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Newsblog: 27 June – 1 July

01/07/2011

The Middle East & more

Six Taliban commandos besieged the Kabul Intercontinental hotel on Tuesday after a suicide bomber detonated at the security checkpoint. 11 Afghan civilians and the eight attackers were killed, while 14 others were injured. The five-hour siege ended when a NATO helicopter arrived and Western Special Forces team entered the hotel. The Afghan National Army were also on the scene, but many showed concern about them taking over full Afghan security in 2014.

Senior Haqqani network leader, Ismail Jan, was killed on Wednesday in Afghanistan. The Haqqani’s are said to be responsible for some of the most spectacular attacks of the insurgency and were also shown to have provided material support for the Intercontinental hotel attack in Kabul on Tuesday. Though the Haqqani’s act independent of the Taliban, they are said to associate under the same aegis and have long been associated with the Pakistani intelligence agency.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Colonel Qaddafi, one of his sons and his Chief of Intelligence, charging them with crimes against humanity for acts that occurred in the first two weeks of the Libyan uprising. This is the second time a standing president has been issued an arrest warrant and as Libya does not recognize the ICC, it could take years (if it does happen) for Qaddafi to face trial at The Hague.

Islamic militants in Yemen have taken over a strategic soccer stadium near the city of Zinjibar, not far from the town of Jaar which they seized earlier this year. With 2,000 Yemeni soldiers guarding the stadium fighting the estimated 300 militants, there are many worries surrounding Yemen’s inability to suppress the AQAP threat in the quickly expanding power vacuum in the country. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said that he would appear on state television this week, though he has yet to be seen. This would be the first time he has done so since the attack on his palace 3 weeks ago that sent him to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. The UN has also sent a mission to Yemen to analyse the human rights situation.

Two US senators, Ben Cardin and Susan Collins, who proposed Resolution 185 to the U.S. Senate, had it passed this week. The resolution called for a cessation of Palestinian funding from the US if they attempt to claim unilateral recognition at the UN. The senators suggested that unless independence was negotiated in a peace deal, this would be counterproductive to the peace process. A review of the Hamas-Fatah relationship was also suggested.

The UK

The Police Federation for North Ireland (PFNI) warned this week that there are 650 dissident republican terrorists still at large who are set on shattering North Ireland’s power-sharing settlement. These groups include the Real IRA, Continuity IRA and Oghlaigh naEireann who, it was suggested, have been predominantly responsible for approximately 200 gun and bomb attacks against police in the last year alone. To reinforce the severity of this problem, an unexploded pipe bombwas found outside a North Ireland police station this Friday, only 50m from a children’s park. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb, but it is suggested that the IRA was involved.

18 UK military advisors, who were overseeing poorly trained Pakistani Frontier Corps in counter-terrorism around Baluchistan, were expelled from Pakistan earlier this week. Though no official reason was given for this, “security concerns” were vaguely referenced by the Pakistani authorities. It was suggested that Pakistan is trying to strengthen their independence from Western sponsors following the death of Osama Bin Laden earlier this year.

The leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheik Raed Salah, was detained in London on Tuesday night after he had allegedly broken a travel ban to enter the UK. Saleh had already spoken to a group at Leicester Square that night and was meant to attend a meeting at the House of Commons on Wednesday. While Salah has never been charged with anti-Semitism in Israel, he has been accused of it in the past. Some believe that Britain collaborated with Israel over this arrest.

The al-Shamukh forum, a key site for “e-jihadists” and al-Qaeda, has been removed from the internet in an apparent cyber attack that not only took down the site, but the server as well. The group who was responsible for this remains unknown, but similar instances in the past have been admitted by the US and UK, such as the UK cyber attack on al-Qaeda’s English-language magazine Inspire, where bomb making formulas were replaced with cupcake recipes.

The UN has issued indictments against Hezbollah officials over the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri during a meeting with three judges from the UN-backed tribunal. Lebanon has 30 days to respond to the indictment. The current cabinet is led by Hezbollah and its allies and the tribunal has long been a point of contention between rival political parties in Lebanon.

A large conference held in Dublin from June 26 – 29, The Summit Against Violence and Extremism (SAVE), had over 90 former extremists speak at the event which was co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and focussed on why young people are turning to violent extremism. The attendees ranged from academics, NGOs, to inner city-gangs, right wing militias and religious extremists as well as “survivors” – former victims of violence and terrorist attacks.