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06.08.12 Obama urges Europe to act swiftly to prevent economic collapse
June 8 - President says eurozone crisis remains threat to America's economic recovery as Spain prepares to ask EU for bailout. Europe must act quickly to stem its economic crisis, president Barack Obama said on Friday as he called on European leaders to strengthen their banks and urged Greece to remain in the eurozone. Obama addressed reporters at the White House as it emerged that Spanish officials would meet EU officials this weekend and ask for help shoring up their troubled banks. "There is a path out of this challenge. These decisions are in the hands of Europe's leaders; they understand the urgent need to act.
There are specific steps they can take right now to prevent the situation from getting worse. One of those steps is taking clear action as soon as possible to inject capital into weak banks," said Obama. The president said he had been in "constant contact" with European leaders and his own financial advisers as the crisis developed. He urged Greece to act to stay within the eurozone before elections next week arguing that "hardships will likely be worse" if it leaves. Obama said the US was strong enough to absorb "some of the shocks from across the Atlantic" but that the European crisis was still a threat to America's fragile recovery. [More>>guardian.co.uk]
06.08.12 Syria Qubair: Bloody traces of massacre seen in village
June 8 - The smell of burnt flesh and evidence of bloodshed have greeted a BBC correspondent entering the village of Qubair in Syria, scene of a massacre. Paul Danahar, who was traveling with UN monitors, found buildings gutted and burnt in the deserted tiny village near the western city of Hama. Violence continues across Syria, with reports of shelling in Homs and bomb attacks on security forces elsewhere. The Red Cross has warned that 1.5 million people need humanitarian aid. Condemning the Qubair massacre earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned of an imminent danger of civil war and the international peace envoy, Kofi Annan, has said his six-point peace plan is not being implemented. As many as 78 people are said to have been killed in the Qubair attack. State media gave a figure of nine. The opposition blamed it on militia allied to President Bashar al-Assad while the government accused "terrorists" of killing civilians. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
06.08.12 Bomb blast kills 19 on Pakistan bus
June 8 - A bomb blast ripped through a Pakistani bus on Friday, killing 19 people, including seven women and a child, on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar, police said. More than 40 others were wounded in the attack on a bus rented by the government to take staff home after work in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It was the deadliest attack in months on Peshawar, which has long been a flashpoint for a local Taliban insurgency targeting government officials, security forces and ordinary civilians. The city runs into the semi-autonomous tribal belt that US officials consider a safe haven for al-Qaeda and insurgents fighting both in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan. The explosion went off in the Daudzai area, killing government employees and other private passengers riding the same bus, officials said.
“The bomb was planted under the bus,” provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters. “We still can’t say how many government employees and private passengers were killed, but there were heavy human losses,” he added. Police official Tahir Ayub told AFP 19 people were killed and more than 40 wounded. Another police official, Shafiullah Khan, said seven women and a girl, aged seven, were among the dead….The attack came one day after a remote-controlled bomb killed at least 15 people outside a madrassa in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta.The country of 180 million sits on the frontline of the US-led war on al-Qaeda and since July 2007 has been gripped by a local Taleban-led insurgency, concentrated largely in the northwest. In the last five years, attacks blamed on Islamist bombers have killed more than 5,000 people according to an AFP tally. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]
06.08.12 Roadside bomb injures six in Nowshera
NOWSHERA, Pakistan, June 8 - Six people including two policemen were injured in a remote-controlled roadside bomb, Geo News reported. According to details, the bomb planted at a roadside and was detonated using a remote device when a police mobile was passing through, resulting six people including two policemen were injured. Police mobile driver Wajid and a passer-by have been shifted to Lady Reading Hospital owing to their serious condition. [>thenews.com.pk]
06.08.12 US offers bounty for al-Shabab leaders
JUNE 8 - State department offers up to $33m in bounties for information on the whereabouts of the heads of Somalia armed group. The US state department has placed seven top leaders of the Somalia-based al-Shabab armed group on its wanted list for the first time, offering up to $33m for tip-offs to aid the hunt for the men. A $7m bounty was placed on al-Shabab founder Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed and a further $5m was offered for other members — Ibrahim Haji Jama, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud and Mukhtar Robow. Up to $3m was offered for two other leaders, Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi and Abdullahi Yare.
"Since 2006, al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for several bombings-including suicide attacks in central and northern Somalia and in the capital of Mogadishu," the state department said in a statement on Thursday. "The group is responsible for the killing of thousands of Somali civilians, Somali peace activists, international aid workers, journalists and African Union peacekeepers." It added the fighters had also attacked neighboring Uganda and threatened attacks on US, Kenyan and Burundian interests. Al-Shabab still controls large parts of southern Somalia, but AU troops, government forces and Ethiopian soldiers have clawed several key bases back from the group in recent months. [More>>aljazeera.com]
06.08.12 Attacks in Iraq kill four: official
BAGHDAD (AFP) June 8 - Shootings and bombings in Iraq on Friday killed four people, including a parliamentary official and a senior emergency officer, officials said. In Baghdad, civil defense Colonel Mohammed Yunis was killed and his wife and two children were wounded when gunmen opened fire on the family’s car just outside the capital’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, home to parliament and the US embassy, an interior ministry official and a medical source said. And in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Saidiyah, gunmen shot at Assad Mohammed, an official in the office of deputy parliament speaker Qusay al-Sohail, with Mohammed dying of his wounds in hospital, the officials said. Outside the northern city of Kirkuk, gunmen on a motorcycle killed an Iraqi soldier, a local police official and Doctor Mohammed Abdullah from Kirkuk hospital said. And in Baladruz, in the central province of Diyala, a roadside bomb blew up near a car, killing one civilian and wounding two others, according to a police colonel. [More>>alarabiya.net]
06.08.12 Suicide blast kills two at Nigeria police HQ
(AFP) June 8 - A suicide blast outside police headquarters in the restive Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Friday killed at least two policemen and wounded others, authorities and a witness said. "A suicide bomber tried to force his way into the police headquarters... however he rammed the car into sand-filled drums outside headquarters and his car exploded," a police source said. "We have some casualties, but we're trying to sort out the extent of fatalities and the injured." A witness reported seeing the bodies of two policemen. Another witness said he saw five wounded policemen and what appeared to be an injured pregnant woman being taken away to hospital. [More>>france24.com]
06.06.12 Distrust fuels anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar
June 6 - An eruption in religious tensions in Myanmar has exposed the deep divisions between the majority Buddhists and the country's Muslims, considered foreigners despite a decades-long presence. The violence threatens to overshadow reconciliation efforts in the country formerly known as Burma, where there has been a series of dramatic political reforms since almost half a century of military rule ended last year. The trigger for the latest surge in sectarian tensions was the rape and murder of a woman in western Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh, for which three Muslim men have been detained, according to state media.
On Sunday a mob of hundreds of people attacked a bus, believing the perpetrators were on board, and beat 10 Muslims to death. "These innocent people have been killed like animals," said Abu Tahay, of the National Democratic Party for Development, which represents the country's much-persecuted stateless Muslim Rohingya community. "If the police cannot control the situation, maybe the (unrest) is going to spread," he said, adding that the biggest fear was for Rakhine state, where there is a large Muslim minority population including the Rohingya. In Myanmar's main city Yangon, dozens of Muslims protested yesterday calling for justice. Muslims entered Myanmar en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948. But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country. [More>>indianexpress.com]
06.06.12 Suicide bombers kill 22 Afghan civilians near NATO base
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 6 - Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a market area in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least 22 people wounding about 50, authorities said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the explosion, which occurred near small shops in a parking and waiting area for trucks that supply logistics to Kandahar Air Field, a massive military installation run by the US-led coalition. One suicide bomber detonated his motorbike filled with explosives first. Then, as people rushed to assist the casualties, another suicide bomber on foot walked up to the area and blew himself up, said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Kandahar province. He said the death toll stood at 22 and that 50 were wounded. All the dead were civilians, he said. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack. The explosion occurred 500 meters (yards) from an Afghan military base and about five kilometers (three miles) from the main gate to the air field. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
06.05.12 Clashes kill 15 soldiers in western Syria: NGO
(AFP) June 5 - Clashes between troops and rebels in Syria's western Latakia province killed 15 soldiers on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, bringing the day's death toll to at least 25. "Fifteen soldiers were killed and dozens wounded, while three opposition fighters also died in continuing clashes in several villages of Al-Heffa region in Latakia," the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. The clashes took place in the villages of Bakas, Shirkak, Babna, Al-Jankil, and Al-Dafil in the Al-Heffa region, while troops stormed the town of Al-Heffa itself, according to Abdel Rahman. Asked about the high number of troops killed in recent days, he said: "This relates to the sharp increase in clashes across the country. [More>>france24.com]
06.05.12 Gulf States 'losing hope' in Annan's plan, urge Russia to change stance on Syria
June 5 - Gulf Arab states were losing hope that a peace plan spearheaded by international envoy Kofi Annan held the solution to more than a year of violence in Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said. "We have begun to lose hope in the possibility of reaching a solution ... within this framework," al-Faisal told reporters in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah following a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Saudi foreign minister also stated that "it’s time" Russia changed stance on Syria. "The time has come for Russia to change its position from supporting the Syrian regime to working to stop the killing and (supporting) a peaceful transition of power," al-Faisal told the news conference. In an apparent change of position Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Tuesday that Moscow would agree to a political settlement that could see Assad leaving power. The Saudi minister called on GCC countries to "to use their resources to... enable the Syrian people to defend themselves against the murderous and destructive machine of the government." [More>>alarabiya.net]
06.05.12 Pakistan summons US envoy over drone strikes
June 5 - Pakistan's foreign ministry has summoned a senior US diplomat to lodge a formal protest over a series of drone strikes in its volatile tribal regions. There have been eight drone attacks in Pakistan's north-western tribal territory over the past two weeks. US officials say a strike on Monday targeted al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, but it is unclear if he was among 15 killed in the assault. Pakistan's call for an end to strikes comes amid a rift with Washington. Tension between the reluctant allies has been intensified by a dispute over Pakistan's closure of supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan, after a NATO air strike along the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned Washington's deputy ambassador to Islamabad, Richard Hoagland, to "officially convey the government's serious concern regarding drone attacks in Pakistani territory." A statement repeated the stance that drone strikes were "unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty." It added that drone strikes represented a "clear red line for Pakistan." [More>>bbc.co.uk]
06.05.12 Kuwait court gives man ten years for Twitter 'insults'
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait (AP) June 5 - Case reflects growing conservatism in Kuwait. A defense lawyer in Kuwait says a court has sentenced a man to ten years in prison for Twitter posts deemed insulting to Islam and to the rulers of Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The case appears to reflect a growing conservative influence in Kuwait. The lawyer, Khaled Al Shatti, was quoted in Monday in Gulf media reports as saying his client, Hamad Al Naqi, has a chance to appeal the sentence. Al Naqi claims his Twitter account was hacked. Prosecutors say Al Naqi's account contained posts insulting to the Prophet Mohammad and the Gulf states of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. [>gulfnews.com]
06.02.12 Mubarak given life term for protester deaths
CAIRO, June 2 - Egypt's ex-president and his interior minister sentenced to life while his sons and six other officials are acquitted. An Egyptian court has sentenced former president Hosni Mubarak to life in prison for complicity in killing more than 800 protesters during last year's revolution, a first in the Arab world and a major achievement for the revolution which toppled him nearly 18 months ago. Judge Ahmed Refaat acknowledged problems with the prosecution's case, which was widely criticized by legal experts. Prosecutors did not present evidence that Mubarak, 84, directly ordered the killings. But Refaat faulted the former president for not stopping them, and delivered a speech during Saturday's court session about what he called the "dark days" of Mubarak's rule. The judge stressed several times that the protesters last year were non-violent. "They marched peacefully towards Tahrir Square, demanding justice, freedom and democracy," he said. [More>>aljazeera.com]
06.02.12 NATO forces rescue foreign, Afghan aid workers
(AFP) June 2 - NATO special forces rescued two foreign and two Afghan aid workers for the Swiss charity Medair in an overnight raid in Afghanistan's remote Badakhshan province, military sources said Saturday. The aid workers were kidnapped on May 22. NATO special forces rescued two foreign women hostages and killed five kidnappers in a daring night raid on a cave in Afghanistan's remote Badakhshan province, the military said Saturday. The women, who worked for Swiss-based charity Medair, were named as Helen Johnston and Moragwe Oirere. Two Afghan colleagues kidnapped with them on May 22 were also freed unharmed. All are well and in good condition, Afghan officials told AFP. "The mission to rescue the hostages was launched in the early hours of today under cover of darkness with the assistance of helicopters," a spokesman for NATO'S International Security Assistance Force said. "The hostages were being held in a cave in the mountains."
The victims were seized at gunpoint on May 22 while traveling on horseback to relief project sites in the remote and mountainous province of Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan. They worked for the Swiss-based charity, Medair, which requested restraint in reporting on the kidnap, saying publicity could only jeopardize efforts the secure the relief of their staff. It is not known what demands the kidnappers had made. Efforts to obtain comment from the charity Saturday were not immediately successful. Afghan officials earlier attributed the rescue to Afghan special forces and said three Afghans were among the hostages rescued. "Last night in a successful operation Afghan special forces freed two foreign and three Afghan hostages in Shahri Buzurg, Badakhshan," Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, spokesman for security forces in northern Afghanistan, told AFP. "Five kidnappers were killed during the operation. The hostages are in good condition," he said. ISAF commander General John R. Allen thanked the Afghan interior ministry for its "tremendous support throughout this crisis." [More>>france24.com]
06.02.12 Clashes leave 19 dead as powers warn Syria is descending into civil war
June 2 - Clashes broke out between Syrian troops and rebels outside Damascus on Saturday as world powers warned of the country descending into civil war. Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said he had asked the UN Security Council to take strong action in order to protect civilians in Syria. "I sent a letter to the UN Security Council asking it to undertake all necessary measures to protect the Syrian people," Arabi told AFP shortly before the opening of a meeting of the ministerial committee on the Syrian crisis. Asked if he had called for armed action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Arabi said: "I have not referred to military intervention." Qatar meanwhile urged UN envoy Kofi Annan to set a time-frame for his Syria peace mission, and asked the UN Security Council to apply Chapter VII which permits military intervention. "We request Mr. Annan to set a time-frame for his mission because it is unacceptable that massacres and bloodshed continue while the mission is ongoing indefinitely," Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani told a ministerial committee on Syria attended by Annan. [More>>alarabiya.net]
06.02.12 Eight killed in Lebanon clashes linked to Syria uprising
June 2 - Supporters and opponents of a popular uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad clashed in neighboring Lebanon’s port city of Tripoli on Saturday, leaving eight dead. Among the dead were a woman and her son, killed by a rocket in the Bab al-Tebanneh district, a mostly Sunni Muslim community which supports Syria’s anti-regime opposition, the official said. At least five were wounded in Jabal Mohsen, an area mainly populated by pro-Damascus residents. Sporadic gun and rocket fire broke out at midnight and continued through the night, forcing some residents of the port city to flee their homes. The army and police were later being deployed in Tripoli, the source said. [More>>alarabiya.net]
06.02.12 4 Qaeda fighters, soldier killed
ADEN, Yemen, June 2 - Four al-Qaeda fighters and a soldier were killed in overnight fighting outside Zinjibar, capital of the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, a military official said on Saturday. The insurgents had fired three rockets at the headquarters of the 25th Mechanized Brigade, killing the soldier and wounding six others. Separately, three al-Qaeda militants were killed and five wounded on Friday when a bomb they were making accidentally exploded in Al-Mahfad, a town in northern Abyan, a local official said. Yemeni forces launched an all-out offensive on May 12 aimed at reclaiming Zinjibar and other localities in Abyan lost to al-Qaeda during the past year. Since the offensive began, at least 376 people have been killed, according to an AFP tally compiled from official statements. They comprised 275 al-Qaeda fighters, 65 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 18 civilians. [>thenews.com.pk]
05.30.12 Syria forces shell Homs; observers' chief 'disturbed' by Deir Ezzor killings
May 30 - Syrian forces shelled al-Houla and al-Khaldiya neighborhoods in Homs, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday citing the Syrian Media Center. As many as 13 people have been killed on Wednesday by the violent crackdown of Syrian forces against civilians, especially in Duma and Homs, activists at the Local Coordination Committees told Al Arabiya. The Syrian Revolution Council later reported a new figure for the death toll in Syria on Wednesday, and placed it at 25 people killed across the country.
Heavy clashes were reported in al-Sayyeda Zeinab neighborhood in Damascus suburb between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the government troops. Clashes intensified and extended gradually, reaching al-Hajar al-Aswad, activists told Al Arabiya. In Duma, in Damascus suburbs, heavy shootings were reported near the residential areas, activists at the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) said. Government forces shot at protests overnight in Maadamiyat al-Sham, Kafer Sousa and Khaled Ibn al-Waleed Street in central Damascus. Scores of people were killed by the fire of Syrian forces on Tuesday, mostly in Homs and Deir Ezzor, where 13 people were executed, with their hands tied behind their backs, in a new massacre, Al Arabiya reported citing LCC activists.
Most of Deir Ezzor victims were employees at the electricity company, who went on strike in protest of the massacres committed by the Syrian regime, activists said. The UN observer mission chief in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said on Wednesday he was "deeply disturbed" by the killing of 13 people in eastern Deir Ezzor, calling it an "appalling and inexcusable act. Thirteen bodies were discovered last night (Tuesday) in the area of Assukar, 50 km (31 miles) east of Deir Ezzor. All the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs and some appear to have been shot in the head from a short distance," Mood said in a statement. [More>>alarabiya.net]
05.30.12 Syria: UN appalled by new bound body atrocity
May 30 - The bound bodies of 13 people, some showing signs of being shot at point blank range, have been found in eastern Syria, according to the United Nations. The head of the UN observer mission to Syria, Major-General Robert Mood, said the victims had been discovered with their hands tied behind their backs. In a statement the veteran Norwegian peacekeeper said he was "deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act."
"He calls on all parties to exercise restraint and end the cycle of violence for the sake of Syria and the Syrian people," a statement released on Maj-Gen Mood's behalf said. It has emerged that the bodies were discovered on Tuesday night in the area of Assukar, 30 miles east of Deir Ezzor. The latest discovery has given further importance to the UN Human Rights Council special session being held on Friday to probe the May 25 massacre in Houla. The UN said at least 108 civilians died in the attack, including 49 children and 34 women, amid fears of widening sectarian bloodletting. Survivors have told harrowing stories of the killings, with one child describing how his entire family were shot dead. Meanwhile, tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions have occurred in Damascus, neighboring Turkey and at least 11 foreign capitals. China and Russia have also voiced their opposition to any UN Security Council backed military action in Syria. [More>>news.sky.com]
05.30.12 Al-Qaeda number two in Afghanistan killed, NATO says
May 30 - Sakhr al-Taifi led foreign insurgents and directed attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, according to alliance. Al-Qaeda's second-in-command in Afghanistan has been killed, according to NATO. Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Mushtaq and Nasim, led foreign insurgents and directed attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, the alliance said. The air strike that killed Taifi and another al-Qaida militant took place on Sunday in the Watahpur district of Kunar. A later assessment of the area determined that no civilians had been harmed, NATO said. The coalition declined to reveal the name of al-Qaeda's top leader in Afghanistan "due to ongoing operations and security concerns."
Most of al-Qaeda's senior leaders are believed to be based in Pakistan, where they fled after the US invasion. The terrorist organization is believed to have only a nominal presence in Afghanistan. Many al-Qaeda commanders have died in US drone attacks in Pakistan's north-western tribal region. Osama bin Laden was killed by US commandos in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in May 2010. Bin Laden advised al-Qaeda militants to leave Pakistan's North and South Waziristan tribal areas because of the threat of drone attacks, according to letters seized from the compound where he was killed and later released by the US. Taifi is understood to have traveled often between Afghanistan and Pakistan, carrying out commands from al-Qaeda leaders and ferrying in weapons and fighters. [More>>guardian.co.uk]
05.30.12 UN official raps Pakistan's blasphemy, parallel justice system
ISLAMABAD, May 30 - A UN special representative has expressed serious reservations about Pakistan's blasphemy law, weak prosecution and a parallel justice system functioning under the Federal Shariah Court. Gabriela Knaul, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said Pakistani judges were often pressured to convict people accused under the controversial blasphemy law that calls for the death sentence for anyone insulting Islam. Knaul, who was on an 11-day visit to Pakistan to examine the country's judicial system, told a news conference yesterday that lawyers too were reluctant to defend clients accused under the blasphemy law because of threats. "I am especially concerned regarding cases brought under the so-called blasphemy law as it was reported to me that judges have been coerced to decide against the accused even without supporting evidence," she said.
"They are afraid of reprisals by local communities because of their interpretation of the law. Lawyers representing people accused of blasphemy are often targeted and unable to represent their clients," she said. Knaul said it was a matter of concern that the blasphemy law was being misused to target women and deprive them of fundamental rights. The controversial blasphemy law includes the death penalty for anyone insulting Islam, the Quran or Prophet Muhammad. Rights groups have said that the law has often been misused to settle personal scores or family feuds against members of Pakistan's minority communities, especially Christians. Last year, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, were assassinated after they spoke out against the blasphemy law. [More>>indianexpress.com]
05.28.12 Annan condemns 'appalling crime' on visit to Syria
(Reuters) May 28 - Peace envoy Kofi Annan condemned the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla as "an appalling crime" on Monday and urged President Bashar Al Assad to prove he wants a peaceful resolution to the crisis racking his country. Assad’s forces killed at least 41 people in an artillery assault on the city of Hama, activists said, shortly after the UN Security Council condemned the massacre in nearby Houla which took place on Friday. With international criticism growing of Assad’s methods in trying to crush a 14-month-old uprising, now accompanied by a lightly armed insurgency, UN/Arab League envoy Annan arrived in Damascus for talks on his faltering peace plan. He explicitly urged the Syrian government to "take bold steps to signal that it is serious in its intention to resolve this crisis peacefully" before adding:
"This message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun." Russia and China, which had previously vetoed resolutions condemning Assad, both approved a non-binding text in New York that criticized the use of artillery and tank shells on homes in Houla, but declined to blame the government alone. The rebels do not have artillery and tanks. China also used strong words about the killings. "China feels deeply shocked by the large number of civilian casualties in Houla, and condemns in the strongest terms the cruel killings of ordinary citizens, especially women and children," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said. UN monitors say at least 108 people were killed, among them dozens of children. Many of the victims were also hacked to death or shot at close range, as shown in graphic images distributed by activists. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
05.28.12 Massive cyber-attack dubbed Flame uncovered in Middle East, say researchers
May 28 - A complex targeted virus has been discovered stealing data in the Middle East, security researchers announced today. The malware — dubbed Flame — has been operation since 2010 and appears to be a state sponsored, Kaspersky Labs said today, but it was not sure of its origins. Flame is designed to steal information about targeted systems and stored files as well as computer display contents and audio conversations, CNET reports. "The complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious program exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date," Kaspersky Labs said in statement announcing the malware's discovery. The virus is about 20 times the size of Stuxnet, malware that targeted the controls of an Iranian nuclear facility. The largest concentration of infected machines is in Iran, followed by Israel/Palestine region, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt... "One of the most alarming facts is that the Flame cyber-attack campaign is currently in its active phase, and its operator is consistently surveilling infected systems, collecting information and targeting new systems to accomplish its unknown goals." [Full story>>cbsnews.com]
05.28.12 5 killed in US drone strike in NW Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Xinhua) May 28 - At least five people were killed and four others were injured in a US drone strike in Pakistan's northwest tribal region of North Waziristan in the wee hours of Monday, local media reported. According to the report by local Urdu TV channel Dunya, the strike came at about 1:00am (local time) when a US drone targeted a house and a vehicle in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas along Pakistan- Afghanistan border. The US drone fired four missiles. Residents said the death toll may rise further as the injured were in critical condition. Identities of the killed and injured people are not known yet. Some media reports said five drones are still hovering over the area, creating panic among the residents. Monday's drone strike is the 16th of its kind (counted on daily basis) in Pakistan since the beginning of this year. To date,at least 117 people have reportedly been killed in such strikes in 2012. Pakistan views the US drone strike on its soil as a serious violation of its sovereignty and a contravention of the international law, but the United States insists that it is an effective way to fight against the terrorists. [>>xinhuanet.com]
05.28.12 New evidence of Iranian plot to kill foreign diplomats: Report
WASHINGTON, May 28 - Intelligence agencies of four countries have uncovered new evidence of an alleged campaign run by the Iran-linked operatives to kill foreign diplomats in at least seven countries, including India, in the past 13 months, a media report said. Referring to the investigations carried out by intelligence agencies of several countries, The Washington Post said today that "US and Middle Eastern officials now see the attempts as part of a broader campaign by Iran-linked operatives to kill foreign diplomats in at least seven countries over a span of 13 months." These countries, according to the daily, include the United States, Azerbaijan, India, Turkey, Thailand, Pakistan and the former Soviet republic of Georgia. In the US, authorities foiled assassination attempt on the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, while in Azerbaijan security agencies early this year made a series of arrest to foil a bid to kill American diplomats.
In India this year there was an attempt to kill an Israeli diplomat. Israeli and Indian officials have described substantial Iranian links to a car bombing in February that seriously wounded the wife of an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi, the daily said. "In recent weeks, investigators working in four countries have amassed new evidence tying the disparate assassination attempts to one another and linking all of them to either Iran-backed Hezbollah militants or operatives based inside Iran, according to US and Middle Eastern security officials," the daily said. An official report last month summarizing the evidence cited phone records, forensic tests, coordinated travel arrangements and even cellphone SIM cards purchased in Iran and used by several of the would-be assailants, said two officials who have seen the six-page document, the daily said. [More>>indianexpress.com]
05.28.12 UN accuses Rwanda of aiding rebels in Congo
May 28 - One of Britain's closest African allies has armed and trained members of a rebel movement responsible for displacing 100,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations. A mutiny in Congo's national army has caused an upsurge in fighting near the country's border with Rwanda since April. Former rebels led by General Bosco Ntaganda, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, have left their unit and restarted their insurgency. Some of Gen Ntaganda's fighters were recruited in Rwanda, according to an internal UN report. Eleven deserters said they were Rwandan nationals who were ostensibly enrolled in their country's army and given military training before being ordered over the border into Congo. There they joined Gen Ntaganda's rebellion which threatens a new humanitarian emergency. One of those recruited in Rwanda was a child soldier under the age of 18. The first was trained as early as February — before the mutiny began — suggesting that Rwanda may have had a hand in its outbreak. Rwanda's regime under President Paul Kagame has a long history of sponsoring rebel movements in Congo and, on two occasions, mounting a direct invasion of its giant neighbor. The aim has been to hunt down militias responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994 which claimed 800,000 lives. But critics say that Rwanda's interventions have caused great bloodshed while also securing mining and commercial interests in eastern Congo. [More>>telegraph.co.uk]
05.28.12 Yemen raid 'kills Qaeda militants'
SANAA, Yemen (AFP) May 28 - A Yemeni air raid on Monday in the country's eastern province of Hadramawt killed seven al-Qaeda militants, including the local military chief, a security official said. The raid struck the group as they met in a "deserted coastal area" some 60 kilometers (35 miles) west of the city of Mukalla, the official said, adding that the militants included al-Qaeda's local military chief Saleh Abdul Khaleq. In an apparent indication that the air force had been tipped off about the meeting, the official said that militants were in a leafy area "under trees," adding that the raid was conducted by Yemeni warplanes, not US drones. An American drone on Monday killed five Qaeda militants when it struck a convoy in the area of Manaseh, east of the city of Radaa in central Yemen, according to a tribal source. [>thenews.com.pk]
05.09.12 Wall Street down 1% on Europe debt fears
(AFP) May 9 - US stocks dived Wednesday, with all the main indices down one percent, as investors worried about political uncertainty in Greece and the troubled Spanish banking sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 135.10 points (1.04 percent) to 12,796.99 in the first 45 minutes of trade (1415 GMT). The broader S&P 500 shed 15.00 (1.10 percent) to 1,348.72, while the tech-rich Nasdaq dropped 30.53 (1.04 percent) to 2,915.74. "Greek political uncertainty continues to foster worries that the nation will exit the eurozone, while Spanish banking sector uneasiness is also taxing sentiment," said analysts at Charles Schwab & Co. Fresh concerns about embattled Spain, the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, were sparked by news the government will announce new rules Friday obliging banks to boost bad-loan provisions.
There were also continued worries that debt-riddled Greece may exit the eurozone after weekend elections threatened the country's EU-IMF rescue deal. On the Dow, JPMorgan Chase dropped 1.8 percent and Bank of America fell 0.4 percent. Walt Disney Company led the few gainers on the blue-chip index, jumping 1.8 percent. The entertainment giant reported Tuesday a 21 percent profit jump in its fiscal second quarter, despite its movie flop "John Carter," beating market expectations. Yahoo! slid 1.6 percent, a day after announcing an internal probe of misstated academic credentials of chief executive Scott Thompson, due to pressure from a hedge fund investor. [More>>france24.com]
05.09.12 US drone attacks in Yemen cause political strain
SANAA (Reuters) May 6 - As Yemen struggles to shake off ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh's legacy, the United States has intensified drone strikes on al-Qaeda-linked militants, although some Yemeni officials fear this may only fuel instability. This week alone, US officials said they had seized a bomb that was to have been used by Yemen-based militants to attack an airliner, two al-Qaeda men were killed in an apparently related drone strike, and Islamist fighters killed at least 32 Yemeni soldiers when they assaulted an army post in the south.
Saleh's former deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who replaced him as president under an internationally-backed, but still shaky, political transition deal, faces a tough dilemma. He must meet the challenge from emboldened Islamist militants who have exploited more than a year of mayhem to seize and hold towns for the first time, and cannot afford to alienate the United States, one of Yemen's main allies, as it combats what it views as al-Qaeda's potentially deadliest wing. Yet US drone attacks, which have often killed civilians in the past, are resented by Yemenis, even the many who abhor al-Qaeda. Suspicions that feuding generals and politicians, from Saleh down, are not averse to using the militants to advance their own ends also complicate efforts to combat them.
The violence has spiraled since Hadi took power in February vowing to fight al-Qaeda's foothold in Yemen, a desperately poor, water-stressed country mired in multiple conflicts exacerbated by decades of corruption and misrule. "The real war against al-Qaeda has yet to begin and it will not succeed until we eradicate the militants from every town," Hadi said on Saturday. "Terrorist groups should surrender their weapons and relinquish ideology that counters Islamic virtue." The al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia group said Monday's storming of an army position was their retort to Hadi's remarks. [More>>thestar.com.my]
05.09.12 CIA sacrifices valuable intelligence source to foil underwear bomb plot
NEW YORK, May 9 - It's a stunning revelation in the foiled plot to blow up a US-bound airliner: The triggerman chosen by al-Qaeda was actually a double agent who was working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence services. He delivered the explosive device to US intelligence officials and provided information on the whereabouts of Fahd al Quso, the senior commander of al-Qaeda's wing in Yemen, who was killed in a drone strike last weekend. It's an intelligence victory, but it came with a cost. US intelligence officials faced a difficult decision. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was looking for a suicide bomber. The target: an American jetliner.
The only way for intelligence officials to ensure they controlled the plot was to have their own agent volunteer to be the bomber and then hand the bomb to the CIA. The tradeoff: They would lose a source penetrated deep inside the organization — but they would save lives. "This is an intelligence coup; the fact that the CIA and partner intelligence agencies got inside the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula networks to not only disrupt this plot, but also to get information about the location of senior al-Qaeda figures, including Fahd al-Quso, who was killed last week," observes CBS News national security consultant Juan Zarate. [More>>cbsnews.com]
05.09.12 Blast hits UN observer's convoy in Syria
DARAA, Syria, May 9 - A roadside bomb wounded six soldiers as they escorted a convoy of UN peace observers, including the general who heads the mission, in southern Syria on Wednesday, an AFP photographer said. The explosive device, which appeared to have been planted underground, detonated as the convoy of four vehicles was about to enter the town of Daraa, cradle of a 14-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Major General Robert Mood of Norway, the head of the UN mission, was in the convoy but escaped unharmed along with 11 other observers and his spokesman Neeraj Singh, said the photographer who was traveling in the convoy. The bomb attack was the latest breach of a month-old ceasefire agreement that international envoy Kofi Annan said could be the last chance to avert a civil war in Syria. Troops elsewhere pounded a rebel hideout near the capital Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
05.09.12 Weapons being smuggled both ways between Lebanon and Syria: UN envoy
May 9 - Weapons are being smuggled both ways between Lebanon and Syria, where a 14-month popular uprising has brought the country to the brink of civil war, the United Nations said late Tuesday. Syria has repeatedly said weapons are being smuggled over its border from Lebanon and other countries to arm rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict. Western diplomats and UN officials say that although the rebels have received some weapons they remain severely outgunned. More violence was reported across Syria on Tuesday, activists said, as international mediator Kofi Annan, the Red Cross and Arab League warned the country was descending into civil war. "Based on information that we have there are reasons to believe that there is a flow of arms both ways — from Lebanon into Syria and from Syria into Lebanon," said Terje Roed-Larsen, UN special envoy on the implementation of a security council resolution that calls for the disarming of Lebanese militia, according to Reuters. "We do not have independent observers for this, but we are basing our reporting on information we are receiving from a variety of sources," he told reporters after briefing the 15-member UN Security Council. [More>>alarabiya.net]
05.09.12 Afghan ambushes kill nine: officials
KABUL, May 9 - Five Afghan policemen and four bodyguards assigned to protect an education chief have been killed in two ambushes blamed on Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday. The police were killed late Tuesday when a bomb detonated by remote control exploded under their patrol vehicle in the western province of Farah, regional police spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmadi told AFP. He blamed the attack on "enemies of Afghanistan," a phrase used by Afghan officials to refer to the Taliban, which is still fighting a bitter insurgency more than a decade after being toppled from power by the 2001 US-led invasion. In eastern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan, a provincial education director was severely wounded in a Taliban roadside bomb and gun attack that left four of his guards dead, officials said. [More>>thenews.com.pk]
05.09.12 Kidnappings threaten Pakistan aid
(AFP) May 9 - The grisly murder of a Red Cross worker and a video showing an American hostage pleading for his life highlight a perilous security situation in Pakistan that aid groups say is endangering their work. Humanitarian organizations are reviewing operations in Pakistan after the killing of Khalil Dale, whose decapitated body was found on April 29, four months after he was abducted in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern province of Baluchistan. The savage murder of the 60-year-old British convert to Islam sent shockwaves through the aid community, particularly as his employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has a reputation for neutrality that allows it to work safely even in the most hostile situations.
Aid groups spend millions of dollars on helping millions of Pakistanis, yet attacks on their staff are increasing, according to the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), which represents nearly 50 international organizations. Since 2009, at least 19 aid workers have been murdered and more than 20 abducted across Pakistan by militants and criminals, the PHF said. "This trend of increased targeting of humanitarian aid organizations and personnel will further impede the ability of humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving and life-enhancing support to the most vulnerable population," the PHF warned. According to the PHF, at the end of 2011 there were more than 200 foreigners and 10,000 locals working
in Pakistan for international aid organizations under its aegis. The ICRC is not part of the PHF. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
05.09.12 Attack of the killer algae: Danish beaches hit by carnivorous creatures that eat animals up to 10,000 times its size
May 9 - Killer algae that eats animals up to 10,000 times its size has been discovered on Denmark's beaches. Scientists say they found the microscopic carnivorous creatures, which devour shrimp-like animals up to a millimeter in size, off the coast of Elsinore which is north of Copenhagen. Copenhagen University's Terje Berge said: "What's really quite sensational about this discovery is that algae, which appear to be animal and plant at the same time, attack and eat zooplankton. If we imagine an African savannah, this would roughly correspond to the grass suddenly jumping up, attacking and starting to eat the gazelle." The study, in the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Journal, is the first evidence of carnivorous algae outside Spain. It was there, in 2006, a species called Karlodinium armiger was observed paralyzing and then eating small fish. [>dailymail.co.uk]
05.02.12 Taliban claim deadly attacks in Kabul
May 2 - At least seven killed in explosions in Kabul, shortly after surprise visit to country by US President Barack Obama. At least seven people have been killed in several large explosions in the Afghan capital Kabul, shortly after US President Barack Obama paid a surprise visit to the country. At least 17 people were also wounded in the assault on Wednesday morning, most of them Afghan children on their way to school, the interior ministry said. Sediq Sediqi, a spokesperson for interior ministry, said one of the first blasts, a suicide car bomb, occurred near the Jalalabad road, a main thoroughfare of the city. The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the car bomb attack which police said targeted a housing compound for westerners in the city. The area, known as the Green Village, is also home to several foreign military bases. "One of our mujahideen detonated his car in front of a military base," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Reuters news agency in a phone call. "Other mujahideen are inside the base fighting. There are very heavy casualties for the enemy. It is a message to Obama that he and his forces are never welcomed in Afghanistan and that we will continue our resistance until all the occupiers are either dead or leave our country," Mujahid later told the AFP news agency. Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said: "The Taliban is claiming responsibility for this attack on the Green Village, saying it is connected to the visit of the US president." [More>>aljazeera.net]
05.02.12 More killings reported as Syrian forces fire at demos in Damascus neighborhood
May 2 - Five people have been killed by the gunfire of Syrian forces on Wednesday and as many as 15 Syrian regime troops, including a high-ranking officer, were killed in an ambush in the city of Aleppo, activists at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Syrian government forces shot at overnight demonstrations in al-Tadamun neighborhood in Damascus, for the second successive day, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday. As many as 45 people were killed by the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad across the country on Tuesday, Al Arabiya said citing activists at the Syrian Local Coordination Committees (LCC). Heavy gunfire was reported in Areeha and Idlib, a province bordering Turkey, despite the presence of the UN observers, activists told Al Arabiya.
The Syrian troops stormed al-Atareb town in Aleppo with heavy weaponry during an overnight demonstration that called for freedom. In Duma, Syrian troops stormed houses within a campaign of crackdown and arrests. More Syrian troops were deployed in Deraa, where thousands of people rallied in anti-Assad protests. In Hama, hundreds of Syrians tool part in protests calling for the fall of the regime. They called for international protection. The UN peacekeeping chief on Tuesday accused both the Syrian regime and its foes of violating a ceasefire accord, according to AFP. On the international front, US President Barack Obama gave the US Treasury authority to tighten sanctions against Syria and Iran by going after foreign firms or individuals that violate existing measures. The move, contained in an executive order, will allow the Treasury to publicly identify those engaging in “evasive and deceptive activities” and bar them from access to the US financial and economic sectors, officials said. [More>>alarabiya.net]
05.02.12 Eurozone unemployment jumps to 15-year high
(AFP) May 2 - The European Union published figures on Wednesday showing unemployment in the eurozone rose to 10.9 percent in March. Spain remained the nation with the highest jobless rate, at 24.1 percent. The eurozone unemployment rate hit a record high level in March, jumping to 10.9 percent for the first time for 15 years, official figures showed on Wednesday. Almost 17.37 million men and women looked for work in the single currency area in March, or 169,000 more than in February, according to Eurostat data agency. The 10.9 percent rate equaled an April 1997 record. The unemployment rate had reached 10.8 percent in February, with the eurozone widely expected to have dipped back into recession as it battles a festering debt crisis. The rising jobless rate is sure to fuel arguments for governments to switch from austerity-only policies to growth measures in order to revive the eurozone's sickly economy. Spain, already struggling to fend off fears that it will need a bailout, remained the nation with the highest unemployment rate, at 24.1 percent in March, according to Eurostat. Greece, living off bailout funds since May 2010, came in second again with 21.7 percent in January, the latest figures available for that country. [More>>france24.com]
05.02.12 American CEOs enjoy 15% pay rise in second year of double-digit hikes
May 2 - Boom time for America's top bosses in 2011 contrasts with wider economy, where average wages have been little better than flat. America's top bosses have handed themselves double-digit pay rises for the second year in a row, according to interim figures from the most comprehensive survey of CEO pay. The Guardian's exclusive first look at the research by GMI Ratings reveals that rising share prices helped drive a 15% pay hike for the average US CEO in 2011, with the average compensation package hitting $5.8m. It comes on the back of a 28% pay rise the year before. The two years of double-digit growth follow two years of decline in 2008 and 2009.
The boom time for chief executives contrasts sharply with the wider economy, where average wages have been little better than flat. A compensation survey by Mercer found US employers planned average increase in base pay of 3% in 2012. Inflation is about 2.7%. Last year, the census bureau reported that the income of the typical American family had dropped for the third year in a row. The median family income in 2010 was $49.445, 7.1% below its 1999 peak and when adjusted for inflation roughly at levels last seen in 1996. The news comes as shareholders have begun to challenge outsized pay deals. Last month, Citigroup shareholders voted against the bank's plans to award chief executive Vikram Pandit $14.9m in compensation, including his first bonus since the bank's near-collapse in 2007. [More>>guardian.co.uk]
05.02.12 At least 20 killed as attackers target Cairo protest
May 2 - At least 20 people have been killed in Cairo in an attack on a protest near the Egyptian Ministry of Defense. The unknown attackers used rocks, clubs, firebombs and shotguns. The protesters retaliated, beating some assailants. Soldiers and police have now intervened to stop the clashes, but as long as six hours after the violence started. Two leading presidential candidates have suspended campaigning in protest at the way authorities handled it. Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent Islamist, and Mohammed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), criticized the authorities' response. In addition, the FJP and the Salafist Nour party, which together control 70% of the seats in parliament, decided to boycott a meeting with the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf). Many of the protesters who were attacked outside the defense ministry building, in the capital's Abbasiya district, on Wednesday morning were supporters of a Salafist preacher barred from standing in the election...The health ministry said more than 150 people were injured on Wednesday and that many were receiving treatment at a nearby field clinic. Some had gunshot wounds and others had been attacked with knives, according to medical sources. [Full story>>bbc.co.uk]
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