Tag Archives: Mali

What ISIS and the ‘caliphate’ mean for Pakistan

Taliban TerroristsBy Muhammad Amir Rana

Among many factors, the Pakistani state’s protracted apathy and inaction on the issue of security has provided non-state actors the spaces to grow and expand their influence. They used these spaces not only to propagate their ideologies and narratives but also to establish a ‘state within the state’ in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Even as counteraction is now underway, the sudden rise of ISIS has threatened to make matters worse for us.

The militants are jubilant over the success of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has established a ‘caliphate’, or ‘Islamic state’ in parts of Syria and Iraq. This is not the first time militants have captured some territory and established their so-called Islamic writ.

Afghanistan, Pakistani tribal areas, Northern Mali and Somalia have experienced similar ventures by militants in the past, though on varying levels.

Rise of ISIS ≠ Fall of al Qaeda

Many experts see the decline of al Qaeda in the rise of ISIS, while analysing the recent developments happening in Iraq and Syria. That is a mistake.

A realistic review of militants’ strategies suggests that they first challenge the very foundation of the state by providing alternative socio-cultural and political narratives and then march onto its physical territory.

They may have differences over strategies, as ISIS and al Qaeda had, but ultimately they overcome their differences. Al Qaeda might feel stunned over the ‘victories’ of ISIS but now, instead of arguing with ISIS over strategies, will prefer to develop a consensus over a model of caliphate.

In some cases, militants develop alliances with nationalist groups.

That’s what happened in Northern Mali, where the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) had developed coordination with Islamist groups. But when they captured a territory, Islamist groups started imposing Shariah. The alliance was weakened due to ensuing infightings and eventually broke up after a military offensive was launched by the French forces.

A dangerous inspiration

Apart from group dynamics, inspiration plays an important role in militants’ efforts to replicate one success in other parts of the world.

The rise and success of ISIS could play a very dangerous, inspirational role in Pakistan, where more than 200 religious organisations are operating on the national and regional level.

These organisations pursue multiple agendas such as transformation of society according to their ideologies, the enforcement of Shariah law, establishment of Khilafah (caliphate) system, fulfilment of their sectarian objectives and achievement of Pakistan’s strategic and ideological objectives through militancy.

Such organisations could be influenced by the success of ISIS in various ways. A few would limit themselves to providing just moral support, but others might actively provide donations and financial assistance on ISIS’ call.

Common purpose: Establish the state of Khurasan

Still others — mainly religious extremist and militant organisations — could find inspiration in ISIS’ strategies and tactics.

This is possible since even groups operating in two different regions can find common ground in the Takfiri ideologies they believe in, and in the organisational links they share with each other.

The map released by ISIS shows countries for expansion marked in black across North Africa, into mainland Spain, across the Middle East and into Muslim countries of Central and South Asian region. It depicts exactly the states, which are or once remained under Muslim control.

According to this notion, the territory which has come under Muslim rule even once becomes a permanent part of Islamic caliphate. These territories, if later invaded by non-Muslims, will be considered as unjustly occupied territories and it will be obligatory for a Muslim to struggle to regain them.

Interestingly, the ISIS map shows both Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the Islamic caliphate state’s Khurasan province. Al Qaeda and its affiliates believe that the movement for the establishment of the Islamic state of Khurasan will emerge from the region comprising of the Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan and Malakand region of Pakistan.

They consider Khurasan as the base camp of international jihad, from where they will expand the Islamic state boundaries into other non-Muslim lands. Mullah Fazlullah of Swat was inspired by the notion and considered himself the founder of the Khurasan movement.

Many other groups and commanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan subscribe to the same idea, but only a few groups have dedicated themselves to the cause of establishment of the Islamic state of Khurasan.

The current TTP leadership — mainly Fazlullah and his deputy Qayum Haqqani, and Khalid Khurasani group in Mohmand and Bajaur agencies of Fata — are leading this movement, not only on the militant, but on the ideological front as well.

The concentration of al Qaeda and TTP hardliner groups in Kunar and Nuristan are of the same mind; they intend to use the territory as a base camp for the establishment of the state of Khurasan. Though they are not strong enough to trigger a massive militant campaign like the one going on in Iraq, they will remain a critical security irritant and keep inspiring radical minds in the region.

Continue reading What ISIS and the ‘caliphate’ mean for Pakistan

With Timbuktu Retaken, France Signals It Plans to Pull Back in Mali

By LYDIA POLGREEN and SCOTT SAYARE

SEGOU, Mali — French paratroopers arrived in the ancient desert oasis of Timbuktu on Monday, securing its airport and main roads as thousands of residents poured out of its narrow, mud-walled streets to greet French and Malian troops, waving the two countries’ flags, with whoops, cheers and shouts.

“Timbuktu has fallen,” said the city’s mayor, Halle Ousmane Cissé, in a telephone interview from the capital, Bamako, where he has been in exile since the Islamist militants took over the city 10 months ago. He said he planned to return to his city on Tuesday.

The rapid advance to Timbuktu, a day after French and African troops took firm control of the former rebel stronghold of Gao, may spell the beginning of the end of France’s major involvement in the conflict here.

The French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was a little more cautious than the mayor in his assessment of the situation in Timbuktu on Monday evening ….

Read more » The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/world/africa/mali-timbuktu-france-britain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

Pakistan still global jihad hub

By

PESHAWAR: Pakistan is still a major destination for radicalised Muslims bent on a life of jihad, despite hundreds of US drone strikes, the death of Osama bin Laden and the fracturing of Al-Qaeda.

New battlegrounds have sprung up in Africa and the Middle East, but the number of foreign recruits smuggled into the northwestern tribal belt is increasing and they come from more diverse countries.

Since the 1980s “jihad” to expel Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Muslim fighters from all over the world have lived and trained on the Afghan-Pakistan border, moulded into Al-Qaeda and a host of spin-off militant networks.

After US-led forces in late 2001 evicted the Taliban in Kabul for sheltering Al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban fled across the border into Pakistan.

But Washington and Nato will end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year and these days the Taliban say their foreign allies are drawn to other conflicts, despite their support networks in a region outside direct government control.

“Al-Qaeda is shifting its focus to Syria, Libya, Iraq or Mali,” one member of the Afghan Taliban told AFP on condition of anonymity in northwest Pakistan.

Local officials estimate the number of Arab fighters has fallen by more than a half or two thirds in the last 10 years, to below 1,000.

In the last two years, some Al-Qaeda Arabs, particularly Libyans and Syrians, left to take part in the civil war in Syria and the violent uprising that overthrew Libya’s dictator Muammar Qadhafi in 2011.

Others migrated to Iraq in 2003, and others to Somalia and Yemen.

But Saifullah Khan Mehsud, executive director of the Fata Research Center, a think-tank focused on the tribal belt, says uprisings in the Middle East have had a minimal effect on the Arab presence in Pakistan.

“Arab fighters are not leaving in big numbers,” he told AFP. “They have been there for 30 years and it continues,” he added.

The number of fighters from other countries is also rising, say witnesses in Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan — the district with the largest concentration of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.

“The overall number of foreign jihadis has increased in the last two years. Every week we see new faces,” says one regular visitor.

There could be around 2,000 to 3,500 foreign fighters in the border areas from around 30 different countries. During the 1980s, the number was also estimated to have been several thousand.

More nationalities, same problems

Most of the current crop are Turkmens and Uzbeks, numbering between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters according to local officials, who have fled authoritarian secular regimes in their home countries to set up their own groups.

The Islamic Jihad Union, which splintered from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is based in Pakistan’s border areas. It is committed to toppling the government in Uzbekistan, and fights alongside insurgents in Afghanistan.

It has also plotted an attack in Germany, which was foiled.

US officials say covert drone strikes have played a huge role in destroying training camps and disrupting Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 362 US drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since 2004 — 310 of them since US President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

Although North Waziristan locals say the strikes kill more Taliban than Al-Qaeda operatives, they have condemned foreign fighters to a life underground.

“They are low profile, they dress like locals, they avoid big meetings and above all they move all the time,” a local journalist told AFP.

Mehsud says that foreigners are coming from a more diverse number of countries than in years past.

“A few months ago, we even welcomed some (two or three) people from Fiji for the first time!” says the Taliban member who spoke with AFP.

“There are more nationalities because they face the same problems. They tell us that they feel left aside by capitalism and discriminated by unfair laws, like the Swiss one on minarets or the French one on hijabs,” he adds.

Local and Western officials say the number of Western militants have fallen to dozens compared to the several hundreds of a few years ago.

A Canadian, who uses the name Mohammad Ibrahim, told AFP that he had been in Pakistan for three years but was now preparing to leave to wage jihad at home.

“Foreigners are now afraid to come to Pakistan because of the drone strikes,” he says, putting the number of his compatriots at 14, compared to “60 to 85 three years ago”.

A mechanical engineer by training, he says he works in “technical and logistic affairs” but does not elaborate further.

“I often met British, Spanish, Italians, Algerians and Germans. But now…our movements have been limited because of the drone strikes,” he says.

Courtesy: DAWN
http://dawn.com/2013/01/27/pakistan-still-global-jihad-hub/

Unmarried couple in Mali is stoned to death as Islamists impose Shariah law

Associated Press (Sunday, Jul 29, 2012) – BAMAKO, Mali — A spokesman for the radical Islamic group controlling northern Mali says a couple who had an adulterous relationship was stoned to death this weekend in the town of Aguelhok.

Sanda Abou Mohamed, a spokesman for the group Ansar Dine, told The Associated Press by telephone on Sunday that the couple was executed according to Shariah law.

A resident of the northern city of Kidal, who had spoken to witnesses in nearby Aguelhok, said the man and woman were buried up to their necks, then pelted with stones until they died earlier Sunday. The resident requested anonymity because he feared for his safety.

Continue reading Unmarried couple in Mali is stoned to death as Islamists impose Shariah law

Islamists destroy prized saints mausoleums in Timbuktu- UNESCO world heritage site on danger

UPDATE 2-Mali Islamists destroy holy Timbuktu sites

* Witnesses say Ansar Dine fighters take pick-axes to sites

* Attacks comes days after UNESCO danger warning

* Islamists now have upper hand in Mali’s north (Adds further details, switches dateline to BAMAKO, adds byline)

By Adama Diarra

BAMAKO, June 30 (Reuters) – Al Qaeda-linked Mali Islamists armed with Kalashnikovs and pick-axes began destroying prized mausoleums of saints in the UNESCO-listed northern city of Timbuktu on Saturday in front of shocked locals, witnesses said.

The Islamist Ansar Dine group backs strict sharia, Islamic law, and considers the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam idolatrous. Sufi shrines have also been attacked by hardline Salafists in Egypt and Libya in the past year.

The attack came just days after UNESCO placed Timbuktu on its list of heritage sites in danger and will recall the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of two 6th-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.

“They have already completely destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud (Ben Amar) and two others. They said they would continue all day and destroy all 16,” local Malian journalist Yeya Tandina said by telephone of the 16 most prized resting grounds of local saints in the town.

“They are armed and have surrounded the sites with pick-up trucks. The population is just looking on helplessly,” he said, adding that the Islamists were currently taking pick-axes to the mausoleum of Sidi El Mokhtar, another cherished local saint.

Courtesy: Reuters

http://af.reuters.com/article/maliNews/idAFL6E8HU0XU20120630

NATO says captures senior Haqqani commander in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) – NATO-led forces said on Saturday that they had captured the senior commander for the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, Haji Mali Khan, during an operation in eastern Paktia province earlier in the week.

Khan is “the uncle of Siraj and Badruddin Haqqani … one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan,” the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

NATO said Khan had managed bases and operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and moved forces across the border for attacks, as well as transferring funds and sourcing supplies. The statement called him “the senior Haqqani commander in Afghanistan.”

Khan was captured on Tuesday in Jani Khel district of Paktia province along with his deputy and bodyguard, in an operation by Afghan and foreign forces, NATO said.

He was heavily armed but “submitted … without incident or resistance,” the force said. It did not detail how they had identified Khan.

The Taliban, to whom the Haqqani network have pledged allegiance, denied that Khan had been captured.

“I have just spoken with Haji Mali Khan, he is fine and is somewhere else and hasn’t been detained,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters. “This is a baseless news and it has been released in order to weaken Mujahideen’s morale,” he said. ….

Read more → Reuters