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11.01.07 Top Afghan rebel commander killed

KABUL (AFP) November 1 - Security forces in Afghanistan have killed a top rebel commander and several of his men as they tried to infiltrate from Pakistan, the US-led force announced overnight. The commander, identified as Abdul Manan, was killed October 28 in the eastern province of Khost after security forces ambushed him and a dozen of his men as they crossed the border, the force said in a statement. The killing could not immediately be confirmed by Afghan officials.

The coalition said Manan was a senior commander of insurgent fighters in a faction formed under well-known Soviet resistance commander Jalaluddin Haqqani. It said the span of his control and influence was similar to that of late Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, killed in May in one of the biggest successes of the campaign against the Taliban and its allies launched in 2001. [More>>news.com.au]

11.01.07 TV: Turkey closes air space to flights to northern Iraq

ANKARA (Xinhua) November 1 - Turkey has decided to close its airspace to planes flying to and from northern Iraq as it stepped up efforts to fight the separatist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK),local private NTV reported on Thursday. The decision is part of economic sanctions targeting groups supporting Kurdish militants operating in northern Iraq, the channel said, and it was not immediately clear whether the ban would affect US military planes operating between NATO member Turkey and Iraq. [More>>xinhuanet.com ; See also aljazeera.net, November 1, "Turkey denies N. Iraq airspace shut."]

11.01.07 40 security officials taken hostage by militants in Khwazakhela

SWAT, November 1 - Militants took 40 security officials hostage in Kwazakhela, an area of Swat. Spokesman of the militants in Swat, Maulana Sirajuddin, told Geo News that the security officials surrendered in the evening. He said that the security officials were brought down through a helicopter at a mountain in Khwazakhela at some time in the previous night and they were surrounded by the militants at the same time after which firing was exchanged from both the sides nearly all day. He said that his companions were also attacked with bombs and a few bombs fell in nearby residential areas due to which seven citizens were killed. [>thenews.com.pk ; See related story, indianexpress: hosted.ap.org, November 1, "Pakistan troops kill up to 70 militants."]

11.01.07 Gulf Arabs offer to provide uranium to Iran

DUBAI (Reuters) November 1 - US-allied Gulf Arab states are willing to set up a body to provide enriched uranium to Iran to defuse Teheran's stand-off with the West over its nuclear plan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister told a magazine on Thursday. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries - Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - share Western concerns that Iran's nuclear energy programme will lead to it acquiring atomic bombs, a claim Teheran denies.

"We have proposed a solution, which is to create a consortium for all users of enriched uranium in the Middle East," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED). "The US is not involved, but I don't think it (would be) hostile to this, and it would resolve a main area of tension between the West and Iran," he told the London-based weekly. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

11.01.07 Deaths as bombings hit Baghdad

November 1 - At least 13 people have been killed in separate bomb attacks across Baghdad. A convoy travelling in the northeast of the Iraqi capital was hit on Thursday, killing a local police chief's six guards, police sources said. The official was unhurt but eight other people were wounded in the attack in Balad Ruz, 70km northeast of central Baghdad. Another bomb killed five people in Baghdad, on a road leading to an interior ministry building. [More>>aljazeera.net]

11.01.07 Stocks fall on Exxon earnings and Citi woes

November 1 - A bad day on Wall Street got even rougher late in the session today as the Dow Jones industrials closed down more than 360 points, a sell-off set in motion by a weak earnings report from the oil giant Exxon Mobil and concern that Citigroup's woes may be worsening.

The Dow fell 2.6 percent to 13,567.87, a loss of 362.14, erasing gains from yesterday's decision by the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates. The Standard and Poor's 500-stock index dipped 2.6 percent as well, or 40.94 points, to 1,508.44. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite was down 2.25 percent.

Profit-taking and uncertainty overtook the commodities markets as well. Crude oil, which had surged over 4 percent to record levels in the past week, fell $1.04 to $93.49. The dollar, which was expected to weaken further after the Fed's rate cut, rebounded against the euro. “People are getting nervous looking to the holiday season,” said Anthony Conroy, head equity trader at BNY ConvergEx Group. "Discretionary income is going to be a little bit less. People are going to be spending less because they’re paying more for oil and mortgage payments there." [More>>nytimes.com]

11.01.07 Iran bank chief warns Ahmadinejad on money supply

TEHRAN (AFP) November 1 - Iran's new central bank governor has warned the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over money supply growth, urging measures to prevent a further rise in inflation, the press reported Thursday. "The government, the private sector, and anyone who cares about the nation's economy should prevent the increase of liquidity," said Tahmasb Mazaheri, quoted by most moderate Iranian newspapers.

"It has an inflationary impact and it will lead to higher prices," said Mazaheri, who was appointed in September as part of a wide-ranging economic reshuffle by Ahmadinejad. At the end of May 2007, the central bank said money supply had grown by a colossal year-on-year rate of 39.4 percent.

10.31.07 Religious leaders: Protect holy sites

October 31 - The Archbishop of Canterbury and Israel's chief rabbis issued a joint declaration Tuesday calling on religious communities worldwide to take responsibility for protecting all holy sites. In their second meeting this year, the head of the Anglican church, Archbishop Rowan Williams, and Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger said the desecration of any holy site is a setback for all religious people.

"Every holy place - for example, synagogue, church or mosque - that belong to religious people, keep it as a holy place," Metzger said. "We hope that people will hear it and will keep our decision." The religious leaders have planned to meet annually while a separate delegation of religious leaders and academics will meet twice a year. The annual meetings and the Anglican-Jewish commission are designed to foster an understanding between the religions. [More>>jpost.com ; See related story, theaustralian.news.com.au, October 31, "Pope Benedict to meet Saudi king"]

Editorial note: Israel's "Declaration of Independence" pledged to protect all religious sites. See "Philistia triumph thou because of me," which discusses this and other relevant documents.

10.31.07 Afghans, NATO kill 50 Taleban, surround 200

ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan (Reuters) October 31 - Afghan and NATO-led troops have killed some 50 Taleban fighters surrounded in a district close to the main southern city of Kandahar, the provincial police chief said on Wednesday. Fighting has surged across Afghanistan in the past week as Taleban insurgents and Afghan government and foreign forces attempt to consolidate positions before the onset of winter.

Taleban fighters moved into the Arghandab district, only some 12 km (8 miles) from Kandahar, last week after a pro-government tribal leader who held the area died of a heart attack two weeks ago leaving the northern approach to Kandahar exposed. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See related story, aljazeera.net, October 31, "Taleban claims strategic advance."]

10.31.07 US providing Turkey with intel on terrorist positions: Pentagon

WASHINGTON, October 31 - The United Sates is providing Turkey with intelligence on Kurdish terrorist positions along the border with Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday. "The key for any sort of any military response, by the Turks or anybody else, is actionable intelligence," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

"And we are making efforts to help them get actionable intelligence," he said. Turkey has threatened to send its forces across the border into northern Iraq against the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, in response to stepped up attacks inside Turkey by the terrorist group. [More>>turkishpress.com ; See also metimes.com, October 31, "Turkey escalates tone against Iraqi Kurd leaders." and alarabiya.net, October 31, "Iraq sets up checkpoints to curb PKK rebels."]

10.31.07 Seven are aquitted in Madris bombings

MADRID, October 31 - Spain's National Court handed down sentences today stretching to tens of thousands of years to three men for killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800 others in the 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid. In practice, those three will serve 40-year terms, the maximum that Spain allows.

The court found 18 others guilty of lesser charges related to the attacks, such as belonging to a terrorist organization. Seven remaining defendants were acquitted entirely, and not one of the three accused of organizing the attack was convicted of doing so. In all, many of the sentences were much lighter than those sought by the prosecution for the coordinated bombings that traumatized the nation. [More>>nytimes.com]

10.30.07 Egypt police: Gazans caught in tunnel members of Army of Islam

(AP) October 30 - Three Palestinians arrested earlier this month in a secret border
tunnel linking Gaza and Egypt are members of Army of Islam, an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that had planned to carry out suicide attacks in Israel, a police official said Tuesday.

A fourth man was believed to have escaped back to Gaza. One of the three arrested, Youssef, was wearing a suicide belt at the time of the police raid on the tunnel. The Palestinian militant group Army of Islam previously held kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was abducted in a cross-border raid in June 2006. Last July, the group transferred him to Hamas' control, without explanation. The group also claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Gaza of BBC British journalist Alan Johnston. Johnston was released in July after more than 100 days in captivity.

The group of smugglers was believed to be contact with an Egyptian driver who was to drive the men to central Sinai, from where they were to make their way to Israel to carry out suicide attacks in a coastal Israeli city, the official said, without providing more details.

10.30.07 Ahmadinejad again rebuked over Iran's economy

LONDON, October 30 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was again criticized over his handling of Iran's economy, with a leading MP protesting against a lack of planning and a cabinet minister expressing concern over inflation, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Inflation, which many economists estimate will hit more than 20% this year, is an increasing source of anxiety in Iran as sharp rises in basic foodstuffs and services over the past six months hit the poor hardest.

"The government has the right approach but it has taken many bad decisions, notably an acceleration in spending oil income," said Ahmad Tavakoli, the influential MP who heads parliament's research centre. "This has caused a rise in imports and the awakening of the inflation monster," he said in comments widely picked up by the press. [More>>iranmania.com ; See related story, iranfocus.com, October 30, "Iran detains students as demo erupts on Tehran campus."]

10.30.07 Hate material 'in one in four UK mosques'

October 30 - Material urging hatred of other religions can be found in mosques across Britain, most of it linked to Saudi Arabia, according to a new investigation. Gordon Brown was challenged to raise the problem with King Abdullah when they hold talks in Downing Street tomorrow. A year-long investigation by Policy Exchange, the centre-right think-tank, found that hate and separatist literature was available in one quarter of Britain's mosques and Islamic centres.

Researchers uncovered propaganda calling for homosexuals to be murdered, women to be subjugated and denouncing Jews and Christians as the enemies of Islam. A call was uncovered for jihad against "tyrants and oppressors," which is "best done through force if possible."

Many publications urged British Muslims to segregate themselves from non-Muslims and for "unbelievers" to be regarded as second class. Most of the material is produced by agencies closely linked to the Saudi regime, according to the investigation. It included virulently anti-Semitic propaganda produced by the Saudi ministry of education. Some of the literature discovered espoused the creation of a separate state for Muslims, governed by sharia law. "Saudi Arabia is the ideological source of much of this sectarianism," the study concluded. [>independent.co.uk ; See related stories, Maravot News, 10.29.07, "US lawmakers slammed for rejecting Koran gift."]

10.30.07 Immunity deals offered to Blackwater guards

WASHINGTON, October 30 - State Department investigators offered Blackwater USA security guards immunity during an inquiry into last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad — a potentially serious investigative misstep that could complicate efforts to prosecute the company's employees involved in the episode, government officials said Monday.

The State Department investigators from the agency's investigative arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, offered the immunity grants even though they did not have the authority to do so, the officials said. Prosecutors at the Justice Department, who do have such authority, had no advance knowledge of the arrangement, they added.

Most of the guards who took part in the Sept. 16 shooting were offered what officials described as limited-use immunity, which means that they were promised that they would not be prosecuted for anything they said in their interviews with the authorities as long as their statements were true. The immunity offers were first reported Monday by The Associated Press. [More>>nytimes.com ; See also washingtonpost.com, October 30, "Immunity jeopardizes Iraq probe."]

10.30.07 Suicide bomber kills 7 near PM's home

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AFP) October 30 - A suicide attack killed at least seven people, including the bomber, less than 1km from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's army residence in Rawalpindi today, police said. The attacker blew himself up next to a police checkpoint metres away from the gates to the residence of one of Musharraf's most senior officers, General Tariq Majid, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. A Reuters photographer saw a head hanging from the branches of a tree.

Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan said General Musharraf was safely in his office some 2km away at the time of the blast. City police chief Saud Aziz said three policemen and three passers-by were among those killed, while 11 people were wounded in the blast on a road where many of Pakistan's top brass reside. [More>>news.com.au]

10.30.07 UN urges US to end Cuba embargo

UNITED NATIONS (AP) October 30 - The UN General Assembly voted for the 16th straight year Tuesday to urge the United States to end its trade embargo against Cuba, whose foreign minister accused the US of stepping up its "brutal economic war" to new heights. The 192-member world body approved a resolution calling for the 46-year-old US economic and commercial embargo against Cuba to be repealed as soon as possible.

"The blockade had never been enforced with such viciousness as over the last year," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told the assembly, accusing President Bush's administration of adopting "new measures bordering on madness and fanaticism" that have hurt Cuba and interfered in its relations with at least 30 countries.

10.30.07 Leader of Al Qidayah sect surrenders to police

JAKARTA, Indonesia, October 31 - The leader of the controversial Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah sect, Ahmad Mushaddeq, and six of his followers have turned themselves in to Jakarta Police. Mushaddeq and his followers are being questioned at the Jakarta Police's criminal investigation directorate, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Adang Firman said Tuesday...Mushaddeq gave himself up after learning through the media that Muslims had strongly reacted against the sect, the Jakarta Police chief said. [Full story>>thejakartapost.com ; See background stories, thejakartapost.com, October 31, "Police order sweep of sect leaders" : ...Al-Qiyadah teaches members, among other things, that they do not have to pray five times a day...and Maravot News, 10.28.07 "NU, LDII agree to fight 'misleading' sects."]

10.30.07 Iran has "sleeper cells" in the Gulf: Ex-diplomat

DUBAI, October 30 - A former Iranian diplomat said Iran recruits and trains extremists to form "sleeper cells" in various Arab countries, using them to pass weapons and intelligence information via "secret passageways."

Iran's former consul in Dubai, Adel Al-Asadi, said the Revolutionary Guard recruits extremists from different Arab countries, Shiites and Sunnis alike, via Iranian embassies and consulates. "Then they are sent to Iran via a third country, and their passports don't get stamped. There, they receive extensive military and intelligence training."

...Al-Asadi's comments coincided with a statement by a top general in Iran's Revolutionary Guard warning that rising tension with the United States could trigger suicide attacks in the Gulf.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net; See earlier reports, Maravot News, 10.29.07 Iran ready to use suicide bombers if attacked."]

10.30.07 North Korea vessel crew overpower pirates, take control

MOGADISHU (AFP) October 30 - Crew members of a North Korean cargo vessel Tuesday overpowered Somali pirates, and violently regained control of the freighter captured off Mogadishu port, elders and a maritime official said. The 22-strong crew of the MV Dia Honga Dan overpowered armed pirates, who had seized it overnight Monday and were demanding thousands of dollars in ransom, they said. The pirates who had seized the boat were members of a Somali clan who were meant to be guarding it, said officials in Mogadishu. [More>>metimes.com]

10.30.07 Turkey pounds terrorists, warns US over ties

SIRNAK, October 30 - The Turkish army pounded Kurdish terrorists near the Iraqi border Tuesday as Ankara warned that ties with Washington would suffer as long as the terrorists enjoyed sanctuary in northern Iraq. Cobra helicopters fired missiles at terrorist positions on the Cudi mountains in Sirnak province, which borders Iraq, where fighting was continuing for a second day. Three soldiers have been killed in the clashes, officials said. Smoke from artillery fire could be seen above the rugged hills while at least one Sikorsky transport helicopter dropped off troops and a convoy of military trucks headed for the Iraqi border. [More>>turkishpress.com]

10.29.07 US lawmakers slammed for rejecting Koran gift

October 29 - In a show of solidarity with the Muslim community, representatives of Jewish and interfaith organizations condemned Oklahoma lawmakers who turned down a copy of the Koran, US press reports said.. Republican Rex Duncan refused a gift of Islam's holy book last week, saying, "Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology."

He said he has researched the Koran on the Internet and believes it supports such killing...Keith McArtor, president of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, said he hoped the lawmakers who refused the Koran would become "better acquainted with the true tenets of Islam, which are based on brotherhood, love, respect and dignity." [Full story>>alarabiya.net ; See related stories:

aljazeera.net, October 29, "Saudi king: UK terror radar weak"
: Saudi Arabia's monarch has accused the UK of not taking the so-called war on terror seriously enough, hours before arriving in London for an official state visit. King Abdullah said Britain failed to act on information passed to it by Saudi Arabia that might have helped prevent the suicide attacks that killed 52 people in London in 2005...His visit has prompted protests from critics of the Saudi Arabia's human rights record. "The UK should question Saudi Arabia about its domestic and religious culture and the source and root of terrorism in Saudi Arabia and how it is exported abroad," Mai Yamani, a Saudi political analyst, told Al Jazeera. Demonstrations are planned outside the Saudi embassy in London later this week.

timesonline.co.uk October 29, "Saudi visit marred by David Miliband snub" :
The state visit by the King of Saudi Arabia was marred today by the last-minute cancellation of a high-profile engagement between David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and the Saudi Foreign Minister. The Foreign Office announced this morning that the Foreign Secretary was calling off the meeting, which had been scheduled months in advance, citing the arrival of his newly adopted son.

Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, then also withdrew from the meeting because Mr. Miliband's deputy, Kim Howells, was considered too junior to meet him according to diplomatic protocol. The cancellation coincided with a troubled start to the major diplomatic visit to London by Mr. al-Faisal and King Abdullah II. This morning, the King told the BBC that UK intelligence agencies had failed to act on information passed on by Saudi authorities that might have averted the 2005 London bombings. The Foreign Office denied that Mr. Miliband's cancellation had anything to do with the statements by King Abdullah. It added that the Foreign Secretary had taken a leave of absence because of the adoption...

independent.co.uk, October 29, "A royal guest to be proud of?" :
His regime is condemned as one of the most brutal in the world, but today Britain will roll out the red carpet for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This week, Gordon Brown and David Cameron will welcome the leader of one of the world's most vicious dictatorships to Britain. Both men will embrace King Abdullah al-Saud, who heads a regime in which, according to Amnesty International, "Fear and secrecy permeate every aspect of life. Every day the most fundamental human rights of people in Saudi Arabia are being violated."

In his Labour Party conference speech last month, the Prime Minister declared that he would oppose dictatorship everywhere...Yet both political leaders refuse to make a commitment to even mention human rights to the king. Instead, he will ride in a golden carriage with the Queen, and be guest of honour at a Buckingham Palace banquet. It is the start of a three-day state visit, funded by the British taxpayer. The decision to lavish large sums and the rare prestige of a state visit on King Abdullah has attracted severe criticism in Westminster. The Liberal Democrats' acting leader, Vincent Cable, has refused to attend the banquet. The Labour MP John McDonnell said: "We are feting this man because Saudi Arabia controls 25 per cent of the world's oil, and because we sell him billions of pounds' worth of weapons. It is an insult to everything Britain stands for to put these geopolitical concerns ahead of the rights of women, trade unionists and all Saudi people."

While King Abdullah is cheered by our political leaders, many of his victims will be protesting outside. Sandy Mitchell, 52, went to Saudi Arabia to work as an anaesthetic technician at a hospital in Riyadh more than a decade ago – and got a rare outsider's glimpse into how the king maintains his power. He explains: "One day in 2000 I was getting out of my car at the hospital when I was pounced on. I was battered to the ground, a hood was put over my head, and they manacled my hands and feet. I thought – I'm being kidnapped."

He woke up in the Madhethe interrogation centre, where the Saudi police demanded he confess to being a British spy ordered to plant bombs in the country. He told then the bombs were obviously the work of Saudi Islamists – a view now accepted to be true – so they hung him upside down and began to beat his feet and buttocks with an axe handle for eight days. All the while, he could hear his friend Bill Sampson being gang-raped in the next room. Mr. Mitchell was eventually released after 32 months, when he was swapped for several Saudi citizens being held in Guantanamo Bay...

(An interesting article on Wahhabi Islam, by Robert G. Williscroft) posted on freerepublic.com, 6.07.03, "Wahhabi Islam - the real enemy of the West" ; See also nationalreview.com, June 30, 2003, "Text of testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security on Thursday, June 26, 2003." (In May 2006 there were over 300 Wahhabi Mosques in the US listed in yellowpages.com)

Maravot News (Mel Copeland) 2.05.06, "Why the Crusade and Jihad?" :
Without rehashing the history of Western Civilization in one paragraph, we can ascribe Christian and Jewish sentiments to defend Israel and to view America as the anointed of God (Allah, (2) in the Koran) to perceptions of pastors who spend more time feeding on the flock than feeding them. If the flock were fed properly it would not believe that it is just to kill on behalf of God. The Christian and Jewish scriptures all agree that vengeance belongs to God (i.e., as in Psalm 94.1), that the Warrior of God is a man of peace, just and charitable. I have always believed (and I know Jesus adhered to this old teaching) that if God wants to kill someone let Him kill them himself. You don't need to be his agent, in my opinion. But you can assist in bringing peace to the world...Mohammed went a bit too far, in my opinion, when he listed the following which confute the Bible...:

Koran Repentance ...9.116 Allah has purchased of the faithful their lives and worldly goods and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for His cause, slay, and be slain. Such is the true pledge which he has made them in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Koran.

Koran, Women 4.91 Others you will find who seek security from you as well as from their own people. Whenever they are called back to idol-worship they plunge into it headlong. If these do not keep their distance from you, if they neither offer you peace nor cease their hostilities against you, lay hold of them and kill them wherever you find them. Over such men We give you absolute authority.
4.92 It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer except by accident.

10.29.07 Iran ready to use suicide bombers if attacked

TEHRAN (RIA Novosti) October 29 - Iran could use suicide bombers from its Basij paramilitary force if enemies launch an attack from the Persian Gulf, a naval deputy commander in the Revolutionary Guards said on Monday. "Any Basij member, as Islamist suicide-fighter [Hossein] Fahmideh did, can accomplish a huge task. The Persian Gulf region and the strategically important Strait of Ormuz are such that the smallest action will lead to major consequences in the region," Ali Fadavi said.

During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war a 13-year-old Iranian boy, Hossein Fahmideh, blew up an Iraqi tank in a suicide attack. Fahmideh continues to have hero status in Iran, and a monument to the fighter stands in the capital, Tehran. The latest statement follows a series of warnings issued by Iranian army officials against attacks on the country since United States President George W. Bush suggested World War III could break out if Tehran does not abandon its nuclear program. [More>>rian.ru ; See also Maravot News 2.20.06, "Iran recruits suicide bombers to fight "Global Blasphemy"]

10.29.07 Bike-riding suicide bomber kills 30 Iraqi police

BAGHDAD (Reuters) October 29 - A suicide bomber on a bicycle killed 30 Iraqi policemen doing their morning exercises at a base north of Baghdad on Monday, in one of the deadliest strikes on security forces in months. The attack was a reminder that despite a US-led crackdown that has killed hundreds of Shi'ite and Sunni Arab militants and sharply reduced levels of violence in Iraq, groups such as al-Qaeda are determined to carry on fighting. 

The bomber entered the base in the volatile Diyala province and blew himself up amid members of a rapid reaction force, said Major-General Ghanim al-Quraishi, the Diyala police chief. A shopkeeper whose store is close to the base told Reuters he had seen a man riding a bicycle slip through a gap in the concrete wall surrounding the compound and heard a huge blast seconds later that threw a cloud of dust into the air. [More>>thestar.com.my]

10.29.07 US embassy targeted by Azerbaijan terror

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) October 29 - The US and British embassies suspended operations Monday in Baku, where the government said it thwarted a radical Islamic group's plot to conduct a "large-scale horrifying terror attack" against diplomatic missions and government buildings.

The Azerbaijani National Security Ministry said one suspect was killed and several others were detained in a weekend sweep in village outside the capital. The ministry said the Islamic group included an army lieutenant who stole 20 hand grenades, a machine gun, four assault rifles and ammunition from his military unit and made them available for the planned attack.

The US Embassy sent out an announcement to American citizens saying it had closed its consular office for an indefinite period because of a security threat and said it encouraged Americans to "maintain a high level of vigilance." Police cars were parked outside. [More>>indianexpress : hosted.ap.org]

10.29.07 US guns behind cartel killings in Mexico

TIJUANA, Mexico, October 29 - ...The guns pass into Mexico through the "ant trail," the nickname for the steady stream of people who each slip two or three weapons across the border every day. The "ants" - along with larger smuggling operations -- are feeding a rapidly expanding arms race between Mexican drug cartels.

The U.S. weapons - as many as 2,000 enter Mexico each day, according to a Mexican government study - are crucial tools in an astoundingly barbaric war between rival cartels that has cost 4,000 lives in the past 18 months and sent law enforcement agencies in Washington and Mexico City into crisis mode. These drug traffickers, with their steady supply of US weaponry, are the target of President Bush's proposed $500 million US aid package to help Mexico battle cartels... [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

10.28.07 Ten militants killed as army gunshhips pound targeted hideouts in Swat

ISLAMABAD,October 28 -Troops backed by gunship helicopters killed 10 militants loyal to a radical pro-Taliban cleric on Sunday in northwest Pakistan in the third straight day of clashes, officials said.

Troops targeted hideouts of the militants in scenic Swat valley, the stronghold of religious leader Maulana Fazlullah, who has been driving a fierce campaign to introduce Islamic Sharia law. Three civilians were also killed and one security guard among 20 were wounded. According to other reports 11 security men were killed.

"We have reports that 10 extremists were killed in the action," chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said. He accused the militants of terrorizing and killing local villagers in the region, which used to be a popular tourist destination in the conservative North West Frontier Province..Militants have seized and beheaded 13 people in recent days in the wake of the clashes although a spokesman for Fazlullah has denied that his loyalists were involved in the gruesome killings.
[Full story>>thenews.com.pk]

10.28.07 Eleven Sunni tribal chiefs abducted in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AFP) October 28 - Eleven Sunni tribal chiefs were abducted in Baghdad on Sunday after their meeting with a top government official, as Iraq was set to post its lowest monthly death toll in almost two years. The tribal chiefs from the restive Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, were seized in the capital's northern neighbourhood of Al Shaab which has a strong Shia militia presence.

They were kidnapped after they were returning from a meeting with a top official in Shia Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki's office in Baghdad, a security official said. The official said the tribal leaders were part of a local movement against the al-Qaeda in Iraq group...Insurgents also carried out attacks across Iraq on Sunday with at least 20 people reported killed. A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives in the northern oil hub of Kirkuk, killing six people and wounding 21, security and medical officials told AFP. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com ; See also aljazeera.net, October 28, "Suicide bomber attacks Kirkuk."]

10.28.07 No proof Iran making nuke arms says ElBaradei

WASHINGTON (AFP) October 28 - Chief UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said Sunday he had no evidence that Iran is actively building nuclear weapons, despite recent bellicose rhetoric from US leaders. "I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now," the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told CNN, warning that US threats added "fuel to the fire."

"Even if Iran were to be working on a nuclear weapon ... they are at least a few years from having such a weapon," he said, citing assessments by US officials themselves. "At this stage, we need to continue to work through creative diplomacy ... as I don't see any other solution than diplomacy and inspections," ElBaradei said.
[More>>metimes.com ; See related story, jpost.com, and timesonline.co.uk, October 28, "Iranians study nuclear physics in Britain."]

10.28.07 Space Station has power system damage

October 28 - Spacewalking astronauts found evidence of damage to a key part of the International Space Station's power system today. It was the second of five scheduled spacewalks during the shuttle mission. More than six hours of outdoor activities were originally to be devoted to unbuckling an solar array atop the International Space Station so it could be moved to the side of the station, and also doing some work on the new “Harmony” module that astronauts had installed earlier in the week and first entered on Saturday.

Those tasks proceeded well, as has virtually everything else in this otherwise exceptionally smooth mission. But those successes could well be overshadowed by the discovery of iron shavings in one of the shuttle's enormous rotating joint assemblies. [More>>nytimes.com]

10.28.07 Kurdish rebels killed in clashes with Turks

October 28 - Turkish troops killed 15 separatist Kurdish rebels today in a clash in south-eastern Turkey, the private Dogan news agency reported. The fighting reportedly occurred in the mainly Kurdish province of Tunceli, which is not near the border with Iraq where most of the recent clashes have occurred. An official with the governor's office for Tunceli confirmed that Turkey's military was conducting a military offensive against the rebels at a rural area near the town of Pulumur, but would not provide any further details or confirm any casualty figures. [More>>independent.co.uk]

10.28.07 'North Korea wants to emulate Vietnam's Doi Moi'

October 28 -North Korean leader Kim Jong-il wants to benchmark Vietnam's two-decades-old "Doi Moi" reform and openness policy, a local weekly magazine reported yesterday, as the North's economic plight continues, aggravated by economic sanctions imposed by Western countries over its nuclear weapons ambitions. The news report came a day after the prime ministers of North Korea and Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding to boost technological, scientific and agricultural ties between the two communist nations.

Vietnam has pursued the reform and openness policy since 1986 to introduce a market economy, including liberalization of trade and finance with foreign countries to a certain degree, and is enjoying rapid economic growth. According to the weekly Yazhou Zhoukan, Kim made the remark while meeting with Nong Duc Manh, secretary-general of Vietnam's Communist Party, in Pyongyang last week. The news report cited an interview with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, who accompanied the secretary-general to the North Korean capital.

"Chairman Kim Jong-il highly evaluated the achievements Vietnam's Doi Moi has made in the past 20 years while meeting with Secretary General Manh," Khiem said, adding Kim Jong-il has accepted Manh's proposal for Kim's visit to Hanoi. The ongoing visit to Hanoi by North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong-il aims to prepare for Kim Jong-il's visit to Vietnam, the magazine said.

Diplomatic sources here said it is remarkable that Kim Jong-il expressed interest in Doi Moi, although North Korea is unlikely to closely follow the program of reform and openness having been pursued by Vietnam. [More>>koreaherald.co.kr]

10.28.07 French muck: Is this the new penicillin?

October 28 - MRSA is the scourge of the country's hospitals, but now the discovery in France of a volcanic clay with miraculous healing properties raises the prospect of a cure for it, and to other dangerous superbugs. Scientists have discovered a new and highly effective weapon against deadly superbugs like the MRSA sweeping through Britain's dirty hospital wards – green French muck.

The dramatic antibiotic success of agricur, a clay made from ancient volcanic ash found near the Massif Central, marks it out as a potential rival to penicillin, the wonder drug of the 20th century. In experiments, the clay killed up to 99 percent of superbug colonies within 24 hours. Control samples of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) grew 45-fold in the same period.

The clay has a similar effect on other deadly bacteria tested, including salmonella, E. coli, and a flesh-eating disease called buruli, a relative of leprosy which disfigures children across central and western Africa. It has been classed as "an emerging public health threat" by the World Health Organization (WHO).

MRSA is also a growing concern. Since the early 1990s, deaths in the UK have risen sharply from fewer than 100 annually to more than 1,600 in 2005. The government recently announced new measures to deep clean all hospital wards in an attempt to cut the number of infections.

Many other bacteria have also developed resistance to medicine's arsenal of antibiotics, largely because patients stop using prescribed drugs when they begin to feel better rather than finishing their course of treatment, allowing the hardiest bugs to survive and spread. Some bacteria are now resistant to a spectrum of drugs. As a result, the developed world is starting to see the return of diseases, such as tuberculosis, that had been all but wiped out a few decades ago. [More>>independent.co.uk]

10.28.07 NU, LDII agree to fight 'misleading' sects

KEDIRI, East Java, October 28 - The country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII) have agreed to fight "misleading" sects in Indonesia. "We must fight against the misleading sects as they only create conflicts among Muslims," NU's associate chairman, KH Said Aqiel Siradj, said at a post-Ramadhan gathering at LDII's boarding school on Sunday. He pointed to what he called Qidayah Islamiyah's misleading teachings, which recognize the emergence of a prophet after Prophet Mohammad and allow Muslims not to pray, go on the haj or fast. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

10.28.07 Thousands march in protest against Iraq war

NEW YORK, October 29 - Up to 100,000 demonstrators joined marches in major cities across the US to demand an end to the war in Iraq, organisers said. Local television stations showed crowds filing peacefully through the streets in New York, Los Angeles and other cities. The protesters waved banners that read "End the war now," "Stop Bush" and "Worst president ever," referring to the increasingly unpopular US military campaign in Iraq launched by President George W. Bush.

The coalition of groups behind the protest, United for Peace and Justice, issued a statement putting the total number of participants at 100,000 across various cities including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle. Police estimates for the turnout were not immediately available. [More>>news.com.au ; See also ktvu.com, October 27, and related article, khaleejtimes.com, October 28, "Powell's surprise over Blair's closeness to Bush."]

10.28.07 Comet Holmes increases in magnitude one million times in constellation Perseus

October 26 - The brightest comet visible in the past decade can now be found in the northeastern sky during evening hours. If you spot it, and you are in the northern hemisphere, you will be able to watch it throughout the night.

This is Comet 17P/Holmes – which was discovered 100 years ago and was thought to have long since fizzled out. It surprised sky watchers on October 24 with a stunning outburst. On October 23rd, the comet was 25,000 times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. It has brightened some one million times to become visible with the eye alone...[More>>earthsky.org]

10.28.07 US, Afghan forces kill some 80 insurgents

KABUL (Reuters) October 28 - US-led coalition and Afghan troops killed some 80 Taleban fighters in a six-hour battle after an ambush in southern Afghanistan, the US military said on Sunday. Taleban fighters opened fire on Saturday with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades on the joint coalition and Afghan army patrol from a trench near Musa Qala in Helmand province, the most important town held by insurgents.

"The combined patrol immediately returned fire, manoeuvred, and employed close air support resulting in almost seven dozen Taleban fighters killed during a six hour engagement," the US military statement said. Such large pitched battles are relatively rare in Afghanistan, where the Taleban prefer to 'shoot and scoot' before air strikes can be called in. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]


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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