Six killed, 73 njured as police open fire in Srinagar
The situation in the Kashmir Valley continues to be tense, even as an indefinite curfew is on in all major towns across the Valley for fifth consecutive day.
Schools, shops and business establishments remain shut and security personnel have restricted the movement of people
Despite the imposition of curfew, there were clashes at many places on Monday. Police had to resort to firing at several places as protestors indulged in stone pelting and damage government properties.
In a late evening incident, Kulgam police opened fire on protestors, killing a youth and injuring three others.
Earlier, five persons were killed, one each in Kakapura, Sangam, Chawalgam, Bigbehara and Karalpura Kupwara.
On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior members of his Cabinet in Delhi to discuss the prevailing situation in the Kashmir Valley.
Addressing a press conference later, Abdullah said there was a need for a political package rather than economic package from Centre to restore normalcy in the State.
“We need to break the cycle of violence. For any initiative to work, there has to be peace first. The curfew must be adhered to in all circumstances. “The problem is inherently political. Political initiative has to include amending armed forces act,” he added
Referring to protests that have led to clashes with security forces, he said that efforts were made not to resort to force.
“Our government doesn’t want to resort to the use of force but when people come out to take law in their own hands, there are consequences,” he said.
He appealed to the people of the state to stop “lawlessness” and to allow the government to take steps to restore normalcy.
Twenty two people have been killed and over 500 injured, including 200 security force personnel, in violence since last Friday.
MINGORA: Film shows and other forms of entertainment returned to Swat district on Monday, after about three years.
Film shows and other forms of entertainment returned to Swat district after about three years.-File photo
On the first day of Eid a new Pashto film was released in two cinema halls which ran three daily shows.
Authorities did not allow the late-night show because of curfew. Another cinema house is likely to reopen in a few days.
People queuing up to buy tickets for ‘Gul Soorey Soorey Kram’ had to undergo a thorough body search.
On Tuesday, police had to use batons to disperse a large crowd which had gathered outside a cinema. Because of the disturbance the first two shows at the hall were cancelled.
Entertainment business in Swat suffered huge losses over the past three years.
The Taliban had forced dancers and musicians and owners of video and audio shops to either abandon their work or leave the district.
Early this year, they killed dancer Shabana and hung her body from a lamppost in a chowk.
Now after the successful military operation, dancers are returning to their homes and most video shops have reopened.
Shops dealing in garments and cosmetics for women are doing a roaring business.
People offered Eid prayers in local mosques while the main congregation was held in Saidu Sharif for administration and army personnel under tight security.
Earlier this month, Pakistani Army troops enforced a curfew in Bannu, a town near the South and North Waziristan regions.
WASHINGTON – As Pakistan escalates military operations against a top Taliban leader, the United States has resumed secret military surveillance drone flights over the country’s tribal areas to provide Pakistani commanders with a wide array of videos and other information on militants, according to American and Pakistani officials.
The sharing of real-time video feeds, communications intercepts and other information with Pakistan’s military is considered essential in the country’s campaign to help hunt down the Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and destroy his hideouts and forces in the country’s northwest, the officials said.
The increased intelligence cooperation comes as the Obama administration is also speeding the delivery of transport helicopters, body armor and other equipment that Pakistan’s military has requested to help combat Mr. Mehsud and to prepare for a major offensive in the militant leader’s stronghold in South Waziristan, a mountainous region abutting the border with Afghanistan.
The noncombat surveillance flights along the border are different from the flights of armed C.I.A.-operated drones that have attacked several Taliban targets in recent months and days. Last Tuesday, an American drone strike on a funeral in Pakistan’s tribal areas missed Mr. Mehsud by hours, a Pakistani security official said.
Responding to Pakistan’s renewed request for sophisticated surveillance information gets around, at least for the moment, the tensions surrounding the administration’s refusal to grant repeated requests by President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan that his country be given its own armed Predator drones to attack fighters of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the mountainous tribal areas.
American intelligence operatives who conduct the armed drone flights inside Pakistan remain opposed to joint operations with Pakistani intelligence services, pointing out that past attempts were failures. Several years ago, American officials gave Pakistan advance word of planned Predator attacks but stopped the practice after the information was leaked to militants.
Under the intelligence-sharing arrangement, which resumed in the past few weeks but has not previously been made public, Pakistani ground forces receive direct support for several hours a day, though not necessarily every day, from remotely piloted American military aircraft based in Afghanistan, a senior American defense official said.
The agreement allows the Pakistani military to request that the American military drones fly noncombat surveillance missions over certain swaths of territory in South Waziristan where it suspects militant activity, the American official said. Video feeds from the drones are relayed to a joint coordination center at a border crossing at the Khyber Pass, where a Pakistani military team monitors the video and sends it to command centers in Pakistan, the official said.
“There has been a lot of improvement in I.S.R.-related U.S. support to Pakistan,” said a senior Pakistani security official, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. But, he acknowledged, the technical connections have not been completely worked out.
American and Pakistani officials are still installing equipment to enhance and expand the flow of information from the joint coordination center to Pakistani security databases across the border, the Pakistani official said.
But Pakistani commanders have used the surveillance and communications information from the American drones to track cross-border movements of militants and to monitor specific areas for insurgent activity that can be attacked by Pakistani helicopter gunships or F-16 attack planes.
The Pakistani and American militaries agreed to the surveillance flights earlier this year as a way to lend American technology to Pakistan’s efforts against militants. The drone missions were also seen as an incremental step in building trust between two militaries long suspicious of each other’s motives.
The Pakistanis authorized drone missions over Bajaur and surrounding locations near the Afghan border, but the requests ended abruptly when Pakistani troops launched offensives in Swat and Buner, areas deep inside Pakistani territory just dozens of miles from Islamabad.
Pakistani officials worried about the risks of flying American drones so far from the border, and they feared that if a Predator were shot down or crashed, it might set off public anger about American involvement in domestic Pakistani matters.
Now, with Pakistani troops preparing for an offensive in South Waziristan, these concerns have receded and the drone missions have resumed.
American and Pakistani officials said that the intelligence sharing has helped in going after Mr. Mehsud’s fighters and confederates. They said that American drone operators were now concentrating on militants who were of interest to the Pakistanis, like Mr. Mehsud, and not just foreign fighters and Al Qaeda operatives who posed more of a direct threat to the United States and American interests abroad.
Spokesmen for the White House’s National Security Council, Defense Department and United States Central Command declined to comment for this article. Four American and Pakistani officials provided general details of the military surveillance flights, but only on condition of anonymity because of the continuing operations and because the United States remains very unpopular in Pakistani public opinion polls.
President Obama’s national security adviser, James L. Jones, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the military’s Central Command, have visited Pakistan recently to discuss security arrangements. Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, is expected in the next several days to make his fourth trip to the region since assuming his role earlier this year.
Pakistani officials say that they have continued to express frustration in private that the United States is not sharing the targets of the armed drone attacks in advance – revealing lingering distrust on both sides – and that the C.I.A. is not sharing the assessments of their strikes in a timely way, often giving them to Pakistani officials days after an attack.
By Veronika Oleksyn, AP
A Sikh preacher died today after being wounded in an attack on his temple in Vienna, by a group of fundamentalist Sikhs armed with knives and a handgun, police said.
India’s prime minister appealed for calm as riots protesting the deadly shooting spread to several northern Indian cities.
Witnesses said the Vienna temple attended by lower-caste Sikhs had been attacked by Sikhs from a higher caste who accused one or both of the preachers of being disrespectful of the religion’s Holy Book.
The attack set off a brawl that wounded 16. It was not clear whether some of the weapons used were kirpans – ceremonial daggers that may legally be worn by Sikhs in Austria.
Two preachers – identified by Indian diplomats as Niranjan Das and Sant Rama Nand – underwent operations for gunshot wounds, but Nand died early today, according to a police official who declined to identify himself on the telephone, in line with Austrian custom.
Hundreds in India defied a curfew and army patrols to protest the killing, attacking police stations and torching the car of a senior officer and several trains. In two places police opened fire on mobs, wounding at least four people, said senior police officer Khubi Ram.
The violence in Indian centered on the north Indian town of city of Jalandhar, a stronghold of the Dera Sach Khand, a Sikh sect comprised of mainly “untouchables”, or Dalits.
Worshipper Mohnder Ram, 72, who has lived in Vienna for decades, said the temple that was attacked had been attended by followers of Shri Guru Ravidas, the 14th-century founder of the sect. Witnesses said the group of bearded and turbaned men raided the temple as the preachers led several hundred worshippers in prayer. Followers moved to defend their leaders.
“I heard four to five shots” in the temple, said Ram. “People started screaming, children were crying as they ran out. It was like war. There was lots of blood everywhere.”
Six suspects are in custody, including four wounded and in serious condition, police spokesman Michael Takacs said, adding that more may be detained. The wounded were all of Indian origin and aged between 30 and 50, said Bernhard Segall of Vienna medical services. The most serious wounds were caused by gunshots to the abdomen and head.
The temple is housed in a residential building of the working-class neighborhood of Vienna-Rudolfsheim.
Ram said about 400 people were at the service when the fight broke out; police put the number at between 150 and 300.
The scene was “like a battlefield,” Takacs said.
Nearby resident Bimla Lalka said she saw seven or eight men with long beards and dark blue and orange turbans fleeing the building.
Sikhs make up less than 2 per cent of India’s nearly 1.2 billion people.
Caste discrimination has been outlawed in India for more than a half century, and a quota system was established with the aim of giving Dalits a fair share of government jobs and places in schools. But their plight remains dire, living in poverty and kept down by ancient prejudice and caste-based politics.
Travis Parry reports.
Security forces have reportedly used live rounds and tear gas on protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir, wounding at least seven people.
The demonstrators accuse paramilitary forces in the area of raping and murdering two women, whose bodies were found at the end of May.
On Sunday police said forensic tests showed the women had been raped.
New protests began after police broke up earlier demonstrations
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have fired on thousands of protesters demonstrating against the alleged rape and murder of two young women.
Tear gas and live rounds were used to break up the march in Shopian town.
Protesters accuse Indian paramilitary forces of raping and killing the women. On Sunday police said forensic tests showed the women had been raped.
Protests over the deaths have raged in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley since the bodies were found on 30 May.
One protester died during clashes last week with police, after being hit on the head by a tear gas shell.
More than 140 others have so far been wounded, about 40 of them during clashes on Monday.
At least four people were taken to hospital with bullet wounds after the clashes in Shopian on Monday, the BBC’s Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says.
‘Case of rape’
Our correspondent says police have imposed curfew-like restrictions in the city and some other towns in the valley to prevent marchers reaching Shopian.
Click here to watch Video
Shops are closed and schools, colleges and many government offices are shut across the valley.
The strike has been called by senior separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Mr Geelani, who had called on people to march to Shopian on Monday, was arrested on Saturday night.
The bodies of the two young women were found in a canal in the town of Shopian on 30 May. They had gone missing the previous evening.
The cause of their deaths is still being investigated, but police say a post-mortem examination shows they were raped.
“The forensic lab report indicates that an offence has taken place,” inspector general of police B Srinivas told the BBC.
“We have registered a case of rape and taken up investigation.”
The state government announced an inquiry into the allegations last Monday, insisting that the “initial findings do not suggest either rape or murder”.
A Pakistani internally displaced youth at a makeshift camp in Swabi on May 26
TARIQ MAHMOOD/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan’s military offensive against the Taliban has been in progress for one month. Military forces have begun intense fighting in Mingora, the Swat district headquarters, but are facing logistical challenges from the millions of internally displaced people. The military will encounter difficulties expanding its operations in South Waziristan, if the government chooses to conduct an all-out assault on the locations of jihadists.
May 26 marks one month since Operation Rahi-i-Rast (Straight Path) was launched by the Pakistani army to retake the greater Swat region from Taliban militants. Over the weekend, the battle for regaining control of Swat district headquarters Mingora began, and intense house-to-house fighting continues inside the city. Troops are reportedly in control of several areas of the city, which explains why Tehrik-i-Taliban Swat spokesman Muslim Khan told media that the jihadists had been asked by Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah to fall back.
While Pakistani forces have had limited success in Mingora, given the Taliban move to regroup, they are still facing stiff resistance from fighters who remain holed up in the city, according to army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. Abbas added that it would be another 7 to 10 days before the military can clear Mingora. The commander of Peshawar-based XIth Corps, Lt. Gen. Muhammad Masood Aslam, has said that escape routes have been sealed and has demanded the unconditional surrender of Taliban forces. The key challenge for Pakistani security forces on the battleground is to prevent the escape of Taliban fighters, whose modus operandi is to escape into the countryside to fight another day. However, there are many who desire to die as martyrs, which is why the surrender call will not be successful, and such fighters are digging into their strongholds in Mingora for an intense fight.
In previous military operations in Swat, the Taliban fighters have been able to flee the battle zone only to return once the army withdrew. The terrain makes it extremely difficult to ensure a high degree of success in preventing Taliban fighters from escaping.
Elsewhere, the army claims that 90 percent of Buner has been cleared where there has been relaxation in the curfew during the daytime. The situation in Dir and Shagla, however, continues to remain in flux where there are certain areas in which curfew has been relaxed but other areas continue to be under Taliban control.
In order to restore local administrative and security structures in the cleared areas, the government has cut the training short of both police officials at the academy in Hangu and several district management group civil servants and is dispatching them to the Swat region in order to restore local governance. It will be a major challenge to bring back those governmental structures at the grassroots level because the Taliban took advantage of the vacuum to take over the region. Pakistan’s efforts to rebuild governmental organizations that will be able to withstand the Taliban’s attempts to return after the dust settles will also be difficult, especially since police with limited training will be particularly vulnerable to jihadist guerillas and suicide bombers. What this means is that the army will have to stay in the area for a considerable period of time.
Meanwhile, the army has begun limited operations in the much tougher jihadist environment of South Waziristan, which is the logical outcome of the emerging broad-based political will in Islamabad that the offensive should not stop with the Swat region but also should hit Waziristan and other troublesome areas. The timing of such an operation will depend on resources. The army likely is gradually building up an assault on the tribal region similar to what took place in the greater Swat region where it first moved into Buner and Dir and then made its way into Swat. A key difficulty in opening a second front is Pakistan does not have the troops available both to maintain a permanent presence and to fight the other battles it needs because of its deployment on the eastern border with India.
For now, however, the government has its hands full with the some 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) ‘a crisis much bigger than the offensive itself. An indicator of the magnitude of the problem posed by refugees fleeing from the war zones in the greater Swat region can be assessed by the United States move to provide assistance in terms of supplies (tents, air conditioners, power generators, etc.) to house the IDPs. Expanding the sphere of the offensive means the number of refugees will increase further, a very large pool of disaffected people who could become a support base for the Taliban.
Therefore, success for Islamabad is not just in terms of clearing and holding territories but also dealing with the humanitarian crisis.
Recently an AIRRA (Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy – an Islamabad-based research organisation) investigation team went to some parts of Swat that had been under army attacks. The team observed whether the attacks were targeted at the Taliban and their installations. It observed two villages — Ladikas and Watkai in Mingora — and Khwazakhela, a tehsil in Swat. The team with its access to the people of the area could manage to take Besham route from Islamabad to reach Mingora via Khwazakhela. Though continuous curfew and alternate threats from the military posts and the Taliban posts badly hampered the journey of the team but somehow some of the members could manage to reach Mingora via Khwazakhela and Charbagh with the exodus of the people from different parts of Swat valley. The team was able to access and interview several dozens of those families who were still stuck up in the valley.
The team observed that the security forces have successfully destroyed the installations of the Taliban and have disrupted their chain of command in that area. They have killed many Taliban there with very little collateral damage, albeit with the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The best example is the Taliban headquarter in Khwazakhela. The headquarters was located on a mountain. It housed the Taliban operational command led by commander Yamin, the intelligence department led by commander Rashid and the department of logistics and supplies. The aerial bombardment of the Pakistan army reduced all that to rubble. The entire side of the mountain housing the headquarters has been exploded and razed.
The Taliban terrorists had established the headquarters with great efforts. They had cleansed a huge portion of the forest on the mountain to make free space for the building. They recruited the youth on a large scale, strengthened their command and control structure, established their hierarchical structure, planted mines on the main roads, dug bunkers and occupied the strategic passes in only two and a half months. And they did all this after the peace deal agreed with the NWFP government in February of this year.
The team interacted with the people in the area. Most of those killed were confirmed Taliban. There had been almost no serious collateral damage. Nearby buildings collapsed due to the force of explosions. Some people got injuries when hit by the collapsing debris.
Moreover, the army has cordoned off several narrow alleys of Mingora to prevent the Taliban from escaping. The military has cordoned off Swat from the northeast (the Shangla side), the southeast (the Buner side) and the southwest (the Dir side). In Mingora city itself, the Taliban are reported to be lying dead in the streets and local people confirm that some of them are well-known Taliban leaders.
There are still stranded people in Swat. The people are facing enormous difficulties due to power failure and water reservoirs in their homes which have dried up. Food commodities have become scarce and fuel stations have more or less stopped functioning. Soldiers of the Pakistan army and the FC are sharing their limited food rations with the stranded people. This goodwill gesture has earned respect of the stranded people for the security forces.
It is suggested to the army to issue the photos or video clips of the killed Taliban to the media and of the destroyed Taliban installations. Local people and the IDPs often know the Taliban and location of their installations. They would confirm that the dead were indeed the Taliban and the installations shown as destroyed indeed belonged to the Taliban. This is important because it will ensure transparency and reassure people of the success being achieved in the war.
It is highly commendable that the security forces are conducting targeted operations that have considerably damaged the Taliban in Swat. I would once again request the army high command to destroy the Taliban networks, installations, headquarters everywhere in Pakistan, including FATA and south Punjab. Taliban leaders in each and every city or town of Pakistan have to be neutralised. There is a strong connection between the Taliban in Waziristan, Orakzai, Swat, South Punjab, Khost and Kunar in terms of supply of manpower, weapons and chain of command. This connection is the Al Qaeda-linked Jalaluddin Haqqani and his terror secretariat in North Waziristan. This connection has to be broken, which means that Haqqani’s ‘secretariat’ must be destroyed. Other than the military front, the war against militancy also needs to be fought on the ideological battleground — Talibanisation needs to be denied ideological space in the country’s security and state apparatus and this can be done by targeting elements in state structures and institutions deemed as being sympathetic to the militants.
The army must carry the war against the Taliban to its logical end. The army owes it to the Pakhtun and by extension to Pakistan, because the Pakhtun are citizens of the country and hence deserve the same protection by the state as accorded to those in the other provinces. The Pakhtun have always taken pride in giving their best sons to the army. It is now the turn of the army to reciprocate in such a manner that truly honours the Pakhtun martyrs of the army. This means complete elimination of the Taliban so that the Pakhtun live their lives free of the jihadi fear and intimidation. If done successfully, this will bind the Pakhtun even more closely with the state and the army. In that context, the army must convert this war into an opportunity that will substantially contribute towards making Pakistan a successfully functioning multi-ethnic state.
While the army is rising itself to the occasion, the performance of the politicians is dismal. The soldiers are giving their blood to save us from the Taliban. They are sharing their limited food ration with the stranded people. The army has given a share of their salary to support the relief work for the IDPs. Where are political leaders? What is President Zardari doing abroad? He should be visiting the IDPs rather than foreign lands. What is Asfandyar Wali doing in London? Why is Afrasiab Khattak in Dubai? The IDPs constantly complain that the ministers, MPAs and MNAs only come when the media is there and leave soon afterwards, without tending to their (the IDPs) problems.
All MNAs and MPAs, especially those elected by the people of Swat, Dir and Buner, should stay with the IDPs of their respective constituencies as long as possible because these are after all the people who voted them into public office.
The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. Email: email@example.com
Peshawar-As the insurgents continue to occupy most of Mingora City including all the important government offices in Malakand division , the PAF gunship helicopters went for incessant bombings of the militants hideouts in Swat and the outskirts specially of Mingora the emerald mines which remained under the occupation of Taliban since long.
While the military sources claimed to have gunned down more then 35 Taliban insurgents during strikes on the emerald mines which started Wednesday wee hours and continued till afternoon, independent sources and the locals say more then two dozen civilians including 6 females and 12 children were also killed. Scores sustained serious injuries during the bombings and cross fire between the miscreants and the security forces. A large number of people were seen fleeing to safer places from the Shahdarra Pass and Takhtabund bypass where the emerald mines are situated.
Reports reaching here say lawlessness, harassment, uncertainty and blood-shed were the orders of the day in Swat which was expecting some respite following the signing of peace deal between the provincial government and the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-e-Mohammadi some time back.
“A large number of civil population has fallen prey to the shelling in the area and in one incident alone five residents were killed and many others injured. Sources told Observer, facing acute difficulties owing to curfew and Taliban control over many roads. Some reports say at least four people including three ladies of the fleeing families were killed by the forces in Balograma area for violating curfew.
“I have myself seen at least 16 dead bodies of the civilians on Wednesday”. A local told newsmen.
Like wise, as the locals said, in another incident at least three people of a family were killed when their house was hit by a mortar shell in Mohallah Bachaa Saib in the area. Sources say around 38 civilians were killed during the three days infightings.
The Inter Services Public Relation (ISPR), however said the security forces had to retaliate the militants on Wednesday as they were targeting the soldiers, from emerald mines. In retaliatory fire thirty five militants were killed around emerald mines at Takhtabund Bypass. The ISPR said.
The Taliban Spokesman Muslim Khan rejected statistics of the ISPR saying only three of his comrades were killed on Wednesday military action claiming that militants killed 20 men in uniform.
The militants continued firing at various check posts of security forces in Kanju, Saidu Sharif, Matta and other areas of Swat. The trouble makers planted IEDs in various areas of Swat to inflict causalities on Security Forces and civilians.
On Tuesday, two Security forces personnel embraced Shahadat due to militants firing at Mingora Grid Station. Six security forces personnel were injured due to militants firing in various areas of Swat.
“On 6 May at 1200 hours, two soldiers embraced shahadat due to an IED blast in Bahrain, Swat,” ISPR said.
Armed militants have come down from their hideouts into the cities and have occupied civil houses and government buildings. Militants looted three Banks in Mingora city and have occupied the offices of DIG Police and Commissioner at Mingora.
Exchange of fire took place between militants and Police at Saidu Sharif and Matta Police Station in which reportedly two militants were killed.
The locals say the Taliban have taken positions in the major buildings in Mingora city where the curfew remained clamped on Wednesday.