Monthly Archives: December 2010

Afghanistan Never Again

by Florian Flade

COPYRIGHT MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS

As Danny Cross left Afghanistan, the 19-year old British soldier got news two of his close friends had died, killed on the battlefield. With images of war, the sound of bullets and mortars, carved into his mind, Private Cross ended his first duty tour in Southern Afghanistan and went back home to the UK.

Cross is from Stockport, southeast of Manchester. He joined the army when he was 16, underwent military training in Africa before being send to the Afghanistan-War. During his stay in the war zones, Cross experienced almost daily enemy contact, rockets and mortars fired at him and survived some “near misses”.

Back in Britain Danny Cross was told his second tour in Afghanistan was due and he would be return to the war that had killed several of his friends and comrades. Faced with the next stay for months in dangerous Afghanistan, the young soldier thought about opportunities to avoid returning to the war. His plan seemed effective, yet brutal and dangerous. Scared by the idea of serving for a second time in Afghanistan, Private Cross asked a friend to drive over his leg and thereby injure him in a way that would lead to him not being deployed to the war again.

The teenage soldier sat on a road and his friend did drive over the leg with a car, smashing it and causing significant harm. A military doctor who examined Cross declared the 19-year old Briton unfit for another round of fighting in Afghanistan. During the examination, the soldier confessed to the doctor, that his injured leg was the result of a desperate attempt of self-harm with the help of a friend. Later he also told his girlfriend and mother about the fake accident.

Charged with malingering a court sentenced Cross to 18-months in military prison but after a Appeal Court in London read a psychiatric report last week the sentenced was turned into 12-month community order. A full psychiatric analysis said Danny Cross, who is now dismissed from the military, had suffered psychological effects originating in his experience in Afghanistan, including a anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder and trauma.

“I didn’t ever want to disrespect the Army I’m just glad that its over and I’m glad to be back with my family”, Private Cross said after last week´s hearings in London. His lawyer stated, that the case of the soldier was a prime example of what war does to young men on a psychological level: “We hear a lot about the tragic combat deaths and major casualties, but nothing of the psychological problems suffered by men who deploy and then return apparently successfully.”

2010 was the deadliest year for NATO troops in Afghanistan since the the beginning of the war in 2001. More than 700 NATO soldiers, including 100 british servicemen died in Afghanistan this year.

 

Mysterious Murder in Lebanon

by Florian Flade

Jund al-Sham leader Ghandi al-Sahmarani

Palestinian refugee camps are the Lebanese equivalent of Pakistan´s Waziristan – lawless, autonomous areas ruled by various political and militant factions and their armed militias, breeding grounds for violent ideologies. Twelve of these camps exist since the 1960s, most of them harboring tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled Israeli military campaigns and settled in the Cedar Republic. Lebanon´s government does not regard the Palestinians as citizens, even though new generations have been born and raised in the camps on Lebanese soil. Lebanese security forces try everything they can to avoid going into the chaotic camps. Invading these areas has taken a high toll on the Lebanese army in the past.

The refugees themselves are still carrying the hope of one day returning to a Palestine State and therefore often copy the resistance and militant culture of the Palestinian territories. Fatah exists in these camps, recruiting young Palestinians in exile and indoctrinating them with a Palestinian nationalism and prior to his death also with the Arafat-cult. Although not that influential, Exile-Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were also established in the Palestinian camps, spreading a religious-driven jihadi form of resistance and martyrdom culture.

Much more dangerous than the well-known Palestinian factions who are competing to recruit the refugees for their cause are the smaller, much more radical groups gaining foothold in the camps of Nahr al-Bared, Ain al-Hilweh and others. Among them are Lebanese-born Salafi Jihadi groups such as “Esbat al-Nur” and “Fatah al-Islam” with an overall agenda of establishing a global Islamic State implementing Sharia not only in Palestine or Lebanon but across the Middle East. Influenced by al-Qaida and with a leadership of Jihadi veterans from the Iraq War, these groups are a major concern for the security of Lebanon.

One of the leaders of such a group was found dead yesterday in Ain al-Hilweh Refugee Camp near the Port City of Saida. Ghandi al-Sahmarani known as “Abu Ramiz al-Tababulsi”, was the leader of Jund al-Sham, a small Jihadi militant group fighting to create a Taliban-style state in the region of Sham (Greater Syria) – today´s Israel, Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The group´s leadership basically copied al-Qaida´s list of enemies – America, Israel, Jews, Christians – and added native enemies, the Lebanese government and security forces as well as nationalistic Palestinians and the Shiite Hizbollah which Jund al-Sham declared being “heretics” and enemies of the Sunni people.

Jund al-Sham leader Al-Sahmarani was found murdered in a garage in Ain al-Hilweh, handcuffed and blindfolded with signs of torture all over his dead body. The dead body was taken to Hamshari Hospital in nearby Sidon where doctor´s examined the militant leader was killed by a single shot through his mouth in the head. Investigators believe al-Sahmarani was murdered in a different area and then brought to Ain al-Hilweh a few hours before he was found.

Ghandi al-Sahmarani was born in Tripoli and joined Sunni militant groups in the North of Lebanon. After violent clashes in 1999 near the city of Dinniyah left 11 Lebanese soldiers and several fighters of the so-called Dinniyeh-Group dead, he fled to the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh (Population of 75,000) where the group established its headquarter. In 2004 Jund al-Sham was created under the leadership of former Abu Nidal-member Ahmed Abdul Rahman al-Sharqiyeh (“Abu Youssef al-Sharqiyeh”) and immediately began a al-Qaida-inspired violent campaign to fight rival factions.

In July 2004 Jund al-Sham clashed with the Fatah militia in Ain al-Hilweh, leaving five people wounded. Back then Fatah military commander in southern Lebanon warned the Jihadi group: “We will chop off the hands of those who harm any Fatah member or civilian in the camp!”
Imad Yassin, the military head of Jund al-Sham, was a former member of Esbat al-Nur and merged his break-away faction into the new group, bringing in experience in sending Lebanese fighters to Iraq. By early 2005, Abu Youssef al-Sharqiyeh departed Jund al-Sham and the remaining group, consisting of only a few dozen members, was since then led by Ghandi al-Sahmarani (named “Al-Qaida leader of Lebanon” by the media).

Since 2004 Jund al-Sham clashed numerous times with Palestinian militias loyal to Fatah. Shehade Jawhar, one commander of the group was killed fighting Fatah members in July 2008, other Jihadis died last week when groups were engaged in bloody battle.
Furthermore Jund al-Sham claimed responsibility for assassinations and targeted killings such as the murder of Hizbollah official Ghaleb Awwali in southern Beirut in 2004. Then leader of the group al-Sharqiyeh denied involvement and told news agencies: “”This statement is a fabrication. We have nothing to do with this operation… and the first party to benefit from it is the Mossad Israeli intelligence agency.”

As Jund al-Sham has never been a major player in the political stage of the Palestinian refugee camps, mystery remains why Ghandi al-Sahmarani was murdered now. Because of the group´s hostilities to the much more powerful and popular Fatah, the Jihadi leader was banned from entering Ain al-Hilweh since 2008. Taking the dead body to the camp can only mean he either entered the area without permission of local Fatah security forces and was captured and killed, or he was murdered outside of Ain al-Hilweh and the body positioned inside the camp as a warning to remaining Jund al-Sham sympathizers.

Highly unlikely is the possibility of a Hizbollah assassination. The Shiite movement was not seriously threatened by a small Jihadi faction like Jund al-Sham and therefore would not really care about the faith of the al-Qaida-inspired Palestinian militia.

Islamic Movement Uzbekistan – 2010 Martyrs

by Florian Flade

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The “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” (IMU), a militant group based in the Pakistani tribal areas, has released a photo gallery presenting fighters killed in 2010 combat and airstrikes. For weeks the IMU´s propaganda activities were almost dead, their Germany-based website was close and no new video was produced, no confirmation on the rumours about German militants killed in U.S. drone attacks appeared on the internet.

In the IMU statement publishing the names, nationalities and also portraits of the “martyrs” is says, the militant group had fighters killed on three fronts – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. This might indicate that IMU has expanded it´s insurgent campaign into the Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan by mid-2010. 52 IMU fighters were killed in 2010, Jihadi militants from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russian Tatarstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, two are from Tunisia and two are from Turkey. According to the IMU “unfortunately more than half of the martyrs have become victims of airstrikes”.

From the details provided by IMU, a large number of Jihadis hailed from the North of Afghanistan. Eleven martyrs are from the Kunduz Province of Afghanistan, others are from Takhar, Baghlan, Lugar, Balkh, Kabul, Badakshan.

Many of those who are reported as killed now have been featured in IMU propaganda videos. Question remains while German Jihadis Shahab D. of Hamburg and Bünyamin E. of Wuppertal are not mentioned as 2010-martyrs. Both were killed in a single US drone strike early October in North-Waziristan. As far as intelligence reports suggest, the two German Islamists were members of IMU.