Archive for June 2011
Their faces concealed with chequered scarves, the Taliban assassins found Haji Zahir Arian sitting on cushions in the living room of a friend’s house. They wasted no time in striking a blow against peace.
The first hitman to enter the small room raised his rifle and loosed off four rounds as Arian, the deputy head of the peace council in Helmand province, lifted his arms to shield himself.
One of the bullets grazed the 59-year-old’s underarm, striking a wall behind him. The other three rounds thudded into his chest, causing his body to convulse against the wall before it slid to the floor.
The Taliban fled, leaving Arian’s friend, Najibullah Popal, trembling with fear as he watched the body ooze blood into the cushions.
Afghan policemen guarding a checkpoint just 100 yards away failed to give chase as the gunmen sped off in a black Toyota Corolla. “Who killed him?” asked Ghulam Farooq, a colleague and close friend of Arian whose uncle was strangled by the Taliban two months ago. “The security forces killed him, by failing to protect him.”
The assassination of Arian on April 23 is one of several attacks in which the Taliban have singled out “soft targets” inside Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital, in recent months.
The killings are aimed at destabilising the town as British troops prepare formally to transfer control to Afghan security forces next month. The handover marks the beginning of the end of British and American military engagement in Helmand. Read the rest of this entry »
The young Taliban commander with a penchant for severing spies’ heads with strands of thin wire dragged 28 of his foot soldiers from a makeshift jail and lined them up against a mud wall at his base.
Pacing along the row of handcuffed men, the fresh-faced 21-year-old — surrounded by bodyguards — drew his pistol.
“You’re about to be punished because you’ve taken money from infidels by working on building projects in winter,” shouted Ferozuddin. He had arrived in the east Afghanistan province of Ghazni in March to take command of Andar district after an American airstrike killed his predecessor.
As the fighters begged forgiveness, Ferozuddin marched up to the first one and shot him in the left knee. One by one he kneecapped the others.
“Ferozuddin is possessed,” said a Taliban judge from the same notoriously dangerous district. “He listens to no one, not even his elders. He is more sadistic than any commander Andar has ever seen.”
Ruthless young commanders like Ferozuddin are a by-product of Nato’s campaign to kill or capture Taliban commanders, say Afghan intelligence officials, analysts and western diplomats. They claim the new breed of militants replacing commanders killed or captured by Nato have stronger links to extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani Taliban. Nato’s kill and capture campaign has also hampered negotiations with the Taliban, they say.
“They’re killing people we want to talk to and the new generation aren’t interested in talking at all,” said Haji din Mohammed, head of the contact committee of the High Peace Council, the Afghan government body responsible for liaising with insurgents. “The operation has been successful — Nato is killing a lot of people — but the patient is still dying.” Read the rest of this entry »
In keeping with the Nuristan theme, I thought I’d add a small detail that was left out of the story on Sunday.
Maulana Fazlullah, nicknamed the “Radio Mullah” after he launched a pirate radio station in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in 2006, is apparently still hiding in Nuristan despite claims that he was killed in May 2010.
When US special forces and Afghan commandos air assaulted into Nuristan’s Barg-e-Matal district earlier this year (after insurgents had overrun the district centre for the fifth time), one of the US-Afghan units involved in the operation landed inside one of Fazlullah’s bases, according to western security analysts and an intelligence official.
The Afghan commandos killed 25 militants and captured five Swatis during the raid on Fazlullah’s compound, according to one of the analysts with access to Nato incident reports. Read the rest of this entry »
The Al-Qaeda instructor spent an hour schooling his protégé, a 12-year-old Afghan boy, in the art of suicide bombing.
Flanked by retired officers from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Arab militant is said to have shown the boy how to approach his target calmly before pressing the handheld button that would detonate the explosives.
At the end of the lesson, the trainer strapped a suicide vest over the child’s clothes and told him to demonstrate what he had learnt.
“Okay, so I walk like this,” the boy said as he walked across the living room of a house built from mud and stone in the hamlet of Chatras in Nuristan province. “And then I press this button. Like this?”
Before anyone could stop him, he pressed the detonator. The blast killed seven men — two Al-Qaeda trainers, three Taliban fighters and, according to Afghan officials, two agents from a shadowy unit of retired ISI agents called S Wing, which supplies military advisers to the insurgents.
“Maybe the boy’s family sent him over to the Taliban or perhaps they chose him because he was an orphan,” said a senior Afghan source, whose account of the incident was confirmed by the province’s police chief.
The boy and four other suicide bombers were being primed to cause chaos in Parun, Nuristan’s capital, at the start of a planned Taliban assault aimed at seizing control.
The explosion three weeks ago stalled their advance, but not for long. Last week the Taliban had Parun surrounded, according to Afghan officials and western analysts.
The Afghan government was forced to airlift supplies into the city by helicopter to deal with shortages of butter, flour, fuel, tea and sugar. “It’s medieval. They’re trying to starve the population so that they rise up against the government,” said Ahmadullah Moahid, a local MP. “You can’t even get snuff.”
If the Taliban enter Parun, it will be the first provincial capital to fall since the start of the decade-long war.
Insurgents have already regained control of much of Nuristan, including the entire district of Waygal, where they have smashed televisions and beaten up men without beards for failing to comply with their interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law. Read the rest of this entry »