February 17, 2006

News for February 17, 2006

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Probe finds terrorists in U.S. ‘training for war’ (February 17, 2006) - The Pakistani terrorist group Jamaat ul Fuqra is using Islamic schools in the United States as training facilities, confirms a joint investigative report by an intelligence think tank and an independent reporter. A covert visit to an encampment in the Catskill Mountains near Hancock, N.Y., called “Islamberg” found neighboring residents deeply concerned about military-style training taking place there but frustrated by the lack of attention from federal authorities, said the report by the Northeast Intelligence Network, which worked with an Internet blogger, “CP,” to publish an interim report. The neighbors interviewed said they feared retaliation if they were to make a report to law enforcement officials. “We see children – small children run around over there when they should be in school,” one neighbor said. “We hear bursts of gunfire all of the time, and we know that there is military-like training going on there. Those people are armed and dangerous.” The resident said his household gets “nothing but menacing looks from the people who go in and out of the camp, and sometimes they yell at us to mind our own business when we are just driving by.” “We don't even dare to slow down when we drive by,” the resident said. “They own this mountain and they know it, and there is nothing we can do about it but move, and we can’t even do that. Who wants to buy property next to that?” Jamaat ul-Fuqra, or “community of the impoverished,” was formed by Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani in New York in 1980. Gilani, who refers to himself as “the sixth Sultan Ul Faqr,” has stated his objective is to “purify” Islam through violence. Gilani also is the founder of a village in South Carolina called “Holy Islamville.” The encampment in Hancock, N.Y., is run by a front for Jamaat ul-Fuqra called Muslims of the Americas Inc., which operates a school known as the International Quranic Open University Inc. The facility is on 70 acres of remote land on the western edge of the Catskill Mountains, about 40 miles southeast of Binghamton, N.Y. A sign at the entrance identifies the place as “Islamberg.” The other side of the sign says “International Quranic Open University” and “Muslims of the Americas Inc.” more...


Philippines Landslide Deaths May Top 1,500 (February 17, 2006) - The farming village is gone, swallowed whole by a wall of mud and boulders that swept down with terrifying speed Friday from a mountainside in the eastern Philippines. Officials feared the death toll could climb past 1,500. “There are no signs of life, no rooftops, no nothing,” Southern Leyte province Gov. Rosette Lerias said. The village of Guinsaugon, once a community of 2,500 people, now looks like a 100-acre patch of newly plowed land. Its 375 homes and elementary school were buried under mud up to 30 feet deep. Only a few small piles of debris hint at the devastation. Only a few jumbles of corrugated steel sheeting indicate Guinsaugon ever existed. The official death toll stood at 23 after darkness forced suspension of rescue efforts, hours after the morning landslide. But the Philippine Red Cross estimated at least 200 dead and 1,500 missing. Significantly, only 53 survivors were plucked from the brown morass on Leyte island, 420 miles southeast of Manila. “Our village is gone, everything was buried in mud,” said survivor Eugene Pilo, who lost his family. “All the people are gone.” “It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled,” added fellow survivor Dario Libatan, who lost his wife and three children. “I could not see any house standing anymore.” more...


A New Fatwa States That Religious Law Does Not Forbid Use of Nuclear Weapons (February 16, 2006) - Reformist Iranian Internet Daily: A New Fatwa States That Religious Law Does Not Forbid Use of Nuclear Weapons. On February 16, 2006, the reformist Internet daily Rooz (www.roozonline.com) reported for the first time that extremist clerics from Qom had issued what the daily called “a new fatwa,” which states that “the shari’a does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons.” The following are excerpts from the Rooz report by Shahram Rafizadeh:(1) “When the Entire World is Armed With Nuclear Weapons, it is Permissible to Use These Weapons as a Counter-[Measure]” “The spiritual leaders of the ultra-conservatives [in Iran] have accepted the use of nuclear weapons as lawful in the eyes of the shari’a. Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of [Ayatollah] Mesbah Yazdi [who is Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s spiritual mentor], has spoken for the first time of using nuclear weapons as a counter-measure. He stated that ‘in terms of the shari’a, it all depends on the goal.’ “The religious leadership of the Islamic Republic [of Iran], which has until now regarded the use of nuclear weapons as opposed to the Shari'a, and has repeated this point again and again, has so far kept silent about this. In spite of the fact that, in the last few weeks, some of the senior [leaders] of the Islamic Republic have tried to reduce the pressure [exerted by] the radical [conservatives], the radicals nevertheless seem to have complete control over the [political] arena.” more...


Arab takeover of U.S. ports seen as security ‘insanity’ (February 16, 2006) - A company owned by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over six U.S. ports, a development that has local and federal elected officials outraged. A merger deal approved by the federal government has the company currently running the ports, London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, getting acquired by the Emirati firm, Dubai Ports World. UAE has known ties to terrorists and 9-11 hijackers, raising concerns about security issues at the ports involved: New York, Baltimore, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. “On its face, this looks like [expletive] insanity to me,” the Republican minority leader of the New York City Council, James Oddo, told the New York Sun. “This shouldn’t happen. It really boggles the mind,” Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy told the New York paper. She said the United Arab Emirates is “a big hub for all kinds of terrorist activities. ... We know that terrorist money is being laundered there.” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also spoke out against the merger, which is scheduled to be finalized March 2. “Should we be outsourcing our own security?” Schumer said on the Fox News Channel. “We have to have hands-on control of things. And to have United Arab Emirates – I mean, they are a country that’s allied with the U.S., but at the same time a whole bunch of the (September 11) hijackers came from the United Arab Emirates.” more...


Russia Warns U.S. Against Striking Iran (February 16, 2006) - Russia’s top military chief on Thursday warned the United States against launching a military strike against Iran and a top diplomat voiced hope that close cooperation with China could help resolve the Tehran nuclear crisis. With tension mounting over Iran’s nuclear programs, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the chief of Russia’s general staff, warned the United States against attacking Iran. “A military scenario can’t be ruled out,” Baluyevsky was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. He said that while Iran’s military potential cannot compare to the United States’, “it is hard to predict how the Muslim world will respond to the use of force against Iran.” “This may stir the whole world, and it is crucial to prevent anything like that,” Baluyevsky was quoted as saying. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alekseyev, meanwhile, said that cooperation with China could help push Iran toward accepting Moscow’s offer to host Iran’s uranium enrichment program. more...


Iran has secret military nuclear program: France (February 16, 2006) - French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Thursday Iran was pursuing a clandestine military nuclear program. “No civilian nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program. So it is a clandestine Iranian military nuclear program,” Douste-Blazy told France 2 television. “The international community has sent a very firm message by saying to the Iranians: ‘Come back to reason. Suspend all nuclear activity and the enrichment of uranium and the conversion of uranium,’” he added. “They are not listening to us.” China, which like France is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, urged a diplomatic resolution of the standoff on Thursday, a day after the United States said Tehran was defying the international community by resuming enrichment. Iran on Tuesday resumed feeding uranium gas into centrifuges for nuclear-fuel enrichment after a break of 2-1/2 years, stoking a diplomatic showdown with the West. Douste-Blazy said the international community was united on the nuclear issue and that the Security Council would decide how to act after the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog submits a report on the situation in March. more...


Hamas vows to ‘drink’ Jewish blood (February 16, 2006) - Shortly after its stunning election victory, Hamas posted on its official website parting video messages from two suicide bombers, including one who vowed the terrorist group would drink the blood of Jews until they “leave the Muslim countries.” Another terrorist urged his mother to be joyous over his death and his “wedding” with the “Maidens of Paradise.” The terrorist act glorified in the video, which can be viewed here, took place Dec. 7, 2004, reported Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch. Hamas, responsible for more than 100 suicide bombings and scores of shooting and rocket attacks, won overwhelmingly in the Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections and will form the next government. Each terrorist had a separate message for Jews. The first said:

My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries.

The second terrorist declared:

In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, [and] purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country... This operation is revenge against the sons of monkeys and pigs. more...


Commercial photos show Chinese nuke buildup (February 16, 2006) - Commercial satellite photos made public recently provide a new look at China’s nuclear forces and bases -- images that include the first view of a secret underwater submarine tunnel. A Pentagon official said the photograph of the tunnel entrance reveals for the first time a key element of China’s hidden military buildup. Similar but more detailed intelligence photos of the entrance are highly classified within the U.S. government, the official said.

“The Chinese have a whole network of secret facilities that the U.S. government understands but cannot make public,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “This is the first public revelation of China’s secret buildup.” The photographs, taken from 2000 to 2004, show China’s Xia-class ballistic missile submarine docked at the Jianggezhuang base, located on the Yellow Sea in Shandong province.

Nuclear warheads for the submarine’s 12 JL-1 missiles are thought to be stored inside an underwater tunnel that was photographed about 450 meters to the northwest of the submarine. The high-resolution satellite photo shows a waterway leading to a ground-covered facility. Other photographs show additional underground military facilities, including the Feidong air base in Anhui province with a runway built into a nearby hill. more...


Knesset hears plan for West Bank withdrawal (February 15, 2006) - If his Kadima Party wins next month’s elections, members of Israel’s Knesset will be asked to determine Israel’s “permanent borders” in a vote on whether to approve of withdrawing from most of the West Bank, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said here. Olmert justified his plan to vacate the West Bank, which borders most of Israel’s major cities, by claiming unless Israel soon separates from the Palestinians, Arabs will outnumber Jews and threaten the country’s Jewish character. But if recent studies, largely ignored by Olmert, are correct, he’s relying on false demographic information. Jews, the research indicates, likely will outnumber Arabs by more than double in 20 years. “The members of the next Knesset, who will convene here in a couple of months, will have a series of historic missions,” Olmert told a special session celebrating the Knesset’s 57th birthday. “Before our eyes, stands a supreme goal of consolidating Israel’s status as a Jewish, democratic state,” he said. “The first mission on the road to achieving this goal will be determining the state of Israel’s final borders.” Announcing what had long been assumed, Olmert last week laid out his Kadima Party’s platform of withdrawing from the West Bank. Kadima is leading overwhelmingly in polls for the next elections. He said under his plan, Israel will maintain select security zones and some of the area’s major West Bank Jewish communities, alluding to evacuating West Bank towns that fall outside Israel’s security fence. About 200,000 Jews live in the West Bank. more...


Another Saddam general: WMDs in Syria - A former general and friend of Saddam Hussein who defected but maintains close contact with Iraq claims the regime supported al-Qaida with intelligence, finances and munitions and believes weapons of mass destruction are hidden in Syria. Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti, southern regional commander for Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen militia in the late 1980s, spoke with Ryan Mauro of WorldThreats.com. Known as the “Butcher of Basra,” al-Tikriti commanded units that dealt with chemical and biological weapons. He defected shortly before the Gulf War in 1991. Last month, Saddam Hussein’s No. 2 Air Force officer, Georges Sada, told the New York Sun Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were moved to Syria six weeks before the war started. Sada claimed two Iraqi Airways Boeing jets converted to cargo planes moved the weapons in a total of 56 flights. They attracted little attention, he said, because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in 2002. Discussing Saddam’s support of terrorism, al-Tikriti said the dictator’s regime sponsored Palestinian groups with logistical and material support. more...


Eye of the Storm: Choosing the ‘Supreme Leader’ - While the world is focused on the clock of Iran’s nuclear program, the other clock, that of the nation’s domestic politics, is all but ignored by most commentators. Both clocks have their alarms set. That of the nuclear clock is expected to ring within the next three to five years, unless something is done to interrupt the military aspects of the program. The alarm of the domestic politics clock, however, could be set off within the next few months as the power struggle in Teheran enters a new and more intense phase. The event to watch is the forthcoming election of a new Assembly of Experts, a body of mullahs whose task is to elect the “Custodian-Theologian” - more commonly known as the “Supreme Guide,” who has virtually unlimited powers under the Khomeinist constitution. The election, to be completed in April, will not be open to all citizens. As always in the case of elections in the Islamic Republic all candidates must be approved by the authorities. And once the results are in, the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution, a body of 12 mullahs, can cancel part or all of them. In other words these elections resemble primaries held inside the same political party. more...


Fierce Winter Storm Sweeps Across Midwest (February 17, 2006) - A fierce storm system swept across the Midwest moving eastward on Friday, ripping the roof off an Indiana church, pelting Arkansas with hail and cutting power to thousands in Michigan. In western New York, winds gusting up to 60 mph early Friday led several schools to close from Buffalo to Rochester and south to the Finger Lakes region, partly out of concern for safety and in anticipation of power outages. A motorist near Rochester was killed by a falling tree. Arkansas was bracing for a possible ice storm Friday after quarter- sized hail fell on the northwest part of the state, said Newton Skiles of the National Weather Service. Stephanie Mayo, 33, stocked up on supplies at Harvest Foods in Little Rock, Ark. more...


Ahmadinejad on the Warpath (February 17, 2006) - As the Iranian revolution enters its 28th year this month, the Islamic Republic stands at the most critical stage of its history. While power is being transferred to second-generation revolutionaries, the country is on a collision course with the United States over its controversial nuclear program. At the center of this unfolding drama is the perplexing figure of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has managed to isolate, enrage and frighten important domestic and external constituencies in the space of only six months. Left to their own devices, Ahmadinejad and the second-generation revolutionaries who stand behind him are likely to change the Islamic Republic beyond recognition in the years ahead. But the complicating factor in all this is the increasing possibility of some form of military confrontation between Iran and the United States within two years. The key question is whether Ahmadinejad and his inner circle believe that military confrontation serves their long-term political and socio-economic agenda.

A controversial president

Ahmadinejad's first six months as president have had a mixed reaction. Domestically, he has tried to buttress his position among his core constituency, namely the urban poor and the lower classes who rallied around his calls for the revival of the Iranian revolution's egalitarian message. While it is clearly too early to judge his performance as a champion of a more egalitarian society, it is important to point out that the Ahmadinejad government has not undertaken a single serious policy that would reverse the country's widening wealth gap. That said, there has been no let-up in the populist rhetoric and sloganeering that marked his election campaign. more...