Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Pictured: Jarrar wearing the 'offending' shirt and
the airline JetBlue which barred him
An architect of Iraqi descent was forced to remove a T-shirt emblazoned with a slogan in Arabic the BBC reported today on its website. Raed Jarrar was told by security officials that his T-shirt, which bore the slogan ‘We Will Not Be Silent’ in both Arabic and English, was offensive and asked him to remove the offending item bore boarding a JetBlue flight bound for California on the 12th August. US transport officials are said to be conducting an inquiry after a complaint from the US Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. JetBlue said it was also investigating the incident but a spokeswoman said: "We're not clear exactly what happened." Jarrar said he was “shocked” by the request. He eventually boarded the flight after he was provided with another T-shirt bought for him. "We Will Not Be Silent" is a slogan adopted by opponents of the war in Iraq and other conflicts in the Middle East. It is said to derive from the White Rose dissident group which opposed Nazi rule in Germany [Parker Studio.com]
Kurdistan - A battleground in four countries
Turkey has been hit by further terror attacks. An explosion in a litter bin has injured at least one person in the northern town of Mersin, Sky News has reported. The blast comes two days after a series of 5 explosions hit Istanbul and southern tourist destinations of Marmaris and Antalya. Three were killed in the Antalya blast on Monday, and at least 20 were injured. Twenty one were injured in the Marmaris blasts, and six others were injured in Istanbul’s Bagcilar district.
The bombings are the latest in a series of attacks by the TAK [Teyrebazen Azadiya Kurdistan] believed linked to the Kurdish separatist group the PKK or the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan [List of recent attacks]. Ten people have died and more than 120 injured in the last year in the terrorist attacks by the group which seeks to create an independent Kurdish state consisting of south-easternTurkey, north-eastern Iraq, north-eastern Syria and north-western Iran.
Three more terror plot suspects were yesterday charged with conspiracy to murder [The Guardian / BBC]. It brings to date a total of 15 suspects now charged with plotting to blow up trans-Atlantic flights [charged suspect list]. The newly charged suspects, Nabeel Hussain, Mohammed Shamin Uddin and Mohammed Yasar Gulzar, appeared today at Westminster Magistrates Court surrounded by high security. All three were remanded in custody until 4th September. Of the original 24 arrested, four have been released without charge, and five now remain in police custody and continue to be questioned.
Monday, August 28, 2006
There have been a series of bomb blasts in Turkey. Early reports have indicated that at least 6 may have been killed according to the mother of one eyewitness and the BBC has reported at least 10 injured. At least three blasts hit tourist areas of Marmaris, a popular tourist area in southern Turkey. A minibus is said to have been destroyed in one blast outside a McDonalds restaurant at around 2 am local time. Two other blasts occurred simultaneously in another nearby tourist resort according to Sky News. There are also reports of an explosion in the capital Istanbul. No claims of responsibility have yet been received. The Foreign Office Helpline is 020 7008 0000
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Two Fox News crew abducted in Gaza on 14th August have been freed CNN has reported. The two journalists, correspondent Steve Centanni and freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig, had been held by a little known group the Holy Jihaad Brigade. Earlier reports had suggested the Fox employees had converted to Islam but has been no official clarification. The Hamas government and even militant groups had condemned the kidnapping and had sought to secure the men’s release. Speaking on CNN Steve Centanni said he was relieved to be free. "I'm fine. I'm just so happy to be free", he said. He said there were time when he felt his life was at risk. "There were times when I thought 'I'm dead,' and I'm not," Centanni said. "I'm fine. I'm so very happy." The release marks the end of the longest kidnap of foreign citizens in the Gaza strip.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Umair Hussain, 24, latest to be charged in terror plot
Police have been given more time to question a number of suspects held over a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights. And early this evening another of those held was charged. Eleven other suspects already charged in connection with the plot appeared in court on Tuesday. Those proceedings at Westminster magistrates court began with each suspect entering the court dressed in prison issue sweat shirt and tracksuit bottoms. Each spoke only to confirm their names. Eight were charged with conspiracy to murder and were named as Ahmed Abdullah Ali, 25, Arafat Waheed Khan, 25, Osman Adam Khatib, 19, Assad Ali Sarwar, 26, Umar Islam [aka - Brian Young], 28, Ibrahim Savant, 25, Waheed Zaman, 22, Tanvir Hussain, 25. In addition, Cossar Ali, 23, wife of Ahmed Abdullah Ali, and Mehran Hussain, 23, were charged with failing to disclose information. An un-named 17 year old appeared charged with preparing for acts of Terrorism [Charges in Full]. No applications for bail were made and no pleas were made, though it is expected that they will plead not guilty. Tanvir Hussain’s lawyer, Mohammad Zeb, told the court that his client denied all the allegations. The eight charged with conspiracy to murder will reappear on 4th September. The other three will appear on the 29th August. Of the remaining suspects, two have been released without charge [BBC] and 9 remain in police custody and until today had yet to be charged. But at 17:45 GMT Sky News broke with the news that Umair Hussain, 24, had been charged with failure to disclose information. His solicitor said he was "extremely disappointed". More will be published as soon as the information is available. One of those released is Tayib Rauf whose brother, Rashib, remains in custody in Pakistan [BBC]. The coverage of the story has gradually dwindled in the media. The Times and Daily Telegraph in the UK both ran the story on their front pages but many other papers pushed the story deep inside. The increased security measures, put in place after the terror plot was made public, remain [BBC]. And although baggage restrictions have been made less restrictive, the government has ignored calls to reduce the measures further. The ban on hand luggage over a certain size has affected many travellers. Musicians have been particularly hard hit. The BBC World Service reported yesterday that the ban on cellists and violinists taking their instruments on board has resulted in a loss of employment and even threats of legal action where previously booked commitments are unable to be made. One New York orchestra has already cancelled a trip to Edinburgh concert and an appearance at the BBC Proms [BBC]. Advice for those not travelling to the US was to go to Paris via Eurostar and to take flights from there. But for many soloists travelling to the US, the outlook was bleak. Musicians are often unwilling to be parted from their fragile equipment, and leaving such items in the hold would leave it open to damage. The airlines usually offer only around £12 per Kg in compensation and many insurance companies refuse to cover baggage carried in the hold. Other professionals have also been affected including photographers and others carrying expensive and equipment.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Up to 171 people on board a Tupolev-154 are feared dead after the plane made an emergency landing in the Ukraine. The plane en-route to St Petersburg came down 40 km north-west of Donetsk. Many are said to be children according to CNN. The crew sent a distress signal at 15:37 Moscow time (11:37 GMT), and the plane disappeared from radar screens at 15:39 (11:39 GMT), Irina Andrianova of Russia's Emergencies Ministry told Itar-Tass news agency. The crash comes less than two months after at least 124 people died when a Russian Airbus A-310 skidded off a runway and burst into flames in the city of Irkutsk in Siberia. [BBC]
There is still no word on the fate of two Fox News journalists kidnapped 8 days ago. They were kidnapped in the Gaza strip. And besides pleas by the family and the New Zealand Ambassador for their release their kidnappers have not made any demands nor indicated their condition. The two journalists are correspondent Steve Centanni and freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig, both taken at gunpoint last Monday.
Eleven suspects charged in connection with plotting to blow up trans-Atlantic flights have appeared in court [BBC]. The proceedings began shortly after midday at Westminster magistrates court today [Tuesday]. Eight have been charged with conspiracy to murder and have been named as Ahmed Abdullah Ali, 25, Arafat Waheed Khan, 25, Osman Adam Khatib, 19, Assad Ali Sarwar, 26, Umar Islam [aka - Brian Young], 28, Ibrahim Savant, 25, Waheed Zaman, 22, Tanvir Hussain, 25. Additionally, Cossar Ali, 23, wife of Ahmed Abdullah Ali, and Mehran Hussain, 23, have been charged with failing to disclose information. An un-named 17 year old has been charged with preparing for acts of Terrorism. The trials are not expected to commence until 2007. Eleven other individuals remain in police custody and have yet to be charged. The story is the main headline today contrasting with many broadcasters’ lead yesterday. British news broadcasters, as well as print media, gave over a large proportion of their coverage to the scandal of ball tampering in the world of cricket. CNN did at least reserve that story for their programme World Sport. Their headlines hinged on the Egyptian train crash [CNN] which killed dozens. Other major stories, a train crash in Spain [CNN] and an explosion in Moscow [BBC], were largely ignored by the media. The issue of Iran will likely come to the fore today. Today Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is expected to respond officially to requests for a cessation of Uranium enrichment. The expected response is likely to be a resounding ‘no’ [CNN].
Monday, August 21, 2006
British police have announced that 11 of the 23 arrested in connection with a major bomb plot have been charged with terrorism offences. They have been named as:
Ahmed Abdullah Ali - Conspiracy to Murder
Arafat Waheed Khan - Conspiracy to Murder
Adam Khatib - Conspiracy to Murder
Assad Ali Sarwar - Conspiracy to Murder
Umar Islam [aka - Brian Young] - Conspiracy to Murder
Ibrahim Savant - Conspiracy to Murder
Waheed Zaman - Conspiracy to Murder
Tanvir Hussain - Conspiracy to Murder
Cossar Ali - failure to disclose information
Mehran Hussain - failure to disclose information
un-named17 year old - preparing acts of Terrorism
Speaking at a press conference broadcast on Sky News, BBC 24 and CNN, Susan Hemming of the Crown Prosecution Service said the accused deserved a fair trial and asked that the media be fair and responsible in their reporting. One woman has been released without charge. A further 11 suspects remain under investigation. DAC Peter Clarke from the Metropolitan Police Service told the assembled media that a huge amount of evidence had been gathered both prior to the terror raids and in subsequent searches. He said the evidence gathered at 69 locations in houses, business premises, vehicles and open spaces had unearthed bomb making materials including electronic components and chemicals. He added that the evidence also included so called ‘martyrdom videos’. Data retrieved from 400 computers, 200 mobile phones and 800 data storage devices amounted to 6 terabytes of information [6,000 Gb]. He finished by saying, “Threat from terrorism is real and enduring…and we must not be complacent”.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Some of the terror connections already made
British authorities continue to investigate the plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights this week. Various reports have emerged as searches of properties and areas of woodland have brought up evidence. On Thursday the BBC reported that police had found bomb making materials in woodland in High Wycombe near to where a number of the suspects had been arrested. Police refuse to comment on these and other reports that have appeared in the media [Reuters]. The BBC reported today [Saturday] that police had discovered ‘martyrdom tapes’ in the course of their investigations. A similar claim had also been made in a tabloid newspaper shortly after 24 suspects were arrested on the 10th August. Nineteen of the 24 arrested were named on the Bank of England website after their assets were frozen. They are Abdula Ahmed Ali , from Walthamstow, E17, Cossor Ali , from Walthamstow, E17, Assan Abdullah Khan , from Walthamstow, E17, Waheed Arafat Khan  from Walthamstow, E17, Osman Adam Khatib , from Walthamstow, E17, Muhammed Usman Saddique  from Walthamstow, E17, Ibrahim Savant , from Walthamstow, E17, Amin Asmin Tariq  from Walthamstow, E17, Waheed Zaman  from Walthamstow, E17, Nabeel Hussain , from Chingford, E4, Tanvir Hussein , from Leyton, E10, Umair Hussein , from London, E14, Abdul Muneem Patel , from Hackney, E5, Shamin Mohammed Uddin , from Stoke Newington, London N16, Umar Islam , from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Waseem Kayani , from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Shazad Khuram Ali , from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Assad Sawar , from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Tayib Rauf , from Birmingham. Of the 24 arrested, one man was released without charge the following day. A further arrest was made on the 15th of August but he too was later released without charge. Police are to continue questioning the remaining 23 suspects until later next week. So far no charges have yet been made and news media are clamoring for information about the known arrested suspects before it becomes a matter of subjudiciary. The plot to blow up planes has also been connected to Pakistan where a number of arrests have been made [BBC].
Rashid Rauf is one of 17 alleged plot suspects reportedly held in Pakistan and is a key focus of investigations. He is the brother of one of the key suspects so far arrested in the UK. The men's father, Abdul Rauf, is also reportedly being questioned by Pakistani officials. He flew to Pakistan for a wedding shortly before his son Rashid was arrested.
The bomb plot and the continued terror threat is creating an air of heightened concern within the airline industry. Even commonplace incidents are making headlines. On Thursday a young boy evaded strict airport security without a passport and was discovered on board an airline [BBC]. In another incident a passenger boarded an aircraft without authorization and was discovered by cleaning staff. He had apparently returned to retrieve items left behind but entered the wrong aircraft. On Wednesday a woman suffering a panic attack caused a terror alert on board a trans-Atlantic flight. The flight was diverted to Boston airport and the aircraft was thoroughly searched. Friday saw a security alert at a US airport and a bomb threat on board an Egypt bound charter flight. One hundred passengers were evacuated from Huntingdon Airport, West Virginia, after initial tests showed traces of explosives on two women’s baggage [BBC]. Subsequent investigations proved negative. In the other incident which was widely covered by CNN, Sky News and the BBC, a Boeing 767 was diverted to Brindisi airport in Italy after a note was found on board. No bomb was found. It is not the first such occasion that a note has caused panic. In 2003 a plane bound for New York from London was diverted to Ireland after a note was found [BBC] and in 2004 a Delta Airlines jet also bound for the US from Germany was diverted to Ireland after a note was found in the toilet [BBC].
The financial cost of these threats and the increased security has been huge. Some airlines, particularly Ryanair, have threatened to bring legal action against the UK government if security restrictions are not relaxed [BBC]. Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said the continued restrictions hand “extremists an enormous PR victory”. The UK government has so far refused to either pay compensation or “compromise security” by rescinding current restrictions on baggage.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Besides claims of victory by both Hezbollah and Israel, there were no victors in this conflict, only losers. The Israeli army returned home having lost dozens of soldiers. Their stated mission, which has changed tack from week to week, has also failed. The two kidnapped soldiers which sparked the conflict still have not been released and Hezbollah remain in place besides claims by the Israeli authorities of having killed hundreds of their fighters. Support in Lebanon for the organization also remains strong. As thousands of displaced Lebanese civilians return to their homes they will be greeted by a country destroyed. Huge swathes of Lebanon lays in ruins. Bridges, roads, factories, power stations, homes and lives have been destroyed in 34 days of war. The coastline is bathed in oil, as a direct result of an Israeli air strike on a power station, and may take months to clear up. It may take even longer to rebuild the country as a whole. Longer still to rebuild its economy.
Hundreds of Lebanese civilians have died in the month of Israeli bombardments, many of them innocent children. The anger left in its wake may take years to heal.
In Israel too, many civilians have also died at the receiving end of Hezbollah’s rockets. Many Israelis have been left divided by the conflict. A large proportion have expressed that view that Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister, did not push hard enough and his failure to destroy Hezbollah will leave Israel open to further attacks in the future.
Whilst Olmert is suffering the political fallout from the war, others are capitalising from it. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have both made speeches praising Hezbollah’s defence of Lebanon. Their continued belligerence and Iran’s continued defiance of UN resolutions will do nothing to ease tensions with the international community. Iran has until the end of August to comply with the international community’s request that it halts its nuclear fuels enrichment programme. Repercussions for its failure to do so can only be speculated upon.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Passengers were forced to repack their hand luggage
but thefts have been reported
Cancellations of flights at Heathrow continue nearly one week after Britain’s terror alert level was raised to critical. Ryanair has criticized the government for a lack of clear instructions and a failing security plan. Thousands have been delayed and others have lost luggage. Thefts from baggage have risen by up to 200% at Gatwick according to one report on LBC on Tuesday. One passenger speaking to Channel Four News said he had lost £1000 of property after taking a flight last week. The BBC reported that there had been 52 thefts at Gatwick in the last week. There were 16 in the same period last year. One Gatwick passenger, Paula Ryan, said she had items stolen from her luggage after flying into the airport's north terminal from Zante, in Greece, on Sunday. She put her handbag with her main bag in the hold of the aircraft but when she arrived, the combination lock was gone and the contents of her handbag had spilled into her main bag. "My mobile phone, sunglasses and other items had been stolen," she told the BBC. "Bags and suitcases were coming onto the carousel slashed, cut, damaged and open with clothes spilling out." At Stansted Airport in Essex there were 12 thefts reported since last Thursday according to Essex Police. Speaking on a London radio station another passenger spoke of her distress as she and her family had to return to their home, without their car, luggage and keys. “We had to break into our own home because we didn’t have our keys” she said. The family were still unaware where their property was, and if they’d ever see it again.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Terror threat has reduced - but travel is far from normal
Britain’s terror alert level has reduced to ‘severe’. But not before hundreds of travellers have suffered hours of delays, cancelled flights and a great deal of inconvenience. Markets have been rocked by the effects of the threat and it has cost airlines millions of pounds in lost revenue. Passengers too have been left with great uncertainty over possible claims of compensation. Many insurance policies do not cover a terrorist threat and so passengers may be left out of pocket. Even as the threat level was reduced, a British Airways flight returned to Heathrow with all 217 passengers, after a mobile phone rang on board. The flight which was already well over the Atlantic Ocean was eventually rescheduled but only after a ban on all luggage [BBC]. No-one admitted to owning the mobile phone on board the plane, flight BA179. As the reduced threat came into force, so too did the restrictions on what passengers might take on board as hand luggage. Apart from Gatwick and Heathrow, passengers may now take some extra items. Passengers can choose what to take on to a plane, but any form of liquid, fluid, lotion or gel will still be banned. Electronic devices, such as laptops, will be permitted but will be thoroughly screened. A medium-sized item of hand luggage will be permitted. This bag will be around half the size of luggage previously admitted [15cm x 35cm x 16cm]. Additionally, searches of passengers and their clothing will be conducted more frequently and are to be carried out by hand or using body scanners [Home Office].
Today, as yesterday passengers are experiencing continued delays. Security also remains high and as well as armed police, ANPR [Automatic Number Plate Recognition] systems have been deployed. The chaotic and confused situations seen last Thursday have subsided and airports have provided clear signage indicating what is and is not allowed aboard aircraft. Additionally plastic bags were being provided for the few items allowed.
Friday, August 11, 2006
The news of the British terror plot has had an impact across currency, commodity and equity markets overnight. CNN has reported that liquor sales are down at duty-free stores at airports and stocks across the board are down. Sales of alcohol, perfume and other items at airport duty-free shops fell immediately yesterday as passengers stopped buying those items in response to new government restrictions on liquids, gels and creams in carry-on baggage. Experts predict that airport retail shops will continue to suffer in light of yesterday's terror scare that forced passengers to dump their beverages, toothpaste and shampoo before boarding planes. But they expect food vendors and others to benefit from passengers who will face longer airport waits for flights because of the new security measures and have more time to spend money. “But if people become more reluctant to fly, as they did after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, food vendors and others would suffer,” said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., a food industry consulting and research firm based in Chicago [Baltimore Sun]. Retailers have much to worry about. Shops and airports generate 25%, or $122.1 million, of Los Angeles Airport revenue; more than 40% of that from food, beverage and duty-free sales. The negative outlook for the aviation industry has helped send oil prices lower, while hurting airline and tourism stocks on European and American share markets. The operators of trans-Atlantic flights such as United and American Airlines have been worst-affected. Bloomberg reported that other major carriers were also affected including Air China and Nippon Airways. "The security threat has escalated since Sept. 11," said Masayuki Kubota, who oversees $2.1 billion at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. in Tokyo. "The concern for investors is how are economic growth and corporate earnings going to be affected by instability internationally."
The pound sterling and euro have also fallen sharply in value as did the gold price which fell to $US635.18 an ounce. In London, shares in British Airways nosedived more than 5 per cent and the hotel chain, InterContinental, was down more than 3 per cent. At one stage, the FT-100 index was more than 100 points lower. But 24 hours after the terror plot was made public stocks most affected by the news stabilised this morning and have rebounded to post some of the market's largest gains [Daily Telegraph].
Even Oliver Stone’s film World Trade Center could see box office sales drop [Chron.com]. With news of a terrorist plot to blow up in-flight passenger planes, executives at Paramount Pictures considered scaling back advertising for the new Oliver Stone film, World Trade Center, which opened Wednesday this week. Stone's film recounts the harrowing tale of two Port Authority police officers caught under the rubble of the twin towers, which fell after being hit by two planes on Sept. 11, 2001. The film earned $4.4 million at the box office Wednesday, exceeding Paramount's expectations. "The events of yesterday and today make this story even more poignant," Don Harris, executive vice president of distribution at Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc., said Thursday. "But I don't know whether it helps or hurts."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
ABC News reported in the last hour of further developments in the current terror threat enveloping US and UK air traffic. The threat from liquid explosives has been tried and succeeded before, ABC reported. And the terrorist today have taken up where their predecessors left off. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef [jailed for the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing] also masterminded a plot to bring down 12 Philippine planes. In 1994 a 'test run' killed a Japanese tourist [NY Times]. Now a Pakistani plot is said to be similar to the Yousef led 1995 plot. ABC reported that up to 5 suspects may still be on the loose. It also names three of the 21 men in custody in the UK as Rashid Rauf, Mohammed al-Ghandra, Ahmed al Khan [ABC].
Britain’s threat level increased to ‘CRITICAL’ in the early hours of Thursday morning followed shortly thereafter by an order to all UK airports to ban all hand luggage. Only a few items are allowed to be carried on board aircraft and an alert was sent to all major carriers. The prohibited items were cited as pocket size wallets and pocket size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc, but not handbags), travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets), prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic. Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases, are allowed as are contact lens holders, but without bottles of solution. For those traveling with an infant, baby food and milk are allowed but the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger. Any sanitary items taken must not exceed the quantity sufficient and essential for the flight. This would include nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags. Female sanitary items are also allowed to be brought on board but again only in quantities sufficient and essential for the flight. They must also be unboxed as too should any tissues and handkerchiefs. Keys were also exempt but electrical key fobs are prohibited [Prohibited Items List].
The threat has been described as a threat to blow up airliners with a significant loss of life. Planes heading to the US were said to be at the highest risk from bombs made from ‘liquid explosives”. The threat comes only six weeks after Usama bin Laden called on followers to attack British and US interests [BBC].
On arrival at Green Bay in Wisconsin, USA, President Bush thanked the Blair government for “busting this plot” and he praised his own security services. He said the country was safer than before 9/11. As a result of steps taken he said travelers would be inconvenienced and thanked the British Government for their cooperation. He added that it was a “stark reminder that America was at war with Islamic fascists who would use any methods to destroy freedom” [BBC]. Tony Blair for his part released a written statement earlier this afternoon in which he praised the British security services. At least twenty people [BBC] have been arrested throughout the UK said to be involved in the plot [BBC].
After the warnings were issued it wasn’t long before chaos hit Britain’s airports [BBC]. Flights were cancelled, others delayed and crowds filled airport terminal. Many travelers were initially confused as to what was occurring and the holidays of thousands were severely disrupted. One person whose holiday was not disrupted was that of Prime Minister Tony Blair who is to remain in Barbados throughout this crisis. Some are calling into question his decision to go on holiday besides having talked to security services and even the US President in recent weeks about the terror plot.
Information flowed throughout the day on 24 hour news channels, Sky News, BBC 24 and CNN. But for those at or making their way to airports, information was difficult or impossible to obtain. Leaflets explaining the new restrictions were handed to passengers at some airports and the few announcements on the public address systems were often only in English. The restrictions also confused some with special needs. Watches, hearing aids, pace-makers and prosthetic limbs are not on the prohibited list but have the same potential of being disguised as an explosive device. There is also the concern of financial security. The risk of damage or theft of laptops, camera equipment and other electronic devices may not only worry some travelers but also create a drop in passengers over the long term. The effects have already been seen on the financial markets with oil stocks being sold off [BBC]. And there is one unsettling thought that the effort to make airlines safe increased the danger for those in the departures lounge, a perfect target for a suicide bomber. Hundreds of tired and weary travellers crammed into a confined area surrounded by suitcases! No-one was checking cases as they entered the terminal. So the question on many people’s minds is ‘have the terrorists already won?’ and ‘who is really being terrorised?’
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
One of the manipulated images which distorts the truth
In 1918 US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson is purported to have said, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” However, this was not recorded. In 1928 Arthur Ponsonby wrote, “When war is declared, truth is the first casualty.” And besides the adage ‘a photograph never lies’, it too has become a messenger of disinformation. And now a photographer has been axed from Reuters for massive alterations to pictures of the recent Israeli-Lebanese conflict, Ynet News reported. Little Green Footballs and My Pet Jawa both highlighted the issue prior to Reuters withdrawing the pictures, as well as the entire library of the Adnan Hajj, the photographer concerned. It signifies a major victory for the Bloggers. The story also featured on Channel 4 News last night and other news organizations including Sky News have also reported the story. Reuters said it would apply "tighter editing procedure for images of the Middle East conflict to ensure that no photograph from the region would be transmitted to subscribers without review by the most senior editor on the Reuters Global Pictures Desk." The issue is not an isolated one. Photographs of football matches are often altered by picture desks with balls either added or moved for ‘dramatic effect’. Of course the changing of war photographs is a far more serious issue since it dramatically changes the truth of the story. “Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages” wrote Samuel Johnson in 1758. The true calamity, however, is the ever rising death toll in this seemingly endless conflict.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Environment: the latest casualty of war
After 24 days of conflict there is little sign of an imminent ceasefire. There were further airstrikes against Hezbollah targets hit Beirut overnight Thursday. The destruction left in the wake of such bombardments is extensive. Much of Lebanon’s suburbs are in ruins. Roads and infrastructure throughout the south of the country are also destroyed. And besides Israeli efforts to destroy Hezbollah, it appears stronger than ever. Popular support for the terrorist group has increased and Thursday saw a record number of Katyusha rockets fired into Israel. Two hundred rockets hit the Israeli territory and at least 8 civilians were killed. Efforts to kill or capture Hezbollah’s leader have also failed. Israel so far claims to have killed 300 Hezbollah fighters. Channel 4 News reported Wednesday that an attack on a hospital in north-east Lebanon had been an intelligence led effort to dispatch the radical cleric. In fact the man captured had the misfortune of having the same name according to the news channel’s sources. Then on Thursday the Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan_Nasrallah spoke on al Manar television in which he threatened to attack Tel Aviv should Beirut come under further attacks. The casualties continue to rise on both sides of this war. At least 644 have died in Lebanon, and according to a report in the Independent nearly 50% are children. Shaigsta Aziz, a spokesperson for Oxfam, speaking on Sky News said that over 900,000 civilians had been displaced by the conflict. The continued suffering of the Lebanese civilian population is beginning to gel support for Hezbollah throughout the Muslim world. In Iraq large demonstrations by Shi’ites have been seen in Baghdad. This in a country already torn apart by continuing sectarian fighting. And an Indonesian group has claimed it is sending suicide bombers to Britain and other countries that support Israel. Channel Four News reported that the AMYM’s [the Jakarta-based ASEAN Muslim Youth Movement] chairman Suaib Didu said militants had been trained to carry out suicide bombings to revenge Israel's military strikes on the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. Their claims are often thought to be exaggerated. Israel has lost far fewer civilians, some 41 have been killed by the daily rocket attacks, but the increased military losses [now numbering 27] are beginning to call into question Israel’s military tactics. Several Israeli newspapers have begun to be more openly pessimistic as to the outcome of the conflict. Haaratz in its editorial said, “Over the past weeks, it has become clear that the entire pyramid of government - from the prime minister to the Home Front Command, and including ministry accountants and legal advisers - was unprepared for the massive attack that paralyzed life in the north of the country.” The editorial continued, “It is no longer possible to make do with lofty talk about achievements while Hezbollah is proving that nothing deters it from continuing its attacks on Israel. One of the war's main goals was to prevent missile fire on Israel. This goal has yet to be achieved. This must be said honestly.” The environment is also coming under attack from the bombardments. All along the Lebanese coast a huge oil spill is threatening wildlife. The Environmental News Service reported that 30,000 tonnes of oil had spilled into the Mediterranean sea as a result of the Israeli bombardments of a Lebanese power plant three weeks ago. Paul Mifsud, coordinator of the UN Environmental Programme’s Mediterranean Action Plan, said, “The environmental catastrophe is threatening the Mediterranean region”. Satellite imagery [DLR] from the European’s Joint Research Centre showed the slick had already entered Syrian waters and contaminated 90 km of coastline. The oil-fueled Jiyyeh power plant was hit on 13th and 15th July resulting in a massive fire which burned for days. Meanwhile diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting have not progressed very far. Tony Blair who has been under constant criticism for not calling for a ceasefire by his party has now delayed his Caribbean holiday. Talks continue at the United Nations but there seems to be no end in sight to the hostilities.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
As Israel’s offensive against Hezbollah continues, the death toll increases as do calls for a cessation of attacks. On Sunday an airstrike on Qana in southern Lebanon killed at least 60 including 40 children. But protests from Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, have for the large part been ignored by the international community. The increased civilian death toll, now standing in excess of 400 in Lebanon is also angering many Muslims around the world and protests have taken place in India, Britain and elsewhere. Israel has also lost many civilians in the daily rocket attack launched by Hezbollah. At least 50 have been killed since the conflict began just over two weeks ago.
And the War on Terror is also continuing on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Tuesday at least 35 were killed in Baghdad by a car bomb [CNN] the BBC reporting that 44 had been killed in a series of attacks throughout the country. The average weekly death toll is near to 100 per week according to a recent UN report with at least one serious bomb attack occurring almost every few days. On the 23rd July a bomb attack killed at least 50 [BBC] but the reporting of such events has fallen from the main news agenda following recent events in Lebanon. The headlines change as further British military losses occur. On Tuesday a British soldier was killed in Basra after a mortar attack. Meanwhile in Afghanistan three British soldiers have been killed in an ambush by Taliban fighters [BBC].
And as anger in the Muslim world increases, so too does the threat against British interests. The Home Office today launched its terror alert system [Guardian] opening with the warning that Britain was very likely to be subjected to a terrorist attack. The alert system is similar in nature to that employed by the US Homeland Security Advisory System, but without the colour coding. But whereas the US threat level stands at ‘Elevated’, the UK advisory opened with a threat level of ‘Severe’, indicating that a terrorist attack was likely.