Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Iran: Old Guards Return.

Date: Wednesday 14 December 2005
Subj: Iran: Old Guards Return.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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IRAN: OLD GUARDS RETURN
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Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), two groups whose names are synonymous with Iranian repression and terror, are making a comeback under President Ahmadinejad.

As noted in the WEA RLC News & Analysis report entitled "The Islamic Revolution is now complete" (29 August 2005), "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has flooded the Majlis (parliament) with former Revolutionary Guards while Ayatollah Khamenei has made key changes in security structures and strategies to entrench the Revolutionary Guards' hegemony over all law enforcement agencies."

Now Iran's MPs are purging their domains of Khatami-era officials and replacing them with heavy-handed hardliners, including many former senior secret police from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) who were complicit in the serial murders of dissidents and intellectuals that took place in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. President Khatami's sensitivity to international relations led to these murderers being removed from positions of public authority, but now under President Ahmadinejad they are making a comeback. For this regime, a proved track record in brutality, assassination and inflexible hard-line Islamic ideology makes an ideal prerequisite for a government job. In fact, having hands that are stained with the blood of Christian martyrs appears to be a perfect prerequisite for a senior position in the Ministry of Interior.

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PERSECUTION ESCALATES DRAMATICALLY

On 22 November, Pastor Ghorban Dordi Tourani (53) was kidnapped from his home and stabbed to death, allegedly by an unnamed group of fanatical Muslims. His body was later dumped back at his home. Pastor Tourani, a convert from Islam, was pastoring an independent fellowship of convert Christians in Gonbad-e-Kavus, northeastern Iran. He is survived by his widow and four children aged between 3 and 23yrs.

Compass Direct reports, "Within hours of the November 22 murder, local secret police arrived at the martyred pastor's home, searching for Bibles and other banned Christian books in the Farsi language. By the end of the following day, the secret police had also raided the houses of all other known Christian believers in the city.

"According to one informed Iranian source, during the past eight days representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have arrested and severely tortured 10 other Christians in several cities, including Tehran. All the detainees have since been released.

"In addition, MOIS officials have visited known Christian leaders since Tourani's murder and have instructed them to warn acquaintances in the unofficial, Protestant house fellowships that 'the government knows what you are doing, and we will come for you soon'." (CD, 28 Nov 2005)

OLD GUARD MOIS RETURNS: TO THE INTERIOR MINISTRY...

Hojjatoleslam Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a Shiite cleric who was the Deputy Minister of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for some 13 years during the late 80s and throughout the 90s has been appointed as Iran's Interior Minister. Iran Focus reports, "Critics charge that Pour-Mohammadi is replacing Interior Ministry officials with former colleagues from the secret police, thus creating another security apparatus." (Link 1)

Two of Pour-Mohammadi's appointments to senior positions in the Interior Ministry are: Mahmoud Saeedi, the former director of MOIS in Isfahan province, who has been appointed as Director General of the Interior Ministry; and Shahab Goodarzi, the former deputy director of MOIS in Isfahan, who has been appointed as Director of Security in the Interior Ministry.

It is of great concern that Iran's Interior Ministry, a ministry that has control of the security forces and is responsible for preserving political stability, is to be run by men who were senior MOIS officials during Iran's dark and bloody days of the serial murders of dissidents and intellectuals. Iranian Christians may feel an especially cold chill, as Saeedi comes into the Interior Ministry with the blood of Christian martyrs on his hands.

Iran Focus reports, "A former senior official in Iran's dreaded secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), who personally oversaw the gruesome murders of two Christian bishops and a priest in Iran in the 1990s, has been appointed as the new Director General of the country's Interior Ministry.

"Mahmoud Saeedi, who formerly headed the MOIS department in Isfahan Province, was removed from his position in 1999 under mounting pressure on the Iranian government after it became clear that his agents had carried out the brutal murder of three Anglican Church figures in Iran."

Investigations by dissident investigative journalist Akbar Ganji (now imprisoned) revealed that MOIS was responsible for the serial killings of dissidents and intellectuals that took place through the 1990s, and that the murders of Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr, Bishop Tateos Michaelian, and Reverend Mehdi Dibaj were ordered by Deputy Intelligence Minister Saeed Emami and carried out by a team under the command of Mahmoud Saeedi.

According to Iran Focus, after Mahmoud Saeedi was removed from MOIS, he went to work with other former senior MOIS officials in the Special Security Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran Focus reports that Saeedi's boss in Khamenei's Special Security Office "was Hojjatoleslam Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi".

So Iran's Interior Ministry, which is responsible for maintaining internal stability and security, is now being led by old guard MOIS officials who have already demonstrated their willingness to persecute and assassinate dissidents, intellectuals and Christian leaders.

.. AND TO THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND ISLAMIC GUIDANCE

Former Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, Iran's new Minister for Culture and Islamic Guidance, is also purging his subordinates. He is determined that books, journalism, visual arts, film, music and all cultural pursuits must conform to and re-enforce Iran's Islamic ideology and the strictest of Islamic values.

Most interestingly, the Iran Press Service reports, "Masha'allah Shamsolva'ezin, spokesman for the Tehran-based Association for Advocating Freedom of Press, said that state pressure on journalists has increased since [President] Ahmadi Nezhad took office. According to Shamsolvaezin, the culture ministry, in cooperation with intelligence and security forces, has in recent weeks called in many journalists for questioning without apparent reasons. The goal clearly is to intimidate them. Many of those pressing journalists are former employees of the Ministry of Intelligence [MOIS] who were fired under Khatami for their involvement in killing intellectuals and political activists." (Link 2)

The article at link 2, entitled, "Tehran renews war on culture" gives details of measures to control, police and further Islamise journalism, book publishing, musical performances, women's dress, and universities. This Islamic "war" against Persian culture will doubtless continue until Persians decide they want their Persian culture back.

MOTIVATIONS

President Ahmadinejad is committed to preparing Iran for what he firmly believes is the inevitable, even immanent return of the "hidden 12th Imam". I (EK) have to confess that I am not exactly sure what is required to hasten the Imam's return, but I think it might be a pure Islamic Iran surrounded by a world in chaos. If Ahmadinejad is pursuing this scenario, then that is disturbing on several fronts.

A few interesting articles on the religious motivations of President Ahmadinejad can be found at link 3. This is a subject that deserves closer attention, because Ahmadinejad's faith in and expectation of a messiah-style immanently returning 12th Imam reduces his devotion to the Guardian Council, expunges his interest in international opinion, but increases his zeal for an uncompromising, aggressive and authoritative Revolutionary Guard and MOIS to help usher in his apocalypse.

Links

1) Iran appoints murderer of Christian bishops to key position.
22 Nov 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=4532

2) Tehran renews war on culture
By Mahdi Khalaji, 26 November 2005
http://www.iran-press-service.com/ips/articles-2005/november-2005/culture_crackdown_261105.shtml

3) Iran president paves the way for Arabs' imam return
By Paul Hughes, Reuters,17 Nov 2005
http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_10945.shtml

Second coming for imam is first concern for Iranian president
By Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Gareth Smyth.
Financial Times. 9 November 2005
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1519153/posts

Shi'ite supremacists emerge from Iran's shadows
Asia Times On-line. 9 Sept 2005
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GI09Ak01.html

Religion Versus Reality
By Richard Ernsberger Jr. Newsweek International. 12 Dec 2005
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10313618/site/newsweek/

President of Iran: Hallucinations of a psychopath. 3 Dec 2005
By Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD International Law - Persian Journal
http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_11240.shtml

Friday, December 2, 2005

Bangladesh: Islamist threat escalates with suicide bombings.

Date: Friday 2 December 2005
Subj: Bangladesh: Islamist threat escalates with suicide bombings.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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BANGLADESH: WAVE OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS
- new terror tactic increases risk to threatened Christian leaders, institutions and NGOs.
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More than 30 years ago, Bangladesh fought a Liberation War for the right to be independent of Pakistan, and secular. The war cost the Bangladeshis somewhere between 500,000 and three million lives. Today, Islamic militants with al Qaeda training and links are engaged in a violent and deadly campaign to force Bangladesh to submit to Sharia law.

Islamic zeal and radicalisation have skyrocketed in Bangladesh since October 2001 causing local persecution of Christians to escalate in frequency and severity. Now organised Islamic terror threatens to destabilise the nation and the wider region. Of course it will also seriously impact the Church. Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is presently targeting Bangladesh's secular courts and judges, and threatening to continue until Sharia is implemented. But JMB has also declared that it will target NGOs and non-Muslim religious figures and institutions engaged in "anti-Islamic activities". It is reported that Bangladesh has some 172 terror training camps operating on its soil, and that JMB has a 2,000-strong suicide squad prepared for martyrdom operations.

The pro-Islamic Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), elected in October 2001 to rule in coalition with some very radical Islamist groups, has difficulty facing and dealing with these threats. It has used Western law and democracy for its own advantage, but now the popularist Islamist puppy it has fostered and nurtured has matured, is exerting its independence, and is starting to bite. Unless the government gets serious about replacing radical madrassas with real and positive education, closing terror training camps, and promoting secularism, tolerance and democracy, then Bangladesh will develop into a Islamic terror hub and jihad launching pad. Nothing grows, spreads and wreaks havoc like a disease that is not acknowledged and is left untreated.

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WAVE OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS

On Tuesday 29 November, suicide bombers from Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) – also known as Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM) – fatally struck law courts in two Bangladeshi cities, killing seven. Around 60 were wounded, 21 of them seriously. The death toll has since risen to ten. (Link 1)

The first bombing took place at 9:05am in Bangladesh's second largest city, the port city of Chittagong. In response to terror threats, police had been posted at the entrance of the court and were checking all visitors. Just before he was to be intercepted at the police checkpoint, the bomber took an explosive device out of his bag and threw it at the officers. He then detonated another explosive device strapped to his leg. The two policemen were killed.

The bomber, who survived but lost both his legs and his right hand, was identified as Abul Bashar (19). He reportedly told Agence France-Presse (AFP), "I attacked the Chittagong court by the order of Allah. I did not do any wrong in carrying out the suicidal attack." A report by the Bangladesh Independent online news said police had found a JMB leaflet in his pocket. According to Chittagong police official Mohammad Majedul Huq, it was handwritten and warned police, judges and lawyers "to stop upholding man-made laws which go against Islam". At least 16 others were injured; 13 of them were police. Abul Bashar has since died from his injuries in Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

The second bombing took place in Gazipur at 9:40am. The bomber donned a lawyer's black gown and walked right past police security into the bar library where he detonated his bomb. Three people in the library died immediately and four others died from their wounds soon after in hospital in Dhaka. The suicide bomber's body was found with wires and bomb parts still strapped to it.

At around 10am on Thursday 1 December, as lawyers were staging a demonstration in Gazipur, a bomb exploded near the police checkpoint outside the chief government administrator's office. Two were killed and 30 were injured, five critically. One of the dead was a policeman, the other is believed to be the suicide bomber. According to Kazi Fazle Rabbi, Gazipur district commissioner, "The suspected bomber ... disguised himself as a tea vendor. One of his flasks exploded when police stopped him for checking." (Link 2)

ESCALATION OF TERROR

On 17 August, JMB (JuM) orchestrated a nation-wide terror attack, setting off nearly 500 small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) virtually simultaneously in 63 of Bangladesh's 64 districts. While the devices did not contain shrapnel, they did result in three deaths and left more than 150 injured. Pamphlets found near many of the explosive devices demanded the expulsion of foreign NGOs "engaged in anti-Islamic activities in Muslim countries". (Stratfor Terrorism Brief, 23 November 2005)

The carnage from the August bombing campaign was minimal but the message was loud and clear. As noted by Stratfor, the August bombing campaign "demonstrates that JuM has a widespread presence, robust logistics and sophisticated command-and-control capabilities".

After this attack JMB (JuM) declared, "Everybody is the enemy of Islam who wants to launch democracy as an institutional form. Therefore we invite the ruling party and also the opposition to initiate the rule of Islam within a short time in Bangladesh."

On 22 August, Bangladesh's leading national Bengali daily newspaper reported that the Intelligence Department had informed the government that Islamic militants are planning to attack the largest non-Muslim religious centres in Dhaka. They were also threatening to kill local and foreign non-Muslim leaders, missionaries, priests, humanitarian workers and anyone else preaching religion other than Islam. Christianity was to be particularly targeted for the purpose of discrediting the government of Bangladesh in the West. (See WEA RLC report: link 3)

On 3 October, larger bombs exploded in three district courts outside Dhaka, killing two people and wounding more than a dozen. Then on 14 November two senior Assistant Judges of Jhalakathi District Judges Court were assassinated on their way to work. Their microbus stopped outside the government staff quarters to pick up another judge. The assassin, identified as Mamun, a JMB militant, approached the microbus with the pretext of showing papers to the judges. He then shoved a package into the microbus which immediately exploded. The assassin, who survived with serious leg wounds, was immediately arrested. He was found to have some 24 JMB leaflets, and a live bomb fastened to his body. Presumably the assassin intended to escape, with the body-bomb to be used only in the case of capture. His injuries however probably prevented him detonating the body-bomb before his arrest. His willingness to explode himself and thus become a "martyr" was evidence of a shocking new tactic and ideological shift.

In their 23 November Terrorism Brief, Stratfor Intelligence reported, "According to a Nov. 22 report in the Bangladeshi English-language Daily Star newspaper, the JuM's (JMBs) policymaking body -- Majlis-e-Shura -- recently ordered its bomb and suicide squad members to fight their opposition to the death and to continue striking government offices and courts." Stratfor notes, "JuM (JMB) appears to have no problem obtaining explosives, and apparently is actively constructing devices – an activity normally conducted at the end of the attack planning cycle." And Stratfor adds, "JuM members reportedly received training from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and allegedly maintain links with that group."

According to Reuters, Bangladeshi police report that the explosives used in the 29 November suicide bombings are the most powerful and highly destructive explosives used by the militants so far. Reuters also reports, "The State Minister for Home Affairs Lutufuzzaman Babar said earlier this month [Nov] that there were reports that the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen had set up a 2,000-strong suicide squad." (Link 4)

THREAT TO EMBASSIES

The British High Commission's First Secretary in Dhaka, Mike Stevenson, reports that Manik Hossain, a Muslim extremist identifying himself as a member of "al-Qaeda in South Asia", has threatened to blow up the UK mission, along with other Western missions. The threatening message was sent to the UK Embassy by fax on Sunday 27 November, and signed by Manik Hossain of Faridganj" (220km, or around 140 miles, southeast of Dhaka). Security has now been increased around diplomatic offices in Dhaka. (Link 5)

BANGLADESH: TERROR HUB

Webindia reports that on 29 November, India's Border Security Force (BSF) Director General R S Mooshahary told a press conference "the unabated mushrooming of terror camps" in Bangladesh, and the fact that Bangladesh is becoming "a hub of infiltrators and fundamentalist forces" threatens to destabilise the whole region. "In the long run," warned Gen. Mooshahary, "Bangladesh could be a greater problem than Pakistan going by the shifting of population, massive infiltration bids and mushrooming of terror camps... it has become a hub of drug dealers and smugglers."

Mooshahary claimed to have recently given Bangladesh a list of 172 terror training camps. "But their reply is the same every time," he complains, " ...that no such camps exists on their soil." (Link 6)

Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) BANGLADESH BOMBING TOLL RISES
30 November 2005. SBS
http://www9.sbs.com.au/theworldnews/region.php?id=126032&region=2
Seven killed, many injured in Bangladesh blasts
http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=58404
Nine die in Bangladesh bombings
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4480408.stm
Bangladesh's escalating extremism. 29 November 2005
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4482320.stm

2) Two dead in court attack. 2 December 2005
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,17435239-23109,00.html

3) WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis
Militants Move to Islamise Bangladesh
By Elizabeth Kendal, 16 September 2005
http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.org/news/view.htm?id=151

4) Bangladesh explosives most powerful yet -- police
30 Nov 2005. Reuters
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DHA129923.htm
Bombs target Bangladesh lawyers. 29 November 2005
http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/11/29/bangladesh.blasts.reut/index.html

5) Man threatens UK, US missions in Bangladesh – police
28 Nov 2005. Reuters
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DHA97711.htm

6) Bangladesh a hub of infiltrators and fundamentalists: BSF DG
New Delhi, 29 November 2005
http://news.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=176465&cat=India