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[casi] News, 05-12/02/03 (3)

News, 05-12/02/03 (3)


*  Germans probe man U.S. suspects of Iraq-Qaeda link
*  Intelligence break let Powell link Iraq and Qaeda
*  Portrait of a terror suspect: Is he the Qaeda link to Iraq?


*  Turkey to Let U.S. Upgrade Bases
*  U.S.: Turkey Troops to Stay in Coalition
*  U.S. in Talks on Allowing Turkey to Occupy a Kurdish Area in Iraq
*  Smell of fear in Halabja
*  Fearing separatism, Turks ban Kurdish names
*  Turkish military objects giving command to US
*  U.S. to back Kurd assault on Ansar base
*  Kurd general killed; possible al Qaeda link seen
*  Protocols hold up troop preparation
*  Turks Balk at Foreign Command of Army
*  Islamic group takes another Kurd hostage
*  Turkish Citizens Near Iraq Worry of War


Financial Times, 6th February

BERLIN (Reuters) - German federal prosecutors say they have launched an
investigation into Abu Moussab al-Zarqawi, accused by U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell of heading a terrorist network harboured by Iraq.

German prosecutors were investigating Zarqawi on suspicion of belonging to a
terrorist organisation and leading a German cell of the Al Tawhid group, a
spokeswoman for the federal prosecution said on Thursday.

Powell told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday the Zarqawi network
helped establish a poison and explosives training camp in northeastern Iraq.

Iraq on Thursday denied it had any ties to the Muslim militant or to Osama
bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

"We do not know Abu Moussab al-Zarqawi, we do not know his whereabouts and
we continue to cooperate with the Jordanian authorities to put an end to his
activities in Iraq," Foreign Ministry official Saeed al-Mousawi told a news

He said Zarqawi was in the Kurdish-ruled area of northern Iraq.

Powell said Zarqawi was an associate of bin Laden and his al Qaeda
lieutenants and that his network had plotted terrorist actions against
countries including France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia,
Powell said.

The United States wants to persuade key Security Council members to back an
early war against Iraq, which it accuses of possessing weapons of mass
destructions and having links to al Qaeda members.

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted a witness as saying Zarqawi had
called him from a hiding place in Iran last year, "ordering" an attack on
Israeli institutions in Germany.

The witness was being held in custody on suspicion of belonging to a
terrorist organisation, the newspaper said in a report released ahead of
publication on Friday.

German police detained 13 suspected members of the German cell of Al Tawhid
in April. While several men had been released, five were still in custody,
prosecutors said.

Prosecutors are to press charges against several alleged members of the
group within the next few months, the spokeswoman said, adding they were
suspected of belonging to a terrorist organisation and of supporting the
global Jihad, sometimes referred to as holy war.

Federal Prosecutor Key Nehm said last April Al Tawhid appeared to be a
self-contained group, although it received support from abroad and possible
training in Afghanistan.

Germany has been a focus of investigations into the September 11, 2001
attacks on the United States after three of the suicide hijackers were found
to have lived and studied for years in the northern port of Hamburg.

The first trial of an alleged September 11 plotter is underway in Hamburg.
Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded the maximum possible jail term of 15 years
for Mounir El Motassadeq, a Moroccan charged with helping the Hamburg al
Qaeda cell.

by Patrick E. Tyler
International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 7th February

UNITED NATIONS, New York: An intelligence breakthrough in the past several
weeks made it possible for Secretary of State Colin Powell to set forth the
first evidence of what he said was a well-developed Al Qaeda terrorist cell
operating out of Baghdad and responsible for the assassination in October of
an American diplomat, Laurence Foley.

The breakthrough was the work of a coalition of intelligence services from
Britain, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States, according to
a senior official from one of the coalition countries.

Powell said that the Iraq-based Qaeda network had operated for eight months
under the supervision of Abu Musaab Zarqawi, a Jordanian of Palestinian
origin who is also a veteran of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union.

Critical information about this network emerged from interrogations of
captured cell members conducted under unspecified circumstances of
psychological pressure, the coalition official said.

But a lucky break also figured prominently - a satellite phone conversation
gave away the location of a Qaeda operative, Zarqawi's deputy, as he was
driving out of Iraq.

Until three weeks ago, Powell was said to be reluctant to go before the
Security Council with a case connecting Al Qaeda with the Iraqi leadership.
"Colin did not want to be accused of fabricating or stretching the truth," a
coalition official said. "But that all changed" when the interrogation of
Zarqawi's deputy began to yield the first detailed account of the network's
operations in Iraq, the Middle East and Europe.

The network was planning terrorist attacks in a half dozen European
countries, Powell said, adding that recent police raids in France and
Britain, where one police officer was killed, stemmed from the disruption of
the Iraq-based network. Some 116 operatives have been connected to it, he

When all the shards of intelligence came together Wednesday, along with new
information on Iraq's secret programs to develop chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons, Powell's presentation was a more detailed and
well-documented bill of particulars than many had expected.

Powell said that after Zarqawi fought against the Soviets, he returned to
Afghanistan at the peak of Osama bin Laden's influence in 2000 and ran a
training camp. His leg injury during the allied military campaign in 2001
may have been serious enough for amputation by the time he reached Baghdad.

An expert in poisons and chemical weapons, Zarqawi is believed to have been
providing training to the extremist group Ansar al Islam. The group is based
in northeastern Iraq in territory that is under the control of neither
Baghdad nor the main Kurdish groups that have divided up most of northern

Soon after Zarqawi arrived, Powell said, "nearly two dozen extremists
converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there.

"These Al Qaeda affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of
people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and
they are now operating freely in the capital for more than eight months," he
added. Coalition officials said that no group could operate in this manner
without deep engagement with Iraq's ubiquitous intelligence services.

Powell withheld some critical details Wednesday, such as the discovery by
the intelligence agencies that a member of the royal family in Qatar, a key
ally providing air bases and a command headquarters for the American
military, operated a safe house for Zarqawi when he transited the country
going in and out of Afghanistan.

The Qatari royal family member was Abdul Karim al Thani, the coalition
official said. The official added that al Thani had provided Qatari
passports and more than $1 million in a special bank account to finance the

Thani, who does not hold a government position, is, according to the
coalition official, a deeply religious member of the royal family who has
provided charitable support for militant causes for years and has denied
knowing that his charitable contributions went toward terrorist operations.

Coalition intelligence officials are skeptical, however. One official,
insisting on anonymity, asserted that "Al Qaeda and Qatar have an unholy

Private support from prominent Qataris to Al Qaeda is a sensitive issue that
is said to infuriate the CIA director, George Tenet.

After Sept. 11, 2001, another senior Al Qaeda operative, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, who may have been the principal planner of the assault on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon that day, was said by Saudi intelligence
officials to have spent two weeks hiding in Qatar, with the help of
prominent patrons, after narrowly escaping from Kuwait.

But with Qatar providing the U.S. military with its most significant air
operations center for military action against Iraq, the Pentagon has
cautioned against a strong diplomatic response from Washington, American and
coalition officials say.

The unraveling of the Qaeda story in Iraq, which is still under way, took on
some of the drama of an espionage thriller when, after the murder of Foley
in Amman, the Qaeda deputy to Zarqawi suffered a lapse of communications
discipline. As he drove across northern Iraq to the Turkish and Syrian
frontiers, he could not resist using his satellite phone to call Foley's
murderers to congratulate them and tell them he was on his way to meet with

"The captured assassin says his cell received money and weapons from Zarqawi
for that murder," Powell said. In December, Jordan announced that it had two
men in custody who had confessed to killing Foley on the instructions of

by Don Van Natta Jr. with David Johnston
International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 10th February

LONDON: Abu Mussab Zarqawi's disfigured body shows the hard reality of his
life. A scar runs along the left side of his face, possibly the product of
an accident with improvised explosives. He wears a prosthetic leg, fitted in
Baghdad last spring where he received treatment for injuries caused by an
American bomb in Afghanistan.

A Jordanian of Palestinian ancestry now 36 years old, Zarqawi followed a
now-familiar path of political alienation and religious fervor to extremist
causes. He was largely unknown to most Americans until last week when the
U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, in his presentation to the United
Nations, singled him out as the most important link between Iraq and the
Qaeda terror network.

Interviews with intelligence officials in the United States and Europe,
along with a dossier prepared by German authorities, indicate that Zarqawi
has a long history of terrorism and has engineered a number of deadly acts.
Most recently, the authorities said several of his associates shot to death
Laurence Foley, an American diplomat in Jordan, on Oct. 28.

Officials agree that Zarqawi is a charismatic terror lieutenant whose dual
specialties - chemical weapons and recruitment - make him a potent and
dangerous force. But there is less consensus about Powell's contention that
Zarqawi exemplifies a fledgling alliance between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

In Germany, officials have investigated Zarqawi for more than a year, but
Powell's assertion surprised them. "We have been investigating Mr. Zarqawi
for some time," a senior German intelligence official said. "We need to
examine the evidence that Powell has drawn from, and it is possible that he
knows things that we don't. But as of yet we have seen no indication of a
direct link between Zarqawi and Baghdad."

Zarqawi remains a mysterious figure who has confounded intelligence experts
in the United States and across Europe. Three green dots are tattooed on the
back of his left hand, documents show, but their significance is unknown.
Former associates now in custody describe him as a highly intelligent,
aggressive and resourceful leader who has continuously prodded recruits to
quickly carry out operations against Western targets, principally in Europe.

The loss of a leg apparently did not diminish his fierce passion to
construct a network of terrorists throughout Europe, according to American
and European intelligence officials. Powell said that Zarqawi had settled in
Baghdad last year and began to establish a terror network whose ambitious
goal was to launch terror attacks using chemical weapons in Britain, France,
Spain, Italy and Russia.

Zarqawi's group is known as Al Tawhid, which Powell described as an
"affiliate" of Al Qaeda, whose terrorist goals seemed indistinguishable from
those of Osama bin Laden's Qaeda network. But several intelligence
officials, who are somewhat skeptical of Powell's analysis, stressed that
Zarqawi may not be a member of Al Qaeda.

What intelligence officials in the United States and Europe as well as
detained Qaeda members say is clear is that Zarqawi was planning major
attacks in Europe, although he has not been linked to any actual acts there.

Zarqawi "was very interested in accomplishing something in Europe," Shahdi
Abdella, a former Zarqawi associate now in custody in Germany, told his
interrogators last April. "He needed people outside of Afghanistan,"
Abdellah said, "and particularly in Europe."

Abdellah's lengthy description of Zarqawi and his network is contained in a
memo that resulted from Abdellah's questioning by German authorities. A copy
of the memo, whose information has led to several arrests in Europe, was
provided last week to The New York Times.

In his presentation to the United Nations, Powell said that Zarqawi began
recruiting terrorists shortly after he arrived in Baghdad last May. He said
that nearly two dozen extremists joined him and established a base of
operations there and that 116 suspected terrorists linked to Zarqawi had
been arrested in Europe in recent weeks.

Some terrorism and intelligence experts questioned how the Americans could
have such specific information so quickly.

Intelligence officials said it was highly implausible that Zarqawi could
have organized a terrorist cell from inside Iraq without the knowledge and
consent of President Saddam Hussein and his extensive internal security

But they also pointed out that neither the Bush administration nor the
British government, which has also championed the Qaeda-Baghdad connection,
had produced direct evidence of Iraqi involvement with the terrorist

Along with Zarqawi's medical treatment, one of the strongest circumstantial
links cited by Powell was an incident last summer. Zarqawi, who was living
openly in Baghdad at the time, disappeared from the Iraqi capital after
officials in Jordan, at the urging of the Bush administration, asked Iraq to
hand him over to face terrorism charges in Jordan. Powell seemed to imply by
his remarks that Iraq had allowed Zarqawi to escape.

Several intelligence officials said they were uncertain where Zarqawi was
now, even though Powell said that he was in northern Iraq in a Kurdish
region outside the control of Baghdad. Other senior intelligence analysts,
here and in the United States, said that they believed that Zarqawi had fled
to Iran.

Zarqawi was born in 1966 in Zarqa, a village about 25 miles north Amman.
American intelligence officials said that he was a teenager when he was
first arrested in Jordan for unspecified anti-Israeli activities. In the
1980s, he followed thousands of other young Arab men to Afghanistan to fight
the Soviets. It was there that he is believed to have first developed the
skills working with both explosives and poisons.

In the early 1990s, he returned to Jordan, where intelligence officials said
he had met members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an anti-Israeli terror group.
One intelligence official said that he believed that Zarqawi's principal
goal was to disrupt the Jordanian government and its ties to the United


by John Ward Anderson
Washington Post, 7th February

ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 6 -- Turkey's parliament today authorized the United
States to renovate several military bases and ports for use in a war against
Iraq, the first step in an unfolding decision to allow U.S. troops to use
Turkish soil to open a northern front against President Saddam Hussein's

In a closed session and secret vote that underscored the deep anxiety here
about the possible war, the parliament stopped short of giving the United
States overall permission to station troops here. But Turkish officials and
Western diplomats said that, with the government now pushing for it,
permission is likely to be formally granted when parliament reconvenes after
the Muslim holiday of Bayram, in about 12 days.

In a meeting with Turkish reporters Tuesday, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul
said he expects parliament to vote Feb. 18 in favor of allowing U.S. troops
to be based in Turkey, dropping the government's previous insistence on
another U.N. Security Council vote to authorize the use of force against
Iraq. A diplomat in Ankara said the government also has told the United
States "that is their commitment."

U.S. war planners hope to funnel more than 30,000 U.S. soldiers into
northern Iraq through the bases in Turkey, creating a threat that would draw
Iraqi forces away from the south, where the United States could stage a
major assault from Kuwait. In addition, the U.S. troops attacking from
Turkey would likely be assigned to guard oil fields in northern Iraq.

Under Turkey's constitution, however, foreign forces can be allowed into the
country only with approval from the parliament, known as the Grand National
Assembly. The 308-to 193 vote today demonstrated strong discipline by the
ruling Justice and Development Party, which controls almost two-thirds of
parliament. Many of its members reportedly opposed the measure but were
persuaded to approve it at the urging of the party leader, Recep Tayyip

In a sign of how politically sensitive the issue is, however, the session
was closed to the public and all records of the debate and vote were ordered
sealed for 10 years. That sparked desk-banging and cries of outrage from
opposition members -- images that were captured on television before
coverage was suspended. "You are afraid of the people!" a legislator yelled.

Turkey, a key NATO ally of the United States, is overwhelmingly Muslim, and
opinion surveys show that more than 80 percent of the public opposes a war
against its Muslim neighbor to the south, with which Turkey shares a
218-mile border.

U.S. officials initially requested permission to station as many as 80,000
U.S. troops here, but the Turkish government said that only 15,000 to 20,000
would be allowed. After further negotiations, U.S. and Turkish officials are
considering a force between 30,000 and 40,000 that would be "militarily
capable and politically acceptable," a senior foreign official here said.

According to Turkish news accounts, two seaports and at least five military
posts and air bases will be upgraded with improvements such as longer
runways and new housing. The renovations could cost between $200 million and
$300 million.

Officials declined to say how long the renovations would take or how quickly
U.S. troops could be stationed here after the Feb. 18 vote. But they
indicated that the United States continues to see the end of February or
beginning of March as a probable time to begin a campaign against Iraq and
said that U.S. planning continues to be based on opening a northern front.

"We understand the Turkish timetable and are prepared to work within it," a
diplomat said today, referring to the United States. "If we start work
tomorrow, we can get done what we need to do to get these forces here."

Although Turkey no longer demands a second Security Council resolution to
authorize use of force, a senior Turkish official said: "We would prefer it.
International legitimacy is important for us."

Turkish officials worry that Kurds in northern Iraq could make a bid for
independence during or after a war, which might rekindle a separatist
rebellion by Kurdish guerrillas in southeastern Turkey. In addition, Turks
recall that the sanctions imposed against Iraq after its 1990 invasion of
Kuwait have hurt the Turkish economy and complain that the United States did
not deliver on financial pledges made during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. With
that in mind, the United States has offered an economic package that could
be worth as much as $14 billion in loans, grants and other aid.

U.S. and Western officials had said Turkey's reluctance to decide whether to
permit U.S. forces was severely hampering war planning. By some accounts,
U.S. military officials had wanted work on the bases to have been completed
by now. The issue has been delayed principally because the new populist
government that was elected in November was reluctant to tackle the
politically unpopular cause.

In a speech Tuesday that marked a major about-face, Erdogan, who is likely
to become prime minister after elections in March, told Justice and
Development lawmakers that Iraq "isn't taking the necessary steps" to avoid
a war, adding that Turkey has to be involved from the outset of any conflict
to protect its strategic interests.

by Harmonie Toros
Las Vegas Sun, 7th February

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP): Seeking to reassure nervous Kurds, a top U.S.
official said Friday any Turkish troops sent into northern Iraq would be
under the command of a U.S.-led coalition.

"Any military movement and combat, should it come to that in Iraq, would
have to be under the overall command of the coalition," U.S. special envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad said after holding talks with Turkish Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul has said Turkey wants its troops to outnumber
U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq in case of a war, a prospect that unnerves
the Iraqi Kurdish groups that rule the autonomous area.

Gul said the Turkish soldiers would not fight Iraqi forces but would
maintain stability in the area. Turkey fears that Iraqi Kurds could declare
a Kurdish state if Iraq begins to disintegrate during a war. That, Turkey
says, could inspire Turkey's Kurds.

Khalilzad said there were ongoing talks between Kurdish, Turkish and U.S.
officials on the possible Turkish deployment.

Thousands of Turkish troops are already stationed across the border in Iraq
where Turkey has fought Turkish Kurdish rebels for the past decade.

Two Kurdish factions have governed the de facto autonomous zone in northern
Iraq since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. Much of the area is a "no-fly
zone" that is patrolled by U.S. and British planes.

A spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Party, Hosyar Zebari, said Thursday
his party was uneasy with Turkish plans to send thousands of troops into
northern Iraq.

Speaking Thursday after meeting Khalilzad and other Kurdish leaders, Zebari
said the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq had to be clearly
defined for Kurdish groups to accept it.

Khalilzad is also negotiating a memorandum of understanding between Turkey
and the United States in case of war in Iraq.

John Taylor, the U.S. Treasury Department's undersecretary for international
affairs, is in Turkey to iron out an economic package that would cushion the
country from the impact of any war. The package would range between $4
billion and $15 billion, depending on the length of the war and its economic

U.S. officials have said a northern front would lead to a quicker war and
have been relentlessly pressing Turkish leaders to back the war plans.

Turkey's parliament on Thursday authorized the United States to renovate
bases to be used in an Iraqi operation and lawmakers are expected to vote on
Feb. 18 on allowing U.S. combat troops in the country.

Turkey says its troops would enter northern Iraq to prevent a refugee influx
from northern Iraq, but many believe that Turkey would cross into Iraq to
prevent the possible creation of a Kurdish state.

Turks fear that the creation of a Kurdish state would boost aspirations of
Turkish Kurdish rebels who fought a 15-year war for autonomy in southeastern
Turkey that left 37,000 dead.

Diplomats are also negotiating the fate of the oil fields of Kirkuk and
Mosul. Newspapers have reported that Turks have agreed not to enter the
regions if the United States can assure that Kurds will not take over the
oil fields.

Turkey's English-language Turkish Daily News reported that the Kurdish
factions said in Thursday's meeting they were willing to sign a document
assuring Turkey they would not lay hands on the oil fields or declare an
independent Kurdish state.

by Dexter Filkins with C. J. Chivers
New York Times, 8th February

ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 6 ‹ American diplomats are engaged in delicate
negotiations here that could allow tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers to
occupy part of northern Iraq behind an advancing American army, Turkish and
Kurdish officials said today.

A United States official confirmed that the negotiations were under way, but
said that the Turks would be restricted to a limited area close to the
border and that the numbers discussed by the Turks and Kurds were

The plan, which is being negotiated in closed-door meetings in Ankara, the
Turkish capital, is being bitterly resisted by at least some leaders of
Iraq's Kurdish groups, who fear that Turkey's leaders may be trying to
realize a historic desire to dominate the region in a post Saddam Hussein
Iraq. The Kurdish officials say they fear a military intervention by the
Turks could also prompt Iran to cross the border and try to seize sections
of eastern Iraq.

American diplomats and senior military commanders, led by President Bush's
special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, are said to be encouraging the Kurdish
leaders to accept the Turkish proposal. While Washington has strongly
supported the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq over the past 12 years, it
is eager to secure the permission of Turkey's leaders to use Turkey's bases
for a possible attack on Iraq.

The proposed deal between the Americans and the Turks moved closer to
fruition today when the Turkish Parliament voted to allow American engineers
to begin preparing Turkish military bases for possible use by American
troops. A vote on whether to allow American troops to use those bases is
scheduled for Feb. 18.

The size of each projected military force ‹ American and Turkish ‹ is still
unclear. American officials had sought to base as many as 80,000 troops in
Turkey. But some Turkish officials have suggested that the American force
will be significantly smaller, perhaps no more than 15,000 to 20,000. In
negotiations today, Turkish officials said they wanted their forces to
outnumber American ones by a ratio of two to one.

With a war looming, Turkey has sought assurances from the Americans that the
toppling of Mr. Hussein would not result in the establishment of an
independent Kurdish state, which it fears would encourage a revolt by
Turkish Kurds.

Turkey's leaders are determined to prevent a repeat of the Persian Gulf war
in 1991, when southeastern Turkey was swamped by a half million Kurdish
refugees fleeing attacks by the Iraqi Army. Turkish officials say that
pro-Kurdish guerrillas crossed into Turkey along with the refugees, igniting
a bloody insurgency that the Turkish military has been battling ever since.

But some Kurds are making it clear that they do not want the Turks crossing
Iraq's northern border.

"We have told the Americans and the Turks that any outside intervention
would not be welcomed," said Safeen M. Dizayee, an official with the
Iraq-based Kurdish Democratic Party, who took part in the talks. "I hope it
would not get out of control. But it could be suicidal to get into something
like this if it undermines political stability."

A United States official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed
that the Turks were proposing to send troops into northern Iraq but said
that their role would be sharply limited. The official said that the Turkish
troops would be limited to a portion of Iraqi territory near the Turkish
border, and that the forces would focus primarily on humanitarian problems
and on discouraging people from fleeing to Turkey. Moreover, he said, the
Turkish forces would be under American command and would not be mixing with
the Kurdish troops.

"It would be in a limited area, close to the border," the official said.

One of the aims of the current negotiations, the official continued, was to
bring the Kurds and the Turks to an understanding about a possible Turkish

Indeed, there were signs that Iraq's Kurdish leaders were showing a
willingness to work with Turkey's new government, which has deep Islamic
roots and won a majority of seats in the Turkish Parliament last November.
Massoud Barzani, the leader of one of the two major Kurdish groups, the
Kurdistan Democratic Party, was said to have felt comfortable with Turkey's
leaders during a recent visit there.

"He was very impressed with the Turkish government," Fawzi Hariri, a party
spokesman, said of Mr. Barzani. "He thought they were genuine and that he
could trust them."


by Tanya Goudsouzian
Gulf News, 9th February

Halabja, Northern Iraq: As he journeyed to Iran one fine spring day in 1988,
Ahmed Ghafour caught the scent of fresh apples. He took a deep breath, and

Blessed with rugged good looks, 18-year-old Ahmed, a resident of the Kurdish
town of Halabja, had never given a second thought to his future.

He never would have imagined that the deceptively sweet smell would haunt
him for the rest of his life.

The following year, he began to suffer from chronic headaches and nausea.
Then, he lost sensation in his legs. Doctors told him his condition was a
result of exposure to chemical substances ­ and irreversible. He would
remain paralysed from the waist down.

"Before 1988, I never thought about the future. We all hoped Saddam would be
removed from power somehow, sometime," sighed Ahmed, now 33, lying on the
floor of his brother's living room, under a woolen blanket.

Since the diagnosis, he has spent his days watching satellite television and
reading books. He never leaves the house.

"I am not waiting for the Americans to start the warŠ But if Saddam were in
front of me now, I would cut him into pieces!" he groaned.

For Kurds worldwide, Halabja is a national tragedy, and a testament to the
cruelty of Iraqi President Saddam Hussain, who did not shrink from attacking
"his own people" with biological weapons. Thousands of innocent civilians
died and hundreds more suffered gruesome injuries.

Fifteen years later, Halabja seems to have recovered from the ordeal.
Extensive reconstruction efforts have resulted in the restoration of some of
the infrastructure and buildings, which were destroyed by the bombardment.
There are toddlers skipping on the stony pathways, and merchants selling
their wares.

But the scars of its sinister past will never fully disappear. Every few
steps, there are the skeletal remains of a landmark building. The centuries
old House of Osman Pasha is now a heap of rubble covered with grass ­ as if
it were never anything but a grazing field for cows.

A sense of lethargy now hangs over the Kurdish town, which has more recently
become a target for Ansar Al Islam, a terrorist group based in neighbouring

At every street corner, an armed soldier stands guard against possible
attacks from Ansar militants, who usually creep into town at night to
terrorise the people, and then retreat to the mountains in Biara, a district
bordering Iran. But residents are not daunted by the prospect of a U.S.-led
war on Baghdad.

Nizar Mohsen, who lost several aunts and uncles in 1988, believes the
residents of Halabja have seen too many horrors to be fearful of yet another

"We are ready and willing to become martyrs in this war if it will rid the
country of Saddam once and for all," he said. "We don't think we will be
affected. If Kurdish areas are hit, it will likely be Sulemanieh, or Arbil.
But even if we are affected, we have seen too much to be afraid now."

Rozgar Ahmed, a 30-year-old teacher who lost four brothers in the chemical
attacks, welcomes a U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"We have been expecting this war for a long time," he said. "The
international community could not remain indifferent to the situation here
for much longer. It was bound to happen sooner or later."

Osman Homran Mohammed, whose parents and siblings perished in the chemical
attacks, takes care of his sole surviving sister, Qadriya.

"She lost her mind when she saw her friends die in front of her eyes," he
said. "Her husband left her, and took with him their four daughters. Now,
she spends her days puttering around the house."

Osman lives in a rented home with his wife and young children. He is
originally from a village near Biara. In 1982, he and his family were driven
out due to Saddam's ethnic cleansing programme.

They settled in Halabja. After the chemical attacks, Osman returned to his
village, but he was forced to leave again in 1991 when Ansar Al Islam
converted Biara into a terrorist training ground.

There were some 60,000 inhabitants in Halabja at the time of the attacks in
1988. Today, the population numbers more than 75,000, as the town has
absorbed large numbers of refugees from villages near Biara.

"I don't have a job," recounted Osman, on the roof of his two-story house.
"I sold my car and most of my belongings to rent this place. We are waiting
for the situation to improve in Biara so we can head back home."

Hashiar Karim, head of security in Halabja, added: "Ansar Al Islam wants to
establish a Taliban-style government here. We are Muslim, but not like

After breaking open a few walnuts for his guests, Osman walked over to the
edge of the roof fencing, and pointed north at the settlements near the

"That's where they stay, these Ansar militants. You can aim your rifle this
way," he told our bodyguard. They laughed bitterly.

by Richard Boudreaux
Miami Herald, from Los Angeles Times Service, 9th February

ERGANI, Turkey: Berdan Acun remembers the icy tone of the birth registrar's
question a year ago. "Hejar Pola? What kind of name is that?''

''It's Kurdish,'' said Acun, cradling his newborn. Hejar means ''innocent,''
he explained proudly, and Pola means ''steel.'' "My son, like me, shall have
a Kurdish name.''

''We cannot register such a name,'' said the clerk, a Turkish woman Acun had
known for years. "We have new instructions.''

Acun was stunned. The war was supposed to be over. ''Let me see the
instructions,'' he said, struggling to control his anger.

"I cannot. They're confidential.''

Four years after crushing a Kurdish separatist guerrilla movement, Turkey
has found no peace with its largest and unruliest ethnic minority. The
15-year war that cost more than 30,000 lives in the nation's southeast has
moved into courtrooms and civil registry offices.

Refusing to assimilate, the Kurds who dominate the region in numbers insist
on the right to hear broadcasts and study in their own language and to give
their children such names as Arjin, Baran, Berfin, Berivan and Mizgin, which
mean ''spark of life,'' ''rain,'' ''white as snow,'' ''milkmaid'' and "good

Turkey's rulers resist these demands as subversive. Over the past year, they
have voiced growing alarm that separatist violence could erupt anew if war
in Iraq leads to formal autonomy for an Iraqi Kurdish homeland across the
border. That scenario is one reason this nation, though part of NATO, is
reluctant to back a U.S. assault on Iraq.

As the Pentagon takes aim at Iraq, Turkey's security forces are zeroing in
on babies. Kurdish names -- long common in Turkey, though most Kurdish
families do not use them -- suddenly became taboo here in December 2001. The
defeated but still-armed Kurdistan Workers Party called that month for wider
use of the Kurdish language as an assertion of ethnic pride, prompting a
government warning that any Kurdish name given to a child would be
interpreted as terrorist propaganda.

Military police have swept through Kurdish towns and villages, checking
birth certificates of infants and toddlers. Citing a constitutional clause
that children must be named ''in a manner appropriate to our national
culture, moral principles and customs,'' the Interior Ministry has quietly
instructed prosecutors to annul hundreds of children's Kurdish names and
replace them with Turkish equivalents.

At least 39 families resisting the orders have been taken to court,
according to the bar association in Diyarbakir, the region's largest city.
Some of them have been threatened with prosecution for ''separatist
propaganda,'' which carries a three-year prison term. Others, including
Acun, have sued the Turkish state for rejecting names they chose for their

No official has stepped forward to explain or justify the name ban, and the
Turkish deputy governor of Diyarbakir province this month denied any
knowledge of it. Yet Kurdish lawyers and human rights advocates say they've
seen the Interior Ministry instructions for the ban, which remains in force.

''The Turkish political system is in denial about cultural diversity, out of
a fear that the country could be partitioned,'' said Dogu Ergil, a political
sociologist at Ankara University. "This objection to Kurdish names is a
declaration of ineptitude, a lack of confidence that we Turks can manage our
population in a democratic way.''

Turkey's 12 million Kurds, who, like most of the nation's citizens, are
Muslim, make up nearly one-fifth of the population. They are free to speak
their distinctive language only in private conversation. The constitution
drafted at the creation of modern Turkey in 1923 recognizes only non-Muslims
as minorities, reflecting founding father Kemal Ataturk's ideal of uniting
all Muslims under a single Turkish culture.

The Kurds have rebelled periodically against this ideology.

In 1991, at the height of the most recent separatist war, an elected Kurdish
member of parliament named Leyla Zana took her public oath in Turkish, as
required, but afterward announced in Kurdish: ''I have completed this
formality under duress.'' She was later banished from office and sentenced
to 15 years in prison.

It is the Kurds' postwar demands for linguistic rights that most troubles
the government, because they are backed by the European Union, which Turkey
seeks to join.

Turkish authorities have responded with a mix of unfulfilled legal
concessions and periodic crackdowns.

Daily Star, Lebanon, 10th February

Turkey's military is objecting to a US proposal to put Turkish troops who
might enter northern Iraq under US command if there is a war in Iraq, a news
report said Sunday.

Turkey is looking to move thousands of troops into northern Iraq during any
US-led war against Baghdad - a prospect that worries Iraqi Kurdish groups
that rule the autonomous area.

Earlier this week, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said any Turkish troop
presence in northern Iraq should be under US command.

The speaker of Turkey's Parliament, Bulent Arinc, immediately said the
proposal was "most likely unacceptable." "Commander Crisis," the daily
Milliyet headlined Sunday.

Turkish generals "strongly" object to the proposal, the newspaper said. It
quoted the country's military leaders as saying they could not agree to
putting Turkish soldiers under foreign command.

Washington's suggestion to put Turkish troops under US command aims at
persuading Iraqi Kurds to cooperate in a possible war in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds are worried that Turkey may use the war to try and realize
historical ambitions to control the oil producing areas of northern Iraq.
Kurdish officials have said they would agree to only a small Turkish
presence that would safeguard humanitarian efforts.

Turkey has said that its troops would enter northern Iraq to prevent a
refugee influx from the area. Turkish officials also say that Kurdish rebels
in Turkey took advantage of a mass exodus into the country following the
1991 Gulf War and infiltrated into Turkey, leading to a dramatic upsurge in
guerrilla fighting.

Many believe, however, that Turkey would cross into Iraq to prevent the
possible creation of a Kurdish state. Some speculate that Turkey could use
the buildup to wipe out Kurdish Turkish rebel bases in northern Iraq.

Osman Ocalan, a senior rebel commander and brother of imprisoned Kurdish
rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, warned that if attacked, the guerrillas would
break their unilateral truce and launch attacks on Turkey, the pro-Kurdish
daily Ozgur Gundem reported Sunday.

Some 5,000 PKK rebels are believed to have found refuge in northern Iraq
since 1999 when the PKK declared an end to its armed campaign for self-rule
in adjoining southeast Turkey.

"If Turkey sees the issue as a vendetta and starts an annihilation war, the
(Ankara) government will seal its own end," Ocalan said.

"Just as our democratic struggle is carried out anywhere our people are, the
armed resistance will be carried out in the widest possible area as part of
a defense war," he added.

Ocalan also warned the Iraqi Kurds against any attempts to expell the PKK
from their region following a possible downfall of the Baghdad regime.

"If they say 'we are in power now, you will get out of here,' then we will
defend ourselves Š We will insist on political means. If this fails, we will
enter a defensive war," he said.

Ocalan said that the PKK should be taken into account in the shaping of
postwar Iraq and that the group would insist on peaceful means before
resorting to military action both against Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds. -

by Damien McElroy
Gulf News, from Daily Telegraph, 10th February

Ankara: Kurdish leaders have gained White House backing for a strike on the
Ansar Al Islam enclave in northern Iraq, which has been allegedly identified
by America as the link between Saddam Hussain and Al Qaida terrorists.

Jalal Talabani, the leader of the eastern half of Kurdish territory, was
promised military backing for an attack during meetings with Zalmay
Khalilzad, U.S. President George Bush's special envoy to the Iraqi
opposition, in Ankara last week.

"Kurds and America cannot wait for ever to get rid of Ansar Al Islam," said
Talabani in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

"We know that they commit crimes and use the mountain camps to grow stronger
as a terrorist group. They have fundamentalist Kurds from Iran, and Arabs
from Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Syria. We need American help to stop their

Under the agreement struck in Ankara, the valley infiltrated by an estimated
2,000 radical Islamic fighters will be one of the first targets in any U.S.
attack. It will come under aerial assault before Talabani's Kurdish militia
are ordered in.

A Kurdish official said that his group was supplying information on targets
for American F16 aircraft and B2 bombers based in Turkey.

Talabani's aides said that Special Forces snipers were among "dozens" of
U.S. personnel scouting positions ahead of the assault on the valley.

The tiny enclave run on strict Islamic lines by Ansar Al Islam in the
Shineray mountains has allegedly become a haven for Al Qaida fighters who
fled Afghanistan.

Last week Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, cited Iraqi assistance to
Ansar fighters as evidence of Baghdad's links with Al Qaida. Talabani said
members of the Islamic group had been given passports and safe houses in

by Jonathan S. Landay
Miami Herald, 10th February

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq - Kurdish Islamic militants allegedly in league with al
Qaeda assassinated a senior Kurdish general and two security officials,
Kurdish officials said Sunday.

The killings intensify the war between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
(PUK), a secular party allied with the United States that controls part of
the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq, and the Islamic militant group
Ansar al Islam (Partisans of Islam).

The Kurds are among the Iraqi opposition groups supporting a possible
U.S.-led invasion to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Thousands of U.S. troops are expected to deploy in the Kurdish region, and
there are concerns that Ansar and its alleged al Qaeda allies could target
them with terrorist attacks.

The slain general, Shawkat Haji Mushir, 56, was the senior-most PUK official
killed by Ansar, the Kurdish officials said.

He was a member of the party's leadership council, served as the PUK's chief
envoy to Ansar, and had been trying to negotiate a peace deal with the
militants for more than a year.

Three civilians, including at least one child, were also killed. Ten people,
including Mohamad Tawfiq, the security chief of the town of Halabja, were
wounded in the attack. The gunmen escaped.

PUK Interior Minister Faraydoon Abdul Qader said that Shawkat was killed on
Saturday night after being lured to a secret meeting on the pretext of
discussing the defection of Hemin Banishary, a member of Ansar's leadership
council. The three Ansar emissaries were allowed to keep their weapons
during the talks at a private residence in the eastern village of Gamestapa.
Shawkat had previously held several rounds of talks on the matter.

Shako Mirza Raheem, a PUK driver wounded in the attack, said two Ansar
gunmen stayed outside, and the third met Shawkat inside.

As the militant left the meeting, he shot the security officials to death in
a hallway and then fired at Shawkat. He then killed three people who lived
in the house, said Raheem.

One of the Ansar gunmen outside fired through a window at Shawkat, while the
other hurled grenades and shot at PUK drivers and guards, the driver

Faraydoon said he believed Ansar targeted Shawkat because of his efforts to
win defections. He was also working on reconstruction programs aimed at
alleviating the poverty that helps produce recruits for the group. The
attack would not have taken place without al Qaeda's blessings, the
officials contended.

Ansar operates from a heavily defended slice of rugged territory in
northeastern Iraq. The PUK has far more manpower, but it does not have the
heavy weapons needed to defeat Ansar.

Local politics also have complicated the situation.

The Bush administration and PUK leaders charge that Ansar is allowing
followers of Osama bin Laden to use its stronghold as a base to plot
terrorism and concoct poisons. The United States and the PUK also contend
that Hussein is supporting the estimated 600 Ansar militants and 150 al
Qaeda fighters.

Ansar leaders denied the charges on Saturday when they allowed foreign
journalists to visit a compound identified by U.S. officials as the site of
an al Qaeda poison-making center. No poisons could be seen there.

by John Ward Anderson
Gulf News, 10th February

Istanbul: Permission for the United States to begin renovating military
bases in Turkey for the arrival of U.S. troops is being held up by
negotiations over legal and technical protocols, adding to a string of
complications that have prevented the deployment of U.S. troops needed to
launch an invasion of Iraq from the north, Turkish and Western officials
said yesterday.

The United States received permission from the Turkish parliament on
Thursday to begin expanding and upgrading several military bases and ports

Western officials said they were eager to commence work immediately to avoid
further delays in moving into Turkey as many as 30,000 to 40,000 U.S.
troops, who could be used to open a northern front in a possible war against

Under Turkey's constitution, parliament's permission is also required before
foreign combat troops can be stationed here.

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, who said a vote on U.S. troop deployment will
occur on February 18, informed Turkish journalists this week that his ruling
party would support the U.S. request, even though Turkey's military and
government have serious reservations about a war.

Public opinion surveys show that up to 90 per cent of the people in this
country oppose a war with their neighbour to the south.

Until that vote, however, the United States and Turkey are engaging in
intense negotiations over several issues, including what role Turkish troops
might have in northern Iraq during a conflict and who would command them; an
economic package to compensate Turkey for any financial losses it might
suffer; and the political makeup of postwar Iraq.

In the meantime, officials said, U.S. work on modernising the bases is not
being allowed to proceed until both sides agree to a detailed "memorandum of
understanding" covering liability issues, the scope and location of the
work, and other technical matters.

"Turkey's political authorities have made some decisions and are cracking
the whip to allow the site preparations to move on, but it's going to mean
continuing negotiations every day," an official familiar with the
deliberations said. "A lot of balls are up in the air."

One of the key issues is the potential positioning of tens of thousands of
Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq, a contingency that has been openly
discussed for months but is raising increasing alarm among Kurdish leaders
in northern Iraq as war seems to be approaching.

U.S., Kurdish and Turkish officials are negotiating how many Turkish
soldiers would enter Iraq, where they would go, who would command them and
what their duties would be.

When the Turkish parliament meets Feb. 18 to decide whether to allow U.S.
troops into Turkey, it will also vote on a motion authorising Turkish troops
to enter Iraq, lawmakers said. The two issues, they said, are unavoidably

"They are clearly related to each other," said a leading lawmaker from the
ruling Justice and Development Party. "If there is a war in Iraq, there will
be chaos, and we have to protect our borders."


by Harmonie Toros
Las Vegas Sun, 10th February

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's top politician on Monday ruled out foreign
command of Turkish troops in case of an operation in Iraq, calling it an
"insult" and "humiliation" for Turks.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was referring to a U.S. statement that Turkish troops
would have to come under the command of a U.S.-led coalition in case of an
operation in northern Iraq. Washington wants to use Turkey to open a
northern front in any Iraq war, but is seeking to reassure Iraqi Kurdish
factions which fear that Turkey will take advantage of the war to strengthen
its position in the region.

"The Turkish army has the strength and capacity to carry out this mission
under its own command," said Erdogan, leader of the governing Justice and
Development Party, ruling out foreign command of Turkish troops.

"Turkey as a country and its people would see something like this as a
humiliation. As the Justice and Development Party, we would see this as
insult," he said in his Black Sea hometown of Guneysu.

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul also ruled out foreign command.

"Of course, the commander of Turkish forces will be a Turk. This is
obvious," Gul said in a live television interview with CNN-Turk. Although
Gul is prime minister, Erdogan is seen as the main power broker in Turkey
and is expected to take over the premiership after by elections in March.

Turkish and U.S. officials are negotiating the conditions of a U.S.
deployment in Turkey ahead of an Iraq war. Turkey insists that its troops
must enter northern Iraq to prevent a possible flood of refugees heading for
the Turkish border.

San Francisco Chronicle, from New York Times, 11th February

Sulaimaniya, Iraq -- The Islamic group Ansar al-Islam, which the United
States claims has ties to both Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, abducted a man
from a village in northern Iraq on Sunday, bringing to three the number of
hostages it has taken in recent days, Kurdish officials said.

The latest kidnapping came the day after the group assassinated a Kurdish
member of parliament in what the authorities describe as an intricate trap.

Kurdish officials said the killers had posed as peace negotiators and lured
the minister, Shawkat Haji Mushir, to a quiet setting, then shot him as he
was completing a letter to Ansar ending with the traditional Kurdish
sign-off, Live Always.

Seventeen other people were shot in the attack, and two men were taken
hostage as the gunmen escaped.

The group then struck again Sunday, abducting a nephew of one of the
hostages previously taken from the village of Khurmal. The reasons for the
latest abduction were uncertain, security officials said, and it was not
clear whether the man had been tricked into his capture or simply snatched.

But the Kurdish government in Sulaimaniya said all of the hostages were
believed to be alive and had been moved to an Ansar prison near Said Salim,
a village on the border with Iran and in territory controlled by the

Dr. Barham Salih, prime minister of the eastern Kurdish zone, said the
government would begin negotiating soon for the hostages' release and had
contacted a potential intermediary to open discussion. But he offered little
hope that talks would succeed.

"We will try, but it is very difficult to negotiate with these murderers, if
not impossible," Salih said. "We have to fear the worst."

The families of the abducted men also planned to offer ransoms for the men's
freedom, but Salih said it was an idea that made the authorities uneasy. "As
in any hostage situation, you have to be careful not to encourage hostage-
taking," Salih said.

Ansar, a Taliban-like group with an estimated 650 fighters, has been at war
with the Kurdish government since 2001.

by Selcan Hacaoglu
Las Vegas Sun, 11th February

CIZRE, Turkey (AP) - Nihat Burcin questions whether his flimsy Russian-made
gas mask will protect him if Saddam Hussein attacks his hometown near the
Iraqi border with chemical or biological weapons.

Some of his neighbors are planning to tie chickens outside their windows or
put birds in cages outside as a first warning against a chemical weapons

"If it dies suddenly, we will understand that there is an attack," said
Burcin, who owns a small store in Cizre, a town near the Iraq border.

Along the border, there is panic that any war could lead the Iraqi ruler to
lash out at Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member and an ally of the United

Many people fled the area in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War, when Saddam's
troops crushed an Iraqi Kurdish uprising, sending hundreds of thousands
fleeing across the freezing mountains that mark the border.

Now, amid an economic crisis, many people on the Turkish border say they
don't have enough money to flee and are preparing for the worst.

"I don't think the government will distribute gas masks or chemical suits to
us," said Idris Akpinar, a grocer. "The best thing they can do is to tell us
beforehand to evacuate the area, but I don't have money to go anywhere

Burcin is worried that Iraq could use nerve or blister gases that enter the
skin and are not blocked by masks.

"We're helpless if he uses such a thing," he said.

Other locals are stocking their basements with sacks of flour, sugar and
water in case they have to seek shelter during a war. They're also sealing
their windows with a thick, brown tape popularly called "Saddam tape" that
many say will seal rooms and make them safe if there is a chemical attack.

Along the main road outside of Cizre, a town some 25 miles from the border,
convoys carrying M-113 armored personnel carriers and M-60 and M-48 tanks
rumble down the road as Turkey reinforces its soldiers at the border.

"We're openly going into war," lamented Ahmet Karaaslan, a grocer. "I don't
want to live through a war."

Turkey has said it will send troops to northern Iraq if there is a war to
prevent any flood of refugees.

Turks are overwhelmingly opposed to a war, but most political leaders
believe the country has little choice but to back the United States,
Turkey's most important ally.

The border area of southeastern Turkey is overwhelmingly Kurdish and many
Turkish Kurds have relatives across the border. Turkey also fears that
instability in northern Iraq could spread to southeastern Turkey.

Cizre was once at the center of Turkish Kurdish rebel fighting. The bullet
holes that riddled walls just a few years ago have been covered up but
Turkish soldiers still patrol the city streets.

And local Kurds still privately discuss the fight between Kurdish rebels and
Turkish soldiers.

The rebel group, which last year changed its name from Kurdistan Workers'
Party, or PKK, to the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress, or KADEK,
has warned that if Turkish troops attack their bases they will retaliate.

Mehmet Metiner, a political analyst in Istanbul, warned that the rebels, who
declared a cease-fire following the 1999 capture of their leader Abdullah
Ocalan, could be desperate enough to carry out suicide attacks.

The possibility of regime change in Baghdad, however, has also raised hopes
for more normalcy in an area that was largely devastated by the fighting.

The end of border trade with Iraq was another huge blow to the area and many
hope that a new government in Iraq would lead to a renewal of the trade.

"The border trade with Iraq is the lifeblood of this area," said Yasin Ali,
an accountant. "I hope the war finishes quickly."

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