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10.25.09 Baghdad rocked by car bombs, scores dead

BAGHDAD (AP) October 25 - At least 136 killed, including 25 staff members of Provincial Council, in blasts targeting government offices. Two suicide car bombs exploded in downtown Baghdad Sunday, killing at least 136 people and delivering a powerful blow to the heart of the fragile city's government in the worst attack of the year, officials said. While violence has dropped dramatically in the country since the height of the sectarian tensions, such bombings like Sunday's demonstrate the precarious nature of the security gains and the insurgency's abilities to still pull off devastating attacks in the centre of what is supposed to be one of Baghdad's most secure areas. Black smoke could be seen billowing from the frantic scene, as emergency service vehicles sped to the area. Even civilian cars were being commandeered to transport the wounded to hospitals.

"The walls collapsed and we had to run out," said Yasmeen Afdhal, 24, an employee of the Baghdad provincial administration, which was targeted by one of the car bombs. "There are many wounded, and I saw them being taken away. They were pulling victims out of the rubble, and rushing them to ambulances." The car bombs, which targeted the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial administration, come as Iraq is preparing for elections scheduled this January, and many Iraqi officials have warned that violence by insurgents intent destabilizing the country could rise.

10.25.09 Israeli police, Arabs clash near Jerusalem mosque

JERUSALEM (Reuters) October 25 - Israeli police stormed Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday, hurling stun grenades at Palestinians who threw rocks at them, in another outbreak of violence at the holy city's most sensitive site. A Palestinian Red Crescent medic said 18 Palestinians were injured. Police reported that three officers were hurt. The unrest, following a similar incident a month ago, did not appear to herald any immediate slide into widespread violence that could disrupt US-led efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, suspended since December. But the confrontation between Israeli police in riot gear and rock-throwing Muslims alarmed by rumors that right-wing Jews planned to enter the site was a reminder that Jerusalem remains a cauldron of heated religious and political passions.

...Police, who also used tear gas in the Jerusalem clashes, did not go into al-Aqsa mosque, situated on al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), regarded by Muslims as the third-holiest site after the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The compound is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, where the two destroyed biblical temples once stood. Israel captured the site in a 1967 war, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, which it annexed, and adjoining parts of the West Bank.
[Full story>>thestar.com.my; See more details,

jpost.com, October 25, "9 cops, reporter lightly hurt in Jerusalem" : Nine police officers and a foreign reporter were lightly wounded Sunday during clashes between security forces and Arab rioters in the capital. Police were forced to enter the Temple Mount twice during the the day of fierce rioting, and were met by a hail of rocks and a firebomb. A female Australian journalist was struck in the head by a rock during the disturbances, apparently after being caught between rioters and security forces near an entrance to the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter. She was treated at the scene. Police said the disturbances began when officers were accompanying a group of tourists up to the mount. According to police, several Muslim youngsters were caught on video preparing to cause trouble; gathering rocks to throw and pouring oil onto the ground to hinder the access of security forces and the visitors.

Following the discovery, police reinforcements stormed the mount, and were pelted with stones and a fire bomb by the young rioters. The rioters were dispersed with stun grenades and rubber bullets, and a tense calm was briefly restored to the area. Security forces ascended the mount for a second time when Arab youths began hurling rocks just as police officers were talking to the Waqf in a bid to convince some 100 Muslim youths, who had been involved in the earlier violence, to come out of the Aksa Mosque, where they had holed themselves up. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said the officers had promised not to arrest them if they came out.

...In total, 18 Arab rioters were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and violence against police officers. Among them were Ali Abu Sheikha, of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, and Khatem Abd al-Kader, holder of the Jerusalem dossier in Fatah, who was banished from the Old City earlier in October on charges of inciting riots...The already high alert level in the capital had come in response to what police said were previous calls by both Jewish and Islamic religious leaders to ascend the Temple Mount. Muslim worshipers were called to Jerusalem Sunday mostly by east Jerusalem Muslim clerics and their counterparts from the northern branch of the Islamic Movement...

10.25.09 Pakistan minister assassinated Islamabad

October 25 - A minister in Pakistan's Balochistan province was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said. Education Minister Shafiq Ahmed Khan, who belonged to the Pakistan People's Party, was on his way home after attending a function when gunmen opened fire at his vehicle. Khan was killed instantly while one of his relatives was seriously injured in the attack. The Baloch United Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the killing. The same group was involved in the kidnapping of a UN official earlier this year. [More>>indianexpress.com]

10.25.09 US soldier, several rebels killed in Afghan unrest

KABUL (AFP) October 25 - A US soldier and several Taliban rebels were killed at the weekend in the latest deadly violence to hit insurgency-hit Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan authorities said Sunday. The US soldier was killed on Saturday, the third American to lose his life since Friday. A Danish soldier also attached to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was killed on Friday. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.24.09 Timor Sea oil spill sparks concern

October 24 - Millions of litres of oil pouring into the Timor Sea from a ruptured well is causing an environmental disaster that will continue to unfold for years to come, campaigners say. A fourth attempt was made on Friday to plug the West Atlas oil platform off Western Australia, amid claims the amount of spillage could be much higher than previously estimated. PTTEP, the Thai based company that owns the rig, has thus far failed to stop the flow of sweet light crude oil, gas and condensate from the Montara wellhead, 250km northwest of the Truscott air base in Western Australia's Kimberley region. PTTEP estimates the well is leaking 400 barrels of oil a day, but the Australian government said the maximum flow could be as much as 2,000 barrels a day.

"The simple fact is we don't know how much oil has been released into the environment," Rachel Siewert, a Greens senator, said. "I've always been sceptical about the company's claim of 300-400 barrels, because they could never back it up." Satellite images show a surface slick estimated at 15,000sq km, stretching into Indonesian waters. "We were in an area that is teeming with marine life ... It was sickening, because we were seeing dolphins surfacing in the oil and birds feeding in it," Gilly Llewellyn of the World Wildlife Fund said following a survey of the slick. "If this was closer to shore there would be global outrage. We are not seeing large amounts of birds dying but this will have a serious long-term impact," she said. PTTEP is using electromagnetic ranging tools to home in on the damaged casing, and is calculating each failed drill attempt's distance from the pipe.

About 300 people are working on addressing the spill PTTEP said. Seventeen vessels and nine aircraft, including a Boeing 747, have been used in the operation. The cost of the clean-up has reach A$5.3 million (US$4.9 million), a senate hearing heard this week. PTTEP has said it will pick up the bill for the operation. The leak, which began on August 21, is more than two and a half kilometres below the sea bed.
[>aljazeera.net; See more details,

wwf.org, October 23, "Expedition observes hundreds of marine creatures in oil slick"
: ..."We recorded hundreds of dolphins and sea birds in the oil slick area, as well as sea snakes and threatened hawksbill and flatback turtles," said WWF-Australia's Director of Conservation Dr. Gilly Llewellyn, who led the team of ecologists. "It's a stark contrast to comments made this week by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) that claimed our survey found no evidence of harm to marine life. This is clearly a false representation of our results and appears to be an attempt to sweep this environmental disaster under the carpet," Dr. Llewellyn said...

10.24.09 Obama declares national emergency for H1N1

(AP) October 24 - President Allows Officials to Bypass Federal Rules in Addressing Outbreak Behind More Than 1,000 U.S. Deaths. President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency and empowered his health secretary to suspend federal requirements and speed treatment for thousands of infected people. The declaration that Obama signed late Friday authorized Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to bypass federal rules so health officials can respond more quickly to the outbreak, which has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States.

The goal is to remove bureaucratic roadblocks and make it easier for sick people to seek treatment and medical providers to provide it immediately. That could mean fewer hurdles involving Medicare, Medicaid or health privacy regulations. "As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic," Mr. Obama wrote in the declaration, which the White House announced Saturday. He said the pandemic keeps evolving, the rates of illness are rising rapidly in many areas and there's a potential "to overburden health care resources." Because of vaccine production delays, the government has backed off initial, optimistic estimates that as many as 120 million doses would be available by mid-October.
[More>>cbsnews.com; See related story,

foxnews.com, October 23, "WHO: Nearly 5,000 H1N1 deaths worldwide.":
Nearly 5,000 people have died from swine flu since it emerged this year and developed into a global epidemic, the World Health Organization said Friday. Since most countries have stopped counting individual swine flu cases, the figure is considered an underestimate. WHO said there were 4,999 total deaths through Oct. 18, most of them in the Western Hemisphere. The figure was up 264 from a week earlier...

10.24.09 Taliban call for Afghan poll boycott, threaten violence

KABUL (AFP) October 24 - The Taliban called on Saturday for a boycott of the upcoming run-off in Afghanistan's fraud-tainted presidential election as top US and UN envoys predicted fewer problems with the second round. While Western military chiefs say they can ensure the November 7 poll is conducted in a peaceful atmosphere, the warning from the Taliban threatens to further deflate turnout, which was less than 40 percent first time round. "The Islamic emirate (of Afghanistan) once again informs all the people that no one should participate in this American process and should boycott the process," said a Taliban statement emailed to AFP. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

10.24.09 Pakistan captures Taliban chief's hometown

October 24 - Pakistan said Saturday it had captured Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud's hometown as the United States struck a village and killed 14 people and the Indian army accused Islamabad of firing at Indian army positions across the de facto border dividing Kashmir. Security officials said the army overran Mehsud's town of Kotkai overnight after three days of aerial bombardments which had underlined the huge challenge facing the military in taking on the Taliban in their tribal heartland. And in another part of the northwest tribal belt, a missile fired by an unmanned US drone spy plane killed at least 14 people, local officials said...Although figures are impossible to verify, the army says more than 160 militants and 23 troops have been killed in the week-long South Waziristan offensive. Twelve militants and three soldiers died in the final stages of the battle for Kotkai, it added. [Full story>>alarabiya.net; See other details,

thenews.com.pk, October 24, "Four Afghans killed by US forces: police" : KANDAHAR: Four Afghan civilians, including two children and a woman, were killed by US forces in southern Kandahar city Saturday, a police official said. A US military convoy opened fire on a vehicle, killing four passengers, Shah Agha, a Kandahar police official said while talking to a UK-based news agency. A statement from the provincial governor of Kandahar also confirmed the casualties. A spokesman for NATO in Afghanistan said three civilians were killed and two were wounded when NATO forces fired on a car because it failed to stop when repeatedly signaled to do so. The spokesman was unable to confirm if children were among the casualties or the nationality of the troops involved...

xinhuanet.com, October 24, "Death toll in NW Pakistan drone strike reaches 27" :  ISLAMABAD - The death toll in suspected United States drone attack at a compound in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal agency has reached 27, local TV channel reported Saturday.  A US drone aircraft Saturday fired missiles at a suspected hideout of the Taliban-linked militants in northwest Pakistan's tribal area, leaving 27 persons dead and several others injured, the private channel ARY News reported. The compound was located near the house of Taliban deputy chief Moulvi Faqeer Muhammad. Official sources said several foreigners were among those killed. They said that the drone fired two missiles at a bunker at Damadola area. Nephew and son-in-law of Maulvi Faqir Muhammad were also killed in the attack, officials said.

Maulvi Faqir had left the place 10 minutes before the strike, they said. They said that the militants were holding a meeting in the bunker when the missiles hit the hideout. According to officials some important militants personalities were in the bunker and the killed persons' identity could be proved later. Damadola and its adjoining areas are considered as the stronghold of Taliban. The area is located near Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province. The US has intensified drone attacks on Pakistani tribal regions despite Pakistan's protest in recent months. Pakistani officials said that the drone strikes have killed more than 400 people in about 50 attacks since Aug. 2008. [end]

10.24.09 Families of detained Iran reformists arrested

(AFP) October 24 - Iranian authorities have detained 35 relatives and supporters of jailed reformists, including wives and children, the reformist Sarmayeh newspaper reported on Saturday. In a separate report reformist website norooznews said "armed, masked guards" on Thursday raided a prayer ceremony in Tehran attended by families and supporters of jailed reformists who opposed the June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Sarmayeh reported that initially 60 people were arrested, among them the wives and children of jailed reformists including from the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) party, and that 35 remain in detention. The prayer ceremony to pay respect to the jailed reformists was being held at the residence of reformist Shahab Tabatabai's father-in-law. Tabatabai, a senior campaigner for the main defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has been sentenced to five years in prison for his alleged role in the post-election unrest which rocked Tehran.
[More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related report:

: another reformist and noted pacifist, Kazemeini Boroujerdi, is currently in Evin Prison and has been reported to be in critical condition, possibly suffering from a stroke or brain tumor. In his "Principles for establishing peace" he concludes:

24. I believe publicity and cultural activities are the most effective way to promote a cause. I call upon the entire world to refrain from enmity and fighting. I have always promoted peaceful methods for example:I organized a nonpolitical religious meeting to allow people to show that they do not wish to be under a political religious regime but want a traditional religion separate from government. Two weeks before Eid ul-Fitr (an important Islamic feast), I announced in an interview with Voice of Iran Radio that I'm going to adduce a Eid ul-Fitr prayer on Azadi avenue in Tehran and I invited many followers of the traditional Islamic religion and opponents of political religion. It was estimated that this great unique meeting would be attended by millions of people with this message: “We peacefully deny the authority of the religious government of Iran.” It was primarily for this reason that I was attacked and arrested in order to prevent the occurrence of this meeting.”

10.24.09 UK college bans Muslim student over burka spat

DUBAI, October 24 - A college in the United Kingdom has banned a Muslim student from enrolling because she refused to take off her burka, or face veil, press reports said Saturday. Shawana Bilqes, 18, was turned away from enrollment after she refused a staff member's request to remove her burka for identity fraud purposes, Britain's the Sun tabloid reported. Bilqes said she tried to compromise with staff but could not remove her burka because of her religious beliefs. Muslim scholars say the burka is not obligatory in Islam and is a cultural practice rather than Islamic. [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.23.09 Record recession for UK economy

October 23 - The UK economy unexpectedly contracted by 0.4% between July and September, according to official figures, meaning the country is still in recession. It is the first time UK gross domestic product (GDP) has contracted for six consecutive quarters, since quarterly figures were first recorded in 1955. But the figures could still be revised up or down at a later date, because this figure is only the first estimate. GDP measures the total amount of goods and services produced by a country. The pound fell sharply after the figures were released, reflecting the fact that many observers had expected the UK to have grown during the quarter. It was down 1.6% against the dollar, at $1.6339, and down 1.7% against the euro, at 1.0878 euros. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

10.23.09 26 killed in three blasts in Pakistan in one day

ISLAMABAD, October 23 - A fresh wave of terror gripped Pakistan today when suspected Taliban bombers struck a key airforce base and an upmarket restaurant and blew up a bus ferrying a marriage party, killing at least 26 people in an apparent reprisal of the army offensive on their stronghold of Waziristan. As clashes intensified in lawless tribal belt of South Waziristan, militants brought the fight to military's front door again when a cycle-borne suicide bomber blew himself up at a security check point of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra in Punjab province, 50 kms from here, killing eight people, including two air force guards, and injuring 15 others in an early morning raid.

The attack on the strategic Kamra base came nearly two weeks after the Taliban stormed army's General Headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, leaving 22 people dead. According to US intelligence think-tank Stratfor, the strike against the Kamra complex is likely to raise renewed concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Kamra is Pakistan Air Force's largest maintenance and research base and this was the second assault on the facility reportedly linked to the country's nuclear weapons programme. The first attack had occurred in December 2007.The base also houses combat jets equipped to carry nuclear warheads, reports said...Hours later, an explosion struck a bus traveling in the Mohmand tribal region, further north than South Waziristan.
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, October 23, "Security forces kill 19 militants in Kyber, Mohmand, Dir" :
PESHAWAR - Security forces have killed 19 militants and arrested 41 suspected terrorists in Khyber Agency, Mohmand, and Lower Dir. In an operation security forces killed 4 terrorists and destroyed 4 vehicles at Gorgari in Kyber Agency, FC media cell reported. Meanwhile, 25 suspected terrorists were detained during a search operation in Shalobar, Tehsil Bara. Security forces also conducted [an] operation in Mohmand Agency, killing 15 insurgents and injuring 14 at Kozchanari, Ghanamshah and Ziarat. Two shops and ten terrorist hideouts were also ruined in the operation, while 14 terrorists have been caught at Lal Qila and Mira Mai, in Dir district. [end]

10.23.09 North Afghanistan 'a bridgehead for drug-trafficking to Russia'

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) October 23 - Afghan regions controlled by the Northern Alliance serve as a bridgehead for drug-trafficking to Russia, a top Russian drug control official said on Friday.

Map courtesy of the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection via eurasianet.org

An estimated 90% of heroin consumed in Russia is trafficked from Afghanistan via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and the vast majority of heroin consumed in Europe passes through Russia on its way from Afghanistan, where illegal drug production has reportedly risen 44 times since 2001. "In the fight against the Taliban, the US has used the Northern Alliance forces, which we are supporting even now," Viktor Ivanov, director of the Federal Drugs Control Service, said at a meeting at the General Staff Academy.

"This, in my view, is a mistake as the Northern Alliance forces were created to support the Najibullah [Afghan leader from 1987-1992] regime, but they betrayed him later, and the Northern Alliance became a bridgehead for sending drugs to Russia," he went on...The most modern and the best equipped laboratories processing opium poppy into heroin are located in the northern provinces of Afghanistan near the Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek borders, which are areas of influence of the Northern Alliance. The real threat comes from drug bosses operating in the north of Afghanistan, "and the coalition forces are not conducting an effective fight against them," the official said. [Full story>>en.rian.ru; See related stories,

unodc.org, Octoer 21, "UNODC reveals devastating impact of Afghan opium":
Afghanistan has the world monopoly of opium cultivation (92%), the raw material for the world's deadliest drug heroin. The size and impact of the opium economy in Afghanistan were documented in the Opium Survey of September 2009. Less well known is the size of the opiate trade once it leaves Afghanistan, and its impact on the world.

A new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The transnational threat of Afghan opium, shows the devastating consequences that the 900 tons of opium and 375 tons of heroin, trafficked from Afghanistan every year, have on the health and security of countries along the Balkan and Eurasian drug routes, all the way to Europe, Russia, India and China. It documents how the world's deadliest drug has created a market worth $65 billion, catering to 15 million addicts, causing up to 100,000 deaths per year, spreading HIV at an unprecedented rate and, not least, funding criminal groups, insurgents and terrorists...

eurasianet.org, July 19, 2002, "Opium runners find passages along Tajik-Afghan border" :

lonelyplanet.com, "Transport in Afghanistan" -
(an article on the border crossings from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan)...The Friendship Bridge across the Amu Darya links Hairatan in Afghanistan to Termiz in Uzbekistan. Its name became something of a bad joke when it turned into the main invasion route into Afghanistan for the Red Army in 1979. Although technically an open border, Uzbekistan’s police-state paranoia can make crossing here something of an unknown quantity at times. The border was officially opened to tourist traffic in 2005, but the message doesn’t seem to have reached all the Uzbek officials at the bridge. While we’ve had several reports of independent crossing here without problems, a few have reported that only people on accredited business were being allowed to enter or leave Uzbekistan here...

10.23.09 Somalia rebels threaten Uganda & Burundi

MOGADISHU (Reuters) October 23 - Insurgents vow to avenge dead civilians. Somalia's hardline Shabaab insurgents said they will attack the capitals of Burundi and Uganda in revenge for rocket attacks by peacekeepers from those countries that killed at least 30 people in Mogadishu. "We shall make their people cry. We'll attack Bujumbura and Kampala ... We will move our fighting to those two cities and we shall destroy them," Sheikh Ali Mohamed Hussein, a senior Shabaab commander, told reporters late on Thursday in Mogadishu. [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.22.09 UN chief calls on Hizbullah to disarm

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the presence of armed Hizbullah and Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon is contributing to tensions and insecurity and could eventually lead to a resumption of hostilities. In his six-month report to the UN Security Council on Lebanon, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the UN chief focused on implementation of a 2004 resolution that calls for the disbanding of all militias and urged that Hizbullah and the Palestinian groups be disarmed quickly. "The existence and activities of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias ... continue to pose a threat to the stability of the country," Ban said. "The presence of weapons in the country outside government control and the continued existence of militias contribute to tensions and insecurity in Lebanon and beyond, and could eventually lead to the resumption of hostilities unless immediately addressed," he warned. [More>>jpost.com]

10.22.09 New jobless claims up unexpectedly to 531k

(AP) October 22 - The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week, as employers remain reluctant to hire even with the economy showing signs of recovery. Claims had fallen in five out of the previous six weeks and most economists expect that trend to continue, but at a slow pace, as jobs remain scarce. The report is "slightly disappointing," Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients, "but it does not change the core story, which is that ... a clear downward trend in claims has emerged" over the past two months. [More>>cbsnews.com]

10.22.09 Brigadier killed in Pakistan ambush

October 22 - Pakistan's police say unknown assailants have killed an army brigadier and his driver after firing on their military vehicle in the capital, Islamabad. State television said the unidentified attackers fled after carrying out the early morning attack in a prosperous residential area on Thursday. Qamar Ahmed, an official at the police emergency department, said witnesses saw two men on a motorcycle drive up to Brigadier Moin Haider's vehicle and unleash a hail of bullets at point blank range. Several others were also injured in the attack and the authorities said they had been taken to hospital. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the strike, which is the second lethal attack in as many days. But Syed Kalim Imam, Islamabad's most senior police officer, said "terrorists and extremists are behind this." [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.22.09 Some currency dealers funding terrorists: Rehman

ISLAMABAD, October 22 - Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that some..money exchange dealers are providing financial aid to terrorists. Talking to media here on Thursday, Rehman Malik ordered Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate into the matter. The terrorists [are to] be dealt with under [the] Anti Terrorism Act, he directed. He warned that anyone extending any kind of help to the terrorists will be investigated under [the] Anti Terrorism Act. The Interior Minister said foreign sources are also involved in extending financial aid to the militants. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, October 22, "Man wearing suicide jacket arrested in Islamabad" : ISLAMABAD - Islamabad police have arrested a suspected man wearing a jacket full of explosives. The suspect was arrested from Islamabad Sector I-9. The police frisked him and found that the man with grey beard, identified as Barlesh, was wearing a jacket loaded with explosives, sources said. Bullets have also been recovered from his jacket. Police tied his arms above his head and took him to I-9 Police Station where [the] bomb disposal squad took the jacket off of his body under strict security. [end]

thenews.com.pk, October 22, "Operation Rah-e-Nijat: 24 terrorists killed, 2 security men martyred" :
WANA, Pakistan - Operation Rah-e-Nijat continues in South Waziristan Agency in which 24 terrorists have been killed during last 24 hours. According to ISPR, 2 security forces personnel embraced shahadat and 4 were injured. Security forces have completely secured Tor Ghundai feature after intense fighting while series of bunkers and caves have been neutralized. Terrorists have left the area after suffering heavy casualties. Reportedly, thirteen terrorists were killed, ISPR said. At present security forces are in the process of securing Shishamwam; spurs and caves are being cleared in a systematic manner.

Mizo-Wam has been fully secured. Security forces are extending [the] perimeter of security North of Sherwangi area while Gurgura Sar has been fully secured. Eleven terrorists were killed and a number of them injured last night when an attack by terrorists at Boya Narai west of Sherwangi was repulsed by security forces... Important terrorist commander Iqbal alias Islam was killed and large quantity of ammunition, grenades and equipment were recovered during search and clearance operations in general area Banpur Sar...Security forces apprehended nine suspects from different areas of Swat including Manglour, Madrassa Mazhar ul Uloom Green Chowk, Kokari, Dahro, Rangeela and Godhand...

10.22.09 Seven Algerian security guards killed in ambush

ALGIERS, October 22 - In the deadliest attack by militants in Algeria since July. An armed Islamist group on Thursday killed seven private security guards in an ambush in the Kabylie region east of the capital, residents and security sources said. It was the deadliest attack in the country since July, when Islamists killed 11 in an attack on a military convoy. The string of attacks has been blamed on al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which emerged out of the Algerian fundamentalist Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and sees itself as the north African wing of Osama bin Laden's network. The group of guards were on their way to pick up employees of the Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin when they were attacked 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of Tizi Ouzou. [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.22.09 Police: 6 al-Qaeda suspects arrested in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) October 22 - Six suspected al-Qaeda members, including two who were formerly detained by US troops in Iraq, were arrested near the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, a local police chief said on Thursday. Col. Mahmoud Al Isawi said the six men were wanted on suspicion of involvement in ‘murders’ and ‘attacks’ in and around Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad. Al-Isawi didn't say when the arrests were made, but said the six are suspected of planning attacks and planting explosives that killed and injured civilians and members of the Iraqi security forces. "The group is believed to be behind many murders and attacks against the citizens and the police forces," Al Isawi told The Associated Press on Thursday. He didn't elaborate on specific attacks the men were allegedly involved in. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.22.09 Kazakhstan willing to pump oil into pipeline via Turkey

ANKARA (RIA Novosti) October 22 - Kazakhstan's president confirmed on Thursday that his country is willing to pump crude into a planned $1.5-billion pipeline to bring Caspian oil to the Mediterranean via Turkey. Addressing Turkey's parliament, Nursultan Nazarbayev said: "We along with Russia are ready to join the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline project." His statement came after a video conference between St. Petersburg and Ankara earlier on Thursday, when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, of Kazakhstan's possible role...Three Russian oil companies — state-run Rosneft, oil pipeline monopoly Transneft and shipping firm Sovcomflot — signed a deal in Milan on Monday with Turkey's Calik Enerji and Italy's Eni S.p.A. on the pipeline with projected capacity of 60-70 million metric tons a year (1.2-1.4 million bbl/d). [Full story>>en.rian.ru]

10.22.09 Somali pirates hijack ship with 24 Indians on board

KUALA LUMPUR / LONDON, October 22 - At least 24 Indian sailors were taken hostage by Somali pirates who hijacked a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier near Seychelles on Thursday, just a week after a vessel with two Indians among the crew was seized by the sea brigands. ( Watch Video ) [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,

xinhuanet.com, October 22, "Hijacked Chinese bulk carrier arrives off coastline of Somalia" : LONDON -
The Hijacked Chinese Bulk Carrier DE XIN HAI is confirmed to have arrived off the coast of Somalia and is now in the vicinity of Hobyo, the EU NAVFOR said on Thursday. It is not yet known if the pirates have contacted the owners and made their demands known. EU NAVFOR maritime patrol aircraft has monitored the ship in the area of the hijacking. [end]

10.22.09 Ethiopia asks for urgent food aid

October 22 - The Ethiopian government has asked the international community for emergency food aid for 6.2 million people. The request came at a meeting of donors to discuss the impact of a prolonged drought affecting parts of East Africa. The UN's World Food Programme says $285m (£173m) will be needed in the next six months. Some aid officials say the numbers of hungry could rise. Aid agency Oxfam has called for a new approach to tackling the risk of disaster in the country. In a report marking 25 years since the famine that killed around one million Ethiopians, Oxfam said that imported food aid saves lives in the short term but did little to help communities withstand the next shock. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

10.22.09 US arrests hundreds in raids on drug cartel

October 22 - Calling it a "significant blow" to the operations of a major Mexican drug cartel, Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Thursday the arrests of 303 people and the seizure of illegal drugs, weapons and millions of dollars over the past two days in a series of coordinated raids in 19 states. At a news conference in Washington, Mr. Holder said the raids were aimed at the United States operations of the La Familia Michoacán drug cartel, which he described as the newest and most violent of Mexico's five drug cartels.

"While this cartel may operate from Mexico, the toxic reach of its operations extends to nearly every state within our own country," he said. In Dallas alone on Wednesday, he said, 77 people were arrested. Beyond the arrests, Mr. Holder said, the authorities seized more than $32 million in United States currency, more than 2,700 pounds of methamphetamine, nearly 2,000 kilograms of cocaine, about 16,000 pounds of marijuana and 29 pounds of heroin during the 44-month effort. More arrests are expected.

10.22.09 Arizona police hunt for dad accused of running over daughter

October 22 - Police Say Faleh Hassan Almaleki Believed His Daughter Was 'Too Westernized.' Police in Arizona are hunting for an Iraqi-American father who they say ran over his daughter with his car to punish her for becoming "too Westernized" and rebuffing the conservative ways he valued. Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, was last seen fleeing the parking lot of the Department of Economic Development in Peoria, Ariz., Tuesday after hitting his 20-year-old daughter and her boyfriend's mother with his Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Noor Faleh Almaleki is in "life-threatening condition," Peoria Police spokesman Mike Tellef told ABCNews.com today. Her boyfriend's mother, 43-year-old Amal Edan Khalaf, is also still hospitalized, but with non-life threatening injuries. "It occurred because her not following traditional family values. We've been told that by everybody," Tellef said. "He felt she was becoming too westernized and he didn't like that." Calls to the Almaleki family weren't returned. Noor Almaleki had backed out of an arranged marriage about a year ago, police learned, and had been living with Khalaf and her son in a nearby town. Tellef said the young woman dressed in American clothing and was wearing typical Western attire when she was struck. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

10.22.09 Police hurt as BNP protest turns violent

October 22 - Three police officers have been injured after violent protests over the appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin on BBC's Question Time. The Metropolitan Police said the officers had been hurt during the clashes outside BBC Television Centre in west London. Two suffered minor injuries and the third was treated by paramedics for head injuries. Police said three people had been arrested during the clashes. More than 500 people were involved in the demonstration outside the BBC building in White City ahead of the filming of Question Time, due to be screened tonight at 10:45pm. About 25 protesters beat BBC security to gain entry to the reception area of the building. Mr. Griffin avoided the protesters by getting in to the building through a side entrance as opposition to his controversial appearance on the programme panel turned violent...As the crowd waited for the arrival of Mr. Griffin, protesters chanted: "We're black, white, Asian and Jew, BBC shame on you," and "we won't let Nick Griffin through." [Full story w/video>>news.sky.com]

10.21.09 US jobless rate hits 26-year high

(AP) October 21 - 23 States report higher unemployment in Sept., led by Michigan at 15.3%; though layoffs slowed, companies reluctant to hire. Unemployment rose in 23 states last month as the economy struggled to create jobs in the early stages of the recovery. While layoffs have slowed, companies remain reluctant to hire. Forty-three states reported job losses in September, while only seven gained jobs, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Some of the states that lost jobs still saw their unemployment rates decline, as discouraged workers gave up looking for work. People who are out of work but no longer looking for jobs aren't counted as officially unemployed.

That trend was evident nationwide in September, as nearly 600,000 people dropped out of the work force, the department reported earlier this month. The US jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent in September, a 26-year high, from 9.7 percent. Some economists estimate it would have topped 10 percent if there had been no change in the labor force. There were some bright spots in Wednesday's report. The Midwest region, hit hard during the recession by job losses in manufacturing, saw its unemployment rate drop for the second straight month, to 9.8 percent from 10 percent in August. It was the only region where the unemployment rate declined. The Midwest benefited from sharp drops in unemployment in Indiana and Ohio. Indiana's jobless rate fell to 9.6 percent, from 9.9 percent in August and 10.7 percent in June.

10.21.09 US to order steep pay cuts at firms that got most aid

WASHINGTON, October 21 - Responding to the growing furor over the paychecks of executives at companies that received billions of dollars in federal bailouts, the Obama administration will order the companies that received the most aid to deeply slash the compensation to their highest paid executives, an official involved in the decision said on Wednesday. Under the plan, which will be announced in the next few days by the Treasury Department, the seven companies that received the most assistance will have to cut the cash payouts to their 25 best-paid executives by an average of about 90 percent from last year. For many of the executives, the cash they would have received will be replaced by stock that they will be restricted from selling immediately. And for all executives the total compensation, which includes bonuses, will drop, on average, by about 50 percent.

The companies are Citigroup, Bank of America, the American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and the financing arms of the two automakers. At the financial products division of A.I.G., the locus of problems that plagued the large insurer and forced its rescue with more than $180 billion in taxpayer assistance, no top executive will receive more than $200,000 in total compensation, a stunning decline from previous years in which the unit produced many wealthy executives and traders. In contrast to previous years, an official said, executives in the financial products division will receive no other compensation, like stocks or stock options.

And at all of the companies, any executive seeking more than $25,000 in special perks — like country club memberships, private planes, limousines or company issued cars — will have to apply to the government for permission. The administration will also warn A.I.G. that it must fulfill a commitment it made to significantly reduce the $198 million in bonuses promised to employees in the financial products division.

10.21.09 House committee votes to repeal antitrust protections for health insurers

October 21 - The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to strip federal antitrust protections shielding health insurers from investigations into price fixing and other business practices, the first step in a legislative bid to clamp down on the much-maligned industry. Although Democrats have led the repeal push in recent weeks, the committee's 20-9 vote came with the support of three Republicans. The legislation would repeal portions of the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act that allows states to regulate health insurance providers without federal intervention. But critics of the law say that 64 years after its passage, the result has been regional monopolies that inflate premiums and discriminate against people based on their health status, gender and other factors. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

10.21.09 Top al-Qaeda operative among 3 killed in US drone attack in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, October 21 - A top al-Qaeda operative of Arab origin was among three militants killed today in a US drone attack in Pakistan's lawless North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The drone attack at Spalga village near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal agency, killed al-Qaeda operative Abu Musa al-Misri, Dawn News channel quoted sources as saying. The two others killed in the attack were local militants. Several other persons were believed to be buried under the rubble of the house targeted by the drone, news channels reported. Reports said Abu Musa, who was of Arab origin, had been active in an area used by the Taliban to prepare for suicide attacks. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

10.21.09 18 imams among 600 Afghanis detained in Mardan

MARDAN, Pakistan, October 21 - Police have apprehended 18 Imams (prayer leaders) among 600 illegal Afghani immigrants residing in Mardan. Deputy inspector police [of the] Mardan region, Syed Akhtar Ali Shah told journalists on Wednesday that detained illegal Afghanis have been sent to jail. He also said that a grand operation against criminal elements in Mardan and Swabi will start from October 25. Twenty police teams have been specially formed for this operation. He said that fool-proof security arrangements have been made to prevent terrorism in Mardan. [>thenews.com.pk]

10.21.09 Bomb kills journalist, wounds another in Iraq

BAGHDAD, October 21 - An Iraqi police official said a bomb has killed one journalist and wounded another in northern Iraq. Police Col. Sherzad Mofari says Wednesday's blast targeted the Kirkuk home of cameraman Orhan Hijran, who works for Baghdad-based television station Al-Rasheed. He says the blast killed Hijran and wounded correspondent Mohammed Shahid of Cairo-based Al-Baghdadiyah. Jawdat Assaf, the director of Al-Rasheed TV, confirmed Hijran's death. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 140 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003. That figure does not include Wednesday's death. [>thenews.com.pk]

10.21.09 How the Muslim world deals with the rise of Islamism

October 21 - The cries of joy from the four women elected to the parliament in Kuwait this past spring may yet turn into sobs. A religious edict published in that country last week states that any woman who wants to take parts in politics, either as a candidate or as a voter, must dress in accordance with Muslim religious law with their head covered and "a long robe that hides all parts of the body and which is not so tight so that it would give prominence to any curves." For two of the women elected to the parliament the first women to be elected to the assembly since the law permitting the election of women was passed in 2005 this is a threat to their continued presence there.

The two, Dr. Rola Dashti and Dr. Aseel al-Awadhi, come to work in the parliament wearing Western-style clothes, with nothing covering their heads, angering members of the Islamist bloc in the house, who grind their teeth at the very sight of women in the parliament. Dashti was responsible for initiating the law permitting women to be elected and she invests a great deal of energy in furthering the status of women in her country, which is considered the most democratic in the Gulf. She completed her doctoral studies in economics at Johns Hopkins University in the United States and since then has held senior economic positions in Kuwait.

...The struggle over women's dress is now before the constitutional court, which will have to decided on a much more substantive question than the way women MPs are clothed: Does the religious ruling of the religious leaders obligate the state, or is their status that of advisors whose decisions are not binding on the state? The law does not stipulate clearly how women representatives have to dress and the MPs have said that Kuwait is not governed by religious law, even though Islam is the state religion.
[More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

arabtimesonline.com, October 20, "Kuwaiti women win passport right without husband nod" :
KUWAIT CITY - The Constitutional Court Tuesday ruled Paragraph 1 of Item 15 of Law No. 11/1962, which states that a wife has no right to get a separate passport without her husband's approval, unconstitutional. After the verdict was issued, the attorney representing Adel Qurban, told the Arab Times he is proud of the Kuwaiti judiciary because this verdict has done justice to a woman, who is another half of the society. “It is unbelievable that a man can control his wife's travel or move without his permission in the 21st century,” said Qurban. He added women have become ministers, MPs, directors and principals of schools and need to move freely. Case papers indicate a Kuwaiti wife (with her three children) had filed a case against her husband requesting the court to order her husband to hand over to her the passports of the children and her own passport...

10.21.09 Terror suspect defiant in Mass. court

October 21 - Man who allegedly conspired to kill US politicians, troops and citizens tosses chair in courtroom. A pharmacy college graduate made a defiant appearance in federal court Wednesday, hours after being charged with conspiring with two other men in a terror plot to kill two prominent US politicians and carry out a holy war by attacking shoppers in US malls and American troops in Iraq. Authorities say the men's plans in which they used code words like "peanut butter and jelly" for fighting in Somalia and "culinary school" for terrorist camps were thwarted in part when they could not find training and were unable to buy automatic weapons, authorities said.

Tarek Mehanna, 27, was arrested Wednesday morning at his parents' home in Sudbury, an upscale suburb 20 miles west of Boston, and appeared for a brief hearing later in the day. When ordered by the judge to stand to hear the charge against him, he refused. He finally did stand
tossing his chair loudly to the floor only after his father urged him to do so. "This really, really is a show," his father, Ahmed Mehanna, said afterward. When asked if he believed the charges against his son, he said, "No, definitely not." Prosecutors say Tarek Mehanna worked with two men from 2001 to May 2008 on the conspiracy to "kill, kidnap, maim or injure" soldiers and two politicians who were members of the executive branch but are no longer in office. Authorities refused to identify the politicians.

a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston, where his father is a professor conspired with Ahmad Abousamra, who authorities say is now in Syria, and an unnamed man, who is cooperating in the investigation, according to authorities. The three men often discussed their desire to participate in "violent jihad against American interests" and talked about "their desire to die on the battlefield," prosecutors said. But when they were unable to join terror groups in Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, they found inspiration in the Washington-area sniper shootings and turned their interests to domestic terror pursuits while they plotted the attack on shopping malls, authorities said. [More>>cbsnews.com]

10.20.09 At rescued banks, perks keep rolling in

(Washington Post) October 20 - Washington Post: Fringe Benefits Increase Four Percent for Financial Firm Executives, Attracting Government Scrutiny. Even as the nation's biggest financial firms were struggling and the federal government was spending hundreds of billions of dollars to save many of them, the companies as a group were boosting the perks and benefits they pay their chief executives. The firms, accounting for more $350 billion in federal bailout funds, increased these perks and benefits 4 percent on average last year, according to an analysis of corporate disclosures filed in recent months.

Some chief executives, such as Kenneth D. Lewis of Bank of America and Jeffrey M. Peek of CIT Group, the major small-business lender now on the brink of bankruptcy, each received about $100,000 more than a year earlier for personal use of corporate jets. Others saw an increase in the value of chauffeured services, parking or personal security. Ralph W. Babb Jr., chief executive of Dallas-based lender Comerica, was compensated for a new country club membership, with an initiation fee and dues of more than $200,000. GMAC Financial Services chief executive Alvaro de Molina benefited from a $2.5 million payment from his company to help cover his personal tax bill.

Government scrutiny

"You would have thought that this would be the moment when everyone said, 'Okay, the perks have got to stop
at least while we're indebted to the government,' " said Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at the Corporate Library. "But that didn't happen." This year may turn out to be different. In June, the Treasury Department prohibited companies receiving bailout funds from reimbursing senior executives for their personal tax payments.

In the meantime, Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Obama administration official assigned to set pay for top executives at seven of the companies receiving the most help, plans to curtail perks such as country club fees when he rules on compensation later this month, according to people familiar with the matter. Perks worth more than $25,000 are getting particular scrutiny from Feinberg. On average, the chief executives at 29 of the largest public financial companies that have taken bailout funds received perks and benefits worth more than $380,000 in 2008, according to compensation figures included in annual proxy statements and supplied by Equilar, a compensation data services firm. Individually, about half the banks increased their fringe benefits to the top executives.
[More>>cbsnews.com; See related story,

msnbc.msn.com (AP) October 20, "More Americans in poverty, formula shows" :
WASHINGTON - The level of poverty in America is even worse than first believed. A revised formula for calculating medical costs and geographic variations show that approximately 47.4 million Americans last year lived in poverty, 7 million more than the government's official figure. The disparity occurs because of differing formulas the Census Bureau and the National Academy of Sciences use for calculating the poverty rate. The NAS formula shows the poverty rate to be at 15.8 percent, or nearly 1 in 6 Americans, according to calculations released this week. That's higher than the 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million, figure made available recently under the original government formula. That measure, created in 1955, does not factor in rising medical care, transportation, child care or geographical variations in living costs. Nor does it consider non-cash government aid when calculating income. As a result, official figures released last month by Census may have overlooked millions of poor people, many of them 65 and older...

10.20.09 UK: 'Deluge' of firms will hit the wall in 2010

October 20 - Britain is likely to see a "deluge" of business failures and rising unemployment next year, a report has warned. Begbies Traynor, the business rescue and restructuring firm, said Britain was in the "eye of the storm," with the economy at the midpoint of a "W-shaped recession." Its quarterly Red Flag Alert, which monitors the number of companies experiencing difficulties, said unemployment and insolvencies had not peaked. Some 134,000 companies had shown signs of financial distress in the third quarter, the report said. It warns that many small firms would probably fail next year despite receiving Government support. "The third quarter Red Flag Alert statistics demonstrate that the UK may be in the eye of the storm," the report says. "The well-intentioned Government efforts to prop up struggling companies may provide a necessary lifeline in the short-term but will ultimately prove futile in many cases." [More>>news.sky.com; See related story,

timeonline.co.uk, October 20, "Public borrowing soars to worst level on record" :
Public borrowing more than doubled in the first half of this year to a record high of £77.3 billion, renewing fears that the Government will be forced to raise its forecast from £175 billion to £200 billion. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that state borrowing between March and September hit the highest level since records began in 1946, having ballooned by £14.8 billion in September. Over the first six months of last year, borrowing was £34 billion, nearly half of today's total. Economists said if debt continued to mount at that rate, borrowing for the year would surge past the £200 billion mark — far ahead of the Chancellor's £175 billion forecast...

10.20.09 Baffin Island reveals dramatic scale of Arctic climate change

October 20 - Study delves back into 200,000 years of history to demonstrate the devastating impact of global warming. A frozen lake on a remote island off Canada's northern coast has yielded remarkable insights into how the Arctic climate has changed dramatically over 50 years. Muddy sediment from the bottom of the lake, some of it 200,000 years old, shows that Baffin Island, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, has undergone an unprecedented warming over the past half-century. Scientists believe the temperature rise is probably due to human-induced warming. It has more than offset a natural cooling trend which began 8,000 years ago. Instead of cooling at a rate of minus 0.2C every 1,000 years — a trend that was expected to continue for another 4,000 years because of well-known changes to the Earth's solar orbit — Baffin Island, like the rest of the Arctic, has begun to get warmer, especially since 1950. The Arctic is now about 1.2C warmer than it was in 1900, confirming that the region is warming faster than most other parts of the world...

"The past few decades have been unique in the past 200,000 years in terms of the changes we see in the biology and chemistry recorded in the cores," said Yarrow Axford of the University of Colorado at Boulder. "We see clear evidence for warming in one of the most remote places on earth at a time when the Arctic should be cooling because of natural processes." The scientists found that certain cold-adapted organisms in the layers of sediment have decreased in frequency since about 1950. Larvae from species of Arctic midge, which only live in cold conditions, have abruptly declined and two species in particular have disappeared altogether. Meanwhile, a species of lake alga or diatom that is better suited to warmer conditions has increased significantly over the same period, indicating longer periods when the lake's surface was free of ice, the scientists said.

Other sediment measurements support a dramatic reversal of the natural cooling trend, they said. As part of a 21,000-year cycle, the Arctic has been receiving progressively less summertime energy from the Sun for the past 8,000 years because of a well-established "wobble" in the Earth's solar rotation — the Earth is now 0.6 million miles further from the Sun during an Arctic summer solstice than it was in 1BC. This decline will not reverse for another 4,000 years, but changes to the climate of Baffin Island show that the cooling it should have caused has gone into reverse in the past few decades.
[Full story>>independent.co.uk; See related report,

france24.com (AFP) October 20, "Climate leads trio of unravelling EU deals" :
European finance ministers failed on Tuesday to agree who will pay what to help developing countries fight global warming, in the biggest of three deals to come unstuck at their meeting. Poland led opposition to plans for the 27 European Union member states to commit five-to-seven billion euros in short-term annual funding, and some 22 billion euros (33 billion dollars) annually in the longer-term. Elsewhere, Britain spiked European Commission plans for bloc-wide financial supervision, delaying proposed legislation setting up a European Systemic Risk Board until at least a December summit. A June accord designed to set up the body — charged with keeping a lookout for potential financial shocks — plus three sector-specific watchdogs monitoring banks, insurers and markets, will now be subject to "further political negotiations."...

10.20.09 Iran delays chance to prove nuclear good will

VIENNA, October 20 - Senior diplomats from the US, Iran, France and Russia missed a noon deadline Tuesday to start talks aimed at hammering out a historic deal on Iran's uranium stockpile. At first, the negotiations at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria seemed to hold real promise. After the introductory round of talks late Monday, a senior US official said the Iranians had "engaged constructively." But on Tuesday, Iran reportedly precipitated a delay by suddenly announcing that France should be excluded from any deal — apparently the latest twist in a long-running business dispute between the French and the Iranians that dates back to the 1970s. [More>>cbsnews.com]

10.20.09 Pakistan urges NATO to share intel, seal Afghan border

ISlAMABAD (AFP) October 20 - Pakistan on Tuesday urged NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan to share intelligence and seal the border as it mounts a massive offensive against Taleban militants in the lawless northwest. Nearly 30,000 troops are pressing a three-pronged push in South Waziristan, part of the al-Qaeda-infested tribal district bordering Afghanistan. There are more than 100,000 foreign troops under US and NATO command in Afghanistan. Pakistan unleashed the offensive after a recent string of spectacular attacks including a 22-hour siege on the army headquarters. Pakistani troops are up against about 10,000 Tehreek-e-Taleban fighters. Pakistan Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman General Tariq Majid made Tuesday's call during talks with Britain's armed forces chief Jock Stirrup, a military statement said.

Appreciating the efforts and contributions made by British forces in Afghanistan, Majid stressed the need to effectively seal the border on the Afghan side to prevent militants escaping out of Pakistan with weapons, it said. The general also called for "synchronization of effort on both sides and sharing of real time intelligence with reference to the ongoing operations" in South Waziristan. Stirrup expressed "solidarity and full support" to Pakistan but warned against negative fall out in the southwestern province of Baluchistan which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Previous offensives against militants in the northwestern tribal belt have had limited success, costing the lives of 2,000 troops and in general ending with controversial peace agreements allowing militants to re-arm. Stirrup's visit coincides with twin suicide blasts at a Pakistani university campus that killed five people.

10.20.09 Deaths in Pakistan campus bombing

October 20 - At least seven people have been killed and 29 others injured in twin bomb blasts at a university in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, police and witnesses say. The explosions occurred within minutes of each other at the International Islamic University in the eastern part of the city on Tuesday. The Pakistani Taliban has denied responsibility for the attack. "We have sent a team to the site. We are collecting information about casualties," a policeman said. The blasts at the International Islamic University hit the women's cafeteria and the Islamic law department. No group has as yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. Abdul Ghafar Quaiserani, a police official, said the two suicide bombers struck at about the same time.

"Seven people including two suicide bombers are dead, and 29 injured in the two attacks. Among the dead is one female," Rana Akbar Hayat, a senior city administration official, told the AFP news agency at the scene of the attack. The US embassy in Pakistan said the "vicious attack on a respected Islamic educational institution reveals yet again the cruel and inhuman nature of the terrorists operating against Pakistan and its people". Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, said: "We are in a state of war. They will make every effort to destabilise the country. These so-called Islamists are enemies of Islam and enemies of Pakistan."
[More>>aljazeera.net; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, October 20, "Malik warns Afghan imams to leave country" : ISLAMABAD - Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik Tuesday asked Afghan Imams to leave the country, adding the enemies are trying their best to destabilize the country at all costs. Talking to media after meeting the injured at PIMS Hospital here, he said the blasts occurred owing the internal security lapses at the University, adding the guard of the University first stopped the suicide bomber from entering the building, but later deeming him a cafeteria servant, allowed him entrance.

The interior minister appealed to the students to come forward in war against the terrorism and play their role in making it successful. The federal minister said the terrorists are intent on fraying the nerves of the nation; but, their intentions would be frustrated. Malik said the terrorists first attacked at the educational institutions in Swat and by attacking at Islamic University in the federal capital, they have proved that they are the enemy of Islam and Pakistan. [end]

10.20.09 Karzai agrees to November 7 runoff in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, October 20 - Under heavy international pressure, President Hamid Karzai conceded Tuesday that he fell short of a first-round victory in the nation's disputed presidential election, and agreed to hold a runoff election with his top challenger on Nov. 7. Flanked at a news conference in Kabul by Senator John Kerry, the head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai said he would accept the findings of an international audit that stripped him of nearly one-third of his votes in the first round, leaving him below the 50 percent threshold that would have allowed him to avoid a runoff and declare victory over his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah. "I call upon this country to take this as an opportunity to move this country forward and participate in this new round of elections," Mr. Karzai said, according to the English translation of his remarks, adding that he was grateful to the international community for its help. [More>>nytimes.com]

10.20.09 Police: Car bomb, bus blast kill 6 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) October 20 - Car bombs and planted explosives killed six people, mostly police, on Tuesday in different areas of Iraq as a low level insurgency continues to target the country's struggling security forces. A car packed with explosives blew up at a gas station in the town of Saqlawiyah, 45 miles west of Baghdad, killing three policemen and one civilian, a local police officer said. He said five policemen and one civilian were wounded in the same blast. In northern Baghdad, one civilian was killed and four were wounded when a bomb attached to a minibus exploded in Kazimiyah, a primarily Shiite suburb of the capital, said a police officer in the Iraqi capital. Minutes later, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol in western Baghdad wounded three civilians, a local policeman said. In Hilla, just south of Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed one policeman and wounded two others, according to a local police spokesman. In the far northern city of Mosul a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol, wounding two soldiers and one civilian, said a police officer there. [More>>foxnews.com]

10.20.09 21 terror suspects indicted in Lebanon

(AP) October 20 - A Lebanese investigating judge on Tuesday indicted 21 members of an al-Qaeda-inspired group for a bombing in northern Lebanon last year that killed 18 people, mostly soldiers. The suspects belong to the Fatah Islam group, which became prominent during a three-month battle with Lebanese troops in 2007, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared near the northern city of Tripoli. About 220 militants and 171 soldiers died in the bitter fighting, while Palestinian officials put the civilian death toll there at 47. The 21 indicted are said to be part of a "terrorist cell" believed to be behind a string of bombings last year, a court official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

They are suspected of being behind an August 13 bomb attack that killed 18 people, mostly soldiers, and a September 29 roadside car bomb explosion that killed five soldiers and two civilians in Tripoli last year. The indictment only pertains to the 18 deaths in the August 13 bombing. In it, Judge Nabil Sari accused the suspects of establishing an armed gang with the intent to kill soldiers and civilians and undermine the state's security - crimes punishable by death in Lebanon. The 21 defendants - mostly Palestinians - are all in custody, including the group's alleged leader, Abdel-Ghani Ali Jawhar, a 25-year-old from Lebanon's northern Akkar region, and Obeid Mubarak Abed al-Kafil, a Saudi. No trial date has been set. Sari also dismissed charges against 16 others implicated in the August 13 bombing for lack of evidence.

10.19.09 Flow of terrorist recruits increasing

BERLIN, October 19 - Westerners attending camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite successful US strikes. Midway through a propaganda video released last month by a group calling itself the German Taliban, a surprise guest made an appearance: a cleanshaven, muscular gunman sporting the alias Abu Ibrahim the American. The gunman did not speak but wore military fatigues and waved his rifle as subtitles identified him as an American. The video contained a stream of threats against Germany if it did not withdraw its troops from the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. Although the American's part in the film lasted only a few seconds, it has alarmed German and US intelligence officials, who are still puzzling over his background, his real identity and how he became involved with the terrorist group.

US and European counterterrorism officials say a rising number of Western recruits
including Americans are traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan to attend paramilitary training camps. The flow of recruits has continued unabated, officials said, in spite of an intensified campaign over the past year by the CIA to eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders in drone missile attacks. Since January, at least 30 recruits from Germany have traveled to Pakistan for training, according to German security sources. About 10 people not necessarily the same individuals have returned to Germany this year, fueling concerns that fresh plots are in the works against European targets.

"We think this is sufficient to show how serious the threat is," said a senior German counterterrorism official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. German security services have been on high alert since last month, when groups affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda issued several videos warning that an attack on German targets was imminent if the government did not bring home its forces from Afghanistan...The videos all featured German speakers who urged Muslims to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan to join their cause. "They're doing such good business that they are dropping a new video every week or so," said Ronald Sandee, a former Dutch military intelligence officer who serves as research director of the NEFA Foundation, a US group that monitors terrorist networks. "If I were a young Muslim, I'd find them very convincing."

Last week, German officials disclosed that a 10-member cell from Hamburg had left for Pakistan earlier this year. The cell is allegedly led by a German of Syrian descent but also includes ethnic Turks, German converts to Islam and one member with Afghan roots. Other European countries are also struggling to keep their citizens from going to Pakistan for paramilitary training. In August, Pakistani officials arrested a group of 12 foreigners headed to North Waziristan, a tribal region near the Afghan border where many of the camps are located. Among those arrested were four Swedes, including Mehdi Ghezali, a former inmate of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

In the past, such volunteers were largely self-motivated and had to find their own way to South Asia. Today, however, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have developed extensive recruiting networks with agents on the ground in Europe, counterterrorism officials said. The agents provide guidance, money, travel routes and even letters of recommendation so the recruits can join up more easily. In a recent report, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service said there were a "growing number of indications" that more Europeans were attending camps in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

10.19.09 Tajikistan kills four members of Taliban-linked group

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, October 19 - Police in ex-Soviet Tajikistan have killed four suspected members of an Islamist militant group linked to the Taliban, the interior ministry said Monday. The militants, who had holed up in a house in the northern Tajik city of Isfara near the border with Kyrgyzstan, were killed on Sunday during a firefight with police that left one officer wounded. "The insurgents who were killed belonged to Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)," ministry spokesman Makhmadullo Asadulloyev told foreign news agency. "The police needed several hours to conclude the operation. Instructions on carrying out acts of terrorism and creating home-made bombs were seized." The group, all Tajik citizens, had effectively become trapped in the city after an attempt to cross into neighboring Kyrgyzstan was repelled by Kyrgyz border guards last week, Asadulloyev said. [>thenews.com.pk]

10.19.09 Iran threatens Britain, US after blast

(Reuters) October 19 - The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards has vowed to "retaliate" against the United States and Britain after accusing them of backing the perpetrators of a suicide bombing that killed six Guards commanders. Iranian media say the Sunni Muslim insurgent group Jundollah (God's soldiers) has claimed responsibility for Sunday's bombing in Sistan-Baluchestan province, which killed 42 people in all. The incident threatened to overshadow talks between Iran and global powers in Vienna on Monday intended to tackle a standoff about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said Iranian security officials had presented documents indicating "direct ties" from Jundollah to US, British and, "unfortunately," Pakistani intelligence organizations, the ISNA news agency said. "Behind this scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus, and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them," Jafari said. Jundollah, which has been blamed for many attacks since 2005 in the desert province bordering Pakistan, says it is fighting to end discrimination against Sunni Muslims by Iran's dominant Shi'ites. Its leader is Abdolmalek Rigi. "This person himself and his plans are undoubtedly under the umbrella and the protection of these (US, British and Pakistani) organizations," Jafari said.

10.19.09 78 terrorists killed in SWA operation so far: DG ISPR report

ISLAMABAD, October 19 - Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas Monday said 18 terrorists have been killed in the last 24 hours in the ongoing operation is South Waziristan, brining the total number of terrorists killed to 78. Giving a press briefing along with Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, DG ISPR, told the reporters that the security forces after facing stiff resistance managed to gain control of Sher Bangai and Kotkai [the] center of suicide bombings trainer Ustad Qari Hussain. [More>>thenews.com.pk; See also,

thejakartapost.com, October 19, "Pakistan steps up border offensive"
: ...The fighting took place as US Central Command chief David Petraeus met Pakistan's prime minister and army chief in the capital. US Sen. John Kerry also met political and military leaders to try and ease tensions over an American aid bill that has caused a rift between the army and Pakistan's civilian government...Intelligence officials said fighting was going on Monday close to Jandola, Razmak and Wana, three towns where the army had bases. Jets were making bombing runs in the Ladha and Makeen areas, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to brief the media on the record...intelligence officials said eight more militants were killed Monday as they advanced on troops in the Khaisur area...

10.19.09 Afghan vote fraud: 1.3m ballots tossed

October 19 - Karzai Falls Below 50% Runnoff Threshhold; Final Decision on New Election Still Pending. UN-backed fraud investigators on Monday threw out nearly a third of President Hamid Karzai's ballots from Afghanistan's disputed August election, setting the stage for a runoff. The rulings dropped Karzai's votes to 48 percent of the total, below the 50 percent threshold needed for him to avoid a runoff with his top challenger, according to calculations by independent election monitors. It was unclear, however, whether the Afghan-led Independent Election Commission would accept the findings of the fraud panel and announce a runoff. Karzai's spokesman said it was too soon to make a judgment based on the figures released by the panel. [More>>cbsnews.com]

10.19.09 Thailand: Bomb blast wounds 24 in Yala

October 19 - Twenty-four people, including three soldiers, were wounded when a bomb went off at a busy market in the southern province of Yala on Monday morning, police said. Police said the improvised explosive device was hidden in a motorcycle parked in front of the market in the municipality. It went off about 7:30am when people were shopping for food...First Army Region commander Lt-Gen Pichit Wisaijorn blamed the attack on insurgents. "We had received a tipoff to prepare for a car bomb, but they used a motorcycle instead," he said. Police reportedly checked the parked motorcycle only minutes before it went off, but failed to detect the bomb. He added that this is the fourth time that the area has been attacked. [Full story>>bangkokpost.com]

10.19.09 Kurdish fighters show support for Turkish plans to expand Kurdish rights

October 19 - A group of 34 Kurds has crossed from bases in Iraq to Turkey in what the Kurdish rebel group PKK has called a "peace caravan." They hope their surrender will help resolve a decades-old conflict. The group of men and women, including eight PKK fighters and 26 Kurdish refugees, smiled as they entered Turkish territory on Monday, crossing over from the Iraqi Kurdish region, where most of the estimated 10,000 rebels are based. They were immediately detained by Turkish security forces.

The symbolic move came in response to a government initiative to end a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, displaced thousands and led to allegations of gross human rights violations. The surrender was announced over the weekend by a PKK official who stressed that it was a gesture to the Turkish government in response to its democratization initiative. The initiative aims to bring to an end to the 26-year conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK. “It is a very good sign, it is one first fruit of the democratic initiative,” said Ibrahim Kalin Allen, an advisor to the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He added that he hoped this first step would speed up the entire process.
[More>>dw-world.de; See related story,

hurriyetdailynews.com, October 19, "23 students detained in PKK operation" :
Twenty-three students were detained Monday in a police raid in the eastern city of Erzincan. Newly registered at Erzincan University, the students were detained for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Among the 23 detained students, four were female. Police received a tip off that the 23 students were trying to enlist with the PKK and based on that information the police carried out simultaneous raids and detained them. A number of PKK documents were also confiscated during the raids, said a report. After being taken for a medical examination, the 23 students were transferred to the Court for Serious Crimes in the eastern city of Erzurum. [end]


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


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