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Monday, 23 February 2009

Report: Kidnapped UNHCR official John Solecki killed in Pakistan


UNHCR official is alive: BLUF
Updated at: 1350 PST, Monday, February 23, 2009

QUETTA: The Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) has denied the reports of making phone call to press club regarding killing of abducted United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) provincial head John Solecki.

The spokesman of BLUF said rumors are false alarm and said that he is still alive and absolutely fine.

Earlier, unknown persons had phoned in Quetta Press Club and claimed that John has been killed and his body will be found after two hours.

However, government and independent sources could not confirm the reports of John’s killing.

John Solecki had kidnapped in Quetta on February 2. An unknown organization Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) had claimed the responsibility of kidnapping.

Unknown persons claimed killing of abducted UNHCR

Updated at: 1300 PST, Monday, February 23, 2009 (The News/Xinhua)

QUETTA: The unknown persons claimed killing of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) provincial head John Solecki.

According to reports, unknown persons phoned in Quetta Press Club on Monday and claimed that John has been killed and his body will be found after two hours.

Another TV channel, Express News, said the phone call was made from Nushki town, roughly 100 kilometers south-west of Quetta near the Afghan border.

A previously unknown group, the Baloch United Liberation Front, had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. There is however a speculation that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or their sister orgnaization Lashkar-e-Jhangavi camouflaged as Baloch nationalists abducted Solecki to terrorize the United Nations and the international community. (The UN has recently committed to institute a commission to probe the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, an investigation which might expose the possible role of the ISI-Taliban alliance.)

It may be noted that Solecki's driver, a Pakistani Shia Muslim was shot dead instead of being left or taken alive.

John Solecki, a US national who led the UN refugee agency's regional office, was kidnapped February 2 by gunmen in the provincial capital, Quetta, while he was on his way to work in a car carrying the UN emblem and registration plates.

However, government and independent sources could not confirm the reports of John’s killing. A UNCHR spokesman did not confirm the report, but said it might be a hoax call.

Also read:

Kidnapping of John Solecki: A joint act of terror engineered by Taliban and ISI, disguised as Baloch nationalists?



Quetta: UNHCR senior official kidnapped, Shia driver killed



US worried about ‘Taliban shelters in Quetta’

* NYT says Taliban operations in Quetta different from FATA
* Intelligence officials say Afghan troop surge futile unless Taliban supply lines from Quetta are cut

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: There is growing concern among US officials, even as CIA drones pound targets in FATA, about alleged Taliban havens in Balochistan, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Americans are increasingly focusing on Quetta, from where Taliban leaders are alleged to stir violence in Afghanistan. Taliban operations in Quetta are different from operations in the Tribal Areas. As the United States prepares to pour as many as 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, military and intelligence officials say the effort could be futile unless there is a concerted effort to kill or capture Taliban leaders in Quetta to cut the group’s supply lines into Afghanistan.

Afghan and US commanders have long said Taliban leaders, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, guide commanders in southern Afghanistan from the city. “When their leadership is where you cannot get to them, it becomes difficult,” said Gen Dan K McNeill, who until June was the senior American commander in Afghanistan and recently retired. “You are restrained from doing what you want to do.”

Quetta is close to the provinces in southern Afghanistan where the war’s fiercest fighting has occurred. American intelligence officials said that the dozen or so militants who were thought to make up the Taliban leadership in the area were believed to be hiding either in Afghan refugee camps near Quetta or in some of the city’s Afghan neighbourhoods.

One former intelligence official with years of experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan likened the situation to America’s difficulties during the Vietnam War, when Vietnamese guerrillas used a haven in Cambodia. For the past year, the top American goal in Pakistan has been to press Islamabad for help elsewhere – in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

But NATO generals and diplomats have long complained that the command and control of Taliban fighters, distinct from Al Qaeda insurgents, may lie in southern Pakistan, and that Pakistani security services ignore the threat. “We’ve made progress going into the Tribal Areas and Northwest Frontier Province against Al Qaeda, but ... not ... against the Quetta shura,” said a senior Obama administration official.

Some current and former American intelligence officials are sympathetic to difficulties that the government in Islamabad faces in rounding up Taliban leaders. Balochistan has long been an area hostile to government control, and even Pakistani spies have difficulty building a network of sources there, they said.

The influence of the Taliban leadership over operations on the ground in Afghanistan is a matter of some debate among analysts.

“The Quetta shura is extremely important,” said Lt Gen David W Barno, a retired former commander of American forces in Afghanistan who is advising General Petraeus on a strategic review of this region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. “They are the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of the Taliban insurgency.”

But Gen David D McKiernan, currently the top military commander in Afghanistan, said in a speech in Washington in November that any assessment that said the Quetta shura’s dictates were closely followed by field commanders “gives the Taliban far too much credit for coherency at the operational and strategic level.”

“They don’t have that,” the general added.

Still, diminishing the Taliban leadership in Quetta and weakening its influence over Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan might also open the way to engaging more moderate Taliban politically. “The challenge has always been to exploit some cleavages between the top leadership, which we’ve ruled out of bounds in terms of reconciliation, and the layers one or two layers beneath them,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In May 2007, Pakistani operatives tracked Mullah Dadullah as he crossed the Afghan border. He was later killed by American and Afghan troops. But most of the arrests in Pakistan have coincided with visits by senior American officials. The arrest of Mullah Obeidullah, the former Taliban defence minister, in February 2007 coincided with the visit of former US vice president Dick Cheney. It is unclear whether he is still in custody or was secretly released as part of a prisoner exchange to free Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, kidnapped last February and released three months later.

Mullah Rahim, the top Taliban commander in Helmand, was arrested two weeks after Admiral Mike Mullen and a top CIA officer visited Islamabad. But an American intelligence official said last week he was no longer in custody. “The dilemma at the moment,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism analyst at the RAND Corporation, “is that some elements of the Pakistani government continue to support the Taliban as a proxy organisation in Afghanistan.” (Daily Times)

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