Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 40, of La Palma pleaded guilty in August to one count of providing material support to terrorists. She admitted to providing a total of $2,050 in three wire transfers to a person in Pakistan with the intention that the money would be used for attacks against U.S. military personnel and other people overseas, prosecutors said.
“While the sum of money involved in this case may not seem substantial, there’s no doubt the funds this defendant sent overseas would have covered the cost of an attack on U.S. soldiers,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement‘s homeland security investigations in Los Angeles. “Money is the mother’s milk of terrorism and we will move aggressively against those who provide financial support to groups and individuals bent on harming the U.S. and its allies.”
Mihalik, who worked as a pharmacist, has been in federal custody since she was arrested in August, after she attempted to board a flight to her native Turkey. Court records show she had been cooperating with investigators.
Shortly after her arrest, Mihalik told the FBI that she believed the person in Pakistan was a member of the Taliban and al-Qaeda and he was using the money for mujahideen efforts against American military forces in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, authorities said.
The Buddhas of Bamiyan (Pashto: د بامیان بوتان – “de bámiyán botán”, Persian: بت های باميان – but hay-e bamiyan) were two 6th century monumental statues of standing buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, 230 km (140 mi) northwest of Kabul at an altitude of 2,500 meters (8,202 ft). Built in 507 AD, (smaller), and 554 AD, (larger) the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art.
The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated withstucco. This coating, practically all of which wore away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors.
The lower parts of the statues’ arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix while supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts. Rows of holes that can be seen in photographs were spaces that held wooden pegs that stabilized the outer stucco.
They were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were idols. International opinion strongly condemned the destruction of the Buddhas, which was viewed as an example of the intolerance of the Taliban. Japan and Switzerland, among others, have pledged support for the rebuilding of the statues.
How will the 2014 US troop withdrawal and Pakistan‘s upcoming elections affect regional and global politics?
And as they do so, new stories emerge rekindling hope that peace will finally come to the region as well as political, social and economic stability.
Afghanistan is set for a 2014 US troop withdrawal and Pakistan is gearing up for elections in May – for the first time in its history a democratically elected government has completed five years in office.
So how will these major changes affect regional and global politics?
Some of the highlights of the issue include:
- Kabul: A city of hope and fear – With the US set to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in 2014, what does the future hold for the country’s capital?
- A journey along Pakistan’s Indus River – Fed by the water from the melted snow of the Himalayas and prone to monsoon floods, the ebb and flow of the river impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis.
- Buzkashi: Riding into the scoring circle – Afghanistan’s national sport was banned under the Taliban but it now attracts thousands of passionate fans.
- Pakistan’s troubled milestone – As the country heads towards elections, the mood remains one of cynicism rather than celebration.
- Embracing a new Afghan challenge – A skiing competition – including an event for women – reflects a new sense of optimism in a country that is simultaneously holding its breath ahead of the 2014 US troop withdrawal.
- Navigating Hell’s Road – Meet the Pakistani truckers who must battle arguably the world’s most dangerous road in order to ferry goods to remote mountain villages.
Attempt by suicide bombers in army uniforms to free Taliban prisoners leaves at least 55 dead in western Farah town.
Suicide bombers disguised as soldiers have stormed an court in western Afghanistan, killing at least 46 people in an attempt to free Taliban fighters standing trial, officials say.
At least nine fighters were also killed in Wednesday’s attack, which occurred in Farah, the main town of Farah province.
It was not immediately clear whether the accused men had escaped the court complex, although a hospital doctor said one prisoner was among those being treated for injuries.
“In total, 34 civilians and 12 [Afghan] security forces have been killed in the attack. We have also discovered the bodies of eight attackers, more than 100 people have also been injured.”
The multiple bomb-and-gun assault will raise further questions about the Afghans’ ability to secure the country as NATO reduces its combat mission by the end of next year.
Wednesday’s death toll was the highest in Afghanistan from a single attack since a Shia Muslim shrine was bombed in Kabul in December 2011, killing 80 people.
|From the perspective of one neighbourhood in Herat|
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Farah attack.
“Our fighters attacked several government buildings in Farah according to their planned tactic. They conducted the attack with small arms and grenades,” the group said on its website.
“The fighting happened after information that Karzai’s administration wanted to try several fighters in a cruel way in this court.”
Taliban fighters frequently target government compounds equipped with suicide vests, rockets and machine-guns.
“At around 8am [03:30 GMT] five attackers riding in two military-style vehicles drove to the provincial court building, one [vehicle] detonated at the gate and three attackers entered the building,” Agha Noor Kentos, police chief of Farah, told AFP.
Wounded being treated
Wakil Ahmad, a doctor at Farah hospital, said medics were treating scores of wounded including two judges and one court prisoner.
The governor’s compound was around 200 metres away from the scene of attack, an AFP reporter said.
Last year armed men dressed in Afghan police uniforms and wearing suicide vests stormed a government compound in Farah and killed seven people.
In November a roadside bomb planted by Taliban fighters killed 17 civilians, mostly women and children, on their way to a wedding party in Farah.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, recalled
meeting a former Taliban commander last week, when there was an attack on a police training headquarters, before Karzai travelled to Doha for talks on the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Qatari capital.
She said the Taliban commander told her there was still a war going on and that until the Taliban’s demands were met, among which was the release of Taliban prisoners, attacks such as the one on the police centre would continue in Afghanistan.
The Taliban insurgency has raged since a 2001 US-led invasion put an end to its five-year rule over large parts of Afghanistan.
The group has increasingly widened its attacks outside its main power bases in the east and south, where NATO forces have focused their attention, to other areas such as Farah which borders Iran.
NATO combat troops are due to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, leaving responsibility for security to Afghan security forces.
However, there are fears that the violence will increase with their departure.
Source: .independent.co.uk (ANDREW BUNCOMBE)
Reports said the 41-year-old was hit in what as described as a drive-by shooting.
According to the AFP news agency, the teacher was on her way to the government girls’ primary school in Shahkas when gunmen fired at her about 200 metres from the school and then fled the scene.
“The teacher was killed after unknown gunmen on a motorbike shot her and fled,” said a local government official, Asmatullah Wazir.
No groups have so far claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, though the Taliban has previously been behind numerous attacks on girls’ schools and teachers. Hundreds of schools have been bombed and destroyed in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Last year, the Taliban shot and seriously wounded Malala Yousafzai, a teenager who campaigned for girls’ education.
Source: edition.cnn.com ( John Horgan, Special for CNN)
Editor’s note: Dr. John Horgan is a psychologist at Penn State where he is director of the International Center for the Study of Terrorism. His latest book is ‘Divided We Stand: The Strategy and Psychology of Ireland’s Dissident Terrorists’ by Oxford University Press.
Swat, Pakistan (CNN) — Just over one week ago, Pakistani authorities paraded 11 children accused of terrorism in front of the local media. The boys, aged 10 to 16, were apprehended while attempting to plant home-made explosives on behalf of local militant groups operating in and around the city of Quetta, in Balochistan.
The boys’ arrest highlights Pakistan‘s worsening civil strife and underscores how Pakistani terrorist groups continue to exploit children.
This is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan are increasingly turning to children as operatives.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Mia Bloom and I traveled to Pakistan’s Swat Valley to see firsthand how the Pakistani government is working to solve this problem.
This is the region where 14-year old Malala Yousafzai — an activist for girls’ education — narrowly survived a Taliban assassinationattempt last year.
An emerging success story — and the reason for our visit to Swat — is the establishment of “Sabaoon.” From the Urdu meaning “the first ray of light from the dawn”, Sabaoon is Pakistan’s rehabilitation facility for child militants who were formerly recruited by the TTP.
Some of these children were even prepared to become suicide bombers.
Sabaoon’s team of psychologists, social workers and military advisers share a principal objective — to prevent recidivism and ensure that its ‘graduates’ don’t return to the fight.
Sabaoon joins a growing list of similar initiatives that have cropped up around the globe since the mid-2000s. Perhaps the best-known terrorist rehabilitation program is in Saudi Arabia.
Collectively characterized as “de-radicalization” programs, it is more accurate to call them “risk reduction” initiatives. They represent a change in the way counterterrorism campaigns are waged, and share the goal of reducing the risk of re-engagement in terrorism once the program’s graduates are allowed to return to their communities.
So far, Sabaoon has had 188 ‘students’ fully participate in its program of risk assessment and rehabilitation.
All of the boys were captured by the army or police in raids on Pakistani Taliban training camps. The boys spend anywhere from six months to two years at Sabaoon. A few have spent as long as three years in rehabilitation.
In Pakistan, the TTP showed no hesitation in their use of children for terrorism. In fact, “recruitment” is hardly the right word. It became clear from our conversations at Sabaoon that these children had little if any say in their induction.
The younger children lacked the capability to refuse the terrorists, fearing their own safety or reprisals to their families. One mother explained to me that she had turned to the Taliban when she could no longer cope with her son’s alcohol and drug abuse — marijuana grows wild throughout Swat.
Targeting children at risk like this provided the Taliban with a perfect opportunity to reach out to parents with an offer to help “save” their children. The militants promised a future involving discipline, belonging, purpose, and meaningful work.
In some cases, families faced a horrible choice — pay an enormous financial tax (double the annual wage) or surrender a child to the movement.
Deception and manipulation have come to define the TTP’s child induction practices such that the prevention of children’s involvement in violent extremism in Pakistan can hardly be characterized as counterinsurgency.
It is instead a challenge of basic child protection.
Most of the children recalled overwhelmingly negative experiences at the training camps. After performing menial tasks, they were locked in a 4×5 meter room for the rest of the day. Some reported being repeatedly beaten, and in a few cases, sexually assaulted by senior figures.
One child with whom we spent some time graduated from such deplorable conditions only to be ‘allowed’ to become a martyr, changing his mind literally at the last second. That boy is now one of Sabaoon’s brightest hopes for successful rehabilitation and reintegration, and a potential role model for younger children at Sabaoon. But he remains profoundly traumatized by his experiences.
Other children actually reported having had positive experiences with the TTP. Some became involved through family members already in the movement. For them, adventure, camaraderie, and a sense of purpose proved all too real. Terrorism was the family business, and even if the children didn’t want to get involved, how could they refuse?
Nobody knows exactly how old some of the children are. Many don’t have birth certificates and don’t know their own age themselves.
Abdul (not his real name) is now about 17-18 years old. He is very soft-spoken and painfully shy, but spoke English very well. He has big brown eyes and a wonderful, broad smile. He was very thin, but so shy he wouldn’t take the food offered to him at lunch.
We were very sensitive to the trauma he had experienced at the hands of the terrorists. The staff briefed us about the abuse he endured. In our limited time with Abdul, we were careful not to ask him anything that might upset him so we focused only on speaking about his future, and how he has adapted to life after Sabaoon.
Abdul is a great success story. One of the first graduates of the program, he excelled academically at Sabaoon. Shortly after his repatriation to his home village, he won a scholarship to university. He chose to defer his admission to take care of his mother and younger brother.
He occasionally comes back to Sabaoon to visit the staff and also to talk to the younger students about how the program has changed his life.
He is one of Sabaoon’s role models.
Although addressing the children’s needs and reducing the risk of re-engagement in terrorism are Sabaoon’s most pressing objectives, its staff are not unaware of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that face the children when the leave the program.
For Sabaoon, so far it appears that recidivism is not the problem, though with any such program, we may have to wait a bit longer to see if someone returns to the fight. No terrorism risk-reduction program has a 100% success rate, or even close to that. When such claims are made, it doesn’t take long to realize that there are significant questions surrounding definitions and measurement of “success” or “re-engagement.”
Such questions need to be answered if programs like these are to be supported as creative approaches to counterterrorism. Knowing why they work is as important as knowing if they work. A few high profile instances of recidivism may spell the death-knell for such initiatives.
As academic researchers who study violent extremism, we have a great deal of hope for such programs, and Sabaoon in particular has been the shining ray its name implies. Battling immense odds, Sabaoon’s staff remain infectiously optimistic and dedicated, and that’s one of the reasons we will return later this year.
But time is not on their side.
A few years ago, research conducted by Dr. Mia Bloom highlighted the changing nature of women’s involvement in terrorism. Today a similar argument could be made for the involvement of young children. Both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the child suicide bomber has come to represent a routine terrorist profile.
Children are easier to manipulate, and like female operatives, they can penetrate security checkpoints without raising the normal levels of suspicions. A 2012 report from Afghanistan suggested that almost 100 would-be child suicide bombers had been ‘intercepted’ in the preceding 12-month period. Many of those boys were recruited in Quetta.
What the rising tide of child militants means for the development of counter-terrorism initiatives, or even child protection, is unclear.
Sabaoon alone will certainly not solve this problem, but it, and programs like it must continue to develop if we are to truly prevent the next generation of militants.