Friday, January 11, 2013

Al-Qaeda prisoners escape in Baghdad, officials say

At least a dozen inmates, including several prisoners linked to Al-Qaeda who have been sentenced to death, escaped from a jail north of Baghdad early on Friday, security officials said.

Sources mooted the possibility of collusion on the part of prison guards in allowing the jailbreak, which occurred shortly after midnight in the town of Taji, 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the capital.

An interior ministry official said all 12 prisoners who escaped were Iraqis, but a military source put the number of escapees at 16.

"They escaped from Taji prison after they got hold of the guards' weapons," said the military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"It could be there was cooperation from the guards."

The officer said most of the escapees were linked to Al-Qaeda's front group the Islamic State of Iraq, while the interior ministry official said several had been sentenced to death.
Jailbreaks and prison unrest are relatively common in Iraq.

On September 27, more than 100 prisoners escaped from a jail in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, although several were killed or recaptured in subsequent weeks, officials said.

In March last year, 19 inmates escaped from a prison in the northern city of Kirkuk, and last January, 11 prisoners tunneled out of a prison in the northern Kurdish province of Dohuk.

Last Updated: Fri Jan 11, 2013 17:50 pm (KSA) 14:50 pm (GMT)

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4 policemen killed, 5 injured in Taliban attacks

English: Map of Badghis Province, Afghanistan ...
Maps of Badghis Province (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ERAT CITY (PAN): Four Afghan National Police (ANP) members were killed and five others injured during two separate rebel attacks in northwestern Badghis province, officials said on Friday.

The insurgents attacked police checkpoints in Aab Kamari and Maqur districts late on Thursday night, the governor's spokesman, Sharafuddin Majidi, told Pajhwok Afghan News.

Provincial police chief, Gen. Sharafuddin Sharaf, said four policemen were killed and two others injured when the militants stormed the Miranzai check-post in Maqur district.

He added three more police were injured in a similar assault on the Chahelgazi checkpoint in Aab Kamari district. The ensuing clashes lasted two hours.

from Pajhwok
By Sharafuddin Stanikzai Jan 11, 2013 - 16:36

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Jan. 11., 2013. - ISAF Joint Command Operational Update

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader in Burkah district, Baghlan province, Jan. 11.

The leader planned and executed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces for both the Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and was used by both insurgent groups to root out those within their organizations thought to be disloyal.

During the operation, the security force seized ammunition and military-style uniforms.

In other International Security Assistance Force news throughout Afghanistan:


An Afghan National Army patrol discovered an improvised explosive device cache during a security operation in Garm Ser district, Helmand province, Jan. 10. The cache contained three complete IEDs and 815 pounds of explosives. The Afghan soldiers secured the site and a coalition explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the cache.


A Haqqani leader was arrested by an Afghan and coalition security force in Sabari district, Khost province, Jan. 11. At the time of his arrest, the leader was assisting in the preparation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and the acquisition of ammunition for an upcoming attack against Afghan and coalition forces.

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Jan. 11., 2013. - RC-East operational update

BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Afghan and coalition forces detained one insurgent and cleared two improvised explosive devices during operations in eastern Afghanistan throughout the past 24 hours, Jan. 10.

Khowst province

Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces detained one insurgent during an engagement in Khowst district. The detained suspect was transferred to a base for questioning.

Paktika province

Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces found and safely cleared one IED in Jani Khel district.

Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces found and safely cleared one IED in Dzadran district.

Operations in RC-East are ongoing.

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String of bombings kill 101, injure 200 in Pakistan

 (Reuters) - At least 101 people were killed in bombings in two Pakistani cities on Thursday in one of the country's bloodiest days in recent years, officials said, with most casualties caused by sectarian attacks in Quetta.

The bombings underscored the myriad threats Pakistani security forces face from homegrown Sunni extremist groups, the Taliban insurgency in the northwest and the less well-known Baloch insurgency in the southwest.

On Thursday evening, two coordinated explosions killed at least 69 people and injured more than 100 in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, said Deputy Inspector of Police Hamid Shakil.

The first attack, in a crowded snooker hall, was a suicide bombing, local residents said. About ten minutes later, a car bomb exploded, they said. Five policemen and a cameraman were among the dead from that blast.

The attacks happened in a predominately Shia neighbourhood and banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility. The extremist Sunni group targets Shias, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistani's population.

Targeted killings and bombings of Shia communities are common in Pakistan, and rights groups say hundreds of Shia were killed last year. Militant groups in Balochistan frequently bomb or shoot Shia passengers on buses travelling to neighbouring Iran.

The killers are rarely caught and some Shia activists say militants work alongside elements of Pakistan's security forces, who see them as a potential bulwark against neighbouring India.

Many Pakistanis fear their nation could become the site of a regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia, source of funding for Sunni extremist groups, and Iran, which is largely Shia.

But sectarian tensions are not the only source of violence.

The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for a blast in Quetta's market earlier in the day. It killed 11 people and injured more than 40, mostly vegetable sellers and second-hand clothes dealers, police officer Zubair Mehmood said. A child was also killed.

The group is one of several fighting for independence for Balochistan, an arid, impoverished region with substantial gas, copper and gold reserves, which constitutes just under half of Pakistan's territory and is home to about 8 million of the country's population of 180 million.


In another incident Thursday, 21 were killed and more than 60 injured in a bombing when people gathered to hear a religious leader speak in Mingora, the largest city in the northwestern province of Swat, police and officials at the Saidu Sharif hospital said.

"The death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition and we are receiving more and more injured people," said Dr. Niaz Mohammad.

It has been more than two years since a militant attack has claimed that many lives in Swat.

The mountainous region, formerly a tourist destination, has been administered by the Pakistani army since their 2009 offensive drove out Taliban militants who had taken control.

But Talibans retain the ability to attack in Swat and shot schoolgirl campaigner Malala Yousufzai in Mingora last October.

A Taliban spokesman said they were not responsible for Thursday's bombing.

By Gul Yousufzai
QUETTA, Pakistan | Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:35pm GMT
(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Pakistan; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jason Webb)

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'Key al Qaeda paramilitary commander' killed in recent drone strike in Pakistan

The US killed a senior al Qaeda military commander during a recent drone strike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Sheikh Yasin Al Kuwaiti, who was killed in a US drone strike on Jan. 8, was a "key al Qaeda paramilitary commander" who was "very high up the food chain," a US intelligence official who tracks the terror group in Pakistan's tribal areas told The Long War Journal. Sheikh Yasin was a top commander and trainer for the Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army, al Qaeda's military cadre [for more information on the the Lashkar al Zil, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army'].

Sheikh Yasin was also described as a "foreign tactical trainer" by Reuters and "a senior Al Qaeda operative" by Dawn on the day that he was reported killed.

Two unidentified "Uzbeks," likely from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or its splinter group, the Islamic Jihad Group, as well as Sheikh Yasin's wife and daughter, were also reported to have been killed in the airstrike that targeted his home.

Sheikh Yasin, a Kuwaiti citizen, was "married [to] the daughter of a local tribesman," according to Dawn. Al Qaeda commanders and fighters have lived in Pakistan's tribal agencies for decades, and often marry locally to cement ties to the Taliban and the tribes.

Sheikh Yasin is part of al Qaeda's deep bench of leaders who have replaced others killed by drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas and by US airstrikes and special operations raids across the border in Afghanistan. He stepped in for top al Qaeda leaders in the Lashkar al Zil who have been killed in strikes over the past several years, such as Abdullah Said al Libi, the unit's commander, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a "general." Additionally, Pakistani jihadists have played an increasingly important role in backfilling leadership positions for foreign al Qaeda leaders who have been killed in drone strikes and special operations raids in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The targeting of Sheikh Yasin contradicts Obama administration claims that only two senior al Qaeda leaders, Ayman al Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al Libi, were left in the organization, and that the terror group would collapse once the two leaders were killed. Abu Yahya al Libi was killed in a drone strike in June 2012; and five other senior and midlevel al Qaeda leaders have also been killed in strikes since his death. Ayman al Zawahiri remains untouched and has released numerous propaganda tapes indicating that al Qaeda's infrastructure remains in place. Several other top al Qaeda leaders are also thought to be operating in Pakistan, beyond the reach of the US, as the drones have been confined to small kill boxes in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan.

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Mali asks for help after Islamists capture strategic town

map by Evan Centanni (
(Reuters) - Mali asked for military help from France after residents of the strategic northern town of Konna said Islamist rebels drove out the Malian army on Thursday, the fiercest fighting since militants took control of the country's north nine months ago.

The fall of Konna, about 600 km (375 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, was a major setback to government forces, which said earlier on Thursday they were making headway against the alliance of al Qaeda-linked rebels.

The U.N. Security Council convened emergency consultations in New York and agreed on a statement in which the members "express their grave concern over the reported military movements and attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in the north of Mali, in particular their capture of the city of Konna.

"This serious deterioration of the situation threatens even more the stability and integrity of Mali, and constitutes a direct threat to international peace and security," the council said after the meeting, which was requested by France.

It also repeated calls for restoration of democracy in Mali and urged U.N. members "to provide assistance to the Malian Defence and Security Forces in order to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organizations and associated groups."

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud confirmed receipt of a request from the Malian government for military assistance and said the "nature of the response to the letter will be announced in Paris tomorrow."

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice described the request for help from Mali, which was sent to the Security Council: "It wasn't specific, but it basically said, 'Help, France.'"

Western and regional governments are keen to dislodge the Islamists from a desert zone of northern Mali larger than France, which they captured in April, amid concerns they may use it as a launch pad to stage attacks.

Konna was the last buffer between the rebels and Mopti, about 50 km (30 miles) south, which is the main town in the region and is seen as the gateway to the country's north.

After hours of gun battles, heavily armed Islamist fighters paraded in triumph through Konna's centre, saying they would push on to take Mopti and its neighbouring town of Sevare, residents said.

"We took the barracks and we control all of the town of Konna," MUJWA rebel group spokesman Oumar Ould Hamaha told Reuters. "The soldiers fled, abandoning their heavy weapons and armoured vehicles."


News of the fall of Konna sowed panic in Mopti and Sevare, the latter the site of a large military barracks and airport. The towns lie at the crossroads between Mali's desert north and the greener, more populous south.

"We have received the order to evacuate," said the local head of a U.S. aid agency. "We have already pulled all our personnel and material out of Mopti."

Local residents and a Malian soldier based in Sevare told Reuters that military aircraft, including two cargo planes and four helicopters carrying Western-looking soldiers and equipment, had landed at Sevare airport on Thursday night.

The French Defense Ministry declined to comment on the reports, and Mali government and military officials were not immediately available to comment.

While a U.N.-sanctioned intervention by African troops is unlikely before September, due to logistical constraints, world powers could decide to act sooner, a U.N. diplomat said.

"If the offensive continues, I think there will be an emergency decision by the international community," U.N. Special Envoy to the Sahel, Romano Prodi, said during a visit to Bamako on Thursday, without elaborating.

Former colonial power France has been among the most outspoken advocates of an African-led military intervention. Many in Mali's military have also been keen to launch a campaign to reverse their rout by the militants in April.

The U.N. Security Council has approved in principle the idea of an international military intervention in the north, though it has urged African nations to step up detailed planning in consultation with the United Nations.

An army official had earlier said that soldiers had retaken Douentza, a town about 120 km east of Konna, which has been in the hands of Islamists since September.

But residents and a rebel spokesman said Islamists had held their positions inside Douentza, exchanging fire with government troops stationed just outside.

The renewed fighting could derail hopes of a breakthrough at peace talks between the Malian government, the rebels and separatist Tuaregs, which were scheduled to start in Burkina Faso on Thursday, but have been postponed until January 21.

Djibril Bassole, Burkina Faso's foreign minister and regional mediator in the crisis, on Thursday called on the parties to respect a ceasefire deal agreed on December 4 and said the fighting posed a threat to talks.

"The climate of confidence has been greatly degraded, and I am very worried that these talks will not bear fruit," he told reporters in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou.

Ansar Dine, one of the main rebel factions, last week ended its ceasefire because of the plan for military intervention.

Once an example of democracy and development in turbulent West Africa, Mali was plunged into crisis by a March 2012 coup that allowed Tuareg rebels to seize the north, demanding an independent homeland. Their rebellion was hijacked by Islamists.

Bickering among Mali's political elite over a roadmap to end the post-coup transition is causing paralysis and damaging efforts to unite the country with elections to choose a replacement for a caretaker government.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Bamako on Wednesday calling for an end to the political crisis, blocking the city's two main bridges. The government responded on Thursday by shutting down schools in Bamako and Kati until further notice.

By Tiemoko Diallo
BAMAKO | Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:35am GMT

(Additional reporting by Adama Diarra, Bate Felix, Cheick Diouara, Louis Charbonneau, and Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Bate Felix, Daniel Flynn, and Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Peter Millership, Pravin Char and Stacey Joyce)

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Yemeni chief killed in Al Qaeda revenge attack

map by Evan Centanni (
A prominent tribal chief was killed in an ambush, an apparent revenge attack by Al Qaeda for his security links, Yemeni security officials said. 
The officials said suspected Al Qaeda militants fatally shot Ali Abdul-Salam Thursday and wounded two of his guards as they rode in his vehicle in the southern province of Abyan.

Security and tribal officials said Abul-Salam, an elected local council member in Shabwa province, was accused by militants of providing information to security agencies and foreign intelligence that led to the targeting of Al Qaeda members.

The officials were speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to reporters.

The Yemeni government has been going after Al Qaeda militants who have established strongholds in Yemen’s south.

Friday  January  11 , 2013  11:47:27 AM

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