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NEWS – Distillation Week Of 1-5 August 2011 – (TCP)CHICAGO

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(TCP)CHICAGO – Dateline Chicago

1 August 2011

Yemen – The (AP) files this report: Government airstrikes killed at least 15 suspected al-Qaida-linked militants in southern Yemen on Monday, military official said. The strikes also destroyed a tank that militants had seized and several artillery positions in the Dufas area near Zinjibar, one of several southern towns that the fighters have overrun during the months of political turmoil in the country. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with army rules. The airstrikes were the latest in a government campaign to try to dislodge al-Qaida-linked militants from Zinjibar and the nearby town of Jaar. A deteriorating security situation has spread across the impoverished, heavily armed country since the popular uprising against longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh began six months ago. Yemen is home an active al-Qaida branch, and the United States fears the country’s unrest could give the militants more room to plot attacks on the West. Emboldened by the turmoil, the militants have been seeking to capture and hold territory in Yemen’s nearly lawless south. Also Monday, in the city of Taiz, a hotbed of anti-Saleh protests, two soldiers and one fighter from an anti-government tribe were killed in clashes that have continued for weeks. The armed tribesmen there say they came to protect protesters after a deadly government crackdown.

North KoreaRTT NEWS reports that, North Korea said Monday that it was ready and eager to resume the currently stalled six-nation negotiations on its disputed nuclear program as early as possible. A statement issued by the communist nation’s foreign ministry said Pyongyang “remains unchanged in its stand to resume the six-party talks without preconditions at an early date.” The statement added that North Korea was willing to implement a de-nuclearization deal reached in September 2005 in exchange for aid. The foreign ministry statement followed meeting between North Korean officials and their South Korean counterparts on the sidelines of a security conference held in Indonesia last month. As well, North Korean and US officials also held talks in New York on the issue last week. Later, both US and North Korean officials said separately that their first talks in 19 months were constructive and businesslike. Those talks as well as the one in Indonesia are believed to have laid the platform for the resumption of the stalled six-nation nuclear talks.

ChinaThe Daily Start out of Lebanon files this report: China blamed Monday Muslim extremists trained in Pakistan for launching one of two deadly weekend attacks in a troubled far western region, while overseas activists feared the government could respond by cracking down on ethnic Uighurs widely blamed for the unrest. Sunday’s attack left 13 dead, including seven suspected assailants, in the Silk Road city of Kashgar. Clashes a day earlier in the city killed seven, including one of two men who allegedly hijacked a truck and rammed it into a crowd. The weekend violence raised tensions across the Xinjiang region on China’s western frontier, which has been under tight security since 2009 when almost 200 people were killed in fighting between Han Chinese and minority Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group that sees Xinjiang as its homeland. The German-based World Uyghur Congress said it feared the violence could prompt a crackdown on Uighurs still blamed for the unrest two years ago in Urumqi, the regional capital. Kashgar issued warrants and offered 100,000 yuan ($16,000) for information leading to the arrest of two Uighur suspects allegedly seen fleeing the scene of Sunday’s attack. The official Xinhua News Agency reported late Monday that police shot to death the two suspects in corn fields in a suburb of Kashgar. The Xinhua report cited Hou Hanmin, director of Xinjiang’s International Communication Office. Earlier, the city said a “group of armed terrorists” had stormed a restaurant and killed the owner and a waiter before setting fire to the building.

Syria – The LA Times reports that, the human toll and diplomatic fallout of the Syrian government’s pre-Ramadan crackdown against opposition protesters continued to rise Monday as security forces launched new attacks in the cities of Hama, Dair Alzour and Bukamal and foreign governments announced added sanctions. At least three people were killed in Hama and one each in Bukamal and Dair Alzour, increasing the nationwide death toll to at least 75 in two days, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a prominent Syrian activist network that compiles the names of the dead. Another activist network, the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union, put the death toll at about 150 nationwide, with 100 in Hama alone. The violence spurred harsh international condemnation of President Bashar Assad on the eve of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and contemplation. The timing of the attack by a government dominated by Assad’s fellow Alawite Muslims, who tend to be secular, seemed sure to provoke sectarian passions among Syria’s pious Sunnis.

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Washington DC – The WSJ files this report: U.S. Capitol police arrested 22 people in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Representatives after their protests over the debt-ceiling deal disrupted Monday debate on the House floor. The visitors shouted repeatedly from the visitors’ gallery in protest against corporate tax breaks, which weren’t eliminated as part of the debt-ceiling deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama on Sunday. Capitol police officers made the arrests around 3:20 p.m. EDT and charged them with “disruption of Congress,” according to U.S. Capitol Police Public Information Officer Kimberly Schneider. The protests interrupted debate on the floor, while the presiding officer called the police to remove the raucous visitors from the chamber. The House is expected to vote on the bill to raise the debt ceiling later Monday. The plan would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion in two stages while cutting spending by about $2.7 trillion over 10 years.

2-3 August 2011

Pakistan – The Telegraph UK reports that, Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the capital of Sindh province, has been plagued by ethnic and political violence for decades but officials put the death toll for July at over 300, one of the deadliest months in almost two decades. President Asif Ali Zardari summoned Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah to talks in Islamabad about the law and order situation in the port city as the government vowed to clamp down on the wave of killings. Much of it stems from tension between mohajir – the descendants of people who came to Pakistan after the partition of India and Pashtun immigrants from Pakistan’s tribal areas. That tension is then further fuelled by criminal mafias and other political forces. Altaf Hussain, leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which dominates Karachi and represents the mohajir, was holding a conference call Wednesday afternoon with his supporters from London, where he has lived in exile since 1992. He railed against the government for failing to take enough action over the unrest. Security officials said some calm had been restored to the city after several people were detained in overnight raids and troops set up checkpoints and increased spot checks in areas prone to violence.

Libya – In an unrelated report, the Telegraph UK reports this: A Libya flagged vessel steered by the rebels and assisted by contingent of naval special forces boarded the Cartagena just outside Maltese territorial waters on Wednesday morning. The Cartagena is owned by the Libyan government’s shipping arm, the General National Maritime Transport Company, which is believed to be controlled by Col Muammar Gaddafi’s son Hannibal, who is on a sanctions list. It had picked up its cargo in Turkey three months ago. A Maltese navy ship shadowed the vessel as the boarding took place and followed it until it had left the country’s search and rescue area. A Nato spokesman on Wednesday night admitted that the vessel was being escorted by a naval patrol into the rebel held port of Benghazi. “We are monitoring the ship and the ship has been hailed and signs indicate it is co-operating with Nato forces as it approaches the shores of Libya,” Col Roland Lavoie, the Nato spokesman said. “Nato will follow normal procedures and it will be up to the commander of the Nato ship involved to decide whether to board the ship, weather and sea conditions permitting.” Petroleum Economist, an industry newsletter, first reported that the Cartagena was seized by anti-Gaddafi rebels with the help of special forces from a European state. The vessel was believed to be carrying more than 250,000 barrels of petrol, a scarce commodity in both parts of divided Libya.

Sudan – The VOA files this report: A South Sudan rebel group has declared a cease-fire with the government of the newly independent nation. A spokesman for the rebels, Bol Gatkouth, said the group was accepting a recent offer of amnesty extended by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and will open talks with the government. The group, led by renegade general Peter Gadet and based in South Sudan’s Unity state, is one of several rebel groups fighting government forces in the new country. President Kiir first offered amnesty to the militias last year and renewed the offer at independence ceremonies on July 9. South Sudan voted to split from the north in a January referendum.  Southern officials have accused Khartoum government of supporting the militias to destabilize the new country.

IraqXinhua reports that, two roadside bombs rattled the capital city of Iraq’s western province of Anbar on Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding 15 others, a local police source said. A roadside bomb ripped off in downtown Ramadi Wednesday night, causing casualties to several civilians. Minutes later, a second roadside bomb was detonated amid a group of Iraqi policemen who just rushed to the scene, inflicting more casualties, a local police source told Xinhua, asking not to be identified. Two blast killed seven people including one policeman and injured 15 people including four policemen, the source said. The restive Anbar province has long been a stronghold of al- Qaida group and other insurgents. Its capital city Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, witnessed sporadic high-profile attacks in recent years.

4 August 2011

Turkey – The VOA files this report: Turkish President Abdullah Gul has appointed four new military commanders to replace their predecessors, who resigned last week to protest the arrests of fellow officers accused of plotting coups. The appointments of new military commanders by Turkey’s civilian government Thursday were designed to give the country’s political leadership the edge in a longstanding power struggle with the once-dominant armed forces. President Abdullah Gul’s spokesman, Ahmet Sever, announced the appointments of a new chief of staff and new commanders to head the army, navy and air force. He says the president approved the nominations made by Turkey’s Supreme Military Council at the end of a four-day meeting.  General Necdet Ozel, who previously headed the paramilitary police (gendarmerie), was named the new armed forces chief of staff.  General Hayri Kivrikoglu will head the ground forces, General Emin Bilgel becomes head of the navy and General Mehmet Erten was promoted to head of the air force.  General Bekir Kalyoncu replaced Ozel as head of the paramilitary police. The abrupt resignation by Ozel’s predecessor, General Isik Kosaner, along with the commanders of the army, navy and air force, followed years of tension between the secularist military and the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

ChinaReuters reports that,  China Thursday accused Japan of deliberately exaggerating Beijing’s military threat, underlining the suspicion with which Asia’s two biggest economies view each other. The accusation follows a defense white paper earlier this week in which Japan warned that China’s naval forces were likely to increase activities around its waters. The two countries have long bickered over ownership of parts of the East China Sea, with the latest flare-up late last year. China’s foreign and defense ministries both rounded on the Japan’s latest defense report, which laid out worries about China’s military modernization and expanding maritime reach. China is close to launching its first aircraft carrier, a refitted former Soviet vessel, and sources told Reuters it was building two more. Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu obliquely warned Tokyo not to stray from its longstanding defense posture and, in comments on the ministry website (www.mfa.gov.cn), criticized “irresponsible comments” in the white paper.

Palestine – The Jerusalem Post files this report, Palestinians report buildings on fire in Khan Yunis; IDF Spokesman confirms strikes on four tunnels in central Strip, strike in South. The Israeli Air Force struck a number of targets in the Gaza Strip early Friday morning, following several strikes earlier Thursday and increased rocket fire emanating from the Strip in recent days. The IDF Spokesman confirmed that the IAF struck four terror tunnels and one terror activity base in the central Gaza Strip. Another target was struck in the southern strip. Palestinian sources reported that several buildings were on fire in Khan Yunis following the strike but there were no reports of injuries at the time of this report. The IDF Spokesman noted that the attacks were precision strikes and came as a response to the rocket fire in recent days. It added that the IDF holds Hamas responsible for maintaining calm in Gaza. On Thursday, the IAF launched an airstrike on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a rocket fired from Gaza that exploded in the Lachish area. A direct hit was identified.

Palestine – In a related story – Xinhua reports that, Over the past few months, the Palestinian leadership has been insisting that its only choice is to approach the United Nations in September to demand a full membership. Fifty days ahead of the annual UN General Assembly meetings in New York, observers said Palestinians will not retreat from applying to the UN. The Palestinians announced on Thursday that they had finalized the preparations for approaching the UN through out coordination with Arab countries. Saeb Erekat, a veteran Palestinian negotiator, who attended a two-day meeting of the Arab League in Qatar, said the AL had put up a joint working plan related to approaching the UN Security Council and General Assembly and the needed steps to be followed afterwards.

LibyaThe Australian reports that, NATO faced another damaging allegation of inflicting civilian casualties in Libya last night, after two boys and their mother were killed in what relatives said was an airstrike. The children’s uncle blamed traitors for giving the foreign jets the wrong grid reference for their dawn raid yesterday on the family home in the frontline town of Zlitan, east of Tripoli. “Screw Nato, screw the rats and those who give out co-ordinates,” said Abu Bakir Ali al-Mubar, sobbing. The Times and other foreign media were taken to see three wooden coffins in a prayer hall on the outskirts of the town, the scene of fierce clashes in the past few days between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and advancing rebels.

5 August 2011

Syria – The Jerusalem Post reports via Reuters that, the US State Department warns that given the “ongoing uncertainty and volatility” American citizens are urged to leave immediately while transportation is still available. Americans in Syria are encouraged to leave and travel to the country should be postponed, the US State Department said on Friday following widespread violence that has pitted thousands of protesters against the government. The State Department warned that given the “ongoing uncertainty and volatility” US citizens are urged to leave immediately while transportation is still available. The advisory also encouraged Americans who remain to limit any nonessential travel within the country.

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