Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bush - "We are prevailing" in Iraq

President George W Bush outlined the US position on the war, which Americans' faced, in his keynote speech late Tuesday. He spoke to a military audience in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. The terrorists' aim, he said, is to "remake the Middle-East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression" and to "topple governments, by driving us out of the region and exporting terror."
"They murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent," he said, adding that "there is only one course of action, and that is to defeat them abroad, before they can attack us at home."
Besides the turmoil in Iraq, President Bush claimed to have made "significant progress" in the country. He said this progress was manifested in the American trained Iraqi security forces, which have "fought bravely" and achieved results. But as for when US troops will leave he said he would be guided by "the sober judgment of our military leaders" and only when Iraq could defend itself.
To a rapturous applause he made a defiant statement, "We fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand, so we will fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won."
He praised US servicemen who had enlisted and those that had fought in the war on terror since September 11th [2001]. "I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult, and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult, and we are prevailing," adding "our enemies are brutal, but they are no match for the United States of America, and they are no match for the men and women of the United States military, may God bless you all."
[15:48 GMT 29/06/2005]

Afghanistan - Chinook 'shot down', 17 'dead'

An American Chinook helicopter has crash in Afghanistan, killing 17. As yet unconfirmed reports suggest it was shot down by Taliban fighters. Wednesday's New York Times quoted unnamed U.S. military officials as saying troops aboard included Navy Seal commandos and that the Chinook was an MH-47 modified for special operations. Before the United States announced the incident, Mullah Latif Hakimi, claiming to be a Taliban spokesman, called The Associated Press and said that the Taliban had shot down the Chinook and they had filmed the attack. The video would be released to the media, he added. It is the second Chinook to have been lost this year in Afghan operations. On the 6th of April a Chinook, returning to Bagram airbase, went down in a sand storm killing 18.
[14:48 GMT 29/06/2005]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Portsmouth, UK - Battle of Trafalgar

As dusk falls on Portsmouth the Battle of Trafalgar is re-enacted. But rather than the British versus Spanish and French, this time it's the Red team versus the Blue. The conditions, however, are more like the Battle of the Nile than Trafalgar since Trafalgar took place during the day whereas The Battle of the Nile took place as dusk fell. The light conditions are providing Sky News and others a great technical challenge as they attempt to show Live pictures. But the finale of the spectacular fireworks display with music from various classical composers was well worth watching. Sky briefly broke away for news that the vote in the commons for the ID cards bill succeeded.

Iraq - MP killed in bomb attack

Iraq's oldest MP, Dhari al-Fayadh, 87, a Shia, died with his son and three bodyguards when a car bomb hit their convoy in northern Baghdad today. A bomber kills himself and three others at a police guard station in a hospital in Musayyib, 70km south of Baghdad, and in the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb killed two bodyguards in a failed attempt to assassinate the chief of traffic police. All this on the anniversary of the hand over of power to the new Iraqi government, seen by many as being symbolic rather than having any actual substance behind it. And far from Iyad Allawi's prediction that within days of that event, Iraq would "radiate with stability and security", the turmoil continues on a daily basis. And optimistic views are hard to find. Donald Rumsfeld this week said, "The insurgency could go on any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on for five, six, eight, ten, twelve years." So, no end in sight to the chaos in Iraq then.
[16:48 GMT 28/06/2005]

Monday, June 27, 2005

Iraq - Apache helicopter crashes

An army Apache helicopter has gone down near Baghdad which has seen many attacks on Monday. A US soldier and four Iraqi police have died according to a report on CNN. Ibrahim Al-Jafaari the Iraqi PM is set to visit British PM Tony Blair today to discuss the situation in Iraq. Al-Jafaari met with George W Bush in Washington on Friday during which he said he would not set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. General John Abizaid and Donald Rumsfeld have both made statements iterating their concern over falling support for the war amongst the American people. A poll in USA Today showed that 60% of Americans now opposed the war in Iraq. And Bush’s support stands at around 47%, possibly a reflection of figures which show peoples’ fear of terror attacks beginning to drop off. Only 35% of Americans believe a terrorist attack on the US is likely, down from 39% in January 2005, and way down from an 85% high in October 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks.
[12:31 GMT 27/06/2005]

Sunday, June 26, 2005

US 'talk to insurgents' as violence increases

In the latest developments from Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld has said that US officials have come "face to face" with representatives from a number of insurgent groups. Speaking to Fox News he added, "The first thing you want to do is split people off and get some people to be supportive." The groups concerned include Ansar Al-Sunna, Mohammed's Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq and Jaysh Mohammed. The Sunday Times said insurgent commanders "apparently came face to face" with four American officials during the talks held on 3 and 13 June at a summer villa near Balad, about 60km north of Baghdad.
Rumsfeld has played down the reports. "I would not make a big deal out of it," he told Fox News. And as for the insurgents, Ansar Al-Sunna denied meetings had taken place. "We categorically deny that any negotiation took place between the Ansar al-Sunna Army and any crusader or apostate," said a statement allegedly by its leader, published on the internet. The resolve of the insurgents was clear, "Jihad is the only way to restore dignity to this nation. Without this dignity, the nation will be shamed and defeated."
Far from being in "the last throes" of insurgency, as declared by Dick Cheney recently, a massive increase of attacks has led to the deaths of at least 40 people today. In Mosul 35 people were killed by at least three suicide bombs. The attacks, which hit a military base, a police station and a hospital, killed police recruits, Iraqi police and civilians. Four Iraqi police were injured in a bomb attack at a checkpoint near the northern city of Kirkuk. A woman and two children were killed by mortar rounds in a residential area of eastern Baghdad. And a US soldier was killed and two injured in a roadside bomb in central Baghdad.
Meanwhile heavy fighting is still continuing near Tal Afar and Al Qain near the Syrian border as US troops continue their sweep against the insurgency. George W Bush is set to make a 'keynote' speech next week on Iraq. "I think about Iraq every day. Every single day, because I understand we have kids in harm's way," the president said earlier in the week. "And I worry about their families; and I obviously, any time there's a death, I grieve." But, he said, "We're making progress."
[22:24 GMT 26/06/2005]

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Iraq - More attacks as Baghdad Airport is closed

Confusion still surrounds the suicide attack on a US convoy near Fallujah yesterday. As initially reported ‘up to six’ US personnel were killed, though the military will only confirm 2 as being dead. One of the dead was a female marine. Three marines and a sailor were reported as missing, according to a report on the BBC. Of the 13 injured, 11 are said to be female. Today there are reports of at least three suicide attacks, one near Samarra and another in Baghdad. In Samarra a suicide bomber drove his car into a house belonging to the Chief of Police. Nine people were killed and 16 were injured. In Mosul, four policemen were killed in another attack. An ambush near Ramadi took the lives of 13 Iraqi police when around 20 insurgents attacked their convoy. And there’s no escape from Baghdad as the airport has been closed to civilian flights after Global, a British company providing security, has withdrawn its services. The company claims that a ‘contractual dispute’ is to blame. The BBC reports that the company has not been paid by the Iraqi government for over three months. When the airport is open, planes run the risk of being shot down. A corkscrew takeoff and descent is usually performed in order to avoid such attacks.
[18:38 GMT 25/06/2005]

Friday, June 24, 2005

Two US marines killed near Fallujah

Two marines have been killed near Fallujah. Earlier in the day AP reported 6 dead, but figures were revised an hour later. BBC 24 initially reported 5 dead and 3 females amongst the dead. Speaking on Sky News, Fox News correspondent David McDougal said that the information was sketchy, but it appeared to be a suicide attack.
[Updated 15:15 GMT 24/06/2005]

Trains stranded, Glastonbury washed out

More than 800 commuters have been trapped in a broken down underground train in London. It follows a similar incident yesterday in which passengers were trapped in sweltering heat on a train near Peterborough. The Tube train came to a halt between Bank and St Paul’s underground station at 08:30 BST [07:30 GMT]. The passengers were eventually evacuated two hours later after enduring temperatures as high as 38C. In complete contrast Glastonbury festival has been hit by heavy rain. The deluge occurred at around 04:00 BST [03:00 GMT]. Much of the site has become waterlogged and performances were cancelled for safety reasons.
[14:00 GMT 24/06/2005]

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Heatwave - train stranded for hours

Smog hangs over London

Hundreds of passengers have been overcome with the heat after the train on which they were travelling suffered a power failure. The Kings Cross, London, to Newcastle train came to a halt just outside Peterborough. Temperatures reportedly rose to 115C according to one passenger who spoke to the Associated Press, though this is no doubt an error since water boils at 100C. As people passed out and panicked, some passengers broke windows in order to escape the heat. Firemen and emergency helicopters are reported to have been dispatched and water was being handed to passengers who have been waiting in an adjacent field for several hours. The latest report [at 21:50 UK time] was that passengers were being loaded aboard coaches. In London smog is beginning to create havoc for asthma sufferers and others with breathing disorders. Temperatures are set to remain high until at least Sunday according to meteorologists.
[20:48 GMT 23/06/2005]

U2 lost in 'south-west Asia'

An American U2 spy plane has crashed at an undisclosed location according to US military sources. They will only say that it was on a mission over Afghanistan and that it crashed in 'south-west Asia', a term which can also cover the middle-east. The pilot was killed when the plane crashed sometime between Tuesday and early Wednesday on return to its base in the United Arab Emirates. "The specific location is not releasable due to host nation sensitivities," U.S. Air Force Capt. David Small, a Central Command spokesman, said in an e-mail, USA Today reported.
[Thursday 01:30 GMT 23/06/2005]

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Iraq - 5 car bombs in central Baghdad

At least 18 people have been killed and at least 40 injured [Fox-45, CNN-48] in a series of explosions near to a mosque in central Baghdad. The attacks occured at around 15:30 GMT. Some reports refer to one of the explosions being near to the headquarters of Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shi-ite cleric who was a thorn in the side of the US forces late 2003 and early 2004.
[18:17 GMT 22/06/2005]

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

UK - Heatwave continues

Jubilee Beach, Southend on Sea on Sunday

The UK is continuing to enjoy high temperatures this week. The weekend saw the highest temperatures with 32 degrees Celsius recorded in London. Thousands flocked to the beaches with many roads and rail services seeing increased traffic. Even Southend on Sea was busy with many packing Jubilee Beach which was recently awarded the coveted Blue Flag award. Unfortunately the sea was a long muddy walk away, since the tide was out for much of the afternoon. There were weather related deaths reported as several people drowned in rivers and lakes throughout the south-east. In Milton Keynes a 35 year old man died in a boating lake and in Hertfordshire a 30 year old man drowned in a lake near Stevenage. And a 16 year old man was drowned in the River Thames in Surrey. But while the south of England basked in sunshine, flash floods caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage in Yorkshire at the weekend. Miraculously no deaths were reported.
[19:43 GMT 21/06/5005]

Iraq - another weekend of death

A terrorist suspect has been arrested in Manchester’s Moss Side area in a police raid. The man, in his 40s, was said to have connections with a suicide attack in Iraq. Whitehall officials say that there is an established network which sends jihadist volunteers from the UK to Iraq to fight coalition forces.
In Iraq 27 were killed and 128 injured, according to AFP reports, in Hilla on Monday. They died during a double suicide attack during a demonstration near the Mayor’s office. [BBC]
US forces arrested Mohsen Abdul Hamid, leader of the Iraqi Islamic party - one of Iraq's main Sunni parties, which boycotted elections in January. However the man was released soon afterwards after criticism from as high as the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who expressed his "surprise and unhappiness", saying, "Treating a political personality of this level in such an arbitrary way is unacceptable." The US forces released a statement after his release which said, "Following [an] interview it was determined that he was detained by mistake and should be released... Coalition forces regret any inconvenience and acknowledge Mr Hamid's co-operation in resolving this matter."
The reaction to US operations around the country has brought an increase in suicide attacks against coalition and Iraqi troops in recent days. On Sunday a suicide attack took the lives of 16 in Baghdad according to the BBC. USA Today reported 23 dead at a restaurant near to the Green Zone when a suicide bomber entered at lunchtime. The Ibn Zanbour restaurant is popular amongst the Iraqi army and police. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s group, said they were responsible and that the attacker was from Qaim, a town near to current US offensives. These attacks come in the wake of Operation Spear and Operation Dagger, the latest drive by US forces against the insurgency.
[12:20 GMT 21/06/2005]

Saturday, June 18, 2005

EU - No compromise in Brussels

Tony Blair and Jack Straw returned to the UK without having resolved a settlement with other European leaders late Friday. Sky's Adam Bolton talks of the arrogance of the EU President Jean Claude Junker, but the blame for the current impass also lies with leaders of France, Germany, Britain and Spain. The political posturing, intended mainly for the leaders' respective home audiences, has impeded the progress of talks even further. However, the 'deep crisis' has until 2007 to be resolved.
[03:18 GMT 18/06/2005]

Friday, June 17, 2005

Iraq - 5 US marines die in IED attack

Five US marines died Wednesday after an attack on their Humvee. They were travelling along a road in Ramadi when it was hit by an IED [Improvised Explosive Device], US military sources said. It comes only a week after a similar incident in Haqlaniya in which five marines also died. The US death toll now stands at 1,715. On Thursday a car bomb exploded next to an Iraqi police convoy on Baghdad's airport road. Six police officers were killed and 25 were wounded.
[00:25 GMT 17/06/2005]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

World News Wrap - June 15th 2005

The unprecedented heatwave continues in northern India and Bangladesh. And sweltering temperatures are also reported in the northern US states of New York and Washington DC. Also in the US a 7.0 earthquake hit off the California coast early Tuesday [Jun 14 19:50:54 2005 PDT local time / Wed Jun 15 02:50:54 2005 UTC]. The earthquake triggered a tsunami warning but an all-clear was quickly issued.

In China six people have died in a riot. Farmers were shot by unknown assailants, according The Washington Post, after protests in which they were demanding a halt to a land-grab by authorities for a new power station. Footage shown on CNN was shaky but clearly showed a full scale riot underway. The cameraman was apparently beaten and his camera smashed, according to the Post, but the tape survived. And Microsoft has been criticized for ‘complying with Chinese censorship laws’ as they censor the internet in compliance with China’s strict laws relating to internet use.

Usama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar are said to be alive and well according to CNN reports from a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. In Iraq a series of suicide attacks has killed nearly 30. In Baquba 23 soldiers died and 28 were injured by an attack at an Iraqi army canteen. And an attack in Baghdad killed several police officers and injured many more. The Australian contractor Douglas Wood, kidnapped by insurgents six weeks ago, has been found and released in a security sweep. Meanwhile in Spain, police say they have captured a dozen suspects connected to the Madrid train bombings.

And finally the Space Shuttle is getting ready for launch. Today [Wednesday] Discovery rolled out to the launch pad taking nearly 9 hours to complete its journey. The launch window for STS-114 is set from 13th to 31st July.

[16:27 GMT 15/06/2005]

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Blair meets Chirac

Tony Blair met Jacques Chirac today for discussions on the EU rebate. A frosty reception was expected from both parties, who are firm in their respective positions. The meeting was not televised and the traditional press conference was also put on hold. And the press conference with Tony Blair lasted only a short time due to technical problems. The Prime Minister described the meeting as “immensely amicable.” But he said differences had not been resolved and the situation was “difficult.” BBC
[17:25 GMT 14/06/2005]

Monday, June 13, 2005

Jackson - 'Not Guilty'

Jackson has been found 'Not Guilty' on all charges at the Santa Maria court in California. He left court shortly after the 10 'Not Guilty' verdicts were read out and made his way to the black SUV parked nearby. To screams from fans he drove off towards Neverland, leaving behind a throng of stunned journalists and a grim faced prosecution team. The shock of the verdict will reverberate around the world and the debate will continue without a doubt.
[21:45 GMT]

Jackson - verdict due

The verdict with regards the Michael Jackson trial is due in around 30 minutes [about 20:30 GMT] Jackson's entourage is currently en route for the court in Santa Maria. More soon
[20:32 GMT]

China - Floods, fires & a French Spiderman

China is still suffering the worst floods in years with as many as 200 killed in the northern province of Heilongjiang. Many of those killed were children who died when flood water and debris swept through their school on Friday. China has seen devastating flooding in the southern regions in recent weeks causing over 200 deaths there. Also in the southern province of Guangdong, around 30 people have died in the latest of a serious of fires in hotels. Safety inspectors are stepping up their inspections throughout the country, Xinhua News Agency reports. And on a lighter note Alain Robert, a Frenchman, was met by fireman and police Saturday after he climbed to the top of Hong Kong’s tallest building, The Cheung Hong Centre. Dressed as Spiderman, he completed the climb of the 283m tall building in little under an hour. Robert was not arrested, however, and merely escorted from the premises. Alain Robert has climbed some of the most challenging skyscrapers and landmarks throughout the world. They include the Eiffel Tower [Paris], the Empire State Building [NYC], The World Trade Ctre. [NYC], and The Petronas Towers [Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia].
[18:39 GMT 13/06/02005]

Africa - Sir Bob vs Bush & Blair

President Bush has appeared Live on CNN giving an address in which he said, “We believe Africa is full of promise, talent and opportunity.” He spoke as several African leaders arrived for talks on the needs of the continent. The five representatives, from Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Niger, will discuss African debt relief, trade, AIDS and the promotion of democracy. All this comes in the wake of Sir Bob Geldoff’s call to protest and the setting up of Live8, in an attempt to highlight the plight of Africa. Tony Blair has also met with George W Bush in the last week and reached some agreement with the leader. But the US offer of ‘Trade not Aid’ may not satisfy those critical of the current status quo. And Status Quo is just one of the many bands that have been lined up for Sir Bob’s jamboree, with concerts announced in London, Edinburgh, Paris and elsewhere. But the call on a million to march and protest against the G8 meeting near Gleneagles, Scotland, has brought much criticism. Much of it surrounds the logistical nightmare that may ensue. And with a call by Sir Bob to ‘re-enact Dunkirk’ with a flotilla of boats from France, many have suggested he’s ‘lost the plot’. "We are asking people to recreate Dunkirk where people got in their boats to rescue our soldiers," he said. He also called on people in the city to throw open their homes to accommodate them.The issue of Africa, has at least entered the mainstream agenda. [15:53 GMT 13/06/2005]

Iraq - new Saddam video emerges

Another 4 US dead yesterday [Sunday] bringing the US death toll to 1,701. In the latest developments a US convoy was hit in central Baghdad today. Sky News and BBC 24 have reported that a ‘senior US representative’ was in the convoy, but is unhurt. The official has not yet been named. And looking calm, Saddam Hussein has appeared in a new video released to the media from Iraqi-ist. The pictures show a court hearing where Saddam is accused of a number of atrocities. Anything up to 500 charges may be filed against the former Iraqi leader.

[14:08 GMT 13/06/2005]

Europe - rows and arguments

Political discussions and debates have been the dominating factor in the last few weeks. Following a ‘Non’ vote for the European Constitution and a ‘Nee’ in the Nederlands, the scrapping soon started. The UKIP members in Britain and the Conservatives quickly sought publicity on the back of the referendum results, besides their reasons for not backing the constitution being somewhat different from our European counterparts. Much of the reason behind the ‘Non’ vote in France was a lack of explanation, by the ‘Oui’ campaign, of what the EU constitution meant, both for France and Europe. Additionally, Chirac has alienated himself from the far left and with much of the right-wing, represented by the likes of Le Pen, backing the ‘Non’ vote, the constitution was lost. The lack of understanding of what the constitution meant also figured in the Dutch referendum. Unfounded fears that the famous Dutch coffeeshops and cannabis caf├ęs would be at risk from this constitution was one of a number of issues which brought a 65% ‘Nee’. The ‘what next’ debate continued for around a week after the two referendums, but in Britain it was compounded with arguments over Britain’s contribution to Europe. That debate is continuing with strong words exchanged between President Chirac and Tony Blair.
Tony Blair has in the meantime embarked on a quick visit to the US where he met George W Bush last week, and is currently in Moscow meeting with President Putin. Meanwhile, Jack Straw has been left to take the European debate to Brussels.
[11:50 GMT 13/06/2005]

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Iraq - French journalist freed

A French journalist, working for Liberation, has been freed today and returned to France. Florence Aubenance was welcomed home by President Chirac and her family on her arrival in Paris. Her Iraqi guide, Hussein Hanoun Al-Sadi, was also released to a warm welcome in Baghdad. They have been held captive since January 5th.
British authorities have said they are holding a number of suspects in connection to the killing of British soldiers in the south of the country. And Iraqi police have discovered about 20 bodies, bound, gagged and shot. They were buried in a shallow grave in Nahrawan, east of Baghdad.
[19:48 GMT 12/06/2005]

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Iraq - 5 US dead in IED attack

In the recent operations in Iraq, 5 US marines have died in a roadside bomb near Fallujah, Friday. US forces launched air assaults on Saturday 'killing 40 insurgents' in Western Iraq according to US military sources. After the lull in insurgent activity so far this month, attacks have killed 19 Iraqis in the last two days.

11/06/2005 19:42 GMT

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Iraq - 'Operation Lightning' slows insurgency

Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni has been freed nearly a month after being taken hostage in Afghanistan, the Afghan interior ministry has said. The insurgency in Iraq has calmed in the last week as US forces along with Iraqi forces continue operations in Baghdad and elsewhere. Over 887 people are being held, according to Iraqi authorities. According to AP reports 608 mobile and 194 permanent checkpoints have been established around Baghdad since Operation Lightning began on 22 May. 40,000 US and Iraqi troops are said to be involved in Operation Lightning. And a prominent Iraqi Sunni politician has said that two insurgent groups are ready to disarm and begin talks with the Iraqi government. Former minister Ayham al-Samarie said the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujahideen Army, though his claims have not been verified independently.

Thursday 09/06/2005 21:10 GMT

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

737 escorted to Stansted airport by jets

Police at the scene at 9 pm [London, UK]

A Full Emergency was declared at Stansted Airport on Tuesday evening. A Boeing 737 with a suspect package on board was escorted to the airport by 2 RAF Tornado fighter jets. The Thomson flight from Faro had been heading to Coventry. All 103 passengers and 5 crew were evacuated safely. A bomb disposal unit was dispatched from Colchester in Essex to inspect the package. 07/06/2005 22:30 GMT

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Jackson in hospital again

Fox News in the US and Sky News in the UK have reported that Michael Jackson has been hospitalised with a ‘serious back problem’. There are no further details at this time. The jury will return to court Monday in order to deliberate the case.
[0:12 GMT / 17:12 PDT]

Friday, June 03, 2005

Weather - wet, wet, wet.

Over 200 people have died in massive floods continuing in southern China. The wet weather seen in the UK and Europe pale into insignificance, by comparison. In the US this week, and a mudslide saw the destruction of several properties along the California coast. No one was injured but the cost was put at millions of dollars in much sought after real estate.

Jackson - The jury is sent to deliberate

It’s all up to the jury as the closing arguments by the prosecution and defence in the Michael Jackson trial come to a conclusion. Judge Rodney Melville gave his final directions to the jury late Friday afternoon in the Santa Maria courtroom. The jury left the room at 12:20 [local time]. It can only be speculated as to how long the jury will take to arrive at their verdict. Until then Jackson must remain in the town of Santa Maria. Tom Sneddon left the court smiling. Jackson left the court looking gaunt. Beside him his mother and father and followed by his defence team. Looking extremely sombre he walked to his waiting car leaving with barely a wave to the large group of fans who have camped at the front of court throughout this trial.

[19:45 GMT / 12:45 PDT - Friday 03/06/2005]