ISLAMABAD (AP) — Militants in Pakistan’s most populous province are said to be training for what they expect will be an ethnic-based civil war in neighboring Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw in 16 months, according to analysts and a senior militant. In the past two years the number of Punjab-based militants deploying to regions bordering on Afghanistan has tripled and is now in the thousands, says analyst Mansur Mehsud. He runs the FATA Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank studying the mix of militant groups that operate in Pakistan’s tribal belt running along much of the 2,600-kilometer (1,600-mile) Afghan-Pakistan border. Mehsud, himself from South Waziristan where militants also hide out, says more than 150 militant groups operate in the tribal regions, mostly in mountainous, heavily forested North Waziristan. Dotted with hideouts, it is there that Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri is thought by the U.S. to be hiding, and where Afghanistan says many of its enemies have found sanctuary. While militants from Punjab province have long sought refuge and training in the tribal regions, they were fewer in number and confined their hostility to Pakistan’s neighbor and foe, India. All that is changing, say analysts. “Before, they were keeping a low profile. But just in the last two or three years hundreds have been coming from Punjab,” said Mehsud. “Everyone knows that when NATO and the American troops leave Afghanistan there will be fighting between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns.”
And the Punjabi militants will side with the Afghan Taliban, who are mostly Pashtun, Afghanistan’s dominant ethnic group and the majority ethnic group in Pakistan’s northwest region that borders Afghanistan. Like many in the Taliban, the Punjabi militants share a radical and regressive interpretation of Islam. “We will go to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban as we have done in the past,” said a senior member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a militant Sunni Muslim group, who goes by a nom de guerre, Ahmed Zia Siddiqui. In an interview with The Associated Press in Pakistan, he said the Taliban haven’t yet requested help, but when asked whether Punjab-based militants were preparing for war in Afghanistan after the foreign withdrawal, he replied: “Absolutely.” Despite being outlawed in Pakistan, Siddiqui’s group is among the most active and violent, providing a cadre of suicide bombers for attacks both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. It has taken responsibility for dozens of attacks that have killed hundreds of minority Shiites in Pakistan. It has also been implicated in some of the most spectacular attacks in Pakistan, including the 2008 bombing of a five-star hotel in the capital and an assassination attempt on former dictator and U.S. ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Zahid Hussain, whose books plot the rise of militancy in Pakistan, said at least two dozen militant groups are headquartered in Punjab province, while in Waziristan their numbers are growing as mainstream religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami recruit young men to the militant cause. “Even if a settlement occurs in Afghanistan there are still a lot who will continue to fight and those who are most likely to resist a settlement are Pakistani militants,” Hussain said. He said that during a recent trip he made to North Waziristan, local tribesmen spoke of the influx of Punjab-based militants into their area. Foreign journalists are not allowed in the tribal regions. Pakistan’s new elected civilian government has promised a strategy to tackle the militants whose actions, says Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are a scourge that has killed upward of 40,000 Pakistanis in recent years. In a televised speech last month, he lamented Pakistan’s inability “to restrict the culprits or even identify them, to spot their hideouts and take them to task.”
“Pakistan cannot tolerate this anymore,” he said. While Sharif suggested that “incompetence or insensitiveness” were to blame, analysts accuse the government of lacking the political will to go after the militants. They say Sharif’s conservative Pakistan Muslim League rules Punjab province, where militant headquarters are easy to spot and are left undisturbed. In the south Punjab city of Bahawalpur, the al-Qaida linked Jaish-e-Mohammed is expanding its headquarters and building bigger religious schools for its adherents, said Ayesha Saddiqa, a defense analyst from Bahawalpur. The militant group has radicalized locals, and its leader, Azhar Masood, freed from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for a hijacked Indian Airlines plane, moves about freely, she said. Punjab “is infested with numerous jihadi outfits that support the Taliban based in the tribal areas from time to time,” said Saddiqa. “The Punjabi jihadis are critical of the war in Afghanistan and Western presence in the region. This is not just an objection to foreign presence in a Muslim country but is part of a larger war they hope to fight in establishing supremacy of Islam according to their interpretation and imagination.” Omar Hamid Khan, the Interior Ministry spokesman, says violence has escalated since the Sharif government took office in June, with 68 attacks in 60 days. In a recent interview he acknowledged the difficulties the new government faces in meeting its stated goals of creating a counter-terrorism authority and competent police force, and finding experts to translate its national security blueprint into action. Dr. Simbal Khan, a regional security expert with the Islamabad Policy Research Institute in Islamabad, said Pakistan doesn’t want to see Afghanistan return to the 1990s, when civil war destroyed the country and gave rise to the repressive Taliban regime which in turn strengthened Pakistan’s militants. Yet Pakistan’s options are few, and according to Dr. Khan exclude an all-out assault on militant hideouts in Punjab that would turn the full force of militancy against Pakistan. “We know where they are. We could bomb the whole area, flatten it. That would solve Afghanistan’s problem but what would that leave for us?” she asked. “We might solve the Afghan problem but our problem would be far worse. We would suffer for the next 40 years.” Associated Press
There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, they equivalent of almost a million square miles. In a rebound from 2012’s record low an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin. The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, forcing some ships to change their routes. A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century. If correct, it would contradict computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming. The news comes several years after the BBC predicted that the arctic would be ice-free by 2013. Despite the original forecasts, major climate research centres now accept that there has been a “pause” in global warming since 1997. The original predictions led to billions being invested in green measures to combat the effects of climate change. The change in the predictions has led to UN’s climate change’s body holding a crisis meeting, and the the IPCC was due to report on the situation in October. A pre-summit meeting will be held later this month. But leaked documents show that governments who fund the IPCC are demanding 1,500 changes to the Fifth Assessment Report – a three-volume study issued every six or seven years – as they claim its current draft does not properly explain the pause. The extent to which temperatures will rise with carbon dioxide levels, as well as how much of the warming over the past 150 year, a total of 0.8C, is down to human greenhouse gas emissions are key issues. The IPCC says it is “95 per cent confident” that global warming has been caused by humans – up from 90 per cent in 2007 – according to the draft report. However, US climate expert Professor Judith Curry has questioned how this can be true as that rather than increasing in confidence, “uncertainty is getting bigger” within the academic community. Long-term cycles in ocean temperature, she said, suggest the world may be approaching a period similar to that from 1965 to 1975, when there was a clear cooling trend. At the time some scientists forecast an imminent ice age. Professor Anastasios Tsonis, of the University of Wisconsin, said: ‘We are already in a cooling trend, which I think will continue for the next 15 years at least. There is no doubt the warming of the 1980s and 1990s has stopped.” The IPCC is said to maintain that their climate change models suggest a pause of 15 years can be expected. Other experts agree that natural cycles cannot explain all of the recorded warming. The Telegraph
On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb. Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go. All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.The retired Marine sergeant lost his house on that summer day two years ago through a tax lien sale — an obscure program run by D.C. government that enlists private investors to help the city recover unpaid taxes.For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.
But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.As the housing market soared, the investors scooped up liens in every corner of the city, then started charging homeowners thousands in legal fees and other costs that far exceeded their original tax bills, with rates for attorneys reaching $450 an hour. Families have been forced to borrow or strike payment plans to save their homes.Others weren’t as lucky. Tax lien purchasers have foreclosed on nearly 200 houses since 2005 and are now pressing to take 1,200 more, many owned free and clear by families for generations.Investors also took storefronts, parking lots and vacant land — about 500 properties in all, or an average of one a week. In dozens of cases, the liens were less than $500.Coleman, struggling with dementia, was among those who lost a home. His debt had snowballed to $4,999 — 37 times the original tax bill. Not only did he lose his $197,000 house, but he also was stripped of the equity because tax lien purchasers are entitled to everything, trumping even mortgage companies.“This is destroying lives,” said Christopher Leinberger, a distinguished scholar and research professor of urban real estate at George Washington University.Officials at the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue said that without tax sales, property owners wouldn’t feel compelled to pay their bills.“The tax sale is the last resort. It’s also the first resort — it’s the only way in the statute to collect debt,” said deputy chief financial officer Stephen Cordi.But the District, a hotbed for the tax lien industry, has done little to shield its most vulnerable homeowners from unscrupulous operators.Foreclosures have upended families in some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods. Houses were taken from a housekeeper, a department store clerk, a seamstress and even the estates of dead people.
The hardest hit: elderly homeowners, who were often sick or dying when tax lien purchasers seized their houses.One 65-year-old flower shop owner lost his Northwest Washington home of 40 years after a company from Florida paid his back taxes — $1,025 — and then took the house through foreclosure while he was in hospice, dying of cancer. A 95-year-old church choir leader lost her family home to a Maryland investor over a tax debt of $44.79 while she was struggling with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.Other cities and states took steps to curb abuses, such as capping the fees, safeguarding houses owned by the elderly or scrapping tax sales altogether and instead collecting the money themselves.“Where is the justice? They’re taking people’s lives,” said Beverly Smalls, whose elderly aunt lost her home in Northeast Washington. “It’s just not right.” More
The new Iranian foreign minister Mohamad Javad Zarif parroted Tehran’s repeated threat that a US attack on Syria would “ignite a fire across the Middle East,” on his arrival in Baghdad Sunday. Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari pledged that his government would not permit any party to use Iraqi territory to attack Syria. Debka
In a move to intensify its defense near the Syrian border, Turkey has deployed additional troops and more weapons to the country’s southeast. Earlier this week, Turkey sent reinforcement to the south amid Washington’s calls for a military strike on Syria. The Turkish military dispatched additional units to Suruc, located in the southern province of Sanlıurfa, on Sunday, Today’s Zaman reported. According to the report, semi-trailer trucks loaded with armored vehicles and tanks were sent midday from a command post in the southeastern city of Gaziantep. Local newspaper Hurriyet also reported on Sunday that Turkish fighter jets conducted a patrol flight over the Syrian border due to “increased activity” in the area. Automated firing units using Stinger missiles for very short range air defenses have been set up on top of a high hill on the Syrian border town of Yayladagi in Hatay province, Reuters reported, citing a witness who said that the defense system’s radar was active. Over the past week, Turkey also moved convoys of military vehicles carrying equipment and personnel between its bases near the southeastern border. Reinforcement units were sent on Wednesday from a military command in the southern province of Gaziantep to Kilis province, located on the Syrian border. On Thursday, additional convoys of military units, weapons, and vehicles were also dispatched to the southern province of Hatay.
Turkish armed forces have also begun to establish a new base on the top of Kel Mountain, adjacent to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, according to Hurriyet. Military equipment, which was carried by trucks for two days from the Yayladağı district to the southern Hatay province, is being assembled on top of the mountain. It remains unclear what prompted the decision to send reinforcements to the border, as neither the Turkish military nor the Ministry of Defense were available to provide comment to Reuters. Local media speculated that the move could be related to a Tuesday accident which occurred when a package of live ammunition exploded while being smuggled into Turkey. Six people were killed at the border. It has been also suggested by the media that the additional troops will be the first to respond to a possible strike by Syria. But in his recent statement, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that Turkey – which has been openly supporting the rebel opposition – was ready to take part in any international coalition against Syria. “Whether it would be as an opposing force or supplying forces to provide logistical support, all this would be determined by circumstances,” Erdogan said on Sunday. Turkey has been bolstering security along the 900km (560 mile) border with Syria over the past year. Meanwhile, US Congress is set to debate whether to give a green light for military intervention after President Barack Obama proposed limited strikes in response to what Washington insists was the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against Syrian civilians. RT
Barack Obama-backed Syrian rebel terrorists this week have dismembered a girl while she was alive along with other similar atrocities in a Christian village in Syria, according to Russia Today. Hit-and-run attacks on the ancient village of Maaloula, one of the few places in the world where residents still speak “the original language of Christ,” Aramaic, has intensified fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of U.S.-backed rebel extremists among those fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.. President Barack Obama has aimed to topple Assad with support from Congress and the public, first using US-backed rebels to create atrocities and chaos, blame Assad, and then target assassinate Assad with air strikes, according to news reports. Obama has used the CIA to kickstart atrocities in Syria, as 12 former military and intelligence officers revealed on Saturday. This is how Obama wormed his way into Libya and started an illegal war of aggression there, without Congressional approval or even debate.
In the latest widely circulated news, Obama-backed rebels decapitated and committed other atrocities on Christians in hit and run attacks in Maaloula. A video widely published has depicted Syrians injured and killed by chemicals that Obama unjustifiably claims was the work of Assad and his army. Over 100,000 people have been killed, with nearly 7 million uprooted from their homes. U.N. officials estimate 5 million Syrians have been displaced and another 2 million have fled to neighboring countries. The total amounts to almost a third of Syria’s population, that was 23 million before fighting began. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos met with Syrian government officials, lobbying for access to civilians trapped in areas where fighting has raged. After that meeting with the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Amos told the Associated Press that she is “extremely concerned that the situation on the ground is becoming worse.” Rather than offering real humanitarian aid, Obama is offering to bomb the country, his brand of “humanitarianism.” Mother Agnes, a catholic nun living in Syria 20 years and reporting on the war-ravaged country, has carefully studied the video featuring alleged victims of chemical weapons attack in the Syrian village of Guta in August. She questions its authenticity. Rather than blaming Syrian’s government for terrorist atrocities across Syria, Mother Agnes blames the United States and Obama-backed Syrian Rebels. Atrocities and other human rights violations being carried out by the rebels, including dismembering a live young Syrian girl, far outweight any type of actions by Assad-backed Syrian government forces, according to Mother Agnes. This reflects exactly what happened in Libya where US abuses were far worse than what Gadhafi allegedly did. “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic,” best-selling author and television writer Dresden James has said. Teresa Stover’s words are also poignant today, as Obama-backed rebels attack innocent Syrians in the worse ways to gain support for him to take over Syria and the gas pipeline there for Israel: Understand that all battles are waged on an unconscious level before they are begun on the conscious one, and this battle is no different. The power structure wishes us to believe that the only options available are those which they present to us, we know this is simply not true, and therefore we must redefine the terrain of this conflict, and clearly, it is a conflict of worldviews and agendas. Examiner.com
Former U.S. intelligence analysts claim current intelligence analysts have told them Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not responsible for the Aug. 21 poison gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, which killed 1,429 people, of whom more than 400 where children. They claim the “growing body of evidence” reveals the incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters. “The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United States into the war,” one former U.S. intelligence analysts said. The analysts referred to a meeting a week before the Aug. 21 incident in which opposition military commanders ordered preparations for an “imminent escalation” due to a “war-changing development” that would be followed by the “U.S.-led bombing of Syria.” In addition, the former U.S. analysts said that Israel welcomed limited U.S. military action but not so much that it would strengthen rebel groups, which are “increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.” In an open memorandum to U.S. President Barack Obama, who is contemplating a strike on Syria’s military in response to this incident, members of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS, said that even British officials are aware that it wasn’t al-Assad who committed the atrocity.
The British Parliament recently voted not to engage British military forces, even though British Prime Minister David Cameron sought such an endorsement in support of the Obama administration. Following the vote, Cameron said there would be no British participation in any military action against the Syrian government. The veteran former U.S. intelligence analysts who remain in contact with current U.S. intelligence officials said they believe Obama wasn’t informed in order to preserve “plausible denial.” Formed in January 2003, VIPS is a group of current and former U.S. intelligence community officials. Members include analysts from CIA, the State Department’s Intelligence Bureau, or INR, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Those signing the memorandum were Thomas Drake, former senior executive of the National Security Agency; Philip Giraldi, retired Central Intelligence Agency officer; Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan; Larry Johnson, retired CIA and State Department official; W. Patrick Lang, former senior executive and Defense Intelligence Officer; David MacMichael, who was on the National Intelligence Council; and Ray McGovern, former U.S. Army infantry intelligence office and CIA analyst. Other signers of the memo were Elizabeth Murray, former deputy national intelligence officer; Todd Pierce, former U.S. Army judge advocate; Sam Provance, former sergeant, U.S. Army in Iraq; Coleen Rowley, former Division Council and FBI special agent; and Ann Write, retired U.S. Army colonel and foreign service officer.
The memorandum, with a subject line titled “Is Syria a Trap?” pointed out that the weight of the Obama’s evidence is reminiscent of intelligence used by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in a Feb. 5, 2003, speech before the United Nations, in which he “peddled fraudulent intelligence” – according to the memo – to support the March 18, 2003, U.S. military attack on Iraq for its weapons of mass destruction. “Then, also, we chose to give President (George W.) Bush the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was being misled – or, at the least, very poorly advised,” the analysts said. “Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on Aug. 21 in a suburb of Damascus,” the analysts said, suggesting that they maintain contact with current U.S. intelligence community analysts. “They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal.” In an apparent direct attack on CIA Director John Brennan, the former high-ranking analysts said that he was “perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you,” referring to Obama. “We have observed John Brennan closely over recent years, and, sadly, we find what our former colleagues are now telling us easy to believe,” the memo said. “Sadder still,” it said, “this goes in spades for those of us who have worked with him personally; we give him zero credence. And that goes, as well, for his titular boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has admitted he gave ‘clearly erroneous’ sworn testimony to Congress denying NSA eavesdropping on Americans.” In claiming that the Aug. 21 chemical weapons incident was a provocation of the Syrian opposition, the former U.S. analysts said that the growing body of evidence came mostly from sources affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters. They said that these reports revealed that canisters containing chemical agents were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened. “We are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area,” the analysts said.
“In fact, we are aware of no reliable physical evidence to support the claim that this was a result of a strike by a Syrian military unit with expertise in chemical weapons. “In addition, we have learned that on August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major, irregular military surge,” the analysts said. “Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, now used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army and their foreign sponsors.” The analysts claimed that senior opposition commanders who came from Istanbul pre-briefed the regional commanders on an “imminent escalation in the fighting due to ‘a war-changing development,’ which, in turn, would lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria.” The analysts said that the opposition leaders then were ordered to prepare their forces to “exploit the U.S. bombing” and march into Damascus to remove the al-Assad government. The Obama administration refuses to admit that the Syrian opposition possesses or has the capability of delivering chemical weapons. The VIPS memo to Obama reinforces separate videos, which show foreign fighters associated with the Syrian opposition firing artillery canisters of poison gas. One video shows Nadeem Baloosh, a member of an al-Qaida-affiliated group Riyadh al-Abdeen, admitting to the use of chemical weapons. In the video clip, al-Abdeen, who is in the Latakia area of Syria, said that his forces used “chemicals which produce lethal and deadly gases that I possess.” He added that they decided to use them against women and children.
As WND recently reported, a 100-page report on an investigation turned over to the U.N. by Russia concludes that the Syrian rebels – not the Syrian government – used the nerve agent Sarin in an attack in the Syrian city of Aleppo last March. Sources familiar with the content of the documentation said that deadly Sarin gas was manufactured in a Sunni-controlled region of Iraq and then transported to Turkey for use by the Syrian opposition, whose ranks have swelled with members of al-Qaida-affiliated groups. The documentation is said to have pointed specifically to a Saddam-era general working under the outlawed Iraqi Ba’ath party leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. Al-Douri was a top aide to Saddam Hussein before he was deposed as president. The general, Adnan al-Dulaimi, then supplied the Sarin to Ba’ath-affiliated foreign fighters of the Sunni and Saudi Arabian-backed Jabhat al-Nusra Front in Aleppo, with Turkey’s cooperation through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province. The analysts suggested that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has every reason to get Washington involved in another war in the Middle East region. “But with outspoken urging coming from Israel and those Americans who lobby for Israeli interests, this priority Israeli objective is becoming crystal clear,” the former intelligence analysts said. They referred to a New York Times article that addressed Israeli motivation. “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis,” the Times article said. “This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win – we’ll settle for a tie,” the Times quoted Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, as saying. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death. That’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.” The former U.S. analysts said that in looking this way, the Israelis believe that U.S. military intervention will insure that there is “no early resolution of the conflict in Syria. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates that it is.” WND