RT News

Friday, April 29, 2011

Suicide bomber kills 8, wounds 17 in Iraq mosque

Suicide bomber kills 8, wounds 19 in N.Iraq

30 Apr 2011 17:37

Source: reuters // Reuters

* Attack targets Iraqi army checkpoint by a market

* Mosul regarded as al Qaeda's last remaining urban base

(Adds details, hospital source, background)

MOSUL, Iraq, April 30 (Reuters) - Eight people were killed and 19 wounded on Saturday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Iraqi army checkpoint next to a market in the northern city of Mosul, police and hospital sources said.

Attacks against Iraq's army and police are rising as they prepare to take full responsibility for security in the country ahead of a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by Dec. 31, more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"Eight killed, 19 wounded. Five soldiers were killed and three civilians, and two soldiers are among the wounded," Nineveh province police Lieutenant Colonel Mahmoud al-Jibouri told Reuters. The toll is final.

A hospital source confirmed the number of dead and wounded and said the attack had taken place at a popular market in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.

"The suicide bomber exploded himself at the entrance where Iraqi soldiers were manning a checkpoint to frisk people entering the market," the hospital source said.

"The attack took place at the peak business hours for this market."

Mosul is regarded as Sunni Islamist al Qaeda's last remaining urban base after the group was kicked out of many parts of Baghdad and western Anbar province by U.S. troops allied with local Sunni Arab tribal militias in 2007.

Although violence has dropped sharply since the height of sectarian warfare in 2006/07, bombings and killings remain a daily occurrence and insurgents are still capable of carrying out lethal attacks.

At least eight people were killed and 17 wounded on Thursday when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Diyala province. (Reporting by Jamal al-Badrani; Writing by Serena Chaudhry; editing by Robert Woodward)


28 Apr 2011 18:59

Source: reuters // Reuters

* Explosion occurred soon after evening prayers

* Diyala province remains volatile

(Updates toll, adds details)

BAGHDAD, April 28 (Reuters) -At least eight people were killed and 17 wounded on Thursday when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Iraq's Diyala province, security officials said.

Insurgents have stepped up attacks in recent months, seeking to undermine faith in Iraq's army and police who will take full responsibility for security when U.S. troops withdraw at the end of December, more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.

The explosion occurred shortly after evening prayers in Balad Ruz, 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Muthana al-Timimi, head of Diyala provincial council's security committee, said.

"A criminal blew himself up inside the mosque, which resulted in this number of casualties," Timimi said.

"Some of the wounded are in a critical condition."

A source at Diyala's joint cooperation centre also put the toll at eight people killed and 17 wounded.

Bombings and attacks remain a daily occurrence in Iraq and while violence has dropped from the height of sectarian warfare in 2006-7, insurgents are still capable of carrying out lethal attacks.

Diyala is one of a few remaining provinces where large numbers of al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgents still battle Iraqi security forces. A volatile mix of minority Kurds, majority Shi'ites and Sunnis has made it difficult to bring peace there.

Last month, at least eight soldiers were killed when a car bomb exploded at an Iraqi army unit in the town of Kanaan in Diyala. (Writing by Serena Chaudhry; editing by Tim Pearce)

Car bomb blast in Iraq kills nine, 27 wounded

03 May 2011 20:09

Source: reuters // Reuters

* Car bomb hits Shi'ite area of Baghdad

* Security forces on alert for bin Laden revenge attacks

(Updates toll, adds background)

BAGHDAD, May 3 (Reuters) - A car bomb explosion near a market in a predominantly Shi'ite area of southern Baghdad on Tuesday killed nine people and wounded 27, security sources said.

Iraqi security forces went on high alert on Monday after U.S. commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Security officials said they expected the Sunni Islamist group's local affiliate to carry out revenge attacks.

Iraq became a major al Qaeda battlefield after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

An Interior Ministry source and a police source put the blast's toll at nine dead and 27 wounded. The sources did not want to be identified.

"It was a bomb inside a vehicle which resulted in the death and injury of a number of civilians in the district of Abu Dsheer," said Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad's security spokesman. He declined to give a casualty toll.

Abu Dsheer is a poor, crowded, mainly Shi'ite district surrounded by predominantly Sunni areas, many of them once controlled by al Qaeda.

It was one of the areas hit last November in a series of bombings across the Iraqi capital that killed more than 40 people and wounded scores of others.

Violence has fallen sharply in Iraq in recent years from the peak of sectarian violence in 2006-07 but militants still launch dozens of bombings and other attacks each month. Iraqi security officials frequently point the blame at al Qaeda.

The head of Iraq's grain board was wounded in an apparent assassination attempt on Tuesday when a roadside bomb hit his motorcade in Baghdad.

Hassan Ibrahim suffered fractures and other wounds in a blast that killed his driver. He was appointed in March to lead the body that provides Iraq, one of the world's largest grain importers, with wheat and rice for its national food ration programme. (Reporting by Muhanad Mohammed and Reuters Television; Writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Matthew Jones)


Suicide car bomber in Iraq kills at least 15

05 May 2011 06:17

Source: reuters // Reuters

* Attack targeted police building in mainly Shi'ite city

* Iraq on alert for bin Laden revenge attacks

BAGHDAD, May 5 (Reuters) - A car bomb explosion killed at least 15 people and wounded 25 on Thursday in Iraq's predominantly Shi'ite southern city of Hilla, medical and police sources said.

A suicide bomber rammed his car into the entrance of a police headquarters in Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, during a shift change when many police officers were outside the building, the sources said.

An Interior Ministry source in Baghdad put the toll at 16 killed and 50 wounded.

Iraqi security forces went on high alert for revenge attacks after U.S. commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Iraq has been a major battlefield for the Islamist militant group since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

U.S. and Iraqi officials say al Qaeda in Iraq has been severely degraded in recent years.

But eight years after Saddam's overthrow, Iraq still faces a lethal insurgency that carries out dozens of bombings and other attacks each month, many of them on Iraqi police, soldiers and government officials.

Hilla was hit by one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq in May last year when two suicide car bombers drove into the entrance of a textile factory as workers were ending a shift, killing at least 35 people and wounding 135. A third bomb exploded as police and medics rushed to the scene.

On Monday four people were wounded when a sticky bomb attached to a car in a parking lot exploded in Hilla. (Reporting by Aseel Kami, Muhanad Mohammed and Serena Chaudhry in Baghdad; writing by Jim Loney; editing by Tim Pearce


Suicide car bomber kills more than 20 in Iraq

05 May 2011 16:15

Source: reuters // Reuters

Residents inspect the remains of a vehicle used in a bomb attack in the district of Abu Dsheer in southern Baghdad May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

* Attack on police building in mainly Shi'ite city

* Iraq on alert for bin Laden revenge attacks

(Updates toll)

By Habib al-Zubaidi

HILLA, Iraq, May 5 (Reuters) - A car bomber killed more than 20 people and wounded 80 on Thursday at a police building in the mainly Shi'ite city of Hilla, an official said, as Iraq braced for revenge attacks after U.S. commandos killed Osama bin Laden.

Iraq's army and police have been on high alert since American forces shot dead the al Qaeda leader and security officials said they had received intelligence that the Sunni Islamist group's Iraqi wing would carry out revenge attacks.

The suicide bomber rammed his car into the entrance of a police headquarters in the centre of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, during a shift change at around 6:40 am (0340 GMT), when many police officers were outside the building.

"More than 20 were killed, 80 wounded. Four are missing. All of them are from the police because the explosion happened at one of the main police headquarters," Babil province Deputy Governor Sadeq al-Muhanna told Reuters.

Muhanna said a police expert had determined that the plastic explosive C-4 was used in the attack.

"Although it is too early to pin the responsibility on one party, suicide explosions are mostly done by al Qaeda and we expect (al Qaeda) is behind this explosion. We said before and we say it again, al Qaeda will not be finished by the killing of its leader," he said.

A hospital source in Hilla said the blast killed 25 and wounded 83. Iraqi officials often give conflicting tolls.

Iraq has been a major battlefield for al Qaeda since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Dozens of bombings and other attacks are still mounted each month, although U.S. and Iraqi officials say al Qaeda in Iraq has been severely degraded in recent years.

"These events happen on a daily basis in Iraq and nothing could prove that it has anything to do with the killing of bin Laden. These are routine events in Iraq. Security breaches, we are used to them," an Interior Ministry source said.


Attacks on the army and police are rising ahead of a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by Dec. 31, more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Blast walls in front of the police headquarters in Hilla collapsed and the building was badly damaged, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Shops, houses and buildings nearby also were damaged.

"The negligence comes from Baghdad because we're always asking them to increase the number of our policemen, but there is no response," Kadhim Majeed Tuman, the head of the Babil provincial council, said.

Last month, gunmen laid siege to a provincial council headquarters in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit. Fifty-eight people were killed and at least 98 wounded.

On Monday four people were wounded when a bomb attached to a car exploded in Hilla. (Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami and Muhanad Mohammed in Baghdad; writing by Serena Chaudhry and Jim Loney; editing by David Stamp)

Al Qaeda leader, 17 others killed in Iraq jail clash

08 May 2011 15:02

Source: reuters // Reuters

* Al Qaeda leader "Emir of Baghdad" among dead in jail fight

* Batawi detained in connection with Catholic church attack

(Adds Iraq PM comments pars 5-6, background)

By Muhanad Mohammed

BAGHDAD, May 8 (Reuters) - Eighteen people, including an al Qaeda leader and a senior Iraqi counter-terrorism official, died in a battle between inmates and security officers during a jailbreak attempt in Baghdad on Sunday, security officials said.

Huthaifa al-Batawi, known as al Qaeda's "Emir of Baghdad" and accused of a deadly attack on a Catholic church, was killed along with 10 other senior al Qaeda militants, said Baghdad's security spokesman Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi.

The skirmish at an Interior Ministry counter-terrorism unit jail complex in Baghdad's central Karrada district began when a prisoner grabbed a gun from a guard, killed several guards and ministry officers, and gave a weapon to other inmates, Moussawi said.

Inmates controlled a section of the facility for several hours before a SWAT team brought the siege to an end, security officials said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered an investigation into the incident and told security forces to be extra vigilant.

"We must not allow such setbacks to happen in the security field," Maliki said in a statement issued by his office.

Iraqi security forces are preparing to take sole responsibility for security ahead of a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by Dec. 31 in line with a joint security pact.

The jail housed about 250 inmates, many of them members of al Qaeda, one source said.


"Security forces and guards responded to the jail of the counter-terrorism department and killed 11 terrorist-prisoners ... including Huthaifa al-Batawi, the Emir of Baghdad, who was in charge of planning the church attack," Moussawi said.

Moussawi said seven security officers -- including Brigadier Muaid Mahdi, head of investigations at the counter-terrorism unit -- were killed in the skirmish and one other was wounded.

A senior security official, who asked not to be named, said eight terrorism suspects, most facing death sentences, were killed along with nine security officers, three of them senior officials.

Batawi was arrested along with 11 others in late November in connection with the Oct. 31 assault on Our Lady of Salvation church during Sunday mass. Dozens of hostages and police died when Iraqi forces tried to free more than 100 Catholic hostages.

The attack was the bloodiest against Iraq's Christian minority since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Security officials said it was Batawi who started the jail battle by seizing a guard's gun in an attempt to flee.

Moussawi said the situation at the jail was under control and no prisoners had escaped.

Iraqi security forces have been on high alert for revenge attacks by al Qaeda since U.S. commandos killed the group's leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on Monday.

Iraq became a major battlefield for the Islamist militant group after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

One Iraqi security official estimates the group is behind 70 percent of the scores of bombings and other attacks carried out in Iraq every month. (Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy and Waleed Ibrahim; Writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Serena Chaudhry)


At least 18 killed in Baghdad jail fight-official

08 May 2011 08:22

Source: reuters // Reuters

* Al Qaeda leader "Emir of Baghdad" among dead in jail fight

* Batawi detained in connection with Catholic church attack

(Updates toll from official source, adds details, background)

By Muhanad Mohammed

BAGHDAD, May 8 (Reuters) - At least 18 people were killed in fighting between security officers and prisoners at an Iraqi Interior Ministry jail complex in Baghdad on Sunday, a security official said.

The dead included an al Qaeda leader known as the "Emir of Baghdad" who planned an attack on a Catholic church last October in which more than 50 people died, said Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad's security spokesman.

The skirmish at a counter-terrorism unit in Baghdad's central Karrada district began when a prisoner grabbed a gun from a guard, killed several guards and Interior Ministry officers, and gave a weapon to other inmates, Moussawi said.

"Security forces and guards responded to the jail of the counter-terrorism department and killed 11 terrorist-prisoners ... including Huthaifa al-Batawi, the Emir of Baghdad, who was in charge of planning the church attack," Moussawi said.

Moussawi said seven security officers were killed in the skirmish and one other was wounded.

Batawi was arrested along with 11 others in late November in connection with the Oct. 31 assault on Our Lady of Salvation church during Sunday mass. Dozens of hostages and police died when Iraqi forces tried to free more than 100 Catholic hostages.

The attack was the bloodiest against Iraq's Christian minority since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Moussawi said the situation at the jail was under control and no prisoners had escaped.

Iraqi security forces have been on high alert for revenge attacks by al Qaeda since U.S. commandos killed the group's leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on Monday. (Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim and Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Louise Ireland)


Egypt says 190 face army court over church clash

08 May 2011 10:09

Source: reuters // Reuters

CAIRO, May 8 (Reuters) - Egypt's army said on Sunday it would try 190 people in a military court over clashes between Muslims and Christians near a Cairo church that left 10 dead.

"The Supreme Military Council decided to send all those who were arrested in yesterday's events, that is 190 people, to the Supreme Military Court...," the army said on its Facebook page. (Reporting by Yasmine Saleh)

Ten dead in Egypt clash, premier calls talks

08 May 2011 09:57

Source: reuters // Reuters

* Death toll rises to 10, 186 injured

* Violence is fresh test for Egypt's military rulers

* Some blame remnants of Mubarak regime for stoking violence

(Adds detail, comments from witnesses, analyst)

By Sarah Mikhail

CAIRO, May 8 (Reuters) - Egypt's prime minister called an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday after 10 people died in bloody clashes in a Cairo suburb over the conversion of a Christian woman to Islam.

The sectarian violence on Saturday was Egypt's worst since 13 people died in clashes on March 9 sparked by a church burning, and throws down a new challenge for generals ruling the country since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

There was a brief burst of gunfire on Sunday in the neighbourhood where the violence had taken place.

About 500 conservative Islamists known as Salafists massed outside the Saint Mina Church in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba on Saturday demanding that Christians there hand over a woman they said had converted to Islam.

The Salafists were joined by other Muslims who demanded access to the church to see if she was inside. Tensions flared, gunfire broke out and the two sides threw firebombs and stones.

Soldiers and police fired shots in the air and used teargas to separate the two sides but stone-throwing skirmishes went on through the night in streets near the church.

A power cut plunged the neighbourhood into darkness, making it harder for the security forces to quell the violence.

Another church nearby, Saint Mary's, was set on fire and badly damaged in the overnight clashes.

"My son attends this church. How can we ever feel safe?" said Nashaat Boshra, who stood crying in front of Saint Mary's on Sunday. "This is religious strife facilitated by the army and police. Let's just face the truth."

By Sunday morning, the army had stationed tanks in streets around the church and was checking people walking in the area. Residents warned passers-by to avoid the area which was generally calm on Sunday apart from the brief burst of gunfire.

"I think the army is in a state of confusion," said Gamal Eid, a prominent author and human rights activist. "It is afraid to take serious action against extremists so as not to be accused of suppressing these movements."


Sectarian strife often flares in Egypt over conversions, family disputes and the construction of churches. Muslims and Christians made demonstrations of unity during the protests that overthrew Mubarak, but interfaith tensions have grown.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf cancelled a tour of Gulf states to call an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday morning to discuss the violence.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population.

Some Christians said the security forces had been too slow to disperse the crowd in front of the church and looked on as tension got out of hand.

Police who deserted the streets during the protests which led to Mubarak's downfall on Feb. 11 have returned to their jobs, but many Egyptians say they feel less safe on the streets.

State media gave the new death toll and revised the number of injured to 186, with two in a critical condition in hospital. At least five were reported dead on Saturday and 75 injured.

One of the new corpses was found inside the church, official news agency MENA reported.

Injured Muslims and Christians being treated in hospital showed reporters small holes that looked like shotgun wounds.

(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer)

Target Killing: Former MQM MPA gunned down

By Faraz Khan
Published: April 30, 2011

Liaquat Qureshi sustained one bullet and succumbed to his injuries.

Former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MPA Liaquat Qureshi was gunned down here in the wee hours of Saturday.

Initial reports say Qureshi was driving down the Abul Hassan Isphani Road in his official vehicle when unidentified armed men sprayed his car with bullets near Maskan Chowrangi. He sustained one bullet and succumbed to his injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Confirming the incident while talking to The Express Tribune, MQM leader Abdul Qudoos said details about the incident were being gathered. He demanded the arrest of culprits.

The deceased was a resident of Gulzare Hijri and was on his way home when the incident occurred. Following the killing, tension prevailed in parts of city and heavy contingent of law enforcers
were called to avoid any untoward incident.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2011.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Two bombs hit Pakistan navy buses in Karachi, one dead


Another navy bus bombed, five killed

* 13 others injured as a bomb planted in a manhole explodes near Shahrah-e-Faisal in Karachi

* Taliban claim responsibility

* Schools run by navy in Karachi closed

KARACHI: Another powerful bomb ripped through a Pakistan Navy bus near Karsaz area in Karachi on Thursday morning, killing five people, including four naval personnel, and wounding 13 others, among them seven civilians.

It was the third attack on navy transport after two buses were bombed on Tuesday this week in the business hub city. The twin blasts had killed four navy officials and injured at least 56.

Now yet another improvised explosive device that was planted in a manhole right next to the main artery of Shahrah-e-Faisal went off at around 8:15am when a navy bus coming from PNS Mehran, a naval air station, reached the spot.

Four navy sailors, Muhammad Yameen, 25, Sabir Muhammad, 24, 35-year-old Mirza Ramzan Baig and Imtiaz, 34, and a passing motorcyclist Naveed, 27, who was on his way to his workplace, were killed in the bombing. Six injured navy personnel, Lt Wakeel Ahmed, Lt Dr Sadia, technicians Ziaullah and Tauseef Iqbal and driver Khadim Hussain, were ferried to the PNS Shifa, a naval medical treatment facility, while five wounded civilians, namely, Abdul Rehman, Shakir, Shoaib Rizvi, Hanif and Riaz, were rushed to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JMPC). Two other injured civilians, Zohaib and Asad, were admitted to a private hospital for treatment.

The Taliban claimed the responsibility for the attack, as they did for Tuesday’s twin assaults. Calling a foreign news agency from an undisclosed location, Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed the responsibility for all the attacks on navy buses in Karachi. Heavy contingents of police and rangers and officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area after the blast.

According to the BDS, the timed device that wrecked nearby buildings and a vehicle contained 4 kilogrammes of explosive material. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said the blast appeared to be the work of the same group that was behind Tuesday’s bombings.

DIG Investigation Iftikhar Tarrar said the bomb was concealed inside a waterline on the busy Karsaz Road. It was detonated at around 8:15am when the navy bus passed by, he added.

The police official, however, refused to name the outfit which carried out the attack, and just suspected that the bombing might have been conducted by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Jundullah. He said that “the investigation teams have got surveillance camera footages and further investigation is in progress”. A case under section 3/4 of the Explosive Act, 7 ATA and Sections 302, 427 and 314 of the Pakistan Penal Code has been registered against unidentified terrorists in the Bahadurabad Police Station.

Sources said that “law enforcement agencies have heightened security in the city but threats of more attacks are still feared”.

Chief of the naval staff condemned this act of terrorism and reaffirmed the resolve to continue fight against terrorists, said a navy statement. The navy chief said that through their acts, terrorists would never deter the determination of the Pakistan Navy.

The statement said that the bus was attacked almost in a similar style as the two navy buses were hit in Defence and Mohajir Camp area two days ago. A senior security official said that educational institutions run by the Pakistan Navy in Karachi had been closed for three days after Tuesday’s attacks.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the bombing that caused loss of lives and wounded many.

The president expressed deep sorrow and grief over the deaths of a civilian and four navy personnel. He also prayed for the early recovery of those injured.

The prime minister directed investigation agencies to probe the incident and submit a report so that effective measures could be taken to counter terrorists. atif raza/agencies

Bombing of three PN buses

Rangers launch operation, detain 100 suspects

By Atif Raza

KARACHI: Following bombing of three Pakistan Navy (PN) buses within two days in the metropolis, Sindh Rangers on Friday morning launched a search operation in different vicinities of Baldia Town, detaining around 100 suspects and recovering weapons.

According to sources, the search operation was initiated on a tip-off that some militants of a banned outfit, involved in recent bombings of PN buses, were hiding in these areas.

Reacting on the information, heavy contingents of Rangers, female personnel, commandos and police cordoned off different vicinities of Baldia Town, including Ittehad Town, Muhammad Khan Colony, Afridi Chowk, Mastana Chowk, etc at around 3:00am and started door-to-door search from 5:30am to 10:00am on Friday.

The Rangers detained around 100 suspects and shifted them to unknown place for interrogation. The sources said Rangers claimed to have detained only 11 criminals in this operation and recovered huge cache of weapons from their possession.

The recent bombings on PN buses have claimed around nine lives of people, including eight navy personnel. “The Rangers have launched the search operation in these areas to root out criminal elements and maintain peace in the city,” they said.

Moreover, the sources said the search operation was aimed at nabbing militants, who were hiding in these areas with intention to flare up such terrorist activities in the metropolis in coming days.

They further said that dozens of vans and vehicles carrying over 250 Rangers personnel and many policemen took part in the operation. Meanwhile, police sources said Pakistan Rangers launched the operation while the Sindh police only assisted them.

Eyewitnesses said the Rangers after initial investigation transported the detained people to unknown destination. They further said the residents of these areas also staged a protest against the operation, alleging that the Rangers had arrested innocent people without any justification. They informed that all commercial and social activities in these areas were suspended during the operation.


KARACHI: A Pakistan Navy (PN) officer succumbed to his injuries on Friday. According to a report, officer Ashraf, son of Jalaluddin, who injured in a terrorist attack on a Navy bus at Karsaz Road on Thursday, breathed his last at PNS Shifa Hospital. Police said the victim was the resident of Naval Colony, Dalmia and hailed from Punjab. The death toll from Thursday’s bomb attack on PN buses rose to six. staff report

Two bombs hit Pakistan navy buses in Karachi, 4 dead
26 Apr 2011 06:33

Source: reuters // Reuters

(Updates toll, adds Baluchistan attack, detail)

By Faisal Aziz

KARACHI, April 26 (Reuters) - Two bombs exploded near buses carrying navy officials in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi on Tuesday, killing four people and wounding 56, officials said, the first major attack on the military in seven years in the city.

Police said the bombs targeting the buses in two different parts of the city exploded simultaneously using remote controlled devices.

A junior naval officer and a civilian female doctor were among those killed in the twin blasts, Pakistan Navy spokesman Commander Salman Ali said.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks yet, but analysts said that the attacks may be part of a wider militant campaign to hit security forces across the country.

"It appears to be part of the same militant campaign but I don't see any logic in targeting the navy because unlike army and air force they are not involved in any operations against the militants," said Tasneem Noorani, a security analyst and former interior secretary.

"They may have targeted navy out of desperation because the other forces (air force and army) may have become very careful and are difficult to attack."

Note: He must not be aware of the fact, what Muslims will think if PAK NAVY sent its warships to participate jointly with US and other GCC Invading Forces in Bahrain.

The attack on the military in Karachi was the first since 2004 when gunmen ambushed a convoy escorting the Karachi army corps commander. The general narrowly escaped that attack.

Karachi is Pakistan's biggest city and commercial hub. It hosts the country's central bank, the main stock exchange as well as the two main ports. Most foreign companies working in Pakistan have offices in Karachi, which is also the main base for the navy.

"Explosive devices were planted on the road and they exploded as the buses were passing. Both buses were carrying navy officials," senior police officer Iqbal Mahmood said.

In 2002, 11 French engineers and technicians working on the construction of submarines for the Pakistani navy were killed, along with three Pakistanis in a suicide car bombing outside a hotel in Karachi.

Separately, gunmen attacked and set fire to a bus in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province late on Monday, burning 15 people to death, including four children and two women, a senior government official said.

The attack took place in Sibi town, about 160 km east of the provincial capital of Quetta when the bus was parked at a roadside restaurant.

Ethnic Baluch militants have waged a low-level insurgency for decades for more autonomy and greater control of natural resources of their region. They frequently attack government installations and security forces in their violent campaign. (Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Imtiaz Shah in Karachi and Gul Yousafzai in Quetta; Editing by Zeeshan Haider and Sanjeev Miglani)


Four killed, 56 injured in Karachi blasts
Four killed, 56 injured in Karachi blasts Four people were killed and 56 were injured when two Pakistan Navy buses were attacked in Karachi.

Four officials of the Pakistan Navy were killed and 56 others were injured in two bomb explosions in Karachi early on Tuesday morning.

Two officials were killed when a bus of the Pakistan Navy was attacked in Baldia Town, Karachi. Many others were injured in the incident.

In another incident, two officials were killed and 15 others were injured when another Pakistan Navy bus was attacked in Defence II area of Karachi. Police and rangers reached the locations and started investigations.

Meanwhile, MQM chief Altaf Hussain has condemned the blasts, and termed the incidents the worst kind of terrorism. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Chief Nawaz Shairf and Interior Minister Rehman Malik have also condemned blasts.


KARACHI: Four Pakistan Navy personnel have been killed while more than 50 have been injured in two bomb attacks on naval buses in Karachi on Tuesday morning.

In the first incident, two personnel were killed when a motorcyclist rigged with explosives exploded next to a bus in Defence Phase II.

A sub-lieutenant and female doctor were killed in the attack. More than 50 others have been injured.

One official was killed in the second attack in Baldia Town. It is not known how the second attack took place.

Pakistan Navy spokesman Commander Salman Ali confirmed one incident and said he was gathering details for the second blast that took place in another part of the sprawling city. “Explosive devices were planted on the road and they exploded as the buses were passing. Both buses were carrying navy officers,” senior police officer Iqbal Mehmood told Reuters.

The injured in both attacks have been taken to Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Shifa Hospital.

Security around naval installations has been increased. The governor and chief minister of Sindh have denounced the attacks.

End of live updates

Explosions in Karachi: Live updates

By Atika Rehman
Published: April 26, 2011
Target of the explosion was a navy bus carrying officials in Defence Phase II. PHOTO: SHAHERYAR MIRZA/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Two explosions occurred in separate areas of Karachi, early on Tuesday morning.

The first explosion took place in the Defence Phase II area while the second in Baldia Town. Initial reports suggest that in both incidents, the targets were Pakistan Navy buses.

10:00 am

Express 24/7 correspondent Mirza says another person has succumbed to injuries, increasing the number of casualties to 4.

The Pakistan Navy buses that were targeted are easily identifiable and were en route to navy offices.

9:45 am

Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports that a

third bomb has been found and defused in the Baldia Town area. An official said that the device was planted in the rocks on the side the of the road and comprised of 7-10 kg of explosives.

9:30 am

Pakistan Navy spokesman Commander Salman Ali confirmed one incident and said he was gathering details for the second blast that took place in another part of the sprawling city.

“Explosive devices were planted on the road and they exploded as the buses were passing. Both buses were carrying navy officers,” senior police officer Iqbal Mehmood told Reuters.

Twitter update:

mirza9 SP Raja Umer Khattab says blasts linked, motorcycle bomb in defence blasy and possibly 2-4 kgs of explosives used. #karachi #pakistan

jehan_ara Why is the media surprised that authorities r asking them & the public to stay at a distance fm the blast to make way for emergency services

9:15 am

Police official suspects that between 2-3 kg of explosives were used in each blast.

9:10 am

Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports that a sub lieutenant and female doctor are among the two navy personnel killed in the defence Phase II blast.

Another navy official has reportedly been killed in the Baldia Town blast, but the nature of the blast is unclear. SSP Khitab says that the two explosions may be linked.

On a sidenote, one Tweet suggests a link between the blast and yesterday’s CID arrest of suspects involved in the Ghas Mandi blast:

jhaque_ Just yesterday Sindh police announced arrest of al Mukhtar terrorist members involved in Ghas mandi attack http://bit.ly/hhNfkD

9:00 am

SSP Raja Umar Khitab told the media that the bombs were remote controlled and not suicide explosions as suspected earlier. He declined to comment on the death toll.

8:55 am

Governor Sindh Dr Ishrat ulEbad Khan has ordered an investigation into the blasts.

Twitter buzz:

mirza9 One female doctor and one lieutenant killed in defence bomb blast on navy bus #karachi #pakistan police say bomb detonated from parked bike

jhaque_I wonder which terrorist arrest this was in retaliation to. they must be pretty desperate to have bombers attack Navy buses…weak target

DrAwab Blasts in a Navy bus in phase 2 DHA and baldia town Karachi… One dead several injured… sad start to a day

8:50 am

Express 24/7 reports that three people have been killed and upto 30 may be injured as a result of the two explosions.

8:45 am

Express News reports the Defence Phase II explosion was not a suicide bomb, but that a motorcycle stationed at a spot was blown up by a remote controlled device.

8:35 am

Rangers and police have cordoned off the area. The injured have been rushed to nearby hospitals.

8:30 am

Reuters reports that 15 people have been injured in the two blasts. 

“We are not sure whether it was suicide. We are busy in rescue work and 15 wounded have been shifted to the hospital,” a senior officer said by telephone. A second blast occurred in another district of the city, police said, but offered no further details.

8:20 am

Initial reports suggest that target of Baldia Town blast was also a navy bus. Rescue teams have been dispatched to the sites of the blasts.

8:05 am

A second explosion has reportedly occurred in Baldia Town, Karachi. Initial reports suggest that one person has been killed while three have been injured.

Twitter update:

mirza9 Blast possibly on bus taking navy workers in defence phase 2, still confirming details #karachi

BinaShah A motorcycle struck a naval bus and blew up. Five people wounded so far. Aaj tv reporting. Defense phase 2 near pns shifa

jhaque_ Well…thats an interesting way to be woken up #Phase2blast

jehan_ara Why is the Navy suddenly the target? Not that anyone should be.

7:50 am

Initial reports suggest that a suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed his vehicle into a navy bus in Phase II Defence. At the time of the explosion, navy officials were on board the bus.

Reports suggest 10 people have been injured. The injured have been shifted to the nearby Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Shifa Hospital, Karachi.


26 Apr 2011 04:23

Source: reuters // Reuters

(Adds quote cause of blasts)

By Faisal Aziz

Karachi, April 26 (Reuters) - Two bombs exploded near buses carrying navy officials in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi on Tuesday, killing one man and wounding over 30, officials said.

Pakistan Navy spokesman Commander Salman Ali confirmed one incident and said he was gathering details for the second blast that took place in another part of the sprawling city.

"Explosive devices were planted on the road and they exploded as the buses were passing. Both buses were carrying navy officers," senior police officer Iqbal Mehmood told Reuters.

Karachi, the country's commercial hub, is also home to the Pakistan navy.

Militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban have repeatedly carried out attacks in the city in the past.

In 2002, 11 French engineers and technicians working on the construction of submarines for the Pakistani navy were killed, along with three Pakistanis in a suicide car bombing outside a hotel in Karachi.

The city also has a long history of bloody feuds between rival ethnic, political and sectarian groups, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

Last week, 22 people were killed in a bomb blast at a club for card players. (Additional reporting by Imtiaz Shah; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Two blasts hit Pakistan city of Karachi, 15 wounded
26 Apr 2011 03:31

Source: reuters // Reuters

(Adds navy spokesman's comment, detail)

Karachi, April 26 (Reuters) - A bomb hit a bus carrying navy officials in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi on Tuesday, wounding 15 people, officials said.

Pakistan Navy spokesman Captain Salman Ali confirmed the incident but said he had no other details.

"We are not sure whether it was a suicide attack. We are busy in rescue work, and 15 wounded have been shifted to the hospital," a senior police officer said by telephone.

A second blast also struck a bus carrying security forces in another part of the city, officials said, but offered no further details.

Karachi, the country's commercial hub, has a long history of bloody feuds between rival ethnic, political and sectarian groups, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

Militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban have also carried out attacks in the city in the past. (Reporting by Faisal Aziz, Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Proactive Investor's most devious Scams

Date posted today 13:32
Subject Votes for this Posting
Buyer beware: The Proactive Investors guide to the City's most devious scams
11:26 am by Ian Lyall

Bada bing, bada boom: Pump and dump is so widespread it even featured in an episode of the Sopranos.

Editor Ian Lyall is the author of the Street-Smart Trader, a behind the scenes peek at how the City really operates.

Here, for Proactive Investors readers Ian reveals some of the scams that have cost rookie investors tens of thousands of pounds.

This article does not refer to the legitimate work of the City.

The characters are more akin to muggers, although they may dressed in Paul Smith suits.

They create an air of legitimacy with fancy letter-heads and phony addresses.

Usually this is a front - nothing more than a postal box in the capital.

The dirty work might be carried out in some backstreet offices in Leeds, or more often these days a sweat-shop in Barcelona or Frankfurt, where regulation is far slacker than here in the UK.

And as we’ll see the worldwide web has really given these crooks and villains a leg.

Pump and dump

Take an unpromising penny stock and an email spam campaign and what do you have?

A pump-and-dump scam that can potentially net millions for the perpetrators. If you haven’t heard of pump and dump where have you been for the last 15 years?

It even featured in an episode of The Sopranos!

Essentially, the advent of the internet, and in particular online bulletin boards/forums, has made it easy for the unscrupulous share trader to pseudonymously pump out breathlessly positive, semi-analytical information on the latest go-go company before dumping the shares on unsuspecting buyers.

The reality check, for buyers at least, comes with the belated discovery that the stock in question is nothing more than a limping, rarely traded micro-cap from AIM, Ofex, or America’s over-the-counter market.
Junk emails are a popular method used to pump and dump.

It is estimated that 15-20pc of all spam email is related to such scams.

The classic is the stock tip inadvertently sent to your inbox. Purporting to pass on inside information, the missive waxes lyrical about a particular quoted firm and its growth potential.

Traders who buy the shares will soon find out what they’ve really let themselves in for.

They may have ended up with something that they will never be able to get rid of because the shares trade about twice a year.

And what about that 100pc rise in the share price just before the unsuspecting victim of the scam bought into the company?

Well, that was the pump and dumpers squeezing the price higher having bought them for next to nothing.

If you receive any unsolicited emails about small cap shares, you should ignore the tip altogether.

If you receive a more personal hot tip, beware that the person tipping you might themselves have been duped.
Boiler room scams

Like the pump and dump merchants, the exponents of the boiler room scam will buy millions of penny shares from the lightly regulated stock markets of the world and then sell them on to other traders.

Prices will be ramped up and unsuspecting clients will be charged twice or three times what the stock is actually worth.

Boiler room operations are usually hidden away in the apartment blocks of Frankfurt, or the back streets of Barcelona.
You’ll need the finely honed skills of a crack detective, but if you look carefully enough you will uncover these outfits that were forced to move offshore because of British regulation.

Usually when the bases for these scams are discovered, they contain nothing more than a series of empty, tightly packed desks with their occupants long gone. In full flow there would have been 20-30 ambitious young men there, working banks of phones, cold-calling clients.
These salesman are the heart and soul of a boiler room scam.

The boiler room team will have a client list of potential victims, costing anything up to £10,000 and bought from a company that collates, trades and recycles names, phone numbers and email address. It is then up to the sales team to hit the phones and sell the stock.

Tactics are high pressure – and the buyers are often the elderly and vulnerable. People have been known to pledge their life savings of £50,000 or more to a worthless, illiquid penny stock just on the say so of a hectoring telephone conversation.

As with any suspicious share tips you receive by email, treat any phone call in which you are offered a seemingly good deal on some shares with immense suspicion.

Bucket shops

The bucket shop is the slang name for the City stockbrokers that operate on the very fringes of the financial community. The term is often used to refer to FSA-regulated outfits that have a dubious track record for mis-selling.
However the worst offenders function very much like the pump and dumpers and boiler rooms.

In fact one chap who was privy to the finances of one particular bucket shop told me that a substantial FSA fine is priced into the company’s business model as a recurring overhead rather than as a severe punishment to be avoided at all costs.

This may be apocryphal, but there is scant regard paid to the regulator by these companies.

In conclusion

If an investment looks too good to be true it is invariably just that – too good to be true. Share tips sent via the internet, should immediately be marked as spam.
If you receive an unsolicited call offering investment advice, put the receiver down immediately. Always do your own research and use a reputable stockbroker to buy and sell shares. Save the Financial Services Authority website as a favourite on your browser.

It has an exhaustive list of cons in a section entitled “scams and swindles”. More to the point there is a search facility which will show whether firm you are dealing with is registered with the FSA.

There’s even a blacklist of unauthorised companies targeting investors.

Buy the Street-Smart Trader at the Proactive Investors bookshop

Beijing blaze kills 17 in "illegal" building

25 Apr 2011 06:30

Source: reuters // Reuters

(Adds details throughout)

By Chris Buckley and David Gray

BEIJING, April 25 (Reuters) - A fire on Monday killed at least 17 people in a building crowded with migrant workers on the fringe of Beijing and the government vowed to track down those responsible for the blaze in what one official said was an illegal building.

The deaths were a reminder that even in Beijing, rural migrant workers can live in sweatshop conditions starkly at odds with the city's image of secure prosperity.

The early morning fire engulfed a four-storey building in Daxing District, an area in the south of Beijing crammed with small factories, workshops and crumbling apartments rented by migrant workers. The fire also injured 24 people, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing police.

China's ruling Communist Party is anxious about any accidents that could unsettle the public, especially in the capital, and city leaders rushed to the scene, where close to 200 firefighters and police put out the flames.

The victims all appeared to be migrants from outside Beijing who died of asphyxiation, Chang Hongyan, a fire safety official in Daxing, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Chang described the building as an "illegal dwelling". The first floor, where the fire appeared to have broken out and where all the deaths occurred, was rented out for a garment workshop, with a workers dormitory at the back.

"Initial checks have established that the garment workshop was not registered with industry and commerce (authorities), and was operating illegally," Xinhua said, citing Chang.

The city's party secretary, Liu Qi, and mayor, Guo Jinlong, told investigators to "rapidly establish the cause", Xinhua said. Officials vowed to "strictly pursue responsibility according to the law".

Police guarded the narrow streets and alleys around the charred building while distraught residents walked by.

The government often responds to major accidents by detaining and jailing officials and managers accused of lapses.

Rapid growth is throwing up vast numbers of new buildings in China, and although major fires have been relatively rare compared with other developing countries, safety can be lax.

After a fire in a 28-storey apartment in Shanghai killed 79 people last year, authorities said they would prosecute 24 officials, building contractors and workers blamed for lax safety during welding that sparked the fire.
Twenty people were jailed over a 2009 fire that gutted a half-built hotel next to a modern tower being built as a headquarters for the central state television station. One fireman died and both buildings remain unfinished. (Editing by Ken Wills and Ron Popeski)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Insurgents tunnel into Kandahar jail, freeing nearly 500

25 Apr 2011 05:38

Source: reuters // Reuters

(Adds details, quotes)

By Ahmad Nadeem

KANDAHAR, April 25 (Reuters) - Insurgents tunnelled into the main jail in Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province on Monday, freeing hundreds of prisoners, including many Taliban commanders, a serious setback for U.S. forces who hope to start withdrawing in coming months.

Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar province, said a total of 478 prisoners managed to escape due to "negligence" of Afghan security forces. He said the start of the tunnel had been traced to a house near the prison.

The prison, which is supposed to be one of the country's most secure, sits on the outskirts of Kandahar city and holds both captured insurgents and criminal prisoners.

The Taliban, in its own statement, said that 541 prisoners escaped through an extensive tunnel that took months to construct, and were later moved in vehicles to safer locations.

"Mujahideen started digging a 320-meter tunnel to the prison from the south side, which was completed after a five-month period, bypassing enemy check posts and (the) Kandahar-Kabul main highway leading directly to the political prison," the Taliban statement said.

The Taliban said the carefully-targeted tunnel was completed late on Sunday night, with hundreds of insurgents escaping over a four-and-a-half hour period immediately afterwards.

The brazen jailbreak comes months before the start of a transfer of security responsibilities from foreign to Afghan forces in several areas as part of the eventual withdrawal of the U.S-led troops from the country.

Under the transition programme, Afghan forces will begin by taking over from foreign troops in a few areas, but should have control of the whole country by the end of 2014.

Kandahar, the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban, is not among the areas listed for the transition of forces in the first stage.

"It is a major setback for the foreign and Afghan troops who have claimed gains against the insurgents recently," said Waheed Mujhda, a Kabul-based expert on the Taliban.

Mujhda said it was impossible to dig a tunnel and free more than 500 prisoners without the collaboration of guards.

"It is either a case of the jailers being financially motivated and being bribed or a case of them being politically motivated," he said.

In 2008, Taliban insurgents blew open the gate of the Kandahar prison under cover of darkness, allowing up to a 1,000 inmates to escape including hundreds of Taliban insurgents.

Days after that break, Taliban fighters seized many villages in districts close to Kandahar and appeared to threaten the city itself, with the government sending more than 1,000 extra troops from the north as reinforcements.

Nearly 100 Taliban fighters were killed in the ensuing battle. (Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Turkey lashes out at US president

Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:15PM

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Turkey has denounced US President Barack Obama's remarks on the Ottoman-era alleged killings of Armenians as "one-sided political characterization of history."

In an annual message marking the 96th anniversary of the alleged "massacre of the Armenians" during World War I, Obama used the term "Meds Yeghern" or "Great Disaster" to describe the incidents of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire, and urged "full" acknowledgment of the "horrific events."

"We wished that the president of the United States, our friend and ally, had shared the pain of the Turks as well and issued a message… with a fresh perspective," AFP quoted Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying on Sunday.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said in a statement that Obama's message "distorts the historical facts. Therefore, we find it very problematic and deeply regret it… one-sided statements that interpret controversial historical events by a selective sense of justice prevent understanding of the truth."

Meanwhile, Turkish Ambassador to the US Namik Tan criticized Obama, saying the US president's statement "reflect an inaccurate, flawed [and] one-sided political characterization of history."

Yerevan claims that that up to 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives during and just after the World War I, when they were deported en masse from eastern Anatolia by the Ottoman Empire.

They were reportedly killed by troops or died from starvation and disease, prompting Armenians to launch a campaign for the killings to be internationally recognized as genocide.

Obama on Sunday stopped short of labeling the killings as "genocide," despite vowing to use that exact term during his 2008 run for the White House.

Turkey, however, disputes the Armenian figures and account of the incident, putting the figure of Armenian victims at 300,000 to 500,000 and insisting that as many Ottoman Turks were also killed in the civil unrest during the Ottoman Empire's collapse.

In 2009, Turkey and Armenia signed two protocols in an effort to normalize relations and end decades of animosity.

Shahbaz sparks new controversy: If you divide Punjab, then divide Sindh

By Abdul Manan / Tariq Ismaeel
Published: April 25, 2011

Chief Minister Punjab says new provinces not only needed in Punjab, but also needed in Sindh.
The PML-N seems to have been patiently biding its time to play its ace in the face of growing calls for a Punjab carve-up. On Sunday Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif thought the time was right to launch a counter-attack.

He said he was not opposed to the idea of creating more provinces in the country for better administration … but at same time he said that Karachi should also be made a separate province. Shahbaz Sharif, however, hastened to add that his elder brother, who is the founder of his own faction of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), would make a final statement to this effect. By this, he wanted to stress that it was his personal opinion and not the party’s stand.

Shahbaz’s comment came amid comments that their party’s arch rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), was demanding the creation of a separate province in southern Punjab in return for a possible political alliance with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

There has been much talk in the air to bifurcate Punjab – the bastion of the PML-N – for administrative purposes. PML-N’s rivals have been pushing this demand in an effort to weaken its vote-bank.

Speaking to journalists after laying the foundation stone of Daanish schools in DG Khan, Sharif said that if Punjab was to be bifurcated for ‘better administration’, then Sindh should also be divided and Karachi, the largest metropolitan city of the country with over six million population, should be made a separate province.

Sources told The Express Tribune that Sharif on Saturday convened an informal meeting of his party where the country’s changing political landscape and demands for new provinces were discussed. Attendees at the meeting included leader of opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Senator Ishaq Dar.

Sources said that the PML-N looks at the growing demands from the PPP and MQM for Punjab’s bifurcation as a ploy to divide its vote-bank. And that is why it has decided to counter this ploy by putting up a counter demand for the division of Sindh.

Sources said that Shahbaz’s statement about division of Sindh was just a feeler. The Sindh people would never allow division of their province along urban and rural lines nor would they allow creation of Hyderabad and Karachi as separate provinces because they would render the rest of Sindh as landlocked.

Punjab government’s spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rashid defended Shahbaz’ statement, saying that during the regime of Pervez Musharraf the MQM had divided the historical district of Hyderabad and united all districts of Karachi in one district for political reasons.

Shahbaz’s statement, however, invited the ire of all political parties.

Raja Riaz Ahmed, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, rejected the ‘demand’ for a new province in Sindh and instead advised Shahbaz to heed the calls from southern Punjab for the creation of a Seraiki province. He told the media at his residence in Faisalabad that it was for the people of Sindh to decide whether or not there was a need for dividing the province.

Ahmed said that the PPP has decided to include the calls for the creation of a Seraiki province in its manifesto.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has also rejected the idea of dividing Sindh. In a press release issued here on Sunday, MQM Coordination Committee member Qasim Ali Raza was quoted as saying that his party believes in the ‘oneness of Sindh’ and it will not accept division of Sindh under any condition.

Raza said that nobody has demanded the creation of Karachi as a separate province. On the other hand, there are demands for the creation of Hazara province in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Seraiki province in Punjab.

The Awami National Party (ANP), Sindh chapter, said that Shahbaz Sharif’s statement has hurt the feelings of Sindh’s people. In a statement issued from the Bacha Khan Markaz, ANP spokesperson Qadir Khan said that his party was opposed to the idea of dividing provinces on ethnic and linguistic basis.

Reacting to Shahbaz’ statement, Sindhi nationalist parties said that they would resist any move to divide Sindh province.

Dr Qadir Magsi, President of the Sindh Tarraqi Passand Party, told The Express Tribune that the people in southern Punjab have a distinct culture and traditions and they have every right to demand the creation of a Seraiki province. “But the situation in Sindh is different. Here all the people are Sindhis having same culture,” he added.

Mumtaz Bhutto, Chairman of the Sindh National Front (SNF), said that the Seraiki belt was “forcibly annexed” to Punjab. “It is the right of the Seraiki people to have a separate province. On the other hand there is no movement for a separate province in Sindh,” Bhutto told The Express Tribune.
With additional reporting by Shamsul Islam in Faisalabad and Hafeez Tunio, Irfan Aligi and Sohail Khattak in Karachi

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2011.

Tensions Must End Before We Talk

23/04/2011 18:52:00RUDAW

Opposition leaders in a meeting in Sulaimani. Photo Rudaw.

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan -- The three main opposition groups met in Sulaimani today and announced in a joint statement that they will remain persistent to achieving reform.

The Gorran movement, Islamic Union and Islamic Group announced, “We will continue our work until we achieve grassroots reform and have the demands of people answered.”

Leaders of the opposition condemned the forceful scattering of protesters from Sulaimani’s main square and the arrest and torture of university professors, religious scholars and civilians by security forces last week.

At the end of their meeting, the opposition leaders said that the authorities can deal with people’s anger either by resorting to the use of force and repression of the masses or by a real understanding of their demands and work to bring genuine change.

“We hope that the ruling parties choose the second option,” read the opposition statement. “Because that is where the current and future interest of our nation lies and that is what their political, national, legal and moral responsibility expects of them.”

In terms of the resumption of talks with the authorities, the opposition expressed through their media that the current tensions must end before talks could have any real meaning.

Kurdistan president’s press secretary Faisal Dabbagh said that the president is ready to meet with the opposition to solve the situation.

“If the three opposition parties intend to pacify the situation, the president has no objection to meet with their leaders.” said Dabbagh.

Since last week Sulaimani that was the center of protests in Iraqi Kurdistan has been under heavy control of security forces. The streets remain calm but visibly tense.

With demonstrations having come to an end all eyes seem to turn towards negotiations between the authorities and the opposition.


What I learned about Pakistan in Muscat

Mehreen Asghar April 24, 2011

I’m in a new land. Many back home think I am amongst the lucky few who have had the chance to live abroad and see “better days”. But, I wonder, do Pakistanis find happiness in the fact that they are actually home?

I was filled with an overwhelming longing for Pakistan as soon as I landed in Muscat. The alien atmosphere, the new faces, the strange dresses, and the various dialects intimidated me. For the first time in my life, I felt proud of being a Pakistani, of wearing our traditional shalwar kameez and bearing the traditional Pakistani look. When someone asked me who I was, I told them I was a Pakistani and strangely, it felt very exciting to say that! I did not know what this new place had to offer me; for the first time in many troubling months, I thought of Pakistan with gratitude, for giving me so much without ever asking for anything in return.

When I tell the locals I am from Pakistan, they have both good and bad things to say. A local driver told me:

“Your country, it’s a lovely place to be…My brother lives there in Karachi and we used to visit them every year.”

He smiled through the rear view mirror as he merrily tells us about his version of Pakistan.

“But see, there is so much killing in your land now, we dare not go! Everyone has weapons, they snatch your money, your phone, they kill you.”

He pointed his hand as though he was holding a gun.

“Guns, bombs, Kalashnikovs,” he says shaking his head.

“So many of them! My brother is moving back to Muscat, it’s not safe there. Too much blood in your country, sister, too much blood.”

I looked away, thinking of defending my country without picking a fight when he spoke again.

“Subhan’Allah there is so much beauty in your land. You have rains; we see it on television here. You have so many seasons in Pakistan. Must be great, no?”

He smiles through the mirror again.

“Allah has blessed you with so many fruits, so many vegetables, spices, Pakistani cotton and what not! They export it all here in Oman, sister. I tell you, they are the best there is!”

Listening to him, I’m compelled to think about all the goodness still left in my country. Despite all the complaining we do have all good things left Pakistan? I know the goodness, decency, honesty, kindness and integrity around me.

I loved the sound of the sound of the word Pakistan as a child; the land of the pak (the pure). This is the land where history and culture mystifies hearts, where hospitality to guests is a religion, where the shrines of Sufis cast their spiritual shadow over a nation of believers.

The world keeps telling us that we are failing as a nation. We have hope, and as long as we have that, we have not yet failed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The war may be over, but the Lyari battlefield has just opened up

By Saba Imtiaz
Published: April 24, 2011
(Left) This park in Lyari with lush grass was developed. (Above) The children, photographed playing billiards here, got new schools and a medical college. Lyari has 162 football clubs and new flood-lit stadiums. PHOTOS: NEFER SEHGAL & ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

“Zulfiqar Mirza was here [a month or so ago],” says Uzair Baloch, who headed the now defunct Peoples Amn Committee (PAC). “He was amazed at how safe it is here. He said even Defence doesn’t have these many lights.”
The former Sindh home minister’s surprise is understandable. Millions of rupees are being poured into the same streets where a gang war raged a few years ago. Lyari’s floodlit stadiums and parks surpass those of upscale neighbourhoods, and it recently played host to a football match between the Pakistan and Palestine teams.

But not everyone has benefited in Lyari. Scores of residents have fallen prey to the spate of ‘target killings’. Unemployment and education are still lingering wants.

Despite years of neglect by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and other governments, Lyari remains a Bhutto stronghold, over 40 years after it first swore allegiance to the party’s founder.

Even in the face of intense political pressure, the PPP has kept its ties with the PAC intact. Even though opponents allege that criminal gangs are in charge of Lyari, the real power lies in the hands of whoever develops it and fulfils the elusive promise of ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ (food, clothing and shelter).

Right now, the PPP holds the key to millions of rupees in funding for the area.


“We finally have water in Lyari,” says Uzair, whose marble-tiled home has an indoor swimming pool.

“The people of Lyari want and have demanded development,” says PPP leader Taj Haider.

“It is an overpopulated area and is at the tail end of every supply system. We have introduced special schemes for Lyari to meet these demands.”

The Lyari Development Project — focusing on education, health, roads and parks — is worth hundreds of millions of rupees. According to Mirza’s office, at least 70 per cent of the work has been completed. And Rs660 million was allocated for it in the Sindh 2010-2011 budget.

Development here has always been associated with the Bhuttos. Veteran PPP member Habib Jan Baloch points out concrete houses in the neighbourhood. “We did not get a red cent from the House Building Finance Corporation. These houses have been built because most families in Lyari have a relative working in the Gulf. Bhutto saheb gave people these jobs.”This is seconded by Uzair. “When we become friends with someone, we remain loyal to them,” he says. “Bhutto saheb came to Lyari, and solved our problems. We saw what happened during Musharraf’s regime… Development in Lyari has only happened during PPP governments. Our medical college has opened. There is finally funding for football clubs.”

He believes that development is part of the political game in Lyari. “You control Lyari, you have an entry into the area by the ports,” he explains. “They [opponents] want the money from the Lyari Development Package. In earlier governments, there were projects for Lyari that only existed on paper. People were paid for them!” Schools are being refurbished under the watchful eye of the committee’s men. Other schools have been upgraded with computer labs and well-manicured lawns. At the Gabol Football Stadium, a tournament is in progress. Ex-PAC member Shakeeb Baloch says this is the first time that footballers have received funding. He says Uzair funds several footballers personally. As the teams take a break, a boisterous group of children replace them on the field and start their own match. Lyari is home to 162 football clubs.

Smooth criminals?

Beneath the gloss of grassy parks and newly painted school walls is a sordid history. PAC was formed by Rehman ‘Dakait’, who self-styled himself as Sardar Abdur Rehman Baloch, and was widely alleged to be a notorious criminal. While he died in a police shoot-out in 2009, his shadow still looms large over Lyari, especially in the form of the PAC. Its existence was one of the thorns in the tumultuous relationship between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the PPP. Mid-March, the PAC announced that it would cease to exist.

PAC’s members insist that they were ‘always’ part of the PPP, wilfully ignoring the reasons why they created a separate group in the first place.

Its opponents describe it as a criminal group. When Mirza publicly owned the PAC, the backlash and pressure from the MQM led the PPP to disband it.

But for all intents and purposes, its power structure is intact. Uzair is still revered by workers, and he cuts a striking figure through his area. PAC’s social projects continue with a new name — the Lyari Resource Centre. However, the MQM continues to press its old allegations that the PAC is involved in target killings, extortion and fuelling the drug and land mafias, all charges they deny.

According to MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar, PAC workers “went on a vengeance spree” after it was disbanded. “They took their revenge on MQM workers and supporters.”

Target killings continue to take place — on both sides. The night after they decided to end PAC, two men from Lyari were shot dead. “What was their crime?” asks Uzair.

A hand grenade was lobbed at Habib Jan Baloch’s office a few weeks later. A spree of target killings followed, despite Habib Jan’s insistence that they were calming workers down. Hand grenades were found at MQM unit offices.

“This is not even about Zulfiqar Mirza,” comments the MQM’s Sattar. “The president needs to take action. If he does not do so, in the future we may say that he is incompetent and is not able to solve these issues.”

The blame game continues. Uzair openly says the MQM’s “criminal” elements are part of the violence in Karachi.

He answers MQM’s allegations. “Weapons? Who doesn’t have arms in Pakistan? We’re Baloch… carrying arms is part of our tradition. We have licensed weapons. Look at the sophisticated arms that the MQM has. They received consignments which [a high-ranking official] authorises. There are no cases against us, except over personal enmity from the years we battled Haji Lalu and Arshad Pappu’s groups [from the gang war].”

Leaders associated with PAC believe that it has been unfairly associated with violence. A number of theories are presented for attacks such as the neighbouring Shershah scrap market carnage. This one is blamed on the MQM and drug mafioso Haji Lalu’s syndicate, which lives behind the area in Lyari. “Do you realise you’re sitting in Farooq Sattar’s area right now?” Uzair points out with a smile. “This house is in his constituency.”

Sattar’s constituency, NA-249, adjoins Lyari. “Every single shopkeeper is paying extortion money to the PAC,” Sattar said. “We have presented proof to the president. The PAC is involved with other groups and the drug and land mafia. These groups collude with each other and support the Taliban.” He feels that the PAC “cannot defeat the MQM politically” which is why its members use violence.

That the extortion menace exists no one can deny — but who is behind it, is hotly contested.

The Sindh Home Department set up a dedicated helpline for businessmen who wanted to report extortion cases. Sharifuddin Memon, who works as a consultant with the department, says, “We have received cases in which people have named the PAC. However, this does not necessarily mean they are involved. We have also heard of groups using al Qaeda’s name to terrorise families into paying up. Anyone can use someone’s name.

Uzair also alleges that PAC’s name was being used by men to extort money, including, in one case, from a Federal Investigation Agency official.

Memon says that complaints of extortion threats are not restricted to one area such as Lyari.

Reported crimes in Lyari Town are among the lowest in Karachi, as it ranks 15 from the 18 towns, according to Citizens-Police Liaison Committee chief Ahmed Chinoy. He refused to comment on the PAC’s dissolution, terming it a political matter.

The PPP umbrella

It’s a subject Zulfiqar Mirza didn’t shy away from, but he is one of PAC’s few public supporters. Even though the PPP whisked away its backing of the PAC to placate its coalition partner, there was no dimming of love for the ruling party in Lyari.

“The PPP has always supported the people,” Uzair says. “However, there are these representatives who have used the PPP.”

Habib Jan delves into history. “Our grandfathers were part of Ayub Khan’s Muslim League. But when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to Lyari, he shouted the slogan of democracy. Our elders decided to join him, and that spirit is in all of us today.”

Despite this historical tie, the people of Lyari are cognizant of the fact that the very people they voted into power have ignored them. They say their MPAs and MNAs, who received tens of thousands of votes, have not given back to their constituency. Shakeeb recalls: “MNA Nabeel Gabol only had one car when he first contested the elections. He sold his car and borrowed Rs200,000 from a cousin for his campaign. We voted him in. Look at where he is now. He has a palatial house in Defence, a number of cars, businesses in Oman. Where did that money come from? It is the money that should have gone to Lyari’s development.”

It was this void that the PAC helped fill. Its success in Lyari has made former PAC workers politically savvy — they understand accountability.

Twenty-four years after he first won a provincial assembly seat from Lyari, thousands took to the streets this January to demand Gabol resign for his alleged neglect of the constituency. Despite their anger at Gabol and their MPAs, they insist they will support the PPP. According to PPP’s Haider, “Every seat is important, but Lyari is more important as it has always netted us votes.”

Benazir Bhutto held her wedding celebrations in Lyari, and won her National Assembly seat in 1988 from the area. Her husband, now the president, was elected an MNA from Lyari two years later. Lyari also has supporters from other political parties, whose candidates receive a few thousand votes. In the 1990s, Mir Murtaza Bhutto fielded a candidate and the PPP admits that it did take away some of their votes.

There is one relatively new group that could threaten the vote bank. Hussain Haroon, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, backs the PAC’s rival group, the Katchhi Raabta Committee, which also holds the PAC responsible for crime.

“You must realise,” Habib Jan says, “that the women of Lyari played an important role in the PPP’s support. When Murtaza came back, we wanted to support him. We thought, ‘Bhutto ka waaris Bhutto’, since he was the son and heir. But our mothers said, ‘No, Benazir is the one who made the sacrifices, she is the one we will support’. Murtaza did not get that many votes from here then.” Since then, Lyari’s mothers have lost many of their sons to the gang war, and now, to target killings. Whether they will continue to support the PPP will only come to light in the next elections. For now, as Lyari’s footballers would say, their area has become an even playing field.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2011.

War on terror: Military seeks formal deal on intelligence sharing with US

By Sumera Khan
Published: April 24, 2011
Message conveyed to US govt in meetings between Pak-US military officials.
In a significant development Pakistan’s military has decided to have a formal agreement between Pakistan and the United States on intelligence-sharing and cooperation in the ‘war against terrorism’, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The message has been conveyed by Pakistan’s military brass in their recent interactions with senior US military officials in Islamabad and Washington, military sources said.

Military sources told The Express Tribune that Pakistan and the United States have been sharing intelligence since 2001, but without any formal agreement.

Pakistani and US military officials have had a series of meetings this month to resolve differences that have not only undermined military-to-military ties but have also strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Earlier this month, ISI chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha met CIA head Leon Panetta in Washington, then chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen had meetings with his Pakistani counterpart General Khalid Shameem Wynne and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Rawalpindi, and then US Army Chief of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey met Gen Kayani.
The pursuance of a formal agreement comes as there is now a feeling among Pakistan’s top military officials that the US has not taken them into confidence on several issues, including Raymond Davis. Raymond Davis, a CIA agent, had been sent to Pakistan on a mission to spy on the Taliban leaders and their jihadi cohorts.
Though last month a court freed Davis after the payment of ‘blood money’ to the families of the victims, the presence of armed CIA agents in Pakistan has frustrated the Pakistani military.

The Davis saga showed the US military’s ‘mistrust’ of Pakistan, which was later substantiated by Admiral Mullen’s allegations last week that some elements in the ISI had links with the Haqqani Network.

Military sources told The Express Tribune that a formal agreement was required to restore dwindling confidence between the two countries.

It has also been conveyed to the US administration that, after a formal agreement between the two countries, all CIA contractors would have to leave Pakistan.
US military officials have assured Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership that they would take up the matter with the US administration and that a formal agreement would be finalised with mutual consent.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2011.


CIA, ISI cooperation scaled back after Davis episode

Published: February 25, 2011
The possible presence of more CIA contractors like Davis worries the ISI.
ISLAMABAD: Cooperation between the American and Pakistani spy agencies has been scaled back because of an incident involving a CIA contractor shooting two Pakistanis, Pakistani intelligence officials said on Thursday.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official in Islamabad said the case of Raymond Davis had strained but not broken relations between the CIA and the Inter-Services Intelligences (ISI) because the ISI didn’t know about Davis before he shot and killed two Pakistanis on Jan 27 in Lahore.

“It’s not business as usual; it’s not open war,” the official told Reuters. “Cooperation and operations together will continue at a lesser scale.”

Another intelligence official denied rumours that the two agencies were not working together.
“We are not ready to split,” he said. “There has been a patch up because we have both realised that in the larger interest of the region and the war on terrorism, CIA and ISI must work together.”

An Associated Press story, however, construes that Pakistan’s premier spy agency is ready to split with the CIA because of frustration over what it calls heavy-handed pressure and its anger over what it believes is a covert US operation involving hundreds of contract spies. The AP cites a document it has obtained as the basis of its conclusion.

The case of 36-year-old Davis, a former US special forces officer, has strained the already-uneasy alliance between the US and Pakistan, who are supposed to be united in the face of militants waging a war in Afghanistan.

The possible presence of more CIA contractors like Davis worries the ISI because they don’t know how many there are, their identities or their duties. Officials say there could be “hundreds”.

“We are concerned,” the first official told Reuters. “We don’t know how many and we have asked them (CIA) to give this information to us. But they haven’t done that yet.”

It is widely thought the CIA is running a network of spies in Pakistan for a number of reasons: identifying militant targets for a campaign of strikes by unmanned drone aircraft, gathering intelligence on militant groups and on Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

Downward spiral

Signs of strain were evident in a letter the ISI sent to the Wall Street Journal in response to an article the newspaper published on the tension between the agencies.

“It is regrettable that CIA leadership on many occasions has failed to show respect to the relationship of the two agencies and has acted with arrogance towards ISI which has resulted in weakening the relationship on which it is entirely dependent,” the ISI said, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

“Involvement of CIA with Raymond Davis is beyond any shadow of doubt. Post incident conduct of CIA has virtually put the partnership into question. Irrespective of the commonality of objectives in this war on terror, it is hard to predict if the relationship will ever reach the level at which it was prior to the Davis episode.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2011.

For more on this issue follow: raymonddavis


Oiling wheels of energy industry

Tamsin Carlisle

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2011

Noe van Hulst, the secretary general of the International Energy Forum (IEF), has the sometimes unenviable job of coaxing energy consumers and producers to talk to each other.

It is not an easy task. There is much historic bad blood between the two camps, and mutual suspicion lingers. But as the head of a unique organisation promoting international co-operation to keep the world comfortably supplied with energy, Mr van Hulst believes his role is essential.

Here he explains why oil producers and consumers must overcome their differences and act together to calm an overheated market, in a world where the two groups need each other as never before.

q What has happened in the oil market since the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the IEF in Riyadh two months ago?

a Certainly things have been heating up since the February meeting. There has been further deterioration in Libyan oil supplies. Now more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) are off the market. At the same time, producers have been stepping in, especially from the Gulf countries. It hasn't always been easy because there is a quality issue. Libyan light sweet crude is not easy to substitute. Having said that, there seems to be a tremendous element of fear affecting the whole market. It seems not to be reacting so much to what is happening on the ground. Opec spare capacity is probably still above 4 million bpd and we have relatively comfortable stocks, so the elevated prices are not justified by fundamentals.

So you are saying the big run-up in oil prices we have recently witnessed does not reflect real supply threats?

Unfortunately investors are dwelling on exaggerated worst-case scenarios. There is an overstated geopolitical fear factor in the market. Yes, there is political upheaval in the Middle East, but to infer that significant oil supply disruptions will take place is a non-sequitur.=A statement that does not follow logically from what preceded it.

Since I was born in 1956, we have had about 10 major oil supply disruptions, starting with the Suez crisis. But if you add all that up, you're talking about a disruption of 0.3 per cent of global oil supplies over the past 55 years. You need to put this in the context of the 86 million bpd that we are producing, transporting and consuming without any problems day after day, for long periods. If you put the Libyan crisis into that historical context, it's actually relatively small. That is not to downplay that there are significant political events taking place, but the impacts on oil supply are very much more limited than you would make out from reading newspapers and watching television. We have to calm down a bit, in my view.
Since 2008, there has been an increasing amount of dialogue between oil producers and consumers. But do consumers even now understand the producing countries, especially those in the Middle East?

Sometimes there's a lack of acknowledgement that there are a number of oil-producing states that have very responsible attitudes. They don't want oil prices to go so high that they hamper economies. They have an interest in long-term stability. People do need to respect what is being done from the producers' side.

What can the IEF do to facilitate this?

Speaking as secretary general, our central objective is to do everything we can to help stability in the market. When we live in these turbulent times with market volatility re-emerging, I see it as our responsibility to speak out. I understand that consuming countries are getting more nervous, and I agree with them that if these prices would persist for the rest of the year there might be a heavy impact on economic growth. But I also have to add that if you look at the latest IMF world economic outlook, the IMF is saying that until now the economic impact of these high prices has been relatively mild. I'm taking this concern of consuming countries very seriously. At the same time, I'm saying that I don't see these high prices justified by the physical fundamentals. This doesn't have to be a similar situation to 2008, and everyone has a stake in ensuring that what happened then is not repeated.

What lessons did you learn from the 2008 oil price spike and ensuing slump?

One big lesson we all learnt was that we need stronger dialogue between producers and consumers, especially between the International Energy Agency [IEA] and Opec, with the IEF as the neutral facilitator. And we also need dialogue with the financial community. Oil is now not only a physical commodity but also a financial asset. That's why it's important that we work with the financial market. Recently we had a meeting in London with financial regulators. One of the big points that came out was that we need strong international co-ordination. The good news is that we learnt there is good communication between the different regulators. They are talking to each other a lot. The not-so-good news is that they don't know where they are going to end up. They each have their own constituents they have to report to. We want to convene them again when we know a bit more.

Is there solidarity within the IEF on issues of oil pricing and market volatility?

I think the important point from our perspective is that both consuming countries and producing countries need to stay calm. They need to speak up about what they see happening and collectively do everything they can to calm the markets and put developments in context. Producers and consumers need each other. The interdependency in the world of energy is only going to grow. We should embrace it as a positive force. We shouldn't be so paranoid about it. As oil producers in the Middle East diversify their economies, they will need more imports from the rest of the world.

Are US energy independence aspirations a threat to Middle East oil exporters?

The interesting thing about the US is that they seem to be nervous about this issue although their largest suppliers are actually Canada and Mexico. They import less oil from the Middle East than Europe, and multiples less than Asia. On top of everything else, there is tremendous potential for increasing the fuel efficiency of US cars, so they could import even less oil. The main market for Middle East oil is Asia, and it's not surprising that Middle East-Asia links are intensifying. But the oil market is a global market. Some people tend to forget that. Even if you import nothing, you are still affected by what happens in the rest of the world. Domestic producers will not give their oil to you at a discount. The concept of energy independence, at least in oil, is a fallacy. In this globalised market, you can't hide.

What can Middle East oil producers do to help calm markets?

Communicate, communicate, communicate. I get tired repeating the same thing, but you have to tell your story. Be transparent. You need to talk to the media. Don't let yourself be thrown off course. Be there, be good, tell it. That's my simple message. Here in the Middle East, there's a lot of good stuff going on, but relatively few people know about it. It's not only an issue for this region, but for the whole oil and gas industry. You need to show people what you're doing, how important it is, that it's not a sunset industry. Fossil fuels will be with us for many, many decades; longer than our children and probably our grandchildren are going to be alive.

O/T Oil companies go solar

(Reuters) - Soaring oil prices are turning some energy companies into accidental environmentalists: They are building clean, solar-powered systems to pull crude out of their aging wells.

But this is no public relations move by big polluters seeking to green their images. Having spent heavily on energy-intensive technology to increase output from depleted fields, companies including Chevron Corp and Berry Petroleum Co are using solar power to lower the cost of creating steam that is injected into the wells to improve the flow of heavy oil.

Yes, in this instance going solar is actually going cheaper. While electricity generated by solar panels is more expensive than that created by fossil fuels, using the sun to heat water and create steam for so-called enhanced oil recovery costs less than natural gas, even at today's low prices.

Rising oil prices and a dearth of new areas for exploration have increased investment in EOR, which refers to techniques used to boost crude production from mature fields, usually by injecting steam or gas into the well. Up to 60 percent of a reservoir's original oil can be extracted with EOR, compared with 20 percent to 40 percent using primary and secondary methods, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

About 60 percent of the oil produced in California is the result of some form of injection, according to the state Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources.

GlassPoint Solar Inc operates the only commercial solar EOR project, at a Berry oilfield in McKittrick, California.

The company said its technology generated steam at the equivalent of about $4 per thousand cubic feet -- about even with today's gas prices. Including U.S. incentives for solar power, however, that drops to about $2.80 per Mcf in California. In the sunnier Persian Gulf, the price could be as low as $2 per Mcf.
In the Middle East, where much of the gas is imported in liquid form, solar thermal has the potential to generate even greater cost savings as liquefied natural gas prices stand at about $12 per Mcf.

"We're not selling on a platform of what I would call green goodness," GlassPoint Chief Executive Officer Rod MacGregor said in an interview. "Our proposition is entirely economic."

According to Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov, the technology also provides a hedge against price increases for gas, which he forecasts at $5 per Mcf long-term.Because solar thermal technology is powered by sunlight, the cost of deploying it is entirely upfront.


GlassPoint's project uses mirrors to focus sunlight onto a steel pipe carrying water. As the water travels along the pipe, it turns to steam that can be injected into an oil well.

"It's glass and steel, that's all it is," said Molchanov, who estimates that solar has the potential to displace about 20 percent of the natural gas used in EOR in California alone. It could never replace it entirely because sunlight is inherently intermittent, even in the Persian Gulf and in California's Kern County, the state's top oil-producing county.

Solar thermal technology works best in very sunny regions, but Molchanov said it could be deployed -- though less lucratively -- in the Canadian oilsands region as well.

But solar EOR is still a long way from being mainstream.

"It's going to take time for oil companies, which tend to be fairly conservative, to adopt this," Molchanov said.

Berry Petroleum CEO Robert Heinemann said GlassPoint's pilot project worked because the startup built the plant itself to prove its technology would make economic sense.

"We cannot fund new technology," Heinemann said, but added that the company was interested in "any technology innovation that can lower our cost to generate steam."

Other than GlassPoint, which has just the one pilot project at Berry's 21Z oilfield, only one other solar EOR effort is close to coming online -- a partnership between Chevron and BrightSource Energy Inc in Coalinga, California.

The BrightSource project is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of this year, and Molchanov said if that program and GlassPoint's are successful, solar EOR could become mainstream within the next five years.

Neither BrightSource nor Chevron would comment on their project, but a major BrightSource investor said extending the life of existing oil wells made sense all around.

"We're not going to outgrow our needs for oil in my lifetime," said VantagePoint Capital Partners CEO Alan Salzman. "If you can extract more oil from existing facilities rather than having to go punch new holes in the Arctic or offshore, it has a highly preferable societal impact."(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)