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9 June 2012
Syria – USA Today reported: Syrian troops shelled the southern city of Daraa early on Saturday, killing at least 17 people, activists said. And in Damascus, residents spoke about a night of shooting and explosions in the worst violence Syria’s capital has seen since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began 15 months ago. The nearly 12 hours of fighting in Damascus suggested a new boldness among armed rebels, who previously kept a low profile in the capital. It also showed a willingness by the regime to unleash in the capital the sort of elevated force against restive neighborhoods it has used to crush opponents elsewhere. For the first time in the uprising, witnesses said, regime tanks opened fire in the city’s streets, with shells slamming into residential buildings. The latest escalations in different parts of Syria are another blow to international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which aims to end the country’s bloodletting. Annan brokered a cease-fire that went into effect on April 12 but has since been violated nearly every day since and never properly took hold.
Afghanistan – The LA Times reported: A suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday killed four French troops and injured five others, French and Afghan officials said, deaths that increased pressure on an already wavering NATO ally. The new French president, Francois Hollande, told NATO allies at a summit in Chicago last month that France would end its combat role this year, two years ahead of schedule, rebuffing appeals to stay in the fight longer. Support for the Afghan war, already waning in France, slipped sharply after four other French troops were killed earlier this year by an Afghan soldier — one of a rapid-fire series of “green on blue” attacks by Afghans against Western mentors. Saturday’s blast occurred in the late morning in Kapisa province, east of Kabul, the main area of operations for French forces. Provincial officials said the bomber approached a joint Afghan-French patrol in the village of Pul-e-Khwaja in the Nijrab district and detonated a payload of explosives.
Ivory Coast – CNN reported: Thousands on Saturday fled the area in southwestern Ivory Coast where attacks left seven U.N. peacekeepers and eight civilians dead, according to a U.N. official. One attack occurred late Thursday and into Friday near Para Village, not far from the west-central African nation’s border with Liberia, according to the United Nations. Humanitarian organizations reported Saturday they were expecting about 4,000 people in Tai, said Remi Dourlot, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Several hundred had arrived by midday Saturday in the town, which is on the edge of Tai National Park. Another 35 families crossed the Ivory Coast’s southwest border into U.N. refugee camps in Liberia, and humanitarian groups said hundreds of others had been pushed south by the violence, according to Dourlot.
Libya – USA Today reported: The International Criminal Court on Saturday demanded the release of four of its staffers it says are being detained in Libya, where they are part of an official mission sent to meet with the imprisoned son of deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi. “We are very concerned about the safety of our staff in the absence of any contact with them,” said court President Sang-Hyun Song in a statement issued in The Hague, Netherlands. “These four international civil servants have immunity when on an official ICC mission.” The four detained include at least one of two lawyers the court has assigned to help defend the legal interests of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, who has been held by revolutionary fighters since his capture in November. Seif al-Islam is at the center of a wrangle between the international court and the new government in Tripoli, both of which have drawn up plans to prosecute him for alleged war crimes.
Palestine – The Agence France Presse reported: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he is ready for a dialogue with Israel if it frees Palestinian prisoners taken before the 1993 Oslo peace accord. Speaking aboard a plane after talks in Paris, Abbas laid out his requirements to resume the comprehensive peace talks which stalled in September 2010: an end to Jewish settlement building in the Palestinian territories, and the recognition of the 1967 borders as a starting point. He said he had urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to free all 123 Palestinians detained by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo accord, adding that their release had been agreed “but Israel has not honoured its commitment.” “If it frees these prisoners, there could be a meeting with Mr Netanyahu for a session of dialogue but that doesn’t mean negotiations,” the Palestinian leader said.
10 June 2012
Myanmar – Bloomberg NEWS reported: Myanmar declared a state of emergency in a western border region to prevent clashes between Muslims and Buddhists from spreading or threatening the country’s democratic transition, the Associated Press reported. President Thein Sein last night said in a televised address that uncontrolled violence may “severely affect” the country’s development and “nascent democratic reforms,” the AP reported. The unrest began after an alleged rape prompted a mob of Rakhine Buddhists to murder 10 Rohingya Muslims last week, his adviser Ko Ko Hlaing said on June 8. As many as 30 people were killed and hundreds of buildings torched in rioting in Muslim-majority border towns, Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group reported, citing an eyewitness account by one of its reporters. Photos on its website showed thick smoke rising above village roads and security forces with guns standing close to groups of Rohingyas.
Syria – Reuters reported: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have renewed efforts to impose control in Homs province, killing at least 35 people in one of the biggest bombardments since a failed U.N.-mandated ceasefire in April, opposition activists said on Sunday. They said the Syrian army used artillery, mortars and rockets to hit opposition strongholds in the city of Homs and the towns of Qusair, Talbiseh and Rastan in central Syria. Free Syrian Army rebels had been intensifying attacks in the area, the Syrian Network for Human Rights and other opposition campaigners said. Assad’s forces also carried out raids on neighborhoods in and around Damascus to try and flush out rebels who have been stepping up operations near security compounds in the capital.
Syria – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: Syria’s main opposition group on Sunday picked a secular Kurd as its new leader after criticism that the former head was too autocratic and the group was becoming dominated by Islamists. The opposition, hobbled by disorganization and infighting, is trying to unite and appear more inclusive by choosing a member of an ethnic minority. The opposition’s disarray has frustrated Western powers eager to dislodge Syrian President Bashar Assad but unwilling or unable to send in their own forces to do it. There has been some willingness to support the rebels with funds and arms, but the lack of a cohesive front has hampered the efforts as the bloodshed intensifies.
Nigeria – The New York Times reported: A car bomber detonated his explosives on Sunday outside a church in this central Nigerian city, and gunmen attacked another church in the nation’s northeast, killing at least four people and wounding dozens in the latest attacks against Christian worshipers, officials and witnesses said. While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Jos and Biu, a city in the northeastern state of Borno, they bore the hallmarks of assaults by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, which continue unabated despite a heavy military presence in the region. In Jos, a city on the uneasy dividing line between Nigeria’s largely Muslim north and its Christian south, the bomber drove toward the compound of the Evangelical Church Winning All chapel and detonated his explosives nearby, said Abu Emmanuel, a spokesman for Plateau State police. The shock wave from the blast collapsed a portion of the building, causing injuries inside, Mr. Emmanuel said.
Libya – The Agence France Presse reported: Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday urged Libyan authorities to release an Australian lawyer accused of spying, as Canberra ramped up diplomatic efforts to secure the woman’s freedom. Melinda Taylor was detained on Thursday after meeting Seif al-Islam, the detained son of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi, as part of a four-person team from the International Criminal Court (ICC). “I am very concerned about the detention of Ms Taylor,” Gillard told reporters. “We are calling on the Libyan government to expedite the end of Ms Taylor’s detention.” Gillard said while she had been assured that Taylor was safe and well, Canberra wanted to see her detention “come to an end as quickly as possible” and had dispatched to the country its ambassador-designate to Libya..