Sufi scholar, 5 others killed in Dagestan suicide bomb attack

Updated 31 August 2012
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Sufi scholar, 5 others killed in Dagestan suicide bomb attack

MOSCOW: A female suicide bomber posing as a Muslim pilgrim killed a leading Islamic scholar and at least five others on a night of heavy violence in Russia’s restive Muslim region of Dagestan.
The attack was reported just as President Vladimir Putin began delivering a keynote address devoted to an assassination attempt last month against another top moderate cleric in a different republic that killed his former deputy.
The rapid succession of assassination is likely to set off alarms in the Kremlin amid signs that its strategy of winning over the North Caucasus by backing less radical forces is coming under direct militant attack.
Dagestan’s interior ministry said Tuesday’s attack claimed the life of one of the Caspian Sea region’s most respected religious leaders who had worked for most of his life against the rise of radical Islam.
Its official statement said a woman “posing as a pilgrim” walked into the home of Sheikh Said Afandi and detonated a suicide belt.
The federal Investigative Committee said Afandi was one of seven people instantly killed by the bomber.
“The woman’s identity is now being established,” the Investigative Committee said in its own statement.
The scholar is a Dagestani native who was born in 1937 and had studied Islam in the Soviet era before establishing warm relations with the current Russian authorities.
The latest high-profile slaying occurred just weeks after militants claimed a car bombing and shooting in the main Muslim region of Tatarstan — held up as an example of religious tolerance — that targeted its own religious leaders.
The Tatarstan clerics and Afandi were all Sufis who promoted a form of cooperation with the authorities, having strongly backed Putin before.
The first attack prompted the Russian strongman to call an emergency security meeting just two months into his new term as president and then deliver a series of big speeches preaching inter-ethnic peace.
Putin flew to Tatarstan on Tuesday to deliver some more prepared remarks on the dangers of separatist sentiment and the strength of a unified Russia.
But his message aired on national television just as the first reports of the Dagestan blast filtered in through Russian news agencies.
Putin never referred to Dagestan directly while vowing that “you cannot defeat the united, multi-ethnic and powerful Russian people.”
“We have truth and justice on our side — and millions of people,” he said in the emotional appeal.
“And these are people who are not afraid, who cannot be frightened, and who know the value of peace.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
But it came just days after Russia’s most feared Islamist commander — the long-wanted warlord Doku Umarov of the Caucasus Emirate group — appointed two new top deputies in charge of Dagestan.
One was a new field commander directly responsible for orchestrating attacks against both Russian state and security targets as well as those who promote more tolerant Muslim religious views.
Russian authorities, meanwhile, said they suspected that a border guard who killed seven of his fellow servicemen at a Dagestani outpost earlier in the day before being shot dead himself may have had ties to the militant movement.
“According to preliminary information, the border guard who opened fire on his colleagues had been recruited by the bandits,” Interfax quoted a local security source as saying.
The unnamed soldier shot dead two soldiers guarding the barracks of an outpost near the coastal Caspian Sea city of Derbent before entering the building and killing five more people.


Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018
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Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

  • Trilateral talks also focused on boosting trust and security between the three countries
  • FM Qureshi extends the olive branch for a new chapter with Kabul

KABUL: Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China held a trilateral meeting in Kabul on Saturday where they discussed measures to boost political trust and join hands for a regional war against militancy which would facilitate the Afghan peace process, even as Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

The meeting was the second one to take place after Beijing had initiated the talks in December last year in order to ease the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad whose relationship is highly critical for Beijing’s growing economic and political clout in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, China has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan and is actively using its influence to bring the two South Asian neighbors closer.

Pakistan has long been accused by Afghanistan and the US of providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban leaders, by funding and arming them since their ouster in late 2001.

Islamabad has denied the allegations.

After the meeting on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed for a new chapter with Afghanistan, adding that the ongoing blame game would not help in achieving peace or building trust between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said that the Daesh and militants from Central Asia and eastern China were against the peace process in Afghanistan, urging for joint efforts to tackle the extremism.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan. Let us not stick to the past and stop pointing a finger on Pakistan… I came here to build trust and bridges and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” Qureshi told a news conference.

The three countries signed an agreement pushing for joint efforts in the war against militancy with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, saying that the coming weeks and months will be highly crucial in evaluating Pakistan’s intentions and its role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Officials from both Afghanistan and Pakistan have held a number of meetings in recent years to mend bilateral ties and work towards measures to fight militancy. However, those talks were an exercise in futility as they were followed by the two countries trading accusations and resorting to the blame game. Rabbani said that “the time has come (for Pakistan) to practically show with genuine steps” that it will fulfill its pledges.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described both Afghanistan and Pakistan as its strategic partners, adding that China had great political trust in the two. He asked both the countries to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner and backed the US’ efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, urging the militant group to get involved in the process. 

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process. Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China is important to bring peace to Afghanistan.” 

The three sides emphasized the importance of regional connectivity and economic development between them. 

Saturday’s meeting took place at a time when Washington is stepping up its efforts to hold talks with the Taliban by meeting with regional powers on how to end the US war in Afghanistan which began more than 17 years ago.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday’s agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

However, at the same time, he was optimistic about positive results, reasoning that the situation had changed when compared to the past with the US increasing its efforts for talks with the Taliban.

“Such meetings can be helpful in mending ties between the countries and in helping them come closer to achieving a peace plan,” he told Arab News.