Category: Egypt


http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110425/wl_nm/us_pakistan_usa_guantanmo

By Chris Allbritton Chris Allbritton Mon Apr 25, 12:30 pm ET

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The U.S. military classified Pakistan’s top spy agency as a terrorist support entity in 2007 and used association with it as a justification to detain prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, according to leaked documents published on Sunday that are sure to further alienate Pakistan.

One document (http://link.reuters.com/tyn29r), given to The New York Times, say detainees who associated with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate “may have provided support to al-Qaida or the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against US or Coalition forces.”

The ISI, along with al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence, are among 32 groups on the list of “associated forces,” which also includes Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, headed by al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The document defines an “associate force” as “militant forces and organizations with which al-Qaida, the al-Qaida network, or the Taliban has an established working, supportive, or beneficiary relationship for the achievement of common goals.”

The ISI said it had no comment.

The “JTF-GTMO Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants” likely dates from 2007 according to its classification code, and is part of a trove of 759 files on detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba.

The secret documents were obtained by WikiLeaks and date from between 2002 and 2009, but they were made available to The New York Times from a separate source, the paper said.

They reveal that most of the 172 remaining prisoners have been rated as a “high risk” of posing a threat to the United States and its allies if released without adequate rehabilitation and supervision, the newspaper said.

The documents also show about a third of the 600 detainees already sent to other countries were also designated “high risk” before they were freed or passed to the custody of other governments, the Times said in its report late on Sunday.

SEAT-OF-THE-PANTS INTELLIGENCE GATHERING

The dossiers, prepared under the Bush administration, also show the seat-of-the-pants intelligence gathering in war zones that led to the incarcerations of innocent men for years in cases of mistaken identity or simple misfortune, the Times said.

The documents are largely silent about the use of the harsh interrogation tactics at Guantanamo that drew global condemnation, the newspaper reported.

The Times also said an Obama administration task force set up in January 2009 had reviewed the assessments and, in some cases, come to different conclusions. “Thus… the documents published by The Times may not represent the government’s current views of detainees at Guantanamo.”

WikiLeaks previously released classified Pentagon reports on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 250,000 State Department cables. Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old U.S. soldier accused of leaking secret documents to WikiLeaks has been detained since May of last year.

Last week, the Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pakistani media that the ISI had a “longstanding” relationship with the Haqqani Network which is allied to al Qaeda.

“Haqqani is supporting, funding, training fighters that are killing Americans and killing coalition partners. And I have a sacred obligation to do all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Mullen told Pakistan’s daily Dawn newspaper.

“So that’s at the core — it’s not the only thing — but that’s at the core that I think is the most difficult part of the relationship,” Mullen said.

Pakistan’s powerful ISI has long been suspected of maintaining ties to the Haqqani network, cultivated during the 1980s when Jalaluddin Haqqani was a feared battlefield commander against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

U.S.-Pakistan ties have been strained this year by the case of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore on January 27, as well as by tensions in Pakistan over U.S. drone strikes that have fanned anti-American sentiment.

(Editing by Andrew Marshall)

Taliban free hundreds in brazen Afghan jailbreak

An Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch outside Kandahar's main jailhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110425/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_prison

By Ahmad Nadeem Ahmad Nadeem 52 mins ago

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in Afghanistan’s south on Monday through a tunnel dug by Taliban insurgents, officials said, a “disaster” for the Afghan government and a setback for foreign forces planning to start a gradual withdrawal within months.

Tooryalai Wesa, governor of volatile southern Kandahar province, told Reuters 488 prisoners escaped due to the negligence of Afghan security forces at the province’s main jail. He said the tunnel led to a nearby house.

The Taliban said in a statement that 541 prisoners escaped through the tunnel, which took months to construct, and were later moved in vehicles to safer locations. The prison, touted as one of the most secure in Afghanistan, is located on the outskirts of Kandahar city.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief spokesman told a news conference that the incident, in which many Taliban commanders were said to have escaped, exposed serious vulnerabilities in the Afghan government.

“This is a blow, it is something that should not have happened. We are looking into finding out … what exactly happened and what is being done to compensate for the disaster that happened in the prison,” spokesman Waheed Omer said.

General Ghulam Dastgir, the governor in charge of the jail, said the prisoners had all escaped through the tunnel.

“No one managed to escape through the main gate, everybody went out through the tunnel. The insurgents worked on it for some seven months,” Dastgir said.

“The Taliban have planted bombs inside the tunnel and it is hard to investigate until the explosives are removed,” he said.

BIRTHPLACE OF THE TALIBAN

Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, has been the focus of the U.S.-led military campaign over the past year, with tens of thousands of U.S. and Afghan troops launching offensives around Kandahar city.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan said it is too early to tell what impact the escape will have on plans to hand over other prisons to Afghan security control.

A U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that the push to transfer more security responsibilities to Afghan officials will continue.

“This escape is a serious issue which the Afghan authorities are working to address,” the official said, adding that both U.S. and Canadian advisors helped train and mentor Afghan Central Prisons Directorate staff at the prison.

Twenty-six prisoners were recaptured and two killed in a gunfight with security forces, Wesa said.

Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Afghan officials had not officially asked for help in recapturing the prisoners but NATO “personnel who patrol the area are aware of the situation and will assist the Afghan authorities in responding as needed.”

Reporters were taken into the prison after the jailbreak to view the opening of the tunnel in one of the cell blocks.

Reuters photographs showed a hole, several feet deep, cut into the concrete floor of one of the cells. The hole, big enough to allow one man to climb down at a time, appeared to be connected to a tunnel.

A large carpet in the cell looked to have been folded back to expose the hole. Police told reporters the insurgents had used car jacks to break through the concrete floor, which was several centimeters thick.

The Taliban said the prisoners escaped over a four-and-a-half hour period during the night, meaning more than 100 prisoners an hour would have had to crawl out through a tunnel barely large enough to fit one man.

“Mujahideen started digging a 320-meter (1,049 feet) tunnel to the prison from the south side, which was completed after a five-month period, bypassing enemy checkposts and the Kandahar-Kabul main highway leading directly to the political prison,” the Taliban statement said.

“They moved people in several groups. They had a comfortable period of time to move that many people. It’s obviously very worrying with the timing around fighting season,” said a foreign official in Kandahar with knowledge of the incident.

Wesa said of the 488 who had escaped, 13 were ordinary criminals and the rest were insurgents.

COLLABORATION?

Analysts said the escape was a serious setback for security, and there was doubt about whether it could have happened without the help of guards.

“It is either a case of the jailers being financially motivated and being bribed, or a case of them being politically motivated,” said Waheed Mujhda, a Kabul-based analyst and expert on the Taliban.

Justice Ministry spokesman Farid Ahmad Najibi said he could not rule out the possibility guards had helped in the escape.

Whether the insurgents had all escaped through the tunnel or not, the freeing of hundreds of prisoners, including Taliban militants, is embarrassing for the Afghan government and foreign troops who have trumpeted recent security gains in and around Kandahar after months of heavy fighting, Mujhda said.

The brazen jailbreak comes months before the start of a transfer of security responsibilities from foreign to Afghan forces in several areas — including the main city in neighboring Helmand province — as part of the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

Under the transition program, Afghan forces would begin taking over from foreign troops in seven areas this summer and should have control of the whole country by the end of 2014.

While Kandahar is not among the areas listed for the transition of forces in the first stage, Monday’s jailbreak raises serious questions about the readiness of Afghan forces to take over from foreign troops.

The jailbreak also drew comparisons to a similar incident three years earlier. In 2008, Taliban insurgents blew open the gate of the Kandahar prison at night, allowing up to 1,000 inmates, including hundreds of Taliban insurgents, to escape.

Days after that escape, hundreds of Taliban fighters seized villages in districts close to Kandahar and appeared to threaten the city itself, with the government sending more than 1,000 extra troops from the north as reinforcements. Nearly 100 Taliban fighters were killed in the ensuing battle.

(Additional reporting by Ismail Sameem in KANDAHAR and Hamid Shalizi and Rob Taylor in KABUL; Andrew Quinn and David Alexander in WASHINGTON; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Paul Tait, Alex Richardson and Will Dunham)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110423/wl_time/08599206696000

By ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER / CAIRO Abigail Hauslohner / Cairo Sat Apr 23, 1:15 am ET

Reports of a thaw in Egyptian-Iranian diplomatic ties has created a stir in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt and its neighbor, Israel. Indeed, even as Egypt struggles to iron out its own emerging political system after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, Cairo’s foreign policy is also undergoing a sea change. “If you look at Egypt over the last 20 years, it just hasn’t played a very serious role in the foreign affairs of the region,” says Gary Sick a Persian Gulf expert at Columbia University, who served on the National Security Council under three U.S. presidents. For decades, in fact, the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak acted as little more than a “foreign policy cardboard standup” to its powerful ally and benefactor, the United States. But all that is about to change, he says. “Many of the countries that now have new leaders are going to reset their foreign affairs,” Sick predicts. “And the United States is going to have to get used to that.”

For post-revolutionary Egypt’s new leaders and politicians, forging a new foreign policy means pushing back against much of what Mubarak stood for. That clearly includes Egypt’s perceived puppet-like status to the United States, Europe, and Israel. “Let us eat the way we want, dress the way we want. Let us organize ourselves the way we want to,” says Kamal Habib, a Salafi politician, who was jailed for a decade under Mubarak for his affiliation with a violent jihadist organization. “We don’t want to repeat the Mubarak-American relationship again.” (See pictures of the mass demonstrations in Egypt.)

Habib’s opinion applies to more than just his Salafist cohorts. Many Egyptians want to hit the reset button on their country’s stance on Palestinian statehood, as well as its posture toward the Gaza Strip, where it has helped to enforce an Israeli-led blockade for four years. Most recently, it also includes re-thinking a decades-old enmity with Iran.

Earlier this month, Egypt’s new Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi called for a normalization of relations between the two countries. Tehran and Cairo cut off diplomatic ties following the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel and the Islamic Revolution in Iran, both of which occured in 1979. Earlier this week, reports filtered out that Iran had appointed an ambassador to Cairo, sparking a flurry of speculation on the future of the relationship. Both countries later denied that the step had been taken. But Egyptian state media reported that Iran’s foreign minister has been invited to visit Cairo. And on Thursday Iran’s state-run Press TV announced that Iranian tourism agencies had signed a deal with Egypt to facilitate tourism between the two countries.

For western policy-makers and the Israeli government, the newfound warmth has set off alarm bells. At the very least, they say, it’s not a positive sign for the countries seeking to isolate Iran in an effort to halt its suspected work to build nuclear weapons.

See TIME’s most influential people of 2011.

See TIME’s exclusive photos in “Uprising in Cairo.”

But it may not be a such bad sign either – at least as far as the U.S., Europe, and other countries in the Middle East are concerned. Other Arab states that have normalized relations with Iran, like Qatar and Oman, have proven useful intermediaries at times between the rogue republic and its western adversaries. In tandem with Brazil, Turkey, the largest non-Arab Muslim nation in the area, independently negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran when Western efforts at coercion failed. (The agreement did not stick because Western officials declared that it did not meet conditions set by the U.N.) But, while Turkey’s success may have proven embarrassing to U.S. leadership because Washington wasn’t responsible for the deal, Sick says, “the opportunity to actually have a valuable interlocutor between the United States and Iran, I know from personal experience, was immensely useful.”

Whether Egypt aims to become an interlocutor is unclear, and perhaps even unlikely at this point. It is more likely that Egypt’s leaders want to set an agenda that’s independent from the U.S. and Europe. And just because Egypt is trying to regain some of the regional prominence that it enjoyed in the 1950s and 60s when it was a vocal leader of pan-Arab nationalism, doesn’t mean it’s going to be Iran’s new best friend either. “The new Middle East may end up being defined as it was in the past by that triangle of ancient states – Egypt, Turkey and Iran,” says Sick. “And I don’t think that they will necessarily become allies of each other. Rather they’re more likely to be rivals on many different issues.” (See TIME’s complete coverage in “The Middle East in Revolt.”)

One of those issues is a lingering suspicion of Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy and Tehran’s ambitions to “export” its Islamic revolution. Most of the region is dominated by Sunni Muslims; and religious conservatives sometimes view the Shi’a brand of Islam practiced by Iran’s majority as heretical. The rise of a Shi’ite government in Iraq has put other Arab states on edge, and an Egypt friendly to Iran is likely to come under a lot of pressure from some of its Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia. Regional analysts also say that Arabs have a tendency to exaggerate fears of Iranian influence. “The really active days of exporting the revolution ended in about 1982,” says Sick. But psychologically, it may still represent a sizable obstacle to normalization of Egyptian-Iranian relations.

At the same time, it’s worth considering who’s really in power in post-Mubarak Egypt. Egypt’s revolutionaries may indeed start flexing their foreign policy muscles against Mubarak’s legacy, but the generals who are temporarily in control of the country may have little interest in bending back the old policies. Mubarak’s number two man, the intensely anti-Iran intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has been removed from power. But in his place is Mourad Mwafi, the former head of Egyptian military intelligence, and the governor of North Sinai who held a hard-line on Gaza and Iran-backed Hamas. “I don’t know what his politics are, but I think he has a very healthy and realistic sense of the threats that Egypt still faces,” says one Western diplomat in Cairo. “I think he is highly skeptical of Iranian intentions – not only the nuclear stuff, but Hamas and Hezbollah and other malign influences in the region. So I think they haven’t lost their antennae on these issues.”

Indeed, Iran may be eager for a new ally in an international community where it remains highly unpopular. Ambassadors may even be exchanged. But Egypt is likely to proceed with caution. At the end of the day, the Western official adds, Egypt’s stance on Iran may not be so threatening after all: “There is no intention at this point, I’m told, to immediately move toward changing the nature of the relationship. It’s not there yet. I think the security services still have some concerns.”

Egypt army reconsiders cases of jailed protesters

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110414/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Maggie Michael, Associated Press 1 hr 1 min ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s military rulers said Thursday they were reviewing cases of young protesters jailed in the aftermath of the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and that they also sacked several provincial governors appointed by the former president.

The moves meant to defuse tensions between the military, which took control of Egypt after Mubarak’s ouster, and the protesters determined to keep up the pressure and demand for sweeping reforms.

The Armed Forces’ Supreme Council — the body of top generals that took over after Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11 — said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that “cases of the young people” recently put on trial “will be reconsidered.”

Activists complain the military has been acting in ways reminiscent of Mubarak’s regime, detaining scores of people and putting protesters in military prisons, where some were reportedly tortured, or on swift trial before military courts.

This week, a military tribunal slapped a three-year prison term on a blogger for charges of insulting the army and spreading false information, further antagonizing the protest movement.

Many Egyptians say the generals are heavy-handedly dictating the course of Egypt’s transition and that they are not doing enough to ensure that remnants of Mubarak’s regime don’t retain power and thwart hopes for real democracy.

The tensions came to a peak on Saturday, when troops stormed Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 18-day uprising, killing at least one protester and arresting dozens in a pre-dawn operation.

The military has not provided a number for those detained.

But the Protesters’ Defense Front, an umbrella of civil rights groups helping the detainees, says their estimate is that since Feb. 11, about 10,000 people have either been detained, put on trial or imprisoned after sentencing before military tribunals.

Nadim Mansour, an activist of the organization says the estimate was derived from reports from families and lawyers who attend trials before military courts. He said the military system now allows for appeals in cases before military tribunals, which was not the case before.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s state TV said Thursday that the military rulers also sacked 10 provincial governors appointed by Mubarak, and replaced them with new faces — another key demand of the youth movement at the helm of the uprising.

Thursday’s developments came a day after Mubarak and his two sons were detained for investigation of corruption, abuse of power and killings of protesters. Legal experts say that if convicted for inciting and ordering the killings, Mubarak could face the death sentence.

Mubarak remains in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he is kept in detention.

There were reports suggesting he could be transferred to a Cairo hospital, as well as rumors his health condition was deteriorating after experiencing heart problems during Tuesday’s interrogations.

However, Egypt’s state TV said on Thursday that Mubarak’s health condition is “stable,” and that he will remain in Sharm el-Sheik.

The detention of the 82-year-old Mubarak — dubbed Egypt’s pharaoh for ruling unchallenged for 29 years — set a new landmark in the already unprecedented wave of upheavals shaking the Middle East.

It was the first time an authoritarian leader in the Arab world has been brought to justice by his own people, given that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was toppled and later captured by American troops, who handed him over for trial and execution by Iraq’s new Shiite rulers.

Mubarak’s sons, Gamal, once seen as his successor, and Alaa, a wealthy businessman, were jailed in Cairo’s Tora prison, where a string of former top regime figures — including Mubarak’s prime minister, ruling party chief and chief of staff — are already languishing, facing similar corruption investigations.

Egypt’s Mubarak detained for investigation

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110413/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press 1 hr 42 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak was put under detention in his hospital room Wednesday for investigation on accusations of corruption, abuse of power and killings of protesters in a dramatic step Wednesday that brought celebrations from the movement that drove him from office.

Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were also detained for questioning and taken to Cairo’s Torah prison where a string of former top regime figures — including the former prime minister, head of the ruling party and Mubarak’s chief of staff — are already languishing, facing similar investigations on corruption.

The move reflected the enormous pressure from the public on the ruling military, which was handed power when Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11. On Friday tens of thousands protested in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square demanding Mubarak and his family be put on trial, and many in the crowds accused the military of protecting the former president.

The detention came hours after the 82-year-old Mubarak was hospitalized Tuesday evening with heart problems in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort where he and his family have been living since his fall from power.

Early Wednesday, the public prosecutor announced Mubarak was ordered put under detention for 15 days for investigation. He was to be flown later in the day to a military hospital outside Cairo, where he would remain in detention, a security official in Sharm el-Sheikh said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Protesters had pushed hard for Mubarak’s prosecution, demanding what they called a clear signal that the corruption that pervaded his nearly 30-year rule would be definitively broken. Public outrage was widespread over allegations that large fortunes were skimmed off by top regime officials through shady deals over the years.

Beyond the anger has been the fear that Mubarak cronies are maneuvering to regain power as the country tries to work out democratic rule — and that the ruling military was not taking action to prevent them, or was even abetting them.

“I was so happy in the morning when I heard the news,” said Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 group, one of the movements that led the unprecedented 18-day protest movement against Mubarak.

“All people are very happy because this step reassured them after a period of doubts and stagnation,” referring to doubts over the military’s intentions, he told The Associated Press. Worries over the military were intensified by a fierce pre-dawn raid on protesters in Tahrir on Saturday that killed at least one person.

Still, he said, Egypt faces a long road to ensure the transition period leads to real democracy. “Trying Mubarak and his regime is very important but what is super important is the political future of Egypt and what kind of political system we want to have,” he said.

The prosecutor’s announcement gave a momentary easing of tensions between the military and protesters. Following the prosecutor’s announcement, the coalition of youth groups that have organized the protests said it is canceling a planned new mass demonstration in Tahrir Square on Friday to demand Mubarak’s prosecution.

But the coalition underlined that there are still demands left unfulfilled — including the dissolving of the former ruling party and the sacking of Mubarak-appointed governors as well as university deans and local city councils, both seen as levers of his regime.

Activist Amr Bassiouny said in a Tweet that the detention was not the protesters’ primary goal but “free speech, free assembly, free press — no torture, real democracy, end of lies.”

Since Mubarak’s fall, activists have complained that the Armed Forces Supreme Council, the body of top generals that now rules Egypt, has been dictating the post-Mubarak transition without consultation. Relations have rapidly soured over past week, amid reports of abuses by the military that reminded some of Mubarak’s rule — including torture of detained protesters and the imprisoning of an activist for criticizing the army

Protesters have criticized the army for being too close to the old regime and not swiftly bringing Mubarak to trial while hundreds of protesters remain in military detention, some convicted in swift trials before military courts.

In its announcement, posted on the social networking site Facebook, the public prosecutor said Mubarak was under investigation into allegations of assaults, killings and injury of protesters, corruption, squandering of public funds, and the abuse of authority for personal gain.

Hundreds are estimated to have been killed during the protests as police opened fire and cracked down on the crowds. Officials put the number of protesters killed during the uprising at 365, but human rights activists and others have said the figure is much higher. According to a count by the Front to Defend Egypt Protesters, a group that provides medical and legal assistance to the demonstrators, 685 people died as of March 7.

On Sunday, Mubarak defended himself in a prerecorded message saying he had not abused his authority, and investigators were welcome to check over his assets.

It was his first address to the people in the two months since his ouster. He has kept a low profile since he was ousted, living on his compound in Sharm el-Sheikh. He and his family were banned from traveling and their assets frozen.

Shortly after, the prosecutor general issued a summons for Mubarak to appear for questioning.

Soon after the hospitalization Tuesday night and in a sign that his ailment might not be very serious, Justice Minister Mohammed el-Guindi said Mubarak was then questioned in his suite for his role in the violence against protesters. The ministry statement on Facebook said Mubarak’s lawyers and a medical team were present during the interrogation. Mubarak has a history of minor ailments and underwent gallbladder surgery in Germany in March last year.

While the ex-president was taken to the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has been living since being removed from power, his sons were taken for questioning to the nearby courthouse.

An angry crowd of 2,000 people had gathered outside the hospital late Tuesday, demanding the sons’ arrest. Then, in the early hours Wednesday, head of provincial security in the South Sinai told the crowd that Gamal and Alaa would be detained.

“Brothers, whatever you wanted, you have got … 15 days,” said Maj. Gen. Mohammed el-Khatib, as the crowd erupted in cheers.

As a police van with drawn curtains took away the brothers, the crowd pelted it with water bottles, stones and their flip-flops, as a sign of contempt.

Over the past decade, Gamal had risen to the top ranks of the ruling party and was widely seen as Mubarak’s designated succession. Anger over that prospect helped galvanize Egypt’s protest movement. Gamal brought into government and the ruling party a number of top businessmen who led an economic liberalization program that brought in billions in foreign investment but has also widened the gap between rich and poor. Several of those businessman-politicians now face trial or investigation for allegedly using their positions to amassing fortunes. His brother Alaa is a prominent businessman.

Egyptian stock market’s posted moderate gains Wednesday with investors buoyed by news that Mubarak and his sons have been detained. The market had been relatively stable in the days after its reopening late last month, following a nearly two-month closure linked to the anti-Mubarak uprising.

_____

Associated Press writers Paul Schemm and Maggie Michael in Cairo, and Yasser Imam and Ashraf Sweilam in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, contributed to this report.

My Years As Gaddafi’s Nurse

http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailybeast/20110411/ts_dailybeast/13423_oksanabalinskayaonbeinglibyasmuammargaddafisnurse

Oksana Balinskaya Oksana Balinskaya Mon Apr 11, 1:02 am ET

NEW YORK – I checked the dictator’s heart and lived in luxury. But when revolution came, I realized the cost. In this week’s Newsweek, Oksana Balinskaya talks about what it was like being the nurse for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

I was just 21 when I went to work for Muammar Gaddafi. Like the other young women he hired as nurses, I had grown up in Ukraine. I didn’t speak a word of Arabic, didn’t even know the difference between Lebanon and Libya. But “Papik,” as we nicknamed him—it means “little father” in Russian—was always more than generous to us. I had everything I could dream of: a furnished two-bedroom apartment, a driver who appeared whenever I called. But my apartment was bugged, and my personal life was watched closely.

Oksana Balinskaya worked as Gaddafi’s Nurse. (Photo: Joseph Sywenkyj for Newsweek)

For the first three months I wasn’t allowed to go to the palace. I think Papik was afraid that his wife, Safia, would get jealous. But soon I began to attend to him regularly. The job of the nurses was to see that our employer stayed in great shape-in fact, he had the heart rate and blood pressure of a much younger man. We insisted that he wear gloves on visits to Chad and Mali to protect him against tropical diseases. We made sure that he took his daily walks around the paths of his residence, got his vaccinations, and had his blood pressure checked on time.

The Ukrainian press called us Gaddafi’s harem. That’s nonsense. None of us nurses was ever his lover; the only time we ever touched him was to take his blood pressure. The truth is that Papik was much more discreet than his friend, the womanizer Silvio Berlusconi. Gaddafi chose to hire only attractive Ukrainian women, most probably for our looks. He just liked to be surrounded by beautiful things and people. He had first picked me from a line of candidates after shaking my hand and looking me in the eye. Later I learned he made all his decisions about people at the first handshake. He is a great psychologist.

Papik had some odd habits. He liked to listen to Arab music on an old cassette player, and he would change his clothes several times a day. He was so obsessive about his outfits that he reminded me of a rock star from the 1980s. Sometimes when his guests were already waiting for him, he would go back to his room and change his clothes again, perhaps into his favorite white suit. When we drove around poor African countries he would fling money and candy out the widow of his armored limousine to children who ran after our motorcade; he didn’t want them close for fear of catching diseases from them. He never slept in a tent, though! That’s just a myth. He only used the tent for official meetings.

 We traveled in great style. I accompanied Papik to the United States, Italy, Portugal, and Venezuela, and whenever he was in a good mood, he asked us if we had everything we needed. We would get bonuses to go shopping. And -every year Papik gave all his staff gold watches with his picture on them.

We traveled in great style. I accompanied Papik to the United States, Italy, Portugal, and Venezuela, and whenever he was in a good mood, he asked us if we had everything we needed. We would get bonuses to go shopping. And -every year Papik gave all his staff gold watches with his picture on them. Just showing that watch in Libya would open any door, solve any problem that we had.

I got the impression that at least half the population of Libya disliked Papik. The local medical staff was jealous of us because we made three times more than they did—over $3,000 a month. It was obvious that Papik made all the decisions in his country. He is like Stalin; he has all the power and all the luxury, all for himself. When I first saw television pictures of the Egyptian revolution I thought, nobody would ever dare to rise against our Papik. But there was a chain reaction after Tunisia and Egypt. If Papik had passed his throne to his son Saif when he still had a chance, I believe that everything would have been all right. People would not be dying right now.

I got out of Tripoli at the beginning of February, just in time. Two of my friends stayed behind, and now they can’t leave. I had a very personal reason for wanting to get out: I was four months pregnant, and I was beginning to show. I feared that Papik would not approve of my Serbian boyfriend.

Papik will probably never forgive me my betrayal. But I realize I did the right thing to flee Libya. My friends all told me I should think of my future baby and run. Now Papik’s closest partners are also running from him. And he is forcing his children and our two remaining Ukrainian colleagues to stay and die by his side.

As told to NEWSWEEK’s Anna Nemtsova in Mogilnoye, Ukraine.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2011/0411/Road-map-to-Libya-peace-comes-as-both-sides-show-signs-of-fatigue

Johannesburg, South Africa

Libyan rebels are studying a truce proposal from the African Union, a day after Libya’s embattled President Muammar Qaddafi signaled that he would be willing to explore a cease-fire to allow humanitarian organizations access to civilians caught in the crossfire.

The AU’s proposed “road map” to peace comes at a time when both Mr. Qaddafi’s forces and the rebels have shown signs of fatigue, with battlefield gains by one quickly erased by the other. A long-term settlement is still far off, as rebels say the only way they’ll agree to open discussions with the regime is if Qaddafi’s forces retreat and if Qaddafi himself steps down. Yet even if the cease-fire proves to be temporary, the AU’s efforts may help to quiet criticism of the AU as ineffective in times of conflict.

“This has significance beyond Libya,” says Steven Friedman, a senior political observer and head of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg. “Five years ago, some of the responses we are seeing today would not have been possible. We are now at the stage where the AU is willing to step in and intervene in a conflict.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

Presidential panel

A panel of five African presidents, including South African President Jacob Zuma, flew to Tripoli on Sunday to propose the cease-fire on humanitarian grounds, urging both sides to explore dialogue that would lead to a peaceful settlement.

The AU presidents also urged NATO to stop its air campaign against Qaddafi’s forces, a campaign that was itself backed by the United Nations Security Council in the interests of protecting civilians against Qaddafi’s use of heavy weapons in urban areas.

By organizing talks in Libya, the AU is taking back responsibility for resolving conflicts that many African leaders see as having been taken away from them when the UN Security Council approved a “no fly zone” in the spirit of protecting civilians.

In addition to its work in Libya, the AU has also been active in trying to broker peace talks in Ivory Coast, albeit with much less success so far. The AU has sent several high-level delegations to persuade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and President-elect Alassane Ouattara to support a cease-fire and explore the possibility of a power-sharing government. Both men claim to have won the Nov. 28, 2010, runoff elections, although Mr. Ouattara’s claim has the benefit of broad support from the international community as well as the Ivory Coast’s own independent electoral commission.

‘Libyans must decide’

In Tripoli on Monday, the AU commissioner for peace and security, Ramtane Lamamra, told reporters that “it’s not up to any outside force, even the African Union itself, to decide on the behalf of the Libyan people on who the leader of the country should be.”

President Zuman of South Africa portrayed Qaddafi’s acceptance of the proposed “road map” to peace as a victory for the AU, and urged NATO to curb its aerial attacks.

“[Qaddafi’s] delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us,” Zuma said after meeting Qaddafi. “We have to give cease-fire a chance.”

But analysts caution against a plan that Qaddafi could see as bolstering his long-term prospects.

“If the deal is simply intended to allow humanitarian relief to have access, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with that,” adds Mr. Friedman. “The fear is that this will be an attempt to prop him [Qaddafi] up and keep him in power.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/112508/gadhafi-ly-web-suffix-libya-wsj

Libya’s Widely Used Web Suffix Makes a Long Story Short for Obama, Others.

Where have the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the U.S. Air Force directed Twitter followers to learn more about military action in Libya? To an Internet domain controlled by the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

They aren’t the only ones to send their Internet followers through Libya. So have House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), Stanford University, Charlie Sheen, the White House, Kim Kardashian, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Paul McCartney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and thousands of others.

The reason is a linguistic anomaly that might be Col. Gadhafi’s most unlikely asset: Libya’s Internet domain happens to be the English language’s adverbial suffix: ly.

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As a result, the .ly domain has proved attractive to English-language businesses looking for catchy online names—including bit.ly, Ow.ly and other popular utilities that compress lengthy Internet addresses, making them easier to email, link or fit the tight space on networks like Twitter. These helpful, simple—and free—services have become ubiquitous.

The .ly domain is controlled by Libya’s General Post and Telecommunications Co., whose chairman, Mohammed el-Gadhafi, is the dictator’s eldest son. It says it has rented out more than 10,000 .ly domains, either directly or through resellers.

Human Rights Watch, which has blasted the Gadhafi regime for blocking Internet access within Libya, is one organization that unwittingly used the .ly addresses. “It’s ironic and a little bit distasteful,” says Tom Malinowski, the group’s Washington director, upon learning the news from a reporter.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said her office was unaware of bit.ly’s Libyan connection. But “given this new information, we will no longer be using this free service,” the spokesman said.

A representative of New York-based bit.ly had no immediate comment on the Libya connection. A post on the company website, answering a customer question, said it paid $75 for the .ly address.

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“We don’t do business in Libya, but it’s worth noting that on May 31, 2006, the United States reopened the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, a step the State Department described as marking ‘a new era in U.S.-Libya relations,'” the post says.

However, an even newer era began on Feb. 25, 2011, when the Obama administration reimposed economic sanctions on Libya. A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department—another bit.ly user—said Americans could not rent .ly domains from entities controlled by the Gadhafi regime.

“It’s a bit of an emotional question,” acknowledges Ryan Holmes, chief executive of HootSuite Media Inc., the Vancouver, British Columbia, company that operates Ow.ly, a shortening service favored by the Salvation Army and the Israeli Embassy in Washington. “But at the end of the day, buying oil helps Gadhafi more.”

Mr. Holmes says HootSuite pays $25 per year to rent the Ow.ly address from Libyan Spider LLC. The Tripoli reseller didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. On its website, however, Libyan Spider assured customers that .ly domains would continue to function despite “recent events of unrest in Libya.”

“The only missing bit at the moment is the Internet connection between Libya and the outside world,” the company said, “and we are looking forward for it to be restored soon.”

[More from WSJ.com: The Little Robot Made to Clean the Icky Spots]

Lengthy Internet addresses are a particular problem on Twitter, which limits posts to 140 characters. Shortening services let users substitute a prolix link for an abbreviated placeholder. When a user enters a Web address, the service assigns it a code on its own site. Thus, an Internet address that requires, say, 595 letters, numbers and punctuation marks can be reduced to 20 characters or less, such as: http://ow.ly/4qC3v.

Punch in the Ow.ly address, and a request will move to one of Libya’s five servers—two inside Libya, two in the U.S. and one in Europe. The .ly server forwards the message to Amazon.com Inc., the contractor HootSuite uses for its Web service, where the 4gC3v Ow.ly code is linked to the original website.

The Libyans are well aware of their potential market among English speakers seeking memorable Internet addresses. According to information on Libyan Spider’s website, only 38% of .ly domains are registered by Libyans. English-speaking countries have locked up most of the rest, with the U.S., the U.K. and Canada accounting for 43% of the total.

For those without their own adverb indexes, the company helpfully posted a list of “8,742 words ending in ly.” While cruel.ly, gris.ly and smel.ly are taken, inept.ly, violent.ly and psychotical.ly remain available, the company said.

Meanwhile, some of .ly’s competitors in shortening have seen recent gains. Tiny.cc saw page impressions triple to 1.2 million in March from the previous month, says Tim Boid, a Billings, Mont., medical-equipment serviceman who operates the shortening site in his spare time. The .cc refers to the Cocos Islands, an Australian territory with a population of 600. The .cc server, Mr. Boid says, is in New Jersey.

Another shortening-site developer, Richard West of Louth, England, says he never trusted the Libyan Internet authorities, especially after they pulled a site that allegedly had “objectionable [pornographic] content under Libyan sharia law.” Instead, Mr. West chose Grenada’s Internet domain when setting up his Is.gd service, now owned by Mesmet Ltd., a British Web-hosting company.

“We’d certainly be happy to welcome Britney Spears or the Dalai Lama,”—two prominent bit.ly users—”and I think our strong ethical policies compared to the competition would also make us an appealing choice for many users,” Mr. West says. Is.gd carries no advertising and says it is “carbon neutral,” financing environmental programs to offset its servers’ consumption of electricity.

If users recoil when they discover Ow.ly’s Libyan link, HootSuite’s Mr. Holmes has a backup plan. He has registered “Ow.li, which is Liechtenstein, and we might at some point offer that out” as a Libya-free alternative.

//

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110408/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nato_libya

By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press 10 mins ago

BRUSSELS – NATO acknowledged Friday that its airstrikes had hit rebels using tanks to fight government forces in eastern Libya, saying no one told them the rebels used tanks.

British Rear Adm. Russell Harding, the deputy commander of the NATO operation, said in the past, only forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi had used heavy armored vehicles.

Harding says the rebels and government troops are engaged in a series of advances and retreats between the eastern coastal towns of Brega and Ajdabiya, making it difficult for pilots to distinguish between them.

NATO jets attacked a rebel convoy between these two towns Thursday, killing at least five fighters and destroying or damaging a number of armored vehicles.

“It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in (rebel) deaths,” Harding told reporters in Naples, where the alliance’s operational center is located.

“I am not apologizing,” he said. “The situation on the ground was and remains extremely fluid, and until yesterday we did not have information that (rebel) forces are using tanks.”

The strikes, including an attack earlier this week, provoked angry denunciations of NATO by the rebels. At the same time, NATO officials have expressed frustration with the Libyan insurgents, who now view the alliance, whose mandate is limited to protecting civilians in Libya, as their proxy air force.

NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, however, expressed regret over the loss of life, saying alliance forces were doing everything possible to avoid harming civilians.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

NATO last week took control over the international airstrikes that began March 19 as a U.S.-led mission. The airstrikes thwarted Gadhafi’s efforts to crush the rebellion in the North African nation he has ruled for more than four decades, but the rebels remain outnumbered and outgunned and have had difficulty pushing into government-held territory even with air support.

Harding said Friday that NATO jets had conducted 318 sorties and struck 23 targets across Libya in the past 48 hours. They have flown over 1,500 sorties in the eight days since the alliance assumed overall command from a U.S.-led force.

NATO’s jets have destroyed Gadhafi’s anti-aircraft missile defenses, T-72 tanks and ammunition dumps, Harding said. The attacks also targeted Gadhafi’s loyalist forces in the besieged city of Misrata, where rebels continue to hold out.

Critics have questioned NATO’s limited strategy of only protecting civilians threatened by Gadhafi’s troops, rather than trying to eliminate the threat completely by destroying the strongman’s regime.

“By not striking at the regime from the outset, Gadhafi was granted the initiative to embed his forces in urban settings hiding behind human shields in a form of guerrilla warfare,” said Barack Seneer, a researcher on the Middle East at the Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank.

“A no-fly zone is not equipped to contend with guerrilla warfare or with a stalemate that places rebels and loyalists at close proximity with one another.” he said

Despite the attacks on anti-aircraft sites, Gadhafi’s forces still pose a danger for NATO warplanes. They retain radars and surface-to-air missiles, as well as automatic cannons and shoulder-launched missiles that can hit planes at altitudes up to 5,000 meters (15,000 feet).

Over the past week, Gadhafi’s forces had switched tactics by leaving their heavy armor behind and using only light trucks armed with heavy machine guns and fast-firing anti-aircraft cannons on the front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya. These have proven very effective in disrupting repeated rebel attempts to push west toward Tripoli, but Gadhafi’s forces have not been able to drive the rebels back toward Benghazi or establish a solid front line in that sector.

“These trucks cannot hold ground,” Harding said. “When you see their tanks coming up, those are the vehicles that can cause the greatest harm to civilians.”

On Thursday, the situation in that sector “was very confusing, vehicles going back and forth,” he said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110407/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya_anchorwoman

By DIAA HADID and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Diaa Hadid And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press Thu Apr 7, 7:54 am ET

TRIPOLI, Libya – Hala Misrati once wrote romance tales about lost love. Now she’s the ferocious face of Libya’s regime, a star talk-show host on state TV lashing out daily against Moammar Gadhafi’s enemies.

She railed against a Libyan woman who claimed to Western journalists she had been raped by Gadhafi militiamen, calling her a “liar” and suggesting she was a “whore.” On live TV, Misrati grilled an arrested journalist for an hour with all the doggedness of a secret police interrogator.

“Say the things that you said in your recordings!” she barked at the journalist, Rana al-Aqbani, apparently referring to taped recordings of al-Aqbani’s phone calls, as she tried to make her acknowledge that she sought Gadhafi’s ouster. Al-Aqbani, a Tripoli-based journalist, has since disappeared.

With her attack-dog demeanor, Misrati stands out even in the field of presenters of state-run news channels throughout Arab countries, whose autopilot response has been to denounce protesters in the anti-government uprisings around the Middle East.

“She’s clearly a very strong mouthpiece for the pro-Gadhafi forces,” said Dina Eltahawy, a researcher for Amnesty International, which has issued an urgent alert to try find al-Aqbani.

Misrati appears daily on her hour-long call-in show, “Libya on This Day” on the state-run satellite channel, Al-Jamahiriya 2.

In her 30s, with long dark hair, heavy makeup and often decked out in gaudy outfits, she often gives long monologues crusading against Libya’s rebels, the NATO-led alliance bombing Gadhafi troops from the air and anyone perceived of sympathizing with them or fueling the campaign against Gadhafi. That includes Western media and, particularly, the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera, which she refers to as “the pig channel” in a rhyming play on words — the Arabic word for pig is “khanzeera.”

Libya’s crisis has made her a star — beloved by Gadhafi supporters and viewed with a mix of loathing and bemused fascination by the opposition.

Miriam al-Amani, a 23-year-old student in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in eastern Libya, called Misrati “a clown.”

She said Misrati was not well known before, but her new incarnation since the uprising made her famous. “Now she’s well known. Everyone in Libya knows who she is,” al-Amani said with a laugh. “She lies so badly that nobody believes what she says,” added al-Amani, who studies medicine at Benghazi’s Garyounis University.

In contrast, an upper-class woman having tea with friends at a five-star hotel in the capital Tripoli was full of praise for Misrati.

“Libya runs through her veins,” said the woman, a Gadhafi supporter. “She is bold. She has been able to show the truth in Benghazi and tell us what it’s really like over there, no one else was brave enough to tell it how it is.” The woman spoke on condition of anonymity because her husband holds a job in the state.

In one show, Misrati blasted Libya’s U.N. ambassador, Mohamed Shalgham, who turned against Gadhafi, calling him “ignorant” and “an idiot” and saying “he is good for nothing but barking like a dog.”

In another, she said the prominent Qatar-based Muslim cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi was “the devil” after he criticized Misrati. “Al-Qaradawi is too stupid to judge me or (Libya’s) press,” she coolly said.

Her fiercest diatribe came against Iman al-Obeidi, a Libyan woman who last month burst into a Tripoli hotel where Western journalists are staying and told them she had been gang-raped by troops before security officials dragged her out.

“Iman, in the end, is a liar,” Misrati said in a 10-minute rant, accusing al-Obeidi of pulling a media stunt. She dismissed her claims, saying no Arab woman would bring shame on her family by publicly admitting to rape. She told viewers that it was rebels who were raping women in the eastern territories they control. Misrati urged al-Obeidi to come clean with the truth because her claims were fueling the “bombardment” of Libya.

“Even sometimes a whore has nationalism toward her homeland, when she knows her homeland is in danger!” Misrati sneered. “Even a whore!”

Misrati has since vowed to “uncover” al-Obeidi’s real life.

She aired footage of a later attempt to interview al-Obeidi. Misrati’s film crew taunts the woman, who is seen curled up on the ground and refuses to be interviewed. It ends suddenly with Misrati screaming at al-Obeidi, “You and your kind have frittered away this country!”

Days later, Misrati conducted an interrogation on live television of al-Aqbani, a Syrian-Libyan journalist who the rights group Amnesty International said was snatched from her Tripoli home along with her brother by plainclothes gunmen on March 28.

Misrati accused her of helping prompt the international air campaign with her reports. As the defiant al-Aqbani tried to explain herself, Misrati interjected, “Sometimes a person lives in a fantasy … But when you take fantasy outside (your head), without realizing, you pass on rumors and mistakes, and we pay the price of those mistakes under shelling.”

Misrati later reassured her viewers that al-Aqbani wont be put to death. “She and her friends are not the head of the snake. Maybe the tail.”

Eltahawy of Amnesty International said the whereabouts of al-Aqbani and her brother remains unknown.

Opponents relish in posting YouTube videos of her bloopers. In one famous misstep, she insisted that Muslims could not accept the U.N.’s move to “adopt” the resolution authorizing airstrikes over Libya, because Islam bans adoption — of children.

Misrati’s launch as a fierce defender of Gadhafi’s regime is all the more striking considering her past. In 2009, she was pulled off air during a live interview and interrogated by security officers, according to a report on the incident by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli released on the WikiLeaks site.

Misrati was interviewing Mustafa Zaidi, a senior member of the Revolutionary committees, a quasi-pro-Gadhafi paramilitary group. Although Misrati “downplayed” the incident, she “criticized the strictures placed on journalists in Libya by reactionary regime figures,” according to the embassy report.

She began on TV only three years ago, according to her Internet resume.

Before that, she was an aspiring writer. She published a collection of short stories in 2007, “The Moon Has Another Face.” A review by an Internet magazine Middle-East-Online praises the collection for Misrati’s “humane honesty” and describes the woman who “is angry like a child about the lies of others.”

Her lengthy blog — untouched since December — is a mix of personal reflections, essays about the Internet (with a law degree, she is a self-professed expert on cyber law) and short stories on lost love.

“I watched the movement of the clouds, with the sun hiding ominously behind them, annihilating the heavy rain,” one of her stories begins, before tumbling into a tale of a woman disappointed in marriage.

The title of a series of entries on her blog even holds a bit of philosophy about how changeable life can be — like her surprising leap from writer to regime celebrity.

“Between today and tomorrow is chaos,” it reads.

________

Hadid reported from Cairo. AP correspondent Ben Hubbard in Benghazi contributed to this report.

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