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India can’t do a ‘Geronimo’

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Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd).

Consequent to American operation ‘Geronimo,’ at Abbottabad in Pakistan to eliminate Osama bin Laden, many in civil society have been asking whether India can go ahead with a similar operation. ‘Geronimo’ involved painstaking intelligence work spread over many years, though the final ‘fine- tuning’ took seven months or so. Detailed intelligence work and application of cutting edge technology apart, it required an enormous amount of co-ordination among those in the higher echelons of the civil administration and military high command as well as with the one who was to control the mission. The entire planning was closely monitored by the Chiefs of Defence Staff, the CIA chief and the President himself, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

For months they worked on the plan, disseminating information strictly following the principle, ‘need to know’. A mock-up of the ‘Osama house’ would have been erected and an operation rehearsed a number of times by the designated team of helicopter crews and Seals, and the latter had otherwise been undergoing one of the most vigorous training schedules. Only then was it possible to complete the mission with clock-work precision. It was the President who had to take the final call and gave written orders.

Since intelligence is the most essential input for such an operation, can Indian intelligence agencies measure up to this basic requirement? Weaknesses of Indian intelligence have repeatedly surprised the nation, be it the Chinese road across Ladakh, the scale of aggression in 1962, and mass infiltration in 1965 in J and K followed by the attack in Chamb-Jorian. Kargil was a major intelligence failure and so was the attack on Parliament where there were security lapses too. It was repeated at Mumbai, in spite of some early leads. More recent are the cases of lists of terrorists in Pakistan and the CBI team arriving in Copenhangen with an out-dated warrant of arrest. The list is endless.

Accurate and actionable intelligence is fundamental to the success of covert operations, whereas it remains our weakest point. In fact, in the case of Indian intelligence agencies, it is not the case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing but the little finger not knowing whom the index finger, of the same hand, is fingering?

At the national level we have the NSG, especially trained and equipped for such operations. At Mumbai these commandos first took too long to arrive and later too long to complete the operation. Equally, are the NSG commandos equal to the job? Just recall the visuals of a commando holding his weapon well above his head and firing at supposedly some terrorists! This visual was repeatedly shown on the American TV, where we saw the drama unfold. The NSG was commanded by an army officer, invariably an ex-commando, but now it is a police officer with no ground-level experience of commando operations. Grabbing jobs, irrespective of the suitability of the appointee, is another feature of Indian setting.

There was no centralised control over the operation and the entire scene around Taj Hotel appeared one of a ‘circus,’ with apparently no one knowing what to do. The details of ammunition and grenades expended by the commandos in this action would give an idea of the operation and our suspicion of possible collateral damage.

Both the Indian Navy and the Indian Army have special forces which can carry out missions of the type conducted by the US naval Seals at Abbottabad. They are organised and trained for such missions and have the best of leadership. Quality of intelligence inputs apart, it is the joint operations where more than one service is to take part and then problems arise. There are major fault-lines in the field of coordination and meshing together of various aspects of such an operation between the two Services taking part in the operation. This lack of ‘joint-ship’ has been the bane of Indian defence forces, which essentially is the handiwork of the politic-bureaucratic combine. The policy of ‘divide and rule’, and ‘turf-tending’ over national interest has been the dominant feature of the Indian defence apparatus.

In the case of the Abbattobad raid, in spite of the complete integration of the defence forces in the United States, the Naval Seals had their own helicopters to ensure total involvement and commitment of those taking part in the operation. In the case of India, helicopters meant for carrying such troops are with the Indian Air Force rather than the Army! So, the total commitment required on the part of all those taking part in the operation will not measure up to the level required in an operation of the type conducted at Abbottabad. In fact, discord has often appeared when two Services had to operate together. It surfaced in rather an ugly form during the Kargil operations.

In the Indian political setting, a clear direction and the will to go for the kill will continue to be lacking. At Kargil, troops were told to carry out a ‘hot pursuit,’ but were forbidden to cross the Line of Control. This is when Pakistan had violated, on a very wide front and to great depth, India’s territorial integrity and the situation called for and justified a befitting response. However, India’s timid and inappropriate reaction resulted in frontal attacks up those impossible slopes, with avoidable casualties. Pakistan suffered no punishment for its blatant act of aggression. Consequent to attack on Indian Parliament, ‘Operation Parakaram’ kept the troops in their battle locations for months and ended in a fiasco. Indian reaction to these two incidents conveyed to Pakistan that it can take liberties with India and the latter carries no deterrence for the former. At the same time, it demonstrated that Indian political leadership will never have the stomach to order an operation of the ‘Geronimo’ type, no matter how provocative the action of the other country may be.

Civil society has suddenly woken up and is now seeking answers to searching questions on these issues, having closed its eyes and switched off its mind to national security issues all these decades. The inescapable fact is that the full potential of various components of the defence forces just cannot be realised without adopting the concepts of Chiefs of Defence Staff and “Theater Commands” along with the integration of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Services headquarters on the lines of the Pentagon. What has currently been carried out by way of amalgamation of Defence Headquarters with the MoD is a joke and a fraud on the nation. Yet civil society has remained a silent spectator. The Arun Singh Committee Report continues to gather dust, as it stands consigned to the archives of the Indian government.

Besides the above fault-lines in the Indian security establishment, it is the watertight compartments in which various organs of the state work. Foreign policy is evolved and practised in isolation of national security considerations and consultations. Intelligence agencies are never made accountable and have inadequate interaction with the defence Services.

What Israel Is Afraid of After the Egyptian Uprising

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By: Peter Beinart

We’re almost two weeks into the revolution in Egypt and the American media keeps asking the question that my extended family asks during all world events: Is it good for Israel? Ask a Jewish question, get a Jewish answer, by which I mean, another question: What’s good for Israel?

Obviously, a theocracy that abrogated Egypt’s peace treaty with the Jewish state would be bad for Israel, period. But that is unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood is not al Qaeda: It abandoned violence decades ago, and declared that it would pursue its Islamist vision through the democratic process, which has earned it scorn among Bin Laden types. Nor is the Brotherhood akin to the regime in Iran: When Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tried to appropriate the Egyptian protests last week, the Brotherhood shot him down, declaring that it “regards the revolution as the Egyptian People’s Revolution not an Islamic Revolution” and insisting that “The Egyptian people’s revolution includes Muslims, Christians and [is] from all sects and political” tendencies. In the words of George Washington University’s Nathan Brown, an expert on Brotherhood movements across the Middle East, “These parties definitely reject the Iranian model…Their slogan is, ‘We seek participation, not domination.’ The idea of creating an Islamic state does not seem to be anywhere near their agenda.”

Could this all be an elaborate ruse? Might the Brotherhood act differently if it gained absolute power? Sure, but it’s hard to foresee a scenario in which that happens. For one thing, the best estimates, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Stephen Cook, are that the Brotherhood would win perhaps 20 percent of the vote in a free election, which means it would have to govern in coalition. What’s more, the Egyptian officer corps, which avowedly opposes an Islamic state, will likely wield power behind the scenes in any future government. And while the Brotherhood takes an ambiguous position on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel–it opposes it but says it will abide by the will of the Egyptian people-the Egyptian army has little interest in returning to war footing with a vastly stronger Israel. Already, Mohammed ElBaradei, the closest thing the Egyptian protest movement has to a leader, has called the peace treaty with Israel “rock solid.”

But Egypt doesn’t have to abrogate the peace treaty to cause the Israeli government problems. Ever since 2006, when Hamas won the freest election in Palestinian history, Egypt, Israel and the United States have colluded to enforce a blockade meant to undermine the group’s control of the Gaza Strip. A more accountable Egyptian government might no longer do that, partly because Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, but mostly because a policy of impoverishing the people of Gaza has little appeal among Egyptian voters. It’s easy to imagine a newly democratic government of Egypt adopting a policy akin to the one adopted by the newly democratic government of Turkey. The Turkish government hasn’t severed ties with Israel, but it does harshly criticize Israel’s policies, especially in Gaza, partly because Turkey’s ruling party has Islamist tendencies, but mostly because that is what the Turkish people want.

More than ever in the months and years to come, Israelis and American Jews must distinguish hatred of Israel’s policies from hatred of Israel’s very existence.

Which bring us back to the question: Is this bad for Israel? Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC certainly think so, since they believe that what’s best for Israel is for its government to be free to pursue its current policies with as little external criticism as possible. I disagree. For several years now, Israel has pursued a policy designed, according to Israeli officials, to “keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse.” (The quote comes courtesy of the recent Wikileaks document dump). The impact on the Gazan people has been horrendous, but Hamas is doing fine, for the same basic reason that Fidel Castro has done fine for the last 60 years: The blockade allows Hamas to completely control Gaza’s economy and blame its own repression and mismanagement on the American-Zionist bogeyman. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad govern in the West Bank without the democratic legitimacy they would likely need to sell a peace treaty to the Palestinian people.

All of which is to say: a shift in U.S. and Israeli policy towards Hamas is long overdue. The organization has been basically observing a de-facto cease-fire for two years now, and in the last year its two top leaders, Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniya, have both said Hamas would accept a two-state deal if the Palestinian people endorse it in a referendum. That doesn’t mean Hamas isn’t vile in many ways, but it does mean that Israel and America are better off allowing the Palestinians to create a democratically legitimate, national unity government that includes Hamas than continuing their current, immoral, failed policy. If a more democratic Egyptian government makes that policy harder to sustain, it may be doing Israel a favor.

The Middle East’s tectonic plates are shifting. For a long time, countries like Turkey and Egypt were ruled by men more interested in pleasing the United States than their own people, and as a result, they shielded Israel from their people’s anger. Now more of that anger will find its way into the corridors of power. The Israeli and American Jewish right will see this as further evidence that all the world hates Jews, and that Israel has no choice but to turn further in on itself. But that would be a terrible mistake. More than ever in the months and years to come, Israelis and American Jews must distinguish hatred of Israel’s policies from hatred of Israel’s very existence. The Turkish government, after all, has maintained diplomatic ties with Israel even as it excoriates Israel’s policies in Gaza. ElBaradei this week reaffirmed Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel even as he negotiates the formation of a government that could well challenge Israel’s policy in Gaza.

Instead of trying to prop up a dying autocratic order, what Israel desperately needs is to begin competing for Middle Eastern public opinion, something American power and Arab tyranny have kept it from having to do. And really competing means reassessing policies like the Gaza blockade, which create deep-and understandable-rage in Cairo and Istanbul without making Israel safer. It is ironic that Israel, the Middle East’s most vibrant democracy, seems so uncomfortable in a democratizing Middle East. But at root, that discomfort stems from Israel’s own profoundly anti-democratic policies in the West Bank and Gaza. In an increasingly democratic, increasingly post-American Middle East, the costs of those policies will only continue to rise. Israel must somehow find the will to change them, while it can still do so on its own terms, not only because of what is happening in Tahrir Square, but because the next Tahrir Square could be in Ramallah or East Jerusalem. After all, as Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar recently noted, Palestinian kids use Facebook too.

The Secret World of Extreme Militias

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By Barton Gellman

Camouflaged and silent, the assault team inched toward a walled stone compound for more than five hours, belly-crawling the last 200 yards. The target was an old state prison in eastern Ohio, and every handpicked member of Red Team 2 knew what was at stake: The year is 2014, and a new breed of neo-Islamic terrorism is rampant in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio… The current White House Administration is pro-Muslim and has ordered a stand-down against Islamic groups. The mission: Destroy the terrorist command post – or die trying. The fighters must go in “sterile”-without name tags or other identifying insignia-as a deniable covert force. “Anyone who is caught or captured cannot expect extraction,” the briefing officer said.


ODF militiamen Frank Delollis, right, signals for a patrol party to turn around while searching the Old Roseville Prison property in Roseville, Ohio for enemy combatants during the Ohio Defense Force’s annual FTX on Aug. 21, 2010.

At nightfall the raiders launched their attack. Short, sharp bursts from their M-16s cut down the perimeter guards. Once past the rear gate, the raiders fanned out and emptied clip after clip in a barrage of diversionary fire. As defenders rushed to repel the small team, the main assault force struck from the opposite flank. Red Team 1 burst through a chain-link fence, enveloping the defense in lethal cross fire. The shooting was over in minutes. Thick grenade smoke bloomed over the command post. The defenders were routed, headquarters ablaze.

This August weekend of grueling mock combat, which left some of the men prostrate and bloody-booted, capped a yearlong training regimen of the Ohio Defense Force, a private militia that claims 300 active members statewide. The fighters shot blanks, the better to learn to maneuver in squads, but they buy live ammunition in bulk. Their training-no game, they stress-expends thousands of rounds a year from a bring-your-own armory of deer rifles, assault weapons and, when the owner turns up, a belt-fed M-60 machine gun. The militia trains for ambushes, sniper missions, close-quarters battle and other infantry staples.

What distinguishes groups like this one from a shooting club or re-enactment society is the prospect of actual bloodshed, which many Ohio Defense Force members see as real. Their unit seal depicts a man with a musket and tricorn hat, over the motto “Today’s Minutemen.” The symbol invites a question, Who are today’s redcoats? On that point, the group takes no official position, but many of those interviewed over two days of recent training in and around the abandoned Roseville State Prison near Zanesville voiced grim suspicions about President Obama and the federal government in general.

“I don’t know who the redcoats are,” says Brian Vandersall, 37, who designed the exercise and tried to tamp down talk of politics among the men. “It could be U.N. troops. It could be federal troops. It could be Blackwater, which was used in Katrina. It could be Mexican troops who are crossing the border.”

Or it could be, as it was for this year’s exercise, an Islamic army marauding unchecked because a hypothetical pro-Muslim President has ordered U.S. forces to leave them alone. But as the drill played out, the designated opponents bore little resemblance to terrorists. The scenario described them as a platoon-size unit, in uniform, with “military-grade hardware, communications, encryption capability and vehicle support.” The militia was training for combat against the spitting image of a tactical force from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI or National Guard. “Whoever they are,” Vandersall says, “we have to be ready.”

As militias go, the Ohio Defense Force is on the moderate side. Scores of armed antigovernment groups, some of them far more radical, have formed or been revived during the Obama years, according to law-enforcement agencies and outside watchdogs. A six-month TIME investigation reveals that recruiting, planning, training and explicit calls for a shooting war are on the rise, as are criminal investigations by the FBI and state authorities. Readier for bloodshed than at any time since at least the confrontations in the 1990s in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the radical right has raised the threat level against the President and other government targets. With violence already up on a modest scale, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state agencies point to two main dangers of a mass-casualty attack: that a group of armed radicals will strike out in perceived self-defense, or that a lone wolf, trained and indoctrinated for war, will grow tired of waiting. Even the most outspoken militia commanders worry about the latter scenario. Kevin Terrell, a self-described colonel who founded a group of “freedom fighters” in Kentucky and predicts war with “the jackbooted thugs” of Washington within a year, says he has to fend off hotheads who call him a “keyboard commando.” Some are ejected from his group, he says, and others are willing to wait a little longer. “You have to have the right fuel-air mixture, the piston has to be in the right position, the spark has to be perfectly timed,” he says. “The day will come-sooner than later.”

Twisted Patriots

Within a complex web of ideologies, most of today’s armed radicals are linked by self-described Patriot beliefs, which emphasize resistance to tyranny by force of arms and reject the idea that elections can fix what ails the country. Among the most common convictions is that the Second Amendment-the right to keep and bear arms-is the Constitution’s cornerstone, because only a well-armed populace can enforce its rights. Any form of gun regulation, therefore, is a sure sign of intent to crush other freedoms. The federal government is often said in militia circles to have made wholesale seizures of power, at times by subterfuge. A leading grievance holds that the 16th Amendment, which authorizes the federal income tax, was ratified through fraud.

In a reversal of casting, the armed antigovernment movement describes itself as heir to the founders. As they see it, the union that the founders created is now a foreign tyrant. “It’s like waking up behind enemy lines,” says Terrell. He says he smelled a setup when the FBI arrested nine members of Michigan’s Hutaree militia in March and charged them with plotting to kill police. (Their trial is set to begin in February.) Terrell and other leaders put their forces on alert, anticipating a roundup. “There was a lot of citizens out there in the bushes, locked and loaded,” he says. “It’s only due to miracles I do not understand that civil war did not break out right there.”

Some groups, though not many overtly, embrace the white-supremacist legacy of the Posse Comitatus, which invented the modern militia movement in the 1970s. Some are fueled by a violent stream of millennial Christianity. Some believe Washington is a secondary foe, the agent of a dystopian new world order.

A small but growing number of these extremist groups, according to the FBI, ATF and state investigators, are subjects of active criminal investigations. They include militias and other promoters of armed confrontation with government, among them “common-law jurors,” who try to make their own arrests and convene their own trials, and “sovereign citizens,” who respond with lethal force to routine encounters with the law. In April, for example, Navy veteran Walter Fitzpatrick, acting on behalf of a group called American Grand Jury, barged into a Tennessee courthouse and tried to arrest the real grand-jury foreman on the grounds that he refused to indict Obama for treason. In May, Georgia militia member Darren Huff was arrested by Tennessee state troopers after telling them that he and other armed men intended to “take over the Monroe County courthouse,” free Fitzpatrick and “conduct arrests” of other officials, according to Huff’s indictment and his own account in an interview posted online. Investigators are keeping a wary eye on a related trend, which has yet to progress beyond words, in which law officers and military service members vow to refuse or resist orders they deem unconstitutional. About a dozen county sheriffs and several candidates for sheriff in the midterm elections have threatened to arrest federal agents in their jurisdictions.

Group distinctions are seldom clear because of overlapping memberships and alliances. The Ohio exercise, for example, included a delegation from the 17th Special Operations Group led by Colonel Dick Wolf, a former Army drill sergeant who previously took a unit to join Arizona militia leader Chris Simcox in armed patrols along the Mexican border. Wolf travels around the country to train other groups in such skills as knife fighting and convoy operations. He does not ask about their philosophies. “That’s their business,” he says.

The Obama Factor

None of these movements are entirely new, but most were in sharp decline by the late 1990s. Their resurgence now is widely seen among government and academic experts as a reaction to the tectonic shifts in American politics that allowed a black man with a foreign-sounding name and a Muslim-born father to reach the White House.

Obama’s ascendancy unhinged the radical right, offering a unified target to competing camps of racial, nativist and religious animus. Even Patriots who had no truck with white supremacy found that they could amplify their antigovernment message by “constructing Obama as an alien, not of this country, insufficiently American,” according to Michael Waltman, an authority on hate speech at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Perennial features of extreme-right scare lore-including imagined schemes to declare martial law, abolish private ownership of guns and force dissidents into FEMA concentration camps-became more potent with Obama as the Commander in Chief.

Threats against Obama’s life brought him Secret Service protection in May 2007, by far the earliest on record for a presidential candidate. At least four alleged assassination plots between June and December-by militiamen in Pennsylvania, white supremacists in Denver, skinheads in Tennessee, and an active-duty Marine lance corporal at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune-led to arrests and criminal charges before Obama was even sworn in.

“We call it somewhat of a perfect storm,” says a high-ranking FBI official who declined to speak on the record because of the political sensitivities of the subject. With an economy in free fall and rising anger about illegal immigration, Obama became “a rallying point” for dormant extremists after the 2008 election who “weren’t willing to act before but now are susceptible to being recruited and radicalized.”

Theirs is not Tea Party anger, which aims at electoral change, even if it often speaks of war. In the world of armed extremists, war is not always a metaphor. Some of them speak with contempt about big talkers who “meet, eat and retreat.” History suggests that even the most ferocious, by and large, will never get around to walking the walk. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center observes that “there are huge numbers of people who say, ‘We’re going to have to go to war to defend the Constitution or defend the white race,’ but ‘That will be next week, boys.'”

And yet there are exceptions, and law-enforcement officials say domestic terrorists are equally the products of their movements. Those most inclined toward violence sometimes call themselves three percenters, a small vanguard that dares to match deeds to words. Brian Banning, who led local and interagency intelligence units that tracked radical-right-wing violence in Sacramento County, Calif., says, “The person who’s interested in violent revolution may be attracted to a racist group or to a militia or to the Tea Party because he’s antigovernment and so are they, but he’s looking on the fringe of the crowd for the people who want to take action.”

The Supremacist

One such man was James Von Brunn. On June 10, 2009, he pulled up to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, raised a .22-caliber rifle and shot security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns in the chest. Part of Von Brunn’s story is now well known, but police, FBI and Secret Service investigators held back a startling epilogue.

Von Brunn was an avowed white supremacist with a history of violence that reached back decades. He had spent six years in prison after an attempt to take hostages at the Federal Reserve in 1981. After finding only disappointment in organized groups, Von Brunn retreated to his website and railed against passive comrades. “The American Right-wing with few exceptions… does NOTHING BUT TALK,” he wrote. At 88 and hospitalized with a gunshot wound he suffered at the museum, Von Brunn did not loom large in the public eye as a figure of menace. He was profiled as a shrunken old man, broke and friendless, who ended another man’s life in an empty act of despair. He died seven months later in prison before he could be tried.

What authorities did not disclose was how close the country had come to a seismic political event. Von Brunn, authoritative sources say, had another target in mind: White House senior adviser David Axelrod, a man at the center of Obama’s circle. The President was too hard to reach, in Von Brunn’s view, but that was of no consequence. “Obama was created by Jews,” he wrote. “Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do.”

The episode sent a jolt through the FBI and DHS. Von Brunn had demonstrated motive, means and intent to kill one of the President’s closest aides. The Secret Service assigned Axelrod a protection detail and took other, undisclosed steps to broaden its coverage. The DHS put out bulletins to state and local law-enforcement agencies on the tactics, warning signs and other lessons of the case. FBI agents need to understand, a senior supervisor says, that “it isn’t just the threat from Islamic extremists but also from homegrown or domestic terrorists” with antigovernment agendas-as the bureau had already seen in a small town in Maine.

The Dirty Bomber

The first thing Jeff Trafton noticed at 346 High Street was a “big swastika flag in the living room.” Upstairs, where a man lay dead in his bedroom, there were photographs of the victim posed in a black Gestapo trench coat. Any murder was unusual in Belfast, Maine, a town of 7,000 where Trafton is chief of police. This one kept getting stranger.

Who did it was not a mystery. Amber Cummings, then 31, shot her husband James, 29, to death, dropped the Colt .45 revolver and walked to a neighbor’s to dial 911. Evidence of her torment at the dead man’s hands during years of domestic abuse would later persuade a judge to spare her a prison sentence.

On the day of the shooting, Dec. 9, 2008, the story she told and an initial search of the house brought an FBI forensic team running. James Cummings appeared to have accumulated explosive ingredients and radioactive samples. He had filled out an application to join the National Socialist Movement and declared an ambition to kill the President-elect.
It was hard to tell how seriously to take that threat. On Jan. 19, 2009, WikiLeaks made public the FBI search inventory, which was distributed to security planners for Obama’s Inauguration. State police assured reporters, in response, that the Cummings home lab had posed no threat to public safety.

A much more sobering picture emerged from the dead man’s handwritten notes and printed records, some of which were recently made available to Time. Fresh interviews with principals in the case, together with the documents, depict a viciously angry and resourceful man who had procured most of the supplies for a crude radiological dispersal device and made some progress in sketching a workable design. In this he was far ahead of Jose Padilla, the accused al-Qaeda dirty-bomb plotter, and more advanced in his efforts than any previously known domestic threat involving a dirty bomb. Cummings spent many months winning the confidence of online suppliers, using a variety of cover stories, PayPal accounts and shipping addresses. He had a $2 million real estate inheritance and spent it freely on his plot.

“He was very clever,” says Amber Cummings, who until now had not spoken publicly about her late husband’s preparations. “There’s a small amount of radioactive material he can legally buy for research purposes. He’d call those companies, and he had various stories. He’d claim he was working as a professor.”

On Nov. 4, 2008-Election Day-Cummings placed his last two orders for uranium, at a total cost of $626.40, from United Nuclear Scientific Equipment & Supplies. The Michigan-based company, which declined to answer questions, offers uranium for sale online in “medium, high, super high and ultra high radiation” blends. In an ironic twist on customer service, United Nuclear wrote with regret to inform Cummings that one of the samples he ordered that day “was already purchased by Homeland Security for training purposes.” By way of apology, the company sent a larger quantity, in two chunks.

A vendor in Colorado sold Cummings radioactive beryllium. Cummings produced a third radiation source at home. From standard references and technical manuals, Cummings learned how to extract thorium from commercially available tungsten electrodes by soaking them in a peroxide bath.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, all three metals-uranium, thorium and beryllium-are highly toxic when ingested and cause cancer if inhaled as fine airborne particles. Cummings had none of them in large quantity, and none had the high output of gamma rays that would make for the most dangerous kind of dirty bomb, but he was looking for more-lethal ingredients. A shopping list, under the heading “best for dirty bombs,” named three: cobalt-60, cesium-137 and strontium-90.

Cummings made his best progress on high explosives. He bought large quantities of 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly sold in pharmacies, then concentrated it on his kitchen stove to 35%. With acids on hand, Cummings had a recipe and all the required ingredients for TATP, a hellishly energetic explosive favored by Middle Eastern suicide bombers.

In 2001, when shoe bomber Richard Reid came close to downing American Airlines Flight 63, he had several ounces of TATP in his hiking boots. Cummings had the ingredients to make many times that much, as well as aluminum powder, thermite, thermite igniter and other materials used to detonate the explosive and amplify its effects. Crude designs Cummings sketched on lined paper suggest that he had a lot to learn about efficient dispersal of radioactive particles. Even so, he was aware of the gaps in his knowledge. “His intentions were to construct a dirty bomb and take it to Washington to kill President Obama,” Amber Cummings says. “He was planning to hide it in the undercarriage of our motor home.” She says her husband had practiced crossing checkpoints with dangerous materials aboard, taking her and their daughter along for an image of innocence.

Maine state police detective Michael McFadden, who participated in the investigation throughout, says he came to believe that James Cummings posed “a legitimate threat” of a major terrorist attack. “When you’re cooking thorium and uranium under your kitchen sink, when you have a couple million dollars sitting in the bank and you’re hell-bent on doing something, I think at that point you become someone we want to sit up and pay attention to,” he says. “If she didn’t do what she did, maybe we would know Mr. Cummings a lot better than we do right now.”

Who Would They Fight?

The abandoned state prison in Roseville, with its broken cinder-block walls and crumbling stairwells, made a suitably apocalyptic set for the Ohio militia’s August exercise. In the officers’ ready room, where back issues of Shotgun News and Soldier of Fortune lay on folding tables, an ancient graffito reading “KKK” had been painted over by one of Kenneth Goldsmith’s men. “The Klan in this area, they don’t like me at all,” Goldsmith says. “They came to me a few years ago to join forces… I told the guy, ‘You think you are from a superior race, is that it?’ He said yes. I said, ‘You don’t look so superior to me.'”

Members of militias around the country say, like Goldsmith, that they resent comparison with white supremacists like Cummings and Von Brunn. They complain of being tarred as members of hate groups by watchdogs at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being lumped in with sociopathic organizations like neo-Nazis, anti-abortion extremists and Holocaust-denial groups,” says Darren Wilburn, a private detective in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., who trains with a hard-core militia he preferred not to name. He cites his motto, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of anyone who threatens it,” as evidence that he is not looking for trouble as long as trouble keeps clear of him.

The same two points-a defensive posture and ill will toward no one-were repeated with sincerity by many of Goldsmith’s men. There were layers of meaning beneath those words, which peeled back as the weekend progressed. The Ohio Defense Force charter declares two missions, which may sound the same to outside ears but mean very different things. One is to help state and local law enforcement upon request. The other is to “assist in the protection of local citizens in emergencies.”

An example of the first mission, the most recent one Goldsmith could think of, came after flooding struck Columbiana County six years ago. Chief Deputy Sheriff Allen Haueter says the militia helped direct traffic, leaving sheriff’s officers free to respond to emergencies. But Haueter did not authorize them-“Oh, no, no,” he says-to carry guns. They could as easily have done the job garbed as candy stripers.

Why, then, the paramilitary training that takes up nearly all the militia’s time? That question bothers Sheriff Matt Lutz of Muskingum County, where the militia is headquartered. “There is no correlation with them saying they’re there to help us in any way and them running around with assault rifles in the woods,” he says. “That’s what scares people. That just tells me they’re preparing for the worst.”

As indeed they are. The militia’s second mission, protecting local citizens, requires no invitation from the likes of the sheriff. An officer named Ken, who asked that his last name and hometown go unmentioned, says, “You can be a civilized human being and defend yourself without being a bad guy.” Against what? “Most likely it will start when the government tries to take our guns,” he says.

Craig Wright, 50, a consulting engineer from Mansfield, was one of the face-painted raiders who ambushed the Blue Team’s rear-perimeter guards. He learned something important, he says, when he went drinking with fellow members of force Red. “Some of these people are, quite honestly, quite scary,” he said. “They might not be well educated, they might not listen to Beethoven, but they can take care of themselves.”

And that is what Wright is looking for.

“We’re not planning to overthrow the government,” he said. “We’re planning for what could happen.” He proceeded to list, among other scenarios, a pandemic; economic collapse; hunger-driven big-city refugees; a biological, chemical or nuclear terrorist attack; an electromagnetic pulse from the sun that wrecks earthly machinery; invasion by Mexican drug cartels; and an eruption of ash from Yellowstone that “wipes out the breadbasket of the United States.” Any one of those would likely give Washington the excuse to declare martial law. If so, Wright and his brothers in arms would fight back. “Hopefully,” he said, “if they rule the cities, we’ll rule the countryside.”

This is a frame of mind that law-enforcement and counterterrorism officials have seen before, and it worries them. “There are a number of militias out there that we call almost defensive in nature, right?” a senior national-security official says. “So they train. They’re pulling in arms or pulling in weapons. They’re pulling in food. They’re preparing bunkers… They’re preparing for confrontation, but they will call it defensive.” The official paused as if to play out a scene in his mind’s eye. A well-equipped paramilitary force with “a perception of being confronted would strike out and strike out pretty hard,” he says. “For a small or even a medium-size law-enforcement agency-anybody, really-there would be some serious, serious issues.”

War on the Feds

On the sidelines of the disparate antigovernment movement, its philosophers are edging their followers closer to violence.

Bob Schulz, a leading exponent of the view that the IRS and much of the government it funds are operating illegally, has reached the brink of calling for war. The moment is significant because he is an influential voice among militia groups.

After more than a decade of conventional legal battles, Schulz and a network of allies organized by the We the People Foundation began filing hundreds of petitions for redress of grievances. Schulz had come to believe that the First Amendment’s petition clause required governors, legislatures and federal agencies to provide specific and satisfactory answers to accusations of wrongdoing. He filled government dockets with thousands of questions-one petition, for instance, asked the IRS to “admit or deny” 116 allegations of fraud in the 1913 debate that ratified the 16th Amendment. When his petitions went ignored and the Supreme Court declined to hear his case in 2007, he wrote a formal brief accusing the court of “committing treason to the Constitution.” The IRS, meanwhile, revoked his foundation’s tax-exempt status, alleging that he used it to promote an illegal “tax termination plan” and bringing tax-evasion charges against some of the people who followed Schulz’s advice.

Last year Schulz convened hundreds of delegates to a second Continental Congress in St. Charles, Ill., drafting Articles of Freedom with “instructions” that state and federal governments halt unlawful operations. Refusal to comply would be “an act of WAR,” the delegates wrote, and “the People and their Militias have the Right and Duty to repel it.” Several militia leaders are among the authors.

Then, in November and March, Schulz staged vigils at the White House in which he and some of his followers dressed in the mask of the menacing “V” from the film V for Vendetta. (In the movie’s final scene, the oppressive seat of government erupts in spectacular flames to the swelling strains of the 1812 Overture.) “If the First Amendment doesn’t work,” Schulz says, “the Second Amendment would.” He asks, “What does a free man do” when all other avenues are closed? “I am struggling with my conscience.”

Regardless of what conscience tells them, what chance do would-be armed rebels possibly have of prevailing against the armed might of the U.S.?

One answer comes from former Alabama militia leader Mike Vanderboegh, who wrote an essay that is among the most widely republished on antigovernment extremist sites today. In “What Good Is a Handgun Against an Army?” Vanderboegh says the tactical question is easy: Kill the enemy one soldier at a time. A patriot needs only a “cheap little pistol and the guts to use it,” he writes, to shoot a soldier in the head and take his rifle; with a friend, such a man will soon have “a truck full of arms and ammunition.” Vanderboegh is hardly a man of action himself, living these days on government disability checks. Even so, when he wrote a blog post in March urging followers to protest the health care bill by breaking windows at Democratic Party offices, they did so across the country.

Another answer comes from Richard Mack, who is holding constitutional seminars for county sheriffs from coast to coast, urging them to resist what he describes as federal tyranny by force. In his presentations, he shows movie clips to illustrate his point, like a scene from The Patriot in which Mel Gibson says, with fire in his eyes, “You will obey my command, or I will have you shot.”

Citing a long list of antecedents, beginning in 11th century England, Mack asserts that each of the nation’s county sheriffs is the supreme constitutional authority in his or her jurisdiction. A sheriff has the power to arrest and, if necessary, use lethal force against federal officers who come uninvited, and he may “call out the militia to support his efforts to keep the peace in the county.”

In his term as sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., Mack became famous for fighting and winning a legal battle against a provision of the Brady Bill that required him to enforce federal gun-control laws. He now says he wishes he had stayed out of court and simply drawn a line in the sand with the ATF. “I pray for the day when the first county sheriff has the guts to arrest the real enemy,” he says. Among the enemy, he numbers “America’s gestapo,” the IRS. Steve Kendley, a Lake County, Mont., deputy sheriff who is running for the top office there on Mack’s platform, says he expects federal agents to back off when threatened with arrest, but he is prepared for “a violent conflict” if “they are doing something I believe is unconstitutional.”

The nearest antecedent to Mack’s argument, and the only one known to scholars interviewed for this story, is the Blue Book of the Posse Comitatus, by white-supremacist militia leader Henry Lamont Beach, whose organization disintegrated after leading members were convicted of felonies or killed in 1983 during shoot-outs in Arkansas and North Dakota with federal marshals and uncooperative sheriffs. Beach used nearly identical language, saying the county is “the highest authority of government in our Republic” and the sheriff “the only legal law-enforcement office.” After Time e-mailed Mack extracts of Beach’s book, he replied that it “sounds exactly like Jefferson.”

Beware the Lone Wolf

Federal law-enforcement agencies want no part of a conversation about angry antigovernment extremists and refused in virtually every case to speak on the record. A few injudicious passages from career analysts at the DHS in an April 2009 report titled “Rightwing Extremism” – which could be misread to suggest danger from ordinary antigovernment opinions or military veterans in general-brought a ferocious backlash. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano distanced herself from the report and forbade further public discussion of the subject. Shortly afterward, the National Security Council staff canceled plans for a working-group meeting on the surge of violent threats against members of Congress.

Yet the months that followed brought fresh support for the study’s central finding, that rising “rightwing radicalization and recruitment” raised the risk that lone wolves would emerge from within the groups to commit “violent acts targeting government facilities, law-enforcement officers, banks and infrastructure sectors.”

Within 90 days came the Von Brunn shooting; a triple murder of police officers in Pittsburgh by white supremacist Richard Andrew Poplawski; and a double murder of sheriff’s deputies in Florida by a National Guardsman, Joshua Cartwright, who attributed his rage to Obama’s election.

The specter of the lone-wolf terrorist is what most worries law-enforcement officials, who return again and again to the searing example of Timothy McVeigh. Before destroying the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, McVeigh cycled through several white-supremacist groups and militias. In the end he decided to act alone, abetted by his friend Terry Nichols.

A top FBI counterterrorism official says the bureau’s “biggest concern” is “the individual who has done the training, has the capability but is disenchanted with the group’s action-or in many cases, inaction-and decides he’s going to act alone.” A high-ranking DHS official added that “it’s almost impossible to find that needle in a haystack,” even if the FBI has an informant in the group. James Cavanaugh, who recently retired from a senior post at the ATF and took part in some of the bloodiest confrontations with the radical right in the 1990s, says the creation of monsters in their midst is the greatest danger posed by organized groups.

The ceaseless talk of federal aggression-and regular training to repel it-“becomes a hysteria where you constantly, constantly practice and nothing happens,” he says. “Now most of them wouldn’t go out offensively, O.K.? But generally why they’re dangerous is that some people can’t stand that rhetoric and just wait for it to happen. And they go off the rails, á la McVeigh.”

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October 21, 2010 at 8:27 am

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The strange case of Doctor CIA and Mister ISI Faryal Leghari

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ANY guesses which intelligence agency is the most damned in the world today? The one that must bear the burden sitting heavy on every cumbersome moment of an indefatigable truth: that the US-led coalition is eons away from winning the war in Afghanistan.

The same that in partnership with the CIA and the Saudi Intelligence helped win the Afghan jihad and gave the Soviets that final push over the tottering edge of their crumbling edifice-the mighty USSR. As with the law of nature all good things come to an end and thus we reach the happily-ever-after end of the intelligence world’s shortest lived honeymoon for Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency. More reviled than the Soviet era KGB, the ISI is now the favourite whipping boy for every ill under the sun. From Secretary Clinton to Admiral Mike Mullen, everyone regularly raps it on the knuckles.

The US frustration is mounting by the day. Deeply ensnared in the morass in Afghanistan and clueless how to get out, it must blame somebody. So why not the Pakis? After all, aren’t they the troublemakers who break the bread with the Afghan insurgents telling them on how to launch offensives against the good ol’ coalition forces fighting the terrorists? Tell you what, not only are these treacherous sleuths indulging in a double game and ensuring the defeat of our forces, they are also harbouring the king of terrorists, yes, Osama bin Laden himself!

Wow, makes for an incredible storyline-but one that cannot help proclaim its grade B status. So if bin Laden is in Pakistan why are the US drones shying away from attacking his hideout? If these guys have “credible evidence” pointing to the ISI complicity in aiding the Afghans, why not sock one to ’em and pull their strings-yes, those green ones hopping a merry little dance. Dear, dear, the truth is that facts speak louder than rhetoric. The blame game is fine but don’t insult your audience’s intelligence, for God’s sake.

The icing on the cake comes in the form of the Afghan War Diary, a trove of dirty secrets divulged by the WikiLeaks that has earned a reputation of sorts with its history of exposes. Apart from the damning evidence against US policies and military strategy not to forget the mind-boggling array of nuggets about the role being played by Afghan government, its allied warlords and national security forces, we come to the parallel narrative about ISI. Before launching into a diatribe against the injustice of it all, let me reflect on the western media’s take on the issue. The New York Times and the London Times have expressed doubts over the veracity of the reports concerning ISI since much of this was provided by the Afghan intelligence.

I guess once you’ve belled the cat, it is best to leave the rest unsaid. But here’s my two-bit. The incredible charges against a former ISI chief General Hameed Gul deserve a good laugh. Yes, the gentleman appears regularly on the television and all but only someone with zero IQ can conjure such a fantastical scenario whereby the ISI is fielding its former chief to represent its interests and help Afghan insurgents launch offensives across the border!

If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would have made a great joke. It is no laughing matter though. The same ISI has paid with its blood as has every other wing of the Pakistan military in helping fight terrorism. It is not ISI that invited bin Laden to come with his comrades to Afghanistan. Rather it was the Americans who are to blame for allowing him to leave Sudan to move to Afghanistan. The past few years have brought Pakistan nothing but terror and huge loss of lives and property. That is something the US cannot compensate with a paltry $7.5 million aid package. So please give the ISI a break, any bomb blast in Kabul or gun battle in Mumbai is visited upon its head like a crown of thorns. It is preposterous and it is time this ridiculous charade ended.

Having contacts with key players in the Afghan insurgency is not a crime and does not mean these contacts are being helped with weapons, funds and logistics to fight the international forces. If blaming a former ISI chief for having past contacts is the criterion then what is next? Who will stop the architects of these malicious rumours from laying the blame at the door of Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani? After all, he was also a former ISI chief from 2004-2007. Does it make sense that a sitting army chief who has earned the respect of every military commander in the coalition, would allow Pakistan’s counterterrorism doctrine to be thus jeopardised? Pakistan is waging its toughest battle against home-grown militants who have used the Afghan card to proliferate and promote their own vested interests. The neighbourhood conflict and the presence of foreign forces is the main reason for the mushrooming of extremism and not vice versa. Anyone with the slightest intelligence should be able to discern the changed environment and the dynamics at play.

To win this war against terrorism, the insurgency must be wrenched away from its embrace with every option available. It should not be too bitter a pill for after all Washington is an old hand at making deals with the unlikeliest of partners. As for Pakistan, the US needs to stop playing coy. Either it should make a break or forge ahead with mutual trust and respect. Wars are not won when allies mistrust and berate each other at every given opportunity.

While US officials have denounced the WikiLeaks report and have assured that cooperation with partners will not be affected, questions are already being raised about the US policy towards Pakistan. This is why it is important for policy makers in Washington to decide on how to deal with Pakistan. The dual policy that has only created bad blood and affected US credibility needs a complete overhaul.

The slow slide to anarchy

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Kamila Hyat

A few days ago, in the town of Okara, a mob which included several women burst into a police station, poured petrol over two policemen and set them ablaze. Intervention from other people at the station prevented death – but not serious injury — to five people. In other similar incidents in Karachi, mobs have set alight suspected criminals.

There are other signs too of anarchy. At least two incidents have been reported during the last few days from Punjab, where parents killed small children and then themselves. In Lahore, a rickshaw driver is reported to have reached a death agreement with his wife and three daughters, the eldest aged around 13 years, after they decided there was no other way out of the financial straits they faced as a family.

The official response has been callous. The information minister has remarked suicides took place even in the developed world, admitted the government could do little to tackle poverty and advised people to hand over children they could not feed to the Pakistan Baitul Maal. The smiling director-general of that organization meanwhile informed the media on the same occasion that 15 centres, named ‘Sweet Homes’ had been opened up for such children.

The taste such remarks leave in the mouth is not sweet at all. There is instead a strong element of bitter bile. What is the government doing, hanging on to power, if it can do nothing to assist desperate people and must advise them to give away their children?

Even the more sensible option of population control was not mentioned. The comments from the minister come at a time when we hear regularly of the lavish lifestyle of ministers, of blatant nepotism and corruption in many places and of malpractices of many kinds elsewhere. Transparency International Pakistan has described how the military and the civil administration could save millions for development simply by following procurement rules.

There are many other examples of a slide towards anarchy. The slippage has in fact been going on for years.

In the north of our country we fight a war that some fear is unwinnable for a conventional force pitched against a highly-motivated guerilla outfit. Acts of almost unspeakable horror unfold in areas where the Taliban retain their hold. Till recently, three young men from Orakzai, who were dragged into a bazaar and had their hands chopped off by the Taliban, lay in a Kohat Hospital. The men, all from poor families, asked under what law they had suffered amputation and who would compensate them for the loss of a hand – and with it the means to earn a living.

There received no answers. Reports stated no member of government had visited them.

Elsewhere, small boys are enrolled by militants as future suicide bombers. Some reports say children as young as six have been taken away for this purpose. Families continue to sell children to be used by extremists, as prostitutes or for forced labour of all kinds. Young men desperate to flee the country pay out huge sums to agents who exploit them.

Most people in the country continue to feel they have no access to justice; that their grievances are not heard and that no one is interested in their fate. This is one factor behind growing mob violence of many kinds.

The UN’s World Food Programme, in its recently released report on the ‘State of Food Insecurity in Pakistan’, states that 48 per cent, or nearly half the people in the country, are food-insecure. In a nation of 170 million this translates into a very, very large number. The lavish lifestyles of the rich seem especially obscene when juxtaposed on a backdrop that sees people scrabble over handfuls of rice distributed at mazaars or scavenge for food at garbage dumps.

The failure to change this situation for the deprived has already brought us close to complete ruin. Pakistan ranks once more among the ten least successful states of the world according to the annual list put out by Foreign Policy magazine. Continued chaos stemming from militancy is listed as one reason for this. In turn militancy is fuelled by poverty; poverty created by poor governance – and the apparent lack of commitment to people.

Anarchy also takes the form of a breakdown in the rule of law. In the Pakistan of today, the powerful do as they please. According to a recent report, a landlord in Renala Khurd had held over 40 Christians in his home village captive after his daughter apparently eloped with a member of the community. His thugs threatened to set them alight in their homes.

Similar violence has of course taken place elsewhere. The rich are aware they can, quite literally, get away with murder. Money brings with it enormous privilege. The poor are often punished even when they have committed no crime.

It is not easy to say how we can pull back from such chaos. The typhoon that has blown away so many structures fundamental to state and to society threatens now to topple those that remain. Everywhere, criminal elements have tied in with terrorists. ‘No go’ areas exist across the country and we have continued tugging at the frayed rope that holds together the Federation.

The primary responsibility to restore order lies of course with government. But it is difficult, for now, to imagine it can, without intervention, do very much on its own to change matters. There seems to be little will or ability to do so. This intervention will need to come from people. Sadly there appears to be no organized group in society capable of offering this; no political party which has very much to offer. The drive forward must then come from various groups willing to come together. Such fronts of students, activists, professionals have been formed in other countries. They must play a part in persuading the elite of a need for reform. The alternative is growing anarchy which will eventually threaten the survival of everyone living within the state.

Indian govt evidence not legally tenable: FM Qureshi

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has contradicted India’s claim that there was enough evidence to convict Hafiz Saeed.


‘The Pakistani judiciary is independent, their judgement must be respected’.

“The Pakistan Supreme Court had little choice in the matter as the Indian government had failed to produce evidence that was legally tenable,” he said in an interview with Indian news channel Times Now. “To pin someone down not only do you require evidence, you require legally tenable evidence,” he said.

Qureshi said that like the judiciary of India, the Pakistani judiciary is independent and their judgement must be respected.

“The Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram is expected on June 26 for the SAARC Home Ministers’ conference. I intend to meet with him and discuss this issue with him,” Qureshi said.

“I am expecting a meeting with the Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna on July 15 when we resume our dialogue. They are welcome to raise their concerns and we will sit and discuss them on the negotiating table.”

Qureshi added that the two prime ministers have given the responsibility of bridging the trust deficit to the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan.

“Yes, there is a trust deficit, we have to bridge it. We have to find a way of bridging this trust deficit. We also have to find a way of building confidence and that is exactly what I intend to do in the days to come.”

Qureshi stressed that the policy of the Government of Pakistan is very clear. “We condemn terrorism and will do our utmost to dismantle terrorist networks and not allow our soil to be used against anyone,” he said. “We are victims like anybody else. What you saw in Lahore was a very tragic incident. We are facing terrorists and fighting them. This fight will reach its logical conclusion and we will defeat them.”

Forces, jet fighters kill 42 Taliban in Orakzai

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HANGU: Security forces backed by fighter jets killed 42 terrorists and injured another 13 in various parts of Orakzai Agency on Sunday.

Fighter jets bombed terrorist hideouts in Ghuz Garh, Ghalju, Tali, Tore Kandi and Kasha areas, killing 20 and injuring 13 Taliban.

Sources said five hideouts were also destroyed in the attacks.

Also, Swat Scouts killed 22 Taliban in a six-hour battle in Mulla Khel, Rangi Kandu, Mir Garh, Drai Choti and Sumpag and consolidated their position in the areas.

The security forces also destroyed 12 terrorist hideouts in these areas.

The military launched the ongoing offensive in Orakzai in mid-March to flush out Taliban who last year fled an army offensive in the nearby South Waziristan.

Continuous artillery and air attacks have killed hundreds of insurgents over the past two months, the military says.

On Friday, security forces backed by fighter jets and helicopters gunships had killed at least 80 Taliban and injured another 60 in the agency.

The forces had took control of Arha Guld, Knadao, Threy Sotay, Supaka Kandoi and Khatango Ghar areas of Upper Orakzai and consolidated their potions in the reclaimed areas.