Archive for the ‘war zone’ Category

U.S. citizens among hostages seized in Algeria as France battles Islamists in neighboring Mali

January 16, 2013

Washington Post
 Edward Cody, Debbi Wilgoren and Craig Whitlock,

PARIS — Islamist guerrillas seized a number of hostages, including Americans, in a brazen attack early Wednesday on a remote gas-production facility in Algeria, and the United States vowed to take all necessary steps to deal with what it called a “terrorist act.”

Algeria’s official news agency said two people were killed, including a British national, and six were wounded, two of them foreigners, in the attack by what authorities described as a homegrown Algerian terrorist group. There were conflicting accounts of the number of people taken hostage. The agency, Algerie Presse Service, said Algerian troops quickly surrounded the site.

In Rome, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said U.S. officials believe that Americans are among the hostages in Algeria but that they are still trying to determine how many.

“By all indications, this is a terrorist act,” he told reporters after meeting with Italian leaders Wednesday as part of a week-long European trip. “It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage along with others…. I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation.”

Panetta said it remained unclear whether the hostage-takers are connected to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups that France is fighting in northern Mali.

“I do know that terrorists are terrorists, and terrorists take these kinds of actions,” he added. “We’ve witnessed their behavior in a number of occasions where they have total disregard for innocent men and women. This appears to be that kind of situation.”

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack and said 41 hostages were seized, seven of them Americans.

However, Algerie Presse Service (APS) said “a little more than 20 foreign nationals” were captured. It said the hostages were from Norway, Britain, the United States, France and Japan. The captors released Algerian workers in small groups, the agency said.

The assailants arrived in three vehicles and first attacked a bus that was taking foreign workers from the gas-production facility to a local airport, APS said. One foreigner was killed in that attack, and the militants then took over part of the facility and seized hostages, it said.

Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the attackers were Algerian “terrorists” and vowed that authorities would not negotiate with them.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said the attack was in retaliation for Algeria’s decision to allow France to use its airspace to send warplanes to neighboring Mali, where French forces have been conducting airstrikes and support operations since last week to aid Malian troops in their battle against Islamist insurgents.

“Algeria’s participation in the war on the side of France betrays the blood of the Algerian martyrs who fell in the fight against the French occupation,” a spokesman for the Masked Brigade, an arm of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, told Mauritania’s Nouakchott News Agency.

Advertisements

Settlements Snarl: ‘Israel gambles on US protection from intl law’

December 18, 2012

Israel says it will go ahead with plans to build 1500 new settler homes in East Jerusalem – the part of the city that’s considered Palestinian land.

The project was given an intermediate green light by Israeli officials on Monday. This comes less then a month after the UN granted Palestine non-member observer status. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, and are promising to raise the issue at a Security Council meeting. Author and historian Gerald Horne says that with Palestine’s recent upgrade, Israel’s playing a risky game.

New nuclear talks with Iran may be possible in coming weeks, U.S. says

December 17, 2012

Washington Post
Joby Warrick

The United States and five other world powers are hastily preparing for possible new talks with Iran amid signs that the country’s leaders might be willing to meet as early as next week to discuss scaling back nuclear activities in return for future sanctions relief.

The six powers have agreed on a new package of inducements to be offered to Iran if it agrees to freeze key parts of its nuclear program, said U.S. and European officials briefed on the matter. Iran rejected a similar deal earlier this year, but U.S. officials said they were modestly hopeful that Tehran’s position had softened under the strain of international sanctions.

“Our assessment is that it is possible that they are ready to make a deal,” a senior administration official said Friday. “Certainly, the pressure is on.”

The talks would be the first high-level negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program since June, offering at least the prospect of a thaw in a standoff that has grown increasingly tense in recent months. The apparent movement on the diplomatic front came amid reports that Iran had agreed to concessions in a separate dispute with U.N. nuclear officials over access to an Iranian base allegedly used for nuclear weapons research.

There was no confirmation from Tehran about pending talks with world powers. On Friday, a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team expressed skepticism about a possible deal with the six-nation bloc known as the P5-plus-1. “Personally, I am not optimistic,” Mostafa Dolatyar told reporters during a visit to India. But he added: “Everything could be subject to negotiation.”

Three U.S. and European officials briefed on the preparations said Iranian negotiators were discussing a timetable for new talks, which might be held in Istanbul. Initial meetings could begin as early as next week, though they are more likely to start after the New Year’s holiday, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatically sensitive negotiations.

U.S. officials said the purpose would be to test Iranian willingness to halt certain nuclear activities as an interim step, or a “confidence-building” measure, to ease international fears that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons. In exchange, Iran would be offered technical help with its civilian nuclear program and a lifting of a ban on the purchase of aircraft parts, the officials said.

The interim measures, if accepted, could be the starting point for a future “grand bargain” that would set permanent limits on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for rolling back economic sanctions, the officials said.

The P5-plus-1 group — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — made similar demands during three fruitless rounds of talks with Iran in the spring. Iranian officials complained at the time that the group’s proposal did not contain sufficient sanctions relief and said they would await the outcome of the U.S. presidential election before resuming the effort. Since those talks, international sanctions on Iran have been tightened.

BREAKING: 100 Percent of Syria’s Internet Just Shut Down

November 29, 2012

Washington Post
Max Fisher

It appears that the Syrian government may have just taken a drastic measure it has conspicuously avoided over the nearly two years of fighting: cutting itself off from the Internet.

Renesys, a Web-monitoring service, reported Thursday morning that sweeping outages in Syria had shut down 92 percent of the country’s routed networks. Shortly after, it updated to report that the remaining IP address blocks had gone down, “effectively removing the country from the Internet.” The “Syrian Internet Is Off The Air,” it announced.

Shutting down nationwide Internet service is a remarkable step, one with significant implications for Syria’s economy and security. Still, the country has already taken far more severe action, including reports of targeting children, so the government’s apparent decision not to switch off Web access until now was in some ways surprising. Egypt and Libya both shut down Internet service early in their own uprisings last year. Those were seen as major steps, as is Syria’s today, if the Renesys report is accurate.

Still, maybe one question here is why Syria didn’t do this sooner. Its uprising long ago exceeded Egypt’s and Libya’s in severity by the time those countries had instituted their own blackouts. One possible explanation is that Syria has been far more assertive online, using it as a tool for tracking dissidents and rebels, and sometimes even tricking them into handing the government personal data using phishing scams. President Bashar al-Assad has a background in computers, unlike the much older Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gaddafi, and once even directly mentioned his “electronic army.” Assad’s regime may have seen opportunity as well as risk on the Web, where perhaps the Egyptian and Libyan authorities saw primarily a tool of the uprising. Or, perhaps the Syrian simply feared the economic consequences of an Internet blackout, or lacked the means to conduct it.

Perhaps the most important question is whether this reported shutdown represents a setback for the rebels and activists who have used the Web to coordinate, a sign of the regime’s desperation that it would take this measure, or maybe even both.

Update: The Associated Press says that a second web-monitoring company is also reporting a complete shutdown.

Arafat Body Exhumed, Qatar Obsessed With Israel Trace

November 27, 2012

The remains of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have been reburied – after being exhumed earlier on Tuesday. An international team of forensic experts have taken tissue samples from the remains – hoping to clear doubts over the cause of his death in 2004.

Firm Ground? Thirty Six Hour Ultimatum To Hamas Leaked By Israeli Minister

November 19, 2012

Israel’s Finance Minister told IDF radio the time left before Israel escalates its attacks can be measured in “hours, not days.” Israel is said to have issued a 36-hour ultimatum demanding that Hamas stops firing rockets at Israeli territory.

Hamas chief held peace deal draft Before He Was Murdered

November 16, 2012

An Israeli peace activist says the Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari, assassinated at the start of Israel’s offensive, was murdered amid talks on a long-term truce with Israel.

US fears losing support for anti-Iran sanctions

November 16, 2012

Press TV

Though US rules have not imposed any bans on American firms to sell medicine and medical supplies to Iran, exporters have been required to apply for special licenses. Besides, as the aftermath of the sanctions, the impossibility of transferring money through banks has cast its cumbersome shadow upon medicine and healthcare in Iran and has gravely affected the import of medicines to Iran.

The move comes as Iran has protested that the US-engineered sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranian citizens.

In a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in August, head of the Charity Foundation for Special Diseases Fatemeh Hashemi urged Ban to prevent sanction-induced damages to six million Iranian patients suffering from such intractable diseases as thalassemia, hemophilia, kidney conditions, multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, etc.

The letter stated that shortage and increased price of medicine caused by illegal sanctions has directly affected the lives and well-being of millions of patients.

Ban said in a subsequent UN report that sanctions were, in fact, taking a toll on humanitarian operations in the country. “Even companies that have obtained the requisite license to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions,” he wrote.

According to the Los Angeles Times, analysts believe that protests over humanitarian effects of US unilateral sanctions against Iran could undermine support for those sanctions among US allies.

The paper quoted Iranian academic Ismail Salami as writing last week in the Russian newspaper Pravda that, “The bitter question is: Is the West taking sadistic pleasure in incurring genocidal deaths, or does the West naively believe that they are achieving their fiendish goals in the Muslim country?”

At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions entered into force in early summer 2012.

On October 15, the EU foreign ministers reached an agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.

The illegal US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of International Atomic Energy Agency, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Israel Approved Killing of Hamas Commander Amid Talks on Long-Term Truce

November 16, 2012

Global Research
John Glaser

Just hours before Israel assassinated Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari on Tuesday, he received the draft proposal of a permanent truce agreement with Israel. But Israel approved the airstrike anyways, choosing escalation over resolution.

Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit and maintained contacts with Hamas leaders, said the truce agreement included protocols for maintaining a cease-fire in the case of cross-border violence between Israel and Gaza.

Baskin told Haaretz that senior officials in Israel knew about the pending truce agreement, but nevertheless approved the assassination, presumably knowing it would terminate the truce and escalate the conflict with Gaza.

“I think that they have made a strategic mistake,” Baskin said, “which will cost the lives of quite a number of innocent people on both sides.” He added that Jabari’s assassination “killed the possibility of achieving a truce.”

“This blood could have been spared. Those who made the decision must be judged by the voters, but to my regret they will get more votes because of this,” he added.

“According to Baskin,” Haaretz reports, “during the past two years Jabari internalized the realization that the rounds of hostilities with Israel were beneficial neither to Hamas nor to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and only caused suffering, and several times he acted to prevent firing by Hamas into Israel.”

Even when Hamas was pulled into participating in rocket fire, its rockets would always land in open spaces. “And that was intentional,” Baskin said.

US, Israel, Syria, Iraq: Who benefits from the Beirut blast (hint: not Syria)?

October 23, 2012

At least eight are dead and 118 wounded after a car bomb rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The attack in the majority Christian neighborhood killed a top-ranking security official.

RT crosses over to Beirut to talk to Ali Rizk – an expert on the Middle East.

….