Iran arrests most wanted man after police board civilian flight
Iran forced down a civilian airliner on Tuesday to arrest the leader of a terrorist group it claims is backed by Britain, Israel and the United States.
By Richard Spencer in Dubai, Andrew Osborn in Moscow and Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
23 Feb 2010
Abdol Malek Rigi, Iran's most wanted man, was shown by television cameras being hauled off a jet in handcuffs by four men wearing balaclavas.
Officials were vague about the details of the arrest, but state media said Rigi had been on board a flight from Dubai to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, after visiting a US military base in Afghanistan.
Bishkek airport confirmed that Kyrgyzstan Airways flight QH454 from Dubai had arrived several hours late yesterday after being told to land by Iran.
Iran's intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, claimed that Rigi, the leader of the Sunni terror group Jundullah, had been at the US base 24 hours before his arrest.
At a dramatic press conference he flourished a photograph which he said showed Rigi outside the base with two other men, though he gave no details of where the base was, or how or when the photograph was obtained.
The photograph itself gave no clues as to the location. Photographs were also shown of an Afghan passport and identity card said to have been given by the Americans to Rigi.
Mr Moslehi also alleged that Rigi had met the then Nato secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, in Afghanistan in 2008, and had visited European countries.
He said agents had tracked Rigi's movements for five months, calling his arrest "a great defeat for the US and UK".
Iran has repeatedly claimed that Jundullah, which has carried out a series of bombings in support of demands for better treatment for the border region of Balochistan, is backed directly by Pakistan but also by Britain, Israel and America.
It has also been alleged by western media, including The Sunday Telegraph, that in 2007 CIA provided funding and weapons to Jundullah.
The group's most serious attack, in October last year, killed two generals of the Revolutionary Guard along with more than 40 of their men and tribal chiefs whom they were meeting in a town in Balochistan near the border with Pakistan.
Previously, it blew up a Shia mosque killing 25 people in May, following which 18 members of the group were executed. Rigi's brother, Abdol Hamid Rigi, was reprieved at the last moment after agreeing to give evidence against his brother, who he said had received money from the United States.
According to one report yesterday, Rigi was arrested "outside the country", according to another, in Pakistan. A third version said the plane landed in Sistan-Balochistan itself.
Pakistan is said to have been co-operating with Iran recently in arresting Jundullah members.
"This is another disgrace for countries who claim human rights," the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said.
American involvement was denied by a US official. "This is of course a totally bogus accusation," the official said. A Foreign Office spokesman said it did not comment on intelligence matters.
A spokesman for Nato "flatly denied" that any meeting had taken place between Mr Scheffer and Rigi, although Mr Scheffer did visit Afghanistan in 2008.
Asked whether Rigi could have met an ISAF officer, the spokesman said: "It is the first I have ever heard of any Nato officials meeting people like that."
The Iranian operation is another example of foreign intelligence agents using Dubai's open border policy to follow a "target", shortly after the assassination in the emirate of a senior Hamas official.
Dubai has long had close ties to Iran, but has been under considerable pressure to rein them in. There was a hint of Iran's annoyance at this change of policy in Mr Moslehi's press conference.
"He was arrested on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan," Mr Moslehi said. "It is such a scandal for Dubai in this incident, which shows that the Zionist regime, by using the US and Europe, is seeking to turn the region into a haven for terrorists.
"This scandal cannot be covered up."
February 24-25, 2010
By Wayne Madsen
Playing three card monte with airplanes
The February 23 capture by Iran of the CIA-backed Jundallah Baluchi terrorist leader Abdolmalek Rigi when his plane was forced to land in Bandar Abbas airport in Iran is raising more questions about the role of Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan in the operation.
Published news reports appear to be exercises in disinformation by the western corporate media and the Iranian and Pakistani media. At least two planes appear to have been involved in the Iranian capture of Rigi and some of his associates.
A story was floated by the neocon-oriented Daily Telegraph of the UK on February 24 that indicated that Rigi was forced off a Kyrgyzstan Airways flight from Dubai to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The flight was said to have carried 119 passengers, including Rigi, when Iranian agents on board forced the plane to land at Bandar Abbas, Iran, where Rigi was taken into custody by four masked elite troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (see below). However, the photograph shopped around by the media, including the Iranian media, shows Rigi being taken off a plane that is much smaller than the Kyrgyzstan flight QH454 that normally flies the route between Dubai and Bishkek. The small plane pictured below resembles a small jet, possibly a Lear or Dassault Falcon. KYRGYZSTAN's fleet includes 3 Antonov AN-24s, 1 Tupolev TU-134a, and 2 Yakovlev YAK-40s.
The "QH" flight designator is for KYRGYZSTAN, not "Kyrgyzstan Airlines" as reported by the Telegraph. There is another airline, "Kyrgyzstan Airlines, that flies from Islamabad, Pakistan to Bishkek but it does not fly to Dubai as does KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyzstan Airlines uses the flight designator of "R8." Kyrgyzstan Airlines' fleet consists of two Airbuses, six Antonovs, one Boeing 737, five Tupolevs, one Ilyushin IL-76TD, and two Yakovlevs.
There is also an aircraft marking difference between the small plane from which Rigi is removed and KYRGYZSTAN. The small plane bears blue, white, and red striping while KYRGYZSTAN planes bear a solid red stripe (see far below).
The mystery of how Rigi was captured remains murky with even DebkaFile of Israel, seen as close to the Mossad, unable to report more than the following: "The sparse details filtering through from Dubai and Tehran by Wednesday morning, Feb. 24, indicate that Abdol Malek Rigi boarded Kyrgyzstan Airways flight QH454 bound from Dubai for Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday. He was not traveling with bodyguards. A group of Iranian special operatives were among the 119 passengers. The flight was intercepted as soon as it crossed into Iranian airspace near Bandar Abbas and forced by an Iranian warplane to land at a military air base.ital of Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday." DebkaFile concedes that the Iranians pulled off a masterful operation in capturing Rigi.
The Iranians are presumably not only finding out from Rigi the extent of the CIA's support for the anti-Iranian government Jundallah Baluchi movement in Pakistan but also how the CIA has armed and provided logistical support to anti-Pakistani Baluchi secessionists -- a fact that will further alienate Islamabad from Washington and help forge a new Pakistani-Iranian intelligence alliance.
Of particular interest to the Iranians and Pakistanis are the CIA's operations at the Shamshi airbase in Pakistan, control over which was ceded by Pakistan to the CIA in October 2001. Blackwater/Xe personnel also operate from the Shamshi base, an important air transit hub between the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Gulf and U.S. bases in Afghanistan.
The CIA's support for Iranian Baluchis operating against Tehran has also had the effect of restoring the Baluchi Liberation Army, with CIA munitions destined for the Jundallah guerrillas falling into the hands of Baluchi secessionists in Pakistan, particularly among the Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes that now threaten to disrupt trans-Pakistani pipelines to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which is being developed by Chinese engineers and construction companies. The CIA, apparently unable or unwilling to distinguish between the Iranian and Baluchis and their agendas, permitted explosives and detonators destined for use in Iran to be used against regular Pakistani army units and Chinese assets assisting in the Gwadar port project.
Pakistan also suspects American energy politics at play. By stirring up Baluchis on both sides of the Pakistani-Iranian border, the CIA stands to disrupt planned natural gas pipelines from Qatar to Pakistan that will transit through Iran and the Iran-Gujarat oil pipeline.
WMR's intelligence sources have provided a best guess scenario for what occurred in regard to Rigi and his capture by the Iranians. Our sources state that Iranian intelligence is claiming very loudly that they captured Rigi without any foreign assistance. This apepars to be for cover satrory purposes. If ISI delivered him to Bandar Abbas aboard a Lear, the Iranians had at least a half day to arrange for the touchdown of the KYRGYZSTAN Dubai-Manas flight to cover up the actual flight from Gwadar. If the Iranians had a couple of their agents pretend to be Rigi they fooled the world and allowed Pakistan's ISI to get off the hook as far as their involvement was concerned. Rigi was reported not to be traveling with bodyguards from Dubai to Bishkek, which does not explain the detention of another individual, reported by some sources to have been Jundallah's "number two man."
Passengers on the KYRGYZSTAN flight diverted to Bandar Abbas claimed that two men were removed by Iranian agents. The passengers assumed that one was Rigi. However, informed observers in the region now believe that the passenger plane diversion was a cover for the delivery of Rigi by the ISI to Iranian hands.
There is also a possibility that Iranian agents gained access to a CIA contractor charter flight from Gwadar to Dubai, commandeered the flight to Bandar Abbas, and grabbed Rigi. Oddly enough, a U.S.-based charter aircraft company does operate from Gwadar Airport, Stratos Jet Charters, which provides Citations, Beechjets, Lears, Hawkers, Falcons, Challengers or Gulfstreams. The firm is headquartered in Orlando, Florida.
The U.S. arming of the Iranian Baluchis is part of a CIA covert program to stir up Iran's ethnic minorities, including Kurds, Arabs in Khuzestan, Azeris, Turkomen, as well as Baluchis. Last November, the American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) organized a conference in support of Baluchistan at the National Press Club in Washington. The Washington event was reported to have had links to the CIA.
One major question that remains is why was Rigi traveling to the U.S. airbase at Manas, Kyrgyzstan some two days after meeting with senior U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan and, reportedly, Pakistan? It is something Iranian intelligence is keen to discover.
Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. His columns have appeared in a wide number of newspapers and journals. Madsen is a regular contributor on Russia Today. He has written The Handbook of Personal Data Protection (London: Macmillan, 1992); Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999 (Edwin Mellen Press, 1999); Jaded Tasks: Big Oil, Black Ops & Brass Plates and Overthrow a Fascist Regime on $15 a Day and co-authored America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II (Dandelion, 2003).
A photograph has surfaced that shows a terrorist wanted by Iran visiting a US military base in Afghanistan. Another terrorist wanted by Pakistan has also been spotted meeting Indian spies under American watch—in Afghanistan. Iran arrests one such terrorist but Pakistan’s pro-US government refuses to take a stand on a terrorist insurgency openly backed by rogue US elements, with Indian support.
By AHMED QURAISHI
Tuesday, 23 February 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan— After occupying Afghanistan, rogue CIA elements launched a campaign to create a new state of Balochistan out of two conjoined provinces in Pakistan and Iran. This was done to create the shortest possible supply route from the sea to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. The Sunni-Shia divide was exploited in Iran and a language-based divide was used in Pakistan. In other words, the result was a sectarian Balochi insurgency in Iran and an ethnic one in Pakistan.This is how Jundullah was born in Iran and Balochistan Liberation Army in Pakistan. Both were armed and supported by CIA using the Afghan soil. But this American terror infrastructure is now crumbling.
Fast. The idea of using Afghan soil for regional US strategies – against Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China, as the need be – has failed miserably. One reason is exposure. Eight years is enough time for everyone to understand the double game being played in the region in the name of war on terror, which is America’s war no matter how many millions of dollars the US government invests in propaganda in the region to convince the people it is otherwise. Despite a pliant Pakistani government, Pakistan, for example, is not ready to cooperate with the United States if Pakistani interests are not protected along with US interests. Pakistan took a long time to take a stand. But it has come around finally. Of course CIA was not operating alone. It enlisted the help of India and several Western intelligence agencies, turning Afghanistan into a source of regional destabilization. That’s exactly what al-Qaeda was doing before 2002. The arrest of the ringleader of CIA-backed Jundullah group, Mr. Abdolmalek Rigi, is a major development. Iran’s intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi showed damning evidence today to the media, confirming beyond doubt the terror group’s link to US intelligence in Afghanistan: “In a press conference Moslehi showed a photograph of the leader of the group, Abdulmalek Rigi, 24 hours before his arrest at a US troops camp in Afghanistan, as well as an ID card, an Afghan passport and a Dubai visa belonging to Rigi and prepared by the US to facilitate his travels in the region as evidence to show the terrorist leader’s cooperation with Washington and certain other countries.” Last year, his younger brother Abdolhamid Rigi was arrested by Pakistani intelligence and handed over to Iran. The younger Rigi admitted on television to meeting US diplomats, or possible intelligence agents, in Karachi and Islamabad. The worst part of the story is that former President Musharraf might have allowed CIA-backed Jundullah to use Pakistani soil, along with Afghanistan’s, to mount operations inside Iran. Of course there were times when Iran did the same: organize and arm sectarian militant groups inside Pakistan as part of Iran’s policy of militarizing Shia minorities in neighboring countries. But that was a different time. What the Americans were doing in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan was tied to the parallel terror insurgency in Pakistani Balochistan. It is possible that this was one more concession that Mr. Musharraf granted US in Pakistan. But it is Pakistan and its intelligence that arrested and handed over Jundullah leader’s younger brother to Iran last year. Pakistani intelligence might have had something to do with the arrest of the elder Rigi too. But Iranian officials are denying that Pakistan helped them in any way in this arrest, and won’t say where Abdolhamid Rigi was seized. Pakistan has been bound by many of the secret understandings and concessions that Mr. Musharraf made with Washington. The Zardari government that succeeded him is suspected of having more secret understandings than its predecessor. But the Pakistani military has been gradually relieving Pakistan of many unreasonable unilateral concessions [Example: US passport holders can no longer use a separate gate to enter and exit from Pakistani airports without scrutiny]. But at same time, the Pakistani military is bound by other government-to-government commitments made by Mr. Musharraf and now the Zardari government.
But there are enough signs that elements within the US intelligence community continue to support terrorism inside Pakistan in the name of Balochistan. With US nod, India has recently recruited around 100 poor Pakistanis from Balochistan and transported them for training in India. New Delhi is doing this using Afghan soil. Another evidence is a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, this week that called for breaking up Pakistan and creating an independent state called Balochistan. The conference was organized by a Paris-based group called Baloch Voice Foundation, which has not been known before. Unconfirmed reports suggest that this foundation is funded by Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that shows a lot of interest in the potential for separatism in Pakistan and Iran. The US think tank’s website says that it provides unbiased information from Russia, China and “the world of terrorism,” which pretty much sums up how it views Muslim-dominated regions. India actively supports terror groups that claim Baloch representation but it is American citizens and groups that have been making the loudest noises over Balochistan since 2002. This has to do with Indo-US sharing of ideas over Pakistan after 2001 and that story makes for interesting reading. It is interesting how the government of Thailand allowed the use of its soil for an anti-Pakistan activity. Pakistani protesters outside the Bangkok hotel didn’t miss this point and raised it on their placards. But Pakistan’s pro-US government remains silent on this blatant act of war on the part of the Thai government.
Taking cue from Iran’s action against Jundullah, and Israel’s action against a Hamas activist in Dubai, Pakistan needs to get firm on eliminating the Afghan-based nursery of terrorism inside Pakistan.
Incessant Targeting Of Pakistan
By Shireen M. Mazari
Wednesday, 24 February 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The US duplicity in its dealings with Pakistan continues unabated and I have always maintained that the scale of their enterprise in destabilizing Pakistan can only be understood by finding linkages in seemingly unconnected events and publications. Just when the Pakistan military has taken a strong position on its military operations in FATA and the pull towards dialogue with the tribals is becoming evident, the US subversive activities against Pakistan are becoming more overt, and old CIA connections are taking centre stage again including so-called “experts” on Pakistan!
Let us look at some recent developments and see the linkages. First, after incessant cries from ignorant US officials and even more ignorant but imperialist minded media, of Pakistan not doing enough against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, when the Pakistanis captured a leading Taliban commander, suddenly the Americans - and their media and officialdom do have close connections - through their media led forth a new chant of why Pakistan had arrested this man!
There were conspiracy theories that immediately began floating that somehow Pakistan arrested this Taliban commander to disrupt the dialogue that Karzai is seeking with the Taliban because Pakistan wants to remain in control of any such dialogue. Talk about bizarre assumptions! So, as some of us have always maintained, in the eyes of the US, Pakistanis will always find themselves in a position of “damned if we do and damned if we don’t.” I
t is time therefore to wash our hands off this whole US-led misguided “war on terror” and evolve our own strategies to deal with our own problem of violence and extremism which is multidimensional and cannot be straitjacketed into merely a Taliban framework. Nor is this all. A new campaign has begun in the US, published first in the Wall Street Journal where two American lawyers, David Rivkin and Lee Casey - both of whom served in the Justice Department during the Reagan and George Bush administrations - have accused Pakistan’s Chief Justice Chaudhry of being “the leading culprit in an unfolding constitutional drama.” Supporting Zardari, the lawyers make all manner of unsubstantiated accusations against Pakistan’s chief justice. What seems to have upset these Americans is the CJ’s popularity being far greater than Zardari’s in the eyes of the Pakistani people - by their own admission! But then the American anger at the CJ is understandable because he has fought the cause of the Pakistani people especially through the Missing Persons issue - many sold to the US - while President Zardari and his loyalists have continued to plead the US cause. But it should be unacceptable to any self-respecting Pakistani to have their CJ referred to in such a derogatory fashion. Look how Holbrooke reacted when Pakistanis protested at the miscarriage of justice in New York in the Dr Aafia case, despite the fact that the US has a record of such miscarriages of justice against African Americans and minorities, especially Muslims post 9/11. A third line of attack is the revival of the Baloch separatist issue with that old Pakistan basher Selig Harrison reviving his fortunes again and taking the lead in targeting the Pakistani state. He first took up this passion when the Soviets went into Afghanistan and led the chorus of how Pakistan was not doing enough of the US bidding in Afghanistan. He was an “Afghan” expert at the time but once Afghanistan receded into the background he became a “Balochistan” expert and now he is deeply involved in aiding Baloch separatists in Iran and Pakistan.
Various platforms have been used by him and the latest is the ongoing conference in Bangkok, Thailand, supposedly sponsored by an unknown group calling themselves the Baloch Voice Foundation (BVF) and supported by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) based in The Hague and, of course, Selig Harrison! The BVF interestingly is funded by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation which, according to information available on the internet, is controlled by Freedom House which in turn is linked to the CIA. The venue of the conference also raises suspicions about CIA involvement since the US government has used Thailand for many conferences dealing with South Asian issues. Also, the fact that Iranian Baloch separatists have been included shows the US connection even more glaringly. In any case, despite our government’s usual mysterious silence on this issue, some Pakistanis have been protesting about the conference in Bangkok. After all, why should Thailand allow its territory to be used for a Baloch separatist conference? Would Thailand like Pakistan to allow a similar exercise in relation to its internal matters, in Islamabad? More to the point, as happens when different agencies’ sponsor different groups, infighting has broken out amongst the Balochs. Munir Mengal, founder of Baloch Voice TV, is supposedly the organizer of this conference. He is also the man who claimed that a host of Pakistani Baloch women had been jailed in Balochistan but when Nawab Raisani had the jails checked during his efforts to free the abducted UN official last year, this claim proved incorrect.
As a result of this conference, internal battles have come to the fore between the Washington-based American Friends of Balochistan, the Dubai, London and Moscow (no doubt remnants from the Soviet days) based activists and the so-called Government of Balochistan in Exile which claims it is based in Tel Aviv, Israel. This is not surprising, given the different sponsors of the different groups! A further blow to the conference has come from the fact that supporters of Khair Bux Marri have boycotted the event. This is not the first conference of its type but it is interesting to see how the Blood Borders US agenda of creating a state of Balochistan from Iranian and Pakistani territories is now being given shape and separatists from both countries are being brought together. As always, Selig Harrison is playing his questionable role!
Nor is this the only targeting of Pakistan and Iran together. In the coming days we should gear up for a new nuclear related hype building up in the US media. Unfortunately, Dr Khan’s “letters” have been purchased by a leading US newspaper and will be used to target Iran. In the process Pakistan will also be targeted - killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Would that our government undertake some proactive measures with the Iranians to deflect this new campaign but it hardly seems likely.
So we need to brace ourselves once again for an onslaught against our nuclear capability and accusations of proliferation at a time when the US continues to proliferate to Israel and, post the 123 Agreement with India, to this South Asian aspiring hegemon. Now who says there are no linkages targeting Pakistan and Iran?
Dr. Mazari is a renowned defense analyst and the Editor of The Nation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Echelon computers can't cope with bad lines
'What? Osama bin who? Yes, we sell nukes. Say again?'
16th February 2010
Who remembers Echelon, the top-secret telecommunications spy network said to be run by the US and allied Anglophone nations, and to be triggered as soon as certain key words or phrases are spoken on the phone?
A lot of you, we'd guess. So it's interesting to note that Pentagon boffins have now stated that perhaps the most intriguing reputed capability of Echelon - the ability to automatically pick out words of interest and flag that conversation up as important to its human masters - doesn't work. Or anyway, it only works on good, clear lines: a noisy or degraded signal frustrates it.
The news comes as part of a solicitation from the Pentagon crazytech bureau, DARPA, in which the maverick military mayhem mavens request assistance with building a Robust Automatic Transcription of Speech (RATS) system. According to DARPA:
Existing transcription and translation and speech signal processing technologies are insufficient for working with noisy or degraded speech signals that are of importance to current and future Department of Defense (DoD) operations. Currently, there is no technological solution [our emphasis] which effectively addresses this kind of noisy and distorted speech signal, so operational units are forced to allocate significant human resources for this task.
One should note that America's feared National Security Agency (NSA, generally thought to be in charge of Echelon) is actually an arm of the DoD, not a civilian organisation.
DARPA says that the proposed RATS system should be able to tackle noisy audio signals and tell on its own whether they are speech or something else such as music. It should then be able to identify the language being spoken, and tell whether the speaker is a person of interest using voiceprint technology. Finally, the RATS software should be able to "identify specific words or phrases from a list of items in the language being spoken" - just what Echelon is supposed to be able to do already, only DARPA assure us that no such tech exists. Or anyway, none able to tackle a noisy signal.
So it would seem, if the DARPA announcement is on the level, that all you need do to evade the toils of Echelon - apart from making sure your call can't be intercepted, which is liable to be tricky - is introduce a bit of noise. At least until the RATS tech is developed, anyway, though as this is a "DARPA hard" project - ie so hard it's rather unlikely to be feasible - this will probably never happen.
Alternatively the DARPA announcement is merely a smokescreen to obscure the existence and capabilities of Echelon; or perhaps DARPA are merely looking to replicate those capabilities for use by less exalted military intelligence units in the field, as opposed to the mighty computer farms of the NSA in Maryland. The RATS requirement specifically mentions the languages Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Dari and Urdu, suggesting that we might be talking here about conversations grabbed off satellite phones in southwest Asia, rather than ones gleaned from telecoms networks in the West.
However, as anyone knows who has used the voice-control/dictation tech which comes in smartphones and computers these days, the state of the art isn't terribly advanced for voiceware designed to run on normal platforms. The history of troubled voice-to-text firm SpinVox tends to illustrate this point too. DARPA may struggle to deliver a pocket, noise-proof Echelon to intercept teams working in and around Afghanistan.
And it's at least plausible that the real, big Echelon isn't actually quite as omniscient as people think.
The DARPA solicitation can be read here in pdf (https://www.fbo.gov/utils/view?id=1b3370aceae91a1b06800b8c7ee41b29). ®
US military cyberwar force will work with NSA (24 June 2009)
NSA offering 'billions' for Skype eavesdrop solution (12 February 2009)
Dubai suspects travel route 2009
Dubai suspects travel route 2010