including Pakistan’s Taliban founding father Baitullah Mehsud. But in Pakistan, anger over the attacks has fuelled reprisals from militant groups who have targeted NATO supply convoys destined for Afghanistan.

“We have repeatedly said the drone attacks are counter productive,” Gilani told the group of local and foreign reporters. “We want to have drone technology and also if they have any actionable intelligence, we want them to share it with us.”

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame in the United States, this week became the latest legal expert to warn that the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries violate international law and should be halted.

“The use of drones is causing really serious anger in Pakistan. I really seriously question the necessity for what we are doing,” she told London think-tank Chatham House. Although he did not specify bombing raids by unmanned aircraft, CIA chief Leon Panetta has been quoted as telling US media that the agency’s expanding operations in Pakistan have taken “a serious toll” on Al-Qaeda. Washington on Friday held out an offer of two billion dollars in fresh military aid to Pakistan, where it wants the military to do more to fight insurgents crossing into Afghanistan from the northwestern tribal belt.

The United States considers the area an Al-Qaeda headquarters and the most dangerous place on Earth. At talks in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States had “no stronger partner when it comes to counter-terrorism”. Clinton said the military package, which is subject to Congressional approval, would come over several years and be in addition to 7.5 billion dollars in civilian aid the United States has committed over five years.

Saudi Arabia is rightfully a citadel of conservative and fundamentalist Islam. It has remained under the yoke of a form of the government, a system of monarchy not really sanctioned in Islam. So strong was the hold of autocracy and its own brand of religion that the word “nation” was a taboo, always treated like a four-lettered word. Equally sinful was the desire to identify oneself with a nation. However, it is now waking up to the societal need of every social animal i.e. nationalism or a national identity. The religion in the kingdom is normally used, and clergy pampered, to provide fabricated and doctored justifications for perpetuation of hereditary kingship, even in the 21st century.

Pampering of the clergy is manifest in many shapes, most notably in their powers of policing in herding and forcing people to mosques at prayer times. Incidentally, the most appealing message of the religion of Islam for people of those times 1400 plus years ago was not the five-times prayers but elimination of two worst instruments of human exploitation namely, clergy and the autocracy. These two mutually supporting instruments are being perpetuated in Saudi Arabia in the name of Islam. The kingdom was a province of the Ottoman Empire and was plucked out to serve imperial designs of Britain as aptly explained in the memoirs of “Lawrence of Arabia”.

It, however, seems that a change is in the air which can easily be felt by those visiting the kingdom. The feelings for religion are making space for feeling for the nation-hood. Foreign Policy Magazine has reported a rare spectacle this September when thousands of young men spilled onto gridlocked arteries from Riyadh to Khobar to commemorate National Day. Similar displays of patriotic fervor pass without notice in many countries around the world. But in a kingdom renowned for the austerity of its conservative religious movement, even a simple festival can be symptomatic of dramatic changes in the structure of society.

For decades, any celebration of the 1932 unification of the kingdom was widely interpreted as an affront to Islam. Powerful Saudi clerics conspired to treat tributary holidays, outside the two religious festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as heresy. For this same conservative clergy to ignore elaborate, state-sponsored celebrations and National Day-themed Theater (in a country that does not allow cinemas) suggests that the balance of power between the House of al-Sa’ud and the House of Ibn Wahhab may be tipping in favor of the monarchy.

The current socio-political system in Saudi Arabia dates to the establishment of the kingdom by Abdul Aziz al-Sa’ud (Ibn Sa’ud). The expansion of al-Sa’ud’s power base beyond the central portion of the kingdom in Najd depended heavily on a group of desert warriors known as the Ikhwan, who had embraced the call to arms of al-Sa’ud’s then-ally and puritanical religious revivalist Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. The same 1744 pact governing this alliance between religious and temporal power persists to this day through the clerical legitimization of the rule of the House of al-Sa’ud, and the reciprocal guarantee of the Islamic character of the state.

Under this arrangement, the descendants of al-Wahhab — the al-Shaikh family — exercise ultimate control over the judiciary, education and religious hierarchy through key positions including that of Justice Minister and Grand Mufti. Dynastic succession in the 5,000-man strong royal family is similarly restricted to the direct descendants of Ibn Sa’ud, who dominate political life in the country to an extent that is virtually unparalleled in the contemporary world.

The alliance provides the royal family with leverage to perfect the practice of co-option through intermarriage, the allocation of oil wealth and appointments to positions of power. As a result, the kingdom’s senior Wahhabi clergy, including the top cleric and highest religious authority, have been subordinated to the political order and are expected to ratify and justify regime policies.

The impact of this arrangement on the legitimacy of the official religious establishment has fluctuated over time, but state-appointed clerics continue to enjoy tremendous power in schools, universities, mosques and state-controlled radio and television.

This is perhaps doubly true of the kingdom’s “unofficial” clerics and religious figures aligned with the fragmented Islamic awakening movement (sahwa). Members of this disparate group — made up of both moderates close to the reformist lobby and hardliners who provide moral succor to violent dissidents — share the social conservatism of their official counterparts, but derive their influence from their popular following and their willingness to openly challenge the regime. The most prominent among them rose to power in the 1990’s by channeling popular anger toward official clerics who had legitimized the presence of American troops on Saudi soil.

Many of these same independent and politically motivated conservative clerics today oppose King Abdullah‘s education and justice reform agenda, issuing hundreds of internet fatwas to derail modernization efforts. A royal response issued in August 2010, by way of decree, limited the authority to issue religious edicts to approved members of a 20-cleric Senior Scholars Authority and an affiliated committee.

The seemingly long-delayed decision to insulate the citizenry — and the royal agenda — from the influence of more extreme elements within the independent clergy, can actually be traced back to the early part of this decade. Following al Qaeda‘s attacks on the kingdom in 2003 and 2004, the king encouraged nationalist sentiment by promoting patriotism (watania) as a stand-alone subject in the academic curriculum.

With the exception of a joint statement issued by 156 scholars expressing outrage at the perceived replacement of religious based loyalty with Saudi nationalism, the clerical establishment remained surprisingly quiet. Their acquiescence paved the way for King Abdullah to sanction National Day as an official holiday in one of the first decrees he issued upon coming to power in 2005. In every year since, preparations have been more elaborate, and celebrations more colorful, than the year before. Please also click: forbidden luxury