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06.30.10 Nigerians angry at oil pollution double standards

NIGER DELTA, Nigeria, June 30 - Nigeria's Niger Delta is one of the most oil-polluted places on the planet with more than 6,800 recorded oil spills, accounting for anywhere from 9 million to 13 million barrels of oil spilled, according to activist groups. But occurring over the 50 years since oil production began in the Delta, this environmental disaster has never received the attention that is now being paid to the oil-spill catastrophe hitting the US Gulf coast. "The whole world is trembling and even the president of America had to do a personal visit to the site. The US will have put serious measures in place to stop such situations happening in the future," said Ken Tebe — a local environmental activist who is visibly shaken by what he regards as a double standard. "It's funny because we've been dealing with this problem for 50 years. I even heard BP will pay $20 billion in damages (for the US spill). When will such hope come to the Niger Delta?" Tebe asked. The US imports about eight percent of its oil from Nigeria. That is nearly half of Nigeria's daily oil production and makes Nigeria the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the United States. [More>>cnn.com]

06.30.10 UK backing loans for 'risky' offshore on drilling in Brazil

June 30 - Documents show the UK government ignored risks in subsidizing oil extraction from nearly 2,000m deep in Atlantic waters. The British government is subsidizing one of the world's largest and riskiest oil-drilling projects in the Atlantic Ocean and would be liable for tens of millions of pounds if a major accident took place. Documents seen by the Guardian show that UK trade ministers underwrote loans taken out by the Brazilian state-run energy company Petrobras in 2005 in order that Rolls Royce and other companies could contribute to the building of the giant P-52 platform. The platform is now operating 125km off the coast of Brazil in 1,798 metres (5,900 feet) of water — deeper than BP's Deepwater rig that exploded in April and led to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the 14-page environment report prepared by the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) and obtained under freedom of information rules by watchdog group Corner House, makes no mention of blowouts or the equipment needed to prevent them. Ministers have edited out all ECDG's comments assessing the risks involved in deep-sea drilling in the Atlantic. The oil and gas reservoirs of the Campos basin are considered some of the most hazardous in the world to access, pushing offshore technology to the limit. The P-52 rig replaced one that exploded and sank due to human error in 2001, killing 11 people. Environmental groups today accused the government of forcing British taxpayers to underwrite a project that could lead to a disaster similar to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

06.30.10 Afghan militants fail in attack on NATO air base

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 30 - Eight Taliban insurgents were killed on Wednesday after they attacked the NATO air base in Jalalabad using a suicide car bomb and rocket-propelled grenades in a failed attempt to breach the gate. The attack, which was similar to one carried out at Bagram Air Base in May, began at 7:30am when a suicide bomber driving a car detonated his explosives at the eastern gate of the base. The explosion, which was heard by people in the area, was followed by militants launching grenades and firing other weapons. The attack appeared to be designed to generate publicity and remind people of the Taliban presence in the area. Although the insurgents did not enter the main air base, which is set back substantially from the main road, the firefight disrupted traffic for several hours on the road, the main route to the Pakistan border crossing at Torkham. [More>>nytimes.com; See also

independent.co.uk, June 30, "Militants killed after Afghan airport bombing"
: ...Elsewhere in the east, US and Afghan forces battled hundreds of militants from an al-Qaeda-linked group for a third day yesterday in Kunar province, the US military said. Two US soldiers were killed on Sunday in the first day of the operation. The attack in Kunar was directed against insurgents believed responsible for the roadside bombing that killed five American service members in the area on June 7, a US statement said. The militants were believed to be members of the Haqqani group, a faction of the Taliban based in Pakistan that has close ties to al-Qaeda. About 600 US and Afghan troops are taking part in the operation, the US statement said. On Tuesday in Kabul, an Afghan man working for the United Nations was shot and killed in his vehicle near a busy traffic island. He was driving a pick-up truck with the blue UN logo painted on the side. Another Afghan member of the UN staff, who was in the vehicle, was not wounded, the UN said. [end]

06.30.10 Iraq militants kill eight in attacks on police

(AFP) June 30 - Insurgents killed a police commander, his wife and a companion in western Iraq on Wednesday before claiming the lives of three policemen in a suicide bombing, and two more police died in a shooting in Baghdad, security officials said. Two gunmen attacked Major Salam Khalifa, a police commander from the Al-Anbar provincial capital Ramadi, as he was walking with his wife and friend in the centre of the nearby Euphrates Valley town of Hit, police said. One of the gunmen escaped but the second was wounded and captured. As police were taking him to hospital in a police vehicle, he detonated an explosives vest killing three police and wounding five other people, some of them civilian bystanders, police said. It was the second straight day that insurgents had struck in Hit. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed the vice chancellor of Ramadi's Islamic University, Ahmed Jumaa, and wounded two other people. [More>>france24.com]

06.30.10 Death penalty for Iran jail abuse

June 30 - An Iranian military court has sentenced two men to death in connection with the killings of three anti-government protesters, the state news agency said. Prosecutors said the three died after a series of beatings in Iran's Kahrizak jail, where they were held for taking part in last year's election protests. Nine other officials were sentenced to jail and lashes over the deaths, Irna said quoting a court statement. Kahrizak jail was shut in July over concerns about the abuse of inmates. The officials charged in the Kahrizak case — whose names have not been released — were among 12 people facing prosecution over the inmates' deaths. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

06.30.10 Blast rips through Chechen capital

June 30 - A powerful explosion has hit the capital of Chechnya in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, reportedly killing at least one person and injuring up to 10 others. A local enforcement source told the Itar-Tass news agency that one person had died in the blast, which occurred near a concert hall in Grozny on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for local investigators said that five soldiers were wounded, but said it was not clear if there were any dead. Officials have not yet commented on the explosion, but Russian news agencies have reported that a suicide bomber detonated their explosives after approaching police on duty. Chechnya has been the site of two brutal wars following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of people died in the conflicts between separatists and Russian forces, which has now deteriorated into small-scale skirmishes and hit-and-run attacks on police and government officials. Violence has spread from Chechnya to the neighboring regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia. [>aljazeera.net]

06.30.10 Palestinian unity is an Islamic duty: Al-Azhar

CAIRO, June 30 - Top cleric brands whoever stands in the way a "sinner." The head of Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar institution said on Wednesday resolving the rift between the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah was an Islamic duty and branded whoever blocked it a "sinner." "Palestinian reconciliation is a religious obligation and a sacred duty. Whoever blocks or delays it has sinned," Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb said in a statement published by the official MENA news agency. Tayeb, who became Egypt's leading cleric in March after the death of his predecessor at Al-Azhar, also called on Palestinians, "regardless of their affiliations, to rise above their differences." The Palestinians have been divided since the Islamist Hamas movement routed forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas from the Gaza Strip in 2007, limiting his powerbase to the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Egypt tried unsuccessfully to mediate between Fatah and Hamas, blaming Hamas, which refused to sign a unity agreement, for the failure of the talks. The head of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious centre of religious learning, is appointed by the government. [>alarabiya.net]

06.29.10 Gen. Petraeus faces confirmation to lead Afghan war

June 29 - Gen. David Petraeus has indicated to a Senate committee that the security situation in Afghanistan is "tenuous." He is before the Senate Armed Services Committee after being nominated by President Obama to lead the war. Gen. Petraeus said he supports the president's plan to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, but emphasized it is the "beginning of a process." He also said he would assess the rules of engagement which have come under intense criticism in recent days. "My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months," he said. In written answers to the committee, he said insurgents were "resilient and still-confident." [More>>bbc.co.uk]

06.29.10 Qaeda figure is reported killed in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 29 - Eight militants, including a commander in al-Qaeda, were killed Tuesday in what residents and a Pakistani security official said was a United States drone strike in the South Waziristan tribal area near this country's Afghan border. Eight militants, including a commander in al-Qaeda, were killed Tuesday in what residents and a Pakistani security official said was a United States drone strike in the South Waziristan tribal area near this country's Afghan border. The United States has ramped up its campaign of drone attacks against suspected militants in the border areas of Pakistan, but most have been concentrated in North Waziristan, an area that western officials consider the single most important refuge for militants with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Tuesday's attack was the first in weeks in South Waziristan, a former haven that Pakistan invaded last October. The drone was believed to have fired two missiles at a compound in a village near Wana, the regional capital. The al-Qaeda commander, Hamza al-Jufi, had lived in Wana for many years. Most of the other militants killed in the strike lived nearby, though two came from another province, Punjab, said a fighter in the area who visited the site after the attack.

The fighter said that the eight bodies were mutilated beyond recognition but that no one else was wounded in the strike, which leveled the compound in the village, Ghwakhwai. According to some accounts Mr. Jufi was leading a group called Jundullah, which Pakistani security officials said was involved in sectarian violence around the port city of Karachi. The United States has ramped up its campaign of drone attacks against suspected militants in the border areas of Pakistan, but most have been concentrated in North Waziristan, an area that western officials consider the single most important refuge for militants with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Tuesday's attack was the first in weeks in South Waziristan, a former haven that Pakistan invaded last October.

The drone was believed to have fired two missiles at a compound in a village near Wana, the regional capital. The al-Qaeda commander, Hamza al-Jufi, had lived in Wana for many years. Most of the other militants killed in the strike lived nearby, though two came from another province, Punjab, said a fighter in the area who visited the site after the attack. The fighter said that the eight bodies were mutilated beyond recognition but that no one else was wounded in the strike, which leveled the compound in the village, Ghwakhwai. According to some accounts Mr. Jufi was leading a group called Jundullah, which Pakistani security officials said was involved in sectarian violence around the port city of Karachi.
[>nytimes.com; See also,

arabtimesonline.com, June 29, "US drone strike kills six militants in Pakistan"
: PESHAWAR, Pakistan, June 29, 2010 (AFP) - A US drone fired two missiles into a compound used by Islamist fighters in Pakistan's tribal belt Tuesday, killing at least six militants, security officials said. The missiles targeted the compound in Karikot village, about 10 kilometres (six miles) southwest of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan district, a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Six militants have died in the attack and at least two were wounded," he said. The compound belonging to a militant commander, Maulana Halimullah, had been destroyed. "The dead included some foreign militants," he said, using official Pakistani jargon for al-Qaeda militants. Officials in Wana also confirmed the attack and the toll.

South Waziristan, considered a stronghold of militants, was the scene of a major Pakistani offensive last year. The district borders North Waziristan, where a similar drone strike on Sunday also killed six militants. Washington has branded the rugged tribal area on the Afghan border a global headquarters of al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on earth. Around 950 people have been killed in more than 100 drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2008, including a number of senior militants. However the attacks fuel anti-American sentiment in the conservative Muslim country...

dawn.com, June 29, "Six killed as suspected US missiles hit South Waziristan" : PARACHINAR - Suspected US missiles hit a house Tuesday in the South Waziristan tribal region along the Afghan border where the army has been battling Taliban fighters, intelligence officials said. At least six suspected militants were killed, including a possible al-Qaeda operative. The two missiles struck the house, which was near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. The house was known to be frequented by al-Qaeda members, the intelligence officials said. They would not speculate on the exact identity of those killed. The four officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to media on the record...

Related, background stories,

longwarjournal.org, June 29, "US strikes al-Qaeda safehouse in South Waziristan"
:The US killed seven terrorists in an airstrike today on a known al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan. The Predator strike is the seventh this month. An unmanned Predator or the more deadly Reaper fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Karikot near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. The compound is known to be used by al-Qaeda operatives in the area. Seven people were reported killed in the strike, according to Geo News. Dawn put the number of killed at six. No senior al-Qaeda or Taliban commanders or operatives were reported killed.

Wana is under the control of Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Taliban in the Waziri tribal areas in South Waziristan. Pakistan's military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers "good Taliban" as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state. However, Nazir openly supports Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan; more senior al-Qaeda leaders have been killed in Nazir's tribal areas during the US air campaign than in those of any other Taliban leader in Pakistan. In the summer of 2009, just prior to launching a military operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, the military agreed to a peace deal with Nazir as well as with North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Nazir and Bahadar are not members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Bahadar and the Haqqani Network, which is also based in North Waziristan, are also considered "good Taliban" by the Pakistani government and military...

longwarjournal.org, June 19, "al-Qaeda commander killed in US strike in North Waziristan."

06.29.10 US Muslim jurists forbid aid to troops

WASHINGTON, June 29 - Fatwa specifies transferring food to military bases. The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) issued a fatwa prohibiting offering aid to foreign troops in Muslim countries whether on the personal or the business levels. The assembly, made up of jurists and scholars in charge of issuing fatwas for Muslims in the United States and headed by Sheikh Salah al-Sawy, received several inquiries about the stance of Islam on business deals with coalition troops in Iraq or NATO forces in Afghanistan, especially companies that transfer foodstuffs and other supplies to military bases. The question [that] was posted on AMJA fatwa bank, reads: "Is it permissible to participate in taking food to the American and foreign soldiers working in Muslim lands?" and the answer is, "That would not be permissible, for that would be helping others in sin and transgression."

The fatwa, number 3062 to be issued by the assembly, stipulated that Muslims are not to help foreigners on personal or business basis as long as their presence in Muslim countries is linked to occupation. The statement was based on a verse from the Quran that said Muslims should only offer help in noble causes and should not take part in any kind of action that involves violence or damage. "Muslims should help anyone involved in benevolent acts regardless of their nationality, religion, or political affiliation and whether they are civilians or soldiers." This, the fatwa added, is not the case with foreign troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and which are occupying those countries against the will of their people and, therefore, engaging in any type of interaction with them endows their presence with legitimacy and makes those who deal with them accomplices in the crime.

The assembly, which is considered one of the most respected Islamic authorities in the United States, added that the fatwa also applied to Muslims who are US citizens. The fatwa stirred controversy in the American media. Several critics warned that such religious edicts usually translate into violence against the troops in Muslim countries while others expressed their indignation that scholars who incite Muslims against American troops are, in fact, American citizens. Another fatwa that sparked anger was issued by Muslim-American cleric Anwar Awlaki who warned Muslim Americans of serving in the U.S. military or supporting the trooping occupying Muslim countries in any way and declared American troops and military bases an open target for Jihad.

06.29.10 Egypt bars Jordanian activists from reaching Gaza

AMMAN (AFP) June 29 - A group of Jordanian trade unionists who tired to get into the blockaded Gaza Strip returned home on Tuesday after Egypt denied them entry through the Rafah crossing. "We decided to go back to Jordan after Egypt refused to give us permission," Ahmad Armuti, head of the delegation and president of the trade unions' council, told AFP. "We contacted Egyptian authorities several times but we failed to get the reasons behind their decision." Earlier Alaa Borqan, who is in charge of public relations at the Islamist-dominated trade unions, said the 12-member group including journalists left for Rafah on Saturday. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

06.29.10 Syria suspends fully veiled school teachers

DUBAI, June 29 - Decision protects state secularism: Education Minister. Hundreds of Syrian teachers wearing the face veil were dismissed from their schools as the Ministry of Education said they undermine the secularism of the state, according to press reports Tuesday. Syrian Minister of Education Ali Saad said in a meeting with heads of Teachers Syndicate offices that the dismissal of 1,200 teachers who wear the face veil, also called the 'niqab,' was necessary, the Lebanese daily As-Safir reported Tuesday. "Other ministers are going to do the same thing shortly," he said.

...He also pointed out that the face veil disrupts the teaching process as it hinders eye contact, which is extremely important for the relationship between teacher and student. Therefore, information is not delivered properly to the students...The ministry’s decision was treated with enthusiasm by both the public and the intelligentsia and especially by feminists as concerns about the spread of extremism has been lately on the rise. The feminist website Syrian Women Observatory said that the face veil is a sign of going back to the dark ages and constitutes a call for extremism and warned of its negative impact on students, especially children.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net]

06.29.10 Islamic movement may be poisoning souls of Israeli Arabs, MK says

June 29 - The Islamic Movement's infiltration into the Israeli Arab education system could have inspired the recently-exposed suspected global terror cell in Nazareth, Chairman of the Knesset's Education, Culture and Sports Committee Zevulun Orlev said Tuesday, during a special session concerning the movements increased influence in northern Israel. Speaking in the specially convened committee session, titled "Worried about the infiltration of the Islamic Movement to schools and kindergartens," Orlev postulated whether it was "possible that the Islamic Movement had poisoned the souls of the young Arabs arrested yesterday and suspected to have worked for al-Qaeda?"

The Union-National Religious Party MK was thus referring to the Monday arrest of seven Nazareth men, suspected of establishing a terror cell inspired by global jihad. Later in the discussion, Yisrael Beiteinu MK Anastasia Michaeli chose to read the portion relating to Israel's Arab minority from Israel's Independence Declaration, saying: "We appeal — in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months — to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State." Michaeli then added that the children who would be educated in the Islamic Movement kindergartens would "grow up in an atmosphere that supports terrorism, to be adults who do not believe in peaceful cooperation." "We must work toward instilling the love of others and the love of the Land of Israel and to work against those who teach hate and separation," the Yisrael Beiteinu MK added.

06.29.10 Blogger jailed over Jakarta blasts

June 29 - An Indonesian publisher and blogger known as the "Prince of Jihad" has been sentenced to five years in jail for concealing information about suicide attacks on two Jakarta hotels last year. Mohammed Jibril Abdurahman was arrested at his Ar-Rahmah media company weeks after the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotel bombings that killed seven people on July 17, 2009. According to reports, there was no evidence that he had actively participated in the bomb plot, but the court heard that Jibril had met two of the organizers of the attack and boasted to his brother about an impending attack.

The bombings ended a four-year lull in attacks attributed to Noordin Mohammed Top, one of Asia's most wanted men who was killed in a police raid last September. Scores of alleged "terrorists" have been arrested or killed in the aftermath of the bombings, including most of Noordin's closest lieutenants. The operational commander of the attacks, Syaifudin Jaelani, was killed in October.

06.29.10 Baghdad bombs kill three, including Iraqi general

BAGHDAD, June 29 - Bombers killed three people in Baghdad on Tuesday, one of them an Iraqi general, as insurgents sabotaged a key oil pipeline on the northern outskirts of the capital, security officials said. The general, whom police identified only by his first name Khodr, was blown up by a magnetic bomb in Aden Square in the Shiite shrine district of Kadhimiya in the north of the city. A second magnetic bomb killed one person and wounded two outside an army officers' club in Al-Hurriya in northwest Baghdad, police said. There was no immediate word on whether the casualties were soldiers or civilians. A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded four in a car in the southern district of Dora, police said. Saboteurs blew up the oil pipeline in Rashidiyeh district on the northeastern fringes of the capital, Baghdad operations command said. A major pipeline links an oil refinery and power station in Dora with the northern town of Baiji, another refining and power generating hub that is a key junction point on the supply network from Iraq's northern oil fields around Kirkuk. [>geo.tv]

06.29.10 8 killed in Kashmir fight; India locks down cities

SRINAGAR, India (AP) June 29 - Violence continued to spiral in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday as five suspected insurgents and three Indian soldiers were killed in a fierce gunbattle and two people were killed as government troops fired on anti-India protesters, officials said. Tensions have been high across the divided Himalayan region as government forces allegedly have killed at least eight other people during two weeks of protests demanding independence. Muslim militants have fought in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir since 1989 for independence or merger with Pakistan. On Tuesday, thousands of police in riot gear patrolled the main city, Srinagar, and shops, businesses and government offices were shut. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

06.29.10 Russia rips spy ring bust as arrests rise to 11

June 29 - Arrests in secrent-agent ring rise to 11 as Russia criticizes 'Cold War-era spy stories.' A shadowy money man for a Russian spy ring whose members were assigned a decade or more ago to infiltrate American society has been captured overseas, authorities said Tuesday. He was the last of 11 suspects named in a huge bust that threatens to tear recently mending relations between the US and Russia. The 11th suspect, using the name Christopher Metsos and purporting to be a Canadian citizen, was arrested at the Larnaca airport in Cyprus while trying to fly to Budapest, Hungary, police in the Mediterranean island nation said. He was later released on bail. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

06.29.10 Africa's biggest wind farm opens in Morocco

TANGIERS, Morocco, June 29 - New Moroccan wind farm expected to secure 42 percent of Morocco's energy production. Morocco's King Mohammed VI inaugurated Monday a 250-million-euro (300 million dollar) wind farm near Tangiers, which an official source said was the biggest in Africa. The new wind farm, which cost some 300 million dollars, is located in Melloussa, 34 kilometres (21 miles) from Tangiers in northern Morocco and has 165 turbines, with a production capacity of 140 megawatts. The project was part-financed by the European Bank, which invested 80 million euros, while Spanish and German banks put in a total of 150 million euros.

"The EU gives priority to this kind of investment and is proud to have financed the project," said Guido Prud'homme, the European Bank's representative at the inauguration ceremony. Morocco's Minister of Energy and Mining, Yamsmina Benkhadra, said the wind farm "is part of a global project estimated at three billion dollars. It will be completed in 2020." The project, she said, would secure 42 percent of Morocco's energy production, with wind farms, solar and hydraulic sources each generating 14 percent of the total.

06.29.10 Taiwan, China sign historic trade agreement

June 29 - Former foes China and Taiwan showed a historic level of cooperation, signing on Tuesday an ambitious free trade agreement that marks the culmination of a Beijing-friendly policy introduced by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008. China and Taiwan on Tuesday signed an ambitious trade agreement, marking the boldest step yet towards reconciliation between the former arch-foes. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, hailed by both sides as a milestone and a commercial imperative in an era of strong regional cooperation, was signed by senior delegates in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing. The officials exchanged gifts and drank a toast at the signing ceremony. The signing of the agreement, by far the most sweeping ever between the two sides, marks the culmination of a Beijing-friendly policy introduced by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou after assuming power in 2008. [>france24.com; See more details, xinhuanet.com, June 29, "Chinese mainland, Taiwan sign landmark economic pact."]

06.28.10 Massive cash sums found flying out of Kabul: WSJ

June 28 - Cash outflows of as much as more than USD 3 billion has been reported out of Kabul in the past three years, raising fears among US investigators that it could be ill-gotten gains of the top Afghan officials being stashed away to financial safe havens abroad. The cash - packed into suitcases, piled into pallets, loaded into airplanes - is declared and legal to move, but Wall Street Journal quoting US and Afghan officials say it appears to be money siphoned off from US and Western aid projects. "Profits reaped from the opium trade are also a part of the money flow, as is cash earned by the Taliban from drugs and extortion," officials said. Most of the funds passing through Kabul airport are moved by hawalas, the paper said, a mode often used in middle east and Asian sub-continent to make clandestine and secretive money transfers.

The currencies being used range from US Dollars, Saudi Rials, Pakistani Rupees and Norwegian Kroners to out of circulation Deutschmarks later traded for Euros. Reports of alarming huge cash outflow come even as another US daily reported that top officials in the government of President Hamid Karzai have often blocked corruption investigations against well connected Afghans. Washington Post quoting officials said Afghan prosecutors and investigators are routinely being told to cross names off the criminal files. But US and Afghan officials say they are now targeting the flows in major anti-corruption and drug trafficking investigations because their size is more than Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue annually.
[>indianexpress.com; See more details,

washingtonpost.com, June 28, "US officials say Karzai aides are derailing corruption cases involving elite"
: Top officials in President Hamid Karzai's government have repeatedly derailed corruption investigations of politically connected Afghans, according to US officials who have provided Afghanistan's authorities with wiretapping technology and other assistance in efforts to crack down on endemic graft. In recent months, the US officials said, Afghan prosecutors and investigators have been ordered to cross names off case files, prevent senior officials from being placed under arrest and disregard evidence against executives of a major financial firm suspected of helping the nation's elite move millions of dollars overseas.

...Afghanistan is awash in international aid and regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Indeed, even as the United States and its allies pour money in, U.S. officials estimate that as much as $1 billion a year is flowing out as part of a massive cash exodus. The money, as first reported in The Washington Post in February, is often carried out in full view of customs officials at Kabul's airport, where such transfers are legal as long as they are declared. Officials suspect much of the cash is going to the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, where elite Afghans, including Karzai's older brother, have villas...

06.28.10 French oil giant Total halts sale of oil products to Iran

(AFP) June 28 - Following the adoption of tighter economic sanctions against Iran by the United States, the French oil group Total announced Monday that it has halted the shipment of petrol and other refined oil products to Tehran, which lacks refinery capacity. French oil group Total said Monday it had halted shipments of oil products to Iran following adoption by the United States of economic sanctions against Tehran. "We have suspended our sales of petrol (gasoline) and refined products to Iran," a company spokesman said, confirming an earlier report in the Financial Times. Total did not reveal when the shipments had stopped nor the volume of the products affected. But a source close to the company described the amounts as "marginal" and said the suspension had been in effect "for several weeks." The two house[s] of the US Congress last week adopted sanctions against Iran, which have yet to be promulgated by President Barack Obama. [More>>france24.com]

06.28.10 Hyderabad blast toll rises to 18

HYDERABAD, June 28 - At least 18 people were killed and various others injured when a blast occurred in a truck in Halanaka area of Hyderabad, Geo News reported Monday. SSP Special Branch Muhammed Ali Baloch confirmed to the Geo News the killings of at least 18 people, adding at least 40 people were injured in the blast; of them 9 are in critical condition. He added 33 injured have been brought to Civil hospital and seven others were taken to Iqra Hospital. Baloch said there was thinner chemical in the truck, which developed a massive pressure within, and caused a huge blast, declining any possibility of terror link in the incident. An eyewitness told Geo News that the blast occurred at a commercial center, where at least eight shops were completely destroyed, adding a mosque was also partially damaged. [More>>thenews.com.pk; See also

aljazeera.net, June 28, "Many dead in Pakistan lorry blast"
: At least 18 people have been killed in a lorry blast in the southern Pakistani city of Hyderabad. But police said Monday's explosion was most likely an accident. Sources told Al Jazeera a gas cylinder at a nearby shop exploded, which in turn triggered an explosion in the lorry in the Hala Naka area. Mohammad Ali Baloch, a senior police official, said at least 40 people had been injured when the lorry containing chemicals that was parked near a scrapyard, exploded...

06.28.10 Indonesia MPs demand action against Islamists

JAKARTA (AFP) June 28 - Vigilante group threatens "war" against Christians in Jakarta. Indonesian lawmakers on Monday demanded the government crack down on a violent Islamist vigilante group that has threatened "war" against Christians in Jakarta and urged mosques to set up militia forces. Parliamentarians from various parties held a press conference to demand the government outlaw the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) a private militia with a self-appointed mission to protect "Islamic" values in the secular country. "The only way to stop the FPI from creating anarchy is to ban it. The FPI is not registered as an official group," lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle told the news conference.

"The police, military and government should be held responsible for their role in creating the FPI. Now they're incapable in controlling it," she added, referring to the group's origins in a 1990s paramilitary outfit. The FPI warned Sunday that it was ready to wage war against Christians in the outer Jakarta suburb of Bekasi over claims of "Christianisation" of the mainly Muslim area. After a meeting of Muslim leaders, FPI extremists urged Bekasi authorities to introduce Islamic sharia law and warned they would attack Christians with sticks, rocks and even flagpoles unless the "Christianization" ceased. "We won't disturb the average Christian. But we're against those who preach. If they try to convert Muslims to Christianity through public preaching activities, through lies and manipulation, we'll disperse them," FPI Jakarta branch manager Abdul Qodir Aka told AFP.

"If they stubbornly resist we'll use violence as a last resort," he added. Indonesia's two mainstream Muslim organizations, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, also attended Sunday's Islamic forum in Bekasi. Observers said communal tensions could erupt into violence in Indonesia, a constitutionally secular country of 240 million people, 90 percent of whom are Muslim. "We cannot afford another religious conflict in our midst after working so hard this past decade to promote Indonesia as a tolerant and moderate country," The Jakarta Globe said in an editorial. "Bekasi is a litmus test of how the new Indonesia deals with such age-old fissures in our society," the English-language daily said.

06.28.10 Gazprom to launch coalbed methane pilot production in Kuzbass in 2011

June 28 - NOVOSIBIRSK (RIA Novosti) June 28 - Russian state-run gas monopoly Gazprom plans to launch coal bed methane pilot production in the Kuzbass coal basin in 2011, Gazprom Deputy Chairman Valery Golubev said on Monday. "We have been working on this issue since 2001. The first stage includes an evaluation survey and geological exploration. In 2011-2015, we will be ready to launch test production at top-priority sites in order to boost coal production," Golubev said, adding that the company's annual investment into the project totaled 1 billion rubles ($32 million). "We have worked out several particular technologies and we are ready to introduce them to a certain extent, which means we are planning to launch commercial methane production in 2016," he said.

Gazprom plans to produce about four billion cubic meters of gas annually to provide the Kemerovo region with fuel. The area is currently supplied by gas from the Tyumen and Omsk regions. The Kuzbass methane reserves are estimated at 13 trillion cubic meters. Gazprom plans to produce about 18-20 bcm from the coalfields in the south of Siberia. The idea of extracting methane from coalfields was revived after deadly blasts caused by methane which hit the Raspadskaya mine, killing 67 people and trapping more than 100 others on May 9, 2010. Twenty-three miners are still missing.

Golubev said Gazprom could not produce methane gas until the state provides a regulatory framework. "The state should make amendments to the Russian Classification of Reserves and introduce 'coal bed methane' into it," he said. "We have decided that the development of new mines will be launched after removing all the methane from coalfields," Presidential Envoy to the Siberian Federal District Anatoly Kvashnin said. "Methane is very convenient, and sometimes there are no alternatives to it even in the Kemerovo region," he added.

06.28.10 DPRK urges US, S. Korea to withdraw heavy weapons in Panmunjom

PYONGYANG, June 28 - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has urged the United States and South Korea to withdraw heavy weapons from the truce village of Panmunjom, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Monday. The DPRK's Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People's Army (KPA) urges the United States and South Korea to withdraw the heavy weapons they deployed in the south side of the area around the Panmunjom Conference Hall, the KCNA said. Those heavy weapons were brought in by the US forces at around 7:25am (2225 GMT) on Saturday, it said.

The introduction of heavy weapons to the area where armed forces of both sides stand in acute confrontation was "a premeditated provocation aimed to spark off a serious military conflict," the KCNA quoted the Panmunjom Mission of the KPA as saying. The US forces should immediately withdraw all those weapons already in the area, or the KPA would "take strong military countermeasures," it added. According to the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War, the forces of both sides in the area around the Panmunjom Conference Hall can only take small arms such as pistols and rifles. Heavy weapons are banned in the area.

06.28.10 In quarter of Jerusalem, Armenians fear for future

JERUSALEM, June 28 - In Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter, a library stores precious memoirs which are all that remain of hundreds of Armenian communities, erased from the map of Turkey a century ago in what many regard as genocide. Now the Armenians in Jerusalem itself, many descended from refugees, fear their own 1,500-year-old Christian presence may disappear, too. Their society and extensive landholdings risk becoming collateral damage in a demographic conflict for land and power in the holy city between Israel and the Palestinians. "It's a dying community. Only the church holds us together," lamented 97-year-old Arshalouys Zakarian, as she sat with family and friends in her garden near St. James's Armenian cathedral.

The church, with its distinctive rites and dozens of black clad singing monks, dominates a Quarter which the Armenians, now just 2,000 of them, have held since Ottoman times alongside the Old City's bigger Muslim, Jewish and Christian Quarters. Over tea, Zakarian's guests, some living locally, others back on visits from overseas, joined in tales of children gone abroad in search of jobs and of struggles, often in vain, with Israeli bureaucracy to retain rights to come back home to live.

"For the first time in our history, we are not sure we can stay, after 1,500 years," concluded one man, now working for the Armenian church after a career spent in the United States. His daughter, born here, can visit, but may no longer live here. Officials of the church, at the Armenian Patriarchate, share a view held by the mostly Muslim Palestinians — that Israel's designation of the whole city as capital of the Jewish state means its control of residence and building permits is being used to press Arabs and other non-Jews to give up and leave.

"The withdrawing of ID cards is becoming very serious," said historian George Hintlian, a former Patriarchate secretary. Five local-born Armenians lost residence rights last month, he added. Non-Jews, a third of today's 750,000 population in greater Jerusalem, have had residence rights but not citizenship since Israel seized the Arab east, including the Old City, from Jordan in 1967. Israel, which promotes Jewish immigration, says it is not obliged to grant re-entry to other residents who emigrate. It says it respects the access of other faiths to Jerusalem and denies any policy to discriminate or to push non-Jews out. But the Armenians see double standards and fear for their land.

06.28.10 IAF raid his Gaza, 1 killed

June 28 - After mortar lands in Israel, IDF airstrike attacks Gaza City. A Palestinian man was killed in Gaza City and three others injured Monday from an IAF raid, according to Palestinian health workers. Earlier in the day, a mortar shell from Gaza landed in an open field in the Negev. No one was injured, and no damage was caused. Last Thursday, nine mortar shells were fired by terrorists in Gaza at nearby Israeli cities and kibbutzim. [>jpost.com]

06.27.10 Egypt barring Gaza aid ship from Suez Canal: Iran

TEHRAN (AFP) June 27 - The Iranian Red Crescent said on Sunday that in addition to restrictions imposed by Israel, Egypt had barred a Gaza-bound aid ship from entering the Suez Canal, leading to the trip being postponed. "The ship's departure has been postponed because of more restrictions imposed by the Zionist Quds occupying regime on the movement of aid to Gaza and prevention of the ship from using the Suez Canal, despite coordination with international bodies," the Red Crescent said in a statement faxed to AFP. The statement said the voyage to the blockaded Gaza Strip had been put off despite the vessel being ready to set sail from the southern port of Bandar Abbas for the Palestinian territory. But in Egypt, the Suez Canal Authority said it would allow the ship through. "Under an international treaty, the canal is obligated to let any ship through, whether it is Iranian or not," a canal official told AFP. "We have not received any instructions to ban the Iranian aid ships from using the Suez Canal," the official said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

06.27.10 Pakistan rules out barring Hafiz Saeed from giving hate speeches

ISLAMABAD, June 27 - Pakistan has virtually ruled out barring Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack of 2008, from giving inflammatory speeches targeting India. "In a democracy, there is freedom of expression in Pakistan as in India. There are all sorts of people making all kinds of speeches. There are people with extremist views in both India and Pakistan.... and there is nothing you can do about it. There are views being expressed in Pakistan that I can do nothing about," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters here last night. He, however, said the "positive" thing is that the views of extremist elements do not reflect that of the majority opinion either in India or in Pakistan. [More>>indianexpress.com; See related stories on Islamic violent ideology and speeches,

alarabiya.net (AFP) June 27, "Indonesia deradicalization policy struggles" : JAKARTA - Program to bring terrorists to mainstream Islam said to be myth. Indonesia's vaunted "deradicalization program" aimed at bringing terrorists back into mainstream Islam has been exposed as a myth by recent arrests of re-offenders, analysts and police said. Senior police now acknowledge that no such program exists and are issuing increasingly stark warnings that, on the contrary, the mainly Muslim country's prisons are at risk of becoming schools of violent jihad. The final straw appears to have been the re-arrest Wednesday of Abdullah Sunata, 32, on suspicion of plotting attacks on the Danish embassy and a police parade. He was released from jail last year for good behavior after serving only a fraction of a seven-year sentence for his role in a 2004 attack on the Australian embassy, which killed 10 people.

One of Sunata's alleged accomplices arrested on the same day last week had also been jailed for the embassy attack, while a third who was killed by police was a former soldier who had been radicalized in prison while serving time for smuggling. Other recent examples include bomb-maker Bagus Budi Pranoto
also jailed over the embassy truck bombing, he was released after just four years only to be re-arrested over last year's suicide attacks on luxury hotels in Jakarta. Within months of Sunata's release, he was allegedly back on the jihadist war path, plotting attacks and helping to organize a new terror cell dubbed "al-Qaeda in Aceh" under the leadership of Jemaah Islamiyah militant Dulmatin. Police discovered the cell in February and killed Dulmatin in March. National police spokesman Edward Aritonang said Sunata's case was further evidence that Indonesia's prisons, far from helping to rehabilitate terrorists, risked turning into terrorist "schools." It is time to look at a "new system or method, so the counseling for prisoners truly works and prisons don't become schools of radicalization," he said.

geo.tv, June 27, "Extremism on rise in urban areas: Rashid" : KARACHI - Chairman Pakistan Awami Muslim League Shaikh Rashid Sunday said extremist trends are on the rise in urban areas and that the a 'Pathan' is wrongly being maligned while actually a majority of suicide bombers are 'Punjabis.' Addressing a press conference here, Shaikh Rashid maintained that N-League is proving to be the most ineligible, adding the next two-three months could be critical...

Maravot News 6.25.10 article
06.25.10 Pakistan scours websites for anti-Islam content

"The Allah Controversy," Appendix B, concerning scholars' complaints on the Koran's advocacy of violence.

06.27.10 Pakistan terror suspect Imran Muhammad held in Zimbabwe

(AFP) June 27 - A Pakistani suspect in the 2008 Mumbai attacks has been arrested in Zimbabwe as he tried to cross into South Africa, police and state media have reported. Imran Muhammad, 33, was arrested at the Beitbridge border post along with another Pakistani national, the state-run Herald newspaper reported, saying Muhammad was wanted for the Mumbai attacks. "Indications were that... Muhammad (is) wanted in Pakistan (as he) was allegedly involved in the terror attacks that rocked Mumbai, India in November 2008," the newspaper said. Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said the two were arrested on June 20 after they were found using fake Kenyan passports. [More>>news.com.au]

06.27.10 US drone kills three militants in Miranshah

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, June 27 - A US drone fired two missiles into a militant compound in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt on Sunday killing at least three rebels, Geo News reported Sunday. The missiles targeted a militant compound on the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan area. According to local sources, US drones continue to fly across the airspace after the above strikes. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,

geo.tv, June 27, "US drone kills five militants in Miranshah."

thenews.com.pk, June 27, "Eight extremists killed in Orakzai action" : PESHAWAR - At least eight extremists were killed in Orakzai Agency in an action by the security forces, Geo News reported Sunday. The security forces pounded the hideouts of the extremists in Orakzai area of Mamonzai, killing eight extremists and injuring six others. Also, two hideouts of the extremists were destroyed in the action. Meantime, the militants fired five rockets at a check post of security forces; however, no fatality was reported. Soon afterwards, the forces returned the action killing a militant commander and injuring three others. The attackers fled the area after they met tough fight from the forces. [end]

06.27.10 Karzai 'holds talks' with Haqqani

June 27 - Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has met Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of a major anti-government faction, in face-to-face talks, Al Jazeera has learned. Haqqani, whose network is believed to be based across the border, is reported to have been accompanied to the meeting earlier in the week by Pakistan's army chief and the head of its intelligence services, according to Al Jazeera's sources. Karzai's office, however, denied on Sunday that any such meeting took place. Major-General Athar Abbas, the Pakistani army spokesman, also said he had "no knowledge of such a meeting taking place." The Haqqani network is described by the US as one of the three main anti-government armed groups operating in Afghanistan, alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It is thought to be responsible for the most sophisticated attacks in Kabul and across the country. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related stories,

nytimes.com, June 27, "Overture to Taliban jolts Afghan minorities" : KABUL, Afghanistan - The drive by President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal with Taliban leaders and their Pakistani backers is causing deep unease in Afghanistan's minority communities, who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule. The leaders of the country’s Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities, which make up close to half of Afghanistan's population, are vowing to resist — and if necessary, fight — any deal that involves bringing members of the Taliban insurgency into a power-sharing arrangement with the government. Alienated by discussions between President Karzai and the Pakistani military and intelligence officials, minority leaders are taking their first steps toward organizing against what they fear is Mr. Karzai's long-held desire to restore the dominance of ethnic Pashtuns, who ruled the country for generations.

The dispute is breaking along lines nearly identical to those that formed during the final years of the Afghan civil war, which began after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in 1989 and ended only with the American invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 100,000 Afghans died, mostly civilians; the Taliban, during their five-year reign in the capital, Kabul, carried out several large-scale massacres of Hazara civilians. "Karzai is giving Afghanistan back to the Taliban, and he is opening up the old schisms," said Rehman Oghly, an Uzbek member of Parliament and once a member of an anti-Taliban militia. "If he wants to bring in the Taliban, and they begin to use force, then we will go back to civil war and Afghanistan will be split."...

Maravot News article
June 27, "Extremism on rise in urban areas: Rashid." ....actually a majority of suicide bombers are 'Punjabis.'..

06.27.10 Netanyahu urges international community to work to free Gilad Shalit

June 27 - 10,000 people join Shalit family as they begin march across Israel and insist 'We won't go home without Gilad.' Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he spoke with Noam Shalit, father of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, and invited him and his family for a meeting in Jerusalem. "Our hearts are with the Shalit family," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "I urge the international community to work to bring about the release of the abducted soldier." Noam Shalit on Sunday led his family and supporters on a protest march to free his son who has been held by Gaza militants since 2006. The march, which is planned to end at the Prime Minister's official residence, in Jerusalem, is scheduled to take 12 days. Police estimated 10,000 people were taking part, including Likud MK Michael Eitan. "Gilad waited four years and he is still waiting," said Noam Shalit after leaving his house in Mitzpe Hila at the start of the march. [More>>haaretz.com]

06.27.10 Five NATO soldiers killed in blasts in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 27 - NATO reported on Sunday the 91st foreign soldier killed in what has been a record month for international troop deaths in Afghanistan. In other violence, more than two dozen rebels were killed across the troubled nation, authorities said separately. The soldier was killed by a Taliban-style improvised explosive device (IED) in the south of the country on Saturday, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. It came after NATO had already reported on Saturday the killing of five other soldiers in similar attacks in the volatile south. The soldiers' nationalities were not disclosed, but the vast majority of foreign troops in Afghanistan are from the United States and the US is bearing the overwhelming burden of deaths. The ISAF report follows an announcement by Britain's defence ministry that one of its soldiers had died Saturday after being wounded by an explosion in the south two weeks ago. In all, 311 soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far this year, with the June toll by far the deadliest of any month since the war began in late 2001. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

06.27.10 18 militants killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 27 - The NATO-led troops eliminated 18 Taliban militants including two commanders in Afghanistan's southern Zabul province, police said on Saturday. "Acting on intelligence reports the international troops pounded militants' hideouts in Shar-e-Safa area of the province on Friday night killing 18 rebels including two group commanders Mullah Toorjan and Mullah Ahmad Shah on the spot," Ghulam Jilani Farahi, deputy to provincial police chief, said. He did not give more details. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,

france24.com (AFP) June 26, "Taliban commander in women's clothes shot dead"
: Afghan and NATO security officials have killed Ghulam Sakhi, a senior Taliban commander, who was disguised in women's clothes when he opened fire on troops trying to capture him south of Kabul, the military said Saturday. A senior Taliban commander disguised in woman's clothes was killed by Afghan and international forces when he fired on troops trying to catch him south of Kabul, the military said Saturday. NATO and Afghan security forces cornered Ghulam Sakhi at a compound on Friday night in Logar province's Puli Alam district, and called for women and children to leave the building, a coalition statement said. "As they were exiting, Sakhi came out with the group disguised in women's attire and pulled out a pistol and a grenade and shot at the security force," the statement by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

"When Afghan and coalition forces shot him he dropped the grenade and it detonated, wounding a woman and two children," it said. Sakhi was known by several aliases and was involved in attacks on Afghan and foreign forces using improvised explosive devises (IEDs), the main Taliban weapon in the war now in its ninth year. He had also been involved in the kidnap and killing of a security chief in Logar province, ISAF said. Afghan and international forces also killed several insurgents in an air strike Friday night in the southern province of Zabul, ISAF said...

06.27.10 Panetta: Afghan war has 'serious problems,' but progress being made

WASHINGTON, June 27 - CIA Director Leon Panetta said Sunday that the war in Afghanistan had "serious problems," but the US-led mission was making progress. "It's harder, it's slower than I think anyone anticipated," said Panetta, the nation's top intelligence officer, in a rare media interview with the ABC program "This Week." He cited governance problems, drug trafficking and the Taliban insurgency all in a tribal society as the major challenges to the goal of "making sure al-Qaeda never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country." "Winning in Afghanistan is having a country that is stable enough to ensure that there is no safe haven for al Qaeda or for a militant Taliban that welcomes al-Qaeda," Panetta said. [More>>cnn.com]

06.27.10 Police arrest more than 400 after vandalism at Toronto economic summit

TORONTO (AP) June 27 - Police made more than 400 arrests after black-clad demonstrators broke off from a crowd of peaceful protesters at the global economic summit and went on a rampage in downtown Toronto that lasted into the early morning hours, authorities said Sunday. The roving band of protesters torched four police cruisers and shattered shop windows with baseball bats and hammers for blocks, including at police headquarters, then shed some of their black clothes, revealing other garments, and continued their rampage. Police used shields, clubs, tear gas and pepper spray to push back the protesters who tried to head south toward the security fence surrounding the Group of 20 summit site. Some demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles at police. The vandalism occurred just blocks from where US President Barack Obama and other world leaders were meeting and staying. "What we saw yesterday is a bunch of thugs that pretend to have a difference of opinion with policies and instead choose violence to express those so-called differences of opinion," Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Sunday. [More>>foxnews.com]

06.27.10 Illegal fishing endangers Red Sea marine life

SOUTH SINAI, Egypt (Xinhua) June 27 - Looking at the dead fish on the Ras Mohammed nature reserve shores of the Red Sea, Mohammed Salem said those who murdered the fish were criminals and should be put behind bars. "During the last few days, we found a large amount of dead fish, killed by the explosions by fishermen," Salem, general director of the national parks in South Sinai province, told Xinhua. Fishing by means of explosions at the Ras Mohammed National Park, some 25 km southwest of the Egyptian resort of Sharm El- Sheikh, has led to the death of rare fish and dolphins. Last week, local police arrested 16 fishermen who used dynamite to fish in the nature reserve. They had already been fined 1 million Egyptian pounds (about 177,000 US dollars) for the damage they caused to the coral reefs. They might also be sentenced to at least three-year jail terms according to Egyptian law.

The Red Sea boasts a rich and diverse ecosystem. More than 1, 200 species of fish have been recorded in the area. And 10 percent of them are native, including 42 species of deepwater fish. Aiming to protect the special biodiversity of the area, the Egyptian government has set up the national park in 1983. There has been effective protection of local marine life over the past three decades. The place has become a major destination for diving enthusiasts. But the recent dead fish showed explosions have posed a great threat to the environment. "Among the dead fish were rare Napoleon fish, whose number is very small in the Aqaba Bay," Salem said.


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