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Friday, 28 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 28 Nov

Commandos to Flush Out Terrorists in Mumbai,
125 Dead

More than 24 hours after terrorists sneaked into Mumbai from the sea to unleash India's most audacious terror attack, commandos were Thursday night set to flush out gunmen holding hostages in a luxury hotel, with at least 125 people already dead and 327 injured.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew into India's commercial capital at night and drove straight from the airport to the JJ Hospital to meet some of the injured even as a huge fire raged in the landmark Taj hotel facing the seafront Gateway of India monument.

Occasional bursts of gunfire and explosions were heard from the Taj and the nearby hotel Oberoi Trident as commandos from the National Security Guard (NSG) threw a ring around the two places and the Nariman Bhavan to isolate a small number of gunmen holding hostages, foreigners included.

By evening, NSG director general J.K. Dutt announced that only two terrorists remained to be captured or killed in the Oberoi complex while a single terrorist, injured but still free, was holed up in the Taj. He also said his men were "in total control of the situation" at Nariman Bhavan.

By evening all hostages had been freed from the iconic Taj hotel, one of the first of 10 targets of the terrorists.

As the evening progressed, several hostages were seen walking out of the Trident hotel and the Nariman House in south Mumbai where the terrorists, believed to be from Pakistan, had fanned out after landing in darkness at a fishing village Wednesday night by boat armed with arms and ammunition.

In no time, the gunmen began firing from automatic rifles and hurling grenades, killing people at will. By Thursday evening, the death toll had risen to 125, including about half a dozen foreigners.

In New Delhi, before flying to Mumbai, a grim looking Manmohan Singh addressed the nation: "It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with a single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country.

"We will take up strongly with our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them."

Assisting the NSG were the army and the navy as well as the riot police.
As they prepared for the final onslaught, three fires broke out at the Taj extensively damaging the 105-year-old heritage building. At the Oberoi, people were seen waving desperately from the windows.

"It's a motivated, well planned terrorist attack," added Major General R.K. Hooda of the Indian Army.

TV grabs showed that some of the terrorists were young, trendily dressed in jeans and T shirts and carrying rucksacks.

One of them, calling himself Shahadullah, telephoned India TV channel to say he was from the Indian city of Hyderabad and belonged to a previously unheard of group called the Deccan Mujahideen.

Speaking in Hindustani with an accent, the man said the attack had been carried out to avenge the 1992 destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya and the "repression" of Muslims in India. He said the hostages would be freed only in exchange for the "mujahideen" in Indian prisons.

But an army officer supervising the operations said the terrorists were conversing in Punjabi. He said one arrested terrorist was from Faridkot in Pakistan.

Mumbai remained tense through the day, with few people venturing out of their homes. Most suburban trains -- the city's lifeline -- ran virtually empty. Schools, colleges and businesses were shut. Wednesday's attack was the third major terrorist strike in Mumbai since March 1993.

A stunned international community condemned the wanton killings. US president-elect Barack Obama asked Washington to work with India to root out and destroy terrorist networks worldwide. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "Such violence is totally unacceptable." The European Union also denounced the terrorists.

The US, Britain, Canada, Australia and France were quick to warn their citizens to avoid travel to Mumbai. The US embassy in New Delhi urged its nationals to defer travel to Mumbai for 48 to 72 hours.

In Chandigarh, Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi denounced the killings as "barbaric". He said Islamabad had faced similar situations and it would be immature to link the attack to his country.

Despite the crisis and his promise not to take up divisive issues now, Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani was critical: "The government itself is terming it intelligence failure, so I should not say anything."

The survivor stories were plenty.

Indian Communist MP N.N. Krishnadas said after being rescued by commandos Thursday: "I was having dinner with some colleagues when two masked militants barged into the restaurant. They fired indiscriminately. I saw three people being shot. The terrorists left the room soon after."

Mumbai Terror: Defence Minister to meet with top military brass

Press Trust of India / New Delhi November 27, 2008, 13:46 IST

With terrorists striking in Mumbai, Defence Minister A K Antony has convened a high-level meeting of the armed forces today to review the situation.

The meeting is likely to be attended by Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Air Force Chief Fali Homi Major, apart from top intelligence officers of the services, Defence Ministry sources told PTI here.

The top honchos of the Defence Ministry are likely to chalk out an anti-terror plan during the meeting, which would also review the operations being carried out by Army and Marine commandos in Mumbai.

Contingents of armed forces' strike troops have joined the National Security Guards (NSG) in the operations at the Oberoi and Taj hotels to flush the militants holed up there since last night.

Antony would also review the coastal security and intelligence gathering mechanism in the wake of reports that the attackers had sneaked in to Mumbai through the sea route, the sources said.

Late comers? What took commandos so long to react

Seemi Pasha


Time: 7 am

Location: Outside the imposing Taj Mahal hotel in Colaba.

New Delhi: Crack commandos of the elite National Security Guards waited to storm the hotel in their bid to rescue dozens of hostages from terrorists holed up inside.

The Mumbai police had only just finished the first pre-operation briefing of the commandos on the layout of the hotel and its occupants.

It was more than nine hours after the hostage drama first began in India's financial Capital, a time lag which has now left security and counter-terrorism experts aghast.

Former director general, National Security Guards, Ved Marwah says, “Normally, the NSG is ready to scramble in minutes. There seems to have been a delay in granting the go ahead”.

The handling of the Mumbai hostage crisis now suggests two disturbing outcomes. While experts agree there was an inordinate delay by the government in ordering commandos to the crisis spot, a near amateurish method seemed to have been used in scrambling them.

It was a mistake committed once earlier in 1999 while trying to block the path of Indian Airlines IC-814, when it took off for Kandahar.

Sources told CNN IBN:

- The go-ahead for airlifting commandos came well past midnight

- It took over three hours for them to scramble and take off for Mumbai

- Commandos were brought to the encounter spots in BEST buses

- The commandos had no precise maps detailing hotel layout and access points

- All this, while the Mumbai police struggled to figure out the unprecedented situation

“This decision – of whether the NSG should be called in – is of state government’s. They should go by what they feel is the ground situation,” says former supercop KPS Gill.

The NSG, marine commandos and the army special forces units are the only ones equipped to deal with hostage rescue.

Sources tell CNN-IBN that it took the killing of its chief Hemant Karkare for the Maharashtra ATS to realise it had underestimated the terror threat.

It therefore decided to bring in the NSG. An early morning coordination meeting decided that the navy commandos also be brought in.

Anti-terror and commando units are now grappling with a new scenario: unprecedented hostage situations in high profile enclosed buildings never encountered in metropolitan India.

Two Pak vessels apprehended off Gujarat coast

In its search to find the 'mother ship' of the terrorists who have attacked Mumbai, India on Thursday apprehended two Pakistani merchant vessels off the coast of Gujarat in a joint operation carried out by the Navy, Coast Guard and the water wing of the Border Security Force.

"We have apprehended two cargo ships in a joint operation near the Gujarat coast while they were sailing to Karachi. They are suspected to be the ships that ferried the terrorists near to Mumbai coast on Wednesday," Home Ministry sources told PTI.

The three sea-guarding forces were put on a high alert after intelligence agencies gave inputs about a merchant vessel, suspected to be involved in the terror attacks on Mumbai since Wednesday, trying to move towards Karachi in Pakistan.

The forces were, in fact, conducting their routine joint exercises in the general area of the Gujarat coast when they received the intelligence inputs and they immediately diverted their assets to search for the run-away merchant vessel.

"In the evening, Indian ships sighted two ships including the one about which intelligence agencies had given a tip-off," Home Ministry sources said.

The Indian ships apprehended both the cargo ships, which were identified as MV Alpha and MV Al Kabir. Officers of the three forces were ascertaining the credentials of the crew on board the two ships, sources added.

India's best commandos fight terrorists

Archana Masih in Mumbai

November 27, 2008

"They are trained for operations on air, land and sea," says a naval officer, speaking on condition that he would not be identified for this report.

The men who are selected as MARCOs are amongst the fittest officers and sailors of the Indian Navy. Like the British SAS and the US Green Berets, these are highly trained commandos.

"They are selected when they are young, in the early 20s and have to go through a very stringent selection process and training. The training is a continuous process," says the officer.

They train along with the Special Forces officers of the Indian Army [Images] like the Para Commandos at the Commando Training School, in various other agencies and within the Navy.

They are skilled combat divers and parachutists. Most of the training deals with counter-terrorist operations, also with anti-hijacking/piracy operations.

"It is a real tough and very promising job," says a Special Forces officer of the Indian Army who has fought terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir [Images], "They are well trained and highly professional."

MARCOS are known to be very secretive, not revealing their actual identity as specialised, elite soldiers. They are distributed amongst the naval bases of Mumbai, Kochi and Vizag, and, according to an unconfirmed source, number around 2,000. In their operations they are sometimes assisted by Sea King and Chetak helicopters and two-man submarines.

Their training is conducted over a two-year course. It is said that by the end of training only 10 to 25 per cent of the soldiers make the mark.

In the past they have fought against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, against Pakistan during the Kargil [Images] War and a few days ago against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Defence minister had warned of maritime terrorism in 2007

With top police officials confirming that terrorists used boats to transport their arsenal -- and bypass routine security checks on Mumbai's roads -- prior to their assault on the Taj Mahal Hotel and other prime targets in South Mumbai, talk is that 'marine terrorism' is the new fear in town.

Not true -- or at least, not unanticipated. March 9, 2007, Defence Minister A K Antony cited intelligence reports to inform the Lok Sabha of the possibility that terrorists would use sea routes to enter the country.

In his statement of the time, Antony identified maritime terrorism, gun-running and piracy as major threats along India's seas, and said the government had worked out a menu of measures aimed at enhancing coastal security.

Antony was quoting from intelligence analysis at the time that said the sealing of land borders along the north and west of India, terrorist outfits were increasingly looking to the sea as an alternate means of entry, and training cadres to use the sea lanes.

A month earlier, at a governmental security review meeting, top intelligence officials warned that Pakistan-sponsored terror groups were turning their attention to sea routes.

Officials pointed at two prongs to this strategy: One, that sea lanes would be used to smuggle in large quantities of arms and ammunition, thus foiling the routine road checks; and two, that coast-based targets such as Mumbai's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre or Reliance Petrochemicals would be targets of future strikes.

Defence Minister Antony said the Coast Guard was working on methods to augment its infrastructure. A Rs 500-crore coastal security scheme had already been launched in 2005, and envisaged the creation of 73 coastal police stations across nine coastal states over a period of five years. To augment this, a scheme titled Operation Swan was discussed to strengthen security along the Maharashtra and Gujarat coastline.

Terror over Mumbai
‘Gurgaon, the next target’
Al-Qaida, Lashkar ‘militants involved’
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 27
Basing inputs on credible information, intelligence agencies have more or less found that the attack on Mumbai last night was masterminded by the combine of the Al-Qaida and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaeba. Sources have indicated that leads have emerged pointing a finger at Al-Qaida also and not just the LeT as it was initially thought to be.

It is not just the planning, the precision and the huge money involved in the attack, agencies have picked up telephonic conversations that took place this afternoon between various over seas groups that could be linked to the attack. So far, more than 101 have died and another 287 are injured.

The information was being collated, sources said while confirming that the name of Al-Qaida was emerging in intercepts. The information that Gurgaon, located right next to the national capital, was also on the immediate hit list was also being studied. The similarity between Mumbai and Gurgaon is that both are home to several hundreds of expatriates from several countries and multi-national companies.

The terrorists want to show that India was an unsafe place to do business in. The way they have focused on foreigners, they want to make Mumbai unattractive for foreign nationals and the next possible target, according to intelligence community, could be Gurgaon, said the sources.

Using highly sophisticated equipment, security agencies tracked calls and found that the link of Al-Qaida along with the LET was showing up. Also instructions were being passed on “live” to the terrorists in Mumbai, probably using a satellite phone.

It has also been found that some of the information that national security guards or the Army was deployed was conveyed to the terrorists. The security agencies got the televisions in the Taj and Oberoi jammed and than zeroed in on other modes of communications.

The intelligence sources said information is coming out quite rapidly because some suspects, who are in the custody of the Mumbai police, are under interrogation right now by a joint interrogation team.

Information is also filtering in that the terrorists could have had also set-up a sort of control room within the hotels complete with communication facilities to co-ordinate the attacks. The use of so many grenades, explosives and ammunition indicates that a large part of it could have been carried inside by the terrorists posing as hotel guests only.

The terrorists know the routes within the hotel even the entry to the kitchen and other places. It was after a well-planned rehearsal sources in the NSG have said that commandos closing in on the terrorists have been finding it difficult.

Home Ministry officials briefing the media today declined to say if the terrorists were based in Pakistan or elsewhere. “No comments on the nationality of the terrorists,” said M.L. Kumavat, special secretary, Internal Security, while adding “We will reveal the names and other details with clinching evidence and not before that”.

Kumavat said the terrorists had come through the sea route and the name “Deccan Mujahideen” was heard for the first time.

He clarified that no demands have been made by terrorists to the police.

They took sea route to launch attacks
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, November 27
Yesterday’s terror attack has exposed the soft underbelly of the Indian security apparatus. While the authorities have tightened their control on country’s road, air and rail routes in the face of repeated terror attacks, the safety of the country’s long and vulnerable coastline has been left to the poorly equipped Coast Guard officials.

According to the police, the attackers arrived in inflatable dinghies that were launched from a mother vessel off the coast of Mumbai. The vessel’s name has been given as MV Alfa, which was intercepted by the Indian Navy between the Indian and Pakistani coasts.

Unconfirmed reports say the body of one of the terrorists has been found on board the vessel.

The police said one of the inflatable dinghies was landed at the Fishermen’s Colony at Cuffe Parade behind Hotel President, another Taj Group property. The terrorists then took a car from the area to various places where they carried out the attacks.

Another inflatable dinghy landed at Sassoon Docks in Colaba just metres away from the headquarters of the Indian Navy’s Western India headquarters.

Eyewitnesses, mainly fisher folk, questioned by the police said the young men claimed to have landed from Gujarat and Kerala. The terrorists, who obviously were well versed in the city’s topography then chose their targets carefully.

The Leopold Cafe at Colaba is a landmark restaurant where scores of westerners are spotted sipping beer throughout the day. After opening fire here, the group made its way to the Taj Hotel, which they stormed by indiscriminately firing from four sides. After killing the receptionists and the service staff they moved inside into the kitchen where five chefs other employees were killed.

Subsequently, they spread out into the hotel taking hostages. However, all hostages have been rescued, according to army officials.

Another group entered the Chatrapati Shivaji (formerly Victoria) Terminus railway station and made their way to Platforms 7 and 8 where the Konkan Kanya train departs for Goa slightly before 11 pm every evening. A number of people, who were waiting to board the train’s unreserved compartments, told reporters that the terrorists opened up with automatic assault rifles around 9.45 pm before moving out.

Railway officials say another hour’s delay by the terrorists could have claimed the lives of many foreigners who board the train during the busy holiday season.

The terrorists then moved to the Cama Hospital nearby, located next door to the famous St Xavier’s College and the Mumbai Press Club, where they opened fire on some people. The attackers then moved to the Metro Adlabs theatre located a few metres away where they fought pitched battles with the police.

This battle also claimed the lives of Anti-Terror Squad chief Hemant Karkare, assistant commissioner of police Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar. Around five terrorists and several passersby were killed in the attack as well.

Meanwhile, another group of attackers, who had landed at Cuffe Parade, hijacked a police van at gunpoint and forced the havaldars to drive to Nariman House, a building housing a Jewish prayer centre manned by an Israeli rabbi. The rabbi, said to be in his late 20s or early 30s, and his wife were reportedly shot and injured. Their condition is not known. However, their infant child along with an Indian maid were allowed to go.

The Maharashtra government has now ordered security to be beefed up at a number of coast-side installations like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the IPCL complex of the Reliance Industries group.

Terrorists spoke Punjabi: Army

Mumbai, November 27
A senior Army officer supervising the operations here said that one arrested terrorist was from Faridkot in Pakistan.

Maj Gen R.K. Hooda, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa Area, also said the men feigned their identity by pretending to be from Hyderabad and were conversing in Punjabi. Asked if the terrorists are from any foreign country, he said: “All we can say is that one arrested terrorist is from Pakistan’s Faridkot.” — IANS

Pak foreign minister assures cooperation

Says attacks barbaric, inhuman

Jangveer Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27

Pakistan’s foreign minister Makhdhoom Shah Mahmood Quereshi today said his country would cooperate with Indian authorities investigating the terror strikes in Mumbai. He condemned the action as ‘barbaric’ and ‘inhuman’.

The minister, who was here to attend an international conference at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) here, claimed it was too early to jump to conclusion that the perpetrators of the terror strikes originated from Pakistan. When questioned about the Maharashtra police claim that a boat from Karachi had been used to bring the explosives, he said, “Did you see the boat. Could you travel in a boat to Karachi”?

Qureshi when asked about Lashkar-e-Toiba hand in the blasts said “I have not heard anyone make such a remark”. He said experience had shown that there was need to act with caution. “We often jump to conclusions and cut a sorry figure later”, he said referring to the Samjhauta train blast case in which he said later investigations did not support allegations of Pakistani hand behind the terror strike.

The minister also called for setting up a hotline between the national security advisers of both Pakistan and India so that vital information needed to support each could be exchanged quickly. He said intelligence chiefs of both countries should also be in direct contact with each so that the joint anti terror mechanism established between the two countries could be more “active and meaningful”.

Calling terrorism a global phenomenon and not a regional one, he said it must be fought globally too. He said Pakistan had suffered both human and economic losses because of terrorism and even now its troops were fighting terrorism on a daily basis in tribal areas. He said in his talks with external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee yesteday he had stressed the need to join hands and pool resources to deal with the menace.

Claiming that his heart went out to the families who had lost their near and dear ones, he said “people of India knew that we too suffered a similar attack in Islamabad at Marriott hotel recently”.

Navy’s feat: Solution to piracy?

IMB, while welcoming deployment of more Indian warships has made it clear: "You don't need to blow the pirate ships out of water.” In civilised world, even authorised armed guards have to follow laid down procedures to foil heist attempts.

CJ: Natteri Adigal , 19 hours ago Views:259 Comments:2

PIRACY ON the high seas is a stark fact of world trade since ages. Sailors take it as a calculated risk as a payoff for providing good life for themselves and their kin. It is true that incidences in the Gulf of Aden have seen a spike in recent times. But, the fall out of piracy there on India’s basic interests has been overstated out of all proportion.

To anyone not directly involved in the shipping industry, the main effect of increase in pirate attack is limited to marginal increase in prices of imported items. Insurance companies suffer big losses but their business is to cover losses. They recoup the losses by increasing premium they charge to shippers. Shipping companies pass on their increased costs – ransoms (if not covered by insurance), extra fuel for longer routes as well as higher insurance premiums—by hiking freight charges. Eventually the hikes find their way onto the high street and the consumer pays up.

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) chief, Efthimios Mitropoulos, has spoken of ’a series of negative repercussions’ if ships had to re-route away from Aden. Going around the Cape of Good Hope adds about 12 days to a typical Gulf-to-Europe voyage, delaying oil supplies and potentially raising freight rates by 25-30 per cent. But, it should be noted that freight and insurance are small elements in the total cost of imported goods.

Pirates need to be tackled with a lot of tact, similar to that in providing security in banks on-land. Precipitate actions on high seas can be compared with a hot-headed adventurist trying to foil a bank robbery ‘bravely’, putting the lives and properties of others in peril. Even the top brass and authorised armed guards are required to follow laid down rules and procedures in case of heist attempts. Civilised societies severely punish any violation of norms. That is what distinguishes civilised entities from pirates. Moreover, deliberate sinking of a vessel that could well be carrying toxic cargo, could trigger a catastrophe.

Piracy is estimated to have cost the world an estimated $60-70 million this year. This hardly justifies any hot-headed action on the part of nation states, at the grave risk of violating rights of citizens of other nations. It is of note that Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister declared that his government will not negotiate with pirates, which seized the largest supertanker carrying Saudi crude.

He added that what the ship’s owners did was up to them. Even in the case of MV Stolt Valor, it was a tangle between the pirates, ship owners and the crew. (A handsome random was paid to get her crew, including 18 Indians, released after two months. The governments of Japan or India did not have any role to play, despite all the public outcry.)

Subsequent to the dramatic ‘action’ by Indian Navy, a number of media reports were planted to claim it has been ‘welcomed’ by the international authorities. Critical examination of the approvals and their origin would bring out reality. London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) did indeed welcome deployment of more Indian warships in the region and hailed the action that the Indian Navy has taken. What IMB’s manager Cyrus Mody added was conveniently ignored. "You don’t need to blow the pirate ships out of water. You confiscate their boats and their arms. You disrupt their working, you go to them (mother ships), board them if they allow you. You act on suspicion and confirm your suspicion, then take appropriate action.”

The earlier incident reported by INS Tabar did conform to this legitimacy. Upon receipt of an SOS from Saudi Arabia-registered merchant vessel ’MV Timaha’ helicopter-borne commandos of Indian Navy opened fire on pirates making repeated attempts to board her. When this was going on, the Navy claimed, a second group tried to board a 38,000-tonne bulk carrier owned by India’s Great Eastern Shipping Co but did not put up a fight.

Shipping behemoths are aware of the high stakes they have and always want to avoid precipitate actions. International Association of Independent Tanker Owners too has appealed, "We need immediate action from governments to protect these vital trade lanes – robust action in the form of greater naval and military support." But, acting in concert with an appropriated authority, rather than haphazardly and arbitrarily.

It is now conceded that the problem with Somalia is not with piracy basically, but in robbing its people of their livelihoods. According to Katie Stuhldrehe, an expert in the matter, dense traffic by hundreds of ships rushing through the narrow lane leaves a legacy of toxic wastes and oil slicks. While being of no benefit to the population, frequent breakup of huge vessels in accidents, as well as deliberate discharge of highly toxic waste cause untold damage to the coastal environment. Shipping tycoons did not care to control it, as a result of which fishing has been ruined in the region. It was already under squeeze due to the presence of huge fishing trawlers.

Rather than solving the problem justly, aspiring naval powers flexed their muscle in the past, like the Indian frigate has done now. The anarchy in Somalia is due to such blatant aggressions, committed in narrow interests of these powers. It was compounded by big-brotherly attitude of Ethiopia. "Making the coastal areas lucrative for local fishermen again could encourage pirates to return to legitimate livelihoods," Stuhldrehe has concluded. She has warned that as long as Somalia continues to exist without an effective government, lawlessness within the country and off its lengthy coast will only grow.

Experts in shipping, insurance, geopolitics and environment are working hard to find a holistic solution. It is not going to be cakewalk as any flash-in-the-pan type solution may end up creating far more serious problems. IMO too has realised the need, “Coordinated and cohesive response at the international level is necessary for the safety and well-being of seafarers and for seamless delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia.”

The volume of India’s international trade being less than one per cent of global trade, nobody is going to fault the country for not participating in any policing effort in high seas. The country is miserably short of resources to put together a decent naval presence in its own territorial waters to prevent poaching that deprives fishermen using primitive gear of their catch. There is no coast guard set up worth the name to protect beaches from pollution and smuggling.

Also, the country is groping with enough problems stemming from deprivation of the masses and loss of livelihoods, leading to uprisings in every region. In the circumstances, wisdom lies in making only the contributions as called upon by the United Nations, rather than trying to upstage others.

Of course, occasional fireworks help stoking the ego of ‘educated’ ones, mainly from the higher strata of society. Inheriting a comfortable living without having to work hard and without having to bring up or support kin, this section prefers to never look beyond what sycophants feed them. It fears facing the starkness of reality. Fishing in troubled waters, which the foreign affairs pundits of New Delhi have a habit of practicing – for the benefit of this constituency – has only masked, rather than addressed the issues.

With the establishment continuing to serve a limited constituency, being incapable of tackling internal conflicts fairly, India may perhaps be gradually inching in the direction of current-day Somalia. Moreover, cheerleaders of the muscle-flexing overseas must realise that loyalty lies not in the unquestioned exalting of questionable actions. The contagion could rapidly spread to the other arms and erode the basic fabric of society. New Delhi has only to look in the neighbourhood for examples of where such perverted patriotism has led them to.

Pakistan Moots Intelligence Hotline,
says Let's Cooperate against Terror

New Delhi/Chandigarh
Expressing “shock and horror” at the terror attacks in Mumbai, Pakistan Thursday called for strengthening the joint anti-terror mechanism with India and offered to set up a hotline between intelligence chiefs of the two countries.

Pakistan, however, warned against “making insinuations against each other” in case of terror attacks and underlined the need for a cautious approach towards tackling the common scourge.

“I was shocked and horrified to hear about the barbaric incident that took place last night in Mumbai. I condemn this tragic incident in the strongest possible terms,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is here on a four-day visit, said here.

Recalling his talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday, he suggested that both India and Pakistan strengthen the joint anti-terror mechanism to combat terrorism.

“I pointed out that both Pakistan and India are victims of terrorism and will have to further strengthen the joint anti terror mechanism to deal with this scourge,” he said in a statement here hours after multiple blasts in Mumbai that killed over 100 and left several others injured.

“I also offered that there should be a direct contact and hotline established between the intelligence chiefs of the two countries, so that they can share information and cooperate with each other in a more effective manner,” he said.

In his talks with Qureshi, Mukherjee Wednesday had also underlined the need for a result-oriented approach towards tackling terrorism and called for strengthening the anti-terror mechanism.

Condemning the blasts in “unequivocal terms,” Qureshi Thursday underlined the need to respond to terrorism in “a very measured, composed and determined manner.”

“Pakistan offers complete support and cooperation to deal with this menace. We have to collectively fight extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” he underlined.

Alluding to the deadly terror strike at Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September, Qureshi said: “We, in Pakistan, are dealing with terrorism on daily basis. People of India know that we suffered similar attack in Islamabad at the Marriott Hotel recently.”

“So we understand their concern, anxiety and the shock and horror this attack has generated all over India,” he added.

Calling terrorism “a global phenomena,” he exhorted all civilized societies will have “to join hands and pool in their resources to deal with this menace.”

India had blamed Pakistan-based terrorists for the deadly bomb attacks on commuter trains in Mumbai two years ago and offered to produce evidence to support the charge. The suspicion over Pakistan's links to the Mumbai blasts froze the peace process for a few months and led to the setting up of a joint anti-terror mechanism in September 2006.

Preliminary investigations into the Nov 26, 2008 bombings are going on. This time round, India has not pointed a finger at foreign agency or operatives so far.

India and Pakistan held a special meeting of the joint anti-terror mechanism to address issues relating to the bombing of the July 7 Indian mission in Kabul in which New Delhi says it sees the hand of Pakistan's spy agency ISI. Islamabad has hotly denied the charge.

Qureshi traveled to Chandigarh Thursday to participate at an international conference on “Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South Asia.” Qureshi warned against making insinuations against each other and underlined the need for a cautious approach towards tackling the common scourge.

"Today you are victims. We are victims of terrorism on a daily basis. We must cooperate at this time instead of making insinuations against each other," Qureshi said in Chandigarh.

"It's a very sad incident but lets not jump to conclusions and cut a sorry figure. Let's show maturity. We will cooperate, I can assure you," he added.

Referring to the Samjhauta blast of Feb 2007 he said: "The Samjhauta incident very clearly indicates that we have to be cautious. Our expressions and our insinuations have to be measured. Pakistan wants to cooperate. We have to face the common enemy in terrorism and it is a global challenge."

Asked what he thought of Pakistan being blamed for the Mumbai attacks he said: "I have not heard anyone make any such remarks."

Talking about the boat on which the terrorist allegedly came from Karachi, Quershi said: “Have you seen the boat? Could you travel on that boat from Karachi? Media should be supportive and understanding. It's to early to say anything."

US Offers Help to India;
Counter-Terror Officials Keep Watch

By Arun Kumar

The US government convened counter-terrorism and intelligence officials and offered help to Indian authorities as President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama condemned Wednesday's terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

"President Bush offers his condolences to the Indian people and the families of the innocent civilians killed and injured in the attacks in Mumbai, India," White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement late Wednesday.

"The United States condemns this terrorist attack and we will continue to stand with the people of India in this time of tragedy," she said adding, Bush who had left for the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland for the Thanksgiving holiday "has been updated regularly."

The National Security Council convened officials from counter-terrorism and intelligence agencies as well as the State and Defence Departments, Perino said

"The US government continues to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of our citizens, and stands ready to assist and support the Indian government," she added.

The Justice Department said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was monitoring the situation closely and was prepared to offer assistance if Indian authorities asked for it but said it had not yet received such a request.

US President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office Jan 20, also condemned the attacks. "President-elect Obama strongly condemns today's terrorist attacks in Mumbai," Brooke Anderson, his spokesperson on national security, said in statement.

"These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism," she said. "The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks.

"We stand with the people of India."

An aide to Obama said the president-elect, who was at home in Chicago, had spoken to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to get a briefing on the situation and called India's ambassador to the US Ronen Sen to express his condolences.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was closely monitoring the situation, according to a State Department official.

"The Secretary will be reaching out to officials at the US Embassy in New Delhi and at the consulate in Mumbai. She will be reaching out to Indian government officials as well. The situation on the ground is extremely fluid," the official said.

The State Department has created a call center for Americans seeking any information on relatives or friends affected by the attacks. The number is 1-888-407-4747.

The Indian embassy has also set up a round the clock Control Room to respond to any query related to the terrorist attacks at Mumbai. The numbers are 202- 232- 2795 and 202-232-2796.

UN investigating possible war crimes in Congo

By JOHN HEILPRIN – 1 day ago

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. officials have opened investigations into whether war crimes have been committed in eastern Congo, saying they have alarming evidence of targeted killings and possibly massacres of civilians.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised the possibility of war crimes and crimes against humanity in a report Wednesday to the Security Council that recommends U.N. peacekeepers who make up the world's largest such contingent should remain in Congo through 2009.

"The forced displacement of populations and evidence of the targeted killings of civilians are alarming. In the current climate, the possibility of massacres of civilians cannot be ruled out," he said in the report.

Alan Doss, the U.N.'s top envoy to Congo, told the council that the peacekeeping force, known as MONUC, had recently opened "several investigations into alleged massacres and extra-judicial executions."

"All belligerents have committed serious atrocities against civilians," Doss said. "Women and children have suffered most from the recurrent fighting. Sexual violence is rampant and many armed groups continue to recruit children into their ranks."

Doss said a team has begun investigating the possible killings of at least 26 people — a figure that could grow "substantially higher" — around Kiwanja, about 45 miles north of Goma, the provincial capital. The inquiry followed reports that rebels killed dozens of people two weeks ago while fending off an attack from the army, pro-government Mai Mai militias and Rwandan Hutu rebels.

"We don't want to rush to judgment, it's important. But, we do know that those killings occurred in areas that the CNDP had taken over," said Doss, referring to the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, headed by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

In April, the International Criminal Court published an arrest warrant for CNDP's chief of staff, Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for the alleged forced conscription of child soldiers in the Ituri region of eastern Congo about five years ago.

"The CNDP is one of the groups against which there are credible reports of serious crimes committed in the two Kivu provinces — including sexual crimes of unspeakable cruelty," the court had said.

Ban reported that Congolese and foreign armed groups have committed serious human rights abuses with impunity, including mass killings, rapes, torture, abductions, forced recruitment of child soldiers, forced labor and sexual slavery.

Those include, according to his report, "a resumption of atrocities" against Congolese civilians by the notorious Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army. It abducted some 177 Congolese children and killed an estimated 76 adults between mid-September and early October, Ban reported.

The International Criminal Court has also issued arrest warrants for leaders of that rebel group, which has been fighting a 20-year insurgency in northern Uganda.

About 1.35 million people are displaced by the Congolese fighting between rebel and government forces in the areas of North and South Kivu and Ituri, Ban said.

Ban's fears, including the risk that the conflict could spill over into the broader region, reflect growing international concerns.

In a report Tuesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch charged that Congo's government, on orders from the president, had killed an estimated 500 opposition members, dumping the bodies in the Congo River and in mass graves. President Joseph Kabila's spokesman called the report "nonsense."

Last week, the Security Council unanimously approved sending almost 3,100 additional peacekeeping troops, which would bring the total in Congo, including police, to more than 20,000.

British deputy ambassador Karen Pierce stressed the importance of getting the reinforcements on the ground as soon as possible. European nations, the most likely to provide troops for such a force, have so far been reluctant to commit troops.

But Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht said at U.N. headquarters that his and several other European nations are considering pooling soldiers to supplement the U.N. force — a "bridging" force in the coming months that has Ban's support.

De Gucht has called for the European Union to send at least 2,000 soldiers, but support for that has been lukewarm.

In a letter made public Wednesday, Rwanda's foreign ministry urged the regional nations and international community to support an agreement between Rwanda and Congo earlier this month.

The two nations agreed to take military action to root out Hutu militias operating in eastern Congo and to promote a political solution to the differences between the Congolese government and Nkunda's forces.

Nkunda says he is protecting minority Tutsis from Hutus who fled to Congo after Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Critics say he is more interested in power and accuse his forces of committing human rights abuses.

Rwanda's Foreign Ministry said "the root cause of the conflict" in eastern Congo is the Rwandan Hutu FDLR militia, which incorporates some combatants who participated in the Rwandan genocide.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the U.N. envoy trying to help end the recent fighting, said this week that the issue of what to do about the FDLR must be addressed.

A third element in the violence in the Congo this year has been the Mai Mai militias that operate between the margins.

Since the fighting intensified in August with an offensive by Nkunda to seize large sections of the country, more than 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, and cholera has become a major problem in camps for the displaced.

The rebel forces also have set up their own local administrations and are collecting taxes on the region's rich minerals and other goods moving through their territory.

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