Archive for the ‘genocide’ Category

I’m not quite as sceptical as some about this. However, it’s not clear to me how this differs from the sort of thing UNOSAT does all the time – here’s their analysis of imagery over Abyei, the key border area between North and South Sudan. Actually it looks like the “Enough Project” is going to be using UNOSAT imagery itself, going by UNOSAT’s own website.

If you follow the link you’ll see that they have more than reasonable capability (50cm resolution) and that they routinely observe the presence of refugees/displaced persons and returnees, construction, and the like. There’s obvious relevance to an effort to monitor potential conflict along the border, especially as oil prospecting is an issue. You can’t easily hide oil exploration from a satellite that can resolve objects 50cm across.

However, the downside is that the UNOSAT report is comparing images over a two-year period. I would suspect that they will need much more frequent passes to be operationally responsive, which is where the costs get interesting.

Also, I’ve just been over to the website and it’s a bit of an unstructured clickaround. What I’ve always liked about MySociety sites is that they all have a function – FixMyStreet reports things in your street that need fixing, WDTK issues Freedom of Information Act requests, TWFY looks up information on MPs, TheStraightChoice logged what candidates promised and said about each other during their campaigns. DemocracyClub, for example, worked because as soon as you logged in it gave you something to do and some feedback about doing it, and then it hassled you to do something more. It had structure.

Notoriously, if you don’t give volunteers something to do as soon as they show up, they’ll wander off. It is nowhere easier to wander off than on the Internet. And so there’s a button to twitbookspace it and a donation link. There isn’t, however, a to-do list or, say, a list of pairs of images that need comparing.

So, we looked into the fake phone call to Mr 10%’s office. We even did a little HOWTO. If you recall, we concluded that you needed a bulk SIP carrier sufficiently unscrupulous or clue-light that they didn’t verify the CLI string you passed them, but who hadn’t yet offended at least one major telco in good standing. That, and a copy of Asterisk.

Here’s something really interesting. The Indian government has just issued a dossier. (Yeah, one of them.) What purports to be a copy is here. In it, it is claimed that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai received calls from a telephone number assigned by a small US SIP provider, which among other things offers a virtual-number service. This essentially forwards calls to that number to any user-defined number, SIP id, or what have you.

According to the Indian side, the person who bought the number stated that they were in India, but the bill was paid in advance with a wire transfer originating in Pakistan. The company in question, interestingly enough, offers numbers in Pakistan; but we know that the call to the Pakistani presidency identified as coming from a number in India. There is more information in this article; apparently they also registered inbound numbers (DIDs) in Austria at the same time.

This looks a lot like a reasonable set up to obfuscate the other parties to the calls, whoever they were. It’s also interesting to see that the terrorists made at least one serious mistake; they left a satellite phone on the trawler they used to launch the attack. This is likely to be an important source of information that somebody really should have thrown in the sea.

Reader Chris “Chris” Williams recently came up with an interesting idea regarding the unnerving incident during the Mumbai terrorist assault when somebody called Mr 10%’s office and, posing as the Indian foreign minister, threatened war. Chris reckons that not only are the two linked, but the phone call was actually the main effort; in fact, the commando speedboat assault on the city centre was a sort of privilege-escalation attack intended to boost the effectiveness of the fake telephone call.

As Scott Sagan wrote in The Command and Control of Strategic Nuclear Forces, you can’t go on alert without reducing the reaction times and increasing the sensitivity of your command system, because that’s what the word “alert” means. Going on alert involves system risk as well as mitigating the risk of surprise attack.

That doesn’t just work for radars and satellites, or even for organisations; it happens in your head as well. As well as forcing an Indian military alert and, more importantly, a Pakistani alert, the attack on Mumbai forced an emotional, psychological, and biochemical alert on both parties. Among other things, this tends to mean that even peaceful precautions are overlooked; just pick up the phone!

What is really worrying here, though, is that the Pakistanis still apparently believe that the call came from the Indian foreign ministry, because the Caller ID display said so. This is truly frightening; caller-line identification, CLI, is a surprisingly flaky feature of the public-switched telephone network (see the many, many discussions on uk.telecom). It’s the kind of thing that Bellheads like to accuse Internet people of, just it’s the Bellheads’ work. Rather, CLI works quite well within one telephone network; it’s when you start interworking that things happen.

And obviously, international calls involve interworking. CLI works like this (there’s a nice explanation on the Asterisk developers’ list: a message including the e164 telephone number originating the call and two flags is generated either by the subscriber’s equipment or by the carrier’s local exchange. The first flag has a value of 0, 1, or 2, which correspond to OK, “Not available due to user action”, and “Not available due to interworking”. If you choose to withhold your number, BT will set a flag of 1 on the CLI, so standards-compliant equipment at the far end will not show it. Note that the number is still sent. 2 is sent if the carrier (or the user) doesn’t have a valid CLI for this call, or doesn’t send CLI to the terminating network.

The second flag can be 0, 1, 2, or 3. 0 means the CLI was passed by the originator’s equipment and this has not been checked. 1 means the CLI was passed by the originator’s equipment and the network setting the flag verified the number is correct. 2 means it was checked and found to be incorrect. 3 means that the setting network’s local exchange assigned the CLI and therefore it is known to be good.

In the case of calls that are coming in from another network, then, the first flag should be 0 only if the second is 1 or 3, else 2. It’s left as a question of policy what you do with the others – for example, if someone is making unwanted calls to subscribers in a network that you provide service to, using the withhold flag and CLI set by their own PBX, do you honour the withhold flag, do you send the dodgy CLIs in case the subscribers want them to find out who’s doing it, or do you treat the CLI as probably all lies?

In practice, this is resolved by keeping lists of networks by degrees of trust. After all, if someone is really dodgy, there’s probably no point in relying on their own claim that they checked the CLI, so you might as well treat them all as nonsense. Some you can trust. Some you can trust partially, perhaps only the 1s and 3s.

But this, of course, only works if other people can trust you. If you don’t care, you might just pass every little thing, or if you’re really irresponsible you might set 1 flags on everything. Eventually this sort of behaviour will get you on everyone’s Do Not Trust list, but it’s always possible that the people you’re trying to send dodgy CLIs to aren’t great either.

So, first of all, you need an el cheapo phone company. Specifically, what you’re after is someone who provides really cheap and flaky bulk SIP interconnection, because what we need is a way of connecting a device that’s going to send someone else’s CLI into the traditional phone network, and this is much the easiest via the Internet. Of course, our target might be on a VoIP system, but the important bit is that it turns up at the far end with a traditional phone number as the CLI. We might start here, or – why not? – even here, or of course here.

Now, all we need is a copy of Asterisk, the open-source PBX and general phone toolkit; we change the zapata.conf file to set the CLI to our desired number and whatever flags we like, set “usecallingpres=yes”, put the details we were given by the dodgy SIP operator in the trunks section, and we’re good to go. There’s an obvious way to test if they’re passing the arbitrary CLI; call your mobile phone and see what comes up on the screen. To finish the job, we tell Asterisk to route incoming calls from the mobile numbers (or VoIP clients) we want to use, according to the dialplan we just specified.

We can now call the president of Pakistan and say whatever we damn well like, from whereever we damn well like. And caller ID will say exactly what we want it to. You may stroke a white cat while you do it; it’s not mandatory.

Scared yet? Right, we have learned a couple of things here. First up, interconnected networks imply netizenship. Keep your gear clean and know your customers, and you’ll save people downstream a lot of trouble, and if everyone behaves like that, what a wonderful world it would be.

Second, Caller ID is no kind of security for anything vaguely serious. Telcos don’t bother with it for really important purposes, like “working out your phone bill” – they use a different and secret billing identifier. It is truly astonishing that there was apparently neither any technical security beyond that, nor any authentication procedures either. (After all, an alternative to this would have been to have someone walk into the Foreign Ministry and just pick up the phone.) No security questions, no pre-arrangement, no passwords, no crypto, no shared secret. Nothing.

Apparently the alternative to the Baker commission/TYR solution in Iraq – get the fuck out under a negotiated settlement with Iran – that the White House is floating is a “tilt to the Shia and Kurdish 80 per cent. I find it a little hard to work out how we are meant to tilt to them any more-after all, I’ve been saying since 2003 that our presence in Iraq is dependent on the continuance of a Shia-Kurdish alliance, and the Shia have the government of Iraq that is held up by British and American bayonets.

But anyway. In pursuit of this, apparently, urgent talks are underway with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI, presumably with a view to throwing the Dawa guys like Maliki and Jaafari overboard. The obvious flaw in this strategy should be, well, obvious. SCIRI is the closest Iraqi actor to Iran. If you want Iranian and Shia power extended, this is just the right way to go about it. I suppose there is an argument that it’s better to talk directly to SCIRI, who are strong, than to talk to Dawa and the Allawi fan club and through them to SCIRI, but the benefits are marginal at best.

Mark Kleiman, and many others, point out that the implication of tilting even further to the Shia is essentially that we are going to take sides in the religious war, which they argue will mean genocide. I’m not so sure. NOIA looks like it can look after itself, and it is being repeatedly made clear that it will have official Saudi support. But there is another concern, even before we get to the mind-buggering prospect of getting the Magic Kingdom involved.

If we align explicitly with the (pro-Iranian) SCIRI in its war with the NOIA, what happens with the Sadrists, who are at least as strong as SCIRI? Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement frequently denounces SCIRI as an Iranian Trojan horse, little better than the Americans, although they have until recently cooperated in government after a fashion. The Sadrists are nationalistic and violently opposed to a) occupation and b) Iran, and they have on occasion cooperated with NOIA in the past. If we tilt the table towards Tehran, we risk bringing the whole thing crashing down on us as the Mehdi Army is called out along the MSRs to help the “besieged Iraqi resistance” fight the “Iranian invaders, American occupiers and their collaborator scum in Baghdad”.

Indeed, if we really must continue to behave as if there was any hope of a non-terrible outcome, we would be much better off tilting towards Moqtada al-Sadr. What his price would be I dare not speculate, but it would certainly involve getting troops off the streets in short order, and an accommodation with NOIA in its stronghold regions. (You say that like it’s a bad thing.) This post of Phil Carter’s on the Sadr movement’s civil-operations activities would argue strongly for it. David Hackworth would have said he’s the G who’s out-G’ing the other G’s. (Phil’s ten lessons from Iraq are highly recommended as well.)

And finally, can we please, please, please not do anything that is likely to get the Saudis involved? They do have some things that could greatly strengthen the NOIA, specifically an endless supply of cash and an equally endless supply of deranged takfiri killers who they are desperate to see explode, well, somewhere else. They also have no shortage of arms. This was, of course, their 1980s strategy of shipping jihadis to other wars so as to prevent revolution at home – call it the Anywhere but Abqaiq Approach. Unfortunately, they were left with an underutilised maniac industry after the Afghan campaign, and rather lost control. Doing it again is likely to have similar consequences, but much closer to home.

After all, as Michael Ledeen puts it in this criminally irresponsible tirade, They know their people hate them, and they know that revolution could erupt if we supported it. He’s talking Iran and Syria. Perhaps. But somehow three little words show up nowhere – “Saudi”, “Arabia”, and “oil.” Listen to this, too. Once we do, we will find that we’ve got many political and economic weapons, most of them inside our enemies’ lands. Indeed, habibi, we call them debt, energy inefficiency and the exhaustion of the US Army’s infantry. If they are fools enough to…where was I? What, this isn’t the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps speaking?

Ledeen is intellectually dishonest, ignorant, mercenary, mendacious and more. But I ask of you – surely he knows that there are 2 US Navy carriers capable of operations, that practically all US Army and Marine manpower is committed to Iraq? So what is this madness, from an objective point of view? We know his old chum Manuchar Ghorbanifar is almost certainly an Iranian intelligence asset, and his mate Chalabi told them their ciphers were insecure. Has he never wondered if he’s being exploited?

Not so long ago, the Indy’s Patrick Cockburn suggested that the Sunni insurgents – the New-Old Iraqi Army, as I call them – are pursuing a strategy of encirclement as a counter to the Shia majority in Baghdad, pressing hard around Baqubah and Muqdadiyah to the north and the Mahmoudiyah/Iskandariyah area to the south in order to control the road and rail exits from the city. There has been a great deal of fighting in these places, and the Baqubah area has been very bad recently. It’s in Diyala province, which is a near-even mix religiously, and commands the last major road out of Shia Baghdad. Cockburn’s sources described a typical process – a big bang, then the intimidation of the police, then the elimination of local businesses so as to force everyone else out. Then, Sunni refugees from Baghdad appear in a convoy and move in. No doubt they will be asked to find a self-defence force, as was done in 1940 in the Warthegau of German-occupied Poland.

The NYT reports on the counterstrategy, which is to do the same to the Sunnis on the remaining road out in the hope of incorporating that territory in the future Shia state. The ethnic cleansing is indeed under way. It’s a horrible old European story – kill one lot, move them out, find enough of yours to secure the ground.

Here is a useful suggestion, now that the field is apparently open to useful suggestions – in the interval between now and withdrawal, the Coalition and the Iraqi government should declare the neutralisation of the roads north and south out of Baghdad, and bomb the hell out of anyone who interferes. If you want a humanitarian intervention, permitting the citizenry to escape Baghdad is it, as is staving off either an assault by the NOIA or a breakout by the SCIRI a while longer.

Update, 1231GMT 16/11/06: The Saudis are shitting bricks, as are the Syrians, the Turks and the GCC. But can we not take up Nawaf Obeid of CSIS on his suggestion, though? The last thing we need is Saudi Arabia warning Iran that, unless it stops it’s messing around, the Saudis will start their own proxy-war effort in Iraq. To be filed under “fighting fires with petrol”.

Not so long ago, the Indy’s Patrick Cockburn suggested that the Sunni insurgents – the New-Old Iraqi Army, as I call them – are pursuing a strategy of encirclement as a counter to the Shia majority in Baghdad, pressing hard around Baqubah and Muqdadiyah to the north and the Mahmoudiyah/Iskandariyah area to the south in order to control the road and rail exits from the city. There has been a great deal of fighting in these places, and the Baqubah area has been very bad recently. It’s in Diyala province, which is a near-even mix religiously, and commands the last major road out of Shia Baghdad. Cockburn’s sources described a typical process – a big bang, then the intimidation of the police, then the elimination of local businesses so as to force everyone else out. Then, Sunni refugees from Baghdad appear in a convoy and move in. No doubt they will be asked to find a self-defence force, as was done in 1940 in the Warthegau of German-occupied Poland.

The NYT reports on the counterstrategy, which is to do the same to the Sunnis on the remaining road out in the hope of incorporating that territory in the future Shia state. The ethnic cleansing is indeed under way. It’s a horrible old European story – kill one lot, move them out, find enough of yours to secure the ground.

Here is a useful suggestion, now that the field is apparently open to useful suggestions – in the interval between now and withdrawal, the Coalition and the Iraqi government should declare the neutralisation of the roads north and south out of Baghdad, and bomb the hell out of anyone who interferes. If you want a humanitarian intervention, permitting the citizenry to escape Baghdad is it, as is staving off either an assault by the NOIA or a breakout by the SCIRI a while longer.

Update, 1231GMT 16/11/06: The Saudis are shitting bricks, as are the Syrians, the Turks and the GCC. But can we not take up Nawaf Obeid of CSIS on his suggestion, though? The last thing we need is Saudi Arabia warning Iran that, unless it stops it’s messing around, the Saudis will start their own proxy-war effort in Iraq. To be filed under “fighting fires with petrol”.

The thinnest attempt to discredit the Lancet study yet: apparently if you don’t live on a main street you can’t be blown up by a carbomb, murdered by fake policemen or shot by coalition convoy guards. Worse, it is alleged the back streets weren’t sampled although the methodology explicitly states they were. And one of the people behind this is a professor – a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Damn, when I was there we used to have standards. It surely can’t have gone downhill this far in two years? (Mind you, I recall that the intellectual gradient from the history department to economics was pretty steep. And negative.)

Remember the flight and arrest of Charles “Fiddy Cent Thousand Dead Child Soldiers” Taylor back in March? Sure ya do. You may also recall the bizarre involvement of Kilari Anand Paul, an Indian Protestant evangelist and – to be brutally frank – charlatan with a Boeing 747. Paul, who claimed to be Taylor’s “spiritual adviser”, has made a career of appearing in war zones to offer various tyrants religious counsel and a trip in the jet, the whole thing funded by charitable donations from the faithful but imprudent. Other clients he claimed at the time included Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and various Haitian rebels.

Last week, to my considerable amazement, he intervened in the Foley scandal, suddenly turning up to wish himself on dead-man-walking Dennis Hastert. Fascinatingly, when Talkingpointsmemo.com’s reporter Justin Rood caught up with him, he claimed to know Condoleeza Rice, Tom DeLay and George W. Bush, to say nothing of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and sundry other hard-right theocrats. But that isn’t all. The Houston Press has a rather fantastic feature on the guy, detailing a wealth of bizarreries and frauds including a fake leper colony, the abduction of an 11-year old girl from India to the United States and her subsequent abandonment, and a fraud in which he accepted a large sum of money to fly a group of Jews to visit Auschwitz, welshed, and then used the cash to put his jet through a long-overdue C check.

Ah, the jet. It’s a 1982-vintage Boeing 747SP, like a 747 Classic but with reduced capacity to make room for extra long range tanks. He claims it’s the only private 747 except for Air Force 1 (not true – there are a couple belonging to oil sheikhs, and AF1 isn’t a private jet, the clue being in the call sign), and nothing will part him from it. Not the exorbitant cost of maintaining a 24 year old jumbo, nor the giant fuel bill, nor FAA safety regulations. Among other things, he also spent quite some time flying around the world whilst not paying the crew. The C-check that the “Friends of the Israeli Defence Force” unwittingly paid for was carried out in Canada, presumably to evade pursuit.

None of this would be immensely surprising in the airfreight business, which is proverbially beset by shysters. Normally, though, it would go as far as lawsuits in odd places around the world and aggrieved creditors posting to PPRuNe.

But what is especially interesting about this seller of indulgences is that he appears to have decided to be a World Leader, sweeping into zones of international crisis in his long-range jet, dispensing pomposity by the gallon, and being photographed at the shoulder of the great and terrible – and simply gone out there and done it, without the impediments of getting elected or paying any of his own bills. When he called on the president of Ethiopia, he demanded the full honours of protocol, including a red carpet at the foot of the airstair – just in case, a carpet is part of his plane’s equipment. One wonders whether the carpet is included on the MEL, the minimum list of equipment that must be present and functioning before the aircraft can take off.

He is a self-made statesman, or more accurately a one-man state – a true product of our times. More seriously, he is yet another example of the weird lack of quality control the leaders of Teh War on Terror so often display in their personnel judgements. Having wangled an invite to the Southern Baptist convention, where he shocked the assembled bible-wallahs by soliciting donations to his personal funds from the stage, he seems to have glommed directly on to the Republican Party’s religious wing and its weird and sinister fascination for West Africa. Beyond that, he seems to have some features that would clearly endear him to Bush..

“Bluntly put, when Dr. Paul receives an answer he does not like, he seeks out someone who will tell him what he wants to hear. This is not the way to operate an aircraft; this is a very dangerous game to play, especially since Dr. Paul has little aviation experience. I have advised Dr. Paul and GPI in writing before — many lives will be put at risk if someone doesn’t start to understand what it is going to take in terms of time and money to operate this aircraft.”

I can’t help thinking this blog could do with an airborne command post. As part of our Global Struggle against Vapid Egregiosity.

Remember the flight and arrest of Charles “Fiddy Cent Thousand Dead Child Soldiers” Taylor back in March? Sure ya do. You may also recall the bizarre involvement of Kilari Anand Paul, an Indian Protestant evangelist and – to be brutally frank – charlatan with a Boeing 747. Paul, who claimed to be Taylor’s “spiritual adviser”, has made a career of appearing in war zones to offer various tyrants religious counsel and a trip in the jet, the whole thing funded by charitable donations from the faithful but imprudent. Other clients he claimed at the time included Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and various Haitian rebels.

Last week, to my considerable amazement, he intervened in the Foley scandal, suddenly turning up to wish himself on dead-man-walking Dennis Hastert. Fascinatingly, when Talkingpointsmemo.com’s reporter Justin Rood caught up with him, he claimed to know Condoleeza Rice, Tom DeLay and George W. Bush, to say nothing of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and sundry other hard-right theocrats. But that isn’t all. The Houston Press has a rather fantastic feature on the guy, detailing a wealth of bizarreries and frauds including a fake leper colony, the abduction of an 11-year old girl from India to the United States and her subsequent abandonment, and a fraud in which he accepted a large sum of money to fly a group of Jews to visit Auschwitz, welshed, and then used the cash to put his jet through a long-overdue C check.

Ah, the jet. It’s a 1982-vintage Boeing 747SP, like a 747 Classic but with reduced capacity to make room for extra long range tanks. He claims it’s the only private 747 except for Air Force 1 (not true – there are a couple belonging to oil sheikhs, and AF1 isn’t a private jet, the clue being in the call sign), and nothing will part him from it. Not the exorbitant cost of maintaining a 24 year old jumbo, nor the giant fuel bill, nor FAA safety regulations. Among other things, he also spent quite some time flying around the world whilst not paying the crew. The C-check that the “Friends of the Israeli Defence Force” unwittingly paid for was carried out in Canada, presumably to evade pursuit.

None of this would be immensely surprising in the airfreight business, which is proverbially beset by shysters. Normally, though, it would go as far as lawsuits in odd places around the world and aggrieved creditors posting to PPRuNe.

But what is especially interesting about this seller of indulgences is that he appears to have decided to be a World Leader, sweeping into zones of international crisis in his long-range jet, dispensing pomposity by the gallon, and being photographed at the shoulder of the great and terrible – and simply gone out there and done it, without the impediments of getting elected or paying any of his own bills. When he called on the president of Ethiopia, he demanded the full honours of protocol, including a red carpet at the foot of the airstair – just in case, a carpet is part of his plane’s equipment. One wonders whether the carpet is included on the MEL, the minimum list of equipment that must be present and functioning before the aircraft can take off.

He is a self-made statesman, or more accurately a one-man state – a true product of our times. More seriously, he is yet another example of the weird lack of quality control the leaders of Teh War on Terror so often display in their personnel judgements. Having wangled an invite to the Southern Baptist convention, where he shocked the assembled bible-wallahs by soliciting donations to his personal funds from the stage, he seems to have glommed directly on to the Republican Party’s religious wing and its weird and sinister fascination for West Africa. Beyond that, he seems to have some features that would clearly endear him to Bush..

“Bluntly put, when Dr. Paul receives an answer he does not like, he seeks out someone who will tell him what he wants to hear. This is not the way to operate an aircraft; this is a very dangerous game to play, especially since Dr. Paul has little aviation experience. I have advised Dr. Paul and GPI in writing before — many lives will be put at risk if someone doesn’t start to understand what it is going to take in terms of time and money to operate this aircraft.”

I can’t help thinking this blog could do with an airborne command post. As part of our Global Struggle against Vapid Egregiosity.

Liberian ex-dictator, war criminal and utter bastard Charles Taylor has done a runner from his Nigerian exile to avoid extradition to the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, says the Nigerian government. Taylor has been living in comfortable exile in Calabar, Nigeria since an unairworthy Boeing 727 belonging to Ali Kleilat rescued him from his overthrow in 2004. Last week, Liberia’s new president Ellen Johnston-Sirleaf issued a request for his extradition.

According to the Nigerian government, he’s levanted. 5 security officers have been arrested as a pathetic sop to world opinion. This is bad news. Taylor was responsible for destabilising the whole of West Africa, reintroducing slavery to work his diamond mines, recruiting 10 year old kids into his army, hacking people’s limbs off as a form of revolutionary terror, and more.

I am insanely disappointed by this news and the obvious Nigerian army partisanship (they are widely thought to have been complicit in his rise to power) that let the bugger get away.

Press reports last week said that Taylor had been summoned to the Nigerian capital Abuja on board an aircraft registered 5N-FGO. This plane is a Dassault Falcon 900 business jet belonging to the Nigerian Government, with “Federal Republic of Nigeria” titles on the fuselage.

Excerpt from report by Anietie Akpan and Francis Obinor entitled “Taylor’s relations, aides leave Calabar” published in Nigerian newspaper The Guardian web site on 24 March

Former Liberian President Mr Charles Taylor may have begun preparations for his proposed extradition home as about 20 of his relations and aides have left Calabar. Already, the federal government is putting finishing touches to the extradition, which may take place any moment from now. Also, high level consultations are currently on with Taylor, the Cross River State Governor Donald Duke, President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Liberian government and the international community.

As part of the preparations, some members of his family and associates on Tuesday [22 March] boarded an ADC airline with heavy luggage to an unknown destination en-route Lagos. One of Taylor’s close aides, popularly known as Banana, was seen at the airport on Tuesday with his wife and some luggage checking out of Calabar. Same day, a presidential aircraft marked 5NFGO brought Taylor back from Abuja in the evening. He was accompanied by security men and was immediately driven off the airport to his Solomon Umohs Asylum residence at Diamond Hill.

The presidential aircraft did not leave the Margaret Ekpo International Airport until Wednesday evening with just two passengers suspected to be top government officials. The same Wednesday, the former ruler’s Jaguar saloon car marked 81-CD-85 picked one unknown passenger at the airport and drove straight to his residence. The presence of the presidential aircraft at the Calabar airport for more than 24 hours without the president’s or top federal government presence was unusual.

Sources disclosed that the former president has put in order all his cars in preparation for his departure. But it is still uncertain whether he will dispose of some of the cars. Security at his residence has, however, continued to be normal except for the addition of some personnel and the usual restriction of movements.

As usual, top government officials including Governor Donald Duke have remained mum over the Taylor issue directing all inquiries to Abuja. The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, had last week requested for his return and the federal government disclosed that it was consulting with African leaders on the matter. Taylor has been in Calabar on asylum since 2002.

Meanwhile, a group, the Campaign Against Impunity, yesterday in Lagos urged President Obasanjo to promptly comply with Johnson-Sirleaf’s request for Taylor to face trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The group also hailed President Johnson-Sirleaf’s move on Taylor.

Its members gathered to mark the 15th year of the devastating armed conflict in Sierra Leone, which began on March 23, 1991, when rebel groups launched a cross-border attack from Liberia on a small village in the Kailahun district. The director of the Centre for Democratic Empowerment in Liberia, Ezekiel Pajibo, said it was expedient for Nigeria to hand over Taylor for trial. “President Johnson-Sirleaf has taken a crucial stand against impunity in Africa by requesting Taylor’s surrender,” Pajibo said. Members of the group yesterday also met in Monrovia, Liberia, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, to press for Taylor’s surrender to the special court. [Passage omitted].

Source: The Guardian web site, Lagos, in English 24 Mar 06

BBC Monitoring

The BBC report of his disappearance is here.