Pakistan Security Brief - November 29, 2010
Pakistan Security Brief – November 29, 2010
WikiLeaks documents reveal U.S. efforts to secretly remove enriched uranium from Pakistan; Police arrest two attempted suicide bombers in Islamabad; U.S. blacklists Pakistani charity acting as an “alias” for LeT; religious group holds long march, rally against Taliban attacks on religious sites.
WikiLeaks published more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables on Sunday in addition to distributing the sensitive foreign policy documents to five major newspapers. Among the documents it was revealed that the U.S. has been pursuing efforts for several years to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor in order to curb the possibility that extremist groups could acquire the nuclear material to build an “illicit” nuclear device. In one of the documents from May 2009, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson indicated that Pakistan was refusing to allow visits by U.S. technical experts despite promises to keep the removal of the uranium quiet in order to protect President Asif Ali Zardari from political backlash. A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry defended the refusal to allow U.S. inspectors access to the nuclear reactor, saying that the U.S. had provided the reactor to Pakistan in the 1960’s and that Pakistan would not return the reactor “because it’s now our property.”
Other leaked cables have shed light on several diplomatic interactions and assessments regarding Pakistan so far. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Zardari the greatest obstacle to Pakistan’s progress, saying, “When the head is rotten it affects the whole body” while Abu Dhabi’s defense chief, Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, said that Zardari was “dirty but not dangerous.” Another document indicates that promised rail links and gas pipelines between Iran and Pakistan are unlikely to see progress anytime due in part to Pakistan’s inability to pay for the infrastructure. Turkey’s Deputy Undersecretary for South Asian Affairs Engin Soysal also told U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns in February of this year that the Pakistani military is unhappy with President Zardari but is not inclined to intervene militarily at this time.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been in contact with President Zardari and top military leaders in Pakistan in order to minimize the political damage caused by the leaks. Pakistan has joined the U.S. in condemning WikiLeaks’ release of the diplomatic cables.
Police arrested two attempted suicide bombers in Islamabad on Friday. A local police official said that one of the suspects was arrested while wearing a suicide vest as he was on his way to attack a mosque in a wealthy residential area of the city. The arrests were made in the midst of a high security alert after authorities received information that terrorists were about to carry out attacks on government buildings in Islamabad, including the Parliament. Pakistani security officials claim that the two suspects have ties to militant groups in South Waziristan.
On Saturday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced a 10 million rupee ($120,000) reward for information pertaining to the suspects of Friday’s foiled terror plot in Islamabad. Malik further said that the government will “make arrangements to settle the informers and their families anywhere in the country and even outside the country if there is danger that Taliban would hurt them.”
- The CIA has revealed that it missed an opportunity to capture al-Qaeda’s elusive number two commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Pakistan in 2003. U.S. intelligence officials said that Zawahiri had met with another al-Qaeda commander in Peshawar who was captured the next day.
A U.S. drone strike targeted a vehicle in Pir Kali village in North Waziristan on Friday, killing four militants. At least three militants were reportedly killed in a separate drone strike that targeted another vehicle in Hassan Khel, North Waziristan on Sunday. However, local officials indicated that the occupants of the vehicle may have survived the strike by abandoning their car before the missiles hit. (For daily updates on key issues and events related to North Waziristan CLICK HERE)
A Pakistani man threatened to sue the CIA on Monday unless he receives compensation for the death of his son and brother in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan last year. Lawyers representing Kareem Khan said that if he does not receive $500 million in the next two weeks they will sue U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA director Leon Panetta, and a man they claim to be the CIA’s Islamabad station chief on charges that the individuals were responsible for the “wrongful death” of Khan’s relatives. Khan said in a media conference that “the people who were martyred were innocent… they did not have links with any terrorist group.”
On Friday, two NATO helicopters reportedly fired into North Waziristan wounding three people. Witnesses claim that the helicopters hovered over the area for about 10 minutes and fired into Lawra Mandi village in the Datta Khel area.
On Saturday, hundreds of Sunnis began a 200-mile journey across Pakistan as part of the “Save Pakistan Long March,” a rally organized by the Sunni Ittehad Council to protest the Taliban’s attacks on religious sites. The convoy of travelers originally departed from Islamabad and arrived in Lahore on Sunday where a rally was held at the Data Darbar shrine, the site of a Taliban-orchestrated suicide bombing in July. Despite minor clashes with police in Rawalpindi, the demonstrators arrived at their destination peacefully while police in Lahore implemented heightened security measures in order to protect the event.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday blacklisted the Pakistani charity Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FeF), declaring that the organization is an “alias” of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group which is already on the State Department’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” FeF leaders Hafiz Abdur Raif and two other individuals with ties to LeT, Mian Abdullah and Mohammad Naushad Alam Khan, were also placed on the list of “specially designed global terrorists.” The State Department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism, Daniel Benjamin, officially announced the designation, saying the move was an part of an effort to end LeT’s attempts to “evade scrutiny” by hiding behind front organizations.
A press release issued by the U.S. embassy on Saturday denied reports that the U.S. maintains a military presence in Quetta. The embassy refuted several news reports that indicated that Pakistan’s military leadership had approved the presence of U.S. Marines in the city. An embassy spokesman said that U.S. troops only make temporary visits to Pakistan to provide “information and coordination support between the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Pakistan military when ISAF operates periodically near the border with Pakistan.”
On Monday, a Pakistani court approved a government request to seek life sentences for five Americans who have already been convicted on terror charges and sentenced to 10 years in jail. No date has yet been set for the court hearing evaluating the prisoners’ sentences. Prosecutors accused the men of arriving in the country with the intent of attending militant training camps in South Waziristan and join Taliban militants across the border in Afghanistan. The five men were subsequently found guilty of “waging war against the state and funding a terrorist group.”
Mumbai Terror Attacks
- A Pakistani security official said on Monday that his country’s security agencies have made no progress in pursuing 20 individuals with suspected involvement in the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. The official pointed out the challenges of finding the suspects, saying that he believes the suspects are hiding in the mountainous areas of Pakistan where people can hide “indefinitely.” A report released by Pakistan’s federal investigation agency identified most of the 20 suspects as being affiliate with LeT and said that suspects “provided logistical and monetary support for the Mumbai attack.”
Police arrested a key Taliban commander in the Matta area of Swat on Saturday. Local media sources reported that the commander, named Sher Ali, formerly managed the Taliban’s financial matters and also provided the organization’s militants with weapons and ammunition. Sher Ali was also wanted in connection with several major cases of terrorism in the region.
A remote controlled bomb blast struck a police van in Peshawar district on Sunday, wounding three policemen. The blast occurred in the Armarh area, just outside of Peshawar city. Police launched a search operation in the area following the attack but no suspects were arrested.
- The chairman of Transparency International in Pakistan, Syed Adil Gilani, said on Monday that his organization has recently received death threats from “high-level” government officials if his group does not cease its anti-graft investigations. Transparency International chairwoman Huguette Labelle wrote Pakistani Chief Justice Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudry asking that the courts take action to deal with any “possible state intimidation” of the group. Over the weekend Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the government was planning to take legal action against Transparency International Pakistan on charges that the organization paid bribes to officials in exchange for information. Gilani said that his group has not yet received official notice of any such legal action.
- Two suspected members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were arrested in Jhang district of Punjab on Wednesday. Local police officials said that the suspects were discovered with hand grenades and other weapons in their possession at the time of their arrest in the Thana Mochi Wala area. Police also claim that the men had received training in Miram Shah, North Waziristan and were plotting to carry out an attack on a Muharram procession.
- On Monday, Pakistan’s Navy took command of International Task Force 151 combating piracy in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Horn of Africa, and territorial waters off the coast of Somalia. Task Force 151 will be lead by Commodore Aleem and will include forces from other countries as well.
- Balochistan’s chief minister, Sardar Aslam Raisani, said in a recent interview that Pakistan’s security agencies have “definitely” been involved in kidnapping and extrajudicial killings of political dissidents in the province. Raisani also placed a portion of the blame for the violence in Balochistan on tribesmen in the province who have targeted pro-government individuals and security forces as part of their struggle for greater political autonomy. Human rights groups claim that these activities are being carried out with alarming frequency, especially by the military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
A new media report highlights the factors that have allowed militant groups to operate out of Karachi with increasing ease. Political and ethnic rivalries in the city have distracted the government from fully focusing their attention on Karachi’s growing presence of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. One political official also pointed out fears that militants will “hit back hard” if police were to launch an operation against them.
Security forces in Karachi arrested a top Taliban commander and close aid to Maulana Fazlullah during a house raid on Monday. The commander, named Abdulllah, originally hailed from the Kooza Bandai area of Swat and was running the Imam Dherai center in Karachi, a major militant hub in the city.
Rangers conducted a search operation in several parts of Karachi on Thursday. Officials claim that the searches resulted in the recovery of a large arms cache as well as the arrest of several individuals suspected of being involved in criminal activities. A spokesman from the Awami National Party (ANP) claimed that over 500 of the party’s political workers were arrested during the operation and said that the ANP would call for a strike if the workers were not released.