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A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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).

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

30 November Events in Iraq and in the Region

Abu Garmah. Three farm workers were killed and two were wounded when masked gunmen opened fire at a mini bus in the small town of Abu Garmah near Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

Baghdad. Two security guards were wounded when snipers fired at the office of Salama al-Khafaji, a member of the National Assembly, in western Baghdad. She was not in the office at the time of the attack.

Manzilah. An Iraqi army officer and two soldiers were seriously wounded when a makeshift bomb went off near their patrol in Manzilah village southwest of Kirkuk, 250 km north of Baghdad.

Sanaa (Yemen). At least 10 rebels were killed today and anther six the day before. More than 500 soldiers and police, supported by armored vehicles, have closed off Sadah Governate and have prevented reporters from going there. Clashes had taken place between security forces and supporters of Shi'ite leader Bader Eddine al-Houthi.

Baghdad. General Martin Dempsey accused Iraqi Security officers of torturing prisoners.

Baghdad. The US Army has been secretly delivering payola to Iraqi newspapers to publish articles written by the US military to better the image of the United States.

Jerusalem. An plea bargain was made in the case of Tali Fahima, 29, accused of having contacts with a "foreign agent", Zakaria al-Zoubeidi, of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Fahima will serve less than one year in prison

Baghdad. Four Iranians kidnapped north of the capital were later released and have taken refuge in the Iranian consulate in Karbala. Witnesses say uniformed Iraqi police were among their kidnappers.

Cairo. One hundred supporters of Hamdin Sabahy, an Arab nationalist and leftist MP from the Nile delta, were arrested. Police took their identity documents to prevent them from voting.

23:54 Baghdad. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns suggested Wednesday that European and other nations might apply curbs on trade and investment in Iran should the next round of negotiations fail to halt Iran's drive for nuclear weapons.

23:53 Dubai. Bahrainis protesting against unemployment clashed with police in the capital Manama late on Wednesday. Protesters threw stones and molotov cocktails, setting fire to two police cars, after officers moved in to disperse them.

23:54 Vienna. U.N. investigators will start questioning five Syrian officials on Monday at UN headquarters in Vienna about the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister.

22:28 Washington House Democratic Party Whip Nancy Pelosi has supported John Murtha's call for an immediate US miltiary pullout from Iraq.

21:28 Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the subject of hostage Susanne Osthoff. "We shall not be blackmailed", said Merkel after a death threat from Osthoff's captors.

16:42 Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party scrambled on Wednesday to salvage a primary election rocked by turmoil that has widened internal rifts ahead of a political battle with its Hamas rival. A day after Abbas suspended voting in response to violence and fraud, Fatah's Central Committee decided to name a 24-member review board, chaired by the president, to finalise a list of the party's candidates for a parliamentary election on Jan. 25.

16:36 Ramallah. Three top leaders of Hamas are among the Islamic militant group's candidates for parliament. Hamas has said it would only reveal its list of candidates at the last moment --the deadline is mid-December-- for fear candidates would be targeted by Israel. However, Hamas said Wednesday that among the top candidates in Jan. 25 parliament elections are Mahmoud Zahar, Ismail Hanieh and Hassan Yousef. Rasha Rantisi, the widow of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas leader killed by Israel two years ago, is also on Hamas' list, along with other women candidates.

16:32 Karachi. Hispano-Syrian Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, alias Abou Moussab al-Souri, a suspected member of al-Qaeda, was arrested in Pakistan three months ago.

16:28 Washington. President George W. Bush, facing growing doubts about his war strategy, said Wednesday that Iraqi troops are increasingly taking the lead in battle but that «this will take time and patience.» In a speech defending his policy, the president said, "We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission. If our military leaders there tell us we need more troops, I will send them."

16:26 Cairo. Nearly 600 Muslim Brotherhood militants were arrested over the last few days. So far, MB has won 76 our of 444 seats in the national legislature. Most arrests were carried out in the Province of Dakahlia.

16:24 Washington. President George W. Bush said in a speech today that Iraq ha become the "main front in the War on Terror".

16:23 Ramallah. The Fatah Central Committee has decided to continue the primaries to select candidates for the general elections in January.

16:10 Baghdad. Sunni Arab leaders in Iraq voiced anger on Wednesday over a Norwegian company's oil deal struck exclusively with Kurds in the north and warned such projects could deepen sectarian divisions. Small Norwegian oil firm DNO on Tuesday became the first foreign company to drill for oil in postwar Iraq through an agreement negotiated with Iraqi Kurdistan.

16:09 Washington. Bush administration makes public document on US aims in Iraq entitled, National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.

14:10 Brussels. Belgian authorities in the regions of Brussels and Antwerp arrested 14 persons said to be linked to a Belgian woman,Muriel Degauque, who carried out a suicide attack three weeks ago in Baquba.

13:22 Berlin. Kidnappers in Iraq have threatened to kill a German woman and her driver unless Berlin stops all cooperation with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

13:00 Washington. Partial troop pullout from Iraq may take place in 2006.

07:29 Riyadh. Two women have won an unprecented victory in Saudi Arabia, where they have been elected to the Board of Directors of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce. Lama al-Souleiman and Nashwa Taher, 44, won with 3,880 votes with only 100 from other women.

07:03 Baquba. Eight persons are dead after ten gunmen opened fire on their minibus.

06:13 \Tokyo. Japan will keep its contingent in Iraq until May 2006.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

29 November Events in Iraq and in the Region

Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to cancel the ongoing primary elections in a part of the territories. Today's elections in East Jerusalem were cancelled. Meanwhile, Hamas won over Fatah in student elections at al-Najah University in Nablus.

Jerusalem. Israel to test new crossing. Israel will test the ultramodern Kalkilya crossing through the Security Wall between the West Bank and Israel.

Rafah. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon travelled to the border with Egypt to study the problem of "contraband from Egypt".

Jerusalem. Labour MP Dalia Yitzhik has joined Ariel Sharon's new political party. Meanwhile Shimon Peres announced that he would also leave the Labour party to join Mr. Sharon.

London. PM Tony Blair denies knowledge of a US plan to bomb al-Jazeera.

Baghdad. The legal team for Saddam Hussein to demand more protection. In October, Saadoun Janabi, attorney Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, was kidnapped and executed. In November, Adel Mohammed Abbas, attorney for Taha Yassin Ramadan, was shot dead by armed gunmen, who also wounded Tamer Hammoud Hadi, attorney for Barzan al-Tikriti, half-brother of Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad. A German woman, Suzanne Osthoff, 43, and her chauffeur were kidnapped. Osthoff is an archaeologist who has resided in Iraq for the last 10 years and had related to the German newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ) that she had be threatened with abduction. She has an 11 year-old daughter.

Ramallah. Twenty Palestinians, including Abdelrahim Mallouh, a leader of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), imprisoned at the Ofer Israeli military base on the West Bank, were injured in a riot provoked last night by the transfer of four PFLP prisoners to another prison. In the aftermath of the incident, 1,100 Palestinian prisoners went on a hunger strike in solidarity.

Rafah. The Palestinian Minister for Civilian Affairs, Mohammed Dahlan, says only the Palestinian Authority may refuse passage of travellers through the Rafah terminal.

Cairo. The Egyptian government announced it will refuse to legalize the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama el-Baz, advisor to Hosni Mubarak, said that no political party with a religious affiliation will be permitted. Meanwhile another 20 Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested.

Cairo. Egyptian lawyers demonstrate againt voting booth fraud in support of Egyptian magistrates

23:58 Ottawa. Canada will do everything possible to obtain the release of its nationals kindapped in Iraq.

23:52 Toronto. The NGO Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) beleives the kindapping of its four employees --American Tom Fox, 54, Briton Norman Kember, 74 , and two Candians, James Loney, 41 and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32-- was due to "illegal acts on committed by the United States and Britain".

23:50 Fallujah. A Sunni cleric was assassinated Tuesday by unknown gunmen in front of his mosque in Fallujah. Sheikh Hamza Abbas al-Issawi, the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars in the city, was leaving the al-Wahda mosque after evening prayers when several cars drew up and men inside opened fire on the sheikh.

23:49 Doha. Al-Jazeera broadcast video Tuesday of four Western peace activists held hostage by a previously unknown group, part of a new wave of kidnappings police fear is aimed at disrupting next month's elections. The news station said the four were seized by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, which claimed they were spies working under the cover of Christian peace activists. The brief, blurry tape was shown the same day German TV displayed a photo of a blindfolded German archaeologist being led away by armed captors in Iraq. The kidnappers threatened to kill Susanne Osthoff and her Iraqi driver unless Germany halts all contacts with the Iraqi government.

23:46 Washington. The U.S. Army has launched an unprecedented effort to coax former troops to sign up again for active-duty military service. The Army this month began contacting 78,000 people who previously served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to pitch them on the idea of leaving behind their civilian lives and returning for another stint in uniform. Bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $19,000 are being offered and the Army also dropped a rule that had blocked former soldiers from getting training in a different career field than they previously had worked.

23:28 Washington. US Secretary of Defense insisted that progress was being made in the transfer of control of Iraq to Iraqi security forces.

23:07 Washington. General Peter Pace declares the use of white phosphorus as an incendiary munition "legitimate."

21:48 Rawa. Nine presumed terrorists arrested.

20:30 Balad. The six Iranian pilgrims kidnapped this morning have been released.

23:21 Ramallah. The Palestinian minister in charge of relations with Israel, Saëb Erakat, has requested aid from Washington to ensure the success of the Palestinian legislative elections.

18:26 Baghdad. General John Abizaid says there has been no concrete decision to withdraw coalition troops. Earlier in the day, Iraqi Security Minister Mowaffaq al-Rubaie has announced the pullout of 30,000 US troops in 2006.

17:08 Baghdad. Six mortar rounds directed at Camp Falcon south of the capital. US forces then closed down a major highway between Baghdad and the south of the country.

16:46 Mosul. Two Assyrian Christians were shot dead as they hung election posters. Two others were wounded.

16:13 Baghdad. One of the British pilgrims wounded yesterday when gunfire struck a coach carrying pilgrims to Najaf and Karbala has died. He was 69 and lived in London. Two other Britons were also wounded. The pilgrims were of Indian origin and entered Iraq from India via Tehran.

16:05 Tarmiyah. Suicide carbomb kills 8 Iraqi soldiers.

15:01 Baghdad. Roadside bomb kills two US soldiers north of the capital.

14:37 Bethlehem. A gunfight broke out between Palestinian security forces and Israeli soldiers out-of-uniform. A Palestinian policemen was wounded in the leg by the Israelis.

13:47 Balad. Two Iranian pilgrims kidnapped yesterday were released.

09:32 Balad. Six Iranian pilgrims, including three women, and their guide were kidnapped on their way to Najaf and Kerbala.

Update on CIA Secret Prisons in Europe

I wonder what the CIA fund that corrupts foreign civil aviation authorities is called?

From Le Monde:

The European Commission revealed on Monday 28 November that it has requested clarification from the United States on the alleged existence of CIA-run clandestine prisons in Europe.

According to the European Commissioner for Justice, Franco Frattini, his Director-General, Jonathan Faul, has contacted the White House and the US State Department for information on the secret activities of the CIA. So far, unfortunately there has been no assurance that the information on the prisons was baseless. The Americans have asked for a delay to answer the EU request. Speaking in Berlin from the sidelines of a meeting on security, Mr. Frattini said that the response from Washington could be interpreted in three ways: That the accusations are true; that they are false or that the White House needs more time to formulate a reply. The attitude of the EU will depend on the time it takes to receive a US reply, he warned.

Information from certain eastern European countries suggests that the CIA used European nations for the transport, illegal detention and torture of alleged Islamic terrorists. The Commissioner threatened EU member states with loss of their voting privileges within the European Council if the existence of secret CIA prisons on their territory is confirmed.

Germans Express Concern

According to the new conservative Minister of Defense, Franz Josef Jung, on a visit to Paris, Germany also expects clarification form the United States. The question is to know if torture has taken place. That is the matter which worries us. I hope this can be cleared up. He emphasized that the new German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now in Washington, is to meet on Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Over the weekend, Mr. Steinmeier believed it was timely for the British Chairmanship of the European Union to officially request an explanation from the United States. The Ramstein Airbase and the military area of Frankfurt Airport, among other locations, constitute veritable hubs for US forces.

55 CIA Stopovers in Canada

The newspaper La Presse reports that US aircraft chartered by the CIA and suspected of having transported Islamic detainees made 55 stopovers in Canada over the last four years. Eight of these flights continued to Guantanamo, Cuba, where several hundred Islamists are held as part of the War on Terror.

Other flights transited through Canada heading for Spain, the UK, Portugal or Germany without the final destination being known. However, the planes are on a list drafted by Human Rights Watch, which has catalogued the aircraft used by CIA front companies. The Canadian Minister for Public Safety, Anne McLellan, told Parliament that she possessed no information concerning the landing of an alleged CIA flight which would be used for this type of transport.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Marwan Barghouti or the Whirlwind

The young guard of Fatah unseat the organization's old leaders

Fatah militants have decided to inject new blood into this historic Palestinian movement by displacing the old guard during the primaries organized last Friday which will determine the Fatah candidates for the legislative elections scheduled for January 25th. It was the result of pressure from the new guard, seeking to do shake up the faction’s leadership, that primaries have been introduced to select the 132 candidates to the Legislative Council from among the more than a thousand hopefuls. The Fatah organization had been accustomed to name the candidates since the era of Yassir Arafat. But this time, the candidates will be chosen by the 463,000-member party following, who have been critical of the impotence and corruption of the current leadership.

In Ramallah, Marwan Barghouti, the icon of the new generation, won the vote despite the life sentence that he is serving inside an Israeli jail. Mr. Barghouti, who is a Palestinian MP, received 96% of vote cast, or 7,000 votes, taking a commanding lead in the field of 45 candidates in his district. He will play a central role in countering the Islamists of Hamas during the legislative elections. His incarceration has no effect on his importance on the Palestinian political chessboard.

The victory scored by Mr. Barghouti is equivalent to a veritable plebiscite—he may actually head the list of Fatah candidates by pulling in front of Prime Minister Ahmed Qoreï, say party officials. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has called for an end to armed struggle, could conceivably share a ticket with Mr. Barghouti to prevent the radical Islamists of Hamas from taking a bite out of the Fatah party base. For the wife of Mr. Barghouti, the results of the primary express clear-cut support for armed struggle.

Despite the five consecutive life terms to which he has been sentenced, an Israeli minister does not exclude that Mr. Barghouti may be one day released as the result of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. In politics, never say never, quipped Israeli Transportation Minister Meïr Shetrit, who has just joined Kadima, the new party founded by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. However, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sylvan Shalom, categorically excluded the release of Mr. Barghouti.

An Israeli military tribunal has condemned yet another Palestinian MP and Fatah member, Hossam Khader, to seven years in prison for transfer of fund to “terrorist organizations”. Mr. Khader is the second Palestinian MP to be imprisoned in Israel, after Mr. Barghouti.

[From L'Orient-Le Jour]

EU Report on Israeli Land Grab

The words of Juan Cole:
When the last Arab is gone and the city is 100 percent Jewish, there is going to be a howl of outrage from the Muslim world that will make September 11 look like a minor incident.

And the dwarves were busy yesterday: Some 200 olive trees were uprooted or chopped down yesterday by armed Israeli settlers near the village of Salem.

EU discovers Israel hard at work completing its annexation of Jerusalem

The policy implemented in East Jerusalem by Israel jeopardizes any negotiated settlement for the future status of the city, one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is the conclusion of an incisive report drafted by European diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah and presented to the European ministers of Foreign Affairs. The document has not yet been made public for diplomatic reasons. (After negotiations with Israel, the Europeans have just reached an agreement to grant them a presence at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza that officially opened on November 25.) The observations and recommendations by the diplomats may be presented within a few weeks.

All the policies implemented by the Israeli authorities in the Arab neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem, annexed after the Israeli conquest in 1967, have been carefully reviewed in the report. The diplomats condemn the continuing colonization as well as the construction of roads meant to connect existing settlements. The strategy, which aims to “complete the annexation of Jerusalem” goes against the obligations of Israel under international law and the Road Map, a peace plan recognized by the international community and by Israel.

According to the diplomats, the policies are reinforced by the construction of the so-called Security Wall, which Israel has been building since 2002 on Palestinian lands. The barrier is not only motivated by security considerations, insist the diplomats, who are skeptical of its temporary character and well aware of the fact that it separates Palestinians from other Palestinians, instead of separating Palestinians from Israelis. Its route cuts off 230,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem from the West Bank. They underscore that the viability of a Palestinians state depends in a large measure on the preservation of links between East Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem [on the West Bank].

Given Israel’s overall strategy, the future of a two-state solution sharing their capital in Jerusalem is fading from view. The diplomats suggest that European governments clearly reaffirm that the status Jerusalem remains subject to negotiation. They propose the organization of a new round of meetings with Palestinians representatives in East Jerusalem to breathe new life into Palestinian institutions as provided for by the Road Map.

But according to the Israeli press, should such initiatives be attempted, European representatives would be banned by the Israeli government.

Stéphanie Le Bars
Le Monde 26.11.05

Let's Go Kill Us Some Innocent Iraqis

and Make Us a "Trophy Video", too.

UK Sunday Telegraph reports that contractors working for Aegis Defence Services (a UK company) opened fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad and recorded a video of their actions.
In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.

There are no clues as to the shooter but either a Scottish or Irish accent can be heard in at least one of the clips above Elvis Presley's Mystery Train, the music which accompanies the video.
Blogger Barekuncklepolitics has the video. [.wmv extension]

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Egypt: Unfree and Unfair Elections

LEMONDE.FR | 27.11.05 |

Elections continue in Egypt amidst a climate of tension.

The second phase of Egyptian elections was held yesterday, Saturday, November 26. There are three phases of the national legislative elections, each with two rounds. Up until Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood had won 47 seats vs. 120 to the party in power. Today, Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood says it has won an addition 28 seats, making a spectacular breakthrough. However, the results are not official and await confirmation. Nevertheless, if the figures are confirmed, the Islamist movement now has 75 seats in the 454-seat legislature making it the most serious opposition group in the country. Another 49 Muslim Brotherhood candidates are preparing to run in the third and final phase of the vote to take place at the beginning of December.

In the second phase, 121 seats were up for grabs in a very tense climate. The Muslim Brotherhood reported that early on Saturday 860 of its members and sympathizers had been rounded up beginning at dawn with arrests at domicile and continuing with arrests outside the polling booths. Thousands of anti-riot police were deployed in voting districts where the Brotherhood was running a candidate. According to witnesses, police closed down polling stations or strictly limited access.

In the area surrounding Alexandria, clashes broke aout between police and young Islamists at the end of voting, around 7 :00 pm. So this is the response of government to people who want to exercise their right to vote? asks Walid, a carpenter. In another quarter of Alexandria, Taher Abdel Fattah says he was prevented by a cordon of police from casting his vote.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry [Lying liars extraordinaire--Nur] explained that police surrounding polling stations were there to ensure orderly voting. Reporters for AFP, Reuters, BBC and AP were harassed and had their equipment or documents confiscated.

Faced with the situation, judges in charge of monitoring the vote did not hesitate to rebel, accusing security forces from keeping voters from the polls, ostensibly to prevent Muslim Brotherhood candidates from winning. A communiqué from the Jurists’ Club (a professional organization) denounced the attitude of the police, manipulations of voter lists, interference and occasional curtailment of voting.

Abdel Mouezz Mohamed, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, announced that 56 judges refused to participate in vote-counting because of flagrant fraud. Observers have reported on clashes in some polling stations between members of the ruling party, the National Democratic Party, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood did not present sufficient candidates to rob the NDP of its majority, its electoral success has destabilized the government and the party in power. On Saturday, President Mubarak cancelled his attendance at the European-Mediterranean Summit in Barcelona on 27 and 28 November due to current events in the region.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

26 November 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

23:47 Baghdad. Human rights violations in Iraq are worse now than under Saddam Hussein, said former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in an interview with The Observer (UK).

23:31 Kabul. Four US soldiers recalled for burning bodies of Islamic fighters. General Jason Kamiya insists the corpse burnings were "hygenic."

22:18 Baghdad. UN Envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Kasi, is concerned that continuing bombings and the recent torture scandal will keep voters from the polls. Kazi says there will be no international observers for the 15 December elections due to security concerns.

22:54 Tehran. Supreme Guild Ali Khamenei sent a "fraternal" message to Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah ben Abdel Aziz.

21:18 Cairo. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak informed Spain's King Juan Carlos that he will not attend the European-Mediterranean summit in Barcelona due to various Middle Eastern crises.

23:15 Washington. The White House announced it would support a recent initiative in the US Senate to start preparing for a pullout from Iraq. According to Senator Joseph Biden the plan calls for the withdrawal of 50,000 troops in 2006 and "a significant number" of the remaining 100,000 in 2007.

23:13 Paris. Algerian President Bouteflika hospitalized.

20:33 Rafah. 1,587 use border crossing today between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

19:37 Egypt. Authorities arrest 620 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, blaming them for violence at polling stations.

19:18 Egypt. Polls close. Election results for 122 parliamentary seats to be announced on Monday.

19:05 Pristina. Major Michael Wunn denies charges by EU Commissioner Alvero Gil-Robles that there are "little Guantanamos" in Kosovo run by the United States.

18:45 Ramallah. Marwan Barghouti wins Al Fatah primary in Ramallah with 96% of the vote.

16:08 London. Judge confirms arrest of 25 year-old Rauf Abdullah Mohammed on terrorism charges.

15:33 Cairo. Egyptian police block access to polling booths in nine provinces.

15:09 Baghdad. US announces the death of a close collaborator of Abu Musab al Zarqawi on October 14 in Ramadi.

14:42 Baku (Azerbaijan). Police use force to break up a demonstration alleging election fraud.

13:11 Teharan. President Ahmadinejad says George W. Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes due to use of artillery shells made of depleted uranium in Iraq.

12:43 Kabul. Four police kidnapped near Sharkh in Logar Province during clash with rebel commando team.

12:35 Samarra. Death toll in suicide bombing climes to 12. Nine automobiles were destroyed in the blast.

12:24 Rome: Berlusconi claims 200 terrorists have been "captured" in Italy.

11:56 Samarra. Six dead and sixteen wounded in suicide bombing at a gasoline station.

11:10 Baghdad. Main witness against Saddam Hussein in Dujail massacre dies of natural causes.

10:57 Moscow. Russia announces new stealth anti-aircraft system, the S-400 "Triumph".

10:29 Baghdad. Hospitals running short of blood. Surgeries cancelled.

10:24 Tehran. Islamic militants, the "Basiji", form human chain across Iran.

09:40 London. Amnesty International accuses London of approving the practice of torture.

07:19 Baghdad. Carbomb targeting a US patrol kills 4 civilians.

01:22 Hebron. Two Hamas members arrested in a refugee camp south of Hebron.

01:39 Kabul. Swedish soldier killed and three wounded by bomb in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Friday, November 25, 2005

CIA Detention Centers in Europe: GPS to the Rescue

LEMONDE.FR | 25.11.05 | 18h08

Satellite photos could put an end to debate surrounding the CIA's secret prisons.

The MP in tapped to draft a report on the CIA secret prisons by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe believes that satellite images would be able to show evidence of the existence in Europe of CIA detention centers.

Using the GPS coordinates which I have in my possession, it should be possible to obtain a series high definition satellite images covering those locations over time, from 2002 to the present time, wrote Dick Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian, in a memo published on Friday 25 November in Strasbourg. Mr. Marty has already contacted the EU Satellite Center in Torrejón, Spain.

Dick Marty also cites specific locations likely to host secret detention centers reported by Human Rights Watch: Szymany Airport in northeast Poland, Mihail-Kogalniceanu military airfield in southern Romania and a second Romanian location, the Fetesti military airfield. These countries have denied the allegations.

En route for Bucharest, Dick Marty says he has demanded high definition satellite images taken between 2002 and 2005 from the Romanian authorities which would allow the detection of new construction, such as barbed wire or guard towers. However, Marty says he is convinced that there are no Guantanamos in Romania.

But he doesn’t exclude the existence in Romania of small centers holding one or two detainees temporarily to extract information. It is also possible that CIA planes stayed 10, 20 or 30 days on Romanian territory. That is extremely difficult to find out, Marty continued, but the truth could come out in a number of different ways.


CIA Secret Prison in Kosovo

Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

A NATO base in UN-administered Kosovo is home to a US-run secret prison.

Story by Natalie Nougayrède | Le Monde| 25 Nov 2005

As the number of questions being asked grows across Europe on the existence on the continent of a chain of secret prisons run by the CIA, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil Robles, describes for the first time what he saw in September 2002 at a site which until now had not been mentioned in the controversy of extrajudicial detentions and the war on al-Qaeda: The US military base at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

Within this imposing base, which is home to 6,000 US Army troops and spreads across 300 hectares near Ferizaj, south of Pristina, the “capital” of the UN-administered province of Kosovo, Gil Robles saw a replica of Guantanamo. A prison has been built inside Camp Bondsteel. [Home to the Laura Bush Education Center--Nur] Run by the US Army, it is the principal detention center for KFOR, the multinational NATO force deployed to Kosovo in June 1999.

From a tower, I saw a place which looked like a replica of Guantanamo, but on a smaller scale, Gil Robles tells Le Monde. Small rudimentary wooden shelters were surrounded by a tall barbed wire fence. I saw between fifteen and twenty prisoners inside in huts, dressed in orange jumpsuits like those used in Guantanamo. The prisoners I saw were not shackled. Most of them were sitting down, some isolated from the others. Some prisoners had beards. Others read the Koran. There were walkways around the cells for guard duty. A US female soldier who worked at the prison explained to me that she had just been transferred there from Guantanmo, Gil Robles continues. He also met with a representative of the US Department of Justice.

"Shocked" by what he say in Camp Bondsteel, Gil Robles requested on the day after his 2002 visit that detention operations end and that the buildings resembling Guantanamo be dismantled. He says he received assurances that this would be done the following year.

However a number of questions remain unanswered. Was the prison at Camp Bondsteel used in “rotations” of prisoners by the CIA between Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe and Guantanamo? Have there been or are there now places of secret detention? On whose jurisdiction does a KFOR prison inside Camp Bondsteel depend?

In 2002 at Camp Bondsteel and in Guantanamo, the prisoners did not have access to legal counsel. Their incarceration was not the result of any judicial procedure and their place of origin is fluid. The legal limbo of Kosovo has contributed to the situation. The province is under UN administration pending a definitive determination but the multinational force is NATO and has significant prerogatives. Camp Bondsteel is a zone of un-law. As it was being built in 1999, the camp was described as the largest US base since the Vietnam War.

Among the detainees seen by Gil Robles, four men were North African while others appeared to be Kosovars or Serbs. According to the official version, the four men were arrested by KFOR along the Macedonian border and were detained for compelling reasons of “security.” But on paper the reason for detention was strange: “Resolution 1244”, referencing the UN Security Council resolution covering Kosovo and the powers of KFOR.

Alvaro-Gil Robles requested permission to visit the prison inside Camp Bondsteel after KFOR carried out a number of extrajudicial arrests in Kosovo. He was escorted to the base by the KFOR commander at the time, French General Marcel Valentin, who was visibly upset by the fate of the prisoners.

The use of a base linked to a NATO operation under the aegis of the UN in the "war on terror" raises the question of transparency of US activities vis-à-vis its allies.

These facts go back three years. The fact that Gil Robles has waited until now to talk about is raises an eyebrow. The report which he published following his trip barely mentioned Camp Bondsteel. The priority at the time was to facilitate the admission of Serbia-Montenegro to the Council of Europe, accomplished in 2003.

The reason why he recalls the episode now, says Gil Robles, is his growing suspicion concerning the existence of secret prisons run by the CIA and the apparent scale of the transfers by special planes of prisoners suspected of links to al-Qaeda.

I cannot prove the link between [the transfers] and Camp Bondsteel, because I do not possess concrete evidence
, says Gil Robles. But I believe that we must demand an explanation of the activities inside that base in Kosovo as well as other suspicious sites in Europe. (End)

P.S. There may be other secret prisons in Kosovo. Remember that bizarre shoot out at a Kosovo detention center near Mitrovica between female US MPs and a Jordanian police unit in April 2004 which was quickly hushed up?
An American former correctional officer serving with the U.N. mission in Kosovo was in critical condition Sunday, a day after an attack on a group of prison guards, most of them Americans, by a Jordanian policeman also serving with the U.N. mission in Mitrovica.

Two American women died in the shooting and another nine American officers were wounded at a jail in the city of Mitrovica in the northern part of the province on Saturday. An Austrian prison guard was also wounded. The Jordanian officer was killed when the guards returned fire.
Um, now just what would have provoked some individuals in that Jordanian police unit to do a thing like that? Clan members of some detainee, perhaps? Some Koranic outrage in a prison camp they might have witnessed?

Alas, poor Arafat!

Le Monde's Jerusalem correspondent Gilles Paris parts the veil of "progress" to reveal the hopelessness of the Palestinian situtation and the purloined legacy of Yitzhak Rabin.

Arafat and Rabin: The remains of inheritance

Two peoples came to render homage to two symbols. On November 11 Palestinians marked the first anniversary of the death of Yassir Arafat, who passed away in a French military hospital. The following day, Israelis came together in Tel-Aviv to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Yitzhak Rabin at the site where he was assassinated by an extremist Jew. United briefly by a Nobel Peace Prize won in 1994, the pair did not come to their place in history in the same fashion. Sublime by martyrdom, Yitzhak Rabin became the incarnation of willingness in the collective memory, even if only an illusion. Yassir Arafat paid a dear price for his ambiguities and hesitations, carrying away with him general opprobrium.

The hyped presence of former President Bill Clinton in Tel-Aviv and his absence the day before in Ramallah has come to represent the common judgment of these two men. The judgment is particularly harsh for the founder of the Palestinian national identity. The old leader did his utmost while alive to inflate the ranks of his detractors.

Incapable of explaining the reasons for the collapse of the Camp David talks in July 2000, then incapable of measuring the consequences of September 11, 2001, Arafat multiplied his poor decisions and ambiguities up until the day of his death while his opposite number, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, repeatedly demonstrated his tactical intelligence.

Muzzled by Israel then silenced by the United States while receiving more or less tepid support from the European Union and his Arab neighbors, Yassir Arafat wasn’t exactly regretted by the international community. The election of Mahmoud Abbas on January 9th could only but be a comfort those who saw in his predecessor the source of all their woes. Elected on a program of rejection of violence, this long-enduring artisan of dialog and negotiation rapidly renewed ties with Israel and the United States. The Israeli evacuation from Gaza at the end of the summer reinforced the impression of the arrival of a new era, even if Sharon took the decision in defiance of his own party, of the will of Arafat while he lived and in disregard of internal Palestinian hazards.

Despite an accumulation of encouraging signs, today's less than ideal reality is more than vexing. Those who considered the founder of the Palestinian national movement to be “the main obstacle” to peace or who viewed him as “part of the problem, not the solution” could legitimately believe for a time that his disappearance was going to change everything. But nothing has changed. There is no visible momentum two months after the end to colonization of Gaza. The peace negotiated by Abbas at the beginning of the year is more and more fragile. The “Road Map”, the most recent international peace plan, which provides for the creation of a Palestinian state at the end of 2005, has been reduced to wishful thinking.

The sheer weight of the sad state of Israeli-Palestinian relations has caused us to relativize factors of personality, as overwhelming as they may seem. But it is a weight with which we are quite familiar. The Oslo Accords institutionalized the unequal relationship that the Palestinians maintain with the Israelis -- occupied and the occupiers.

The haphazard application of the provisions of the Oslo Accords assuaged the fears of those who, like many of Accords’ detractors, were by and large not hostile to peace or to dialog with Israel but who nevertheless viewed them as complicated mechanisms set in motion after very bad bargain.

The failure of Oslo and five years of Intifada left standing an artifact ingrained with contradiction—a Palestinian Authority intended at first as a placeholder but which has endured by default; an entity which is not at all an authority and even less a state, even if it curiously appears in certain international rankings, such as the list drawn up by Transparency International of the world’s most corrupt governments. The Palestinian Authority coincides with the Israeli policies adopted for the West Bank in this aspect: it is content with the control of the most important Palestinian agglomerations while Israel controls the facts on the ground in the main of the Palestinian territories. Surveillance of Gaza continues from the periphery by land and by sea, with the exception of a morsel of territory on the Egyptian frontier.

Status Quo

The only way out for the Palestinians lies is the opening of negotiations towards a final agreement. This is the calculus of Abbas, who has followed in the footsteps of Yassir Arafat in rejecting any intermediate solution which might gel into a permanent situation. Jewish colonization continues apace on the West Bank. In January 2006, the total number of settlers — including those in the annexed parts of Jerusalem — will be, once again, greater than that of the previous January as has been the case for the last thirty years.

Conversely, Sharon, as the prime beneficiary of the status quo, is tempted by unilateralism and the possibility, given the lassitude of the international community, of drawing the provisional frontiers of a future Palestinian state according to his own design. This eventuality, which enjoys popularity in Israel, is in opposition to the borders which the Labourite Yitzhak Rabin had in mind.

It is as if the cult status accorded Sharon every year by the Israeli public has no translation in politics. The Israeli PM imposes his conditions, starting with the demand to disarm the Palestinian militias as stipulated in the Road Map--including the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).

Such a demand can be considered legitimate because it would translate into a return for the Palestinians to law and order, seriously impaired, in Gaza and in the Palestinian territories. However, it should not be a precondition-- as such it is an act of contempt towards Abbas. But neither should Israeli be released from its obligations which include, at least theoretically, a total freeze on settlements according to the same Road Map.

Basking in the glow of the Gaza evacuation, Sharon is, for now, in a position of strength to achieve his aims—unless the election of Amir Peretz, the inheritor of the legacy of the assassinated Rabin, as head of Labour Party reinstalls Israeli society with the taste for peace and the necessary will to achieve it.


25 November Events in Iraq and in the Region

Baghdad. Major Iraqi offensive planned. We are going to strike with force against the hotbeds of terrorism in several provinces, declared Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr Soulagh in a press conference on Thursday. We are going to engage 10 000 men in thousands of military vehices before or after the elections of 15 December.

Baghdad. US forces have just concluded a wide-scale 3-week operation, "Steel Curtain" aiming to destroy rebel bases before the elections. General Rick Lynch said 700 rebels had been killed and 1,500 captured since September.

Baghdad. An influential member of the Committee of Iraqi Ulema, Sheikh Mahmood Mehdi al-Sumaydaï, stated that resistance was not terrorism during his sermon at Umm al-Qoura Mosque in west Baghdad. The principal Iraqi political parties agreed in Cairo last week that "resistance" was legitimate but condemned terrorism.

Samarra. One civilian was killed and three wounded in a bombing of a police patrol.

Mosul. Unknown gunmen kidnapped Ibrahim Saleh Osman, a member of Massoud Barzani's DPK. His bullet-ridden body was found some time later.

Baghdad. A US soldier driving a Abrams tank was killed in south Baghdad when it flipped over.

Aaziziyah. Police claimed they stopped a car with 300 mortar rounds near the Iranian border. The munitions were Iran-Iraq war surplus said to be used in carbombs

Brussels. The EU reports that Israel has redoubled its efforts in expropriating Arab land in east Jerusalem to prevent the Palestinians from establishing their capital there.

Beirut. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vows to continue struggle against Israel and rejects suggestion to disarm. Several Hezbollah fighters were killed in the last few days in clashes with Israel.

London. Al Jazeera CEO Waddah Khanfar is in the British capital to demand an explanation from PM Tony Blair on the 2003 threat to bomb the network in Doha.

Gaza. Rafah passage to Egypt opens.

Beirut. The Red Cross restituted the remains of three Hezbollah fighters killed by Israel. The remains of Wissam al-Bawab, 26, Ali Shamseddin, 26, and Mohammed Baker al-Mussawi, 25, were restituted to Sheikh Nabil Qaouq.

Amman. King Abdallah ordered General Maarouf Bahkit to form a new government.

15:19 Mazar-i-Sharif. A bomb targeting a NATO convoy wounded four NATO troops.

13:55 Berlin. The German newspaper Berliner Zeitung reports that 85 CIA flights landed at Rhein-Main Airbase adjacent to Frankfurt Airport between 2002 and 2005.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

24 November 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Reigon

Baghdad. Government spokesman Leith Koubba announces that a number of "terrorists" have sought refuges in Syria after a US military operation in the Euphrates valley and demands their arrest by Syrian authorities.

Baghdad. The grand marjayah of senior Shi'ite clerics called on Iraqis to vote on December 15.

Baghdad. Government spokesman Leith Koubba announced that PM Ibrahim Jaafari will refuse to go to Syria as long a three issues are unresolved: Security, Iraqi state funds on deposit in Syrian banks and cooperation

Cairo. An Egyptian magistrate has come forward as a witness of vote count fraud in Damanhour, north of Cairo. Mrs. Noha al-Zeini, Deputy Prosecutor, gave an interview to the Egyptian daily al-Masri al-Yom insisting that Gamal Hishmat, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, was clearly in the lead when she was ordered out of the room. The victory of NDP candidate Mustapha el-Fiqi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Affairs, was then announced. Mrs. al-Zeini has called on Egypt's judiciary to boycott the next round of elections insisting that they be transparent.

Rafah. Palestiniens may use the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt for four hours a day, pending the arrival of EU observers.

Diwaniyah. A small child was killed as she was playing near a US military patrol.

22:36 Budapest. Hungary announced that two planes chartered by the CIA landed at Budapest Airport in the last two years. The aircraft belonged to Devon Holding and Leasing, a company cited by the New York Time as a front for the CIA.

21:17 Abu Ghraib. Government spokesman Leith Koubba announces that a carload of toy-bombs was discovered west of Baghdad.

21:15 Baghdad. Two US soldiers killed by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad.

19:46 Milan. Magistrate Armando Spataro accused by Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli of militant partisanship in the Abu Omar affair.

19:38 Hilla. Unknown Sunni group "Supporters of the Sunni Community" claims responsibility for carbombing in Hilla. In a communique, the group announced the bombing was an act of revenge for the killing of a chieftain of the Batta tribe, Kathim Sirheed Ali.

18:06 Beirut. German magistrate Detlev Mehlis may question six Syrian officials in Geneva or Vienna.

18:00 Baghdad. 50 Iraqis died in violence today, including 30 in Mahmudiyah

17:49 Baghdad. Six US troops slain in 24 hours. Two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol southwest of Baghdad. Meanwhile a Marine died from his wounds received in a roadside bombing near Hit. Three other US soldiers died Wednesday by gunfire. 2,110 US soldiers and personnel have died since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

17:02 Mahmudiyah. Three homes destroyed in blast earlier today.

16:58 Tehran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is criticized for attemping to force the Majlis to accept a man loyal to him as Oil Minister. Third nominee rejected.

16:54 Rome. Italian MP Pietro Folena demands that Italian military destroy stocks of white phosphorus.

16:24 Hilla. Carbombing in marketplace kills 14 and wounds 22.

15:35 Amman. King Abdullah II instructed the Jordanian chief of national security, Maroud Makheet, to form a new government.

15:21 Baghdad. Tikrit. Four police and an engineer were killed by unknown gunmen. Meanwhile three Oil Ministry bodyguards were shot dead in the center of the capital.

15:08 Rome. Filiberto Cecchi, the chief of the Italian general staff, refuses to confirm purchse of 3,4000 phosphorus grenades by the Italian military.

14:03 Baghdad. US solider killed by roadside bomb in Hit.

13:00 Baghdad. Roadside bomb 3km from Polish HQ at Camp Echo wounds three Polish soldiers and a child.

12:37 Baghdad. Iraqi Defense Ministry reports that four rebels were killed south of Baghdad by Iraq troops supported by the Americans.

12:00 Vienna. IAEA agrees that Iran should not be allowed to pursue its uranium enrichment activities.

10:50 Mahmudiyah. Death toll in carbombing climbs to 30. Two children and four police known dead. The bomb targeted a US convoy. Four US soldiers were wounded.

10:12 Baghdad: Nine people die in separate incidents. Five members of Iraq's security forces were killed in three separate attacks in the capital, Kadhimiyah and in Tikrit. The corpses of four individuals, strangled and shot, were found in Baghdad.

09:41 Mahmudiyah: 20 dead and 35 wounded in carbombing.

09:27 Mahmudiyah. A carbomb detonated in a parked car in front of Mahmudiyah hospital south of Baghdad. At least 7 are dead and 13 are wounded.

09:07 Baghdad. Three US soldiers die. Gunfire kills two US soldiers west of Baghdad and a third in downtown Baghdad.

09:02 Kabul: One policeman and a civilian were killed and two others wounded by a bomb placed in a police vehicle in Koghyani.

07:41 Doha. Al Jazeera goes on strike against Bush. Al Jazeera reporters will conduct a sit-in strike in all al-Jazeera offices around the world after a British tabloid reveals Bush's intention to bomb al-Jazeera's Qatari headquarters in Spring of 2003.

00:42 Jerusalem: Sharon chooses name for new political party: The name will be "Kadima", or "Forward"

Cindy Sheehan publishes a book

Not One More Mother's Child hit the bookshelves today, with a forward by John Conyers
KOA Books, 203 pages. 15.00 dollars.

Memorial to German war dead, Monte Cassino, Italy

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Current Israeli Political Landscape

Update: Sharon dips into the Socialist namepool for the selection of his party's name: Kadima -->Forward! In Italian, this would be Avanti!, the name of a decades-old Socialist journal.

Chat with Le Monde's Jerusalem correspondent Gilles Paris.

What is the current Israeli political landscape?

Is the Labour Party really able to supplant Ariel Sharon?
If Sharon had remained with Likud, the situation would have been very difficult for Amir Peretz. The departure of Sharon opens up some possibilities but everything depends on the campaign and the climate when the moment comes for the elections.

Do you think Amir Peretz was sincere in expressing the desire to see the evacuation of the Palestinian territories by the settlers?

Amir Peretz is to the left of the Labour Party when it comes to relations with the Palestinians. He is an historical figure of the peace movement. He joined the movement when it still carried significant weight. Recently, he proposed a draft legislation to allow the settlers on the “wrong side” of the security wall to receive an indemnity should they leave voluntarily. His convictions are clear, even if he attempts to move his rhetoric to the right, as he has already begun to do, on the question of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees to win over centrist voters.

Has Israel said goodbye to bipartisanism?
Politics in Israel hasn’t been strictly bipartisan for several years. On the contrary, there has been fractionalization and a continuous weakening of the two big parties since their founding. Labour has been losing ground since the founding of the state of Israel; Likud has been weakening since the 1970s. Their demise has fortified marginal parties, who have forced the two big parties to form coalition governments, which are often unstable. The founding by Sharon of a centrist party has accentuated that fractionalization.

What’s in the cards for Likud, now that Sharon is gone?
Likud has lost its vote-getting locomotive but the departure of Sharon makes sense because there is a gap between what he plans to do about the Palestinians and Likud’s founding ideology. The nomination of Amir Peretz as leader of the Labour Party risks undermining Likud’s hold over “southern cities”, home to the disadvantaged social stratum composed for the most part of Sephardim. Likud is in trouble on two fronts as the early opinion polls show. Everything depends on who takes the reins.

Is Sharon prepared to give up some West Bank colonies ?
Do you think that Sharon is sincere when he says he wants to work toward peace, knowing that his actions contradict what he thinks, or what he wants public opinion to think?

Sharon will attempt to transform the legislative elections into a referendum on his person. It is likely that he won’t say much about the Palestinians. Ambiguity is the best means to hold onto the left wing of Likud and Israeli centrist and leftist voters who follow his lead. It is likely that he will carry out new evacuations from the West Bank after Gaza. For the moment, it is difficult to imagine evacuations negotiated with the Palestinians. Perhaps Sharon believes that he can come to a just-in-time and limited agreement with the US Administration.

At his age, what is Sharon after?
Without a doubt, Sharon wants to reserve an important place in history for himself. Sharon’s energy and determination stem from a feeling that he has been underestimated or disliked, especially within Mapai, the ancestor of the Labour Party, and to a lesser extent within Likud. Sharon’s thirst for revenge dates back to his days as a child in Kfar Malal, a moshav where his family settled and where his father was kept apart. Sharon has succeed where others have failed, especially David Ben Gurion, when he left the Labour Party in the mid-sixties. Sharon wants to at least stabilize the situation with the Palestinians. That’s what drove him today to form his own party, where he’ll have free rein.

With what parties could Ariel Sharon form a coalition for a possible government following the upcoming elections?
If Sharon wins, he’ll have a choice. He might dig up some rightists or leftists in Likud or even from among the Labourites.

Is Israeli public opinion ready to follow Peretz in his desire for peace with the Palestinians?
Up to now, the Israeli press has been concentrating on covering Peretz’ social message and his ethnicity —for the first time a Sephardim could be Prime Minister— rather than on his program for dealing with the Palestinians. Peretz is reticent on this score for fear of being labeled a pacifist or a leftist, which would ensure his defeat.

Do you think that because Peretz is a Sephardim, it is easier for him to develop contacts among the Palestinian Authority?
Sephardic cabinet ministers have had regular, long-standing relations with the Palestinian authority. It does not seem that their origins have been —or are— a factor that facilitates or aggravates relations with the Palestinians. It all depends on their politics. That goes for Peretz as well, if he is elected.

What would relations with the Bush administration be like if the anti-libéral Peretz comes to power? Isn’t he in favor of increased independence from Washington?
Israel’s attachment to the United States has less to do with choice than necessity. It is an old, solid and indispensable partnership which no Israeli government can do without. In Israel, to have reservations about economic liberalism does not mean, as it does in Europe, hostility towards the US Administration, whether Democrat or Republican.

Why are the French so circumspect when it comes to Sharon’s politics? Every time they attempt to incriminate him, he’s exonerated.
As far as I know, there has been no recent opinion poll on what the French think about Sharon. This opinion –and it is subject to verification– no longer links Sharon to Sabra and Shatila, an episode which forced him to resign following an Israeli investigation. He was not spared by the Israeli press, either.

What does the international community think about the New Sharon?
They are prudent but favorable. The Quartet, a grouping of the USA, the EU, the UN and Russia, has no illusions about the intentions of Sharon but it thinks that the Gaza evacuation, for example, was a positive thing and it is prepared to support a similar initiative in the West Bank.

Will Netanyahou take over Likud?
It appears he’s the best placed today. That would be ideal for Sharon because Netanyahou has a poor image in the eyes of Israeli public opinion. A Likud led by Shaul Mofaz or Sylvan Shalom would cause him trouble.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Via AFP in Le Monde:

The war in Iraqi will last decades and a pullout of British troops from the country is highly unlikely without a change in London's policies towards Washington, affirms the British NGO Oxford Research Group. Given that the al-Qaeda movement and its affiliated groups are seeking to achieve their objectives over decades rather than years, it is likely that without a major change in US policies, the war in Iraq will last an equivalent span of time. A US pullout would be a political disaster greater than Vietnam says the group, which add that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a gift to al-Qaeda, which has permitted it to recruit men by painting the American presence in Iraq to a Christian occupation of a Muslim land.

Assuring the security of Iraq and the presence of a friendly government there is an essential element in American geostrategic policy; it requires a permanent military presence in the county. This will also allow the United State long-term access to the region's oil, essential to the US's increasing dependence on foreign oil.

Q. When is a war crime not a war crime?

A. When you are the United States Military.

From the DoD/CIA annals via Think Progress

HEADER R 170142Z APR 91

Monday, November 21, 2005

21 November Events in Iraq and in the Region

Damascus. Two Syrian soldiers were badly wounded by US soldiers on the border. The Americans were carrying out activities on the border and they shot in the direction of Syrian soldiers. They returned fire. Two Syrian soldiers were shot by sharp shooters and taken to the hospital at Bu Kamal and then to the hospital at Deir ez-Zor. One reporter here also said that Syrian soldiers then returned fire and blew up a hummer which might have had up to six Americans in it. Presumably, they were killed. [Via Joshua Landis]

Baghdad. 120 Iraqis, mostly Shi'a, killed in violence between Friday and Saturday.

Baghdad. A police commander was killed by armed men west of Baghdad.

Baghdad. Five civilians killed by bomb blast in east Baghdad.

Baghdad. Six civilians, including three children, were killed by mortar fire.

Diyala. 20 are killed, including 12 children, and 25 wounded in a suicide bombing inside a mourning tent for Abu Saïda.

Baghdad. 13 are dead and 20 wounded in a carbombing targeting a popular outdoor market.

Baghdad. A carbomb targeting a police patrol in a crowded commercial street wounded 13 people, including three police.

Baquba. Four people, including three police, were killed and nine wounded.

Fallujah. US solider killed by small arms fire.

Haditha. One US Marine and fifteen civilians were killed by a roadside bomb targeting their convoy. Eight rebels were killed in a clash that followed the bombing.

Baiji. Five US soldiers killed by roadside bomb. [This could have actually happened on the Syrian border--Nur].

Basrah. British soldier killed and four others wounded by a roadside bomb.

Karbala. Four former supporters of Saddam Hussein were shot dead by unknown assailants.

Baghdad. General Abdel Aziz Mohammed Jassem says US-led Operation Steel Curtain was successful.

Cairo. Arab League announces that a national reconciliation conference will be held in Iraq the last week of February. Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani says he would be willing to meet with insurgents [A lie for PR purposes--Nur].

Baghdad. Al Qaeda in Iraq says it will continue to defend Iraq by "sword and blood".

Riyadh. Crown Prince Sultan ben Abdel Aziz tells al-Arabiya TV that the kingdom will eliminate terrorism within two years.

Baghdad. Saddam Hussein's defense team confirms it will defend the ex-dictator when his trial resumes 28 November, despite death threats.

Berlin. According to a story in Der Spiegel, a German counterespionnage team travelled to Damascus in 2002 to interrogate a German national of Syrian origin suspected of having a role in the 9-11 terror attacks after cooperation agreement was concluded between Berlin and Damascus in July of the same year. The German team visited Far Filastin high-security prison in Damascus (where torture is practiced) to interrogate Mohammed Haydar Zammar, 44.

Washington. The Bush Administration deployed Donald Rumsfeld to 4 Sunday morning talk shows to demonstrate resolve against opponents of the war on Iraq.

23:51 London. A British NGO, Platform, says oil companies involved in production of Iraqi petroleum would earn billions of dollars in the coming years. According to a report authored by Platform, British and US oil companies will pocked between $74 and $194 billion in oil contracts now being negotiated with Iraqi authorities.

21:08 Jerusalem. Israel launches airstrikes on southern Lebanon near the Shebaa Farms. Villages of Kfarshuba, Helta and al-Mari hit. Air to ground missiles fired at Naqoura and Saïda.

21:00 Jerusalem. Eleven Israeli soldiers were wounded by mortar fire from Hezbollah near the Shebaa Farms.

20:46 Baghdad. Authorities verifying the alleged death of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi in northern Iraq.

18:42 Jersusalem. Twelve Israeli soldiers and civilians were injured by mortar fire from Hezbollah. A rocket hit the Israeli villlages of Kiryat Shmonah and Metulla on the Lebanese border.

18:41 Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times reports that a US intelligence asset known as "Curveball", linked to Ahmed Chelabi, fabricated reports of Saddam's WMD for a deal to win a German residence permit.

17:13 Cairo. Iraqi representatives demand a schedule for the pullout of foreign troops from Iraq and announce a national reconciliation conference to be held in in February or March 2006. The conference agreed that resistance to foreign occupation was legitimate but condemned acts of violence agains civilians, places of worship, and humanitarian installations. Iraqi participants also demanded the release of all prisoners held without trial. [That would be about 23,000 people in the custody of the US military--Nur].

"Elections" in "Democratic" Egypt

Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood demonstrated yesterday in Alexandria as Egyptian police conducted mass arrests of Brotherhood members.

National Democratic Party thugs beat supporters of the opposition in Alexandria.

National Democratic Party thugs, armed with bats, were supported by police in a confrontation with Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

From L'Orient-Le Jour. Legislative elections in Egypt produced a first death as a wave of mass arrests marked Hosni Mubarak's intention block the way of Muslim Brotherhood in winning seats in the national legislature. On day one of the second phase of voting, the driver for an independent candidate was beaten to death by NDP thugs in the port city of Alexandria. Mohammed Khalil was dead on arrival at Ras el-Tine Hospital.

Also in Alexandria, independent candidate Seif Eddine al-Kabbari, a NDP dissident, was stabbed in the stomach. Before polls opened, 400 Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested in Port Said, Alexandria, Gharbiya in the north and Luxor and Fayoum in the south

Mr. Mubarak's NDP dominates 80% of the national legislature and won 112 seats out of 164 in the first round of the elections. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood won 34 seats, an historic record. Elections observers deployed by NGOs denounced scenes of intimidation and violence by NDP thugs. The Egyptian government blamed the opposition for the violence.

An AFP correspondent in Alexandira witnessed an army of NDP thugs as they lay siege to polling stations in the Karmouz quarter of Alexandria. According to another AFP correspondent in Ismaïliya, four were wounded in a clash between NDP and Muslim Brotherhood supporters. A riot in Port Said left scores of wounded.

144 seats will be decided in the second phase of elections and another 136 seat will be up for grabs in December.

Grotesque Juxtaposition


A family was decimated - five dead and three wounded - by shots fired from a US military base east of Baquba at a minibus carrying mourners to a funeral travelling along the Balad-Baquba highway.

Diyala hospital personnel and local police report that around 8:00 am, a minibus carrying eight members of the al-Sawamra family and the driver were driving past a US guardpost at the entrance to a US military base when the guards opened fire on their bus, killing two men and three children less than 5 years-old and wounding two women and a teenaged boy.

Commandant Steven Warren issued [the standard ass-covering excuse for murder, which we've heard time and time again]:
The vehicle was going too fast and warning shots were fired before a machine gun was put into action. As soon as we realized that they were civilans, we sent in a medical time.
[From La Repubblica]

"Chemical" Don

The United States military used white phosphorus during its advance on Nassiriya, says BBC correspondent Adam Maynot in an interview with RaiNews24.
There was an attack, and three days later the Marines used white phosphorus on the center of the city. The people who sought help at the hospital had their skin in falling off in shreds because it was completely burned. These people were at home which rockets penetrated the walls of their homes; they saw an enormous white cloud.

America should put itself on trial.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

20 November Events in Iraq and in the region.

The Hague. Dutch exporter Frans van Anraat, accused of complicity in genocide for selling 1,100 tons of poison gas precursor to Saddam Hussein, goes on trial.

Baquba. US troops cut down five family members and wound another three a their minibus approached a checkpoint because they were "speeding". Major Steve Warren says nervousness of US soldiers fault of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.

New York. NBC reports that US forces nearly kill or capture al-Zarqawi in a raid in Mosul. Eight insurgents were reported dead and eleven US troops wounded.

Ramadi. Operation "Brown Bear". 300 Marines and 150 Iraqi troops participate in operation in Ramadi.

Baghdad. US forces claim they have closed 28 military bases and will transfer others to the Iraqis. General Donald Alston says the US will keep open only fifteen bases.

Baghdad. 77 refurbished Soviet-ear T-72 tanks and 230 vehicles donated by eastern European NATO country [Poland--Nur] have arrived in Iraq

Karbala. Four former Ba'ath Party members and a 5 year-old child were slain by gunmen.

Basrah. Armed men shoot dead a Sunni cleric who was a member of the Committee of Iraq Ulema.

Baladruz. Carbomb kills four and wound eight.

Baghdad. Iraqi Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim tells the newspaper al-Sabah that 98% of the detainees in the custody of the US military are innocent and should be released. Ibrahim also said for 25 of the 55 playing card deck of Iraqi "wanted", former members of the regime of Saddam Hussein, there is neither sufficient proof nor a judicial dossier. Negotiations are underway for the release of the 25.

Cairo. Al-Jazeera reports that there is communique from the ongoing Arab League conference on Iraq because no "verbal formula" could be found to refer to the Iraqi resistance.

Tehran. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrives for an official 3-day visit.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

19 November 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Baghdad. Suicide bombing targets hotel in south Baghdad.

23:34 Washington A U.S. citizen charged with accepting kickbacks related to reconstruction in Iraq is a decorated military veteran with a shaky financial and criminal past, records show. Robert J. Stein Jr., 50, from Hope Mills, North Carolina, is accused of helping an American contractor illegally win bids in Iraq worth more than $13 million (ñ11 million), federal authorities said this week. He faces conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud and other charges.

22:36 Cairo. An accusation of treason in the heat of debate brought a conference of Iraqi politicians to a halt for 15 minutes in Cairo on Saturday, illustrating the delicate task mediators face keeping them all in the same room. Members of the mainly Shi'ite Muslim United Iraq Alliance walked out of the first closed session of the three-day reconciliation meeting and threatened to leave for good if the Arab League organisers did not extract an apology.

22:10 Berlin. The German government has agreed to sell two Dauphin-class submarines to Israel for a $1 billion.

22:02 Baiji. Five US soldiers of the 101st Airborne were killed and five wounded while on patrol in Baiji. Later in the day, the US military announced the death of a US soldier wounded earlier in the week in Baiji.

20:06 Khaneqin. Suicide bombers entered a Shi'ite mosque during noonday prayers and detonated their payload, killing 78 and wounding 90.

19:59 Cairo. Rival Iraqi factions argued during the first days of an Arab League sponsored conference on Iraq. Iraqi Christian representative Minas Ibrahim al-Youssifi drew crys of outrage from Kurds and Shi'a when he called the Constitution "a fabrication dictated by the occupying forces." Sunni dignitary Hareth al-Dari said he was disappointed by the lack of sincerity. Jawad al-Khalsi, an influential Shi'a imam opposed to the occupation demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

17:57 Rome. FM Gianfranco Fini says the Italian Embassy in Baghdad is under constant menace.

16:48 Baquba. A suicide bomber detonates payload at a funeral tent northeast of Baghdad commemorating Abu Saida, killing 35 mourners and wounding 50.

16:37 Baghdad. 18,000 bulletproof vests issued to the US military deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been recalled due to insufficiency of the anti-ballistic fabric used. The vests, manufactured between 1999 and 2001 by Point Blank Body Armour of Pompano Beach, Florida, were meant to withstand 9 mm bullets and shrapnel, insufficient for combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

12:22 Baghdad. Iraqi authorities say they thwarted a bombing targeting the Italian Embassy.

12:04 Riyadh. 20-nation energy forum hopes to stabilize oil prices and to guarantee more transparancy to the petroleum market.

10:03 Baghdad. Fourteen are dead and 18 wounded in car bombing at an outdoor market in the Jesir Diyala quarter near the Euphrates River of southeast Baghdad. A parked car filled with explosives was left near the market stalls.

Chimpy in China

How dumb is this? (From an AFP story carried by Le Monde)

Enterprising propagandists at the US Embassy in Beijing issued Islamic terror alerts for Dubya's debarcation. The Islamists were allegedly going to blow up Beijing's luxury hotels. The Chinese authorities dismissed the alerts as hoaxes and are now investigating the US Embassy for causing public panic through the deliberate dissemination of false rumors.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What Did Operation "Steel Curtain" Deliver?

Judging from the pretentious name, Operation Steel Curtain was meant to suggest attempt to "seal" the 600km border with Syria. Yet the operation was focused on a three Iraqi towns, Ubaydi, al-Qaim and Husaybah, and a few nearby villages, which US warplanes bombed and strafed. The mission yielded a bodycount of a hundred or so Sunnis, some of them local tribesmen, at the price of 50 or so Marines/Infantry and hundreds of dead or injured in the bombings last weekend in Amman and today in Baghdad's hotels and Shi'a neighborhoods.

Our undisciplined troops have also enjoyed taking potshots from Husaybah at locals across the border in Syria in the town Hirri. Joshua Landis, an American scholar in Syria, reports sniper and mortar fire have killed seven Syrians and wounded several others. In one incident, US troops shot a young girl in the head, and the brother who rescued her in the shoulder, for kicks, IDF-style. Psy-ops, they'll say.

The operation concluded without sealing the Syrian border, without delivering a knockout punch to the insurgency, without stabilizing the country and without bringing peace to the upper Euphrates towns and villages, as the US armed forces radio by the same name informed the locals in the combat zone.

Congressman Murtha was correct in his call for immediate pullout. To remain in Iraq will mean, if not a war of extermination, then an enduring victory for terrorism.

18 November 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Washington. The CIA has set up secret joint counterterrorism centers in Europe, Middle East and Asia to track and capture suspected terrorists and penetrate their networks, The Washington Post said. The centers, known as Counterterrorist Intelligence Centers, or CTICs, act on initial tips that may come from the CIA, but the operations to pick up suspects are usually organized by one of the joint centers, current and former US and foreign intelligence officials told the daily. The CTICs are in countries such as Uzbekistan and Indonesia that have been criticized by the US government for its authoritarian rule or human rights violations. In Paris, despite US-French tension over the Iraq war, CIA and French intelligence services have created the only multinational operations center, which executes worldwide sting operations. Codenamed Alliance Base, the center in France includes representatives from Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Australia.

Cairo. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested for distributing tracts douting the fairness of recent elections outside a mosque.

Tehran. Iran and Iraq have signed an counterterrorism cooperation agreement which also facilities entry into Iraq for Iranian pilgrims.

Washington. Admiral Stansfield Turner, former CIA Director, accused Vice President Dick Cheney of having implemented policies of torture which have damaged the reputation of the United States.

Jerusalem. Mordechi Vanunu was arrested as he attempted to enter the West Bank.

Khaneqin. Diyala Provincial Council Chairman Ibrahim Hassan al-Bajellane says 75 are dead and 90 wounded. The two mosques, Husseynia al-Mazraa and Mehdi, were frequeted by Kurdish Shi'a called Faylis. Two blasts were detonated four minutes apart.

Baghdad. Tawfic al-Yasseri, an independent Shi'ite candidate, was kidnapped in front of his home in the capital.

23:59 Washington. House Republicans maneuvered for swift rejection of any notion of immediately pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, sparking a nasty debate over the war following a Democratic lawmaker's own call for withdrawal. Republicans brought a measure to the House floor urging that a pullout begin immediately. The symbolic vote was intended to fail.

23:59 Ottawa. Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew congratulated the international community on a resolution expressing "grave concern" on human rights violation in Iran.

23:58 Washington. The Republican leadership has decided to present a resolution for a voice vote in the House of Representatives on the immediate pullout of US troops from Iraq suggested by Democratic Congressman John Murtha. The White House has called Rep. Murtha's request disconcerting.

23:55 New York. Iraq is training military units to protect oil exports through the north of the country that are constantly disrupted by insurgents.

23:54 Washington. The Pentagon has opened an inquiry into the activities of former Deputy Defense Secretary Douglas Feith. The inquiry will determine if the Office of Special Plans, headed by Mr. Feith, engaged in unauthorized, illegal or inappropriate intelligence operations.

23:33 Amman. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi sought to justify a triple suicide bombing on Amman hotels that killed 59 civilians, insisting he did not deliberately target a wedding party and appealing to Muslims to believe that he was not attacking them. Al-Zarqawi made clear he was not about to stop the bloodshed, warning he will attack more tourist sites in Jordan and threatening to behead King Abdullah II.

23:26 Seoul. George Bush insisted that the conflict in Iraq is justified and rejected calls for a schedule for pullout.

21:09 Cairo. Iraqi leaders arrive in Cairo. Premier Ibrahim al-Jaafari and several dozen politicians and clerics arrive in Cairo for reconciliation conference.

20:45 Amman. 250 thousand protest terrorism.

16:30 Khanaqin. Seventy-four are dead and 75 wounded in the bombing of two mosques in this Shi'ite city 140 km northeast of Baghdad. Al-Arabiya reports that the death toll is greater than 100.

16:09 Tehran. Iran has stated converting a second uranium stock into gas.

14:36 Vienna. The IAEA denounced a decision by Iran to bar inspector entry to military sites.

12:31 Ramadi. US military kills 32 rebels near Ramadi, the seat of Anbar Province. A US Marine and an Iraqi Army regular were wounded. The US has launched an offensive in the area.

12:09 Geneva. Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human RIghts, has requested an international investigation into Iraqi prisons.

11:27 Baghdad. Two suicide attacks target mosques in Khanequin, 170 km from Baghdad. At least thirty are dead.

11:20 Vienna. The UN cancels inspection trip to Guantanamo. According to mission chief Manfred Nowak, Going to Guantanamo without the respect due to our mission would represent a very negative precedent for all other countries.

10:51 Baghdad. Third carbombing in the capital.

10:12 Washington. US imposes excessive restrictions on UN inspectors scheduled to visits the Guantanamo prison camp. The UN has declared the restrictions "unacceptable".

10:06 Rome. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini says Italian troops will remain in Iraq.

09:41 Tehran. President Ahmadinejad fires ten deputy ministers. Ten administration deputies and several officials were removed. The senior management of the state insurance company and the presidents of seven banks were also fired. Some observers expect the purges to lead to paralysis of the country.

07:33 Baghdad. Carbombing targeting the Hotel Hamra kills four and wounds 41. The hotel is frequented by foreign contractors and journalists. The blast also devastated an adjacent residential quarter killing six civilians, including a woman and two children.

06:30 Baghdad. Powerful blast heard in west Baghdad.

05:24 Pusan. Bush holds private talks with Vladimir Putin. Mystery surrounds the conversation, however, Bush has stressed the importance of the "strategic relationship" between the two countries.

02:21 Seoul. South Korea plans to reduce its military contingent by approximately 1,000 troops. The decision came as a surprise to President Bush.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

We Are All Scum Now!

French Interior Minister Nichlas Sarkozy started a political firestorm in France (and sabotaged his chances of ever becoming Président de la République) when he used the racism-charged word, racaille ("scum") to refer to nocturnal suburban rioters.

Today is International Student Day and as usual, the "revisionist" holiday bypassed the United States. However, in Italy, students took to the streets by the thousands in 70 cities to show solidarity and to protest new national legislation slashing the education budget and raising univeristy fees. The now disinherited youth of Italy echo the Franco-African cry for help (in French) by a banner reading, We Are All Scum Now.

Plantu 11-17-05

Plantu in Le Monde

Part V: Extraordinary Renditions - Double Jeopardy

Fly By Night, Moroccan Style

Last Friday in Salé, Morocco, five ex-Guantanamo detainees on probation did not show up for their hearing before the Moroccan Antiterrorism Court. A source says they have been arrested by secret police for their links to Salafiya Jihadiya, a Jihadist movement in Morocco.

Abdallah Tabarak, 50, Mohamed Ouzar, 26, Redwan Shekkouri, 33, Mohamed Mazouz 32 and Brahim Benshekroun, 26, have not been seen since Friday. They had been handed over by the US to Morocco in August 2004.

I have a bad feeling about this. Is it possible that the five have been re-kidnapped by the CIA/DoD? The questions in search of answers are:

1) Does the CIA run one or several underground prisons in Morocco?

2) Is it possible that these five individual have been whisked from Morocco and ferried by the CIA to a US-run underground prison elsewhere?

3) Has the USA jettisoned both habeas corpus and protection from double jeopardy?

4) If the five are in a Moroccan secret prison, to what extent does the USA collaborate with Morocco inside those prisons?

5) Within underground prisons in Morocco, are agents of the US government working within them?

Part IV: Extraordinary Renditions

Tail number sightings.

There has been a rash of complaints from our allies concerning the violation of their sovereignty by the United States as reported by Le Monde:
  • On November 15, Norway demanded clarification from the US Embassy in Oslo concerning the stopover on its territory of a CIA prison flight. The weekly Ny Tid reported sighting a US-registered aircraft bearing a tail number known to be associated with aircraft leased by the CIA to ferry suspected Islamist terrorists to underground prisons. The Gulfsteam-III landed on 20 July 2005 at Oslo's international airport, Gardermoen.
  • The Swedish news agency TT reports that the government of Sweden has demanded "complete details" from its civil aviation authority concerning the landings of at least two CIA prison planes in 2002 and 2005. One of the aircraft had made several trips to Guantanamo. Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson confirms that the CIA prison-planes used airports of Stockholm, Örebro and Malmö.
  • The Moroccan weekly, Le Journal hebdomadaire, reports that an ex-government security agent has informed them that the CIA has been running a torture "subcontracting" operation with Marocco since 2002. The agent also reports that the US brought in prisoners for "enhanced interrogation" on at least 10 occasions.
  • The District Court of Zweibrücken, Germany, has started an investigation into a CIA flight which landed at Ramstein air base in February carrying Abu Omar, who had been kidnapped off the streets of Milan, Italy. The prisoner was then put aboard another aircraft, a Gulfstream, for an "extraordinary rendition" to Egypt.
  • The District Court of Munich, Germany, has opened an investigation of the CIA kidnapping of a German national of Lebanese orgin, Khaled Al-Masri, who was then "rendered" to Afghanistan. He has since been released.
  • In Iceland, television station Stöd 2 reported on Friday that CIA airplanes have landed in Keflavík and Reykjavík at least 67 times since 2001. According to prime minister Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Icelandic government did not know about the flights. Stöd 2 compared information from the Icelandic Flight Authority on stopovers of airplanes in Iceland with information on the airplanes' registration numbers, owner history and current owners. According to the report, airplanes operated by CIA front companies often change registration numbers and move between companies. One airplane that has landed nine times in Iceland, a MacDonald Douglas 82, was registered to the US Ministry of Justice before being registered to CIA front company Alameda Corporation.
  • According to the Danish National Broadcasting Service an Learjet-35 registered to Path Corporation and thought to be a CIA prison-plane landed in Copenhagen on March 7th of this year and continued on to Iceland and Canada.
  • Baltic News Agency BNS affirms that two CIA-chartered aircraft, a Boeing and Gulfstream-5, traversed Lithuanian airspace "dozens of times between 2001 and 2003" on its way to Poland and Afghanistan. Lithuanian air traffic officials referred to the Gulfstream-5 as the Guantanamo Express.
  • An Estonian newspaper confirms that a CIA-chartered Boeing with tail number N313P landed Tallinn on 11 janvier 2003. The Estonian government has denied the presence of a US underground prison on its territory.
  • The weekly Portuguese magazine Focus reported yesterday that a CIA-chartered Boeing and a Gulfstream have been photographed at Oporto and Tires airports near Lisbon.
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak (Professor of Constitutional Law and Human Rights at the University of Vienna and Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights) demands that the European Union conduct an inquiry "at the highest levels" into the range the accusations. An investigation in member states by the Council of Europe has been announced.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Part III: Extraordinary Renditions through Spain: The Denial

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Bono affirms that there is no proof that the United States committed any illegal act relating to CIA flights to Spain.

Defense Minister José Bono has declared that the Spanish Government possesses no proof or evidence that the United States committed illegal acts related to the alleged use of Palma de Majorca airport as an intermediate stop for CIA planes rendering prisoners to secret detention centers as reported in today’s EL PAIS. I am not prepared to pillory the Government or an allied nation for baseless suppositions for which there is no proof, evidence or foundation, explained Bono. Furthermore, the Defense Minister said he was not prepared to encourage anti-American sentiment: I am not only happy to defend nations which are allied and friendly to Spain but it is my duty as Defense Minister.

When asked about a report in El Pais that the Centro Nacional de Inteligencia had asked the CIA to refrain from using Spanish airports in the rendition of prisoners, Bono rejected the idea: One cannot implicate the CNI as an approving or justifying agency in something for which there is no genuine proof or evidence. Therefore, I am unable to blame [CNI] for rumors or suppositions involving a government which is allied and friendly to Spain.

Meanwhile, Spanish Interior Minister José Antonio Alonso appealed for caution pending the conclusions of an ongoing judicial investigation. In an interview with TV station Telecinque, Alonso said that it would be up to the Spanish judicial authorities to establish the possible existence of secret US flights transporting prisoners to detention centers in third countries. Alonso also emphasized that state security forces and agents, particularly the Guardia Civil, had already done their job and that now the matter was in the hands of the judiciary. Should the flights be confirmed, said Alonso, they would be considered very grave and intolerable act and would constitute a grievous infraction and violation of Spanish law.

Spain should have full knowledge of the cargo aboard any means of transportation, in this case an aircraft, that passes through its territory, if for no other reason than to uphold the law, Alonso added.

The flights, 10 in all, have been revealed through an investigation conducted by the Guardia Civil, which submitted a report last June to the Chief Prosecutor of the Superior Court of the Balearics citing a complaint filed by a citizens’ group headed by the Majorcan lawyer Ignasi Ribas. The complaint, motivated by a story published in a newspaper, Diario de Mallorca, alleges unlawful arrest, kidnapping and torture during the use by the CIA of Son San Joan Airport as a stop on the way to an archipelago of secret detention centers where suspected Islamic terrorists are incarcerated.

Besides reporting the existence of the flights, the first of which landed at Palma de Majorca’s airport on 22 January 2004, the Guardia Civil documented that the four aircraft involved were US-registered and that the owner-operator was a company called Stevens Express Leasing, one of several companies cited by the New York Times [Article appeared on May 31, 2005] used as cover for the CIA.

Despite its findings, the Guardia Civil concluded in its report that there was no evidence of illicit activity and that it had no information on the activities of the occupants of the aircraft. The Balearic Public Prosecutor archived the case soon after the complaint was filed. However, Judge Antonio García Sansaloni decided last October to transfer the dossier to the Audiencia Nacional after determining that he did now have the necessary authority to handle the case.