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Definition of fatwa (fatwah)
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August 1996

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Historical map of Israel. Figure 2 shows the area allocated to
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Relevant Works by Mel

The Romance of Anais, an Arthurian-style tale written 1996 describing how Bush got us in the mess in Iraq with a short commentary on the
Chang-an cheat
Tapestry of One – on the creed of Buddha,
Duty & Profit, Nov. 1994
Against Leviathan, Jan. 1993
Immoral Coercion, Dec. 1994
Philistia Triumph thou
because of me
, Dec. 1993
Quest for Human Dignity, July 1994
What Price Justice? Sept. 1992
The Allah Controversy March 2010

News Headlines & Trends

12.31.10 December 2010 the coldest in 120 years

December 31 - December 2010 was the coldest December in 120 years with average temperatures of -0.6C, say meteorologists. The month was marred by heavy snowfall and travel disruption across much of the country. According to the Central England Temperature, which is used as a benchmark, the average temperature in December was -0.6C the lowest since 1890. The temperature fell below -18C somewhere in the UK on 10 nights during the month. According to the figures, the coldest temperature was recorded in Altnaharra in Sutherland on December 1 when the mercury plunged to -21.1C. [More>>news.sky.com]

12.31.10 Afghan officials say Taliban commander killed

KABUL (AP) December 31 - Afghan and coalition troops killed the Taliban "shadow governor" of a northern Afghan province in an overnight raid, local officials said Friday, while NATO said insurgents attacks claimed the lives of two coalition service members. Once relatively peaceful, security in northern Afghanistan has deteriorated as the Taliban, squeezed by NATO operations focusing on militant strongholds in the south, have expanded their reach to other parts of the country. NATO said a joint force stormed a compound in the Chahar Dara district of Kunduz province before dawn, killing an insurgent and detaining several suspects in an operation targeting a high-level Taliban leader believed to make roadside bombs and suicide vests. The coalition said it had not yet identified the slain militant.

But district chief Abdul Wahid Omarkhel and the Kunduz governor's spokesman, Mabobullah Sayedi, said the operation killed Maulvi Bahadar, who has been the Taliban's acting shadow governor for Kunduz for several months. They said another four suspects had been arrested. The Taliban have set up so-called shadow governors in many provinces, claiming to be the legitimate authority in the area. Afghan forces also conducted a separate overnight raid in two compounds in the neighboring province of Tahar, killing a Taliban district chief in a gunfight that also left an Afghan policeman and a border guard dead, said Gen. Shah Jahan Noori, provincial chief of police. Noori identified the slain insurgent as Sheikh Ahmadullah, who he said headed the Taliban in the Khwaja Bahawuddin district and was responsible for organizing roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

12.31.10 Danish attack plot suspect linked to Islam

(AFP) December 31 - One of five men held over a foiled plot to massacre staff at a Danish newspaper had twice been arrested abroad suspected of terror links, the foreign ministry and media say. Munir Awad, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, had publicly thanked the Swedish secret service, Saepo, for obtaining his release from Somalia where he was detained three years ago. "We know Saepo brought us home and we are very grateful," he told a newspaper at the time. Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Anders Joerle today confirmed the previous arrests and that Sweden had intervened on Awad's behalf. "Awad was arrested in Somalia by Ethiopian troops. That was in 2007. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2009," foreign ministry spokesman Anders Joerle said. [More>>news.com.au; See related story,

alarabiya.net (AFP) December 31, "Denmaark minister probes banning Islamist party"
: COOPENHAGEN - Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said Thursday he had asked the attorney general to examine whether it was legally possible to dissolve the Danish branch of an international Islamist party. "I am now asking the attorney general to reconsider whether it is possible to bring a case to trial to dissolve Hizb-ut-Tahrir," Barfoed told the Ritzau news agency, speaking of a pan-Islamist group whose goal is to establish a global Islamic caliphate. When contacted by AFP, his spokesman Emil Melchior confirmed the information, saying the minister made his request following an invitation sent out by Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) Tuesday to a meeting in Copenhagen. The invitation reportedly hailed armed battle against Danish soldiers in Afghanistan, and portrayed pictures of coffins draped with Danish, Swedish and Norwegian flags on a map of the war-torn country...

12.31.10 US missiles kill 8 in northwest Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) December 31 - A US missile strike killed eight alleged militants in northwest Pakistan on the final day of a year that has seen a major escalation in drone attacks targeting insurgents flowing into neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officials said. Four missiles struck a convoy of militants travelling by car and on foot near the town of Ghulam Khan in the North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border, the two officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media. Ghulam Khan is known to be dominated by fighters from a militant group headed by Maulvi Gul Bahadur. It was the third day this week of missile attacks on the North Waziristan tribal region, part of a ramped-up US campaign to take out al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters seeking sanctuary outside Afghanistan. More than 110 such missile strikes have been launched this year - more than double last year's total. Nearly all have hit North Waziristan, a region that hosts several militant groups battling US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, including the feared Haqqani network. [>news.com.au]

12.31.10 Nigeria arrests 92 over sect attack

KANO, Nigeria, December 31 - Police have arrested 92 suspected members of a radical Islamist sect in raids after a series of attacks that killed eight people in northern Maiduguri city, a police chief said Thursday. "We have arrested 92 suspected members of the sect in raids we carried out on many parts of the city Wednesday through Thursday in connection with yesterday's attacks, including a man in his 70s we believe is the sect's major financier," Borno state police commissioner Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar told media on the phone from Maiduguri. Eight people including three policemen were killed in five separate attacks by gunmen suspected of being Boko Haram members in the city late Wednesday, military and police officials said. Policemen raided the house of the sect's alleged bankroller where materials linking him to the sect were found. The materials found included chemicals used in bomb making, audiotapes of the late sect leader's preaching and machetes, Abubakar said. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

12.31.10 Two Christians killed in Baghdad attacks

BAGHDAD (AFP) December 31 - At least two Christians were killed and nine wounded in a string of six attacks on Christian homes in Baghdad on Thursday, an interior ministry official said. The worst incident was in the central district of Al-Ghadir, where a homemade bomb exploded around 8:00pm (1700 GMT), killing the two Christians and wounding three others, including one Christian, the official said. The attacks started at 7:30pm and continued over two hours in six different parts of the capital as the Christian community still reels from a massacre at a Baghdad cathedral on October 31 in which 44 worshippers and two priests died. Al-Ghadir is an area with a significant Christian population, though many have fled following the massacre and in light of threats by al-Qaeda to target them.

Other blasts, also from homemade bombs, injured another nine Christians. Two bombs exploded in west Baghdad, one in the garden of a home in Yarmuk, where one person was hurt, and another in Khadra, wounding two Christians. Another was hurt in an explosion in the Karrada district, which is where the cathedral is located. And in south Baghdad, three Christians were hurt in explosions in Dora and two in Saidiya. A pall of gloom has descended on Iraq's badly battered Christian community since gunmen burst into Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad and began firing on worshippers.
[More>>khaleejtimes.com; See also

alarabiya.net, December 31, "Two killed in attacks on Baghdad Christians"
: A total of 14 bombs were set against different Christian homes in Baghdad late on Thursday, with 10 going off and killing two Christians and wounding 16 others, an interior ministry official said Friday...

12.29.10 Five arrested over terror plot targeting Danish newspaper

December 29 - Authorities arrested four men in Denmark and another was apprehended in Sweden yesterday over a terror plot targeting the Danish daily newspaper which published controversial photos of the prophet Muhammad in 2005. The arrests followed a prolonged investigation into the plot targeting the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, conducted by Danish authorities with cooperation from Swedish police. "These arrests have successfully stopped an imminent terror attack, where several of the suspects ... were going to force their way into the [building which houses the Jyllands-Posten newspaper] in Copenhagen and kill as many people as possible," the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) head Jacob Scharf said in a statement. In September 2005, Jyllands-Posten published several cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

Islamic extremists condemned the publication of the cartoons, arguing that they were an insult to Islam. Among those arrested Wednesday was a 44-year-old Tunisian national, a 29-year-old Swedish citizen born in Lebanon and a 30-year-old Swedish citizen whose origin is unknown. The fourth person arrested in Denmark was an Iraqi asylum seeker, believed to be aged about 26 years. Meanwhile, Swedish security police (SAPO) in Stockholm arrested a 37-year-old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin...Scharf said that the suspects could be described as "Islamic militants" with links to international terror networks. The men were due to face a custody hearing today. Yesterday's arrests came just weeks after a terror attack in Stockholm on December 11, when an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen, Taimour Abdulwahab al Abdaly, blew himself up and injured two people.
[Full story>>news.com.au; See other details,

france24.com, December 29, "Police foil plot against Mohammad cartoon newspaper"
: ...Denmark's PET security police said the suspects had planned to enter a Copenhagen office block housing several newspapers including offices of the daily Jyllands-Posten to "kill as many as possible of those around." Police found a machine gun with a silencer, ammunition and plastic strips that could be used as handcuffs, PET said. It did not say where the items had been seized. "On the basis of the investigation, it is the PET's assessment that the detainees were preparing a terror attack against a newspaper, which according to the PET's information was Jyllands-Posten," it said. "It is likewise the PET's view that the attack was due to be carried out in the coming days."...

Related story,

alarabiya.net, December 29, "Syria encouraged anti-cartoon protest: US cables" :
LONDON- PM gave instructions for Friday sermons, cable says. Syria actively encouraged violent protests over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad four years ago in which European embassies in Damascus were attacked, a senior US diplomat said in leaked cables. Charge d'affaires Stephen Seche said Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari gave instructions for mosque preachers to deliver hard-hitting sermons at weekly prayers on the eve of the protests, according to cables released by the WikiLeaks website. "We concur with contacts that the SARG (Syrian government) allowed these demonstrations to occur and almost certainly helped to facilitate them at the beginning," Seche said in a leaked US cable dated Feb. 5, 2006, a day after the protests...Another cable quoted an influential religious figure saying that days before the protests Otari "instructed the Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassoun to issue a strongly worded directive to the imams delivering Friday sermons in the mosques of Damascus, without setting any ceilings on the type of language to be used."...

12.29.10 Triple suicide bombing hits Mosul

December 29 - Attack targets police chief involved in anti-al Qaeda operations in Iraq, kills four. Three suicide bombers have attacked a police headquarters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing the commander and three other officers. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said three men with explosive vests attempted to blow up a police compound housing Iraq's First Police Battalion on Wednesday. Police shot one of the bombers as the three approached the complex in the early morning attack. Two managed to get inside and blow themselves up, killing Lt.. Col Shamil Ahmed Oglah, the battalion's commander. A hospital official confirmed the fatality, but there was no word on the injured. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Baghdad, said that the attack "brought down, essentially, the entire building."

"This happened in the early hours of this morning and until now, rescue teams are still trying to pull bodies and survivors from under the rubble.," she said. "We understand that in addition to the police commander, at least three other police officers were killed." Militants had tried to kill Lt. Col Ahmed several times in the past, security official Abdul-Raheem al-Shemari told the AP news agency. The al-Qaeda-linked 'Islamic State of Iraq' group has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, the AP news agency reported.

"The attack was carried out by al-Qaeda members because the lieutenant colonel coordinated an operation against al-Qaeda in the last week," a police officer told the AFP news agency. In a separate incident on Wednesday, five civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi police patrol in eastern Baghdad, police and hospital officials told AP. Finally, a government-backed Sahwa (Awakening movement) leader escaped unharmed when a bomb attached to his car exploded in Baghdad's southern Doura district on Tuesday, an interior ministry source said.

12.28.10 Where are the jobs? For many companies, overseas

(AP) December 28 - Economic Policy Institute says 1.4M jobs created overseas by US companies, compared to 1M domestically. Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn't anyone hiring? Actually, many American companies are just maybe not in your town. They're hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat. More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the US UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically. The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8 percent last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4 percent of the top 500 US corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown. But the jobs are going elsewhere. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the US unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, says Robert Scott, the institute's senior international economist. [More>>cbsnews.com]

12.28.10 US home prices drop 1.3% from September to October

December 28 - Home prices fell in the nation's major metropolitan areas from September to October, with six regions hitting new lows, and they're not expected to rebound anytime soon. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, long considered a reliable gauge of the housing market's health, reported Tuesday that prices of single-family homes dropped 1.3 percent in all 20 regions it tracks. The housing market's collapse crippled the economy, and a recovery in home prices is considered critical to getting the market back on track. But many economists predict that home prices will continue to fall into the new year and possibly beyond. Prices in Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Portland (Ore.), Seattle and Tampa fell to their lowest levels since home prices began deteriorating in 2006 and 2007, the index shows. The steepest drops took place in Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago, where prices declined 2.9 percent, 2.5 percent and 2 percent, respectively. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

12.28.10 World's oldest human remains claimed in Israel

(AFP) December 28 - Israeli archaeologists have discovered human remains dating from 400,000 years ago, challenging conventional wisdom that Homo sapiens originated in Africa, the leader of excavations in Israel said on Tuesday. Avi Gopher, of Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology, said testing of stalagmites, stalactites and other material found in a cave east of Tel Aviv indicates that eight teeth uncovered there could be the earliest traces so far of our species. "Our cave was used for a period of about 250,000 years — from about 400,000 years ago to about 200,000 years ago," he told AFP.

"The teeth are scattered through the layers of the cave, some in the deeper part, that is to say from 400,000 years and through all kinds of other layers that can be up to 200,000 years. The oldest are 400,000 years old," he added. That calls into question the widely held view that Africa was the birthplace of modern man, said Gopher, who headed the dig at Qesem Cave. "It is accepted at the moment that the earliest Homo sapiens that we know is in east Africa and is 200,000 years old, or a little less. We don't know of anywhere else where anyone claims to have an earlier Homo sapiens," he said.

12.28.10 Three suspected US strikes kill 17 in Pakistan

PESHAWAR (AP) December 28 - Three suspected US missile strikes targeting a militant-riddled tribal region near the Afghan border killed 17 people Tuesday, including at least two who were retrieving bodies from the first attack, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The strikes come in the final days of a year that has seen an unprecedented number of such drone-fired attacks as part of a ramped-up US campaign to take out al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters seeking sanctuary outside Afghanistan. Around 115 missile strikes have been launched this year — more than doubling last year's total. Nearly all have landed in North Waziristan, a region that hosts several militant groups battling US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, including the feared Haqqani network.

The first strike Tuesday hit a house in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan, killing six, the Pakistani intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The officials did not know the identities of those killed but said they were militants. About three hours later, as people went to the site to pick up the bodies, more missiles hit the same spot. The intelligence officials said civilians may have been among those killed in the second strike. Later in the day, nine militants were killed when six missiles hit their vehicles as they traveled in the Ghulam Khan area, the officials said. The dead were believed to be insurgents with the Haqqani network, which is considered one of the top threats to US forces in Afghanistan.

12.28.10 Egypt Islamist group slams reformist killing fatwa

CAIRO, December 28 - ElBaradei's civil disobedience against Islam: cleric. Egypt's Islamist group Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhammadiyah Society issued a statement condemning an earlier fatwa issued by one of its members and which sanctioned the killing of opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei for his calls of civil disobedience. The official website of Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhammadiyah Society posted Monday a statement absolving itself of the fatwa issued by Sheikh Mohammed Lotfi Amer, head of the society's branch in the Nile Delta, and which sanctions the killing of former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ElBardei for leading an anti-government initiative in Egypt.

According to Amer, ElBaradei's calls for changing the constitution and his establishment of the National Assembly for Change to promote democratic reform incite Egyptians to rebel and disobey their ruler. These acts of civil disobedience, he argues, are against the principles of Islam which dictates the necessity of obeying the ruler...In its online statement, Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhammadiyah Society stressed..."This fatwa contradicts the society's mission. We do not declare people apostates and we do not sanction the killing of anyone," said the statement.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net]

12.28.10 No police in Mexico town after last officer kidnapped

December 28 - The Mexican border town of Guadalupe has been left with no police force after the last officer was kidnapped. Erika Gandara's house was set on fire by unidentified gunmen before she was abducted last week, according to the state prosecutor's office. All her colleagues had resigned or were killed in the region's drug war. More than 30,000 people have died in drug-related violence since 2006 when the President announced a crackdown on the cartels. Ms. Gandara, 28, had patrolled the town of 9,000 inhabitants on her own since June. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

12.27.10 Twin suicide bombings kill 17 in Iraq's Ramadi

RAMADI (Reuters) December 27 - Twin suicide bombings rocked a government compound in Iraq's western city of Ramadi on Monday, killing 17 people, a deputy interior minister said. It was the second attack this month on the compound, which houses the provincial council and the police headquarters for Anbar province, and the third bombing there in the past year. "The death toll is 17 killed and between 50 and 60 wounded," Lieutenant General Hussein Kamal, a deputy interior minister, told Reuters. Anbar Governor Qassim Mohammed said the first blast happened when a minibus exploded outside the compound and the second was caused by a suicide bomber on foot, disguised as a policeman. [More>>thestar.com.my]

12.27.10 Taliban kidnap 23 Pakistanis in show of strength

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) December 27 - Intelligence officials and tribal elders say the Pakistani Taliban have kidnapped 23 tribesmen who recently met the army chief. Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq says the abductions are a warning to civilians that the militants are still strong in South Waziristan, despite an ongoing military offensive. The abductees were part of a group that welcomed army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to South Waziristan Dec. 7. Intelligence officials say the militants lured the victims to a town bordering North Waziristan and then kidnapped them. The abductions could undermine Pakistan's efforts to convince displaced South Waziristan residents that it's safe to go home. The intelligence officials requested anonymity in line with their agency's policy. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

12.27.10 Jordan clears 83,000 mines on Syrai border

AMMAN, Jordan (AFP) December 27 - Jordan has destroyed 83,000 out of 136,000 landmines it laid along the border with Syria in the 1970s, an official said on Monday. "The kingdom removed 83,000 landmines on the Jordanian-Syrian border under a project that started in 2008," said Mohammed Breikat, head of the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation. "The project, conducted by the Norwegian People's Aid under the supervision of the NCDR, aims at clearing 10 kilometers (3.8 square miles) of land or 93 minefields," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Petra news agency. "The land can be used for agriculture and investment." Breikat said more than 200 people were working on the project, as he announced Japan had donated his organization 357,000 dollars to clear the anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Jordan began clearing minefields as early as 1993, one year before it signed a peace treaty with Israel. The desert kingdom then had more than 300,000 landmines strewn across its territory, most of them in the Jordan Valley next to Israel, and also near its eastern border with Iraq and northern border with Syria. Most of the mines were laid during successive Israeli-Arab conflicts. [>khaleejtimes.com]

12.27.10 Pakistan drone attack kills 18 militants

December 27 - Missiles fired by a suspected US drone have struck a vehicle in north-west Pakistan killing at least 18 militants, officials say. The strike took place in Mir Ali village, 25km (16 miles) from Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan district. US drone attacks are fairly regular in North and South Waziristan which are Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds. More than 100 such attacks occurred in 2010, most of them in North Waziristan. Officials told the BBC that the first drone fired two missiles at a vehicle, missing it narrowly. It was joined by two more drones that fired six missiles, killing the four men who had abandoned the vehicle. All four were foreign militants, officials say. Several minutes later, a group of 14 militants from the group led by Hakimullah Mehsud were killed when a vehicle taking them to the site of the earlier attack was hit by missiles from another drone, they said. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also

aljazeera.net, December 27, "'Fighters dead' in Pakistan attack"
: Suspected US missiles have struck two vehicles in a Taliban stronghold on Pakistan's side of the border with Afghanistan, killing 18 alleged fighters. Pakistani intelligence officials said the missiles struck the vehicles in the Shera Tala village of the North Waziristan tribal region on Monday. Shera Tala lies in Mir Ali district, where fighters are heavily concentrated. The exact identities of the 18 dead were not immediately certain. The vehicles were apparently leaving a compound, and one was carrying a large load of ammunition, magnifying the blasts from the missile attacks, the intelligence officials said...

12.27.10 Seven men jailed over terrorist plot

(AFP) December 27 - An Indonesian court has sentenced seven men involved in a terror cell known as al-Qaeda in Aceh, which plotted to kill Westerners, to jail terms of up to eight years. The court heard that the group, which was believed to be training to carry out Mumbai-style attacks by small groups of suicide gunmen, had also targeted political figures in the capital Jakarta. Two men involved in a shooting that wounded German Red Cross staffer Erhard Bauer in Aceh last year, received the stiffest punishment of eight years in jail. The two, Andri Marlan Syahputra and Chairul Fuadi, were also found guilty of taking part in a shooting of a house rented by two US student teachers and a grenade attack at the United Nations office in the provincial capital. [More>>news.com.au]

12.27.10 Terror plot: Nine men remanded in custody

December 27 - Nine men have been remanded in custody charged with planning a pre-Christmas terror attack on significant targets in the UK. The suspects appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in three groups after they were arrested in a series of dawn raids last week. Among the men were Gurukanth Desai, 28, Omar Sharif Latif, 26, and Abdul Malik Miah, 24, from Cardiff, and Mohammed Moksudur Rahman Chowdhury, 20, and Shah Mohammed Lutfar Rahman, 28, from London. Nazam Hussain, 25, Usman Khan, 19, Mohibur Rahman, 26, and Abul Bosher Mohammed Shahjahan, 26, all from Stoke-on-Trent, were also remanded in custody. They will next appear at the Old Bailey on January 14.

The nine men are accused of conspiring to cause an explosion or explosions "of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in UK" between November 6 and December 21 this year. Sky correspondent Paul Harrison said from outside the court: "The charges amount to a pre-Christmas attack on significant British targets." The suspects are also charged with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism between November 6 and December 21. The allegations include downloading and researching materials and methods, carrying out reconnaissance and agreeing [on] potential targets, and igniting and testing incendiary material.

12.27.10 Obama must convert or face attacks: Somalia's Shabab

MOGADISHU, Somalia, December 27 - Somalia Islamists merger will help oust infidels: Leader. A leader of Somalia's Islamist insurgency has threatened to attack America if President Barack Obama does not convert to Islam. Fuad Mohamed "Shongole" Qalaf said in Monday's radio message that President Obama must convert to Islam or Somalia's al-Shabab militia would seek to launch attacks in the United States. Al-Shabab has not yet launched an attack outside Africa but Western intelligence has long been worried because the group targeted young Somali-Americans for recruitment. About 20 have traveled to Somalia for training.

The militia launched coordinated suicide attacks in Uganda in July that killed 76 people. It has also announced its allegiance to al-Qaeda and is believed to be harboring a mastermind of the twin 2008 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. Meanwhile, the leader of a Somali Islamist group which joined forces with al-Shabab rebels has said the merger would help oust "infidel" invaders. Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, the head of the Hezb al-Islam movement, on Sunday said the move would boost their drive against the African Union forces protecting the Western-backed government they are fighting to topple. "The reason we have joined forces is to strengthen our powers and to continue to strongly fight the infidels who have invaded our country," said Aweys. "We have been waiting this unity for so long and thanks to Allah for finally helping us succeed to be a unified mujahideen force." Aweys did not attend celebrations Thursday in a Mogadishu mosque to mark the unification of the two Islamist groups.
[>alarabiya.net; See other details, foxnews.com, December 27, "Somali insurgents: Obama must convert to Islam or attacks on US will come."]

12.27.10 Another mail bomb found at embassy in Rome

ROME, December 27 - Bomb is defused with no one hurt Monday, four days after similar package bombs inured two at two other embassies there. A package bomb was found at the Greek Embassy in Rome on Monday, four days after similar mail bombs exploded at two other embassies injuring two people. The device was defused and no one was injured. Carabinieri Col. Maurizio Mezzavilla said the bomb was similar to the ones that exploded Thursday at the Chilean and Swiss embassies. An anarchist group with reported ties to Greek anarchists claimed responsibility for those blasts. Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregoris Delavekouras said from Athens that no one was harmed in the latest incident, in part because heightened security measures had already been put in place. [More>>cbsnews.com]

12.27.10 Man makes a living suing email spammers

(AP) December 27 - Daniel Balsam hates spam. Most everybody does, of course. But he has acted on his hate as few have, going far beyond simply hitting the delete button. He sues them. Eight years ago, Balsam was working as a marketer when he received one too many email pitches to enlarge his breasts. Enraged, he launched a Web site called Danhatesspam.com, quit a career in marketing to go to law school and is making a decent living suing companies who flood his email inboxes with offers of cheap drugs, free sex and unbelievable vacations. "I feel like I'm doing a little bit of good cleaning up the Internet," Balsam said. From San Francisco Superior Court small claims court to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, Balsam, based in San Francisco, has filed many lawsuits, including dozens before he graduated law school in 2008, against email marketers he says violate anti-spamming laws. His many victories are mere rain drops in the ocean considering that Cisco Systems Inc. estimates that there are 200 billion spam messages circulating a day, accounting for 90 percent of all email. [More>>foxnews.com]

12.27.10 Solar-powered plane breaks world record

December 27 - A solar-powered pilotless plane which was built in the UK has been recognized as having smashed the world record for the longest time spent in the air by an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV), after staying aloft for two weeks. The record-breaking flight took place in July over the US and has now been ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), which governs air sports records. The 50kg craft remained airborne for 14 days, 22 minutes and 8 seconds 11 times longer than the previous record. Potential uses for the aircraft, which is built by defence technology company Qinetiq, include the long-distance tracking of hijacked ships and aerial monitoring of forest fires. Chris Kelleher, chief designer, said: "This aircraft can help track pirates off the Horn of Africa and also ensure that soldiers' communications remain unaffected when fighting in mountainous or hilly terrain." Solar panels power the aircraft and charge lithium batteries which keep it flying at night. [>independent.co.uk; See more details, qinetiq.com, December 26, "Record breaking Zephyr offers 24/7 cost effective military surveillance and communications."]

12.26.10 Pope condemns Christmas attacks on churches

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) December 26 - Pope Benedict condemned Christmas Day attacks on churches in Nigeria and the Philippines as absurd violence before playing host to hundreds of Rome's poor for a meal inside the Vatican on Sunday. The pope, speaking from his window to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square, said he was saddened by the attacks in the two countries as well as by as a suicide attack in Pakistan. "I want to express my heartfelt sorrow for the victims of these absurd acts of violence and once more repeat an appeal to abandon the path of hate and seek instead peaceful solutions to conflicts ...," he said.

Six people died in attacks on two Christian churches in the northeast of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, and six people were injured by a bomb in a Roman Catholic Church on the island of Jolo in the Philippines. Later on Sunday, in the atrium of the hall where he holds his general audience, he ate lunch with several hundred poor people, many from shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Fresh clashes broke out between Christians and Muslims in the Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday. Buildings were set ablaze and people were seen running for cover as the police and military arrived on the scene in an effort to disperse crowds. In a peace message issued on Dec. 16, the pope said Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world today and that it was unacceptable that in some places they had to risk their lives to practise their faith. At least 40 people waiting to receive aid were killed by a suicide bomber in Peshawar, Pakistan, also on Christmas Day.
[>thestar.com.my; See related stories,

kahleejtimes.com, December 26, "Pakistan suicide bomber was woman in burqa" : ISLAMABAD - A woman covered in a head-to-foot burqa carried out a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 people in Pakistan, government officials said on Sunday, adding to security challenges confronting the US ally. Any increased use of women as bombers may complicate efforts by Pakistani security forces to stem a spreading wave of Islamist suicide attacks because it is harder to spot and search burqa-clad attackers in conservative tribal society. Saturday’s bombing illustrated the resilient ability of militants to stage attacks despite army offensives against them. The woman blew herself amid a crowd of men, women and children heading towards a food distribution centre of the World Food Programme in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border...

cbsnews.com, December 26, "After attack, Pakistan confronts challenge of Burqa-clad bombers" : ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's security officials on Sunday were reviewing security arrangements across the country to protect against an unexpected but growing challenge - the powerful reality of burqa-clad suicide bombers. On Saturday, a suicide bomber wearing a burqa killed at least 45 people in an attack targeting a food distribution outlet in Pakistan's embattled tribal region, near the Afghan border. The confirmation marks the first time that Islamic militants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region are known to have sent a veiled woman to carry out a suicide attack.

Part of the confusion was caused due to recent attempts by men belonging to the Taliban or al-Qaeda who were found to have attempted to carry out attacks while wearing a burqa
an apparent attempt to avoid closer scrutiny by the police and intelligence services, predominantly run by men across Pakistan. The official who spoke to CBS News on Sunday specifically noted the recent case of a bearded man clad in a burqa, belonging to 'Lashkar-e-Jhangvi'-a militant group with ties to al-Qaeda, who was arrested from the city of Lahore on December 17 "with explosives which he was carrying in a bag."

Pakistani investigators have concluded that the man arrested from Lahore was sent to attack a procession of 'Shia' Muslims who were out in large numbers of processions across Pakistan on that day, commemorating the 7th century death of Imam Hussain, prophet Muhammad's grandson, and 72 of his followers, who were massacred in Karbala, southern Iraq. The Taliban and al-Qaeda, known to be followers of the hardline wahhabi 'Sunni' faith, which emerged from Saudi Arabia, are known to be strong opponents of Shia Muslims. The arrest on December 17 appears to have taken place unexpectedly when a policeman noticed what was only mentioned by the Pakistani official to CBS News as "very strange behavior" of the burqa clad militant...

abcnews.go.com (AP) December 26, Thousands fear hunder after Pakistan bombing" :
Thousands of poor villagers fear hunger after Pakistan suicide bombing ends food relief. Some 300,000 desperately poor villagers impoverished by fighting in Pakistan's tribal belt are scrambling to feed themselves after a female suicide bomber killed 45 people outside a World Food Program food distribution center, triggering a district wide suspension of the relief project. Pakistan says the attack is a sign of insurgent desperation, but the bombing and ongoing battles challenge Islamabad's claims of victory over al-Qaeda and the Taliban in this part of the porous northwest border...

xinhuanet.com, December 26, "At least one killed in new clashes in central Niberia" : JOS, Nigeria - New religious clashes broke out on Sunday in central Nigerian city of Jos, killing at least one person and burning down a number of houses, media report quoted local police as saying. The new clashes between Christian and Muslim groups came after three blasts rocked Nigeria's restive Jos city on Christmas eve. The police in Nigeria's central north Plateau State has confirmed the killing of 32 people after the blasts rocked Nigeria's restive Jos city. State police commissioner Abdelrahman Akano told reporters in Jos, the state capital, on Saturday that 74 others were seriously injured and are receiving treatment at various hospitals in the state.

Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika has said the Christmas Eve's multiple explosions in central north Plateau State is an act of terrorism. The blasts came one week after a Nigerian court sentenced 15 persons to 10 years each in prison for involvement of the violent crisis in Jos in March. Jos was plunged in a pool of blood on March 7, when members of local Muslim and Christian communities fought each other in revenge for previous killings. Police said 109 people were slain in the March 7 tragedy, mostly women and children, weeks after more died in waves of sectarian violence in the region. [end]

newsinfo.inquirer.net, December 26, "Church grieves over chapel bombin in Sulu"
: Manila - The Catholic Church in Sulu expressed grief, on Sunday, over the bombing that marred a Christmas Day Mass at a chapel in the province, and wondered why it was attacked when it had done nothing wrong against any group in the area. Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo Bishop Angelito Lampon said that Christians and Muslims in the area have been living in harmony but there could be some who might be insulted by the Church's charity work for its Muslim neighbors. "There are a few whose views are very fundamental and do not understand what we do, which is actually to help," said Lampon over the Church-run Radio Veritas. Lampon said the Church has led the building of some 3,000 homes and a number of schools for its Muslim neighbors.

Two days before Christmas, the Church also spearheaded a gift-giving program to disabled Muslims. "We do this because we want to help... but some may deem these actions as an insult to them," said Lampon. "I think for them these may be a sign of permanency of the Christian presence." Ninety-seven percent of the residents in Jolo are Muslim, he pointed out. But the prelate added that he really had no idea what could have been the motive behind the bombing that tore the ceiling of the Evangelical chapel on Asturias Street on Jolo Island. The blast wounded a priest and at least 10 churchgoers. "It is saddening that it has to happen on Christmas Day.... We have done them no wrong," the bishop lamented. [end]

12.26.10 US home-grown terrorists 'a global threat,' warns congresswoman

December 26 - America's home-grown terrorists are now a 'global threat' and the US should look to Europe to learn how to deal with the problem, a prominent US congresswoman has warned Barack Obama. In a letter to the president, Sue Myrick, a member of the House of Representatives select committee on intelligence, says that America is for the first time exporting Islamist terrorism. She accuses the US of complacency in dealing with the issue and says the country in "far behind" Europe in having measures in place to deal with the growing problem of the radicalization of young men and their willingness to carry out terror attacks. Her letter marks a departure from a long-held view in the US that Britain is the biggest threat to the US as a result of its position as a staging point for extremists from Pakistan, the Middle East and East Africa. In her letter, Mrs. Myrick writes:

"For many years we lulled ourselves with the idea that radicalization was not happening inside the United Sates. We believed American Muslims were immune to radicalization because, unlike the European counterparts, they are socially and economically well-integrated into society. There had been warnings that these assumptions were false but we paid them no mind." She goes on: "Today there is no doubt that radicalization is taking place inside America. The strikingly accelerated rate of American Muslims arrested for involvement in terrorist activities since May 2009 makes this fact self-evident. What has been missed is that our home-grown terrorists are now becoming a global threat."

12.26.10 FM: Turkey's demand for flotilla apology is 'chutzpa'

December 26 - At gathering with Israeli diplomats, Lieberman reiterates lack of faith in peace process, says "Plan B" for long-term interim process on the shelf, just needs some final polishing. In the harshest public words by an Israeli official in months, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Turkey's demand for an apology over the Mavi Marmara incident was "beyond chutzpa." "There will be no apologies, and if so, we're waiting for one from Turkey," Lieberman said Sunday at an annual gathering of Israel's ambassadors and counsel-generals abroad at the Foreign Ministry. Lieberman characterized the "lies" and "false promises" coming from Turkey's leadership, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. [More>>jpost.com; For background on the Mavi Marmara flotilla see Maravot News article and background links 06.11.10 'Marmara' captain: I opposed violence.]

12.26.10 Cuban medics in Haiti put the world to shame

December 26 - Castro's doctors and nurses are the backbone of the fight against cholera. They are the real heroes of the Haitian earthquake disaster, the human catastrophe on America's doorstep which Barack Obama pledged a monumental US humanitarian mission to alleviate. Except these heroes are from America's arch-enemy Cuba, whose doctors and nurses have put US efforts to shame. A medical brigade of 1,200 Cubans is operating all over earthquake-torn and cholera-infected Haiti, as part of Fidel Castro's international medical mission which has won the socialist state many friends, but little international recognition.

Observers of the Haiti earthquake could be forgiven for thinking international aid agencies were alone in tackling the devastation that killed 250,000 people and left nearly 1.5 million homeless. In fact, Cuban healthcare workers have been in Haiti since 1998, so when the earthquake struck the 350-strong team jumped into action. And amid the fanfare and publicity surrounding the arrival of help from the US and the UK, hundreds more Cuban doctors, nurses and therapists arrived with barely a mention. Most countries were gone within two months, again leaving the Cubans and Médecins Sans Frontières as the principal healthcare providers for the impoverished Caribbean island.

12.26.10 Russians rally against racism

December 26 - More than 1,500 stage protest in central Moscow against xenophobia following wave of ethnic clashes. More than 1,500 people have staged a rally in Moscow, Russia's capital, against a recent wave of ethnic unrest following the deadly shooting of a Russian football fan. The protests on Sunday came after a group of ultra-nationalistic Russian football fans clashed with ethnic minorities from the Northern Caucasus region and central Asian countries on December 11 over the death of Yegor Sviridov.   Sviridov, a 28-year-old engineer and fan of the Moscow football club Spartak, was killed on December 6 during a brawl between Russian football fans and migrants from the North Caucasus. Suspects were arrested, but all but one were freed on bail, angering the Russians. About 5,000 nationalists chanting "Russia is for Russians" gathered in memory of Sviridov near Moscow's Red Square on December 11. A number of the rioters attacked passers-by who appeared to be from non-Slavic minority groups, as well as police. More than 30 people were injured in clashes that lasted for half-an-hour. [More>>aljazeera.net]

12.26.10 Saudi police kill Qaeda suspect in shootout

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) December 26 - Saudi steps up campaign against Qaeda. Saudi security forces shot dead a suspected al-Qaeda militant and arrested another after one of them opened fire at agents at a checkpoint on Friday, the interior ministry said. One of the two men, who was disguised as a woman, opened fire after their car was stopped at the checkpoint in the central town of Wadi al-Dawasir, said Mansour al-Turki, the ministry's security spokesman. "We have a strong suspicion it is al-Qaeda, but we are still trying to identify the dead man and questioning the detained suspect," the spokesman said. Saudi security forces have stepped up their campaign against al-Qaeda after the Islamic militant group's Yemeni and Saudi wings merged in 2009 into a regional organization, which claimed responsibility for the failed bombing of a US-bound passenger plane last Christmas. [More>>alarabiya.net]

12.26.10 Supply truck headed for Afghanistan attacked

ISLAMABAD, December 26 - Unidentified gunmen on motorbikes opened fire and killed the driver of a supply truck for NATO troops in southwest Pakistan on Sunday, a senior government official told CNN. Noorul Haq Baloch, an official of Pakistan's southwestern district of Mastung in Balochistan province, said the incident happened in the area of Khad Kocha, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Quetta. Baloch said the truck was going to Afghanistan from the southern city of Karachi. The gunmen escaped after killing the driver, he said. [More>>cnn.com]

12.26.10 Israeli soldiers kill 2 Islamic militants: Palestinians

GAZA CITY, December 26 - Israeli helicopters back up fire against militants. Israeli soldiers shot dead two members of Islamic Jihad on the Gaza Strip Sunday morning, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. The two militants died to the east of Khan Yunis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, during an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers, said witnesses and the al-Quds brigade, a militant Islamist group. The Islamic Jihad militant group said two of its gunmen were killed by Israeli fire after they detonated an explosive device against a passing Israeli patrol. An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the clash. [More>>alarabiya.net; See related stories,

france24.com (AFP) December 26, "Tension builds as violence flares on Gaza border" : Two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel early on Sunday after the death of two Palestinian militants in a border firefight. Tit-for-tat violence has risen ahead of the second anniversary of Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip. Two rockets fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel on Sunday following a firefight in which two militants were killed, as Hamas said it was "ready" for another war. The escalation of violence comes just ahead of the second anniversary of Israel's devastating invasion of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and follows weeks of rocket fire from Gaza and a string of retaliatory Israeli air raids. Late Sunday morning, the Israeli military said two rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Eshkol region in the southern Negev desert, causing no injuries. The rocket fire came after Israeli tanks launched at least 10 shells towards Khan Yunis, damaging three homes, but causing no casualties...

jpost.com, December 26, "50 Hamas leaders may be deported from West Bank by PA" : PA security officials deny report; Hamas officials claim dozens were warned of deportation by Fatah-dominated PA. The Palestinian Authority is threatening to deport 50 Hamas leaders from the West Bank, the Islamist movement claimed on Sunday. The unprecedented threat is seen as yet another sign of mounting tensions between the Fatah-dominated PA in the West Bank and the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. It's not clear to where the Hamas leaders would be deported. The PA security forces would not be able to carry out such a step without coordination with Israel.

A senior PA security official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that he was unaware of any decision to deport Hamas members. The official accused the Hamas leadership of "lies and fabrications." In the past 24 hours, scores of Hamas officials and activists were summoned to the headquarters of the PA's General Intelligence Service in Ramallah, where they were reportedly told about the possibility that they may be deported from the West Bank. Among those who were threatened with deportation are Sheikh Hussein Abu Kwaik, Aziz Kayed, Osama al-Hamad, Mohammed Hamdan, Khaled Ghaithan, Khalil Brafili, Ahmed Zeid, Yusef Kifaya, Khaldoun Barghouti and Ismail al-Wawi. Abu Kwaik, who is a senior political figure in Hamas, said that he and many of his colleagues were forced to wait for hours at the headquarters of the General Intelligence Service before they were notified that they might be deported.

....Abu Kwaik said that he believed that the deportation threat came in response to an announcement by Hamas that it would demand that its detainees who are being held in PA prisons in the West Bank be included in a prisoner swap with Israel in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Hamas claims that the various branches of the PA security forces in the West Bank have arrested thousands of its supporters in the past few years. The PA's refusal to release the detainees, many of whom are being held without trial, has spoiled efforts to end the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah....

12.26.10 Dutch clear 5 of 12 detained Somalis of terrorism

(AP) AMSTERDAM - Dutch prosecutors say they have cleared five of the 12 Somali men who were detained Christmas Eve on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack in the Netherlands. The men were picked up after a tip from intelligence services said an attack may be imminent. There was no information on the alleged target, although Rotterdam is one of Europe's biggest commercial hubs. Prosecutors said Sunday they had no evidence of criminal involvement against five of the men. Three who [have] no valid residency permits were turned over to immigration police, and two Dutch residents were released. Authorities must decide by Tuesday whether to ask a court's permission to continue the investigation of the remaining seven people or to free them. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

12.24.10 Medvedev lauds Obama, laments pace of Russian

MOSCOW (Reuters) December 24 - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised President Barack Obama on Friday for winning US support for an arms treaty at the centre of a "reset" in ties and lamented the slow pace of his own drive to modernise Russia. In an annual year-end interview with Russia's three top television channels, Medvedev said carrying out his ambitious reform agenda would take time, but gave no indication of whether he would seek a second term in 2012. Medvedev's remarks in a live television interview strongly indicated Russian lawmakers will follow the US Senate in ratifying the New START treaty, despite criticism of wording attached to accompanying documents by their US counterparts. "In rather difficult circumstances, he was able to push through the ratification of the paramount START document which will ensure our security in the coming years," Medvedev said of Obama. He said Obama "fulfills his promises" and stressed that the publication of US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, which portrayed Russia in a negative light, would not set back relations. [More>>thestar.com.my]

12.24.10 Iraqi kills daughter recruited as al-Qaeda bomber

BAGHDAD (AP) December 24 - Iraqi police say a man has killed his 19-year-old daughter after discovering al-Qaida had recruited her as a suicide bomber. Diyala province police spokesman Maj. Ghalib al-Karkhi says security forces raided the man's house in the former Sunni-insurgent stronghold of Baqouba north of Baghdad in search of the girl on suspicion she had ties to al-Qaeda. Police did not find her. Al-Karkhi says the father, Najim al-Anbaky, told police he killed his daughter a month earlier because he found out she intended to blow herself up in a suicide attack for al-Qaeda. Al-Karhki said Friday al-Anbaky showed police what he said was the woman's grave. Al-Qaeda recruits women for suicide attacks because they can pass police checkpoints easier than men. [>thejakartapost.com]

12.24.10 2010 bloodiest year for Pakistan since 2001: Report

ISLAMABAD, December 24 - A total of 1,224 people were killed and 2,157 more injured in 52 suicide attacks across Pakistan since January, making 2010 one of the bloodiest years since the turn of the century. Though the total number of suicide bombings decreased 35 percent this year as against the past year, 2010 was the bloodiest year since 2001 in terms of the number of the people killed in such attacks, The News daily reported. Pakistan witnessed 80 suicide attacks in 2009 that killed 1,217 people and injured 2,305 others. On an average, suicide bombers killed 102 persons a month this year, compared to last year's average of 101 killings a month. The bombers, on an average, killed more than 23 Pakistanis every week and over three persons every day in 2010. Over four suicide attacks were carried out every month this year, compared to six assaults every month in 2009. Civilian casualties accounted for 49 percent of the total deaths caused by suicide bombings this year. The remainder were personnel from security forces and law enforcement agencies, including the police, military, Frontier Constabulary, Pakistan Rangers, Inter-Services Intelligence and Khasadar militia. Twelve percent of casualties were Shias, eight percent were Ahmedis and six percent were Barelvi Muslims. The largest number of deaths in suicide attacks 416 was reported in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. [>indianexpress.com]

12.24.10 Many dead in Pakistan clashes

December 24 - At least 14 security forces personnel and 24 rebels killed in attacks across country. A series of attacks across Pakistan have left at least 38 people dead. Pakistani troops killed at least 24 rebels after several security checkpoints were attacked in a northwestern tribal region on the Afghan border, military officials said. Amjad Ali Khan, an administrator of Mohmand Agency, confirmed that 11 soldiers had been killed, and 12 others wounded, in that attack. In a separate incident, three police officers were killed in Quetta, when a bomb exploded near their vehicle. A statement from the Frontier Corps security force, a paramilitary division of the military, said that around 150 fighters staged simultaneous attacks using small and heavy weapons on five army checkposts in the Baizai area of the Mohmand tribal agency on the Afghan border on Friday. The Taliban said only two of their fighters had died. Khan said the Frontier Corps paramilitary troops had "repulsed" the rebel attacks in the Baizai area which began at 0200 local time and ended later on Friday morning. "The troops responded with artillery fire and raids by helicopter gunships, killing 24 militants," he said. "Seven of their bodies are in our possession." [More>>aljazeera.net]

12.24.10 Son of notorious insurgent leader is arrested

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, December 24 - A key member of an insurgent network in the Afghan-Pakistani region has been seized recent days, Pakistani military intelligence sources told CNN on Friday. He is Nasiruddin Haqqani, son of Afghan insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose notorious group, called the Haqqani Network, operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is closely tied to the Taliban. Nasiruddin Haqqani was detained in recent days while driving from Peshawar to the tribal region of North Waziristan, the sources said. The United Nations says he is believed to be based out of Miranshah in North Waziristan, where the network operates...The Haqqani Network "has been at the forefront of insurgent activity in Afghanistan, responsible for many high-profile attacks," the United Nations says. [Full story>>cnn.com]

12.24.10 Mumbai manhunt for 'four Lashkar-e-Taiba militants'

December 24 - Police are scouring Mumbai for four Pakistani alleged militants believed to have entered the city to carry out an attack, a top police official said. There was credible information that at least four members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group were in the city, said the police commissioner. Police have released a sketch of one of the suspects, set up checkpoints and placed extra officers on patrol. India blames LeT for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai which killed 166 people. Roads were closed on Friday in and around the luxury Taj Mahal Palace hotel the focus of the deadly siege two years ago and armed police were patrolling at high-profile sites, including consulates. Joint police commissioner Himanshu Roy told a news conference on Thursday evening: "The four men are planning violent attacks that are going to cause destruction." "The four have recently arrived in Mumbai. We believe the threat is serious," he added. Indian police issued a similar warning in September about a possible attack by two Islamist militants in the city, which is India's financial capital, but nothing happened and no arrests were made. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

12.24.10 Iranian officer captured in Afghanistan: NATO

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) December 24 - A member of the elite al-Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard has been captured in southern Afghanistan accused of cross-border weapons smuggling, international forces said Friday. The man, described as a “key Taliban weapons facilitator," was captured on Saturday in Zhari district, Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, a volatile district targeted in recent coalition operations. He was targeted "for facilitating the movement of weapons between Iran and Kandahar through Nimroz province," a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. It is thought he was connected to smuggling small arms between the countries.

"The now-detained man was considered a Kandahar-based weapons facilitator with direct ties to other Taliban leaders in the province," the ISAF spokesman added in a statement. The news again spotlights the complex relationship between Afghanistan, Iran and the United States, whose troops make up roughly two-thirds of the coalition force which has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for nine years. British newspaper The Times reported Friday that Iran has released a string of senior al-Qaeda militants from custody so they can help the network rebuild in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas. The newspaper quoted anonymous Pakistani and Middle Eastern officials accusing Iran of giving covert support to the militants, often through the Revolutionary Guards.
[>khaleejtimes.com; See also

news.sky.com, December 24, "Suspected arms smuggler captured in Afghanistan is not Iranian Guard" :
A suspected arms smuggler captured in southern Afghanistan is not a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as first believed, NATO has said. Initial intelligence reports suggested the man was part of the al-Quds force, which specializes in foreign operations for Iran, the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. But it was later determined he was not a member of the unit. "It was determined that while the individual may be affiliated with several insurgent-related organizations, he is not a member of al-Quds," ISAF said in a statement. ISAF declined to comment on the nationality of the man...

12.23.10 40 people lynched amid Haiti cholera panic

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) - Angry mobs have lynched at least 40 people in Haiti in recent weeks, accusing them of spreading a cholera outbreak that has killed over 2500 people across the country, officials have said. The number included at least 14 suspected sorcerers previously known to have been lynched in the far southwestern region of Grand Anse as local people feared they were spreading cholera with a magical substance. Haiti's cholera death toll since the mid-October outbreak has reached 2591.  Health ministry figures as of December 17, the most recent day recorded, showed that 121,518 people have been treated for the illness. At the outbreak's peak in November there were daily death tolls of 80 and above. The outbreak, Haiti's first in more than a century, spawned deadly anti-UN riots last month as a desperate populace turned its anger on international peacekeepers accused of bringing the disease into the country. [More>>news.com.au]

12.23.10 US medicines for Afghan soldiers disappear

KABUL, December 23 - US-donated medicines and pharmaceutical supplies meant to keep the new Afghan army and police healthy have been disappearing before reaching Afghan military hospitals and clinics, and the government said it is removing the army's top medical officer from his post as part of an investigation into alleged corruption. Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press that Surgeon General Ahmad Zia Yaftali was being removed from his post as part of the inquiry. Three officials from the country's top medical facility, Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, have been fired, he said. It's unclear just how much has gone missing of the USD 42 million worth of medical goods the US has donated this year, and whether any Afghan soldiers have died as a result. US officials say they do not account for the supplies after delivering them to the Afghans. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

12.23.10 N. Korea prepared for 'holy war'

December 23 - North Korea's minister of armed forces has said its military is prepared to wage a "holy war" against South Korea using its nuclear deterrent after what he called Seoul's attempt to initiate conflict. Minister Kim Yong-chun repeated Pyongyang's charge on Thursday that the South is preparing to start a war by conducting the live fire drills close to the border of the North. He was quoted by North Korea's KCNA news agency, which regularly threatens the South, but which had up to now been relatively restrained in its criticism of the miltiary drills. In a show of military might, South Korea started a major land drill in the Pocheon region on Thursday morning, between Seoul and the heavily armed demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. It also continues with naval live fire exercises 100km south of the maritime border with North Korea. [More>>aljazeera.net]

12.23.10 Iraq arrests 93 in an anti-Qaeda sweep in Anbar

BAGHDAD (AFP) December 23 - Gunmen kill Iraqi general in Baghdad. Iraqi forces have arrested 93 suspects, including 60 wanted men, in a crackdown on al-Qaeda in Anbar province, defense ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari said on Thursday. "A large military operation targeting al-Qaeda and their sleeper cells was launched overnight" Tuesday in Anbar, western Iraq, Askari said. "Ninety-three suspects were arrested, including 60 wanted men," he said, adding that ammunition had been discovered as well...Gunmen with silenced weapons raked an army brigadier general's car with gunfire in a Baghdad street, killing him and wounding his daughter, defense and interior ministry officials said Thursday. The attack took place Wednesday night in the Mansour district of the capital, the officials said. They named the victim as General Imad Hasham of the army's sixth division. [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

12.23.10 Parcel bombs explode at Chilean, Swiss embassies in Rome

(AFP) December 23 - A parcel bomb exploded at the Chilean embassy in Rome on Thursday, just hours after a mailed package exploded at the Swiss embassy in the Italian capital. The two employees who opened the parcels at the embassies were injured. Parcel bomb blasts in the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome injured two staffers on Thursday, officials said, as Italian prosecutors opened an inquiry for a suspected "attack with terrorist aims." Checks are currently under way in all the embassies in Rome after the blasts and the city's mayor said emergency services were on alert. [More>>france24.com]

12.23.10 Man blinded 10 years ago can see again

December 23 - A new artificial cornea has allowed a blind man to see for the first time in 10 years. Norman Simpson badly damaged the front of his one good eye in an accident. Corneal transplants from donor eyes failed and doctors said there was nothing more they could do. But the artificial cornea - the window at the front of the eye — has improved his vision so much he can read newspapers and see his wife again. "The first person I saw was Carmel. She came up to me and I could see her smiling face. That was lovely," he said. "I haven't seen her properly for 10 years. After the accident, we were going in a taxi to the hospital and I kept stroking her face and saying 'that's the last time I ever see it.' So this is just great." The new device, called a kerato-prosthesis, consists of a plastic lens which slips through a stabilizing ring. Sandwiched between the two is a donut of donated eye tissue, which is stitched to the patient's eyeball to hold the device in place. The operation takes two hours and can be done under local anaesthetic. Sheraz Daya, medical director at the Centre for Sight in Sussex, said the technique could help around 5,000 patients who suffer from corneal blindness. [More>>news.sky.com]

12.23.10 Flu kills 27 in Britain, spreading in Europe

LONDON (Reuters) December 23 - H1N1 is causing more severe illness than normally seen, experts say. Flu has killed 27 people in Britain since the influenza season began in October and transmission of the virus is picking up across the European Union, health officials said on Thursday. Latest data from Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) showed that 24 people died with the H1N1 flu strain that spread around the world as a pandemic in 2009, and three with from a strain known as flu type B. Eighteen of those who died were adults and nine were children. "The level of flu activity we are currently seeing is at levels often seen during the winter flu seasons, but due to the fact that H1N1 is one of the predominant strains circulating at the moment, we are seeing more severe illness in people under the age of 65 than we would normally expect," said John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA. European health experts have said other European countries should see the severe flu hitting Britain at the moment as a warning of what might be coming to them soon. [More>>msnbc.msn.com; See also telegraph.co.uk, December 23, "Ten more deaths linked to flu in a week as cases accelerate."]

12.23.10 Obama's gamble on arms pact pays off

WASHINGTON, December 22 - The final approval of a new arms control treaty with Russia may have been a foregone conclusion by the time senators stepped onto the floor on Wednesday. But that was not the way it looked one afternoon last month when White House officials rushed to the Oval Office to tell President Obama that his treaty might be dead. The president and his team had built their entire strategy for obtaining approval of the treaty on winning over a single Republican senator deputized by his caucus to negotiate an accord — and that Republican, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, had just shocked the White House by pulling the plug on a deal for the year. Some aides counseled Mr. Obama to stand down. Losing a treaty vote, as one put it, would be "a huge loss." But Mr. Obama decided that afternoon to make one of the biggest gambles of his presidency and demand that the Senate approve the treaty by the year's end. "We've just got to go ahead," he told aides, who recounted the conversation on Wednesday. [More>>nytimes.com]

12.22.10 The lost lands of Takalar

December 22 - The coastline of Takalar regency, South Sulawesi, has been eroding at the increasingly alarming rate of 20 meters over the last five years and up to 100 meters a year in certain areas. In fact, the regency's 19-kilometer coastline is almost entirely damaged although the destruction comes in varying degrees from severe, moderate to slight. The six affected districts affected are Galesong, North Galesong, South Galesong, Sanrobone, Mangara Bombang and Mappakasunggu. The environment and investment office of Takalar regency recorded seven kilometers of its coast as seriously eroded, five kilometers as moderately damaged, and the remainder as slightly affected with a small part unaffected. "Erosion in Takalar is getting worse," said Alwy Rahman, the head of the environment and investment office of Takalar recently. Apart from the coastal zone, settlements, roads and bridges as well as cemeteries have also been adversely affected. The varying degrees of erosion have forced 400 families to relocate.

...The Jakarta Post  recently observed that some parts of land in Takalar had been eroded by seawater, reaching hundreds of meters ashore. In North Galesong district, particularly in Bontosunggu, Lambutua and Palalakang villages, waves have been battering the land, damaging dozens of village homes and displacing their occupants...In Bontosunggu, a cemetery has lost over ten meters of land, causing dozens of graves [to] disappear. In fact, the graveyard was originally dozens of meters from the shoreline and over three meters above sea level...Worse erosion can be seen in Sanrobone village, Sanrobone district. Within 25 years, three kilometers of land has been lost. A mosque built in 1985 about three kilometers from the shore is now only several meters away. Dozens of houses in the area have also become inhabitable.
[Full story>>thejakartapost.com]

12.22.10 Siberian fossils were Neaderthals' eastern cousins, DNA reveals

December 22 - An international team of scientists has identified a previously shadowy human group known as the Denisovans as cousins to Neanderthals who lived in Asia from roughly 400,000 to 50,000 years ago and interbred with the ancestors of today's inhabitants of New Guinea. All the Denisovans have left behind are a broken finger bone and a wisdom tooth in a Siberian cave. But the scientists have succeeded in extracting the entire genome of the Denisovans from these scant remains. An analysis of this ancient DNA, published on Wednesday in Nature, reveals that the genomes of people from New Guinea contain 4.8 percent Denisovan DNA. An earlier, incomplete analysis of Denisovan DNA had placed the group as more distant from both Neanderthals and humans. On the basis of the new findings, the scientists propose that the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans emerged from Africa half a million years ago.

The Neanderthals spread westward, settling in the Near East and Europe. The Denisovans headed east. Some 50,000 years ago, they interbred with humans expanding from Africa along the coast of South Asia, bequeathing some of their DNA to them. "It's an incredibly exciting finding," said Carlos Bustamante, a Stanford University geneticist who was not involved in the research. The research was led by Svante Paabo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany. Dr. Paabo and his colleagues have pioneered methods for rescuing fragments of ancient DNA from fossils and stitching them together. In May, for example, they published a complete Neanderthal genome.

The stocky, barrel-chested Neanderthals left a fossil record stretching from about 240,000 to 30,000 years ago in Europe, the Near East and Russia. Analyzing the Neanderthal genome, Dr. Paabo and his colleagues concluded that humans and Neanderthals descended from common ancestors that lived 600,000 years ago. But the scientists also found that 2.5 percent of the Neanderthal genome is more similar to the DNA of living Europeans and Asians than to African DNA. From this evidence they concluded that Neanderthals interbred with humans soon after they emerged from Africa roughly 50,000 years ago.

12.22.10 Two top Pakistan cops arrested in Benazir killing

December 22 - Two top Pakistani police officials were today arrested in a courtroom on the orders of an anti-terrorism judge conducting the trial of suspects accused of being involved in the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto. Judge Rana Nisar Ahmed, who is conducting the trial within the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi for security reasons, rejected the bail applications of former city police chief Saud Aziz and former Superintendent of Police Khurram Shahzad and directed officials to arrest them. The move came after the Federal Investigation Agency submitted a supplementary chargesheet in which it named the two police officers as accused and sought their arrest to take forward its probe into the assassination.

Prosecutors have raised questions about the alleged failure of the two police officers to provide adequate security to Bhutto during an election rally held in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, the day she was killed in a gun-and-bomb attack. They have also questioned Aziz's acceptance of a decision by Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari not to allow an autopsy to be conducted on her body and the hosing down of the crime scene soon after the assassination. Aziz presented some documents and an audio recording of Zardari saying no autopsy should be conducted on Bhutto's body but these were not accepted by the judge. Prosecutors told the judge that the FIA's probe could move forward only if the two police officers were arrested. The anti-terrorism court scheduled the next hearing of the assassination case for January 7.

12.22.10 3 Iraqi cities cancel Christmas festivities

KIRKUK, Iraq (AP) December 22 - Iraqi Christians on Wednesday called off Christmas festivities in three cities across the country as al-Qaeda insurgents threatened more attacks on a beleaguered community still terrified from a bloody siege on a Baghdad church. Church officials in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul along with the southern city of Basra said they will not put up Christmas decorations, have canceled evening Mass and urged worshippers to refrain from decorating their homes. Even an appearance by Santa Claus has been called off. "Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaeda against Iraqi Christians," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk. "We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak." Christians across Iraq have been living in fear since a Baghdad church attack in October that left 68 people dead. Days later insurgents targeted Christian homes and neighborhoods across the capital with a series of bombs. An al-Qaeda front group that claimed responsibility for the church siege vowed at the time to carry out a reign of terror against Christians. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.22.10 1 in 3 UK Muslims back killing for Islam: cable

DUBAI, December 22 - A WikiLeaks diplomatic cable revealed that one in three young British Muslims favor killing in the name of Islam, and 40 percent want a Sharia law, a newspaper reported on Wednesday. The Centre for Social Cohesion surveyed 600 Muslim and 800 non-Muslim students at 30 universities throughout the UK, and found that 32 percent of Muslims on UK campuses justified killing in the name of their religion, the Daily Mail Reporter report said. The same poll was quoted by a US diplomatic cable in January 2009 and said that 54 percent of the UK Muslims wanted a party representing their religion and world view in the parliament, and 40 percent wanted to be ruled under the Sharia law. WikiLeaks' release of thousands of US diplomatic cables suggests the increased radicalization among Britain's young Muslims, the daily newspaper said. [More>>alarabiya.net]

12.22.10 Christmas trees 'provocative:' Nazareth suburb's mayor

(AFP) December 22 - The mayor of a Jewish suburb of Nazareth sparked outrage on Wednesday after refusing to allow Christmas trees to be placed in town squares, calling them provocative. Predominantly Jewish Nazareth Illit, or Upper Nazareth, is adjacent to Nazareth, where Jesus is said to have spent much of his life. It has a sizable Arab Christian minority, as does mostly Muslim Nazareth itself. "The request of the Arabs to put Christmas trees in the squares in the Arab quarter of Nazareth Illit is provocative," Mayor Shimon Gapso told AFP. "Nazareth Illit is a Jewish city and it will not happen not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor," he said of the northern Israeli town.

"Nazareth is right next door and they can do what they want there," he said. His decision angered the town's Arab and Christian minority, who accused him of racism. "The racism of not putting a tree up is nothing compared to the real racism that we experience here," said Aziz Dahdal, a 35-year-old Christian resident of Nazareth Illit. "When we asked the mayor to put up a Christmas tree in the Arab neighborhoods of Nazareth Illit he said this is a Jewish town, not a mixed town," said Shukri Awawdeh, a Muslim Arab member of the town council. Awawdeh said there were 10,000 Arabs, most of them Christian in the town and there was also a large community of Christian Russian immigrants. "We told him that decorating a tree is just to share the happiness and cheer with other people in the town," said Awawdeh. "People here, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in harmony, but when the mayor does something like that, it does not make things better."

12.22.10 Egypt: Stop Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza

December 22 - Foreign Ministry in Cairo condemns recent IDF air strikes as bid to divert attention from peace process, warns attacks will inflame negative feelings toward Israel; UN defends Israeli response to rockets, but urges restraint. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned Israel's air strikes on the Gaza Strip this week, calling them an attempt to deflect attention from the failed peace process. "We condemn these air strikes. They contribute nothing but add to the tension and inflame negative feelings towards Israel," foreign ministry spokesperson Hussam Zaki said in a press statement. Five gunmen were killed Saturday when the Israel Air Force attacked a militant cell in the Gaza Strip.

Since then, at least 14 mortar shells and rockets were fired at southern Israel from the Hamas-controlled strip; an Israeli girl was lightly wounded in one of those attacks, when a rocket exploded near an Ashkelon-area kindergarten on Tuesday. Four more Palestinians were wounded Monday and Tuesday as the IAF continued its offensive. "The air strikes are an attempt to divert attention from the failure of peace process, which is a result of Israel's intransigent positions," Zaki said. Earlier this month, the United States along with Middle East diplomats scrambled to salvage the peace process. Direct talks between Israel and Palestine, launched in September, collapsed in less than a month after Israel refused to renew a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank.

12.22.10 'Palestinians uncover Hamas weapons cache in Ramallah'

December 22 - Palestinian security chief says rockets, launchers and mortar shells likely being gathered to target the Palestinian Authority, and not Israel. Palestinian security forces have uncovered in recent weeks a cache of rockets, missile launchers and mortar shells belonging to Hamas militants in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the authority's security chief said on Wednesday. Andan Damiri, who heads the Palestinian Preventative Security Forces, told reporters that the weapons were most likely intended against targets within the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. Damiri accused Hamas of incitement against the ruling body in the West Bank and of trying to foment anarchy in the territory. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, meanwhile, urged the rival factions in the West Bank to avoid further sectarianism as it could derail plans for the establishment of a Palestinian state. [More>>haaretz.com]

12.22.10 Ivory Coast: France warns nationals to leave

December 22 - France has urged its nationals in Ivory Coast to leave, as a crisis over a disputed presidential poll continues. The measure was "precautionary," it said. There are about 15,000 French citizens in the West African country. The UN says civil war could erupt because incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to admit defeat to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, and is demanding UN peacekeepers leave. Meanwhile, the World Bank said it had frozen its loans to Ivory Coast. After a meeting in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, World Bank chief Robert Zoellick confirmed that the institution had stopped lending and disbursing funds, and that its office in Abidjan had closed. "The World Bank and the African Development Bank have supported [West African bloc] Ecowas and the African Union, in sending the message to President Gbagbo that he has lost the election and needs to step down," a statement on the bank's website said. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

12.22.10 Rape victims fear being jailed in Mauritania

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, December 22 - Mahjouba was raped in March on the nighttime streets of Mauritania's capital, but she will not bring charges against the man she says did it since she may be the one who ends up in prison. The 25-year-old says the legal advice she received was to not go to court, leaving her to suffer in silence. There is no law in Mauritania that defines rape. According to a local UN-funded group working with the victims, the law criminalizes the women instead of their rapists and society ostracizes the women Mahjouba, who asked not to use her real name, said: "I am sure that if I raise my voice I'm going to be criminalized by my society and I will pay the price harshly ... and as a result I may stay single for the rest of my life."

She added: "I consulted a lawyer secretly, and he advised me sincerely not to seek justice because that would throw me in jail. I know what happened to other girls who decided to go to court and face the community. Their lives were destroyed completely forever. So I already know what would happen to me if I had to follow that path. This Islamic republic has no place for rape victims like me." Mauritanian laws are based on Sharia law and the penal code forbids relationships between both sexes outside marriage. That includes a consensual relationship between a boyfriend and girlfriend but can also criminalize a woman who is forced to have sex. Sidi Athman Ould Sidi Salem, a law specialist and legal adviser to the government, said: "If raped women don't bring strong evidence, which is not easy, they would be accused of Zina
an Arabic word meaning sex out of marriage and end up in jail. It's because the victims of rape are always accused of a Zina which make a lot of problems." [More>>cnn.com; See related stories,

Maravot News 11.25.07
11.21.07 Saudi woman punished after gang rape ;

Maravot News 9.07.08
9.06.08 Married at 9, slain by parents at 17 ;

Maravot News 6.27.05
, "Woman's marriage dissolves if raped by husband's blood relative – Islamic Court." : The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Monday ordered a woman raped by a relative to separate from her husband and marry the rapist. The victim, Imrana, 28, wife of Noor Ilahi, was allegedly raped by her father-in-law, Ali Muhammad in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. AIMPLB, set up in 1972 to protect the rights of Muslim women in the country, said the marriage would have to come to an end. Member AIMPLB Begum Naseem Iqtedar Ali said, "According to the rulings of the Qur¹aan, Imrana¹s conjugal relationship with her husband stood dissolved since she has been raped by the latter¹s blood relative." Speaking to reporters, she said, "Here a sacred relationship had been violated, the consequences of which have to be borne by Imrana and her husband," she said. The ruling are binding on all Muslims in the country, but it was a ruling by a group of local Muslim clerics that Imrana, should marry her rapist and treat her husband as her son.

12.22.10 US military pushes Obama to allow more Pakistan raids

December 22 - In a move that would stir intense Pakistani anger, US military chiefs in Afghanistan are pushing the Obama administration to expand cross-border commando raids against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants hiding in Pakistan's remote tribal areas. The plan, if implemented, would be a significant escalation in the nine-year war, and a bold gamble to create conditions that would allow US combat forces to leave Afghanistan by the target date of 2014, with an initial draw-down starting next summer. But it also would place a heavy new strain on Washington's delicate and sometimes fraught relations with Pakistan.

Officially, Islamabad is the vital ally of the US if the conflict is to be brought to a successful end
but it also has longstanding unofficial ties with the Taliban, and is deeply resentful of anything that suggests it is not master of its territory. Word of the proposals, first reported in The New York Times yesterday, comes less than a week after the White House released its latest policy review for Afghanistan. The report declared that Pakistan was "central" to US success in Afghanistan but noted that ties between Washington and Islamabad remained "uneven."

Unpublished US intelligence reports are said to strike a still gloomier note. They warned that the war could not be won unless Pakistan stopped the insurgents from launching attacks against allied and Afghan government forces from their sanctuaries in the tribal areas. The plan to step up special operations raids by US and Afghan units into these areas
above all North Waziristan, base of the al-Qaeda affiliated Haqqani network would signify the US had concluded that Pakistan was either unable or unwilling to do it and was taking matters into its own hands. But, experts here say, that could be a very high risk strategy – especially if it is publicly acknowledged. [More>>independent.co.uk]

12.22.10 Obama signs historic "Don't Ask" repeal bill

December 22 - President Obama signed historic legislation to allow repeal of the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gay men and women from serving openly in the military on Wednesday morning, hailing the bill as one that will "strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend." "No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced the leave the military, regardless of their skills, no matter the zeal or exemplary performance because they happen to be gay," he said. "No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie." The president described the signing as "the right thing to do for our military," as well as "the right thing to do, period." [More>>cbsnews.coom]


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