In the annals of British colonial history one can find an unpromising precedent for the massive manhunt for Osama bin Laden that is now underway along the rugged border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. \nThe homelands of Pakistan's proud Pashtun tribesmen were also the scene of a 24-year hunt for another Islamic firebrand, the Fakir of Ippi -- who died in his bed, a free man, in 1960. \nThe fruitless search for the Fakir is recalled with unease by Western defense attaches now advising governments on how to catch the world's most wanted man in Pakistan's tribal borderlands. \nThe Fakir of Ippi was a Pashtun tribal leader, who led rebellions against British troops from a cave on the border of Afghanistan in what is now Pakistan's mountainous Waziristan district. \nIppi's stomping ground was the most remote and conservative of Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous tribal districts on the Afghan border, and the stage for the Pakistani army's largely unsuccessful bid since March to capture 500 al-Qaeda, Taliban and tribal fighters. \nThe Fakir orchestrated ambushes and sabotage missions against the British, then against the Pakistani troops after the British granted independence in 1947. The Fakir was considered the region's most notorious figure. \nCountless raids by both forces starting in 1936, as well as offers of bounties, failed to capture him. \n"The ubiquitous and talented Fakir managed to elude the British despite bombing raids directed against his various hideouts and substantial rewards offered for his delivery, dead or alive," writes James Spain in his book The Pathan Borderland." \nThe British colonial army's protracted hunt for Ippi, born Mirza Ali Khan into the Torikhel sub-tribe, began almost 70 years ago on the Waziristan's sun-baked ridges. His first clash with the British came in 1936 in a dispute over a Hindu bride's conversion to Islam. \nIppi went on to raise lashkars [armed tribal forces] who ambushed British army convoys. In a raid in 1938 an entire detachment of British Indian Scouts was wiped out. \nAfter two years of ambushing, looting and evading British forces, Ippi retired to "caves in a cliff ... almost astride the Afghan border," according to Spain. There he gathered bands of followers and fought off attempts to kill him from both the ground and the air. \n"Air attacks on Gorwekht accomplished little, and Ippi lived out his life at his border headquarters," Spain wrote. \nRetired air commodore Sajjad Haider flew air raids against Ippi and his men in 1954. "It was like the wild west," Haider said. \n"We were called in to rescue ground troops. Flying overhead we saw hundreds of tribal fighters, in groups of 10 and 15, hiding behind big boulders. \n"They knew the terrain, they moved very quickly and understood the limitations of our aircraft. They used to hide at the bottom of steep hills so pilots would have no space to pull up after attacks." \nLike today's forces hunting the al-Qaeda leader, he too blamed the failure to capture Ippi on the inhospitable terrain, a patchwork of cave-pocked mountain ridges. \n"It's like Osama bin Laden today. All these American, British and Afghan forces are trying to capture him, but it's the same story," Haider said. \n"The border is treacherous, it's [over 2,000km] long, very porous, they can go back and forth with their supporters and they have the sympathies of the local population. \n"Ippi was fighting in the same area as today's hunt. He went from one cave to another. There were hundreds of caves so it was difficult to find out which cave he was in," Haider said. \nAcademic Taqi Bangash, chairman of Peshawar University's History Institute, said bin Laden mimicked Ippi's tactics to evade capture.
FEELING THREATENED: The first military commission under Kim Jong-un’s leadership to last longer than a day is a sign of a growing escalatory doctrine, an analyst said North Korea discussed assigning additional duties to its frontline army units at a key military meeting, state media said yesterday, suggesting that the country might deploy battlefield nuclear weapons targeting South Korea along the rivals’ tense border. The discussion comes as South Korean officials said North Korea has finished preparations for its first nuclear test in five years, as part of possible efforts to build a warhead to be mounted on short-range weapons capable of hitting targets in South Korea. During an ongoing meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and
TRADE TALK: Xiao Qian said that Australia had fired the ‘first shot’ in deteriorating trade relations with China, but improvements were possible if Canberra takes action China’s new ambassador to Australia chided protesters who heckled him yesterday during a speech about the future of relations between the two countries. Xiao Qian (肖千), who has only been in the role since January, had just begun his speech at the University of Technology Sydney when the first protesters interjected, calling for freedom for Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. The ambassador was repeatedly interrupted by sign-wielding protesters, some criticizing China’s treatment of the Uighur people as well as the university for inviting Xiao to speak. “People who are coming again and again to interrupt the process, that’s not expression of freedom of
China’s COVID-19 outbreak is shifting to its south coast, with a flareup in Shenzhen triggering mass testing and a lockdown of some neighborhoods, while Macau — an hour’s drive away — is racing to stop its first outbreak in eight months. The new cases come as China’s two most important cities, Beijing and Shanghai, look to be subduing the virus after months of strict curbs and repeated testing. Shanghai yesterday reported nine local cases, while Beijing reported five. Nationwide, China yesterday reported 34 new COVID-19 infections. Yet new clusters continue to emerge, prompting action from local officials. Borders are increasingly under pressure, with
New Zealand stargazers were left puzzled and awed by strange, spiraling light formations in the night sky on Sunday night. At about 7:25pm, Alasdair Burns, a stargazing guide on Stewart Island, also called Rakiura, received a text from a friend saying to go outside and look at the sky. He went out and saw a huge, blue spiral of light amid the darkness. “It looked like an enormous spiral galaxy, just hanging there in the sky,” Burns said. “Quite an eerie feeling.” “We quickly banged on the doors of all our neighbors to get them out as well. And so there were