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09.14.10 Third Iranian diplomat defects to Nordic country

OSLO, Norway, September 14 - An Iranian diplomat called Tuesday for an uprising against the Tehran government, as he became the third Europe-based envoy to defect this year and announced he was seeking asylum in Norway. "I'm seeking political asylum with all my family," Farzad Farhangian, a press attaché at the Iranian embassy in Brussels, told reporters in Oslo, adding he intended to join the opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "I'm apologizing to the Iranian people. During the last 30 years I was of service to the Iranian people, 23 of them in the diplomatic service, but the deviation that the Iranian republic has reached leaves me no choice," he said. "I hope to be a voice of the opposition," he added. Farhangian, 47, is the third Iranian diplomat this year to seek protection in a Nordic country. [More>>alarabiya.net]

09.14.10 Soldier, eight militants killed in Pakistan clash

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, September 14 - A Pakistani soldier and eight pro-Taliban militants were killed in a clash in the volatile Aurakzai tribal region in the country's northwest today, officials said. The clash erupted when a group of militants attacked a security check post in Dabori Tapu Kaley area in Aurakzai Agency. The gun battle continued for some time, security officials said. Militants have targeted several security check posts in the restive tribal belt over the past few months. [>indianexpress.com]

09.14.10 Two US drone strikes kill 15

MIRANSHAH, September 14 - Missiles fired by US drones in two attacks Tuesday killed 15 in Pakistan's tribal area, with 11 strikes targeting the border area in 11 days, officials said. In the first attack, officials said, four missiles hit a compound in Bushnarai village in Shawal district of North Waziristan, where suspected al-Qaeda-linked and Taliban fighters have carved out strongholds. "Eleven suspected militants were killed in today's drone attack," a senior security official in the area said on condition of anonymity, updating an earlier toll for the first attack. Another security official confirmed that the remains of 11 people had been pulled out of the compound's wreckage.

US drones carried out low-level flights in different areas of North Waziristan, including Shawal where the first strike took place this morning, the second security official said. The second drone attack took place in Qutabkhel village in the outskirts of Miranshah on Tuesday evening, killing four people, officials said, bringing the day's toll to 15. "A US drone fired two missiles on a vehicle carrying suspected militants outside Miranshah," a senior security official said. "At least four militants were killed in the attack," the official said, adding that the identities of the militants were not immediately known.

09.14.10 Sex traffficking gang offered to sell young virgins to wealthy Arabs

September 14 - Iranians offered girls as young as 14 for up to £150,000 in plot revealed by note left at Knightsbridge hotel. An Iranian gang who tried to sell young female virgins to wealthy Arabs charging up to £150,000 a girl, was jailed for sex trafficking and prostitution today. The gang claimed to have 12 girls in the UK, available for sex in London hotels, including one aged 14 whom they regarded as "bait." They plotted to rake in huge sums through a party where young women could accept cash to sleep with wealthy Middle Eastern businessmen. The gang named as Mahrookh Jamali, 41, Sara Bordbar, 43, both of north London, and Fatima Hagnegat, 24, along with the latter's husband, Rasoul Gholampour, 30, both of Wigan offered their services in a handwritten letter to Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, the multibillionaire ruler of Dubai, who, police said, had had no involvement with the crimes.

They were caught last August when Hagnegat dropped off the note at the Jumeirah Carlton hotel, in Knightsbridge, London, which is owned by the sheikh. The note said: "My name is Mary and I have been in contact with one of your assistant in Dubai since 06.06.09 … I have 12 girls ready from the age 14-20 years, who are living all over the UK. I have spent money on the preparation of this event such as a rented house for the girls and also all expenses needed … Please, please, Mary … Please my life is dependent on your call."

09.14.10 French parliament adopts ban on full-face veil

(AFP) September 14 - The French parliament passed a law Tuesday prohibiting wearing a full-face veil in public, meaning a ban will come into force early next year if it is not overturned by senior judges. The Senate passed the bill by 246 votes to one and, having already cleared the lower house in July, the bill will now be reviewed by the Constitutional Council, which has a month to confirm its legality. The text makes no mention of Islam, but President Nicolas Sarkozy's government promoted the law as a means to protect women from being forced to wear Muslim full-face veils such as the burqa or the niqab. Once in force, the law provides for a six-month period of "education" to explain to women already wearing a face veil that they face arrest and a fine if they continue to do so in any public space. A woman who chooses to defy the ban will receive a fine of 150 euros (195 dollars) or a course of citizenship lessons. A man who forces a woman to go veiled will be fined 30,000 euros and serve a jail term. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

09.12.10 Al-Qaeda fighters swell Taliban ranks

September 12 - Al Jazeera gains exclusive access to a Taliban group in northern Afghanistan, where more foreign recruits are seen. As the US commemorates the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington DC, Al Jazeera has gained exclusive access to a Taliban group in northern Afghanistan where foreign al-Qaeda fighters are bolstering their forces. The US launched its war in Afghanistan just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, accusing the now-ousted Taliban government of harbouring Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaeda's leader. But nine years later, Bin Laden remains at large and al-Qaeda and the Taliban continue to wage war against the US and its allies, their ranks swelled by an influx of foreign fighters. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, on Friday called for the Taliban to cease fighting his government and enter into dialogue to find an end to the country's conflict. Karzai also called on his US and NATO allies, which now have 150,000 troops in the country, to focus on Taliban bases over the border in Pakistan rather than fighting in Afghan villages. [More>>aljazeera.net]

09.12.10 US drone strike kills five in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) September 12 - A US missile strike today killed five militants in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border, officials said. The drone attack hit Newey Adda village in Datta Khel area near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district, they said. "A US drone fired two missiles. The target was a house used by militants as a compound. Five militants have died," a senior security official in Peshawar said. Another intelligence official in Miranshah also confirmed the attack and the death toll. A third intelligence official in Miranshah said there were two "guests" among the dead. Guest is a term used for foreign militants. He said the house was owned by a local tribesman named Mohammad Khalid, who has rented it out to the militants.

The area is a renowned hub for Taliban militants and al-Qaeda-linked rebels. Residents said five bodies had been dug from the rubble. Some injured people had been taken to an unknown location for medical treatment. Last week, a total of 24 militants were killed in four US drone strikes in 24 hours in the same tribal district. Intelligence officials said they were trying to find out the nationalities of the militants killed in the latest attack. Washington has branded the rugged area on the Afghan border - part of which has been hit by Pakistan's catastrophic flooding - a global headquarters of al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth.

09.12.10 Police warned HKPB church not to conduct religious services

JAKARTA, Indonesia, September 12 - The Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) church had received a warning letter from the Bekasi Police urging congregation members not to attend church services,  the church's lawyer said Sunday. Church leader ST Sihombing was stabbed by unidentified attackers on his way to the church compound on Sunday morning. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he is in critical condition. A priest was also beaten by a group of attackers. The HKBP Church received a warning letter from the Bekasi Police three days before the incident. The letter urged parishioners not to attend church services because of rising security risks that might threaten their safety.

"From a logical legal perspective, if the police had prior knowledge of a potential threat, why didn't they implement standard operating procedures to ensure security? Or were the police involved?" asked Saor Siagian, an attorney for the HKBP church, as quoted by kompas.com, adding that he was suspicious that the police might have been involved in a series of violent acts perpetrated against the HKBP church. "If they were informed about a possible attack, the police should have taken anticipatory measures," he said. The police request for church members not to attend their Sunday worship deviates from Indonesia's professed commitment to religious freedom, Saor added. "The police do not have the authority to ask people not to worship. If they do so, they are interfering in the delicate balance between politics and religion, which takes their focus away from their main duties," Saor said.

09.12.10 Four killed in clashes in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) September 12 - At least four people were killed and around 10 wounded in clashes between militants and Iraqi security forces in the restive northern province of Diyala, officials said on Sunday. The clashes erupted on Saturday afternoon in the orchard area of al-Hdaid, near the city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad. Baquba is the capital of Diyala, a troubled province where al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgents still battle Iraqi security forces. A volatile mix of minority Kurds, majority Shi'ites and Sunnis has made it difficult to bring peace to Diyala. Sadiq Jaafar al-Hussaini, deputy head of Diyala provincial council, said the Iraqi security forces were trying to capture "a den of snipers" in the area. He said four members of the Iraqi army and police were killed. One security source said three policemen and three militants were killed in the fighting, and 10 Iraqi security forces were wounded. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

09.12.10 Tens of thousands held without trial in Iraq jails

BAGHDAD (AFP) September 12 - Tens of thousands of detainees are being held without trial in Iraqi prisons and face violent and psychological abuse as well as other forms of mistreatment, Amnesty International said Monday. The London-based human rights watchdog estimates 30,000 people are held in Iraqi jails, noting several are known to have died in custody, while cataloguing physical and psychological abuses against others. "Iraq's security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees' rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director Malcolm Smart.

"The Iraqi authorities must take the firm and decisive action now... to show that they have the political will to uphold the human rights of all Iraqis, in accordance with their international obligations and to stop the torture and other gross abuses of detainees’ rights." Amnesty's 59-page report, titled “New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful detentions and torture in Iraq,” lists several men who were subjected to torture or who died in prison. Among them was Riad Mohammed Saleh al-Oqaibi, arrested in September 2009 and held in a detention facility in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone before being transferred to a secret detention facility in the capital.

09.12.10 Head of anti-extremism department shot dead in Dagestan

PYATIGORSK, Russia (RIA Novosti) September 12 - The head of an international department for the fight against extremism in Russia's South Caucasus Federal District was shot dead in the capital of Dagestan, a department spokesman said on Sunday. Gapal Gadzhiyev was shot in his Toyota Avensis while on his way to work on Sunday morning in Makhachkala, Mark Tolchinksy told RIA Novosti. On Saturday, a bomb placed under a car went off in the republic's capital, injuring a police officer who was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds. His family, who was with him at the time, was not injured in the incident. Russia's North Caucasus republics, in particular Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, have seen frequent attacks on police and officials despite the end of a decade-long special regime for counterterrorism operations in Chechnya the last years. [More>>en.rian.ru]

09.10.10 Fighters not allowed to harm citizens: Mullah Omar

KABUL, Afghanistan, September 10 - The leader of the Taliban said the West is losing the war in Afghanistan and called on Afghans to repel the "invading infidels" as experts urged the US to scale back troops and goals. Mullah Omar said in his message read out at Eid gatherings that strategists behind the nine-year-old Afghan war realized they were mired in "complete failure," adding that the Taliban fighters were not allowed to harm citizens. "The victory of our Islamic nation over the invading infidels is now imminent and the driving force behind this is the belief in the help of Allah and unity among ourselves," he said. "Put all your strength and planning behind the task of driving away the invaders and regaining independence of the country," he told Afghan mujahedeen (fighters). He said that "those military experts who have framed strategies of the invasion of Afghanistan or are now engaged in hammering out new strategies, admit themselves that all their strategies are nothing but a complete failure." [>thenews.com.pk]

09.10.10 Three police killed, one injured in special operation in Dagestan

PYATIGORSK, Russia (RIA Novosti) September 10 - Three police officers were killed and one injured in a special operation in Russia's volatile North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, a military spokesman said. A local police source earlier said that four militants were killed in the operation, which started at about 9:40 on Friday in Dagestan's eastern Sergokalinsky district, but did not specify whether there were casualties among police. When police surrounded the house with the suspected militants and advised them to surrender, four women left the building. As the women were being led away, the militants in the house opened fire, killing one officer. Two others died in the shootout that followed. Another officer was shot in leg and shoulder, his injuries are not life-threatening. In a separate development, a police officer was killed in Dagestan's capital Makhachkala, a police source told RIA Novosti on Saturday.

...Russia's North Caucasus republics, in particular Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, have seen frequent attacks on police and officials despite the end of a decade-long special regime for counterterrorism operations in Chechnya the last years. A suicide bomber on a Volga car blew himself up at a market in Vladikavkaz, the capital of the North Caucasus republic of North Ossetia, killing at least 17 people and injuring more than 160.
[Full story>>en.rian.ru; See related story,

france24.com (Reuters) September 10, "Suicide bomber strikes town in Russia's North Caucasus"
: A suicide bomber set off a powerful blast near a busy market in Russia's restive North Caucasus on Thursday, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 100, authorities said. The attacker detonated a bomb packed with metal bars, bolts and ball bearings in a car outside the entrance to the market in Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia province, the Russian prosecutor general's Investigative Committee said. A Reuters witness saw at least five bloodied bodies lying among scattered vegetables and shattered glass near the market entrance, around 10 metres from a burning car. "Where is the ambulance?" a woman said, sobbing...

09.10.10 American jihadi killed in Somalia shootout

September 10 - Somalis say militant 'commander' killed in street battle had US papers. An American member of an al-Qaeda-connected terror group has been killed in fighting in Somalia, according to intelligence and government officials there. The fighter, a Somali-American man known as Dahir Gurey Sheikh Ali Guled, was found dead in Mogadishu after a street battle between the militant group, Al Shabab, and pro-government forces. A US official told ABC News that Gurey was believed to be an American citizen who arrived in Somalia earlier this year, but cautioned that the US government has not independently confirmed Mr. Gurey's death or nationality. Somali officials said the man had documents on him that indicated he was American. [>abcnews.go.com]

09.10.10 America's enemy is Qaeda, not Islam: Obama

WASHINGTON, September 10 - US president reminds Americans of religious tolerance. President Barack Obama is appealing for religious tolerance, reminding Americans that the "overwhelming majority" of Muslims around the world are peace-loving people. They include millions of "our fellow citizens in this country" who are our friends, neighbors and co-workers and attend school with our kids, Obama said. Obama asked what it would say "when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive." He said it's important to be clear on who the enemy is al-Qaeda and extremists, not Islam or the majority of Muslims. [More>>alarabiya.net]

09.10.10 Troops brave grenade attacks in Afghan town

SENJERAY, Afghanistan (AP) September 10 - Pfc. Sean Provenzano saw it whiz by out of the corner of his eye: a dark object hurled from a rooftop as he patrolled the medieval maze of alleyways in this fort-like walled village at the center of America's Afghan surge. It bounced off his M-4 Carbine's gun-sight and landed in the dirt a few yards away. At first he mistook it for a rock — kids here often throw them at US troops. But when it rose up and began spinning like a top, he realized it was something far more dangerous. "GRENADE!!!" the 25-year-old screamed, diving to the ground as the explosion sprayed a deadly burst of shrapnel across the street. Through a cloud of black smoke and brown dust, Provenzano heard a colleague calling his name. He was alive, unscathed, and incredibly, so was everyone else.

US forces deployed to this village in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province as part of Barack Obama's troop surge say they came with the noblest intentions: to build up government and security forces, protect the population, make this a safer place. But after a relentless spate of grenade attacks — tossed anonymously over walls and down from rooftops at soldiers patrolling the labyrinthine town — they now keep their distance from the people they're trying to protect.

09.10.10 4th Kassam rocket since Rosh Hashana began hits Israel

September 10 - No injuries reported in attack on western Negev; latest rocket follows IAF strike on terror-related targets in Gaza in response to previous attacks. A Kassam rocket fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council area on Friday morning. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack. The rocket marked the fourth such attack on southern Israel from Gaza in the last two days since the Rosh Hashana holiday began. In retaliation for the previous rocket attacks, the Israeli Air Force attacked several terror-related targets in Gaza Thursday overnight. Some of the targets publicized by the IDF included Hamas offices in Gaza City, a smuggling tunnel in the southern region of the Strip and what described as a "terror center" in the northern Strip. No specifics regarding Palestinians casualties could be verified at the time of the report — although Palestinian security forces claimed at least five injured — and the IDF announced that all the IAF planes returned safely to their bases after the conclusion of the attack. [More>>jpost.com; See also haaretz.com, September 10, "IAK strikes Hamas Gaza training facility in wake of Kassam, mortar attacks."]

09.10.10 'Manhattan' ice island splits in two

September 10 - A massive ice island four times the size of Manhattan that broke off the Petermann Glacier early last month has split in two. Satellite images show that the ice island broke in two after repeatedly smashing into Joe Island, a small rocky outcrop in the Nares Strait, west of Greenland. "In the satellite imagery, you can hardly see the island because it's so much smaller than the ice island, but it's there; it's a piece of rock," said Andreas Muenchow, an associate professor at the University of Delaware. The ice island hit Joe Island last week, and since then, combined forces of ocean currents and strong winds have weakened its structure. "The forces of the ocean currents and the winds wiggling it on and off the island were too much," Muenchow said. The largest piece is approximately 152 square kilometers in diameter, or around 2.5 times the size of the New York borough of Manhattan, while the smaller piece is around 84 square kilometers, he said. [More>>cnn.com]

09.08.10 Three Times Square bomb suspects held by Islamabad police

(AFP) September 8 - Pakistani police have detained three people suspected of involvement in the plot to plant a bomb on May 1 in New York's Times Square. The three were arrested in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad two weeks ago and interrogated for several days. Pakistan's police have arrested three suspects linked to a Pakistani-American accused in New York of the attempted car bombing of Times Square, a senior police official said Wednesday. The three were detained in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, two weeks ago and had been interrogated for several days, police said.

"It has been proved that they had links with Faisal Shehzad (the car-bombing suspect arrested in New York) and had transferred money to him," Bani Amin, operations police chief in Islamabad, told AFP. "Today we have lodged a formal case against them," said Amin, who named the three suspects as Shoaib Mughal, Mohammad Shahid and Hanbal Akhtar. He said the three suspects also had close links with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders Hakimullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain, whose organization has claimed responsibility for Shehzad's May 1 plot to bomb Times Square. Mehsud is the chief of the TTP and Hussain is a militant commander of a TTP faction known as "Ustad-e-Fidaeen," which trains suicide bombers.

09.08.10 Political ties shielded bank in Afghanistan

KABUL, September 8 - In early 2009, as President Hamid Karzai scanned the landscape for potential partners to run in his re-election bid, he was approached from an unusual corner: a bank. The president's brother, Mahmoud, and another Afghan businessman, Haseen Fahim, were shareholders in Kabul Bank, one of the freewheeling financial institutions that had sprung up over the past decade since the Taliban's fall. According to Afghan officials and businessmen in Kabul, Mahmoud Karzai and Mr. Fahim recommended Mr. Fahim's brother, Gen. Muhammad Qasim Fahim, to become the president's running mate. President Karzai agreed, and in a stroke co-opted his ethnic Tajik opposition and placated an old political foe with a checkered record on human rights and corruption. After the deal, Kabul Bank poured millions into Mr. Karzai's re-election campaign,

Afghan officials said. Mahmoud Karzai and Haseen Fahim, drawing on Kabul Bank's resources, were able to enrich their families aided by tens of millions of dollars in loans. Now, Kabul Bank sits at the center of a financial crisis that has exposed the shadowy workings of the country's business and political elite, and how such connections shielded the bank from scrutiny. The panic surrounding Kabul Bank is threatening to pull down the Afghan banking system and has drawn in the United States. And it is driving a wedge between the Fahims and the Karzais, the two Afghan political families that benefited most. Now, the financial-familial arrangement is teetering on the edge of collapse.

09.08.10 MRSA-killing drugs from cockroach, locust brains?

September 8 - Researchers experimenting with chemicals in brains of insects to fight superbugs. The next time you're about to zap a cockroach with bug-killing spray, think about this: that creepy crawler may actually help you beat infections. Powerful chemicals in the brains and nervous systems of the lowly cockroach, as well as the swarming locust, can lay waste to antibiotic-resistant staph and dangerous forms of E. coli bacteria, fueling hope that they might be the basis of new antibiotics to replace those rendered useless against these infectious species, according to British researchers. Simon Lee, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, has focused his work on potential antimicrobial compounds from insects. He and his colleagues found up to nine different antibacterial molecules in cockroach and locust brains and nervous system tissues that did not damage human cells, he reported Tuesday at the fall meeting of the Society for General Microbiology, Europe's largest microbiology society. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

09.08.10 Seoul to restrict financial transactions with Iran

SEOUL, South Korea, September 8 - All financial transactions with Iran will require government authorization, while more than 100 Iranian entities and some two dozen individuals will be blacklisted for supporting Tehran's attempts to develop nuclear weapons programs, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. The government also said the financial authorities will be suspending the operations of the Seoul branch of Bank Mellat, an Iranian bank accused of financial transactions aimed to assist Tehran's nuclear development activities. No new branches of Iranian banks may open here, while South Korean banks also may not open offices in Iran, according to the ministry. "With these measures, we hope for the Iranian government to take part in international efforts on nuclear non-proliferation, and also faithfully implement its duties under the UN resolution," said Kim Young-sun, the Foreign Ministry spokesman. [More>>koreaherald.com]

09.08.10 BP report restarts blame game over Gulf of Mexico

September 8 - BP's report into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reignited a row over the blame for the US's worst ever man-made disaster with the oil company facing accusations of producing a "self-serving" whitewash. The internal analysis of the causes of the explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig concluded that no single factor was responsible. However it highlighted a poor cement job by Halliburton and mistakes by rig operator Transocean. BP defended its much-criticized well design and said failures on the rig, operated by Transocean, led to gas swamping the platform and creating the conditions for the explosion. "Over a 40-minute period, the Transocean rig crew failed to recognise and act on the influx of hydrocarbons [oil and gas] into the well," BP said in a statement. The report refers to a "sequence of failures." BP was criticized by Barack Obama in the aftermath of the disaster, which killed 11, for trying to pass the buck and refusing to accept full responsibility. Its latest report, which analysts say is designed to protect the company from upcoming legal actions, threatens to attract similar accusations. Transocean today said the company had produced "a self-serving report that attempts to conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP's fatally flawed well design." [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

09.08.10 Hamas members arrested over settler attacks

JERUSALEM, September 8 - Israel seals off West Bank over Jewish New Year. The Palestinian Authority has arrested several Hamas members for organizing and carrying out two recent attacks on Israeli settlers, a senior official said late Tuesday, as Israel said that the West Bank will be sealed off during Jewish New Year celebrations. The Palestinian security official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that two groups had been arrested but did not specify exactly how many members of the Islamist movement were under arrest. The first attack on Aug. 31 claimed the lives of four settlers and the second on Sept. 1 wounded two people east of Ramallah, the official said. Hamas had claimed responsibility for gunning down four Israelis on the West Bank and the Sept. 1 attack came the day before the first direct Israeli-Palestinian talks for 20 months began in Washington. [More>>alarabiya.net]

09.08.10 Iran attains 'gasoline self-sufficiency'

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) September 8 - Iran has achieved self-sufficiency in gasoline production, Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi said on Wednesday. The country has raised gasoline production to 66.5 million liters a day, the ISNA news agency reported. Iran started gasoline production 10 months ago. It previously said 6.6 million liters of gasoline a day will be produced at the Borzouyeh petrochemical plant, 2.65 million liters at the Bou Ali petrochemical complex and 3.4 million liters at the Bandar Imam plant. In January, Iran announced plans to build seven oil refineries in a bid to reduce exposure to foreign suppliers and meet domestic demand. Iran has been sending its oil to southern Gulf countries to be refined and then re-imported, significantly raising gasoline prices. [>en.rian.ru]

09.08.10 Castro to Ahmadinejad: Stop denying the Holocaust

September 8 - In rare interview, retired Cuban dictator tells Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours." Israel and the Jewish people found an unlikely defender in Fidel Castro, the retired dictator of Cuba, on Tuesday,  when he came out strongly against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and supported Israel's right to exist. In a rare interview with Jewish-American reporter Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the ailing 84-year-old leader said he sympathized with the Jews who have suffered from repeated persecution over the course of history. "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours," Castro said. "There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust." Asked by Goldberg if he could relay the message to Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust and called for Israel to be wiped off the map, he was quoted as saying: "I am saying this so you can communicate it."

Castro also spoke lengthily about his first experience with anti-Semitism as a youth growing up in Catholic Cuba. "I remember when I was a boy - a long time ago - when I was five or six years old and I lived in the countryside," he said, "and I remember Good Friday. What was the atmosphere a child breathed? 'Be quiet, God is dead.' God died every year between Thursday and Saturday of Holy Week, and it made a profound impression on everyone. What happened? They would say, 'The Jews killed God.' They blamed the Jews for killing God! Do you realize this?" He added: "Well, I didn't know what a Jew was. I knew of a bird that was a called a 'Jew,' and so for me the Jews were those birds.  These birds had big noses. I don't even know why they were called that. That's what I remember. This is how ignorant the entire population was."

Castro spoke to Goldberg because he recently wrote a piece about the prospects of Israel launching a strike against Iran. Fearing a regional flare up in the Mideast, the leader called for Israel and the US to back down from Iran over its nuclear program. "This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats," he said. "That's my opinion." In 2006 Castro was forced into retirement after 47 years in power due to poor health. Since then the leader famous for his lengthy speeches has kept a relatively low profile. His support of Israel's right to exist and criticism of Iran's Holocaust denial is surprising given his iconic status among the leftist movement in Latin American which has allied itself with the Islamic Republic.

09.08.10 Five killed in attacks as Baghdad bans motorcycles

BAGHDAD (AFP) September 8 - A spate of bomb attacks and shootings in Iraq on Wednesday killed five people, including a television presenter, as Baghdad imposed a ban on motorcycles ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The violence, which left dozens wounded, came three days after a coordinated suicide attack on an Iraqi military complex in Baghdad killed 12 people and injured 36. In the main northern city of Mosul, Sabah al-Khayat was shot dead in front of his house while departing for work at the Al-Mosuliyah satellite television station, where he presented a programme on mosques and shrines in the city. "Armed men shot the journalist Sabah al-Khayat in front of his house in central Mosul while he was leaving for work," a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

His killing was the second such murder of a television journalist in Iraq in as many days, with Riad al-Saray, a prominent anchorman who presented political and religious programmes for state broadcaster Al-Iraqiyah, killed on Tuesday in west Baghdad. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned Saray's killing on Tuesday, and in a new report said the conflict in Iraq had resulted in the most deaths of journalists and media staff of any war since World War II.

Meanwhile, in Wednesday's deadliest attack, a vehicle packed with explosives was detonated and quickly followed by a roadside bomb near a bus terminal in the south Baghdad neighbourhood of Bayaa, killing two people. Officials from the ministries of defence and interior, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said more than 20 others were wounded, including 10 members of the Iraqi security forces.

And on Al-Sheikh Omar street in the centre of the capital, two near-simultaneous roadside bombs killed one person and wounded a dozen others, the interior ministry official and a doctor said. Baghdad Operations Command also said that it was enforcing a ban on motorcycles in the city until further notice, ahead of the three-day Eid al-Fitr festivities which could begin Thursday to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

09.08.10 US missile strikes kill 14 militants in NW Pakistan 

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan, September 8 - Targeting house & vehicle in north Waziristan. At least 14 militants have been killed by suspected US drone attacks in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday. The first drone fired a missile at a house linked to a group that often carries out attacks on NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan, killing at least ten militants, intelligence officials said. The second US missile strike targeted a vehicle and killed four other militants in Pakistan's rugged tribal region, near the Afghan border, officials said. [More>>alarabiya.net]

09.07.10 Abbas: No 'historic compromise' on Jerusalem, borders

Sepptember 7 - In 'Al-Quds' interview, PA president says Palestinians won't recognize Israel as Jewish state, accuses PM of trying to "strip" Israeli-Arabs' rights. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's talk about an "historic compromise" and said there would be no compromises on core issues such as Jerusalem and borders. Abbas also reiterated his rejection of Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. "We're not talking about a Jewish state and we won't talk about one," Abbas said in an interview with the semi-official Al-Quds newspaper. "For us, there is the state of Israel and we won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

Abbas said that in recent meetings with leaders of the Jewish community in the US, he made it clear that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. "I told them that this is their business and that they are free to call themselves whatever they want," Abbas said. "But [I told them] you can't expect us to accept this." Abbas said that by raising the issue of Israel's right to be a Jewish state, Netanyahu was seeking to "strip" Israeli-Arabs of their rights and turn them into illegal citizens.

He said that Netanyahu's goal was also to block any chance of Palestinian "refugees" from returning to their original homes inside Israel. Asked about the possibility of dismantling the PA, Abbas said he did not rule out such an option if he reached the conclusion that the peace talks are hopeless. However, he stressed that this option was not on the table at present.
[>jpost.com; See related story,

haaretz.com, September 7, "Netanyahu tells Israeli public: No guarantee peace talks will succeed"
: In New Year's greeting, prime minister lays down security and recognition of Israel as Jewish state as two criteria for a peace agreement with Palestinians...We are trying in good faith, but not naivety, to reach a peace agreement. Any arrangement between us and the Palestinians will be based on two criteria: security and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state," Netanyahu added. "Security, because no peace will last without a strong anchor of actual security on the ground, not on paper and not as a hazy international commitment," he said. "The second thing is the recognition that Israel is the national state of the Jewish people. If we are asked to recognize a Palestinian state, it is both natural and appropriate that the Palestinians recognize the state of the Israeli people as a Jewish state."...

09.07.10 UAE freezes four Iranian bank accounts: report

DUBAI (Reuters) September 7 - Citing Iran's UN Security Council blacklist. The United Arab Emirates' central bank has frozen four Iranian bank accounts cited in a United Nations Security Council blacklist after uncovering their presence in the UAE banking system, a newspaper said on Tuesday. A UN resolution of June 9 names 40 entities and one individual on a blacklist of firms whose assets worldwide are to be frozen for assisting Iran's nuclear or missile programs. "We asked the 51 banks operating in the country to step up scrutiny on the accounts and the related names and to search for names on the Security Council list, and we found four bank accounts only," the al-Ittihad daily quoted an unnamed source as saying. [More>>alarabiya.net]

09.07.10 Visitors to pay US tourism promotion fee

September 7 - Planning a trip to the United States? Tuesday is the last day for citizens of some countries to dodge a new travel fee. Starting Wednesday, travelers from 36 nations will be required to pay $14 to register through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, required for travelers using the Visa Waiver Program. Four of the $14 will cover ESTA operating costs, and $10 will go toward promoting the United States as a tourist destination. Charging tourists to promote tourism doesn't make sense, critics say. "It's like inviting a friend over for dinner and then charging them a fee at the door," said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines around the world. "If the idea is to make the United States more welcoming and to increase tourism, raising the entry fee seems to be counterintuitive to what you're trying to do," Lott said. Instead, more effort should be made to improve the cumbersome entry process, he said. [More>>cnn.com]

09.06.10 US tells Turkey - Cool it with Iran

September 6 - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen has told Turkey it must join the international coalition seeking to contain Iran. Speaking in Ankara over the weekend Mullen said "The mutual goal of Iran not achieving a nuclear-weapons capability, that we completely agree on, we just need to reinforce." Turkey is also under significant economic pressure from the US — a  Treasury delegation was in Ankara two weeks ago,  warning key banks and private companies not to do business with Iran. Many Iranian banks turned to Turkey when the UN, EU and US imposed fresh economic sanctions in June and froze many of Iran's foreign assets. Following the US Treasury delegation's visit, many Turkish banks have reportedly ceased doing business with Iran. [More>>foxnews.com; See related story,

en.rian.ru (RIA Novosti) September 6, "The South Caucasus and the Russia-Turkey-Iran geopolitical triangle"
:...Turkey wants to become a key energy hub for the transportation of energy resources to western, central, southern and even northern Europe. Some projects, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline, are currently being implemented. Turkey also prioritizes relations with Iran because it receives natural gas from them. This does not always go smoothly, and acts of sabotage have taken place. Moreover, Turkey is seriously interested in developing Iranian mineral deposits.

Although the United States reproaches and even threatens Turkey, Ankara invests in Iran. This is happening at a time when Washington has imposed serious sanctions on investment in Iran. Previously, it was forbidden to invest over $20 million in various energy projects in Iran. And now such restrictions have become even more strict. Western Europe is also involved in these sanctions. They are assuring us that such sanctions are not directed against the Iranian nation's well-being. But an objective assessment of the situation shows that all this is empty talk. Of course, sanctions take their toll. By restricting gasoline exports to Iran, the West is dealing a serious blow against the everyday life of Iranians.

Iran which lacks refineries has to import most of its petroleum. Just like Russian companies, Turkish companies have ignored the ban and trade with Iranians. Although Turkey is a NATO member, it has not joined the sanctions, continues to improve relations with Iran and maintains permanent bilateral contacts. However, Western conjecture about an Iranian-Turkish alliance and some kind of Islamic solidarity are groundless. Both countries preach Shia and Sunni Islam. However, Shia Muslims account for 8% of the Turkish population, Shia Islam is not popular in Turkey. So, any talk of Islamic unity is far-fetched. But economic interests are an important factor. And Turkey is willing to facilitate Iranian oil and gas transits via its territory, although much remains to be done in this respect.

Speaking of Iran's interests in the Caucasus, Tehran has repeatedly offered its services in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iran is willing to act as a mediator in this area. Iran maintains a sufficiently cautious policy which is non-hostile toward Armenia. This could be expected in connection with good-neighborly Iranian-Azerbaijanian relations. Moreover, Iran trades with Armenia, supplying gas and building railroads together with transport monopoly Russian Railways. [end]

09.06.10 Pakistan suicide bomb on police, children among dead

September 6 - There are reports that police officers are among the casualties. Nineteen people died when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden truck into a police station in north-west Pakistan. Eleven policemen and four passing schoolchildren were among those killed in the attack in Lakki Marwat town, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Pakistani Taliban said they carried out the bombing. Last week, the group said it had carried out several attacks on Shia Muslims that left more than 100 dead. Meanwhile at least four al-Qaeda militants have been killed near the town of Miranshah, officials say. Their car was hit by two missiles fired from a suspected US drone in the area of Dattakhel, an area which officials say is an al-Qaeda safe haven near the Afghan border. The area is controlled by fighters loyal to Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whom officials say has been sheltering al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also thenews.com.pk, September 6, "Drone strike kills 5 militants in NWA."]

09.06.10 Afghans protest Florida church's plan to burn Koran

KABUL (AP) September 6 - Crowd in Kabul blames entire US for Dove World Outreach Center's vow to burn cCopies of holy bBook on 9/11. Hundreds of Afghans railed against the United States and called for President Barack Obama's death at a rally in the capital Monday to denounce a Florida church's plans to burn the Islamic holy book on 9/11. The crowd in Kabul, numbering as many as 500, chanted "Long live Islam" and "Death to America" as they listened to fiery speeches from members of parliament, provincial council deputies, and Islamic clerics who criticized the US and demanded the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. Some threw rocks when a US military convoy passed, but speakers shouted at them to stop and told police to arrest anyone who disobeyed.

The Gainesville, Fla.-based Dove World Outreach Center announced plans to burn copies of the Koran on church grounds to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but has been denied a permit to set a bonfire. The church, which made headlines last year after distributing T-shirts that said "Islam is of the Devil," has vowed to proceed with the burning. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement condemning Dove World Outreach Center's plans, saying Washington was "deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups." Protesters, who gathered in front of western Kabul's Milad ul-Nabi mosque, raised placards and flags emblazoned with slogans calling for the death of President Obama, while police looked on. They also held up a cardboard effigy of Dove World Outreach Center's pastor Terry Jones.

Muslims consider the Koran to be the word of God and demand that it, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad, be treated with the utmost respect. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Koran is considered deeply offensive. In 2005, 15 people died and scores were wounded in riots in Afghanistan sparked by a story in Newsweek magazine alleging that interrogators at the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay placed copies of the Koran in washrooms and had flushed one down the toilet to get inmates to talk. Newsweek later retracted the story. Also Monday, NATO said an American service member was killed in fighting in the country's turbulent east on Sunday.
[More>>cbsnews.com; See also indianexpress.com]

09.06.10 Indian warship foils Somali pirate attack

NEW DELHI (AFP) September 6 - An Indian warship on Sunday foiled an attempt by Somalian pirates to hijack merchant vessels off Somalia's coast in in the Gulf of Aden, a navy spokesman said on Monday. P.V.S. Satish said marine commandos on board the destroyer-class warship boarded a high-speed boat after it tried to close in on 12 merchant vessels including an Indian ship in the piracy-infested waters. The vessel deployed in the Gulf of Eden on an anti-piracy mission since July was escorting the flotilla when the rogue boat was spotted some 180 kilometers (112 miles) off the Somalian coast, Satish said.

"A cache of arms and several fuel drums and ship boarding equipment were found," the spokesman said in a statement issued from New Delhi, adding that seven Somalians and a Yemeni national on board the boat were disarmed. "This is the 16th piracy attack that has been prevented and not a single ship under escort of Indian navy has fallen prey to pirates," the statement added. Piracy is a major problem off the coast of lawless Somalia and the horn of Africa, with heavily-armed militants hijacking commercial ships for ransom. An international flotilla of warships has been patrolling the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the world's busiest maritime routes.

09.06.10 Iraqi troops under spotlight as bombers kill 12

BAGHDAD (AFP) September 6 - US troops joined repel operation in Sunday's attack. Iraqi security forces were under the spotlight Monday after a coordinated suicide attack on an army complex killed 12 people, with US troops among those who fired back in a bid to repel the operation. American involvement in the response to Sunday's attack was the first reported such engagement for US forces in Baghdad since they declared an official end to combat operations in Iraq five days ago. The morning attack targeted Rusafa military command headquarters, which only three weeks ago was hit by a massive suicide bombing that killed dozens of young men preparing to sign up. Sunday's explosion was the biggest to hit Baghdad since the recruitment center attack, and it came four days after US forces officially transformed their role in Iraq from a combat mission to "advise and assist" operations, with fewer than 50,000 US troops now stationed here. [More>>alarabiya.net]

09.06.10 Mubarak concerned over 'new dangers' in Gulf

CAIRO, September 6 - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Sunday he was concerned about "new dangers" in the Gulf, in an apparent allusion to Iran, whose nuclear ambitions concern numerous Arab countries. In a speech to mark the Night of Destiny during the holy month of Ramadan, Mubarak said "our celebration comes as our Arab and Muslim world faces difficult times." In addition to the problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia, Mubarak warned of "new dangers that are emerging in the Gulf region and threaten its stability."

Western countries and Israel suspect Iran is using its civilian nuclear program to hide efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, a prospect that also worries Arab nations. Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, are also concerned about Shiite Iran's support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Egypt, which has been deeply involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, postponed last week a visit to Cairo by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki over comments criticizing the role of some Arab leaders in facilitating the talks.

09.05.10 At least 43 killed in violence in Sudan's Darfur

CAIRO, September 5 - Clashes in a refugee camp in Sudan's restive Darfur region left six people dead, UN-African Union peacekeepers said Saturday, days after violence elsewhere in the area claimed the lives of at least 37 people dead. The spokesman for the UNAMID mission, Chris Cycmanick, said the fighting took place in the Hamidia refugee camp in West Darfur late Friday night and continued intermittently through to Saturday morning. According to witnesses in the camp, the clashes between different groups in the camp left six people dead, Cycmanick said. Thirty-three people were wounded. It was not immediately clear what sparked the violence. Ibrahim al-Helw, a spokesman for a Darfur rebel group in the area, blamed government-allied gunmen for the fighting. He said 10 people were killed and 29 wounded.

The clashes come less than two weeks after the UN Security Council called for the demilitarization of the camps in Darfur, which serve as a temporary home to hundreds of thousands of displaced people. The UN appeal was spurred by similar violence in another refugee camp between that left five people dead. Humanitarian workers were barred from the camps for two weeks after the clashes. Fighting in Darfur that began with a 2003 rebellion by groups who accused the government of neglecting the vast desert region. The conflict has left up to 300,000 people dead and forced 2.7 million to flee their homes
many to camps in Sudan's vast western region, according to UN figures. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

09.05.10 Abbas: Will quit peace talks if no building freeze

(AP) September 5 - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he has warned Israel's prime minister that he'll quit peace talks unless Israel extends a curb on settlement construction. Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched negotiations at a summit in Washington last week. A 10-month freeze on settlement housing ends Sept. 26, and Netanyahu is under pressure from hardline allies to resume construction. Netanyahu has not said what he will do. He told his Cabinet on Sunday that creative solutions are needed to make the talks succeed. However, Abbas told PLO activists in Libya late Saturday that "if the freeze period is not extended by the end of the month, there will be no negotiations." Abbas says he made that clear to Netanyahu. [>thejakartapost.com]

09.05.10 Palestinians to Iran: Mind your own business

September 5 - PA spokesman retorts that Iran "represses their people," after Iranian FM says those negotiating with Israel are "betraying their nations." The Palestinian Authority has taken a stand against Iran, after the Islamic Republic criticized the PA for relaunching direct talks with Israel, according to official PA news agency Wafa. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, reportedly said that Ahmadinejad "does not represent the Iranian people, forged elections, suppresses the Iranian people and stole the authority. [He] is not entitled to talk about Palestine, or the president of Palestine. President Abu Mazen [Abbas] is the elected president of free and fair elections in which more than two thousand international observers [participated]," Abu Rudeineh said.

"We have fought for Palestine and Jerusalem, and the Palestinian leadership has provided thousands of martyrs and tens of thousands wounded and prisoners. We did not repress our people, as did Iran led by Ahmadinejad," Abu Rudeineh added. "We are defending our national rights and our national interest, and the President and the Palestinian leadership and the PLO are the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, who knows how to defend their rights and will not allow anyone to undermine the national president or the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization," he said.

09.05.10 Top Iran cleric rejects Holocaust as 'superstition'

September 5 - A senior Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, has dismissed the Holocaust as a new "superstition" for the West in a blistering attack. "The Holocaust is nothing but superstition, but Zionists say that people of the world should be forced to accept this," he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. "Americans and Westerners are affected by newly appeared superstitions such as the Holocaust." Shirazi, who is a "marja," which means he is among the highest authorities in Shiite Islam, added: "The truth about the Holocaust is not clear, and when the researchers want to examine whether it is true or the Jews have created it to pose as victims, they jail the researchers." Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly branded the Holocaust a "myth" which has drawn international condemnation. [More>>news.com.au]

09.05.10 Vatican lobbies Tehran over woman who faces stoning

(AP) September 5 - The Vatican has said that it is in contact with Tehran concerning Sakineh Ashtiani, the woman who faces stoning for adultery charges, in an attempt to save her life. The Vatican on Sunday raised the possibility of using behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to spare the life of an Iranian widow sentenced to be stoned for adultery. In its first public statement on the case, which has attracted worldwide attention, the Vatican also decried stoning as a particularly "brutal" form of capital punishment. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Catholic church opposes the death penalty in general. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of adultery. In July, Iranian authorities said they would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time being, but the mother of two could still face execution by hanging for adultery and other offenses. [More>>france24.com]

09.05.10 Report: Iran paying Taliban to kill US troops

KABUL, September 5 - At least five Iranian companies in Afghanistan's capital are using their offices covertly to finance Taliban militants in provinces near Kabul, according to a Sunday Times investigation. Afghan intelligence and Taliban sources have told the newspaper that the firms, set up in the past six months, provide cash for a network of district Taliban treasurers to pay battlefield expenses and bonuses for killing the enemy and destroying their vehicles. The Iranian companies win contracts to supply materials and logistics to Afghans involved in reconstruction. The money often comes in the form of aid from foreign donors. Profits are transferred through poorly regulated Afghan banks — including Kabul Bank, which is partly owned by President Hamid Karzai's brother Mahmood — to Tehran and Dubai. From these countries, the money returns to Afghanistan through the informal Islamic banking system known as hawala to be dispersed to the Taliban. [More>>foxnews.com]

09.05.10 Five killed in N. Caucasus suicide car bombing

MAKHACHKALA, Russia (RIA Novosti) September 5 - Five people were killed and over 30 injured in Sunday's attack on a military unit in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, a law enforcement source reported. A Zhiguli car packed with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber detonated near the town of Buinaksk after ramming the gates of the military unit, making part of the 136th motorized rifle brigade, early on Sunday. The unit's guard blocked the car, preventing a larger death toll. Reports of the number of injured by different sources varied from 33 to 39. Many of those injured were in serious condition. The Defense Ministry said three people were killed. A law enforcement source said the power of the explosive device was equivalent to up to 100 kg of TNT. A second explosion rocked the town as investigators were heading to the site. The second bomb exploded on the way of a police car after the car passed the place where the bomb was planted, so no one was killed or injured. [More>>en.rian.ru]

09.05.10 Double suicide bombing kills eight in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, September 5 - A double suicide bombing killed eight people on Sunday at an Iraqi defence ministry complex that three weeks ago was hit by a massive suicide attack which killed dozens, a health official said. A suicide bomber blew up a minibus at the rear gate of the Rusafa Military Command headquarters in east Baghdad around 10:50am (0750 GMT), said Major General Qassim Atta, a security forces spokesman in the capital. A policeman said at the blast site that a second suicide attacker, wearing an explosives-filled belt, then rushed on to the scene and blew himself up — an account backed up by an interior ministry official. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

09.05.10 Deadly clashes erupt in south Yemen

September 5 - Police force suffers losses at the hands of separatist fighters in Lahej and Abyan provinces as violence continues. Two police officers have been killed and two more wounded in fresh clashes in southern Yemen. The incident happened on Saturday just hours after the army killed at least one anti-government fighter, a local official and witnesses told the AFP news agency. Four civilians were injured in the clashes. Violence broke out at dawn after security forces put up a checkpoint outside Habilayn, in Lahej province, pitting Yemen's army against members of the separatist Southern Movement. South Yemen, where many residents complain of discrimination by the federal government in Sanaa in the allocation of resources, was independent from 1967 until 1990 when it united with the north. It launched an unsuccessful secession attempt four years later. Formed in 2009, the Southern Movement is a mix of secessionists and those who seek greater autonomy for the region. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also

alarabiya.net, September 5, "Army clashes with militants kill nine in Yemen"
: ADEN - Yemen reinforces its troops in Habilayn area. Six people including four policemen were killed in overnight clashes in Yemen's tense south, where a separate Qaeda-style ambush killed a tribal chief and his two bodyguards, local and tribal officials told AFP on Sunday...

09.05.10 Clashes kill two NATO soldiers in Afghanistan

KABUL (AFP) September 5 - Taliban death threats hang over Afghan elections. NATO on Sunday announced the death of two foreign soldiers, one of them American, in southern Afghanistan's insurgent heartland. One soldier whose nationality was not given died Sunday in an insurgent attack, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement. Another, confirmed as an American, died Saturday following a Taliban-style bomb attack, ISAF said. The deaths brings to 497 the total number of foreign troops to die in the Afghan war so far this year in comparison to 521 in 2009, according to an AFP tally based on that kept by the icasualties.org website. [More>>alarabiya.net]

09.03.10 Massive iceberg on the move in Northern Hemisphere

September 3 - The largest chunk of ice in the Northern Hemisphere is on the move at a four-hundredths-of-a-kilometer an hour clip. Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency shows that a massive iceberg that calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier on August 4 has cruised into the Nares Strait, putting 28 kilometers between it and its source. The 245-square-kilometer iceberg that's about four times the size of Manhattan faces a fractured future. The satellite imagery shows it has hit a small island, which is slowing its journey but also threatening to break it up. The berg is being tracked by the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite, using both radar and photographs. [>cnn.com]

09.03.10 Radical Islam is world's greatest threat - Tony Blair

September 3 - Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has described radical Islam as the greatest threat facing the world today. He made the remark in a BBC interview marking the publication of his memoirs. Mr. Blair said radical Islamists believed that whatever was done in the name of their cause was justified - including the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Mr. Blair, who led Britain into war in Afghanistan and Iraq, denied that his own policies had fuelled radicalism. Asked about the argument that Chechens, Kashmiris, Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans were resisting foreign occupation, he said Western polices were designed to confront radical Islamists because they were "regressive, wicked and backward-looking." The aim of al-Qaeda in Iraq was "not to get American troops out of Baghdad [but] to destabilise a government the people of Iraq have voted for," he told the BBC's Owen Bennett Jones in a World Service interview. The former British leader who now acts as the Middle East envoy for the international Quartet said that Iran was one of the biggest state sponsors of radical Islam, and it was necessary to prevent it by any means from developing a nuclear weapon. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

09.03.10 Arabs are ready for peace with Israel: Moussa

CERNOBBIO, Italy (AP) September 23 - The Arab League chief predicts the new round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be the last. He also says the Arabs are ready for full peace with Israel in exchange for a pullout from the lands Israel occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem. Amr Moussa said at a news conference in Italy that "there is no alternative but to go ahead and to move on and to achieve a real peace." He said Arabs were ready for peace and ready to have normal relations with Israel. Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in Washington this week and are meant to continue later this month. Moussa said he believes "this round of negotiations will be the final one." [>khaleejtimes.com]

09.03.10 Syria moves to curb influence of Muslim conservatives

DAMASCUS, Syria, September 3 - This country, which had sought to show solidarity with Islamist groups and allow religious figures a greater role in public life, has recently reversed course, moving forcefully to curb the influence of Muslim conservatives in its mosques, public universities and charities. The government has asked imams for recordings of their Friday sermons and started to strictly monitor religious schools. Members of an influential Muslim women's group have now been told to scale back activities like preaching or teaching Islamic law. And this summer, more than 1,000 teachers who wear the niqab, or the face veil, were transferred to administrative duties. The crackdown, which began in 2008 but has gathered steam this summer, is an effort by President Bashar al-Assad to reassert Syria's traditional secularism in the face of rising threats from radical groups in the region, Syrian officials say.

The policy amounts to a sharp reversal for Syria, which for years tolerated the rise of the conservatives. And it sets the government on the seemingly contradictory path of moving against political Islamists at home, while supporting movements like Hamas and Hezbollah abroad. Syrian officials are adamant that the shifts stem from alarming domestic trends, and do not affect support for those groups, allies in their struggle against Israel. At the same time, they have spoken proudly about their secularizing campaign. Some Syrian analysts view that as an overture to the United States and European nations, which have been courting Syria as part of a strategy to isolate Iran and curb the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah.

09.03.10 Egypt cancels meet after Iran FM accuses Arab leaders of betrayal

(AP) September 23 - Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki accused Arab leaders of "betraying their nations" by attending relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington. Egypt has cancelled a visit by Iran's foreign minister to protest comments in which he accused Arab leaders of betrayal for attending the new round of Mideast peace talks in Washington. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had been scheduled to visit Cairo Monday for a meeting of Nonaligned Movement members. Iran has an uneasy relationship with US-allied Arab nations, which have watched Tehran's growing influence in the Middle East with concern because of suspicions over its nuclear program and its support for radical Islamic groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Mottaki said Arab leaders who attended the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington this week were "betraying their nations." [More>>haaretz.com]

09.03.10 Middle East peace talks are 'doomed to fail,' says Ahmadinejad

September 23 - Iran's president urges Palestinians to continue armed resistance against Israel at al-Quds Day rally. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today launched an angry attack on "doomed" US-brokered Middle East peace talks and urged the Palestinians to continue armed resistance to Israel. Ahmadinejad used the annual al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally in Tehran to scorn the Obama administration's efforts in launching the first Arab-Israeli negotiations in nearly two years. "What do they want to negotiate about? Who are they representing? What are they going to talk about?" the hardline Iranian leader said of the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington. "Who gave them the right to sell a piece of Palestinian land? The people of Palestine and the people of the region will not allow them to sell even an inch of Palestinian soil to the enemy. The negotiations are stillborn and doomed." [More>>guardian.co.uk]

09.03.10 Gaza militants threaten attacks on Israel

September 3 - Thirteen Palestinian militant groups have joined forces to step up attacks on Israel following the "productive" peace talks in Washington. The threat came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to meet every fortnight to structure a peace deal. A spokesman for Hamas, which was not involved in the talks, said 13 militant groups in the Gaza Strip would work together to launch "more effective attacks" against Israel. Asked if this included suicide bombings, he said: "All options are open." Hamas has claimed responsibility for two shootings in the West Bank this week that killed four Israeli settlers and wounded two. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas have been holding the first direct negotiations between the two parties in nearly two years. [More>>news.sky.com]

09.03.10 NYC mosque investor gave to Hamas-linked charity

NEW YORK (AP) September 4 - Ground Zero backer's lawyer says his client had no knowledge of the group's involvement with terrorist organization when he donated money. One of the investors in a proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City is a Long Island medical clinic owner whose expressions of sympathy for Palestinians included a donation to a charity later shut down for links to Hamas. The developer leading the project confirmed Friday that Hisham Elzanaty, 51, is among the members of a real estate partnership that paid $4.8 million last year for the vacant clothing store that is to be torn down and replaced by a cultural center and mosque. The partnership's general manager, Sharif El-Gamal, confirmed Elzanaty's role in response to a media report about his reputed involvement. "All of these investors are committed, as I am, not to receive funding from any organization that supports terrorism or is hostile to America," El-Gamal said in a statement. El-Gamal has so-far declined to reveal the names of his other financial backers, but has said the eight-member group is diverse and includes Jews and Christians. [More>>jpost.com]

09.03.10 Behead anti-Muslim Dutch leader: Oz cleric

AMSTERDAM, September 3 - A well-known Australian Muslim cleric has called for the beheading of Dutch anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders, a daily said. De Telegraaf, Netherlands' largest newspaper, led its front page on Friday with a story on the speech by Feiz Muhammad. The paper posted an audio clip in which he refers to Wilders as "this Satan, this devil, this politician in Holland" and says anyone who talks about Islam like Wilders does should be executed by beheading. According to his website, Muhammad is based in Malaysia. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

09.03.10 Hexbollah leader praises Hamas for West Bank shooting attacks

September 3 - Nasrallah on attacks which left 4 Israelis dead and 2 injured this week: This is the way to free Jerusalem and Palestine. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah praised Hamas on Friday for the West Bank shooting attacks which left four Israelis dead and two injured on two consecutive days, saying "this is the way to free Jerusalem and Palestine." Four Israelis were killed and two injured this past week in separate shooting attacks in the West Bank. The armed wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, took responsibly for both attacks and vowed that there would be more, just as US-sponsored direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were officially launched in Washington.

Speaking at a rally held in honor of Jerusalem day, in a neighborhood south of Beirut, Nasrallah criticized the Palestinian Authority for agreeing to direct negotiations with Israel. "These negotiations were born to die," Nasrallah said. "Palestine from the sea to the river is the property of the Palestinian nation, of the Arab and the Muslim, and no one has the right to relinquish that land, not even a drop of its water," Nasrallah said. While criticizing the Palestinian Authority, Nasrallah said the Palestinian group Hamas and other opposition forces "need to hear voices of support from the Arab and Islamic world."

09.03.10 Authorities: Fire at Tennessee mosque site was arson

September 3 - Authorities rule arson caused fire at Tennessee mosque site, offer $20K reward for information. Federal investigators said Friday that a suspicious fire that damaged construction equipment at the site of a future mosque in Tennessee was arson and offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The future mosque in Tennessee, like other houses of worship for Muslims across the country, has been drawn into a fierce debate surrounding a proposed Islamic community center two blocks from Manhattan's ground zero, and opponents are becoming even more hostile and aggressive. The construction site arson frightened members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Firefighters had said there was a strong smell of diesel from the fire that engulfed the cab of a dump truck last weekend, and authorities found fresh fuel pooled under a second dump truck, according to an incident report from the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

09.03.10 Islamic group asks army to deny 'traitor' GI's request for conscientious objector status

September 2 - An American Muslim organization is asking the U.S. Army to deny a Muslim soldier's request for conscientious objector status, accusing him of treason and urging the military to punish him to the full extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Pfc. Naser Abdo, a 20-year-old infantryman who joined the Army one year ago, filed for conscientious objector status in June, saying his faith and the military don't mix. "As a Muslim, we stand against injustice, we stand against discrimination, and I feel it's my duty as an individual to do this," Abdo told FoxNews.com. The Army has deferred his scheduled deployment to Afghanistan. But the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) says Abdo's claim is "patently false." "Muslims serve with distinction throughout the United States Military and AIFD sees Abdo's traitorous public assertions as a slap in the face to all American Muslims especially those Muslims who fight in our armed forces for the liberty and freedom guaranteed by the American Constitution," the group said in a statement it issued on Friday.

Said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of AIFD: "Abdo's actions are an affront to every American Muslim who has proudly donned a US military uniform. His assertions are not built on Islamic teachings but on a feeble adherence to the global political ideology of Islamism that threatens our security and radicalizes our Muslim youth." Abdo said that in addition to conflicting with his religion beliefs, his military duties were also consuming every part of his day and interfering with his religious duties. "I knew that if I went to Afghanistan and, God forbid, something were to happen, that my faith was so weak that I wouldn't be admitted into heaven," he said. But AIFD on Friday called Abdo's claim a cowardly attempt to use his faith to make a political statement and said it belies the religious experience of the vast majority of Muslim-American troops who have found the time to perform their spiritual rituals.

09.03.10 Suicide bomber kills 53 in Pakistan

(AFP) September 3 - At least 42 people have been killed in a suicide bombing targeting a Shi'ite Muslim rally in Pakistan's southwest city of Quetta, the latest in a string of sectarian attacks. Police said the bomber was among the 450-strong crowd and detonated on reaching the main square in the city yesterday, triggering chaotic scenes, with people setting fires as others fled or laying on the ground to avoid ongoing gunfire. "At least 53 people have been killed," Quetta police chief Ghulam Shabir told AFP, and at least 197 people were injured. A doctor in Quetta's main hospital said the toll of wounded was higher, with more than 80 people receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the attack. The rally was being held to mark Al-Quds day, an international event staged every year by the Shi'ite community, opposing Israel's control of Jerusalem and showing solidarity with Palestinian Muslims. [More>>news.com.au; See other details,

france24.com (AFP) September 3, "Taliban claim responsibility for deadly Shiite attack"
: ...Pakistani Taliban commander Qari Hussain Mehsud told The Associated Press one of his suicide bombers carried out the attack. "We proudly take its responsibility," he said. "Our war is against America and Pakistan security forces, but Shiites are also our target because they too are our enemies." He said he was proud the US had added the Pakistani Taliban to its international terrorism blacklist on Wednesday, and he threatened attacks in the US and Europe in coming days that would resemble a recent attempted car bombing in Times Square...

09.03.10 Suicide bomber strikes at Ahmedis worship place in Mardan

MARDAN, Pakistan, September 3 - One person died and four others injured when a suicide bomber blew up explosives strapped on his body at a worship place of Ahmedis here at Muslimabad Canal, Geo News reported Friday. The injured were immediately rushed to District Headquarter Hospital where doctors described their condition out of danger. Police said the suicide attack took place outside the worship place of Ahmedis. Eyewitnesses said the suicide bomber first attempted to force his way into the worship place upon which the security guard opened fire and injured him. However, the injured suicide attacker blew himself up with a loud blast which was heard far across. They said the explosion threw the severed limbs of the suicide bomber all across as well as into the worship place. [>thenews.com.pk]

09.03.10 US drone strikes kill 12 in NWA

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, September 3 - Twelve people were killed in two separate missile strikes by US drones here in North Waziristan on Friday. In the second strike 9 people were killed and many others injured when a US drone fired two missiles on a house in Machis Factory area during Iftar time in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt. The injured were shifted by the locals on self-help basis to a nearby hospital. In another US drone strike during Iftar time a house was targeted in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan with four missiles, killing 3 people and injuring a few others. [>thenews.com.pk]

09.01.10 Barak to Haaretz: Israel ready to cede parts of Jerusalem in peace deal

September 1 - Ahead of start of direct peace talks in Washington, Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods will be part of a Palestinian state; a 'special regime' to govern holy sites. Ehud Barak has always vacillated between peace and security, dovishness and hawkishness, left wing and right wing. Even when he left south Lebanon, offered the Golan Heights to Hafez Assad and the Temple Mount to Yasser Arafat, he didn't do this as a bleeding heart. He always spoke forcefully, talked about the importance of sobriety. He always spoke about how Israel must survive in a jungle. It must do so even now, on the eve of the peace summit in Washington. This time, however, Barak is surprisingly even unusually optimistic. Perhaps it is because he contributed quite a bit to the summit's unveiling. Maybe it is due to the fact that the summit is his political lifejacket. The defense minister believes in the 2010 peace summit even more than the principals taking part in it.

...What are the principles of a peace deal that you believe can be agreed upon by the conclusion of the talks?

"Two states for two nations; an end to the conflict and the end of all future demands; the demarcation of a border that will run inside the Land of Israel, and within that border will lie a solid Jewish majority for generations and on the other side will be a demilitarized Palestinian state but one that will be viable politically, economically, and territorially; keeping the settlement blocs in our hands; retrieving and relocating the isolated settlements into the settlement blocs or within Israel; a solution to the refugee problem [whereby refugees return to] the Palestinian state or are rehabilitated by international aid; comprehensive security arrangements and a solution to the Jerusalem problem."

What is the solution in Jerusalem?

"West Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighborhoods that are home to 200,000 residents will be ours. The Arab neighborhoods in which close to a quarter million Palestinians live will be theirs. There will be a special regime in place along with agreed upon arrangements in the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David." [Full story>>haaretz.com]

09.01.10 Obama meets Netanyahu as Mideast peace talks begin

WASHINGTON, September 1 - President Obama on Wednesday began the arduous process of coaxing and pressing the main Middle East participants to define and embrace a comprehensive peace settlement. But he had to begin by joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in strongly condemning a fatal attack on the West Bank and declaring solemnly, "We've got a lot of work to do." The meetings on Wednesday and Thursday will end 20 months without direct negotiations between the core participants. Mr. Obama's one-on-one meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in the White House Oval Office — to be followed by meetings between the president and, successively, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders — began under the cloud of the violent attack Tuesday on the West Bank, claimed by Hamas militants, which left four Israeli settlers dead. [More>>nytimes.com]

09.01.10 String of bombs targets Shiite religious procession

(AP) September 1 - Three bombs were detonated during a Shiite religious procession in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing at least 25 and injuring some 150, officials report. Three bombs ripped through a Shiite Muslim religious procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing 25 people and wounding about 150 others, officials said. The explosions appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni extremists against the minority Shiites they consider infidels. Allied with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the bombers are also seeking to destabilize Pakistan's US-backed government. The blasts were the first major attacks since Pakistan was hit by devastating floods more than a month ago. Lahore, the country's political capital and home to much of its military elite, has been regularly targeted by militants over the past two years. The bombs exploded at three separate sites Wednesday evening as 35,000 Shiites marched through the streets of Lahore in their traditional mourning procession for the caliph Ali, one of Shiite Islam's most respected holy men...After the blasts, the marchers erupted in fury, setting fire to a police station, another police facility, two police cars and three motorcycles, said Zulfiqar Hameed, a senior police officer. Police lobbed tear gas canisters at the crowd and fired shots in the air to disperse the assailants, he said. [Full story>>france24.com]

09.01.10 US adds Pakistani Taliban to terrorism blacklist

WASHINGTON (AP) September 1 - The Obama administration on Wednesday added the Pakistani Taliban to its international terrorism blacklist, targeting the group blamed for the failed car bombing in New York's Times Square and its leaders with financial and travel sanctions. The group, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban or TTP, threatens US national security, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a notice published in the Federal Register. She designated the group a "foreign terrorist organization" under US law. In addition, Clinton named the group and its top leaders, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman, "specially designated global terrorists," a classification that imposes additional State and Treasury department sanctions. Each has "committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States," she said in the notice. The move will freeze any assets the group and its leaders may have in US jurisdictions, makes it illegal for Americans to provide funding or material support to them and bars them from entering the United States. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

09.01.10 Pakistan air raids kill scores

September 1 - Military air attacks targeting fighters kill at least 45 people in the country's northwest. Pakistani air raids targeting fighters believed to have been preparing for imminent suicide attacks have killed between 40 to 45 people in a northwestern the country. "Security forces today carried out a successful operation against militants in the Tirah valley of Khyber Agency," a senior Pakistani security official told AFP news agency on Tuesday. "Militant hideouts, a training centre, an illegal FM radio station and eight vehicles prepared for suicide attack were destroyed in air strikes," he added. "The air strikes were carried out after intelligence information that militants were preparing to launch suicide attacks in Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province during the next week." Government sources say that the armed men belonged to the Lashkar-e-Islam group and included fighters who fled last year's offensive by the Pakistani military in  the northwestern Swat valley. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also

alarabiya.net, September 1, "55 militants killed in Pakistani airstrikes"
: PESHAWAR - At least 12 civilians killed in raids: official. The death toll from Pakistani air strikes on militant hideouts in a northwestern tribal area Wednesday rose to 55, with reports of some civilian deaths, security officials said. Pakistani jet fighters late Tuesday targeted militants preparing for imminent suicide attacks and destroyed their bases in the lawless Khyber tribal district, which borders Afghanistan, security officials said. "Militants were using civilians and their families as human shields and there could be some civilian casualties, but we do not know how many," a senior security official told AFP, confirming the new toll...

09.01.10 Two die in Islamic pilgrimages office bombing

(AP) September 1 - The director of an office for facilitating pilgrimages to Islamic holy sites was killed in a bomb attack in the volatile southern city of Kandahar today, Afghan police said. Kandahar police chief Sher Mohammed Zazai said one other person also died in the attack and two people were wounded. The bomb appeared to be a remote-controlled device concealed on a motorcycle which exploded as the director was leaving his office, according to eyewitness Mohammad Hassan Taimuri. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and it was not clear why the director would be a target. However, Taliban insurgents who routinely target government institutions, are highly active in Kandahar. [>independent.co.uk]

09.01.10 US forces begin a new mission in Iraq: Biden

BAGHDAD / TEHRAN, September 1 - Ahmadinejad urges punishment for Iraq invaders. US Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that American forces had begun a new mission in Iraq, a day after the US combat role in the war-torn country officially came to an end. "Operation Iraqi Freedom is over but American engagement with Iraq will continue with the mission that began today, Operation New Dawn," Biden told US troops at Camp Victory, outside of Baghdad. Biden was speaking hours after President Barack Obama announced in an Oval Office address that the US combat role, begun with the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, was now over, as uncertainty and violence continue to cloud the nation.

...US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that America's war in Iraq is over but admitted that the outcome will remain "clouded" by the reason it was waged in the first place. Asked by reporters at Camp Ramadi, an American base about 100 kilometers (80 miles) west of Baghdad, whether the United States was still at war in Iraq, Gates replied: "I'd say we're not. Combat operations have ceased. We are still going to work with Iraqis on counter-terrorism, we are still doing a lot of training and advising," said Gates, who arrived early Wednesday on an unannounced visit to Iraq.


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