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Watch Video: Taliban Leader Mullah Mansoor’s Car in Flames attacked by Drone

President Obama has confirmed the death of the Taliban leader

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https://youtu.be/Kh3C4c9zRb8

May 23, 2016: The ongoing ground preparation for a leadership transition by the insurgent leaders proves the death of Mullah Mansoor in a U.S drone attack. But, this was not officially confirmed or denied by the Afghan Taliban.

In a Pashto-language statement released to pro-Taliban media outlets, a senior member of the group’s so-called Rahbari Shura, or leadership council, has urged Taliban fighters “not to pay attention and desist from drawing conclusions” about the fate of Mansoor in the wake of “self-created” reports.

In the statement, an unnamed council member pointed to what he said were “enormous sacrifices” by the Taliban and added that the movement would not let the enemy divide and weaken the movement.

“The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] will gain strength from the sacrifices of its leaders. All the members and other leaders in the movement think alike and are capable of leading come what may,” he asserted.

Another Taliban official, quoted in a separate statement, said that the movement would not “weaken and deter” even if news of the death of its leader was accurate. The group, he maintained, did not rely on any one individual and was capable of swiftly filling a leadership vacuum.

He asserted that the death of Mansoor, if true, would only boost the Taliban ranks and create additional security challenges for the United States and the Kabul regime.

Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Nicholson reiterated on Tuesday that Mansoor was blocking peace and reconciliation efforts.  “Two days ago we killed Mullah Mansour because he stood in the way of peace,” the general said while speaking in southern Afghan city of Kandahar bordering Pakistan.

Meanwhile, members of the leadership council of the Taliban have reportedly been meeting at an undisclosed location to elect their new leader and an announcement could be expected within the next couple of days.

But the Taliban has so far avoided publicly commenting on any development related to the fate of Mansoor.

Possible Mansoor successors

His two deputies, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Haibatullah as well as Mullah Yaqoob, the elder son of the group’s founder, Mullah Omar, are said to be among the top contenders.

Observers with knowledge of Taliban affairs and even some insurgent sources suggest that Yaqoob, in his late 20s, could be the next Taliban leader.

He is currently commanding military operations in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Some Taliban officials believe Yaqoob’s elevation to the top position could help unify the insurgency and overcome divisions noted since last July when Mansoor took charge after it was confirmed Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years.

President Barack Obama on Monday confirmed that Mansoor was killed in a drone attack on Saturday.

The Taliban leader was traveling in a vehicle in the southwestern Baluchistan province near the Afghan border when the missiles struck him. His driver, identified as Mohammad Azam, was also killed.

The bodies were transported to Quetta, where relatives were handed Azam’s remains in the presence of media. But it it still unclear what has happened to remains of the other body.

Taliban’s silence

Meanwhile, Taliban spokespeople have continuously been sending statements claiming battlefield successes since the U.S announced the killing of Mansoor on Saturday. But they have not responded to queries about the fate of their top leader.

An insurgent spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, assigned to discuss affairs in southern Afghanistan, on Tuesday denied Kabul’s claims that the Taliban’s shadow governor for southern Helmand province and a brother of the group’s late leader, Mullah Omar, were killed in overnight U.S. airstrikes in the area.

Omar’s brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, is also among the Taliban leaders being projected as possible successors for Mansoor.

Afghan commentators and politicians in media interactions have expressed fears the death of Mansoor will lead to more violence and appeared less optimistic about peace talks.

Impact on peace prospects

It put the final nail in attempts to find a political way of out of the Afghan conflict, said Marvin Weinbaum, director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute.

“None of the likely claimants to the Taliban’s helm is likely to join a peace process. Mansour’s death may set off a new leadership struggle, but is unlikely to weaken the insurgency in Afghanistan,” says Weinbaum.

Baluchistan borders western and southern Afghan provinces that are traditionally considered Taliban heartlands.

U.S and Afghan officials have long maintained that Taliban’s leadership council, usually referred to as Quetta Shura, has been operating from the Pakistani province.

“The direct order by President Barack Obama that Mansour be killed makes it clear that the Afghan conflict will be settled on the battlefield, not at a conference table,” Weinbaum.

Islamabad acknowledges presence of Taliban leaders on its side of the border, but blames the long porous frontier with Afghanistan.

Mansoor’s Pakistani passport and travel history, though the documents are under a pseudonym Wali Mohammad, suggest he lived and traveled freely and with impunity within Pakistan and was even allowed to travel abroad through the country’s airports to multiple destinations, including repeated trips to Dubai.

Pakistani officials, however, say an investigation is still underway to determine the identity of the second man killed in the US drone attack.

Several suspects have been detained and authorities in Karachi have raided a residential apartment in the name of Wali Mohammad based on the address in the Pakistani passport and national identification card.

 

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We Will make you Zero To Hero: This is how Jihadist ISIS Lures Western potential Recruits

The Chicago Project on Security and Threats has concluded that ISIS often targets Western recruits with heroic outcomes

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ISIS actively Lures Recruits from the West for its Jihadi Agenda
FILE - Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, north Syria, June 30, 2014. VOA

Beyond the slick, Hollywood-style cinematics, the Islamic State is targeting Western recruits with videos suggesting they, too, can be heroes like Bruce Willis’ character in Die Hard.

That’s the conclusion of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed some 1,400 videos released by IS between 2013 and 2016. Researchers who watched and catalogued them all said there is more to the recruitment effort than just sophisticated videography, and it’s not necessarily all about Islam.

Instead, Robert Pape, who directs the security center, said the extremist group is targeting Westerners — especially recent Muslim converts — with videos that follow, nearly step-by-step, a screenwriter’s standard blueprint for heroic storytelling.

ISIS targets Western recruits with Hollywood style heroism
Islamic State is recruiting Westerns by using Hollywood-style cinematics, like that seen in the story of “Wonder Woman,” in which a character learns his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero. VOA

“It’s the heroic screenplay journey, the same thing that’s in Wonder Woman, where you have someone who is learning his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero,” Pape said.

Heroic storytelling

The project at the University of Chicago separately has assembled a database of people who have been indicted in the United States for activities related to IS. Thirty-six percent were recent converts to Islam and did not come from established Muslim communities, according to the project. Eighty-three percent watched IS videos, the project said.

Bruce Willis in movie Die Hard 4.0
FILE – U.S. actor Bruce Willis poses for the photographers during a photo call for his new movie “Die Hard 4.0” in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2007. VOA

The group’s success in using heroic storytelling is prompting copycats, Pape said. The research shows al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate has been mimicking IS’ heroic narrative approach in its own recruitment films. “We have a pattern that’s emerging,” Pape said.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials aren’t sure the approach is all that new. They say IS has been using any method that works to recruit Westerners. Other terrorism researchers think IS’ message is still firmly rooted in religious extremism.

Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, agrees that IS makes strong, visual appeals resembling Hollywood movies and video games, making its media operation more successful than al-Qaida’s. And IS videos can attract hero wannabes, she said.

“However, these features of IS media are only assets to a core message it uses to recruit,” Katz said. “At the foundation of IS recruitment propaganda is not so much the promise to be a Hollywood-esque hero, but a religious hero. There is a big difference between the two.”

Promise of martyrdom

When a fighter sits in front of a camera and calls for attacks, Katz said, he will likely frame it as revenge for Muslims killed or oppressed somewhere in the world. The message is designed to depict any terror attack in that nation as justified and allow the attacker to die as a martyr, she said.

The promise of religious martyrdom is powerful to anybody regardless of whether they are rich or poor, happy or unhappy, steeped in religion or not at all, she said.

Pape said he knows he’s challenging conventional wisdom when he says Westerners are being coaxed to join IS ranks not because of religious beliefs, but because of the group’s message of personal empowerment and Western concepts of individualism.

How else can one explain Western attackers’ loose connections to Islam, or their scarce knowledge of IS’s strict, conservative Sharia law, he asked. IS is embracing, not rejecting, Western culture and ideals, to mobilize Americans, he said.

“This is a journey like Clint Eastwood,” Pape said, recalling Eastwood’s 1970s performance in High Plains Drifter about a stranger who doles out justice in a corrupt mining town. “When Clint Eastwood goes in to save the town, he’s not doing it because he loves them. He even has contempt for the people he’s saving. He’s saving it because he’s superior,” Pape said.

“That’s Bruce Willis in Die Hard. That’s Wonder Woman. … Hollywood has figured out that’s what puts hundreds of millions in theater seats,” Pape said. “IS has figured out that’s how to get Westerners.”

12-step guide

Pape said the narrative in the recruitment videos targeting westerners closely tracks Chris Vogler’s 12-step guide titled “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.” The book is based on a narrative identified by scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama and other storytelling.

Step No. 1 in Vogler’s guide is portraying a character in his “ordinary world.”

An example is a March 25, 2016, video released by al-Qaida’s Syria branch about a young British man with roots in the Indian community. It starts: “Let us tell you the story of a real man … Abu Basir, as we knew him, came from central London. He was a graduate of law and a teacher by profession.”

Vogler’s ninth step is about how the hero survives death, emerging from battle to begin a transformation, sometimes with a prize.

In the al-Qaida video, the Brit runs through sniper fire in battle. He then lays down his weapon and picks up a pen to start his new vocation blogging and posting Twitter messages for the cause.

‘Zero to hero’

Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it doesn’t surprise him that IS would capitalize on what he dubs the “zero to hero” strategy because the organization is very pragmatic and accepts recruits regardless of their commitment to Islamic extremism.

Heroic aspirations are only one reason for joining the ranks of IS, he said. Criminals also seek the cover of IS to commit crimes. Others sign up because they want to belong to something.

“I’ve never seen a case of radicalization that was 100 percent one way or the other,” Levitt said. (VOA)

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Re-arrest Hafiz Saeed: USA tells Paksitan

Hafiz Saeed was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Justice Department, which has a $10 million reward for his capture or killing. He was released from house arrest before dawn Friday. After being freed, Hafiz has vowed to fight for Kashmir.

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Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistani religious party, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, gestures outside a court in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. A Pakistani court has rejected the government’s plea to extend for three months the house arrest of the former leader of a banned militant group allegedly linked to 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

The United States has issued a statement condemning the release of Hafiz Saeed by Pakistan authorities, the mastermind of Mumbai terrorist attacks and has asked that he be rearrested and charged for his crimes.

Pakistani authorities have released a U.S.-wanted militant cleric who allegedly masterminded the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed 168 people.

On Wednesday, a court in Pakistan rejected the government’s plea to extend the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed for three months and ordered his release, saying the government had failed to substantiate the charges of terrorism.

Saeed was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Justice Department, which has a $10 million reward for his capture or killing. He was released from house arrest before dawn Friday.

Saeed ran the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organization, believed to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that was behind the attack in Mumbai, India.

Pakistan put Saeed and four of his aides under house arrest in Lahore in January following increased U.S. pressure on Islamabad to rein in militant groups. Saeed’s aides were released earlier.

On Thursday, India condemned the decision of the Pakistani court to release Saeed from house arrest.

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‘World’s Oldest’ Buddha Statue Unearthed in Pakistan During Excavations

A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

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Buddha Statue
Buddha Statue is found excavated in Pakistan. Pixabay.

Islamabad, November 17: A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Archaeology And Museums Director Abdul Samad told Dawn News: “The 48-feet-long sleeping Buddha statue dates back to the third century, which makes it the world’s oldest sleeping Buddha statue.”

He said that archaeologists found the statue, with its head intact, during excavations near the Bhamala Stupa.

“We have discovered more than 500 Buddha-related objects during excavations, in addition to the 48-feet long ‘sleeping Buddha’,” he said.

The latest discoveries by the archaeologists have opened new chapters in the history of the ancient Taxila Valley Civilisation.

“This is one of the few sites in the world to have the cruciform Stupa, which was reserved for Buddha himself,” Samad had said. (IANS)