The links below are to articles reporting on a terrorist attack in Tanzania, which is becoming a new centre for islamic terrorism.
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By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
Special to ASSIST News Service
The Margala Hills are all that lie between al-Qaeda-Taliban jihadists and their goal: nuclear-armed Islamabad. While most popular media reports give the impression that this crisis has only recently emerged, this is far from the case. The reality must be absorbed and lessons must be learned.
In 2003, as part of their ‘War on Terror’ alliance, America and Pakistan agreed that the Pakistani Army be given the job of eliminating al-Qaeda and Taliban elements in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) of North West Frontier Province (NWFP). However, a high death toll — including the loss of possibly 3000 soldiers — weakened both Army moral and public resolve, creating domestic political problems for then-president General Musharraf.
In pursuit of political gain, Musharraf brokered ‘land-for-peace’ deals with the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance. In February 2005 South Waziristan was ceded, followed by North Waziristan in September 2006. With this ‘peace’, the military withdrew and jihadists were released from prison with compensation on a mere pledge not to engage in terrorism. If there were a turning point in the ‘War on Terror’, this unconditional surrender of Waziristan was surely it, for the power of the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance has grown in both Afghanistan and Pakistan ever since.
The jihadists were never going to be pacified so long as their goal — the total Islamisation and Talibanisation of fortress Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan — remained unchanged and unrealised. The ‘Islamic Republic of Waziristan’ simply became a terrorist sanctuary and launching pad for further advances. Within months several more tribal areas had fallen under Taliban control. (‘Land-for-peace’ deals with agenda-driven fundamentalist Islamists and jihadists secure incremental Islamist advance, not peace.)
In July 2007 the government’s assault on the Islamists of the Lal Masjid (the Red Mosque in the centre of Islamabad) left some 100 Islamists dead. (The Islamists say thousands died, including children.) Consequently in September 2007 Al-Qaeda declared jihad against the government of Pakistan and the war was on in earnest. This war pits a determined al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance (with numerous high-level sympathisers) against an unstable and equivocating Pakistani government and a conflicted and divided Pakistani Army plagued by Pashtun and Sunni defections.
In the 18 months since, the jihadists have held or captured all the tribal areas. In February 2009 President Asif Ali Zardari brokered a ‘sharia-for-peace’ deal with the Taliban in Malakand Division which comprises one third of NWFP and includes the glorious, albeit Taliban-held, Swat Valley. All of NWFP is now either ceded to the Taliban or under some degree of Taliban control or influence.
Emboldened by its Malakand victory and its advances in strategic Peshawar, the Taliban launched its Spring Offensive with a further escalation. In early April a more united Taliban (see RLP 518, 23 Feb 2009) surged with little resistance south east from Swat (towards Islamabad) into Buner District in a ‘blitzkreig’. From there they quickly infiltrated Haripur District which borders the outskirts of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. According to most Western and Indian analysis and intelligence, Pakistan’s fall is inevitable and imminent, although according to Pakistan, this assessment is ‘ridiculous’.
The Church in Pakistan’s NWFP is already suffering severe repression and persecution under Taliban tyranny. Christians there are living in fear and paying jizya, the’tax’ or protection money demanded of subjugated Jews and Christians in the Quran (Sura 9:29). Their lives are always in the balance. The Church in Islamabad stands on the brink of the same fate. If the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance manages to capture Islamabad in the months ahead, the world will instantly become a different place, and the Church in Islamabad and across Pakistan will see suffering and persecution unlike anything it has ever known before.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
There was another terrible terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, today. Terrorists have attacked a police training centre and killed some 20 people and injured another 90 from initial reports coming out of Pakistan.
Hopefully this attack will provoke the Pakistani government into seriously dealing with the Taliban and terrorists operating from within Pakistan. There seems to be a widely held view (including my own) that there are many within Pakistan supporting both the Taliban and terrorism – including a number of people with the Pakistan security forces.
BELOW: Some footage of the attack
Thousands of Eritrean believers are languishing in military prisons, in labor camps, and in shipping containers in the open desert, reports MNN.
Carl Moeller with Open Doors reports a spot of good news: “Two elderly members of the Kale Hiwot church, who were arrested last November and held at a military concentration camp, have been released, apparently on bail. In addition to that, we also learned that another gentleman, Solomon Mengese, was released.”
Their detentions were linked to Christian activities. Though the government denies religious persecution, Open Doors notes a heavy concentration of arrests and detainment of Bible-believing Christians.
The Kale Hiwot members were men in their 80s, arrested in November, and jailed in Mitire-camp. The camp is a military concentration camp in northeastern Eritrea. Moeller says that the area is believed to be where many Christians are being held.
Mengese is a Full Gospel Church member and gas station owner who was imprisoned for six months in Asmara’s Police Station number 2. He was released two weeks ago.
Meanwhile reliable sources in Eritrea confirmed the number of Christian prisoners in Wi’a Military Training Centre. According to Open Doors, among the 2,900 believers imprisoned, there are 270 Evangelical Christians–including 135 women–kept at Wi’a.
Their sources say the prisoners are facing miserable circumstances as they refuse to deny their faith.
According to the sources, Wi’a Military Training Centre also holds 27 Muslim prisoners who were arrested in Assab for opposing the government-appointed Mufti. They have been in the centre for one year and six months and are mostly kept underground, separate from other religious and military prisoners.
Open Doors’ sources were also able to confirm that the number of Evangelical Christians kept at Massawa Police station is 50, including 15 women. According to these sources, the relatives and friends of the prisoners may bring them food once a day, but they are not allowed to see the prisoners.
Eritrea banned all independent Protestant churches in 2002. Only Islam and the Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran Christian denominations were given official recognition. Buildings of all other churches were closed, and private gatherings in homes were banned. Worshippers caught disobeying these restrictions have faced arrest and torture in prison camps notorious for their horrific circumstances.
Moeller asks believers to “pray that the church in Eritrea will continue to stand strong in the midst of this. We need to pray for those imprisoned, that they would know that they are not forgotten. And third, we need to pray that the denominations that have been sanctioned by the government would speak out on behalf of those who have been imprisoned.”
Report from the Christian telegraph
Uzbekistan has since the beginning of March imposed short jail terms on four Protestants, as well as detaining three more in a centre for the homeless, Forum 18 News Service has learnt.
Three Protestants were each jailed for 15 days, after police raided a meal in a private home where the three were present, and three more were held in a homelessness centre for between four and eleven days.
Asked why individuals must ask for permission to gather for a religious purpose, the judge told Forum 18 that “I am not a law-maker, and I don’t want to discuss the law.” In a separate case, a Baptist was jailed for 10 days after some 20 officials from various state agencies – including the Presidential Administration – raided a prayer meeting in a registered church.
Officials told church members that they need special permission for any services apart from those on Sundays, though Forum 18 can find no requirement for this in published laws or regulations.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
10 men accused; 50 others sought from mob active during anti-Christian violence.
NEW DELHI, February 3 (Compass Direct News) – Orissa police on Thursday (Jan. 29) filed preliminary charges against 10 men in the rape of a nun during anti-Christian violence in Orissa last August.
The charges were filed at sessions court of Balliguda block in Kandhamal district, where violence against Christians was reported to be the severest. Central Investigation Department (CID) Inspector Dilip Mohanty filed the charge sheet before the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Balliguda.
The deadline for filing charges was upon Orissa police, who are required to do so within 120 days from the date of arrest. Police made the first arrest in the case on Oct. 2, 2008.
“We have submitted the charge sheet within the stipulated 120 days,” CID Inspector General Arun Ray told reporters. “Now the court will frame charges and the trial will start.”
All of the accused had been arrested earlier by Orissa police: Jhuria Pradhan, Kartik Pradhan, Saroj Bhadei, Muna Bhadei, Tapas Patnaik, Santosh Patnaik, Biren Sahu, Somanath Pradhan, Gajendra Digal and Jharalal Behera. According to the Crime Branch report, Kartik Pradhan is Jhuria Pradhan’s son, while Muna Bhadei is the son of Saroj Bhadei. Tapas and Santosh Patnaik are siblings.
In a suspect line-up at Cuttack on Jan. 5, the nun identified Santosh Patnaik and Kartik Pradhan as people involved in the crime.
Police Stood By
A native of Dhama area in Sambalpur district of Orissa, the nun said she was raped in K. Nuagaon village on Aug. 25, 2008, during large-scale violence against Christians that broke out in Kandhamal and surrounding districts of Orissa.
The violence resulted from Hindu extremist organizations blaming Christians for the murder of Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23. Police, however, have charged Maoist extremists for the killings. The melee lasted more than two months and resulted in around 120 dead, according to the All India Christian Council (AICC), although a Communist Party fact-finding team estimated at least 500 people were murdered (the Orissa state government’s official death toll is still just 32). More than 50,000 people were left homeless as some 5,000 houses were burned or destroyed, and 252 churches were destroyed, according to the AICC.
The 29-year-old nun, who was working at Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre in K. Nuagaon, was allegedly dragged and raped by the accused as police looked on. In her First Information Report (FIR) filed on Aug. 26 at Balliguda police station, according to the Indian Express, she said 40 armed men arrived at Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre on Aug. 24.
“Me and the Father [Thomas Chellantharayil] jumped over the boundary and ran to a nearby forest,” she reported. “They were shouting, ‘Bharat mata ki jai [Victory to Mother India].’ They burned the centre … The next day, we concealed ourselves in the house of Prahallad Pradhan of K. Nuagaon, but at 1 p.m. the mob found us and dragged me and father out.”
The mob took her to the deserted offices of a local Christian Non-Governmental Organization and forced her clothes off of her, she said. “There one of them raped me. After that, they paraded me naked on the street and took me to an official at K. Nuagaon.”
In her FIR, the nun had not named anyone but said that she could identify the victims if they were brought before her. A doctor examined her at 8:45 p.m. on Aug. 25, and the medical report reportedly confirmed rape and sexual assault. Orissa police, however, waited 38 days to pick up the medical report, citing busyness as the reason for delay.
Indian media widely cited laxness on the part of the administration, and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani called it, “a shameful crime against humanity.”
The state government suspended five policemen, including Sub-Inspector of Balliguda K.M. Rao, for misconduct and negligence. In the ensuing arrests, Orissa police apprehended some suspects as far away as Palaghat in Kerala, India’s southern-most state.
The nun had asked for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the incident in a petition to the Supreme Court in October 2008. The court denied the request and asked her to cooperate with the state’s crime branch.
Ray, the CID inspector general, said police have submitted another 50 names who were part of the mob that assaulted the woman, according to the Indian Express. The court is expected to issue non-bail arrest warrants for them. A supplementary charge sheet will be filed after completion of the investigation.
Report from Compass Direct News
Churches in India have joined in widespread denunciation of a series of bomb blasts that killed at least 76 people and left more than 400 injured in Assam state, in north-east India, and that also damaged a Baptist centre, reports Ecumenical News International.
“We strongly condemn such heartless violence unleashed to common people,” said the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India (CBCNEI), which was also hit by one of the 11 almost simultaneous bomb blasts in three major cities of Assam on 30 October.
One of the six bombs that rocked Guwahati, the capital of Assam state, exploded at a gate in front of the offices of the church council that groups Baptist churches in north-east India.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
A little over a year ago, adventurer Steve Fossett disappeared while on a flight from Nevada in the United States. Now items allegedly belonging to Steve Fossett have been found by a Preston Morrow while hiking through a remote area in California near Mammoth Lakes. The area where the items were found is west of Mammoth Lakes in the Inyo National Forest.
The items included items of ID with Steve Fossett’s name on it, cash and a jumper. The ID included a pilot’s license and a Federal Aviation Administration Identity Card.
The items found on Tuesday the 30th September 2008 have been handed over to police.
A command centre was soon set up at Mammoth Lakes Airport and aerial searches of the area where the items were found carried out. Aircraft wreckage has been found in the area and the wreckage is now being investigated.
Fossett’s plane took off from a private airfield south of Reno in Nevada on the 3rd September 2007 and he has not been heard off since. Fossett has been declared dead by authorities.
BELOW: Footage covering the story
BELOW: Footage covering the original story of Fossett’s disappearance