2017 February 22 : AsiaNet-Pakistan

Archive for February 22nd, 2017

CM SINDH CONSTITUTES COMMITTEE TO LOOK INTO ISSUES OF LAW AND ORDER

February 22, 2017 |

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has constituted a high-level committee to look into the issues of law and order, terrorist activities and other related matters.The committee headed by Director General Rangers and comprising high officials of police…

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Iraqi Suicide Bomber Was Ex-Guantanamo Detainee

February 22, 2017 |

LONDON � A suicide bomber who attacked a military base in Iraq this week was a former Guantanamo Bay detainee freed in 2004 after Britain lobbied for his release, raising questions about the ability of security services to track the whereabouts of potential terrorists.

The Islamic State group identified the bomber as Abu Zakariya al-Britani, and two British security officials also confirmed the man was a 50-year-old Briton formerly known as Ronald Fiddler and as Jamal al-Harith.

He was one of 16 men paid a total of 10 million pounds (now worth $12.4 million) in compensation in 2010, when the British government settled a lawsuit alleging its intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, according to the officials.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Al-Harith was a web designer and convert to Islam when he set off on a visit to a religious retreat in Pakistan in October 2001. He says he was warned the country was not safe due to deep anti-British and American sentiment in the days before the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, and decided to return to Europe by land via Iran and Turkey.

Instead, he said he was detained at gunpoint near the border with Afghanistan and turned over to the Taliban, which charged him with being a British spy, beat him and threw him in jail. A couple of months later he was liberated by the Northern Alliance and allowed to call home. He told his family he would be back soon, but instead was turned over to the Americans and sent to Guantanamo Bay. Like many others, he claims he was tortured there.

He was released in March 2004 along with four other British detainees who had been held for up to two years over their alleged links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Hardship followed him to his native Manchester, England, said his sister, Maxine Fiddler. He struggled to find work.

“Once you’ve been labeled [as a terrorist] people always say there’s something there, and that’s stopped him from getting a job,” Fiddler said of her brother in an interview in 2007.

Al-Harith and 15 others had sued the British government, alleging it knew about or was complicit in their treatment while in the custody of U.S. forces.

Alex Carlile, Britain’s former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said that al-Harith’s case was settled to avoid disclosing sensitive documents in a court battle.

“Plainly he was a terrorist and he was a potentially dangerous terrorist,” he told the BBC. “The issue was the legal disclosure rules. If someone brings a civil action for damages they are entitled to disclosure of material, some of which may be national security material.”

The issue will raise questions about how a person clearly on the radar of security officials might have left Britain and traveled to the Middle East without raising signals from the security services.

Arthur Snell, a former head of the Prevent program, which is part of the Britain’s counter terrorism strategy, said the authorities clearly had lost track of him.

“It’s obvious that collectively, the authorities � and obviously I have some personal responsibility there � we failed to be aware of what Fiddler was up to,” the told the BBC.

Source: Voice of America

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Bahrain, Russia agree to expand cooperation in various fields

February 22, 2017 |

Manama (IINA) � Bahrain and Russia expressed their satisfaction with the volume of trade exchange between the two countries during 2016, and affirmed their readiness to strengthen cooperation in the field of banking and finance within a structured trade finance in various sectors.

This came at the close of the first meeting of the Bahraini-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, co-chaired by Bahraini Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Zayed bin Rashid Al-Zayani and Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov.

The Bahraini side called on the Russian side to make Bahrain a regional logistics center for Russian companies to distribute their products and services, including foods to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, said a statement issued by the meeting. The two sides agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in various commercial, economic, technical and cultural fields between Bahrain and Russian regions (St. Petersburg, North Caucasian Federal District, Stavropol, Chechnya and Ingushetia).

Both sides also agreed to expand mutual cooperation in the energy field, including cooperation opportunities in the area of natural gas, and confirmed the continuity of joint cooperation in various industrial spheres.

Further, they underlined the importance of resolving the issues facing investors in both countries within the framework of the existing bilateral legislation and agreements.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

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Pakistan Army Launches Nationwide Anti-terror Operation

February 22, 2017 |

ISLAMABAD � Pakistan has launched its first ever nationwide military operation to eradicate the threat of terrorism, in response to a recent surge in suicide bombings and militant attacks that killed scores of people in the country.

Army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor said the offensive will also cover the most populous province, Punjab, which is seen as a recruiting ground for extremist groups fighting the state and helping insurgents in Afghanistan as well as in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

(The) operation aims at indiscriminately eliminating residual latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders, a military statement quoted Ghafoor as explaining.

Punjab a powerful province

Punjab is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s native province and political stronghold where some of the country’s major Islamic parties are also headquartered. These religious groups have long opposed calls from secular and liberal parties, for undertaking security operations in the province.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N party has long relied on support from Islamic parties in wining national elections and fears of losing the crucial base are also cited among factors that have hampered army operations in Punjab.

Although major Islamic parties are not linked to extremist violence in Pakistan, critics and even officials have at times admitted there are institutions among tens of thousands of seminaries the religious groups are running in the province, which are promoting sectarian hatred and producing students with militant mindsets.

Locating weapons a priority

These young men, observers believe, often end up joining ranks of violent groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, commonly known as Pakistani Taliban, waging a bloody insurgency against the state.

TTP has killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis in its decade long insurgency. But one of its offshoots, Jamaat-Ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist attacks Pakistan has experienced within the past two weeks.

General Ghafoor said that countrywide de-weaponization and explosive control are additional goals of the operation the military launched Wednesday.

Pakistani troops have also been engaged since June 2014, in major ground and air offensives against TTP bases in volatile semi-autonomous tribal areas near the Afghan border.

Militant violence reduced

The military says it has killed thousands of militants, destroyed their terrorist infrastructure and cleared most of the border region, leading to a significant reduction in years of deadly militant violence in Pakistan.

But Afghan and American military commanders, while acknowledging Pakistan’s counterterrorism successes, maintain the security operations have spared militants linked to the Afghan Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network involved in deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistani intelligence agencies are accused of using some of the home-grown militant organizations for fueling Muslim insurgency in Kashmir and helping the Afghan Taliban in its violent campaign against the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Pakistani officials dismiss the assertions and say security operations in tribal areas have targeted all terrorist organizations. Islamabad vows it does not allow its soil to be used against any country.

Source: Voice of America

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