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Islamic World News ( 30 Nov 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Breakthrough in 2010 Attacks Raises Fears of Renewed Jihadist Campaign in India


Delhi arrests cast light on jihadists' ‘Karachi Project'

Afghanistan Maternal Mortality Drops, Survey Suggests

Pakistan may summon BBC as news channel blocked

Pakistan releases video of NATO air strikes, says apology not enough

Britain withdraws all embassy staff from Iran

Pak army says NATO attack a 'deliberate act of aggression'

Libyan gunman in Istanbul wounds two before being shot dead

Erdogan Confronts Official History

Six suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives held

Iceland recognises Palestinian state

Trial of schoolteacher accused of serial rapes starts today in Jeddah

Libya leaders acknowledge abuse of prisoners

Syrian refugees “will not be forcibly evicted”: Maldives

UK to expel all Iranian diplomats over embassy attack

Norway shuts embassy in Iran after British mission attack

Six suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives held

15 people injured in Rajasthan communal clash

‘Suicide bomber’ killed in Quetta

Mortar kills two in Barra

Funeral blast kills two in SWA

Developments in Pak very serious: Kerry

US says no scale-down of Af-Pak operations

US asks Pakistan to reconsider Afghan talks boycott

Turkey slaps sanctions on Syria

Proposed ban on flights to Syria upsets its expats

Saudis urged to leave Syria; OIC meet today

Arab League sends 'serious political message' to Syria

Bahrain security chief replaced after inquiry

Iranian influence seeping into Iraq

US finds reassurance in Egypt's peaceful voting

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Considers Expansion

Armenian Government And Parties Gear Up For Parliamentary Race

Britain withdraws some diplomatic staff from Iran

Iran missile research facility was destroyed in recent explosion: report

Sena activists vandalise Hotel Vaishali

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Breakthrough in 2010 attacks raises fears of renewed jihadist campaign


NEW DELHI, November 30, 2011, Delhi Police investigators have announced the arrest of a terrorist cell that they claim was responsible for a string of nationwide attacks last year — raising fears that Pakistan-based jihadist groups may be preparing for a renewed escalation of operations against India.

The Delhi Police's élite Special Cell announced on Wednesday that it had held six men, including Karachi-based Jaish-e-Muhammad operative Muhammad Adil, on the suspicion of having carried out three major attacks last year: a shooting at Delhi's historic Jama Masjid in September; the serial bombs outside Bangalore's Chinnaswami Stadium in April; and the bombing of the German Bakery in Pune in February.

Fugitive Indian Mujahideen commander Muhammad Zarar Siddibapa — a Karnataka resident also known by the alias Yasin Bhatkal and the commander of the cell, who is wanted for his alleged role in a string of urban bombings that began in 2005 — however escaped arrest, the police said.

Adil is alleged to have had past relationships with both the Jaish-e-Muhammad and organised crime groups. He, the police said, was living under cover in Madhubani, Bihar, since 2010, when he was despatched to India by Indian Mujahideen commanders in Karachi to aid Siddibapa's cell.

Bihar residents Mohammad Siddiqi, Irshad Khan, Gauhar Aziz Khomani, Gayur Jamali and Abdur Rahman were held in separate raids in New Delhi and Chennai. The Delhi Police said they had recovered several kg of explosives, ammunition, two assault rifles and a pistol from a safe house used by the cell.

The case is the second involving a Pakistan national in recent weeks. Earlier, the National Investigation Agency said fugitive Jammu and Kashmir-based terror commander Ghulam Sarwar, a resident of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, had carried out the bombing of the Delhi High Court in September.

Sarwar, interestingly, possessed fake documents identifying him as a Bihar resident, and travelled to meet still-unidentified contacts in the State — raising the prospect that he may have had links to the cell held in Delhi.

Wednesday's arrests are the third in a series linked to the Pune bombings —all at apparent odds with each other. Maharashtra prosecutors had earlier charged local resident Himayat Baig with having carried out the bombing in Pune, naming Siddibapa as his commander. Elements of their account, though, sit ill with the Delhi Police's findings. For example, Maharashtra Police investigators said Baig was paid to source bomb-making equipment to fabricate an explosive device at his cyber-café. The discovery of a bomb-factory in Delhi, though, puts this version in some doubt.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters on Wednesday that the six arrested men were suspected of having been “involved in February 13, 2010 German Bakery blast in Pune.”

Earlier this year, though, Mr Chidambaram told Parliament the Maharashtra Police had solved the Pune bombing — following on from an earlier faux pax in which he complimented investigators on having arrested Siddibapa's older brother, Abdul Samad Siddibapa, in connection with the case. Abdul Samad Siddibapa was later cleared of all charges and released.


Delhi arrests cast light on jihadists' ‘Karachi Project'


NEW DELHI, December 1, 2011

Fugitive Indian Mujahideen commanders based in Pakistan planned attacks in India, investigators say

In the hour before the police raided the bomb-making factory he ran on the fringes of the Bhadra forests near Chikmagalur in Karnataka, key Indian Mujahideen operative Muhammad Zarar Siddibapa slipped away on a bus bound for Mangalore — and then, across the Bangladesh border, to the safety of a safe house run by the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Karachi.

Delhi Police investigators claimed on Wednesday to have found evidence that Siddibapa is back in India, commanding the jihadist cell responsible for three major terrorist attacks since 26/11: multiple bombs placed outside the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore; an incident of shooting at visitors to Delhi's historic Jama Masjid on the eve of the Commonwealth Games; and, most lethal of all, the improvised explosive device that ripped through a Pune café in February 2010, killing 17 people.

Siddibapa escaped the Delhi Police-led raids that resulted in the arrest of seven alleged members of the cell over the weekend, including small-time Karachi gangster-turned-terrorist Muhammad Adil.

The still unfolding investigation into the cell he commanded, though, has made clear what 26/11 terrorist David Headley called “the Karachi Project” is still flourishing — the war by Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the LeT against India.

The loyal lieutenant

More than three years after police investigators first identified Siddibapa as a terror suspect, little is known about the man alleged to have played a central role in the Indian Mujahideen's urban terror campaign that claimed hundreds of lives in 10 cities between 2005 and 2008.

Educated at the well-respected Anjuman Hami-e-Muslimeen school in the affluent coastal Karnataka town of Bhatkal, Siddibapa left for Pune as a teenager. He was later introduced to other members of the Indian Mujahideen as an engineer but the Pune police have found no documentation suggesting he had ever studied in the city. Instead, the police say, Siddibapa spent much of his time with a childhood friend, Unani medicine practitioner-turned-Islamist proselytiser Iqbal Ismail Shahbandri.

Iqbal Shahbandri and his brother Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri, now the Indian Mujahideen's top military commander in Karachi, became ideological mentors for many young Islamists in Pune and Mumbai, many of them highly educated professionals.

The brothers were unlikely terrorists: their father, Ismail Shahbandri, had set up a leather tanning factory in Mumbai's Kurla area in the mid-1970s and struggled to give his children a head start. Riyaz Shahbandri went on to obtain a civil engineering degree from Mumbai's Saboo Siddiqui Engineering College. In 2002, he was married to Nasuha Ismail, daughter of an electronics store owner in Bhatkal's Dubai Market.

Nasuha Ismail's brother, Shafiq Ahmad, is believed to have drawn Riyaz Shahbandri into the Students Islamic Movement of India. Riyaz Shahbandri first met his Indian Mujahideen co-founders, Abdul Subhan Qureshi and Sadiq Israr Sheikh, in the months before his marriage. Later, he also made contact with ganglord-turned-jihadist Amir Raza Khan. In the wake of the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat, the men set about sending recruits to Lashkar camps in Pakistan.

Early in the summer of 2004, investigators say, the core members of the network, which was later to call itself the Indian Mujahideen, met at Bhatkal's cheerfully named Jolly Beach to discuss their plans. Siddibapa had overall charge — illustrating his status as the brothers' most loyal lieutenant.

From the testimony of Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley to Indian and United States investigators, it is clear the terror project continued long after several Indian Mujahideen operatives were arrested in 2008 — and the Indian Mujahideen leadership fled to Karachi. Headley told the National Investigation Agency that there were two distinct, competing jihadist projects targeting India, both headquartered out of Karachi.

Lashkar commanders, Headley said, ran one Karachi Project, using dozens of cadre recruited from the ranks of Islamist groups in India. He claimed the 26/11 assault team initially included an “Indian, possibly from Maharashtra.” Headley also said another Maharashtra resident, who used the alias Abu Ajmal, trained with him at the Lashkar's intelligence-tradecraft in August 2003.

The second Karachi Project, NIA documents reveal, was run by a retired Pakistani military officer called Abdur Rehman Hashim, also known by the code name ‘Pasha.'

This second group of Indian jihadists, Headley told the NIA, was a “personal set-up of Pasha, and it is independent of the LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba].”

Major Hashim, according to Headley's account, had served with the 6 Baloch Regiment until 2002, when he refused to lead his troops into combat against Taliban fleeing from the Tora Bora complex in Afghanistan — the last stronghold of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in that country. Later, having been demoted to captain, he resigned his commission and joined the Lashkar as an instructor — training, among others, the men who attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's rally in Srinagar in 2004.

But Major Hashim later fell out with the Lashkar — incensed, like many jihadists, by its refusal to take on the Pakistani state and the western forces in Afghanistan. He threw his weight behind al-Qaeda's Brigade 313, which later claimed credit for the Pune bombing.


Afghanistan maternal mortality drops, survey suggests

30 November 2011

Many more Afghan women are surviving pregnancy and childbirth than was thought, a new survey suggests.

The country's first comprehensive national mortality survey shows the maternal mortality ratio is below 500 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The figures still paint a grim picture but reflect improving standards in antenatal care in recent years.

The Afghanistan Mortality Survey (AMS) 2010, conducted nationwide, also shows some improvement in infant mortality.

In 2005, United Nations Population Fund figures showed maternal mortality rates were 1,800 per 100,000 births in the country.

While maternal mortality figures are improving, complications from pregnancy and childbirth still pose significant risks to women and account for about two in five deaths in women aged 15-49, the survey says.

An Afghan woman dies every two hours from pregnancy-related causes, it says.

And around one in 10 children in Afghanistan will die before their fifth birthday - the highest figure in South Asia, it adds.

The AMS 2010 covered 87% of the population of the country - 98% of the urban population and 84% of the rural population.

The 2010 estimates are lower than previous estimates, which were based on a geographically limited and non-representative sample, officials who carried out the survey say.

The AMS 2010 was carried out by the Afghan Public Health Institute (APHI) of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the Central Statistics Organization (CSO).

For security reasons, rural areas of Kandahar, Helmand and Zabul were excluded from the survey, but urban areas of these provinces were included.


Pakistan may summon BBC as news channel blocked

Nov 30, 2011, AFP,   Pakistan said on Wednesday it was looking at summoning the BBC to demand an explanation over a documentary about the Taliban that has left the BBC World News channel blocked nationwide.

Cable operators pulled the channel late Tuesday amid anger over NATO air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The move raises concerns about censorship in the conservative Muslim country of 167 million, where Facebook was briefly banned in 2010, just days after the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority sought to ban "obscene" text messages.

The Cable Operators Association of Pakistan, confirmed that it had pulled BBC World News from air and said other Western news channels had been ordered "not to indulge in anti-Pakistan propaganda".

The row relates to a two-part BBC documentary, "Secret Pakistan", which questions Pakistan's commitment to tackling Taliban militancy.

The BBC said it was deeply concerned by the move, and called for its channel to be speedily reinstated.

"We condemn any action that threatens our editorial independence and prevents audiences from accessing our impartial international news service," a BBC spokesperson said.

"Definitely, since an issue has been highlighted, the authorities will review the contents of the broadcast and their programmes," said Pakistan's media regulator, PEMRA.

"The authorities can summon BBC representatives and seek an explanation from them," PEMRA spokesman Tahir Izhar told AFP.

Jabbar Ahmed Senior, president of the cable operators association said "no patriot" could tolerate the documentary and adding: "We are also upset about NATO killing 24 Pakistani soldiers."

"We have not received a single call from any where in the country criticising our decision, no one has demanded reopening of the BBC channel. This nation unites when it is a national issue," he told AFP.

"If they apologise to the Pakistan government and the army, and if their apology is accepted only then can we lift the ban," he added.

Pakistan has aroused increasing criticism overseas and from human rights campaigners within the country over censorship. The row over the BBC saw people post links to the documentary on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"It is clear violation of our basic right to information. I condemn it," said Shujauddin Qureshi, a human rights activist.

Saad Haroon wrote on Twitter, "They have taken BBC off the air in Pakistan, great, now we will be the LAST to know when they bomb us."

Last week, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority was forced to row back from banning text messages containing any of nearly 1,700 words, many of which were seemingly innocuous, following outrage from users and campaigners.

Pakistan blocked Facebook for nearly two weeks in May 2010 in a storm of controversy about a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammed and has restricted access to hundreds of websites because of alleged blasphemy.


Pakistan releases video of NATO air strikes, says apology not enough

Omer Farooq Khan,,

ISLAMABAD:  TNN | Nov 30, 2011, Pakistan on Wednesday released video footage to substantiate that the Nato ( North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) air strikes at two military checkposts in the country's north-western tribal region on Saturday were not an accident.

The attack had left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead and 13 injured.

Foreign minister Hina Rabbani on Wednesday told the senate's standing committee on foreign relations that the attack on the checkposts was not an accident and only an apology was not enough.

"Pakistan cannot see its soldiers being killed by allied forces anymore. There is an established mechanism between Pakistan and allied forces working in Afghanistan regarding movement on the border but Nato authorities didn't inform us about their activity before the incident," Khar said. She said that Pakistan's role in Afghan peace efforts had been accepted by all but not appreciated. She added that the coalition forces had crossed red lines several times.

Sharing details of the incident with defence analysts and local TV anchorpersons, the director general of military operations, Major General Ishfaq Nadeem, said that all coordination procedures were violated for carrying out the attacks. "Four border communication centres had been setup to coordinate operations against militants but Nato and Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) violated all standard operating procedures (SOPs) on that night," he said. Nadeem recalled that before this incident, three major attacks had been carried out from across the border-in 2008, 2010 and 2011- killing 14 Pakistani soldiers and injuring another 13.

"No information regarding inquiry of these attacks was shared or provided to us despite our repeated requests and when provided, it was inaccurate and incomplete," he added.

Gen Nadeem said after midnight on Nov 26, two or three helicopters appeared and started engaging 'Volcano' post, smashing all communication systems. In response, the 'Boulder' post engaged helicopters with anti-aircraft guns and all available weapons. The helicopter also attacked the second post. About a possible response by the Pakistan air force, he said the situation was not clear till the morning. Given the ground situation, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was not asked to respond. Officials said that the posts were set up in very difficult terrain on the top of 800-meter high mountains.


Britain withdraws all embassy staff from Iran

By Associated Press

LONDON (AP) November 30, 2011,— Britain‘s foreign minister on Wednesday said the United Kingdom had withdrawn its entire diplomatic staff from Iran following attacks Tuesday on the country’s embassy and a residential compound in Tehran.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons that Britain also had ordered all Iranian diplomats to leave the U.K.

Mobs of Iranian students hauled down British flags and ransacked offices in Tehran on Tuesday in retaliation for Britain‘s support of tighter sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Mr. Hague said Britain and its allies would consider other measures in response at a European Union meeting Thursday.

He said it was “fanciful” to believe the attacks did not take place with support from Iran‘s regime.


Pak army says NATO attack a 'deliberate act of aggression'

Reuters, Nov 30, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has withdrawn from an international conference on stabilizing Afghanistan to protest the deadly attack by American forces on its troops, widening a fresh rupture in ties with a nominal ally that is endangering the US plan for gradually ending the war. In an unusually hostile comment, a top Pakistani army general said on Tuesday that the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers were the result of a " deliberate act of aggression." He said the military has not decided whether to take part in an American investigation into the weekend encounter along the mountainous Afghan border.

The hardline was aimed partly at pacifying the country's anti-American public, most of whom detest their leaders' close association with Washington. The uncompromising stance of the army was also likely designed to press for more concessions from Washington.

Regardless of motive, Pakistan's retaliatory moves and tough rhetoric lower the chances of greater cooperation in the Afghan war.

Those ties have been beset by crises for the most of the year, most notably after the US raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden and wounded Pakistani pride.

Pakistan needs American aid and diplomatic support but has shown no willingness to listen to American requests to fight insurgents who use the border as a staging area to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan. Indeed, the army is widely believed to support those militants, hoping they can help ensure that any future regime in Kabul shares Pakistan's hostility to India.

Full Report at:


Libyan gunman in Istanbul wounds two before being shot dead

Associated Press in Istanbul,  30 November 2011 10.29 GMT

A heavily armed Libyan man has wounded a soldier and a security guard at the entrance of Istanbul's Topkapi Palace before being shot dead, according to witnesses.

Multiple gunshots were reportedly heard on Wednesday morning from behind the high walls of the palace.

Police anti-terror squad officers shot dead the attacker, said Istanbul's police chief, Hüseyin Çapkin. Turkey's interior minister Idris Naim Sahin said the gunman was a 35-year-old Libyan national who entered Turkey on Sunday.A picture by IHA news agency showed the man carrying at least two rifles and a cartridge belt around his neck. It shows the man wearing a black overcoat and cap carrying a backpack.

Istanbul's governor, Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, said the motive of the attack was not known. He said the police decided to shoot him when the gunman seemed determined not to surrender.

The gunman responded to a question in Arabic moments before the attack, a witness, Idris Cengiz, said.

Witnesses said the man shot the soldier in the leg and the guard in the abdomen before running into the palace courtyard, chanting in Arabic: "God is Great!"

"I saw the gunman carrying a gun on his shoulder, like a hunter; he had ammunition around his neck and a backpack. His overcoat was buttoned, I couldn't see what was underneath," Cengiz said.

"He was coming toward us and my friend said he looked like a hunter so I asked him in English, 'Are you a hunter?' He said something in Arabic, which I didn't understand. Then he said 'Allahu Akbar' [God is Great]."

Cengiz said he and his friend heard the gun shots moments later.

"When we ran we saw a soldier and a security guard laying on the ground," he said.

Some tourists also threw themselves on the ground in panic, Cengiz said. There were no other reports of injuries in the attack.


Erdogan Confronts Official History

Saban Kardas

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a groundbreaking step, by issuing a state apology for the killings committed by the state security forces in the historical Dersim –today’s Tunceli– region, predominantly populated by Alevis. The 1937 massacres were long considered a dark part of the Republican history, mirroring also many other repressive practices undertaken by the Republican elite as part of the modernization and nation building project. Until very recently a healthy debate on the subject was difficult. While Erdogan’s apology is a vindication of the progress achieved in the democratization and liberalization of Turkish political culture in recent decades, it also comes as a carefully calculated political maneuver that seeks to bolster his party’s position in the domestic balance of power.

In parallel to issuing the apology, Erdogan made public the state documents that lay out the details of the Dersim events. In response to what it claimed to be a rebellion led by a local chief of a Zaza-speaking tribe in the Dersim region, the Turkish government used heavy force including air strikes which cost the lives of thousands of people (Anadolu Ajansi, November 23). Erdogan’s call for confronting that brutal episode with courage has immense repercussions for the official political narrative in Turkey.

Since its inception in the wake of the First World War, the modern Turkish republic has sought to forge an ethos of a modern state that is formed around a common national identity. Through education and other institutions, the republican state apparatus sought to eliminate ethnic and religious differences in an effort to develop an official Turkish identity to which arguably all people living in Anatolia voluntarily subscribed. As the documents released by Erdogan attest, the state at times resorted to coercive instruments against the groups that resisted the policies of the early republican era.

This official acknowledgement largely shatters the image of a somewhat mystified Turkish state and the idea of unitary nation joined around a common fate. As an immediate effect, the relatives of the victims, some of whom recently launched a legal battle to restore the rights of their family, welcomed the state apology (, November 23). Beyond this, other groups that traditionally felt victimized by the Turkish state also expressed satisfaction with the soul searching by the Turkish government. The members of the Armenian and Greek communities and other non-Muslim groups as well as followers of various Sufi brotherhoods that were subjected to a variety of repressive practices now feel empowered to demand a more open and freer debate on those dark episodes throughout the history of republican Turkey. As Turkey prepares to engage in a new period of intense debate on rewriting its constitution, the dismantling of the authoritarian official political narrative is seen as an opportunity by liberal forces.

There are obviously also political calculations behind Erdogan’s move, given its timing and the manner it is framed. While announcing the historical documents, Erdogan also pointed to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) as the culprit of the crimes. Erdogan was obviously drawing a parallel between today’s CHP and the Turkish statesmen of the time, since Turkey was governed by a single-party rule of the CHP until the transition to democracy in the 1950s. Erdogan called on the CHP’s current leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who himself is also an Alevi from Tunceli, to apologize for the massacres on his party’s behalf.

Erdogan’s remarks immediately resonated through the ranks of the CHP. Erdogan’s announcement came against the background of a heated debate on the Dersim events that had already started inside the CHP. Although differing views on Dersim events occasionally led to frictions inside the CHP, the recent debate was triggered quite unexpectedly. A CHP deputy, Huseyin Aygun, contested the official history and claimed that the Turkish state planned the massacres in Dersim. In his account, the people there were simply defending themselves, not leading a rebellion, as claimed by official history (Today’s Zaman, November 10). Aygun had in fact challenged Erdogan earlier through a parliamentary inquiry to release the state documents and invited him to issue an apology (Anka, September 14).

While, in the ensuing debate inside the CHP, some deputies even called for Aygun’s expulsion from the party, Erdogan and his AK Party skillfully took advantage of this crack in their opponent’s ranks. Erdogan and key AK Party figures increasingly raised the pressure on Kilicdaroglu to confront the history and acknowledge his party’s misdoings by opening the party’s own classified archives and agreeing to initiate a parliamentary inquiry, prior to Erdogan’s announcement of the documents. Kilicdaroglu’s ambivalent reaction to Erdogan satisfied neither those revisionists who are calling for confronting with the Dersim incident nor the opposition who sharply oppose to opening such a debate. However, this debate provided yet another opportunity for the anti-Kilicdaroglu figures to work for regrouping themselves into a formidable counter-block inside the party (, November 26).

The growing infighting in the CHP since then also attests to how deeply the Dersim question affects the CHP’s identity, especially its controversial relationship with the Alevis. Despite the persecution at the hands of the CHP-governed Turkish state, the Alevis have come to evolve as strong supporters of the CHP. The CHP’s advocating of a secular political platform and life style appealed to the Alevis, who historically felt victimized by the Sunni majority and in recent years viewed the CHP as a bulwark against the “Islamization” of Turkish society and politics under right-wing parties.

Although the AK Party wanted to make inroads into the Alevi constituencies, its so-called “Alevi opening” had failed to pay any significant dividends. The CHP still enjoyed support among the Alevi voters in the latest parliamentary elections. Erdogan’s recent move, though admirable, is unlikely to swing the Alevi voters to his party, but many Alevi associations are already demanding the CHP engage in a more sincere discussion on their identity and the not-so pleasant history of their encounter with the Turkish state (Haberturk, November 28). Even the very fact this debate is taking place in the CHP’s ranks is likely to set the CHP on an inward trajectory. Subsumed with yet another round of internal debates, the CHP will find it difficult to launch a credible opposition to the AK Party for some time.


Six suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives held

Dwaipayan Ghosh, ,

NEW DELHI: TNN | Nov 30, 2011 Six suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives, including a Pakistani national, were arrested from across the country today due to their alleged involvement in several blast cases, including in Delhi.

With these arrests, investigators claimed to have solved several blast cases, including the German Bakery case in Pune Chinnaswamy Stadium blast in Bangalore and the Jama Masjid shooting case.

Sources said the arrests were made in the past couple of days following investigations in Chennai.

Mohammad Siddiqui was arrested by the Delhi Police from Pakistan. A member, Gaffar Aziz, was held in Delhi. Two other operatives Jameel and Azmal were arrested from Madhubani. Abdul and Irshad Khan were arrested from Chennai.

Police are still on the lookout for the leader, the India operation head of terror group - Imran.

Police said the modus operandi of the group was that they always operated in groups of twos. The Jama Masjid blast was an exception, where there were three terrorists on the spot.

(With inputs from PTI)


Iceland recognises Palestinian state

Associated Press, 30 November 2011

Iceland has become the first western european country to recognise Palestine as an independent state.

The Icelandic parliament said in a statement on its website that it had passed a motion with 38 of 63 votes in favour of a resolution to recognse Palestine "as an independent and sovereign state" based on borders predating the six-day war of 1967.

"Iceland is the first country in western europe to take this step," Ossur Skarphedinsson, the minister for foreign affairs, told RUV, the Icelandic national broadcasting service. He said the vote had given him the authority to make a formal declaration on the government's behalf, but before doing so he would discuss the move with other Nordic countries.

The resolution, which coincided with the UN's annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, recognised the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the legal authority for a Palestinian state and urged Israel and Palestine to reach a peace agreement.

The vote comes shortly after the Palestinians successfully gained admission to the UN's cultural agency, Unesco. Iceland was among 11 European Union members to support the move, which was part of a larger effort to gain recognition as a state in the world body.

However, the suspected failure to win the required support of nine of the security council's 15 members, and a promise from the US that it would veto any council resolution endorsing membership, threatens to stall the move for full UN membership.

In a message to the UN on Tuesday, the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, reaffirmed Palestine's bid for membership, saying it should complement peace negotiations provided Israel was prepared to negotiate on the basis of 1967 borders.

In a message read out by Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour, Abbas said Palestine's decision to apply to join the UN "is our legitimate right" based on the 1947 UN resolution to partition Palestine into two states.

Icelandic MP Amal Tamimi, who was born in Palestine, welcomed her parliament's move as a first step.

"I hope that more countries will follow suit," she said.


Trial of schoolteacher accused of serial rapes starts today in Jeddah


JEDDAH: Nov 30, 2011. A 43-year-old Saudi schoolteacher accused of raping eight girls after kidnapping them from malls and wedding palaces in Jeddah will stand trial Wednesday before a panel of three judges, sources at the Jeddah general court said Tuesday.

According to the sources, the Prosecution and Investigations Commission (PIC) submitted the case file of 35 pages to the general court about a week ago.

The source said a copy of the confidential file was also handed over to the defendant’s lawyer.

According to the sources, there was enough evidence incriminating the accused, including photographs by surveillance cameras. They showed him kidnapping some of the girls from various locations in Jeddah.

Earlier, he confessed to drinking alcohol and having pornographic clips on his laptop.

The sources said the DNA of the accused matched the samples taken from the clothes of one of the victims. From 2008 until he was caught on May 4, 2011, the accused allegedly kidnapped and raped eight young girls aged between six and 12 years.

According to the sources, the court session will be behind closed doors. Only the accused and his lawyer will be allowed in the court.

The charges include kidnapping and raping underage girls, terrorizing the victims and their families, physically abusing young girls, forcing them into his home, forcing some of them to drink alcohol and watch porn clips and dumping all of them on the street afterward.

On Tuesday local Arabic newspaper Al-Watan quoted Abu Abdul Aziz, an uncle of the accused, as saying that the family had confidence in the judicial system and were sure that their son was innocent.

The uncle said the case was made a public opinion issue after the press and other media had extensively covered it.

“The accused was not caught drinking alcohol. Nor was he in the company of any of the victims he was accused of raping. He was summoned to the police headquarters by a call on his mobile,” he said.

Abu Abdul Aziz was sure that his nephew, who was a good teacher, would never commit such a filthy act.


Libya leaders acknowledge abuse of prisoners


TRIPOLI: Nov 29, 2011 , Libya’s new leaders said Tuesday that some prisoners held by revolutionary forces have been abused, but insisted the mistreatment was not systematic and pledged to tackle the problem.

The acknowledgment comes a day after the UN released report a detailing alleged torture and ill treatment in lockups controlled by the forces that overthrew dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The report says that Libyan revolutionaries still hold about 7,000 people, many of them sub-Saharan Africans who in some cases are accused or suspected of being mercenaries hired by Qaddafi.

Libya’s new leaders, who received the backing of the US, France, Britain and other countries in their fight against Qaddafi, are eager to assure the world of their commitment to democracy and human rights. Interior Minister Fawzy Abdul-Ali acknowledged that abuses have occurred but said the new government is trying to eliminate them.

“We are trying our best to establish a legitimate system that is authorized to make arrests, detain and interrogate people,” he told The Associated Press. “We are trying to minimize the possibilities of violations taking place.”

He said new leaders are working to bolster “the authority of the new government all across the country.” He did not elaborate.

Responding to the UN report, Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur also acknowledged the problem.

“Are there illegal detentions in Libya? I am afraid there are,” Abushagur told a news conference. He said any abuses have been committed by militias not yet controlled by central authorities.

Libya’s new leaders have struggled to stamp their authority on the country since toppling Qaddafi’s regime. One of the greatest challenges still facing the leadership is how to rein in the dozens of revolutionary militias that arose during the war and now are reluctant to disband or submit to central authority.

Abushagur also denied some news reports claiming that Libyan leaders are arming rebels in Syria.

“We are with the Syrian people but we are not going to send fighters or arms,” he said.

Also Tuesday, dozens of people with relatives who went missing in Libya’s recent civil war rallied in front of the main government building to demand that authorities speed up the search for their loved ones.

Most of the missing were fighters, but there are also civilians among them. There are an estimated 20,000 people missing, according to the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Authorities have started trying to find and identify the missing but face many problems. For one, they need to build a DNA laboratory from scratch to match genetic material from living people with the remains in mass graves now spread across this large desert country.


Syrian refugees “will not be forcibly evicted”: Maldives

By Eleanor Johnstone | November 29th, 2011

The Immigration Department is awaiting the resolution of 11 Syrian political refugees who were detained at the airport when boarding a flight to Switzerland with forged documents.

The Syrians had come to the Maldives for an alleged vacation on November 1 with forged documents claiming Turkish nationality. They are said to have stayed at a guest house before attempting to leave two weeks later.

Claiming relations in Berlin, they next attempted to leave for Germany on forged documents.

“The tip-off was that they had no visa into Switzerland, or into Germany, upon attempted departure,” said Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid. “This process, it’s a typical trick of people seeking political asylum.”

Syria has been rocked by political unrest since March, when residents of a southern town protested the torture of students who had put up anti-government graffiti.

President Bashar al-Assad lifted Syria’s decades-old state of emergency in April, only to send tanks and allow security forces to open fire on unarmed demonstrators days later.

Protestors have rejected Assad’s offers of reform as much as his crackdown. As a result, the violence has persisted to the point that the Arab League imposed economic sanctions on the country on November 27, an act decried by Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem as “economic war.”

Sanctions had also been issued by the United States and the European Union.

A recent UN report identified actions by security forces as “crimes against humanity.”

“A panel of independent experts says at least 256 children were killed by government forces as of early November, with some boys sexually tortured and a 2-year-old girl shot to death just to prevent her from growing up to be a demonstrator,” the Washington Post reported yesterday.

In light of Syria’s ongoing political unrest, Shahid said the Syrian nationals will not be forcibly evicted from the Maldives. “They have talked of violence being done to some relatives at home, so they will not be departing to Syria,” he explained.

He added that the group has said they will not take a route that involves transit in any Middle Eastern country. “They are very paranoid right now, and I’m not sure if they’re aware of international norms,” Shahid observed. “The situation has already gotten very bad, and it’s going to take a long time to resolve.”

Syrians have been reported seeking political asylum in various parts of Europe and the Middle East. A 2008 report by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada found that many Syrians who are deported back to Syria after being denied asylum risk imprisonment and even torture.

The group of refugees includes two children, two youth, two couples and several cousins. The family is currently staying in a local residence until they can make arrangements with their legitimate documents, which have been obtained.

According to Shahid, the Syrian refugees will now face sharp scrutiny when taking international flights.

“All airlines have a mechanism to share information about passengers who forge documents,” he said. “Most won’t take them now unless they have a proper visa for their destination.”

The situation in the Maldives is being handled exclusively by the Immigration Department.

Officials at the Presidents Office and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had not responded to phone calls at time of press.


UK to expel all Iranian diplomats over embassy attack

30 November 2011

The UK is to expel all Iranian diplomats following the storming of its embassy in Tehran, Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced.

He said he had ordered the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London.

Tuesday's attack by hundreds of protesters followed Britain's decision to impose further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

The sanctions led to Iran's parliament reducing diplomatic ties with the UK.

Mr Hague said he was demanding the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London, with all its staff to leave the UK within 48 hours.

"If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here," Mr Hague told MPs.

He said there had been "some degree of regime consent" in the attacks on the embassy and on another UK diplomatic compound in Tehran.

He said all UK diplomatic staff in Tehran had been evacuated and the embassy closed.

Mr Hague said relations between the UK and Iran were now at their lowest level, but the UK was not severing relations with Tehran entirely.

Addressing parliament, Mr Hague said he was due to raise the matter at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

"We will discuss these events and further action which needs to be taken in the light of Iran's continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme," he said.

Hundreds of protesters - whom Iran described as "students" - massed outside the embassy compound on Tuesday afternoon before scaling the walls and the gates, burning British flags and a car.

Another UK diplomatic compound in northern Tehran, known locally as Qolhak Garden, was also overrun and damaged.

Iran said it regretted the incident, which it described as "unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters".

Mr Hague said the majority of those taking part had been members of a regime-backed Basij militia group.

He said the private quarters of staff and the ambassador had been ransacked, the main embassy office set on fire and personal possessions belonging to UK diplomats stolen.

The US, EU and UN Security Council also condemned the attacks.

Nuclear report

Last week the US, Canada and the UK announced new sanctions against Iran, including measures to restrict the activities of the Iranian central bank.

The UK said then it was severing all financial ties with Iran.

The move followed a report by the UN's nuclear watchdog (IAEA) that said Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear device".

Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

On Sunday, Iran's parliament voted by a large majority to downgrade diplomatic relations with the UK in response to the recent action.


Norway shuts embassy in Iran after British mission attack

Oslo (Norway) Nov 30, 2011  Norway has closed its embassy in Tehran after the British mission in the Iranian capital was attacked by an angry mob, the government said on Wednesday.

Norway's diplomatic staff are still in Tehran and no decision has been taken to evacuate them, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hilde Steinfeld told AFP.

"The embassy was closed yesterday (Tuesday) after the attack on the British embassy," she said.

"We are continuously evaluating the situation," she said when asked how long the embassy would remain closed.

The diplomatic staff, which consists of a handful of Norwegian citizens, is still in Tehran, she said.

Asked about a possible evacuation, she said "it has been evaluated, but for now no such measure has been taken."

Britain said on Wednesday that some staff at its embassy in Tehran were being evacuated for their own safety after the storming of two British compounds in Tehran by protesters angry at new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.


Six suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives held

Dwaipayan Ghosh, TNN

NEW DELHI: Nov 30, 2011, ,Six suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives, including a Pakistani national, were arrested from across the country today due to their alleged involvement in several blast cases, including in Delhi.

With these arrests, investigators claimed to have solved several blast cases, including the German Bakery case in Pune Chinnaswamy Stadium blast in Bangalore and the Jama Masjid shooting case.

Sources said the arrests were made in the past couple of days following investigations in Chennai.

Mohammad Siddiqui was arrested by the Delhi Police from Pakistan. A member, Gaffar Aziz, was held in Delhi. Two other operatives Jameel and Azmal were arrested from Madhubani. Abdul and Irshad Khan were arrested from Chennai.

Police are still on the lookout for the leader, the India operation head of terror group - Imran.

Police said the modus operandi of the group was that they always operated in groups of twos. The Jama Masjid blast was an exception, where there were three terrorists on the spot.


15 people injured in Rajasthan communal clash

29 November 2011

India News Indian Muslim


Jaipur: At least 15 people were seriously injured in a communal clash in Rajasthan's Alwar district Monday, sparked off after some people issued an order to cut off the nose of a youth harassing a woman from their community, said police.

The punishment to the youth was for allegedly harassing a girl in Deewali village in Alwar, some 150 km from Jaipur.

The clash follows violence in Bharatpur's Gopalgarh town in which 10 Meo Muslims were killed and several others were injured Sep 14.

Police said a youth, Khursheed, had been accused of harassing a girl from another community Sunday evening.

"Leaders of the community to which the girl belonged called a meeting in the village Monday morning and issued a diktat that the youth's nose should be chopped off," a police officer told IANS.

Both communities blamed each other for the violence.

"Members of a community are saying that people barged into their houses and outraged the modesty of some women. They also claim that many men were beaten up with axes and sticks," the officer said.

The police later admitted about 15 men from both the communities a health centre in nearby Laxamangarh for primary treatment. Some were later referred to a government hospital in Alwar due to their serious condition.


‘Suicide bomber’ killed in Quetta

QUETTA: November 30, 201, A suspected suicide bomber was killed near Quetta on Tuesday when the explosive material that he was carrying went off prematurely. According to Superintendent of Police Malik Arshad, the bomber had hired a cab and wanted to go to Chaman with an intention to target someone but explosive that he had fixed to his body exploded prematurely. He confirmed that the dead man was a suicide bomber and showed half-blown body of the suspect to journalists. According to the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS), about two and half kilogramme explosive material was used in the explosion. staff report\11\30\story_30-11-2011_pg7_9


Mortar kills two in Barra

November 30, 2011

KHYBER AGENCY: A woman and a girl were killed while three other women were injured when a mortar shell landed in a house in Barra, an official of the political administration said on Tuesday. According to details, during an exchange of fire between terrorists and law enforcing agencies at Sheikan area of Barra, a mortar shell landed in a house of a local, Aslam Malikdin Khel, resulting in death of a women and a girl. Three other women were injured in the incident. app\11\30\story_30-11-2011_pg7_8


Funeral blast kills two in SWA

November 30, 2011

PESHAWAR: A bomb blast that ripped through a funeral prayer of a local tribesman in South Waziristan Agency bordering Afghanistan killed two and wounded another three, said official sources. A large number of tribesmen were offering the funeral prayer of a local tribesman on Shakai road in the agency when a remote-controlled bomb exploded with a big bang, killing two and injuring three others. app\11\30\story_30-11-2011_pg7_10


Developments in Pak very serious: Kerry

WASHINGTON: PTI | Nov 30, 2011, , Senator John Kerry, who is known as the Obama Administration's trouble shooter on Pakistan, believes that the situation in the country is very serious and the US-Pak relationship is now facing a major challenge.

"It's very serious. It's very complicated," Kerry told Indian reporters on the sidelines of a reception for the new Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, when asked about the developments in Pakistan in the wake of the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO forces in a cross-border fire over the weekend.

The incident has made the Pakistan government and its people furious, as a result of which Islamabad has stopped the crucial NATO supply route - which the lifeline for 140,000 US and international troops in Afghanistan. It also asked US to vacate the secret Shamsi airbase which is apparently used by the CIA for drone attacks and have announced to boycott the upcoming important international meet in Bonn on Afghanistan.

"I think it's a serious challenge. (We) have a lot of concerns," Kerry said when asked about the reaction from Pakistan especially boycott of the Bonn conference.

In the nearly three years of Obama Administration, the White House has heavily relied on Kerry's diplomatic skills to build up the relationship with Pakistan, every time its ties with Islamabad are in a deep crisis.

In the past Kerry has flown to Pakistan several times to successfully overcome those challenges and resolve the differences between the two countries, be it the Raymond David case or the aftermath of the May 2 incident when Osama bin Laden was killed and a US helicopter was stuck in the Abbottabad compound after the operation.

Kerry, a key architect of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill was instrumental in passage of the bill that resulted in providing USD 7.5 billion in civilian aid to Pakistan over a period of five years.

He is known to have close relationship with top Pakistani leaders and military officials.

It is not clear yet, what role Kerry is willing to play when the relationship between the two countries is said to be at its lowest ebb in the nearly three years of Obama Administration.


US says no scale-down of Af-Pak operations

WASHINGTON, 29 NOVEMBER 2011 The United States appointed a top general to conduct an inquiry into last week’s NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, but made it clear at the same time that there would be no scaling down of the fierce operations against militants in the Af-Pak war theatre.

“The war effort continues,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters, stressing, “Everyone realises we have an enemy to engage in Afghanistan and the US military is prepared to carry on.”

The US Central Command’s chief Gen James N Mattis announced on Monday that Brig Gen Stephen Clark of the US Air Force would lead the inquiry that would include a NATO representative as well as Pakistani and Afghan officials.

The announcement came ahead of the Pakistani decision to boycott the upcoming Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan, besides sticking to its closure of NATO supply lines in retaliation against the pre-dawn airstrike last Saturday. Islamabad has also asked the US to vacate the Shamsi air base used by the CIA for its drone operations against militants.

As for the inquiry, Little said, “I think you can expect the investigation to look at the full range of factors that contributed to this tragedy and it will be broad, expansive and thorough.”

As part of the damage control operations, top guns of the Obama administration have offered their “deep condolences” over the cross-border incident. President Obama viewed the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers as “a tragedy”, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“We mourn the brave Pakistani service members who lost their lives, and our sympathies go out to their families and go out to Pakistan,” Carney said.

Full Repoet at:


US asks Pakistan to reconsider Afghan talks boycott

WASHINGTON:  PTI | Nov 30, 2011,,The US asked Pakistan to reconsider its decision to boycott an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn next week, saying it is in Islamabad's interest and that its participation was "very important" for the future of the war-torn country.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while voicing regret at Pakistan's decision hoped it would reconsider and find a "follow-up way" to take part in the talks in Germany. 85 nations and 15 international organisations are due to attend the crucial international meet starting on December 5.

Addressing an aid conference in South Korea, Clinton reiterated the US position that the border killing of Pakistani soldiers was a "tragic incident" and pledged an investigation "as swiftly and thoroughly as possible."

"Frankly this is regrettable that Pakistan has decided not to attend the conference in Bonn because this conference has been long in the planning," Clinton later told reporters.

"Pakistan like the United States has a profound interest in a secure, stable and increasingly democratic Afghanistan," the US' Chief Diplomat said.

Pakistan announced its decision yesterday in protest against the killing of its 24 soldiers by NATO forces in a cross-border fire on the Af-Pak border over the weekend. The incident was described by the Pakistani Army as a "deliberate act of aggression".

Full Report at:


Turkey slaps sanctions on Syria


ANKARA: Nov 30, 2011 13:22 Turkey said on Wednesday it had suspended all financial credit dealings with Syria and frozen Syrian government assets, joining the Arab League and Western powers in imposing economic sanctions against President Bashar Assad’s government.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference that Turkey, Syria’s largest trading partner and a rising Middle East power, will also block delivery of all weapons and military equipment to Damascus as part of measures aimed at persuading Assad to end a crackdown on protesters.

A Foreign Ministry official said the sanctions come into effect immediately.

The move by Turkey, once a close friend of Syria, piles further pressure on Assad and comes after the Arab League announced economic sanctions against Damascus.

Davutoglu also said all relations with Syria’s central bank were being suspended and that a cooperation agreement with Syria was being halted until there was a new government in place.

“Until a legitimate government which is at peace with its people is in charge in Syria, the mechanism of the High Level of Strategic Cooperation has been suspended,” Davutoglu said, adding Assad’s government had come “to the end of the road.”

Full Report at:


Proposed ban on flights to Syria upsets its expats


JEDDAH: Nov 30, 2011, Many Syrian residents in the Kingdom have expressed dismay after it was reported the Arab League could ban airlines from flying to Syria from Arab countries.

Arab foreign ministers on Sunday recommended a ban on flights to the troubled country from Arab countries, among other economic sanctions.

A large number of Syrians in the Kingdom usually travel by air to visit their country.

However, they could now be banned from flying to Syria, and forced to use road transport instead.

The Arab League sanctions that are expected to be implemented include asset freezes and an embargo on Arab investments in Syria.

“As a Syrian resident in Saudi Arabia, I used to visit my country every year by air. Now, I have to stop visiting my home due to the Arab sanctions against my country which may include an embargo on flights to Syria,” said Syrian resident in Jeddah Adel Al-Halbi.

There are a large number of Syrian residents in the Kingdom who usually travel by land to reach their home, especially those who live in the northern regions.

The majority of Syrian residents who live in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam travel by air due to the long distance.

Full Report at:


Saudis urged to leave Syria; OIC meet today


RIYADH: Nov 30, 2011,The Kingdom urged its citizens on Tuesday to leave Syria as soon as possible to avoid getting caught in a government crackdown on popular protests, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The Foreign Ministry renewed its warning to citizens currently in Syria to leave swiftly and asked those planning trips there not to travel now due to the unrest witnessed by the Syrian arena,” the agency said.

One Saudi had been killed by Syrian government forces in the restive city of Homs earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Syria’s foreign minister will attend an emergency meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) aimed at finding ways to end the bloodshed in his country, an OIC official said Tuesday.

The meeting to be held on Wednesday comes just days after the Arab League imposed unprecedented economic sanctions on Syria, including a ban on travel of Syrian officials to Arab countries.

“The (OIC) general secretariat has received confirmation from the Syrian side that Foreign Minister Walid Muallem will attend,” the OIC official said.

He also said that Ali Akbar Salehi, the foreign minister of Iran — a key regional ally of Syria — would also attend the meeting in Jeddah.

A statement from the OIC said the world’s largest body has called on Syria “to stop the violence against civilians” and implement reform “in order to spare the country the risk of internationalization of the crisis.”


Arab League sends 'serious political message' to Syria

By Lyse Doucet, BBC News,

Cairo, 30 November 2011 :  The secretary general of the Arab League has said its approval of unprecedented sanctions has sent a very serious political message to Syria.

Nabil al-Arabi told the BBC that the Syrian government could not carry on as if it was business as usual.

He said new sanctions recently agreed by Arab states would come into force on Saturday unless Syria kept its promises.

Syria's foreign minister has described the sanctions as "economic war".

In a BBC interview at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Mr Arabi said the Arab League had agreed to sanctions "with a heavy heart".

"We have sent a very serious political message" is how the Arab League secretary general described the sanctions.

Mr Arabi said they were a message to Damascus: "You have to behave, you have to stop what is going on, it's not business as usual. Something has to happen."


Bahrain security chief replaced after inquiry

29 November 2011

King Hamad of Bahrain has replaced the head of the country's security agency following an inquiry into the crackdown on protesters earlier this year.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdullah, a member of the ruling family, has been moved to another senior security role.

The inquiry, published last week, found that "excessive force" had been used against pro-democracy protesters.

More than 40 people died during Shia-led protests in February and March.

Abel bin Khalifa Hamad al-Fadhel has been named as the acting security chief, while Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdullah was appointed secretary general of the Supreme Defence Council, an official statement said.

Bahrain's Independent commission of Inquiry was set up after the country faced international criticism of its handling of the protests, which have continued sporadically.

The majority of the population of the Gulf state is Shia Muslim and the violence has fuelled anger against the ruling Sunni royal family and political elite.

More than 1,600 people have been arrested since the start of the protests. The commission found that many detainees had been subjected to "physical and psychological torture" and their basic human rights were violated.


Iranian influence seeping into Iraq

By Lara Jakes-Associated Press

 MANDALI, Iraq , November 29, 2011,  Iran’s presence is already visible in Iraq, from the droves of pilgrims at Shiite holy sites to the brands of yogurt and jams on grocery shelves.

But now Iraqis are bracing for a potential escalation of Persian influence as the U.S. military leaves at the end of the year.

It’s a natural step, most agree, for the only two Shiite Muslim-led governments in the Sunni-dominated Mideast to expand their relationship. Still, it’s a fine line for Iraq to walk, with even many in Iraq’s Shiite majority wary of infringement of their country’s sovereignty and afraid of being overrun by the Iranian theocracy.

From politics and weapons to pilgrims and consumer products, Iraqis have for years stood by as Iranian influence seeped in. It’s been galling for many still bitter over the destruction that Iran heaped on their homes during the eight-year war in the 1980s that left a half-million people dead.

“We hated the Iranians. And there are still bad feelings,” said Fouad Karim, a 36-year-old sheep trader in the northeast town of Mandali, about six miles from the Iranian border.

Iranian goods are displayed at a shop in Baghdad. Iran’s presence is already visible in Iraq, from the pilgrims at Shiite holy sites to the brands of yogurt and jams on grocery shelves. (Associated Press)

The town was all but destroyed during the Iraq-Iran war, and travelers entering Mandali are greeted by a monument to a young woman killed by Iranian shelling at her own wedding in 1983.

“The government should not tolerate any Iranian interference, as our anger against them only gets worse when we hear about their deeds,” said Mr. Karim, a Shiite.

Top Iranian officials maintain they are only strengthening diplomatic and economic ties with Iraq, as they have sought to do since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein.

U.S. officials, however, have long feared what they describe as Iranian meddling in Iraq — and its potential to sow unrest across the Mideast. Those worries were a chief driver of failed efforts to leave at least several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.

At least three Shiite militias backed by Iran ramped up attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq this year in a warning not to stay beyond the deadline. U.S., and Iraqi intelligence officials said Iran supplied the militiamen with weapons, training and millions of dollars in funding.

Those militias’ strength will no doubt give them influence in Iraq after the withdrawal.

“Iran wants to make Iraq a weak state,” says Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, the U.S military spokesman in Iraq. “Iran is feeling increasingly isolated, and one of the ways it can avoid isolation is by co-opting Iraq.”

During a recent trip to Baghdad, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi described the neighborly relationship as “two branches belonging to one tree” and dismissed U.S. accusations of interference.

“Iraqis know better than anyone else how to run their country,” he said.

Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says U.S. fears about Iran’s influence are largely “overblown.”

Full report at:


US finds reassurance in Egypt's peaceful voting


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2011, The Obama administration offered tempered praise this week as millions of Egyptians cast ballots in an election likely to be the country's freest and fairest ever — a vote the U.S. insisted go forward despite objections by pro-democracy street protesters.

Egyptian soldiers carry ballot boxes to a counting center after polling stations closed in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011. Egypt's military rulers were quick to take credit Tuesday for a strong turnout in the first elections since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, a vote that appeared to be the country's freest and fairest in living memory. (AP Photo)

An Egyptian woman votes as her child stands behind her at a polling station near the town of Ibshawai, near Fayoum, 62 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011. Polls opened Tuesday for a second day of voting in Egypt's landmark parliamentary elections, the first since Hosni Mubarak's ouster in a popular uprising earlier this year. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

The administration wanted timely elections even though they risked leaving the U.S. with less influence and fewer friends in the Middle East.

After two days of largely peaceful voting marked by high turnouts, U.S. spokesmen termed Egypt's first vote since Hosni Mubarak's ouster a success. They focused on the openness of the parliamentary election and not on the Islamic hardliners who may end up the big winners — or what that might mean for U.S. policy or U.S. ally Israel.

"As much as it's important to protest in Tahrir Square, the real future — the democratic future — of Egypt will be decided in the ballot box," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "The Egyptian people are now exercising their democratic right in a peaceful fashion that will lead to real democratic change in the long term for Egypt. That's a very good thing."

After a week when U.S. officials watched warily as Egypt suffered a new wave of unrest and violence, Monday and Tuesday's balloting provided the administration with renewed confidence that the country is on a path that, however treacherous, should lead to a more democratic future. Fears that protests and harsh police action would spill over into the election, or that Egypt's military rulers would interfere with voters, proved unfounded.

The result seemed to validate weeks of active diplomacy by the Obama administration to press Egypt's interim military leadership to stick to its proposed timeline for parliamentary and presidential elections. The U.S. hasn't gotten all it wanted, including a key demand of the demonstrators that Egypt's Mubarak-era emergency restrictions on civil liberties be lifted. Washington nonetheless stuck to a strategy of backing the Egyptian generals' stewardship over the transition — despite misgivings over rough treatment of protesters — and the smooth voting suggests the strategy paid off.

Full Report at::


Shanghai Cooperation Organization Considers Expansion

Sergei Blagov

The heads of government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have reiterated earlier promises to enlarge the grouping. Thus, the organization (currently including Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) has insisted on its global ambitions. SCO expansion would serve to strengthen its international status, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced on November 7. He also urged member states to draft and adopt a blueprint aimed to develop multilateral trade and economic ties. The SCO should become a “basic structure of the global economic and political architecture,” Putin said (Interfax, ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, November 7).

The SCO key member states voiced interest in strengthening the grouping by inviting South Asia’s major nations. On October 31, Russia and China voiced support for the speedy SCO accession of India and Pakistan. The announcement was made following talks in Moscow between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Aleksandr Borodavkin, and his Chinese counterpart Cheng Guoping. Both sides supported the SCO membership of India and Pakistan, observer status of Pakistan and dialogue partner status of Turkey, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement after the talks (Interfax, October 31).

The SCO has already prepared itself for accepting new member countries. The previous SCO summit in Tashkent in June 2010 approved the rules on accepting new member-states. According to these rules, the SCO’s new members must be Eurasian nations, have diplomatic relations with all current member states, and have either observer or dialogue partner status.

However, the rules stipulate that would-be member countries must not be subject to UN sanctions, or be involved in any armed conflict. These conditions effectively rules out membership for Iran, India and Pakistan. Last June, Russian officials made it clear the SCO would not accept India and Pakistan as full members due to the continued territorial dispute between them. But in November, Moscow appeared to change its earlier position by indicating interest in the SCO membership of India and Pakistan.

Furthermore, Russian media outlets speculated that the grouping may also be interested in Iranian membership. On November 7, Izvestiya claimed that the SCO was inviting Iran, among other observer nations, to join the grouping. However, the daily conceded that the meeting in St. Petersburg refrained from specific discussions of Iran’s possible accession (Izvestiya, November 7).

In the past several years, the SCO has expanded its partnership program. Iran, as well as India, Mongolia and Pakistan, are currently SCO partners, while Belarus and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners. The Kremlin also used the SCO meeting as an opportunity to voice its concerns on international issues. Ahead of the meeting, Kirill Barsky, the Russian presidential envoy in the SCO, said the grouping opposed “unilateral” missile defense efforts. However, in remarks on November 1, Barsky conceded that the SCO was not a military bloc and the organization was not directed against any nation (Interfax, November 1).

The SCO has long been seen as aiming to unite Central Eurasian nations in their opposition to perceived US global domination. The June 2011 SCO summit voiced opposition against what was described as “unilateral” moves in missile defense as detrimental to international security. However, the SCO member states apparently continued to avoid any anti-Western verbal attacks.

The meeting in St. Petersburg also focused on economic matters. It adopted a joint statement and a mid-term blueprint to develop multilateral banking cooperation in 2012-2016, as well as approved plans to create a multilateral development bank. The SCO prime ministers’ agreed to hold their next meeting in Kyrgyzstan (Interfax, ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, November 7).

At a separate meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, Putin hailed bilateral economic and trade ties, adding that commerce between the two nations would reach $80 billion this year. Wen Jiabao also discussed bilateral economic ties with his Kazakh counterpart Karim Masimov.

Masimov told the meeting that the SCO should consider the creation of a new financial body, a joint multilateral reserve bank. He argued the new bank would help member states to minimize adverse repercussions of the upcoming second wave of the global financial crisis (RIA Novosti, November 7). Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told the meeting that Beijing was prepared to grant concessionary loans to finance infrastructure development programs of the SCO member states.

After the meeting, Moscow suggested that transport infrastructure projects should be prioritized. On November 8, Putin announced that the SCO meeting agreed to work out new incentives to develop international road networks and transportation. The SCO should also prioritize cross-border transportation corridors to connect Europe and Asia-Pacific, he said (Interfax, ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, November 7).

In the past, the SCO member states advocated increased trade, the introduction of the new international currency and the regional unified energy system. During the SCO summit meeting in Astana on June 15, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev urged the SCO to create the new international currency based on the gold standard. Therefore, the latest SCO top-level meeting came to indicate the grouping’s global political and economic ambitions. However, it remains to be seen whether the organization could manage to expand its global clout.


Armenian Government And Parties Gear Up For Parliamentary Race

Emil Danielyan

Parliamentary elections slated for May 2012 are becoming the focal point of political life in Armenia, with the main political forces already positioning themselves for the contest seen as a dress rehearsal for a presidential ballot due in 2013. President Serzh Sargsyan is expected to go to great lengths to retain a solid majority in parliament and thus pave the way for a second five-year term in office.

A series of unexpected changes within the country’s political leadership engineered by him in recent weeks are clearly meant to serve that purpose. More specifically, Sargsyan seems anxious to ward off a possible challenge to his rule from Robert Kocharian, his predecessor and erstwhile ally. Sargsyan sees less of a threat emanating from the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance led by another former president, Levon Ter-Petrosian.

Having failed to clinch more concessions from the government through recent non-stop street protests in Yerevan, Ter-Petrosian announced in late October that the HAK may well fail to force early national elections (his key demand since 2008) and should therefore start preparing for the regular legislative polls. In a speech at a Yerevan rally witnessed by the author, he said his bloc will be seeking to gain a “weighty presence” in the National Assembly that would enable it to impeach the president “single-handedly or in an alliance with other forces.”

Sargsyan’s failure to respond to this statement as well as earlier overtures made by Ter-Petrosian is a measure of his self-confidence. Senior figures from his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have expressed confidence that the HHK will not only retain but even expand its parliamentary majority. The presidential party already controls most of the 131parliament seats. It also relies on the backing of two junior partners in the governing coalition, the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Orinats Yerkir parties.

The BHK is particularly important, boasting the second largest faction in the current parliament and being represented in the government by four ministers. The party reportedly came under strong pressure from the presidential administration after its Kocharian-linked leader, businessman Gagik Tsarukian, pointedly declined to reaffirm support for Sargsyan’s re-election in early October (, October 3). Tsarukian committed himself to such support in a February 2011 joint declaration with Sargsyan and Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian.

The tycoon spoke evasively about the 2013 presidential election just days after Kocharian, who governed the country from 1998-2008, gave the strongest indication yet of his desire to return to active politics (See EDM, October 28). Sargsyan’s ensuing actions suggest that he is worried about the prospect of a Kocharian comeback despite the long history of mutually beneficial interaction between the two Karabakh-born men.

On October 28, Yerevan’s Mayor Karen Karapetian (also a native of Karabakh) unexpectedly announced his decision to resign after less than one year in office. Karapetian attributed the move to “personal reasons” and denied any political reasons for it, insisting that he has always enjoyed “unlimited” support from the president (ArmNews TV, October 28). Some media commentators suggested that Karapetian was told to quit because of being regarded as a potential Kocharian loyalist. Similar speculation surrounded the resignation of Parliamentary Speaker, Hovik Abrahamian, which was announced on November 2 and formalized on November 14 ( Abrahamian was more influential during Kocharian’s rule. Also, one of his sons is married to a daughter of Tsarukian.

Speaking to Radio Free Europe’s Armenian service on November 2, the outgoing speaker denied any connection between his resignation and Kocharian’s political plans. He claimed that he stepped down in order to accept Sargsyan’s offer to manage the ruling HHK’s parliamentary election campaign.

In a related development, Mikael Minasian, Sargsyan’s son-in-law and reputedly closest confidante, was relieved of his duties as deputy chief of the presidential staff on the next day. Minasian, 34, said he left the staff to “help” Abrahamian prepare for the parliamentary elections (, November 3). This was construed by analysts as a further sign that Abrahamian is not trusted by the president.

The November 1 sacking of Alik Sargsyan (no relation), the chief of the Armenian police appears to have also been election-related. His replacement, former Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Gasparian, is widely regarded as a tougher figure fully loyal to the head of state.

Meanwhile, the BHK is still in no rush to explicitly state whom it will support in the presidential election. One of its senior parliamentarians, Vartan Bostanjian, suggested on November 10 that Tsarukian’s party can actually win the 2012 polls if “equal conditions” are put in place for all election contenders ( Bostanjian spoke three days before a BHK candidate defeated the incumbent HHK-affiliated mayor of the northern town of Ijevan in a local election. The presidential camp downplayed nationwide implications of its rare electoral loss. It also insists that the forthcoming elections will be the most democratic in Armenia’s history, a pledge dismissed by the leading opposition groups. Their skepticism is rooted in the Armenian authorities’ handling of past elections marred by reports of serious fraud.

In a November 21 open letter, Raffi Hovannisian, the US-born leader of the opposition Heritage party, challenged Sargsyan to prove his stated commitment to clean elections by ending the HHK’s heavy use of government levers and enacting more radical changes to electoral legislation. In particular, Hovannisian said, election commissions must be required to ink voters’ fingers to prevent multiple voting – a measure the authorities have long opposed (Aravot, November 22). The Armenian leader has still not responded to the letter.


Britain withdraws some diplomatic staff from Iran

Reuters | Nov 30, 2011,

LONDON: Britain said on Wednesday it had withdrawn some diplomatic staff from Tehran after protesters stormed and ransacked its embassy in the Iranian capital.

"The Prime Minister and foreign secretary have made clear that ensuring the safety of our staff and their families is our immediate priority," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

"In light of yesterday's events, and to ensure their ongoing safety, some staff are leaving Tehran."

Earlier, Western diplomatic sources in Tehran told Reuters that Britain had evacuated all its diplomatic staff from Iran.


Iran missile research facility was destroyed in recent explosion: report

Washington:Nov 30 2011

Iran's military base, believed to house the country's missile research facility, was totally obliterated by a recent deadly explosion.

Iran's military base, believed to house the country's missile research facility was totally obliterated by a recent deadly explosion when the technicians were at final stages of testing a long range missile, apparently capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Though the Iranian officials called it an accident, the satellite images made public today reveal vast destruction and chaotic disarray across a sprawling complex composed of more than a dozen buildings, The New York Times reported.

"The entire facility was destroyed and there is hardly any building left standing," the paper quoted a report made by Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington.

The institute officials were quoted as saying that the blast occurred while rocket engineers were performing a volatile procedure with missile engine, indicating that Iran as working on the development of a new long range missile probably capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

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India: Sena activists vandalise Hotel Vaishali

Pune: Nov 30 2011,

In the wake of a Belgaum resident posting derogatory content against Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray on Facebook, a group of Shiv Sena activists on Tuesday vandalised Hotel Vaishali on F C Road and also painted protest messages on buses of Karnataka state transport at Swargate bus terminus in Pune.

Recently, Thackeray had said Jnanpith committee should take back the award from Jnanapith award winner Dr Chandrashekara Kambar from Karnataka for his alleged "anti-Marathi" remarks. This sparked protests in Karnataka and activists of Kannada Rakshan Vedike defaced Thackeray's image. Also, Belgaum resident Pravin Shetty posted derogatory content against Thackeray on Facebook. To condemn this, Shiv Sena activists had attacked hotels owned by Shettys in Kolhapur on Monday. In Pune, a group of Shiv Sena activists attacked Hotel Vaishali owned by Jagganath Shetty. Sainiks allegedly forced the customers out of the hotel, shouted at the hotel staff and then pelted stones which broke glass furniture and caused damage of about Rs 20,000.

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