Wednesday, July 11, 2012

At least 22 dead in Yemen police academy suicide bombing

(Reuters) - At least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a police academy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday, an attack police investigators said bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

Medics said dozens of people were also injured in the attack, which appeared to have been timed to coincide with the cadets leaving the academy at the end of the school day.

Witnesses said police closed the scene of the attack and began investigating the blast as ambulances ferried casualties to hospital.

The attack appeared to mirror a suicide bombing in May, when a suicide bomber in army uniform struck at the heart of Yemen's military establishment, killing more than 90 people during a rehearsal for an army parade in Sanaa.

That attack was claimed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which U.S. officials have described as the most dangerous grouping of the global militant network.

Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda have vowed to carry their fight across Yemen after a U.S.-backed military offensive in May drove them out of strongholds they took last year during protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule.

A number of attacks since the recent offensive indicate that the militants still pose a serious threat.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Louise Ireland)

from Reuters 
SANAA | Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:10pm BST 
private video of the aftermath:

from Iona Craig / Twitter:

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12 armed insurgents killed and 20 others arrested by ANP

Publish Date: Jul 11, 2012
12 armed insurgents killed and 20 others arrested by Afghan National Police

During the past 24 hours, Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army, NDS and Coalition Forces launched nine joint clearance operations in Kunar, Balkh, Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, Ghazni, Khost, Farah and Helmand provinces.

As a result of these operations, 12 armed insurgents were killed 20 others were arrested by Afghan National Police.

Also, during these operations, Afghan National Police discovered and confiscated 40 kilograms of opium, six AK-47 assault rifles with 49 magazines, six different types of mines, four hand grenades, 40 kilograms of explosive materials and one motorcycle.
The 101 Kabul Zone National Police detained seven individuals accused of theft, murder and bribery in the 2nd, 6th, 11th and 17th Districts of Kabul-City.

In the meantime, Afghan National Border Police arrested two men with fake passports at the Kabul International Airport.

Additionally, Afghan National Police arrested a kidnapper in the Bagram District of Parwan province, yesterday.
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July 11., 2012. - ISAF Joint Command Morning Operational Update

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan and coalition security force detained a Taliban weapons smuggler in Zharay district, Kandahar province, today.

The apprehended Taliban smuggler was responsible for the movement of insurgents and equipment throughout the Kandahar. In addition he was attempting to facilitate a poison-based attack and had acquired a large amount of explosives materials.

The security force also detained several suspected insurgents during the operation.

In other International Security Assistance Force news throughout Afghanistan:


Afghan and coalition security forces conducted a search operation for a Taliban leader in Charkh district, Logar province, yesterday. The security force positively identified two insurgents and engaged them with a precision airstrike which resulted in their deaths. No civilians were harmed and no civilian property was damaged.

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July 10., 2012. - RC-East operational update

BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Afghan and coalition forces killed three insurgents, detained 23 and cleared 13 improvised explosive devices during operations in eastern Afghanistan throughout the past 24 hours, July 10.

Ghazni province
Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces found and safely cleared seven IEDs, three in Waghaz district, three in Gelan district and one in Ghazni district.

Afghan Border Police and coalition forces detained eight insurgents during an engagement in Andar district. The detained suspects were transferred to a base for questioning.

Khowst province
Afghan Uniformed Police and coalition forces detained four insurgents during an engagement in Terezayi district. The detained suspects were transferred to a base for questioning.

Kunar province
Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces detained six insurgents during an engagement in Nari district. The detained suspects were transferred to a base for questioning.

Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces killed one insurgent during a small arms engagement in Ghaziabad district.

Laghman province
Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces found and safely cleared an IED in Mehtar Lam district.

Logar province
Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces found and safely cleared two IEDs in Baraki Barak district.

Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces killed two insurgents during a small arms engagement in Kharwar district.

Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces detained five insurgents during engagements in Muhammad Aghah district and Charkh district. The detained suspects were transferred to a base for questioning.

Nangarhar province
Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces found and safely cleared two IEDs, one in Behsud district and one in Mohmand Darah district.

Paktika province
Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces found and safely cleared an IED in Yousef Khel district.

Operations in RC-East are still ongoing.

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Taliban commander: we cannot win war and al-Qaida is a 'plague'

Interview: senior Taliban commander admits insurgents must seek settlement with other political forces in Afghanistan

    by Julian Borger
    The Guardian, Wednesday 11 July 2012

One of the Taliban's most senior commanders has admitted the insurgents cannot win the war in Afghanistan and that capturing Kabul is "a very distant prospect", obliging them to seek a settlement with other political forces in the country.

In a startlingly frank interview in Thursday's New Statesman, the commander – described as a Taliban veteran, a confidant of the leadership, and a former Guantánamo inmate – also uses the strongest language yet from a senior figure to distance the Afghan rebels from al-Qaida.

"At least 70% of the Taliban are angry at al-Qaida. Our people consider al-Qaida to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens," the commander says. "To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama [bin Laden]. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country."

The New Statesman does not identify the Taliban commander, referring to him only as Mawlvi but the interview was conducted by Michael Semple, a former UN envoy to Kabul during the Taliban era who has maintained contacts with members of its leadership, and served on occasion as a diplomatic back-channel to the insurgents.

Semple, who is now at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, said the commander's identity had to be protected because the Taliban was highly sensitive about unauthorised pronouncements on the movement's behalf, but he added there was no doubt about Mawlvi's role within the movement.

"I maintain dialogue over time rather than have one-off contacts so I know who Mawlvi is and I know everyone he is talking to," he said.

Semple said that speaking unofficially allowed Mawlvi to stray from the rigidly controlled Taliban "party line" and voice the unvarnished views of a pragmatic wing of the leadership, which Semple describes as "making a serious bid to shape the strategy of the movement".

Mawlvi's scepticism over his own side's military prospects is in particularly striking contrast to the consistently triumphalist output of official Taliban statements. "It is in the nature of war that both sides dream of victory. But the balance of power in the Afghan conflict is obvious. It would take some kind of divine intervention for the Taliban to win this war," he says.

"The Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect. Any Taliban leader expecting to be able to capture Kabul is making a grave mistake. Nevertheless, the leadership also knows that it cannot afford to acknowledge this weakness. To do so would undermine the morale of Taliban personnel. The leadership knows the truth – that they cannot prevail over the power they confront," Mawlvi says.

As a result, he says that the Taliban has had to shelve its dream of re-establishing the Islamic emirate it set up when it was in power from 1996 to 2001. "Any side involved in a conflict like this has decided to fight for power. If they fall short of achieving national power, they have to settle for functioning as an organised party within the country," he admits.

He is scathing about President Hamid Karzai, who the Taliban has consistently derided as a US puppet. "There is little point in talking to Kabul. Real authority rests with the Americans," he says. "The only other serious political force in Afghanistan is that of the Northern Alliance" – a Tajik-led coalition that led the resistance to Taliban rule and is now a powerful player in Kabul.

David Miliband, who was an early champion of talking to the Taliban when he was foreign secretary, said the interview represented an opportunity that should be seized. "This landmark interview shows both the need for and difficulties in serious discussion with the Taliban about the future of Afghanistan," Miliband, who published the interview as the guest editor of the Statesman, argued.

"The candour and clarity of the remarks about al-Qaida, Nato and the Afghan government show that we are dealing with a sophisticated and long-term presence in the country that cannot be wished away," he said. "With 10,000 British troops in the country it is vital that those talks are taken forward now. Afghanistan cannot become the forgotten war."

Earlier this year, the Taliban sent representatives to Qatar to act as a political office for negotiations with the US. However, the talks soon stalled largely because of resistance to such contacts from Karzai, who felt he had been excluded, and reluctance in Washington to authorise the transfer of five Taliban prisoners in Guantánamo, something the Taliban had been led to believe had been agreed in preliminary talks as a confidence-building measure.

The Taliban officially suspended the contacts in March but kept its envoys in Qatar. It also sent a delegation last weekend to a reconciliation conference in Kyoto. In the article, Mawlvi signals that the Taliban's pragmatic wing at least remains committed to the talks.

"The world has long been keen to portray the Taliban as wild and uncivilised, ignorant of international norms and uninterested in government. Nato has long claimed that it wants peace but the Taliban are an obstacle who refuse to break links with al-Qaida. The Taliban wanted to turn the tables on Nato and show who are the real obstacles to peace," he says.

Mawlvi maintains the Taliban interest in negotiations goes beyond the immediate desire to get its men out of Guantánamo. If that had been the case, they would not have bothered going to Qatar but would simply have established a commission for prisoner exchange, he said.

Semple says it is hard to judge the influence of pragmatists such as Mawlvi in comparison to more radical jihadists grouped around the overall leader, Mullah Omar. Mawlvi's outspoken contempt for al-Qaida conflicts with evidence found in Osama Bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad pointing to close working relationship between Omar and al-Qaida's leadership in orchestrating attacks on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Semple argues that greater western commitment to talks would help the movement disentangle itself from al-Qaida. Mawlvi dismisses what he says are the few hundred al-Qaida fighters still in the region as irrelevant, saying the Taliban had not made a formal break only because it feared "it might alienate some Islamist constituencies".

It is also unclear whether the largely Pakistan-based Taliban leadership still has control over junior field commanders in Afghanistan, who have become progressively younger and more radical as a result of an intensive campaign of assassination spearheaded by US and British special forces over recent years.

"In truth, no one knows whether the Taliban leadership has the authority to make a peace deal," Mawlvi says. "But the same question could well be asked about Karzai, except that, with regard to Kabul, we know that authority is in the hands of someone else."

from The Guardian
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