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03.31.10 Muslim scholars recast jihadists' favorite fatwa

PARIS (Reuters) March 31 - Prominent Muslim scholars have recast a famous medieval fatwa on jihad, arguing the religious edict radical Islamists often cite to justify killing cannot be used in a globalized world that respects faith and civil rights. A conference in Mardin in southeastern Turkey declared the fatwa by 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya rules out militant violence and the medieval Muslim division of the world into a "house of Islam" and "house of unbelief" no longer applies. Osama bin Laden has quoted Ibn Taymiyya's "Mardin fatwa" repeatedly in his calls for Muslims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and wage jihad against the United States. Referring to that historic document, the weekend conference said: "Anyone who seeks support from this fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation.

It is not for a Muslim individual or a Muslim group to announce and declare war or engage in combative jihad ... on their own," said the declaration issued on Sunday in Arabic and later provided to Reuters in English...Ibn Taymiyya's Mardin fatwa is a classic text for militants who say it allows Muslims to declare other Muslims infidels and wage war on them. The scholars said this view had to be seen in its historic context of medieval Mongol raids on Muslim lands...The declaration ended with a call to Muslim scholars for more research to explain the context of medieval fatwas on public issues and show "what is hoped to be gained from a sound and correct understanding of their respective legacies."
[Full story>>thestar.com.my]

Editorial note: "Confusion on the Koran." There is much confusion among scholars as to the intentions and conclusions of the Koran. While moderate Islamic scholars argue that the Koran speaks of a faith devoted to peace, others use the Koran in their arguments for war. (The same comment can be applied to Biblical scholars). Because there is a world trend of Islamaphobia — spawned by murderous Islamist attacks, often through suicide bombings — Islamic scholars have been searching for a means to disarm the militant aspects of their religion. It is noted that all fatwas are interpretations of the Koran, Islam's basic law. Hence, in order to defuse the militants the scholars will have to defuse the Koran. This is easier than it looks, for once scholars understand that the Koran was written expressly to confirm the Jewish Scriptures and Gospel of Christ — that it cannot contradict them — one is left with but one argument: that of the Gospels of Christ, history's principal advocate against violence. (See Maravot News 4.9.09 Editorial note, "Confusion on the Koran," as to the specific verses in the Koran that confirm the Bible and those verses and scholars that advocate violence against unbelievers.) A full commentary on the problem is in our work, The Allah Controversy, March 2010.

03.31.10 Belgium moves to ban the burqa

March 31 - The face-covering veil is set to be banned within weeks in Belgium, making it the first country in Europe to make the wearing of Muslim clothing illegal. Women who flout the ban will face from one to seven days in jail or a fine of 15 to 25 euros. While President Sarkozy is encountering obstacles to his plans to outlaw the face-covering niqab in France, Belgium's main parties are united behind the move and the influential home affairs committee voted for it unanimously today. A vote in the full Belgian parliament is expected on April 22 and a "yes" vote seems assured given the political consensus. "Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society," said MP Daniel Bacquelaine, from a French-speaking centre right party who proposed the bill. "The burqa is contrary to the dignity of women. It is a walking prison." He added: "We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen. It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and encloses an individual." [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

03.31.10 12 killed in south Russia twin bombings days after Moscow attacks

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) March 31 - Twin blasts rocked Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people, just two days after two metro suicide bombings in Moscow. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a government session on Wednesday he did not rule out that a single terrorist group may be behind the bombings. President Dmitry Medvedev also said there may be a link. Wednesday's attacks took place in the town of Kizlyar, near Dagestan's border with Chechnya, and also left 29 people injured. The first blast went off at 08:45 Moscow time (04:45 GMT), when a car bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber some 300 meters from the buildings of the Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service and a school. It had a force of up to 200 kg of TNT.

Two police officers were killed in the explosion, which also injured several bystanders. The second explosion came 20 minutes later when a suicide bomber dressed in a police officer's uniform blew himself up as a crowd gathered. The suicide bomber, who had the equivalent of 1.5 kg of TNT strapped to his body, has been identified as Daud Jabrailov, a citizen of Kizlyar, Dagestan's Interior Ministry said. "Around 20 minutes later a suicide bomber, dressed in a police officer's uniform, arrived at the scene where an investigation group was working, and activated an explosive device he had on his body," the statement added. A total of nine policemen were killed in the blasts, including the city's police chief, Vitaly Vedernikov.
[More>>en.rian.ru; See related story, bbc.co.uk, March 31, "Chechen rebel says he ordered Moscow Metro attacks."]

03.31.10 Iranian nuke scientist defects to US

WASHINGTON, March 31 - An Iranian nuclear scientist has defected to the United States and according to sources in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will be resettled there. US intelligence officials told ABC News that nuclear physicist Shahram Amiri, who Iran says disappeared last year after going to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage, was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect. The CIA contacted the scientist through an intermediary in Iran who made the resettlement offer on behalf of the United States, according to ABC. The US officials described the defection as "an intelligence coup." Iran''s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki has accused Washington of kidnapping Amiri, though his whereabouts had gone unreported until now. Former White House counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke, however, said: "Just taking one scientist out of the program will not really disrupt it." [>indianexpress.com]

03.31.10 US: Iran sending weapons to Afghanistan fighters

(Reuters) March 31 - Iran is having a growing, negative influence in its neighbor Afghanistan, United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said on Wednesday, citing what he said was a shipment of Iranian arms to fighters. The United States has frequently accused Iran of providing some assistance to insurgents in Afghanistan, although Washington says it has not been nearly as important a factor as in Iraq, Iran's other neighbor where US troops are waging war. "Iran is working to increase its influence in the area. On the one hand, that's not surprising, she is a neighbor state, a neighbor country. On the other hand, the influence I see is all too often negative," Mullen told a news conference during a visit to Kabul, in response to a question about Tehran's influence. "I was advised last night about a significant shipment of weapons from Iran into Kandahar, for example," Mullen said. "I have seen them over the last several years - the last couple of years anyway, certainly be more than just interested, provide some capabilities," Mullen added. "I am also concerned that that desire to be influential is increasing." [More>>haaretz.com]

03.31.10 Afghan farmers die in suicide blast

March 31 - A bomb concealed on a bicycle has exploded in a crowded village market in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, killing at least 17 people and injuring 45 others including eight children. Wednesday's attack occurred in Babaji, near the town of Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, where farmers had gathered to receive free seeds from government officials. Local police said that the bomb had been strapped to a bicycle left in the market and detonated remotely. An earlier report quoting a provincial government spokesman said a suicide bomber had blown himself up. The casualties were all farmers who had gathered in the area to receive free seeds from the government as part of a program to encourage them not to plant opium poppy, Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial government, said. [More>>aljazeera.net]

03.30.10 Russian security services hunt 21-strong 'Black Widow' cell

March 30 - Russia's security services believe that the women who blew themselves up in two Moscow Metro stations yesterday were part of a group of up to 30 suicide bombers trained by a Chechen terrorist leader. Agents from the Federal Security Service (FSB) are investigating the theory that the "Black Widows" were sent to avenge the death of Said Buryatsky, the leading ideologue of the Islamist rebels in Russia's North Caucasus. Investigators are now desperately trying to establish whether the attack was a simple response to Buryatsky's death, or whether it signalled the start of a suicide bombing campaign that he had already prepared before the FSB tracked him down.

The first pictures of the Black Widows emerged when grisly photographs of their facial remains were circulated to police in a bid to help investigators identify the bombers. The head of the younger woman, who blew herself up at Park Kultury, was severed from her body. The women were described as aged between 18 and 25, with dark hair and features similar to people from the Caucasus region. Images taken from Metro security cameras were also distributed of two women aged 25 to 40 and a man suspected of being accomplices in the attacks. Buryatsky, a Muslim convert who was born Alexander Tikhomirov, was among six militants killed in an FSB operation in Ingushetia on March 2. The Kremlin described him then as the mastermind behind a bomb attack on the Nevsky Express train between Moscow and St. Petersburg that killed 26 and wounded 100 in November.

Buryatsky was also blamed for the suicide bombing that almost succeeded in assassinating Ingushetia's President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov last June, and an attack in August that devastated the main police station in the Ingush capital Nazran, killing 20 officers and wounding 138. Kommersant newspaper reported today that the FSB believed that nine of the 30 trainees had already blown themselves up on suicide missions. The rest were still at large, raising fears that more could already be in Moscow and preparing to carry out attacks.
[More>>timesonline.co.uk; See related story,

indianexpress.com, March 30, "Moscow bombers may have links with Pak-Afghan militants"
: Suggesting foreign involvement in Monday's twin blasts, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the female suicide bombers who targeted the city's subway system might have links with extremists based in the ungoverned tribal regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. When asked that if the explosions, in which at least 38 people were killed and over 60 others injured, were the handiwork of foreign elements, Lavrov said such a possibility could not be excluded.

"We all know that the Afghan-Pakistani border, in the so-called no-man's land, the terrorist underground is very well entrenched. We know that many people there actively plot attacks, not just in Afghanistan, but also in other countries. Sometimes the trails lead to the Caucasus," Xinhua quoted Lavrov...

03.30.10 Hillary Clinton criticizes Canada over Arctic talks

March 30 - Hillary Clinton has criticized Canada for failing to invite indigenous groups and Scandinavian countries to talks on the future of the Arctic. The US secretary of state said everybody affected by the changes brought about by climate change in the Arctic should have been included. She was speaking at the start of the meeting near Ottawa. Canada invited Russia, Norway, Denmark and the US to the meeting, but not Sweden, Finland or Iceland. Mrs. Clinton said all those "who have legitimate interests in the region," including indigenous peoples, should have been invited to the conference. "We need all hands on deck because there is a huge amount to do, and not much time to do it. What happens in the Arctic will have broad consequences for the Earth and its climate. The melting of sea ice, glaciers and permafrost will affect people and ecosystems around the world," she said. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

03.30.10 Geneva atom smasher sets collision record

GENEVA (AP) March 30 - The world's largest atom smasher conducted its first experiments at conditions nearing those after the Big Bang, breaking its own record for high-energy collisions with proton beams crashing into each other Tuesday at three times more force than ever before. In a milestone for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider's ambitious bid to reveal details about theoretical particles and microforces, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, took high-tech photographs so they could study the disintegrating protons after they collided at a combined energy level of 7 trillion electron volts. The collisions herald a new era for researchers working on the machine in a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel below the Swiss-French border at Geneva. "That's it! They've had a collision," said Oliver Buchmueller from Imperial College in London as people closely watched monitors. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

03.30.10 Obama signs health care 'fixes' bill

WASHINGTON, March 30 - President Obama sealed a final victory on his signature domestic priority Tuesday, signing a sweeping package of changes to the newly enacted health care reform law. The so-called "fixes" bill — approved over unanimous Republican opposition in both chambers of Congress — significantly expands health insurance subsidies for lower- and middle-income families while watering down a tax on expensive health policies. The measure also overhauls the national college student loan system by shifting government funding for loans away from commercial banks to new education initiatives. Until now, commercial banks have received federal subsidies to provide student loans. The bill increases the overall cost of the health care reform legislation to $940 billion over the next 10 years, $65 billion more than the original health care bill Obama signed into law last week. [More>>cnn.com]

03.30.10 Iran 'frees' diplomat in Pakistan

March 30 - Iran says its agents have in a cross-border operation freed a diplomat kidnapped in Pakistan last November. "The Iranian intelligence agents, in a successful operation, brought home the Iranian diplomat who was abducted in Peshawar, Pakistan," Heydar Moslehi, the Iranian intelligence minister, told reporters on Tuesday. Gunmen had snatched Heshmatollah Attarzadeh on November 13, 2008 in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan. He was on his way to work in the commercial service of Iran's consulate in the city when his car was sprayed with bullets and his local guard killed. Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said "the location where Attarzadeh was held was identified by Iranian intelligence agents, and through a series of complex operations he was brought home." [More>>aljazeera.net]

03.30.10 Moral compass influenced in laboratory as scientists use magnets to control minds

(AFP) March 30 - People's moral judgment can be altered by disrupting part of the brain, according to a US study. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology disrupted activity in an area above and behind the right ear which is usually highly active when we think about what we believe the outcome of a particular act will be. The researchers disrupted the area — known as the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) — by inducing a current in the brain using a magnetic field applied to the scalp and asked study participants to read a series of scenarios posing moral conundrums. [More>>news.com.au]

03.30.10 Bribery verdicts show peril of doing business in China

March 30 - Australian executive of Rio Tinto among four jailed after secret hearing / Trial followed wrangles between Beijing and multinational mining companies. A senior Australian executive of one of the world's biggest mining companies was jailed for 10 years for commercial espionage by a Chinese court yesterday, in a case that threw light on the fractious relationship between Beijing and multinational business. Stern Hu, a top former salesman of the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, was convicted along with three Chinese colleagues of taking bribes worth as much as $9m (£6m) after a three-day hearing in Shanghai, part of which was held in secret. They were all fined and given prison sentences of between seven and 14 years. Hu, a classically trained violinist, was Rio Tinto's top iron ore salesman at the time of his arrest and was described by a former employer as an "outstanding individual.".

...Walking this tightrope, Rio Tinto has been eager not to criticise China over the trial of Hu and his colleagues, Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong. Yesterday, it said that its relationship with Beijing was unaffected by the guilty verdicts, pointing to last week's agreement with Chinalco to jointly develop what it has described as potentially the world's biggest iron ore deposit, at Simandou in Guinea. The miner had said little publicly about the trial before the verdicts, but yesterday launched a stinging attack on the four. Sam Walsh, the head of its iron ore business, said: "Receiving bribes is a clear violation of Chinese law and Rio Tinto's code of conduct. We have been informed of the clear evidence presented in court that showed beyond doubt that the four convicted employees had accepted bribes."
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

03.29.10 Moscow subway bombings kill 38, are condemned worldwide

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) March 29 - Two terrorist attacks on the Moscow subway on Monday killed 38 people and left over 60 injured, forcing enhanced security measures across Russia and drawing international condemnation. The first attack on one of the world's busiest metro systems occurred just before 8:00 a.m. (04:00 GMT) at the Lubyanka station under the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) as people hurried to work. That blast took the lives of 24 people. The second, some 40 minutes later four stops down the line at Park Kultury station, killed another 12. Two have since died of injuries sustained in the bombings, which injured more than 60 people.

The bombings were the first major terrorist attacks in the Russian capital for six years. Full service has by now been restored on the Sokolnicheskaya metro line, including for the stations where the bombings occurred. Two women and a man are wanted in connection with the terrorist attack, a law enforcement source said

...Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed that the terrorists behind the attack would be eliminated. "As you know, today in Moscow we saw a terrible crime against peaceful civilians," Putin said in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk before canceling his engagements and returning to Moscow. "I am certain our law enforcement agencies will do everything to find and punish these criminals. The terrorists will be eliminated," he added.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov proposed on Monday the death penalty be reinstated as a part of the Russian penitentiary system...Russia's top investigator Vladimir Markin said police were working on identifying the two female suicide bombers who carried out the attacks. He added that the women's faces had not suffered in the blasts. Markin said the second attack had been carried out by a "dark-haired woman" and that "fragments of her body" found at the scene suggested she had had the equivalent of 1.5 kg of TNT strapped to her body. The head of the Federal Security Services (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov, said terrorists from Russia's North Caucasus may have been involved in the attacks.
[More>>en.rian.ru; See more details,

timesonline.co.uk, March 29,"Women suicide bombers kill dozens in Moscow Metro attacks" :
Police in Moscow say that the two women suicide bombers who blew themselves up on packed underground trains this morning were accompanied by other women. Detectives were reported to be preparing to publish CCTV images in an attempt to track down the accomplices of the two bombers, whose explosives belts were packed with bolts and iron rods to maximise death and injury. Sources told the Interfax news agency that the bombers have been identified from surveillance video filmed inside the Red Arrow underground trains, while recordings from other cameras installed in the halls and crossings of Moscow Metro stations had pinpointed two other women and a man.

The report quoted a source saying earlier that the female suicide bombers boarded the train at Yugo-Zapadnaya station in southwest Moscow. "They were accompanied by two women of Slav appearance. The faces of all of them were exposed," the source said. One official who saw the mayhem at Lubyanka station, which is directly below the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, said: "We are sure that that bomber was found because only her head and legs are left, and the middle part of her body is completely destroyed.

This is a definite sign that she had a belt on. She was a very young woman with beautiful brown hair, long and thick plait." A composite photo of the pair's alleged male accomplice has been circulated among Moscow law-enforcement staff, showing a man with a short beard, wearing a blue jacket with white insets, a dark baseball hat and white trainers. At least 38 people are known to have died with 65 injured, 30 of them seriously, in the first major acts of terrorism in the Russian capital since 2004...

03.29.10 More Guantanamo detainees are returning to terror upon release

March 29 - Senior US official confirms new addition to growing list of more than 100 released Guantanamo Bay detainees who have returned to terrorism. Prior to his release in December, Abdul Hafiz was Prisoner Number 1030 at Guantanamo Bay. Now, less than four months later, he's back home in Afghanistan and working for the Taliban — just the latest of more than 100 released detainees who have returned to terrorism, according to the Pentagon. Hafiz, suspected in the March 2003 kidnapping and murder of an International Red Cross worker, was the "Taliban head of all Madrassas ... responsible for recruiting and sending young men to fight for the Taliban," according to US government memos.

He was said to have maintained contacts for Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban of Afghanistan, and to have admitted to participating in jihad against the Soviets. But despite the list of charges against him, the US government transferred Hafiz to his home country in December. And now, a senior US official tells Fox News, he is back on the battlefield. According to a published report, Hafiz has been appointed by Mullah Omar to oversee ransom demands for kidnapping victims and to coordinate with nongovernment-aid organizations operating in the Taliban's areas of influence. That makes Hafiz just the latest addition to an increasingly long list of former Guantanamo detainees suspected to have returned to terror. The Pentagon, in an estimate issued in January, now believes that roughly 20 percent of the 560 detainees who were released from Guantanamo are back on the terror front lines.

03.29.10 Hindu-Muslim clashes injure scores in India

(AP) March 29 - Authorities fired tear gas and warning shots and swung batons Monday to disperse crowds of angry Hindus and Muslims who attacked each other. The rioters attacked each other with stones and clubs in southern India, where more than 75 people have been injured. Communal rioting broke out Saturday in Hyderabad, capital of southern Andhra Pradesh state, and about 1,600 paramilitary soldiers and police have been deployed to calm the situation, A.K. Khan, city police commissioner, told reporters. Hyderabad has a population of 8 million, nearly 40 percent Muslims. The last major Hindu-Muslim rioting in Hyderabad took place in 1990, killing 200 people.

The city had been mostly peaceful since then. Trouble started after Muslims hoisted green flags as part of celebrations of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday a month ago but never removed them. Clashes erupted Saturday between the two communities after Hindus attempted to replace the green flags with saffron ones to celebrate a Hindu festival. Violence continued Sunday with dozens of vehicles torched and half a dozen mosques and temples damaged, Khan said. More than 75 people have been injured since Saturday, he said. Hostilities persisted Monday despite police banning the assembly of more than five people in one place and closing markets and schools for the day, he said.

03.29.10 Colony collapse disorder continues in 2009 as bees disappear from US

(AFP) March 29 - The decline in the US bee population, first observed in 2006, is continuing, a phenomenon that still baffles researchers and beekeepers. Data from the US Department of Agriculture showed a 29 per cent drop in beehives in 2009, following a 36 per cent decline in 2008 and a 32 per cent fall in 2007. This affected not only honey production but around $15 billion worth of crops that depended on bees for pollination. Scientists call the phenomenon "colony collapse disorder," and it has led to the disappearance of millions of adult bees and beehives and occurred elsewhere in the world, including in Europe...Research conducted in 23 US states and Canada and published in the Public Library of Science journal found 121 different pesticides in 887 samples of bees, wax, pollen and other elements of hives, lending credence to the notion of pesticides as a key problem. [Full story>>news.com.au]

03.29.10 Mysterious whale die-off is largest on record

March 29 - Almost 90 percent of deaths represent whale calves less than 3 months old. Mass death among baby right whales has experts scrambling to figure out the puzzle behind the largest great whale die-off on record. Observers have found 308 dead whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdes along Argentina's Patagonian Coast since 2005. Almost 90 percent of those deaths represent whale calves less than 3 months old, and the calf deaths make up almost a third of all right whale calf sightings in the last five years. "This is the single largest die-off event in terms of numbers and in relation to population size and geographic range," said Marcela Uhart, a medical veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). She represents an associate director in Latin America for the WCS Global Health Program. To get to the bottom of the baby-whale mystery, the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) convened an urgent meeting at a workshop in Puerto Madryn, Argentina, this month.

...Ruling out some factors for the southern right whale deaths leaves possible causes, such as harmful biotoxins created  by algae or other organisms, disease, environmental factors at the nursing grounds or lack of prey at the whales' feeding grounds. Official results from the workshop about the cause of death will be released after review and approval at the IWC's annual meeting scheduled to take place in Morocco in June. The last huge die-off for great whales — including all baleen whales and sometimes the sperm whale — took place in the Eastern Pacific from 1999-2000. More than 250 gray whales showed up dead between Alaska and Mexico during that incident.
[Full story>>msnbc.msn.com; See more details, wcs.org, March 17, "Something's wrong with right whales."]

03.29.10 'Declare Pakistan a terrorist state'

LONDON, March 29 - Baloch and Sindhi activists here have demanded that Pakistan be declared a "'terrorist state." A large number of people from the two communities converged in front of the BBC World Service office in London to protest and observe Pakistan's illegal occupation of the "independent state" of Balochistan on March 27, 1948, a day that has since been declared as "Black Day." "This is the time the world should realize and they should, I think, this is the time for the security, for the peace and for the stability of the region, and the international community that they should declare Pakistan as a terrorist state," Samad Baloch, a member of the Baloch Human Rights Council, said..."Basically, they are settling Taliban everywhere; they are settling Taliban in Gilgit and Baltistan; they are settling Taliban in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir; they are settling Taliban in Sindh; they are settling Taliban in Balochistan, because they are their strategic extension," said Lakhu Luhana, Secretary General, World Sindhi Congress, UK. Luhana said that Sindhis and Balochs are being denied their basic rights. [Full story>>indianexpress.com]

03.29.10 'Christian warrior' militia accused in plot to kill police

March 29 - Nine people federal prosecutors say belong to a "Christian warrior" militia were accused Monday of plotting to kill a Michigan law enforcement officer and then attack other police at the funeral. A federal grand jury in Detroit, Michigan, indicted six Michigan residents, two Ohioans and an Indianan on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, US Attorney Barbara L. McQuade and Andrew Arena, FBI special agent in charge, announced. The five-count indictment unsealed Monday charges that since August 2008, the defendants, acting as a Lenawee County, Michigan, militia group called the Hutaree, conspired to oppose by force the authority of the US government.

Nine people federal prosecutors say belong to a "Christian warrior" militia were accused Monday of plotting to kill a Michigan law enforcement officer and then attack other police at the funeral. A federal grand jury in Detroit, Michigan, indicted six Michigan residents, two Ohioans and an Indianan on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, US Attorney Barbara L. McQuade and Andrew Arena, FBI special agent in charge, announced. The five-count indictment unsealed Monday charges that since August 2008, the defendants, acting as a Lenawee County, Michigan, militia group called the Hutaree, conspired to oppose by force the authority of the US government.

03.29.10 Bombs in Iraq holy city kill five, wound 64

BAGHDAD (Reuters) March 29 - Two car bombs struck the Iraqi city of Kerbala on Monday, killing five people and wounding 64 others, authorities said. The bombs hit a restaurant and a security checkpoint one km from the Imam Hussein shrine, one of the holiest sites for Shi'itte Muslims, in Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Mohammed al-Mussawi, head of the Kerbala provincial council, told Reuters the blasts were about 500 metres from the provincial offices. [More>>khaleejtims.com]

03.28.10 Saudi funds give jihad a footing in liberal Balkans

March 28 - (By Bojan Pancevski) Saudi Arabia is pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into Islamist groups in the Balkans to spread hatred of the West and recruit fighters for jihad in Afghanistan. According to officials in Macedonia, Islamic fundamentalism threatens to destabilise the Balkans. Strict Wahhabi and Salafi factions funded by Saudi groups are clashing with traditionally moderate local Muslim communities. Fundamentalists have financed the construction of scores of mosques and community centres as well as handing some followers up to £225 a month. They are expected not only to grow beards but also to persuade their wives to wear the niqab, or face veil, a custom virtually unknown in the liberal Islamic tradition of the Balkans.

Government sources in traditionally secular Macedonia, said they were monitoring up to 50 al-Qaeda volunteers recruited to fight in Afghanistan. Classified documents reveal that Macedonian officials are also probing a number of Islamic charities, some in Saudi Arabia, which are active throughout the Balkans and are suspected of spreading extremism and laundering money for terrorist groups. One of the groups under scrutiny is the International Islamic Relief Organization from Saudi Arabia, which is on a United Nations blacklist of organizations backing terrorism.

It did not respond to inquiries, but has previously denied involvement in terrorist activities, calling such claims "totally unfounded." According to its website, it works in 32 countries to provide relief to the victims of natural disasters and to carry out humanitarian, health and educational projects. "Hundreds of millions have been poured into Macedonia alone in the past decade and most of it comes from Saudi Arabia," said a government source.
[>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; story is also in novinite.com]

03.28.10 Barack Obama rallies forces on visit to Afghanistan

March 28 - Barack Obama has told US forces on his first visit to Afghanistan as US president that they are there to help Afghans to forge a "hard-won peace." Addressing soldiers and civilians at Bagram air base near Kabul, he thanked them for their service and said they would prevail against their enemies. They were there, he said, to "keep America safe and secure." On a trip lasting just a few hours, he met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and invited him to the US in May for talks. The US president said he wanted to see progress continue on Afghan efforts to tackle corruption and drug-trafficking. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

03.28.10 Pakistani army kills 22 Taliban near Afghan border

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) March 28 - Pakistani troops repulsed a Taliban attack Sunday on an army base and bombed two militant hide-outs close to the Afghan border, killing 22 insurgents in a region where the army is pressing an offensive, a government official said. The fighting occurred in Orakzai tribal region where many militants are believed to have fled from a major operation in their former stronghold of South Waziristan. The official, Samiullah Khan, said a group of militants attacked the base with rockets and automatic weapons. Security forces retaliated and killed 10 attackers. The military helicopter gunships later bombed the hide-outs in nearby Chapri Ferozkhel area, killing another 12 of them, he added. The government says more than 100 suspected militants and five soldiers have been killed in fighting in the region in the last week. Officials have said the militants killed so far include Uzbek and Arab nationals...Also in the northwest, a bomb ripped through a shop selling movies and music in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said the city police chief, Liaqat Ali Khan. Four people were wounded in the attack. [Full story>>msnbc.msn.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, March 28, "Troops kill 15 more militants in Orakzai"
: PESHAWAR - At least 15 militants were killed on Sunday in fresh clashes between troops and extremists in Orakzai Agency. Following the clashes, security forces regained control of a key militant stronghold Gaidra. The area was under the occupation of militants for the last six years. According to sources, militants carried out rocket attacks on FC fort, which was effectively retaliated, in which 10 militants were killed. Earlier, a gunbattle took place between troops and extremists in Ferozkhel area. Five militants were killed in the clash. Owing to the operation in Orakzai Agency, local people are moving to Hangu, Kohat and other safe areas. [end]

03.28.10 Israel gets ready to strike at Iran's nuclear sites - media

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) March 28 - Israeli air force have practiced simulated strikes at Iran's nuclear facilities using airspace of at least two unidentified Arab countries, a newspaper published in east Jerusalem reported. According to Al Manar paper, several Israeli combat jets carried out in late February bombing drills "targeting" known Iranian nuclear sites "in two Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, which are close territorially with the Islamic republic and cooperate with Israel on this issue." Al Manar said Israel had received the permission to use the airspace from the top leadership of these countries and Washington "gave a blessing" to Tel Aviv to conduct these exercises. [More>>en.rian.ru]

03.28.10 Arab League approves plan to "save" Jerusalem from Israel

CAIRO (RIA Novosti) March 28 - Arab leaders have adopted a series of political and legal measures to confront Israel's settlement policy in annexed east Jerusalem. Fourteen heads-of-state from the 22-member Arab League gathered on March 27-28 in Sirte in central Libya to discuss the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The plan of action "includes political and legal measures to confront Israel's attempts to Judaize Jerusalem and the repeated aggression on its holy sites," the leaders said in a final resolution adopted on Sunday.

Arab leaders also pledged to raise $500 million fund to help bolster the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and to prevent an artificial change in the demographic situation in this city in favor of Israelis. The fund will be used, in particular, to improve infrastructure, build water wells, hospitals and schools as well as to provide financial compensation to Palestinians evicted from their homes by Israeli authorities. Arab leaders called Israel's settlement policy "a dangerous obstacle to a just and comprehensive peace process," and ruled out renewed Middle East peace talks unless Israel halts all settlement building.

03.28.10 Syria to Palestinians: Quit Mideast peace talks, resume violence

(DPA) March 28 - Syria and Libya teamed up Sunday to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to quit peace talks with Israel and return to violence, delegates to an Arab leadership summit said. In the wake of that call, Arab leaders gathered at their summit Sirte, Libya on Sunday failed to reach a consensus on whether the Palestinians should resume stalled talks with Israel. An adviser to the US-backed Palestinian leader quickly rejected the suggestion, calling for the 2 nations represented at the gathering to be realistic. Despite the opposition from two of Israel's longtime foes, the summit had been expected Sunday to renew backing for Palestinian peace talks with Israel. The Arab League has now scheduled an extraordinary summit for later this year to tackle issues it had been unable to resolve during its two days of meeting. [More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

aljazeera.net, March 28, "Arab leaders condemn Israeli policy" :
Arab leaders have expressed their total rejection of Israel's settlement policy in occupied East Jerusalem at the end of a two-day regional summit in Libya. Regional leaders issued the statement on Sunday after the final session of an Arab League summit in the northern city of Sirte. Israel's settlement policy poses "a dangerous obstacle to a just and comprehensive peace process," the final resolution of the summit read. Earlier, at a news conference following the session, Amr Moussa, the league's secretary-general, said Arab leaders are "fed up" with Israel's policies. "The ball is in the Israeli court," he said. "We are waiting to see if they are serious. If they are serious they have to deal with the situation in the occupied territories in a different way." Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as a joint capital for a future state, has been a particular point of focus for delegates...

03.28.10 Israel vows to 'liquidate' Gaza's Hamas rulers

JERUSALEM, March 28 - Military restricts Acces to West Bank for Jewish holiday. A senior minister on Sunday warned that Israel would "liquidate" the Islamist Hamas-run government in Gaza following deadly weekend clashes that killed two Israeli soldiers. "Sooner or later we will liquidate the military regime of the pro-Iranian Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, from the governing rightwing Likud party, told public radio. "I am not setting a timetable, but we will not tolerate this regime continuing to strengthen itself militarily and providing itself with an arsenal of rockets that threaten our territory," he added.

An Israeli officer and soldier were killed over the weekend in the deadliest clashes since Israel's 22-day offensive in Gaza launched in December 2008. That war killed some 1,400 Palestinians and flattened entire neighborhoods in Gaza, leaving thousands of people homeless. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the fighting. When asked whether Israel may launch a new invasion of the territory, Steinitz replied: "We have no choice."

Meanwhile the Israeli military announced it will restrict access to the occupied West Bank starting late Sunday ahead of the week-long Jewish Passover holiday. Checkpoints will be closed to general traffic, though medical cases, humanitarian aid, and professionals and students with permits will be able to cross, it said in a statement. The closures will be lifted on Tuesday, April 6. The Passover holiday, during which Jews commemorate their biblical exodus from Egypt, will last for seven days beginning on Monday at sunset. Israel usually restricts access to the West Bank during Jewish holidays and has stepped up such efforts in recent months as other holidays have seen clashes erupt in and around Jerusalem's flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound.
[More w/blog comments>>alarabiya.net; See also cnn.com, March 28, "Israeli security forces seal off West Bank"

03.28.10 Jerusalem posters call for 3rd Temple

March 28 - Posters leaving out Al Aksa mosque plastered on buses with e. Jerusalem routes. While tensions continue to simmer around the Temple Mount after riots in and around the capital's Old City earlier this month, a new campaign calling for the construction of the Third Temple atop the holy site has made its way to the sides of 200 Egged buses in the city, which now sport posters featuring a picture of a rebuilt temple on the Mount, and nothing else. The posters which contain the phrase, "May the Bais Hamikdosh be rebuilt speedily and within our days," were sponsored by the Our Land of Israel group, which is led by Rabbi Shalom Dov Volpo and activist Baruch Marzel; [they] leave out the site's current structures namely the the Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

The campaign's organizers chose to plaster the posters on buses whose routes take them through predominately Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. With regards to the campaign, Volpo said Israel is waiting breathlessly for the coming of the messiah and the rebuilding of the temple. "The Arabs and President Obama know that the Temple will be built on the Temple Mount," he said. "Instead of the temporary buildings that are there today." Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Marzel said it was no mistake that the Islamic shrines were left out of the picture. “We’re representing the truth, in front of everyone, and saying out loud what every Jew believes,” Marzel said.

“That the Third Temple needs to be built immediately on the Temple Mount and that the mosque should not be there.” "When we reach the end of the Pessah Seder tomorrow night," he continued, we'll say, 'Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem.' What does 'rebuilt' mean? It means with the Third temple intact." Marzel brushed off the furor the ads might elicit from the capital's Muslims, saying, "It upsets them that we’re alive, and that we’re living here. If such a basic point is going to piss them off, then we might as well say what we truly believe and what we pray for three times a day. That is to rebuild the holy temple on top of the Temple Mount, and tomorrow
not to wait any longer." [>jpost.com]

03.28.10 Bombs kill 5 at house tied to Iraq Sunni candidate

BAGHDAD (AP) March 28 - Several bombs exploded Sunday near a house linked to a prominent Sunni figure who ran in this month's parliamentary elections in Iraq, killing five people and wounding 26 others, a police official said. The attack adds to fears of postelection violence as the bitter election rivals enter what are expected to be drawn out talks on forming the next government that will rule Iraq as US troops leave by the end of 2011. Sunday's blasts took place in the town of Qaim, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) west of Baghdad and on the border with Syria, the police official said. The first bomb, planted at a house under construction, went off at 7 a.m. in a busy area of Qaim.

As onlookers gathered, four more bombs hidden in trash littered around the site detonated, causing the casualties. The official said the house belongs to a brother of Sheik Murdhi Muhammad al-Mahalawi, a Sunni candidate who ran on the Iraqiya list led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the top vote-getter in the March 7 balloting. Neither al-Mahalawi's brother nor any construction workers were at the site when the bombs went off, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

03.28.10 Russia says US should eradicate Afghan opium

KABUL (Reuters) March 28 - Russia accused the United States on Sunday of conniving with Afghanistan’s drug producers by refusing to destroy opium crops, the second time in a week Moscow has taken a swipe at the West over drug policy. US Marines have advanced into one of the main opium-growing regions of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province since February, but have told villagers there they will not destroy the opium crop that is blossoming this month.

"We believe such statements are contrary to the decisions taken on Afghan narco-problems within the UN and other international forums," said a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry released by the embassy in Kabul. " 'The touching' concern about the Afghan farmers actually means, if not directly, then certainly indirectly, conniving (with) drug producers,” it said. Last week, Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the Security Council that US and NATO commanders should continue to eradicate opium poppy fields. NATO rejected the criticism and said Russia could best help by providing assistance to the fight the insurgency.

03.26.10 US, Russia reach deal on cutting nuke arsenal

WASHINGTON (AP) March 26 - Agreement leaves behind "legacy of the 20th century," Obama says. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed on Friday to sharp cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both nations in the most comprehensive arms control treaty in two decades. "We have turned words into action," Obama declared. Obama said the pact, to be signed April 8 in Prague, was part of his effort to "reset" relations with Russia and a step on a path toward "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." The agreement would require both sides to reduce their arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons by about a third, from 2,200 now to 1,550 each. The pact, replacing and expanding a 1991 treaty that expired in December, was a gesture toward improved US-Russian relations that have been badly frayed. The reductions would still leave both sides with immense arsenals — and the ability to easily annihilate each other. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

03.26.10 UK: Beach litter survey reveals plastics toll

March 26 - Piles of plastic rubbish, ranging from thousands of drinks bottles and carrier bags to a joke severed finger and a set of vampire teeth, were collected in the latest annual survey of beach litter. Overall levels of rubbish on UK beaches last year fell by 16 per cent on 2008 figures, according to the Marine Conservation Society which organizes the annual litter pick. But the conservation organization is concerned about the continuing problem of plastic waste, which it says is overwhelming UK beaches and harming wildlife. The MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend 2009, which saw volunteers out on almost 400 beaches collecting and recording rubbish, picked up some 1,849 items of litter per kilometre compared to 2,195 items in 2008. But litter levels are significantly higher than when the survey started in 1994, with the amount of overall rubbish picked up increasing by 77 percent and plastic debris rising by 121 percent, the MCS said. Plastic, from small shreds to carrier bags, made up almost two thirds (64 percent) of the litter found, making up a higher percentage of the overall total than in previous years of the survey.

The conservation group is particularly concerned about plastic rubbish because of its damaging impact on wildlife. From seals entangled in fishing nets and lines to leatherback turtles which have swallowed plastic, the rubbish kills and injures many marine animals every year, the MCS warned. And instead of biodegrading, plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces
and in some parts of the ocean there are now six times as many of these particles than there are plankton, the tiny organisms that form the bottom of the food chain. The conservation group warned plastic fragments also attract toxic chemicals and then are eaten by marine animals, potentially providing a path for the toxins up the food chain to humans. The list of most commonly picked up items from UK beaches was topped by small and larger pieces of plastic, which together accounted for a fifth of the items gathered up.

Food wrappers, plastic rope, plastic caps and lids, drinks bottles, fishing nets and cotton bud sticks
which are often flushed down the toilet and not caught by sewage works were all among the top 10 most frequently found items. Litter pickers found 16,243 drinks bottles, 7,393 plastic bags and 7,025 pieces of plastic cutlery, trays, straws and cups in the 185 kilometres (115 miles) of beach surveyed. Volunteers also picked up some 11,670 cigarette butts, 9,662 pieces of glass and 8,890 metal drinks cans. [More>>independent.co.uk]

03.26.10 Sensors turn skin into gadget control pad

March 26 -Tapping your forearm or hand with a finger could soon be the way you interact with gadgets. US researchers have found a way to work out where the tap touches and use that to control phones and music players. Coupled with a tiny projector the system can use the skin as a surface on which to display menu choices, a number pad or a screen. Early work suggests the system, called Skinput, can be learned with about 20 minutes of training. "The human body is the ultimate input device," Chris Harrison, Skinput's creator, told BBC News. He came up with the skin-based input system to overcome the problems of interacting with the gadgets we increasingly tote around. Gadgets cannot shrink much further, said Mr. Harrison, and their miniaturization was being held back by the way people are forced to interact with them. The size of human fingers dictates, to a great degree, how small portable devices can get. "We are becoming the bottleneck," said Mr. Harrison. To get around this Mr. Harrison, a PhD student in computer science at Carnegie Mellon and colleagues Desney Tan and Dan Morris from Microsoft Research, use sensors on the arm to listen for input. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

03.26.10 Arab ministers agree Jerusalem fund

March 26 - Arab foreign ministers meeting in Libya have agreed to raise a fund of $500m to support Palestinians living in Jerusalem. The ministers, who are in the Libyan city of Sirte ahead of an Arab League summit over the weekend, hope the fund will help counter Israel's settlement drive within the Holy City. "Yes, they have agreed," Amr Moussa, the Arab League's secretary general, told reporters when asked if the fund had been approved. Final ratification will come when the decision is submitted to Arab leaders when they gather on Saturday and Sunday. The Middle East peace process is set to dominate the summit after Israel angered Palestinian and Arab leaders earlier this month when it announced plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from Sitre, said there was a strong sense of Arab commitment towards the Palestinians. "There are several points to be discussed at the Arab League meeting but most of them revolve around Jerusalem, even Egypt dubbed this year's summit as 'The Jerusalem Conference,' " he said. "Arab officials told us that despite all [their] differences there is a sense of responsibility towards Jerusalem and that they feel a need to come together and act quickly against what they call an Israeli Judaisation of Jerusalem,"

Riyad al-Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said: "It is a modest amount compared to what Israel and the Jewish communities around the world spend on settlements in East Jerusalem and which amounts so far to more than $17.4bn." A senior Palestinian official said the money would go towards improving infrastructure in mostly Arab East Jerusalem, building hospitals, schools, water wells and providing financial support to those whose homes have been demolished by the Israelis.
[More>>aljazeera.net; See related story,

jpost.com, March 26, "Iran: Muslims must foil Israeli plot" :
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called on the international community to "foil an Israeli plot to change the identity of Jerusalem," Iranian Press TV news agency reported on Friday. "The expansion of Jewish settlements, the destruction of Islamic and Christian structures and the construction of new synagogues in Jerusalem have unveiled the Israeli plot," Mottaki reportedly said, "which, unfortunately, has been approved by Washington." The Israeli plot will have "dangerous consequences," Mottaki warned. He urged Arab states to put the issue high on the agenda of the Arab League conference, which is underway in Libya. "Unfortunately, the recent developments and comments made over the past few months by the officials of the Zionist regime, clearly show the seriousness of the occupiers' plot to give a Zionist identity to the first kiblah of Muslims," Mottaki was quoted as saying Thursday...

03.26.10 Israeli soldiers killed in fresh Gaza clash

March 26 - An Israeli officer and a conscript have been killed after an ambush by Palestinian gunmen, the Israeli military has confirm[ed]. Two other soldiers were injured and at least two Palestinians wounded in the worst suspected Gaza Strip border clash since Israel ended its offensive there 14 months ago. The militant Islamist group Hamas, which rules the enclave, said its men had fired on Israeli soldiers who crossed into the Strip. Observers doubt the clash is not directly linked to the diplomatic impasse over settlements in the West Bank and stalled efforts to relaunch peace talks. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and said it was holding Hamas accountable for the violence, which made further retaliatory action likely. "Hamas is accountable for any activity that takes place from Gaza to Israel. It doesn't matter if it took responsibility or not," a military spokeswoman told reporters. [More>>news.sky.com]

03.26.10 NATO chief calls for new missile defenses to counter Iran

March 26 - NATO states should agree at a summit this year to make missile defense systems against states including Iran an alliance mission and look at every opportunity to cooperate on this with Russia, the head of NATO says. In a speech prepared for delivery at a conference in Brussels on Saturday, alliance Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said a NATO-wide missile defense system would show collective will to defend against a growing threat. "We need a decision by NATO's next summit in November that missile defense for our populations and territories is an alliance mission. And that we will explore every opportunity to cooperate with Russia," Rasmussen said in an advance text of the speech made available by NATO. In reiterating his wish to see collaboration with Russia, Rasmussen said this required a decision by Moscow "to see missile defense as an opportunity, rather than a threat."

He said current trends showed a "real and growing" threat from weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, with more than 30 countries possessing or developing missiles with greater and greater ranges. "In many cases, these missiles could eventually threaten our populations and territories," he said. Iran, which the West suspects of working to produce nuclear weapons, has said it possesses missiles with a range that would put NATO members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria within reach, Rasmussen said. If Tehran were to complete development of intermediate and intercontinental missiles after taking a key step in introducing its SAFIR 2 space-launch vehicle last year, "then the whole of the European continent, as well as all of Russia would be in range," he said.

03.26.10 Indian army reveals new war on terror weapon

ISLAMABAD, March 26 - India's military to weaponize world's hottest chili. The Indian army commanders are set to deploy a new weapon to win the war on terror. Weapons development experts have developed an eye-watering spice bomb, packed with a potent mix made from the bhut jolokia chili, the world's hottest. Scientists from India's Defense Research and Development Organization have created an 81-mm-tear-gas like grenade. The new grenade will help its soldiers to immobilize enemy fighters, and allow them to be captured, without long-term injury. The thumb-sized bhut jolokia, or 'ghost chili,' was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India's north-east for its taste and for being a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the summer heat. It has more than one million Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000. [More>>alarabiya.net]

03.26.10 Mexican drug traffickers tighten grip in US

WASHINGTON, March 26 - Mexican criminal organizations have more than doubled heroin production in a year and have cemented their grip as the predominant wholesale suppliers of illicit drugs in the United States, a government report concluded Thursday. The National Drug Threat Assessment found that Mexican groups were the only drug trafficking enterprises operating in every region of the United States. The study by a unit of the Justice Department says Mexican traffickers increased the flow of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States, while they increased production of those drugs in Mexico. [More>>japantoday.com]

03.26.10 Pakistan: 5 soldiers, 21 alleged militants killed

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) March 26 - Five Pakistani soldiers and at least 21 suspected militants were killed in clashes in a region near the Afghan border where the military is pursuing Taliban insurgents fleeing a US-backed offensive, authorities said Friday. he reports came a day after officials said 61 suspected militants died in air strikes in the same region, Orakzai, and underscored the challenge facing Pakistan as it tries to wipe out Pakistani Taliban fighters bent on overthrowing the state. Local government official Sami Ullah said the fighting occurred after dawn Friday when militants attacked a checkpoint. He said at least 27 militants died. But an army statement said 21 insurgents were killed, and the clashes occurred when security forces were trying to recapture a checkpoint taken Thursday night by militants in the Kalaya area of Orakzai. [More>>thejakartapost.com; See also,

alarabiya.net (Reuters) March 26, "Pakistani troops kill 34 militants after attack"
: HANGU, Pakistan - At least 150 Taliban involved in attack. Pakistani troops killed at least 34 militants after about 150 Taliban attacked a military checkpost in the northwest on Friday, challenging government assertions crackdowns have weakened the group. The fight in Orakzai district, part of Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt shadowing the border with Afghanistan that Washington considers an al-Qaeda headquarters, was the deadliest such incident for Pakistani troops in months. "Last night at Kalaya in Orakzai agency terrorists attacked and captured a check post. Security forces counter-attacked and recaptured that check post," the Pakistan military said in a statement Friday. A senior military officer and four paramilitary soldiers were also killed in the attack a day after Pakistani jets killed nearly 50 people, mostly militants, in strikes on a school and a seminary in the same region, a government official said. Fourteen soldiers were wounded in the Taliban assault. Orakzai, one of seven Pakistani tribal regions near the Afghan border, also known as agencies, has seen a surge in military attacks in recent months, targeting militants who were driven out of their bastion of South Waziristan...

See related story,

thenews.com.pk, March 26, "823 terrorists killed during operation Rahi-i-Nijat: Senate told" : ISLAMABAD: [The] Senate was informed Friday that 823 terrorists have been killed during operation Rahi-i-Nijat in South Waziristan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik giving day-wise details during Question Hour said, "Since October 17, 2009 till February 20, 2010 terrorists were killed on most of the days to clear the area. He rejected the claims of the members about the figure and said, he cannot go by the media reports to reveal the figure. "What I have stated on [the] floor of the House is an official figure and I own it." He also mentioned to [the] presence of local as well as foreigners in South Waziristan, including those affiliated [with] al-Qaeda, with their headquarter[s] in Makin from where all the suicide attacks on civilians and military installations were planned and executed.

Malik also accepted the challenge of a member to provide the list of at least 50 killed in [an] operation [which] the government had declared terrorists. "I am even ready to present the list of 100. Give me time by Monday or Tuesday," To a question about killing of civilians, he said, "[An] announcement was made for the people to leave the area prior to start of [the] operation." He quoted the example of Mohmand Agency where Maulvi Faqir Muhammad and Qari Ziaur Rehman were found [in] the home of a civilian. "If the people do not leave the area and are hit during the operation, it is not our fault. Even though we tried [to assure] that no innocent is killed during the operation," he added. The minister said,"Those who raped women, burnt schools and buildings and hanged people, cannot be innocent people. They were terrorists and the operation was against them." [end]

03.26.10 'Headley story shows close al-Qaeda, LeT links'

WASHINGTON, March 26 - Pakistani-American terror suspect David Headley's confession about his involvement in the Mumbai terror showed in clear contours the close relationship between al-Qaeda and the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to a former CIA analyst. Headley's revelations around the European cell were particularly disturbing, Bruce Riedel, who was a member of the National Security Council in the Clinton administration and is now at the Brookings Institution was quoted as saying by the New York Times Friday. They showed that "al-Qaeda still has a significant operational infrastructure somewhere in Europe," he said. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

03.26.10 Suspects in plot on Saudi sites took orders from al-Qaeda in Yemen, official says

March 25 Several of the more than 100 terror suspects accused of plotting to attack key oil and security facilities in Saudi Arabia were apparently taking their orders from al-Qaeda in Yemen and were ready to strike as soon as they got the go-ahead, a senior Saudi official said Thursday. In a telephone interview with Fox News, Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Interior, said the arrest of the alleged plotters not only had prevented the attacks, but broken up a network of al-Qaeda-affiliated radicals that included two suicide bombing cells.

He did not dispute news reports indicating that the plotters had been exchanging e-mails with a man in Yemen believed to be a senior leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Al-Turki declined to identify which facilities the suspects were allegedly targeting, but he said one of the suspects, a Saudi national, was employed by a private Saudi industrial security company responsible for protecting oil sites and other critical infrastructure. "As an employee, he had access to all of those sites and to current plans for protecting them," the general said.

03.25.10 Say hello to X woman, your long-lost cousin

March 25 - Scientists stunned as DNA analysis of bone fragment found in Russian cave reveals existence of a hitherto unknown ancestor. To the trained eye of the palaeontologist, the tiny fragment of fossilized bone can be identified as coming from the little finger of a child who lived about 40,000 years ago in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia. But in the hands of molecular biologists, the bone has revealed that it belonged to a new lineage of human being, an unknown "hominin" who, although human, was not a member of our own species, Homo sapiens. The finger-bone was unearthed in 2008 from the floor of Denisova Cave, a rock shelter known to have been inhabited by ancient humans for several hundred thousand years. Now, after exhaustive tests on DNA extracted from the fragment, scientists can reveal that in Siberia at this time there lived a hitherto unknown type of human who was neither Homo sapiens nor Neanderthal, the only other human species living in the area at about this time.

It raises the intriguing possibility that in this part of central Asia about 40,000 years ago three species of human were living alongside one another, perhaps for thousands of years. Nothing is known of how they interacted or whether they interbred but it is clear that only one of the three species survived, anatomically modern humans. Fossilized bone fragments of woolly mammoth and woolly rhino and ostrich shell, as well as a polished stone bracelet and bone tools, have also been unearthed at Denisova, a cave consisting of a central chamber and several short galleries overlooking the Anui River which runs through a steppe-like landscape. Scientists have no other physical remains of this mysterious hominin who lived in the Denisova cave except the fragment of finger-bone. They do not know even whether it was male or female, but the size of the bone suggests that the little finger belonged to a child aged seven or eight, and carbon dating of the sediments surrounding it indicates that he or she lived between 30,000 and 48,000 years ago.

The scientists were able to identify a new lineage of hominin from DNA analysis alone by extracting the DNA of the mitochondria, tiny "organelles" inside the cells of the bone that house their own genetic material. Mitochondrial DNA is unlike the DNA found in the cell nucleus in that it is simpler and always inherited down the maternal line from the mother. The scientists have nicknamed the fossil "X woman" to indicate that it was this maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA that has so explosively revealed the existence of another species of human who lived during the last Ice Age in these remote Siberian mountains..."In a very general sense, from their mitochondrial DNA, we can say that they [X woman] was about twice as different from us as Neanderthals. So in their biology they were also probably more distant, but what that means in terms of their behavior or how they looked, we have no clue," Dr. Krause added. "So far, we know only of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens [in terms of their mitochondrial DNA]. Now we have another mitochondrial lineage."
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

03.25.10 Social Security payouts to exceed revenues

March 25 - For the first time, payouts made under the US Social Security system will exceed the federal government's revenues, according to a Thursday report in the New York Times. If the Congressional Budget Office's prediction bears out, it will represent a major tipping point for the Social Security system which analysts didn't expect to see until 2016, according to the Times report. Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, told the Times that the CBO's estimate was likely accurate, but that the tip in finances would not effect recipients in 2010, and America's retired workers can expect to continue receiving their payments. Goss said the recession was to blame for the shift in revenues, and payouts. He told the Times that increasing numbers of Americans applied for Social Security benefits during the last year, as they lost their jobs amid nationwide layoffs. [More>>cbsnews.com]

03.25.10 House GOP leader says bullet fired into office after health care vote

WASHINGTON, March 25 - Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, said Thursday that a bullet had been fired through a window at his district office in Richmond, Virginia. He also said he had received threatening messages. He said he would not publicly release the messages out of concern that doing so would only incite further violence. He also accused Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — a member of the Democratic House leadership — of "fanning the flames" of violence by using threats that have been made against Democratic members "as political weapons." "Enough is enough," Cantor said. "It has to stop."

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse hit back against Cantor's claims. "We disagree with the charge made by Rep. Cantor today that Democrats are using acts of violence for political gain," he said. "Let's be clear: Calling on Republican leaders who have contributed in part to this anger by wildly mischaracterizing the substance and motives of health reform to condemn these acts is entirely appropriate." More than 10 Democrats have reported trouble since the weekend health care vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, told reporters Wednesday. Windows have been smashed at Democratic offices in at least three states, and federal agents are investigating whether a cut gas line at the home of a Virginia congressman's brother was related to the lawmaker's yes vote.

03.25.10 Honeybees dying: Scientists wonder why, and worry about food supply

March 25 - A third of our food depends on plants pollinated by bees; "We're really cutting it close." No matter where you live in a brick Philadelphia row house, the sprawling suburbs of Dallas or an apartment in Seattle you depend, more than most of us know, on lowly honeybees raised in California or Florida. The bees have been dying in extraordinary numbers, and scientists are trying to figure out why. "One in every three bites of food you eat comes from a plant, or depends on a plant, that was pollinated by a bee," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp of Penn State University's College of Agricultural Sciences. "We're still managing to pollinate all the orchards," he said. "But we're really cutting it close out there."

It has been going on for four years. In 2009 almost 29 percent of the bee colonies in the United States collapsed, say scientists who surveyed commercial beekeepers and brokers. That's slightly less than the 36 percent loss in 2008 and the 32 percent counted in 2007, but an informal survey just finished suggests that the die-off continues. "Something is wrong out there," said David Mendes, a commercial beekeeper near Fort Myers, Fla., who is also president of the American Beekeeping Federation. It may be something in the agricultural environment that's making them sicker and more vulnerable to illness..."

03.25.10 Forest loss slows, as China plants and Brazil preserves

March 25 - The world's net rate of forest loss has slowed markedly in the last decade, with less logging in the Amazon and China planting trees on a grand scale. Yet forests continue to be lost at "an alarming rate" in some countries, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 finds the loss of tree cover is most acute in Africa and South America. But Australia also suffered huge losses because of the recent drought. "It is good news," said the report's coordinator Mette Loyche Wilkie, a senior forestry office with FAO. "This is the first time we've been able to say that the deforestation rate is going down across the world, and certainly when you look at the net rate that is certainly down. But the situation in some countries is still alarming," she told BBC News. The last decade saw forests being lost or converted at a rate of 13 million hectares per year, compared to 16 million hectares in the 1990s. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also FAC report, fao.org]

03.25.10 GlobalPost embraces challenge of covering world news as US papers trim bureaus

March 25 - The morning after a powerful earthquake struck Chile, "Face the Nation" was frantically trying to find a journalist in the suddenly ravaged country. With phone lines jammed and major news outlets caught flat-footed, CBS tracked down Pascale Bonnefoy, a reporter for the online news service GlobalPost. "It was terrifying," she says, recounting the devastation to Bob Schieffer from Santiago after several attempts were aborted by dropped phone connections. "I was in my home on the second floor in my bedroom. We were all sleeping. The house started to shake, then rock, then jump up and down." Schieffer's executive producer, Carin Pratt, was relieved: "She was quite good. We were definitely scrambling. She was the only person we could find." The interview late last month underscored the value of a Web site that has taken on the ambitious challenge of covering the world big chunks of it, anyway but remains a blip on the media radar. With newspapers and networks shuttering many of their bureaus abroad, the fledgling company is trying to fill part of the gap by tapping seasoned foreign correspondents as part-time stringers. "GlobalPost is a young organization, still finding its financial feet, and this is a tough time for journalists," says Jean MacKenzie, who is based in Afghanistan. "Remuneration is not as high as we would like some of us still remember the days of pampered foreign correspondents, and would love a bureau, fixers, translators, drivers, the works. This is, so far, more a seat-of-the-pants operation." [More>>washingtonpost.com]

03.25.10 Bin Laden threatens Americans with execution

DUBAI (Reuters) March 25 - Osama bin Laden threatened al-Qaeda would kill any Americans it takes prisoner if accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is put to death, according to an audiotape aired on al Jazeera on Thursday. Senior US officials may recommend that Mohammed, who was being held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be prosecuted in a military trial, officials said in March. Such a decision, after intense political pressure, would reverse plans to hold criminal trials for Mohammed and four accused coconspirators in a lower Manhattan court.

"This message is about our prisoners who you are holding," bin Laden said in the tape, complaining that US President Barack Obama was still following "his predecessor's steps" on many issues including on al-Qaeda detainees such as Mohammed. "The White House has expressed its desire to execute him. When America makes this decision, it will have made a decision to execute whoever of you is held prisoner by us," bin Laden said in the tape recording, whose authenticity could not be immediately confirmed.
[More>>thestar.com; See related story

,masnbc.msn. com, March 25, "Bin Laden video threat absurd, US official says"
: CAIRO - A US counterterrorism official on Thursday dismissed as absurd a threat by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to execute any Americans in captivity. "It's the height of absurdity for anyone associated with al-Qaeda to even suggest that now, at long last, they're going to start treating captives badly," said the counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They may have forgotten Danny Pearl and all the others they've slaughtered, but we haven't."

03.25.10 Niqab for Muslim women banned in Canadian province

TORONTO, March 25 - After France, Muslim women have been banned from wearing niqab in Canada's French-speaking Quebec province. A bill tabled Wednesday will not allow government services to women wearing the niqab. The bill comes after protests triggered by an Egyptian immigrant's refusal to remove her niqab in her French languages classes in Montreal, forcing the school and the provincial government to throw her out. The college says the Muslim woman was given the front seat in the class so that all male students sat behind her.

She was even allowed to make presentations from the rear of the classroom with her back to the class which had three male and 17 female students. However, students and the college authorities were shocked when one day the woman asked male students to move away from her and refused to sit with them around a U-table to converse and learn French pronunciation..."An accommodation cannot be granted unless it respects the principle of equality between men and women, and the religious neutrality of the state," the premier said.
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

03.25.10 Sahil kidnap 'mastermind' arrested in Pakistan

March 25 - The "mastermind" behind the kidnapping of British boy Sahil Saeed has been arrested, according to police in Pakistan. One other person was arrested in the operation in the city of Jhelum, the city where the boy was kidnapped. AK-47s, hand grenades and 700 bullets, as well as items belonging to Sahil's family, were found during the arrests, officials said. Police later paraded the hooded and shackled suspects in front of local media. Sahil, from Oldham, was on holiday with his father when he was abducted on March 4. The five-year-old was found by locals wandering in a field nearly two weeks later, alone but well, and handed over to police. [More>>news.sky.com]

03.25.10 48 killed in NW Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Xinhua) March 25 - Pakistan's jet fighters pounded militants' hideouts in northwest Pakistan's tribal area on Thursday, killing at least 48 people and injuring 32 others, local sources said. The Pakistani forces targeted various suspected hideouts of militants in Mamozai area of Orakzai Agency. However, the sources did not tell the number of civilians among the casualties. The fresh operation started in the morning when the security forces retaliated in response to militants' attack against the security checkpost in Mir Baka of Orakzai. It was the second attack launched by militants against the security forces in the agency in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile, local officials told Xinhua that an important Taliban commander Mian Gul was also arrested in Storikheil area of Orakzai during the ongoing operation. [>xinhuanet.com; See other details,

thenews.com.pk, March 25, "More than 40 militants killed in air strikes"
: PARACHINAR - Pakistani military air strikes killed dozens [of] suspected militants in an area near the Afghan border Thursday, including dozens at a seminary where Taliban commanders were believed to be meeting, officials said. The jet fire rained in two spells during the day in the Mamuzai area of Orakzai, a tribal region where many Taliban leaders are believed to have fled to avoid an army ground offensive further south. The center was targeted because a group of Taliban leaders were believed to be meeting there in the afternoon. Some four dozen people died in the air strikes in and around the seminary, while 13 others were killed in morning strikes at the two other sites. [end]

03.25.10 Saudi busts 113-strong Qaeda cell: ministry

RIYADH, March 25 - 12 of arrested said to target oil, security facilities. Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had arrested 113 al-Qaeda militants including suicide bombers who had been planning attacks on energy facilities in the world's top oil exporter. The interior ministry said its sweep, among the biggest in several years, netted 58 suspected Saudi militants and 52 from Yemen, which jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after a failed attack on a US-bound jet in December. The militants, who were also from Bangladesh, Eritrea and Somalia, were backed by al-Qaeda in Yemen, it added in a statement, without giving the dates of the arrests. Henry Wilkinson, a counter-terrorism expert at Janusian security consultants in London, said the arrests showed the Saudi oil sector remained a priority target for al-Qaeda.

The 113 militants were organized into three cells, including two planning suicide attacks on oil and security facilities in Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province, home to the world's biggest oil refinery. "The 12 in the two cells were suicide bombers," security affairs spokesman Mansour al-Turki said. "We have compelling evidence against all of those arrested, that they were plotting terrorist attacks inside the kingdom."

03.24.10 Australian scientists in TB drug breakthrough

(AFP) March 24 - Australian scientists said today they had discovered a drug which could cure tuberculosis at its non-infectious stage and could be the first major breakthrough on the disease in 50 years. Bacteriologist Nick West said researchers at Sydney's Centenary Institute had developed a drug which could essentially combat the disease before it takes hold, potentially saving millions of lives around the world. "We have investigated a protein that is essential for TB to survive and we have had some success in developing a drug that will inhibit this protein," said West.

"Our goal over the coming months is to find out the full extent of this drug's potential." Dr. West said it would be the first time in history that dormant or asymptomatic, non-infectious TB would be able to be treated, potentially stemming a deadly tide of infection which claimed two million lives every year. "Unfortunately, the antibiotics we use to fight TB aren't effective against latent TB and can only be used when the disease becomes active," he explained. "This is a major problem as one out of 10 people who have latent TB will develop the active disease, becoming sick and contagious..."

03.24.10 Health bill lawsuits are going nowhere

March 24 - (Editorial opinion by Timothy Stolzfus Jost, Special to CNN) A state attorney general is almost by definition a candidate for higher office. The filing of lawsuits challenging the health reform law by 14 attorneys general all but one of them Republican may look good for their next campaigns, but these cases are going nowhere legally. The case filed by Florida and 12 other states challenges obligations allegedly imposed on the states by the statute as well as the individual insurance purchase mandate imposed by the law.

The Virginia case challenges only the individual mandate, setting up against it a new Virginia law purporting to nullify it. One of the states' claims is based on a simple misreading of the health reform law. The lawsuit claims that it compels the states to enforce the federal law or to operate exchanges that would make health insurance available to consumers. Section 1321 gives states the choice of doing so or not, and if states elect not to do so, the federal government will enforce the law and operate the exchange in the state. No state has to do anything, except make its choice known to the federal government. Moreover, section 1333 of the act allows states to apply for a waiver to take a completely different approach to covering their residents if they have a better idea.

03.24.10 Russia, China push Iran to change nuke stance

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) March 24 - Russia and China have quietly made clear to the Iranian government they want Tehran to change its approach to the nuclear issue and accept a UN atomic fuel offer, Western diplomats said on Tuesday. Russia's and China's coordinated diplomatic approaches took place in Tehran around the beginning of March, according to several Western UN Security Council diplomats. They said it was significant that two powers seen as blocking Western efforts to get tough on Tehran appeared to be using their influence behind the scenes to ratchet up the pressure on the Islamic Republic. "Russia and China had a demarche in Tehran to try and get them to shift their position on the nuclear issue, particularly with regard to the Tehran Research Reactor," one diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. [More>>alarabiya.net]

03.24.10 Pakistan forces kill 14 militants near Afghan border

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) March 24 - The Pakistani military used ground forces and fighter jets during operations in three areas of the Orakzai tribal region. A Pakistani official says security forces have killed at least 14 militants after targeting their hide-outs near the Afghan border. Rasheed Khan says the military used ground forces and fighter jets during operations in three areas of the Orakzai tribal region. He says one soldier was also wounded in Wednesday's clashes with militants. Orakzai is a militant stronghold and the military has launched several offensives to clear the region of insurgents. It is located in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. The remoteness of region makes it difficult to independently verify reported casualties. [>foxnews.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, March 24, "Suspected terrorist arrested in Peshawar" :
:PESHAWAR - A suspected terrorist has been arrested in Hasht Nagri police station jurisdiction in Peshawar. According to police sources, the detainee belonged to Darra Adam Khel. Police have also recovered four pistols, four rifles and one thousand cartridges from his possession. [end]

03.24.10 Two NATO soldiers, five Afghans killed in unrest

KABUL, March 24 - Two NATO soldiers and two Afghan mine clearers have been killed in bombings in southern Afghanistan, while three policemen died in a clash with Taliban fighters, officials and NATO said Wednesday. "Two ISAF service members were killed in an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan today," the alliance said in a statement. The force did not disclose the dead soldiers' nationality. The homemade bombs, known as IEDs, are the weapon of choice for Taliban militants and are the main cause of casualties to foreign and local troops. Two Afghan mine clearers were killed and two others injured Tuesday when their vehicle struck a roadside IED in southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan province as they travelled to work, a local police chief said. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

03.24.10 Five Iraqi soldiers killed at Baghdad checkpoint

BAGHDAD, March 24 - Insurgents killed five Iraqi soldiers on Wednesday in an attack on a military checkpoint in south Baghdad, the army said. "Five soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack on a checkpoint in the Radhwaniyah neighbourhood," said a statement from Baghdad Operations Command, without elaborating. "The security forces closed off the area and detained 17 suspects," it added. Two policemen were shot dead in an attack on a watchtower in the same neighbourhood on Monday. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) March 24, "Iraq militants promise more attacks on US troops"
: BAGHDAD - An al-Qaeda-linked militant group claimed responsibility for election day bombings in Iraq and vowed to continue attacks against US forces, according to an audiotape. The group, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), had threatened voters before the March 7 parliamentary election. It called the election a farce aimed at cementing Shia  Muslims’ domination of minority Sunnis. "We will continue to pursue the occupation, its helpers, and its agents, until we purify the land of their filth," said the audiotape posted late on Tuesday on a website used by jihadists. The site said the voice was that of ISI head Abu Omar Al Baghdad..

03.24.10 Somali pirates broaden attacks

March 24 - Suspected Somali pirates have seized two ships hundreds of miles off the coast of Africa, in waters outside the zone patrolled by Navfor, the European Union naval force fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden. A Turkish ship with a crew of 19 Turks and two Ukrainians was hijacked in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday morning, while a British Virgin islands vessel with a mainly Sri Lankan crew was seized off Oman. A statement released by Navfor said the 35,000-tonTurkish-crewed Frigia had been closer to India than Somalia  about 400 nautical miles outside the normal Navfor operation area.

After the hijacking the Maltese-flagged vessel appeared to be heading west towards a port on the coast of Somalia, Navfor said. "My men have hijacked a Turkish ship from the Indian Ocean and they are now heading towards me here in Haradheere," a purported spokesman for the pirates was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying...Globally in 2009, there were 406 reported incidents, in which 153 vessels were boarded and 49 were hijacked. There were 84 attempted attacks and 120 vessels were fired on. A total of 1,052 crew members were taken hostage and at least 68 crew members were injured while eight were killed. In all, Somali pirates were held responsible for 217 acts of piracy in 2009, in which 47 vessels were hijacked and 867 crew members taken hostage.
[Full story>>aljazeera.net; See related story,

timesonline.co.uk, March 24, "Security guards shoot dead Somali pirate in attack on MV Almezaan cargo ship"
: Private security guards shot and killed a Somali pirate when the cargo ship they were protecting came under attack today, signalling the start of a new lethal phase in the fight against piracy. It is the first time armed guards are known to have used lethal force against pirates who have increased their attacks despite the presence of international warships in the seas off the coast of Somalia. The Panama flagged MV Almezaan was 60 miles south of the pirate port of Haradheere en route to Mogadishu when it was attacked twice by a gang of at least seven pirates in a pair of fast-moving skiffs. The Almezaan was hijacked twice last year while making the same journey.

This time a small team of private security guards fired shots to repel the first attack but when the gang came in for a second approach the guards aimed to kill. One pirate was hit numerous times with small arms fire and the attacking skiffs were riddled with bullets. A Spanish Navy helicopter launched from a nearby frigate deployed as part of the European Union anti-piracy force tracked the fleeing pirates firing into the water to force their surrender. Six suspects were arrested and taken aboard the Spanish ESPS Navarra along with the dead man’s body. The mother ship was later sunk...


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