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ISSUE: #. 27. March 31, 2002


By Bill Weinberg
With David Bloom, Special Correspondant

1. Earthquake Kills 1,800; Foreign Troops to Disaster Zone
2. More Skirmishes in Paktika
3. Secret US Casualties in Operation Anaconda?
4. Taliban Holding 18 US Troops?
5. Taliban "Preparing Spring Attacks"
6. Taliban Pledge Guerilla Resistance
7. Russians Skeptical of US "Victory" in Operation Anaconda
8. US Fuels Warlord Violence in Khost
9. Osama in Khost?
10. Is Khost a Province?
11. Khalilzad: US Military Role in Fighting "Warlordism"
12. Did Bush Phone Call Halt Return of Afghan King?
13. Monarchists March in Kandahar
14. Blair Aid Calls for Return to Colonialism
15. UN Creates New Mission for Afghanistan
16. Afghan Opium Thrives; Bush Grants Sanctions Waiver
17. US Agents in Pakistan Shoot-Out
18. Pakistan Tribal Leaders to US: Back Off
19. Oprah: Forget It, George
20. Trans-Caucasian Pipeline Plan Advances
21. Kazakhs Protest Aral Sea Water Diversion
22. Kazakh Battalion Ready for Afghanistan

1. Sharon vs. Arafat: The Endgame?
2. Did Palestinian Ambulance Carry Explosives?
3.Who Killed International Observers?
4. Peaceniks Detained at Tel Aviv Airport

1. Hindu Temple Attacked; Kashmir on Edge
2. India's New Terror Law Strikes Fear

1. Fed Nuke Labs to Develop Hydrogen "Bunker-Buster"
2. Missing Plutonium Raises "Dirty Bomb" Fears
3. Radioactive Materials Loose in Afghanistan

1. Ashcroft Seeks Death for Moussaoui; France Protests
2. Filipinos Contracted to Build Camp X-Ray Prison

1. "Operation Thanatos": Colombia's DMZ Bombed, Invaded
2. Bush to Expand Colombia "Counter-Terrorist" Aid
3. State Department Plane Down in Colombian Rainforest
4. US Funds Oil War in Colombian Rainforest
5. Uwa Indians Pledge Resistance
6. Paras Target Oil Workers
7. Colombia Drug Production Increases; Paras Profit
8. Otto Reich: Contragate Figure Behind Colombia Strategy
9. Terror Re-Emerges in Peru on Eve of Bush Visit
10. Peru Anti-Terrorist Tribunals Leave Harsh Legacy
11. Bolivia Blast: Sendero South?
12. Ecuador Ecologists Resist Trans-Andean Pipeline

1. Chiapas Stalemate: Eight Years After
2. Zapatista Political Prisoners Hold the Line
3. Nonviolent Resistance in Chiapas
4. Crackdown on Chiapas Paramilitaries?
5. Chiapas Governor Does Breakfast with Bush
6. Radical Islamic Sect Targets Chiapas

1. Bush Fears Cuban Cyber-Terrorism
2. Vieques Under Siege as Naval Exercises Resume


An estimated 1,800 were killed as an earthquake demolished the town of Nahrin, in Afghanistan's mountainous Baghlan province March 25, and up to 1,000 may be trapped under rubble. The disaster further stretches the meager resources of the Afghan interim government, already struggling with drought and war devastation. The interim regime has asked the UK-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), heretofore confined to Kabul, to send peacekeeper teams to the disaster zone. (Newsday, March 27) US troops have also been mobilized to the area, with Chinook helicopters sending in relief supplies over the Hindu Kush mountains. (NYT, March 29) Donations to the relief effort can be made through the Society for Aid to Reconstruct Afghanistan (SARA). [top]

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported March 28 that 50 al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the eastern Afghanistan province of Paktika in "an operation conducted by US-led coalition forces and Afghan soldiers from the interim defense ministry." Dawn said Kabul Radio reported planes backed up ground troops in the assault. Paktika borders Pakistan and lies just south of Paktia province, where US and allied Afghan troops conducted the 17-day Operation Anaconda against Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters (see WW3 REPORT #24). [top]

Pakistan's Frontier Post March 29 aired boasts by unnamed "Taliban sources" of inflicting far more serious damage on US forces in Operation Anaconda than have been reported in the world media. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources said: "At the very outset we destroyed 13 US military helicopters and caused at least 182 soldiers loss in the Arma peaks." The Bush administration admitted the downing of only two US helicopters, with eight US troops killed. [top]

Pakistan's Frontier Post reported March 21 that US Special Forces are searching for 18 US soldiers taken hostage by Taliban/al-Qaeda forces in Paktia province. According to the Post, "bargaining efforts are going on at highest level between the Americans and the Taliban," who are said to be demanding release of over 350 prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. The article cited "reliable and informed sources" that the 18 troops were captured during Operation Anaconda. [top]

The Taliban are preparing a spring offensive against US forces, with 300 suicide bombers ready to attack, the London Times reported March 25. Recent attacks on US-led forces in Khost and Kandahar represent the start of a new counter-offensive. The Times claimed the Taliban see Operation Anaconda as a victory with "a premature end to the American offensive" and "many fighters fleeing into Pakistan after relatively limited casualties." "Senior Taliban official" Maulvi Mehmood Din said "guerrilla actions in Afghanistan would intensify in May." [top]

Speaking to CBS correspondent Allen Pizzey in a cave--and under terms of secrecy that required using a night scope--a man known only as Nasrullah warned of Taliban revenge. "The tribes will put up every kind of resistance until they have defeated the Americans," Nasrullah said. Also quoted was Jallad Khan, "who has a reputation as a ruthless leader of a powerful pro-Taliban tribal group and claims he has 400 gunmen ready." Khan warned: "Disappearing from the battlefield does not mean the Taliban have completely disappeared. They can come back to life again." Khan also personally boasted: "I will create problems for the US." The Pentagon apparently does not consider that boast an idle one. "What we do know is that there are some folks down there right now with money in their pocket trying to regain support of the local population," said Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, commander of coalition troops on the ground in Afghanistan. (CBS News, March 19)

The International Herald Tribune reported March 28 that senior officials say the Bush administration is concerned that warmer weather in Afghanistan may mean a sharp rise in guerrilla attacks on US and allied troops. Speaking on the Taliban/al-Qaeda threat in Afghanistan, CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, "As spring emerges, we'll see, maybe, more activity on their part." That view was supported by Maj. Gen. Hagenbeck, who said spring was "campaign season" for Afghan resistance fighters. "We expect to see some increased enemy activity," he said. Pentagon officials said planning for the counter-offensive was well under way, including new deployments. The US has about 5,200 combat troops in Afghanistan, now joined by 1,700 Royal Marines from the UK. A half-dozen A-10 attack jets have been flown to Bagram air base near Kabul. [top]

Gen. Tommy Franks, US commander of Operation Enduring Freedom, visited Moscow on his way back to the Central Command staff complex in Tampa after reviewing troops in Afghanistan, where he handed out medals to servicemen who had just returned from Operation Anaconda. Franks insists the operation was a resounding success, with up to 800 Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters slain, and the Shah-i-Kot region captured and cleared of enemy forces. However, less than 50 bodies were actually found. Pakistan's NNI news service reported March 29 that some US troops allege that allied Afghan soldiers tipped off the Taliban and al-Qaeda of the operation well beforehand. Afghan soldiers, led by General Zia Lodin, were supposed to have done the main fighting in Anaconda, with US forces in support. But US troops were rushed to the front when the Afghans retreated after meeting resistance. The weather in the mountains was bad throughout Anaconda, with helicopters often unable to land or evacuate troops on time. In the end, possibly hundreds of Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters escaped. NNI reports that such stories "tend to elicit a smile from Russian veterans" of the 1980s Afghan campaign. "They had exactly the same experiences. (The Afghan allies always slip away if their is any serious trouble, helicopters are never on time, enemy body counts are always falsified and so on.) After almost 10 years of combat in Afghanistan, the total number of enemy fighters killed, as reported by commanders over the years, exceeded the entire official population of the country--a fact often joked about in Russian military and intelligence communities." Notes NNI: "Franks himself did a stint in Vietnam in 1967, where the body count became virtually the only measure of military success. The United States won the count, losing some 60,000 men, to Vietnam's estimated 2 million lives lost. But the war was lost." [top]

US efforts to track down Taliban/al-Qaeda forces in the Khost region are fueling the violent squabbles of regional warlords, the Chicago Tribune reported March 27: "The US Special Forces commandos camped out at a secretive but well-publicized base at the [Khost] airstrip are offering cash, satellite phones, uniforms and other goodies to those prepared to help out in the hunt for al-Qaeda forces, triggering fierce competition for access to America's largesse that in recent days has threatened to erupt into all-out war... Accusations of allegiance to al-Qaeda are thrown around as casually as the bursts of automatic fire, with local commanders clearly hoping that if they can convince US forces their rivals are terrorists, the Americans will take them out with an air strike.... The central players in the drama are Mohammed Mustafa, the police chief recently appointed by the new government in Kabul and a powerful but hated local warlord, Bacha Khan Zadran, who has forged a close relationship with the US. The Khan faction accuses Mustafa of being a closet al-Qaeda member. Mustafa accuses Khan of using his relationship with the Americans to advance himself. Both sides are taking money from US forces to help in the hunt for al-Qaeda fighters and to provide intelligence tips on US-supplied satellite phones. And both deeply resent the fact that America is helping the other side." (See WW3 REPORT #22) [top]

Pakistan's NNI news service reported March 29 that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri have both been spotted in the Khost area over the past week. Added NNI: "Local intelligence reports also show that al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives are regrouping in the mountains south and northeast of the city of Khost, helped and supplied in part by Afghan sympathizers who can blend into the city and bring information and supplies to the fugitives." Zawahiri was reportedly seen riding on horseback with a group of about 25 men toward the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan. [top]

Amidst the confusion over who is legitimately in power in Khost as tribal factions shoot it out, the question seems unanswered of whether the region is actually a province of Afghanistan. News accounts alternatively refer to Khost as a province or a region of Paktia province. Scholar Gwillam Law's "Statoids" web page, a global survey of national administrative divisions, states that in 1995, "Khost province split from Paktia," but adds: "Note: I suspect that competing factions in Afghanistan disagree about whether Khost and Nuristan provinces were legally created." (Administrative Divisions of Countries ("Statoids"). Rival Pashtun warlords are vying for power in Khost/Paktia, in an apparent proxy war by factions in the interim regime loyal to ex-king Zahir Shah or the Northern Alliance (see WW3 REPORT# 18 & WW3 REPORT# 22). Nuristan is the former Kafiristan of Kipling fame, now also contested by rival factions but largely hidden from the outside world by its inaccessibility (see WW3 REPORT #7). Burhanuddin Rabbani, now leader of the Northern Alliance, was in power in Afghanistan when the borders were redrawn in 1995, and it may have been a move to break up local Pashtun tribal alliances in Khost/Paktia. [top]

US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said US troops could be used to keep peace between rival warlords around the country. At a Kabul press conference, Khalilzad said the US continues to oppose deploying international peacekeepers beyond the capital Kabul, now patrolled by a UK-led 4,500-strong multinational force. But Khalilzad said the US is willing to consider other "prudent measures to discourage or preclude a return to warlordism... In some places, the US capabilities, assets have not been given this mission of discouraging, precluding the potential conflict among the warlords. This could be added where this may not have been the case before." Through garbled syntax, Khalilzad acknowledged that US forces may be directed against enemies other than Taliban/al-Qaeda: "In some areas, the immediate dominant problem is fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban. In other places, there is the issue of building security, new police, new army, while at the same time discouraging conflict among the major forces." Meanwhile, the US is training Afghanistan's nascent national army to rein in "warlordism." (AP, March 7) [top]

A call from President Bush to the Italian prime minister last week was a major factor in pre-empting the historic return home of Afghanistan's exiled king, the Washington Post reported March 27. Members of the royal family and Italian officials reportedly said Bush told Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that the king, who lives in Rome, would face an attempt on his life in Afghanistan. Mohammed Zahir Shah, 87, was scheduled to travel to Afghanistan March 25 to prepare a long-awaited Loya Jirga, or grand assembly of tribal leaders, to establish a permanent government. Italy's foreign ministry was arranging the trip and had prepared a security escort. Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai was supposed to arrive in Rome March 30 to escort Zahir Shah home. US Ambassador to Italy Melvin Sembler held a farewell party for Zahir Shah March 20. On the 21st, Bush reportedly called Berlusconi, and asked the Italians to provide bodyguards for Zahir Shah, prompting a delay. An Italian official was quoted by AP saying Italy's military intelligence had been getting "more and more detailed reports about preparations for attempts on the king's life." Zahir Shah is now scheduled to arrive in Kabul in April, but a family member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his trip might be postponed again. "It will take some time for the Italians and the international peacekeepers in Afghanistan to prepare real security. They simply aren't ready." Western diplomats say the threats to the ousted king came from the Northern Alliance. An Italian Foreign Ministry official said the threats included a rocket attack on the aircraft transporting Zahir Shah. [top]

Some 4,000 supporters of former king Zahir Shah marched through the streets of Kandahar March 27, calling for his return from exile. "We want the king to come back and take the reins of the country," said Kandahar royalist leader Azizullah Wasafi. Banners read: "We, the people of Afghanistan, stand behind our Baba," and "Please come home, Baba." Royalists refer to the ex-king as the "father"--or "baba"--of Afghanistan. Pashtun warlord Gul Agha's provincial government in Kandahar, in the southern royalist heartland, broadcast radio announcements urging people to join the march. Shops were closed, and some 1,500 schoolchildren joined the rally. The march ended at the Kandahar government headquarters. "We, all the people of Kandahar, wish that he come to Kandahar, so we can meet with him," said Wasafi, a former cabinet minister and adviser under Zahir Shah as king. "Only the king can bring national unity in Afghanistan." (AP, March 27) [top]

A senior aide to Tony Blair called for a return to colonialism, the UK's Mirror and Guardian papers reported March 28. In "Reordering the World," just published by the Foreign Policy Center, British foreign affairs adviser Robert Cooper said: "What is needed is a new kind of imperialism... The opportunities, perhaps even the need for colonization, is as great as it ever was in the 19th century... The weak still need the strong and the strong still need an orderly world. A world in which the efficient and well-governed export stability and liberty, and which is open for investment and growth, seems eminently desirable." He said Afghanistan showed what could happen if the West did not intervene in the developing world, with terrorists using failed states as bases to attack "orderly" nations. [top]

The UN Security Council established a new civilian mission for Afghanistan in a March 28 resolution. The resolution was based on Secretary General Kofi Annan's recent report to the Security Council on Afghanistan. Annan's report proposed integrating all existing UN relief and political activities into a single structure, the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA). The resolution does not address security issues, confirming reluctance to expand the international peacekeeping force. But Annan also warned: "There is a continuing danger that existing security structures, both Afghan and international, will not adequately address the security threats that are currently discernable and are likely to increase as the convening of the emergency Loya Jirga approaches. UNAMA will not be able to carry out its functions effectively unless the security situation is addressed immediately." (, March 28) UNAMA is to be led by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN rep who negotiated establishment of Afghanistan's interim government at the Bonn conference last December. Because of the chaotic violence in Afghanistan, little of the $4 billion pledged by various nations has reached the country, and reconstruction is barely evident. (Reuters, March 29) [top]

According to a US member of the International Narcotics Control Board, opium production in Afghanistan is flourishing, despite a ban imposed by the new interim government. In his assessment of increased post-Taliban opium production, Herbert Okun noted that there are no viable alternatives for Afghan farmers. "We need to wean the peasants of Afghanistan away from growing the opium poppy, so crop substitution is required," said Okun. "It has to be serious and it has to be sustained." Despite the post-Taliban opium boost, the Bush administration has waived Congressionally-mandated aid sanctions against Afghanistan. Colombia was also waived, making the two largest producers of heroin and cocaine exempt from sanctions due to "national security interests." (Drug Policy Alliance, Feb. 28, [top]

Pakistani officials announced March 29 the arrest of 50 suspects, including four Afghans and several Arabs, in connection with last week's attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad. Police said the arrests were made in a series of overnight raids in Faisalabad, Punjab province. Police said two suspects were killed and six people injured--including two Pakistani police agents--in an exchange of fire with the suspects. US FBI agents were reported to have backed up Pakistani security forces in the raids, and some of the suspects were brought to a CIA center in Lahore for interrogation. (Dawn, March 29) Five people were killed, including the wife and daughter of a US diplomat, and over 40 wounded when attackers threw grenades into the church in the capital's diplomatic quarter March 17. No group has claimed responsibility. The US withdrew non-essential staff from its embassy in Islamabad after the church attack (see WW3 REPORT #26). [top]

The Pentagon is considering sending US troops into Pakistan's border zone to hunt down fleeing Taliban/al-Qaeda forces--and local tribal leaders are warning them away. The border zone is Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Area, where the rule of Pashtun tribal councils is nearly absolute under a long-standing autonomy agreement with Islamabad. Until Dec., no soldiers--not even Pakistani--were allowed in the area. Shakirullah Jan Kokikhel, chief of the local Kokikhel tribe, told the New York Times: "Listen to me. There was a time, when Russia was in power [in neighboring Afghanistan], we liked Americans. Now we hate Americans. Under our tribal rules, we designate an enemy. America is now the enemy." (NYT, March 25) [top]

Talk show diva Oprah Winfrey, a vocal proponent of women's rights, turned down a White House invitation to visit schools in Afghanistan that have reopened their doors to girls. Winfrey's refusal was a disappointment to the White House, which sought to use the visit to tweak the image of its War on Terrorism. The tour would highlight how US-led troops have liberated women from the Taliban regime. "She was invited, but she did respectfully decline," a spokeswoman for Winfrey's Chicago-based Harpo Productions told the press. "Due to her responsibilities to the show, she isn't adding anything else to her calendar right now." (National Post, Canada, March 30) [top]

The US is stepping up pressure on Kazakhstan to support the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is slated to deliver Central Asia's energy resource across the Caspian Sea and Caucasus to Western markets via Turkey. Steven Mann, special advisor to US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Caspian basin energy issues, said during a mid-March visit to the Kazakh capital Astana that advancing collaboration between Washington and Kazakhstan in the petrol sphere was the main purpose of his trip. After meeting Mann, President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced that his country would support the Baku-Ceyhan project. On March 19, Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Imangali Tasmagambetov discussed the pipeline proposal with Turkish deputy premier Devlet Bahceli. Nazarbaev described the talks as "fruitful." Proposed by the US in the late '90s when the proposal for an Afghanistan route was dropped due to political instability, the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline would traverse Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, enabling the export of Caspian energy resources without involvement of either Russia or Iran--Washington's main rivals in the region. Washington has set a completion date of 2005 for the project. Previously, the Kazak government avoided committing to the Baku-Ceyhan route, focusing on the already operational Caspian Pipeline Consortium route from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oilfields to Novorossiysk, Russia. Routes through China and Iran were also under consideration. As recently as Dec., Nazarbaev, on a visit to Washington, stressed that his country was interested in "multiple routes," and that there was no immediate need for Kazakhstan to join the Baku-Ceyhan project. Tehran is unhappy with Nazarbaev's reversal, and has stopped foreign oil companies from conducting exploration in its sector of the Caspian Sea. In July 2001, Iranian air and naval forces intercepted Azeri and British Petroleum vessels. (Andrei Chebotaryov for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Feb. 15, [top]

Scientists in Kazakhstan are warning that a US-Japanese scheme to supply Afghanistan with water from the Aral Sea would deepen an ecological disaster which has already damaged the health of millions of Kazakhs. The inland sea has been rapidly shrinking since the '60s, when the Soviet government diverted the rivers that feed it for massive irrigation projects. By siphoning off vast quantities of water from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers for the cotton fields of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, Soviet planners partially dried up the sea, which has now effectively split into two--the Malyi (small) Aral and Bolshoi (big) Aral. By the early '80s, there was talk of the Aral Sea's "death." A fresh water shortage, and the contamination of the remaining supply with agricultural run-off, has resulted in widespread kidney and liver disease and an alarming death rate among children. Japanese and US scientists launched their new proposal at January's Tokyo conference on international aid for Afghanistan. They suggested further diversions south from the Amu Darya, splitting the Aral into three sections. The Kazakh delegation was thoroughly opposed, warning that the consequences for the local populace would dwarf the Sept. 11 attacks on the US.

"It's not that we don't want to help Afghanistan," said Kazakh ecologist Sabit Almasov. "But this undertaking would carry the risk of an enormous ecological catastrophe for Kazakhstan, a catastrophe that couldn't even be compared with Sept. 11. The whole of Central Asia could suffer, and then the whole world." Further draining the sea would leave an enormous saline deposit, which would contribute to desertification. "Wind could carry this fine salt over a distance of over 100,000 kilometers," said ecologist Gennady Zaretsky. Igor Malekovsky, deputy director of the Kazak Scientific Research Institute of Geography, warned of global impacts: "This water basin is capable of causing major damage to the climactic condition of the planet." The Kazakh government has yet to issue an official reaction the plan. But Kazakh weekly Novoye Pokolenie (New Generation) commented: "Even now, when only a part of the water basin has been drained, Aral salt can be found on the Tien Shan mountains [800 miles east of the sea] and every second inhabitant of the surrounding Pri-Aral region suffers from lung complaints, cancer and anemia." (Erbol Jumagulov for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Feb. 22, [top]

The Kazakh government's decision to send a battalion of peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan is reviving bitter memories of Moscow's long war in Afghanistan. Several thousand Kazakhs were conscripted into the Soviet force--and many lost their lives. Now 500 men have been chosen for the first stage of the new Kazakh Battalion, or Kazbat. "I'm against sending our boys to Afghanistan," said Oleg Rubets, deputy chair of the Union of Veterans of the Afghan & Local Wars. "I have been through such a war and I am convinced there will be many unnecessary casualties." Kazakh political scientist Anatoli Ross saw political motives behind the deployment: "Unlike Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan has not provided the US military bases in the wake of Sept. 11. But the authorities want to get closer to Washington--it needs American clients for Kazakh oil. Kazbat may help in this regard." (Erbol Jumagulov for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Feb. 15, [top]


The world is transfixed by the grave escalation in violence over the weekend as Israel--with the US assenting--launched a massive troop mobilization to the Palestinian territories, besieging President Yasser Arafat in a small area of his Ramallah compound. The Israeli cabinet decided not to let Arafat attend the Arab summit in Beirut, where Arab leaders unanimously agreed to the peace proposal put forward by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, calling for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders in exchange for normalized relations. The proposal was rejected by Israel (BBC March 28). Before the vote took place March 27, Islamic Jihad killed 22 Israelis celebrating Passover with a suicide bomb in Netanya. The bomber had been on Israel's wanted list for the Palestinians to arrest (Ha'aretz, March 29). The Palestinian Authority "strongly condemned" the bombing (Newsday, March 28), and offered an immediate cease-fire (Newsday, March 29). But on Thursday, the Israeli cabinet declared Arafat "an enemy." (Jerusalem Post, March 29) The next day, Israel invaded Ramallah with 150 tanks for the second time in a month (Ha'aretz March 30). Also on March 29, the third female Palestinian suicide bomber killed herself, two Israelis and injured 30 in a Jerusalem supermarket. The al-Aksa Martyrs brigade, recently declared an enemy in the US War on Terror, took responsibility (see (see WW3 REPORT #26) (Jerusalem Post, March 30). The brigades are linked with Arafat's Fatah party, subordinate to the Fatah Tanzim militia led by Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti is noticeably absent from Arafat's besieged Ramallah compound, reportedly having fled in advance of Israeli troops (Ha'aretz, March 31). Militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) responsible for the assassination of right-wing Israeli tourism minister Rehavem Zeevi are reportedly in the compound, and their apprehension is sought by Israel. Fuad Shubaki, implicated in the Karine A weapons ship affair (See WW3 REPORT #16) is also reportedly in the compound (Ha'aretz, March 31).

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres assures that Arafat will not be harmed (NYT March 31), and US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he has been given assurances (NYT March 30). However, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers told Haaretz that Arafat could meet with an accident in the assault: "The officers said that their soldiers had been ordered to refrain from harming Arafat, but added that the Palestinian leader could be inadvertently hit by a stray bullet during the gunfire exchanges taking place in and around his offices." (Haaretz, March 31) Arafat is confined to 3 rooms functioning by candlelight, with reports of fighting on the same floor as his offices. He is communicating with the outside world by a cell phone with a fading battery. (Ha'aretz, March 30) Arafat told Abu Dhabi television that Israel wanted to make him "either a hostage, a runaway, or a martyr," He said he replied, "I tell them I will be a martyr, a martyr, a martyr." (New York Times, March 30)

All of Ramallah is under siege. According to EFE, "the Israeli army broadcast an order over loudspeakers for all Palestinian men between the ages of 15 and 50 in the city of Ramallah to gather downtown for questioning." (EFE, March 30) On March 31, a suicide bomber blew up himself and 15 others in restaurant in Haifa. Hamas took responsibility. (Ha'aretz, March 31) Four more were wounded in a suicide attack at the West Bank settlement of Efrat (CNN, March 31).

Haaretz reports 20,000 Israeli reserves have been called up, noting "Israeli security sources said that the incursion into Ramallah was likely to be a long-term operation--not a short-term, symbolic one--and was aimed at destroying the terror infrastructure there." (Haaretz, March 30) Haaretz reported military sources said "all cities on the West Bank are to be 'taken care of,' and that limited actions on the Gaza Strip could also be undertaken in the days ahead" Beit Jala, Qalqilyah, and Tul Karm have already been invaded, as well as Ramallah. (Ha'aretz, April 1) Israeli forces moved into Bethlehem Sunday night (BBC, April 1). At least 20 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were killed in Ramallah over the weekend (ABCNEWS, March 31).

According to the Guardian, Washington was given advance notifice of the attack plan (UK Guardian, March 30). The New York Times reported that "Secretary Powell said he expected the Israeli forces to be in town [Ramallah] for 'some extended period.' American officials said the Israeli offensive could go on for weeks." (NYT, March 29) However, the US did vote in favor of UN Resolution 1402, encouraging Israel to withdraw from Ramallah. It was the second time in one month the US voted for a resolution opposed by Israel in the Security Council, after previously having always voted in Israel's favor (see WW3 Report #25). (BBC, March 30) (David Bloom) [top]

The IDF claims a search of a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance March 27 turned up explosives. The ambulance was carrying a mother and her three children, one of whom was sick. A 10-kilo explosive belt was removed from under the stretcher by robot arm and detonated in front of reporters. The IDF detained the driver, a six-year veteren of the Red Crescent Society, who they said admitted he was responsible for the explosives. (Haaretz, AFP, March 27) Israeli security forces regularly stop and search ambulances, a source of controversy. The IDF claims that in July 2001, two Palestinian gunmen fired at Israeli soldiers from Red Crescent ambulances--and that Wafa Idris, the first female suicide bomber, may have used her position as a Red Crescent worker to enter Jerusalem for her Jan. 27 suicide mission. The IDF admits that "Israeli security officials do not yet have a clear picture of how Idris made her way from Ramallah to Jerusalem. However, investigators believe that Red Crescent documentation held by the suicide bomber and her accomplices, and perhaps even a Red Crescent vehicle, helped them through IDF roadblocks and eased the checks they had to undergo." The IDF further states: The increasing use of medical personnel by terrorist organizations to by-pass checks at IDF blockades underscores the need to carry out thorough searches in Palestinian medical and evacuation vehicles, despite the inconvenience and hardship involved." (IDF statement, Feb 14) The new incident was seized upon by officials to justify the policy. "This is the first case we managed to document," said Colonel Ilan Paz, commander of the elite Binyamin Brigade. "It shows that our checks of ambulances are not without justification." (Ha'aretz March 27) According to the Egyptian news agency MENA, "The International Commission of the Red Cross on Sat. 30 March urged all parties in the occupied Palestinian lands to stop abusing medical supplies set for salvaging human lives."

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society strongly denied that the ambulance was carrying explosives, According to their press office, "PRCS leadership expresses its shock at events yesterday in which an ambulance was reportedly carrying explosives. Our initial investigation leads us to believe that this was a staged event in which the Israeli army was involved in to taint the Red Crescent ambulances. We have debriefed the passengers of the vehicle, examined the timeline and other eyewitness accounts, and are amazed at how the Israeli army managed within the span of 20 minutes to invite the media and press corps in the area before even confirming the presence of the explosive device" The PRCS said it is concerned about the abuse of its fleet by all sides: "Since Sept. 29, 2000, there have been 177 attacks on Red Crescent ambulances that service both the Israeli and Palestinian population. Today, an attack by the Israeli army killed Dr. Khalid Sulieman...who was evacuating a young injured girl." (PRCS statement, March 28) (David Bloom) [top]

Two members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) were killed, and one was wounded when unidentified gunman opened fire on their car on March 26. The TIPH, consisting of Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, was formed to monitor the conflict in that city. According to CNN March 26, the surviving observer, Huseyin Ozaslah of Turkey, told Israel Radio that shortly after leaving Hebron, "we heard some shooting to our car," and saw a "Palestinian standing in the middle of the road" wearing "the uniform of the Palestinian police carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle." Ozaslah said he and his two colleagues shouted, "Don't shoot!" and said they were from the observer force. "He didn't care. He kept on shooting toward us," Ozaslah said. He said the gunman "finished his whole magazine, firing about 30 shots." CNN also cited an Israeli army statement that an "initial investigation determined the observers were killed by Palestinian fire." The observers were on a road used mostly by Jewish settlers. Palestinian gunmen have attacked passing cars on West Bank roads throughout the Intifada--mistakenly killing a Greek Orthodox monk (UK Guardian, June 17, 2001), and a Palestinian Israeli (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 16).

A Palestinian journalist contradicted the IDF's account. Khalid Amayreh claimed that according to eyewitnesses, "Israeli occupation troops on Tuesday shot and killed two international observers while on a routine patrol near Hebron." He writes that "Palestinian security sources" dismissed the Israeli account as "a cheap lie": "We are sure 200% that the Israelis did it, they simply don't have the courage to take responsibility for this crime." (Khalid Amayreh, eFreePalestine!, March 26)

TIPH vehicles are readily recognizable, with red letters on the side. According to a TIPH press release, "The participating states of the TIPH request both parties to allocate the resources required urgently for a full and comprehensive investigation of these brutal murders and to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice." The TIPH was created after the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs/Abraham Mosque by the Brooklyn-born Jewish settler extremist, Dr. Baruch Goldstein. (David Bloom) [top]

ABC news reported March 31, "In Ramallah, under Israeli control since Friday, dozens of European peace activists, their arms raised and holding white flags, marched past Israeli soldiers surrounding Yasser Arafat's office to join the Palestinian leader, saying they would stay with him as human shields." Meanwhile, over 300 international peace activists are being held at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport and threatened with expulsion--despite having visas to enter Israel. (Al-Awda press release, March 28) [top]


Suspected Islamic militants threw grenades and exchanged gunfire with police at a 150-year-old Hindu temple in Indian-controlled Kashmir March 30, police said. Ten were killed and another 20 wounded in the attack, which left the temple floor in Jammu covered with spent cartridges and blood. (MSNBC, March 30) In the wake of the attack, Hindu militants enforced a 48-hour strike in Jamu. Followers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that leads India's coalition government joined other hardline Hindu groups on Jammu's streets to enforce the strike. BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Shiva Sean patrolled the streets ensuring shops remained shut. Security forces also patrolled Jammu's Muslim-majority districts in anticipation of a potential Hindu backlash to the attack on the Raghunath temple. Two suspected militants and four temple guards were killed in the attack, as well as four civilians. Five of the injured are in a critical condition. No group has yet claimed responsibility, but a local journalist told the BBC the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-i-Taiba is suspected. Kashmir remains tense since India and Pakistan nearly went to war in Dec. over India's demands for extradition of Lashkar-i-Taiba leaders in connection with an attack on India's parliament building. (See WW3 REPORT #14 At least 20 people, including five security personnel and nine militants, were killed in Kashmir last week. On March 29, militants attacked a truck carrying a group of paramilitary border security troops, killing five. At least two soldiers were killed in an early-morning attack at a security force camp. (BBC, March 31) [top]

India's controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) is poised to be ratified in a joint session of parliament this week. POTO was stalled for months with the government unable to line up enough support to ensure its passage in both houses of the Indian parliament. POTO's approval was certain in the lower house, but it was voted down by the upper house, not controlled by the ruling hardline BJP. The convening of a joint session on the POTO is bitterly criticized as a bid to hustle through an unpopular piece of legislation. Critics charge that POTO's definition of terrorism is dangerously vague, and it legitimizes torture by giving security forces wide authority to extract confessions. The list of 23 terrorist organizations identified by the POTO emphasizes Islamic groups and overlooks Hindu militant groups which have unleashed terror on Muslims--including some groups linked to the BJP. (Asia Times, March 26) [top]


The Pentagon and Energy Department have directed the federal nuclear weapons laboratories in Livermore, CA, and Los Alamos, NM, to race to design a special hydrogen bomb to destroy underground targets, known as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. (San Jose Mercury News, March 25) The Pentagon has already considered using nuclear "bunker-busters" in Iraq (see WW3 REPORT #14. [top]

The Energy Department cannot "fully account" for quantities of plutonium provided under a 1954 Atoms for Peace program to 33 countries--including Iran, Pakistan and India--according to an internal department report. Some of the shipments contained between 16 and 80 grams of plutonium, which "would be a serious health hazard if damaged," an official familiar with the report said. "They [presumably terrorists] would be able to create a dispersal device," the official said, "our concern being the dirty bomb." Experts say it would take over six pounds of plutonium to create a nuclear explosion, but a conventional explosion of the highly radioactive material in a "dirty bomb" could be disastrous. The Energy Department report noted that the plutonium capsules sent overseas were supposed to be followed through a Sealed Source Registry, but the program was discontinued by the Reagan administration in 1984. The plutonium capsules, which were distributed until the late 1970s, were intended for use in research. The Clinton administration disclosed in 1996 that the US had distributed "approximately two to three kilograms of foreign countries since the late 1950s." Among other countries that received the plutonium capsules were Israel, Turkey, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Greece, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and Vietnam. Robert Norris, a researcher for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said US nuclear assistance to India, Pakistan and Iran helped those governments' efforts to build a bomb. "The Atoms for Peace program was designed to put a good spin on the atom, and instead it has helped Iran and India to start their bomb programs." Energy Department Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman said in his report: "Recent world events have underscored the need to strengthen the control over all nuclear materials, including sealed sources... In the wrong hands, these sources could be misused." (Washington Post, March 27) [top]

Nuclear experts arrived in Afghanistan this week after radioactive cobalt-60 was found in the abandoned wing of a hospital--raising fears other dangerous materials might lie forgotten in the country's rubble. There was no evidence the cobalt-60 was intended for anything but medical treatment, said Capt. James Cameron, head of the UN peacekeepers' nuclear, biological and chemical monitoring group. Acting on information from Afghan authorities, the team discovered the cobalt-60 at the hospital in the western part of Kabul, Cameron said. It was housed in a machine for treating cancer, located in an abandoned wing of a hospital surrounded by thick, lead-lined walls. The doors of the room were open--and the machine had been pried open. Peacekeepers closed up the machine and sealed the room. Experts say they are concerned by finds of such dangerous materials. "These sources are very worrying, and particularly in Afghanistan," said Tom Clements, director of the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington. (AP, March 29) [top]


The Bush administration announced it will seek the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House appealed to European allies to keep cooperating with terrorism investigations despite their opposition the European Union's official opposition to the death penalty. Moussaoui, 33, should be put to death because he helped plan "the largest loss of life resulting from a criminal act in the history of the United States," prosecutors said. Authorities in Moussaoui's homeland of France said they would continue general cooperation with the US but would not turn over any documents that could be used to support his execution. US Attorney General John Ashcroft, announcing the decision at a Miami news conference, said, "We ask our counterparts in the international community to respect our sovereignty, and we respect theirs, and to the extent that they can cooperate and help us, we welcome that cooperation." Moussaoui's public defender, Frank Dunham Jr., called Ashcroft's press conference "disgraceful conduct" that could prevent selection of an impartial jury in the Washington area where the trial is slated this fall. "I am mystified as to why he feels he has to hold a televised press conference other than to influence the jury pool," Dunham said. "I'll stop short of calling it unethical, but it's close to it." Moussaoui's mother in France accused US authorities of seeking revenge. "My son is a scapegoat. They can't find the people who are truly responsible for this crime," Aicha Moussaoui said. Moussaoui never boarded any of the hijacked planes and was already in custody a month before the 9-11 attacks. Victims' families were split on the decision. While some applauded it, Gregory Hoffman, who lost his twin brother at the World Trade Center, said, "Your initial gut reaction is kill him, but at the end of the day, what does that mean? I don't think taking a life is the answer. And if they want to be killed and martyred, don't give it to them." (AP, March 28) [top]

The US has hired some 400 Filipino engineers and construction workers to build a maximum security prison for suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Philippine Daily Inquirer said a "discreet and thorough screening" was conducted by the FBI before the Filipino workers left for Cuba aboard a chartered flight last week. The Filipinos were hired through a US-based recruitment agency with an office in Manila and were accorded special treatment at the international airport, reports said. The request for Filipino workers reportedly came from Washington, and was sent directly to the office of President Gloria Arroyo. "The US and Philippine governments wanted this direct hiring as low key as possible. We want to treat this as a simple employment opportunity," the Inquirer quoted one official as saying. The Filipino workers will receive an average salary of about US$1,000 dollars a month. (AFP, March 28) [top]


In the month since Colombian army troops invaded the demilitarized zone which had served as a sanctuary for the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), thousands of the guerillas have slipped from the area's towns without a fight--to re-emerge with relentless hit-and-run attacks in the backcountry. President Andres Pastrana broke off talks with the FARC on Feb. 20, and ordered his military to reoccupy the 16,000-square-mile region on the eastern slopes of the Andes that he had given to the guerrillas three years earlier as an enticement to negotiate an end to the oldest civil war in the Western Hemisphere. The army has taken the enclave's five main towns, moving in behind heavy aerial bombardment. But the guerrillas are blowing up electrical towers in the countryside and exploding car bombs in smaller towns. US Congress is set to consider broadening the terms for use of US aid to fight the guerillas--or "terrorists," as the Colombian army now calls them--freeing up helicopters and other war material originally supplied only to fight narco-traffickers. The army offensive is code-named named "Thanatos" for the Greek word for death. (Washington Post, March 27) [top]

The Bush administration has asked Congress to allow the Colombian military to use helicopters, planes, gunboats and other equipment provided under the anti-drug Plan Colombia in its expanding campaign against leftist guerrillas. The administration had previously signaled it would ask Congress to approve new aid for "counter-terrorism." But in a new supplemental budget request, the White House seeks to loosen restrictions on past aid as well. In addition to removing the strictures, the request seeks $35 million in new funding for the current year--on top of $538 million the administration already requested for Colombia for fiscal 2003. (Los Angeles Times, March 23) [top]

A State Department-contracted plane crashed March 18 and exploded on a fumigation mission to destroy drug crops in southern Colombia, killing the pilot, the US Embassy said. The name of the pilot, who was reportedly not a US citizen, was withheld. The embassy said there were no reports of ground-fire, claiming the plane struck a tree after taking off from Larandia army base. The OV-10 was one of five planes flying in formation when it crashed. The planes, which are protected by US-trained Colombian army troops flying US-donated combat helicopters, spray coca and opium fields. (AP, March 19) [top]

The Bush administration's foreign operations budget request for 2003, presented to Congress in Feb., includes $538 million in new aid for Colombia--with $374 million slated for the military and police. $98 million is to train and equip a Colombian army brigade of some 2,000 troops to protect a pipeline from the Cano Limon oil fields, operated by California's Occidental Petroleum, to the Caribbean port of Covenas. Colombia's two guerrilla armies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), frequently bomb the pipeline. Opined a Feb. 13 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle: "The new US policy reeks of corporate welfare. Cano Limon produces about 35 million barrels annually--which, at a cost of $98 million, adds up to about $3 per barrel in subsidy to Occidental. Let Occidental pay for its own security."

Since it was completed in 1985, so many holes have been blasted in the Cano Limon pipeline that locals call it "the flute." Some 2.9 million barrels of crude have spilled into the soil and rivers--about 11 times the amount from the Exxon Valdez disaster. Last year, 170 bomb attacks put the pipeline out of action for most of the year, causing the loss of about $430 million in oil revenue for the Colombian government. The attacks also reduced by $75 million the profits of Occidental Petroleum--a generous donor to both US Republican and Democrat parties, and an enthusiastic supporter of US military aid to Colombia. From oilfields near the Venezuelan border, the 480-mile pipeline snakes half the width of Colombia to the Caribbean coast--but most of the attacks occur in the first 75 miles, where it crosses Arauca state, a longtime guerilla stronghold. Occidental's headquarters at the Cano Limon field are a fortified compound, and company employees must be helicoptered in from the regional capital. (UK Guardian, March 12) [top]

The Uwa Indians, whose ancestral lands at Capacho, south of the Cano Limon pipeline, are slated for exploration by Occidental Petroleum, issued a statement in response to the US aid provisions for oil industry security: "We want to reiterate one more time for public opinion, to [Colombian state oil company] Ecopetrol, the Colombian government, multinationals, and especially to Occidental of Colombia, that we will never step back from the process of territorial defense... We will not permit oil exploration or development in our sacred territory, this is a position that surges from our ancestral millenary law and our cultural principles. And if oil was found in the Capacho sector and they plan to export it, they are violating the rights of our ancestors and our mother earth, which belongs to all who live in this beautiful blue planet." (Communique from Uwa Traditional Authorities, Cubara, Feb. 14) The Uwa have repeatedly blockaded roads to halt oil exploration, and had their protests violently broken by Colombian security forces. ( [top]

Gilberto Torres, regional leader of the Colombian oil workers union (USO), was kidnapped by paramilitaries on Feb. 25. A regional oil workers strike demanding his release has halted production at Barrancabermeja and Cartagena. On March 4, El Tiempo newspaper carried a report that a paramilitary group calling itself Casanare Peasant Self-Defense is holding Torres. A "Commander Ruben" said Torres was kidnapped because he is collaborating with the guerrillas. But Torres' supporters say he was targeted because he is "outspoken campaigner against the hand-over of Colombia's natural resources to the multinationals, and privatizations, including of Ecopetrol the state oil corporation." Later, a "Centaur Bloc" of the notorious United Colombian Self-Defense (AUC) paramilitary network also claimed responsibility. Torres was abducted near the pumping station at El Porvenir, in an Ecopetrol vehicle headed for his home in Monterrey, in Casanare department. This area is tightly guarded by the army, which maintains a base next to the station and patrols the adjacent Llanos Central Pipeline, run by a multinational consortium including British Petroleum, Ecopetrol and Canadian Pipelines.

84 USO members have been assassinated since 1988, and AUC has explicitly declared the union a military target. In Dec. 2001, USO's regional president in Cartagena, Aury Sara Marrugo, and his bodyguard were kidnapped and assassinated by the AUC Caribbean Bloc. AUC central command claimed responsibility on its web page. After the assassination, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States demanded that the Colombian government provide security guarantees for USO leaders throughout the country. Despite this ruling, USO supporters say, "the situation grows ever worse and without official response." (Comite por la Nueva Colombia, Feb. 26) [top]

Despite an unprecedented aerial herbicide spraying campaign, illicit coca production in Colombia increased by roughly 25% last year, according to satellite data released by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The White House claims the finding of increased coca cultivation is partly explained by inclusion of regions covered by clouds when the country was surveyed in 2000. The US assessment differs from that of the Colombian Justice Ministry, which claimed a decline of 16% last year. The supposed decline was heralded as a "clear demonstration" that the US-funded eradication campaign was working. (Drug Policy Alliance, March 14, The fumigation is concentrated Colombia's south, in areas where the FARC guerillas operate--while the northern narco-production zones in the strongholds of the right-wing AUC paras remain largely unsprayed. Comments the Drug Policy Alliance: "The Colombian military is working hand-in-hand with brutal paramilitary death squads who tax the drug trade. Whether or not the free-market narco-terrorists will prevail over the communist coca growers remains to be seen." (Drug Policy Alliance, Feb. 28) [top]

A key mastermind of the new Colombia "counter-terrorist" policy is Otto Reich, the State Department's director of Latin America policy, appointed by Bush during a congressional recess in Dec. to circumvent opposition. (San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 13) Reich was the director of the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy (OPD) for Latin America and the Caribbean from 1983 to 1986--at the height of the Reagan administration's covert wars in Central America. Reich was accused by Congress in 1987 of engaging in "prohibited, covert propaganda activities" in his efforts to promote the Reagan administration's "contra" guerilla army in Nicaragua. (Guatemala News and Information Bureau, Dec. 17, [top]

On the night of March 20, a package bomb exploded under a car parked at El Polo shopping center in the upscale Monterrico district of Lima, Peru--across the street from the US Embassy. The explosion killed nine--mostly passers-by--injured 40 and caused widespread damage to banks, restaurants and shops. The heavily fortified embassy was not damaged. Three Peruvian police agents assigned to the Embassy Protection Unit (UPE) were reportedly warned of a suspicious vehicle and were inspecting the area when the bomb went off. One agent was killed; the other two seriously injured. The attack came a day after a dynamite charge exploded at a telephone company building in the Lima district of Los Olivos, causing damages but no injuries. No group claimed responsibility for the March 20 attack, but officials said it was an anti-US action related to President Bush's scheduled March 23 visit to Lima. Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi Capurro said the bombing "could have had an international or national origin... nor are we denying that it could be the Montesinista sector"--a reference to imprisoned spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos, who was considered the power behind the authoritarian presidency of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). The blast prompted President Alejandro Toledo to return to Peru on March 21 from Monterrey, Mexico, where he was attending the UN International Conference on Financing for Development. Bush said that "two-bit terrorists" would not scare him into canceling his trip, the first ever to Peru by a sitting US president. Some 200 Secret Service agents had arrived in Lima a week earlier to make security preparations for Bush's visit.

US media played up the idea that the Sendero Luminoso rebel group may have been responsible for the blast, although the Maoist guerillas have been largely crushed. Jailed leaders of both Sendero and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) denied their groups had any link to the attack. Speaking from Miguel Castro Castro prison, MRTA spokesperson "Alvaro" said the attack "goes against the popular movement and only favors the right-wing sectors of the country." Some 22,000 Peruvian troops were deployed around Lima as Bush arrived March 23 on Air Force One, escorted by four F-16 bombers. Police used tear gas to break up protests against Bush, arresting some 20. March 21 saw a 24-hour civic strike across 12 provinces in southern and central Peru in protest of Toledo's plans to privatize the country's electrical grid. Strike leaders condemned the bombing. At the government palace, where Bush was received with honors, he and Toledo agreed to work together to fight terrorism. Bush also reportedly agreed, at Toledo's request, to speed up the declassification of US documents relating to corruption and human rights violations committed during the Fujimori regime. (Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 24, [top]

The idea of special military tribunals for accused "terrorists" was first pioneered by Peru's dictatorial Alberto Fujimori regime in its campaign against the Sendero Luminoso guerillas in the 1990s. 2,200 political prisoners, who were convicted in the secret tribunals by hooded judges, are now demanding new trials, and up to 850 went on strike for 31 days in Feb. to press this demand. Among the hunger strikers was Lori Berenson, the New York woman who won a retrial last year after she was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military tribunal in 1996 on "treason" charges of collaborating with the MRTA guerillas. In recent years, Peru has released over 700 prisoners, locally known as the "innocents," who were able to show they were falsely convicted. Rights groups say many "innocents" remain behind bars. (NYT, March 30) Despite a March 25 AP report that Vice President Raul Diez Canseco said Bush had brought up clemency for Berenson in his March 23 meeting with President Toledo, this was later denied in a White House statement. Secretary of State Colin Powell did tell the press that when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights completes its review, "perhaps that may offer an opportunity for President Toledo to examine the whole case and take another look at what might be possible." (NYT, March 27) For more info, see: . [top]

Bolivian police are blaming Peru's Sendero Luminoso for a Dec. 21 car bombing at a police building in Santa Cruz that killed one person. Police claim no evidence has been found to confirm reports that the attack was carried out by criminal gangs linked to corrupt police agents. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, March 19) [top]

Ecuadorian police detained 17 environmental activists who tried to block construction of a controversial oil pipeline through a high Andean rainforest. Authorities say they will immediately deport the 14 foreigners in the group, including one US citizen. Among those arrested are members of Greenpeace International and a local group, Accion Ecologica, which have been working to stop construction of the Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP). The activists had chained themselves to trees. After the arrests, local residents blockaded the main highway in protest, and some 100 National Police troops were brought in. The pipeline, which will span some 300 miles from the Amazon Basin to the Pacific Coast, is supposed to cross the Mindo Nambillo Protected Cloudforest Reserve, a fragile habitat for several unique bird and plant species, many on the verge of extinction. Ecuador's President Gustavo Noboa strongly favors the $1.1 billion project which is slated to double the country's oil exports. He said he is prepared to fight activists "trench by trench" if they continued to obstruct the project, which is backed by a consortium including Alberta Energy, Agip Oil, Kerr McGee and Occidental Petroleum. At the same time, Ecuador's environment ministry revoked OCP's license for the Mindo area until it repaired existing damages caused by the construction. The suspension followed mid-March protests by indigenous communities throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon, in which three people were killed by security forces. "We demand the immediate release of those detained whose only crime is defending the Ecuadorian patrimony and humanity," said Efrain Toapanta of Accion Por la Vida, another local group. "We declare that these types of repressive measures will not stop us." (, March 29) [top]


Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu joined Mexican opposition federal legislators in an appeal for the nation's congress to reconsider the original version of an Indian rights bill aimed at ending an 8-year rebel conflict in southern Chiapas state. Rep. Hector Sanchez said the move would draw the Zapatista rebels back to peace negotiations that have been stalled since 1997. A watered-down version of the measure became law last August and was promptly rejected by the Maya Indian rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). The original drafted bill grew out of an agreement reached between the government and EZLN. The masked rebels staged a 12-day uprising in the southern state of Chiapas in Jan. 1994, and while they have not returned to war since then, they still maintain their arms and a parallel government-in-rebellion throughout much of Chiapas. The 12 days of fighting left at least 145 dead. The Zapatistas want regional autonomy for Mexico's Indian areas, with traditional forms of government and control of resource extraction on their lands--key provisions which were weakened in the final version. President Vicente Fox sent the Zapatistas' version of the bill to congress as his first official act after ending 71 years of one-party rule when he took office Dec. 1. But legislators from Fox's pro-business National Action Party (PAN) and the former ruling party allied in April to amend the package of constitutional reforms. "I am here to say that this struggle is not over," Menchu, a Guatemalan Maya Indian activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, said at a ceremony re-introducing the original measure before Congress. "The Indian communities of Mexico will have their voices heard." (AP, Feb. 18)

Meanwhile, Chiapas remains tense and militarized. On March 6, 20 were injured and over 130 arrested in a clash between the rival PRI and PRD political parties (EFE, March 6) in Oxchuc village. On March 9, 700 Indians were evicted from disputed lands by federal police at Huixtla and Tapachula (EFE, March 9). March 10 saw clashes between Indian vendors and police in the highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, with over 50 arrested and several injured--sparked by police attempts to seize pirate CDs (EFE, March 10). On March 25, supporters of the PRI and PRD--the entrenched machine and the left-opposition, respectively--again clashed in Zinacantan, leaving one dead and three wounded (AP, March 25). Thousands of federal army troops remain in Chiapas, with the national military on an "anti-terrorist" alert. While Chiapas peace negotiators insist the EZLN is not a "terrorist" group, mysterious new armed groups are said to be under investigation by federal authorities in the state. (See WW3 REPORT #s 1 & 9) [top]

A Zapatista rebel supporter accused of joining an ambush that killed seven Mexican police officers in 2000 was freed from prison March 18, and called the allegations against him political. "I am innocent, I did nothing," Salvador Lopez Gonzalez, a Tzotzil Maya Indian, said after he was freed in the Chiapas state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Lopez Gonzalez was charged in connection with the death of seven state police officers in an ambush in El Bosque village. He was convicted on drug charges Feb. 20 and sentenced to 10 months, which the judge noted he had already served. Last Monday, the same judge absolved him of all other charges, saying he had been unjustly imprisoned. "His freedom was won not due to the government's willingness but because we showed proof of his innocence," said Juan Lopez Villanueva, a lawyer at the Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center, connected to the Roman Catholic diocese in San Cristobal. Lopez Gonzalez was among nine remaining Zapatista prisoners whose freedom is sought by the rebels as a condition for reviving peace talks. Lopez Gonzalez, a father of five, said he was imprisoned simply for being a Zapatista supporter, and he said he was pressured to provide information on the movement while behind bars. "I suffered and so did my family, but I will continue in the Zapatista struggle," he said. (Reuters, March 19) Meanwhile, authorities in Queretaro state denied International Civil Human Rights Observation Commission investigators access to Jeronimo Sanchez and Anselmo Robles, held there since 1998 for supposed links to the EZLN (Proceso, March 3). [top]

On International Women's Day, March 8, 30 women from Las Abejas, a Christian pacifist Maya Indian group, marched from their hamlet of Acteal to the Majomut military base. Beginning at Acteal's "Sanctuary of the Martyrs," near where 45 members of Las Abejas, mostly women, were massacred by a PRI paramilitary in Dec. 1997, the chain of walkers reached the army base singing the chorus "No es con espada, ni con ejercito, mas con Tu Santo Espiritu" (not with weapons, nor with armies, but by the Holy Spirit's power). They then entered the base to hand soldiers "exit visas," authorized by local indigenous women, inviting the troops to abandon the base and "return immediately to your homes where your mothers, spouses, grandmothers, daughters and sisters await you." A group of supporters from the Christian Peace Teams, including volunteers from Chicago and Michigan, witnessed outside the base. There were no arrests. (Christian Peacemaker Teams, March 8, CPTNet) [top]

Diego Vazquez Perez, the leader of the notorious Chiapas paramilitary group Peace & Justice, was arrested in Feb., charged with assault and kidnapping. The move was part of a state government effort to bring peace to the northern part of the state, where over 10,000 people have fled their communities and live in refugee camps in the mountains. The arrest came one day after the local church of El Limar was reopened as part of the reconciliation effort. (Mexico City News, Feb. 17) However, 48 hours after the arrest, three pro-Zapatista community leaders in El Limar were kidnapped by Peace & Justice to demand Vazquez' release. (Universal, Feb. 18) [top]

In the first day of a busy two-day trip to Washington, Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar met with President Bush and top US officials to discuss foreign investment and border security. On Feb. 8, Salazar had breakfast with Bush, where they agreed to work bilaterally to secure Chiapas' porous border with Guatemala, considered a top route for drugs and illegal migrants. Heavily indigenous Chiapas is Mexico's poorest state but has a wealth of oil reserves that remain largely untapped because of political instability in the region. A Senate envoy, led by Democrat Andrew Crenshaw, plans to make a reciprocal visit to Chiapas within the next several days. (, March 8) [top]

At least 24 Tzotzil Indians from the Chiapas village of Chamula who have converted to Islam are preparing their first pilgrimage to Mecca, financed by the Mission for Dawa in Mexico. Maya Muslim leader Brahim Gomez said some 100 Tzotzils had converted to Islam--mostly exiles from Chamula who now live in San Cristobal, having already been expelled from the village by its reactionary patriarchs, or caciques, for their earlier conversion to evangelical Protestant sects. Gomez said they were converted by a spiritual teacher known as Orihuela, or Emir Nafia. Gomez denied any link to terrorism, saying, "Islam is not terrorism, this is what I want to make clear now; Islam is love." (La Jornada, Feb. 6) On Feb. 8, the US INS denied permission for the group's Spanish missionaries to touch down for a stopover on the way to Saudi Arabia. (La Jornada, Feb. 9) Most of the converts apparently live in the community of La Esperanza outside San Cristobal, and were introduced to Islam by Spanish missionaries from the Morocco-based Murabitun World Movement. One of the missionaries, Aureliano Perez, was reportedly deported by Mexican immigration authorities in 1998 for his links to both the Zapatistas and the Basque separatist group ETA. Perez denied the charges. (EFE, May 26, 2001) The Murabitun take their name from the medieval Berber dynasty in Spain, and their web site ( reads: "Throughout a post-Christian West of unprecedented darkness, the Murabitun are springing up like the dragon's teeth and have established communities centered around Ribats, or outposts, at highly significant points throughout the world... Our power which threatens all who come into contact with us is not drawn either from ideology or structural organization but from complete submission to the Divine Creator." WW3 REPORT sources indicate that Murabitun leader Abd al-Qadir al-Sufi is actually a former anarchist and Maoist from England who wrote for the London underground newspaper International Times in the 1960s under the name Ian Dallas before converting to Islam, relocating to Morocco and gaining control of a Sufi order. [top]


The Bush administration has ordered a review of Cuba's ability to disrupt US military communications through the Internet. The administration is also said to be considering an indictment against President Fidel Castro in the 1996 shoot-down by Cuban MiG jet fighters of two Miami-based private planes near Cuban air space. Last year, Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Congressional hearing that that Cuba has the potential to use "information warfare or computer network attack" to disrupt "our access or flow of forces to the region." Fidel dismissed Wilson's comments as "craziness." (AP, March 6) [top]

The US Navy is scheduled to resume war exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques this week, and military police are prepared to halt any protests by local residents, who have been campaigning to get the Navy off their island since 1999. (See WW3 REPORT #9) Additionally, Puerto Rican police have taken control of all air and water transportation to Vieques for the duration of the exercises. A Navy memo to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, published in the San Juan Star and Vocero March 26, indicates that the military has no intentions of leaving Vieques until 2006. Before 9-11, Bush had announced the Navy would leave Vieques by May 2003. (Vieques Support Campaign, March 27) [top]


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EXIT POLL: In 1943, George Orwell wrote that in war, "Nearly always one side stands more or less for progress, the other side more or less for reaction." Does this apply to the US campaign in Afghanistan? And if so, which side is more or less for progress?

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