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4.15.08 Egyptian troops hunting terror cell in Sinai

April 15- Egyptian security forces are hunting for members of a terrorist cell in the Sinai Peninsula, who are trying to infiltrate Israel in order to carry out an attack. An Egyptian security source said forces are searching for four trucks carrying armed militants. Troops have set up roadblocks in the northern part of the peninsula in an effort to trap the militants. The Counterterrorism bureau on Monday issued a serious warning to avoid traveling in Sinai, following word that militants are planning attacks against Israelis during the Passover holiday.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday called on Israelis to take seriously the warnings and to cancel any planned trip to the Egyptian peninsula. Over 50,000 Israelis are expected to cross the border into Sinai and Egypt this coming Passover holiday despite warnings by the security establishment, the Airports Authority reported Monday.

4.15.08 Iraq bombings, clashes kill 62

BAGHDAD (AFP) April 15 - A spate of bombings across Iraq and a fresh surge of fighting between Shia militiamen and US forces in eastern Baghdad killed at least 62 people on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said. A car bomb outside a courthouse in the central city of Baquba, a stronghold of al-Qaeda, killed at least 40 people and wounded 80 in the most devastating attack in the violence-wracked country in a month, police said.

Medical officials said many of the victims were charred beyond recognition and people were crowding the local hospital trying to identify the remains of relatives. Three minibuses were destroyed and 10 houses damaged in the blast, which sparked pandemonium, an AFP correspondent said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See related story, news.com.au, April 15, "Suicide bomber kills 13 in restaurant in Ramadi."}

4.15.08 Brazil discovers world's 3rd-largest oil and gas reserves

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 14 - Brazil's state-owned Petrobras, BG Group and Repsol have discovered what could be the world's third-largest oil and gas reserves, Haroldo Lima, director of the National Oil and Gas Agency (ANP), which regulates the sector in the country, said on Monday. In a seminar at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio, Lima stressed that the information has not been released "officially" yet. He added that, if confirmed, the field, with an estimated volume of 33 billion barrels, in the deep waters of the Santos Basin, in southeastern Brazil, would be the world's biggest oil and gas discovery of the past 30 years. [More>>xinhuanet.com; See related story, independent.co.uk, April 15, "Daniel Howden: Brazil's experience testifies to the downside of this energy revolution."]

4.15.08 Give peace and Jimmy Carter a chance

April 15 - (Middle East Times Editorial) Former US President Jimmy Carter is coming under much criticism from Israel and its supporters for expressing his desire to meet with Hamas officials during his Middle East tour this week. One would think that by now, 60 years into the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a stack of wars later, most people would come to realize that there can be no military solution to the crisis. 0nly a negotiated settlement will put an end to the decades fighting and bloodshed.

It is worth reminding that it was Carter who laid the cornerstone to peace in the Middle East when he brought together Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menahem Begin at the presidential retreat at Camp David and extracted a peace treaty from Egypt and Israel; a peace treaty – imperfect as it might be – but which is still in effect today. And had Egypt not paved the way and entered into a peace treaty with Israel, Jordan would have never been able to follow suit, becoming the second Arab country to recognize Israel and exchange diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
[More>>metimes.com; See also indianexpress.com : hosted.ap.org, April 15, "Jimmy Carter embraces Hamas official."]

4.15.08 UN sounds alarm over Dutch Islamophobia

GENEVA (AFP) April 15 - Rights groups at the UN Human Rights Council have on Tuesday charged that Muslims living in the Netherlands face growing intolerance, urging the Dutch government to do more to fight increasing discrimination. A coalition of Dutch NGOs told the council that women who wear the Islamic headscarf, or men with beards, "are experiencing more and more problems because of increasing Muslim intolerance. This is happening in all areas of public life: at work, in schools, and also in establishments such as cafes, restaurants and sports schools," they said in their submission to the council's review of the Netherlands' rights record. [More>>alarabiya.net]

4.14.08 British journalist rescued in Basra

BAGHDAD (AP) April 14 - Iraqi troops rescued a British journalist for CBS News in the southern city of Basra on Monday two months after he was kidnapped, the Iraqi military said. The dramatic rescue came on a day that saw 13 people killed and nearly 20 wounded in two bombings in northern Iraq. Richard Butler was in good condition when he was found with a sack over his head and his hands tied inside a house, Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji said. The discovery came during an Iraqi military sweep in the Jibiliya area, a Shiite militia stronghold in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. [More>>washingtonpost.com See related story, khaleejtimes.com, April 14, "Around 30 bodies found in Iraq mass grave."]

4.14.08 11 policemen killed in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) April 14 - Taliban militants attacked a group of police officers sleeping on the mud floor of an isolated roadside checkpoint early Monday in southern Afghanistan, killing 11 in the latest assault against the nation's vulnerable police force. Meanwhile, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said two of its soldiers were killed and two wounded in a separate explosion Sunday in the south. The British Defense Ministry confirmed that two Royal Air Force servicemen were killed in when their vehicle hit an explosive device.

Insurgents apparently sneaked up on the police checkpoint 15 miles north of Kandahar - the Taliban's former stronghold - just after midnight, killing an officer who was supposed to be keeping watch but who may have fallen asleep, said Mohammad Rauf, a policeman sent as a replacement. Militants walked into the mud-brick compound and opened fire on the officers, who were sleeping on simple mattresses and blankets on the dirt floor, Rauf said. Of the 12 police officers at the compound, 11 were killed and one was seriously wounded, he said. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

4.14.08 Japan catches only 60% of targeted whales in FY 2007 due to sabotage

TOKYO, April 14 - Japan’s whale catch in the Antarctic Ocean totaled 551 in fiscal 2007, only 60 percent of Tokyo’s target of about 900, as a result of sabotage by a US anti-whaling group, Japan’s Fisheries Agency said Monday. Six vessels involved in the research whaling will head for Japan from Tuesday, the agency said. [More>>japantoday.com; See more details, khaleejtimes.com, April 14, "Japan kills 551 Antarctic whales."]

4.14.08 Defaulting Californians leave Wachovia with $bn headache

April 14 - The number of Californians defaulting on mortgages has reached such a level that Wachovia, the fifth-largest US bank by market value, says that it has been forced to raise up to $8 billion (£4 billion) in emergency funding and raise its provisioning. The group, which unveiled a surprise net loss of $350 million in the first quarter, slashed its dividend by 41 per cent to 37.5 cents saving $2 billion of capital annually "to build capital ratios and provide more operational flexibility." [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

4.14.08 Two militants in Indonesian custody after arrests in Malaysia

JAKARTA (AP) April 14 - Police say two alleged members of the Jamaah Islamiyah militant network have been arrested. Police said Monday that Abdur Rohim and Dr. Agus Purwanto were detained in Malaysia late last month and transferred to Indonesian custody a week ago. Both men are Indonesian citizens. Police say they have not been charged yet, but gave no more details. Top terrorism researcher Sidney Jones says both men were senior leaders in Jamaah Islamiyah, whose members have been accused of several terror attacks in Indonesia. [>thejakartapost.com]

4.13.08 Russian town is so toxic even the mayor wants it closed down

MOSCOW, April 13 - Harsh winters, polluted air, crumbling apartment blocks – the residents of many Russian towns might feel that they have cause for complaint. But in Chapayevsk, a town of about 70,000 inhabitants in European Russia, the mayor himself has suggested a novel way of solving the town's problems – abandon it. You can hardly blame him – 96 per cent of all children there are deemed unhealthy.

Chapayevsk, close to the Volga river and the city of Samara, is home to factories that produced chemical weapons for many years, and is blighted by air and soil pollution. According to the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, at a round table meeting on the environment in Samara this week, the town's mayor, Nikolai Malakhov, said that resettling the town's residents would be an "ideal solution" to Chapayevsk's problems.

The town was founded about a century ago and was named Chapayevsk in 1929, after the Bolshevik Civil War hero Vasily Chapayev. It was the site of a chemical weapons factory that churned out mustard gas and other deadly weapons in industrial quantities. The factory also made conventional bombs and mines. According to factory veterans, chemical warheads were made by pouring mustard gas solution from a teapot into the bombs, with the toxic chemicals frequently spilling over into factory drains. Over time the city's water became contaminated with dioxins and other poisons. Today the factory produces herbicides, not chemical weapons, but the pollution in the air and the ground is there to stay. [More>>independent.co.uk]

4.13.08 Suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants bomb cathedral in Philippines; no casualties

MANILA (AP) April 13 - Suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral compound and a building housing a government office Sunday in the southern Philippines, police said. No one was injured in the blasts. Police have been placed on the highest level of security following the dawn explosions in Zamboanga city, regional police Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal said. Government troops and police had already tightened security i the town for a weeklong national sports festival and a medical conference, he said.

Zamboanga, about 860 kilometers (530 miles) south of Manila, is home to US troops providing counterterrorism training to Filipino soldiers. The military says the region is home to more than 300 armed members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terror group. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

4.13.08 Belarus Jewish graves get little respect

(AP) April 13 - Workers rebuilding a sports stadium on the site of an 18th century Jewish cemetery in Belarus say they have no choice but to consign the bones to city dumps. "It's impossible to pack an entire cemetery into sacks," said worker Mikhail Gubets, adding that he stopped counting the skulls when the number went over 100. But critics say it's part of a pattern of callous indifference toward Belarus's Jewish heritage that was prevalent when the country was a Soviet republic and hasn't changed.

The stadium in Gomel, Belarus's second largest city and a center of Jewish life until World War II, is one of four that were built on top of Jewish cemeteries around the country. The Gomel cemetery was destroyed when the stadium was built in 1961, but the remains lay largely undisturbed until this spring when reconstruction began and a bulldozer turned up the first bones..."It's not just a Jewish issue, it's this general Soviet legacy," said Ukraine's chief rabbi. Yakov Blaikh. "They didn't respect people while they were alive and they don't respect them when they are dead."

...Before the war, about 1 million Jews lived in Belarus and 800,000 of them died in the Holocaust. Today they number 27,000 in the country of 10 million. Belarus's president, Alexander Lukashenko, has shown little respect for Jewish culture. In a radio broadcast in October that provoked a sharp protest from the Israeli government, he suggested that when Jews were numerous in another town, Bobruisk, they turned it into "a pigsty."
[Full story>>jpost.com]

4.12.08 Iraq's Sadr slams 'terrorist' Gates comments

BAGHDAD/NAJAF, April 12 - Iraq's hardline Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday lashed out at Robert Gates, saying the US defense secretary will always remain his enemy because he is the occupier of Iraq. "You have always been my enemy. And you will always be my enemy till the last drop of my blood," Sadr said in a statement. He was reacting to comments by Gates in which he reportedly said, referring to Sadr, that those who are prepared to work peacefully "within the political process in Iraq" are not the enemies of the United States. "Which political process do you want to involve me in when you are occupying my land?" Sadr asked. [More>>alarabiya.net]

4.12.08 Iran top threat to Iraq, US says

April 12 - Last week's violence in Basra and Baghdad has convinced the Bush administration that actions by Iran, and not al-Qaeda, are the primary threat inside Iraq, and has sparked a broad reassessment of policy in the region, according to senior US officials. Evidence of an increase in Iranian weapons, training and direction for the Shiite militias that battled US and Iraqi security forces in those two cities has fixed new US attention on what Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday called Tehran's "malign" influence, the officials said. The intensified focus on Iran coincides with diminished emphasis on al-Qaeda in Iraq as the leading justification for an ongoing US military presence in Iraq.[More>>washingtonpost.com; See related story, cnn.com, April 12, "Iran denies confrontation at sea with US Navy."]

4.12.08 Iraq: Mass grave found south of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) April 12 - Iraqi soldiers acting on tips from detained Shiite militiamen found 14 bodies Saturday that had been buried in a field south of Baghdad, officials said. It was the second discovery this week of mass graves in the area, raising to 44 the number of bodies located by Iraqi troops. Twelve bodies found Saturday had been dumped in one grave about 500 yards away from the local office of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's movement, while two others were buried together in a nearby area on the western outskirts of Mahmoudiya, a city spokesman said.

The spokesman, Ather Kamil, said the bodies were found after members of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia were detained and confessed to killing and burying dozens of Sunnis as well as some Shiites killed for criminal purposes. The grisly discoveries came two days after the Iraqi troops found the remains of 30 people believed to have been killed more than a year ago in three abandoned houses elsewhere in the area. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org ; See related stories:

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) April 12, "Bomb-rigged Shia stronghold awaits security forces." :
Iraq said on Saturday militiamen have sown the streets of Baghdad's Sadr City with booby traps to impede the advance of the security forces, amid fierce battles in the sprawling Shia enclave. The warning came soon after the partial lifting of a vehicle ban that has been in force during two weeks of bitter fighting between US and Iraqi forces and the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "Groups of people have planted roadside bombs on the majority of the roads of Sadr City," Baghdad military command said in a statement...

indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org, April 12, "Clashes kill 13 in Baghdad's Sadr City."

timesonline.co.uk, April 12, "British accused of appeasing Shia militia in Basra" : In Basra the signs of the feared militia are slowly receding. For the first time in years alcohol vendors are selling beer close to army checkpoints, and ringtones praising the rebel cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr are vanishing from mobile phones. Music shops are once again selling pop tunes instead of the recorded lectures of Shia ayatollahs.

But, as the city cautiously comes back to life after an offensive by Iraqi troops backed by hundreds of US soldiers, there is a lingering resentment towards the British Army. Many here blame the British for allowing the al-Mahdi Army and other militias to impose a long reign of terror on the once cosmopolitan city...

4.12.08 Scientists claim videos are proof of Alzheimer's breakthrough

April 12 - An injection that dramatically relieved the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease within minutes would qualify as the discovery of the decade. That is exactly what was claimed yesterday for an experimental treatment being tested in America. Scientists at the Institute for Neurological Research at the University of California have treated around 50 patients at a private clinic by injecting an anti-arthritic drug, etanercept, into the spinal column in the neck and then tilting the patients to encourage the drug to flow to the brain. They claim 90 percent respond to the treatment, usually within minutes, and have released videos of patients to prove it.

In one, a nurse sits down with an 82-year-old patient, Marvin Millar, who frowns and mumbles incoherently as she asks him [to] identify everyday objects such as a bracelet and a pencil, which he is unable to do. But five minutes after being injected with etanercept – according to the film which was supplied and edited by the clinic – he greets his wife. Visibly shocked, she says he has not recognized her for years. Mr. Miller then hugs her. [More>>independent.co.uk]

4.12.08 Bangladesh hit by food price riots

April 12 - About 20,000 textile workers have clashed with police near Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, demanding better wages to meet high food prices. Workers from more than a dozen textile factories fought police on Saturday in Fatullah, 20km south of Dhaka. Bangladesh police said that the protesters wrecked cars and buses and vandalized factories. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related story, independent.co.uk, April 12, "The other global crisis: rush to biofuels is driving up price of food."]

4.12.08 Afghan attacks kill 2 Indians, 24 militants

KABUL (DPA) April 12 - Twin suicide attacks resulted in the deaths of two Indian road construction workers and their driver on Saturday, while Afghan and NATO forces killed 24 militants in an operation in southern Afghanistan, officials said. The attacks against the workers took place in Khasrod district Saturday morning, when two men with explosives strapped to their bodies jumped in front of a road construction convoy, provincial Governor Ghulom Dastagir Azaad said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.11.08 'Site found where Iran building 6,000 km ballistic missile'

April 11 - New satellite imagery exposed a site where Iran was developing long-range ballistic missiles, the Times of London reported Friday. According to the report, on February 4, Iran announced it had launched a "research rocket" as part of its space program. Experts have estimated since then, however, that the rocket launch was in fact a field test of Shihab-type ballistic missile.

But four days after the launch another intriguing feature of the test became apparent: analysis of photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite indicated that the launch site of Kavoshgar 1, as the Shihab missile was dubbed by the Iranians, is also the site where Iran is busy developing ballistic missiles with a range of about 6,000 km. The site, about 230 km southeast of Teheran, was previously unknown and its link with the Iranian weapons program was revealed by Jane's Intelligence Review after the images were studied by a former Iraq weapons inspector.

Using a space program as a façade for a weapons program was the path chosen by Korea until it declared it had passed the nuclear weapon threshold. Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that there was a recently constructed building on the site, about 40 meters in length, which was similar in form and size to the Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea. [More>>jpost.com; See related stories,
news.com.au, April 11, "Bush lumps Iran, al-Qaeda together." and
metimes.com, April 11, "The real world: Iran - N. Korea with oil?"

4.11.08 Muslim doctor plotted terror attacks in London and Glasgow

April 11 - A Muslim doctor who died after a failed terror attack on Glasgow airport had plotted a campaign of “spectacular” terrorist car bomb attacks designed to devastate Britain, a court heard today. Kafeel Ahmed, 28, had targeted city nightclubs with explosives made at his home in Glasgow before turning his attention to the airport on its busiest day of the year.

Two car bombs left near nightclubs in the West End of London at the end of June last year had failed to explode when activated by mobile phone. The next day, knowing the police were closing in, Ahmed launched the airport suicide mission and drove another car bomb into Glasgow Airport. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

4.11.08 Arid Barcelona forced to import water

April 11 - Barcelona is to take the unprecedented step of importing water by ship to prevent a water crisis prompted by extreme drought. The emergency measure, to start next month, indicates dramatically how climate change has affected one of Europe's most developed cities – a metropolis known for its efficient infrastructure. The Catalan Water Agency has chartered 10 tankers to ship water to Spain's second city from Marseilles in France, from the Catalan port of Tarragona, and from desalination plants near Almeria in Spain's parched south. Some water may be transported by rail. Water will be imported for at least six months, or until the resumption of normal rainfall ends the region's acute water shortage.

The emergency has already prompted officials in Barcelona to turn off municipal fountains and beachside showers, drain ornamental lakes and large swimming pools, order a hosepipe ban backed up with fines, and patch up leaky pipes. If the drought persists this summer, city authorities face the unpopular option of water rationing. There are plans to distribute imported water at reduced pressure, so that taps will trickle rather than gush. Spain has suffered a water shortage for 18 months, receiving only a third of its average rainfall. The drought is believed to be the most acute since the 1940s. Reservoirs nationwide are at less than half capacity, while in Catalonia they are barely a fifth full. [More>>independent.co.uk ; See related story, theaustralian.news.com, April 11, "Cluster may be world's oldest living trees."]

4.11.08 Athletes face ban over Tibet flags

April 11 - Athletes who display Tibetan flags during the Beijing Olympics face being kicked out of the Games - even if they are placed in their bedrooms. The expulsion threat applies to any of the venues used during the sporting spectacular. A spokeswoman said this covers the village, where competitors will stay. She said: "It is an Olympic venue so it falls under the same rules and regulations of any venue. "Anything in there would be judged on whether it was a provocative propaganda initiative." [More>>sky.com]

4.11.08 Al-Sadr aide killed in Najaf

April 11 - Police have imposed a curfew in the Iraqi city of Najaf after a senior aide to Muqtada al-Sadr, an Shia leader, was shot dead near his home, Iraqi officials said. Riyadh al-Nouri, who was the director of al-Sadr's office in Najaf and , was killed as he drove home from Friday prayers in the nearby city of Kufa. Police set up blockades, ordered people off the streets and closed shops after the incident, a Reuters news agency reporter said. Haider al-Turfi, another Sadr official in Njafa, said that armed men were waiting for al-Nouri near his home in the city's eastern neighbourhood of Al-Adala. "When he arrived from the prayers, they opened fire on him, killing him instantly," Turfi said. Al-Nouri's sister was married to Sadr's brother Murtada who was killed in 1999. [More>>aljazeera.net]

4.11.08 New US air strikes kill 12 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) April 11 - Fresh US air strikes on suspected Shiite militiamen planning to launch attacks on security forces killed at least 12 people in Baghdad and Basra on Friday. Six insurgents were killed by US aircraft in the southern port of Basra early Friday, hours after a Hellfire missile fired from a drone killed six militants in the Iraqi capital, US and British military officials said. The strike in Basra happened when US aircraft homed in on the northern Al-Hayaniyah district after identifying a group of militants, British spokesman Major Tom Holloway told AFP by telephone. [More>>turkishpress.com]

4.11.08 Woman's death lifts Egypt bird flu toll to 22

CAIRO (Reuters) April 11 - An Egyptian woman died of bird flu on Friday, the 22nd fatality and the 49th case of the disease among humans in Egypt, the state news agency MENA said. Wala Ahmed Abdel Galil, 30, from the northeast Cairo suburb of Mataria, fell ill after coming into contact with sick domestic birds, the agency said, quoting the Ministry of Health. The woman showed symptoms of the deadly viral disease on April 2 and was taken to a specialist chest hospital in Cairo on Wednesday. Doctors had been treating her with Tamiflu, the standard treatment for bird flu, the ministry added.

Seven Egyptians have died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu during the winter season now closing, less than in the previous winter. The virus, which first appeared in Egypt in February 2006, tends to be less active in summer. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.11.08 Somali pirates detained after hostage release: French official

PARIS, April 11 - Six pirates from among those who seized a French luxury sailing ship and its crew off the coast of Somalia a week ago were detained on Friday after they released their hostages, French officials said. President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier announced in a statement that the 30 crew members of Le Ponant had been freed in an operation that occurred "without incident."

The head of the joint chiefs of staff, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, said the pirates were arrested about one hour after they had released the crew and had returned on land. The six pirates were brought aboard a French navy ship where they are being held, said Sarkozy's military advisor Vice Admiral Edouard Guillaud.

4.10.08 Bomb attack on NATO convoy, 8 Afghans dead

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) April 10 - A suicide car bomb attack on a NATO convoy on Thursday killed eight Afghan civilians in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, police said. No NATO troops were hurt as their convoy had just passed when the bomber detonated his explosives, police said...Despite the presence of about 60,000 foreign soldiers led by NATO and the U.S. military, as well as some 140,000 Afghan troops, Taleban militants have made a comeback in the past two years and more than 11,000 people have been killed in violence. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.10.08 Iran vows to remove world's 'corrupt leadership'

TEHRAN (AP) April 10 - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday set Iran its latest mission of wiping out the "corrupt world leadership," and said sanctions and threats were nothing but scraps of paper. "The Iranian nation will not give up until the corrupt leadership in the world has been obliterated," Ahmadinejad said in the Shiite holy city of Mashhad, northeast Iran, quoted by the Fars news agency. [More>>alarabiya.net]

4.10.08 54 Myanmar migrants die in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) April 10 - Fifty-four illegal migrant workers from Myanmar suffocated in the back of an unventilated truck Thursday, while the rest of the passengers being smuggled to Thailand pounded on the container and screamed in vain for the driver's help. More than 100 migrants, mostly women, were about two hours into their trip to the resort island of Phuket late Wednesday when they started collapsing, police and survivors said. At that point, in Ranong province near Myanmar, their ruckus caused the driver to stop. When he unlocked the container and discovered the dead workers, survivors said he ran off.

The victims, along with 67 survivors, had been forced to stand in the 7 foot by 20 foot locked and sweltering container area of the truck, normally used to carry seafood, police and survivors said. Temperatures in the province reached 93 Wednesday. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org ; See also bangkokpost.net, April 10, " Mass suffocation."]

4.10.08 Saudi bribery probe decision overturned

April 10 - Calls were made for a full public inquiry today after the High Court ruled the Government and Serious Fraud Office "unlawfully submitted" to threats that there could be "another 7/7" unless they dropped bribery investigations involving BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia. In a passionate and powerful judgment, two senior judges condemned the Government's "abject surrender" to the "blatant threats" that Saudi cooperation in the fight against terror would end unless the probe into corruption was halted.

The judges said: "We fear for the reputation of the administration of justice if it can be perverted by a threat." They warned that any similar unlawful threats to the rule of law in the future must be resisted by Government — or the courts would again intervene. [More>>independent.co.uk]

4.10.08 Olympic president offers rare rebuke to China

BEIJING, April 10 - The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, offered a rare rebuke to the Chinese government on Thursday, calling on authorities to respect its “moral engagement” to improve human rights and to provide the media with greater access to the country ahead of the Beijing games. Mr. Rogge's comments on China, made at a news conference here during which he described the protests that have dogged the torch relay as a “crisis” for the organization, were a departure from his previous statements that strenuously avoided any mention of politics.

The Chinese government immediately rejected Mr. Rogge's remarks, saying they amounted to an unwelcome meddling in the country's domestic affairs. “I believe I.O.C. officials support the Beijing Olympics and adherence to the Olympic charter of not bringing in any irrelevant political factors,” Jiang Yu, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, told reporters. Despite the crisis, Mr. Rogge insisted that the skirmishes in London, Paris and San Francisco would not derail the six-continent pageant leading up to the Beijing games in August. [More>>nytimes.com]

4.09.08 Abu Qatada wins fight against deportation

April 9 - Abu Qatada, the firebrand preacher once described as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe," won his fight against deportation from Britain today. The Government's anti-terror policy was dealt a second massive blow as the courts forced the Home Office to abandon its deportation case against 12 other terror suspects. Home Office minister Tony McNulty said Qatada would not be released from jail, and pledged to appeal against the ruling.

In a separate case, two Libyans known only as AS and DD won their appeals against deportation. The decision led the Home Office to drop the deportation case against them and 10 other Libyans suspected of terrorism...Qatada has been convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998, and of plotting to plant bombs at the Millennium. The radical cleric once called on British Muslims to martyr themselves, and tapes of his sermons were found in a flat in Germany used by some of the September 11 hijackers. [Full story>>independent.co.uk]

4.09.08 Al-Qaeda planner linked to UK plots 'is dead'

April 9 - Senior al-Qaeda planner Obaidah al Masri, considered a key suspect in the 2005 London subway and underground bombings and a foiled 2006 plot to blow up commercial airliners, is believed to have died, a US official said today. "The sense is that he is dead," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. McClatchy newspapers reported that Masri died of hepatitis in Pakistan. The official said Masri appeared to have died of natural causes.

"He was a major operational figure," the US official said of al Masri, a pseudonym. He confirmed that Masri was suspected in the plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean. The Washington Post in 2006 also said he was believed to be al-Qaeda's conduit to British-Pakistani cells that carried out the 7 July attacks in London in 2005. The bombings killed 56 people. [More>>independent.co.uk; See also nytimes.com (Reuters) April 9, "Suspect in '05 London bombings dies."]

4.09.08 Philippine police seize bomb materials in raid on suspected terrorist hide-out

(AP) April 9 - Police seized hundreds of components for making bombs in a raid on a suspected terrorist hide-out in the northern Philippines, officials said Wednesday. The target of Tuesday's raid in Laguna province's Alaminos town was Khalid Pagayao, a Filipino allegedly tied to the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network and a plot to bomb Western embassies in the Philippines, but he was not in the house, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

Police recovered 550 pieces of improvised blasting caps, 25 pieces of time fuse, two detonating cords and an undetermined amount of Tetryl, an explosive compound. National police chief Avelino Razon said the raid was part of an investigation into recovered Arabic documents that revealed a plot to attack several Western embassies. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

4.09.08 At least 7 die in Pakistan political violence

KARACHI (Reuters) April 9 - At least seven people were killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of President Pervez Musharraf in the southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, hospital officials said. The violence is the first since a new government made up of Musharraf's opponents was sworn in just over a week ago. Television footage showed a policeman firing shots in the air to disperse angry mobs who were setting fire to cars and petrol pumps.

A Reuters reporter saw the bodies of two men who, according to hospital officials, had been killed in shooting. Five charred bodies were later recovered from an office building which was set on fire, police told Reuters. "The violence erupted in various parts of the city and protesters set on fire several vehicles," a senior police officer, Azhar Farooqui, told Reuters. "The situation is tense but under control," he said. The violence broke out after anti-Musharraf lawyers clashed in court with his supporters. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See also thenews.com.pk, April 9, "Karachi riots death toll rises to 8."]

4.09.08 I would kiss not topple Saddam today: Iraqi

April 9 - Statue toppler shares recollections and regrets. Ibrahim Khalil, who five years ago took part in the iconic toppling of a giant statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad, said on Wednesday he now regrets taking part in the hugely symbolic event. "If history can take me back, I will kiss the statue of Saddam Hussein which I helped pull down," Khalil told AFP on the fifth anniversary of the statue's toppling.

"I will protect the statue more than my own self," Khalil said in Firdoos Square alongside a monument erected where Saddam's statue once stood before US marines and Iraqis strung a chain around its neck and brought it crashing down. The action marked the end of Saddam's iron-fisted regime and served as a premonition of the dictator's own end on Dec. 30, 2006, when he was hanged in Baghdad for crimes against humanity.

But five years on, Khalil says the jubilation has long since vanished and that the situation in the country has vastly deteriorated. Iraqi forces are still battling bloodshed that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions of others. The International Committee of the Red Cross says the plight of millions of Iraqis who still have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or health care is the "most critical in the world."

The economy, the main concern of Iraqis after security, is also a wreck. "Now I realize that the day Baghdad fell was in fact a black day. Saddam's days were better," said Khalil, who along with his brother runs a car repair shop. "I ask Bush: 'Where are your promises of making Iraq a better country?' These days when we go out we have to carry a pistol. In Saddam's regime, we were safe. We got rid of one Saddam, but today we have 50 Saddams."
[Full story>>alarabiya.net]

4.09.08 Violence kills 16 in Iraq's Sadr City

BAGHDAD (AP) April 9 - Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen clashed Wednesday in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, where attacks killed 16 people on the fifth anniversary of the US capture of the capital. The heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses diplomatic missions and much of Iraq's government, came under renewed attack by rockets or mortars despite a day long vehicle ban apparently aimed at preventing Shiite gunmen from moving freely about the city. The US embassy said there were no immediate reports of casualties in the Green Zone attack.

The euphoria of victory dissipated soon after US troops swept into Baghdad and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, with the outbreak of a Sunni insurgency, then Sunni-Shiite slaughter and now battles against Shiite militiamen. As the number of US forces in Iraq has gradually come down in the past three months, car bombings, suicide attacks, civilian casualties and ethno-sectarian violence have risen. In testimony to a congressional committee Tuesday, US commander Gen. David Petraeus called for an open-ended suspension of US troop withdrawals this summer because of concern over the renewed fighting. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

4.09.08 Smallest planet outside solar system found

(Reuters) April 10 - The smallest planet discovered outside our solar system has been found by Spanish scientists. "I think we are very close, just a few years away, from detecting a planet like Earth," team leader Ignasi Ribas said. The rocky planet, with a radius about 50 percent greater than the Earth's, circles a small red dwarf star 30 light years away in the constellation of Leo, said the scientists from Spain's Superior Council for Scientific Investigations (CSIC).

The planet, known as GJ 436c, was found by analyzing distortions in the orbit of another, larger planet around the star GJ 436, a technique similar to that used more than 100 years ago to discover Neptune. With a mass about five times greater than Earth's, it is the smallest planet yet discovered outside the solar system, and improving techniques are opening the way to discovering worlds ever more like our own. [More>>news.com.au]

4.08.08 Militants kill 18 Afghan road workers

KABUL (AP) April 8 - Militants killed 17 road workers in Afghanistan's lawless south Tuesday, part of a spike in violence that left 40 people dead over two days. Sixteen other construction workers were wounded in the attack in Zabul's Shinkay district, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary. Afghan and international security forces responding to the ambush killed seven militants and wounded 12, he said.

Road-building is a key part of Afghan reconstruction and many projects are in remote, insurgency-plagued areas. Militants have targeted work crews in roadside bomb attacks, ambushes and kidnappings. In January, militants in eastern Nuristan province beheaded four road construction workers. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

4.08.08 China confirms human-to-human bird flu transmission

LONDON (AP) April 8 - Chinese health officials have confirmed that a father caught bird flu from his son in December, according to a report released Tuesday. Human-to-human transmission of bird flu has happened about a dozen times in the past, in countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. In nearly every case, transmission has occurred among blood relatives who have been in close contact, and the virus has not spread into the wider community.

In the case in China, a 52-year-old man and his 24-year-old son in Jiangsu province were diagnosed with H5N1 bird flu within a week of each other in December. At the time, officials from the World Health Organization said they could not rule out the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

After the son died, his father was treated with antivirls and participated in an H5N1 vaccine trial. He survived. The son's only exposure to bird flu was at a poultry market, while the father apparently had no direct exposure to sick birds. His only known exposure to bird flu was close contact with his ill son. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

4.08.08 Religion is 'the rest of my life's work' : Blair

LONDON (AFP) April 8 - Former British prime minister Tony Blair said in an interview published Tuesday that he saw the promotion of interfaith dialogue as "the rest of my life's work." Speaking to The Times, Blair said he had focused his efforts on religion because, along with his own personal interest in the subject, combating climate change and eradicating poverty, both also interests of his, were "well-trodden ground." Blair, who converted to Catholicism in December, was Britain's premier from 1997 to last June, and has since become a Middle East peace envoy, is heading a team of experts charged with securing a deal to combat climate change, and is hoping to turn his Tony Blair Faith Foundation into a "global foundation." [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.08.08 Clashes erupt on Iraq disarmament deadline

AMMAN, Jordan, April 8 - This was not the response the Iraqi government was hoping for after issuing an ultimatum that militias surrender their weapons by Tuesday: fresh clashes erupted early April 8 in Sadrist strongholds in Baghdad, base of the Shiite al-Mahdi Army of maverick cleric Moqtada Sadr, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more, while militias hurled mortars into the Green Zone. Reports from the Iraqi capital said hundreds of people were fleeing Sadr City district, an impoverished Shiite neighborhood dominated by Sadr followers, where fierce battles have been raging between al-Mahdi gunmen and US and Iraqi forces since Sunday. [More>>metimes.com ; See related article, abcnews.go.com, April 8, "Petraeus wants to halt troop withdrawals in July."]

4.08.08 Google Earth maps refugee crisis

GENEVA (AP) April 8 - Internet search giant Google Inc. unveiled a new feature Tuesday for its popular mapping programs that shines a spotlight on the movement of refugees around the world. The maps will aid humanitarian operations as well as help inform the public about the millions who have fled their homes because of violence or hardship, according to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is working with Google on the project.

"All of the things that we do for refugees in the refugee camps around the world will become more visible," UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone said at the launch in Geneva. Users can download Google Earth software to see satellite images of refugee hot spots such as Darfur, Iraq and Colombia. Information provided by the U.N. refugee agency explains where the refugees have come from and what problems they face. [More>>cnn.com]

4.08.08 High security for US Olympic torch relay

SAN FRANCISCO, April 8 - The Olympic torch arrived for its only North American stop amid heavy security Tuesday, a day after its visit to Paris descended into chaos and activists here scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to protest China's human rights record. Meanwhile, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said the body's executive board would discuss Friday whether to end the international leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay because of widespread protests.

The torch's global journey was supposed to highlight China's growing economic and political power. But activists opposing China's human rights policies and a recent crackdown on Tibet have been protesting along the torch's 85,000-mile route since the start of the flame's odyssey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing, host of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

4.07.08 16 die in strike against Afghan warlord

KABUL (AP) April 7 - US and Afghan forces attacked a remote village in a mountainous region of northeastern Afghanistan following reports that an infamous insurgent leader was in the area, a governor said Monday. At least 16 people were killed. Gov. Tamim Nuristani said US-led coalition and Afghan forces believed Gulbuddin Hekmatyrar was meeting with top deputy Kashmir Khan in the Dohabi district of Nuristan province on Sunday, sparking a fierce airstrike that included bombardments. {More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org ; See related story, thenews.com.pk, April 7, "Two Polish soldiers injured in Afghanistan blast."]

4.07.08 Korea confirms new outbreak of avian flu

April 7 - The government yesterday confirmed a second outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in a southwestern duck farm, reviving fears that the highly contagious virus could spread to other parts of the country. The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said test results showed that the virus caused the death of ducks in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province — 268 kilometers south of Seoul.

Quarantine authorities raised concerns that the lethal virus could spread to another 12 farms in the province via five vehicles which transported poultry from the farm between April 3 and April 5. "Whether or not the virus has spread will be initially determined late this week or early next week," Kim Chang-seob, chief veterinary officer at the ministry, said at a briefing. The ministry ordered the culling of 30,099 ducks at the farm and is considering the slaughter of another 158,500 chickens and ducks in the 12 nearby farms, Kim said.

4.07.08 Research explores what 1.3 billion Muslims think

LONDON (Reuters), April 7- In the years since the September 11 attacks on the United States, much has been said about the Muslim world, but little, it is argued, has been gathered on what Muslims truly think of the West. Now Gallup, the global polling group, has conducted research in 35 Muslim countries, interviewing more than 50,000 people over a six-year period, to come up with what it is calling the first comprehensive survey of Muslim world opinion.

...While admiring Western values, many Muslims feel they are not respected by the West and that the values the West espouses, such as democracy, are only given lip service when it comes to applying them in the Muslim world. A recent example was the 2006 election in the Palestinian territories, which the Islamist movement Hamas won in a free and fair poll. The United States and Israel have since done much to ignore the result and try to push Hamas out of office.

"More than 65 percent of Egyptians, Jordanians and Iranians believe that the United States will not allow people in their region to fashion their own political future the way they see fit without direct U.S. influence," Mogahed said. [Full story>>thestar.com.my]

4.07.08 Iraqi PM serves Sadr ultimatum

April 7 - Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has said that Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader, will be barred from taking part in the "political process" unless he disbands his Mahdi Army militia.  Al-Maliki on Monday said in an interview with the CNN network that he was determined to pursue militias across the country, including those in Sadr City — a stronghold of the Mahdi Army. Maliki said: "A decision was taken ... that they no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mahdi Army." [More>>aljazeera.net; See related stories,
turkishpress.com, April 7, "23 killed as Shiite fighters, US forces clash in Baghdad,";
khaleejtimes.com, April 7, "Sadr to disband militia if clerics give order.";
metimes.com, April 7, "Graves found in Iraqi pomegranate grove."

4.07.08 Mugabe demands vote recount as 'war veterans' arm for battle

April 7 - Zimbabwe's ruling party has demanded a recount of votes in the country's presidential election, a move dismissed by the opposition as a tactic calculated to buy more time for Robert Mugabe as he arms his militant supporters for a "war" aimed at winning any run-off vote. The 84-year-old President's revived "war veterans," the foot soldiers of the farm seizures he orchestrated between 2000 and 2002, invaded at least five of Zimbabwe's few remaining white-owned commercial farms yesterday. [More>>independent.co.uk]


09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
"Using force the George W. Bush way – Bush's crusade"
11.25.04 Why the Crusade & Jihad?


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