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Islamic World News ( 30 Dec 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Karachi blast death toll mounts to 43

 Taliban claim responsibility for Karachi suicide attack

 China Starts Restoring Internet in Divided Muslim Region

 AL- QAEDA has announced that it was behind the Christmas jet bomb plot

 He had enough explosive to Blow hole in aircraft

 A virus called jihad

 More bombers on way to US: Nigerian attacker

 Detroit bomber: internet forum traces journey from lonely schoolboy to Islamic fundamentalist

 Obama vows to finish Al Qaeda

 Will track down all involved in plane plot, says Obama

 Yemen’s Link to Airline Plot Complicates Obama’s Plan to Release Yemenis From Guantanamo Bay

 This year, J-K saw violence drop by 25 pc

 'Blackwater hired Pak intel, army officers'

 Gaza: this is not humane. We need our dignity

 Use of Muslim militancy to defeat Arab nationalism a massive strategic error

 Headley the second biggest catch of year, says FBI

 Indonesia: Father Christmas is a Muslim

 Indonesia: Muslims attack and set fire to a house of prayers

 Better pay boosts morale in Afghanistan’s Army

 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh refuse repatriation

 Bombs kill more than 30 in Iraq

 Somali Arrested at Airport With Chemicals, Syringe

 Iranian woman held with fake currency

 Afghan soldier kills US service member at army base: Official

 Iran arrests Ebadi's sister, blames crisis on West

 Police arrest 20 Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria

 Iranian woman held with counterfeit currency notes

 Israeli police arrest nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu

 US rebuffs reports regarding brokering Indo-Pak talks over Kashmir

  ‘Govt let us down as we are Muslim’

 Kozhikode blasts: Main accused held

 China ignores appeals, executes Briton in drugs case

 Iran unrest: Karroubi denied protection, Nobel laureate Ebadi’s sister arrested

 Western counter-terrorism help 'not enough for Yemen'

 Iran reformist Mousavi's nephew 'got death threats'

 Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu arrested

 Nigeria sect violence victims 'mostly children'

 Obama vows to hunt down extremists even as Qaida claims attack

 'Holocaust behind high rates of cancer in many Israelis'

 Muslim clerics deny Al-Qaeda links in Nigeria

 Police: Three officers killed in militant attack in Indian Kashmir

 American Muslims fear renewed backlash

 Policeman cleared in 'veil murder' case

 Iran rally leaders 'enemies of God'

 Iran arrests hundreds of dissidents

 Police arrest 20 Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria

 Detroit's Muslims condemn Al Qaeda's claims of involvement: Wanton violence is never justified

 Taliban claim responsibility for Karachi suicide attack

 Myanmar to take back 9,000 Muslims from Bangladesh

 Muslims find more halal foods on European store shelves 

 Time to Islamicize the condemnation of Iran

 UK hostage Peter Moore released alive in Iraq

 Former Indonesian President Wahid dies

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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Karachi blast death toll mounts to 43

Nirupama Subramanian

30 December 2009,

Firefighters struggled to control a fire at a market, which was started by looters following the suicide bombing.

ISLAMABAD: Karachi was in mourning a day after the deadly suicide attack on a Muharram procession in which the death toll has now climbed to 43.

Despite the incidents of widespread arson following the bombing, the situation remained under control.

But until late into the morning, fire engines continued to battle flames in properties that were set ablaze by rioters after the bombing.

The provincial government declared on Tuesday a holiday and designated it as an official day of mourning for the dead.

Shops, businesses, schools and petrol pumps remained closed and there was no public transport as the city prepared for the funerals of those who were killed in the attack.

Hundreds of shops were burnt in Monday’s arson spree following the suicide attack. Interior minister Rehman Malik, who visited Karachi on Tuesday, said the incidents of violence were a “pre-planned” conspiracy to engulf the city in flames.

He said it was improbable the Shia mourners in the processions were carrying jerry-cans of petrol ready to torch properties.


The fires began within minutes, and this, Mr. Malik said, pointed to a conspiracy against Pakistan.

He promised that the government would compensate traders for the losses, which may be run into billions of rupees.

Police officials said they were studying CCTV footage of the bombing. The bomber is said to have used 16 kg of explosives.

Earlier, the police issued a photograph of a severed head discovered from the site of the attack, thought to belong to the bomber, but it was later discovered to be that of a mourner in the procession.

This was the first major terror attack in Pakistan’s financial hub in over two years.


Taliban claim responsibility for Karachi suicide attack

AP image

KARACHI: The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on a Muharram procession of Pakistani Shia Muslims here that killed 43 people and threatened to carry out more such strikes within 10 days.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Asmatullah Shaheen, whose name figures on a list of Pakistan's 20 most wanted militant leaders, told reporters in the country's northwest that his group carried out the attack in Karachi on Monday.

Shaheen, who belongs to the Bhitani tribe and is a rival of pro-government militant leader Turkistan Bhitani, said that his fighters would carry out more attacks within 10 days.

Shaheen had joined the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan when it was headed by Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone attack in August. However, he has never publicly claimed responsibility for any previous attacks.

He identified the suicide bomber as one Hasnain Mawya and said the attack in Karachi was carried out to "protect the honour of the companions" of Prophet Mohammed.

The bomber detonated his suicide jacket as hundreds of people were marching down one of Karachi's main thoroughfares on the Shia holy day of Ashura. Several women and children were among the 43 people who died.

The attack triggered widespread rioting and violence that caused losses of billions of rupees in one of Karachi's main commercial hubs.

The Taliban have been blamed for a wave of bombings and suicide attacks across Pakistan that has killed over 500 people since October, when the army launched a major offensive against militants in Waziristan tribal region.


China Starts Restoring Internet in Divided Muslim Region

Owen Fletcher

Dec 30, 2009

China will start restoring Internet service in its western Xinjiang region after nearly six months of a near-total ban on Web access and international phone calls, state media said Tuesday.

The clampdown on communications, in which China also blocked Web sites including Facebook and Twitter nationwide, followed deadly ethnic riots in Xinjiang in July. Nearly 200 people died as Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority group native to the region, and members of the Han Chinese ethnic majority hunted each other in the streets.

Internet service ceased in the province, though authorities later opened a regional network that let users access certain local news portals and bank and government Web sites, according to the state-run China Daily. Text messaging on mobile phones and international call services were also blocked.

Authorities have started gradually restoring Internet access to the province this week, but the only new Web sites made available so far are two government news portals, run by the newspaper People's Daily and the official Xinhua news agency, Xinhua said, citing an announcement by the regional government. Text message and international call services will also be gradually restored, Xinhua said.

The clampdown helped stabilize the region but also caused some economic difficulty, the report cited the Xinjiang government as saying. Companies in sectors such as e-commerce had to find ways to work around the communications outage.


AL- QAEDA has announced that it was behind the Christmas jet bomb plot.

Plane bomber warns

FBI of more attacks

Daily Mail

The terrorist group has said it provided Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with a “ technically advanced device” but it had failed to detonate because of a fault.

A statement posted on Islamist websites said the attack was a response to the US attacks on the group in Yemen. It showed a picture of Abdulmutallab referring to him as Umar Farouk al- Nigiri — the Nigerian.

“ He managed to penetrate all devices and modern advanced technology and security checkpoints at international airports bravely without fear of death,” said the statement.

“ Relying on God and defying the large myth of American and international intelligence, and exposing how fragile they are, bringing their nose to the ground, and making them regret all they spent on security technology.” The 23- year- old was arrested after he used a syringe to try to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. He has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he was tutored in terrorism while living for a month with a senior al- Qaeda commander in Yemen. He is said to have warned that other young men are being trained there to bring down US airlines, boasting: “ There are plenty more like me.” And in an extraordinary twist which will increase concerns over security failures, an American lawyer claimed he had watched at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as Abdulmutallab was assisted by a “ second man” as he tried to board without a passport.

Kurt Haskell, who was standing in line with his wife Lori on Christmas morning, said the Nigerian was with a man aged about 50 of Indian appearance in an expensive suit talking with the ticket agent. Haskell said the second man claimed Abdulmutallab was from Sudan and had no passport. The ticket agent referred the men to her manager down the hall, and Haskell did not see Abdulmutallab again until after the failed bombing.

If true, the claim would represent an astonishing breach of security at a major international airport and a flagrant disregard of both US government and airline policy. US authorities did not comment on Haskell’s claims but homeland security chief Janet Napolitano admitted on US TV that the aviation security system had “ failed”. In a statement on Sunday night, US President Barack Obama said: “ A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism. We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists.

“ Those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than just strengthen our defences,” said Obama.

“ We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.

We will continue to use... our national power to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere.” In London, home secretary Alan Johnson revealed that the 23- year- old had been placed on a UK watch list this year after authorities refused to renew his student visa. He said police and MI5 were examining whether the deeplyreligious son of one of Africa’s richest men had been radicalised during three years studying engineering at University College London.

Mail Today


He had enough explosive to Blow hole in aircraft

PTI - UMAR Farouk Abdulmutallab carried enough explosive to blow up a hole in the aircraft, investigators have said, as al- Qaeda blamed a technical glitch for the failed attempt.

The explosive identified as PETN — pentaerythritol tetranitrate — was concealed in the underwear of the suspect, which if exploded would have blown a hole in the airplane, The Washington Post said.

Referring to federal sources, the CNN also said the amount of explosive was sufficient to blow a hole in the aircraft.

“ The amount used was 80 grams of PETN, almost twice as much of the same explosive used by the convicted shoe bomber Richard C. Reid,” the Post said, adding investigations about the explosive were still on.

The Fox News had earlier reported that Abdulmutallab’s seat 19A was just above the fuel tank of the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 and if there had been an explosion, it could have been accelerated by the fuel, damaging the wing and puncturing the skin, and bringing down the plane.

Claiming responsibility for the attempt, al- Qaeda said it tested a new kind of explosives in the attack, and hailed the fact that the explosives passed through security.

“ There was a technical problem that resulted in a non- complete explosion,” the message posted on a radical Islamic website said. This was revealed by Maryland- based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Islamist forums and websites.


A virus called jihad

Time to trash Left-lib view of terrorism

Dec 30, 2009


The 23-year-old Nigerian man who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound transatlantic flight on Christmas Day — apparently on behest of Al Qaeda — was no uneducated, poor soul who had fallen prey to jihadis. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came from one of Nigeria’s most influential business families and had a privileged life that most can only dream about. He had access to international education that ranged from schooling at the elite British International School in Togo to a degree in mechanical engineering at the prestigious University College London. His teachers describe him as a bright, polite boy who was keen on learning — not the image one would have of a would-be terrorist. But despite the ultra-modern lifestyle Abdulmutallab had been exposed to, he chose to embrace the path of jihad and was willing to sacrifice his own life in the process. In fact, his parents, sensing that their ward had taken a fancy for radical Islam, had sent him to Dubai for studies in 2008, hoping that the cosmopolitan environment of the emirate would have a moderating influence on him. But Abdulmutallab rejected the allure of the ‘good life’. He cut short his education in Dubai and told his parents that he had found a course in Arabic learning in Yemen that was more to his liking. Since October this year, he had severed all contact with friends and family, only to surface last week in his terrorist avatar.

Abdulmutallab’s story is the latest addition to the growing body of evidence that challenges the conventional wisdom that terrorism thrives by preying on the weaknesses of the deprived. Like David Coleman Headley — the US citizen of Pakistani origin who is currently being held by American authorities for plotting terrorist attacks, including the 26/11 terror strikes on Mumbai last year — the young Nigerian was hardly a gullible fool who could be blackmailed or brainwashed by terrorist handlers. He chose the path he did out of his own free will with no hesitation whatsoever. He, like Headley, was infected by the global jihad virus. And it is here that jihad-inspired terrorism differs from insurgency movements known till date. Normally, a young Nigerian from a wealthy family should hardly have a motive to carry out a terrorist attack against the US. Yet, Abdulmutallab was driven to the point of trying to blow up an American passenger aircraft carrying 300 people. This is something that is unique to Islamist terror. It does not matter if someone is poor or rich, educated or illiterate, once the person is infected by the jihad virus he becomes a merchant of death irrespective of his background or material circumstances. It is high time the international community wakes up to the threat of the jihadi ideology and trashes the outdated Left-liberal hypothesis of economic and material poverty being central to the growth of Islamism.


More bombers on way to US: Nigerian attacker

Lalit K. Jha

Dec. 29 2009

More bombers are on their way to target America, the Nigerian Al Qaeda suspect charged for trying to blow up a US airliner has told FBI, setting alarm bells among intelligence and security apparatus here.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab told FBI that "there were more just like him in Yemen and would strike soon," the ABC News reported quoting officials familiar with the investigation.

A tape released by Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen some four days before the failed attempt, had said that "we are carrying bomb to hit the enemies of God".

Abdulmutallab, 23, has been charged with attempting to blow up the US plane and planting an explosive device on it.

The explosive was identified as PETN — pentaerythritol tetranitrate — which was concealed in his underwear.

According to news reports, Abdulmutallab has told FBI that he was trained for more than a month in Yemen, given 80 grams of a high explosive cleverly sewn into his underpants, that went undetected by standard security screening.

"They know that this is a weakness and an Achilles’ heel in our airport security system," said ABC News consultant and former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke.

Federal authorities met to reassess the system of terror watchlists to determine how to avoid the lapse that allowed a man with explosives to board flight even though he was flagged as a possible terrorist, CBS news said.

Meanwhile, the online digital trail of the Nigerian indicated his jihadi fantasies, a media report said.

"Basically they are jihad fantasies," Abdulmutallab wrote on a online chat session on February 20, 2005, according to transcripts of the chat obtained by the CBS news.

Eighteen-years-old at the time, Abdulmutallab paints an online portrait of alienation, the news channel said. "I have no friend. Far from home, at a school with few Muslims, no one to consult, no one to support me and I feel depressed... I imagine how the great jihad will take place," Abdulmutallab said.

In 2005 he was chatting under the screen name Farouk1986. On, January 26th, 2007 CBS news said Abdulmutallab listed seminars for what was called the "War on Terror Week".

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama vowed to use every element of the US power to crush extremists plotting attacks against the country whether they are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or elsewhere, as Al Qaeda claimed it was behind the botched attempt.

"I have directed my national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country. We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will more, do more than simply strengthen our defences," Mr Obama said.

A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and the US will not rest until it finds all who were involved. —PTI


Detroit bomber: internet forum traces journey from lonely schoolboy to Islamic fundamentalist

By Duncan Gardham

30 Dec 2009

The Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab described “jihad fantasies” in which he imagined a great holy war that led to Muslims ruling the world, it can be revealed.

 Abdulmutallab joined an internet chat room a few weeks after turning 18 as he prepared to leave an English boarding school in west Africa and head to university in Britain.

Writing in February 2005, he said: “I won’t go into too much details about my fantasy, but basically they are Jihad fantasies.

“I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win (Allah willing) and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again.”

Introducing himself to other users Abdulmutallab said he planned to apply for universities in California, including Stanford, Berkeley and Caltech to study engineering but added that he had been given an offer by Imperial College London.

Asking “Can you be my friend?” he painted a picture of an isolated teenager, describing himself as “very ambitious and determined, especially in the deen [faith].”

He also wrote about sexual urges, adding: “I have no friend. Not because I do not socialise, etc but because either people do not want to get too close to me as they go partying and stuff while I don’t, or they are bad people who befriend me and influence me to do bad things.

“As I get lonely, the natural sexual drive awakens and I struggle to control it, sometimes leading to minor sinful activities like not lowering the gaze. And this problem makes me want to get married to avoid getting aroused…But I am only 18.”

Initially keen on football he wrote about supporting Liverpool, adding: “How can someone get to like Arsenal? I tried to, but no way, I've been to several football stadiums, I must say Highbury was one of the least impressive, a tiny junkyard sought of place in the streets of London, what a pity!”

By June 2005 he was in the Yemen studying Arabic, and describing the city as beautiful and the whether cool, adding: “even the Brits aren’t complaining about the heat.”

“We just recently had a new student from Britain will be receiving another from Britain and US,” he added.

After arriving in London to study at University College London, it appears that Abdulmutallab became even more isolated as he withdrew into religion, even abandoning his love of football and writing in November: “Let's save our honour and religion and try and stay away from football and do sporting activities that are more Islamically beneficial just like inheritors of the prophets, the scholars.”

Soon afterwards he told others in the chat room that music was forbidden, adding: “We all know wine is haram [forbidden], so if musical instruments is also on the list, then it seems to be haram too.

“I fear we are at this time now as Muslims are calling it names like Art, interlude, background sound...and we have people saying it is permisable.”

When his parents visited that December he asked for advice on what to eat.

“I am of the view meat not slaughtered by Muslims or people of the book is haram for consumption unless necessary. My parents are of the view as foreigners, we are allowed to say ‘bismillah’ and eat any meat.

“It occurred to me I should not be eating with my parents as they use meat I consider haram. But I fear this might cause division and other complicated family problems….

“Please respond as quickly as possible as my tactic has been to eat outside and not at home till I get an answer.”

His last postings for some time were in January 2006 when he scolded female users for not wearing the hijab and added: “I don’t think it is allowed to be just friends with someone from the opposite sex. Except when thinking of marriage or when you have to work together.”

After a year of silence he reappeared on the site briefly in January 2007 talking about a meeting at UCL he was organising called War on Terror Week to be attended by the former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg.


Obama vows to finish Al Qaeda

S Rajagopalan | Washington

December 30, 2009

As the Al Qaeda formally claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day bid to blow up a US airliner over Detroit, President Barack Obama vowed an aggressive response to defeat the violent extremists threatening America ‘from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere’.

Obama interrupted his vacation in Hawaii to make a nationally-televised address that sought to reassure Americans, who have been subjected to extraordinary travel jitters and security hassles during a busy holiday season.

“We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses,” Obama said, pledging to use ‘every element of our national power’ to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda.

But the young Nigerian, who was overpowered after his failed attempt to bring down the Delta/Northwest flight last Friday, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that more Al Qaeda operatives are gearing up for similar bomb attacks against America.

Officials cited by ABC News spoke of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s disclosure that there were more men just like him in Yemen, who planned to strike soon. A tape released by Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen days before the Detroit bid reportedly said, “We are carrying bomb to hit the enemies of God.”

An organisation calling itself Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that swears by Osama Bin Laden formally claimed credit for the bid to blow up the plane over Detroit by posting a statement on an Islamist website on Monday, US monitoring bodies said.

Accompanied by a picture of Abdulmutallab, the statement boasted that the “Nigerian brother” broke all security barriers for his operation and demolished the ‘great myth’ of American intelligence. It went on to say that it was AQAP’s “manufacturing department” that developed the explosives technology for the mission. It, however, admitted a ‘technical fault’ resulting in the botched attempt.

In his address, Obama promised to track down all behind the plot. “I have directed my national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country,” he said in what was his first public comment on the subject, adding: “A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism, and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.”

He also touched on the review he has ordered relating to the procedures governing watch lists and airport screening in order to strengthen the systems. All screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel will be re-examined, he said as he tried to assure his countrymen that “we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure”.

Abdulmutallab told the investigators that he was trained for more than a month in Yemen and given 80 grams of high explosive, sewn into his underpants that could not be detected during airport security screening.

Analysts said the explosive, identified as PETN (Pentaerythritol tetranitrate) is hard to detect with the present screening devices in most airports. A whole body scanner could have picked it up, they said, prompting lawmakers to make the pitch for extensive deployment of this facility.


Will track down all involved in plane plot, says Obama

Dec 30, 2009

Honululu : President Barack Obama emerged from Hawaiian seclusion on Monday to reassure the American public and quell gathering criticism as a branch of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the thwarted attack on an American passenger jet on Christmas Day.

Obama vowed to track down “all who were involved” in helping a Nigerian man who tried to set off explosives aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as the plane approached Detroit, acknowledging the growing conclusion that the act was not that of a lone wolf but of a trained Qaeda operative. With more signs pointing to Yemen as the origin of the attack, the White House was weighing how to respond.

The President broke his silence as debate about the episode turned increasingly political. An assertion over the weekend by Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, that “the system worked” drew strong criticism and forced her to recalibrate it.

On the international front, a group called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in Yemen and was the target of a recent airstrike facilitated by the US, asserted that it had sponsored the attempted attack in retaliation. US officials said they considered the statement, which was posted on jihadist websites, credible. The Yemeni government said Monday that the suspect in the failed bombing had spent four months in the country before leaving in December.

Obama, making his first public comments since the episode, said he had ordered his national security team “to keep up the pressure” on terrorists. He vowed to “use every element of our national power to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks on the US homeland”. He assured Americans he was on top of the situation. “We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable,” Obama said.

The visual contrast of a President on vacation while there was anxiety about air travel also drew fire. Although aides issued statements describing conference calls with counterterrorism advisers, pictures of passengers enduring tougher airport screening were juxtaposed with reports of the President picnicking at the beach and playing sports.

Obama’s appearance coincided with new evidence linking Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, to al-Qaeda. The statement by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, accompanied called him a hero who had “penetrated all modern and sophisticated technology and devices and security barriers in airports of the world” and “reached his target”.


Yemen’s Link to Airline Plot Complicates Obama’s Plan to Release Yemenis From Guantanamo Bay

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

By Mike Melia, Associated Press

San Juan, Puerto Rico (AP) - The alleged Yemeni roots of the attack on a Detroit-bound airliner threaten to complicate U.S. efforts to empty Guantanamo, where nearly half the remaining detainees are from Yemen.

Finding a home for them is key to President Barack Obama's pledge to close the prison, but emerging details of the plot are renewing concerns about Yemen's capacity to contain militants and growing al-Qaida safe havens.

While inmates of other nationalities have left Guantanamo in droves, roughly 90 Yemenis have been held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba for as long as seven years.

A breakthrough seems less likely since al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day. The group counts two former Guantanamo detainees among its leaders, and some in the U.S. Congress are warning against sending any more detainees to Yemen.

David Remes, an attorney who represents Guantanamo detainees, said he fears concerns about the terror threat will block the repatration of any inmates to Yemen, including those already cleared for release.

"In theory, what's going on in Yemen should have nothing to do with whether these men are transferred," he said. "The politics of the situation may turn out to be prohibitive, at least in the short run, and that would be a tragedy."

The U.S. has expressed concern about the handling of militants in Yemen, a mountainous, impoverished country on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula that has been an al-Qaida haven partly because of a weak central government.

On Tuesday, officials in Yemen were investigating whether the Nigerian suspected in the attempted attack on a U.S. airliner spent time with al-Qaida militants in the country, where he briefly attended a school to study Arabic.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which was created in a merger between operatives from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, is led by a Yemeni who escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006 with 22 other al-Qaida figures. And two of the organization's leaders in Yemen are Saudis who were released from Guantanamo in November 2007.

Steven Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism research group, said he would not be surprised if those former Guantanamo detainees were behind the airliner attack.

"Serving time in Gitmo has become a status thing for al-Qaida terrorists," Emerson said. "Those that have served time have become appointed to top positions within the terrorist group once they make their way back to Yemen."

Six detainees were sent home to Yemen from Guantanamo earlier this month in a rare transfer that was viewed as a trial run for others to come. But Remes said he expects optimism to fade among Yemeni detainees, men he describes as effectively "stateless."

A task force created by Obama has been reviewing each Guantanamo detainee's file to determine whether they should be prosecuted, detained or transferred. U.S. officials have declined to reveal details of any discussions with Yemen.

A senior administration official said authorities still see closing the facility as a national security priority. While Obama has directed the U.S. to acquire a maximum-security prison in rural Illinois to hold as many as 100 Guantanamo detainees, he is counting on sending others back to their homelands or, in cases where that is impossible, to willing third-party countries.

While detainee transfers to Yemen are likely to face closer scrutiny, the U.S. has also begun working for closely with Yemen to fight terrorism, providing $70 million in military aid this year.

Sheila Carapico, a Yemen expert at the University of Richmond, said joint military operations against al-Qaida sites suggest cooperation at high levels that could facilitate an agreement to transfer and monitor Guantanamo detainees.

"This suggests to me a whole new era of cooperation, which will probably include discussions of what to do with these Gitmo guys," she said.

Yemen has said publicly that it wants all its nationals sent home from Guantanamo.


This year, J-K saw violence drop by 25 pc

Majid Jahangir

Dec 30, 2009

Srinagar : The year 2009 has witnessed a phenomenal drop of 25 per cent in militancy-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, violence in the Valley has been at its lowest since militancy erupted in the state two decades back.

“This year, we have achieved a milestone. It is for the first time in 20 years that less than 500 violent incidents took place in the state,” J&K’s Director General of Police Khuldeep Khoda told The Indian Express. The highest number of militancy-related incidents in J&K took place in 1995 when the police recorded a total of 5,946 cases across the state.

Khoda said that during 2008, militancy-related violence came down by 35 per cent as compared to 2007, while in 2009, the violence dropped further by 25 per cent.

“Over the past 20 years, the morale and confidence level of the J&K Police has been built painstakingly and its professional skills have helped in restoration of peace and normalcy in the state. With these efforts, the graph of violence is rapidly coming down year after year,” Khoda said.

For the second consecutive year in 2009, civilian casualties have been remained under-hundred mark.

Last year, 89 civilians were killed. “This year around 70 civilians were killed which is the lowest in the past 20 years,” Khoda said. The highest number of civilian casualties — 1413— was witnessed in 1996.

Khoda said that the security forces causalities were also the lowest this year in the past two decades of violence. In 2008, 75 security personal were killed, while as in 2007, the causality figure was 110.

This year, the lowest number of human rights violation cases were registered as compared to the previous years. “It is for the first time that no custodial death related to militancy was recorded this year,” the DGP Khoda said.

The DGP said the J&K Police, along with other security forces, succeeded in eliminating more than 50 self-styled militant commanders of different outfits during various anti-militancy operations.

“While conducting such operations, the police ensured to save life and property of the law-abiding citizens and respect human rights. People from all walks of life hailed the conduct of such operations in a way where no collateral damage was caused and the public has now become our partner in the fight against terrorism,” Khoda said.


'Blackwater hired Pak intel, army officers'

PTI 30 December 2009

LAHORE: Controversial US private security firm Blackwater, accused of carrying out secret operations in Pakistan, has hired services of army officers and former employees of intelligence agencies of this country for "handsome" salaries, a retired ISI official has claimed.

Khalid Khwaja, who has been at the forefront in raising the issue of "missing persons" or people detained without charges by Pakistani security agencies, said that ex-intelligence personnel hired by Blackwater had been asked to "pick up people with alleged connections to Taliban or al-Qaida."

The supreme court "has directed the Pakistan government to produce some 1,000 or so missing persons. The Pakistani (intelligence) agencies have expressed inability to comply with the order (on the ground that they do) not have knowledge about the missing persons," he said.

"I have written to the PM to investigate the matter," said Khwaja. Blackwater, he claimed, has "hired the services of army officers and ex-employees of intelligence agencies of Pakistan for handsome salaries."


Gaza: this is not humane. We need our dignity

Sami Abdel-Shafi

December 30, 2009

Twelve months after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, can both sides of the divide agree how to end the suffering? Here, a resident of Gaza City writes.

The sign on the left reads in Hebrew: “One year since the attack on Gaza. About 1,400 killed.” The sign on the right reads in Arabic: “Stop the occupation in Gaza.”

On my way to visit a friend in the Abed Rabbo district, north of the Gaza Strip, the taxi driver handed me a small pack of biscuits for change. There are nearly no copper coins left here so cab drivers barter a half Israeli shekel for biscuits brought in from the tunnels between the southern city of Rafah and Egypt’s northern Sinai. Some Gazans, who once earned a respectable living, resorted to melting coins and sold the copper for food supplies.

This was not the first time I was forced into arcane methods of barter. A few weeks ago I was told that oil filters for our British-made electricity generator could only be brought in through the tunnels. One alternative was to fit a refurbished car-engine filter to the generator.

We had wood-fired coffee next to the rubble of my friend’s family’s former homes — all levelled during Israel’s three-week war on Gaza that started one year ago. His only source of income, a taxi, was crushed by Israeli tanks during the assault. He agonises about how his children no longer respect him as their father. He is unable to provide them with the security of a house and an independent family life; they lost everything.

The family is spread around relatives’ homes. But the family’s old man just moved into a 60sq.m house built from mud and brick, standing next to the rubble of his 400 sq.m three-story house for which he saved for a lifetime. It was one of the first the U.N. Relief and Works Agency built after having seemingly lost hope in any Israeli intention to allow construction materials into Gaza. My friend’s daughter earns the highest grades in her class and is eyeing a scholarship for one of the universities in Gaza when she leaves high school. But this young woman’s resilience and motivation will go nowhere as long as Gaza is blockaded.

Almost nothing has been more deceitful than casting Gaza as a humanitarian case. This is becoming exponentially more problematic a year after the war. Gaza urgently needs far more than merely those items judged by the Israeli military as adequate to satisfy Gaza’s humanitarian needs. This list of allowable items is tiny compared to people’s needs for a minimally respectable civil life. Gaza is not treated humanely; the immediate concerns about the situation have clearly given way to long-term complacency, while failed politics has now become stagnant. The humanitarian classification conceals the urgent need to address this. Moreover, many in the international community have conveniently resorted to blaming Palestinians for their political divisions, as though they were unrelated to Israel’s policies — most notably Gaza’s closure after Israeli disengagement in 2005.

It seems evident that most officials in the U.S., U.K. and other powerful nations in Europe and the Middle East do not — or perhaps cannot — pressure Israel to reverse its policy of forcing Palestinians into eternal statelessness. How Palestinians are forced into degrading living standards in Gaza, and how they have no means to repel the ongoing demolition and confiscation of property and land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, is abhorrent. How Palestinians are still divided despite the increased suffering of their people is no less abhorrent. However, no one should fool themselves into believing that their reconciliation would alter Israel’s policy.

The international community must surely adopt a new approach — where it would not be seen as acquiescent to Israel’s policies. If the current policy continues then, at least, let it not be at the expense of Palestinian self-respect. Palestinians are a dignified people, as competitive and civilised as any other people in the world. It is far too humiliating for Palestinians to endure not only being occupied but to be made beggars.

For years it has been impossible not to suspect that Israel does not want peace. Of late, the U.S.-backed state has consistently created impossible conditions for fair and equal negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and it continues to undermine moderate voices and drive people towards extremism in Gaza. The fact that Palestinians still genuinely want peace should not allow Israel to reject the simplest rules of civility. The U.S. and the EU should come to Gaza; then they could draw their own conclusions on an Israeli policy they have backed and funded without ever witnessing its consequences on ordinary civilians’ lives. Surely then they could not fail to see that changing their policy is a moral imperative.

(Note: Sami Abdel-Shafi is a senior partner at Emerge Consulting Group, a management consultancy in Gaza City.)

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009


Use of Muslim militancy to defeat Arab nationalism a massive strategic error

December 30, 2009

AL-QAEDA IN the Arabian Peninsula has issued a chilling communique, couched in a medieval idiom, following its failed attempt to destroy a US airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.

The organisation, dubbed Aqap, claimed responsibility, praised its agent, Omar Farouk Abdul Muttalab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, and boasted of its prowess with high-powered explosives.

Dismissing the failure of the Detroit device as “God’s will”, Aqap pledged: “We will continue on the path (God willing) until we achieve what we want . . . We call upon all Muslims . . . to kill every Crusader” in the Arabian Peninsula, and to punish US citizens for supporting leaders who kill “our women and children . . . We have come to slaughter you and have prepared for you men who love death just as much as you love life.”

It is now nearly 70 years since the US initiated tentative contacts with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the mother-and-father of all militant Muslim groups.

The brotherhood, founded in 1928 as a revivalist, social reform and anti-imperialist movement, has inspired and indoctrinated thousands of young Muslims who studied at universities in Egypt, once the cultural capital of the Arab world.

Affiliates of the Egyptian brotherhood formed organisations in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan, and have served as mentors for militant organisations rising in the wider Muslim world.

Following the 1952 ouster of Egypt’s king by Gamal Abdel Nasser, Washington courted the brotherhood in an effort to counter the tide of secular Arab nationalism engulfing the Arab world from Algiers in the west to Aden in the east.

Saudi Arabia was also encouraged to use a portion of its oil revenues to promote Muslim activism as a counterweight to the drive for liberation of Arab countries and the unification of the Arab front. These were seen as threats to western interests in the region and to Israel, established by war in 1948 at the expense of Palestinian Arabs.

At first, Washington and its western allies ignored the fact that the brotherhood’s agenda included liberation, as well as calling on Muslims to return to their faith and abide by traditional social norms.

However, the West exploited the liberation aspect of the brotherhood programme in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded strategic Afghanistan. The US and Saudi Arabia conspired to oust the Soviet Union from the country by co-opting the native Afghan resistance and bolstering it with holy warriors from the Muslim world.

Arab, Asian, African and European veterans of this campaign have since formed the core of local militant groups as well as al-Qaeda and its franchises in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

After Shia clerics toppled the shah of Iran in 1979, oil-rich Saudi Arabia, aided and abetted by the West, strove to counter Iran’s efforts to export its Shia Islamic Revolution. Sunni competitor Saudi Arabia projected its puritan religious ideology by building mosques and training preachers.

The Saudi aim was to convert congregations in the 85 per cent Sunni majority worldwide community, the Umma, to Riyadh’s uncompromising Wahhabism.

However, a significant minority of converts adopted the liberation struggle as well as personal piety, and returned to traditional Muslim behaviour and practice.

Angry and frustrated by Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the impotence of their US-allied rulers, young Muslims became easy recruits for liberation groups, whether al-Qaeda, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, or Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The conclusion that must be drawn from this experience is that the use of Muslim militancy to defeat Arab nationalism was a monumental strategic mistake.

The conflict between militant Muslims and the West is civilisational, with historical, religious, cultural, and nationalist dimensions, and is, consequently, nearly impossible to resolve.

The dispute between the Arab nationalists and the West was merely political, and might have been resolved if the western powers had addressed Arab grievances.


Headley the second biggest catch of year, says FBI

December 30, 2009

The Federal Bureau of Investigation regards the capture of David Coleman Headley as its second biggest catch of 2009.

In what has been an exceptionally busy year in the sphere of counter-terrorism with a slew of cases of ‘homegrown terror cells’, the FBI gives great prominence to the arrest of Headley in a compilation of “most significant cases in terms of their impact on the overall security”.

Headley’s arrest has been ranked the second biggest success, next only to the ‘Jihadists of Georgia’ — a Banglaeshi-American and a Pakistani-American — who were recently sentenced to 17 years and 13 years respectively for plotting jihad.

“The threat posed by extremists is real and it continues to morph and evolve in new and dangerous ways. We had our hands full during the year, from heading off potential plots on US soil to identifying Americans being recruited to wage jihad overseas,” the FBI said.

The 49-year-old Headley, born Daood Gilani to a Pakistani father and an American mother, was initially arrested in October for planning terrorist attacks against a Danish newspaper for publishing the controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed.

His complicity in the Mumbai terror attacks came to the fore soon enough and the new charges that he was a part of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s conspiracy have been quickly added.

With six Americans among the nearly 170 people killed in the Mumbai attacks, Headley has since been arraigned for “conspiracy to bomb public places in India, to murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, to provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, and to provide material support to Lashkar, and aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India”.

The top terror case cracked by the FBI involves Ehsanul Islam Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed, both young Americans of Bangladeshi and Pakistani descent respectively. They were arrested in Georgia for plotting attacks in the US.

“Ehsanul Islam Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed are young Americans with terror on their minds. The two middle-class kids barely out of high school, who lived seemingly normal lives in and around Atlanta while secretly taking up the mantle of violent jihad. In the span of a year, they went from being extremist wannabes to trusted brothers of terrorist operatives across the globe,” the FBI said.

The two men were sentenced earlier this month. “Their story is indicative of both evolving homegrown extremist threat and the FBI’s post 9/11 intelligence-driven investigations,” the FBI said.

The third major catch relates to a group of young men from Minneapolis, who traveled to Somalia to join extremists fighting for control of the country. By November, 14 defendants were charged with recruiting people from the US to train or fight on behalf of extremist groups in Somalia.

Then there is the case involving Afghan-American Najibullah Zazi. The 24-year-old Colorado resident was arrested in September, along with his father and another man, for conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against US citizens. Zazi traveled to New York City on September 10, 2009 “in furtherance of his criminal plans,” says the FBI, which has catalogued six more major cases of homegrown terror cells.


Indonesia: Father Christmas is a Muslim

Terry Lacey

In Indonesia the latest news to encourage Christian-Muslim dialogue and reconciliation, despite some reports of harassment of Christian groups attempting to build churches by hardline Muslims, is that Father Christmas is actually a Muslim and lives in Jakarta. (The Jakarta Post, 24.12.09).

On Christmas Eve The Jakarta Post revealed that Father Christmas is a Muslim called Suroto, who formerly worked as a motorcycle taxi driver, called locally an ‘ojek’.

Suroto made the headlines because he has been Father Christmas for six years, so he has a track record, or his sleigh is leaving a track behind it in the shopping mall snow.

Moreover, several hundred Jakarta residents dress up as Father Christmas every year, and we are not sure how many of them are Muslim or Christian (or Hindu or Buddhist) because in Indonesia your religious affiliation is not a requirement for this particular job.

But you should be nice and well mannered, and not too thin and be able to remember “Ho Ho Ho” and wave at children all day.

Not to mention thousands of shop assistants and restaurant staff who also dress up in red and white suits and gowns, with funny hats.

It probably helps that the colors of Indonesia are red and white, so it all looks very patriotic. That may help explain why Father Christmas has taken off in Indonesia, complete with sleigh and elves.

Suroto only has one name because in Indonesian culture, especially that of Java, some people only have one name, so its their first name, their last name  and their only name.

Suroto did wonder if it was halal, or religiously acceptable. For him to be Father Christmas since he is a Muslim but his explanations seem diplomatic and theologically sound.

Firstly he sees Father Christmas as a Christian character rather than a religious symbol.

In fact most Indonesians don’t know how Father Christmas started. One newspaper Copy Editor I asked thought he started in Germany or Holland as being St Nicholas and dressed in black because he came down the chimney. Then he thought he changed to red and white to advertise Coca Cola.

There is also an apocryphal story of a Japanese Christmas card showing Father Christmas being crucified. But despite this reported attempt at a religious angle, there is no historical or theological relationship between Father Christmas and God, the Holy Trinity or Jesus, except that Christmas is the day that the birth of Jesus is celebrated.

In practice, Christmas day has become a wider commercial or cultural event in which non-Christians join and in Indonesia despite reservations from some clerics and rural Muslims in Java, it has become part of a sequence of happy holidays, when people have a jolly time, dress up and get and give cards or presents.

Moreover Indonesians get multi-cultural holidays, so there are more of them, for example there are three kinds of New Year (Islamic, European calendar-based, and Chinese).

So in Indonesia it´s not surprising if the person saying Happy Christmas to you is wearing a hijab.  

Some social pessimists think the pressure from hard liners against Happy Christmas is growing with global extremism. Such sentiments may be a little more noticeable, but are mainly a reaction to the pace and breadth of economic and social change, with some people feeling a bit left out.

As society globalizes and changes and the number in poverty and ignorance falls, with people gaining income and confidence, then Happy Christmas represents a celebration of diversity rather than a threat to religious identity. And it makes piles of money.

Suroto asked a religious leader in his neighbourhood if it was okay for a Muslim to be Father Christmas, “he said it was okay because I was only looking for an honest job.”

Suroto finally produced a more theological justification when he said “Also I really enjoy entertaining the children. Surely making people happy is in compliance with my religion.”

Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.


Indonesia: Muslims attack and set fire to a house of prayers

December 29, 2009

The attack by unknown assailants occurred in early December in the village of Tlogowero, Bansari sub district (Java). Police issued a statement on the matter only yesterday. For residents, the incident was caused by Muslim objection to the presence of Christian buildings in their villages.

Jakarta – A group of unknown assailants attacked and set fire to a house of prayer in early December in the village of Tlogowero in Bansari sub district (Java), local Police Chief Anthony Augustine Koylal said. “The motive is not yet known. We are still investigating the case with local authorities,” he added,

Police sources said the attack occurred late at night when a group of people stormed the building. After breaking windows and doors, they set fire to the building, which was razed to the ground. The attackers fled the scene when the house began burning.

The police chief also said that a similar incident occurred two years ago in the same area.

Local sources said that the main reason for the attack was the objection by local Muslims to the presence of a praying house for Christians near their villages.

So far, the authorities conducted out a cursory inquiry into the facts. No one who might have information on what happened has been interrogated.

This attack is just the latest in a long series of aggressions against Christians in Indonesia.

The most recent one dates back to less than two weeks ago. On 18 December in Begasi Regency, a mob of about a thousand people, including women and children, attacked Saint Albert’s Catholic Church.

Construction on the building started in 2008 after authorities issued a building permit to the local Catholic community. In this case, the reasons for the attack remain unknown.

However, there are signs of confessional détente in the village of Karangayar, Wiradesa district, also in Java.

On Christmas Day, District Chief Hajjah Siti Khomariyah paid a visit to the local Protestant and Catholic communities to deliever her Christmas greetings.

Ms Khomariyah expressed her personal support for local Christians who want to build their own places of worship.

“This official visit strengthens good relations between Christians and Muslims,” said Father Mardius from Wiradesa district, in what for him is a rare example of interfaith dialogue and good relations between Christians and Muslims.


Better pay boosts morale in Afghanistan’s Army

Dec. 29, 2009

Kabul: Amal is in the final weeks of his basic training and says he dreams of bringing peace and stability to his war-ravaged country as part of a professional Afghan National Army.

He is one of 7,000 recruits from across Afghanistan undergoing eight weeks of training at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC), one of the focal points of the new strategy for defeating a virulent Taliban insurgency.

The 21-year-old comes from southern Kandahar province, one of the most violent, and says he joined the Army to make a difference.

"I want to eliminate our enemies, I don’t care who they are, Taliban or whatever," he said during a break from ambush drill.

"I want to serve my country because when security is good, we can rebuild our country, the children can go to school, people can have normal lives," he added.

Behind him, this patch of the 22,000 acres occupied by the KMTC looks like many southern Afghan battlegrounds — beige, barren and dusty — as hundreds of recruits drop to their bellies to practise marksmanship.

Over the next hill, a few hundred more are being taught to search houses, set up checkpoints and road blocks, throw hand grenades and fire machine-guns.

Elsewhere on the campus — formerly the Afghan Military Academy — there are mass graves of victims of the communist regime of the seventies, and carcasses of destroyed Soviet tanks occupy their own graveyard.

Turnover at KMTC is 1,400 recruits every two weeks — with 7,000 constantly in training — as the Afghan government and its Western supporters attempt to extrude an Army from the mostly illiterate and often drug-addicted pool of young men needing jobs.

US President Barack Obama, General Stanley McChrystal, who commands US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai say they are determined the country will take responsibility for security within five years.

To make that wish come true, they plan to hit a benchmark of 400,000 security forces — Army and police — within 18 months.

There are nearly 100,000 troops in the Afghan Army, which is projected to grow to 136,000 next year. —AFP


Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh refuse repatriation

(AFP)  30 December 2009

DHAKA — Bangladesh's plans to repatriate 9,000 Myanmar Muslim refugees to their homeland hit trouble on Wednesday when a leader of the minority said they would refuse to leave.

Bangladesh's top foreign ministry official, Mirajul Quayes, said Tuesday that neighbouring Myanmar had agreed to take back 9,000 Rohingya refugees in what was seen as a breakthrough in a decade-long problem.

Quayes, the foreign secretary, said during talks with Myanmar deputy foreign minister Maung Myint in Dhaka that the military regime had agreed to accept nearly one-third of the officially recognised refugees now in Bangladesh.

Jalal Uddin, who is the secretary of the UN-recognised Kutupalong camp, said Rohingya refugees "are always ready to go back home" but stressed that rights as Myanmar citizens could not be guaranteed.

"(But) we don't have any rights in Myanmar," he told AFP by phone. "If we go back, the armed forces will use us as bonded labour.

"Many will be sent to jail. There are still curbs on practising our religion or movement from one place to another without the army's permission."

Described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities, some 250,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh in the early 1990s. But some 230,000 were later taken back by Myanmar following a UN-brokered deal.

Since then, thousands of Rohingyas from Buddhist-majority Myanmar's northern Rakhaine state have streamed across the border every year and are now estimated to number nearly 400,000.

But only 28,000 of them have been granted official refugee status and are allowed to stay in two UN-assisted camps in the country's Cox's Bazar district just miles (kilometres) across the Myanmar border.

"Some 9,000, are ready to be repatriated following verification, as the Myanmar government has assured us today that they are also ready. And it can begin within the shortest possible time," Quayes said Tuesday.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni last August said the undocumented refugees put a "heavy burden" on Dhaka, causing major social, economic problems.

Quayes expressed his concern about the increased influx of Rohingyas in recent months and urged Myanmar to take them back. "We've pressed the Myanmar government to take steps to get them back," he said.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved


Bombs kill more than 30 in Iraq

December 30th, 2009

RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) - Twin suicide bombs killed at least 24 and wounded more than 100 in Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland on Wednesday and a roadside bomb killed seven pilgrims returning from a major Shi'ite Muslim religious festival.

U.S. forces transported Qassim Mohammed, Sunni governor of the vast desert province of Anbar west of Baghdad, to the Iraqi capital for medical treatment, a U.S. military spokesman said after the attacks targeting him and other officials in Anbar.

Al-Iraqiya state television earlier reported he had been killed in the attacks just outside the provincial government headquarters in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital.

Hospital and police sources said Sadoon Khraibit, a member of Anbar's provincial council, and its deputy police commander were also wounded in the blasts.

A separate, roadside bomb killed seven Iraqi pilgrims who were returning from a major Shi'ite Muslim religious festival, police said. At least 25 other pilgrims were wounded in the attack in Khalis, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

The attacks underscore the tenaciousness of the insurgency despite a steep drop in overall violence. Iraq is going through a delicate period before national polls in March and as U.S. forces prepare to halt combat operations next year.

Police in Ramadi said the blasts took place in quick succession in the center of the city, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, leaving pools of blood and charred vehicles near the heavily fortified provincial building.

Police Colonel Jabbar Ajaj said a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a vehicle in the initial blast, followed shortly by a second suicide attack by a bomber on foot. Many of the at least 105 people wounded were members of Iraqi security forces.

The first blast went off near the governor's convoy as he made his way to work, police said. Mohammed was at the site of the blast inspecting the damage, a source at the Ramadi hospital reported, when the second attacker struck.

Iraqiya said one of the bombers was a man working as a bodyguard for the governor.

"I was walking toward some shops right next to the provincial government compound when a huge explosion happened. I flew through the air, and I woke up in the hospital," said Ahmed Mahmoud, a 30-year-old Ramadi resident.


At the Ramadi hospital, doctors crowded around injured policemen lying on stretchers. One of the wounded was a tiny baby, its diaper and white sweater dotted with blood.

Anbar, the heart of Iraq's Sunni Islamist insurgency following the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, became a relatively secure place after local tribal leaders threw their support behind grassroots guard units battling al Qaeda in 2006.

But a spate of recent attacks has raised fears violence will increase there ahead of the March elections. Many from Iraq's Sunni minority, dominant under Saddam Hussein, fear the Shi'ite majority could edge them out of power for good.

Sunnis have not formed a united electoral bloc as they have in past elections, and have instead reached out across sectarian lines to form alliances with Shi'ites and others.

The move may reflect a strategic calculation about voters' dissatisfaction with ruling religious parties and a degree of disarray among the Sunni leadership.

The Anbar attacks follow a series of large-scale bombings in Baghdad, which Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has blamed on al Qaeda and Saddam's Baath party.

"Al Qaeda and other groups are trying to destabilize security in the province ahead of the elections. Unless the police does its job well, these kind of challenges are going to become even bigger," said Anbar council head Jassim Mohammed.

(Reporting by Fadhel al-Badrani; additional reporting in Baghdad by Khalid al-Ansary; writing by Missy Ryan; editing by Philippa Fletcher)


Somali Arrested at Airport With Chemicals, Syringe

December 30, 2009

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- A man tried to board a commercial airliner in Mogadishu last month carrying powdered chemicals, liquid and a syringe that could have caused an explosion in a case bearing chilling similarities to the terrorist plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The Somali man -- whose name has not yet been released -- was arrested by African Union peacekeeping troops before the Nov. 13 Daallo Airlines flight took off. It had been scheduled to travel from Mogadishu to the northern Somali city of Hargeisa, then to Djibouti and Dubai. A Somali police spokesman, Abdulahi Hassan Barise, said the suspect is in Somali custody.

''We don't know whether he's linked with al-Qaida or other foreign organizations, but his actions were the acts of a terrorist. We caught him red-handed,'' said Barise.

A Nairobi-based diplomat said the incident in Somalia is similar to the attempted attack on the Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day in that the Somali man had a syringe, a bag of powdered chemicals and liquid -- tools similar to those used in the Detroit attack. The diplomat spoke on condition he not be identified because he isn't authorized to release the information.

Barigye Bahoku, the spokesman for the African Union military force in Mogadishu, said the chemicals from the Somali suspect could have caused an explosion that would have caused air decompression inside the plane. However, Bahoku said he doesn't believe an explosion would have brought the plane down.

A second international official familiar with the incident, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to discuss the case, confirmed that the substances carried by the Somali passenger could have been used as an explosive device.

In the Detroit case, alleged attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab hid explosive PETN in a condom or condom-like bag just below his torso when he traveled from Amsterdam to Detroit. Like the captured Somali, Abdulmutallab also had a syringe filled with liquid. The substances seized from the Somali passenger are being tested.

The November incident garnered little attention before the Dec. 25 attack aboard a flight on final approach to Detroit. U.S. officials have now learned of the Somali case and are hastening to investigate any possible links between it and the Detroit attack, though no officials would speak on the record about the probe.

U.S. investigators said Abdulmutallab told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen -- which lies across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Similarly, large swaths of Somalia are controlled by an insurgent group, al-Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaida.

Western officials say many of the hundreds of foreign jihadi fighters in Somalia come in small boats across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. The officials also say that examination of equipment used in some Somali suicide attacks leads them to believe it was originally assembled in Yemen.

Law enforcement officials believe the suspect in the Detroit incident tried to ignite a two-part concoction of the high explosive PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive, setting off popping, smoke and some fire but no deadly detonation. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, is charged with trying to destroy an aircraft.

A Somali security official involved in the capture of the suspect in Mogadishu said he had a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) package of chemical powder and a container of liquid chemicals. The security official said the suspect was the last passenger to try to board.

Once security officials detected the powder chemicals and syringe, the suspect tried to bribe the security team that detained him, the Somali security official said. The security official said the suspect had a white shampoo bottle with a black acid-like substance in it. He also had a clear plastic bag with a light green chalky substance and a syringe containing a green liquid. The security official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

The powdered material had the strong scent of ammonia, Bahoku said, and samples have been sent to London for testing.

The Somali security officials said the Daallo Airlines flight was scheduled to go from Mogadishu to Hargeisa, to Djibouti and then to Dubai.

A spokeswoman for Daallo Airlines said that company officials weren't aware of the incident and would have to seek more information before commenting. Daallo Airlines is based in Dubai and has offices in Djibouti and France.


Iranian woman held with fake currency

TNN 30 December 2009,

CHENNAI: An Iranian woman was remanded in judicial custody for being in possession of fake Indian currency. The Mylapore police arrested her and produced her before a magistrate’s court on Tuesday.

Mortazavi Asraf, 62, had come here on December 3 with her daughter, Salom-e-Abtahi, to train at a meditation centre in Manapakkam. On Monday night, they went to Citi Centre, a shopping mall on Dr Radhakrishnan Salai, and purchased clothes worth Rs 4,000. They gave the cashier eight five-hundred rupee notes. His suspicion aroused, the cashier asked them to wait for a while. He informed the Mylapore police who arrived quickly and picked up the mother-daughter duo. The women claimed they were innocent.

From Asraf’s bag, police recovered currency worth Rs 19,000, all in denominations of Rs 500. “We sent the money to the Reserve Bank of India to verify whether they are genuine or fake notes. RBI officials, after a thorough inspection, found all the notes to be fake,” a police officer said, adding, “As we did not seize any cash from Salom-e-Abtahi, we let her off.”

Preliminary inquiries revealed that the Iranians had received the notes from Noor Money Exchange located at Tehran airport. Asraf had Indian currency worth Rs 40,000 there. The exchange ran under the supervision of the Central Bank of Iran, Asraf said. Her husband, Hassan Abtahi, runs a furniture shop in Teheran.

Asraf and Salom-e-Abtahi were in Chennai to attend meditation sessions at the Sri Ramachandra Mission Babuji Meditation Centre in Manapakkam. They had visited the city in July this year and stayed for more than 15 days.

“We have to verify whether Asraf had collected Indian currency from the exchange in Iran. We are also verifying if she had contacted any other person during her stay in the ashram in Manapakkam. We inspected her room in Manapakkam and collected some documents. We have asked immigration officials to check whether they are frequent visitors to Chennai and how long they had stayed here earlier. Also, whether they tendered fake currency at other shops in the city,” Mylapore deputy commissioner of police AG Mourya told The Times Of India.


Afghan soldier kills US servicemember at army base: Official

REUTERS 30 December 2009

HERAT: An Afghan soldier killed a US servicemember and wounded two Italian soldiers when he opened fire on foreign troops at an army base in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, a senior Afghan army officer said.

The shooting is the latest in a string of such incidents, at a time when Western countries are pouring resources into training Afghan soldiers and police to fight the Taliban insurgency.

"The soldier opened fire on the two Italians and one American in a joint Afghan and foreign base," General Khair Mohammad Khawari, a senior officer in western Afghanistan, said.

"Two Italian soldiers were wounded, one American soldier was killed," Khawari said, adding that the Afghan soldier had been wounded when NATO forces returned fire and was now in hospital.

The assailant comes from an area north of the Afghan capital Kabul and is thought to have mental health problems, Khawari added.

The Taliban have traditionally had less of a hold in northern Afghanistan but have recently been expanding their reach across the country.

A spokesman for NATO-led forces said a US servicemember had died following a shooting incident in western Afghanistan but declined to comment further.

Italian defence ministry officials said that the attack, which was deliberate and not a case of friendly fire, occurred during a routine supply operation.

One Italian was lightly wounded in the thigh and the other in the hand and leg but both have returned to their duties. Last month, an Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers at a military compound in southern Helmand province.

The Taliban said he was one of their fighters who had infiltrated the force and the incident prompted Britain to improve its vetting procedure for Afghan police.


Iran arrests Ebadi's sister, blames crisis on West

30 December 2009

TEHRAN: Iran's conservative parliament called for maximum punishment of opposition demonstrators Tuesday as the regime stepped up its crackdown on dissent arresting the sister of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

She was detained along with dozens of journalists and activists, reports said, after eight people were killed in protests on Sunday during Shiite rituals for Ashura.

Ebadi said that intelligence agents had arrested her sister, who is a professor of medicine, on Monday. "She is not an activist and her arrest is in fact new pressure to stop my human rights work," Ebadi said in a statement carried by the Rahesabz opposition website.

Ebadi, who left Iran a day before the poll, has been urging the international community to act against what she sees as human rights violations.

Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast accused outside countries, including the US and Britain, of "miscalculating" by siding with anti-government protesters. Reports said the government was also summoning UK's envoy to file a complaint.

US president Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned Iran's crackdown on protesters and asked the country to abide by international obligations in respecting the rights of its citizens. "We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people," Obama said.

"We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I'm confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice," Obama said.

The US joins with the international community in condemning the "unjust" suppression of Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even deaths, he said.


Police arrest 20 Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria

30 December 2009,

ABUJA: Police in Nigeria's northern state of Bauchi, where a clash by Islamic extremists led to the death of over 30 people, on Tuesday arrested 20 suspected fundamentalists allegedly involved in the killings.

"We recovered bomb-making tools, explosive devices, two AK-47 rifles, seven rounds of ammunition and hundreds of weapons of various types, as well as some with blood stains," state commissioner of police Atiku Yusuf Kafur told the media.

Among those arrested were nine adults and eleven juveniles, Kafur said.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross has announced that more than 1,000 people were displaced in the aftermath of the clash.

Nigeria Red Cross state secretary Adamu Abubakar, meanwhile said the displaced people had taken refuge at the Defence Industry building located in the industrial quarters close to the area.

The clash was allegedly caused by members of a Muslim sect known as Kalo-Kato who burnt down houses in protest against the arrest of a sect member by the police.

The group, according to the police chief is not recognised by other Muslim groups in the area due to their extremist views.

Normalcy is gradually returning to the area following extra security measures taken by police.

A recent clash in northern Nigeria's Maiduguri area allegedly led by a group known as Boko Haram in led to the death of close to a thousand people.


Iranian woman held with counterfeit currency notes

S. Vijay Kumar

30 December 2009

CHENNAI: An Iranian national, who was allegedly in possession of counterfeit currency notes, was arrested by the Chennai Police here on Tuesday.

Acting on a tip-off from the manager of a garment outlet, a special team of the Mylapore police nabbed Mortazavi Asraf (62) at a shopping mall where she gave the currency to purchase clothes. The accused had 46 fake notes of 500-rupee denomination in her purse, police sources said.

Asraf arrived in Chennai on December 3 along with her family members to undergo training in ‘Raja Yoga Meditation’ at an ashram here. Though investigation is on to ascertain the exact source of the counterfeit currency, the accused told investigators that she got it from a money exchanger authorised by the Central Bank of Iran. “Preliminary enquiries revealed that the woman had come to Chennai on a couple of occasions. Since she claimed to have got the money from an authorised money exchanger in Iran, we are alerting the Interpol Cell in the Central Bureau of Investigation for appropriate action,” Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran told The Hindu on Tuesday.

Investigators said the counterfeit currency was being sent to the Indian Security Press at Nashik for analysis. “Though the notes appeared to be original, some security features were missing. We also got the opinion of a nationalised bank before registering a case,” a police official said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Mylapore) A.G. Mourya said Asraf was produced in a city court and remanded to judicial custody. In a related development, the Crime Branch CID has sought the custody of D. Manarul Sheikh (48) of Jharkhand who was arrested last week. The accused is suspected to be a key player in the circulation of counterfeit currency across the country through agents, sources in the agency said.

According to a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Rs.18.63 crore worth counterfeit currency notes were seized in India between April 2008 and March 2009, of which Rs.13.44 crore was recovered by the Reserve Bank of India. “Available reports indicate that high-quality Fake Indian Currency Notes are being printed outside the country and smuggled into India by established networks spread over countries in the immediate and the near neighbourhood,” the report says.


Israeli police arrest nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu

Amy Teibel | Jerusalem

December 30, 2009

Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was ordered to be put under house arrest on Tuesday after being charged with violating a condition of his 2004 release from an Israeli prison.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Vanunu met with “a number of foreigners”, something he was ordered not to do for fear he might divulge classified information.

Vanunu, who has been charged with violating this order before, flashed a ‘V’ sign and unleashed a rambling tirade against the ‘impotent’ Jewish state as he entered a Jerusalem court. His lawyer Avigdor Feldman said Vanunu was arrested because he has a Norwegian girlfriend whom police have already interrogated.

A court spokesman said Vanunu would be released from jail on Tuesday evening and was ordered to stay under house arrest through Thursday. Vanunu was a former low-level technician at an Israeli nuclear plant who leaked details and pictures of the operation to the Sunday Times of London in 1986.

Israeli intelligence agents kidnapped him in Rome and brought him back to Israel to stand trial. He served 18 years in prison before being freed, but he is not allowed to leave the country. Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu was banned from leaving the country and having unauthorised contact with foreigners.

Following a policy that it calls “nuclear ambiguity”, Israel has never acknowledged or denied having a nuclear weapons programme. But experts concluded from the material that Vanunu divulged that Israel had the world’s sixth-largest nuclear arsenal. -- AP


US rebuffs reports regarding brokering Indo-Pak talks over Kashmir

ANI  Dec 30, 2009

Islamabad : The United States has rebuffed reports that said that Washington is brokering talks between India and Pakistan to resolve the long pending Kashmir issue.

Responding to an article published in a local daily, which quoted President Barack Obama’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke as saying that the White House was mediating talks between India and Pakistan, the US embassy described the report as ‘baseless’ and ‘false’.

“This assertion is false and baseless. Ambassador Holbrooke made no such statement. Moreover, he reiterated the long-standing US position on the Kashmir issue as recently as his December 15 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations,” a statement issued by the US embassy said here.


‘Govt let us down as we are Muslim’

Dec 30, 2009

Mumbai : Roshan Jamal Khan’s family says will approach Spain Supreme Court, International Court of Justice

The family of Mumbai businessman Roshan Jamal Khan, convicted by Spain’s anti-terror court earlier this month, on Tuesday alleged that the Government of India had let them down as he was a Muslim.

The family also said it would approach the Supreme Court of Spain and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague if necessary.

In a press conference at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh, Azad Maidan, his brother Mehboob alleged that the government was treating the case with indifference, as he was a Muslim. “I went to New Delhi several times to meet Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and submitted files to their secretaries. The Ministry of External Affairs has not replied to us once. All we expect from the ministry is to request Spain to make evidence against my brother public. If they are able to produce evidence, we will shut our voices forever,” he said.

“In all honesty, I feel we are being treated in this manner because we are Muslim. The government’s intentions are not clean,” he alleged.

Jamal Khan was among the 14 Muslim men picked up by the Spanish authorities from a Barcelona mosque on January 19 last year in connection with a terror plot. Four of them, including another Indian, were released later and a 15th suspect was detained in the Netherlands. Jamal Khan’s family has been maintaining that he had gone to Spain on business. 

He was convicted, along with 10 Pakistanis, by the Spanish court on December 14 for belonging to a terrorist group linked to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. According to the prosecution, the group intended to bomb the Barcelona Metro transport system. The court acquitted them of a specific conspiracy to strike the metro.

Jamal Khan’s lawyer has appealed against the conviction and the matter is likely to be heard in the January first week. “We will take up the case in Spain’s Supreme Court if the appeal is turned down. If necessary, we will also go to the International Court of Justice. We are also in touch with Amnesty International,” said Mehboob.

Parvez Ubhare, a lawyer working closely with Khan’s family, said, “There is no evidence against Khan to associate him with a terrorist group. The court’s order is also contradictory since it has given a clean chit with regard to a conspiracy to bomb the Metro. It has relied solely on the statement of a protected witness who has worked for three years with the Taliban. It has also relied on an interview by an associate of Behtullah Mehsud eight months after the accused were arrested.”


Kozhikode blasts: Main accused held

Dec 30, 2009

Kochi : Main accused in the 2006 Kozhikode twin bomb blasts case and a confidant of suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant T Nazir was arrested in the wee hours on Tuesday, the police said.

Parapanagadi Yosuf was nabbed at 2 am from nearby Ambelamedu and the National Investigation Team (NIT), which is probing the case, had been informed, the police said.

Yosuf admitted during interrogation that on directions of Nazir, the main accused in the 2005 Tamil Nadu bus burning case, he had gone to Kannur and brought the bombs wrapped in a polythene packet which were placed at the mofussil and KSRTC bus stands in Kozhikode on March 3, 2006, the police claimed.

On September 9, 2005, when a Tamil Nadu bus was burnt at nearby Kalamassery, he along with T Nazir, now in the custody of the Karnataka Police, and another accused Ummer Farook were at the house of PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madhani’s wife, Soofiya — listed as 10th accused in the case — the police said.

Halim, another accused arrested in the case, had informed Soofiya immediately after the bus was set afire, Yosuf told the police.

They said Yosuf was a close friend of terror suspect Abdul Rahim, the Keralite youth allegedly recruited for militant activities in Kashmir who later died there.


China ignores appeals, executes Briton in drugs case

Dec 30, 2009

Shanghai : A British man convicted of drug smuggling was executed in China early Tuesday, despite appeals for clemency from his family, human rights groups and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, according to British officials.

The man, Akmal Shaikh, 53, was executed in the far western region of Xinjiang, where he had been convicted in 2008 of entering the country carrying a suitcase stuffed with heroin. China’s official news agency, Xinhua, said he was executed by lethal injection.

Brown released a statement shortly after the announcement on Tuesday, saying he condemned the execution “in the strongest terms” and that he was “appalled” the court did not grant the man clemency. British officials had pressed the Chinese courts to consider Shaikh’s history of mental disturbance and to allow an independent evaluation of his psychiatric state. But China’s highest court rejected a last-minute appeal from the man’s family.

Shaikh’s case had drawn international concern. Rights groups said Shaikh, a former London minicab driver, was the first European to be executed in China in more than 50 years.

On Tuesday, China’s state-run news media blamed Western news outlets for “politicising” the execution and said government officials had determined that there was insufficient evidence that Shaikh had suffered from mental problems. The execution came just days after China sentenced Liu Xiaobo, one of the country’s best-known dissidents, to 11 years in prison for subversion.

The execution of Shaikh brought to a close a case that initially went to trial in 2008, when Shaikh was sentenced to death after the court met for just 30 minutes in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

China’s drug trafficking laws are harsh and its criminal justice system carried out about 1,700 executions last year.

Shaikh was born in Pakistan and moved to Britain at age 11. Family members said he had a long history of mental problems and had been duped into carrying the suitcase. He left for China in 2007, they said, with delusional thoughts of starting a career as a pop singer.


Iran unrest: Karroubi denied protection, Nobel laureate Ebadi’s sister arrested

Dec 30, 2009

Tehran : Iranian security forces have limited the movements of a leading opposition figure by refusing to protect him when he leaves his home, his son said on Tuesday as authorities broadened their crackdown with a new wave of arrests that included the sister of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

The son of leading opposition figure Mahdi Karroubi said that guards assigned to his father by Iranian police stopped on Monday providing security for him when he goes out. Taghi Karroubi said the measure means his father cannot go outside safely, calling it a “quasi-house arrest.”

There was no serious violence reported on Tuesday, but opposition websites reported some 10 new arrests, including Dr Noushin Ebadi. The arrests follow clashes between state forces and pro-reform supporters on Sunday which were the worst since the aftermath of June’s disputed presidential election.

Shirin Ebadi, who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights efforts in Iran, said that Iranian authorities were trying to punish her by arresting her sister. She said she called her sister on Monday, and that she was being punished because of the conversation. “She was warned not to contact me,” she said. Security forces also arrested a relative of opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi on Tuesday, while government supporters held rallies in at least three cities.

The elite Revolutionary Guards meanwhile, accused foreign media of joining hands with the opposition to harm the Islamic state and the British ambassador to Tehran was summoned by the Iranian government. “If Britain does not stop talking nonsense it will get a slap in the mouth,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

Opposition website Greenroad reported a series of additional arrests, among them Moussavi’s brother-in-law, Shapour Kazemi, and Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a journalist. Others included the son of a prominent ayatollah, a reporter for the semi-official ILNA news agency, and several activists.


Western counter-terrorism help 'not enough for Yemen'

Dec 30, 2009

Mr Abdulmutallab studied at the Sana'a Institute for the Arabic Language

Yemen has said it is not getting enough support from the West to tackle al-Qaeda, as details emerge of the suspected US jet bomber's time there.

Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told the BBC that Yemen had the will and ability to deal with al-Qaeda, but was undermined by a lack of support.

He estimated that several hundred al-Qaeda members were operating in Yemen and could be planning more attacks.

A Yemen-based branch of the network has claimed it planned the failed attack.

Yemeni officials said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up the Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day, was living in Yemen from August until the beginning of December, the official Saba news agency reported.

US officials are said to be concerned there may be more al-Qaeda-trained young men in the country planning to bring down US planes.


Only one item of hand luggage, including items bought airside

BA and Virgin Atlantic not charging to check in extra hand luggage

Check in wrapped presents

Passengers subject to "pat-down" searches before boarding, on top of usual security checks

Customers to remain seated during final hour of flight

No access to hand luggage and a ban on leaving possessions or blankets on laps during this hour

Dutch press EU to adopt scanners

In pictures: Suspect's journey

How are travellers screened?

Q&A: 'Jet bomber' case

In recent weeks, Yemen has launched several major operations against al-Qaeda with US backing, amid fears the troubled country is becoming a major training centre for militants.

'Exaggerated' danger

In an interview for BBC Radio 4's World at One programme, Mr al-Qirbi said the conflict with al-Qaeda was a priority for his government despite wars with Shia rebels in the north and with separatists in the south.

Yemen was getting some support in this conflict but it was inadequate, he added.

"We need more training. We have to expand our counter terrorism units and this means providing them with the necessary training, military equipment, ways of transportation - we are very short of helicopters.

"The United States can do a lot, Britain can do a lot, the European Union can do a lot in that regard," he said.

He said he thought that 200-300 al-Qaeda members were operating in Yemen, but that this was just a rough guess.

"Of course there are a number in Yemen and they may actually plan for attacks as in Detroit," he said.

But Mr al-Qirbi said warnings about the situation made by US officials like Gen David Petraeus, head of Central Command, were overstated and "exaggerated in some media".

Guantanamo link

Mr Abdulmutallab has been charged with attempting to blow up the Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 from Amsterdam, which had nearly 300 people on board, as it made its final descent into Detroit on Friday.

The 23-year-old, who is being held at a federal prison in the US state of Michigan, was restrained by passengers and crew while allegedly trying to detonate a high-explosive device sewn inside his underwear.


Son of a wealthy Nigerian businessman

Attended a British school in Togo

Studied mechanical engineering at University College London

Spent time in Dubai, Yemen and Egypt

Q&A: 'Jet bomber' case

Profile: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Al-Qaeda group claims bomb plot

He has reportedly told FBI investigators that al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen had supplied him with the bomb and that there were others like him who would strike soon. His family says it lost contact with him in October.

On Monday a web posting by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including a photograph purportedly of Mr Abdulmutallab in front of its banner, said the attack had been a response to US attacks against its operatives.

On Tuesday, an official at the Yemeni foreign ministry said that the Migration and Passport Authority had confirmed that Mr Abdulmutallab arrived in Yemen at the beginning of August to study at the Sanaa Institute for the Arabic Language (SIAL) and left for Ethiopia four months later.

ABC News earlier reported that among the group who planned the alleged attack were two men who were released by the US from its Guantanamo Bay detention centre in November 2007.

Mohammed Atiq al-Harbi, also known as Mohammed al-Awfi, and Said Ali al-Shihri were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where they were admitted to an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and later set free, US and Saudi officials said.

Both men appeared in a video in January along with the man described as the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi.


Iran reformist Mousavi's nephew 'got death threats'

Dec 30, 2009

Mir Hossein Mousavi (L), pictured with his nephew, is being closely observed

A spokesman for Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has said his nephew's life was threatened days before he died in Sunday's protests.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a film-maker based in Paris, told the BBC that secret police called Seyed Ali Mousavi several times, saying: "We will kill you."

But a police statement reportedly said Mr Mousavi was killed by "terrorists".

Meanwhile Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western countries of organising the protests.

Tehran has rejected international calls for it to halt the crackdown. State media say at least eight people died in the protests.

The Irna news agency quoted Mr Ahmadinejad as describing the opposition rallies as a "nauseating masquerade".

"Iranians have seen lots of these games," he said.

"Americans and Zionists are the sole audience of a play they have commissioned and sold out."

In other developments:

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said her sister Nooshin had been arrested by the intelligence services

Three journalists and a women's rights campaigner were also detained, along with several senior opposition figures, according to opposition sources

The UK ambassador was summoned by the government to be accused of "interference" in state matters

Tens of thousands of government supporters rallied in Tehran, according to state media

Pro- and anti-government demonstrations were reported in the city of Shiraz, where a cleric named as Ayatollah Dastgheyb was said to be holed up in a mosque and under attack from Basij militia

'Isolated and monitored'

Mr Makhmalbaf said the alleged death threats against Seyed Ali Mousavi were part of the government's continuing attempts to weaken the opposition.


19 Dec: Influential dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri dies aged 87

21 Dec: Tens of thousands attend his funeral in Qom; reports of clashes between opposition supporters and security forces

22 Dec: Further confrontations reported in Qom

23 Dec: More clashes reported in city of Isfahan as memorial is held

24 Dec: Iran reportedly bans further memorial services for Montazeri except in his birthplace and Qom

26 Dec: Clashes reported in central and northern Tehran

27 Dec: At least eight dead following anti-government protests in Tehran; 300 reported arrested

World reacts to Iran violence

In pictures: Tehran clashes

"During last week of his life, several times, the Iranian secret police call him and inform him that 'we will kill you' and they did," he told the BBC World Service's Newshour programme, before describing his death.

"From one car, five persons from secret police came in front of him and shot at his chest and before he arrived at hospital he was dead."

A police statement, quoted by AFP news agency, said Mr Mousavi had been shot by "people aboard a vehicle".

But it added that "an extensive investigation is ongoing to identify the terrorists behind the incident".

Mr Makhmalbaf said Mr Mousavi's uncle was being isolated and closely monitored by the authorities.

"He's in a very bad situation," he said.

"The police have arrested all of his assistants and he's under control in everything. He can't speak by phone with his friends. He's using pen and paper to [communicate], even in his house.

"He is in his house. He can come out, but not freely because the bodyguards for him are from the Revolutionary Guard."

The official death toll from Sunday's protests is the highest since June

Meanwhile the US-based son of another opposition leader, Ebrahim Yazdi, said his father's arrest would not hinder attempts to bring democracy to Iran.

"The government is using the tools of fear and intimidation, but the key is not to allow that to slow anybody down," Youseph Yazdi said in an interview for US National Public Radio.

On Monday, state-owned English-language Press TV said eight people had died. State TV had earlier reported that at least 15 people were killed.

The official death toll is the highest since June, when mass protests were sparked by President Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.

Iranian security forces have been on alert since the influential dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, died earlier this month.

His funeral attracted tens of thousands of opposition supporters, many of whom shouted anti-government slogans.

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Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu arrested

Dec 30, 2009

Mr Vanunu's lawyer says his arrest was for meeting his Norwegian girlfriend

Israeli police have arrested Mordechai Vanunu, a technician who spent 18 years in prison for revealing details of Israel's clandestine nuclear programme.

He is being held on suspicion that he met foreigners, violating conditions of his 2004 release from jail, police say.

At a Jerusalem court hearing, Mr Vanunu was placed under house arrest for three days until the case proceeds.

His lawyer said his arrest was because of his relationship with his Norwegian girlfriend, not for revealing secrets.


"Vanunu was arrested [for] a relationship between a man and a woman, with a Norwegian citizen," Avigdor Feldman told reporters.

"She is not interested in nuclear business - she's interested in Mordechai Vanunu [and he] is probably interested in her."

But police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Mr Vanunu had met "a number of foreigners", something he had been banned from doing.

From the data Mr Vanunu leaked to a UK newspaper in 1986, experts concluded that Israel had nuclear arms. Israel neither confirms nor denies this.

After his release from prison in 2004, the Israeli authorities banned Mr Vanunu from speaking to foreign media and travelling abroad.

They said he could divulge more classified information about Israel's Dimona nuclear plant, where he had worked before the arrest.

Mr Vanunu - an anti-nuclear campaigner - has rejected the claim, saying he only wants to be free to leave Israel.

In 2007, Mr Vanunu, a Jewish convert to Christianity, was sentenced to six months in prison for breaking the conditions of his parole.


Nigeria sect violence victims 'mostly children'

Dec 30, 2009

The Red Cross in Nigeria says many of those who were killed in clashes on Monday between troops and members of an Islamist sect in Bauchi were children.

Adamu Abubakar, its representative in the northern state, told the BBC 39 people had died - some 60% of them students aged between nine and 15.

Local officials said if any children had died, it would have been because they were hit by vehicles or trampled.

Twenty members of the Kala Kato sect had been arrested, Mr Abubakar said.

The fighting started when locals called in the authorities after members of the sect broke a ban on open-air preaching, which was introduced after an uprising earlier this year by the Boko Haram sect.

Hundreds died in the subsequent fighting across northern Nigeria.

'Result of preaching'

Mr Abubakar told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme the death toll from Monday's violence was 39. Sixteen people were also admitted to hospital, among them a seven-year-old who died on Tuesday morning, he added.

He said some of the victims had been shot, but most had been attacked with machetes and knives.

I definitely don't think it was security officers that went to quell the rioting who shot them down 

Alhaji Sanusi Mohammed

Bauchi government spokesman

The Red Cross representative said the crisis "was the result of preaching" at an open-air gathering, after which members of the Kala Kato sect threatened to kill locals who would not join them or leave the area.

An army officer who was sent from a nearby base to speak to the sect's leaders was killed with a machete, he added.

Mr Abubakar said most of the dead were children from outside Bauchi who had been sent to study Arabic and the Koran with local clerics.

But a spokesman for the government of Bauchi, Alhaji Sanusi Mohammed, told the BBC that 32 people had died in the violence, and that most of the people killed were adult members of the sect who had attacked the security forces.

"Most likely, those children that might have been killed were probably crushed when running away from the scene, or they were victims of head-on collisions with cars," he said.

"But I definitely don't think it was security officers that went to quell the rioting who shot them down."

It was impossible that the troops had used machetes, he added.

Mr Mohammed said the clashes had been a result of a "misunderstanding within the religious sect" about its leadership, and that it had quickly escalated.

Correspondents say Kala Kato is a non-conformist sect made up of poor tradesmen, labourers and other working people.


Obama vows to hunt down extremists even as Qaida claims attack

30 December 2009

Kailua (Hawaii): A wing of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for a failed Christmas Day attack on a US-bound passenger plane and President Barack Obama vowed to bring every element of US power against those who threaten Americans safety.

In a statement posted on Islamist websites, the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula said on Monday the attempt was to avenge US attacks on its members in Yemen.

The group said it had provided the Nigerian suspect in the failed airliner bombing with a technically advanced device but that it did not detonate because of a fault.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab , 23, is charged with smuggling explosives on board and attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on December 25 with almost 300 people on board.

Speaking during a vacation in Hawaii, Obama said, We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.

We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are pl


'Holocaust behind high rates of cancer in many Israelis'

Roni Caryn Rabin

30 December 2009

An Israeli study, believed to be one of the first of its kind, has found significantly higher cancer rates among European Jews who migrated to Israel after the Holocaust than among those who left Europe for what is now Israel either before or during World War II.

The rates of breast and colorectal cancer were particularly high among those who spent the war years in Nazi-occupied Europe, according to the paper, published Nov. 4 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The most striking disparity was among those who were youngest during the war. Of the 315,544 subjects in the study, men born from 1940 to 1945 who were in Europe through the war years developed cancer at three and a half times the rate of men the same age who immigrated to Israel during the war; women in Europe throughout the war years were at more than double the risk, the study found.

The question of whether living in camps or under other dire conditions contributed to cancer in later life has long vexed Israeli experts.

"It is a very delicate question," said Micha Barchana, director of the Israel National Cancer Registry and the paper's senior author. "Holocaust survivors are treated as a special population in Israel, and we wanted to be sensitive. They have already been traumatized, and we did not want to traumatize them again."

Before embarking on the analysis, researchers broached the subject with groups of survivors to assess their reactions, Barchana said.

Medical experts in Israel have long been intrigued by the discrepancy in cancer rates between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. Even though several genetic mutations associated with increased cancer risk among Ashkenazi Jews have been identified, Barchana said, they do not entirely explain the cancer gap.

In some ways, experts said, the research raises more questions than it answers. "What is it... the caloric restriction, the exposure to pathogens, the psychological stress or all combined," said Lorenzo Cohen of University of Texas.


Muslim clerics deny Al-Qaeda links in Nigeria

By Inalegwu Shaibu

Dec 30, 2009

ABUJA—Muslim Clerics across Nigeria yesterday condemned the attempted bombing of a US airliner by Farouk Mutallab, a 23-year old Nigerian, just as they denied the existence of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the country.

Some of the clerics who spoke with Vanguard in Abuja, described the incident as unfortunate, adding that Nigeria is not a terrorist country.

Those that spoke include Dr Taofik Abdulazeez, Imam, University of Abuja, Malam Abdulfattah Adeyemi and the Director of Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, Dr Ishaq Akintola.

Condemning the act, Dr. Abdulazeez said, “On the reported case of attempted bombing, we plead with Nigerians to take this news with extreme caution and to also caution Nigerians and the authorities not to rush into actions and not to make costly conclusions out of it.

“There may be a connection between extreme economic prosperity of some people and extreme poverty of some and certain tendencies such as violence which may not be located among the poor.’’

In his own contribution, Dr. Akintola decribed the event as “highly criminal, inhuman, horrifying and preposterous. It is very callous and thoughtless to attempt to destroy a plane carrying more than 300 innocent people.

“We call on Muslim parents and guardians to properly counsel their children and wards against joining radical groups,’’ MURIC said in the statement.

Also speaking on the issue, Mr Kamor Disu, Director, Media and Communications of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, said terrorism is a violation of the teachings of Islam.

He said: “Islam condemns all acts of terrorism, whether carried out by individuals, groups or states. We repudiate anyone or any group that plans or carries out a terrorist act and we welcome early actions by law enforcement authorities against credible threats to the safety of the traveling public,” he said.


Police: Three officers killed in militant attack in Indian Kashmir

30 Dec 2009

Srinagar, Kashmir - At least three policemen were killed Wednesday and another seriously injured by suspected Muslim militants in India-administered Kashmir, police said. Troops from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were attacked while on patrol in Baramulla town, more than 50 kilometres north of the state capital Srinagar.

"The militants armed with automatic rifles opened fire on the patrol party, and a shootout ensued," police official Abdul Waheed said. "Three CRPF men died in the combat, but the militants fled from the scene."

No militant outfit claimed immediate responsibility for the attack.

India-administered Kashmir has seen a violent separatist movement, which peaked in the late 1980s and has claimed more than 45,000 lives.

India accuses Pakistan of aiding the militants and running camps to train them. Pakistan denies the charges and calls Kashmiri militants freedom fighters.,police-three-officers-killed-in-militant-attack-in-indian-kashmir.html


American Muslims fear renewed backlash

Dec. 30, 2009

Leaders of the Detroit area's Muslim community are asking non-Muslims not to tie them to the suspect in last week's foiled terror attack aboard an airplane.

Muslim leaders Tuesday also condemned al-Qaida's claim of responsibility in suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's unsuccessful effort to blow up Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253, saying it goes against the principles in Islam's holy book, the Koran, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday.

"No faith or legitimate political ideology could ever justify the injuring or murdering of innocent civilians," Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Tuesday. "No cause or grievances can ever justify such wanton violence."

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed Monday that Abdulmutallab worked with it and used al-Qaida explosives in a retaliatory move against U.S. airstrikes on the terror group in Yemen.

Walid said the failed attempt to blow up Flight 253 as it landed in Detroit wasn't a jihad but "irhab" and "hirabah," translated as "terrorism" and "unlawful warfare," based on the Koran, he said.

"To our fellow Americans, we ask you not to paint all Muslims with a broad brush," Walid said. "We condemn this type of injustice."

Imam Kazeem Agboola, head of the Muslim Community Center in Detroit, told the Detroit News he has led his congregation in prayer for peace and strength to face any possible backlash.

"Patience is the key," Agboola said. "People will come to understand."


Policeman cleared in 'veil murder' case

December 30, 2009

German investigators have dropped a probe into a policeman who shot an Egyptian trying to save his pregnant wife being stabbed to death in a courtroom in July, a spokesman for prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The policeman, who has not been named, shot Elwy Okaz in the leg because he mistakenly believed in what was a "highly dramatic" and "unclear situation" that Okaz, and not another man, was the attacker, prosecutors said.

In fact, Okaz was trying to protect his wife Marwa El-Sherbini, 31, later dubbed the "veil martyr", from a frenzied knife attack by Russian-born Alex Wiens.

Wiens, now 29, was jailed for life on November 11 for the racially motivated murder as well as for the attempted murder of Okaz as the couple's three-year-old son looked on.

The situation "was particularly hard to assess since both Elwy Okaz and Alex Wiens were both thickly covered in blood and Elwy Okaz had just managed to grab the handle of the knife with his hand, making it appear as though he was the one attacking," prosecutors said in a statement.

"The actual attacker Wiens meanwhile was holding the blade of the knife, which added to the impression that he was the one being attacked," prosecutors said.

They added that the policeman, who was not in the Dresden courtroom when the attack began, only had seconds to act after entering the room and that he had warned several times that he was going to shoot.

"It must also be noted in this context that the murderous attack on Marwa El-Sherbini and on Elwy Okaz was only stopped by the courageous actions of the policeman and that without his intervention there might have been further attacks on Elwy Okaz and on his family," the statement said.

The killing, as well as the slow reaction of Germany's politicians and media, sparked outrage in Sherbini's home country, as well as in the wider Muslim world.

Wiens and Sherbini were in court because Wiens was appealing against an earlier fine for calling the headscarved Sherbini a "terrorist", an "Islamist" and a "whore" in a playground in the eastern city in August 2008.


Iran rally leaders 'enemies of God'

December 30, 2009

A representative of Iran's supreme leader has said opposition leaders are "enemies of God" who should be executed under the country's laws.

The comments by Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, the representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,  coincided with demonstrations by thousands of government supporters on Tuesday.

"Those who are behind the current sedition in the country ... are mohareb [enemies of God] and the law is very clear about punishment of a mohareb," Vaez-Tabasi said on state television.

At the pro-government rallies, which follow days of protests by opposition supporters, demonstrators also called for opposition leaders to be punished for fomenting unrest after June's disputed presidential election, state media reported.

The reports stated that the demonstrations had taken place spontaneously.

Foreign influence

Iran's government has blamed the unrest on foreign influences, including Britain, the US and Israel.

Earlier, Iran called on the British ambassador to respond to accusations over the UK government's "interference" in Iran's domestic affairs.

"If Britain does not stop talking nonsense it will get a slap in the mouth," Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, told a news conference.

The summons came hours after the Revolutionary Guards security force said opposition groups were working with Tehran's foreign enemies, implicating London.

The UK said that its envoy would be robust in the face of any Iranian criticism and reiterate that Tehran must respect human rights.

Meanwhile, Ali Larijani, Iran's parliamentary speaker, challenged the calls from Barack Obama, the US president, for Tehran to respect the protesters' rights ,saying the US should be more concerned about "the behaviour of his troops in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan and Iraq".

"Your admiration for the opposition movement protesters will ruin your reputation and will also reveal where the movement of this anti-religious group is linked to," he said, reading from a statement prepared on behalf of the Iranian parliament.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Washington-based think-tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Al Jazeera the West was facing a "delicate situation" in Iran.

"On one hand the United States and European countries should continue to condemn human rights abuses in Iran - they should want to be on the right side of history when they see people courageously struggling for democratic change," he said.

"On the other hand, this is an internal Iranian drama which is unfolding and they don't want to walk into a trap of tainting the independence of the opposition movement."

Activists arrested

Eight people were killed in the latest anti-government protests which coincided with the marking of Ashoura, Shia Islam's holiest event.

Hundreds of people were arrested as fierce battles were fought on the streets of  Tehran and many more have reportedly been detained since, including aides to opposition leaders and pro-reform clerics.

Shirin Ebadi, the country's Nobel prize-winning human rights activist, said that her sister was among those arrested.

Sadjadpour said Iran's government "hasn't ceded one inch" to the opposition movement and was unlikely to do so any time soon.

"Since June [when the post-election unrest began] any moderate or pragmatic elements that were in the Iranian system have essentially been purged from the decision-making structure," he told Al Jazeera.

"You now have a very hardline government whose colour spectrum ranges from pitch black to dark grey. They are unified in wanting to preserve the regime."

'Peaceful and law-abiding'

Iran's primary reformist party criticised the government for not respecting Iranian law in tackling the opposition protesters.

"The Green Movement is peaceful and law-abiding. It avoids any violence and will press ahead on its path," the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) said in a statement carried by an opposition website.

"The IIPF condemns attacks on defenceless people and believes the incidents after the presidential election and especially on Ashoura indicate the complete failure of the coup d'etat and not the strength of government."

Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former member of the Iranian parliament, told Al Jazeera that the government faced a fundamental crisis.

"They can't control the events so they made the Ashoura incidents as a scenario that could give [them] enough confidence to crack down on the [Green] Movement," she said from Massachusetts in the United States.

"They think that if they could use more violence, they can stop the movement ... if this strategy continues I think we could see the collapse of the government.

"There is a real threat for arresting the [opposition] leaders such as [Mir Hossein] Mousavi, [Mohammad] Khatami and [Mehdi] Karroubi in future days."


Iran arrests hundreds of dissidents

By correspondent Anne Barker and wires

Wed Dec 30, 2009

Iranian forces have broadened their crackdown against opposition protests by arresting hundreds of dissidents, as a senior cleric called for opposition leaders to be put to death.

Security authorities in Tehran have arrested at least 300 people accused of inciting the latest protests against the government.

Security forces are also restricting the movements of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition leader.

Those arrested include prominent dissidents or their relatives, such as the sister of Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Ms Ebadi said on French radio France Info that Iranian authorities were trying to silence her by arresting her sister.

"This arrest is illegal because my sister is a dentist, she is not in any way active in human rights or politics... and she didn't participate in any protests," Ms Ebadi said.

She said intelligence officials entered her sister's house on Monday night to arrest her without a warrant, rifled through her belongings, and confiscated computers.

Eight people were killed in Sunday's riots.

Yesterday pro-government loyalists staged their own rallies in support of the government and denouncing the opposition.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the United States and Israel of inciting the latest anti-government protest.

Mr Ahmadinejad joined a chorus of Iranian leaders attacking foreign governments for encouraging the latest violent protests against the Islamic regime.

He accused the US and Israel of staging a "nauseating play" by fomenting the unrest.

Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki summoned the British ambassador in Tehran and threatened his country with a "slap in the mouth" if it didn't stop meddling in Iran's affairs.

A representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says opposition leaders are "enemies of God" who should be executed under the country's sharia law.

"Those who are behind the current sedition in the country... are mohareb [enemies of God] and the law is very clear about punishment of a mohareb," said cleric Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, who possesses ultimate authority in Iran.

Under Iran's Islamic sharia law the sentence for "mohareb" is execution.


Police arrest 20 Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria

30 December 2009

ABUJA: Police in Nigeria's northern state of Bauchi, where a clash by Islamic extremists led to the death of over 30 people, on Tuesday arrested 20 suspected fundamentalists allegedly involved in the killings.

"We recovered bomb-making tools, explosive devices, two AK-47 rifles, seven rounds of ammunition and hundreds of weapons of various types, as well as some with blood stains," state commissioner of police Atiku Yusuf Kafur told the media.

Among those arrested were nine adults and eleven juveniles, Kafur said.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross has announced that more than 1,000 people were displaced in the aftermath of the clash.

Nigeria Red Cross state secretary Adamu Abubakar, meanwhile said the displaced people had taken refuge at the Defence Industry building located in the industrial quarters close to the area.

The clash was allegedly caused by members of a Muslim sect known as Kalo-Kato who burnt down houses in protest against the arrest of a sect member by the police.

The group, according to the police chief is not recognised by other Muslim groups in the area due to their extremist views.

Normalcy is gradually returning to the area following extra security measures taken by police.

A recent clash in northern Nigeria's Maiduguri area allegedly led by a group known as Boko Haram in led to the death of close to a thousand people.


Detroit's Muslims condemn Al Qaeda's claims of involvement

Area Muslims: Don't link us with Al Qaeda

Leaders say wanton violence is never justified


Dec. 30, 2009

Leaders in metro Detroit's Muslim community on Tuesday condemned Al Qaeda's claims of involvement in Friday's foiled airline attack, and asked non-Muslims not to link them with the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

"No faith or legitimate political ideology could ever justify the injuring or murdering of innocent civilians," Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a news conference at the chapter's Southfield offices on Tuesday. "No cause or grievances can ever justify such wanton violence."

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed Monday that Abdulmutallab worked with members of its group and used Al Qaeda-manufactured explosives in an attempt to retaliate for U.S. air strikes against the organization in Yemen.

Walid said the failed attempt to blow up Flight 253 from Amsterdam as it landed in Detroit is not "jihad," or "striving in the cause of God." Instead, attacks are "irhab," or "terrorism," and "hirabah," or "unlawful warfare," according to Islam's holy book, the Quran, he said.

"To our fellow Americans, we ask you not to paint all Muslims with a broad brush," Walid said. "We condemn this type of injustice."

Walid's group is launching its own jihad, an online endeavor to provide legitimate information to young, uneducated Muslims who might fall prey to Internet rhetoric from religious extremists. He expects the online presence to launch by spring.

Kazeem Agboola, imam of the Muslim Community Center of Detroit and a physical therapist who has lived in the United States for 15 years, said he was shocked when he learned that Abdulmutallab was from his native country, Nigeria. There are about 10,000 Nigerian Muslims in Michigan, according to Agboola. He said he gathered members from the center's 25 families, most of them Nigerian Muslims, on Sunday to remind them to be patient through any backlash they might experience.

"These people are outside the true religion and the true fold of Islam," he said, also condemning racial or ethnic profiling as a reaction to the attempted attack. "They are enemies of peace-loving Muslims throughout the world."

Contact TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA: 313-223-4456 or


Taliban claim responsibility for Karachi suicide attack

PTI 30 December 2009

KARACHI: The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on a Muharram procession of Pakistani Shia Muslims here that killed 43 people and threatened to carry out more such strikes within 10 days.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Asmatullah Shaheen, whose name figures on a list of Pakistan's 20 most wanted militant leaders, told reporters in the country's northwest that his group carried out the attack in Karachi on Monday.

Shaheen, who belongs to the Bhitani tribe and is a rival of pro-government militant leader Turkistan Bhitani, said that his fighters would carry out more attacks within 10 days.

Shaheen had joined the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan when it was headed by Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone attack in August. However, he has never publicly claimed responsibility for any previous attacks.

He identified the suicide bomber as one Hasnain Mawya and said the attack in Karachi was carried out to "protect the honour of the companions" of Prophet Mohammed.

The bomber detonated his suicide jacket as hundreds of people were marching down one of Karachi's main thoroughfares on the Shia holy day of Ashura. Several women and children were among the 43 people who died.

The attack triggered widespread rioting and violence that caused losses of billions of rupees in one of Karachi's main commercial hubs.

The Taliban have been blamed for a wave of bombings and suicide attacks across Pakistan that has killed over 500 people since October, when the army launched a major offensive against militants in Waziristan tribal region.


Myanmar to take back 9,000 Muslims from Bangladesh

By Andrew Moran.

Dec 29, 2009

In a problem that dates back more than 30 years ago, the government of Myanmar has agreed to take back 9,000 Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh.

Since the late 1970s, tens of thousands of Rohingyas started to enter Bangladesh over religious and economic reasons but so far 236,000 refugees were sent back with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. However, the problem persisted and grew in 1992 when 250,000 fled to Bangladesh.

Human rights groups have said the Rohingya Muslims fled their country from religious persecution and do not want to go back home. The organizations add that they have nowhere to live and live in dire conditions because back home they are deprived of education and employment.

On Tuesday, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes stated that the Myanmar government has agreed to take back 9,000 of its nationals of the 28,000 that are currently in two camps registered as refugees in the south-eastern district of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, according to Reuters. Approximately, there are 300,000 others living illegally outside of the camps for economic reasons and living as undocumented refugees.

Myanmar assured the Bangladesh government that it will begin the repatriation as soon as possible. Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint spoke with Quayes and asked for a list of the 28,000 Myanmar nationals that were registered by the UNHCR, reports Xinhua.

In 2005, notes the Daily Star, a similar initiative was put into place to repatriate 9,000 refugees but only 90 could be sent back between January and May of that year because there was less tension and situations on the border.

Quayes told reporters that the issue was brought up in the meeting with his counterpart, “We raised the matter during the talks and put pressure on the Myanmar side to take their citizens back as quickly as possible. It is urgent to repatriate these undocumented refugees without delay. We will find the modalities in this regard in consultation with the Myanmar authorities.”

BBC News reports that many Rhoningya refugees attempted to flee to other Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia and trying to work illegally. There have been reports of Indonesia sending those who came by boat back to sea.

Nevertheless, government officials believe this is a partial solution to the 30-year-old problem.


Muslims find more halal foods on European store shelves - Feature

Wed, 30 Dec 2009

Berlin - Gummi Bears are ubiquitous in Germany, where they are a beloved, fruity delight for children of all backgrounds. The squishy candy would seem like the most innocuous treat imaginable, but their gelatine base - processed from animal proteins including pork - made Gummi Bears off limits for children from observant Muslim households.

"Muslims in Germany wanted them, too, but for a long time couldn't eat them," said Engin Erguen, whose sales and distribution company Equ sells products that meet Muslim halal standards.

In 2001, candy-maker Haribo started making Gummi Bears with proteins derived from non-pork products to receive halal certification. Haribo says the production line for the halal gummy bear sold in Germany is in Turkey.

Halal products from Equ are sold at about 3,000 Turkish markets in Germany, including Haribo's iconic candy and Maggi processed foods.

"With Haribo, the subject of halal foods in Germany received the appropriate amount of publicity," said Erguen.

Germany has about 3.5 million of Western Europe's 20 million Muslims, most of whom are immigrants or the descendents of immigrants who came to the continent in the decades after World War II.

Muslims in Western Europe have long struggled to maintain their cultural and culinary practises. Evolution in the market has brought more than just halal Gummi Bears to grocery stores on the continent.

About 400 companies in Germany offer halal products, according to the European halal control and certification authority in Ruesselsheim.

"The trend is upward. The market grows about 16 per cent every year," said Mahmoud Tatari, who co-founded the halal control authority in 2001. "It currently is estimated at between 4 billion and 5 billion euros."

Tatari speaks of a proper boom in products that are halal, an Arabic word meaning legal or permitted (helal in Turkish). The opposite of halal is haram, which means forbidden or impermissible.

Generally, foods derived from plants are halal with the exception of intoxicating or poisonous products, according to the German nutrition society.

Interest is growing among companies that want to offer products for the Muslim market because trade in halal products is growing not only in Germany and Europe but worldwide, with Muslims projected to be 30 per cent of the world population by 2025.

The largest halal markets are in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East. In Europe, Germany, France and Britain are the largest.

Pork, a staple of the German diet, has been especially problematic for Muslims because Islam prohibits all contact with pigs, which are considered unclean.

The halal control authority certifies products made by many of the major European food producers, including Nestle, Langnese, Elbmilch, Pfanni, Gruenland and Ehrmann. Products made by the pharmaceuticals firms Bayer, BASF and Merck similarly carry the halal stamp.

"Food products account for about 90 per cent of the certified items," Tatari said.

Across Europe there are more than 4,000 halal products on the market. Retailers have discovered halal, giving rise to inquiries from Germany's leading discount grocery chain, Aldi.

Industry analysts estimate that food product giants such as Nestle have made more money on halal products than on organic products.

The Swiss company, which began producing halal foods in the 1980s, attributed 5 per cent of its revenue last year to halal products. Over the years, Nestle has come out with halal drinks, dairy products and chocolate and has more than 300 halal products.

"Of 456 Nestle factories worldwide, 75 have a halal certification, and among them there are more than 100 production lines," said company spokeswoman Nina Backes.

Now there are financial services offered by banks and there even are telephone cards that receive certification as complying with Muslim precepts. Tatari said this encompasses a principal of Islam: "everything that is fair, correct and good for humans.",muslims-find-more-halal-foods-on-european-store-shelves--feature.html


Time to Islamicize the condemnation of Iran

by Brian Vogt

December 29th, 2009

As massive anti-government protests have reignited in Iran, the Obama administration has strongly condemned the brutal actions of this repressive regime.  This past summer amidst widespread protests over election fraud, the Obama regime was more measured in its response.  There was still hope then that Iran would be open to American overtures for engagement that might limit its nuclear program.  These overtures have since been rebuffed and it looks like the administration is now turning from the carrot to the stick.  The next step is to get some new faces on board.

The administration was right to make the effort to engage the regime.  During the campaign this had always been candidate Obama’s promised policy.  However, as Tehran continues to stall, reject American overtures, and brutalize its own people, the President correctly concluded that it may be time to change course.

Yesterday the president said,

    The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens…. For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights.  Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days.

After Western condemnation of the violence that has taken place in Iran, Tehran answered with the predictable response.  Iranian government spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “Some Western countries are supporting this sort of activities…. This is intervention in our internal affairs. We strongly condemn it.”

The Obama administration must do more than just explain that what is happening in Iran is not about the United States.   It’s time to get other Muslim countries on board to speak out against the brutal repression taking place in Iran.  For too long the narrative told by the Iranian regime is one which pits the Iranian regime against the “aggressors” – the United States and Israel.  Of course, few in the West buy this response.  However, there’s nothing like a common enemy to motivate the masses in Iran, particularly if there is limited access to media sources to counteract the propaganda.

This is why it’s critically important to internationalize and “Islamicize” the condemnation of these acts of violent repression.  It’s quite predictable that countries such as the United States, England, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and the EU quickly responded.  Even Russia released a weak statement calling on the Iranian regime to exercise restraint.  What were missing were Muslim-majority countries.  Where were U.S. allies such as Indonesia and Turkey?  What about Pakistan?  No response from the Middle East countries of Jordan or Kuwait.  Although all these countries have had their own difficulties with democratic development and respect of human rights, strong statements by them could make a real difference in the Iranian narrative.

Until other Muslim-majority countries also join in the condemnation, Tehran will continue to have the luxury of portraying this as a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.  So, in addition to strongly condemning the violence and violations of basic human rights, the United States should be working hard behind the scenes with its allies in the Muslim world to project a more broad-based response.

Fortunately, the President was more measured than some of his more extremists critics such as John Bolton, who seems to have learned little from our misadventures in Iraq.  Bolton said, “I think the international community needs to do more than just give rhetorical support to the opposition… I think we need to give them tangible support. … I wish we had done more over the last 10 years — finance, communications, possibly other kinds of support.”

The U.S. must speak forcefully for the freedom of expression and human rights of those in Iran.  We must strongly condemn violence.  However, to start financing or even arming the opposition movement, as Bolton seems to suggest, would be a dangerous step in the wrong direction.  The simplistic and misguided policy of U.S.-led regime change in Iraq must not be transferred to Iran.

International perception does matter to Iran and to those who are taking to the streets.  If it didn’t there would be little attention paid to the dramatic twitter and YouTube posts that have proliferated in both the post-election and December protests.   The U.S. must now step up its efforts to generate a broader groundswell of disapproval not just from the usual suspects, but from other Muslim countries.  No, this won’t topple the Iranian regime tomorrow, but it could broaden and strengthen the internal forces seeking reform.


UK hostage Peter Moore released alive in Iraq

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

British hostage Peter Moore has been released alive from captivity in Iraq, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

He said Mr Moore, an IT consultant from Lincoln who was seized in Baghdad in May 2007, was in good health and "absolutely delighted at his release".

Mr Miliband said the Moore family felt deep relief after two-and-a-half years of "misery, fear and uncertainty".

Three fellow guards seized at the same time were later shot dead and a fifth man is also believed to be dead.

Alan McMenemy, a security guard from Glasgow, was also taken hostage in Iraq but the Foreign Secretary said he believed he had been killed and called for the release of his body.

Mr Moore had been working for US management consultancy Bearingpoint in Iraq. The other men were security contractors employed to guard him.

The bodies of Jason Swindlehurst, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Jason Creswell, of Glasgow, were returned to the UK in June 2009, followed by that of Alec MacLachlan, of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, in September.

The group was captured at the Iraqi Ministry of Finance by about 40 men disguised as Iraqi policemen.

They were understood to belong to an obscure militia known as Islamic Shia Resistance, which demanded the release of up to nine of their associates held in US military custody since early 2007.


Former Indonesian President Wahid dies

30 December 2009

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has died aged 69, according to party officials.

Wahid, who was often referred to by his nickname Gus Dur, ruled the country between 1999 and 2001.

He was the first elected president after the fall of the 32-year Suharto regime in 1998.

Wahid had been suffering from a number of medical problems in recent years. He was a diabetic and was known to have had a series of strokes.

Short tenure

"Gus Dur just passed away," Lukman Edy from Wahid's National Awakening Party told reporters.

According to local television reports he died of heart failure, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Wahid - a partially blind Muslim cleric - came to power after defeating Megawati Sukarnoputri in a general election in October 1999.

Educated in Indonesia, Egypt, Iraq and Canada, he had a reputation for religious tolerance and moderate politics.

But he had not been in the job long before his opponents accused him of failing to tackle the economic crisis, and failing to resolve secessionist conflicts in several provinces of Indonesia.

In July 2001, less than two years into the job, he was sacked by the country's national assembly amid unproven allegations of corruption and incompetence.

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