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Islamic World News ( 11 Oct 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Mullah Omar comeback a vexing challenge for US

Pakistan Retakes Army Headquarters; Hostages Freed

Islamabad: Terrorists back to haunt people

Taliban planning to carry out more suicide attacks

Foreign fighters pour into Afghanistan to bolster the Taliban insurgency

Racing Time and Taliban to Rebuild in Pakistan by Sabrina Tavernise And Irfan Ashraf

A Family’s Journey and a Girl’s Dream By Adam B. Ellick

759 people converted to Islam Malaysia this year

Jammu & Kashmir: 4 militants killed preventing infiltration

Iran to enrich uranium itself if third-party deal fails

ISI behind attack on Indian embassy: Afghan envoy to US

Alcohol banned in Iraq holy Shiite city of Najaf

Iraqis rally to protest government

Ma'an: Fatah, Hamas to sign agreement in four days

Israel lifts ban on al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Pakistani troops rescue hostages after militants attack military HQ

Afghan vote fraud 'significant': UN special rep

Hospital mix-up shatters Makkah woman’s life by Badea Abu Al-Naja

Jerusalem flashpoint site reopens to all Muslim worshippers

Victim’s parents hang young Iranian killer

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Pakistan Retakes Army Headquarters; Hostages Freed


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani commandos rescued 42 hostages early Sunday who were held by militants inside the nation’s military headquarters, after gunmen dressed in army fatigues stormed the building in a brazen attack 18 hours earlier, according to the chief army spokesman.

Four militants and three hostages were killed in the operation, the spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said. He said that the militants, who had taken both soldiers and civilians hostage, had been armed with explosives.

A series of loud explosions and gunshots were heard at the headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi at 6 a.m., shortly before the army announced the freeing of the hostages.

The attack was the third by Taliban militants in Pakistan in a week, and it is a singular embarrassment for the Pakistani Army, exposing its vulnerability to the insurgency that is closely linked with Al Qaeda. It came as the military was planning an offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan, and it was seen as a statement by the militants that they could attack the army first.

In the initial assault on the headquarters, six people, including a brigadier and a colonel, were killed as the militants broke through a checkpoint in a van. The army had reported initially that there were 10 to 15 hostages.

The army said Sunday that commandos captured the last militant who took part in the assault. He was identified by the army as Aqeel, who also used the alias Dr. Ufman.

The Obama administration, which is in the midst of reassessing its strategy for the region, has asked the Pakistani military to step up its efforts against the Taliban.

American military officials said they were astonished that the militants could penetrate the high-security installation to the extent that they did.

One official, speaking anonymously, said the siege represented “a major security lapse.”

Even before ending the standoff, the government vowed to carry out its Waziristan offensive.

“I want to give a message to the Taliban that what we did with you in Swat, we will do the same to you there, too,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, referring to the Swat Valley, where the army drove out the Taliban last summer. He identified the militants involved in the assault as Pakistani Taliban.

The militants’ attack began about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, when 8 to 10 gunmen drove up to what was considered a heavily fortified compound. After a 45-minute gunfight, four of the attackers were killed, General Abbas said, and several others fled into the building. Once inside, the militants took hostages.

The attack on the headquarters came after the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, warned that the army had become the militants’ main target. The army announced two weeks ago that it planned a major offensive in South Waziristan, the Taliban’s stronghold.

Mr. Mehsud said last weekend that the Taliban would not let the planned offensive go unanswered. It was his first news conference since taking over from Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a missile attack by an American drone in August.

The assault and other recent attacks could be the start of the escalation Mr. Mehsud warned about, military analysts said.

In one attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the headquarters of the United Nations World Food Program in Islamabad on Monday, killing five United Nations workers. That attack seemed designed to intimidate international aid workers and the agency that the Taliban has said should leave Pakistan.

In Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, a car bomb killed 48 people in the busiest bazaar at noon on Friday, when it was most crowded. It was one of the most lethal attacks in a city that has become a consistent target of the Taliban.

Security analysts said the militants had cells planted through out Punjab, the most populous province, and had clearly refined assault techniques from its close links with Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

According to an account from a senior Pakistani military official who was at the scene when the Rawalpindi attack began, there was initial confusion because the attackers were dressed in army fatigues, and security officers could not tell the difference between soldiers and militants, he said. The van they were driving had military plates, allowing them to approach the checkpoints with less suspicion, an American military official said.

The militants were a mixed group, the Pakistani military official said. Some came from the tribal areas, some from Punjab and some from Kashmir. The men made calls on their cellphones demanding release of prisoners from government custody, the official said.

Another witness, Mansoor Ahmed, told the Geo television network that the men in the van were stopped at a gate. “Soon heavy firing started,” he said. “I saw one terrorist falling down. They have also used hand grenades.”

As the siege developed at the headquarters, the chief of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was shown on Pakistani television meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari on the contentious issue of a $7.5 billion, five-year American aid package that the army says interferes with Pakistan’s national security.

Pakistani television reported that Mr. Zardari, who has hailed the aid as a major triumph but has come under direct criticism from the army for accepting its conditions, had agreed to take up the army’s objections with the Obama administration.

The aid package, aimed at bolstering civilian infrastructure, is separate from military aid, of which the United States has provided $10 billion since 2001.

The army had been riding high in public opinion after its offensive against Taliban forces in the Swat Valley in the summer pushed militants out of the area. Stepped up security in Islamabad and Peshawar appeared to have quelled militant attacks in the last few months.

And a lull in bombings after Baitullah Mehsud’s death was interpreted by security analysts as a sign that the Taliban were in disarray.

But the new Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, appeared intent to launch strikes before the army struck in South Waziristan, said a retired senior army officer, Brig. Mehmood Shah.

A commentator on national security and former senior police officer, Arbab Hidayatullah, said Saturday that the attack had occurred because the military had so far failed to “deliver the mother of all battles” in South Waziristan, giving the “terrorists a free hand to deliver themselves.”

Salman Masood and Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Islamabad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.



Mullah Omar comeback a vexing challenge for US

Oct 11, 2009

Washington: In late 2001, Mullah Muhammad Omar’s prospects seemed utterly bleak. The ill-educated, one-eyed leader of the Taliban had fled on a motorbike after his fighters were swiftly routed by the Americans invading Afghanistan. Much of the world celebrated his ouster.

Eight years later, Omar is the leader of an insurgency that has gained steady ground in much of Afghanistan against much better equipped American and NATO forces. Far from a historical footnote, he represents a vexing security challenge for the Obama administration, one that has consumed the President’s advisors, divided the Democratic Party and left many Americans frustrated.

“This is an amazing story,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who coordinated the Obama administration’s initial review of Afghanistan policy in the spring. “He’s a semi-literate individual... And he’s staged one of the most remarkable military comebacks in modern history.”

US officials are weighing the significance of this comeback: Is Omar the brains behind shrewd shifts of Taliban tactics and propaganda in recent years, or does he have help from Pakistani intelligence? Might the Taliban be amenable to negotiations, as Omar hinted in a September 19 statement, or can his network be divided and weakened in some other way?

The man at the centre of the American policy conundrum remains a mystery, the subject of adoring mythmaking by his followers and guesswork by the world’s intelligence agencies. He was born, by various accounts, in 1950 or 1959 or 1960 or 1962. He may be hiding near Quetta or hunkered down in an Afghan village.

“He can’t operate openly; there are too many people looking for him,” and the eye he lost to Soviet shrapnel in the 1980s makes him recognisable, said Alex Strick van Linschoten, a Dutch-born writer who lives in Kandahar.

“There are four or five people who can pass messages to Omar,” Strick van Linschoten said.

Rahimullah Yusufzai, of The News International, a Pakistani newspaper, who interviewed Omar a dozen times before 2001, called him “a man of few words and not very knowledgeable about international affairs”. But his reputed humility, his legend as a ferocious fighter with the mujahideen against Soviet invaders in the 1980s cemented his power.

Day-to-day decisions are made by Omar’s deputies, in particular Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a skilled, pragmatic commander, who runs many meetings with Taliban commanders and “shadow governors” appointed in much of the country, analysts say.



Terrorists back to haunt people

11 Oct, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Oct 10: Two terrorist attacks within a span of one week have shocked the residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad who had started feeling a bit secure due to significant decline in suicide bombings over the last few months. On October 5, a suicide bomber hit the office of the United Nations right in the heart of the capital city which left five of its officials dead and several injured. But Saturday’s attack on General Headquarters (GHQ) of the army sent shivers down the spine of local population of the two cities who once again started feeling that they are again at the mercy of mindless terrorists.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik publicly warned of more attacks in the coming days since the government had decided to go for an all out military operation against Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Waziristan. During a press conference after the attack on World Food Program (WFP) office Mr Rehman said, despite government’s strict vigilance at the entry points of the cities some of suicide bombers have sneaked in who might strike in coming days.

Only a week ago, there was a growing sense of security among local population as government has successfully countered these traders of death and destruction. Last time a suicide bomber was able to slip through and hit an FC check point on April 4 this year in F-7 area, said Mr Rizwan a university student.

People have even started demanding removal of the multiple barricades which the law enforcement agencies had put in place to check vehicles and people entering the twin cities. The attack on GHQ and killing of a Brigadier and a Lt-Col has put a damper on the mood of people who were hoping to have a peaceful winter. But it seems the atmosphere would further get scary with the government preparing for one last push against the militants and TTP’s threats of more such attacks, he added. —Khawar Ghumman



Taliban planning to carry out more suicide attacks

October 11, 2009

Pakistani soldiers take up position after an attack on the entrance of army headquarters in the garrison city Rawalpindi yesterday as a helicopter flies overhead (Inset). The attack on Pak army headquarters ended with four attackers killed. Photo: AFPAni, Afp, Lahore/ Peshawar

Pakistan intelligence agencies have warned that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) may carry out a series of suicide attacks across the country including Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Chaklala and Peshawar.

An intelligence report said the Taliban may target important government installations and eminent personalities.

"The TTP could target installations of law enforcement agencies and the military, important personalities and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex," The Daily Times quoted the reports, as saying.

The Taliban has already sent two separate teams of suicide attackers for the purpose, the report said.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the suicide car bombing in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar has risen to 52 after three more people died in hospital overnight, police and health officials said Saturday.

The massive blast ripped through a packed market at midday on Friday killing at least 49 people and injuring over 100.

Charred corpses were strewn in a shopping area of the city's main Khyber Bazaar, with cars reduced to burning wrecks and a city bus destroyed and flung on its side.

Full Article at:


Foreign fighters pour into Afghanistan to bolster Taliban insurgency

October 11, 2009

KABUL: Thousands of foreign fighters have poured into Afghanistan to bolster the Taliban insurgency, the country’s defence minister said on Saturday as he called for more international troops.

The remarks come as the US debates whether to substantially increase its forces in Afghanistan or to conduct a more limited campaign focused on targeting al-Qaeda figures.

The minister’s comments hit on a key worry of the United States that not sending enough troops to Afghanistan will open the door back up to al-Qaeda. They also suggest that the Afghan government is nervous about the US commitment amid talk of changing the strategy and a surge in violence in recent months.

An American and two Polish troops were killed by bombs in the latest violence reported by NATO forces.

“The enemy has changed. Their number has increased,” Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told lawmakers in a speech. He said about 4,000 fighters, mostly from Chechnya and North Africa “have joined with them and they are involved in the fighting in Afghanistan.”

He gave no timeframe for the supposed increase in foreign fighters.

Wardak said Afghan intelligence services had asked for more international forces to cope with the foreign threat, and the minister’s spokesman said Wardak backed the call. US military officials said they could not immediately comment on the claim of a recent influx of foreign fighters. Afghanistan’s interior minister, who also spoke to parliament, endorsed a strategy promoted by the top US commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal to focus on protecting civilians rather than simply killing insurgents. “If the target of this fight is only killing the Taliban, we will not win this war. If it is saving the Afghan people, then we have a possibility,” Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said.

The strategy debate in the US has been complicated by the still-undecided Afghan presidential election, which has raised doubts about whether there will be reliable, credible Afghan leadership to cement any military gains by the US and its allies. Results from the disputed August vote have been delayed because of widespread allegations of fraud.

A UN-backed fraud investigation panel was analysing data on Saturday from an audit and recount of polling stations with suspect results. Results from about 13 per cent of the country’s polling stations hang in the balance enough to swing the result from an outright win by President Hamid Karzai to a forced runoff between the top two finishers.



October 11, 2009

Racing Time and Taliban to Rebuild in Pakistan



NAZARABAD, Pakistan — The fighting is over and the villagers have returned, but life here remains suspended. Villagers’ buffaloes are gone, and their harvests are spoiled. Power is still out in many areas. Schools, blown up by the Taliban, lay in heaps. Even the bricks have been sold.

“We are orphans,” said Akbar Khan, a school principal. “No one has come to ask about us.”

This is the upper Swat Valley, ground zero for the Taliban in northern Pakistan. While urban areas farther south are bustling and back to life, the real test of Pakistan’s fight against the Taliban in Swat will take place here, in the impoverished villages where the militant movement began.

But more than two months after the end of active combat, with winter fast approaching, reconstruction has yet to begin, and little has been accomplished on the ground to win back people’s trust, villagers and local officials say.

The lag, they argue, is risky: It was a sense of near-total abandonment by the government that opened people to the Taliban to begin with, they say, and the longer people are left to fend for themselves, the greater the chance of a relapse.

“I’m really worried,” said Javed Iqbal, the chief secretary of the North-West Frontier Province, where Swat is located. “We do not have the luxury of time.

“If you don’t start showing something more tangible,” he continued, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see the state of anarchy returning.”

Pakistan’s government says it is tending to the needs of the people of Swat, an aid effort that was estimated last month to require $1.2 billion. The country’s largest donor, the United States, is about to pump billions of dollars of aid into Pakistan, and there have been international conferences to gather funds.

But money for reconstruction in this battered area is still almost nonexistent, officials say, and aid organizations, encumbered by security rules, have been slow to respond.

“The government thinks people are slowly getting back to normal lives,” said Pervez Tahir, chairman of the economics department at Forman Christian College in Lahore. “The reality is, the poor were ignored before, and the poor are ignored after.”

That pattern has been borne out for much of Pakistan’s troubled 62-year history, and is particularly severe here.

Even before the war, things in Nazarabad were broken. Villagers made donations to replace a coil in the town’s aging electric transformer. There was no running water or indoor plumbing, and teachers chipped in for a water pump for the school. With no one important to lobby for it, the village was left to fend for itself.

So when the Taliban first surfaced, in the form of FM radio broadcasts by a cleric who talked about how people’s needs had been ignored, many here saw salvation.

“The level of deprivation was unbearable,” said Muhammad Shah Hussein, a teacher in Nazarabad. “When the Taliban came, there was a sense of hope.”

But as time went on, the Taliban’s tactics became more coercive, and sympathy evaporated when the group blew up the village’s schools.

“We told them, ‘The people are so poor and weak, please don’t destroy this school,’ ” said Akbar Khan, the principal.

But that was of no use. Now students sit on small stacks of bricks, perched like birds in a strange new outdoor classroom. The girls here still do not go to school at all — their school was never rebuilt after it was destroyed, and local custom frowns on their being out in the open.

About 20 percent of all schools in the Swat Valley are destroyed or unusable, according to figures provided by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef.

So far, the main aid response here has been the distribution of tents. Unicef, which is leading that effort, says it has had a slow response from donors, receiving about 60 percent of the money it asked for. And after Taliban attacks killed seven United Nations employees, including their director of education, reconstruction has been put on hold in the war-affected areas.

Tired of waiting, Mr. Iqbal took financing from other areas in his province to rebuild 65 schools in Swat.

The United States, which has earmarked $20 million for school reconstruction in the area, last month pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for social development. But Shakeel Qadr Khan, the provincial official in charge of reconstruction, said it was not clear how much, if any, of that would go to rebuilding Swat.

The years of Taliban rule and a summer of military operations have taken their toll on farming, too. Khazwar, a farmer from the village of Guelarai, said his wheat crop spoiled and his fruit was never picked, leaving him without money for seed and fertilizer. The secretary of agriculture for the province estimated that it would cost as much as $800 million to help farmers get back on their feet.

“All of Swat is suffering from this,” said Mr. Khazwar, who like many rural Pakistanis uses one name.

The military offensive here did not cause mass destruction or large numbers of civilian deaths, as it had in past campaigns, and the army now has bases all over the valley. The military presence has been welcomed by an overwhelming majority in Mingora, who felt before that they had been abandoned to the militants.

But in the villages where militants were strong as early as 2003, people have now come to fear the military, too, making getting back to normal even harder.

Mr. Hussein estimated that more than half of his male students were not coming to school because they were afraid the military would arrest them for Taliban involvement. He is also nervous about sticking out, now that he has assumed the role of spokesman for families, mostly illiterate, asking about relatives who are in military custody.

The one task that is proceeding at a rapid pace is the establishment of local militias. Jamal Nasir Khan, a political leader near here, is recruiting hundreds of men in villages in the upper valley to defend against the Taliban. Mr. Khan, who fled to the capital, Islamabad, in 2007 and returned late this summer, argues that security should come first.

“People want normalization in a month — it won’t happen,” said Mr. Khan, who puts on American-style army boots, a flak jacket and an M-16 rifle anytime he leaves his house. “It’s not like a genie will come to make things better.”

Mr. Khan depends entirely on the military. He is driven in military vehicles. His food is cooked by the army. And he is practically alone in the area. None of the seven district officials who used to run the area have come back. Few high school teachers or doctors have returned.

Illiteracy makes villagers easy to ignore. Taja Bibi, a villager who cannot read, but whose bright 12-year-old daughter, Rabihat, aches to return to school, said she had not even bothered to ask when it might reopen.

“We can’t argue, and we can’t respond,” she said, sitting on a dirt floor in a small house that is home to more than 20 people. “They don’t consider us worth talking to.”

For Mr. Hussein, creating an educated class that knows its rights is the only hope for change in Pakistan.

But that requires schools, and the ones in his village are gone.

“We are the losers,” he said.



October 11, 2009, 2:00 am

A Family’s Journey and a Girl’s Dream

By Adam B. Ellick


Desperate circumstances can force people to stray away from their most firm principals.

That’s what I observed during the six months I spent following a family from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who live under the influence of the Taliban. I’ve told their story as I observed it in a two-part documentary for The New York Times.

In Part I titled “Class Dismissed,” the father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, owns a girls’ school that went bankrupt in January when the Taliban forced him to shut it down. His 11-year-old daughter, Malala, lost her education.

Part Two, called “A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey,” chronicles the family’s journey into exile when the Pakistani military invades their Taliban-controlled city, Mingora, the largest city in the Swat District of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. After several months apart, the family returns home, anxious to discover whether their home and school survived the war.

During our time together, Mr. Yousafzai refused to allow me to film his wife because, as is local custom, women are shielded from men outside the family. Whenever I visited, his wife would stay in the bedroom. I never saw her.

But that changed one day when I was filming Malala. Her mother was in the adjacent bedroom and her father was in another city. Suddenly, Mr. Yousafzai called to ask if I could give his family a ride to a nearby relative’s house.

I gently pointed out what I perceived to be hypocritical, saying, I thought I was not allowed to see your wife. He laughed, but as a principled man, he seemed slightly embarrassed.

Moments later, I sat in the passenger seat of my car making a conscious effort not to rotate my neck. Mr. Yousafzai’s wife then stealthily entered the back of the car. When I dropped her off, she didn’t thank me, or even acknowledge me. I did notice the silhouette of her burqa enter the house.

For Mr. Yousafzai, the situation highlighted one of the prevailing conflicts in his life: he’s undeniably attracted to the personal freedoms in the West, but also loyal to his own religious traditions.

A month later, in Swat, I was filming the family’s first meal in their house after almost three months in exile. Suddenly, Mr. Yousafzai brought his wife out in front of the camera. She faced the other direction, and I never saw her face, but it was a bold and courageous move, and he beamed with pride.

“Not even my lifetime friends have seen her,” he said wide-eyed.

It seemed to be his way of thanking me for the ride. Or maybe he was trying to justify his guilt. Either way, his wife was gone 20 seconds later.



More Convert To Islam - Jawi

Oct 11 (Bernama) -- A total of 759 people converted to Islam in the capital up to September this year compared to 597 last year, according to the Federal Territory Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jawi).

Its deputy director (operation), Zainal Abidin Jaafar said Jawi expected the figure would rise to 1,000 at the end of the year.

Jawi had disbursed RM1.5 million in incentives to Muslim converts since last year, he told reporters after launching an Aidilfitri open house for disabled people and Muslim converts here on Sunday.

He said new Muslim converts were entitled to incentives ranging from RM1,500 for those aged 18 and above, RM1,000 (between the age of seven and 17) and RM500 (aged six and below).

Only two per cent of the newly converts this year returned to their original religion, he added.

He said most of religious classes for converts were conducted by the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association and the Muslim Welfare Organisation of Malaysia (Perkim) with the cooperation of Jawi.




Jammu & Kashmir: 4 militants killed preventing infiltration

Oct 11, 2009

Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India, (GK NEWS NETWORK):

[Indian] Army on Saturday claimed that it had foiled an infiltration bid by killing three militants near the Line of Control in north Kashmir’s Bandipore district, while a militant of Hizbul Mujahideen was killed in a encounter in Jammu’s Doda district.

“Troops noticed movement of the militants near the LoC in Gurez sector, 140 kms from here, this morning. On being challenged militants opened fire which was retaliated triggering a gunfight in which three unidentified militants were killed,” army’s Srinagar based spokesman told Greater Kashmir.

The operation was going on when reports last came in, he added.

Meanwhile, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant was killed in an encounter with troops at Ziddan village in Doda district on Saturday, a police official said.

He identified the slain militant as Liaqat Ali alias Junaid.



Iran to enrich uranium itself if third-party deal fails

Oct 11, 2009

TEHRAN, (Xinhua): Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Ali Shirzadian said on Saturday that Iran will manage to enrich uranium of 20-percent purity if third-party deal fails, local ISNA news agency reported.

"We will write a letter and inform the (International Atomic Energy) Agency that Iran will supply fuel for the Tehran reactor itself," Shirzadian said in an interview with ISNA when asked about Iran's reaction if it fails to buy nuclear fuel for a research reactor in Tehran from foreign suppliers.

According to Shirzadian, Iran needs 150 to 300 kilograms of 20-percent pure uranium for the main reactor in Tehran.

"It is more economical for us to buy nuclear fuel in bulk for Tehran reactor than enrich 5-percent pure uranium to 20-percent ourselves," he said, "therefore, we have told the agency that we need this amount of fuel."

"Iran fully owns the enrichment technology and it will sit at the negotiating table influentially," he added.

Officials from Iran, the United States, Russia, France and the IAEA are to meet in Vienna on Oct. 19 to talk about modalities for deals under which Iran buys higher grade uranium from foreign suppliers, ISNA said.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last Wednesday that Iran is ready to buy its needed nuclear fuel from any country, even from the United States.

On Oct. 1, Iran held talks with top envoys from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in Geneva, Switzerland, during which the six major powers and Iran agreed to hold a second round of meeting focusing on Iran's nuclear issue bythe end of this month.



ISI behind attack on Indian embassy: Afghan envoy to US

Oct 10, 2009

Washington : Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI was behind the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul which killed 17 people and wounded more than 60 others, Afghan envoy to the US has claimed.

"Yes, we do," Afghan Ambassador to the US Said T Jawad told the PBS news channel in an interview when asked if he was pointing the finger at Pakistan for the suicide bombing that took place on Thursday.

"We are pointing the finger at the Pakistan intelligence agency, based on the evidence on the ground and similar attack taking place in Afghanistan," Jawad said.

While the Karzai Government was quick to point figure towards foreign players in the attack on the Indian embassy early this week, this is for the first time that a top Afghan official has blamed the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI for the terror strike.

The Afghan Government has also blamed the ISI in the July 2008 attack on the Indian Embassy which claimed 60 lives.

The Afghan Ambassador also supported the report of General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, which recommends some 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

This is necessary to secure the country, Jawad said.

He said Afghanistan would like to have a clear commitment to success from the Obama Administration, which is currently, reassign its strategy for the country.

"Additional troops are needed. The US engagement should be long-term in Afghanistan, does not mean necessarily military engagement," Jawad said, adding that some 30,000 to 40,000 more US troops are needed in his country.

The Afghan Ambassador also cautioned that at no point of time the US should allow a sense of "retreat or defeat" as this would send a wrong message to the terrorists and embolden organisations like al-Qaeda and the Taliban.



Alcohol banned in Iraq holy Shiite city of Najaf


Provincial council warns citizens who contravene law will be referred to courts.

NAJAF - Councillors in Iraq's most revered holy Shiite city of Najaf on Saturday banned the sale and consumption of alcohol throughout the province, saying its use was incompatible with Islam.

"Due to the specific character of Najaf as a holy city, the provincial council decided unanimously to ban the drinking, selling and transit of alcohol of any kind, regardless of quantity," said a statement confirming the decision with immediate effect.

"Those who contravene the law will be referred to the courts," it said, adding advertising of alcoholic goods was also being banned under the law which will apply in Najaf city and all areas of the eponymous province.

Najaf, located 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of Baghdad, is home to the mausoleum of Imam Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohammed, and which attracts Shiites from around the world, particularly neighbouring Iran.

However, there is a known culture of secret late-night drinking in the city, which its political leaders want to clamp down on.

Although alcohol is considered contrary to strict Islam, it is sold openly from shops in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

The Najaf provincial council's decision follows an alcohol ban in the Shiite port city of Basra in August, which triggered concerns about the role of religion in people's private lives.

Basra deputy governor Ahmad al-Sulaiti said the law was implemented because Iraq's constitution "bans anything that violates the principles of Islam," the state religion and "fundamental source of legislation."

However the move raised concerns among alcohol vendors in Basra's shrinking Christian community that they would be targeted if they refused to close their shops.



Iraqis rally to protest government

Oct. 11, 2009

BAGHDAD — Hundreds took to the streets Saturday throughout Iraq to demand open elections and improved public services, revealing a growing discontent among Iraqis that is overshadowing concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to take over from withdrawing American troops.

Low oil prices have left the Iraqi government struggling to restore infrastructure after years of neglect, corruption and insurgent attacks, as well as to rebuild their security forces before a planned American withdrawal in 2011.

About 200 demonstrators took to the streets in central Baghdad, chanting: “No water, no electricity in the country of oil and the two rivers,” a reference to Iraq’s ancient name.

Iran will enrich uranium further if talks fail

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran warned Saturday it will enrich uranium to a higher level needed to power a research reactor if talks with the U.N. nuclear watchdog and world powers fail to help Iran obtain the fuel from abroad.

Such a step would heighten tensions in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program that are already running high over last month’s revelation that the country is building a second enrichment facility.

Seychelles captures 11 suspected pirates

PARIS — French soldiers successfully defended two fishing boats from capture by pirates in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, and 11 men suspected of involvement in the failed attack were pursued at sea and captured, officials said.

The chain of events illustrated the teamwork in the international community to crack down on piracy in the Indian Ocean, where pirates cruise the waters searching for boats to hijack for ransoms.

Madagascar P.M. refuses to vacate his office

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — Madagascar’s outgoing prime minister refused to quit Saturday, endangering a power-sharing agreement brokered by mediators to keep peace on the island.

Monja Roindefo said he does not acknowledge the mediators’ appointment Tuesday of Eugene Mangalaza as a prime minister in the transitional government. Roindefo said he did not feel that all parties involved in the negotiations were given a say in the appointment.

Ireland’s Green Party votes to stay in government

DUBLIN — Members of Ireland’s environmentalist Green Party voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to stay in Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s coalition government as it battles a runaway deficit, surging unemployment and crippled banks.

Defeat for the Green leaders’ pro-government motion at a special party conference would have torpedoed Cowen’s 2-year-old coalition and forced Ireland into an early parliamentary election.

But grass-roots Green members voted 523-99 to support a package of revised government policies.

Manchester police arrest 48 in protest

LONDON — Police in fluorescent jackets stood between hundreds of anti-Islam protesters and anti-racist counter-demonstrators in the English city of Manchester on Saturday, arresting 48 people in a bid to keep the peace.

Police locked down a section of the city center as about 2,000 people gathered. Most of those arrested, all men, were suspected of public order offenses. Several people suffered minor injuries in sporadic scuffles.

— Herald wire services



Ma'an: Fatah, Hamas to sign agreement in four days

Oct. 11, 2009

According to Palestinian sources quoted by Ma'an, Fatah and Hamas officials will meet on Thursday for reconciliation talks.

The report, cited by Israel Radio, said that in 48 hours the sides would each receive copies of a document they would be asked to sign. The remaining Palestinian factions would be requested to sign the documents several days later.

Conflicting reports over the resolution negotiations were heard Sunday as Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced that the signing of the agreement set for October 25 would be postponed for "several weeks."

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report.



Israel lifts ban on al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Sun, 11 Oct 2009

Israel has lifted its restrictions on Muslim entry to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, after days of clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police.

"Access to the Temple Mount has been re-opened normally on Sunday morning to Muslims without age restrictions as well as to visitors during regular hours," Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby told AFP.

The latest tensions over the Al-Quds compound exploded into violence on September 27.

In September 2000, the second Palestinian uprising or intifada erupted after Ariel Sharon, a rightwing politician who went on to become Israel's prime minister, visited the site.



Pakistani troops rescue hostages after militants attack military HQ

11 October 2009

Alleged ringleader in custody as Hillary Clinton says raid shows militants 'increasingly threatening authority of the state'

Soldiers prepare to raid the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, where militants were holding 45 hostages. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

Commandos freed 42 hostages from captivity in a dramatic dawn raid today, ending a 22-hour militant assault on Pakistan's military headquarters that had embarrassed the army as it prepared for an offensive in the Taliban's tribal stronghold.

Nineteen people, including two senior officers and eight militants, were killed during the audacious raid in central Rawalpindi, a garrison city 10 miles from Islamabad.

One militant whom the army identified as the ringleader, Dr Usman, was captured alive and was being treated for his wounds.

Major cities in Pakistan wore a tense air today, as security forces moved into high alert and ordinary Pakistanis digested the news of the brazen raid on the nerve centre of their powerful military machine. It was the third militant spectacular in a week – last Monday, a suicide bomber disguised as a soldier killed five staff in a United Nations building, while on Friday, a huge bomb in central Peshawar killed 53 people.

Analysts said the operation underscored the potency of extremist networks despite a recent defeat by the army in Swat and a stream of US drone attacks in the tribal belt, one of which killed the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in August.

In London, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said it showed that militants were "increasingly threatening the authority of the state". But, she added, "we see no evidence they are going to take over the state".

The raid also raised questions about the degree of insider co-operation that allowed nine heavily armed attackers to penetrate the country's most sensitive and heavily guarded area.

According to reports, the militants were wearing army uniforms and driving a vehicle bearing military licence plates when they attacked a gate leading to the headquarters, known as GHQ, at 11.30am yesterday.

Full Article at:


Afghan vote fraud 'significant': UN special rep

October 11, 2009

The United Nations special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said Sunday that the level of fraud in Afghanistan's presidential election was "significant."

"It is true that in a number of polling stations in the south and the southeast there was significant fraud, but not only there," Eide told reporters.

"The extent of that fraud is now being determined," he said.

Eide called a media conference to answer accusations that he tried to conceal information about the extent of the fraud in the elections, which were held on August 20.

The elections, the results of which are not yet known, have been overshadowed by allegations of widespread fraud, mostly aimed at President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai leads preliminary results with about 55 percent of the vote, against his nearest rival Abdullah Abdullah, who is on 28 percent.

Final results are expected to be announced by the end of this week.

Eide addressed accusations made by his former deputy, Peter Galbraith, who was dismissed last month after a row with his boss over how to deal with the fraud allegations.

Eide was flanked by the ambassadors to Kabul from the United States, Britain and France, with the German ambassador, the European Union's special representative to Afghanistan, and a NATO representative also in attendance.

Visibily angry, Eide said: "Some of these allegations were based on private conversation whilst he (Galbraith) was a guest in my house.

"My view is that private conversations around a dinner table in my house remain just that, private," he said.

The publicity surrounding Galbraith's dismissal, and the accusations he made against Eide "have not only been personal attacks against me and my personal integrity but have affected the whole election process," he said.

Galbraith was sacked on September 30 by UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and immediately went on the offensive, saying the decision sent a "terrible signal" about the UN's commitment to a fraud-free Afghan election.

Differences between the two men began before the poll when Galbraith wanted to eliminate "ghost" polling centres that posed a risk of fraud as they were too insecure to open on election day.

Full Article at:


Hospital mix-up shatters Makkah woman’s life

Badea Abu Al-Naja

11 October 2009

MAKKAH: A DNA test on a 34-year-old Saudi woman recently proved that she is not biologically related to the parents who raised her. The mistake was traced back to a hospital that at the time of the woman’s birth would place newborn babies in the same communal bed in the maternity ward.

“I was brought up among brothers and sisters whom I loved dearly but to whom I do not have any blood relationship,” said the woman in tears.

The woman, who agreed to speak to Arab News on condition of anonymity, said that the woman who raised her — who passed away 11 years ago — treated her well and made her feel especially loved because she had darker skin than her siblings. “My brothers and sisters got married and left the house,” she said. “I lived alone with my mother and father and I was doted over. After my mother died my father engulfed me with his love.” But then the stability and care was shattered when another woman approached a court in Makkah saying that she was the biological daughter of the man. A DNA test was ordered and the woman’s complaint proved true.

“My sisters and brothers and I were called to do the same test that proved they were related to him, but I wasn’t. The claimant turned out to be his real daughter,” she said. The biological mother also came forward in the investigation to say that the two women were born on the same day in 1975 at Makkah’s Jaroul Hospital. The mother told the judge that a nurse in the maternity ward picked up the wrong newborn from a communal bed. The biological mother said the child grew up with much lighter skin than her siblings.

As she grew up she became convinced she was not related to the family that raised her. One day at a wedding, she met a girl who told her she looked a lot like members of a family that had one dark-skinned girl. She eventually tracked down the family and then went to the court to challenge her paternity.

“Since then my life has been shattered,” said the dark-skinned woman. “I still love the man who raised me, and he loves me dearly. I cannot leave him after all these years and go back to my original family.”

To add to the grief: her biological father passed away years ago and her surviving biological family struggles to make ends meet.

“They are very poor and I am not employed though I am a college graduate,” she said. “I will not be in a position to help them. I cannot leave the man who raised me.”



Jerusalem flashpoint site reopens to all Muslim worshippers - Summary


Jerusalem - Israel on Sunday reopened the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount compound to all Muslim worshippers and other visitors after two weeks of partial restrictions, a police spokesman said. Mickey Rosenfeld said the situation had returned to the calm that prevailed before tensions over the compound erupted two weeks ago.

Riots by Palestinian Muslims began after rumours spread that Israeli settlers were seeking to re-inauguarate the biblical Jewish temple at the site which is also houses the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

During the tensions, Israeli authorities allowed only Muslim males over 50 and women of all ages who were residents of East Jerusalem into the compound in order to prevent outbreak of riots.

Under an agreement reached Saturday night, Israel also agreed to allow 400 Muslims who had barricaded themselves in the compound since the beginning of the tensions, to leave without being arrested.

The deal was brokered by the Jordanian ambassador to Israel.

Tensions in Jerusalem have been high since September 27, when rumours spread on the eve of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday that Jews were trying to take over the compound.

The site is the third holiest in Islam, because according to tradition it marks the spot from where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. But it is also the most sacred in Judaism, as it contains the ruins of the Jewish Biblical Temple.

The rumours of a Jewish take-over of the Temple Mount spread after a group of French tourists made a pre-arranged, organized tour of the site under Israeli police escort.



Victim’s parents hang young Iranian killer

Teen offender executed despite calls to halt execution

Sunday, 11 October 2009

An Iranian man was hanged Sunday reportedly by the parents of his victim whom he murdered in a brawl as a teenager, despite international calls urging the Islamic republic to stop such executions.

Behnoud Shojaee had been convicted of stabbing to death 17-year-old Ehsan Nasrollahi during a fight in August 2005 when he himself was aged 17, Iranian news agencies reported.

His execution was postponed at least once last year and again in August.

"The mother and father of Ehsan Nasrollahi themselves carried out the punishment in the Evin prison," the agency ISNA said in reference the notorious detention facility in Tehran.

Amnesty International has said Shojaee intervened to stop a fight between a friend and Nasrollahi , and stabbed Nasrollahi with a shard of glass after being threatened with a knife.

Former Iran judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had agreed in June last year to suspend Shojaee's death sentence to give the victim's family a chance to pardon him under Islamic sharia, law.

And a judiciary bill is now awaiting parliament's approval that aims to ease punishments for offences committed by youths and make it harder for courts to sentence minors to death for murder.

But Nasrollahi's family refused to pardon him.

"We didn't stop our efforts until the last moment to gain their clemency but unfortunately it was fruitless and the execution was carried out," judiciary official Fakhredin Jafarzadeh was quoted as saying by ISNA.

Under sharia, the family can spare a murderer from execution by accepting blood money for the victim's life and leaving the convict to serve only a prison sentence.

xecution of child offenders

Shojaee’s case drew international attention and several domestic human rights groups also strongly called for halting the execution.

In June 2008, the United Nations human rights arm asked Iran not to execute four offenders sentenced to death over crimes committed when they were minors, including Shojaee.

Seventeen people have been executed in the past two years for crimes committed when under the age of 18, according to rights groups in February.

Iran is a signatory to a U.N. convention on children's rights which stipulates that members cannot execute convicts found guilty of committing crimes as minors.

Last month, the presidency of the 27-nation EU said it was "deeply concerned" by reports of the imminent executions of Shojaee and two other juvenile offenders, saying they would be a direct contravention of Iran's international commitments.

Condemning "the continued widespread occurrence of death sentences and executions" in Iran, the Swedish EU presidency urged it to halt the planned executions and consider alternative sentences for juvenile offenders.

At least 135 other juvenile offenders were known in May to be facing death sentences in Iran, according to a report issued by Amnesty International.

Tehran says the death penalty is a necessary tool for maintaining public security and is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.

Iranian officials reject accusations of human rights violations and accuse the West of double standards, stressing that under Islamic law it is only the family of the victim which can pardon the life of a murderer.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's sharia law, practiced since the 1979 Islamic revolution.