Gangsters miss home – adventures in Karachi

While getting rather bored in London, I glanced through some old emails of mine and found this to friends of a trip to Karachi, in Pakistan, dated 16 May 2000. So i publish it here for the sake of amusement> it shows even when you discover almost nothing, the act of searching can be quite interesting.

It was the machine gun that rather betrayed his profession.  It was hanging from his shoulder down to his knees and he strode into my room at the Sheraton. Quite disconcertingly, he was also carrying a bouquet of roses and lilies. The note attached said: “With best wishes from Mr Shakeel”.

For those not familiar with Asian criminals, Chota Shakeel is the brother of what Indian papers like to call the “dreaded” or “notorious” gangster Dawood Ibrahim: the arch criminal master said to be in league with Pakistan intelligence in spreading all kinds of dastardly terror across the sub-continent, including hijacking a jet from Nepal and blowing up the Bombay stock exchange a few years ago and killing a large number of people. Continue reading Gangsters miss home – adventures in Karachi

Cyber spies – a UK firm accused of helping Egypt’s secret police


By Stephen Grey File on 4, BBC Radio 4

An Egyptian anti-Mubarak protester Technology was used to monitor the conversations of pro-democracy activists, evidence suggests

A UK firm offered to supply “cyber-spy” software used by Egypt to target activists, the BBC has learned.

Documents found in the headquarters of the country’s security service suggest it was used for a five-month trial period at the end of last year.

Hampshire-based Gamma International UK denies actually supplying the program, which infects computers with a virus that bugs online voice calls and email.

The foreign secretary says he will “critically” examine export controls.

William Hague, who speaks for the government on computer security issues, said: “Any export of goods that could be used for internal repression is something we would want to stop.”

Continue reading Cyber spies – a UK firm accused of helping Egypt’s secret police

Man’s conquest of Space

As the Space Shuttle carries out it’s final mission, here is a look at the result of decades of space flight – the debris of missions and the clutter of so many satellites.
This view – from 8700km – is a visualisation in Google Earth with data from the Union of Concerned Scientists satellite database and the US Space Track record catalog, pulled together here.  (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Casualties in Afghan war level off

UPDATED: 29/9/11 – Despite a UN report released today reporting higher violence than ever in Afghanistan – the latest figures show fatalities trending massively down for US and UK troops in Afghanistan. The number of US servicemen and women killed is significantly down despite the unusual loss of so many SEALS in a helicopter crash. Details see amended graphs here:

Continue reading Casualties in Afghan war level off

Raiders of the Night

A shorter version of this article appeared in the Sunday Times on June 5, 2011.

BY the light of a full moon, a team of America’s most elite Special Forces fast-roped from helicopters into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

Creeping through the pine nut groves of Qalandar district, Khost province, they approached a hide-out of bunkers, tents and make-shift buildings that was now used as a training camp for suicide bombers.

Their target, tracked to this location from Pakistan, was a senior leader of the Haqqani Network – a ruthless branch of the Taliban.

In the fire fight that ensued, the special force operators faced counter-fire from machine guns and RPG rockets, and even a suicide bomber that attempted to creep up on them. But at the end, they had killed both their target and 18 of his fighters.

Michael Waltz, a reserve officer with US special forces, was deployed to the region. And he recalled the attack won support from local people: “The elders were thrilled, even though we had destroyed some of their crop. There was an actual procession that came down from the mountains, down to our base to thank us.” Continue reading Raiders of the Night

Peace talks need a strategy

On another moonlit runway every month these days, another bearded man is hustled aboard a military jet. He is an ‘intermediary’ from the Taliban and  is about to be flown many hours before sitting down for another chance to talk about ending this war.

As Spiegel reported this week, Germany is one country that his hosting very preliminary “peace talks” in a hope of ending a war in Afghanistan that has cost so many lives. It’s not the only show in town. According to intelligence officials and senior diplomats I’ve interviewed, various “representatives” of the Taliban movement have also been flown to Norway and to Turkey in parallel tracks.

Fresh impetus to this process has been given by President Obama. As terrorism analyst Peter Bergen reports, a little-noticed shift of US policy has all but abandoned pre-conditions for talks to start.

Bergen is sceptical the Taliban is ready for talks – or, citing Pakistani truces with the Talban in its tribal areas, he argues they cannot be trusted anyway.

But while I judge the Taliban is becoming ever more extreme (despite attempts to argue the opposite by former Taliban ambassador Mullah Zaeef and indeed by Mullah Omar himself), if the White House is serious about a peace process, as I believe it is, then the critical question is what path could be chosen that could firstly make the Taliban less extreme and therefore an acceptable partner in a future accord and secondly make the peace process acceptable to the Taliban itself. Continue reading Peace talks need a strategy

Winners of the 2010 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism

I’ve just been informed of this very great and thoroughly undeserved honour. Thanks to all involved – and most particularly to all those who are assisting me with my reporting, often at huge personal risk to themselves:

Winners of the 2010 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism

Adrian Mogos (Romania) – Local journalist category

Stephen Grey (UK) – Freelance category

London, 19 October 2010

This year’s jury selected two outstanding candidates whose fearlessness and journalistic excellence represent the overall mission of the Kurt Schork Awards for International Journalism.

Kurt Schork Memorial Fund The 2010 Kurt Schork Awards for International Journalism will honour freelancer Stephen Grey (UK), and local reporter Adrian Mogos (Romania). The awards ceremony at Thomson Reuters headquarters, Canary Wharf on Wednesday 3rd November, will be followed by a reception and panel discussion.

This year’s Schork jury included Jeremy Bowen of the BBC, John Burns of The New York Times, Sir Harold Evans, author and former editor of The Times and The Sunday Times, Rana Husseini, author and human rights activist, and Michela Wrong, freelance journalist and author.

The jury was particularly impressed with the quality of Stephen Grey’s articles on Afghanistan, saying that they represented some of the best coverage anywhere, combining maturity with excellent analytical skills, and making a complex war more understandable.

The jury said Adrian Mogos provided an excellent in-depth investigation into issues of compelling importance. They felt that he showed great initiative, persistence and ingenuity, backed up with excellent research to expose human rights violations.

About the Winners

Adrian Mogos – 2010 Winner, Local journalist category




Adrian Mogos was born in the town of Cluj – Napoca on 1974. He graduated from the Faculty of Journalism at the West University of Timisoara, following up with postgraduate studies in European Studies in Slovakia. Since 2004, Adrian has worked for the Bucharest-based daily newspaper Jurnalul National. At the same time, he was accepted as a member of the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism. In 2009, Adrian was made a fellow of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, and this summer he was awarded the CEI – SEEMO award for outstanding merits in investigative journalism. Adrian is often invited to share his experience with young journalists in Romania and Moldova.

Winning Stories

Stephen Gray – 2010 Winner, Freelance journalist category




Stephen Grey is a freelance writer and reporter based in London, covering security issues for both newspapers and television and radio. A former foreign correspondent and Insight Editor of the Sunday Times, he has continued to work for the paper as a freelance, covering most recently the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has also written regularly for publications including the New York Times, Guardian, Prospect magazine and Le Monde Diplomatique. He is best known for his work on reporting the CIA’s rendition program, which resulted in his first book, Ghost Plane. Since 2007, he has been reporting on the war in Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar, where he reported in the spring and early summer of this year. His account of the battle for Musa Qala – Operation Snakebite- was published last year by Penguin. He has made several films for Channel 4 Dispatches, BBC Newsnight, Radio 4’s File on Four, and is currently working on assignment for the PBS documentary series Frontline. Stephen is married with two children.

Winning Stories