Tag Archive: Germany


Iraq expects reprisals for bin Laden killing

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110502/wl_nm/us_binladen_iraq

By Waleed Ibrahim and Suadad al-Salhy Waleed Ibrahim And Suadad Al-salhy 45 mins ago

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s army and police went on high alert on Monday for possible revenge attacks in one of al Qaeda’s major battlegrounds after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his Pakistan hideout.

Oil infrastructure, power stations and bridges could be targets of militant attacks, security sources said, to prove bin Laden’s death has not disrupted operations in Iraq, still an important arena for the Islamist group eight years after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Former President George W. Bush referred to Iraq as part of the U.S. “war on terror” although no link was found between Saddam’s regime and the September 11 attacks. It became a battlefield for al Qaeda after the invasion.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have scored big victories against al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate but the Sunni Islamist insurgency remains lethal and carries out dozens of attacks each month.

“We have issued orders to intensify security measures in the street,” said Major-General Hassan al-Baidhani of the Baghdad operations command. “We 100 percent expect attacks.”

The Iraqi government welcomed the news of bin Laden’s death.

“The Iraqi government is feeling greatly relieved over the killing of Osama bin Laden, who was the planner and director behind the killing of many Iraqis and destroying the country,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“VIOLENT REACTION” POSSIBLE

The U.S. military still has about 47,000 troops in Iraq.

“We recognize that the death of bin Laden may result in a violent reaction from al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist organisations that loosely affiliate with the al Qaeda network,” U.S. military spokesman Colonel Barry Johnson said. He would not comment on any changes in operations as a result of the death.

Iraqi security sources said they had received intelligence that al Qaeda would carry out reprisal attacks and that markets, religious shrines and infrastructure could be hit.

“We are expecting that they will attack vital targets like oil institutions, electricity stations and bridges in Baghdad, Basra and the middle Euphrates areas,” a senior anti-terrorism officer said. Oilfields, pipelines and terminals are critical to Iraq’s plans to become a major world producer and to rebuild after decades of dictatorship, war and economic sanctions.

U.S. military officials say counter-terrorism operations have severely degraded al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate and damaged its communications with al Qaeda figures abroad. Leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were killed in April 2010.

But military commanders still point to al Qaeda for many of the scores of attacks each month, including a bloody siege in late March in Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit, where 58 people were killed, and an attack on a Baghdad cathedral last October.

John Drake, a risk consultant with U.K.-based security firm AKE, said bin Laden’s death would not reduce attacks in Iraq.

“While it still receives foreign funding and foreign recruits, a lot of the planning and execution of attacks is by Iraqi nationals operating independently, but still drawing inspiration from the global al Qaeda movement,” he said.

War-weary Iraqis appeared to welcome the news.

“In my life, I have never seen a criminal like this person (bin Laden), who took the religion of Islam to serve his own purpose,” said Ibrahim Ali Hamdi, 68, a farmer who lost a son to al Qaeda in 2006.

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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

Afghan Taliban declare start to spring offensive

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110430/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_taliban

By Jonathon Burch and Rob Taylor Jonathon Burch And Rob Taylor 2 hrs 18 mins ago

KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban declared the start of a spring offensive across Afghanistan on Saturday, warning they would target foreign troops as well as Afghan security forces and top government officials in a wave of attacks including suicide bombings.

In a statement, the hardline Islamists warned Afghan civilians to stay away from public gatherings, military bases and convoys, as well as Afghan government centers and buildings, as these would be the focus of attacks starting on May 1.

The Taliban statement comes just a day after senior military officials and Western diplomats warned they expected a surge in attacks over the next week, beginning on Sunday.

“The Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to declare the launching of the spring military operations named as “Badar” to be waged against the invading Americans and their foreign allies and internal supports,” the Taliban said in an emailed statement.

“Operations will focus on attacks against military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country,” the Taliban said.

Senior military officials told Reuters on Friday that recent intelligence reporting indicated the campaign of increased violence would last about a week and would be mounted by the Taliban, supported by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and other insurgents.

Brigadier General Josef Blotz, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said coalition bases were bolstering security in anticipation of attacks.

“We do know for quite some time already that the insurgency plans an attempt to come out with a surge of violence in certain areas of this country in the next days,” Blotz told Reuters.

The United Nations said it was relocating some of its staff in Afghanistan after receiving “credible threats” of increased attacks in a “number of locations around the country.”

The United Nations has been the target of several insurgent attacks over the past two years. Earlier this month, seven international staff were killed after protesters overran a U.N. compound in northern Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Taliban denied involvement in that attack, but officials said insurgents had been involved in stirring up an already angry crowd.

“As a precautionary measure the United Nations is shifting its staff from some of its regional operational centers into safe locations for a short period. Staff are not leaving their regions and will continue working from these locations,” said Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan.

CIVILIAN WARNING

The Taliban said the targets of the attacks would be foreign forces, high-ranking officials of President Hamid Karzai’s government, members of the cabinet and lawmakers, as well as the heads of foreign and local companies working for ISAF.

“All Afghan people should bear in mind to keep away from gatherings, convoys and centers of the enemy so that they will not become harmed during attacks of Mujahideen against the enemy,” the Taliban said.

Senior military commanders have long anticipated a spike in violence with the arrival of the spring and summer “fighting season,” although the usual winter lull was not seen as U.S-led forces pressed their attacks against insurgents, particularly in the Taliban’s southern heartland.

While Washington and ISAF commanders have trumpeted successes against a growing insurgency since 30,000 extra U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan last year, the insurgency has shown little sign of abating.

Violence across Afghanistan hit record levels in 2010, with civilian and military casualties the worst since U.S-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001.

The Pentagon said in a report on Friday that an overall increase in violence was due in part to increased targeting of insurgent safe havens and unseasonably mild weather.

The Taliban did not say how long their stepped-up campaign would last, but said it had been codenamed “Badar” after a decisive Muslim 7th century battle victory in western Arabia that Muslims attribute to divine intervention.

In the statement, the Taliban repeated their frequent claim that fighting in Afghanistan would not end until foreign troops had left the country. They also called on Afghan government officials and security forces to switch sides to the insurgency.

Military commanders interviewed by Reuters this week were not sure why May 1 had been chosen by the Taliban to launch their renewed offensive.

The anticipated Taliban campaign would not change the coalition’s counterinsurgency strategy put in place last year by U.S. General David Petraeus, the commander of the 150,000 U.S. and ISAF troops in Afghanistan, they said.

Under a program agreed at a NATO summit last year, ISAF said it will begin handing security responsibility to Afghan forces in several areas from July. The program will end with the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

(Additional reporting by Abdul Saboor; Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Paul Tait)

Still image taken from video shows the building where German police arrested three suspected members of al Qaeda in Duesseldorfhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110430/wl_nm/us_germany_alqaeda

By Diana Niedernhoefer Diana Niedernhoefer 2 hrs 32 mins ago

KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) – Three suspected al Qaeda members had been planning a bomb attack in Germany for four months when they were arrested, federal prosecutors said.

Rainer Griesbaum, a federal prosecutor, told a news conference on Saturday that the trio, led by a 29-year-old Moroccan, had planned to detonate their device in a crowded area but had not yet picked a target.

“They were still in the experimental phase,” Griesbaum said. “They were planning to explode a device packed with pieces of metal in the midst of a large crowd.”

German authorities said the suspects, arrested on Friday, had discussed planting the bomb on a bus or at a bus stop.

The three were detained in police raids in Duesseldorf and the nearby city of Bochum at 6:30 a.m. on Friday after authorities, who had been monitoring the group, decided they might be getting close to carrying out an attack.

Prosecutors said the public had not been in danger.

Bild newspaper reported that the Eurovision Song Contest, watched by more than 100 million television viewers, was a possible target. The contest will be held in the western city of Duesseldorf on May 14.

The suspected ringleader, a 29-year-old college drop-out identified as Abdeladim El-K., was charged with planning a terror attack in Germany and being a member of a foreign terror organization. The other two suspects are still being questioned.

Griesbaum said the 29-year-old Moroccan had attended an al Qaeda terror camp in the Waziristan region of Pakistan near the Afghan border in 2010. He returned to Germany in May 2010 and was attempting to build a terror network here with an estimated seven to eight members.

“But it could also be more than that,” said Joerg Ziercke, president of the Federal Crime Office (BKA), at the news conference at the federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe. “We’ll learn more with our investigation.”

The suspects had cheered Thursday’s bombing in Marrakesh where 15 were killed, Griesbaum said.

NOT A SUICIDE BOMBING

The other suspects are a 31-year-old electrician identified as Jamil S., who holds dual German and Moroccan citizenship, and a 19-year-old with German and Iranian citizenship, Amid C., who was about to graduate from high school.

Jamil S. was tasked to arrange the financing of the attack and obtain identity papers for Abdeladim El-K. Amid C. was responsible for ensuring encrypted communication.

Germany’s Der Spiegel news magazine reported on Saturday that the CIA as well as Morocco’s intelligence agency had worked with German authorities on the investigation.

Ziercke said the three had inspected public buildings and downloaded information on explosives from the internet.

“But we don’t have any indications that they were planning a suicide bombing,” Ziercke said.

Authorities said they decided to launch the raid on Friday when the suspects discussed making a “detonator for a bomb” by extracting hexamine from barbecue firelighters and mixing that with hydrogen peroxide and citric acid.

Last year, a court in Duesseldorf convicted four militants who admitted planning “a monstrous bloodbath” with car bomb attacks on U.S. targets. They were known as the “Sauerland group” after the area of western Germany where they were caught.

European countries have grappled with militant threats for years, regularly arresting individuals or groups suspected of planning attacks some fear could mirror bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 which killed more than 200 people.

Berlin views Germany as a potential target because it has nearly 5,000 military personnel stationed in Afghanistan, the third largest contingent of the 150,000-strong international force fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.

(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Robert Woodward)

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.

Clinton: NATO nations agree that Gadhafi must go

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110414/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nato_foreign_ministers

By GEIR MOULSON and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Geir Moulson And Matthew Lee, Associated Press 1 hr 7 mins ago

BERLIN – NATO nations stressed Thursday that their common aim in Libya is to bring an end to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the world must increase its support for the Libyan opposition.

The effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya topped the agenda at a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from NATO’s 28 member countries. Three weeks of airstrikes haven’t routed Gadhafi’s forces, causing tensions in the alliance.

Although NATO countries agree that Gadhafi must be ousted, his departure is not one of its military goals and the alliance has been at odds on how to proceed. One proposal from Italy — Libya’s former colonial ruler — calls for the western powers to provide defensive weapons to rebels.

France has said NATO isn’t doing enough, and was pushing other countries at the meeting to work “on more robust, more efficient, more rapid actions,” according to French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero in Paris.

The rebels — along with France and Britain — have been urging the U.S. military to reassert a stronger role in the NATO-led air campaign. The Obama administration, however, has been insisting the U.S. will stick to its plan to remain in a supporting role, and the Pentagon noted that Americans have flown 35 percent of all Libyan air missions over the last 10 days.

Clinton appealed to the other NATO foreign ministers to show unity.

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

NATO members are “sharing the same goal, which is to see the end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya,” Clinton said. “We must also intensify our political, diplomatic and economic mission to pressure and isolate Gadhafi and bring about his departure.”

Clinton drew a line between NATO’s goals of enforcing an arms embargo, protecting civilians, and forcing the withdrawal of Gadhafi forces from rebel cities they have entered, with the international community’s demand that Gadhafi leave power.

The world must “deepen our engagement with and increase our support for” the Libyan opposition, she added.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance and its partners “are fully engaged in operations to safeguard the people of Libya, taking every measure possible to prevent Gadhafi’s brutal and systematic attacks.”

The alliance is keeping up “a high operational tempo,” he added.

France’s foreign minister, Alain Juppe, struck a diplomatic tone as he met with his counterpart from Germany, which isn’t taking part in the military operation and abstained in the U.N. vote authorizing it.

“In reality, we have the same objective — this objective is to allow the Libyan people to enjoy democratic freedom,” Juppe said, adding “there will not be a military solution to the problem, there can only be a political solution.”

“There is no future in Libya with Gadhafi,” Juppe added.

Juppe said outsiders can support political forces that aspire to democracy, but he was guarded when asked whether France thinks the Libyan rebels should be supplied with arms.

“France is not in this frame of mind,” he replied.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Berlin agrees with France and others that “Libya can only have a good future if this dictator goes.”

He said he was “very happy that we have together succeeded in finally pushing through a comprehensive sanctions policy — there is now a de-facto oil and gas embargo (so) that the dictator Gadhafi’s cash reserves cannot be replenished.”

Thursday’s NATO meeting also was to address efforts to hand over security responsibility in Afghanistan to local forces.

_____

David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

Rebels advance on eve of Libya crisis talks

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/ts_nm/us_libya

By Angus MacSwan Angus Macswan 1 hr 18 mins ago

BIN JAWAD, Libya (Reuters) – Rebels advanced toward the birthplace of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Monday, streaming west along the main coastal road in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns.

Russia criticized the Western-led air strikes that have turned the tide of Libya’s conflict, saying these amounted to taking sides in a civil war and breached the terms of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

On the eve of 35-nation talks in London, Italy proposed a political deal to end the Libya crisis, including a quick ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and dialogue between rebels and tribal leaders.

Emboldened by the Western-led air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, the rebels have quickly reversed earlier losses and regained control of all the main oil terminals in the east of the OPEC member country.

“We want to go to Sirte today. I don’t know if it will happen,” said 25-year-old rebel fighter Marjai Agouri as he waited with 100 others outside Bin Jawad with three multiple rocket launchers, six anti-aircraft guns and around a dozen pick-up trucks with machineguns mounted on them.

But the rapid advance is stretching rebel supply lines.

“We have a serious problem with petrol,” said a volunteer fighter waiting to fill his vehicle in the oil town of Ras Lanuf.

Al Jazeera said the rebels had seized the town of Nawfaliyah from forces loyal to Gaddafi, extending their advance westwards toward his hometown of Sirte, about 120 km (75 miles) away.

However a Reuters correspondent who was about 15 km (10 miles) west of Bin Jawad on the road to Nawfaliyah heard a sustained bombardment on the road ahead.

“This is the frontline. The army has stopped over there, we are stopping here,” Mohammed al-Turki, 21, a fighter at a rebel checkpoint, told Reuters, pointing to the road ahead where the sounds of blasts were coming from.

Western-led air strikes began on March 19, two days after the U.N. Security Council authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces. But since the outset, the mission has faced questions about its scope and aims, including the extent to which it will actively back the rebel side and whether it might target Gaddafi himself.

Russia, which abstained in the U.N. vote, said Western attacks on Gaddafi’s forces amounted to taking sides with the rebels.

“We consider that intervention by the coalition in what is essentially an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference.

Russian oil company Tatneft is expected to book $100 million of losses on capital expenditure in Libya as a result of the conflict, a company source told Reuters.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the BBC: “We are there to protect civilians — no more, no less.” France, which dropped the first bombs of the campaign nine days ago, said the coalition was strictly complying with U.N. terms.

Qatar became the first Arab country to recognize the rebels — now in the sixth week of their uprising against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule — as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. [nLDE72R0XH]

Contradicting a rebel claim to have captured Sirte, Reuters correspondent Michael Georgy reported from the city that the situation was normal. He had seen some police and military, but no signs of any fighting.

Soldiers were manning checkpoints and green Libyan flags flapped in the wind. Militiamen fired AK-47 rifles defiantly into the air. “If they come to Sirte, we will defend our city,” said Osama bin Nafaa, 32, a policeman.

As Gaddafi’s hometown and an important military base, Sirte — about half-way along the coast from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to Tripoli — has great symbolic and strategic value. If it fell, the rebels would gain a psychological boost and the road toward the capital would lie open.

As the rebels pressed forward in the east, they reported attacks by Gaddafi’s forces in the west.

Gaddafi loyalists now control part of Misrata, the country’s third largest city, a rebel spokesman said. The government in Tripoli said it had “liberated” Misrata from rebels.

A rebel spokesman in another western town, Zintan, said forces loyal to Gaddafi bombarded the town with rockets early on Monday, Al Jazeera reported.

The Defense Ministry in London said British Tornado aircraft attacked and destroyed Libyan government ammunition bunkers in the Sabha area of Libya’s southern desert in the early hours of Monday.

Libya’s state news agency Jana said the raids caused several casualties.

CHANGE OF COMMAND

On Sunday, NATO agreed to take full command of military operations in Libya after a week of heated negotiations. The United States, which led the initial phase, had sought to scale back its role in another Muslim country after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An alliance spokeswoman said on Monday the transition would take a couple of days.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Western air strikes had “eliminated” Gaddafi’s ability to move his heavy weapons. He also raised the possibility that Gaddafi’s government could splinter and said an international conference in London on Tuesday would discuss political strategies to help bring an end to his rule.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters he had discussed Rome’s proposals for a political deal on Libya with Germany, France and Sweden and expected to do so with Turkey later on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s 35-nation talks.

He said an African country could offer Gaddafi asylum, and ruled out that the Libyan leader would remain in power.

“Gaddafi must understand that it would be an act of courage to say: ‘I understand that I have to go’,” Frattini added. “We hope that the African Union can find a valid proposal.”

Libya accused NATO of “terrorizing” and killing its people as part of a global plot to humiliate and weaken it.

The government says Western-led air attacks have killed more than 100 civilians, a charge denied by the coalition which says it is protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s forces and targeting only military sites to enforce a no-fly zone.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz, Edmund Blair, Maria Golovnina, Michael Georgy, Ibon Villelabeitia, Tom Pfeiffer, Lamine Chikhi, Mariam Karouny, Joseph Nasr, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Steve Gutterman; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Giles Elgood)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110322/ap_on_re_eu/libya_us_jet

By DAVID RISING, Associated Press David Rising, Associated Press 42 mins ago

BERLIN – A U.S. fighter jet crashed in Libya after an apparent equipment malfunction but both crewmembers were able to eject and were back in American hands with only minor injuries, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The F-15E Strike Eagle jet was conducting a mission Monday night against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses when it crashed at 2130 GMT (5:30 p.m. EDT), said Lt. Cmdr. Karin Burzynski, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Africa Command.

A spokesman for the Libyan opposition, Mohammed Ali, said the U.S. plane went down about 25 miles (40 kilometers) outside of the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper published a series of photographs it said was the wreckage of the plane, showing people milling around the burned-out aircraft in a Libyan field.

One of the jet’s airmen landed in a field of sheep after ejecting from the plane, then raised his hands and called out “OK, OK” to a crowd who had gathered, the Telegraph cited witness Younis Amruni, 27, as saying.

“I hugged him and said: ‘Don’t be scared, we are your friends,'” Amruni told the newspaper, adding that people then lined up to shake the airman’s hand.

“We are so grateful to these men who are protecting the skies,” he said. “We gave him juice and then the revolutionary military people took him away.”

A Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the main pilot, while the second crew member, a weapon systems officer who is also a pilot, was recovered by rebel forces and is now in American hands, a U.S. official said in Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Amruni said the Osprey fired shots to keep locals away, then swooped in and rescued the second crew member.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

The two were separated after ejecting from the crippled jet at high altitude and drifting down to different locations, Africa Command spokesman Vince Crawley said, adding they sustained minor injuries.

The aircraft, based out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, was flying out of Italy’s Aviano Air Base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. The cause of the crash is being investigated.

The Air Force has said only that B-2, F-15 and F-16 fighters are participating in operations over Libya. The U.S. involvement in Libya is being run by Africa Command, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.

The air campaign by U.S. and European militaries that began Saturday has rearranged the map in Libya and rescued rebels from what had appeared to be imminent defeat.

On Monday night, Libyan state TV said a new round of strikes had begun in the capital, Tripoli, marking the third night of bombardment.

But while the airstrikes can stop Gadhafi’s troops from attacking rebel cities — in line with the U.N. mandate to protect civilians — the United States, at least, has appeared deeply reluctant to go beyond that toward actively helping the rebel cause to oust the Libyan leader.

_____

Pauline Jelinek in Washington, Cassandra Vinograd in London and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/112284/subway-passes-mcdonalds

by Julie Jargon
Monday, March 7, 2011

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    It’s official: the Subway sandwich chain has surpassed McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCDNews) as the world’s largest restaurant chain, in terms of units.

    At the end of last year, Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide, compared to McDonald’s 32,737. The burger giant disclosed its year-end store count in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late last month.

    The race for global dominance is an important one for an industry that’s mostly saturated in the U.S. High unemployment and economic uncertainty have battered the restaurant industry in the U.S., and chains are increasingly looking overseas for growth, particularly in Asia.

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    Starbucks Corp. Honda (Nasdaq: SBUXNews) recently said it plans to triple its number of outlets in China, for example. Dunkin’ Brands Inc., parent of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, plans to open thousands of new outlets in China in coming years as well as its first stores in Vietnam in the next 18 months. Subway just opened its 1,000th location in Asia, including its first in Vietnam.

    Subway, which opened its first international restaurant in 1984, in Bahrain, expects its number of international restaurants to exceed its domestic ones by 2020, says Don Fertman, Subway’s Chief Development Officer. The chain currently has just over 24,000 restaurants in the U.S., where it generated $10.5 billion of its $15.2 billion in revenue last year.

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    The closely held company, owned by Doctor’s Associates Inc., does not disclose its profits.

    McDonald’s is still the leader when it comes to sales. The burger chain reported $24 billion in revenue last year. “We remain focused on listening to and serving our customers, and are committed to being better, not just bigger,” a McDonald’s spokeswoman says.

    Subway, which surpassed the number of McDonald’s in the U.S. about nine years ago, expects China to eventually become one of its largest markets. The sandwich shop only has 199 restaurants in China now, but expects to have more than 500 by 2015.

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    Subway has achieved its rapid growth, in part, by opening outlets in non-traditional locations such as an automobile showroom in California, an appliance store in Brazil, a ferry terminal in Seattle, a riverboat in Germany, a zoo in Taiwan, a Goodwill store in South Carolina, a high school in Detroit and a church in Buffalo, New York.

    “We’re continually looking at just about any opportunity for someone to buy a sandwich, wherever that might be. The closer we can get to the customer, the better,” Mr. Fertman says, explaining that it now has almost 8,000 Subways in unusual locations. “The non-traditional is becoming traditional.”

    // The company has some concerns about the economies of certain international markets, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. The company is trying to develop more affordable offerings in those countries, similar to the $5 foot-long sandwiches that have been successful in the U.S.

    “Finding that kind of value proposition in those countries is essential,” Mr. Fertman says.

    I heard about this last night. I’m sad because I love McDonald’s. But, theres nothing I can do about it. So please comment and tell me what you think.

    UK, Germany fly secret missions into Libya

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110228/ap_on_re_us/libya_evacuations_105

    By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER and SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press Kirsten Grieshaber And Sylvia Hui, Associated Press Sun Feb 27, 11:15 pm ET

    BERLIN – British and German military planes swooped into Libya’s desert, rescuing hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites, as thousands of other foreigners are still stuck in Tripoli by bad weather and red tape.

    The secret military missions into the turbulent North Africa country signal the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya’s territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens.

    Three British Royal Air Force planes plucked 150 stranded civilians from multiple locations in the eastern Libyan desert before flying them to Malta on Sunday, the British Defense Ministry said in a statement. One of the RAF Hercules aircraft appeared to have suffered minor damage from small arms fire, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said.

    The rescue follows a similar secret commando raid Saturday by British Special Forces that got another 150 oil workers from the remote Libyan desert.

    Separately, Germany said its air force had evacuated 132 people also from the desert during a secret military mission on Saturday.

    German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Sunday that two German military planes landed on a private runway belonging to the Wintershall AG company, evacuating 22 Germans and 112 others and flying them to the Greek island of Crete.

    Another 18 German citizens were rescued by the British military in a separate military operation Saturday that targeted remote oil installations in the Libyan desert, Westerwelle said. He said around 100 other German citizens are still in Libya and the government was trying to get them out as quickly as possible.

    “I want to thank the members of the Germany military for their brave mission,” Westerwelle said.

    German military missions abroad need approval by parliament, and Westerwelle said he had spoken to all party leaders in parliament Friday to tell them about the upcoming military mission. He said the coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel had evaluated the situation in Libya as “very dangerous” and therefore ordered an immediate evacuation by the air force.

    The German foreign ministry refused to name the exact location of the company and the site where the evacuation took place.

    The head of Wintershall, Rainer Seele, thanked the government.

    “We are all relieved and grateful,” he was quoted as saying by the DAPD news agency.

    Prior to their secret missions in Libya, the British government had been embarrassed by earlier botched attempts to rescue its citizens stranded by the uprising in this North African nation. Its first rescue flight broke down and became stuck on a London runway on Wednesday.

    But on Sunday, newspapers could not gush enough about the “daring and dramatic” military operation by two RAF Hercules planes that brought stranded citizens to Malta.

    “SAS swoops in dramatic Libya rescue,” the Sunday Telegraph headline read, in reference to the storied Special Air Service.

    The mission was risky because Britain sent the planes in without obtaining prior Libyan permission, Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

    One evacuee said his military plane was supposed to carry around 65 people out of Libya, but quickly grew to double that.

    “It was very cramped but we were just glad to be out of there,” Patrick Eyles, a 43-year-old Briton, said at Malta International Airport.

    As thousands finally made it to safety on the Greek island of Crete, two ships trying to ferry foreigners out of Libya were still struggling to leave Tripoli, delayed by officialdom and rough seas. A Russian-chartered ferry arrived at a Libyan port further east to pick up more than 1,000 people.

    The UK frigate HMS Cumberland also returned to the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi from Malta to evacuate more people.

    Lt. Cmdr. James Farrant of the ship said they were expecting 250 to 400 evacuees. Because of adverse weather conditions and rough seas the first trip to Malta lasted nearly two days, he said.

    One of those waiting to board the ship was oil company worker Mike Broadbent, who together with other colleagues made a six-hour trip from a southern oil field after realizing that no help was coming.

    “We did a high speed drive across the desert — foot down, fingers crossed,” said Broadbent, who works for Zueitina Oil Company.

    Thousands of Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Somalis, Ethiopians and others spilled out of a row of port side shelters and shivered in the strong winds and torrential rains. These are some of the foreigner workers whose governments have not organized evacuation for them. Many work for Chinese and Turkish construction firms.

    On Crete, three more ships arrived from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi early Sunday carrying about 4,200 passengers, mostly Chinese but also 750 Bangladeshis and 200 Vietnamese, authorities said. Air China planned four flights Sunday from Crete, carrying about 1,200 Chinese back to their homeland.

    Another ferry from Benghazi with 2,000 more Chinese was expected to reach Crete on Monday night, shipping agents said.

    The sheer numbers of foreigners leaving Libya as Moammar Gadhafi’s regime battles anti-government protesters has been staggering. At least 20,000 Chinese, 15,000 Turks and 1,400 Italians had been evacuated, most working in the construction and oil industries.

    In addition, some 22,000 people have fled across the Libyan border to Tunisia and another 15,000 crossed the border into Egypt, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council.

    Italy’s San Giorgio military ship arrived in Sicily on Sunday, carrying about 250 people, half of them Italian.

    “Having come back to Italy is a miracle to us, we couldn’t wait to get back,” Francesco Baldassarre, an Italian evacuated with his father Gino, told the ANSA news agency.

    One cruise ship carried some 1,750 evacuees — mostly from Vietnam and Thailand — from Libya to Malta early Sunday, and another ship reached the Athens port of Piraeus carrying 390 evacuees, chiefly Brazilians, Portuguese and British.

    In Tripoli, Henri Saliba, managing director of Virtu Ferries, said the ferry San Gwann was accepting anyone and was almost at capacity with more than 400 passengers. The Maria Dolores ferry has been chartered by a private company and has some 90 passengers on board.

    They started taking passengers on Saturday evening but Libyan police only let people board in a trickle. Then bad weather on Sunday morning prevented their departure. Saliba said the ferries hope to leave Tripoli on Sunday evening and arrive in Valletta, Malta, on Monday.

    He said conditions at Tripoli’s port were safe and calm.

    The Interfax news agency, citing Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, said the St. Stephan ferry had docked in the central Libyan port of Ras Lanuf, where it was taking aboard 1,126 evacuees, including 124 Russians.

    Two Turkish frigates evacuating more than 1,700 people were expected to arrive in Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Marmaris late Sunday. Four other Turkish civilian ships — escorted by the Turkish navy — were also on their way to evacuate more people from three Libyan ports — Tripoli, Misrata and Ras Lanuf.

    Turkey had up to 30,000 citizens mostly working in construction projects in Libya before the trouble began. It was not clear how many more needed to be evacuated.

    A plane carrying 185 evacuees also landed Sunday at Boryspil Airport in Kiev.

    ___

    Hui reported from London. Associated Press writers across Europe contributed to this story.

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