April 20, 2013
April 19, 2013
Two Chechen brothers living in the US since 2002—Dzhokhar ( 19) and TamerlanTsarnaev ( 26), are suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon on April 15,2013, in which three persons were killed and over 150 injured.
2.The team led by the FBI, which has been investigating the blast, has been able to identify them reportedly through CCTV images of their placing bags, which probably contained the improvised explosive devices (IED), fabricated with a pressure cooker and a metal container, at two places near the finishing line where the explosions occurred.
3. Even though the FBI-led team haS not said so, tip-off from persons knowing the brothers also possibly contributed to the needle of suspicion pointing at the two brothers.
4.Tamerlandied following a shootout with the police on Thursday ( April 18) night. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, is still on the run in Boston.However, latest reports indicate that the police are "in engagement" with a person suspected to be Dzhokhar in the Watertown area.
5. From the accounts of the police search for him received so far,Dzhokhar has been making frantic efforts to evade capture by the police, who must be anxious to catch him alive to question him on what and who motivated him and Tamerlan to commit the bombing, if it is proved that they did it.
5.According to the profile of the Tsarnaev family carried by the BBC and the CNN, they were Chechens who had migrated toKyrgyzstan and from there to Dagestan. They migrated to the US from Dagestan with Kyrgyz passports in 2002. The father,AnzorTsarnaev, is since reported to have gone back to Dagestan.
6. According to the BBC, the brothers lived in the Massachusetts town of Cambridge, home of the prestigious Harvard University. Tamerlan studied engineering at Bunker Hill Community College just outside Boston but had taken the year off to train as a boxer.Dzhokhar is enrolled at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth to study medicine.
7.Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported that "extremist material" was on the YouTube account belonging to Tamerlan. "Several albums were posted, one of them titled 'terrorist'," the agency said. However, the BBC says it has been unable to confirm the presence of extremist material on Tamerlan's YouTube page.
8. Their mother, ZubeidatTsarnaeva, told Russia's RT television network on April 19:"My youngest was raised from 8 years in America, my oldest he was really properly raised in our house," she said. "Nobody talked about terrorism. Tamerlan got involved in religion five years ago. (He) started following his own religion, never told me he could be on side of jihad."
9. According to some reports, the FBI had interviewed the father sometime ago to enquire why the two sons had started attending a local mosque for prayers. This would show that the two brothers were under watch by the FBI for some time before they carried out the bombing.
10.Details of their life in Boston available so far do not indicate any travels by them either within the US or outside.If they had developed any radical influences, it must have been through the Internet or during their visits to the local mosque for namaz. Particulars of the mosque to which they started going for namaz are not available. Who was the cleric in charge of it? Did he have any radical background? Why was the FBI worried about their going for namaz?
11. Dzhokharwas very proud of his Chechen ethnicity.It has been reported that whenever his friends referred to him as a Russian, he would correct them and say he is a Chechen.
12.If it is established that the two brothers carried out the Marathon bombing, what could have been their motive? They had no reasons to be angry against the US and its civil society. Their anger should have been against Russia.
13.Were they self-motivated to carry out the bombing or was their an external motivation due to US policies towards the Islamic world? It is not anger over the state of affairs in Chechnya and Dagestan, but anger over matters relating to Islam that seem to have motivated them.
14. Was there an Al Qaeda inspiration behind their action? Chechens had always formed an important component of Al Qaeda. Chechen instructors were employed in Al Qaeda's training camps in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
15. Under Ayman al-Zawahiri, the present chief of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda has turned the focus of its operations from the Af-Pak region to Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Mali, Somalia, Libya and Algeria.Did Al Qaeda propaganda against the US policies in Libya and Syria influence the brothers in their actions?
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75)
April 17, 2013
Chintamani Mahapatra, April 15, 2013, DHNS:
The Afghan war has cost the US more than half a trillion dollars national debt, budget deficit and, of course, thousands of American lives.
The Obama Administration has made it amply clear that the US forces will leave Afghanistan by end of 2014. However, deadly war has not ceased in Afghanistan. Will Afghans be able to manage their affairs after foreign forces leave?
The end-game is softly unfolding, even as behind-the-scene negotiations are inaudibly taking place. How will India handle the situation in coming months and years? India already seems to be in an election mode. Amidst corruption exposes, economic downturn, and off-and-on turmoil in UPA coalition, New Delhi these days has not as much of focus on foreign affairs. Domestic politics will largely consume attention of Indian leadership well until the elections due in 2014.
Pakistan may be in a better position, since national elections in that country will take place this year. There will be less political uncertainty in Islamabad during Afghan transition. China is luckier, as ten-year political transition in Beijing was over last year. Nor is Russia going to witness any political uncertainty in coming few years.
The big question is how and how many American forces will leave Afghanistan in 2014 and in what condition. Slow recovery of US economy and resilience of the Taliban make it abundantly obvious that Washington would not risk carrying on the war in that country.
Afghan war has cost the US more than half a trillion dollars, a huge national debt, a large budget deficit and, of course, thousands of American lives. Yet victory to the United States is not in sight.
The Taliban leadership has shown no great eagerness for dialogue with the US. In fact, the Taliban are patiently waiting, so that Nato forces leave their country with war-weariness. In a stalemate, the insurgents generally hesitate to make compromises. The Taliban thus are not in a hurry to end the war and trying to push foreign "occupying forces" to the corner.
What are the future scenarios of Afghanistan? It is hardest to predict anything in Afghanistan. The US Administration does not seem to be united on withdrawal time-table and the modalities. Taliban seem to have been embroiled in internal differences among the moderates and the hardliners. Pakistan no longer enjoys the comfort of dealing with a Taliban it created and put about a hundred Taliban behind the bars for attempting to negotiate with President Karzai or the Americans.
Nonetheless, among the multiple scenarios, the first one is Afghanistan becomes the second Vietnam for the Americans. They just cannot carry on a losing war and; instead of dealing with head-strong Taliban leadership; they make a deal with Pakistan and get out of the country. In that case, Pakistan-backed Taliban are back to power in Kabul! The second scenario is the US successfully strikes a deal with a faction of the Taliban that are not under the influence of Islamabad and puts in place a coalition government that would allow Washington to station about ten thousand trainers in Afghanistan and end the major military operations.
The third scenario suggests that the US successfully persuades Pakistan to rope in the like-minded Taliban factions for dialogue and for creation of a broad coalition government consisting of pro-US Afghan factions and pro-Pakistan Taliban factions.
All three scenarios have one common factor—the Taliban will be an important segment of any future government in Kabul! In the first scenario, the implications of old Taliban returning to power in Kabul can be disastrous for regional peace and stability. The Kabul regime may return to its old ways, claiming victory over the mighty US-led Nato forces, and executing Jihad with ever more zeal and ruthlessness.
The outcome of the second scenario will make Pakistan isolated and irrelevant. The US-backed Taliban government would receive political, military and economic assistance from Washington and its allies. Elements of Pakistani establishment will unquestionably resort to policy of destabilization towards Afghanistan, while political leadership in Pakistan may seek to stabilize domestic socio-political conditions. A new kind of proxy war may actually begin between the US-backed Kabul regime and Pakistan-supported dissident Taliban.
But the million-dollar question is whether the Obama administration will be able to carry the Congress with such a plan. Section of the American political elite is dead opposed to any nation-building efforts in Afghanistan. However, one cannot rule out this scenario. The reason is very simple. American people and property will continue to be vulnerable to attacks by extremists and jihadists. To prevent that continued US engagement with a new Kabul regime is essential. Significantly, many Americans realise that Afghanistan became a safe haven for Al Qaeda partly as a consequence of American abandonment of that country after the Soviet troop withdrawal in 1989.
The third option seems to be less hazardous than the other two. The Taliban, Pakistan, present Afghan government and the US together may arrive at a broadly acceptable solution. However, this is not going to be unproblematic. First, the Taliban will demand a larger share in government formation. Secondly, the present Afghan political elite will be unwilling to surrender power completely. Thirdly, the US will most likely ask for a democratic solution that may not be acceptable to all Afghan factions.
In other words, the Afghan puzzle is too convoluted to solve. In whatever form the Americans leave Afghanistan, peace is unlikely to return. Regional stakeholders worry that the situation may actually get worse in post-American Afghanistan. The right kind of solution lies in involving all stake holders in the dialogue process. But Afghanistan's neighbours seem to be out of the loop in the quiet diplomacy currently undertaken by the US. Unless India, China, Russia and Central Asian Republics are involved in the peace process, an appropriate solution cannot be devised.
(The writer is with the School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi)
THE FACTS: As reported by the BBC and the CNN:
• Three persons, including an 8-year-old child, were killed in two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the afternoon of April 15,2013.
• Hospitals reported at least 144 people are being treated for injuries, with at least 17 of them in critical condition and 25 in serious condition. At least eight of them are children. At least 10 people injured had limbs amputated. Several of the patients treated at Massachusetts General Hospital suffered injuries to lower limbs.
• The two blasts were about 50 to 100 yards apart with a few minutes one after the other. A federal law enforcement official told CNN that both bombs were small, and initial tests showed no C-4 or other high-grade explosive material, suggesting that the packages used in the attack were crude explosive devices.
• Authorities in Boston found at least one other explosive device ,Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said.Rep. Bill Keating of Massachusetts said two more were found. One unexploded device was found at a hotel on Boylston Street near the bomb site and another unexploded device was found at an undisclosed location.
· There were no credible threats before the Marathon, a state government official said.There is no suspect in custody, but many people are being questioned, Davis said.Investigators warned police to be on the lookout for a "darker-skinned or black male" with a possible foreign accent in connection with the attack, according to a law enforcement advisory obtained by CNN. The man was seen with a black backpack and sweatshirt and was trying to get into a restricted area about five minutes before the first explosion, the lookout notice states.Also, a Saudi national with a leg wound was under guard at a Boston hospital in connection with the bombings, but investigators cannot say he is involved at this time and he is not in custody, a law enforcement official said.
· In addition to scrutinizing images of surveillance cameras in the area, the FBI likely was issuing subpoenas for records from cell towers in the area to isolate and trace calls from around Copley Square at the time of the blasts, according to a former federal law enforcement official who now works in the intelligence community.
· Mayor (Thomas) Menino said: "Our focus is on making sure that the area around Copley Square is safe and secured. I am asking everyone to stay away from Copley Square and let the first responders do their jobs."
· The Federal Aviation Administration placed a flight restriction over the site of the blasts.Other cities, including New York and Washington, tightened security as a result. Following standard protocol, the White House cleared out an area in front of the West Wing.
· Troops from the Massachusetts National Guard, already at the site as part of the marathon's security and crowd-management plan, were assisting police as well.
· The FBI has taken over co-ordination of what it described as a "potential terrorist inquiry".Although President Obama, in his initial statement, did not use the word "terrorism", a White House official later said: "Any event with multiple explosive devices - as this appears to be - is clearly an act of terror and will be approached as an act of terror."
· Officials in Washington said no group or individual had so far said they carried out the attack.
2. Since the 9/11 acts of catastrophic terrorism in the US Homeland carried out by Al Qaeda,using hijacked aircraft, there have been two attempted acts of catastrophic terrorism by Al Qaeda by causing explosions on US passenger aircraft flying from Europe to the US.
3.On 22 December 2001, Richard Reid, a British citizen, boarded American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, wearing shoes packed with explosives, which he unsuccessfully tried to detonate. Passengers overpowered him on the plane, which quickly landed at Logan International Airport in Boston, , the closest US airport. He was arrested and indicted. He was reported to have been motivated by Al Qaeda elements in Pakistan.
4. On December 26,2009,Abdul Mutallab, 23, a Nigerian, tried to detonate an explosive device, apparently a mix of powder and liquid, on a North-West Airlines flight, coming from Nigeria via Amsterdam, and approaching Detroit. An alert passenger noticed him and he was overpowered. He was believed to have been motivated by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
5. The Boston Marathon blasts have coincided with a fast reportedly undertaken since March 19,2013, by 24 of the Al Qaeda suspects still held in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre to protest against the alleged inhuman conditions in the Centre.Activists of a Muslim group called Witness Against Torture (WAT) began a hunger strike in solidarity with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.The group said in its web site:"We will gather for action in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities domestically and internationally to denounce the barbaric practice of torture and indefinite detention and to demand justice for the men at Guantanamo."The solidarity fast by WAT was scheduled to last till March 30. A handful of activists plan to continue fasting every Friday until the prison is closed.
6. There is so far no evidence to indicate that the Boston blasts might have been linked with the fast. No claim of responsibility for the blasts has been made so far and there is till now no evidence to show whether the blasts were carried out by individual rogue elements with personal grievances or ideologically motivated organisations.
7. While the US Homeland had previously seen acts of catastrophic terrorism and attempts to commit such acts through aircraft, this is the first time a conventional act of terrorism using improvised explosive devices has been committed, if the involvement of rogue individual elements is ruled out.
8. The perpetrators, whether rogue individuals or members of ideologically motivated organisations, have succeeded in evading physical security for the Boston Marathon in procuring explosive material, detonators and timers and planting the IEDs without being noticed by the extensive CCTV camera network along the Marathon route.
9. The local security authorities and the FBI do not appear to have received any advance inkling of a possible terrorist strike either through electronic chatter or from human sources.
10. The explosions show that despite the strengthening of homeland security in the US after 9/11, terrorists have managed to find intelligence and physical security gaps in the security network and exploited them. The Boston blasts also illustrate the difficulties in preventing conventional style attacks as against sophisticated catastrophic attacks. (16-4-2013)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )