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Tag Archives: Pakistan

Pakistan denies bin Laden’s presence in country – interior minister

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October 19, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Islamabad has rejected reports by leading world media claiming that “terrorist number 1,” Osama bin Laden, and the group of his backers have taken shelter in Pakistan, Dawn News TV channel said on Tuesday citing the Pakistani interior minister.

“I strongly deny the reports about the presence of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri or Mullah Omar in Pakistan,” Rehman Malik said.

Malik’s statement came after a CNN report referring to an unnamed NATO official, which said that bin Laden and al Qaeda’s number two man, Egyptian al-Zawahiri, had taken shelter in northwestern Pakistan while the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, was living in the south of the country, moving between the cities of Quetta and Karachi.

“Bin Laden and all the terrorists are against Islam and against Pakistan, they are assassins. If we had any information, we would take actions against them,” Malik said.

Numerous reports from world media repeatedly say that the international terrorist’s shelter is in Pakistan. Islamabad traditionally denies the reports, saying nobody has ever given any information about bin Laden.

NEW DELHI, October 19 (RIA Novosti)

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NATO official: Bin Laden, deputy hiding in northwest Pakistan

 

Kabul, Afghanistan (KATAKAMI / CNN) — Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding close to each other in houses in northwest Pakistan, but are not together, a senior NATO official said.

“Nobody in al Qaeda is living in a cave,” said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the intelligence matters involved.

Rather, al Qaeda’s top leadership is believed to be living in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani intelligence services, the official said.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied protecting members of the al Qaeda leadership.

The official said the general region where bin Laden is likely to have moved around in recent years ranges from the mountainous Chitral area in the far northwest near the Chinese border, to the Kurram Valley which neighbors Afghanistan’s Tora Bora, one of the Taliban strongholds during the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Tora Bora is also the region from which bin Laden is believed to have escaped during a U.S. bombing raid in late 2001. U.S. officials have long said there have been no confirmed sightings of bin Laden or Zawahiri for several years.

The area that the official described covers hundreds of square miles of some of the most rugged terrain in Pakistan inhabited by fiercely independent tribes.

The official also confirmed the U.S. assessment that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has moved between the cities of Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan over the last several months.

The official would not discuss how the coalition has come to know any of this information, but he has access to some of the most sensitive information in the NATO alliance.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Monday that similar reports of bin Laden and Mullah Omar’s whereabouts have proven false in the past.

Malik denied the two men are on Pakistani soil, but said that any information to the contrary should be shared with Pakistani officials so that they can take “immediate action” to arrest the pair.

The NATO official, who has day-to-day senior responsibilities for the war, offered a potentially grimmer view than what has been publicly offered by others.

“Every year the insurgency can generate more and more manpower,” despite military attacks, he said.

Although there has been security progress, he pointed to an internal assessment that there are 500,000 to 1 million “disaffected” men between the ages of 15 and 25 along the Afghan-Pakistan border region, he said.

Most are Afghan Pashtuns and make up some of the 95 percent of the insurgency who carry out attacks just to earn money, rather than fight for a hard-core Taliban ideology.

The official said it is now absolutely vital for the Afghan government to address the needs of this group with security, economic development and jobs in order for the war to end, and for Afghanistan to succeed.

“We are running out of time,” he said.

The entire scenario is made more complex by the fact that “there is a huge criminal enterprise in this country,” dealing in human, drug and mineral trafficking, he said. Those crimes are also tied into the insurgency.

He acknowledged the overall strategy now is to increase offensive airstrikes and ground attacks in order to increase the pressure on the Taliban and insurgents groups to come to the negotiating table with the current Afghan government.

There is a growing sense that many insurgent leaders may be willing to accept conditions such as renouncing al Qaeda because they want to come back to Afghanistan.

But, the official cautioned, hard core Taliban groups such as the Quetta Shura run by Mullah Omar, the Haqqanis, the HiG (Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin) and the Pakistani Taliban still could potentially muster as many as 30,000 fighters.

The U.S. continues to face a more localized insurgency in the south. In places like Marja and the Helmand River Valley, the majority of the fighters are captured within a few miles of their homes.

The insurgent leader Mullah Abdullah Zakir has increased his strength in the south, the official said. He essentially exerts some levels of control and influence both in the greater Kandahar region and across the south from Zabul to Farah province.

The official continued to stress the urgency of getting the Afghan government to deal with the multitude of problems it faces.

Right now, the U.S. war plan approved by President Barack Obama extends through 2014, the official said. That is the official document that spells out matters such as troop rotation schedules.

The U.S. military could sustain a war “‘indefinitely,” the official said. But the goal is to achieve reconciliation and allow the Afghan government to function and provide security and services to the people.

Without that, he said, “we will be fighting here forever.”

Pakistan Steps Up Rescue After Flash Floods Kill 313

Pakistani villagers pile up their rescued belongings from houses flooded by heavy rain fall in Nowshera near Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, July 29, 2010. (Getty Images)

(Updates death toll in first paragraph.)

July 30 (KATAKAMI / Bloomberg) — Pakistan stepped up rescue efforts after flash floods and heavy rains in the northwest killed 313 people and left thousands stranded in the region’s worst storms. Communication systems collapsed.

“The relief efforts of everyone combined is only five percent of what’s required,” Mujahid Khan, a spokesman for the Edhi Rescue Service, said by telephone from Peshawar today. “We can see people drowning but we can’t go into the water because of its high pressure.”

The death toll is on top of the 152 people who died when a plane crashed in heavy rains near the capital two days ago. Homes and bridges collapsed in the rain, live electric wires fell into the water and families were swept away in the floods.

“The infrastructure of this province was already destroyed by terrorism,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, provincial information minister, said in a televised news conference from Peshawar yesterday. “Whatever was left, was finished off by these floods. There are chances of further flooding and more damage.” He appealed for tents, boats and food for those left homeless and asked people to evacuate affected towns and cities.

Army Troops

Army troops equipped with life jackets, motorboats and heavy rafts were called in to help move families to safe locations, the military said in a statement on its website yesterday. At least 400,000 people were stranded in cities and villages across the province.

Pakistani television channels showed images of submerged huts, collapsed bridges and people grabbing onto wreckage on flooded roads to keep from being swept away by the water.

“All the houses in my village have been destroyed and now it’s simply a fight for survival for us,” Mehmood Khan, a tribal elder, said by telephone from Wana, South Waziristan. “Food supplies have started to run out. We haven’t eaten in 48 hours and the scant food supplies we saved for women and children may not last long.”

The districts of Peshawar, Swat, Nowshera, Lower Dir and Charsadda were worst affected, according to the government.

The water level in the River Swat crossed 250,000 cusecs yesterday, the highest since 1929, according to the National Disaster Management Agency in Islamabad. Of 55 Chinese engineers trapped in the Kohistan district, 46 were rescued, it said.

The first spell of the monsoon started on July 22 and affected the western province of Baluchistan, the disaster authority said. (*)

Photostream : Over 300 dead in Pakistan floods

Pakistani villagers move into safe place from a flooded village near Nowshera, Pakistan, Thursday, July 29, 2010. Rivers burst their banks during monsoon rains, washing away streets, battering a dam and killing at least 60 people in most severe floods in decades in northwest Pakistan, officials said Thursday. Hundreds of thousands more were stranded as rescue workers struggled to reach far-flung villages. (Getty Images)

Residents and shopkeepers wade through a flooded street with their belongings after heavy rains in Peshawar July 29, 2010. Almost 300 people have been killed by flashfloods and bad weather in Pakistan in the. Last week, with the country’s northwest and Baluchistan provinces. bearing the worst of the storms, officials said on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Pakistani villagers use ropes to reach their homes flooded by heavy monsoon rain in Bakhtiarabad, 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Quetta, Pakistan on Friday, July 23, 2010. (Getty Images)

People flee their flooded villages after heavy monsoon rain in Nowshera near Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, July 29, 2010. Rivers burst their banks during monsoon rains, washing away streets, battering a dam. (Getty Images)

In this image released by the Pakistan Inter Services Public Relations Department, People rush for a helicopter ride as they are evacuated from a village flooded by monsoon rains in Charsadda near Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, July 29, 2010. Dozens of people were killed by heavy rains which caused flooding. (Getty Images)

In this image released by the Pakistan Inter Services Public Relations Department, People get down from a helicopter after they were evacuated from a village flooded by monsoon rains in Charsadda near Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, July 29, 2010. Dozens of people were killed by heavy rains which caused flooding. (Getty Images)

Pakistani commuters cross a flooded street after a heavy downpour in Karachi, 10 August 2007. Floods unleashed by a tropical cyclone and monsoon rains in the south and southwest of Pakistan late July 2007, have claimed over 200 lives and affected some 1.6 million people. (Getty Images)

A Pakistani woman sits with her belongings on a roadside as her house is flooded in Nowshera near Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, July 29, 2010. (Getty Images)

Photostream : Pakistan mourns victims of its worst-ever air crash

Family members of Airblue plane crash victims encircle coffins while trying to identify their relatives at a hospital in Islamabad July 29, 2010. The Pakistani passenger plane, an Airbus 321 belonging to a private airline, crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board, officials said, in the worst aviation accident in Pakistan.  (Getty Images)

A family member of an Airblue plane crash victim weeps after recovering the body at a hospital in Islamabad July 29, 2010. The Pakistani passenger plane, an Airbus 321 belonging to a private airline, crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board, officials said, in the worst aviation accident in Pakistan. (Getty Images)

People carry the casket of a victim of a plane crash, upon the arrival at Karachi airport, Pakistan on Thursday, July 29, 2010. A passenger jet that officials suspect veered off course in monsoon rains and thick clouds crashed into hills overlooking Pakistan’s capital, killing all 152 people on board and scattering body parts and twisted metal far and wide. (Getty Images)

People carry the body of a passenger at a local hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday, July 28, 2010. A government official says all the people on board the Airblue Airbus A321 plane that crashed in the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital were killed. Officials suspect the aircraft veered off course in monsoon rains and thick clouds then crashed into hills overlooking Pakistan’s capital Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Family members of an Airblue plane crash victim and workers carry a coffin to an ambulance at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi July 29, 2010. The Pakistani passenger plane, an Airbus 321 belonging to a private airline, crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board, officials said, in the worst aviation accident in Pakistan.  (Getty Images)

A family member (R) of an Airblue plane crash victim sits beside a coffin in an ambulance at Jinnah International Airport Karachi July 29, 2010. The Pakistani passenger plane, an Airbus 321 belonging to a private airline, crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board, officials said, in the worst aviation accident in Pakistan. (Getty Images)

Haris Iodhi of Karachi displays his mother’s rings, a victim of the Airblue plane crash, after retrieving her body at a hospital in Islamabad July 29, 2010. “This is how I was able to identify my 51 year-old mother Shireen Lodhi,” he said. A Pakistani passenger plane crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board, officials said, in the worst aviation accident in Pakistan. (Getty Images)

Family members mourn death of a passenger at a local hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday, July 28, 2010. A government official says all the people on board the Airblue Airbus A321 plane that crashed in the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital were killed. Officials suspect the aircraft veered off course in monsoon rains and thick clouds then crashed into hills overlooking Pakistan’s capital Wednesday.  (Getty Images)

Passenger plane with 152 on board crashes near Islamabad, at least 8 survive (Update)

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July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI)  At least eight people on board a passenger plane that crashed near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Wednesday have survived, national media said.

The Airblue company plane, which was flying from Turkey to Islamabad via the Pakistani city of Karachi, was carrying 146 passengers and 6 crew members. Other reports say that at least 153 passengers were on board.

Four of the survivors have been evacuated by helicopter; the other four are waiting to be transferred to a hospital.

Pakistani TV said that up to 40 people on board of the plane could have survived.

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The plane crashed in the Margalla Hills, about 30 km from Islamabad airport.

National media reported that the plane burst into flame during landing and thick black smoke engulfed the area.

“The plane was landing in Islamabad when something went wrong,” an aviation spokesman said, adding that it is still unknown what caused the problem.

Rescue helicopters are working at the site, however, heavy rains and thick fog may impede the operations.

Airblue was established in 2004 and operates Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 planes. Apart from destinations in Pakistan, the company flies to Manchester (Britain), Muscat (Oman) and a number of cities in the United Arab Emirates. (*)

Passenger plane crashes near Islamabad, all 152 on board feared dead

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Map locates Karachi and Islamabad, Pakistan, where a plane took off and crashed, respectively. (Getty Images)

July 28, 2010

NEW DELHI, July 28 (KATAKAMI / RIA Novosti) – All 152 people on board a passenger plane that crashed near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Wednesday are feared dead, national media said.

The plane, which was flying from Turkey to Islamabad via the Pakistani city of Karachi, was carrying 146 passengers and 6 crew members.

“The plane was landing in Islamabad when something went wrong,” an aviation spokesman said, adding that it is still unknown what caused the problem.

National media reported that the plane burst into flame and thick black smoke engulfed the area.

The plane crashed in the Margalla Hills, about 30 km from Islamabad airport.

Rescue helicopters are working at the site, however, heavy rains and thick fog may impede the operations.

Hospitals in Islamabad have already begun working in emergency mode. (*)

Plane carrying 152 crashes in Pakistan; 5 dead



The plane crashed in the Margalla Hills at the edge of Islamabad (Photo : Aljazeera)

ISLAMABAD, July 28 (KATAKAMI / MYREPUBLICA.COM)  : An official says forestry guards are reporting at least five people have been killed in a plane crash in Pakistan.

That toll is likely to rise significantly.

The Airblue passenger jet that crashed into the Margalla Hills surrounding Pakistan´s capital, Islamabad, was carrying 152 people. Rescuers were trying to reach the scene amid rain and difficult roads Wednesday morning.

Imtiaz Inayat Ali, chairman of Capital Development Authority, said the forestry guards were trying to find survivors but that they had seen five bodies so far.

Report: Pakistani spy agency supports Taliban

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In this photo taken on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, the Pakistani army presents alleged militants standing behind their seized weapons before members of the media,in Mamund in the Pakistani tribal area of Bajur along the Afghanistan border.

AP 

June 13, 2010

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s main spy agency continues to arm and train the Taliban and is even represented on the group’s leadership council despite U.S. pressure to sever ties and billions in aid to combat the militants, said a research report released Sunday.

The findings could heighten tension between the two countries and raise further questions about U.S. success in Afghanistan since Pakistani cooperation is seen as key to defeating the Taliban, which seized power in Kabul in the 1990s with Islamabad’s support.

U.S. officials have suggested in the past that current or former members of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, have maintained links to the Taliban despite the government’s decision to denounce the group in 2001 under U.S. pressure.

But the report issued Sunday by the London School of Economics offered one of the strongest cases that assistance to the group is official ISI policy, and even extends to the highest levels of the Pakistani government.

“Pakistan’s apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke U.S. countermeasures,” said the report, which was based on interviews with Taliban commanders, former Taliban officials, Western diplomats and many others.

“Without a change in Pakistani behavior it will be difficult, if not impossible, for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency,” said the report, written by Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistani army, which controls ISI, rejected the report, calling it “rubbish.”

“In the past, these kinds of baseless and unsubstantiated allegations have surfaced and we have rejected them,” said Abbas.

He pointed out ISI has suffered many casualties fighting militants in the country.

But the Pakistan military’s campaign has been focused on Pakistani Taliban battling the state, not Afghan Taliban waging war against NATO troops in Afghanistan. The army has resisted U.S. pressure to wage offensives in areas of the country the Afghan Taliban use as sanctuaries, despite billions of dollars in American military and civilian aid.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to turn against the Afghan Taliban because the government believes the group could be a key ally in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw, and the best partner for countering the influence of archenemy India in the country.

“Interviews suggest that Pakistan continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies,” said the report.

In addition, “ISI continues to sanction and support military training centers for insurgents and a large number of (Islamic schools) that actively encourage their students to fight in Afghanistan,” it said.

Pakistani support is channeled toward both the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, and the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban but operates fairly independently, said the report. The Haqqani network is based in the North Waziristan tribal area along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s spy agency has considerable control over both groups and even has agents on the Taliban’s leadership council, which is known as the Quetta shura, said the report.

“Interviews strongly suggest that the ISI has representatives on the shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is thus involved at the highest level of the movement,” it said.

One of the most surprising allegations in the report is that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and a senior ISI official visited some 50 high-ranking Taliban fighters this spring being held at a secret prison in the country and told them they were only arrested because of U.S. pressure.

Zardari reportedly told them they would be released and that Pakistan would help support their operations, according to a Taliban member who was one of about a dozen insurgents set free just three days after the president’s visit.

Presidential spokeswoman Farahnaz Ispahani denied the allegations in the report, saying “if Mr. Waldman had been a seasoned academic, he would have conducted interviews in Pakistan itself to balance his so-called research report.”

Waldman concluded in the report, “it is hard to see how the international coalition can continue to treat Pakistan as an ally and ‘effective partner.'”

“However, an aggressive American response to Pakistan’s conduct is only likely to generate further instability, especially given the army’s ongoing battle against Pakistani militant groups and widespread anti-American sentiment among the population,” he said.