Friday, June 30, 2006

Gaza under seige after soldier's kidnap

Sunday saw the abduction of an Israeli soldier and the death of two others at a border checkpoint. Since then, the escalation of retaliatory action by Israeli authorities has culminated in the bombing of the main power station in Gaza, the targeting of two bridges leading into the main town of Raffah and the Palestinian Authority Interior Ministry Building. The White House called on the Palestinians to release the hostage and the Israelis to hold back from extreme action and urged them to “shoe restraint”. But it was extreme action which was promised by the Israeli authorities, if the soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, was not returned. The reaction by Palestinian militant groups was to increase the tension by kidnapping two Israeli settlers. One militant group showed an id card of one of the settlers and demanded Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza strip. The group holding the soldier threatened to execute the soldier if Israel did not withdraw. Israel continued to assert its authority with the buzzing of the parliament buildings in Syria which is seen as having strong ties to Hamas and is currently paying host to one of its exiled leaders. The planes were chased out of Syrian airspace by the Syrian Airforce. And so by Thursday there existed a tense stand-off. And so to Friday. Saturation coverage of the ongoing bombardments has diminished – BBC24, Sky News and even CNN all spending a large proportion of airtime on World Cup Football and Wimbledon Tennis coverage. But besides continuing bombardments and an increase in political pressure from Israeli authorities, the soldier and an Israeli settler remain in Palestinian hands. The fate of 1 Israeli settler was sealed Friday, when his body was found on the West Bank. Jewish settler Eliyahu Asheri, 18, had been kidnapped by the Popular Resistance Committees. They have threatened further kidnaps and killings [CNN]. The third day of the Israeli campaign in Gaza followed Israel's arrests of dozens of Palestinian officials and heavy shelling of the territory Thursday. Israel announced on Friday that it was revoking the Jerusalem residency rights of four arrested Hamas officials. Israeli war planes hit the Palestinian Authority's Interior Ministry building in Gaza City early Friday. The Israeli military said the building was being used "for directing and planning terror activities." Later on Friday, 4 militants were targeted by an Israeli airstrike as they traveled in a car within northern Gaza. Some of the militants were said to have escaped injury according to latest reports from Reuters and relayed by Sky News. Meanwhile Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has denounced Israel's offensive in Gaza as an attempt to bring down the Hamas-led government [BBC]. Protests have been seen Friday, both in Turkey and Gaza itstelf in support of the Hamas led goverment Posted by Picasa

Please Stand By

Apologies to all readers. Due to unforeseen technical difficulties this blog has not been updated this week. This has primarily been due to a failed internet connection. This downtime has served to tie up many resources and as such posting of stories has been held up. A normal service will resume as soon as possible. Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 23, 2006

Media 'sceptical' over 'terrorists' arrested in honey trap

Sixteen hours after the BBC broke the news [0:15 GMT] about an ongoing terror raid in the Miami area a press conference finally filled in the blanks after a day of speculation and guesswork. CNN briefly mentioned it prior to Larry King Live, whose guest was the FBI chief Robert Mueller. He refused to be drawn on detail about the ‘ongoing operation’.
Seven members of a black Muslim group were arrested in a sting that has, according to US officials, thwarted an attack “as equal or greater than 9/11”. Speaking at a press conference midday Friday [16:00 GMT] the a spokesman described how members of the South Florida Terrorism Task Force had infiltrated the group posing ‘members of al-Qaeda’. Alexander Acosta, US Attourney of Miami, Florida, said the men had talked of launching attacks on the Sears Towers in Chicago, America’s tallest building, and the FBI Building in Miami. An FBI official, Jonothan Soloman, spoke of some group members expressing the view of wanting to “kill all the Devils we can”. However there were no explosives, nor, apparently the means by which the group of men might carry out the attacks, the spokesman conceded to journalists’ questions. However, he insisted there was enough evidence to show they had the “intent to carry out such action”. Officials also spoke of a “new kind of terrorism” which America faced. There was an air of scepticism from some broadcasters. Even before the press conference Sky News had questioned the strength of the evidence or the danger the group posed. Sky correspondent Keith Graves described the group as “amateurish” and said, “I think what happened is that these guys started talking, as I guess what angry young Muslims tend to do, about what they see as the iniquity of America’s operation in Iraq, and the FBI have picked up on telephone conversations…and so an FBI agent has been planted and he’s persuaded them he was a member of al-Qaeda…so effectively they walked into a trap…” . The arrested men were part of a 50 strong group, the Seas of David, who according to some reports often paraded after dark, in military fatigues and practiced martial arts. CNN broke away from the press conference, Johnathon Mann describing the journalists’ questions as “sceptical”. And as further details emerged the comment was “curious”. Curious also that the Federal authorities should name the target so distinctly and yet say that at “no time was it at risk nor is it currently at risk from attack”. But the raids have heightened the concerns of those who work in the towers which look over the city of Chicago at a height of 442 metres. The seven men charged on an indictment obtained by CNN are Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudemar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin and Rotschild Augustine. Speaking after a brief hearing at a Miami court, Mylene Phanor, sister of Stanley Grant Phanor, said her brother was innocent and had nothing to with terrorism. “Whatever he [Batiste] did the other men are nothing to do with it” she said to reporters. Narseal Batiste is said to be the ringleader of the group.[New York Times /Miami HeraldPosted by Picasa

Thursday, June 22, 2006

War on Terror - Global Tensions Increase

Bush holds a 32% approval rating for his War on Terror
It has been two weeks since the US forces killed the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq. But the violence has continued unabated. Despite encouragements from US generals that the Iraqi people might celebrate Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s demise, there is little the average Iraqi can feel comfortable about in a country that sees atrocities and violence from all sides. And there are continued allegations that US troops have engaged in ‘cold-blooded murder’ during their ‘occupation’.
And the murders and abductions, by insurgents, of Iraqi citizens also continue. All this despite a crackdown by US and Iraqi forces in and around Baghdad to quell the insurgency. A curfew briefly called a halt to the violence but no sooner than the restrictions were lifted than the bombings and killings restarted. Major General William Caldwell, the Multinational Forces spokesman, said the operation had uncovered a ‘kidnapping ring’ and freed 8 kidnap victims. He added that the Iraqi forces had been a significant help in the fight against the insurgency. “They’re obviously very familiar with their own country and their own city”, he said. But besides dozens of checkpoints, bombings and shoot-outs saw the death of at least 2 Iraqis in Baghdad, and at least 11 were killed in the Baquba area of the country. A short unannounced visit by George W Bush did little other than to bolster morale amongst US forces. Meanwhile it was announced that Abu al-Masari had relaced Zarqawi. He is believed to be responsible for many suicide attacks.

The efforts to crush the increased violence in Afghanistan continued over the week with several operations resulting in the capture and killing of many Taleban fighters.

Meanwhile a bi-partisan group has criticised the effectiveness of the US led War on Terror. Speaking on CNN, Larry Korb, from the Center for American Progress, said that many Americans feel the US government was “not doing well” in its effort against the rise in terrorism. Many foreign policy experts expressed the opinion that within a decade the US mainland would see a “London or Madrid style attack”. A combined ABC / Washington Post poll suggested that only 32% of Americans approved of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. Many cited the war in Iraq, reliance on Middle East fuel and the “abuses at camps such as Guantanamo Bay” as making America “less safe”. Bush said he was a little jet-lagged after his return from Iraq, but he said he was resolute in his efforts to see the job done. He also turned to the contentious issue of camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After much international criticism he said that he too wished to see the closure of the camp, but that there were many dangerous terrorists at the camp who needed to be tried and convicted before this could happen. Three prisoners committed suicide at the camp at the weekend and one official described the actions as a “PR stunt” and an “act of war against America”. There are currently more than 450 prisoners remaining at the prison camp and the Supreme Court is likely to rule later this month whether or not the men detained would receive a fair trial in a military court. Speaking in the Rose Garden, Bush said, “My message to the Iraqis is that we’re going to help you succeed, my message to the enemy is don’t count on us leaving before we succeed, and my message to the troops is we support you 100%, keep doing what you’re doing”. Prime Minister al-Maliki said he sought talks with insurgents, except those who had killed Iraqi citizens. There are also concerns for increased terrorist activity in eastern Turkmenistan. In the SCO Summit Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit] coverage on CCTV 9 the debate surrounded a lack of agreement between China and US over terror suspects held by the US. China wants the return of the suspects so that they can be dealt with in their own country. Closer ties with Hamad Karzai’s Afghan government were also being built on. Karzai has meanwhile criticised the US led war against the Taleban insurgency [BBC]. “I have systematically, consistently and on a daily basis warned the international community of what was developing in Afghanistan... and of a change in approach by the international community in this regard”, he said on Wednesday.

In Indonesia the believed spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Bakar Bashir was released this week. He is accused by many of being responsible for inspiring the Bali terrorist attacks which killed more than 200 in 2002.

Wednesday saw the murder of another of Saddam Hussein’s defence lawyers. He was abducted and found dead in a Baghdad suburb [BBC]. Khamees al-Ubaidi was one of the chief defence lawyers in the ongoing trial. In Mosul 16 people were found dead. And two US soldiers abducted on Friday last week [16th June] were found dead early this week. Both were said to have been tortured. In a press conference on Tuesday a coalition spokesman said that over 8,000 troops had been deployed in operations to find the men and that there had been successes. Several insurgents had been killed and 78 detained since Friday. Two further US troops are listed as missing in action and eleven other US citizen are also listed as missing. Referring to the most recent abduction, Major General Caldwell said, “Our resolve will continue until the final disposition and take the appropriate action against those who perpetrated this event” [BBC]. He also spoke of coalition successes in dispatching two high profile insurgent leaders. One man, Mansur Sulayman Mansur Khalif [al-Mahsadani] aka Sheikh Mansur, a 35 year old had previously been captured but was later realeased in autumn 2004 when he is said to have joined al-Qaeda in Iraq. He is said to be responsible for shooting down coalition aircraft in 2006.

Japan’s PM Koisumi said in a press conference that the time was ready for Japan to pull out most of its troops from the country. Many of Japan’s citizens have criticised Koisumi’s decision to deploy troops in Iraq. The country’s constitution forbids the use of Japan’s armed forces in anything other than the defence of Japan itself, many feeling that the Prime Minister has stretched the spirit of the constitution.

During a one day visit to Vienna’s EU-US Summit, George Bush reiterated his concerns over Iran’s nuclear policy. North Korea’s nuclear ambition was highlighted and the President said, “It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes that announce that they have nuclear weapons fire missiles”. Concerns over a possible long-range missile test have increased concerns in South Korea and Japan. Tensions were said to be high in Japan especially as previous missile tests have breached Japanese airspace before crashing into the sea. The new missile is believed to have a range of over 4,000 km. Britain is meanwhile debating the upgrade of its nuclear deterrent. More than £25 billion has been pledged towards an upgraded nuclear defence system [BBC].

Iraq also dominated the EU-US Summit with the US President reiterating his position regards the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Further abductions in Baghdad occurred on Wednesday. Insurgents arrived at a factory and forced up to 80 workers into buses before taking them off to unknown locations. The incident happened at around 15:00 local time [11:00 GMT] [BBC].

Also Wednesday, an insurgent website declared that a terrorist killed in Saudi Arabia in 2004, was to have been the 20th hijacker during the 9/11 terror plot [CNN]. The video, released on Tuesday, shows clips of Fawaz al-Nashmi -- also known as Turki bin Fhaid al-Mutairi. It follows by a few days another Web posting from the group that claims al-Nashmi was the man chosen by Osama bin Laden to be the 20th hijacker.
CBS reported on Wednesday that 8 US troops may face trial for ‘premeditated murder’. It is alleged that an Iraqi man who was pulled from his home and shot while U.S. troops hunted for insurgents. They could face the death penalty if convicted. The case is separate from the alleged killing by other Marines of 24 Iraqi civilians in the western Iraqi city of Haditha last November. A pair of investigations related to that case are still under way, and no criminal charges have yet been filed. And in another article CBS suggested the insurgency was thriving after Zarqawi’s death. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Released 'Terror suspects' tell of their terror ordeal

Brothers Abul Koyair and Mohammed Abdul Kahar
The two arrested, and subsequently released brothers, who were the subject of a terror raid 11 days ago, today held a press conference. CNN were the first to break away to the conference, followed soon thereafter by Sky News and BBC 24. Both UK broadcasters were delayed by a press conference held by David Beckham, team captain of the England squad in Baden Baden. After a short introduction, the brother who was shot started to speak. Mohammed Abdul Kahar said, “At about 4 O’clock in the morning I was woken up by screams from my brother”. The conference then halted as one of the brother’s representatives asked the press to refrain from using flash. Kahar continued, “I got out of bed, I just had boxer shorts and a t-shirt, I open my door and I took the lead in front of my brother.” He said he was confused as to what was happening, “I assumed a robbery was happening, my brother was still screaming and as soon as I turned around all I saw was a orange spark [and heard] a big bang, I see a hole in my chest, I thought an armed robbery as taken place, and the officer then said ‘Shut the f*** and stay their’, but I still wasn’t aware they were police, all I heard them say was ‘secure the room, secure the room’.” He spoke of further assault as he was taken from the house at 46, Lansdown Road in Forest Gate, East London. “I was dragged down the stairs by my left leg hitting my head. I was dragged onto the pavement. And I could hear my mother crying, and I shouted ‘I didn’t do nothing’ and I thought I was gonna die, and the ambulance came and I was put in the ambulance.”

The other brother, Abul Koyair, 20, then described what he experienced. “I got out of my bed and I saw my brother coming out his room and he was going down the stairs and I was behind him, and I saw a flash and heard a loud bang, and then it was really quiet, no-one said anything, and it was like a dream at first…and I thought to myself ‘Why didn’t they shoot me instead’. Then they grabbed me and hit me and told me to “Shut the f*** up’. At this point CNN cut away to the studio with the presenter summing up the proceedings so far. BBC 24 and Sky continued coverage. Kahar then told reporters how he was placed in a boiler suit, bound by the hands and feet and told he was to face terrorism charges. He said he had been shot in the chest and it exited his shoulder. “I was only in hospital for 1 day”. And he claimed pressure had been placed on medical staff to release him into police custody early. On being handed over to police Kahar said he was offered a wheelchair, “But I made a decision to come out walking.” At Paddington police station “They asked many questions asking if I knew various people and whether I knew of any terror organisations…One officer then said ‘I know it’s a daft question but are you a member of the Ku Klux Klan’, they asked it twice in the interview”. Kahar then described his work and social life. He told reporters how he worked at Tescos and worked over 50 hours to support his family. He said he could not understand why they were targeted or where the ‘intelligence’ came from. The BBC cut away at 12:17 [11:17 GMT] after Kahar told reporters that the first words the police said was “shut the f*** up” soon after he’d been shot. Sky continued…

Mohammed Kahar said he was not told by police that they were looking for a chemical bomb and that he only learned this from his solicitor. He said he would like an apology from the police and although compensation was likely to be very high insisted “Money is the least of my worries at the moment”, and said he wanted an apology from the police. His brother Abdul Koyair, 20, said he, nor his family, had any faith in the Police and had previously made enquiries as to becoming a CSO [Community Support Officer]. But of the police involved in the raid he said he bore no malice as they were only doing their job, but blamed the men who gave the orders on spurious information. “Most of the police do a good job” he said, “Without the police there would be chaos”.

Both brothers spoke about how the raid and detention by police for 8 days had affected their life. “It’s turned my life upside down…I keep getting flash backs”, Kahar said, adding that he was on medication to help him sleep. Indeed their life has been turned upside down, along with their parents’ house. The cat has gone missing and what used to be a home is in a state of chaos. Everything has been looked at and bagged up. Tiles removed from the bathroom. Holes drilled in walls and the garden has been dug up, including a vegetable patch which was ready to harvest a crop of broad beans.

As the conference drew to a close Mohammed Kahar said the media were quick to judge and said, “I am against terrorists like anyone else.”

The two brothers are expected to take part in a community march in London on Sunday June 18th. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed in US strike

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed in an airstrike near Baquba. US officials have identified the body from tattoos and fingerprints. The strike which occurred some twenty hours ago [17:00 GMT] also killed a number of other individuals. Maj General Bill Caldwell, a coalition spokesman, said the airstrike was one of 17 similar operations in and around Baghdad. He said the Iraqi people could rejoice having suffered so much over the last three years with their “blood, sweat and tears” [CNNPosted by Picasa

Zarqawi 'dead'

CNN are reporting that Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, has been killed by a US airstrike.
There are few further details at this time [08:58 BST 08/06/2006] Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Police allowed more time to quiz terror suspects

Police have been granted extra time to question two men arrested in a ‘Terror Raid’ on Friday [2nd June]. Both men, speaking through their lawyers, continue to protest their innocence. Police have until Saturday [10th June] to continue their interrogation of the two suspects, Abdul Kahar and Abdul Koyair [Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abdul Koyair]. Posted by Picasa

Cross-Atlantic Terror Raids produce varying results

Police authorities in the UK are expected to ask for an extension to question two brothers detained in a raid in east London last Friday. Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, and Abul Koyair, 20, have been held over an alleged terror plot since the raid on a house in Lansdown Road, Forest Gate. More than 200 police were involved in the raid which has divided the community. Many feel the number of police employed in the raid amounted to overkill and the leader of the Bangladeshi community has raised his concerns suggesting that some may “take the law into their own hands”. Recently-elected Muslim Council of Britain leader Muhammad Abdul Bari visited Forest Gate on Monday and urged police to give a "clear picture" of the operation [BBC]. A local Respect Party activist Yvonne Ridley has called on Muslims in east London to stop co-operating with police. Ms Ridley, who became a Muslim after being kidnapped by the Taleban in Afghanistan five years ago, has accused the police of being heavy-handed. "I don't think the Muslim community should communicate with the police any more until they start showing some respect to the community," she told the BBC. Besides having what the police say was “specific intelligence”, nothing has yet been found in the house connected to any form of terror attack. Prime Minister Tony Blair has meanwhile backed the police “101 percent” [BBC]. Mr Blair said it was essential the police took action if they received "reasonable" intelligence suggesting a terror attack. Reports in the UK press have been full of contradictions and salacious accusations. Sunday’s News of the World ran with a front page headline asserting that Abdul Kahar was shot by his own brother. Some reports suggested the device police were looking for was a ‘cyanide bomb’ whilst others suggested the device was set to disperse the lethal poison Anthrax, others that the device was to spray out Sarin. Both brothers maintain their innocence and have yet to be charged. Since 9/11 more than 1000 people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act, of which 121 have been charged and 23 so far convicted. On the other side of the Atlantic, Canadian authorities have arrested and charged 17 individuals in connection with a terror plot to blow up Canada’s parliament. The raids on Friday and Saturday, and involving 400 police officers, uncovered explosives and home-made detonators. One of the accused, a 25-year-old restaurant worker, is accused of planning to storm Parliament Hill, behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper, take hostages and behead them unless the group’s demands were met, according to his lawyer [Ottawa Citizen / Toronto StarPosted by Picasa

Monday, June 05, 2006

World Cup TV saturation coverage begins

The Pride of the Nation took off this afternoon from Luton airport taking with it England’s hope of winning the World Cup. The saturation coverage will continue for the next two weeks as News channels as well as terrestrial television bring the minute by minute action. Sky brought ‘exclusive’ Skycopter shots as the England coaches arrived shortly before 15:00 BST. BBC [BBC Sport] continued coverage as Sky broke for commercials. They too had aerial pictures of the A320 awaiting the all clear to fly to Baden Baden in Germany. Also in the news today was the debate over the number of flags flying on people’s cars with some taxi drivers and firefighters being ordered to remove them on safety grounds. There has also been the battle of an ‘official anthem’ as several bands compete for recognition with their tribute to the England squad. In three hours they will land in a rather damp Germany. They are due to play Paraguay on Saturday. Many other teams have already sent their teams including Iran, who are meanwhile playing a more difficult game as they spar with the international community over their nuclear policy. Stay tuned to CNN for the more serious news. Their headlines have focused on increased violence in Iraq. Insurgents wearing Iraqi security uniforms kidnapped 50 students. ‘Fake’ uniforms can be easily purchased for around $25 in Baghdad’s so called thieves market [CNN]. CNN also focused on the increased tensions in Somalia. And with further threats made against Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned of oil ‘embargos’ if the US ‘and the rest of the International Community ‘misbehaved’ [CNN]. The effect of his remarks increased the price of fuel per barrel to $73. The tit for tat has also brought with it a threat of barring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the World Cup. Posted by Picasa

7/7 Report - London not ready for another attack

It could happen again - but is London prepared?

A London Assembly report has been released which has raised serious concerns over London’s preparedness for another terror attack as, or more serious as the attacks in July 2005. One main criticism was the lack of radio communications, a problem that still persists. The report recommended digital radio infrastructure be set up as soon as possible. There was no cohesive emergency plan, and as such each emergency were operating under different criteria. Data protection thwarted information flow of patients’ details, and further impeded the processing of casualties. Meeting points were not adequately set up and medical supplies were not available on the underground train network. The response times increased as the morning’s events unfolded. The multiple hits on the transport network overstretched the emergency services and before long problems were compounded by the lack of planning for such an eventuality. Conflicting messages were issued by authorities; schools were told to send pupils home whilst members of the public were told to remain at home and stay off the streets. Information and advice for the public was also lacking. The first press briefing was at 11:15 which was late in providing information, and wrong with certain facts given. Further reports - Sky News / BBC
MPs' findings
Official account of events
London Assembly 7 July report (2.17MB) Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 02, 2006

UK - Terror raid on London 'bomb factory'

Up to 250 police have been involved in a raid on an east London property arresting two individuals in what is believed to be connected to a terrorist bomb factory. The raid occurred at around 4.00 BST [03.00 GMT] and one of the suspects is believed to have been shot. Witnesses have described a man being carried away in a blood stained t-shirt. Officers dressed in CBRN [Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear] suits were deployed to the scene on Lansdown Road, Forest Gate. Sky News were providing LIVE coverage from several angles by early morning but their Skycopter was prevented from covering from the air due to an air exclusion zone. There is significant disruption to the local traffic as roads are filled with media and police. Outside the house a large forensic tent has been erected and an ambulance remains close by. There appears to be no major evacuation around the scene. There are few official details being released but Sky News are reporting that a 23 year old was amongst those arrested. The shot man is said to be under guard in a London hospital but his injuries are not thought to be life threatening. The suspects were believed to be of Pakistani origin and a local resident told the BBC, “I know them, they were very friendly”. Another told the BBC the suspects were brothers in their late teens or early twenties and of Bengali origin. [BBC / Sky NewsPosted by Picasa

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Week of Terror in Iraq & Afghanistan

This week in Iraq has seen further troubles for the new Iraqi government as well as the coalition. On Saturday a US helicopter crashed in Anbar province and two US marines were declared missing [BBC]. The Cobra AH-1 was said to be on a ‘maintenance test flight’ when the crash occurred. On Sunday a report emerged which indicated that 1,000 British troops had deserted since the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 [BBC]. A new law which would forbid a soldier's refusal to participate in the occupation of a foreign country is currently been debated in the British Parliament. Sunday also saw the deaths of two more British troops by a roadside bomb, two others were injured [BBC]. The Ministry of Defence said two members of the Queen's Dragoon Guards were killed in Basra at 1830 BST. It brings the May total to 9 and the total since March 2003 to 113. Violence continued into Monday with at least 6 bombings in Baghdad. Two journalists, one US troop and dozens of Iraqi civilians were killed. Paul Douglas, 48, and James Brolan, 42, who both lived in London, had been working for American network CBS news. Their deaths bring to 71 the number of journalists killed in Iraq [BBC / BBC]. The US death toll rose to 2,466. There are no official figures of civilian deaths, but puts the number at 38,059. Further troubles emerged for the coalition as more details surrounding the ‘Haditha incident’ were published. Charges of murder and dereliction of duty may come as soon as June the US Military has said. But the shocking facts may well be another flame to the already enflamed situation in Iraq. Only a week ago George Bush said he regretted the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and that “we’ve being paying the price for a long time after that”. Allegations of an apparent massacre of unarmed civilians will do little to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of an already angry and volatile population. The new Iraqi PM said he wants to see a swift investigation. There are already accusations of cover-ups as the US military dismissed early reports and failed to investigate. The events are a little unclear but CNN reported that on the November morning in question, a US soldier from Kilo company was killed at 07:15 [local time]. His company then opened fire on a taxi, after, it is claimed, they would not ‘cooperate’. The taxi driver and 4 teenagers were killed. The troops then moved onto a house killing 7 including a woman and child, and in another property a further 8 were killed including 6 women. In another house another 4 men were killed. Speaking on CNN, John Murtha, a US House Democrat, insisted there was a cover-up and said it was, “As bad as Abu Ghraib, if not worse” [BBC]. On the ground the bombs continued to explode. In Baghdad 22 were killed in a market place and over 100 injured and another bomb in a bakery killed 9, injuring 10. South of Baghdad in Hilla 12 were killed and 32 injured in another blast. CNN also reported further US troop deployments as up to 1,500 troops were moved into Anbar province in order to help quell the rising insurgency. By Wednesday the increased violence in the south prompted Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki to declare a month-long ‘state of emergency’ in Basra to arrest the city's slide into chaos. The city has seen the deaths of 100 Iraqis since the beginning of May [BBC]. There was further criticism for US troops Thursday when they fired on a car killing a pregnant woman in labour and on her way to hospital [BBC].

In Afghanistan a military vehicle crash triggered a riot which continued for several hours. Hundreds of Afghanis took part in stoning a US convoy after a military vehicle crashed into civilian vehicles in the centre of Kabul, the country’s capital. Col Thomas Collins, a coalition spokeman said “we will carry out an investigation and cooperate with Afghan authorities”. But anger was evident on the streets as one resident insisted that “Americans killed many civilians”. The official figure has been put at one Afghan citizen dead. The Afghani government said it was the worst day of violence since the Taleban fled in 2001. President Hamid Karzai said, “Those who committed the crimes today will be investigated and we will seriously prosecute them, Afghanis will never tolerate the violence of its internal enemy” [translation – CNNi]. The riots are a significant turn in events in the country. Jason Burke, a journalist and writer, was more positive and said the “impressive pictures” of the riot should be taken in context to the size of the city. But he did raise issue with the length of time it was taking to complete the mission. The BBC reported a slightly different view suggesting the Taleban was returning with a vengeance.
On the other side of the world the Pakastani interior minister announced the imminent release of some detainees from Guantanamo bay [BBC]. Aftab Khan Sherpao, has said that the US had agreed to release eight Pakistani nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay. He told state television that a total of 29 Pakistanis were being held in the Cuban detention centre and that he would press for further releases. Posted by Picasa

UK - Chemical explosion - residents locked down

A series of large explosions have struck an ICI chemical plant in the north of England. Eyewitnesses have described seeing a cloud of green gas following the explosion and an orange glow in the sky after the explosions which occured at around 0:15 BST [23:15 GMT]. Sky News showed the first picture at 01:27 BST. One witness speaking to the UK news station said that residents had been asked to remain indoors due to the risk of a toxic cloud and that he himself had seen "a red cloud" but had seen no flames. No casualties have yet been reported. The plant is said to be an ammonia plant. Posted by Picasa

UK - Chemical Plant explosion

Sky News have reported that a series of large explosions have struck an ICI chemical plant in the north of England. The plant in Billingham, Stockton on Tees in Cleveland is close to a large residential area. The reports came in shortly after 01:00 BST [00:00 GMT]. No casualties have been reported and ICI will only confirm that an incident has occured at the plant.The plant is said to be an ammonia plant. Posted by Picasa