Saturday, December 22, 2007

From Omagh to Pakistan terrorism persists

Yesterday proved a bad day for the Crown Prosecution Service as well as the police after the failure of bringing a conviction against a suspect said to be part of the Omagh bombing in 1998. After criticism by the judge over the way DNA evidence was handled the repercussions were further felt today as a much used DNA test was abandoned [BBC]. Outrage and disbelief was expressed by families and friends of the 29 victims of the tragedy after non guilty verdicts were read out yesterday. Sean Hoey had been charged with a total of 58 offences including 29 counts of murder. Other charges included five counts of conspiracy to murder, four counts of conspiracy to cause an explosion, six counts of causing an explosion and 12 counts of possession of explosive devices. But after a trial lasting 56 days over a ten month period, he was found not guilt on all charges [BBC].

There were more victims of terrorism around the world giving a stark reminder of the continuing threat. In Iraq dozens died in several bomb attacks. To the east of Baghdad 15 were killed in one blast whilst several attacks in the south left at least a dozen dead and others injured. There has been a moderate downturn in violence over the last few months according to the US military. General Petraeus has said the fall was a “significant accomplishment” and claimed it was down to the “surge” as implemented earlier in the year, and supported by President Bush [BBC]. The number of civilians killed in Iraq has fallen in each of the past three months after hitting a six-month high in May, according to the latest estimates from Iraq Body Count. The preliminary October 2007 figure of 538 is the lowest since December 2003 [BBC]. But since February the US have lost in excess of 800 troops only a slight drop from 2006. The total losses now stand at 4203 dead of which 3896 were American servicemen. The British have lost 174 to date whilst other coalition countries have lost 133 []. The view of General Petraeus is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor Lt Gen Ricard Sanchez. He was quoted earlier this year as saying Iraq was “like a nightmare with no end in sight.” [CNN]. He said the Iraq war plan from the start was "catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic," and the administration has not provided the resources necessary for victory, which he said the military could never achieve on its own. He painted a grim picture for the future adding that the U.S. cannot pull out of Iraq without causing chaos that would have global implications.

Pakistan, already reeling from a devastating rail crash which left 40 dead Wednesday [BBC] faced another crisis Friday after a suicide bomb blast [BBC]. At least 50 people died after the suicide bomber targeted a mosque during prayers. It came during the religious festival of Eid. The attack, which injured at least 100, comes a little over a week since President Pervez Musharraf lifted the State of Emergency which many called Martial Law. The much criticized leader may feel vindicated that his clampdown had quelled terrorist attacks for a month, but the renewed attacks may make him uneasy. The country is preparing for an election early next year and there have been three bomb attacks this week alone. The prospect for the next few weeks of campaigning looks increasingly worrying and uncertain. US defence secretary Robert Gates said in the wake of the latest bombing that al-Qaeda had begun to focus on attacking the Pakistani government. If true it further complicates the fight against al-Qaeda. The increased losses in Afghanistan, both for British as well as American troops, are making the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taleban difficult to sell to an already war-weary public. A war opening up on new fronts may bring new challenges for western governments too.

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