Saturday, April 28, 2007

'War On Terror' War Leads To Shocking Increase Of Terrorism

14,000 Terror Attacks In 2006

49% Of All Terror Attacks Occurred In Iraq And Afghanistan

When President Bush first started talking about going to war against terrorists, and terrorist groups, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington DC and New York City, the term used was 'War Against Terror'.

The 'War Against Terror' was in common usage by the US State Department, the Pentagon and the White House until late 2002, when it was quietly changed to the 'War On Terror'. The change from 'against' to 'on' is an important distinction, particularly in light of an utterly horrific new report from the US State Department that reveals there were more than 14,000 terror attacks and acts of terrorism in 2006.

A war 'against' terror instead of 'on' terror would then be harder to justify when the following details from the State Department report are considered :
(the report will) show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006....almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top aides earlier this week had considered postponing or downplaying the release of this year's edition of the terrorism report, officials in several agencies and on Capitol Hill said.

Based on data compiled by the U.S. intelligence community's National Counterterrorism Center, the report says there were 14,338 terrorist attacks last year, up 29 percent from 11,111 attacks in 2005.

Forty-five percent of the attacks were in Iraq.

Worldwide, there were about 5,800 terrorist attacks that resulted in at least one fatality, also up from 2005.

The figures for Iraq and elsewhere are limited to attacks on noncombatants and don't include strikes against U.S. troops.

President Bush and his aides routinely call Iraq the "central front" in Bush's war on terrorism and likely will say that the preponderance of attacks there and in Afghanistan prove their point.

But critics say the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have worsened the terrorist threat.

The contention by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that al-Qaida terrorists were in Iraq and allied with the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the invasion has been disproved ...

Among the major strikes were bombings in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Dahab on April 24, which killed 23 people and injured more than 60, and aboard trains in Mumbai, India, that left more than 200 dead and in excess of 700 wounded on July 11.

That the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan have dramatically increased the incidents of terrorism are firmly, repeatedly and consistently denied by virtually every official connected with the White House or Pentagon, despite the fact that every major intelligence agency in the world says this is an undeniable fact.

White House and Pentagon officials continue to insist that Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda before the American occupation of Iraq began because it is the only way they can seriously deny that Al Qaeda terrorists were not in Iraq before invasion and occupation began.

A 'War on Terror' can be credibly waged even during unprecedented waves of terror attacks, and the statistics spun a dozen different ways to say that war is being waged, in part, successfully.

But to say that you are waging a 'War Against Terror', when there are more terror attacks than ever before, is to declare failure by admission.

Few understood why, or even noticed, the 'War Against Terror' was officially renamed the 'War On Terror' back in 2002.

It is dramatically clear now why this renaming process was undertaken, and indicates that the Pentagon and White House were fully aware of intelligence and military-related projections before the Iraq invasion began that such unpopular, supposedly pre-emptive action would lead to greatly increased incidents of terrorism across the world.
Saudis Claim To Have Broken 172 Man Strong Terror Rings, Oil Prices Rise 2%

US Captures 'Al Qaeda', and 'July 7 Attack Leader' In Iraq

If true, the Americans and the Saudis can claim two huge successes today in fighting the 'War on Terror', striking hard at core Al Qaeda jihadists.

The Saudis are claiming they have broken up seven terror rings, detaining 172 suspects, and seizing hundreds of weapons, boxes of explosives and more than $5 million in cash.

But Saudi officials didn't tell local media that there were terrorist plots to fly airliners into oil refineries, as were the headlines in the Western media. Some UK media claim that a Saudi official statement confirmed there were plots to fly hijacked airliners into oil installations, but such claims didn't reach most Gulf and Arab media.

Such claims were mostly made by 'terror experts' interviewed on CNN and Fox News. Nor did the arrests take place on the same day, or even in the same week. The Saudis haven't revealed over what period of time the raids and arrests were made, only that the arrests took place "at various and successive times".

Not only have the Saudis scored extremely positive worldwide media coverage for the breaking up of the terror rings and the arrests, that they chose to announce the arrests all at once, while unveiling the arms, explosives and cash caches all but guaranteed the news would impact where it counts the most : on the price of the Saudis main export, oil.

As news of the terror arrests hit the headlines, the price of a barrel of oil quickly rose by more than 2%. For the Saudis this meant a net gain of hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when oil prices were slowly falling.

From Gulf Daily News :
The detainees were planning to carry out suicide attacks against "public figures, oil facilities, refineries ... and military zones", the Interior Ministry said yesterday.

"They had reached an advance stage of readiness and what remained only was to set the zero hour for their attacks," spokesman Brigadier Mansour Al Turki said.

Brig Al Turki would said the arrests occurred "at various and successive times".

The militants were detained in separate waves, he said, with one group of arrested confessing and subsequently leading security officials to the next group, as well as weapons' caches.

The ministry did not say the militants would fly aircraft into oil refineries, as 9/11 hijackers flew planes into buildings in New York and Washington, but it said some detainees had been "sent to other countries to study flying in preparation for using them to carry out terrorist attacks inside the kingdom".

The militants also planned to storm prisons to free the inmates.

British and American authorities, meanwhile, appear to be confused and surprised by the scale of the arrests and the plots uncovered :

The unprecedented scale of the arrests seemed to undermine official Saudi claims that jihadi terrorism had been all but eradicated by effective intelligence and security, a powerful publicity campaign and inducements to terrorists to repent. Some believed the announcement was intended to signal that vigilant security forces were safeguarding the world's largest oil producer and exporter.

The Saudi state TV channel al-Akhbariya broadcast footage of weapons discovered buried in the desert. These included AK-47 and other rifles, plastic explosives, magazines, and handguns wrapped in plastic sheeting. It showed investigators smashing tiled floors with hammers to uncover pipes containing weapons. In one scene, an official upends a pipe and bullets and packets of explosives spill out.

Prince Nayef, the powerful Saudi interior minister, signalled last week that an important security announcement was imminent. But western diplomats said yesterday they were puzzled by some of the details that had been released.

The large number suggested that some of those arrested were likely to have been neighbours, acquaintances and contacts of a much smaller number of militants. It also seemed likely the seven cells had been rounded up separately but announced simultaneously to make a greater public impact.

According to official figures, about 144 foreigners and Saudis, including security personnel, and 120 militants have died in attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when al-Qaida suicide bombers hit western housing compounds in Riyadh.

Meanwhile, the Americans are pumping the arrest of one Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, once a general in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. They claim he was detained as he tried to cross into Iraq from Iran. It's not a new arrest. He was detained by the CIA last year and was transferred a few days ago to Guantanamo Bay.

What's new is what the Americans are claiming al-Iraqi is responsible for :

The al-Qaeda leader who is thought to have devised the plan for the July 7 suicide bombings in London and an array of terrorist plots against Britain has been captured by the Americans.

Abd al-Hadi, 45, was regarded as one of al-Qaeda’s most experienced, most intelligent and most ruthless commanders. Senior counter-terrorism sources told The Times that he was the man who, in 2003, identified Britain as the key battleground for exporting al-Qaeda’s holy war to Europe.

Abd al-Hadi recognised the potential for turning young Muslim radicals from Britain who wanted to become mujahidin in Afghanistan or Iraq into terrorists who could carry out attacks in their home country. He realised that their knowledge of Britain, possession of British passports and natural command of English made them ideal recruits. After al-Qaeda restructured its operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas he sought out young Britons for instruction at training camps. In late 2004 Abd al-Hadi met Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, from Leeds, at a militant camp in Pakistan and, in the words of a senior investigator, “retasked them” to become suicide bombers.

They were sent back to Britain where they led the terrorist cell that carried out the 7/7 bombings, killing 52 Tube and bus passengers.

Pakistani intelligence sources said that Abd al-Hadi was also in contact with Rachid Rauf, a Birmingham man now in prison in Pakistan and alleged to be a key figure in last summer’s alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners in mid-flight.

Sources said last night that few figures had been more important at the centre of the revived al-Qaeda. Abd al-Hadi is credited with forming its alliance with the insurgency in Iraq.

US officials said he was associated with leaders of other extremist groups allied with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Taleban.

A far more interesting report comes from journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad :
Abd al-Hadi Al-Iraqi was initially the treasurer of Al-Qaeda and was based in South Waziristan and North Waziristan. Hadi used to supply money to Al-Qaeda operatives for international operations. In 2003, on the instructions of network number two Ayman Al-Zawahiri, he was part of an operational plan to kill General Pervez Musharraf but his role was mainly supplying money to the operatives involved in the plot.

Well-placed sources in Al-Qaeda had told this correspondent many months ago about the migration of Abd al-Hadi Al-Iraqi from Afghanistan to Iraq. Therefore it seems difficult that he would be arrested recently while crossing into the border of Iraq, as his presence in Iraq has already been confirmed.

Abd-al-Hadi compiled a detailed account in a book which reflects al-Qaeda's tactical ideas and deals with chemical weapons and explosives and their application, such as planting them on bridges and at strategic installations to get optimum results. In the circle of al-Qaeda the book is referred to as Encyclopedia of Jehad.

It is intended to equip international operations with clear tactical ideas on how upcoming battles should be fought. The encyclopedia is available in jihadi circles in book form as well as on compact disc. It was written in Arabic and translated into Pashto, Urdu and English.

Abd al Hadi moved out of Waziristan after some major divergences emerged between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban over tactical issues, in particular the Pakistan Taliban’s non-aggression pact with the Pakistan authorites.

Claim : Captured Jihadist United Al Qaeda And Iraqi Insurgents

Why The 'Honeymoon' Is Over For Bush And The Saudis - Once So Close, Now So Distant

Number Of Worldwide Terror Attacks In 2006 Rose 29% To 14,000 - 49% Of Those Connected To Wars In Iraq And Afghanistan

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Somalia : Car Bombs Rack Capital, 300 Die In Seven Days Of Fighting

War Spreads Between Ethiopia, Eritrea And Somalia

Four months after US-backed Ethiopian troops, aided by American gunships and CIA-ground operations, drove the Council of Islamic Courts from power in Mogadishu, the capital and surrounding villages are sinking into an abyss of horrific violence. Some 300 Somalis have died in fighting and car bomb attacks in the past seven days, with more than 700 wounded. Thousands of civilians are now fleeing the capital every day, leaving the streets to insurgents and Somali government troops, and small clusters of Ethiopian soldiers.

But the battle for control of Mogadishu, and greater Somali, is now threatening to consume Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea, after an estimated 200 fighters stormed a Chinese-owned oil refinery in Ethiopia, near the Eritrea border, and killed more than 70 workers, including at least eight Chinese nationals.

China is making big moves in African nations as it tries to secure energy supplies, primarily oil, to fuel its growth in the coming decades. The oil refinery attacked was one that the Chinese government was most proud of, and which it had widely promoted, as a key example of how they were working with African nations for the benefit of Africans and China.

US intelligence and military sources are telling the American media the huge attack was staged by Somali Islamists, possibly tied to Al Qaeda, but the Ethiopian government is now blaming Eritrea, who firmly denies involvement.

The attack occurred in the disputed eastern Ethiopian territory of Ogaden. Ethnic Somalis have been running a low-level insurgency in the region for decades, claiming the territory as part of Somalia.

The 'Ogaden National Liberation Front' has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and said that any development in the region that directly benefits Ethiopians will "not be tolerated."

Ethiopia links the group to the Eritrean government, who it claims has waged a series of terrorist attacks against Ethiopia. With a land mass almost as large as Britain, the Ogaden territory is valuable border lands. Ethnic Somalis have long demanded the creation of an independent state for the four million inhabitants.

Eritrea and Ethiopia battled through a long border war that ceased in 2000. Both governments accuse each other of backing rivals in the Somali fighting.

The Financial Times reports :

Abderaman Mahdi, a spokesman for the rebels, said the deaths followed a battle between their fighters and Ethiopian soldiers protecting the exploration site. Any civilians killed – including the Chinese – were in the crossfire, he said. He added that the ONLF had taken five Chinese workers alive, and would be in touch with the International Red Cross to return them.

“It is very unfortunate. But we don’t allow anybody to drill on our land without our permission. The Ethiopians do not control the Ogaden and we have warned the Chinese that we will not allow them to drill there. They want our wealth without our consent,” he said by phone.

Chinese companies are working in other conflict-prone zones of the continent including southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria

This report from the New York Times breaks down some of the illusions about the true scope of the Islamist "insurgency" in Somalia.

The pro-'War on Terror' spin is that Somalia is riven with hundreds of thousands of militant Muslims, prepared to fight solely for the glory of Allah. But the reality is vastly different.

The Islamists are finding new recruits among black-market trading Somalis who don't want to submit to new tax programs introduced by the US-backed government, and don't want to change their old ways of doing business on the street.

With their livelihood, such as it is, threatened by vast changes to the social and financial structure of Mogadishu, thousands of young men are looking to the deposed Islamic courts as a way of keeping their rudimentary businesses alive :
Beyond clan rivalry and Islamic fervor, an entirely different motive is helping fuel the chaos in Somalia: profit.

A whole class of opportunists — from squatter landlords to teenage gunmen for hire to vendors of out-of-date baby formula — have been feeding off the anarchy in Somalia for so long that they refuse to let go.

They do not pay taxes, their businesses are totally unregulated, and they have skills that are not necessarily geared toward a peaceful society.

In the past few weeks, some Western security officials say, these profiteers have been teaming up with clan fighters and radical Islamists to bring down Somalia’s transitional government, which is the country’s 14th attempt at organizing a central authority and ending the free-for-all of the past 16 years.

They are attacking government troops, smuggling in arms and using their business savvy to raise money for the insurgency. And they are surprisingly open about it.

Omar Hussein Ahmed, an olive oil exporter in Mogadishu, the capital, said he and a group of fellow traders recently bought missiles to shoot at government soldiers.

“Taxes are annoying,” he explained.

“Even if we turned Mogadishu into Houston, there would still be people resisting us,” said Abdirizak Adam Hassan, chief of staff for Somalia’s transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. “I’m talking about the guys bringing in expired medicine, selling arms, harboring terrorists. They don’t have a clan name. They’re a congregation of people whose best interests are served by no government.”

In the past month, the resistance has intensified and more than 1,000 people have been killed or wounded as the country has sunk into its deepest crisis since the famine days of the early 1990s.

Most of the victims are civilians...

Not all opportunists had the same agenda. Many in the business community became fed up with paying protection fees to the warlords and their countless middle-men.

Business leaders then backed a grass-roots Islamist movement that drove the warlords out of Mogadishu last summer and brought peace to the city for the first time in 15 years.

The Islamists seemed to be the perfect solution for the businessmen. They delivered stability, which was good for most business, but they did not confiscate property or levy heavy taxes. They called themselves an administration, not a government.

“Our best days were under them,” said Abdi Ali Jama, who owns an electrical supply shop in Mogadishu.

But then a radical wing took over, and the Islamists declared war on Ethiopia, which commands one of the mightiest armies in Africa. The Ethiopians, with covert American help, crushed the Islamist army in December and bolstered the authority of Somalia’s transitional government in the capital.

On Wednesday, Ethiopian officers reportedly met for peace talks with leaders from the Hawiye clan, Mogadishu's largest. A clan spokesman told that "rival groups will concentrate on ceasing the gun fight in the capital and and announce a ceasefire agreement."

Neither side appears to believe right now that such a ceasefire will end the fighting, and the UN is now trying to tamp down growing threats of further hostilities and payback over the massacre at the Ethiopian oil refinery.

The UN estimates more than 320,000 Somalis have fled their homeland since February.

Somali Forces Pounded By Ethiopian Tanks

Seven Days Of Fighting In Somalia Leaves 300 Dead

US Wants African Peacekeepers To Replace Their Ethiopian Proxy Army In Somalia

Bush-Pushed "Liberation" Of Somalia Kills The Poor

Ethiopia Claims Eritrea Behind Attack On Chinese-Owned Oil Refinery, US Media Blames Somalis

Thousands Flee Mogadishu, Humanitarian Crisis Looms

UN Warns Somalia Facing Its Worst Ever Crisis

January, 2007 : Third Day Of US Air Strikes Kills Dozens Of Somalis - Fears Rise That Insurgency Will Explode And Violence Will Return To Mogadishu

Friday, April 20, 2007

Afghanistan : Taliban Unleash Wave Of Suicide Bombers Against Police

Dozens Of Police Killed, Wounded In Recent Days

24 Taliban Killed In Battle

UPDATE : In southern Afghanistan, NATO coalition forces fought a battle against the Taliban for more than seven hours. More than 24 Taliban fighters were dead when it was over.

From CNN :

According to the coalition, the battle began when four Taliban members fired rounds at troops patrolling the northeast corner of Helmand province's Sangin district.

"After maneuvering to gain contact with the enemy force, U.S. Special Forces requested coalition air support to engage the Taliban fighters as they were attempting to establish ambush positions," the coalition said.

No civilian casualties occurred, the coalition said.

The following day, the U.S.-led coalition launched air strikes on a munitions compound in the northeastern section of the Sangin district after Taliban insurgents fired guns and rocket-propelled grenades at Afghan and coalition forces conducting a security patrol.

In Afghanistan's western Herat province, three Taliban insurgents were killed and three more were wounded by Afghan and coalition forces during an attempted ambush on their patrol Wednesday.

The coalition command in Afghanistan said the patrol was fired upon by Taliban insurgents donning Afghan national police uniforms at a makeshift checkpoint in the Shindand district.

In the past two days Afghan and coalition forces have confiscated more than 100 fake police uniforms and more than a dozen forged identification documents in Herat province, which is located near the Iranian border, according to the coalition command.


From the :

The Taliban, fighting to oust foreign troops from Afghanistan, have launched a wave of suicide attacks in the south and east, but attacks in the north are rare.

Taliban commander Hayatullah Khan claimed responsibility and said more bombers were ready to strike. "They are present in all Afghan cities and waiting for orders," he said.

Suicide attacks in Afghanistan, almost unheard of three years ago, surged last year to nearly 140, from about 20 in 2005. There have been numerous attacks this year.

A new report claims the Taliban
have commited numerous war crimes through attacks on Afghan civilians. Some 670 civilians were killed in such attacks during 2006. The highest yearly toll for civilian deaths under attack by the Taliban since the group were deposed in late 2001.

From The Globe And Mail :
Insurgents committed war crimes by attacking ordinary Afghans and killing 669 civilians in 2006, the heaviest toll since the Taliban's ouster in 2001, according to a report released Monday.

Tallying records from non-governmental organizations and the media, Human Rights Watch counted 189 bombings in 2006 that killed 492 civilians. Another 177 civilians were killed in other attacks including ambushes and executions.

“The insurgents are increasingly committing war crimes, often by directly targeting civilians,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at the New York-based rights group. Even when targeting security forces, “they generally kill many, many more civilians than they do military personnel.”

Human Rights Watch noted that anti-government forces were not the only ones responsible for civilian deaths, and that at least 230 civilians were killed during coalition and NATO operations last year.

Exact casualty figures from previous years are not available, but the increase in insurgent attacks last year indicate that “2006 was the deadliest year for civilians in Afghanistan since 2001,” the report said.

Suicide bombings, once rare in Afghanistan, occurred on a regular basis in 2006. Two suicide attacks were reported in 2003, six in 2004, and 21 in 2005. Last year, the number of suicide attacks shot up to at least 136, killing 272 civilians and wounding 531, the 116-page report said.

Eighty of those suicide attacks were on military targets, but they killed nearly five times more civilians than security forces — 181 civilians compared to 37 Afghan or international security forces.

“The Taliban are starting to look like some of the insurgent groups in Iraq,” said Michael Shaikh, who conducted research for the report. “These guys are more about fighting the global jihad. ... It's a much more dangerous Taliban.”

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for more than two-thirds of recorded bomb attacks, mostly in the most volatile south and southeast.

Hezb-i Islami, a faction of which follows renegade former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, appears to be involved in attacks in the east and north, the report said.

The report cited 190 attacks on teachers, school officials, students and schools, up from 91 such attacks in 2005.

This report from the Associated Press details just how much troubling NATO forces are having in tracking down and then confronting Taliban fighters. They show the exact same kind of ability to elude NATO forces as the mujahadeen showed when it was the Russians chasing them down in the 1980s :
Troops with powerful rifle scopes scanned mountain ridges for elusive, black-clad Taliban infiltrators. Afghan soldiers, hit by a roadside bomb, pressed on into the valley. U.S. Special Forces swept through the sinister alleys of its main settlement.

The strike, carried out by about 200 American and Afghan government forces, was supposed to sever a major insurgent infiltration and supply route from neighboring Pakistan to Islamic fighters deep in Afghanistan.

But the attack didn't work - an object lesson in why 47,000 U.S. and NATO forces are struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban movement.

Field officers say eradicating fighters who cross the porous 1,470-mile border is like trying to drain a swamp when one cannot shut off the streams feeding it. Pakistan's failure to dam those streams has deepened the five-year-old conflict, they say.

"Stopping the infiltration is not the only way we are going to win this war, but it's a very key factor," said Capt. Samuel Edwards, who led U.S. Army troops in a recent drive into the Davudzay mountain bowl in the southeastern province of Zabul.

The Zabul routes are just a fragment of a vast cross-border network, reminiscent of the Ho Chi Minh Trail of jungle tracks and secret roads that carried Vietnamese communist troops and equipment to battle.

NATO "will never control the border without greater control of the border areas by Pakistan and greater coordination and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan," Gen. John Craddock, the current NATO commander, said recently in Washington.

Taliban fighters and al-Qaida militants converged on the frontier after U.S.-led forces drove them from Afghanistan in 2001. Pakistan is now under greater pressure to act - particularly after the U.S. military last fall reported a threefold increase in cross-border attacks into eastern Afghanistan.

Pakistan maintains that the insurgency is primarily an Afghan problem, fueled by domestic frustration over poverty and dissatisfaction with the Afghan government. It says it has deployed 80,000 soldiers to stop Taliban supporters crossing from Pakistan to fight - far more troops than marshaled by Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO on the other side.

"I can give the Pakistanis a list of the Taliban that are coming into my province," Zabul Governor Dalbar Ayman said angrily in an interview. "The world found their address in Pakistan, so why couldn't the Pakistanis have arrested them years ago? The ISI knows every village, every district, every individual."

Pakistan strongly denies these charges. But nonetheless, Taliban fighters are coming through.

FIght In Afghanistan Will Only Get Tougher

From Toronto Sun :

The death last Sunday of six Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan reminds us of Santayana's famous maxim that those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

The invasion of Afghanistan was marketed to Americans as an "anti-terrorist" mission and an effort to implant democracy. It was sold to Canadians as a noble campaign of "nation-building, reconstruction, and defending women's rights." All nice-sounding, but mostly untrue.

What we are really seeing is a war by Western powers seeking to dominate the strategic oil corridor of Afghanistan, directed against the Pashtun people who comprise half that nation's population. Another 15 million live just across the border in Pakistan. What we call the "Taliban" is actually a loose alliance of Pashtun tribes and clans, joined by nationalist forces and former mujahedin from the 1980s anti-Soviet struggle.

Last year, a leading authority on Afghanistan, the Brussels-based Senlis Council, found the Taliban and its allies control or influence half of the nation -- roughly equivalent to Pashtun tribal territory. Its study flatly contradicted rosy reports of military success and "nation-building" from Washington and NATO HQ.

This week, the same think tank issued a shocking new survey based on 17,000 interviews. "Afghanis in southern Afghanistan are increasingly prepared to admit their support for Taliban, and belief that the government and international community will not be able to defeat the Taliban is widespread." Senlis' study concurs with my own findings in South Asia that Pakistan and India have independently concluded NATO will eventually be defeated in Afghanistan and withdraw. The U.S., however, may stay on and reinforce its 30,000 troops there because it cannot admit a second defeat after the Iraq debacle.

The U.S. and NATO are not fighting "terrorists" in Afghanistan and they are certainly not winning hearts and minds. They are fighting the world's largest tribal people. The longer the Westerners stay and bomb villages, the more resistance will grow. Such is the inevitable pattern of every guerrilla war I have ever covered.

Western troops stuck in this nasty, $2-billion daily guerrilla conflict will become increasingly brutalized, demoralized and violent. This is precisely what happened to Afghanistan's second to latest invader, the Soviet Union.

Afghanistan's figurehead Hamid Karzai regime controls only the capitol. The rest of the country is under the Taliban, or warlords who run the surging narcotics trade that has made NATO the main defender of the world's leading narco state.

If 160,000 Soviet troops and 240,000 Afghan Communist soldiers could not defeat the Pashtuns in ten years, how can 50,000 U.S. and NATO troops do better?

The Taliban claimed earlier this year
that they had "thousands" of suicide bombers ready to attack NATO troops and Afghanistan police and security forces.

Clearly, the unleashing of these suicide bombers has begun :

A suicide bombing killed at least nine policemen and injured scores of others in Kunduz province of northern Afghanistan on Monday, a health worker and an official said.

Nine dead bodies and 32 injured policemen were brought to the hospital, he said, adding four injured were in critical condition.

The blast occurred when a suicide bomber belting explosives on his body attacked a mass of policemen, who were gathering on an open land to receive training for an upcoming ceremony, Safar said.

Ayub Salangi, police chief of Kunduz province, blamed the enemy of Afghanistan, a phrase used to refer to the Taliban, for the attack.

"We could not immediately identify the attacker, as only his feet were left at the explosion site," he told Xinhua.

The Taliban claimed 2,000 suicide bombers would launch a bloody spring offensive against foreign troops and other targets in this country this year.

Over the past two months, suicide bombings targeting government and foreign interests have happened in Afghanistan nearly on a daily base.

A total of 12 soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been killed in combat in this volatile country since April 8.

Due to rising Taliban-linked insurgency, over 900 persons, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed in Afghanistan this year

April 12 : Bomb Attacks Kill Three Militants, 2 Police In Central Afghanistan

April 14 : Six Police Killed In Attacks In Southern Afghanistan

April 15 : Taliban Suicide Bomber Kills Eight Police In Eastern Afghanistan

April 17 : Nine Police Killed In Kunduz Province By Suicide Bomber

Taliban, Pakistani Troops Clash Over Border Fence After It Was Torn Down

War Is Hell, Afghanistan Is Worse

US State Department Gives NATO Forces Until End Of 2008 To Gain Victory Over Taliban

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Iraq : The Bombs And The Blood

April 18 : 302 Iraqis Die In Bloodiest Day Of Iraq War

US General said Iraqis Must "Learn To Live With" Car Bombings

So is the US "troop surge" to secure Baghdad working? It hasn't even really begun. To deploy the full "surge" of some 20,000 new troops, which may climb to more than 40,000, will take many more months. It is too early to declare it a success or failure. But in reality, it will never be either.

Iraq is beset by chaos, from new outbreaks of violence down south, through the living hell that is Baghdad, where nearly a thousand people a week are now dying, to the far north, where Iraqi Kurds are teasing the borders of Turkey, and facing the bullets of the Turkish military who may or may not already have crossed the border into Iraq to deal with the Kurdish independence fighters.

That there is some solid, locked-in, six month plan by the US or the Iraqi government to calm the chaos is a fiction. They are rewriting all the plans each week that violence grows, and both entities in Iraq are grasping at surviving the wholesale slaughter.

Despite the influx of fresh US and Iraqi troops into Baghdad, the bombers are still getting through, and the dead are so many, and the violence so frequent, and sudden, corpses are lying in the streets once more.

The purpose of the "troop surge" success or failure debate is strictly for Western media audiences, to distract them from the depopulation of a nation, the destruction of ancient tribes and the assassination of an entire, well-educated middle class, who were the best chance of Iraq rising to become the truly great Middle East nation it deserves to be now that Saddam Hussein is gone.

The US strategy in Iraq seems to now be little more than attempting to wait out the Iraqi insurgency. How long can they possibly keep on bombing and killing each other before they tire of the violence? Or before all those willing to sacrifice their lives, and the lives of innocent Iraqis, are dead? A year? Ten years?

As usual, the UK Independent's veteran reporter Patrick Cockburn supplies the best analysis of what is happening in, and to, Iraq :

Yesterday (April 18) will go down as a day of infamy for Iraqis who are repeatedly told by the US that their security is improving. Almost 200 people were killed on one of the bloodiest days of the four-year-old war, when car bombs ripped through four neighbourhoods across Baghdad, exposing the failure of the two-month-old US security plan.

In the aftermath of the blasts, American and Iraqi soldiers who rushed to the scene of the explosions were pelted with stones by angry crowds shouting: "Where is the security plan? We are not protected by this plan."

Billowing clouds of oily black smoke rose into the sky over the Iraqi capital after four bombs tore through crowded markets and streets leaving the ground covered in charred bodies and severed limbs. "I saw dozens of dead bodies," said a witness in Sadriyah, a mixed Shia-Kurdish neighbourhood in west Baghdad where 140 people died and 150 were injured. " Some people were burned alive inside minibuses. Nobody could reach them after the explosion. There were pieces of flesh all over the place. Women were screaming and shouting for their loved ones who died."

The escalation in devastating bomb attacks by Sunni insurgents against Shia civilians is discrediting the US security plan, implemented by a "surge" in American troop numbers. Launched on 14 February it was intended to give the Iraqi government greater control over the streets of Baghdad. The Mehdi Army Shia militia, blamed for operating death squads against Sunni civilians, had adopted a lower profile and avoided military confrontation with the US but that is unlikely to continue in the wake of these devastating bomb attacks. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is seen as being unable to defend his own people.

The worst attack was on Sadriyah meat and vegetable market in the centre of Baghdad. It had already been the target of one of Baghdad's worst atrocities when a suicide bomber blew up a Mercedes truck on 3 February, killing 137 people.

There is no doubt that the bombs were directed at killing as many Shia civilians as possible. About half an hour before the Sadriyah blast, a suicide bomber had rammed a police checkpoint at the entrance to the great Shia bastion in Sadr City in east Baghdad. It is also the stronghold of the Shia nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The explosion killed 35 people and wounded 75, police say. Black smoke rose from blazing vehicles as people scrambled over the twisted wreckage of cars to try to rescue the wounded.

"The problem is that the Shia stopped killing so many Sunni but the Sunni are killing more Shia than ever," said an Iraqi official before the attacks yesterday. He added: "If this goes on, the Shia will exact revenge. Sectarian massacres will dwarf anything we have seen before."

The bombings came hours after Mr Maliki said that Iraqi security forces would take full control of the whole country by the end of the year. But last night, amid a torrent of public criticism, the Prime Minister ordered the arrest of the Iraqi army colonel in charge of security around the Sadriyah market.

The 17-million strong Shia community, the majority of the Iraqi population, is increasingly hostile to the US presence while the five million Sunni generally support anti- American armed resistance. Only the Kurds fully back the US.

The success of the US security plan in Baghdad depended less on an additional five American brigades than in fostering a belief by Iraqis that it was providing them with security.

2007: A year of attacks despite the 'surge'


Car bomb and suicide bomber at Mustansiriya University, central Baghdad, kill at least 70, mainly students.


Double car bomb at a second-hand goods market in Bab al-Sharji, central Baghdad, kills 88.


Two suicide bombers strike at a market in Shia town of Hilla, killing 61.


Truck bomb kills 135 and wounds 305 at a market in Sadriya quarter of central Baghdad, the same market that was bombed yesterday.


Multiple car bombs explode in Shorja market, Baghdad, killing at least 71. At least nine others killed at Bab al-Sharji.


Two suicide bombers strike in Hilla, killing 105 pilgrims. Insurgents attack Shia pilgrims in 12 other incidents. In all, a total of 137 pilgrims die.

* 27 MARCH

Two truck bombs explode in Tal Afar, near Syrian border, and Mosul; 152 dead.

A comprehensive summary of the string of attacks and assassinations of April 18 is supplied by the site, whose tally comes to 302 Iraqis killed or found dead, and more than 300 wounded. We publish this summary in full as to present a more comprehensive picture of just how much violence occurs in Iraq on a given day, this one being April 18 :

A series of coordinated bomb attacks shook Baghdad hours after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that security would be in Iraqi hands by the end of the year. Overall, at least 312 people were killed and 302 wounded throughout Iraq. One American soldier died yesterday of non-battle related injuries.

In Baghdad, one truck bomb killed 140 people and wounded 150 more in the mostly Shiite Sadriya neighborhood. A second bomb killed 41 and wounded 76 in Sadr City. In Karrada, the third bomb killed 11 and wounded 13 more. Two were killed and eight wounded in a checkpoint bombing in Saidiya. And, a bomb in a mini-bus in Risafi killed four and wounded six people.

Also in the capital, gunmen killed a police major who also worked a security detail for the Speaker of Parliament. Four policemen were killed and six civilians wounded during an attack by gunmen in central Baghdad. Mortars in Amil wounded three civilians. And, 15 dumped bodies were recovered.

Another 25 decomposed bodies were retrieved from a school in Ramadi. Yesterday, 17 bodies had been discovered.

A suicide bomber injured seven people southwest of Mosul at al-Ghayah. Two brothers were killed and a policeman was wounded in a gunbattle in central Mosul. Mortars rained on a security checkpoing where they injured eight people. Two people were killed, three wounded in a roadside bomb attack. An explosive device killed senior Iraqi army officer and wounded three soldiers. Also, eight bodies were found in Mosul.

A suicide bomber killed two policemen and wounded four people, including two civilians, near Mahmudiya.

A policeman and a soldier were wounded during multiple checkpoint attacks in Tal Afar.

In a drive-by shooting in Kirkuk, a judge and his wife and son were wounded. Four bodies, one beheaded, were found in separate locations.

The son of the Interior Minister and his two bodyguards were killed in Baiji.

Gunmen killed soldier and kidnapped two civilians in Khalis.

Two farmers died of injuries they received in a U.S. attack in Al Bo Asi Al Abagiyah village.

Three bodies were found in separate locations near Baquba.

Five civilians were injured in Khanaqeen.

The bodies of three kidnapped workers were found in Hawija.

The Basra homes of three Fadhila party members were attacked by bombs, but no casualties were reported.

Mortars landed on the U.S. base in Haditha, but no casualties were reported. A U.S. vehicle was damaged in a blast in Fallujah.

Three people were injured on Tuesday when a roadside bomb struck an ambulance near Mukayshifah.

During U.S. military raids in Taji, one suspect was killed and eight others were detained. Near Garma, five suspects were killed and 18 arrested. The Iraq army killed six suspects and captured 126 others during operations throughout the country. Three gunmen were killed in Muqdadiya. Combined U.S.-Iraqi forces killed 23 gunmen during security operations in Diyala.

Iraqi Government Announces It Intends To Take Control Of Security By End Of 2007

Iraqis "Must Learn To Live" With Drive-By Assassinations, Car Bombings, Executions, Says US General

Maliki Tells US To Halt Building Three Metre High "Separation Barrier" Through The Middle Of Sunni-Shia Baghdad Neighbourhood, After Sunni & Shia Neighbours Join Together In Protest

Gunmen Slaughter 23 Followers Of Ancient Pre-Islamic Religion In Northern Iraq

New Geo Survey Reveals Iraq May Hold Twice As Much Oil As Previously Thought - An Extra 100 Billion Barrels - Production Costs Of $2 Per Barrel

US Abandons Plan To "Stand Down As Iraqi Army Stands Up" - Troop Training Plans Fade

15,000 Iraqis Have "Disappeared" During Four Years Of War

Monday, April 16, 2007

Seymour Hersh On Bush Co. The Delayed War On Iran And The Gutless Modern Media

Interesting interview with legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in Rolling Stone.

Seymour Hersh has been a thorn in Dick Cheney's paw for more than 30 years. The story reveals that Cheney wrote a list of options in 1975 for how to deal with Hersh's publication of 'The Pentagon Papers' in the New York Times for then White House chief-of-staff Donald Rumsfeld. Option number three was "Search warrant : to go after Hersh papers in his (apartment)".

How little times have changed.

Here's some of the key quotes from the Rolling Stone interview :

"If there's a Kissinger person today, it's Cheney....Kissinger always had some back-channel agenda. But in the case of Bush and this war, what you see is what you get. We buy much of our fuel from the Middle East, and yet we're at war with the Middle East. It doesn't make sense."

"Bush is a true radical. He believes very avidly in executive power. And he also believes that he's doing the right thing. I think he's a revolutionary, a Trotsky. He's a believer in permanent revolution. So therefore he's very dangerous, because he's an unguided missile, he's a rocket with no ability to be educated. You can't change what he wants to do. He can't deviate from his policy, and that's frightening when somebody has as much power as he does, and is as much a radical as he is, and is as committed to democracy -- whatever that means -- as he is in the Mideast. I really do believe that's what drives him. That doesn't mean he's not interested in oil. But I really think he thinks democracy is the answer."

Hersh denies that he ever said the US was about to go war on Iran, only that large-scale military planning for the attacks had been done....

"Planning is planning, of course. But in the last couple of weeks, it has become nonstop. They're in a position right now where the president could wake up and scratch his....nose, and say, "Let's go." And they'd go. That's new. We've made it closer. We've got carrier groups there. It's not about going in on the ground. Although if we went in we'd have to send Marines into the coastal areas of Iran to knock out their Silkworm missile'd have to take out a very sophisticated radar system, and a guidance system for their missiles. You'd have to knock out the ability of the Iranians to get our ships....I think Bush wants to resolve the Iranian crisis. It may not be a crisis, but he wants to resolve it.

"One of the things this administration has shown us is how fragile democracy is. All of the institutions we thought would protect us -- particularly the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress -- they have failed. The courts . . . the jury's not in yet on the courts. So all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn't. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that's the most glaring.

On the media's inability to bust the Bush administration's chops over Iraq War lies and deceptions....

It's very discouraging. I've had conversations with senior people at my old newspaper, the Times, who know that there are serious problems there. It's not that they shouldn't run the stories that they run. They run stories that represent the government's view, because there are people at the Times who have access to senior people in the government. They see the national security adviser, they see Condoleezza Rice, and they have to reflect their view. That's their job. What doesn't get reported is the other side. What I always loved about the Times when I worked there is that I could write what the kiddies down the line said. But that doesn't happen now. You're not getting broad, macro coverage from the White House that represents anything like opposition. And there is opposition -- the press just doesn't know how to deal with it.

" hard is it to hide things from the press? They don't care that much about the straight press. What these guys have figured out is that as long as they have Fox and talk radio, they're OK in the public opinion. They control that hard. It kept the ball in Iraq in the air for a couple of years longer than it should have, and it cost Kerry the presidency. But now it's over -- Iraq's done. A lot of the conservatives who promoted the war are now very much against it. Some of the columnists in this town who were beating the drums for that war really owe an apology. It's a sad time for the American press.

How to fix the problems with media in the age of Bush Co?

You'd have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and executives. You'd actually have to start promoting people from the newsrooms to be editors who you didn't think you could control. And they're not going to do that.

When Clinton went to war...

"You have to give Bill Clinton his due: When he bombed Kosovo in 1999, he became the first president since World War II to bomb white people."

Here's a selection of Hersh's feature stories from the New Yorker on the past two years. All make for fascinating, troubling and insightful reading :

Hersh On 'The Iran Plans' : Will President Bush Go To War To Stop Iran From Getting The Bomb?

New Yorker Story By Hersh On 'The Coming Wars

Hersh : How The 'War On Terror' Is Helping The Terrorists Win The War

New Yorker : The US Military's Big Problems With Bush & The NeoCons Plans For Iran

Sunday, April 15, 2007

India, Pakistan Defy United States Over Iran Gas Pipeline

The more I read stories like this, the clearer it becomes that the rapidly growing economic centres of the world - China, Russia, India - are leaving the United States behind, as they push forward in setting the scene for how most of the world's key energy supplies - natural gas and oil - will be transported across the globe in the coming decades.

China, India, Iran, Russia, no longer appear to wilt before US economic and trade threats, or promises of denial of key energy technologies or arms sales, if they don't comply with the wishes of the fading superpower.

A remarkable story from 'The Australian' details how India and Pakistan are only days away from settling terms on a 2600km long natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Iran, through Pakistan territory, all the way to India.

Pakistan will access some of the gas, and will be paid by India for 'hosting' the pipeline. This deal, long in the making, pleases China and Russia. They view the rise of India as a future superpower as a major positive, and they see few negatives in growing ties between Iran and Pakistan. The only long face in the international is that of the United States'.

At the same time, Pakistan is pushing back against growing criticism from the United States and Australia that it isn't doing enough to stop Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters entering Afghanistan from Pakistan territory, or its border regions.

Pakistan's President Musharraf has already threatened to quit the international 'War on Terror' if the pressure doesn't ease. And Musharraf has made it vividly clear to the United States that Pakistan will play no part whatsoever in any attacks launched against Iran, nor will he allow any flyovers of Pakistan territory by US bombers.

The United States is now trying to claim that doing a deal with Iran over the pipeline will help it in its alleged ambitions to gain nuclear weapons. It's a pathetic, and stupid, claim to lay on India and Pakistan, who are clearly wanting the pipeline so as to wean themselves off their own imported oil addictions, as US President Bush continually warns Americans they must do as well.

Should the US try to air its claim that the pipeline will help Iran with its nuclear ambitions in the United Nations Security Council, many will have a hard time trying not to laugh out loud.

Iran is doing deals for its natural gas and oil worth hundreds of billions of dollars (over the next two decades) with China, Russia, India and Pakistan. Pakistan is about to begin construction on a port and another pipeline that will give China a gateway to Gulf oil. Included in all these deals will be the weapons systems and arms sales needed to secure the sea transit lanes to deliver oil to China, for example, and to keep safe key energy pipelines, like the one that will stretch from Iran to India.

But where is the United States in all this action? Standing on the sidelines, trying to order the new power players around and shouting for attention. It's a sad fact of the changing international order that mega-states like China, Russia and India appear to be less interested in listening to what the United States has to say.

From 'The Australian' :
Dispute between Washington and its two major South Asian allies is intensifying as India and Pakistan dig in their heels over building a highly strategic, $10 billion gas pipeline stretching 2600km from Iran.

Despite pressure from the US, which has linked the pipeline to Iran's nuclear ambitions, New Delhi and Islamabad are thumbing their noses at Washington. Together, they are about to put the finishing touches to their deal with Tehran, with potentially far-reaching political and security implications.

Many South Asian analysts see this as a telling comment on Washington's failure to line up enthusiasm outside the industrialised and developed world for its attempts to isolate Iran.

Though India has voted against Iran's nuclear plans in global meetings, South Asian nations have generally paid little heed to calls for the country's isolation.

Tehran won a significant victory at this month's eight-nation South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation summit in New Delhi when, despite strenuous US lobbying, it was recommended for observer status within the organisation as a forerunner to full membership in the future.

Indian and Pakistani officials have been meeting to finalise the Iran-Pakistan-Indian pipeline (IPI) deal, with final approval expected within weeks and construction to start almost immediately.

This is despite the US dropping all pretence at politeness in its efforts to dissuade India from building the pipeline, with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, on a visit to New Delhi, insisting that the plans amount to New Delhi helping Iran's nuclear program.

"We believe that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and anything that will support that endeavour (such as the IPI) is something that we oppose," Mr Bodman said.

He reminded the Indian Government of its need for US co-operation in developing a civilian nuclear energy industry. Yet within days Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Shaukat Aziz, had pledged to "sincerely and seriously pursue the project to its successful completion".

Officials in energy-starved India, which produces only half of the natural gas it needs to serve its population of more than 1.3 billion, and whose requirements will double over the next 15 years, are adamant they will go ahead with the IPI project.

This story is important, and included on this blog, because it clearly sets the scene for growing tensions in the new international order, and possible military, or covert, action by the United States in the future to stop the pipeline from becoming a reality.

Go Here To Read The Full Story

China Secures A Gateway To Gulf Oil, Via Pakistan


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Friday, April 13, 2007

Sudan And Chad Move Closer To All Out War

"Apocalyptic" Scenes Of Mass Graves, Destruction, As 400 Slaughtered In Raids

As the Middle East rumbles with further war and conflict, Africa is seething with bloodshed and terror, both state and non-state. Libya, China, France and the United States are now taking a greater interest in the various conflicts that have raged there for years, all but unnoticed by most in the West, outside of the occasional appalling body count on page 12 of a city daily :

U.N. officials have warned of the possibility of increasing violence in the region where Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic meet.

Fighting in Sudan's western Darfur region has left as many as 450,000 dead from violence and disease.

Sudanese leaders are accused of unleashing the pro-government Arab militia, the Janjaweed, which is blamed for widespread attacks and rapes against ethnic Africans.

On Monday, the Sudanese military said 17 of its soldiers were killed repelling a Chadian army raid on a Sudanese border town in western Darfur.

Sudan and Chad grow closer to all out war. They accuse each other of sending militia forces into each other's territories, or backing rebel forces, and of allowing and/or encouraging massacres and destruction of villages close to their shared border.

The United Nations is still rallying to get a larger commitment to peacekeeping forces from the United States and the EU, but enthusiasm is low for deploying forces into a conflict where the body count is guaranteed to be high.

From the Washington Post :
Sudanese Janjaweed militiamen killed as many as 400 people in the volatile eastern border region near Sudan, leaving an "apocalyptic" scene of mass graves and destruction, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

The attacks took place March 31 in the border villages of Tiero and Marena, about 550 miles from Chad's capital, N'Djamena. Chadian officials initially said that 65 people had died but that the toll was certain to rise.

"Estimates of the number of dead have increased substantially and now range between 200 and 400," the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. "Because most of the dead were buried where their bodies were found -- often in common graves owing to their numbers -- we may never know their exact number."

The attackers encircled the villages and opened fire, pursued fleeing villagers, robbed women and shot the men, UNHCR said. Many who survived the initial attack died later from exhaustion and dehydration, often while fleeing.

U.N. officials have warned of the possibility of increasing violence in the region where Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic meet.

Fighting in Sudan's western Darfur region has left as many as 450,000 dead from violence and disease.

Sudanese leaders are accused of unleashing the pro-government Arab militia, the Janjaweed, which is blamed for widespread attacks and rapes against ethnic Africans.

On Monday, the Sudanese military said 17 of its soldiers were killed repelling a Chadian army raid on a Sudanese border town in western Darfur.

Now Libya's Muammar Gaddafi is getting involved more involved, in trying to keep out more UN forces, and cooling tensions between Chad and Sudan :
...Gaddafi is steering Chad’s opposition to a UN military peacekeeping force in its violence-torn east, where civilians are being killed in droves as a proposed UN deployment stalls, analysts say.

They say Gaddafi, a critic of Western democracy and self-styled champion of African nationalism, has stepped up pressure on his southern neighbour, Chadian President Idriss Deby, to resist a planned UN military force for eastern Chad.

The country’s desolate east, caught up in violence that combines marauding armed raiders, domestic insurgency and ethnic conflict, has become a mirror of the neighbouring Sudanese region of Darfur, itself torn by war since 2003.

“Libya’s primary objective is to ensure an international military force does not deploy,” said Colin Thomas-Jensen, Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank.

The stalling over the Chad UN force now mirrors the situation in Sudan’s Darfur, where the Sudanese government has long been resisting international pressure for UN peacekeepers to bolster a struggling African Union military contingent.

The Libyan leader, who likes to wear a small outline map of Africa on his suits, has taken the lead in trying to broker peace between feuding neighbours Chad and Sudan, whose forces clashed on the border this week.

Egypt Is Friendly With Both Sudan And Chad, Now Worried About Growing Clashes, Tensions

Tensions Rise On Border Between Chad And Sudan

Chad, Sudan Trade Accusations After Border Clashes

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Iraqi Parliament Hit By Suicide Bomber

Attack Deep Inside One Of The World's Most High Security Zones

Key bridge across the Tigris River reportedly destroyed by a truck bomb.

Some thin details are beginning to emerge about how a suicide bomber managed to penetrate more than eight layers of heavy security to blow himself up in a canteen frequented by MPs and media, inside the Iraqi Parliament. At least eight people are dead, including three politicans, with dozens wounded.

In what must be the biggest security breach in the four year history of 'The Green Zone', the bomber, reportedly a Sunni bodyguard for an MP, was helped in his attack by the failure of a key electronic security screeing system, at a pedestrian entrance to 'The Green Zone'. An entrance close to the Parliament itself, according to Associated Press reports:

The blast came hours after a suicide truck bomb exploded on a major bridge in Baghdad, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the Tigris River, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed.

After the parliament blast, security guards sealed the building and no one - including politicians – was allowed to enter or leave.

Caldwell said witness accounts indicated a suicide attack.

The bombing came amid the two-month-old security crackdown in Baghdad, which has sought to restore stability in the capital so that the government of Iraq can take key political steps by June 30 or face a possible withdrawal of American support.

One of the dead politicians was Mohammed Awad, a member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front, said Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the party, which holds 11 seats in Iraq’s legislature. A female Sunni lawmaker from the same list was wounded, he said.

Another legislator killed was Taha al-Liheibi, of the Sunni Accordance Front that holds 44 seats in parliament, according to Mohammed Abu Bakr, who heads the legislature’s media department.

Abu Bakr said he saw a suicide bomber’s body amid a ghastly scene at the restaurant.

“I saw two legs in the middle of the cafeteria and none of those killed or wounded lost their legs – which means they must be the legs of the suicide attacker,” he said.

Earlier in the day, security officials used dogs to check people entering the building in a rare precaution – apparently concerned that an attack might take place.

But a security scanner that checks pedestrians at the entrance to the Green Zone near the parliament building was not working on Thursday, Abu Bakr said. People were searched only by hand and had to pass through metal detectors, he said.

The brazen bombing was the clearest evidence yet that militants can penetrate even the most secure locations. Masses of US and Iraqi soldiers are on the streets in the ninth week of a security crackdown in the capital and security measures inside the Green Zone have been significantly hardened.

The US military reported April 1 that two suicide vests were found in the heavily fortified region that also houses the US Embassy and offices of the Iraqi government. A militant rocket attack last month killed two Americans, a soldier and a contractor.

A few days earlier, a rocket landed within 100 yards of a building where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was holding a news conference. No one was hurt.

The UK Independent's Iraq correspondent, Patrick Cockburn,
wrote about the Parliament attack (some excerpts) :
Nowhere is safe. Insurgents struck in the heart of the Green Zone yesterday, one of the most heavily defended places in Baghdad. The symbolism - and the bloody message - was clear with this attack on the home to the US-imposed democracy.

The Green Zone bombing was not only an assault on democracy. It was intended to undermine President George Bush's troop "surge", which is denounced as a sham by so many Iraqis.

But even Iraqis hardened to violence were shocked by the bloody scene in parliament. "I saw a ball of fire and heard a huge, loud explosion," said one witness. "There were pieces of flesh floating in the air."

The success of a suicide bomber in penetrating one of the most tightly guarded buildings in the world could only have happened if he had help from other security men. The Iraqi parliament is well inside the heavily fortified Green Zone and is protected by eight layers of security, including at least three checks for explosives.

The suicide bombing is one of the most dramatic demonstrations of the extent to which the Sunni insurgents have infiltrated the government's own security apparatus. Other recent examples include the serious wounding of the deputy prime minister Salam al-Zubaie on 23 March by a bomber who got near him with the connivance of his own bodyguards.

The 275-member Iraqi parliament meets on the first floor of a cavernous building, originally built by Saddam Hussein to hold meetings of Islamic nations. Immediately outside the assembly hall is a restaurant. It was there, beside the cash register, that the bomber blew himself up.

The sensitivity of the US and the Iraqi government to the breach in security was apparent because all television cameras and video tapes showing the immediate aftermath of the blast were confiscated and handed to US authorities.

The only footage to be shown was by al-Hurra channel, shot seconds after the attack, it showed a dusty hallway with people screaming for help. One man is shown slumped in the dust.

The Green Zone itself is four miles square in the centre of Baghdad. It is heavily defended but some 5,000 Iraqis live inside it. It is defended by a mixture of soldiers, private security personel and bodyguards of uncertain loyalty.

Although President Bush has been seeking to blame Iran for supporting the insurgency in Iraq there is little evidence for that. The great majority of attacks on US forces are by Sunni guerrillas in Sunni districts. There have been battles with Shia militia but these have been intermittent. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Mehdi Army, the largest Shia militia, has stood down his men and told them to avoid a confrontation with US forces.

Cockburn supplies more details on 'The Green Zone' :

The Green Zone is a forbidden city, a concrete fortress in the heart of Baghdad housing the Iraqi government, the US embassy, the British embassy and the Iraqi parliament. It is defended by concrete blast walls and well-fortified checkpoints.

Some four miles square, the zone began as the palace and office complex that was the centre of government for Saddam Hussein until his overthrow in April 2003. Over four years, it has become a hated symbol for people in Baghdad of the isolation of the Iraqi and American authorities from the terrors of real life in the city.

From a distance, the first signs of the Green Zone are the cranes rising above the enormous new US embassy. They are impossible to miss because they are the only new cranes in Baghdad.

A closer view of the Green Zone reveals that it is entirely surrounded by grey concrete blast walls to stop suicide bombers or other attackers. These walls run along the right-bank of the Tigris river and then run inland, blocking main roads and slicing through neighbourhoods.

Parliament Bombing : How Could It Happen? Intense, But Uneven Security

Baghdad : Mapping The Violence

Brits Get Their Revenge For Basra Ambush : At Least 20 Shiite Gunmen Slaughtered In The Streets - No Such Thing As A "No Go Zone" For Brits In Basra, Claims Commander

"The Iraqi Resistance Only Exists To End The Occupation"

Under Seige In Mosul : "If You Go Out In The Street By Yourself, You'll Be Dead In 15 Minutes"

Refugees Speak After Escaping From The Living Hell That Is Iraq 2007

South Of Iraq Now Set To Erupt - Police Commander Claims 500,000 Marched Against American Occupation

Attacks Hit Iraqi Parliament, Key Baghdad Bridge Only Hours Apart