Afghan prison break an ‘inside job,’ say lawmakers

Afghan security officials inspect seized weapons near a damaged residential house from where a group of Daesh gunmen were firing mortar shells. (AFP)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Afghan prison break an ‘inside job,’ say lawmakers

  • Commando-style attack helped hundreds of inmates to escape

KABUL: Several provincial Daesh leaders were among hundreds of inmates who escaped from a prison in eastern Afghanistan two days ago after the militant group stormed the facility in a commando-style attack, officials and lawmakers said Tuesday, amid claims that the jailbreak was an inside job.

“There are no precise figures for the number of the escapees, but we believe that 170 inmates, such as Taliban, Daesh and criminal prisoners have fled,” Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor, told Arab News.
Sunday’s attack on the prison in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar, was the first major one by Daesh since its emergence in Afghanistan in 2014 and resulted in the deaths of 25 people.
Lawmakers believed that the dramatic jailbreak, which began with a car bomb explosion at the prison entrance that allowed at least 10 assailants to enter the compound and exchange fire with guards, was an “inside job.”
“It was not an ordinary attack. It was pre-planned and an organized one,” Ajmal Omar, deputy chief for Nangarhar’s provincial council told Arab News. “Daesh without inside help could not have conducted it.”
He added that Daesh, which has no power base like the Taliban, could not have carried out the “brazen and complex attack” and gave details of the strike.
“They blew a car full of explosives at the gate of the prison and, at the same time, there was a powerful explosion inside the prison near a wall that was under construction. Daesh had managed to bring in explosives and arms for days before the attack,” he said.
According to Omar what followed was an exchange of fire that “raged within one block of the prison” while “hundreds of prisoners managed to flee through parts of the wall which had collapsed from the blast” at the back.
“Then Daesh prisoners sat in rickshaws and cars that were already brought outside the compound of the prison, but the government re-arrested hundreds of other prisoners such as those on charges of criminal acts and Taliban militants because they were fleeing on foot,” he added.
But Tariq Aryan, an Interior Ministry spokesman, denied the claims when contacted by Arab News and said: “The issues require all-sided elucidation and assessment.”
The jailbreak took place despite claims by the government that most of Daesh’s leaders had either been killed or arrested in recent years in operations by local and US-led troops.
Abdul Rauf Shpoon, a legislator from Nangarhar, visited a prison block after the attack and found that only four inmates out of 404 were absent.
“Their (Daesh) important individuals managed to flee,” he told Arab News. “It was a complex attack. There was negligence, there was inside help. It was a total security failure.” According to reports, he said, Daesh attackers once inside the jail began asking about the identity of inmates and “shot dead some Taliban prisoners and allowed their comrades to escape.”
Daesh and the Taliban have been at loggerheads for years, with the latter considering the group as alien to Afghan culture and challenging their “understanding of Islamic values.”
Lailuma Hokmi, another MP from Nangarhar, said authorities had yet to reveal the identity of the prisoners and called for speedy measures to be taken.
“The head of prison and intelligence should be grilled as to why there was such a major security and intelligence failure,” she told Arab News.
Social media users, citing a purported Daesh spokesman named Sultan Aziz Azzam, said that 280 of the group’s members had fled in the attack.
One Twitter user named Ab. Sayed (@abdsayedd), who describes himself as a researcher, said: “ISKP media outlet released a 20 min audio where the group spokesman Sultan Aziz Azzam provides details of the group’s deadliest attack on the central prison in Nangarhar carried on 2/8. For the 1st time, ISKP quickly released a claim of an attack with a detailed description.”
Zabihullah Pakteen, an analyst and former journalist, attributed the attack to “sheer negligence.”
“It’s sheer negligence or inside help – both amounted to the prison break,” he told Arab News. “It is corruption either way.”

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”