Thursday, September 3, 2009

Attacking the un-religious Minister of Religion.

Audacious attack on minister in capital; driver killed
By Munawer Azeem , Thursday, 03 Sep, 2009

ISLAMABAD: Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi was injured in a brazen attack here on Wednesday. His driver was killed and a police guard injured.

The assailants attacked the minister’s car when he was leaving his ministry at G-6/3, some yards away from the Aabpara police station, along with his driver Mohammad Younus and guard Mohammad Ashraf.

According to officials, one attacker riding a bike had positioned himself at Street 31 (towards Garden Avenue) while the other on the opposite side.

They opened fire at the car with assault rifles and pistols when it approached the avenue.

The attackers chased the minister’s car for about 50 metres and continued firing after the driver tried to speed away. The driver lost control and rammed the car into a roadside tree after he received a bullet on his head.

About 25 bullets pierced through the car’s bonnet, roof, side doors and window screens. The minister, his driver and the police guard suffered multiple bullet wounds.

Bullet shells, including 30 empties of SMG, were found scattered on the road. The attackers left behind a bag containing two Kalashnikovs, a hand-grenade and a pistol. Police found another Kalashnikov near the ISI headquarters.

According to the sources, the weapons and bullets were sent to a laboratory and help of Nadra had been sought to trace the culprits through their fingerprints on the weapons.

The injured were taken to the Federal Government Services Hospital, which is about a kilometre from the scene.

According to doctors, the minister received two bullets on his leg. ‘His condition is stable, but he is in a state of shock,’ they added.

The driver suffered multiple shots in his head and chest and died on the spot.

The guard received five bullets in the upper part of his body and was stated to be in a critical condition.

Mr Kazmi has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban. His name appeared on the hit list of extremist religious groups after he declared suicide bombings un-Islamic, along with other moderate Barelvi scholars.

After the assassination of prominent Islamic scholar Allama Sarfraz Naeem in Lahore earlier this year, intelligence agencies had upgraded Mr Kazmi’s security.

A brother of the minister said that Mr Kazmi had been receiving threats for the past couple of months.

According to sources, Mr Kazmi had requested the government to provide a bullet proof car and police commandos.

A senior police officer told Dawn that ironically five police commandos deputed with the minister were not guarding him at the time of the incident.

According to sources, security agencies had taken the police commandos into custody for interrogation. Police said that 48 suspects had been taken into custody.

Some reports suggested that the police mobile escorting the minister’s car turned towards a filling station when the two vehicles left the religious ministry.

‘I saw two gunmen firing from two sides on the minister’s car. One of them was wearing a pink shirt and trousers. The other was on a bike which they used to escape after the attack,’ a witness said.

Another witness said the firing started the moment the minister’s car left the Ministry of Religious Affairs and it continued for some times.

A senior police officer told Dawn that an FIR had been registered under section PPC 302, 324, 334 and 7ATA on the complaint of a relative of the diseased driver in the Abpara police station.

Senior Superintendent of Police Tahir Alam Khan told reporters that a preliminary investigation had showed that the attackers were locals. He claimed that sufficient security cover had been provided to the minister.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the attack might be of a sectarian nature. He said he would be able to say something about the incident after the investigation.

The attackers would be arrested soon because police had found some important clues that he could not made public at this stage, the minister added.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the incident. The prime minister, who is abroad on an official visit, ordered an inquiry into the shooting and said the perpetrators of such a crime would not be spared, according to an official handout.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hakeemullah (may Allah protect him), the vibrant defender of Islam.

Hakeemullah a fiercely ambitious militant
By Zahir Shah Sherazi
Thursday, 27 Aug, 2009

PESHAWAR: With Hakeemullah Mehsud having been formally appointed the amir of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), replacing the dreaded Baitullah, the power-struggle is over (at least for the moment) and the first phase of transition in tribal areas’ extremist Islamic militant movement is complete.

Details regarding the process of his selection remain sketchy. But a few people outside the militant movement who have met Hakimullah know that he must have prevailed upon the TTP shura, leaving no doubt about a possible split in case anyone else was chosen to lead the movement.

Hakeemullah Mehsud’s meteoric rise to Fata’s nascent, but ferocious Taliban movement, is not entirely unexpected. It may take experts on the movement weeks, or possibly, months to understand and assess the 29-year-old new amir.

Who is this man? Is he related to Baitullah Mehsud? Will his policies be any different from his predecessor’s? Also, does he have the capability, acumen and desire to expand the TTP movement by bringing other militant groups into its fold?

With the passage of time it may be possible to get answers to some of these questions. But for some of us who were part of a group of Pakistani television journalists that had travelled to Hakeemullah-controlled part of the Orakzai tribal agency in November last year it was not difficult to immediately notice in him the ambition and desire to be in the leadership role.

In fact, the trip arranged by Hakeemullah’s men was largely designed to introduce the ‘young turk’ of the Taliban movement to the media and to air his views on religion and politics and his ambition to take the movement beyond Fata to mainland Pakistan.

It was a journey a few of us will forget. Some of us had travelled all the way from Peshawar. Others had joined half-way. At one point, Hakimullah’s heavily armed loyalists took control of our caravan. We spent a night somewhere in the Taliban territory, before being taken to Arkanjo Mamozai village in Orakzai Agency to meet Hakimullah and his band of ferocious fighters.

If a few of us were nervous it was quite understandable. Although quite photogenic, and unlike most other militant leaders, smartly dressed, his cold looks and wry smile left little doubt that he may not think twice before killing anyone.

Yet he was intelligent enough to grasp the significance and power of the media and tried to make the maximum of the presence of the television teams to express his views on issues ranging from the situation in Afghanistan, to TTP’s links with Mullah Omar and his Taliban movement, to Pakistan’s political scene, particularly his views about the Awami National Party. It was not difficult to see how much he hated the ANP.

At the same time, Hakeemullah also wanted to present himself as a modern man, who not only had the desire to ‘conquer’ rest of the tribal territories, but also someone who knew a lot about guns and machines. So, while at one point he sought the cameramen’s indulgence while showing off by speeding around in an armoured-plated Humvee that his men had captured during a raid on a convoy of American vehicles in the Khyber Agency, an hour later he invited the journalists to participate in a gun-shooting competition.

Comparisons between Hakeemullah and Baitullah would serve as a study of contrasts. While Baitullah was introvert and media-shy, the former is extrovert and media-savvy.

Some of the journalists did make an attempt, but soon gave up, realising the difference between shooting with a camera and a sub-machine gun. There was no stopping for Hakeemullah, who first fired dozens of rounds from a light-machine gun, then picked up a heavier gun and within seconds emptied the magazine.

And as if this were not enough, he fired a grenade using RPG, perhaps to prove that he was comfortable with all kinds of weapons. One of his close associates described it as Hakeemullah’s 'favourite toy'.

By now it was more than evident that this ‘image-building exercise’ was aimed at presenting him as a future leader of the local Taliban.

Hakeemullah Mehsud, after having lived for some time under the shadow of Baitullah Mehsud, had started spreading his wings early last year. Since he always believed in leading from the front, Baitullah had given him charge of three tribal agencies, and when we met him in November, he had gained a foothold in Orakzai, was actively involved in supporting the local Taliban in Kurram, and was making his presence felt in Khyber.

The young and battle-hardened Hakeemullah, whose real name is believed to be Jamshed, first rose to prominence by the name of Zulfiqar Mehsud, as a spokesman for the Baitullah-led militant group in 2007.

He also used the nickname of Hakeemullah and is now known by this name to most media personnel and also to Taliban fighters. Hakeemullah hails from Kotki village of Sarwaki subdivision and belongs to the Eshangai branch of Mehsud tribe. Having received rudimentary madressah education in Hangu, Hakimullah appears to be a fully trained warrior.

As Zulfiqar Mehsud, Hakeemullah had a few telephonic interactions with this correspondent, but it was during our visit to Orakzai Agency in November last year when I met Hakeemullah for the first time.

Ajmal Mehsud, a close associate of Hakeemullah who escorted us from the Giljo base of the Taliban at the Government Girls Degree College to Arkhanjo, was full of praise for his views and fighting skills.

'Hakeemullah is the best shooter and driver in the entire tribal area and no one except Shaheed Naek Muhammad could have matched him.'

More ambitious than his predecessor who mostly remained confined to South Waziristan, Hakeemullah explained to this correspondent his expansionist designs.

'If the Pakistan government continues with its policy of following American dictates, (some day) we can even try to capture Peshawar, Hangu and even Islamabad,' he said.

'And we have the strength to do it.'

He also did not hide his views about Al Qaeda. In an interview with Dawn News TV during the trip, Hakeemullah openly praised the international terrorist movement.

'We are Al Qaeda’s friends as both us the Taliban and the Arab fighters have shown our allegiance to Amir-ul-Momineen Mullah Omar of Afghanistan, but there is no Al Qaeda in South Waziristan. It’s only the US and the Pakistan government’s propaganda. They don’t have any proof.'

Hakeemullah’s nomination as the new TTP chief would be worrisome for Pakistani authorities, but more so for the NWFP government. Hakimullah is not a traditional mullah, as he does not have a proper degree from a religious school.

However, he knows how to exploit Pakhtuns’ religious as well as nationalist sentiments. 'We do not give two hoots to Awami National Party’s tirade against Taliban,' Hakeemullah had said in the interview.

'We can have an agreement with all the political parties but not with ANP,' he said.

While ridiculing the ANP in his typical style, Hakimullah was unable to hide his desire to expand the scope of his activities by claiming that once the ANP used to say that like them the Taliban too were Pakhtuns, but the way the situation was developing the ANP might soon take back its claim to be representatives of the Pakhtuns.

It may well be a far-fetched idea. But then this was in November last year, and Hakeemullah’s first direct interaction with the media. Now he is head of the powerful Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. So, if even half of what he had been claiming were to be believed, his ambitions may mean more trouble for the Pakistani authorities, and certainly for the ANP-led government in the NWFP.


Two American, two British troops killed in Afghanistan

Tuesday, 01 Sep, 2009

KABUL: Bombs killed four Nato troops — two Americans and two Britons — ending the deadliest month of the war for US forces as the top Nato commander called for a new strategy to confront the Taliban, AP reported.

The US military said the two Americans were killed Monday in separate explosions in southern Afghanistan but gave no further details. Their deaths brought to 47 the number of US troops who have died in the Afghan war in August — three more than in July which had been the deadliest month.

In London, the British Ministry of Defense said the two British soldiers were killed the same day by a bomb on a foot patrol north of Lashkar Gah, a southern Afghan city where Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid a surprise visit last weekend and promised help for his embattled force.

US casualties have been mounting since President Barack Obama ordered 21,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, shifting the focus of the war on extremism from Iraq to this country where the global conflict began nearly eight years ago.

Since the reinforcements began arriving last spring, American deaths have climbed from six in April to 12 in May, 24 in June to more than 40 for the next two months as US troops push into areas of the country long under Taliban rule.

The latest casualties occurred as the top US and Nato commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent his much-anticipated strategic review of the Afghan war to the Pentagon and Nato headquarters.

‘The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort,’ McChrystal said in a statement Monday.

McChrystal did not ask for more troops but is expected to do so in a separate request in a couple weeks, two Nato officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

The US already has about 62,000 troops in Afghanistan — a record number — and will have 68,000 by the end of the year. In total there are more than 100,000 US and Nato troops in the country. There were roughly 250,000 international forces in Iraq during the 2003 invasion.

US officials had hoped that the Aug. 20 presidential election would establish an Afghan government with the legitimacy to combat the Taliban, corruption and the flourishing drug trade.

The vote, however, was clouded by allegations of widespread fraud as well as threats and intimidation by the Taliban.

New vote tallies released Monday showed President Hamid Karzai leading with 45.8 per cent of the votes counted, with top challenger Abdullah Abdullah trailing with 33.2 per cent. Ballots have been counted from almost half of the country’s voting stations. Karzai needs 50 per cent of the votes to avoid a runoff.

On Monday, an Afghan man told reporters that Taliban militants cut off his nose and both ears as he headed for a polling station in central Afghanistan.

‘I regret that I went to vote,’ Lal Mohammad said from a hospital bed in Kabul, crying and trying to hide his disfigured face. ‘What is the benefit of voting to me?’


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pakistan: Border blast sets NATO fuel trucks afire

Pakistan: Border blast sets NATO fuel trucks afire.

By AP - August 30th., 2009

CHAMAN, Pakistan – An explosion ripped through a line of trucks ferrying fuel to NATO troops in Afghanistan, setting several oil tankers ablaze Sunday at a backed-up Pakistani border crossing, police said.

The blast appeared to be the second terrorist attack Sunday in Pakistan and the second in a week to target a border crossing. Also Sunday, a suicide bomber targeted a police station in the northwestern Swat Valley, killing 15 cadets.

Local police chief Hasan Sardar said flames and smoke were billowing into the sky as authorities struggled to control the blaze Sunday night near the Chaman border crossing in Baluchistan province in Pakistan's southwest.

"It was a big explosion under one of the oil tankers that caused other vehicles to catch fire. The fire is spreading," Sardar told The Associated Press by phone.

"We are at the moment trying our best to control the blaze. We are not sure whether there is any human loss," he said. "It is just panic everywhere there."

The explosion Sunday night set at least three oil tankers, two container trucks and two dump trucks on fire, police officer Abdul Rauf said.

Chaman is one of two main crossing points for supplies for American and NATO troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The foreign troops get about 75 percent of their supplies through Pakistan.

The crossing has been closed for two days amid a dispute between Afghan and Pakistani customs officers that Rauf said had left more than 1,000 trucks backed up along the road to the border.

Another suicide bombing killed at least 19 guards further north at the Torkham checkpoint, the other main crossing and gateway to the famed Khyber Pass.

The Pakistani Taliban have vowed revenge after the loss of key territory and the death of their top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a CIA missile strike Aug. 5 further west near the Afghan border.


Terrorizing the Tyrants.

Al-Qaida claims attack that injured Saudi prince.

By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF, Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef, Associated Press Writer August 30th,

CAIRO – Al-Qaida claimed responsibility Sunday for a suicide attack that injured a Saudi prince and said the bomber — a wanted militant who had fled to Yemen — arrived on a royal jet after convincing the ruling family he wanted to surrender.

Despite the attack on Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, his father, Interior Minister Prince Nayef, said the kingdom would not change its offer for militants to repent. Saudi Arabia has been praised for having one of the world's best terrorist rehabilitation programs in the world.

Saudi officials have said the prince was lightly wounded in the bombing at his home in Jiddah Thursday night while he was receiving well-wishers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. If al-Qaida's claim proves to be true, it would be an embarrassment for the prince and his father, two of the kingdom's top anti-terrorism officials. Prince Nayef is a half brother of Saudi King Abdullah and one of the most powerful members of the royal family.

"You tyrants ... your bastions and fortifications will not prevent us from reaching you. We will come to you soon," al-Qaida warned in an Internet statement. The authenticity of the message could not be independently verified, but it was posted on militant Web sites often used by al-Qaida.

In one version of the events, Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned television network, said the attacker concealed the explosives in his anus, allowing him to evade detection. The network also quoted an expert as saying that the method of concealment aimed the blast away from the target, while blowing the bomber to bits.

Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the al-Qaida claim. They have refused to say exactly how the bomber arrived at Prince Mohammed's home, disclosing only that he was a wanted militant who convinced authorities he wanted to turn himself in.

Prince Nayef said Saturday the attack on his son "will not change the policy of keeping the door open for those who repent," the official Saudi Press Agency reported. At the same time, he warned that future attacks could be more sophisticated, and therefore more dangerous.

Prince Mohammed has already admitted he ordered guards not to search the attacker when he arrived at his home to surrender, even though the man was wanted by authorities. Saudi officials have said the prince wanted to treat the militant with respect and trust to encourage other wanted militants to come forward.

Al-Qaida identified the bomber as Abdullah Hassan Tali Assiri, a Saudi citizen. Yemen's foreign minister and al-Qaida both said he crossed the border from Yemen into Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qaida and a Saudi newspaper have said the attacker, who also goes by the alias Abu al-Kheir, was on Saudi's list of 85 wanted militants, most of them Saudi. Al-Arabiya said Assiri is 23 and has a 27-year-old brother Ibrahim who is also on the wanted list.

Yemen's foreign minister, Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the attacker came from an area neighboring Saudi Arabia known to be an al-Qaida sanctuary.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed the bomber managed to pass through security checkpoints at both the Saudi airports in Najran, a city on the border with Yemen, and Jiddah before he arrived at Prince Mohammed's home.

The group, which formed in January when al-Qaida operations in Yemen and Saudi Arabia merged, described the attack as "the first-ever intelligence and security penetration of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula." It was the first known attack by the newly merged group inside Saudi Arabia.

A crackdown on al-Qaida's Saudi branch forced it to move most of its operations to Yemen, where poverty, instability and widespread lawlessness have enabled it to take root. Saudi officials have expressed concern that al-Qaida could use Yemen as a sanctuary to launch cross-border attacks.

The attack was the first attempt against a member of the royal family in decades and was also the first significant attack by militants in the kingdom since 2006. Saudi Arabia has waged a fierce crackdown on al-Qaida militants in the country. It has killed or captured most of their leaders after a string of attacks that started in 2003.

Before Thursday's bombing, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula made several unsuccessful attempts to strike inside the kingdom.

Murtadeen slaughtered in martyrdom op.

'Suicide attack in Pak kills 14 trainee policemen'.

by AFP - August 30th, 2009.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – A suicide attack in the main town in Pakistan's northwestern Swat valley Sunday killed 14 police cadets, officials said, after the army claimed the area had been cleared of Taliban.

"The policemen were being given training in Mingora town when a suicide bomber entered the ground and blew himself up near the recruits, killing 14 of them," Swat police chief Qazi Ghulam Farooq told AFP.

Farooq blamed Taliban militants, saying that the bomber was a young boy. "None other than the Taliban are involved in the attack," he added.

Another local senior police official, Mohammad Idrees, said that a curfew had been imposed in Mingora, adding troops and police were patrolling the town and people quickly shut their businesses in fear of more bombings.

It was the first major attack in Mingora since the military claimed last month to have cleared the valley of Taliban militants, paving the way for residents who had fled the area to avoid the fighting to begin returning home.

Pakistan in April launched a punishing military offensive against the Taliban in the northwest, targeting the rebels in the districts of Swat, Buner and Lower Dir after the militants advanced closer to the capital Islamabad.

The military push forced 1.9 million civilians from their homes, most seeking refuge with relatives and the rest packing into refugee camps, creating a humanitarian crisis for impoverished Pakistan.

Last month, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced that the military had "eliminated" extremists in the northwest and according to government and UN statistics, 1.6 million displaced people have returned home.

Gilani's government has announced steps to reconstruct property destroyed during the military operation and action to alleviate poverty in the area under a comprehensive package.

Swat slipped out of government control after radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah mounted a violent campaign in which his followers beheaded opponents, burnt schools and fought against government troops to enforce sharia law.

Pakistan says more than 1,930 militants and over 170 security personnel have been killed in the government offensive, but the death tolls are impossible to verify independently.

The military has now turned its attention to the lawless nearby tribal belt, the heartland of Pakistan's umbrella organisation Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is allegedly linked to Al-Qaeda.

But skirmishes continue in Swat and Buner, raising fears that the Taliban are regrouping in the mountains, a tactic militants have adopted after government action in the past.

Pakistani authorities have also advocated the establishment of local militia in the northwest to try and keep the Taliban at bay, amid reports that the Islamist fighters have simply melted into the mountains.

Fazlullah meanwhile remains at large.

Separately, the military said on Sunday in a statement that it continued search and clearance operations in Swat and Malakand and had arrested 40 suspected militants.


May Allah give victory to the vanguard of Islam, the mujahideen.

Taliban's growth in Afghanistan's north threatens to expand war.
By Jonathan S. Landay - August 28th, 2009.

BAGHLAN-I-JADID, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents have taken over parts of two northern provinces from which they were driven in 2001, threatening to disrupt NATO's new supply route from Central Asia and expand a war that's largely been confined to Afghanistan's southern half, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

Insurgents operating out of Baghlan district along the highway from Tajikistan launched coordinated attacks during the Aug. 20 presidential elections, killing the district police chief and a civilian, while losing a dozen of their own men, local officials said. It was the worst bloodshed reported in the country that day.

The violence has been on the rise in recent months, however, as the Taliban and al Qaida-linked foreign fighters have staged hit-and-run attacks, bombings and rocket strikes on German, Belgian and Hungarian forces in Baghlan and neighboring Kunduz provinces.

The insurgents now control three Pashtun-dominated districts in Kunduz and Baghlan-i-Jadid, a foothold in a region that was long considered safe. With a force estimated at 300 to 600 hard-core fighters, they operate checkpoints at night on the highway to the north, now a major supply route, local officials said, and are extorting money, food and lodging from villagers.

"The Taliban want to show the world that not only can they make chaos in southern Afghanistan, but in every part of Afghanistan," Baghlan Governor Mohammad Akbar Barekzai said. "This is a big problem. We don't have sufficient forces here."

For U.S. commanders, whose stretched forces have been unable to pacify the south and are taking record casualties, it's another looming problem.

"What can we do to mitigate the risk? It's a question of means," said a senior U.S. defense official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. "Clearly, the main effort is in the south. But we can't allow other areas of the country to be destabilized."

The official said he's begun discouraging Western aid workers from visiting projects in those areas.

The growing Taliban presence also threatens to aggravate long-standing tensions into violence between the region's Pashtuns — the ethnic group that dominates the Taliban — and Tajiks.

Many Pashtuns, descendents of settlers from southern Afghanistan awarded lands in the north in the early 20th century, supported the Taliban's rule of the 1990s, while many Tajiks fought against the religious militia.

Another potential danger is that al Qaida-linked foreign extremists could use Taliban sanctuaries in the north to stir up trouble in the adjacent former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, whose authoritarian rulers have brutalized their Muslim populations.

"Al Qaida wants to have a base there," said retired Afghan Gen. Hillaluddin Hillal, a parliamentarian from Baghlan. "Al Qaida's support is behind them (the Taliban). Al Qaida has an interest in Central Asia."

A senior U.S. intelligence official confirmed that Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and Pakistanis affiliated with al Qaida have been making their way into Baghlan and Kunduz from Pakistan's tribal areas.

The new NATO supply link, established after Pakistani insurgents began attacking the main logistics route from the Pakistani port of Karachi, consists of two roads, one from Uzbekistan and one from Tajikistan. After merging in Baghan Province outside the city of Pul-i-Khumri, the highway runs south through the towering Hindu Kush mountains to the main U.S. base at Bagram and to Kabul.

"The concern is if we don't stunt the (Taliban) growth, it could cause problems with our northern distribution network," said the senior intelligence official, who asked not to be further identified because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. "A couple of years ago, (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar said 'We need to open up new fronts in the north and cause a dissipation of (U.S.) resources.' To a degree, it's working."

Northern Afghanistan's nine provinces, dominated by ethnic minorities who opposed the Taliban, have mostly been peaceful since local forces aided by U.S. support ousted the militia in late 2001. About 5,700 German-led international troops have been overseeing major aid and reconstruction efforts from their headquarters in Kunduz.

The Taliban infiltration into Kunduz and Baghlan began 18 months ago with the return from Pakistan of insurgent leaders who ran the provinces during the Taliban rule of Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan officials said. The establishment of the new NATO supply route may be a factor that drew Taliban from the south.

The Taliban are blamed for the killings of local officials and for one recent unsuccessful attack on former President Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kunduz, and another on a minor presidential candidate, Abdul Salam, a former Taliban commander known as "Mullah Rocketi," in Baghlan-i-Jadid.

The Taliban "have become stronger in the last five to six months," said Gul Agha, who heads Baghlan-i-Jadid's criminal investigation department. "Before, they moved in very small groups. Now they are moving in groups of 30 to 40 and they have a leader of each group. They have a (shadow) governor, district leaders and recruiters."

The senior U.S. intelligence official confirmed that the Taliban have set up "shadow governments," a tactic they've used to exercise control elsewhere in Afghanistan by punishing crimes and settling feuds that usually linger in corrupt, incompetent government institutions and courts.

Agha said that the insurgents "have influence" in all of Baghlan-i-Jadid's 268 villages, nestled amidst lush groves and rice paddies fed by the Southern Salang River, and that the local administration's authority doesn't extend beyond the district center of the same name.

The district shares its northern border with Chahar Dara, which Afghan officials identified as one of the three Kunduz Province districts controlled by the insurgents.

"There is only one mountain between us," said Amir Gul Baghlani, the Baghlan-i-Jadid district chief. "When they are under pressure over there, they come to this side. When they are under pressure here, they cross to the other side. We don't have enough security."

The district has only 90 police officers and has been recruiting and arming tribal militias in an effort to fill the gap, local officials said.

However, several residents charged that the militias, known as arbakai, have become part of the problem.

"These arbakai take food from villagers by force and taxes by force. My relatives went several times to complain to the authorities. When the arbakai found out, they beat my relatives. So they joined the Taliban to keep their prestige and honor," said Mohammad Ghulam, deputy director of the district's agricultural high school. "Now they are fighting the government."

Several U.S. military officials said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the recently installed U.S. commander in Afghanistan, hopes to stem the problem by deploying additional Afghan troops accompanied by U.S. military trainers, an idea that appealed to local officials who fear an influx of American soldiers would fuel violence and bloodshed.

Barekzai, the Baghlan governor, said that he only has about 1,400 police officers and 500 Afghan troops to call on. About 200 Hungarian forces deployed to secure aid projects in are barred from conducting offensive operations.

It isn't too late, however, to neutralize the Taliban presence, but time is running out, he continued.

"Give me resources and more police. The Taliban are like microbes. We need to use a strong antibiotic," he said. "If we don't do it now, then later on, say in six months, it will require more forces, more resources and more weapons and we will probably have more casualties."