The UN Report on Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s Death, and the Current Situation

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

The Pakistan People’s Party blames the government of that time for the death of Ms. Bhutto. They claim that the Police could have done much more than they did. Because the PPP knew proper security was not going to be provided that is why they had their own security team.

However things get very hazy when getting into the report as to the whereabouts of the security provided by PPP as well.

Here are some parts of the reports to summaries what the report says and later what is being done after this report has come out.

Parts of Executive Summary of the UN Report:

The Commission was mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking Pakistani government authorities to obstruct access to military and intelligence sources, as revealed in their public declarations. The extension of the mandate until 31 March enabled the Commission to pursue further this matter and eventually meet with some past and present members of the Pakistani military and intelligence services.

Ms. Bhutto faced threats from a number of sources; these included Al-Qaida, the Taliban, local jihadi groups and potentially from elements in the Pakistani Establishment. Yet the Commission found that the investigation focused on pursuing lower level operatives and placed little to no focus on investigating those further up the hierarchy in the planning, financing and execution of the assassination.

The investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other government officials, which impeded an unfettered search for the truth. More significantly, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) conducted parallel investigations, gathering evidence and detaining suspects. Evidence gathered from such parallel investigations was selectively shared with the police.

UN Report Blames the military for all Ms. Bhutto’s dismissals:

Her first government ended after just 20 months, and her second lasted less than three years. Both times, she was dismissed by the sitting president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari, respectively, based on allegations of corruption and nepotism. While both men were civilians, each had close ties to the military. Ms Bhutto and the PPP believed that it was the military, or more broadly, the Establishment, that forced her out.

Who does the Report Blame?

Contrary to the police assertion, there was no police-provided box formation around Ms Bhutto as she arrived at the rally, and the Elite Force unit did not execute their duties as specified in the security deployment. Furthermore, the Commission does not believe that the full escort as described by the police was ever present.

According to the report a bullet proof Mercedez-Benz was supposed to be riding right behind Ms. Bhutto’s vehicle which sped off before the gunshots and the bomb blast. Riding in the black Mercedes-Benz car were the driver, PPP official Mr Faratullah Babar in the front passenger seat and, in the rear passenger seat from left to right, two PPP officials Mr Babar Awan and Mr Rehman Malik and General (ret) Tauqir Zia.

UN Report Findings on the Mercedes Benz:

96. The black bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz car was the first to leave the parking area. It is not clear how much distance there was between this vehicle and the rest of Ms Bhutto’s convoy at the moment of the blast. Credible reports range from 100 meters to 250 meters. Some of those in the car said that they were close enough to Ms Bhutto’s vehicle to feel the impact of the blast. Others at the site of the blast have said that the Mercedes-Benz left Liaquat Bagh so quickly that it was nowhere to be seen when the blast occurred. Indeed, the Commission has not seen this vehicle in the many video images of the exit area it reviewed. Despite the acknowledgement of some occupants of the vehicle that they felt the impact of the blast, the Commission finds it incredible that they drove all the way to Zardari House, a drive of about 20 minutes, before they became aware that Ms Bhutto had been injured in the blast.

They should have stopped at a safe distance when they felt the blast so as to check on Ms Bhutto’s condition, the condition of her vehicle and whether the back-up vehicle was required. Indeed, as the back-up vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz car would have been an essential element of Ms Bhutto’s convoy on the return trip even if the occupants of that car had confirmed that Ms Bhutto had been unscathed in the attack.

The nature of the crowd was not determined because it was slowing the cars down considerably. The crowd was riled up to the point where it started to worry the people inside as to why the crowd was this way and the cars were slowing down. There was a dispute on the route that was taken as well. Neither the PPP nor the Police side of this story has been confirmed.

The protective box that was promised was never formed. The police claims they were about to form the box right when the blast took place but there is no evidence of that event taking place in the videos. The video clearly shows that there were not enough Policemen to push back the crowds to form the box.

Also PPP blames the police for not giving permission for an autopsy on Ms. Bhutto’s body. The police say that that was because they wanted consent from the family which is legally not necessary. The PPP claim that situations were created which made the autopsy harder even when the body was handed over to the relatives. How strong an argument this is for PPP is doubtful since President Zardari, the husband himself refused an autopsy.

The crime scene was completely hosed off right after the event took place. The police say it was because the crowds around it were restless and they needed to be put at ease. Once the scene was cleaned off people started to leave. Also the police claim people were rubbing blood from the scene on their faces thinking its Ms. Bhutto’s blood. However later on it was confirmed that only one person was seen doing such a thing. Hosing down a crime scene is not standard practice in Pakistan.

UN Report on the Crime Scene:

127. Video footage immediately following the blast shows shock, fear and confusion among the people at the scene and little police control. The crime scene was not immediately cordoned off. The police did collect some evidence. Officers from intelligence agencies, including the ISI, the IB and MI, were present and also collected evidence, using, as one Rawalpindi police officer noted, better evidence collection equipment than the police. Within one hour and forty minutes of the blast, however, SP Khurram ordered the fire and rescue officials present to wash the crime scene down with fire hoses. He told the Commission that the police had collected all the available evidence by then. Police records show that only 23 pieces of evidence were collected, in a case where one would normally have expected thousands. The evidence included mostly human body parts, two pistols, spent cartridges and Ms Bhutto’s damaged vehicle.

The report also states that many times people were scared to speak openly. If that is the case then the question arises that if people are not speaking openly then how did the commission get any facts and how did the commission differentiate between facts and comments made out of fear?

UN Report on the Press Conference:

156. At about 1700 hours on the day following the assassination the government held a televised press conference, conducted by Brigadier Cheema, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior at which he announced that: a. Ms Bhutto died from a head injury sustained when from the force of the blast she hit her head on the lever of the escape hatch; and, b. Mr Baitullah Mehsud linked with Al-Qaida was responsible, presenting an intercepted telephone conversation between Mr Mehsud and one Mr Maulvi Sahib in which Mr Mehsud was heard congratulating Mr Maulvi on a job well-done

Un Report Says the Joint Investigation Team was not given access to the crime scene in due time:

166. Once at the scene, the investigators could see that it had been hosed down.

Despite the late hour, they spent seven hours there. They followed the water current, including wading through the drainage sewer and collected evidence from the debris.

They were able to recover one bullet casing from the drainage sewer, later established through forensic examination to have been fired from the pistol bearing the bomber’s DNA. The JIT members left the scene around midnight. The Rawalpindi police provided security for them, and the road was cordoned off during the entire time. The next day, the team returned to continue the search. Upon their request, the scene remained cordoned off and the road closed. They eventually recovered other evidence in the course of their crime scene examination, including the partial skull of the suicide bomber from atop one of the buildings near the site.

The UN Report on The Bomber:

168. The scientific analysis of the suicide bomber’s remains by the Scotland Yard team established that he was a teenage male, no more than 16 years old. According to the JIT’s investigations, this young man was named Bilal also known as Saeed from South Waziristan. This was established through the links that the accused persons admitted having had with the bomber and the ISI telephone intercept of Baitullah Mehsud’s conversation with Maulvi Sahib.

According to the report Ms. Bhutto considered (i) Brigadier (ret) Ejaz Shah, Director General of the IB at the time of the assassination, (ii) General (ret) Hamid Gul, a former Director General of the ISI, and (iii) Mr Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Chief Minister of Punjab until 22 November 2007 to be a threat to her life but these people were not questioned in the investigation. Most of key persons who were in the car with Ms.Bhutto at the time of her death refused to speak to JIT when asked. They however, deny being contacted by the police.

The UN Report’s Statemen on The Sottland Yard Report finding:   

a. although not possible to “categorically…exclude” the possibility of a gunshot wound, the available evidence suggested there was no gunshot wound; b. Ms Bhutto died of a severe head injury caused by impact in the area of the escape hatch lip as a result of the blast; and c. the same individual both fired the shots and detonated the explosives.

That report was not trustworthy for the PPP leadership since they took a lot of the information given to them by the police on ‘good faith’.

The UN Report also says that she had threats from Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. She was also under threat they say from the establishment of the time.

Other hypothesis were her family and people close to her wanting her dead however the report states that there are no basis for these allegations.

Part of Important Findings of the UN Report:

iii. Responsibility for Ms Bhutto’s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal Government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi District Police. None of these entities took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced.

vii. The additional security arrangements of the PPP lacked leadership and were inadequate and poorly executed. The Commission recognizes the heroism of individual PPP supporters, many of whom sacrificed them selves to protect Ms Bhutto. However, Ms Bhutto was left vulnerable in a severely damaged vehicle that was unable to transport her to the hospital by the irresponsible and hasty departure of the bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz which, as the back-up vehicle, was an essential part of her convoy.

xviii. The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Ms Bhutto’s assassination were, in most cases, deliberate. In other cases, the failures were driven by uncertainty in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of intelligence agencies.

After the Report:

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP “Eight officials have been relieved of their duties while the service contract of a retired brigadier has been terminated. “Their names have been placed on the government’s exit control list. The Pakistan People’s Party has already asked the prime minister to take action against all those involved including Musharraf.”

Even though this seems to have satisfied many people and the government seems to be taking action against people who are mentioned in the report all does not seem to add up. There are many little things that are amiss still. It seems that there are key people in the PPP who need to be questioned and investigated on some decisions they made on that day as well.

The report mentions all of those incidents and persons but puts no blame or responsibility on them. The same is with the government. The police is being questioned for not providing boxed protection however, the Back up Mercedes-Benz sped up ahead leaving the vehicle with Ms. Bhutto behind; who is going to questions those people as to why they did that?

It is one of the common known facts that the police did not allow an autopsy after Ms.Bhutto’s death. However they cannot be held responsible when her husband refused to get it done as well. The situation goes against both parties however only one seem to be questioned.

The people of Pakistan get behind anything that gets them closer to the conclusion of any problem. However, this report brings out more problems and questions than solutions.

No one really knows who is saying what any more and who can be trusted. Everything that is presented to the people of Pakistan is wrapped in lies and confusion and in my opinion this is no different.

12-17

Tension Haunts Hyderabad

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD: With political leaders and parties keen to “exploit” the recent tension in Hyderabad to their advantage, they are playing all possible cards they can. The old city was rocked by tension, following a dispute between two groups over religious flags last month (March 27). Riots broke out, causing loss of three lives and injuring around 150, which led to curfew being imposed on March 29. As the situation became normal, curfew was gradually lifted from the areas rocked by communal violence. Curfew was completely lifted last week (April 10), though prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people remained in force.

Investigations being conducted by the police on who was responsible for the communal violence are expected to take another week. On this, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crimes), K. Narsimha Reddy said: “We are thoroughly investigating the matter to know the exact reasons that led to communal unrest. Strict action as per law will be initiated against all those involved in the communal clashes.” 

With more than 180 cases booked in connection with the communal violence, around 250 people have been arrested. Yet, verbal missiles between the rival political parties continue to be hurled at each other. While accepting that communal violence should not have taken place, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah (Congress) claimed that he had “deftly” handled the situation. Following his return from New Delhi after a three-day visit, he claimed that Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi was “extremely happy” with his government’s performance in Andhra Pradesh (AP). Referring specifically to communal tension in Hyderabad, he said: “She has been happy over the deft handling of the situation arising out of communal riots in old city of Hyderabad, though such things should not have happened in the first place” (April 17). Her words, according to him, were: “She told me- You have tactfully handled the situation, I am happy.” She also expressed appreciation on the situation being “normal” now, he said.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not reacted favorably to police rounding up Hindus also for their alleged role in recent communal clashes in Hyderabad. The party organized protest rallies and demonstrations across Andhra Pradesh last week (April 17).  Blaming the police for its “high-handedness” in booking charges against Hindu youths, the BJP activists shouted slogans against the state government and police. They demanded withdrawal of cases against workers of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The police reacted by taking more than 200 BJP activists into preventive custody. These included the BJP’s AP unit chief, G. Kishan Reddy (Member of Legislative Assembly), general secretary N. Ramchander Rao, former union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and party’s national secretary Dr. K. Laxman.

Several BJP leaders were taken into custody earlier in the month also (April 7), when they tried visiting some riot-hit areas in Old Hyderabad. A five-member team formed by BJP president Nitin Gadkari, included Prakash Javadekar, Shanappa, Prahlad Joshi, Nirmala Sitharaman and Dr. Laxman. The police tried convincing the team, led by Javadekar, not to proceed as prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC were still in force. As the police denied them permission, the BJP members entered into an argument with them. Sitharaman and his party members blamed the state government for acting in a “dictatorial” manner. The BJP activists raised slogans against the police. More than 50 BJP members, including Reddy, were taken into custody. Condemning the police action against BJP’s “fact-finding” team, Reddy was addressing the media.

Though the concerned authorities must be credited for not allowing the recent communal clashes to spread further, questions continue to be raised on their having taken place. Who is to be blamed for planning these clashes, where did the state police and intelligence services fail in preventing them are some of the questions which remain unanswered. These have gained greater importance with tension prevailing on continuance of peace and harmony in sensitive parts of Hyderabad. As the third anniversary of Mecca Masjid blast comes closer, tension is further aggravated by fear on whether it would pass by peacefully.  A blast occurred inside the Mecca Masjid in Old Hyderabad on May 18, 2007, when around 10,000 people were gathered for their Friday prayers. The blast and subsequent police firing led to 14 deaths and more than 50 injured.

Last year, on May 18 at Falaknuma, a Home Guard was killed by a member of an alleged terrorist group.

Though, last year’s incident did not lead to any communal clashes, with the third anniversary of Mecca Masjid blast being preceded by riots, tension prevails among the citizens. Even though police has picked up riot suspects from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims), signaling that it is taking a tough stand against whosoever is a “suspect,” fear continues to haunt the people. Apprehension about situation still not being normal in Hyderabad has hit the state’s tourist industry also. This is indicated by more than 50 percent hotel rooms going unoccupied this March. Situation remains grim, as expressed by Ram Misra, president, Hotels and Restaurant association of AP. He said: “The first quarter is not showing any pick-up at all so far. Normally by now, the bulk bookings are into the system and we know May will be fine. But as of now in April-May, there is nothing happening.”

Till political leaders continue to exploit sensitive issues for their interest, the state’s citizens and also the visitors, including tourists, are bound to remain skeptical about normalcy marked by peace and harmony in Hyderabad.

12-17

Protest Against Renaming NWFP

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

Most cities of NWFP are under fire because of the protest against renaming the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Protests and rallies took place in cities such as Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Oghi, Balakot, and Garihabibullah.

Protestors set fire to tires on the streets in different areas of Abbottabad and Mansehra. People gathered around official buildings and the PML-N secretariat. The police fired teargas and shells in order to disperse the crowds.

Situation got completely out of hand in Abbotabad and Hazarawhere protestors came out in thousands and disrupted the normalcy of life in the city. The crowd was setting fire to vehicles and tires and was very restless. The protestors threw stones at the police and set fire to police cars along with one Edhi Foundation ambulance and smashed billboards.

The Karrakuram Highway and most main roads and streets had to be completely closed off. Children who were in school could not leave school and had to go through a lot of trouble to get home.

According to the police things were completely out of control, so in order to control the situation the police fired shots and killed seven people while 200 others were injured. The police say that they did not have a choice and the act was purely self defense.

District police chief Iqbal Khan told journalists that police opened fire in self-defense after a number of people who were a part of the protest rally took over the Mirpur police station. Even though there was a ban put on protests rallies people still came out and protested under section 144. Section 144 prohibits assembly of five or more persons, holding of public meetings, and carrying of firearms and can be in effect for up to two months. It also gives the courts the power to issue orders regarding apprehending or arresting any person or persons related to the violation of the ban.

However, according to the protestors the police opened fired at them and did not discriminate as to who gets hurt in the process of them trying to discourage the crowds from gathering.

A unanimous resolution in the legal community demanded the government to declare Hazara a separate province and arrest DIG and Commissioner Hazara who ordered the firing, which left seven protestors dead on Monday.

On the request of high court bar association Hazara Division, the lawyers boycotted the court proceedings. The lawyers also took out a protest rally, and marched through various roads gathering at the Zafar Ground.

Information Minister Mian Iftikhar said that judiciary inquiry would be held to look into this matter. He also added that there were “hidden hands” and “unseen elements” behind the violent protests and rallies. He also commented that it is acceptable for people to view their opinions and show their dislike of a decision. It is the right of the public to come out and demonstrate peacefully he added. However he also said that acts of violence and criminal activity will not be tolerated. Mr. Iftikhar also said that burning of vehicle and vandalizing property and material will not be over looked. He emphasized that the culprits who committed these crimes will be found and will be given due punishment.

The Minister claimed, “We contacted prominent leaders of different parties in Hazara division and assured them that the provincial government would address their concerns over the renaming of the NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but not a single leader came forward for talks.” He appealed to political parties, their leaders and the public to stay calm and try to resolve this matter by identify the culprits who committed these terrible crimes so that they could be brought to justice.

The President of The National Awami Party, Afrasiab Khattak said that Asfandyar Wali, Nawaz Sharif are meeting soon and will sort out the reservations on renaming the province. He urged political parties to resolve this important issue through negotiation and the decision should be made by a consensus. He also noted that there is no deadlock of political parties over the renaming of the province.

Tension in Abbottabad is still at a high and all government and private institutions remained closed on Tuesday April 13, 2010 due the uncertain situation in the city. It meshed with the complete shutter down protest in Hazara. People blocked streets and made sure the rules of the protest was being implemented.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) local chapter had announced that it would hold a convention at the Fawara Chowk on Monday apparently to counter the anti-Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa campaign launched by the Action Committee for Hazara province. The latter is headed by a former district Nazim of Abbottabad, Sardar Haider Zaman Khan, and includes political leaders mostly from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).

The bill was drafted by an all-party parliamentary committee headed by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Senator Raza Rabbani. This bill was passed unanimously on Thursday April 8th 2010 by all the 292 members of the 342-seat National Assembly who were present and must also be approved by the required two-thirds majority of the 100-seat Senate before President Asif Ali Zardari signs it to put it into effect.

Even after all the problems and opposition surrounding it the bill was tabled in senate regardless of all this. The aims of bill include a return to a genuine parliamentary form of government with the transfer of some key presidential powers to the prime minister, enhance provincial autonomy and provide for a parliamentary oversight of the appointment of superior court judges.

12-16

Gaza Freedom Marchers vs Egyptian Police

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Gaza has become the central focus of the human rights struggle. Many groups have called for its liberation, and many are striving to bring aid to that beleaguered area. This concern has accelerated since the launching of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead last year and the devastation that this operation wrought.

A coalition led by Code Pink had announced plans to enter Gaza through Rafah during a three week period which would coincide with the first anniversary of Israel’s destructive campaign. While in Gaza the group planned to march from Rafah to the Eretz crossing – the entry into Gaza from Israel – and symbolically link there with marchers from Israel.

Mary Hughes-Thompson, familiar to readers of The Muslim Observer and to activists worldwide, was a participant in the planned Gaza Freedom March. Ms Thompson is a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and has travelled to the Occupied Palestinian Territories several times. She  is co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement and was on the first ship to reach Gaza in August 2008, breaking a decades long siege. She has given The Muslim Observer an interview.

The story of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) and its failure to achieve its announced goal is a story whose central factor and key players are Egyptian collaboration. The Egyptian police used an intimidating physical presence to thwart the peaceful demonstrators.

In late December some 1400 international activists assembled in Cairo prepatory to travelling to El Arish and then on to Rafah.  On arriving in Cairo they were told by the Egyptian authorities that they would not be permitted to assemble or to travel to Gaza.

Code Pink as speaker for the Gaza Freedom Marchers announced a press conference. Immediately after the announcement they were told by Egyptian authorities that they could not hold a press conference.

TMO:  Am I correct that the Gaza Freedom Marchers went to Cairo with the expectation that the proper protocol had been observed and that they would be permitted to travel to Rafah?

Ms Thompson:  The Egyptian authorities had agreed to facilitate our travelling to Gaza.  They had asked that the names and passport information for all participants be provided to them by November 30th, and this was done.

TMO:  What reason did the Egyptian authorities give for disallowing a press conference?

Ms Thompson:  I do know they had originally granted permits for both the press conference and for the orientation meeting which was scheduled to be held December 27th.  A few days earlier Egypt suddenly withdrew the permits which meant we could not hold either event.

TMO:  Could you tell us what threats were made to taxi cab drivers and/or bus drivers to prevent the group from using these means of transportation?

Ms Thompson:  They were told their licenses would be revoked.

TMO:  Could you tell us the behavior of the Egyptian police when they blocked the exits from a number of hotels where activists were staying?

Ms Thompson:  They blocked exits from a number of the hotels where activists were staying.  We had several policemen stationed outside our hotel at all times, and every time we left we were asked where we were going and when we would be back.  The first couple of days a policeman came with us in our taxi and stayed with us all day.  Each time we took a taxi from our hotel, a policeman questioned the driver, took his license number and ID, and, on one occasion, sat on the hood of our taxi refusing to let us leave.

TMO:  Did the GFM group at any time engage in or threaten violence?

Ms Thompson:  I would definitely say no to that. There was not a great deal of violence at all but what there was was on the part of the Egyptian police trying to control the crowds and trying to lock us into our hotels to prevent us from assembling.

TMO:  Did you have an opportunity to interact with the Egyptian people?

Ms Thompson:  While in Egypt we met several high profile people who were actively engaged in protesting. In fact, we went to the courthouse one day to support a local lawyer who was part of a group trying to challenge the Egyptian government’s building of the wall along the Rafah border. At the end of our trip Yvonne Ridley hired a van to take us to the pyramids (so she could videotape Hedy). {TMO: Hedy Epstein, an 85 year old Holocaust survivor and a Palestinian activist}, and our driver pointed to the spot on which we had been roughed up a few days earlier and said:  “The other day there was a revolution there.”

TMO:  Would you describe for our readers the details of the Egyptian police activity vis a vis your group at Tahrir Square?

Ms Thompson:  We decided that on the day we had planned to march to Erez crossing, we would hold a symbolic march in Cairo, and go as far as the Egyptian police would let us.  We started in Tahrir Square, opposite the Museum, and we ended there.  We came in small groups of two or three, from all directions, and the police were waiting for us.  They stopped my group (me, Hedy, and her two friends from St Louis, Sandra and J’Ann) and wouldn’t let us go to the meeting point.  We refused to leave, and insisted we were tired and needed to sit on a bench on the sidewalk.  Suddenly we saw a swarm of people crossing the street, and we ran to join them.  We were immediately surrounded by policemen three deep, and they wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

Generally the police didn’t use rough tactics, and I think my grey hair and cane might have helped me.

Even assembly in small groups was not permitted and any such gatherings were quickly surrounded by Egyptian police in riot gear.

Eventually through the intervention of Susan Mubarak, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, 100 of the Gaza Freedom marchers were told they could travel to Gaza and bring with them the supplies they wanted to provide to the people there. This happened before the event at Tahrir Square.

TMO:  Thank you Ms Thompson on behalf of The Muslim Observer. You have given us an insight into events in Cairo, an insight not readily accessible in the media.

12-13

21 Shots … and the Pursuit of Justice: An Imam Dies in Michigan

March 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Hamdan Azhar

luqman coroner

DETROIT — It is a cold Sunday afternoon in February and asr prayer is being held at Masjid Al-Haqq. Children run outside, playing in the snow, rambunctious and full of life while their mothers serve the last of the stragglers who have come for a hot meal at the weekly soup kitchen. The neighborhood is typical Detroit, replete with boarded-up houses, the streets quiet and vacant – save for an unassuming two-story red brick house at the corner of Clairmount and Holmur.

Inside the makeshift mosque, a dozen middle-aged African-American men have gathered. As the prayer concludes, a voice calls out, “Read a hadith, that’s what the Imam used to do.” The prayer leader dutifully opens a book of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and starts reading.” (s) There will come forth a people on the Day of Judgment, their faces shining like the sun.” He pauses for effect. “The poor, the immigrants, the disheveled ones.”

The man’s words resonate with the audience. They begin to look at one another, as if by taking in their appearance they are acknowledging the precarious state of their community. And slowly they begin to nod. “That could be any one of us,” says one man. He thinks for a moment, before adding, “That could be all of us.”
Four months have passed since the death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah. But among his community, his legacy lives on. The soup kitchen he initiated continues to serve the homeless and hungry by the dozens on a weekly basis. Among his followers, there is an odd sense of acceptance.

“Even after this tragedy,” says Abdul-Aleem, 55, “our doors are open to all.” “We know that Allah is in control and justice will prevail.” There is an uncertain gleam in his eye, and he quickly turns away as I meet his gaze – for justice has too often been an elusive concept in this part of the hood.

The Homicide

The passage of time has seen an evolution in the narrative of what happened in that Dearborn warehouse in which Luqman Abdullah met his end. Initially, the US Attorney’s office claimed that there had been an “exchange of gun fire” after Mr. Abdullah fired an initial shot – the term “exchange” presupposing that both sides were engaged in shooting.

Yet the Associated Press quoted an FBI spokesperson as saying that the Imam “fired a weapon and was killed by gunfire from agents” – which indicates that Mr. Abdullah fired only one shot. Seizing on the confusion, the media offered widely divergent portrayals of the incident, the majority describing it as a “gun battle” or a “shootout”, with a minority left wondering if he might have been gunned down in cold blood.

In addition to the shooting angle, there was another twist – the dog. The FBI was quick to announce a memorial service for Freddy, the Belgian Malinois who “lost his life in the line of duty,” the day after the incident. While according to the FBI, Freddy “gave his life for his team,” the US Attorney’s press release is more cautious in noting that “an FBI canine was also killed during the exchange.”

The common perception – although never officially confirmed – was that Mr. Abdullah fired at the dog thereby prompting agents to return fire at him. Sympathetic observers asked if the life of a dog was equal to the life of a human being. Further complicating public perception was the fact that the dog was airlifted to a hospital for emergency medical care while Mr. Abdullah’s handcuffed corpse was transported by ambulance to the coroner’s office.

Today there remain more questions than answers in the death of Luqman Abdullah. The autopsy report, kept under seal for three months at the request of the Dearborn Police Department, was finally released on Feb. 1. The report documents that Mr. Abdullah was shot 21 times, including multiple times in the genitals and at least once in the back. Numerous abrasions and lacerations were also found on his face, hands, and arms; his jaw was found to be fractured.

The discovery of Mr. Abdullah’s additional injuries has sparked a new wave of criticism. In a recent interview, Omar Regan, a son of Mr. Abdullah, became emotional as he decried how his father has been inhumanely “mauled” by the dog. The Michigan Citizen quotes Wayne County Chief Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt as conceding that the injuries could have come from dog bites but he refuses to offer a conclusive determination.

Independent forensic pathologists whom we contacted were unable to comment on the matter without seeing pictures. Incidentally, Mr. Abdullah’s family as well as watchdog organizations have encountered numerous obstacles in obtaining the release of the autopsy photographs – a bureaucratic struggle which is ongoing at the moment.

Prior to the release of the autopsy, it had been assumed that Mr. Abdullah shot the dog as it was on its way to attack him. If, however, one accepts the premise that the dog actually attacked Mr. Abdullah, would that not imply that he had been successfully subdued? Did he then shoot the dog at point-blank range while being attacked? Did the FBI agents shoot him 21 times – not while he was pointing a gun at them – but while he was wrestling with the dog?

Some have even questioned if Mr. Abdullah was the one who shot the dog. Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality told the local NBC affiliate that the FBI’s irresponsible conduct was to blame for the death of the dog. Huel Perkins, news anchor at Fox 2 Detroit, went one step further. “With so many bullets flying,” he wondered, “they could have been ricocheting and FBI bullets might have killed that dog.”

The Investigation

(Masjid Al-Haqq, 4019 Clairmount Street, Detroit, MI)

Masjid Haqq-Detroit Immediately after the killing, the FBI dispatched a Shooting Incident Review Team to conduct an internal investigation into the incident (as is standard whenever agents are involved in a shooting.) Meanwhile, the Dearborn Police Department launched a criminal investigation into the homicide. Chief Ronald Haddad recently told the Dearborn Press and Guide that his office would submit a final report to the Michigan Attorney General within weeks.

Demands for an independent investigation had been growing since November, having been echoed by Detroit Mayor David Bing, the Detroit Free Press, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In January, Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, lent his support to the effort calling on the Justice Department to conduct a “rigorous” and “transparent” investigation.

In addition, he asked the Civil Rights Division to review the use of confidential informants in houses of worship – a practice that played a critical role in the FBI’s investigation of Mr. Abdullah. A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee said that, as of two weeks ago, no response had been received to the request. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights division has announced plans to conduct their own investigation into the shooting.

When the story first broke in late October, it was presented in the context of religiously motivated terrorism. As we have previously discussed, the bulk of the 45-page affidavit issued on Oct. 28 consists of a “background” section that implicates Mr. Abdullah and ten other defendants in a sensational plot to violently overthrow the government.

However, the actual crimes alleged are more commonplace: possession of firearms and body armor by a convicted felon, providing firearms to a convicted felon, tampering with motor vehicle identification numbers, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and conspiracy to sell or receive stolen goods. When we met last November, Omar Regan expressed frustration with the media’s coverage. “They just want to say Muslims are terrorists,” he said.

Indeed, many have used the tenuous “Islamic terrorism” connection to attack the character of the late Mr. Abdullah, with some going so far as to implicate aspects of the Islamic faith by extension. The FBI affidavit set the stage for such behavior by referring to a “nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group” and by going to great lengths to emphasize Mr. Abdullah’s religious beliefs. On Nov. 18, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies -a controversial neoconservative think-tank – published an article comparing Mr. Abdullah’s followers to global “jihadi movements.” Other right-wing ideologues with dubious credentials have also used the case as evidence of the threat of “homegrown terrorism.”

The grand jury indictment (included below) issued on Nov. 10 presents a striking contrast with the earlier criminal complaint. The complaint is what the FBI presented to a federal magistrate judge; after a finding of probable cause, arrest warrants were then issued. The indictment is what the grand jury, upon weighing the evidence, actually accuses the defendants of, and what they will be tried for in court. The 11-page document makes no mention of Islam, or religion in general, nor does it discuss terrorism or hint at anything remotely violent, save for possession of firearms. Needless to say, Luqman Abdullah has been dropped from the list of defendants.

The indictment provides further evidence of the banal and artificial nature of the investigation. The “stolen goods” the defendants are alleged to have conspired to sell or receive consist of fur coats, laptops, iPhones, Burberry purses, and 40” LCD televisions. The payments involved range in value from $300 to $1000. A plain reading of the document suggests that an FBI operative (an agent or a confidential informant) gave the defendants money that they then used to purchase goods (that they believed to be stolen) from another FBI operative which they then stored in an FBI-operated warehouse. On Oct. 28, as per the indictment, the defendants arrived at the FBI warehouse to take possession of FBI owned goods that the FBI had paid them to purchase, at which point the warehouse was raided by the FBI and they were arrested. One of them, Imam Luqman Abdullah, was killed.

Two days after the killing, Andrew Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit division of the FBI, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the agents “did what they had to do to protect themselves.” In those early days, the headlines in the news were “Radical Islam leader killed” and “Feds stand behind deadly Michigan raid.”

By February of this year, however, the headlines had changed to “Autopsy Shows Michigan Imam Shot 21 Times” and “Conyers Demands Rigorous Investigation of Imam Shooting.” The favorable turn in media coverage provides little consolation for Mr. Abdullah’s family, however. “The media is interested in hype,” complains Mr. Regan. “They’re using this to sell papers and for TV ratings.”

The growing mainstream consensus demanding an independent investigation has clearly been an unexpected and significant development in the case. Whereas once there were only a handful of voices willing to question the FBI’s account, a veritable group has assembled to demand transparency and accountability – including the House Judiciary Committee, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, the Detroit Free Press, the Mayor of Detroit, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

When we met in November, Mr. Regan exclaimed at one point during our interview, “A man’s been killed, and he hasn’t been charged with a crime.” That statement stuck with me for many months. It conveys a certain raw emotion, eliciting an impassioned but entirely rational response of outrage at a fundamental injustice that seems to have been done. Luqman Abdullah is no longer here to defend himself against the charges that have been thrown at him by the government and the media – he never got his day in court. Is that not a miscarriage of justice?

Having some doubts about the legal and factual accuracy of the latter part of Mr. Regan’s statement, I contacted experts for clarification. Many were doubtful of the extent to which the question even mattered – whether or not Mr. Abdullah had in fact been charged with a crime when he was killed.

Constitutional scholar and UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh argued that the relevant question instead was whether the killing was justified given the exigencies of that situation. The killing of an innocent man by the police might be justified in self-defense. On the other hand, even if someone had been indicted, the use of deadly force absent proper justification would be inappropriate.

The question thus returns to the actual homicide (the term the medical examiner has used to describe the manner of death in the autopsy.) Were the FBI agents acting in fear for their lives? Or was the use of deadly force excessive given the threat they faced? A conclusive determination is impossible without all of the facts – facts that one hopes the investigation will uncover. Given the information that has been released thus far and the manner in which it has been received however, it would seem that the weight of public perception is against the FBI’s account.

In all likelihood, the warehouse in which the shooting occurred was controlled by the FBI, as the text of the indictment strongly implies (paragraph 22, “Overt Acts”). If Mr. Abdullah was in fact attacked by the dog, as the abnormal injuries to his body seem to indicate, how could he have posed an imminent threat to the FBI agents – sufficient to justify 21 gunshots? Why were more than half of the shots below the waist–including two in the groin and one in the back? Why was no effort made to provide emergency medical attention to Mr. Abdullah?

The attempts to convict Mr. Abdullah in the court of public opinion have largely been based – not on his conduct in his final moments – but on the government’s allegations of prior criminal behavior. The unspoken justification is not that he presented an imminent threat to the agents but that he was a dangerous person who needed to be “brought to justice.”

FBI Agent Andrew Arena, speaking with NBC affiliate WDIV-TV, concedes that “what transpired that day…was a tragic event.” He proceeds to affirm that they “wanted to make sure that no innocent people were harmed, that no agents were harmed, and no subjects were harmed.”

His choice of words, however, unwittingly speaks to his presuppositions. Rather than use the term “bystanders”, he instead declares that Mr. Abdullah was not an innocent person whose harm should be avoided, but rather a threat to be neutralized.

“A man is dead and he hasn’t been charged with a crime,” said Mr. Regan. A subtle but profound distinction must be made between “charged” and “convicted.” Even if Mr. Abdullah had been convicted of – intent to receive stolen goods among other crimes – a justification for his killing can only be derived from exigencies of that situation in the warehouse. After all, a class C felony carries a maximum sentence of twenty-five years in prison – not death.

But the fact remains that he wasn’t convicted – of that crime or any other crimes. Save for a felony assault conviction in 1981 – when he would have been 24 years old – by all available accounts, Luqman Abdullah had lived as a “good neighbor”, in the words of the lieutenant at the local police precinct. He was known for his devotion to social justice and serving the needs of the poor and needy community in which he lived. He earned his living as a cabdriver and led prayers at his local religious center. Far from the FBI’s portrayal of a violent thug, those who knew him point to his positive influence at eliminating crime and combating poverty in a neighborhood that government had all but forgotten.

The greatest injustice of Luqman Abdullah’s killing stems from the perception that in those final moments, it was a handful of FBI agents who acted as judge, jury, and executioner. Their actions determined that Mr. Abdullah would die as guilty, if for no other reason than his inability to furthermore proclaim his innocence. The vital public debate about government-sponsored espionage in religious institutions and the prevalence of entrapment as a law enforcement tool in poor and underprivileged communities will continue. But we have lost an invaluable informant whose perspective can only be guessed at and never apprehended in full.

The FBI complaint is the only documentation in the public record of the criminal activities that allegedly occurred at the direction of Luqman Abdullah over the past two years. It presents only one side of the story – a side that can no longer be challenged. Some media organizations have disturbingly accepted that one side as the definitive account, thereby corrupting the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” If the presumption of innocence applies up until the point of conviction, how much more applicable should it be if the accused had yet to be charged with a crime?

Among the legal scholars we contacted, a few were of the opinion that the criminal complaint presented to the magistrate judge was the functional equivalent of a charging document. They asserted that the question was really more of semantics than of law – what do we really mean when we say “charged with a crime”?
Others offered a more definite assessment. “He was not charged with a crime,” said Yale Professor and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Stith. “So as not to mislead,” she continued, “I would say ‘He had not been formally charged with a crime, though a warrant had been issued for his arrest.’”

Professor Eve Brensike Primus of the University of Michigan offered a constitutional rationale for a strict interpretation of “formal charges.” “The Fifth Amendment,” she argued, “ensures that a federal charge for a felony offense will not be brought without granting the accused the protection of the review and acceptance of the charge by the grand jury.”

Harvard Professor Carol Steiker agreed. “An indictment is the required formal charging document in federal court for all non-petty crimes (felonies),” she said. “In such cases, it would be most accurate to say that an individual killed prior to indictment was killed before he was formally charged with a crime.”

The Community

Muslim kids Masjid Haqq (Fatima, 3, Sumayya, 10, and Juma, 8 on a Sunday afternoon in February at the weekly Masjid Al-Haqq soup kitchen)

Twenty-one shots. Left to die while an FBI dog was transported by helicopter for medical treatment. Portrayed as a radical Muslim, a violent black man, a threat to the community. Killed before he could be charged with a crime.

Is this the face of justice in America, I ask myself. Not my America, I retort, not the America of Ann Arbor, Michigan with its ivory towers, nor the America of Brooklyn, New York where I grew up, the child of Pakistani immigrants, benefiting from the best public schools, taught to keep an open mind, to ask questions, to always think critically.

I look around at the deserted streets and the abandoned houses, my senses overwhelmed by the crushing poverty of inner-city Detroit – and I realize that I am no longer in my America. I keep walking, comfortable by now in this neighborhood, no longer anxious about my car being broken into. The death of Luqman Abdullah has given me a reason to leave my comforts and visit another world, to talk to its residents and to listen to their stories.

I see a young man, slightly younger than me, waiting for the bus on Dexter Ave. I ask him what has by now become my routine query. Yes, he answers, he knew Imam Luqman. “He used to give out food if someone was hungry,” he tells me. But Khari, 20, shocks me when he says, “I hope they lock them up in jail.” “They shot him 21 times.” I walk away in awe wondering if this, perhaps, is what they call the optimism of youth.

I walk back to Masjid Al-Haqq, enter from the backdoor, and climb the narrow, aging stairway that leads to the men’s prayer room. The sweet smell of incense reaches me as I behold the sight of half a dozen children running around, their fathers relaxing and catching up on gossip. I spot Omar Regan and his brother Mujahid Carswell in the corner and I head in their direction. I am intercepted by a bold and charming 8-year old, Khalid, who wants a rematch in rock-paper- scissors (in which I had soundly defeated him earlier that afternoon). I pause for a quick game, letting him win, and walk away leaving him content with his victory.

I have not seen the brothers since November, and they are as impassioned as ever regarding their father’s death. “It was worse than we thought,” says Mr. Regan, referring to the autopsy. “Nobody deserves this.” They are frustrated by the government’s secrecy and failure to release relevant documentation. Where is the ballistics report, he asks. “Where is the proof that my father even fired a gun?” He wants to see the autopsy report of the dog and wonders why EMTs were not on scene during the take-down. “What if an officer had gotten hurt? Isn’t that standard procedure?” Many of these same questions are increasingly being asked by other parties as well, most notably by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers.

“People are rightly concerned when a religious leader becomes involved with an FBI informant and ends up dead in the street,” said Rep. Conyers in a press release. He went on to note that if the Department of Justice failed to investigate the incident in a “credible and transparent” manner, “it will be left to Congress to ensure that justice is done.” Such high-level involvement in a routine law enforcement operation indicates the killing of Imam Luqman Abdullah is anything but routine – it might even be exceptional.

Mr. Carswell is satisfied with the amount of national attention the case has received, but he is not surprised. “They thought no one would care. But they underestimated how much people loved this black man. He was a servant of the people.” ‘They’ for Mr. Carswell is the FBI, and he is unrelenting in his criticism. “Nobody’s policing the FBI,” he complains. “Why did they call him armed and dangerous? Why did they call him a radical Sunni Muslim? If the charge is intent to receive stolen goods, why are you saying this?”

“It’s a control thing,” he asserts. “They’re bullies, they rule by fear.” He cites the FBI’s attempts to influence media coverage of the case. Indeed, the Feb. 9 article “Metro security breach leaves many on edge” bizarrely notes that “The FBI’s Detroit office refused to discuss the case with the Free Press on Monday, citing its unhappiness over a recent newspaper editorial.” (Numerous attempts to contact the FBI for comment were unsuccessful.) “People are afraid to ask questions, even the media is intimidated,” he says.

Despite the obstacles, Mr. Carswell depicts a reality in which even the FBI has been left isolated. “They’re the only ones telling that story,” he says. “His family, people in the streets, strangers, even the police – they have nothing but good to say of him. The only ones with a different story are the FBI. It don’t take no genius to figure out that somebody’s lying.” Mr. Carswell looks me in the eye – “How is everybody telling the same lie?”

For the family, much of the government’s case turns on the credibility of one informant, a topic on which the Detroit Free Press has reported extensively. Mr. Regan is skeptical. “Why is it his word against everyone else? Who is he? What are his credentials? What makes him reliable?” Mr. Regan even suggests that the informant might have “played” the FBI, selling them an exaggerated narrative of a dangerous conspiracy for his own personal gain. Such stories have become common in recent years; informants in similar cases have often been career criminals, at times drug addicts, seeking reduced prison sentences or financial compensation.

“It’s inhumane,” says Mr. Regan, returning to the manner of the killing. “You don’t have a reason to shoot someone 21 times. These are trained marksmen. Shooting below the waist. Twice in the private parts. By federal agents. Do they have families, children, and wives?”

I ask the brothers why they think the FBI agents shot and killed their father. Could it have been fear? Mr. Regan briefly entertains the notion. “Perhaps,” he says, “the informant hyped up the FBI. All lies. They went in thinking they were fighting for their country. And then they found out he wasn’t it.” His eyes flare up. “Oops. 13 children. A wife. An entire community in mourning. Why can’t they just say they were wrong?”

Mr. Carswell is less receptive to the suggestion that the agents were afraid for their lives and that’s why they shot him 21 times. “This is what they do for a living. How are they so afraid? Are you new? Are you a rookie? Just wait in the car.” More than “afraid federal agents,” he responds, “what we hear about most often are rogue cops abusing their power.”

At the end of the day, Mr. Abdullah’s family is anxious for answers. “They say: your father was a bad guy, that’s why we killed him, that’s why we shot him 21 times.” Mr. Regan’s eyes glisten and his voice falters. “It’s not fair; it feels like they targeted him because he’s Muslim. Because he was Muslim, they can say he was a terrorist…But the most they could charge him with was receiving stolen goods.” “Tell the truth,” he says. “You’re acting like cold-blooded killers. How can I believe that you’re here to serve the community?”

While the family waits for the investigation to conclude, they pray for justice. As I leave, Mr. Regan’s voice assumes a tone of certainty. “Eventually,” he tells me, “the truth will come out.” On my drive back to my America, I think of the man killed without having ever been charged with a crime and left for dead in a warehouse; of the house of worship infiltrated by federal agents funded by our tax dollars; of how little our government seems to be doing for the people of inner-city Detroit. I wonder what has become of my America – and I can only hope that Mr. Regan’s confidence will not prove to have been in vain.

Hamdan Azhar is a graduate student in biostatistics at the University of Michigan. An accomplished writer on international affairs, his works have been published in the Huffington Post, Counterpunch, and the Asia Times.

12-12

Bomb Blast near FIA Building in Lahore

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

A bomb blast near the FIA building in Model Town Lahore on March 8th 2010 shook the entire city. “Eleven people have been killed and several others injured in the suicide car bombing. The target was the FIA building and the Special Intelligence Agency which also had a building in the vicinity.

Reports state that 14 people were killed in this blast and 61 are injured and out of those 29 are in critical condition. Out of those 9 were policemen and the rest were women and children. Seven of the constables killed in the explosion were identified, their names are: Naveed, Habib Ullah, Arif, Manzar Alam, Abdul Aziz, Muhammad Afzal and Aziz Ahmed. The bodies were later shifted to the city morgue.

The DCO of Lahore and the Inspector General of Punjab, Tariq Azeem both confirmed that an explosive laden vehicle rammed into the Investigation Agency’s building.

Around 600 kilograms of explosives were used in this attack. The police said that the massive explosion has managed to create an 8 foot deep crater. The bomb even killed a woman who lived 300 meters away from where the bomb originally exploded. Many buildings, including houses, were damaged and a considerable number of cars were also damaged and destroyed because of the blast. Security has been placed on high alert across the entire city.

Witnesses say that they saw two people step out of the van which means the suicide bomber had accomplices.However, a case under Sections 302 and 324 of the PPC, 7 of ATA and 3/4 of Explosives Act was registered against the unknown suicide bomber and “his two accomplices” on the complaint of an assistant director of the SIA.

Witnesses have told the media that the FIA building completely collapse people were buried under it. Khusro Pervez, the top administration official in Lahore said on Monday, “I fear the death toll may rise. We believe there are still people trapped under the rubble.”

This statement came out to be true since on Monday the death toll was 11 and by the next day I had risen to 14; if there are anymore bodies under the ruble that is still to be discovered.

“The blast also severely damaged a nearby religious school and houses. All schools have been closed in the area in order to avoid further losses or to prevent the possibility of another attack,” said Mr. Parvez Rathore who is Lahore City Police Chief.

Police said 30 to 50 people were in the building, used by police and intelligence agents, at the time of attack.

Interior Minister Mr. Rahman Malik stated while talking to the media that people who are carrying out these acts are not Muslim and these people are agents from outside who are committed these crimes. He also added that Muslims cannot kill other innocent Muslims so brutally. Mr. Malik also added that in his opinion the target was the Special Investigation Agency and not the FIA building.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan took responsibility for these acts soon after the fact, “We claim responsibility for the Lahore blast. We will continue such attacks in future,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP reporters in telephone calls from an undisclosed location.

“The attack was to avenge (US) drone attacks and (Pakistani) military operations in the tribal areas. We will carry on such attacks as long as drone strikes and operations continue.”

The concern by the public that has been raised in the past has become a more prominent voice in the wake of Monday’s attack. This concern is that official government and police institutions in the middle of a residential area are a bad idea.

The public of Lahore are too familiar with this drill, where there is a police building or some kind of army, police or intelligence building suicide bombers are sure to follow. As much as this situation saddens the public just as much they hope to be far away form it. The residents of Model Town claim that they had brought this issue to the notice of the government because they knew this was a disaster waiting to happen-which it actually was.

We are left to wonder whether this is going to start a string of attacks as the attackers claimed that this was one of the many attacks that they plan on carrying out against the government. If this is a first of many the question now is what is the government going to do to protect the public now? As we speak the drone attacks in the northern area keep killing more people. It is obvious that there is no negotiating or stopping of the war against terror and war against Al-Qaida.

This question of how the public of Pakistan should be protected is on the minds of every body who is living and beathing in this country even if they didn’t feel the physical shock this attack. Even though they haven’t felt this one many people in Pakistan have heard other bomb blast from close up, many have lost someone they loved or knew in these attacks, many of them are not with us today to ask the same question we are asking-how will our leaders protect us now.

12-11

Dubai Now Seeking 26 Suspects in Hamas Killing

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raissa Kasolowsky and Cynthia Johnston

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai is hunting for at least 26 people over the killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel in a suspected Israeli operation that has caused a diplomatic furor.

Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are near certain was a hit by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Dubai police added 15 new names on Wednesday to a list of suspects wanted over the killing. Six carried British passports, three held Irish documents, three were Australian, and three French, the Dubai government said in a statement.

Israeli media reported on Wednesday the new list could involve further cases of identity theft.

Dubai authorities had earlier named 11 suspects, who they said travelled on fraudulent British, Irish, French and German passports to kill Mabhouh. Six were Britons living in Israel who deny involvement and say their identities were stolen.

“Dubai investigators are not ruling out the possibility of involvement of other people in the murder,” the statement said.

The suspected killers’ use of passports from countries including Britain and France has drawn criticism from the European Union. Some of the governments involved have summoned their Israeli ambassadors.

“We will not be silent on this matter. It is a matter of deep concern. It really goes to the integrity and fabric of the use of state documents, which passports are, for other purposes,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, as his government summoned Israel’s ambassador.

The Dubai statement said: “Friendly governments (which) have been assisting in this investigation have indicated to the police in Dubai that the passports were issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner.”

It said pictures on the passports did not correspond to their original owners.

In a statement on Monday that European diplomats said was intended as a rebuke to Israel, EU foreign ministers said that the assassination was “profoundly disturbing.”

Israel has not denied or confirmed it played any role but its foreign minister said there was nothing to link it to the killing. The United States, Israel’s main ally, has kept silent about the affair.

Mabhouh, born in the Gaza Strip, had lived in Syria since 1989 and Israeli and Palestinian sources have said he played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to militants in Gaza.

A Hamas official and Israel have also said he masterminded the capture and killing of two Israeli soldiers during a Palestinian uprising in the 1980s.

Like last week, Dubai police released passport photos and closed-circuit television footage of the new suspects, who police said arrived from cities including Zurich, Paris, Rome, Milan and Hong Kong.

“This was to take the camouflage and deception to its utmost level and to guarantee the avoidance of any security supervision or observation of their movements,” the statement said.

Once their part in the operation was completed, the suspects again dispersed to different parts of the world, with two suspects leaving Dubai by boat for Iran, it said.

Dubai police also released credit card details of some of the suspects. At least 13 credit cards used to book hotel rooms and pay for air travel were issued by the same small U.S. lender, MetaBank. The bank declined comment.

“MetaBank is declining comment pending a factual review of this matter,” it said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Israel’s Ynet news website said it had tracked down a person with the same name as one of the suspects living in Tel Aviv.

“I am in shock from what I just heard. This is an identity theft. I cannot believe it,” Adam Marcus Korman, an Australian-born Israeli, told the website.

Several other names listed as suspects by Dubai police were similar to those of people listed in the Israeli telephone directory, including two named as British passport holders. Reuters was not immediately able to contact any of those people.

Two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support were in detention and Dubai’s police chief has said he believes the operation could not have been carried out without information from inside Hamas on Mabhouh’s travel details.

An official from the movement was quoted as saying last week that Hamas had launched an investigation to try to discover “how the Mossad was able to carry out the operation.

Mossad is believed to have stepped up covert missions against Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as well as Iran’s nuclear project.

Mabhouh’s killing was the third high profile murder in less than two years in trade and tourism hub Dubai, one of seven emirates in the UAE federation, where violent crime is rare.

(Additional reporting by Rania Oteify in Dubai, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Alastair Macdonald in Jerusalem, Daniel Wilchins in New York and Rob Taylor in Canberra, Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Matthew Jones)

12-9

Who Killed Mahmoud al-Mamdouh in Dubai?

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Amy Teibel, Arizona Daily Star

Mamdouh mossad X

KHALIL HAMRA  Palestinian Fayeq al-Mabhouh sits in front of posters of his brother and Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, left and right, who was assassinated in Dubai, and Hamas member Mohammed Hussein Mabhouh, in the family house in Jebaliya, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010. Dubai police appealed for an international manhunt Tuesday after releasing names and photos of an alleged 11-member hit squad accused of stalking and killing Mabhouh last month in a plot that mixed cold precision with spy caper disguises such as fake beards and wigs.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

This combination image made from undated photos released by the Dubai Ruler’s Media Office on Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, which were claimed by Dubai’s Police Chief to show eleven suspects wanted in connection with the killing of a Hamas commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in his Dubai hotel room last month.

Israel’s foreign minister said Wednesday there was no reason to assume the Mossad assassinated a Hamas military commander in Dubai, even as suspicions mounted that the country’s vaunted spy agency made the hit using the identities of Israelis with European passports.

While few people are privy to the cloak-and-dagger operations of the Mossad, senior Israeli security officials not directly involved with the affair said they were convinced it was a Mossad operation because of the motive and the use of Israeli identities. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a government order not to discuss the case, characterized it as a significant Mossad bungle.

The suspicions ratcheted up pressure on Israel to be more forthcoming over the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a man it claims supplied Gaza’s Hamas rulers with the most dangerous weapons it possesses. Israeli critics pointed the finger at Mossad, accusing it of sloppiness and endangering Israeli citizens.

Dubai police this week released names, photos, and passport numbers of 11 members of an alleged hit-squad that killed al-Mabhouh in his luxury Dubai hotel room last month. Dubai said all 11 carried European passports. But most of the identities appear to be stolen and at least seven matched up with real people in Israel who claim they are victims of identity theft.

“I don’t know why we are assuming that Israel, or the Mossad, used those passports,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio in Israel’s first official comments on the affair.

But Lieberman did not deny involvement outright, saying Israel rightly maintains a policy of ambiguity where security operations are concerned.

“Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies,” he said. “There is no reason for Israel to change this policy.”

Amir Oren, a military analyst for the Israeli daily Haaretz, called for the ouster of Mossad director Meir Dagan.

“What is needed now is a swift decision to terminate Dagan’s contract and to appoint a new Mossad chief,” wrote Oren in a front-page commentary. “There’s no disease without a cure.”

The Iranian-backed Hamas has been blaming Israel for al-Mabhouh’s killing from the beginning.

“The investigation of the police of Dubai proves what Hamas had said from the first minute, that Israel’s Mossad is responsible for the assassination,” Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas legislator in Gaza, said Wednesday.

Al-Mabhouh was one of the founders of the Hamas militant group, which has carried out hundreds of attacks and suicide bombings targeting Israelis, and now rules the Gaza Strip. He also was involved in the 1989 capturing and killing of two Israeli soldiers.

Israel considered him to be the point man in smuggling Iranian rockets into Gaza that would be capable of striking the Jewish state’s Tel Aviv heartland.

Al-Mabhouh was targeted in three previous assassination attempts, his brother Hussein told The Associated Press.

At least seven people who live in Israel share names with suspects identified by Dubai police. One, a British-Israeli citizen named Melvyn Adam Mildiner, said the passport photo on the Dubai wanted flier was not him but the passport number was correct. He also denied having been to Dubai.

Another of the seven, Stephen Hodes, denied any link to the case in an interview with Israel Radio and said he, too, had never visited Dubai.

“I’m shocked. I don’t know how they got to me. Those aren’t my photographs, of course,” Hodes said. “I don’t know how they got to my details, who took them. …. I’m simply afraid. These are powerful forces.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday promised an inquiry into the use of fake British passports in the killing.

“We are looking at this at this very moment,” Brown told London’s LBC radio. “We have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” He did not assess blame for the forgeries.

Several senior British lawmakers said Israel’s envoy should be summoned to the Foreign Office to explain what his country’s role in the slaying was.

The former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the smallest of Britain’s three main parties, said that “if the Israeli government was party to behavior of this kind it would be a serious violation of trust between nations.”

Menzies Campbell, who serves on the House of Common’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said “the Israeli government has some explaining to do” and called for the ambassador to be summoned “in double-quick time.”

The committee’s chairman, Mike Gapes, a member of Britain’s ruling Labour party, added that the assassination was either the work of Israelis “or someone trying to make sure it looks like the Israelis.”

Like Lieberman, Israeli security analyst Ephraim Kam said the use of Israeli identities did not prove the Mossad killed al-Mabhouh.

“I cannot see a reason why the Mossad would use the names of Israelis here or citizens who live here,” Kam said.

Rafi Eitan, a former Cabinet minister and Mossad agent who took part in the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, thought Israel’s foes were trying to frame it by using the identities of Israelis.

“It means some foreign service, an enemy of Israel, wanted to taint Israel. It took the names of Israeli citizens, doctored the passports … and thus tainted us,” Eitan said.

Lawmaker Yisrael Hasson, a former deputy commander of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service, said he would ask to convene a meeting of the Israeli parliament’s powerful foreign affairs and defense committee to discuss the matter.

“No one should use someone’s identity without his permission or without his understanding in some way what it is being used for,” Hasson told Israel Radio.

The Mossad has been accused of identity theft before. New Zealand convicted and jailed two Israelis in 2005 of trying to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports. New Zealand demanded _ and won _ an apology from Israel, which Auckland said proved the pair were spies.

But this would be the first time that the Mossad has been suspected of using the identities of its own citizens.

If the Israeli government was behind the identity theft, it broke Israeli laws against impersonation and fraud, said Nirit Moskovich of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Kam, the security analyst, said the people whose identities were released could be in danger from Hamas.

“I think they should be careful,” he said.

The affair could have unwanted diplomatic repercussions for Israel if it indeed used the foreign passports of its own nationals. Several British lawmakers on Wednesday called for the Israeli ambassador to be summoned to the Foreign Office immediately to explain what happened.

The affair could also have fallout for the Mossad as an agency, and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Dagan personally.

Netanyahu’s first tenure in the late 1990s was marred by the Mossad’s botched attempt at assassinating the man who now is Hamas’ supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal.

But while Haaretz commentator Oren was calling for Dagan’s head, analyst Ronen Bergman of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper deemed the operation a success.

“Al-Mabhouh is dead and all the partners to the operation left Dubai safely,” he said.

____
Associated Press reporter Rizek Abdel Jawad contributed to this report from the Gaza Strip.

12-8

Community News (V12-I7)

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Ivy Muslim students conference held

Muslim students from top universities gathered at Yale last weekend for the first Muslim Ivy conference. About 120 delegates from each Ivy League school attended, with 30 delegates from Yale.

The conference was the brainchild of Omer Bajwa, the Coordinator of Muslim Life on campus. The Yale MSA worked in conjunction with the University Chaplain’s Office to organize the event.

The conference began Saturday with a Dhuhr prayers and addresses by Bajwa, Tariq Mahmoud ’11 president of the Yale Muslim Students Association, and University Chaplain Sharon Kugler. Throughout that day and the next, students attended panels and small group discussions on topics including post-graduate experiences, gender dynamics, campus activism, community activism and life as a Muslim-American.

Hamid said that because this conference was largely organized by the Yale chapter of MSA, he thinks more inter-Ivy League collaboration would greatly improve future events.

The Yale MSA, which has around 200 members, kicked off Islamic Awareness Month at Yale with a meet and greet with members and guests on Friday.

Mosques offer reward for leads in Muslim man’s death

CHESTER, PA– Philadelphia area mosques are offering a $5,000 reward for information that they hope will lead police to the killer of a local Muslim man.
Abulaash Ansari, 57, a much respected community member, was shot and killed on Dec. 12.

Chester police say that the investigation is ongoing and that there is a person of interest.

“There were some domestic issues that took place prior to the shooting,” said Darren Alston, deputy chief of police. “We can’t say for sure whether that is connected or not.”

Ansari was a familiar face in Chester. A native of Ahmadabad, India, he moved to the United States about 20 years ago with his four children.

An electrician, he often worked for free on projects at his mosque.

Discrimination lawsuit against Illinois college dismissed

BENTON,IL– A federal judge has dismissed  a lawsuit against a southern Illinois college by an administrator who claimed he was passed over for the school’s presidency because he’s an Iraq native and Muslim.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon dismissed Salah Shakir’s lawsuit against Rend Lake College on Monday in Benton.

Herndon ruled that Shakir lacks evidence supporting his contention that he was discriminated against. He was the college’s vice president of information technology, but he wasn’t hired to fill a vacancy in the college’s presidency.

Free dinner-lecture on Islam at Western

KALAMAZOO–Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah will discuss similarities among the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths during the semiannual installment of a free dinner-lecture series sponsored by the Muslim Students Association of Western Michigan University.

In addition to the keynote address, “One God, Many Names: Muslims, Christians and Jews all Call Upon the Same God,” the evening includes a multicultural dinner and multiethnic exhibition. Events begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, in the Bernhard Center Ballroom.

The dinner-lecture is open to the public free of charge, but reservations are required. They must be made online at www.rso.wmich.edu/msa by Wednesday, Feb. 17. The popular event typically attracts capacity attendance, and those wishing to attend are encouraged to register early. A waiting list will be maintained for late registrants.

The Muslim Students Association, in collaboration with the Arab Student Association, sponsors the dinner-lecture series once each fall and spring semester.

For more information, visit WMU’s Muslim Student Associationonline, or contact Samira Shammas at rso_msa@wmich.edu.

12-7

Flight 253: US Complicity?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Michigan Attorney Kurt Haskell discusses the events of Flight 253 and Underwear-Bomber Mutallab

By Adil James, MMNS

kurt haskell February 10—Farmington—The attempted Underwear Bombing has already taken on the aspect of a familiar tableau, with all involved taking their usual hackneyed positions—the gallant police and intelligence authorities, the heroic passengers, all duped by the diabolically wicked Muslim anti-hero, who despicably and cleverly circumvented all the hurdles in his path in order to do the unthinkable.

But there is another dimension to this story, which shows the extent to which, nearly 10 years after 9/11, there is apparently no thought-through system in place to deal with cases of attempted airline hijackings and bombings, where shadowy people who appear to be affiliated with government agencies interfere with the functioning of airport security, where other shadowy people who appear to be terrorists are allowed to slip through the cracks, and where government officials from top to bottom appear either to lie about events or to be simply incredibly misinformed, or inept.

Attorney Kurt Haskell was on Flight 253.  He is a vocal bankruptcy and divorce attorney who has a blog (haskellfamily.blogspot.com).  According to his law firm’s website, he graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with a degree in Biology, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and Wayne State University Law School where he earned an LLM in Taxation.  He was a tax attorney for the IRS and opened the Haskell Law Firm in 2001 with his wife, Lori, who is also an attorney—she graduated from Davenport University and Wayne State University Law School.

Kurt and Lori Haskell were together on the eventful trip to and return from Africa; this trip to Africa led him through Amsterdam’s airport and onto flight 253, only a few rows away from a man who had come from Africa towards Detroit but with a very different purpose.

“I saw almost everything,” he explains, as he was sitting only 8 rows away from the bomber.  “He was in row 19, we were in row 27.”  “The whole thing took maybe a minute, it was really quick.” 

As he recounts the event, it happened in the final minutes of the flight to Detroit, “only five or ten minutes from landing.”  A female flight attendant walked past Mr. Haskell saying “it smells like smoke,” and a few moments later Haskell looked and saw a fire in what had been Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s row.  People were yelling “Fire! Fire!”  Someone was yelling “Terrorist!” A different flight attendant, who Haskell said was a black man named Dionne, put out the fire with a fire extinguisher.  Haskell saw two passengers escorting Mutallab, who was then wearing a blanket where his pants had been, towards first class. 

Mutallab has been described as in a “trance-like” state by one first class passenger who saw him after the event, but the word Haskell uses to describe Mutallab, after what must have been a terrifying and adrenaline-soaked event for all concerned, is “emotionless.”

But this was not the first time Haskell had seen Mutallab.  He had seen him before getting on the plane in Amsterdam—and it was this previous brief encounter which strikes the jarring note of discord between the generally accepted story and the truth of the events of Flight 253. 

“We had gone through the security checks,” he was sitting on the ground with his wife playing cards, very close to the ticketing agent who allows people to board the airplane, and he noticed what he described as an oddball pair approaching a ticket agent together.  What was striking about the pair was that they were together.  One was an “Indian-looking” man, dressed sharply, described in Haskell’s blog as the “sharp-dressed man.”  He looked about 50 years old, looked wealthy, was wearing a suit.  The other was Mutallab, looking maybe 15 years old, with “raggy jeans and a white T-shirt.” 

“They went to the ticket agent together,” explains Haskell, who said he overheard the sharp-dressed man say to the ticketing agent “This man needs to board the plane, he has no passport.”  “He’s from Sudan,” said the sharp-dressed man, “We do this all the time.”

At the time Haskell understood this to mean that the man (Mutallab) was a refugee.  Mutallab said nothing during the exchange.

The ticketing agent said the sharp-dressed man would have to go to the manager, and she pointed down the hallway, then the “oddballs together” walked down the hall towards where the manager had pointed.  “It meant so little to me at the time that I didn’t even mention it to my wife,” said Haskell.

It would only become significant in the light of the events that unfolded in the last few minutes of Flight 253.  Fast forward to a blanketed Mutallab being escorted to the front of the airplane.

The plane had nearly finished the flight when Mutallab attempted to ignite the explosive in his underwear… and the ensuing pandemonium only lasted about a minute.  The pilot requested emergency clearance to land, and it was only a short time before the passengers of the flight were all on land, however this is where Haskell witnessed “all [the] screwups” of security personnel in dealing with this attempted bombing.

First the plane spent about 20 to 30 minutes on the runway, explained Haskell.  “We taxied to the gate, which was a big mistake—we didn’t know if there were other bombs on board, or accomplices.”  “They could have blown up the entire terminal,” Haskell said. 

That seems unlikely, since if the terrorists wanted to bomb an airport terminal it seems unnecessary to fly several thousand miles after getting through airport security in Amsterdam. 

Haskell explained that the police got on the plane.  Haskell said he had expected an emergency evacuation. “We don’t know how dangerous the situation is,” he said.  The police said nobody could get off the plane.  Haskell was apprehensive that there was another bomb on board.

“The police never came out of first class,” he said, “they didn’t check on the welfare of the other passengers.”  “The police escorted Mutallab off the plane—he stood in the aisle for about 10 seconds, and I got a good look—he was wearing handcuffs.”  That was the first time that Haskell knew Mutallab was a terrorist, he said.

“Then we were allowed to get off the plane, they let us take all carry-ons off.  Big mistake.  Disturbing the crime scene.”  Mutallab had told the police, Haskell later learned (from news reports and from a client of his who works at the airport), that there was a bomb still on board the plane—but the police never searched the carry-on bags.

“We walked onto the runway, and were escorted to an evacuated baggage claim.  Nobody else was around.  We stood there for an hour.  There were bomb sniffing dogs, 3 of them.  One of them sniffed something in the bag of an Indian man, the ‘man in orange,’ who was wearing an orange shirt.  The dog sat down, which indicates he found an explosive.” 

“Immediately the man was taken away, but not handcuffed.”  He was interviewed in a room, “we couldn’t see inside the room but we could see the door.  Then he was taken out, handcuffed, and taken away.”

An officer came and moved the passengers to another area, saying it was “not safe here,” saying that everyone had seen what had happened earlier (with the man in orange) and could draw their own conclusions about why it wasn’t safe there.

The Flight 253 passengers were then moved, Haskell explained, to “a long narrow hallway, where we were held for four hours.  We couldn’t talk on cell phones, or text anybody.” They were not allowed to eat or drink.  “Mostly we were not allowed to use the bathroom,” he said.

Then, after several hours, a man came up to the passengers and said, “We believe we have those responsible in custody”—the passengers were then “free to go” after short interviews with the FBI.  Haskell did his interview with the FBI and went home.

Haskell emphasizes their use of the plural “those involved” rather than the singular “the one involved.”

The passengers of Flight 253 do not have any formal organization, however Haskell explains that many of the passengers have emailed him through his website, and being in contact with the other passengers he has found one woman who publicly said that she saw Mutallab during his security exam (during which she said he appeared nervous and sweated profusely and ran his hands through his hair) and learned of another passenger whose name has not been made public—who is said to have video-taped the entire terrorist incident on the airplane.

Haskell explains that the video recording was made by a Dutch man who bought a camcorder on his way to visit New York City, and was operating it during the incident because he wanted to learn how to use it, or test it.  According to Haskell’s sources this man’s video is now in the possession of government authorities, however the man has several photographs from the flight still in his possession, and Haskell believes there is a good chance those stills include at least one of the man in orange.

Haskell is astonished at the lack of interest in his story from mainstream media outlets.  Haskell’s eyewitness account strongly indicates government complicity in transporting Mutallab, and also strongly indicates at least one other bomber was on Flight 253. 

However, there is minimal interest in his story, and Haskell feels he has been maligned and his story undermined by official reports.  According to what Haskell saw, either there was another bomber involved, or there was a case of mistaken attribution of terrorist intent against the man in orange—and if so that man must have a motive to expose what has happened to him.  Haskell fully believes there was another terrorist whose involvement is being covered up by law enforcement authorities.

What does all this mean? Haskell discounts several popular theories, namely first that the government wanted the plane to be blown up to justify widespread body scanners and to justify making war on Yemen; second that the government wanted a failed bombing in order to justify the same two results above. 

However, Haskell does believe, based on what he saw and based on cryptic statements from government officials that intelligence officials sometimes let known terrorists into the country in order to track them and see who they contact, that the US government did fully intend to let Mutallab into the country in order to watch him, but did not know that Mutallab never intended to actually arrive at Detroit airport and had stuffed explosives in his underwear in order to kill everyone onboard his airplane before ever touching down in Detroit.

Haskell’s feeling about the incident seems to be primarily one of astonishment at the actions of his own government and the American press to the incident.
If Haskell’s story is wrong, he argues, why is it that no Dutch security video has been released of the events at Amsterdam airport?

“Why aren’t they releasing the video, if my story is not true? Why is the media totally ignoring what I have to say?”

12-7

Iraqi Fights Graft, Crime in Interior Ministry

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Missy Ryan and Muhanad Mohammed

2010-01-13T225914Z_513309992_GM1E61E0J8I01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-MINISTRY

Interior Ministry Inspector General, Aqeel al-Turaihi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad January 11, 2010. Outside the office of Aqeel al-Turaihi, inspector general at what is seen as a corrupt country’s most corrupt government agency, hangs a ‘Board of Honour’ showing photos of slain colleagues. Since he began probing theft, human rights abuses and police infiltration by militias in Iraq’s Interior Ministry in 2006, more than 40 members of Turaihi’s team have been assassinated. Picture taken January 11, 2010.

REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Outside the office of Aqeel al-Turaihi, inspector general at what is seen as a corrupt country’s most corrupt government agency, hangs a ‘Board of Honour’ showing photos of slain colleagues. Since he began probing theft, human rights abuses and police infiltration by militias in Iraq’s Interior Ministry in 2006, more than 40 members of Turaihi’s team have been assassinated.

“We are targeted from two sides: by terrorists because we are part of a security agency and by unscrupulous officials because we fight corruption,” he said.

Assailants have tried several times to kill Turaihi himself, an amateur poet and one-time activist against dictator Saddam Hussein, including a bomb attack on his convoy two years ago. The most recent threat on his life was less than a month ago.

Yet, Turaihi said, big strides had been made in combating malfeasance in the ministry, a vast bureaucracy that includes more than 300,000 police and about 200,000 other employees.

“There has been a big improvement. When we talk about the problems that might exist in the ministry, we need to note that we’re watching them closely and working hard to correct them.”

As Iraq battles a stubborn insurgency and takes on greater responsibility for security from U.S. troops, it must face not just corruption but allegations police or soldiers take bribes from militants or even collude in bloody attacks on civilians.

In a new report, parliament’s security and defense committee charges security forces were at least indirectly responsible in recent attacks on state buildings that have added a new element of uncertainty before national elections in March.

Seven or eight members of security forces remain in police custody after those attacks, committee member Falah Zaidan said.

Ammar Tu’ma, another lawmaker on the committee, said security forces were infiltrated.

“There are elements complicit with terrorists in implementing these explosions,” he said.

While officials deny any systemic wrongdoing among uniformed Iraqis, they acknowledge shortcomings in keeping Iraqis safe and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has vowed dire consequences for those taking part in such attacks.

EJECTING CRIMINAL ELEMENTS

In the bloody years after Saddam’s ooverthrow, when U.S. officials disbanded security forces and rebuilt them anew, the Interior Ministry was widely believed to be in the grip of Shi’ite militias that went after adversaries with impunity and targeted Iraqis from the once-dominant Sunni minority.

Turaihi said most criminal elements were ‘cleansed’ from the ministry.

“There was a time when the ministry may not have been so professional and its loyalties might have been weak, but those loyalties have now come together under a national banner.”

Critics are skeptical about how zealous Turaihi and other anti-corruption officials in Iraq have been in that fight.

Zaidan said Turaihi, whose 2,600 inspectors oversee a ministry of 500,000 employees, and his Defense Ministry counterpart were not up to snuff and may need to be replaced.

While graft is sure to be a hot issue in the March 7 national polls, Iraq’s record on going after iniquitous officials, especially those from senior levels, is poor.

Iraq is still ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt countries even as it stands on the verge of signing energy deals that could bring a flood of new oil revenue.

The Interior Ministry has been especially problematic. An independent panel reported there were more Interior employees convicted of corruption in 2008 than any other ministry.

The same year, senior officials shut down 135 suspected corruption cases across the government, and another 1,552 were abandoned because suspects were covered by an amnesty law that has been morphed to become a corruption shield.

Turaihi said he did not support a full cancellation of the controversial article that allows ministers to protect subordinates, but said it should be used only to protect prosecution of ‘unintentional’ crimes.

(Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim, Suadad al-Salhy and Khalid al-Ansary; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

12-3

Mich Woman Imprisoned by Israel following settler takeover of Palestinian home

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

alethonews.blogspot.com

Imprisoned American citizen and Michigan resident Ahlam Mohsen to be deported to the US after being arrested in a Palestinian home taken over by Israeli settlers in Occupied East Jerusalem.

Ahlam was a guest of the al-Kurd family when on the morning of 3 November 2009 Israeli settlers burst in and seized part of the building. Contrary to eyewitness accounts, the police claim the 21-year-old attacked them.

>From the Givon prison in Ramle where Ms. Mohsen is currently awaiting deportation she reported that: “The Israeli police were violently pushing an elderly Palestinian woman. So I stepped in front of them. They told me to move and when I refused they started forcefully pushing me. Then they grabbed me and carried me into a police van. While I was waiting at the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the police officers kept telling each other that I was a `dirty Arab’ and introducing me as ‘Osama Bin Laden’s sister’. One of them, threatened to `break my head’. None of the other non-violent demonstrators were targeted; the way they treated me, it’s obvious that I was arrested because I’m of Arab descent.”

The 40 settlers, accompanied by private armed security and Israeli police forces, entered a section of the home, threw out the family’s belongings and locked themselves in.

The take-over came after an appeal submitted by the family’s lawyer was rejected by the District Court. In their appeal, the Palestinian family was challenging an earlier court decision that deemed a section of the house illegal and ordered that the keys be given to settlers. The settlers proceeded to enter the house, while the court did not grant them the right to enter the property.

The al-Kurd home was built in 1956. An addition to the house was built 10 years ago, but the family was not allowed to inhabit the section because the municipality refused to grant them a building permit. Visibly unequal laws are used to make it possible for settlers to move into a home where it was declared illegal for Palestinian residents to inhabit. The Israeli authorities exercise their abilities to demolish and evict Palestinian residents, while ignoring building violations from the Israeli population in East Jerusalem.

The al-Kurds have become the fourth Sheikh Jarrah family whose house has been occupied by settlers in the last year. So far, 60 people have been left homeless. In total, 28 families living in the Karm Al- Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, located directly north of the Old City, face imminent eviction from their homes.

Ahlam is imprisoned in the Givon prison in Ramle.

She is available for interviews.

Video: edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/11/03/hancocks.fight.for.jerusalem.cnn

11-47

How America Makes its Enemies Disappear

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Petra Bartosiewicz, Harpers

When I first read the U.S. government’s complaint against Aafia Siddiqui, who is awaiting trial in a Brooklyn detention center on charges of attempting to murder a group of U.S. Army officers and FBI agents in Afghanistan, the case it described was so impossibly convoluted—and yet so absurdly incriminating—that I simply assumed she was innocent. According to the complaint, on the evening of July 17, 2008, several local policemen discovered Siddiqui and a young boy loitering about a public square in Ghazni. She was carrying instructions for creating “weapons involving biological material,” descriptions of U.S. “military assets,” and numerous unnamed “chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars.” Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist who lived in the United States for eleven years, had vanished from her hometown in Pakistan in 2003, along with all three of her children, two of whom were U.S. citizens. The complaint does not address where she was those five years or why she suddenly decided to emerge into a public square outside Pakistan and far from the United States , nor does it address why she would do so in the company of her American son. Various reports had her married to a high-level Al Qaeda operative, running diamonds out of Liberia for Osama bin Laden, and abetting the entry of terrorists into the United States . But those reports were countered by rumors that Siddiqui actually had spent the previous five years in the maw of the U.S. intelligence system—that she was a ghost prisoner, kidnapped by Pakistani spies, held in secret detention at a U.S. military prison, interrogated until she could provide no further intelligence, then spat back into the world in the manner most likely to render her story implausible. These dueling narratives of terrorist intrigue and imperial overreach were only further confounded when Siddiqui finally appeared before a judge in a Manhattan courtroom on August 5. Now, two weeks after her capture, she was bandaged and doubled over in a wheelchair, barely able to speak, because—somehow—she had been shot in the stomach by one of the very soldiers she stands accused of attempting to murder.

It is clear that the CIA and the FBI believed Aafia Siddiqui to be a potential source of intelligence and, as such, a prized commodity in the global war on terror. Every other aspect of the Siddiqui case, though, is shrouded in rumor and denial, with the result that we do not know, and may never know, whether her detention has made the United States any safer. Even the particulars of the arrest itself, which took place before a crowd of witnesses near Ghazni’s main mosque, are in dispute. According to the complaint, Siddiqui was detained not because she was wanted by the FBI but simply because she was loitering in a “suspicious” manner; she did not speak the local language and she was not escorted by an adult male. What drove her to risk such conspicuous behavior has not been revealed. When I later hired a local reporter in Afghanistan to re-interview several witnesses, the arresting officer, Abdul Ghani, said Siddiqui had been carrying “a box with some sort of chemicals,” but a shopkeeper named Farhad said the police had found only “a lot of papers.” Hekmat Ullah, who happened to be passing by at the time of her arrest, said Siddiqui “was attacking everyone who got close to her”—a detail that is not mentioned in the complaint. A man named Mirwais, who had come to the mosque that day to pray, said he saw police handcuff Siddiqui, but Massoud Nabizada, the owner of a local pharmacy, said the police had no handcuffs, “so they used her scarf to tie her hands.” What everyone appears to agree on is this: an unknown person called the police to warn that a possible suicide bomber was loitering outside a mosque; the police arrested Siddiqui and her son; and, Afghan sovereignty notwithstanding, they then dispatched the suspicious materials, whatever they were, to the nearest U.S. military base.

The events of the following day are also subject to dispute. According to the complaint, a U.S. Army captain and a warrant officer, two FBI agents, and two military interpreters came to question Siddiqui at Ghazni’s police headquarters. The team was shown to a meeting room that was partitioned by a yellow curtain. “None of the United States personnel were aware,” the complaint states, “that Siddiqui was being held, unsecured, behind the curtain.” No explanation is offered as to why no one thought to look behind it. The group sat down to talk and, in another odd lapse of vigilance, “the Warrant Officer placed his United States Army M-4 rifle on the floor to his right next to the curtain, near his right foot.” Siddiqui, like a villain in a stage play, reached from behind the curtain and pulled the three-foot rifle to her side. She unlatched the safety. She pulled the curtain “slightly back” and pointed the gun directly at the head of the captain. One of the interpreters saw her. He lunged for the gun. Siddiqui shouted, “Get the fuck out of here!” and fired twice. She hit no one. As the interpreter wrestled her to the ground, the warrant officer drew his sidearm and fired “approximately two rounds” into Siddiqui’s abdomen. She collapsed, still struggling, then fell unconscious.

The authorities in Afghanistan describe a different series of events. The governor of Ghazni Province , Usman Usmani, told my local reporter that the U.S. team had “demanded to take over custody” of Siddiqui. The governor refused. He could not release Siddiqui, he explained, until officials from the counterterrorism department in Kabul arrived to investigate. He proposed a compromise: the U.S. team could interview Siddiqui, but she would remain at the station. In a Reuters interview, however, a “senior Ghazni police officer” suggested that the compromise did not hold. The U.S. team arrived at the police station, he said, and demanded custody of Siddiqui, the Afghan officers refused, and the U.S. team proceeded to disarm them. Then, for reasons unexplained, Siddiqui herself somehow entered the scene. The U.S. team, “thinking that she had explosives and would attack them as a suicide bomber, shot her and took her.”

Siddiqui’s own version of the shooting is less complicated. As she explained it to a delegation of Pakistani senators who came to Texas to visit her in prison a few months after her arrest, she never touched anyone’s gun, nor did she shout at anyone or make any threats. She simply stood up to see who was on the other side of the curtain and startled the soldiers. One of them shouted, “She is loose,” and then someone shot her. When she regained consciousness she heard someone else say, “We could lose our jobs.”

Siddiqui’s trial is scheduled for this November. The charges against her stem solely from the shooting incident itself, not from any alleged act of terrorism. The prosecutors provide no explanation for how a scientist, mother, and wife came to be charged as a dangerous felon. Nor do they account for her missing years, or her two other children, who still are missing. What is known is that the United States wanted her in 2003, and it wanted her again in 2008, and now no one can explain why.

Petra Bartosiewicz is a writer living in Brooklyn . Her last story for Harper’s Magazine, “I.O.U. One Terrorist,” appeared in the August 2005 issue.

11-45

Lockerbie: Megrahi ‘a Convenient Scapegoat?’

August 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By BBC News

2009-08-22T113659Z_01_SIN805_RTRMDNP_3_LOCKERBIE

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (L) talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli in this August 21, 2009 video grab from Libya TV. Gaddafi hugged the convicted Lockerbie bomber and promised more cooperation with Britain in gratitude for his release, while London and Washington condemned his "hero’s welcome" home. Meeting Megrahi and his family late on Friday, Gaddafi thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for "encouraging" Scotland to release the dying prisoner from a Scottish jail, Libyan news agency JANA reported.

REUTERS/Libya TV

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has left Scotland to return to Libya.

With his departure, a lengthy chapter in Scots legal history has closed.

But many questions remain – and they will not disappear along with the flight to Tripoli.

BBC Scotland’s Home Affairs Correspondent Reevel Alderson has been looking at the mystery which still surrounds the 1988 bombing.

The collection of evidence from Britain’s worst act of terrorism began immediately – and within a week detectives announced it had been caused by a bomb in a radio cassette player.

Throughout the subsequent weeks whole sections of the jumbo jet were recovered to help investigators literally piece together the cause.

Although they knew it was a bomb they needed to find out who had placed it, why they had done so, and how?

Early suspicion fell on Ahmed Jibril, leader of Palestinian terror group the PFLP-GC, who intelligence sources suggested may have been working for Iran.

West German police mounted Operation Autumn Leaves, raiding flats near Frankfurt where the group was preparing bombs in radio cassette players.

They were similar to that used to blow up Pan Am flight 103.

But Dick Marquise, chief of the FBI “Scotbom Task Force” from 1988-1992, said investigators could find nothing later to link this plot with Lockerbie.

“We never found any evidence,” he told the BBC. “There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of intelligence that people have said there were meetings, there were discussions.

“But not one shred of evidence that a prosecutor could take into court to convict either an official in Iran or Ahmed Jibril for blowing up Pan Am flight 103.”

There were also suggestions that Jibril’s group put the bomb onto a Pan Am feeder flight from Frankfurt Airport to Heathrow, switching the suitcase for one containing drugs being run by another Palestinian group.

But another airport has also come under suspicion – Heathrow in London, from where the doomed jumbo jet took off.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the victims of the atrocity, said a break-in the night before near the Pan Am secure baggage area was not fully investigated by police, who he claims concealed the evidence.

“I wrote recently to the Crown Office (which handles Scottish prosecutions) asking why that had been concealed for 12 years, and if they knew about it all along,” he said.

He said they would not answer his question, which he said meant there must now be a thorough inquiry into the incident.

During Megrahi’s first appeal, held at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands, his counsel raised the matter, saying it cast doubt on claims that the fatal bomb must have been loaded in Malta.

But the five appeal judges rejected the suggestion.

Malta had become crucial once police found a fragment of the bomb timer wrapped in a piece of clothing in a Dumfriesshire forest.

The clothes had Maltese labels – but question marks remain about how this discovery was made several months after the disaster, and also over how the material was handled.

The original trial heard labels on police evidence bags containing the fragment had been changed: the evidence of the officer who had done this was heavily criticised by the trial judges.

Worldwide terrorism

There were question marks too over Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who was the only man to identify Megrahi.

His evidence was that the Libyan, who he picked out at an identity parade, had bought the clothes at his shop.

But his police statements are inconsistent, and prosecutors failed to tell the defence that shortly before he attended an identity parade, Mr Gauci had seen a magazine article showing a picture of Megrahi, and speculating he might have been involved.

Mr Gauci now lives in Australia, and according to defence claims is believed to have been paid several million dollars by the Americans for his evidence.

It may be that we will never know exactly what happened in December 1988.

Secret documents before the Appeal Court – which even the defence has not seen – might have provided new information.

They will now remain undisclosed, after the foreign secretary issued a Public Information Immunity certificate stating that to publish them would be to the detriment of UK national security.

Megrahi was charged as a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services – acting with others.

Megrahi is now dying, but he may have been a convenient scapegoat for a much bigger conspiracy.

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Community News (V11-I34)

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamic Summer Fest held in Delaware

WILMINGTON, DE–The first Islamic Summer Festival was held in Ogletown, Delaware. The event had a number of sports, rides, games, food and other activities. It was held in the parking lot of Masjid Ibrahim.

Proceeds from the event will help the Islamic Society of Delaware build a private school that will be open to all, not just students who practice Islam, organizers said.

“We wanted to open up our place of worship to people of all religions. We are trying to become more integrated into the community,” said Vaqar Sharief, president of the Islamic Society of Delaware. Sharief said the group wanted to send a message to the community that Muslims are good neighbors who welcome all. Another goal is to help people coming from other countries to the Delaware area get acclimated.

“This is a way to help you develop faster when you come, so you won’t become isolated,” Sharief said. “Unity is a big deal.”

NYPD reaches out to Muslims for Ramadan

NEW YORK,NY–In an annual pre-Ramadan meeting, city police officers, religious leaders and community members gathered Monday to discuss steps to ensure a safe holiday.

The NYPD says more foot patrols, special patrol cars, increased presence at mosques and greater communication with the Muslim community will all be in place.
“Across the police department we continue our work to familiarize all our police officers with the Islamic faith,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “We do this with the help of special training videos to mosques and meetings such as this one.”

“Commissioner Kelly did a good job to keep it a tradition, a relationship between the police department and the Muslim community,” said Ahmed Jamil of the Muslim American Society of Queens. “We encourage this. And it has to be developed a little bit more. But it’s a good start.”

Kelly also eased concerns of profiling saying they are not monitoring any communities, including Muslim communities.

Fl religious leaders urge action on health reform

ORLANDO, FL– An Imam in Central Florida joined Christian priests and a Rabbi in urging the government to make affordable health care for all families in the country. Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society, Bishop Thomas Wenski, Rabbi Gary Perras, and Rev. Priscilla Robinson issued a joint statement urging the same.

“In Islam we are told all human life is precious and equal, therefore it is time for our nation to realize this fundamental right for all of it’s citizens,” Imam Musri said.

To further promote their agenda the faith leaders will gather on August 20 for a health care forum at Good Shepherd Catholic Church.

Airport chapel caters to all faiths

ATLANTA,GA–The chapel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport now caters to a number of faiths including Islam. The 1,040 square foot chapel which recently underwent a renovation has doubled to its current size.

About 1,500 people per week visit the chapel, a fraction of the 250,000 people who pass through the world’s busiest airport each day.The chapel remains unadorned to maintain its interfaith feel.

Saginaw Township approves mosque

SAGINAW, MI–Saginaw Township Supervisor Tim Braun expects the Saginaw-based Islamic Center to be a good neighbor for the community once a 14,000 square foot plus mosque is completed, some time next year.  The Township board unanimously approved the proposed special use permit for the site on North Center north of McCarty near Tittabawassee.

Braun and other Township officials explained to the nearly 70 people in attendance at the board meeting that the Islamic Center met all zoning requirements. Islamic Center officials say the design will not include exterior loud speakers for the Azan.

Bronx Muslims targets of attacks

BRONX, NY–The West African Muslim community in Bronx is calling on authorities to seriously tackle a wave of hate crimes. There have been twenty such attacks on members of the community within the past one year. They are now seeking help from the NYPD and Housing Authority.

“We are calling everyone to come and help us to address these issues. And these are not things that will be accepted and tolerated,” Said Ebrahim Dawood Ndure of the African Action Network in an interview to the NY1 news channel.

Last week a community forum was held with members of NYPD, NYCHA, and District Attorney Robert Johnson in attendance.

Johnson said the authorities are seriously looking at the problem and the perpetrators will be prosecuted.

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9 Israelis Suspected of Scamming Millions from U.S. Pensioners

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yuval Goren, Haaretz Correspondent

The Tel Aviv police fraud squad arrested on Sunday nine Israelis on suspicion of netting millions of dollars from U.S. pensioners in a so-called Nigerian scam.

Police raided an office in the city, which is suspected to have been the nerve center of the dodgy enterprise. The defendants, all in their 20s and 30s, allegedly phoned American pensioners, told them they had won the lottery and asked them for a fee of several thousand dollars for the transfer of the prize money, which in fact never existed.

The investigation has been conducted in conjunction with U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Last week, it was reported that the American agencies had urged Israel Police to step up the extradition procedure of another ten Israelis who were suspected of scamming $2 million in similar means.

Most of the ten defendants in the advance-fee scam, which was unveiled by police last September, are in their early twenties, without a criminal record.

The first hearing in their extradition plea took place last week, after a New York law enforcement official said many of the victims are old and frail, and urged the Israeli police to bring the alleged offenders to imminent justice.

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Indian Muslims Question “Anti-Terrorist” Moves Targeting Only Them

October 1, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

2008-09-26T114346Z_01_DEL12_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA

Police frisk men before Friday prayers during the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad September 26, 2008.

REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

NEW DELHI: Within a few days of Delhi Police having claimed a major breakthrough in tracking down terrorists’ network, through its encounter called Operation Batla House (September 19) allegedly responsible for blasts that have rocked the country recently, the capital city was hit by another blast (September 27). A low-intensity explosion rocked a crowded flower market in South Delhi’s Mehrauli area in the afternoon, killing three and injuring around 20. While Muslim leaders across the country have condemned the Mehrauli blast, they have lashed at authorities for having failed to adequately combat terrorism. Blaming the police for targeting only Muslims as suspect terrorists, Indian Muslims representing different sections and regions, have held this anti-Muslim negative approach as responsible for country being hit by terrorist incidents.

In the opinion of Maulana Asjad Madani, chairperson of Freedom Fighter Hussain Ahmad Madani Education Front and a member of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) working committee: “It is because only innocent people are being arrested and innocent people killed in blasts and such operations, that actual terrorists manage to escape and continue their operations.”

“Till date, the authorities have not able to prove charges against a single Indian Muslim who has been arrested as a suspect terrorist,” Madani told TMO. The Muslim leaders are agitated about the authorities not adopting a similar attitude towards Hindu extremists indulging in terrorist operations against Christians and the ones caught while assembling bombs.

Madani also expressed concern that Muslims who are released after having languished in jails for months or years, are not given any compensation for having suffered because of false charges levied against them. “Their being released is of course a great relief for them. But even this step is taken as a great favor being bestowed upon them. They deserve compensation. Besides, action must be taken against the erring officers who levied false charges against them,” he said. Referring to Batla House encounter, Madani views as “fake,” he said: “If authorities are unable to prove charges against the two killed (Atif and Sajid), their families should be given compensation and erring officers punished.”

Mujtaba Farooqi, secretary Jamaat-e-Islami told TMO: “The Batla House encounter is just a minor example of the manner in which Muslims are being targeted as terrorists.” He and several Muslim leaders expressed the opinion that this “communal agenda” was a follow-up of September 11, 2001 attacks in United States with only Muslims being nabbed as terrorists, in keeping with anti-terrorism pattern followed there.

It was to express their protest against the government’s “negative” attitude that a large number of Muslim organizations and other like-minded leaders staged a demonstration at Jantar Mantar (September 26), Farooqi said.

Mushir-ul-Hasan, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University, has decided to provide legal aid to two Muslims arrested, who are students of Jamia Millia. The two arrested for their alleged role in Delhi serial blasts are:– Mohammad Shakeel and Zia-Ur-Rehman. While his role has been appreciated by Muslims and secular minded Indians, the extremist, radical minded Hindu groups have reacted strongly against it. Demanding his resignation as the VC, they displayed their anger by burning his effigy (September 25).

Dismissing speculations of his taking the decision under any “pressure” or “compulsion,” Hasan told TMO: “It was an instinctive, spontaneous response to a crisis-ridden situation.” Elaborating on it being his legal as well as natural obligation to take such a stand, Hasan said: “One is basically trying to uphold the rule of law, in keeping with the international principles applicable in United States, United Kingdom and India, that unless proven guilty the accused is innocent.” Besides, he pointed out: “Students are our wards. We are their custodians not only while they are students but even afterwards. It is based on this confidence and understanding that parents decide to send their students here.”

When questioned on the apparent bias sensed by Muslims in Indian media’s approach towards the issue, he replied: “Some sections of electronic media are trying to hound us, castigate us by presenting only a negative image about Muslims (as terrorists).” Hasan views the government’s approach as “positive,” as it has so far respected the university’s autonomy and not interfered in his decision to provide legal aid to the students.

The apparent discrimination displayed by Indian police personnel in targeting Muslims as “suspect terrorists,” without any substantial evidence has also prompted Muslim leaders to demand a major change in the police services. Maulana Abdul Hameed Noomani, spokesperson for JUH, views the Batla House encounter as a fake one and deliberately planned. He laid stress on the need to reform the entire Indian police system. Drawing attention to recent reports of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindu extremist organizations’ indulgence in terrorist activities targeting Christians and their being caught in assembling bombs, Noomani said: “Why hasn’t substantial action been taken against these groups? Just as these groups’ activities cannot be used to label the entire Hindu community as terrorist, why are only Muslims being cornered only because of the bias displayed by police and the media against them?”

The attempt made to “justify” Batla House encounter as “genuine” because of Inspector M.C. Sharma having succumbed to bullet wounds he received at the site has been refuted -by those viewing it as fake- posing the following questions. In their opinion, Sharma received shots from the back, from his own colleagues, who started firing indiscriminately to give the impression of their being engaged in a “heavy encounter.” If Sharma was killed in an encounter, where is the weapon by which he was killed, why have the forensic report of the bullets not been made public and whose fingerprints are present on the weapon that killed him? Besides, if the police personnel were sure of nabbing terrorists, why were some of them not wearing bulletproof vests? The fact that they went to the targeted house, without any search/arrest warrant only suggests that they were not even sure of whom would they meet there. The bullet wounds received by two “suspect-terrorists” killed in the so-called encounter were point-blank ones, which is “not possible in an encounter,” according to Madani.

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Delhi Rocked By Multiple Blasts

September 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

 

2008-09-14T064742Z_01_DEL211_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-ATTACK

The relative of a bomb blast victim mourns in New Delhi September 14, 2008. Police officers trawled slums and criminal hideouts in India’s capital on Sunday rounding up  suspects, after serial bombings in the city a day earlier killed at least 20 people and wounded nearly 100.    

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI: Multiple blasts rocked Delhi Saturday evening within 45 minutes leaving at least 20 dead and more than 90 injured (September 13). The first explosion occurred at Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh, North Delhi. This blast took place in a CNG (compressed natural gas) auto-rickshaw and was followed by a blast in the gas-cylinder kept on a scooter right behind it. The impact of the blast was such that the auto rickshaw (three-wheeler) was tossed up in the air by at least 12 feet and got entangled in the overhead electrical wires, according to eyewitnesses. Within minutes, blasts on Barakhambha road went off near Metro Station in Connaught Place (CP), Central Delhi. These were followed by twin blasts in Greater Kailash (GK)’s M-Block market (South Delhi), which was immediately shut down. While one bomb in GK was said to be placed in a dustbin, the other in a scooter.

A high alert was sounded in Delhi, neighboring areas and all major cities of the country. “An alert has been sounded in the wake of the series of blasts in Delhi caused by bombs,” a Delhi police spokesman said.

At least ten shops were damaged in GK. In Karol Bagh, parked cars and motorbikes were badly damaged. The worst affected was Karol Bagh with bloodstains on roadsides, abandoned shoes together with personal belongings and badly damaged cars as well as mangled motorbikes telling the gruesome details.

Ambulances were immediately rushed to affected areas and injured shifted to nearby hospitals.Bomb disposal squads were rushed to all affected sites, which were cordoned off and the traffic diverted. Security was beefed up at sensitive points, including Metro and railway stations with metal detectors being placed at major market areas.

Though a terrorist group – called Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for bomb blasts, Delhi police refrained from confirming this. “The Indian Mujahideen has claimed something but we are not very sure about it,” Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Karnail Singh said. “Whether it is Indian Mujahideen or anyone else, we want to arrest those behind it,” he said. Asserting that there was “no lapse in security,” Singh said: “We had no intelligence about the blasts.”

“A special team has been formed to probe the blasts,” Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal said.

The police claimed to have defused four live bombs, one near India Gate, another near Regal cinema and two at central park in CP.

Minutes ahead of serial blasts, an e-mail was sent to media organiztions stating: “Indian Mujahideen strikes back once more. Within 5 minutes from now… This time with the Message of Death, dreadfully terrorizing you for your sins.” The message from email id, al_arbi_delhi@yahoo.com, also said: “Do whatever you want and stop us if you can.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly condemned the serial blasts and expressed grief over loss of lives. He appealed to the people to remain calm. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi described blasts as “dastardly” and an act of “cowardice”. Those behind the blasts will not spared and they have place in civilized society, she said.

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Home Minister Shivraj Patil also condemned the blasts and appealed to the people not to panic. Condemning the blasts, Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit said: “We must keep calm and peace at this moment of hour otherwise those behind this sinister attack will get the impression that they have succeeded in their aim.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi claimed that he had alerted the Prime Minister more than a week ago about a possible terror strike in Delhi. Condemning the blasts, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Modi blamed the government for not having heeded the “warning.”

Stating that “no words can suffice condemnation” of the blasts, former primer minister, senior BJP leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee said: “The explosions that rocked the city are part of the conspiracy to spread terror and unrest in the country which reflects frustration of the perpetrators of the dastardly act.”

A day after serial blasts, the toll of which increased to 21, uneasy calm prevailed in Delhi. Home Minister Patil chaired a high-level meeting to assess the security situation. National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekar, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, Director Intelligence P.C. Haldar and Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal, among others, attended the 90-minute meeting.

“The meeting was held to review Saturday’s incidents on basis of whatever information is available,” Gupta said. Without elaborating on specific measures that may have delved on at the meeting, Gupta said: “We have discussed various measures that may be needed not only in Delhi but other major cities… After each incident you gain experience.” The government will work on measures needed in a time-bound manner and try to develop some do’s and dont’s as precautionary steps on which the ministry would advise all states, Gupta said. The union home ministry is taking all measures to “fill up any kind of gap, strengthening the machinery, the system and processes,” he said. “All matters would be put at the highest level, wherever necessary, with respect to any particular decision,” Gupta said.

Refraining from giving any direct reply on who could be responsible for serial blasts in several cities within a short span of time, Gupta said at this point of time focus should be on the investigations going on. “Neither you (media) or anybody should say or do anything which creates unnecessary apprehensions or whips up any kind of panic,” he said.

While addressing another gathering, Patil said that the government was taking all possible measures to check terrorist incidents. “The terrorists are trying to spread fear and terror among people through their evil designs. We will not allow them to succeed in it,” he said. “A thorough probe will be conducted and those guilty will be punished according to the law,” he said.

It is noteworthy that authorities are exercising caution in not blaming any particular religious or organization for the Delhi blasts. Earlier in the week (September 10), a delegation led by Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Maulauna Ahmed Bukhari met Prime Minister Singh questioning “double standards” exercised by Indian administration against terrorism, with Muslims being the main victims.

They demanded setting up of a judicial commission to probe into arrest of many Muslims as suspected terrorists, despite their being no substantial evidence against them. The judicial commission, they suggested, should have a proper representation of minorities to look into cases of those arrested from minority community in various terrorism-related cases, prior to judicial proceedings.

Besides, they blamed right-winged extremist groups, linked with saffron brigade- the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal for playing a major role in organizing terrorist attacks in India. The Muslim delegation pressed on the Prime Minister the need for a high level inquiry into role of VHP and Bajrang Dal in recent blasts in the country.

Bukhari also drew Singh’s attention to only either “poor” or rising young, Muslims being dubbed as terrorists. “While the poor cannot afford to approach courts, for the educated youth an arrest as a terrorist spells end of his career and misfortune for his whole family,” Bukhari told this correspondent. “We also urged the Prime Minister to look into arrests of Muslims as alleged terrorists, who have been in jail for more than two years, without any charges having been proved against them,” Bukhari said.

Blaming administration for following double standards, Bukhari said: “Muslims are being harassed and arrested in the name of being masterminds in terror acts that occur in the country or for having relations with a banned organization without any evidence on one hand without any proof. On the other, no action is taken against activities of VHP and Bajrang Dal.”

Bukhari met the Prime Minister in continuation of a drive he has begun recently questioning indiscriminate arrest of Muslim youths as suspected terrorists despite there being no evidence to substantiate these charges. A few days ago, Bukhari sent a one-page letter to prominent Muslim organizations and institutions suggesting a nation-wide all-party meeting to form a consensus and strategy on the steps that should be taken when innocent Muslims are arrested in the name of war against terrorism.

Among those who have supported Bukhari’s proposal are rector of Darul Uloom Deoband Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, rector of Madrasa Mazahirul Uloom (wakf) Maulana Mohammad Saidi, and president of Tanzeem Ulama-e-Hind Maulana Ahmad Khizr. Maulana Arshad Madani and Maulana Mehmood Madani (a legislator) linked with Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) have also responded positively to the proposal. It is to be pursued actively after the month of Ramadan, sources said.

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Clampdown in Xinjiang

August 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy AFP

2008-08-05T041909Z_01_NIR01_RTRMDNP_3_OLYMPICS-XINJIANG

Members of the security forces walk pass local Uighurs as they patrol a steer, near the area where a bomb attack took place the day before, in Kashgar, Xinjiang province, August 5, 2008. China’s tense Xinjiang region announced sweeping security checks of transport on Tuesday after assailants used a truck to mount a deadly attack on police days before the Beijing Olympic Games open. 

REUTERS/Nir Elias (CHINA)

KASHGAR, China (AFP) — Chinese authorities moved Tuesday to keep a lid on further information about a bloody assault on police in Kashgar with a truck, explosives and machetes.

At the hotel directly across from the site of Monday’s raid, which killed 16 policemen, guests were told in the morning that the Internet had been shut off across the city, on police orders.

Police entered an AFP photographer’s hotel room and forced him to delete photos he had taken of the scene. Plainclothes police followed journalists as they moved around the city.

“We can’t talk about that. You must understand if we talk about it, the police will come and arrest us,” said a shopkeeper in Kashgar, a remote city in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, who declined to be named.

Nevertheless some independent information emerged outside of the uniform coverage in China’s state-run press, which was all based on reports from the official Xinhua news agency.

Foreign witnesses described a “sickening” scene that unfolded as two assailants drove a truck at a group of policemen who were out jogging, then attacked the officers with small explosives and machetes.

“My wife almost threw up and had to lie down afterward,” said Wlodzislaw Duch, a Polish tourist who watched the assault from his hotel room directly across the street from the scene.

The Xinhua news agency said the two, aged 28 and 33, were arrested immediately, and identified the men as members of the Muslim ethnic Uighur group, a Turkic-speaking people that have long chafed at Chinese rule of Xinjiang.

The state-controlled China Daily, the government’s main outlet to foreign audiences, said the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation, was “likely” responsible.

“There is little doubt that the ETIM is behind the attack,” said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, according to the paper.

The attack showed the ETIM is now “into advanced planning” since “it has rarely used cars or trucks in an attack before,” Li was quoted as saying.

China has repeatedly warned the ETIM was planning to stage attacks on the Beijing Olympics, which starts on Friday.

However Chinese authorities have not gone on the record to blame the ETIM for Monday’s attack, allowing only unofficial “experts” to be be used in the state-run press.

Beijing Olympic organisers said they did not know yet if there was a direct connection to the showpiece sporting event, but insisted the Games would not be threatened.

“There is always the risk to the security of the Bejing Olympics,” Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organising committee, told reporters.

“That is why we have drafted hundreds of security plans, and now we are prepared to deal with these kind of security threats. We can guarantee a safe and peaceful Olympic Games.”

Xinjiang, a vast area that borders Central Asia, has about 8.3 million Uighurs , and many are unhappy with what they say has been decades of repressive Communist Chinese rule.

Two short-lived East Turkestan republics emerged in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, at a time when central government control in China was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.

The exiled leader of China’s Uighur Muslims condemned the reported killings.

“We condemn all acts of violence,” Rebiya Kadeer said in Washington, where she has been living in exile since 2005 after spending six years in a Beijing prison.

"The Uighur people do not support acts that engender bloodshed.”

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Burning of Sanctuary Stokes Fears of Spain Islamophobia

April 24, 2006 by · 1 Comment 

By Giles Tremlett

An arson attack over the Easter weekend on a Muslim sanctuary in the Spanish city of Ceuta marked another step in what some experts fear is a growing incidence of Islamophobia in the country.
Ceuta lies on a small peninsula in North Africa and a third of the population is Muslim. The burning of the Sidi Bel Abbas sanctuary comes just three months after another sanctuary in the enclave was attacked by arsonists.
Authorities in the city said that they were considering putting security cameras around mosques, shrines and buildings belonging to other religions in order to dissuade potential attackers.
The news came amid reports of a growing number of attacks across Spain.
El Pais newspaper listed a number of mosques and other Muslim targets that have been ransacked, burned or had copies of the Qur’an set alight by intruders.
Police said that extreme rightwingers and skinhead groups were responsible for almost all the attacks.
“They want Spain to have the same sort of violent reaction that the Netherlands had after the murder of film director Theo van Gogh,” one police expert told El PaÌs. “Little by little they are creating an atmosphere for this to grow.”
Spain’s 800,000 Muslims, many of them immigrants from neighbouring Morocco, have some 600 mosques around the country.
Spain’s imams, however, prefer not to publicise attacks in order to avoid copycat incidents and angry reactions from within their own community. “We try to avoid confrontation,” Moneir Mahmoud, who runs the main mosque in Madrid, explained.
Protests against the caricatures of the prophet Muhammad that appeared in the European press were kept within the walls of Spanish mosques in order to not to provoke counter-reactions.
At least four towns in the eastern region of Catalonia, however, have seen attacks on mosques and Muslim butchers, some with Molotov cocktails.
In the eastern town of Reus, police detained two car-loads of skinheads armed with Molotov cocktails as they headed towards the local mosque.
The train bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid two years ago and growing Islamophobia since the September 11 attacks were largely to blame.
“We never had things like this happen before,” Imad Alnaddar, who is in charge of the main mosque in Valencia, told El Pais.

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