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Islamic World News ( 16 Jan 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistani clerics to probe abuse of blasphemy laws

A Hindu is building a mosque in Kerala

Gunmen shot dead 17 in Karachi

2 women beaten in Pak for ‘blasphemy’

20 NATO tankers torched in Pak’s Balochistan

Tunisia PM pledges calm, as president flees

With an MBA cleric as its new head, Deoband marks a generational shift

A.R. Rahman Wins Critics’ Choice Award

Aseemanand sticks to Hindutva plotters' hand in Samjhauta blast

Six HUJI terrorists get life term in Sachin-Saurav kidnap plot

'Zardari took huge bribe for French submarine deal'

Overthrow makes Arab rulers jittery

Indian Vice-President issues report on education

Obama takes up terror issue with Zardari

Army, home ministry differ on Kashmir troop cut

Situation in J&K does not allow cut down of troops: Army

Kashmir government to deal with BJP's flag hoisting plans

Canada probes claims of locals training with Al-Qaeda

Pakistani charged with stalking JFK's granddaughter

PPP, MQM talk as Karachi cries out for sanity

Rehman Malik says “third” power behind Karachi unrest

Three killed in Quetta violence

Ten terrorists killed in Orakzai

His own men killed Joshi, Muslim family paid with lives

Ben Ali arrives in Saudi Arabia

Pak Foreign Secy To Be Delhi Envoy Before Talks

Man Falls From Plane In Lahore, Dies

Gunfire In Tunisian Capital After Interim President Swears In

Pope John Paul II to Be Beatified May 1

IAEA envoys tour Iran nuclear site: Iranian TV

Iran to display US drones it shot down: commander

Three killed on deadly day for US troops in Iraq

KARACHI: Target killing claims 5 lives

Karachi unrest leaves another eight killed

Fraudsters profit from scramble for land in Makkah

Expats in Belgium celebrate Ben Ali’s ouster

Israel punishes top Palestinian prisoners over hunger strike

Iraqi soldiers kill two US soldiers in Mosul

Israel to demolish 7 homes near Tulkarm

Nawaf is new head of Youth Welfare

Over 1 million livestock registered in Abu Dhabi

Lebanon in crisis as Hariri murder charges due

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Muslim clerics to probe abuse of blasphemy laws

January 16, 2011

KARACHI: A group of senior Pakistani Muslim leaders from various sects says it will look into the misuse of laws that impose the death penalty on people convicted of insulting Islam.

The group says it agreed to form a committee to probe the issue after meeting Saturday with Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Activists say the blasphemy laws are often used to settle rivalries or persecute religious minorities. Earlier this month, a bodyguard killed the Punjab province governor because he opposed the laws.

Due to domestic pressure, the government says it won’t change the laws. But Saturday’s announcement was a sign it wants to soften international criticism of the laws.

Haji Hanif Tayyab, a Barelvi Sunni leader, says the committee will have 10 members representing multiple sects. – AP


Gunmen shot dead 17 in Karachi

Jan 15, 2011

Hundreds of targeted killings last year have raised concerns that violence could escalate and create a new crisis for the U.S.-backed government in Islamabad.

KARACHI: Unidentified gunmen have shot dead at least 17 people in a new wave of violence in Pakistan's commercial hub Karachi, police said on Saturday.

"At least 17 people have died in the past three days by firing by unknown gunmen in several parts of Karachi," city police chief Fayyaz Leghari told Reuters.

A local television journalist was among the dead. Karachi has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence. But hundreds of targeted killings last year have raised concerns that violence could escalate and create a new crisis for the U.S.-backed government in Islamabad.

Analysts and security officials blame much of the violence on the rivalry between the two main parties, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and the Awami National Party, both part of the ruling coalition in Islamabad.

Bad blood between the MQM, which represnts the interests of majority Urdu-speaking mohajirs, and the ANP, linked to the growing Pashtun minority, goes back years. Retaliatory killings of party members is partly fueled by ethnic tension.

Besides trying to contain violence in Karachi, the government faces a Taliban insurgency and the task of rebuilding areas devastated by August floods which inflicted $9.7 billion in damage and will strain the weak economy for years to come.

Stock market investors keep a wary eye on tensions in Karachi, home to Pakistan's main port, stock exchange and central bank and the main gateway for Western military supplies bound for neighbouring landlocked Afghanistan.


2 women beaten in Pak for ‘blasphemy’

Jan 16 2011

Lahore : Two Christian women were beaten and publicly humiliated by an angry mob in this city apparently over allegations of frivolous religious sacrilege.

The roughing up of the family forced them to go into hiding for fear of being killed, as the country is yet to recover from the assassination of outspoken governor Salmaan Taseer for his support to Aasia Bibi.

According to media reports, the incident was triggered over a dispute between a Muslim woman and her Christian sister-in-law, over the religion of the Muslim woman’s daughter.

The two got into an argument on Tuesday night. Though the matter was apparently settled, the Muslim woman walked onto the street on Wednesday, shouting that her sister-in-law had abused the Prophet, The Express Tribune reported.

A while later, a group of men led by Muhammad Sameer, member of the same religious organisation as Mumtaz Qadri, forced their way into the Christian woman’s house and started slapping her, her brother said. “Neighbours came to the house and beat up my sister and mother,” he said.

“We tried our best to get her to confess,” Sameer said.

Sameer’s son-in-law, Khadim Hazoor, said the women’s faces were blackened and they were made to wear shoe necklaces and paraded around on donkeys. They repeatedly touched the feet of the men, denying committing blasphemy.


A Hindu is building a mosque in Kerala

New Age Islam News Bureau

A Qatar-based businessman is constructing a mosque in India’s Kerala state with the aim of promoting communal harmony. He claims it will be the first mosque to be built in the state by a Hindu in over 1,200 years.

“Construction is going on. The mosque will be ready in two-three months. Over 400 people can offer prayers in that mosque at a time,” C K Menon told IANS in an interview in New Delhi.

The mosque is coming up in Kozhikode.

Menon said so far the Cheraman Mosque, constructed in the late eighth century by Chera ruler Rama Varma Kulashekhara, is the first and only mosque built by any Hindu in Kerala so far.

Menon, who is chairman and managing director of the Doha-headquartered Behzad Group of Companies, said he had taken approval from Muslim scholars and religious leaders for building the mosque.

“I have already taken letters from Muslim religious leaders and scholars. They are okay with it. God is one and people should respect and work for the promotion of other religions also,” said Menon, who was awarded Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2006 and Padma Shri in 2009 for social service. He was in India to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas last weekend.

Menon said he would continue to work for the promotion of all major religions.

Besides building the mosque, he is involved in the establishment of a study centre in Thiruvananthapuram to spread awareness of the

Bhagavad Gita.

He also plans to build a church in Kerala. “Once the mosque is ready, I will start work on the church. We have already identified the land but final decision is not taken yet,” he added.

Menon, whose company operates in 13 countries, mainly in the Middle East, emphasised the need to promote the culture of philanthropy in India.

“Some people are already doing that, but a lot more needs to be done. Businesses are making money because of the common people. Every businessperson must give back to society a certain proportion of their earnings,” Menon said, adding he spends nearly 3% of his earnings on philanthropic activities.

On his business expansion plans, Menon said his company will invest Rs100bn on aluminium and steel fabrication plants in Tamil Nadu.

“In the first phase, we are investing Rs25bn. Over the next four years, our plan is to invest Rs100bn in India,” he said.

The Behzad Group is mainly focused on fuel transportation by land and sea. The company recently ventured into steel manufacturing business.


20 NATO tankers torched in Pak’s Balochistan

Jan 15 2011

Dera Murad Jamali : At least 20 fuel supply tankers for NATO forces in Afghanistan were torched by unidentified miscreants, who opened fire on them near Dear Murad Jamali in Balochistan.

According to police sources, the ambush took place as the tanker drivers took a break to have their dinner at roadside motels located near Dear Murad Jamali in Naseerabad area, Geo TV reported.

Unknown armed militants came driving a car and opened indiscriminate fire on tankers, reportedly injuring a driver in the attack.

At least 20 fuel containers caught fire due to gunshots, while the fierce blaze also gutted nearby shops and hotels, witnesses said.

No law enforcement agency official could manage to arrive at the crime scene. Meanwhile, miscreants continued firing on fuel tankers with little pauses in order to create trouble for fire brigade rescuers.

Also, panic and fear have gripped nearby localities due to the continuous firing in the area.


Tunisia PM pledges calm, as president flees

Jan 15 2011

Tunis : Tunisia's new leader promised order would be restored while he attempts to form a coalition to take the country to elections after a wave of popular protests swept the president from power.

The Tunisian army was called onto the streets on Friday, witnesses said, as residents in several parts of the Tunisian capital said groups were marauding through the town setting fire to buildings and attacking people and property.

In a dramatic climax to weeks of violent protests against his rule, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's president for more than 23 years, fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi took over as caretaker president.

But it remains to be seen whether the protesters will accept Ghannouchi's interim leadership, or take to the streets again.

Tomorrow we will be back on the streets, in Martyrs Square, to continue this civil disobedience until... the regime is gone. The street has spoken, said Fadhel Bel Taher, whose brother was one of dozens of people killed in protests.

Occasional gunshots could be heard in the centre of Tunis as well as the sound of tear gas grenades being fired, while helicopters patrolled overhead and acrid smoke hung in the air. In working class suburbs, residents lined the streets, holding metal bars and knives to ward off looters.

Ghannouchi went on live television, via telephone, to promise everything was being done to restore order.

I salute the fact that groups of young people have got together to defend their neighbourhoods but we can assure them we will reinforce their security, Ghannouchi said.

We are at the service of the Tunisian people. Our country does not deserve everything that is happening. We must regain the trust of citizens in the government.

The prime minister told Tunisians he would steer the state until early elections. But it was not clear whether protesters would accept the technocrat Ghannouchi, prime minister since 1999, due to his close association with Ben Ali's rule.

All I fear is that the Tunisian street, as long as it sees one person from this regime remain, will continue to complain. We need to create a government in which all parties are represented, to salvage the situation, said Paris-based analyst Ahmed al-Bawlaqi.


Ghannouchi said he would meet representatives of political parties on Saturday to attempt to form a coalition government.

Tomorrow will be a decisive day, Ghannouchi told a private Tunisian television station in a telephone interview. I will meet representatives of political parties to form a government which I hope will meet expectations.

One of those invited to meet Ghannouchi for coalition talks was Najib Chebbi, an eloquent lawyer who has long been seen by Western diplomats as the most credible figure in the opposition.

This is a crucial moment. There is a change of regime under way. Now it's the succession, Chebbi told France's I-Tele TV. It must lead to profound reforms, to reform the law and let the people choose.

The violence and rapid turn of events sent shockwaves across the Arab world, where similar authoritarian rulers are deeply entrenched, but face mounting pressures from growing young populations, economic hardship and the appeal of militant Islam.

Western powers have long turned a blind eye to rulers in the region who provide a bulwark against Islamist radicals. The United States led international calls for calm and for the people of Tunisia to be given a free choice of leaders.

I condemn and deplore the use of violence against citizens peacefully voicing their opinion in Tunisia, and I applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people, said US President Barack Obama.


With an MBA cleric as its new head, Deoband marks a generational shift

Seema Chishti

Jan 16 2011

New Delhi : The new Mohtamim or head of the Dar-ul-Uloom, who took over on January 10, has a Facebook page devoted to him by his fans.

That, among other things, is what Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Wastanavi brings to one of the Islamic world’s most well-respected seminaries. A lesser-known scholar outside the Muslim world, Wastanavi is a well-networked Maulana who holds an MBA degree along with degrees in Islamic law.

In his early 60s, the Mohtamim from Gujarat, younger by more than 20 years to his predecessor, has constantly striven to provide technical education and to weave professional courses and degrees related to pharmaceutical, engineering and management with theology.

Wastanavi won the election to the post — occupied by the previous Maulana, Marghoob ur Rehman, for 30 years till his recent death — taking eight votes. The top body of rectors and scholars that picks the Mohtamim (called the shoora) gave Maulana Arshad Madani (a senior cleric currently involved in a battle for control for the Jamiat Ulema e Hind with his nephew, Maulana Mahmuid Madani, MP) four votes while the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Deoband,

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, got two.

Wastanavi’s election represents a generational shift in many ways at the seminary based in Deoband, in UP.

Having obtained his Aalim and Faazil degrees (in Islamic law) from Surat, and MBA from Maharashtra, Wastanavi has been an enthusiastic campaigner of progressive and professional careers for young Muslims coming to madrasas. His admirers, ‘The fans of Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Wastanavi’, have a page on Facebook.

Best known for his extensive network of madrasas in western India, and a member of the Maharashtra Waqf Board and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Maulana has received at least two awards (including the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Award) from the Maharashtra government for his work.

He edits several periodicals (in Urdu, Arabic and Gujarati) and heads educational institutions and runs hospitals in Akkalkua, Aurangabad, Nanded and Bhavnagar.

There is of course a view that the post of Mohtamim — involving management of sentiments and factions within the Muslim Indian fold, as well as balancing political faultlines — has suffered because of the election of someone “not from the Deobandi tradition and not having studied there”.

An Islamic scholar, who did not want to be identified, said: “Wastanavi symbolises the Gujarat factor that is emerging as significant in the Muslim world, as scholars from there are prosperous and generous, having helped several Muslim institutions in times of need. Having built an extensive network of support and contacts, they find it easy to win support in the community.”

But other scholars like Dr Akhtar ul Wasey, the Director of Islamic Studies in Jamia Millia, New Delhi, welcomes the appointment of “a progressive and enlightened man, so concerned with professional empowerment”.

With the interest in Islam in the West since the 9/11 attacks, Deoband has emerged as a major world centre for Islamic learning, along with Al Azhar, Cairo. Its anti-terror fatwa in February 2008 was the first in the Islamic world.


A.R. Rahman Wins Critics’ Choice Award

Jan 16, 2011

Music maestro A.R. Rahman bagged the best original song trophy at the 16th Critics’ Choice Awards for his number If I Rise in Danny Boyle’s film 127 Hours.

Written by Rollo Armstrong and American artiste Dido, the song was performed by Rahman and Dido, which is also expected to get Rahman his second Golden Globe this year.

Boyle, who went on to score eight Oscars with his last film Slumdog Millionaire, collaborated with Rahman again for 127 Hours, a biopic on the life of mountain climber Aron Ralston.

Rahman, however, lost the best score trophy to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for their film ‘The Social Network’. The movie on the life of Facebook founder also bagged top honours including best film, best director and best adapted screenplay.

The awards, presented by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, are considered a strong indicator for the Oscar awards. Most of the Critics’ Choice Awards winners do well at the Oscars.

British actor Colin Firth was named the best actor for his role as a stuttering king in The King’s Speech while Natalie Portman’s turn as a disturbed ballerina in ‘Black Swan’ won her the best actress trophy.

Christian Bale was named the best supporting actor for his role in real-life drama ‘The Fighter’, which also saw Melissa Leo winning the best supporting actress nod.

Leonardo DiCaprio starrer ‘Inception’ led all films with six awards total but most of them were for technical achievement.


Aseemanand sticks to Hindutva plotters' hand in Samjhauta blast

Jan 16, 2011

PANCHKULA/NEW DELHI: Radical Hindu sadhu Aseemanand on Saturday stuck to his confession that Hindutva radicals were behind the bomb attack on the SamjhautaExpress in 2007.

In a statement before a Panchkula magistrate, Aseemanand, aka Naba Kumar Sarkar, named absconding Hindutva militants Ramji Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange as the key plotters in the terror attack.

The statement recorded under 164 Cr PC by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Samjhauta blast has evidentiary value. It disproves the allegation levelled by Aseemanand's lawyer Manvir Rathee that his first "confession" had actually been extracted from him under duress.

Sources in the NIA said the confession on Saturday practically rules out the involvement of other groups.

Initial investigation into the attack had also looked into the possibility of involvement of jehadi groups, with the US even naming Arif Qasmani -- a rich Pakistani citizen linked with terror groups -- as one of the plotters.

Aseemanand has been arrested for bomb attacks that Hindutva radicals carried out on mosques to retaliate against the spate of jehadi terror strikes by Indian Mujahideen and other Islamic groups as part of what he calls "Bomb-for Bomb" plan.

Aseemanand first spoke of the involvement of Hindutva hardliners in the Samjhauta attack in the confession he made before a Delhi magistrate in December. The confession on December 18 was recorded by the CBI in connection with its probe into the Malegaon blast in 2008.

The attack on the Samjhauta Express killed 68 persons, mostly Pakistani citizens returning home after visiting their Indian relatives.


Six HUJI terrorists get life term in Sachin-Saurav kidnap plot

Jan 16, 2011

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court on Saturday awarded rigorous life imprisonment to six HuJI terrorists, including three Pakistanis, for plotting to kidnap cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly in 2002.

Additional Sessions Judge Pinki sentenced all the six convicts to maximum life term under stringent Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) saying the punishment "must send a clear message that India is not nor will it become a safe haven for terrorists".

The court accepted the Delhi police's plea to award the maximum sentence to them under the POTA for plotting to kidnap the cricketers.

The terrorists had also planned to attack Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai and assassinate former President A P J Abdul Kalam.


'Zardari took huge bribe for French submarine deal'

Jan 16, 2011

PARIS: Official Pakistani documents, detailing how President Asif Ali Zardari benefited from massive, secret payments connected to the sale of French submarines to Pakistan, have been seized as evidence by a Paris magistrate investigating a suspected widespread scam surrounding the deal.

The documents, published by Mediapart, show that the payments to Zardari and others took place on the fringes of the sale of three Agosta-class submarines by the French defence contractor, the DCN, to Pakistan in the 1990s. The French sale, which succeeded against rival offers by Swedish and German contractors, and the payment of bribes associated with it are at the core of what has become known as the 'Karachi affair' currently the subject of two French judicial investigations' The Nation reports.

A key allegation in the developing affair is that the cancellation of commissions paid out in the submarine deal triggered a suicide bomb attack in Karachi on May 8, 2002, killing eleven French engineers, who were in Pakistan to help build one of the submarines. Increasing evidence suggests that the cancellation of the commissions, ordered by former French president Jacques Chirac, was decided after it was discovered they were in part re-routed back to France to fund political activities of Chirac''s principal political rival, Edouard Balladur.

The documents, which were found during a French police search in June 2010 of the home of Amir Lodhi — one of the intermediaries involved in securing the Agosta contract and a friend of Zardari — provide the first clear details about the scale of the payments made to Zardari, amounting to several million euros, as well as the channels used, including offshore companies, bank accounts and the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.

Zardari was one of the main benefactors of the paid bribes, according to a former SOFMA managing director, Henri Guittet, who evaluated the sum paid to Zardari as being 4% of the total value of the sales contract, which amounts to a value of 33 million euros.

The main document seized by French investigators is a photocopy of an original dated November 9, 1997, concerning a request by Pakistan to Switzerland for cooperation in a judicial investigation.

Read more: 'Zardari took huge bribe for French submarine deal' - The Times of India


Overthrow makes Arab rulers jittery

Jan 16, 2011

BEIRUT: The near-silence of Arab leaders about the popular protests that chased Tunisia's ex-president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power speaks volumes.

People across the region have watched enthralled as street unrest forced Ben Ali to flee the North African country he has ruled for 23 years — an unprecedented spectacle in the Arab world, where authoritarian leaders can usually only be dislodged by army coup, assassination or their own mortality.

US president Barack Obama urged free and fair elections in Tunisia, a call echoed by other Western leaders . But Arab capitals have largely kept quiet, apparently stunned by the seismic explosion of protest in Tunisia.

The reticence of Arab leaders over Tunisia may reflect their fears that, as North Africa analyst Camille Tawil argues, "what happened in Tunis proved the people can topple a government in the Arab world by taking to the streets and demonstrating" .


Vice-President issues report on education

New Age Islam News Bureau

New Delhi: The Vice-President Mr Hamid Ansari  issued a report on the current situation of education. Speaking on the occasion he said that the scientific and reliable methods formed by ASER for the inquiry of the educational standards are very significant. He further said that this effort is also important in the sense that we do not have any traditional principles for the inquiry and supervision of results nor do we have sufficient human resources. Mr Ansari said that the objectives set under ‘education for all’ has standard give priority to standards. The Vice-President further said that keeping the current global scenario in mind, we should pay attention to impove the educational standards alon with the efforts to bring more students to schools.


Obama takes up terror issue with Zardari

January 16, 2011

S Rajagopalan

Against the backdrop of US assessments that its Afghanistan operations could be seriously undermined without a matching Pakistani effort to shut down terror safe havens, President Barack Obama took up the issue with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari here on Friday.

“The discussion focused on our shared efforts to fight terrorism and promote regional stability, specifically on the importance of cooperating toward a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan,” the White House said after the 30-minute meeting.

The meeting that was an extension of the talks that Obama’s deputy, Vice-President Joe Biden, held in Islamabad earlier this week, was also attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and the President’s advisers on counter-terrorism.

No details were provided in a brief readout of the meeting which spoke of Obama underscoring the importance of US-Pakistan relationship and continued American support for Pakistan. It briefly touched on Obama’s planned visit to Pakistan later this year, saying he was “looking forward” to it. Zardari is also slated to make an official visit to Washington later this year, as distinct from his current, private visit to participate in a memorial service for the late US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Donilon, when asked if Zardari was pressed on Pakistani forces going into North Waziristan, declined to go beyond the readout taking the stand that it was not a “full bilateral meeting” between the US and Pakistan.

“We asked President Zardari to come over because he’s here on a private visit to attend the memorial service at the Kennedy Centre this afternoon for Ambassador Holbrooke. So it was not a long meeting. They didn’t get into the details of those kinds of military or counter-terrorism operations,” he said.

“They talked about the overall relationship, right, and the United States support for Pakistan. They talked about the economic situation in Pakistan, and the joint work that we can do to advance economic stability in Pakistan, and which we are doing. And they talked about the blasphemy law, actually, towards the end of that discussion,” Donilon said adding: “But the President obviously said to him that we’ll be planning a more formal visit for President Zardari and the Pakistanis here.”

“We also have the Pakistan-Afghan trilateral meeting here in February. And we are planning for the next strategic dialogue with the Pakistanis,” Donilon added.

At a separate briefing, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani maintained that nothing was said against Pakistan at the meeting. “Nobody said Pakistan was not doing enough. Nothing negative was said about either country. Both agreed to further strengthen bilateral relations,” Haqqani, who was present at the meeting, was quoted as saying in the Pakistani media.


Army, home ministry differ on Kashmir troop cut

January 16, 2011

Disputing Home Secretary G.K. Pillai's announcement of 25 percent cut in the number of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army Saturday said the time wasn't ripe for troop reduction in the terror-riven state and any such decision was a prerogative of the defence ministry.

"No person from the home ministry will say about the army as it is under the purview of the defence ministry. I am quite sure that the home secretary knows about it and was talking only about the paramilitary forces," Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh told reporters here, on the sidelines of the army day parade.

"I think there was some confusion. What Mr. Pillai said was concerning the paramilitary forces. What I was talking of was the army," Singh said.

The army chief's statement comes a day after he, in reaction to Pillai's announcement Friday, had said he didn't feel the move was needed.

The home secretary Friday said the government will reduce by 25 percent the number of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir as part of confidence building measures planned for the state.

The army chief hours had later told reporters that the force didn't feel that "we have to cut down our forces. If they want to cut down paramilitary and police forces, I won't say anything."

Interacting with the media after the military parade here Saturday, Singh said that any decision regarding reduction of the army personnel's strength in the Kashmir Valley would be taken by the Unified Command, a security grid of the army, paramilitary and police forces that is headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

"Where they (home ministry) want to take out people, it is up to them. Whatever input is required, it will be provided by the Unified Command. I have got no conflict or argument with anybody on this issue," Singh said.

"So far as the army is concerned, I am quite convinced as what the army is supposed to do," he said.

Echoing his chief's views, the army commander in Kashmir said it was not the "right time" to reduce army troops.

"This is not the right time to reduce troops," Northern Command chief Lt. General K.T. Parnaik told media persons on the sidelines of an investiture ceremony in the Akhnoor border town, 30 km north-west of Jammu.

The troops of the Northern Command, headquartered at Udhampur, 66 km north of Jammu, guard the Line of Control (LoC) and international border with Pakistani Kashmir and Pakistan, and Line of Actual Control with China. The troops also are engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the state.

Gen. Parnaik also defended the retention of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that grants legal immunity to troops engaged in anti-terrorism operations. "The army is doing a job and AFSPA is needed. It should not be withdrawn at the moment."

The AFSPA remark also contradicts the home secretary's remarks on the act as Pillai had said that the state police was in consultation with army officers on removing the controversial legislation in parts of the state where militant violence had reduced remarkably.



Situation in J&K does not allow cut down of troops: Army

Jan 15, 2011

JAMMU: A day after the Union government announced it is considering reducing the strength of security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, the Army on Saturday said that the present situation in the state does not allow cut down of troops and the decision should be reconsidered.

"Present situation in Kashmir does not allow cut down of troops and it should be reconsidered," general officer commanding in chief Northern Command (GOC-in-C), Lt Gen K T Parnaik told reporters at Akhnoor, 35 kms from here.

"The situation at present is not conducive for withdrawal of troops... It's a very dynamic process you have peace somewhere, you have instability somewhere else and this situation keeps on changing. I don't think it is right time for us to think of troop reduction as of now," he said after attending an official function at Akhnoor.

On Friday in Delhi, home secretary Gopal K Pillai had said that the central government is considering reducing the strength of security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir by 25 per cent as a confidence building measure.

In reply to the question of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Gen Parnaik said, "I think Armed Forces Special Powers Act is important for us. Army is here (J&K) and doing a very tough task. And it is important that they (Army) must have some protection when working in hostile conditions."

Keeping in view the present situation in Kashmir, AFSPA must stay as it is must for the Army, he said, adding that the Army is firm on its stand over AFSPA.

Gen Parnaik said revocation of AFSPA must be done following situation on the ground as it keeps changing.

"AFSPA gives protection to the forces. Already a committee was framed to discuss AFSPA but in my opinion it is necessary," he said.


Kashmir government to deal with BJP's flag hoisting plans

January 16, 2011

The Jammu and Kashmir government will have to deal with Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) plans to hoist the tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk Jan 26 and its consequences on its own though the central government has promised to help in whatever way possible.

The central government, according to official sources, has told the Omar Abdullah government to devise its own strategy to deal with the situation arising out of BJP's Rashtriya Ekta Yatra or national unity march that is expected to reach Srinagar on Republic Day.

"The centre will help the state in whatever it may want to, but the overall situation would have to be dealt with by the state government only," a top official told IANS.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is trying to consolidate the situation in Kashmir that is returning to normalcy after the summer unrest claimed 112 lives, is against BJP's march to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk.

Abdullah has voiced serious reservations over the issue and fears that BJP's move would cause "serious trouble" in the Kashmir Valley.

He had earlier warned that the "BJP alone would be responsible for the consequences".

Separatists in the valley have expressed strong opposition to the plan. The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat Conference have also called for a "march to Lal Chowk" on the same day.

JKLF chairman Yasin Malik has threatened to stall BJP activists from hoisting the national flag, but the BJP has declared that it would go ahead with its plans.

The government, according to official sources, is mulling "very tough action" against the BJP activists as it does not want anything to disrupt peace in the valley.

BJP's Rashtriya Ekta Yatra started from Kolkata Wednesday and its activists led by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha president Anurag Thakur want to hoist the national flag in Lal Chowk Jan 26.


Canada probes claims of locals training with Al-Qaeda

Jan 16 2011

Montreal : National police are investigating claims that a dozen Canadians have received Al-Qaeda training aimed at carrying out attacks in Canadian cities, a police official said.

The Hong Kong-based Asia Times reported that the Canadians arrived in Afghanistan last February and moved to Pakistan after nine months. They received explosives training, the Times reported, but there was no indication of when they would return to Canada.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said an investigation was underway "Any information that we receive, we look at assessing its credibility and then taking proper actions to ensure that Canadians and our allies are kept safe," said assistant commissioner Gilles Michaud, head of the national security program.

"If the conclusion is that the threat is credible, appropriate measures are taken."

The report, citing "well-placed Taliban sources," said British, Americans and Germans are also receiving militant training.


Pakistani charged with stalking JFK's granddaughter

Jan 15 2011

Washington : A Pakistan-born cab driver has been accused of stalking the granddaughter of assassinated American President John F Kennedy, even referring to himself as her husband and has now been served charges by the family's lawyers.

Naeem Ahmed, 41, sent 40 intimate messages to Tatiana Schlossberg, daughter of Caroline Kennedy and showered her with flowers and balloons despite warnings by the family's security firm, media reports said.

In some of love notes, Ahmed addressed Schlossberg as "hunny bunny" and signed off as "your hubby", Daily News, a New York tabloid reported quoting documents placed in a Manhattan court.

A judge has ordered mental evaluation of Ahmed, who has been in a New York jail since December 6 on misdemeanour, harassment and stalking charges, which his lawyers are contesting.

The Pakistani begun his messaging in October 2008 when Caroline's daughter, a Yale University student, was hardly 18 and in May 2009 Ahmed sent birthday flowers and warned her not to talk about the gifts.

The matters came to head when Ahmed tried to gatecrash into Schlossberg's New York home in November 2009 prompting the Kenddy family's lawyers to meet him and tell him to leave the girl alone.

Ahmed, a Pakistani born naturalised American citizen, has been painted by his lawyers as "lovelorn", who said he has been trying to contact the family for up to eight years.

In jailhouse, the Pakistani has in an interviewee said that he was not a danger to anyone - just a big admirer of the America's most famous family.

"I love her. I still do. I love them. I don't know why. Love is crazy. But I'm not crazy," he claims as he awaits his judgement in jail.


PPP, MQM talk as Karachi cries out for sanity

Jan 16, 2011

By Shamim-ur-Rahman and Imran Ayub

KARACHI: The People’s Party counselled restraint and patience to its partners in the ruling coalition — Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party — as fear hung over Karachi after a spate of targeted killings claimed another four lives on Saturday.

The three-day toll stood at 24. A former deputy Nazim was among the dead. Ironically enough, the killings took place after the PPP-MQM talks.

The meeting was held at the Governor’s House between the government’s troubleshooter, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and an MQM delegation in the presence of Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan.

The two sides agreed to meet again on Jan 20 to review the progress.

Analysts interpreted the readiness of both sides to meet again so soon as a sign of headway in PPP-MQM relations.

According to sources privy to the deliberations, Mr Malik assured the MQM that the government was taking steps to arrest the culprits and that no one would be spared.

The minister sought “more time” from the MQM to address its concerns that were conveyed to Prime Minister Gilani when he visited Nine Zero last week to salvage his tottering coalition.

The MQM side comprised Dr Farooq Sattar, Babar Ghauri, Syed Sardar Ahmad, Dr Saghir and Adil Siddiqui.

Senior Minister Pir Mazharul Haq assisted the interior minister.

The Muttahida told Rehman Malik that the party wanted an end to violence and restoration of sanity in Karachi.

No respite

Four political activists were among five people gunned down in incidents of shooting on Saturday, raising the death toll to 24.

Late in the night four armed men on two motorcycles attacked a group of friends sitting outside an office of the Pakistan People’s Party in Orangi Town.

“The firing left five people injured and while they were being shifted to hospital, two of them — Zubair alias Kala and Tahir Baloch — died of wounds,” said Inspector Inayatullah Marwat, SHO of Mominabad police station.

Both the victims were members of the PPP’s youth wing.

In Ranchore Line a Sunni Tehreek worker was shot dead by armed men riding a motorcycle.

The armed men fired multiple shots at Saeed. Four passersby, including a woman, were injured.

Earlier in the day, a senior member of the MQM and former naib nazim of SITE Town was gunned down, yards away from his home in Orangi Town.

In his mid-40s, Saeed Badshah Khan was ambushed by two men on a motorbike in Farid Colony near Baloch Para of Orangi Town outside his home.

In Surjani Town, a 45-year-old man was shot dead in the evening. Police said that unknown men shot at a group of people outside a roadside tea stall in Section L-1. The victim, identified as Ziarat Khan, was hit by three bullets.

Meanwhile, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said on Saturday that the murder of its former town naib nazim, Syed Badshah Khan, was a conspiracy to “terrorise Haq Parast Pakhtoon activists of the MQM”.

“The killing is part of an agenda to destroy peace in Karachi and is continuation of conspiracies against the MQM.”

Judicial commission

A judicial commission will be set up to investigate the murder of Wali Khan Babar and other journalists, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Saturday.

Talking to reporters after a meeting with clerics, Mr Malik said investigation into Mr Babar’s murder had made some progress and cautioned that the “enemy is trying to destabilise the country by such acts”.

“The sacrifices of journalists will not be in vain and the present government is deeply concerned about it,” he said. The government believes in freedom of press and will investigate the matter thoroughly, he added.

He said those who thought that they could hide facts by murdering journalists were mistaken.


Rehman Malik says “third” power behind Karachi unrest

January 16, 2011

KARACHI: Speaking to media representatives in Karachi, Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday said a “third” power behind the ongoing violence in Karachi, television reports said.

Malik further said that the government would not allow anyone to destroy the city’s peace and that motives behind these killings were being evaluated.

The death toll in targeted killings and armed attacks in the city rose to 27 in two days.

Malik had arrived in Karachi to help efforts to end the unrest, officials told AFP.


Three killed in Quetta violence

January 16, 2011

QUETTA: Three people, including a senior government official and a woman, were killed in two separate firing incidents in the provincial capital on Saturday. In the first incident, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) Deputy Director Abdul Qayyum was going to his office when some unidentified men opened fire at his vehicle on the Airport Road near a NADRA office. Qayyum received three bullets and died on the spot. The assailants, however, managed to flee from the crime scene. The body was handed over to the heirs after autopsy. A police official suspected that the incident might be a case of personal enmity. In another incident, unidentified men riding a motorcycle entered the Sahiban Community Health Centre near Baloch Colony and opened indiscriminate firing, which claimed the lives of Fehmida, a health worker, and watchman Saeed Ahmed. The dead bodies were taken to the Bolan Medical College Complex for autopsies. staff report\01\16\story_16-1-2011_pg1_3


Ten terrorists killed in Orakzai

January 16, 2011

PESHAWAR: Four terrorists were killed in an operation by security forces in Orakzai Agency, while six terrorists died when their vehicle ran over a landmine on Saturday, official sources said. The terrorists attacked a security checkpost in the Toda Khura area of Orakzai Agency, which was retaliated by security forces. Four terrorists were killed and two were arrested. Separately, a vehicle carrying terrorists hit a landmine in the Mamozai area, resulting in the death of six terrorists. app\01\16\story_



His own men killed Joshi, Muslim family paid with lives

Milind Ghatwai

Jan 16 2011

Sutarkheda (Dewas) : In the widening probe into the shadowy life and mysterious death of former RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, one family in Dewas mourns alone.

Exactly three years ago, in the angry aftermath of Joshi’s murder, blamed by right-wing organisations on “anti-national elements like SIMI”, a mob of youths came to the Shah household in Sutarkheda village, 30 km from Dewas, and shot dead 65-year-old Rasheed and burnt alive his 27-year-old son Jaleel. Shah’s two other sons survived bullet injuries while a small girl escaped with burns.

The Madhya Pradesh Police recently admitted that Joshi, the alleged mastermind of several Hindu terror acts, was killed by his own men, who lived with him in his one-room hideout in Dewas.

It doesn’t feel like vindication to Sheraj Bi, who vividly remembers the 35-minute frenzy of December 30, 2007, morning that left her son and husband dead. Jaleel died on January 11 at Indore’s M Y Hospital, battling 75 per cent burns.

“Woh begunah mare gaye,” she told The Sunday Express, recalling the murders. “The mob was shouting ‘burn them’, ‘burn them’, and when I asked why were doing it, they bolted the door from outside,” Sheraj Bi said in her deposition.

Joshi had been shot the previous day, and the youths who attacked the Shahs were enforcing a bandh called by right-wing organisations in protest.

The road to Sutarkheda is treacherous, but that did not deter the masked attackers, who were carrying swords and firearms, from coming to Shah’s house. A relative of the family had had a fracas with right-wing youths on December 26 in a nearby town, and they had ostensibly come looking for him.

Ironically, remembers Sheraj, Rasheed thought he had little to fear. Head of a Satsang committee of the Radhaswami sect, he was so confident of his safety that he told his wife to go inside the house. “Yeh apne yaar dost hi honge jo milne aaye hain,” Rasheed, who was sitting outside his house on a chair, told his wife on spotting the motorbikes headed towards their house.

The youths shot him. Then then pulled out Jaleel, who was having an early lunch, doused him with an inflammable substance and set him afire. Two of his brothers, Rahish and Ashiq, took a bullet each when they tried to intervene.

A five-year-old girl in the family escaped with partial burns.

When the Shahs went to court, another ordeal began. “We were either threatened or attempts were made by local leaders and police to win us over. But we stood our ground,” says Latif, who was not present in the house that day. The accused in their defence argued that they were implicated because they were members of the RSS.

Sheraj went into depression and had to be treated for six months. She often strays in middle of a conversation, Latif says.

The mob, headed by Bhanvar Singh, 25, Mahipal Singh, 21, Omprakash, 23, Jaswant Singh, 24, and Rajpal Singh, 19, was finally sentenced to life imprisonment on July 31, 2009, by the Dewas Sessions judge. The Shah family had been asked by their advocate not to be present on the court premises that day because of the number of well-wishers of the accused swarming the Dewas court, carrying garlands and sweets.

The five later moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court. While Bhanvar Singh and Mahipal Singh are still in jail, the others were released on bail.

The Shahs say they named more accused, but the police protected them by either deliberately going slow on their arrest or by not confiscating evidence like mobiles, bikes and weapons.


Ben Ali arrives in Saudi Arabia


Jan 16, 2011

JEDDAH: Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali arrived in Jeddah in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The plane carrying him and his family was reported to have originally tried to fly to France. However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy refused to allow him into the country. Other countries were reported to have denied him entry. After over-flying Malta and then refueling in Sardinia, his aircraft flew into Jeddah.

After his arrival the Royal Court in Riyadh put out a statement saying: “The government of Saudi Arabia understands the exceptional situation that the people of Tunisia are facing and hopes that stability and security will return to this beloved Arab and Muslim country.

“On this basis of this and of its support for action that aids the wellbeing of the Tunisian people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomed President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and his family to the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia while also announcing its full backing for the people of Tunisia, hopes for greater cooperation between Tunisians so they can surmount this difficult phase in their history.”

Saudi Arabia has in the past given asylum to political leaders from elsewhere provided they promise to undertake no political activities whatsoever doing their stay in the Kingdom. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stayed in the Kingdom under the same conditions when he was exiled from Pakistan following the military coup that brought Pervez Musharraf to power in 1999.

Ben Ali’s arrival has had mixed local reaction. A number of Saudi bloggers expressed strong distaste for the former president but hoped that his departure would end violence in Tunisia.

A number of political scientists in Saudi Arabia hoped that violence in the Arab country would die down in the coming days.

Waheed Hashim, professor of political science at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, believed that the violence in the country would disappear gradually, adding that various political parties and NGOs would play their role to cool down the public.

Sadik Al-Malki, another professor in the university, said it would be difficult to get the public back off the streets once they are there, adding that people with vested interests would exploit the situation to fish in troubled waters.


Pak Foreign Secy To Be Delhi Envoy Before Talks

Jan 16, 2011

Shafqat Ali

Pakistan is all set to change its man in New Delhi: it will name Salman Bashir, its current foreign secretary, as high commissioner to India, replacing Mr Shahid Malik.

This change is expected ahead of the February talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries in Bhutan.

“Prime Minister (Yousaf Raza) Gilani has decided to make changes in the foreign ministry at the highest level to deal with challenges confronted by the country at the international level”, said an official at the Prime Minister’s office.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany Shahid Kamal is tipped to be the new foreign secretary. He is an experienced diplomat and has represented Pakistan in Sweden, Finland and other countries. Mr Bashir, meanwhile, will be sent to New Delhi to work for resumption of the bilateral dialogue, which was suspended after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Umer Khan Ali Sherzai, who hit the headlines over the Haj scam, is also being replaced.


Man Falls From Plane In Lahore, Dies

Jan 16, 2011

M. Zulqernain

An apparent attempt at human trafficking went horribly wrong when a man died after falling out of a cargo plane shortly after takeoff here, officials and local residents said Saturday.

Mohammed Afzal, a resident of the Al-Faysal Town, near the airport, was watching TV with his family when he heard something fall on the roof around 9.30 pm Friday. “I rushed upstairs and found a dead man,” he said.

Neighbourhood residents gathered at his home after this “very unusual” incident, Mr Afzal said. The police came and took the body to the morgue.

Police officer Rana Irhaam said: “The circumstantial evidence suggests that the man, believed to be in his 20s, fell from a considerable height. Our initial investigations suggest he fell from a cargo plane from not less than 700 feet after it took off.”

Doctors at the morgue confirmed that all parts of the unidentified man’s body were “badly smashed”, Mr Irhaam said.

A civil aviation authority official said the incident occurred minutes after a cargo flight took off for Dubai.

“It was probably a case of human smuggling. Someone in the airport helped the unfortunate young man to stow away in the cargo plane,” he said.


Gunfire In Tunisian Capital After Interim President Swears In

Jan 16, 2011

Tunis: Gunfire erupted in the Tunisian capital Tunis just hours after Foued Mbazaa was sworn in as interim president.

Tunisian journalists said it sounded like the army was moving against the presidential guard of longtime leader Zine el-Abidine ben Ali, who fled the country on Friday to Saudi Arabia.

Mbazaa, the former speaker of parliament, was sworn in as president on Saturday as the 23-year autocratic presidency of Ben Ali ended in a popular uprising.

Looters prevailed in the commercial centres and prisoners ran amok after a fire. Under a state of emergency, army tanks patrolled the streets. Relief at Ben Ali's departure was tempered with concern over what lay ahead.

The French government vowed to stop movement of funds connected to Tunisian assets, to prevent family members of the ousted government from illegally enrichment.

Upwards of 50 people were reported killed when a prison in the coastal city of Monastir caught fire as part of a strike for freedom, medical sources and eyewitnesses said.

Mbazaa ordered his prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who briefly took power on Friday, to propose a unity government with ruling party and opposition members to govern until the next elections, which must be held within 60 days, according to the constitution.

The opposition, which was neutered under Ben Ali's rule, has been demanding to play a part in running the country, saying the current administration is corrupt and tainted by the police killing dozens of demonstrators.

A rush to new elections raised concern for many Tunisians.

"If a new election is quickly held, then the oppoisition will not have time to organize itself ... Only the old guard will take power," said Elias Nefzaoui, 25, in Tunis.

An 1800-0600 curfew stranded hundreds of arriving passengers at the airport in Tunis. Restaurants ran out of food, and families bedded down on the floor. Many Tunisians were returning home from abroad out of concern for their families.

A dozen arriving aircraft were expected through the nighttime hours.

Hundreds of European holidaymakers have fled the country. German tour operators cancelled all flights to Tunisia. Tourists returning home to Germany reported widespread destruction, plunder and destroyed petrol stations and police station.

"I was afraid," said Mbarka Khamassi of Baden Wuerttenberg after she arrived in Stuttgart.

Ben Ali fled after a month-long popular revolt that began when an unemployed school graduate trying to eke out a living selling vegetables fatally set himself alight in front of a government building Dec 17. Officials had seized his produce.

The German government called for Tunisia to build a democracy, and Chancelleor Angela Merkel offered Germany's help.

The Jordanian government said it respected 'the choice of the brethren Tunisian people' and pledged to stand with them in preventing the country 'from sliding into chaos.'

Jordan's opposition Islamic Action Front (IAF) hailed the toppling of Ben Ali and advised Arab leaders to quit 'despotism' and speed up real political reforms in their respective countries.


Pope John Paul II To Be Beatified May 1

January 16, 2011

Jan. 14: Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1 at a ceremony in Rome, the Vatican said on Friday. Beatification is the penultimate step on the road to sainthood. The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI on Friday ordered the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, to issue a decree confirming that John Paul II performed a miracle when he cured a 44-year-old French nun, Marie Pierre Simon, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

One miracle is needed for beatification, while a second miracle is needed to make him a saint. “On January 11, at an ordinary session of cardinals and bishops from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, they issued a unanimous pronouncement affirming that Sister Marie Pierre Simon’s recovery was wrought by God in a scientifically inexplicable way, following John Paul II’s intercession,” said the Vatican. The purported miracle occurred just a few months after the death on April 2, 2005, of John Paul II. Medical and theological experts have credited John Paul II with the healing of the nun, whose order prayed to him after he died.

Benedict will preside over the May 1 ceremony, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome to celebrate one of the most popular Popes of all time. The beatification will make the late pontiff “the Blessed John Paul II”. Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after his death, responding to the chants of “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood immediately!” that erupted during his funeral.

Coming just over six years after his death, John Paul II’s beatification is extremely rapid in Vatican terms.


IAEA envoys tour Iran nuclear site: Iranian TV

January 16, 2011

An Iranian official (R) welcomes Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh (C) as he and other IAEA ambassadors arrive at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport January 15, 2011. Seven IAEA ambassadors from Egypt, Cuba, Syria, Algeria, Venezuela, Oman and the Arab League, arrive at Teheran for a weekend tour of of Iranian nuclear sites. – Photo by Reuters

TEHRAN: A group of ambassadors to the UN atomic watchdog toured an Iranian nuclear site on Saturday, state television reported, and Tehran accused the European Union of missing an historic opportunity by boycotting the visit.

Iran said the tour, which China and Russia also snubbed after being discouraged by Western officials, aimed to demonstrate the country’s transparency about its atomic programme before talks with major powers.

Tehran invited some ambassadors accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit its nuclear sites. The US, British, French and German envoys were not asked along, while the EU declined its invitation, saying it was the task of UN nuclear inspectors to carry out such visits.

“The EU lost the historic opportunity for further cooperation with Iran and also visiting its peaceful nuclear activities,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s IAEA envoy, told state TV before the tour.

Analysts said the selective invitation may be aimed at eroding new harmony among the US and European governments on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other in next week’s talks with Iran, aimed at curbing its nuclear work.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of secretly working to make atomic bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear programme to generate electricity.

Alongside the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations, the group of seven envoys comprised ambassadors from Egypt, Venezuela, Syria, Algeria, Oman and Cuba.

The envoys, who stay in Iran until Monday, toured the heavy water Arak installation. Later they will also visit the underground Natanz uranium enrichment site where feedstock uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas is fed into centrifuges. This is to make material to fuel power plants which could, if greatly enriched, be used for nuclear warheads.

Journalists working for foreign media in Iran were not invited to tour the sites.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States — which along with Germany are known as P5+1 — are due to hold a second round of talks with Iran on Jan. 21-22 in Istanbul.


Long-suspended talks between Iran and major powers resumed last month in Geneva. The scheduling of a meeting next week in Istanbul was the only visible result of the meeting.

Washington and Israel, Iran’s arch foes, have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to end the standoff.

Iran has warned P5+1 that the talks could be the last chance for the West because Tehran’s atomic capability was improving.

“I hope … P5+1 countries will use this opportunity to find a face-saving manner to settle this issue they have created,”

Iran’s top nuclear official and acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at Arak. “It will be a win-win situation for everyone.”

Some diplomats and analysts also said the tour could be a stalling tactic as Iran continued to build its stockpiles of enriched uranium in the teeth of international sanctions.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday that sanctions had set back Iran’s nuclear programme and given more time to persuade Tehran to change tack.

The UN Security Council, US and the European Union have been raising pressure on Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment-related work by imposing tougher sanctions. – Reuters


Iran to display US drones it shot down: commander

January 16, 2011

TEHRAN: Iran will put on public display two US Navy drones shot down by its elite Revolutionary Guards, a top Iranian commander said on Saturday. “The planes that were shot down are among the most modern US navy drones and have a long-range capability,” Ali Fadavi, commander of the Guards’ naval forces, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. On January 2, the head of the Guards’ air force said the elite unit had downed two “Western spy” drones. He had not said when the two drones were actually shot down. “These aircraft are in our possession and at an appropriate time they will be displayed” to the public, Fadavi said, rejecting Western media reports that quoted Washington officials denying the drones were shot down by Iranian forces.

“It is natural that they don’t accept or reject such matters. What is certain is that the Revolutionary Guards did this,” Fadavi added.

The US navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, just across the Persian Gulf from Iran.

Iranian commanders have repeatedly threatened to block navigation through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which links the Gulf to the Indian Ocean, if the Islamic republic comes under attack. Forty percent of the world’s oil supplies pass through the strait. The US military and Central Intelligence Agency regularly use drones to launch missile strikes in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, but do not generally confirm attacks. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, target of a series of US sanctions, was set up as a force to defend the 1979 Islamic revolution from internal and external threats. afp\01\16\story_16-1-2011_pg7_3


Three killed on deadly day for US troops in Iraq

January 16, 2011

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi soldier gunned down two United States troops at a training centre and a third American soldier in Iraq was killed in a separate incident on Saturday, the deadliest day for the US forces since July 2010. The deaths were a stark reminder that, despite Washington having declared combat operations over in August 2010, its 50,000-odd troops still stationed in Iraq remain at risk. Saturday’s worst incident saw two soldiers killed and one wounded “when an Iraqi soldier attacked them at the Ghazlani Training Centre near Mosul,” a US army statement said. It added that the Iraqi soldier responsible for the shooting was killed during the attack. afp\01\16\story_16-1-2011_pg7_9


Target killing claims 5 lives

January 16, 2011

KARACHI: Three activists of political parties, one of a religious party and another man were gunned down in the metropolis in separate incidents of target killing on Saturday.

According to details, a former Site Town Naib Nazim and Member of Muttahida Organising Committee Saeed Badshah Khan, son of Memoon Khan, was shot dead in Mominabad area.

In another incident, two activists of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) youth wing were shot dead while two others injured at Urdu Chowk, Orangi Town in the limits of Mominabad police station.

The incident took place at Urdu Chowk Sector 10 when unidentified armed men came on a motorcycle and opened indiscriminate firing, injuring four men namely Zubaid alias Kala, Tahir Baloch, Farhan and Nafess. The armed men fled from the scene. Police reached the spot and shifted the injured to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Civil Hospital Karachi, where two activists of PPP youth wing Zubair and Tahir succumbed their injuries.

Separately, Sunni Tehreek member Saeed Rafiq Qadri was shot dead within the limits of Nabi Bukhsh police station.

He was sitting in the Ranchore Lane area when unidentified armed men riding on a motorcycle came and opened indiscriminate firing at him. He tried to escape but the bullets got to him. The culprits managed to flee from the scene. During the incident four people Liaquat, Shahid, Givind and Ayesha were injured. Police said the culprits’ target was Qadri. Tension engulfed the Ranchore Lane area and police were deployed there to avoid any untoward incident.

Target killing also claimed another life in the limits of Surjani police station. Police said that the victim was identified as Ziyarat Khan, 35, son of Gul Khan, resident of Sector L-1, House No 104.

They said the deceased was sitting outside his home when unidentified culprits arrived on a motorbike and shot him multiple bullets. Resultantly, he succumbed to the bullet injuries on the way to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. The body was handed over to heirs after completion of legal formalities, while an FIR of the murder could not be registered till filing this story.

Security agencies claimed to have arrested several suspects involved in the violence and target killings, besides confirming the arrest of two suspects allegedly involved in the attack on ANP local leader Bashir Jan and firing at a mosque in Orangi Town.

Police did not disclose the names of the arrested men, but said that both were arrested from Qatar Hospital, Orangi Town where wounded criminals reached for treatment.

The sources confirmed that City Police Chief Fayyaz Laghari briefed a high level meeting at the Governor House about the present law and order situation. The police chief disclosed that a total of 27 people have been killed in the last three days in the city out of which 17 were the victims of

target killings.

Sharfuddin Memon, a spokesperson of Home Minister Sindh, confirmed that 17 out of 27 killed persons were the victims of the current wave of target killings while the rest of the victims were targeted over other matters. He quoted Home Minister Zulfiqar Ali Mirza as saying that the sensitive areas had been handed over to the Rangers and police while Rangers had been directed to intensify the patrolling and snap checking across the city.

The spokesman said that several suspects had been taken into custody by the law enforcers from different areas. He said that police and Rangers had also carried out search operations and raids in various city areas and arrested many of the criminals.

The spokesman said that the names of arrested persons would be disclosed after the completion of an investigation and legal formalities.

It is pertinent to mention here that security forces carried out raids and searched the houses in different localities of the city but could not arrest any prominent figure. The raids and search operation were conducted in Falknaz apartment in Shah Faisal Town, Rabia City apartment in Gulistan-e-Johar, Abul Hassan Ispahani Road area and various other localities of Orangi Town.

The Orangi Town and many other city areas remained tense today, affecting business and social life. The hospital sources confirmed that the death toll from current target killings of the three days hit 25 by Saturday. Some 14 of these victims were the residents of Orangi Town. The most victims of Orangi Town were passersby, bystanders and commuters who were killed or wounded at different entry and exit points of Orangi Town including Banars and Kati Pahari.

A resident of Orangi Town, Kashif Naeem, said that armed men opened aerial fire on passing vehicles and shot and tortured a passerby on the way to home or workplace at Kati Pahari and Banaras areas. staff report\01\16\story_16-1-2011_pg12_1


Karachi unrest leaves another eight killed

January 16, 2011

KARACHI: At least another eight people were killed till late Saturday amid the recent spate of targeted killings, despite heavy security placed here in metropolis, Geo News reported.

Today’s first incident was reported in Orangi Town area of Farid Colony where armed saboteurs gunned down member of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Organizing Committee and former SITE Town Naib Nazim Syed Badshah.

According to eyewitnesses, the killers fled the scene on foot.

Later, unidentified miscreants shot dead an activist of a political group. Meantime, a youth, Noor Muhammed, who was injured in firing incident near Banars yesterday, succumbed to his injuries on Saturday.

Besides, a man Ziarat Gul was killed in firing incident by armed men in Sarjani Town Sector L-1.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Fayyaz Leghari claimed that at least six killers involved in target killings during the past three days, have been nabbed, adding police are making every possible efforts to stem the tide of violence in the city.


Fraudsters profit from scramble for land in Makkah


Jan 16, 2011

MAKKAH: With a scramble to buy land in Makkah, many of the city’s real estate agents are resorting to all kinds of methods — both illegal and legal — to sell land and get a 2.5 percent commission on each successful sale.

With a high turnover in sales, real estate agents — who are locally known as Al-Shiraitis — are able to generate huge profits. Many of them tour the holy city looking for empty land to sell.

“I used to own a plot of land at Al-Nuwariyyah, which I had encircled with cement blocks to signify that I owned it. A month later I saw a signboard saying the land was up for sale and asked interested buyers to call a mobile number,” said Fahd Al-Sharif, a Saudi citizen.

“I telephoned the number and agreed to meet the man at a certain place to negotiate a purchase. After 20 minutes of negotiations, I showed my deeds to the seller and took him to the police,” he said.

Al-Sharif added that police also discovered that the man’s friend owned a plot of land close to his land and that the man wanted to sell the land without his friend finding out.

Ahmad Alaya, another Saudi citizen, said that four years ago he owned a 1,000-square meter plot of land in Al-Shouqiyyah district that he did not want to sell because prices were increasing day by day.

“I once visited this plot and noticed a small signboard indicating that it was up for sale. I didn’t give it much attention, but when I came back about a month later I saw a larger signboard with a mobile phone number written on it asking interested buyers to call,” he said.

“I called the number and set an appointment with the broker who confessed to me that he did not actually own the land and that he had looked for the owner for a long time and had put the signboard up to attract his attention,” he said.

Alaya said one agent offered him triple the price of the land, but he refused. “I know the price will go higher and I’m waiting for that. Then I will decide whether to sell or not,” he said.

Marwan Muhammad said he fell out with one of his relatives because of an estate agent.

“I used to have a piece of land in Al-Buhairat area of Al-Nuriyyah district that a relative wanted to buy. When I refused, he told me I should contact him first if I ever thought of selling,” he said.

“A few days later, I saw a signboard declaring the land was for sale. I became very angry with my relative and severed all relations with him. However, after some investigations, I found out that it was a real estate agent and not my relative who had put the signboard up, but the harm was already done and I lost my relative,” said Muhammad.



Expats in Belgium celebrate Ben Ali’s ouster

Jan 15, 2011

BRUSSELS: Hundreds of Tunisian expatriates are demonstrating in Brussels to celebrate the ouster of autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and demand that he be brought to justice.

Some 500 demonstrators waved the Tunisian flag from the stairs of the Belgian stock exchange and sang the national anthem Saturday to celebrate the events in their homeland.

One banner read “Ben Ali is gone. The Tunisian people have won.” Another read “Ben Ali has to pay for his crimes.” Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Friday for Saudi Arabia following a popular uprising against corruption and rising unemployment under his regime.


Israel punishes top Palestinian prisoners over hunger strike


Jan 15, 2011

RAMALLAH: The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has placed two senior Palestinian prisoners in solitary confinement for launching a partial hunger strike three weeks ago.

The High Committee on Palestinian Prisoners' Affairs said that the administration of Israeli Nafha prison placed Secretary-General of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahmad Sa'adat and West-Bank Hamas leader Jamal Abu Al-Haija in solitary confinement late on Saturday night.

The committee said that Sa'adat and Abu Al-Haija have been on a hunger strike for three weeks to protest the deteriorating living conditions in Israeli jails.

The committee said that Sa'adat needs medical surgery due to pain in his neck and back and Abu Al-Haija is unable to use his arm due to amputation.

Sa'adat is serving a 30-year term for overseeing the PFLP's military operations, membership of an illegal organization, arms dealing and incitement. He was charged with being behind the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in October 2001. The PFLP had claimed responsibility for the killing saying it was in response to the assassination of its leader Abu Ali Mustafa by Israeli forces in his Ramallah office in August 2001.

Israel kidnapped Sa'adat from a Palestinian prison in Jericho in 2006. He and the other PFLP suspects were being in the prison under the supervision of American and British wardens, in accordance with a deal reached in 2002. In an arrangement brokered by the United States that opened the way for Israel to lift a month-long siege of then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah, the PA had taken the six men into custody.

Abu Al Haija, who was arrested in May 2007 for his role in resisting the Jenin incursion of 2002, was convicted by the Israeli courts and sentenced to nine life sentences and an additional 20 years.

Hamas insists the two be included in the prisoner-swap deal in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Palestinian prisoners have staged dozens of hunger strikes since the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967. Abdulqader Abu Al-Fahem was the first Palestinian prisoner to die after 15 days of hunger strike at the Asqlan prison in 1970. Prisoners Rasim Halaweh, Alial-Ja'fari and Ishaq Maragheh died in the Nafhah prison in 1980 after 32 days of hunger strike. Prisoners Anees Douleh and Hussein Obaidat died in 1992 after 15 days of hunger strike.

According to the recent Palestinian statistics, there are 6,700 Palestinians currently held in 10 prisons and 3 detention camps in Israel and in the West Bank. There are 300 prisoners under the age of 18. Israel also holds 37 women and 10 members of the Palestine Legislative Council.


Iraqi soldiers kill two US soldiers in Mosul

Jan 15, 2011

MOSUL: Two US soldiers were killed and a third was injured when two Iraqi soldiers opened fire on US troops during training in the northern city of Mosul on Saturday, Iraqi army sources said.

The incident occurred while US soldiers were training an Iraqi military unit at Al-Ghazlani US military camp in southern Mosul, 390 km north of Baghdad, they said.

“According to available information, two American soldiers were killed today during a shooting at a training session inside Al-Ghazlani military camp. Two Iraqi soldiers suddenly opened fire at the American soldiers,” an Iraqi military colonel in Mosul, who refused to be named, said.

The US military, however, said in a statement two US service members were killed and one was wounded while conducting operations in northern Iraq, but did not give further details.

“Until now, we don’t have any information on why the two Iraqi soldiers opened fire,” a senior police official said.

The police and army sources both said the two Iraqi soldiers had been arrested, although it was unclear if they were being held in Iraqi or US custody.

Another Iraqi military colonel said an initial report indicated that one of the Iraqi soldiers had also been killed.

“We have an initial report that one of the Iraqi soldiers who opened fire was killed by American forces, but it’s not confirmed yet,” he said.

Separately, another US service member was killed while conducting operations in central Iraq, the US military said in a statement on Saturday. It gave no further details and did not specify where the incident occurred.

Fewer than 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq since the United States officially ended combat operations last August. The remaining soldiers are focused on advising and assisting Iraqi security forces as they take the lead in the fight against a weakened yet resilient insurgency.

Bombings and attacks remain a daily occurrence in Iraq, although violence has fallen since the height of sectarian fighting in 2006-7 unleashed by the 2003 US-led invasion.

Mosul remains one of the most dangerous cities in the country, where Iraq is still fighting a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency.


Israel to demolish 7 homes near Tulkarm


RAMALLAH: Israeli authorities on Saturday handed notification to seven Palestinian families near the West Bank city of Tulkarm warning that their homes will be demolished. They claimed that the houses in Area C were built without permits.

Ziad Al-Salem, head of Nazlat Issa village's council, said the Israeli Civil Administration officers under the protection of Israeli forces handed the demolition orders to the families in the village, located north of Tulkarm.

Al-Salem added that the homes the southern part of the village were inhabited for several years.

He said the houses belonged to Abdulrahim Yousef Shawarib, Abdulkarim Yousef Shawarib, Mohammed Ahmed Alloush, Mahmoud Izzat Hussein, Abdulhalim Zaki Shihadeh and Iyad Abdullatif As'ad.

The official called on the Palestinian Authority and international community to pressure Israel to stop illegal measures in the Jordan Valley which "aims at displacing the Palestinians from their homes and to expand the Jewish settlements in the area."

According to the Oslo agreement, Area A is under Palestinian administrative and security control, Area B under Palestinian administrative control but under Israeli security, and Area C is under full Israeli control. However, Israel reoccupied the three areas in the aftermath of its large-scale military operation in 2002.


Nawaf is new head of Youth Welfare

Jan 16, 2011

JEDDAH: Prince Nawaf bin Faisal has been appointed head of the Youth Welfare Presidency, replacing Prince Sultan bin Fahd, the Royal Court announced Saturday.

The announcement said Prince Sultan was relieved of his duty on his request. Prince Nawaf was the presidency’s former vice president.

Prince Nawaf thanked King Abdullah for the appointment and commended the government's support to sports and youth welfare programs. "I pray to the Almighty seeking His help to shoulder this responsibility to work for strengthening the Kingdom's youth and sports sector," he said.

The news comes after the Saudi national team’s disappointing performance in the knockout matches of the Asian Cup in the Qatari capital, Doha. Three-time champions Saudi Arabia exited from the tournament Friday after being defeated by Jordan.

The Kingdom lost the opening match against Syria 2-1 and lost the second match against Jordan 1-0. The Saudi team is yet to play a final match against Japan. This is the first time in the Kingdom’s football history that the national team has left the Asian Cup in such a way.

Prince Sultan blamed four parties — the Saudi Football Federation, the Portuguese coach who has been fired, the players and the development committee comprising British and French experts — for the team’s failure.


Over 1 million livestock registered in Abu Dhabi

16 January 2011

ABU DHABI — The Animal Identification and Registration System (AIRS) campaign registered and tagged over a million animals in the livestock category, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) announced.

The authority allocated 55 teams of four each to implement and reach its target in Abu Dhabi city and the Eastern Region that includes Al Ain.

In Al Gharbia or the Western Region, work will be completed by the end of February.

In the last three months since the AIRS kicked off in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, 7,878 farms were visited.

The authority also said the animals already registered include 105,087 camels, 25,748 cows and 1,050,087 sheep and goat heads.

“AIRS campaign is progressing extremely well and we are geared up to complete it on schedule. Farm owners and workers have fully understood the huge benefits AIRS can bring about for them, the consumers, the community, and are greatly supportive for field teams. This is indeed a decisive factor that is helping us to complete both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Regions on time and we are very thankful for them,” said Mohamed Jalal Al Reyaysa, Director of Communication and Community Service, ADFCA. “As we embark on the Western Region AIRS campaign, we invite livestock owners in Abu Dhabi Region whose animals have not been identified yet to contact the AIRS help desk 800555, or other various existing communications channels to provide all required information such as farm area and number, GPS Location, livestock number per species and AIRS team will set a visit time,”  he advised.

AIRS is compulsory and free of charge for livestock owners and it allows the traceability of animals and products of animal origin.

The programme aims to achieve many benefits for Abu Dhabi, livestock owners and consumers and the community such as national database for animals towards achieving food safety, better livestock management systems, as well as better diseases surveillance and control of humans and animals health emergencies.


Lebanon in crisis as Hariri murder charges due

15 January 2011

BEIRUT - Murder charges in ex-premier Rafiq Hariri’s murder are due Monday, a day after the Hezbollah leader, members of whose group are expected to be named in the chargesheet, is to address Lebanon.

The long-awaited indictment and Hassan Nasrallah’s speech come as Lebanon is facing a dire political crisis after the collapse of the government on Wednesday when Hezbollah and its allies resigned over the probe.

Daniel Bellemare, prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) based in The Hague, is due to submit the chargesheet to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen on Monday, the French newspaper Le Monde reported Saturday.

Lebanese acting Labour Minister Boutros Harb confirmed the report.

“According to my information, the chargesheet will be submitted on Monday,” Harb told AFP by telephone.

Le Monde said on its Internet site that Bellemare will present his findings to Fransen at a hearing behind closed doors in The Hague, where the court is based for security reasons.

The paper, citing sources close to the STL, said that members of the Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah will be targeted in the chargesheet.

According to the tribunal’s rules of procedure, Fransen will examine the findings before confirming the indictment. Arrest warrants or summonses would be issued later and the process could take six to 10 weeks.

The STL declined to comment on the report.

We will say it has been done the day it has been done, we won’t announce when this is going to take place,” spokesman Crispin Thorold told AFP.

The pending indictment has split Lebanon’s unity government, pitting the powerful Shiite party Hezbollah against a Western-backed camp led by Hariri’s son and outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri.

Hezbollah has said it would not accept the indictment of its members.

Nasrallah warned in November that the group will “cut off the hand” of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members for the Hariri killing, raising fears of renewed violence in Lebanon.

On Wednesday the government collapsed after Hezbollah and its allies resigned in a dispute over the probe, exacerbating tensions in the country.

Hezbollah’s AL-Manar television said that Nasrallah “will make an appearance on Sunday at 8:30 pm (1830 GMT)... to comment on the latest developments.”

Meanwhile sources close to the powerful Shiite party, quoted by the pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar, said it would not accept the return of Saad Hariri to power.

Hezbollah wants a new prime minister who support the “resistance,” a code word for the Shiite party.

Meanwhile rival factions begin jockeying to form a new government.

President Michel Sleiman, who asked Hariri to stay on in a caretaker capacity, begins consultations with MPs on appointing a new premier on Monday.

Hariri was in the United States for talks on the political problems at home when Hezbollah and allied ministers quit the government and returned to Lebanon on Friday, after stops in France and Turkey.

Under complicated power-sharing arrangements in multi-confessional Lebanon, the prime minister is always a Sunni Muslim.

On Saturday, Al-Akhbar, a newspaper close to Hezbollah, raised the name of Omar Karameh, who was prime minister at the time of Rafiq Hariri’s assassination.

For its part, the parliamentary majority headed by Hariri has ruled out any other candidate than him.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, seen as a possible deal-maker, was in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon’s former powerbroker, for talks with President Bashar al-Assad.

Jumblatt, whose parliamentary bloc will be the first to meet with Sleiman, controls 11 seats in parliament that could make or break the next government.

The STL was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution to find and try the killers of Hariri, assassinated in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005 that also killed 22 other people.

A trial could open “four to six months” after the charges are confirmed, tribunal registrar Herman von Hebel told journalists in The Hague in December.