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12.11.10 N. Korea sends minister to Russia amid tensions

SEOUL (AFP) December 11 - North Korea's foreign minister left for Russia Saturday amid a flurry of diplomatic attempts to ease tensions following the North's deadly attack on a South Korean island last month. Pak Ui-Chun departed for Moscow, the North's official news agency said, a day after defending his country's move to strengthen its nuclear weaponry. Pyongyang is "assured of the rectitude of our choice of the songun (army first) policy, and in strengthening a defense that relies on nuclear forces for deterrence," he told Russia's Interfax news agency. Pak repeated assertions that US hostility and South Korea's confrontational policy had left the Korean peninsula situation in "quite a dangerous stage."

The North's November 23 bombardment of a border island killed four people including civilians, triggered a regional crisis and highlighted divisions between China and the United States on ways to restrain the North. Washington and its ally Seoul have staged joint naval exercises to deter Pyongyang and threatened a tough response to any future attacks. Beijing sent a senior official for talks with the North's leader Kim Jong-Il. State Councillor Dai Bingguo and Kim reached consensus Thursday on Korean peninsula issues, China's news agency reported without elaborating. China is the North's sole major ally and its key food and fuel source.
[More>>koreaherald.com; See related story,

xinhuanet.com, December 11, "DPRK says its army and people ready for all-out war" 
: PYONGYANG, N. Korea - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said its army and people were ready for escalated conflicts and all-out war that would not be confined to the peninsula, the official news agency KCNA reported Saturday. According to the KCNA, a spokesman for the National Peace Committee of Korea said in the statement released Saturday that the recent moves of the US indicated that it was fully joining in South Korea's moves for a war of aggression against the DPRK after "throwing away the disguise of a hypocrite." It was clear that if the South Korean army mobilized all flying corps, warships and missiles for a war against the DPRK and the US joined them with the latest weapons, it would develop into an all-out war, not a local war, he said....

12.11.10 Chinese inflation surges to 28-month high

(AP) December 11 - Chinese inflation soared past market forecasts to a 28-month high of 5.1% in November and its affects look likely to spread beyond food prices, putting pressure on the government to implement an interest rate hike. China's inflation surged to a 28-month high in November, officials said Saturday, despite government efforts to increase food supplies and end diesel shortages. The 5.1 percent inflation rate was driven by a 11.7 percent jump in food prices year on year. The news comes as China's leaders meet for the top economic planning conference of the year and as financial markets watch for a widely anticipated interest rate hike to help bring rapid economic growth to a more sustainable level. [More>>france24.com]

12.11.10 Federal budget deficit: Highest on record

(AP) December 10 - Treasury Department says last month's budget deficit was 25 Percent higher than in November 2009. The federal budget deficit rose to $150.4 billion last month, the largest November gap on record. And the government's deficits are set to climb higher if Congress passes a tax-cut plan that's estimated to cost $855 billion over two years. The Treasury Department says November's budget gap was 25 percent more than the deficit in November 2009. For the first two months of the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $290.8 billion. That's 2 percent less than for the same period a year ago. And economists had been estimating that the full-year deficit would decline after two years of record highs. But analysts say the tax deal President Barack Obama reached with Republicans this week will give the 2011 budget year the largest deficit in history $1.5 trillion, according to economists at JPMorgan Chase. [More>>cbsnews.com]

12.11.10 Mexican police kill drugs lord in shoot-out

December 11 - Mexican security forces have killed the boss of one of the most powerful drug trafficking cartels in the country in a dramatic shoot-out. Nazario Moreno, one of the leaders of the 'La Familia' cartel, was gunned down by police in the western state of Michoacan on Thursday. At least three alleged La Familia gunmen, five police officers and three civilians were also killed, according to government spokesman Alejandro Poire. Poire added the number could be higher because many cartel members fled with wounds and may have died since. [More>>news.sky.com]

12.11.10 An empty chair in Oslo and candles in the night for Xiaobo

December 11 - The Chinese government did everything it could to diminish the Nobel Peace Prize – but yesterday its power was clearer than ever. An empty high-backed chair played a poignant starring role at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo yesterday after this year's winner, the democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, was barred from attending by the Chinese government. He is being held in a prison in the remote North-east of the country. With no one allowed by China to attend on his behalf not Mr. Liu's wife nor any other member of his family the Nobel Committee found itself, only for the second time in the prize's 100-year history, unable to deliver the coveted medal and the $1.4m (£886,000) prize money. A diploma bearing his name, however, was simply placed on the seat of the chair. US President Barack Obama, the winner last year, issued a statement in Washington urging China to release Mr. Liu, saying he was "far more deserving than I was" of the prize. [More>>independent.co.uk]

12.11.10 Deal is reached at Cancún summit

December 11 - All major economies agree to cut emissions and establish a fund to help nations most vulnerable to climate change. The UN climate change talks produced a modest deal today that for the first time commits all the major economies to reducing emissions, but not enough to meet their promise of keeping the global temperature rise to 2C. The agreement, which took four years to negotiate, should help to prevent deforestation, promote the transfer of low-carbon technologies to developing countries and, by 2020, establish a green fund, potentially worth $100bn (£63bn) a year, to shield the more vulnerable countries from climate change. However, governments failed to reach agreement on how far overall global emissions should be cut, and there are many loopholes for countries to avoid making the deep reductions that scientists say are needed. Researchers from the Climate Action Tracker said the pledges would set the world on course for 3.2C warming a catastrophe for many of the poorest countries. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

12.11.10 Attacks kill civilians ahead of Obama review

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) December 11 - Violence in north, south and east Afghanistan killed more than a dozen civilians and wounded several more as US President Barack Obama prepares to unveil a review of his strategy for the near decade-long war. The latest string of attacks comes near the end of the deadliest year since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban, with the escalating insurgency costing the lives of a record number of both ordinary Afghans and foreign troops. Obama said on a visit to Afghanistan last week that troops are making "important progress" and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Kabul soon after that he was convinced the war was on the right track.

In southern Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed 15 civilians and a car bomb wounded five police, in the north a suicide bomber driving a police car wounded nine, and in the east seven men died in a disputed incident that sent hundreds pouring onto the streets of Gardez city in a protest that turned violent. Police and protesters, both armed in a country awash with weapons, fired at each other and burning tire barricades filled the streets with smoke. Six civilians and two policemen were wounded, said Nader Noori, doctor at the Gardez hospital. Local officials said an air strike by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) killed seven road construction company employees overnight. ISAF said Afghan and foreign troops were approached and then fired on by armed men while hunting an insurgent and shot back, killing seven.

12.11.10 Algerian army kills 10 rebels

ALGIERS (Reuters) December 11 - Algerian troops killed 10 Islamist rebels on Friday in the eastern Kabylie region known as a stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a security source told Reuters on Saturday. Between 3,500 and 4,000 troops backed by helicopters attacked a site between the cities of Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou after intelligence officials heard that AQIM was planning to hold a meeting in the region. "The operation is still ongoing and ten terrorists have been killed," the source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.09.10 Explosives-laden house torched in California

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) December 9 - Authorities on Thursday set fire to a suburban San Diego home they said was so packed with homemade explosives that they had no choice but to burn it to the ground. Remotely controlled explosive devices ignited the home in Escondido, sending smoke spewing across the neighborhood. Scores of nearby residents were evacuated earlier. Authorities used helicopters and air pollution sensors to monitor the controlled burn for potential health problems. Crews have built a 16-foot firewall and covered it with fire resistant gel to protect the closest homes. They also closed a portion of a nearby interstate highway. Authorities say the fire should be over within four hours. The house was rented by an out-of-work software consultant who authorities say assembled an astonishing quantity of bomb-making materials that included chemicals used by suicide bombers...Investigators say they are still trying to understand what motivated the renter, George Jakubec, to stockpile the material. Jakubec, 54, has pleaded not guilty to charges of making destructive devices and robbing three banks.

Bomb-squad experts determined the residence was too dangerous to go inside, so they drew up plans to burn it down. The home is so cluttered with unstable chemicals that even bomb-disposing robots can't be used to enter it. Officers said they found the same types of chemicals used by suicide bombers and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The materials included Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, which was used in the 2001 airliner shoe-bombing attempt as well as airplane cargo bombs discovered last month by authorities. Nearly every room is packed with piles of explosive material and items related to making homemade bombs, prosecutors said. In the backyard, bomb technicians found six mason jars with highly unstable Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMDT, which can explode if stepped on. A coffee table was found cluttered with documents and strewn with detonators, prosecutors said. The chemicals were found after a gardener accidentally set off an explosion at the home by stepping on what authorities believe was a byproduct of HMTD.
[Full story>>cbsnews.com]

12.09.10 Foreign media websites apparently blocked in China

BEIJING, December 9 - The websites of several foreign media outlets appeared to be blocked in China on Thursday on the eve of the award ceremony in Oslo honouring the 2010 Nobel peace laureate, jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. Attempts by a French news agency to access the websites of television networks CNN, the BBC and Norwegian public broadcaster NRK were unsuccessful, with the message "Internet Explorer cannot display the web page" appearing on the screen. China on Thursday stepped up its criticism of the Oslo-based Nobel committee that in October chose Liu who was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges as this year's honoree. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,

khaleejtimes.com, December 9, "China anti-Noble campaign winning it no friends"
: BEJING (AP) - China's campaign to vilify this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and sabotage the award ceremony showed signs of backfiring Thursday, as criticism of Beijing rose and the imprisoned Chinese dissident seemed to be turning into a celebrity. While China has successfully pressured more than a dozen countries not to attend Friday's ceremony to honor Liu Xiaobo and began blocking foreign media coverage of the event on the Internet Thursday, analysts said its efforts also appeared to be galvanizing the West, reminding democracies of the gulf between them and Beijing.

Despite the criticism of Beijing's response, China remains too big and too important to be shunned for long: Its role as the world's factory floor rules and banker to the West rule out both political and economic retaliation. The high-pressure tactics continued unabated Thursday, the same day China handed out its newly inaugurated Confucius Peace Prize — hastily created as a riposte to the Nobel. Amnesty International said members of Norway's Chinese community were being pressured by Chinese diplomats to join anti-Nobel protests planned for Friday and had been threatened with retaliation if they failed to appear. Instead, about 100 supporters of Liu marched to the Chinese Embassy in Oslo on Thursday, but were turned away before they could hand over a petition demanding his release.

In China, Liu's wife, Liu Xia, and dozens of friends, colleagues and sympathizers are under house arrest or tight surveillance to prevent them from attending the ceremony. Attempts to reach them by phone were met with messages saying their numbers didn't exist. Liu, a 54-year-old literary critic and democracy advocate, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion handed down last year after he coauthored a bold appeal for human rights and political reform. Previously almost unknown even within China, he has in recent weeks been transformed into a cause-celebre among global rights activists and a source of curiosity to young, Internet-savvy Chinese. Several news websites, including the BBC's and Norwegian broadcaster NRK's, were blocked in China on Thursday, apparently to blot out coverage of the ceremony. Some Nobel-related reports on CNN's website were also inaccessible...

xinhuanet.com, December 9, "Nobel Peace Prize has fallen into disrepute: Norwegian commentator" :
BEJING - Recent Nobel Peace Prize winner indicates the Norwegian Nobel Committee lacked sound analysis and even disregarded facts, a Norwegian pundit has said in a recent commentary. Such flawed practices, Hege Ulstein said in the Saturday issue of local daily Dagsavisen, meant the foundation of the Nobel Peace Prize conferments in recent years was weak, including the latest one to a convicted Chinese criminal named Liu Xiaobo. As evidence of the Nobel Committee's problematic approach, she cited a report by Norway's state broadcaster NRK about the controversy over Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate...Jagland's calculation behind his choice of Liu Xiaobo, according to the Norwegian pundit, was that he wanted to show support for those who attempted to Westernize China. But the decision was unwise because China's reform must follow the trend of the times instead of against it, she said, adding that the conferment also exposed the intrinsic inclination of the committee to lecture others and propagandize Western values...

12.09.10 Russian foreign minister doubts NATO sincerity after Baltic leak

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 9 - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has expressed concern over NATO's integrity after the revelation of the military alliance's plans on defending the Baltic states against Russia. The latest batch of US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks shows NATO drew up plans in January to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against any possible attack by Russia. "The question arises as to when NATO was being sincere," Lavrov said. "When they talk to us on developing a partnership or when they resolve contradictory issues among themselves behind closed doors?" "We have posed these questions and we expect to get answers. I presume we have the right," Lavrov added. Russia's top diplomat also said that NATO's plans were being developed in December 2009 at the same time as the first high-level Russian-NATO Council meeting since the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

"So with one hand, NATO openly agrees to develop joint cooperation documents on a ministerial level, and with the other hand they make a decision behind our backs to defend themselves from us," Lavrov went on. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO did not consider Russia as an enemy, and that the alliance itself did not pose a threat to Russia. "We want to move ahead in our relationship and we want to preserve and maintain the positive spirit of the partnership that took place in Lisbon [during the Russia-NATO summit]," Rasmussen said. The NATO head declined however to comment on the WikiLeaks release in question.

12.09.10 Hackers step up cyber attacks in support of WikiLeaks

(Reuters) December 9 - A hackers' group dubbed "Anonymous" claims to have brought down the Swedish government's website after also blocking the web sites of credit card giants Mastercard and Visa, which suspended payments to the whistleblower site WikiLeaks. More cyber attacks in retaliation for attempts to block the WikiLeaks website are likely in a  "data war" to protect Internet freedom, a representative of one of the groups involved said on Thursday. Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet said the Swedish government's website was down for a short time overnight in the latest apparent attack. Sweden has issued an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange over sex crimes and he is in jail in London, awaiting an extradition hearing. WikiLeaks has angered the US authorities by starting to release details of 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables.

Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been hailed as an advocate of free speech by supporters, but now finds himself fighting serious sexual allegations made by two women in Sweden. Assange will have another court appearance next Tuesday and his supporters assert he is being victimized for his work. Online collective Anonymous appears to be using social networking site Twitter to coordinate attacks on websites belonging to entities it views as trying to silence WikiLeaks. "Anonymous has targeted mainly companies which have decided for whatever reason not to deal with WikiLeaks. Some of the main targets involve Amazon, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal," a spokesman calling himself "Coldblood" told BBC Radio 4. "The campaign is not over from what I've seen, it's still going strong. More people are joining, more and more people are downloading the voluntary botnet tool which allows people to command dos (distributed denial of service) attacks," he added. The speaker, who had an English accent, said he was aged 22 and was a software engineer.
[More>>france24.com; See related stories,

haaretz.com, December 9, "Hackers paralyze Hezbollah-linked website for publishing WikiLeaks cables" :
WikiLeaks gave the the privately owned Al-Akhbar an advance copy of secret US diplomatic documents, and the paper has been publishing the cables since last week. The website of a newspaper affiliated Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group  has been shut down following a hacker attack, apparently over its publishing of leaked US diplomatic cables, an editor with the daily said Thursday. Omar Nashabe said he doesn't want to speculate who is behind what he called the most serious attack on the Al-Akhbar newspaper since it was established in 2006...On Thursday, the paper published a document about corruption in the North African Arab nation of Tunisia. The US memo focused on alleged corruption inside President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's family. Last week, Al-Akhbar printed another diplomatic cable saying that Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr offered US officials advice on how Israel could defeat Hezbollah in a future war. The memo also said Murr vowed to keep the Lebanese army out of the fighting. Murr's office denied he had made the comments, and said the report was out of context and inaccurate...

independent.co.uk, December 9, "Fresh attacks in WikiLeaks cyberwar"
: The cyber war between WikiLeaks supporters and companies refusing to do business with the whistle-blowing site intensified tonight, with fresh attacks threatened against Amazon and PayPal. Anonymous, a loose-knit group of internet activists, has already disrupted the websites of companies including MasterCard and Visa by bombarding them with millions of bogus visits. But the activist group's "Operation Payback" has also been hit, with Facebook and Twitter deleting their accounts. Facebook said it deleted the Operation Payback account because it was promoting a 'distributed denial-of-service' (DDoS) attack. Meanwhile, a WikiLeaks spokesman denied any connection with the "hacktivists" but described the attacks as a "reflection of public opinion."

In the real world, WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, who is on remand in London after being arrested and refused bail over sexual offence charges he is facing in Sweden, met his team of lawyers at Wandsworth prison this afternoon. His solicitor, Mark Stephens, told the Guardian he was "quite chipper, he seemed to be bearing up." Mr. Stephens said Assange does not have access to a computer or the internet and added that he was concerned that "people have unjustly accused WikiLeaks of inspiring cyber attacks." This afternoon a message on the Op-Payback Twitter account prompted fears of an attack on Amazon, reading: "TARGET: http://www.AMAZON.COM LOCKED ON!!!" But subsequent posts appeared to show the target was in fact PayPal, with messages reading: "Everyone's attacking http://www.paypal.com." ...

france24.com, December 9, "For WikiLeaks founder Assange, a life of secrets and shadows" : ...After fathering a child at 18 with his girlfriend (and becoming embroiled in a custody battle after their separation), Assange entered a formative period: the internet was rising to prominence and Assange soon became an active hacker. In the early 1990s, he pleaded guilty and paid a fine of several thousand Australian dollars for illegally accessing computers belonging to various companies, including Nortel, the Canadian telecom company. Assange also briefly studied physics, math, neuroscience and philosophy at Melbourne University. Assange started Wikileaks in 2006 as an online forum for leaks. He has said the site is intended to use new technology to uncover the truth, and has denied that people are harmed by the information published....

12.09.10 Republicans block US health aid for 9/11 workers

WASHINGTON, December 9 - Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and residents of New York City who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero. The 9/11 health bill, a version of which was approved by the House of Representatives in September, is among a handful of initiatives that Senate Democrats had been hoping to approve this year before the close of the 111th Congress. Supporters believe this is their last real opportunity to have the bill passed. [More>>nytimes.com]

12.09.10 Yemen gun culture harms stability, helps militants

SANAA, Yemen (Reuters) December 9 - Business has been booming this past week at Jihana, one of Yemen's biggest weapons markets. A deadly feud has erupted between two local tribes, and fighters from both sides have been rushing to stock up on weapons. "We stayed open until midnight yesterday to cope with the demand," said arms trader Muhammed Qubban. Trade is brisk and when a pick-up carrying four masked men arrives, Qubban and other traders are on their feet to sell guns and ammunition. "They're from one of the warring tribes," said Saleh, another trader at the market, 30 km (19 miles) east of Sanaa. "When the fighting is going on, they rush to the market and don't even bother to negotiate prices."

Eight people have died so far in this dispute, the traders say, which started when a tribal sheikh was shot dead in broad daylight on a street in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Yemen's gun culture is ingrained. As well as wearing curved daggers at their waist, it is not unusual for Yemeni men to carry AK-47 assault rifles, hunting rifles and pistols. Yemen is known for its spiralling political violence. This year the country has seen bloody rampages by al-Qaeda militants, another round of conflict with northern Shi'ite rebels and rising brutality in the secessionist south. Fears are growing that the southern Arabian Peninsula country could be so damaged by these conflicts that it will turn into a failed state, threatening regional security and that of its neighbor, top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

12.09.10 'New life' discovered in Titanic ruins: report

December 9 - A team of scientists identified that the wreckage of the Titanic is under attack from [a] new kind of microbe, the Daily Mail reported. The curious microbe, called "Halomonas tinacae" by the researchers from Dalhousie University, Canada and the University of Sevilla, Spain, is now believed to be responsible for speeding up decomposition of the wreck of the tragic Titanic. They also discovered that the mysterious bacteria, which can adhere to [a] rusty steel surface, form icicle-like rusticles. More important, the exterior of the wreck and underwater infrastructures such as oil rigs may be exposed to constant threats from the eye-catching Halomonas titanicae. The discovery has been published in the newest issue of the Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. The research team said it is worthwhile applying the findings to numerous areas of research, although it is not known whether they can attack oil rigs and gas pipelines. [More>>koreaherald.com]

12.08.10 After new setback, Obama Mideast plan in doubt

JERUSALEM (AP) December 8 - The US decision to abandon its efforts to coax a settlement freeze out of Israel marks the biggest failure yet in the Obama administration's much-trumpeted Mideast peace push, casting serious doubts over whether the president can broker a deal by his September target. Israelis and Palestinians said Wednesday that a scramble was on for a magic formula out of the impasse. But neither side showed any flexibility, and the Palestinians voiced new signals about trying to establish a state without Israel's agreement. The US announced late Tuesday that after weeks of efforts, it had given up its attempts to persuade Israel into renewing a limited freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — an issue that has emerged as the key sticking point in Mideast peace talks. Some 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in these areas, which were captured in the 1967 Mideast War and are claimed by the Palestinians. With a freeze needed to draw the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, Tuesday's US announcement was in effect an admission of failure. "There is no doubt that there is a crisis, a difficult crisis," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a news conference in Greece. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

haaretz.com, December 8, "Egypt: World should push toward establishement of Palestinian state" :
Egyptian FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit says discussions should shift to an 'endgame' for Palestinian settlement due to the failure of US-brokered talks. Major powers should push Israel and the Palestinians to agree a deadline for establishing an independent Palestinian state before a two-state solution becomes impossible to achieve, Egypt said on Wednesday. Israelis and Palestinians held three rounds of US-backed talks in September. Palestinians pulled out when a 10-month freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem ended on Sept. 26. In some of Egypt's strongest language since the talks ended, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said discussions should shift to an "end-game for a Palestinian settlement" after Washington had failed to push Israel to halt building work. "The Americans have been informing all of us that their efforts did not succeed. They wanted to reach a moratorium on settlement activities with Israel. That came to an end now." ...

12.08.10 Find political solution to West's problem with Islam

December 8 - Leaders in the Muslim world and the West should focus on finding political solutions, and avoid nurturing religious differences. Tensions between Islam and the West are manageable if leaders were to focus more on finding political answers, and less on religious differences. The West should also focus on policies that are seen as fair to both Muslims and the West, which would allow political leaders to build on the continuingly high respect for the West in Muslim areas. These interesting findings were part of an important poll of opinion in Muslim majority states and Western countries carried out by Gallup and published in a report called "Measuring the state of Muslim-West relations," which was announced last week when the new Abu Dhabi Gallup centre was officially opened.

It was startling that respect in the Muslim world for the West was very high in the Arab world, and had also increased from 2008 to 2009, despite all the woes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the perennial hatred generated by American support for Israel. A surprisingly high 64 percent of the Arab population respected the West in 2008, which grew to 71 percent in 2009. While the shift may be attributed to Obama's Cairo speech, it is nonetheless a very high rating from which to start with, and encouraging for those seeking better relations. But very dangerously, this sense of respect for the West is not seen by Muslims in the Middle East to be reciprocated. A miserable 17 percent of the population of the Middle East region in 2008 thought the Western world respected the Muslim world, and although this impression got slightly better in 2009, it only reached 26 percent. This means that despite the very high respect recorded for the West in Arab countries, an overwhelming majority of Arabs do not feel that their states are respected in the same way by the populations in the West.

This wide gap is bound to create serious resentment, which can manifest itself in many ways including frustration and anger at the West for not being more open to its would-be friends, which in a small minority of cases can turn to more radical anger. However, Gallup found that the majority in all countries, whether Western or Muslim, thought that Muslim-Western conflict could be avoided. This hopeful trend was most pronounced in Europe, where 69 percent of the population thought that conflict could be avoided and only 21 per cent thought it inevitable, compared to 55 percent in the Middle East who thought conflict avoidable, and 31 percent who thought it inevitable.

The region with the most depressing outlook was the US and Canada, where a very high 45 per cent of the population thought conflict inevitable, and an unusually low one percent did not know what to think. This very high expectation of Muslim-Western conflict, and alarming certainty of view, puts the US at odds with the rest of the world. Only 54 percent of [the] US and Canadian population thought that conflict could be avoided, whereas in other regions a much larger percentage of people are willing to look for coexistence and peaceful solutions.

The way forward depends on what the root causes of the clash are. If they are religious, political or cultural makes a very important difference. If people see the root causes as political, then Gallup found that they are more willing to find solutions. After all, politics is [an] art of compromise and all politicians have to manage their societies and get along with all sorts of people. However, if the root cause of the clash is seen as religious, then a much more gloomy view prevails, in which conflict is seen as more inevitable. In the US and Canada 35 percent thought that the clash was based on religion, and 36 percent on politics, while a further 26 percent thought that it was cultural.

12.08.10 Israeli air raids on Gaza after militant attack

December 8 - Israel carried out two air raids on the Gaza Strip early Wednesday without causing any casualties, Palestinian security officials said. The attacks came after Palestinian militants fired two projectiles into southern Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if they were mortars or rockets, but the projectiles "landed in an open area without causing damage or injuries," an Israeli military spokeswoman said. According to an army count, Palestinian militants have fired more than 190 rockets or mortar rounds at Israel from the coastal strip since the start of this year. [>naharnet.com]

12.08.10 Blair recalled to give more evidence to the Iraq inquiry to explain gaps in his evidence of legality of the war

December 8 - Tony Blair has been  recalled to give further evidence to the inquiry into the Iraq war, it was announced today. The former prime minister will face the Chilcot Inquiry for the second time sometime in January, almost exactly 12 months after his first controversial appearance. His recall sets the stage for another grilling, with hundreds of anti-war protesters likely to descend on Westminster in a re-run of last-year's gauntlet of hate. Former foreign secretary Jack Straw and former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, who ruled the invasion was legal, have also been told they must give more evidence. It is believed the panel want to ask Mr. Blair more questions after identifying 'gaps' in his evidence about the legality of the war and the build up to the 2003 invasion.

The committee has been studying the 400,000 secret documents on the conduct of the war published last month by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. Sources have also made clear that chairman Sir John Chilcot has studied Mr. Blair's memoir, A Journey, for further explanations of his motives and decisions. It is likely the inquiry will want to quiz Mr. Blair more closely on his motives for going to war. At the inquiry last year, Mr. Blair insisted he felt 'responsibility but not a regret' over the war despite the deaths of 179 British soldiers and many Iraqis. When he left, an audience member called him a 'liar' before another chimed in: 'And a murderer.'

12.08.10 Man arrested in recruiting center bomb plot

December 8 - 21-year-old given phony bomb, arrested trying to detonate it in the Baltimore area. Authorities say a 21-year-old man has been arrested in the Baltimore area for plotting to blow up a military recruitment center. Sources tell CBS News that the man is a US citizen and a convert to Islam. His name is Antonio Martinez, but now calls himself Muhammed Hussain. The source told CBS News that he had been "mouthing off" to friends and "wanted to retaliate against the military for the wars," and when others heard about it, "they wanted nothing to do with it." An FBI undercover agent was able to develop a relationship with the suspect as part of the investigation. A source tells CBS News "this was a good catch but not a sophisticated plot." Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the US attorney's office in Baltimore, tells The Associated Press the suspect will appear in court Wednesday afternoon. An FBI spokesman also confirmed the arrest. An official who was briefed on the arrest told AP on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information that the person was given a phony bomb and was arrested after trying to detonate it. The suspect is expected to be charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and was under surveillance by law enforcement for months. [More>>cbsnews.com; See other details,

cnn.com, December 8, "Authorities in Maryland arrest man in alleged bomb plot" :
...The arrest comes after a string of unsuccessful terror attempts, such as last year's alleged Christmas Day bombing attempt, the botched Times Square car bombing, and the alleged Portland, Oregon, plan to attack a Christmas tree-lighting. "More and more individuals in the United States are themselves becoming radicalized to the point of violence," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "And that's what we're focused on."

The case bears similarities to the Oregon one because of the sting techniques used, the source said. On November 26, Oregon State University student Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested after he allegedly attempted to detonate what he thought was an explosives-laden van parked near a tree-lighting ceremony at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, authorities have said.

...Napolitano declined to discuss the Baltimore arrest Wednesday, but said stings "are part and parcel of the toolbox law enforcement must have and must employ, particularly in this type of terrorist environment." She said there are "rules that govern them and they're done very carefully and the FBI abides by those rules, law enforcement abides by those rules, but they are an important tool to have." In October, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, was sentenced to life in prison for a botched attempt to bomb New York's Times Square. He was accused of attempting to set off a vehicle bomb in Times Square on May 1. The bomb failed to detonate, and Shahzad, a naturalized citizen, was arrested two days later while attempting to leave the country on a flight bound for Pakistan from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

On December 25, 2009, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the British-educated son of a Nigerian bank executive, allegedly attempted to set off a bomb sewn into his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, as it approached Detroit, Michigan...

12.08.10 Suicide blast kills 18 in Tirah market

KOHAT, Pakistan, December 8 - Eighteen people have been killed while 31 others injured when a suicide bomb ripped through a market in Tirah valley on Wednesday, Geo News reported. The explosion took place at the busy bus terminal in main Tirah bazaar, Kohat police chief Dilawar Bangash said. Bangash said that a blast was suicidal. Local police spokesman Fazal Naeem said the bomber approached the door of a bus carrying passengers and detonated his explosives. Earlier it appeared the bomb was planted in a vehicle parked at the main bus stand, but Banghash said that "now we have found the head and legs of the suicide bomber." [>thenews.com.pk]

12.08.10 Taliban video shows US soldier held in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) December 8 - Spc. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known US soldier held captive in Afghanistan, appears briefly in a newly released Taliban video standing next to a smiling insurgent commander who once threatened to kill him. The 24-year-old from Hailey, Idaho has bags under his eyes and what appears to be an abrasion on his left cheek in the footage. The video was the fourth to appear since he was captured nearly 18 months ago and was provided to reporters Wednesday by IntelCenter, a private, US-based organization that tracks Islamic extremist activities and communications...According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which also tracks Islamic extremist activities, Bergdahl is standing next to Sangin Zadran, a senior official in the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani network in Paktika. In July 2009, Sangin's spokesman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Berghdal would be killed unless the US stops strikes in Ghazni province's Giro district and Paktika province's Khoshamand district. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

12.08.10 Dragon spaceship splashes down

December 8 - ...Today's mission represented the Dragon's maiden test flight. The two-orbit circuit was the first in-space tryout for a craft that's meant to resupply the International Space Station after next year's scheduled retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet. Unless something went horribly wrong while the gumdrop-shaped craft was in orbit (interdimensional wormhole?), the mission can be considered fully successful. In a follow-up tweet, California-based SpaceX said it was "the first commercial company to re-enter a spacecraft from space." Actually, another California company, Scaled Composites, accomplished that feat in 2004 with the suborbital SpaceShipOne rocket plane. But SpaceX was the first to return a private-sector craft from orbit...[Full story>>cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com]

12.07.10 Assange vows to fight on after bail refusal

December 7 - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he will fight moves to extradite him to Sweden after he was refused bail at a court appearance in London. The 39-year-old Australian has been remanded in custody after appearing before magistrates on an extradition warrant for questioning on sexual assault charges in Sweden. During the hearing, high profile supporters of Mr. Assange including film director Ken Loach, veteran journalist John Pilger and socialite Jemima Khan offered a total of £180,000 bail surety. Mr. Assange was asked during his hearing whether he understood he could consent to be extradited to Sweden. He replied: "I understand that and I do not consent." Mr. Assange's lawyer Mark Stevens told Sky News after the hearing that a fresh bail application would be lodged. He said: "I have described this Swedish process as a persecution and not a prosecution." [More>>news.sky.com; See related reports,

news.com.au (AP) December 7, "Visa suspends all payments to WikiLeaks"
: Visa has suspended all payments to WikiLeaks pending an investigation of the organization's business. Visa's decision is a powerful blow to the loosely knit organization, which relies on online donations to fund its operations. Popular online payment company PayPal, Inc. has already severed its links with WikiLeaks...On Monday, the Swiss Post Office bank closed the account set up by Assange...The closed account included Assange's defense fund and personal assets worth €31,000 ($41,000). Last night, a spokesman for MasterCard Worldwide announced the company was "taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard branded products," according to CNET, a consumer electronics reviewing website...

guardian.co.uk, December 7, "US embassy cables: browse the database."]

12.07.10 Sarkozy slams 'unacceptable' Pakistan on last leg of India visit

(AFP) December 7 - On his last stop on a four-day trip to India, French President Nicolas Sarkozy directly attacked Pakistan in a speech concerning the 2008 suicide bombings in Mumbai, branding Islamabad's counter-terrorism efforts "unacceptable." French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Pakistan on Tuesday for allowing extremist "safe havens" in its tribal border areas, as he paid tribute to the victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Sarkozy, in Mumbai on the last day of a four-day visit to India, said it was "unacceptable" that terror networks could find refuge in Pakistan and use it as a springboard to attack India, French troops in Afghanistan or other countries. "It is unacceptable that India's security can be threatened by groups of terrorists acting from neighboring countries," he said at the Oberoi hotel, one of the luxury hotels besieged by militants in November 2008. [More>>france24.com; See related story,

aljazeera.net, December 7, "Foreign fighters bolster Taliban" :
Al Jazeera gains exclusive footage of "foreign fighters" being trained by Afghan Taliban in a camp in Kunar province. The Afghan Taliban is recruiting and training a growing number of foreign fighters, Al Jazeera has learned. The move comes as David Cameron, the UK prime minister, said British troops could start withdrawing as early as 2011 due to the progress being made in the fight against the Taliban. During an unannounced visit to Afghanistan's Helmand province on Tuesday, the prime minister said there were "grounds for cautious optimism" that efforts to restore security and governance were sufficiently on track to begin reducing the force level. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has obtained video footage of a Taliban camp in Afghanistan's Kunar province, which appears to show foreign recruits being trained to fight alongside the Taliban. Al Jazeera has not been able to independently verify the nationality of the men who appear in the video. Al Jazeera's Sue Turton has this exclusive report from Kabul. [end]

12.07.10 US strains to stop arms flow

WASHINGTON, December 7 - Just a week after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria assured a top State Department official that his government was not sending sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, the Obama administration lodged a confidential protest accusing Syria of doing precisely what it had denied doing. "In our meetings last week it was stated that Syria is not transferring any 'new' missiles to Lebanese Hizballah," noted a cable sent by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in February, using an alternative spelling for the militant group. "We are aware, however, of current Syrian efforts to supply Hizballah with ballistic missiles. I must stress that this activity is of deep concern to my government, and we strongly caution you against such a serious escalation."

A senior Syrian Foreign Ministry official, a cable from the American Embassy in Damascus reported, flatly denied the allegation. But nine months later, administration officials assert, the flow of arms had continued to Hezbollah. According to a Pentagon official, Hezbollah's arsenal now includes up to 50,000 rockets and missiles, including some 40 to 50 Fateh-110 missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv and most of Israel, and 10 Scud-D missiles. The newly fortified Hezbollah has raised fears that any future conflict with Israel could erupt into a full-scale regional war.

..According to the cables, American diplomats have repeatedly expressed concern that huge cargo planes operated by Badr Airlines of Sudan were flying weapons from Tehran to Khartoum, Sudan, where they were shipped to Hamas, the militant group in Gaza. Sudan insisted that the cargo was farm equipment, but the United States asked countries in the region to deny overflight rights to the airlines. Jordan and several other countries agreed, but Yemen declined, a February 2009 cable reported. Egyptian officials, who view Iran with deep wariness, privately issued a threat. Omar Suleiman, the chief of Egypt's intelligence service, told Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Iran not only was providing $25 million a month to support Hamas but also was linked to a Hezbollah cell trying to smuggle arms from Gaza into Egypt, according to an April 2009 cable.
[Full story>>nytimes.com]

12.07.10 1 dead in blast at Varanasi ghat, IED found in dustbin

NEW DELHI, December 7 - A two-year-old girl was killed and around 25 people, including a couple of foreigners, were injured in a blast at the Dashashwamedh Ghat during Ganga arati around 6.30pm on Tuesday. Many others were injured in the ensuing stampede while some of the injured were reported to have been hurt by metal pellets. According to official sources, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) has been recovered from a metal dustbin at the Varanasi blast site. Terror outfit Indian Mujahideen(IM) claimed responsibility for the blast in e-mails sent to media houses and said it "attributed" the attack to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; YouTube video of a Ganga arati.]

12.07.10 'I see no future for Jews in the Netherlands'

December 7 - Former Dutch EU commissioner says "recognizable" Jews are no longer safe in Netherlands due to Muslim anti-Semitism. Former European Union Commissioner Frits Bolkenstein said that Jews have no future in the Netherlands and recommended that they emigrate to the US or Israel, Dutch magazine Elsevier reported on Tuesday. According to a book on Dutch Judaism, released this week, Bolkestein, former leader of the right-wing VVD party, said that due to anti-Semitism amongst young Moroccans Jews who look like Jews those who wear kippahs or payot should leave Holland for their own safety. "I see no future for recognizable Jews, in particular because of anti-Semitism, specifically in Dutch Moroccans, who continue to grow in number," Bolkestein reportedly said. The former politician added that the many Arab television channels in the Netherlands contribute to the spread of anti-Semitism. He said he has no confidence in proposed measures to combat anti-Jewish sentiment. "The Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to fester," Bolkestein said. "I foresee no quick solution, and anti-Semitism will continue to exist. Moroccan and Turkish young people won't care about the measures." Politician Geert Wilders, who visited Israel this week, responded that "Jews shouldn't emigrate, anti-Semitic Moroccans should." [>jpost.com]

12.07.10 Iran talks end with little sign of progress

GENEVA, December 7 - When two days of talks between Iran and major powers ended here Tuesday, with few signs of progress except an agreement to meet again in Istanbul next month, the dueling news conferences by both sides laid bare the difficulties ahead. There was no public agreement on what was discussed in the past or even what will be in the future. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, representing the major powers, spoke for only a minute and took no questions. She said the talks this week were "detailed, substantive," and that the talks in January would "discuss practical ideas and ways of cooperating towards a resolution of our core concerns about the nuclear issue." By contrast, Saeed Jalili, Iran's envoy to the talks, spoke to reporters for 80 minutes, standing before a photograph of a recently slain Iranian nuclear scientist. He began with a lengthy description of how the world needs Iran's capabilities to prosper.

"Today, more than ever, Iran is powerful," he declared of a country under vast international sanctions. "It is in the best economic, political, regional and international shape." Jalili told reporters that Ashton's comments were "disrespectful" and that the two sides had reached no agreement on what should be discussed at the next round of talks, except for a desire to reach "common ground." He added: "I am telling you clearly and openly that halting uranium enrichment will not be discussed at the Istanbul meeting"
even though that is the key goal of major-power diplomacy. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

12.07.10 UPS to require photo IDs for shipping packages

ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) December 7 - UPS is now requiring photo identification from customers shipping packages at retail locations around the world, a month after explosives made their way onto one of the company's planes. UPS said Tuesday the move is part of an ongoing review to enhance security. The directive will apply at The UPS Store, Mail Boxes Etc. locations and other authorized shipping outlets. UPS customer centers have required government-issued photo identification since 2005. In late October, a printer cartridge on a UPS cargo plane bound for Chicago was stopped in London after explosives were discovered. The package was later traced to a retail location in Yemen.[>msnbc.msn.com]

12.07.10 Japan waits on Venus spacecraft

December 7 - Japan's space agency (Jaxa) is working to establish the status of its Akatsuki mission to Venus. The spacecraft fired its main engine just before midnight GMT on Monday in a manoeuvre designed to allow the planet's gravity to capture the probe. Akatsuki then briefly lost contact with Earth as it moved behind the Venus. Scientists said they would know later on Tuesday whether the operation to insert the satellite into the correct orbit had been successful or not. Akatsuki was launched to the inner-world by an H-IIA rocket in May. Its goals include finding definitive evidence for lightning and for active volcanoes. It will not be alone at Venus; the European Space Agency's Venus Express craft arrived at the planet in 2006. The pair are due to conduct joint observations. Venus is almost identical in size to our planet, and is thought to have a similar composition. But there the resemblance ends. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

12.06.10 Swiss Post closes Assange's bank account

GENEVA, December 6 - The Swiss Post Office's banking arm said on Monday that it had closed an account set up by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he gave false information. "PostFinance has ended its business relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange," the bank said in a statement. "The Australian citizen provided false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process." Assange had given an undisclosed address in the Swiss city of Geneva as his residence, it added. WikiLeaks had advertised the Post Finance account details online to "donate directly to the Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks Staff Defence Fund," giving an account name of "Assange Julian Paul, Geneve." [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,

france24.com (AP) December 6, "Latest WikiLeaks cable lists 'vital' potential terrorist targets"
: WikiLeaks has released a new diplomatic cable listing key infrastructure units around the world which would “critically impact” the United States if they were to be destroyed in a terrorist attack. WikiLeaks has divulged a secret list of key infrastructure sites around the world that the United States believes could pose a critical danger to its security if they come under terrorist attack. The newly released diplomatic cable threatens to be the most explosive yet out of many divulged by the whistle-blowing website that have heaped embarrassment on Washington and caused anger around the world. Among other revelations, the latest WikiLeaks document dump showed Australia's then leader Kevin Rudd warning US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that force might be needed against China "if everything goes wrong."

A February 2009 cable from the State Department asked overseas US missions to list infrastructure and key resources around the globe "whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security and/or national and homeland security of the United States."
It lists undersea cables, key communications, ports, mineral resources and firms of strategic importance in countries ranging from Austria to New Zealand. One item mentions smallpox vaccines in Denmark...

independent.co.uk, December 6, "Scotland Yard 'have paperwork needed to arrest Julian Assange' "
 : Scotland Yard has received the paperwork required to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, sources said tonight. A fresh European Arrest Warrant has been issued by the authorities in Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over claims of sexual assault. Mark Stephens, who represents the 39-year-old Australian former computer hacker, said he would fight any move to extradite his client. But the move means there is no longer any legal impediment to holding Mr. Assange and making him appear before City of Westminster Magistrates' Court. Mr. Assange is believed to be in hiding in south-east England as the latest publications on his whistle-blowing website fuel global uproar. Prosecutors in Sweden issued a warrant for his arrest last month but it could not be enforced because of a technical blunder...

abcnews.go.com, December 6, "Iranian revenge on Iraqi air force pilots"
: Iran Has Hunted Down and Killed 182 Iraqi Pilots Who Fought in Iran-Iraq War. A brief paragraph in the mountain of Wikileaks documents shed a sliver of light on what officials claim is a vicious and coldly efficient Iranian campaign of revenge on Iraqi air force pilots who bombed Iran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. "Many former Iraqi fighter pilots who flew sorties against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war were now on Iran's hit list (NOTE: According to [Name removed], Iran had already assassinated 180 Iraqi pilots. END NOTE)," the Dec. 14, 2009 confidential US cable stated. The systematic elimination of Iraqi air force pilots by Iran was a little noticed vendetta amid the crossfire of ethnic fighting and urban combat that convulsed Iraq in the years after the US invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. Iran used the chaos in the aftermath of the invasion to settle scores from the Iran-Iraq war, an eight-year slug fest from 1980 to 1988 in which an estimated 500,000 Iranians and Iraqis died. The war was largely a bloody standoff that resembled World War I at times with trench warfare, poison gas, human wave and bayonet attacks...

12.06.10 China's Hu tells Obama Korea tension could go out of control

BEIJING / SEOUL (Reuters) December 6 - Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday warned US President Barack Obama that tensions on the Korean peninsula could spiral out of control if not dealt with properly, their first discussion on the issue since the North shelled the South nearly two weeks ago. Analysts said Hu's comments showed a greater sense of urgency in the Chinese leadership over the mounting tension and also an attempt to avoid the perception that Beijing is siding with its ally Pyongyang to face off against the United States, Japan and South Korea whose foreign ministers meet later in the day to discuss the North Korea situation. The White House said Obama, in a telephone call with Hu, urged Beijing to work with the United States and others to "send a clear message to North Korea that its provocations are unacceptable." China, the chair of stalled international nuclear talks with Pyongyang, is not invited to the US-Japan-South Korea talks in Washington. But the three are expected to discuss Beijing's proposal for emergency regional talks on the crisis. [More>>thestar.com.my]

12.06.10 Gulf leaders to meet in Abu Dhabi amid Iran nuke fears

ABU DHABI, December 6 - As leaked memos showed Gulf states alarmed over Iran. The leaders of six US-allied Gulf Arab nations will meet Monday in the UAE capital for talks expected to span from Qatar's surprise selection to host the 2022 World Cup to the region's deep concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The two-day meeting in Abu Dhabi will be the first gathering of Gulf leaders since US diplomatic memos released by WikiLeaks revealed the urgency of their fears about Iran's nuclear ambitions including appeals by some Gulf rulers for the US to launch a military strike. The leaked memos give a sense of drama that is normally absent from the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, a six-nation bloc that typically focuses on economic issues and prefers behind-the-scenes dealings to address disputes in their own backyard. But the group, dominated by powerful Saudi Arabia, may now feel pressure to publicly clarify its views on Iran. The leaked memos drove home that Saudis and other Gulf states with close ties to Washington view Tehran's nuclear program and its support of militants in the Middle East with serious alarm. [More>>alarabiya.net]

12.06.10 Iran and key powers meet for nuclear talks in Geneva

December 6 - Iran and key world powers have begun talks in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme. These are the first such talks in more than a year, although analysts say any breakthrough is unlikely. On Sunday Iran said it had delivered its first domestically produced raw uranium and would now go into the talks with "strength and power." Western powers fear Iran may be trying to produce nuclear arms, but Tehran says its programme is purely peaceful. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also

guardian.co.uk, December 6, "Iran comes to Geneva ready to talk about nuclear programme"
: Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, has talked of "allaying the fears of the international community" over his country's nuclear programme, and raised the possibility of future cooperation over nuclear energy, according to sources close to international talks in Geneva. Jalili's remarks made in the first three hours of talks have come as a relief to diplomats from six major powers taking part in the meeting, who feared the Iranian official might refuse to discuss nuclear issues at all. Instead, a source said three-quarters of the opening session was taken up by nuclear matters...

12.06.10 Pakistani officials say US drone strike kills 5

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) December 6 - Pakistani intelligence officials say missiles fired from a US drone have killed five people in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The officials say Monday's strike hit a shop and a vehicle in Khushali village in North Waziristan. Three people were killed in the shop and two in the vehicle. The identity of those killed were not immediately known. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media. The US has ramped up its drone attacks in Pakistan's lawless border region, launching more than 100 missile strikes so far this year in an attempt to kill key Taliban and al-Qaeda figures. [>khaleejtimes.com]

12.06.10 Suicide bombers kill 50 people in Pakistan

(AP) December 6 - A pair of suicide bombers disguised as policemen killed 50 people on Monday in an attack targeting a tribal meeting called to discuss the formation of an anti-Taliban militia in northwest Pakistan, officials said. The attack occurred on the grounds of the main government compound in Mohmand, part of Pakistan's militant-infested tribal region. It was the latest strike against local tribesmen who have been encouraged by the government to take up arms against the Taliban. The explosions also wounded more than 100 people, many of them critically, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. One of the reasons the attacks were so deadly was because the bombers had filled their suicide jackets with bullets, said Amjad Ali Khan, the top political official in Mohmand, who was at the compound in Ghalanai town when it was attacked.

...The dead and wounded included tribal elders, police, political officials and other civilians. Two of the dead were local TV journalists who were at the compound reporting on stories, said Shakirullah Jan, president of the Mohmand press club. The Pakistani army has carried out operations in Mohmand to battle Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in the area, but it has been unable to defeat the militants. The military has encouraged local tribesmen to form militias to oppose the militants. These groups have had varying degrees of success and have often been targeted in deadly attacks.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.05.10 WikiLeaks: US frustrated by continued Mideast funding of terrorists

(Reuters) December 5 - 'Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,' according to classified memo. Top US officials have grown frustrated over the resistance of allies in the Middle East to help shut the financial pipeline of terrorists, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing secret diplomatic dispatches. Internal State Department cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to news organizations, indicate that millions of dollars are flowing to extremist groups, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban, despite US vows to cut off such funding.

A classified memo sent by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last December made it clear that residents of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors were the chief supporters of many extremist activities, the newspaper said. "It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority," according to the cable cited by the newspaper. It concluded that "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide" and offered similarly critical views about other countries in the region. The United Arab Emirates was described as having a "strategic gap" that terrorists could exploit, while Qatar was seen as being "the worst in the region" on counterterrorism and Kuwait was dubbed "a key transit point."
[More>>haaretz.com; See also nytimes.com, December 5, "State's secrets."]

12.05.10 Islamic website tied to MP's stabbing resurfaces under new name

December 5 - Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a founder of both sites, told The Daily Telegraph that IslamPolicy.com was the direct successor to RevolutionMuslim.com which was closed amid the furore over its role in the attack on Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham. "IslamPolicy will continue with the work of RevolutionMuslim," Mr. Muhammad, a white American convert to Islam, said during an interview in which he called the Sept. 11 terror attacks "justified violence." He continued: "If loving Muslims that fight and die to defend themselves from Western imperialism make the UK and US governments associate me or IslamPolicy with terrorists, then I am honoured to be so associated."

US counter-terrorism officials say that at least a third of the more than 50 domestic terror suspects arrested in America in the last year had ties to RevolutionMuslim, an English-language site aimed at Muslims in the West. They trace its roots to a network of sites run by the now banned al-Muhajiroun group in Britain. "It is playing an important role in the export to the US of the British disease of home-grown terror by radicalized young Muslims," a US official said. Aaron Zelin, a US academic who follows pro-jihadi websites, says that the US-based RevolutionMuslim was being increasingly used by British extremists to skirt hate speech and incitement laws in the UK and promote groups with al-Muhajiroun links. The site, which was hosted on an American Google server, was closed down last month after intense pressure from British and American security officials. But Mr. Muhammad has now established IslamPolicy on a blogging site also operated by Google, calling it the new home for the closed site.

12.05.10 Tension grows between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque

IRVINE, Calif. December 5 - Before the sun rose, the informant donned a white Islamic robe. A tiny camera was sewn into a button, and a microphone was buried in a device attached to his keys. "This is Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle," he said into the keys as he sat in his parked car in this quiet community south of Los Angeles. "It's November 13th, 4:30am And we're hot." The undercover FBI informant a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh then drove off for 5am prayers at the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims.

But the FBI's approach has come under fire from some Muslims, criticism that surfaced again late last month after agents arrested an Oregon man they said tried to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device. In the Irvine case, Monteilh's mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him. He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed. The Justice Department recently took the extraordinary step of dropping charges against the worshiper, who Monteilh had caught on tape agreeing to blow up buildings, law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors had portrayed the man as a dire threat. Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his "handlers" trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.

Officials declined to comment on specific details of Monteilh's tale but confirm that he was a paid FBI informant. Court records and interviews corroborate not only that Monteilh worked for the FBI
he says he made $177,000, tax-free, in 15 months but that he provided vital information on a number of cases. Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

12.05.10 Iran produces first uranium yellowcake ahead of talks

TEHRAN, December 5 - Iran has produced its first batch of uranium yellowcake, the raw material for enrichment, from a mine in the south of the country, atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday a day before the Islamic state resumes talks with world powers. The news appeared designed to signal Iran's determination to press ahead with its nuclear activities, which it says are for peaceful power generation but the West fears are aimed at making bombs, ahead of the Dec. 6-7 meeting in Geneva. "The West had counted on the possibility of us being in trouble over raw material but today we had the first batch of yellowcake from Gachin mine sent to Isfahan (conversion) facility," Salehi said on state television. The atomic chief said the new step made Iran "self-sufficient" in the entire nuclear fuel cycle as it had previously been obliged to import yellowcake from abroad but he declined to reveal the amount of the first domestically produced batch. [More>>alarabiya.net]

12.05.10 Firefighters gain control of all blazes in Carmel area

December 5 - After 77 hours, authorities announce that all major blazes have been contained, will be put out before nightfall; police count 20 arson attempts elsewhere in North. The Carmel fires have finally been contained, firefighting authorities announced Sunday evening. "Our news for this evening is control," fire official Boaz Rakia told reporters at nightfall Sunday. "The fire department has declared that the fire is under control." He added that the small fires are still burning in some places. He said that most of the thousands of Israelis evacuated from their homes would be allowed to return. "From our point of view, the danger has passed for all the places that were evacuated," Rakia said. The sole exception, he said, was Kibbutz Beit Oren, located in the heart of the fire zone, where extensive fire damage would prevent residents from immediately returning.

Magen David Adom officials also announced that 33 individuals suffering from fire-related injuries were evacuated to area hospitals during the three-day blaze. Three of the wounded suffered from serious injuries, three were moderately hurt and the rest were lightly wounded...The Carmel blaze has scorched over 12,000 acres (50,000 dunams), killed 41 people and injured scores. More than thirty fire-fighting aircraft resumed operations early on Sunday morning, and prepared to drop fire-fighting materials and water on the four remaining areas of fire in Israel's North.  Among the aircraft was the Evergreen Supertanker aircraft that landed in Israel overnight.
[Full story>>jpost.com]

12.05.10 Pakistan orders arrests of police in Bhutto case

ISLAMABAD, December 5 - Police officers allegedly failed to provide enough security. A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has ordered the arrest of two senior police officers on allegations they failed to provide adequate security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her 2007 assassination, a prosecutor said on Sunday. Bhutto's assassination was one of the most shocking events in Pakistan's turbulent history and remains shrouded in mystery. "The court has issued warrants and these are non-bailable. They can be arrested anytime," special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told Reuters. "The officers failed to provide adequate security to Bhutto, denied her a post-mortem and were also responsible for hosing down the scene of the killing immediately after the crime," the prosecutor said. Ali named the two police officials as Saud Aziz, former police chief of the city of Rawalpindi, where the attack took place, and one of his deputies, Khurram Shahzad.

Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack after an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007. A report by a United Nations commission of inquiry released in New York in April said any credible investigation should not rule out the possibility that members of Pakistan's military and security establishment were involved. It heavily criticized Pakistani authorities, saying they had "severely hampered" the investigation. "Several senior police officials who know Saud Aziz were troubled that an officer with his many years of experience would allow a major crime scene to be washed away, thereby damaging his reputation," said the report, adding that some senior police officials identified factors suggesting he was not acting alone.

12.05.10 Taliban suicide bomber kills at least 4 near joint military base

(AFP) December 5 - Two NATO service members and two Afghan soldiers were killed when a Taliban suicide bomb tore through a market stall near a joint military base in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, wounding numerous civilians. Two NATO and two Afghan soldiers were killed in a suicide attack at a market close to a joint military base in the east of the country on Sunday, coalition and local officials said. An unknown number of Afghan soldiers and troops with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were also injured in the blast that tore through the bazaar in Gardez, the provincial capital of Paktia....The latest deaths take to 678 the number of coalition troops killed this year, by far the bloodiest toll in the nine-year war, according to an AFP tally based on that tracked by the independent icasualties.org website. Last year 521 foreign troops were killed...A week ago 13 policemen were killed and 14 others injured when two suicide attackers disguised in uniforms blew themselves up inside Paktika province's police headquarters, also in the restive east. [Full story>>france24.com]

12.05.10 Sharm el-Sheikh tourist killed in new shark attack

December 5 - Official says German woman died minutes after her arm was severed by a shark in Red Sea attack. A German tourist died after being mauled by a shark off the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh today the latest in a series of shark attacks in the Red Sea over the past five days. Egypt's Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) sent an urgent message to its members in Sharm el-Sheikh, instructing them to clear the water. "Following reports of another incident in Middle Garden local reef, CDWS is calling for all its members in Sharm el-Sheikh to stop any snorkelling activities happening from any boats or shore. Please tell all your boats to immediately recall any snorkellers who may be in the water," it said. The CDWS chairman, Hesham Gabr, told the Guardian: "We are busy dealing with the crisis. I can confirm that a German woman was injured and she passed away." According to security officials quoted by the Associated Press, the women's arm was severed in the attack and she died within minutes. Last week which three Russians and a Ukrainian were badly injured. The Egyptian authorities had said they were confident that the capture and killing of two sharks on Thursday had eliminated the threat to swimmers. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

12.05.10 Mexico arrests 14-year-old 'drugs hit man'

December 5 - A 14-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of being a drug cartel hit man who allegedly beheaded and mutilated his victims. The boy, believed to have possibly been born in the US, was identified by officials as and nicknamed El Ponchis. He was arrested at an airport as he attempted to board a plane to see his family in the border city of Tijuana, a military official said. Morelos Governor Marco Antonio Adame said police found identity papers on the boy indicating he was born in San Diego, California in July 1996 on the other side of the US-Mexico border from Tijuana. "We're trying to determine if they are authentic," Mr. Adame said. Authorities had sought El Ponchis "the cloaked one" since late October after military forces released him due to his young age. [More>>news.sky.com]

12.05.10 10 killed in Mexican border city

December 5 - Gunmen killed at least 10 people in two separate attacks in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Saturday, state media said. A group of armed men ambushed a police car and killed four municipal officers inside, the state-run Notimex news agency reported. The officers had no chance to draw their weapons to defend themselves, the local public safety secretary told Notimex. A child was among two wounded civilians caught in the crossfire, he said. There are no suspects yet but authorities continue to look for leads, the agency said. Six people at a local metal works shop were also killed Saturday when a group of gunmen burst into a barbecue there, Notimex reported. Ciudad Juárez, Mexico's most violent city, shares a border with El Paso, Texas. Nationwide, more than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since December 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office and started his stepped-up campaign against organized crime. [>cnn.com; See more details, elpasotimes.com, December 5, "4 Juárez police officers slain in ambush."]

12.05.10 Malaysian girl, 14, celebrates wedding in public

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP), December 5 - A 14-year-old girl and 23-year-old man have celebrated their recent marriage in public in Malaysia's largest city, a report said Sunday, fueling a debate on teen weddings. Underage marriages are allowed for Muslims with court permission and parental consent but are not common in this Muslim-majority country. The New Straits Times reported the Muslim couple, whose union was arranged by their parents, were married in July after obtaining permission from an Islamic court. The couple, whose photo was published on the government-linked newspaper's front page, celebrated their union at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur Saturday together with about 250 other couples. The celebration was organized by Kuala Lumpur's Islamic department. [More>>foxnews.com]

12.05.10 Baghdad bombs targeting Shiite areas kill 17

BAGHDAD, December 5 - A string of bombings killed 17 people across Iraq's capital on Saturday, including Iranian pilgrims near a revered shrine and shoppers at a Shiite neighborhood market, authorities said. The attacks — several roadside bombs and cars packed with explosives — wounded more than 100 people. Most of the casualties were likely Shiite Muslims, a frequent target of Sunni insurgents who have long sought to provoke civil war in Iraq. Police said the deadliest strike targeted a marketplace in Baiyaa, a Shiite district in southwestern Baghdad. A car parked outside a shopping area exploded around midday, killing six people and wounding 42. Hospital officials confirmed the casualties.

...Near-simultaneous blasts also hit two groups of Iranian pilgrims near the gold-domed Moussa al-Kadhim mosque in the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, according to security forces. A pair of bombs killed five pilgrims resting near the shrine. A car exploded next to a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims in the nearby Shiite area of Shula, killing another three people. Police and medical officials said those two attacks wounded 52 people...Earlier, police said a roadside bomb targeting a judge's security convoy in downtown Baghdad killed three people, including two guards, and wounded seven passers-by. The judge was not in the convoy as it drove through Karradah, an area of mixed-ethnicity.
[Full story>>japantoday.com

12.02.10 Health premiums surge 41%; Md., D.C. among costliest areas to insure

December 2 - Premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance increased an average of 41 percent across states from 2003 to 2009, more than three times faster than median incomes, and Maryland's rise was among the highest, at 50 percent, according to a report to be released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund. The report, which presents a state-by-state analysis of private employer health insurance costs for those six years, found that by 2009, the 10 jurisdictions with the highest annual total premiums included the District and Maryland. The average employer-sponsored family premium for all states was $13,027. In the District, it was $14,222; in Maryland, $13,833. Virginia ranked 32nd, below the national average, at $12,622.

Premiums for employer-sponsored coverage include the amounts paid by employers and employees combined. The other states with high total premiums were Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The Commonwealth report did not break down how the costs were split between employer and employee over the years. The Commonwealth Fund supports the health-care overhaul legislation. Its report Thursday said the new health-care law provisions have the potential to slow the rate of cost growth by giving states the ability to challenge excessive premium increases and by providing assistance for low- and middle-income families to pay for health insurance.

12.02.10 IDF kills 2 Islamic Jihad terrorists on Gaza border

December 2 - Troops, IAF planes open fire on Palestinians apparently trying to infiltrate kibbutz; soldiers discover explosive device on their bodies. Two Palestinian terrorists were killed on the Gaza border on Thursday morning, when IDF troops opened fire on a number of suspects on the northern end of the Strip. The terrorists were apparently trying to infiltrate a kibbutz on the Gaza border. IDF soldiers searching the area of the incident in the northern Gaza Strip discovered the bodies of two Islamic Jihad terrorists, with light weapons, uniforms and an explosive device on their bodies. IAF planes and IDF troops on the ground opened fire and confirmed hits.

No soldiers were injured in the incident, the IDF said in a statement. Sources in Gaza, quoted by Palestinian news agency Ma'an, said that a total of 15 artillery shells were launched into the Strip, causing no casualties. IDF jeeps then entered Gaza in "what was described as a sweep," the report added. The IDF statement asserted that terrorist organizations are making ongoing attempts to harm IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens. "The IDF sees the Hamas terror group as responsible for breaking the peace," the army said.

12.02.10 In Norway, women officegoers told to wear red bracelets during periods

LONDON, December 2 - Women staff in offices in Norway have been asked to wear red bracelets when they are on their periods so that no one would inquire why they were using the toilet more often, a media report here has said. This "astonishing demand" was revealed in report by a workers' union into "tyrannical" toilet rules in Norwegian companies. The study said businesses were becoming "obsessed" with lost productivity due to employees spending too much time answering the call of nature, the Daily Mail reported. It found 66 percent of managers made staff ask them for an electronic card to gain access to toilets. Toilets of one in three companies were placed under video surveillance, while other firms made staff sign a toilet "visitors book," the union report said. "But the most extreme action was taken by one manager who made women having their period wear a red bracelet to justify more frequent trips to the loo. Women, quite justifiably, feel humiliated by being tagged in this way, so that all their colleagues are aware of this intimate detail of their private life," it said. [More w/blog comments>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

12.01.10 Ecosystem damage causes shark attacks at popular Egyptian resort

CAIRO (RIA Novosti) December 1 - Recent shark attacks in the Red Sea have been caused by ecosystem damage, a local environmental official said on Wednesday. A whitetip shark mauled four Russian tourists swimming close to their beach hotels at the popular Red Sea scuba diving resort of Sharm el Sheikh. The shark attacked a diving couple on Tuesday, severely injuring the woman's back and legs and shredding the man's legs. On Wednesday, a shark bit off the arms of another two vacationers. Director of Sinai Conservation Mohammed Salem said the uncontrolled fishing in the popular diving areas left the sharks without food. "That is why the sharks are forced to approach the shore in search for food," Salem said. He said Egyptian authorities should ban fishing in these areas adding that such incidents occur in the country once or twice a year. [More>>en.rian.ru]

12.01.10 Obama imposes 7-year drilling ban in eastern Gulf of Mexico

WASHINGTON, December 1 -President Barack Obama will not be allowing new drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years, according to a senior administration official. Obama's decision effectively reverses White House plans announced at the end of March to open the region along with large swaths of US coastal waters to oil and natural gas drilling. Under the plan, roughly two-thirds of available oil and gas resources in the eastern Gulf would have been opened to drilling. Areas located within 125 miles of the Florida coast would have remained off limits. The seven-year ban is being imposed as a result of the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf, which killed 11 people and triggered one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. An estimated 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons) of oil gushed into the Gulf before the broken well, 5,000 feet below the surface, was capped. [More>>cnn.com]

12.01.10 'Hamas will honor Palestinian referendum on peace deal'

December 1 - In rare Gaza press conference, Hamas PM says "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees." Hamas would accept the agreement of a Palestinian referendum on peace with Israel, Hamas Prime Minister Isamil Haniyeh was quoted as saying by Reuters on Wednesday. "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees," Haniyeh said.

Speaking at a rare press conference in Gaza, the Hamas leader said that his Islamist group would "respect the results (of a referendum) regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles." He specified that the referendum must include all Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora, according to the Reuters report. Haniyeh also denied allegations that al-Qaeda operates in the coastal strip and that Palestinian terrorists had planned to carry out attacks in neighboring Egypt. He told reporters that such allegations are lies meant to prepare the ground for future IDF attacks on Gaza, and said that he had sent a reassuring letter to Egypt's intelligence chief.

12.01.10 Indonesia's Islamic laws are 'abusive,' report says

December 1 - Two Islamic laws applied in the Indonesian province of Aceh violate people's rights and are implemented abusively, Human Rights Watch says. Encouraging the community to enforce Sharia laws resulted in arbitrary arrests, abuses and torture, HRW says. In one incident, an unmarried couple were dragged into the streets by a crowd and assaulted. The government is reviewing local laws that could be in conflict with constitutional rights, officials said. Aceh's unique autonomy status within Indonesia allows it to implement Sharia as a formal legal system. The report by New York-based HRW, Policing Morality: Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia, focuses on two of the five Islamic laws applied in Aceh. The first imposes strict Islamic dress codes. The second prohibits men and women, who are not blood relatives or married to one another, from being together in an isolated place. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See related story,

alarabiya.net, December 1, " 'No need' for women to cover up: Saudi religious cop"
: JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Says there are different interpretations of the "Quran verse." A Saudi religious police commander criticized the kingdom's ban on gender mixing late Tuesday and said women did not have to veil their faces to applause from his female audience. Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, head of the Mecca branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also said there was nothing in Islam to prevent women from driving, despite the Saudi ban on the practice. "There is a difference in interpretation of the (Quran) verse... which leads some scholars to rule that the whole body must be covered ... However other scholars approve showing the face, hands and elbows. And some even okayed the hair," he said. He said the kingdom's mixing ban should be applied only to men and women meeting in secret, not in public places a rule normally enforced by the religious police...

12.01.10 Spain arrests eight over links to Mumbai attacks

MADRID (Reuters) December 1 - Eight men have been arrested in Barcelona, accused of having links to radical Islamic cells in Pakistan and collaborating with the group that carried out the attacks in Mumbai in 2008, media reported on Wednesday. Seven Pakistani men were arrested on Tuesday and one North African man was arrested on Wednesday morning, media said. The men belonged to a group that made fake identification documents which were sent to Pakistan to be used in attacks, the media reported. They were also accused of sending money and fake documents to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was blamed for the attacks in India in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed. No one was immediately available at the Interior Ministry to confirm the reports. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See more details,

news.com.au (AFP) December 1, "Seven held in Spain over terrorism links."
: Spanish police have arrested six Pakistanis and a Nigerian suspected of providing forged passports to groups linked to al-Qaeda, in particular those behind the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Three others — two Pakistanis and a Thai — were held in Thailand as part of the same Operation Kampai, Spain's Interior Ministry said in a statement. Officers detained the suspects in raids in and around Barcelona late on Tuesday. The gang stole documents, including passports, which were sent to Thailand to be forged and then delivered to al-Qaeda-linked "terrorist groups," in particular the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been accused of plotting the Mumbai attacks, it said. Ten militants killed at least 166 people in three days of violence in the Indian city in November 2008. The gang also supplied the defeated Sri Lankan separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the statement said...

12.01.10 Plot to blow up Pakistani PM's rally foiled

ISLAMABAD, December 1 - Pakistani security officials have arrested two militants and unearthed a plot to carry out a bomb blast at a public rally of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in Sukhur district of Sindh province, media reports said on Wednesday. The prime minister addressed several gatherings of people and party workers in the country Tuesday to mark the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party's 44th foundation day. He reached Sukhur in the evening. "Some terrorists belonging to a banned militant outfit had plotted to sabotage the rally with explosives and time devices," Dunya TV reported. Police, acting on a tip off, intercepted a goods truck that was coming from Peshawar. "Upon searching the truck, huge cache of arms including at least 12 Kalashnikovs and over three thousand bullets were recovered," the channel added. An official, on condition of anonymity, said that two suspected militants were arrested in the operation. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]


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