New Age Islam
Tue Nov 24 2020, 09:56 AM

Islamic World News ( 19 Apr 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Indonesia Upholds Blasphemy Law

Terrorism should not deter us from path of progress: President of India

‘IPL betting mafia behind twin blasts’

India role in Afghan critical, will see it first-hand, says Roemer

Pakistan restores parliamentary democracy

Pakistan: trial of Mumbai attack accused is on fast track

Pervez: UN Bhutto report ‘bunch of lies’

UN rights chief seeks improvement in position of Gulf women

Iran unveils home-made ballistic missiles to mark Army Day

Iran 'strives' for nuke-free world

Obama & American Muslims: How Different?

Al-Qaeda using new tactic in war

Pak court adjourns Mumbai case proceedings till May 8

Plea to declare Kasab, Ansari as fugitives: Pakistan court reserves decision

Pakistan is a complicated country, needs US support: Holbrooke

US to remove all its forces from Iraq by 2011: Biden

Bombs kill 24 in Peshawar

Anti al-Qaeda chief's kids beheaded

Capturing or killing Osama America's top priority, says White House

US, Israel share 'unbreakable bond'

Two Nigerians killed in Kaduna jail-break

US summons Syrian envoy over Hezbollah

Roots of Taliban conflict fester in Swat

The making of a suicide bomber

Philippine prosecutors slam decision clearing 2 suspects in massacre case

US forces kill 4, injure dozen Afghans

Iran actress Hamideh Kheirabadi dies

Turkey backs Iran, restates diplomacy

US summons Syrian diplomat over possible Scud transfer

South Sudan party accuses north of troop buildup

Another conflict with Lebanon?

2 journalists arrested in Aligarh gay professor case

A broader assessment into President Obama’s view on Islam and Indonesia

An American Citizen's Response to Obama

Paper sued for denying genocide in Bosnia

Taliban’s supreme leader signals willingness to talk peace

Afghanistan frees Italian aid workers held over 'plot'

Marines pay Afghan farmers to destroy opium

Manufacturing Consent For Attack On Iran

Donkey bomb kills 3 children in Afghanistan's Kandahar

Britain 'hands over prisoners in Afghanistan to face torture'

B Somalia's al-Shabab militia 'improving security'

Sunnis said tortured in secret Iraq prison

Intellectual terrorism termed more dangerous than physical

Brazil Becoming Iran's Increasing Defender in the West

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/indonesia-upholds-blasphemy-law/d/2730

 

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Indonesia upholds blasphemy law

Apr 20, 2010

 Critics say the law has largely been used against those seen as offending mainstream Islam

An Indonesian court has ruled to uphold a 1965 blasphemy law that allows for criminal penalties and bans on people or groups that "distort'' the central tenets of six officially recognised religions.

The court on Monday rejected a petition by moderate Muslims, religious minorities, democracy advocates and rights groups against the law in a case seen as a major test of the mainly Muslim country's pluralism.

By a margin of eight to one, the judges ruled that while the law was imperfect, it did not contravene the country's constitution and "was vital to religious harmony."

The law carries a maximum punishment of five years for beliefs that deviate from the orthodox versions of six sanctioned faiths - Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Confucianism.

"The law should be upheld because if it is annulled ... Islam and the Quran could be interpreted at will and people and figures could declare new prophets and establish new religions,'' Suryadharma Ali, Indonesia's minister of religious affairs, said before the ruling.

Religious discrimination

The law is supported by religious conservatives, including the Islamic Defenders Front, which gathered at the court and threatened to protest if the judges did not

uphold it.

Critics say the law is vague, allowing authorities to interpret and enforce it how they choose, which they say has largely been used against those seen as offending mainstream Islam.

The government used the blasphemy law in the past to outlaw religious groups, including Ahmadiya, a minority Islamic group banned in 2008 whose members identify themselves as Muslims but do not believe in the core tenet of Islam that Muhammad is the last prophet.

They also say conservative Islamic groups have used the law as justification

for violent attacks on minority religious groups.

'Blow to freedom'

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a US based rights organisation, said the ruling "dealt a severe blow to religious freedom" in the world's third-largest democracy.

"Indonesia's laws should protect those who peacefully express religious views and punish those who threaten to use violence against others, not the other way around," Elaine Pearson of HRW said.

The US commission on international religious freedom, a non-partisan body that advises the US government, said the ruling may embolden religious extremists and foster sectarian strife.

Chairul Annam, one of the lawyers arguing for the law's repeal, said "the judges closed their eyes and hearts.

We are very sorry that discrimination suffered by minorities in this country was not recognised by the court."

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/04/20104208101575962.html

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Terrorism should not deter us from path of progress: President of India

Apr 20, 2010

Pune: President Pratibha Patil on Monday said terrorism won’t deter the country from the path of development and progress.

“Terrorists are enemies of humanity and they have to be defeated. India is working closely with international community to deal with terrorism and it should not deter us from the path of development,” the President said on the concluding day of post centennial silver jubilee celebrations of Deccan Education Society (DES) and Fergusson College in the city.

During her speech, the President touched upon many topics ranging from terrorism to education and youth empowerment. “Many people lost lives during the recent German Bakery blast. Many suffered permanent injuries and physical disabilities. Acts such as the blasts are attacks on our culture. We are a peace-loving nation and our culture teaches us to look at the world as one family,” she said.

Talking about her expectations from youngsters, Patil said, “The higher percentage of youngsters in our country makes it a young nation with a legacy of great culture. Today, it is time to come together to strengthen the roots in order to channelise the manpower that can bring about transformation in the country. It is the same young population that has been taking our country to new heights,” said Patil.

“We tend to blame the system for everything that goes wrong in the country but we need to understand that no change can be brought about without the participation of the citizens of the country,” she said.

In his speech, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said, “With universities across the globe targeting India as the educational hub, Indian universities have a tough task to carry out. They need to judge the changes taking place in the field of education and modify themselves to meet the demands.”

Also present on the occasion were Devisingh Shekhawat, Subhash Jhanak, women and child welfare minister, Dasharath Reddy, special officer of the Government of Andhra Pradesh, Shahu Chhatrapati, president, DES, Ravindrasinh Pardeshi, principal, Fergusson College, Ajit Patwardhan, chairman, Council and Governing Body, DES and others.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/terrorism-should-not-deter-us-from-path-of-progress/608684/

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‘IPL betting mafia behind twin blasts’

By Aravind Gowda in Bangalore

20 April, 2010

KARNATAKA home minister V. S. Acharya on Monday blamed the “ IPL betting racket” for the twin blasts near M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Saturday.

Reason: the betting mafia wanted the IPL semi- final matches to be held in Mumbai, he said.

“ There are signs that the IPL betting racket wanted the semi- finals to be held in Mumbai. We have received credible information from intelligence sources that the betting racket is behind the blasts. We are carrying out investigations,” Acharya said.

But the minister said he did not know how the betting racket could have benefited from the shifting of the match venue.

Intelligence sources said the involvement of the IPL betting racket could not be ruled out.

“ The racket is funded by the underworld, which could have used its links in Bangalore to carry out the blasts. There is a case for suspicion if we look at how the betting racket operates,” a senior officer said.

But sources in the Union home ministry did not confirm any intelligence input that a betting lobby could be behind planting as many as five bombs near the stadium.

The Centre is apparently suspecting the role of terrorists.

Ammonium nitrate, engine oil, petroleum jelly and ball bearings were found in the three unexploded bombs — the cocktail of explosives used by the Indian Mujahideen in past explosions.

“ The bombs were apparently prepared and planted by terror elements... whether they were hired by the betting mafia or not is something that the Karnataka police are investigating. The state government will submit a preliminary report by Tuesday,” the source said.

Union home minister P. Chidambaram is in close touch with the Karnataka chief minister B. S. Yeddyurappa on the progress of the probe. The CM has stoutly denied the involvement of any terror outfit, a source said.

Acharya argued that the betting mafia used the underworld to create fear psychosis among IPL organisers. “ Going by the way the bombs were placed, it is evident that some local operatives were responsible. They wanted to create an impression that Bangalore was unsafe for the semi- finals and IPL organisers shifted the venue to Mumbai,” he said.

The police said investigations into the betting racket are beyond their purview. “ This involves inter- state cooperation.

We have brought the matter to the notice of the home ministry in Delhi. Now it is for them to pursue the leads. We will concentrate only on identifying those responsible for planting the bombs,” an officer said.

But as far as the suspects are concerned, it is turning out to be an old game for the Karnataka police. They have zeroed in on Riyaz Bhatkal and Bilal — who have been blamed for any terror attack on any part of the state for the past four years.

The police do not have any evidence to link Bhatkal to the Bangalore blasts. The only premise on which their argument is based is the “ similarity in planning the attacks”. Karnataka police’s inability to make a breakthrough in the case has drawn flak. “ It is highly intriguing that the police have not made any major breakthrough.

They are trying to find scapegoats and hence naming the usual suspects,” said Rakesh Para, a former intelligence officer of the Karnataka police.

The results from the forensic sciences lab were also examined, but they did not throw any light on the conspirators. “ We are still clueless,” a senior investigating officer said.

The Union home ministry is also understood to have communicated its displeasure to the Karnataka government over the fact that three unexploded bombs remained undetected for a day.

“ All further progress on Bangalore bomb blasts investigation will be reported by the DGP of Karnataka at regular intervals,” a ministry spokesperson said.

Inputs from Aman Sharma

Source: Mail Today, New Delhi

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India role in Afghan critical, will see it first-hand, says Roemer

Apr 20, 2010

NEW DELHI: The US is looking at ways to "partner" India in Afghanistan. After India aired its concerns about the US seeming to "outsource" the solution in Afghanistan to the Taliban-friendly Pakistan, there appears to be a greater interest by the US to understand India's interests in the war-torn country and its contribution to its reconstruction. The US is also more receptive now to India's opposition to the kind of reconciliation that the British and Pakistanis seem to be selling.

US ambassador to India Tim Roemer said India's activities in Afghanistan were "critical," and that he would be travelling to Afghanistan to see Indian projects first-hand, meet Indian ambassador Jayant Prasad and get a better idea of what India wants to achieve in Afghanistan. India has spent over $1.3 billion in development projects all over Afghanistan, and is generally believed to be one of the most benign presences in that country, carrying a lot of popular support.

On the other hand, Pakistan, which continues to maintain links with the Taliban, has asked the US to ensure that India's presence is downgraded. Pakistan has also alleged that India maintains some 26-28 consulates in Afghanistan and engages in serious "anti-Pakistan" activity. This line has been swallowed by sections of the US administration, certainly the Pentagon, because it is reflected in statements by Gen Stanley mcCrystal and Gen David Petraeus.

Full report at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-role-in-Af-critical-will-see-it-first-hand-says-Roemer/articleshow/5833351.cms

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Pakistan restores parliamentary democracy

Anita Joshua

Apr 20, 2010

ISLAMABAD: A page in Pakistan's history was turned on Monday with President Asif Ali Zardari signing the 18th Amendment Bill that transfers the powers of the presidency to Parliament and brings back the 1973 Constitution drafted during the regime of his father-in-law Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

For Pakistan — which has seen the post of Prime Minister being suspended five times due to some form of military intervention and where no Premier has ever completed a full term — this was billed as the smoothest transition ever from one form of government to another.

And, it had across-the-political-spectrum support with the entire opposition lined up to witness and celebrate what Mr. Zardari described as a moment of reconciliation. “We have adopted national reconciliation as our compass,” he said moments after he put his signature to a piece of legislation that weakens his own office.

Lauding all politicians for making this moment possible, Mr. Zardari pointed out that collectively, the political class of the nation had silenced critics and cynics who had doubted their ability to deliver on the promise to restore democracy and rid the Constitution of all the distortions that had crept in over the past three decades.

Full report at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/04/20/stories/2010042055861700.htm

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Pakistan: trial of Mumbai attack accused is on fast track

Sandeep Dikshit

Apr 20, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday assured that the trial against the accused in Mumbai attacks would conclude soon and expressed confidence that they would be convicted.

“The trial is on fast track and the accused have exhausted all their rights to get bail and get the FIRs cancelled. We expect the trial will be concluded in the coming months. My friends from India must realise that once the battle goes to court, it no longer remains in the control of the prosecution, administration or the government. The kind of credible evidence we have put forward, we will get conviction and that is what we want,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a delegation of visiting journalists here.

Kasab's statements

Pakistan had also sought all the statements made by the lone surviving gunman Ajmal ‘Kasab' to make the case foolproof against one of the accused and Lashkar-e-Taiba leader, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi.

Mr. Malik offered to visit India to meet his counterpart P. Chidambaram to discuss further anti-terrorism measures. He hoped that an opportunity for interaction would arise during the meeting of SAARC Home Ministers which was postponed but could now be held here in June.

Full report at:

http://www.hindu.com/2010/04/20/stories/2010042061551200.htm

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Pervez: UN Bhutto report ‘bunch of lies’

20 APRIL 2010

Islamabad, April 19: Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who was seen shaking a leg at a New York restaurant, has reportedly described a UN panel’s findings holding him responsible for former Premier Benazir Bhutto’s assassination as a “bunch of lies”.

Mr Musharraf, who was President when Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, was spotted dancing at the mehndi ceremony of his wife Sehba’s friend’s niece at a restaurant at Jericho Turnpike in Long Island just a day after the UN commission submitted its report on April 15.

He told his friends at the ceremony that the UN panel’s report was “simply a bunch of lies”, the News daily reported on Monday. At about 11 pm, Mr Musharraf was invited to the dance floor and he was seen shaking a leg to the beat of a Pakistani dhol (drum).

“I now believe (the) stories about Musharraf, that he would dance with a full glass on his head with such perfection that not a single drop would fall out of the glass,” said one guest who witnessed Mr Musharraf’s dance. Boota Shaikh, who played the dhol, said Mr Musharraf had danced during the mehndi ceremony at his request. Shaikh praised Mr Musharraf for making the event memorable.

“Musharraf sahab and Begum sahiba were so happy that they even gave me money and I am thankful to them,” he said. An unnamed friend of Mr Musharraf said the former President was “not scared” following the release of the UN commission’s report.

The friend said it was “absurd” to think that Mr Musharraf was behind the killing of Benazir Bhutto. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s top leadership has decided to take “appropriate legal actions” against all persons, including Mr Musharraf, named in the UN commission’s report as being responsible for the assassination of Bhutto.

Mr Musharraf has not yet publicly commented on the UN report.  

http://www.asianage.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9616:

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UN rights chief calls for end to sponsor system, seeks improvement in position of

Gulf women

Apr 20, 2010

JEDDAH: Gulf countries must end their sponsorship system that leaves migrant workers exposed to potential abuse, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Monday.

“Reports concerning this region consistently cite ongoing practices of unlawful confiscation of passports, withholding of wages and exploitation by some recruitment agencies and employers,” Navanethem Pillay told a small gathering at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal. “Some are held in prolonged detention after they escape abusive employers and may be unable to obtain access to judicial recourse and effective remedies for their plight.”  Pillay singled out the systems in many of the countries, which require workers to have local sponsors, known as kafala.

Some Gulf countries such as Bahrain are scrapping the kafala system, while others such as Kuwait are overhauling labor laws or introducing a minimum wage to improve conditions for millions of foreign workers.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article45021.ece

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Iran unveils home-made ballistic missiles to mark Army Day

Apr 19, 2010

TEHRAN: Iranian armed forces on Sunday displayed modern home-made ballistic missiles at a military parade organised to mark the country's Army Day.

Different army units demonstrated their capabilities and achievements during a special parade held at the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in the presence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Surface-to-surface missile Sejjil, long-range ballistic missiles Shahab 3 and Qadr 1 were some of the major attractions during the show, Fars News Agency reported.

The liquid-fuel Shahab 3 missile has a range of 2,000 km and is capable of carrying a 760-1,000 kg warhead. The solid-fuel Sejjil missile is capable of reaching a very high altitude and therefore has a longer range than that of Shahab 3 model.

Iran successfully tested the second generation of Sejjil missiles and brought it into mass production earlier last year.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Iran-unveils-home-made-ballistic-missiles-to-mark-Army-Day/articleshow/5828649.cms

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Iran 'strives' for nuke-free world

20 Apr 2010

The Tehran conference, dubbed "Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None," opened on Saturday with the main aim of promoting global disarmament and non-proliferation.

The following is a transcript of a Press TV interview with Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast after the conference closed on Sunday:

Press TV: Can the 12 points raised by the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, at the end of the two-day conference really make a difference?

Mehmanparast: As you might know, the Tehran nuclear disarmament conference took the first steps toward creating a will in the international community to deal with the problem that we are facing today. We hope that the coverage of the issues that were discussed in the two-day conference will raise public awareness worldwide about two issues.

While the gathering was underway different matters were discussed within several panels, one of which was how one's access to nuclear know-how for economic purposes and economic development of their countries has been limited. We need to formulate a strategy to reverse that trend and make it possible for all countries to enjoy the benefits of the technology.

Alongside that, there was another issue that has turned into a predicament and that is the existence of nuclear weapon arsenals that threaten world security. None of the countries that possess these weapons have upheld article six of the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT, even after forty years since the treaty was signed.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=123794&sectionid=3510302

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Obama & American Muslims: How Different?

Daniel Pipes

20 APRIL 2010

The New York Times ran a story today, "White House Quietly Courts Muslims in U.S.," that contrasts the Obama and George W. Bush administration records with regard to American Muslims. The reporter, Andrea Elliott, sums up her argument with a quote from James Zogby of the Arab American Institute: "For the first time in eight years, we have the opportunity to meet, engage, discuss, disagree, but have an impact on policy."

I don't believe it.

Yes, Obama is bending over backwards to win Muslim opinion. But Bush did the same. In each of their cases, of course, one can find inconsistencies and exceptions, but the overall Bush record showed great concern for Muslim opinion.

Data points include the symbolic, such as Bush's adding a Koran to the White House library and initiating celebration of the Ramadan end-of-fast. He tried to win Muslims rhetorically - thus his announcing that Islam is a "religion of peace" and his avoiding connecting Islam to violence ("war on terror"). Moreover, he took substantive steps, such as prohibiting any notice of a person's religion in airport security and encouraging more Saudi students in the United States.

Interestingly, in covering the first Ramadan iftar at the White House in December 2001, the Times noted that Bush since 9/11 had "made extraordinary gestures to Islam." One quote in this article by Elisabeth Bumiller nails my point:

Maleeha Lodhi, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, was ... dazzled that the White House had a muezzin, a Muslim religious figure, who delivered the prayers before the meal. "It left me very, very moved and impressed," Dr. Lodhi said. "The Bush White House was demonstrating its respect for Islam. ... these sorts of gestures are very important to sending signals to the Muslim world."

http://www.rightsidenews.com/201004209655/editorial/obama-a-american-muslims-how-different.html

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Al-Qaeda using new tactic in war

19 Apr, 2010

BAGHDAD: Al Qaeda in Iraq is rigging houses and shops with explosives in a new tactic that has killed and maimed civilians in recent weeks and defied the thousands of security forces in Baghdad, officials say.

The renting of residential buildings for targeted bombings has forced police and the army to adapt their operations, in a bid to prevent more of the attacks that have killed dozens since the country’s inconclusive March 7 election.

The US military has even coined a new acronym — HBIED (house-borne improvised explosive device) for the bombings, which have left hundreds wounded in the past month in the Iraqi capital.

The HBIED follows the IED (improvised explosive device — homemade bomb) and VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device — car bomb) into a terrorist lexicon started in Iraq and subsequently transported to Afghanistan.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/al-qaeda-using-new-tactic-in-war-940

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Pak court adjourns Mumbai case proceedings till May 8

Apr 19, 2010

Islamabad : A Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven suspects linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks has adjourned proceedings till May 8, apparently in anticipation of an Indian court's verdict against Ajmal Kasab on May 3.

The Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court, which is conducting the trial of Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects, has adjourned its proceedings till May 8.

Ajmal Kasab is the lone surviving terrorist of the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including foreigners. A Special court in Mumbai will pronounce its judgment on May 3 against the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist.

The last hearing of the case, scheduled for April 17, was not held as Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, who is conducting the trial, was on leave.

Full report at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pak-court-adjourns-mumbai-case-proceedings-till-may-8/608406/

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Plea to declare Kasab, Ansari as fugitives: Pakistan court reserves decision

April 19, 2010

A Pakistani court on Monday reserved its decision on a petition filed by authorities to challenge an anti-terrorism court's order rejecting a plea to declare Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari as fugitives.

A Rawalpindi-based bench of the Lahore High Court comprising Justices Rauf Ahmed Sheikh and Hasan Raza Pasha reserved its decision after hearing arguments by the counsel for the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which had filed the petition on April 10.

It could not immediately be ascertained when the High Court bench would decide on the admissibility of the petition.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/pakistan/Plea-to-declare-Kasab-Ansari-as-fugitives-Pakistan-court-reserves-decision/Article1-533379.aspx

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Pakistan is a complicated country, needs US support: Holbrooke

Apr 20, 2010

WASHINGTON: Noting that Pakistan is a complicated country, which faces huge economic, energy and water shortage, a top Obama Administration official has said that the country needs the US' support.

In a session 'Conversations with America', Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke also said the Taliban continue to have sanctuaries in Pakistan and continue to cross over the border for attacks inside Afghanistan.

"Pakistan is a complicated country that faces huge economic, energy and water problems. It has a long-standing set of concerns vis-a-vis its giant nature (sic) to the east, which have to be dealt with, and it faces an insurgency in the west, which is very dangerous both to them and to the US because it's from that area, in western part of the country, that attacks are launched against American and NATO troops," Holbrooke said yesterday.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-is-a-complicated-country-needs-US-support-Holbrooke/articleshow/5833982.cms

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US to remove all its forces from Iraq by 2011: Biden

Apr 20, 2010

WASHINGTON: US Vice President Joe Biden has said that the Obama Administration is committed to end its combat mission in Iraq by August this year and remove all of its troops from the country as scheduled by the end of 2011.

"We remain committed to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer, by the end of August 2010, and in accordance with the US-Iraqi security agreement that was signed a couple of years ago to remove all US forces from Iraq by the end of 2011," Biden told reporters in his remarks at the White House.

"As we complete this security transition, we will continue to work to build a lasting partnership with Iraqi people and their government based on the many shared interests we have that go beyond the military cooperation we've had of late, including the economy, education, cultural exchanges, and the development of a strong economy for Iraq," he said.

Earlier, Biden yesterday commended Iraqi forces in taking the lead in the killing of top two al-Qaida leaders in Iraq.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-to-remove-all-its-forces-from-Iraq-by-2011-Biden-/articleshow/5834083.cms

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Bombs kill 24 in Peshawar

Apr 20, 2010

PESHAWAR: At least 24 people, including a child and police officials, were killed on Monday in bombings hours apart at a high school and a crowded market in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, said officials.

The attacks take the number of people killed in bombings in northwest Pakistan to 73 in three days, after weekend suicide strikes bearing the hallmarks of Taliban militants left 49 people dead in the city of Kohat.

As dusk fell on Monday at Peshawar's busy Qissa Khawani Bazaar, a suicide bomber walked into the crowd and detonated explosives, scattering shoes and human limbs on the street and destroying cars, said witnesses.

“Twenty-three people were killed including three police officials. At least 27 people have been admitted to the hospital,” senior police official Imran Kishwar told AFP.

The attack came hours after an eight-year-old boy was killed and at least ten people were injured in a bombing outside a high school in Peshawar, which struck as students were wrapping up the school day. “

http://www.hindu.com/2010/04/20/stories/2010042055961700.htm

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Anti al-Qaeda chief's kids beheaded

20 Apr 2010

Five family members of a local chief of an anti-terror militia have been brutally slaughtered in their homes in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin.

The attack was carried out in Tarmiyah, 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of the capital Baghdad, while the al-Sahwa militia's local chief, identified as Abu Ali, was on duty at a checkpoint, police said on Tuesday.

"The wife, a daughter of 22 and three boys between 12 and 16 (years of age)were shot dead, with the assassins also beheading the last three," AFP quoted the Tarmiyah police chief as saying.

The latest killings come just after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Monday announced two senior al-Qaeda leaders, identified as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri, had been tracked down and killed north of Baghdad.

In 2006 and 2007, the Sunni Arab tribes which made up the al-Sahwa (awakening) movement joined hands with Iraqi security forces in a bid to help stem al-Qaeda-linked violence in the war-wracked country.

In April, gunmen disguised in army uniforms cruelly massacred 25 people from families linked to the militia in an overnight attack on a village south of Baghdad.

Maliki last week warmly welcomed calls for a greater role for the former rebels in the ongoing efforts to prevent deadly bombings.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=123853&sectionid=351020201

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Capturing or killing Osama America's top priority, says White House

Apr 20, 2010

WASHINGTON: Al-Qaida terror group's elusive chief Osama bin Laden remains a top priority for the US and it is going all out to either capture or eliminate the world's most wanted terrorist, the White House has said.

Noting that America has been successful in inflicting damage to the terror group by arresting several of its top leaders, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "Bringing him (Laden) to justice, capturing or killing him obviously remains a priority."

"I think, if you were to only focus on one and not on, quite frankly, a broad array of important players in al-Qaida, we wouldn't be discussing today an important and debilitating step that helps further cripple al-Qaida in Iraq," he said.

The official said this while referring to the killing of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri, who had direct links with bin Laden, in a shootout 10 kilometres southwest of Tikrit, the home city of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, in Iraq.

"If you examine the tempo with which this administration has prosecuted the war on terror in rooting out and helping to, as we did in Iraq, root out high-value targets, we've done so in a way I think that by all accounts has greatly damaged the capabilities of al-Qaida," Gibbs said.

"But we know that as long as there are those members that seek to do this country harm, the President will remain vigilant in pursuing those targets," he asserted.

American forces have always said Masri -- a veteran Egyptian militant named Al-Qaida chief in June 2006 following the death of his better-known Jordanian predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a US air raid -- was the real al-Qaida in Iraq leader.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Capturing-or-killing-Osama-Americas-top-priority-says-White-House/articleshow/5836274.cms

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US, Israel share 'unbreakable bond'

20 Apr 2010

The US has reiterated its "unbreakable bond" with Israel, expressing confidence that Washington-Tel Aviv relations will strengthen further in the future.

"Israel remains our important partner and key strategic ally in the Middle East," President Barack Obama said Monday, on the occasion of the anniversary of the formation of the Israeli regime.

"We continue to share a strong, unbreakable bond of friendship between our two nations, anchored by the United States' enduring commitment to Israel's security," he said in a statement released by the White House.

"I am confident that our special relationship will only be strengthened in the months and years to come," he added, hailing Israel's "deep and abiding friendship with the American people."

On Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she and Obama both shared "a deep personal commitment to Israel," and vowed that the US would not waver in "protecting Israel's security and promoting Israel's future."

"The United States will continue to stand with you, sharing your risks and helping shoulder your burdens, as we face the future together," she said in a statement.

Clinton also noted that in 1948 it took President Harry Truman just 11 minutes to recognize Israel. "And ever since, the United States has stood with you in solidarity," she recalled.

The remarks come amid media reports indicating the bilateral ties between Israel and its traditional guardian have been strained over the Middle East peace process.

In March, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 settlements in annexed East Jerusalem (al-Quds), while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel to facilitate the Washington-sponsored "proximity talks" with the Palestinians.

The US Secretary of State later called the Israeli move "insulting."

US officials, however, rejected any tensions between Washington and Tel Aviv, and underscored the "unbreakable bond" between the long-time allies.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=123849&sectionid=351020202

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Two Nigerians killed in Kaduna jail-break

Apr 20, 2010

Two prisoners have been shot dead during an attempted jail break in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, officials say.

The BBC Hausa reporter in Kaduna said he saw one wounded prison guard as he was taken to a nearby infirmary, along with several wounded prisoners.

Our correspondent said prisoners started a fire, which burnt down some offices and a workshop in the prison.

This is the second attempted jail break in Kaduna in the past few months.

There were reports of shooting and a loud explosion, and security forces have surrounded the jail in an attempt to restore control.

The controller of Nigeria's prisons has arrived on the scene and confirmed earlier reports of the two deaths and said 39 had been wounded.

The prison in Kaduna holds more than 1,000 inmates and is the biggest in the state.

Prisoners have complained about overcrowding and poor treatment.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8632085.stm

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US summons Syrian envoy over Hezbollah

Apr 20, 2010

The Syrian embassy has dismissed the allegations that it arms Hezbollah

The US has summoned Syria's most senior diplomat to review its "provocative behaviour" concerning the potential transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.

The state department told the deputy chief of mission in Washington, Zouheir Jabbour, that it condemned the arming of the Lebanese Shia Islamist group.

Particular concern was raised about the possible transfer of Scud missiles.

Last week, Israel's president accused Damascus of supplying the ballistic missiles to Hezbollah's military wing.

Hezbollah fought a 34-day conflict with Israel in 2006 during which more than 1,200 Lebanese people, mostly civilians, were killed. Some 160 Israeli people, most of whom were soldiers, also died.

'Amplified message'

UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the conflict, included an arms embargo on Lebanon, except for transfers authorised by the Lebanese government or UN.

But many analysts believe Hezbollah has since been rebuilding its arsenal with the help of its backers, Syria and Iran.

Full report at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8631229.stm

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Roots of Taliban conflict fester in Swat

20 Apr, 2010

MINGORA: A year after Pakistan launched a major operation to evict the Taliban from Swat Valley, markets are bustling and girls are back at school, but the root causes of the conflict still fester.

For two years the Taliban paralysed much of the valley by promoting a repressive brand of Islamic law, opposing secular girls' education and beheading opponents until the government ordered in thousands of troops.

At only 125 kilometres (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, its mountains were once a weekend getaway and ski resort.

As the offensive began, around two million people fled the district but a year later many are back, trying to rebuild their lives.

“Normalcy has returned... All segments of society are open and functioning,” said Qazi Jamil, the new chief of 15,000 police serving three million people in the wider Malakand region, which includes Swat.

Girls in white headscarves walk to school, laden with books. Markets are cluttered with chickens, oranges and vegetables. Shutters are painted with the green and white Pakistani flag to signal opposition to the Taliban.

But threats and tensions remain. On February 22, the same day Jamil arrived to take up his new job, a suicide bomber killed nine people.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/03-roots-of-taliban-conflict-fester-in-swat-ss-01

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The making of a suicide bomber

20 Apr, 2010

LAHORE: Abdul Baseer sent the grenades and explosive vest ahead, then boarded a bus that would take him to his target, accompanied by the 14-year-old boy he had groomed as his suicide bomber.

But before they could blow up their target, a luxury hotel in Lahore where they believed Americans would be staying, the two were arrested and are now in jail — Baseer unrepentant about having plotted to send a boy to his death, and the boy saying he never knew what was in store for him.

The story that unfolded in an interview with The Associated Press offers a rare insight into the world of a Pakistani militant, from his education at hard-line Islamic schools, through his professed participation in an attack on a US patrol in Afghanistan, up to his arrest by Pakistani police along with the the boy, Mohi-ud-Din.

His tale shares much with that of the thousands of other foot soldiers who make up the Taliban-led insurgency that is ravaging Pakistan, experts say. It also shows how the wars here and in neighboring Afghanistan bleed into each other.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/03-Behind-the-scenes-of-a-Pakistani-suicide-bombing-ss-03

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Philippine prosecutors slam decision clearing 2 suspects in massacre case

Apr 20, 2010

MANILA: Philippine state prosecutors asked the government on Monday to reconsider a decision to drop murder charges against two members of a powerful clan linked to the massacre of 57 people last November.

Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra’s move last week to clear Zaldy Ampatuan and his uncle Akmad Ampatuan of any role in the massacre came three weeks before presidential elections and raised concerns of interference, as the family is allied to the government.

“We are deeply concerned that the resolution will all the more convince a long sceptical public that our criminal justice system is impotent when the accused are politically influential,” said Carlo Arellano, the chief state prosecutor.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, one of the country’s largest lawyers’ group, said the move violated the principle of due process.

Arellano said prosecutors had asked Agra to reconsider. “Otherwise, we dishonor the primary reason for which our institution exists and its very name, the Department of Justice.”

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/world/article44944.ece

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US forces kill 4, injure dozen Afghans

20 Apr 2010

US military forces have opened fire on a vehicle killing four and wounding more than a dozen civilians in Afghanistan's eastern province of Khost.

The dead included an Afghan lawyer, Afghan provincial authorities said.

The Afghan government said it has launched a joint investigation into the incident, a Press TV correspondent reported on Tuesday.

The US military claimed its forces opened fire after the driver ignored flares and other warnings to slow down, including hand signals.

At least 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting last year, an increase of 14 percent from 2008, according to the United Nations.

Civilian deaths are a result of actions by militants, including ambushes, assassinations and roadside bombs, as well as offensives and indiscriminate air strikes carried out by US-led forces in conflict-plagued Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly criticized coalition forces for violating their commitment to safeguard Afghan civilian lives.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=123850&sectionid=351020403

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Iran actress Hamideh Kheirabadi dies

20 Apr 2010

Hamideh Kheirabadi (1924 - 2010)

Iran's celebrated actress Hamideh Kheirabadi has died of complications brought about by old age at her home in Tehran, leaving a gap in Iranian cinema.

Kheirabadi was born in December 20, 1924 in Rasht. The veteran artist entered the world of theater at the age of 23. She then went to Iranian cinema where she became one of the industry's top stars, playing in over 40 movies and series throughout her long and illustrious career.

Her modesty and humility convinced directors to give her the role of a mother in their films.

On the night of April 19, 2010, she died peacefully at her home in Tehran. She was 86 years old.

The actress was laid to rest with a private funeral at Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=123847&sectionid=351020105

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Turkey backs Iran, restates diplomacy

20 Apr 2010

Iranina Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (R) and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglo in a joint press conference in Tehran, April 20, 2010

Turkey says that it has always supported Iran's stance on its nuclear issue and has reemphasized that any coercive measure against Tehran would prove ineffective.

"Turkey has always supported Iran's stance when it comes to the nuclear program," said visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglo in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki on Tuesday.

The Turkish official rejected any punitive measures against Iran, saying that the Iranian nuclear issue could best be resolved through diplomatic means.

"We need to resort to diplomatic means to solve the problem and military means, attacks, sanctions or embargoes will not be fruitful," he stated, adding that all nations are entitled to peaceful nuclear energy, but atomic weapons have no place in the world.

"Having access to nuclear energy is the right of all nations but we need to oppose atomic weapons no matter where they are in the world because they endanger the future of mankind and they would create problems."

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=123852&sectionid=351020104

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US summons Syrian diplomat over possible Scud transfer

Apr 20, 2010

WASHINGTON: The senior Syrian diplomat in Washington was summoned to the State Department on Monday to review "provocative behavior" regarding a potential transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah, a State Department spokesman said.

"This was the fourth occasion on which these concerns have been raised to the Syrian Embassy in recent months, intended to further amplify our messages communicated to the Syrian government," State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said in a statement.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-summons-Syrian-diplomat-over-possible-Scud-transfer/articleshow/5834191.cms

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South Sudan party accuses north of troop buildup

By ANDREW HEAVENS

Apr 19, 2010

KHARTOUM: South Sudan's main party on Monday accused the north of building up troops in the country's highly sensitive Blue Nile border state during a vote count at the climax of troubled national elections.

Blue Nile was one of the main battlegrounds in the 1983- 2005 civil war between north and south Sudan and remains a potential flashpoint as the oil-producing country moves through elections toward a 2011 referendum on southern independence.

The elections were set up under the 2005 peace deal that ended that conflict and were supposed to help bring the country back to democracy.

North Sudan's dominant National Congress Party (NCP) dismissed the accusations over troop movements in Blue Nile as "completely false" and there was no one immediately available to comment from Sudan's army.

The southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), a former rebel group, said it had information the north had been building up troops in the region over the past two days and said it would not accept any attempt to influence the results of a hotly-contested race for state governor.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article44989.ece

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Another conflict with Lebanon?

20 Apr 2010

Jordan's King Abdallah has recently disclosed that he believes an Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon conflict is "imminent."

The fact that Israeli authorities are handing out gas masks and have launched a media campaign stressing their importance lends credibility to the monarch's chilling prediction.

Israel fears peace more than war. The Arab peace proposal is still on offer until July this year while US President Barack Obama is said to be working on a new "road map." But there is one major obstacle: Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reluctantly pays lip service to the concept of a Palestinian state but, in reality, he isn't interested in exchanging occupied land for peace. And neither is he prepared to relinquish East Jerusalem to be the capital of a new Palestinian state.  It's a dangerous impasse that has frustrated Palestinian hopes to the extent some are calling for a third intifada, which would achieve nothing except bolstering the flagging Israeli narrative that Palestinians are "terrorists". 

If this slick-talking, uncompromising Zionist were to chance upon a genie-in-a-bottle, he would magic the Palestinians away. But since geniis are in short supply nowadays, he is intent on diminishing the Palestinian population with a military order declassifying Palestinians residents of the West Bank as infiltrators if they fail to produce valid permits. Those considered to be illegal residents will be criminalized and exposed to fines, imprisonment and deportation.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/opinion/columns/article44916.ece

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2 journalists arrested in Aligarh gay professor case

Apr 19, 2010

ALIGARH: Two journalists have been arrested on charges of breaching the privacy of gay Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) teacher S.R. Siras who was found dead earlier this month, police said on Monday.

Adil and Siraj, journalists with a local TV channel, were arrested late on Sunday. The two along with another mediaperson filmed Siras in a consensual homosexual act with a rickshaw puller in his room in the AMU premises.

"Of the three journalists, two have been arrested. On the directions of the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) court, a case under several sections of the IPC was registered against the three journalists and four AMU officials April 9," police Inspector Ghanshyam Singh told IANS.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/2-journalists-arrested-in-Aligarh-gay-professor-case/articleshow/5833136.cms

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A broader assessment into President Obama’s view on Islam and Indonesia

04/20/2010

While religion is principally a private matter, people quietly admit its effect on someone’s thinking or behavior.

As part of a belief system, loaded with emotional ties, its influence and expression in the public sphere cannot be hindered.

That is likely the reason why after a long time span since his candidacy until his installment as president of the United States, the curiosity of Americans about the religious allegiance of Barack Obama still exists. As a person who grew up with Muslims and Christians in his family, a formal relationship to one church and a statement on his official website which says:  “Obama has never been Muslim, and is a committed Christian” is still not enough to convince all American people that Obama is Christian.

That is why when a survey conducted by Harris Interactive in early March 2010 revealed that more than half, precisely 57 percent, of Americans who chose the Republican Party believe that Obama was Muslim did not surprise me. It should be communicated that Obama comes from a mixed-faith family.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/04/20/a-broader-assessment-president-obama%E2%80%99s-view-islam-and-indonesia.html

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An American Citizen's Response to Obama

April 20, 2010

Barack Obama, during his Cairo speech,  said:   "I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story."

This response has been printed all over the internet.  I'm not sure where it first originated, although I did try to find out.

Here is some of the response:  An American Citizen's Response

Dear Mr. Obama:

Were those Muslims that were in America when the Pilgrims first landed?  Funny, I thought they were Native American Indians.

Were those Muslims that celebrated the first Thanksgiving day?  Sorry again, those were Pilgrims and Native American Indians.

Can you show me one Muslim signature on the United States Constitution?

Declaration of Independence ?

Full report at:

http://politics.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978184369

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Pakistan’s civil nuclear technology need admitted at Security Summit; says envoy

20 April 2010

 ISLAMABAD, Apr 20 (APP): Pakistan’s need for civil nuclear technology to boost its energy sector has been acknowledged at the just concluded Nuclear Security Summit and we are satisfied with the outcome of the Summit. These views were expressed by Ambassador Sanaullah in a lecture on “Pakistan’s Foreign Policy” at the University of Indonesia (UI) on Monday, says a press release received here Tuesday from Jakarta.Sanaullah said that cardinal principles of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy were to pursue friendship with all in line with the acceptable international norms and practices embodied in the UN Charter and special relations with the Muslim World, supporting their legitimate causes without violating international peace and security.

Full report at:

http://www.app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=101134&Itemid=2

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Paper sued for denying genocide in Bosnia

Apr 19, 2010

A German-based human rights group is suing a Swiss newspaper for its denial of the Serb genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.

The Society for Threatened Peoples filed a suit on Monday in cooperation with the Swiss Association Against Impunity (TRIAL) in Lausanne.

La Nation, the bimonthly newspaper in question, recently published a series of articles claiming that 2,000 soldiers were killed in Srebrenica’s "pseudo-massacre".

Bosnian Serb forces overran the Muslim Bosniak town in July 1995, executing 8,000 men and boys in Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War.

In 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled the executions were genocide.

Swiss law prohibits genocide denial.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Paper_sued_for_denying_genocide_in_Bosnia.html?cid=8706856&pos=2&type=NewsDigest

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Taliban’s supreme leader signals willingness to talk peace

April 18, 2010

Stephen Grey in Kandahar

The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has indicated that he and his followers may be willing to hold peace talks with western politicians.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, two of the movement’s senior Islamic scholars have relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban’s ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. They said he was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks.

A senior US military source said the remarks reflected a growing belief that a “breakthrough” was possible. “There is evidence from many intelligence sources [that] the Taliban are ready for some kind of peace process,” the source said.

At a meeting held at night deep inside Taliban-controlled territory, the Taliban leaders told this newspaper that their military campaign had only three objectives: the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of security.

“[Mullah Omar] is no longer interested in being involved in politics or government,” said Mullah “Abdul Rashid”, the elder of the two commanders, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

“All the mujaheddin seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution. We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”

The interview was conducted by a reputable Afghan journalist employed by The Sunday Times with two members of the shura that directs Taliban activity across the whole of southern Afghanistan, including Helmand and Kandahar provinces. It was arranged through a well established contact with the Taliban’s supreme leadership.

Looking back on five years in government until they were ousted after the attacks in America on September 11, 2001, the Taliban leaders said their movement had become too closely involved in politics.

Full report at:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7100889.ece

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Afghanistan frees Italian aid workers held over 'plot'

18 April 2010

Afghanistan has freed three Italian aid workers held on suspicion of plotting to kill a provincial governor, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says.

The three members of the medical charity Emergency were arrested on 10 April in Helmand province.

Afghan officials had claimed they were bribed by insurgents to bring suicide bomb vests and weapons into a hospital run by the charity in Lashkar Gah.

The employees had strongly denied the allegations against them.

On Sunday, Mr Frattini said he was grateful for the swift resolution of the issue.

He also hailed Italian diplomats for acting "with extraordinary professionalism and discretion" in securing the release of the Italian nationals, Italy's Ansa news agency reports.

The aid workers were earlier identified as Marco Garatti, Matteo Dell'Aira and Matteo Pagani.

'Raid video'

Full report at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8628409.stm

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Marines pay Afghan farmers to destroy opium

Mark Chisholm

Apr 15, 2010

With heavy fighting in the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah now largely reduced to sporadic gunfights, U.S. Marines in the area have turned their focus toward eliminating the insurgents' cash source: opium.

But instead of eradicating the illicit poppy fields themselves, the Marines have begun piloting a new method over the past week -- paying farmers cash to destroy their own crops.

In February, thousands of U.S. Marines pushed into Marjah, an insurgent enclave in southern Helmand province. Weeks of intense fighting ensued as militants wrestled to hold on to a vital area where for years they had virtual free reign.

What makes Marjah so important is its strategic location. Lying just west of the provincial capital and surrounded by lush farmland crisscrossed by canals that water the opium poppy crop, it has become a hub for the narcotics trade in central Helmand.

Last year, Afghanistan produced 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw ingredient of heroin, with some 60 percent grown in Helmand alone. The Taliban are said to siphon off hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the trade of the drug.

Now, with harvest time only a few weeks away and up to 60,000 migrant workers expected to flow into Helmand to work the poppy fields, the Marines have launched a new scheme in Marjah where farmers are paid to plough their own fields under.

"We've come up with this program, it's a completely voluntary program, that's the most important aspect. I'm not going to touch their poppy," said Major Jim Coffman, a Marine civil affairs officer who oversees the new project.

"If they choose to destroy or to clear ... their fields, we will give them $300 (per hectare)," he said.

Under the scheme, started just over a week ago, farmers enroll at one of the Marine outposts and are given a week to plough their fields. Once the empty fields are checked, farmers are paid and given fertilizer and seeds for alternative crops.

"So far it's been a pretty good reaction, a tempered reaction," said Coffman.

"We've seen about eight to ten guys here today. We're over 1,000 jeribs total just for our site here," he said, referring to the traditional unit of land measurement in Afghanistan equal to one fifth of a hectare.

PAYING FOR LAND, NOT DRUGS

The scheme marks a wider shift in policy by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, away from forced poppy eradication which officials said only ended up hurting impoverished farmers. Eradication has largely been seen as a failure by the West.

According to the United Nations, less than 4 percent of poppy planted in Afghanistan over the last two years was eradicated, and at a great human and economic cost. Military commanders say it also drives farmers to join the insurgency.

The scheme in Marjah has caused some controversy though, with critics saying it amounts to buying drugs off the farmers with U.S. taxpayers' money. Coffman disagreed.

"The American government is not in the habit or process of paying anybody for drugs, so that's not what we're here for. It is an agricultural transition program," Coffman said.

"I'm really essentially paying money for the land not for the crop. So if they have wheat or cotton or poppy or anything else on their land, if they choose to destroy it, then they'll get the money ... they'll get the fertilizer and the seed," he said.

Coffman stressed the scheme was a one-off and that next year farmers would "not be allowed" to grow poppy, but did not say what would happen if farmers did revert to the illicit crop.

The Marines acknowledge the money they are paying the farmers per hectare is considerably less than they would get for selling the drug, but with troops allowed to seize the poppy once it is harvested, some farmers are cutting their losses.

"This is a very good program. I am sure this will succeed," said one farmer, Gulabuddin Khan.

Other farmers who trickled in to enroll for the scheme at Combat Outpost Hanson over the weekend, shied away from journalists, a sign of the Taliban's still influential presence in the area. A baker in a nearby village was recently beheaded by insurgents for selling bread to Afghan soldiers.

But despite the modest turnout since launching the scheme, Coffman remains optimistic.

"This whole society is based on word of mouth and I guarantee you, once the first group, once they clear the land, they get their money, they get their fertilizers and seed, this place will be inundated with folks," he said.

(Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63E1BL20100415

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Manufacturing Consent For Attack On Iran

Israeli President: Iran Threatens Whole World

By MARK LAVIE

April 19, 2010

JERUSALEM — Iran is a danger to the whole civilized world, not just Israel, President Shimon Peres warned Sunday, setting an especially somber tone for his nation's annual memorial day for soldiers and civilians killed in wars and terror attacks.

Alluding to Iran's nuclear program, Peres said the country threatens to annihilate Israel. "On no account must we underestimate these threats," he said. "Nor should our enemies underestimate our capabilities."

Israel has been urging the world community to impose stiff sanctions on Iran to force it to abandon its nuclear program, but Israel has not taken the option of a military strike against Iran off the table.

Israel, the U.S. and others believe Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Speaking at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem before relatives of fallen soldiers, Peres added, "A threat to the peace of the Jewish people always carries the danger of turning into a threat to the civilized world as a whole."

Israel considers Iran a strategic threat because of its nuclear program, long-range missiles and frequent references by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Israel's destruction.

Just hours earlier in Tehran, Ahmadinejad addressed a military parade and warned, "Today, our armed forces have so much power that no enemy will harbor evil thoughts about laying its hands on Iranian territory." He called on the U.S. and its allies to pull out of the region "and stop supporting Israel."

Air raid sirens sounded across Israel after nightfall to mark the beginning of the solemn day, when relatives visit graves at military cemeteries around the country. Another siren at midmorning Monday signals the beginning of state ceremonies at the cemeteries.

According to Israeli government statistics, 22,684 soldiers and civilians have been killed since 1860, the date cited as the beginning of modern Jewish immigration.

The Defense Ministry said 111 Israelis have been added to the list over the past year. The figure includes soldiers killed in training and traffic accidents.

Places of entertainment were closed Sunday evening. Israeli radio and TV stations aired documentaries about Israel's wars and stories of fallen soldiers.

The sombre tone transforms suddenly and jarringly into independence day celebrations after sundown Monday at a colourful ceremony at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, capped with a fireworks display.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25257.htm

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Donkey bomb kills 3 children in Afghanistan's Kandahar

Apr 19, 2010

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A bomb strapped to the back of a donkey blew up in the centre of Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar on Monday, killing three children and wounding five people, officials said.

The bomb struck close to a police post guarding the residence of a tribal chief and ally of President Hamid Karzai in an area of the city where several government buildings are located.

Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said three nephews of the tribal chief, Fazluddin, were killed, while three pedestrians and two police guarding Fazluddin's house were wounded.

Afghan security forces cordoned off the area of the blast, near where Ahmad Wali Karzai, a half-brother of President Hamid Karzai and head of the Kandahar provincial council, has his residence, a Reuters witness said.

The city, birthplace of the resurgent Taliban, has witnessed several attacks by the militants in recent weeks and is expected to be the target of a major offensive by foreign troops in coming months.

(Reporting by Ismail Sameem, Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

http://in.reuters.com/article/southAsiaNews/idINIndia-47809120100419?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=southAsiaNews&rpc=401

 

Britain 'hands over prisoners in Afghanistan to face torture'

By Duncan Gardham

19 Apr 2010

British troops are handing over Taliban suspects to the Afghan security service to face "horrible abuse" and torture, the High Court has been told.

Government denials of such abuse are the result of a "head in the sand" attitude, partly borne out of a close intelligence relationship with the Afghans, the judges were told.

They are the latest allegations of British complicity in torture following investigations into MI5 and MI6.

Human rights lawyers have assembled details of nine cases involving allegations of beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, electrocution, and whipping with rubber cables.

They are arguing that Britain has breached the Human Rights Act by handing over prisoners to a country known to participate in torture.

They say the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), the domestic security service, had a reputation for mistreating prisoners and British officers should have known what was happening.

The Ministry of Defence is opposing the application for judicial review and Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, has said that detention is an important and necessary ability for British forces operating in Afghanistan, and safeguards are in place to prevent mistreatment.

But Michael Fordham QC told the court that the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office were seeking to protect their detainee transfer policy by adopting the approach "of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil".

In legal documents put before the court he said there are many reputable reports that torture and ill-treatment is "endemic" in the NDS "even at a very high level", which has been described as a relic from the days of Soviet occupation.

The NDS was said to have been created in the image of the KGB and allegedly still has a reputation for torturing and killing.

Mr Fordham said the British government had chosen to rely on a "manifestly unsafe" memorandum of understanding with the Afghan authorities that international human rights obligations would be observed by the NDS.

But Britain adopted a "head in the sand" because it did not want to uncover evidence of human rights abuses and therefore refused to investigate thoroughly, he said, adding that the fact the NDS supplied intelligence to the UK was no secret.

Allegations were first raised in a report by Amnesty International in November 2007 and a judicial review case is being brought by Maya Evans, a prominent peace activist who was arrested for reading out the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq during a protest at the Cenotaph in London.

She is backed by Public Interest Lawyers, who have brought a number of cases relating to the treatment of detainees in Iraq, notably that of Baha Mousa, who died in British custody.

Officers from the Royal Military Police have visited Pol-e-Charki jail in Kabul where one prisoner claimed he was repeatedly punched and hit over the head, another said he was subjected to stress positions and sleep deprivation, and two others said they suffered electric shocks and were beaten with a rubber cable.

Further concerns were raised over prisoners at an NDS facility in Sangin, in Helmand Province after British soldiers saw the condition of prisoners when they were transferred to another prison.

In late 2008 and early 2009, military and Foreign Office officials were denied access to Afghan detention centres and British forces were told not to transfer any more captured Afghans to the NDS.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7607442/Britain-hands-over-prisoners-in-Afghanistan-to-face-torture.html

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Somalia's al-Shabab militia 'improving security'

19 April 2010

Somali al-Shabab Islamists have brought greater stability to parts of Somalia, but at a huge cost to the local population, Human Rights Watch says.

A report by the US-based group details killings, repression and harsh Sharia law punishments, including amputations.

"The price that people had to pay for that relative degree of security was really just incredible," the report's author Chris Albin-Lackey told the BBC.

Somalia has been wracked by civil conflict since 1991.

In recent years, hardline Islamists have taken control of large parts of southern Somalia.

The main al-Shabab group says it is fighting the weak UN-backed government to make Somalia an Islamic state.

The transitional government - which controls only parts of the capital with the help of African peacekeepers - also wants Islamic law imposed, but al-Shabab's interpretation of Sharia has been very strict.

Correspondents say Somalis have traditionally practised a moderate and tolerant form of Islam.

Full report at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8629976.stm

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Somalia's al-Shabab militia 'improving security'

19 April 2010

Somali al-Shabab Islamists have brought greater stability to parts of Somalia, but at a huge cost to the local population, Human Rights Watch says.

A report by the US-based group details killings, repression and harsh Sharia law punishments, including amputations.

"The price that people had to pay for that relative degree of security was really just incredible," the report's author Chris Albin-Lackey told the BBC.

Somalia has been wracked by civil conflict since 1991.

In recent years, hardline Islamists have taken control of large parts of southern Somalia.

The main al-Shabab group says it is fighting the weak UN-backed government to make Somalia an Islamic state.

The transitional government - which controls only parts of the capital with the help of African peacekeepers - also wants Islamic law imposed, but al-Shabab's interpretation of Sharia has been very strict.

Correspondents say Somalis have traditionally practised a moderate and tolerant form of Islam.

'Draconian'

"People from many parts of southern Somalia did give the al-Shabab authorities credit for bringing about a kind of stability that many areas had not known for many years," Mr Albin-Lackey told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The Islamists have wiped out "banditry and freelance militias that have plagued people" but that stability has often come at the price of justice, he said.

"In many places al-Shabab authorities have put in place incredibly draconian interpretations of Sharia law and have enforced those in ways that offer people really no kind of due process."

Offences ranging from men wearing their hair too long to women venturing out without the right kind of dress, he said.

"All of these offences can lead to punishments ranging from flogging to imprisonment, even to the possibility of being executed."

Last week, al-Shabab banned teachers in one town from using bells in school as they sounded too much like Christian church bells.

The hardline Islamists also disapprove of music and have shut down cinemas and banned the watching of football matches.

Another group, Hizbul-Islam, banned music from radios in Mogadishu earlier in April.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8629976.stm

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Sunnis said tortured in secret Iraq prison

April 18, 2010

Sunni Muslims, many of them arrested with no warrant, were tortured in a secret Iraqi prison that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has shut down, officials said.

Hundreds of Sunni men who were detained in October in Nineveh province -- where al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups are dominant -- were held for months in the secret facility, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. Many of them were routinely subjected to torture under the jurisdiction of Maliki's military office until Iraqi human rights authorities were able to gain access to the prison, the newspaper said.

Provincial authorities in Nineveh alleged at the time of the sweeps that ordinary citizens had been caught up in sweeping arrests targeting militants.

Iraqi security officials, concerned about the possibility that courts would order those detained to be released, managed to obtain a court order to transfer the arrested Sunnis to the prison in Baghdad, the Times reported. They were held there until Iraq's Human Rights Ministry inspected the prison.

Maliki said he would close the prison down and have its officers arrested, the Times said. Seventy-five of the arrested Sunnis have been released and 275 have been sent to conventional jails, officials said.

Inspectors concluded 431 people had been held at the facility and that more than 100 were tortured.

"There were a lot of marks on their bodies," an Iraqi official familiar with the inspections said. "They beat people, they used electricity. They suffocated them with plastic bags, and different methods."

Human rights officials said prisoners told them one of the prisoners -- said to be a military officer under former dictator Saddam Hussein -- died at the prison in January as a result of being tortured.

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/International/2010/04/18/Sunnis-said-tortured-in-secret-Iraq-prison/UPI-32191271646614/

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Intellectual terrorism termed more dangerous than physical

By Qasim Yousafzai

2010-04-19

Members of the Amn Tehreek (Peace Movement) demonstrate in Peshawar against any form of terrorism and demand peace on their land in this file photo. [Javed Aziz Khan]

Having deemed intellectual terrorism far more dangerous than physical terrorism, religious scholars, intellectuals, educationists and government officials are seeking to take concrete steps against the trend.

“This is a very dangerous trend”, said Dr Farooq Khan, a psychiatrist and religious scholar. “The reason is that having educated people ‘somehow legitimises’ terrorism and that ‘supports al-Qaeda.’ ”

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa, agrees.

“Intellectual terrorism is a far serious and challenging issue to deal with than physical terrorism”, he told Central Asia Online.

Khan pointed to the distinguished parentage of Hamza Amin, who died while making a bomb. His father was Dr Amin Jadoon; his mother a former member of the national assembly from Jamaat-e-Islami. “I know many people who are al-Qaeda sympathisers while belonging to one or another religious party or group”, Khan said.

Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy, a faculty member at Qaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, said, “Those who intellectually motivate others to kill those who are not like them are equally responsible (for such murders). In fact, they are more dangerous and lethal”.

Full report at:

http://www.centralasiaonline.com/cocoon/caii/xhtml/en_GB/features/caii/features/pakistan/2010/04/19/feature-03

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Brazil Becoming Iran's Increasing Defender in the West

April 19, 2010

By: Seth Kugel,

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil and Iran are hardly the tightest of allies, but an outside observer would be forgiven for thinking differently after this week.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington urging U.S. President Barack Obama to hold back on sanctions against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and company.

Meanwhile Lula’s minister of development, Miguel Jorge, was in Tehran, presenting a smiling Ahmadinejad with an official Brazilian soccer jersey. The image was splashed across newspapers and websites here.

Elite political commentators — who are often critical of Lula’s close relations with controversial regimes — had their usual field day. “Countries have always done business with whatever countries suit their interests,” wrote Clovis Rossi, a columnist for the nationally distributed Folha de Sao Paulo.

“But what is not tolerable is to cozy up with those who capture, torture and mistreat the opposition, who brutally limit public liberties … . The Brazilian government’s gesture covered the green-and-yellow team jersey with blood.”

Brazil has become, in some ways, Iran’s best remaining friend in the Western world. In May, much to the dismay of Jewish groups as well a large chunk of the educated elite, Lula will visit Tehran.

Full report at:

http://www.newsmaxworld.com/headline_story/Brazil_Iran_friend/2010/04/19/314579.htm

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/indonesia-upholds-blasphemy-law/d/2730


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