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6.17.09 Iran wants nuclear weapon technology - ElBaradei

LONDON (Reuters) June 17 - Iran wants the ability to build nuclear weapons to gain a reputation as a major power in the Middle East, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said in a BBC interview broadcast on Wednesday. Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran sees nuclear weapons as an "insurance policy" against perceived threats from neighboring countries or the United States. [More>>thestar.com.my]

6.17.09 'Protest leaders may get death penalty'

June 17 - While Iran's opposition announced another day of street demonstrations, an Iranian provincial prosecutor, Mohammadreza Habibi, warned that the "few elements" behind the pro-Mousavi protests could face the death penalty under Islamic law, Reuters cited an Iranian news agency on Wednesday. Habibi, prosecutor-general in the central province of Isfahan, said the elements behind the post-election unrest were controlled from outside Iran and urged them to stop "criminal activities," the Fars News Agency reported. "We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution," Habibi reportedly said. [More>>jpost.com; See related story,

cnn.com, June 17, "Iran opposition defiant as media grip tightened" : TEHRAN - Thousands of Iranians gathered Wednesday evening in Tehran's Haft-e-Tir Square in a show of support for opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi as authorities cracked down on protests and tightened controls on media, threatening Web sites reporting on the country's worst crisis for decades...Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guard which enforces strict Islamic codes said it will prosecute Web sites it accuses of inciting riots, adding to a ban on foreign media reporting on the protests and a block on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter and news sites including CNN.com...

6.17.09 Iraq police arrest al-Qaeda leader over Sunni MP's killing

BAGHDAD (AFP) June 17 - Iraqi police arrested a top al-Qaeda operative on Wednesday over the killing of a senior Sunni Muslim MP and human rights advocate who was shot dead in a Baghdad mosque last week. The arrest came after intelligence efforts led police to a house in the western Baghdad neighbourhood of Ghazaliyah, not far from Al-Yarmuk where Harith al-Obaidi was assassinated on Friday.

"We received information from one of our sources in Ghazaliyah that the group involved in the assassination were in one house," Brigadier General Noaman Dakhil Jawad, the commander of the police's rapid intervention forces in Baghdad, told AFP. "We prepared our forces, we raided the house, and we arrested the criminal Ahmed Abed Oweiyed." Jawad said Oweiyed was the deputy commander of al-Qaeda's military wing in Iraq.

6.17.09 22 Taliban killed in northwest: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, June 17 - Pakistani security forces have killed 22 Taliban in the country's restive northwest, the military said Wednesday as its operations against the militants entered their 52nd day. "During the last 24 hours (till Wednesday afternoon), 22 terrorists were killed and 17 were apprehended, while one soldier was injured in Malakand," an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said. It also said that the return of some of the millions of civilians who had been displaced by the fighting in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) was proceeding well.

"Move back of IDPs (internally displaced persons) to Kalam (in Swat) is progressing well. Today (Wednesday), 12 families comprising 69 members reached Besham Camp for further move to Kalam. Earlier, 300 families were transported back from Besham to Kalam in the last two days" the statement said. On a tip off by locals, Qari Junaid, an "important commander" of Swat's Madiyan area, and his accomplice Naeem "hiding in a house have been killed," the statement said. Detailing the relief activities, the statement said that so far, 1,325 tones of army rations and 975 tones relief goods had been distributed amongst the refugees.
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See more details thenews.com.pk, June 17, "22 militants killed in last 24 hours: ISPR."

6.17.09 Greek anti-terror police officer shot dead guarding home of witness

June 17 - A plain-clothes policeman was shot dead in Athens early this morning as he was about to go on duty guarding the home of a key witness in Greece's biggest terrorist trial. Two gunmen sprayed the officer with bullets as he was about to get into an unmarked car to guard the home of Sophia Kyriakidou. Her ex-husband Angeletos Kanas has been charged with belonging to the Revolutionary Popular Struggle, an urban guerrilla group believed to be a spin-off from the more notorious 17 November group which was uprooted seven years ago. She had been a key protected witness in the mass trial of the 17 November defendants in March 2003. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

6.16.09 Reformist supporters in new mass rally in Tehran

TEHRAN, June 16 - Top legislative body says ready for partial re-count. Supporters of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi staged a mass rally in Tehran on Tuesday as Iran's top legislative body ruled out annulling a disputed presidential poll but said it was prepared for a partial recount. Iran's English Language Press TV correspondent Homa Lezgi was quoted on its website saying the rally being held at Vanak Square had turned into a "massive" one but did not give any estimate of the size of the crowd. Earlier, state television showed massive crowds gathering at a rival rally called in support of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

However journalists had difficulty reaching the site of the demonstrations as Iran has banned journalists working for foreign media from covering "unauthorized" gatherings or those not organized with culture ministry permission. In what appeared to be the first concession by authorities to the protest movement, the 12-man Guardian Council said it was ready to re-count some votes and said the recount may lead to changes in candidates' tally, according to Press TV. "If the Guardians Council reaches the conclusion that such offences as buying votes or using fake identity cards have been committed... it will order a recount." council spokesman Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai told the official news agency IRNA.
[More>>alarabiya.net; See related story,

nytimes.com, June 16, "Social networks spread defiance online" : As the embattled government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be trying to limit Internet access and communications in Iran, new kinds of social media are challenging those traditional levers of state media control and allowing Iranians to find novel ways around the restrictions. Iranians are blogging, posting to Facebook and, most visibly, coordinating their protests on Twitter, the messaging service. Their activity has increased, not decreased, since the presidential election on Friday and ensuing attempts by the government to restrict or censor their online communications. On Twitter, reports and links to photos from a peaceful mass march through Tehran on Monday, along with accounts of street fighting and casualties around the country, have become the most popular topic on the service worldwide, according to Twitter's published statistics...

6.16.09 British Airways asks staff to work for free

June 16 - British Airways has asked its 40,000 staff to work without pay for up to a month as the ailing airline seeks to cut costs. The group, which made a record £401 million loss in 2008 amid surging fuel prices and a collapse in premium-fare passengers, is seeking to reduce costs dramatically and has already offered staff unpaid leave or a reduction in hours. Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive, has now gone a step further by asking staff to volunteer for between one and four weeks of unpaid work in what he says is a "fight for survival."

Mr. Walsh, who said last week that he would work for free in July, has set a deadline of June 24 for employees to volunteer for unpaid work. He said that the salary deductions would be spread over three to six months wherever possible...Last week it emerged that BA pays its cabin crew and pilots up to twice as much as rival airlines. The average salary for BA's 14,000 cabin crew, including bonuses and allowances, is £29,900, compared with £14,400 at Virgin Atlantic and £20,200 at easyJet. BA's pilots earn an average of £107,600, compared with £89,500 at Virgin and £71,400 at easyJet.
[Full story>>timesonline.co.uk; See also independent.co.uk, June 16, "Work for freee? No way, say BA unions." :

6.16.09 Afghan officials demand AJE report

June 16 - Afghan intelligence services holding two Al Jazeera producers have demanded a copy of a report the pair made two days before their detention. Al Jazeera was on Tuesday still awaiting information from the authorities about Qais Azimy and Hameedullah Shah, who were detained after being told to report to the country's intelligence headquarters in Kabul two days before.

Their detention follows the broadcast of a report produced by Azimy on Thursday June 11 in Kunduz province of Afghanistan, close to the border with Tajikistan. In one interview in the report, conducted by Azimy, a Taliban leader said he had hundreds of men under his control and 12 suicide bombers waiting to strike. David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the capital Kabul, who helped compile the report, said he was trying to find out more information about what was happening to his colleagues.

6.16.09 Microbes found miles beneath Greenland ice given new life

June 15 - Discovery raises hopes of lifeforms enduring harsh conditions on other planets. Tiny microbes that have been buried below nearly two miles of ice for at least 120,000 years have been revived in the laboratory, in a study that raises the prospect that similar life forms could have survived on other planets. Scientists have found at least two species of miniature bacteria, many times smaller than normal microbes, in an ice core bored deep beneath the surface of a Greenland glacier where they have been trapped for tens of thousands of years.

The researchers managed to isolate and grow the bacteria in the laboratory, where they have established thriving colonies of small, purple-brown microbes that are so small that they can pass straight through conventional medical filters used for sterilization. The microbes' ability to survive the harsh environment of a Greenland glacier for such a long period of time suggests that extraterrestrial life forms — if they exist — could survive in equally extreme environments on Mars or Europa, the ice-covered moon of Jupiter where extraterrestrial life is thought to be possible.

...The study has so far revived two kinds of bacteria, which have been formally named as Herminiimonas glaciei and Chryseobacterium greenlandensis. H. glaciei is about half the size of C. greenlandensis and can pass through the ultra-fine filters used to sterilize chemical solutions — although it is not harmful, Professor Loveland-Curtze said. Both bacteria were recovered from ice cores drilled from a depth of 3,042 metres (10,000 ft) below the surface of the glacier. The ice at this depth is at least 120,000 years old but it could be up to several million years old, Professor Loveland-Curtze said.
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

6.15.09 Top cleric calls for inquiry as protesters defy ban in Iran

TEHRAN, June 15 - Hundreds of thousands of people marched in silence through central Tehran on Monday to protest Iran's disputed presidential election in an extraordinary show of defiance that appeared to be the largest demonstration in Iran since the 1979 revolution. The march began hours after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for a inquiry into opposition claims that the election was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The ayatollah's call — announced every 15 minutes on Iranian state radio throughout the day — was the first sign that Iran's top leadership might be rethinking its position on the election. Mr. Khamenei announced Saturday that the election results showing a landslide victory for Mr. Ahmadinejad were fair, but on Sunday he met with Mir Hussein Moussavi, the former prime minister and moderate who was the main opposition candidate, to listen to his concerns. As evening fell, Iranian state television reported that shots had been fired at the rally, and an Associated Press photographer reported that one person had died. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.15.09 Nine foreign hostages killed in Yemen

SAN'A, Yemen (AFP) June 15 - Nine missing foreigners in Yemen have all turned up dead, said a Yemeni official Monday, apparently executed by their kidnappers in the impoverished nation in the Arabian peninsula. The nine foreigners, including seven German nationals, a Briton and a South Korean, disappeared last week while on a picnic in the restive northern Saada region of Yemen. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, announced the discovery of the remaining six bodies Monday after three others had been found mutilated earlier in the day. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

6.15.09 9 militants, security man die in Lower Dir clash

DIR, Pakistan, June 15 - Nine militants are reported killed in a clash in Tehsil Maidan of Lower Dir. According to sources, a security man has been killed and four others injured. Severe fighting erupted between security forces and militants in Tehsil Maidan of Lower Dir in which 9 militants are reported killed. Meanwhile, security forces are targeting militants hideouts in Tehsil Maidan where [a] search operation is also underway. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, June 15, "Six terrorists killed in Malakand, Bannu: ISPR"
: RAWALPINDI: Six terrorists were killed in Malakand and Bannu while 6 were injured during the last 24 hours. According to ISPR, security forces consolidated their positions and carried out search operation in Godhand Banda and Arkot area of Swat...(Continues with list of operations.)

alarabiya.net, June 15, "Taliban could move to India, Gulf: Pakistan FM" : Pakistan's foreign minister called for more international aid to combat extremists, saying that the Taliban could otherwise move into neighboring India and as far as the Gulf, as Pakistani forces killed dozens more suspected militants in tribal areas on Monday. "They (militants) have a global agenda, they have a regional agenda, they are not confined to Pakistan. They could go into the Gulf, they could go into India, they can go anywhere," Shah Mehmoud Qureshi said in an interview published Monday by the Financial Times...

6.15.09 Fears rise over homegrown jihadism

WASHINGTON (AP) June 15 - Recruiting station rampage sparks concerns about rise of radicals born and bred in US. Carlos Bledsoe's transformation from Tennessee youth to an American-born Islamic extremist charged in a bloody rampage outside an Arkansas military recruiting station may signal an ominous new wave of violent homegrown jihadists, counterterror officials say. National security officials have long feared the emergence of a new breed of American militants who would raise little suspicion as they move in and out of the country carrying out the aims of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.

"It's the manifestation of a problem that the counterterrorism community has been worried about all along," said CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate, a top counterterrorism official in the Bush administration. Their worries center on "a radicalized individual who decides to take matters into his own hands."

Abdulhakim Muhammad, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., converted to the Islamic faith, changed his name from Bledsoe, and traveled to Yemen in 2007. He was later arrested for overstaying his visa and deported back to the US, where he slid quietly into life in Little Rock, Ark., apparently unnoticed by US law enforcement. Muhammad was charged with killing Pvt. William Andrew Long, 23, of Conway, Ark., who had just completed basic training and was volunteering at the west Little Rock recruiting office before starting an assignment in South Korea.

6.15.09 US commander sees fewer foreign fighters in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) June 15 - Iraq has seen a significant fall in the number of foreign fighters arriving to battle US and local forces, and efforts by neighboring Syria are starting to bear fruit, US General Ray Odierno said on Monday. Foreign militants including members of Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda have been drawn to Iraq since the US military invaded in 2003. They have been blamed for some of the worst attacks on US troops and Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslim-led government.

"We have seen a significant decrease in the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq in the last eight to 10 months," Odierno, the commander of US forces in Iraq, told a news conference alongside the Iraqi defence and interior ministers. "For the most part it has just been a trickle ... We have seen some fighters coming through Syria, but Syria has been taking some action over the last few weeks, so hopefully that will continue," Odierno said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

6.14.09 Author of torture memos can be sued

SACRAMENTO, CA (AP) June 13 - A convicted terrorist can sue a former Bush administration lawyer for drafting the legal theories that led to his alleged torture, ruled a federal judge who said he was trying to balance a clash between war and the defense of personal freedoms. The order by US District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco is the first time a government lawyer has been held potentially liable for the abuse of detainees. White refused to dismiss Jose Padilla's lawsuit against former senior Justice Department official John Yoo on Friday. Yoo wrote memos on interrogation, detention and presidential powers for the department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003.

Padilla, 38, is serving a 17-year sentence on terror charges. He claims he was tortured while being held nearly four years as a suspected terrorist. White ruled Padilla may be able to prove that Yoo's memos "set in motion a series of events that resulted in the deprivation of Padilla's constitutional rights."

"Like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct," wrote White, a Bush appointee. Yoo did not return telephone and e-mail messages Saturday. White ruled that Yoo, now a University of California at Berkeley law professor, went beyond the normal role of an attorney when he helped write the Bush administration's detention and torture policies, then drafted legal opinions to justify those policies. Yoo's recently released 2001 memo advised that the military could use "any means necessary" to hold terror suspects.

6.14.09 Many in Congress hold stakes in health industry

WASHINGTON, June 14 - As President Obama and Congress intensify the push to overhaul health care in the coming week, the political and economic force of that industry is well represented in the financial holdings of many lawmakers and others with a say on the legislation, according to new disclosure forms. The personal financial reports, due late last week from members of Congress, show that many lawmakers hold investments in insurance, pharmaceutical and prescription-benefit companies and in hospital interests, all of which would be affected by the administration's overhaul of health care. The lawmakers’ stakes are impossible to quantify because the reports ask for ranges of value for each asset, and because many officials’ holdings are in stock index and mutual funds. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, for example, has interests in a stock index fund for the health care sector of more than $50,000 and up to $100,000. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.14.09 Yemen arrests suspected al-Qaeda financier

Sa'na, Yemen (AP) June 14 - Yemen has arrested a Saudi man suspected of financing al-Qaeda cells in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, an Interior Ministry official said Sunday. The official, who did not give an exact date of the arrest, said that authorities captured "the biggest and the most influential" money provider for al-Qaeda in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Hassan Hussein Bin Alwan, a Saudi, was in charge of financing attacks in the two neighboring countries, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press. The announcement indicated that al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are still actively attempting to destabilize the Saudi monarchy that holds a quarter of the world's proven oil reserves, as well as neighboring Yemen, the region's poorest nation. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

6.14.09 Foreigners 'kidnapped' in north Yemen

June 14 - Nine foreign nationals, mostly women and children, have been kidnapped by Shia rebels in a mountainous area of northern Yemen, officials have said. The group of seven Germans, including three children, a Briton and a Korean, had been on a picnic on Friday in Saada, Yemen's interior ministry said. State-run media said the foreigners, among them two nurses, had been working at Jumhuri hospital in the region.

The Huithi Zaidi rebel group denied any part in the kidnapping, AFP reported. A state-run Yemeni news agency cites an official source as saying the group also included two female German nurses, a German engineer and his wife, a British engineer and a Korean teacher. However, there has been no confirmation of the kidnapping from their native countries...More than 200 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Yemen in the last 15 years. Most have been released unharmed.
[Full story>>bbc.co.uk]

6.14.09 Pakistan tribal warlord vows to take on Baitllah Mehsud

LONDON, June 14 - A top Pakistani tribal leader has vowed to wipe out the feared warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who has pushed Pakistan close to collapse. 30-year-old Qari Zainuddin, the leader of Taliban tribesmen opposed to Baitullah, said he had mobilised 3,000 armed followers and will attempt to wipe out the Pakistani Taliban chief and drive his al-Qaeda supporters from the country. Baitullah, who has challenged the Pakistan Army in the lawless South Waziristan tribal area, is considered a global terrorist threat by Western intelligence agencies.

Zainuddin told The Sunday Telegraph that Baitullah had betrayed both his religion and his tribe. "To fight our own country is wrong. Islam doesn't give permission to fight against a Muslim country. This is where we differ (with Baitullah). What we're seeing these days, these bombings in mosques, in markets, in hospitals; these are not allowed in Islam. We don't agree with them," Zainuddin was quoted as saying by the British daily. The US has placed a USD 5 million bounty on his head, describing him as "key al-Qaeda facilitator." His grip over the Mehsud tribe's area of South Waziristan, which lies on the border with Afghanistan, and where key al-Qaeda commanders have been given sanctuary and support, has been almost absolute for the past three years. But the challenge from Zainuddin threatens to undermine him for the first time.

6.14.09 31 terrorists killed in army operation: ISPR

RAWALPINDI, June 14 - Thirty-one terrorists including few foreigners were killed in Malakand, Bannu and South Wazirastan Agency and 50 were injured during last 24 hours. One Security forces personnel embraced Shahadat while 4 were injured. According to ISPR, consolidation and search operation continues at Kabbal in Swat. One security forces personnel embraced Shahadat and three were injured in exchange of fire with terrorists in Kabbal. One security forces personnel was injured due to miscreants fire at Kalla Kalle. Consolidation and search operation is being carried out in Godhand Banda and Arkot Qila Consolidation of positions is being carried out at Chuprial and road Wainai Sijbant has been opened. Security forces consolidated positions at Ring contour and heights east of Chuprial. Huge cache of arms and ammunition has been recovered from tunnels. Cordon and search operation is being carried out at Loe Namal and Kuz Shaur. [More, with list of other operations>>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com, June 14, "Nine die in Pakistan market blast; US airstrike kills three" : ISLAMABAD - A bomb explosion in a north-western Pakistani town on Sunday left at least nine people dead, and a suspected US drone strike killed three in the adjoining tribal region near Afghanistan, officials said. The attacks came a day after President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to fight the Taliban insurgency “to the end” amid threats of revenge strikes by the militants...Police said a crude bomb detonated at a crowded market in the town of Dera Ismail Khan, killing nine people...

6.14.09 IAF bombs Gaza smuggling tunnels after Qassam hits Negev

June 14 - Israel Air Force warplanes bombed two weapons-smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip early Sunday, shortly after Palestinian militants in the Hamas-ruled territory fired a Qassam rocket into the Negev. An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said the air strike was launched in response to the rocket, which struck the western Negev on Saturday, ending a four-week lull in cross-border rocket attacks from Gaza. Palestinian medical officials said the four local workers sustained light injuries. No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for firing the rocket. [More>>haaretz.com]

6.13.09 North Korea vows to wage war in response to isolation attempts

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) June 13 - North Korea said Saturday it will respond with war to attempts by the United States and its allies to isolate the reclusive state, and that it will start enriching uranium and using plutonium for military purposes. The UN Security Council on Friday toughened old sanctions against North Korea and imposed new ones following Pyongyang's unauthorized nuclear test May 25. The fifteen Council members supported resolution 1874 which in particular expands the arms embargo and allows searches of the nation's ships on high seas, but does not authorize use of force.

Russia's envoy to the UN said after the Security Council session on Friday that Russia is satisfied with the decision and believes it is appropriate. "The adopted resolution is, on the one hand, an appropriate response to the violation by North Korea of Security Council decisions and, on the other, a balanced step showing an approach to preserving peace and security in the region," Vitaly Churkin said.
[>en.rian.ru; See more details,

xinhuanet.com, June 13, "DPRK opposes UN resolution, vows to pursue more nuclear weapons" : PYONGYANG - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said on Saturday it "opposed and denounced" United Nations' new resolution, vowing to produce more nuclear weapons. In response to the UN Resolution 1874, the DPRK will "weaponize all plutonium newly extracted," said a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry. The DPRK will also start enriching uranium, it added. The statement warned that "if [the] US and its followers attempted to blockade the DPRK," the DPRK will oppose it with "resolute military actions." The DPRK has reprocessed one third of the stockpile of the spent rods, the statement said. The DPRK decided to produce light-water reactor by its own force and has "successfully developed the uranium enrichment technology," it added, saying it has "pushed the uranium enrichment into the phase of experiment."...

koreaherald.co.kr, June 13, "North Korea to push ahead with uranium enrichment" : ...after its second nuclear test on May 25, said it has made "enough success" in developing uranium enrichment technology and is experimenting...South Korea believes the North has about 40 kilograms of plutonium, enough to produce at least six bombs. The North said Saturday it will "weaponize" all new plutonium it extracts, adding that "more than one third of the spent fuel rods has been reprocessed to date." Spent fuel rods are reprocessed to produce the plutonium needed to build nuclear bombs after undergoing irradiation in a reactor...

6.13.09 Ahmadinejad re-elected; protests flare

TEHRAN, June 13 - The Iranian government declared an outright election victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday morning, and riot police officers fought with supporters of the opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, who insisted that the election had been stolen. After a mostly quiet morning in Tehran, Moussavi supporters began filtering onto the streets. By early afternoon, thousands had come together, many of them wearing the trademark green of his campaign, chanting angrily that they would fight on as Mr. Moussavi had urged them to do on Friday night when he claimed that he had won and that there had been voting “irregularities.”

"I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin," Mr. Moussavi said during a news conference with reporters just after 11 p.m. Friday, adding: “It is our duty to defend people's votes. There is no turning back.” A statement posted on Mr. Moussavi's Web site on Saturday morning urged his supporters to resist a "governance of lie and dictatorship," according to The Associated Press. But the Iranian authorities, already on alert, moved quickly to head off any concerted street demonstrations. Thousands of police officers could be seen moving into central Tehran, wielding riot batons and charging straight into the biggest concentrations of protesters. It was unclear whether there were any serious injuries.
[More>>nytimes.com; See also

alarabiya.net, June 13, "Large scale unrest errupts following Iran election" : Large scale violence not seen for a decade erupted in Tehran Saturday and Iranian authorities have asked foreign journalists to leave the country as riot police beat reformist supporters protesting the disputed election results, killing three and wounding others. Three dissenting voters died amidst large scale clashes that broke out over election results between supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Iranian police chased and arrested demonstrators who staged a sit-in at Tehran's Vanak Square, one of the capital's busiest intersections...

6.13.09 Pakistani warplanes strike Taliban's Waziristan redoubt

(Reuters) June 13 - Pakistani warplanes struck a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud today, hours after President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to wage war against militancy "to the end." US officials, thankful that their nuclear-armed ally has gone on the offensive to stop the Taliban tide sweeping across the northwest, said they believed an operation had begun against Mehsud's forces in the South Waziristan, at the southeast extremity of the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. "We will continue this war to the end," Zardari said in a televised address to the nation broadcast in the early hours of this morning. [More>>independent.co.uk; See other details,

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) June 13, "Pakistan military says killed 41 militants in NW offensive" : ISLAMABAD - Pakistani troops killed 41 militants in their offensive against the Taliban in the northwest while jets bombed insurgent hideouts in response to two suicide attacks, the military said Saturday. "During last 24 hours, 41 terrorists were killed and two were apprehended in various areas of Malakand and Bannu (districts)," it said in a statement. One soldier was killed and seven others were wounded in the fighting, it said...

6.12.09 Interview: UN official sees promising prospect of Trans-Asian Railway Network

BANGKOK (Xinhua) June 12 - Chief of UN Asia-Pacific regional arm Dr. Noeleen Heyzer said Thursday the Intergovernmental Agreement on [the] Trans-Asian Railway Network, with China being an important party, will play a significant role in boosting intra-regional trade. "The agreement is a framework for coordinating the approach for railway development in [the] Asia-Pacific region. It links basically the hinterland of Asia to the coastal area of development," said the executive secretary of [the] United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in an interview with Xinhua at the ESCAP headquarters on Thursday, right after a ceremony marking the agreement coming into force.

Dr. Heyzer, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General, said that she thinks that currently it is extremely difficult for Asia to trade within itself, citing it lacks the infrastructure development as well as connectivity across borders to facilitate trade. "In fact, if you look at the exports, Asia is more integrated with the rest of the world than with itself. Only 37 percent of all the exports of Asia is done within the Asian region."

However, she said that this trans-Asian railway network, together with the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network which entered into force in July 2005, also under the auspices of ESCAP, is helping to increase the connectivity and intermodal transport, which in turn will allow the transfer of goods and services across border[s].

The mega-network, linking the landlocked countries, the least developed countries, with the more prosperous coastal areas, is "the tremendous way of connectivity that will increase transportation within Asia for trade as well as for shared prosperity," said Dr. Heyzer, adding that railway is also energy efficient, using only one half energy compared with road transportation.

The states that have ratified the agreement are Cambodia, China, India, Mongolia, South Korea, Russia, Tajikistan and Thailand. The agreement was opened for signature during the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Transport at Busan of South Korea in November 2006, almost half a century after the idea of a regional railway network was first raised in 1960s. It has now been signed by 22 countries.

6.12.09 UN Security Council adopts stiffer curbs on North Korea

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 - The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on Friday to tighten sanctions targeting North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs, including encouraging United Nations members to inspect cargo vessels and airplanes suspected of carrying weapons and other military materiel. China and Russia, key North Korean allies, were heavily involved in drafting the resolution during the nearly three weeks since North Korea's May 25 underground nuclear test, but they resisted making the inspections and some other measures mandatory, so it remains unclear what impact the sanctions will have.

Pyongyang has shown itself able to withstand the pressure of sanctions in the past. But in trying to cut off all financial transactions related to the military, as well as imposing a complete arms export ban and almost total import ban, the Council is hoping to push North Korea to return to talks about dismantling its nuclear and missile development programs. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.12.09 Suicide bombers strike Pakistan mosque, seminary

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) June 13 - Suicide bombers attacked a mosque and a religious school within minutes Friday in two Pakistani cities, leaving one of the country's most prominent anti-Taliban clerics dead in what authorities called a targeted killing. No one immediately claimed responsibility for either blast, but relatives of Sarfraz Naeemi said he had received death threats recently after condemning suicide attacks as un-Islamic and the Taliban as murderers.

Pakistan has been rocked by a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks in recent weeks blamed on militants taking revenge for a military operation against the Taliban in the Swat Valley region. More than 100 people have been killed since May 27, and places of worship have been targeted three times since last Friday. The government has vowed to rid the country of militants, and it has been emboldened by broad support for the Swat campaign from a public that has started openly denouncing the militants after years of ambivalence.

6.12.09 Iraqi teenager kills MP in mosque gun rampage

BAGHDAD, June 12 - Four others killed in attack on head of Iraq's Sunni bloc. A teenage gunman killed the head of the Iraqi parliament's biggest Sunni bloc on Friday, police and a party officials said, adding four others were killed in the grenade and gun attack in a mosque in Baghdad. Another 12 people were wounded and the gunman, who witnesses said appeared to be around 15 years old, was killed as he tried to flee the scene. The slain lawmaker was identified as Harith al-Obaidi, who was head of the Accordance Front and also a member of the parliament's human rights committee.

"A young man entered the mosque, shot down the MP and his bodyguard, and then threw a grenade that killed four people and wounded 12," an interior ministry official said. The attack occurred in the al-Shawaf mosque in al-Yarmuk, western Baghdad, after Friday prayers, which Obaidi was leading, on the Muslim holy day of the week. The motive for the killings was not immediately clear. In two other attacks, one in Baghdad and the other northeast of the capital, three people, including a teenage girl, were killed and 11 wounded, two days after Iraq's bloodiest attack since May 20.

6.12.09 Al-Qaeda fighters move into Horn of Africa, officials say

WASHINGTON, June 12 - Al-Qaeda operatives are leaving the battle zones along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and heading for Somalia and Yemen, where they have set up training camps, according to US intelligence officials. The officials believe that al-Qaeda may see the Horn of Africa as its new headquarters after dozens of attacks from US drones along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The officials could not be named because of the sensitive nature of the information. However, CIA Director Leon Panetta said the intelligence agency is keeping tabs the region as a possible destination for fleeing al-Qaeda operatives. "Our concern right now is that likely safe havens are areas in the Horn of Africa, like Somalia and Yemen, that are countries that because of their political status can be attractive to al-Qaeda in order to operate there," Panetta said Thursday. [More>>cnn.com]

6.11.09 W.H.O. raises alert level as flu spreads to 74 countries

GENEVA, June 11 - The World Health Organization raised its alert on swine flu to the highest level on Thursday, in its first designation of a global pandemic in 41 years. Calling further spread of the virus “inevitable,” the organization's director general, Margaret Chan, said, "We are at the earliest days of a global pandemic." The new H1N1 strain, she said, is "spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another" in more than one region of the world. But the pandemic is "moderate" in severity, she noted, with the overwhelming majority of patients experiencing only mild symptoms and a full recovery, often in the absence of any medical treatment. And scientists are painstakingly tracking its every movement. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.11.09 Foreclosures slow 6 percent in May

June 11 - But May Still Has the Third-Highest Number of Foreclosures on Record. The number of homes that received some type of foreclosure notice in May actually decreased 6 percent from April, a bit of good news for a battered housing market. But before anybody celebrates, the number of filings on 321,480 U.S. homes was still up 18 percent from the same time last year, according to RealtyTrac, an online company that tracks foreclosure properties. May also brought the third-highest monthly number of foreclosure filings in the company's record and the third month in a row when the number of homes receiving foreclosure notices exceeded 300,000. Nevada still has the highest foreclosure rates with one in every 64 homes receiving some notice of foreclosure in May. California came in second with one in every 144 homes receiving a foreclosure notice. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

6.11.09 Peres urges temporary-bordered Palestinian state

JERUSALEM, June 11 - US skeptical over Netanyahu's awaited speech. President Shimon Peres said on Thursday that Israel and the Palestinians should agree on a Palestinian state with temporary borders as a first step towards ending the Middle East conflict, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to outline his government's policies on the peace process at a speech on Sunday. "The roadmap outlines a clear path and (the sides) should implement the second stage of the roadmap declaring a Palestinian state with temporary borders," Peres' office quoted him as saying. Israel and the Palestinians should further make "a clear commitment that the borders will become permanent within a limited period," he said at a meeting with the European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. [More>>alarabiya.net]

Editorial note: There is presently a concrete "security fence" on the borders of the West Bank and Gaza territories, separating Palestinians from Israel. Also, there is the question of Jerusalem. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have consistently maintained that Jerusalem is the capital of their state and neither side has been willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem. The creation of a temporary-bordered Palestinian state seems to be a mute point.

Mel Copeland

6.11.09 Six arrested in suspected plot to attack G8 summit: Reports

ROME, June 11, At least six people have been arrested on suspicion of planning an attack on the Group of Eight summit next month in Italy, news reports said on Thursday. The six were arrested on Wednesday and accused of criminal association for purposes of terrorism and arms possession, one month ahead of the July 8-10 summit of leading industrialized nations, the ANSA news agency said. The probe began two years ago when the summit was set to be held at the Sardinian island of La Maddalena, the reports said. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

6.11.09 Suicide attack in Peshawar kills 3, injures 13 cops

PESHAWAR, June 11 - Three people were killed and 13 policemen injured in a suicide attack at Ring Road in Peshawar on Thursday. The blast also destroyed two police mobile vans, sources said. The injured are being taken to nearby hospitals as relief activities have gone underway at the site of the blast. According to details, two persons on a motor-cycle hurled a hand grenade at Ring Road and when police was stationed in the area a suicide bomber came up and blew himself up, killing three people and injuring 13 policemen. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has ordered inquiry into the attack. Forensic experts are gathering evidence from the wreckage which spread across the site of the incident. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) June 11, "Pakistan kills scores of Taliban in new combat zones" : BANNU - Pakistan unleashed helicopter gunships and artillery to kill scores of Taliban fighters, officials said on Thursday, after opening a second front against militants near their stronghold in the Waziristan tribal region...Standing at the gateway to Waziristan, Bannu is 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), where a suicide truck bomb attack on a luxury hotel killed at least nine people on Tuesday. A military statement said on Thursday that during the last 24 hours 66 militants had been killed in fighting mostly in Bannu and South Waziristan, but also Swat.

6.11.09 40 Taliban killed in Afghan operations: officials

HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) June 11 - Security forces killed more than 40 Taliban rebels in operations in western Afghanistan, officials said Thursday, as sweeps continued of militant hotspots ahead of August elections. Twenty-five Taliban were killed on Wednesday in the troubled northwestern Badghis province, on the border with Turkmenistan, in an operation that involved Afghan security forces and NATO troops, the military said. Another 10 were wounded, said Afghan army spokesman for the western region, Abdul Basir Ghori.

..In the southwestern province of Farah Wednesday, Afghan security forces killed 16 militants including a man who appeared to be an Arab commander, a deputy provincial governor said. The fighting was in Bala Buluk district, where US air strikes on militants struck compounds last month. Kabul says 140 civilians were killed then; the US military says 20-30 died. The Taliban proxy deputy governor for the province, named Mullah Nik Mohammad, was among the dead, Farah deputy governor Mohammad Younus Rasouli told AFP. Among the corpses was an Arab citizen who had apparently commanded the group of militants and was teaching them to carry out remote-controlled bombings and suicide attacks, he said.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

6.11.09 Many dead in Philippines fighting

June 11 - At least eight people have been killed in heavy fighting in the southern Philippines, the military has said. Two soldiers and six members of a group holding an Italian Red Cross hostage were said to be killed on Thursday. There was no immediate confirmation on the physical state of Eugenio Vagni, the 62-year-old Italian who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf group nearly five months ago. A marine combat patrol came upon about 150 heavily armed Abu Sayyaf fighters near the town of Indanan on southern Jolo island at dawn, the military said. "A fierce firefight ensued and is still ongoing," Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo , a navy spokesman, told AFP news agency. He said the Abu Sayyaf unit was led by Albader Parad and Abu Pula, two senior commanders of the group thought to be holding Vagni. [More>>aljazeera.net]

6.11.09 China protests moving of detainees

BEIJING, June 11 - The Chinese government protested Thursday over the decision by the American government to resettle a group of Chinese Muslims to the isolated archipelago of Palau. The Uighur men, former detainees at Guantánamo Bay, have been in a state of limbo since they were cleared of wrongdoing last fall. In a news conference in Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, called the detainees "terrorist suspects" and demanded they be sent back to China as soon as possible. He said that the United States was ignoring international laws on terrorism in not doing so. Shortly afterward, the United States announced that it had sent four Chinese Muslims who had also been detained at Guantánamo to the island of Bermuda.

But hours after the detainees arrived on the island on Thursday, there was already the first sign that their peaceful resettlement would not be without hitches. Bermuda is a British overseas territory, but its premier, Ewart F. Brown, did not mention to the British government that was planning to accept the detainees. The result was a terse British statement, as well as a pledge that the Foreign Office would help Bermuda "carry out a security assessment of the men."

6.10.09 Fiat completes takeover of Chrysler

June 10 - With the touch of pen to paper and a simple wire transfer, Chrysler completed its alliance with Fiat on Wednesday morning, largely ending its quick trip through bankruptcy. The reorganization was completed in 42 days. The last obstacle to an exit — a temporary stay imposed by the Supreme Court — was lifted late Tuesday, after the nine justices declined to hear a challenge of the deal by three Indiana state funds and several consumer groups. The wire transfer, from the federal government, gives Chrysler $6.6 billion in exit financing.

A two-page order from the Supreme Court made it clear that it was not ruling on the merits of the Indiana funds’ case. But the justices wrote that the funds, which represent teachers and police officers, “have not carried the burden” of proving that the Supreme Court needed to intervene. After more than a month of sometimes dramatic court hearings, Chrysler sold the bulk of its assets to Fiat in almost anticlimactic fashion: in the offices of the Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, the law firm that is advising the Treasury Department's auto task force. The sale was completed at about 9am.

6.10.09 Administration takes aim at executive pay

WASHINGTON (AP) June 10 - The Obama administration will give a new Treasury official power to reject executive pay packages at firms that receive government assistance and wants legislation that would seek to tame compensation across the corporate world, an administration official said Wednesday. President Barack Obama will ask Congress to give shareholders a nonbinding voice on executive pay in an effort to link compensation to long-term performance rather than short-term gains, the official said. The president also will seek legislation that requires corporate compensation committees to be independent from corporate management. The move would give the Securities and Exchange Commission authority to strengthen the independence of the corporate panels that set executive pay. [More>>cbsnews.com]

6.10.09 Air France passengers 'had terror links'

June 10 - Two passengers have same names as terrorists, trying to establish dates of birth, family, French security services say link "highly significant." Two passengers with names linked to Islamic terrorism were on board the Air France flight that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 on board, it has emerged. French secret servicemen established the connection while working through the list of those who boarded the doomed Airbus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 31. Agents are now trying to establish dates of birth for the two dead passengers, and family connections, Fox News reports. There is a possibility that the name similarities are simply a "macabre coincidence," the source added, but the revelation is still being "taken very seriously." [More>>news.com.au; Source story>>news.sky.com]

6.10.09 Car bomb rips through south Iraq market, 33 killed

BAGHDAD (Reuteres) June 10 - A car bomb ripped through a crowded market in southern Iraq on Wednesday, killing at least 33 people and prompting angry protests by residents about the failure to protect them, officials and witnesses said. Police swiftly locked down Al-Bathaa, a Shi'ite Muslim town 30 km (20 miles) west of Nassariya that has seen little violence, while hospital officials appealed for help from neighboring cities to cope with the wounded. Colonel Aziz al-Atabi, media director for the Iraqi army's 10th division, said 33 people were killed and 70 wounded. The governor of Nassariya blamed the attack on al-Qaeda. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

6.10.09 23 extremists killed in last 24 hours: ISPR

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, June 10 - At least 23 extremists have been killed killed in various areas of Malakand and Dir, during the last 24 hours of Operation Rah-e-Raast, Geo News reported Wednesday. While Wali Ullah, aterrorist commander handed over himself to Army, 2 soldiers embraced Shahadat and 12 soldiers were injured including 2 officers. According to ISPR press release, Jani Khel is the staging area of all militants operating in D.I Khan, Bannu, Kohat and Peshawar. Reportedly 600-800 terrorists reached Jani Khel from Miran Shah and Razmak. They were planning to strike at different places in NWFP. Security forces engaged suspected terrorists locations at Jani Khel with heavy fire. Clearance operation in area Zaidi Akbar Khan is in progress.[More, with a detailed list of operations>>thenews.com.pk]

6.09.09 N. Korea threatens nuclear offensive

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) June 9 - North Korea said Tuesday it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked - its latest rhetoric apparently aimed at deterring any international punishment for its recent atomic test blast. The tensions emanating from Pyongyang are beginning to hit nascent business ties with the South: a Seoul-based fur manufacturer became the first South Korean company to announce Monday it was pulling out of an industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong. The complex, which opened in 2004, is a key symbol of rapprochement between the two Koreas but the goodwill is evaporating quickly in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test on May 25 and subsequent missile tests. Pyongyang raised tensions a notch by reviving its rhetoric in a commentary in the state-run Minju Joson newspaper Tuesday. [More>>jpost.com; See more details,

khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) June 9, "Reporters' families seek mercy, N. Korea makes threats" : SEOUL - Relatives of two US journalists sentenced to 12 years hard labour in North Korea called on the reclusive state to show compassion, while Pyongyang threatened to use nuclear weapons if outside countries invade...The hermit North maintains a network of prisons where inmates are overworked and underfed and brutality is the norm, human rights groups and defectors have said. In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the journalists' fate should not be linked to the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear programme..A major North Korean newspaper said the country maintains a nuclear deterrent to maintain peace in the region while warning: "it will be a means of merciless offensive of just retaliatory attack to those who damage our pride and sovereignty." ...China, the North's biggest benefactor, is wary of moves that might push its fragile neighbor into collapse fearing this could destabilise the region and cause a flood of refugees.

cnn.com, June 9, "Life inside a North Korean prison" : American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea. What kind of conditions would they face in a North Korean prison? Not much is known about them. But through the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, we have satellite maps showing the layout of one prison. T. Kumar is the advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International and he has studied the prison conditions in North Korea. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN's "American Morning" Tuesday.

John Roberts: If they were sent to one of these prisons, what kind of conditions would they encounter based on the studies you've done?

T. Kumar: We have to divide the situation into two categories. First is about the living conditions. The living conditions are extremely harsh. It's overcrowded, very little food and very little, if any, medical attention. Then every day they have to work for more than ten hours. Very hard labor starting from breaking stones to working in the mines. And very little food again during the day.

Roberts: Very high rates of death in detention among these prisoners?

Kumar: Yes. It's a combination of facts why the deaths are occurring. Number one, it's hard and forced labor. Second, it's lack of food. And unhygienic environment…There is no medical attention at all in many cases. So combined of all of these issues, [there is a] very large number of people who die in these [prisons]...

6.09.09 Treasury lets 10 big banks start to repay bailout money

June 9 - The Treasury Department cleared the way for 10 big banks on Tuesday to start repaying billions of dollars in taxpayer aid, a crucial step in easing the government's grip after an unprecedented series of interventions. JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs were among the banks deemed strong enough by federal regulators to leave the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, after months of lobbying and strong performances on recent stress tests.

The 10 banks are expected to return about $68.3 billion to the Treasury Department, more than double the administration's initial estimate of about $25 billion in funds to be returned this year. The Treasury did not identify the banks, allowing them to come forward individually. They include American Express, Bank of New York Mellon, the BB&T Corporation, Capital One Financial, the State Street Corporation and US Bancorp. Along with JPMorgan and Goldman, they all passed the stress test and applied to return their TARP funds. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.09.09 Pakistan renews announcement of bounty on Fazlullah's head

ISLAMABAD, June 9 - Pakistan on Tuesday renewed the announcement of a bounty of Rs 50 million on the head of Maulana Fazlullah, Taliban commander in the restive Swat valley as troops were reported to be closing in on his hideouts. The government issued an advertisement in the country's leading newspapers that it would pay Rs 50 million for information that would help authorities capture Fazlullah "dead or alive." Along with Fazlullah, rewards up to 10 million were offered for 20 of his deputies, including his spokesman Muslim Khan.

The bounties on the Taliban leaders came as unconfirmed reports said that Khan was injured and two sons of commander Sirajuddin were killed when a militant hideout in Kabal area was shelled on Monday. Fazlullah, military officials said, was targeted thrice during the ongoing military offensive in Swat but he managed to escape. Military officials in Swat were quoted by Dawn News channel as saying that troops had demolished Fazlullah's headquarters at Imamdheri with explosives. The sprawling headquarters had served as the Taliban's "supreme court and prison." It was also a key base for the collection of funds by the militants.
[>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, June 9, "Forces kill 27 extremists in last 24 hours" : RAWALPINDI - At least 27 extremists have been killed and 22 others apprehended in various areas of Malakand during the last 24 hours of Swat Operation, Geo News reported Tuesday...during search and destroy operation in [the] area around Peochar Valley, 14 terrorists were killed and 22 were apprehended, while 6 soldiers were injured. A tunnel, cache of arms and ammunitions and explosive were also recovered...In Upper Dir area, lashkars secured four villages and killed 13 terrorists. Presently Lashkar is surrounding village Shatkas and Ghazigae to flush out terrorists from the area...

cnn.com, June 9, "Explosion rips through Pakistan hotel" : ISLAMABAD - A bomb exploded at a major hotel Tuesday in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing at least five people, the city's district coordination officer said. At least 25 others were wounded in the suspected attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel, according to Sahib Zada Muhammad Anis Khan...The hotel is owned by the same group as the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which was destroyed last year in an attack.

6.09.09 At least 3 killed, 39 wounded in east Afghan blast

KABUL, Afghanistan (RIA Novosti) June 9 - At least three people were killed and another 39, most of them civilians, wounded in an explosion in east Afghanistan early on Tuesday, a local police chief said. The blast occurred in Asadabad, the capital of the Kunar province, after a vehicle in an ISAF troop convoy crashed into a building when its tire burst, Gen. Abdul Jalal Jalal said. Witnesses said the explosion occurred when a foreign soldier threw a grenade into a crowd. The International Security Assistance Force has denied the reports, saying that the grenade was thrown by a militant.

The ISAF said three soldiers were among those wounded in the blast. According to the Tolo TV channel, two people died and another 52 were injured during the incident. Most of the victims are in a critical state. In the past 24 hours, over 80 Taliban militants have died in clashes with coalition troops in Afghanistan, local security agencies said. Afghanistan's Defense Ministry said one soldier died and another 15 were injured in the past two days.

6.09.09 Malaysia to deport foreign prisoners

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) June 9 - Malaysia plans to deport foreign prisoners and allow them to serve out the rest of their sentences in their home countries to cut costs and overcrowding in local jails, reports said today. Proposed legal amendments will allow a prisoner-transfer agreement with other countries to ease congestion in Malaysia's 30 prisons, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said. "As of May, 41 percent or 15,279 of the 37,242 inmates serving time in our jails are foreigners,"' the minister told the New Straits Times newspaper. [More>>news.com.au]

6.08.09 N. Korea sentences 2 US journalists to 12 years of hard labor

WASHINGTON, June 8 - The United States government and Western rights groups protested Monday after North Korea's highest court sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor, a move that introduced another complicating factor into Washington's stand-off with North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests and its broader nuclear ambitions. The two journalists — Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36 — were detained by North Korean soldiers at the Chinese border on March 17 and charged with illegally entering North Korean territory and “hostile acts,” but not with the more serious charge of espionage as some had feared. The North's official news agency, KCNA, announced the conviction and sentence in a report monitored in Seoul.

Lisa Ling, Laura Ling's sister, told ABC television the two were working on a story about the trafficking of North Korean women into China, but other reports said they were reporting on North Korean refugees who had fled their country. President Obama was "deeply concerned" by reports of the journalists’ sentencing, the White House said in a statement Monday. The United States is "engaged through all possible channels to secure their release," the statement said.

The human rights group Amnesty International sharply criticized the legal procedures behind the women's sentence and called for their immediate release. "No access to lawyers, no due process, no transparency: the North Korean judicial and penal systems are more instruments of suppression than of justice," said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific deputy director.

6.08.09 Anti-Islam advocate wins European seat

LONDON (aFP) June 8 - Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party, has won a seat in the European Parliament. Mr. Griffin, standing in the Northwest of England region, was the second candidate of the anti-immigration party to be elected. Hours earlier, Andrew Brons won the party's first European seat in the nearby Yorkshire and the Humber region. Both seats were at the expense of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party, which suffered a devastating result across the country.

Mr. Griffin had earlier hailed Mr. Brons' win
with almost 10 per cent of the vote as "a huge breakthrough" for his party, and used the victory to reiterate his party's anti-immigration and anti-Islam stance. He denied his party was racist, but said: "We do say this country is full up. The key thing is to shut the door." Mr. Griffin told Sky News television: "This is a Christian country and Islam is not welcome, because Islam and Christianity, Islam and democracy, Islam and women's rights do not mix. That's a simple fact that the elites of Europe are going to have to get their heads round and deal with over the next few years." [More>>news.com.au]

6.08.09 Saudi police want cameras to catch immorality

DUBAI, June 8 - MPs slam suggestion as an invasion of privacy. Saudi Arabia's religious police caused a stir this week after they told a parliament session they planned to install cameras in shopping malls to monitor and catch people committing what they labeled as "indecent behavior." Members of Saudi's Shura Council, or Consultative Assembly, urged the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, or religious police, to reconsider its decision, which they slammed as an invasion of privacy...The committee has field officers all over the kingdom and their job is to make sure that unrelated men and women do not mingle and that stores close during prayer times. They also cooperate with the police to combat the use of alcohol and drugs. [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

6.08.09 Lashkar tightening noose around extremists

UPPER DIR, Pakistan, June 8 - The lashkar comprising the local tribesmen narrowed the noose around the extremists in Upper Dir and took control of the Shotkas, sources said Monday. There are reports that at least 13 extremists have been killed in gunship helicopters bombardment at the hideouts in Doogdarra. According to sources, the lashkar comprising thousand of volunteers from the local tribes have taken in their cordon the 300 extremists. The lashkar sealed the roads linking Swat to Upper Dir and now making advance towards other areas. The number of extremists killed in the area rose to 29. The locals rose in protest against the militants on the suicide attack at the Jamia Mosque in Upper Dir area of Hayagai Sharqi. Both the sides are employing modern and heavy weapons. [>thenews.com.pk; See other details,

khaleejtimes.com, June 8, "Angry Pakistani villagers fight, surround Taliban" : ISLAMABAD - Pakistani villagers enraged with the Taleban after the bombing of a mosque battled the militants on Monday, underscoring a shift in public opinion away from the hardline Islamists. The military has been fighting the Taleban in the Swat valley, northwest of the capital, for more than a month after the militants took advantage of a peace pact to conquer new areas. In retaliation for the offensive, the Taleban have stepped up bomb attacks and are suspected of being behind a suicide blast at a mosque in the Upper Dir region, near Swat, that killed about 40 people on Friday.

Outraged by the attack, villagers formed a militia, known as a lashkar, of about 500 men and began fighting the militants on Saturday in an bid to force them out of their area. A top government official in Upper Dir, Atif-ur-Rehman, said the militia fighters had pushed the Taleban out of three villages and surrounded them in another two...

6.08.09 Hizbullah: Our weapons are off limits

June 8 - After losing to the Western-backed coalition in the Lebanese elections, Hizbullah on Monday warned that its weapons arsenal was not up for debate. "The majority must commit not to question our role as a resistance party, the legitimacy of our weapons arsenal and the fact that Israel is an enemy state," senior Hizbullah member Mohamed Ra'ad told AFP. The Western-backed coalition defeated Hizbullah and its allies, according to official results Monday, dealing a stunning setback to the Iranian-backed group, and setting the stage for renewed political deadlock in the volatile nation. The winners celebrated in the streets, setting off fireworks and driving around in motorcades honking hours before the official results were even announced. [More>>jpost.com]

6.08.09 Deadly Baghdad blast strikes bus

June 8 - A bomb explosion on a minibus has killed seven people and wounded dozens more at a bus terminal in southern Baghdad, Iraqi officials say. The attack took place on Monday in a majority Shia neighbourhood of Dora. Dora, a mixed district, has been one of the Iraqi capital's most dangerous areas. "Seven people were killed and 24 wounded after an IED (improvised explosive device) was attached to the bus," an interior ministry official said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. In a separate development, Iraqi police arrested five US contractors in connection with the murder of a colleague, officials said on Sunday. [More>>aljazeera.net]

6.08.09 11 killed in brutal Narathiwat mosque massacre

BANGKOK, Thailand, June 8 - Insurgents open fire on Thai Muslims who were praying in a mosque in Narathiwat on Monday, killing 11 and injuring many others. It was unclear how many gunmen were involved in the bloodiest incident in the volatile region in months. Police initially said that a group of about five heavily-armed men broke into Al Pukon Mosque in Joh I Rong district through the back door and sprayed the bullets on about 50 people inside the mosque. Police said ten of them, including an Imam, died instantly at the scene. About 12 others were injured. However, later reports said only two gunmen carried out the attack.

The fatal attack on praying Thai-Muslims was the first of its kind and would deal a major blow on the Abhisit government's efforts to bring peace back to the deep South. Latest reports also said one of those injured has died, bringing the death toll to 11.  A manhunt has been launched for the attackers. The mosque and surrounding areas have also been sealed off, TV reports said. "They opened fire indiscriminately at about 50 worshippers inside the mosque," a police official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the dead included the local imam or prayer leader.

6.07.09 Missing $165m: Madoff cleaned London out just before his arrest

LONDON, June 7 - Bernie Madoff, the $60bn fraudster, ordered his London office to sell its $165m portfolio of UK gilts only a month before he confessed to the FBI that his business was a "big lie." The London directors followed his instructions, transferring the sale proceeds to Madoff's New York office. However, it is still not clear where this money went to. The Independent on Sunday has established that in the middle of November last year Madoff phoned Chris Dale, the finance director of Madoff Securities International (MSI), the London affiliate, and told him to sell the entire gilts portfolio. Madoff then instructed Mr. Dale to transfer the money to his New York business, whereupon he would buy US treasuries on London's behalf.

In the telephone call, Mr. Dale was told by Madoff that he wanted to make the switch due to worries about the return on gilts because of sterling's fall against the dollar. "He was worried about the British economy and said he preferred his investments in US treasuries," said a source. "This seemed perfectly realistic at the time because of the banking crisis and the pound's weakness." Madoff's London office, headed by City veteran Stephen Raven, was a proprietary trading business capitalised by the Madoff family money to the tune of $200m (£125m). After the $165 million was transferred, London was left with assets of around $40m. These assets are still frozen by the UK courts, and may become subject to legal claims by investors in the US who have lost millions in the scam.

Madoff Securities directors carried out Madoff's instructions to sell the gilts, taking the certificates out of their bank vault in its Berkeley Street office and selling the bonds through their usual channels. As a member of the London Stock Exchange, MSI regularly cleared through Barclays Capital and the London Clearing House. A few days later, the London Madoff executives received the contract notes and settlement statement confirming the purchase of $165m of US treasuries from its counterpart, Madoff's New York office, BLMIS. However, a few days after the firm's collapse, Lee Richards, the senior partner of Richards, Kibbe & Orbe, the US liquidator appointed to investigate Madoff, informed the London office that the contract notes and settlement statement for the US treasuries were bogus. It appeared that no US treasuries had been bought.

6.07.09 Peru protest violence kills 22 police

BAGUA, Peru (AP) June 7 - Curfew announced after clashes sparked by operation to break up roadblock by Amazon Indians opposed to land exploitation. Peru is struggling to contain the country's worst political violence in years after nine more police officers were killed yesterday in a bloody standoff with Amazon Indians opposed to government efforts to exploit oil, gas and other resources on their lands. The deaths brought to 22 the number of police killed since security forces moved on Friday to break up a roadblock manned by 5,000 protesters. Protest leaders said at least 30 Indians, including three children, died in the clashes. Authorities said they could confirm nine civilian deaths. The cabinet chief, Yehude Simon, said 155 people had been injured, about a third of them from bullet wounds. He announced a 3pm to 6am curfew, taking effect immediately. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

6.07.09 Shootout kills 16 in Mexican resort

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) June 7 - Soldiers fought for two hours with armed men apparently holding police hostage at a house in Acapulco, leaving one soldier and 15 gunmen dead, a military official said Sunday. Three soldiers and three Mexican bystanders were wounded. Several Mexican tourists were evacuated from small hotels in the old Acapulco neighborhood, which was once popular with Hollywood stars but has since become run-down. The gunbattle erupted Saturday night when soldiers received a tip about the presence of armed men at a gated house, said an army colonel who led the operation and spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. The gunmen opened fire and hurled some 50 grenades at soldiers who arrived at the house, according to the colonel, who wore a ski mask as he led reporters through the scene. Several gunmen tried to flee, but crashed their car into a Humvee blocking the gate. At one point during the fighting, armed men with grenades arrived in a car to reinforce the gunmen in the house, but they died in the shooting, the colonel said. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.07.09 Pakistani villagers rise up against Taleban, kill 13

ISLAMABAD (DPA) June 7 - Hundreds of people have risen up against Taleban fighters in a district in Pakistan's north-western region, killing several as troops continued operations against the militants elsewhere in the region, officials and media reports said on Sunday. The armed locals turned on Taleban fighters in Hayagai, a remote village in Upper Dir district after a suicide bombing at a mosque in the area on Friday killed at least 49 people, minutes before the start of early afternoon prayers. The militias from Hayagai had stormed six nearby Taleban-held villages to avenge the mosque attack, Urdu-language Geo television news channel reported. Thirteen militants, including some "foreigners," were killed in the raids, according to the report that cited unnamed sources. The term "foreigners" is used locally for Arab and Central Asian militants linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]


09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
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