New Age Islam
Sat Dec 05 2020, 10:39 AM

Loading..

Islamic World News ( 28 Jan 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Blair denies 'covert' deal with Bush to invade Iraq

'No Regrets' Blair Heckled At Iraq Inquiry

‘Defeat terrorism and communalism’: Indian PM Manmohan Singh

Malaysia charges three over Allah row church fires

 Italy moves towards emulating France on burqa ban

Govt may allow Islamic banking, eyes $1tn funds

Official: 44 militants killed in Pakistan

Indonesia arrests militant allegedly involved in market bombing, murder of Christian priest

Court overturns Egypt's Islamic schools' niqab ban

India’s groupthink on Islam: reflections from jaipur

Iranian cleric: More opposition activists should be executed

Gun battle in southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah

Israeli PM: Israel to keep key settlement forever

Six dead in shooting at Azerbaijan military base

Afghanistan Conference in London: Taliban for sale?

Fund to lure moderate Taliban

World rejects India's Taliban stand

Hamas military commander 'assassinated in Dubai'

Mogadishu raids mar Somali leader Ahmed's anniversary

Let's talk- India, Pakistan cannot afford war: Pakistan PM Gilani

Give us proof to nail Hafiz Saeed: Gilani

Pak talks in two voices

India happy with its role in Kabul

India offers 100 fellowships to Afghan farm students

 “Pakistan shielding 26/11 masterminds”

3 killed, 4 injured as gunmen fire on Shia pilgrims in Pak

Two Army soldiers killed in Jammu and Kashmir ambush

NAINITAL: Fresh terror threat to defence establishments

Will India’s Home Minister Chidambaram attend Saarc meet in Pak?

Headley visited Sena Bhavan, Siddhivinayak temple

Omar’s angst over J&K corruption

Karzai govt invites Taliban to peace meeting

‘Terror, riots twin threats’

Airport alert for woman bomber

Somalia's 'face of war' dies

Pak keen to broker Taliban talks

Missing link in probe: Headley’s 'African associate' in Mumbai

Imitation websites of Google, YouTube emerge in China

Terrorist suffered miscarriage of justice

Video games banned by Islamist group

Wake Up to American Jihadism

Airport screening for 'Flying while Muslim'

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/blair-denies--covert--deal-with-bush-to-invade-iraq/d/2431

------

Blair denies 'covert' deal with Bush to invade Iraq

29 January 2010

Tony Blair poses the '2010 question' to the Iraq inquiry

Tony Blair has denied striking a "covert" deal with George Bush to invade Iraq at a private meeting in 2002 at the US president's ranch.

He told the Iraq inquiry there was no secret about what was said - that Saddam Hussein had to be dealt with and "the method of doing that is open".

The former prime minister was also quizzed about the claim Saddam could launch weapons at 45 minutes' notice.

He said "it would have been better" if headlines about it had been corrected.

Mr Blair used the morning session to mount an impassioned defence of the decision to go to war, telling the inquiry: "This isn't about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception.

"It's a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam's history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take?"

'Not dissembling'

Sometimes it is important not to ask the "March 2003 question" but the "2010 question", said Mr Blair, arguing that if Saddam had been left in power the UK and its allies would have "lost our nerve" to act.

Quoting frequently from his own speeches and statements, Mr Blair answered questions about his working relationship with George Bush, the intelligence used to justify to the public and the unsuccessful diplomatic efforts at the UN aimed at averting it.

Earlier witnesses to the inquiry have suggested he told Mr Bush at their April 2002 meeting at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, that the UK would join the Americans in a war with Iraq.

But Mr Blair said: "What I was saying - I was not saying this privately incidentally, I was saying it in public - was 'we are going to be with you in confronting and dealing with this threat'.

"The one thing I was not doing was dissembling in that position. How we proceed in this is a matter that was open. The position was not a covert position, it was an open position."

Pressed on what he thought Mr Bush took from the meeting, he went further, saying: "I think what he took from that was exactly what he should have taken, which was if it came to military action because there was no way of dealing with this diplomatically, we would be with him."

45 minute claim

Asked about the controversial claim in a September 2002 dossier that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at 45 minutes notice, he said it "assumed a vastly greater significance" afterwards than it did at the time.

He said it "would have been better if (newspaper) headlines about the '45-minute claim' had been corrected" in light of the significance it later took on.

He said he would have made it clear the claim referred to battlefield munitions, not missiles, and would have preferred to publish the intelligence assessments by themselves as they were "absolutely strong enough".

But Mr Blair insisted that, on the basis of the intelligence available at the time, he stood by his claim at the time that it was "beyond doubt" Iraq was continuing to develop its weapons capability.

However he acknowledged "things obviously look quite different" now given the failure to discover any weapons after the invasion.

Even up to the last minute Mr Blair said he was "desperately" trying to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis but France and Russia "changed their position" and were not going to allow a second UN resolution.

Saddam Hussein had "no intention" of allowing his scientists to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors, he said, with the regime concealing key material.

Giving the inspectors more time would have made little difference, he added. He also said Iraq had the "intent" and technical knowhow to rebuild its weapons programme and would have done so if the international community had not acted.

Mr Blair also denied he would have supported the invasion of Iraq even if he had thought Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction, as he appeared to suggest last year in a BBC interview with Fern Brittan.

What he had been trying to say, he explained to the inquiry, was that "you would not describe the nature of the threat in the same way if you knew then what you knew now, that the intelligence on WMD had been shown to be wrong".

'Attack on us'

He said his position had not changed, despite what reports of the interview had suggested.

Mr Blair was at pains to point out that he believed weapons of mass destruction and regime change could not be treated as separate issues but were "conjoined".

He said "brutal and oppressive" regimes with WMD were a "bigger threat" than a benign states with WMD.

He also stressed the British and American attitude towards the threat posed by Saddam Hussein "changed dramatically" after the terror attacks on 11 September 2001, saying: "I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us."

Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot began the six hour question session by stressing that Mr Blair was not "on trial" but said he could be recalled to give further evidence if necessary.

Families of some of the 179 British service personnel killed in Iraq are watching the evidence with others said to be joining the 200 or so anti-war protestors outside.

Rose Gentle's son, Gordon, was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2004, while serving with the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

She said the families of the dead wanted closure and for Mr Blair to explain "in depth" to the families and and the public "why he went in" as she said he had never done that before.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8485694.stm

-----

'No Regrets' Blair Heckled At Iraq Inquiry

5:46pm UK, Friday January 29, 2010

Ruth Barnett, Sky News Online

Tony Blair has told an inquiry he does not regret the war in Iraq as the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein.

 

The former prime minister said it had been a "huge responsibility" deciding to invade the country in 2003.

"There's not a single day that goes by when I don't think and reflect about that responsibility," he told Sir John Chilcot's panel.

"It was divisive and I'm sorry about that."

Members of the public began to shout out when Mr Blair said he had no regrets but were asked to be quiet by the chairman.

One member of the audience shouted at him, "you're a liar", and a second added, "and a murderer".

Mr Blair gave evidence to the official inquiry for six hours. The grieving families of fallen soldiers were among the audience and anti-war protesters gathered outside.

BLAIR DEFENDS LEGALITY OF IRAQ WAR

 

He denied claims he starved the armed forces of cash during the war.

"I don't think I refused a request for money or for equipment at any point in the time that I was prime minister," he said.

Mr Blair added: "If anyone had come to me and said it not safe to do this because of the lack of proper military preparation, I would have taken that very seriously.

"But they didn't and they got on with it - and they did it magnificently, as they always do."

Mr Blair acknowledged some of his legal advisers opposed the war but insisted if the Government's top lawyer had said it was not legal it would not have gone ahead.

Earlier this week, Lord Goldsmith, who was Attorney General when the war began, told the inquiry he had feared military action would not be legal but changed his mind and gave the invasion the green light.

The former Government lawyer said he was felt his feedback was "not welcome" when he told Mr Blair of his original concerns.

Mr Blair said Lord Goldsmith's verdict that the war was legitimate was vital.

"If Peter [Lord Goldsmith] had said 'This would not be justified lawfully', we would have been unable to take action," he said.

"A lot hung on that decision. Therefore it was important that it was by the Attorney General and done in a way which we were satisfied was right and correct."

 

Tony Blair speaks to Sir John Chilcot's panel in London

Other Government legal advisers believed the United Nations would need to pass another resolution explicitly agreeing to go to war.

During several hours of hearings, Mr Blair said the United States would have allowed the UK to back out of getting involved.

"I think President Bush at one point said, before the debate, 'Look if it's too difficult for Britain, we understand'," he said.

But he admitted he told George W Bush he was committed to "dealing" with Saddam Hussein during private talks in 2002.

Evidence presented to the inquiry has suggested Mr Blair gave Mr Bush a private assurance the UK would join a US invasion of Iraq, before he said this to Parliament.

He insisted his private sentiments matched his public statements when the pair met at Mr Bush's Crawford ranch.

"The only commitment I gave and I gave this very openly, was the commitment to deal with Saddam [Hussein]," he said.

"There was never actually anything decided," he added.

However, Mr Blair did acknowledge the chance of war was mentioned, 11 months before the invasion.

If Lord Goldsmith had said 'This would not be justified lawfully', we would have been unable to take action.

Tony Blair on the legality of the war in Iraq

He said: "It was obviously a possibility that military action would be the outcome of what was going to happen.

"So there was a general discussion of the possibility of going down the military route, but obviously we were arguing very much for that to be if the UN route failed."

The former prime minister was challenged over an introduction he wrote in a dossier of evidence presented to the public.

In it, he described Iraq's weapons programme as "beyond doubt".

"I think what I said in the foreword was that I believed it was beyond doubt," he said. "I did believe it."

The Government's documents also implied Saddam had long-range weapons of mass destruction which could be launched within 45 minutes, which was widely reported in the media.

"It would have been better to have corrected it in the light of the significance it later took on," he acknowledged.

 

ANALYSIS BY SKY'S POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT JOEY JONES

Given his time again, Mr Blair said he would "take government right out of this" and publish the documents he was given by intelligence chiefs instead.

Mr Blair managed to avoid protesters outside the venue, entering by a cordoned off rear entrance.

The inquiry audience included family members of soldiers and civilians killed or missing in the country.

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Politics/Tony-Blair-Questioned-For-Six-Hours-By-Sir-John-Chilcots-Iraq-War-Inquiry/Article/201001415537721?

----- 

‘Defeat terrorism and communalism’: Indian PM Manmohan Singh

29 January 2010

Some internal and external forces want to thwart us from marching forward: Manmohan

Only four per cent of eligible students are members of the NCC’

Calls for expansion of Youth Exchange Programme of the NCC

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said forces from both within and outside were trying to impede the growth of the country and called for defeating the twin threats of terrorism and communalism. Addressing the Republic Day Rally of NCC Cadets here, Dr. Singh said: “Some internal and external forces want to thwart us from marching forward on the path of progress and prosperity. We have to deal with the threats of terrorism and communalism. At such times, the importance of organisations like the National Cadet Corps, which inculcate a sense of discipline and unity among the youth and inspire them to work for the development of the nation, has increased.”

On the occasion, the NCC cadets displayed the war-fighting skills imparted to them at the camp.

‘Step up NCC strength’

Congratulating the cadets for their performance, Dr. Singh called for an increase in the strength of the NCC, which now stood at 13 lakh. “It is a huge number, but still only four per cent of eligible students are members of the NCC. This number must increase and more and more students should reap the benefits of the NCC.”

Recalling that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru took keen interest in NCC activities and had directed inclusion of “Community Development” in its curriculum in 1952, Dr. Singh said he was happy to note that the cadets were taking active part in disaster relief and social service, apart from creating awareness on global warming, environment, cancer and AIDS.

Calling for expansion of Youth Exchange Programme of the NCC, Dr. Singh said: “I hope our young guests from various countries taking part in the camp under the Youth Exchange Programme would take along pleasant memories of their stay here.”

The Prime Minister also gave away trophies and medals to the winners under various categories.

http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/29/stories/2010012957460400.htm

------

Malaysia charges three over Allah row church fires

29 January 2010

Prosecutors in Malaysia have charged three Muslim men with firebombing a church in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, earlier this month.

They are the first suspects to appear in court in connection with a series of attacks on Christian places of worship.

The violence began when a High Court judge ruled that a Roman Catholic newspaper had the right to use the word Allah to refer to the Christian God.

Up to 11 Christian churches have been attacked in the past three weeks.

The men pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.

Fraught over faith

Malaysian police said they had arrested eight people for the first in a series of attacks that have highlighted religious and political divisions.

Five were released but three men were charged with starting a fire that partially gutted a Protestant church on 8 January, said government lawyer Anselm Charles Fernandis.

The men, who are in their 20s, face a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years if convicted of "mischief by fire" with the intention of destroying a place of worship.

The court did not immediately schedule a trial date.

The attacks on churches followed a 31 December court ruling allowing non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" for God, which the government is appealing against.

Vandalism has since spread spread to other houses of worship, including a Sikh temple and several Muslim prayer halls.

Earlier this week, bloodied pigs' heads were left in the compounds of two mosques.

Some politicians have insisted on exclusive rights for Malay Muslims, while some Muslim groups have argued that Christians using a word so closely associated with Islam could be a ploy to win converts.

Other Muslim groups, such as the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) have said there is no bar to Christians and Jews using the word Allah.

Malays, who are required to be Muslim in Malaysia, make up a majority of the country's population alongside substantial Chinese and Indian minorities.

The Malaysian constitution gives primacy to Islam but allows the free practice of other faiths.

Under the slogan "One Malaysia", the government has made racial harmony a central policy. Its commitment to that policy is now being severely tested.

The "Allah" ban is unusual in the Muslim world.

The Arabic word is commonly used by Christians to describe God in such countries as Egypt, Syria and even nearby Indonesia, which is the world's largest Muslim nation.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8486517.stm

------

Italy moves towards emulating France on burqa ban

By Deepa Babington

29 January 2010

ROME (Reuters) - Italy may soon seek a ban on full- face Muslim veils, drawing on debate in France where President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burqa as unwelcome and legislators are considering a vote to outlaw or restrict it.

Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna has said the Italian government will quickly follow in France's footsteps, breathing new life into four draft bills on burqas already circulating in parliamentary committees.

"I completely agree with the French initiative, which I think will push other European countries and hence, also Italy, to enact laws on this issue," Carfagna said this week.

"This is about a sacrosanct battle to defend the dignity and rights of immigrant women. A law is being studied that would ban the use of a burqa and niqab, which are not religious symbols -- that's not us saying it, but the top religious authorities of the Islamic world, like the imams of Cairo and Paris."

Her comments came after a French parliamentary panel this week urged the National Assembly to pass a resolution denouncing full Muslim face veils and then vote on the strictest law possible to ban women from wearing them.

Critics see the Burqa, a full veil with a slit for the eyes, as a symbol of the subjugation of women.

In Italy, the initiative has drawn strong support from the far-right, anti-immigrant Northern League party in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government, though some opposition figures have also applauded the move.

In deeply Catholic Italy -- where a European court ruling against crucifixes in classrooms sparked a national uproar -- a few small northern towns have already tried to ban burqas with local decrees, though some of those were later annulled.

The ban initiative also looks to have the backing of most Italians. A poll by the SWG polling group showed 71 percent of Italians were in favour of a ban on full face veils.

"WALKING UNDER WATER"

Still, like in France, the issue has provoked sharp debate in Italy over whether a new law is needed, with leftist politicians and even some in Berlusconi's coalition questioning whether legislation could end up being counterproductive.

"I'm convinced the burqa is a prison and a form of male dominance," said leftist senator Vittoria Franco. "Having said that, I think it's wrong to ban it because it would be an abstract intervention that would not help emancipate women."

Others say wearing a burqa or a niqab -- a face veil with an eye opening -- is already illegal under a 1975 anti-terrorism law that bars appearing in public with a masked face.

But conservative lawmaker Souad Sbai, who has proposed amending the 1975 law to specifically include the words "niqab" and "burqa", says a clear message needs to be sent to dissuade young immigrant Muslim women from taking up face veils.

"If we don't ban it now, tomorrow we'll have lots of women walking around in a niqab," Sbai, who is of Moroccan descent, told Reuters. "Each day the number of women wearing it rises. Just go to Brescia, Bergamo or Milan or any market, They are full of women wearing them."

She says more than 1,000 women in Italy wear full face veils, though Ahmad Gianpiero Vincenzo, head of the Italian Muslim Intellectuals group, says not more than 100 women do.

Muslim groups in Italy say they advise women against wearing face veils, but that enacting a new law on it is either unnecessary or could constitute an attempt to legislate personal choice.

Either way, burqa wearers are unlikely to get much done in Italy, says a reporter from La Repubblica newspaper. Going undercover in a niqab, she recounted not being allowed to borrow library books and being asked to leave local government offices.

"Walking around Milan inside a burqa is like walking under water," she wrote in the left-leaning newspaper.

© Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.

------

Govt may allow Islamic banking, eyes $1tn funds

29 January 2010

New Delhi: Aggressively pitching for $1 trillion worth of Sharia-compliant funds from the Gulf countries for investments in its infrastructure development, the UPA government has drafted a report on Islamic banking even as RBI and the finance ministry are jointly working on necessary legislative changes to implement the same.

A committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary and comprising secretaries from other ministries, including finance, submitted a report to the government recently on the prospects of Islamic banking in the country and on drawing investments from abroad, Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson K Rahman Khan said on Wednesday.

Khan is behind an Indo-Arab Economic Summit to be organised in the Capital from February 3-4 where authorities from the Arab world will be present.

The summit will be presided over by foreign minister S M Krishna. “The emphasis will be to attract investments from these countries through opening up channels like venture capital and mutual fund options which are largely Sharia-compliant," Khan added.

The government has already started similar initiatives with UTI and SBI where certain mutual fund alternatives are available for people to invest in such funds, he added.

To project it as a more secular initiative, the government may term it as ‘participative banking' rather than Islamic banking. "It is an alternative system of banking where people belonging to certain faith and belief can save their money and earn from it too," said Khan, who is also the patron of Indo-Arab Economic Co-operation Forum which is organizing the summit.

According to Khan, the motive behind the summit is to bring the Arabian countries closer to India which has an advantage vis-a-vis China and western countries mainly due to its democratic and liberal credentials and because it is an attractive investment destination.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/biz/india-business/Govt-may-allow-Islamic-banking-eyes-1tn-funds/articleshow/5507005.cms

------

Official: 44 militants killed in Pakistan

By HABIB KHAN

2010-01-29

Pakistan security forces battled militants close to the Afghan border Friday in fighting that has killed 44 suspected insurgents over the last three days, a government official said.

There was no independent confirmation of the fighting or the identities of the dead in Bajur, a tribal region where al-Qaida and Taliban have long had a presence. The Pakistan army launched a major operation in Bajur against the militants in 2008 that it claimed had cleared the area of militants, but clashes have continued since then.

Abdul Kabir, the top-ranking official in Bajur, said several troops had been injured in the fighting in the Slarzai area. He said the clashes began Wednesday when troops began helping a council of tribal elders in evicting Taliban from the area.

He said 21 militants were killed Friday, following 23 killed in the two preceding days.

Pakistan has launched a series of offensives against militants in the tribal areas, pushing them back in some areas. But Western countries want the army to continue pressing the fight because Taliban fighters in Afghanistan use the region as base from which to attack NATO and U.S. forces.

Also Friday in the northwest, a bomb destroyed a truck carrying oil to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

No one was wounded in the attack on the supply truck in the fabled Khyber Pass, government official Javed Khan said.

A large portion of non-lethal supplies for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan are trucked through Pakistan. Militants occasionally attack the trucks, but the strikes have had little impact on operations in Afghanistan.

In the southwest, gunmen killed three Shiite Muslims on their way to visit holy sites in Iraq in an apparent sectarian attack.

Local police official Mohammad Ayaz said the group of travelers had come to Quetta city from the southern city of Karachi, and had hoped to travel across Iran to Iraq. The group was waiting in a bus Friday afternoon when the gunmen appeared on motorbikes and opened fire.

Two men and one woman were killed, while three other people were wounded, Ayaz said.

Police did not accuse any particular militant group Friday, but Quetta has in the past witnessed violence against Shiite Muslims. The attacks are often blamed on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim extremist group with ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Pakistan is a Sunni-majority country, and most of its Shiite and Sunni residents live in harmony. However, extremists from both sects occasionally target one another's leaders.

http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1168367&lang=eng_news

------

Indonesia arrests militant allegedly involved in market bombing, murder of Christian priest

29 January 2010

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Counter-terrorist forces have arrested a suspected Islamist militant in central Indonesia.

Police spokesman Edward Aritonang said Friday the 32-year-old suspect was detained Wednesday in East Java province.

Eko Budi Wardoyo was allegedly involved in the 2005 bombing of a market that killed 22 people and the murder of a Christian priest in 2004.

The crimes were committed by a militant network in Poso, Central Sulawesi province, where clashes between Christians and Muslims killed at least 1,000 people between 1998 and 2002.

The bulk of Indonesia's estimated 200 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith and shun violence in the name of religion.

Hundreds of militant suspects have been prosecuted by Indonesian authorities in recent years.

Copyright © 2010 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved

------

Court overturns Egypt's Islamic schools' niqab ban

Jan 29, 2010

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court has overturned the decision of Egypt's leading Islamic educational institution to ban the niqab, or full face veil, among its female students and teachers.

Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar, which is controlled by the state, issued the ban in October, saying there was no need for females to cover their faces in front of other females. Males and females are separated in dorms and classes.

In Islam, most clerics believe wearing a headscarf is a must, while few consider the niqab obligatory. However, Azhar and another of Egypt's top religious authorities said in December that the face veil had no basis in Islam.

Azhar, one of the most prominent seats of Islamic learning in the Muslim world, has schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt, covering all subjects.

Shortly after Tantawi issued his decree, Egypt's Minister of Higher Education Hany Helal banned the niqab in university examinations. The government said it brought in the ban to prevent students, male and female, disguising themselves as other candidates by wearing the face veil.

Egypt's High Administrative court ruled last week against the government ban.

The latest ruling, by a Cairo administrative court this week, was prompted by a female student in an Azhar school appealing against the decree.

The student has been excluded from school since October for refusing to take off the niqab in class.

This ruling will not necessarily be an end to the case because such cases can be appealed many times in Egypt.

The government has long been wary of Islamist thinking, and in the 1990s crushed Islamists seeking to set up a religious state. It is also keen to quell opposition ahead of a parliamentary election expected by December, to be followed by a presidential vote.

© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

------

India’s groupthink on Islam: reflections from jaipur

Sadanand Dhume

29 Jan 2010

Intellectuals in India trace the Muslim world’s problems almost exclusively to the US and Israel’s alleged misdeeds

If you’re looking for a defining image from the fifth Jaipur Literature Festival, which ended on Monday, there are plenty to choose from: laughter rippling across the front lawns of the Diggi Palace hotel as Alexander McCall Smith recalled the travails of his fictional female detective from Botswana, an electric evening performance by the Tamil singer Susheela Raman, a moving speech on the power of literature by the Scottish novelist Andrew O’Hagan. But none was as arresting as the unannounced (for security reasons) appearance of the controversial Dutch-Somali writer and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Speaking to a packed hall, with her burly bodyguard unobtrusively off-stage, Hirsi Ali spoke about Islam—and its problems with individualism, women’s rights and sexuality—with a frankness unfamiliar to most Indians. She described the faith she was born into as “a dangerous, totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion”. She argued against the moral relativism that has prevented Western intellectuals from scrutinizing Islam as they do Christianity and Judaism. She asked why it seemed impossible to have a sober discussion about the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad without riling Muslim sentiment, and made the case for bringing the Enlightenment to the blighted lands of West Asia and Muslim South Asia. Hirsi Ali touched upon India only briefly, to contrast the country’s success with the dismal state of neighbouring Muslim-majority Pakistan.

But her very presence in Jaipur speaks of the ways in which India, home to 150 million Muslims, is slowly starting to grapple with the faith. As India grows wealthier and more

Full report at: http://www.livemint.com/2010/01/28203930/India8217s-groupthink-on-Is.htm

------

Iranian cleric: More opposition activists should be executed

January 29, 2010

TEHRAN, Iran -- A powerful hard-line Iranian cleric on Friday called for the execution of more opposition activists to silence anti-government protests, praising the hanging a day earlier of two men caught up in the leadership's postelection crackdown.

Speaking in a Friday prayer sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said the wave of street demonstrations sparked by the disputed June presidential election would not have lasted until now if protesters had been executed early on.

"Whatever we suffered was because of our weakness. How many did the judiciary execute on July 9?" he said, referring to one of the particularly large protest days.

"We showed weakness, so then we had Ashoura," he said, referring to a major protest on Dec. 27. "If you show weakness now, the future will be worse ... There is no room for Islamic mercy."

Iran's judiciary is stepping up death sentences as the leadership intensifies its campaign to eliminate the challenge from the pro-reform opposition movement. Authorities announced Thursday that nine people accused of involvement in protests have been sentenced to death - including five who allegedly had a role in the Dec. 27 protests, which saw a particularly violent clampdown.

Iran's top prosecutor said a new group of protesters and others would soon be brought to trial.

The two men executed Thursday were arrested before the June 12 election on charges of belonging to an armed group aiming to topple the government. But authorities lumped them in with opposition activists arrested during the postelection crackdown.

In his sermon, aired live on state radio, Jannati thanked Iran's judiciary chief, Sadeq Larijani, for Thursday's executions and urged more, saying: "Stand up courageously for the sake of God, the same way you executed these two persons very quickly."

Jannati cited verses from the Quran, Islam's holy book, that he said show Islam permits rulers to kill their opponents, including "hypocrites, those with evil intentions and those who spread rumors."

Full report at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/29/AR2010012901379.html

------

Gun battle in southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah

29 January 2010

A gun battle has broken out between Afghan security forces and militants in the southern city of Lashkar Gah, Nato officials say.

They say that the fighting began when insurgents tried to launch "a co-ordinated attack" on the Afhgan National Army (ANA).

A statement said that while firing is continuing, the attack has been contained by the ANA and Nato forces.

The main group of attackers are now surrounded, the statement said.

"At 0946 local time on Friday insurgents attempted an attack on the Afghan National Army's Sharwali Barracks, located on the western edge of Lashkar Gah," a British military spokesman told the BBC.

"The attack was primarily small arms fire and mainly from an unoccupied four-storey building to the south of the barracks."

The statement also added that no casualties had been reported.

Extra troops have been deployed and attack helicopters are over the city and firing on insurgents, Nato said.

Volatile province

Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8486553.stm

------

Israeli PM: Israel to keep key settlement forever

29 January 2010

 Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a key West Bank settlement will remain part of Israel in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu was speaking on Friday at a tree-planting ceremony in Ariel, a large Jewish settlement in the West Bank that is situated on land the Palestinians claim as part of their future independent state.

Mr. Netanyahu made similar comments at two other West Bank settlements this week after meeting a U.S. envoy who is trying to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

His remarks have angered Palestinians who insist all settlement construction end before negotiations resume. They could also complicate Washington’s efforts to promote peace talks.

http://beta.thehindu.com/news/international/article97109.ece

------

Six dead in shooting at Azerbaijan military base

January 29, 2010

Baku: Two soldiers in Azerbaijan shot dead four fellow servicemen and then killed themselves at a military base near the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the defence ministry said on Friday.

The ministry said two other soldiers were wounded in the shooting which took place on Thursday and the motive behind the shooting was not known. It gave no further details.

The independent Turan news agency, however, said several senior commanders of an artillery unit were among those killed after the two soldiers opened fire in the officers'' quarters of the base, and that the attack was motivated by mistreatment.

The base is located in the western Dashkesan region of Azerbaijan, close to the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline where Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in trenches have observed a patchy ceasefire since 1994.

Azerbaijan, a tightly-controlled mainly Muslim country, has used revenues from oil exports to boost defence spending in a bid to tip the balance in the festering conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan with Armenian support as the Soviet Union collapsed.

But analysts say military reform has lagged far behind, and in a 2008 report the International Crisis Group thinktank said that corruption, nepotism and mistreatment were common in the poorly-paid conscript army.

Thursday's shooting appeared to be the worst of a number of similar cases in recent years. In May 2009, an Azeri soldier shot dead four officers and wounded five other servicemen.

The ICG report said the situation in frontline units was particularly difficult, with no effective officer or military unit rotation system and units filled with conscripts too poor to escape the draft or arrange to be sent elsewhere.

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_six-dead-in-shooting-at-azerbaijan-military-base_1340846

------

Afghanistan Conference in London: Taliban for sale?

by Ralph Peters

A highlight of this week’s “what do we do about Afghanistan?” conference in London will be the announcement of a $500-million program to bribe low-level Taliban fighters to quit.

I’m all for any program that prevents a single IED attack on our troops, but the hoopla attending this hail-Mary play reflects our stubborn refusal to understand the enemy. In the ninth year of a war, we still don’t want to know why the other guy fights.

The assumption behind this program is that three-quarters of the Taliban fight for money or because of small-time grievances. There’s zero serious data behind that belief. The assumption suits us, so we rig the intel.

After almost a decade of open warfare with Islamist militants, thousands of global terror attacks in the name of Allah and even deadly Muslim turncoats in our military, we continue to deny that our enemies might be fighting for their faith — or, in the Taliban’s case, for faith, tribe, tradition and territory.

Nope, we’re convinced it’s about the lack of jobs. Well, sorry — the Taliban aren’t the Teamsters.

Two weeks ago, we got another cutting lesson in why aid programs won’t turn the tide in Afghanistan: Valiant US Marines had spent months pacifying parts of Helmand Province; they believed they were making progress — then, in a blink, the local people turned.

All it took was a bogus rumor that our troops had desecrated a Koran. Thousands of furious Afghans rioted in the Garmsir bazaar, a commercial hub. Their confrontation with Afghan security forces turned deadly. Eight rioters gave their lives because they believed a Koran had been abused.

The locals had never staged a protest over the lack of jobs or the need for aid. But they were willing to die for their holy book.

Shouldn’t that tell us something about how Afghans think?

Full report at: http://exilestreet.com/?p=1382

------

Fund to lure moderate Taliban

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: An international conference on Afghanistan here on Thursday paved the way for moderate Taliban to be lured into the peace process with offers of cash, jobs and security in what was seen as the last desperate throw of the dice to end violence in the war-ravaged country.

Donor countries, led by America and Britain, agreed to bankroll a multi-million pound “peace and reintegration fund” to be set up in return for an assurance from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to fight corruption and pursue a more coherent political strategy to push the peace process forward.

Mr. Karzai said he proposed to constitute a national council for peace, reconciliation and reintegration. It will be followed by a peace jirga.

“We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers, who are not part of Al-Qaeda, or other terrorist networks, who accept the Afghan Constitution,” said Mr. Karzai.

He appealed to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to help the peace efforts.

Unveiling a six-point programme of rebuilding the country, he promised that good governance and fighting corruption would be its key focus.

Earlier, opening the conference, attended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Ministers from more than 60 other countries including India, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said only those Taliban militants who agreed to renounce violence would be allowed to join the peace process.

They must “cut any ties with Al-Qaeda, respect the Constitution and pursue their political goals peacefully,” he said.

Full report at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/29/stories/2010012960651900.htm

 

------

World rejects India's Taliban stand

ASHIS RAY

29 January 2010

LONDON: A one-day international conference on Afghanistan on Thursday rejected India's argument that there were no degrees of Talibanism. British

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, hosting the conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, announced in his opening address the establishment of a $500 million 'trust fund' to buy "peace and integration" with warriors who are engaged in violence for economic rather than ideological reasons. A whopping $140 million has been pledged already for this year.

During his pre-conference discussion with the British foreign secretary David Miliband, external affairs minister S M Krishna had specifically said, "There should be no distinction between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban." But this clearly fell on deaf ears. It was also unclear whether remnants of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, once cultivated by India, would be accommodated in any way. There was also no reference to the erstwhile foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, who put up a spirited fight in the first round of the recent controversial presidential election and exposed fraud before withdrawing from the contest.

Krishna was allocated a seat in the second of three rows of attendees at the conference which in itself reflected India's peripheral role in Afghan affairs in the eyes of the international community. This, despite India being the biggest regional aid-giver to Afghanistan, with a commitment of $1.3 million. Earlier in the week, Turkey, an ally of Pakistan, did not even bother to invite India to a confabulation on Afghanistan.

Full report at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/World-rejects-Indias-Taliban-stand/articleshow/5511521.cms

------

Hamas military commander 'assassinated in Dubai'

29 January 2010

A senior Hamas military commander has been assassinated by Israel in Dubai, the Palestinian Islamist group claims.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, 50, a founder of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, "died a martyr on 20 January in suspicious circumstances", a statement said.

Hamas gave no further details, but vowed to "retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate moment".

An Israeli government spokesman would not comment, in line with Israel's usual policy on similar allegations.

The AFP news agency reports that the authorities in Dubai have identified several European passport holders as suspects.

Thousands of people attended Mr Mabhouh's funeral at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, on the outskirts of Damascus, on Friday.

His coffin was wrapped in a Hamas flag and a large portrait was placed at the entrance to the mosque with the words: "Your fingerprints are everywhere. We promise to continue in your path."

'Close to leader'

A Hamas political bureau member in Damascus, Izzat al-Rishq, told the BBC that Mr Mabhouh, who had been living in Syria since 1989, had been very close to its exiled political leader, Khaled Meshaal.

"Mabhouh died a martyr in Dubai on 20 January 2010 in suspicious circumstances that require an inquiry in co-operation with the United Arab Emirates authorities," Hamas said in a statement.

"We in Hamas hold the Zionist enemy responsible for the criminal assassination of our brother, and we pledge to God and to the blood of the martyrs and to our people to continue his path of jihad and martyrdom," it added.

Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8486531.stm

------

Mogadishu raids mar Somali leader Ahmed's anniversary

29 January 2010

At least two African Union peacekeepers have been killed in a militant attack on a parade to mark one year since Somalia's president took office.

At least 11 other people, including civilians, are reported to have been killed in the violence in Mogadishu.

Islamist group al-Shabab has said it carried out the multiple attacks.

Some 200 Somali officials were listening to a poetry reading to mark the president's anniversary as shells were landing nearby, AFP reports.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist and former insurgent leader, was elected after UN-sponsored talks in neighbouring Djibouti but his government remains weak.

He was declared the winner of an election by Somali MPs on 31 January 2009.

Al-Shabab, which denies charges it is linked to al-Qaeda, controls most of southern Somalia, while the government, backed by the peacekeeping mission, is in charge of a few areas of Mogadishu.

President unhurt

The BBC's Mohamed Moalimuu in Mogadishu says it was the heaviest fighting in the city for several months.

He says there was intense shelling which went on for several hours overnight.

Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8486632.stm

------

Let's talk; India, Pakistan cannot afford war: Gilani

IANS | New Delhi

Making a fresh pitch for the resumption of composite dialogue with India, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said the two countries can't be held "hostage to one incident" of 26/11 and should revive talks as both cannot "afford war".

Even after seven dossiers given by New Delhi linking Pakistani nationals with the Mumbai attacks, Gilani has said India needs to provide more evidence about the role of Hafiz Saeed, suspected mastermind of the 26/11 attacks, and more information about the other accused, so that they may be prosecuted.

With India hardening its stand that the stalled dialogue can resume only after Pakistan takes tangible action against the 26/11 accused, Gilani contended that the refusal to engage in talks will only strengthen the hands of terrorists.

Saying that matters got "stuck" after the Mumbai terror attacks, the Pakistan prime minister said that "1.25 billion people should not be made hostage to one incident".

"If we are hostage to one incident then the beneficiaries are terrorists and therefore we should move ahead," Gilani told CNN-IBN news channel in an interview.

"I think dialogue is the only answer. We are both responsible nations and we can move forward. We can't afford war. I think only way forward is talks," he said while trying to downplay the trading of diplomatic barbs over the alleged exclusion of Pakistani cricketers from the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament.

Describing his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Sharm el-Sheikh in July last year as "very good", Gilani said that both of them "had understanding that we both are suffering from terrorism".

"There are 101 Mumbai-like incidents in Pakistan after that (26/11)," he said, adding that Pakistan faces such attacks on a daily basis.

Full report at: http://www.dailypioneer.com/232232/Lets-talk;-India-Pakistan-cannot-afford-war-Gilani.html

------

Give us proof to nail Hafiz Saeed: Gilani

29 January 2010

NEW DELHI: Pakistan prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani denied Indian accusations that his government was dragging its feet on booking the prime accused of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, saying the alleged chief architect Hafiz Saeed was very much on trial and the court had to decide when to order his arrest.

But Gilani also reiterated what Islamabad has long used as a shield for inaction, even in the face of credible information on terror groups being supplied by Washington -- that India was not giving it enough information to act against Saeed.

Gilani said Pakistan's judiciary had to take a call on Saeed's arrest. "We need more evidence to (take) him to task," he told CNN-IBN in his first interview to Indian media after 26/11.

Pakistani investigators provided a shot in the arm to the probe when they presented a report before a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court, saying there was sufficient incriminating evidence against seven terrorists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba's operational chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, facing trial for orchestrating the Mumbai attacks.

New Delhi has maintained that Lakhvi was one of the masterminds and that it was important to bring Saeed, the brain behind the carnage, to justice.

The Pakistan PM maintained that his country wouldn't allow its soil to be used for terrorism. "We've given this assurance. We're fighting our own war on terror (and) face Mumbai like attacks on a daily basis."

Full report at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Give-us-proof-to-nail-Hafiz-Saeed-Gilani/articleshow/5511106.cms

------

Pak talks in two voices

29 January 2010

The Prime Minister and foreign minister of Pakistan, unsure of the steps they should take to recommence dialogue with India, have spoken in different voices on how to take the process forward. The differences came out in their separate interviews to two Indian TV channels.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the CNN-IBN that dialogue was the only way forward.

"I think dialogue is the only answer. We are both responsible nations and we can move forward. We can’t afford war. I think only way forward is talks," Mr Gilani said in the interview.

Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, however, told another Indian channel NDTV in an interview that there was no likelihood of his talking to minister of external affairs S.M. Krishna on the margins of the London conference.

Mr Qureshi said: "We are too shy. The Indians have become shy. They have gone into a shell....There is a lack of clarity on your side. I think there is lack of political consensus within India" whether to engage with Pakistan or not.

Mr Krishna had been quoted as saying in London on Wednesday that he would be delighted to talk to his Pakistani counterpart if the occasion arises.

"Well, I will be delighted, will be very happy to meet my Pakistani counterpart if the occasion arises," Mr Krishna had said. Mr Gilani said that his country and India should not be held "hostage to one incident" of 26/11 and should hold talks since both the countries cannot "afford war".

http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/news/india/pak-talks-in-two-voices.aspx

------

India happy with its role in Kabul

January 29, 2010

India said it is “quite satisfied” with its current developmental role in Afghanistan but stopped short of rejecting any offers of an expanded security responsibility as a global conference began Thursday to secure the future of the terror-racked South Asian nation.

 “We do not know what is going to emerge out of this conference — depending upon what emerges, the role of India will become much clearer,” said  External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

“But  our role, because of our long-standing relationship with Afghanistan, (is that) we are helping them out in their development agenda of infrastructure development. And we are quite satisfied with the role that we have in Afghanistan,” he said. Krishna added: “We appreciate the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s call for India’s involvement in the emerging scenario of Afghanistan.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/europe/India-happy-with-its-role-in-Kabul/Article1-502894.aspx

------

India offers 100 fellowships to Afghan farm students

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Thursday announced two Indian initiatives to help assist the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan.

Mr. Krishna is here to attend a conference on Afghanistan.

Mr. Krishna said in a statement that since agriculture was key to Afghanistan’s development, India had decided to offer 100 fellowships every year over the next five years for its agricultural students to do Masters and Ph.D. programmes in Indian universities.

Building project

He said India strongly supported the proposed Afghan National Institution Building Project agreed upon at the conference.

Without naming any country but in an apparent reference to Pakistan, he said: “For Afghanistan’s stabilisation it is essential for the neighbouring and regional countries to ensure that support, sustenance and sanctuaries for terrorist organisations is ended forthwith.”

http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/29/stories/2010012960101000.htm

------

“Pakistan shielding 26/11 masterminds”

Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: Pakistan was shielding masterminds of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, including Lashkar-e-Taiba founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said here on Thursday.

Mr. Chidambaram reiterated that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was one of the masterminds. “There are others. We know their names and Pakistan also knows their names. If they [Pakistan] do not bring the others to trial, then I would have to conclude, reluctantly and regretfully that they are dragging their feet,” he told reporters.

Asked whether Pakistan had spared Saeed in the charge sheet filed in an anti-terrorist court, accusing seven other Lashkar terrorists, including Lakhvi, he said India was demanding his trial.

Mr. Chidambaram pointed out that Saeed faced Interpol Red Corner Notice for his alleged role in the Mumbai attacks.

Islamabad repeatedly claimed that India only shared information about him and did not share evidence. Pakistan put Saeed under house arrest for six months last year but released him after a court ruled his detention was illegal.

SAARC meet

Mr. Chidambaram plans to attend next month’s SAARC Home Ministers’ conference in Islamabad.

Full report at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/29/stories/2010012960071000.htm

------

3 killed, 4 injured as gunmen fire on Shia pilgrims in Pak

January 29, 2010

Islamabad: Three persons were killed and four others seriously injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a group of Shia pilgrims in the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta on Friday, police said.

The gunmen targeted the pilgrims at a busy bus stop in Hazargunji area of Quetta when they stopped to rest, Quetta police chief Ghulam Shabir Sheikh said.

The pilgrims were heading to Iran, he said.

Two persons died instantly while a woman succumbed to her injuries in hospital, police said.

The gunmen fled from the scene soon after the incident.

Police have launched a search for the assailants.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

http://www.zeenews.com/news600059.html

------

Two Army soldiers killed in Jammu and Kashmir ambush

29 January 2010

JAMMU: Two Army soldiers were killed early Friday in an ambush by terrorists in Tandar village in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, an official here said.

The militants attacked an army patrol that was on its way to a suspected militant hideout in Tandar in the Dachhan area, about 240 km northeast of Jammu, the official said requesting anonymity.

The Army have sent reinforcements and launched massive search operations in the forested area, where they were attacked.

The identity of the soldiers was not immediately known.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Two-Army-soldiers-killed-in-Jammu-and-Kashmir-ambush/articleshow/5512073.cms

------

NAINITAL: Fresh terror threat to defence establishments

29 January 2010

NAINITAL: The Uttarakhand govt has sounded a red alert across the hill state following intelligence reports of fresh terror threats to defence establishments and Dehradun-based IMA.

Sources said a couple of days back, an anonymous call was received by sleuths of Dehradun-based Army intelligence wing threatening terror strikes at all defence establishments across Uttarakhand and also Ambala Cantonment.

Intelligence officers are trying to identify the caller and the place from where the call was made. Sources said Army has taken the threat seriously especially after the arrest of a Pakistani ISI agent identified as Abid Ali alias Asad at Roorkee on the eve of Republic Day.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Fresh-terror-threat-to-IMA/articleshow/5511513.cms

------

Will India’s Home Minister Chidambaram attend Saarc meet in Pak?

29 January 2010

NEW DELHI: Home minister P Chidambaram has been invited for a meeting of interior ministers of South Asia scheduled for next month in Islamabad.

Though the call on the issue will be taken by the home minister after consultation with the PMO and the foreign ministry, sources feel that the government may not be averse to his participation in the SAARC event.

India has consistently resisted Pakistan's efforts to insert bilateral disputes into the SAARC agenda, and it may have problems taking a turn away from the argument and skipping the meeting because of the venue, reasoned an observer.

In case Chidambaram makes up his mind to visit Islamabad, this will lead to the first visit by an Indian minister to Pakistan since the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

While it may not mark the begining of re-engagement, a visit by Chidambaram may provide an opportunity for significant bilateral exchange after the botched attempt at rapprochement at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Chidambaram may be the ideal choice for testing Pakistan's intent since he, with his relentless insistence that Islamabad needs to do more to punish the 26/11 accused, will not attract suspicions of a softening.

Full report at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Will-Chidambaram-attend-Saarc-meet-in-Pak/articleshow/5510827.cms

------

Headley visited Sena Bhavan, Siddhivinayak temple

29 January 2010

Mumbai: American terror suspect David Coleman Headley, who is being tried in Chicago for his alleged involvement in the 26/11 plot, visited well-known Mumbai landmarks, the Siddhivinayak temple and the Sena Bhavan, the high seat of the Shiv Sena.

The police said on Thursday that Headley’s visit to these places came to light through a statement by Vilas Varak, recorded much earlier in the investigation. Mr. Varak, an instructor at south Mumbai’s Moksha gym, where Headley was a member, had said in his statement that he took Headley to the Siddhivinayak temple and the Sena Bhavan on his bike.

Among the number of people who came in contact with Headley is Mumbai resident Bashir Sheikh. He encountered Headley by way of arranging for his accommodation. However, the police say there is no incriminating material against him. Mr. Sheikh was deported from the U.S. in 2005 as he was an illegal immigrant there.

http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/29/stories/2010012954961000.htm

------

Omar’s angst over J&K corruption

Mohit Kandhari | Jammu

For the first time in the past year, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has made a candid confession that the coalition Government headed by him has failed to tackle the ‘menace of corruption.’

Abdullah added, “I don’t want to feel ashamed and shield anyone at any level by way of extending political patronage in our fight against corruption.”

Abdullah was addressing a State-level conference of vigilance officers in Jammu. Two senior officers — Anantnag DC Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad and senior J&K Bank executive Muzaffar Ahmad Maqhdoomi — were rewarded with the Chief Minister’s Vigilance Awards for checking corruption.

The CM said, “At present, we are considered the second-most corrupt State but my fear is that if we do not wake up to reality and stop looking for excuses, we will climb the ladder and come on top.”

Addressing vigilance officers, Abdullah said, “My Government is considering upgrading the vigilance department to the level of a full-fledged commission to deal with the menace of corruption in the State.”

“We are studying the proposal and looking into various aspects before the legal framework,” he added. The State Accountability Comm-ission, set up by Mufti Mohd Sayeed to check rampant corruption, is a toothless body which has become victim of Government apathy.

Abdullah said his Government had attempted to bring Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah to the State to head the Information Commission, with a mandate to build confidence in the common man and arm him/her with the Right to Information Act.

“I am still hopeful that the Centre would soon relieve Habibullah to take up his job here in the State and until then we will manage our work by putting an acting chairman of the State Information Commission at the helm,” Abdullah added.

“If after bringing Rs 5,500 crore to the State for carrying out development work, we end up earning the tag of number 1 corrupt State, I want to make it clear to all that this is simply not acceptable to me,” he added.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/232248/Omar%E2%80%99s-angst-over-JK-corruption.html

------

Karzai govt invites Taliban to peace meeting

29 January 2010

London: The Afghan government on Thursday invited the Taliban to a peace council as its Western allies worked out plans to try to end the war in Afghanistan.

In an indication of the quickening pace of diplomacy, a UN official said members of the Taliban's leadership council had secretly met the United Nations representative for Afghanistan to discuss the possibility of laying down their arms.

The official, speaking as leaders and ministers from 60 nations convened in London to discuss Afghanistan, told Reuters members of the Taliban's Quetta Shura had met U.N. Special Representative Kai Eide on January 8 in Dubai.

"They requested a meeting to talk about talks. They want protection, to be able to come out in public. They don't want to vanish into places like Bagram," the official said, referring to a detention centre at a US military base in Afghanistan.

The official said it was the first time such talks had taken place with members of the Taliban's top council, named after the Pakistani city of Quetta where Washington says it is based.

"We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers, who are not part of al Qaeda, or other terrorist networks, who accept the Afghan constitution," Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the conference.

The United States and its allies would not be involved in the council, known as a loya jirga, and have said they want to leave it up to the Afghans to seek reconciliation.

At the same time, President Barack Obama is sending in 30,000 more troops to weaken the insurgency and convince the Taliban to accept a peace deal, which crucially would require them to sever ties with al Qaeda militants.

More than 110,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan, including some 70,000 Americans.

At the London conference, nations agreed that Afghan forces should aim to take the lead role in providing security in a number of provinces by late 2010 or early 2011, and to set up a fund to buy off Taliban foot soldiers.

But the real shift in mood highlighted by the meeting was towards reaching a settlement through what is likely to be a perilous process of reconciliation to end a war which neither the Taliban nor the West can win by military means alone.

Full report at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/karzai-govt-invites-taliban-to-peace-meeting/572983/

------

‘Terror, riots twin threats’

29 January 2010

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday stated that inimical forces "both inside and outside India" were trying to stunt the country’s growth and called for defeating the "twin threats" of terrorism and Communalism.

"Inimical forces, both inside and outside India, are trying to stunt growth and well-being of the country. The twin threats of terrorism and Communalism must be defeated," Dr Singh told NCC cadets at the Prime Minister’s rally in the capital.

"In such circumstances, the responsibility of youth organisations like NCC that inspires its cadets to serve the country increase manifold," Dr Singh said, after reviewing the NCC cadets’ parade. The PM said though the 13-lakh cadet strong NCC was a large organisation, it comprised of just about four per cent of the eligible youth in the country. "I wish and urge you to increase this number so that many more eligible youth can benefit from the NCC’s activities," he said.

Applauding the "disciplined and smart" turn out of the NCC cadets at the parade, Dr Singh congratulated them on their achievements in activities like mountaineering and sports at the global level.

Recalling that India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru had, in 1952, directed inclusion of community development as a curriculum in NCC, Dr Singh said he was happy to note that the cadets were actively involved in disaster relief and social service.

He also called for expanding the scope of the youth exchange programme of the NCC.

 http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/news/india/%E2%80%98terror,-riots-twin-threats%E2%80%99.aspx

------

Airport alert for woman bomber

Bala Chauhan

Bengaluru: The Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) on Thursday was put on high alert after a national news channel received a mail saying that a woman passenger will be travelling with liquid explosives from Bengaluru to Mumbai between January 28 and 29. The news channel, which received the email from one Raheem late Wednesday late night, immediately alerted the city police, which in turn got in touch with the BIA authorities asking them to maintain high alert. The sender of the mail stated that since he was a "law abiding citizen" it was his duty to pass on the information to the police.

Following the alert, security check of passengers, especially women was heightened at the security hall area (SHA) and at the ladder point entry to the aircraft with security personnel refusing to allow any kind of liquid aerosol gels (LAGs) in the hand baggage of passengers including water bottles, perfumes, lotions and even medicinal drops leading to chaos at the airport. There are five explosive trace detectors (ETD) at the Bengaluru International Airport, which can trace around 80 types of liquid explosives.

The Central Industrial Security Force, which provides security cover to the BIA, has deployed additional women security staff to screen passengers on Friday and Saturday.

"Some women passengers picked up a fight with the women staff and objected when they emptied their handbags of lotions and perfumes. We asked them to cooperate with the security in the wake of the high alert. We also advised them to keep their toiletries in the registered baggage," said a senior security officer.

http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/news/india/airport-alert-for-woman-bomber.aspx

------

Somalia's 'face of war' dies

Jan 29 2010

Jan. 28: A Somali boy who was horribly disfigured months ago by a stray bullet in Somalia’s violent capital has died just days after undergoing reconstructive surgery in neighboring Kenya, his doctors said.

Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, 8, was shot in Mogadishu in September.

Ahmed personified the civilian toll in the brutal conflict in Somalia and drew offers of aid from around the world. The bullet tore through his cheekbones, nose and mouth and destroyed his right eye.

Dr Peter Nthumba said Ahmed died on Wednesday of intestinal bleeding that may have been caused by an ulcer or stress. Nthumba operated on the boy on Monday in Kenya.

Relatives and well-wishers recalled Ahmed as a cheerful child who liked playing with a toy helicopter and spent time reading the Quran in the hospital.

His mother, Safi Mohamed Shidane, said, “I was hoping to pick up a healthy son, who can breathe through his nose like others. But God said otherwise. It is God’s will. Today I’m collecting his body.”

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/international/somalias-face-war-dies-733

------

Pak keen to broker Taliban talks

Pamela Constable

January 29, 2010

Pakistan, which once sponsored Taliban forces but turned against them under American pressure in 2001, now hopes to play a role as a broker in proposed negotiations among Taliban leaders and the Afghan government,  with support from the US.

As leaders of 60 countries meet in London on Thursday to discuss how to help Afghanistan stop its downward spiral into instability, the possibilities  for reconciliation and talks with both Taliban leaders and foot soldiers will  top the agenda.

Until recently, Pakistan had been on hostile terms with the neighbouring government in Kabul and had sought to distance itself from the problems of insurgency across the border, while struggling to curb a homegrown Taliban movement that has carried out dozens of bombings and suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past several years.

Now, however, Pakistani officials have taken  interest in promoting  peace in Afghanistan, a change analysts attribute to a combination of self-interest and fear. Pakistan, they say, hopes a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul that includes the Taliban would be friendlier to its interests; and it worries  that if the Afghan conflict drags on, its domestic extremist problem will spin out of control.

But analysts said any overt mediation role by the Pakistani government could backfire for several reasons, including deep mistrust among Afghan leaders, unpredictable reactions by Pakistani militants, Taliban resentment of pressure from its former backers and unrealistic Pakistani expectations of Western gratitude.

“The crisis in Pakistan has created a big change in its thinking. The country is suffering enormously from the Pakistani Taliban, and this may be a way to get off the hook,” said Ahmed Rashid, a Lahore-based expert on the Taliban and on Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. “Pakistan still exerts some influence on the Afghan Taliban, but Kabul will be extremely wary of Pakistani bias. It’s a tricky situation.” US officials are watching the evolution of Pakistani thinking with interest.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Turkey this week, said there is an urgent need for peace talks. Zardari said that if insurgents are “reconcilable and want to give up their way of life, a democracy always welcomes them back.”

In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post. For additional content please visit www. washingtonpost.com

http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/pakistan/Pak-keen-to-broker-Taliban-talks/Article1-502892.aspx

------

Missing link in probe: Headley’s 'African associate' in Mumbai

Ritu Sarin

Jan 29, 2010

New Delhi : While the two women who were frequently spotted with David Headley during his nine visits to India — a 30-year-old Moroccan and 28-year-old Mumbai hotel employee — have since been identified, Indian agencies are still trying to trace an African national who has been described as a “close associate” of the Lashkar-e-Toiba operative.

The identity of the African, sources told The Indian Express, remains a key missing link in the probe which, by now, has involved questioning scores of individuals across the country and scrutiny of hundreds of telephone numbers, call details and emails.

While a mention of the mysterious African associate came after questioning a Headley contact, the link resurfaced once text messages sent by Rahul Bhatt to Headley — from the phone left behind in the suitcase — were scrutinized. One SMS sent by Bhatt mentions “a born-again ni...r (derogatory reference to a Black)”

The Mumbai hotel employee has taken this trail further. While she said she had no inkling of Headley’s “Pakistani identity” or his terror links, she said he would often go “pillion-riding on the motorcycle of a black African” in and around Mumbai.

Incidentally, this woman has told investigators that she was in touch with Headley — via phone, SMS and email —until as late as September 14, 2009 — a fortnight before he was arrested by the FBI in Chicago.

Call Detail Records (CDRs) of Headley’s Moroccan girlfriend, sources said, threw up some red herrings. On it was the number of a New Jersey-based US national, who has since been identified and his travel details revealed that in 2009 he visited Rishikesh and Manali and then — along with a Russian woman — left for Goa.

The couple is yet to be traced.

While it is now confirmed that the Moroccan woman stayed with Headley in the Taj Hotel during his first stay there (April 28-30, 2007), details provided by the immigration office show that she was scheduled to take a Karachi flight on May 3, 2007 but was off-loaded since she reported sick and left two days later.

Full report at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/missing-link-in-probe-headleys-african-associate-in-mumbai/572899/

------

Imitation websites of Google, YouTube emerge in China

28 January 2010

BEIJING: Imitation websites of both Google and YouTube have emerged in China as the country faces off against the real Google over its local operations.

YouTubecn.com offers videos from the real YouTube, which is owned by Google and blocked in China. The Google imitation is called Goojje and includes a plea for the US-based company not to leave China, after it threatened this month to do so in a dispute over Web censorship and cyber attacks.

The separate projects went up within a day of each other in mid-January, just after Google's threat to leave.

"What's the reaction in these cases? In the US, you have a lawsuit. In China, it's just 'eh,' unless they're really doing damage to the brand," said T R Harrington, CEO of China-based Darwin Marketing.

Both knockoff sites were still working today. It wasn't clear what Chinese authorities would do with them, if anything.

China's National Copyright Administration has been cracking down on illegally run websites and this month issued a code of ethics, but no statement was posted on its site today about the new imitations.

Google had little comment. "The only comment I can give you right now is just to confirm that we're not affiliated," spokeswoman Jessica Powell said in an e-mail.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/Imitation-websites-of-Google-YouTube-emerge-in-China/articleshow/5510291.cms

------

Terrorist suffered miscarriage of justice

29 January 2010

An appeal court has ruled that a student who was convicted of being Scotland’s first Islamist terrorist was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

On Friday, three judges concluded that Lord Carloway, the judge in Mohammed Atif Siddique’s trial in 2007, had misdirected the jury. The Crown has now been given until a week on Tuesday to decide whether they will seek a fresh prosecution.

Under Scots Law the conviction will technically remain in place until then. Siddique, however, was remanded in custody after the Crown opposed a defence application for bail at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.

Outside court, members of family hugged and wiped tears from their eyes. Earlier, lawyers acting for Siddique said terror-related material found on his laptop was "mere propaganda".

The 24-year-old British-born Muslim student, from Alva in Clackmannanshire, was jailed for eight years for a string of terrorism offences in October 2007, which included possessing bomb-making instructions. Siddique was found guilty of three breaches of the Terrorism Acts and a breach of the peace.

The offences were said to have been committed between March 2003 and the day police raided his home in April 2006. He was stopped by anti-terror police at Glasgow Airport en route to Pakistan and he was charged days later after his laptop was seized and his home searched by officers. Evidence found included religious texts from the Koran, messages from al-Quaida and praise for "martyrs" in Iraq.

The trial in Glasgow in October 2007 heard that Siddique told fellow students that he sympathised with al-Quaida, wanted to become a suicide bomber and that his target would be central Glasgow. He also shocked classmates at the city's Metropolitan College with horror pictures of terrorist beheadings.

Full report at: http://news.stv.tv/scotland/west-central/154027-terrorist-suffered-miscarriage-of-justice

------

Video games banned by Islamist group

by Tamlin Magee

29 Jan 2010

Video games banned by Islamist group -Social traditions let khat out of the bag

An Islamist group in Somalia has placed a ban on videogames for destroying 'social traditions,' reports GamePolitics.

Social traditions in the war-torn country include, amongst others, armed conflict, constant khat-chewing and peddling, private warlord factions and being pirates. It had recently become popular for kids in villages to socially gather together in cybercafes to have a go on PlayStation games for about half an hour at the time.

The official statement from hardline group Hezb al-Islam says: "Starting two days after this statement's date of issue, all video game playing centres in the areas under Hezb al-Islam control should be closed and playing video games will be prohibited. Video games are designed in such a way that they destroy our social traditions and for that reason, anybody found ignoring this order will be punished and equipment will be confiscated."

A Mogadishu local said: "We used to watch movies. They were banned. Now the PlayStations we had fun with are also banned. This country is not for young people like me."

Abdi Moge, an older local resident, told AFP that there's little else for kids to do now other than joining an armed group. "Who knows what else the children are going to do now. The more they are prevented from playing, the more likely they are to join the fighting."

It's not clear what punishments Hezb al-Islam plans to act out on those playing. It's clear though, to the Eye, that if they want to encourage armed fighting they should develop their own America's Army-esque game. And make it free. GamePolitics is here.

http://www.techeye.net/internet/video-games-banned-by-islamist-group

------

Wake Up to American Jihadism

29 Jan 2010

(CBS)  Bruce Newsome, Ph.D., lectures on counter-terrorism at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Made, Not Born: Why Some Soldiers Are Better than Others (Praeger, 2007).

For years, Americans have assumed that home-grown Jihadi terrorism would be impossible. Yet in recent months the US government has admitted that it is riskier than previously realized.

This admission was triggered by disturbing recent trends. At least twenty Somali Americans have left the US to join a Jihadi group in Somalia within the last couple years. At least two of them have blown themselves up in Somalia this year. In September, federal prosecutors indicted an Afghan-born US resident (Najibullah Zazi) for conspiracy to set off a series of bombs in the US. In October, federal prosecutors indicted a Pakistani American (David Headley) for helping the Jihadi attack in Mumbai, India, in November 2008.

Could Americans really plot Jihadist mass-casualty terrorism against their fellow citizens inside US borders? Unfortunately, yes. Years before these cases, the more informed analysts of terrorism profiled the American Jihadist and warned against bad assumptions.

Americans have assumed that they are too politically free, economically mobile, and socially integrated to turn to terrorism. Yet only a few members of any demographic ever turn to terrorism and they do so for psychological and social reasons, despite their political, economic, and social freedoms.

Before the suicide bombings on the London transport system on 7 July 2005, Britons reassured themselves that a liberal democracy, committed to “multi-culturalism,” could not spawn British suicide bombers. Two British Muslims travelled to Israel to blow themselves up in April 2003, more than two years before the 7/7 attacks in London. In between times, most in the British government assumed that radical Britons might kill foreign infidels but not fellow Britons at home in Britain.

Full report at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/29/opinion/main6153034.shtml

------

Airport screening for 'Flying while Muslim'

By Nafees Syed

January 29, 2010

 (CNN) -- It seems that now someone called "Barack Hussein Obama" can be pulled aside and patted down merely because of his name. But while our president has the benefit of Air Force One, millions of us with a "funny name" (Muslim and otherwise) do not. Like me.

I've consistently faced "random" selections for extra screening at the airport after I decided to wear the hijab, or Muslim head covering. I've been told to take my head scarf off or have my head probed while the passengers in front of me offered pitying smiles as they rushed to their flights.

One time, the woman in front of me had a hairdo that could pose more of a security threat than any head scarf could. Muslim women wear the hijab as a symbol of modesty, to be judged not by their appearance.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed that people would be judged for "the content of their character." However, the Transportation Security Administration is judging me and other Muslims by the way we look.

At an airport with a full body scanner, I can have the image of my body displayed before a stranger -- virtual nudity. Do they seriously have a blank check on our bodies? Of course I care about profiling partly because I'm affected. But does one have to face this issue to feel that it's wrong? After all, it is difficult to imagine ourselves in other people's shoes when we don't have to.

Full report at: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/01/29/syed.muslim.while.flying/

URL of this page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/blair-denies--covert--deal-with-bush-to-invade-iraq/d/2431


Loading..

Loading..