Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

Afghanistan: Kabul Car Bomb Kills At Least 24 — “Unrelenting violence in Afghanistan”

July 24, 2017

KABUL — A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb in the western part of Kabul on Monday, killing at least 24 people and wounding 40, and the death toll could rise, an Interior Ministry spokesman in the Afghan capital said.

Police cordoned off the area, located near the house of the deputy government Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq in a part of the city where many of the mainly Shi’ite Hazara community live, but they said the target of the attack was so far unclear.

A small bus owned by the Ministry of Mines had been destroyed, government security sources said.

Acting Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said at least 24 people had been killed and 40 wounded but the casualty toll could rise further.

Salim Rasouli, director of the city’s hospitals, said at least 13 dead and 17 wounded had been taken to hospitals.

The latest suicide bombing adds to the unrelenting violence in Afghanistan, where at least 1,662 civilians were killed in the first half of the year. It came two weeks after the Islamic State group claimed an attack on a mosque in the capital that killed at least four people.

Kabul has accounted for at least 20 percent of all civilian casualties this year, including at least 150 people killed in a massive truck bomb attack at the end of May, according to United Nations figures.

The Taliban, which is battling the Western-backed government for control of Afghanistan, has launched a wave of attacks around the country in recent days, sparking fighting in more than half a dozen provinces.

On Sunday, dozens of Afghan troops were under siege after Taliban fighters overran a district in northern Faryab province, a spokesman for the provincial police said.

There was also fighting in Baghlan, Badakhshan, Kunduz, Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan provinces, according to officials.

The resurgence of violence coincides with the U.S. administration weighing up its strategic options for Afghanistan, including the possibility of sending more troops to bolster the training and advisory mission already helping Afghan forces.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and James Mackenzie; Editing by Paul Tait)


Suicide car bomb hits Afghanistan’s Kabul

Taliban claim responsibility for attack that killed at least 24 people in a western Kabul neighbourhood.

The attack took place in a neighbourhood that is home to many Shia Hazaras [Reuters]

At least 24 people have been killed and more than 40 wounded after a suicide car bomb targeted Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, officials have said.

The target of Monday’s attack was a bus carrying staff of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, intelligence officials told Al Jazeera.

Najib Danish, an acting Interior Ministry spokesman added that the casualty toll could rise.

Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.

The attack came just before 7am local time (02:30 GMT) and took place close to the house of Hazara leader Mohammed Mohaqeq.

Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said the Hazara community had called a demonstration for Monday to commemorate a suicide bombing that killed 84 in the same area on July 23 last year.

The demonstration was postponed because of security risks.

“Security has been very tight in Kabul,” she said.

“This morning, new barrier gates went up that limit the height of trucks coming in to the city.”

The Hazaras are one of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minorities, accounting for up to 20 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million inhabitants.

The latest suicide bombing adds to the unrelenting violence in Afghanistan, where at least 1,662 civilians were killed in the first half of the year.

It came two weeks after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed an attack on a mosque in the capital that killed at least four people.

Kabul has accounted for at least 20 percent of all civilian casualties this year, including at least 150 people killed in a massive truck bomb attack at the end of May, according to UN figures.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Afghan police search for villagers after mass kidnapping

July 23, 2017


© AFP | An Afghan policeman stands guard amid an ongoing battle with Taliban militants in the Gereshk district of Helmand province on July 22, 2017

KANDAHAR (AFGHANISTAN) (AFP) – Afghan police on Sunday launched a search for some 30 villagers still missing two days after a mass kidnapping blamed on Taliban militants in the southern province of Kandahar.

Seventy people were abducted Friday from their village along the main road in the south and seven of them were found dead the following day alongside the highway, from the city of Kandahar to Tarinkot in Uruzgan province.

Around 30 people have been released while 30 others remain missing, Kandahar police spokesman Zia Durrani told AFP.

It remained unclear why the villagers were seized. But some officials said they suspected the Taliban had kidnapped or killed them for suspected cooperation with the Western-backed government which the militants are striving to topple.

The insurgents have a heavy presence in Uruzgan, a poppy-growing area.

On Sunday they denied involvement, while confirming they had attacked police checkpoints in the area.

“Our mujahideen killed a number of local police and pro-government militias there, also capturing 17 suspects who were later released after interrogation. We have not killed or kidnapped any civilians,” the Taliban said in a statement.

Civilians are increasingly caught in the crosshairs of Afghanistan’s worsening conflict as the Taliban step up their annual spring offensive launched in April.

Highways passing through insurgency-prone areas have become exceedingly dangerous, with the Taliban and other armed groups frequently kidnapping or killing travellers.

In July Taliban fighters closed a highway connecting Farah to Herat city in the west, stopping a bus and forcing 16 passengers off it. They shot at least seven of them while the remainder were taken hostage.

Elsewhere in the country, the Taliban on Sunday captured a district in the northern province of Faryab after an overnight attack that triggered hours of heavy fighting, said provincial police spokesman Abdul Karim Yourish.

He said troops had retreated two kilometres from the centre of Kohistan district. There was no word on casualties.

Local media on Sunday also reported that the Taliban had overran Taywara district in the central province of Ghor, though there was no immediate official confirmation.

There has been a surge in fighting in several northern and southern Afghan provinces in recent days, including in Helmand in the south where 16 Afghan police officers were killed by a US air strike on Friday night.

The strike, the latest setback in Washington’s efforts to pacify the country, hit a compound in Gereshk district, large parts of which are under Taliban control.

Afghan troops and police are battling largely alone on the ground against the insurgency, after US-led foreign forces withdrew from most combat operations in December 2014.

The United States is actively considering sending more troops to Afghanistan and US commanders there have requested thousands of extra soldiers on the ground.

The US contingent now numbers about 8,400, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago. They mainly serve as trainers and advisers.


Afghan Official Says Taliban Overruns District Headquarters as Attacks in North Increase

July 23, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan official says Taliban fighters overran a district headquarters in northern Afghanistan after a ferocious fight that left 2 police dead in northern Faryab province.

Abdul Karim Yourish, provincial police chief spokesman, said Sunday the assault on the Lawlash District government headquarters was launched under the cover of darkness late Saturday. Government offices as well as the police headquarters were located inside the compound.

In recent days, Taliban have launched dozens of attacks in northern Afghanistan, temporarily closing a key highway between the capital Kabul and northern Afghanistan. The attacks reflect the Taliban’s efforts to apply pressure on government troops and police across the country and not just in their strongholds in the south and east of Afghanistan.

The Blockade Of Qatar Is Failing — Qatar Could Seek Damages

July 19, 2017

In the grown-up world of geopolitics, the Saudi and Emirati-led move against Doha does not seem to be achieving its goals.

Image may contain: skyscraper, sky, ocean, outdoor and water
Food supplies and other goods are still flowing into Qatar’s docks and airports (Representational)

It’s hard to imagine the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates thought it would go this way. Officials from their governments – as well as junior partners Egypt and Bahrain – described the punitive sanctions they collectively slapped on Qatar in early June as an unfortunate but necessary action, aimed at bringing the pesky Qataris to heel. It was as if Qatar, accused by its neighbors of fomenting extremism near and far, was an unruly child who needed to be disciplined.

But in the grown-up world of geopolitics, the Saudi and Emirati-led move against Doha does not seem to be achieving its goals. Rather than isolating Qatar, it has deepened Qatari ties with regional powers Turkey and Iran. Oman and Kuwait, two other states in the Gulf Cooperation Council, have not joined in. Food supplies and other goods are still flowing into Qatar’s docks and airports. And, no matter the White House’s mixed messaging, American diplomats appear to be pushing for conciliation and compromise with Qatar rather than seeking Doha’s acquiescence to the Saudi and Emirati demands.

“As with their disastrous war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE radically overstated their prospects for success and failed to have a plausible plan B in case things did not go to plan,” wrote Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University. “The anti-Qatar quartet seems to have overestimated Qatari fears of isolation from the GCC and their own ability to inflict harm on their neighbor.”


A new Washington Post report this week added to the awkwardness facing the blockaders. According to unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, the UAE was behind a controversial late-May hack of Qatari government news and social media sites that helped trigger the crisis. The hack attributed false quotes to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, that had him celebrating Iran as an “Islamic power” and praising Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Image result for Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani,, photos

Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani

Despite Doha’s vociferous denials, the furor led Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to ban Qatari media, then later break relations with Doha and impose their trade and diplomatic boycott. U.S. officials “became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation,” my colleagues Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima reported. “The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done.”

In a statement, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, rejected these claims. “The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article,” he said, before reiterating his country’s complaints about Qatar’s maverick foreign policy. “What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas … Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors.”

There is plenty of precedent for rumors and murky innuendo fueling tensions in this part of the world: A rupture in relations in 2014 saw false news reports proliferate about Saudi and Emirati citizens being banned from Harrods, the London department store owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

Analysts explain that the current impasse is an extension of long-running disagreements and tensions with Qatar, which has irritated its larger neighbors by using its riches to play an outsized role on the world stage. At issue are squabbles over support for different proxies in conflicts from Syria and Libya, as well as the provocative work of Qatari-funded network Al Jazeera, which Riyadh and Abu Dhabi want to see shut down.

The Qataris have also charted a different diplomatic path from their neighbors, playing host to political offices for groups such as the Taliban and Hamas in a bid to mediate regional conflicts. “Against a backdrop of purring limousines and dhows moored in the bay, Doha has become home to an exotic array of fighters, financiers and ideologues, a neutral city with echoes of Vienna in the Cold War, or a Persian Gulf version of the fictional pirate bar in the Star Wars movies,” wrote Declan Walsh of the New York Times.

“It’s always been this place where waifs and strays and unwanted people ended up,” said David B. Roberts, the author of “Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City-State,” to the Times. “There was no overarching power on the peninsula, so if you were wanted by a sheikh, you could escape to Qatar and nobody would bother you.”

So the crisis among the wealthy Persian Gulf states rumbles on. Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson carried out a fitful round of shuttle diplomacy in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to defuse the situation. The squabbling countries are all U.S. allies – Qatar hosts the United States’ largest military base in the Middle East – and Tillerson would prefer everyone calm down and get back to other issues, notably the fight against the Islamic State. But his efforts have yet to bear much fruit.

Tillerson made a public gambit in Doha, signing a memorandum of understanding in which Qatar pledged to do more to block funding for extremist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. It quickly became a farce. “The Qataris boasted that they were the first in the region to sign such a pact and urged the Arabs allied against them to do the same,” my colleague Carol Morello wrote. “The four countries heading the embargo claimed credit for pressuring Qatar into signing, and simultaneously dismissed it as ‘insufficient’ to end their embargo.”

The Saudi Embassy tweeted, “President Trump: Qatar ‘Known as a Funder of Terrorism'”

On Monday, as the Emiratis were rejecting the hacking allegations, the Saudi Embassy in Washington tweeted lines from an interview with President Trump where he had lashed out at Qatar. It was yet another illustration of the dissonance between the White House and State Department over the crisis – and yet another reminder that the quarrel in the Gulf won’t stop anytime soon.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


Al Jazeera

Qatar considers seeking damages over Gulf blockade

Economy minister discusses compensation with trade officials in Geneva as legal team prepares to study the sanctions.

Qatar’s defence minister says Doha could take its case before the World Court [Reuters]

Qatar has announced that it is considering legal action against four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, demanding compensation for losses incurred owing to the ongoing blockade.

Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s economy minister, met on Tuesday the heads of international trade organisations in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the case for compensation.

Qatar has contracted a specialised legal team to study the actions taken by the blockading countries against it, according to a statement from the economy ministry in Doha.

READ MORE: France calls for lifting of sanctions on Qatar citizens

Separately, Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, Qatar’s defence minister, said the country may even its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, at The Hague.

Because of its financial reserves and as long as it can continue exporting liquefied natural gas, Qatar has avoided any crippling economic crisis because of the blockade.

But it has been forced to rely on planes to import food, after Saudi Arabia and the UAEblocked shipment of goods into Qatar.

Several other businesses were also disrupted, including the country’s national flag carrier Qatar Airways, whose flights to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain remain suspended.

Legal measures

The development comes a day after Qatar officials said the government was considering “legal measures” locally and internationally over the alleged hacking of the state news agency.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Marwan Kabalan of the Doha Institute said that over the past weeks, Qatar has been trying to use “different tools to undermine the blockade”.

The “balance of power” within the Gulf region is now “tilting towards Qatar”, particularly after the Washington Post revelation of UAE’s role in the hacking that precipitated the crisis.

Qatar Airways flights to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain remain suspended [Reuters]

With the Gulf crisis entering its eighth week, however, there is no sign of the dispute being resolved soon.

Earlier, Mohammed Cherkaoui, professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University in Virginia, told Al Jazeera that regional and international mediation have faced “several setbacks”. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar on June 5.

The quartet accuse Qatar of funding “terrorism”, an accusation Qatar rejects as “baseless”.

On June 22, the Saudi-led group issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country, as a prerequisite to lift the sanctions.

Qatar rejected the demands and the countries now consider the list “null and void”.

Kuwait is trying to mediate in the dispute, and countries such as the US and France have urged the parties to engage in direct talks.

Qatar and several countries have called for the lifting of the sanctions before face-to-face talks can proceed.

Daniel Hannan, a Conservative British member of the European Parliament who visited Qatar on Monday, said the continuing blockade on Qatar is not helpful in resolving the crisis.

“There is almost no situation in the world that isn’t made worse by an economic blockade,” Hannan told Al Jazeera.

Hannan said an “immediate lifting” of the sanctions could pave the way for talks, saying: “It is very difficult to negotiate with a gun to your head.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Qatar crisis: UAE denies hacking news agency

July 17, 2017

BBC News

The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, denies it hacked Qatar’s news agency.

The United Arab Emirates has denied it was behind the alleged hacking of Qatar’s state news agency in May.

The Washington Post cited US intelligence officials as saying the UAE had orchestrated the posting of incendiary quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir that he insisted were fabricated.

The incident helped spark a diplomatic rift between Qatar and its neighbours.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told the BBC on Monday the Post’s report was “untrue”.

He also reiterated that the UAE and five other Arab nations had not written to Fifa to demand that Qatar be stripped of the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Swiss news network The Local said a fake news story quoting Fifa president Gianni Infantino had been posted on a copycat website on Saturday.

The Washington Post’s story cited unnamed US intelligence officials as saying newly-analysed information confirmed that on 23 May senior members of the UAE government had discussed a plan to hack Qatari state media sites.

Screengrabs showing the allegedly fake news story were posted on TwitterQNA/INSTAGRAM
Screengrabs showing the allegedly fake news story were posted on Instagram

Later that day, the official Qatar News Agency quoted Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as criticising US “hostility” towards Iran, describing it as an “Islamic power that cannot be ignored”, and calling Hamas the “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

Qatari officials said the agency had been hacked by an “unknown entity” and that the story had “no basis whatsoever”. However, the remarks were reported across the region and caused a stir.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt responded by blocking Qatari media.

Two weeks later, the four countries cut all links with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism and relations with Iran. The boycott has caused turmoil in the oil- and gas-rich emirate, which is dependent on imports by land and sea for the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million.

The US intelligence officials told the Washington Post it was unclear whether the UAE authorities had hacked the Qatar News Agency itself or paid a third party to do it.

The Guardian reported last month that an investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had concluded that freelance Russian hackers were responsible.

US intelligence agencies declined to comment on the Post’s article, but the UAE’s ambassador insisted that it “had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking”.

“What is true is Qatar’s behaviour. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Gaddafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbours,” Yousef al-Otaiba wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.


Qatar has acknowledged providing assistance to Islamist groups designated as terrorist organisations by some of its neighbours, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. But it has denied aiding jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda or so-called Islamic State (IS).

Mr Gargash told the BBC that Qatar’s denial had been contradicted by its agreement to review a list of 59 individuals and 12 organisations who the UAE has accused of supporting terrorism and wants arrested or expelled.

“What we know now is that Qatar is admitting that the list is worthy, that the list needs to be looked at, and that they need to change some of their laws to ensure that there is a proper process to cover this list,” he said.

Mr Gargash said Qatar’s neighbours were prepared to continue the boycott for months if it did not comply with the list of demands it was handed last month and agreed to international monitoring.

“I understand the concern of our allies,” he added. “But the issue is that we are being hurt, and the world is being hurt, by a state that has $300bn (£230bn) and is the main sponsor of this jihadist agenda.”

But, he added, the four states would not escalate the boycott by asking companies to choose between doing business with them or with Qatar.


UAE planted fake news story to trigger Qatar crisis, US report claims — Who funds Iran, Hamas, Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood?

July 17, 2017


© Bandar Al-Jaloud, Saudi Royal Palace / AFP | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on December 5, 2016 shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) listening to UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (C).

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-07-17

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of a Qatari government news site in May, planting a false story that was used as a pretext for the current Gulf diplomatic crisis, according to a Sunday report by The Washington Post.

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had been falsely quoted in May as praising Hamas and saying that Iran was an “Islamic power,” the Washington Post reported. In response, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar said in late May that hackers had posted fake remarks by the emir, an explanation rejected by Gulf states.

The Washington Post reported that US intelligence officials learned last week of newly analysed information that showed that top UAE government officials discussed the planned hacks on May 23, the day before they occurred.

The officials said it was unclear if the UAE hacked the websites or paid for them to be carried out, the newspaper reported. The Washington Post did not identify the intelligence officials it spoke to for the report.

UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba denied the report in a statement, saying it was “false,” the Washington Post said.

“What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Gaddafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalisation, and undermining the stability of its neighbours,” the statement said.

The US State Department declined comment in response to a Reuters query. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was previously known to be working with Qatar to probe the hacking.

The ongoing crisis has threatened to complicate the US-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State (IS) group as all participants are US. allies and members of the anti-IS group coalition. Qatar is home to more than 10,000 US troops and the regional headquarters of the US Central Command while Bahrain is the home of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

President Donald Trump has sided strongly with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the dispute, publicly backing their contention that Doha is a supporter of Islamic militant groups and a destabilising force in the Middle East. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently concluded several days of shuttle diplomacy in the Gulf, but he departed the region without any public signs of a resolution.



US officials claim the UAE is behind the hacking of Qatar's news agency in May which sparked a diplomatic crisis. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Doha last week to try to resolve the crisis with Qatar's Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani (above together on July 11) 

US officials claim the UAE is behind the hacking of Qatar’s news agency in May which sparked a diplomatic crisis. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Doha last week to try to resolve the crisis with Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani (above together on July 11)

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Suicide Bomber Targets Pakistan Paramilitary Force, 2 Dead — The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility — Motorcycle attacker

July 17, 2017

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber hit a vehicle carrying Pakistani paramilitary force members on Monday, killing two soldiers, including an officer, and wounding seven, a police official said. The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police superintendent Imran Malik said the attack happened in Peshawar, on the edge of the Khyber tribal area that borders Afghanistan. The attacker was riding a motorcycle, he added.

Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban, an umbrella for Pakistani Taliban factions, was behind the attack, according to a statement by the militants’ spokesman, Mohammad Khurasani, distributed to the media.

The attack came a day after the Pakistan army announced it had launched an operation in the Khyber tribal region to rout Islamic State militants it said were operating in the area. The Islamic State in Khorasan as it is known in Afghanistan and Pakistan is based in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province which abuts Pakistan and the Khyber tribal region.

The local Islamic State affiliate emerged a few years ago, mainly from disenchanted Taliban fighters espousing the IS’ ideology.

The paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps, is the front-line force battling militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions stretching hundreds of kilometers (miles) along its border with Afghanistan.

Image result for photos, pakistan, Frontier Corps,

Frontier Corps soldiers

Bomb Kills Police Chief, 2 Others in Southwest Pakistan Town

July 10, 2017

CHAMAN, Pakistan — A Pakistani spokesman says a roadside bomb has struck a vehicle carrying a police chief in the southwestern town of Chaman near the Afghan border, killing him, his guard and a civilian.

Police spokesman Shazada Farhat says 11 people were also wounded in Monday’s attack that targeted police chief Sajid Khan Mohmand’s vehicle in the main bazaar.

He says officers found a badly destroyed motorcycle at scene of the blast and are trying to determine whether the bomb was rigged to it.

Farhat says police officers and passers-by were among those wounded in the attack.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. Chaman is located near the Afghan town of Spin Boldak.

Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have claimed previous attacks in Chaman.

Image result for Chaman, Spin Boldak, map

Pakistani Politician Shot Dead in Baluchistan Province

July 6, 2017

QUETTA, Pakistan — Gunmen on Thursday shot and killed a Pakistani regional political party leader in the city of Quetta, police said, the latest violence in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Malik Naveed, 38, and his guard, Mohammad Zareef, 42, died en route to hospital after gunmen riding two motorcycles attacked his car shortly after he had left his home, Superintendent of Police Ashraf Jattak said.

One of Naveed’s relatives, who was with him in the car, was wounded.

Naveed is one of the leaders of the opposition Baluchistan National Party, which advocates for more funds from the province’s rich natural resources to go to the indigenous ethnic Baluch people.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, has long been home to an insurgency by the nationalist and separatist groups, who accuse the central government of discrimination in distribution of revenues from oil, gas and minerals.

Taliban and al Qaeda militants, as well as Islamic State-aligned Sunni sectarian groups also operate in the province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.

Violence in Baluchistan has raised concerns about security for projects related to the $57 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a planned transport and energy link between western China to Pakistan’s southern deep-water port of Gwadar.

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Robert Birsel)


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 (The “Project of the Century” is, at heart, an imperial venture.)


The fall of ISIS does not make Middle East safer

July 5, 2017

Stable political system needed to stop formation of terror groups

It is now only a matter of days before the last neighbourhoods of Raqqa, the Syrian city which terrorist organisation Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) proclaimed as the capital of its “caliphate”, fall into the hands of a pro-Western coalition of forces.

The liberation of a city, which since 2014 became infamous as the scene of some of ISIS’ worst atrocities, including public beheadings as well as a hub for planning attacks around the world, is surely a welcome development.

It will also administer a heavy blow to ISIS, which has an estimated 3,500 militants in Raqqa, most now likely to be killed. “There is no hub any more,” Colonel Ryan Dillon, the United States Defence Department’s spokesman, told reporters. “They are on the run and we will not allow them to regroup.”

The eviction of ISIS from its last major Syrian stronghold, coming hard on the heels of the liberation of Mosul, another ISIS redoubt in neighbouring Iraq, is an undoubted strategic achievement.

But it’s unlikely to make the Middle East a safer place, for the danger remains that, as shattered and scattered to the winds as ISIS may now be, it will simply spawn new and even more virulent terrorist organisations.

Notwithstanding the criticism US President Donald Trump generates at home and overseas, the fact remains that in the Middle East he has pursued an effective strategy.

Unlike Mr Barack Obama, his predecessor, Mr Trump blurred the distinction between intervention and non-intervention by quietly beefing up the number of US special forces on the ground in both Syria and Iraq.

The liberation of Raqqa, Syria, is largely conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of various pro-Western militia in which ethnic Kurds drawn from the People's Protection Units predominate.

The liberation of Raqqa, Syria, is largely conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of various pro-Western militia in which ethnic Kurds drawn from the People’s Protection Units predominate. PHOTO: REUTERS


And, by authorising occasional missile and air strikes against hostile targets in Syria, Mr Trump has also served notice to Russia, Syria’s strategic patron, that while the US is interested in reducing the risk of clashes involving military operations in the region, it would not allow its anti-terrorism goals to be held hostage by Moscow.

The Trump strategy has worked as intended in flushing ISIS out of its strongholds and destroying the bulk of its forces. But it also carries its own dangers, which will soon become evident.

The first consists of the fact that the liberation of Raqqa is largely conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of various pro-Western militia in which ethnic Kurds drawn from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) predominate. The US rightly views the YPG as the most effective local force to fight ISIS.

But neighbouring Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist organisation and fears its success in Raqqa will be followed by increased Kurdish separatist demands among the estimated 35 million Kurds who inhabit the mountainous regions straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

And while the Syrian Arab residents of Raqqa may relish their liberation from ISIS, they are unlikely to take kindly to swapping this for the control of the Kurds.

The US hopes that its hastily created Civil Council of Raqqa, which is now being put in charge of the city, will reassure the local Sunni Arab residents, who are unlikely to accept even partial rule by rival Kurds. Mr Trump has also recently promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that, the moment the battle for Raqqa is won, the Kurds will be reined in.

Yet, as anyone who has worked in the Middle East knows, local proxy militia are not easily switched on and off.

US military planners assume that, the moment Raqqa is won, fighting will move towards the southern parts of Syria, down the Euphrates river valley and nearer the capital of Damascus. In preparation for this, the Pentagon is training and arming two Syrian tribal groups.

But this is also the area where Iranian-trained militia predominate. And Iran is determined to maintain control over a corridor connecting its own proxies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon.

It is around the Euphrates that Iran and US-sponsored proxies could well come to direct blows, with dire consequences for the rest of the Middle East.

ISIS is clearly on its last legs: Two years ago, it controlled 90,800 sq km of territory in Syria and Iraq, but now it probably holds no more than a quarter of that. Most of its top leaders are dead, its troops are decimated, its financial revenues are down to a trickle and foreign fighters are no longer pouring into the region, but fleeing it.

Still, unless a stable political settlement is imposed on Syria and Iraq, the vast ungoverned spaces of today’s Middle East will simply generate another terrorist organisation.

We may soon forget what ISIS stood for. But we could well encounter the emergence of yet another deadly organisation, branded under another sinister acronym.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline ‘The fall of ISIS does not make Middle East safer’.