Tag Archive: Egypt revolution


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)

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Syrian security forces open fire at demonstrators

In this image made on a mobile phone, a Syrian man sits inside a bus as he looks through the window at  a military truck carrying Syrian soldiers, inhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110422/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Bassem Mroue, Associated Press 47 mins ago

BEIRUT – Syrian security forces fired live bullets and tear gas Friday at tens of thousands of people shouting for freedom and democracy, wounding about 10 people on a day that could be a major test of whether President Bashar Assad’s promises of sweeping reform will quell the monthlong uprising.

Protesters flooded into the streets after prayers Friday in at least five major areas across the country.

“The people want the downfall of the regime!” shouted protesters in Douma, a Damascus suburb where some 40,000 people took to the streets, witnesses said. It is the same rallying cry that was heard during the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

Security forces opened fire in Douma and in the central city of Homs, according to eyewitnesses. At least four people were wounded in Douma and seven in Homs, the witnesses said.

Other massive protests were reported in the coastal city of Banias, the northeastern Kurdish region and the southern city of Daraa, where the uprising kicked off more than a month ago.

The protest movement has crossed a significant threshold in recent days, with increasing numbers now seeking the downfall of the regime, not just reforms. The security crackdown has only emboldened protesters, who are enraged over the deaths of more than 200 people over five weeks.

Friday’s witness accounts could not be independently confirmed because Syria has expelled journalists and restricted access to trouble spots. Witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Activists promised that Friday’s protests will be the biggest rallies yet against the regime led by Assad, who inherited power from his father 11 years ago in one of the most authoritarian countries in the Middle East.

The president has been trying to defuse the protests by launching a bloody crackdown along with a series of concessions, most recently lifting emergency laws that gave authorities almost boundless powers of surveillance and arrest.

He also has fulfilled a decades-old demand by granting citizenship to thousands among Syria’s long-ostracized Kurdish minority, fired local officials, released detainees and formed a new government.

But many protesters said the concessions have come too late — and that Assad does not deserve the credit.

“The state of emergency was brought down, not lifted,” prominent Syrian activist Suhair Atassi, who was arrested several times in the past, wrote on her Twitter page. “It is a victory as a result of demonstrations, protests and the blood of martyrs who called for Syria’s freedom.”

Earlier Friday, witnesses said security forces in uniform and plainclothes set up checkpoints around the Damascus suburb of Douma, checking peoples identity cards and preventing nonresidents from going in.

Syria stands in the middle of the most volatile conflicts in region because of its alliances with militant groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and with Shiite powerhouse Iran. That has given Damascus a pivotal role in most of the flashpoint issues of the region, from the Arab-Israeli peace process to Iran’s widening influence.

If the regime in Syria wobbles, it also throws into disarray the U.S. push for engagement with Damascus, part of Washington’s plan to peel the country away from its allegiance to Hamas, Hezbollah and Tehran.

Gadhafi forces shell east Libyan city of Ajdabiya

Libyan rebel fighters load a truck with ammunition on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, Saturday, April 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110417/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Ben Hubbard, Associated Press Sun Apr 17, 8:44 am ET

AJDABIYA, Libya – Troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Sunday shelled the rebel-held city of Ajdabiya, a strategic eastern town that has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.

The government bombardment of Ajdabiya marked a setback for the rebels, who were forced to retreat a day after having advanced as far as the outskirts of the oil town of Brega, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the west.

On Sunday, dozens of vehicles, some of them rebel trucks with heavy machine guns mounted in the back, could be seen fleeing Ajdabiya toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the north.

Last month, Gadhafi’s troops encircled Ajdabiya with tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery before NATO airstrikes decimated the forces besieging the city and allowed the rebels to reclaim the town and push west.

The NATO-led air campaign has kept rebels from being defeated on the battlefield by the better trained and equipped government forces, but it still has not been enough to completely turn the tide. The rebels have been unable to reach Gadhafi’s heavily defended hometown of Sirte, the gateway to the regime-controlled western half of the country.

Rebel advances west of Ajdabiya — through Brega and its companion oil center of Ras Lanouf, another 60 miles (100 kilometers) farther on — have ultimately foundered as rebels overextended their supply lines and were routed by the heavier firepower and more sophisticated tactics of the government forces.

But while Gadhafi’s troops have been able to halt rebel advances and push back east, they have been unable to move in on Benghazi, largely because of the threat of NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s exposed forces.

In Paris, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet dismissed statements from a top NATO official that the alliance is short of aircraft. Longuet said instead that NATO’s mission in Libya is hampered by a lack of ground information.

“There is no lack of planes but a lack of identification of mobile objectives,” he said in an interview published Sunday in the daily Le Parisien. “The problem is that we’re missing concrete and verifiable information on identified objectives on the ground.”

Longuet said that “coalition aviation is capable of breaking all logistical provisions of Gadhafi’s troops” to the east. But he acknowledged that in urban combat, “if the aviation avoids tragedies, it still isn’t solving the problem.”

After a meeting of NATO foreign ministers last week in Berlin, the alliance’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said NATO needed “a small number of precision aircraft” to hit Gadhafi’s forces.

“I’m hopeful that nations will step up to the plate,” he said, noting that the two-day Berlin meeting was not held to solicit new pledges of support.

The need for the additional aircraft comes as the situation has changed on the ground, Fogh Rasmussen said.

Gadhafi defiant despite NATO airstrikes in Tripoli

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

In this image made from TV , Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Thursday April 14 2011. Libyan TV broadcast footage on Thursday showi

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Karin Laub, Associated Press 24 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi rolled defiantly through the streets of Tripoli, pumping his fists as he poked through the sun roof of an SUV on Thursday — the same day that NATO airstrikes shook the city. The alliance’s foreign ministers, while united in their aim to pressure the Libyan leader to go, argued at a meeting over whether to step up military operations that have so far failed to rout him.

Gadhafi gave no sign that he’s willing to relent, despite two months of civil war and mounting international pressure for him to move aside. Instead, his loyalists pounded rebel positions in the besieged western city of Misrata with dozens of rockets for several hours, killing at least 13 people.

The main target of the assault was Misrata’s port, the only lifeline for rebels who have been trying to defend positions in the city, Libya’s third-largest, against Gadhafi’s forces.

In the capital of Tripoli, several large explosions were heard and a column of black smoke rose from the southeastern part of the city, followed by the sound of anti-aircraft guns, a resident said.

Libyan state television showed Gadhafi — dressed in a black Western blazer, black crew neck T-shirt, sunglasses and a hat — standing through the open sun roof of a sport utility vehicle on a fist-pumping, rapid ride through Tripoli with dozens of supporters chasing behind him. Libyan TV said the trip came on the same day that NATO airstrikes hit military and civilian areas in the capital.

The TV report said there were civilian casualties from the attacks. The report could not be confirmed.

The fighting in Libya began in mid-February when large anti-government protests escalated into a civil war. Rebels hold much of eastern Libya, while Gadhafi controls the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. Three weeks of international airstrikes haven’t routed Gadhafi’s forces.

Gadhafi’s troops unleashed three hours of heavy shelling on the port city of Misrata, which is partly held by rebels. The port is Misrata’s only lifeline, and government forces fired tank shells and dozens of Grad missiles , according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

“They want to flatten the area to deploy the troops on foot and invade the city,” said one of the witnesses, a doctor whose first name was Ayman. He added that a ship sent by Doctors Without Borders to evacuate 165 critically injured people to Tunisia had been scheduled to arrive Thursday morning at Misrata’s port, and he believed the government had shelled the port to interfere with the humanitarian aid.

Another doctor in Misrata, who gave his name only as Khaled for fear of retribution, said some of those killed were inside their houses asleep at the time of the shelling. Among the dead were two men aged 75 and 80.

Gadhafi forces have control of a highway on the outskirts of Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chaired a Cairo meeting of regional and international organizations on Libya and set three targets: reaching and implementing a cease-fire, delivering humanitarian aid and starting a dialogue on Libya’s future.

“Shelling your own people is not acceptable,” he said at a meeting at Arab League headquarters, referring to actions by Gadhafi’s forces. “This is a violation of human rights.”

At a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, the United States and its allies put up a united front on the goals of the alliance’s stalemated military mission in Libya but failed to resolve behind-the-scenes squabbling over how to achieve them.

NATO members agreed on paper with President Barack Obama that Gadhafi had to go to end the crisis, they also made clear that they would not be the ones to oust him. Although several NATO members want the alliance to commit more planes to expand the air campaign, the first day of meetings closed without any specific commitments for more aircraft.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed for unity, saying Gadhafi was taunting the alliance by continuing to strike cities held by rebels seeking his overthrow.

“As our mission continues, maintaining our resolve and unity only grows more important,” Clinton said. “Gadhafi is testing our determination.”

The United States is resisting suggestions that it resume a large combat role to break a deadlock between rebels and better-armed forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Clinton and other top diplomats pointedly said their U.N. mandate for an air campaign does not extend to Gadhafi’s exit by force.

The allies again resolved to enforce a U.N. arms embargo, protect civilians acting to push Gadhafi forces out of cities they have entered, and get in humanitarian aid.

But differences over the scope of the military operation persisted, with Britain and France insisting on more action, particularly from sophisticated U.S. surveillance and weapons systems, and U.S officials maintaining that the alliance already has the tools to get the job done.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris “had wanted (NATO) to intensify its strikes, and we received the assurance that that would be the case.”

Clinton did not say if the U.S. would send more ground attack craft, but she said Washington would continue to support the NATO mission until its goals were met.

Rebel spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said the opposition in Benghazi is encouraged by the diplomatic talks but worried that it won’t translate in to concrete action fast enough to prevent more civilian deaths.

“It will be interesting to see if there is any movement on the ground or just a lot of talk and no action,” he said. “Is there something else on the diplomatic ground that they know that we don’t to put more pressure on Gadhafi? The guy is still shelling and killing, and it makes no difference to him.”

He mentioned specifically the shelling of Misrata and said the international community’s actions will largely determine how long the conflict lasts.

“They wrote off Gadhafi’s regime. The question is how fast their plan is going to take care of him. We know arming ourselves will lead to the eventual toppling of the regime. But are we willing to wait two years or three years or a year and a half? How many victims do we have to accept?”

Rebel leaders have said they would only consider a truce if it Gadhafi is removed from power first.

At the Cairo meeting of top diplomats, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Gadhafi “must leave immediately” and that Libyans should be given a chance to choose a new leader.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa told reporters after the meeting that the situation in Libya is “very grave.”

Brief clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Gadhafi demonstrators outside the meeting. The two camps hurled rocks at each other, with at least one protester seen with blooded face after being hit in the head with a stone. The anti-Gadhafi protesters outnumbered the pro-Gadhafi demonstrators, chased them and forced them to flee.

NATO said it had conducted 153 sorties in the last 24 hours, striking 13 bunkers, one tank and one armored personnel carrier in the Tripoli area and three multiple rocket launchers in the Brega area.

Journalists were taken to Tripoli’s Fateh University where they were shown damage they were told was the result of an airstrike earlier in the day. The blast shattered windows of several buildings, including two student cafeterias, and glass shards were scattered across the floor. Tiles of false ceilings had been knocked out in several lecture halls.

Government minders traveling with the journalists said the strike had hit a military target nearby and white smoke was seen rising from a group of trees several hundred yards from the campus. The minders would not elaborate or allow anyone to approach the targeted area. However, one journalist who had snatched a glimpse from a rooftop said she had seen an anti-aircraft battery at the site. Photographs taken later showed a large military truck in the area.

A Tripoli resident said many people were fasting in preparation for mass anti-Gadhafi protests Friday, the 25th anniversary of the 1986 U.S. raid on Tripoli.

Life in Libya “is becoming harsh,” with prices skyrocketing, gasoline scarce and long lines in front of bakeries, said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Al-Sadek al-Ghariani, a top Muslim cleric in Libya, said in a video posted on Facebook that it was a religious duty to join Friday’s protests. In February, he issued two fatwas calling for anti-Gadhafi protests and then went into hiding. Gadhafi forces apparently are trying to find him.

At the western edge of Ajdabiya, the main gateway town into the opposition-held east, two wounded rebel fighters were brought through, and the rebel forces retaliated by firing rockets in the direction of Brega.

In western Libya, rebels attacked a small military base about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Nalut and chased away 40 soldiers who had been trying to stop aid from Tunisia and harassing people trying to flee into that country. In apparent retaliation, Libyan government forces shelled the town of Tikut.

Rebel chief of Staff Abdel-Fatah Younes said the opposition fighters have received new anti-tank weapons from Qatar and that experts from that country are training the forces to use them.

Also Thursday, Libyan TV reported Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, mediated the release of Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera correspondent Amar al-Hamdan, who was en route to the Libya-Tunisian border.

___

Associated Press writers Maggie Michael in Cairo, Sebastian Abbot in Ajdabiya, Libya; Hadeel al-Shalchi in Tunis, Tunisia; and Geir Moulson and Matthew Lee in Berlin contributed reporting.

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.

6 killed as Iraqis protest in ‘Day of Rage’

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110225/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Sinan Salaheddin, Associated Press 1 hr 30 mins ago

BAGHDAD – Thousands marched on government buildings and clashed with security forces in cities across Iraq on Friday, in the largest and most violent anti-government protests here since political unrest began spreading in the Arab world several weeks ago.

In two northern Iraqi cities, security forces trying to push back crowds opened fire, killing six demonstrators. In the capital of Baghdad, demonstrators knocked down blast walls, threw rocks and scuffled with club-wielding troops.

The protests, billed as a “Day of Rage, were fueled by anger over corruption, chronic unemployment and shoddy public services.

“We want a good life like human beings, not like animals,” said Khalil Ibrahim, 44, one of about 3,000 protesters in the capital Baghdad.

Like many Iraqis, he railed against a government that locks itself in the highly fortified Green Zone, home to the parliament and the U.S. Embassy, and is viewed by most of its citizens as more interested in personal gain than public service.

The center of Baghdad was virtually locked down Friday, with soldiers searching protesters entering Liberation Square and closing off the plaza and side streets with razor wire. The heavy security presence reflected the concern of Iraqi officials that demonstrations here could gain traction as they did in Egypt and Tunisia, then spiral out of control.

Iraqi army helicopters buzzed overhead, while Humvees and trucks took up posts throughout the square, where flag-waving demonstrators shouted “No to unemployment,” and “No to the liar al-Maliki,” referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Demonstrators trying to get across a bridge going from the square to the Green Zone clashed with security forces. The demonstrators knocked down some of the concrete blast walls that were put up Thursday night and threw rocks at troops who beat them back with batons. Six riot police and 12 demonstrators were wounded in the melee, said police and hospital officials.

Click image to see photos of protests in Iraq

The protests stretched from the northern city of Mosul to the southern city of Basra, reflecting the widespread anger many Iraqis feel at the government’s seeming inability to improve their lives.

A crowd of angry marchers in the northern city of Hawija, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Baghdad, tried to break into the city’s municipal building, said the head of the local city council, Ali Hussein Salih.

Security forces trying to block the crow opened fire, killing three demonstrators and wounding 15, local officials said. The Iraqi Army was eventually called in to restore order.

In Mosul, also in northern Iraq, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the provincial council building, demanding jobs and better services, when guards opened fire, according to a police official. A police and hospital official said three protesters were killed and 15 people wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media.

Black smoke could later be seen billowing from the building.

In the south, about 4,000 people demonstrated in front of the office of Gov. Sheltagh Aboud al-Mayahi in the port city of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad. They knocked over one of the concrete barriers and demanded his resignation, saying he’d done nothing to improve city services.

They appeared to get their wish when the commander of Basra military operations, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Jawad Hawaidi, told the crowd that the governor had resigned in response to the demonstrations. Iraqi state TV announced that the prime minister had asked the governor to step down but did not mention the protests.

Around 1,000 demonstrators also clashed with police in the western city of Fallujah 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad clashed with authorities, witnesses said. And in the southern city of Karbala, about 1,000 protesters rallied for better services.

In recent weeks, there had been scattered anti-government protests in Iraq. While most have been peaceful, a few have turned violent and seven people have been killed. The biggest rallies have been in the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, against the government of the self-ruled region.

On the even of the marches, al-Maliki urged people to skip the rally, which he alleged was organized by Saddamists and al-Qaida — two of his favorite targets of blame for an array of Iraq’s ills. He offered no evidence to support his claim.

Clampdown in Libyan capital as protests close in

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110223/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By PAUL SCHEMM and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Paul Schemm And Maggie Michael, Associated Press 1 hr 4 mins ago

TOBRUK, Libya – Militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi clamped down in Tripoli, but cracks in his regime spread elsewhere across the nation, as the protest-fueled rebellion controlling much of eastern Libya claimed new gains closer to the capital. Two pilots let their warplane crash in the desert, parachuting to safety, rather than bomb an opposition-held city.

The opposition said it had taken over Misrata, which would be the largest city in the western half in the country to fall into its hands. Clashes broke out over the past two days in the town of Sabratha, west of the capital, where the army and militiamen were trying to put down protesters who overwhelmed security headquarters and government buildings, a news website close to the government reported.

Two air force pilots jumped from parachutes from their Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet and let it crash, rather than carry out orders to bomb opposition-held Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, the website Quryna reported, citing an unidentified officer in the air force control room.

One of the pilots — identified by the report as Ali Omar Gadhafi — was from Gadhafi’s tribe, the Gadhadhfa, said Farag al-Maghrabi, a local resident who saw the pilots and the wreckage of the jet, which crashed in a deserted area outside the key oil port of Breqa.

International outrage mounted after Gadhafi on Tuesday went on state TV and in a fist-pounding speech called on his supporters to take to the streets to fight protesters. Gadhafi’s retaliation has already been the harshest in the Arab world to the wave of anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said estimates of some 1,000 people killed in the violence in Libya were “credible,” although he stressed information about casualties was incomplete. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at nearly 300, according to a partial count.

Gadhafi’s speech appeared to have brought out a heavy force of supporters and militiamen that largely prevented major protests in the capital Tuesday night or Wednesday. Through the night, gunfire was heard, said one woman who lives near downtown.

“Mercenaries are everywhere with weapons. You can’t open a window or door. Snipers hunt people,” she said. “We are under siege, at the mercy of a man who is not a Muslim.”

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

During the day Wednesday, more gunfire was heard near Gadhafi’s residence, but in many parts of the city of 2 million residents were venturing out to stores, some residents said. The government sent out text messages urging people to go back to their jobs, aiming to show that life was returning to normal. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

But Libya’s upheaval, just over a week old, has shattered the hold of Gadhafi’s regime across much of the country. Protesters claim to hold towns and cities along nearly the entire eastern half of the 1,000-mile Mediterranean coastline, from the Egyptian border. In parts, they have set up their own jury-rigged self-administrations.

At the Egyptian border, guards had fled, and local tribal elders have formed local committees to take their place. “Welcome to the new Libya,” a graffiti spray-painted at the crossing proclaimed. Fawzy Ignashy, a former soldier, now in civilian clothes at the border, said that early in the protests, some commanders ordered troops to fire on protesters, but then tribal leaders stepped in and ordered them to stop.

“They did because they were from here. So the officers fled,” he said.

A defense committee of local residents was even guarding one of Gadhafi’s once highly secretive anti-aircraft missile bases outside the city of Tobruk. “This is the first time I’ve seen missiles like these up close,” admitted Abdelsalam al-Gedani, one of the guards, dressed in an overcoat and carrying a Kalashnikov automatic rifle.

Protesters have claimed control all the way to the city of Ajdabiya, about 480 miles (800 kilometers) east of Tripoli, encroaching on the key oil fields around the Gulf of Sidra.

That has left Gadhafi’s power centered around Tripoli, in the far west and parts of the country’s center. But that appeared to be weakening in parts.

Protesters in Misrata were claiming victory after several days of fighting with Gadhafi loyalists in the city, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli.

Residents were honking horns in celebration and raising the pre-Gadhafi flags of the Libyan monarchy, said Faraj al-Misrati, a local doctor. He said six people had been killed and 200 wounded in clashes that began Feb. 18 and eventually drove out pro-Gadhafi militiamen.

Residents had formed committees to clean the streets, protect the city and treat the injured, he said. “The solidarity among the people here is amazing, even the disabled are helping out.”

An audio statement posted on the Internet was reportedly from armed forces officers in Misrata proclaiming “our total support” for the protesters.

New videos posted by Libya’s opposition on Facebook also showed scores of anti-government protesters raising the flag from the pre-Gadhafi monarchy on a building in Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli. Another showed protesters lining up cement blocks and setting tires ablaze to fortify positions on a square inside the capital.

The footage couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Further west, armed forces deployed in Sabratha, a town famed for nearby ancient Roman ruins, in a bid to regain control after protesters burned government buildings and police stations, the Quryna news website reported. It said clashes had erupted between soldiers and residents in the past nights and that residents were also reporting an influx of pro-Gadhafi militias that have led heaviest crackdown on protesters.

The opposition also claimed control in Zwara, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the Tunisian border in the west, after local army units sided with the protesters and police fled.

“The situation here is very secure, the people here have organized security committees, and there are people who have joined us from the army,” said a 25-year-old unemployed university graduate in Zwara. “This man (Gadhafi) has reached the point that he’s saying he will bring armies from African (to fight protesters). That means he is isolated,” he said.

The division of the country — and defection of some army units to the protesters — raises the possibility the opposition could try an assault on the capital. On the Internet, there were calls by protesters for all policemen, armed forces and youth to march to Tripoli on Friday.

In his speech Tuesday night, Gadhafi defiantly vowed to fight to his “last drop of blood” and roared at supporters to strike back against Libyan protesters to defend his embattled regime.

“You men and women who love Gadhafi … get out of your homes and fill the streets,” Gadhafi said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs.”

Gadhafi appears to have lost the support of several tribes and his own diplomats, including Libya’s ambassador in Washington, Ali Adjali, and deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi.

The Libyan Embassy in Austria also condemned the use of “excessive violence against peaceful demonstrators” and said in a statement Wednesday that it was representing the Libyan people.

International alarm has risen over the crisis, which sent oil prices soaring to the highest level in more than two years on Tuesday and sparked a scramble by European and other countries to get their citizens out of the North African nation. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting that ended with a statement condemning the crackdown, expressing “grave concern” and calling for an “immediate end to the violence” and steps to address the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also pressed Wednesday for European Union sanctions against Libya’s regime because of its violent crackdown on protesters, and raised the possibility of cutting all economic and business ties between the EU and the North African nation.

“The continuing brutal and bloody repression against the Libyan civilian population is revolting,” Sarkozy said in a statement. “The international community cannot remain a spectator to these massive violations of human rights.”

Italian news reports have said witnesses and hospital sources in Libya are estimating there are 1,000 dead in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, alone.

“We have no complete information about the number of people who have died,” Frattini said in a speech to a Catholic organization in Rome ahead of a briefing in Parliament on Libya. “We believe that the estimates of about 1,000 are credible.”

Libya is the biggest supplier of oil to Italy, which has extensive energy, construction and other business interests in the north African country and decades of strong ties.

Frattini said the Italian government is asking that the “horrible bloodshed” cease immediately.

___

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Ben Hubbard in Cairo, Frances D’Emilio in Rome and Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report.

Egypt freezes Mubarak’s assets

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110221/ap_on_bi_ge/ml_egypt

By MAGGIE MICHAEL and SALAH NASRAWI, Associated Press Maggie Michael And Salah Nasrawi, Associated Press 21 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s top prosecutor requested on Monday the freezing of the foreign assets of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his family, announced state TV.

Security officials said that the prosecutor general requested the Foreign Ministry to ask other nations to freeze any assets of Mubarak and his family abroad. The president’s local assets were frozen soon after he stepped down, they added.

The freeze applies to Mubarak, his wife, his two sons and two daughters-in-law, they say. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the press.

A day earlier, official media quoted Mubarak’s legal representative as saying the former president had submitted to authorities a declaration of his wealth and that he had no assets abroad. The former president is believed to currently be residing in his estate at the distant Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egypt has so far asked for asset freezes for one top Egyptian businessman and former ruling party official, as well as four former Cabinet ministers and detained them pending investigations.

The Mubarak’s family’s wealth — speculation has put it at anywhere from $1 billion to $70 billion — has come under growing scrutiny since Mubarak’s Feb. 11 ouster opened the floodgates to three decades of pent-up anger at the regime.

Watchdog groups allege that under Mubarak, top officials and tycoons were given preferential treatment in land contracts, allowed to buy state industries at a fraction of their value during Egypt’s privatization process launched in the early 1990s, and got other perks that enabled them to increase their wealth exponentially. The perks came at a price — and the Mubaraks were major beneficiaries, the activists say.

The most prominent symbol of their presumed fortune that has surfaced was a town house in London’s exclusive Knightsbridge district, which is listed to Gamal Mubarak and where he was said to have lived while working as an investment banker in the early 1990s.

The town house has become a focal point for many in Egypt as foreign governments begin to either enact, or consider imposing freezes on their assets.

Army locks down Bahrain, police storm protest

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ml_bahrain_protests

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press 2 hrs 22 mins ago

MANAMA, Bahrain – Army patrols and tanks locked down the capital of this tiny Gulf kingdom after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed into demonstrators, many of them sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault Thursday that uprooted their protest camp demanding political change. Medical officials said four people were killed.

Hours after the attack on Manama’s main Pearl Square, the military announced on state TV that it had “key parts” of the capital under its control and that gatherings were banned.

The developments marked a major crackdown by the island nation’s rulers to put an end to days of protests inspired by Egypt’s revolt against Hosni Mubarak. Tiny Bahrain is a pillar of Washington’s military framework in the region. It hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is a critical counterbalance to Iran’s efforts to expand its clout in the region.

The capital Manama was effectively shut down Thursday. For the first time, tanks and military checkpoints were deployed in the streets and army patrols circulated. The Interior Ministry warned Bahrainis to stay off the streets. Banks and other key institutions did not open, and workers stayed home, unable or to afraid to pass through checkpoints to get to their jobs.

Barbed wire and police cars with flashing blue lights encircled Pearl Square, the site of anti-government rallies since Monday. Police cleaned up flattened protest tents and trampled banners inside the square, littered with broken glass, tear gas canisters and debris. A body covered in a white sheet lay in a pool of blood on the side of a road about 20 yards (meters) from the landmark square.

Demonstrators had been camping out for days around the square’s 300-foot (90-meter) monument featuring a giant pearl, making it the nerve center of the first anti-government protests to reach the Arab Gulf since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

The protesters’ demands have two main objectives: force the ruling Sunni monarchy to give up its control over top government posts and all critical decisions, and address deep grievances held by the country’s majority Shiites who claim they face systematic discrimination and are effectively blocked from key roles in public service and the military.

But among Bahrain’s rulers, the prospect of a prolonged crisis raised fears of a potential flashpoint between Iran and its Arab rivals in the Gulf. Bahrain’s ruling Sunni dynasty is closely allied to Saudi Arabia and the other Arab regimes in the Gulf. Shiite hard-liners in Iran have often expressed kinship and support for Bahrain’s Shiite majority, which accounts for 70 percent of the island’s 500,000 citizens.

The police assault came early Thursday with little warning. Mahmoud Mansouri, a protester, said police surrounded the camp and then quickly moved in.

“We yelled, ‘We are peaceful! Peaceful!’ The women and children were attacked just like the rest of us,” he said. “They moved in as soon as the media left us. They knew what they’re doing.”

Dr. Sadek Al-Ikri, 44, said he was tending to sick protesters at a makeshift medical tent in the square when the police stormed in. He said he was tied up and severely beaten, then thrown on a bus with others.

“They were beating me so hard I could no longer see. There was so much blood running from my head,” he said. “I was yelling, ‘I’m a doctor. I’m a doctor.’ But they didn’t stop.”

He said the police beating him spoke Urdu, the main language of Pakistan. A pillar of the protest demands is to end the Sunni regime’s practice of giving citizenship to other Sunnis from around the region to try to offset the demographic strength of Shiites. Many of the new Bahrainis are given security posts.

Al-Ikri said he and others on the bus were left on a highway overpass, but the beatings didn’t stop. Eventually, the doctor said he fainted but could hear another police official say in Arabic: “Stop beating him. He’s dead. We should just leave him here.”

Bahrain’s parliament — minus opposition lawmakers who are staging a boycott — met in emergency session. One pro-government member, Jamila Salman, broke into tears.

A leader of the Shiite opposition Abdul Jalil Khalil said 18 parliament members also have resigned to protest the killings.

As the crackdown began, demonstrators in the square described police swarming in through a cloud of eye-stinging tear gas.

“They attacked our tents, beating us with batons,” said Jafar Jafar, 17. “The police were lined up at the bridge overhead. They were shooting tear gas from the bridge.”

Many families were separated in the chaos. An Associated Press photographer saw police rounding up lost children and taking them into vehicles.

Hussein Abbas, 22, was awakened by a missed call on his cell phone from his wife, presumably trying to warn him about reports that police were preparing to move in.

“Then all of a sudden the square was filled with tear gas clouds. Our women were screaming. … What kind of ruler does this to his people? There were women and children with us!”

ABC News said its correspondent, Miguel Marquez, was caught in the crowd and beaten by men with billy clubs, although he was not badly injured.

Hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said four people were killed early Thursday. Wounded streamed by the dozens into Salmaniya medical center, the main state-run hospital in Manama, with serious gaping wounds, broken bones and respiratory problems from the tear gas.

Outside the medical complex, dozens of protesters chanted: “The regime must go.”

Tanks and armored personnel carriers were seen on some streets — the first sign of military involvement in the crisis — and authorities send a text message to cell phones that said: “The Ministry of the Interior warns all citizens and residents not to leave the house due to potential conflict in all areas of Bahrain.”

Hours before police moved in, the mood in the makeshift tent city was festive and confident.

People sipped tea, ate donated food and smoked apple- and grape-flavored tobacco from water pipes. The men and women mainly sat separately — the women a sea of black in their traditional dress. Some youths wore the red-and-white Bahraini flag as a cape.

While the protests began as a cry for the country’s Sunni monarchy to loosen its grip, the uprising’s demands have steadily grown bolder. Many protesters called for the government to provide more jobs and better housing, free all political detainees and abolish the system that offers Bahraini citizenship to Sunnis from around the Middle East.

Increasingly, protesters also chanted slogans to wipe away the entire ruling dynasty that has led Bahrain for more than 200 years and is firmly backed by the Sunni sheiks and monarchs across the Gulf.

Although Bahrain is sandwiched between OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it has limited oil resources and depends heavily on its role as a regional financial hub and playground for Saudis, who can drive over a causeway to enjoy Bahrain’s Western-style bars, hotels and beaches.

Social networking websites had been abuzz Wednesday with calls to press ahead with the protests. They were matched by insults from presumed government backers who called the demonstrators traitors and agents of Iran.

The protest movement’s next move is unclear, but the island nation has been rocked by street battles as recently as last summer. A wave of arrests of perceived Shiite dissidents touched off weeks of rioting and demonstrations.

Before the attack on the square, protesters had called for major rallies after Friday prayers. The reported deaths, however, could become a fresh rallying point. Thousands of mourners had turned out for the funeral processions of two other people killed in the protests earlier in the week.

After prayers Wednesday evening, a Shiite imam in the square had urged Bahrain’s youth not to back down.

“This square is a trust in your hands and so will you whittle away this trust or keep fast?” the imam said. “So be careful and be concerned for your country and remember that the regime will try to rip this country from your hand but if we must leave it in coffins then so be it!”

Across the city, government supporters in a caravan of cars waved national flags and displayed portraits of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

“Come join us!” they yelled into markets and along busy streets. “Show your loyalty.”

Thousands of mourners turned out Wednesday for the funeral procession of 31-year-old Fadhel al-Matrook, one of two people killed Monday in the protests. Later, in Pearl Square, his father Salman pleaded with protesters not to give up.

“He is not only my son. He is the son of Bahrain, the son of this nation,” he yelled. “His blood shouldn’t be wasted.”

Monday’s bloodshed brought embarrassing rebukes from allies such as Britain and the United States. A statement from Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said suspects have been “placed in custody” in connection with the two deaths but gave no further details.

___

Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

Military police officers scuffle with protesters as they try to clear Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 14. Egypt’s military rulers dissolved parliament Sunday, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pro-democracy protesters.

Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo

 

Cairo

A coalition of activists, Internet organizers, and opposition political groups that formed the backbone of the Egyptian revolution joined the country’s new military rulers today for a “getting to know you meeting.” They promised to hold the new regime’s feet to the fire on political reform.

“The military is more or less trying to meet with all of the groups involved at this point,” says Ahmed Naguib, a member of the board of the Coalition of the Youth of the Jan. 25 Revolution. “The meeting was just to tell them that a lot of demands have not been met yet. That’s why we’re calling for a million-man march on Friday, to remind them that sovereignty is back with the people for good.”

Egypt is in a period of incredible political ferment, with the military promising to usher in the substantive democratic reform that hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanded on the streets of Cairo and beyond.

But the military, an integral part of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, faces skepticism from some in Mr. Naguib’s umbrella group – as well as a potential challenge from laborers who have launched a series of strikes to capitalize on the revolution’s momentum.

IN PICTURES: Exclusive Monitor photos of Egypt’s turmoil

A few hours after the meeting, the junta issued a communiqué with ominous hints for how ongoing protests will be dealt with. The military said further protests will harm national security and urged protests – particularly labor strikes – to stop.
While it stopped short of outright banning demonstrations, the use of the language of national security – the statement also warned of the chance that “irresponsible groups” will take advantage of further protests to harm Egypt – strongly implied that it won’t stand aside indefinitely.

The military’s promises

The military pushed former President Hosni Mubarak from power on Friday and took charge for what they say is the good of the nation.

On Sunday, they dissolved both houses of parliament, suspended the Constitution, and promised sweeping political reforms to allow for fair elections within six months. At that point, the military junta led by Gen. Mohammed Tantawi (ret.) has promised, they will return to barracks.

Mr. Naguib says his umbrella group for young democracy activists, which includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and young supporters of former United Nations nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei, told officers today that they intend to keep the military to its promises.

He says organizers are confident that they’ll be able to energize large protests at the end of the week, even as military police cleared away the last vestiges of the extraordinary pro-democracy encampment that took over Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square during the popular uprising that started on Jan. 25.

Is he right? The Egyptian military has been urging Egypt to get back to work and is seeking to project an air of normalcy. Many of the youth who mobilized at Tahrir have been inclined to trust the military, and average Egyptians are wary of a confrontation with the military after two weeks in which the Army stayed neutral and allowed Mubarak to be swept aside.

“At the start, a tactical choice was made by the protesters to put the military on a pedestal and try to push it in the direction of the people, and I think that’s been an effective strategy,” says Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brooking Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar. “But the relationship is going to get a lot harder. Before, the military was a third player. Now they are the regime.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0214/Egypt-revolution-Protesters-vow-to-keep-pressure-on-military

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