LASHKAR-E-ISLAM LEADER TERRORIZES KHYBER AGENCY
Mangal Bagh, the warlord-leader of the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) has been putting fear into the residents of Khyber Agency, one of the seven constituent regions comprising the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) wedged between eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province (see Militant Leadership Monitor, August 2011). Bagh’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law has forced an outflow from the agency by those fleeing Bagh’s wrath (Reuters, October 27). Khyber residents fled the area in 2008 in the wake of a Pakistan Army operation that sought to secure the region to make it safe for NATO supply lines headed toward troops in Kabul and Bagram beyond. Today, not only is it deemed too insecure of a region for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to, but new IDPs are also joining them in the sprawling, fetid Jalozai refugee camp originally set up to temporarily house Afghan nationals escaping the scorched earth tactics of the Red Army in the 1980s and marauding bands of mujahideen. Jaolozai camp is now housing tens of thousands of people from Khyber. An anonymous resident of the worst affected area, Bara tehsil (district) recounted to a Pakistani daily some of Bagh’s methods for exerting his power which include extortion of local businessmen and kidnapping for ransom as they roam the area hindered with heavy arms (The Nation [Lahore], October 27). Bagh is so feared among Jalozai’s IDP population that it has been reported mothers in the camp portray him as a real world boogeyman in telling their children that should they misbehave, Bagh will kidnap them (Dawn, October 11).
Pakistani security forces, including tank-wielding Frontier Corps (FC), began moving into Khyber to battle Bagh’s militia after deadly clashes claimed casualties on both sides. Bagh’s reign is tightest over the areas of Malikdeenkhel, Sipah, Akhakhel and Qambarkhel (Daily Times [Lahore], October 22). Terrified residents of the worst affected areas of the agency reportedly pleaded for help in cleansing their hamlets of Bagh’s militants. As Pakistani forces move into the Bara tehsil to engage Bagh, officials in the nearby provincial capital of Peshawar are wary of reprisal attacks by LeI operatives active in the city. Commenting on a recent bomb blast in the city, Peshawar’s police chief Imtiaz Altaf was quoted as stating he believed it was likely related to the government push into Bara (AFP, October 27). The conflict in Khyber contains an international dimension as it is a key land route for supplies to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has tried to apply pressure on Islamabad to tackle the persistent militancy crippling the border region. As Pakistani troops moved into Bara, IDPs began streaming out in the opposite direction. Pakistani nationalist politicians believe American policy toward Pakistan a highly hypocritical one as they highlight the ongoing talk of American negotiations with the Afghan Taliban while Pakistan is being asked by its superpower sponsor to attempt to destroy outfits like LeI militarily rather than reach an accommodation through non-violent dialogue.
NIGERIAN DELTA MILITANT LEADER SEEKS VENGEANCE FOR DEATH OF QADDAFI
Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), viewed the death of his former sponsor as a martyrdom that needed to be avenged. In reaction to the killing of Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi, in as yet unclear circumstances in the besieged city of Sirte, Dokubo-Asari lashed out: “Qaddafi spilled his blood as a martyr to rekindle the fire of revolution all over the world…Those who murdered him will not go scot-free” (AFP, October 21, 2011). Although Dokubo-Asari is prone to make provocative statements to the media in Nigeria, his sentiments appear to be reflecting of a widely held view of the late Libyan leader as an indispensible patron to many in sub-Saharan Africa over the decades. Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, a one-time governor of Kaduna State, made common cause with Dokubo-Asari and said Nigerians must be very cautious in the aftermath of the fall of the Libyan regime: “The world is being re-colonized by America and NATO…The next target is Nigeria” (The Sun News Online [Lagos], October 22, 2011). Several prominent Nigerian politicians said that Qaddafi was an excellent leader from whose generous largesse his neighbors to the south benefitted from and that his key strategic error was simply staying “in office” too long.
Dokubo-Asari, who admitted to being financed by Qaddafi for a time, stated—albeit in a more assertive tone—what many state actors all over the African continent believe. It is commonly held that rather than being an elderly tyrant vilified by the Libyan people, Qaddafi was in fact a victim of Western engineered neo-imperialism. Robert Mugabe’s spokesman George Charambo described that regime’s ties with Tripoli dating back to the decolonization of Ian Smith’s white minority-ruled Rhodesia and its transformation into Mugabe’s Zimbabwe in 1980. According to Charambo: “The relationship between Zimbabwe and Libya dates back to and is rooted in the days of the liberation struggle when thousands of liberation war fighters went to the North African country for military training… We have very senior officers in government who went to that country for further military training” (New Zimbabwe, October 24, 2011).
Though Mujahid Dokubo-Asari’s NDPVF has been a fairly dormant movement since the election of President Goodluck Jonathan, who originates from the Delta region, Dokubo-Asari is not above making bellicose statements while in a current entente with Abuja. The Jonathan government has been grappling with the spike in violence brought by the Islamist Boko Haram movement while trying to bring Delta militants into the tent. Not wanting to fight the north and south insurgencies simultaneously, the Nigerian president reportedly hosted Dokubo-Asari at his residence in the capital along with several other Delta militant figures (The Neighborhood [Port Harcourt], September 5, 2011). Dokubo-Asari claimed that the fight being waged by Boko Haram in northern and central Nigeria was virtually identical in nature to the struggle being waged by the militants of his native Delta. He said the United States advocated regime change in Libya and Syria because they were “anti-Zionist” states whose stances threatened Israeli security which the United States considers of paramount importance (The Sun News Online [Lagos], October 23, 2011). When the elected government currently in office in Abuja eventually changes, there is no guarantee that Mujahid Dokubo-Asari will not return to armed struggle as it is unlikely he will view the status quo for people of the Niger Delta to have significantly improved. One thing remains certain, with the death of Qaddafi, Dokubo-Asari has lost both a mentor and benefactor.