A NATION WEEPS FOR INNOCENTS DEAD IN IRAQ
by Chiranjobi Paudyal
American Reporter Correspondent
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Sept. 7, 2004 -- An old Nepali saying, that "Tragedy never comes alone, it comes in a battalion," has never seemed more true in Nepal, where tragedy after tragedy has become the destiny of the nation.
Now, the entire nation is mourning the Sept. 1 murder of 12 innocent Nepalese youths who had gone to Iraq with the hope of getting employment. The young men were killed by the Ansar al-Sunna Army, an Islamic terrorist group linked with Osama bin-Laden, the mastermind of terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and Iran, the so-called "axis of evil" nation east of Iraq.
The news of the inhumane and barbaric murder of the Nepalese by slashing the young men's throats - like butchering of animals in the Stone Age - hurt the Nepalese people, who took to the streets on Sept. 2 and targeted the overseas labor recruiting agencies which sent them to Iraq despite the ban on such jobs by the government, and two Muslim mosques and the Egyptian embassy in Kathmandu.
The demonstration went wild, vandalizing over five dozen manpower companies, which to some are exploiting Nepalese in the name of sending them to foreign countries for better pay, and attacked the Nepali Jame Mosque and Kashmiri Takiya Mosque in Kathmandu, which sit just in front of the Royal Palace.
Demonstrators were angry at the Muslims. They set ablaze furniture and threw the religious book of Muslims, the Koran. Security forces took control of the mosques, however, and two demonstrators were killed when security forces opened fire to control the mob in the mosques and Egyptian embassy. The offices of four airlines headquartered in the Middle East were also sacked. No Muslim was hurt in the incident.
Meanwhile, the streets of Kathmandu were under the control of the demonstrators, who were shouting slogans against the Muslim terrorist groups and the government. "The government should resign, it failed to protect our brothers in Iraq," they chanted.
The demonstrators in the southeast part of the city known as Jhapa burned tires, official documents, racks, computers, furniture and everything else they could get. The smoke covered the Kathmandu valley, a small place surrounded by hills. Everywhere there was smoke as security forces failed to control the mob. The government declared a curfew in Kathmandu and neighboring Lalitpur district to control the situation. The shoot-on-sight curfew in the capital city lasted three days and ended Sunday.
The Ansar al-Sunna terrorist group captured the 12 Nepalese youths when they entered Iraq from Jordan. They were held hostage and threatened with death without any demands. The terrorist group did not make any demands and Nepal's government was confused about what steps to take to aoid their being killed.
"We tried our best to save their lives. We sent messages through religious leaders in Iraq, we made announcements through Al Jazeera Television, we tried to contact the terrorist group, but failed," said minister of state for foreign affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat.
The 12 Nepalese youths who were murdered were Buddhists, follower of Lord Buddha, who was born in Nepal, and had come to Iraq to assist Americans. The video released by the terrorists on their website and on Qatar-based Al Jazeera Television showed horrific pictures of the killing of the innocent Nepalese youths. The throat of one was slashed in a barbaric manner. The terrorist lifted the bleeding head separated from the body. The horrible murder terrified everyone. Murder without any crimeL This has become the destiny of Nepal.
Others were ordered to lie down with faces downward and then shot dead. The youths, in their teens and early 20s, became victims in the hands of Muslim terrorists who said that they were killed on the orders of Mohammed, the founder of the Muslim religion.
"Look, how terrible are these Muslims, who do not value human life of other religions," said an angry protester. Muslims should be expelled, he said.
Americans should be supported in finishing off the fundamentalist Muslims, who are the enemy of mankind, a senior Nepalese government official told American Reporter on condition of anonymity.
"We need leaders like Bush who can fight against the terrorist Muslims; they should be finished," he added angrily.
"I cannot bear this, I saw the picture of our murdered brothers and cannot bear, how terrible it is, how cruel are the Muslims," said a sobbing Man Bahadur Rai, a unoversity student at Masters level.
Demonstrators vandalized the offices of Kantipur Publication and Television and Space Time Network, a publishing house.
"It is mysterious that we could not get assistance of the security forces for nearly two hours despite our request for it several times," said Kailash Shirohiya, managing director of the two firms.
Security forces came two hours after the attack started, although the office of the publication just two minutes from the local police post. That is mysterious, a spokesman for the paper said. So is the reaction of political party leaders. The role of security forces was also suspicious; they wanted to create a tense situation, said an editor of the newspaper.
The security forces, which can control the peaceful movement of the political parties within a minute, failed to do so, so it is a conspiracy, said leaders speaking at a public program in Kathmandu.
"It is a pre-planned act to deviate the attention of people from politics, and the attack on the newspapers is very serious," former deputy prime minister and leader of the opposition Nepali Congress Ram Chandra Paudyal said.
Ansar al-Sunna ("defenders of tradition") is a Sunni Muslim group formed last year with a sole objective of fighting against Americans in Iraq. It is based in northern Iraq and is believed to get its support from Iran and Syria.
The Ansar al-Sunna is bel;ieved to have direct links to the terrorist mastermind of Sept. 11, Osama bin-Laden. The terrorist group said in a declaration when it was formed at the end of 2003 that "Jihad in Iraq has become an individual duty of every Muslim after the infidel enemy attacked the land of Islam," and that its members "derive their jihad program and orders from the instructions of the holy Koran and the Prophet Muhammad's Sunna tradition."
It further stated that the goal of Ansar al-Sunna is to achieve the Muslims' hope of an Islamic country in Iraq where Islam and its people are strong. According to Iraqi intelligence officers, captured Ansar al-Sunna militants have confessed to receiving assistance from some neighboring states including Iran and Syria, which are accused by the United States of supporting terrorist states.
The group is said to have strong influence in media and the network of terrorist groups, and is believed to be funded by financially strong organizations. In propaganda video released a few months ago, it claimed to have made a total of 285 attacks that killed 1,155 people. In addition, Ansar al-Sunna claims to have destroyed 26 tanks, 22 armored vehicles, 15 fuel tankers, and 71 personnel carriers.
A car bomb attack on the Turkish embassy in Baghdad which killed two persons on October 14 last year was the first attack by the group. Ansar al-Sunna has since taken credit for several suicide bombings in Iraq, including the devastating attacks on the offices of two Kurdish political parties in Irbil in February 2004 that killed at least 109 people. That was the largest death toll in any attack by the group so far.
Michael Rubin, a writer for the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, says that Ansar al-Sunna, which officially declared its existence in a Sept. 20, 2003 Internet statement, evolved from the coalescing of Kurdish Ansar al-Islam operatives, foreign al-Qaeda terrorists, and newly mobilized Iraqi Sunnis. "A group of mujahidin ... have gathered a number of scattered jihad factions and groups operating in the arena from north to south and formed a big army under one emir," its inaugural statement declares. The independent Kurdish newspaper Hawlati traced the formation of the group to a schism within Ansar al-Islam, another jihadist organization, dating back to July 2002.
World leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Indian prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, British foreign secretary Jack Straw, the Japanese foreign minister, the European Union and other countries of the region and the world strongly condemned the murder of innocent Nepalese in Iraq.
Powell, in a letter sent to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, termed the murder "barbaric" and extended condolences to the members of the bereaved family. The Nepalese were killed saying that they had come to Iraq to assist Americans.
This is a great tragedy for Nepal, which is facing serious problems. There is an active Maoist insurgency, which has claimed over 10,000 lives and destroyed the a billion dollars in property.
There are also deep political problems. The major political parties are struggling to restore democracy, saying that the takeover of government by the king last year has ended the democratic rule of the people.
Three sides are fighting" The king, who wants to be an active leader and has undermine the democratic system; the major political parties, who want a democratic system with king as the figurehead; and the Maoists, who want to establish a Communist-style republic. People are suffering as these three sides struggle. Thousands of youths are unemployed and want to leave the country because of the insurgency.
The Maoists abduct and involve the youths in their group, and many youths have been killed in the crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists. Though government figures show that the number of Nepalese going outside the country is 500,00, unofficial figures show more than 1 million have left the country for work. Most of them are in countries of the Arabian Gulf, and about 18,000 are saidf to be in Iraq, mostly working as security for American companies.
Targeting Muslims in Nepal can create trouble for Nepalese working outside the country. They are mainly in Muslim countries in the Middle East and Malaysia. Theirs is the main source of income for Nepal. It is estimated that they bring in more than one billion U.S. dollars a year, which is a large amount in a country where the per capita income is around 300 U.S. dollars.
At least 16 journalists were killed and seven are still missing in the last three years of undemocratic rule, said the president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, Taranath Dahal. Hundreds were arrested and both the state and Maoists are responsible for their killing and abduction, he said.
Human rights violation has reached new limits. Nearly 400 people have disappeared in the last year. The figure is high when compared to the previous years, human rights organizations have said. Such is the tragedy of the country.
It is because of undemocratic rule, said the president of the human rights and peace society, Krishna Pahadi.
Some of the family members of the murdered youths fell unconscious after the news of their murder by the terrorists. Yhe parents of Rajesh Khadka of Lalitpur, a neighboring district of Kathmandu, collapsed and were still unconscious the next day after they heard the news of the murder of their 19-year-old son. Television showed pictures of the family members fainting and villagers assisting them.
Before the murder of his son, after his captured by the terrorists, the father of Rajesh Khadka said, "My son has gone to Iraq not to earn money and become rich, but has gone there to make a living."
Those words touch the hearts of every human being here. They certainly reflect the reality of Nepal. The rulers of Nepal did not understand the situation and thus the situation deteriorated day by day, said a friend of pne of the murdered yong men, Khadka Gopi Khanal. "We are rich in everything but we are compelled to suffer," he said. Not only the families but the whole villages and the nation is in tears.
India had three of its citizens captured in Iraq rekleased, but we could not do the same because of the negligence of our government, said one politician.
"This is the tragedy of our nation. We are poor and fighting ourselves," he said. The nation is weeping.
American Reporter Correspondent has covered events in Nepal for us since 1999, when he came to America as a Fellow of the USIA International Visiting Journalists program. He heads the Nepalese News Service.