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11.23.11 Yemen's leader signs power-transfer deal
November 23 - Ali Abdullah Saleh signs Gulf initiative to begin power transfer in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has signed a deal to hand over his powers under an agreement brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council. Live footage of the ceremony aired by Saudi state television on Wednesday showed Saleh sign the Gulf- and UN-brokered agreement in Riyadh's Al-Yamama royal palace watched over by members of the Yemeni opposition as well as Saudi King Abdullah and Gulf foreign ministers. The deal will see Saleh leave office in 30 days, making way for Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, the Yemeni vice-president, to negotiate a power transfer with the opposition in return for a promise of immunity from prosecution. As part of the deal early presidential elections will take place in 90 days. Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978, spoke of the cost of the uprising to Yemen, but did not mention the demands of protesters who called for his ouster. Instead, he referred to the protests as a "coup" and called a bombing of his palace mosque that seriously wounded him "a scandal." After signing the deal, Saleh said his government welcomes the partnership with what he called the "brothers in the opposition" and pledged a "real partnership" with them. [More>>aljazeera.com]
11.23.11 Syrian army defectors pin hopes on prospect of Turkish safe zone
HATAY, Turkey (Reuters) November 23 - The prospect that Turkish troops might create a safe zone inside Syria has inspired Syrian army defectors, who say that with such protection they would swiftly be able to mount a rebellion and sweep President Bashar al-Assad from power. Although Ankara says it is reluctant to intervene across the border, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials have told journalists in recent days that Turkey could be willing to create a buffer zone inside Syria if Turkey were inundated by refugees or if there were massacres in Syrian cities. Such remarks have caused a stir among Syrian army defectors, who have set up a base for a Free Syrian Army among refugee camps and safe houses here in Turkey’s frontier Hatay province. "If there is such a zone, the regime will not last for a week," First Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Yousef, who fled Syria and joined the Free Army on the Turkish side of the frontier, told Reuters in a safe house provided by a Turkish Arab family on the outskirts of Hatay city. "Our comrades-in-arms are waiting for the zero hour." [More>>alarabiya.net]
11.22.11 Khmer Rouge leader: Victims were 'traitors'
November 22 - Cambodian court shown video clip in which accused former Khmer Rouge senior official defends regime's mass killings. A top Khmer Rouge leader on trial at Cambodia's war crimes court has been confronted with dramatic footage in which he defends the regime's bloody purges and calls the victims "traitors." Prosecutors told the court on Tuesday that the clip from the 2009 documentary "Enemies of the People" showed the 1970s movement had a policy of killing enemies and those it regarded as disloyal. Nuon Chea, known as "Brother Number Two" and seen as the regime's chief ideologue, showed no emotion as the short clip of him was shown on the second day of opening statements in the trial at the UN-backed court in Phnom Penh. "If these traitors were alive, the Khmers as a people would have been finished so I dare to suggest our decision was the right one," Nuon Chea tells a Cambodian journalist in the clip. "If we had shown mercy to the people, the nation would have been lost." Also on trial are Ieng Sary, the regime's former foreign minister, and Khieu Samphan, a former head of state. Like Nuon, Ieng, 86, and Khieu, 80, avow innocence. But Andrew Cayley, the prosecutor, said the trio could not solely blame Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge's late leader, for the atrocities perpetrated by the regime. Up to two million people are estimated to have been killed between 1975 and the Khmer Rouge's removal from power by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979. [More>>aljazeera.com]
11.22.11 'Coward' Assad must quit, says former ally
DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) November 22 - Syria’s Bashar al-Assad was branded a coward on Tuesday by his onetime friend and ally, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who urged him to quit or face a bloody death like other dictators. The opposition Syrian National Council said meanwhile that it is already pressing ahead with plans for a conference together with the Arab League to prepare for a "transitional period" after the fall of Assad’s regime. Assad is under mounting pressure from Syria’s neighbors to step down over his regime’s eight-month crackdown on protests that the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people. And in his fiercest criticism yet of his former personal friend, Erdogan called on Assad to "quit power before more blood is shed ... for the peace of your people, your region and your country." After weeks of mounting criticism of Assad, it was the first time the Turkish premier had directly called for his removal, becoming the second leader of a neighboring country to do so after Jordan’s King Abdullah II. "Bashar al-Assad is saying he will fight to the death. Fighting your own people ... is not heroism but cowardice," Erdogan told parliament, referring to a recent interview with Assad published by the Sunday Times in London. "If you want to see someone who fought and died, take at look at Nazi Germany, take a look at Hitler, take a look at Mussolini and Romania’s Ceausescu," he said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.22.11 Egypt military pledges to speed up power transfer
November 21 - Egypt's military rulers have agreed to speed up presidential elections, a key demand of protesters packing Cairo's Tahrir Square. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, said on national TV they would happen by July 2012. He said he had accepted the resignation of the cabinet and that parliamentary elections next week would go ahead. It follows days of protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square over the pace of reform. Tens of thousands of people continued to pack Tahrir Square on Tuesday evening. Witnesses said many appeared to reject the military's latest concessions, chanting: "We are not leaving, he (Tantawi) leaves." Next week's parliamentary elections are due to set in train a process of transition to democracy following the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in February. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
11.21.11 Dow drops over 300 points amid concerns about debt loads
November 21 - US stock prices tumbled Monday, as growing concerns about heavy debt loads both domestically and abroad added more uncertainty to a troubled market. The Dow Jones industrial average was lately down over 300 points. It was the index’s third day of losses in the past four. A US congressional committee is expected to concede defeat in its bid to lower the deficit, renewing the debate over taxes and spending at a time when the impending expiration of payroll tax breaks and jobless benefits could undermine the economy. The committee's co-chairs will issue a statement later Monday, according to sources, declaring the bipartisan committee was unable to reach a deficit-reduction deal because of deep divides over taxes and spending.
In addition, Moody's said a recent rise in interest rates on French government debt and weaker economic growth prospects could be negative for the country's credit rating. The developments create further headwinds for an already volatile market, and could extend the previous week's losses, which was the worst for the S&P in two months. Stock prices fell in Europe too. In addition to the new concerns about France, Spanish prime minister-elect Mariano Rajoy was under pressure to details his policies to overcome a severe economic crisis after his center-right party won the country's biggest election victory in 30 years. Adding to market jitters, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan warned the global economy was in a grim state. "It isn't just the failure of the committee that's causing investors to shun risk around the world, although I thought we would get some kind of last-minute deal," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"Between the continued concerns about Europe, especially France now, and the comments out of China, there are just so many ongoing problems." Trading volume is expected to be light this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. The light action could add to market volatility. The S&P failed to rise above 1,225 on Friday after a drop below it on Thursday triggered massive selling, and that level is now strengthening as technical resistance. Last week, the Dow fell 2.9 percent, the S&P dropped 3.8 percent, and the Nasdaq lost 4 percent. In economic news, October existing home sales rose 1.4 percent, rising modestly to 4.97 million units from 4.90 million in the previous month, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors. [>msnbc.msn.com; See related story,
xinhuanet.com, November 21, "China's economy may cool but hard landing ruled out" : BEIJING - China's economic expansion may further slow down amid heightening strain in debt-ridden Europe and lingering concerns over the US economy, but the country is not going to have a hard landing -- at least not soon. Hurt by a slowdown in external demand and a liquidity crunch under monetary tightening, the country's economy has slowed to its weakest pace in two years and is likely to continue on the cooling trend. A report released by Beijing-based Renmin University of China (RUC) forecast that China's economic growth will ease to 9.4 percent this year before further slipping to 9.2 percent in 2012. However, even with that figure, the country still outperforms other major economies and stays in shape...
11.21.11 'Lone wolf' terror suspect arraigned in New York
November 21 - A New York man authorities say once pondered changing his name to Osama Hussein to honor his personal heroes — Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein — remained jailed Monday on bomb-related charges in what police described as a plot to attack police, military personnel and postal facilities. Police arrested Jose Pimentel, 27, on Sunday at the apartment of a confidential informant in the case when a video camera showed him drilling holes in the pipes that would become the casings for bombs, according to the criminal complaint in the case. Pimentel allegedly told police he was an hour away from completing his first bomb when he was arrested, according to the complaint. "Pimentel's behavior morphed from simply talking about such acts to actions — namely, bomb making," New York police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. While serious, the charges against Pimentel are a far cry from the mass-casualty attacks that have been al-Qaeda's hallmark, and his case may reflect the weakened nature of the terrorist organization in the wake of the death of many top leaders, CNN security analyst Peter Bergen said. "If this is the big threat that we face, lone wolves using Internet recipes, we're in a pretty good place," Bergen said. [More>>cnn.com]
11.21.11 Clashes rock Tahrir Square
CAIRO, Egypt (AFP) November 21- Fresh clashes erupted on Monday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square between police and protesters demanding the end of military rule, as the death toll climbed to 35 and the spiraling unrest threatened to overshadow the first polls since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. Police and military forces sporadically used batons, tear gas and birdshot to try to clear the central square of thousands of protesters demanding for a third straight day that the ruling military cede power to a civilian authority. But by mid-morning Monday large crowds were again streaming to Tahrir, the symbolic heart of demonstrations that toppled Mubarak in February, correspondents said. The health ministry said 35 people had died in the violence, kicking off a violent countdown to the country’s November 28 parliamentary elections, the first since the end of former president Mubarak’s 30-year-rule.
"The deaths in (Cairo’s) Tahrir Square and several provinces has reached 22," since clashes broke out on Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency. Hundreds have also been injured during the protests that broke out in Cairo, Alexandria and the canal city of Suez. "War in the Square," read the headline of the state-owned Al-Akhbar, while the liberal Wafd daily said "Egypt is sitting on a volcano." The clashes first erupted on Saturday, a day after large crowds staged a peaceful anti-military mass rally at the square, resuming on Sunday and carrying through the night into Monday morning, witnesses and television footage showed. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.21.11 Turkish bus ambushed by Syrian gunmen
November 21 - Pilgrims returning from hajj attacked by men in Syrian army uniforms, wounding two and raising tensions with Turkey. A bus carrying Turkish pilgrims came under fire in neighboring Syria as they were traveling back from the hajj, leaving two injured and prompting harsh words from Turkey's prime minister. The incident has increased the already mounting Turkish and international pressure on the government of Bashar al-Assad for its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, as fresh violence on Monday left 16 dead, according to activists. Turkish NTV news channel reported on Monday that a bus driver and pilgrim were wounded in the attack at a checkpoint just across the Syrian border. The bus was part of a three-bus convoy returning from Saudi Arabia. A video posted online showed the apparent aftermath of the attack, including several shattered windows and one person being carried on a stretcher by ambulance staff. [More>>aljazeera.net]
11.21.11 Noose tightens on Somali rebels as defense minister welcomes foreign troops
November 21 - Somalia’s Islamist al-Shebab rebels faced growing encirclement by regional armies Monday, as the war-torn nation’s defense minister welcomed deployment of foreign forces against the fighters. "We welcome Ethiopian troops — if they have entered Somalia — and any other country that contributes forces to fight against the Shabab militants, as long as they do not violate our sovereignty," Hussein Arab Isse said. Local elders at the weekend reported several convoys of Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia’s central Galgudud and Hiran regions, while witnesses said lines of trucks also crossed via Kenya into the far south. Hardline al-Shabab insurgents control much of southern Somalia, but are also battling both the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and Kenyan troops in the far south, who crossed the border last month to attack rebel strongholds. [More>>alarabiya.net]
11.21.11 Hackers 'hit' US water treatment systems
November 21 - Hackers are alleged to have destroyed a pump used to pipe water to thousands of homes in a US city in Illinois. Hackers with access to the utility's network are thought to have broken the pump by turning it on and off quickly. The FBI and Department for Homeland Security (DHS) are investigating the incident as details emerge of what could be a separate second attack. Experts said the news revealed a growing interest in critical infrastructure by cyber criminals. Information about the 8 November incident came to light via the blog of Joe Weiss who advises utilities on how to protect hardware against attack. Mr. Weiss quoted from a short report by the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center which said hackers obtained access using stolen login names and passwords. These were taken from a company which writes control software for industrial systems.
The net address through which the attack was carried out was traced to Russia, according to Mr. Weiss. The report said "glitches" in the remote access system for the pump had been noticed for months before the burn out, said Mr. Weiss. Peter Boogaard, A spokesman for the DHS, said it was gathering facts about the incident. "At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety," he said. The comments by the DHS prompted a hacker using the handle "pr0f" to claim he had access to the control systems for a second US water utility. He posted a document to the Pastebin website which purportedly contained links to screenshots of the internal control systems for a waste water treatment plant in South Houston. The hacker's claims about their ability to penetrate the control systems have yet to be confirmed or denied by South Houston's Water and Sewer Department. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
11.21.11 UK severs ties with Iranian banks as part of international sanctions package
November 21 - George Osborne announces move as US and Canada prepare further measures to confront Iran's nuclear program. Britain has severed all ties with Iranian banks as part of a package of sanctions from the US, UK and Canada aimed at confronting Tehran's nuclear program. The chancellor, George Osborne, announced the measures on Monday. The unprecedented move meant all UK credit and financial institutions had to cease trading with Iran's banks from the afternoon. "We believe that the Iranian regime's actions pose a significant threat to the UK's national security and the international community," Osborne said. "Today's announcement is a further step to preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons." Downing Street said the move was expected to be discussed by EU foreign ministers in 10 days, and it hoped that other countries may follow the lead and intensify sanctions. The moves follow a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that suggested Iran was working on a weapons program under the cover of a civilian energy project. [More>>guardian.co.uk]
11.18.11 Occupy protests across the country take toll on city budgets
November 18 - It's unclear what the Occupy protests have accomplished, but police have received a bonanza of overtime, making up a large part of at least $10.3 million in costs incurred by nine cities since the protesters began gathering near Wall Street two months ago. Occupy Wall Street catalyzed dozens, if not hundreds, of protests across the world. New York City alone has spent about $6 million on costs related to Occupy Wall Street, not including the eviction on Tuesday, according to Howard Wolfson, the mayor's deputy for government relations. Philadelphia racked up $492,000 in unanticipated police overtime through last week, according to Rebecca Rhynhart, budget director. Rhynhart said the city is estimating that costs could reach $2.5 million if the protest lasts through the fiscal year, or June 30.
"It's an unanticipated expense but we're managing it," Rhynhart said. The city has a budget of $3.5 billion. "In order to pay for it, there's less money for other things." Oakland spent over $1 million to pay police overtime, according to the Washington Post. Portland estimated $750,000 so far for police overtime and damage related to its parks has cost $50,000 to $100,000, according to Amy Ruiz, communications director for Mayor Sam Adams....In Seattle, protests will cost $625,999...The Boston police department estimated overtime costs in regards to the Occupy Boston movement to be about $575,000 so far...In Atlanta, protests cost $451,691 from Oct. 7 to 25...Occupy Denver led to overtime for various city departments during five days of protest in October at about $365,000...[Full story>>abcnews.go.com; See related stories,
news.sky.com, November 18, "Anti-capitalism activists occupy bank block" : Anti-capitalism demonstrators have occupied an empty east London office block owned by investment bank UBS. The Occupy London campaigners — who have been camped outside St Paul's Cathedral for weeks — moved into the building in Hackney saying it was carrying out a "public repossession." One, Jack Holburn, said: "Whilst over 9,000 families were kicked out of their homes in the last three months for failing to keep up mortgage payments — mostly due to the recession caused by the banks — UBS and others financial giants are sitting on massive abandoned properties. "As banks repossess families' homes, empty bank property needs to be repossessed by the public...
telegraph.co.uk, November 18, St. Paul's still suffering huge losses because of protest camp" : St. Paul's Cathedral is losing thousands of pounds a week because tourists and concert goers are being scared off by the protest on its doorstep. Visitor numbers are down by half and a leading stage school has canceled its carol concert over the safety fears. Italia Conti, whose former pupils include Patsy Kensit, Bonnie Langford and Pixie Lott, had spent years planning the carol concert to mark the centenary of its foundation. But it decided that the health and safety concerns surrounding the camp were too great to risk for its congregation which would have included young children and the disabled. St. Paul's will now lose the booking fee of more than £10,000 which is on top of the £100,000 a week it is losing from reduced attendance fees. Italia Conti is the first of the 35 carol concerts this Advent to be canceled...
11.18.11 Neutrino experiment repeat at Cern finds same result
November 18 - The team which found that neutrinos may travel faster than light has carried out an improved version of their experiment — and confirmed the result. If confirmed by other experiments, the find could undermine one of the basic principles of modern physics. Critics of the first report in September had said that the long bunches of neutrinos (tiny particles) used could introduce an error into the test. The new work used much shorter bunches. It has been posted to the Arxiv repository and submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics, but has not yet been reviewed by the scientific community. The experiments have been carried out by the Opera collaboration — short for Oscillation Project with Emulsion (T)racking Apparatus. It hinges on sending bunches of neutrinos created at the Cern facility (actually produced as decays within a long bunch of protons produced at Cern) through 730km (454 miles) of rock to a giant detector at the INFN-Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
11.18.11 11 Syria protesters killed amid civil war warning
DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) November 18 - Security forces killed at least 11 people on Friday on the eve of an Arab League deadline for Syria to stop its lethal crackdown on protesters and as Turkey warned of the risk of civil war. The latest bloodletting came as thousands of protesters took to the streets in defiance of massive security deployments to urge nations to expel Syrian ambassadors, activists said. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for restraint over the Syria crisis, after talks with his French counterpart who accused President Bashar al-Assad of being deaf to pressure. "We are calling for restraint and caution. This is our position," Putin told a Moscow news conference the day after his foreign minister had likened the situation in Syria to a civil war. Turkey said the risk of civil war was real — a warning also echoed by analysts monitoring developments in Syria amid growing reports that mutinous soldiers are attacking regime targets. The Arab League said, meanwhile, it was examining a Syrian request to make changes to a proposal to send 500 observers to Damascus to help implement a peace plan. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.18.11 Clinton to visit Myanmar as activist enters politics again
BALI, Indonesia, November 18 - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most prominent democracy campaigner, announced on Friday that she would rejoin the political system of the military-backed government that persecuted her for more than two decades. Her announcement came shortly after President Obama disclosed that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit there next month, the first by a secretary of state in more than 50 years. The twin events underscored the remarkable and sudden pace of change in Myanmar, which has stunned observers inside and outside the country. The changes followed a transfer of power this year from a military junta to a nominally civilian government. [More>>nytimes.com]
11.18.11 UK terror suspects killed in attack
November 18 - Two British nationals are believed to have been killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan, family and friends of the men said today. Terror suspects Ibrahim Adam and Mohammed Azmir are thought to have died in a CIA missile strike on Waziristan, a remote and lawless mountainous region along the border with Afghanistan. Adam's father confirmed that his son was killed by an American unmanned aircraft. A close friend of Azmir's family, who did not want to be named, said: "They have taken it very badly — this is the second son who has been killed in a drone strike." [More>>independent.co.uk]
11.18.11 Identity of Gulistan-e-Johar suicide bomber ascertained
KARACHI, Pakistan, November 18 - The suicide bomber who blew himself up in Gulistan-e-Johar on Friday morning has been identified as a key commander of al-Qaeda in Karachi, Geo News reported. The accused Moid was an al-Qaeda commander in Karachi, security sources, said. His complete name is Moid Abdusalam Yamani. He arrived in Karachi one-and-a-half month ago from Waziristan. Earlier, an alleged suicide bomber blew himself up during the Rangers search operation in Gulistan-e-Jauhar block 13 on Friday morning. Sources had said that the bomber was a foreigner and had hired a flat on rent. [>thenews.com.pk]
11.18.11 Iraq bombs kill eight in worst violence in weeks
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) November 18 - Bombings against a policeman's home and three mosques killed eight people and wounded 13 on Friday, security officials said, in the worst violence to hit Iraq in weeks. A bomb targeting the home of a policeman in the Saqlawiya district outside the one-time insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, about 60 kilometers (37.5 miles) west of Baghdad, killed four people early today, police Captain Omar Abbud said. The policeman, a member of the local anti-terrorism force, was not present at the time of the attack, but the bomb killed his 55-year-old mother and three other members of his family, Abbud said. And three bombs exploded near mosques in Abu Ghraib, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Baghdad, around midday, killing a total of four people and wounding 13 others, an interior ministry official said.
Two police and one soldier were among the dead, while three police and two soldiers were wounded in the blasts, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It is the worst violence to hit Iraq since November 3, when bomb and gun attacks against police and anti-Qaeda militiamen killed 11 people and wounded 38 across the country. Violence has declined nationwide since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 258 people were killed in October, according to official figures. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
11.16.11 Mexican 'Drug Dealer' held after 21 killings
November 16 - A top figure in Mexico's Knights Templar drug cartel who was responsible for 21 killings has been arrested by soldiers, officials have said. Juan Gabriel Orozco Favela was allegedly the head of operations for the outlawed group in Morelia, capital of the western state of Michoacan. He was in charge of smuggling drugs and ran a campaign of murder and intimidation for the quasi-religious gang, which is known as a major trafficker of methamphetamine, the country's defense department said. Officials said Orosco Favela was responsible for the deaths of 21 people who were tortured and hanged or drowned before being dumped around the outskirts of Morelia in June. He was captured during local elections without a shot being fired, said a joint statement from the attorney general and the secretary of defense. [More>>news.sky.com]
11.16.11 Crowds vandalize Arab embassies in Syria
November 16 - Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, angry over Arab League condemnation, throw stones at Morocco and UAE missions. Crowds supporting President Bashar al-Assad have vandalized at least two Arab embassies in the Syrian capital Damascus as Arab League foreign ministers gathered in Rabat to discuss formalizing their suspension of Syria from the league. Large crowds threw stones and debris and sprayed graffiti on the walls of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy on Wednesday, witnesses told the Reuters news agency, while others attacked the Moroccan embassy, that country's foreign minister told journalists. The attacks came as Arab foreign ministers gathered in the Moroccan capital to follow up on a pledge to suspend Syria from the league if it did not move to comply within three days with a previously agreed plan to halt violence and allow international monitors.
"You bastards, you agents of Israel," read some of the graffiti on the UAE embassy, witnesses said. The embassy is located in the affluent Abu Dummana neighborhood, where Assad has his home and personal offices. A statement issued earlier this month, and supported by 18 of the league's 22 members, including the UAE and Morocco, recommended withdrawing ambassadors from Damascus. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told his country's parliament on Wednesday that the ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, would be provisionally withdrawn. "New violence has taken place, and that has led to the closure of our missions in Aleppo and Latakia," Juppe said. A gang of people armed with knives and clubs broke in to the French consular offices in Latakia earlier this month, Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said, adding that the French embassy in Damascus would remain open. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related stories,
Khaleejtimes.com, November 16, "Syrians pelt Morocco embassy 'with eggs, stones'" : DAMASCUS - Protesters pelted the Moroccan embassy in Damascus with eggs and stones on Wednesday, Morocco’s ambassador said as his country hosted an Arab League meeting aimed at ending bloody unrest in Syria. The ambassador, Mohammed Khassasi, told AFP that more than 100 demonstrators had attacked the building and stripped it of its flag. Khassasi said “between 100 and 150 people protested in front of the embassy and attacked the chancellery with stones and eggs and acted irresponsibly by also attacking the Moroccan flag.” Morocco immediately condemned the attack...
thestar.com.my (Reuters) November 16, "France recalls Syria envoy, security HQ attacked": AMMAN, Jordan - France recalled its ambassador to Damascus and Syria's suspension from the Arab League took effect on Wednesday, intensifying diplomatic pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to halt a violent eight-month-old crackdown on protests. Syrian army defectors attacked an intelligence complex on the edge of Damascus in a high-profile assault that showed how close the popular uprising is to sliding into armed conflict. Hours after the Arab League suspension took effect, Assad supporters threw stones and debris at the embassy of the United Arab Emirates and smeared its walls with graffiti, witnesses said. The embassy is in one of the most secure districts of the capital, near Assad's home and offices. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France was working with the Arab League on a draft resolution at the United Nations.
indianexpress.com, November 16, " Free Syrian Army forms military council to oust Bashar al-Assad"
NICOSIA, Cypress - The rebel Free Syrian Army announced today the creation of a temporary military council with the aim of ousting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and protecting civilians from his forces. "Based on the requirements of this phase and the demands of the Syrian revolution, the Free Syrian Army is establishing a temporary military council," a statement said. The council aims to "bring down the current regime, protect Syrian civilians from its oppression, protect private and public property, and prevent chaos and acts of revenge when it falls." Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, who defected from the regular army to form the Syrian Free Army in July, will chair the council. The council's leadership also includes four colonels and three majors. The announcement came after Free Syrian Army fighters attacked a military intelligence base outside Damascus early today in one of the most daring raids in eight months of anti-government unrest. [end]
11.16.11 US drone strikes kill 16 in South Waziristan
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) November 16 - A major salvo of US missiles on Wednesday destroyed a Taliban base on the Afghan border, killing up to 16 suspected militants including possible al-Qaeda fighters, local officials said. Five US drones fired up to 10 missiles into a sprawling compound in the Baber Ghar area of South Waziristan, killing 16 fighters in the deadliest such American strike in three months, the Pakistani officials said. An official in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, confirmed that a base of Pakistan's umbrella Taliban faction, Tehreek-e-Taliban, was destroyed and said there were reports that "some foreigners" were also killed. Officials said the attacks came minutes apart at around 2:30am (2130 GMT Tuesday) about three kilometers (two miles) from the border of Afghanistan's Paktia province. Wednesday's strike was the 63rd so far this year, according to an AFP tally. [>thenews.com.pk]
11.16.11 Yemeni forces kill 7 al-Qaeda fighters in south
SANAA, Yemen (AP) November 16 - Yemeni troops killed seven al-Qaeda-linked militants — including an Iranian, a Pakistani and two Somali nationals — in the latest fighting in a southern province, a security official said Wednesday. The official said the military has been shelling two key government buildings in Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, after they were overrun by dozens of militants. Security has collapsed across Yemen during a nine-month popular uprising seeking to topple the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who’s been in power for 30 years. The embattled president’s critics accuse Saleh of allowing the militants to take advantage of the security vacuum to support his argument that without him, al-Qaeda would take control of the country. The security official said the latest round of violence in Zinjibar began late Tuesday and has continued through Wednesday, adding that the seven militants died during the fighting. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Wednesday’s battle for control of Zinjibar is the latest attempt by Yemen’s military to reassert control in the country’s restive south. Militants have taken advantage of the turmoil surrounding the popular uprising against Saleh to expand their reach beyond Yemen’s remote hinterlands. Since March, al-Qaeda-linked militants have overrun entire towns in Abyan province, forcing more than 100,000 residents to flee to neighboring provinces where people have sought refuge in schools and makeshift refugee camps. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.15.11 Court order allows for 'Occupy Wall Street' to return to Zuccotti Park
November 15 - Occupy Wall Street protesters swarmed around lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park at mid-day holding printed copies of a court order that allows them to return with their tents. The demonstrators were demanding reentry into the park just hours after being forcibly removed by police in riot gear. Police have not reopened the park and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the park will remain closed until the city can clarify the court order. A hearing was ongoing with a city judge late this morning. Lawyers for the protesters had obtained a temporary restraining order allowing the group back into the park. There is a sense among the demonstrators that today is a major test for the movement and if they lose their geographical center it might be hard to continue. More than 200 people were arrested during the early morning raid, according to New York's Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, and Occupy Wall Street has called on those being released to congregate in Duarte Square about a mile north of Zuccotti Park. There are reports that hundreds have gathered there to regroup and mobilize. "Arrestees for this morning are being released, all headed straight to Duarte Square," Occupy Wall Street posted on Twitter. [More>>abcnews.go.com]
11.15.11 Mongolia bids to keep city cool with 'ice shield' experiment
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia, November 15 - Mongolia is to launch one of the world's biggest ice-making experiments later this month in an attempt to combat the adverse affects of global warming and the urban heat island effect. The geoengineering trial, that is being funded by the Ulan Bator government, aims to "store" freezing winter temperatures in a giant block of ice that will help to cool and water the city as it slowly melts during the summer. The scientists behind the 1bn tugrik (£460,000) project hope the process will reduce energy demand from air conditioners and regulate drinking water and irrigation supplies. If successful, the model could be applied to other cities in the far north. The project aims to artificially create "naleds" — ultra-thick slabs of ice that occur naturally in far northern climes when rivers or springs push through cracks in the surface to seep outwards during the day and then add an extra layer of ice during the night.
Unlike regular ice formation on lakes — which only gets to a metre in thickness before it insulates the water below — naleds continue expanding for as long as there is enough water pressure to penetrate the surface. Many are more than seven metres thick, which means they melt much later than regular ice. A Mongolian engineering firm ECOS & EMI will try to recreate this process by drilling bore holes into the ice that has started to form on the Tuul river. The water will be discharged across the surface, where it will freeze. This process — effectively adding layers of ice rinks — will be repeated at regular intervals throughout the winter. The qualities of naleds (also known as Aufeis, German for "ice on top") have been known for hundreds of years. The North Korean military used them to build river crossings for tanks during the winter and Russia has used them as drilling platforms. But engineers usually see them in negative terms as a threat to railways and bridges. [More>>guardian.co.uk]
11.15.11 Turkey halting joint oil exploration with Syria, threatens to cut energy supplies
November 15 - Turkey said on Tuesday it was halting joint oil exploration with Syria and would consider cutting energy supplies to its one-time ally following attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions in three Syrian cities. "Right now we are supplying electricity there (Syria). If this course continues, we may have to review all of these decisions," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Syria’s leadership was offered a last chance to stop its violent repression of anti-government protests but rejected it. "We have given a last opportunity to the Syrian regime but they didn't want to seize it," Davutoglu said in the Moroccan capital. Turkey wants "sanctions with an impact that spares harm to the Syrian people," he said through an interpreter. ..Turkey, once a close ally of Damascus, has been exporting electricity to Syria since 2006. Yildiz also said that Turkey’s Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) has stopped exploration with the Syrian national oil company in six wells, according to the Anatolia news agency. [Full story>>alarabiya.net; See also,
thestar.com.my (Reuters) November 15, "Turkey says Syria on 'knife edge,' may cut power" : ANKARA - Turkey kept up pressure on its one-time ally Syria on Tuesday, warning President Bashar al-Assad his government was on a "knife-edge" and saying it may review its supplies of electricity to Damascus if it does not change course. In a possible signal Turkey was readying economic sanctions against Damascus, the country's Economy Ministry also said it had established a Syria desk to monitor developments and to assist Turkish businesses doing trade in Syria. "Nobody now expects the (Syrian) people's demands to be met. We all want the Syrian administration, which is now on a knife-edge, to turn back from the edge of the cliff," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a party meeting. He also demanded an immediate apology following attacks on Turkey's diplomatic missions in Syria.
Non-Arab Turkey, after long courting Assad, has lost patience with its neighbor's failure to end an eight-month crackdown on protests against the president and implement promised democratic reforms. "Right now we are supplying electricity there (Syria). If this course continues, we may have to review all of these decisions," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters. Syria produces more electricity than it consumes and it has links with other countries such as Jordan and Lebanon so the impact of Turkey pulling the plug would probably be limited. However, ending a supply route that began in 2006 would send a strong symbolic message about its disapproval and willingness to impose further sanctions. Turkey is Syria's largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $2.5 billion (1.5 billion pounds) in 2010, and investments by Turkish firms in Syria reaching $260 million, Turkish data shows...
11.15.11 Syria's 'bloodiest day' leaves scores dead
November 15 - At least 70 people reportedly killed over past 24 hours, as Syria's main opposition bloc meets for talks with Russia. At least 70 people have been killed in violence across Syria over the past 24 hours in one of the bloodiest days since an anti-government uprising began eight months ago, activists reported. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that 27 civilians were shot dead by security forces and 34 soldiers as well as 12 suspected army deserters were killed in clashes. Most of the victims were killed in the southern flashpoint province of Deraa, the observatory said in a statement. "Twenty-three people were shot dead by security forces posted along the road between the towns of Kherbet Ghazale and Hirak," the statement said. At least four other civilians were killed by security force fire in the city of Homs, a protest hub in central Syria, the rights group reported. The new death figures come as a delegation from the main Syrian opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council (SNC), visited Moscow for talks with Russian diplomats. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also,
foxnews.com, November 15, "Syrian soldiers killed in clash with defectors" : BEIRUT - Dozens of soldiers and security forces were gunned down by suspected army defectors in southern Syria, a deadly ambush that comes as President Bashar Assad increasingly appears unable to manage the crisis, activists said Tuesday. Monday's hours-long clash in the southern province of Daraa came on a particularly bloody day in Syria, with as many as 90 people killed across the country. The brazen attack by the army defectors suggested a new confidence among troops who have sided with the protesters and highlighted the potential for an armed confrontation to escalate...
11.15.11 Record rhino horn and ivory seizure in Hong Kong
November 15 - Customs officers in Hong Kong have seized 33 horns from highly endangered rhinoceri and hundreds of ivory products worth $2m (£1.26m). The haul weighed 86kg (190lb), making it the largest such seizure ever made in Hong Kong. No-one has yet been arrested in connection with the find. Rhinoceros horns are used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia and fashioned into ornaments in some Middle Eastern countries. Along with the horns, 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets were found, according to Lam Tak-fai of the Hong Kong customs and excise department. Mr. Lam told local media the horns had been hidden under layers of plastic and aluminum foil — either to avoid detection on X-ray scanners or to make it look like a shipment of recycled material. The rhinos whose horns had been removed belonged to five species, all of which were "highly endangered," Alfred Wong, an endangered species protection official from Hong Kong's agriculture, fisheries and conservation department, told reporters. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
11.15.11 Parts of Japan too radioactive to farm, say int'l researchers
TOKYO, November 15 - Farmland in parts of Japan is no longer safe because of high levels of radiation in the soil, scientists have warned, as the country struggles to recover from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A team of international researchers said food production would likely be "severely impaired" by the elevated levels of cesium found in soil samples across eastern Fukushima in the wake of meltdowns at the tsunami-hit plant. The study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences journal, suggests farming in neighboring areas may also suffer because of radiation, although levels discovered there were within legal limits. "Fukushima prefecture as a whole is highly contaminated," especially to the northwest of the nuclear power plant, the researchers said. The study looked at cesium-137, which has a half life of 30 years and therefore affects the environment for decades. [More>>japantoday.com]
11.15.11 British police arrest four Pakistan-trained terror suspects
LONDON, November 15 - In a major counter-terrorism swoop, British police today arrested four young men, suspected of fund-raising and traveling to Pakistan to undergo terrorist training for conducting a suicide bombing campaign in the UK. The arrests followed pre-planned raids on their addresses early today in the Sparkhill area of central English city of Birmingham. The suspects — three aged 19 and one aged 24 — are suspected of fund-raising in the UK and traveling to train for terrorist purposes in Pakistan. "Today's arrests were pre-planned and not made in response to any immediate threat to public safety. Officers were unarmed," said a statement from West Midlands Police. The nationalities of the arrested persons were not divulged. Eight others have already been charged in connection with the investigation, known as Operation Pitsford, the BBC reported. [More>>indianexpress.com]
11.15.11 Suspected US missiles kill 7 militants in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) November 15 - A suspected US drone fired missiles at a house in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border early Tuesday morning, killing seven alleged militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The strike occurred in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, a key hub for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Elsewhere in the northwest, Pakistani forces pounded militant hideouts, killing 16 suspected insurgents, said government officials. Most of the suspected militants killed in Tuesday's drone attack were from the Pakistani Taliban, said the intelligence officials. Insurgents linked to Afghan militant groups who were harboring them were also killed, they said. The US has conducted around 200 drone strikes in North Waziristan in recent years, mostly targeting al-Qaeda militants and Afghan Taliban fighters who are battling American troops in Afghanistan. Some of the strikes have also hit the Pakistani Taliban, who are allied with Afghan groups but have focused their fighting against the Pakistani state. [More>>nytimes.com]
11.11.11 Police find drug kingpin hiding in car boot
November 11 - The alleged head of Rio's most notorious drugs gang has been arrested after being found hiding in the boot of a car. Antonio Bonfim Lopes — known as "Nem" — tried to flee the Rocinha slum in the boot of a car, which was stopped at a police checkpoint, according to police. Officers say the occupants of the car tried to bribe them twice, but eventually opened the trunk. Lopes did not resist arrest and calmly stared at TV cameras when taken into a police station. The capture is expected to be a blow to the Friends Of Friends gang, which controls one of Latin America's biggest slums and the main drug distribution point in Rio. Police say Lopes was wanted on charges of drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping and money laundering.
Authorities are determined to put an end to the drug violence which has plagued Brazil's second largest city before tens of thousands of tourists arrive for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, for which Rio is the host city. An estimated 100,000 people live in Rocinha, which sprawls across a mountainside attached to a road connecting what will be the main Olympic venues to wealthier parts of Rio, including the neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema. Police are pressing ahead with plans to take back the shanty town, relying on help from residents in gathering crucial intelligence. [More>>news.sky.com]
11.11.11 Dutch scientists drive single-molecule car
November 11 - Its wheels are comprised of a few atoms each; its motor, a mere jolt of electricity. Scientists in the Netherlands have introduced the world's smallest car — and it's only a single molecule long. It's certainly no Porsche, but scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands are still excited about their latest achievement: creating a "car" that's only a billionth of a meter long.The nanometer-sized vehicle, introduced in the British journal Nature on Wednesday, is comprised of a minuscule frame with four rotary units, each no wider than a few atoms. In fact, the whole construction is 60,000 times thinner than a human hair, according to the AFP news agency. The research team was able to propel the nanocar six billionths of a meter by firing electrons at it with a tunneling electron microscope.
The "electronic and vibrational excitation" of the jolts changes the way the atoms of the "wheels" interact with those on a copper surface, the reports says, propelling the car forward in a single direction. The only problem, it would seem, is getting all the wheels to turn in the same direction every time. It might be tough to imagine the use of such a diminutive roadster. But nanotechnology is widely considered one of the most exciting fields of the 21st century, and the researchers view their design as "a starting point for the exploration of more sophisticated molecular mechanical systems with directionally controlled motion." Utilizing materials at an atomic or molecular level — "nano" comes from the Greek word for "dwarf" — finds applications in everything from medicine and engineering to consumer products, such as sunscreen, ketchups and even powdered sugar. [>spiegel.de]
11.11.11 Afghanistan mother and daughter stoned and shot dead
November 11 - A group of armed men have stoned and shot dead a woman and her daughter in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, security officials have told the BBC. The officials blamed the Taliban, who they said had accused the women of "moral deviation and adultery." The police said two men had been arrested in connection with the murder. The attack was only 300m from the governor's office in Ghazni city, which is on a list of places to be transferred to Afghan security control. The incident happened on Thursday in the Khawaja Hakim area of Ghazni city, where the family lived...Security officials said armed men entered the house where the young widow lived with her daughter and took them out to the yard, where they were initially stoned and then shot dead. "Neighbors did not help or inform the authorities on time," an official said. [Full story>>bbc.co.uk]
11.11.11 HRW urges Syrian suspension from Arab League
November 11 - US rights group blames government for "crimes against humanity" as activists say 10 people were killed in violence. A human-rights group has released a report accusing the Syrian government of committing "crimes against humanity" amid reports of dozens of new deaths at the hands of the country's security forces over the past two days. The watchdog group Human Rights Watch on Friday urged the Arab League to suspend Syria's membership, and called on the body to ask the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions against responsible individuals. It also called for the League to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, saying former detainees reported torture including security forces' use of heated metal rods, electric shocks and stress positions. The Arab League has scheduled an emergency meeting for Saturday at its headquarters in Cairo to discuss the failure to stop the bloodshed. [More>>aljazeera.net]
11.11.11 Dissident cleric lambasts current Iranian regime
BERLIN, November 11 - A dissident Iranian cleric said Friday he is confident of a resurgence of the protest movement in his country, calling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency the most “destructive” in Iran’s history. Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, an outspoken middle-ranking cleric who was jailed for four years in Iran, told a conference of Iran scholars and experts in Berlin that Ahmadinejad’s administration has "crossed almost all political and religious lines." Eshkevari said through a translator there has never been a "similar gang that has been so destructive" and that this Iranian regime is deeply at odds with Shia tradition, ultimately threatening to "destroy Islam, the government and the country." The cleric, who fled to seek political asylum in Germany two years ago, said he is confident that the protest movement that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election will eventually come back to the forefront again. "I have no doubt that this movement will come back," he said. "In the future there will be a democratic development," he said, adding that he believes the majority of the country’s young population not only longs for change, but also has grown estranged from religion. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.11.11 At least 15 Yemenis killed as Saleh's loyalist forces shell southern city of Taez
DUBAI/SANA'A, November 11 - Yemeni forces killed 15 people and wounded dozens when they shelled the southern city of Taez with mortars and artillery, hitting a hospital and a square where anti-government demonstrators were taking part in the Muslim Friday prayers, Al Arabiya reported citing activists. Security forces loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh started shortly after midnight to shell areas around Freedom Square, where demonstrators hold rallies against the regime, witnesses told AFP. "A total of 15 civilians were killed, including three children and three women," a medic source, adding that 12 women were among 40 wounded. Residents said the shelling in Yemen’s second-largest city later intensified, focusing on the al-Rawdah and Zeid al-Mushky districts, which have been at the forefront of anti-regime protests. Witnesses said Republican Guard troops, commanded by Saleh's son Ahmed, also fired artillery rounds into central Taez where thousands of protesters were gathered to call for the veteran president's prosecution. [More>>alarabiya.net]
11.10.11 US foreclosure activity hit 7-month high in October
LOS ANGELES (AP) November 10 - More US homes entered the foreclosure process in October than in the previous month, with Florida, Pennsylvania and Indiana registering among the largest monthly increases, new data show. Some 77,733 properties received an initial default notice last month, up 10 percent from September, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday. The number of homes scheduled to be auctioned or repossessed by lenders also posted monthly increases. All told, notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — warnings that can eventually lead to a home being lost to foreclosure — hit a seven-month high in October. The numbers are further evidence foreclosure activity is picking up. The activity slowed a year ago after problems surfaced with the way many lenders were handling foreclosure documentation, namely shoddy mortgage paperwork comprising several shortcuts known collectively as robo-signing.
Many of the nation's largest banks reacted by temporarily ceasing all foreclosures, re-filing previously filed foreclosure cases and revisiting pending cases to prevent errors. But banks appear to be moving past those problems now and starting to tackle a swelling backlog of homes with mortgages that have gone unpaid — something that lenders are seeing more of as the economy struggles and unemployment remains high. The rate that homeowners were 60 or more days late on their mortgage payment rose in the June-to-September period for the first time since the last three months of 2009, according to TransUnion. The credit reporting agency said 5.88 percent of homeowners missed two or more payments, an early sign of possible foreclosure.
That was up from 5.82 percent in the second quarter of 2011. The number of US homeowners underwater on their mortgage, or owe more than their homes are worth, represent another potential source of trouble for lenders. As of June 30, some 22.5 percent of all US homes had a mortgage that was under water, according to CoreLogic. That's 10.9 million properties. Another 2.4 million borrowers had less than 5 percent equity in their home, the firm said. Industry experts say a housing market turnaround isn't likely to occur as long as there remains a glut of potential foreclosures hovering over the market, so October's increase in foreclosure activity means a potentially faster revival for housing. [More>>cbsnews.com]
11.10.11 Muslims against Crusades banned by Theresa May
November 10 - Muslims Against Crusades will be banned from operating in the UK from midnight tonight, the Home Secretary has said. Theresa May said she was satisfied the group was "simply another name for an organization already proscribed under a number of names" including Al Ghurabaa, The Saved Sect, Al Muhajiroun and Islam4UK. "The organization was proscribed in 2006 for glorifying terrorism and we are clear it should not be able to continue these activities by simply changing its name," she said. Mrs. May said: "I have today laid an order which will proscribe Muslims Against Crusades from midnight tonight. "This means being a member of, or supporting the organization, will be a criminal offense." Last month, Tory MP Mike Freer called for the Home Secretary to take action against the extremist group after being threatened by them at a constituency surgery. Up to a dozen protesters forced their way into a north London mosque where Mr. Freer was meeting constituents, prompting officials to lock him in a private room for his own safety.
In a chilling message ahead of the incident on the group's website, they referred to Labor MP Stephen Timms — who was stabbed while holding a surgery in east London last year — warning the attack on him should serve as a "piercing reminder" to politicians that "their presence is no longer welcome in any Muslim area." The disturbance at North Finchley Mosque on October 28 began after internet messages posted on Facebook and the Muslims Against Crusades website urged supporters to target the Finchley and Golders Green MP, who had played a prominent role in the campaign against Palestinian activist Sheikh Raed Salah's visit to the UK earlier this year. [More>>independent.co.uk]
11.10.11 Arab leaders willing to provide 'safe haven' for Syria's Assad
(Reuters) November 10 - Arab leaders have told the United States that they are offering Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asylum in a bid to get him to leave the country quickly, as the death toll from the leader’s seven-month crackdown on protesters continues to grow. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure was "inevitable," a senior US official said on Wednesday, while earlier in the day troops shot dead eight pro-democracy protesters and wounded in 25 at a funeral in the capital Damascus, activists said. The incident was one of the bloodiest in the capital in the seven-month uprising against Assad, who shows no signs of leaving despite a mounting death toll, Western sanctions, and escalating sectarian tensions between his minority Alawite sect and Syria’s majority Muslim Sunni population.
Syrian authorities, who blame "terrorists" and Islamist militants for the bloodshed, agreed to an Arab League plan on Nov. 2, pledging to pull the military out of restive cities, set political prisoners free and start talks with the opposition, which wants to remove Assad and introduce democratic freedoms. "Almost all the Arab leaders, foreign ministers who I talk to say the same thing: Assad’s rule is coming to an end. It is inevitable," US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, Feltman, who is in charge of near eastern affairs, told a Senate panel. "Some of these Arabs have even begun to offer Assad safe haven to encourage him to leave quickly," he said, not naming countries offering Assad a place to go. He said he hoped Assad and his inner circle would "head for the exits voluntarily." [More>>france24.com]
11.10.11 Taliban attack Afghan governor's office
November 10 - Three police killed and several coalition forces wounded in attack by suicide bombers in Afghanistan's Paktia province. Three Afghan policemen have been killed and several coalition troops wounded in a Taliban attack against a government official's office in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province, officials said. "A suicide bomber blew up an explosives-laden vehicle at the gate of Chamkani district headquarters and then a group of militants, probably suicide attackers, tried to enter," said deputy provincial governor Abdul Rahman Mangal on Thursday. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to journalists shortly after the initial explosion. Master Sergeant Nick Conner, a spokesman for International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in eastern Afghanistan, confirmed the attack and said that coalition forces responded to Taliban fighters on the ground alongside Afghan forces. "Three coalition forces wounded along with two Afghan uniformed police," he said. "Our initial reports were that they were wounded during the initial attack." Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said that there were four suicide bombers in total. All were killed in the attack. [More>>aljazeera.net]
11.10.11 Five Uzbek terrorists killed in NWA
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, November 10 - Security forces in an armed operation against militants in North Waziristan killed 5 Uzbek terrorists, Geo News reported Thursday. According to sources, the terrorists of foreign origin had taken refuge in a four-story building of a medical complex in Kali Kay area of NWA. When security forces approached the building terrorists opened fire on them, which led to an exchange of fire and as a result five Uzbek terrorists were taken out. Local sources said that tribesmen also helped the army in the operation. Meanwhile, the intelligence sources have claimed that foreign militants were fleeing the area following the killings of Osama bin Laden and Atyah Abd Al-Rahman. The funding to these terrorists had also been cut off, reducing their movement and relocation. [>thenews.com.pk]
11.09.11 Dow average slides as Italian borrowing costs soar
NEW YORK (AP) November 9 - The Dow Jones industrial average dropped nearly 230 points Wednesday after Italy's borrowing costs soared, a sign that Europe's debt crisis has spilled into the third-largest economy in the euro bloc. The yield on the benchmark Italian government bond spiked above 7 percent, evidence that investors are losing faith in the country's ability to repay its debt. Greece, Portugal and Ireland required bailouts when their bond yields rose above the same mark. Unlike those countries, Italy's $2.6 trillion in debt is too large for other European countries to rescue. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised late Tuesday to step aside after a new budget is passed, but there are concerns that the transition to a new government will be difficult.
Markets see Berlusconi as an impediment to the kind of far-reaching economic reforms Italy needs to remain solvent. "The market loves a quick solution and we're obviously not getting one," said Mark Lehmann, director of equities of JMP Securities. "We've had a strong rally off the bottom and any piece of bad news is going to be responded to negatively." The Dow dropped 228 points, or 2 percent, to 11,941 as of 12:05pm Eastern. It had been down as many as 317 points in the first hour of trading. It was the largest drop for the Dow since a two-day slide beginning Oct. 31. The Dow fell 276 on Monday of last week and then 297 points the following day after the Greek prime minister said he would put an unpopular package of austerity cuts to a public vote. That raised the prospect that the measures would fail and Greece would default. The referendum was later scrapped. [More>>cbsnews.com]
11.09.11 Niger's army 'blocks Libya to Mali' convoy
November 8 - Niger's army has clashed with a heavily armed convoy traveling from Libya towards Mali, security sources say. Defense Minister Mahamadou Karidio said that one soldier was killed in the clashes on Sunday while several attackers were captured. Mr. Karidio did not clarify whether or not the convoy was made up of fighters of the ousted Libyan regime or al-Qaeda linked militants. Both groups have traveled through the increasingly unstable border area. The remote desert region is also affected by a rebellion involving ethnic Tuaregs, some of whom fought on the side of killed Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi during the conflict in Libya. Serge Hilpron, the head of Radio Nomad, a broadcaster in northern Niger, told the AP news agency that his sources indicated that both Libyan nationals and Tuaregs were in the convoy.
"Because of the Libyan problem, there are now traffickers heading to Libya to pick up the arms left behind and to bring them here. These same traffickers then sell the arms to AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb]," he is quoted as saying. Mr. Karidio said the military captured some of the fighters during the clashes in the Arlit area. One soldier was killed and four wounded in the fighting, he said. Security sources told France's RFI radio that six four-by-four vehicles, with a large quantity arms from Libya, were destroyed. Mr. Karidio said a huge arms cache was seized, including rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, but he did not specify where they came from. Security experts believe AQIM — which attacks and kidnaps foreigners across the region — is acquiring weapons from Libya, which they describe as an "arms bazaar." [More>>bbc.co.uk]
11.09.11 Up to 60 Taliban killed in NATO base attack
KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) November 9 - Afghan and NATO-led troops killed 50 to 60 Taliban fighters during an attack by insurgents on a base in a volatile southeastern Afghan province near the border with Pakistan, a provincial government spokesman said on Wednesday. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed there had been an attack on a base in the Barmal district of southeastern Paktika province late on Tuesday. Mukhlis Afghan, a spokesman for the Paktika governor, put the number of Taliban fighters killed at between 50 and 60. An ISAF spokesman said a large group of insurgents attacked the ISAF base using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. ISAF troops fought back, causing "significant" casualties among the insurgents. He said two buildings used by insurgents were destroyed in the fighting, which included ISAF air strikes, but said there had been no reports of civilian or coalition casualties. [>thenews.com.pk]
11.09.11 Pakistan text books foster hatred of Hindus: US report
WASHINGTON, November 9 - Text books in Pakistani schools foster hatred and intolerance of minorities, the Hindus in particular and teachers view these groups "as enemies of Islam," a US government report has said. "Pakistan and Social Studies textbooks are rife with negative comments regarding India and Great Britain, but Hindus are often singled out for particular criticism in texts and in interview responses," said the report. "This intolerance and prejudice also extends to other minorities like the Christians and Ahmadis, who consider themselves Muslims but are not considered so by the Pakistani constitution."
The Islamization of text books, the Commission has said began under the army rule of late dictator Zia-ul-Haq who courted Islamists to support his rule. Though in 2006 the government announced plans to reform the curriculum, this has not been done under apparent pressure of hardliners, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in a report made public today. The Commission in its 139-page report said that though Pakistan was envisaged as a moderate state where minorities would have full rights, but three wars with India and appeasement of hardline clerics by successive weak governments had led to steady radicalization of the society.
The Chairman of the Commission Leonard Leo warned "the teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability, and global security." "Although an unbiased review of history would show that Hindus and Muslims enjoyed centuries of harmonious co-existence, Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam. Hindu culture and society are portrayed as unjust and cruel, while Islam is portrayed as just and peaceful," USCIRF said in its report.
"This study — the first-ever study of its kind — documents how Pakistan's public schools and privately-run madrassas are not teaching tolerance but are exacerbating religious differences," said Leonard Leo, US Commission on International Religious Freedom chair. According to the Minorities Concern of Pakistan (MCOP), students are encountering problems because of their minority status and faith. They are forced to study from textbooks and curricula that are biased against them and routinely face discrimination and intimidation from Muslim students and teachers. On May 28, 2010, for example, a dozen heavily armed men attacked a Christian religious leader, Pastor Mubarak Masih, and his family, it said. [More>>indianexpress.com; See uscirf.gov, November 9, "Pakistan's educational system fuels religious discrimination."]
11.09.11 West seeks new Iran sanctions
PARIS / MOSCOW (Reuters) November 9 - Western countries called on Wednesday for new sanctions against Iran over a UN report that it has worked to design atom bombs, but veto-wielder Russia indicated it would block new measures at the UN Security Council. The report, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, laid bare a trove of intelligence suggesting Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, including accusations of work on atom bomb triggers and computer-simulated detonations. France said it would summon the Security Council. Britain said the standoff was entering a more dangerous phase and the risk of conflict would increase if Iran does not negotiate. The Security Council has already imposed four rounds of sanctions on Tehran since 2006 over its nuclear program, which Western countries suspect is being used to develop weapons but Iran says is purely peaceful.
There has been concern that if world powers cannot close ranks on isolating Iran to nudge it into serious talks, then Israel — which feels endangered by Tehran’s nuclear program — will attack it, precipitating a Middle East conflict. "Convening of the UN Security Council is called for," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told RFI radio. Pressure must be intensified, he said, after years of Iranian defiance of UN resolutions demanding it halt sensitive uranium enrichment. “If Iran refuses to conform to the demands of the international community and refuses any serious cooperation, we stand ready to adopt, with other willing countries, sanctions on an unprecedented scale,” Juppe said. But Moscow made its opposition to new sanctions clear. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See iranfocus.com, November 9, "Full text of latest IAEA report on Iran."]
11.09.11 Hardline website in Iran says Ahmadinejad is working with Israelis in plot against republic
DUBAI, November 9 - A website belonging to supporters of the Iranian supreme leader published a headline stating that the country’s president and his supporters are working with the Israelis in a plot against the Islamic republic. But the website, www.ammariyon.ir, removed the text of the story less than an hour after it had been posted, leaving the headline only. The country’s supervisory media control had requested that the story be removed. The Iranian hardliners referred to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his top adviser and chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and their supporters as the "deviant ones." Recent violent confrontations between the Republican Guards and Ahmadinejad supporters have resulted in the arrest of a number of the president’s supporters. The row between Ahmadinejad and the country’s supreme leader, Ali Khamanei, began in April 2011 when Ahmadinejad fired his intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi. Ahmadinejad's decision was overruled by Khamenei and the two men have been in conflict ever since. The row has also raised a constitutional crisis. Under the Iranian constitution Ahmadinejad has the right to fire a member of his cabinet. While there is no explicit law allowing the Supreme Leader supervision of the cabinet, his role as the nation’s religious leader gives him de facto authority over virtually all government policy. [>alarabiya.net]
11.08.11 Nearly 29% of mortgaged homes underwater, report finds
November 8 - A whopping 28.6 percent of homeowners with mortgages owe more on their loans than their homes could sell for, according to quarterly data released Tuesday by Zillow, a real estate website. That's up from 26.8 percent in the second quarter. Home values declined only 0.2 percent from the second quarter but were down 4.4 percent year over year. The rising percentage of homes with "negative equity" or "underwater" status is due largely to how long the foreclosure sale process takes rather than home value fluctuations, said Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries. Prior to the "robo-signing" scandal around foreclosures that came to light in 2010, the negative equity rate hovered in the 21 to 23 percent range, but has been in the 26 to 28 range since due to added delays in foreclosure sales.
While the rate of foreclosures is dropping, the time required for foreclosures to sell has lengthened. "We're in uncharted waters," Humphries said in an interview. "More than one in four homes underwater and about 9 percent unemployment is a recipe for more foreclosures." Homes with underwater status are often considered risks for future foreclosure, since owners could have trouble refinancing or selling and may opt for a foreclosure via "strategic default" if they feel they will never regain their lost equity. Humphries estimates that home values will bottom out in 2012 at the earliest and said the foreclosure market will remain "robust" for the next two to four years. In several cities, more than half of all homes with mortgages are underwater, including Phoenix (66.2 percent), Atlanta (58.7 percent), Riverside, Calif. (51.4 percent), Tampa (56.5 percent) and Sacramento (50.9 percent). Other big metro areas with a high percentage of underwater homes include Miami-Fort Lauderdale (46.7 percent), Chicago (46.2 percent), Cleveland (41.5 percent) and Denver (38.5 percent). [More>>msnbc.msn.com]
11.08.11 Five Qaeda suspects killed in south Yemen
(AFP) November 8 - Five al-Qaeda suspects, among them an Indonesian, were killed in artillery shelling on their strongholds in Yemen's south, a government official said Tuesday. "Two al-Qaeda gunmen were killed in artillery shelling by the army in Zinjibar," the official in the nearby town of Jaar, where their bodies were taken, told AFP. The official identified one of the men as an Indonesian, while he said that the other was a Yemeni. Three others were killed in shelling overnight by the 25th Mechanized Brigade, based in the restive southern city of Zinjibar, he said. Meanwhile, Rumeila, north of Jaar, which itself is an Al-Qaeda stronghold, was also targeted Tuesday by "five US drone strikes," the same official said, adding no information was yet available on casualties. Yemen's army, backed by US drones, have been battling militants of the Qaeda-linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) group who have held the Abyan provincial capital since May. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has taken advantage of nearly 10 months of sweeping unrest against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to bolster its presence in the restive south and east of Yemen, launching repeated attacks. [>france24.com]
11.08.11 Ten killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan
HEART, Afghanistan, November 8 - Ten people were killed by a roadside bomb in northwest Afghanistan late Monday, a local politician told Tuesday. The blast struck a police vehicle in Badghis province, killing two officers, and also killed eight civilians from the same family in another vehicle which was following it, said Badghis provincial council chairman Faizullah Azimi. "A mine planted by the Taliban hit a police vehicle in Qadis district yesterday evening leaving two policemen and eight civilians dead," Azimi told. "All the civilians were members of the same family," He added: "Two policemen and one child were also injured." Monday was the second day of the Muslim holiday Eid- ul-Azha, when many Afghans celebrate by visiting friends and family. The Taliban's spokesman was not immediately reachable to comment on the attack. [>thenews.com.pk]
11.08.11 Four Hindu doctors gunned down in Pakistan
KARACHI, Pakistan, November 8 - Four Hindu doctors have been gunned down in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, sparking fears and panic among the minority community. The doctors were gunned down yesterday at their clinic in Chak town close to Shikarpur. Dr. Ramesh Kumar, a former member of provincial assembly and chief patron of Pakistan Hindu Council, confirmed that Dr. Ashok, Dr Naresh, Dr. Ajeet and Dr. Satia Paul were killed by armed assailants while working in their clinic. "This is not the first time such an incident has taken place where members of our community have been targeted. What is of concern is that the law enforcement agencies tend to support the criminals involved in such acts," Dr. Kumar told PTI. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
11.06.11 Syrian troops kill 11 despite Arab League accord
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) November 6 - Syrians in the restive region of Homs performed special prayers for a major Muslim holiday to the sound of explosions and gunfire as government troops pushed forward their assault on the area, killing at least 11 people Sunday, residents and activists said. The violence on the first day of Eid Al Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, added to fears that a peace plan brokered by the Arab League last week was unraveling and prompted Qatar’s prime minister to call for an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the Syrian government’s failure to abide by its commitments. Egypt’s official news agency MENA reported that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani called for the meeting "in light of the continuing acts of violence and the Syrian government’s noncompliance" with the terms of the Arab plan. Violence has continued unabated, though Damascus agreed to halt its crackdown on the 7-month-old uprising that the U.N. says has left some 3,000 people dead. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.06.11 Deadly explosions rock Baghdad market
November 6 - Four consecutive blasts in a busy market in Iraqi capital leave at least seven people dead and dozen injured. At least seven people were killed when four bomb blasts rocked a busy market in Iraq's capital where people were shopping for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. The Iraqi police said the blasts occurred in Shurja, an important commercial district in central Baghdad where shop owners and vendors sell clothes, electronics, textiles, food and other goods. "I can see fire and black smoke rising and a large number of fire engines, ambulances and police patrols rushing to the market," a Reuters news agency witness close to Shurja market said. A source at al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad put the toll of Sunday's blasts at eight killed and 26 wounded. "The reason behind the fire was sabotage. The perpetrators used gasoline to set ablaze the market," Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Baghdad security operations, said. Iraqi forces are preparing to take full responsibility for security by year-end when all US troops pull out of the country, nearly nine years after the US-led invasion. Military leaders have expressed concerns that armed groups might ramp up attacks as the 33,000 US troops left in Iraq pack up to leave. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related story,
alarabiya.net (AFP) November 6, "Mother of nine-year-old Iraqi suicide bomber arrested" : BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces have arrested a woman whose boyfriend convinced her to send her little boy on a suicide mission and then failed to stop the attack after she had a change of heart, police said. Sunni widow Suad al-Obaidi, 47, was arrested on Friday along with her allegedly al-Qaeda boyfriend, after attacks on anti-Qaeda Sahwa (Awakening) militia in Diyala province a day earlier, a Diyala police officer told AFP. She was arrested in Diyala province, while the boyfriend, Hamid Alwan, 53, was detained in Baghdad. According to the officer, Alwan convinced Obaidi to send nine-year-old Murtada Latif Kadhem to bomb a Shiite mosque in Khales, north of Baghdad, several years ago. Alwan “took her son with her ... by car to the Shiite mosque but, on the way there, she started to cry about her son,” the officer said. "He put her out of the car, and took the son, who was wearing an explosive belt, to the mosque," where "he blew himself up." Security officials said the December 29, 2006 attack killed at least nine people, including the imam of the mosque, and wounded at least eight. A few months later, Alwan tried to convince Suad to send her 18-year-old son Kadhem Latif Kadhem on a suicide attack, but he fled to the home of his married sister, Hanna...
11.06.11 Over ten people killed in suicide bomb attack in mosque in north Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (RIA Novosti) November 6 - More than ten people, including three civilians, were killed after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in northern Afghanistan, local police said on Sunday. The terrorist attack occurred in the mosque of the old part of Baghlan-e-Markazi, the former administrative center of the Baghlan province, during prayers for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, the police said. The suicide bomber got into the mosque and detonated his vest near a high-placed security official named Abdul, the police said. According to preliminary data, the official and his six bodyguards were killed. Three civilians were also killed in the attack, the police said. The US-led coalition has been fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan since 2001, but attacks on both foreign and Afghan troops, police and civilians are still frequent in the country. [>en.rian.ru]
11.05.11 Floods threaten to shut down Bangkok metro
(AFP) November 5 - Flood waters encroached on Bangkok's business and tourist districts Friday, threatening the capital city's underground train system. Floods have killed 442 people, damaged homes and affected the livelihoods of millions in Thailand since late July. Thailand's worst floods in half a century reached the edge of downtown Bangkok on Friday, threatening some underground rail stations and forcing the closure of a major shopping center. About 20 percent of the capital is now submerged in floodwater contaminated by rubbish, dead animals and industrial waste, raising fears about outbreaks of disease in the densely populated metropolis of 12 million people. The slow-moving water is now just a few kilometers away from business and tourist districts, despite reassurances from the government that central Bangkok would be spared.
The floodwater arrived at the Lat Phrao intersection on the northern edge of the city center early Friday, prompting the closure of the Central Plaza shopping mall. A spokesman for the Bangkok metro said that three subway stations — Lat Phrao, Phahon Yothin and Chatuchak Park — were at risk and might have to be shut down if the water rose to 40 centimeters outside. "We have deployed officials at all risk stations to assess the situation hourly," he said. Nearby Chatuchak Weekend Market -- a popular tourist attraction — will re-open this weekend at the request of traders, but officials have warned them to be on alert for possible flooding. The floods — caused by unusually heavy rains and failure to release enough water from dams in the early part of the monsoon — have killed 442 people and damaged the homes and livelihoods of millions around the country. [More>>france24.com]
11.05.11 G20 leaders short on detail over IMF boost
CANNES, France, November 5 - G20 leaders were "within centimeters" of announcing a "big number" by which to increase the International Monetary Fund's resources, according to senior officials involved in the talks. The Fund will be ready to announce a significant expansion, potentially increasing its total resources by hundreds of billions of dollars to a permanent $1trn, or more, the next time there is a heightened economic crisis, the insider added. The failure of the G20 summit in Cannes to provide a definitive figure for the increase in the size of the Fund's resources sent financial markets around the world into negative territory on Friday afternoon. The final communique issued after the meeting, which comprised the leaders of all the world's leading economies, including the US, UK, China, Germany and others, was vague about the IMF increase. It said: "We stand ready to ensure additional resources could be mobilized in a timely manner and ask our finance ministers by their next meeting to work on deploying a range of various options including bilateral contributions to the IMF, SDRs, and voluntary contributions to an IMF special structure such as an administered account." Many, including Chancellor George Osborne had hoped the summit would be able to announce a grand total figure by which to increase the IMF's firepower, repeating what Gordon Brown did in the 2009 London Summit. Economists said although such a number would be largely symbolic, it might nonetheless provide a clear signal that policymakers would stop at nothing to ensure the economy would not slide into another crisis. [More>>news.sky.com]
11.05.11 Fed-up consumers plan for 'Bank Transfer Day'
NEW YORK (AP) November 5 - It's moving day for bank customers. A grassroots movement that sprang to life last month is urging bank customers to close their accounts in favor of credit unions by Saturday. The spirit behind "Bank Transfer Day" caught fire with the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country and had more than 79,000 supporters on its Facebook page as of Friday. The movement has already helped beat back Bank of America's plan to start charging a $5 debit card fee. It's not clear to what extent the banking industry's about-face on debit card fees will extinguish the anger driving the movement. But many supporters say their actions are about far more than any single complaint. "It's too little, too late," said Kristen Christian, the 27-year-old Los Angeles small business owner who started "Bank Transfer Day." She already opened accounts at two credit unions in preparation for cutting ties with Bank of America this weekend.
"Consumers are waking up and seeing that they have options," she said. Even with its public support, however, it's not likely that any account closings that take place on Saturday will make a big dent with industry titans such as Chase, which is the largest bank in the country with some 26.5 million checking accounts. But the call to action shows just how incensed consumers were at the prospect of a debit card fee at a time of so much economic uncertainty. Even those who were appeased by the industry's reversal may have tapped into a new sense of empowerment. Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. are keeping mum on whether they've seen an uptick in account closures in recent weeks. But credit unions and small community banks have been basking in the spotlight and issuing press releases highlighting what they say are superior interest rates and more intimate service, along with tips on how consumers can transfer accounts. They haven't been shy about the surge in new business they're enjoying either. [More>>cbsnews.com; See also facebook.com/Nov.Fifth]
11.05.11 Colombians celebrate killing of FARC rebel leader
BOGOTA, Columbia (Reuters) November 5 - Colombians rejoiced at the killing of top FARC rebel leader Alfonso Cano and hoped the biggest blow yet against Latin America's longest insurgency could herald an end to nearly five decades of war. In a triumph for President Juan Manuel Santos' government, forces bombed a FARC jungle hideout in southwestern Cauca region on Friday, killing several rebels, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said. Troops then rappelled down from helicopters to search the area, killing Cano in a gun battle a short time later. Pictures of his dead body — with his trademark beard shaven off — were broadcast on television. The death of the former student activist, who had a $3.7 million bounty on his head, is unlikely to spell a quick end to a war that has killed tens of thousands in the Andean nation. But it will further damage the drug trade-funded rebels' ability to coordinate high profile bombings, ambushes and kidnappings that have brought it worldwide notoriety. "It is the most devastating blow that this group has suffered in its history," Santos said in a brief televised address to the nation. "I want to send a message to each and every member of that organization: 'demobilize' ... or otherwise you will end up in a prison or in a tomb. We will achieve peace." [More>>thestar.com.my]
11.05.11 Mexico arrests 'Barredora drug cartel leader'
November 5 - Arrest of Acapulco-based Victor Manuel Rivera Galiana comes as eight people are killed in shooting in Sinaloa state. Mexican police have arrested the alleged leader of the La Barredora drug cartel, which is believed to be partly responsible for the recent upswing in abductions and murders in the resort city of Acapulco. Under heavy security, police showed Victor Manuel Rivera Galiana, known as "Victor, El Gordo"(Victor, the Fat Man), to journalists at a Mexico City news conference. Ramon Eduardo Pequeno, a federal police official, said that Rivera Galiana, who was arrested on Friday, was one of three founders of La Barredora. Pequeno said Rivera Galiana was left in charge after the capture of its former head Christian Hernandez Tarin last month. La Barredora arose in 2010 upon the break-up of members of the independent Acapulco cartel Cida. The two groups have been fighting each other for control of drug trade in Acapulco. [More>>aljazeera.net]
11.05.11 7 killed in Syria, as Arabs warn about peace deal
DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) November 5 - Clashes in Syria killed seven people on Saturday as the chief of the Arab League warned that failure of a peace deal agreed this week would be catastrophic for the country and the region. Meanwhile, Damascus condemned Washington for suggesting people reject an amnesty offered to lay down their arms. "At least three civilians were killed by gunfire and heavy machine-gun fire in the Baba Amro neighborhood of Homs," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia. In the northwestern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border, "four (Shabiha) militiamen loyal to the regime were killed by suspected deserters in the town of Saraqeb," added the Britain-based Observatory. On Friday, Syrian troops killed at least 23 people when demonstrators took to the streets denouncing "despots and tyrants," with world powers casting doubt on the regime’s commitment to the peace deal agreed with the Arab League. The plan calls for an end to violence, the release of those detained, the withdrawal of the army from urban areas and free movement for observers and the media, as well as talks between the regime and opposition. In Cairo, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi warned that failure of the deal, brokered by his organization, would be "catastrophic" for the country and region. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.05.11 Bhutto murder: Pakistan police and Taliban
November 5 - An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has charged two senior police officers over the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. They were charged with security breaches and failure to protect her, prosecutors said. Five alleged Taliban militants have also been charged with criminal conspiracy over Bhutto's death. She died in a gun and bomb attack while campaigning for election. The accused deny the charges. One of the police officers charged was Saud Aziz, the chief of police at the time in Rawalpindi, where Ms. Bhutto was killed. He and the other police officer were arrested nearly a year ago. Prosecutor Mohammad Azhar said they were accused of "changing the security plan for BB [Bhutto]," Reuters news agency said.
Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan at the time, has also been implicated in Ms. Bhutto's murder. The anti-terrorism court issued an arrest warrant for him in February over what it said was his failure to provide her with adequate security. He was declared a fugitive after failing to appear at the court in February. Mr. Musharraf denies the allegation. In August the court ordered the confiscation of his property and the freezing of his bank accounts in Pakistan. The five suspected Taliban members have been in custody for nearly four years. They are accused of bringing a suicide bomber from Pakistan's tribal areas to Rawalpindi to carry out the attack. Three other suspects, including the head of the Pakistani Taliban Baitullah Mehsud, have been killed. Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike in 2009. Two other suspects remain at large. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
11.05.11 Known Haqqani leader captured in Afghanistan: NATO
KABUL, Afghanistan (Xinhua) November 5 - Rashid Ahmad Arshad, known Haqqani facilitator, at a traffic control point in southern Afghan Laghman Province, was captured on Thursday, a press release issued by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said on Saturday. Arshad, detained by Afghan National Army and ISAF, "aided Haqqani by moving weapons and contraband throughout eastern Afghanistan," the press release said. Combined forces set-up the traffic control point after receiving information of insurgent movement in the area, in Laghman Province, some 260 km east of Afghan capital Kabul. Arshad and two other individuals were taken into ISAF custody of forces "after they were positively identified as insurgents wanted for questioning." "Arshad remains in Coalition custody," ISAF said, adding "there were no Coalition or Afghan civilian injuries (during the operation)." The ISAF has intensified its attacks targeting Haqqani Network after the latter was blamed for the Sept. 13 around-20-hour raid against the US embassy and the ISAF headquarters in Afghan capital Kabul. [>xinhuanet.com]
11.05.11 Yemen army kills five Qaeda suspects: officials
ADEN, Yemen (AFP) November 5 - Five al-Qaeda suspects were killed in artillery shelling by Yemen’s army in the country’s restive southern city of Zinjibar, officials said on Saturday. "The army’s 25th Mechanied Brigade fired artillery shells late Friday at an area in Zinjibar's east killing five al-Qaeda militants," an army official told AFP. A local official in the nearby town of Jaar, an al-Qaeda stronghold, confirmed the bodies of "five al-Qaeda militants" were brought to the town from Zinjibar.
11.05.11 Radical Muslim sect grows more dangerous in Nigeria
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) November 5 - The imam's insistent, lecturing voice comes right to the point over the scratchy audio recording: "Holy war is the only way to bring change for Muslims in Nigeria." Abubakar Shekau urges followers of his feared Boko Haram sect to carry out more assassinations and bombings. The group's violent campaign already has left more than 240 people dead this year. On Friday, a suicide bomber hit a military base while explosives detonated around Maiduguri — attacks that bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram. "Whomever we kill, we kill because Allah says we should kill and we kill for a reason," Shekau says in a recording of a sermon obtained by The Associated Press. Boko Haram, which in August bombed the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria, is the gravest security threat to Africa's most populous nation and is gaining prominence despite efforts by the military and police to stamp it out. A security agency crackdown, which human rights activists say has left innocent civilians dead, could be winning the insurgency even more supporters.
Complicating efforts to negotiate peace, the group apparently has split into three factions, the AP has learned. One remains moderate and welcomes an end to the violence, another wants a peace agreement with rewards similar to those offered to a different militant group in 2009. The third faction refuses to negotiate and wants to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, an oil-rich nation of more than 160 million, which has a predominantly Christian south and a Muslim north. Nigerian officials and diplomats fear the sect will launch bolder assaults on foreign interests and the country's weak central government. Security agencies thought they had destroyed the group following a July 2009 riot and military crackdown that left 700 people dead and leader Mohammed Yusuf killed in police custody in Maiduguri, Boko Haram's spiritual home.
But the group re-emerged about a year ago, beginning a campaign of assassinations by motorcycle-riding gunmen carrying Kalashnikov rifles hidden under their traditional robes. Today, motorcycles are banned from the streets, but attacks continue in and around the city of about 3 million. An AP count of casualties this year alone shows Boko Haram killed at least 247 people. The split in Boko Haram appears to be so serious that one representative of its moderate faction was killed after negotiating with former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo in September. [More>>indianexpress.com]