Wednesday, 25 May 2011

25 May 2011 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (5/25/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Two police officers killed in Dagestan

12 May

A man shot dead two police officers in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan on Wednesday morning, local police reported. The attack happened in a village of Karamakhi in the Buinaksky region while the officers were carrying out an "inspection" at the residence of a local, whose identity has not yet been disclosed. The officers were shot at from within the house. The attacker was killed in return fire. Terrorist attacks and shootouts with police are common in Russia's volatile southern republics, where the government has been fighting insurgents for over a decade.  (RIA Novosti)

 

Nagorno-Karabakh dispute will be most probably discussed at OSCE PA session in Belgrade

13 May

 “Reports of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs on Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno Karabakh will be most probably heard at annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Belgrade”, OSCE PA President Petros Efthymiou said during the meeting with Azeri parliamentarians on Thursday.  The relevant proposal was made by the Member of the Azerbaijan delegation to OSCE PA, deputy of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijan Parliament) Eldar Ibrahimov.  According to Petros Efthymiou, resolution of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno Karabakh is very important not only for the South Caucasus, but also for whole Europe.  The 20th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will be held from 6 to 10 July in Belgrade, Serbia, under the general theme of “Strengthening the OSCE`s Effectiveness and Efficiency - A new start after the Astana Summit."  The largest event on the Assembly`s calendar, the Annual Session typically gathers about 250 parliamentarians to elect officers and vote on resolutions to inform the work of the OSCE and parliamentarians in participating States. The event will conclude with the adoption of the Belgrade Declaration, expressing the collective will of the OSCE`s parliamentary dimension. (AzerTAc)

Gazprom may play a role in TAPI pipeline 13 May Moscow could join a pipeline project meant to deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to India, officials said during bilateral talks. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev welcomed Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to Moscow to discuss business ties, including electricity and energy development. A statement from the two governments said Moscow might join the multilateral Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas project, Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports. Moscow expressed interest in the project in October and New Delhi has said Russian energy company Gazprom could serve as one of the suppliers for the project. The planned 1,043-mile pipeline will deliver 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas per year to Pakistan and India. Afghanistan gets the remaining 700 million cf planned for the pipeline. Backers at the Asian Development Bank said they were optimistic that construction of the pipeline would be finished in time to deliver gas as early as 2016. Security of the TAPI route through Afghanistan is an impediment, though the Afghan government made several pledges to relieve those concerns. TAPI is favored by Western powers over Iran's pipeline project because of diplomatic concerns with dealing with Tehran. (UPI)

Azerbaijan`s success at Eurovision 2011 made the whole Turkic world proud and happy`, ambassador Hulusi Kilic

16  May

Ambassador of Turkey to Azerbaijan Hulusi Kilic congratulated Azerbaijan`s Ell&Nikki duo on a spectacular first-ever victory in the 56th Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf, Germany. Having praised all, who contributed to the Azerbaijan`s triumph, Turkish ambassador emphasized that the success of Azerbaijan group brought happiness and pride not only to Azerbaijan but the whole Turkic world. (AzerTAc)

 

Afghanistan wants to join Shanghai alliance

16 May

Afghanistan has applied for an observer status in the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which will consider the application at its summit in June, Russia's foreign minister said on Saturday, RIA Novosti reported. The security alliance, which includes Russia, China and former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is gathering for its annual 15th summit in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital, on June 15. "Afghanistan has recently asked for an observer status, and this issue will be considered at the upcoming summit," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Observer countries in the organization are India, Pakistan, Mongolia and Iran. Lavrov said India and Pakistan had applied for membership, which would also be discussed at the summit. The foreign ministerial council of the SCO countries is meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan's second city, on Saturday to prepare documents for the summit. The Russian minister said two documents would be considered at the event: the Astana declaration focusing on the international situation, and the anti-drug strategy for 2011-2016. Lavrov said drug trafficking was a serious threat for SCO countries and added that observer nations could be actively involved in the anti-drug strategy. A survey on Drug Use in Afghanistan, issued 21 June 2010 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), showed that around one million Afghans aged 15-64 suffered from drug addiction. With the figure making eight percent of the population, this rate is twice the global average. (RIA Novosti)

 

Rare suicide bombing shocks Kazakhstan

17 May

A suicide bomber on Tuesday blew himself up outside the headquarters of the security service in Kazakhstan's northwestern city of Aktobe, wounding three people, officials said. The mysterious bombing was a rare event in Kazakhstan, a majority Muslim country that prides itself on being the most stable nation in Central Asia and a hub for Western investment. General prosecutors office spokesman Zhandos Umiraliyev told reporters in the capital Astana that the authorities had identified the bomber. "It has been confirmed that the act was carried out by Rakhimzhan Makhatov. A criminal investigation has been opened," he said. He played down claims that it may have been a "terrorist attack", saying the bomber suspected in several unspecified crimes detonated the bomb as a way to flee prosecution. Asked if this was an act of terror, Umiraliyev said, "No, no." Three people, including a member of the security services, were wounded, he said. The bomber was killed. "A suicide bomber detonated an unknown device in front of the regional security services building. As a result of the explosion, there are casualties," a source within the security services told the Interfax news agency. Despite the comments by the prosecutors' office, the trans-Atlantic security group the OSCE condemned the bombing as an act of terror. "I strongly condemn this terrorist act," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. "The OSCE and Lithuania do not accept terrorism in any form and make every effort to combat it," he said. The incident shocked the city of Aktobe, a local newspaper journalist told AFP, who said the initial reports said there were as many as seven wounded. The blast took place around 9:30 am (0530 GMT) outside the local headquarters of the Kazakhstan National Security Committee (KNB), the successor to the Soviet-era KGB. News reports said security police were searching for alleged accomplices and had cordoned off a block of the city of 277,000 inhabitants. According to local news site Tengiz News, the bomber was retaliating for recent arrests in Kazakhstan of Muslims who are followers of the fundamentalist Sunni branch of Islam known as Wahhabism. However this theory had not been confirmed at the official level. "As a member of an organised criminal group, the suspect committed the act with a goal to run from (criminal) responsibility," the prosecutor's spokesman said. (AFP)

12 Afghans killed protesting NATO raid 18 May Twelve people died in northern Afghanistan Wednesday in a protest over a NATO raid that killed four Afghans overnight, authorities said. President Hamid Karzai condemned the raid in Taloqan, capital of Takhar province, and dismissed NATO's assertion that all four people killed were all armed insurgents, the Los Angeles Times reported. Two of the raid's victims were women. Within hours, up to 1,500 protesters came out in Taloqan and tried to overrun a NATO outpost manned by Germans. An official told China's Xinhua news agency the protest turned violent when Taliban members joined. About 50 people also were injured, officials said. It was not clear whether police firing alone was responsible for the deaths and injuries. NATO's International Security Assistance Force on its Web site said Tuesday's joint operation with the Afghans targeting a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan "killed four insurgents, including two armed females." "Throughout the entire operation the security force was careful to ensure the safety of all civilians," the ISAF said. This is the third nighttime raid NATO has had to apologize for or promise to investigate this month. (UPI)

India, Uzbekistan sign 34 pacts 18 May India and Uzbekistan, the energy-rich Central Asian nation, Wednesday signed 34 pacts in diverse areas, including pharmaceuticals and hydrocarbons, and agreed to cooperate closely in stabilising Afghanistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Uzbek President Islam Abduganievich Karimov, who is here on a two-day visit, on a wide range of issues, including economic ties and closer cooperation in areas ranging from education, health and human resource development to energy, science and technology, tourism and culture. "Both leaders agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a long-term and strategic partnership based on equality and mutual understanding," the external affairs ministry said in a statement. The two leaders "condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations". "The leaders had a detailed discussion on the continuing unstable situation in Afghanistan and underlined the importance of early establishment of peace and stability in the country," the ministry said. Manmohan Singh, who visited Kabul last week, shared his perspectives on the evolving situation in Afghanistan and reiterated India's resolve to assist in the development of that country. More than 30 bilateral agreements were concluded at the government level and between business entities in areas such as information technology, pharmaceuticals, standardisation, small and medium enterprises, coal, oil and gas, science and technology, banking and tourism. Uzbekistan reaffirmed support for India's candidature for permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council. The two sides also resolved to expand their cooperation within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). India is currently an observer at the SCO and is keen to become a member of the six-nation Central Asian organisation. (newkerala.com)

Pakistan orders inquiry into killing of five Chechens

19 May

A Pakistan provincial government on Thursday ordered an inquiry into the killing by security forces of five Chechens, including three women, after media said they had been unarmed. The group was killed this week, with authorities saying they were al-Qaeda-linked suicide bombers. Islamist militants have stepped up attacks in Pakistan after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in the northwestern town of Abbottabad on May 2. Last week, 80 people were killed in twin suicide bombings at a paramilitary academy in the northwestern town of Charsadda. On Tuesday, the paramilitary Frontier Corps and police gunned down five Chechens near a security checkpoint on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, saying explosives were strapped to their bodies and they were attempting to attack government forces. But the media raised doubts over statements by security forces, with television footage showing a wounded woman waving her hand in the air before her death.

The daily Dawn on Thursday quoted witnesses as saying that the suspects were unarmed, had put up no resistance to the security forces and appeared to be about to surrender. "The chief minister has ordered an inquiry after mediareports raised doubts about the whole incident," a provincial government spokesman told Reuters, referring to the head of the province. Two officials of a bomb disposal squad which searched the bodies after the shooting told Reuters that they found no explosives strapped to the bodies of the Chechens. "They were unarmed and had nosuicide jackets or explosives with them," one of the officials said. "Five valid and two expired Russian passports were found in a ladies’ handbag lying with the bodies," the second official said.  (Reuters)

 

Funeral Held For Kazakhstan’s First Suicide Bomber 20 May Kazakhstan's first-ever suicide bomber has been buried in his native northwesterm city of Aqtobe, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Rakhimzhan Makhatov, 25, blew himself up at the entrance to the Aqtobe branch of the National Security Committee (KNB) on May 17. Three people -- two KNB employees and a businessman -- were injured in the blast. Local authorities arrested Makhatov's wife, Meiramgul Makhatova, after the incident. KNB officials announced on May 19 that Makhatov and his wife were members of an extremist Islamic group. About a dozen people, mainly relatives, attended Makhatov's burial on May 20, RFE/RL reports. (RFE/RL)

 

President Ilham Aliyev receives President of the European Parliament

20 May

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan Friday received President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek. In meeting, the talk revolved around the current state of and the prospects for cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Union, European Parliament. Also was stressed importance of current visit of the European Parliament`s President to Azerbaijan to widen bilateral relations. (AzerTAc)

 

Kazakhstan with EBRD interested in investing in Central Asian region

21 May

Kazakhstan is ready to invest in the Central Asian countries together with the EBRD, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Friday. "Kazakhstan is interested in participating in projects in other countries together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We are ready to work together to further develop the economies of our region," the president said at the 20th meeting of the EBRD Board of Governors in Astana. Nazarbayev said investments by Kazakhstan and the EBRD in the Central Asian countries "will support the integration process and open new capabilities for the development of Kazakhstan's markets as well." (Xinhua)

Suicide Bombing Kills four in Eastern Afghanistan 23 May A suicide bomber has struck a crowded bazaar in eastern Afghanistan, killing four and wounding 14 people. The attack occurred in the main market in Alishing, a district in Laghman Province. A spokesman, Faizullah Pathan, for the provincial governor said all the victims were civilians and that he did not know what the target of the attackers was. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying those killed were commanders of local militia forces set up by the government to defend their communities against the Taliban. There has been a series of suicide bombings since the Taliban announced the beginning of their annual spring offensive late last month.

 

Turkmen parliament ratifies agreement on cooperation in Caspian Sea

23 May

The Turkmen parliament of the fourth convocation adopted the bill "Ratification of Agreement on Cooperation for Security in the Caspian Sea", the official Turkmen source said. The agreement and the joint declaration were signed by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran in Baku on Nov. 18, 2010.

Official Ashgabat previously stated that the Caspian Sea summit in Baku was a significant breakthrough in the development of regional partnership, which began in Ashgabat in 2002. Speaking at the Baku summit, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov proposed to begin the process of preparing the new agreements in the preservation and sustainable use of biological resources of the Caspian Sea, cooperation in the field of preventing the emergency situations and liquidating their consequences on the Caspian Sea. (Trend)

 

Protesters rally for third day in Georgia

23 May

More than 1,000 demonstrators in Georgia protested for a third consecutive day on Monday, calling for the ex-Soviet country's Western-backed President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. Accusing Saakashvili of authoritarianism and failing to tackle widespread poverty, they maintained their round-the-clock rally outside the Georgian public television studios in the capital. Many were armed with sticks after brief clashes on Sunday when police used rubber bullets and tear gas against demonstrators who attacked cars. "We will stay here until they throw us out," protester Lasha Oniani told AFP. Former parliamentary speaker turned opposition leader Nino Burjanadze has said that a "revolution" has started in Georgia, while another leader has called for a "Day of Rage" on Wednesday, referring to uprisings in the Middle East. "It will not take a long time to unseat Saakashvili," Burjanadze told AFP. Despite poor social conditions and the country's disastrous defeat in a war with its arch-foe Russia in 2008, the current protests have so far failed to attract significant numbers of people. Some 6,000 rallied on Saturday in Tbilisi and hundreds in the Black Sea resort city of Batumi, but turnout fell to around 2,000 on Sunday. "There is no sign of a revolutionary situation in Georgia," senior governing party lawmaker David Darchiashvili told AFP. "They want to have a Tahrir Square in Georgia, but this has nothing in common with reality," he said, referring to the Cairo epicentre of the Egyptian uprising. In another dramatic move, fugitive former defence minister Irakli Okruashvili, who was granted political asylum in France, vowed to return to Georgia by Wednesday this week to join the rally despite facing an 11-year jail sentence for alleged corruption.Officials however said that Okruashvili -- whose arrest helped to spark mass protests after he turned against the Georgian president in 2007 -- would be detained immediately. Russia did not miss a chance to lob a jab at Saakashvili, calling on him to respect human rights. "If Georgia's authorities do not stop the use of force, this would lead to a further exacerbation of relations between authorities and the opposition, (and) an even greater destabilisation of the whole situation in the country," the Russian foreign ministry said. (AFP)

Roadside bomb kills 10, wounds 28 in Afghanistan 24 May A roadside bomb killed 10 workers in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, and NATO again promised that the coalition would not abandon the country even if some members plan to withdraw their forces. Also Tuesday, two high-ranking government officials survived attempted assassinations. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that plans to hand over control of seven provinces to Afghan soldiers in July remained on course, despite new bombings and assaults by insurgents. "Those who threaten Afghanistan's future should be under no illusion — NATO is and remains committed to Afghanistan," Fogh Rasmussen told Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to a coalition statement. NATO also acknowledged Tuesday that soldiers shot dead an Afghan holding a flashlight during a raid, something that could add to the growing anti-foreigner sentiment in Afghanistan after nearly a decade of war. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the roadside bombing aimed at workers in Kandahar, which has seen a rise in incidents in recent days as Taliban fighters try to retake territory lost in the past year. The workers on the truck were employed by the local government in the region to clean up rivers and streams, according to Dr. Qayoum Pakhla, the director of Kandahar Hospital. Ten died, and 28 were injured in the attack. "I could see people calling for help and crying," said one of the survivors, who gave his name as Sabdullah. "I saw some of my friends' dead bodies. I was helpless at that moment." Meanwhile, Ahmad Ziad, a deputy chief at the National Directorate for Security, was not injured in an attempted suicide bombing that targeted his car as he was traveling to work in Kabul, police said. Ziad's bodyguards opened fire on a suspicious sport utility vehicle heading toward his convoy, wounding the driver and stopping the speeding SUV laden with explosives, the police said. The driver was arrested and hospitalized under guard, pending an investigation. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attempt in a message to The Associated Press. In a separate attack, gunmen opened fire on an armored SUV carrying Helmand provincial Gov. Mohammad Gulab Mangul. A statement from his office said police returned fire, killing two attackers. Mangul was not injured during the attack. The growing number of attacks in the insurgents' spring offensive come as NATO and the United States hope to begin relinquishing control of security to the Afghan military through the end of 2014. President Barack Obama has said the United States, with about 100,000 troops on the ground, will begin a gradual drawdown in July — with the number to be determined by the situation at the time. Other nations plan to draw down their troop levels as well. (AP)

Defence Ministries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan discuss politico-military situation in the region

24 May

Representatives of national defence forces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan discussed politico-military situation in the region. According to the Ministry of Defence of Kyrgyzstan, delegations of two countries, headed by Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, First Deputy Minister of Defence of the Kyrgyz Republic Taalaibek Omuraliev and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Republic of Tajikistan Lieutenant General Ramil Nadyrov, met in Buzhum village of Batken province, news agency "24.kg" reported. Press service of Defence Ministry reported that parties had discussed further bilateral cooperation, as well as problems and solution of the conflict. "Military delegations discussed a plan of the joint tactical drilling, scheduled for July 2011 at the territory of Batken province with participation of the task forces of the Republic of Tajikistan," reported the press service. Taalaibek Omuraliev also inspected the south-west regional force command. In particular, he checked the combat and mobilization training of the units and institutions; amenity of military towns; state of military vehicles, as well acquainted with the conditions of service, looked thought the classrooms, medical aid posts and medical units. (24.kg)

EU concerned about fatal incidents in Nagorno-Karabakh

24 May

The European Union is concerned on the recent fatal incidents in Nagorno-Karabakh region, the EU said in its official press statement. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton made this statement following the discussions in the EU Council for Foreign Affairs on Monday. The situation in South Caucasus was one of the topics under discussion. Two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed on the contact line of Azerbaijani and Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh region last weekend. The incident occurred as a result of ceasefire violation by Armenian armed forces. Fatal incidents periodically take place on the contact line of troops.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the occupied territories. (Trend)

 

Afghan War veterans oppose Kazakh participation in ISAF 25 May Kazakh veterans of the Soviet-era war in Afghanistan are protesting a parliament decision to send troops to serve with the NATO-led international force in Afghanistan (ISAF), RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. The statement, issued by Kazakhstan's Coordination Council of Public Organizations uniting veterans of the war in Afghanistan, says that "sending even one single Kazakh soldier to Afghanistan would propel our young Republic into a large regional military conflict and pose a threat to the security of our citizens both inside and outside Kazakhstan. That would split Kazakhstan's Islamic community and destabilize interethnic and interreligious harmony within the country." The veterans also demand the immediate dissolution of the Kazakh parliament for "its decision to send a Kazakh military contingent to Afghanistan," and they call on all Kazakh citizens to support them. On May 18, the Mazhilis, the lower chamber of parliament, ratified Kazakhstan's agreement with NATO on participating in ISAF. Astana is offering as many as four servicemen variously described as being "officers" or "medics." The agreement will come into force after it is approved by the the upper house, the Senate, and signed by President Nursultan Nazarbaev. (RFE/RL)

 

Kazakh President opens World Kurultai of Kazakhs in Astana

25 May

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev opened the 4th World Kurultai of Kazakhs, which is underway in Astana on Wednesday, with a welcoming speech. Representatives of nations from different countries come together at the Kurultai of Kazakhs which is held once in five years. This year leaders of youth organizations, student associations from 35 countries, including Germany, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, UK, Mongolia, Turkey, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are invited to Astana. A tradition to hold the World Kurultai of Kazakhs originates in 1992. The delegates include representatives of the creative, scientific and educational spheres, sport, business, government and public organizations and media outlets. (Trend)

 

Car Explosion Kills 2 in Kazakhstan Capital

25 May

An improvised explosive device blew up a car in Kazakhstan's capital on Tuesday, killing its two occupants, in the second fatal blast within a week close to Kazakh security service buildings.  Analysts said the blast could signal an intensifying power struggle among security forces in Kazakhstan or a spillover of violence from neighboring countries. The Interior Ministry issued a statement within hours of the explosion denying any link to terrorism. It said the explosive device appeared to have detonated automatically inside a red Audi-100 parked on waste ground.

The blast shattered the windows of nearby houses. The ministry said the two people killed were male and ofEuropean appearance. Local news agencies quoted witnesses as saying they had seen body parts scattered at the scene. No other injuries were reported. A local newspaper reporter, visiting the scene several hours after the blast, said windows had been blown out in two buildings flanking a remand center run by the National Security Committee, the local successor to the KGB. On May 17, a man blew himself up at the local security police headquarters in the northwestern city of Aktobe, wounding two bystanders. (Reuters)

Shell shuts Kazakh offices 25 May Royal Dutch Shell announced it would close its offices in Kazakhstan by the end of the month, effectively shutting down the massive offshore Kashagan oil field. Kashagan at its discovery in 2000 was seen as the largest oil find in more than three decades. Commercial reserves there were estimated at 9 billion-13 billion barrels of oil. Shell laid off or relocated all employees at its offices in the Kazakh port city of Atyrau and said it would close its offices there at the end of the month, The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London reports. The government in Kazakhstan had rejected a design for a development phase at the field that could have yielded as much as 1 million bpd. Italian energy company Eni, the chosen operator at Kashagan, estimates the field is one of the most expensive oil projects in the world. Delays at Kashagan make production targets at Kashagan unlikely. Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie said delays could cost the Kazakh government billions of dollars of revenue. Natural resources from the Caspian region are expected to play a major role in Europe's market diversity though finances could get in the way, the International Energy Agency said. (UPI)
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