Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Searching for Car Bombs in Baghdad

AFP reporter Mehdi Lebou Ashera follows a military team around Baghdad as they look for car bombs. Once again, dogs! But the pooches tucker out pretty quick in that Arabian sun.

With plastic wands and heavy-duty wire cutters, battering-ram in hand, 300 Iraqi soldiers supported by US special forces enter a back door in a Sunni quarter in downtown Baghdad where there are several automobile garages.

The objective of the mission, conducted as part of Operation Lighting launched on Sunday in which 40,000 troops are participating, is to locate explosives and car bombs which bloody the capital every day. In a largely deserted street in the Sheikh Maarouf quarter of the capital, around the corner from Haifa Street, one of the most dangerous thoroughfares in the city, nervous soldiers progress slowing along the wall of a Muslim cemetery, their rifle ready for any sniper action.

Iraqis conduct patrols every day in this quarter but today is the big offensive, murmurs a US Special Forces sergeant-major as he walks in front of impassive backgammon players seated in the shade of the trees. Further along, in the heart of this poor and overpopulated quarter, where sewer water and garbage collects in the street, winding streets open and narrow. Marksmen are posted on the rooftops ready to shoot anyone who tries to enter the quarter, which has been surrounded.

At the end of a dirt alley, the first “target” is located: a courtyard with dozens of small garages. After the soldiers have positioned themselves around the courtyard, an order in English and Arabic is called out: On your stomachs, now!.

Workers with grease-streaked faces obey immediately. The few women present comfort children who hide their heads in their skirts. One by one, each garage, where dozens of spare parts of all sorts are piled high, is gone over with a fine-toothed comb by Iraqi soldiers and US Special Forces, assisted by three bomb-sniffing dogs. “It’s okay. There’s nothing here.", shouts the US officer in charge, waving at his troops. They head over to the next "target", a courtyard 100 meters away. This place is far bigger with car chassis piled one on top of another. The owners are ordered out of their garages and the dogs start to sniff every car and every cranny. This mission is too dangerous. Anyone could toss a grenade over the wall, says a US soldier, looking up at the sky.

After one hour’s work under a baking sun, the dogs, the only ones able to detect explosives, begin to tire and show their tongues. No car bombs were found. 22 people, suspected of links to the insurgents are arrests. [Haphazard round-up, more likely.--Nur]

We’ve been able to conduct a 2-hour operation in this quarter, one of the most dangerous in Baghdad, without incident. That’s a good thing, congratulates the officer in charge, now safely back at his base.

31 May 2005 Events in Iraq.

Beirut. US Embassy denies visit to polling stations by US Ambassador. Embassy denies that Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman visited any polling stations in Beirut on Sunday. However it said that US Senator Joseph Biden visited a polling station in Achrafieh and that the visit had been approved by Lebanese authorities. Former Premier Sélim Hoss had criticized Ambassador Feltman's tour of voting stations but said the Ambassador phoned him personally to deny the allegiation. Hoss then apologized.

London. War good for mental heath. Being in a war zone is beneficial to the mental state of soldiers, according to a study by British researchers published in the Journal of Psychiatry. Interviews with 421 of the 16th Air Assault Brigade based in Colchester, Essex (southern England), before and after their deployment, showed no decline in their mental health.

London. Lawyer Giovanni di Stefano says deposed president Saddam Hussein cannot be tried until formal charges are duly prepared, reacting to a statement by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that Saddam Hussein could be tried "within two months."

New York. Still no schedule for withdraw of foreign troops from Iraq. Anne Patterson, current US representative to the United Nations, repeated that no schedule has been set for the withdraw of foreign forces from Iraq. The United Nations had deployed a 7-person expert team to Iraq to estimate Iraqi needs, but Iraq has only just requested UN assisatance.

Ghazaliya. A convoy of Interior Ministry commandos was fired upon briefly, leaving three dead and several wounded in the convoy.

Ramallah. Palestininan Authorities have cancelled new partial elections scheduled for Tuesday in the Gaza Strip in districts where Fatah contested the victory by Hamas. The postponement was decided after Hamas announced it would boycott the vote. We have postphoned the elecitons sine die at the request of the High Commission [on elections] and to avoid problems in the Arab street, said local Elections Committee Chairman Jamal Shobaki. The re-vote was to have been held in Rafah, Beit Lahya and Al-Boureij.

Mosul. A local public television personality, Girgis Mahmoud Mohammed, 45, was shot dead.

Mosul. One policeman killed in rebel attack.

Baghdad. Three people, including an Asian truck driver, were killed and six wounded, including a woman, in separate attacks north of the capital.

Samarra. Three decapitated decomposing corpses were discovered.

22:56 Dubai. A journalist for al-Arabiya TV was struck by several bullets during an armed clash in Mosul.

22:52 Damascus. Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani denied that his country was facilitating the entry of foreign fighters into Iraq.

22:30 Jerusalem. A well-known Israeli television commentator broke with 37 years of political neutrality to criticize Israeli settlements in Gaza and on the West Bank. Since 1967 we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers, repressing another people who owned that land, said Haim Yavin in his program "Travel Notes" on commercial Israeli TV. Airing images showing long lines of Palestianians at a checkpoint, he said, I can't to anything to end this misery apart from showing it to you so that my viewers cannot say they hadn't heard, seen or known about it. I feel sympathy for the settlers but I think they are wrong and that they endanger us all.

22:30 Baghdad. Premier Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he is determined to give his security forces the means to defeat the rebels.

22:28 Bucharest. Former hostage Marie-Jeanne Ion denied having a friendship with Romano-Syrian businessman Omar Hayssam, who is accused by Romanian justice officials of organizing her kidnapping in Iraq along with two other reporters. I knew Oman Hayssam. We met on several occasions. He even sold me a car. But we were not friends. When he suggested a trip to Baghdad with one of his connections, Mohamed Munaf, as a guide, I thought he might be using our presence there to win credibiity with the Iraqi authorities. But I just wanted to do a story on Iraq. Marie-Jeanne Ion said she had "vague indications" that Omar Hayssam was under surveillance by Romanian intelligence because of his "shady dealings". In Romania, there are plenty of people who are accused of corruption. If he's really guilty, he should be behind bars. As to our guide, Mohamed Munaf, he was frightened by the kidnapping. We tried to hide his passport so our captors would not know he was a US citizen.

21:37 Washington. President George W. Bush says he believes the Iraqi government is strong enough to triumph over the rebels.

21:35 Ramadi. US Marine killed in clashes with rebels.

21:00 New York. Oil climbs to nearly $52 per barrel.

19:30 Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is unhappy with the "insufficient" pressure exerted by President Bush on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians have the idea that there is no serious pressure being put on them to combat terrorism and that there is no urgency to act. Sharon was speaking to a delegation of US Congressmen in Jerusalem's Old City.

18:03 Tunis. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Farouk Kaddoumi, a Fatah leader in exile, for the first time since the death of Yassir Arafat. Farouk Kaddoumi, named to head Fatah after the death of Yassir Arafat, has refused to live in the territories and continues to live in exile in Tunis. In recent statements to the press, Kaddoumi accused Abbas of marginalizing the PLO and preventing Fatah's Central Committee to meet. The two agreed to a plenary session of the Fatah Central Comittee between 18 and 20 June.

17:50 Nassiriyah. An Italian AB-412 military helicopter crashed in Iraq, killing all four soldiers on board on Tuesday in what Rome defence officials said was most likely an accident. A defense ministry statement said the helicopter was returning to its base from Kuwait City. The victims are Giuseppe Lima, 39; Marco Briganti, 33; Massimiliano Biondini, 33; and Marco Cirillo, 29. The helicopter was the third aircraft to go down in Iraq in a week.

17:37 Warsaw. Poland begins withdrawing military equipment from Camp Echo in Diwaniyah, Iraq. Since January, Warsaw has reduced its contingent form 2,400 to 1,700 soldiers.

17:36 Gaza. The former spokesman for Hamas, Imad Falouji, denied any political role or relationship with Israel exercised by his center on the Gaza Strip. Mr. Falouji announced the creation of an inter-religious center for peace between Israeli and Palestinians. The Adam Center, which I supervise, exists for dialog between civilizations. It has nothing to do with any Jewish organization. It is part of an international project headed by Anglican Church, said Falouji.

17:30 New York. In a statement before the UN Security Council, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called on Damascus to do more to prevent entry into Iraq of foreign fighters. Zebari also praised the Multinational Force, under US command, for its contribution to Iraq's security. The Security Council is debating the extension of the mandate of the Multinational Force.

17:26 Baghdad. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Tuesday that the authorities expected to put Saddam Hussein on trial within the next two months. Talabani said that "the court of Iraq will decide the future of Saddam Hussein" and that there was a strong public desire for him to be executed if convicted. Saddam's lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, expressed surprise at Talabani's comment. I was not informed officially that they are speeding up the trial, but any way I will check tomorrow and then I will have a comment, he told The Associated Press by telephone. Saddam's trial could prove to be a highly divisive issue in already turbulent Iraq and starting the court proceedings in two months could coincide with the process to draft the constitution.

11:30 Ramadi. The governor of al-Anbar Province was found dead west of Baghdad during a US operation which killed or captured 7 Arab combattants, including 2 Saudis, 1 Morroccan, 2 Syrians, 1 Jordanian and 1 Algerian. Provincial Governor Nawaf al-Raja al-Mahalawi was kidnapped by rebels on 11 May demanding the end to US military operations in western Iraq.

07:18 Teheran. Iran tested on Sunday for the first time a missile with a range of 2,000 miles using solid, not liquid, fuel. said Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani. The payload is identical to that of the Shahab-III missile.

07:22 Baquba. A car bomb exploded near a pick-up truck carrying a group of Iraqi soldiers in the town of Baquba on Tuesday, killing at least two soldiers and wounding six. A cameraman working for Reuters who was at the scene shortly after the blast said it caused widespread destruction. "There are still bodies lying in the street," he said. The explosion occurred in the Kanaan area of Baquba.

Monday, May 30, 2005

May 30 2005 Events in Iraq

Beirut. MP Bassem Sabeh has called on international observers working in Lebanon's legislative election balloting to forbid the entry of US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman into polling places as he did on Sunday. In a firey statement, the MP denounced Mr. Feltman's visits as "diplomatic heavy-handedness" and "a form of interference in the elections."

Cairo. Egyptian women have launched two initiatives, one calling on citizens to dress in black and the other to wear a white ribbon in protest of the beating of several women on May 25th by supporters of the regime.

Demonstrators protesting the referendum and several female journalists covering the event were sexually harassed. Several members of the opposition were beaten by security agents in plainclothes and supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party. Images of women dragged along by their hair, their clothing in shreds, and beaten by their aggressors have been pubished around the world resulting in an international outcry and raising doubts over the political reforms put forward by Hosni Moubarak. The Union of Egyptian Journalists has called for the resignation of the Interior Minister, Habib al-Adli.

A group of women with no political affiliation has launched The White Ribbon Campaign demanding an official apology. We will wear and distribute white ribbons to demand an apology from government officials, the leadership of the NDP and the Interior Ministry. The White Ribbon initiative was launched by Ghada Shahbender, an academic and member of Kefaya, together with two other women, a television presenter and a housewife. Since starting this campaign using email and text messaging, we have had enormous support. At first, it was a personal initiative but now we are putting together an organized program and are gathering momentum. 4,000 white ribbons have already been produced in preparation for a June 1 rally in front of the Union of Journalists in downtown Cairo, where the aggression took place last week.

A reknown feminist, Heba Raouf Ezzat, professor of Political Science at Cairo University urged Egyptians to dress in black on Tuesday as protest against police brutality and sexual harassment.

Meanwhile the Nasserist weekly, al-Arabi, demanded an apology by Mubarek to the Egyptian people. The government continues to minimize the incident, calling press reports "exaggerated" and the aggression "an emotional tiff" between between opponents and supporters of the regime.

Mosul. Eight people wre killed north of Baghdad in separate incidents in northern Iraq, including one soldier, several civilians and a Kurdish tribal chieftain.

Baghdad. Iraq's freshly minted legislators pounded out their first agreement on the 15 basic articles to guide their new constitution, including democracy, federalism, separation of powers and making Islam the state religion.

Haditha. The U.S. military announced the end of a four-day offensive centered on Haditha, 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, aimed at disrupting insurgent activities. At least 14 insurgents were killed and more than 30 suspects detained in the operation, which also left two U.S. Marines dead.

Baghdad. The Iraqi Waqf condemned violent targeting civilians and governmental institutions and complained of raids on moques.

Grozny. An Chechen Islamist group says it has kidnapped a Maltese who worked as a spy for the United States and carried a suitcase containing information on Jihadists in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In a communiqué, The Badr Islamic Squads said it captured in Europe Hagia Khalil, an American spy of Maltese nationalty in possession of a suitcase containing document concerning the movements of Mujahedeen in Haramaïn (Saudi Arabia) and Rafidaïn (Iraq). Photos were attached to the communiqué showing the hostage surrounded by gunmen.

Cairo. The Egyptian Public Prosecutor Maher Abdel Wahed released 52 student members of the Muslim Brotherhood so that they can take their year-end examinaitons. Yesterday 77 students were released for the same reasons.

23:57 Mosul. US soldier killed.

22:58 Baghdad. Voice attributed to Abu Moussab al-Zarkawi says he is only slightly wounded. Thanks be to God, I am in good health among by brothers and Iraq.

22:34 Damascus. Syrian authorities have released 8 members of the only political forum in Syria, the Salon Atassi Salon for National Dialog.

21:55 Washington. Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend discussed bilateral cooperation to combat terrorism with the Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adli.

20:31 Teheran. Government news agency IRNA reports that two Iranian women have scaled Mt. Everest.

20:47 Baghdad. An Iraqi military aircraft crashed with four US soldiers aboard in Diyala Province.

18:47 Baghdad. The brief arrest on Monday in unexplained circumstances of a moderate Sunni politician by the US Army has embarrassed the Iraqi authorities as it seeks to involve the Sunni community in the political process with the support of Washington. A cloud envelops the reasons why leader of the Islamic Party, Mohsen Abdel Hamid, was pulled from his bed at dawn together with his sons by US soldiers, who ransacked his home. The Islamic Party, in a communiqué, demanded an explanation for the raid on the Baghdad residence of its leader as well as an official apology. "They must also release two of this three sons, Mokdad and Assayed, who are still beikng held along with several houseguests and bodyguards, said the party without indicating their numbers. President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari condemned the arrest of the Sunni leader with whom they served in the Intermim Governming Council put in place by the Americans after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi government in a communiqué praised his release and condemned "any attempt aiming to sow discord among Iraqi communities and to split its unity". The communiqué said that it was "hoped that the party spreading false information" providing the basis for the arrest of Mr. Abdel Hamid would be arrested. In condemning the arrest, Mr. Talabani underscored that he was not informed prior to the arrest while the Islamic Party denounced a "conspiracy" and demanded an accounting on the matter from the government. In its communique, the government stated that it was "worried that this type of raid conducted against prominent Iraqis participating in the political process and who are working to enlarge participation by Sunnis. The government compared the incident to one of three days ago without naming the individual targeted except to say that he was working towards "the inclusion of Sunnis in the political process." Although critical of the current Shi'a-dominated government, the Islamic Party has not excluded its participation in the drafting of the permanent Constitution. The party boycotted the January 30th general elections after having unsuccessfully demanded delay saying it believed that the elections could not be held in a climate of violence. But recently the party has taken a position against the blind violence targeting the populace and the security forces while criticizing the arrest of Sunni clerics, the warhorses of the powerful Committee of Iraqi Ulema, which refuses to participate in negotiations surrounding the drafting of the Constitution. More recenlty, without rejecting the security measures put in place in and around Baghdad, the Islamic Party has warned against excesses which could lead to "collective punishement and revenge". But it has never joined with Committee of Iraqi Ulema in openly accusing the Badr Organization, the former armed wing of SCIRI, of violence and revenge on Sunnis. Following his release, Mr. Abdeh Hamid underscored the humiliation to which he was subjected by US soldiers, saying that they handcuffed him and interrogated him for hours

18:34 Hilla. Two suicide bombings. 25 are dead and over 100 wounded after two suicide carbombings. The first occured amidst a crowd waiting outside a medical clinic, including civilians, police and soldiers. A second bomb blast went off outside government building where 500 unemployed police commandos had assembled to protest forced leave and to demand back pay. Two police were killed. Both bombers work suicide vests.

18:04 Husabayah. US combat helicopters and warplanes attack village on the border with Syria.

17:50 Samarra. Four Iraqis were killed in separate attacks in Samarra. At midday, a civilian was shot to death by the Rapid Reaction Force which was responding to an attack. A second civilian was shot dead later by armed gunmen. The third was killed by a stray bullet fired by US troops against rebels. The fourth was shot dead in the south of the city.

15:12 US Army says arrest of Islamic Party leader Mohsen Abdel Hamid, his sons and houseguests was a "mistake."

13:08 Hillah. Al Qaede claims credit for bombing in Hillah.

10:36 Hillah. Bombings claim 25, wound 100

07:11 Baghdad. US and Iraqi forces arrest a former Iraqi army intelligence officer suspected of supporting the guerrillas in the Ghazaliyah district of Baghdad.

06:56 Baghdad. The leader of the Islamic Party, Mohsen Abdel Hamid was arrested at down along with his three sons Yasser, Mokdad et Assyad.

02:57 Baghdad. Iraqi police fought pitched battles with insurgents as thousands of security forces backed by American troops swept through Baghdad's streets to flush out militants.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Brides Wore Black

najaf: collective wedding ceremony (ali abu shishi-AFP) Posted by Hello

This Najaf mass wedding photo from L'Orient-Le Jour, is, well, surprising. Do you think this is organized by Moqtada? No clue!

29 May 2005 Events in Iraq

Beirut. In the first phase of Lebanese legislative elections held in Beirut, voter turnout was between 15 and 27%. The slate headed by Saad Hariri, a millionaire Sunni and son of Rafik Hariri, won in a landslide. Meanwhile, despite the apparent lack of interest among the electorate, fights broke out in Beirut: there was a battle at the campaign headquarters of Greek Orthodox candidate Najah Wakim between Greek Orthodox and Druze involving fisticuffs and pistol shots. A fight also broke out between Hariri supporters and members of the Habashi sect.

Najaf. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged Iraqis to conserve electric power and to protect power installations Sayyed Sistani has issued a fatwa calling for energy conservation and to refrain from attacking power stations. According to a UN report, three out of four Iraqi households have irregular power supply. The most affected area is the capital, Baghdad, where 92% of homes experience regular power outages. 29% of Iraq home possess or share a power generator.

Damascus. Saudi Interior Minister Nayef ben Abdel Aziz says Syria turned over 30 Saudi nationals to the Saudi Arabian government who had been captured as they tried to cross into Iraq. The Saudi daily al-Watan, citing informed sources, reported on May 5th that 137 Saudis were held in Syrian prisons after attempting to cross into Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials praised Syria's arrest of 1,200 foreign fighters attempting to enter Iraq but requested more details.

Baghdad. Insurgents attacked two police stations, an Iraqi army barracks and a checkpoint within 30 minutes in the Abu Ghraib, Amariyah and Khadra neighborhoods, killing three civilians and wounding 15 people, including 10 Iraqi security forces.

Baghdad. Iraqi security forces killed a suspected bomb maker in northeastern Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said. The man was shot after fleeing from his car and running from police.

Baghdad. Two Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi security forces member were killed and 20 injured when a suicide bomb rammed a convoy of police commandos in eastern Baghdad near a government security facility. Rebels open fire on the police after the blast.

Baghdad. A suicide car bomber killed four policemen, including an officer, and wounded four others in the Zayouna quarter of southwest Baghdad.

Madaïen. A car bomb killed three police commandos and injured nine civilians.

Baghdad. An Iraqi male was found shot dead in a western Baghdad street with his hands bound early Sunday morning.

Beni Saad. Iraqi soldiers killed four armed men northeast of Baghdad, and arrested an Egyptian identified as Abu Hamada for possessing weapons.

Al Anbar. US continues Operation New Market.

Baghdad. Armed men ambush a vehicle carrying Iraqi soldiers in south Baghdad, killing six.

Baghdad. US serviceman dies from wounds received on Thursday in a carbombing in southwest Baghdad.

Tuz Khormato. Suicide carbomb rams joint Iraqi-US convoy south of Kirkuk, killing two Iraqis and injuring 9. Eyewitnesses say there are US casualties.

19:39 Ramadi. Sunni cleric shot dead. Ahmed Faraj was killed in front of his home by three armed gunmen.

17:51 Washington. The Pentagon's top general on Sunday defended the treatment of prisoners at the U.S. Navy prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and said the U.S. believes al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is wounded, though it's not known how badly. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. has done a good job of humanely treating detainees. Muslims in several countries have protested in recent weeks about allegations that a Quran was flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo as part of an interrogation of a prisoner. The human rights group Amnesty International released a report last week calling the prison camp "the gulag of our time." Myers said that report was "absolutely irresponsible." He said the U.S. was doing its best to detain fighters who, if released, would turn right around and try to slit our throats, slit our children's throats.This is a different kind of struggle, a different kind of war, Myers said on Fox News Sunday.

17:49 Damascus. Syrian human rights activist and lawyer Habib Issa, jailed in 2001, was arrested today at his home in Damascus, says associate Khalil al-Maatouk.

17:46 Teheran. Iran demanded a clarification from Pakistan following remarks by President Pervez Musharraf concerning Iran's nuclear ambitions. In an interview in Der Spiegel, Musharraf said that Iran definitely wanted to acquire the atomic bomb. Meanwhile, the Pakistanis claim that Musharraf was "misinterpreted."

17:34 Jerusalem. The Israeli Government has decided to release 400 Palestinian prisoners on Wednesday or Thursday. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the release, saying the Palestinian Authority is being "rewarded for doing nothing to stop terrorism". Palestinian chief negotiator Saëb Erekat also blasted the decision, saying. It is important that all prisoners are released. It was agreed at Sharm al Sheikh that a joint committee would agree on an arrangement for prisoner release, but Israel acted unilaterally. Minister for Palestinians Interned in Israel Sufia Abu Zaydam said, Our priority is to obtain the release of young detainees, women, the elderly, the sick and politicial prisoners such as Marwan Barghouthi.

17:28 Luxembourg. EU ministers will meet on Monday to breathe new air into the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and to discuss the crises in the Middle East. The meeting is also the occasion to plan celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration. The partners Algeria, Egypt, Israël, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisian and Turkey. The ministers will also propose a "roadmap" to set up a free trade zone and to end discrimination against girls in schools.

17:02 Baghdad. Foreign journalists report no sign of checkpoints and patrols as promised in the Iraqi capital in Operation Lightning.

15:33 Youssifiyah. Suicide carbombing kills 9 Iraqi soliders and wounds 3 at a checkpoint south of the capital.

15:20 London. The Sunday Times writes that al-Zarqawi is undergoing surgery in Iran. A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry Hamdi Reza Asefi says the rumor is baseless.

13:38 Baghdad. 500 arrests made in Operation Lighting, the 40 thousand-man security initiative in Baghdad.

12:16 Baghdad. Oil Ministry carbombing. A suicide attacker tried to ram a Volkswagen sedan packed with explosives through the gate of the heavily fortified Iraqi Oil Ministry in eastern Baghdad. Guards fired on the car, which exploded about 20 yards from the gate, killing two security guards and wounding a policeman and passer-by.

12:06 Kabul. Video broadcast by Afghanistan's Tolo TV shows kidnapped Italian NGO worker Clementina Cantoni surrounded by gunmen.

11:46 Baghdad. 40,000 men to be deployed in and around Baghdad to seal off all entrances to the city in an effort to halt attacks.

10:55 Basrah. One British soldier killed when convoy sets off roadside bomb.

10:31 Canberra. Austrian hostage unable to be released due to combat. Douglas Wood, 63, was about to be set free when combat broke out, cancelling the arrangement.

10:08 Kahla. British troops attacked. British soldiers were wounded in an attack on their convoy in Kahla, 25 miles south of Amarah.

09:05 Baghdad. Two police sergeants were shot dead as they were driving to work in the Doura quarter of Baghdad.

07:42 Haqlaniyah. Roadside bomb kills US marine in western Iraq.

06:52 Bucharest. General reveals US plans and is removed. General Valeriu Nicut was relieved of duty after revealing in a press conference that the USA wants to take over the Romanian airbase at Kogalniceanu on the Black Sea as well as access to a nearby port.

04:11 Washington. General William Ward has been charged by President Bush to coordinated the Israeli withdrawal form the Gaza Strip.

02:32 Baghdad. Two of Iraq's most influential Shiite and Sunni organizations agreed to try to ease sectarian tensions pushing the country toward civil war as the government prepared to take its battle against the insurgency to Baghdad's streets.

00:11 Baghdad. A group linked to al-Zarqawi claimed credit for a triple carbombing in front of an Iraqi army base in Sinjar which killed six and wounded fifty-eight. The first bomb is said to have opened up a breach in the permiter. A second and third vehicle exploded amidst the crowd which hurried to the scene at the entrance to the base. Sinjar is the last town before Rabia, on the frontier between Iraq and Syria where a suicide bomb wounded 30 on May 16.

00:18 London. A British newspaper published letters on Sunday which it said were written by former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz from inside a U.S.-run high security camp on the outskirts of Baghdad. In the letters, hand-written in English and Arabic and published in The Observer newspaper, Aziz pleads for international help to end his "dire situation".

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Lebanon: The Stroll of Democracy

Hariri Posted by Hello

Update 29 May: Voter turnout approximately 27% with abstentions among the Armenian community.

The march of democracy in Lebanon will be more of a stroll because the results of the election, beginning tomorrow and running through June 12th, are already known. The voting districts are confessionally apportioned and the political parties which represent them are aligned with the district. Despite the massive 13 March demonstration of national unity calling for the pullout of Syrian troops, voter turnout for the elections is expected to be below 40%. In certain Christian fiefs, voter turnout may well be below 25%.

The 128 seats in Parliament are divided 50-50 (64-64) between Muslims and Christians, even though Muslims account for 58.7% of the electorate. Maronite Christians, representing less than one-quarter of the population, are gathered around the "pole" of Cardinal Sfeir and are alloted 34 seats while other Christian communities, of which there are a-plenty--Greek Orthodox/Catholic, Armenian Orthodox/Catholic, Syrian Orthodox/Catholic, Chaldean Orthodox, Nestorians, Latin Catholics and Protestants--account for the rest. The Sunnis are guaranteed 27 seats, with the remaining 37 seats divided between the Shi'a and the Druze.

The political landscape is very much one of oligarchs, clans and clerics. Billionaire Saad Hariri is the undisputed leader of Lebanon's Sunni community. The Jumblatt family heads up the left-leaning Druze while the clan of Yazbaki Druze is led by the Arslan family. The Shi'a are split into two movements: the moderate Amal headed by Nabih Berri and the hardline Hezbollah, led by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

Opposition parties, i.e. those who prefer drastically weaked links to Syria, will end up with control of 2/3 of the seats in Parliament. Meanwhile the pro-Syrian Shi'a will maintain their dominance in Southern Lebanon where they are expected to win 23 seats. The only real contest is a rather fearful one: General Michel Aoun will challenge mainstream opposition candidates in heavily Maronite districts in the mountains. This contest is scheduled for 12 June.

Incidentally, pro-Syrian does not translate as Sunni Muslim or even anti-democratic. Emil Lahoud, a Lebanese Maronite Christian patriot through and through, is the current President and considered by some to be Syria's man. His brother, by the way, is Supreme Court chief justice. Shi'ite leader Nabih Berri, born in Sierra Leone, aligned his militia, Amal, with Syria during the civil war. Sunni Premier Nagib Miqati, a telecommunications CEO, is a personal friend of Bashir Assad but a respected reformer and modernizer. Meanwhile pro-Syrian Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, born in a shantytown, is a graduate of the Shi'a seminary in Najaf. He is charismatic, politically astute and has forgone any idea of an Islamic state. His spiritual mentor, Abbas Al-Mussawi, was assassinated by the Israelis. It can be assumed that he remains rather unforgiving.

The opposition includes Christians, Druze and Sunni Muslims. Maronite Michel Aoun is a character Lebanese should run away screaming from. He was supported by none other than Saddam Hussein in his personal bloody war to end the Syrian occupation. He was quickly defeated and dispatched to exile in France. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, once a playboy and a ladies' man, defended his people from the Maronite right wing and was a friend of Yassir Arafat. Jumblatt is outspoken, pragmatic and a defender of secularism yet unwilling to pursue an immediate challange the Shi'a militias. He is one of the point men of the opposition. Saad Hariri is a wealthy, handsome, 35 year-old Sunni whose list is going to vacuum up every Sunni vote in the country. But he is a novice and has inherited, besides his father's billions, his father's political advisors.

As to who killed Rafik Hariri? Cui bono? In my opinion, it must have been some people who knew that popular ire would focus on the Syrians and hasten their withdrawal. The French? No, they had pretty much clinched a deal with Assad for a spring pullout. The Syrians? Unlikely to shoot themselves in the foot. Hezbollah? No one was seriously challenging them. In my book, prime suspects are 1) the Aounistes and 2) the United States. But what do I know?

28 May 2005 Events in Iraq.

Baghdad. A body of truck driver killed in an ambush north of Baghdad was recovered.

Baghdad. A female Lebanese interpreter working for the US military was kidnapped and an Iraqi civilian was shot dead during the night by unknown gunmen.

Latifiyah. Three Iraqis, including two soldiers, were killed when their convoy came under fire.

Kirkuk. An Iraqi woman was kidnapped to force her husband to quit his job with the Northern Oil Company.

Baquba. Three men were killed by a roadside bomb which they were laying near Baquba.

23:29 London. Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had fled the country after being seriously injured in a U.S. missile attack, a British newspaper reported on Sunday, quoting a senior commander of the Iraqi insurgency. Al-Zarqawi has shrapnel lodged in his chest and may have been moved to Iran, The Sunday Times newspaper reported. Meanwhile, observers speculate as to potential successors: Abu Maisara Al-Iraqi and Abu Al-Dardaa Al-Iraqi, responsible for military operations for greater Baghdad, both former colonels in the Iraq Army; Abu Azzam Al-Iraqi and Abu Saad Al-Duleïmi, in charge of Al-Anbar Province; Syrian Khaled Darwish, aka Abu Al-Ghadia.

23:14 Riyadh. Six Gulf Arab states expressed support Saturday for Palestinian efforts to return to peace negotiations with Israel and for the Jewish state to return land it occupied in the 1967 war. The countries also urged governments to keep fighting terrorism. The Gulf Cooperation Council «urged the international community to effectively cooperate to finish off this destructive plague,» said GCC secretary-general, Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, after the council's one-day consultations. GCC leaders backed efforts of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace talks that lead to establishing an independent Palestinian state, al-Attiya said. Delegates also stressed the importance of returning all occupied Arab lands to achieve just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, he added. Participants said they supported Iraq's political process, which aims to preserve the country's unity and sovereignty, he said. The six-member GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.

23:07 Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority is moving ahead on securing the coastal Gaza Strip area that Israel is to evacuate this summer, putting out a call for 5,000 new security forces, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Saturday. But although there are fears Palestinian militants will fire on Israeli targets during and after the pullout, the new recruits won't be armed, because of Israeli restrictions on the number of guns Palestinian security forces can carry, spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khousa said. Abu Khousa urged Israel to let other countries supply the Palestinian Authority with additional weapons, as they have offered to do, if it wants maximum security in Gaza. U.S. President George W. Bush wants his security envoy to the Mideast, Army Lt.-Gen. William Ward, to work with Israel and the Palestinians on coordinating the withdrawal.

22:51 Baghdad. Al-Qaida in Iraq, the militant group led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on Saturday launched a tirade against Shiite Muslims, accusing them of targeting Islam and especially Sunni Muslims. The declaration, which appeared on the Internet, appears to be an attempt to stoke hatreds and perhaps sectarian violence between hardline followers of both sects inside Iraq. There's no mosque or honor that has been violated or Muslim who has been insulted in Iraq without the help of the (Shiites), the statement, posted on an Islamic Web site, said. It accused Iraq's majority Shiites of aiding «the Jews,» apparently referring to U.S. troops and officials in Iraq. The mocking statement was allegedly posted by Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, a spokesman for the group.

22:24 Damascus. The Arab League is ready to send experts to help the Iraqis draft a new constitution, the league's secretary general said Saturday. Amr Moussa told reporters on his arrival in Damascus that the Arab League was "ready to send advisers to help and offer assistance" in writing Iraq's new constitution, in the same manner that the United Nations is aiding Iraq.

22:03 Bucharest. Released Romanian hostages send message of support to the parents of kidnapped French reporter Florence Aubenas.

21:58 Baiji. An Iraqi soldier was killed and four civilians wounded in the suicide carbombing of a joint US-Iraqi patrol.

20:36 Mosul. Carbomb kills three civilians, including a child. The target of the bomb was a US patrol.

18:00 Al Qaim. Corpses of 10 Shi'ite pilgrims discovered. 10 young Iraqi Shi'ites between the ages of 16 and 20 aboard a bus returning from the Shi'ite shrine of the Mausoleum of Lady Zainab in Damascus were shot in the head by guerrillas.

17:00 Haditha. A second US sollider was killed in an US offensive on the town of Haditha. Ten guerrillas were also reported killed.

16:23 Hillah. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed in a drive-by shooting.

14:51 Vienna. Austria may send a 100-man contingent to Afghanistan to provide security during the September elections according to a report in the daily newspaper, Die Presse.

11:49 New York: Iran denounces the United States and Israel as "nuclear menaces." The Iraninan ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, is reported as saying: There is the widespread conviction that the real threat is not only the Israeli nuclear arsenal but their policies of agression. The accusations directed at us are a smokescreen intended to mask violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1970 by Washington and its willingness to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers.

09:29 Mosul. Dual carbombings kill 5, including a child, and wound 40.

07:50 Tikrit. Seven persons killed, including three police, and 24 wounded in a suicide carbomb which targeted a police patrol in Tikrit. Meanwhile, a motorcycle bomb detonated at the passage of as oilfield security patrol, wounded two.

07:26 Haditha. US soldier killed.

07:10 Kirkuk. Sunni leader assassinated. Sheik Sabhan Khalaf al-Jiburi, a moderate Sunni tribal chieftain friendly to Kurds, was shot dead outside his home.

06:50 Tokyo. The Japanese Foreign Ministry confirms hostage Akihito Saito died of wounds received during an ambush on May 8th. Ansar al-Sunna made the announcement.

Friday, May 27, 2005

27 May 2005 Events in Iraq

najaf Posted by Hello

koran Posted by Hello

malaysia Posted by Hello

alexandria Posted by Hello

Muslims across Asia and Africa protest the profanation of the Koran in Guantanamo.

Kashmir. A 24-hour general strike was called by Syed Ali Geelani of the separatist movement Hurriyat as protesters burned US flags and a copy of the US Constitution.

Pakistan. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis demonstrated in Pakistan's major cities answering the call of the Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the major opposition party in parliament. The demonstators demanded a public apology as they burned US flags and portraits of President Bush.

Egypt. In Alexandria, tens of thousands of protesters answered the call of the Committee for the Defense of Sacred Values to assemble in front of the Alexandria Lawyer's Associaiton. In Cairo, a thousand protesters gathered after prayers in the courtyard of the al-Azhar mosque condemning the profaners and ripping up a portrait of President Hosni Mubarek. Another thousand protesters assembled in front of the Cairo Lawyers' Association.

Jerusalem. During his sermon in al-Aqsa mosque, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Ikrema Sabri demanded a direct apology from those responsible in Guantanamo for the profanation of the Koran. At the end of prayers thousands of people shouted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans.

Jordan. 1500 people protested in downtown Amman after weekly prayers: All agression towards the Koran is an agression against all religions. America is the enemy of religion. Protesters also shouted slogans hostlie to George W. Bush and demanded the withdrawal of US troops form Iraq and Afghanistan.

Malaysia. Several hundred people protested outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Lebanon. Sit-in protests were held across the country with people chanting America is the biggest Satan.

20:30 Dubai. Al-Zarqawi is reported as doing well after being wounded.

18:58 New York. Price of oil begins new rise. Oil reaches $52 per barrel.

18:15 Haditha. US troops paint "The New Testament" on tank's cannon barrel. Members of the 1st Tank Batalllion, 4th Tank Company have baptized their tank, The New Testament and have painted the name on the gun barrel. Corporal Ken Melton then had the inspiration to upload an image of the tank to the Marine Corps website at for the world to see.

new testament Posted by Hello

14:51 Baghdad. The Parliamentary commission charged with drafting the new Constitution will begin its work tomorrow.

14:22 Bucharest. Kidnapping of Romanian reporters was a set up. The kidnapping of three Romanian reporters was organized and financed by their guide, Mohammad Munaf, and Syrian-Romanian millionaire businessman Omar Hayssam as a publicity stunt to draw public attention away from charges of racketeering and income tax evasion laid to Mr. Hayssam. However Mr. Hayssam said the plan was to acquire credibility in Iraq to win a sugar contract and to raise the sales of the Romanian daily, Romanian Libera. Hayssam said that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping. The Romanian government wants to charge Hayssam and Munaf with terrorism. Meanwhile in Baghdad, Mr. Munaf is being held by the US military and 9 persons connected to the kidnapping have been arrested.

14:20 Baghdad. The decapitated corpses of two Iraqi shopkeepers were found at dawn in the Baia district of the capital. Their offense is assumed to have been the playing of Shi'ite music and songs in their stores during the month of Muharam.

10:45 Washington. Bush names career diplomat Neumann as ambassador to Kabul.

09:00 Washington. Former anti-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke says some of the 40,000 Iraqi insurgents may transfer their activity to the United States.

05:02 Baquba. The two pilots of a US Army helicopter shot down near Baquba were found dead.

01:41 New York. There is no proof that the Koran was thrown in a toilet, says General Jay Hood, who admitted to 13 cases of profanation of the sacred Muslim book.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Kyrgyzstan Forcibly Repatriating Uzbek Refugees

Natalie Nougayrède reports from Osh for Le Monde:

The elderly women curled up in a chair looks haggard. She lost her husband and her eldest son in the Andijan massacre of Friday, May 13th, when the Uzbek Army opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing hundreds. They left in the morning from our kishliak (village) to participate in the demonstration and they never returned, she sobs. Agents of the USB (Uzbek Security Bureau) went house-to-house in her village, harrassing the families of the dead and the missing. They threatened me. They said that if my husband and my son didn’t come back, they’d throw me in prison.

Terrified, she sent her remaining three children to live with friends and relatives and fled to Kyrgyzstan on May 20th. She walked all night then crossed the frontier at a place well known to local smugglers, where the barbed wire has been cut with a chainsaw. Like all clandestine refugees from Andijan in the area of Osh, an ancient city of bazaars in southern Kyrgyzstan, this traumatized woman did not wish to give her name or the name of her village. The fear of police reprisals against the families who remain in Uzbekistan is shared by all the refugees, who are afraid of being forcibly repatriated by the Kyrgyz authorities.

Officially some 500 people, crowded into a camp of a few dozen military tents in a muddy glen near the village of Kara Daria and watched by a detachment of Kyrgyz special forces, arrived from Andijian into southern Kyrgyzstan. All the attention of the foreign media and international organizations, the Red Cross, the UN High Commission on Refugees has been focused on this group.

In reality, refugees from Andijan present in Kyrgyzstan are far more numerous. Several thousand people have left Uzbekistan since May 13th. These displaced persons, fleeing a new wave of arrests across the region of Andijian, are hidden with families, in apartments and in squats throughout the region of Osh and Jalalabad. They live in fear of manhunt by Uzbek secret agents and the predilection of Kyrgyz border guards to send them back to Uzbekistan against their will.

As "democratic" as they are claimed to be, the new authorities in Kyrgyzstan, the result of the 24 March revolution which toppled President Akaev, seem to have set as their priority in this regional crisis to appease its imposing Uzbek neighbor. Little Kyrgyzstan (a population of 5 million) lives in dread of Islam Karimov, the Uzbek satrap who, with a population of 25 million, commands the largest army in central Asia.

The crisis is all the more dramatic given the artificial boundaries imposed by Stalin in the 1920s. The region of southern Kyrgyzstan has a large Uzbek minority (500,000 people). The memory of the violent interethnic violence of June 1990 in Osh between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz involving the distribution of plots of land and housing make the Kyrgyz authorites unwilling to welcome refugees from Andijan.

Dozens of cases of forced repatriation have been reported. Our information indicates that 85 people have been forcibly expelled across the Uzbek frontier, says Edil Baïssalov, a young Kyrgyz democracy activist who directs an NGO called Coalition. Our leaders claim that no one has been repatriated against their will, but it is a lie. I personally rescued 4 people by hiding them in my apartment in Osh when Kyrgyz soldiers deployed to the Kara Daria camp began to round them up to transfer them to Uzbek “security”. Every day Uzbek refugees arriving in small groups have identified themselves in to Kyrgyz authorities at the Kara Daria encampment thinking they would receive assisstance. Those poor people are completely unaware of the risk they are running…of being betrayed and sent back to Uzbekistan!, laments Baïssalov.

The fate reserved to Uzbek prisoners is well known: torture and often death await them. The number of 85 forced repatriations since 14 may was confirmed to an AP reporter in the Kara Daria encampment by Colonel Abdurakhmonov. If we let them all come here, they won’t be 500, they’ll be 5,000, he explains.

In his office in Osh, the new “democratic” regional governor Anvar Artikov reacts with unease when asked about forced repatriations. He is of Uzbek origin and denies forcible expulsions but adds: If we identify any “bandits” among the refugees, we expel them. We work in close cooperation with Uzbek intelligence because it is crucial for us that the troubles in Uzbekistan don’t lead to destabilization in Kyrgyzstan as we prepare for the presidential elections scheduled for July.

Western nations have asked Kyrgyzstan to guarantee the protection of refugees from Andijan. Interviewed in Osh where he has been hiding for two days, a miller from Ferghana Valley with a bullet wound to his thigh says he is full of mistrust and fears being handed over to Karimov’s henchmen. Over there, the USB is sieving through village after village and has arrested dozens of people. On the night of 13 May, I lay for 2 hours among the dead before daring to get up and flee. If I go back, they will kill me as they have killed dozens of others.

26 May 2005 Events in Iraq

Cairo. Referendun ratified by the populace with 86.86% "Yes" and 53.46 voter turnout. Voter turnout was very light in Cairo where one-quarter of all Egyptians live. The newspaper Al-Wafd (center right), sent two of its editors out to vote, which they did: one in seven polling stations and the other in six with the same voting card. In the polling stations visited by AFP reporters, lines of voters were non-existent and unused ballots were piled high on tables. The referendum took place in an tense atmosphere in Cairo as police prevented a Kefaya demonstration with billyclubs. NPD thugs intervened to beat up activists urging a "No" vote and to trample their signs and banners. Meanwhile, the opposition estimates that there were widespread voting irregularities--voter lists included the deceased and expatriate Egyptians, who are not permitted to vote in abstentia. President Bush issued a mild condemnation, saying only that events in Egypt do not correspond to the USA's notion of democracy. The Egyptian government praised the referendum as a "celebration of democracy".

Beirut. Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud met with Iranian FM Kamal Kharazi to discuss Security Council Resolution Iranian 1559 and Iranian support for Hezbollah. Iran says it lends moral but not material aid to the group.

Baghdad. Four police were wounded when gunmen opened fire on the residence of an Undersecretary of State for Security, Hikmat Moussa Salman, in the Ghazaliyah quarter of west Baghdad. Salman was not at home. This was the second assassination attempt on Salman this month.

Tuz Khormatu. A US soldier dies in a road accident.

Baghdad. A the body of amember of Premier al-Jafaari's al-Dawa party, Fakhri Abd Amiri, was found with his throat slit in the Qadissiah quarter of south Baghdad.

Baghdad. University professor Mussa Sallum Abbas and three persons accompanying him were slain in the al-Aalam quarter of south Baghdad.

Tel Afar. Four persons, including two children, were killed in pre-dawn clashes between rebels and US forces.

Baghdad. Al-Jaafari places conditions on visit to Damascus. President Ibrahim al-Jaafari declines invitation to Damascus unless certain issues are resolved first: border security and Iraqi funds frozen by Syrian authorities which Baghdad claims amounts to several hundred million dollars. However, al-Jaafari says he has spoken with Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri and Foreign Minister Farouk el-Shareh by phone.

Baghdad. Zebari plays down handshake with Israeli minister. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari played down the significance of his recent handshake with Israeli minister Ben Eliezer at the World Economic Forum in Jordan after the Jordanian Minister for Water Resources Raëd Abou Séoud introduced him.

23:37 Tikrit. US combat helicopter shot down between Tikrit and Baquba. Two persons known aboard.

18:49 Rome. Results of ballistics test in Calipari incident to be announced on June 9. Sources say more than one weapon was used.

16:16 Damascus. 1,200 people arrested at border with Iraq by Syrian forces.

15:26 Washington. A U.S. Marine Corps general dismissed all charges Thursday against a lieutenant accused of murdering two suspected insurgents in Iraq, the military announced. The decision by Maj. Gen. Richard Huck, commander of the 2nd Marine Division, ends the prosecution 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, who was accused of premeditated murder for what prosecutors maintained was the unjustified killing of the two Iraqis in 2004, near Mahmudiyah. Prosecutors alleged Pantano intended to make an example of the two detainees by shooting them 60 times and hanging a sign over their bodies _ «No better friend, no worse enemy,» a Marine slogan. An investigating officer concluded in a report to Huck that murder charges should be dropped against Pantano, a former Wall Street trader who rejoined the Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks. Prosecutors allege Pantano killed the Iraqis because he believed they were launching mortars at his troops. [IOKIYAIB: It's ok if you are an investment banker--Nur]

15:10 Baghdad. Three Abu Ghraib inmates escape through a hole in the penitentiary fence.

15:03 Bratislava. Slovakia is committed to keeping its troops in Iraq, the country's foreign minister said Thursday. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan reiterated Slovakia's position to keep its 107 soldiers in Iraq, most of whom are there for de-mining operations.

14:59 Baghdad. A nephew of Vice President Ghazi al-Yawar, Ali Abou Dima, was detained and questioned about his alleged connection to rebels.

14:58 Baghdad. An Industry MInistry official is shot dead. Chief administrator Thamer Nemat Ghaidan was shot dead as he shopped in a public market in downtown Baghdad.

14:56 Teheran. Supporters of reformist candidate Mostapha Moïn met in Teheran to decide if Moïn will enter the upcoming presidential race.

14:53 Dakuk. Dog bomb. A dog with an explosive charged tied to it was hurled at a military convoy and exploded, decapitating the creature. No injuries reported but 8 suspects were arrested.

13:31 Baghdad. Interim government announces deployment of 40,000 men around Baghdad. Regular and police forces will be deployed around the capital to seek out and destroy rebels and arms caches. This measure, dubbed "Operation Lightning", will divide the capital into 22 sectors and erect 675 checkpoints.

12:50 Baghdad. Iraq Interior Minister Bayan Baqer confirms wounding of al-Zarqawi.

11:16 Tel Afar. Child killed in clashes. An Iraqi child was killed in clashes between US soldiers and rebels. The US military claims the insurgents were using Iraqi children as "human shields".

11:04 Baghdad. Group linked to al-Zarqawi denies naming replacement for wounded leader.

08:05 Baghdad. Four dead in attack. Four Iraqis, inlcuding a translator who worked for the US Army were machine gunned by a gang of armed men in the Risala district of south Baghdad.

07:15 Baghdad. A convoy of all-terrain vehicles escorted by US Army Humvees was struck by a powerful roadside bomb near Shaab stadium in southeast Baghdad. US soldier isolated the area to evacuate the dead and wounded. When US personnel left the scene, they abandoned a completely destroyed all-terrain vehicle.

07:02 Baghdad. Five dead in car bombing. Three police and two civilians were killed and 17 bystanders injured when a carbomb targeted a convoy of passing police in the Sholaa quarter of northwest Baghdad.

Holy Epcot!

How did I miss this one? Read James Walcott--According to a May 23 story in the Financial Times by correspondent Caroline Daniels, AIPAC is running an interactive Disneyesque diorama in the basement of the Washington Convention Center: a walk through Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

Disappointment awaits Mahmood Abbas chez Bush

Yesterday's Le Monde published an interview with Yasser Abed Rabbo, former PA minister and the initiator together withh Yossi Beilin of the Geneva Pact. Rabbo doesn't expect much from today's meeting between Mahmood Abbas and Bush, besides the President's usual request--and possibly even threat--to dismantle Hamas. In an interview given to West Bank correspondent Gilles Paris, we find out that Israel is trying to renegotiate what it already negotiated in Sharm al-Sheik.


What is the report card for Mahmoud Abbas?
Some might say one of his character traits is the state in which he is today--weak. But in fact he is not weak. Let’s take two examples: the cease-fire and the forced retirement of security officials. He is decisive and he knows how to be definitive. But his report card is strictly dependent upon the room for maneuver afforded him by the Israelis, who up until now haven’t enforced even the most marginal provisions of the Sharm al Sheik Summit of 8 February. The Israelis are trying to renegotiate what they’ve already negotiated.

Do you think that despite what he’s been saying, Mr. Sharon wants Mr. Abbas to fail?
Sharon is not fond of Abu Mazen (the nom de guerre of Mahmoud Abbas) because he’s embarrassing. With him, it’s hard to justify the construction of the security wall and expanded settlement. But until now, the USA hasn’t supported Abu Mazen with anything but pretty-sounding words. Bush’s statement against colonization did not change one thing. Summed up, neither the Israelis nor the Americans have supported him, while asking him to do the impossible: start a civil war by attacking Hamas. Impossible because Abbas doesn’t want it nor could he do it. Every Palestinian would be against it. I’m a moderate myself and I couldn’t support him in this. If he’s able to get Hamas to join to political process and to observe the cease-fire, what more could one ask for? Abu Mazen is a courageous man. We both belong to the old guard. Sharon is back to resorting to the policy of pre-conditions…Do this and that first, then we’ll see.

We know the game by heart: Israel gets to be both judge and plaintiff. Take the Gaza Strip for example. Do the Israelis really want a successful pullout? Or do they want Gaza to be the subject of endless negotiations over borders, the seaport, the airport and links between Gaza and the West Bank. Each of these issues is absolutely crucial to the development of the Gaza Strip but we have had no replies. We don’t want to live on charity. The European Union supports more us financially than any other power in the world.

What are you expecting from the United States?
Abu Mazen is going to say to the Americans, You believed that Arafat was incapable of keeping his promises and of stopping the violence but look what I’ve done. He has kept his promises and stopped the violence with next to no available means. We shall see how the Americans react but they are aware that their pretty words, promises and “visions” for the Palestinian state are worthless.

Mr. Abbas’ party, Fatah, seems weakened. Is Abbas hampered by this?
Abu Mazen hoped to find broad-based support ranging beyond a single party which produced some teeth-gnashing within Fatah. The forced retirements within the security establishment mainly affected Fatah cadres. But it’s against his interests to have a weak Fatah. Palestinian society is divided into three camps: the moderates—which one might describe to a certain degree as being secular—, the conservatives and the extremists. Despite everything, Fatah is the chief pillar of the moderate camp—it’s the cornerstone of my camp, which is seeking a political understanding with Israel and not eternal war.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

25 May 2005 Events in Iraq

Baghdad. The Grand Mufti of Australia, Sheik Taj Eldin Al Hilali, announced that he would be willing to take the place of Australian hostage Douglas Wood.

23:57 Rome. Corriere della Sera offices searched by police. A Corriere article reported that US intelligence claimed that rebels were in possession of a thousands of Series 92 9-mm Beretta pistols with no serial numbers of recent manufacture. Editorial staff protested infringement of freedom of the press as police attempted to seize a draft of the article .

23:56 Washington. Donald Rumsfeld says that despite "successes" the US cannot defeat terrorism unassisted. [ this is news?--Nur]

23:55 Washington. The Washington Post suggest that wounded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will be replaced by a lieutenant named Abu Karrar.

23:54 Haditha. Violent combat during "Operation Newmarket" along the banks of the Euphrates.

23:53 Washington. US officials admit that Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi may have been wounded but are unable to confirm.

23:52 Baghdad. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini invites Premier Ibrahim Jafaari to Rome.

23:46 Washington. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he is in Washington to "convince" George W. Bush to end the Israeli occupation.

23:37 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his first visit to Washington following his election in January pleaded for the Palestinian cause before Congress. Abbas also met with Senate majority leader Bill Frist and Chairman Henry Hyde of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Meanwhile [uber-hawk and Israeli tool--Nur] Congressman Tom Lantos criticized Abbas for his "reticence" on disarming all radical groups.

22:46 Ramallah. Hamas agress to negotiate directly with Fatah to reduce tensions among Palestinian factions. Hamas officials met with Egyptian mediators dispatched by the intelligence service. It is our aim to end the crisis, says Hamas official Saïd Seyam.

22:26 Riyadh. King Fahd reportedly on deathbed. Saudi stock market crashes.

23:49 Guantanamo: FBI confirms desecration of the Koran. A 2002 FBI report confirms profanation of Koran by US guards in Guantanamo.

21:40 Washington. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) complains of improper behavior of US guards in Guantanmo towards the Koran.

21:15 Baghdad. Eleven Iraqis were killed in a series of attacks, including five bombings in Bahgdad which also wounded 20 persons, including 11 police. Three police were killed in a suicide bombing in the Dura quarter of Baghdad.

21:13 Washington. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tells Agence France Press the the US will oppose any compromise on Iran's nuclear program. Nothing less than a permanent end to activities is acceptable to Washington.

21:01 Cairo. Egyptian Foreign Ministry will host a on June 2 coordination meeting in Cairo ahead of the EU-sponsored 22 June international conference on Iraq.

18:35 Geneva. EU to propose new agreement on Iranian nuclar activities. Iranian negotiator Hassan Rowhani says he expects an accord within a short period of time.

18:13 Tel Aviv. Protesters opposed to Gaza Strip pullout block traffic resulting in huge traffic jams.

18:10 Beirut: Hezbollah, "We have 12,000 missiles." Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of Lebanese Hezbollah, claims to possess 12,000 missiles able to strike northern Israel. All of occupied North Palestine, with its settler colonies, airports, fields and farms is within the range of fire of the Islamic Resistance....We do not want to drag the region into war; we want to defend our country and we shall keep our weapons.

18:00 London. UK to deploy additional 400 troops to Iraq as trainers.

17:15 Ramadi. US anti-rebel operation kills 10 rebels.

15:37 Washington: Rumsfeld says he ordered Cessna shot down as it entered forbidden airspace of US capital on 11 May.

15:18 Teheran. President Khatami intervenes with Iranian judiciary to seek the release Akbar Ganji, a dissident journalist who has been in jail for the last five years.

14:29 Najaf. Thousands of Shi'a demonstrate against Sheik Harith al Dhari of the Committee of Iraqi Ulema. Al Dhari accused the Badr Brigades of the murder of several Sunni clerics.

14:22 Kabul. Negotiations for release of Italian hostage in hands of tribal leaders.

13:08 Baghdad. Al Zarqawi wounded in lung and taken to neighboring country. The Jihadist website Al Tajdeed says al-Zarqawi has undergone surgery outside Iraq after a bullet passed through his lung.

11:14 Paris. Prime Minister Raffarin says there is new information on kidnapped reporter Florence Aubenas but refused to provide the details.

09:35 Cairo. Referendum on electoral reform. 32.5 million Egyptian voters called to polls to approve electoral reform. The Mubarek government must win 51 percent of the vote to ratify the new elections law.

09:07 Baghdad: Fini to inaugurate memorial to Nicola Calipari. [Does he think we're dumb enough to be content with this sop? Yes, I guess he does.--Nur] Fini will also meet with Premier Ibrahim al Jafaari and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

07:06 Baghdad. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini makes surprise visit to Iraq.

06:53 New York. ABC's Nightline will broadcast the names of US soldiers killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. A photographic portrait of each fallen GI will be broadcast nationally.

06:39 Haditha. New US offensive. Three guerrillas killed and two US marines wounded.

06:16 Washington. The President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in Washington for talks with President Bush.

04:14 Washington. Charles Duelfer says Saddam Hussein probably lied about his unconventional weapons arsenal to prevent Iranian aggression.

02:06 New York. The Iraqi government has asked the UN to authorize an extension to the mandate of the "multinational force". According to the provisions of Resolution 1546 of June 8, 2004, the Security Council would reexamine an extension within 12 months. The Security Council will meet on May 31 to consider the extension.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

24 May 2005 Events in Iraq

London. Foreign Minister Jack Straw officially condemns the publication of prison photos of Saddam Hussein by The Sun.

Najaf. In his first interview on Iraqi TV, Moqtada Sadr held out an olive branch to the government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari but demanded that his supporters be released from prison.

New York. Amnesty International harshly criticized the dangerous "new world order" in its annual report released this morning, singling out Washington for its "duplicity" in seeking to legalize torture.

Cairo. Opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rejected U.S. First Lady Laura Bush's interpretation of Egyptian politics, saying they could not even see the progress she was praising. There are no reform steps at all. The regime is still following the dictatorial and repressive method towards the Egyptian people and opposition, said Mohamed Habib, deputy leader of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

Tal Afar. Militants sprayed Baktash's house with machine-gun fire, killing two civilians and trading fire with security forces, said Col. Saleh Jamil Sultan. Now terrorists have deployed throughout Tal Afar and I consider that Tal Afar is a city that is under the terrorist control, Sultan said. A Turkmen lawmaker told parliament that ''street wars'' were raging in Tal Afar, but Iraqi and U.S. forces had not intervened.

Baghdad. The National Assembly convened Tuesday, during which a conservative Shiite lawmaker said he was appointed to head a 55-member committee charged with drafting Iraq's new constitution, which must be drawn up by mid-August and put to a referendum by October. Cleric Hammoudi, an aide to the leader of Iraq's largest Shiite Arab party, told the AP he was appointed head of the committee and two Sunni Arabs and a Kurd were appointed his deputies: Bahaa al-Araji and Mariem al-Rayess of the UIA and Hussein Mohammed Taha of the Kurdish coalition.

Baghdad. Residents called police about a suspicious-looking car parked opposite the Dijlah Junior High School for Girls in Alwiyah, near eastern Baghdad's well-known Withaq Square, a Christian neighborhood. As bomb disposal experts approached the vehicle, it exploded and killed six bystanders, said police Capt. Husham Ismael.

Baghdad. A US soldier sitting in the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle at an observation post was shot to death by gunmen in a passing car.

23:29 Managua. Two al-Qaeda members, Kenyan Ahmed Salim Swedan and a man named Altuwiti from Yemen sought for their involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, are said to be in the area of Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. The frontiers are being watched. [I would like to howl at this lie. Excuse me. Waaaaaaaaoaooooooooooooaaaaaaaaah! Thank you for your indulgence.--Nur]

16:46 Damascus. Syrian secret police arrested 8 members of Syria's only political forum, Salon Atassi, accusing them of propaganda in favor of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Arrested at dawn were: Forum President Souheir al-Atassi, writer Hussein al-Aoudat, moderator, Nahed Badawiyah, Hazem al-Nahar, Jihad Massouti, Mohammad Mahfouz, Abdelnasser Kalhous and Youssef Jahmani.

16:18 Najaf. Shiite lawmaker al-Khafaji was driving from Baghdad to the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of the capital, when an assassination attempt took place, her spokesman Bahaa Hassan Hamida said. Al-Khafaji survived assassination attempts in January 2005 and May 2004, which killed her 17-year-old son. She was one of three women on the 25-member U.S.-appointed Governing Council until the transitional government took over. The Shiite delegation included secular Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi and two other legislators. Al-Khafaji returned to Baghdad after the botched ambush.

16:00 Rochester, NY. Sister Grace Miller, Director of the House of Mercy, and Philosophy Professor Harry Murray of Nazareth College were charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest as they exercised their ~assumed~ right to free speech by protesting Bush's visit to my home town.

15:47 Cairo. The Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa says Sharon's racist statements about Arabs are "nothing new".

15:34 Baghdad. The Iraqi government seeks to re-arrest former Ba'athist Ghazi Hammoud Al Ubeidi who was just released from detention for reasons of bad health.

15:21 Baghdad. A former Iraqi minister will appear in court on Wednesday in the first government corruption case to be brought since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Layla Abdul Latif, labour minister in Iyad Allawi's interim government, faces a preliminary hearing into allegations that she misused public money. She denies any wrongdoing. Besides Latif's case, a judge is also expected to hear allegations of corruption at the Transport Ministry. Latif said she would attend the hearing. Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog, said in a report earlier this year that Iraq was in danger of becoming "the biggest corruption scandal in history", with incidents ranging from petty bribery to massive embezzlement, expropriation and profiteering.

15:11 Ramallah. Abu Mazen will not oppose a delay in the legislative elections.

13:22 Ankara. A 48 year-old Turkish businessman has been kidnapped and held hostage until his firm quits its activities in Iraq.

13:18 Baghdad. Carbomb kills three US soldiers. Three U.S. soldiers were killed Tuesday in central Baghdad when a car bomb exploded next to their convoy at about 13:30, said military spokesman Sgt. David Abram.

13:11 Kabul. Suicide bomb alert until 29 May. There are threats of suicide bombings in the Afghan capital.

12:27 Kabul. The Afgani government suggests that patience will be necessary before Italian hostage Clementina Cantoni is released.

12:23 Brussels. NATO announces revised relationship with Tashkent. NATO officially condemned the use of violence on the part of the Karimov government. NATO is profoundly taken aback by the recent violence in Uzbekistan; we condemn the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Uzbek security. We support the request by the United Nations for an international independent investigation of these events and we urgently ask that the Uzbek authorities consent to this investigation.

11:13 Baghdad. Former Saddam collaborator Ghazi Hammoud al-Obeidi was released from prison due to his poor state of health. However, Premier Ibrahim al Jafaari wants him rearrested. Al-Obeidi was the ex-Governor of Wasit Province and suffers from cancer.

11:07 Teheran. The Iranian daily Etemad reports that 4 police and a drug trafficker were killed along the Caspian Sea on a highway linking Shaboksar and Ramsar. A automobile was stopped at a checkpoint when shooting broke out as the car was being searched, killing two police. The car took off, pursued by Islamic militiamen (Basiji) on motorcycle. One militia man was killed along with a trafficker in a second gunbattle.

10:13 New York. Sharon makes racist remarks about Arabs. Their agreements, declaraction and speeches are not worth the paper they are written on.

10:09 Beirut. Former Maronite warlord Michel Aoun will run in legislative elections.

09:30 Baghdad. Six dead in carbombing.

09:08 Baghda. Car bombing in capital.

09:00 Baghdad. Dragnet snares 403 alleged insurgents during operation "Squeeze Play" conducted by US and Iraq troops.

08:00 Tall Afar. Death toll in car bombings rises to 34. Yesterday's dual car bombing claims more lives. However, the PKK says 35 are dead and 25 wounded.

07:36 Damascus: Syria suspends cooperation with the USA. Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha says Damascus will end all cooperation with the USA, including military and intelligence links.

07:24 Kabul. Two Uzbeks working for the USA were killed along the highway between Kabul and Kandahar.

07:06 Tashkent. Dissident arrested. The Uzbek authorities arrested human rights activist Saidiahon Zaynabitdinov.

02:18 Washington. Hayden Schaeffer, the Cessna 150 pilot who violated the airspace over Washington DC on May 11, had his pilot's licence suspended by the FAA.

01:31 Washington. Senate alarm. A Cessna aircraft violated airspace over Washington DC around midnight. The Senate suspended its business as the aircraft was forced to land in Gaithernsburg, MD.

Civilian Massacre by Uzbek Forces in Andijan

Yesterday's Le Monde has a sourced report by Jacques Follorou and Natalie Nougayrède of the massacre of innocent and unarmed civlians in Andijan by Karimov's troops following the street demonstrations there. Karimov claimed only armed demonstrators were killed but it is an outrageous and murderous lie.

LE MONDE | 23.05.05 | 15h46

On the morning of Friday 13 May in Andijan, a city of 300,000 in the Ferghana Valley, a vast oasis of rice paddies, cotton fields and fruit orchards along Central Asia’s ancient Silk Road, a crowd assembled, seized with fear and excitement. The night before, at midnight, armed insurgents took control of an armory and broke down the gates of the prison, freeing hundreds of prisoners, including 23 local businessmen.

They next entered city hall. In Babour Square, thousands of residents, venting their exasperation with the regime of Uzbek President Karimov, in power since 1989, began to assemble.

The fate of the 23 businessmen is the key element which set off the revolt. The trial of these men, accused of religious extremism, had be going on in Andijan since February. A crowd of supporters and relatives watched the proceedings; the verdict was to be read on 12 May. The day before, however, the authorities announced the suspension of the trial and a change of venue to a faraway province on the Aral Sea. The decision sent a wave of anger through the populace.

Among the accused were two brothers of Khassan Sharikov, a frail young man of 27 in exile in Kyrgyzstan in an encampment of military-issue tents along the Kara Daria river, which demarks the Uzbek frontier. Next to some 500 other refugees demanding political asylum in Kyrgyzstan, Khassan narrates the events of the days which led to the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children by the Uzbek army on the afternoon of 13 May.
My brothers Shakir and Shavkiat ran a garment shop which employed forty or so workers. Starting in June of 2004 the SNB –the Uzbek secret police- began a shakedown operation targeting them and other entrepreneurs in the city, threatening tax audits and closures. My brothers were part of a group of entrepreneurs, furniture manufacturers, toolmakers and tradesmen providing mutual assistance. They became very popular among the populace because they gave people jobs. Their employees received health care and free meals. In the mahallas (traditional Uzbek neighborhoods) they organized celebrations, prepared lamb and distributed gifts. My brothers contributed to the orphanage. Everything was founded on a certain ethic.
In Babour Square that 13th of May, people spoke up, one by one, using a loudspeaker taken from city hall, including the city prosecutor. Men complained of economic hardship. Women protested the wave of arrests sweeping the region over the last few months. The crowd grew. Khassan Sharikov says there were 30,000 demonstrators. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in Tashkent says there were between 5000 and 10,000 people. No Islamist slogans were used, only calls for justice and freedom.

Around 10 a.m., an armored military vehicle belonging to the forces which had concentrated themselves in the side streets, entered Babour Square and opened fire on the demonstrators. Combat helicopters appeared overhead. The crowd, which had heard on the radio that President Karimov was heading for Andijan, believed for a moment that he had arrived and that there would be negotiations.

Around noon, other shots where heard, coming from a second armored vehicle racing down Navoï Avenue, equipped with a machine gun and following by trucks filled with soldiers. The wounded and the dead (between ten and twenty corpses) were carried towards city hall. Inside the building, young Khassan began to send e-mails on a city computer to journalists and press agencies who knew us, because they had been covering the trial of the Twenty-Three.

According to information gathered by Western diplomats in Tashkent, negotiations by telephone took place between the insurgents and Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir Almatov. The demands of the protesters were the release from prison of the twenty-three defendants; this was judged unacceptable by President Karimov.

Around 5 pm, the shooting from the military grew more intense and a portion of the crowd left the square heading down Shoulpon Avenue, the only remaining exit after the military had encircled the square. Soldiers, hidden behind the trees lining the boulevard, opened fire. People fell dead. Armed insurgents deployed themselves between the military and the departing crowd in order to protect them against the soldiers, relates Khassan Sharikov. Women and children to the middle!, shouted the insurgents, who had placed local officials taken hostage in front of them as human shields.

When they got to the Shoulpon Cinema they discovered that the avenue was blocked by armored vehicles and surrounded by army snipers on the rooftops. This is where the largest number of killings took place. The troops took aim at the crowd with heavy machine guns. There were many, many dead, says Khassan Sharikov. We were flat on the ground. It lasted 15 minutes. I lifted my head to see women and children covered in blood, exploded limbs due to the impact of the bullets and fractured skulls. The ground was covered with pools of blood and rain. The men protecting us were all dead.

A group of residents managed to escape down an alley and began the long, all-night trek towards the Kyrgyz frontier where other soldiers opened fire on them as they walked along a narrow path, killing eight of them. My wife fell, stricken by a hail of bullets which pierced her kidneys, recounts Akram Zahidov, under a tent in Kara Daria.

According to the Red Cross Committee in Uzbekistan, its was possible to ascertain from bullet wounds fired at point blank range at forty corpses that the Army had finished off the wounded following the Andijan fusillade. Other dead were carried away by trucks. Access to hospitals, morgues and School No. 15, where bodies were collected, remains forbidden to NGOs and the Red Cross.

OCSE and the Red Cross officials say hundreds of people (between 300 and 500) –but not thousands as other sources reported- were killed during the disturbances. OCSE underscores that no warning was issued to the crowd, which was peaceful and unarmed and that insurgents did not fire on the military before the assault on the crowd. This refutes President Karimov’s version of events, according to which no unarmed civilian was shot.

10,000 Kites

leila abu saba Posted by Hello

In San Francisco, Leila Abu-Saba, aka Beduina, joins in a gesture of solidarity together with much larger kite-flying events held last Friday in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [From the San Francisco Chronicle.]

Monday, May 23, 2005

23 May 2005 Events in Iraq

Haswa. Four US soldiers were killed Monday after they were attacked in Haswa, 30 miles south of Baghdad. The soldiers were assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force

Canberra. Australian soldiers to be withdrawn from Iraq in eight months. Australian troops deployed to southern Iraq may be withdrawn in 8 months as they are replaced by Iraqi forces, says General Peter Cosgrove of the Australian General Staff. General Cosgrove also announced that his son Philip had been wounded in Iraq in a roadside bombing in January 2005.

Amman. Daughter of Saddam Hussein "outraged" by photos of her father. Raghad Hussein is outraged by the prison photos of her father. Raghad, and her sister Rana and their 9 children went into exile in Jordan on 31 July 2003. Their mother, Sajida and the third sister, Hala, live in Qatar.

Baghdad. Former Premier Iyad Allawi claims that al-Qaeda Number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri visited Iraq in 1999. Allawi adds that Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi entered Iraq at about the same time to establish links with Ansar al-Sunna. Allawi says al-Zawahiri entered the country under a false name to attend the 9th Popular Islamic Conference held in September. Allawi claims that Farouk Hijazi, former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, was named by Saddam to liaise with Islamist organizations. [Is this the truth? Are King Abdullah and tag teaming in setting up the Saddam-al Qaeda link?--Nur]

Paris. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier will hold talks with the UN Special Representative to Iraq Achraf Qazi on preparations for the 22 June conference on Iraq.

Samarra. Three suicide carbombs target a US base in Samarra, wounding four GIs.

Kirkuk. Two Kurds were killed and five others wounded by mortar fire.

22:37 Baghdad. Mass arrests; 366 rounded up in the western quarters of the capital. American combat helicopters and warplanes shadowed the operation as US and Iraqi troops conducted house-to-house searches.

21:50 Jerusalem. Israeli troops use Palestinian adolescent as human shield. Israeli TV broadcasts the incident, filmed last week on the West Bank. The Israeli Supreme Court has declared the use of human shields as illegal.

20:55 Tal Afar. Carbomb kills 20. At least 20 people are dead and 25 are wounded in a dual carbombing in Tel Afar. The target was local Shi'a politician Hassan Baktash, a Shiite Muslim with close ties to the Kurdistan Democratic Party,

19:27 An Iraqi-American, who an Internet statement claimed has been killed for being a U.S. military pilot, is a businessman who returned to Iraq 18 months ago and disappeared last week, his brother said Monday. Neenus Youssef Khoshaba has been missing since Tuesday when he left his Baghdad family home to attend a business meeting, said his elder brother, Boulus. "I heard in the news that he was killed," the brother said. On Sunday, a statement purportedly released by the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group claimed it had killed Khoshaba for being an American pilot who had bombed mosques and civilians. The group claimed to have kidnapped Khoshaba and posted photos of an Illinois driver's license of a 56-year-old man from Skokie, Illinois, and hotel and airline privilege cards. "After interrogating him, it was revealed it was he who bombed a number of mosques (and) the hotel Ishtar Sheraton in Baghdad during the invasion, as well as bombing a number of civilian homes," said the statement. "After finishing the interrogation, God's ruling was executed," it added. "He has nothing to do with the military. He works in business," said the brother, adding he was too old to be a military pilot. Boulus Khoshaba said his family had received a call from a man claiming to be Egyptian asking about his brother. After finishing high school in 1969, the missing man left Iraq to the United States where he lived in Illinois and studied computer science before moving to Saudi Arabia, where he worked for more than two decades. Khoshaba, who was still using his Iraqi passport, returned to Iraq to live with his mother and brother in Baghdad about 1 1/2 years ago after his wife died of cancer.

19:26 Washington. President George W. Bush will insist that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dismantle all terrorist networks in Palestinian areas when they meet at the White House on Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. In a rousing pro-Israel speech at a policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Rice said Monday "the president will be clear that there are commitments to be met, that there are goals to be met." She said Israel had obligations as well, and that Bush, having shunned Yasser Arafat, will build with Abbas "a relationship that is based on the good faith that only democratic leaders can bring." As Rice spoke, Sharon was in New York, rallying American Jews to support his plan to withdraw all Israeli Jews and troops from Gaza and to turn over the area to the Palestinians _ a move endorsed by the Bush administration. Protesters accused Sharon of giving in to violence and said more Israeli territorial withdrawals would follow.

19:16 Baghdad. Iraq's Islamic Party, the main Sunni political movement, warned against politicizing the security forces. We, the Islamic Party, condemn all forms of terrorism, whether it targets individuals, groups or governments. At the conclusion of their meeting, Sunni notables reaffirmed their opposition foreign occupation and maintained that resistance is legitimate.

19:16 Mahmoudiya. A car bomb exploded outside Hussaynia Fadlallah al-Abbasa, a Shi'ite mosque south of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 19, most of them children, hospital officials said. Witnesses said the blast caused the building to collapse, killing five inside. Doctors at nearby hospitals said 11 of those wounded were children. Several other aging structures also tumbled.

19:15 Ottawa. Amnesty International plans to "adopt" US deserter Jeremy Hinzman, who has saught refuge in Canada after he refused deployment to Iraq.

19:14 Baghdad. The new Constitution will restore stability to Iraq only if the rebels and other groups not represented in the government acquire a genuine political role, said Hadjim al Hassani, National Assembly Speaker, in an interview with Reuters.

19:10 Baghdad. Death toll rises to 13 in restaurant bombing. 126 are wounded.

18:55 Jerusalem. Less than 100 settler families out of 1,700 on the Gaza Strip have registered for an indemnity. Settlers who refuse to leave their residences voluntarily before 20 July will see their indemnity reduced by one-third. The total cost of the pullout is projected to be $1.5 billion.

18:51 Teheran. Fearing a boycott after all reformist candidates were disqualified from Iran's upcoming elections, the country's supreme leader ordered Monday the applications of some candidates be reviewed, state-run television reported. The Guardian Council, the hardline constitutional watchdog which vets the election candidates, rejected on Sunday all the reformists who'd registered to run in next month's presidential elections. Only six out of more than 1,000 hopeful candidates were approved, and those six were not from the reformist camp. "It's appropriate that all individuals in the country be given the choice from various political tendencies," said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his decree addressed to Guardian Council chief Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati. "Therefore, it seems that (the) qualification of Mr. Moin and Mr. Mehralizadeh be reconsidered," the television quoted Khamenei's decree as saying, referring to the two most prominent reformists disqualified, Mostafa Moin and Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh. Khamenei's call is unlikely to appease the reformists, who have slammed the council's vetting policies as illegal.

18:39 New York. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered her unwavering support to the Israeli plan for a pullout from the Gaza Strip and called upon Israelis and Palestinians to "fulfill their obligations". Rice spoke before the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

18:17 Dubai. Ansar al-Sunna announced the execution of two Iraqi and a Jordanian truck drivers who worked for the US military in Iraq. Jordanian Hammad Ismaël Al-Sanee was ambushed while transporting supplies from the port of Aqaba to US bases in Iraq. Iraqis Khaïri Abdel Majid Ftouh and Faran Faëq Fadhel were ambushed as the left the US base at Al-Assad, the largest in Iraq, where they had delivered electrical equipment. A video of the executions was uploaded to the Internet.

17:21 Mosul. Three US soldiers were killed in separate incidents in Mosul on Sunday. A fourth was killed by an explosive device near Tikrit.

16:33 Baghdad. Ali "Ford", an auto mechanic specialized in repairing Ford automobiles, wounders how he is going to the family of this apprentice that the fellow was killed in the bombing of the Habayebna Restaurant on Monday. Government sources say 113 were wounded and 4 killed in a bombing in the Shi'ite Jamila quarter of Baghdad. The blast left a crator where the restaurant formerly stood. Usually Sadr City police eat here every day but today not one of them showed up, said an eye witness. The restaurant had received threats because police were frequent customers.

16:03 Jerusalem. Palestinian Interior and Security Minister Nasr Yussef is to meet on Monday evening with Israeli Defense Minister Shaoul Mofaz for talks on the handover of security responsibilities on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

16:02 Brussels. European express concern over preparation for Iranian elections. Of 1,008 candidates only six have been approved to run [This track record is superior to that of Egypt--Nur]. Europe believes reform candidat Mostapha Moïn should be permitted to run. In addition to the candidature Mr. Rafsanjani, former president, the Council of Guardians has approved four conservatives and a reformer, Mehdi Karoubi, a distant relative of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami.

15:30 Baghdad. Death toll is four in restaurant bombing.

15:18 Brussels. Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino reiterates that in the medium-term, Afghanistan is in worse shape than Iraq.[Whew--that must be bad!--Nur]

14:50 Ft. Hood: Court martial of Shane Werst, 32, accused of murdering Iraqi prisoner Naser Ismail after a sweep through a neighborhood.

14:19 Bucharest. Kidnapped reporters return home. A Romanian military aircraft repatriated three reporters to a military base near the capital, Bucharest. The base was sealed off to the public. Their guide and interpreter, Mohammed Minaf, is in custody in Baghdad where he is being questioned by coalition forces. Romanian President Traian Basescu says no ransom or political concession was made to the kidnappers.

13:39 Baghdad. Carbombing in Shi'ite neighborhood has killed or injured at least 52 people. The detonation took place in the Jamila district near a crowded restaurant. The blast set parked cars ablaze.

12:28 Baghdad. Carbombing in Shi'ite neighborhood. A car stuffed with explosives blew up near a restaurant in a busy Baghdad neighborhood.

11:22 Brussels. EU foreign ministers condemn Uzbekistan for its refusal to accept an investigation into the bloody repression during a recent popular uprising.

10:45 Baghdad. Anti-terrorism chief assassinated. General Wael Rubaye was assassinated in the Mansur district of the capital by unarmed gunmen as he was being driven to work.

08:29 Kirkuk. Truck bomb kills 4 civilians. A truck bomb targeted the residence of a municipal administrator this morning in Tuz Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk, killing four and wounding four others. The official was unharmed.

07:08 Samarra. Iraqi insurgents fired 10 mortar rounds at an Iraqi police and army base. Two soldiers were killed and a third wounded.

01:10 London. Colonel Jorge Mendonca faces court martial for prisoner abuse in Basrah in an operation known as Ali Baba. If Col. Mondonca is found guilty, he will be the first British commanding officer sentenced for criminal misconduct since 1950.

01:01 Baghdad. Sunni leaders reopened the debate on the murders of Sunni clerics, blaming Interior Minister Bayan Baqer Sulagh, a Shi'a, for mosque raids and arrests of imams and worshipers alike during a conference assembling 1,000 Sunni notables. Sulagh had previously declared that he would make a "deal with the devil" to defeat terrorism. Sunnis demanded an independent commission of inquiry into the murders.