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13 August 2012
Syria – The LA Times reported: In million-dollar apartments in a neighborhood of the city as yet unscathed, the battle for Aleppo plays out daily on flat-screen TVs. Amid imported sofas and abstract art, the revolution doesn’t seem so close. But as the call for night prayers rang out from the minaret of the nearby mosque on a recent day, two loud explosions boomed. “Do you hear that?” a father of seven asked, briefly looking away from the TV. “It’s like this every night.” From the balcony, which on this night let in a little cool summer breeze, his family can occasionally see smoke rising above other Aleppo neighborhoods that are under attack by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. The father is solidly opposed to Assad, but he fears the prospect of rebels who have filtered in from the suburbs seizing his neighborhood as they try to take Syria’s largest city and commercial hub.
Syria – Xinhua of China reported: Foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) proposed Monday at a meeting in Saudi Arabia to suspend Syria from the body for its violent crackdown on a 17-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. According to an OIC source, the top diplomats of OIC member states made the proposal at a preparatory meeting for an extra OIC summit scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday in Mecca. The source says the decision is likely to be formally announced at the end of the second day of the summit. Iran, which has backed the Syrian government, said it opposed the resolution. Iran also accused the OIC summit’s host country of assisting the rebels. The OIC, a body comprising 56 member states plus the Palestinian Authority, aims to represent Muslim interests on the world stage. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Mecca on Monday echoing King Abdullah’s call for the summit to increase Muslim unity.
Russia – Reuters reported: A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 struck off the eastern Russian coast to the north of Japan, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Tuesday, but no tsunami warning was issued by Japanese authorities. The quake was measured very deep at around 580 km (360 miles) below the earth’s surface. Japanese television said the quake was measured at 7.3.
Australia – The Associated Press reported: Australian authorities hold grave fears for 67 asylum seekers reported missing after they said they were leaving Indonesia in a rickety boat bound for Australia more than a month ago, an official said Tuesday. The news comes as Australia’s government debates a tough new bill aimed at deterring the flood of asylum seekers making the perilous sea journey. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service were alerted over the weekend that the 67 had not been heard from since they told relatives that they would embark on the 400 kilometer (250 mile) voyage to the Australian Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island in late June or early July, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said. Customs had since checked a list of names of the missing against the hundreds of asylum seekers who had reached the island aboard overcrowded fishing boats in recent weeks, he said.
Pakistan – The WSJ reported: Pakistan has indicated that it plans to launch combat operations against Taliban militants soon in a tribal area near the Afghan border that also serves as a haven for leaders of the al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani network, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday. Mr. Panetta said Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, discussed the planned operation in recent conversations with the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen. Mr. Panetta said he did not know when the Pakistani operation would start, but he said he understands it will be in the “near future,” and that the main target will be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani network. Saying he had previously “lost hope” that Pakistan’s military would take action in the North Waziristan tribal area, Mr. Panetta welcomed Gen. Kayani’s initiative, even though the main target may not be the Haqqani leadership.
Gaza – Haaretz reported: One can assume that a quiet understanding will eventually enable the Hamas tunnels to continue operating, taking into account Egypt’s security demands and Hamas’ financial needs. Last week’s terror attack in Sinai, which claimed the lives of 16 Egyptian soldiers, prompted the authorities in Cairo to clamp down on the smuggling tunnels connecting Egyptian Rafah and the Gaza Strip. Dozens of bulldozers arrived at the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi Route and began demolishing tunnels. On the other side, Hamas closed the tunnel entrances, at least for the time being.
14 August 2012
Syria – The Christian Science Monitor reported: In his first public speech since his defection last week, Syria’s former prime minister Riyad Farid Hijab said Assad’s ‘regime is on the verge of collapse.’ In the meantime, the United Nations is attempts to provide aid to the people of Syria and Iran provides training to some of Assad’s troops. The regime of President Bashar Assad is near collapse and now controls only 30 percent of Syria, the country’s former prime minister said Tuesday in his first comments since defecting to Jordan last week. The comments by Riyad Farid Hijab, the highest-ranking official to defect from the Syrian government, came as the bloodshed inside the country continued. Activists said at least 60 people were killed Tuesday, including at least six children. “The regime is on the verge of collapse morally, financially and economically in addition to cracks in the military,” Hijab told a news conference televised from the Jordanian capital, Amman.
Iran – CBS NEWS reported: Iran is playing a growing role supporting the Syrian regime and is helping to build and train a militia to fight opposition forces, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that the militia, which is generally made up of Syrian Shiite forces, is being used to take the pressure off the Syrian regime forces, which have been at war for almost 18 months. “Any army would be taxed with that kind of pace,” Dempsey said. “They are having re-supply problems, they are having morale problems, they are having the kind of wear-and-tear that would come of being in a fight for as long as they have.” Dempsey also said that it appears Syrian rebels were able to shoot down a Syrian warplane, but said he has seen no indication that they are armed with heavy weapons or surface-to-air missiles, at least not yet.
Afghanistan – The New York Times reported: Bombings and shootings took the lives of at least 43 Afghans on Tuesday in the deadliest day for civilians this year as insurgents struck while people were preparing for the Muslim holiday that ends the month of Ramadan. The worst death toll came in the southwestern province of Nimruz, where suicide bombers struck the provincial capital, Zaranj, as throngs of people were shopping for the Id al-Fitr holiday this weekend. The bombings killed at least 29 people and wounded 57, said Gen. Mohammed Musa Rasuli, the provincial police chief. In Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan, a remotely detonated bomb on a motorcycle exploded in a bazaar just after the evening prayer that breaks the Ramadan fast, killing 10 people, said Sheikh Saadi, the district governor. The bombing occurred in Dasht-e-Archi, a district in the province’s west. And in Badakhshan Province, in the far northeast of the country, a district governor and three policemen were killed in a Taliban ambush as they were driving through a remote area, said Abdul Rasul Rasekh, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
Egypt – The Washington Examiner reported: Egypt’s Islamist president has given himself the right to legislate and control over the drafting of a new constitution. He has installed at the top of the powerful military a defense minister likely to be beholden to him. Under Mohammed Morsi’s authority, officials have moved to silence influential critics in the media. And though a civilian, he declared himself in charge of military operations against militants in the Sinai peninsula. Over the weekend, Morsi ordered the retirement of the defense minister and chief of staff and reclaimed key powers the military seized from him days before he took office on June 30. With that, Egypt’s first freely elected president amassed in his own hands powers that rival those of his ousted authoritarian predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
France – ABC NEWS of Australia reported: In Amiens, about 100 youths have been in running battles with police. A primary school and leisure centre were burnt down, and there are reports of drivers being ambushed and dragged from their cars before their vehicles were torched. It is unclear what sparked the violence, but there have been recent spot checks on residents. Amiens, along with other ‘banlieues’ or ethnic ghettos like Toulouse and Marseille, are set to be so-called security zones. The Government hopes an increase in police and social workers will curb violence. French interior minister Manuel Valls was booed on Tuesday in the northern city of Amiens, hours after riots there cast a shadow over president Francois Hollande’s celebration of his first 100 days in power.
Israel – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: Dozens of Israelis crowded in front of a storefront at a Jerusalem shopping mall yesterday to pick up new gas masks, part of civil defense preparations in case the military strikes Iran and the Islamic Republic or its allies retaliate. “Our leaders seem to have gotten very hawkish in their speeches and this time it seems they mean what they say,” said Yoram Lands, 68, a professor of business administration, who was picking up new masks for himself and his wife at a distribution center in the mall. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Aug. 1 that time “is running out” for a peaceful solution to Iran’s atomic program. The Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported Aug. 10 that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are considering bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities before U.S. elections on Nov. 6. Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said government policy is not to comment on media speculation.
Egypt – Haaretz reported: Former intelligence chief Mowafi apparently had knowledge of a supposed plot to assassinate President Morsi; dismissal of generals followed leak information leaked back to Morsi. The recent dismissal of Egypt’s defense minister, army chief and other top officers was meant to prevent military a coup that was planned to take place in late August, Egyptian security officials have been quoted as saying by the country’s media outlets on Tuesday. According to the repots, Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi was alerted to the plot’s existence by military officials, who informed the newly elected leader that plans were being drafted within the army to takeover power in Egypt and even assassinate Morsi himself during the funeral of Egyptian officers killed in the recent Sinai attack. Moreover, the reports allege that not only did head of intelligence Morad Mowafi, who was fired prior to the dismissal of the army’s elite, know about these plans, but he was also given the names of some of its would be perpetrators.
Australia – The WSJ reported: Lawmakers in Australia’s lower house on Wednesday approved legislation reinstating offshore processing of asylum claims, bringing an issue that has been eroding support for the minority Labor government close to resolution. The law still needs to clear Australia’s upper house Senate. That should be a formality after Prime Minister Julia Gillard secured the backing of the country’s main conservative opposition, the Liberal-National coalition. A long-running debate over Australia’s border protection policies has weighed on the popularity of Ms. Gillard’s center-left government, with recent voter polls suggesting Labor would lose office to the coalition, led by Tony Abbott, if an election was held today. The next national ballot is due by late 2013. A breakthrough was reached Monday when an independent panel recommended the government resume a policy of holding so-called boat people on the remote Pacific Island of Nauru and in Papua New Guinea. That effectively marks a return to the border protection policies of the conservative coalition, which governed from 1996 to 2007.
Tunisia – Al Bawaba NEWS of Jordan reported: Hundreds of protesters demonstrated against Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party during a general strike Tuesday in Sidi Bouzid, hub of the 2011 uprising, an AFP journalist reported. Residents of Sidi Bouzid were among hundreds of members of the political opposition and trade unions, as well as civil society groups and employer organizations to march towards the court house on the outskirts of the town. They shouted slogans including: “The people want the fall of the regime!” and “Justice, woe to you, Ennahda has power over you!” in reference to the moderate Islamist party that heads Tunisia’s ruling coalition after winning elections last October. Offices and shops were shut in the town center, although some butchers stayed open to allow customers to prepare for the iftar evening meal, when Muslims break their day-long fast during Ramadan.
China – ABC NEWS reported: China on Wednesday accused some Western countries of seeking regime change in Syria and blamed their increasing support for rebel forces in the civil war there as hurting the solidarity of the U.N. Security Council. The remarks in the official People’s Daily newspaper came as China hosted an envoy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for talks. No details of the talks were released Wednesday. China and Russia have repeatedly used their veto power at the U.N. Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against Assad. Moscow is a key ally of Assad, and China cites its own stance against military intervention. The Communist Party’s People’s Daily repeated China’s position that the only solution to the Syrian crisis is a political one and criticized some Western countries’ open discussion of a no-fly zone as undermining a multilateral approach led by outgoing U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan.
Yemen – The Washington Post reported: Clashes erupted in Yemen’s capital on Tuesday between the new government’s forces and soldiers loyal to the former regime, highlighting the divisions and volatility in the country six months after a populist uprising ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hours after current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left the country to attend a conference in Saudi Arabia, elite Republican Guard soldiers under the command of Saleh’s son surrounded the Defense Ministry. Government troops quickly moved to protect the building, located in the capital’s center. The sounds of gunfire and large blasts punctuated the bustling downtown for nearly an hour before the Republican Guard troops were pushed back. At least three people were killed, according to local news reports. The assault came a week after Hadi sought to weaken the authority of Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ali Saleh, the former president’s son, by transferring some of his units to a new presidential protection force. The force would also include soldiers commanded by the elder Saleh’s key rival, Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected from Saleh’s government last year and used his troops to support protests that eventually ended the president’s 33-year rule.
Norway – The Christian Science Monitor reported: Something odd is happening in Norway. The same country that was admired worldwide for its civil response to the horrific twin terror attacks last July by Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik now appears bent on justice. Per Sandberg, Progress Party deputy leader and head of the parliamentary justice committee, has suggested that Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister, would have been forced to accept responsibility for the failings on July 22, 2011 that led to 77 deaths and step down if he had led a minority-coalition government. Even some families of the Labor party youths who were killed in Mr. Breivik’s shooting rampage on the island of Utøya, as well as the editorial page of Norway’s largest daily newspaper Verdens Gang, are urging for Mr. Stoltenberg to resign. So what has changed in the one year since the attacks to make Norwegian society more impatient with the current government’s handling of the tragedy? The tipping point seems to be the 22 July Commission’s damning 482-page report, released yesterday. The report, requested by Stoltenberg himself, found that his office was entangled in a bickering war with the ministries of justice and government administration for seven years over the closure of the main street in the government complex to vehicle traffic.
Malaysia – The BBC reported: Malaysian activists and bloggers are staging an online black-out for one day to protest against changes to a law they say restricts free speech online. They have replaced their home pages with black screens critical of the Evidence Act, revised in April, for Internet Black-out Day. Critics say the law makes people unfairly liable for content published from networks and personal devices. Officials deny the change is meant to silence critics ahead of an election. The revised law means that Malaysians could get into trouble even if their devices or internet connections have been hacked into, critics say. The Centre for Independent Journalism in Malaysia said the revision was “a bad law passed in haste and does not take into account public interest and participation”, said the Agence-France Presse news agency. Critics want the law to be changed or scrapped completely.
15 August 2012
United Kingdom – ABC NEWS reported: In the two months since Julian Assange ducked into Ecuador’s London embassy to seek political asylum, President Rafael Correa has been consistently deferential to Britain while insisting on his right to protect what he sees as a free speech advocate facing persecution. Asked earlier this week if he felt solidarity with the WikiLeaks founder, Ecuador’s leftist president told a TV interviewer “of course, but we also feel solidarity for England and for English and international law.” The decision on Assange’s petition, which his government said it would announce Thursday, would come only after careful scrutiny of the law and consultations with the governments involved, Correa insisted. And after London’s Olympics fest was over.
Syria – Reuters reported: Syria’s government and rebels have “chosen the path of war”, a U.N. peacekeeping chief said as the world body ended its doomed monitoring mission to Damascus and deadlock persists among world powers over how to contain the spreading conflict. Two weeks after former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan quit as mediator in frustration with the failure of a four-month-old truce, military observers have no peace on the ground to monitor and U.N. officials said on Thursday the last of the few dozen remaining team members would quit Damascus by August 24. “It is clear that both sides have chosen the path of war, open conflict, and the space for political dialogue and cessation of hostilities and mediation is very, very reduced at this point,” said deputy U.N. peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet.
Syria – USA Today reported: Syrian fighter jets screamed through the sky Wednesday over this rebel-held town, dropping bombs that leveled the better part of a poor neighborhood and wounded scores of people, many of them women and children buried under piles of rubble. Activists said more than 20 people were killed. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 people died in the double airstrike and more than 200 were wounded. Mohammed Nour, a local activist reached by phone, put the death toll at 25. Neither figure could be independently confirmed. Reporters from The Associated Press saw nine dead bodies in the bombings’ immediate aftermath, including a baby.
Pakistan – Reuters reported: Islamist militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fought their way into one of Pakistan’s largest air bases on Thursday, the air force said, in a brazen challenge to the nuclear-armed country’s powerful military. The attack was repelled and only one aircraft was damaged, said an air force spokesman, adding that the Minhas air base at Kamra, in central Punjab province, did not house nuclear weapons. “No air base is a nuclear air base in Pakistan,” he said. The gun battle raged for hours, and eight militants and one soldier were killed, the spokesman said. Commandos were called in to reinforce base security forces and police armored personnel carriers could be seen heading into the base.
Saudi Arabia – The Jerusalem Post reported: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria’s membership early on Thursday at a summit of Muslim leaders in Mecca, citing President Bashar Assad’s violent suppression of the Syrian revolt. “The conference decides to suspend the Syrian Arab Republic membership in the OIC and all its subsidiary organs, specialized and affiliated institutions,” the closing statement said. The move had been approved on Monday at a preliminary meeting of OIC foreign ministers and was agreed on the summit’s second night despite opposition from Iran.
China – The Marietta Times via (AP) reported: Regional tensions flared on the emotional anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender as activists from China and South Korea used Wednesday’s occasion to press rival territorial claims, prompting Japanese authorities to arrest 14 people. China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the arrests of the 14 people, who included Hong Kong residents and mainland Chinese, had caused tensions over its territorial dispute with Japan to surge “to a new high.” Within hours, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying summoned Japan’s ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, and called her Japanese counterpart, Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, to protest the detention of Chinese citizens, the Foreign Ministry said.
Pakistan – The Washington Post reported: More than 250 Pakistani Hindus have arrived in India over the past two weeks bearing tales of religious persecution, according to Indian border officials, fueling perceptions of growing discrimination against minorities in Pakistan. The Pakistani Hindus, who came by road and rail with valid pilgrimage visas from Sindh, Baluchistan and Punjab provinces, have reported incidents of kidnapping, looting and forced religious conversion, the officials said. Pakistan has 2.7 million Hindus in a majority-Muslim population of 180 million. They represent those who chose to stay after the sectarian blood bath that accompanied the 1947 partition of the subcontinent at the end of British rule. The Pakistani Hindus’ allegations of persecution and expressed desire to stay in India pose a diplomatic quandary for the New Delhi government: Should India welcome them and open the floodgates? Or should it stay aloof, treating this as an internal Pakistani matter — and shielding itself from allegations of Muslim mistreatment in India.
Israel – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: Israel would be willing to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, even if doing so only delayed its ability to produce nuclear weapons for a few years, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said. “One, two, three, four years are a long time in the Middle East — look what’s happened in the last year” in terms of political change, Oren said yesterday at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington. “In our neighborhood, those are the rules of the game.” Israeli leaders have stressed this month that time is running out for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear program that Israel regards as an existential threat. “Diplomacy hasn’t succeeded,” Oren, 57, said yesterday. “We’ve come to a very critical juncture where important decisions do have to be made.”
Australia – The Associated Press reported: The captain of a merchant ship bound for Singapore changed course for Australia this week, fearing that desperate asylum seekers he had rescued in Indonesian waters posed a threat to his crew, officials said Thursday. News of the high seas drama broke before Australia’s Senate passed strict new laws late Thursday aimed at deterring the waves of asylum seekers from across Asia and the Middle East who have been making the dangerous journey to Australian shores. Before the rescue, one asylum seeker fell overboard and apparently drowned. The surviving 67 have been in an Australian immigration detention center since Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said. He said they could be deported to tent camps in the Pacific countries of Nauru or Papua New Guinea under the new law. The opposition has called for the asylum seekers, all men, to be charged with piracy for using threats to divert the 265-meter (870-foot) ship.
16 August 2012
United Kingdom – The BBC reported: The UK and Sweden have criticised Ecuador for granting political asylum to Julian Assange as the diplomatic row over what to do with him intensifies. The Wikileaks founder took refuge at Ecuador’s London embassy in June as he faced extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies. The UK has said it will not allow him safe passage out of the country. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said he hoped talks with the UK would “overcome this”. He told BBC Mundo the UK should respect Ecuador’s “sovereign decision” otherwise “we will use the alternatives under international law to demand the safe passage”.
South Africa – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: South African police killed 34 striking workers at Lonmin Plc (LMI)’s Marikana platinum-mining complex yesterday, the worst death toll in police action since the end of apartheid in 1994. At least 78 people were injured in the clashes, Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega told reporters in Marikana in North West province today. Violence erupted yesterday after police used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of workers gathered on a hilltop near the mine. Clashes between rival labor unions at the mine led to a six-day standoff with police in which 10 people had already died, including two officers. Police say they acted in self-defense yesterday after coming under attack from the workers armed with spears, machetes and pistols.
Japan – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: Japan deported 14 Chinese nationals arrested for visiting an island in the East China Sea claimed by both countries, defusing an incident that revived tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies. Seven members of the group who left by plane from Okinawa have arrived in Hong Kong, while the other seven will set off by boat to return later, according to a statement from the Chinese city’s government today. China demanded their release after they planted a Chinese flag on one of the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. “We have confirmed our response to deport those involved,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference today in Tokyo. The arrests reignited bilateral animosity at a time when Japan is mired in a separate territorial dispute with South Korea. Both involve sovereignty over areas with energy reserves and all three countries are seeking to bolster domestic support ahead of leadership contests this year.
Lebanon – The Daily Star of Lebanon reported: Despite repeated Arab and international warnings over a fallout of the 17-month uprising in Syria spreading to Lebanon, the Syrian turmoil has spilled over into the politically divided country, threatening to plunge it into total chaos, analysts and political sources said Thursday. “The spillover of the Syrian uprising has reached Lebanon,” Hilal Khashan, professor of political sciences at the American University of Beirut, told The Daily Star. “Lebanon is poised for heightened insecurity that falls short of a civil war, mainly as a result of the spillover of the Syrian unrest, into the country.” Wednesday’s mass kidnappings of over two dozen Syrians, a Turkish national and a Saudi citizen by a local Lebanese clan in retaliation for the abduction of one of its kinsmen by Syrian rebels as well as the blocking of Beirut airport road and the Beirut-Damascus highway at the Masnaa border crossing with burning tires by rival protesters have revived memories of the chaos and anarchy that reigned during the 1975-90 Civil War when rival militias held sway at the expense of state authority.
Iraq – CBS NEWS reported: Insurgents in Iraq unleashed a wave of attacks from before dawn until late at night Thursday, killing 48 people and wounding dozens in a deadly show of force aimed at undermining the government’s authority. The bomb and shooting attacks made for the country’s deadliest day in more than three weeks, rattling nerves as families prepared to gather for a holiday weekend. More than 140 people have been killed in violence across the country since the start of August, showing that insurgents led by al-Qaida’s Iraqi franchise remain a lethal force eight months after the last U.S. troops left the country. Four of the attacks accounted for more than half of the casualties. A morning car bomb in Baghdad’s northeastern and mostly Shiite neighborhood of Husseiniyah killed seven people and wounded 31. Around midday, another car bomb struck near the headquarters of local security forces in the northern city of Daqouq. As police rushed to the scene, a roadside bomb exploded, killing seven policemen. Another 35 people were hurt, police said.
Pakistan – ABC NEWS reported: A bomb hit a bus carrying Shiite Muslims students in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Friday, killing one person in what appeared to be the latest attack in a rising wave of sectarian violence in the country, a government official said. The attack came a day after Taliban gunmen in northern Pakistan forced 20 Shiites off buses, lined them up and killed them. The Shiite university students who were hit Friday were on their way to an anti-Israel rally that is held every year at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said Roshan Ali Shaikh, the top administrative official in Karachi. In addition to the person killed, 11 others were wounded, he said. It’s unclear if the dead and wounded were students on the bus, or others in the area when the blast occurred.
Pakistan – The Hindustan Times reported: A day after the killing of 21 Shias by militants, an organisation representing the people of Gilgit Baltistan has asked the United States and the United Nations to put pressure on Pakistan to open the trade routes with Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Laddakh. “United Nations and USA are requested to pressure Pakistan to open travel and trade routes towards Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Indian Ladakh so that Shias are not forced to travel on the roads that have become killing fields and virtually controlled by ISI-led militants like Lashkar Toaiba, Lashkar Jhangvi and Sipah Sihaba,” Washington based Gilgit Baltistan National Congress (GBNC) said in a statement on Friday. Alleging that Shias and other religious minorities are being prosecuted in Pakistan, the Gilgit Baltistan National Congress in its statement demanded that the state department grant a CPC (country of particular concern) status to Pakistan and impose restrictions on activities of Pakistani secret service agencies and their militant allies.
Afghanistan – ABC NEWS reported: The Taliban’s reclusive leader said Thursday that his fighters have infiltrated the Afghan police and army and were successfully killing a rising number of U.S.-led coalition forces. Mullah Mohammad Omar, the one-eyed chief of the Afghan insurgency, emailed his eight-page message to news organizations ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Omar said Afghan security forces were assisting Taliban fighters who infiltrate their ranks, kill foreign troops and then carry their government-issued weapons back to insurgent camps. “They are able to (safely) enter bases, offices and intelligence centers of the enemy,” he said. “Then, they easily carry out decisive and coordinated attacks, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.”
China – Reuters reported: China’s President Hu Jintao on Friday met the powerful uncle of North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un, in a clear show of support for the impoverished ally as it takes tentative steps to rebuild its shattered economy. The uncle, Jang song-thaek, is seen as a driving force for reforms which the isolated and destitute North is believed to be trying and for which it desperately needs Chinese backing. “For many years, Comrade Jang Song-thaek has done a great deal of work to develop neighbourly friendship between China and North Korea,” Hu said at their meeting, according to Chinese radio. Hu also offered condolences for floods that recently hit the North, which routinely struggles to feed its 24 million people.
Spain – The Washington Post reported: Farm workers in southern Spain have launched a series of protest marches to get more government aid to help them deal with mass unemployment. One of the politicians taking part in Thursday’s 20-kilometer (12-mile) procession was a small-town leftwing mayor, who admitted taking part in a Robin Hood-style looting of supermarkets last week. Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo said the protesters want aid for what he said were 350,000 families in the Andalusia region, in which no one has work or gets unemployment benefits. He told reporters he also wants authorities to halt evictions of families who cannot pay their mortgages. The marches are scheduled to take place in Andalusia’s eight provinces. Thursday’s left from Jodar, a town with a jobless rate of more than 40 percent. Nationwide it is nearly 25 percent.
Russia – The Washington Post reported: A passenger jet flying from New York to Moscow made an emergency landing in Iceland on Thursday after an anonymous caller claimed there was a bomb on board, a spokeswoman for Russian airline Aeroflot said. “There was an anonymous call saying that there was an explosive device on the plane, which was already in the air,” spokesman Irina Dannenberg said. “The pilot took the decision to land the plane and it landed safely. A search is being conducted.” A spokesman for Iceland’s Keflavik airport said 253 people were on board the flight from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport.
17 August 2012
Ecuador – The Voice of America reported: Ecuador’s President Correa says he fears that Assange would face possible death penalty if he were prosecuted and convicted in US. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa says the main reason his country has granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is that no one could guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to a “third country.” Assange has been sheltered in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June. The Australian took refuge there after losing a legal battle to fight extradition to Sweden, which wants to question him in connection with sexual assault allegations, which he denies. Assange fears Sweden could send him to the United States to face possible charges related to the 2010 release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including diplomatic cables held by the U.S. State Department about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
South Africa – The Voice of America reported: South African President Jacob Zuma has ordered an official inquiry into the police killing of 34 striking miners, the deadliest security operation in the country since the end of apartheid. Zuma said he was “shocked and dismayed” at what he called “senseless violence.” The president cut short a visit Friday to a regional summit in Mozambique and traveled to the mine in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. Zuma stopped short of saying who was responsible for the killings and urged unions to work with the government to address the situation. South African police say 34 people were killed in a shootout between police and angry miners at a troubled platinum mine. But police, unions and the presidency have stopped short of saying who is at fault. South Africa’s police commissioner on Friday visited the scene of a deadly shootout between police and strikers at the Lonmin platinum mine in the nation’s northwest.
United Nations – CNN reported: An Algerian diplomat has been appointed to replace Kofi Annan as the special U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria. He is Lakhdar Brahimi, Eduardo Del Buey, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Friday. Brahimi previously was a special U.N. representative in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The violence and the suffering in Syria must come to an end. The secretary-general appreciates Mr. Brahimi’s willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council,” Del Buey said. “Diplomacy to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria remains a top priority for the United Nations. More fighting and militarization will only exacerbate the suffering and make more difficult the path to a peaceful resolution of the crisis, which would lead to a political transition in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
United Nations – The Jeruselem Post reported: The United States and the United Nations on Friday condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for branding Israel a “tumor” that needs to be wiped out. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Iran’s leaders’ comments as “offensive and inflammatory.” “The secretary-general is dismayed by the remarks threatening Israel’s existence attributed over the last two days to the Supreme Leader and the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the UN press office said. “The secretary-general condemns these offensive and inflammatory statements.” “(Ban) believes that all leaders in the region should use their voices at this time to lower, rather than to escalate, tensions,” it said in a statement.
India – The New York Times reported: Like a fever, fear has spread across India this week, from big cities like Bangalore to smaller places like Mysore, a contagion fueling a message: Run. Head home. Flee. And that is what thousands of migrants from the country’s distant northeastern states are doing, jamming into train stations in an exodus challenging the Indian ideals of tolerance and diversity. What began as an isolated communal conflict here in the remote state of Assam, a vicious if obscure fight over land and power between Muslims and the indigenous Bodo tribe, has unexpectedly set off widespread panic among northeastern migrants who had moved to more prosperous cities for a piece of India’s rising affluence. A swirl of unfounded rumors, spread by text messages and social media, had warned of attacks by Muslims against northeastern migrants, prompting the panic and the exodus. Indian leaders, deeply alarmed, have pleaded for calm, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared in Parliament on Friday to denounce the rumor mongering and offer reassurance to northeastern migrants.
Russia – The International NEWS of Pakistan reported: Russia on Friday rejected a proposal to set up no-fly zones to help civilians flee fighting in Syria’s border areas after the United States said it was ready to consider the move. “You have to solve citizen security issues using methods put in practice by international humanitarian law,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Sky News Arabia in an interview to be aired in full on Saturday and released to Russian media. “But if you try to create no-fly zones and safety zones for military purposes by citing an international crisis — this is unacceptable,” he said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said following talks last weekend with her Turkish counterpart that the issue of imposing safety and no-fly zones around ravaged cities such as Aleppo “need greater in-depth analysis.” She added that the two countries — both spearheading international calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down — agreed “to have a very intensive operational planning” discussions during which they could deliberate further moves.
Syria – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: Entire neighborhoods of Syria’s largest city bear battle scars: buildings toppled by government shells, charred tanks blown up by rebels and trash-strewn no-man’s lands where neither side has full control after nearly a month of deadly street battles. Ruin and tragedy can come in an instant. On Friday, a government fighter jet blasted the top three floors of a five-story apartment building, killing a mother, father and their three boys. Buried in the rubble was a newlywed couple who moved in on their wedding night two months ago. Rebel fighters crawled through collapsed debris and punched holes in walls while searching the building for Mohammed Ezzo, his wife Ola, and anyone else that might be there. Across the street, the groom’s father gazed at the building and wailed into his hands. “The top floor and the floor below it and the floor below that, they all fell on top of them!” cried Munir Ezzo, 70.
Israel – The Washington Post reported: Six Palestinians have been wounded in a suspected firebomb attack by Jewish extremists in the West Bank, The Israeli military said. The six were traveling in a taxi Thursday night when the firebomb was allegedly thrown into the car. The military suspects Jewish extremists to be behind the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the firebombing, saying Israel “will do everything to catch those responsible and bring them to justice.” Extremist Israeli settlers often attack Palestinians and their property as part of a campaign they call the “price tag,” which is meant to retaliate for either army action against settlers or Palestinian attacks. Several more firebombs were hurled earlier Thursday toward settler vehicles in the West Bank.