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12.21.10 North Korea: US rules out resuming nuclear talks

December 21 - The US has ruled out resuming talks with North Korea unless it shows it is serious about meeting its obligations on halting its nuclear activities. The White House said Pyongyang must stop its "belligerent actions." The comments follow an unofficial visit to the North by US politician Bill Richardson. He said Pyongyang would re-open its facilities to UN inspectors. But North Korea has not yet confirmed any offer and there has been no comment from the UN's nuclear watchdog. Mr. Richardson, the governor of US state of New Mexico, said that the North's gesture to allow international inspectors back in to its main nuclear complex, and its restraint in not retaliating for South Korean live-fire drills, could provide a basis for new six-party talks. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the North was not "even remotely ready" for such talks. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

12.21.10 Suspicious package found in Rome metro lacked detonator, officials say

(AFP) December 21 - A suspicious device found in an empty train carriage at Rome's Rebibbia metro station could not have exploded because it lacked a detonator, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said on Tuesday. Metro service was not affected. A parcel bomb was on Tuesday found hidden inside a shoe box in a train carriage in Rome's metro system after passengers had got off at the train's last stop, officials said. The device, which contained gunpowder and metal tubing, was found by a transport worker at around 10:00am (0900 GMT) at Rebibbia station on the outskirts of the Italian capital. "It appears the device could not have exploded," Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, told reporters, contradicting city council spokesman Giampaolo Polizzaro who earlier told AFP it had been "ready to explode." "It seems it could have been activated by remote control because it had something that looked like an antenna," Polizzaro said earlier. The website of the Corriere della Sera daily quoted a police source saying it could have been a pipe bomb. [More>>france24.com]

12.21.10 IDF fighter jets strike Hamas targets in Gaza

December 21 - Military post in Rafah hit; Palestinians say 4 injured; attack comes after girl injured as Kassam falls near Ashkelon. The IDF Spokesman unit on Tuesday confirmed that IAF aircraft attacked terrorist activity targets in the southern Gaza Strip. The attack came as part of an overnight attack in which seven terrorist targets were hit. Specific targets were hit and all IAF planes returned safely to their base. The statement said "the IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers will continue to act with determination and strength against any party who operates terror attacks against Israel. The IDF views the terrorist organization Hamas solely responsible for what is happening in the Gaza Strip and responsible for preserving quiet. Palestinian sources claimed that the IDF attacked targets in the Gaza Strip belonging to the military wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam Brigade and eye witnesses reported that four people were injured during the attacks. The reports follow an incident in which a Kassam rocket landed near a kindergarten in a kibbutz near Ashkelon on Tuesday morning, injuring a 14-year-old girl. Four more Israelis were treated for shock. The 'Army of Islam' organization in Gaza claimed responsibility for the Kassam rocket attack. [More>>jpost.com]

12.21.10 Iraq town cancels Christmas after Qaeda threats

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) December 21 - Al-Qaeda threats against Christians have led to Christmas festivities being cancelled in the northern Iraqi oil hub of Kirkuk, its Chaldean Catholic archbishop said on Tuesday. "The Christians of Kirkuk will not celebrate the feast of Christmas this year, except for masses, which will not be held at night but at 10am, after myself and 10 other Christian personages received threats from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq," Monsignor Louis Sarko told AFP. "I fear that Christians will be targeted, which is why all ceremonies have been cancelled." The Iraqi affiliate of al-Qaeda, the ISI, claimed responsibility for an October 31 attack on a cathedral in Baghdad in which 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel were killed. It said it acted to force the release of people who had allegedly converted to Islam from Christianity and were being detained by the Coptic Church in Egypt. Days later it declared Christians everywhere "legitimate targets." Less than two weeks after the church attack, a string of bombings targeting Christian homes and shops in Baghdad killed six more people. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.21.10 AQAP looking to attack US food supply?

December 21 - The group behind last year’s failed Christmas Day bombing and the recent attempt to send two explosives-laden packages to the United States wants to attack US food supplies, but US authorities don't believe the group has the capability to do so, Fox News has learned. A source with knowledge of the situation said authorities obtained information “a while ago” indicating a possible plot by associates of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to target food at hotels and restaurants inside the United States, perhaps slipping harmful agents into salad bars or buffets. "We don’t have a specific target or time frame, just the intent," the source said. Nevertheless, the source said, authorities are not convinced that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP has the capability to actually carry out such an attack. [More>>foxnews.com; See also

cbsnews.com, December 21, "Latest terror threat in US aimed to poison food"
: Exclusive: The Dept. of Homeland Security uncovered a plot to attack hotels and restaurants over a single weekend. In this exclusive story, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports the latest terror attack to America involves the possible use of poisons simultaneous attacks targeting hotels and restaurants at many locations over a single weekend. A key Intelligence source has confirmed the threat as "credible."...

12.21.10 Shipwrecked 2,000-year-old pills give clues to ancient medicine

December 21 - Scientists are trying to unravel the mystery of whether pills found in a 2,000-year-old shipwreck were, in fact, created and used as effective plant-based medicines. And the bigger question: Could the ingredients of these ancient tablets still work to help with modern illnesses? Around 130 B.C., a ship, identified as the Relitto del Pozzino, sank off Tuscany, Italy. Among the artifacts found on board in 1989 were glass cups, a pitcher and ceramics, all of which suggested that the ship was sailing from the eastern Mediterranean area. Its cargo also included a chest that contained various items related to the medical profession: a copper bleeding cup and 136 boxwood vials and tin containers. Inside one of the tin vessels, archaeologists found several circular tablets, many still completely dry. "They were less than an inch in diameter and about a third to a half inch thick," said Robert Fleischer, an evolutionary geneticist with the Smithsonian's Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics in Washington, D.C.

He told AOL News that the tablets were "very tightly compressed vegetation in a very solid pill. In fact, you had to use a scalpel to cut pieces off of it. But under a microscope, you could see plant fibers in it. It probably wasn't something that was taken whole. "It was assumed the pills were medicines that the physicians were using. There were things associated with this chest that led them to believe it was a physician's chest," said Fleischer. Using DNA sequencing, Fleischer has identified some of the plant components in the tablets: carrot, radish, parsley, celery, wild onion, cabbage, alfalfa, oak and hibiscus. This is similar to the recent archaeological discovery in China of a 2,400-year-old pot of soup in which the broth was found inside a sealed cauldron.
[More>>aolnews.com via foxnews.com]

12.21.10 Skywatchers observe lunar eclipse

December 21 - Skywatchers around the world have been observing a rare total lunar eclipse. The best viewing conditions for the eclipse were from North and Central America, parts of northern Europe and East Asia. Total eclipses can turn the Moon a shade of pink or dark red. The eclipse began early on Tuesday morning GMT. It is the first total lunar eclipse in three years and the first to fall on the Winter Solstice — the shortest day of the year — in nearly 400 years. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also msnbc.msn.com, "Photoblog - A total eclipse of the moon."]

12.20.10 Pyongyang agrees to readmit UN nuclear inspectors

(AFP) December 20 - North Korea said on Monday it would allow UN nuclear inspectors to return to the country as part of a deal to cool tensions with South Korea. Pyongyang barred inspectors in April 2009 after quitting six-nation nuclear talks. North Korea has agreed to permit the return of UN nuclear inspectors as part of a package of measures to ease acute tensions on the peninsula, US troubleshooter Bill Richardson said Monday. In a statement issued as he visited Pyongyang, Richardson said North Korean leaders also agreed to negotiate the sale of nuclear fuel rods to a third party, "such as South Korea," and to discuss a military commission and hotline.

Richardson, a former US ambassador to the UN, said also he was "very encouraged" that North Korea's military had forsaken retaliation after South Korean forces held a live-fire artillery drill on a flashpoint border island. During my meetings in Pyongyang, I repeatedly pressed North Korea not to retaliate," the New Mexico governor said. "The result is that South Korea was able to flex its muscles, and North Korea reacted in a statesmanlike manner. I hope this will signal a new chapter and a round of dialogue to lessen tension on the Korean peninsula," he said.

12.20.10 Iraqi forces kill three Libyan 'Christmas bombers'

KIRKUK, Iraq, December 20 - Plotting to carry out suicide attacks ahead of holidays. Iraqi army special forces killed three Libyans allegedly planning suicide bombings ahead of Christmas in a raid on Monday in the northern city of Mosul, a defense ministry spokesman said. "Special forces from the Second Brigade in Mosul killed three Libyan suicide bombers in an operation," acting on a tip-off, Major General Mohammed al-Askari said. The soldiers raided a house in southern Mosul and came under attack with hand grenades, sparking a clash in which the three "terrorists" were killed, he said.

Security forces found three explosive vests, six hand grenades, a pistol and documents indicating the men had entered Iraq at the weekend, he said. The Libyans were planning to carry out suicide attacks ahead of Christmas. Forty-four Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel were killed on October 31 as gunmen seized a Baghdad cathedral and in an ensuing shoot-out when it was stormed by troops. A dozen suspected al-Qaeda members were arrested in connection with the bloodiest attack on Iraq's Christian minority since the 2003 US-led invasion.

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al-Qaeda's local affiliate, claimed responsibility for targeting the church and warned that Christians everywhere were henceforth "legitimate targets." Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes to semi-autonomous Kurdish areas and neighboring countries since the Catholic church in Baghdad was attacked six weeks ago, the UN refugee agency said on Friday.

12.20.10 Twelve people arrested in major counter-terrorism operation, say West Midlands police

December 12 - A teenage boy is among 12 people arrested as part of a major anti-terrorism operation in the UK. The suspects - five from Cardiff, four from Stoke-on-Trent and three from London - were detained by unarmed officers at around 5am. A 17-year-old boy and 11 men aged up to 28 are being held on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, national lead for counter-terrorism policing, said that with the terrorist threat level in the UK at "severe" the arrests were "absolutely necessary to keep the public safe." Home Secretary Theresa May said the UK faces "a real and serious threat from terrorism" and thanked the police and security service for keeping the country safe. Mr. Yates said earlier: "This is a large scale, pre-planned and intelligence-led operation involving several forces. The operation is in its early stages so we are unable to go into detail at this time about the suspected offences. However, I believe it was necessary at this time to take action in order to ensure public safety." [More>>news.sky.com]

12.20.10 Extremist commander Amin killed in drone attack

SWAT, Pakistan, December 20 - The most dangerous and vital extremist commander Ibn-e-Amin was killed in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency, Geo News reported Monday. Ibn-e-Amin, who is said to be the mastermind in making of explosives and butchering people, is reported to be involved in myriad incidents of slaughtering people. It should be mentioned here that Amin was killed in drone attack two days back in Tirah Valley. The sources confirmed his death today. A senior commander of the Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam told The News that Ibne Amin was killed along with six other militants who were his bodyguards when the missiles fired by the drone hit his vehicle. Pleading anonymity, he said Ibne Amin was among the seven militants killed in the Lashkar-e-Islam-controlled territory in Tirah valley's Spindrand area located some four kilometres southeast of the Afghan border.

Ibne Amin belonged to Kuz Shawar village in Matta Tehsil of Swat district. The government in May 2009 announced Rs15 million as head money for him. He was a close lieutenant of Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Swat chapter. Ibne Amin, who was less than 40 years old, became a feared TTP commander when he started torturing and killing opponents of the Taliban in Swat. He rose in the militant ranks and at one time it was said that he was the most powerful man in the TTP Swat after Fazlullah. One of his brothers was earlier killed in fighting with security forces and reports of Ibne Amin's death had also circulated in the past.

According to intelligence sources, Ibne Amin also had links with al-Qaeda. The Khyber Agency has witnessed three US drone attacks over the last four days in which about three dozen militants from Lashkar-e-Islam and TTP were killed along with some civilians. The Lashkar-e-Islam commander who broke the news about Ibne Amin's death said Ibne Amin had been engaged in reconciliation efforts for the last several days to bring together the factions of Lashkar-e-Islam. "Last week, I met Ibn Amin in Chora area of Jamrud Tehsil where he had come to talk to Tayyab Afridi, the leader of dissident group in Lashkar-e-Islam who had fallen out with his leader Mangal Bagh," he recalled.
[More>>thenews.com.pk or Maravot NewsA12.20.10; article contains important names, places and relationships]

12.20.10 7 mortar shells fired at Eshkol regional council from Gaza

December 20 - No injuries or damage reported in attack, which comes two weeks after a man was lightly injured when projectiles hit a residential area. Two weeks ago, in a similar incident, four to five mortar shells were fired into the same area and hit a residential area. One man suffered light wounds to his upper body. The wounded man was airlifted by the IDF to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba while fully conscious. Earlier on the day of the attack, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi had warned that the security situation at the Gaza Strip border is very fragile and may deteriorate rapidly. [>jpost.com]

12.20.10 Imam arrested after flogged woman dies in Bangladesh

December 20 - A Muslim cleric has been arrested in Bangladesh following the death of a woman who was publicly caned for adultery, police have said. Sufia Begum, thought to have been in her forties, was accused of having an affair with her 36-year-old stepson and was sentenced to 40 lashes last month by an Islamist court that included the imam of the local mosque, Afsar Ali. "She became seriously ill and was hospitalized after the caning, and she died last week," Azizul Haque Sarker, a police chief, said. The Bangladesh High Court outlawed punishments handed down by religious edict, or fatwa, in July, but Begum's death, in the Rajshahi district of northwestern Bangladesh, suggests that such brutal punishments are still handed down in religiously conservative rural areas of the country. The victim's brother, Taimur Rahman, said that her kidneys had been damaged during the beating, reportedly undertaken by a local woman. [More>>news.com.au]

12.20.10 'Don't Ask' repealed, but restrictions remain

WASHINGTON (AP) December 20 - For time being, restrictions on gay troops serving openly will technically remain on the books. While President Barack Obama this week is expected to clear the way for gays to serve openly in the military, the new law won't go into effect immediately and unanswered questions remain: How soon will the new policy be implemented, will it be accepted by the troops and could it hamper the military in Afghanistan and Iraq? The historic action by Congress repeals the requirement, known as "don't ask, don't tell," that for the last 17 years has allowed gays and lesbians to serve, but only if they kept quiet about their sexual orientation. Ending that policy has been compared in its social implications to President Harry S. Truman's 1948 executive order that brought racial equality to the military. After Obama signs the legislation — passed by the Senate on Saturday — into law, the Pentagon must still certify to Congress that the change won't damage combat readiness. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

12.19.10 Russia's draft UN statement proposes sending envoy to Koreas

NEW YORK (RIA Novosti) December 19 - Russia's draft statement to the United Nations Security Council proposes sending a special envoy to Seoul and Pyongyang to resolve the conflict peacefully, a UN source said. The draft statement also calls on the sides to "show maximum restraint." The closed-door emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council is being held at Russia's request on Sunday. Participants are discussing a Russian draft statement calling on both North and South Korea to refrain from the escalation of the conflict. Russia's envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin reiterated on Sunday that Russia was seriously concerned over further escalation between the two Koreas because the current situation in the region "directly affects the national security interests of the Russian Federation."

"We believe that the Security Council must send a restraining signal to the Republic of Korea [South Korea] and DPRK [North Korea], and help launch diplomatic activity with a view to resolving all issues of dispute between the two Korean sides by political and diplomatic means," Churkin said. Tensions on the Korean peninsula are high since Seoul unveiled plans to hold exercises on Yeonpyeong Island on December 18-21. Pyongyang blasted the move saying its response would be "deadlier" than the shelling in November that killed four South Koreans on the island. South Korea has postponed the drills until Monday citing poor weather conditions, but vowed to proceed with the planned exercises despite threats from Pyongyang and calls for restraint from Russia and China.

12.19.10 China for addressing causes of terrorism

I(SLAMABAD, Pakistan, December 19 - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday vowed to stand by Pakistan to confront all challenges, bring peace and stability to the region, and to turn a new page in Pakistan-China relations. "Lets stand together, with a new confidence, and begin a new era of progress and prosperity, by jointly confronting all challenges," Jiabao said, amidst heavy thumping of desks during his address to the specially convened joint sitting of the Parliament here. "China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners and share the sorrows and joys of each other as close brothers," he said. Premier Wen said both the countries have reached the present stage after passing through difficult phases. He said as people in Pakistan say that a good neighbor is a blessing, "we in China say it is better to have a good neighbor than a relative, who lives far away."

Jiabao expressed the belief that the Pakistani people will be able to surmount all difficulties and assured that "the Chinese government and people will firmly stand by you to face all challenges together." Premier Wen Jiabao who is the first Chinese and 6th world dignitary to address the joint sitting began his speech by greeting the parliamentarians saying; "Asalam-o-Alaikum." He strongly voiced China's stance against terrorism and said it must not be linked to any particular country or religion. "There should be no dual standards in this regard," he said and called for making efforts for addressing the real reasons that lead to terrorism.

12.19.10 Body of US tourist found near Jerusalem; police suspect terror attack

December 19 - Christine Logan disappeared on Saturday, when she and a Jerusalem-area friend were stabbed by assailants while hiking at an archaeological site; her friend, Susan Kaye Wilson, was hospitalized in moderate condition. Israeli security forces early Sunday found the body of Christine Logan, an American tourist woman feared kidnapped by Arab assailants while hiking with a friend near Jerusalem the day before. Logan's friend, 46-year-old Kaye Susan Wilson, was hospitalized after she managed to escape her attackers despite multiple stab wounds and her hands tied behind her back. Wilson, an immigrant from the United Kingdom who now resides in a Jerusalem-area community, told paramedics and police officers  that she and Logan were assaulted by two Arab men while hiking at Khirbet Hanut, an archaeological site near Beit Shemesh.

Wilson said that she pretended to be dead to escape further attack and then managed to flee the scene and reach the road; Logan did not. After speaking briefly to investigators, Wilson was taken to the Hadassah University Hospital, where her condition was reported to be stable. Police identified Logan's body early Sunday and are continuing to focus their investigation on the circumstances of the incident and searching after the perpetrators. Jerusalem District Police Chief Aharon Franco said on Saturday that the investigation would not rule out the possibility of the incident having been a terrorist attack.

12.19.10 Stockholm bomber: banned extremists recruit near Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly's Luton home

December 19 - The outlawed Islamist group al-Muhajiroun is openly recruiting near the home of the suicide bomber who blew himself up on a Stockholm street last week, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. MI5 and anti-terrorist police are attempting to unravel what transformed the father of three into an extremist. But moderate Muslims in Luton, where Iraqi-born Taimour Abdulwahab lived for almost 10 years, claim the authorities are to blame for turning a blind eye to the activities of hard-core jihadi sympathizers. Unimpeded by the police, the group, now calling itself The Reflect Project, is accused of mounting a campaign of intimidation and violence against those who disagree with it.

The group's members are followers of the radical cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad, who is being held in jail in Lebanon on terrorism charges, and are led locally by Ishtiaq Alamgir or Sword of Islam — a former inland revenue accountant. Earlier this year, Mr. Alamgir helped to organize a protest at a homecoming parade in Luton for troops who had served in Afghanistan. The demonstration ended in violence and arrests.

It is illegal to be a member of Bakri's organization after it was outlawed for glorifying terrorism and for outspoken statements praising the "magnificent" September 11 hijackers. But Bakri's supporters still regularly set up a stall on the high street near Abdulwahab's family home to try to recruit more young Muslims to their cause. Last week, gathered around a trestle table after Friday prayers, Mr. Alamgir and a dozen other activists handed out anodyne Introduction to Islam leaflets before quickly disappearing when approached by this newspaper.

Carefully written, apparently to avoid breaching anti-terrorism laws, the leaflet's purpose appeared to be to direct prospective recruits to a website containing inflammatory speeches by Bakri and articles against "the terrorist activities of Britain." Some claim the group was involved with Abdulwahab, whose "will" told his wife and children he had lived for "the last four years with the secret of being mujahid or, as you call it, terrorist."

The group described Abdulwahab, who studied at the town's university, as a "lone wolf" and denied having anything to do with him. The group, whose members use an ever-changing variety of names, has been holding rallies in community halls where, until his recent arrest, it was addressed by Bakri over an internet link. Residents in the mainly Muslim Bury Park area claim Abdulwahab attended these meetings and complain that the government ban has not stopped the group or led to any police action against it.

12.19.10 Julian Assange furore deepens as new details emerge of sex crime allegations

December 19 - Bitter divisions open up between supporters and critics of WikiLeaks leader in wake of fresh claims by Swedish women. As fresh snow erases the traces of Friday's scrum of camera crews from the elegant lawns of a Georgian mansion in East Anglia, inside Ellingham Hall Julian Assange is considering his next move. Transformed from cyber celebrity into household name, Assange — the man who kicked a diplomatic hornet's nest across the globe — is carrying an extraordinary weight of controversy and opprobrium on his narrow shoulders. Assange faces a whole new debate this weekend over his personal conduct, after the allegations made by two women in Sweden, who accuse him of sexual misconduct and rape, were published in their fullest form in the Guardian. An increasingly diverse cast of characters are forming unlikely coalitions over the case across ideological divides. The accounts of the two women have led Stockholm authorities to request the extradition of Assange so that he can be questioned by a prosecutor. That request led to Assange spending nine days on remand in Wandsworth prison — a controversial decision by the courts, which was overturned on Tuesday when he was given £240,000 bail. He was released on Thursday after the high court dismissed an appeal from prosecutors against the bail decision.

It is now nearly three weeks since Assange and his WikiLeaks team began disseminating secret US state department cables to internet users and newspaper readers around the world, who were in turns fascinated and appalled. The cables have revealed wrong-doing, international double-dealing, espionage, plots, bitchiness, bad behavior and scandal in the political, military and business worlds. Within a torrent of 250,000 documents was information on how world leaders lied and connived on everything from the direction of the conflict in Afghanistan to spying at the UN and Saudi Arabia's push to have the US bomb Iran. The WikiLeaks campaign of reveal and be damned has splintered opinion on both left and right. The US government was furious, and is expected to take some kind of legal action.

Already pressure may have been exerted as large financial institutions including PayPal, MasterCard and Visa — and today the Bank of America — have refused to do business with WikiLeaks, cutting it from donors. But after Assange's period in jail last week, the focus was switching. In today's Guardian editorial, the newspaper explained why it had chosen to publish the sexual misconduct allegations in detail: "It is unusual for a sex-offence case to be presented outside of the judicial process in such a manner, but then it is unheard of for a defendant, his legal team and supporters to so vehemently and publicly attack women at the heart of a rape case." The paper is reflecting a growing discomfort among many, in both camps, at the widespread vilification — and naming — of the two alleged victims on websites and blogs, and also of the kind of language being used by people including Assange's own lawyer Mark Stephens who referred to the allegation as a "honeytrap."
[Full story>>guardian.co.uk]

12.19.10 Al-Qaeda aims to 'bring down' Pakistan: Biden

WASHINGTON (AFP) December 19 - Al-Qaeda is trying to "bring down" nuclear-armed Pakistan, US Vice President Joe Biden warned Sunday, days after a war review tip-toed around Islamabad's role in fighting extremists. "Our overarching goal and our rationale for being there is to dismantle, ultimately defeat al-Qaeda... to make sure that terrorists do not, in fact, bring down the Pakistani government, which is a nuclear power," Biden said. The vice-president, in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" program, repeated threads of a one-year report on the US military surge in Afghanistan that pointed to progress but warned that more time was needed. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

12.19.10 Taleban kill 13 Afghan soldiers, police

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) December 19 - Taleban fighters struck at Afghan security forces Sunday, storming an army recruiting centre in the north that sparked a daylong gunbattle, and ambushing a bus carrying army officers in the capital — the first major attack in Kabul in months. At least 13 Afghan security forces were killed in the two attacks, with the firefight at the recruiting centre in the northern province of Kunduz ending only after the last remaining militant detonated his suicide vest, local police officials said. The Taleban claimed responsibility for both operations. Separately, the head of the violence-wracked Chahar Dara district of Kunduz survived an ambush when a powerful roadside bomb detonated as he passed by in a police vehicle on his way to his office. District chief Abdul Wahid Omarkhel said insurgents opened fire on the car after the blast, but his bodyguards returned fire and nobody was hurt. The violence in Kunduz, which has seen security deteriorate over the past two years, came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited her country's troops stationed in the province — a trip referred to by Taleban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in his claim of responsibility for the two attacks. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.19.10 Senate ends military ban on gays serving openly

WASHINGTON, December 19 - The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation. By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don't ask, don't tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay and lesbian troops as second-class citizens. [More>>nytimes.com]

12.19.10 NATO troops kill 20 insurgents in eastern Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, December 19 - NATO said its troops killed more than 20 insurgents Saturday in fighting that broke out after a patrol came under fire in eastern Afghanistan. In the southern city of Kandahar, a suicide bomber targeting a district chief killed two passers-by including a child, and wounded at least nine people, authorities said. The gunbattle between NATO forces and insurgents took place in the Tagab district of Kapisa province, where coalition forces called in air support after their patrol came under fire, NATO said. It claimed Taliban commanders were among the more than 20 insurgents killed. A day earlier, more than five insurgents were killed in a three-hour firefight in the same district following sniper fire on Afghan and international forces manning a checkpoint, NATO said. The coalition did not say what nationality the international troops were, but French forces are stationed in the area. [More>>japantoday.com]

12.19.10 UN: Thousands flee Ivory Coast amid fears of regional conflict

BOSSOU, Guinea, December 19 - A political standoff has forced nearly 4,000 citizens of northwest Ivory Coast to flee to neighboring countries, prompting fears of regional insecurity, according to the United Nations. The disputed presidential election outcome between opposition leader Alassane Ouattara and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has threatened to derail a fragile peace process in the west African nation. The renewed refugee flow has also put neighboring Liberia and Guinea on high alert. "In my village the majority voted massively for President Laurent Gbagbo, and [the New Forces soldiers] threatened us because of that. They came to our houses and started to harass us, to mistreat us," said Jean-Jacques Issignate, 19, from Nyale, an Ivorian village along the Guinea border. "We fled to the forest ... I spent one week in the forest." Provisional results from a November presidential runoff intended to end more than 10 years of civil war showed Ouattara as the winner with a nearly eight-point margin. [More>>cnn.com]

12.17.10 Bolivia joins neighbors in recognizing Palestinian state

December 17 - President Evo Morales makes announcement in Brazil, quoted as saying state should be along 1967 borders; Abbas welcomes move, thanks Bolivia for support. Bolivia on Friday joined the list of South American countries that have announced their recognition of a fully sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Israel. Bolivian President Evo Morales made the announcement in Brazil at a conference with regional leaders, Bolivia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said. "Bolivia recognizes the Palestinian state along 1967 borders, together with Brazil and Argentina," Morales was quoted as saying. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the move and he thanked Bolivia for its support and praised bilateral relations. The Bolivian president spoke with Abbas three days prior to the announcement, officials said. [>jpost.com]

12.17.10 US drone missiles kill 25 in Pakistan's Khyber district

(AFP) December 17 - A barrage of US missiles targeted Pakistan's Khyber district yesterday for a second consecutive day, killing 25 militants, as Barack Obama urged Islamabad to do more to root out terror havens. Pakistani officials said three drone strikes destroyed targets in Khyber, the tribal district nearest to the northwestern capital of Peshawar and this week seemingly subject to an expansion of the covert American campaign. Missiles slammed into compounds in different villages of Tirah, the same valley where a US drone attack on Thursday killed seven militants in either the first or second such strike in Khyber, local officials said.

The first strike destroyed a compound belonging to local militant group Lashkar-e-Islam in Sipah, a remote region where government security forces have no presence, and killed six militants, Pakistani intelligence agents said. Another drone fired two missiles into another compound in the Malakdin Khel area, which the officials said killed 13 militants, raising an initial toll of five dead. Pakistani officials later reported a drone strike in Sandana village in Khyber, which straddles NATO's main land supply line through Pakistan to its estimated 140,000 troops in Afghanistan. "A number of missiles hit a militant compound. Six militants were killed," a security official in Peshawar told AFP.
[More>>news.com.au; See more details,

alarabiya.net, December 17, "US drone strikes kill 26 in Pakistan's Khyber"
: ..."Five militants were killed in the second strike. All of them were local TTP militants," one security official in Peshawar told AFP, referring to Pakistan's main Taliban faction known as Tehreek-e-Taliban...

msnbc.msn.com, December 17, "US missiles kill 54, sources say"
: PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Three American missile attacks killed 54 alleged militants Friday close to the Afghan border, an unusually high number of victims that included commanders of a Taliban-allied group that were holding a meeting, Pakistani officials said...The first strike targeted two vehicles in the Sandana area of the Tirah Valley, killing seven militants and wounding another nine. The men were believed to belong to the Pakistani Taliban one of the country's largest and deadliest insurgent groups. Later, missiles hit a compound in Speen Darang village where the Lashkar-e-Islam, a Taliban affiliate known to be strong in Khyber, were meeting, reportedly killing 32 people, among them commanders. The third strike took place in Narai Baba village and killed 15 militants, the officials said...

12.17.10 CIA chief in Pakistan leaves after drone trial blows his cover

December 17 - Jonathan Banks, station chief In Islamabad, back in US after calls for him to be charged with murder over drone attack. The CIA has pulled its station chief from Islamabad, one of America's most important spy posts, after his cover was blown in a lawsuit brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt. The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed. In a rare move, the CIA called Banks home yesterday, citing "security concerns" and claiming he had received death threats, Washington officials told Associated Press. Khan's lawyer said he was fleeing the possibility of prosecution. "This is just diplomatic language they are using. Banks is a liability to the CIA because he's likely to be called to court. They want to save him, and themselves, the embarrassment," said lawyer Shahzad Akbar. Pakistani media reports have claimed that Banks entered the country on a business visa, and therefore does not enjoy diplomatic immunity from prosecution. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

12.17.10 Coldest December since records began as temperatures plummet to minus 10C bringing travel chaos across Britain

December 17 - Swathes of Britain skidded to a halt today as the big freeze returned grounding flights, closing rail links and leaving traffic at a standstill. And tonight the nation was braced for another 10in of snow and yet more sub-zero temperatures with no let-up in the bitterly cold weather for at least a month, forecasters have warned. The Arctic conditions are set to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond and as temperatures plummeted to -10c (14f) the Met Office said this December was 'almost certain' to become the coldest since records began in 1910. [More>>dailymail.co.uk]

12.17.10 Texas couple accused of funneling money to Iran

(AP) December 16 - A Texas couple and the head of an Oregon charity secretly sent millions of dollars to an Iranian bank and to a contact in Iran for nine years, violating the U.S. embargo on the Middle East country, according to a federal indictment. The indictment describes an alleged scheme in which the Texas couple got tax exemptions for their donations to the Portland-based Child Foundation charity. The head of the charity, Mehrdad Yasrebi, allegedly funneled money that was meant for food and other assistance to his cousin and to a bank controlled by the Iranian government. Working through Iranian corporations and banks in Switzerland and Dubai, the Texas couple and Yasrebi's cousin masked their transfers by using food shipments and other commodities to cover financial donations intended for a sister charity in Iran run by the cousin, federal prosecutors say. "These defendants are charged with going to extraordinary lengths to conceal the transfer of large sums of money in violation of the Iranian embargo," Dwight Holton, the US Attorney for Oregon, said in a statement Thursday. [More>>foxnews.com]

12.17.10 Japan announces defense policy to counter China

TOKYO, December 17 - Japan announced a new defense policy on Friday that will respond to China's rising military might by building more submarines and other mobile forces capable of defending Japan's southernmost islands. The new National Defense Program Guidelines are the biggest step yet in a decade-long shift away from cold war-era deployments of heavy tank and artillery units on the northern island of Hokkaido — to counter a now-vanished Soviet threat — and toward bolstering Japanese forces in the southern islands around Okinawa, where China's navy has become a growing presence. The new guidelines also used uncharacteristically strong language to warn of China's rapidly modernizing military, calling it "a matter of concern for the region and the international community."

China's growing naval capabilities have been a particular concern in Japan since Beijing and Tokyo clashed diplomatically three months ago over uninhabited islands claimed by both nations but controlled by Japan. The islands are called the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry criticized the new policy as "irresponsible" and suggested that it was based on a misunderstanding of China's intentions. "China adheres to the road of peaceful development and pursues a defensive national defense policy," Jiang Yu, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We have no intention to be a threat to anyone."

12.17.10 Christians flee central Iraq in thousands, UN reports

December 17 - The UN refugee agency says thousands of Iraqi Christians are fleeing from central provinces of the country. They are seeking refuge in the relatively safe Kurdish-controlled region in the north. The UN High Commission for Refugees said about 1,000 families have left Baghdad and Mosul province since an attack on a church left 68 people dead. It said the flight of Christians to other parts of Iraq and abroad has become "a slow but steady exodus." The UNHCR also said it was dismayed that European governments are deporting failed Iraqi asylum seekers to areas of the country it does not consider safe. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

12.16.10 Israel condemns Norway's upgrade of Palestinian standing in Oslo to 'diplomatic delegation'

December 16 - Foreign Ministry official warns that Palestinians won't want to renew peace talks with Israel if they start attaining political goals without negotiations. Israel harshly condemned Norway on Thursday for upgrading the standing of the Palestinian representation in Oslo from a 'general delegation' to a 'diplomatic delegation.' Naor Gilon, who heads the Western Europe division at the Foreign Ministry, summoned the Norwegian chargé d’affaires in Tel Aviv for a conversation, telling him the Norwegian move is not acceptable and is a step that will harm the peace process. "If the Palestinians start thinking that they can achieve political accomplishments without negotiations with Israel, they will never renew peace talks," Gilon told the Norwegian diplomat. The Norwegian envoy said that in contrast to media reports, Norway has not recognized a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and the upgrading the standing of the Palestinian delegation in Oslo is simply a symbolic move without any practical consequences. [More>>haaretz.com]

12.16.10 Palestinian Authority cracks down on mosques to promote moderate Islam

EL BIREH, West Bank, December 15 - Each week, Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian Authority's minister of religious affairs, sends an e-mail to mosques across the West Bank. It contains what amounts to a script for the Friday sermon that every imam is required to deliver. The practice, part of a broader crackdown on Muslim preachers considered too radical, shows the extreme steps the Palestinian Authority is taking to weaken Hamas, its Islamist rival, as it seeks to cement power and meet Israel's preconditions for peace talks. The Palestinian policy drew little notice when it was launched last year. But it has been enforced with particular vigor in recent months and, analysts say, has been a factor in Hamas's declining strength in the West Bank. Proponents say the tight control is necessary to curb fiery rhetoric, preserve Palestinian unity and promote a moderate form of Islam. But critics say the heavy-handed policy violates freedom of expression, alienates segments of Palestinian society and is a harbinger of the kind of police state the Palestinian Authority could become once statehood is achieved. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

12.16.10 US arrests 4 in widening hedge fund probe

December 16 - Federal investigators on Thursday announced charges against four more people in the widening insider trading probe targeting so-called expert networks and some of the world's biggest technology companies. A fifth person has pleaded guilty in the probe, authorities said. Among the four arrested and charged Thursday were an executive at expert network Primary Global Research of Mountain View, Calif., and three consultants for the network who worked at big, publicly traded global tech companies. "Today's charges allege that a corrupt network of insiders at some of the world's leading technology companies served as so-called 'consultants' who sold out their employers by stealing and then peddling their valuable inside information," Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. Arrested was Primary Global executive James Fleishman, 41, on wire fraud and conspiracy charges for allegedly conspiring to provide confidential information, including material, nonpublic information to Primary Global's clients, including hedge funds. [More>>foxbusiness.com]

12.16.10 Afghan report sees July troop pullouts despite perils

WASHINGTON, December 16 - A review of President Obama's strategy for the war in Afghanistan concludes that American forces can begin withdrawing on schedule in July, despite finding uneven signs of progress in the year since the president announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops, according to a summary made public Thursday. The summary said the United States continued to kill leaders of al-Qaeda and diminish its capacity to launch terrorist attacks from the region. It cited some signs that the United States and its allies have halted or reversed inroads by the Taliban in Afghanistan and strengthened the ability of Afghan forces to secure their country, but acknowledged that the gains are fragile and could be easily undone unless more progress is made toward hunting down insurgents operating from havens in neighboring Pakistan. [More>>nytimes.com]

12.16.10 Drone attack 'kills two Britons' in Pakistan

December 16 - Two white British al-Qaeda members have died in a suspected US drone raid in north-west Pakistan, officials say. The Muslim converts were killed in a missile attack near the town of Datta Khel in North Waziristan region five days ago, the local officials said. The men, said to be aged 48 and 25, were apparently in a vehicle with two other militants at the time. The Foreign Office said the British High Commission in Pakistan was seeking further information. The pair were using the pseudonyms Abu Bakr and Mansoor Ahmed, officials say. Local people say that the car the militants were travelling in was destroyed and whoever was inside was incinerated. They say that what little remained of the bodies was taken away by the militants.

According to local administration officials, the drone strike took place on 10 December. Three missiles were fired at a vehicle near the village of Khaderkhel in the Data Khel area and four people were killed. Officials told the BBC that the surnames of the British pair were Stephen and Dearsmith. The official said that Mr. Stephen had been giving training sessions on weapons and tactics in various Taliban camps in the region. He said that Mr. Stephen is believed to an al-Qaeda operative with "a previous history of operations with the organization in Afghanistan." This is not the first time that reports of Muslim converts from Europe fighting for militant groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area have emerged.

12.16.10 Roadside bomb kills 14 civilians in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, December 16 - A roadside bomb killed 14 civilians and injured four when it ripped through a minibus in western Afghanistan on Thursday, a government official said, the latest casualties of escalating violence in a once-peaceful area. The blast came days after a similar homemade bomb in the south of the country killed 15 people, and six Afghan soldiers died in separate NATO air strikes that were meant to target insurgents. Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were overthrown in late 2001, with record casualties on all sides of the conflict, and those caught in between. Ordinary Afghans have borne the brunt of ramped up fighting...On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned of worsening violence in Afghanistan in 2011 and said reaching Afghans who needed help was harder now than it had been at any time in the past 30 years. [Full story>>thenews.com.pk]

12.16.10 Bombs kill 2 Iraqis on way to religious ceremony

BAGHDAD (AP) December 16 - A spate of bombings killed two Iraqi pilgrims Thursday as they headed to ceremonies to mark a Shia Muslim day of mourning. Police said four bombs hidden in trash cans killed two people in a procession and wounded six in the town of Dujail, 50 miles (80 kilometers) miles north of Baghdad. The casualties were confirmed by Dr. Munthir Hussein of the Hussein hospital in Dujail. Two more bombs were discovered and disarmed before they exploded, said a local police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. Earlier, a roadside bomb wounded three pilgrims in the downtown Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah, police said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.15.10 US sues BP and other companies over Gulf spill

WASHINGTON (AP) December 15 - The Justice Department on Wednesday sued BP and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in US history. The Obama administration's lawsuit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act. "We intend to prove these violations caused or contributed to the massive oil spill," Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference.

The amount of damages and the extent of injuries sustained by the United States as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Spill are not yet fully known, the lawsuit states. An explosion that killed 11 workers at BP's Macondo well last April led to oil spewing from the company's undersea well — more than 200 million gallons in all by the government's estimate. BP disputes the figure. The department filed the suit in federal court in New Orleans. The other defendants in the case are Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; Transocean Holdings LLC and Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and BP's insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd's Syndicate 1036.

12.15.10 Iran suicide bombings kill 39 during ceremony

TEHRAN (Reuters) December 15 - Two suicide bomb attacks outside a mosque killed 39 people and wounded more than 100 during a Shi'ite religious ceremony in the southeastern Iranian city of Chabahar on Wednesday, local media reported. Jundollah, a Sunni Muslim rebel group, claimed responsibility on its website for the bombings outside the Imam Hussein Mosque in Chabahar, near Iran's border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The poor province of Sistan-Baluchistan has been the scene of unrest with the mainly Sunni population claiming discrimination by the Shi'ite authorities. "At least 39 people were martyred after two suicide bombings targeted Shi'ite mourners in front of a mosque in the town of Chabahar," Fariborz Ayati Firouzabadi, head of the Coroner's office in the province.

The bombings killed many children and women, who attended a Shi'ite religious ceremony to commemorate the death of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hussein, state television reported, adding that the death toll was expected to increase. Iran's Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar told state television the attackers had links to neighboring Pakistan and that an investigation was underway. "A group of terrorists who were trained in Pakistan carried out the bombings...we have informed Pakistani officials as well," he said. Jundollah meanwhile said the attack was in retaliation for the execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi in June.

12.15.10 Iran reformer sentenced to jail, exile and fine

TEHrAN (AP) December 15 - An opposition activist has been convicted of vague charges of working against the ruling system and insulting the country's supreme leader and sentenced to 20 months in jail, an opposition website reported Wednesday. Ahmed Ghabel was given additional sentences of exile for three years, a ban on interviews and lectures during that time, and a fine for possessing a satellite receiver. His laptop was also confiscated. The website, kaleme.com, said the hardline Revolutionary Court in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, found Ghabel guilty of insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Any criticism of Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is interpreted by authorities as insulting the supreme leader. Ghabel is a prominent member of now the outlawed Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist political party. He is considered a key link between reformers and top Shiite clerics in Qom, a center of political and religious power located about 80 miles south of the capital, Tehran. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.15.10 About 200 Islamic extremists in Sweden: Intel

STOCKHOLM (AFP) December 15 - Swedish intelligence agency Saepo said Wednesday there were around 200 violence-promoting Islamic extremists in Sweden, days after the country's first-ever suicide bombing missed wreaking havoc among Christmas shoppers. Some "80 percent of the 200 can be linked to each other," Malena Rembe, the chief analyst at Saepo's Counter-Terrorism Unit told reporters, adding they were not part of one big network. "The radicalization happens in Sweden," but "the concrete threat is mainly directed at people in other countries," Rembe said, explaining that most of the violence-promoting extremists were men between the ages of 15 and 30. The man suspected to have carried out this weekend's bombing was not among the 200 extremists the agency knows about, she said. "Most of these networks focus on action and propaganda against foreign troops in Muslim countries and against governments they see as corrupt and not representing what networks consider to be the only true interpretation of Islam," Saepo said. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

12.15.10 UK vows new measures on extremism

December 15 - David Cameron, the British prime minister, has said that Britain had not done enough to counter domestic Islamic extremism and vowed to do more. Cameron made his comments on Wednesday after it emerged earlier this week that a Swedish suicide bomber studied in the UK. "I think if we're frank on both sides of the House (of Commons), we have not done enough to deal with the promotion of extremist Islamism in our own country," he told lawmakers, referring to all political parties. News that a suicide bomber who attacked a busy shopping street in Stockholm on Saturday had studied and lived in Britain has raised fresh soul-searching in the UK about how to combat radicalism, five years after four home-grown bombers attacked the London transport system in 2005, killing 52 people.

"Whether it's making sure that imams coming over to this country can speak English properly, whether it's making sure we de-radicalize our universities, I think we do have to take a range of further steps and I'm going to be working hard to make sure that we do this," Cameron said. "Yes, we have got to have the policing in place, yes we've got to make sure we invest in our intelligence services, yes we've got to cooperate with other countries. But we've also got to ask why it is that so many young men in our own country get radicalized in this completely unacceptable way." The man responsible for Sweden's first-ever suicide bombing is believed to have been Taimour Abdulwahab al Abdaly, who until recently had been living in Luton, north of London. He was carrying a cocktail of explosives but succeeded in killing only himself.

12.14.10 Islamist websites eulogize Sweden bomber

DUBAI (Reuters) December 14 - Al-Qaeda linked-Islamist websites on Tuesday posted a poem praising a man named as Sweden's first suicide bomber as a martyr and calling for the destruction of cities in Europe, the "mother of dogs." Middle Eastern-born Taymour Abdulwahab, who moved to Sweden from England with his wife and children in 1992, was killed in a blast in an apparent attempt to attack a Stockholm train station or department store after the explosive belt he was wearing went off prematurely, Swedish prosecutors said. The 80-line poem, posted by web administrators, praised Abdulwahab as a martyr, describing him as part of a larger campaign against Europe, though the writer said he had never met the man...The poem, which threatened several European capitals including Paris and Berlin, was listed as a top news item on web forums such as Shumukh al-Islam and Al-Mojahden, which often post al-Qaeda messages. [Full story>>thestar.com.my]

12.14.10 Raid on Islamic groups in Germany

BERLIN, December 14 - The German Interior Ministry ordered simultaneous raids in three states on Tuesday against what it called Salafist* networks suspected of seeking the imposition of an Islamic state. The action signaled growing concern over the radical messages of some Islamic groups. The German Interior Ministry ordered simultaneous raids in three states on Tuesday against what it called Salafist networks suspected of seeking the imposition of an Islamic state. The action signaled growing concern over the radical messages of some Islamic groups. The raids appeared to represent a departure for the German authorities in their dealings with radical Muslim groups.

They were conducted under the authority of postwar laws enacted with an eye to the Nazis to ensure against the overthrow of the state or constitution by extremist groups. Previously, those statutes had been invoked primarily against right-wing nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, and German intelligence had focused primarily on individual Muslim extremists rather than groups. The ministry's statement emphasized this shift in approach. "In order to have a dependable democracy," it read, "it is necessary not to wait until jihad occurs in the form of armed conflict but to already react against those organizations that are working or acting against our constitution." The statement said the groups were suspected of opposing constitutional order by seeking to "overthrow it in favor of an Islamic theocracy."

There was no indication that any arrests were made. "The group is very influential and is especially active in converting people," a senior German security official said, speaking in return for anonymity because the investigation is still underway. The best known figure in the group is a German citizen, Pierre Vogel, a former boxer and convert to Islam. "They do have the aim to change Germany and make it Islamic, but there is no evidence that they were or are involved in any terrorism," the official said.
[More>>nytimes.com; *See also wikipedia.org Salafist_jihadism.]

12.14.10 Baltimore man accused of bomb plot was entrapped, defense attorney says

December 14 - A Baltimore man accused of plotting to blow up a military recruiting station was "grinning from ear to ear" and said "Allahu Akbar" as he prepared to detonate what he thought was a powerful bomb last week, federal prosecutors said Monday. Antonio Martinez, 21, who recently converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Hussain, is accused of trying to kill members of the military whom he saw as a threat to Muslims. The FBI learned of Martinez's intentions through an informant, joined the plot and supplied him with a fake car bomb that he tried to detonate, authorities said. Prosecutors portrayed Martinez as a man who was determined to cause as much harm as possible and sees himself as a holy warrior.

But defense attorney Joseph Balter said his client was "incapable" of carrying out an attack on his own, failed when he tried to recruit confederates to join him and was caught in a "government sting operation." Assistant US Attorney Christine Manuelian said that after his arrest, Martinez admitted his role in the bomb plot and said it was his idea. She said he told agents that he parked the sport-utility vehicle that contained the bomb close to the front of the recruiting center where he thought a blast would cause the most harm. She said he even admitted that local imams had tried to talk him out of an attack, saying it was a time for peace. "He said he went through with the attack because he was doing it for the right cause," Manuelian said.

12.14.10 Despite fresh US approach, Palestinians say no Mideast talks without settlement freeze

December 14 - US envoy shuttles between Jerusalem and Ramallah in bid to see stalled peace process resume with eye on core issues; Palestinian source tells AFP: Obama must halt settlement building and allow recognition of Palestinian state. US envoy George Mitchell said Tuesday that Washington remained "determined to persevere" in its efforts to see an independent and viable Palestinian state living alongside a secure Israel. Mitchell spoke after meeting in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on his way from Jerusalem to Cairo. The envoy was back in the region to launch a fresh initiative at seeing Middle East negotiations resume despite the US' failure to convince Israel to renew its temporary moratorium on West Bank construction. But chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said following Mitchell's meeting with Abbas that "any negotiations or talks require an end to settlement activities." [More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

jpost.com, December 14, "Haniyeh: Hamas will never recognize Israel"
: "Hamas will never recognize Israel, despite pressures and efforts aimed at achieving this," Hamas Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh said Tuesday during a mass rally in Gaza to mark 23 years since the birth of the Islamic movement in 1987, reported Army Radio. "Hamas bears the flag of Palestinian liberation, all of Palestine, from the river to the sea," he added...

12.14.10 China police probe Zinjiang 'slave labor' factory

December 14 - Chinese police are investigating reports that a group of people with mental disabilities have been working in slave-like conditions. The 11 workers were apparently sold by an unauthorized charitable organization to a factory in the country's north-west. Reports say the workers were unpaid and lived in appalling conditions. This is not the first time a case like this has been uncovered in China, where there are no independent trade unions. Media reports suggest the workers lived as virtual slaves. They were given no pay, no protective clothing and had not showered for years, according to the Global Times newspaper.

They apparently had to eat the same food as the factory owner's dogs. One man said he twice tried to escape but was caught and badly beaten. The workers were apparently rounded up in the county of Qu in Sichuan Province by a man running what was supposed to be a charitable organization. The Quxian Beggars' Adoption Agency then sold the workers to a factory making construction materials in the county of Toksun in Xinjiang. According to the Global Times, it received 9,000 yuan (£850, $1,350) for each employee. It was also paid 300 yuan a month for each worker.

12.14.10 US drone strike kills four people in North Waziristan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, December 14 - A US drone strike in North Waziristan tribal belt on Tuesday killed four people, destroying their vehicle, local security officials said. The strike took place in Spalga village, 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Miranshah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal district, near the Afghan border. Security official confirmed the strike and said the drone fired two missiles. [>thenews.com.pk]

12.14.10 Roadside bombs kill 3, wound 32 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) December 14 - Two roadside bombs targeting pilgrims in Iraq killed three people and wounded at least 32 others on Tuesday ahead of a religious event, Interior Ministry and police sources said. One of the blasts struck a procession in the Ghazaliya district of western Baghdad, killing three and wounding 18, the interior ministry source said. A police source put the toll at three dead and 19 wounded. The other bomb exploded near a procession in the town of Khalis, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, and wounded 14, the Diyala province security operations centre said. On Monday, four people were killed and 17 wounded by a suicide bomber who blew himself up near a group of  pilgrims in a town northeast of Baghdad, whilst earlier this month, a series of explosions — two of them targeting Iranian pilgrims — killed a total of 13 people and wounded at least 80. Attacks and bombings remain a daily occurrence in Iraq, although overall violence has dropped from the height of sectarian warfare in 2006-07. [>khaleejtimes.com]

12.13.10 Abu Bakar Bashir faces death penalty on charges of inciting terror

JAKARTA (AFP) December 14 - Indonesian prosecutors have promised a swift trial of radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir after police charged him with inciting others to commit terrorist acts, a crime carrying the death penalty. "We want to try him very quickly," South Jakarta prosecutors office chief Mohammed Yusuf said after the aged extremist presented himself under tight security to hear the formal charges against him. Dozens of heavily armed police and two armored vehicles were on hand as the alleged spiritual leader of Indonesian jihad, or holy war, was transferred from his prison where he has been on remand since August. Bashir, whose anti-Western tirades and conspiracy theories have made him a figurehead for local extremists, is accused of multiple crimes under anti-terror legislation. They include providing funds for terrorist activities and encouraging people to carry out acts of terrorism, related to a militant training camp that was discovered in Aceh province earlier this year. "The harshest allegation is that he incited others to commit crimes of terrorism, which carries the death penalty," Mr. Yusuf said. [More>>news.com.au]

12.13.10 Suicide bomber kills at least 3, wounds 13 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) December 13 - A suicide bomber blew himself up near a group of Shi'ite pilgrims in the Iraqi town of Balad Ruz on Monday, killing at least three people and wounding 13, a source in the Diyala province security operations centre said. The bomber was stopped by a policeman as he tried to get closer to the pilgrims and detonated his explosive vest, the source said. Another police source said the toll was four killed and 17 wounded. Balad Ruz is 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Baghdad. [>khaleejtimes.com]

12.13.10 How Luton became the epicenter of the global clash of civilizations

December 14 - Mark Hughes visits the Bedforshire town shaken by a dangerous cocktail of radical Islam and English Defence League provocation. The sight of police officers standing guard outside the terraced home of Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly yesterday afternoon revived unwelcome memories for Luton. As reporters and TV camera crews gathered on either side of the cordons on the non-descript road, Muslim residents gathered to watch their town thrust once more into the spotlight. When one man asked an officer what was going on, he was told, "you'll have to watch it on the news."

Luton has long been saddled by the suggestion that it is a hotbed of terrorism. The now-banned extremist Muslim group Al-Muhajiroun was based there and it is where the July 7 bombers met before they launched their attacks on London's transport network in 2005. The news that the 28-year-old man who carried out a suicide bomb attack on the streets of Stockholm had studied at the University of Bedfordshire and was living in the Biscot area of the town added to that characterisation. But Luton's image reached a new low this week as it appears to have acquired a similar association with far-right extremism.

When the English Defence League (EDL) decided to invite Pastor Terry Jones — the American preacher who had planned to hold an international day of Koran burning — to the UK, it was to a rally in Luton. He intends to use his platform at the rally, on 5 February, to talk "against the evils and destructiveness of Islam." The Home Secretary, Theresa May, says she is still considering whether to allow Pastor Jones into the country. The polarization of extreme views in Luton is perhaps inevitable. The EDL claims it was sparked into formation by extremist activities in the town. Stephen Lennon, the group's founder is from Luton and, in a newspaper interview earlier this year, he said: "We didn't let the IRA recruit on the streets of England when we were at war with them. So why were Islamic extremists allowed to recruit in Luton?"

12.12.10 British varsities 'hotbeds for breeding terrorists'

LONDON, December 12 - British universities have become hotbeds for breeding radicals and recruiting grounds for terror network like al-Qaeda, an academician has claimed. Professor Anthony Glees, Director of security studies at Buckingham University, has said the varsities are failing to properly monitor students who could become terrorists, the 'Sunday Express' reported. "Campuses are seen as safe spaces for radicalizers. There is long history of students and recent graduates who turn to terror," he was quoted as saying. Prof. Glees said MI5 had identified 39 campuses as "vulnerable to violent extremism." Birmingham City and East London are the only ones to be named so far.

All universities were told they may seek 10,000 pounds grant to help counter the threat but 14 have not bothered to apply. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, a unit of MI5, is concerned by the response of some academics to the warnings. Last month, 12-year-old Roshonara Choudhry, a former student at King's College, London, was jailed for life for attempting to kill former Labour minister Stephen Timms in May over his support for the Iraq invasion. Former King's College students Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif carried out a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv in 2003.

12.12.10 Pakistan doctor arrested for blasphemy

KARACHI, Pakistan (AFP) December 12 - A doctor has been arrested for insulting the Prophet Mohammed in Pakistan, police said on Sunday, in a second high profile case throwing the spotlight on the country's controversial anti-blasphemy laws. Naushad Valiyani was detained on Friday following a complaint by a medical representative who visited the doctor in the city of Hyderabad. "The arrest was made after the complainant told the police that Valiyani threw his business card, which had his full name, Muhammad Faizan, in a dustbin during a visit to his clinic," regional police chief Mushtaq Shah told AFP.

"Faizan accused Valiyani of committing blasphemy and asked police to register a case against the doctor." Shah said the issue had been resolved after Valiyani, a member of Pakistan's Ismaili community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, apologized but local religious leaders intervened and pressed for action. "Valiyani had assured Faizan that he did not mean to insult the Prophet Mohammed by throwing the visiting card in the dustbin," Shah said, adding that the police had registered a case under the Blasphemy Act.

A Pakistani court last month sentenced to death Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five found guilty of blasphemy. Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after Muslim women claimed that she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. She was set upon by a mob, arrested by police and sentenced on November 8. The government attempted to pardon Bibi after an international outcry over the case, but a Pakistani court prevented it from granting her a swift pardon. She can be executed only if the Lahore high court upholds her sentence on appeal.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net]

12.12.10 Twin bombing in Stockholm a terrorist attack, say police

(AP) December 12 - Two bombs detonated in the central shopping district of Stockholm on Saturday, killing one man and injuring two others. Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the blasts were a failed terrorist attack that could have been "truly catastrophic." Two blasts that shook a busy shopping street in central Stockholm were an act of terrorism, officials said Sunday. If confirmed as a suicide bombing, it would be the first such attack in the Nordic country. Police would not comment on a motive for the attack Saturday that killed the apparent bomber and wounded two other people. But a Swedish news agency said it received an e-mail threat just before the blast in which the writer claimed to have visited the Middle East "for jihad," and referred to Sweden's soldiers in Afghanistan and a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad that outraged the Muslim world.

...In the incident that rattled normally peaceful Stockholm, a car exploded near the shop-lined pedestrian-only Drottninggatan street and burst into flames, causing panic among Christmas shoppers. Shortly afterward, there was a second explosion higher up on the same street. Freelance journalist Gabriel Gabiro heard the blast from a nearby store and said he saw a man lying on the ground with blood appearing to come from his abdomen. He told the AP that an orange bag and other belongings were scattered around the man, but he could not see if there had been explosives on the body. The car that exploded contained gas canisters, rescue workers said.
[Full story>>france24.com; See related stories,

guardian.co.uk, December 12, "Sweden suicide bomber believed to be British university graduate"
: Suicide bomber who blew himself up in Stockholm killing himself and wounding two is thought to be an Iraqi man. The suicide bomber who blew himself up yesterday is thought to be an Iraqi man who graduated from a British university. The owner of the car that exploded in central Stockholm last night was reported to be a 28-year-old man who lived in southern Sweden. His Facebook profile lists him as studying a BSc in sports therapy at the University of Bedfordshire in 2004...A Swedish news agency said it had received an email warning before the blasts in which a threat was made against Sweden's population, linked to the country's military presence in Afghanistan and the five-year-old case of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad by Swedish artist Lars Vilks. The TT agency said the email, which contained audio files in Swedish and Arabic, was also sent to Sweden's security police and was received 10 minutes before the blasts...

dailymail.co.uk, December 12, "Suicide bomber who died in Stockholm terrorist blasts studied at British university" :

...A Facebook page thought to belong to the 29-year-old indicated that he studied sports therapy at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton. He graduated in 2004. The man, named locally as Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly, had also posted numerous videos relating to the Iraq war, the war in Chechnya and the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. The Iraqi-born bomber first set his car on fire and then walked 200 metres before the explosives, believed to be in a backpack strapped to his body, detonated. Just minutes before, he had sent out an email to the police and a news agency warning of deadly reprisals for having Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan. He was the registered owner of the car that blew up and was believed to have worked on the street corner on which he died, carrying a sign advertising a local fish-and-chip restaurant. The man is also thought to have been active on Muslim contact sites, where he claimed to be looking for a second wife. In one message on the site Muslima.com, he says that he was born in Iraq and moved to Sweden in 1992. He said he had two daughters, one aged three and one under the age of two. He said he wanted to marry again and that his first wife had agreed to this.

His favorite pages on Facebook included 'Yawm al-Qiyaamah,' the Islamic 'Day of Resurrection.' And a picture posted on his page shows an apocalyptic scene with the world in flames. "In the future, am looking for to move to an arabic [sic] country and settle down there," he wrote. Investigators will be certain to investigate the man's connections with Luton, a town which has featured in numerous terror investigations in the past. A leaked British intelligence report from 2008 identified Luton as being home to one of the main concentrations of Islamic extremists in the country. The men behind the 7/7 bombings of London's public transport system in 2005 gathered in the town before heading into the British capital. The leader of the gang, Mohammed Sidique Khan, was in regular contact with a man in Luton known as "Q," who was funneling money and equipment to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Police currently believe his bomb may not have detonated properly and too early. They are keen to trace a man who was seen speaking to the suspect just minutes before his backpack exploded...

12.12.10 A secretive banking elite rules trading in derivatives

December 12 - On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan. The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential. Drawn from giants like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the bankers form a powerful committee that helps oversee trading in derivatives, instruments which, like insurance, are used to hedge risk. In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks. The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks’ influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer's home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City. This fall, many of Mr. Singer's customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher. But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices — and his customers’ prices — could be, he says, because banks don't disclose fees associated with the derivatives. "At the end of the day, I don't know if I got a fair price, or what they're charging me," Mr. Singer said.

12.12.10 Israel's leader does not want to share Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) December 12 - Israel's leader on Sunday dismissed a call from a key government partner to share the holy city of Jerusalem with the Palestinians, a reminder of the obstacles facing already troubled peacemaking efforts. Conflicting claims to east Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The dispute over the area, home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, has derailed past peace talks and spilled into violence. Palestinians claim the sector as the capital of their future state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reaffirmation of his intention to hold on to east Jerusalem drew criticism from the Palestinians and was likely to increase friction with the Americans. The White House Mideast envoy is scheduled to arrive this week in another attempt to push peace efforts forward. Netanyahu's defense minister, Ehud Barak of the centrist Labor Party, called for sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians. But a government official said Barak's idea does not reflect the government's view. The Palestinians want to establish their future state in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel later annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not recognized by the international community. [More>>foxnews.com]

Editorial note: "Legal status of Jerusalem — it belongs to the UN." When the United Nations created the state of Israel under UN Resolution 181 November 29, 1947, it also created a UN-governed "Corpus Separatum of Jerusalem." The states around Israel were also created by the League of Nations (later United Nations):

(From The Allah Controversy) : "With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the Middle East was divided into Mandate territories that were administered by the British and French (including Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Saudi Arabia). Originally a part of the British Mandate — under the oversight of the League of Nations — Transjordan (meaning, “across Jordan”) invaded and occupied the West Bank territories, culminating in the 1967 “Six Day War” between Israel and her Arab neighbors — who (Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia) also were created by international, Western accords (League of Nations) after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. We mention this because the original mandate territories were led by sheikhs that bargained with the West for their kingdoms. 

Kings placed in Iraq and Syria by the West were soon overthrown, replaced by the Assad family in Syria and eventually Saddam Hussein and his Bathist party in Iraq (the Bathists originated in Syria). King Abdullah of Transjordan gave up his claim to the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina) in exchange for the land of Transjordan. This allowed the West to install a sheikh from the center of Arabia, known as King Saud, as king over all of Arabia, including the Hijaz, Mecca and Medina. Saud had been highly instrumental in assisting the West against the Turks in World War I. Still holding onto the title of the Hashimite sheikhs (Sharifs) of Mecca and Medina, the kings of Jordan call their state “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan."

The kings of Jordan are the most direct descendants of Mohammed. As such their influence in the world of Islam takes on another dimension. After the “Six-Day War of June 1967, Israel gained possession of the West Bank territory, East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. However, the king of Jordan retained control of Jerusalem's Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock mosque is located. It is still administered by a group called the Waqf, an endowment of the Jordan government. Recent conflicts over the Temple Mount have occurred by teachings of Hamas scholars warning of the imminent destruction of the mosques on the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock, together with the Al-Aqsa mosque, comprise an Islamic holy place called the al-Haram ash-Sharif or “Sacred Noble Sanctuary.”  The name “Temple Mount” comes from the Jewish first and second temples (of King Solomon, 1000 B.C. rebuilt by King Herod and destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus)..."

Of interest is the fact that the Declaration of Independence of Israel in May 1948 — approved by the United Nations says, "...THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations..."

It's not practical to try to establish ownership of Jerusalem by stepping further back into time, since one will find that Jerusalem has been conquered and possessed by most of the empires in history, including the Roman, Greek, Persian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian. In the midst of empires the patriarch of the Jews, Abraham, settled in the area, the sons of Abraham migrated into Egypt, were enslaved, and later released to go back to the Holy Land about 1,200 B.C (under Pharaoh Ramesses II?). Then King David and his son Solomon reigned over a large Empire about 1,000 B.C. And at that time, under King Solomon, the 1st Temple of Jerusalem was built. Then the Assyrian king Sennacherib captured Jerusalem (701 B.C.); then the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C., destroying the 1st Temple in 586 B.C.

Then the Persians occupied Jerusalem and in his first year as king, King Cyrus restored the Jews to Jerusalem, led by their governor Zerubbabel (538 B.C.) who began building the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem. This temple was destroyed during the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus in 70 A.D. After this the Jews were sent into exile, called the Diaspora. This lasted until they were "redeemed" to their land in 1947 / 1948. Old Testament scriptures say that at the time of the redemption the Messiah (Greek Christ) will enter the Holy Mount and rebuild the temple. Jews and Muslims believe that the Messiah will tear down the Dome of the Rock mosque to rebuild the 2nd Temple, expanded by King Herod. Fearing the coming of the Messiah, the Ottoman Sultan Sulieman II sealed up the main gate to the Temple Mount called the Golden Gate (1541 A.D.) to prevent the "Jewish Messiah" from entering the mount. That gate remains sealed.

Mel Copeland

12.12.10 Afghan NATO attack: 'Six US soldiers' die near Kandahar

December 12 - Six US soldiers have been killed in an attack near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, military sources say. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said earlier six of its troops had been killed, but did not provide their nationalities. A senior Afghan army officer told the BBC a suicide car bomber had targeted a checkpoint outside a base manned by Afghan and US troops in Zari district. It is at the heart of a months-long NATO offensive against the Taliban. Fighting has intensified in the south of the country as US troops have tried to push Taliban militants out of their strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. American commanders there are confident that they have been making progress in and around Kandahar, says the BBC's Paul Wood in southern Afghanistan, but clearly the Taliban are still present in the area. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also

thenews.com.pk, December 12, "Six soldiers die in insurgent attack"
: ...The attack took to 692 the number of foreign soldiers killed so far in 2010. It is by far the bloodiest year in the nine-year war for the alliance, which lost 521 service members in Afghanistan in 2009. The largely Pashtun south of the country is the Taliban's heartland where 15 civilians, including children, were killed Saturday in a roadside bomb the insurgents' cheaply-made weapon of choice that claims most lives in the war.

12.12.10 Iraqi officials say 17 killed in suicide bombing

BAGHDAD (AP) December 12 - A suicide bomber blew up his car Sunday outside government offices west of the Iraqi capital, killing 17 people, including women and elderly people waiting to collect welfare checks, officials said. Six police officers were among the dead in the latest strike on the provincial council compound in the Anbar province capital of Ramadi, police and hospital officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. At least 23 people were wounded in Sunday's attack on the compound, which has been a favorite target for insurgents in the past.

...Obeid said a traffic jam kept the suicide bomber from driving his explosives-laden car to the front gate. Eyewitnesses said the vehicle exploded about 200 meters (yards) from the compound, creating a crater several meters wide. Officials immediately blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for the attack in Anbar, a former stronghold of al-Qaeda militants and Sunni insurgents that stretches just west of Baghdad to Iraq's borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Police found a second bomb in a nearby parking lot a few minutes later, but said they safely disposed of it. The compound in Ramadi, which is 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, also houses the Anbar police headquarters and the governor's office.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.12.10 Deadly wage protests in Bangladesh

December 12 - At least three people killed as thousands of garment workers clash with police during demonstrations over low wages. A protest over low wages in Bangladesh's garment industry has left at least three people dead and dozens of others injured in clashes with police in several major cities including the capital, Dhaka. The garment workers, who make clothes for many popular Western brands, were angered over a delay in the implementation of a government rise in wages due last month. The revised pay structure took effect in November, but workers say many factories have not yet implemented the measure, which has led to continuing protests in recent months. The new wage of at least $45 a month represents an 80 percent increase on the existing minimum wage, and is the first since 2006.

Reza Al Hasan, a police official, said tear gas and rubber bullets were fired into the crowd during the demonstrations after thousands of workers attacked factories and smashed vehicles at the Chittagong Export Processing Zone on Sunday. In Dhaka, about 4,000 mainly female workers torched two vehicles and blocked a main road in protest against employers, accusing them of not implementing the wage increase. Clashes were also reported in the city of Chittagong, to Dhaka's southeast, and Rupganj in the northeast. "Three people have died, including a rickshaw driver who died on the spot after he was hit by a brick," Meshbahuddin, the special branch police chief in Chittagong, told the AFP news agency.


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