Showing posts from January 5, 2014

Rebels clash in north Syria, bodies pile up in hospital - monitors

BEIRUT (Reuters) - An al Qaeda affiliate in Syria battled rival rebels across the country's north on Saturday and dozens of bodies piled up in a hospital in an insurgent-held city, a monitoring group said. A week of infighting between the al Qaeda-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and other groups including another al Qaeda-affiliated faction has killed hundreds of fighters opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Peace talks are planned in Geneva on January 22 between Assad's government and political opponents who demand he step down after almost three years of bloodshed. But Assad faces little pressure to make concessions after consolidating his grip on Damascus and the centre of Syria in recent fighting, and the main opposition National Coalition has yet to formally decide whether to attend the talks at all. On Saturday, rebels moved a convoy including tanks and machinegun-mounted trucks to one of the ISIL's strongholds in t

Shi'ite-Sunni ceasefire takes hold in north Yemen

SANAA (Reuters) - Fighting in north Yemen between Shi'ite Muslim Houthis and Sunni Salafis stopped on Saturday as a ceasefire deal took effect, according to a presidential committee trying to help end the conflict. More than 100 people have been killed since fighting erupted on October 30 when the Houthi rebels who control much of Saada province on the Saudi border accused Salafis in the town of Damaj of recruiting thousands of foreign fighters to prepare to attack them. The Salafis say the foreigners are students seeking to deepen their knowledge of Islam. A number of previous ceasefires have failed to stick. But Yehia Abuesbaa, head of the committee, said the latest had a better chance of holding because it included all factions involved in the fighting in Saada and adjacent provinces. The Yemeni army started deploying troops to oversee the ceasefire in neighbouring governorates on Friday evening and entered Damaj on Saturday, he said. The lull in the fighti

Five militants arrested in southern Russia, bomb defused

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Five members of a banned militant group have been arrested in the southern Russian town of Nalchik, where a homemade bomb packed with shrapnel has been defused, the Russian National Anti-terrorism Committee said on Saturday. Nalchik, in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, is about 300 km (190 miles) from the town of Sochi, host of next month's Winter Olympics, which Islamist militants have threatened to attack. President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his political and personal prestige on the Games, has already ordered security measures beefed up nationwide since suicide bombers killed at least 34 people last month in Volgograd, also in southern Russia. "Security forces have detained five members of a banned international terrorist organisation," the NAC said in a statement received by Russian news agencies. An NAC spokesman confirmed the statement to Reuters. "... the anti-terrorism operation discovered and seized ammunit

Violence Threatens To Thwart Iraqi Oil Resurgence

By January 9, 2014 By Nicholas Cunningham A wave of violence has swept parts of Iraq at the start of 2014 as the central government  fights back  against Al-Qaeda aligned militants in Anbar Province. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reportedly took control of Ramadi and Fallujah, bombing police headquarters and killing dozens. On New Year’s Day Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent in reinforcements to take back control of Anbar Province’s two largest cities. The clashes kick off 2014 in much the same way as 2013 ended – a return to violence in a country that had seen important security gains in recent years. Over  7,800 civilians  were killed in Iraq in 2013, the bloodiest year over the past five. The latest violence occurred in Anbar Province, a region that dogged the U.S. military during its decade-long war. ISIL is also engaged in  fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad , and the latest string of events indicates that the violence of the Syrian civil w

Syria’s Al Qaeda Groups training Americans, Westerners To Execute Attacks ‘At Home,’ Says Report

By  Al Bawaba News January 11, 2014 Al Qaeda affiliated Islamist groups in Syria are trying to identify, recruit and train Americans and other Westerners in the country to get them to carry out attacks upon their return home, the New York Times reported senior American intelligence and counterterrorism officials as saying. According to the officials, 70 Americans have either traveled to Syria or tried to since the conflict started three years ago. Director of the FBI, James B. Comey, said Thursday that tracking the activities of Americans who have returned from Syria had become one of the bureau’s highest counterterrorism priorities, reported the newspaper. “We are focused on trying to figure out what our people are up to, who should be spoken to, who should be followed, who should be charged,” Comey told reporters. “I mean, it’s hard for me to characterize beyond that. It’s something we are intensely focused on.” The FBI is conducting round-the-clock surveillance on some of the Americ

Malala Yousafzai praises teenage Pakistani bomb hero Aitzaz Hassan

Peshawar: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban to champion girls' rights to education, paid tribute on Saturday to a teenager killed stopping a suicide bomber from attacking a school. Aitzaz Hassan, 15, a student in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has become a national hero after he tackled the bomber who had come to attack his school on Monday, at a time when hundreds of students were inside.  Hassan died in hospital after the bomber blew himself up at the school gates. No one else was wounded or killed in the incident.  Malala described him as "brave and courageous".  "In sacrificing his own life, Aitzaz protected hundreds of innocent young students from being killed," she said in a statement. "I wish that in giving his own life he helps to bring peace to my people and my country," she said.  Malala, who was last year nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, offered condolences to his family and called fo

Pakistan: Talks About Talks With The Taliban, Again – Analysis

By  IPCS January 11, 2014 By D Suba Chandran Talks about talks with the TTP seem to have become seasonal in Pakistan. There is another effort, this time to initiate a new round of talks with the Pakistani Taliban, now under the leadership of Mullah Fazlullah. This time, not only is Fazlullah in the picture, but there is also another player – Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, the leader of his faction of the JUI and also the chair person of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council. While this initiative is not the first one in the last two years, the issues and questions remain the same for Pakistan’s leadership and civil society. Is the TTP monolithic, and serious about talks? While there is a larger consensus amongst the political leadership, are the military and the civil society on board? What would these talks be aimed at? And more importantly, are there lessons to be learnt from the previous initiatives and failures? Broader Political Consensus There seems to be a broader consensus cutting across party lin

Increased Security for Nuclear Materials

There is some rare good news on the issue of securing and containing deadly nuclear materials. In the last two years, seven countries have forsaken their uranium and plutonium stockpiles, bringing the number of nations still possessing appreciable quantities of nuclear fuel usable for bomb-making down to 25. In 1991, the number was 52. The data comes from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private advocacy group that promotes the safekeeping of nuclear materials. Following up on its first report in 2012, the group surveyed the precautions each country had in place and ranked nations based on their security practices. The report issued on Wednesday covered factors like national laws, regulations, participation in international treaties and physical security, including whether a state has armed guards protecting its facilities. The countries deserving special praise — Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine and Vietnam — effectively gave up their bomb-making capabilit

Peace in Pak linked to FATA region resolution, says Balochistan CM

ANI | Islamabad - Jan 11 , 2014 Pakistan 's southwestern province Balochistan 's chief minister Dr Malik Baloch has said peace in the country is linked with peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), calling the federal government to restore peace in the volatile tribal belts. Baloch appealed the government at a press conference in  Quetta  in the presence of other mainstream political party leaders, to empower the tribesmen to decide their political future, Dawn News reports. According to the report, the political parties reached a consensus on eleven points and agreed that their implementation is crucial for establishing peace in the tribal belt. The political parties demanded that the judiciary should be separated from the executive and people have to be allowed to challenge the judgment of the political agents. Source

Syrians accuse al-Qaeda of hijacking revolution

With nearly 500 people reported killed in a week of rebel infighting, many Syrians barricaded themselves in their homes Friday, while others emerged from mosques angrily accusing an al-Qaeda-linked group of hijacking their revolution. The rebel-on-rebel clashes have overshadowed the battle against President Bashar al-Assad and underscore the perils for civilians caught in the crossfire of two parallel wars. The violence, which pits fighters from a variety of Islamic groups and mainstream factions against the feared al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has spread across four provinces in opposition-held parts of northern Syria. The infighting is helping Mr. al-Assad, whose forces have clawed back some of the ground lost to the rebels in recent months as they bombard the north and other opposition regions with warplanes, heavy artillery and crude explosive-filled barrels dropped over rebel neighbourhoods. “The revolution has been derailed,” said Abdullah Hasan, a self-de

Seven injured in Thai protest shooting

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Seven people were wounded, one seriously, after gunmen opened fire on anti-government protesters in Bangkok early on Saturday, heightening fears of more violence when protesters try to "shutdown" the capital next week in their long-running bid to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. "Two shootouts occurred in the early hours of this morning at an intersection near the Khao San Road tourist area. Altogether seven people were injured, most of them anti-government protesters. We are still investigating who the gunmen were," said national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew. One of the injured protesters remains in a critical condition, according to the Erawan Medical Center which monitors Bangkok hospitals. The incident follows clashes between government supporters and protesters on Friday outside Bangkok that left at least six people injured. The turmoil is the latest episode in an eight-year conflict that pits Bangkok's middle class and r

Pitts: Pope shares 'radical, extremist' ideals

I like capitalism. Specifically, I like the idea that if I write a better book, have a better idea, build a better mousetrap, I will be rewarded accordingly. A system where everyone gets the same reward regardless of quality or quantity of work is inconsistent with excellence and innovation, as the mediocrity and inefficiency that beset the Soviet Union readily proves. The woman who is successful under capitalism gets to eat steak and lobster whenever she wants. That’s never bothered me. What does bother me is the notion that the unsuccessful man who lacks that woman’s talent, resources, opportunities or luck should not get to eat at all. There is something obscene in the notion that a person can work full time for a multinational corporation and earn not enough to keep a roof over his head or food on his table. The so-called safety net by which we supposedly protect the poor ought to be a solid floor, a level of basic sustenance through which we, as moral people, allow no one to fall

Premier Urges Award for Boy Who Halted Pakistan Attack

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday recommended that a high civil award for bravery be bestowed on a teenager who was killed this week while stopping a suicide bomber from attacking his school in northwestern Pakistan. The announcement came after calls had grown across the country to honor the teenager, Aitzaz Hasan, a ninth grader from the Hangu district of the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. The bombing took place on Monday near a boys’ school in the village of Ibrahimzai. Aitzaz, 15,  grew suspicious  when a man wearing the same school uniform as his asked for directions. The teenager then tackled the stranger as he tried to flee, and the stranger detonated his explosives. Prominent Pakistanis, journalists and social media campaigners have called Aitzaz a hero and have even compared him to Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for defying their ban on female education. Pakistani students sit next to a picture of Aitzaz Ha

Attack on Chaudhry Aslam: ‘Suicide bomber’ identified as Imam’s son

Son of the late SP-CID, Chaudhry Aslam, offers Fateha at the funeral of his father at Aziz Bhatti Police Station in Karachi. PHOTO: INP KARACHI:  The suspected suicide bomber, who allegedly rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into slain SP CID Chaudhry Aslam’s Vigo, has been identified as Naeemullah, the son of a prayer leader.  According to initial investigations and evidence collected thus far, the police believe that the young Naeemullah, who was identified by fingerprints, carried out the attack in Karachi on Thursday, said SP Niaz Khosa. Some body parts allegedly of a suspected attacker were found at the bomb site on Friday and sent to the National Database and Registration Authority for identification. “[We are] 98% sure that a suicide bomber hit the explosives-laden Suzuki cargo van with Aslam’s Vigo,” Crime Investigation Department (CID) DIG Zafar Bukhari told  The Express Tribune.  However, police officials insist that the investigation is only in its initial stages and things

Bin Laden's ex-bodyguard cleared for release from Guantanamo

U CHARLES DHARAPAK / ASSOCIATED PRESS A Yemeni man has been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay, after the first in a series of review hearings that the Obama administration is holding to speed the prison's closure. WASHINGTON — A former bodyguard for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the first in a series of review hearings that the Obama administration is holding to speed up the eventual closure of the U.S. military prison for terrorist detainees, the Pentagon announced Thursday. Mahmoud Abd Al Aziz Al Mujahid, who allegedly underwent militant training at a secret camp in Afghanistan, is no longer a "significant threat" to the United States and is eligible for transfer from the prison at some point, the review board members decided. He has been a captive at Guantanamo since his arrest near Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains when U.S. troops were closing in on a Bin Laden hideout not long after the Sept. 11, 20

Killing of boy, 4, by US troops frays Afghan ties further

Afghan   President   Hamid Karzai   today condemned US troops for killing a four-year-old boy in the southern province of Helmand, in an incident set to add fresh strain to troubled relations between   Washington   and Kabul .   Helmand governor Naeem Baloch told Karzai during a meeting in Kabul about the shooting, which comes as the US and  Afghanistan  wrangle over a deal to allow some US troops to remain in the country after this year.  The US-led  NATO  coalition in Afghanistan issued a statement expressing "deepest sympathies to the family who suffered the loss of a loved one" in the incident on Wednesday and vowing to investigate "what happened and why".  Relations between Washington and Kabul have been poor for years, and negotiations over the bilateral security agreement (BSA) have erupted into a long-running public dispute.  Karzai made a surprise decision not to sign the agreement promptly despite having vowed to do so, leading to the threat of a complete

UK politicians accused of Iraq war crimes

The International Criminal Court has been asked to investigate the actions of former members of the British cabinet and troops over allegations of "systematic torture" in Iraq. The European Centre for Constitutional Human Rights, based in Germany, and the Public Interest Lawyers firm, based in England, said in a statement that they had jointly filed a complaint to the ICC. The complaint called for the "opening of an investigation" into the actions of senior British officials "in particular the former minister of defence Geoff Hoon and secretary of state, Adam Ingram, for systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Iraq between 2003 and 2008." More than 400 Iraqi prisoners have contacted PIL in the past few years, alleging "serious abuse and humiliation" on the part of British soldiers, the two organisations said. "Our legal team has exhausted all legal avenues" to obtain justice in Britain, said Phil Shiner, a public interest lawyer. A

Iraqis seek political solution to avert army attack on Falluja

By Suadad al-Salhy BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The prospect of an imminent Iraqi army assault on Falluja receded on Friday as negotiators tried to work out a deal under which al Qaeda militants who seized the city 10 days ago would give way to Sunni Muslim tribal leaders. Military and local officials said the tanks, artillery and troops around the city 70 km (44 miles) west of Baghdad would not attack while efforts to end the standoff peacefully were under way. Militants of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is also fighting in neighbouring Syria[ID:nL6N0KK2I1], took control of Falluja and parts of nearby Ramadi on January 1 with the help of sympathetic armed tribesmen. At least 60 civilians, militants and tribal fighters have been killed in the two cities since the trouble erupted, 43 of them in Ramadi and 17 in Falluja, health officials in Anbar province said. They had no word on military casualties. The militants' incursion was a major challenge to Pr

Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin

On the evening of November 4, 1940, thirty-year-old Elizabeth Bendorf had just finished her shift as a train ticket salesperson at the S-Bahn station Friedrichshagen and was waiting for a train to arrive in the station to take her home. The S-Bahn was part of Berlin’s rapid transit system. It was common in 1940 for German women like Bendorf to work outside the home. As a result, women often rode the S-Bahn alone at night when their shifts ended. With so many men away in the military, women had come to dominate the factories of Berlin, working to churn out the industrial products needed for the war effort. While the Nazis would have preferred to have women at home in a traditional role as mothers and homemakers, the war required that female labor be used to produce the armaments and other materials required to fight. And with men away, there were openings at non-war-related jobs as well, such as selling tickets for the S-Bahn. READ MORE The Week’s Best Reads Other powers fighting this w