Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Iraq - Hundreds dead in stampede

At least 841 people have been killed and 323 injured, many of them women and children, after Shiite pilgrims stampeded while on a bridge near a mosque in northern Baghdad today. Witnesses said there was panic after screams there was a suicide bomber. [CNN]
[14:06 GMT 31/08/2005]

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina - massive devastation & over 50 dead

New Orleans woke up today to a scene of devastation. Flooding has swept across much of the city and the destruction to buildings is widespread. At least 50 have died, but a full assessment has not yet been made. New Orleans' Mayor, Ray Nagin said the flooding was in excess of 6 metres in places and that the death toll was 'significant'. Fifteen people were said to have died in one apartment building alone. The city has not only been hit by wind and floods but also by fires and looting. [BBC]

Estimates of damage wrought by the storm are between $9 and 26 billion. Fuel prices are likely to rise after the knock on effect of the cut in oil production. The price of a barrel of oil increased to more than $70 over the weekend, compounded too by an oil workers strike in Ecuador and further attacks on pipelines in Iraq. OPEC says oil price rises are 'unjustified',

Two rigs in the Gulf were adrift after the hurricane had passed, and another hit a bridge. Some refineries were shut down, including a massive complex at Baton Rouge. The ongoing damage to the infrastructure is unclear. Oil stocks were up helping European markets, but the outlook for the consumer looks bleak as pump prices rise. The knock on effect to airline costs and high street prices may also follow.

The US is not the only country hit by flooding this month. Flooding has also affected parts of Beijing, China [Yahoo News]. Over 900 people have been killed in flood waters in the country, so far this year. Twenty seven of China's thirty one provinces have been hit since May. And many parts of eastern Europe have been particularly hard hit by floods. Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Romania, Georgia and Croatia have all been hit in recent days, and more than 40 have died [BBC].
[12:04 GMT 30/08/2005]

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina leaves destruction in its wake

Hurricane Katrina has now been downgraded to a Category 2 as it moves north through the state of Mississippi. The 170 Km/h winds are still considered dangerous, but the worst is over. Air traffic was seriously disrupted. Four major airports closed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and others along the east of the US were seriously disrupted with delayed flights and stranded passengers. Major flooding is affecting many parts of the southern states and there are tornado alerts in several parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. All that remains for many is to assess the damage and pick up the pieces. There are no reports of any injuries or deaths.
[18:04 GMT 29/08/2005]

Katrina makes landfall

As Katrina made landfall it had reduced to a category 4 storm. But with wind speeds of 216 Km/h a great deal of damage was expected. CNNi provided live coverage from CNN USA. Sky News, BBC 24 and ITN here in the UK was only showing sporadic coverage. As heavy rain descends, even the the Superbowl was beginning to leak.
[14:04 GMT 29/08/2005]

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Louisiana braces itself as Katrina closes in

Emergency services are on standby as hurricane Katrina nears the cost of the southern states. The storm is expected to make landfall on Monday. The Sports Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana has been handed over to some 10,000 people, made refugees by the enforced evacuation. The size of the storm headed their way has astounded many residents. One Florida resident said, “The bloody size of it” and added that heavy rain had followed him on a journey along the Tampa arm. [NOAA graphic] When the storm final hits not only will the news cameras be trained on the action, but so too will many webcams. [New Orleans Webcam List]
[23:55 GMT 28/08/2005]

Hurricane Katrina - Oil production down 30%

As hurricane Katrina increased to a category 5 and headed towards the US coast, states of emergency were declared. “We cannot stress enough the danger,” the President said today and urged citizens to “follow instructions”. And with wind speeds in excess of 282 Km/h, and gust measured at 380 Km/h, the danger was clear. Thousands have fled low lying areas along the coast and a forced evacuation was being carried out in New Orleans. Storm surges of a predicted 8 metres may swamp New Orleans, 70% of which lies below sea level. Roads were described as gridlocked as freeways filled with motorists escaping the city. But caught in the midst are thousands of tourists. Many were unable to rent cars, book hotel rooms or even fly out due to the grounding of all air traffic. Emergency procedures have been established for those trapped in the city. Oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have cut their production by more than a third as many workers have evacuated to the mainland, according to CNN . The Gulf provides as much as 25% of US oil consumption.
[19:36 GMT 28/08/2005]

Friday, August 26, 2005

Iraq - Sunnis likely to reject constitution

Iraq is falling into further political crisis after another deadline came and went without any resolve to Iraq’s new constitution. One US commander, speaking on the BBC, fears increased violence if Sunnis see themselves as not having a voice. The likelihood of a complete rejection of the constitution seems ever more possible. Three deadlines have passed. Federalism is the main sticking point for the Sunnis which make up some 20% of the population. De-ba’athification is also a concern for many, as it may affect many of the Sunnis who have had close ties to the Ba’ath Party in the past. A truck driver was killed when he was caught in an IED attack on a US military convoy. At least eleven people have been killed in attacks across the country according to various reports [Yahoo News] . The US death toll stands at 1,874. Added to that are nearly 200 coalition servicemen bringing the overall number to 2,068, [Iraq]. Over 250 contractors have died in the same period.
[17:24 GMT 26/08/2005]

World weather wrap

Weather has dominated the news in the past 48 hours with floods and storms being seen in many parts of the world. Florida has been hit by Hurricane Katrina. At least 4 have died and the state remains on high alert [CNN]. In Europe, flooding has swept through low lying valleys in Switzerland making many homeless and destroying property worth millions of Euros. Other countries badly hit include Germany, Austria and Bulgaria [BBC]. Meanwhile, Portugal is cooling off after huge forest fires swept through vast swathes of countryside. The fires have killed 15 and destroyed 180,000 hectares of land and taken in its wake at least 100 homes [BBC]. And India has banned blamed recent flooding in some regions on plastic bags. Maharashta has subsequently banned the use and sale of plastic bags and one state official said. “Mumbai and other areas suffered because of the misuse of plastic bags”, said Chief Minister Vilastrao Deshmukh. Floods in the region caused 1000 death and widespread destruction [BBC].
[16:12 GMT 26/08/2005]

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bush - "We will stay on the hunt"

President George W. Bush on Wednesday

President George W. Bush spoke in Nampa, Idaho today. Speaking to military families he praised their sacrifice in the ‘War on Terror’ and repeated his determination to “stay on the hunt until the terrorist has nowhere to hide.” His wife had apparently asked him to keep the speech short. However, President George W Bush then went on to talk for more than 30 minutes. He may have spoken for a great deal longer but CNN cut away.

“After our nation was attacked on September 11th 2001, air crews of the 366th wing flew more than 1000 combat missions over the skies of Afghanistan. In the war on terror you are bringing justice to our enemies and honour to the uniform, our country is grateful to your service” he said in the opening minutes of his address. After two minutes of praise for the people of Idaho, the Mayor “fill the potholes” and generals, colonels “Our nation is engaged in a global war on terror that effects the safety and security of every American. From Iraq and Afghanistan and across the world we face dangerous enemies who want to harm our people. Folks who want to destroy our way of life. And throughout our nation’s history whenever freedom has been threatened, America’s turned to the national guard. From the war of independence to today’s War on Terror the national guard has defended this country with courage and determination. I’m proud to be the Commander in Chief”
Honouring their unique service he said, “You’re the only part of the armed forces that serve both the state and the country…As you protect us from natural disasters you protect us from terrorist threats…”
A rapturous applause followed his praise for the Idaho military and the sacrifices given. But, the war on terror was not over, he warned, “They are planning new attacks on our citizens. On September 11th we saw the future that the terrorists envisaged. I made a decision to confront emerging threats before they are realized and if you harbour a terrorist, you are just as guilty as a terrorist… we will stay on the offence. To withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq and the broader Middle East would only embolden the terrorists…we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror”
“This is a different kind of war,” he said. The enemy does not line itself up on borders as in the past, but hid in our midst, “attacking us before retreating to hide in the shadows.”
“In a free society it is impossible to protect from every type of threat, so the only way to get the terrorist is to go to where they live…we’re determined, we are relentless and we will stay on the hunt until the terrorist has nowhere to hide…History has proved … that democracies do not fight their neighbours, we are laying the foundations of peace”
[18:13 GMT 24/08/2005]

Iraq - street battles in Baghdad

Two police and three civilians were killed in gun battles in western Baghdad today. Insurgents attacked several checkpoints and a car bomb was also detonated CNN reported. At least 30 people were said to be injured. On Tuesday a suicide bomb killed 7 near Baquba, including 2 Americans. Iraq is at a crucial turning point as the final deadline to resolve constitutional issues nears ever closer.
[15:11 GMT 24/08/2005]

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Peru - plane crash kills 40

A plane has crashed in Peru killing at least 40, Sky News has reported. Conflicting reports have been given throughout the evening, but it is believed the Peruvian plane went down in heavy storms near Pucallpa. There are reports that 20 passengers have survived the crash.
[23:04 GMT 23/08/2005]

Iraq - Sunnis reject new constitution

“No to federalism, yes to a united Iraq” – these were the shouts in the street protests after the draft constitution was handed in last night. The rejection of the new constitution came from the Sunni population and their parliamentary representatives. Many feel they have been sidelined by the majority Shi’ite government and that oil profits will not be shared evenly. Three or four days have been set aside to resolve the ‘stumbling blocks’ [BBC] or ‘sticking points’ [Sky News]. Deadlock leading to increased power struggles seem ever more likely, with the few Sunni representatives that exist becoming less relevant in a factionalized Iraq. The lack of a Sunni voice only fuels the insurgency further. And the risk of civil war nears ever closer behind it.
[21:06 GMT 23/08/2005]

Bush defends 'War on Terror'

Speaking in Utah today, President Bush has set his determination to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until the mission was accomplished. “We’ve lost 1,864 members of our armed forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom,” he said, “Each of these men and women have left grieving families and loved ones back home.” But, he said, “We owe them something. We will finish the task they gave their live for.” He also made clear who the enemy was. “Terrorists like bin Laden and his ally Zarqawi are trying to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban…” [BBC]
But some were not placated. “How many more soldiers have to die before we say enough is enough” Cindy Sheehan, a protester who has laid siege to the president’s holiday ranch over recent days, said on a televised Anti-war advertisement. [ / Wikipedia ]
[00:00 GMT 23/08/2005]

Monday, August 22, 2005

Beirut hit by large explosion

An explosion has hit a car park under a shopping centre in Beirut in Lebanon. The explosion near a Starbucks cafe was said to be in a Christian area of the town. Three people have been injured according to Lebanese sources and the Red Cross.
[21:01 GMT 22/08/2005]

Iraq Constitution submitted

The main draft of the Iraq Constitution has been submitted to the Iraqi parliament. The proceedings commenced just before midnight in Baghdad. "In the name of the Iraqi people I open the National Assembly" said Hachim Al-Hasani, the Iraqi National Assembly speaker. He went on to announce that he had received a draft constitution, "but there are some points that are still outstanding and need to be worked out in the next three or four days" he said. But, there was determination amongst leaders and "we will try to reach consensus," he added.
The outstanding points were not immediately given. But in a press conference, he said federalism had been one of the areas of difficulty. "De-ba'athification" was also an issue causing problems. Oil production "would be done by the regional and central government" said Hachim Al-Hasani.
[20:24 GMT 22/08/2005]

Menezes death - Brazilian officials meet UK police

Brazilian officials today arrived in London to meet with Metropolitan Police officials in order to ask questions surrounding the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. It is clear who they will meet but Sky News suggest a meeting with Metropolitan Police Chief, Ian Blair, is possible. Some family members are due to hold a vigil outside Downing Street. A public inquiry has been demanded by the family and supporters and a letter is being handed into No. 10 later today. There have also been demands for the resignation of Sir Ian Blair over the death of the Brazilian. Some newspaper reports are suggesting that CCTV footage from Stockwell Station were wiped. The tapes were taken by police following the incident on the 22nd July, but later returned them saying they were blank. Sky News said this afternoon that it was “not only difficult but virtually impossible to obtain clarification” from New Scotland Yard. Transport workers deny that the CCTV system was not working. A senior transport spokesman is reported as saying, “There was nothing wrong with the cameras, the tapes are replaced every night as a matter of course…after the incident the police took the tapes away. When they brought them back to us three or four days later, they said, ‘These are no good to us, they’re blank’…”
A spokesman for Tube Lines, a private firm which carries out maintenance on the London Underground, also said the CCTV was in working order. “We are not aware of any faults on the CCTV cameras at that station on that day. Nothing of that nature has been reported to us.”
Without CCTV footage, any inquiry will have to rely on witness statements.
Controversy also the surrounds an offer of money to the de Menezes family. The Metropolitan police denied they had made an offer of £600,000. Earlier the family had released statements saying they will not be bought off. Matozinho and Maria de Menezes said last week, “We will not be bought off, this is about justice.” Deputy Asst Commissioner John Yates was reported to have visited the family two weeks ago.
Meanwhile Tony Blair on his holiday in Barbados said he supported the Chief Commissioner. The PM has been on holiday at his previously undisclosed holiday location since the beginning of August, leaving John Prescott in charge. No 10 had refused to give details of his holiday plans due to security issues. But this weekend the Prime Minister attended a veterans’ memorial service on the island and a 'news blackout' was lifted, ending speculation.

The police investigations into the London attacks have proceeded slowly since the capture of the 21/7 suspects. No-one has yet been arrested in connection with the 7/7 attacks. And of 39 people arrested in connection with the 21/7 failed attacks, 14 have been charged with various offences.
[19:43 GMT 22/08/2005]

War on Terror - attacks in Iraq & Afganistan

In Afghanistan, four US soldiers were killed over the weekend by a roadside bomb. This brings the total to 228 coalition dead since hostilities began in 2001. Seventy four have died this year alone. [Afghanistan casualties 2005 / Afghanistan casualties 2001-2005] In Iraq, a bomb killed several police and civilians in Baghdad on Monday. On Sunday a US soldier was killed by an IED in Samarra whilst on patrol. Three others were injured, one later died from his injuries. Oil exports resumed in Basra Monday. Operations had been halted after attacks earlier the same day [Al-Jazeera] And the BBC reported 11 Pakistani oil workers were released today, a week after their kidnapping. They were taken as they made their way to Baghdad from the southern oil fields. More than 257 attacks on Iraq’s oil infrastructure since March 2003 [Iraq Pipeline Watch]
And the deadline approaches for the Iraqi government to finalize the new Iraqi Constitution. Oil and federalism are said to be the main stumbling blocks. But George W. Bush said today, "The constitution is a difficult process that involves debate and compromise. We know this from our own history. The constitutional convention was home to political rivalry and regional disagreements. The constitution our founders produced has been amended many times over. So Americans understand the challenges facing the framers of Iraq’s new constitution. We admire their thoughtful deliberations. We salute their determination to lay the foundation for lasting democracies amid the ruins of a brutal dictatorship."
The deadline expires at midnight local time [20:00 GMT] for the delivery of the Constitution.
[19:34 GMT 22/08/2005]

Friday, August 19, 2005

9/11 suspect jailed

Mounir al-Motassadeq has been sentenced to 7 years for terror related offences in Germany today. He is said to have been a part of the so called ‘Hamburg Cell’, three of which were part of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Motassadeq is alleged to have teamed up with Mohamed Atta [believed to have flown flight AA-11 into the north tower of the World Trade Centre], Marwan al Shehhi [believed to be on flight UA-175 which hit the south tower] and Ziad Jarrahi [who was on flight UA-93 which crashed in Pennsylvania]. He had been accused of maintaining bank accounts of these three and of attending a terror training camp in Afghanistan. An earlier conviction and sentencing of 15 years had been quashed on appeal. Evidence from other terror suspects in US custody had been used in the case but the defence had no opportunity to cross examine. As a result of this and other technicalities, Motassadeq was released on bail. Ramzi Binalshibh who has been in US custody since his capture in Pakistan in 2002, had told prosecutors that he as well as the three pilots were part of the cell. Further evidence was introduced by Andreas Schultz, a lawyer for victims’ families, said to connect Motassadeq with a Tunisian bomb attack in April 2002. However, the court found him guilty only of “belonging to a terror cell”. He was not convicted of being directly complicit to the 9/11 attacks and was declared not guilty to 3,000 counts accessory to murder. Mr Udo Jacob, Motassadeq’s lawyer said there would be an appeal, “My client is not a terrorist, it is important for the whole world to know that. The only other man to face a trial in connection with the 9/11 attacks was acquitted earlier this year. Abdelgani Mzoudi was released after US authorities failed to make witnesses available to German authorities. Two other alleged members of the Hamburg cell, Said Bahaji and Zakariya Essabar, are still on the run. [Washington Post / New York Times /BBC ]
[20:54 GMT 19/08/2005]

Discovery returns to Florida

The Space Shuttle Discovery has made its final journey home to Florida. It flew out of Edwards Airforce base in California on the back of a Boeing 747 at 08:30 local time [15:30 GMT]. There will be two fuel stops, at Oklahoma and Louisiana, before arriving at Kennedy Space Centre on Saturday. All shuttle missions are on hold until at least 2006 as NASA attempt to determine the problems associated with shedding foam from the space shuttle's external fuel tank. [CNN]
[16:58 GMT 19/08/2005]

Rocket attack fails to hit US ships

Three rockets believed to have been targeted at US Navy ships in the Red Sea were fired from a warehouse in Jordan, Friday morning. It is unclear who is responsible, but a group with links to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility via a website. The claim by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades could not be verified. They group has previously claimed responinsibity for several terror attacks including the recent Egyptian hotel bombings in Shaam el-Sheik which killed 64. The warehouse was rented by an Iraqi and two Jordanians, according to CNN. One of the Katyusha missiles hit an industrial zone, killing 1 Jordanian soldier and injuring another. The other two hit a military hospital and a perimeter fence near Eilat Airport, Israel. US ships quickly departed the area following the attacks which were launched at 08:45 local time [05:45 GMT]. The rocket attacks along with an oil refinery in Venezuela pushed up the price of oil on world markets. The average price per barrel this year stands at $53, and the future looks bleak as many say the average price will reach $60 per barrel by the end of the decade. [CNN report]
[16:36 GMT 19/08/2005]

Abbas - Israeli pullout “a salute to the martyrs”

As the Israeli pullout nears its completion, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President, spoke to a rally of thousands in Rafah. “This exit is a result of the sacrifices and patience of our is a salute to the martyrs and sacrifices” he said. In a triumphal address he added, “We are happy to be celebrating today…but this step is only the first step, which will continue in the West Bank and Jerusalem, God willing”. He spoke too of his hopes for the Palestinian people’s future, “The most important step is how to protect our country and how to build our country”. He also promised to build houses for those that had lost them in Israeli bulldozings. Meanwhile four settlements have yet to be evicted by Israeli police. The completion of evictions is expected by Monday.
[15:58 GMT 19/08/2005]

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gaza - police storm synagogue

Police and troops have stormed the synagogue in Kfar Darom. Water canon has been fired at the rooftop protesters and attempts have been made to breach the barricades and razor wire. BBC 24, Euronews and Al Jazeera have now cut into LIVE coverage though Sky have yet to provide LIVE pictures. Some form of blue dye was evident in the jets fired from the water cannon. CNN has described a strong chemical smell in the air. Police officers are said to be stripping to their underwear as they are washed down. It is not clear what chemical agent has been thrown at police. Protesters were eventually taken from the building, one by one, as police breached the roof of the synagogue. They left in tears, bloodied, covered in dye but many still remained defiant.
[16:35 GMT 18/08/2005]

Gaza - Last synagogues being evicted

"Jews shall not evict Jews", these were the chants that Israeli police were confronted with as they moved in to evict protesters from synagogues in Gaza today. Thousands of Israeli troops have been drafted into Kfar Darom to carry out the last of the settlers. Two hundred protesters are stilled barricaded inside as police and troops surround the synagogue. The withdrawal process has gone relatively quietly, with little violence from all sides. Marred only by the shooting dead of three Palestinians in the West Bank yesterday by a gunman Israeli was described as a lone act of an "Israeli terrorist" by Ariel Sharon, the Israeli PM. Although the majority of Israelis support the pullout, initiated by Sharon, there remains a sense of guarded optimism. CNN has covered much of today's operation LIVE. Sky, BBC 24, ITN and Al Jazeera are covering events sporadically.
[15:40 GMT 18/08/2005]

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Gaza - stand-off as mass suicide threatened

In Gaza protesters have threatened to commit mass suicide. Sky News reported earlier that one woman set fire to herself in southern Israel. There is not the saturation coverage as seen in similar events worldwide, though there are transmission difficulties being experienced by many networks as they attempt to broadcast LIVE. Most Israeli settlers have left the ‘occupied lands’ but there is still a hard core of activists in parts of Gaza, some hauled up in a Synagogue. Neve Dekalim, in southern Gaza, is the main focus of events. Police moved into Gaza’s largest synagogue but have not yet removed people from the buildings. There have been reports of a shooting in the West Bank. An Israeli is believed to have opened fire on Palestinians, killing at least one. In Shirat Hayam it remains quiet at present but police have yet to remove all the settlers from the camps.
[14:27 GMT 17/08/2005]

Bomb suspect to be extradited in 35 days

Hussain Osman is to be extradited to Britain in 35 days. His lawyers have 10 days to appeal. The suspect is wanted in connection with the failed attacks in London on the 21st July. He is currently being held by Italian authorities.
[14:24 GMT 17/08/2005]

War on Terror - bomb attacks & intelligence failures

Three bombs in Baghdad has killed at least 40 and injured more than 80. Two bombs targeted police, another hit a nearby hospital where victims from the earlier bombing were being taken. In Asia, Islamic groups have claimed responsibility for 350 small bomb attacks in Bangladesh CNN has reported. In Italy the suspected would-be suicide bomber of July 21st is today facing an extradition hearing. Hussein Osman [also known as Osman Hussein, Hussain Osman and Hamdi Isaac] is accused by British authorities of attempting to cause an explosion at Shepherd’s Bush station in London. Osman’s lawyers are pressing for him to be tried in Italy. Controversy and heated discussions are building after the IPCC report, concerning the death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, was leaked. Some have called for the resignation of Sir Ian Blair after the report showed a series of intelligence failures which led to the fatal shooting of de Menezes. And CNN reported of intelligence failures that have surfaced before 9/11. Lt Col Anthony Shaffer spoke on CNN today saying that he had reported suspicions of a terror cell operating in the US prior to the 9/11 attacks. But the data was not passed to the FBI. The US Army Intelligence officer was not asked to give evidence to the 9/11 Commission besides having identified Mohammed Atta and others as a possible risk to national security ahead of the terror attacks. Mohammed Atta is believed to be the terrorist who piloted American Airlines 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Centre on 11th September 2001. The war on terror continues.
[11:46 GMT 17/08/2005]

'Media bug' hits computers worldwide

A computer worm called worm-rbot.cbq has his many computers around the world causing them to constantly reboot. Dubbed the 'Media Bug' by one report [Washington Post], CNN, ABC, The New York Times, The Caterpillar Co., Chrysler and some government agencies have been hit by the worm. Experts believe this worm may derive from the Zotob worm which struck at the weekend. CNN was hit at around 17:00 local time [22:00 GMT] ABC were hit earlier in the day at 13:00 ET [18:00] in their New York offices. Although Windows 2000 is mainly affected, early Microsoft XP editions were also said to be vulnerable. Anyone not having updated their computers since Friday 12th were vulnerable to attack. The FBI are asking anyone [in the US] who is attacked to contact them. Attacks were not confined to the United States. Outages were also reported in Germany, and in Asia.
[01:05 GMT 17/08/2005]

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Channel tunnel train fire - possible fatalities

A channel tunnel goods train has caught fire in a tunnel between Kent and Essex, east of London. The fire is being attended by Kent and Essex fire services as well as police and ambulance services. Two people have been rescued from the tunnel and sent to hospitals in Kent. There are unconfirmed reports of at least one fatality. Fire crews, using infra-red imaging equipment, are searching the tunnel which runs under the River Thames between Swanscombe in Kent and West Thurrock, Essex. It is unknown at this point how the fire started or how many persons are missing.
[20:41 GMT 16/08/2005]

Catalogue of errors in de Menezes shooting

Channel Four News reported tonight on shocking revelations behind the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on July 22nd. "He wasn't warned, wasn't wearing a bulky coat, he didn't even run". So says a leaked report on the police shooting of the innocent man at Stockwell Station. A series of failures, to properly identify the suspected would-be suicide bomber Hussein Osman, led to the required order from Gold Command to unleash lethal force being given. The man charged with surveillance of the flat where de Menezes was living was 'relieving himself' at the time the Brazilian left his flat and was unable to shoot video of him. The officer then sent a radio message suggesting that someone else make a positive identification of the suspect. Jean Charles de Menezes lived at 17 Scotia Road, in the same block as one of the suspected suicide bombers of July 21st. He left at around 09:30 BST and arrived at a bus stop and boarded, he was followed by an officer who is quoted in the leaked report as not being able to make a positive match, but that the suspect had "Mongolian eyes". As the Brazilian neared Stockwell station the order was sent out not to let him enter. de Menezes used his 'Oyster' card to pass through the barrier and even took stopped to pick up a free newspaper. Gold Command then ordered the shooting but on an incorrect id that hadn't been confirmed. The IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Commission] report states that as the man entered the train at least one officer held him as another unloaded 10 bullets, 7 hit de Menezes in the head. No witness could be found who said there was a warning. The Metropolitan Police, the Home Office and the IPCC declined to comment on the leaked report.
[18:58 GMT 16/08/2005]

Venezuela plane crash - 152 feared dead

A plane has crashed in Venezuela near the Columbian border carrying 152 people, CNN has reported. Air traffic control lost contact with the plane 3 hours 45 minutes ago. There are reports of an explosion in a remote area. Columbian TV says it was a Columbian plane West Caribbean Airways travelling from Panama to Martinique near Caracas. The pilot had reported engine problems at 03:10 local time. Bad weather was also reported in the area at the time of the crash.
[12:02 GMT 16/08/2005]

Afghanistan - 17 Spanish killed in crash

A number of NATO troops have been killed in a double helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Spanish defence officials initially reported 17 Spanish troops killed in the incident. NATO has not yet confirmed this. The two Puma helicopters, said to be on a training mission, crashed south of Heart in western Afghanistan. Some 850 Spanish troops are deployed throughout the country.
[11:45 GMT 16/08/2005]

7.2 quake hits Japan

An earthquake has occured off the coast of Japan. The 7.2 quake hit at 02:46 GMT near Honshu. 38.27N 141.99E [03:55 GMT 16/08/2005]

Bush popularity falls as fuel prices rise

Iraq appears to be affecting President Bush's popularity rating which fell yet again this month. Bush's approval in recent polls range from the low-to mid-40s. It was 42% in the latest AP-Ipsos poll. His ratings on everything from handling Iraq to the economy to Social Security and other domestic issues are at their lowest levels so far. Reagan was at 57% at this stage of his presidency and Clinton was at 61% according to a Gallup poll at the time. Four US troops were lost in Iraq Sunday bringing the toll to 1,853. Three were killed near Tikrit and another near the Jordanian border. All were killed by 'hostile fire' according to the DoD. Fifty four have so far died this month in the continuing violence. Oil pipelines remain a target too. A pipeline was cut by three explosion on the 4th August near the town of Kirkuk. It was the 257th attack on the Iraqi pipeline infrastructure since hostilities began. Oil is becoming a major issue on the streets of the US as prices have doubled in two years. The price now stands at $3.20 per US gallon [£0.46 per litre]. The shock for American consumers is profound. Fuel surcharges are being invoiced by delivery businesses which are being passed along the chain. The prices in the US are in direct contrast to UK where the cost of fuel has soared in recent weeks. In the south east of England the litre price is currently £0.94.9. Equivalent to $6.49 per US gallon [US gallon = 3.78 litres / UK gallon = 4.54 litres].
[02:05 GMT 16/08/2005]

Monday, August 15, 2005

Athens plane crash - SMS hoaxer arrested

Greek police have arrested a man they say hoaxed TV stations by saying he had received a mobile phone message from a cousin on an airliner which said the passengers were freezing cold shortly before it crashed. The man had told reporters that the message read, "The pilot has turned blue. Cousin farewell, we're freezing". The SMS message used in headlines throughout the world has been proved false. "The man did not receive any message from the plane and has been charged with spreading false information," a police spokesman is quoted as saying [Reuters]. Police said they spotted the hoax when they realised that the name of the passenger who had allegedly sent the SMS was not on the airliner's passenger list. The Helios Airways Boeing 737 crashed into mountains near Athens on Sunday, killing all 115 passengers and six crew. The ‘black boxes’ have been recovered but the Cockpit Voice Recorder was said to be substantially damaged. The cause of the crash is still unknown but a loss of cabin pressure is thought to have played a part.
[22:58 GMT 15/08/2005]

Iraq - Constitution delayed, Rice optimistic

The Iraqi government have failed to initiate a new constitution and voted earlier this evening for more time. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was optimistic however, saying that although there was an August 15th deadline, the Iraqi government was committed to the ‘process’. “This is an Iraqi process not an American process, and Iraqis are in control of this process” she said. It was “remarkable how inclusive the process” had become she added, but said “they have a lot of work to do.. but it was a remarkable achievement” that different groups were now working together. The drafting of the constitution has now been delayed another week.
[22:07 GMT 15/08/2005]

Home Secretary "worried" about further attacks

Following a meeting with Sir Ian Blair, the Chief Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary praised the work of the force and said the professionalism of the police was being applauded all around the world. The Home Secretary said he was still “worried” about further attacks, a sentiment echoed by the Chief Commissioner who said that after the attacks of 7th and 21st July, an attack was “More rather than less likely”. The Monday afternoon meeting also dealt with possible deportations of individuals such as Abu Qatada, a radical cleric, widely seen as having possible terror connections.
[16:04 GMT 15/08/05]

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Gaza border shut as pull out begins

The Gaza pullout neared its climax late Sunday night. At midnight the borders closed to the ‘occupied’ region of Gaza, effectively making it illegal for Israelis to remain. The land has been part of Israel since 1967. Operations to remove settlers will start in the morning. Some 5000 settlers are still in the zone according to CNN.
[11:18 GMT 14/08/05]

Fuel tanker terror threat - US leak says

A terror alert was released in the US this week indicating a possible risk from suicide attackers using fuel tankers as weapons. The leak released initially by AP, was confirmed by the FBI, but they say is based on one source in California, which may not be reliable. Nonetheless, many news outlets are running with the story, CBS describing the threat as “ominous”. The US cities under threat were named as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The leaked Dept of Homeland Security report said "no other intelligence exists to corroborate this specific threat", but the intelligence report was “highly specific”, saying al-Qaeda planned to employ various types of fuel trucks as "vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices" in an effort to cause mass casualties before September 19. [The Australian]The report says the terrorist cells thought to be planning the attack will "execute the plan upon receipt of an order". It goes on to speculate that the recent videotape released by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qa'ida's deputy leader, may have been "the activation signal to the cells". And London was added to the list of possible targets, according to reports in many of today’s papers. The original report had however made no mention of London. This comes on the same weekend as a report in the Independent said there was ‘no link’ between the two attacks in London. The Independent said initial findings from the investigation into the July 7 suicide bombings that killed 52 people, and the failed second wave of attacks on July 21, showed the cells were not connected. It quoted an unnamed counter-terrorist source, "The key point is that the events are not connected… It appears they were self-contained, rather than being organised by some kind of mastermind”. The newspaper said police and MI5 feared the findings suggested more "self-sufficient" units similar to the July 7 cell were hiding in Britain. The investigation reportedly concluded that the alleged plotters behind the July 21 incidents were probably "copycats", targeting Tube trains and a bus. [Reuters]
[11:13 GMT 14/08/05]

Cypriot plane crash kills 121

A Helios Boeing 737 has crashed into a mountain in Greece killing all on board. F-16 jets were sent to escort the plane into the airport when it went down with all 115 passengers and 6 crew. Authorities have not yet ruled out terrorism, CNN have reported. However it is likely the pane crashed because of a technical error. Reuters report a text message was sent from a passenger's phone to his cousin saying, "the pilots have turned blue". The Cypriot plane was on route to Athens from Larnaca.
[11:20 GMT 14/08/2005]

Friday, August 12, 2005

Omar Bakri banned from UK

The Home Office today excluded Omar Bakri Mohammed from the UK only a week after he fled to Lebanon. The reaction from Anjem Chowdry, a close friend and former member of al Muhajiroun a radical Islamic movement, described Bakri's exclusion as "outrageous". Bakri was brought in for questioning by Lebanese authorities this week as he was about to appear on a television interview. It is not clear what the reasons behind his detention was. Meanwhile police in Australia have been talking to the family of a former soldier. It is believed that Mathew Stewart is the man who appeared in a 'terror video' released earlier this week and shown on al Arabiya TV. Mathew Stewart, a private in the army's 2RAR regiment until being discharged on psychological grounds, has been high on a government priority watch-list since he crossed the Iranian border into Afghanistan on August 4, 2001, a month before the attacks on the US on September 11. He had reportedly converted to Islam. But whereas his mother, Vicki, said the man was not her son, a close friend, Adam Miechel, said, "It looks like kim, it sounds like him as well". Authorities remain open minded as to te identity of the individual. In the video, the masked man, wearing combat gear and holding an automatic rifle, says: "The honourable sons of Islam will not just let you kill our families in Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir and the Balkans, Indonesia, the Caucasus and elsewhere. It is time for us to be equals. As you kill us, you'll be killed. As you bomb us, you will be bombed." [The Australian]
[09:40 GMT 12/08/2005]

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Tourists put off by police shooting

The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes continues to cause controversy as media outlets around the world discuss the merits of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy. The Washington Post's editorial on Wednesday described the shooting as ‘HORRIFIC’, but “if lethal force is necessary to stop a suicide bomber, it has to be a killing shot away from the torso -- that is, a shot to the head.” It also had its concerns. “As the London tragedy shows, accurately identifying a suicide bomber with split-second timing is difficult. And shoot-to-kill mistakes are irreversible.”
Something not lost on the Brazilian family and many others around the world. The Pakistani Daily Times questioned why de Menezes had not been stopped earlier.” What were the police ‘specialists’ thinking of when they allowed a suspected bomber to board a bus and to sit among the passengers for fifteen minutes? Since Jean apparently stood and waited at the No 2 bus stop, would it not have been more intelligent to accost him then and there?”
The Sunday Times [31st July] reported in a article entitled ‘Shoot to kill without warning’, “Police clearly believed that de Menezes might have been a suicide bomber, even though he was not carrying a rucksack. This raises a key question: why was de Menezes allowed to board a bus in Tulse Hill and travel to Stockwell, if officers thought that his body might be rigged with explosives? It also raises questions about the new shoot-to-kill protocol. The protocol — which is specific to individual targets — can be put into force only when police have reason to believe that a suspect may be carrying a bomb. The order can be issued only by a “gold commander” at Scotland Yard.” So what was it that caused police to believe he was a suicide bomber. “The man, according to the police, was suspect because of his “clothing and behaviour”. He had been followed from a house that had been under surveillance. When he was challenged at Stockwell, he ignored instructions and ran. He had vaulted over the ticket barrier and was wearing a dark bulky jacket that could disguise a bomb.” The Sunday Times reported. He had in fact been wearing a denim jacket. “One witness described de Menezes as an Asian with a beard and wires coming out of his torso. The truth is more mundane. De Menezes, an electrician, was travelling to north London to fix a fire alarm.” Having left a ‘terrorist’s house’ and entered a tube station with ‘wires’ hanging out of his jacket, plain clothes police moved in. Lee Ruston, 32, was at the bottom of the escalator that de Menezes ran down. He believes that he heard every word said by officers. According to him, officers did not say the word “police” or offer de Menezes the prospect of arrest. “I heard a voice shouting ‘get on the floor, just get on the floor’. Another voice said the same, ‘get on the floor’. I then heard the crack of gunshots,” he said. After the de Menezes family disputed some of the details, the Home Office hastened to inform the public that he had overstayed his visa and may have had a false stamp in his passport. Many have questioned the intention of this press release “What point were they trying to make? That De Menezes was a foreigner out to take advantage of us? That he belonged to a class of people whose human rights need not be respected?” was one reaction on Counter Punch. And on London Tonight, London’s local news magazine programme, police criticized the coverage the story had generated. One Brazilian Paper, Folha De Sao Paulo, were quoted as saying, “There is a band of 007 type police in plain clothes, with a licence to kill, seeking to avenge British honour with blood”. Tour operators have said the shooting has even effected tourism. There had been “quite a lot of very bad press around the world. A lot is in accurate and ill informed and we’ve been doing our best to make sure that the right message gets out there, and so it is reported correctly in those counties and that people aren’t put off coming to the country or are afraid of the reaction to the police force here in London” said Stephen Dowd, Chief Exec., UK Inbound. But bookings are down, and particularly from France, Germany, Italy and Japan. But visitors from the US weren’t put off, “It happens every day in America, you just shrug it off” said one American tourist.
[00:06 GMT 11/08/2005]

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Space Shuttle Discovery lands safely

Space shuttle Discovery made a successful landing but only after re-routing to California. Bad weather in Florida had posed risks to the crew headed by Eileen Collins. The shuttle touched down at 12:12 GMT [05:12 local time] at Edwards Airforce Base. [BBC]

Nagasaki - 60 years ago

60 years on and a second anniversary this week of an A-bomb attack, this time at Nagasaki. The bomb named 'Fat Man', constructed using plutonium 239, was dropped on the city from a B29 bomber named 'Bockscar'. At 11:02 [local time] on the 9th July 1945 the bomb was dropped, exploding 439 metres above the city. Up to 140,000 people died as a result of the explosion. The coverage of the events at Nagasaki was not covered as extensively as the proceedings at Hiroshima on the 6th July. Euronews started LIVE coverage as proceedings began around 01:45 GMT but dropped after 7 minutes. CNN continued its normal schedule and broadcast Larry King Live, with a special show on the death of ABC anchor Peter Jennings who died today from lung cancer aged 67. He had been with ABC for 22 years. The BBC meanwhile was showing the World Business Report. Sky dipped into proceedings at 01:43 GMT, but only for around 30 seconds. And nuclear energy is currently high on the political agenda as Iran restarted its Uranium enrichment on Monday.
[02:45 GMT 09/08/2005]

Robin Cook's legacy

Following the death of Robin Cook many anti-war groups are 'mourning his death' according to the BBC. One ‘Stop the Coalition Campaigner’ said he would be “sorely missed”. Robin Cook had been a an inspiration to the anti-war movement and a thorn in the side to the Blair government. His question over the policy over Iraq eventually led to his resignation, as Foreign Secretary, on the eve of war. In his departing speech he said, “Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create? Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.” His concern was also the loss of life that would result. “None of us can predict the death toll of civilians from the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq, but the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at least in the thousands.” Various independent ‘think-tanks’ have reported the death toll as high as 100,000, though conservative figures place it between 23,000 and 26,000. [complete speech] And the death toll on all sides continues to rise. More than 2000 coalition personnel have died since hostilities. Thirty six US troops have been killed in the last week alone, over half that lost in July. As well as those killed, there is an ever increasing rise in injured servicemen. Nearly 14,000 US personnel have been wounded since the conflict began in March 2003, just over 7000 of which have returned to duty. Ninety three British troops have so far been killed in the same period, wounded figures are not available. Recent events have been little reported on most news outlets, though CBS often has a nightly round-up, if somewhat brief. The London terror attacks have instead dominated the news with little or no mention of the two attacks on US troops in Haditha, north west Iraq, last week. Nineteen troops from a Reserve Unit in Ohio, were killed in an insurgent ambush [Mon 1st July] as well as roadside bomb attack [Wed 3rd July]. The huge bomb had been placed under the road, detonating as a US armoured vehicle cross over. Fourteen were killed. USA Today has reported the Regimental Combat Team 2 has made “repeated requests” for additional troops only to have them refused. Attacks on Iraqi police and army units, as well as civilians, by insurgents and suicide bombers, has continued relentlessly. On Monday alone there have been several attacks throughout the country. In Samawa, in the south, insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at police in a second day of unrest. On Sunday, hundreds of protesters demanded the governor's resignation and better services. Police shot and killed one protester and wounded 40. The bodies of five policemen, shot dead and thrown in a river, were found in the northern town of Samarra. They were on their way home for vacation when they were killed. A translator working at Baghdad's Doura power station was shot dead, a source at Yarmouk hospital told Reuters. In Fallujah, a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. patrol, west of Baghdad, Iraqi police sources said. There was no immediate confirmation of the attack from the U.S. military and no word on casualties. And two employees of the Iraqi state-owned North Oil Company were shot dead by gunmen in Fatha, 75 km southwest of Kirkuk. In reaction the US has launched another in a serious of anti-insurgent operations. Operation Quick Strike was launched Wednesday, backed with fighter jets, near the city of Haqliniyah in western Iraq. Robin Cook would certainly not have taken pleasure in being right over his predictions on Iraq, but his legacy will live on. In the sense that he was one of the strongest voices against the war in Iraq, there will no doubt be a sigh of relief in certain quarters of government. One would hardly believe he had any enemies, what with the many politicians suddenly singing his praise in the hours following his death. Tony Blair said, following the announcement of his death, "Robin was an outstanding, extraordinary talent - brilliant, incisive in debate, of incredible skill and persuasive power." Evidently not persuasive enough.
[01:36 GMT 09/08/2005]

Monday, August 08, 2005

Radical cleric Omar Bakri flees UK

Omar Bakri Mohammed has left the country Channel 4 News has reported tonight. The radical cleric, a former meber of Al Muhajiroun, has fled to Lebanon according to reports. He has courted controversy for 'inciting terrorism' and told Channel 4 News on Friday that he would not report a suicide bomber to police. He apparently left Britain on Saturday. This comes in the wake of possible changes to the British law proposed earlier this week by Tony Blair in order the combat the 'new enemy in our midst'. Meanwhile four would-be bombers arrived at a high security court at Belmarsh today charged with a number of terror related offences. All were remanded in custody until November.
[18:30 GMT 08/08/2005]

London bombings - Three more charged

Three more people have been charged with conspiracy to murder people in the 21 July London failed attacks. Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, suspected of the failed Hackney bus bombing, and Ramzi Mohammed, 23, suspected of the attempted Oval Tube bombing are due to appear at court on Monday. Another man, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 32, is charged over an unexploded device found at Little Wormwood Scrubs park in west London. [BBC report]
[00:57 GMT 08/08/2005]

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hiroshima - 60 years ago

Sixty years ago today. The first atomic device to be used in war, it was dropped by the Enola Gay, a US bomber on Japan. It exploded over Hiroshima at 08:15 local time on the 6th of August 1945 killing an estmated 140,000 people
[01:20 GMT 07/08/2005]

Warren Street 'bomber' charged

Yassin Omar, one of the alleged would-be suicide bombers, has been charged with conspiracy to murder London transport passengers and possessing an explosive substance it has been reported [BBC]. Earlier it emerged that one of the alleged bombers had been reported to the police but no action was taken. Hussain Osman was named as an extremist troublemaker and reported to the police two years ago, Channel Four News reported Friday night. Several other media outlets were reporting the story today in which it is alleged that Osman was accused of inciting racial and religious hatred among the community, of harassment, intimidation and threats. The complaint was made in July 2003 by a South London Mosque - but they were told the police's hands were tied. Extradition proceedings are still pending. Meanwhile, three men have been charged for failing to disclose information about the failed London bombings were remanded in custody. Under tight security Shadi Abdel Gadir, 22, and Omar Nagmeloin Almagboul, 20, both of Dyke Road, Brighton, and Mohamed Kabashi, 23, of Mary Magdalene Road, Brighton, appeared at Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court in central London. All had been arrested in Brighton on the 31st July. On Friday, Hussain Osman’s wife and sister-in-law denied failing to disclose information about the suspect. Yeshiemebet Girma, 29, and Mulumebet Girma, 21, are alleged to have withheld details about the suspected failed Shepherd's Bush attacker Hussain Osman. Bow Street Magistrate's Court was told that Yeshiemebet was the wife of Osman, also known as Hamdi. And in 'Breaking News' the Sunday Telegraph has reported a connection with the bombers and Saudi Arabia. According to the paper "Two senior al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia made money transfers and used coded text messages to communicate with suspected terrorists in Britain before last month's attacks in London, according to officials in the kingdom."
[00:25 07/08/2005]

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Robin Cook has died aged 59

The former Foreign Minister and MP Robin Cook has died following a collapse whilst on a walk in the Scottish highlands. The BBC reported that he collapsed on Ben Stack near Laxford Bridge in northern Scotland at around 14:30 BST [UTC +1]. He was given CPR [Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation] and transferred to Raigmore hospital, in Inverness, by a coastguard helicopter. Sky announced his death shortly before 19:00 BST [UTC +1]
[17:56 GMT / 18:56 BST 06/08/2005]

Italy - plane crash kills 14

A twin prop Tunisian plane has crashed 30 km north of Palermo, Italy, CNN reports. The plane was bound for Djerba, Tunisia from Bari, Italy. The plane, carrying 39 people crashed into the sea after 'technical dificulties'. Nineteen people have been rescued and at least 14 have perished, officials have told CNN. The BBC have reported 9 dead. The plane is said to be an ATR-42
[16:54 GMT 06/08/2005]

Robin Cook - 'seriously ill'

It has been reported that Robin Cook has been taken to hospital after a collapse. He is said to be 'seriously ill' according to Sky News. ITV News has said the former cabinet minister was on a mountain walk in Scotland when he collapsed. ITV reports that he was airlifted by a helicopter sent from Stornway. The identity of the individual has not officially been released.
[16:34 GMT 06/08/2005]

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Zawahiri - new terror tape aired

Ayman Al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command, resurfaced mid afternoon Thursday with a message to stir the hornets nest. In a video shown on Al Jazeera television he pointed the blame for London’s attacks firmly at the Prime Minister. “To the British, I am telling you that Blair brought you destruction in the middle of London…” He made a stark warning of “more to come”. Making further threats to the United State he added, “what you saw in New York and Washington and what you are seeing in Afghanistan and Iraq, all these are nothing compared to what you will see next.” He referred to Osama bin Laden and a statement he had made ordering the removal of foreign forces from “the Land of Mohammed”. Zawahiri also mentioned the Middle East crisis, saying that the US “would never dream of peace until we actually live it in Palestine”. With regard to Iraq he said, “If you don’t leave today, certainly you will leave tomorrow, and after tens of thousands of dead, and double that in disabled and wounded.”
George Bush spoke later about the tape saying that, “Part of their goal is to drive us out of the Middle East”, but, “We will stay on the offence against these people”. Labeling them as terrorists and killers he said, “We will stay the course, we will finish the job…We’re training Iraqis, and we will leave as soon as possible”. On what ‘soon as possible’ meant, he said, “As Iraq stands up, our coalition will stand down”. The War on Terror was “a clash of ideologies, freedom versus tyranny…” Prime Minister Tony Blair has so far refused to comment on the tape.
As strong as the rhetoric is, it is unclear what influence such a broadcast plays. Muslims around the world are debating greatly amongst themselves following the 7/7 attacks. Many Imams have indeed criticized the attacks but there are always the few who are stirred by such speeches. MP George Galloway also ruffled some feathers with a speech widely reported as praising suicide bombers as martyrs. Speaking on Syrian television he said, "These poor Iraqis - ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons - are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable…We don't know who they are, we don't know their names, we never saw their faces, they don't put up photographs of their martyrs, we don't know the names of their leaders." His comments have been condemned by many opposition MPs. [Full transcript of Zawahiri speech from the BBC]
[19:01 GMT 04/08/2005]

London - 30% fall in tube passengers

The reaction to the London attacks is beginning to filter through after figures are released. Passenger numbers are down 30% on the London Underground network at weekends. The weekday numbers are also down between 5 and 15% according to a TfL spokesman. The attacks closed several lines accounting for some 10% of the network. And a massive police presence seems to be doing little to raise confidence. Most of those avoiding the tube are daytrippers and those that otherwise have no need of travelling into or around London. The radio talk shows receive dozens of calls from those concerned enough either not to travel into London or to only use taxis. But one taxi driver, who texted BBC LDN tonight, expressed his desire to ‘get out’ of London.
On Thursday morning the Piccadilly line came back online. Fifteen stations were put out of action after the attack at Kings Cross closed the Piccadilly line. All lines are now up and running, though the East London line was affected late Thursday afternoon by what TfL described as a ‘customer incident’.
But it doesn’t take much to make London all jittery. An engine fire on a London bus on Tuesday [15:30 BST] was enough to send commuters fleeing and emergency services calling a ‘full emergency’. Rolling news was interrupted to bring the viewer LIVE coverage of the Breaking News. CNN broke the ‘news’ using an ITV News feed. Sky too broke the news and eventually brought a Live traffic camera image to viewers. Within the hour it was clear what the incident was. The debate on CNN then shifted to the ‘nervous London’ angle.
Interest in First Aid courses and the purchase of first aid kits has risen significantly since the attacks. Some product manufacturers accused of capitalising on the events of 7/7. But whereas some have sold products to make profit from the attacks, others have been attempting to ‘scam’ the unsuspecting recipients of an e-mail. The unsolicited e-mail has been targeted to thousand of addresses and urges the recipient to respond with their bank details in order to claim a part of the estate of one of the bomb victims. The message claims to have been sent by a London bank and claims the recipient has been identified as the next of kin to Giles Hart, a British Telecom engineer who was killed in the 7/7 bus bomb. The 419 scam, named after the Nigerian penal code relevant to the crime, and from where many scams originate, was identified by spam researchers at Sophos Labs in the UK. Sophos is one of the leading anti-virus security firms.
[18:57 04/08/2005]

NYPD leak information on London bombs

One month on and another ‘leak’. Ray Kelly of the NYPD gave details of the chemistry behind the explosives as well as trigger devices. A reporter Erika Martinez from the New York Post described the ability to make explosives from ‘household chemicals’ as “disturbing”. DCI Andy Trotter, of London’s Metropolitan Police, said the release of information was “unhelpful”. Channel 4 News describing it as a ‘dog’s breakfast’, a former Security Director was asked the purpose, by US authorities, of releasing such information. Sal Lifrieri, New York Mayor’s Security Director, 1996-2001, suggested the information was probably released in order to make a community “hyper vigilant” and to enable them to identify the risks. “Unless you can direct them to specific behaviour…you can’t see the wood for the trees”. It is not the first leak to come from US sources. ABC released photographs of several crime scenes related to the 7/7 attacks on July 26th. There has also been a continual stream of information coming from Italian authorities surrounding the individual held in connection with the Shepherd’s Bush failed attacks. Hussain Osman’s lawyer has also been very forthcoming with information which will no doubt cause problems for any upcoming trial. Latest revelations, published in the The Daily Telegraph, say the alleged would-be suicide bomber only had ‘flour’ in his bombs. "I value life too highly," he said. "I've never thought of dying. Just the thought of it terrifies me. It was a demonstrative action. In that backpack there was a detonator, but the rest was flour. It was only supposed to go bang, and frighten people." This will certainly fuel the conspiracy sites, of which there are a growing number surfacing on the internet.
[18:53 GMT 04/08/2005]

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

NASA - Discovery undergoes repairs in Space

Astronauts Steve Robinson and Jim Kelly are today making repairs on the Space Shuttle Discovery. It follows a six and a half hour space walk on Saturday [BBC] and Monday [BBC] during which assessments of damage to the heat shield were made along with other tasks. Today's mission will see the astronauts repair what's known as 'gap fillers'. Astronauts have never fixed a shuttle's heatshield on a spacewalk before - or gone under an orbiting shuttle. LINKS - Shuttle Tracking #1 or Shuttle Tracking #2 and NASA TV
[12:25 GMT 03/08/2005]

War on Terror - extraditions, compensation & dead

Haroon Rashid Aswat may be deported to the UK from Zambia after he fled there following the London terror attacks. The US authorities are also seeking his extradition in connection with an alleged setting up of a terror training camp in Oregon, USA. [BBC]

Police have said there is a 600% rise in hate crimes since the attacks, compared to the same period last year. [BBC]
£11,000 compensation has been allocated to each of the victims of the 7th July attacks. The figure is set by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, victims families each received £2M.

In Iraq, 14 US troops have died in a roadside bomb attack. It brings the total of US casualties in the last three days to 21. Fifty four US troops were lost to insurgent attacks last month. [Iraq Casualties] An American journalist, Steven Vincent, has been found shot dead in Basra four days after he wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times criticizing the spread of Shi'ite Islamist fundamentalism in the southern Iraqi city. He was found late Tuesday with multiple gun shot wounds to the chest according to Reuters.
[11:49 GMT 03/08/2005]

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Toronto - fire on Air France jet

Reports in the last hour say a plane has been involved in a major incident just outside Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Air France flight 358 apparently [16:03 local time] skidded off the runway as it arrived from Charles de Gaulle Airport. It landed on runway 24. As it came to rest some 200 metres beyond the end of the runway a fire broke out. It is believed all of the 297 passengers and 12 crew were evacuated safely. Only minor injuries to some 14 passengers are reported. There are reports of lightning stormsat the time of the incident.
[22:15 GMT/UTC 02/08/2005]

Monday, August 01, 2005

Divided loyalties in the War on Terror

The Italian authorities were only one of many sources of ‘leaked’ information this week. ABC has again invited criticism, this time from the Russian government. An interview with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, Russia’s most wanted, prompted a storm of protests from the Russian Ambassador and MPs. Taus Djabrailov, a pro-Moscow Chechen politician, said, “Even the tragic events on the London Underground have not prompted the West to realise what a threat people like Basayev pose to the whole world”. There is also some embarrassment for the Russian authorities since they themselves have not been able to locate Basayev. And the War on Terror took another blow for the US over the weekend. Uzbekistan authorities have ordered the US to quit their country within weeks. The US has used the country as a launch pad in the War on Terror in Afghanistan. The reason for the turn against the United States has been blamed on recent, if not belated, criticism by the US for the heavy handed government clampdown against pro-democracy campaigners in the last two months.
[19:26 GMT 01/08/2005]

Terror suspect resists extradition

Charged with international terrorism, the Shepherd’s Bush ‘bomber’ now awaits his extradition from Rome. But there will be much delay before he returns to the UK. His solicitor said he would fight his extradition vociferously. Hussain Osman was captured when Italian police moved in on his mobile phone signal after being informed by UK authorities he’d left the country. On Tuesday 26th he left for Rome from Waterloo Station in London. He travelled via Paris, Milan and Bologna before arriving in Rome on Friday 29th. He had apparently then gone to his brother’s flat which was raided by police later in the same day. Osman was sitting quietly on a sofa as they made their arrest. And the Italian authorities have indeed been forthcoming with many details of this high profile suspect. His solicitor has been allowed to see Hussain Osman and has also revealed much. He claims the four did not wish to hurt anyone in their failed attacks, and that the action was to make a protest over Iraq. The Ethiopian, who then took Somali citizenship in order to enter Britain easier, according to Channel 4 news, told judges on Friday that he and his three accomplices had viewed videos of Iraq, “especially those in which you saw women and children killed and exterminated by English and American soldiers”, he said. Reports were carried in many Italian newspapers and prosecutors are no doubt reeling as to how it may affect prosecutions in Britain of the several suspects held here. Osman said they had “no link with the Pakistanis”, a reference to the 7th July bombers, three of which were of Pakistani descent. If Osman’s claims turn out to be true, it would seem to indicate two unconnected cells were to blame for the London attacks. His intention “not to kill” may have been achieved, but the fear injected into the British psyche has been profound. Police patrol London’s streets and transport system with guns. Stop & Search, primarily targeted at ‘dark skinned, men of between 18 and 30’ is beginning to create tension. And racist murders and attacks are increasing. The figures are difficult to assess since it is difficult to make a direct connection or causal link to the attacks.
Of the suspects held in the UK little has been revealed of their status. Until Monday they will no have had access to a solicitor and no details have been released by British police. They have 14 days to bring charges.
[19:15 GMT 01/08/2005]