Ex-CIA contractor says Pakistan’s leaders helped him escape murder charges

Raymond Allen DavisA former contractor for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who was released from a Pakistani prison in 2011 despite being implicated in a double murder there, says he was freed with the help of senior Pakistani officials. Raymond Allen Davis was a CIA contractor posted in the US consulate in Pakistan’s Punjabi capital, Lahore, which is also the country’s second-largest city. It has been suggested that, for a while, Davis was the CIA’s acting station chief in Lahore, thus technically the most senior American intelligence officer in Punjab.

On January 27, 2011, while driving in downtown Lahore, Davis opened fire against two men riding on a motorcycle, killing them instantly. Soon after the incident, Davis appears to have contacted the US consulate in Lahore, which rapidly dispatched a consular vehicle to remove him from the scene of the shooting. However, the vehicle was unable to reach Davis, who was surrounded by an angry crowd. Unable to pick up Davis, the car then returned to the consulate after running down and killing a motorcyclist who was unconnected with the earlier incident. Eventually Davis was arrested and charged with double murder and illegal possession of a firearm. The Pakistani government dismissed Washington’s assertion that Davis was an accredited diplomat, and was thus not subject to Pakistan’s legal system because of his diplomatic immunity. With public opinion in Pakistan heavily against Davis, the case sparked a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Islamabad. Unexpectedly, however, Davis was released in March of the same year, after the families of the two men he killed appeared in court and said they forgave him and wanted him to be pardoned. It later emerged that the families of the murdered men had been given a total of $2.4 million as compensation for their deaths.

Read more of this post

Advertisements

Crisis looms over Pakistan’s impending execution of alleged Indian spy

Kulbhushan JadhavAnalysts warn that South Asia may witness its worst crisis since the 2008 Mumbai attacks if Pakistan carries out its threat to execute an Indian former naval officer whom it accuses of espionage. Authorities in Islamabad say Kulbhushan Jadhav (pictured) worked for the Indian Navy until 2003, when he was recruited by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), a government intelligence agency that conducts operations abroad. The Pakistanis claim that Jadhav was arrested in southwest Pakistan in 2016, where he was engaged in funding and training secessionist militants from Pakistan’s Baluch minority. The Baluch are an Iranic people, most of whom live in a region known as Baluchistan, which is split between Iran and Pakistan. There are populous Baluch communities in the southern city of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s most populous ports. Some members of the Baluch community have secessionist aspirations and are accused of terrorism by Iranian and Pakistani authorities.

Soon after Jadhav’s arrest in March 2016, the Pakistani military released excerpts of an alleged videotaped confession by the Indian former naval officer. In it, Jadhav can be seen confessing to having worked on instructions by the Indian government to inflame ethnic divisions in Pakistan, from 2013 until his arrest. Last month, a secret military court in Pakistan sentenced Jadhav to death on charges of espionage. India, however, has rejected Pakistan’s allegations, saying that Jadhav’s confession was extracted through torture. The Indians claim that Jadhav was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives in Iran and brought to Pakistan by force. Indian officials dismissed Islamabad’s claim Jadhav was carrying his Indian passport when the Pakistanis captured him, saying that no undercover intelligence officer operating abroad would be carrying an Indian passport. New Delhi has warned of “serious consequences” if Pakistan engages in “premeditated murder” by executing Jadhav.

Some observers have noted that Jadhav was tried by a secret court martial, which signifies a radical break from standard practice. Moreover, the public announcements about his fate were made by the Pakistani military, rather than the civilian government, which is unprecedented. This leads some analysts to the conclusion that the Jadhav case is being handled solely by the military, which is trying to use Jadhav’s case to dissuade the government in Islamabad from reaching out to India with an offer for negotiations. There are also suggestions that the timing of Jadhav’s sentence might indicate that Islamabad hopes to exchange him for one or more of its intelligence officers that are being held by India.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 April 2017 | Permalink

Pakistani doctor who helped CIA find bin Laden will stay in jail, says Islamabad

Dr Shakil Afridi

A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 2011 will remain in prison, despite calls by Washington to have him released, according to a government official in Islamabad. Dr Shakil Afridi was arrested in 2011, soon after bin Laden was killed during a Central Intelligence Agency operation in a residential compound in the city of Abbottabad, located 70 miles north of the Pakistani capital. In the weeks following the CIA raid, it emerged that a team of local doctors and nurses had helped the American agency in its efforts to confirm bin Laden’s presence in the compound. The team of nearly 20 healthcare workers participated in a fake vaccination scheme carried out in Abbottabad, whose true purpose was to collect DNA samples from residents of the compound where the CIA believed bin Laden was hiding.

In February 2012, the then CIA Director, Leon Panetta, publicly admitted that the vaccination scheme had been funded by the CIA. By that time, Pakistani authorities had fired 17 healthcare workers who had participated in the CIA scheme and arrested its head, Dr. Afridi. Prior to his arrest, Dr. Afridi was employed as a surgeon by the government of the Khyber Agency, a Federally Administrated Tribal Area along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Bizarrely, Dr. Afridi was arrested for having alleged links with an Islamist group that operates in the region, known as Lashkar-e-Islam. In 2012, he was given a 33-year sentence for having links with terrorist groups. When his conviction was quashed in 2013, the doctor was ordered to remain in prison, and faced new charges, this time for alleged medical malpractice, which, according to the prosecution, resulted in the death of one of his patients.

Many American officials believe that the real reason for Dr. Afridi’s arrest is his collaboration with the CIA. In May of last year, Donald Trump said that, if elected US president, he would make Pakistan free Dr. Afridi, saying characteristically that he could achieve that “within two minutes”. But his comments prompted a strong response from Islamabad. On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid, reiterated that Dr. Afridi would not be freed just because Washington wishes it. Speaking in response to a question from a member of the Pakistani Parliament’s upper house, Hamid said that Dr. Afridi “worked against [Pakistani] law and our national interest” and would face a trial, as planned, despite Trump’s pre-election pledge. There was no comment yesterday from the US president-elect’s team.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 January 2017 | Permalink

Pakistani man sought out assassination targets for Iran, says Germany

Reinhold RobbeAuthorities in Germany have pressed espionage charges against a Pakistani man who allegedly spied for Iran and even compiled lists of potential targets for assassination. The man, who has been identified in media reports only as “Syed Mustafa H.”, is a 31-year-old worker at the German Aerospace Center in the northern German city of Bremen. He is also reportedly a graduate of the Materials Science and Production Engineering department of the Universität Bremen. According to court documents, he is believed to have been spying for Iranian intelligence since the summer of 2015. It appears that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, had been aware of the man’s espionage activities for at least a year prior to his arrest.

German media, including the newspapers Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit, as well as public broadcasters Taggesschau, WDR and NDR, report that Syed Mustafa H.’s main task was to compile lists of potential assassination targets. These included prominent Jews or German-Israelis living in northern Germany. Among them was Reinhold Robbe, a politician with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), who served for a number of years as president of the German-Israeli Congress (DIG). According to reports, the Pakistani spy had compiled detailed maps of Robbe’s daily movements, which outlined his travel routines and the routes he took from his home to the DIG headquarters in Berlin. German officials believe that the type of surveillance that Syed Mustafa H. carried out against Robbe indisputably leads to the conclusion that the politician’s assassination was being planned.

Reports in the German media suggest that Syed Mustafa H.’s work was a small part of a much broader operation by Iranian intelligence. The operation aims to identify prominent individuals throughout Europe, who have Israeli connections. These individuals can be targeted during a future conflagration between Israel and Iran, or in retaliation to an Israeli intelligence operation against Tehran. If Syed Mustafa H. is found guilty of targeting Robbe, it will mark the first proven case of a German political figure who has been targeted for possible assassination by an Iranian intelligence agency.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 January 2017 | Permalink

New director appointed to head Pakistan’s all-powerful intelligence agency

 Lt. Gen. Naveed MukhtarA new director, with considerable experience in counterterrorism, has been appointed to lead Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), believed by some to be one of the most powerful spy agencies in the world. Pakistan’s Ministry of Defense announced on Sunday that Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar will be replacing Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar, who has led the ISI since November of 2014. The appointment of Gen. Mukhtar comes less than a month after a major change of leadership in the Pakistani military, which saw the appointment of General Javed Qamar Bajwa as the new Chief of Army Staff. It is believed that the appointment of the new ISI director represents a personal choice of the newly appointed Gen. Bajwa.

Both the outgoing and incoming directors of the ISI are from the same generation of military officers, having been commissioned in 1982 and 1983 respectively. Both attended Pakistan’s prestigious National Defense University and earned graduate degrees at the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania. But while Gen. Akhtar specializes in counterinsurgency, and spent much of his career in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, his successor, Gen. Mukhtar, has a background in intelligence with a focus on counterterrorism. Although he most recently served in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and most populous metropolitan center, Gen. Mukhtar made his mark in the military by leading the ISI’s counterterrorism branch in the capital Islamabad. It is said, therefore, that his appointment to the directorship of the ISI may signal a turn away from running Taliban agents in Afghanistan, for which the ISI is notorious, and concentrating instead of combatting militant groups at home.

The change in the ISI’s leadership comes at a particularly complicated period in Pakistani security. The country’s relations with its neighbor and arch-nemesis India are experiencing a major crisis following the so-called ‘summer of unrest’ in Kashmir. The term refers to a period of tension between the two countries, sparked by popular unrest and violent protests by the predominantly Muslim inhabitants of the Indian-administered region of Jammu and Kashmir. The region remained under a military curfew for nearly two months, during which nearly 100 people died and over 15,000 were injured. There are some in Islamabad who believe that Gen. Akhtar was removed from the ISI because he failed to contain the unrest in Kashmir. He has now been appointed president of Pakistan’s National Defense University in Islamabad.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 December 2016 | Permalink

India and Pakistan recall diplomats accused of espionage

Pakistani embassy in IndiaIndia is in the process of recalling eight of its diplomats from Pakistan, after their names and photographs were published in Pakistani newspapers with accusations that they are intelligence officers. According to anonymous sources in the government of Pakistan, three of the eight recalled diplomats have already left Islamabad for New Delhi. Five more are expected to leave the country before the end of the week. The three who left Pakistan yesterday were identified in the Pakistani media as Madhavan Nanda, Vijay Kumar Verma and Anurag Singh. Pakistani media said earlier this week that the three are “undercover agents”, suggesting that they are intelligence officers posted in India under diplomatic cover.

The eight Indian diplomats were recalled less than a week after Pakistan withdrew six of its diplomats from its embassy in New Delhi. Their names were released to the Indian media by the country’s intelligence services, following the arrest of Mahmood Akhtar, a Pakistani diplomat who was detained by Indian authorities, allegedly while committing espionage. Indian authorities said Akhtar admitted he was an intelligence officer under interrogation, and identified five more Pakistani diplomats as undercover intelligence operatives. All six were accused of espionage by New Delhi, declared persona non grata (unwanted persons) and were ordered to leave the country. Observers see the recent outing of the Indian diplomats in the Pakistani media as a tit-for-tat response by Islamabad.

Interestingly, none of the eight Indian diplomats were officially declared persona non grata by Pakistani authorities. But the publication of their names and photographs in the Pakistani media were sufficient to prompt the Indian government to recall them back to New Delhi. Tensions between the two neighboring countries have been rising in recent months, mostly over ethnic and religious tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir, which belongs to India but is populated primarily by Muslims. On Tuesday, one Indian soldier and thee Pakistani civilians were killed on both sides of the border, after fire was exchanged between warring sides.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 November 2016 | Permalink

Late Taliban leader’s regular trips to Iran helped US spies track him down

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad MansourFrequent trips to Iran caused the demise of the late leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who was killed in a secret American operation on May 21. The death of Mansour, who had led the Afghan Taliban since July 2015, when he succeeded Mullah Mohammad Omar, was announced by the Taliban on May 26. Early reports stated that Mansour was killed while traveling to the Pakistani city of Quetta from Iran. He is believed to have been visiting family or seeking medical treatment in Iran, which he appears to have entered using a forged passport.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the United States found out in February that Mansour made regular trips to Iran, as well as the precise route that the Taliban leader took to enter the country. American intelligence agencies also received “details about the devices [Mansour] used for communications” while in Iran. They then intercepted communications from Iran that matched Mansour’s electronic signature and followed these signals across the border into Pakistan. The Taliban leader entered Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Saturday, May 21. Once in Pakistan, Mansour entered a Toyota Corolla, believed to be a taxi, and made his way through the N-40 National Highway, heading to Quetta.

The Journal report states that the Taliban were aware that Baluchistan’s airspace is outside the Central Intelligence Agency drones’ operational area, and thus “felt more comfortable there”. Indeed, the paper claims that no CIA drones were actively targeting Mansour at the time. However, US President Barack Obama had given ordered the Joint Special Operations Command to have the Taliban leader killed. Reaper drones were deployed to launch two Hellfire missiles at Mansour’s car, which was totaled, killing the Taliban commander and his driver. According to the Journal, the White House had decided to ambush Mansour before he entered the city of Quetta, in order to prevent civilian casualties. After firing at it, the American drones hovered over the remains of Mansour’s vehicle to ensure that there were no survivors, before exiting Pakistani airspace.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 30 May 2016 | Permalink