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Islamic World News ( 27 Jan 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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New TV channel to give Sufism a voice

Pig’s heads found at Malaysia mosque amid Allah row

Saudi-Houthi border fighting ends

Indonesia to formalise an Inter-Religious Council

Bangladesh top court upholds officers' death penalty

Iran leader predicts destruction of Israel

Islamic Militants in Somalia Murder Christian Leader

Nuggets from New Muslim Brotherhood Leader's Al-Jazeera Interview

Etihad to support global young Muslim leaders project

Q+A-Nigeria's presidency and the north-south question

Global meeting on Yemen to begin in London

French legislators want limits on face veil

Osama bin Laden tape shows al-Qaida 'greatly weakened': Obama

'Qaida itching to use WMDs against US'

Karzai reaches out to Taliban

Inclusion of Taliban

UN eases sanctions on five Taliban leaders

Talk to Omar, ISI trainer urges US

Pak revives eight-nation grouping on Afghanistan

India against military exit from Afghanistan

Pak bid to push India out of Kabul

Turkey helps Pak keep India out of Afghan group

Taliban dismiss London conference on Afghanistan

Al Qaeda planning to dress up suicide bombers as Sikhs

'Kashmiris have felt isolated during conflict'

Bangladesh upholds death sentence for ex-president Mujibur's killers

BSF foils Pak Rangers' bid to push in terrorists

Headley, Rana in same lock-up but kept apart

After 19 yrs , no Tricolour at Lal Chowk

On CWG Federation website, Gujarat and J&K part of Pakistan

Pak overture to Turkey for attack drones worries India

Modi, Afridi signal easing of IPL-Pak row

China claims to have '1st pop singer in Sanskrit', may present her during World Expo

Kerala Guv, Kodiyeri express concern over terror situation

Google explores ways to keep presence in China

Octomom celebrates first b’day of babies

Iraq inquiry chief 'frustrated' by war advice secrecy

Rabbi arrested, suspected in West Bank mosque arson

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



New TV channel to give Sufism a voice

January 27. 2010

Ala’ Abu al Azayim, the sheikh of the Sufi Al Azmiyah tariqah, stands beside the tomb of his grandfather, who founded the sect. Mr al Azayim hopes to counter attacks on Sufism through a satellite TV station. Victoria Hazou for The National

CAIRO // A coalition of Sufi organisations is preparing to launch Egypt’s first Sufi-themed satellite television station before the end of the year.

The channel’s principal organisers, the Al Azmiyah tariqah, or “path”, said the station would be the fourth in the Middle East to identify specifically with Sufi Islamic thought.

Ala’ Abu al Azayim, the sheikh of the Al Azmiyah tariqah, said he hoped the station, which he plans to name Al Sufiya Wa Atasawaf (Sufis and Sufism), will help propagate Sufism’s moderate conception of Islam.

But he also envisions it as an ideological foil to the dozens of conservative Salafi satellite channels that compete for viewers across the region – stations that Mr al Azayim said routinely attack Sufi thought, pollute the practice of Islam with an ultra-conservative ideology and defame the religion’s reputation throughout the world.

“There are a lot of satellite stations. All of them attack Sufism and some of them, or many of them … are [run by] ignorant people” said Mr al Azayim, who said he saw the proposed channel as part of a broader “jihad”, or spiritual struggle, to defend Islam from Salafi thought. “They have no idea about Islam except the niqab for the ladies and the gallabeya and the long beard for the men.”

Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism that seeks to enable followers to embrace, or experience, God during life on Earth. Although many scholars consider Sufism to be a distinct school of thought within Islam, its ideology often overlaps with other beliefs, allowing its practitioners a more fluid religious identity.

Egyptian Muslims have long held a unique affinity for Sufism, Mr al Azayim, whose grandfather founded the Al Azmiyah tariqah, said. He estimates that only about 25 per cent of Egyptian Muslims adhere to a specific Sufi tariqah, but about 70 per cent of the population identify with a more general practice of Sufi beliefs and customs.

But as Middle Eastern societies have grown more conservative in recent years – thanks in part to the popularity of Saudi-funded Salafi religious satellite television programming – Sufism has come under attack, said some of the proposed station’s founders.

In more conservative circles, Sufism is seen as a religious innovation that deviates from the teachings of the Prophet. Many Sufis celebrate historical saints and past spiritual leaders, a practice some Muslims say is tantamount to polytheism. Sufi worship also includes religious singing and dancing, which are sharply at odds with the more austere conventions of Salafi worship.

For viewers, the presentation styles of the region’s satellite stations draw clear lines between such ideological differences, said Sami al Sharief, the dean of the faculty of mass media at the Modern University for Technology and Information in Cairo. Mr al Sharief is researching religious media in the Middle East.

Sufi stations often present religious music and lively sound effects. Some even employ female presenters and present discussions of topical issues, Mr al Sharief said.

The Salafi stations, meanwhile, tend to be more sober. “They present very strict Islamic thoughts and some of them teach Quran, but others give strict fatwas”, Mr al Sharief said. “They never use music. Women are not allowed to appear on screen either as presenters or guests. All men who appear on screen should wear a beard. Only senior ulema who are well known to be respected are allowed to give fatwas on screen. They refrain from dealing with political issues and they avoid clashes with political authorities.”

While conflicts with regional governments are a potential pitfall for Salafi stations – whose programming tends to run counter to secular-minded regimes such as Egypt’s – Mr al Azayim is confident he can avoid problems with Cairo’s political authorities. Religiously themed television stations are illegal in Egypt, but they are frequently broadcast from abroad and the government is likely to favour a channel that promotes a more moderate view of Islam, he said.

Mohammed Habib, a spokesman for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed but tolerated Islamist political organisation, said he opposed the channel’s ideological agenda, adding that it would “serve the ruling regime by letting them use Sufi thought against political Islam”.

“We have a comprehensive concept of Islam as a holistic thing, not a partial thing. And any other concept which is less holistic will not promote the development of the Islamic nation,” he said.

“If this satellite station is going to confront the attacks against Islam, it’s welcome. But with regards to its reviewing of Islam, I think it will be on the wrong side of our concept of Islam.”

After several years of planning, the project has nearly entered its fund-raising stage, said Mr al Azayim, who expects to be able to raise the required three million Egyptian pounds (Dh2m) this year with help from charitable investors.

Mr al Azayim said he had already had positive discussions with NileSat, an Egyptian government-owned satellite operator and one of the largest satellite services in the Middle East.

Like other religious satellite stations, Al Sufiya Wa Atasawaf will feature Sufi music and poetry, talk shows, theological discussions and lectures, as well as spiritually themed films and serials, Mr al Azayim said.

But unlike other stations, Al Sufiya Wa Atasawaf will treat its viewers to a principled defence of a religious ideology that some of the station’s sponsors feel is under attack.

“It is defensive. It is to stand by the truth, to clear all the misconceptions about Islam,” said Sheikh Sayf al Azmy, the leader of the Sudanese branch of the Al Azmiyah tariqah and one of the new station’s organisers. “People have diverted from the righteous path, and the satellite would help people understand the right message of Islam and take people back to it.”


Pig’s heads found at Malaysia mosque amid Allah row

Jan 27, 2010

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian police said two pig's heads were found at a Malaysian mosque close to a neighborhood hit by an ethnic clash nine years ago following a series of arson and firebomb attacks on churches.

The discovery of the pig heads -- an animal considered offensive to Muslims and whose consumption is prohibited -- could further inflame tensions in the mainly Muslim country, prompting police to issue a stern warning against stirring up emotions.

Eleven churches, a Catholic school, a Sikh temple, two mosques and two Muslim prayer rooms so far have been hit by arson and vandalism attacks in recent weeks over the use of the word "Allah" by Christians.

Police said the pig heads were found about 5:30 a.m. local time at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in Selangor state.

"I am warning people not to try and influence the situation and don't try to take advantage to raise the anger of any ethnic group," Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said.

The mosque is located near a neighborhood which in 2001 was hit by an ethnic clash that reportedly left six people dead.

Khalid said police were working closely with local mosque and neighborhood committees to try and keep residents calm.

The row stems from a court ruling on December 31 last year allowing a Catholic newspaper to use "Allah" in its Malay-language editions.

A group created in the online networking site Facebook to protest the use of the word by non-Muslims has so far attracted more than 250,000 people.

The use of "Allah" is common among Malay-speaking Christians, who account for 9.1 percent of the 28 million population, especially in the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Opinions are split, but many Malays have expressed unhappiness over allowing the word to be used by Christians.

The government has warned that laws, including the Internal Security Act that allows detention without trial, would be deployed to keep tensions from boiling over.

Police have so far arrested 19 people over the attacks, and a 25-year-old Malay student was charged in court on January 15 with threatening public safety following a comment he reportedly made on his Facebook page offering to throw petrol bombs.

The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak is appealing the court verdict and has condemned the arson and vandalism attacks, but analysts have said he would likely lose votes among non-Muslims unhappy with the row.

Malaysia's mainly Chinese and Indian non-Muslim ethnic minorities, who form 40 percent of the country's population, abandoned the ruling coalition in the 2008 general elections partly due to complaints over increasing religious marginalization.

Analysts have said the arson attacks, though not an immediate risk, are raising worries among some foreign investors at a time when Prime Minister Najib Razak has pledged to lure more foreign investment.

Malaysia, which between 1990 and 2000 accounted for half of all foreign direct investment into it, Thailand and Indonesia, has now lost its leading position. Najib is trying to woo them back with economic liberalization measures.


Saudi-Houthi border fighting ends

JANUARY 27, 2010

Fighting between Saudi forces and Houthi fighters on the border with Yemen has ended, Saudi officials have said.

Prince Khaled bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's deputy defence minister, said on Wednesday that his forces had achieved a "clear victory over the enemy" on the Yemen-Saudi border.

"We cleansed the area ... Withdrawal was not an option for them," he said.

But the leader of the Houthi rebel group said that his fighters were withdrawing from Saudi Arabia after three months of fighting along the border.

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi offered a ceasefire in a message posted on the internet on Monday, saying he wanted to prevent further civilian casualties.

"To avoid more bloodshed and to stop aggression on civilians ... we offer this initiative," al-Houthi said in an audio message.

'No engagement'

A Saudi general had said earlier on Wednesday that the Houthi's truce prompted the end of the fighting.

 Inside Story: Yemen's future "Last night, since they announced a ceasefire, they did not fire and we did not have any engagement," Major General Said al-Ghamdi, commanding general of first paratrooper brigade, told journalists in the border area.

"They are not in our lands," Ghamdi said. "The battle has ended by God's will."

But Khaled bin Sultan told a press briefing on Wednesday: "They did not withdraw. They have been forced out."

The border has been the scene of on-off fighting between Yemeni Houthi fighters and Saudi troops since early November.

Al-Houthi vowed to wage an "open war" against Saudi Arabia if they ignored the ceasefire offer and continued attacks against his group's positions.

"Its [Saudi Arabia] insistence to continue the aggression after this initiative gives us the legitimacy to open new fronts and to wage an open war," he said.

The so-called Houthi fighters seized an area of Saudi territory in November last year, drawing the kingdom into its long-running conflict with government forces.

Armed rebellion

The Houthis, who launched a rebellion against the Yemeni government in 2004, belong to the minority Zaidi sect of Shia Islam and complain of social, economic and religious marginalisation.

Government forces launched "Operation Scorched Earth" on August 11 in an attempt to crush the rebels in the mountainous northern region.

Al-Houthi's announcement on Monday came just three days after he appeared in a video recording denying claims by the Yemeni government that he had been injured or killed.

The rebel leader spoke briefly in the 35-second video posted on the group's website showing him sitting on a chair with no visible injuries.

Saudi Arabia fears that the growing instability in neighbouring Yemen could turn into a major security threat for the kingdom.

The government in Sanaa is battling a secessionist movement in the south and a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the Houthi fighters


Indonesia to formalise an Inter-Religious Council

27 January 2010

JAKARTA: Indonesia will soon formalise an Inter-Religious Council that would bring together leaders from major faiths in the country to anticipate and tackle inter-religious conflicts in the country.

This marks an important milestone in maintaining religious harmony in one of the world's most plural and diverse nations.

Ad-hoc meetings between leaders of different religious groups in Indonesia are not new.

But now they plan to institutionalise it and call it the Indonesia Inter-Religious Council.

It brings together leaders from the six major religious organisations and two of the Indonesia's largest Muslim bodies - the Nahdatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

They will take turns to chair the council.

Professor Din Syamsuddin, chairman, Muhammadiyah, said: "We cannot take for granted that conflict either with religious motives or religious nuances would not happen in our country. There is still a possibility and potentiality for such tension and conflict. And therefore it is better for us that all religious leaders unite together in this Inter-Religious Council of Indonesia. And we can work together to give our response to the viable happenings in the future, especially to prevent religious conflict."

The presence of Nahdatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah leaders in the Inter-Religious Council is expected to boost confidence that the interest of non-Muslim Indonesians would not be sidelined.

The two largest Muslim organisations have so far maintained their allegiance to the Pancasila - Indonesia's secular state ideology - despite pressure of Islamisation.

Professor Din said: "Muslim organisations like our organisation, Muhammadiyah, and other Islamic organisations in Indonesia tend to become like a big tent for all Indonesian people, regardless of their religion, ethnicities, profession even political affiliations."

Professor Azyumardi Azra, an Indonesian Muslim scholar, said: "If these two Muslim organisations and others demand, for instance, Pancasila be replaced by Islam or demand that Islam be made the official religion of the state, I think it can create problems - serious problems for inter-religious relations."

The 1999-2001 conflict between Muslims and Christians in Eastern Indonesia is a grim reminder how fragile inter-faith relations are.

Things have generally improved in the last few years despite occasional problems faced by the Christians at the local level.

Professor Frans Magnis-Suseno, an Indonesian Catholic scholar and priest, said: "Christians, of course, complained that it is still very difficult, especially in certain regions, to get permission to build a new church or places of worship that is not officially allowed. There are incidences, but at least we can talk about this."

Professor Frans Magnis-Suseno has been at the forefront of inter-religious conflict resolution in Indonesia for more than two decades.

Full report at:


Bangladesh top court upholds officers' death penalty

27 January 2010

Bangladesh's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentences of five ex-army officers convicted of killing the country's independence leader in 1975.

Legal experts say the court ruling has cleared the way for the five men to be hanged.

The men were convicted of killing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Six other accused are living abroad.

The trial began more than a decade ago and has generated tremendous interest.

"The Supreme Court, headed by the country's chief justice, has dismissed their final appeals," news agency AFP quoted Syed Anisul Haque, chief counsel for the state, as saying.

"It is a landmark verdict and we think this will go a long way towards establishing the rule of law in the country," he said.

The five former army officers could be hanged "at any moment", Mr Haque added.

"We will decide on the date for the execution as soon as we receive a copy of the Supreme Court order," additional inspector general of prisons Syed Iftekheruddin was quoted by AFP as saying.

Military coup

Mr Rahman was killed in 1975, just four years after leading Bangladesh to independence from Pakistan.

The killers also murdered the president's wife, three sons, two daughters-in-law and approximately 20 other relatives and aides as part of a military coup.

Sheikh Hasina, who was re-elected prime minister last December, escaped the massacre only because she was out of the country at the time.

The five men, who are in prison in the capital, Dhaka, did not deny their role in the death of Mr Rahman, but had said they should be tried in a military rather than a civilian court.

Six fellow plotters, on the run abroad, have also been sentenced to death. A seventh man also found guilty in absentia is thought to have died abroad.

The government the majors helped install passed a law indemnifying their actions and until 1998 they were free men.

But by then Sheikh Hasina had herself become prime minister and the accused were put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to death.

She lost the following elections, and the next government, led by the party which ultimately benefited from the coup, slowed the process down.

But Sheikh Hasina returned to power earlier this year, and made the conclusion of the trial one of her top priorities.


Iran leader predicts destruction of Israel

27 January 2010

TEHRAN — Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is confident Islamic nations will one day watch the destruction of arch-foe Israel, his website Wednesday quoted him as saying.

Khamenei made the remark during a meeting with Mauritanian President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz in Tehran, the website said.

The all-powerful Iranian leader also said that Israel's continued "pressure to erase Palestine from the world of Islamic nations" will fail.

"Surely, the day will come when the nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime... when the destruction happens will depend on how the Islamic nations approach the issue," Khamenei told Aziz, who arrived in Tehran on Monday.

"The Zionist regime, by continuing to use pressure, blockades and committing genocide, wants to erase Palestine... but it will not succeed."

Praising Mauritania for cutting its ties with Israel, Khamenei said the "Zionist regime is a great danger to the world of Islam as it was thinking of expanding its influence and grip on the region every day."

Iranian officials, including Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have earned the wrath of Israel and Western powers for their repeated anti-Israel comments.

Relations between the two nations have deteriorated particularly under Ahmadinejad who has often said that Israel is "doomed to be wiped off the map" and has termed the Holocaust a "myth".

Israel shut down its embassy in Nouakchott following Mauritania's decision in January 2009 to suspend diplomatic ties with the Jewish state a decade after they were launched.

Mauritania was one of only three Arab nations that had formal diplomatic ties with Israel, apart from Egypt and Jordan.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved


Islamic Militants in Somalia Murder Christian Leader

27 January 2010

Islamic extremists shot the leader of an underground church to death outside the capital city of Somalia this month and have threatened to kill his wife, his tearful widow told Compass. Having learned that he had left Islam to become a Christian, Somali militants from the Islamic extremist al Shabaab murdered 41-year-old Mohammed Ahmed Ali at about noon on Jan. 1, Amina Ibrahim Hassan said.

He was killed sometime after leaving his home in Hodan, on the outskirts of Mogadishu, she said. She and other family members were not immediately aware that he had been killed.

"We waited for him that day, but he did not turn up,” said Hassan, who has since fled to Nairobi. "The following day, on Jan. 2, I was informed by the fellowship that my husband had been killed.”

Ali led an underground church. Christian sources said members of al Shabaab, said to have links with al Qaeda terrorists, had been monitoring Ali and his wife for indications that they had left Islam.

Ali had organized New Year’s Day festivities for Christians to take place in Medina, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) outside of Mogadishu. Al Shabaab extremists killed him after word of the planned party leaked to them, Hassan said.

Hassan, who worked for a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) before leaving the country, said she received threatening calls from members of al Shabaab on Jan. 3.

"We know who you are working for,” Hassan said one extremist told her. "We also know your home and that you are a follower of the Christians, and we are going to kill you the way we killed your husband.”

Aware of the Islamic extremist militia’s determination to carry out their threats, Hassan called a relative in Nairobi and informed him of the death of her husband and her intention to flee to Nairobi.

She set out for Kenya early the next morning by bus with her only child, 2-year-old son Abdi Asis Mohammed Ahmed. They reached Ifo, one of the Dadaab refugee camps on the Kenya side of the border, on Jan. 11. She stayed there for a few days before continuing on, arriving at Nairobi on Jan. 20.

"I am thankful that I was able to reach Kenya safely having lost everything – my husband and property,” Hassan said.

Al Shabaab extremists have been monitoring Somalis who work with NGOs for signs that they have embraced Christianity, Christian sources said.

Ali came to faith in Christ under the influence of his late uncle, Ali Mohammed Nur, who died in 2000 at the age of 70. Ali, who had worked as a taxi driver, completed secondary education and converted to Christianity the same year his uncle died in 2000. He was baptized in 2005.

Full report at:


Nuggets from New Muslim Brotherhood Leader's Al-Jazeera Interview

January 27th 2010

As some of you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most influential Islamist group in the Middle East, recently elected a new leader. His name is Mohammed Badie and he's perceived to be staunch conservative. He is regarded by some as a "Qutbist," in part because he was an associate of Sayyid Qutb's in the 1960s (yes, Arab leaders are almost universally very, very old). In between my blogging on this, you can continue to follow my coverage of the Brotherhood and the post-election fallout here on twitter.

So, anyway, as you might expect, a lot of people are getting worried and talking about the Muslim Brotherhood's conservative turn or impending "radicalization." Before getting ahead of ourselves though, it may be worthwhile to look at what Badie has actually said, since ascending to his new post. There was one particularly interesting, long, wide-ranging interview with al-Jazeera last week. The transcript, courtesy of Abdel Monem Mahmoud, is here, but it's in Arabic. So I've gone ahead and translated some of the more relevant/ intriguing portions:

Badie on the nature of the Brotherhood: "We are not a political association as some think; we are a group that carries Islam in its totality.” Badie on allegations that Brotherhood internal elections were not free and fair: yes, there ere were concerns. Yes, we need to review some of these issues."

Badie on charges that he and other conservatives effectively ousted two of the Brotherhood's more prominent "moderates" - Mohammed Habib and Abdel Monem abul Futouh - from the organization's leadership: "I want to say that my third grandson’s name is Habib because I love Dr. Habib and I very much love my brother Abdel Monem and what is between me and them and between the Brotherhood and them is love and respect."

Badie on regime repression: "We in this past phase were under enormous pressure... and it prevented us from being able to present what we have to offer to the Egyptian people."

Badie on all the negative press the Brotherhood's been getting: "Why do people focus on the negative and not the positive, such as the fact that we had a leader, in good health, who left his leadership post out of his own volition?” (referring to the fact that the previous General Guide voluntarily resigned from office and called for elections to select his successor, something which almost never happens in the Arab world).

Badie on whether he hates President Mubarak: "Who says such things!? This shouldn’t even be presented as a question in the first place!”

Full report at:


Etihad to support global young Muslim leaders project

January 27th 2010

Etihad Airways is to partner the UK-based Mosaic International Summer School which draws together young Muslim leaders from across the world in a forum to support them in their careers and communities.

 The 75 summer school delegates will fly with Etihad from Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to the UK in July where they will spend two weeks exchanging views and learning about social and economic issues.

Founded byThe Prince of Wales, the Mosaic International Summer School is the first of its kind in the world and consists of a multiple set of initiatives designed to support young Muslims and their peers.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “Etihad Airways is delighted to assist the Mosaic International Summer School which provides such an important platform in the personal and professional development for these young men and women.”

John O’Brien, Mosaic managing director, said: “We are very grateful for Etihad’s support with the Mosaic International Summer School and the part the airline plays in bringing together these young Muslim men and women from around the world.”

The first week of the Summer School will take place in Cambridge and the second week will take place in the West Midlands, with additional events for the attending delegates hosted by Buckingham Palace; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and Princess Badiya bint El Hassan of Jordan, a patron of the Mosaic International Summer School.


Q+A-Nigeria's presidency and the north-south question

By Nick Tattersall

LAGOS, Jan 27 - Underlying Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua's reluctance to formally hand over to his deputy is a nebulous understanding that power should rotate between the mostly-Muslim north and predominantly-Christian south.

Although not formally set in writing, there is an agreement among the political elite that the presidency should alternate between north and south after every two presidential terms of four years each, analysts say.

Yar'Adua, a northern Muslim, is part way through his first term. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan is a southern Christian.

Analysts say the northern elite fears its influence over the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) would wane if Jonathan were to take over even for a temporary period.

Here are some questions and answers about the agreement:


Africa's most populous nation is roughly equally divided between Christians and Muslims. More than 200 distinct ethnic groups generally live peacefully side by side.

But civil war left more than one million people dead between 1967 and 1970 and there have been frequent bouts of ethnic and religious violence, particularly in the central Middle Belt which lies on the fault-line between north and south.

More than 13,500 people have died in religious or ethnic clashes since the end of military rule in 1999, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

Clashes between Christian and Muslim gangs last week in the central city of Jos killed hundreds of people.

The violence had more to do with rivalry for political and economic power than with religious fervour. Some Jos residents -- mostly members of the largely Muslim Hausa ethnic group -- are classified as "non-indigenes" and denied opportunities given to those classified as original inhabitants, rights groups say.

The notion of sharing power between north and south aims to avoid such disputes becoming a factor in federal politics.

"It has been an unwritten law since 1979," said Abubakar Momoh, politics professor at Lagos State University.

"This is fostered by circumstances and the tragedy of history and there is nothing you can do about that."

Full report at:


Global meeting on Yemen to begin in London

27 January 2010

The UK is hosting a high-level meeting intended to galvanise international support for Yemen.

It has been called by Gordon Brown in the wake of the alleged attempt to blow up a US airliner on Christmas day.

Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen claimed responsibility and there are growing fears that the country could become a haven for terrorists.

The London conference aims to find ways to address the long-term ills that have fed extremism within Yemen's borders.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other world leaders will discuss how to stabilise the poverty-stricken nation.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ali Mujawar will also attend the talks.

Complex and profound

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the alleged bomb plot, is said to have told investigators that he was supplied with explosives in Yemen.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the state's problems were both complex and profound.

"The poorest Arab country, its population is ballooning, oil revenues are dwindling, the water tables are sinking and its fighting a bloody insurgency that has already embroiled the Saudi army on its northern border," he said.

"Into that unhappy mix comes a resurgent al-Qaeda that has chosen Yemen for its new base in the Middle East, and is now threatening to use it as a springboard to attack the West and its allies."

Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said the meeting was important because Yemen was "not a failed state, but it is an incredibly fragile state".

He added: "We want to see Yemen's neighbours make a more significant contribution and we want the international community to come together and recognise that supporting the government of Yemen is crucial to the stability of that country but it is also crucial to the stability of the world."

Yemen's Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said that his country wanted "international support to build infrastructure, combat poverty and create jobs, as well as support in combating terrorism".

But he told the BBC that the idea of US military bases on Yemeni soil was "inconceivable".

Ginny Hill, an associate fellow at Chatham House in London, told the BBC that the sense of urgency underpinning the summit stemmed from the fact that Yemen was a "collapsing state".

She added: "Oil revenues are falling, as oil production turns downward and there is currently little inward investment to support a sustainable economic base.

"Terrorist networks are likely to grow as the state collapses, so an effective counterterrorism strategy requires a long-term commitment to development, good governance and state building."


French legislators want limits on face veil


Jan. 26: A parliamentary panel that wants Muslim women to stop veiling their faces recommended on Tuesday that France ban such garb in public facilities, including hospitals and mass transit, and refuse residence cards and citizenship to anyone with visible signs of a "radical religious practice." The nearly 200-page report contains a panoply of measures intended to dissuade women from wearing all-enveloping veils in France. However, there is no call to outlaw such garments — worn by a tiny minority of Muslims — in private areas and in the street.

The 32-member, multiparty panel heeded warnings that a full ban risked being deemed unconstitutional and could even cause trouble in a country where Islam is the second-largest religion. The language in the report was carefully chosen in an effort to avoid offending France’s estimated 5 million Muslims — the largest such population in western Europe — and accusations of discrimination.

Muslim leaders have already complained that the debate over the full veil coupled with an ongoing debate on French national identity has left some Muslims feeling their religion is becoming a government target.

The topic of the all-encompassing veil is charged with passion and politicking, and the panel failed to reach a consensus on whether any action was warranted, and what kind, despite universal agreement that veils covering the face are not wanted in France. The report culminates a six-month inquiry into the wearing of all-encompassing veils that began after President Nicolas Sarkozy said in June that they are "not welcome" on French territory. Such veils are thought to be worn by only several thousand Muslim women who, most often, pin a "niqab" across their faces, hiding all but the eyes. Worn with a long, dark robe, such clothing is customarily associated with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.


Osama bin Laden tape shows al-Qaida 'greatly weakened': Obama

27 January 2010

WASHINGTON: An audio message in which Osama bin Laden seemed to take credit for a failed bombing attempt on a US airliner showed the  al-Qaidaleader has been "weakened," President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. ( Watch Video )

While Obama said there is "no doubt" that a terror threat persists," al-Qaida, itself, is greatly weakened from where it was back in 2000," he said.

"Bin Laden sending out a tape, trying to take credit for a Nigerian student, who engaged in a failed bombing attempt, is an indication of how weakened he is, because this is not something necessarily directed by him," Obama said.


'Qaida itching to use WMDs against US'

27 January 2010

WASHINGTON: Al-Qaida has not abandoned its goal of attacking the United States with a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon, according to a  new report by a former senior CIA official.

The report by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen released on Monday by Harvard University portrays al-Qaida's leaders as determined and patient, willing to wait for years to acquire the kinds of weapons that could inflict widespread casualties.

He argues that al-Qaida has been far more sophisticated in its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction than is commonly believed, pursuing parallel paths to acquiring weapons and forging alliances with groups that can offer resources and expertise.

"If Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants had been interested in... small-scale attacks, there is little doubt they could have done so now," he writes.

Mowatt-Larssen, a 23-year CIA veteran, led the agency's internal task force on al-Qaida and weapons of mass destruction after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and later was named director of intelligence and counter-intelligence for the energy department.

The report warns that Osama bin Laden's threat to wage WMD attacks against the west is not "empty rhetoric" but a top strategic goal for an organization that seeks the economic ruin of the US and its allies to hasten the overthrow of pro-western governments in the Islamic world.

He cites patterns in al-Qaida's 15-year pursuit of weapons of mass destruction that reflect a deliberateness and sophistication in assembling the needed expertise and equipment.

He describes how al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri hired two scientists — a Pakistani microbiologist sympathetic to al-Qaida and a Malaysian army captain trained in the US — to work on efforts to build a biological weapons lab and acquire deadly strains of anthrax bacteria.

Al-Qaida achieved both goals before September 2001 but apparently had not successfully weaponized the anthrax spores when the US-led invasion of Afghanistan forced the scientists to flee, Mowatt-Larssen said.


Karzai reaches out to Taliban

Atul Aneja

RECONCILING DIFFERENCES: (From left) Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai with his Turkish and Pakistani counterparts Abdullah Gul and Asif Ali Zardari in Istanbul on Monday.

DUBAI: The Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey appear to have reframed their policy to bring peace to Afghanistan by agreeing to work for the re-integration of a section of the Taliban, who is ready to lay down arms.

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, after talks in Istanbul with his Turkish and Pakistani counterparts, Abdullah Gul and Asif Zardari, said western governments now support his re-integration plan.

“Those Taliban who are not part of Al-Qaeda or other terrorist networks are welcome to come back to their country and lay down arms and resume life under the constitution of Afghanistan,” he said after talks on Monday. On Tuesday, he added that there “are thousands and thousands and thousands [of non-Al-Qaeda Taliban] and they have to be reintegrated.”

Turkey has been playing a key role in reconciling differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Istanbul meeting was the fourth of its kind which Turkey has hosted.

Mr. Karzai said his government had always showed readiness to talk to the Taliban. However, the U.S. was now also on board, and this was a crucial departure from the past. “The difference this time is that we have the backing of our friends, neighbours, and the international community, which I would also hope, as we go to London and in the London conference, [we] receive financial support,” he said. Mr. Zardari, who was present, did not contradict Mr. Karzai’s views. “We have to talk about peace, and if there are any people who are the reconcilables or the people who want to give up their way of life, the democratic governments always welcome them back,” he said.

Starting on Thursday, the London conference on Afghanistan is likely to witness Afghans seeking funds for a programme to re-integrate moderate sections of the Taliban.

On Tuesday, the new policy appeared to find larger international endorsement following talks among the three Presidents and representatives from countries including China, Iran and Russia. A joint statement issued at the end of the conference said the participants “support the Afghan national process of reconciliation and reintegration ... in a way that is Afghan-led and -driven.”

Richard Holbrooke, special U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, had already said on Monday the 65 countries meeting in London on Thursday would back Afghanistan’s proposal to establish a reintegration fund to encourage fighters to join the process.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday that her government would provide $70 million to a $500-million global pool to bring back Afghan fighters into the mainstream.


Inclusion of Taliban

27 Jan, 2010

DESPITE Gen Stanley McChrystal’s strong hints about the possibility of the inclusion of some Taliban leaders in a government in Kabul, it is too early to make such predictions. At this point, it would be more realistic to focus on the reconciliation plan that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is all set to announce at the international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London on Thursday. This plan aims at winning over mid-level and lower-ranking Taliban by offering them economic incentives as a quid pro quo for laying down their arms. It is a replay of a similar strategy used in Iraq that produced substantial results. It is hoped that the foot soldiers termed as $10-a-day Taliban who are not ideologically committed to fighting the Karzai government will agree to disarm if they are provided livelihood and protection from former patrons. As a part of this scheme the Afghans and the Americans could be throwing feelers to those Taliban leaders who are ready to renounce violence to enter into a working arrangement with Kabul. As a goodwill gesture, President Karzai and the UN representative in Afghanistan have called for the removal of the names of some Taliban leaders from the US and UN blacklists.

The realisation now seems to be dawning that a troop surge alone will not ensure victory for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan — the Taliban cannot be vanquished by military means alone. That would make a negotiated political arrangement crucial to ending the conflict. Understandably the Afghan government would want to negotiate from a position of strength and on its own terms. This would depend on how the two sides assess the strategic situation on the ground. Needless to say, any new political arrangement should be put to the electoral test so that voters can decide for themselves who their rulers should be.


UN eases sanctions on five Taliban leaders

27 January 2010

The United Nations has removed five former Afghan Taliban officials from its sanctions list which was imposed because of alleged links to al-Qaeda.

The UN said the five would no longer be subject to international travel bans and a freeze on their assets.

Separately, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a fixed date to pull troops from Afghanistan would be a mistake.

She was speaking with Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead of Thursday's London conference on Afghanistan.

The UN Security Council sanctions panel "approved the deletion (de-listing) of the five entries" from its blacklist of individuals subjected to a travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo, the UN said in a statement.

The five men are former members of the Taliban government, and were put on the UN blacklist in 2001.

They were not active insurgents and there had already been debate within the UN sanctions committee on whether to remove them from the list.

The men include Abdul Wakil Mutawakil, who was a foreign minister when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan.

The others are:

Faiz Mohammad Faizan, a former deputy commerce minister

Shams-us-Safa, a former foreign ministry official

Mohammad Musa, a deputy planning minister

Abdul Hakim, a former deputy frontier affairs minister.

Mr Mutawakil said the move was a good start but did not go far enough.

"I consider it as restoration of my human rights," the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted him as saying.

"The UN should have removed a noticeable number of the Taliban names from the blacklist so a positive step would be taken to end [the] war in Afghanistan."

There are more than 140 names of suspected Taliban members with alleged links to al-Qaeda on the UN sanctions list.

US timetable

Full report at:


Talk to Omar, ISI trainer urges US

Omer Farooq Khan

27 January 2010

ISLAMABAD: The US must talk to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar if it wants to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, said the Pakistani former spymaster who trained the Taliban chief.

Retd Brigadier Sultan Tarar, also known as Col Imam — a former operative of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — said Omar is open to such talks. Imam's comments prove that Pakistani officials still have channels of communications open with Taliban.

"If a sincere message comes from the Americans, these people (the Taliban) are very big-hearted. They will listen. But if you try to divide the Taliban, you'll fail. Anyone who leaves Mullah Omar is no more Taliban. Such people are just trying to deceive,'' said Colonel Imam.

"Mullah Omar is highly respected, very faithful to his country. He's the only answer. He's a very reasonable man", said Imam. He said Omar would be willing to cut a deal, if it would lead to the exit of foreign troops and included funds to rebuild Afghanistan. "I can help", he said. "But can I trust the Americans?"


Pak revives eight-nation grouping on Afghanistan


Pakistan has revived an eight-country grouping to counter US pressure for giving India a greater role in war-torn Afghanistan’s reconstruction, according to a media reports on Tuesday.

Following an initiative spearheaded by Islamabad, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours — Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenis-tan and Uzbekistan — are participating along with the US and Britain in a meeting being held on Tuesday in Turkey to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been lobbying for the renewal of talks among Afghanistan’s neighbours to “foil Indian designs of gaining a foothold on Afghan soil,” diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by Daily Times newspaper.

Pakistan believes India is “not an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and therefore should have a limited role”, the sources said. Turkey has been asked to convene the meeting as it enjoys the trust of Pakistan and is accepted as a neutral party for promoting a common app-roach to the conflict in Afghanistan. The meeting will also take stock of measures to restore peace in the war-ravaged country. The original “six-plus-two” grouping also included Russia but that country has been replaced in the new set-up by Britain.


India against military exit from Afghanistan

New Delhi

Having major stakes in peace and development of Afghanistan, India is expected to press the world not to think about exit from there at a multilateral conference on the war-ravaged nation to be held in London on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, who will represent India at the conference, is expected to underline the importance of developmental work and capacity building of Afghans along with the military operations against Taliban as steps to bring peace and stability.

India feels Afghan forces are not yet ready to secure their nation in the face of renewed surge in Taliban activities and hence exit by international forces in the near future would be fraught with dangers.

India believes there is no option but to fight and vanquish the Taliban which continue to pose the risk and have the potential to destabilise the entire region. At the same time, New Delhi is not completely opposed to holding talks with some elements of Taliban who want to join the mainstream.

It, however, wants such talks should be led by Afghans themselves and that these should be held under the Afghan Constitution which requires respect for human rights and pluralism. Without wanting to get involved militarily in Afghanistan, India would remain engaged in developmental field there. India already has US$1.3 billion worth of reconstruction projects underway in Afghanistan.

This has earned India a massive goodwill in that country as was reflected in a recent opinion poll conducted by a Kabul-based NGO and commissioned by BBC, American Broadcasting Corporation and German Broadcaster ARD. In the poll, 71 per cent of Afghans said they favoured India, which was way ahead of others. Germany polled 59 per cent and stood at second spot. The US came third with 51 per cent polls, Iran followed with 50 per cent votes and Britain got 39 per cent.

Pakistan is wary of this goodwill and wants to deny India any role in Afghan affairs. It recently opposed a move to include India in a Regional Contact Group proposed by the UK on Afghanistan. On the sidelines of the London conference, Krishna will have the opportunity to meet his counterparts from various countries, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

During his three-day stay in London, Krishna will also meet Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith with whom the issue of unabated racist attacks on Indians in Australia would top the agenda. The External Affairs Minister is expected to press Smith to ensure that the attacks on Indians come to a stop so that he could feel a sense of safety, sources said.


Pak bid to push India out of Kabul

27 January 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has revived an eight-country grouping to counter US pressure for giving India a greater role in war-torn Afghanistan’s reconstruction, according to a media report on Tuesday.

Following an initiative spearheaded by Islamabad, Afghanistan's neighbours met in Turkey seeking a "single voice" before a London conference to set a timetable for handing security over to Afghans and find ways to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

Pakistan has been lobbying for the renewal of talks among Afghanistan's neighbours to "foil Indian designs of gaining a foothold on Afghan soil," diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by Daily Times newspaper.

Pakistan believes India is "not an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and therefore should have a limited role" in that country, the sources said.

Turkey has been asked to convene the meeting as it enjoys the trust of Pakistan and is accepted as a neutral party for promoting a common approach to the conflict in Afghanistan.

"The aim of the meeting is to find a single voice in the region to take to the London conference," said a western diplomat attending the gathering in Istanbul on Tuesday. "The aim is to help Afghanistan stand on its own feet in the medium and long-term."

Among those attending the Istanbul meeting were China's foreign minister, Iran's vice-president, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Britain's foreign minister and the deputy to US special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Officials from Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Nato and the European Union were also in Istanbul.

Zardari said he would not be drawn into the plan to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, but told a news conference alongside Karzai on Monday: "If there are any people who are reconcilable, democracy always welcomes them back."


Turkey helps Pak keep India out of Afghan group

Anand K. Sahay

New Delhi: With Turkey's help, Pakistan has given notice of keeping India isolated from future regional plans to stabilise Afghanistan that are likely to be part of the discussion package at Thursday's high-level London co-nfabulations on Afghanistan to be co-hosted by President Hamid Karzai, PM Gordon Brown and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A preparatory regional conference held in Istanbul on Tuesday, to which leading international players associated with Afghan reconstruction and stabilisation were invited, is said to have specifically excluded India at the behest of Pakistan, informed sources here said.

Kabul's informal protestations were disregarded, it is understood. Sources said the Afghan view was that a regional conference to deal with the war-ravaged country could not merit that definition without the participation of India.

President Abdullah Gul's government in Turkey is believed to have also wholly ignored recommendations by the US and UK to invite India to the Istanbul meet.

Ironically, President Gul is scheduled to embark on a state visit to India early next month. Ankara's action has fuelled speculation here wh-ether Islamabad would seek to orchestrate the involvement of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in a future regional stabilisation effort for Afgh-anistan with a view to keeping India out of the loop.

Pakistan resents India's developmental presence - and high popularity - in Afghanistan. In 2008 and 2009, militants supported by it launched massive terrorist strikes against the Indian embassy in Kabul, causing widespread damage and deaths.

Besides India, among the leading countries involved with Afghan stabilisation, Turkey had also not invited France and Japan on the ground that they were neither regional powers nor associated with the warring in Afghanistan in the last 30 years. But Mr Gul was obliged to change his mind about the latter two at the suggestion of Washington and London. On India, however, he remained adamant, indicating a strong Pakistani hand at work.

As for future regional initiatives on Afghanistan following the drawing down or termination of Nato countries' involvement, well-placed sources say the Indian view is that any plausible solution will have to incorporate the goodwill of the war-torn country's neighbours (especially Pakistan, Iran and Russia), but it may be impractical to leave the matter entirely to them as they have historically meddled in Afghanistan and were instrumental, over a long period, in giving energy to the dynamics of conflict.

To push the Afghan stabilisation process along, India believes an international presence is critically needed to underpin the cooperation of regional entities. The likely forms such cooperation may take, and questions pertaining to reconciling elements of the Taliban that may be amenable, are expected to be discussed in London.

India believes that the reconciliation process, which topped the agenda in Istanbul on Tuesday, should be Afghan-led. It should also be guided by terms of the democratic Constitution of Afghanistan and should be "transparent" and "inclusive" in that it should have the backing of all elements of Afghan society.


Taliban dismiss London conference on Afghanistan

Jan. 27, 2010

KABUL — The Taliban are dismissing this week's Afghanistan conference in London, saying it will produce no more results than previous gatherings organized by "the invaders," meaning the U.S. and its allies.

The Taliban also say in a statement on their Web site that offers of economic incentives will not draw away fighters from the movement because the militants are not fighting for "money, property and position" but for Islam and to end the foreign military presence.

The statement said the eight-year international presence has benefited no one except "drug dealers, corrupt people, human rights violators and land occupiers in government offices."

The Taliban also say Afghanistan would be no threat to any other country if the militants return to power.

The United States government will support a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters set to be announced by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, special representative Richard Holbrooke said Wednesday.

The veteran U.S. negotiator said Karzai will outline an ambitious plan Thursday to convince low-level and midlevel Taliban fighters who don't back al-Qaida to give up their fight against U.S. and NATO forces.

The plan will be a centerpiece of a one-day London conference designed to boost the flagging war effort in Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO forces have been taking increasing casualties from a resurgent Taliban. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in London Wednesday for the talks.

Holbrooke said U.S. officials believe the majority of Taliban forces do not back al-Qaida or its extremist ideology.

"The overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar (the fugitive Taliban leader) and al-Qaida," Holbrooke said. "Based on interviews with prisoners, returnees, experts, there must be at least 70 percent of these people who are not fighting for anything to do with those causes."

He said he was encouraged by recent polls in Afghanistan indicating that a majority now blames the Taliban, not Western forces, for the country's violence.

Holbrooke declined to say how much the reintegration plan would cost.

"We don't know enough about the plan," he said.

Karzai said Wednesday that Afghanistan aims to reduce soon the burden on its allies of providing security, but cautioned that Afghan forces would need long-term international support.

Full report at:


Al Qaeda planning to dress up suicide bombers as Sikhs

Jan 27, 2010

London: Al Qaeda is planning to dress up suicide bombers as Sikhs and security chiefs fear that Muslim extremists may hide the explosives inside Sikh headgear. Al-Qaida is plotting to dress like Sikhs to exploit religious sensitivities about removing traditional clothing.

A security source said: “Dressing as a Sikh may give would-be suicide bombers the edge in getting past checkpoints. Security agents on the ground have been warned to be vigilant. Thorough body pat-downs are now regular practice, but the head area may be open to exploitation.”

“Ceramic weapons are also a concern, but we are working hard to deal with the threat,” the source said The new fears come after the UK terror alert status was raised last weekend from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe.’

Al-Qaeda thugs know Muslims may face extra scrutiny at security checkpoints so Osama bin Laden is even believed to have sent two beautiful women suicide bombers to target this week’s anti-terror summit in London. Last night Sikh groups acknowledged fanatics could use headgear worn by Sikh men with long hair in a bid to escape detection.

Dr Inderjit Singh, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said: “It is credible that a terrorist may attempt to use a turban to hide weapons or explosives, but in practice Sikhs are searched much like anyone else.


'Kashmiris have felt isolated during conflict'

27 January 2010

British author-journalist Justine Hardy has watched Kashmir over the last 20 years and witnessed the impact of the protracted conflict on the  mental health of people. Hardy, who under the auspices of her 'Healing Kashmir' project, brought alternative therapists from the UK to treat trauma patients recently, spoke to Sameer Arshad:

What has been the cost of conflict in terms of mental health?

The conflict has caused long-term mental damage to a high percentage of the population. There was one psychiatric hospital in the Valley, where doctors would have perhaps one patient a day in 1989. By 1994, the doctors were seeing up to 300 patients a day. One of the highest costs of the conflict to the government would be the budget for mental health and most specifically the varied disorders associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD makes a whole range of people either roll their eyes or argue that this is a modern invention, a by-product of our softening society. The doubters have probably not witnessed war: they've not seen their children being blown up; they haven't had their son delivered to their doorstep, his body barely recognisable.

Can't they just pull themselves together and get on with their lives?

They can't. The shock often results in a nervous breakdown, reducing the individual to a barely functioning state. Several psychiatrists claim that up to 90 per cent of the Valley's population of around six million has been affected by some PTSD level. It's impossible to rebuild a society that is only functioning partially on a mental level. The government response was to medicate the problem, literally, with very high doses of tranquillisers, sedatives, anti-psychotics and anti-depressant drugs. The side effects of many of these high doses have been as difficult to manage as the disorders.

An integrated approach is needed for these people to recover and allow the society as a whole to progress and heal. The idea of combining conventional and alternative therapies was the route i wanted to pursue, but on the condition that it could be done with the participation of local doctors. But most of the psychiatrists i spoke to in Kashmir barely had time to breathe.

How different is your project?

Our aim is to treat patients with a combination of conventional and alternative medication and therapies for the fullest recovery. In November 2009, 'Healing Kashmir' brought four alternative therapists from the UK and treated patients in both the clinical environment and villages. The average number of treatments was between four and seven sessions that included counselling, homeopathy, physiotherapy, cranio-sacral therapy and Reiki. The results were dramatic. Kashmiris have felt very isolated during the course of the conflict, so just the arrival of foreign therapists in itself had a positive effect. Most patients are used to two minutes with a doctor or psychiatrist in crowded, noisy and chaotic hospitals. We were treating patients individually in a quiet room, for up to an hour at a time.


Bangladesh upholds death sentence for ex-president Mujibur's killers

27 January 2010

DHAKA: Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for five convicted killers of the nation's founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, setting the stage for their execution.

The court dismissed the men's final attempt to challenge their sentences for assassinating Mujib, as he was widely known, in 1975.

"The Supreme Court, headed by the country's chief justice, has dismissed their final appeals," Syed Anisul Haque, chief counsel for the state, said.

The five former army officers could be hanged "at any moment", he added.

Mujib led Bangladesh to independence in 1971 during a bloody war against Pakistan. He was gunned down at his home, along with his wife and three sons, in a coup on August 15, 1975. His daughter, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was abroad at the time.

A total of 20 people, including domestic staff, were killed when army officers stormed his house, but the murder charges that were brought only related to Mujib's death.

"It is a landmark verdict and we think this will go a long way towards establishing the rule of law in the country," Haque said.

The case was first heard in 1996 when Hasina became premier for the first time and removed a legal barrier enacted by the post-Mujib government to protect the accused officers.

At that time, 15 men were found guilty and sentenced to death.

Three were acquitted in 2001. Of the remaining 12, five appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, six are in hiding and one is believed to have died in Zimbabwe.

"We will decide on the date for the execution as soon as we receive a copy of the Supreme Court order," said additional inspector general of prisons Syed Iftekher Uddin.

The appeal argued that Mujib's death was part of a mutiny and the defendants should therefore have been tried under martial law instead of through the civilian court system


BSF foils Pak Rangers' bid to push in terrorists

27 January 2010

JAMMU: BSF jawans on Tuesday foiled an attempt by Pakistan Rangers to push through terrorists along international border in Kanhachak area of  Akhnoor sector in Jammu even as country celebrated Republic Day.

BSF sources said violating ceasefire, Pakistani Rangers fired at Kanhachak sub-sector to facilitate entry of a group of seven-eight terrorists. This prompted BSF to retaliate. The exchange of fire which started around 2am from Alphamachal forward BSF post lasted till 6 am.

Jammu and Kashmir DGP Kuldeep Khuda said, "There was firing around 2am and it continued for a few hours. Initially, the intensity was severe, but later it reduced considerably. We are watching the situation."

The firing again erupted after a break and was continuing intermittently when reports last came in from the area, a BSF officer said. Another exchange of fire took place at Beliazmah border outpost along IB in the same sector and the exchange of fire continued for one-and-half hours early Tuesday.

The troops also foiled two infiltration bids by terrorists in Tent-Beli Azmath forward area along IB in Kanachak sub-sector. Khoda told reporters security forces have been put on alert and along international border.


Headley, Rana in same lock-up but kept apart

27 January 2010

CHICAGO: Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, friends from a military school in Pakistan and facing charges of conspiring 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, have not been in contact with each other or met despite being in the same federal lock-up.

"They are not in contact with each other at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre. They are not meeting or even eating in the same area," sources said.

Rana has pleaded not guilty to helping his old friend Headley in plotting the terror attacks in Mumbai that claimed 166 lives. He also entered the not guilty plea to charges of providing material support in the Denmark terror plot and to the LeT.

Rana's friendship with Headley dates back to the Pakistani military school known as Cadet College Hasan Abdal, where both were students.

According to government affidavits, Rana and Headley maintained e-mail contact with other former students, including officers in Pakistan's military. They belonged to a group of the school's graduates who referred to themselves as the "abdalians" in internet postings.


After 19 yrs, no Tricolour at Lal Chowk

M Saleem Pandit

27 January 2010

SRINAGAR: Breaking a 19-year-old tradition, the security forces on Tuesday did not hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk, the heart of heavily

guarded Srinagar, where the Republic day celebrations passed off peacefully.

It's learnt that the decision against unfurling the flag was taken at the highest level in the state because Tricolour hoisting was seen as a "needless provocation" to the separatist and extremist elements in the area, who have for years been throwing stones at the paramilitary forces positioned there. It was felt by the Omar Abdullah government that there was no traction to be obtained from such symbolic gestures. This also underlines a change in security strategy.

Flag hoisting at Lal Chowk began at the height of militancy in the state in 1991 when BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi took out the 'Ekta Yatra' from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, ostensibly to symbolise India's assertion in an area where Pakistani flags were seen in a grim reminder of separatists' defiance. Security forces used to have their own Republic Day celebration at Lal Chowk and distribute sweets and sing the national anthem, which would be followed by the hoisting of the Tricolour on the Clock Tower at the centre of the market. The ceremony now seems to have passed into history.

Meanwhile, Jammu & Kashmir observed a peaceful Republic Day for the sixth year running although most people stayed indoors following a strike call given by separatists. Mobile phones and internet facilities were suspended on Tuesday and restored only in the afternoon due to security concerns.

Lal Chowk, which recently witnessed a 23-hour terror siege, was deserted with gun-toting men in uniform in battle-ready mode.

Security forces had blocked all roads leading to the venue of celebrations in Srinagar and other district headquarters to avert any terror attack following intelligence inputs, a senior police officer said.

Marked by a colourful cultural programme presented by smartly dressed students and Kashmiri artists, state finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather took the salute at Bakshi Stadium at Huzari Bagh. Rather, who addressed mostly cops in plain clothes, appealed to all sections to shun violence and join the dialogue process following considerable decline in militancy-related violence.


On CWG Federation website, Gujarat and J&K part of Pakistan

27 January 2010

NEW DELHI: In the latest controversy to agitate relations between the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the Organizing Committee (OC) of  the Delhi Games 2010, the former put up a distorted map of India on its website, leaving the latter to do the firefighting even as the country celebrated Republic Day.

The map, which showed parts of the country -- Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat -- as integral to neighbouring Pakistan, was taken off the site ( only after a strong protest was lodged.

Said OC spokesperson Lalit Bhanot, "We spoke to the CGF officials immediately after we got to know of the mistake. It was taken off right after that." Bhanot said a formal complaint hadn't been lodged yet, but the issue would be taken up on Wednesday. "Our first priority was to ensure that the map was taken off the website. We will now follow up on why such a thing happened, especially as the website is maintained by CGF."

Bhanot, however, was quick to point out that the intention was not malafide. "I'm sure it wasn't a deliberate attempt by the CGF, rather a mistake. But we would definitely like to know why such a mistake was committed," said Bhanot, who is also the OC secretary general.

Incidentally, the CGF has been represented by its chief operating officer, Mike Hooper, for almost a year in Delhi now. Hooper, who is in London at present, will also be part of the discussion, added OC officials.

Following the controversy, the distorted map was replaced with a Google map by the CGF website.

Relations between the CGF and the Organizing Committee have been strained over the past few months since the Delhi Games 2010 came under international spotlight for tardy preparations. The OC had maintained that work was on schedule and that some of CGF representatives in Delhi were far from cooperative or encouraging.


Pak overture to Turkey for attack drones worries India

27 January 2010

NEW DELHI: Finding the US not overly helpful on arming it with drones and drone technology, Pakistan has now made overtures to the Turkish army  for technology and attack capability, which India is now monitoring closely.

During his recent visit to Islamabad, US defence secretary Robert Gates promised the gift of 12 drones for surveillance. But the 12 RQ-7 Shadow drones cannot send in Reaper or Hellfire missiles which would make them truly lethal and would have provoked an immediate outcry from India. However, experts believe this is dangerous stuff anyway, and it will not take much for Pakistan to reverse engineer them or tailor them for needs other than spying on the Taliban, in other words, to target India.

Needless to add, Pakistan was less than overwhelmed by the offer. Therefore, Indian sources said, Pakistan is now approaching their its friends in the Turkish army for this technology. The Turks were given drones, both attack and surveillance ones, by the Israelis as they battle the Kurds. Whether they are persuaded to part with these for the Pakistanis is another matter, and likely to involve a lot of pre-emptive Indian diplomacy.

India is finding less and less to be positive about in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre.

Apart from gifting surveillance drones to Pakistan, the US may be winking at a more robust reconciliation policy with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This will include a greater Pakistani role in the mediation process, which means the ISI will be able to give them greater say in what kind of Taliban gets to be in power in Kabul. This, Indian officials argue, will happen despite US and British "oversight" on Pakistani efforts.

"Their knowledge is pretty flawed, and they remain beholden to the ISI. This is likely to influence their decisions," said sources. The Pakistani presence in the negotiations comes despite Afghan evidence that attacks like the one in Kabul last week was done by the ISI-friendly Haqqani network.

The reconciliation programme has acquired urgency in the backdrop of President Barack Obama's withdrawal strategy for 2011. This is of greater concern to India, because it could put a huge question on India's own participation and future in Afghanistan. Ahead of the London conference on Afghanistan starting on Thursday, foreign minister S M Krishna will try and get a sense from other leaders about the US-led western presence in Afghanistan.

A glimpse of how things may turn out was given by US general David Petraeus when he said, "The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility."

Full report at:


Modi, Afridi signal easing of IPL-Pak row

27 January 2010

NEW DELHI/KARACHI: In a clear shift towards a spirit of accommodation, Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi said on Tuesday that a

"window of possibility" was still open for Pakistani cricketers to play in IPL-3 and in the Champions League later this year.

Pakistan T20 captain Shahid Afridi too seemed ready to "forgive and forget", and said he was willing to play in India if picked by an IPL team.

Modi's remarks came a day after home minister P Chidambaram criticized IPL organizers for doing a "disservice to cricket" by ignoring Pakistani players during the auction.

"Some teams have still not finished their quota of players and some players could drop out. Franchises can choose Pakistani players as replacements or to fill vacancies," Modi told a TV channel.

Modi insisted the issue was not mishandled, the government had "no say" in the auction and it was the franchisees' decision to not pick Pakistan players.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, which is still smarting over the snub to its players at the auction, Afridi came up with a statesman-like comment.

"When you think about it, Pakistan and India have much more in common than there are differences. We need to build our relations rather than break them. Sport should be used to build peace between our great nations, not break them... Although Pakistan and India have borders, these borders cannot divide humanity," said the former Deccan Chargers player.


China claims to have '1st pop singer in Sanskrit', may present her during World Expo

Saibal Dasgupta

25 January 2010

BEIJING: China's official media is promoting what it describes as the first pop singer who sings in Sanskrit. She is one of the singers being

considered to sign at the inauguration of the World Expo in Shanghai, which is expected to draw the glitterati from the world of business next May.

This could be the reason why Sa Dingding, who won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the Asia Pacific category in 2008, is suddenly being promoted by the provincial government of Tibet. The provincial government has indicated it wants to reshape her image and get her to focus on Sanskrit singing.

"She is also called the 'first Chinese Sanskrit singer'. To Sa Dingding, who she was in the past is not important now... To preserve her new image, she must eliminate all distractions," the local government of Tibet said on its website.

Sa, who graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts run by the People's Liberation Army, sings in the language of Inner Mongolia, Tibet and in Sanskrit. Sa is not a Tibetan although she sings in Sanskrit and Tibetan and dresses in grandiose Tibetan clothing.

"We should pay more attention to her music, to the Zen sensation and Buddhist spirit in her music," it further said. The official site went on to say that "Her musical inspirations all come from Chinese civilization and culture."

Apparently, the local government is pushing her to give up song writing and singing in languages other than Sanskrit so she can be presented to the world as a symbol of China's rich cultural heritage.

"It is possible China may be trying to show that Sanskrit is part of its cultural heritage. What better way to draw world attention than to get a lovely voice to sing pop?," a Shanghai based expert on Chinese culture told TNN.

During major events like the Olympic Games and the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Chinese republic, Beijing usually makes a big display of the culture and arts of Tibetans and other ethnic people. It is expected to do the same during the opening and closing ceremonies at the World Expo.

Sa also won praise from Grammy Award judge Eric T. Johnson. She is the first Chinese citizen to be invited for a tour of the United States by the Grammy organizing committee.


Kerala Guv, Kodiyeri express concern over terror situation

Thiruvananthapuram / Kannur

Delivering Republic Day messages to the people, Kerala Governor RS Gavai and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan asked them to be on the alert about the terror situation developing in the State. Gavai took salute at the Republic Day parade in the capital while various Ministers attended the functions organised at other district headquarters.

Expressing serious concern over certain terror-linked activities being traced in the State, Governor Gavai, while attending the Republic Day functions at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram, said there was need to be more alert as such acts would hinder developmental activities.

After hoisting the national flag at the Republic Day function at Kannur, the Home Minister said the coastal and forest areas of the State were witnessing extremist activities. He said the Government had taken necessary actions in coordination with the Forest Department as soon as the development had come to its notice. He said the police force in the State would be modernised to meet the challenges of the times.

In his speech in Thiruvananthapuram, Gavai reminded the people that the country could flourish only in a peaceful atmosphere. “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. It is dynamism. It is generosity. It is right and it is duty,” he said. Referring to the increasing incidents of harassment against women in public and working places, besides domestic violence, he asked the Government to take more effective mechanisms to curb the menace.

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birth place of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition,” he said, adding that the country had a rich tradition of respecting women. Stressing the need of addressing the issue of growing unemployment among youth, he said that the higher education system had to be revamped in tune with the global trends.

“Our children have immense potential. We must nurture and groom them to be eminent academic leaders,” Gavai said. He stressed the need of modernising the disaster management mechanisms to avert the increasing number of accidents and subsequent loss of life and property.

Full report at:


Google explores ways to keep presence in China


Even if Google’s stand against censorship leads it to close its search engine in China, the company still hopes to maintain other key operations in the world’s most populous Internet market.

Google Inc is in delicate negotiations with the Chinese Government to keep its research centre in China, an advertising sales team that generates most of the company’s revenue in the country and a fledgling mobile phone business.

Both sides are torn by conflicting objectives. Google says it’s no longer willing to acquiesce to the Chinese government’s demands for censored search results, yet it still wants access to the country’s engineering talent and steadily growing online advertising and mobile phone markets.

Chinese leaders are determined to control the flow of information, but realise they need rich and innovative companies such as Google to achieve their goal of establishing the country as a technology leader. Even some Chinese media that rarely deviate from the party line have warned that Google’s departure could slow technology development and hurt China’s economy.

Analysts are split on how the current impasse will be resolved, with some resigned to Google having to pull out of China for the foreseeable future while others envision a face-saving compromise that preserves a toehold in the country for the company. Robert Broadfoot, MD of Political and Economic Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong, is among the camp that expects Communist leaders to bend their rules to keep Google in the country.

“They’re hardly going to close the door on the innovator. They are very interested in what (Google is) innovating, because they may want it for themselves,” said Broadfoot, advising companies on China since the 1970s.


Octomom celebrates first b’day of babies

27 January 2010

NADYA Suleman made news last year by becoming the first woman in the world to deliver eight babies ‘ at on go’. On their first birthday on January 26, the Octomom, as she was dubbed by the media, is making news yet again.

Suleman, who was pictured with her super- sized veined belly prior to the delivery last year, has made it to the cover of the Star magazine in a skimpy red bikini.

The debate has been raging about whether she acquired her toned body naturally — she claims she worked out to lose the post- delivery flab.

Suleman insists she snapped back to shape after her earlier deliveries too — she has 14 children — earning her the nickname ‘ rubber band’ from friends.

But critics claim she has undergone plastic surgery. Some even suggest her photograph in the Star magazine was airbrushed.

Suleman organised a party for her eight one- year- olds complete with a big cake and much publicity two days before their birthdays.

But the single parent said she has a low- key birthday party with eight small cakes on the radar for the big day.

She birth of the octuplets, of which there were two girls and six boys, sparked off a public outrage in January last year after it emerged Suleman was a jobless single mother. Moreover, she already had six children.

She was accused of exploiting her brood after it emerged she had signed up for a reality series.

Suleman is believed to be getting paid around £ 152,000 for the show and stands to pocket £ 2 million for merchandising and television deals.

Suleman, in a television interview, rejected claims she was selfish and would not be able to care for her brood. “ I know I’ll be able to afford them when I’m done with my schooling,” she said.

The 35- year- old has got both bouquets and brickbats on the Internet. A ‘ Nadya Suleman Supporters’ group on social networking site Facebook has 375 members while an ‘ Anti Nadya Suleman’ group has 80 members.

While one member calls her “ mentally unstable” and says “ someone needs to step in”, others express support for her decision to have the eight children and keep them. “ Nadya is a great mother, and loves her children,” responded another.

“ Do you honestly believe any single parent, especially one that has been out of work for years, is collecting government assistance and feeding her children with student loans can raise 14 children?” asked a participant on a group discussion.

As the argument continues, eight happy babies celebrate their first birthday with loads of wishes from world over.

Mail today, New delhi


Iraq inquiry chief 'frustrated' by war advice secrecy

27 January 2010

Iraq inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot has said he shares ex-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's "frustration" at key documents not being declassified.

Lord Goldsmith, giving evidence on his advice about the war's legality, said he did not agree with the decision not to allow publication of some documents.

Sir John added: "Can I just say that the frustration is shared."

The documents, which the inquiry can see but not publish, are understood to relate to the legal basis for the war.

Consistent advice

The legality, or otherwise, of the invasion is the focus of the six-hour hearing with Lord Goldsmith - who was the government's chief legal officer and a member of the cabinet between 2001 and 2007.

Lord Goldsmith said he was not put under any pressure to reach a decision on whether the war was lawful, saying that at a meeting in Feburary 2002: "The prime minister made it clear that he accepted that it was for me to reach a judgment and he had to accept it."

He told the inquiry he gave "consistent" advice to ministers that UN Security Council approval would be needed to approve military action against Iraq, although he said he did change his mind on what extent of UN authorisation was needed.

And he said he told Tony Blair in the summer of 2002 that other justifications for military action - including self-defence, prevention of a humanitarian disaster or regime change - would not be valid in law.

No 10's response to this advice appeared to be that it was "unwelcome", he said.

Pressed about whether UN resolution 1441, approved in November 2002 and giving Saddam a "final opportunity" to comply with UN demands, was sufficient to justify war, he said it was not "clear cut" as there were ambiguities in it.


He said his initial view was that getting a further resolution would be "safer" as it would put the "matter beyond doubt and nobody could have challenged the legality".

But Lord Goldsmith said he subsequently took a "different view" for "good reasons" which he would explain during the hearing due to end at 1700 GMT.

Critics of the war have suggested that Lord Goldsmith changed his mind between 6 March, when he issued draft advice urging the need for a second resolution and 13 March when he concluded that action was justified on the basis of existing resolutions.

Full report at:


Rabbi arrested, suspected in West Bank mosque arson

27 January 2010

Israeli police have arrested a rabbi on suspicion of involvement in an arson attack on a mosque last month.

Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the head of a Jewish seminary in the settlement of Yitzhar, was arrested after he refused to co-operate, police said.

Mr Shapira denies any involvement in the attack, his lawyer was quoted in the Israeli media as saying.

Attackers burned the mosque's carpet and a shelf of Qurans, and wrote slogans in Hebrew on the floor.

Police arrested some students from the seminary, the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva earlier this month, saying they wanted to investigate whether they were involved in the mosque attack.

Security sources said Rabbi Shapira was "suspected of involvement in an attempt to set fire to a mosque".

Rabbi Shapira's lawyer told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahranot that his client "denies any connection to the event".

He was not co-operating with his investigators "in light of the Israel police's conduct and their treatment of rabbis recently," he said.

Rabbi Shapira published a controversial book last year which includes discussion of interpretations of the circumstances under which Jewish law permits Jews to kill non-Jews.

There have been protests by seminary students and a right-wing member of the Knesset outside the police station where he is being held.

The yeshiva said in a statement that he had been arrested "because of suspicion of not preventing the crime of torching a little carpet near a mosque".

It said the institution's spirit would not be broken by what it called "an alienated and frightened regime," in reference to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu has ordered a 10-month lull in permits for new settlement homes in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem.

The order followed US and Palestinian calls for a total freeze in settlement building.

Palestinian officials have refused to rejoin peace talks until a total freeze is imposed.

Some hard-line settlers say they will attack Palestinians in retaliation for any Israeli government measure they see as threatening Jewish settlements.

It is a policy they call the "price tag".

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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