India-Pakistan: Al Qaeda Fights, Flees and Frets

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February13, 2007: In Pakistan's capital, the government has forced the issue of illegal religious schools. Moving to tear down a large school (Jamia Hafsa, which houses 7,000 students), built illegally on public land, the government was confronted with male and female students armed with spears and automatic weapons. The men who founded the school are supporters of al Qaeda, and have met with Osama bin Laden. It's not unusual for religious schools and mosques to be built, without permission, on public land. This is often tolerated, but less so now. The government has already torn down smaller schools and mosques, but Jamia Hafsa is a major operation, and the source of several known Islamic terrorists. The police are massing men to forcibly remove the protesting students. Most of the students have left, but a few hundred of them are armed and proclaiming their readiness to die for the cause. The police believe that only a few of the students will resist, but that remains to be seen.

NATO commanders are trying to get Pakistan to become more active this Spring, when Taliban recruits from Pakistan start moving into Afghanistan. NATO wants the Pakistanis to share information on Taliban movements, and do so in a timely fashion (so NATO troops or aircraft can catch the Taliban as soon as they cross the border.) But the Pakistanis have their hands full with Islamic radicals among the tribes, who are becoming increasingly violent in order to maintain support from fellow tribesmen. In one tribal area, radicals have taken to threatening barbers with violence if any beards are cut off. Tribesmen who tire of Islamic radicalism often have their beards shaved off. Most Islamic radicals grow a beard if they are able.

February 12, 2007: Pressure from armed tribesmen and the Pakistani army has forced many foreign al Qaeda to spend the Winter across the border in Afghanistan. Many Afghan tribesmen will tolerate these foreigners as long as they pay for things and don't misbehave. This is how these foreigners survived in Pakistan since 2001. But increasing pressure from the army and tribal chiefs in Pakistan has forced the al Qaeda men to seek safer hideouts.

In central India (Chhattisgarh), six Maoist rebels were arrested, and bomb making material seized. Last year, half the 794 victims of Maoist violence died in Chhattisgarh.

February 11, 2007: Pakistan admitted that, although they forbid it, they have tolerated American artillery in Afghanistan firing across the border at Taliban mortar and rocket teams, that were themselves firing across the border into Afghanistan. The Taliban also send teams across the border to attack American camps with AK-47s, RPGs and hand grenades. The survivors of these attacks then flee back across the border, and American artillery can often catch them on the trails.

February 10, 2007: In the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, a bomb was set off outside a Red Cross office. Foreign aid groups are often attacked by Islamic terrorists, or extorted by local gangs. The terrorists want all foreigners out, the gangs want to get paid. In southwest Pakistan, tribal rebels blew up a natural gas pipeline, interrupting gas supplies to the city of Quetta for 12 hours.

February 9, 2007: In southwest Pakistan, 400 rebel Baluchi tribesmen surrendered themselves and their weapons, in return for amnesty. The army has never let up in their operations against rebellious Baluchi tribes. To the north, some Pushtun tribes have made deals to keep the army out, but these arrangements are falling apart as it becomes clear that the Pushtuns are not keeping their end of the bargain, which included shutting down Taliban and al Qaeda activities. However, the Pushtun chiefs are often caught in the middle between pro and anti Taliban/al Qaeda factions.

February 8, 2007: In Pakistan, Pushtun tribal leaders in the northwest denied that they had anything to do with five terrorist bombing attacks around the country in the last two weeks. These attacks were apparently hastily planned and carried out, and did little damage. One of the more widely covered was a guy going to the airport and blowing himself up with a hand grenade. However, the government believes the attacks were a response to increasing government pressure on Islamic radicals. This includes closing illegal religious schools and trying to halt Taliban operations along the Afghan border.

February 7, 2007: In the last month, India has moved an additional 13,000 troops to the northeast, to deal with tribal rebels and attacks on migrants to tribal lands.

 

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