Monday, 7 July 2014

Airports facing chaos after US declares it wont allow uncharged cellphones or laptops onto flights bound for America with iPhones and Galaxy's at top of the hit list

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The US has declared that it will not allow cellphones - especially iPhones and Samsung's Galaxy - onto US bound planes from some airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa if the devices are not charged. The new measure, which is bound to cause chaotic scenes at airports around the globe, is part of the US Transportation Security Administration's effort to boost surveillance amid concerns that terrorists are plotting to blow up an airliner. As part of the increased scrutiny at certain airports, security agents may ask travelers to turn on their electronic devices at checkpoints and if they do not have power, the devices will not be allowed on planes, the TSA said.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Travel firms suspend flights to Mombasa after FCO warning

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Hundreds of UK tourists are being evacuated from parts of the Kenyan coast, after the Foreign Office warned of a "high threat" from terrorists. Tour operators Thomson and First Choice cancelled all flights to Mombasa until October and said some 400 holidaymakers would be flown back as a precaution. The main threat has been linked to the militant Islamist al-Shabab group.

Italy navy warns 'terrorists' could be crossing in migrant boats

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The head of Italy's navy warned on Thursday that terrorists could be using migrant boats to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, amid increased concern among intelligence services of possible attacks by extremists. "There's a risk not only of massive illegal immigration, but also of terrorist infiltrations," the commander in chief of the Italian navy, Luigi Binelli Mantelli, told La Stampa. He said that police boarding migrant boats intercepted by the navy were trained in special interrogation techniques designed to root out traffickers and potential "terrorists". "There are indicators which confirm contacts between traffickers (who organise the boats) and terrorists," he said.

Electrical and battery-powered items are being removed from hand luggage at UK airports amid warnings of a possible terror attack

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Electrical and battery-powered items are being removed from hand luggage at UK airports amid warnings of a possible terror attack, according to reports. Security is being stepped up after a warning from US intelligence agencies of a "specific threat" tonight. The US Embassy in Uganda issued an urgent email warning citizens of intelligence about a possible attack on the country's Entebbe International Airport between 9pm and 11pm on Thursday. It said information from Uganda's police, adding that US citizens planning to travel at that time should consider reviewing their arrangements. According to Sky News, new security measures at UK airports involve extra checks on electrical and battery-powered items. Laptops, iPads, phones, electric toothbrushes and cameras are being taken out of hand luggage for closer inspection before being allowed on to flights, the channel reports.  The Department for Transport said extra security measures in the UK - which have not been officially disclosed - were not expected to cause "significant disruption" to passengers and noted that the official threat status remained unchanged.

WATCH YOUR LAPTOP Extra checks on electrical items at UK airports amid warning of terror attack tonight

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Extra checks on electrical items at UK airports' amid warning of terror attack 'tonight'

Israel moves forces near to Gaza as boy's funeral delayed

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Israel has begun reinforcing its military forces on its border with the Gaza Strip amid heightened tensions with the Palestinians. The murders of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank was followed by the murder of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem. Israel says the move is part of its response to mortar and rocket fire from Palestinian militants from Gaza. It follows air strikes against the territory early on Thursday. Ten Palestinians were injured in the Israel Defense Forces bombardment, which followed barrages from Gaza which struck two homes in the southern Israeli border town of Sderot overnight. Meanwhile, the funeral of the Palestinian teenager who was abducted and killed in Jerusalem has been delayed so that a post-mortem examination can be completed. Mohammed Abu Khdair's father has said he hopes his son's burial can still take place on Thursday. The 17-year-old's murder raised tensions amid claims it was in revenge for the killing of the three Israeli youths in the West Bank.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Afghan army letting ally soldiers take heat

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COMBAT death statistics suggest the Afghan army is allowing Australian and other international forces and local police to do all the fighting in Oruzgan province, with officials confirming no Afghan soldier was killed in battle in the province this year. During the same period, a highly trained Australian special forces veteran has been shot dead and dozens of local police killed - mainly in roadside bomb attacks or assaults on checkpoints in the south central province The statistics were revealed as the Australian government announced on Tuesday it would start formally handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan. On Sunday, tribal elders had alleged collaboration and an unofficial truce between the Taliban and Afghan soldiers in parts of Oruzgan after Australian Special Air Service Sergeant Blaine Diddams was shot dead during a raid in Qala-e-Naw, about 20 kilometres from Tarin Kowt, on July 2. Advertisement They complained Afghan soldiers had suffered almost no roadside bomb attacks yet police were constantly being hit and they suspected insurgents of getting tip-offs from the Afghan army. The Afghan army vigorously denied the allegations but the Herald this week obtained confirmation that since the start of the year about 30 to 40 police have been killed - many of them in Chora, the neighbouring district to where Sgt Diddams was killed. Oruzgan Afghan army Brigadier-General Zafar Khan confirmed that in the past six months no Afghan soldier had been killed in combat but four Afghan soldiers had been wounded this month. However, he denied police were doing more fighting, saying they were more vulnerable because they lacked the resources and training of the army. ''The police are a bit careless. They get into the car and drive and they are hit by an IED [improvised explosive device]. We have better equipment so we can search for the mines,'' he said. ''Also they [the soldiers] have advisers and mentors from the Australian forces.'' It is understood the Afghan army had four or five fatalities in an IED strike earlier this year. A spokesman for Oruzgan Police, Fari Hayel, said between 30 and 40 police had been killed and about 90 wounded in the province over the past six months. The statistics were backed up by the Chora district police commander, Mullah Nematullah, who said in Chora alone in the past six months about 17 officers had died. Both police officials did not comment on allegations of a truce between the army and the Taliban. But tribal elder Haji Mohammed Zahir, who is from the Dar Afshan area where Sgt Diddams was killed, said the army was even refusing to fight alongside the police when attacks were taking place on police posts about 500 metres away from the army posts. Australian soldiers have had an uneasy relationship with their Afghan allies following incidents where soldiers turned their guns on their mentors. The Qala-e-Naw village where Sgt Diddams was killed is only a few kilometres to the southeast of where the Australians established Combat Outpost Mashal, where Lance Corporal Andrew Jones was shot dead by a rogue Afghan soldier on May 30 last year. Last night the ADF said it was aware Afghan soldiers had been killed in the province this year, but refused to provide details.

Blast Kills Core Syrian Security Officials

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Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A still image taken from Syrian television shows government security forces during clashes with what the government called terrorists on Wednesday in Damascus. BEIRUT, Lebanon — A suicide bomber killed at least three top aides to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Wednesday including the defense minister and Mr. Assad’s powerful brother-in-law, state television reported. The attack in Damascus, after three days of fighting in the capital, hit at the very military structure that has been directing the harsh repression of the 17-month-old uprising against Mr. Assad’s rule.

Heavy Fighting Near Homs, Syria
Left, Sana, via Reuters; right, Khaled Al-Hariri/Reuters

Daoud Rajha, left, Syria’s defense minister, and Asef Shawkat, President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law, were killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing in Damascus. More Photos »

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Sana/European Pressphoto Agency

An undated photo released by Syria's state-run television, showed Syria's defense minister, Daoud Rajha, center, with army officers. More Photos »

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Giulio Piscitelli

A child was treated last week after a bombing in Qusayr, Syria. 

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Giulio Piscitelli

A bombing last month left the center of Qusayr in rubble. Government forces erected a security cordon in areas of Damascus. More Photos »

Shaam News Network, via Reuters

A frame from a video released by antigovernment activists showed Syrian army troops in central Damascus on Monday. More Photos »

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There were unconfirmed reports that the blast was caused by a remote-controlled rebel bomb.

The assassinations were the first of such high-ranking members of the elite in the revolt and could represent a turning point in the conflict, analysts said. The nature and target of the attack strengthened the opposition’s claims that its forces have been marshaling strength to strike at the close-knit centers of state power.

While President Assad was not believed to have been attending the meeting, his whereabouts was not immediately clear.

According to state television, the dead included the defense minister, Daoud Rajha; Asef Shawkat, the president’s brother-in-law who was the deputy chief of staff of the Syrian military; and Hassan Turkumani, a former minister of defense and military adviser to Vice President Farouk Sharaa, who died later from injuries.

But the television report rejected claims by activists that the minister of the interior also was killed, saying he was in stable condition.

General Rajha was appointed minister of defense in August. A Christian, he was one of the prominent minority figures used by the Assad government to put a face of pluralism on the military and security services dominated by the president’s Alawite sect.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad activist organization, said all the members of the crisis group set up by President Assad to try to put down the revolt were are either dead or injured. But there was no official confirmation of that account.

The government moved rapidly to project an image of control, naming Gen. Fahed Jassem al-Freij, the military chief of staff and a man once assigned to subdue restive Idlib province in the north, as the new minister of defense. In a statement read by General Freij on state television, he said: "The armed forces will continue their duties to eliminate terrorism and defend the homeland.”At the Pentagon on Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that situation in Syria "is rapidly spinning out of control" and warned Mr. Assad’s government to safeguard its large stockpile of chemical weapons. "It’s obvious what is happening in Syria is a real escalation of the fighting," he said at a joint news conference with the British defense minister, Philip Hammond.

The attack came as diplomatic maneuvers to seek a cease-fire remained deadlocked by differences between Syria’s international adversaries and its sponsors, principally Russia, ahead of a United Nations Security Council vote scheduled later on whether to extend the mission of 300United Nations monitors. The work of the unarmed observers has been suspended because of the violence, and they have basically been trapped in their hotel rooms since last month.

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, offering Russia’s first official commentary on the bombing, said via his Twitter account that the attack had put consensus between members of the Security Council even farther out of reach.

“A dangerous logic: While discussions on settling the Syrian crisis are being held in the U.N. Security Council, militants intensify terrorist attacks, frustrating all attempts,” he wrote.

Kofi Annan, the Syria special envoy representing the United Nations and Arab League, asked the Security Council to delay the vote until Thursday, and diplomats said they were considering the request. With tensions already high in Damascus after three days of clashes between the Syrian Army and rebels near the city center, SANA, the official news agency, described the assault as a “suicide terrorist attack” without offering any explanation of how such an assault could have been carried out in such heavily secured location. Opponents claimed a major victory.

“The Syrian regime has started to collapse,” said the activist who heads the Syrian Observatory, who goes by the pseudonym Rami Abdul-Rahman for reasons of personal safety. “There was fighting for three days inside Damascus, it was not just a gun battle, and now someone has killed or injured all these important people.”

Rumors swirled around Damascus that the bomber was the minister’s bodyguard, but there was no confirmation of those reports. CNN quoted the deputy leader of the opposition Free Syrian Army, Col. Malek al-Kurdi, as saying the explosion was caused by a remote-controlled bomb, but he offered no further explanation of how such an attack could have been carried out.

The attack came despite a huge security presence to isolate embattled neighborhoods of the capital.

The casualties were from the core team trying to enforce a security solution to the uprising in Syria, and in such a tense, suspicious climate, it was not clear who Mr. Assad might find to replace them.

“If a bodyguard blew himself up, then there was a major internal security breach,” said Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese military officer and a military analyst knowledgeable about Syria.

 “Who will replace these people?” Mr. Hanna said. “They are irreplaceable at this stage, it’s hard to find loyal people now that doubt is sowed everywhere. Whoever can get to Asef Shawkat can get to Assad.”

“Everyone, even those close to the inner circle, will now be under suspicion,” he said.

The government moved rapidly to project an image of control, naming Fahed Jassem al-Freij, the military chief of staff and a man once assigned to subdue restive Idlib province in the north, as the new minister of defense.

An Army statement quoted by state television said in part: “This terrorist act will only increase our insistence to purge this country from the criminal terrorist thugs and to protect the dignity of Syria and its sovereignty.”

The information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, also went on a talk show to reject claims by those calling it the beginning of the end.  

  “The morale of our people is very high and our armed forces are at their highest level,” he said.

Activists reached in Damascus said the city appeared deserted, aside from the security cordon thrown up around the leafy, well-to-do neighborhood where the explosion took place — just down the road from the American ambassador’s residence, which has been vacant for months. The area is dotted with embassies and government offices.

“All the stores and shops are closed,” said an activist in Damascus reached via Skype. “Some people are scared and some are happy, you can hear people firing off gunshots in many places.”

The injured from the explosion were evacuated to the Alshame hospital, an elite medical facility used to treat the Assad family, ministers and other senior officials. Security forces threw up a cordon around the facility.

In the confusion after the attack, and in the absence of an authoritative official account, there were conflicting reports about who was killed and who survived.

Activists and media reports spoke of fatalities among the most senior figures in the very inner circle of the Assad administration, a close group that includes the deputy chief of staff of the military, Mohamed Sha’ar, the minister of the interior and Hisham Ikthtiar, the head of the national security bureau.

Other members of the group include Gen. Ali Mamlouk, the chief of general intelligence; Abdel-Fattah Qudsiyeh, the head of military intelligence, and Mohammad Nassif Kheyrbek, a senior security adviser.

Since the uprising began in March, 2011, Syria has been run by an ever tighter circle of army and security officials close to the president. The killings represented as much a psychological blow as a physical one, emboldening the opposition, analysts said, and challenging Mr. Assad to demonstrate quickly that his forces can still confront the rebels.

“Can they demonstrate the ability to put down this challenge and show that they are on the way to survival?” said an analyst with long experience in Damascus, speaking in return for anonymity because he still works there. “The opposition cannot defeat the regime militarily but they can defeat it through psychology.”

Even as state media reported the attack, the country’s Russian-armed military was reported to have suffered further defections among its top ranks, with two brigadier generals among 600 Syrians who fled to Turkey overnight, Reuters reported.

Their action brought to 20 the number of such high-ranking figures, who include a onetime close associate of Mr. Assad, Gen. Manaf Tlass, the son of a former defense minister.

There was also new evidence, reported by Israel’s intelligence chief, that Mr. Assad was moving troops into Damascus from Syria’s border with the disputed Golan Heights territory held by Israel, a possible sign of the seriousness of the fighting shaking regions at Mr. Assad’s doorstep.

Before the bombing on Wednesday, the epicenter of the Damascus fighting remained an area in the capital’s southwest where street battles first erupted on Sunday, particularly the Midan neighborhood where rebel fighters concentrated after Mr. Assad’s forces chased them from surrounding quarters.

Activists also reported continued government attacks on the northern suburb of Qaboun overnight and spoke of a clash around a military base near the presidential palace. Those reports, however, were sketchy and difficult to confirm.

Opponents posted videos online showing what they said was the destruction of civilian homes by earlier artillery in Qaboun and Midan. Images said to be from Midan showed a series of traditional, arched stone buildings with the roofs collapsed.

Midan is one of the oldest, more traditional quarters, a labyrinthine patchwork of narrow streets and old stone houses that attracted the rebel fighters partly because the army’s heavy weaponry is difficult to maneuver in the neighborhood.

But it is best known for the bustling Jazmateyeh food market, packed with popular restaurants and food shops, and the go-to address for Damascenes seeking the city’s famous honey-pistachio pastries. With the holy month Ramadan looming, when such foods are popular for the sunset feast to break the daily fast, the fighting in Midan suddenly threw the quarter’s traditional role into question.

In fact, Damascenes, having seen residents of other cities where fighting raged over the past 16 months flee to the capital, were suddenly casting about, alarmed over where they could turn should the fighting spread. “People from other areas sought refuge in Damascus — where would the people of Damascus go now?” one activist said.

A Taliban bomb attack on tankers carrying fuel to Nato forces sparked an inferno which consumed up to 24 lorries

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A Taliban bomb attack on tankers carrying fuel to Nato forces sparked an inferno which consumed up to 24 lorries, local officials said.

Black smoke risers from burning NATO supply trucks in Samangan, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Black smoke risers from burning NATO supply trucks in Samangan, north of Kabul, Afghanistan Photo: AP
The civilian lorries were parked overnight in a large staging area when a bomb exploded on one and the fire quickly spread to others.

Afghan drivers managed to save many trucks from the attack in Samangan province, but around two dozen were lost.

Sidiq Azizi, a provincial spokesman, said the explosion happened at around 2am and fire fighters spent hours trying to control the blaze.

"There was a big boom. It's possible that it was a magnetic bomb from insurgents," he told the AP news agency.

"I counted 20 fuel tankers burning. The weather is very hot and it's hard to get close to the fire."

An influential MP and former militia commander was killed in the same province at the weekend when a suicide bomber struck his daughter's wedding.

The lorries were carrying fuel from Nato's northern logistics route, officials said, which sees fuel and supplies ferried across Russia and Central Asia into northern Afghanistan.

The route has grown significantly in importance this year as commanders have been forced to switch from the southern route via Pakistan.

Islamabad blocked that route in protest after an American helicopter killed 24 Pakistan soldiers during an accidental border clash.

Convoys travelling through Pakistan are often attacked by militants.

The northern route has been considered safer, though far more expensive.

A spokesman for the Nato-led coalition could not confirm that the fuel was headed to Nato bases.

He said: "Very early this morning a fuel truck parked in a large staging area along with dozens of other trucks was targeted with an improvised explosive device.

"The device went off, there was an explosion and subsequently Afghans in the area were able to remove most of them, with the exception of 24 trucks." Pakistan reopened the southern supply route earlier this month, though many haulage firms are reportedly awaiting compensation and security guarantees before resuming journeys from the port of Karachi to the Afghan border.

Monday, 2 July 2012

ICC threatens Mali Islamists with war crimes

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The International Criminal Court has threatened Islamist fighters in Mali with legal action if they do not halt their destruction of ancient Islamic monuments. "My message to those involved in these criminal acts is clear: stop the destruction of the religious buildings now," Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the AFP news agency in an interview. "This is a war crime which my office has authority to fully investigate." She said that Mali was a signatory to the Rome Statute, a document that established the ICC and states that deliberate attacks against undefended civilian buildings which are not military objectives are a war crime. "This includes attacks against historical monuments as well as destruction of buildings dedicated to religion," Bensouda said. Members of the group Ansar Dine have destroyed the mausoleums of Sufi saints in historic Timbuktu for two straight days. Yaya Tandina, a local journalist, told the Reuters news agency that about 30 members of the group, armed with Kalashnikovs and pickaxes destroyed three mausoleums of saints on Sunday. "They had armed men guarding the door. Just like yesterday, the population did not react. They said we need to let them do what they want, hoping that someday we will rebuild the tombs," Tandina said. Seven ancient tombs have been smashed by Ansar Dine since Saturday. The group's strict interpretation of Islam considers such places unholy and calls for their destruction. The demolitions began on Saturday with Timbuktu's independence monument, which depicts Al Farouk, a symbol of the ancient city on a horse. Ansar Dine have also threatened to destroy the city's three ancient mosques, one of which dates back to 1327. Sanda Ould Boumama, an Ansar Dine spokesman, has said the group was acting in the name of God and would "destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception". The destruction comes after UNESCO listed the city as an endangered site because of the continuing violence in northern Mali and in the wake of an attack on a fifteenth century tomb in May. "God is unique. All of this is haram [forbidden]. We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what," said Boumama. The government of Mali has urged the outside world to take concrete steps to stop the destruction of the sites. "Those who are destroying religious buildings in Timbuktu should do so in full knowledge that they will be held accountable and justice will prevail," she said.

Afghan policeman kills three British soldiers

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Three British soldiers have been killed by a policeman in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said. Two served with the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and one with the Royal Corps of Signals. Next of kin have been told. The MoD said the soldiers were shot and fatally wounded on Sunday as they left a checkpoint in Helmand province. The gunman was injured and later detained. More than 20 foreign personnel have been killed in rogue shootings in Afghanistan this year. The soldiers were part of a Nato-led Isaf force who have been training Afghan counterparts ahead of a handover of security responsibility by 2014. The shooting happened at Checkpoint Kamparack Pul in Nahr-e-Saraj, where the soldiers were attending a meeting of elders. They were shot as they were leaving the checkpoint. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "deeply saddened by the appalling news". "This tragic incident again demonstrates the very real risks that our brave soldiers face every day. We will do everything possible to find out how this happened, and learn any lessons for the future," he said in a statement. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said all thoughts were with the families of dead men. "They gave their lives protecting Britain's national security, helping to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for international terrorism," he said. Continue reading the main story Green on blue deaths So far this year there have been 26 "green-on-blue" deaths - mostly Americans There were 35 such deaths during 2011 The attacks have claimed the lives of 14 British service personnel since 2009 About 130,000 coalition troops are fighting alongside 350,000 Afghan security personnel against the Taliban-led insurgency However, he signalled that the killings would not prompt an overall change of strategy. The defence secretary said: "Every day, tens of thousands of coalition forces, including UK personnel, live and work successfully with their Afghan counterparts to build an Afghan police force and Army which can take the lead for their own security by the end of 2014. "That process will continue, and though deeply tragic, yesterday's incident and attacks like it will not derail the mission or distract us from the task in hand." Those sentiments were echoed by General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, who said: "Generally, there remains a high level of trust between the Afghan forces and their British counterparts with whom they work and live every day. "Every time I visit Afghanistan and I am struck by the progress we are making alongside the Afghans in building a country increasingly able to stand on its own two feet. Attacks like this will not stop us from moving forward." But Mark Cann, spokesman for the British Forces Foundation charity, said soldiers were worried about how Afghan colleagues, particularly police, were vetted. "There is deep concern about the people they're working with and, and looking also to hand over authority to. Generally though what I hear is, is a very high level of regard for those they have worked with operationally - more with the military than the police," he said. It comes after Maj Ian Lawrence, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, announced the deaths in a statement, saying: "Their loss will be felt deeply across the task force. However, that will be nothing compared with the grief experienced by their families at home. The BBC's Caroline Wyatt said the attacks are a bitter blow for UK forces in Helmand "Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely difficult time." BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt says that, despite "green on blue" attacks, background checks are carried out on Afghan troops and police in a bid to ensure that people are not sympathetic to insurgent factions. In a statement on Sunday, Isaf said: "An individual wearing an Afghan National Civil Order Police uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing three service members." The attack appears to be the latest in a string of flashpoints in which members of the Afghan security or police forces have opened fire on international allies. The latest deaths mean a total of 26 Isaf personnel have been killed so far this year, compared with 35 for the whole of 2011. A total of 14 British troops have been killed in the past three years in these attacks. L/Cpl Lee Thomas Davies, 27, from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, and Cpl Brent John McCarthy, 25, of the Royal Air Force, were shot dead at a patrol base in the Lashkar Gar district of Helmand Province by members of the Afghan police force in May. Growing resentment They had been providing security for a meeting with local officials when two people wearing Afghan police uniforms opened fire. And a rogue Afghan soldier shot dead Sgt Luke Taylor, 33, of the Royal Marines, and L/Cpl Michael Foley, 25, of the Adjutant General's Corps, at the entrance to the UK headquarters in Lashkar Gar, Helmand Province, in March. The Taliban claimed responsibility after five British soldiers were killed by a rogue Afghan policeman in November 2009. The gunman opened fire on the men in a military compound in Nad e-Ali before fleeing. In February, public opinion against the foreign forces in Afghanistan was inflamed by revelations that US troops burned copies of the Koran at a base in Afghanistan - reportedly by accident. The shooting of 16 Afghans by a US soldier in March has also created resentment.

Islamist militants in Mali have attacked one of the most famous mosques in the historic city of Timbuktu

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Islamist militants in Mali have attacked one of the most famous mosques in the historic city of Timbuktu, residents say.

Armed men broke down the door of the 15th-Century Sidi Yahia mosque, a resident told the BBC.

The Ansar Dine group, which is said to have links to al-Qaeda, seized control of the city earlier this year.

It has already destroyed several of the city's shrines, saying they contravene its strict interpretation of Islam.

Ansar Dine spokesman Sanda Ould Bamana told the BBC that his movement had now completed nearly 90% of its objective to destroy all mausoleums that are not in line with Islamic law.

He said Sharia did not allow the building of tombs bigger than 15cm (6 inches) above the ground.

The site of Sidi Yahia is one the three great mosques of Timbuktu, according to the UN cultural agency, Unesco.

The door which has been smashed had been left sealed as it led to the sacred tomb of saints.

The AFP news agency reports that some witnesses started crying when they saw the damage.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Afghan Muslim who claims he killed people while fighting for the Taliban has used the Human Rights Act to remain in Britain – despite Government efforts to deport him.

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Zareen Ahmadzai, who spent  three years fighting in Afghanistan, has admitted using a Kalashnikov rifle and firing rockets, as well  as supplying weapons and food to the Taliban.

The Home Office rejected his claim for asylum, and when his appeal also failed, Ahmadzai  was detained at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre in  West London while awaiting  deportation.

Threat: Taliban fighters, like the ones pictured, are said to be a threat to Ahmadzai

Threat: Taliban fighters, like the ones pictured, are said to be a threat to Ahmadzai


Yet when the 30-year-old – who  initially did not speak English – mounted a fresh appeal, he was able to overturn the Home Office’s case on the grounds that his life would be at risk if he returned home.

The decision is another setback for Home Secretary Theresa May, who is under pressure to reform human rights laws following a  series of high-profile cases in which Muslim extremists have avoided deportation.

Ahmadzai arrived in Britain illegally in May 2010 after travelling from Afghanistan in lorries.



Two days later he was arrested  at an address in Wolverhampton  and claimed asylum. When the Home Office ordered he be deported, he appealed to the immigration court. 

Although a judge rejected his appeal, Ahmadzai took his case to the Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber.


The tribunal heard Ahmadzai joined the Taliban after his father, who was a commander in Helmand province, was shot dead by US  soldiers during a battle. He said  that he killed people during his fighting with the Taliban as well as  supplying the group with weapons, water and food.


Home Secretary Theresa May is under pressure to reform human rights laws following a series of high-profile cases in which Muslim extremists have avoided deportation

Home Secretary Theresa May is under pressure to reform human rights laws following a series of high-profile cases in which Muslim extremists have avoided deportation

The court ruling said: ‘He believed that he was advancing the cause  of Islam. He said that his father  was shot during fighting against  the Americans.

‘The appellant used to fight for  the Taliban. He said that he had killed people. On different occasions he had used a Kalashnikov and  also a pistol.’

The ruling continued: ‘He was involved in fighting over a three-year period according to need. 

‘He indicated that he had been  in “a lot” of battles, sometimes two  or three a night as well as daylight fighting.’

Ahmadzai claims that when he tried to leave the Taliban after he realised innocent people were being killed, he was taken to a mountain and tortured. 

He alleges that shortly afterwards he fled the country but cannot return because his life would be in danger from both the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces, who oppose the Islamic extremist group. 

The court ruling said: ‘He was asked why he could not relocate,  for example, to Kabul. He asked  rhetorically if a murderer could expect to relocate in London.  


‘He said the police would look for the murderer just as the Taliban and the authorities would look  for him.’

Psychologists who have examined Ahmadzai say they believe he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which is caused  by highly stressful or frightening events, such as armed combat. 

Although the Home Office disputed Ahmadzai’s story and did not believe he was wanted by either the Taliban or the ANSF, Senior Immigration Judge Jonathan Perkins ruled that he must not be deported. The case was heard at the tribunal in June last year but the judgment was only announced in March.

Combat: Ahmadzai killed people during his fighting with the Taliban and supplied them with weapons and food

Combat: Ahmadzai killed people during his fighting with the Taliban and supplied them with weapons and food

Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migrationwatch UK think-tank, said: ‘This case is one of the absurdities that brings the whole immigration, appeal and Human Rights Act process into disrepute.

‘Most sensible people would think the Human Rights Act was never intended for this type of case. 

‘The sooner that we can organise ourselves to do something about the Act and how it intervenes to allow people who should not be here to stay, the better.’

A UK Border Agency spokesman  said: ‘We are extremely disappointed with the court’s decision. 

‘We did not believe that this  individual needed or deserved  refuge in this country.

‘We always seek to remove those who have no right to remain in  the UK and last year removed more than 52,000 people.’

UKBA would not disclose whether it knew where Ahmadzai now  lived. However, it is understood  that he is legally free to live anywhere in Britain.

Blair blocked Cabinet from hearing legal advice on Iraq

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Labour Party MPs demanded an emergency recall of the Chilcot inquiry last night after new revelations that Tony Blair blocked the Government's most senior lawyer from explaining to Cabinet the legality of the war in Iraq. According to the newly published full version of Alastair Campbell's diaries, the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith wanted to "put the reality" to cabinet ministers that there was a case against, as well as for, military action in March 2003. But, according to his former spin doctor, the then Prime Minister feared that the legal opinion was too "nuanced" and would allow the war's ministerial critics Robin Cook and Clare Short to say that the case had not been made. The disclosure is significant because, while it has long been suspected that Mr Blair and his inner circle put pressure on Lord Goldsmith to change his legal advice, this is the first evidence that the PM actively blocked the Cabinet from hearing the full details of the case for war. MPs from all parties urged Sir John Chilcot, who has finished taking evidence and is now preparing his report into the Iraq war, to reconvene a special session to hear from Mr Blair, Mr Campbell and Lord Goldsmith. The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "According to the diaries, Tony Blair was determined that the decision should not rest with the Cabinet and overruled his Attorney General. Sofa government prevailed at the expense of constitutional requirements. The diaries prove that once a decision to go to war against Iraq had been taken, intelligence and legal advice was manipulated to support that decision." Lord Goldsmith presented a longer legal opinion to Mr Blair on 7 March 2003 in which he said he believed there was a "reasonable case" in favour of military action, but that "there was also a case to be made the other way". According to Mr Campbell's diaries, Lord Goldsmith warned Mr Blair that he did not want the Prime Minister to "present it too positively" in favour of military action because there was a "case to be made the other way". Mr Campbell wrote: "TB also made it clear he did not particularly want Goldsmith to launch a detailed discussion at Cabinet, though it would have to happen at some time, and ministers would want to cross-examine. With the mood as it was, and with Robin [Cook] and Clare [Short] operating as they were, he knew if there was any nuance at all, they would be straight out saying the advice was that it was not legal, the AG was casting doubt on the legal basis for war. Peter Goldsmith was clear that though a lot depended on what happened, he was casting doubt in some circumstances and if Cabinet had to approve the policy of going to war, he had to be able to put the reality to them." But Mr Campbell added that this was blocked by Mr Blair and his gatekeeper, Sally Morgan, during a meeting of Mr Blair and his closest aides on 11 March: "Sally said it was for TB to speak to Cabinet, and act on the AG's advice. He would simply say the advice said there was a reasonable case." Following the 11 March meeting, Lord Goldsmith produced a new, one-page legal opinion which put the "reasonable case" for war – which was discussed at Cabinet and used in Parliament to justify military action. In his own memoir, A Journey, Mr Blair did not reveal details of how he tried to block Lord Goldsmith. He said only that the Attorney General had "set out the arguments for and against and on balance came out in favour". When he gave evidence to the Chilcot inquiry in January 2010, Lord Goldsmith was asked by inquiry panel member Sir Roderic Lyne whether anyone asked him to "restrict what you said to Cabinet to the fairly limited terms in which you presented this to Cabinet". Lord Goldsmith replied: "No." Sir Menzies added: "There seems to be a substantial difference between the contents of the diaries and the evidence given to the Chilcot inquiry, and the inquiry would be well advised to reconvene itself." Last night Clare Short said she was not surprised that Mr Blair had been "deceitful" in presenting the case for war. Peter Kilfoyle, a minister in the Blair government, also called for the Chilcot inquiry to be recalled. "There is a straightforward contradiction between the two positions and it needs to be corroborated." The Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said: "New facts have come to light and this makes me question whether we know enough about the then Prime Minister's attitude that justified the war." Mr Campbell said last night: "Peter Goldsmith's legal opinion is in the public domain and it was no secret he had concerns at various points. This is entirely consistent with what he and Tony Blair said to the Chilcot inquiry."

Turkey calls Nato meeting on warplane downed by Syria

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Turkey has called a meeting of Nato member states to discuss its response to the shooting down of one of its warplanes by Syrian forces on Friday. Ankara has invoked Article 4 of Nato's charter, under which consultations can be requested when an ally feels their security is threatened, officials say. Earlier, Turkey's foreign minister said the F-4 Phantom was in international airspace when it was shot down. Syria has insisted the jet was engaged while it was inside its airspace. It has also said no act of hostility was intended, noting that as soon the military discovered the "unidentified" aircraft was Turkish its navy joined efforts to rescue the two crew members. The Turkish coast guard is still searching for them in the Mediterranean Sea, though hopes are fading of them being found alive. Turkish news channels are reporting that the wreckage of the jet has been located in Syrian territorial waters at a depth of 1,300m (4 265ft), according the Reuters news agency. 'Training mission' Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the North Atlantic Council, the principal political decision-making body within the military alliance, would meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the incident. "Turkey has requested consultations under article 4 of Nato's founding Washington Treaty," she told Reuters. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote This outrageous act underlines how far beyond accepted behaviour the Syrian regime has put itself” William Hague UK Foreign Secretary "Under article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened." Turkey wants to be sure of the strongest backing once it decides its official response, reports the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul. The government has promised that it will be strong, decisive and legitimate, and that it will share all the information it has with the public. Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asserted that the unarmed F-4 Phantom had "momentarily" entered Syrian airspace by mistake on Friday but had left when it was shot down 15 minutes later. "According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles (24km) from Syria," he said. According to international law, a country's airspace extends 12 nautical miles (22.2km) from its coastline, corresponding with its territorial waters. Mr Davutoglu also insisted that the jet had not been on a "covert mission related to Syria" but had instead been carrying out a training flight to test Turkey's radar capabilities. He said the plane had not "shown any hostility", been clearly marked as Turkish, and that he did not agree with the Syrian military's statement that it had not known to whom it belonged. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Syrian military's actions were "outrageous" and underlined "how far beyond accepted behaviour the Syrian regime has put itself". "It will be held to account for its behaviour. The UK stands ready to pursue robust action at the United Nations Security Council," he said.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Assange seeks political asylum

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On Tuesday night WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange applied for political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after failing in his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations. The 40-year-old Australian is currently inside the building in Knightsbridge, having gone there on Tuesday afternoon to request asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. The country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino told a press conference in the South American country that it was considering his request. In a short statement last night, Mr Assange said: "I can confirm that today I arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. This application has been passed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Quito. I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application." The computer expert, who was on £200,000 bail after failing in several attempts to halt extradition, attracted several high-profile supporters including Ken Loach and socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who each offered £20,000 as surety. Other supporters included Bianca Jagger and veteran left-winger Tony Benn. The Swedish authorities want him to answer accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture. Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated. The Supreme Court last month ruled in favour of a High Court ruling that his extradition was legal. Last week the Supreme Court refused an attempt by him to reopen his appeal against extradition, saying it was "without merit". He had until June 28 to ask European judges in Strasbourg to consider his case and postpone extradition on the basis that he has not had a fair hearing from the UK courts. A statement issued on behalf of the Ecuadorian Embassy said Mr Assange would remain at the embassy while his request was considered.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

US Army Col. found guilty of fraud; fined

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The former commander of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade was sentenced to a $300,000 fine and issued a formal reprimand Thursday after being found guilty at a court martial of multiple counts of fraud, conduct unbecoming of an officer, bigamy and other charges related to an alleged long-term extra-marital affair he had with a woman he met in Iraq when they both lived in Europe. As part of the sentence, Col. James Johnson III will have to serve five years in jail if the fine is unpaid, said Army spokeswoman Hilde Patton. He had faced possible decades in prison and dismissal from the Army as a maximum sentence. The panel of five colonels who presided over the court martial in the city of Kaiserslautern did not explain their decision. Johnson had pleaded guilty to 13 counts against him and was found guilty of two other counts by the panel of officers hearing the case. Twelve other counts were dismissed as the proceedings opened Sunday. The West Point graduate was relieved of his command of the Vicenza, Italy-based, 173rd in March 2011 amid the investigation. Johnson, the son of retired Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson Jr., who led the Fort Bragg, 82nd Airborne Division during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, was seen as a rising star in the Army before the charges were levied. He was accused of having carried on an affair with an Iraqi woman he met in Iraq in 2005-06, who was the daughter of his cultural adviser, and pleaded guilty to marrying her before being divorced from his own wife in a ceremony that was carried out by proxies for both of the two in Montana in November. The woman, identified in court documents as Haveen Alladin Muhammed Al-Atar, has not been charged with any wrongdoing. Among the charges that Johnson admitted to was the accusation that he made numerous trips to visit the woman in the Netherlands using official vehicles and travel cards, which are government-issued credit cards. He also acknowledged arranging official transport worth thousands of dollars for the woman and paying tens of thousands of dollars of contracts for her father for things that "were neither produced nor received." The panel also found him guilty of giving the family an Army cell phone on which they ran up more than $80,000 in charges.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

shooting a cop dead is now legal in the state of Indiana.

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Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, has authorized changes to a 2006 legislation that legalizes the use of deadly force on a public servant — including an officer of the law — in cases of “unlawful intrusion.” Proponents of both the Second and Fourth Amendments — those that allow for the ownership of firearms and the security against unlawful searches, respectively — are celebrating the update by saying it ensures that residents are protected from authorities that abuse the powers of the badge. Others, however, fear that the alleged threat of a police state emergence will be replaced by an all-out warzone in Indiana. Under the latest changes of the so-called Castle Doctrine, state lawmakers agree “people have a right to defend themselves and third parties from physical harm and crime.” Rather than excluding officers of the law, however, any public servant is now subject to be met with deadly force if they unlawfully enter private property without clear justification. “In enacting this section, the general assembly finds and declares that it is the policy of this state to recognize the unique character of a citizen's home and to ensure that a citizen feels secure in his or her own home against unlawful intrusion by another individual or a public servant,” reads the legislation. Although critics have been quick to condemn the law for opening the door for assaults on police officers, supporters say that it is necessary to implement the ideals brought by America’s forefathers. Especially, argue some, since the Indiana Supreme Court almost eliminated the Fourth Amendment entirely last year. During the 2011 case of Barnes v. State of Indiana, the court ruled that a man who assaulted an officer dispatched to his house had broken the law before there was “no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.” In turn, the National Rifle Association lobbied for an amendment to the Castle Doctrine to ensure that residents were protected from officers that abuse the law to grant themselves entry into private space. “There are bad legislators,” the law’s author, State Senator R. Michael Young (R) tells Bloomberg News. “There are bad clergy, bad doctors, bad teachers, and it’s these officers that we’re concerned about that when they act outside their scope and duty that the individual ought to have a right to protect themselves.” Governor Daniels agrees with the senator in a statement offered through his office, and notes that the law is only being established to cover rare incidents of police abuse that can escape the system without reprimand for officers or other persons that break the law to gain entry. “In the real world, there will almost never be a situation in which these extremely narrow conditions are met,” Daniels says. “This law is not an invitation to use violence or force against law enforcement officers.” Officers in Indiana aren’t necessarily on the same page, though. “If I pull over a car and I walk up to it and the guy shoots me, he’s going to say, ‘Well, he was trying to illegally enter my property,’” Sergeant Joseph Hubbard tells Bloomberg. “Somebody is going get away with killing a cop because of this law.” “It’s just a recipe for disaster,” Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police President Tim Downs adds. “It just puts a bounty on our heads.”

Monday, 21 May 2012

New global armed conflict may start any moment

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The crisis in the relations between China and the Philippines has been balancing on the edge of a military conflict for more than a month. China managed to find a way out of the problem. However, the crisis still remains unsolved. Moreover, the Philippines tries to have the USA involved in the conflict (there is The Mutual Defense Treaty Between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America, signed on August 30, 1951). China in its turn wants to win Russia's support. The two countries conducted large-scale military drills in the Yellow Sea during the peak of the conflict. The situation began to escalate in the South China Sea on April 10, when a Philippine warship detected Chinese fishing boats near the disputed island of Huangyan. Philippine servicemen attempted to inspect the holds of the Chinese vessel. However, Chinese military boats arrived at the scene very soon and blocked the Philippine warship. China claims that its sovereignty over the island is based on the fact that it was China, who discovered the island in 1279 during the reign of the Yuan Dynasty (1291-1368). In addition, China substantiates its territorial claims with three international agreements. It goes about the Paris Peace Treaty between the USA and Spain from 1898, the Washington agreements between Spain and the USA from 1900 and the agreement between Britain and the USA from 1930, where the boundaries of Philippines territorial waters were limited to the 118th meridian of eastern longitude Greenwich. Print version Font Size Send to friend In 1898, after the Spanish-American War, Spain delivered the Philippines, Cuba, Guam and Puerto-Rico to the United States for $20 million in accordance with the Paris Peace Treaty from 1898. To counter China's arguments, the Philippines rely on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea from 1982. The document set the sea border of the economic zone of the country at the distance of 200 miles. In this context, the above-mentioned disputed island is located only 230 kilometers far from Luson Island - the main island of the Philippines. The country's administration raised the question of the sovereignty of the island in July 2011. The country has been taking measures to solve the problem since that time. There were new adequate maps published, discussions were conducted at the parliament. Now the government has ventured to stand up and struggle openly. Having expressed concerns on the diplomatic level, the Philippines and the USA joined forces to conduct military drills in the water area of the disputed island. There were two aircraft carriers, two warships, 4,500 US and 2,300 Philippine servicemen participating in the drills that started on April 16 and ended April 27. The Chinese responded. On April 23, they also started large-scale drills in the Yellow Sea, albeit with the participation of the Russian navy. There were 25 various vessels involved in total, as well as 13 aircraft, nine helicopters and two special military units. Was it the beginning of the new standoff within the scope of the Cold War? The Cold War has started indeed. All the doubts about it have disappeared after Russia's Putin and USA's Obama refused to attend international forums on the territory of the "partner" state. No one has probably noticed that, but the world was standing on the brink of a new international armed conflict in April. Chinese bloggers were posting messages on the Internet saying that units of the Chinese army were set on high alert (the second level on four-level scale). Major General Luo Yuan of China's People's Liberation Army stated that China favored a diplomatic solution of the conflict while there is a chance for reconciliation. However, the official added, it did not mean that China refused from military methods of solving the problem. The neighboring states, the general said, should think about the consequences, when they decide to scoff at China. Moreover, a Chinese TV host said on one of the country's central channels that the Philippines were the Chinese territory. Afterwards, the Chinese Embassy in Manila made an announcement about "mass anti-Chinese demonstrations." Chinese airlines halved the number of flights over the "drop in the tourist flow to the Philippines," Xinhua agency reported. To crown it all, an official spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry called upon the Philippines to respect China's territorial sovereignty and to refrain from the actions which could aggravate the situation. Beijing was prepared for any form of the escalation of the standoff, the official added. Against such a background, the minister for foreign affairs and the defense minister of the Philippines flew to Washington in the beginning of May. In the US capital, the officials conducted the meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Most likely, the US officials asked their Philippine counterparts to slow down with their ambitions. Clinton stated as a result of the meeting that the USA would not be taking anyone's part in the conflict in the South China Sea. That was obviously only verbal distancing because the USA and the Philippines are members of the mutual defense treaty. Under this treaty, the two countries undertake to defend each other both in case of external aggression against their territories and in the Pacific region on the whole. The US, being an ally of the Philippines, will not be sitting on its hands if China conducts a military operation. This is what the majority of Philippines politicians say, and they want to check both sides. They want to find out whether the Chinese are ready to launch combat actions, and if the Americans are ready to support the Philippines in the military conflict. However, Washington has already conducted a provocative operation like that in South Ossetia. It did not work with Russia, and it may not work with China either. China also has the sad experience of the struggle for Taiwan. The situation improved after China's department for fishing announced a ban on fishing for 2.5 months in the northern part of the South China Sea, including the waters around Huangyan Island. The Philippines do not fish in the area, so the ban touches upon 90,000 Chinese fishing boats. A Chinese official assured that it as a common measure that the Chinese authorities take every year. The move, he added, had nothing in common with the current escalation in the dispute. It is clear, though, that the decision is directly related to the problem. In addition, China's Defense ministry officially rebutted the information saying that Chinese military units and navy had been set on high alert. The problem is not going to vanish by itself, of course. China rejects the suggestion from the Philippines to go to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or to the UN. Chinese officials say that the laws about the redistribution of spheres of influence between colonial powers were not retroactive. No international agreements can abolish such laws, Chinese politicians claim. A lot will depend on the position of the United States that has been neutral so far. However, China's strategic growth raises serious concerns with Washington. In the event the country refuses from Deng Xiaoping's strategy of waiting in the shadow, then the Celestial Empire will become serious competition for Washington both economically and politically. There is something to struggle for indeed. The shelf of the disputed islands is rich with oil and gas.

Mladic instigated ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, UN court told

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Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic went on trial accused of carrying out a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing and Europe’s worst massacre since World War II. Mladic’s trial opened at the Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague, also watched in a live broadcast in Sarajevo by widows and other relatives of victims of the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica where almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were allegedly murdered by Mladic’s forces. “Ratko Mladic assumed the mantle of the criminal goal of ethnically cleansing Bosnia,” prosecutor Dermot Groome told International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Now 70, Mladic has been indicted on 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Balkan country’s brutal 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people and left 2.2 million homeless. “The prosecution will present evidence that will show without reasonable doubt the hand of Mr Mladic in each of these crimes,” Groome said. Mladic, dressed in a dark grey suit and patterned tie, sarcastically applauded judges as they entered the courtroom, but was not asked to speak during the hearing. Before the television cameras started rolling, Mladic made a “throat-slitting” towards the public gallery where victims’ relatives were seated, said one widow of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. “At one moment, Mladic looked towards the public. I think he has recognized us, the women of Srebrenica, and then made a gesture moving his hand over the throat, meaning ‘I will slit your throat’,” Munira Subasic told AFP. Subasic heads the “Mothers of Srebrenica” organisation representing widows and victims of the Srebrenica massacre when 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Mladic’s troops in July 1995. Nerma Jelacic, the UN tribunal’s spokeswoman, told Serbian state agency merely that “there has been a communication between the defendant and people at the gallery.” The former Bosnian Serb commander had pleaded not guilty to the charges at an earlier court hearing last June. He faces life imprisonment if convicted. In his opening address, the prosecutor displayed population maps showing the ethnic distribution in Bosnia before and after the war, explaining how mixed or predominantly Muslim municipalities became exclusively Serbian after a campaign of ethnic cleansing he said was one of Mladic’s “strategic objectives”. Groome said the very first objective had been to “separate the Serbs from the other two national communities” — Bosnians and Croats. “Thousands of families were forced from their land,” Groome added, as he told the court how groups of non-Serbs were executed and others forced to jump from a bridge by soldiers under Mladic’s command. Presiding judge Alphons Orie warned both Mladic and people sitting in the public gallery not to make eye contact during the trial when several comments including the word “vulture” were uttered. Prosecutors also hold Mladic responsible for the 44-month siege of Sarajevo where his forces waged a “terror campaign” of sniping and shelling that left an estimated 10,000 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians. “Sarajevo was a model of diversity, a cosmopolitan city,” said Groome. “They (Bosnian Serb leaders) sought to destroy it, to sever the city in half, with the Serbs living in one part and the non-Serbs in another part.” It was in pursuit of a “Greater Serbia” that Mladic allegedly also ordered his troops to “cleanse” other Bosnian towns, driving out Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs. After the war, Mladic continued his military career but went into hiding in 2000 after the fall of his ally in Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic. Indicted for war crimes, he was on the run until May 2011 when he was arrested at a relative’s house in Lazarevo, northeastern Serbia and flown to a prison in The Hague several days later. Two days ahead of the trial, his lawyers filed a request for a six-month adjournment, saying they needed more time to prepare a defence. The judge said Wednesday the court was still considering whether to postpone the case, on the grounds that the prosecution made a “significant error” which could affect the course of the trial. During a string of pre-trial hearings, the former general complained of his poor health and asked Orie if he could wear his military uniform. Defence lawyer Branko Lukic said Mladic suffered three strokes in 1996, 2008 and 2011 and was partly paralysed on his right side. Mladic however appeared in better shape than at his first appearance last June when he told the court he was a “sick man”. Lukic told journalists Wednesday that Mladic had had extensive medical and dental surgery since his capture, saying “he lost a lot of teeth” during his years as a fugitive. At the end of the first day’s hearing, Lukic said “the prosecution has to tell the story and the story is of course very ugly… Our task is to show what they say is not true.” The trial was due to continue on Thursday, before resuming on May 29.

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