Category: Egypt


Egypt closes Great Pyramid after rumors of rituals

http://news.yahoo.com/egypt-closes-great-pyramid-rumors-rituals-104026490.html

 

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s antiquities authority closed the largest of the Giza pyramids Friday following rumors that groups would try to hold spiritual ceremonies on the site at 11:11 A.M. on Nov. 11, 2011.

The authority’s head Mustafa Amin said in a statement Friday that the pyramid of Khufu, also known as Cheops, would be closed to visitors until Saturday morning for “necessary maintenance.”

The closure follows a string of unconfirmed reports in local media that unidentified groups would try to hold “Jewish” or “Masonic” rites on the site to take advantage of mysterious powers coming from the pyramid on the rare date.

Amin called all reports of planned ceremonies at the site “completely lacking in truth.”

The complex’s director, Ali al-Asfar, said Friday that an Egyptian company requested permission last month to hold an event called “hug the pyramid,” in which 120 people would join hands around the ancient burial structure.

The authority declined the request a week ago, al-Asfar said, but that did not stop concerned Egyptians from starting internet campaigns to prevent the event from taking place.

“It has been a big cause now on Facebook and Twitter for many people to write about,” al-Asfar said.

The closure was unrelated to the rumors, he said, adding that the pyramid needed maintenance after the large number of visitors during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday last week.

The rest of the complex, which includes two other large pyramids, numerous tombs and the Sphinx, remained open Friday, though security appeared to be heavier than usual.

Dozens of police officers and soldiers were posted throughout the complex. Some patrolled on camel-back. One soldier stood next to his machine gun near a souvenir shop selling miniature pyramids.

Speaking by phone from the pyramids after 11:11 had passed, al-Asfar said he’d seen nothing out of the ordinary.

“Everything is normal,” he said. “The only thing different is the closure of the Khufu pyramid.”

Khufu is credited with building the Giza complex’s largest pyramid, now one of Egypt’s main tourist attractions. Khufu founded the 4th Dynasty around 2680 B.C. and ruled Egypt for 23 years.

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Clashes resume between Egyptian Christians, police

CAIRO (AP) — Security officials say clashes between Christian protesters and Egyptian security forces have resumed, with hundreds pelting the police with rocks outside a central Cairo hospital.

 

At least 24 people were killed when Christians, angered by a recent church attack, clashed Sunday night with Muslims and security forces outside the state television building in central Cairo.

 

The officials say Monday’s clashes took place outside a Cairo hospital where bodies of Christian victims were kept.

 

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, had no word on casualties.

 

The latest violence comes hours before funeral services for the victims were to be held at the Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo.

 

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

 

CAIRO (AP) — Deadly clashes between angry Christians, Muslims and security forces have dealt a serious setback to Egypt’s transition to civilian rule, the country’s prime minister said Monday, hours after 24 people were killed in the worst violence since the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

 

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the violence, which also left 272 wounded, was part of a “dirty conspiracy” and called on Egyptians to unite in the face of what he called meddling by foreign and domestic hands in their nation’s affairs.

 

“These events have taken us back several steps,” Sharaf said in a televised address. “Instead of moving forward to build a modern state on democratic principles, we are back to seeking stability and searching for hidden hands — domestic and foreign — that meddle with the country’s security and safety.”

 

A military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, defense minister of 20 years under the former regime, took over after an 18-day popular uprising forced Mubarak to step down. The military initially pledged to hand back power to a civilian administration in six months, but that deadline has gone by, with parliamentary elections now scheduled to start in late November. According to a timetable floated by the generals, presidential elections could be held late next year.

 

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, blame the country’s ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak’s ouster. As Egypt undergoes a chaotic power transition and security vacuum in the wake of the uprising, the Coptic Christian minority is particularly worried about the show of force by ultraconservative Islamists.

 

Sunday’s violence will likely prompt the military to further tighten its grip on power. Already, it said it had no intention to lift the widely hated emergency laws in place since Mubarak first took office in 1981. Tension also has been growing between the military and the youth groups that engineered the uprising, with activists blaming the generals for mishandling the transition period, human rights violations and driving a wedge between them and ordinary Egyptians.

 

The European Union condemned the violence, with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saying it was for Egypt “to protect your people, whoever they are, wherever they come from or whatever belief or faith they have.”

 

Egypt’s official news agency, meanwhile, reported that dozens of “instigators of chaos” have been arrested following Sunday’s violence, sparked by a recent attack on a church in southern Egypt.

 

The MENA news agency did not say whether those arrested were Christians or Muslims, but security officials said most of the 24 killed were Christians and that they may have included one or two Muslims. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

 

Egypt’s state television said authorities on Monday stepped up security at vital installations in anticipation of renewed unrest, deploying additional troops outside parliament and the Cabinet. Riot police were also stationed outside the Coptic hospital where most of the victims’ bodies are kept. Funeral services are due in the afternoon at the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.

 

The rioting in downtown Cairo had lasted until late into the night, bringing out more than 1,000 security forces and armored vehicles to defend the Nile-side state television building where the trouble began.

 

The clashes spread from outside the TV building to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak. On Sunday night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones in boxes.

 

The clashes did not appear to be exclusively sectarian.

 

State TV, which has increasingly become loyal to the military, appealed on “honorable” Egyptians to protect the army against attacks as news spread of clashes between the Christian protesters and the troops outside the TV building. Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks on Christians.

 

Throughout the night, the station cast the Christian protesters as a violent mob attacking the army and public property. At one point, Information Minister Osama Heikal went on the air to deny that the station’s coverage had a sectarian slant, but acknowledged that its presenters acted “emotionally.”

 

At one point, an armored army van sped into the crowd, striking several protesters and throwing some into the air. Protesters retaliated by setting fire to military vehicles, a bus and private cars, sending flames rising into the night sky.

 

The Christian protesters said their demonstration began as a peaceful attempt to sit in at the TV building. Then, the protesters said, they came under attack by thugs in plainclothes who rained stones down on them and fired pellets.

 

“The protest was peaceful. We wanted to hold a sit-in, as usual,” said Essam Khalili, a protester wearing a white shirt with a cross on it. “Thugs attacked us and a military vehicle jumped over a sidewalk and ran over at least 10 people. I saw them.”

 

Khalili said protesters set fire to army vehicles when they saw them hitting the protesters.

 

Ahmed Yahia, a Muslim resident who lives near the TV building, said he saw the military vehicle plow into protesters. “I saw a man’s head split into two halves and a second body flattened when the armored vehicle ran over it. When some Muslims saw the blood they joined the Christians against the army,” he said.

 

Television footage showed the military vehicle slamming into the crowd. Coptic protesters were shown attacking a soldier, while a priest tried to protect him.

 

In the past weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. One riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis that a cross and bells be removed from the building.

 

Aswan’s governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, further raised tensions by suggesting to the media that the church construction was illegal.

 

Protesters said the Copts are demanding the ouster of the governor, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.

http://news.yahoo.com/clashes-resume-between-egyptian-christians-police-101822266.html

 

 

Gadhafi’s regime teeters on collapse in Libya

Libyan rebel fighters embrace at the former female military base in Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. Libyan rebels claimed to be in control of most of the Libyan capital on Monday after their lightning advance on Tripoli heralded the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's nearly 42-year regime, but scattered battles erupted and the mercurial leader's whereabouts remained unknown. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)People celebrate the capture in Tripoli of Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, at the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, early Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. Libyan rebels raced into Tripoli Sunday and met little resistance as Gadhafi's defenders melted away and his 42-year rule rapidly crumbled. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

Libyan rebel fighters fire towards forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi during fierce gunfire in downtown Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. World leaders said Monday the end is near for Moammar Gadhafi's regime and began planning for Libya's future without the man who has held power there for 42 years. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

http://news.yahoo.com/gadhafis-regime-teeters-collapse-libya-205608125.html

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was nowhere to be found Monday as his 42-year rule teetered on the brink of collapse. Months of NATO airstrikes have left his Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli largely demolished. Most of his security forces fled or surrendered when rebel forces rolled into the capital Sunday night and took control of most of the city. And three of his sons are under arrest.

 

A mood of joy mixed with trepidation settled over the capital, with the rebels still fighting pockets of fierce resistance from regime loyalists firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, who was in Tripoli, said the “danger is still there” as long as Gadhafi remains on the run.

“The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council, told a news conference in the opposition’s de facto capital of Benghazi, hundreds of miles east of Tripoli. He said the rebels have no idea where Gadhafi is and whether he is even in Tripoli. An Obama administration official said the U.S. had no indication that Gadhafi had left Libya.

President Barack Obama said the situation in Libya reached a tipping point in recent days after a five month NATO-led bombing campaign. However, he acknowledged that the situation remained fluid and that elements of the regime remained a threat.

The Obama administration official said U.S. officials and NATO partners had not been in contact with Gadhafi during the siege on Tripoli. However, the official said American and NATO representatives, as well as Libyan rebels, had all been in contact with people around Gadhafi, mostly those looking for a way out.

NATO vowed to keep up its air campaign until all pro-Gadhafi forces surrender or return to their barracks. The alliance’s warplanes have hit at least 40 targets in and around Tripoli in the past two days — the highest number on a single geographic location since the bombing started in March, NATO said.

A day after the rebels rode into the city of 2 million, the situation remained volatile. Even though rebels claimed they were in control of most of Tripoli, they still appeared to be on the defensive, ducking for cover during frequent clashes with regime fighters. Throughout the day, the rebels sent reinforcements to the city from the north, south and southeast, and a rebel field commander said more than 4,000 fighters were part of the final push to bring down the regime.

The Obama administration official said the U.S. believes 90 percent of the capital is under rebel control, while regime loyalists still control Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and the southern city of Sabha.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publically.

Intense gunbattles erupted throughout the day and city was too unstable for any mass celebrations in the streets.

Clashes broke out early in the day at Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound when government tanks emerged from the complex and opened fire at rebels trying to get in, according to the rebel spokesman Abdel-Rahman and a neighbor.

Moammar al-Warfali, whose family home is next to the Gadhafi compound, said there appeared to be only a few tanks belonging to the remaining Gadhafi forces who have not fled or surrendered.

“When I climb the stairs and look from the roof, I see nothing at Bab al-Aziziyah. It is totally deserted except for the house which was raided by U.S. in 1986. Nothing else is there. Gadhafi can’t be there,” he said. “NATO has demolished it all and nothing remained.”

But Abdel-Rahman said Gadhafi still has forces to be reckoned with.

“We know that until now, Tripoli is encircled by Gadhafi brigades positioned at the outskirts of the capital, in camps, such as al-Yarmouk in the south of Tripoli. They can be in the middle of the city in half an hour.”

 

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0815/Case-against-Egypt-s-Mubarak-is-shoddy-say-some-lawyers

Cairo

Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarakappeared in court Monday as advocates for a guilty verdict complained that the state’s case against him was shoddy.

Mr. Mubarak is charged with corruption and with ordering the killing of hundreds who died in the uprising that swept him from power on Feb. 11 this year. Without a thorough and fair investigation of those charges, some worry that a Mubarak conviction would be hollow – and undermine the people’s faith in the justice system at a delicate time of transition.

Lawyer Gamal Eid said that the state should conduct a new investigation and that the prosecutor general should resign.

“This is a very important step in the path of regaining or restoring the trust in the Egyptian judiciary,” says Mr. Eid, who is representing families of 16 of the more than 800 people killed in the uprising.

Trial resumes Sept. 5; no more TV coverage

Nearly 100 lawyers swarmed near the front of the courtroom hours before the hearing began Monday, their shouting matches at times turning to pushing and shoving as they argued over their demands. Judge Ahmed Refaat sharply rebuked them when he took the stand, refusing to continue until they were seated and quiet.

Lawyers representing the family members of some of those who died were pleased that Judge Refaat ruled that Mubarak’s case would be rejoined with that of Egypt’s former Interior Minister, Habib El Adly, who is also charged with killing protesters. The trial will resume Sept. 5.

But Mr. Eid says that the police and prosecution have done a poor job of investigating the crimes and putting together a case, thereby jeopardizing justice. He said that the state prosecutor, who was a part of Mubarak’s regime, must be removed, and the judge should appoint a committee to redo the whole investigation from scratch, he said.

Lawyers have also asked to separate the charges of corruption and the killing of protesters into two separate cases, though the judge has not done so. Mubarak, Mr. El Adly, and El Adly’s deputies are charged with ordering the killing of protesters, while the former president, his two sons, and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem are also charged with corruption.

Refaat also ruled that the live broadcast of the hearings would be banned until the verdict is issued, and his decision was met with applause in the courtroom. While protesters had demanded that the trial be broadcast as proof of transparency, some lawyers now hope that taking away the cameras will tame the chaotic behavior of scores of lawyers representing victims’ families, as some of them have seemed to relish seizing the limelight on national television.

Courtroom calls for Mubarak’s execution

As in his first appearance, Mubarak was wheeled into the cage used for defendants in Egyptian courts Monday on a hospital bed, this time for his second appearance, he arrived with an IV. His two sons, Gamal and Alaa, again stood in front of him, partially blocking him from the cameras.

The stands were mostly filled with journalists, lawyers, and state security conscripts, with many empty seats and few family members of victims allowed to attend. At one point, a woman wearing a brooch with a picture of Mubarak burst into a tirade directed at journalists who were commenting on the color of the former president’s shoes, accusing them of humiliating Mubarak. Those around her were drawn into a shouting match.

As the hearing ended, several family members of victims and lawyers jumped up onto the benches, gesturing toward the cage and shouting “execution!”

 

 

 

 

Greek austerity protests turn violent

Demonstrators march in protest against austerity measures in front of the Greek parliament in Athens

http://beta.news.yahoo.com/greek-unions-aim-fill-athens-austerity-protests-075850045.html

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek police fired teargas at demonstrators in central Athens on Tuesday at the start of a 48-hour strike to protest austerity measures demanded by international lenders as the price for more financial aid.

As Greece teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, parliament is due to vote this week on a package of spending cuts, tax increases and privatizations agreed as part of a massive bailout aimed at averting the euro zone’s first default.

Following weeks of protests and rolling strikes, ADEDY, the public sector union representing half a million civil servants, and GSEE, which represents 2 million private sector workers, are stepping up pressure on deputies before the votes.

As thousands rallied in Syntagma square near the parliament, hundreds of hooded youths threw stones and bottles at police who responded with teargas as the initially peaceful mood turned violent. A street umbrella was set fire outside a record-and-book store sending black smoke spiraling into the air above Syntagma Square near the parliament.

The protesters had marched through the capital chanting slogans, banging drums and carrying banners attacking the bailout deal which many Greeks feel imposes harsh and unjust penalties on ordinary pensioners and workers while sparing the wealthy.

Transport and public services were hit, schools were shut and many shops and businesses were closed, while the streets of central Athens were virtually deserted.

“We expect a dynamic and massive participation in the strike and the march to the center of Athens. We will have 48 hours of working people, unemployed, young people in the streets,” ADEDY’s leader Spyros Papaspyros told Reuters.

Deep in deficit and unable to borrow on financial markets, Greece depends on international support to keep going. A default would spread contagion around the 17-nation single currency area and cause a deep shock to the global economy.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called on lawmakers to back the measures in two votes on Wednesday and Thursday, saying it was vital to convince Greece’s creditors that it had a plan and that the austerity measures could be implemented.

“The government is running out of time and so is the opposition,” he told parliament. “We are handling our country’s history right now and nobody can play with that.”

Voting on the first bill is due to begin following a debate that is due to begin at 10 a.m. (0700 GMT). Parliamentary officials said the timing of the vote itself was still unclear but would probably come some time in the afternoon.

Although the socialists have a majority, with 155 deputies in the 300-seat house, the final outcome is unclear, with some rebels from the ruling PASOK party opposed to the deal but a handful of conservatives expected to back it.

More serious problems may lie ahead however when the government has to implement the program, which will slash public sector jobs, shut down state-owned companies and take on the endemic tax evasion.

Euro zone authorities are working flat out with banks and insurers to devise a scheme whereby private bondholders can share the burden of further funding for Greece without prompting credit ratings agencies to declare a selective default.

European policymakers are also quietly exploring contingency plans to keep Greece afloat with emergency liquidity if parliament were to reject all or part of the package, three euro zone sources told Reuters on Monday.

RECESSION

More than 5,000 police are expected to be deployed in central Athens, especially to protect parliament, the focus of weeks of protests by demonstrators who have camped out in Syntagma Square.

The austerity plan has caused deep anger among Greeks disillusioned with years of political corruption and inefficiency and now bitterly resentful of the tough conditions imposed by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

By the early afternoon, well over 20,000 people had assembled in hot sunshine in front of the parliament, but the mood appeared calm.

“They are asking the people to bow down for 50 years and pass even worse measures in the future,” Communist party leader Aleka Papariga said in a statement.

In a sign the discontent has spread well beyond the union movement and far left, the Greek Confederation of Commerce (ESEE), a trade association of retailers, also rejected measures its leader Vassilis Korkidis denounced as “predatory.”

It urged shopkeepers to raise Greek national flags at their stores and announced an internet campaign to convince cabinet members and MPs to renege on the austerity plan.

Greece is stuck in its worst recession since the 1970s, with a youth unemployment rate of more than 40 percent and public finances shattered by a debt equivalent to some 150 percent of gross domestic product.

In a speech to shareholders in Athens, the head of EFG Eurobank, Greece’s second-largest bank, said it was vital that the austerity measures were passed in parliament.

“Today, what is at stake for the country is its very future. Individually and collectively, we must all realize how crucial the situation is and join the collective effort for the big changes,” Nicholas Nanopoulos said.

However the conservative opposition has refused to back the package and the view that the bitter medicine demanded by the EU and IMF will kill off any hopes of growth is widespread.

“The medium-term austerity package is a recipe that deepens the recession and puts Greece in deep freeze,” ADEDY’s Papaspyros said.

“We must get out of this situation fast, we need policies that support social cohesion and growth so that the people’s lives will not go bankrupt,” he said.

(Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos)

(Writing by James Mackenzie, editing by Paul Taylor and Sonya Hepinstall)

A demonstrator kicks a policeman during protests against austerity measures in Athens

Egypt permanently opens Gaza border crossing

Palestinian Yasser Srsaui, right, embraces a family member before crossing into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, southern Gaza Strip, Saturdayhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110528/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_gaza_border

By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press 2 hrs 58 mins ago

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – Egypt lifted a four-year-old blockade on the Gaza Strip’s main link to the outside world Saturday, bringing relief to the crowded territory’s 1.5 million Palestinians but deepening a rift with Israel since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

The Egyptian move will allow thousands of Gazans to move freely in and out of the area — heightening Israeli fears that militants and weapons could easily reach its doorstep.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Islamic militant Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. The closure, which also included tight Israeli restrictions at its cargo crossings with Gaza and a naval blockade, was meant to weaken Hamas, but it also fueled an economic crisis in the densely populated territory.

Hundreds of Gazans gathered early Saturday as the first bus load of passengers crossed the border at 9 a.m. Two Egyptian officers stood guard next to a large Egyptian flag atop the border gate as the vehicle rumbled through.

Rami Arafat, 52, was among the earliest arrivals. He said he hoped to catch a flight out of Cairo on Sunday to Algeria for his daughter’s wedding.

“All we need is to travel like humans, be treated with dignity, and feel like any other citizens of the world who can travel in and out freely,” Arafat said. He said he believed the relaxing of travel restrictions “will guarantee more support from all Arabs and Palestinians for the new Egyptian regime.”

Nearby, 28-year-old Khaled Halaweh said he was headed to Egypt to study for a master’s degree in engineering at Alexandria University.

“The closure did not affect only the travel of passengers or the flowing of goods. Our brains and our thoughts were under blockade,” said Halaweh, who said he hadn’t been out of Gaza for seven years.

Until Saturday, the Rafah border terminal had functioned at a limited capacity. Only certain classes of people, such as students, businessmen or medical patients, were eligible to travel and the crossing was often subject to closures, leading to huge backlogs that forced people to wait for months.

Under the new system, most restrictions are being lifted, and a much larger number of Palestinians are expected to be able to cross each day.

Inside the border terminal Saturday, the atmosphere was orderly, as Hamas police called up passengers one by one to register their travel documents.

After 5 1/2 hours of operation, terminal officials said 340 people had crossed from Gaza into Egypt. None were forced to return, a departure from the past when Egypt had rejected passengers found to be on “blacklists.” Another 150 people crossed from Egypt into Gaza.

“Today is a cornerstone for a new era that we hope will pave the road to ending the siege and blockade on Gaza,” said Hatem Awideh, director general of the Hamas border authority in Gaza. “We hope this facilitation by our Egyptian brothers will improve travel and will allow everyone to leave Gaza.”

One after another buses crossed Rafah, pulling blue carts behind them with luggage piled high. Inside the terminal, many waited with high hopes.

One woman, who gave her name as Aisha, said she was headed for a long overdue medical checkup in Cairo. She underwent surgery for blocked arteries at a Cairo hospital in October, but Egyptian authorities had prevented her from returning for checkups because a distant relative was caught — and killed — operating a smuggling tunnel on the Gaza-Egypt border. During the four-year blockade, a thriving smuggling business has grown along the border.

Salama Baraka, head of police at the Rafah terminal on the Gaza side, said travel has been limited to about 300 passengers a day under the old system. He said it was unclear how many people would pass through Saturday, but that officials hoped to get about three days’ worth of people, or roughly 900, across.

About 100 Hamas supporters marched with Palestinian and Egyptian flags outside the border terminal in a gesture of gratitude to Egypt.

“This courageous step by Egypt reflects the deep historic relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian nations,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri. “We hope this will be a step in the long process to end the blockade imposed on Gaza.”

The new system will not resolve Gazans’ travel woes completely.

While Egypt has dropped its restrictions on who can travel, bureaucratic obstacles remain. Men between the ages of 18 and 40 will have to apply for Egyptian visas, a process that can take weeks. Women, children and older men need easier-to-obtain travel permits, which can be obtained in several days.

Israel, which controls Gaza’s cargo crossings, allows most consumer goods into Gaza, but it still restricts exports as well as the entry of much-needed construction materials, saying they could be used by militants. Israel also enforces a naval blockade aimed at weapons smuggling.

Israeli and American officials have expressed concerns that Hamas will exploit the opening to bring weapons and fighters into Gaza. In January 2008, masked militants blew open the Rafah border wall, allowing thousands of people to pour in and out of Egypt.

Egyptian officials say they have security measures in place to keep weapons from crossing through Rafah.

Hamas has long used tunnels to get arms into Gaza. Gaza militants now have military-grade rockets that have hit cities in southern Israel.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, told Channel 2 TV Friday that Israel’s primary concern is that military training personnel could cross to instruct Hamas fighters.

“One trainer who tells them how to set up the rockets and how to use them is equal to a large quantity of weapons,” Gilad said.

Egypt’s decision to open the border is also meant to boost an Egyptian-mediated unity deal between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. Hamas has governed Gaza since routing Fatah forces in 2007, leaving the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in control only of the West Bank.

Last month, the Egyptian regime brokered a reconciliation deal. With details still being worked out, Hamas will be in charge of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, but Egypt coordinated the opening with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, said Yaser Afnan, Egypt’s ambassador in the West Bank.

Egypt’s Mubarak to be tried over protester deaths

Hosni Mubarakhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110524/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press 34 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s ex-President Hosni Mubarak will stand trial on charges of conspiring in the deadly shootings of protesters during the uprising that ousted him, the prosecutor-general said Tuesday, a major step in a country still rattled by protests and demands for justice.

The 83-year-old leader and his two sons also were charged with abusing power to amass wealth, enriching associates and accepting bribes, the prosecutor-general’s office said in a statement.

A date has not been set for the trial in criminal court. The prosecutor general spokesman Adel el-Said told The Associated Press the charges against Mubarak for his alleged role in the killing of protesters by security forces could carry the death penalty.

“The sons and the businessman have nothing to do with the charges of the killing of protesters,” he said. “Mubarak and some police chiefs are charged with that.”

Putting Mubarak on trial is a key demand of many Egyptians who have rallied to demand the ousted leader and his aides face justice. A close associate of Mubarak, Hussein Salem, also was charged. He is at large.

Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 and transferred power to the military after an 18-day popular uprising. At least 846 protesters were killed, according to a government fact-finding mission.

Mubarak has been in custody in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since last month. His two sons are in detention in a Cairo prison.

The Mubaraks and other members of the former regime have been the subject of legal efforts to bring them to trial since the ex-president was forced to resign on Feb. 11. Egypt’s former security chief and four of his top aides are already on trial in the shooting of protesters.

Earlier this month, Tunisia’s toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was charged along with his wife of inciting violence in the bloody crackdown on the popular uprising there. Ben Ali has fled to Saudi Arabia.

But after the initial euphoria in Egypt of a successful uprising, protesters have become impatient and stepped up demands that reforms and promises be carried out.

Mubarak’s prosecution has been complicated by his health condition. He has been interrogated in the hospital, but an order by the prosecutor to transfer him to prison during the investigation was overturned on grounds the prison health facilities were not ready to receive him. He was never moved to a military hospital as suggested by the prosecutor.

Protesters took to the streets several times demanding a speedy trial for Mubarak and his sons.

The calls were aggravated two weeks ago by reports suggesting the military rulers might grant Mubarak amnesty. The reports sparked a wave of criticism and calls for mass rallies to demand justice. The anger prompted a quick denial from the military rulers.

The statement from prosecutor-general Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid on Tuesday accused Mubarak of having “conspired” with the former security chief and other officers to shoot and kill protesters who took to the streets starting Jan. 25. The decision comes ahead of a planned Friday protest dubbed “Egypt’s second revolution,” to demand Mubarak be put on trial and that all remnants of his regime be uprooted, including the hated emergency laws that remain on the books more than three months after his ouster.

Activist Hossam Hamalawi said the Friday protests will go ahead because there are other unmet demands besides trial for Mubarak. “It has to be a public trial, aired minute by minute,” he said. “It is not a legal process as much as it is a political one.”

Abdel-Meguid also charged Mubarak and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, with using their authority and power to enrich himself and business associate Salem.

Prosecution spokesman Adel al-Said said Mubarak’s sons are still being interrogated on other accusations.

The prosecutor had earlier ordered the freezing of the assets of Mubarak and his family. His 70-year- old wife Suzanne was released after she relinquished assets and property valued at $4 million. The move aimed to settle corruption allegations against her, but it was unclear whether she would still face trial.

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Authorities detain wife of deposed Egyptian leader

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110513/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

CAIRO – Egyptian authorities on Friday ordered the detention of Suzanne Mubarak, wife of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, the government-run MENA news agency reported.

The move came a day after the government said Mubarak and his wife were questioned over suspicions they illegally amassed vast wealth.

MENA said prosecutors ordered Suzanne Mubarak, who is 70, detained for 15 days pending further investigation of the allegations. It was not immediately clear where she would be held.

The 83-year-old former president is in a hospital in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Hosni Mubarak had been questioned several times, but Thursday was the first time his wife faced interrogation.

MENA said Suzanne Mubarak was asked about 20 million Egyptian pounds ($3.3 million) held in her name in one of the Cairo banks as well as a luxurious home in Cairo.

Both Suzanne Mubarak and her husband were questioned in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where they have been staying since he was deposed Feb. 11 by a popular uprising. She has been staying in the town in their villa, which has an estimated value of 36 million pounds ($6 million).

A report by a financial oversight body said that Mubarak and his family had numerous bank accounts in foreign and local currencies, luxury apartments and palaces and valuable land holdings. Some estimate his fortune in the tens of billions of dollars.

Mubarak denies the allegations.

Mubarak also faces charges over deaths of protesters during the uprising.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110513/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Riaz Khan, Associated Press 44 mins ago

HABQADAR, Pakistan – A pair of Taliban suicide bombers attacked paramilitary police recruits eagerly heading home for a break after months of training, killing 80 people Friday in the first act of retaliation for the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In claiming responsibility, the al-Qaida linked militant group cited anger at Pakistan’s military for failing to stop the American incursion on their soil.

The blasts in the northwest were a reminder of the savagery of Islamist insurgents in Pakistan. Tensions also have risen between the U.S. and Islamabad over allegations that some elements of Pakistani security forces had been harboring bin Laden, who died in a May 2 raid in Abbottabad, a garrison town about three hours’ drive from the scene of the bombing.

“We have done this to avenge the Abbottabad incident,” Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told The Associated Press in a phone call. He warned that the group was also planning attacks on Americans living inside Pakistan.

The bombers blew themselves up in Shabqadar at the main gate of the facility for the Frontier Constabulary, a poorly equipped but front-line force in the battle against al-Qaida and allied Islamist groups like the Pakistani Taliban close to the Afghan border. Like other branches of Pakistan’s security forces, it has received U.S. funding to try to sharpen its skills.

At least 80 people were killed, including 66 recruits, and around 120 people were wounded, said police officer Liaqat Ali Khan.

Around 900 young men were leaving the center after spending six months of training there. They were in high spirits and looking forward to seeing their families, for which some had brought gifts, a survivor said.

Some people were sitting inside public minivans and others were loading luggage atop the vehicles when the bombers struck, witnesses said.

“We were heading toward a van when the first blast took place and we fell on the ground and then there was another blast,” said 21-year-old Rehmanullah Khan. “We enjoyed our time together, all the good and bad weather and I cannot forget the cries of my friends before they died.”

The scene was littered with shards of glass mixed with blood and flesh. The explosions destroyed at least 10 vans.

It was the first major militant attack in Pakistan since bin Laden’s death on May 2, and the deadliest this year.

Militants had pledged to avenge the killing and launch reprisal strikes in Pakistan.

The Taliban spokesman suggested the attack was aimed as punishment against Pakistani authorities for failing to stop the unilateral U.S. raid that killed bin Laden, something that has sparked popular nationalist and Islamist anger.

“The Pakistani army has failed to protect its land,” Ahsan said.

In its communications, the Taliban often tries to tap into popular sentiments in the country, where anti-Americanism is often stronger than feelings against Islamist militants. This is despite militant attacks over the last four years claiming the lives of many hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians.

Some 350 lawyers sympathetic with Islamists attended special prayers for bin Laden on the premises of the provincial high court in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday. The lawyers cursed the May 2 raid, chanting “Down with America.”

The explosive vests used in Friday’s attacks were packed with ball bearings and nails, police said.

Police official Nisar Khan said a suicide bomber in his late teens or early 20s set off one of the blasts.

“The first blast occurred in the middle of the road, and after that there was a huge blast that was more powerful than the first,” said Abdul Wahid, a 25-year-old recruit whose legs were wounded in the blasts.

Bin Laden, the Sept. 11 mastermind, and at least four others were killed by U.S. Navy SEALs who raided his compound in Abbottabad. Bin Laden is believed to have lived in the large house for up to six years.

Pakistani officials have denied knowing he was there but criticized the U.S. raid ordered by President Barack Obama as a violation of their country’s sovereignty. To counter allegations that Pakistan harbored bin Laden, the officials point out that thousands of Pakistani citizens, and up to 3,000 of its security forces, have died in suicide and other attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, when Islamabad became an ally of the U.S. in taking on Islamist extremists.

Many of the attacks have targeted Pakistani security forces, but government buildings, religious minorities and Western targets also have been hit.

Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, admitted “negligence” on the part of authorities in failing to find bin Laden during a closed session in Parliament on Friday, a government spokeswoman told reporters. Military officials, including the powerful army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said they would improve the country’s air defenses, which did not detect the high-tech U.S. choppers used in the raid.

The military leaders also assured lawmakers that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals are safe and that the armed forces were capable of defending the country, said Firdous Ashiq Awan, the federal information minister.

In another development Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said a U.S. missile strike killed three people near the Afghan border.

The four missiles struck a vehicle in the Doga Madakhel village of North Waziristan tribal region. North Waziristan is home to many militant groups dedicated to attacking Western troops in Afghanistan.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. They did not know the identities of the dead.

___

Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan and Deb Riechmann in Islamabad, Babar Dogar in Lahore and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.

Mobs set Egypt churches on fire, 12 killed

Firemen fight a fire at a church surrounded by angry Muslims in the Imbaba neighborhood in Cairo late Saturday, May 7, 2011. Christians and Muslims fohttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110508/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt_sectarian_clashes

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press 29 mins ago

CAIRO – Muslim mobs set two churches on fire overnight in Cairo during sectarian clashes that left 12 dead and more than 200 injured. The deepening religious violence in military-ruled Egypt added news tensions to an already chaotic and lawless transition to democracy.

Military authorities arrested 190 people, immediately sending them to military prosecutions and threatening the maximum penalty against anyone attacking houses of worship. It was the military’s toughest response yet to a series of violent clashes between the two religious groups and signifies swift justice.

Mobs of ultraconservative Muslims attacked the St. Menas church in the Cairo slum of Imbaba late Saturday following rumors that a Christian woman married to a Muslim man had been abducted. Local residents said a separate mob of youths armed with knives and machetes attacked the Virgin Mary church several blocks away with firebombs.

“People were scared to come near them,” said local resident Adel Mohammed, 29, who lives near the Virgin Mary Church. “They looked scary. They threw their firebombs at the church and set parts of it ablaze.”

During Egypt’s 18-day uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak several months ago, there was a rare spirit of brotherhood between Muslims and Christians. Each group protected the other during prayer sessions in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution.

But in the months that followed the toppling of Mubarak on Feb. 11, there has been a sharp rise in sectarian tensions, fueled in part by newly active ultraconservative Muslim movement, known as the Salafis.

The once quiescent Salafis have become more assertive post-revolution in trying to spread their ultraconservative version of an Islamic way of life. In particular, they have focused their wrath on Egypt’s Christians, who make up 10 percent of the country’s 80 million people.

On Friday, a few hundred Salafis marched through Cairo celebrating al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and condemning the U.S. operation that killed him.

Egypt’s state news agency said of those killed, at least six Muslims and at least three Christians were among those killed. The body of one Christian was found inside the St. Menas church, the agency said. The Health Ministry said 12 had died and more than 230 were injured, at least 11 of them critically.

The clashes were set off Saturday around sundown when word spread around the low-income neighborhood of Imbaba that a Christian woman who married a Muslim was abducted and is being kept in the church against her will.

The report, which was never confirmed by local religious figures, sent a large mob of Muslims toward the St. Menas church. Christians created a human barricade around the church and clashes erupted. Gunfire sounded across the neighborhood, and witnesses said people on rooftops nearby were firing into the crowd.

Muslims alleged the Christians opened fire first. Then crowds of hundreds of Muslims from the neighborhood, in many parts instigated by the local ultraconservative Salafi sheiks, converged on the area. They lobbed firebombs at homes and shops and also at St. Menas church, setting its facade on fire.

Residents say Christians were hiding inside. Muslims were chanting: “With our blood and soul, we defend you Islam.”

The army and police tried to break up the crowd by firing tear gas, but failed to clear the streets. Troops surrounded the church after the fire was put out.

Later the same night, witnesses said a separate Muslim mob, mostly youths armed with machetes and knives, moved to the Virgin Mary church nearby and also set it on fire.

The mob then dispersed to side streets, and local residents, including the neighborhood’s Muslims, tried to put out the fire. At one point, they attempted to get into the closed mosque opposite the church to get water. But the youthful mob armed with knives blocked Mohammed and others in his group.

“They told us keep the mosque out of it,” said Mohammed, who lives near the church. “They were thugs. The way they talk, they have no religious or political views.”

He said the firefighters and security arrived on the scene more than an hour later.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, angry residents stormed a six-story building near the St. Menas, saying Christians used it to shoot at Muslims.

“They were shooting from the roof, and they killed Muslims,” said 18-year old Yehia Ramadan. “We won’t stand by idle.”

Flames were coming out of windows, and furniture were strewn along the sidewalks. The building appeared to be empty, but it was not clear when its residents fled.

Islamic clerics denounced the violence, sounding alarm bells at the escalating tension during the transitional period.

“These events do not benefit either Muslim or Copts,” Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Sheik of al-Azhar told the daily Al-Ahram.

In the deadliest violence since Mubarak’s ouster, 13 were killed in pitched street battles in March after Muslims torched a church. That violence was also triggered by rumors of a love affair between a Muslim woman and a Christian man.

A New Year’s Eve suicide bombing outside a Coptic church in the port city of Alexandria killed 21 people, setting off days of protests. Egypt made some arrests but never charged anyone with the attack.

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