Friday, November 30, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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Anti-Taliban tribesmen close in on Kandahar
Pashtun commander captures highway town

Chaman (Pakistan), November 29
Tribal fighters were moving towards the stronghold of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar today, negotiating with his militia commanders to surrender and frustrated by his constant calls for a holy war.

An armed US marine walks through a pock-marked building late on Tuesday near the forward US marine base in southern Afghanistan. The marines assaulted and took command of this base establishing a significant military presence in the area. — AP photo

20 Indians held for WTC attacks so far
Washington, November 29
The Indian Embassy in Washington appears to have been caught off-guard by the latest revelations by the U.S. Justice Department that 20 of the 600 plus people apprehended in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are of Indian origin.

 

 

EARLIER STORIES

 
Despite the departure of the Taliban, many Afghan women continue to wear burqa, to keep with tradition.
(28k, 56k)

Attacks on Sikhs in Australia also
A
BOUT 4 km from my residence is an insignificant Indian restaurant called Punjabi House. It has just a few tables and chairs for people who want to eat in but basically it functions as a take-away joint since it lacks the ambience and comfort of a fine dining restaurant. It is situated in Asquith on Pacific Highway facing the Asquith railway station.

USA to test missile defence plan tomorrow
Washington, November 29
The Pentagon plans to test part of its missile defence programme on Saturday by trying to shoot a mock warhead out of the sky with an interceptor rocket, military officials said.

White cops get jail for dog attack on migrants
Pretoria, November 29
A South African judge today jailed four white policemen for up to five years for setting their dogs on three black Mozambicans in an animal training exercise described as cruel and sadistic.

The policemen were captured on videotape ordering their dogs to attack three Mozambicans in January 1998. — Reuters

BNP plans white paper on graft
Dhaka, November 29
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party government of Ms Khaleda Zia announced its endeavour for publication of a white paper on corruption by its political rival the Awami League. Party Chairperson and Prime Minister Ms Khaleda Zia told the Bangladesh Parliament yesterday that one chief consultant and two other consultants had already been appointed to prepare the white paper.


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Anti-Taliban tribesmen close in on Kandahar
Pashtun commander captures highway town

Michael Christie

Chaman (Pakistan), November 29
Tribal fighters were moving towards the stronghold of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar today, negotiating with his militia commanders to surrender and frustrated by his constant calls for a holy war.

Forces loyal to Gul Agha, a former Mujahideen Governor of the southern city of Kandahar, were moving forward carefully to minimise the loss of life. A spokesman dismissed reports that 160 Taliban militia men had been executed.


A group of US Marines of the 15th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unity) move out to take position in the desert outside the Marines' forward base in southern Afghanistan on Thursday. The build-up of forces on the ground at the desert airstrip continued all night, and C17 cargo aircraft were used for the first time to bring in heavy logistics vehicles and a team of US Navy "Seabees". — Reuters

Forces of Gul Agha were in full control of the town of Takteh Pol that commands the main road between the Pakistan border and Kandahar, Khalid Pashtoon told newsmen by satellite telephone from the town.

“We are moving toward Kandahar and expect to be there in a few days,’’ he said.

The main challenges were resistance from Taliban fighters lobbing rockets at positions of Gul Agha’s men who had advanced to within five km to the south of Kandahar’s airport around Shegah, he said.

“Our biggest obstacle is his (Omar’s) Islamic decree to the Taliban to continue with jehad,’’ Pashtoon said.

“That is why they are not surrendering,’’ he said.

Those who did surrender were being treated properly, he said, adding that Gul Agha — the Pashtun commander in the area battling the Taliban — had taken 60 Taliban prisoners and all had been sent home.

Two foreign fighters — believed to be Arabs — had been killed when instead of surrendering they had pulled out grenades and their deaths were unavoidable, he said.

Many non-Afghan fighters have chosen to fight to their death as US-backed Northern Alliance fighters and anti-Taliban tribal forces have advanced, leaving them with no route to escape — unlike the home-grown Taliban who can melt back into the populace.

Gul Agha’s forces had consolidated their hold on Takteh Pol and surrounding areas, Pashtoon said.

Tribal leader Hamid Karzai was about 155 km north of Kandahar in the mountains of Uruzgan and not operating in the same vicinity, he said.

However, Mullah Omar remained ensconced in his seat of power in kandahar, from where he was issuing orders to his men by wireless to stand firm in the face of a campaign by tribal foes to undermine their loyalty, Pashtoon said.

“He is definitely there, he wants to fight to the last drop of his blood,’’ he said.

Gul Agha’s 3,000 men were fully armed, well-trained and ready for action, although the focus of the campaign was on persuading Taliban commanders to switch sides, Pashtoon said.

The latest edict from the reclusive Mullah Omar, who lost one eye fighting the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, appeared to underscore the growing fragility of his command.

Closer to the border, opposition leaders said talks for the surrender of Spin Boldak, which have been dragging on to the drumbeat of heavy US bombing of Taliban positions, had been complicated by a struggle for the spoils of war as the radical militia’s authority crumbles.

They said four Pashtun anti-Taliban commanders, including Agha, are vying to take over Spin Boldak, a major hub for smugglers, traders and the powerful Afghan and Pakistani trucking mafia.

Agha said civil war would start if any one of the pashtun tribes tried to grab sole control of either Spin Boldak or Kandahar.

Today, the Taliban still appeared to be in control of the town, and some were patrolling the town on bicycles. Reuters

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49 Pak tribesmen freed in Jalalabad

Islamabad, November 29
The post-Taliban administration in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad has released 49 Pakistanis who had gone to the country to fight alongside the Taliban militia, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.

The fighters are supporters of Pakistani radical party Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi, which is based in the ethnic Pashtun-dominated northwestern tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan. AFP

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20 Indians held for WTC attacks so far

Washington, November 29
The Indian Embassy in Washington appears to have been caught off-guard by the latest revelations by the U.S. Justice Department that 20 of the 600 plus people apprehended in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are of Indian origin.

The detention of the 20, out of a total of 641 people charged or held, was revealed by Attorney General John Ashcroft at a briefing on Tuesday.

An embassy official said: “This information has come out this morning (Wednesday). It is obviously a decision Mr Ashcroft has taken only now. We don’t have any official reaction yet.”

The official, who did not wish to be named, said: “We had put in a formal request with the U.S. State Department asking how many Indians were in custody. We have not yet received a response.”

Mr Ashcroft gave details of 93 of the detainees and said of the remaining 548, a majority was from West Asian countries. The list includes, besides 20 Indians, 208 Pakistanis, six Bangladeshis and one Nepali.

With regard to two earlier cases involving two men from Andhra Pradesh, the Indian consulate in New York and the embassy here had been cooperating with U.S. authorities. Indian consulate officials had put in requests with the eight Immigration and Naturalisation (INS) offices within their jurisdiction at least three weeks ago, one official said. Only one had responded in our jurisdiction saying they had nobody of Indian origin.”

An Indian Embassy official said each case would be treated individually depending on the situation. “Depends on what are the charges or the crime. In the case of the two people (from Andhra Pradesh) the information was being shared. In the other cases I can’t hazard a guess. Usually they do work with our consulates. It is basically consulate territory,” the official said.

The new measures under which foreigners can be detained has come under rising criticism from civil rights organisations as well as members of Congress. About 1,100 foreigners have been detained since September 11.

President George W. Bush’s order allowing secret military tribunals to try non-citizens has been criticised both by Democrats and Republicans. The Justice Department’s new ability to eavesdrop on conversations between defence lawyers and clients has also been under fire from both the left and the right.

But the Bush administration has defended itself on grounds that “extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.”

Senate Majority Leader Democrat Tom Dashcle called for a need to balance rights with the need for apprehending suspected terrorists. “We are all very concerned about the spread of terrorism,” he told Fox TV News. “But we have to ask ourselves what the balance is, how do you do that and ensure that we don’t trample on the constitutional rights that we have fought to protect for over 200 years.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and think-tanks have sounded the alarm over the expanded powers of the administration and law enforcement forces.

Recently, the Justice Department ordered law enforcement agencies to interrogate a racially profiled segment of non-citizens — about 5,000 males of Arab and other ethnic origin aged between 18 and 33 who had come into the country after January 1, 2001, even though they were not under suspicion.

This came under scathing attack both from minorities and others. Oregon state, a maverick on other issues as well, refused to oblige the Justice Department on this new order maintaining it was contrary to the state’s charter of rights.

Mr Ashcroft’s about-face in revealing the profile of those detained comes after mounting criticism about the expanded federal and law enforcement powers.

Otherwise, barring information on an illegal immigrant from Pakistan, Muhammad Rafiq Butt, who died of heart attack while in custody at the Hudson County jail in New Jersey, and two persons of Indian origin, Ayub Ali Khan and Mohammad Javeed Asmat, no information had been forthcoming from the Justice Department. IANS

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Attacks on Sikhs in Australia also
Bishwajit Mukherjee

ABOUT 4 km from my residence is an insignificant Indian restaurant called Punjabi House. It has just a few tables and chairs for people who want to eat in but basically it functions as a take-away joint since it lacks the ambience and comfort of a fine dining restaurant. It is situated in Asquith on Pacific Highway facing the Asquith railway station. It is also one of the shops in an off-street non-descript shopping centre. Due to its locational advantage, however the restaurant gets a fair number of customers every day.

Whenever I drive past Asquith I never fail to notice the prominent signage of Punjabi House. A couple of month ago I stopped the car near the shopping centre for some work. It was a hot afternoon and I was hungry. I was looking for a sandwich but could not find a decent cafe and so opted instead for our desi food. A smart and handsome young man was in charge and he spared no pains to get chicken tandoor prepared hot and fresh. The food was not great but the service was outstanding.

Two Sikh brothers own Punjabi House. Mr Manmeen Singh is an Australian resident for 11 years. Mr Savinder Singh came to Australia three years ago. They have a house in Asquith not far from the restaurant. They are turbaned Sikhs and sport traditional beard and moustache as per their religious beliefs.

A few days ago, a car pulled up in front of the restaurant at 9 pm. Four youngsters got off the car and started pelting eggs, tomatoes and apples at the restaurant. An egg hit one of the employees on the head. Fifteen minutes later a second car pulled up and the young occupants of the car threw more eggs and food. After an interval of another 15 minutes, a third car arrived and the miscreants managed to break the restaurant windows, flower vases and some china.

Mr Manmeen Singh managed to get the number plate details of one of the cars and informed the Hornsby police which arrived on the scene at 10:30 pm. The pelting continued over the next five days by carloads of people arriving from all parts of town. The Singh brothers’ ordeal was not over yet. The attack was carried over to their house in Asqhith where the brothers have been subjected to more humiliation and embarrassment. The restaurant is closed since the employees refuse to return to work for fear of their own safety.

Ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA every person wearing a turban and beard is looked upon with suspicion. People who mistake them for Muslim fundamentalists are attacking Sikhs in the USA, Britain and other countries. Australia is no exception.

In fact, during one of the attacks Mr Savinder Singh recalls hearing cries of “holy war, holy war” in the adjacent lanes.

The local police has classified the first attack as malicious damage. But now they are investigating whether the attacks are racially motivated.

Australia is known for its multi-cultural and multi-racial policies.

The Singh brothers are not the only ones being victimised today. This new wave of global anti-trust for Taliban-looking people has shaken the foundations of secularism and religious tolerance.

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USA to test missile defence plan tomorrow

Washington, November 29
The Pentagon plans to test part of its missile defence programme on Saturday by trying to shoot a mock warhead out of the sky with an interceptor rocket, military officials said.

The test had been scheduled for October 24, but was delayed because of technical problems. US officials say the test is designed to stay within the limits of the anti-ballistic missile treaty that governs missile defences.

US President George W Bush has said repeatedly that the USA needs an effective defence against long-range ballistic missiles and that the ABM Treaty must not be allowed to stand in the way.

For now, however, the US administration is adhering to the treaty while it attempts to persuade Russia to set it aside.

Saturday’s test, in which a missile interceptor will be fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to chase down an intercontinental-range missile carrying a mock nuclear warhead, will be the first since July.

The missile intercept tests cost about $ 100 million each. AP

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White cops get jail for dog attack on migrants
Sue Thomas

Pretoria, November 29
A South African judge today jailed four white policemen for up to five years for setting their dogs on three black Mozambicans in an animal training exercise described as cruel and sadistic.

“They laughed and treated it as a joke. The three witnesses (Mozambican victims) are clearly emotionally scarred and it was obviously intensely traumatic,” Judge Willem van der Merwe told the court during sentencing.

Robert Henzen (32), Eugene Truter (28), Jacobus Smith, 31 and Lodewyk Koch, 32, were convicted last week of seriously assaulting the three Mozambican illegal immigrants in 1998.

The policemen were sentenced to effective jail terms ranging from five years to four years each.

They were captured on videotape ordering their dogs to attack the three Mozambicans, who sat silently as they heard the judge sentence their tormentors.

The video, which showed six policemen laughing as the Mozambicans pleaded for mercy during the attack in a field near Johannesburg, shocked South Africans after it was screened by public television station SABC last year.

Two other policemen involved in the case, Nicolaas Loubser (27), and Dino Guitto (27), have pleaded not guilty and will stand trial on June 3 next year.

Analysts said the incident has cast the spotlight on racism and police brutality, twin legacies of white-minority rule which ended in 1994.

The judge lashed out at the policemen for abusing their position of power and said they had only expressed remorse after the video was made public.

“The video shocked the world. I am not surprised, the video is shocking,” Van der Merwe said.

Not only did the policemen unleash their dogs on the immigrants but they laughed, kicked and assaulted them. “The act was cruel and sadistic...It must have been terrifying,” the judge added.

“For years people have been tortured by police. The South African police neglected their duties by not letting these activities come to light,” he added. Smith was clearly the ring leader and sentenced him to seven years in jail, of which two years were suspended. Smith said he would appeal against the sentence.

The other three were each sentenced to six years in prison, of which two years were suspended. They accepted and were driven straight to prison to start their sentence.

The three Mozambicans left shortly after under the protection of members of the elite Scorpions police unit. Their lawyer, Jose Nascimento, said he had advised them to return to Mozambique very soon for their own safety. But they will seek substantial damages from the state and against the policemen in civil cases, Nascimento said.

“It was a fair trial. The police are supposed to protect the public and not to act in an illegal and sadistic way,” Nascimento told newsmen. Reuters

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BNP plans white paper on graft
Tribune News Service

Dhaka, November 29
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government of Ms Khaleda Zia announced its endeavour for publication of a white paper on corruption by its political rival the Awami League (AL). Party Chairperson and Prime Minister Ms Khaleda Zia told the Bangladesh Parliament yesterday that one chief consultant and two other consultants had already been appointed to prepare the white paper. Abu Hena, a former bureaucrat, has been named as the chief consultant. No time frame has been given.

The Prime Minister told a questioner that allegation of corruption during the past Awami League regime was also contained in the report published early this year by the Bangladesh Chapter of the Transparency International.

Announcement of publication of white paper on corruption by political rivals has become a political gimmick. During the past regime, the ruling Awami League on a number of occasions threatened to publish white paper on corruption indulged by their political foe, the BNP leaders during their rule from March 1991 till June 1996. However, no white paper was published.

This time also it may be a weapon to keep the opposition on toes. However, the BNP government was taking some steps which are termed by the AL as vendetta. The BNP government has moved a Bill in Parliament aimed at scrapping the Act providing Special Security protection to former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana.

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