Tag Archive: Abbottabad


Pakistani troops retake naval base from militants

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110523/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

Fire and smoke rises from a Pakistani naval aviation base, following an attack by militants in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, May 22, 2011. Militants atta

By ADIL JAWAD, Associated Press Adil Jawad, Associated Press 2 hrs 29 mins ago

KARACHI, Pakistan – Pakistani commandos regained control of a naval base Monday from a team of Taliban militants who attacked then occupied the high-security facility for 18 hours — an exceptionally audacious act of insurgent violence that dealt a humiliating blow to the military.

The attackers — thought to number around six — destroyed at least two U.S.-supplied surveillance planes and killed 10 security officers, officials said. At least four of the attackers were killed, and two others may have escaped, said Pakistan Navy chief Nauman Bashir.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault in the city of Karachi. The militants said it was revenge for the May 2 American raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, and the insurgents were under orders to fight until the death.

“They do not want to come out alive, they have gone there to embrace martyrdom,” said spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan.

The insurgent team armed with grenades, rockets and automatic weapons stormed Naval Station Mehran under cover of darkness late Sunday, using ladders and cutting the wire to get into the facility, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

Once inside, they scattered around the compound, setting off explosions and hiding in the sprawling facility.

During the day Monday, the militants were holed up in an office building in a gunbattle with commandos, navy spokesman Irfan ul Haq said. Navy helicopters flew over the base, and snipers were seen on a runway control tower.

By the afternoon, Haq said the militants had been defeated. “Thanks be to God, the base is cleared and the operation is over,” he said. Commandos leaving the complex flashed victory signs to reporters.

Malik said he saw some of the bodies of the attackers, even showing a picture of one lying bloodied on the grass that he took with his cell phone. He said the were dressed in black and looked “like the Star Wars characters.”

Six Americans and 11 Chinese aviation engineers were on the base but escaped unharmed, he said.

The insurgents’ ability to penetrate the facility rattled a military establishment already embarrassed by the unilateral American raid on bin Laden and raised the possibility they had inside help.

It will also likely lead to more questions over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. In 2009, Islamist terrorists stormed army headquarters close to the capital, holding hostages for 22 hours. But unlike the attack Sunday in Karachi, the attackers then failed to deeply penetrate the complex.

The unilateral U.S. raid on bin Laden’s compound in the northwest Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad has triggered a strong backlash against Washington, as well as rare domestic criticism of the armed forces for failing to detect or prevent the American operation. Pakistani leaders insist they had no idea the al-Qaida boss had been hiding in Abbottabad.

This is the third major attack the group has claimed since the bin Laden killing. The others were a car bombing that slightly injured American consulate workers in the northwest city of Peshawar and a twin suicide attack that killed around 90 Pakistani paramilitary police recruits.

At least two P-3C Orions, maritime surveillance aircraft given to Pakistan by the U.S., were destroyed, he said. The U.S. Navy puts the cost of the planes at $36 million each.

The United States handed over two Orions to the Pakistani navy at a ceremony at the base in June 2010 attended by 250 Pakistani and American officials, according to the website of the U.S. Central Command. It said by late 2012, Pakistan would have eight of the planes.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said the Americans were working as contractors to help support the P-3C aircraft but did not report to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Four of them were part of a Lockheed Martin contract engineering and technical support team, he said.

Karachi, a city of around 18 million people, has not been spared the violence sweeping the country, despite being in the south and far from the northwest where militancy is at its strongest. In April, militants bombed three buses taking navy employees to work, killing at least nine people.

The Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have little direct public support, but the army and the government have struggled to convince the people of the need for armed operations against them. The militants’ identification with Islam, strong anti-American rhetoric and support for insurgents in Afghanistan resonates with some in the country.

Also Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said a pair of suspected U.S. missiles hit a vehicle and killed four people near the Afghan border. It was the latest in an uptick of strikes following the bin Laden raid.

The attack occurred in Machi Khel area in North Waziristan, a tribal region home to several militant groups attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. relies heavily on missile strikes to target foes in Pakistan. Pakistan objects to the attacks publicly, but is believed to support them in private.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters. They said they did not know the identities of the people killed.

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Associated Press writers Ishtiaq Mahsud and Rasool Dawar in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.

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Pakistan suicide bombs kill 80 to avenge bin Laden

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110513/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Riaz Khan, Associated Press 44 mins ago

HABQADAR, Pakistan – A pair of Taliban suicide bombers attacked paramilitary police recruits eagerly heading home for a break after months of training, killing 80 people Friday in the first act of retaliation for the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In claiming responsibility, the al-Qaida linked militant group cited anger at Pakistan’s military for failing to stop the American incursion on their soil.

The blasts in the northwest were a reminder of the savagery of Islamist insurgents in Pakistan. Tensions also have risen between the U.S. and Islamabad over allegations that some elements of Pakistani security forces had been harboring bin Laden, who died in a May 2 raid in Abbottabad, a garrison town about three hours’ drive from the scene of the bombing.

“We have done this to avenge the Abbottabad incident,” Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told The Associated Press in a phone call. He warned that the group was also planning attacks on Americans living inside Pakistan.

The bombers blew themselves up in Shabqadar at the main gate of the facility for the Frontier Constabulary, a poorly equipped but front-line force in the battle against al-Qaida and allied Islamist groups like the Pakistani Taliban close to the Afghan border. Like other branches of Pakistan’s security forces, it has received U.S. funding to try to sharpen its skills.

At least 80 people were killed, including 66 recruits, and around 120 people were wounded, said police officer Liaqat Ali Khan.

Around 900 young men were leaving the center after spending six months of training there. They were in high spirits and looking forward to seeing their families, for which some had brought gifts, a survivor said.

Some people were sitting inside public minivans and others were loading luggage atop the vehicles when the bombers struck, witnesses said.

“We were heading toward a van when the first blast took place and we fell on the ground and then there was another blast,” said 21-year-old Rehmanullah Khan. “We enjoyed our time together, all the good and bad weather and I cannot forget the cries of my friends before they died.”

The scene was littered with shards of glass mixed with blood and flesh. The explosions destroyed at least 10 vans.

It was the first major militant attack in Pakistan since bin Laden’s death on May 2, and the deadliest this year.

Militants had pledged to avenge the killing and launch reprisal strikes in Pakistan.

The Taliban spokesman suggested the attack was aimed as punishment against Pakistani authorities for failing to stop the unilateral U.S. raid that killed bin Laden, something that has sparked popular nationalist and Islamist anger.

“The Pakistani army has failed to protect its land,” Ahsan said.

In its communications, the Taliban often tries to tap into popular sentiments in the country, where anti-Americanism is often stronger than feelings against Islamist militants. This is despite militant attacks over the last four years claiming the lives of many hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians.

Some 350 lawyers sympathetic with Islamists attended special prayers for bin Laden on the premises of the provincial high court in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday. The lawyers cursed the May 2 raid, chanting “Down with America.”

The explosive vests used in Friday’s attacks were packed with ball bearings and nails, police said.

Police official Nisar Khan said a suicide bomber in his late teens or early 20s set off one of the blasts.

“The first blast occurred in the middle of the road, and after that there was a huge blast that was more powerful than the first,” said Abdul Wahid, a 25-year-old recruit whose legs were wounded in the blasts.

Bin Laden, the Sept. 11 mastermind, and at least four others were killed by U.S. Navy SEALs who raided his compound in Abbottabad. Bin Laden is believed to have lived in the large house for up to six years.

Pakistani officials have denied knowing he was there but criticized the U.S. raid ordered by President Barack Obama as a violation of their country’s sovereignty. To counter allegations that Pakistan harbored bin Laden, the officials point out that thousands of Pakistani citizens, and up to 3,000 of its security forces, have died in suicide and other attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, when Islamabad became an ally of the U.S. in taking on Islamist extremists.

Many of the attacks have targeted Pakistani security forces, but government buildings, religious minorities and Western targets also have been hit.

Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, admitted “negligence” on the part of authorities in failing to find bin Laden during a closed session in Parliament on Friday, a government spokeswoman told reporters. Military officials, including the powerful army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said they would improve the country’s air defenses, which did not detect the high-tech U.S. choppers used in the raid.

The military leaders also assured lawmakers that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals are safe and that the armed forces were capable of defending the country, said Firdous Ashiq Awan, the federal information minister.

In another development Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said a U.S. missile strike killed three people near the Afghan border.

The four missiles struck a vehicle in the Doga Madakhel village of North Waziristan tribal region. North Waziristan is home to many militant groups dedicated to attacking Western troops in Afghanistan.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. They did not know the identities of the dead.

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Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan and Deb Riechmann in Islamabad, Babar Dogar in Lahore and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.

New York City police officers stand guard outside the Armed Forces recruitment center in New York's Times Square,  Monday, May 2, 2011. The Obama admihttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110502/ap_on_re_us/us_bin_laden_dna

By ROBERT BURNS and CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Robert Burns And Calvin Woodward, Associated Press 45 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Knowing there would be disbelievers, the U.S. says it used convincing means to confirm Osama bin Laden’s identity during and after the firefight that killed him. But the mystique that surrounded the terrorist chieftain in life is persisting in death.

Was it really him? How do we know? Where are the pictures?

Already, those questions are spreading in Pakistan and surely beyond. In the absence of photos and with his body given up to the sea, many people don’t want to believe that bin Laden — the Great Emir to some, the fabled escape artist of the Tora Bora mountains to foe and friend alike — is really dead.

U.S. officials are balancing that skepticism with the sensitivities that might be inflamed by showing images they say they have of the dead al-Qaida leader and video of his burial at sea. Still, it appeared likely that photographic evidence would be produced.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden,” John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said Monday. He said the U.S. will “share what we can because we want to make sure that not only the American people but the world understand exactly what happened.”

In July 2009, the U.S. took heat but also quieted most conspiracy theorists by releasing graphic photos of the corpses of Saddam Hussein’s two powerful sons to prove American forces had killed them.

So far, the U.S. has cited evidence that satisfied the Navy SEAL force, and at least most of the world, that they had the right man in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The helicopter-borne raiding squad that swarmed the luxury compound identified bin Laden by appearance. A woman in the compound who was identified as his wife was said to have called out bin Laden’s name in the melee.

Officials produced a quick DNA match from his remains that they said established bin Laden’s identity, even absent the other techniques, with 99.9 percent certainty. U.S. officials also said bin Laden was identified through photo comparisons and other methods.

Tellingly, an al-Qaida spokesman, in vowing vengeance against America, called him a martyr, offering no challenge to the U.S. account of his death.

Even so, it’s almost inevitable that the bin Laden mythology will not end with the bullet in his head. If it suits extremist ends to spin a fantastical tale of survival or trickery to gullible ears, expect to hear it.

In the immediate aftermath, people in Abbottabad expressed widespread disbelief that bin Laden had died — or ever lived — among them.

“I’m not ready to buy bin Laden was here,” said Haris Rasheed, 22, who works in a fast food restaurant. “How come no one knew he was here and why did they bury him so quickly? This is all fake — a drama, and a crude one.”

Kamal Khan, 25, who is unemployed, said the official story “looks fishy to me.”

The burial from an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea was videotaped aboard the ship, according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision on whether to release the video was not final. The official said it was highly likely that the video, along with photographs of bin Laden’s body, would be made public in coming days.

The swiftness of the burial may have raised suspicions but was in accord with Islamic traditions. Islamic scholars, however, challenged U.S. assertions that a burial at sea was an appropriate fate for a Muslim who had died on land.

The act denied al-Qaida any sort of burial shrine for their slain leader. Once again, bin Laden had vanished, but this time at the hands of the United States and in a way that ensures he is gone forever.

If that satisfies U.S. goals and its sense of justice, Brad Sagarin, a psychologist at Northern Illinois University who studies persuasion, said the rapid disposition of the body “would certainly be a rich sort of kernel for somebody to grasp onto if they were motivated to disbelieve this.”

Also expected to come out is a tape made by bin Laden, before U.S. forces bore down on him, that may provide fodder to those who insist he is alive.

Pakistan, for one, is a land of conspiracy theorists, and far-fetched rumors abound on the streets and in blogs throughout the Arab world. But that’s not just a characteristic of the Islamic pipeline. Many ordinary Americans — and one billionaire — persistently questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S. despite lacking any evidence that he wasn’t.

Sagarin said most people will probably be convinced bin Laden is dead because they cannot imagine the government maintaining such an extraordinary lie to the contrary in this day and age.

Yet, he said, “as with the birther conspiracy, there’s going to be a set of people who are never going to be convinced. People filter the information they receive through their current attitudes, their current perspectives.”

To be sure, even photos and video, subject to digital manipulation, may not provide the final word to everyone. But Seth Jones, a RAND Corp. political scientist who advised the commander of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said the administration should do all it can to minimize doubts.

“There are always conspiracy theories,” he said. “There are individuals who believe that bin Laden wasn’t involved in the 9/11 attacks.”

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Associated Press writers Nahal Toosi in Abbottabad, Pakistan; Malcolm Ritter in New York; and Lolita C. Baldor, Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo and Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110502/ts_nm/us_binladen_compound

By Patricia Zengerle and Alister Bull Patricia Zengerle And Alister Bull Mon May 2, 5:57 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. forces finally found al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden not in a mountain cave on Afghanistan’s border, but with his youngest wife in a million-dollar compound in a summer resort just over an hour’s drive from Pakistan’s capital, U.S. officials said.

A small U.S. team conducted a night-time helicopter raid on the compound early on Monday. After 40 minutes of fighting, bin Laden and an adult son, one unidentified woman and two men were dead, the officials said.

U.S. forces were led to the fortress-like three-story building after more than four years tracking one of bin Laden’s most trusted couriers, whom U.S. officials said was identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden,” a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters.

Bin Laden was finally found — more than 9-1/2 years after the 2001 attacks on the United States — after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building, officials said.

They said the courier and his brother were among those killed in the raid.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official said.

“The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden,” another administration official said.

The home is in Abbottabad, a town about 35 miles north of Islamabad, that is relatively affluent and home to many retired members of Pakistan’s military.

It was a far cry from the popular notion of bin Laden hiding in some mountain cave on the rugged and inaccessible Afghan-Pakistan border — an image often evoked by officials up to and including former President George W. Bush.

The building, about eight times the size of other nearby houses, sat on a large plot of land that was relatively secluded when it was built in 2005. When it was constructed, it was on the outskirts of Abbottabad’s center, at the end of a dirt road, but some other homes have been built nearby in the six years since it went up, officials said.

WALLS TOPPED WITH BARBED WIRE

Intense security measures included 12- to 18-foot outer walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls that sectioned off different parts of the compound, officials said. Two security gates restricted access, and residents burned their trash, rather than leaving it for collection as did their neighbors, officials said.

Few windows of the three-story home faced the outside of the compound, and a terrace had a seven-foot (2.1 meter) privacy wall, officials said.

“It is also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it,” an administration official said. “The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.”

U.S. analysts realized that a third family lived there in addition to the two brothers, and the age and makeup of the third family matched those of the relatives — including his youngest wife — they believed would be living with bin Laden.

“Everything we saw, the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers’ background and their behavior and the location of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hide-out to look like,” another Obama administration official said.

Abbottabad is a popular summer resort, located in a valley surrounded by green hills near Pakistani Kashmir. Islamist militants, particularly those fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir, used to have training camps near the town.

(Editing by Mary Milliken, Will Dunham and Mark Trevelyan)

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