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04.11.10 Almost all Austrian glaciers shrank in 2009: report

(AFP) April 11 - Almost 90 percent of Austrian glaciers shrank in 2009, some by as much as 46 metres (150 feet), the Austrian Alpine Association (OeAV) said Friday. In a report, the OeAV said 85 out of 96 glaciers had shrunk over the past year. The biggest changes were seen in the Oetz valley in western Tyrol province, where three glaciers retreated by over 40 metres, and eight by over 20 metres. "The ice is very thin over large areas, so the glaciers are retreating very quickly," noted Andrea Fischer of the University of Innsbruck, who conducted the measurements for the alpine club. One glacier bucked the trend and expanded, but only by a few dozen centimeters. Temperatures were higher than average by about 0.2 degrees Celsius in the winter of 2008-2009 and by 2.1 degrees last summer, the OeAV noted. "This year too, the tips of the largest glaciers will disappear," Fischer said. "There is a lack of new ice and coupled with high summer temperatures, this will lead to serious shrinking of the glaciers." [>independent.co.uk]

04.11.10 In Turkey, military's power over secular democracy slips

ISTANBUL, April 11 - Since the Turkish republic's founding 87 years ago, the military has stood as unquestioned guardian of secular democracy, intervening when it deemed necessary to keep religion out of politics in this overwhelmingly Muslim nation. But now, battered by allegations of corruption and scandal, the authority of the once-unchallenged military is being whittled away by an increasingly assertive and confident public. The critics are a diverse array of democracy advocates, head-scarf-wearing Muslim women, journalists and others who complain that the military's grip on power has largely benefited wealthy and secular elites.

Old taboos are collapsing amid the new questioning of a military-political order established by revered national founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ceren Kenar, 25, a graduate student in Istanbul, recalled marching in the streets of Ankara to protest against a blunt military foray into domestic politics in 2007. She said that when she wasn't detained, "that was the moment I knew Turkey had changed." Turks now freely discuss and criticize the military. Most remarkably, senior officers, once immune from any kind of prosecution, have been arrested in an alleged conspiracy to oust Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party from power.

04.11.10 Italians 'confess' to murder plot in Afghanistan

April 11 - Three Italian aid workers seized by Afghan police in Helmand have confessed to their part in a plot to assassinate the provincial governor, Afghan officials claimed today. The men were among nine people arrested yesterday when Afghan security forces stormed a hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. The hospital is one of three run by the Italian charity Emergency the others are in Kabul and the Panjshir Valley, which is home to the one of the key anti-Taleban Northern Alliance groups and has a reputation for treating Taleban wounded. The policy has made the organization unpopular with local officials A statement on the charity's website said that the accusation "sounds simply groundless.".

..."All nine people detained have confessed," the governor's spokesman, Daoud Ahmadi, said. "They were accused of links with al-Qaeda and terrorists. During the raid we found explosives, including hand grenades, suicide vests and some weapons, concealed in medicine boxes. These explosives were smuggled into Helmand disguised as medical supplies. They have accepted their crime. They have confessed. They said there was a plan to carry out suicide attacks on crowded bazaars, the governor's compound, and they wanted to kill the governor."
[Full story>>timesonline.co.uk; See also aljazeera.net]

04.11.10 Two suicide bombers killed in Iraqi-US raid

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) April 11 - Two Saudis who planned to commit suicide bombings were killed alongside an al-Qaeda leader in a joint raid by Iraqi and US forces north of Baghdad, a police chief said on Sunday. The operation was conducted on Saturday in a valley 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of the oil city of Kirkuk. "They were hiding in a grass house and they clashed with our forces for two hours. Two Saudis and an Iraqi were killed," said Major General Torhan Yussef, acting police chief for Kirkuk province. The Saudis had intended to kill themselves in attacks planned for Sunday and Tuesday, and the Iraqi who died was an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, Yussef said. "We found two explosives-laden belts. All three men were around 25 to 30 years old," he added. [>khaleejtimes.com]

04.11.10 Airstrikes kill 10 militants in NW Pakistan

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) April 11 - Fighter jets pounded militant hide-outs in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 10 suspected insurgents as part of a military operation that has eliminated more than 300 fighters in the last three weeks, an official said. The strikes came as the Pakistani military is holding its largest military exercise in two decades in southeastern Pakistan. The monthlong operation, which started Saturday, will involve some 20,000 troops backed by tanks, artillery and air power, the army said in a statement...The military launched its latest offensive in March to rout members of the Pakistani Taliban from the Orakzai tribal region. Many militants fled there after the army staged a large ground offensive last year against the group's main stronghold in South Waziristan, also close to the Afghan border. [Full story>>foxnews.com]

04.10.10 Jordan's Abdullah to US in bid to revive peace process

(DPA) April 10 - King Abdullah II of Jordan left Amman for Washington on Saturday for landmark talks with US President Barack Obama aimed at breaking a deadlock in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordanian officials said. The monarch is expected to ask Washington to put effective pressure on Israel to force it stop all forms of construction in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. US attempts to revive indirect talks faltered recently amid controversy over Israeli building plans beyond the Green Line in the city, which both sides claim as their capital.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published this week, Abdullah urged the US administration to adopt clear benchmarks and a timeline to relaunch the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations for a two-state solution to the conflict. "The American administration is gearing to come down and put very strong parameters to move the process forward. But when is that going to happen?" the king said. The Jordanian head of state also lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that his policy of building Jewish homes in East Jerusalem had pushed Jordanian-Israeli ties to their lowest ebb since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.
[>haaretz.com; See Maravot News, "The Allah Controversy," for more details on the status of Jerusalem.]

04.10.10 Shroud of Turn goes on display for first time in decade

(AFP) April 10 - The Italian city of Turin rolled out the red carpet today as the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, went on public display for the first time in a decade. Some two million people are expected to view one of the most revered relics in Christendom — and among the most disputed — over the next six weeks in the northern Italian city. A soldier in full dress regalia stood motionless on guard as hundreds of journalists and photographers were offered a first chance to view the cloth. Meanwhile, the city that is home to the Fiat auto giant finalized preparations for the onslaught of visitors.

...The Shroud of Turin, which was painstakingly restored in 2002, measures 4.4 metres by 1.1 metres and is said to have been imprinted with an image of Christ's body, notably his face. It was discovered in the French city of Troyes, southeast of Paris, in the mid-14th century. A section missing from the upper right-hand corner of the fabric was used for radiocarbon dating analysis in 1988, when samples were sent to four different labs. The analysis determined that the fibres in the cloth date from the Middle Ages, sometime between 1260 and 1390, but those findings have in turn been challenged.
[Full story>>news.com.au; See also photos, etc., news.sky.com]

04.10.10 Nine dead in bloody attacks on red shirts

BANGKOCK, Thailand, April 10 - The government sued the opposition for peace on Saturday night, after a failed but bloody attack by police and the army on red shirt encampments left nine people dead and hundreds wounded in bloody street battles. A spokesman said  Korbsak Sabhavasu, the prime minister's secretary-general, has been assigned to try to negotiate a truce with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders. The Centre for Public Administration in Emergency Situations (CPAES) spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd announced the move in a nationwide television address about 9.30pm. He said talks were needed immediately to separate the two sides and end the ongoing clashes, because the situation was heading out of  control and there could be further casualties on both sides.

...The call for truce came about eight hours after security forces began a crackdown on red-shirt protesters, firing teargas and rubber bullets at them intermittently from 1pm in an effort to take control of the Phan Fa Bridge which they have used as a base for about a month. At least 199 people had been injured, some with serious gunshot wounds, according to the Public Health Ministry. Col. Sansern earlier said the government would..clear the protesters from Phan Fa Bridge, which is one of the two main rally sites, by nightfall. But the operation failed. A UDD leader Veera Musikhapong early on Saturday night called on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve the House of Representatives and leave the country immediately.

04.10.10 50 militants killed in clashes in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 10 - Nearly 50 militants and a soldier were killed today in a gun battle and air strikes in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, officials said. The air strikes targeted a meeting of the Lashkar-e-Islam in the Tirah valley of Khyber tribal region. An official of the local administration said that at least 42 militants of the Lashkar-e-Islam were killed and two militant hideouts destroyed. "The air strikes were launched following a tip-off that a meeting of the Lashkar-e-Islam was being held in Tirah," the official said.

Pakistani troops have launched several operations in the Khyber Agency in the past two years to flush out militants. In a separate incident, a solider and six Taliban fighters were killed in a gun battle in South Waziristan, where the army launched a major offensive in October last year. The clash occurred in Sararogha town after militants attacked a security check post early this morning, an official statement said. Meanwhile, an operation against militants in the Orakzai tribal region entered its 18th day today. Security forces have claimed they have killed over 250 militants in the region and that the area is now under their complete control.
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, April 10, "Security forces kill 122 militants in tribal areas"
: Air-strikes by security forces killed 122 suspected militants in two northwest tribal regions Saturday, an apparent intensification of efforts by the army to mop up Taliban fighters fleeing a military operation farther south. The strikes were carried out in the Orakzai and Khyber tribal regions. In Orakzai, some 54 militants were killed including two commanders, Syed Mohammad among them, during ongoing clashes in the Baizoti town area. Another 60 extremists died in the Khyber tribal region when military jets pounded a hide-out the in Sra Walla area. The location was believed to be a gathering point for the Lashker-e-Islam insurgent group.

Sources said jets pounded the area twice — once when local tribesmen were retrieving bodies from the rubble. Military operation in Orakzai began in mid-March and so far about 350 militants have been killed there. Nearby Kurram tribal area has also witnessed fighting, while there have long been on and off operations against militants in Khyber. All three regions are believed to have become key destinations for Pakistani Taliban militants fleeing an army offensive against their network in the South Waziristan tribal area. [end]

04.10.10 Bomb blast near Iran jail wounds up to 19

TEHRAN, April 10 - Three prisoners escape, one is recaptured. Attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a jail in southwest Iran on Saturday in an apparent bid to help prisoners break out, wounding three guards and up to 19 others, media reported. The blast was in front of the facility in Ilam in western Iran, the city's deputy police chief Colonel Aziz Abdi told the agency. "Nineteen people have been wounded, including three prison guards," he said, adding that three prisoners tried to escape "but one of them has been recaptured and two are still at large." "The culprits, who used getaway cars to escape from the scene of the incident, are at large now and the police are after them," the official IRNA news agency quoted provincial Governor Nourollah Arjomandi as saying. Arjomandi said the blast was caused by a rocket-propelled grenade aimed at one of the prison's walls, but that there were no deaths, IRNA said. [More>>alarabiya.net]

04.10.10 US Navy holds 6 suspected pirates after battle

DUBAI (AP) April 10 - A US warship captured six suspected pirates Saturday after a battle off the Horn of Africa — the Navy's third direct encounter with seafaring bandits in less than two weeks. The Navy has taken at least 21 suspected pirates since March 31 in the violence-plagued waters off Somalia and nearby regions, where U.S. warships are part of an international anti-piracy flotilla. A statement by the US Navy said the suspected pirates began shooting at the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland just before dawn about 380 miles (610 kilometers) off Djibouti, a small nation facing Yemen across the mouth of the Red Sea. The Navy said the Ashland returned fire and the suspected pirate skiff was destroyed. All six people on board were rescued and taken aboard the Ashland. [More>>foxnews.com; See related story,

alarabiya.net, April 10, "Somali pirates abandon crew-less Turkish ship" :
ANKARA - Crew had hidden in control room with food. Somali pirates who stormed a Turkish ship off Kenya had to abandon the cargo when they could not find the crew who had hidden on board, Turkish officials said Saturday. The pirates stormed the MV Yasin C vessel Wednesday around 3pm (1200 GMT), shooting at the ship's rear deck and sparking a fire, the state's sea administration said, quoted by the Turkish press agency Anatolia. "As they did not find the crew, they left the ship after 5 or 6pm. Then the crew came out of their hiding place and headed to the port of Mombasa in Kenya", the statement said, adding that the vessel was now in Mombasa. The ship's owner, Turkish company Bergen Denizcilik, said the crew had hidden in the control room with food. "There is major material damage but (...) no member of the crew was hurt," Fatih Kabal told Anatolia, who is in charge of the Bergen Denizcilik fleet. [end]

04.09.10 100 peaks in Kashmir opened to foreigners

SRINAGAR, India (AP) April 9 - Foreigners will be allowed to climb nearly 100 high-altitude Himalayan peaks for the first time in Kashmir, an official said Friday. The move by the government to allow foreign climbers follows a significant decline in violence by insurgent groups in the region since India and Pakistan started a peace process in 2004, said Farooq Ahmed Shah, a state tourism official. The move is aimed at helping to boost tourism, an important source of income for Kashmiris and their saucer-shaped valley of fruit orchards, lakes and wildflowers.

Before the start of the insurgency by separatists in 1989, hundreds of thousands of tourists flocked to the region — known as the Switzerland of the east — to enjoy the glacier-fed streams flowing through the forests and grasslands or lounge on houseboats floating on Srinagar's Dal Lake. "We are optimistic that the decision will give a big boost to tourism and attract more and more foreign tourists," Shah said. Separatist violence caused the number of tourists to drop to a few thousand every year, deterred by travel warnings from Western governments and extensive media coverage of fighting between government forces and insurgents. The government in the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir declared 2010 a "visit Kashmir year" following an improvement in the security situation, Shah said. "The decision has been taken at the highest level and nearly 100 peaks in Ladakh region are open for trekking and mountaineering," he said. These peaks are situated at an altitude ranging from 9,840 feet (3,000 metres) to nearly 26,246 feet (8,000 metres).

04.09.10 Greece downgraded again despite EU support

April 9 - Debt-ridden Greece has been dealt a fresh blow as its credit rating was downgraded because of a lack of clarity surrounding an international rescue plan. Ratings agency Fitch signalled further cuts could ensue in the absence of a clear indication of how financial aid will be offered if Greece cannot repay its debts. The blow came after the European Union said it stands ready to throw the country a debt lifeline. EU President Herman van Rompuy said the EU-IMF rescue plan would prove credible once it was put into operation. "The Greek government is courageous and is breaking with the past. We would be ready to intervene if the Greeks ask us to," he added. Those words were designed to soothe concerns after Greece saw its borrowing costs jump to their highest levels since the country joined the euro in 2001. But the expression of support was not enough to convince the markets...Greece claims already to have borrowed all it requires for April, but needs to raise around £9bn in May amid rocketing interest rates on the international bond market. [Full story>>news.sky.com]

04.09.10 Iran sends US warning on national nuclear day

(Reuters) April 9 - Iran's "allies around the globe" would retaliate against any strike by the United States, an influential cleric said on Friday. The cleric made the statement ahead of a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the progress of Iran's nuclear project. Ahmad Khatami, a staunch Ahmadinejad supporter, said Washington would run into a quagmire if it attacked. President Barack Obama is pushing for new UN sanctions against Iran but has not ruled out military action to stop it getting a nuclear bomb. "If America makes a crazy move, its interests will be endangered by Iran's allies around the globe," Khatami, a member of Iran's powerful Assembly of Experts, said at Friday prayers at Tehran University. The United States and Israel say Iran finances militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah as well as armed groups in Iraq. A Hezbollah official told Reuters last month: "Any attack on Iran could ignite the whole region." [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

bbc.co.uk, April 9, "Iran unveils 'faster' uranium centrifuges.'
Iran's president has unveiled new "third-generation" centrifuges that its nuclear chief says can enrich uranium much faster than current technology. The centrifuges would have separation power six times that of the first generation, Ali Akbar Salehi said in a speech marking National Nuclear Day...

04.09.10 US troops killed in Afghan crash

April 9 - Three US soldiers and one civilian employee were killed when a US helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan. The helicopter, a CV-22 Osprey, crashed approximately 11km west of Qalat city in Zabul province late on Thursday night, the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement on Friday. Several other passengers were injured in the crash and transported to a nearby military base for medical treatment. A Taliban spokesperson claimed responsibility for shooting down the Osprey helicopter. But ISAF said an ongoing investigation had not yet determined the cause of the crash. [More>>aljazeera.net]

04.09.10 Troops kill 29 militants in Kurram, Orakzai

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 9 - Security forces killed 29 militants Friday in Kurram Agency and Khyber Agency. According to reports, eighteen militants died early Friday at a military checkpoint in the Orakzai tribal region. Lt. Col. Tahir Akram, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said the fighting involved insurgents who arrived from the nearby Khyber region to try to retake the checkpoint in Orakzai where the Taliban have a heavy presence. He said the security forces repulsed the attack and captured four insurgents. One soldier was wounded. Later Friday, security forces clashed with militants in Kurram Agency. The shootout left 11 suspected insurgents dead, said Rashid Khan, a local government official. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story, thenews.com.pk, April 9, "2 suicide bombers blow themselves up in Laki Marwat."]

04.08.10 Obama, Russian president sign arms trreaty

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, April 8 - President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday signed a major nuclear arms control agreement that reduces the nuclear stockpiles of both nations. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty known by its acronym, START builds on a previous agreement that expired in December. The agreement cuts the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia by about a third. "This day demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons to pursue responsible global leadership," Obama said after the signing. Together, we are keeping our commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which must be the foundation for global nonproliferation."

Medvedev called START a "win-win situation" for the two countries. The agreement cuts the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia by about a third. "This day demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia
the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons to pursue responsible global leadership," Obama said after the signing. "Together, we are keeping our commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which must be the foundation for global nonproliferation." Medvedev called START a "win-win situation" for the two countries. [More>>cnn.com]

04.08.10 African land grab not a cure to Arab food lack

CAIRO (Reuters) April 8 - Clear policies needed to combat desertification. As desertification dries up farmland across the Arab world, the region's governments cannot remedy concerns about food security solely by looking to Africa for agricultural production, a regional expert said. Desertification threatens 20 percent of the already dry Middle East and North Africa, pushing many states to invest in African farmland to feed growing populations, said Wadid Erian of the Arab Centre for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands. Dwindling arable land and mounting food insecurity could exacerbate existing conflicts and deter investment in a region where economic marginalization has long driven unrest.

"Desertification is creeping fast and our response needs to match the pace," Erian, who heads the centre's Land Resources Studies Program, said in a recent interview. "The question we need to be asking is whether using (African) land is a sustainable long-term solution," he said. Climate change, burgeoning populations and poor land management have contributed to accelerating desertification, exacerbating Arab countries' food supply problems. Across Arab states and Africa, Erian said, investment worth at least $60 billion is needed to secure sufficient food supplies. "We expect that if climate change and desertification continue at this pace, in the next five years, we will not have enough food to supply demand," Erian said.

Desertification is expected to take a heavy toll in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, where most of the country's 77 million people are crammed into a strip of productive land along the banks of the Nile river and in its fertile delta. Egypt, already the world's largest wheat importer, is hoping that private firms signing farmland deals in Africa will ensure steady grain supplies when world markets spiral. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Jordan have invested heavily in Sudan, the region's "bread basket" with its heavy rainfall.
[More w/blog comments>>alarabiya.net]

04.08.10 Strange creature lives without oxygen

April 8 - Animals that live without oxygen have been discovered for the first time, deep under the Mediterranean Sea. A wide variety of single-celled organisms that live anaerobically, or without oxygen, had been found in the past, usually deep underwater or deep underground. But researchers had not found a multi-cellular or metazoan animal that did so until now — the giant tube worms that live by hydrothermal vents, for instance, rely on dissolved oxygen. In the past decade or so, researcher Roberto Danovaro at the Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona, Italy, and his colleagues conducted three expeditions off the south coast of Greece looking for signs of life in samples of mud from deep, hyper-salty basins in the Mediterranean Sea more than 3,250 meters deep. These basins are completely anoxic, or oxygen-free, and loaded with toxic levels of sulfides.

In these extremes, the investigators were only expecting to see viruses, bacteria and other microbes. The bodies of multi-cellular animals had previously been discovered in these sediments, "but were thought to have sunk there from upper, oxygenated, waters," explained Danovaro. Instead, "our results indicate that the animals we recovered were alive," Danovaro said. "Some, in fact, also contained eggs." These creatures, which measure less than 1 millimeter long, are known as loriciferans. They somewhat resemble jellyfish sprouting from a conical shell. Electron microscopy revealed the three new species of loriciferans the researchers discovered lack mitochondria, the energy-making organelles or components in our cells that allow us to generate energy from oxygen among other functions. Instead, they possess large numbers of organelles resembling hydrogenosomes — anaerobic forms of mitochondria — that were previously seen in single-celled organisms inhabiting no-oxygen environments.

04.08.10 South African fossils could be new hominid species

April 8 - The remarkable remains of two ancient human-like creatures (hominids) have been found in South Africa. The fossils of a female adult and a juvenile male — perhaps mother and son — are just under two million years old. They were uncovered in cave deposits at Malapa not far from Johannesburg. Researchers tell the journal Science that the creatures fill an important gap between older hominids and the group of more modern species known as Homo, which includes our own kind. The team has assigned the name Australopithecus sediba to their finds. "It's at the point where we transition from an ape that walks on two legs to, effectively, us," lead scientist Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand told BBC News. "I think that probably everyone is aware that this period of time — that period between 1.8 and just over two million years [ago] — is one of the most poorly represented in the entire early hominid fossil record. You're talking about a very small, very fragmentary record," he explained. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

04.07.10 Turkish PM: Israel is the main threat to Mideast peace

April 7 - Israel is the main threat to peace in the Middle East, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, in what appears to be the another in a string of verbal attacks against Israel in recent weeks. Speaking to journalists in Paris, Erdogan said that it is impossible to praise a country that exerted such excessive force in Gaza, including the use of phosphorus weapons. He also criticized Israel for not signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, saying Israel should not be exempt from international supervision of its nuclear facilities.

Erdogan's latest statements came only four days after the Turkish PM addressed the recent heightened tension in Jerusalem, saying that Turkey would come to the defense of Muslims around the world, according to a report on CNN-Turk. In that same speech, Erdogan also called the situation in Gaza inhumane. "We cannot watch the murder of children in Gaza with indifference," he said. In response to Erdogan's words on Sunday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Erdogan was attempting to integrate with the Muslim world at the expense of his country's ties with Israel.

04.07.10 Obama bans terms Jihad, Islam

WASHINGTON (AP) April 7 - US to clean security strategy document as part of outreach to Islam. President Barack Obama's advisers will remove religious terms such as "Islamic extremism" from the central document outlining the US national security strategy and will use the rewritten document to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, counterterrorism officials said. The change is a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war and currently states: "The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century."

The officials described the changes on condition of anonymity because the document was still being written, and the White House would not discuss it. But rewriting the strategy document will be the latest example of Obama putting his stamp on US foreign policy, like his promises to dismantle nuclear weapons and limit the situations in which they can be used. The revisions are part of a larger effort about which the White House talks openly, one that seeks to change not just how the United States talks to Muslim nations, but also what it talks to them about, from health care and science to business startups and education. That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo, Egypt, and promised a "new beginning" in the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terror and winning the war of ideas.

04.07.10 Exclusive: Images reveal devastation in Yemen's hidden conflict in the north

April 6 - The scale of the devastation caused by Yemeni and Saudi Arabian aerial bombardments of the northern Yemeni region of Sa’dah has been revealed in hundreds of images obtained by Amnesty International. The pictures, given to Amnesty International by an independent source and taken in March 2010 in and around the town of al-Nadir, show buildings destroyed between August 2009 and February 2010 during the latest in a series of clashes between Yemeni forces and supporters of a Shi'a cleric. Among the damaged or destroyed civilian buildings photographed are market places, mosques, petrol stations, small businesses, a primary school, a power plant, a health centre and dozens of houses and residential buildings. "This is a largely invisible conflict that has been waged behind closed doors. These images reveal the true scale and ferocity of the bombing and the impact it had on the civilians caught up in it," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme. [More>>amnesty.org]

04.07.10 Anti-govt protests sweep Kyrgyzstan, 100 said dead

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) April 7 - Thousands of protesters furious over corruption and spiraling utility bills seized government buildings and clashed with police Wednesday in Kyrgyzstan, throwing control of the Central Asian nation into doubt. Police opened fire on demonstrators, killing dozens and wounding hundreds. The eruption of violence shattered the relative stability of this mountainous former Soviet republic, which houses a US military base that is a key supply center in the fight against the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan. The unrest in Kyrgyzstan did not appear likely to spread across former Soviet Central Asia, however. The chaos erupted after elite police at government headquarters in the capital, Bishkek, began shooting to drive back crowds of demonstrators called onto the streets by opposition parties for a day of protest.

The crowds took control of the state TV building and looted it, then marched toward the Interior Ministry, according to Associated Press reporters on the scene, before changing direction and attacking a national security building nearby. They were repelled by security forces. The leader of the main opposition party said on the former state television channel that he had formed a new government and was negotiating with the president and demanding he step down. Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the claim.
[More>>foxnews.com; See other details, alarabiya.net April 7, "Around 100 killed in Kyrgyz unrest: opposition."]

04.06.10 Obama policy sets limits on when nuclear weapons could be used

April 6 - President Obama on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping nuclear-weapons policy that puts new constraints on when the arms could be used and calls for high-level talks with Russia and China to better understand their plans for their arsenals. The policy was unveiled a year after Obama's groundbreaking pledge to move toward a "world without nuclear weapons." The document, however, was more cautious than many supporters had hoped, with the president opting for a middle course in many key areas. One prominent change was the administration's decision to forswear the use of the deadly weapons against nonnuclear countries.

Previous administrations had indicated they might use such devastating force against nonnuclear countries in retaliation for a biological or chemical attack. But Obama included a major caveat: The countries must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under international treaties. That loophole would mean Iran would remain on the potential target list.
"Those nations that fail to meet their obligations" under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty "will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure," the president said in a statement. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

04.06.10 Government agrees to inter-faith committee

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, April 6 - The Government has agreed to the formation of a special inter-faith committee to promote better religious understanding between Islam and other religious faiths. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon said the committee will be headed by former Kota Baru MP Datuk Ilani Isahak, who will be appointed as the special coordinator. Members will comprise representatives from the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), Institute of Islamic Understanding (Ikim) and the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

"The committee is not a legal structure; it's not a rigid structure. It's a framework to provide exchange of ideas on religion. We don't want to call it an inter-faith panel, but a special committee to promote understanding and harmony among the various faiths. The idea of the committee is for the members to hold informal dialogues, not on only one issue, but also matters such as inter-marriages, religious conversions as well as custody of children. Members will comprise representatives from the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), Institute of Islamic Understanding (Ikim) and the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

"The committee is not a legal structure; it's not a rigid structure. It's a framework to provide exchange of ideas on religion. We don't want to call it an inter-faith panel, but a special committee to promote understanding and harmony among the various faiths. The idea of the committee is for the members to hold informal dialogues, not on only one issue, but also matters such as inter-marriages, religious conversions as well as custody of children. Dr. Koh said Ilani was chosen to head the committee because she had good personal contacts with the country's religious leaders. "We decided this will be the best set-up rather than involving politicians. Let the religious leaders sit down and talk to each other," he added.

04.06.10 27 Taliban reported killed in western fighting

KABUL (AP) April 6 - Afghanistan's military said 27 insurgents were been killed in ground fighting and airstrikes in a western province on Tuesday, in what appeared to be a major blow to Taliban influence in the region, while four civilians died in a NATO airstrike in the south. NATO and Afghan forces launched an operation in Badghis province before dawn, with troops inserted behind Taliban lines to trap the militants, the regional Afghan corps commander Gen. Jalandar Shah Behnam said. Fighting continued well into Tuesday afternoon, he said. In addition to the 27 Taliban bodies collected, one Afghan soldier was killed and five wounded, he said. One US soldier was reported wounded. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

04.06.10 Terror bid foiled; 2 alleged terrorists killed

PESHAWAR, April 6 - The Peshawar Police on Tuesday foiled a plan to carry out terrorism in Peshawar by killing two alleged terrorists. The police said that they were informed about the presence of suspected terrorists, who were planting a bomb near a Jamia mosque located at Owazai roundabout in the outskirts of Peshawar. Meanwhile, a large contingent of police reached the scene to nab the suspects, who opened fire and hurled hand grenades. However, the police retaliated and killed the armed men. The bomb disposal squad.. was called to defuse the bomb. According to local sources, one suspect was identified as a local militant Wasif. An army uniform and weapons were also recovered from his house. [>thenews.com.pk]

04.06.10 Russia confirms bomber as wife of Pakistan trained terrorist leader

MOSCOW, April 6 - The 28-year old IT teacher Maryam Sharipova, one of the two suicide bombers who blew herself up at a Moscow Metro station was the wife of terrorist leader Magomedali Vagapov from the restive Daghestan region trained in Pakistan, Russia's top anti-terror agency said today. "According to information we have, she was wife of the Magomedali Vagapov, whose gang was active in Daghestan," the operational staff of National Anti-terrorism Centre (NAC) said. Vagapov was trained in Pakistan, it added. Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had pointed a finger at Pakistan saying Moscow metro attack could be traced back to its territory.

The modest IT teacher in her village school was identified as the second suicide bomber responsible for the attack on Lubyanka metro station in Moscow on March 29. Russian investigators had earlier identified the other bomber as Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova, the 17-year-old widow of a Muslim militant slain by government forces..."We still can't believe it. We can't even work out what she was doing in Moscow," said Magomedov. "She was devout, but she never expressed any radical opinions. She always lived at home; we always knew what she was up to."
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

04.06.10 US to target American-born cleric in Yemen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) April 6 - Operations authorized to capture or kill al-Awlaki. The Obama administration has authorized operations to capture or kill an American-born Muslim cleric based in Yemen for his alleged role in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, US officials said on Tuesday. The decision to add Anwar al-Awlaki to the US target list followed a National Security Council review because of his status as a US citizen. Officials said Awlaki posed a direct security threat to the United States. "Awlaki is a proven threat," a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. "He's being targeted." Rep. Jane Harman, chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, described Awlaki as "probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No. 1 in terms of threat against us." [More>>alarabiya.net]

04.06.10 Turkish police detain more military officers

ANKARA (Reuters) April 6 - Turkish police began detaining up to 90 military officers over an alleged 2003 coup plot before being stopped by a senior prosecutor, local media reported on Tuesday, highlighting divisions within the judiciary. Fewer than 20 retired officers, including several generals were being held, as police were stopped from serving warrants on dozens more after the intervention of the chief prosecutor of Istanbul. The latest detentions of high ranking members of the once untouchable military will deepen mistrust between a government whose roots lie in political Islam and a secular establishment led by the generals and senior judges. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

04.06.10 Multiple explosions rock Baghdad

April 6 - At least eight explosions have rocked the Iraqi capital, killing at least 35 people and injuring more than 140 people. The blasts targeted residential buildings in a mix of Sunni and Shia areas of Baghdad on Tuesday morning. Police said two car bombs were detonated in Chkook, Khadamiya district, killing at least five people. In Baghad's western Shula district, another car bomb exploded, causing some buildings to collapse. Several people died in the explosion, Iraqi security sources said. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Baghdad, said those attacks occurred in residential neighborhoods of the capital. "[Shula] is a mostly Shia neighborhood. It used to be a former stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the armed wing of the Sadr movement," our correspondent said, referring to supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shia leader. [More>>aljazeera.net]

04.05.10 Turkey PM: We can't ignore Islamic world's problems in Jerusalem

March 5 - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday addressed the heightened tension in Jerusalem, saying that Turkey will come to the defense of Muslims around the world, according to a report on CNN-Turk. "We cannot be indifferent to the problems of the Islamic world of Jerusalem," said Erdogan at a ceremony to mark the opening of an Arab-language television and radio company. "Our task is the integration with the Western world but we did not turn our back to the East," Erdogan continued. "Arabs and Turks are brothers and we share the same values." The Turkish prime minister also said that the situation in Gaza is inhumane.

"We cannot watch the murder of children in Gaza with indifference," he said. "We worry about the Gaza children but our hearts are also for the children of Haiti and Chile." Private NTV television on Sunday reported that Celikkol, who held the post for less than a year, will be be replaced this summer by diplomat and expert on Middle Eastern affairs Kerim Uras. Celikkol was rebuked by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon during a January meeting in which he summoned over an anti-Israeli television show aired in Turkey, and was made to sit in a chair lower than that of Ayalon, while the Turkish flag was deliberately not put on display. Ayalon later apologized for the incident Meanwhile, Turkish television reported Sunday that Ankara will name a new ambassador to Israel to replace envoy Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, who was humiliated in Israel earlier this year.
[>haaretz.com; See related stories,

haaretz.com (AP) April 5, "Saudi cleric plans Jerusalem trip to bolster Muslim claims to city"
: A Saudi cleric has announced on his television show that he will visit Jerusalem next week to bolster Muslim claims to the city. If Sheikh Mohammed al-Areefi goes ahead with his plan, it would be an unprecedented trip for a prominent Saudi. Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, but most Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia observe a boycott of Israel and ban travel there. Al-Areefi told his viewers Sunday on the religious satellite channel Iqra that the next episode of his show would be about Muslim claims to Jerusalem and Palestine. Al-Areefi said he would visit the city next week, though he did not specify when. He said he was not afraid of any "treachery from the Jews," as he had put his trust in God...

alarabiya.net, April 5, "Top Saudi cleric says to visit Jerusalem"
:...Sheikh Areefi promised through the Saudi-based Iqraa TV channel that the next episode of his show would introduce "surprises," including a visit to Jerusalem and reports that would "astonish" the viewers....

04.05.10 Suicide blast kills at least 43

PESHAWAR, April 5 - At least 38 people were killed in a bomb attack at a celebration organized by the leading secular political party in northwest Pakistan, a doctor at a nearby hospital said. The suspected suicide bomber attacked the open-air gathering in Timargarah, the main town in the district of Lower Dir, where Pakistan waged a major offensive against local Taliban insurgents last year. A hundred people were also thought to be injured as a result of the blast. The Awami National Party (ANP), the secular political party that dominates government in the North West Frontier Province, organized the meeting to celebrate plans to rename the province Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The new name honours the Pashtun-majority population in the province and is set to replace a name that dates back to British colonial rule. "Our party had arranged a thanksgiving day to celebrate the changing of the name after 200 years of colonial legacy," an ANP spokesman told Geo television. "People are saying it was a suicide attack. Many people have been martyred, many more have been wounded," he added, speaking from the main northwestern city of Peshawar. Security is precarious in parts of Pakistan, where more than 3150 people were killed in suicide and bomb attacks during the last three years. The violence has been blamed on militants opposed to the government's alliance with the US.

04.05.10 Talbian claim attack on US consulate in Pakistans Peshawar

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, April 5 - Pakistan's main Taliban faction on Monday claimed responsibility for an attack on the US consulate in the city of Peshawar and threatened to carry out further assaults on Americans. "We accept the attacks on the American consulate. This is revenge for drone attacks," Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq said over telephone from an undisclosed location. Militants armed with guns and suicide vests targeted the US consulate in Pakistan's northwestern capital and unleashed carnage at a political rally on Monday, killing 43 people. The apparently coordinated attacks were the deadliest so far this year in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the government is closely allied to the US-led war against al-Qaeda and in neighboring Afghanistan.

The ability of heavily-armed militants to get so close to the US mission and other military installations, such as the provincial headquarters of Pakistan's premier spy agency, will raise further questions about endemic insecurity. Up to 15 militants armed with explosives and driving in two vehicles targeted the heavily guarded US consulate in Peshawar, a city of 2.5 million on the edge of Pakistan's lawless tribal belt, setting off multiple explosions.

04.05.10 Lawmakers: Afghan leader threatens to join Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) April 5 - Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened over the weekend to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform, several members of parliament said Monday. Karzai made the unusual statement at a closed-door meeting Saturday with selected lawmakers — just days after kicking up a diplomatic controversy with remarks alleging foreigners were behind fraud in last year's disputed elections. Lawmakers dismissed the latest comment as hyperbole, but it will add to the impression the president — who relies on tens of thousands of US and NATO forces to fight the insurgency and prop up his government — is growing increasingly erratic and unable to exert authority without attacking his foreign backers.

"He said that " 'if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban,' " said Farooq Marenai, who represents the eastern province of Nangarhar. "He said rebelling would change to resistance," Marenai said — apparently suggesting that the militant movement would then be redefined as one of resistance against a foreign occupation rather than a rebellion against an elected government. Marenai said Karzai appeared nervous and repeatedly demanded to know why parliament last week had rejected legal reforms that would have strengthened the president's authority over the country's electoral institutions.
[>thejakartapost.com; See related story,

cnn.com, April 5, "Gibbs: White House is 'frustrated' by Karzai remarks"
: The White House is "frustrated" by remarks from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who on Sunday promised tribal leaders he would hold back a NATO military offensive in violence-plagued Kandahar province until he had their backing, a White House spokesman said Monday. "We will not conduct the operations in Kandahar until you say we can," Karzai told about 1,000 tribal leaders at a shura, or conference, at the governor's compound in the southern province.

"The remarks are genuinely troubling," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters in an off-camera session. Gibbs on Friday characterized as "troubling" a speech made by Karzai last week, days after the Afghan leader hosted President Obama on a surprise trip to Afghanistan. In that speech, Karzai accused the United States and other Western governments of wanting a "puppet government" in Afghanistan and orchestrating fraud in the recent Afghan elections. "It was disturbing Friday," Gibbs said Monday. "Obviously, it didn't get better. ... On behalf of the American people, we're frustrated by the remarks."...

04.05.10 At least 13 injured in two Ingush blasts

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) April 5 - At least 13 people were injured in a series of two explosions in Russia's volatile southern province of Ingushetia, a local investigative committee spokesman said. The first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber, who set off an explosive device when he was stopped by security guards at the gates of a police station, killing two police officers and injuring another four. The second bomb, which was in a VAZ 2112 car stolen in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk and parked opposite the police station in Karabulak, was activated by an unidentified person from a distance.

The blast, equivalent to 50 kg TNT, occurred when an investigative group was inspecting the scene. "As a result of a first explosion two police trainees were killed and another four injured," the spokesman said. "After the car explosion nine people were injured - seven police officers, the deputy prosecutor of the Karabulak police and one civilian." On March 29, two deadly blasts occurred in two Moscow subway stations claiming some 40 lives and injuring dozens more. The attackers struck the Lubyanka and Park Kultury stations during the morning rush hour.

04.05.10 Iran says still ready to negotiate nuclear swap

(Reuters) April 5 - Iran is still ready to negotiate a solution to its nuclear stand-off with the West, but only on the condition that foreign powers agree to a fuel swap on Iranian territory. With Washington seeking support from fellow UN Security Council veto holders Russia and China for new sanctions, Iran remains defiant, saying such measures will not stop it developing the nuclear technology it says is for peaceful use. "We will not withdraw from our (nuclear) rights with threats and pressure, resolutions and sanctions," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Arab language TV Alalam. At talks last October with Western powers, China and Russia, Iran agreed in principle to send low-enriched uranium abroad for further processing — addressing concerns it was getting close to developing weapons grade nuclear material. But soon after those talks it insisted it would, instead, consider swapping its low-enriched uranium stocks directly for more highly enriched uranium, and only within its own borders. Mehmanparast said that remained the condition for a deal and accused the other parties of reneging on their obligations. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

04.05.10 115 survivors rescued from flooded coal mine, 38 still trapped

XIANGNING, Shanxi (Xinhua) April 5 - Rescuers have taken out 115 miners alive from the flooded Wangjialing Coal Mine in north China's Shanxi Province by Monday afternoon, nine days after the accident occurred, the rescue headquarters said. "Rescuers are continuing the search for 38 trapped miners. The rescue work is still challenging," said Liu Dezheng, spokesman of the headquarters. "It is a miracle in China's mining rescue history," said Luo Lin, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, who is waiting at the pit entrance. "Scientific methods and technology used in the rescue have ensured the miners rescued alive after being trapped underground for a week," said Shanxi Party chief Zhang Baoshun. He said most of the survivors were brought out from a working platform, where rescuers had drilled a vertical hole last week. The hole has ensured oxygen in the flooded pit. Rescuers later sent down glucose to the trapped ones...Chen Yongsheng, a captain of the rescue team, said rescuers haven't reached two working platforms under the pit, where the remaining trapped workers may stay. [Full story>>xinhuanet.com]

04.05.10 Thousands still missing since Bosnian War

April 5 - Some 10,000 people are still missing almost 15 years after the end of the war in Bosnia, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has said. The ICRC will continue "to work towards shedding a light over the fate of all missing persons" from the 1992-95 conflict, said Henry Fournier, head of the Bosnian office. His comments followed talks with the Muslim-Croat Federation of the ethnically divided Balkans nation. "There are still some 10,000 missing whose fate remains unknown and their names are still on the ICRC lists of missing persons," said the statement issued after Fournier met the federation's prime minister Mustafa Mujezinovic. [More>>news.sky.com]

04.04.10 UN chief shocked by shrinking lake

NIKUS, Uzbekistan (AP) April 4 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called the drying up of the Aral Sea one of the planet's most shocking disasters and urged Central Asian leaders to step up efforts to solve the problem. Once the world's fourth-largest lake, the sea has shrunk by 90 percent since the rivers that feed it were largely diverted in a Soviet project to boost cotton production in the arid region. The shrunken sea has ruined the once-robust fishing economy and left fishing trawlers stranded in sandy wastelands, leaning over as if they dropped from the air. The sea's evaporation has left layers of highly salted sand, which winds can carry as far away as Scandinavia and Japan, and which plague local people with health troubles. Ban toured the sea by helicopter as part of a visit to the five countries of former Soviet Central Asia. His trip included a touchdown in Muynak, Uzbekistan, a town once on the shore where a pier stretches eerily over gray desert and camels stand near the hulks of stranded ships. [More>>msnbc.msn.com; See more details:

en.rian.ru, April 4, "Un chief takes look at Aral Sea environmental disaster" : ...The Aral Sea, which straddles the border between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south, was once the fourth largest inland body of water in the world, and until the 1980s, Muynak was a busy fishing port. Now, however, the nearest water is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, and the boats that were the town's economic lifeblood lie abandoned on the dry seabed. The lake began to shrink in the 1960s, when the Soviet Union embarked on a vast irrigation project, diverting water from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers that fed the Aral Sea to cotton production in the Central Asian deserts. Since then, the water level has dropped by 18 meters. As the volume of water in the sea has decreased, its salinity has increased, killing off marine life. During the 1990s, the dry seabed became a salt desert covering thousands of square kilometers, drastically changing the local climate and wreaking further ecological damage. While efforts by Kazakhstan to restore the North Aral Sea have met with some success, the larger southern section could disappear by the end of the decade...

Aral Sea, 1973 composite sat. image; Compare to current images.

nailaokda.8m.com, "Aral Sea Disaster" : ..."The Aral Sea Area is not just an environmental disaster, but a health and human tragedy as well....The locals joke that if everyone who'd come to study the Aral had brought a bucket of water, the sea would be full by now."....

physicsdaily.com, April 4, "Aral Sea."...The Soviet Union decided in 1918 that the two rivers that fed the Aral Sea — the Amu Darya in the south and the Syr Darya in the northeast — would be diverted for irrigating the desert in order to grow rice, melons, cereal, and, above all, cotton; this was part of the Soviet plan for cotton, or "white gold," to become a major export. (This did eventually end up becoming the case, and even today Uzbekistan is one of the world's biggest exporters of cotton.)

The irrigation canals began to be built on a large scale in the 1930s. Many of the irrigation canals were poorly built, letting water leak out or evaporate; from the Kara Kum canal, the largest in Central Asia, perhaps 30–70% of the water went to waste. Still today only 12% of Uzbekistan's irrigation canal length is waterproofed.

By 1960, somewhere between 20 and 50 cubic kilometers of water were going to the land instead of the sea. Thus, most of the sea's water supply had now been diverted, and in the 1960s, the Aral Sea began to shrink. From 1961 to 1970, the Aral's sea level fell at a mean of 20 cm a year; in the 1970s, the average rate nearly tripled to 50–60 cm per year, and by the 1980s it continued to drop, now with a mean of 80–90 cm each year. Even seeing this, the rate of water usage for irrigation continued to increase: the amount of water taken from the rivers doubled between 1960 and 1980; the cotton production nearly doubled in the same...

04.04.10 Suicide car bombers kill 41 in central Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reutes) April 4 - Three suicide bombers detonated car bombs within moments of each other in a coordinated attack on foreign embassies in central Baghdad on Sunday, killing as many as 41 people and wounding more than 200. The blasts near the Iranian, Egyptian and German embassies followed mortar attacks on the Iraqi capital's Green Zone, home to government buildings, official residences and foreign embassies. On Friday, gunmen slaughtered 24 people in a Sunni village south of Baghdad. Authorities had warned of a possible escalation of violence because of rising tension after a March 7 parliamentary election that Iraqis hoped would bring stability to their country produced no clear winner. The outcome promises weeks of potentially divisive talks to form a government. Secularist former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition won two seats more than the State of Law bloc led by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. [More>>thestar.com.my]

04.04.10 Pakistan troops repel attacks, kill 40 militants

KALAYA, Pakistan, April 4 - Troops step up assault in Northwest Pakistan. Pakistani forces backed by tanks and artillery repulsed Taliban attacks in northwestern Orakzai on Sunday, killing nearly 40 militants, a government official said. The new clashes took place in Said Khalil village of Orakzai tribal area, a day after troops killed 30 militants and captured key heights in Betozai village of the same region. Orakzai, southwest of Peshawar, has become a Taliban hub since security forces mounted offensives against their strongholds in other parts of the ethnic Pashtun northwest over the past year, security officials say. [More>>alarabiya.net]

04.03.10 Iran president rejects Obama's 'beautiful words'

TEHRAN, April 3 - Ahmadinejad warns Israel to not attack Gaza. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a renewed call from the United States to engage diplomatically to overcome the nuclear standoff, saying he saw no change in Washington's hostile policy. Speaking at a factory inauguration on Saturday, Ahmadinejad said a message by US President Barack Obama to mark the Iranian new year last month contained "three or four beautiful words" but nothing new of substance. "They say that 'we have extended our hands to the people of Iran but the government of Iran and the people of Iran pushed it back.' What hand did you extend toward us?" Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech. "What changed? Your sanctions were lifted? The adverse propaganda was stopped? The pressure was alleviated? Did you change your attitude in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine?"

After taking office last year Obama indicated he would engage with Iran if it "unclenched its fist."But, accusing Tehran of rejecting diplomatic approaches over its nuclear program, which Washington says aims to create a nuclear bomb, Obama is pushing world powers to impose new UN sanctions. Iran would easily cope with any new sanctions on petroleum imports, Ahmadinejad said, adding that such measures would only serve to strengthen his people's resolve. "You should know that the more hostile you are, the stronger an incentive our people will have, it will double," he said. "They said 'we want sanctions on petroleum.' Why don't you do it? The sooner the better."

04.03.10 Men in Iraqi army uniforms brutally kill 24 in Sunni area

BAGHDAD (AP) April 3 - Gunmen trying to pass themselves off as US and Iraqi soldiers raided a Sunni village outside Baghdad and killed at least 24 people in an execution-style attack, apparently targeting a Sunni group that revolted against al-Qaeda in Iraq, authorities and witnesses said Saturday. The bloodshed late Friday comes amid increasing concerns that insurgents will take advantage of Iraq's political turmoil to further destabilize the country, nearly a month after parliamentary elections failed to give any candidate a decisive win. Many fear a drawn-out political debate could spill over into violence and complicate American efforts to speed up troop withdrawals in the coming months. Details remained sketchy, but police said gunmen traveling in at least four cars raided three homes in Hawr Rijab, killing 19 men and five women after binding them in handcuffs. Some of the victims, police said, were marched onto the roofs of their homes and slain there. Some had broken arms and legs, indicating they had been tortured before they were shot, police said. One witness said many were so badly brutalized that they were "beyond recognition." At least seven people were found alive, bound with handcuffs, authorities said. [More>>foxnews.com]

04.03.10 German troops kill Afghan soldiers

April 3 - The German military has acknowledged that its soldiers killed at least five Afghan troops in northern Kunduz province. German forces opened fire on the Afghans as they were attempting to support other troops involved in heavy fighting with suspected Taliban late on Friday, a statement released by the German central command on Saturday said. Three German soldiers had been killed when forces on a bridge-building and mine-clearing mission were ambushed by around 200 Taliban fighters. When German reinforcements went to assist their comrades pinned down by the Taliban they encountered two civilian vehicles on the road that did not stop after warning shoots were fired, the German statement said. A German tank opened fire on the vehicles only to discover later that Afghan soldiers had been inside them. [More>>aljazeera.net]

04.03.10 30 more militants killed in Orakzai

ORAKZAI, April 3 - At least 30 militants were killed in the ongoing operation by the security forces in Orakzai Agency while 6 security men embraced shahadat. According to security sources, in a clash between with militants in Kalaiya area of Orakza Agency, security forces killed 30 militants. Six security men were killed and 10 others injured. Security forces have gained control of Bazoti and its surrounding area. [>thenews.com.pk]

04.02.10 US warns India, Pakistan against Iran pipeline

Washington / New York, April 2 - With India still keen to join an ambitious gas pipeline project involving Iran and Pakistan, the US has warned all countries against engaging in transactions with Tehran at a time when sensitive talks are on to consider additional sanctions on it over its nuclear issue. "Our concerns about the government of Iran are very well known. Given its current unwillingness to address its international obligations and international concerns about its nuclear programme, we don't think that this is the time for such transactions to be taking place with Iran," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said. He was referring to the USD 7.5 billion gas pipeline deal signed last month between Pakistan and Iran, a project in which India has shown renewed interest.

India's Petroleum Ministry says that a decision on joining the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline should not be governed by politics, although talks have hit roadblocks on issues ranging from pricing of gas to security of the pipeline. "The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline discussions have been going on," said Petroleum Secretary S Sundareshan, who was accompanying Oil Minister Murli Deora during his stay in New York after returning from the International Energy Forum in Cancun. "We must leave the politics aside, ultimately this pipeline project can progress if the gas is variable at reasonable rates at the India-Pakistan border," he said. "It's basically going to be a business decision at the end of the day." In his remarks, Blake said the Obama Administration, which is aggressively working with its international partners at the UN Security Council to slap additional sanctions against Iran, is opposed to the gas pipeline deal inked between Pakistan and Tehran.

04.02.10 Israeli planes and helicopters mount Gaza attacks

GAZA (Reutes) April 2 - Israel responds to Palestinian rocket fire with seven missile attacks. Israeli planes and helicopters mounted at least seven missile attacks on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Friday, destroying what a military spokesman described as Palestinian munitions sites. Four air strikes blew up two caravans near the town of Khan Younis, witnesses and Hamas officials said. There were no casualties in this attack. A fifth missile hit a cheese factory in Gaza City, setting it on fire, the witnesses and Hamas officials said. Hospital officials said two children were slightly wounded by flying debris. Helicopters struck twice in the central refugee camp of Nusseirat, destroying a metal foundry and no one was injured. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the attacks, saying they had targeted two weapons-manufacturing plants and two arms caches.

The air strikes were Israel's response to a Palestinian short-range rocket that was fired across the border into the Jewish state on Thursday, the spokesman said. The attack, which went unclaimed by any Palestinian faction, caused no damage. Israel has said it will hold Hamas responsible for any attacks on its cities from the Gaza Strip. Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said the Islamist group was trying to reaffirm an agreement reached last year with other Palestinian factions to curb the rocket fire. An Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip early last year was designed to counter such salvoes. Rocket attacks have resumed sporadically in recent weeks and Israel has responded with air strikes.
[>abcnews.go.com; See other details,

aljazeera.net, April 2, "Israeli air raids wound children" : Three Palestinian children have been wounded after Israeli planes and helicopters launched a string of air attacks on the Gaza Strip overnight. The Israelis claimed that the air raids were in response to rocket fire from Gaza, but Hamas which runs the Palestinian enclave blamed the Israelis for the escalating tensions. According to Palestinian medical sources, at least seven missiles targeted various Gaza sites. Four air attacks early on Friday destroyed two caravans near the town of Khan Younis. A fifth missile hit a cheese factory in Gaza City, setting it on fire, witnesses and Hamas officials said...

Related story

bbc.co.uk, April 2, "Hamas 'working to curb Gaza rocket attacks' " : Leaders of the Hamas militant movement which controls the Gaza Strip have said they are working to curb rocket attacks against Israel by smaller factions. Spokesman Ayman Taha said the Hamas government was trying to maintain calm in Gaza for "the national interest." He spoke hours after Israeli planes carried out bombing raids on what it said were weapons factories in Gaza. Hamas PM Ismail Haniya also urged the international community to intervene to avoid an escalation in violence. "We are contacting the other Palestinian factions in order to reach an internal consensus as to the measures we may take in order to protect our people and strengthen our unity," Mr. Haniya said...

04.02.10 IDF quells W. Bank, Jerusalem riots

April 2 - Several protesters arrested; military denies rioters claim that it used live ammo. he IDF and other security forces on Friday were quelling several simultaneous riots by Palestinians and left-wing activists on one side and settlers on the other, in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Dozens of left-wing activists and Palestinians descended on the Shepherd Hotel in east Jerusalem, to protest what they call the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem. The hotel, a piece of real estate owned by Jewish American millionaire Irwin Moskowitz, was rented out to the border police for many years, but a recent approval to renovate the building and build housing units there prompted American condemnation and turned the site into a hotspot of protests. In Friday's riots, several demonstrators were wounded and others detained.

In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood not far from the Shepherd Hotel, left wing activists were holding a protest against the settlement in the neighborhood of several Jewish families who entered homes from which Palestinian families were evacuated by court order. Also on Friday, several settlers from the West Bank community of Yitzhar held a parade in the Palestinian village of Hawara, to protest the wounds sustained by Shmulik Cohen, a Yitzhar resident who was badly hurt when his car was pelted with stones.

04.02.10 US announces new airport security measures

WASHINGTON, April 2 - All flights entering the United States now will be subjected to increased levels of security screening, the federal government announced Friday. A senior administration official said racial or religious characteristics could be used to identify passengers requiring a more thorough review, though the official insisted the system would not constitute racial profiling. Race or religion could be part of "fragmentary information" being used to select passengers but will be used "only when we have reliable intelligence that suggests that someone with that characteristic is a potential terrorist," the official said. Among other things, passengers entering the US from international destinations "may notice enhanced security and random screening measures throughout the passenger check-in and boarding process, including the use of explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams, or pat downs, among other security measures," according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. [More>>cnn.com]

04.02.10 US warns India, Pakistan on gas pipeline

April 2 - Evidence shows Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, US President Barack Obama told CBS on Friday, adding that he felt his administration should continue the pressure on Tehran to cooperate with the international community over its contentious nuclear program. In an interview to "The Early Show" Friday, Obama said "all the evidence indicates" that Tehran is trying to get the "capacity to develop nuclear weapons." With such a capability, Obama said that Iran could "destabilize" life in the Mideast and trigger an arms race in the region, adding that, for that reason, he felt "the idea here is to keep on turning up the pressure." "We're going to ratchet up the pressure and examine how they respond but we're going to do so with a unified international community," Obama said. The US president had said earlier this week he wanted new, stronger UN sanctions to be in place by late spring. The president also said he believes the country has become further isolated from the rest of the world since he took office. [More>>haaretz.com]

04.02.10 US Army moves Iraq troops, gear to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, April 2 - The US military is scrambling to finish what it calls the largest movement of troops and equipment since the build up of World War II as it draws down in Iraq and ramps up in Afghanistan. The Third Army commander, Lt. Gen. William G. Webster, told Pentagon reporters Friday the top priority is to keep moving the planned 30,000 troops and their supplies that President Barack Obama has ordered into Afghanistan to bolster the fight against the insurgency there. Speaking from Kuwait, Webster said the military is moving as fast as it can on the massive and complex job. There are roughly 3million pieces of equipment in Iraq, including 41,000 vehicles and trailers.

Some of the equipment will remain in Iraq; some will be returned to the United States to be used for troop training; some will be reconfigured for use in Afghanistan. Webster said officials expect to be able to move the more than 5,000 vehicles needed for the Afghanistan build up into that country by the end of the summer. Besides air deliveries to Afghanistan, the military is moving goods through neighboring Pakistan and is using a system of roads, rail and sea routes through Uzbekistan and other points to the north in Central Asia. The northern network of routes set up by the US Transportation Command through Europe and Asia can stretch as far as 5,000 miles and was set up as an alternative to routes through Pakistan, where militants have attacked trucks carrying fuel and other supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
[>thenews.com.pk; See more details,

washingtonpost.com, April 2, "US shift from Iraq to Afghanistan presents massive logistical operation for Army" : ...The operation, dubbed Nickel II after the code name for Gen. George S. Patton's celebrated repositioning of an entire Army corps during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, began last June and is now about 35 percent complete, said Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., commander of the Third Army, Patton's former unit...Webster did not specify the cost of the operation but acknowledged that it would run into the tens of billions of dollars. He said the Third Army spent roughly $20 billion on repairing equipment and supplying troops during the 2007 surge of US forces into Iraq to contain escalating sectarian violence. Those costs for Army operations in Iraq dropped to $16 billion last year and are projected to dip to $9 billion this year, Webster said.

...In a separate briefing Friday, Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for logistics, said the military as a whole has already moved 2.2 million pieces of equipment out of more than 350 forward operating bases in Iraq. But he said 1.2 million additional items need to be removed by August...As the military prepares for an offensive against the Taliban in the coming months, the Pentagon is pouring a vast array of gear to Afghanistan, including new unmanned dirigibles equipped with sophisticated aerial surveillance equipment, Carter said. The airships are designed to maintain surveillance longer and at less cost than more expensive unmanned aircraft, he told a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies...

04.02.10 Obama administration scolds Karzai after Anti-Western speech

April 2 - The Obama administration dispatched its top diplomat in Afghanistan to meet with Hamid Karzai on Friday after the Afghan president went on a tear against the West, suggesting those fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in his country were also responsible for "vast" fraud in the recent election. Karzai's remarks were the latest sign of a flare-up between Afghanistan and the United States, and they came at a volatile time -- as US troops pour into the country to prepare for a summer offensive in the southern city of Kandahar. The White House and the State Department scolded Karzai, calling his remarks out of line and suggesting they were ungrateful. "We are investing substantial resources to defeat al-Qaeda. It's in our interest, but in doing so we're also creating significant opportunities for the Afghan people," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "Suggestions that somehow the international community is responsible for irregularities in the recent election is preposterous." He said Ambassador Karl Eikenberry was meeting with Karzai "to clarify" what he meant. [More>>foxnews.com]

04.02.10 3 German soldiers killed by Taliban in N. Afghanistan

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Xinhua) April 2 - Three German soldiers were killed and five others injured in an attack launched by the Taliban on Friday afternoon in northern Afghanistan's Kunduz province, said a German military officer. Weber, a German military officer with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told Xinhua that a German patrol was attacked at 15:00 local time near Eisakhel village, Chardarah district. The German officer who insisted on giving only one name said the clash lasted for around two hours, killing three German soldiers and injuring five others. He said the Taliban also suffered casualties but could not be confirmed at the moment. Meanwhile, Mahmad Omar, governor of Kunduz province, while talking to Xinhua confirmed the incident, noting that Mullah Habid, Taliban's local commander in Kunduz province, was killed in the encounter. Taliban has so far made no comment. Some 4300 German troops were stationed in northern Afghanistan including Kunduz. [>xinhuanet.com]

04.02.10 6 militants killed; 4 schools blown up in tribal areas

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 2 - Six militants were killed in fresh bombardment carried out by security forces in Orakzai Agency on Friday. Security forces backed by helicopter gunships targeted suspected militant hideouts, in which six fighters were killed and five others were wounded. Three militant hideouts were destroyed in the shelling. Meanwhile, according to some reports, militants blew up four more educational institutes located in different areas of Orakzai Agency and Mohmad Agency. In Orakzai area of Jalakaka, militants torched a degree college and a technical institute. While another Girls Model School was blown up with explosives in Bezot area. However, no casualty was reported. In another incident, unidentified miscreants blew up a government boys' high school with explosive material in Tehsil Kakro of Muhmand Agency. [>thenews.com.pk]

04.01.10 Likud MK: Not even 'Hussein Obama' will remove us from Hebron

April 1 - Thousands of Israelis gathered Thursday at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron to celebrate the addition of the location to Israel's list of national heritage sites, a move initiated by the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset. "The masses that have come here, including the 40 members of the Land of Israel caucus, are a guarantee and proof that no one will move us from the Cave of the Patriarchs, not even Hussein Obama," MK Ayoob Kara (Likud) told the crowd. "The Prime minister needs to say 'no' to Barack Hussein Obama, and 'yes' to the people of Israel, who have come here in their multitudes today. He needs to grant permits to start building in settlements and in all of Israel," he added. MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent comments comparing construction in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, saying, "We love Tel Aviv, but it is 101 years old, while Jerusalem is 3,000 years old and Hebron is 4,000 years old." "On this holiday, which marks our passage from slavery to freedom, we need to maintain our freedom and not let anyone dictate to us where we can and cannot build," she added. [More>>haaretz.com]

04.01.10 Weapons cache discovered in Sinai

April 1 - Egyptian forces collected massed explosives intended for Gaza. Egyptian security forces discovered a massive arms cache in the Sinai Peninsula Thursday. The arms were purportedly destined to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Yum a-Saba. The weapons included 100 anti-aircraft missiles, 40 RPG missiles and 40 other explosive devices. General Mohammed Najib, commander of Egypt's security forces in Sinai, tracked down the cache after he acquired intelligence that suspected arms smugglers had stashed weapons in the area. Egyptian security forces removed weapons from the storage sites, many of them past battle zones. The Egyptian forces suspect the smugglers are Sinai Bedouin seeking to sneak weapons into the Gaza Strip. [>jpost.com]

04.01.10 US Navy captures 5 pirates after gun battle in Indian Ocean

April 1 - Suspected Somali pirates fired on a US Navy warship off East Africa early Thursday in what appeared to be a ransom-seeking attack on an American guided missile frigate, officials said. The USS Nicholas returned fire on the pirate skiff, sinking it and confiscating a nearby mothership. The Navy took five pirates, suspected to be from Somalia, into custody, said Navy Lt. Patrick Foughty, a spokesman. A third pirate boat was involved but managed to escape. The Navy does not know where it has gone, and think some pirates may have gotten away.  International naval forces have stepped up their enforcement of the waters off East Africa in an effort to thwart a growing pirate trade. Last May, pirates chased a U.S. Navy warship and fired small arms fire at it. The ship, which had recently served as a prison for captured pirates, increased speed and evaded the attack. French and Dutch naval ships also have been attacked by pirates, said Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the British think tank Chatham House. [More>>foxnews.com; See more details,

aljazeera.net, April 1, "Indian Ocean pirates captured by US"
: ...Pirate sources said a Taiwanese ship had also been hijacked on Thursday, while a Turkish frigate intercepted a skiff in the Gulf of Aden and captured nine Somali pirates who were suspected of preparing to attack ships, the Turkish military said on Thursday. The Gelibolu, operating with NATO forces in the region, spotted the skiff on Wednesday, about 130km off the shore in a transit corridor commercial vessels are encouraged to use for safe passage. Commandoes seized the vessel, along with equipment used in piracy operations, the Turkish military said in a statement online. A photograph posted on the army's website showed the suspected pirates holding their hands up in surrender. Since January, Somali pirates have attacked 32 ships, seven of which were hijacked, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy reporting centre said on Thursday. Pirates were holding eight ships in total and 143 crewmen of different nationalities, it added. [More>>aljazeera.net]

04.01.10 Extremists must repent: Muslim scholars

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 1 - Muslim scholars from around the world who met this week in Saudi Arabia's holy city Medina have denounced "terrorism" and appealed to "extremists" to repent, a statement said on Thursday. The four-day Islamic conference, sponsored by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz and organized by the Islamic University of Medina, drew some 500 participants, according to press reports. The scholars condemned "all acts of terrorism wherever they take place and whoever is behind them," said the concluding statement from the conference, which wrapped up on Wednesday. The scholars also criticized "the harm inflicted on unarmed civilians and civilian facilities under the pretext of combating international terrorism." The statement published on the organizers' website called on extremists to "return to their senses and follow the path of groups that have announced repentance and rejected acts of terrorism." "Hold on to moderate Islam and tolerance towards others," and "reject false interpretations of ... jihad (holy war)," it said, addressing Muslim youths. [More>>indianexpress.com]

04.01.10 Pakistani troops kil 28 militants in northwest

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) April 1 - Pakistani troops stormed militant positions and helicopters destroyed vehicles carrying insurgents near the Afghan border Thursday, killing 28 suspected militants and forcing thousands of civilians to flee, officials said. The offensive in the Orakzai tribal region is aimed at flushing out Pakistani Taliban insurgents who had fled an army onslaught further south. Government official Sami Ullah said at least 18 militants died in clashes with troops in Orakzai. As a group of insurgents fled to the neighboring Kurram region, helicopters hit three vehicles, killing 10 more militants and wounding some others, local military commander Lt. Col. Akbar Butt said. Orakzai is a major base for supporters of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban's top commander, who is believed to have died in a January US missile strike near Afghanistan. The Taliban deny Mehsud is dead. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

04.01.10 18 gunmen die in atack on two army bases in Mexico

April 1 - Seven assaults in two northern states take place almost simultaneously, apparently marking a major escalation in Mexico's drug war. VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico - Dozens of gunmen mounted rare and apparently coordinated attacks targeting two army garrisons in northern Mexico, touching off firefights that killed 18 attackers. The attempts to blockade soldiers inside their bases part of seven near-simultaneous attacks across two northern states appeared to mark a serious escalation in Mexico's drug war, in which cartel gunmen attacked in unit-size forces armed with bulletproof vehicles, dozens of hand grenades and assault rifles.

While drug gunmen frequently shoot at soldiers on patrol, they seldom target army bases, and even more rarely attack in the force displayed during the confrontations Tuesday in the border states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon
areas that have seen a surge of bloodshed in recent months. The violence mainly involves a fight between the Gulf cartel and its former allies, the Zetas, a gang of hit men. The cartel which has apparently formed an alliance with other cartels seeking to exterminate the Zetas has been warning people in the region with a series of banners and e-mails that the conflict would get worse over the next two to three months. Gunmen staged seven separate attacks on the army, including three blockades, Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas said Wednesday. He called the attacks "desperate reactions by criminal gangs to the progress being made by federal authorities" against Mexico's drug cartels.

Villegas said gunmen parked trucks and SUVs outside a military base in the border city of Reynosa trying to block troops from leaving, sparking a gun battle with soldiers. At the same time, gunmen blocked several streets leading to a garrison in the nearby border city of Matamoros. Another gang of armed men opened fire from several vehicles on soldiers guarding a federal highway in General Bravo, in Nuevo Leon state. Troops fought back, killing 18 gunmen, wounding two and detaining seven more suspects. One soldier suffered slight injuries.

04.01.10 How Iran silences unwanted news

April 1 - Iran jams satellite signals carrying foreign media. Hot Bird 8 may be Europe's largest and most powerful television satellite, but it still has little chance when the Iranian regime decides to block its signals. When that happens, the Farsi services of the BBC and Voice of America instantly disappear from television screens -- and not just in Iran, but also throughout the satellite's entire coverage area. Tehran has targeted the satellite in an effort to prevent critical foreign media coverage from reaching domestic viewers. Even though the United Nations has condemned it as an act of sabotage, the international community can do little to stop it. The Arabic service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle was also affected by the attacks on Hot Bird 8. "We experienced disruptions in December and February,"

Deutsche Welle spokesman Johannes Hoffmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "A total of over 30 hours of programming was affected." Hoffmann believes the attacks were a "targeted act to block news coverage" on Iran. For example, he noted , there were problems in February during celebrations marking the anniversary of the Iranian revolution. France-based satellite provider Eutelsat, which operates Hot Bird 8, also believes the jamming attempts are deliberate. "This is not happening by accident," says Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor. The latest attempt to block the satellite occurred on March 20, according to the BBC and Voice of America.

04.01.10 Saudi move to execute 'sorcery man' sparks protest

April 1 - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been urged to intervene to stop the execution of a Lebanese national accused of sorcery in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International said TV fortune teller Ali Hussain Sabat seemed to have been convicted for "exercising of his right to freedom of expression." Mr. Sabat's lawyer said she had been informed unofficially that he could be beheaded by the end of this week. But Beirut's envoy to Riyadh said the case was still being heard. The condemned man hosted a satellite TV show in which he predicted the future. He was arrested by the Saudi religious police while on pilgrimage to the country in 2008. [More>>bbc.co.uk]


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