QUETTA: Twenty-seven oil tankers carrying fuel for Afghanistan-based NATO forces have been destroyed in a suspected militant attack in southern Pakistan on Friday, security officials said.
With Islamabad-Washington ties tense over a series of deadly coalition incursions into Pakistan’s tribal region, the predawn assault happened in Shikarpur district of Sindh province.
A convoy of more than 30 tankers carrying fuel supplies for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was attacked at a pump station near the superhighway, a police official told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The brazen assault came hours after Pakistan blocked logistic supplies to international forces stationed in the neighbouring in the wake of its airspace violation by coalition helicopters.
Security guards at the Torkham border crossing were ordered not to allow supply trucks to cross into Afghanistan — hours after three paramilitary soldiers were killed and as many injured during a helicopter raid in Kurram Agency on Thursday.
District Police Officer (DPO) Abdul Hamid Khosa said 27 oil tankers were torched in the assault, the first in Shikarpur, which caused no casualties. The unidentified gunmen, numbering about 20, managed to escape, he added. Law-enforcement agencies are looking for the attackers.
But Iftikhar Ali, a Quetta-based journalist, claimed 27 fuel tankers and three civilian vehicles parked nearby were burnt in the rocket strike. He said two men were wounded during the attack which took place at about 2:00am.
He added the fuel tankers were on their way from the port city of Karachi to Quetta, capital of southwestern Balochistan province, from where they were to travel to Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the Pakistani president told the CIA director any violation of the country’s sovereignty was counterproductive and unacceptable. At a meeting with Leon Panetta in Islamabad, Asif Ali Zardari said his government was averse to the contravention of internationally agreed principles
Another US sponsored coup?
Post-9/11, Washington sponsored four coup d’etats. Two succeeded – most recently in Honduras in 2009 against Manuel Zelaya, and in Haiti in 2004 deposing Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Two others failed – in Venezuela in 2002 against Hugo Chavez, and on September 30 in Ecuador against Rafael Correa – so far. Two by Bush, two by Obama with plenty of time for more mischief before November 2012. From his record so far, expect it. He continues imperial Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations. In addition, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon, North Korea, and other countries are targeted, besides deploying CIA and Special Forces armies into at least 75 countries worldwide for targeted assassinations, drone attacks, and other disruptive missions.
More than ever under Bush and Obama, America rampages globally, Ecuador’s Raphael Correa was lucky to survive a plot to oust (or perhaps kill) him, September 30th world headlines explained, including New York Times writer Simon Romero headlining, “Standoff in Ecuador Ends With Leader’s Rescue,” saying:
“Ecuadorean soldiers stormed a police hospital Thursday night in Quito where President Rafael Correa was held by rebellious elements of the police forces, and rescued him amid an exchange of gunfire….”
AlJazeera explained more in an article headlined, “Ecuador declares state of emergency,” saying:
Coup plotters shut down airports, blocked highways, burned tires, and “rough(ed) up the president.” They also took over an airbase, parliament, and Quito streets, the pretext being a law restructuring their benefits, despite Correa doubling police wages.
In fact, Washington’s fingerprints are on another attempt against a Latin leader, some (not all) of whose policies fall short of neoliberal extremism.
A tipoff was State Department spokesman, Phillip Crowley, saying we’re “monitoring (not denouncing) the situation,” much like it refused to condemn Zelaya’s ouster, instead calling on “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law, and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” Most other Latin states demanded his “immediate and unconditional return,” whether or not they meant it.
Washington opposes Correa for Ecuador’s ties to Hugo Chavez and Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) membership, a WTO/NAFTA alternative based on principles of:
– complementarity, not competition;
– cooperation, not exploitation; and
– respect for each nation’s sovereignty, free from corporate and outside control.
Though falling short of these goals, ALBA nations, in principle, pledged:
– to benefit and empower their citizens;
– provide essential goods and services; and
– achieve real grassroots economic growth to improve the lives of ordinary people and reduce poverty.
ALBA membership, however, signals opposition to US hegemony, especially its neoliberal model, dominance, dismissiveness, and one-way trade deals for the Global North over the South, the curse Latin states have endured for decades, besides earlier US-sponsored coups and belligerency.
Fast Moving Developments
Before his rescue, police spokesman Richard Ramirez told AP that “the chief of the national police, Gen. Freddy Martinez, presented Correa with his irrevocable resignation because of Thursday’s events.”
On October 1, the Russian Information Agency, Novosti headlined, “Ecuador in chaos as police put president in hospital,” saying:
Correa remained hospitalized….one person was killed and dozens injured during (street) riots.” After Ecuadorean military and special police forces rescued him, Correa told the national radio in a phone interview:
“This is a coup d’etat attempt by opposition forces. They resorted to (violence) because they will not win the election. I call on the citizens to stay calm.”
After being attacked by tear gas, he was hospitalized, then prevented from leaving when rebel police and coup supporters surrounded the building. Inside he said, “It seems that the hospital is under siege….(The) conspiracy (was) planned long ago,” and he knows where. He added, “I will leave (the hospital) as president, or they will have to carry my corpse out of here.”
His government declared a state of emergency. Flights from Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport were suspended, then resumed early October 1. In addition, scattered violence and looting was reported in several Ecuadorean cities, including the capital.
Freed by soldiers, a visibly angry Correa addressed a huge crowd of supporters from the presidential palace, saying:
“Ecuadorean blood, the blood of our brothers has been needlessly spilled. You have mobilized to support the national government….the citizens’ revolution, democracy in our fatherland. When we realized we couldn’t talk and wanted to leave, they attacked the president. They threw tear gas at us, straight at our faces. They had to take me to the police hospital where they held me hostage. They wouldn’t let me leave. They shamed the institution (the police). They will need to leave the ranks.”
While still captive, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino urged supporters to “walk peacefully to the hospital, where the president is blocked by (rebel) police officers.” On arriving, they shouted, “This is not Honduras. Correa is president. Down with the coup, down with the enemies of the people.”
Ecuador remains in flux. As a result, new developments need close monitoring. Writing for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Andres Ochoa said:
Before the coup attempt, “Correa seemed an untouchable figure in Ecuadorian politics. However, his presidency might very well be defined by the outcome of this day, and his political projects may rest on the results.”
A Final Comment
On October 1, AFP writer Alexander Martinez headlined, “Ecuador president rescued from police uprising,” saying:
Correa “made a triumphant return to the presidential palace after loyalist troops rescued him from a police rebellion amid gunfire and street clashes that left at least two dead” and dozens wounded.
“We got him out, we got him out,” Interior Vice Minister Edwin Jarrin told AFP.
“The rescue capped a dramatic day of violence and confusion that began early Thursday” when rebel police assaulted him.
After his rescue, Correa thanked the military and a police special operations unit, saying:
“If not for them, this horde of savages that wanted to kill, that wanted blood, would have entered the hospital to look for the president and I probably wouldn’t (be) telling you this because I would have passed on to a better life.” Supporters are grateful not yet.
Commenting on developments, Latin American expert James Petras explained that Ecuador’s “ELITE MILITARY” put down the coup. In 2008, defense minister Javier Ponce “denounced” Washington “for subverting police.”
At the same time, there’s “legitimate protest by trade unions against Correa’s austerity plan, which the right exploited, seeing the pro-Correa forces divided.” In addition, some NGOs and “supposed Indian groups who tacitly supported the coup are on the take from America’s National Endowment of Democracy (NED) and USAID,” the usual suspects with a long disruptive history throughout the region and beyond.
Their operatives weren’t on the streets visibly, but they expressed no opposition to coup plotters. Instead, “Their statement called for the government’s replacement,” meaning it’s Obama administration policy – not for Correa’s domestic policies, says Petras. It’s for his “ties with US arch enemy Chavez and ALBA.”
Events remain fluid and fast moving. Stay tuned for more updates.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
If you have been feeling uneasy about having to be X-rayed by a Transportation Security Administration goon who can look under your clothes every time you fly, consider this: at least you can say no, and agree to be subjected to an old-fashioned full-body search.
No opt-out for the latest in anti-terror technology though, with reports just out in Forbes Magazine and the Christian Science Monitor that the Homeland Security Department has purchased 500 mobil X-ray vans called ZBVs that can scan cars, trucks and homes without the drivers even knowing that they’re being zapped.
These vans, made by a Massachusetts company called American Science & Engineering, are fitted out with what are called Z Backscatter X-ray devices, which aim a focussed X-ray beam that reportedly has the capability of penetrating 14 inches of steel.
In theory, the device is supposed to be safe for human targets, because it is operated at a distance, and because the beam is weakened by penetrating the metal of a vehicle before it reaches a person. But the flaws in this kind of reassuring safety calculus are readily apparent in a photo of a small truck carrying contraband that accompanies the Christian Science Monitor story. The X-ray image, after penetrating the truck cab’s metal body, clearly shows the contraband behind the driver’s seat, but it also just as clearly shows the shadowy outline of the driver of the pickup. Worse yet, even his window is half-way down, so there is no shielding at all of the X-rays hitting his head.
We can expect these mobil X-ray vans to be proliferating around the country soon, if they’re not out there already, but they may be hard to spot. As American Science & Engineering says in a note to investors on the company website:
A breakthrough in X-ray detection technology, AS&E’s Z Backscatter Van is the number one selling non-intrusive mobile inspection system on the market. The ZBV system is a low-cost, highly mobile screening system built into a commercially available delivery van.
Prof. Peter Rez, a physicist at Arizona State University who specializes in X-ray technology, and who has been doing research on backscatter X-ray dosages, says that if used properly, the radiation doses received by targeted persons would be very minute, but then he notes that if the government begins a major campaign of surreptitious X-raying on highways and at locations of security concern (the machines are already being used at major sporting events like the Superbowl), there have to be concerns about whether the machines are being maintained in proper working condition (driving them around on America’s run-down highways is subjecting the machines to quite a beating), and about whether the operators are using them properly.
This is even the case with airport X-ray machines, he says, where the doses are very low, but the actual beam is quite powerful. Since X-ray beams cannot be focused, two moving mechanical parts are used, including a spinning wheel with a small series of holes in it, so that what reaches the targeted individual is just short bursts of X-rays. If either of those moving mechanical parts broke down while a person was being zapped, though, Rez says the person would be “fried” by a major X-ray exposure. “I was assured by the government that the machines have a fail-safe system so they shut down instantly if the moving parts fail,” he says, “but BP had a fail-safe system too, and we saw how well that worked. For my part, I wouldn’t go through an X-ray scanner unless they could show me a very low documented failure rate!”
Arjun Makhijani, an engineer and physicist with the Institute of Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland, also points out that any safety studies for the backscatter machines are referring to their effect on average adults. But if the government is scanning moving vehicles on a highway, or looking inside trailers, for example to spot smuggled immigrants (the metal-piercing backscatter machines are being installed at border crossings on the Mexican border), there is no way to know when they are exposing children or the fetuses of pregnant women, both of which populations are far more vulnerable to damage from ionizing radiation than an average adult.
Americans in Atlanta got a taste of this latest government intrusion into their lives when Homeland Security last Tuesday ran what it called a “counterterrorism operation” not prompted by any specific threat. They set up one of their ZBV vans on I-20 and snarled traffic for hours while all trailer trucks were stopped and scanned by Homeland Security personnel.
The US military has been operating backscanner X-ray machines on the streets of New York, where it has been aiming the devices even at pedestrians. One location where this was done was outside the United Nations building on 1st Avenue in Manhattan.
The mobile X-ray vans are only the latest step in a steady march by the American government towards a total national security state, where citizens can expect to be monitored in everything they do. Cities are installing video cameras all over the place, allegedly to fight crime and catch drivers who run red lights or speed. And just last week, the Obama administration announced that it was seeking to expand monitoring of communications to include non-phone systems like Skype and Google Phone, and that it would require internet communications providers to provide it with customer messages, even encrypted ones.
What makes the new mobile X-ray campaign even worse is that, like the airport X-ray machines, they are unlikely to work as advertised. For example, as Prof. Rez notes, the one thing that the airport X-ray devices cannot detect is liquid or semi-liquid explosives! He notes for example, that plastic explosive, like C-4, can easily be molded to look like a roll of fat on the body in an X-ray. Similarly, once criminals or a would-be terrorists know that the government has mobile X-ray vans on the highways, they can just stay to secondary roads, or disguise their bomb materials to look like something ordinary.
In other words, we all get zapped for nothing.
Says IEER’s Makhijani, “I know there can be a legitimate concern about security, but all this is happening in secret. We really need to open things up, so we know how these things work, what the dosages are, how they are being used and maintained, and we especially need to have a thoughtful public discussion about whether we really want this kind of thing to be done.”
DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues John Grant, Linn Washington and Charles Young, may be found at http://www.thiscantbehappening.net