Bangladesh arrests bombmaker terrorist leader - Pakistan claims 45 killed in raid on Al Qaeda camp
Arrests and raids 'coincide' with President Bush visits to region and anticipated financial incentives
Sylhet, 2 March (AKI) - Bangladesh security forces arrested on Thursday the country's most wanted Islamic militant leader accused of masterminding a series of bomb attacks last year, reports said. Shayek Abdur Rahman surrendered after a siege of over 24 hours in the northeastern city of Syleth. Rahman led the banned Jamaat ul-Mujahideen group which has been accused of organising a violent campaign to introduce Sharia law in Bangladesh, a secular state with a mainly Muslim population. Another Islamic group, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh is also accused of taking part in the campaign.
Security forces had surrounded a two-storey building in Sylhet where Rahman was hiding since Tuesday night, fired tear gas shells and pumped in water to force the militant out.
"Shayek Abdur Rahman along with two of his associates have come out of hiding and surrendered," said lieutenant-colonel Nurul Momen of the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
Rahman's wife Ayesha, their two sons and two daughters surrendered on Wednesday with another four people and were arrested.
A home-made bomb, explosives, a detonator and some Islamic publications were reportedly recovered from the building after Rahmangave himself up.
The bombings in Bangladesh have killed at least 30 people, including two judges, and wounded 150 since August last year.
MIM: Time magazine ironically points out that military strikes against terrorists in Pakistan appear to be strategically timed for a maximum of PR value. The article also notes that Imran Khan, the playboy cricketer turned Taliban will be leading a demonstration against Bush.Khan literally singlehandly instigated the Koran flush riots, when he held up a copy of newsweek with the false story and told Muslims that they should take action to defend the Koran.
Khan was recently in Canada as a main speaker for the "Reviving the Islamic Spirit Conference'.
Posted Wednesday, Mar. 01, 2006
"...Bush is slated to take in a "cricket event" in Pakistan on Saturday, and the country's most celebrated former cricket captain, Imran Khan, is also planning to rendezvous with the visiting U.S. president. But rather than guiding Bush through the nuances of the game, the cricketer-turned-opposition leader will be leading a protest march against the U.S. and its support for Pakistan's military regime. The urbane Imran's promise to rally middle class liberals against Bush and Musharraf may be a sign of just how poorly the U.S. has fared in the battle of ideas in Pakistan. As for the battle against Al Qaeda, well suffice it to say that while President Bush and Musharraf chat at the cricket event, both men will be acutely aware that somewhere not too far away Bin Laden may be smiling yet again for a video camera..."
Pakistan Strikes Suspected al-Qaida Camp
AP Photo MRN101
By BASHIRULLAH KHAN
Associated Press Writer
MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan (AP) - Pakistani soldiers and helicopter gunships attacked a suspected al-Qaida camp Wednesday near the Afghan border, killing more than 45 militants and angering residents who called for a holy war days before a visit by President Bush.
As news of the attack spread in the rugged northwestern region, tribesmen who sympathize with the militants came out of their homes and began firing in the air. A mosque loudspeaker urged people to "wage jihad against the army."
The offensive was in North Waziristan, a region controlled by fiercely independent, well-armed tribes believed to be sheltering al-Qaida fugitives and Taliban remnants. The militants often cross the porous Afghan-Pakistan border.
Three helicopter gunships attacked the militants' mountain hide-out near Saidgi, a village nine miles west of Miran Shah, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said.
The assault "knocked out a den of foreign militants" and killed more than 45 of them, an army statement said.
The slain men - most from Central Asian and Arab countries - included an al-Qaida-linked Chechen commander, identified only by his code name, Imam, who died when a helicopter fired on a vehicle in which he was fleeing, an army official said.
The official said the commander was behind attacks on Pakistani security forces along the border. He said the Chechen was killed along with three bodyguards.
Another security official said one soldier was killed and about a dozen were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
One helicopter hit a bus with gunfire during the raid, killing a female passenger and injuring a 20-year-old student, according to bus driver Sabbir Khan. Khan was also injured and spoke from his hospital bed.
Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, has been under pressure from the U.S. and Afghanistan to be more aggressive in flushing out militants and sealing off the border.
Last year, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf responded suggested a security fence be built along the border. But Afghanistan rejected that idea.
Wednesday's operation came three days before a visit by Bush to Pakistan during which the fight against al-Qaida and loyalists of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime will be on the agenda.
Suspicion that al-Qaida and Taliban militants may be using Pakistan as base for launching terror strikes in Afghanistan has become a source of tension. More than two dozen suicide attacks in recent months have fueled Afghan suspicions.
Bush has said he will raise the issue of cross-border infiltrations with Musharraf.
Afghanistan has handed intelligence to Pakistan that it said indicated that Taliban leader Mullah Omar and key associates were hiding inside the country.
The operations against militants have angered some residents.
An Associated Press reporter saw armed Islamic students take eight paramilitary troops prisoner in Miran Shah, retaliating against the raid by security forces.
After capturing the troops, the students announced over loudspeakers that all shops should close, said Zarmat Khan, owner of a shop selling cloth.
"Close the bazaar. The situation has deteriorated. Innocent people have been attacked," Khan quoted the students as saying.
A U.S. missile strike on a village in Pakistan earlier this year that killed a relative of al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri and a terror suspect, along with 13 residents, also prompted outrage.
Many Pakistanis complained the Jan. 13 attack on Bajur violated the nation's sovereignty. Pakistan says it does not allow U.S. forces to cross the