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Pak Christian Woman Tortured, Paraded in Streets for anti-Islam Views

New Age Islam News Bureau

2 March 2012

 India's Acclaimed filmmaker unravels glory of lost Islamic civilization 

 Pakistan fails to provide security to minorities: Amnesty International

 Taliban say Chinese woman killed for revenge

 20 terrorists killed in Orakzai Agency shelling

 Jesus’s final resting place discovered?                                     

 Report finds mosques flourishing across US

 Counter-terrorism: US Special Forces stationed in India, reveals Pentagon

 Bangladesh State Minister for Home verbally abuse Khaleda in JS

 Boko Haram: 2 schools set on fire in Maiduguri

 Fresh violence in Maldives; chairs removed from Majlis

 Worth exploring NATO partnership with India, Brazil: Pentagon

 Pro-Pakistan hardliner Hurriyat chairman gave recommendation letter for LeT militant

 Gujarat riot victims still awaiting justice: Amnesty

 US lawmakers threaten to divert Pak aid to Mexican border

 African nationals face ‘apartheid’ in Hyderabad pub

 Somali al-Shabab base captured outside Mogadishu

 I never said Nigerians should be allowed to carry guns —Oritsejafor

 UN chief Ban Ki-moon raises concerns on tension in Maldives

 Two more US soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan

 NATO shelling in NWA leaves six injured

 Five injured in rocket attack in Peshawar, Pak

 FC soldier kills man in Karachi

 Intel official shot dead in Peshawar: Police

 150 Iraqis killed in February attacks

 Lashkar suspect’s mother: Duo innocent

 Worth exploring NATO partnership with India: Pentagon

 Islamabad: Import of gas, electricity from Iran

 Syrian rebels quit besieged Homs stronghold

 Afghan soldier, civilian kill 2 NATO troops: military

 American teacher killed in north Iraq

 Bomb injures 15 police near Turkey ruling party HQ

 Pakistan troops in outpost clash

 Obama ‘confident’ of keeping to Afghan pullout plan

 Clinton, Kohl, EU among 231 candidates for Nobel Peace Prize

 Switching sides: Now, India to back Arab League’s stand on Syria

 Pakistan keen on recalibrating ties with India

 Srinagar bank, Delhi showroom were LeT targets

 Maldives Leader of Opposition visits Kerala mosque

 Pakistan warns west against war with Iran, seals pipeline deal

 Syrian rebels in tactical retreat

 ALECSO suggests more varsities teach science in Arabic

 IIROSA extends relief assistance to Syrian refugees

 Ex-UK police boss: Terrorism trumped phone hacking

 Red Cross to enter Homs district

 Dhaka, Tokyo to celebrate diplomatic ties tomorrow

 NDLEA nabs Pakistani with N120m heroin at Lagos airport

 Jakarta: Mail bombing accomplice gets 3.5 years

 Osama film crew shot scenes in Patiala also

 Osama film turns Chandigarh into 'Abbottabad', locals irked

 Professor claims joke on Narendra Modi cost him 2 years' pay hike

 Saudi Crown Prince leaves on private visit

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Christian woman in Pak paraded in streets for 'anti-Islamic views’ 



 Pak Christian woman tortured, paraded in streets for 'anti-Islam views'

Press Trust of India

Lahore, March 02, 2012

A Christian woman was brutally tortured and paraded in the streets of a village in Pakistan's Punjab province by a mob for her alleged "anti-Islam views", local residents and police officials said today.

Some 30 residents of Kot Meerath village of Sialkot district, 80 km from Lahore, dragged Seema Bibi out of her house on February 26 and paraded her in the streets after shaving her head.

She was targeted by the mob for her alleged "anti-Islam views", members of the Christian community said.

Following the assault, Seema Bibi and her family left the village to save their lives, local residents said.

"She and her family had been facing threats from a group of extremist villagers. She left the village as she had no other option," said Aslam Masih, a resident of Kot Meerath.

Regional police chief Muhammad Amin told reporters that 26 people had been arrested on charges of torturing Seema Bibi and a case had been registered against them.

Amin said police had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Seema Bibi and her family.

Amin said the arrested people had tortured and assaulted Seema Bibi for her beliefs.

Police had stepped up their vigil due to tensions between Muslims and Christians in the village, he said.



India’s Acclaimed filmmaker unravels glory of lost Islamic civilization 

Friday, March 02, 2012

Delhi: Acclaimed filmmaker and television personality Saeed Akhtar Mirza, the author of a new book, ‘The Monk, The Moor & Moses Ben Jalloun’, says the clash of civilisations theory does not apply to the modern world.

"What we are seeing now is use of political power (a power struggle), not a clash of civilisations. The entire edifice of the Western civilisation has its roots in all the other civilisations and the powers. The new university in Europe had been translating Arabic texts since the 10th century," Mirza said.

His new book - part-fiction, part analysis and part discovery - is about the untold glory of the Islamic civilisation.

"The world was positioned both geographically and philosophically in a way where ideas moved from India, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia to Europe, prompting an incredible translation process. When the dark ages started in Europe, it was enlightenment for the rest of the world," Mirza said.

He said the medieval Islamic world was a flourishing nerve-centre of science and liberal arts, but "it collapsed too soon to make any significant contribution to society".

Mirza`s book was launched by Mushirul Hasan, the chief of the National Archives of India, and Congress politician Mani Shankar Aiyer in the capital late Thursday.

Mirza said "his book was an attempt to regain the dignity of all the civilisations and regain the "essence" of those words like "freedom" and "democracy" which have been usurped and hijacked.

"It is a journey in digging up the distorted past with parallel narratives - four students at the University of Berkeley in 2008 set out to discover the truths because they see how the past affects their life; the tale of Rehana, an Iranian from the 11th century and her teacher Abu Rehan Al Biruni who takes her on a tutorial journey, a place in Andalusia where Arabic texts are being translated to Greek and Spanish; and my soliloquies to put my point of view," Mirza said.

Mirza has used the "eastern style of writing in small framed, barely 500-word chapters -with a sub-title for each like the ancient narrative Buddhist tales" for younger generations to relate to.

"I always had a deep distaste for ideas that create barriers between people. These sort of ideas work into people`s consciousness and create distorted perceptions of the past. A number of distinguished scholars have helped me unravel the long-hidden secrets in this book," he said.

Some of them include Maria Rosa Menocal, Abbas Hamdani, Amartya Sen, Martin Bernal, George Saliba, Charles Burnett, Dick Teresi and Hamilton Morgan, he said.

But the conclusions drawn are completely Mirza`s - and he "takes full responsibility for them".

Mirza cites interesting examples to prove Oriental and Islamic influences in European thinking and literature. He said Dante Alighieri`s ‘Divine Comedy’ was inspired by the myths surrounding Prophet Mohammed`s ascent to heaven.

"Dante was mentored by a Florentine scholar in king Alphonso`s court who had knowledge of Islam. I start with a debate on Dante in US - of Dante being a plagiarist," Mirza said.

Mirza, known for his movies like ‘Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hain’, ‘Mohan Joshi haazir ho’, ‘Salim langde pe mat ro’ and the tele-serial ‘Nukkad’, is now writing a play which he will talk about later.

He had earlier authored ‘Ammi: Letters to a Democratic Mother’.

The launch of the ‘The Monk, The Moor & Moses Ben Jalloun’ (Harper-Collins) was an extended event of the ongoing World Book Fair.



Pakistan fails to provide security to minorities: Amnesty International

Friday, March 02, 2012

LAHORE: The Pakistan government has failed to protect religious minorities from systematic campaigns of violence and vilification, Amnesty International said on the first anniversary of the assassination of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

The only Christian member of the federal cabinet and one of a handful of Pakistan’s leading politicians to call for changes to the country's controversial blasphemy laws, Bhatti died after armed men opened fire on his car in Islamabad.

“Pakistani officials should honour Bhatti’s legacy by challenging the systematic campaign of vilification and attacks on minorities,” said Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi.

Although Shahbaz’s brother Dr Paul Bhatti was made a special adviser to the president for religious minorities after his death, no one has replaced him as minister for minorities.

“The ministerial post remains vacant at this critical time, a sad reflection of the government’s inaction in the face of continued violence against minorities,” he added.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed the responsibility for killing Bhatti over his criticism of the country’s blasphemy laws – British-era criminal sanctions that were amended in the 1980s under the rule of Gen Ziaul Haq, making it an offence to defile the holy Quran or Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) punishable by life imprisonment or death respectively.

Religious minorities have been disproportionately accused of blasphemy, but the largest proportion of victims are mainstream Muslims, reflecting the danger these laws pose to all members of Pakistani society and the rule of law.

“A year has passed since Bhatti was assassinated yet the perpetrators remain at large with no clear sign that they will be brought to justice any time soon”, the AI official said.

In 2009, a year after replacing military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, the current government pledged to review “laws detrimental to religious harmony”, which includes the blasphemy laws. But the government fell silent after former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in January last year by one of his own security guards over his criticism of the blasphemy laws.

“After Taseer’s assassination, Bhatti remained resolute in his criticisms,” Sam Zarifi said. “Since Bhatti’s death, the Pakistan government has allowed itself to be intimidated into silence. Pakistani officials must break that silence and speak out against those who seek to harm others because of their religion,” Zarifi said.

This year a coalition of extremist and militant religious groups has openly called for the murder of Shias and Sunnis, Ahmadis and Christians, and had held large rallies across Pakistan’s major cities.

Recently, on February 28, an incident took place in which 18 Shias Muslims were brutally shot dead in the Kohistan district. The Pakistani government must take concrete steps to protect its citizens regardless of their religious background, especially where perpetrators candidly speak of committing violence against them, Zarfi assumed.

“The failure to bring Bhatti’s killers to justice or protect the most vulnerable citizens from violence while extremist groups publicly call for them to be killed tells the perpetrators that they will go unpunished if they disguise their crimes as the protection of religious sentiments, even when the targets are senior government officials,” Sam Zarifi added.

“Violence against religious minorities is leading to a break down in the rule of law and increased tension within Pakistan’s diverse society,” Zarifi concluded. pr\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg7_25



Taliban say Chinese woman killed for revenge

Friday, March 02, 2012

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility on Thursday for the killing of a Chinese woman this week, saying it was in revenge for China’s killing of Muslims in its troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The Chinese woman was shot on Tuesday in a market in the northwestern city of Peshawar along with a Pakistani man. Peshawar police chief Imtiaz Altaf said that militants may be behind the Tuesday shooting, but that no conclusions had been reached yet.

“Our comrades carried out the attack in Peshawar which killed the Chinese tourist,” Muhammad Afridi, a spokesman for a faction of the Pakistani Taliban from the Darra Adam Khel area, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

China accused a group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), of carrying out attacks in China and said it had broken up training camps for men seeking independence for China’s the largely Muslim Xinjiang region.

Afridi said the militants were also demanding that China halt what he called its support for the Pakistani government’s campaign against militants.

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad called for action after the latest incident.

“The embassy has requested the Pakistani side to conduct a thorough and immediate investigation, bring the murderer to justice and properly deal with its aftermath,” it said.

Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khan, vowed that the attackers would be tracked down. reuters\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg7_4



20 terrorists killed in Orakzai Agency shelling

Friday, March 02, 2012

PESHAWAR: At least 20 terrorists were killed and their five hideouts were destroyed in security forces’ shelling in the Orakzai Agency on Thursday. According to details, security forces engaged the suspected hideouts of terrorists in different areas of the Upper Orakzai Agency with heavy artillery fire. As a result, at least 20 terrorists were killed and five hideouts were destroyed. It should be mentioned that Upper Orakzai is on the hit-list of the security forces.\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg7_9



Jesus’s final resting place discovered?

PTI | Mar 2, 2012

WASHINGTON: Archaeologists have stumbled upon a coffin bearing engravings inside a first-century Christian tomb in Jerusalem which they believe could prove that the site is the final resting place of Jesus. The burial chamber located below a modern condominium building has been dated to before AD 70, so if its engravings are indeed early Christian, they were most likely made by some of Jesus' earliest followers, the excavators said.

Using a remote-controlled camera connected to a robotic arm, the excavators found that one of the limestone boxes, also known as ossuaries, bears an inscription in Greek that refers to "Divine Jehovah", raising someone up.

A second ossuary has an image that appears to be a large fish with a stick figure in its mouth. The excavators believe the image represents the story of Jonah, the biblical prophet who was swallowed by a fish or whale and then released. A computer-enhanced image of the fish engraving thought to represent the story of the prophet Jonah. Together both the inscription and the image of the fish represent the Christian belief in resurrection from death, LiveScience reported.

While images of the Jonah story became common on more recent Christian tombs, they do not appear in first-century art, and iconographic images like this on ossuaries are extremely rare, the researchers said.

"If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible - until now," James Tabor, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and one of the excavators, said. The researchers, who published their findings online in 'The Bible and Interpretation', however, acknowledged that the discovery and their interpretation may become controversial.

This tomb was originally uncovered in 1981, but the excavators were forced to leave by Orthodox Jewish groups who oppose the excavation of Jewish tombs. The tomb was then resealed and buried beneath the condominium complex in the neighbourhood of East Talpiot. Almost two decades later, Tabor and colleagues got a license to go back into the tomb. PTI



Report finds mosques flourishing across US

Friday, March 02, 2012

WASHINGTON: Mosques are taking root across the United States "at a tremendous rate," but there's no proof that radicalism is brewing among young Muslim Americans, a report published Wednesday says.

The US Mosque Survey 2011 counted 2,106 mosques in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, up 74 percent from 2000 -- the year before the September 11 attacks -- when 1,209 mosques were counted.

Some 192 mosques are in the greater New York City area, and 120 in southern California, but there are as many as 166 in Texas, 118 in Florida, and even two in Montana where fewer than one percent of the population is non-Christian.

"Over the past decade, the total number of mosques in the United States has continued to grow at a tremendous rate," says the report, part of a larger multi-faith study of American congregations called Faith Communities Today.

That overall figure pales against the 322,000 Christian churches in the United States, as estimated by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research.

But amid the boom, the vast majority of mosque leaders -- 87 percent -- told the report's field researchers they disagreed with a perception that radicalism is increasing among Muslim youth.

In fact, for many mosque leaders, "the real challenge for them is not radicalism and extremism among the youth, but attracting them and keeping them close to the mosque," the report said.

That issue is not unique to Islam, said David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute, who explained that in the United States today, "the fastest growing group are the non-religious."

The report also found that only 25 percent of mosque leaders in 2011 thought "American society is hostile to Islam," down from more than 50 percent in 2000. And 55 percent disagreed when asked if American society was "immoral."

Ninety-eight percent felt Muslims should be involved in American institutions, and -- in this election year -- 91 percent agreed that Muslims should be involved in politics.

"The Muslim community in America is genuine, healthy, vibrant and becoming more and more a part of the American landscape," said associate professor Ihsan Bagby of the University of Kentucky, who wrote the report.

"The reality is that every middle-sized town in America has a mosque," Bagby told reporters in Washington, adding that even in his adopted state, "all through the mountains of Kentucky you'll find mosques."

The surge in mosques -- in a nation still traumatised by 9/11 -- is due in part to an influx of Muslim immigrants and refugees, notably Somalis, Iraqis, west Africans and Bosnians, in recent years, the report states.

Other factors include a migration of Muslims to residential suburbs and a growing prosperity among Muslim Americans that enables them to pool funds for new mosques in their communities, it added.

Largely stable over a decade has been the ethnic diversity of regular mosque-goers. Nationwide, one-third of them were of South Asian heritage, 27 percent of Arab descent and 24 percent African American.

"We're sure that American Muslims feel at home," said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on America-Islamic Relations. "They believe in the American dream and they believe in their fellow Americans."

"The Muslim community has kept its eye on the prize... to strive to become part of the mainstream of America," added Safaa Zarzour, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, who also attended the report's launch. (AFP)



Counter-terrorism: US special forces stationed in India, reveals Pentagon

PTI | Mar 2, 2012

WASHINGTON: US special forces teams are currently stationed in five South Asian countries including India as part of the counter-terrorism cooperation with these nations, a top Pentagon commander has disclosed.

These teams have been deployed by US Pacific Command as part of its effort to enhance their counter-terrorism capabilities, in particular in the maritime domain, Admiral Robert Willard, the PACOM Commander said on Thursday.

"We have currently special forces assist teams - Pacific assist teams is the term - laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, as well as India," Willard told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing in response to a question on co-operation with India on counter-terrorism issues.

"We are working very closely with India with regard to their counter-terrorism capabilities and in particular on the maritime domain but also government to government, not necessarily DOD (department of defence) but other agencies assisting them in terms of their internal counter-terror and counterinsurgency challenges," Willard said.

Willard said, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) is a very dangerous organisation. It not only has very good operational security, but also a lot of international design in terms of their aspirations.

"So it is a very important threat, and we're working very closely with the nations in the region to help contain it," he said.

The PACOM commander was responding to a question from Congressman Joe Wilson as to what effort is being made to counter threat from LeT.

In his prepared statement, Willard told lawmakers that the US and India are working together on contain LeT.

"Responsible for many attacks in India, including the horrific attacks into Mumbai, LeT is headquartered in Pakistan, affiliated with al-Qaida and other VEOs, and contributes to terrorist operations in Afghanistan and aspires to operate against Asia, Europe and North America," Willard said.

He said Pacific Command's Indian Engagement Initiative that resourced and hosted Mumbai counter terrorist specialists for training exercises and exchanges throughout the US, together with capacity-building activities with South Asian partners are mainly focused on containing LeT and contributing to counter-terrorism self-sufficiency of the sub-region's militaries.

Willard said, South Asia as a whole is of major strategic importance to the US. Anchored by India and containing major sea line of communication for the transport of energy and other commerce to Asia and the America from the Middle East and Europe, South Asia security partnerships are increasingly vital to USPACOM's mission.

"South Asia is home to a confluence of challenges, including nuclear armed rivals India and Pakistan, numerous transnational VEOs such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, piracy, trafficking in narcotics and persons, disputed borders, and insurgent movements that have plagued India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka," he said.

USPACOM engages throughout South Asia, assisting its militaries to counter and contain VEOs such as LeT, cooperating in maritime security activities such as countering piracy, conducting disaster response planning and training, and exercising extensively, service to service, he said.

Bangladesh, he said, has emerged as a particularly effective partner in the fight against terror, cooperating with India as well as the US to counter VEO activity by actors such as LeT.

Further, Bangladesh's military is advancing its capabilities and contributes broadly to UN peacekeeping operations, he added.

"Also, the Bangladesh army is primarily responsible for and has achieved major advancements in the protection of its citizens during the annual cyclone season and the inevitable flooding and related disasters with which Bangladesh repeatedly contends," he said.



Bangladesh State Minister for Home verbally abuse Khaleda in JS

Staff Correspondent

Friday, March 02, 2012

State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku during his thanksgiving motion on the president's speech in parliament yesterday described BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia as “mentally and physically sick”.

He also said it was Khaleda who had repeatedly plotted from Hawa Bhaban, the alternative power centre during the tenure of last BNP-Jamaat government, to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, then opposition leader.

Monzur Quader Quraishi, another ruling Awami League lawmaker, made fun of the BNP chairperson's gait. “She had threatened to maim the government but she walks like a cripple now.”

During his speech, some AL lawmakers were seen giving the thumbs up.

Only three days ago, Speaker Abdul Hamid, upset by recurrent use of offensive words in parliament, urged lawmakers to adhere to the code of conduct while addressing the opponents.

“Hurling abusive words at others may at times be lauded by party members but it is not usually accepted by the people,” he said, referring to a recent speech of AL lawmaker Fazilatunnesa Bappy.

Bappy launched a tirade against Khaleda Zia, leader of the opposition in the House, and her two sons, during the thanksgiving motion on the president's speech.



Boko Haram: 2 schools set on fire in Maiduguri

Written by James Bwala, Maiduguri with agency

Friday, 02 March 2012 00:00

RESIDENTS of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital have called on members of the Boko Haram sect to consider the well-being of the common man in their activities, adding that it is the common man that suffers whenever there is an attack.

A resident who spoke to Nigerian Tribune on condition of anonymity said he found it hard to reconcile the burning of schools with the activities of the Boko Haram sect.

He said: “We are made to understand that they are fighting government, because they do not want democracy. But even Allah said that a Muslim should seek knowledge. Also Quar’an  emphasises on the search for knowledge. Now, our children cannot go to school, because their schools were set ablaze. We hope that they would consider us the poor people and stop burning schools.”

He told Nigerian Tribune that following the burning of Gwange 3 Primary School and Success Primary and Secondary School, many children had to go back home, as they could not go to school because soldiers had cordoned off the area.

“If they succeed in taking over government, we are still going to be ruled under them; therefore, they should, please, stop burning schools, because that is the only thing a poor man can give his children,” he added.

In a related development, members of the Boko Haram sect were said to have issued threat letter to Innovative Primary and Secondary School in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to review their school fees downward or risk being set on fire.

A resident of Pompomari ward where the school is situated informed Nigerian Tribune on Thursday in Maiduguri.

Also, suspected members of the Boko Haram sect were said to have robbed an Igbo shop in Baban Layi area of Maiduguri,

where they made away with about N25 million.

This is just as the Joint Task Force (JTF) on Operation Restore Order in Maiduguri,  on Thursday said it gunned down four members of the Boko Haram sect.

JTF’s spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Hassan Mohammed, made this disclosure while parading the corpse of the fourth sect member at Bayan Quarters area, the spot he was killed while driving a Volkswagen Golf taxi.

He said the sect members might have been out for a deadly operation, considering the heavy arms in their possession.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammed, who described the day’s operation as “a bad day for the sect”, added that “this is the fourth that has been gunned down in the last three hours today.”

His refusal to stop at checkpoints, Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammed said, prompted soldiers in the JTF to trail him, “and as he made attempt to escape, “our men did not waste chance to bring him down.”

“Two of them in the passenger seats fled with bullet wounds and our men are still on their hot pursuit,” added the JTF spokesman.

The dead gunman, in his mid-20s, was dressed in dark green robe and was armed with two AK47 rifles and extra loaded set of magazines.

Meanwhile, terrorist groups in Somalia, North Africa and Nigeria are eyeing ways to coordinate their training, funding and terror activities, triggering increased US national security worries, the top American commander for Africa told Congress on Wednesday.

Army General Carter Ham said terror leaders from al-Shabab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram in Nigeria want to more closely synchronise their efforts.

If they are able to better share their training and funding, “that presents a real challenge for us,” he told the House Armed Services Committee.

The three groups represent the greatest threats to security in the region, and all three have strong ties to al-Qaeda.

And Ham laid out ongoing efforts by the US to provide training, equipment and support to a number of nations across northern and east Africa where militants have launched a range of dramatic attacks over the past year or more.

Increased US-backed operations around Mogadishu, largely by Ugandan and Burundian troops, as part of an African force, have weakened al-Shabab.

And Ham said the recent announcement of al-Qaeda’s formal alliance with al-Shabab suggests the Somalia-based insurgency has been weakened and is looking for greater international support.

“It’s not quite a last gasp,” Ham said, but it indicates that al-Shabab is under duress by the military operations that are working to free swaths of Mogadishu from the insurgents’ control.

He added that the formalised merger of al-Shabab and al-Qaeda, announced on February 9 by al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, may allow the groups to focus on threats against American interests.

In other comments, Ham said there are small pockets of foreign fighters who were involved in the resistance in Libya that ended up fighting against US and coalition troops in Iraq.

And he said al-Qaeda may be trying to re-establish those insurgent networks.

Members of the committee questioned why the headquarters for US Africa Command is in Germany, and why the command has so much fewer resources than US European Command, when much of the emerging threats against America come from Africa.

Ham said the African nations don’t necessarily want a big US presence in their countries.

And Navy Admiral James Stravidis, head of US European Command, said it is important to keep a strong presence in Europe because those are the allies America will turn to in a crisis.

The US military is cutting the number of Army combat brigades in Europe from four to two and pulling out two other smaller units - a total reduction of about 12,000 troops.

The cuts will leave about 68,000 US forces in Europe, down from a high of about 400,000 at the height of the Cold War.

Stravidis and Ham also told the committee that the forces in Europe can more quickly get to hotspots in the region, including the Middle East, Eastern Europe or Africa.

They pointed to last year’s Libyan conflict as an example.



Fresh violence in Maldives; chairs removed from Majlis

Mar 01, 2012 | PTI | Male

Fresh violence erupted in Maldives including inside the parliament that was scheduled to open on Thursday with supporters of former President Mohammed Nasheed attacking the police and preventing President Mohammed Waheed Hassan from making his opening address.

Nazim Sattar, Nasheed's younger brother has been arrested along with 17 other protesters. Even before Waheed came to parliament chambers', Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members removed his chair as well as that of his cabinet ministers and shouted slogans asking for his resignation.

The session, which was to be opened with Waheed's speech, has been delayed. Heavy police deployment was made inside the People's Majlis (Parliament) premises and outside but some MDP protesters got inside the security zone after tearing through the barriers.

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Some police officers have been injured as MDP protesters threw stones and wood bricks at them. Even some petrol was splashed on certain police officials, who are holding on to their position at the moment.

The police have not been given the order to use force to disperse the protesters. Some of the shops belonging to supporters of the current government have been vandalised.

Meanwhile, Majlis chamber's internet connection is completely cut down along with telephone lines.

The parliament session was scheduled to begin on Thursday, less than a month after then President Nasheed resigned paving the way for his Vice President Waheed to be sworn in as the new head of the government.

Hours after his resignation on February 7, Nasheed alleged he was forced to resign and claimed there was a coup, a charge denied by the current regime.

What followed was a deepening political crisis and violence. International community along with India has held number of talks with stakeholders here to find a peaceful route.

India had sent its envoys thrice to Maldives including Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who came twice.

The Foreign Secretary during his earlier visit on February 15, had helped broker a deal between the political parties here on the issue of early elections.

However, a final decision is yet to made on the dates for early polls and necessary amendments to the Maldivian constitution.



Worth exploring NATO partnership with India, Brazil: Pentagon

PTI | Mar 2, 2012

WASHINGTON: A top Pentagon commander has told US lawmakers that the possibilities of NATO partnership with India and Brazil are "worth exploring", as the two nations have great capabilities.

"Just to really push a little further out there, two nations that I think are worth exploring possibilities with are India and Brazil. They both have great capability. They could operate with us, for example, in the piracy mission should they choose to do so," said Admiral James Stavridis, commander of US European Command (EUCOM), and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

This is for the first time possibly that a top Pentagon commander is making such a statement on partnership between NATO and India. The Pentagon official was quick to inform lawmakers that this idea of his could be a little bit far-fetched.

Stavridis, who was responding to a question from Congressman Loretta Sanchez at a Congressional hearing yesterday, said that exploring the possibilities of NATO building partnership with India was last on his list of four priorities of NATO's expansion and partnership with other countries.

"I would look first and foremost at building on the coalition in Afghanistan. Twenty-eight NATO nations, but we have 22 other nations who are partnering with NATO in Afghanistan. This is many Pacific nations, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga. So I think that that coalition base gives us one set of potential partners looking forward," he said.

"Secondly, we have two organisations that reach beyond NATO. Today, the Mediterranean dialogue, we're in the process of talking, for example, with Libya. Already many of the other nations in General Ham's region are part of this. The nations around the Mediterranean are natural NATO partners," he said.

The commander said that the partnership with Istanbul Cooperative Initiative, consisting of the Gulf states, had helped US in anti-piracy operations.

Stavridis said during the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, the leaders would review its policies and will present the alliance's path forward in total on nuclear weapons.

"In terms of NATO continuing to finance the infrastructure and what are the costs, the costs are relatively significant in protecting these weapons; and thus, we have to, as an alliance, make decisions about whether we want to maintain them or not," he said, adding that the decision on the issue would be taken soon.



Pro-Pakistan hardliner Hurriyat chairman gave recommendation letter for LeT militant

PTI | Mar 1, 2012

NEW DELHI: Pro-Pakistan hardliner Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani had given a recommendation letter to Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Athesham Malik, arrested by the Delhi Police, for getting a Pakistani visa.

Official sources said a copy of the recommendation letter given by Geelani was found in the papers seized from 24-year old Malik.

The sources said recoveries made from Athesham, who had undergone a training in Pakistan in December, 2011, were material for fabrication of IED, including wires, flash powder used in crackers and sulphuric acid.

A laboratory technician, Malik was earlier associated with Lashker in Sopore in Jammu and Kashmir and was arrested in 2007 along with two others.

When contacted, spokesperson for Geelani, Ayaz Akbar, said "we don't know about this case. But generally, if any Kashmiri comes to Geelani sahab for recommendation, he gives his recommendation only because they being Kashmiri. But then how can he know why he wants to go there and what his motive is"?



Gujarat riot victims still awaiting justice: Amnesty


Friday, March 02, 2012

Amnesty International on Thursday said that ten years after the Gujarat riots “an overwhelming majority” of the victims were still awaiting justice and urged the authorities to ensure adequate compensation to all those who lost their homes.

Those who were still living in transit camps should not be evicted, it said.

“The majority of the perpetrators of the Gujarat violence walk free, assuming that they will not be punished by the State institutions which have simply failed to ensure justice for the victims. The fact that more than 2,000 people can be murdered and the lives of thousands of others shattered in Gujarat with only a small number of the perpetrators brought to justice is offensive to any notion of justice,” it said in a statement.

Investigation and trial processes made headway only in “a handful of cases,” it said adding: “The special team, which was the only one to have probed allegations that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party played a key role in facilitating the riots, referred to his speeches as ‘sweeping and offensive,' but cited lack of evidence to proceed against him.”

At least 21,000 persons were still in transit relief camps awaiting relocation. They were now facing “forced evictions” as the State authorities were now claiming that the land on which the camps were set up belonged to the government and that they would have to vacate them, it said.

“For the relatives of the victims and survivors, this has been an excruciating process of being promised justice and watching India's institutions break their promises again and again. All those responsible for the killings and gender-based violence including rape must be brought to justice — whether they are political leaders, police or government officials,'' it demanded.

“Amnesty International calls on the authorities to improve their response to victims of gender-based violence, including witness protection. The authorities should challenge the stigma and stereotyping affecting women and girl survivors of rape. These women and girls, and the family members of those killed, should be provided with full reparation: rehabilitation, restitution, compensation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition.”



US lawmakers threaten to divert Pak aid to Mexican border

PTI | Mar 2, 2012

WASHINGTON: US lawmakers have introduced a legislation in the Congress to divert American aid meant for Pakistan to the Mexican border until Islamabad takes concrete and satisfactory action against Haqqani terrorist network.

Fearing that some of the aid running into billions of dollars could end up in the hands of the Haqqani network, the lawmakers voiced concern as the dreaded terror group is believed to be behind suicide attacks in Afghanistan responsible for hundreds of American deaths.

The legislation introduced by Congressman Michael McCaul, and co-sponsored among others by the foreign affairs committee chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, would require the secretary of state to certify to Congress that Pakistan is not aiding, assisting, advising or informing the Haqqani terrorist network in any way.

Otherwise US aid to Pakistan will be cut off and redirected toward fighting Mexican drug cartel violence on US-Mexican border, the legislation says.

In a statement, McCaul said this year the State Department is requesting USD 2.4 billion in civilian and security assistance to Pakistan, some of which could end up in the hands of the Haqqani network.

But, the legislation does not seek to touch Defence and intelligence aid.

"When I met with (Pak) President (Asif Ali) Zardari he expressed a commitment to eradicating the Haqqani terrorist network, but I am not convinced that he has enough control over his military and intelligence to follow through," said McCaul, who led a homeland security committee delegation to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq in November.



African nationals face ‘apartheid’ in Hyderabad pub

Rahul Devulapalli, TNN | Mar 2, 2012

HYDERABAD: Are city hotels racially profiling their guests? In a case of racial discrimination, a group of young African expats were shown the door at a star hotel in the city for being "black". The shocking incident unfolded on Wednesday evening when this group of revellers, along with students of other nationalities, turned up for a party at a hotel's pub located in Somajiguda. While awaiting their turn to enter the club, the group was confronted by hotel authorities who rather unceremoniously asked them to leave the premises.

"We were told that Africans were not allowed inside the pub that night," rued Nina from Ivory Coast who is on a student exchange programme in the city. A shocked Nina later admitted she felt extremely embarrassed at the event as she had to step out of the queue and make way for others to enter the pub. Worse, the authorities even agreed to let her other accomplices, a German and a French national, walk in without Nina.

Their identity proofs (mandatory for expats to carry) were of little help as the pub staffers were in no mood to budge, said those witness to the incident. "It is never a good feeling to encounter such discrimination. The fact that the fair-skinned Africans were allowed entry without any hassle only adds to the insult," said a disgusted Sandrine Pape also from Ivory Coast. Pape is currently pursuing an internship at a Hyderabad-based marketing firm.

While the expats eventually left the hotel premises without pressing for an explanation from the hotel authorities, they confess that the hotel's behaviour was shameful. "I did not see any point in arguing with the management. I did not want to beg to be let in. The colour defines our origin and we can do nothing about it," said Nina sure of not stepping foot in the club again.

Apart from the blacks, expats of other nationalities too expressed anguish over the incident and rued how it was sheer generalization against Africans that led to the unfortunate incident. "Just because there have been a few incidents of drug peddling involving Africans in the past, we cannot assume that everybody with a similar skin colour is into illegal activities. This is unpardonable," said German Mathew Vancanneyt who was also part of the group visiting the hotel's pub. Despite being given the green signal to enter the club, Mattew said he too left the premises as a sign of protest.

Surprisingly, those from African countries with fair skin were allowed inside. Jessica from Algeria who is working in a Hyderabad-based firm said, "I reached much later after my friends had left and I was allowed inside without questioning. When I came to know what had happened with my friends I spoke to the staff and they just said that they were following instructions due to some past experiences."

Park Hotel, where the incident occurred, denied any such profiling and even claimed that it's doors were always open for revellers from across nationalities. "No such incident occurred," said a spokesperson of the Park hotel. But sources from the hotel industry pointed out how such 'checks' have been put in place in pubs across the city. "There is no written rule, but we have been directed by the police to thoroughly frisk Africans visiting our facilities. The rule has been primarily enforced in pubs dotting the city outskirts," said a city hotelier.



Somali al-Shabab base captured outside Mogadishu

2 March 2012

Al-Shabab described its withdrawal from Mogadishu last August as "tactical"

A major base of Somalia's al-Shabab militants has been captured on the outskirts of the capital by government troops backed by African Union forces.

"This operation is necessary to consolidate the security of Mogadishu," AU commander Maj Gen Fred Mugisha said as the offensive began.

AU and government forces took control of most of Mogadishu last year.

But correspondents says al-Shabab fighters were able to launch attacks in the city from their Maslah base.

Al-Shabab is under attack on several fronts, with troops from Kenya and Ethiopia also gaining ground recently.

But the group, which joined al-Qaeda last month, still controls much of southern and central Somalia.

It described its withdrawal from Mogadishu last August as "tactical" and has continued to stage suicide attacks in the city.

'Loud explosions'

Somali government forces with the support of AU troops launched the attack on Maslah at dawn, the AU mission in Somalia (Amisom) said in a statement.

Al-Shabab said it had voluntarily withdrawn from Maslah, which is 5km (3 miles) north of Mogadishu on one of two main roads out of the city.

Officials from the UN-backed interim government and workers near the base told the BBC's Somali Service that loud explosions were heard from Maslah during the fighting.

The BBC's Mohamed Dhore in Mogadishu says it not clear if there are any casualties.

A similar push two weeks ago was made on the other main road out of Mogadishu heading towards Afgoye, a strategic town held by al-Shabab.

Amisom said this "saw the security cordon around the city expanded".

Last week, the UN Security Council unanimously agreed to bolster the number of AU forces by more than 5,500 to 17,731 - to include the Kenyan troops that entered the country last October in pursuit of al-Shabab militants.

The resolution passed by the 15-nation council also gave the African force a stronger mandate to attack al-Shabab militants.

Earlier this week, al-Shabab launched a surprise attack using heavy weaponry on a strategic town in the south-west held by Ethiopian troops and local anti-al-Shabab militia.

BBC Somali Service analyst Abdullahi Sheikh says the raid on Garbaharey is a strong indication that the movement's retreat from key positions does not mean it has given up the fight.



I never said Nigerians should be allowed to carry guns —Oritsejafor

Written by Taiwo Adisa, Group Politics Editor James Bwala, Adelowo Oladipo and Sola Adekola

Friday, 02 March 2012

President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has denied reports published in an online site which quoted him as having asked President Goodluck Jonathan to allow every Nigerian to carry gun.

Pastor Oritsejafor, in a telephone interview, said that the online site named News Naija quoted him wrongly.

The site also wrongly referred to the Nigerian Tribune edition of Monday, February 27 as having reported the claim attributed to the CAN President.

Pastor Oritsejafor said: “What I have always said and will continue to say is that if you are attacked, you should defend yourself. As Christians, we don’t retaliate. But it will be suicidal for you to sit down there and allow somebody to kill you.

Suicide is not allowed in our religion because if you commit suicide, you go to hell. As Christians, you should defend and protect yourselves.

“I don’t understand why some people protest when I say Christians should defend themselves. I wonder if people want me to say, as the leader of all Christians in Nigeria, that if they come to cut off your head, you should surrender. I will never say that because that would be suicidal and it is wrong to commit suicide in Christianity.”

The online site, in a news report entitled: Allow Every Nigerian To Carry Gun, Pastor Oritsejafor Tells Jonathan, indicated that the CAN President told the president to allow all Nigerians to carry guns to protect themselves.



UN chief Ban Ki-moon raises concerns on tension in Maldives

AFP | Mar 2, 2012

UNITED NATIONS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called for political dialogue in the Maldives to overcome new tensions in the Indian Ocean state where the former president says he was ousted in a coup.

"The secretary general expresses his concern about the continued political tensions in the Maldives, which were manifested today in actions that impeded the opening of the Maldives' parliament," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Opposition MPs prevented the new president Mohamed Waheed from opening parliament and violent protests erupted outside the building.

Ban said the political crisis following the February 7 change of power "must be resolved peacefully through a national process and on the basis of dialogue and consensus."

"The secretary general urges all parties concerned to resume immediately their political dialogue," said his spokesman, "to find an agreeable way forward on the basis of the constitution and without jeopardising the democratic gains achieved thus far in the Maldives."

Mohamed Nasheed says he was ousted by Waheed in a military-led coup on February 7 and called on its supporters to stage today's demonstration against the new government.



Two more US soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan

Friday, March 02, 2012

* Afghan soldier, literacy teacher open fire at Americans at joint base in Kandahar

* Other US troops gun down both attackers

KABUL: Two NATO soldiers were killed by Afghan colleagues on Thursday, the latest in a series of such attacks after the burning of holy Quran at a US-base sparked widespread violent protests.

The soldiers were identified as Americans by an Afghan official, who said they were killed at a military outpost in Kandahar.

Taliban insurgents said in a statement on their website that “based on authentic reports, the fighting broke out between Afghan and foreign forces following a dispute over the burning of the holy Quran at Bagram airbase”.

NATO’s US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the soldiers died when a man “believed to be an Afghan National Army service member” and another in civilian clothing shot at the troops.

The civilian was a literacy teacher working in the outpost who grabbed a weapon from a soldier and opened fire, Zhary district chief Niaz Muhammad Sarhadi said. Other troops returned fire, killing the teacher and an Afghan army soldier, Sarhadi said.

If the dead are confirmed to be US troops, it will take the death toll to six Americans killed by Afghan colleagues within a week since angry protests erupted over the Quran burning at the US military base at Bagram near Kabul.

Popular outrage erupted after Afghans learned that copies of the holy book were thrown into an incinerator pit at the US-run Bagram airbase, leading US President Barack Obama to apologise for what he described as an error. Some 40 people were killed in six days of violent demonstrations as protesters targeted Western bases.

The UN said on Thursday the perpetrators of the Quran burning should be punished, but insisted ties between the international community and the Afghan people would emerge stronger. “It hasn’t affected our determination to work with the people of Afghanistan and the authorities,” the special representative for the UN in Afghanistan Jan Kubis told a news conference. agencies\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg1_4



NATO shelling in NWA leaves six injured

Friday, March 02, 2012

MIRANSHAH: Six tribesmen were critically injured when six mortar shells fired by NATO forces in Afghanistan landed in Zairai village of tehsil Dattakhel in North Waziristan Agency on Thursday.

Official sources said that NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan fired six mortar shells into Dattakhel area of North Waziristan, the tribal area considered by US as stronghold of al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists, seriously injuring six tribesmen. The injured were shifted to hospital. The incident sparked panic among the locals, who complained that US was trying to crush the tribesmen through such attacks. It is pertinent to mention here that on Wednesday, US jets violated Pakistan’s airspace. The government of Pakistan has repeatedly asked NATO forces to abstain from violations of its border. inp\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg1_5



Five injured in rocket attack in Peshawar, Pak

Friday, March 02, 2012

PESHAWAR: At least five persons sustained injuries when a rocket fired from unknown location landed in the posh Hayatabad locality on Thursday. According to police, the rocket which was probably fired from Khyber Agency, landed at Ibrahim Market, injuring five persons. A shop also caught fire in the incident. Police has started investigation. app\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg7_8



FC soldier kills man in Karachi

Friday, March 02, 2012

By Atif Raza

KARACHI: A Frontier Constabulary (FC) soldier on Thursday lost his temper and shot a man dead besides injuring four others within the precincts of Quaidabad police station.

According to police sources, the incident occurred outside Madressah Madinatul Quran. Some construction activity was being carried out in the seminary when accused Khursheed passed by and accidently got some construction material on his clothes. He allegedly scuffled with the management of seminary and left. However, after a short while, he returned with his two accomplices and sprayed the seminary management with bullets, killing a religious scholar, Maulana Muhammad Rehman, and injuring four others. The accused fled, while the body and the injured were shifted to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg7_31



Intel official shot dead in Peshawar: Police

Friday, March 02, 2012

PESHAWAR: Gunmen on Friday shot dead an intelligence official in Peshawar, police said.

Bashir Khan, an Intelligence Bureau inspector, was on his way to work on his motorcycle when gunmen also riding a motorbike shot him, senior police official told. His 13-year-old son also got injured in the ambush.

Khan, 38, died at the scene, he added.

The shooting took place in the outskirts of Peshawar at Warsak Road. It was not immediately clear who shot Khan.



150 Iraqis killed in February attacks

Friday, March 02, 2012

BAGHDAD: The number of Iraqis killed in February almost matched the death toll recorded the previous month but the number of people wounded in attacks rose, officials figures released on Thursday showed.

In total, 150 Iraqis -- 91 civilians, 39 policemen and 20 soldiers -- were killed in attacks countrywide, according to interior, defence and health ministry figures.

That marks one of the lowest monthly toll since 2003 and compares to 151 -- 99 civilians, 31 policemen and 21 soldiers -- killed in January.

But the number of people wounded in February rose to 352 -- 180 civilians, 95 policemen and 77 soldiers, compared to 321 the month before.

The figures also showed that 33 insurgents were killed and 104 arrested. (AFP)



Lashkar suspect’s mother: Duo innocent

Mar 02, 2012


The two suspected Lashkar-e-Tayyaba operatives whose claimed arrest from Tughlaqabad Extension in South Delhi was described by Union home minister P. Chidamabaram as “a very important breakthrough” and had complimented the security agencies for it have been identified. They are Tauseef Ahmed Pir and his cousin Ahtisham Ahmed Malik, both residents of Sopore, a town 48-km northwest of Srinagar.

Delhi police officials had given only brief details about the case on Wednesday and also withheld their names saying that it could hamper the investigations as the operation was still continuing to arrest more terrorists of the module. But the mother of one of the youth has not only disclosed the identities of the duo but also claimed that one of them was arrested from Hazari Bagh, Jharkhand and the other from Patna. She also claimed they were “innocent” and had been implicated in “a false case”.

Tauseef’s mother Mehbooba Begum said her son was recently sent to Jharkhand to pursue his studies and was likely to be admitted to a local school shortly.

She also said that Tauseef, who was studying in Class 12 in a Sopore school, was seized by the J&K police’s SOG from a local store where he worked as a part-time sales assistant on January 28, 2012 but was released the next morning. “He was again arrested by the SOG on January 30, severely beaten in custody and when released his condition was very bad,” she said. She also claimed that when the police officials were asked why he had been detained twice they said he was to be questioned in an alleged misuse of SIM card case.

“Keeping in view the situation in Kashmir and feeling concerned about his safety we decided to send him to Jharkhand to study. The choice was made for the simple reason that my brother has been living there in Hazari Bagh with his family for quite some time,” she said.

Another cousin of Ahtisham’s, identified as Taufeeq Ahmed Pir, has also been arrested by the security agencies from Jharkhand.



Worth exploring NATO partnership with India: Pentagon

AP A top Pentagon Commander has told a Congressional hearing that exploring possibilities of partnership with India was one of his priorities for NATO expansion. File photo

A top Pentagon Commander has told U.S. legislators that the possibilities of NATO partnership with India and Brazil are “worth exploring”, as the two nations have great capabilities.

“Just to really push a little further out there, two nations that I think are worth exploring possibilities with are India and Brazil. They both have great capability. They could operate with us, for example, in the piracy mission should they choose to do so,” said Admiral James Stavridis, Commander of U.S. European Command (EUCOM), and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

This is for the first time possibly that a top Pentagon commander is making such a statement on partnership between NATO and India. The Pentagon official was quick to inform legislators that this idea of his could be a little bit far-fetched.

Adm. Stavridis, who was responding to a question from Congressman Loretta Sanchez at a Congressional hearing on Thursday, said that exploring the possibilities of NATO building partnership with India was last on his list of four priorities of NATO’s expansion and partnership with other countries.

“I would look first and foremost at building on the coalition in Afghanistan. Twenty eight NATO nations, but we have 22 other nations who are partnering with NATO in Afghanistan. This is many Pacific nations, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga. So I think that that coalition base gives us one set of potential partners looking forward,” he said.

“Secondly, we have two organisations that reach beyond NATO. Today, the Mediterranean dialogue, we’re in the process of talking, for example, with Libya. Already many of the other nations in General Ham’s region are part of this. The nations around the Mediterranean are natural NATO partners,” he said.

The commander said that the partnership with Istanbul Cooperative Initiative, consisting of the Gulf states, had helped the U.S. in anti-piracy operations.

Adm. Stavridis said during the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, the leaders would review its policies and will present the alliance’s path forward in total on nuclear weapons.

“In terms of NATO continuing to finance the infrastructure and what are the costs, the costs are relatively significant in protecting these weapons; and thus, we have to, as an alliance, make decisions about whether we want to maintain them or not,” he said, adding that the decision on the issue would be taken soon.



Islamabad: Import of gas, electricity from Iran

Pakistan stands firm against US pressure

Friday, March 02, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, rejecting US threats of economic sanctions on promotion of economic ties between Pakistan and Iran, said on Thursday that the country would extend its cooperation with Iran in the field of energy. However, she also said that no agreement would be signed against national interest.

Addressing a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Khar, rejecting the American objections on Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, gave a clear message to Washington that Islamabad would make a decision keeping national interests a priority. To a query, the foreign minister once again reiterated the commitment that an accord with Iran on a gas pipeline would be inked without any external pressure.

“Pakistan is pursuing important projects with Iran, such as gas pipeline, electricity transmission, and also building a more robust trade partnership between the two countries,” Khar said. “All of these projects are in Pakistan’s national interest and will be pursued and completed irrespective of any extraneous consideration.”

Being selective: Brushing aside pressures, Khar said, “As far as bilateral relations and cooperation is concerned we don’t make it contingent on views and policies of any third country. I think all our friends are encouraged to understand the real energy crisis facing Pakistan. We can’t afford to be selective of where we receive our energy supply from.”

To a question about threats from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to impose sanctions on Pakistan if it continued with the gas project with Iran, the foreign minister said, “We will cross the bridge when it will come.”

She, however, hoped that the international community would look into the matter and find a way to resolve the issue through peaceful negotiations on Iran’s nuclear issue and sanctions on Pakistan would not be imposed.

Regarding Pak-US ties, she said that joint sitting of parliament would be summoned by mid-March, in which the members would review future status of the Pak-US ties based upon mutual respect and equality.

Commenting on the Afghanistan issue, Khar was of the view that Pakistan wanted to have good and peaceful ties with Afghanistan. To another query, she said that resumption of NATO supply would be decided by parliament.

She said seeking aid was not the aim, rather Pakistan would like to enhance its mercantile ties with other nations of the world. She said ties with Iran and Afghanistan would be strengthened, adding that Pakistan would seek assistance wherever it was available without any external pressure.

Khar also said that relations with the United States, NATO and ISAF would be promoted on the basis of mutual respect and in line with the policy devised by parliament. She said the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy would finalise its recommendations by the second week of this month.

“We want to add the element of credibility with the United States,” she said.

Khar said Pakistan wanted to maintain friendly relations with all its neighbours, including India, adding that there was enthusiasm from both the sides to improve ties. She said the two governments had been working together to build a level of trust for mutual benefit of the two nations.

To a question on awarding India the status of most-favoured nation and Kashmir issue, the FM explained that Pakistan had not compromised on its principled stand on Kashmir and would remain committed to the resolution of this issue through dialogue. She said the MFN status was necessary to normalise trade activities between the two countries. manzoor qadir/agencies\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg1_1



Syrian rebels quit besieged Homs stronghold

Friday, March 02, 2012

* Rebels leave Baba Amro after 26-day army siege

* Red Cross to enter district today

BEIRUT: Defeated Syrian rebels left their shattered stronghold in Homs on Thursday after a bloody 26-day army siege aimed at crushing a symbol of the yearlong revolt against Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Activists said a few fighters had stayed on in Baba Amro, which has endured weeks of shelling, sniper fire and privation, to cover their comrades' "tactical withdrawal". Soon afterward, the international Red Cross said Syrian authorities had finally given it permission to take aid into the district on Friday.

"The Free Syrian Army and all the other fighters have left Baba Amro," one activist said from Homs. "They pulled out."

A pro-government figure proclaimed that troops had "broken the back" of the rebellion and that the fall of Baba Amro heralded impending victory over a Western-backed insurgency. A statement in the name of the fighters urged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian groups to enter Baba Amro to protect and bring aid to 4,000 civilians who had stayed in their destroyed houses.

"We warn the regime against any retaliation against civilians and we hold it fully responsible for their safety," the statement said, adding that the rebels had been forced to leave because they were short of supplies and ammunition.

The ICRC said it had received a "green light" from the Syrian authorities to enter Baba Amro on Friday. Reports from the city could not be verified immediately due to tight government restrictions on media operations in Syria.

One activist said Syrian soldiers had begun moving into Baba Amro from all directions after most of the fighters left and were hunting the rest. At least 17 rebels were put to death with knives after they were chased into nearby fields, he said.

Scattered gunfire could be heard inside Baba Amro and sporadic shelling hit nearby districts, the activists said. The overall level of combat exchanges seemed to have receded. The drama in Homs unfolded without any immediate comment from Syrian officials or the state media, but Taleb Ibrahim, a Syrian analyst close to the government, said the military's operation in Homs had "broken the back of the armed groups". "It's the beginning of Syria's final victory over the Qatari, Saudi, French, American and Zionist conspiracy against Syria," he told Lebanon's Hezbollah-run al Manar television.

There was no immediate word on the fate of wounded French reporter Edith Bouvier and French photographer William Daniels, who had been among a group of journalists trapped in Baba Amro. Two of these, American correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, were killed there in a bombardment a week ago. Two others later escaped into Lebanon.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Homs in the past month, activists say. Many of the wounded have received only rudimentary treatment in makeshift field hospitals. Snow blanketed the city, where residents are short of food, fuel, power, water and telephone links, activists said. reuters\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg7_28



Afghan soldier, civilian kill 2 Nato troops: military

Friday, March 02, 2012

KABUL: An Afghan soldier and a civilian on Thursday killed two troops from the US-led Nato force in Afghanistan, opening fire on them at an outpost in the troubled south of the country, the military said.

The civilian was a literacy teacher who grabbed a weapon from a soldier and opened fire at the military outpost in Kandahar province, Zhary district chief Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi told, identifying the dead as Americans.

Other troops returned fire and killed the teacher, who was working in the base, and an Afghan army soldier, Sarhadi said.

"Two individuals, one believed to be an Afghan National Army service member and the other in civilian clothing, turned their weapons indiscriminately against International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two ISAF service members," ISAF said in a statement.

The US-led Nato force gave no further details. (AFP),-civilian-kill-2-troops



American teacher killed in north Iraq


Published: Mar 1, 2012

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq: An American gym teacher was killed Thursday when a student in the crowded classroom pulled out a gun, shot the teacher and then as his terrified classmates fled the room, shot himself, officials and eyewitnesses said.

The incident marked a rare violent death of an American in the relatively peaceful Kurdish region, which has been largely immune from the chaotic violence that has defined the rest of Iraq since the US invasion.

The quarrel broke out Thursday morning at the Media School in Sulaimaniyah between the gym teacher and the student, identified as 18-year old Biyar Sarwar, said city police spokesman Sarkawit Mohammed. During the argument, Mohammed said, Sarwar shot the teacher with a gun he had hidden in his clothes.

Mohammed said Sarwar then shot himself, and died of the wounds later at a nearby hospital. Sulaimaniyah health director Retawit Hama Rashid confirmed Sarwar’s death.

Eyewitnesses described a scene of chaos in the classroom.

A student who said he was in the classroom when the argument broke out said Sarwar was sitting in the back of the room. The student, who would only identify himself by his first name, Ahmed, because police told him to not talk to reporters, said he ignored the argument at first because he was in the front of the room and could not hear it.

“Then I heard the gunshot,” said Ahmed, his face pale as he recounted the argument. “I turned my head and saw the body of the American teacher on the ground with blood near it. All the students started to run out of the room. Seconds later as I was running to the reach the school gate, I heard another gunshot.”

Sulaimaniyah mayor Zana Hama Saleh confirmed the police account but declined to speculate on Sarwar’s motive.

The Associated Press is withholding the gym teacher’s name pending notification of next of kin.

Sulaimaniyah is located in Iraq’s comparatively peaceful Kurdish region, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad. The Kurdish region has generally been free of the bombings and shootings that have plagued the rest of Iraq in recent years. Foreigners, including American citizens, usually travel freely around northern Iraq without the armed guards or armored vehicles often used in the rest of the country.

The attack came at the Media School, a private, Christian, English language-based academy that covers elementary through secondary grade levels. It runs schools in the three provinces that make up Iraq’s northern Kurdish region with a total enrollment of about 2,000 students.

According to the school’s website, American staff often help teach one or two courses each semester. An estimated 95 percent of the students come from Kurdish Muslim families, and the rest are described as either Orthodox or evangelical Christians or from other backgrounds.

Many students are the children of local government officials and community leaders.

The US Embassy in Baghdad has not yet confirmed the death.

“We have heard reports regarding the shooting of a teacher in Sulaimaniyah and are working through our consulate in Irbil and Iraqi authorities to ascertain the details of the incident,” the Embassy said in a statement. “At this time, we are waiting for identification to be completed and for the family to be notified.”



Bomb injures 15 police near Turkey ruling party HQ

Published: Mar 1, 2012

ISTANBUL: A remote control bomb injured 15 police officers and one civilian on Thursday as a police minibus passed close to the Istanbul headquarters of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, police said.

Kurdish separatists, far left groups, far right groups and Islamist militants, including Al-Qaeda, have all carried out bomb attacks in Turkey in the past, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“As a police vehicle carrying 21 officers was passing by, a remote control bomb on a motorcycle exploded. Our teams are carrying out the investigation,” Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin told reporters.

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attack in Istanbul’s Sutluce district. Sadly, 15 police officers and one civilian were injured as a result,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara.

“Our struggle against terrorism will continue with the utmost determination,” he said.

The bomb exploded on a road junction next to a building site in the Sutluce district of Istanbul, a poor, but developing neighborhood on the banks of the Golden Horn.

“It happened around 9 am.. I was in my shop, and when I heard the explosion I ran out,” said Orhan, a local shopkeeper. “People ran to the minibus. There were no flames. The injured were moved to a building nearby and later into the ambulances.”

Security guards from nearby offices and passers-by helped moved the wounded to the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MUSIAD) building, a conservative business group close to the government whose headquarters are next door to the AK Party building.

“We were afraid the bomb had hit our building because the blast was so loud,” MUSIAD spokesman Sadi Dinleyici told CNN Turk. “Windows were broken and the wounded police officers were given first aid in our building.”

Fire engines and police vehicles surrounded the area and glass littered the streets as forensic officers in white overalls combed the area for evidence.

“Investigations into the type of bomb and the organization (behind it) are continuing,” media quoted Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin as saying.



Pakistan troops in outpost clash

BBC Online

Friday, March 2, 2012

Militants have stormed a military outpost in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing at least seven soldiers, officials have said.

Soldiers managed to repel the attack, in the Tirah valley area, and killed six militants in a fierce gun battle, the military said.

Officials blamed the hard-line Lashkar-e-Islam group, which fights with other religious groups in the area.

Violent clashes are common in Pakistan's north west.

There had been a lull in fighting in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in recent months.

But this week has seen a spate of gun battles and bombings, raising concerns that violence is worsening.



Obama ‘confident’ of keeping to Afghan pullout plan

Friday, March 02, 2012

WASHINGTON: The US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he was “confident” the United States could stick to its Afghan drawdown timetable despite a week of deadly unrest over the burning of the holy Quran at a US base. “I feel confident that we can stay on a path that by the end of 2014, our troops will be out and will not be in a combat role and Afghans will have capacity, just as Iraqis, to secure their own country,” Obama told ABC News. Obama, criticised by Republican opponents for apologising to Afghan people after US troops sent copies of the holy Quran to an incinerator at Bagram airbase, defended his decision, saying it was necessary to try to quell the violence. “The reason that it was important is the same reason that the commander on the ground, General (John) Allen, apologised. And that is to save lives. And to make sure our troops who are there right now are not placed in further danger,” the US president said. afp\03\02\story_2-3-2012_pg7_10



Clinton, Kohl, EU among 231 candidates for Nobel Peace Prize

Friday, March 02, 2012

OSLO: A total of 231 nominees are up for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, the Nobel Institute said Monday, with Bill Clinton, Helmut Kohl, the EU and US soldier and WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning known to be on the list.

With 188 individuals and 43 organisations, the number of candidates comes close to last year's record of 241, when the prestigious award went to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni "Arab Spring" activist Tawakkol Karman.

Thousands of people are eligible to submit nominations, including members of parliaments and governments worldwide, university professors, past laureates and members of several international institutes, who had until February 1 to propose candidates.

The Nobel Institute keeps the names of nominees secret for 50 years, but those who are entitled to nominate are allowed to reveal the name of the person or organisation they have proposed.

Among the people known to have been nominated for this year's prize are former US president Bill Clinton, ex-German chancellor Helmut Kohl who led his country's reunification process, and Ukraine's ex-premier and now jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Also on the list is jailed US soldier Manning, who has been charged with 22 counts in a US military court for turning over a massive cache of classified US documents to anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks.

The winner or winners will be announced in October. (AFP)



Switching sides: Now, India to back Arab League’s stand on Syria

Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Mar 2, 2012

NEW DELHI: With India having switched its stance on Syria to being more critical of the Bashar al-Assad regime, New Delhi is ready to lend considerable diplomatic clout to support the Arab League, which is driving the international community's response to the ongoing unrest in Syria.

Foreign minister S M Krishna will be in Cairo on March 2, to hold comprehensive high-level talks with the Arab League troika of Qatar, Libya and Iraq. On the agenda will be three main issues - Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

Having abstained in the first UN Security Council resolution on Syria, India teamed up with Brazil and South Africa to send a diplomatic mission to Damascus to convince Assad that a political roadmap needed to be followed . However, India maintained the violence in Syria was externally infused, that Assad's opponents were financed and armed by outside forces, that it was more than a popular unrest.

Almost six months later, India changed its position to become more critical of Assad's actions, following the Arab League's lead.

Last week, India sent senior official Rajeev Shahare to the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis, an early sign that New Delhi was ready to listen to different voices on the region.

India's turnaround at the UN Security Council in February was the first sign that it would back the regional organization to do what they believed was best. "It's pointless us holding out for Assad when the regional organization is asking for him to step down," said an Indian official . In his talks with the Jordanians and Palestinians too, Krishna reportedly came back with the sense that India would be out of step if it continued to buck the conventional wisdom. It has been the Gulf Arabs who have strongly opposed Assad.

In a statement welcoming Krishna's forthcoming visit, the Arab League subtly reminded India why it was important : Trade between India and Arab nations has touched $120 billion in the past couple of years, not to speak of the huge remittances being sent back by six million Indian migrants in the Gulf.



Pakistan keen on recalibrating ties with India


AP Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Without diluting its stated position on Kashmir, Pakistan on Thursday articulated a desire to recalibrate its relationship with India that has hinged on hostility till date. Arguing that three wars with and perennial hostility towards India had not achieved any results on outstanding issues, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar made out a case for giving trade and peace a chance.

Briefing mediapersons here on foreign policy initiatives, Ms. Khar was bombarded with questions on the rationale behind normalising trade relations with India by moving towards granting Most Favoured Nation status to a country regarded as ‘Enemy No. 1'.

Steadfast response

And, she was steadfast in her responses; maintaining that the current government had been striving hard to improve relations with all its neighbours without being selective. Referring to the Cabinet's decision to switchover from a positive list to a negative list approach for trade with India, she said this would be mutually beneficial and reflected the priority the government attached to the economic development of Pakistan. “We want to work the geo-economics of the region to our advantage.”

Stating that South Asia was the worst performer in regional cooperation and connectivity, Ms. Khar time and again said that normalising trade relations with India in no way meant that Pakistan had diluted its position on Kashmir. “We will continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with India on all issues simultaneously.”

Jinnah's vision

Asked about Pakistan's earlier position that trade with India would be normalised only after there was positive movement from India on Kashmir, the Minister shot back: “If the vision of Mohammad Ali Jinnah is anything to go by, he had bequeathed us normal trade relations with India and that remained the case till 1965.” She maintained that there was a good case for improving ties with India.

Referring to the keenness on both sides to pursue dialogue, Ms. Khar said: “In the past few months, we have been able to build a degree of trust and let us give this track some time. We gave 40 years to war and hostilities and it has not yielded results on Kashmir. Let us give time to this track or do you want to continue with hostilities for another 40 years?”

Of the view that Pakistan had been bogged down by the history of the past 60 years, Ms. Khar sought to dispel the notion that only Pakistan was making concessions while India had not yielded an inch. About the Non-Tariff Barriers that India has, she said three memoranda of understanding had been signed during the Indian Commerce Minister's visit to dismantle them. Also, she flagged the fact that India had dropped its opposition to the time-bound European Union waiver on trade preferences that was offered to Pakistan to help it recover from the devastating floods of 2010.”



Srinagar bank, Delhi showroom were LeT targets

Mar 02, 2012

Namrata Biji Ahuja And Abhishek Anand

The cloth market and Raymond showroom in Chandni Chowk in Delhi and the State Bank of India’s main branch in Srinagar were the two prime targets of the busted LeT module, investigators said. Notably, Ahtisham Ahmed Malik arrested by the Delhi police on Wednesday, was supposed to plant the explosives in Delhi and catch a flight booked for March 5 to Srinagar indicating that the terror attacks were timed closely. Ahtisham’s passport with recent history of travelling to Pakistan has been seized.

Top separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s spokesperson Ayaz Akbar said, “A large number of Kashmiris come to Geelani sahab for recommendation and he gives his recommendation only because they are Kashmiri. It is not written on anyone’s face what is his real intention. How does one know? Moreover, the intentions of the Delhi police is suspect since it has hurled many accusations against Geelani sahab in the past which have proved to be wrong,” he said. Ahtisham is believed to be an expert in making IEDs using sulphuric acid, capsules and fire-crackers, recovered from him.

“The intent was to cause a huge fire in the crowded market in Delhi. The bank in Srinagar is a symbol of the “state’’ and therefore became their target,” a top government official said.

Taufeeq Ahmed Pir, arrested by the Delhi police on Thursday, is Ahtisham’s cousin and is a resident of Sopore in North Kashmir. Police officials said Pir was to travel to Pakistan for training and was aware of Ahtisham’s plans of striking in Delhi. Another person wanted in the case, Muzamil Amin Dar alias Usman, however, has managed to give a slip to the Jammu and Kashmir police, the Delhi police sources said.

Deputy commissioner of police (special cell) Arun Kampani said ammunition was recovered from the terrorists and five mobile phones and memory cards showing exclusive videos of their training in Pakistan have also been seized. Investigators said Ahtisham was handled by Lashkar commander Usman in J&K. They said he has also travelled to Pakistan on the Samjhauta Express in the past. Ahtisham is the son of Farooq Malik of Badam Bagh, Sopore, and had been living in Ranchi for the last three years along with his mother. A laboratory technician, Ahtisham was earlier associated with Lashkar in Sopore as an active terrorist and was arrested in 2007 along with two others. Meanwhile, Shafqat Ali Tuggu, 23, who was also arrested, is a BTech degree holder.



Maldives Leader of Opposition visits Kerala mosque

Friday, March 02, 2012

Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Opposition leader of that country, paid obeisance at the majestic Malik Dinar Juma Masjid here on Thursday.

Mr. Ibrahim visited the historic shrine at Thalangara locality around 3.30 p.m. and was accorded a warm reception by K. Mahmood Haji, president of the Juma Masjid, along with other prominent personalities from the town.

Dattu Abdul Aziz, former Cabinet Secretary of Malaysia, and other leading personalities from that country accompanied Mr. Ibrahim.

Mr. Ibrahim, who was on maiden visit to the town, said he had visited Kozhikode and Malappuram during his previous visits to Kerala.



Pakistan warns west against war with Iran, seals pipeline deal

Omar Farooq Khan, TNN & Agencies | Mar 2, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has cautioned the west against attacking Iran over its nuclear ambitions, saying it should learn the lessons from the Iraq war. "West should learn the lessons of the lead-up to the Iraq war while attempting to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions," Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar warned.

Khar, who is on a four-day official visit to Britain, said Iran had not taken a belligerent stance towards its eastern neighbours, even as it had raised tensions across the Gulf and against Israel and the West. "When it comes to our relations with Iran, we have only seen a better relationship," she was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

She also said on Thursday that her country would go ahead with the gas pipeline deal with Iran a day after the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned that the project could lead to sanctions.

"The project is in Pakistan's national interest and will be completed irrespective of any external pressures,'' Khar told reporters. Khar said it was in line with Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan's resolve for greater cooperation in the domains of energy, connectivity and trade during the recent trilateral summit in Islamabad.

"The projects which were decided with Iran include the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, transmission of electricity and upgrading connectivity and trade between the two countries," she said.

Clinton had said that Washington supported the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline as an alternative project.



Syrian rebels in tactical retreat

Published: Mar 1, 2012

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Weary Syrian rebels left a shattered district of Homs yesterday after a 26-day military siege aimed at crushing a symbol of the almost yearlong revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Activists said a few fighters had stayed on in Baba Amro, which has endured weeks of shelling, sniper fire and privation, to cover the “tactical withdrawal” of their comrades.

“The Free Syrian Army and all the other fighters have left Baba Amro, they pulled out,” one activist said from Homs. A statement in the name of the fighters urged the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups to enter Baba Amro and bring aid to 4,000 civilians who had stayed in their destroyed houses.

“We warn the regime against any retaliation against civilians and we hold it fully responsible for their safety,” the statement said. One activist said Syrian soldiers had begun moving into Baba Amro from all directions after most of the fighters left and were hunting the rest. At least 17 rebels were killed, he said.

Western and Arab nations, which have already called on Assad to step down expressed mounting concern for civilians struggling to survive in Homs.  “I am appalled by reports that the Assad regime is preparing a full-scale land assault on the people of Homs,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said before the rebel pullout.

Britain has withdrawn all diplomatic staff from Syria and suspended services at its embassy in Damascus in response to worsening security in the country, a diplomat said.

Hisham Hassan, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva, said its staff had not gone into Baba Amro so far yesterday. “In Homs, as the violence continues, the humanitarian situation is very worrying,” an ICRC statement said.Despite negotiations with both sides, ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff had only entered the neighborhood twice in the last week.

There was no immediate word on the fate of wounded French reporter Edith Bouvier and French photographer William Daniels, who had been among a group of journalists trapped in Baba Amro.

The commander of the Free Syrian Army, Riad Al-Asaad, confirmed the rebel withdrawal, but said the fight against Assad would go on until the president was toppled.“There has been a tactical withdrawal,” Asaad, who is based in Turkey, told Al- Jazeera TV. “The Free Army has left Baba Amro because of the brutal acts of the regime against civilians.”

Snow blanketed Homs, where residents are short of food, fuel, power, water and telephone links, activists said. Reports from the city could not be verified immediately due to tight government restrictions on media operations in Syria. Assad is increasingly isolated in his struggle to crush an armed insurrection that now spearheads the revolt against four decades of his family’s rule.

He still has some allies. Russia, China and Cuba voted against a resolution adopted overwhelmingly by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council which condemned Syria for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

A Lebanese official close to Damascus said Assad’s government was determined to regain control of Homs, Syria’s third city, which straddles the main north-south highway.

“They want to take it, whatever happens, without restraint, whatever the cost,” the official said, asking not to be named.

He said defeat for the rebels in Homs would leave the opposition without any major stronghold in Syria, easing the crisis for Assad, who remained confident he could survive.

The exile opposition Syrian National Council said it had formed a military bureau to oversee and organize armed anti-Assad groups under a unified leadership.

“The creation of the military bureau was agreed upon by all armed forces in Syria,” SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun told a news conference in Paris. “We will be like a defense ministry.” The SNC has been criticized by some Syrians for not overtly backing the armed struggle led by the loosely organized Free Syrian Army, made up of army deserters and other insurgents.

There was no immediate comment from the rebel army.

With Assad’s forces closing in on rebels in Homs, the SNC appealed for help late Wednesday, urging the UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, Kofi Annan, to go to Baba Amro “tonight.”

Annan said in New York he expected to visit Syria soon and urged Assad to engage with efforts to end the turmoil.

Syria, which denied entry this week to UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos, adopted a guarded approach to Annan’s role.

The state news agency SANA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Al-Maqdisi as saying the government was “waiting for a clarification from the UN on the nature of his mission.”

The ministry also said it was ready to discuss a date for Amos to visit instead of the “inconvenient” one she had sought.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in Geneva he hoped Syria would let Amos in soon.

Russia, which along with China, has shielded Syria from UN Security Council action, is emerging as a pivotal player in diplomacy aimed at halting the bloodshed and relieving the humanitarian crisis facing civilians caught in conflict zones.

Moscow has invited Annan for talks on Syria and, according to Kuwaiti officials, will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to meet his Gulf Arab counterparts in Riyadh next week.Saudi Arabia and Qatar have led calls for the world to arm rebels following last month’s Russian-Chinese veto of a draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria. Kuwait’s Parliament said it had agreed to support the Free Syrian Army and urged the Kuwaiti government to cut relations with Syria.


The United States and its allies are seeking a new Security Council resolution on Syria, which Western envoys said would focus on humanitarian problems to try to win Chinese and Russian support, but would also criticize Assad.

Wednesday’s army ground assault on Baba Amro followed more than three weeks in which Assad’s forces have bombarded rebel enclaves in Homs with rockets, shells and mortar rounds.

“Homs is cut off from the world,” an activist statement said. “Martyrs are being buried in gardens and parks because the presence of army snipers prevents taking them to cemeteries.”

It said hospitals were only treating pro-Assad militiamen, while makeshift medical centers had run out of medicine.



ALECSO suggests more varsities teach science in Arabic


Published: Mar 2, 2012

The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) said the Arabic language is the mainstay of the identity of all Arabs as well as the protective shield of their culture to contain the treasures of their heritage and embrace the creativity of contemporary intellectual and literary pursuits.

ALECSO said this in a statement issued from its headquarters in Tunisia on the occasion of the Arabic Language Day, marked every year on March 1.

The statement said the Arabic language is well equipped to play the role it played in the past of uniting Arabs in the heart of a great nation consistent with its position as the lingua franca of nations and the hallmark of urbanity and progress. It called on the Arabs to reflect on the reality of their language in the light of the campaigns of alienation and the spread of dialects, warning of the danger confronting the Arab child who is not allowed to use his own language under pressure to learn other languages.

ALECSO attributed the linguistic reality to the deteriorating power of language and the absence of vigilance that ensures the integrity of the national language with a legal power to intervene immediately to protect Arabic studies. It also called for reforms to rectify the mistakes committed in the past.

The organization underlined the need for skilled manpower in Arabic able to translate scientific terms in all fields of knowledge and human activity into Arabic. It noted that teaching science and other subjects in Arabic at more Arab universities is better than teaching them in foreign languages in order to remain up to date in the era of modern technology and sciences.

According to that thinking, in the future, the use of Arabic language should remain focused on ways to take it out of this difficult situation, which has prevented Arabic from occupying its rightful place in the world of languages of most advanced nations.

In his presentation at the Global Education Forum recently in Riyadh, Ahmad Sayyed Khalil, director of the ALECSO education department in Tunisia, stressed the need for developing Arabic information and communications technology in the interest of promoting Arabic work as part of the education system in the Arab world.

“They should prepare an Arabic electronic information system for maintaining IT institutions and encouraging both public and private Arabic institutions to undertake translations from and into scientifically rich languages to enhance their creative and scientific aspects in future,” Khalil said.

In this connection, Julian Johansen, a British Arabist who works as a legal adviser and is a partner at Allen & Overy international law firm in association with Abdulaziz AlGasim Law Firm in Riyadh, told Arab News that his ability to speak Arabic made him feel more comfortable in the local environment, enabling him to review and prepare Arabic legal documentation. “I would encourage foreigners to learn Arabic as an enhancement of personal and professional life.”

Arabic gave Johansen business opportunities not only in Saudi Arabia, but also in the rest of the Gulf, where he has worked for 12 years. “When I started studying Arabic aged 19, I had no idea I would end up using it professionally, as I was simply interested in the language for its own sake. Working in Saudi Arabia has given me the perfect opportunity to maintain that interest, while using the language in my work."

Being one of the few British nationals who have mastered the language and speak it fluently, Johansen reviews and drafts contracts in Arabic and English, and vets them for grammatical mistakes before sending them out to clients. He was trained in classical Arabic at the University of Oxford, but he was able to learn colloquial Arabic during a three-year stint in Egypt, while maintaining his interest in Arabic literature.

Talking about his experience here, Johansen said some Saudi friends speak with him in classical Arabic, but others prefer to use English. However, for him, knowing the language makes him feel at ease with the local people and has other benefits too. “In the Middle East, people are very appreciative of anyone making an effort, however modest, to learn the language.”

Explaining how he benefited from speaking Arabic and working at a law office, he said, "Every day is an Arabic Language Day for me, as I use it daily in my work. I benefit from the language in two obvious ways: firstly in my line of work, as I need to liaise with people who prefer to speak in Arabic and I need to prepare documents in Arabic, and secondly, the ability to speak the language makes me more at ease in the local environment. It is good to know that if you are lost in the city, you can ask anyone for help."



IIROSA extends relief assistance to Syrian refugees


Published: Mar 2, 2012

The International Islamic Relief Organization-Saudi Arabia (IIROSA) has sent urgent relief assistance to Syrian refugees in some neighboring countries, Secretary-General Adnan bin Khalil Basha announced yesterday.

He said the assistance was within the organization's humanitarian keenness to assist the refugees and the displaced who were victims of conflicts, duels, wars, and natural or man-made disasters.

The secretary general revealed that 1,600 food baskets had been distributed among Syrian refugees in Lebanon benefiting 1,600 families, and 1,200 among Syrian refugees in Jordan, which benefited 1,200 families.

A single food basket weighs about 23 kilograms and contains various foodstuff materials including rice, sugar, powdered milk, cooking oil, lentil, cheese, macaroni, tuna and sardines. It is enough to sustain a medium family for about a month.

Basha urged all regional and international humanitarian and charity organizations to expedite sending relief assistance to the Syrian refugees who were displaced inside their own country and in other neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. "This is a humanitarian duty that is imperative on all," he said.

The secretary general reiterated that IIROSA would continue its assistance to the Syrian refugees wherever they may be until the end of the current predicament, which forced them to disperse in search of safety and security.



Ex-UK police boss: Terrorism trumped phone hacking


Published: Mar 1, 2012

LONDON: The official who supervised the UK police’s much-criticized initial inquiry into Britain’s phone hacking scandal says a crush of terrorism cases meant he had no choice but to curtail media investigation.

Former Scotland Yard counterterrorism chief Peter Clarke says his force was so stretched by the threat of Al-Qaeda attacks in 2005 it had to enlist 1,000 officers from other police bodies.

He said Thursday that the overload lasted for years and overlapped with the first investigation into journalists’ illegal interception of voice-mail messages.

That first police inquiry only resulted in two convictions in 2007 linked to Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid. The scandal re-erupted last year as new evidence emerged of systematic wrongdoing across several newspapers.



Red Cross to enter Homs district

BBC Online

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Red Cross is due to enter the Baba Amr district of the Syrian city of Homs on Friday to deliver food and medical supplies after a month-long siege.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is to enter the area with the Syrian Red Crescent, and is also planning to evacuate the wounded.

The area has suffered heavy bombardment by government forces in recent weeks.

The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) said on Thursday it was leaving the district in a "tactical withdrawal".

The FSA said 4,000 civilians had refused to leave their homes and it was withdrawing to save them from an all-out assault.

Of the 1,00,000 people who normally live in Baba Amr, only a few thousand remain.

'Extremely worrying'

It has been snowing heavily in Homs, slowing the advance of government troops who began an offensive on Tuesday, but also worsening conditions for civilians.

Many of those still in Baba Amr are without power and running low on basic supplies.

"We fear there are many people who are seriously wounded [in Baba Amr]," ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad Mardini told the BBC on Thursday.

"We know the humanitarian situation on the ground is extremely worrying," she added.

Meanwhile, France says two French journalists who had been trapped in Homs are now safely out of the country.

Reporter Edith Bouvier, 31, and photojournalist William Daniels, 34, are now in Lebanon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a news conference on Thursday.

Bouvier was badly injured in the bombardment of a makeshift media centre last week, in which two journalists were killed and another one wounded.

"I have just spoken to Edith Bouvier, who is naturally very tired, who has suffered a great deal, but who is happy to be free and will be treated soon," he said. "I want to thank all those who contributed to this happy outcome."

Unconfirmed reports say the bodies of two Western journalists killed in the same attack, Marie Colvin of Britain's Sunday Times and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, have been found.

Video footage posted on the internet purported to show both bodies being buried by activists in Homs.

Split opposition?

In a unanimous statement on Thursday, the UN Security Council expressed its "disappointment" that UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos had not been granted authorisation to visit Syria, and demanded immediate access for her.

Russia and China, who vetoed two previous Security Council resolutions on Syria, also backed the call.

The council's 15 member countries also said that they "deplore" the deteriorating situation, "in particular the growing number of affected civilians, the lack of safe access to adequate medical services, and food shortages, particularly in areas affected by fighting and violence such as Homs, Hama, Deraa, Idlib".

The members urged Syrian authorities to grant "immediate, full and unimpeded access" to aid agencies.

The UN estimates more than 7,500 people have died in an 11-month anti-government uprising in Syria.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of activists, says 33 people died on Thursday, including 21 in Homs. Their figures cannot be verified independently.

The exile political opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) says it has formed a military bureau to co-ordinate the various armed anti-government groups.

Announcing the creation of the new bureau, SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun said the uprising had begun as a non-violent movement, but the council had to "shoulder its responsibilities in light of this new reality".

Ghalioun said the bureau would function like a defence ministry and would be staffed by soldiers from the FSA as well as civilians.

However, the head of the FSA, Col Riyad al-Asaad, has said his organisation will not co-operate with the new bureau, our correspondent says.\



Dhaka, Tokyo to celebrate diplomatic ties tomorrow

Diplomatic Correspondent

Friday, March 2, 2012

Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh will organise a reception in commemoration of the Great East Japan Earthquake towards “Open Reconstruction” and the celebration of the 40th anniversary of establishment of Japan-Bangladesh Diplomatic Relations tomorrow.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will attend the function, to be held at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, as chief guest.

Takashi Nagayasu, member of the house of representatives of Japan and Ichiro Tsukada, member of the House of Councillors of Japan will attend the reception as representatives from Japan-Bangladesh Parliamentarians League.

Japan Ambassador to Bangladesh Shiro Sadoshima will make an opening remark.



NDLEA nabs Pakistani with N120m heroin at Lagos airport

Written by Shola Adekola, Lagos

Friday, 02 March 2012

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), on Thursday, prevented the incursion of a Pakistani drug cartel into Nigeria, while also seizing his 13 kilogrammes of high grade heroin worth N120 million.

Operatives of the anti-drug agency, at the Mur-tala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Ikeja, Lagos, arrested a 35-year-old Pakistani with the parcels of brownish powdery substances tested positive for heroin hidden inside his hand luggage.

According to the NDLEA airport commander, Mr Hamza Umar, the suspect, Syed Waseem Ahmed Buhari, with Pakistani international passport number BT3347071, arrived aboard a Qatar Airways flight.

“A 35-year-old Pakistani was apprehended following the discovery of 13 kilogrammes of high grade heroin in his hand luggage.

“A Nigerian clearing and forwarding agent, Okereke Benjamin Chukwudi, 42, who is suspected to be an accomplice, has also been arrested and investigation had commenced,” Hamza said.

Syed, an electrical engineer, who hails from Karachi and believed to be working for a Pakistani-based drug cartel, was found to have travelled from Karachi to Abu Dhabi aboard Pakistan Airline flight, before taking Qatar airways flight through Doha to Lagos.

The suspected Nigerian accomplice, Chukwudi, who hails from Ekulobia, Anambra State, was cooperating with narcotic investigators.

NDLEA boss added that the arrest of the Pakistani, few days after three Bolivians were caught in a suspected case of

methamphetamine production, was a demonstration of the agency’s resolve to bring drug traffickers to justice.

The NDLEA boss commended the officers for the arrest and urged them to remain dedicated to duty at all times.

Both suspects, according to Hamza, would be charged to court soon.



Jakarta: Mail bombing accomplice gets 3.5 years

The Jakarta Post

Fri, 03/02/2012

JAKARTA: The West Jakarta District Court handed down a three-and-a-half year jail sentence for terrorism accomplice Juhanda on Thursday for his role in a series of mail bomb attacks and the planned bombing of a church in Tangerang last year.

But the judges adjourned the verdict of Pepi Fernando, the alleged bomb-maker and mastermind of the attacks that targeted public figures by sending explosives hidden in books, saying that their arguments were not yet finalized.

Juhanda received a lighter sentence than the prosecutor’s demand of five years in prison. He said that he would not file an appeal.

The judges have not finalized the verdicts for two other defendants, Imam Firdaus and Hedi Suhartono, and adjourned the trial until Monday.

Prosecutors have sought a life sentence for Pepi and a five-year prison term for Imam and Hedi. They demanded seven-year prison terms for two other defendants in the case: Muhammad Maulana and Darto.



Osama film crew shot scenes in Patiala also

Parvesh Kumar Sharma, TNN | Mar 2, 2012

PATIALA: Kathryn Bigelow, the Hollywood director of Oscar winner " The Hurt Locker," who has been shooting in Chandigarh, also shot some scenes of her upcoming movie on Osama Bin Laden in Patiala some days back.

Sources said Kathryn was in Patiala on February 25 and shot in and around Sherawala gate area. The movie will depict the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, where Al Qaeda mentor Osama bin Laden was shot dead by US special forces.

But no one from city, except a few shopkeepers, got wind of the film shooting as mainly it was done in two roaming vehicles, one SUV and a car.

The film crew reached Patiala around 2 pm and started shooting from Sherawala gate area of Patiala by sitting in their SUV vehicle, while some other crew members followed the SUV in an ordinary car, sources said.

"We were not aware that they were conducting Osama movie shooting. They came in two vehicles and just drove from here after halting here for some minutes," said Jaspreet, who runs a shop near Sherawala gate.

The crew members did not conduct any shooting outside their vehicles, but roamed around in Sherawala gate, Chandni Chowk and tyre markets of city and conducted all the shooting from inside their vehicle.

"Basically it was a scene of running vehicles and we conducted shooting of running vehicles in various parts of the city for about four hours," said Darshan Aulakh from Aulakh Productions, who has been assisting Hollywood crew members in shooting.

Some Chandni Chowk shopkeepers also confirmed that they saw some foreigners, but said they could not talk to them as they stopped in the chowk only for a few minutes.

"It's really great that our city will also be a part of the Hollywood movie. Had the Hollywood directors stayed here for some more minutes, we would have helped them conduct the shooting in a better way," said Dayal Chand, a shopkeeper from Chandni Chowk area.



Osama film turns Chandigarh into 'Abbottabad', locals irked

Rohan Dua & Hina Rohtaki, TNN | Mar 2, 2012

CHANDIGARH: When Ramesh Kumar reached his shop on Thursday morning in the city's Manimajra area, he was left dumbstruck. Overnight, his Shriram Kiryana Store had changed into Lahori Pehelwan ki Lassi, written in Urdu. And, Apsara Silk Store owner Parmanand Sariya kept rubbing his eyes in disbelief, watching his store transformed into Farhan Meat and Chicken Shop.

But puzzled shop-owners of Manimajra, who found themselves virtually "transported" to Pakistan, were in no mood to be a part of the shooting of Kathryn Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty' or ZD 30, a film on the hunting down of Osama bin Laden by US marines in Abbottabad. The Academy award winner for best director for the film 'The Hurt Locker' had chosen Chandigarh for the shoot. The team shot in the city's Sector-15 on Wednesday and in Patiala a week ago. The shop-owners in the area, about 35 of them, are members of the Manimajra Beopar Mandal, and are planning to meet Chandigarh SSP Naunihal Singh on Friday to sort out the issue.

"I was surprised to find the board of my shop changed. The whole area remained out of bounds for people and we had no buyers coming in," said Sariya.

"We have a number of problems: First, no buyers are allowed between 7am and 6.30pm when the shooting is on. Second, we can't load or unload goods, and all our signboards have been changed. We have also not been assured payment for using our premises," said president of Manimajra Beopar Mandal Malkit Singh. The 530-member unit refused to speak to TOI.



Professor claims joke on Narendra Modi cost him 2 years' pay hike

TNN | Mar 2, 2012

AHMEDABAD: An associate professor of Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU) has moved the Gujarat high court, claiming the university stopped his pay hikes for two years, because of a joke.

Ashish Sarkar has told the court that he was served a charge sheet, apparently for taking and circulating a photograph of a dog sitting on a red carpet, spread out for chief minister Narendra Modi on the campus.

His counsel Utpala Bora told the court that on March 23 last year, Sarkar saw a dog sitting on the red carpet. He snapped a photograph and circulated it among some of his colleagues and students. He did not know it was a high-security area as chief minister was to visit the spot the next day. On June 2, the university issued him a charge sheet for indiscipline and misconduct for photographing a sensitive zone.

Advocate Bora said that Sarkar sought time from the university to explain his stand, but the management decided to withhold his increments for two years on July 7. Sarkar moved the high court in August last year claiming he was being victimized for raising issues that could benefit students. He also contended that he was not given enough time to explain himself.

Sarkar also said in his petition that he was not in the good books of the management for taking on seniors, who organized activities on campus that had nothing to do with education. He had even objected to shifting students out of the auditorium on various occasions to make room for political events. He wanted non-academic functions to be held on holidays.

Justice R M Chhaya admitted his petition on Thursday and kept it for final hearing.



Saudi Crown Prince leaves on private visit

Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, leaves the Kingdom on Thursday on a private vacation. (SPA)

Published: Mar 2, 2012

RIYADH: Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, left the Kingdom on a private vacation from the Riyadh Airbase yesterday. A Royal Court statement wished crown prince a safe journey and vacation in a statement carried by the SPA.

Those who saw off the crown prince at the airbase included Riyadh Gov. Prince Sattam, Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmad, Riyadh Deputy Gov. Prince Muhammad bin Saad, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities Prince Sultan bin Salman, Assistant Interior Minister for Security Affairs Prince Muhammad bin Naif and several other ministers. The crown prince is accompanied by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif and Prince Fahd bin Naif.