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Mar 23rd, 2009

Schools for Extremists Thrive in Pakistan

Schools linked to terror network operate despite pledge of crackdown

Image: Darul-Uloom Madina religious school
Pakistani religious students memorize the Quran, in Darul-Uloom Madina religious school in Bahawalpur, southern Punjab, Pakistan on Friday, March 20, 2009. The school is run by al-Qaida linked terror network Jaish-e-Mohammed, which authorities say sends fighters to Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Khalid Tanveer / AP)

March 23, 2009

BAHAWALPUR, Pakistan — The compound bore no sign. Residents referred to it simply as the school for “jihadi fighters,” speaking in awe of the expensive horses stabled within its high walls — and the extremists who rode them bareback in the dusty fields around it.

In classrooms nearby, teachers drilled boys as young as 8 in an uncompromising brand of Islam that called for holy war against enemies of the faith. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Dar-ul-uloom Madina school, they rocked back and forth as they recited sections of the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

Both facilities are run by an al-Qaida-linked terror network, Jaish-e-Mohammed, in the heart of Pakistan, hundreds of miles from the Afghan border that is the global focus of the fight against terrorism. Their existence raises questions about the government’s pledge to crack down on terror groups accused of high-profile attacks in Pakistan and India, and ties to global terror plots.

Authorities say militant groups in Punjab are increasingly sending out fighters to Afghanistan and the border region, adding teeth to an insurgency spreading across Pakistan that has stirred fears about the country’s stability and the safety of its nuclear weapons. …

Pakistan has seen a string of attacks, including the ambush this month of Sri Lankan cricket players in the Punjab capital, Lahore, and a truce with extremists in Swat less than 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad, that have heightened alarm in Washington and other Western capitals that the country is slipping into chaos.

Jaish militants openly operate two imposing boarding schools in Bahawalpur, a dusty town of 500,000 people. Food, lodging and tuition are free for their 500 students, paid for by donations from sympathizers across the country.

A top police officer said the schools and other hard-line establishments in the area were used to recruit teens and young men for jihadi activities in Pakistan’s northwest or in Afghanistan. …

Last year, the governor of Pakistan’s border region warned that insurgent commanders and suicide bombers were increasingly coming from Punjab. Afghan police officers also say Punjabi fighters are becoming common there.

“Pakistani citizens, and especially Punjabis, are the Taliban trainers in the area for bomb-making,” said Asadullah Sherzad, police chief in Afghanistan’s insurgency-wracked Helmand province, adding there are around 100 Punjabis at any one time in that area of Afghanistan. …

Jaish is believed to have been formed in 2000 by hard-line cleric Masood Azhar after he was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for passengers on a hijacked Indian Airlines flight that landed in Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan the same year. …

Jaish members and leaders are also suspected in the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002, and in a bombing the same year in the city that killed 11 French engineers.

Jaish and other groups still recruit in villages in southern Punjab, according to the ex-Jaish member and another former militant who fought in Afghanistan.

The Usman-o-Ali school “requires each student to attend some sort of jihad training or practice each year,” the ex-Jaish operative said, adding that the hot months of June and July were the prime recruiting period.


Suicide Bomber Kills 23 at Iraqi Funeral

March 23, 2009

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber struck a tent filled with Kurdish funeral mourners Monday, unleashing a huge fireball that killed at least 23 people in a northern town where Kurds and Arabs are competing for power. …

The provincial security office said 23 people were killed and 34 wounded in the suicide attack in the town of Jalula some 80 miles northeast of Baghdad. …

Karim Khudadat, whose father was being mourned, said he was receiving visitors when the bomber struck. …

Elsewhere, eight people were killed and 10 wounded in a bombing near a bus stop west of Baghdad, and a policeman died and eight people were wounded in a suicide blast at a market in the northern town of Tal Afar.

A series of high-profile bombings this month has raised concern that insurgents may be regrouping as the U.S. begins to scale down combat operations and hand over security responsibility to the Iraqis ahead of a planned American troop withdrawal by the end of 2011.

Rising tensions

The attack in Jalula was noteworthy because it points to rising tensions in the north between Kurds and Arabs over control of a swath of territory that the Kurds want to incorporate into their self-ruled region.

U.S. officials believe Kurdish-Arab tension is among the major flashpoint issues threatening Iraqi stability now that the threat posed by Sunni and Shiite insurgents has been diminished.

Last August a suicide bomber killed 25 people, mostly police volunteers, in Jalula, a predominantly Arab town where the Iraqi army forced out Kurdish fighters of the self-ruled Kurdish government last year after a standoff that U.S. officials feared would lead to armed conflict. …

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has complained that the 2005 constitution gives too much power to regional authorities, including the Kurds. Kurdish politicians have accused al-Maliki of wanting to expand his power at their expense.

Those differences could complicate efforts to resolve any of the issues involving the Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of Iraq’s population.


Update: Iraq suicide bomber kills 25, wounds 45


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Monday, March 23, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

JALAWLA – A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Kurdish funeral, killing 25 people and wounding 45 in Jalawla, 70 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A bomb at a bus terminal killed nine people and wounded 23 on Monday in Abu Ghraib, western Baghdad, police said.

TAL AFAR – A suicide bomber killed an off-duty policeman and wounded five civilians in Tal Afar, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest blew himself up near a police patrol, seriously wounding four policemen including a lieutenant colonel, in western Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two civilians, police said.

BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to a car wounded four people, including an official from the immigration and displacement ministry and a Danish national woman who was with him in his vehicle, police said two other policemen were wounded.

Following are security developments in Iraq on Sunday, March 22, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

BAQUBA – U.S. forces said they killed an armed man they said approached them with “hostile intent” in Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb wounded four civilians on Saturday in eastern Baghdad’s Zayouna district, police said.

MOSUL – Police killed two militants in clashes on Saturday in western Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – Police said they found the body of an Iraqi soldier on Saturday in southern Mosul.

Following are security developments in Iraq on Saturday, March 21, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

MOSUL – Iraqi police said they found the body of an ex-army officer dumped in central Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD – Two successive roadside bombs wounded three people including a policeman in central Baghdad on Friday, police said.

2 Responses to “Qaida-Linked Schools in Pakistan”
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