- Gangs from Africa, Iran muscle in on South East Asia drugs -U.N.
- Pakistan PM: No more "business as usual" with U.S.
- Rockets fired from Lebanon hit Israel - army
Posted: 28 Nov 2011 06:53 PM PST
BANGKOK (Reuters) - International drug gangs from Africa and Iran are muscling in on Southeast Asia's booming methamphetamine business which has shown a staggering increase and is spreading through the region, the United Nations said in a report on Tuesday.
Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), including amphetamine and methamphetamine, have become the drugs of choice in many parts of Southeast and East Asia since the 1990s, replacing plant-based drugs such as heroin, opium and cannabis, the U.N. drugs office said.
The stimulants can be easily made anywhere from a variety of materials and precursor chemicals and bring huge profits for little investment, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said.
Increasing use of the drugs was reported from most countries in the region in 2010, the office said, while the illicit making of the drugs was thriving despite the seizure of 442 manufacturing facilities and nearly 136 million "speed" pills.
African crime gangs which used to deal in cocaine and heroin
had diversified into ATS trafficking while gangs from Iran had been identified as a significant drug-trafficking threat in the region, it said.
"African groups are involved in trafficking crystalline methamphetamine, ecstasy and heroin into Indonesia, and have used Cambodia as a centre for financial transactions and for the distribution of illicit drugs to Indonesia," the U.N. office said in a report.
"In Japan, the proportion of seized methamphetamine that was trafficked into the country from Africa increased 7.4 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in the first half of 2010."
In Malaysia, the number of African couriers arrested almost doubled in 2010 to 65, including 50 Nigerians, it said.
"To avoid detection, African drug trafficking organisations have diversified their methods by using couriers from countries in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia and by diversifying their trafficking routes."
Iranian gangs were also getting involved.
Malaysian authorities arrested 228 Iranian couriers in 2009-10 for smuggling methamphetamine while Japan reported the arrests of 135 of them in the same period.
Other countries reporting the arrest of Iranians included Thailand, where authorities nabbed 75 in 2010 compared with 12 in 2009, and Indonesia with 27 arrests in 2010.
"There are also indications that Iranian drug organisations have attempted to establish illicit ATS manufacturing operations in Malaysia and Thailand," the office said.
Seizures of methamphetamine pills shot up for the second year in 2010 to nearly 136 million from 94 million, the previous year, a 44 percent increase. China, with 58.4 million pills seized, Thailand and Laos accounted for 98 percent of the busts.
"The staggering increase in seizures reflects burgeoning production," the office said.
But Myanmar, where most pills are manufactured, by former rebels who struck ceasefires with the government, reported the seizure of only 2.2 million pills in 2010, or just less than a tenth of the 23.9 million seized the previous year.
"This may reflect that traffickers are deliberately avoiding trafficking methamphetamine directly to Thailand along the overland route and instead smuggling larger amounts out of the country through Laos and along the Mekong river into Thailand," it said.
In what could be a grisly illustration of that shift, 13 Chinese sailors were murdered on the Mekong river, near the Thai-Myanmar border in October. Thai officials have suggested methamphetamine smuggling was behind the killings.
Laos saw a 10-fold increase in methamphetamine pill seizures in 2010 and was vulnerable to the drug gangs.
"Its remote and sparsely populated mountainous borderlands make it vulnerable to displacement of manufacturing facilities from Myanmar."
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Copyright © 2011 ReutersFull content generated by Get Full RSS.
Posted: 28 Nov 2011 06:35 PM PST
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's prime minister ruled out "business as usual" with the United States on Monday after a NATO attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the army threatened to curtail cooperation over the war in Afghanistan.
Saturday's incident on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has complicated U.S. attempts to ease a crisis in relations with Islamabad and stabilise the region before foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan.
"Business as usual will not be there," Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told CNN when asked if ties with the United States would continue. "We have to have something bigger so as to satisfy my nation."
While the NATO strike has shifted attention from what critics say is Islamabad's failure to go after militants, Gilani's comments reflect the fury of Pakistan's government and military - and the pressure they face from their own people.
"You cannot win any war without the support of the masses," Gilani said. "We need the people with us."
The relationship, he said, would continue only if based on "mutual respect and mutual interest." Asked if Pakistan was receiving that respect, Gilani replied: "At the moment, not."
Gilani's comments cap a day of growing pressure from the Pakistani military, which threatened to reduce cooperation on peace efforts in Afghanistan.
"This could have serious consequences in the level and extent of our cooperation," military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Reuters.
Pakistan has a long history of ties to militant groups in Afghanistan so it is uniquely positioned to help bring about a peace settlement, a top foreign policy and security goal for the Obama administration.
Washington believes Islamabad can play a critical role in efforts to pacify Afghanistan before all NATO combat troops pull out in 2014 and it cannot afford to alienate its ally.
U.S. national security officials met at the White House on Monday to discuss Pakistan following the weekend incident, which prompted Pakistan to shut down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan in retaliation and which was the worst of its kind since Islamabad allied itself with Washington in 2001.
"We have been here before. But this time it's much more serious," said Farzana Sheikh, associate fellow of the Asia program at Chatham House in London.
"The government has taken a very stern view. It's not quite clear at this stage what more Pakistani authorities can do, apart from suspending supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan."
The weekend attack was the latest perceived provocation by the United States, which infuriated and embarrassed Pakistan's powerful military in May with a unilateral special forces raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
CHINA AND RUSSIA VOICE CONCERN
Adding a new element to tensions and giving a diplomatic boost to Islamabad, China said it was "deeply shocked" by the incident and expressed "strong concern for the victims and profound condolences for Pakistan.
Russia, seeking warmer relations with Pakistan as worry grows over the NATO troop pullout in Afghanistan, said it was "unacceptable" to violate the sovereignty of states even when hunting "terrorists."
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Pakistan was rethinking whether to attend next week's conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, although Washington had not yet received any definitive decision from the Pakistanis.
"We understand that they are reconsidering," Toner told reporters. "We hope that they do in fact attend this conference because this is a conference about ... building a more stable and prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan and so that is very much in the interests of Pakistan."
On Saturday, NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan, killing the 24 soldiers and wounding 13, the army said.
NATO described the killings as a "tragic, unintended incident." U.S. officials say a NATO investigation and a separate American one will seek to determine what happened. The U.S. investigation will provide initial findings by December 23, military officials said.
"It is very much in America's national security interest to maintain a cooperative relationship with Pakistan because we have shared interests in the fight against terrorism, and so we will continue to work on that relationship," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
A Western official and an Afghan security official who requested anonymity said NATO troops were responding to fire from across the border at the time of the incident.
Pakistan's military denied NATO forces had come under fire before launching the attack, saying the strike was unprovoked and reserving the right to retaliate.
Abbas, the military spokesman, said the attack lasted two hours despite warnings from Pakistani border posts.
"They were contacted through the local hotline and also there had been contacts through the director-general of military operations. But despite that, this continued," he said.
After a string of deadly incidents in the largely lawless and confusing border region, NATO and Pakistan set up the hotline that should allow them to communicate in case of confusion over targets and avoid "friendly fire."
Both the Western and Pakistani explanations are possibly correct: that a retaliatory attack by NATO troops took a tragic, mistaken turn in harsh terrain where differentiating friend from foe can be difficult.
An Afghan Taliban commander, Mullah Samiullah Rahmani, said the group had not been engaged in any fighting with NATO or Afghan forces in the area when the incident took place. But he added that Taliban fighters control several Afghan villages near the border with Pakistan.
A similar cross-border incident on September 30, 2010, which killed two Pakistani service personnel, led to the closure of one of NATO's supply routes through Pakistan for 10 days.
OBAMA EFFIGY Burnt
The main Pakistani association that delivers fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan said it would not resume supplies soon in protest against the NATO strike.
In the Mohmand region, where the attack took place, hundreds of angry tribesmen yelled "Death to America." About 200 lawyers protested in Peshawar city, some burning an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Pakistani editorials were strident. "We have to send a clear and unequivocal message to NATO and America that our patience has run out. If even a single bullet of foreign forces crosses into our border, then two fires will be shot in retaliation," said one mass-circulation Urdu language paper.
Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on militancy launched after al Qaeda's attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and has won billions of dollars in aid in return.
But the unstable, nuclear-armed country has often been described as an unreliable ally and the United States has resorted to controversial drone aircraft strikes against militants on Pakistani territory to pursue its aims.
U.S. Senator John McCain, a leading voice of Republicans on military issues, echoed frustration in Washington when he said the loss of life was "tragic" but that Pakistani intelligence still supported militants fueling violence in Afghanistan.
"Certain facts in Pakistan continue to complicate significantly the ability of coalition and Afghan forces to succeed in Afghanistan," he said.
(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Rebecca Conway in ISLAMABAD, Izaz Mohmand, Jibran Ahmad and Faris Ali in PESHAWAR, William Maclean in LONDON and Missy Ryan, Caren Bohan, Susan Cornwell and Arshad Mohammed in WASHINGTON; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Eric Walsh)
Copyright © 2011 ReutersFull content generated by Get Full RSS.
Posted: 28 Nov 2011 05:10 PM PST
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Several rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel on Tuesday, and the Jewish state returned fire across the border in response, military officials said.
Two buildings in the western Galilee area were damaged, Israeli media said, but there were no reported casualties. Residents said they heard two explosions and that houses shook.
An Israeli military spokesman said the rockets were the first fired since 2009 across a border where a 34-day war was fought in 2006 between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas based in Lebanon.
"Several rockets hit the western Galilee. The Israeli army considers the incident severe and is targeting origins of fire," said a statement from the military spokesman's office.
The Ynet news Web site said residents saw plumes of smoke where the rockets struck.
The Israeli-Lebanese border has been largely quiet in recent years, though some have worried about a possible spillover of tensions from a months-old revolt in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad and from a stiffening of Western sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Ralph Gowling)
Copyright © 2011 ReutersFull content generated by Get Full RSS.
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