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09.02.07 Second British general bashes US strategy in Iraq

LONDON (AFP) September 2 - The British backlash over the US handling of post-invasion Iraq grew Sunday as another military commander blasted Washington's "fatally flawed" policy. Major General Tim Cross, the top British officer involved in planning post-war Iraq, said he raised serious concerns with then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the possibility of the country descending into chaos. But Rumsfeld "ignored" or "dismissed" his warnings, the general told the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

On Saturday, the head of the British Army during the 2003 invasion launched a fierce attack on the United States over its handling of troubled Iraq since. General Sir Mike Jackson branded US post-invasion policy "intellectually bankrupt" and said Rumsfeld was "one of the most responsible for the current situation in Iraq." [More>>turkishpress.com]

09.02.07 Lebanon: 'Resistance collapses in Nah el-Bared'

(AP) September 2 - Resistance by al-Qaeda-inspired militants in a northern Palestinian refugee camp collapsed Sunday, hours after a mass breakout left 32 militants dead, Lebanese security officials said, signaling an end to three months of fighting. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the last area of Nahr el-Bared camp held by Fatah Islam fighters fell to the army, which captured five wounded militants in their hideout. Only occasional gunfire could be heard inside Nahr el-Bared, hours after the officials said the army killed 32 militants and captured at least 15 others when they broke out of the camp and attempted to flee. [More>>jpost.com]

09.02.07 Police claim killing 120 suspected Taleban

KABUL, September 2 - Afghan police claimed on Sunday to have killed 120 suspected Taleban fighters in southern Kandahar province over the weekend, while coalition forces said they arrested 11, including a Taleban leader, in the eastern region. Afghan and coalition forces gave contradictory reports on the death toll of insurgents at the weekend in the southern province of Kandahar. Provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqib said their forces, supported by US-led coalition troops, killed 120 insurgents in two operations southwest of the city.

Twenty militants were killed in Arghandab district and another 100 were killed in Zherai district in two separate operations that began late Saturday and was ongoing, Saqib told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Dozens of insurgents's bodies had been left on the battlefields. Meanwhile, the US military said in a statement that Afghan and coalition forces killed at least 25 suspected insurgents in a firefight southwest of Kandahar City, the provincial capital. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See related story, nytimes.com, September 2, "Afghan police are set back as Taliban adapt."]

09.02.07 Eight suspected militants among 12 killed in Iraq

BAGHDAD, September 2 - At least twelve people including eight suspected militants were killed in Iraq violence on Sunday, the media reports said. US-led forces on Sunday killed eight suspected militants, arrested four and freed nine Iraqis awaiting trial at a kangaroo court run by al-Qaeda just north of Baghdad, a military statement said.

The nine were freed when American forces raided a building in the town of Tarmiyah that was allegedly being used by al-Qaeda to hold "illegal terrorist court proceedings," the US military statement said. "Coalition forces found nine Iraqis inside the building, some who had been there for 30 days, bound and awaiting sentencing by the illegal court system. (They) were examined and found to be in relative health."

09.02.07 In northern France, warming presses fall grape harvest into summertime

ROUFFACH, France, September 2 - ...Throughout the wine-producing world, from France to South Africa to California, vintners are in the vanguard of confronting the impact of climate change. Rising temperatures are forcing unprecedented early harvests, changing the tastes of the best-known varieties of wine and threatening the survival of centuries-old wine-growing regions.

In the hot Mediterranean vineyards -- the first to feel the effects of longer, drier summers -- vintners are harvesting grapes at night to protect the fragile fruit at the critical picking stage. Growers in Spain, Italy and southern France are buying land at higher terrains for future vineyards.

Some champagne producers in northern France -- whose grapes were ready for harvest in August, earlier than in any year on record -- are eyeing properties in southern England, the current beneficiary of planet warming. The British wine industry is reemerging for the first time in the 500 years since a mini-ice age cooled Europe... [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

09.01.07 Gen. Sir Mike Jackson attacks US over Iraq

September 1 - General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the British Army during the invasion of Iraq, has launched a scathing attack on the United States for the way it handled the post-war administration of the country. The former chief of the general staff said the approach taken by Donald Rumsfeld, the then US defence secretary, was "intellectually bankrupt," describing his claim that US forces "don't do nation-building" as "nonsensical."

Sir Mike's comments - made in his forthcoming autobiography Soldier, serialized exclusively in The Daily Telegraph - represent the most outspoken criticism of American military policy in Iraq to come from a senior British officer. His attack - the first time he has revealed the depth of his anger towards the US administration - highlights the deep-seated tension between the British command and the Pentagon during the build-up to and the aftermath of the Iraq campaign in 2003.

Sir Mike, who took command of the British Army one month before US-led forces invaded Iraq, said Mr. Rumsfeld was "one of those most responsible for the current situation in Iraq." Crucially, the general writes, he refused to deploy enough troops to maintain law and order after the collapse of Saddam's regime, and discarded detailed plans for the post-conflict administration of Iraq that had been drawn up by the US State Department. [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

09.01.07 Nearly 50 rebels killed in Afghanistan: coalition

KABUL (AFP) September 1 - The US-led coalition said on Saturday nearly 50 rebels were killed in new strikes against extremist militants, including in villages near Pakistan where insurgent leaders were said to have taken refuge. The militants were targeted in three major engagements Friday, one of them in the central province of Ghazni where the Taliban last week released 19 South Korean aid workers they had held hostage for six weeks.

More than 20 were killed in an air and ground assault on compounds in northeastern mountains about six kilometres (four miles) from Pakistan, it said in a statement. A coalition soldier was wounded and 11 suspects arrested in the raid in Nuristan province, it said. The strike was launched after “credible intelligence” that villages in the area were being used by insurgent leaders travelling between Pakistan and Afghanistan. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

09.01.07 Pakistan troops still 'stranded' in tribal area says army

WANA, Pakistan (AFP) August 31 - Around 100 Pakistani soldiers remained stranded in a remote tribal region near the Afghan border Friday, amid a dispute between Islamic militants and tribesmen, officials said. The insurgents wanted to surround the military convoy, while tribesmen were trying to persuade them to let the troops return unharmed from South Waziristan, the army said. "The troops have not been able to leave the area because there is a dispute between local tribesmen and militants who wanted to surround the soldiers," top military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said, adding the troops had wanted to avoid the use of force. He denied reports they had been kidnapped.

Arshad said the poor weather conditions that forced the convoy to set up camp in the area were continuing, but the troops would leave once the tribal groups reached an agreement. The soldiers were traveling from South Waziristan district to neighboring North Waziristan when they lost contact with army headquarters, sparking fears they had been abducted by militants.

The border area is a known hub of Taliban - and Al Qaeda-linked militants, engaged in a bloody confrontation with tens of thousands of troops deployed in the region to hunt them down since 2002...Concerns for the troops come after militants in South Waziristan Tuesday released 19 Pakistani soldiers who were abducted earlier this month. One of those soldiers was beheaded on video by a teenage boy August 14.
[Full story>>metimes.com]

08.29.07 Taliban promise to hand over remaining seven today

August 29 - A total of 12 South Korean hostages including two men were released in groups by the Taliban yesterday, a day after the insurgents agreed to release all 19 captives. The remaining seven would be freed today, news reports said quoting Taliban members. The Koreans were released on three different occasions, starting with three women identified as Ahn Hye-jin, 31, Lee Jeung-ran, 33, and Han Ji-young, 34, who were safely handed over to the South Korean authorities as of 5:10 p.m. (Korean time). A couple of hours later, five more were let go. Soon after the fivee's release, additional four were released.[More>>koreaherald.co.kr]

08.29.07 China's Wall becoming less and less Great

BEIJING (Reuters) August 29 - Sand storms in northwest China are reducing sections of Great Wall to mounds of dirt and may cause them to disappear in about 20 years, state media said on Wednesday.

The Great Wall, which was chosen last month as top of the new seven wonders of the world, snakes its way across more than 6,400 km (3,980 miles) and receives an estimated 10 million visitors a year. 

More than 60 km of the wall in Minqin county in Gansu province, built in the Han Dynasty which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD, had been "rapidly disappearing", Xinhua said, citing the head of the local museum, Zhou Shengrui...The height of the wall had been reduced from five metres to less than two metres in places and the square lookout towers had disappeared completely, it added. [Full story>>thestar.com.my]

08.29.07 Dollar slips in Asian trading following Wall Street's overnight drop

TOKYO (AP) August 30 - The dollar slipped against the yen Wednesday in Asia as players bought the Japanese currency following Wall Street's overnight plunge. The US dollar was trading at 114.37 yen late afternoon, down from 114.56 yen Tuesday in New York. The euro fell to US$1.3593 from US$1.3634.

Early in the session, many traders that expected Japanese shares to fall sharply after Wall Street's tumble bought yen ahead of the Tokyo stock market open. Investment banks cutting losses followed suit, causing the yen to gain further. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

08.29.07 Hizbullah committed war crimes, HRW asserts

August 29 - The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) group is set to publish a report on Thursday condemning Hizbullah for human rights infringements committed during the Second Lebanon War. The HRW report focuses on the extent "Hizbullah targeted or indiscriminately fired its rockets toward civilians and civilian objects" during the war, according to a statement by the group. [More>>jpost.com ; See related stories, metimes.com, August 29, "Lebanon slams rights report on Hizbollah-Israel war." and jpost.com, August 29, "Palestinians: 2 children killed, 1 critically hurt by tank shell in Gaza" : ...The IDF said that it attacked rocket launchers west of the town in a ground operation. The army explained that there were a number of launchers in the area which were pointed at Israel and that troops opened fire at several suspicious looking people who were handling them.

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza often send children to retrieve rocket launchers after Kassams are fired into Israel. The IDF said that if the fatalities were indeed children the army regretted the use of minors for terrorist purposes...

08.29.07 'Over 100 "insurgents" killed in Afghan battle'

KABUL (Reuters) August 29 - More than 100 suspected insurgents were killed in a battle with US-led troops in southern Afghanistan, the US military said on Wednesday. The battle erupted after a convoy of Afghan and US-led forces came under attack in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province, it said in a statement. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.29.07 Iraqi cleric halts militia activities for 6 months

BAGHDAD, August 29 - The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr suspended all activities of his widely-feared Mahdi Army for six months, a move that was widely taken to be acknowledgment of a backlash in Iraq against his fighters for fighting street battles with government forces in the sacred city of Karbala during one of its holiest festivals. Mr. Sadr's senior aides announced the freeze after an indefinite curfew ended two days of pitched fighting between Shiite forces that left 52 people dead and 279 injured, according to health officials in Karbala.

Thousands of pilgrims who were celebrating the birth of a revered 9th-century Shiite imam were forced to flee through bloodstained streets on Tuesday to escape what witnesses said was gunfire exchanged between Mahdi Army fighters and official government security forces. These are dominated by the Sadrists’ chief internal rivals, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and its armed Badr movement. [More>>nytimes.com ; See also aljazeera.net, August 29, "Karbala under curfew after clashes."]

.29.07 Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast struggling 2 years later

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, August 29 - Two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, residents say much of America has forgotten their plight. But President Bush said Wednesday the federal government has been persistent in pushing recovery efforts. "I would like them to know that we still need all the help and caring and volunteers. We need it bad. People don't realize. They just don't realize," Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, resident Linda Fallon said.

The beachfront communities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Mississippi, were nearly destroyed in Katrina's fury. Two years later, one-third of Bay St. Louis residents haven't returned. Business has moved inland. [More>>cnn.com]

08.27.07 Russian terrorist suspect detained in Afghanistan with explosives

TEHRAN (RIA Novosti) August 27 - A Russian found transporting explosives was detained in southeast Afghanistan near the Pakistani border on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack, according to the official news agency of neighboring Iran, IRNA. The agency said police in Afghanistan's Paktia province arrested three men - a Russian and two Afghans - all disguised in Hijab, Islamic women's clothing. Officers searched their car, and found about 500 kg of explosives.

The Russian said he entered Afghanistan through the border with Pakistan, where he had traveled via Egypt, Turkey and Iran, and planned to return to Russia through Tajikistan. The agency gave only the suspect's first name, Andrei, and said he was a Muslim. [>riian.ru ; See related story, metimes.com, August 27, "Five foreign soldiers (NATO) killed in Afghanistan."]

08.27.07 Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales resigns

WACO, Texas, August 27 - Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, announced his resignation in Washington today, declaring that he had "lived the American dream" by being able to lead the Justice Department.

...Mr. Bush repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as Mr. Gonzales faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department over issues including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

...A senior administration official said today that Mr. Gonzales, who was in Washington, had called the president in Crawford, Tex., on Friday to offer his resignation. The president rebuffed the offer, but said the two should talk face to face on Sunday.

...On Saturday night Mr. Gonzales was contacted by his press spokesman to ask how the department should respond to inquiries from reporters about rumors of his resignation, and he told the spokesman to deny the reports.

White House spokesmen also insisted on Sunday that they did not believe that Mr. Gonzales was planning to resign. Aides to senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said over the weekend that they had received no suggestion from the administration that Mr. Gonzales intended to resign.

As late as Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gonzales himself was denying through his spokesman that he was quitting. The spokesman, Brian Rohrekasse, said Sunday that he telephoned the attorney general about the reports of his imminent resignation "and he said it wasn't true — so I don't know what more I can say." [Full story>>nytimes.com ; See also washingtonpost.com]

08.27.07 Sarkozy raises prospect of Iran airstrikes

PARIS (Reuters) August 27 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday a diplomatic push by the world's powers to rein in Tehran's nuclear programme was the only alternative to "an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."  In his first major foreign policy speech, Sarkozy emphasized his existing foreign policy priorities, such as opposing Turkish membership of the European Union and pushing for a new Mediterranean Union that he hopes will include Ankara. 

Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and that major powers should continue their policy of incrementally increasing sanctions against Tehran while being open to talks if Iran suspended nuclear activities. "This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran," he said, adding that it was the worst crisis currently facing the world. Tehran says it only wants to generate electricity but it has yet to convince the world's most powerful countries that it is not secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. 

Sarkozy criticized Russia for its dealings on the international stage. "Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by using its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality," he said. "When one is a great power, one should not be brutal." [More>>thestar.com.my ; See related story, turkishpress.com (AFP) August 27, "Sarkozy calls for troop exit from Iraq."]

08.27.07 63 dead in Greek forest fires

August 27 - As the death toll for those caught in southern Greece's devastating forest fires rose to 63, a Greek prosecutor today ordered an investigation into whether this summer's arson attacks in Greek forests could be considered terrorism. Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who is responsible for prosecuting terrorism and organized crime, ordered the investigation to determine “whether the crimes of arsonists and of arson attacks on forests carried out in the country during the summer of 2007" could come under Greece's anti-terrorism law, the Public Order Ministry said in a statement.

Treating arson as a potential act of terrorism would give authorities broader powers of investigation and arrest . Government officials said they suspect at least some of the blazes, which began on Friday, were caused by arson. "So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the Greek Prime Minister, who has called early elections for September 16, said in a nationally televised address on Saturday. "The state will do everything it can to find those responsible and punish them." [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

08.27.07 Iraq: British retreat descends into chaos as Shia militia occupy police centre

August 27 - Shia militia loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have scuppered an attempt by British forces to hand over the Basra joint police command centre to Iraqi police. Iraqi police reportedly left when the Shia fighters arrived and began emptying the facility. According to witnesses, they made off with generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty - and were still in the centre yesterday evening.

The embarrassing episode, which comes as the British in Basra are preparing to move their remaining soldiers to the city airport as part of a planned withdrawal, once again highlights the strength of the militia in the city. It further undermines Britain's hopes of a smooth transfer and gives the impression of a rout. Mr. Sadr boasted in an interview with The Independent last week that the British had "given up" and were retreating because of the Iraqi resistance. [More>>independent.co.uk]

08.27.07 Boy shown beheading Pakistani soldier in video

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AFP) August 27 - Pro-Taleban militants have released a video of an apparently teenage boy beheading one of 16 Pakistani soldiers kidnapped in a restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan. The gruesome recording, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, will likely put further pressure on embattled US ally President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on Islamist violence in the frontier region.

The 35-minute video entitled ‘Revenge’ first shows the 16 soldiers, all of them in uniform, who were taken hostage on August 9 in the South Waziristan tribal district. Four teenage boys with Kalashnikov assault rifles, daggers and headbands with jihadi slogans are then shown along with one of the soldiers kneeling in front of them. One boy cuts off the soldier's head using a knife and holds it up for the camera. The soldier's body was recovered on August 14 from a nearby town. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.27.07 Outrage after Yosef links troops dying, religion

August 27 - Officials from across the political and military spectrums slammed Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Monday for a sermon in which Yosef said troops killed in the Second Lebanon War lost their lives because of their lack of religious observance. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the people of Israel owed an unlimited debt of gratitude to the bereaved families.

"We must reach out to them in every way possible and be supportive. Any statement otherwise could harm the bereaved families, especially if it relates to their lifestyle, which is their free will or the free will of the deceased, and is unacceptable," he said in response to Ovadia's words.

Yosef made the comments in his weekly sermon on Saturday night. "Is it a wonder that soldiers who don't observe the Torah, don't pray every day and don't put on tefilin every day are killed in war? It is no wonder." Yosef also related to the weekly Torah portion, Shoftim, and said that then, only those who prayed and were devout, God-fearing people would go to war. "Those who did not fulfill these requirements did not fight."

"Soldiers who are believers and who pray, God helps in wars. They are not killed," said Yosef.

08.26.07 Gaza journalists protest Hamas arrest attempt

(AP) August 26 - Dozens of Palestinian journalists staged a sit-in rally Sunday in front of the Journalist's Union in Gaza City to protest an attempt by Gaza's Hamas rulers to arrest a colleague. Late Saturday, Hamas gunmen tried to arrest Agence France Press reporter Sakher Abu El Oun, but left the scene at the urging of Hamas political leaders after a group of reporters alerted by Abu El Oun formed a human chain around his home and blocked them from entering. Late Saturday, Hamas gunmen tried to arrest Agence France Press reporter Sakher Abu El Oun, but left the scene at the urging of Hamas political leaders after a group of reporters alerted by Abu El Oun formed a human chain around his home and blocked them from entering.

The arrest attempt came a day after Hamas beat a group of journalists covering a demonstration protesting the group's rule in the Gaza Strip. Abu El Oun, who heads the Gaza journalists' union, harshly criticized the Hamas crackdown. While publicly proclaiming its commitment to a free press, Hamas appears to be growing intolerant of the media, with harassment of reporters increasingly common. [More>>jpost.com]

08.26.07 Afghan forces strike Taleban inside Pakistan

KABUL (AFP) August 26 - US-led and Afghan troops struck Taleban positions inside Pakistan in fresh clashes with the extremist Islamic militia that left at least 19 rebels dead, security forces said on Sunday. The US-led coalition said it received permission from Pakistan to attack across the border on Saturday, but this was denied by the chief military spokesman in Islamabad.

Afghan and coalition forces used mortars and artillery fire to destroy insurgent attacking positions on both sides of the border after a military post in Afghanistan came under attack, the coalition said in a statement. The Afghan army saw Taleban fighters firing mortars and rockets from several positions and Pakistan's military confirmed three of the firing sites were on their soil, the statement said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See Maravot News 8.08.07 for map of Miranshah area and previous Taleban incidents; and related story, metimes.com (AFP) August 26, "Pakistan soldier, five militants killed in tribal area clash" : MIRANSHAH, Pakistan - A Pakistani paramilitary soldier and five suspected pro-Taliban militants were killed after an attack on a checkpost in a restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said Sunday. The soldiers deployed at Ismailkhel post, some 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town of volatile North Waziristan tribal district, were hit by rockets and small arms fire late Saturday, a security official said...

08.26.07 Taliban raise poppy production to a record again

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, August 26 - Afghanistan produced record levels of opium in 2007 for the second straight year, led by a staggering 45 percent increase in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province, according to a new United Nations survey to be released Monday. The report is likely to touch off renewed debate about the United States’ $600 million counternarcotics program in Afghanistan, which has been hampered by security challenges and endemic corruption within the Afghan government.

"I think it is safe to say that we should be looking for a new strategy," said William B. Wood, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, commenting on the report's overall findings. "And I think that we are finding one." Mr. Wood said the current American programs for eradication, interdiction and alternative livelihoods should be intensified, but he added that ground spraying poppy crops with herbicide remained "a possibility." Afghan and British officials have opposed spraying, saying it would drive farmers into the arms of the Taliban. While the report found that opium production dropped in northern Afghanistan, Western officials familiar with the assessment said, cultivation rose in the south, where Taliban insurgents urge farmers to grow poppies. [More>>nytimes.com]

08.26.07 Europe may cut military role in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AFP) August 26 - The United States is worried about weakening Italian and German military commitments in Afghanistan as casualties increase in the fight to stem the bloody Taliban insurgency, officials said. Debate is raging in Italy and Germany and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands and Denmark, on whether they should remain in the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), already grappling with a shortage of troops in the face of one of the most intense military engagements in decades.

"There is a good prospect that we are going to lose some" contributions from certain countries, a US administration official said, as European nations face upcoming votes at home on their reconstruction, military, and training commitments in Afghanistan.

08.26.07 HUJI man key suspect in Hyderabad blasts

NEW DELHI, August 26 - Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami (HUJI) activist Mohammed Abdul Sahed alias Bilal, wanted for the blasts on the Samjhauta Express, is believed to be a key suspect in tonight's twin attacks in Hyderabad, official sources said. They said this evening's blasts were quite similar to that of Mecca mosque explosions in Hyderabad in May this year in which Bilal was suspected to be the mastermind.

The sources said that the two blasts were suspected to have been triggered by a mobile phone, a modus operandi used in the Mecca masjid explosions. The sources said that some of the sleeper cells of Jaish-e-Mohammed could also have been used by the HUJI, as both the militant outfits follow the Deobandi sect of Islam. Bilal, who took over the command of HUJI on October 12, 2005, has been on the list of most wanted terrorists after he masterminded a suicide attack on the Special Task Force's headquarters in Hyderabad that left one police personnel dead.

Bilal, who is believed to be in Karachi, is also wanted for the blasts on the Samjauta Express in February that left 68 people dead. An associate of Rasool Khan "Party," a Gujarat resident, Bilal has been instrumental in sending youths for arms training to Pakistan through Dhaka and some Gulf states, the sources said. CBI has already procured a red-corner notice from interpol against Shahid. [>expressindia.com; See also:

expressindia.com, August 26, "Day after blasts, 19 bombs found in Hyderabad."

thenews.com.pk, August 26, "25 arrested in investigations of Hyderabad blasts."

aljazeera.net, August 26, "Bangladesh group linked to blasts."

timesonline.co.uk, August 26, "India blames Pakistan agents for bombings."

08.26.07 DNC strips Florida of 2008 delegates

August 26 - The Democratic National Committee sought to seize control of its unraveling nominating process yesterday, rejecting pleas from state party leaders and cracking down on Florida for scheduling a Jan. 29 presidential primary. The DNC's rules and bylaws committee, which enforces party rules, voted yesterday morning to strip Florida of all its delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver -- the harshest penalty at its disposal.

The penalty will not take effect for 30 days, and rules committee members urged officials from the nation's fourth-most-populous state to use the time to schedule a later statewide caucus and thus regain its delegates. By making an object lesson of Florida, Democrats hope to squelch other states' efforts to move their voting earlier, which have created chaos in the primary structure that the national party has established. But the decision to sanction such a pivotal, vote-rich state has risks.

The party punished Delaware in 1996 for similar rules violations. But Florida, a mega-state that has played a pivotal role in the past two presidential elections, is different. The clash leaves the presidential candidates in limbo about how to campaign there. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

08.26.07 Seven dead in Baghdad car bomb

BAGHDAD, August 26 - A car bomb exploded in northern Baghdad yesterday, killing seven passers-by and wounding dozens more in an apparent sectarian attack near an important Shia shrine. The midday attack in Kazimiyah came as parts of Baghdad were shut to traffic in an effort to protect Shia pilgrims leaving for a religious commemoration in the southern city of Karbala this week. The curbs were expected to continue through the weekend.

The bomb exploded in busy Oruba Square about 500m from the shrine of Imam Musa Kadhim, a revered Shia figure. No group claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on Sunni extremists who consider Shias to be heretics and collaborators with the Americans.

The US command in Baghdad also announced the discovery of an execution site in the Arab Jabour area, just south of Baghdad, in which al-Qaeda in Iraq is known to operate. During a 24-hour operation in the Sunni Arab area, soldiers found human remains and other signs of executions.

In a series of pre-dawn raids targeting al-Qaeda activities yesterday, US forces killed three insurgent suspects and captured 17 others. Among those seized in an operation northeast of Samarra, was a suspected associate of al-Qaeda leaders. Ground forces also captured an alleged terrorist cell leader in the Arab Jabour area and five of his associates. [>independent.co.uk]

08.25.07 Lebanese helicopterspound Nahr el-Bared camp

Beirut (AP) August 25 - Lebanese army helicopters resumed bombing a Palestinian refugee camp in the north of the country Saturday just a day after the families of the besieged militants were evacuated, said witnesses. A senior military officer told The Associated Press that all the 25 women and 38 children - mostly relatives of Fatah Islam fighters caught inside the camp for the past three months - had been released after they were questioned.

The decision to wipe out the Fatah Islam militants in Nahr el-Bared had been taken a while ago and now the gunmen have no choice but "to surrender or we continue our operations," said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "Now, in principle, the decision to finish them is taken," the officer added, without specifying when the ground assault would begin. "We were embarrassed before by the presence of civilians among them."

The daily As-Safir quoted army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as saying that final military operations against the camp will take no more than 10 days. Sheik Mohammed al-Haj of the Palestinian Scholars' Association, who had mediated the evacuation of the families, told Hizbullah's Al-Manar television that some of the women and children released had gone to neighboring Syria, including the wife and child of Fatah Islam leader Shaker Youssef al-Absi. [More>>jpost.com]

08.25.07 Twin blasts rock Hyderabad, 30 dead

HYDERABAD, August 25 - In a major terror strike, at least 30 persons were killed and about 60 injured in two powerful near-simultaneous blasts at a crowded park and a popular eating joint in Hyderabad on Saturday evening. Twenty four people died when an explosion ripped through Gokul Chat Shop at Kothi locality at around 7.50pm, Andhra Pradesh Home Minister K Jana Reddy said.

In another blast five minutes earlier at a place 5 kilometres away, 6 persons perished in a blast in an auditorium in Lumbini Park near the state secretariat in the heart of the city when a laser show was on, he said. Reddy said about 500 people were in the auditorium at the time of the incident...A senior police official said the explosives used in the twin blasts on Saturday were similar to the one used by terrorists in the Mecca Masjid blasts in May this year. [Full story>>expressindia.com]

08.25.07 22 including 15 Taliban killed in Afghan unrest

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, August 25 - A roadside bomb killed three private security guards Saturday while two policemen and 15 Taliban died in fighting overnight in fresh violence in Afghanistan, officials said. Two guards were also injured by the bomb that struck their vehicle on a road in Zahiri district of Kandahar province, provincial police commander.

Separately, nine Taliban rebels and a policeman were killed in intense fighting Friday night in Ghazni Province, a district administration official said. The clashes in the remote, Taliban-dominated Giru district lasted several hours. "The bodies of the enemy casualties have been recovered. One of our policemen was martyred," he said. In another incident Friday night in eastern Paktika province Taliban rebels clashed with police in which six insurgents were killed and a policeman also died, the interior ministry said. Afghan forces shot dead three suspected bombers trying to plant a bomb in Helmand.

08.25.07 13 killed as US troops battle Baghdad militants

BAGHDAD (AFP) August 24 - US soldiers battled Shiite fighters in Baghdad Friday, killing 13 people, a day after a fierce clash between Al Qaeda militants and a rival group left dozens dead. US attack helicopters fired on Shiite militants in Baghdad's northwestern Shuala neighborhood in the pre-dawn firefight, killing 13 people, including two women, a medic and security officials said.

Shuala is one of the main strongholds of the Mehdi Army, the Shiite militia loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. Doctor Mohammed Abbas, from the Al Noor Hospital in Shuala, said the facility had received 13 corpses of those slain. "Those dead were killed by shrapnel, and two of them are women," he said, suggesting that some of the dead could be civilians. "We have also admitted 15 wounded people." The US military said eight militants were killed after one of its patrols came under attack.

08.25.07 Tensions rise after three British soldiers killed in US airstrike

August 25 - Three British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in a "friendly fire" attack by American aircraft while involved in a clash with Taliban fighters. The deaths brought the number of British forces killed in action in the country to 50, and came at the end of a week which had exposed rifts between American and British forces. The fatal incident, a "blue on blue" in military terms, took place at Kajaki in Helmand province, where British troops are trying to create a safety zone around a dam which would enable an American company to start repair work.

A British patrol called in air strikes after coming under fire from the Taliban and were then bombed by mistake by American F-15 aircraft which came in support. The three soldiers died at the scene, while two others who were injured, one described as "seriously" and the other "very seriously," were evacuated for treatment to the British base, Camp Bastion. All the casualties are from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, which has now lost nine men during its tour of duty.

Tensions between US and British forces have risen after the American General Jack Keene, an advisor to the White House, scathingly criticized British policy in Iraq. There have also been disagreements in Afghanistan after the decision by the US NATO commander in the country, General Dan McNeill, to abort agreements made by British forces with local leaders in Helmand.

Mounting Afghan anger over civilian deaths caused by US air strikes had reportedly led to senior British officers asking the Americans not to continue a military operation, separate from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, in British-controlled areas. However, British military sources stressed yesterday that the latest friendly fire deaths took place within ISAF operations and the American aircraft, part of a NATO "pool" providing air cover, were responding to British pleas for help. Both the British and US authorities will hold boards of inquiry into the deaths on Thursday. [More>>independent.co.uk]

08.25.07 Pakistani court to issue arrest warrants against exiled former PM after his return

ISLAMABAD, August 25 - Pakistan's accountability court on Saturday ordered that arrest warrants against exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members should be issued after their return, a local TV channel Geo reported. Khalid Mehmood, the judge of the Accountability Court-IV in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital Islamabad, declined to summon or issue immediate arrest warrants against Sharif and adjourned the hearing of three corruption references against Sharif and some of his family members till Sept. 7.

With regard to the Supreme Court decision on Thursday according to which Sharif, also leader of the major opposition party Pakistan Muslim-Nawaz (PML-N), was allowed to return home with his family, the accountability court in a brief hearing issued orders that the arrest warrants against Sharif and his family members should not be issued until their return.

08.25.07 Merkel under pressure to ban neo-Nazi party

August 25 - Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming under mounting pressure to ban Germany's main neo-Nazi party following a brutal attack on eight Indian traders who were chased and beaten by a mob screaming racist abuse. A leader of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) was charged with inciting racial hatred yesterday after he proposed Adolf Hitler's former deputy, Rudolf Hess, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Hours after Udo Voigt made the remarks in a speech in Jena marking the 20th anniversary of Hess's death last Saturday night, the Indian men were chased through the nearby town of Mügeln.

Kurt Beck, the leader of Ms. Merkel's Social Democrat coalition partners, said that in light of the attacks he was preparing a new legal initiative aimed at outlawing the NPD. But Ms. Merkel said she remained sceptical about such a move. [More>>independent.co.uk]

08.25.07 Forest fires in Greece kill at last 44

ZAHARO, Greece (AP) August 25 - Forest fires sweeping uncontrolled across southern Greece have killed 46 people, some found Saturday in the charred homes of mountain villages reached too late by rescuers hampered by wind-driven flames. New blazes erupted across the country, including a fire on the fringes of Athens. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said arson was suspected in some of the 170 fires that have broken out since Friday morning. He declared a nationwide state of emergency and vowed to pursue the perpetrators.

A 65-year-old man was arrested and charged with arson and multiple counts of homicide in a fire that killed six people in Areopolis, a town in the southern Peloponnese, said fire department spokesman Nikos Diamandis. [More>>nytimes.com]

08.25.07 Terror suspect list yields few arrests

August 25 - The government's terrorist screening database flagged Americans and foreigners as suspected terrorists almost 20,000 times last year. But only a small fraction of those questioned were arrested or denied entry into the United States, raising concerns among critics about privacy and the list's effectiveness.

A range of state, local and federal agencies as well as US embassies overseas rely on the database to pinpoint terrorism suspects, who can be identified at borders or even during routine traffic stops. The database consolidates a dozen government watch lists, as well as a growing amount of information from various sources, including airline passenger data. The government said it was planning to expand the data-sharing to private-sector groups with a "substantial bearing on homeland security," though officials would not be more specific. Few specifics are known about how the system operates, how many people are detained or turned back from borders, or the criteria used to identify suspects. The government will not discuss cases, nor will it confirm whether an individual's name is on its list. [More.>washingtonpost.com]


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


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