Category: protest


Mullah Omarhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110504/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – Osama bin Laden’s death is likely to revive a debate within the Afghan Taliban about their ties to al-Qaida — a union the U.S. insists must end if the insurgents want to talk peace.

The foundation of their relationship is believed to be rooted in bin Laden’s long friendship with the Taliban’s reclusive one-eyed leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who might now find it more palatable to break with al-Qaida and negotiate a settlement to the war. Much may depend on the newly chastened power-broker next door: Pakistan.

“I think now is an opportunity for the Taliban to end their relations with al-Qaida,” said Waheed Muzhda, a Kabul-based analyst and former foreign ministry official under the Taliban regime that was toppled in late 2001.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, said it was too early to comment.

But the death of the world’s top terrorist gives momentum toward finding a political solution to the nearly decade-long war, according to analysts familiar with U.S. officials’ stepped-up effort this year to push a peace agenda.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration have said they will negotiate with any member of the Taliban who embraces the Afghan constitution, renounces violence and severs ties with al-Qaida. Informal contacts have been made in recent months with high-ranking Taliban figures, but no formal peace talks are under way.

The possible opportunity comes just as the spring fighting season is kicking into gear. The U.S.-led coalition hopes to hold ground in southern Afghanistan gained as a result of the addition last year of an extra 30,000 American troops. The Taliban’s goal remains undermining the Afghan government, discrediting its security forces and driving the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops and other foreign forces out of the country.

Even before bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs at a compound in Pakistan on Monday, the links between the al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban had weakened during the 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, Muzhda said. Mullah Omar’s refusal to hand over bin Laden after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon prompted the U.S.-led assault on Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban from power. By siding with bin Laden, Mullah Omar’s hardline regime lost control of the nation.

The goals of the two movements are not closely aligned. While al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious superstate in the Muslim world, the Afghan Taliban have focused on their own country and have shown little to no interest in attacking targets outside Afghanistan. The car bombing in May 2010 in New York’s Times Square was linked to the Pakistani Taliban — an autonomous group on the other side of the border.

But breaking with al-Qaida would mean forgoing some reliable funding channels in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Syria, according to a Western intelligence officer. Mullah Omar’s association with bin Laden also gave him clout, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Al-Qaida shares its technical expertise in explosives and helps the Taliban traffic narcotics made with opium poppies grown in Afghanistan, he said. For their part, the Taliban allow al-Qaida to come into Afghanistan on the backs of Taliban fighters.

Still, some members of the Taliban’s top leadership council have grown uncomfortable with al-Qaida, and a vocal minority want to distance themselves from the mostly Arab terrorist network, he said.

There are also cultural differences. Al-Qaida has viewed the Taliban as more backward, “kinda like West Virginia mountain folk — unrefined, uneducated,” the officer said.

And “the older generation of Taliban leaders had long ago become fed up with the arrogance of Arab jihadists,” Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote Monday in a column in the Financial Times.

Two other issues, according to the intelligence officer, could affect the Taliban’s internal debate about al-Qaida. While Bin Laden had personal connections to Taliban leaders, the man expected to replace him, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri, is a less charismatic, unifying figure. And top Taliban leaders now know that the U.S. might hunt them down in Pakistan even without the cooperation or knowledge of the Pakistani military — as was done with bin Laden.

In June 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta estimated that there were probably only 50 to 100 al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan — that most of the terrorist network was, without question, operating from the western tribal region of Pakistan. Last month, Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that while some al-Qaida fighters have been searching for hide-outs in rugged areas of eastern Afghanistan, he did not think they were making a comeback inside the country.

Abu Hafs al-Najdi — a senior al-Qaida leader in Afghanistan and the coalition’s No. 2 overall targeted insurgent in the country — was killed in an April 13 airstrike in Kunar province, a hotbed of the insurgency in the northeast. In the past several weeks, coalition forces reported killing more than 25 al-Qaida leaders and fighters.

While the military offensive continues, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that the United States had accelerated a diplomatic push to craft a political solution to the war. Marc Grossman, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan who is heading up the effort, met with Afghanistan and Pakistan officials on Tuesday in Islamabad and agreed to set up a so-called Core Group for promoting the Afghan-led reconciliation effort.

With little known about the secret inner workings of the Afghan Taliban’s governing council, called the Quetta Shura, analysts can only speculate about the group’s plans.

“The killing of bin Laden might motivate them to sever their ties,” said Brian Katulis, of the Washington-based think-tank Center for American Progress. “I think the signal that the Quetta Shura and others are getting from people in Pakistan in the security services will be key.”

The U.S. has accused Pakistan’s military-run spy service of maintaining links with the Haqqani network, which is affiliated with the Afghan Taliban and closely aligned with al-Qaida. Pointedly, the Americans did not inform Pakistan about Monday’s helicopter raid that killed bin Laden until it was over.

That bin Laden’s hideout turned out to be a three-story home a short drive from the capital, Islamabad, and close to various Pakistani army regiments has raised suspicions in Washington that the Pakistanis may have been sheltering him. For years, Western intelligence had said bin Laden was most likely holed up in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The Pakistani government has denied suggestions that its security forces knew bin Laden was there. Pakistani officials have long argued that they have done their part in the fight against militants and denounce allegations that they are backing insurgents.

“The raid was obviously deeply embarrassing for the Pakistanis,” Katulis said. “They could either redouble their efforts to try to cooperate more closely with the U.S. or they can continue to play their passive-aggressive game.”

Don’t expect a near-term divorce with al-Qaida, said Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst with The Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank.

“It makes no sense for the Taliban to concede this point on the front end — without receiving any commensurate concession from the other side,” Hanna said. “Some of the Taliban I have spoken to have made the point that as long as the military fight escalates, they will cooperate with other forces who are willing to assist them in their fight against the U.S.-led coalition. They portray any pre-emptive severing of ties as a type of unilateral, partial disarmament.”

Seth Jones, a RAND Corp. political scientist who advised the commander of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said he suspects “the Taliban would interpret cutting ties with al-Qaida as kowtowing to the Americans.”

Jones said that while the Taliban don’t need al-Qaida to operate, they still retain ties with al-Qaida’s senior leaders as they have for decades.

Former Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Abdul Hadi Khalid said some members of the Taliban want to split with al-Qaida. The fighting spirit of the Taliban has been dampened by recent brutal attacks around the country that killed scores of Afghan civilians — attacks he suspects were inspired by al-Qaida.

These Taliban members “feel they are going the wrong way,” Khalid said.

However, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president, said top Taliban leaders directing the insurgency remain very closely associated with al-Qaida. Al-Qaida still helps train Taliban fighters, and foreign fighters aligned with al-Qaida continue to fight side-by-side with Taliban foot soldiers, he said.

“I don’t know how they will be able to distance themselves,” Karzai said.

___

Associated Press Writers Heidi Vogt, Solomon Moore and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110502/wl_time/08599206889300

By BRUCE CRUMLEY / PARIS Bruce Crumley / Paris 51 mins ago

The dramatic announcement of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s May 1 death came too late for most Europeans to hear about it in real time. But by the earliest hours of Monday morning, both regular citizens and the officials in Europe tasked with protecting them from terror strikes were in full debate about how Bin Laden’s killing might change the activity and determination of jihadists plotting to strike around the globe.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most experts say the charismatic leader’s death represents a symbolic blow to all extremists who looked up to him – and presents surviving al-Qaeda officials in the Afghan-Pakistan region with a real challenge regarding how they’ll operate in his absence. But analysts add it probably won’t change the mechanics of the Islamist terror threatening the world these days. (See TIME’s obit on bin Laden.)

“It’s likely to have the greatest direct impact in the upper echelons of al-Qaeda’s command, which in turn will create even more problems for its leaders to mount very spectacular, complex, and well-organized attacks around the world as a follow-up to 9/11,” says one European security official who works closely with intelligence agencies. “But the vast majority of plots or strikes we see in the world [these days] are the kind carried out by small cells of local operatives, whose contacts with al-Qaeda [in the Pakistani border region] are minimal – usually with medium-level figures, if at all. Bin Laden’s death may have a short-term emotional impact on those far-flung extremists, but that won’t alter the way they function.”

A French counter-terrorism official concurs. “Bin Laden was most effective in projecting the distinct al-Qaeda ideology, and assembling disparate radicals around what extremists consider his unique moral authority,” he comments. “That’s gone now, and with it the personal dedication with which jihadist organizations around the world swore their allegiance. None of those will turn their backs on al-Qaeda or stop using terrorism as the main arm in their international struggle. But there is no single leader they’ll all look up and dedicate their efforts to, which represents a real change.” (See “Remembering 9/11: The Evolution of Ground Zero.”)

Yet this official says that’s a largely symbolic and psychological factor. He notes al-Qaeda was never as structured and centralized as many people once believed. The functioning of its followers and sympathizers around the globe – and particularly in Europe – has become increasingly autonomous, especially since the NATO-led military operation forced al-Qaeda’s leadership out of its former Afghan haven for refuge in Pakistan. Within recent years, experts say, the standard terror cell in Europe has evolved to become smaller, often self-constituted, and usually gets minimal advice or direction from mentors in Southeast Asia. In some cases, a single cell member may have gotten all the training and instruction required during a visit to Pakistan, and relies on that to mount plots over time after he’s returned.

That appears to be the case with a trio of suspects apprehended in Germany April 29 as they were allegedly preparing to test homemade explosives for a planned attack. The three men – one of whom reportedly received training last year in an al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan – had been under police surveillance for six months, and had purportedly discussed targeting public transportation in a strike. Scores of cells that have staged attacks or been thwarted in Europe while plotting over the past decade shared similar profiles – and most received limited direct assistance from al-Qaeda or radicals directly tied to it.

Another example was the three suspected extremists arrested in Norway in July 2010 on suspicions they were planning to make bombs for use on undetermined targets abroad. That group was at one time in contact with an al-Qaeda leader since killed in Pakistan. That leader had put similar bombing plots in motion – one in Manchester, England, and another of the New York subway system that was busted in 2009 – in a trio of planned strikes operating independently of one another, and with little further guidance beyond his initial instructions. Most cells, authorities say, don’t even involve such high-level al-Qaeda input.

“Al-Qaeda is essential as inspiration – and, at times, with training and direction,” the French official says. “But what radicals in Europe and elsewhere in the world are finding and using for indoctrination and terror resources on the internet today are more dangerous to us than what comes to them from Pakistan, much less from Bin Laden or his circle of commanders.”

Still, Bin Laden’s personal force as a symbolic and inspirational figure to admirers – including many who never became active in jihad – raises the risk that some of those may now find sufficient motivation in his death to want to seek revenge for it through attacks. However, that vengeance factor is probably not a game-changer, some suggest. (See pictures of the U.S. Marines’ offensive in Afghanistan.)

“It’s a concern, but I’d argue if you’re involved in or even considering violent jihad in the first place, having one more excuse to justify that with isn’t going to change a lot,” the European official says. “With the 10 years [since] September 11 on the horizon, and other factors also looming, we’d already entered a pretty tense period for possible terrorism before Bin Laden’s killing. His death adds a bit to that tension, but not all that much. Plus, if anyone who’d been bent on attacking is now even more anxious to do so, it could be the extra emotion and fury will make them a bit more vulnerable to tipping their hand.”

See pictures of the battle against the Taliban.

See pictures of a Bin Laden family album.

View this article on Time.com

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110502/ts_nm/us_binladen_compound

By Patricia Zengerle and Alister Bull Patricia Zengerle And Alister Bull Mon May 2, 5:57 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. forces finally found al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden not in a mountain cave on Afghanistan’s border, but with his youngest wife in a million-dollar compound in a summer resort just over an hour’s drive from Pakistan’s capital, U.S. officials said.

A small U.S. team conducted a night-time helicopter raid on the compound early on Monday. After 40 minutes of fighting, bin Laden and an adult son, one unidentified woman and two men were dead, the officials said.

U.S. forces were led to the fortress-like three-story building after more than four years tracking one of bin Laden’s most trusted couriers, whom U.S. officials said was identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden,” a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters.

Bin Laden was finally found — more than 9-1/2 years after the 2001 attacks on the United States — after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building, officials said.

They said the courier and his brother were among those killed in the raid.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official said.

“The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden,” another administration official said.

The home is in Abbottabad, a town about 35 miles north of Islamabad, that is relatively affluent and home to many retired members of Pakistan’s military.

It was a far cry from the popular notion of bin Laden hiding in some mountain cave on the rugged and inaccessible Afghan-Pakistan border — an image often evoked by officials up to and including former President George W. Bush.

The building, about eight times the size of other nearby houses, sat on a large plot of land that was relatively secluded when it was built in 2005. When it was constructed, it was on the outskirts of Abbottabad’s center, at the end of a dirt road, but some other homes have been built nearby in the six years since it went up, officials said.

WALLS TOPPED WITH BARBED WIRE

Intense security measures included 12- to 18-foot outer walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls that sectioned off different parts of the compound, officials said. Two security gates restricted access, and residents burned their trash, rather than leaving it for collection as did their neighbors, officials said.

Few windows of the three-story home faced the outside of the compound, and a terrace had a seven-foot (2.1 meter) privacy wall, officials said.

“It is also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it,” an administration official said. “The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.”

U.S. analysts realized that a third family lived there in addition to the two brothers, and the age and makeup of the third family matched those of the relatives — including his youngest wife — they believed would be living with bin Laden.

“Everything we saw, the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers’ background and their behavior and the location of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hide-out to look like,” another Obama administration official said.

Abbottabad is a popular summer resort, located in a valley surrounded by green hills near Pakistani Kashmir. Islamist militants, particularly those fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir, used to have training camps near the town.

(Editing by Mary Milliken, Will Dunham and Mark Trevelyan)

FILE - In this 2007 file publicity image released by Outpost Films, photographer  Tim Hetherington, is shown at the Restrepo outpost in the Korengal V

By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Ben Hubbard, Associated Press 33 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya – Two Western photojournalists including an Oscar-nominated film director were killed Wednesday in the besieged city of Misrata while covering battles between rebels and Libyan government forces. Two others working alongside them were wounded.

British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the documentary “Restrepo” about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer. The city has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops.

Hetherington tweeted Tuesday: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”

“Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict,” Hetherington’s family said in a statement. “He will be forever missed.”

Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, was also killed.

“He has an intimacy in his work,” said Swayne Hall, a longtime friend who works as a photo editor with The Associated Press. “Some people will use a long lens so they don’t have to get up close. But Chris will get up close, he’s just not afraid to be with whatever he’s photographing.”

The two other photographers — Guy Martin, a Briton affiliated with the Panos photo agency, and Michael Christopher Brown — were treated for shrapnel wounds, doctors said.

The circumstances of the incident were unclear. The statement from Hetherington’s family said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Click image to see photos by Chris Hondros

Gadhafi’s forces have intensified their assault on Libya’s third-largest city, firing tank shells and rockets into residential areas, according to witnesses and human rights groups. NATO commanders have admitted their airpower is limited in being able to protect civilians in a city — the core mission of the international air campaign.

Hetherington, 40, was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2010 documentary film “Restrepo.” The film was co-directed by Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm.”

“He was an amazing talent and special human being,” Sundance Institute spokeswoman Brooks Addicott said in a statement. “We send our sincere condolences to the Hetherington family, to Sebastian Junger and Daniela Petrova, and to Tim’s many admirers all over the world.”

“Restrepo” tells the story of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company in the 173rd Airborne Combat Team on its deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. The title refers to the platoon outpost, named after a popular soldier, Juan Restrepo, who was killed early in the fighting.

“We’re at war,” Hetherington said in an interview with the AP before the Oscars. “We wanted to bring the war into people’s living room and put it into the movie theaters, and get people to connect with it. It’s not necessarily about moral outrage. It’s about trying to understand that we’re at war and try to understand the emotional terrain of what being at war means.”

Hetherington was born in Liverpool and studied literature and photojournalism at Oxford University. Known for his gutsy ability to capture conflict zones on film, his credits included working as a cameraman on the documentaries “Liberia: An Uncivil War” and “The Devil Came on Horseback.” He also produced pieces for ABC News’ “Nightline.”

Hetherington’s photos appeared in Vanity Fair magazine, where he worked as a contributing photographer. He won the World Press Photo of the Year award for his coverage of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, and released “Infidel,” a book of photos capturing the lives of the 173rd Airborne Combat Team, in 2010.

Hondros, 41, had covered conflict zones since the late 1990s including Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and his work has appeared in major magazines and newspapers around the world. His awards include World Press Photo honors and the Robert Capa Gold Medal, one of the highest prizes in war photography.

One front page New York Times photo from 2007 showed a Humvee patrol in Iraq from a different angle: The ruddy hands of an Iraqi interpreter and a pair of muddied boots belonging to a gunner.

Two other journalists have been killed in the Libyan conflict, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. An unknown gunman killed Mohammed al-Nabbous, founder of the online Libya Al-Hurra TV, in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on March 19. Cameraman Ali Hassan al-Jaber was shot when his Al-Jazeera crew was ambushed near Benghazi on March 13.

___

Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York and Derrik J. Lang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

A Nigeria Police stand guard as suspected rioters await a court hearing in Kaduna, Nigeria, Wednesday, April 20, 2011. About 200 people were arraignedhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110420/ap_on_re_af/af_nigeria_election

By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press Jon Gambrell, Associated Press 53 mins ago

KADUNA, Nigeria – In the time it took to raise a machete or shout the name of a political party, neighbors again became enemies over politics split along religious lines in northern Nigeria. At least 70 people died this week after Muslim mobs targeted supporters of the oil-rich nation’s ruling party, while retaliatory attacks by Christians followed with a startling speed.

Those who survived almost uniformly said they did not know their attackers, though many looked away or quickly changed the subject as their homes lie in smoldered ruins. Others displayed incredible bravery, risking their own lives to rescue those of a different faith.

About 40,000 have now fled their homes, and it remains unclear whether some will return to their damaged homes to live among the very same people who wanted them dead. The town of Kaduna has seen spasms of sectarian violence over the last decade that have left more than 2,000 dead.

“It shows you how heartless human beings can be,” said Nathan Isaac, a 23-year-old student who was visiting a hospital treating the wounded.

The rioting began Sunday across Nigeria’s Muslim north, as early election results showed President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the nation’s south, with an insurmountable lead over Muslim opposition candidate and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. Muslim rioters overwhelmed police and burned homes, churches and police stations. Christians began reprisal attacks soon after.

Patient Idris Ibrahim said he tried to outrun an angry mob that shouted the ruling party’s acronym. They overcame him, leaving gaping machete wounds to his back. They only left him after nearly severing his left hand, presuming he would die on the road. Then a Christian put Ibrahim, who is Muslim, inside a car and brought him to the hospital.

“I hid face down in the car,” Ibrahim said in the local Hausa language.

And the Rev. Habila Sunday said he was saved from angry mob in Kano who threatened to stab him by a Muslim man who told the crowd: “Before you kill him, you must kill me.” The stranger helped him hide for hours and provided him a phone to call for rescue.

Buhari has called the violence “sad, unfortunate and totally unwarranted” and urged his supporters to refrain from attacks. However, he continues to claim that Saturday’s election, which observers call one of Nigeria’s best, suffered from massive rigging by the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

“It is wrong for you to allow miscreants to infiltrate your ranks and perpetrate such dastardly acts as the mindless destruction of worship places,” Buhari said Wednesday. “Needless to say, this act is worse than the rigging of the elections.”

In an interview that aired Wednesday on CNN, Jonathan said that the postelection violence “was not a spontaneous reaction.”

“I don’t want to accuse anybody, but we believe that people must be behind this,” Jonathan said.

In Kaduna, 111 miles (180 kilometers) away from the country’s capital of Abuja, patients continued to be carried into St. Gerard’s Catholic Hospital on Wednesday. Administrators there said they’ve assisted more than 200 patients suffering from machete and gunshot wounds since the violence began, with at least 20 others dying from their wounds in doctors’ care.

Its morgue told the story of the fury that descended over the mobs: The bloated bodies of victims bore gunshot wounds and charred flesh, while one had been disemboweled.

It appears not all the victims suffered at the hands of rioters. Soldiers filled Kaduna’s streets after the violence and some patients at the hospital bore gunshot wounds that appeared to be from assault rifles. One patient recounted how a soldier slapped him in the face and pushed him to the ground before firing into his stomach. The man said he can no longer stand or eat.

Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is roughly divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north. A dozen states across Nigeria’s north have Islamic Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.

Thousands have been killed in religious violence in the past decade. In Kaduna alone, more than 2,000 died in riots in 2000 over implementing Shariah law. Rioting in 2002 killed dozens here as well.

The roots of the sectarian conflict across the north often have more to do with struggles for political and economic dominance. Opportunities remain few for those in the arid north, as jobs are scarce and a formal education remains out of the reach of many in a nation where most earn less than $2 a day. Meanwhile, politicians spend billions of dollars of oil revenues with little or no oversight — fueling popular dissent.

In Kaduna state alone, police say they’ve arrested more than 300 people for taking part in the rioting. Late Wednesday, officers brought about 200 suspects before a local court for an arraignment. Among the men were a few bewildered boys. Most went barefoot.

“You arm robbed and raped and killed a considerable number of people who had nothing to do with the riots,” chief magistrate Nasiru Idris told them through a Hausa interpreter.

Idris remanded them to prison for two months. Such a decision could be fatal to a number of them, as police and prison officials in the country often commit so-called “extra-judicial killings.” Others have been held for decades without facing formal charges. As the suspects came outside and sat in the parking lot under guard, a few began to cry.

The Rev. Andrew Dodo, the chaplain at St. Gerard’s, said he ministered to many people who still wondered what had happened. Still, during his recent sleepless nights, he said still offered the same prayers.

“I have always asked God for the gift of forgiveness,” the preacher said.

___

Yinka Ibukun in Lagos; Bashir Adigun in Abuja; Maggie Fick in Kano and Saadatu Mohammed in Gombe 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://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_bi_ge/ml_libya

By SEBASTIAN ABBOT, Associated Press Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press 50 mins ago

AJDABIYA, Libya – Rebel fighters claimed NATO airstrikes blasted their forces Thursday in another apparent mistake that sharply escalated anger about coordination with the military alliance in efforts to cripple Libyan forces. At least two rebels were killed and more than a dozen injured, a doctor said.

The attack — near the front lines outside the eastern oil port of Brega — would be the second accidental NATO strike against rebel forces in less than a week and brought cries of outrage from fighters struggling against Moammar Gadhafi’s larger and more experienced military.

“Down, down with NATO,” shouted one fighter as dozens of rebel vehicles raced eastward from the front toward the rebel-held city of Ajbadiya.

Later, hundreds of cars poured out of Ajbadiya toward the de facto rebel capital Benghazi amid fears that pro-Gadhafi forces could use the disarray among rebel units to advance.

In Brussels, a NATO official said the alliance will look into the latest rebel claims but he had no immediate information. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under standing regulations. NATO also dismissed Libyan claims that British warplanes struck the country’s largest oil field, saying the attacks were carried out by government forces.

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.

A rebel commander, Ayman Abdul-Karim, said he saw airstrikes hit tanks and a rebel convoy, which included a passenger bus carrying fighters toward Brega. He and other rebels described dozens killed or wounded, but a precise casualty toll was not immediately known.

A doctor at Ajbadiya Hospital, Hakim al-Abeidi, said at least two people were killed and 16 injured, some with serious burns. Other rebel leaders said other casualties were left in the field in the chaos to flee the area.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

The small medical facility was overwhelmed. One rebel sat in a hallway, wrapping gauze around his injured leg.

On Saturday, a NATO airstrike killed 13 rebel fighters in eastern Libya. An opposition spokesman described it as an “unfortunate accident” in the shifting battles and pledged support for the international air campaign to weaken Gadhafi’s military power.

But rebel discontent with NATO appears to be growing. Opposition commanders have complained in recent days that the airstrikes were coming too slowly and lacking the precision to give the rebels a clear edge. NATO officials say that the pro-Gadhafi troops have blended into civilian areas in efforts to frustrate the alliances bombing runs.

The rebel commander Adbul-Karim said the tops of rebel vehicles were marked with yellow under advice by NATO to identify the opposition forces. But rebels use tanks and other vehicles commandeered from the Libyan army — potentially making their convoys appear similar to pro-government units from the air.

The attack occurred about 18 miles (30 kilometers) from Brega, where rebel forces have struggled to break through government lines, he said.

Rebels also have turned to the oil fields under their control as a source of money for weapons and supplies. The Liberian-flagged tanker Equator, which can transport up to 1 million barrels of oil, left the eastern port of Tobruk en route to Singapore on Wednesday, oil and shipping officials said.

But sustained attacks on the main rebel-held oil fields have crippled production. Libya claimed British jets waged the bombings. NATO, however, dismissed the accusations and blamed Gadhafi’s forces.

“We are aware that pro-Gadhafi forces have attacked this area in recent days,” said Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, who commands the allied operation. “To try and blame it on NATO shows how desperate this regime is.”

Two explosions were heard Thursday in Libya’s capital Tripoli, but the cause of the blasts was not immediately known.

In London, officials said an international group overseeing political initiatives on Libya is scheduled to hold its first meeting next Wednesday in Qatar, one of the few Arab nations contributing aircraft to the NATO mission. The so-called “contact group” includes European nations, the United States, allies from the Middle East and international organizations.

___

Associated Press writer Hadeel al-Shalchi in Tripoli, Libya, and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

Government bombardment pushes back Libyan rebels

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110405/ap_on_bi_ge/af_libya

By BEN HUBBARD and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Ben Hubbard And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press 5 mins ago

BREGA, Libya – Libyan government forces on Tuesday unleashed a withering bombardment of the rebels outside a key oil town, pushing them back despite NATO reports that nearly a third of Moammar Gadhafi’s heavy weapons have been destroyed.

The rebels managed to take part of the oil town of Brega the day before, aided by an international air campaign, but the rocket and artillery salvos unleashed on the rebels indicates the government’s offensive capabilities remain very much intact.

“When you see this, the situation is very bad. We cannot match their weapons,” said Kamal Mughrabi, 64, a retired soldier who joined the rebel army. “If the planes don’t come back and hit them we’ll have to keep pulling back.”

Rebel attempts to fire rockets and mortars against the government forces were met with aggressive counter bombardments that sent many of the rebel forces scrambling back all the way to the town of Ajdabiya, dozens of miles (kilometers) away. There did not appear to be any immediate response from the international aircraft patrolling the skies that have aided the rebels in the past.

Early on Tuesday, however, there was an airstrike against a convoy of eight government vehicles advancing toward rebel positions, rebel officer Abdel-Basset Abibi said, citing surveillance teams.

Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm of NATO said Tuesday its aerial onslaught has so far destroyed 30 percent of the Gadhafi’s weapons. On Monday alone, the alliance carried out 14 attacks on ground targets across the country, destroying radars, munitions dumps, armored vehicles and a rocket launcher

Rebel forces have been helped by the arrival on the front of more trained soldiers and heavier weapons, but they are still struggling to match the more experienced and better equipped government troops, even with the aid of airstrikes.

The government has softened its public stance against any compromise that would end the fighting, but government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said late Monday that any changes must be led by Gadhafi, who has ruled the country for more than four decades.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

“We could have any political system, any changes: constitution, election, anything, but the leader has to lead this forward,” he said in Tripoli.

“Don’t decide our future from abroad, give us a proposal for change from within,” Ibrahim said, chastising Western powers who have a “personal problem with the leader” and economic interests they believe would be better served if Gadhafi’s government collapsed.

The comments were unlikely to appease the rebels fighting to oust the Libyan leader who has a legacy of brutality. Any long-term settlement poses tough questions about the fate of Gadhafi’s family and the new leader of a post-Gadhafi nation, and the opposition has rejected any solution that would involved one of his sons taking power.

The head of the African Union, meanwhile, voiced his support for Gadhafi, calling for the end to foreign interference into what he called an internal Libyan problem.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema 69-year-old president of Equatorial Guinea described Western military efforts to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya as a “so-called humanitarian intervention.”

But elsewhere in the world, the rebels saw success in their efforts to establish an internationally recognized government in eastern Libya, forging tighter links with Britain and Italy, both potentially major markets for Libyan oil. Italy offered diplomatic recognition to the Libyan opposition council on Monday, becoming the third country to do so after France and Qatar.

Shipping data provider Lloyd’s Intelligence, meanwhile, confirmed that a Greek-owned tanker is on its way to Libya pick up an oil shipment, the first in almost three weeks.

The delivery would be only a tiny fraction of Libya’s pre-crisis exports of around 1.6 million barrels a day, but is viewed by analysts as a symbolic step forward.

The tanker, capable of carrying around 1 million barrels of crude oil, is currently off Port Said in Egypt and expected to arrive at the Libyan port of Marsa al-Hariga, near the eastern city of Tobruk, later in the day.

The conflict in Libya caused crude exports from the country, 17th among the world oil producers, to dwindle to a trickle, sparking a surge in global oil prices. Benchmark crude was trading at around $108 a barrel on Tuesday.

Gadhafi’s British-educated son Seif al-Islam, on Tuesday, dismissed reports that his father’s inner circle of advisers was crumbling following the defection of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa.

He said “of course” there would be defections among senior members of the regime because some of them are old and tired and “not young like us.”

He also dismissed the idea that Koussa might have new information to offer British authorities about the Lockerbie bombing in which he was a key negotiator.

“The British and the Americans … they know everything about Lockerbie so there are no secrets” Koussa can reveal, Seif said.

___

Al-Shalchi reported from Tripoli. Associated Press writers Jane Wardell and Cassandra Vinograd in London and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

So anyway

So anyway here’s some pictures I got off of www.google.com.

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