Saturday, November 29, 2008

U.S. Intelligence Focuses on Pakistani Group as Substantial Evidence Emerge

U.S. Intelligence Focuses on Pakistani Group as Substantial Evidence Emerge (NSI News Source Info) November 29, 2008: American intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Friday that there was mounting evidence that a Pakistani militant group based in Kashmir, most likely Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for this week's deadly attacks in Mumbai.
The officials cautioned that they had reached no firm conclusions about who was responsible for the attacks, or how they were planned and carried out. Nevertheless, they said that evidence gathered in the past two days pointed to a role for Lashkar-e-Taiba or possibly another group based in Kashmir, Jaish-e-Muhammad, which also has a track record of attacks against India.
The officials requested anonymity in describing their current thinking and declined to discuss specifics of the intelligence that they said pointed to Kashmiri militants. In the past, the American and Indian intelligence services have used communications intercepts to tie Kashmiri militants to terrorist strikes. Indian officials may also be gleaning information from at least one captured gunman who participated in the Mumbai attacks.
According to one Indian intelligence official, during the siege the militants have been using non-Indian cellphones and receiving calls from outside the country, evidence that in part led Indian officials to speak publicly about the militants’ external ties.
Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any responsibility on Thursday for the terrorist strikes. American intelligence agencies have said that the group has received some training and logistical support in the past from Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or I.S.I., and that Pakistan’s government has long turned a blind eye to Lashkar-e-Taiba camps in the Kashmir region, a disputed territory over which India and Pakistan have fought two wars.
Officials in Washington said Friday that there was no evidence that the Pakistani government had any role in the attacks. But if evidence were to emerge that the operation had been planned and directed from within Pakistan, that would certainly further escalate tensions between India and Pakistan, bitter, nuclear-armed rivals. It could also provoke an Indian military response, even strikes against militants’ training camps.
American and Indian officials were pursuing the possibility that the attackers arrived off the coast of Mumbai in a large ship and then boarded smaller boats before initiating their attack.An American counterterrorism official said there was strong evidence that Lashkar-e-Taiba had a “maritime capability” and would have been able to mount the sophisticated operation in Mumbai.
Senior Bush administration officials sought to keep the tensions from boiling over on Friday by maintaining steady contact with Indian officials. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke by phone with Pranab Mukherjee, India’s foreign minister, and one of Ms. Rice’s deputies spoke with the Indian foreign secretary.
In what was seen as a sign of Pakistan’s concern about a possible Indian response, Pakistani officials announced Friday that the head of the I.S.I. would go to India to help the Indian government with its investigation. On Friday evening, however, Pakistani officials indicated that a lower-level I.S.I. representative might make the trip.
American and Indian officials have for years blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for a campaign of violence against high-profile targets throughout India, including the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi and an August 2007 strike at an amusement park in Hyderabad. At times, Indian officials have also said Jaish-e-Muhammad was responsible for the attack on Parliament.
That attack prompted the Bush administration to try to freeze Lashkar-e-Taiba’s assets and press Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president at the time, to crack down on the group’s training operations in Pakistan.A State Department report released this year called Lashkar-e-Taiba “one of the largest and most proficient of the Kashmiri-focused militant groups.” The report said that the group drew financing in part from Pakistani expatriates in the Middle East, and that it used a front organization called Jamaat ud-Daawa to coordinate charitable activities, like relief for the victims of the October 2006 earthquake in Kashmir.
The report said the actual size of the group was unknown, but estimated it at “several thousand” members.
Recently, some of the group’s operations have shifted from Kashmir to Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and even to Afghanistan to attack American troops. American officials and terrorism experts said the group had not sent large numbers of operatives into Afghanistan, but had embedded small teams with Taliban units to gain fighting experience.
“Afghanistan is an operating war zone, so they can get active training as the Kashmir front has slowed down a bit,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.
The group is believed by experts to have at least a loose affiliation with Al Qaeda. In March 2002, a Qaeda lieutenant, Abu Zubaydah, was captured in a Lashkar-e-Taiba safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, according to the State Department report.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is not known to have singled out Westerners in past terrorist attacks, as the gunmen in Mumbai seem to have done. But one counterterrorism official said Friday that the group “has not pursued an exclusively Kashmiri agenda” and that it might certainly go after Westerners to advance broader goals.Even as a Kashmiri connection to the attacks began to emerge on Friday, American officials said they were puzzled by some developments. For instance, they said they knew next to nothing about a group called the Deccan Mujahedeen, which issued a claim of responsibility for the attacks.
Terrorism experts have said there is no evidence of that group’s involvement in past strikes, and they speculated that another group fabricated the name to mask responsibility

Afghanistan Today

Afghanistan Today November 29, 2008 News Source Info NSI US soliders on a patrol in Paktika province on November 28, 2008. Troops killed 44 militants in Afghanistan, officials said Saturday, as around a dozen police and soldiers were still missing following a major clash and believed to be in Taliban hands.
British soldiers keep watch at the scene of a suicide car attack in Kabul November 27,2008. A suicide car bomber struck a convoy of foreign troops near the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Thursday, killing one civilian and wounding six more, the head of the Afghan capital's police force said.

HAL eyes Eurocopter partnership

HAL eyes Eurocopter partnership November 28, 2008: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is reportedly considering a partnership with Eurocopter for the manufacture of 187 military helicopters. The Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), multi-role and multi-mission helicopter is in service with the Indian Army
A HAL official told Flight Global that a western partner could help expedite the design and production process.
"We hope to begin the initial work on the light utility helicopter next year. It would take around five years to completely design and develop a new helicopter, and an experienced Western partner would help in every stage," explained a HAL official.
HAL, which will also maintain the new helicopters, is expected to create a new division to oversee the LUH (light utility helicoper) programme.
The LUH unit would operate independently from the company's existing Dhruv advanced light helicopter and light combat 'copter projects.
Eurocopter recently announced plans to significantly expand its operations in India. According to Ludovic Boistot of Eurocopter, the Indian military market offered "big potential, as the military has undertaken a programme of modernisation and replacing its fleet".
The firm currently counts 480 helicopters on active service in the country."
Rapidly growing economy, increasing reliance on air transport, service to tourist destination and religious places and find of new gas reserves and the demand in other sectors will give big push to helicopter industry in this country," added Boistot.
It should be noted that over 10,000 Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service, with at least 2,800 customers in 140 countries.

China and South Korea set up Hotline

China and South Korea set up Hotline (NSI News Source Info) November 29, 2008: China and South Korea have set up a military hotline, to avoid accidental clashes between their sea and air forces. At each end, military personnel are on duty 24/7, prepared to quickly defuse any encounters. The South Korea end of the hot line is at the headquarters of the South Korean 2nd Fleet, which is 70 kilometers south of the capital, Seoul. South Korean Air Force officers, based at the Daegu air base, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, are linked to the 2nd Fleet hotline operation. The Chinese end of the hotline is at their Northern Fleet headquarters at Qingdao (formerly "Tsingtao") at the tip of the Shandong peninsula, which is on the 38th parallel, pointing at Korea, across the Yellow Sea. This hotline is the only one that exists with China. South Korea also has a hotline with Japan (established in 1997) and Russia (established in 2000). The principal point of friction at sea is the nearly 200 Chinese fishing boats that enter South Korean waters illegally each year, seeking the valuable crabs found there. Chinese and South Korean warships patrol the area, to try and prevent the poaching, and sometimes encounter each other. Both nations also fly air patrols over the Yellow Sea.

Iraqi Navy Patrolling Coast

Iraqi Navy Patrolling Coast (NSI News Source Info) November 29, 2008: Having recently received several new patrol boats, and after several years of training, Iraqi sailors and marines are now beginning to take over complete responsibility for patrolling and guarding offshore oil facilities and checking ships and boats that move along Iraq's 58 kilometer coastline.
Shipping has to be monitored for smugglers and terrorists. Since 2003, the U.S. (coast guard, navy, marines) and the British Royal Navy has undertaken these tasks.
Currently, there are about 2,000 Iraqis assigned to the navy, coast guard and marines.

Pakistan: ISI representative to visit India instead of Pasha

Pakistan: ISI representative to visit India instead of Pasha ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has backtracked on a decision to send the chief of its spy agency to India to help with the Mumbai attack investigation, Dawn reported. The prime minister's office said on Saturday a representative of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency would go to India instead of its director general Ahmed Shuja Pasha, as the government had earlier stated.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addressing a press conference upon his recent arrival at the Lahore airport
An ongoing special cabinet meeting has been convened to discuss Pakistan's response to the slaughter in Mumbai, and allegations by Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee that 'elements' in Pakistan were involved. 'The special session of the cabinet will take stock of the situation arising out of the allegations by India and the change in level of ISI participation into the probe', a government official told AFP. Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari - while speaking to an Indian television channel - has vowed to take the 'swiftest of action' if evidence is found linking the Mumbai attacks to Pakistani militants. India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the coordinated assault on its financial capital, Mumbai, raising the prospect of a breakdown in peace efforts between the nuclear-armed rivals. The attacks on two luxury hotels and other sites around Mumbai came after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has made bold moves to improve ties with India. Pakistan condemned the Mumbai attacks and denied any involvement. In an unprecedented step, it agreed to let the head of its military's ISI go to India to share information at the request of the Indian prime minister. ‘Since we had nothing to hide, we thought there was no harm in calling the Indian bluff by agreeing to the request to send the ISI chief to Delhi,’ a senior official privy to the developments told Dawn earlier. However, opposition politicians criticised what was called a hasty decision to send the spy agency's chief. The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N’s spokesman Ahsan Iqbal said the government had not taken their party into confidence before taking the decision. ‘Although we are committed to extending full cooperation in the investigations, it should be done through established diplomatic channels and norms,’ he said. LEAVING EARLY Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was in India on a scheduled visit aimed at boosting ties when the assault in Mumbai began. He said on Friday anti-terrorism cooperation had to be strengthened and called on India not to play a blame game. According to Reuters, an official at the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi said Qureshi was cutting short his visit.
Qureshi had been due to meet an Indian opposition leader and some other politicians on Saturday, before returning home after his four-day visit, but those meetings had been cancelled, the official said. 'He is at the airport and about to leave on a special plane sent from Pakistan,' said the High Commission official.
Pakistan had for years supported militants battling Indian forces in the disputed Kashmir region but was forced rein them in after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
But analysts say security agents still have links with some Kashmiri militants.
The use of heavily armed 'fedayeen' or suicide attackers in Mumbai bears the hallmarks of Pakistan-based militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, blamed for the 2001 attack on India's parliament.
Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any role in the Mumbai attacks, and said it had no links with any Indian group. Instead, the little-known Deccan Mujahideen have claimed responsibility.

Terror in Mumbai is OVER: Taj Mahal hotel freed, three-day Mumbai siege over

Terror in Mumbai is OVER: Taj Mahal hotel freed, three-day Mumbai siege over (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - November 29, 2008: Indian commandos killed the last terrorists holed up in the landmark Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai on Saturday, the third day of battles with militants across India's commercial capital.

An Indian army officer (left) congratulates an Indian National Security Guard (NSG) commando after their successful operation at The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, on November 29. Commandos killed three holdout gunmen in Taj Hotel, bringing an end of a two-day Islamic militant assault on India's financial capital that left at least 155 dead, including foreigners

Preliminary death toll estimates vary from at least 155 to 195, the vast majority being Indian nationals, officials said adding the toll could rise considerably. About 400 people were reported injured. The bodies of three militants, Kalashnikov assault rifles, scores of grenades and other ammunition were found in the luxury Taj hotel when the siege was over. Fierce gunfire and explosions were heard at the hotel earlier this morning. Nearby Trident-Oberoi hotel and Jewish center were freed on Friday. Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said citing evidence that Pakistan-linked "elements" were responsible for the deadly attacks. And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the use of neighboring states' territory for launching attacks on India "will not be tolerated." India has in the past frequently accused arch-rival Pakistan of backing Islamic militants active in India. Pakistan asked India not to play politics over the issue and cooperate as terrorism was the two countries' common enemy. One of the arrested militants was a Pakistani citizen. He was reported to have said that some of the militants had come ashore on small speedboats, and that they had earlier hijacked a fish boat near India's Gujarat state bordering on Pakistan. The boat and the bodies of the boat crew were later found by the Indian military near Mumbai. The head of Pakistan's military intelligence agency, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was to travel to India to discuss the situation with Indian colleagues, but will now send his representative instead, media reports say. Indian authorities said 18 foreigners were among the dead, including Germans, Americans, one Australian, a Briton, one Canadian, two French, an Israeli, an Italian, a Japanese, a Singaporean and a Thai. India's security forces lost 15 officers, including the chief of Mumbai Police Antiterrorism Squad, Hemant Karkare, and at least two commandos. The battles began late on Wednesday when gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades opened fire on crowds at a railway station, the two hotels, the Jewish centre, a hospital and a cafe frequented by foreigners.

More Lightweight MRAPs for Spanish Troops

More Lightweight MRAPs for Spanish Troops
(NSI News Source Info) November 29, 2008: Deployed Spanish troops in Afghanistan, part of the NATO’s ISAF mission, can already count on 28 new “Lince” armored vehicles in-country, after the arrival yesterday of other 11 units delivered to the PRT of Qala-i-Naw.
These vehicles are additional to the 17 that they had been shipped by the Ministry of Defense in October.
The 28 armored “Lince” LMVs sent to Afghanistan are equipped with the most advanced security systems available, including inhibitors, radios, antiriot armament and equipment, and so will improve the operational security and safety of the Spanish contingent.
These vehicles, in addition, are fitted with advanced that turns to them into one of safest of all vehicles deployed worldwide, and offer a high level of protection against terrorist and explosive attacks.
The version of the LMV that has been sent to Qala-i-Naw can carry five soldiers with their complete combat equipment, and its multi-layer armor protects the crew against rifle fire, explosion of IEDs or explosive mines, and direct hits by grenades.
The PRT of Qala i Naw is integrated by a military component and a civilian component from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID), that work in co-ordination.
The military component of the PRT guarantees the security to the members of AECID and develops fast-impact civil projects in the province, such as the school construction, water purification, wells, public lighting systems etc.

Kaman Demonstrates K-MAX to US Marines

Kaman Demonstrates K-MAX to US Marines
(NSI News Source Info) MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. - November 29, 2008: Military helicopters over Quantico, are a common sight, yet many individuals watching do not automatically assume there is no one inside. Kaman Aerospace Group demonstrated the K-MAX Unmanned Multi-Mission Helicopter at the Marine Corps Air Facility here Nov. 20 to highlight its potential benefits to future battlefield operations.
‘‘It is the best aircraft made for lifting,” said Bill Hart, the safety pilot aboard the aircraft during demonstration. ‘‘It’s not the fastest, but we are trying to increase the speed and weight capability, which requires more testing.”
The K-MAX exhibited the ability to support the weight of 6,000 pounds of cargo with its multi-hook capacity and auto landing and drop off capabilities, essentially unmanned. The craft is contractor-supported, managed by a ground controller using a hand-held tablet computer system with electric actuators inside the craft and standard helicopter controls for easy alternating from unmanned to manned.
“There are switches inside that allow me to take over fast and easy, if I need to,” said Hart.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Requirements Officer of the Combat Development Directorate⁄Fires and Maneuver Integration Division, Maj. Thomas Heffern, explained that the Marine Corps is more interested in the capabilities and vision than the actual aircraft.
“The vision for the K-MAX is to deliver cargo to Marines and move logistics around the battlefield without excessive manpower,” said Cliff Gunsallus, the vice president of engineering for Kaman.
As demonstrated and explained during the air show, the K-MAX also has the ability to quickly change its route when it is alerted of a threat.
‘‘We are looking at this as a potential capability to mitigate against threats,” said Heffern. ‘‘In the next five years or so this could potentially save man for more important jobs.”
Selling for around $7 million, the K-MAX, which has one engine and can hold 228 gallons of fuel, adding 1,550 pounds to the already 12,000 pound helicopter, is currently limited in quantity with only 22 operating worldwide in seven countries to date.