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Entrenching the Culture of Violence among Children in Maldives

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 May 2012


South Asia

 Entrenching the Culture of Violence among Children in Maldives

 Afghan insurgents target safest province Bamiyan

 Senior al Qaeda militant killed in Afghanistan, says NATO

 Obstructing sermons “a great war to destroy religion”: Maldives religious Party

 Maldives Home Minister claims reports of criminal activity in MDP Protest Camp

 Indian High Commission slams Education Ministry over stranded expatriate teachers

 US Embassy hold information session for police on democratic rule of law



 Interlocutors' report aims to create a divide: Hizbul chief

 Zakia Jafri to inspect original SIT report

 Congress divided Hindus and Muslim:  Gujarat CM

 CBI moves Interpol for Red Corner Notice against I M operative

 Sub-quota for Muslims: Govt to challenge Andhra HC verdict in SC

 Pak says enough proof to nail Lashkar commander for 26/11 plot

 India ready to pay $10 million to Pakistan if it hands over Hafiz Saeed: Home secretary

 Sarabjit files fresh clemency plea

 After release from Pak, 18 fishermen reunite with kin

 India gives extradition pact draft, Pak to consider



 Doctor in bin Laden case corrupt, womaniser: current and former Pakistani officials

 Islamic awakening only way to foil the designs of the infidel forces: Religious leaders in Pak

 Wave of violence claims nine lives in Karachi

 Foreign Ministry told to ascertain nationality of Pakistani prisoners

 Fifteen killed in attack on militant hideouts in Orakzai, Khyber

 Seven bodies found in Balochistan

 Thousands rally in support of PM Gilani in Quetta

 Buried troops declared dead after 52 days

 Pak’s interior minister ready for visa pact if Indian Home Minister signs it

 ISI chief’s US visit put off: Pak military

 Gilani case: Opposition moves apex court

 Brother of doctor who helped trace Osama appeals for fair trial

 Pakistan tests nuclear capable Hatf IX missile


Arab World

 Palestinian Victory and Zionist Defeat

 Fire Spreading From Play Area of Mall in Qatari Capital Kills 19, Including 13 Children

 Iraqi ancient Christian city of Hira lies neglected

 Violence Flares After Egypt Election Results

 Candidate’s Offices Burn Amid Egypt Demonstrations

 Bahrain: Activist to End 110-Day Hunger Strike

 Islamist, ex-military man contest Egypt presidency


Southeast Asia

 Malaysia's Kelantan demands Islamic designs in Buddhist building

 North Thailand Buddhists Protest Monster Mosque Construction

 Indonesia: Shaving heads for kids with cancer

 Malaysia’s Anwar seeks to strike out protest charges


North America

 Islamophobia, new form of political colonialism, waged by the US and its Zionist allies

 Clinton chided Pakistani officials in Zardari meeting: NYT

 Obama's Memorial Day message: Troops are coming home

 Taking Up 4,486 Flags for Slain Soldiers, but Holding On to Their Memory

 Danish Police Arrest 2 Men in Terror Plot



 You Can't Defeat Boko Haram, Cleric Tells President

 Tuareg-Islamist unity bid in north Mali unravels

 Nigeria: 'Baby Clutching Quran' Born in Lagos Church

 Sudan 'to withdraw troops'



 UN condemns Syria massacre as at least 40 more are killed

 Muslim extremists using Facebook, Twitter to radicalise UK students: Report

 Assad in bind as ally Russia unscrews ties

 Kazakh police are jailed over Zhanaozen violence

 UN envoy Kofi Annan set to meet Syria's Bashar al-Assad

 Britain: Judge Denies Bail for Radical Cleric


Mideast Asia

 US drone strike; attacks kill 17 al-Qaida fighters in Yemen

 Turkish Court Indicts 4 Israeli Military Leaders

 Turkish court orders six ex-generals held over 1997 coup

 Iran says sanctions threat jeopardises nuclear talks


Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Entrenching the Culture of Violence among Children in Maldives




South Asia


Entrenching the Culture of Violence among Children in Maldives

 May 26th, 2012

February 7 and 8, 2012, was the beginning of a very violent period in the recent history of the Maldives inflicted by its own people, the police and the army, on unarmed civilians, writes former Deputy Health Minister Mariya Ali for Child Rights International Network.

The first democratically elected president was deposed in a coup d’état on February 7. Since then non-violent protests have continued mainly in the streets of the capital city, Male. So far, 412 people have been detained as political prisoners.

Testimonies of male and female detainees confirm that varying degrees of physical, mental and sexual abuse were perpetrated by the police. Violence from the police has been witnessed by children either through their families being directly affected by it or via images on television. Children who witness violence are traumatised with varying degrees of psychological damage that they carry throughout their lives.

This year, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) celebrated Maldivian Children’s Day in their full army clothing, with a designated area created to look like a war zone, and with officers helping children to hold real firearms correctly in their hands and showing them how to use them. Although the MNDF declared that the firearms were not loaded, it failed to recognise the timing and the symbolic message behind the event.

Against the backdrop of continuing violence, growing religious extremism in the island paradise, combined with the message from the current President Mohamed Waheed – “Be courageous. Today you are all mujaheddin [those who fight jihad] who love the nation” – children are internalising the use of violence as a norm.



Afghan insurgents target safest province Bamiyan

29 May, 2012

KABUL: Insurgents have stepped up attacks in the area thought to be Afghanistan’s safest, the rugged central province of Bamiyan, moving into the region in a bid to undermine security ahead of the end-2014 exit from the country of most foreign combat troops.   

Around 20 Taliban fighters from neighboring Baghlan province have crossed into Bamiyan and launched attacks in several districts, Bamiyan Police Chief General Juma Guldi Yardem told Reuters on Tuesday.

“They usually plant roadside bombs, lead attacks on security checkpoints and some have even launched suicide attacks on some government offices,” Yardem said.

Bamiyan was a focus of world attention in March 2001 when Afghanistan’s former Taliban government destroyed two colossal sandstone Buddhas carved into cliffs, targeting the 1,700 year-old statues with tank and anti-aircraft guns, as well as dynamite, because they were un-Islamic.

The province, where most people belong to the Hazara ethnic group, opposed to the Pashtun-dominated Taliban, is located in the Hindu Kush mountains around 240 km (150 miles) northwest of Kabul, and had been thought to be one of the country’s safest areas.

Though infrequent bombings and sporadic attacks have taken place, the government had been working on making the province a centre for tourism, albeit in limited form, with security provided by Afghan police and a small number of soldiers from New Zealand.

It is home also to the Bande Amir chain of lakes, whose deep blue waters are fenced by sheer limestone cliffs.

Yardem said the insurgents, who he claimed had been trained in Pakistan, attacked a police checkpoint in Kohmard district in April, and also laid roadside bombs targeting civilians.

“The insurgents are attempting these attacks in Bamiyan to create fear and panic among people, and make a safe province insecure,” he said.

Bamiyan was one of the first provinces to be handed over to Afghan security forces in July 2011, with around 1,000 lightly armed Afghan police and intelligence forces based there, but no Afghan soldiers.

“As soon as they find a security vacuum, they step up attacks,” Yardem said. “It’s obviously affecting Bamiyan’s security.”

He said he was asking the Afghan interior ministry and security forces in neighboring Baghlan to step up offensive operations against the insurgents, because if attacks were to continue there would be insufficient police officers to guard Bamiyan.

Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said security in the province was still comparatively good. European skiers even held an international competition in the area in March, taking advantage of heavy winter snows.

“Bamiyan is safe and secure, but there are some exceptions,” Ahmadi said.

New Zealand’s government earlier this month said soldiers from that country would leave Afghanistan in 2013, a year earlier that planned, because of security improvements in Bamiyan, with a team ready to assess security in the next few weeks.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan since the Taliban began its yearly summer offensive in April, vowing to target Afghan government and security forces, as well as the 130,000 foreign troops in the country.



Senior al Qaeda militant killed in Afghanistan, says NATO

29 May, 2012

KABUL: Nato said Tuesday that al Qaeda’s second in command in Afghanistan had been killed in an air strike near the Pakistani border.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said Saudi-born Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Musthaq and Nasim, commanded foreign fighters and directed attacks on Nato and Afghan troops.

It described him as al Qaeda’s “second highest leader in Afghanistan”, saying he frequently travelled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, “carrying out commands from senior al Qaeda leadership.”

He also supplied weapons and equipment to insurgents, and managed the transport of insurgent fighters into Afghanistan, the military said.

Nato said he was killed in an air strike on Sunday with “one additional al Qaeda terrorist in Watahpur district, Kunar province” which borders Pakistan.

The United States announced last year that it would focus military operations in Afghanistan towards the eastern provinces, which border Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt where US officials say Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants have sanctuary.



Obstructing sermons “a great war to destroy religion”: Maldives religious Party

By Ahmed Naish

 May 28th, 2012

Obstruction of religious sermons across the country by supporters of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) amounts to “a great war to destroy religion”, the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party has claimed.

In a strongly-worded statement released on Sunday, the Adhaalath Party condemned MDP-led protests against visiting Sheikhs in several islands as “lowly and secular acts” allegedly intended to “sow discord in society” and “lead the people astray from Allah’s path.”

In recent weeks, city and island councils controlled by the former ruling party have refused to authorise sermons in mosques by prominent religious scholars of Adhaalath Party, on the grounds that it could “disrupt the peace and create unrest”.

Under the landmark Decentralisation Act enacted in 2010, permission to preach in mosques and other public places must be sought from local councils.


In the past month, attempts by Sheikh Ilyas Hussein, head of the Adhaalath Party’s scholar’s council, to preach in Addu City, Male’ City, Baa Atoll Thulhaadhoo and Haa Dhaal Vaikaradhoo were met with refusals by MDP-dominated local councils and angry protests by the party’s supporters.

On May 18, police arrested five people from a group of MDP supporters protesting outside al-Furqan mosque in Male’ during a sermon by Sheikh Ilyas, which saw clashes between rival supporters outside the mosque.

Prior to the unrest, Male’ City Council had asked police to stop the sermon from proceeding. The disturbance in the capital followed a similar dispute between the Adhaalath Party and the MDP-controlled Addu City Council, which had also refused to authorise Sheikh Ilyas to preach.

Local media reported violent clashes between MDP and Adhaalath Party supporters in the southernmost atoll following the Addu City Council’s decision.

Vaikaradhoo Island Council Chair Ahmed Waheed told Minivan News last Thursday that the council denied permission to the Sheikh because “we are certain that we could not control any unrest that might be created if Sheikh Ilyas is allowed to preach here.”

A number of MDP supporters meanwhile protested at the Vaikaradhoo jetty with chants of “traitor” when the Adhaalath delegation arrived, forcing the party leaders to disembark under police protection.

“An effort to eradicate Islam”

“What [the protesters] are saying is that they do not want to listen to religious counsel from scholars sent by the present government,” reads the Adhaalath statement.

“But they have no problem accepting salaries and services provided to citizens by the current government, such as healthcare, electricity, water and other services. Therefore, it is certain that their action is a great war to destroy religion in the guise of political activity.”

As the Maldives is “a 100 percent Muslim country,” the statement continued, religious scholars should not face any obstacle to preach and raise religious awareness among the public.

The Adhaalath Party called on the government to impose “harsh measures” against persons who obstruct religious sermons.

Meanwhile on its official twitter account, the party contended that “the ongoing harassment of scholars is nothing but an effort to eradicate Islam here in Maldives and open up the country to other religions.”

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed – who represents the Adhaalath Party in President Mohamed Waheed’s cabinet along with Housing Minister Mohamed Muizz – told Sun Online today that obstruction of religious sermons was carried out to show the outside world that there were Maldivians “opposed to Islam.”

Councils that refuse to permit religious sermons should be dissolved, the Islamic Minister said, adding however that some MDP-controlled councils had welcomed religious scholars and were cooperating with the ministry.


In September 2011, following frequent clashes with President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration over various issues— selling alcohol on inhabited islands, making Islam an optional rather than a compulsory subject in secondary school and introduction of ‘religious unity regulations’ – the Adhaalath Party voted to sever its coalition agreement with the former ruling party.

In late 2011, Adhaalath Party teamed up with a coalition of eight political parties and religious NGOs to stage a ‘mega-protest’ on December 23 to ‘Defend Islam’ from an alleged “securalisation agenda” pursued by the deposed president.

Responding to the religious conservative party’s charges today, MDP Spokesperson and Maafanu North MP Imthiyaz Fahmy argued that “the coup itself is the war to destroy the religion, civilisation and democracy in the Maldives.”

“The coup-sheikhs and their partners in crime are the real culprits to blame and no one else,” MP Imthiyaz said. “People of those islands or the vast majority of citizens of the Maldives do not consider them Sheikhs anymore but rebels and traitors. So certainly people will protest against such rebels and coup-sheikhs wherever they go.”

On the role of local councils denying permission to preach “politicised” sermons, Imthiyaz said the party’s councils would “act in conformity with laws and regulations.”

“MDP is an advocate and promoter of a decentralised system of governance,” he continued. “But this coup government has been trying to destroy the system. [Plans to bring] mosques directly under the [Islamic] ministry is such an attempt, thus back to the old days.”

Imthiyaz further argued that the MDP government “freed Sheikhs from jails and allowed them to freely delver speeches and sermons.” Under the 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a number of religious scholars were reportedly detained and tortured. A number of scholars claimed they had their beards shaven with chili sauce.

“We are the only party which does not use religion as a political tool or exploit religion for that purpose,” Imthiyaz said, adding that the party accorded “the highest degree of respect to religion.”



Maldives Home Minister claims reports of criminal activity in MDP Protest Camp

By Daniel Bosley

 May 28th, 2012

The Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed yesterday claimed to have received reports that criminal activity was being conducted at the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MDP)’s protest camp in Usfasgandu area.

Jameel’s comments come only days after the Criminal Court refused to grant a court order for the forced dispersal of the protest camp, which was granted to the MDP by the Male’ City Council – which has an MDP majority. The court had argued that the case fell under the jurisdiction of the Civil Court.

Jameel was not responding at time of press. However he was reported in Haveeru saying that: “No complaints of any criminal activities had been raised with us at the time [of the original court order request]. But now many complaints have been received including criminal offences.”

The Criminal Court last week decided that the case concerning the disputed jurisdiction of the Usfasgandu area fell outside of its remit. The police had requested the court order following an instruction from the Home Ministry to take over the area on behalf of the government.

The MDP have based their activities in the area since their original ‘Justice Square’ protest camp was dismantled by security forces on March 19. During the subsequent court case the MDP’s legal team decried the fact that the government forces had acted without a court order.

After the camp had been dismantled, the government defended its actions, arguing that criminal activities had been planned and executed in the area.

There had been incidents in the days immediately preceding the raid in which police had been attacked by individuals who were then reported to have retreated into the crowded camp area.

Furthermore, the March 19 raid came only hours after an MDP led march, originating at the ‘Justice Square’ camp, in protest of the re-opening of the People’s Majlis turned violent resulting multiple injuries to both civilians, police and military personnel. Villa Television (VTV)) also sustained significant damage.

During the raid itself, after a brief media blackout, the security forces paraded cases of alcohol to waiting journalists as apparent evidence of illegal activity in the camp.

The ensuing court case was inconclusive, being dismissed on a technicality shortly before the closing statements were expected. The technical issue was resolved and the case re-filed, before again being held up on a similar issue.

Hissan Hussian, a member of the MDP’s legal team, said that the MDP will not stop police investigating potential cases of criminality. She said that the police could obtain a search and arrest warrant if it had reasonable grounds to believe that illegal activity was taking place.

“We are saying that if criminality is going on, they are free to investigate. We will not give cover to anyone engaging in illegal activities,” said Hissan.

She also revealed that a petition had been circulating in protest of the bullying tactics being used against the MCC. The petition seeks to remind the Local Government Association (LGA) and other government ministries that jurisdictional battles must be pursued through the appropriate legal avenues. The petition so far has arounf 150 signatures.

This follows the submission to the LGA last week of a petition criticising the MCC’s policies on religious speeches as well as its general provision of services.

Over 60 days had passed between the MDP’s relocation to Usfasgandu and the Home Ministry’s order to the police, during which time no complaints of criminal activity had been received according to the Home Minister’s comments.

Spokesman for the MDP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor saw these accusations as a furtherance of the government’s attack on basic freedoms: “This is very telling. They have tried but they are losing a battle against freedom of expression.”

“The coup administration appears to be acting on the previous constitution while we are acting on the current constitution. They have memory loss,” said Ghafoor

Ghafoor, who is also MP for Henveiru South, the constituency in which Usfasgandu lies, said that he had not been made aware of any criminal activities in the area.

“If there were serious problems I would be the first to know. I walk around the area every day,” he added.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was unable to give specific details of any of these complaints, explaining that such complaints do not always go through the police but can go directly to the Home Ministry.

Usfasgandu has become the most prominent in a series of inter-governmental disputes between the central government and Male’ City Council (MCC). The government has argued that the MCC’s leasing of the Usfasgandu area for political purposes violates the terms of the 2010 decentralisation act.

The MCC has repeatedly refuted this and refused to cede control the area to the Housing Ministry. MCC Mayor ‘Maisan’ Ali Manik has said previously that the MCC would stand aside if a court order was obtained, whilst stating his belief that that these jurisdictional issues fall within the mandate of the Civil Court.



Indian High Commission slams Education Ministry over stranded expatriate teachers

By Neil Merrett

 May 27th, 2012

The Indian High Commission in the Maldives has claimed skilled expatriate workers such as teachers employed in Maldives continue to be “penalised” due to government and private sector employers failing to fulfil their responsibilities.

First Secretary of the Indian High Commission in the Maldives S. C. Agarwal has said he continues this week to receive complaints from expatriate teachers unable to return home as a result of education authorities failing to reissue visa documentation.

The Department of Immigration and Emigration, whilst under former controller Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim, claimed last week that a solution had been reached to allow the state-employed Indian teachers affected by the visa renewal issue to return home.  A spokesperson for the immigration body added that the issues regarding the teachers’ out of date visas were the result of an “administrative problem” that had now been resolved.

However, First Secretary Agarwal maintains that teachers from India continue to be penalised under the present system for no fault of their own.

More than 30 teachers during the last week were said to have been unable to reclaim their passports from authorities after their visas were found to not have been renewed.

According to the Indian High Commission, the teachers, who are said to work at various public schools across the country, had effectively been left stranded in the Maldives after they were not permitted to leave the country.

In some cases, teachers are believed to have only discovered their visa documents had not been renewed by their employers after reaching Male’ to return home temporarily.

Agarwal said that although some teachers had returned to India on an emergency basis, others were still waiting on authorities to regularise their visas before being allowed to leave the country.

“Two teachers came to see me this morning after being in Male’ for more than a week now. They were told that they will not be able to leave at least before Tuesday until their visas are renewed. They have spent about Rf5,000 to stay here in Male,’” he said.

“I will not consider this issue resolved until all expatriates, whether from India or elsewhere, have their visas renewed or are sent home. Either expatriates are provided with the documentation they are promised by the government or their employers, or they should be sent home. There is no third option.”

Agarwal stressed that many of the teachers, whose passports are routinely taken from them by the Ministry, were being punished for mistakes made by the Ministry of Education, as well as immigration officials.

“My problem is we are getting teachers coming to us who have been stranded here in Male’ unable to return home. In many cases they are trying to return for emergency reasons and are unable to do so,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the employer – in this case the government – to ensure work visas are renewed on time.”

Agarwal said that he was concerned that a much larger number of teachers from India could have been affected by the visa renewal issue beyond the 30 cases brought to the attention of the high commission.

“I believe most of the workers affected will have gone to the Ministry of Education or the Immigration Department first to try and resolve the issue. The most desperate people will have come to us directly for assistance,” he said.

Complaints from the Indian High Commission about poor treatment of their nationals echo those made by the Bangladeshi High Commission on May 9.

Earlier this month, High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Rear Admiral Abu Saeed Mohamed Abdul Awal claimed workers were being brought to the Maldives to perform unskilled work, and often suffered from the practices of ”bad employers”.

“This is a real problem that is happening here, there have been many raids over the last year on unskilled [expatriate] workers who are suffering because of the companies employing them. They are not being given proper salaries and are paying the price for some of these employers,” he said at the time.

In line with concerns raised by counterparts within the High Commission of Bangladesh, Agarwal claimed that the Indian High Commission had also been speaking out about private sector employers who have left their foreign workers “in the lurch”.

“We have been made aware of cases where Indian workers are not being provided with the visas they are promised or, in some cases, even their salaries.  My concerns today for these teachers is that they are trained professionals working in the government sector,” he said. “These workers are  following the legal procedures here, but they are being penalised for it. There is even more concern for teachers based out in the islands, who may not know what is going on. The police will still be entitled to arrest them as illegal immigrants.”

Immigration solution

Former Controller of Immigration and Emigration Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim told Minivan News on Thursday - prior to his replacement by Dr Mohamed Ali - that the visa issues affecting the Indian teachers had been resolved.

“Now they can fly, but when they return they have to complete their visa document. I issued an order to our chief in that section to handle this as soon as possible,” he said at the time.

A spokesperson overseeing the visa issue for the Department of Immigration said that the difficulties in returning the Indian teachers home had been the result of an “administrative problem” that had since been solved.

“The problem had been that their visas had not been regularised by the Ministry of Education,” he said.  The spokesperson claimed that the problems in regularising the teachers’ visas had been solved by allowing the workers to renew their documentation once they returned to the Maldives for work.

Deputy Education Minister Anthu Ali  forwarded Minivan News to State Minister of Education Imad Solih. Solih was not responding to calls from Minivan News at  time of press.

Regional concerns

Last month Indian High Commissioner Dynaneshwar Mulay raised concerns over the treatment of expatriates from across the South Asia region – particularly by the country’s police and judiciary.

Mulay claimed that alongside concerns about the treatment of some Indian expatriates in relation to the law, there were significant issues relating to “basic human rights” that needed to be addressed concerning expatriates from countries including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Mulay’s comments were made following an alleged attack on a Indian resort worker, who was reported to have been struck with a hammer and mugged while staying in a hotel in Male’. The attack was allegedly committed by a former employee of the same resort.

Big business

Beyond concerns about the basic human rights of foreign employees in the country, labour trafficking is also represents a significant national economic issue.

An ongoing police investigation into labour trafficking in the Maldives last year uncovered an industry worth an estimated US$123 million, eclipsing fishing (US$46 million in 2007) as the second greatest contributor of foreign currency to the Maldivian economy after tourism.

The authorities’ findings echo concerns first raised by former Bangladeshi High Commissioner Dr Selina Muhsin, reported by Minivan News in August 2010. The comments by Mushin were made shortly after the country was placed on the US State Department’s Tier 2 watchlist for human trafficking.



US Embassy hold information session for police on democratic rule of law

May 27th, 2012

The US Embassy in Colombo has conducted an information session on democratic rule of law for senior officers and management of the Maldives Police Service.

The session was held at Iskandar Koshi in Male by the US Embassy’s Senior Foreign Affairs Officer in Colombo, Christopher A. Corpora.

In a statement police said topics examined during the session included the differences between democratic rule of law and authoritarian rule of law, challenges faced by new democracies in upholding the rule of law, and the effects of this on crime.

The meeting was also attended by Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz.




Interlocutors' report aims to create a divide: Hizbul chief

May 27, 2012

United Jihad Council (UJC) chairman and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin has accused the Centre-appointed interlocutors of aiming to divide Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines. In a telephonic interview to a local News Agency KNS, the Muzaffarabad-based militant commander termed the interlocutors' report 'a futile exercise'. "The report is aimed at dividing the state on communal and sectarian grounds. The interlocution was a pre planned conspiracy to divide the state on religious and communal basis," Salahuddin said.

He alleged that the panel's report was inspired by the saffron agenda. "Separatist leadership's stand on interlocutors' role has been vindicated as the report plays into the hands of the saffron brigade. It is the saffron brigade which has been demanding a separate Jammu state, union territory status to Ladakh to ensure that Kashmir is crushed with force," said Salahuddin.

The UJC is an alliance of Kashmiri militant organisations that supports the right to self-determination of people of Jammu and Kashmir or its accession to Pakistan.  The UJC chairman said the interlocutors have tried to portray the Kashmir issue as a 'problem related to governance and administration'. "This report is trying to give the Kashmir issue a new color and tries to convey that improved governance, economy, law-making and social rights will solve everything," he said.

Salahuddin, 65, has been living in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir since he fled Kashmir after unsuccessfully contesting the infamous 1987 elections that triggered the insurgency. Amid allegations of rigging in the elections, Salauhuddin was jailed by the then National Conference government, prompting him to pick up the gun in 1989.

Through this report, Salahuddin said, India was trying to discredit the Kashmir's 63-year-old struggle by 'giving it a communal and sectarian twist'.

The Centre appointed a team of three interlocutors - Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari - after the unprecedented political unrest in the summer of 2010 in Kashmir to devise a 'political solution' to the problem. The panel submitted its report in October 2011 after meeting hundreds of people and organising many conferences in the state which was made public by union home ministry on Thursday.  The report was flayed by separatists and Bharatiya Janata Party alike.



Union home ministry, Omar Abdullah lock horns over DGP selection

May 29, 2012

SRINAGAR: With DGP Kuldeep Khoda retiring on May 31 after a three-year stint, the Union home ministry has shortlisted names of three senior IPS officers to take his place. While MHA nominees include Arun Choudhary, Ashok Prasad and P M Nair of the Bihar cadre, the state government has strongly pleaded for additional DGP K Rajendra for the coveted post.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah has reservations about the Centre choosing an officer from outside the state cadre, a source said. The technical problem said to be blocking Rajendra's appointment - he is a Jammu & Kashmir cadre IPS officer - is that although he has completed 30 years of service, he falls short of five years as ADG. Therefore, the government has decided to put Rajendra in charge until a long-term appointment is made, a government source said.

MHA's first choice Arun Choudhary, special DG, CISF, has the advantage of working as special director in Intelligence Bureau and has extensive knowledge of Jammu & Kashmir. Additional director of IB in Jammu & Kashmir, Ashok Prasad, another MHA nominee, belongs to the 1979 batch of IPS, Andhra Pradesh cadre.

Meanwhile, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti walked out of a four-member panel meeting to decide the Jammu & Kashmir chief vigilance commissioner. Mehbooba expressed reservations over the appointment of DGP Khoda for the post, who emerged as the consensus nominee of the Congress and National Conference. She walked out after handing over 18-page dissenting note.



Zakia Jafri to inspect original SIT report

May 29, 2012

AHMEDABAD: A magisterial court on Monday granted permission to Zakia Jafri's counsel to inspect the original report filed by the special investigation team (SIT) on her accusations against chief minister Narendra Modi and others in connection with the 2002 riots.

Metropolitan magistrate B J Ganatra fixed Saturday afternoon for Jafri's lawyers to inspect the bulky records annexed with the SIT's 540-page report. The court accepted the request made by Jafri's counsel Mihir Desai and the SIT also did not take any objection. This request was made after the SIT informed the complainant that the original documents had been submitted to the court only.

Jafri has been claiming that the SIT has not provided her with all documents despite the Supreme Court direction that all relevant documents be given to the complainant. On May 10, Jafri requested the court to direct the SIT to furnish 20 more documents, which according to her were missing from the voluminous report with annexure running into 22,000 pages. While this demand was pending, Jafri's counsel filed another application on Monday demanding more documents that include depositions of witnesses as made before the special courts during trials of Naroda Patia and Gulbarg Society massacre cases.

The new application by Jafri claimed that though SIT was in possession of the statements implicating senior cops and politicians, it has not furnished the same to the complainant. Jafri has also alleged that the SIT has not supplied a letter dashed off by IGP A K Sharma to investigating officer Himanshu Shukla last year. Jafri claims in her plea, "The letter has not been given to us and presumably not produced before the court."

Besides, Jafri has urged the court to ask the SIT to supply translation of all documents that are in Gujarati. She argued that the senior members of the SIT have come to a conclusion after perusal of translated copies, and hence the same copies should be provided to the complainant as well as to the court for correct appreciation.

SIT counsel R S Jamuvar sought time from the court for perusal of the application and further hearing has been kept on June 7.



Congress divided Hindus and Muslims: Gujarat CM

May 29, 2012,

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Monday asserted that Hindus and Muslims were together in fighting the British before the Congress was born. The two communities were divided after Congress came to power, he said at a function here to release the Gujarati version of DVDs of film Veer Savarkar, which has been produced by Savarkar Darshan Pratishthan.

Modi, an ardent fan of Savarkar, strongly opposed the word mutiny for 1857's Indian freedom struggle and called it First War of Indian Independence. He described Savarkar as a visionary, poet and asocial reformer. As a political prisoner at the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during the British Raj, Savarkar did not have access to pen or paper. But this did not deter the freedom fighter from writing poetry of courage and patriotism,such was Savarkar's determination and love for his motherland he added.



CBI moves Interpol for Red Corner Notice against I M operative

May 29, 2012

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Monday approached Interpol to get Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued against suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Fasih Mehmood, who was allegedly involved in Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium blast.

Fasih was detained in Saudi Arabia on May 13. Interpol RCN is one of the pre-requisites for sending a formal extradition request to Saudi Arabia.

"The RCN is likely to be issued in a day or two on the basis of a non-bailable warrant (NBW) obtained by Bangalore Police against him," said an official. He said India would formally approach Saudi Arabia for extraditing Fasih once RCN was issued against him by Interpol.

Sources here claimed that Fasih, a close associate of terrorist Yasin and Riyaz Bhatkal, had attended Indian Mujahideen camp in Bhatkal around 2005. He had left India in 2007. He had visited five-six times to India after that and been allegedly instrumental in arranging finance for the terror group.



Sub-quota for Muslims: Govt to challenge Andhra HC verdict in SC

May 29, 2012

NEW DELHI: The Centre will move the Supreme Court against the Andhra Pradesh High Court order quashing 4.5% 'minority quota', faulting the key arguments given by the court to scrap UPA's policy intervention for welfare of the poor among religious minorities.

Law minister Salman Khurshid told TOI, "There are observations in the order we don't agree with. We will go to the Supreme Court."

Khurshid, who became synonymous with "Muslim quota" following his belligerence in the election campaign in UP, said the HC had misread some aspects of the quota notification which may have led to erroneous conclusions. These mistakes, the minister said, included observations on Centre ignoring the National Commission for Backward Classes Act; comments on Centre giving reservation to a religious group and treating all religious minorities as a homogeneous bloc.

"I need to discuss the issue with the attorney general. But we will challenge the judgment in SC," he said.

Khurshid argued that the HC had objected to the government giving special treatment to a religious community but the fact is that quota was given to "minorities" which are five different religious groups.

The law minister, who also holds the charge of minority affairs, said the order was flawed in objecting to government treating all religious minorities as a homogenous group when they were a heterogenous bloc. The objection could be to treatment of a well-off Parsi community at par with Muslims whose majority is underprivileged.

But Khurshid said the argument was not sound since the reservation was given to "OBC minorities". He said the OBC list worked as the "filter" to weed out the "forwards" belonging to any religion. "There is no Parsi community in the OBC list," he said. The minister underlined that he had taken care to ignore Rangnath Misra Commission's recommendation that all minority communities be given reservation.

According to Khurshid, the HC had faulted the government for relying on the Misra report and not the provisions of National Commission for Backward Classes Act. But he said NCBC was only concerned about identification of a particular community as backward for its inclusion in the OBC list. "NCBC does not decide the quantum of reservation," he said.

Khurshid defended the quota notification against the charge of being a "religious quota", saying the Centre had not favoured any religion but given reservation to backwards among the five minority groups.

The minister added that Supreme Court had stayed AP HC's earlier judgment which had quashed the 'Muslim quota' promulgated by state government. "This judgment has made a reference to that old order but ignored that it has been stayed by SC," he said.



Pak says enough proof to nail Lashkar commander for 26/11 plot

May 29, 2012

NEW DELHI: Pakistan has finally acknowledged that there is enough evidence to prosecute Lashkar commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi for his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks, in what marks the first endorsement of India's case against the 26/11 masterminds holed up across the border.

Pakistani officials admitted during last week's home secretary-level talks that investigation conducted by their Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had established Lakhvi's direct involvement in the 26/11 terror attacks. According to sources in the home ministry here, the Pakistani officials told home secretary R K Singh that the evidence against Lakhvi -- largely related to his role in organizing money and logistics, including the boat and inflatable dingy for the gang that ravaged Mumbai -- was strong enough to secure his conviction in court.

"Pakistan told India about the development at FIA's end during the home secretary-level talks between the two countries in Islamabad last week," said an official privy to the details of talks between the two home secretaries.

Officials here termed it as a "significant admission", stressing that Pakistani authorities will be required to produce the evidence in the court trying Lakhvi and six others including Lashkar commanders Zarar Shah and Abu Al Qama, who all are in jail.

The development marks a validation of the evidence that India gathered against Lakhvi, Shah, Qama and others and can give satisfaction to the investigators who saw Pakistan cussedly shrugging off their findings as flimsy. It should also leave them intrigued because they maintain that the evidence about Lakhvi's role contained in the several Indian dossiers submitted to Pakistan had been so foolproof that it could have easily been corroborated even by the neighbourhood cop long ago.

As it coincides with the pressure from the US for action against Hafiz Saeed, wary Indian officials wonder whether the new stance on Lakhvi's culpability is meant to isolate the Lashkar chief from his junior jihadis and to strengthen Pakistan's case that lack of evidence was the only reason why it was not acting against the Muridke-based hate monger.

Significantly, Pakistani officials bluntly told their Indian counterparts that the demand for action against Saeed was based on what Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik called "hearsay". They did not relent when the Indian side pointed out that in his confessional statement, Ajmal Kasab had spoken about Saeed's role in motivating the 26/11 attackers. Though Pakistan, on India's insistence, agreed to put before the Pakistani court new details on Saeed's involvement, it maintained that the FIA could not find anything against him.

The admission about evidence of Lakhvi's involvement in the Mumbai attacks raises the question of how Islamabad is going to treat the evidence against other 26/11 masterminds, particularly two serving officers of Pakistan army who were involved in the Mumbai plot. David Headley, the Pakistan-born jihadi who reconnoitered Mumbai as part of the 26/11 plot, had spoken about the involvement of the two officers, besides Saeed.

Islamabad also gave an assurance to consider positively the request for release of Sarabjit Singh, a condemned Indian prisoner currently lodged in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. The assurance was given when home secretary R K Singh called on Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad last week.

"I have requested the Pakistan interior minister and my counterpart (interior secretary K M Siddiq Akbar) to release Sarabjit Singh. They have assured me that they will consider our request positively," Singh said while briefing reporters about his visit to Islamabad.

Sarabjit was convicted for his involvement in the 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that killed 14 people. He was given death sentence but his execution was indefinitely put off by the Pakistan government.

Akbar too had hinted about the possibility after the talks when he told media in Islamabad that the Indian team raised the issue of Sarabjit and the matter would be decided in line with Pakistani laws. It is learnt that Pakistan may take the "pardon" route to release Sarabjit, if at all it decides to do it.

The talks also saw both sides agreeing to initiate negotiations for a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty which is meant to facilitate cooperation in investigation of crimes, prosecution and collecting evidence.

Home secretary Singh said both sides have agreed "in principle" to initiate negotiations on a MLAT to strengthen cooperation in criminal matters. "The Pakistani side promised to examine the draft and revert with comments within two months," he said.

He said the Pakistani side also "took note of Indian request" to consider the possibility of inking an extradition treaty between the two countries. "They said they would examine it," Singh said.

Acceptance of the MLAT draft by Pakistan assumes significance as, if signed, it will pave the way for cooperation on all criminal matters including terror investigation. Assistance under the treaty includes locating and identifying persons and objects; search and seizure; making detained person available to give evidence or assist investigations; taking measures to freeze and confiscate any funds meant for financing acts of terrorism and obtaining statements of accused or detained persons.



India ready to pay $10 million to Pakistan if it hands over Hafiz Saeed: Home secretary

May 28, 2012

NEW DELHI: The $10 million bounty on Lashkar-e-Taiba founder and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed was the subject of a verbal tit-for-tat at an interaction home secretary RK Singh had with journalists in Islamabad last week.

At the media conference after the two-day home secretary level talks, a Pakistani journalist tried to needle Singh with a question whether India would 'pocket' the $10 million bounty offered by the United States for providing evidence leading to conviction of Saeed. "India would be more than happy to give Pakistan that amount if they handed over Saeed to India," the home secretary shot back.

Fresh evidence against Hafiz Saeed

India has given to Pakistan fresh evidence against Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and asked Islamabad to act against the 26/11 mastermind. During the two-day home secretary level talks on May 24-25 in Islamabad, Indian delegation told Pakistani side that it has given them enough evidence against Saeed which was added to the proof collected against Saeed by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency ( FIA).

Official sources said during the talks, Indian side has given additional inputs on the perpetrators of 26/11, including Saeed, and asked Islamabad to act on them. Apart from the confessional statement of 26/11 attacker Azmal Amir Kasab, who categorically told investigators about the role of Hafiz Saeed in the terror attack, India also given evidence gathered from Pakistani-American terror operative David Headley, they said.

During the talks, the Indian side raised with Pakistan the existence of terror infrastructure in that country, five recent infiltration attempts from across the border, existence of Sikh terrorists there and inflow of fake Indian currency notes from that country. Though Pakistan tried to raise alleged Indian links with unrest in Baluchistan, the home secretary rubbished the charges saying New Delhi has nothing to do with the problems in the restive Pakistani province, the sources said.



Interpol warrant for Bangalore stadium attack suspect soon: police


May 29 2012

Interpol will within days issue a red-corner notice for the arrest of Saudi Arabia-based engineer Fasih Mehmood, sought by India for his alleged role in the April 2010 bomb attacks at a Bangalore cricket stadium, highly-placed police sources have told The Hindu.

Karnataka police sources said the warrant will open the way for Mr. Mehmood to be deported to India, where police wish to question him about his movements in the days before April 17, 2010 — the date five improvised explosive devices were planted outside the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.

Immigration records obtained by investigators, they said, show Mr. Ahmad was visiting India at the time of the attack, lending some weight to allegations about his involvement made by suspects earlier arrested from Darbhanga in Bihar.

“I'm not at this stage saying that Mr. Mehmood was involved,” a senior officer said, “and I am not saying he was not involved. I am saying we are seeking to question him, through the appropriate legal process, on some issues that have arisen during investigation.”

Earlier this month, police obtained a warrant for Mr. Mehmood's arrest, on the basis of five First Information Reports filed at the Cubbon Park police station in 1996, and asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to seek an Interpol red-corner notice — a legal device that obliges member-states of the international police organisation to apprehend suspects on sight.

Mr. Mehmood's family has alleged that the al-Khobar-based engineer is being held without charge by Saudi Arabia's intelligence services for the past several weeks.

Feroz Ahmad, Mr. Mehmood's father, however, told The Hindu the engineer was not in India when the bombings took place. “In February, 2010,” said Dr. Ahmad, who runs the Benipatti primary health centre in Bihar's Madhubani district, “my son came home because I was unwell. He left India on March 27, 2010, before the bombing in Bangalore.”

Mr. Mehmood, who moved to Saudi Arabia in 2007, obtained his Bachelor's degree in technology from a college in the coastal Karnataka town of Bhatkal. His family says he knew Karachi-based jihadist, Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri, one of the Indian Mujahideen's three top commanders, as a student, but denies he had any knowledge of or association with terrorist activities.

Karnataka investigators had, in 2010, told The Hindu that the attacks were likely to have been carried out by a jihadist cell led by Mr. Shahbandri's key lieutenant, who operates under the code-name Yasin Bhatkal. Yasin Bhatkal identified by the Central Bureau of Investigation as 1973-born Bhatkal resident Ahmad Zarar Siddibapa, is wanted by Interpol for multiple terrorism-related crimes.

Police began investigating Mr. Mehmood's possible role in the cell in November, after the arrest of several of Mr. Siddibapa's alleged associates from Darbhanga, in Bihar. Police have so far made seven arrests linked to the bombing.



Sarabjit files fresh clemency plea

May 29 2012

Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, convicted for alleged involvement in bomb attacks in 1990 in Pakistan, has sent a fresh clemency appeal to President Asif Ali Zardari, a media report said on Tuesday.

This is the fifth mercy petition from Sarabjit Singh, who was sentenced to death for alleged involvement in a string of bombings in Punjab in 1990 that killed 14 people.

The 49-year-old Indian is currently being held at Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore and has been on death row for over 20 years.

Sarabjit Singh’s petition, which includes a document with the signatures of over 100,000 Indians, urges Mr. Zardari to reciprocate the recent release of Pakistani virologist Khalil Chishti by India, The Express Tribune reported.

Chishti, who was convicted of involvement in the murder of a man in Ajmer in 1992, was recently freed on bail by India’s Supreme Court.

The court subsequently allowed him to visit Pakistan to meet his family.

Attached to Sarabjit Singh’s mercy petition are two letters addressed to Mr. Zardari by Delhi’s Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari and Syed Muhammad Yamin Hashmi, the caretaker of the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Sarabjit Singh’s counsel Owais Sheikh said his client wrote a two-page letter to be sent to the President.

“I’ve forwarded both the petition and the letter to President Zardari,” Mr. Sheikh said.

The petition states Chishti’s release by India has rekindled hopes for Sarabjit Singh. “This has given my client a new hope for freedom,” said Mr. Sheikh.

Sarabjit Singh has maintained that his was a case of mistaken identity, since even the FIR was not registered in his name.

“I have spent 22 years in prison for a crime I have not committed,” he wrote in the petition.

The FIR had nominated Manjeet Singh for carrying out four bomb blasts in different cities of Punjab, according to the petition.

Sarabjit Singh’s lawyer said he had documentary proof that his client was in India at the time of bombings.

“Manjeet Singh was indeed a terrorist but the authorities have mistaken Sarabjit Singh for Manjeet,” Mr. Sheikh said.

In his letter to the President, Maulana Bukhari of the Jama Masjid pointed out that Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur had met him personally and provided “vital evidence” which proved Sarabjit Singh’s innocence.

“Singh should be freed on humanitarian grounds, which will not only help in promoting goodwill between the two neighbours but will also result in promoting communal harmony among Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims of India,” the imam wrote.

Sarabjit Singh, imprisoned since 1990, was given the death sentence under Pakistan’s Army Act for alleged involvement in the bomb blasts.

A mercy petition sent by him to the Army Chief rejected with a direction that it should be forwarded to the President.

Though Sarabjit Singh was set to be hanged in 2008, Pakistani authorities put off his execution indefinitely after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened.

His family has said he wandered across the border in an inebriated condition and that he was arrested by Pakistani authorities after being mistaken for Manjeet Singh.



After release from Pak, 18 fishermen reunite with kin

 May 29 2012

Vadodra : Eighteen Indian fishermen, who were released from a Pakistani jail on May 22, reunited with their families on Monday. Soon after their arrival at Vadodara railway station late last night, the fishermen were accommodated in a luxury bus which took them to coastal town of Veraval in Junagadh where they met their family members, said M B Jani, a Fisheries Department official.

After bringing them at Attari border last week, the Pakistani authorities had handed over these fishermen to the officials of Punjab government, who kept them in a Red Cross building in Amritsar.

A team from Gujarat reached Amritsar on May 25 and took their custody. They left Amritsar by a train the next day and arrived here at around 11 pm on Sunday, Jani said.



India gives extradition pact draft, Pak to consider

May 29 2012

New Delhi : Aiming to strengthen cooperation on terrorism, India has provided Pakistan with the draft of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and extradition pact asking to take stern steps by signing an agreement. MLAT will help the investigating agencies in both the countries to “collect and transfer evidence” to be used for prosecution in criminal court. There are 8 letter rogatories (LRs) including on 26/11 (by NIA) pending before the courts in Pakistan and an MLAT will help the agencies to expedite their execution.

It is for the first time that Pakistan has promised to consider the request of the government regarding MLAT and extradition treaty. “They (Pakistan) promised to examine the draft of the MLAT handed over by the Indian side and revert with comments within two months,” said Home Secretary R K Singh adding that the Indian delegation also requested the Pakistani side to consider the possibility of inking an extradition treaty between the two countries. NIA and the FIA of Pakistan will cooperate on issues of mutual concern, including Mumbai terror attack investigation.

The government also raised the issue regarding the involvement of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed in Mumbai attacks and provided the Pakistani government with fresh evidence on his involvement. The statement of Ajmal Kasab was also cited by the delegation. Kasab was recently convicted by an Indian court after which a judicial commission from Pakistan visited Mumbai and took his statement. “Kasab’s statement given to Pakistan’s judicial commission is sufficient to nail Saeed’s role and bring him for trial in Mumbai 26/11 case,” explained a member of the delegation.

The Indian side also cited ‘technical evidence’ against Saeed gathered from the trial of LeT operative David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana in a US court. The delegation which returned after two days of talks also cited the release of Pakistani virologist Khalil Chisti. In the same breath, New Delhi requested Islamabad to release Sarabjit as well. Sarabjit was convicted for his involvement in 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that killed 14 people. He was given death sentence, but his execution was indefinitely put off by the Pakistan government.

12 dead in Tamil Nadu as vehicle turns turtle

A lorry carrying mangoes from Dharmapuri to Krishnagiri turned turtle when the driver of the vehicle lost control, crushing to death 12 persons travelling atop and injuring several others.

The lorry, which was transporting mangoes to pulp extraction centre in Krishnagiri, was headed to Kaveripattanam on Sunday evening when the driver lost control of the vehicle.

The vehicle fell into a roadside ditch trapping several workers who were travelling on it.




Doctor in bin Laden case corrupt, womaniser: current and former Pakistani officials

May 29, 2012

ISLAMABAD - The Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden faced accusations of corruption and other wrongdoing long before he was captured by Pakistani intelligence agents and then jailed for 33 years for treason.

In interviews over the weekend, several current and former Pakistani officials described the doctor, Shakil Afridi, as a hard-drinking womaniser who had faced accusations of sexual assault, harassment and stealing.

They said his main obsession was making easy money.

According to a 2002 Pakistan health department document seen by Reuters, Afridi was deemed to be corrupt and unreliable and unfit for government service.

US officials have hailed Afridi, aged in his 40s, as a hero for helping pinpoint bin Laden's location in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad where the al Qaeda leader was killed in May last year in a raid by US Navy SEALs.

Officially Pakistan has said nothing about Afridi except that the court's decision to sentence him should be respected.

But the fresh accusations about Afridi's character, coupled with his imprisonment, will almost certainly lead to further strain on already tense bilateral ties.

Pakistani officials' attempts to cast doubt on Afridi's character will likely be viewed in some quarters as retaliation for his work with the Americans, despite the disclosures in the 2002 Pakistani document.

US officials on Monday called the accusations character assassination.

In Washington, one senior official said the US government was unaware of any questionable behaviour by Afridi.

"Available information showed Afridi was a respected member of the Pakistani health care community," said the senior official. "We are aware of efforts, put in place since Dr. Afridi's arrest, to denigrate his character."

Another US official said: "It's nothing short of puzzling that Pakistani officials would disparage someone who helped in the hunt for bin Laden, a terrorist who had Pakistani blood on his hands."

The Afridi family's lawyer declined to be drawn on the controversy. "I cannot comment on any past allegations against him," Raza Safi told Reuters.

Afridi ran a vaccination campaign in Abbottabad and used cheek swabs to try to gather DNA from bin Laden's children, said one former Pakistani security official familiar with the case.

Accompanied by three health workers, he went to bin Laden's house and told his wives that a vaccination programme was underway in the area, said the former security official.

"A woman went in (to the house) and said 'bring the children out, the doctor is waiting and he will give them the drops'," the former official said. "That's when he used the swabs."

It was unclear whether the CIA used the swabs to determine if the children were bin Laden's. A DNA test can prove close blood relations and US authorities could have matched the samples with profiles it had collected from several of bin Laden's relatives.

Inadvertently confirmed

In Washington, another senior US official with knowledge of Afridi's work for the CIA said the doctor's vaccination efforts had also enabled him to gather intelligence on bin Laden's couriers who visited the house.

"Dr Afridi was inadvertently able to confirm something we already suspected - that bin Laden's couriers practised extraordinary operational security," the official said.

"Was that a key to the raid? No. Was it important? Absolutely."

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Sunday that Afridi "was not working against Pakistan. He was working against al Qaeda. And I hope that ultimately Pakistan understands that".

"Because what they have done here, I think, you know, does not help in the effort to try to re-establish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan."

US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced legislation in February calling for Afridi to be granted US citizenship and said it was "shameful and unforgivable that our supposed allies" charged him.

Unwanted scrutiny

Infuriated by the unilateral US raid in a town just a two-hour drive from the capital Islamabad, many in the country see Afridi as a villain who conspired against the state and brought unwanted scrutiny of Pakistan's attitude to militants.

Last week, a tribal court sentenced him to 33 years in prison for working with a foreign intelligence agency.

Afridi is being kept in solitary confinement in a prison in the city of Peshawar for fear that he may be targeted by Islamic militants also incarcerated there, said prison sources.

Afridi had been working with the CIA for years before the bin Laden raid, providing intelligence on militant groups in Pakistan's unruly tribal region, said the former Pakistani security official and a former Pakistani intelligence official.

They and other officials said he was of questionable character.

"Afridi was known to perform surgeries even though his qualification was basic and he was not authorised to conduct surgery," a senior provincial health official said.

"He was accused of conducting surgeries of the eyes, nose, ears, kidneys."

Afridi was also in contact with militant groups and treated Taliban fighters who were wounded in battle with the Pakistani military, said the former security official.

The Taliban are described by the state as terrorists, and most Pakistanis strongly oppose their suicide bombing missions, and philosophy.

"Keeping in view his extreme lust for money, I am ashamed to even call him a doctor. He is a corrupt, unreliable and low category officer," said a March 2002 provincial health department report on Afridi's performance and conduct.

The document described Afridi as unreliable, cruel and inhumane and gave him the lowest job performance scores in most categories. It went on to say:

"If his overall character as a doctor is taken into account I would recommend and feel that he is not at all fit for government service or any position where money is involved."


Tariq Hayat, formerly the highest government official in the Khyber tribal region, said he knew Afridi when the doctor worked at a hospital there and was a senior medical officer.

Hayat said he met him twice to question him over allegations that he had sexually assaulted a nurse at his hospital and had stolen its electrocardiograph machines for his private practice.

"I made him stand ... I told him you are a characterless person, you have no principles," said Hayat, adding he had Afridi fired and expelled him from Khyber.

"I said 'you are a thief, doctor'."

A senior health official who said he saw a record of the case said a nurse had complained about sexual harassment to the regional health director.

That account was confirmed by a senior police official who investigated Afridi.

"A number of nurses had complained about him, that he had behaved inappropriately with them," said the police official, adding that Afridi was also accused of stealing material sent by international aid agencies and selling it.

These accounts could not be independently verified.

Afridi's brother Jamil described the treason charges as baseless and said the doctor was being made a scapegoat.

"If my brother had done something wrong, he had a valid US visa. He could have fled the country," he said, adding that the family had received no offers of help from the US government.

He did not respond to questions about the charges of corruption and harassment.

"I am in hiding because my life is in danger, all of our lives are in danger," Jamil Afridi said. "The family is safe for now but the propaganda campaign in the media is putting us in a lot of danger."

Some health workers who knew Afridi described him as a dedicated, polite professional.

"He was very nice to all the people in the team and did his job very diligently," said Naseem Bibi, a nurse.

She said she had been with him when the medical team visited bin Laden's house. "Yes, he was very interested in this house on that day, but I wasn't sure why," she said.

Easy prey

His reputation hurt by allegations, Afridi was easy prey for the CIA which found him through his connections to Western aid agencies in about 2009, said the former security official.

"The man was living beyond his means after he was fired," said the former security official. "He got married a third time. He maintained a couple of cars."

Afridi, who came to Abbottabad to carry out the vaccination campaign apparently at the CIA's behest, blundered when he visited the district health officer in the town.

He told the officer he was a volunteer who wanted to provide vaccinations in a certain area and he gave the officer his real name, the former security official said.

The team moved from house to house conducting vaccinations and leaving chalk marks on the door to show the people inside had been vaccinated, as is customary in Pakistan.

"They went in systematically the way a team is supposed to work," said the official. "No eyebrows were raised."

But after bin Laden was killed, his widows unwittingly helped Pakistani authorities track Afridi.

"They said that the only time when somebody from outside visited the house, was this polio vaccination (team)," said the former security official, who believed the only other visitor to the house was bin Laden's courier, about once a month.

Afridi was quickly scooped up by security officials.

When interrogated, Afridi initially said he had no ties with Americans, said the former security official.

"He categorically denied everything to start with," said the former security official. "But when the Americans started asking for him, then I think the cat was out of the bag."



Islamic awakening only way to foil the designs of the infidel forces: Religious leaders in Pak

 28 May 2012

Islamabad, May 28, IRNA -- Religious leaders at an international conference have stressed the need for unity among Muslims to foil the designs of the infidel forces.

The conference was jointly organized by Iranian Cultural Centre and Jamaat-e-Islami at Nishtar Hall in Peshawar.

‘Unity in Muslim Ummah’ and ‘Awakening in Muslim Ummah’ were the topics discussed in the conference. Religious and political leaders from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan attended the conference.

At the start of the conference a Pakistani religious leader presented the strategy to fight the designs of the infidel forces. He stressed the need for unity among Muslims to confront the conspiracies of imperialist forces.

Allama Syed Sajid Ali Naqvi, chief of Shia Ulema Council was of the view that awakening movements must continue in Muslim states to defeat the governments of dictators.

Sajid Ali Naqvi praised the role of Islamic Republic of Iran for bringing unity among Ummah, adding today Iran has become a role model for other Muslim states.

He strongly believed that because of the unity of Muslims western states have not been able to accomplish their evil-designs against Muslims.

The religious leader said that awakening movements are against dictators and the policies of imperialist forces and should spread to the whole world.

Dr Farid Ahmad Paracha , Deputy Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami expressing his views said the US is trying to sow seeds of discord among Muslims. He said that Muslims through unity can defeat the anti-Islam designs of western countries.

He said that awakening movements were successful because the Muslims are following the teachings of Holy Quran. “Islam teaches us the brotherhood so unity is key to success of Muslim Ummah,” Paracha added. “Through unity we can defeat the menace of terrorism from Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he further said.

Ghaib ullah Ayah, Deputy of an Islamic University in Peshawar on the occasion said that Muslims are confronting the designs of imperialists to achieve their goals. He stressed the need for unity among Muslims.

Talking to IRNA, Syed Mohammad Zakiri, Director General of Iranian Culture Centre in Peshawar, said that the conference was jointly organized by Iranian Cultural Center and Jamaat-e-Islami.

He said that participation of religious and political leaders in the conference demonstrated that the Muslims are united and the Islamic awakening is the only solution to the problems of region.

He said that the Muslims of region especially of Pakistan have understood the importance of Islamic awakening for Muslims. The Iranian diplomat said that the purpose of the conference was to unite Muslims and to convince religions leaders to shun their differences and unite for the success of Ummah.

In the end of the conference a resolution stressing unity of Ummah and continuation of Islamic awakening movements was adopted.

The religious leaders from India and Afghanistan also spoke on the occasion.



Wave of violence claims nine lives in Karachi

29 May, 2012

KARACHI: Gun attacks in various areas of Karachi on Monday claimed the lives of nine people including an SP and a doctor friend of his, DawnNews reported.

Fourteen people, including a woman, were injured in the different incidents.

Police registered a case under the Anti Terrorism Act for the murder of SP Shah Mohammad and his friend Dr Dilshad. The case was registered on the complaint of the former’s driver who was also injured in the attack.

Another doctor was killed in Karachi’s Orangi Town area.

Two activists of a banned outfit were gunned down in Gulshan-e-Iqbal’s Ziaul Haq colony. Shops and businesses shut down in the vicinity after the incident.

One person was killed by firing in Jodia Bazar area.

Two bodies were found in Karachi’s Korangi No 6 and Pahalwan Goth areas.

A eunuch died as a result of firing by unknown persons in the port city’s Lines Area.



Foreign Ministry told to ascertain nationality of Pakistani prisoners

29 May, 2012

LAHORE: Justice Khalid Mahmood of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday, while hearing a petition seeking release of 32 Pakistanis detained in Bagram by the US authorities, directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm the nationalities.

The judge issued the directions on an application filed by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), arguing that without this confirmation by the ministry, there could be no real progress in the repatriation of the detainees. Agreeing with this, Justice Mahmood passed directions to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and set the next hearing for May 30. Justice Mahmood, in response to standing counsel’s objections, said, “It is a simple request and it should not be problematic to confirm their nationality.”

Barrister Sarah Belal, pleased by Justice Khan’s decision, said, “After years of indefinite detention, the government could at least recognise the detainees as Pakistanis. Once again, we see the judiciary as the sole guardian of the fundamental rights of our citizens.” Later talking to the media, she said for these detainees to escape a fate of legal limbo and indefinite detention, the government has to recognise them as Pakistani citizens. The JPP provides support to the prisoners who are the most vulnerable in the criminal justice system, namely those facing the death penalty and those who are held beyond the rule of law in secret prisons.\05\29\story_29-5-2012_pg7_17



Fifteen killed in attack on militant hideouts in Orakzai, Khyber

29 May, 2012

PESHAWAR: Fifteen militants were reportedly killed and three insurgent hideouts destroyed in action by security forces in the northwestern tribal regions of Orakzai and Khyber, DawnNews reported.

Ten ‘militants’ were killed when fighter jets pounded suspected insurgent hideouts in Orakzai tribal region’s Mamozai, Jandarkhel and Samaa Bazaar areas.

The bombardment destroyed three suspected militant hideouts.

Security sources say over 92 per cent of Orakzai has been cleared of militants in the ongoing military operation in the region.

In another attack by airforce jets, five suspected militants were killed in the Khyber tribal region’s Tirah valley area.

The casualty figures from the reported action could not be independently verified.

Pakistan’s seven tribal districts near the Afghan border are rife with homegrown insurgents and are alleged to be strongholds of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives.

Militants have killed more than 4,800 people across Pakistan since July 2007.



Seven bodies found in Balochistan

29 May, 2012

QUETTA, May 28: Seven bullet-riddled bodies were recovered on Monday from Quetta, Khuzdar and Dera Bugti areas.

“Three tortured bodies stuffed in a bag were found in the Ferozabad area of Quetta,” police said, adding that people of the area informed them about dumping of the bodies.

Police said that the hands of the deceased were tied to their back and they were blindfolded before being strangulated.

The bodies, identified as Mehran Khan Kiyazai, Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Nabi Marri, were taken to Bolan Medical College Hospital. After completing legal formalities, the bodies were handed over to their families.

Sources said that Mehran Khan, a resident of Browery Road area, was missing since April 11. Mohammad Khan Marri and Mohammad Nabi Marri, residents of Sariab, were brothers. They were missing for one month.

Another body, identified as that of Habibullah Nurzai, was found in the Pashtoonabad area. Two bodies were recovered from Dera Bugti. A spokesman for the Baloch Republican Party, Sher Mohammad Bugti, claimed that the bodies were dumped in the Pnhinain area of Dera Bugti district the other day.

He identified the deceased as Ali Khan Bugti and Wali Mohammad Bugti, who had been missing since March 12, 2005.

Sher Mohammad Bugti said that tortured marks were visible on both bodies.

Another body, which could not be identified so far, was recovered from Khuzdar.



Thousands rally in support of PM Gilani in Quetta

29 May, 2012

QUETTA: Thousands of PPP activists on Monday held a rally to express solidarity with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemning the announcement of PML-N and PTI to move Supreme Court for disqualification of the prime minister.

Leaders of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Balochistan ministers Mir Madad Ali Jatak and Jan Ali Changezi led the rally, which after marching on main thoroughfares of the provincial capital turned into a huge public gathering at Meezan Junction.

The participants, including PPP supporters, activists and leaders, were holding placards and banners inscribed with pro-democracy and pro-PM slogans.

The speakers said that the Pakistan Tahrik-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have been hatching conspiracies against the democratic government since it came into power.

They alleged that the opposition never wanted democracy to flourish in Pakistan and created an environment of confrontation.

They supported the ruling of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fahmida Mirza in the case of prime minister’s disqualification, saying it was in accordance with the Constitution. “It is deplorable that Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are misguiding the 180 million people of the country to get political mileage,” they added.

“We are the ones who initiated mega projects in Balochistan, granted huge share to the province in NFC Award and introduced Aghaze Haqooqe Balochistan package to resolve the grievances of the people.”

The 18th amendment was another achievement of the PPP-led coalition government, they stressed.

They noted that the PPP had struggled and sacrificed for the freedom of constitutional institutions and it would come in power in next election on the basis of relief it provided to the masses.



Buried troops declared dead after 52 days

29 May, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday declared dead 140 people buried alive by a huge avalanche in a disputed part of the Himalayas more than seven weeks ago.

A huge wall of snow crashed into the remote Siachen Glacier base high in the mountains in disputed Kashmir in the early hours of April 7, smothering an area of one square kilometre.

Only three bodies have so far been recovered from the remote glacier, dubbed the world’s highest battleground, despite desperate rescue efforts assisted by foreign teams, including from the United States.

The military said that given the improbability of recovering anyone alive, and after consulting religious leaders, “it has been decided to declare the remaining brave soldiers as ‘shuhada’ (martyrs)” to try to reduce the families’ suffering.

“This is being done with mixed feelings of pride, grief and above all unflinching resolve to continue all out efforts to recover the bodies of all shuhada,” the military said in a statement posted on its website.

Rescuers have dug tunnels into the mass of snow and ice that hit the battalion headquarters of the 6th Northern Light Infantry to try to recover the bodies of 129 soldiers and 11 civilians at the Gayari camp.



Pak’s interior minister ready for visa pact if Indian Home Minister signs it

By Aman Sharma

29 May 2012

PAKISTAN’s interior minister Rehman Malik has told home secretary R. K. Singh that he is ready to fly down to New Delhi, on a two- hour notice if need be, to sign the visa pact with home minister P. Chidambaram.

However, it is now India’s turn to play hardball given that Malik refused to sign the visa pact during Singh’s two- day visit to Islamabad citing the need for Chidambaram’s presence.

Highly placed sources in the government said on Monday that Singh had told Malik that the agreement would now be signed at a time “convenient” to India.

“Malik was told that a visa agreement is a reciprocal affair and that it was fine if they did not want to sign a pact. He was told that the agreement will now be signed at India’s convenience,” the source said.

Chidambaram is said to be dead against visiting Pakistan until Malik delivers on the promise he made of providing voice- recordings of the 26/ 11 suspects and acting against Hafiz Saeed.

Given that the home ministry has to be a signatory in the visa pact, the showpiece visa agreement seems headed for cold storage for the time being.

India, instead, has started piling pressure on Pakistan. Singh said India had for the first time submitted a draft extradition treaty to Pakistan, which the latter had promised to consider.

An extradition treaty between the countries could make it easy for India to ask Pakistan to transfer several wanted terrorists believed to be hiding in the country.

Singh has reportedly told Pakistan in no uncertain terms that Ajmal Qasab’s confession was “solely enough” proof for Pakistan to arrest Saeed.

The issue of Sikh terrorists taking shelter in Pakistan was also raised by Singh. India had recently traced a consignment of RDX seized in Ambala to across the border.

India had also rubbished Pakistan’s claim on its involvement in Balochistan as “ utter nonsense”, sources said.

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ISI chief Zahir-ul-Islam's US visit put off: Pak military

May 29, 2012

ISLAMABAD: New ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam has put off a scheduled visit to the United States due to "pressing commitments" within Pakistan, the military said on Monday.

A spokesman for the Inter-Services public relations, the military's media arm, said Islam's visit to the US had been "postponed due his pressing commitments here".

The spokesman did not give details about the commitments. "There is no other reason for postponing the visit," the spokesman said.

No new date was announced for the visit. The move came against the backdrop of strains in the relations between Pakistan and the US over the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and American drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal belt.

A report in The News daily about the postponement of Islam's visit had said that "contacts between the defence establishments of the two countries are still at the lowest ebb".

Islam, who became the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief in March, was scheduled to travel to the US this week at the invitation of CIA chief David Petraeus.

Islam replaced Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who retired in March after being given two extensions.

Pakistan closed the NATO supply lines after a cross-border attack from Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year.



Gilani case: Opposition moves apex court

May 29, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties in Pakistan moved Supreme Court on Monday challenging National Assembly speaker Fehmida Mirza's refusal to disqualify prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani following his conviction for contempt.

Gilani was convicted for refusing to act on the court's order to ask the Swiss government to reopen a money laundering case against President Zardari. Last month, Gilani was handed out a symbolic sentence of less than a minute. Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N and Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf filed separate petitions in court.

PML-N said in its petition Gilani stands disqualified after the Supreme Court verdict and he should be barred from performing his duties as prime minister . Gilani and his law secretary have been made respondents .



Brother of doctor who helped trace Osama appeals for fair trial

May 29, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The brother of Dr Shakeel Afridi, who was sentenced to 33 years in jail by a secretive tribal court in northwestern Pakistan for helping the CIA hunt Osama bin Laden, has called on the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on Monday to intervene and take a suo moto action against the "one-sided judgment" .

Jameel Afridi said that the appeal process against the tribal court's decision is being held up as the authorities have not released a copy of the conviction. "I appeal to the Chief Justice to provide us security and help us exercise our right of appeal," Shakeel's elder brother Jameel told a press conference in Peshawar.

Jameel said: "My brother is not a traitor, he is a patriot. The sentence is one-sided . We will file an appeal against this illegal verdict." To questions about US statements claiming otherwise, Jameel said that it would be best to ask the US from where they got their information.

"Shakeel has done nothing against Pakistan and was never involved with anything related to Osama bin Laden," he said. "My brother and our family had US visas and we could have fled from the country if he had committed any crime. The family is still in Pakistan," he said.



Pakistan tests nuclear capable Hatf IX missile

May 29, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Tuesday it had successfully test fired a short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile.

The Hatf IX has a range of only 60 kilometres (37 miles) and can carry conventional warheads, the military said.

"This quick response system addresses the need to deter evolving threats, specially at shorter ranges," it added in a statement.

It was the third time Pakistan has test fired a ballistic missile since arch-rival India last month launched its new long-range Agni V, capable of hitting targets anywhere in China.

India and Pakistan -- which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 -- have routinely carried out missile tests since both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability in 1998.

Defence analysts say India's strategic priorities are moving away from Pakistan to focus more on China, while Pakistan is still concerned about its eastern neighbour.



Arab World


Palestinian Victory and Zionist Defeat

A question of dignity…

By Franklin Lamb

May 28, 2012

BEIRUT — The official results of the first round of the historic Egyptian presidential elections, the first ever in Mother Egypt where the results were not known in advance, present an encouraging snapshot of “new democratic Egypt” given that close to 50% of Egypt’s approximately 50 million eligible voters, some standing in line to vote in scorching heat for hours, will not be officially announced until late May.

It appears, based on exit polls and information from the Muslim Brotherhood media office, that the two candidates who will face each other in the June 16-17 final round of voting will be the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi (25%) facing Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq (24%).

Mr Mursi and Mr Shafiq represent very different strands of Egyptian society. Mr. Shafiq will continue to draw his support from people fearful of an Islamist takeover, and those exhausted by the upheavals of the past 16 months.

Both finalists will carry substantial political baggage into Round Two. While Mursi will have the vast and competent Muslim Brotherhood organization working during the next two weeks to get out the vote for him, as well as the support of most Islamist parties, his candidacy still faces pervasive voter doubt over having the long outlawed MB control both the Egypt’s Parliament and its Presidency. Egyptian voters appear to be worrying that this kind of broad power effectively is too similar to the Mubarak era and also eliminates checks and balances needed to moderate MB’s pledge to enact Sharia law and to honor its commitment to scrap military rule.

The following statement by the MB’s Mohammad Mursi, delivered just last week at a Cairo University campaign rally is raising concern:

The Quran in our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path, and martyrdom in the service of God is our goal.  We shall enforce Islamic Sharia, and shall accept no alternative to it.

Israel and the US will back Mr. Shafiq in various ways and he will benefit from the view that he represents Egypt’s military, many of the countries wealthy and powerful more conservative voting blocks, the business community, Coptic Christians, (roughly ten percent of the voters) who understandably seek security above all else, and many others who will vote for what they calculate to be the lesser of two evils.

Yet barring surprises such as ex-President Hosni Mubarak being found innocent of all charges on June 2 when the verdict is to be announced in his case, which many lawyers are predicting is exactly what will happen, Mohammad Mursi will very likely prevail in the mid-June run-off and become Egypt’s first democratically elected President.

Many Middle East analysts, including American University of Beirut political sociology professor Sari Hanafi, believe this result will be good for the more than five million Palestinian refugees in the diaspora, those still under Zionist occupation in their own country, and welcomed by all who view the Palestinians full Return to their still occupied country and the dismantlement of the Zionist Apartheid regime.

The Prime Minister of the Palestinian government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, declared on Thursday that “The Egyptian presidential election results will have a very positive affect on the course and future of the Palestinian cause as well as the role and place of the Muslim people in the world.”

Haniyeh knows that the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas evolved, is highly sophisticated politically, and while it tries to avoid attracting condemnation, or worse, from Washington and Tel Aviv, the MB intentions regarding Camp David, giveaway gas and other deals with Israel, and even diplomatic relations with the occupiers of Palestine are clear. A majority of Egyptians believe all will eventually be discarded as will the singly remaining 19th century colonial enterprise itself.

Hamas officials have also acknowledged that they are looking more to Egypt and the Brotherhood for support as they move away from Syria and a top Hamas official, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, settled in Cairo after fleeing the unrest in Syria and maintains close ties with the Brotherhood.

Mursi has a long history of criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. He has referred to Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman as a “vampire” and the settler movement as “Draculas.” Mr. Morsi has also criticized the Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas for what he called gullible collaboration with Israel for believing they would voluntarily accept a Palestinian state, and he has praised Hamas for resisting the Israeli occupation.

Brotherhood leaders have said they intend to use their influence with both Fatah and Hamas to urge them to compromise with each other to press Israel to recognize a Palestinian state. “The Brotherhood will gently pressure Hamas to be more pragmatic, although that is a direction that Hamas is already moving,” according to Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Centre.

Speaking with MB representatives in Cairo and Beirut over the past several months, the party’s position expressed to this observer is that the common thread that stitches together all the continuing regional uprisings can be described as a fundamental quest for dignity and the casting off of humiliation either from western imposed despotic regimes or from their illegitimate and aggressive agent, Israel.

Even before the completion of Egypt’s first democratic elections, which long-time election monitor Jimmy Carter has just labeled “very encouraging”, there is broad recognition in Egypt that basic dignity demands the return of Palestine and its holy places, not just to the 1.5 billion Muslims and nearly as many Christians worldwide, but to all people of good will.

While no official MB decisions have been published regarding relations with Gaza and occupied Palestine, signs are everywhere from non-enforcement of Mubarak-Israeli-American pressures on Rafa, Gaza, travel and trade prohibitions that full normalization of relations between Egyptians and Palestinians under occupation is imminent.

And Israel and its American lobby know it and are preparing.

On Capitol Hill, and among the more than 60 intensively active and well-funded pro-Zionist organizations in the US, a campaign has already begun to neuter the Egyptian voter’s choice next month as surely as was achieved during the three decades of Mubarak rule.

A couple of examples:

AIPAC has launched a campaign to have the Obama administration, during the run-up to the coming election, now barely six months away, demand three things from the Mursi government: that the Mother Brotherhood scrap  key elements of its political program and disassociate itself for “Islamism”, that it publicly pledge to fight “terrorism” i.e. the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, and that the MB pledge  in writing to fully abide by the Camp David accords.

Washington,  according to Israel  must insist that Egypt not only maintain its peace treaty with Israel, but Obama must tell the Brotherhood that any referendum on the Camp David Accords will be interpreted by the US as an attempt to destroy that agreement.

According to Israeli government water carrier Dennis Ross, “In recent conversations, Brotherhood leaders have expressed their belief that they would not be blamed if the treaty were revoked by a nationwide vote, as seems likely. They need to be told otherwise.”

When measured against what the MB stands and has struggled for since its founding  in 1928 by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna, as well as  the growing demands of the Egyptian public coupled with regional pleas for Egypt’s new government to restore Arab and Muslim dignity, these Israeli-US demands are patently absurd.

Ever in the service of Israel, Elliot Abrams, writing in the Zionist Islamophobic Weekly Standard, is proposing an approach that appears as fanciful and misguided as his WMD 2002-3 schemes to get the US to attack Iraq on behalf of Israel or his continuing five year campaign to get the US to bomb Iran for Israel.

Abrams is arguing recently, apparently seriously, that since the MB will be Egypt’s new government, Israel can still prevail if his advice is followed. Obviously unhappy with the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood governing Egypt, Abrams does what he is paid to do for Israel, i.e. he metaphorically paints Pigs hoping they will look like Princesses.

Eliot is publicly blaming the US for not “standing by the Mubarak regime like the Russians are with Syria’s.”  He declared “Had Mubarak and the Army played their cards better; Shafik might have been Mubarak’s successor without the harmful uprising that Egypt has experienced. Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel with all its blessings would be secure. Now, unless Shafik wins, Camp David is finished but we (Israel?) still have some excellent options.”

Abrams and elements of the Zionist lobby are telling Congress that “Israel must support Egypt’s “liberals” meaning, people who believe in democracy, liberty, and the rule of law rather than Islam as the guiding principles of Egypt and that the predicate must be that the electorate believes the MB had a clear chance and failed them.” He continued, “If Shafik were to win many Egyptians will believe the elections were stolen by the Army and the old regime’s machine, and in any event power will be divided between the MB on one side and the Army and president on the other. There will be no clear lesson to learn when conditions in the country then continue to deteriorate given that the previous annual 6.5 billion foreign infusion into Egypt’s economy has reversed to a current annual  $500,00 outflow with foreign investors fleeing and tourism in down  40% from when Mubarak was in charge.”

Interestingly, Abrams and other spokesmen for AIPAC and the Zionist lobby are arguing that Mubarak’s most recent Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq’s victory next month is not necessarily something Israel and the West should favor or work to arrange. Given that the MB is the leading party in parliament and with the Salafists having an Islamist majority there, Abrams claims that this is actually good for Israel since its lobby will organize Congress to push the idea that MB control of both parliament and the presidency is dangerous and, “we can hold them and all Islamists in Egypt absolutely responsible for what happens to Egypt with its myriad problems and thus 100 percent of the responsibility for Egypt’s fate will drop on the MB.”

Abrams continues, “If the MB’s Mursi wins and he will, the MB will be in charge–and be forced to deliver. And when they fail, as they will give Israel’s key friends in the international business community, it will be absolutely clear who was to blame and this is good for Israel. What is in Israel’s interest is to support Egypt’s military which it has worked closely with for years and encourage the army to fight with all its tools for its interests”.

Abrams summarizes his thesis in an AIPAC email to donors: “So as far as Israel is concerned, a Mursi victory should not be mourned; given the situation in Egypt, in this election we can assure that the loser will pity the winner. Two cheers for Mursi! Now let’s get to work.”

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and can be reached at      Read more articles by Franklin Lamb.



Fire Spreading From Play Area of Mall in Qatari Capital Kills 19, Including 13 Children


29 May 2012

Nineteen people, including 13 children, died Monday in a fire that raged through an upscale shopping mall in Doha, Qatar’s Interior Ministry said.

The fire started late in the morning and centered on a children’s play area in the Villaggio Mall, a glittering collection of shops and indoor canals in Doha, the capital, frequented by expatriates in the oil-rich emirate. The ministry did not immediately provide the nationalities of those killed. Local news reports said no Qatari children were among the dead, and Reuters said four of the children who died in the fire were from Spain. French media reported that one French child died in the fire.

Thick smoke could be seen pouring from the building as emergency workers moved to contain the blaze. Photos posted online showed people who appeared to be injured, rescue workers clambering across a smoke-shrouded roof and a man in shirt sleeves holding a young child whose fate was not certain.

The fire at the mall, known for pricey shops, gondoliers and an indoor ice rink, raised troubling questions about the safety of even the most opulent buildings in the booming city, where shopping centers both provide air-conditioned respite from the desert heat and serve as de facto town squares for expatriates and wealthy Qataris. The deadly blaze prompted authorities to announce the creation of a committee to monitor building safety standards.

Al Jazeera, the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, carried reports of the fire, but for hours there was little mention on state-run Qatar TV, according to residents. Frantic messages appeared on social media sites throughout the day, with some reposting messages pleading for information on children at the mall’s Gympanzee play area.

The Interior Ministry offered little information until an evening news conference, while misinformation swirled online. “All are requested not spread rumours as it will create panic among people,” the ministry said in a statement hours before the news conference. “Be responsible persons and cooperate with security departments.”

The cause of the fire, which also injured 17 people, was still under investigation, the ministry said in the evening. Many of the injured were identified as members of the civil defense team responding to the fire. Four teachers and two firefighters were among the dead, the ministry said.

“There don’t seem to have been any fire alarms or sprinklers at the mall,” a relative of a 2-year-old killed in the fire told Reuters.

Qatar, a Connecticut-size sprout of land jutting into the Persian Gulf with a native population of 225,000, is home to more than 1.5 million expatriates mostly from Europe, Asia and the United States.



Iraqi ancient Christian city of Hira lies neglected


A stone's throw from Iraq's Shia holy city of Najaf's airport, the remains of the celebrated ancient Christian city of Hira lie neglected and moldering, because funds for excavation have dried up.

Three sites, discovered five years ago, are unexplored and unkempt, and officials fear the uncompleted excavation could lead to their eventual demise.

The sites, which contain mud walls and jars that are exposed to the elements and lie fewer than 100 meters from an active runway, are not fenced off and have no security except their proximity to the restricted airport area.

They form part of the ancient Lakhmid capital of Hira, on the outskirts of Najaf, 150 kilometers south of Baghdad.

The Lakhmids were a pre-Islamic Arab tribe that is believed to have emigrated to what is now Iraq from Yemen in the second or third century. The founder of the dynasty was Amr, whose son, Imru al-Qais, converted to Christianity.

In 266, the Lakhmids turned the former military encampment of Hira into their capital.

Establishing their empire across what is now Iraq and northeastern Arabia, they held sway across the lands that lay between the Persians — to whom they were vassals for several centuries — and the Romans.

They were a major force among the pre-Islamic Arab peoples, with their culture and learning spread widely and where the early Arabic alphabet was standardized.

Arab poets described Hira as a paradise on earth, with one saying that, because of the city's pleasant climate and beauty, a day in Hira was "better than a year of treatment."

Hira, which extends around 17 kilometers south from Najaf, remained the Lakhmid capital until 663, when Muslim general Khalid bin al-Walid conquered it on the orders of Abu Baqr, the immediate successor of the Prophet Mohamed.

"The area has historical importance because it is rich in antiquities, including especially the remains of churches, abbeys and palaces," said Shakir Abdulzahra Jabari, who led excavations there in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

"But now, the antiquities have been neglected for a year, and they do not receive any attention, despite the fact that many Western countries are interested in Hira's history as the main gateway of Christianity into Iraq."

Hira was famous for its arable land, and for its palaces and monasteries, notably the Aoun al-Abadi Palace, which hosted visiting dignitaries, and the Al-Lij monastery.

The sites feature the historic treasures of the Lakhmid era, such as the bases of massive abbeys that include dozens of rooms, from studying halls to monastic cells and storage areas.

"Christians have lived for a long period of time in the Hira region, where they formed around one-third of the city's population, with the Al-Abad tribe the most well-known of their community," said Yahya Kadhim al-Sultani, a professor at Kufa University in Najaf's twin city.

"Hira was characterized by a not insignificant number of churches built for living in, and the practice of various scientific and cultural activities," Sultani added.

The ancient city has seen several excavations in decades past, Jabari said.

Oxford University researchers explored the site in the 1930s, and Iraqi antiquities experts carried out their own excavations in 1938, 1956 and 1957.

It was during the latter set of explorations that the Palace of Al-Khawarnaq, built during the reign of fourth and fifth century King Numan I was discovered.

But since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Baghdad's government has had bigger priorities than funding large-scale digs in a country with more than 12,000 documented archaeological sites.

Foreign exploration teams have largely avoided Iraq entirely over security fears, even though levels of violence in the country are significantly lower than their peak in 2006 and 2007.

And those who have come have largely chosen to focus on the autonomous and relatively safe Kurdistan region in the north for excavations.

"The excavation works resumed in the area in 2007. When expansion work was being done to Najaf airport, the first three sites were discovered," said Jabari.

"We have worked to save it from the [airport] expansion process."

Since then, several digs in an area of 3,000 square meters have uncovered the bases of mud-built structures, as well as crosses etched into walls, and a piece of wax marble with the inscription, "Blessings from God, and God forgave the followers of Christ."

In 2009, the Najaf provincial department of antiquities said researchers had unearthed around 2,100 artifacts in different parts of the province, including coins, pieces of pottery and a number of buildings dating back to the Lakhmid dynasty.

"But exploration work stopped a year ago because of time limits on the project, which ran out of money, and no maintenance work has been done on the sites since," Jabari said.

He now fears that further neglect will lead to the antiquities' destruction.



Violence Flares After Egypt Election Results

29 May 2012

CAIRO (AP) — A mob set fire late Monday to the campaign headquarters of one of the two Egyptian presidential politicians facing each other in a runoff that will decide a new leader after last year's popular uprising, the first sign of unrest after the voting yielded divisive candidates.

The attack on Ahmed Shafiq's office came just hours after the country's election commission announced that he would face the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Morsi, in a June 16-17 runoff.

The second round pitting Shafiq, who was ousted President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, against Morsi, backed by the country's most powerful Islamist movement, is a nightmare scenario for the thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets last year to demand regime change, freedom and social equality.

Many of the so-called revolutionaries say they want neither a return to the old regime nor religious rule.

"The choice can't be between a religious state and an autocratic state. Then we have done nothing," said Ahmed Bassiouni, 35, who was sitting in Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square in the midst of a growing protest.

In an upscale neighborhood of Cairo, mobs of young men used bricks to smash the windows of Shafiq's headquarters, tossing out campaign signs and tearing up his posters. Then they set fire to the building. There were no reports of injuries. Police arrested eight people.

His campaign blamed supporters of leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who came in third in the race, and backers of another losing candidate, Khaled Ali, who was protesting the election results Monday evening in Tahrir Square, the center of last year's uprising.

Shafiq, also a former air force commander, was forced out of office as prime minister by protesters shortly after Mubarak's fall. He has since presented himself as a figure who can restore calm to a country wracked by 15 months of sometimes violent protests and deterioration in internal security. He has expressed a zero-tolerance attitude toward protests, reflecting his background in the military and in the former regime, which put down protests with brutal force and jailed opponents.

Full Report at:



Candidate’s Offices Burn Amid Egypt Demonstrations


29 May 2012

CAIRO — The presidential campaign headquarters of Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister burst into flames Monday night as demonstrators marched in the streets protesting that former official’s confirmation as one of two candidates to advance to Egypt’s runoff election.

If found to be arson, the fire would be the most destructive act of election-related violence since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster as president. Interior Ministry officials said they had not yet determined the exact cause of the fire, although they arrested one person inside the building. They did not disclose the person’s identity or possible motives.

The fire broke out a few hours after the election commission confirmed on Monday that Ahmed Shafik, the former prime minister and a former air force general, will face Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in the runoff scheduled for June 16 and 17 to choose Egypt’s first freely elected president.

Several losing candidates had claimed electoral fraud, but outside observers said the election appeared valid, and the election commission rejected the appeals.

Mr. Shafik’s supporters express hope that he can restore order to Egypt while checking the power of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. His critics say they fear he will bring back the authoritarianism of the Mubarak government.

The recently elected Islamist-dominated Parliament had passed a law barring top Mubarak officials like Mr. Shafik from the presidency. But the election commission set it aside for review by the Supreme Constitutional Court. The commission said Monday that it would have the final word over the law’s application even if the court approved it.

Groups of a few hundred or more people in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities on Monday evening protested Mr. Shafik’s candidacy. It was unclear if his headquarters in a villa in an affluent Cairo neighborhood was attacked during a protest.

The fire was put out within a few hours, and afterward, lights were on and campaign workers were visible inside the building. Outside, thousands of people gathered in the streets. No injuries were reported.

The electoral commission said Mr. Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, won 5.76 million votes and Mr. Shafik 5.5 million votes. The runner-up, Hamdeen Sabahi, a Nasserite socialist, received 4.82 million votes. A narrow majority of voters cast ballots for other alternative candidates who, like Mr. Sabahi, were fiercely critical of both the Brotherhood and the Mubarak government, leaving many voters unhappy with the two candidates who survived until the runoff.

The commission said about 46 percent of Egypt’s approximately 50 million eligible voters turned out for the election, roughly 20 percentage points down from the parliamentary elections that ended in January. The low figure may have reflected a lack of enthusiasm for the candidates, or the brevity of the campaign, which hampered efforts to mobilize voters.

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.



Bahrain: Activist to End 110-Day Hunger Strike


29 May 2012

A detained human rights activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, announced Monday that he would end his 110-day hunger strike, saying in a statement that he had achieved his “goal of shedding light on the ongoing human rights situation in Bahrain.” Mr. Khawaja and at least 20 other dissidents remain in prison on charges related to their participation in an uprising against the ruling monarchy that began in February 2011. Another well-known Bahraini rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, was released on bail Monday, according to his lawyer. Mr. Rajab was arrested in early May on charges that included organizing protests and insulting the authorities on his Twitter account.



Islamist, ex-military man contest Egypt presidency

May 28, 2012

CAIRO: Egypt's electoral committee declared on Monday that a run-off for the presidency would pit a Muslim Brother against a former ally of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, but one losing candidate rejected the outcome of a "dishonest" vote.

The committee confirmed that the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi and ex-air force chief Ahmed Shafiq had proceeded to the second round of Egypt's first genuinely contested presidential vote.

Mursi topped the poll with 24.3 percent of the votes, followed by Shafiq with 23.3 percent. Turnout was 46 percent.

A Mursi-Shafiq run-off poses an agonising dilemma for many of Egypt's 50 million voters who are equally wary of Islamist rule or a return to a military-backed authoritarian system.

About half of first-round votes went to candidates somewhere in the middle ground - from leftist firebrand Hamdeen Sabahy, third-placed with 20.4 percent, to moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, with 17.2 percent, and former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, with 10.9 percent.

All three filed complaints about the voting, all of which were rejected by the six judges forming the electoral committee.

The disputes add rancour to an already messy and often bloody transition to democracy since generals took over from Mubarak when a popular uprising forced him out on February 11, 2011.

"I reject these results and do not recognise them," said Abol Fotouh, a former Brotherhood member, alleging that votes had been bought and representatives of candidates had been denied access to polling stations during the count.

"The national conscience does not allow for labelling these elections honest," he said.

Of the 12 candidates, only Abol Fotouh has so far rejected the result outright.

"There are question marks on the result of the election," Moussa told a separate news conference earlier. "There were violations, but this should not change our minds on democracy and the necessity of choosing our president."


The Muslim Brotherhood sought to muster a coalition to help Mursi against Shafiq, who calls Mubarak his "role model".

Neither man came close to winning the more than 50 percent of the vote needed to clinch the presidency in the first round.

The close contest has set both contenders scrambling for support, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, which is trying to draw losing candidates and other political forces into a broad front to prevent a "counter-revolutionary" Shafiq victory.

Shafiq is also seeking wider backing, even posing as a protector of the revolt that toppled Mubarak.

Shafiq's supporters see him as the man to impose security and crack down on protests viewed as damaging to the economy. Mursi appeals to Egyptians keen for Islamists to run a deeply religious country within a democratic framework.

"I would bet that at some stage in the next two weeks there will be an upsurge in violence," said a Western diplomat, predicting than such a flare-up would likely boost the chances of Shafiq, campaigning on a law and order platform.

The military council has promised to lift a hated state of emergency in force throughout Mubarak's 30-year rule on May 31. It has also pledged to hand over to the new president by July 1.

A Brotherhood source, who asked not to be named, said the Islamist group's Freedom and Justice Party had prepared a menu of options to tempt rival groups and politicians to its side.

These include creating a five-member advisory council to advise the president; assigning the posts of prime minister or vice-president to Abol Fotouh and Sabahy; distributing cabinet posts to other parties and offering compromises on planned laws and on an assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.


So far Abol Fotouh and Sabahy have appeared wary of such overtures, staying away from meetings called by the Brotherhood to discuss strategy for the second round of an election supposed to crown Egypt's turbulent army-led transition to democracy.

Moussa, a former foreign minister once seen as favourite to win the presidency, but who appears to have managed only fifth place, said he would stay in politics but was seeking no post.

"We cannot accept a re-creation of the (Mubarak) regime," he declared, but said he had not yet spoken with the Brotherhood on any anti-Shafiq coalition. "I am not going to consult them, but if they want to consult me, I will consider it."

Uncertainty over the election has hit Egyptian share prices. The main index dropped another 1.3 percent on Monday after suffering a 3.5 percent drop on Sunday, its worst in nine weeks.

"Investors are afraid because now we have two extreme candidates facing one another. No one will invest heavily in Egypt ... until it becomes clear who is president," said Amr Chamel, a trader at Pharos Securities.

"If Shafiq wins, foreign investors will feel at ease but there may be street protests against him. A Mursi presidency would scare off foreign investment."

International ratings agency Fitch said the Mursi-Shafiq contest could "exacerbate social unrest and prolong political stalemate", but said in the longer term both favoured policies that could stabilise Egypt's sovereign credit profile.



North America


Islamophobia, new form of political colonialism, waged by the US and its Zionist allies


A political analyst says that Islamophobia is a type of “political colonialism” and “ideological war” waged by the United States and its Zionist allies against Islam and Muslims.

“Islamophobia is a form of political colonialism; an ideological war against Islam and the Muslims,” wrote author Dr. Ismail Salami in an article published on Press TV’s website on Sunday.

“It is a pernicious practice used by Washington and its allies to justify their lust for Muslim blood, give validity to their military expeditions in Muslim countries and seize hold of their numerous resources,” he added.

Pointing to the US military forces’ shooting of Afghan civilians in March — whereby 18 people including nine children lost their lives while sleeping — as well as their burning of copies of the Holy Qur’an earlier, Salami further noted that “It is clear that the US government has commenced a large-scale campaign against Islam with the express intention of debilitating the Muslim community.”

The political analyst also explained that the roots of Washington’s systematic Islamophobia campaign could be traced back to the deadly attacks of September 11, 2001 and the ideological reaction of the American government to the incident.

“In fact, the war on Islam started in 2001 when the then US president George Bush made a crass reference to his so-called war on terror as ‘crusade’,” he pointed out, adding, “Gradually, Washington instilled a sensation of anti-Islamism in America and Europe by attributing the nine-eleven tragedy and ensuing terrorist operations to the Muslims.”

Explicating Bush’s “delusional” mentality in embarking on a campaign of Islamophobia, he highlighted his “idea of a messianic mission,” noting that “Bush wittingly or unwittingly dragged the world to the margins where a clash of civilizations was imminent.”

The author of Human Rights in Islam also referred to the US military’s attempts to provoke anti-Islamic hatred in its members and teach them to fight a “total war” against Islam in order to “protect America.”



Clinton chided Pakistani officials in Zardari meeting: NYT

29 May, 2012

WASHINGTON: The New York Times in a report claimed that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bluntly chided Pakistani authorities when she met with President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the recently-held Nato summit in Chicago, DawnNews reported.

The meeting discussed politics, more specifically the difficulties Zardari faces in unifying the countries political blocs, the report stated.

According to the US-based newspaper, Clinton was “nothing but blunt” and while reflecting the mounting frustrations on Obama’s administration she said that the only way countries defeated insurgencies like the ones threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan was “by forging national unity and exercising political will”.

“It’s going to take leadership,” she told President Zardari, according to officials from both countries familiar with the hour-long meeting at McCormick Place last Sunday. “It’s going to take leadership from you and others.”

President Zardari complained about the difficulties of unifying Pakistan’s fractious political parties and noted it was an election year in both countries.

“We don’t have the resources or control over these groups,” Zardari told Clinton, referring to militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“We’re backed into a corner because you haven’t apologised,” the president said referring to the Nato attack on a military check post in Pakistan last year which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Relations between the two countries have been tumultuous and were badly frayed by the secret raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May last year. Ties further worsened after Pakistan shut the Nato supply route after the November attack on the Salala check post.

Related developments include a stepping up of drone attacks by the US in Pakistani tribal areas. Five drone attacks have taken place in the past week since the end of the Nato conference, ending a brief lull heading into the summit meeting and ignoring demands by Pakistan’s Parliament to end the strikes altogether.

Also on Wednesday, a tribal court in Pakistan convicted Shakeel Afridi, a doctor who helped the CIA in its search for Osama bin Laden, and sentenced him to 33 years in prison for involvement in anti-state activities.

The conviction resulted in a new cut of $33 million by the US Senate in American military assistance to Pakistan, $1 million for each year of the sentence.



Obama's Memorial Day message: Troops are coming home

May 29, 2012

ARLINGTON (VIRGINIA): US President Barack Obama said on Monday that America's troops were coming home after a decade of war, as he marked Memorial Day, the annual commemoration of fallen and missing warriors.

Obama noted that US troops were no longer fighting Iraq, and remembered his nation's first and last victims of that divisive conflict, adding that he was "winding down" America's war in Afghanistan.

After sweeping to power in 2008 partly owing to his promise to end the war in Iraq, Obama followed through by bringing the final US soldiers home last year.

"For the first time in nine years, Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq," Obama said.

"We are winding down the war in Afghanistan and our troops will continue to come home," Obama said, after laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns, in Arlington National cemetery outside Washington.

"After a decade under the dark clouds of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," Obama said at the cemetery, a final resting place for US war dead and veterans, which features many fresh graves from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama is highlighting his honored promise to end the Iraq war, and plan to get US combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, to bolster his leadership credentials as he faces reelection in November.

But the president, who also serves as commander-in-chief of US forces, noted that for relatives of the fallen, the end of America's foreign wars, may hold little consolation.



Taking Up 4,486 Flags for Slain Soldiers, but Holding On to Their Memory


29 May 2012

MILTON, N.Y. — For the past eight years, the emerald-green hillside by Caren Baker’s home was covered with a growing number of small yellow flags, each of them representing one of the 4,486 United States service members killed in Iraq.

On Monday, the first Memorial Day since the last American troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011, she felt it was time to bring the memorial to a close, at least in its present form. This fall, she intends to plant 4,486 daffodil bulbs on the site, about six miles west of downtown Saratoga Springs, so that next spring there will be another commemorative sea of yellow.

“I did this because I didn’t think there was a shared national grief about the war,” Ms. Baker said. “I remember seeing an interview with parents of a soldier killed in Iraq, and their frustration that the military wouldn’t let photographers take pictures of caskets being unloaded off the plane. I felt there was a lack of coverage about the costs of war.”

In Revolutionary times, Ms. Baker’s hillside field might have been a good defensive stronghold, with slopes on three sides. But unlike Bunker Hill or famous slopes in later wars, from San Juan Hill to Heartbreak Ridge, there was no battle cry, roar of cannon or rifle shot, only the names of dead soldiers called out on Monday, one by one, in a solemn ceremony as the living took turns reading their names while yellow flags were pulled up all over the property.

“Donald D. Furman, Marcus S. Futrell, Raphael A. Futrell, Marilyn L. Gabbard, Dan H. Gabrielson ...”

The roll call went on in almost ghostly fashion, and it reflected the diverse ethnicities of the fallen — Christopher R. Kilpatrick came shortly before In C. Kim.

“This is an amazing thing,” said Margaret Prough of Saratoga Springs, one of more than 100 people who helped remove the flags. “It certainly was a reminder every time you came by.”

The flag memorial, along a busy state highway, Route 29, had a big impact on people from all walks of life, Ms. Baker said.

“One day, a big burly guy stopped his truck and came over,” she said. “He looked like he should have been a football linebacker. He said, ‘Would you mind if I hug you?’ He started to cry. He said, ‘Two of my friends are represented on this field. It makes me think of them every time I drive by.’ ”

Others would stop to sign a soldier’s name to a flag. Once, she said, somebody brought a trumpet, played “Taps” and left without saying a word.

Ms. Baker got the idea for the tribute from her daughter, Arica, who noticed a smaller version of it one day while driving through New Hampshire. Ms. Baker’s parents, Henry, a World War II veteran, and Virginia, made most of the flags by cutting squares out of plastic yellow tablecloth and attaching them to tiny wires. The flags pulled up Monday will be made into a yellow wreath and hung beneath a permanent wooden sign that was made by Jim Horvath, a neighbor of Ms. Baker’s.

The marker’s message, engraved numerals 4-4-8-6, is simple. Mr. Horvath’s 6-year-old daughter, Anika, held the last numeral as he drilled it into place.

Except for winter, when snow blanketed the field, the little girl had never seen the field without flags. It had been that way her entire life, the only change a number that grew year after year.

The nearly 4,500 troops killed were more than enough for a full combat brigade.

Dillan Palaszewski and Tyler Barnes of nearby Rock City Falls, both 12, could have spent Memorial Day swimming or enjoying a backyard picnic. Instead, in the 85-degree heat, they helped remove armloads of yellow flags.

“It means a lot to help all the families that have lost people in the war and show them we care,” Dillan said.

Ms. Baker, who began putting up the flags in 2004, said she would probably feel a void in the absence of the flags that have been part of her landscape for so long. But she realizes that her loss pales in comparison to the loss of a son, husband, father, wife, mother or daughter.

“It’s fitting that as we change the field, we are sharing our grief together,” she said. “The meaning of the field will go on. Every spring you all are invited to come and remember; just remembering exactly what Memorial Day is all about — lives lost.”

Fred Cady, a resident of nearby Wilton, said he had driven by the field many times. “If they were going to have a ceremony, I thought, I’d want to be a part of it,” he said. “We need to think more about the results of war. It would be nice if mankind could exist without war.”



Danish Police Arrest 2 Men in Terror Plot

29 May 2012

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Two Danish brothers originally from Somalia were arrested on suspicion of plotting a terror attack, Denmark's security service said Tuesday.

The two brothers, ages 18 and 23, were arrested late Monday — one in the western city of Aarhus and the other as he arrived by plane at Copenhagen's international airport, said the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, or PET.

The men were suspected of "being in the process of preparing an act of terror" after they were overheard talking about methods, targets and different weapons types, PET said in a statement, suggesting the suspects had been under surveillance. One of them had been to a training camp in Somalia run by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, the agency said. The Somalia-based al-Shabab has links to al-Qaida.

The suspects are "Danish citizens of Somali origin" who have lived in Denmark for 16 years, PET said.

"According to PET's assessment the arrests have prevented a concrete act of terror, and the arrests therefore don't lead to a changed evaluation of the terror threat in Denmark," PET said, adding that the terror threat level in Denmark remains "serious."

The Scandinavian country has been in the crosshairs of Islamist terror groups after the publication of newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005.

A Somali man living in Denmark was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 10 years in prison after breaking into the home of one of the cartoonists with an ax in 2010.

Last year, a Chechen-born man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for preparing a letter bomb that exploded as he was assembling it in a Copenhagen hotel in 2010.

Another trial is under way in Denmark against four men accused of plotting a shooting spree at another Danish newspaper.




You Can't Defeat Boko Haram, Cleric Tells President


 28 MAY 2012

Former Primate of the Anglican Communion, Peter Akinola, has told President Goodluck Jonathan that the Boko Haram insurgents cannot be defeated as they are out to wipe out Christians and Jews.

He spoke at the National Christian Centre Abuja during a special inter-denominational service to mark this year's Democracy Day.

In his sermon titled: "Know the truth and the truth shall set you free," Akinola said the sect has been in existence since 1966 and cannot be defeated by the Federal Government.

He said Nigerians should not be deceived by the antics of Boko Haram, saying the sect is involved in a Jihad against Christians.

According to the cleric, "We have ignored the truth. Boko Haram must be seen in the right context. It is a continuation of the past. Shun all political claims that Boko Haram is not against Christianity. It is. It has been going on since 1966. They are committed to Jihad. You can't stop them.

Responding, Jonathan said in spite of the security challenges posed by the Boko Haram, the country will remain indivisible.

Jonathan said, "No individual or group no matter their ambition or selfish purpose will be able to divide this nation. Nigeria will never disintegrate."

He added that the current state of terrorism took the country by surprise saying, "even though some people were busy predicting the disintegration of Nigeria, there would be no such thing."

He said security agencies have stepped up action against the sect, adding that "We have done a lot and committed resources to advance our security architecture in order to tackle terrorism and God willing, we shall overcome."

The President will address the nation this morning to highlight government's efforts at tackling the present state of insecurity in the country.



Tuareg-Islamist unity bid in north Mali unravels

29 May 2012

Bamako. Plans for Tuareg rebels and hard-line Islamist group Ansar Dine to join forces and proclaim an Islamic state in northern Mali have collapsed due to fundamental differences, the two sides said Tuesday, AFP informs.

"We have refused to approve the final statement because it is different from the protocol agreement which we have signed," said Ibrahim Assaley, the Tuareg rebel National Liberation Front of Azawad (FNLA).

Moussa Ag Asherif, close to Ansar Dine head Iyad Ag Ghaly, confirmed the impasse in talks which came just 48 hours after the two groups announced their plans for joint domination of the remote desert region.

Regional and Western leaders have long feared a breakaway state in Mali's restive north could become Al-Qaeda's main safe haven.

A draft of the statement by Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) spoke of applying "pure and hard" Islamic Sharia law and banning non-Muslim humanitarian groups from the area, Assaley told AFP by phone from Gao, where the unity talks took place.

"It is as if they want us to dissolve into Ansar Dine," complained the representative of the secular Tuareg rebels. "That is unacceptable."



Nigeria: 'Baby Clutching Quran' Born in Lagos Church


 20 MAY 2012

Like the common saying "all things work together for our good," so it was for 32-year-old single mother, Mrs. Kikelomo Ilori, who after making several attempts to abort a pregnancy, ended up giving birth to a boy in a Cherubim & Seraphim Church, allegedly clutching a Holy Quran.

Her words: "I repeatedly tried to abort the baby, but, instead, the baby kept getting stronger by the day, which made me to give up on abortion. Then I started wearing a cross around my waist to protect the baby and myself but the cross kept cutting. When the pregnancy got to its eleventh month, I told my friend, Kenny Ogunlana, about it and she now took me to Morning Star Church (Cherubim & Seraphim) in Ejigbo where I was delivered of the baby."

Kikelomo, a cosmetologist, said she was delivered of the baby that has now been described by many as a "miracle child" on Monday (7 May, 2012), four days after going to the white garment church. She stressed that she had been warned by a prophet not to terminate the pregnancy while trying to abort it.

The prophet, according her, said the baby in her womb was unique; but she felt it was a way of discouraging her from abortion.

"When I discovered I was pregnant, I wanted to abort the baby. I'm not married. Even in church, I was warned not to go for abortion because the baby is from God. But I still went ahead with the abortion plan."

The mother of the baby claimed she was abandoned by the man who impregnated her, saying he denied responsibility for the pregnancy and encouraged her to abort it. But after she was delivered of the baby, members of the man's family have been pleading with Kikelomo and her family to receive him as the father.

When Sunday Vanguard visited where the baby was kept at 1 Shonde Street, Ijeshatedo, Surulere, Lagos, the place had virtually become a tourist centre, with a huge crowd converging to catch a glimpse of the baby. In the crowd were mostly Muslims from different parts of Lagos, chanting "Allahu Akbahu".

The National Missioner of Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, Alhaji Abdul Raheem Ameen, who led delegates from Kwara State on a visit to the baby, took time to pray for both baby and mother, noting that it was a sign of good things that will soon overtake the country.

An Imam of Ramatu Ishamiya Mosque in Ijeshatedo, Lagos, Alhaji Ashimuyu Omotosho, who was invited to look at the Quran found in the baby's right hand, said it was the mark of God, adding: " The amazing thing was that the family of Kikelomo is Christian. It shows that we are one from God, but came into the world to choose and go our separate ways."

The midwife, Victoria Moses, in her 60s, said she had been in the business of helping mothers deliver babies for long and had seen where babies come into the world holding ropes, but nothing like the latest baby, adding that out of fear she had to ask Kikelomo and her family to leave without paying her.

She said: "I tell you, it was God who delivered that baby. I've seen cases where babies come into the world, holding ropes, but nothing like this! I used to help mothers deliver babies. I've delivered a lot, but I've never seen anything like this. When the mother of the woman came, I showed her the item I found in the right hand of the baby."

Victoria narrated that one of the mysterious things was that PHCN supplied power just as the baby's head appeared and interrupted it after she had cleaned up the baby, stressing that it was a symbol that the baby is unique.

Kikelomo's sister-in-law, Ayomide Akinsoji , narrated what she witnessed during the delivery of the baby. "When the Quran was with the baby, in the baby's palm, the baby folded his hand in a way that the Quran was not visible. But now, if you put the Quran in the baby's hand, it is bigger than the baby's hand because it has become bigger. Maybe as the baby grows, the mini Quran will be getting bigger."

She noted that the Quran was wrapped in a transparent water proof item. "But, at first glance, it looked like it was wrapped in nylon, which made it difficult for anyone to see. Some Islamic scholars said that the wrapping was to ensure that the mother's blood did not touch the mini Quran."

Sunday Vanguard spoke with the grand-mother of the baby, who simply gave her name as Mrs Bola; when asked to give account of what happened, she said: "I just got to the church when my daughter put to bed and I saw the thing (mini Quran) in the baby's hand shaking. I am surprised about the thing (mini Quran) which was very small but, with time, it started getting big. So we dropped it for the Imam to come and look at it. I am a Christian and the baby will be with me for some time."

Meanwhile, the boy was on Monday given a Muslim name before a crowd of Lagosians who gathered at 110 Olateju Street (Ogba Solomon Hall), Mushin.

After the Imam of Zakat Sadaqat Foundation, Lagos, Jamiu Tirmdhi Akano, announced that the baby would receive free nursery, primary and secondary education from Tayyibat Group of Schools Gbagada (a day & boarding school), the baby was named "Abdul Wahab Iyanda Ademilola Irawo".

Akano said when he was informed of the Quran, he conducted a research and found out that, in the world, such Quran is to be five. But there are two already in existence, adding, "And where the volume of the first one ended was where the second one started from, they come in volumes. But what I cannot say is how the thing (Quran) got into the hand of the baby."

He announced that the brother of the baby's mother and some members of Kikelomo's household met with him to disclose their intention to become Muslims. "The baby's mother is now known as Sherifat, her brother's name is now Mosiud and Kikelomo's mother is now known as Rodiat, he added."



Sudan 'to withdraw troops'

29 May 2012

Sudan will begin pulling its troops out of the disputed border region of Abyei on Tuesday, an army spokesman has said.

Abyei is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, which became independent in 2011 after a long civil war. Sudan's forces seized Abyei in May 2011.

Its status was left undecided in the 2005 peace deal between the sides, and a referendum on the issue has been postponed indefinitely.

Peace talks between the two states are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

In the talks due to be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the two countries are expected to cover several border disputes that have caused friction, including Abyei.

Sudan has decided to redeploy its troops out of Abyei in order to "offer a good environment for the talks", military spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency.

He said Khartoum was responding to a request from the talks' mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki.


It has also asked for a "guarantee" recognising that Abyei is part of its territory, the spokesman added.

On Sunday, former US President Jimmy Carter said after meeting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that Khartoum was ready to pull its forces out of Abyei.

Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced when the Sudanese army took control of the region in three days of clashes with South Sudanese troops in May 2011.

The dispute in Abyei is rooted in ethnic conflict between farmers from the pro-South Sudan Dinka Ngok community and the pro-Sudan Misseriya nomads.

In April, cross-border clashes centred on the neighbouring oil-rich region of Heglig brought Sudan and South Sudan close to all-out war.

South Sudan says Sudanese warplanes bombed several locations on its border, although Khartoum denies this.

The same month, the South's troops occupied Heglig for a week. It said it pulled out in response to international pressure, but Sudan said it reconquered the territory.

The UN Security Council has called on both countries to cease all bombing and cross-border fighting, and to return to talks aimed at resolving their outstanding disputes.

Security is a key issue, and one that Sudan says must be resolved before anything else, the BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum reports.

Outstanding issues also include oil and the situation of the estimated half a million South Sudanese still living in Sudan, our correspondent says.

But the level of distrust between the two sides is considerable, and rapid progress on the many areas of substantial disagreement is unlikely, he adds.





UN condemns Syria massacre as at least 40 more are killed

29 May 2012

SPECIAL envoy Kofi Annan on Monday called on “ every individual with a gun” in Syria to lay down arms, saying he was horrified by a weekend massacre that killed at least 108 people the town of Houla, including women and small children.

He urged President Bashar al- Assad to prove he wants a peaceful resolution to the crisis racking his country.

Syria has blamed the massacre on “ terrorists”. Assad’s forces killed at least 41 people in an artillery assault on the city of Hama, activists said, shortly after the UN Security Council condemned the massacre in nearby Houla which took place on Friday.

With international criticism growing of Assad’s methods in trying to crush a 14- month- old uprising, now accompanied by a lightly armed insurgency, UN/ Arab League envoy Annan arrived in Damascus for talks on his faltering peace plan.

He explicitly urged the Syrian government to take bold steps to signal that it is serious in its intention to resolve this crisis peacefully before adding: “ This message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.” Russia and China, which had previously vetoed resolutions condemning Assad, both approved a non- binding text in New York that criticised the use of artillery and tank shells on homes in Houla, but declined to blame the government alone. The rebels do not have artillery and tanks. China also used strong words about the killings.

UN monitors say at least 108 people were killed, among them dozens of children. Many of the victims were also hacked to death or shot at close range, as shown in graphic images distributed by activists.

Civilian militias went from house to house murdering entire families “ one by one” during an eleven hour killing spree, according to sources on the ground.

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Muslim extremists using Facebook, Twitter to radicalise UK students: Report

May 28, 2012

LONDON: Islamic extremists are using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to radicalise British students and spread propaganda, according to a report.

Campaign groups The Henry Jackson Society and Student Rights, in their report 'Challenging Extremists' have uncovered the online use of propaganda.

The report pointed out that chilling videos of armed insurgents, accompanied by hate-filled speeches from leading al-Qaida figures, have been posted on websites linked to Islamic societies at several leading universities.

Rupert Sutton, the co-author of a report, said that 'the attempted radicalisation of students over the internet, predominantly via social media, is deeply concerning.'

"We were able to uncover large amounts of shocking material targeting students and in many cases, shared by students themselves," the Daily Express quoted Sutton, as saying.

He said that some of the material could breach existing counter-terror legislation and promote groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned from operating on campuses by the National Union of Students.

"We would encourage universities and student unions to heed the revelations in this report to tackle Islamist-inspired extremism while still effectively protecting fundamental freedoms on British campuses," Sutton added.

According to the report, the researchers discovered violent and radical videos posted on the University of Westminster's Islamic Society Facebook page, including one featuring a sermon by slain al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki.



Assad in bind as ally Russia unscrews ties

 May 29 2012

Moscow : Russia further backed away from its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday, saying his government bears the main responsibility for the violence in the country and calling for a full investigation into its role in the deaths of more than 100 civilians in Houla.

Both sides have obviously had a hand in the deaths of innocent people, including several dozen women and children. This area is controlled by the rebels, but it is also surrounded by government troops,’’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks in Moscow with visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Lavrov spoke a day after Russia joined the rest of the UN Security Council in blaming the Syrian government for attacking residential areas in Houla, a collection of villages near Homs. The council, however, avoided saying who was responsible for the massacre of at least 108 men, women and children.

Lavrov said there was no doubt that government forces had used artillery and tanks to shell Houla, but he noted that many of the dead appeared to have been shot at close range or tortured.

“The guilt has to be determined objectively,’’ he said. “No one is saying that the government is not guilty, and no one is saying the armed militants are not guilty.’’

In some of Russia’s harshest criticism of Assad to date, Lavrov said his government “bears the main responsibility for what is going on’’ because it is failing to provide for the security of Syrian citizens. He hedged the criticism by claiming that Syria’s government is facing an increased threat from terrorists, whose bombings have the “clear signature of al-Qaida.’’

Lavrov and Hague called for greater efforts to implement a peace plan proposed by special envoy Kofi Annan, who arrived in Damascus Monday for talks with Assad and other Syrian officials. His six-point plan calls on both sides to respect a ceasefire.

Lavrov said “we don’t support the Syrian government, we support Annan’s plan”. He, however, hinted that Moscow, unlike the West did not want Assad to step down.

China Monday also condemned the killings in Houla and called for an end to the violence, but gave no indication it was rethinking its strategy toward the fighting in Syria.



Kazakh police are jailed over Zhanaozen violence

29 May 2012

Five middle-ranking Kazakh policemen have been imprisoned over the shooting of protesters in the town of Zhanaozen last December, trial observers say.

A court in the Western city of Aktau handed down sentences of between five and seven years after finding the officers guilty of abuse of power.

At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when security forces and striking oil workers clashed.

The violence followed months of peaceful protest in the town.

Witnesses say police fired indiscriminately at unarmed workers, but security forces say they acted in self-defence.

The accused are all reported to be middle or low-ranking officers whom correspondents say are unlikely to have given the order to open fire.

Violence broke out when police tried to clear the town square ahead of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Kazakh independence from the Soviet Union.

The Kazakh authorities initially praised the actions of the police in the unrest, saying they had had no choice but to use armed force to restore order.

But video phone footage later emerged on the internet that appeared to show police officers shooting at and beating unarmed civilians.

The verdict in a separate trial of 39 former oil workers on charges of organising the unrest is expected next week.



UN envoy Kofi Annan set to meet Syria's Bashar al-Assad

29 May 2012

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is due to hold talks on Tuesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

Mr Annan's plan to end the country's conflict has been overshadowed by international revulsion at Friday's massacre in the Houla region.

Mr Annan called the massacre "an appalling moment with profound consequences".

Survivors have told the BBC of their shock and fear as regime forces entered their homes and killed their families.

Mr Annan said the Syrian government has to take "bold steps" to show it is serious about peace.

He said his "message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun".

On Monday Mr Annan held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and the head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood.

Under Mr Annan's plan, both sides were to stop fighting on 12 April ahead of the deployment of monitors, and the government was to withdraw tanks and forces from civilian areas.

Mr Annan will be pressing Mr Assad to make good on those earlier promises, the BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon reports.

Much will depend on the position taken by Syria's main international ally and diplomatic protector, Russia, our correspondent adds.

Russia, which has twice blocked UN Security Council resolutions backing action against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, said on Monday that both sides bore responsibility for Friday's massacre.

"We are dealing with a situation in which both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent civilians," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Western leaders have expressed horror at the killings, and the UK, France and US have all begun moves to raise diplomatic pressure on the Assad government.

France is convening another meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria group, which Russia does not take part in.

"The murderous folly of the Damascus regime represents a threat for regional security and its leaders will have to answer for their acts," said President Francois Hollande's office.

'I saw bodies'

Survivors who spoke to the BBC, and the local commander of the Free Syrian Army, said the people who carried out the killings were militiamen - shabbiha - from nearby Alawite villages.

Their accounts cannot be confirmed, but they are consistent with one another, and also with the reports given by activist groups on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the massacres, our correspondent says.

Syrian leaders will be giving Kofi Annan a different account in their talks, he adds.

They still insist that what they admit was a massacre was the work of hundreds of armed rebels who massed in the area, and who carried out the killings in order to derail the peace process and provoke intervention by Nato.

Several witnesses said they hid or played dead to survive.

UN observers who visited the village of Taldou where the massacre happened said they had found evidence of shelling from government forces.

They also confirmed that some of the 108 victims - many of whom were children - had been killed by close-range gunfire or knife attacks.

"We were in the house, they went in, the shabbiha and security, they went in with Kalashnikovs and automatic rifles," survivor Rasha Abdul Razaq told the BBC.

"They took us to a room and hit my father on the head with the back of a rifle and shot him straight in the chin."

Of 20 family members and friends in the house at the time, she said only four had survived.

Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said he hid in the attic as gunmen took his family outside and shot them.

"I opened the door, and I saw bodies, I couldn't recognise my kids from my brothers. It was indescribable. I have three children, I lost three children," he said.]



Britain: Judge Denies Bail for Radical Cleric

29 May 2012

A British immigration judge on Monday denied bail to Abu Qatada, saying he could not risk having the radical cleric on the streets during the London Olympic Games, which take place from July 27 to Aug. 12. Mr. Qatada is fighting deportation to Jordan over terrorism charges and claims he will be tortured if he is deported. His lawyers had applied for bail after he lost his bid to make a final appeal of his deportation order to the European Court of Human Rights.



Southeast Asia

Malaysia's Kelantan demands Islamic designs in Buddhist building

By Rahimy Rahim

 May 28, 2012

A controversy is brewing over the proposal for the construction of a Buddhist building here after the PAS-led state government ruled that new buildings should include Islamic designs to reflect the state capital's status as an Islamic city.

State Local Government, Culture, Arts and Tourism committee chairman Takiyuddin Hassan said developers must incorporate some Islamic elements in their plans or the proposals would be rejected.

"We will ensure development will be based on Islamic principles and features," he told a press conference here.

He claimed the ruling was well-accepted by the majority of developers, including non-Muslim developers.

"I do not see it as an issue or something that could cause religious tension, as it only involves architecture and design," he said.

"They have accepted the new ruling well."

Takiyuddin was commenting on an appeal by the Kelantan Buddhist Association for the state government to approve its building, to be constructed with Chinese features at Jl. Sultan Zainal Abidin here.

It is understood that the association had been told that its building design should have dome-shaped motifs, which have created a controversy in the Chinese media.

In an immediate reaction, Kota Baru MCA division chief Tan Ken Ten slammed the directive, which he said was an infringement of the rights of non-Muslims in the state.

"The ruling is an extreme attempt to impose one's beliefs into other people's culture or religious beliefs," Tan said.

"The PAS government must be mindful that Malaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-religious society that respects the differences of each community. It should appreciate this diversity which makes this country unique," Tan added.

State MCA Youth chief Gan Han Chuan said the Kelantan government was showing disrespect towards the non-Muslims with its new policy.

"With the new directive, PAS is trying to create discord by destroying the harmonious relations between the communities that had been built by the Barisan Nasional over the years," he added.

"One can only wonder what type of archaic policies PAS will introduce if Pakatan Rakyat manages to take over the Federal Government," Gan said.



North Thailand Buddhists Protest Monster Mosque Construction


The ongoing violent jihad in Southern Thailand has been well-documented at Atlas (and criminally ignored by the media). The jihad is moving north. According to the Thai news media, residents of a northern Thailand town are protesting a monster mosque right next to a Buddhist temple, where it will dominate the smaller structure. Out of the 6,000 residents in the general Ban Pong Namron area, only 20 are Muslims. The chant of the Buddhist Monks will be drowned out by the nails-on-a chalkboard Muslim call to prayer.

Everyone we spoke with is terrified that the building of a proposed large mosque will start the all-too-familiar pattern of increasing Muslim presence and demands for accommodation and concessions, to be followed by violence when the Muslim population reaches a certain level.

 This has been the pattern in Southern Thailand as Islam expanded north from the Malaysian border areas. The town residents have no cause to believe that circumstances will be any different here in the North: they fear that eventually there will be Muslim violence against Buddhists if the Muslim population gains sufficient strength. Whether this takes five or twenty years is not the point, the residents believe that recent Thai history confirms the violence will eventually happen as the Muslim population grows. Five thousand dead in the South and thousands more wounded or maimed probably wouldn't disagree.

It's not just Thailand. This is the Islamic pattern everywhere there is Muslim immigration. Go here for more on that.

North Thailand Buddhists protest mosque construction. Government may abort project (thanks to RV in Thailand)

Stealth Jihad in Northern Thailand

 "The residents of the north Thailand town of Ban Pohn Namron are fighting the same battle that Americans fought over the 9-11 Mosque in New York CIty. The proposed mosque isn't necessary, and both sides know that its construction would be an important symbol of Islamic power and intentions. The community's successful rejection of the mosque would similarly be an important symbol and victory in the battle against Islamic supremacy."

Yesterday on our way to the Myanmar (Burma) border crossing we stopped for lunch near Ban Pong Namron (Mae Chedi Mai) and it was an eye-opener to talk with some of the residents. Without exception, everyone we spoke with is terrified that the building of a proposed large mosque will start the all-too-familiar pattern of increasing Muslim presence and demands for accommodation and concessions, to be followed by violence when the Muslim population reaches a certain level.

 This has been the pattern in Southern Thailand as Islam expanded north from the Malaysian border areas. The town residents have no cause to believe that circumstances will be any different here in the North: they fear that eventually there will be Muslim violence against Buddhists if the Muslim population gains sufficient strength. Whether this takes five or twenty years is not the point, the residents believe that recent Thai history confirms the violence will eventually happen as the Muslim population grows. Five thousand dead in the South and thousands more wounded or maimed probably wouldn't disagree.

 According to the Thai news media, out of the 6,000 residents in the general Ban Pong Namron area, only 20 are Muslims. The Muslims say they want to build a large mosque not to serve their own needs, but to service Muslim travellers on the highway who the Muslims say number 200,000 per year. The 200,000 figure seems to have been pulled out of a hat without any independent confirmation, yet the national news media print the number as if it is a verified fact. Similarly no news media asks where the money to build is coming from. The words "Saudi Arabia" kept coming up in conversations with residents and whether this is the source of the funding or not, it is what people are talking about. According to one of my relatives on the Muslim side of my family, most Thai Imams have been to Saudi Arabia for training at one time or another. Our cousin has been three times.  

 The Buddhist residents we spoke with say this is not really about the Muslim travellers, it is about building a major mosque to attract and encourage Muslim immigration into an area where Islam has no current presence to speak of. The Muslims want the big mosque to be placed right next to a Buddhist temple where it will dominate the smaller structure visually and impact the surrounding community and daily temple life of Buddhists.

 To hear Buddhist monks chanting quietly in the morning is to experience the essence of Thailand's national character. That disappears when mosques typically broadcast calls to prayer over loudspeakers five times a day.

 The residents fear that their community has been targeted for the establishment of a Muslim settlement outpost with all that means. They are determined to convince the provincial government to reject the proposed mosque, and so far it looks like the residents' protests might be successful. The battle is still being fought and as with similar situations in North America, the Thai national news media is tip-toeing all around the real issues at the heart of this 'controversy' while the Muslims are playing the victim and human rights cards. The local news media is being a little more forthright as you can see in the linked articles.  

The Chiang Rai provincial Islamic Committee says that Buddhists and Muslims in the North have been living together without any signs of religious conflict and the mosque won't change anything. Locals counter that with only 20 Muslims in a town of 6,000 Buddhists, the Muslims are on their best behaviour. They point to the South Thailand experience as to what happens to other religions when the Muslim population gathers sufficient strength.

(Reference earlier Atlas Shrugs story 'Jihad in Thailand. Muslims murder last Buddhist in South Thailand town, kill five soldiers responding.')

 Surprisingly, in many ways the people and the community of Ban Pong Namron are reminiscent of so many similar places and people I've seen in the American midwest. Once you venture off the main drag where the gas stations, tractor repair shop and farm supply stores are, there's not much to see except fields, crops and cattle. A farm house might be made of bamboo or bare concrete, but it will still have a new Chevy pickup truck or New Holland tractor sitting in the yard. Just like in the USA, a farmer's equipment comes first before the house.

 During the week the farmers sell their crops to the local wholesalers and buy what they need in town. On Friday and Saturday nights their sons and daughters put on their best and try to find some romance or adventure on main street under the watchful eyes of cautious, yet understanding, parents and older siblings. The popular music here is called 'Up Country' and once you get past the language difference, it sounds very much like a blend of what I heard on KRNY last time I drove through Kearney, Nebraska. Strange how that can be a half a world away.

 Ban Pong Namron is above all a good and safe place to live and raise a family in Thailand. Both in physical distance and peace and security you can't get much further away in Thailand from the Muslim terrorism that is inundating four provinces some 2,000 kilometres to the South.

 Ban Pong Namron is only a sleepy little farm town in Northern Thailand, but as you see by the attached news articles, Thais are paying increasing attention to what is happening here. People are making a stand against Islamic expansion.

 The opposition to the big mosque is not driven by religious intolerance, for the Thai Buddhists are among the most tolerant and welcoming people on earth. (The country is 96% Buddhist, but Bangkok puts up a Nativity Scene with baby Jesus every Christmas. There are synagogues in four major cities, and Buddhist Thais happily celebrate Hindu, Sikh and Muslim holidays with their neighbours. Any excuse for a party.)

 The opposition to the construction of a major mosque in Ban Pohn Namron is driven by fear: fear of seeing their Buddhist religion and culture come under attack, fear of intimidation and violence, and most of all fear of losing their lands as so many Buddhist farmers have in the South as they are forced to choose between their farms and their personal safety.

 The residents of the north Thailand town of Ban Pohn Namron are fighting the same battle that Americans fought over the 9-11 Mosque in New York CIty. The proposed mosque isn't necessary, and both sides know that its construction would be an important symbol of Islamic power and intentions. The community's successful rejection of the mosque is similarly an important symbol and victory in the battle against Islamic supremacy.



Indonesia: Shaving heads for kids with cancer

Novia D. Rulistia


Hundreds of people lined up at a mall in South Jakarta, not in a hunt for bargains, but to get their heads shaved to help children with cancer.

Men and women went bald, although several women opted to play safe with just a bob cut. “I’ve always wanted to go for the bald look but never found the right occasion. This event is perfect, besides doing something good, I can also get what I want,” Elizabeth Zoraya Paskarini said. “I was nervous at first, but it feels good. It’s refreshing.”

Another participant, long-haired Owena Ardra, 17, said she was glad to know that she could do something that could help others in need. “It’s not just about donating money, but the money we donate comes from something that is so close to us, to help kids with cancer. I think it’s more personal,” said Owena who came with four friends.

Zoraya and Owena were among the 1,064 participants who had their heads shaved in the Shave for Hope charity event on Sunday. The event was held to raise money to help children with cancer. All cut hair would be sold to a local wig producer for Rp 100,000 (US$10.56) per head.

Males who participated in the event had to completely shave their heads, while females with long hair needed to cut a minimum length of 10 centimeters. For those with short hair, the only choice was to go bald.

“The response was surprising. So many people showed up today to support the event,” said Audrey Anjani of Shave for Hope. “All proceeds will be donated to Yayasan Pita Kuning Anak Indonesia [Indonesian Children’s Yellow Ribbon Foundation, YPKAI], a community for children with cancer.”

Similar social movements have been organized in other countries like the United States, Australia and Singapore.

YPKAI was first established in 2007 to help children and their families cope with the psychological and social needs of cancer treatment.

Tyas Amalia Yahya, a volunteer with the YPKAI, said that they accompanied children during blood-sample tests and provided counseling for the children and their families. “We also facilitate treatment funding for children from low-income families,” she said.

Currently, it has around 40 trained volunteers, including doctors and psychologists. The programs take place from Monday through Friday at Dharmais Cancer Hospital in West Jakarta.



Malaysia’s Anwar seeks to strike out protest charges


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim applied Monday to strike out criminal charges that he took part in an illegal political rally last month and that could bar him standing in elections.

Anwar and two opposition party colleagues were charged last week with breaking a controversial new law outlawing street marches and violating a court order specifically banning the rally from the centre of the capital Kuala Lumpur. Tens of thousands gathered on April 28 to demand reform of an electoral system that critics say is biased toward the coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957. Some protesters breached a security barricade and were met with tear gas and water cannon, touching off clashes with police that saw more than 500 people arrested.

Anwar has dismissed the charges as a ploy to remove him from politics ahead of elections that must be called by early next year. His legal team filed applications Monday at the Kuala Lumpur court to strike out the charges, lawyer Ram Karpal said.

They argue that the assembly law is unconstitutional because it violates guarantees of freedom of assembly, while the court order banning protesters from a central square did not specifically name Anwar, he said. Anwar, who has pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight the charges, could be fined up to 10,000 ringgit ($3,100) for the charge under the assembly law. In Malaysia, anyone fined more than 2,000 ringgit for a crime is barred from contesting elections for five years although they can run while any guilty verdict is on appeal. In January, Anwar, 64, was acquitted of sodomy in a long-running trial that he claimed was engineered by the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak after the opposition coalition made unprecedented inroads during elections in 2008.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, was previously imprisoned for corruption and sodomy after he fell out with his then boss, former premier Mahathir Mohamad, in 1998. He was released from jail in 2004 after the sodomy conviction was overturned.


Mideast Asia


US drone strike, attacks kill 17 al-Qaida fighters in Yemen

May 29, 2012

ADEN: Air raids, including by US drones, and clashes in Yemen have killed at least 17 al-Qaida militants and a civilian, officials and tribesmen said on Monday.

Five militants of al-Qaida were killed when they were hit by a US drone on Monday, a tribal source said.

"A US drone struck a convoy carrying al-Qaida's leader in Bayda province, Qaed al-Dahab," the tribal source said on condition of anonymity, adding that "Dahab survived but five of his guards were killed."

The strike hit the militants as they were travelling in the area of Manaseh, east of the city of Radaa in central Yemen, he said.

Seven other militants, including the local military chief in Hadramawt, Saleh Abdul Khaleq, were killed in an air raid conducted by Yemeni warplanes in the eastern province, a security official said.

The raid struck the group as they met in a "deserted coastal area" some 60 kilometres (35 miles) west of the city of Mukalla, the official said.

Western diplomats say that US experts are assisting the Yemeni army in their battle to destroy al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington to be the network's deadliest and most active branch.

In an interview with ABC television's "This Week," US defence secretary Leon Panetta defended the use of drones as "the most precise weapons we have" in the campaign against the militant group.

His comments marked the first time the US formally acknowledges the use of unmanned drones against al-Qaida suspects in Yemen.

Five other al-Qaida fighters and a civilian were killed in overnight clashes as Yemeni troops inched closer to capturing the city of Jaar, a bastion of the militant group in war-torn southern province of Abyan, a military official said.



Turkish Court Indicts 4 Israeli Military Leaders


29 May 2012

JERUSALEM — An Istanbul court approved indictments on Monday against four senior Israeli military figures for involvement in a deadly raid on a Turkish passenger vessel trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010. In response, a senior Israeli official said the Turkish government had apparently decided to kill what was left of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

In the 2010 clash, soldiers opened fire after they rappelled onto the ship’s deck and were met with violent resistance. Nine pro-Palestinian activists — eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent — were killed.

Israel insisted that its soldiers had acted in self-defense. A United Nations report subsequently found that Israel’s naval blockade was legal and appropriate, but that in raiding the Turkish boat, part of an international flotilla, Israel had used “excessive and unreasonable” force.

Istanbul’s Seventh Criminal Court unanimously accepted a 144-page indictment prepared by the Istanbul prosecutor, Mehmet Akif Ekinci, Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency reported on Monday. The prosecutor is seeking life terms for the former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi; the former naval forces commander, Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom; the former military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin; and the former head of air force intelligence, Brig. Gen. Avishai Levy, as well as prison terms totaling up to 18,000 years for other crimes that the prosecutor says were committed during the raid, according to the report.

All four commanders have since retired from the military, an army spokeswoman confirmed.

Although Israel has expressed regret over the deaths, it has never offered the official apology that the Turkish government has demanded. From the Turkish perspective, analysts say, until an apology is forthcoming, there is no relationship left to damage.

“There is absolutely no change for the better in relations between Israel and Turkey that would be harmed from this judicial development,” said Sami Kohen, a Middle East analyst with the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet.

That was not the view of the senior Israeli official. “Erdogan decided to launch a targeted killing of the relationship,” the official said, referring to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the tensions surrounding the issue. Israeli officials did not immediately comment publicly on the indictment because Israel had not yet received any official notification about it from Turkey.

The indictment means that the four former military figures cannot set foot in Turkey, but Israeli officials said they could still travel to other countries in safety since, so far, Turkey has not issued international warrants for their arrest.

Turkey used to be Israel’s closest regional ally and its most important friend in the Muslim world. But relations began to sour over Israel’s three-week offensive against the Hamas militant group controlling Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, which came after years of rocket fire by Gaza militants against southern Israel. Up to 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the campaign, hundreds of them civilians, and Mr. Erdogan accused Israel of attempted genocide.

Israel formally introduced a naval blockade of Gaza in early 2009, saying it was essential to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the Palestinian coastal enclave. The flotilla’s attempt to run the blockade led to the dawn raid on the Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, in international waters as it headed for Gaza.

Israel eventually rejected a deal that included a formula for an apology acceptable to both sides in return for a restoration of relations and a cessation of legal steps. Israeli officials said they grew wary of the proposed deal after Mr. Erdogan started speaking about the additional condition of lifting the blockade of Gaza.

Turkey sharply downgraded its diplomatic and military ties with Israel last September, expelling the Israeli ambassador in a display of anger.

Other Israelis said that Monday’s approval of the indictment did not necessarily signal a new low in Israeli-Turkish relations. Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, said it could also be viewed as the natural progression of a judicial process that started months ago.

“It is clear that this did not crop up just now,” Mr. Liel said, adding that the judicial steps probably began when Israel announced it would not apologize.

On the contrary, Mr. Liel said he had discerned different signals from Turkey recently. Both Mr. Liel and Israeli officials noted that private trade between Israel and Turkey — nearly $4 billion a year — had hardly been affected by the diplomatic freeze, and that it was even improving.

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Istanbul.



Turkish court orders six ex-generals held over 1997 coup

29 May, 2012

ANKARA: A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the detention of six former generals accused of involvement in a military coup in 1997, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The detentions are part of a probe into the bloodless coup that toppled the country’s government at the time and comes amid a growing standoff between the powerful military and the current rulers.

Among those held is Ilhan Kilic, former secretary general of the National Security Council, a joint military and civilian body that has played a key role in defining Turkish politics over the past few years.

Dozens of active duty and retired officers, including several other generals, have already been charged and jailed in the probe.

The officers are accused of pressuring former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan to resign over his alleged attempts to raise the profile of Islam in this predominantly Muslim but secular country.



Iran says sanctions threat jeopardises nuclear talks

Tue May 29, 2012

By Marcus George

May 29 (Reuters) - Iran on Tuesday warned Western countries that pressuring Tehran with sanctions while engaged in nuclear talks would jeopardise chances of reaching an agreement.

"This approach of pressure concurrent with negotiations will never work. These countries should not enter negotiations with such illusions and misinterpretations," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference.

"They have their own wrong conceptions and this will stop them from coming to a speedy and constructive agreement," he said in the conference broadcast by state network Press TV.

At last week's talks in Baghdad, Iran pushed for the lifting of sanctions on its oil and banking sectors as a sign of goodwill.

European Union states are to impose a total ban on shipments of Iranian crude oil in July. European diplomats say this tactic will not change until Tehran takes tangible steps to curb its nuclear activity.

Further U.S. legislation that targets Iran's oil industry is to come into force on June 28, days after the next meeting between Iran and world powers in Moscow.

The United States and its allies suspect Tehran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its activities are entirely peaceful.