Suddenly, the Media is Ignoring the Syrian Civil War

Posted: Oct 12, 2013 12:01 AM

Pakistan: Musharraf update. Pervez Musharraf was arrested one day after having been granted bail.

"We have put General Musharraf under house arrest in a case involving a military operation on an Islamabad mosque," Muhammad Rizwan, a senior official of the Islamabad police told reporters. "We will present him before a court on Friday."

Comment: The latest charges stem from a prolonged violent standoff in 2006 and 2007 that was centered on the Red Mosque in Islamabad. Two extreme imams who were brothers, their armed militant supporters and students at the collocated school complex defied the government and called repeatedly for its violent overthrow and replacement by an emirate applying a severe interpretation of Sharia.

The imams encouraged the students and armed militants to destroy property, kidnap people, abuse women in public, and attack government buildings. Using the Red Mosque as a base, they also supported armed insurrection in the tribal agencies of northwest Pakistan.

Some 6,000 students attended the two madrassahs in the complex, which allegedly also trained militants.

The standoff culminated in early July 2007 after a militant attack on the Ministry of the Environment building. Army special forces and paratroopers executed the operation to end the standoff which resulted in the death of one of the imams and 100 others, including 50 armed militants. Some 600 male and female students were held hostage, and were rumored to be in danger of execution when troops stormed the complex.

Of all the things of which Musharraf has been accused, his handling of the Red Mosque insurrection least justifies his arrest. His arrest on this issue indicates some powerful political, judicial and religious interests want satisfaction, want to prevent his departure from Pakistan and are working hard to find a charge that will keep him in Pakistan. This charge will not stand.

Security. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday said his government is sincere about holding peace talks with the Taliban. He made the statement in response to the interview by rebel chief Hakimullah Mehsud who complained no serious steps had been taken to open a dialogue. Speaking after a security meeting in Peshawar, Sharif said progress was being made on the issue of opening negotiations." Sharif provided no details, however.

Syria: Chemical update. The second team of chemical weapons experts has arrived in Damascus. Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the first team has completed visits to three of Syria's 45 chemical weapons sites.

Security comment: Although mainstream media carries few reports about the fighting, it continues in many, widely separated areas around major towns. Claims of battlefield successes by both sides are exaggerated. Tactical gains that affect the overall security picture are infrequent.

In a significant operation this week to open a road to a chemical storage site near Aleppo, a government force had success in breaking the so-called siege of Aleppo from the south. One account said that in-fighting among rebel groups abetted the government success. The opposition denied the infighting and claims to have retaken the town. Lebanese press reported credibly that the rebel counterattack was defeated and that government forces control the town of Khanasser.

There are two new developments that received limited mainstream western press attention. Apparently some Lebanese Hizballah forces have returned to Lebanon and others have shifted back towards the Lebanese border to keep western Syria somewhat secure. The extent and permanence of these shifts cannot be determined yet.

The second development is that this week a militia of Iraqi Shiites, along with Hizballah fighters supported by Syrian Army artillery and tactical aircraft, was instrumental in capturing a neighborhood in a Damascus suburb that Sunni rebels had held. This is the first tactical success attributed to irregulars from Iraq that NightWatch has seen reported.

NightWatch has reported in previous editions that boundaries are becoming less important than sectarian allegiances. Fratricide among the rebels and the presence of trained, foreign Shiite militias are dominant factors in recent key fights.

Egypt: Political. A Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance of political and religious opposition groups is urging protestors to march to Cairo's Tahrir Square after Friday prayers. On Thursday, the pro-Mursi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy said the protests, named "Tahrir for All Egyptians," would send a message against "division" and "discrimination," and show defiance despite the "violence, brutality and barbarism of the coup."

Comment: Last Sunday 57 people died in clashes between factions and with the security forces. Expect more violent clashes.

Security. Major General Abdel Nasser El-Azb, the Third Field Army chief of staff, announced on Thursday that security forces have arrested five militants involved in the bombing of the South Sinai Security Directorate.

On Monday, the South Sinai Security Directorate in Al-Tor was bombed by militants, killing three conscripts and injuring 62 others. Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement.

Comment: Government and pro-government press continue to announce new operations and successes against the militants in Sinai. Nevertheless, one or two lethal attacks continue to take place daily in Sinai.

Norway-Kenya: The Norwegian police said on Thursday that it was investigating whether a Norwegian citizen was involved in al Shabaab's seizure of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. The Police Security Service said in a statement that it had received information indicating that a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin allegedly was involved in the planning and execution of the attack.

Comment: Although the allegation remains under investigation, it spotlights the extent of the Somali diaspora; its presence in modern developed countries; that it harbors terrorists and the high probability that terrorists from the developed world played key roles in planning and inexecuting the Nairobi attack.

End of NightWatch


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