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08.31.12   Syrian soldiers 'having fun' shelling residential buildings: video
August 31 -
With no mercy or concern, two hardhearted soldiers of the Syrian regime’s army appeared in a video “having fun” by indiscriminately shelling residential building and seeking to inflict damage on civilians.  "Common chief," one Syrian soldier, not appearing in the video, screeched his voice loudly in excitement, urging the other soldier to maim and shell targets. The second soldier, indifferent, kisses his joined right hand fingers and then flashes his thumb up, in an eastern-western mixed gestures alluding to his preparedness to hit the target.  As the second soldier goes in a fixated mode to fire, an exhilarated loud shriek ensues by both soldiers soon after the target is hit. The first soldier afterward tells his friend to look at "residential building with four floors…oh, no, more [than four floors]." The leaked video was published on YouTube on Tuesday without mentioning the exact location in Syria.  Observers mull that the video was likely leaked through defectors from the Syrian regime’s army.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.31.12   Car bomb targets northwestern Pakistani city
August 31 -
Explosion in Peshawar market leaves at least six dead and 14 wounded, police say. A car bomb has exploded in a market in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least six people, police have said. The blast occurred in the Matni market area of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, on Friday. "At least six people were killed and 14 others were wounded," Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial home minister told the AFP news agency. Senior police official Abdul Sattar Khan said that at least 18 people were injured in the attack. Khan said that the wounded had been transported to a local hospital. No one has claimed responsibility and Khan said that police officers were still investigating the cause of the explosion. Hussain said three men brought the vehicle to a workshop and when a mechanic was working on it the blast occurred.  "We are investigating whether the car was brought to [the] workshop for mechanical repairs or to plant a bomb, or whether the bomb had already been planted and it went off during repair," Hussain said. Peshawar has witnessed scores of such attacks in recent years, most blamed on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, who have been waging a campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007.   [>aljazeera.com]

08.31.12   US drone strike kills 8 suspected militants in Yemeni provincer
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) August 31 -
Eight Islamist militants were killed by a US drone strike on Friday in a remote part of Hadramout, a Yemeni official said, the third such strike in the eastern Yemeni province this week. Yemen’s defense ministry said on its website that eight al-Qaeda members were killed in an air strike on their vehicle in the isolated, desert district of Hawra. The local official, who declined to be named, said it was a drone strike. The men were heavily armed, carrying machine-guns and explosives, the ministry said. The local official said the men were thought to have been on the way to carry out an attack. It was not possible to verify the details independently given the remoteness of the region. Washington, which fears the spread of militants in Yemen, has stepped up attacks by unmanned aircraft this year.   [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.31.12   Taleban release video of severed heads
(AFP) August 31 - Pakistani Taleban released a video showing what appeared to be the severed heads of a dozen soldiers on Friday as security officials said 15 troops were missing following fighting with militants. The clashes on Tuesday came as part of a Pakistan army operation to repel Taleban militants who had crossed over from Kunar province in Afghanistan last Friday and occupied the village of Batwar in the Bajaur tribal district. "At least 15 of our soldiers are still missing," a senior security official told AFP. Another security official said “more or less” that number of soldiers were missing but declined to give the exact total. Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Sirajud Din sent AFP a video showing a militant commander posing with 12 heads arranged on the ground which he claimed were from soldiers they had killed. "Many of them were killed by bullets, 12 of them as you see have been beheaded, you see 12 heads here, and more heads are on the way." The commander, his face unmasked and wearing traditional tribal dress, is flanked in the footage by armed men including one wielding a huge axe.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.31.12   Tokyo court rejects Apple patent claim against Samsung
TOKYO, August 31 - A Japanese court Friday rejected Apple’s claim that Samsung stole its technology, dealing a blow to the iPhone maker after a US jury ordered its South Korean rival to pay over $1 billion in damages. The ruling by the Tokyo District Court was the latest chapter in a bitter global patent war between the smartphone giants who have accused each other of stealing intellectual property for their own products. The Japanese court found that Samsung did not infringe on Apple’s iPhone and iPad patents for some of its own Galaxy smartphones and tablet computer. The three-judge panel also awarded legal costs to Samsung.  "The defendant’s products do not seem like they used the same technology as the plaintiff’s products so we turn down the complaints made by Apple," Judge Tamotsu Shoji told the court. Apple had sought both damages and to block the sale of its rival’s products in the lucrative Japanese market. As well as dealing a blow to the US firm, the ruling will help Samsung pick itself up after the US defeat, analysts said. Samsung, which has steadfastly denied its rival’s claims in a string of similar cases filed across the globe, hailed the Tokyo court’s ruling.  [More>>japantoday.com]

08.28.12   Air strikes near Damascus kill dozens
August 28 -
Clashes intensify around Syrian capital as rare bombing raids in suburbs leave at least 60 dead, according to activists. Activists say Syrian fighter jets made rare sorties on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, killing at least 60 people in its eastern suburbs, the same day a Syrian military helicopter crashed while under rebel fire. They said aerial attacks by at least two fighter jets late on Monday targeted the neighborhood of Zamalka, and the more easterly suburb of Saqba, where Free Syrian Army fighters had attacked and overrun several army checkpoints earlier in the day. Both suburbs are poor and inhabited predominantly by Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of Syria's population and have been at the forefront of the fighting against  Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president. Video footage seen by a Reuters news agency reporter of the aftermath of an attack by one of the jets firing rockets at an apartment building showed people running away with their children and the six-story building collapsing like an accordion. Monday's air raids came as Turkish officials say up to 10,000 Syrians are waiting on the Syrian side of the border while Turkey rushes to build more camps to accommodate the influx and carries out more stringent security checks on the newcomers. The focus of the 17-month struggle appears to have returned to the outskirts of Damascus after weeks of battles centered on the northern city of Aleppo.   [More>>aljazeera.com]

08.28.12   Female suicide bomber kills six in Russia
August 28 - A female
suicide bomber posing as a Muslim pilgrim has killed a leading Islamic scholar and at least five others in a night of heavy violence in Russia's restive Muslim region of Dagestan. The Caspian Sea region's interior ministry said the attack claimed the life of one of Dagestan's most respected religious leaders who defended moderate Islam against the rise of radical militancy. The ministry said in a statement that a woman "posing as a pilgrim" walked into the home of Said Afandi and detonated a suicide belt. "Six people died besides the suicide bomber," the Dagestani interior ministry said in a statement posted on its website. "These included Sheikh Said Afandi." The attack came just a month after the chief cleric of Russia's main Muslim region of Tatarstan in central Russia survived an assassination attempt that claimed the life of his former deputy. The targeted Tatarstan clerics and Afandi were all Sufis who promoted a form of Islamic tolerance and cooperation with the authorities backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

08.28.12   Russian serviceman kills eight comrades at border post - Interfax
MOSCOW (Reuters) August 28 -
A Russian border guard killed eight fellow servicemen in a shooting spree at a frontier post in the southern region OF Dagestan on Tuesday, Interfax news agency reported. There was no indication the shootings were related to a suicide bombing that killed a Muslim cleric and five followers in a separate part of Dagestan.   [>thestar.com.my]

08.28.12   Afghan truck bomb kills 4
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, August 28 -
A "massive" suicide truck bombing in Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar killed four civilians and wounded the provincial police chief overnight, authorities said Tuesday. The bombing targeted General Abdul Raziq, the Kandahar provincial police chief, who has a strong anti-Taliban background. Raziq survived the bombing with "minor" injuries to his face, arms and a leg. "His injuries are not serious and he will soon be discharged from the hospital," a statement from the provincial governor's office said. "He suffers from burns on his face, arms and leg, it's not serious," Jawed Faisal, a spokesman for the provincial administration, told AFP. Faisal said four civilians were killed and about 20 others, mostly civilians and members of the same family, were wounded in the blast.  [More>>thenews.com.pk]

08.28.12   Teenagers set themselves on fire, Tibet protest burnings now 51
August 28 -
Two Tibetan teenagers have died after setting fire to themselves in southwest China, bringing the total number of Tibetans who have self-immolated in protest at Chinese rule of their homeland to more than 50 since 2009, a rights group said Tuesday. The pair, one an 18-year-old Buddhist monk and the other a 17-year-old former monk, died on Monday after setting themselves on fire outside the Kirti monastery in Ngaba, a heavily Tibetan part of the Sichuan province, the London-based Free Tibet group said. "Free Tibet has grave concerns for the well being of the hundreds of Tibetans who we know are in detention following protests," Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said. "Tibetans’ fundamental human rights are being ignored by international leaders who are afraid of risking their relationships with China."  "The time has come for each one of us to speak up and demand Tibetan freedom," Brigden added. Their protest brings to 51 the number of Tibetans who have set themselves alight since 2009, when the burnings first began, Free Tibet said in an emailed statement dated Aug. 27.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.28.12   Violent riots hit Kenya after Muxlim cleric is shot dead
(Reuters) August 28 -
Deadly riots broke out in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Monday after a Muslim cleric allegedly linked to Somali Islamist militants was shot dead in broad daylight. At least one person was hacked to death and Christian churches burnt down. Hundreds of protesters smashed cars and torched churches in the Kenyan city of Mombasa on Monday after unknown gunmen shot dead a Muslim cleric accused by the United States of helping Islamist militants in Somalia. One protester was killed in the riots which erupted after Aboud Rogo Mohammed was shot on Monday, as youths from the port city’s large Muslim population took to the streets saying he had been deliberately targeted by police. "It’s an attack on Muslims, and we will not take it lightly," said Suleiman Atham, one of the protesters. Police denied having any involvement in the shooting which wounded Rogo's wife.

Deputy police chief Robert Kitur said Rogo
who faced terrorism charges over allegations he was recruiting non-Somali Africans for Somalia’s al Shabaab militant group was killed while driving in a private car. "Unknown gunmen attacked his vehicle ... sprayed it with bullets and killed him on the spot," Kitur said. "They must have been targeting him, and must have been trailing him for a while." In what police described as an act of impulse rather than a planned strategy to target Christians, protesters tried to burn down two churches, setting furniture on fire before the flames were extinguished. They vandalized at least four other churches, breaking chairs and damaging an altar. Protesters also set alight a government vehicle, stoned cars along the main highway linking Mombasa to Malindi, both popular tourist destinations, and burned tires to block the road.  [More>>france24.com]
08.25.12   Top Haqqani commander killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan
WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: Badruddin Haqqani, the key operational commander of the al-Qaida linked Haqqani network, and top Pakistani Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah are believed to have been killed in US drone and air strikes in the tribal region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Badruddin, the son of Afghan  warlord   Jalaluddin Haqqani, is ranked as a deputy to his elder brother and the network's chief Sirajuddin and was believed to be killed in one of the five volleys of drone strikes in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan since August 18. Four of the missile hits took place in Shawal Valley, considered to be traditional area of operations of Haqqani network in North Waziristan, and US reports said he may have been killed in the August 21 strike near Miranshah.

The wave of attacks drew strongest protest from Islamabad in recent years when a senior US diplomat was summoned by the Foreign Ministry to lodge their opposition to the attacks. Badruddin, thought to be in his mid-30s, was a member of the Miranshah Shura Council, one of the Afghan Taliban's four regional commands, which controls all activities of the militant group in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Senior US officials were quoted by the New York Times as saying that they had strong indications that Badruddin, the key commander of the Haqqani network which is responsible for most of the spectacular assaults on American bases and Afghan cities in recent years, was killed in a drone strike.

Meanwhile, a statement by coalition forces in Afghanistan said that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Mullah Dadullah was among 20 militants killed in a "precision airstrike in Shigal wa Sheltan district (of) Kunar province yesterday." Dadullah, whose real name is Maulana Mohammad Jamaluddin, was made the commander of  Taliban in Pakistan's Bajaur Agency in 2010. He fled to Afghanistan to escape an operation launched by the Pakistan Army. His deputy Shakir too was killed in the airstrike, the statement said. Badruddin is one of the nine Haqqani family members who have been designated by the US as global terrorists. His brother Sirajuddin is the overall leader of the Miramshah Shura. Siraj was designated by the State Department as a terrorist in March 2008; and in March 2009, the State Department put out a bounty of USD 5 million for information leading to his capture.

...Giving details about the operation, American intelligence officials indicated to the Long War journal yesterday that the remotely piloted Predators and Reapers were targeting an "important Jihadi leader" in the region but his name was not disclosed....The latest string of drone attacks, most of them carried out in Shawal area of North Waziristan Agency, has renewed tensions between Pakistan and the US. Nearly 40 suspected militants have been killed in these attacks, including a Kashmiri jihadi named "Engineer" Ahsan Aziz. Former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed recently led funeral prayers in Mirpur for Aziz, who was killed in a drone strike on August 18.   [Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.25.12  Air strikes kill 12 in Afghanistan
ASADABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) August 25 - 
Two air strikes in eastern Afghanistan killed a dozen insurgents, including a top Taliban commander, NATO and Afghan officials said Saturday. "There were two separate air strikes in Kunar (province) yesterday. A total of 12 insurgents were killed, six in each air strike," a NATO spokesman told. The police chief of Kunar's Shigal district, where the attacks took place, said most of the militants were from neighboring Pakistan and included a Taliban leader. "Commander Dadullah, the top Taliban commander in Bajaur agency of Pakistan, is also among the dead," Sayed Rahman said. Afghan and Pakistani Taliban Islamists both operate along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Last week, around two dozen militants were killed in NATO air strikes in Chapa Dara district of Kunar as they gathered for a public execution. NATO has some 130,000 troops in Afghanistan helping the government of President Hamid Karzai fight the Taliban insurgency.  [>thenews.com.pk]

08.23.12   Activists say 'large number' of defected Syrian officers arrive in Jordan
August 23 - Syrian activists claim that a large number of officers have defected from the Assad regime and reached Jordan late Wednesday through the help of the Free Syrian Army. Among the officers are one brigadier general and four colonels, the activists told Al Arabiya, without giving an exact number for the "large number" of defectors.  The activists also said that heavy clashes ensued near the Jordanian-Syrian borders after the officers had departed through the southern province of Deraa. However Jordan’s information and communication minister on Thursday denied that heavy clashes have took place in the Jordanian-Syrian borders late Wednesday. But he said the Jordanian army is vigilant to safeguard Syrians fleeing violence when crossing to Jordan.

Clashes broke out in Damascus on Thursday as Syrian government forces fired mortar rounds on rebel positions, activists said, in what they described as some of the heaviest fighting in the capital this month. The opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, reported early Thursday that 52 people are killed by President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces across Syria, mostly in Damascus. Government forces fired mortar rounds from the Qasioun mountain overlooking Damascus, activists said, and southern suburbs echoed with the sound of gunfights between the army and rebels who have been struggling to topple Assad for more than 17 months.

"For about an hour we heard explosions and gunfire. It is not as bad as yesterday yet but tensions are really high. I think you could probably hear the echo of shelling or clashes from most parts of Damascus," said opposition activist Samir al-Shami, who spoke to Reuters by Skype. He and other activists said the bombardment and fighting seemed to be concentrated on southern districts of Damascus, where rebels have been able to slip in from rebellious suburbs near the capital.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.23.12   Christian group to  hold conference on Pakistan blasphemy law
GENEVA (Reuters) August 23 - An influential Christian Church organization will hold an international conference in Geneva next month on Pakistan's blasphemy law, after an 11-year-old Pakistani Christian was detained on accusations of defaming Islam. Religious and secular groups worldwide have protested over the arrest last week of Rifta Masih, accused by Muslim neighbors of burning verses from the Koran, Islam's holy book. The World Council of Churches (WCC) said the conference was intended to give a global platform to religious minorities in Pakistan "who are victimized in the name of its controversial blasphemy law" in cases which had brought death penalties and "mob-instigated violence."  It will be addressed by representatives of the minorities: Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, dissenting Islamic sects
including Ahmadis and Shias, and by civil society groups defending them.

The WCC said officials from the United Nations, where special human rights investigators on religious freedom have often criticized Pakistan's blasphemy law, would also attend. But Pakistani diplomats in Geneva have not been invited. The conference, from Sept. 17-19, will be held during a sitting of the UN Human Rights Council where Pakistan, as spokesman for the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, regularly complains that Muslims are persecuted in the West. "The public hearing aims to heighten discussions at international levels on the deteriorating situation of the human rights of minorities in Pakistan and the misuse of the blasphemy law," said WCC official Mathews George Chunakara. The WCC, which links 349 Protestant and Orthodox Church bodies representing more than 560 million Christians in some 110 countries, said the gathering had been planned for some time and was not directly connected to Rifta Masih's case.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.20.12   Syrian shelling and torture claims mar Eid
August 20 -  Festivities neglected as violence continues, with cities under fire and 10 bodies reportedly found bearing signs of torture. Activists said the usual Eid festivities had been largely neglected. "There is no one inside Damascus, inside Syria, that doesn't have a friend or relative who has been lost or detained or killed, so it's a very sad Eid we are having," said one activist, Tarik, of the Revolutionary Leadership Council Damascus. As UN observers left their hotel in the capital, their mission having ended at midnight on Sunday, activists relayed details of another atrocity they said had been committed by the shabiha, the pro-Assad militia.

Ten bodies were reportedly found in the Qaboun district bearing signs of torture. Video footage posted online showed bloodied and bruised bodies lying in the street. "When we got to the site, we found 10 naked bodies, some of them were handcuffed," said Abu Omer al-Qabouni, a Qaboun resident. "They were tortured in a barbaric way. They were tortured by electricity, stabbed by knives and burned by cigarette butts. Some of the bodies had crushed heads." He said he was able to personally identify two children among the victims 
a seven-year-old boy and his sister, aged five. Shelling was reported in Damascus suburbs, with Mouadamiyeh and Daraya among the hardest hit, and in Aleppo, where the collapse of two buildings reportedly killed 14 people. In Deraa, activists said four members of the same family, including two children, were killed. Restrictions placed on foreign journalists make it impossible for the Guardian to independently verify activists' accounts.  [More>>guardian.co.uk]

08.20.12   Family members of Karzai's advisor killed in Afghanistan
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) August 20 -  A roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktia on Monday killed three members of the family of an advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, local media reported. "Brother of Amanullah Khan Zadran, his uncle and his nephew were killed in the blast," provincial governor’s spokesman, Rohullah Samoon, said. According to Khaama Press online newspaper, Amanullah Khan Zadran was not injured in the blast that struck his vehicle convoy near the village of Miland early on Monday. It is the second attempt on Zadran's life this year. The previous bomb attack on the advisor was prevented by Afghan security forces. Despite more than a decade of war waged by a US-led international coalition against the Taliban insurgency, attacks by Islamist militants are still frequent in Afghanistan, raising serious concerns about the ability of Afghan security forces to maintain order in the country after foreign troops withdraw in 2014.   [>en.rian.ru]

08.20.12   13 more killed in US drone attacks in NWA
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, August 20 -
Thirteen more persons were killed and nine others injured in two US drone attacks on Mana village in the remote Shawal Valley of North Waziristan Agency on Sunday. Earlier on Saturday, 12 people were killed in a drone attack in Shawal Valley. Official and tribal sources said unmanned CIA-operated spy planes fired four missiles that hit two vehicles. The sources said local people were on their way to the Mana village from the Afghan border when they were attacked. "The vehicles caught fire after being hit by the drones. The bodies of seven persons were recovered from the vehicles, but they were mutilated beyond recognition," a tribal elder said. He said four seriously injured persons were brought to Miranshah for treatment. In the second attack, six people were killed and five others injured when a US drone hit a house in Mana village. An official, who wished to remain anonymous, said six people died on the spot and five others were seriously injured. Tribal sources said the death toll could rise as the injured persons were said to be in serious condition. A tribesman in Miranshah said around 12 planes were hovering over the town, creating panic among the people.  [>thenews.com.pk]

08.20.12   Pakistan leader seeks report on young girl's blasphemy case
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AFP) August 20 - Pakistan’s president on Monday called on officials to explain the arrest on blasphemy charges of a Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome who allegedly burnt pages inscribed with verses from the Quran. There is a growing debate about religious intolerance in Pakistan, where strict anti-blasphemy laws make defaming Islam or desecrating the Quran punishable by death. Police said the girl, Rimsha, was arrested in a Christian slum of the capital last Thursday and remanded in custody for 14 days after a furious Muslim mob demanded she be punished. A police official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the girl was in her teens. Activists say she is 11 years old. President Asif Ali Zardari took "serious note" of the arrest and called on the interior ministry to submit a report on the case, state media said. His government was heavily criticized in the West for refusing to reform the anti-blasphemy law, despite the assassinations of a leading politician and a Christian cabinet minister in 2011. Some reports suggested the girl had been burning papers collected from the rubbish for cooking when someone entered her house and accused the family of burning pages inscribed with verses from the Quran.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.20.12   Officials: Gunman kills 9 Yemenis during Eid prayers
SANA'A, Yemen (AP) August 20 -
Sana’a: Yemen Medical and security officials say a gunman opened fire Sunday on worshipers on Eid Al Fitr in southern Yemen, killing nine people. The gunman targeted men praying outside a crowded mosque in Al Dhale, a governorate about 190km south of the capital Sana’a, during morning prayers. Nine people were killed and another 10 wounded, the officials said. The gunman was arrested at the scene, officials said. About 100 people have been killed in similar mosque shootings in Yemen in the last three years by people believed to be suffering from mental disorders or in tribal conflicts, according to the officials.

Also Sunday, a Yemeni security official said a suicide bomber blew himself up in a town in the southern governorate of Abyan, killing a leading member of a civilian militia that has fought alongside government troops to drive al-Qaeda militants from their southern strongholds. Another security official said Sunday that the death toll from an attack Saturday on a government building in Abyan rose to 21, after a soldier died of wounds sustained when militants stormed the local intelligence headquarters. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. The attack in the heart of the port city of Aden underscored al-Qaeda’s ability to launch deadly strikes despite a two-month Yemeni military offensive backed by the US.  [More>>gulfnews.com]

08.18.12   Hundreds of thousands flee their homes in India amid deadly ethnic violence
BRAJAKHAL, India, August 18 - (By Jim Yardley, NY TIMES
Like a fever, fear has spread across India this week, from big cities like Bangalore to smaller places like Mysore, a contagion fueling a message: Run. Head home. Flee. And that is what thousands of migrants from the country’s distant northeastern states are doing, jamming into train stations in an exodus challenging the Indian ideals of tolerance and diversity. What began as an isolated communal conflict here in the remote state of Assam, a vicious if obscure fight over land and power between Muslims and the indigenous Bodo tribe, has unexpectedly set off widespread panic among northeastern migrants who had moved to more prosperous cities for a piece of India’s rising affluence.

A swirl of unfounded rumors, spread by text messages and social media, had warned of attacks by Muslims against northeastern migrants, prompting the panic and the exodus. Indian leaders, deeply alarmed, have pleaded for calm, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared in Parliament on Friday to denounce the rumor mongering and offer reassurance to northeastern migrants. "What is at stake is the unity and integrity of our country," Mr. Singh said. "What is at stake is communal harmony." The hysteria in several of the country’s most advanced urban centers has underscored the deep roots of ethnic tensions in India, where communal conflict is usually simplified as Hindu versus Muslim, yet is often far more complex. For decades, Indian leaders have mostly managed to isolate and triangulate regional ethnic conflicts, if not always resolve them, but the public panic this week is a testament to how the old strategies may be less effective in an information age.   [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

08.18.12   'Death fatwa' for protesters against Muslim Brotherhood
August 18 - 
Liberals and Islamists in Egypt have condemned a ‘fatwa’ issued by a cleric, which legalizes the killing of demonstrators in a mass protest against the Muslim Brotherhood party and the nation’s President Mohammad Mursi later this month. Hashem Islam, a preacher from the prestigious Muslim institution Al Azhar, who issued the fatwa, said that demonstrators who will take part in the August 24 protest are ‘heretics’ and their murder would be legal. However, a video that went viral on the internet showing Islam accusing the protesters of high treason, prompted Al Azhar to disassociate itself from the fatwa, saying that it is his personal view. "We have heard with anger and worry about the fatwa legalizing the killing of anyone taking part in a protest against the president," Gulf News quoted Al Azhar's influential arm, the Islamic Research Center, as saying in a statement. It added that Islam is not a member of Al Azhar's committee, which is responsible for issuing religious edicts. Liberals have reportedly called for mass protests on August 24 to show discontent with Mursi's policy and his group, and have accused him of being controlled by the Brotherhood party, which allegedly seeks to control state institutions, the report said.  [>indianexpress.com]
08.18.12   Militants attack Yemen intelligence HQ, killing 14
ADEN, Yemen, August 18 -
Yemeni security officials say suspected al-Qaeda militants have attacked an intelligence headquarters in the country's south, killing fourteen people. The officials say 11 soldiers and three intelligence officials were killed when militants armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire on the building in the port city of Aden on Saturday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Six people were wounded, including three employees of the state-run radio and TV station in the adjacent building. In the attack on Saturday, witnesses said militants had fired rocket-propelled grenades at the intelligence service's three-story building, setting it on fire and shattering its windows.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.18.12   Syria ex-minister says VP Faruq al-Shara 'under house arrest'
August 18 -
A former Syrian minister who defected this year said Saturday that it was "well-known" that Vice President Faruq al-Shara had tried to leave and was under house arrest. The comments by former deputy oil minister Abdo Hussameddin came after the regime in Damascus denied opposition claims that Shara, the most senior Sunni Muslim official in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite-led regime, had defected. "Shara's position is well known. He has been trying to leave Syria," he told pan-Arab television Al-Arabiya. "But there are a series of circumstances that prevent him from leaving, especially the fact that he has been under house arrest for some time," he said, adding that top level officials in Syria were being kept under surveillance. Syrian state television had earlier quoted a statement from Shara's office saying: "Mr. Shara has never thought about leaving the country or going anywhere." Mr. Shara did not himself appear on television. Mr. Hussameddin defected in March, one of a string of defections that has included former prime minister Riad Hijab and high profile General Manaf Tlass a childhood friend of Assad's. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said earlier this week he had information that Assad's regime would be rocked by more "spectacular" defections soon.  [More>>news.com.au]

08.18.12   Suicide bomber hits southwest Pakistan
August 18 -
At least five Pakistani troops killed by bomber who detonated car laden with explosives at checkpoint near Quetta. A suicide car bomber has killed five security troops at a road checkpoint in Pakistan's volatile southwest, officials have said. Murtaza Baig, a government spokesman, said the attacker detonated his explosives early on Saturday after he was stopped at the checkpoint in a Quetta suburb. The killed troops were members of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps. Baluchistan province and its capital, Quetta, have been the scene of a rebellion by Baluch nationalists who are demanding greater rights and bigger share of the income generated from gas and minerals extracted from the province. Various Baluch groups are blamed for attacks on the province's security forces and are suspected of targeting other ethnic groups in the region. Armed Taliban and Lashker-e-Jhangvi fighters are also active in the province.   [More>>aljazeera.com]

08.18.12   US drone strikes kill five in NWA
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, August 18 - 
US drone strikes Saturday killed at least five suspected militants in a remote Pakistani tribal town near the Afghanistan border, Geo News reported. The drone fired two missiles on a compound in Shuwedar village in the troubled North Waziristan region. "US drones fired two missiles into a compound. At least five persons were killed," a security official told. Local intelligence officials confirmed the attack and casualties. The attack came as people in the deeply religious region celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid- ul-Fitr, they said. Attacks by unmanned American aircraft are highly unpopular in Pakistan, as they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, but US officials are said to believe the attacks are too important to give up.  [>thenews.com.pk]

08.18.12   NATO drone strike kills up to 50 militants in eastern Afghanistan: police
ASADABAD, Afghanistan
(Xinhua) August 18 -  About 50 militants were killed on Saturday afternoon when a NATO pilotless plane carried out an attack in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, the police said. "The drone targeted four suspected vehicles in Shinallai area of Chapa Dara district at around 1 pm local time Saturday, killing 50 militants, including 13 insurgent's local commanders," police chief of the district, Najibullah Khan, told Xinhua. Khan said a Taliban shadowy police chief for the district named Hattiqullah and another Taliban leader named Turabi were among the killed. The Taliban insurgent group, which launched in May this year's spring offensive against Afghan and NATO forces, has yet to make comments. The Kunar province bordering Pakistan, has seen increasing militancy despite continued military operations there. Separately, a soldier with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) lost his life in an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan on Friday, the ISAF confirmed Saturday. Currently over 130,000 NATO-led ISAF troops have been serving in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was toppled in late 2001. In another development, militants killed the head of a district prison in the country's southern province of Helmand Saturday afternoon.  [More>>xinhuanet.com]

08.18.12   Bomb at Afghan bazaar kills 4 people
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) August 17 - A bomb in a busy Afghan market killed four people on Saturday in the western province of Herat, an official said, the latest attack targeting civilians in the decade-long war. Hours later, a prison director was assassinated in southern Afghanistan by a bomb planted in his car. The early morning market explosion also wounded 12 people, including three policemen who were on patrol in the bazaar in Shindand district, Herat provincial government spokesman Muhiudin Noori said. The blast came three days after a bicycle bomb in Herat's provincial capital wounded 14 people. "Once again the enemy has attacked in Herat ... They have no other target than killing civilians," Noori said. Earlier this week, at least 50 people died in multiple suicide bombings in western Nimroz province and a market bomb in Kunduz in the north in what was the deadliest day for civilians so far this year. A UN report says 1,145 Afghan civilians have been killed and 1,954 others injured during the first half of the year, the overwhelming majority of them in militant attacks. Others died caught up in the crossfire, suicide attacks and also coalition aistrikes.  [More>>abcnews.go.com]
08.17.12   Two US troops killed by Afghan policeman
KABUL, Afghanistan, August 17 -
Two Afghan security personnel opened fire on Western colleagues Friday, killing two US soldiers and causing a number of other casualties in two separate attacks, the military said. US concern is mounting of the unprecedented number of such "green-on-blue" attacks, which have now killed 39 international troops in 29 such incidents so far this year, according to NATO figures. Friday's attacks will further erode trust between foreign troops and the Afghans they work with, a week after six American troops were killed in a single day by their local colleagues. The two Americans were killed in western Farah province, NATO's US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. "A member of the Afghan Local Police turned his weapon against two USFOR-A service members. The attacker was shot and killed."

Just hours later, ISAF confirmed that "a number" of foreign and Afghan soldiers were shot and wounded by an Afghan soldier in the southern province of Kandahar. "The attacker was shot and later died of his wounds in the hospital," a spokesman said, without providing any further details. Local officials said two Americans and one Afghan soldier were wounded. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday he was "very concerned" about the attacks and the impact they are having on cooperation with Afghan allies. The Taliban's reclusive supreme leader, Mullah Omar, has boasted that the attacks are the result of a deliberate plan by the Islamist militants to sow distrust between foreign and Afghan troops. "Mujahideen (holy warriors) have cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year," Omar said in a message to mark the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. NATO says most of the incidents are motivated by cultural differences between troops and plays down the role of Taliban infiltration.   [More>>thenews.com.pk]

08.17.12   Syrian opposition fighters acquire Stinger missiles: sources
WASHINGTON, August 17 -
The Free Syrian Army has acquired surface-to-air Stinger missiles but they have not been used yet, a source in the Syrian opposition told Al Arabiya. The US-based source said the missiles were not used against the Syrian Army fighter jet downed last Monday. The source said it was shot down by anti-aircraft guns. "There is no indication that the Free Syrian Army has used the Stinger missiles yet," the source said. Another source familiar with the operations of Syrian opposition fighters confirmed that 14 Stinger missiles have been delivered to the Free Syrian Army at the İskenderun area on the border with Turkey. The source said both Turkey and the United States are aware of the arms delivery. The source, which asked not to be named, said "financing has probably come from Saudi Arabia, but the origin might be different." The US Department of Defense declined to comment.   [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.17.12   Hezbollah says has rockets that can kill thousands of Israelis
BEIRUT, Lebanon (Reuters)
August 17 - The Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Friday it possessed what it called precision rockets that could kill "tens of thousands" of Israelis in strikes on Israel. "I tell the Israelis that you have a number of targets, not a large number ... that can be hit with precision rockets ... which we have," Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said in a broadcast speech. He said he would not identify the targets. "Hitting these targets with a small number of rockets will turn ... the lives of hundreds of thousands of Zionists to real hell, and we can talk about tens of thousands of dead," said Nasrallah.  [>thestar.com.my; See more details, alarabiya.net]

08.17.12   Kidnappings show Lebanese government 'collapsing'
August 17 - A string of kidnappings in Lebanon's capital Beirut earlier this week have raised fears that the crisis in Syria has once again spilled over the border and highlighted the Lebanese government's waning authority over the mafia-like Meqdad clan.  "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" may be an old saying, but a string of kidnappings in Lebanon earlier this week have shown the concept is alive and well, and highlighted the government’s tenuous grip on power. Lebanon’s powerful Shiite Muslim clan, the Meqdad family, announced on August 15 it had abducted 20 Syrians and one Turkish national in retaliation for the kidnapping of one of its family members in neighboring Syria, Hassan al-Meqdad, who was taken captive by members of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) two days earlier.

The Meqdad family said it used its “military wing” to abduct their hostages, who were targeted for allegedly supporting the FSA. A spokesperson for the family warned that "if Hassan (al-Meqdad) is killed, the first hostage we will kill is the Turk." Lebanon’s Prime Minister Nagib Mikati issued a statement condemning the act, saying "this is not the way to solve the abduction of a Lebanese national in Syria." However, Lebanese authorities have not taken any concrete measures to crack down on the Meqdad family actions or to free the hostages. Tensions have continued to mount. On Thursday, a number of Syrian-owned businesses were vandalized in the capital Beirut and several workers chased down by groups of armed Shiites, who said they had acted for the release of those kidnapped in Syria. The unrest has been widely interpreted as yet another example of how the crisis in Syria has spilled over the border into Lebanon, a country deeply divided between pockets of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and those who back the 18-month-long uprising against him. Contacted by FRANCE 24, Lebanese intellectual and former opposition MP Samir Frangié gave his view on the situation.

What does the Meqdad family represent in Lebanon, and why does it have a "military wing"?

Samir Frangié
: The Meqdad family, like a number of other clans or tribal families in Bekaa, has turned into a mafia group over time, taking advantage of the state’s weak presence in the region. Their financial transactions [including drug trafficking and racketeering, according to some experts] are illegal but tolerated by the authorities, and have allowed the family to amass considerable resources such as weapons, which they have used in open defiance of the country. This defiance, however, reached unprecedented proportions after they kidnapped foreign nationals in broad daylight and then stood before the cameras and gave interviews on live television.

The Meqdad family appears to operate with total impunity. How would you explain that?

: In the end, the Meqdad family’s actions have shown how the Lebanese state is in the process of collapsing. We are witnessing the end of an era and of a state that allowed itself to be dictated to by the Syrian state, which ultimately viewed Lebanon as nothing more than a protectorate. Because Damascus wants keep a hand in Lebanon, the government is incapable of making its own decisions. The unfortunate result is that Lebanese ministers have been reduced to negotiating with kidnappers. It’s a chaotic situation that is directly linked with what’s going on in Syria, and which poses a direct threat to the safety of this country’s citizens. As a matter of security it is also a threat to the country’s economy, because the unrest will likely chase off tourists and investors.

The Meqdad family is Shiite. Do they have any connections with Lebanese political parties, such as Hezbollah ?

SF: The Meqdad family has the implicit support of Hezbollah and the Amal party, the country’s two main Shiite political forces, in the sense that they’re allowed to do whatever they want. This is partly due to the fact that Hezbollah and the Amal party cannot control them, and partly because they are considered to be politically valuable. A number of the Meqdad family sympathize with Hezbollah, and the two political groups don’t want to risk antagonizing them. What this relationship shows, is that Hezbollah's influence is waning, even in areas where it once had overwhelming support like Bekaa and Beirut’s southern suburbs, where the Meqdad family has operated out of since the crisis in Syria began.  [>france24.com]

08.17.12   US and Turkey warn nationals against traveling to Lebanon
August 17 - The United States and Turkey on Friday warned their nationals against traveling to Lebanon, following mass kidnappings which included the reported abduction of another Turkish citizen. The warnings came after around 20 people including one Turk were taken hostage in Beirut on Wednesday and another Turkish national on Thursday, according to the ministry. On Wednesday, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim clan had claimed it had kidnapped a group of Syrians and the Turkish man after a family member was kidnapped this week by a Syrian rebel group which accused him of being a Hezbollah sniper. The US warned that its nationals face increased threats to their security in Lebanon, including the possibility of targeted kidnappings or terrorist attacks. "

The US embassy has received reports of an increased possibility of attacks against US citizens in Lebanon," the embassy said in a statement, according to AFP news agency.  "Possible threats include kidnapping, the potential for an upsurge in violence, the escalation of family or neighborhood disputes, as well as US citizens being the target of terrorist attacks in Lebanon." Meanwhile, the Turkish government said it was continuing efforts at multilateral level for the release of the two kidnapped citizens, according to the ministry statement. "It is deemed beneficial if our citizens avoid traveling to Lebanon unless absolutely necessary," said the ministry in a statement. On Friday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the Turk who was kidnapped Wednesday was a representative of a Turkish company doing business in Lebanon and that he had nothing to do with politics.

...But according to a report from the Associated Press, the powerful Shiite Muslim clan vowed further kidnappings of more Syrians in retaliation for the seizure of family member, Hassane Salim al-Meqdad, by rebels in Syria this week. The Lebanese clan said on Thursday it has "halted" its "military operations" after reportedly kidnapping a group of Syrian opposition members and a Turkish citizen.  "At this moment, we halted all military operations on Lebanese territory. This announcement is because we have a sufficient number of Syrians linked to the Free Syrian Army," said Maher al-Meqdad, spokesman for the clan which is demanded the release of a kinsman held in Syria. But in an Associated Press report the clan claimed to have abducted more Syrian nationals and vowed further kidnappings Maher al-Meqdad, a relative of the kidnapped Meqdad, warned on Thursday that "if anything happens to Hassane, we will kill the Turkish hostage we have and many others. But we will start with the Turks."   [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

08.17.12   Tumour of Israel will soon be destroyed
TEHRAN, August 17 -
Israel is a "cancerous tumor" that will soon be finished off, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday told demonstrators holding an annual protest against the existence of the Jewish state.  "The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumor. Even if one cell of them is left in one inch of (Palestinian) land, in the future this story (of Israel's existence) will repeat," he said in a speech in Tehran marking Iran's Quds Day that was broadcast on state television. "The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper Zionists in the Palestinian land.... A new Middle East will definitely be formed. With the grace of God and help of the nations, in the new Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists," he said. The diatribe took place amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran over Tehran's disputed nuclear program. The Jewish state has in recent weeks intensified its threats to possibly bomb Iran's nuclear facilities to prevent it having the capability to produce atomic weapons. Iran, which is suffering under severe Western sanctions, denies its nuclear program is anything but peaceful. Its military has warned it will destroy Israel if it attacks.State television showed crowds marching under blazing sunshine in Tehran and other Iranian cities to mark Quds Days, whose name, derived from Arabic, designates the city of Jerusalem, the disputed future capital of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Demonstrators held up Palestinian flags and pictures of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and banners reading "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." A group in Tehran was filmed burning an Israeli flag.   [>thenews.com.pk]
08.16.12   Govt: No safe passage out of UK for Assange
August 16 -
Foreign Secretary William Hague has insisted that the Government would not allow Julian Assange safe passage out of the UK. Britain and Ecuador are locked in a diplomatic stand-off over the WikiLeaks founder after he was granted political asylum by the South American country. Mr. Hague has responded by saying the UK Government is "determined" to see Mr. Assange extradited and that political asylum should not be used to escape the normal court process. The Foreign Secretary told a news conference: "We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the UK, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so. The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum." The situation could go on for a considerable time and there is no threat to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Mr. Assange is taking refuge, Mr. Hague added

08.16.12   Dozens killed in Syria air raid on rebel town
August 16 - 
  Children among dozens dead in Azaz, 45km north of Aleppo, after attacks reduce a row of residential homes to rubble. Air attacks by the Syrian government have killed at least 30 people, including children, in the rebel-controlled town of Azaz, about 45km north of Aleppo, according to opposition activists. Witnesses and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces who reinforced security around the town after the raids said the jet fired twice, targeting a makeshift media center used by foreign reporters in the second, smaller attack.  Most of the injured from Wednesday's attack were driven directly to the Turkish border, 6km north. Dozens of people, many wailing and shouting, were climbing over the rubble, trying to pull out victims. "That's it, I'm leaving for Turkey with my family today. Life here is impossible," a witness, who gave his name as Jomaa, said. "If you come to the basement of my house now, there are 15 women who are afraid to go out. This is what Bashar does to us." The bombings did not appear to hit specific rebel targets, though one of the sites was about 1km away from the local rebels' political and media offices.   [More>>aljazeera.com]

08.16.12   FSA claims killed 35 Syrian government soldiers and seized anti-aircraft weapons
August 16 - The Free Syrian Army (FSA) said Thursday that it has killed 35 soldiers from President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Aleppo, and showed a video of weapons it claimed to have seized from the embattled regime in Damascus.  The FSA's Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade announced in a video broadcast on Al Arabiya that among the weapons it has seized, there were four 23 mm anti-aircraft guns and one rocket to "down Assad’s helicopters." It said the weapons were taken in a joint operation with the Ghota Western Brigades from Damascus, after clashes with forces loyal to Assad on the outskirts of the capital, in al-Dhamir city. The alleged capture of anti-aircraft weapons came after a string of houses were flattened and dozens of people, including children, were killed Wednesday by a Syrian air force strike, activists said. The bombing in the town of Aazaz, a rebel bastion in the north of the city of Aleppo, reportedly left residents wailing in grief and anger. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 31 people died in the double airstrike and more than 200 were wounded. But Mohammed Nour, a local activist, told The Associated Press that the death toll is around 25. Neither figure could be independently confirmed.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.16.12   25 Shias shot dead in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, August 16 - In a sign of growing sectarian conflict in Pakistan, as many as 25 Shias were killed when they were forced to disembark from a passenger bus and gunned down at point blank range by extremists as they were traveling from Rawalpindi to northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday.  The incident occurred in Naran valley of Manshera district in Khyber-Paktunkwa province, around 180 kilometers north of  Islamabad.  "About 10 to 12 people wearing army uniform stopped the bus and forced some people off the bus," Khalid Omarzai, the top administrative official told a news agency.  "After checking their papers, they opened fire and at least 20 people are reported to have been killed. This is initial information and the final toll may go up. They are all Shias," he said.  [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.16.12   Iraq hit by wave of deadly bombings and shootings
August 16 - 
Car bombs explode in Baghdad and Kirkuk, and police checkpoints come under attack overnight.  At least 21 people have died in a dozen blasts and a series of shootings in cities and towns across Iraq.No one has claimed responsibility for latest in a series of attacks since US troops left in December. In Baghdad on Thursday, a car bomb killed six civilians and wounded 28 in the mainly Shia district of Husainiya. Four car bombs exploded in Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad, killing two and wounding 18. Overnight attacks on police checkpoints in the cities of Baquba and Falluja killed six police officers and wounded 13 and there were car bombs, shootings and sticky bombs often explosives attached to vehicles with a magnet in other towns. Nine were wounded by a car bomb in Taji, just to the north of Baghdad. Al-Qaeda's local wing, the Islamic State of Iraq, said it carried out attacks in June and July as part of a renewed offensive. It has been reinvigorated by the inflow of fighters and cash into neighbouring Syria, providing a morale boost and some extra arms and cash, security experts say. Iraqi insurgents are vowing to retake territory lost during a long war with American troops. Security has been increased before the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan next week, a period when analysts believe insurgents may attempt a major attack.  [>guardian.co.uk]

08.16.12   Militants attack Pakistani Air Force base
August 16 - An attack early Thursday on a major Pakistani air force base where some of the country’s nuclear weapons are thought to be stored set off a heavy gun battle in which eight attackers and one security official were killed.  The authorities believe Islamic militants are responsible for the attack, on the Minhas air force base in Kamra, 25 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The assault was a stark reminder of the militants’ determination to attack Pakistan’s most sensitive installations despite continuing military operations in their tribal hide-outs. The sprawling air base, in the Attock district of Punjab, is believed to be one of the locations where elements of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile, estimated to include at least 100 warheads, is stored. It was unclear whether the weapons were specifically the target of the attack, though Pakistani officials said that was doubtful and noted that none of the evidence so far indicated it. Over the past several years there have been several attacks on bases that are believed to be involved in the country’s nuclear program, but most evidence has suggested that the militants were targeting the country’s military capability in general. The Minhas base is home to a variety of warplanes, including American-built F-16s, and contains a factory that makes JF-17 fighter jets in conjunction with China. The assault came amid mounting speculation that Pakistan’s military was preparing to carry out an operation in the militant stronghold of North Waziristan, in the tribal belt
a longstanding demand of the United States.   [More>>nytimes.com]

08.16.12   US helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, killing 7 Americans
KABUL, Afghanistan, August 16 - 
A US helicopter crashed Thursday in southern Afghanistan, killing 11 people on board, including seven American troops, officials said. Three members of the Afghan security forces and an Afghan civilian interpreter for the US-led coalition also lost their lives in the crash of the UH-60 Black Hawk, NATO's  International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement. An Afghan official said the crash occurred in the Shah Wali Kot district in the northern part of Kandahar province, a bastion of Taliban insurgents. It was the deadliest single incident in weeks for foreign troops in Afghanistan, where the radical Islamist Taliban movement has been  waging a guerrilla war against the Afghan government and tens of thousands of NATO and US troops. ISAF said the cause of the crash was under investigation and gave no further details. A local official said the crash occurred around midday.  [More>>washingtonpost.com]

08.16.12   South Africa police fire at striking mine workers
(AP) August 16 -
  South African police opened fire Thursday on a crowd of striking workers at a platinum mine, leaving an unknown number of people injured and possibly dead. Motionless bodies lay on the ground in pools of blood. Police moved in on striking workers who gathered near the Lonmin PLC mine Thursday afternoon. On TV footage, a volley of intense gunfire could be heard, with dozens of shots fired. The police were armed with automatic rifles and pistols. There were unconfirmed reports that the miners also had firearms, as well as machetes and clubs. Images broadcast by private television broadcaster e.tv showed the gunfire ending with police officers shouting "cease fire!" By that time, bodies were lying in the dust, some pouring blood. Another image showed some miners, their eyes wide, looking in the distance at heavily armed police officers in riot gear. It was an astonishing development in a country that has been a model of stability since racist white rule ended with South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994. The shooting recalled images of white police firing at anti-apartheid protesters in the 1960s and 1970s, but in this case it was mostly black police firing at black mine workers.

08.13.12   'Massive raid' reported in heart of Damascus
August 13 - 
Rebels claim to shoot down fighter jet in Deir Ezzor, as fighting rages in Aleppo and mass arrests reported in capital. Syrian forces rounded up residents in a massive raid in the central district of Damascus and bombarded rebel strongholds around the capital, as fighting also raged in the second city of Aleppo, activists have said. Security forces reportedly arrested at least 21 people as they raided houses and shops in the center of Damascus on Monday. Activists said the raid was the biggest operation of its kind in the city since the launch of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime in March last year. The Syrian Revolution General Council, a network of activists on the ground, said that during the raids armed forces had broken down the doors of shops that had closed in a show of defiance against the regime. Rami Abdel Rahman of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said:

"This is not the first time there have been raids in central Damascus, but this is the first time something like this has happened on such a large scale."  Security forces also swept into a graveyard "under the pretext of searching for weapons", he said. On the outskirts of Damascus, shells slammed into rebel strongholds from before dawn on Monday. Activists said more than 45 people including 36 civilians had been killed in the past 48 hours in the area. Fighting also raged in the city of Aleppo, a city seen as potential turning point in the conflict as rebels seek to establish a strategic foothold in the north.  Clashes were reported in the southwestern district of Salaheddin, which rebels fled last week but has seen continued clashes. Syrian troops were advancing on the southwestern rebel stronghold of Sukari, security sources said. Activists on Sunday said "communications of all forms" were cut in most of Aleppo city and its suburbs.

In the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, opposition rebels reportedly shot down a government warplane on Monday, according to activists. "The rebels shot down the plane and captured its pilot," the Local Co-ordination Committees activist network said. The state news channel Syria TV, however, reported that the plane crashed due to technical problems during a "regular training mission" and a search party was under way. State news agency SANA said the pilot had ejected from the plane before it crashed.  [More>>aljazeera.com]

08.13.12   Syria rebels blast air base used to attack Aleppo
ALEPPO, Syria, August 13 - Syrian rebels today shelled an air base being used by regime forces to pound the northern city of Aleppo, as a rights watchdog reported 43 people killed in a raid near the capital Damascus.  "Menagh military airport was bombarded on Thursday morning by a tank captured previously by the rebels," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said of the base 30 kilometers northwest of the country's commercial capital.  An AFP reporter who heard and saw the bombardment said rebels told him it was "an attack to take this airport being used by helicopters and planes that are firing on Aleppo."  The United Nations confirmed on Sunday that rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad's regime now had heavy armor, and that its military observers had seen the Syrian military use a fighter jet to attack rebels in Aleppo. Correspondents on the ground have reported that rebels have captured a number of tanks, and some armored units have defected with their vehicles.  It is difficult to get an overall picture of the situation inside Aleppo itself because of a lack of independent sources.  Thursday's air base assault comes after US President Barack Obama was reported to have signed a covert document authorizing US support for the rebels.   [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.13.12   Iranian officers led Syrian regime militias in Homs: defected general
August 13 -  Defected Brigadier General Ibrahim al-Jabawi said on Monday that the Syrian regime’s gang-like militia, the Shabiha, were led by Iranian military advisors when they stormed al-Shamas district in Homs. According to Jabawi, each Shabiha group followed an Iranian military advisor, Al Arabiya news channel reported him as saying  The defected general said Shamas did not have elements from the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA), but it had people who fled other besieged areas in the central flashpoint city. Criticism is increasing against the FSA for hiding in civilian areas. Jabawi also reported that 10 civilian men were executed and 350 others were detained. His account was similar to the opposition Syrian National Council and activist groups on Sunday, when they said that the Shabiha summarily executed 10 civilians during a round-up in Homs.  "Ten young men were executed in the Shamas neighborhood of Homs city after the army and pro-regime gunmen stormed the area and rounded up 350 young people," it said. "The army called from the mosques surrounding the district for all the young men to come out into the streets with their hands behind their heads," it said.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.13.12   Al-Qaeda claims Iraq attacks, Baghdad anti-terrorism HQ assault
BAGHDAD (Reuters) August 13 -  Iraq's al-Qaeda affiliate has claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks across the country in June and July it said were part of a new offensive against the Shi'ite-led government.  Once at the heart of the insurgency against US troops in Iraq, al Qaeda now targets mainly Shi'ites and local security forces in an attempt to stir up the kind of sectarian tensions that drove Iraq to the edge of civil war four years ago. Though weakened by years of fighting American and Iraqi forces, security experts say the al-Qaeda wing has gained new life from the Syrian turmoil next door, which is drawing funds and Sunni Islamist fighters to its cause. Al-Qaeda's local wing, the Islamic State of Iraq, said in a statement on a radical Islamist website the latest attacks were part of a new offensive declared by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has also threatened US targets. At the start of the month, two car bombs exploded near the Baghdad counter-terrorism unit holding al-Qaeda prisoners, killing at least 19 people, before gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed the building to try and free fellow insurgents. 

"A group of believers from the Sunni people launched an operation targeting a building of the Safavid project and a pillar of its security in this country, the headquarters of the anti-terrorism directorate," the statement said. Safavid is a reference to the ruling dynasty of Shi'ite Iran from the 16th to 18th centuries which at times also controlled parts of modern-day Iraq....Six Sunni Islamist insurgent groups are still active in Iraq since the last American troops withdrew in December, including former members of Saddam's Baathist party. Insurgent groups often work together in a network of loose alliances, making tracking violence complex, security officials say. July was the bloodiest month in the last two years with 325 people killed in bombings and attacks.  [Full story>>thestar.com.my]

08.13.12   President replaces army chief, curbs military powers
(AP) August 13 - 
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi replaced Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi (pictured) in a shock announcement Sunday before canceling the army’s constitutional amendments, which had given top generals powers formerly reserved for the head of state. Egypt’s Islamist president ordered the retirement of the defense minister and chief of staff on Sunday and canceled the military-declared constitutional amendments that granted the top generals wide powers previously reserved for the head of state. It was not immediately clear whether President Mohammed Morsi's decision had the military's blessing. But the appointment of outgoing Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Annan as presidential advisers suggests that the nation’s top two soldiers may have agreed in advance to the decisions. Morsi also ordered the retirement of the commanders of the navy, air defense and air force.

Morsi on Sunday also appointed a senior judge, Mahmoud Mekki, as vice president. Mekki is a pro-reform judge who publicly spoke against election fraud during Hosni Mubarak’s 29-year rule before he was ousted in last year’s uprising. Tantawi was the head of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which took over after Mubarak was forced from power in February 2011 and Annan was No. 2 on the ruling council. The two men appointed to replace them were also members of the SCAF -- something that could indicate either the military’s agreement to the shuffle or splits at the highest level of the armed forces. "The question is now will these decisions end that conflict and the duality of powers or will there be resistance?" said analyst Gamal Abdel-Gawad. "These are huge changes."   [More>>france24.com]

08.13.12   37 NATO soldiers killed in insider attacks in Afghanistan this year
KABUL, Afghanistan (Xinhua) August 13 -
Thirty seven soldiers with the NATO- led coalition have been killed in the so-called green-on-blue attacks since beginning this year across the post-Taliban Afghanistan, a coalition spokesman said Monday. "So when we talk about insider raid some call green-on-blue incidence, we talk about 27 incidents so far in this year and we had 37 people killed in those incidents," a spokesman with the coalition or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Brigadier General Gunter Katz told reporters in a regular press briefing here. However, he said the ISAF and Afghan army and police officials have been working to check such incidents. In the latest so-called green-on-blue attacks, a total of six NATO-led ISAF soldiers lost their lives in a single day Friday in the country's southern province of Helmand. 

The Taliban insurgents, who have been waging more than a decade- long insurgency and launched spring offensive from May 3 this year to target security forces, have regularly claimed responsibility for the insider attacks or green-on-blue offensives. The ISAF spokesman said that the Afghan army and police continue to stick in the "eight-point vetting system" which was set up in 2009 for vetting recruits to the rank of national police and the army as a bid to prevent any possible Taliban infiltration into the security entities. Meantime, in a similar incident, two members of Afghan National Police (ANP) shot dead seven colleagues in Dilaram district of southwestern Nimroz province on Saturday.  [>xinhuanet.com]


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