Tag Archive: NATO


Afghan rally over NATO raid turns violent; 11 die

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110518/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

By RAHIM FAIEZ and HEIDI VOGT, Associated Press Rahim Faiez And Heidi Vogt, Associated Press 41 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – Hundreds of protesters, angered by an overnight NATO raid that they believed had killed four civilians, clashed on Wednesday with security forces on the streets of a northern Afghan city. Eleven people died in the fighting, government officials said.

The demonstrators fought with police and tried to assault a German military outpost in the city of Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, the officials said, adding that some 50 were injured.

The protest was triggered by an overnight NATO raid on the outskirts of the city. The coalition said four insurgents died in the operation and that two others were detained.

Night raids targeting insurgents regularly stir up controversy in Afghanistan, where angry residents often charge the next day that international forces go after the wrong people or mistreat civilians as they search compounds. Success by NATO in reducing civilian casualties and agreements to conduct night raids alongside Afghan forces have not managed to stem the tide of accusations.

Adding to the confusion, it is often difficult to know who is a militant in insurgent-heavy areas, where entire villages are often allied with the Taliban or other groups.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered on the road from Gawmal to Taloqan and carried the four bodies — two men and two women — on platforms as they marched into the city. They shouted insults at Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States as they pumped their fists in the air.

“Death to Karzai! Death to America!” they yelled. Officials estimated there were about 1,500 demonstrators.

The crowd started looting shops and throwing stones at a small German base in the city. Police were out throughout the city trying to calm the crowd, Taqwa said. Gunfire could be heard in a number of neighborhoods and troops at the German outpost shot off rounds in an attempt to disperse the crowd outside their walls.

The German military said in a statement that the demonstrators threw hand grenades and Molotov cocktails into the base, injuring two German soldiers and four Afghan guards. The German soldiers, one of whom was lightly injured and one somewhat more seriously, were both in stable condition, the military said.

At least 11 protesters were killed in the fighting, and 50 people were wounded — some of them police officers, said Faiz Mohammad Tawhedi, a spokesman for the Takhar government.

The raid late Tuesday killed two men and two women who were inside a home in an area known as Gawmal, provincial Gov. Abdual Jabar Taqwa said. He said that no one in his government was informed about the raid and that NATO acted unilaterally.

Provincial police chief Gen. Shah Jahan Noori said he had not been informed of the operation and said none of his officers were involved. Army officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

NATO confirmed it killed four people, two of them women, but said all were armed and tried to fire on its troops.

One of the women was armed with an assault rifle and tried to fire on the troops, NATO said. The other woman was armed with a pistol and pointed her gun at the security force as she was trying to escape the compound.

It is rare for women to be part of an insurgent fighting force in Afghanistan, but not unheard of. There have been cases in the past of women fighting with the insurgency, including as suicide bombers.

NATO said the raid was conducted by a “combined Afghan and coalition security force” and an alliance spokesman said that the governor was contacted ahead of the raid.

“It is standard practice in Takhar province to contact the Afghan provincial leadership prior to an operation. In this case, calls were placed to the provincial governor six times prior to the operation,” Maj. Michael Johnson said.

“We are aware of the claims of civilian casualties, and are looking into them,” Johnson added.

President Hamid Karzai sided with the Afghan officials. He issued a statement condemning the night raid as having killed four members of a family, and said it was not coordinated with Afghan forces.

“Despite repeated warnings that have been issued by President Karzai to top these uncoordinated NATO operations, it seems these types of operations still have not stopped,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

He said the Afghan people should protest without turning to violence, but also said that the blame for the protest lies with NATO.

NATO said that the raid targeted a man working with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — an insurgent group that is powerful in the north. The man was involved in arms trafficking and building explosives, NATO said. The alliance did not say if he was killed or captured.

In the south, meanwhile, a NATO service member died Wednesday in an insurgent attack, the military coalition said. NATO did not provide further details or the service member’s nationality.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110516/ap_on_sc/us_space_shuttle

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn, Ap Aerospace Writer 30 mins ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Endeavour blasted off on NASA’s next-to-last shuttle flight, thundering through clouds into orbit Monday morning as the mission commander’s wounded wife, Gabrielle Giffords, watched along with an exhilarated crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

NASA is winding down its 30-year-old shuttle program before embarking on something new. The event generated the kind of excitement seldom seen on Florida’s Space Coast on such a grand scale — despite a delay of more than two weeks from the original launch date because of an electrical problem.

The shuttle quickly disappeared into the clouds.

“That was four seconds of cool,” said Manny Kariotakis, who was visiting from Montreal. The 50-year-old got goosebumps watching the liftoff with thousands along Highway 1 in Titusville.

Just before launching, commander Mark Kelly thanked all the who put hands “on this incredible ship.”

“It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop,” said Kelly, who also thanked “all of the millions watching today.”

Remarkably, Giffords made a return visit to see Kelly off. She is still undergoing rehabilitation in a Houston hospital to recover from a gunshot wound to the head in an assassination attempt little more than four months ago.

The Arizona congresswoman was shielded from the cameras on launch day, as were the families of the other five astronauts. All watched the liftoff in private.

Giffords has kept out of the public eye since the Jan. 8 shooting that wounded her and killed six in Tucson, Ariz.

She and Kelly said their goodbyes, face to face on Sunday.

With Kelly at the helm, Endeavour and its experienced crew of five Americans and an Italian are headed for the International Space Station. They will arrive at the orbiting outpost Wednesday, delivering a $2 billion magnetic instrument that will seek out antimatter and dark energy in the universe.

Up to 45,000 guests jammed into NASA’s launch site, and thousands packed area roads and towns to see Endeavour soar one last time. Only one shuttle flight remains.

VIPs included Apollo 11’s Michael Collins and four other members of Congress.

Advance estimates had put Monday’s crowd at 500,000, more than the number that saw Discovery’s final hurrah in February. Across the Indian River in Titusville, though, the number of spectators appeared to be down compared with Endeavour’s previous launch attempt on a Friday afternoon.

Titusville Assistant Police Chief John Lau guessed the crowd at between 350,000 and 400,000.

“I don’t know if it was the early morning or what,” Lau said.

Electrical trouble grounded the shuttle on April 29, disappointing the hordes of visitors, including President Barack Obama and his family. Repairs over the past two weeks took care of the problem.

“God Speed Endeavour We’re ready for you!” space station resident Ronald Garan Jr. said in a Twitter update. At launch, the space station was 220 miles high, just southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Kelly almost didn’t make the flight.

The 47-year-old Navy captain took a leave from training to be by his wife’s side after she was wounded, and it seemed unlikely he would stay with the flight. But Giffords improved and was moved from the hospital in her hometown of Tucson to Houston where Kelly lives and does astronaut training. Her days were filled with rehab work, and he yearned to see the shuttle mission through. A month after the shooting, he announced he would fly.

“Everybody felt that this was the right thing for me to do,” he said at the time. He added that his wife “is a big supporter of my career, a big supporter of NASA.”

He rejoined his crew in February, still managing to see his wife across town every morning and evening.

Giffords’ visit to Kennedy Space Center — the third time she’s seen her husband soar into space — ratcheted up the excitement level for what already was a big event, said launch officials.

Kelly’s identical twin, Scott, who’s also an astronaut, witnessed the launch with his two teenage nieces, Mark’s daughters from a previous marriage.

This is the 25th and final flight of Endeavour, the baby of NASA’s shuttle fleet. It was built to replace Challenger, destroyed during liftoff 25 years ago this past January, and made its maiden journey six years later to capture and repair a stranded satellite. That first flight ended 19 years ago Monday.

Endeavour carried the first Hubble Space Telescope repair team, which famously restored the observatory’s vision in 1993, and the first American piece of the space station in 1998.

It will end its days at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

As of Monday, Endeavour had logged more than 116 million miles, circled Earth some 4,500 times, spent 283 days in space and carried 170 people, including the last two people to fly a space shuttle for the first time. American Mike Fincke and Italian Roberto Vittori are making their first flight on a shuttle although they’ve been to the space station twice, ferried their by Russian Soyuz rockets.

Fincke will team up with Andrew Feustel and Gregory Chamitoff for four spacewalks during the 16-day mission. It will be the last spacewalks conducted by a shuttle crew.

NASA’s last shuttle flight, by Atlantis, is targeted for July. After that, Atlantis will remain at Kennedy, where it will go on display at the visitor complex. Discovery will head to the Smithsonian Institution’s hangar outside Washington.

American astronauts, meanwhile, will continue to hitch rides to the space station on Russian Soyuz rockets. Private companies hope to pick up the slack, but that’s still years away.

Once Atlantis flies, it will be three years — at best — before Americans are launched again from U.S. soil. Some NASA observers fear it could be a full decade.

The White House wants NASA focusing on eventual expeditions to asteroids and Mars, unfeasible as long as the shuttles are flying given budget constraints.

Ohioan Stan Oliver made a last-minute trip for the launch. The assisted-living residence manager got a ticket to Tampa and then drove Sunday night to Titusville, where he slept in his car.

“This is a once in a lifetime event,” said Oliver, 41, who lives near Dayton. “It was worth it. The roar was intense. I’m glad I came.”

___

AP writers Seth Borenstein and Mike Schneider in Titusville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Authorities detain wife of deposed Egyptian leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mubarak denies the allegations.

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

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110513/ap_on_re_eu/eu_international_court_libya

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press Mike Corder, Associated Press 1 hr 37 mins ago

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – An international prosecutor said Friday he will seek arrest warrants next week for three top Libyan leaders on charges of murder and persecution during their attempts to crush the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, did not release the names of the suspects, but Gadhafi himself is expected to be among them.

Moreno-Ocampo revealed broad details of his investigation last week to the U.N. Security Council, but the announcement was the first time the court specified the charges — murder and persecution, considered crimes against humanity under the Geneva Conventions.

Prosecutors say their investigation has identified “three individuals who appear to bear the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity” committed in Libya since Feb. 15, when Gadhafi’s forces began a brutal crackdown on anti-government rebels.

A panel of judges will review the prosecutor’s evidence before deciding whether to issue the warrants. It is not clear how long the judges will take before reaching a decision.

A prosecution statement charged that Libyan security forces “conducted widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population.”

The announcement came as NATO launched more airstrikes in Tripoli and Gadhafi’s protesters and soldiers engaged in gun battles in several of the capital’s neighborhoods.

On Thursday, Gadhafi’s fortified compound in the capital was among the targets hit by NATO aircraft and missiles.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Feb. 26 to refer the Libyan crisis to the international court in The Hague, and Moreno-Ocampo launched a formal investigation just days later.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Thursday said he expected the ICC to ask for Gadhafi’s arrest, which would complicate any suggestion of the Libyan leader accepting exile as a way to end the conflict in his country.

Investigators have collected “extensive and solid evidence” during 30 missions to 11 countries and have interviewed more than 50 witnesses, including “key insiders,” as well as reviewing videos, photographs and other evidence, the prosecutors’ statement said.

They hailed the court for acting in what they called “real time” to prosecute crimes, unlike the international community’s response in other deadly conflicts in the past.

“There was no ICC when the Rwanda genocide happened and the Darfur situation was referred to the ICC two years after the beginning of the crimes against the civilian population,” the statement said.

Because the case was sent to the court by the Security Council, Gadhafi will become an internationally wanted suspect if he is indicted and all United Nations member states will be under an obligation to arrest him.

However, that does not guarantee he will be detained if he ventures outside Libya. The court’s judges have reported three countries to the Security Council for allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit without arresting him. Al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes including genocide in Darfur in another case ordered by the Security Council.

The court has no police force of its own to arrest suspects.

Prosecutors said they also have uncovered evidence of war crimes, including rape and attacks on “sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries.”

Prosecutors said they expect more details about such crimes in a report due to be published June 7 by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry probing allegations of human rights violations during the Libyan uprising.

NATO strikes Libyan capital after Gadhafi appears

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110512/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By DIAA HADID, Associated Press Diaa Hadid, Associated Press 21 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – NATO airstrikes struck Moammar Gadhafi’s sprawling compound in Tripoli and three other sites early Thursday, hours after the Libyan leader was shown on state TV in his first appearance since his son was killed nearly two weeks ago.

Explosions thundered across the capital and ambulances raced through the city as the last missile exploded.

Government officials and state-run Libyan television said the strikes targeted Bab al-Azaziya, Gadhafi’s compound, but did not specify which buildings were hit. Reporters who were taken there later Thursday saw one missile-damaged building, and evidence that at least three missiles had hit the compound.

NATO, which has hit the Libyan capital repeatedly this week, said Thursday’s attack successfully hit “a large command and control bunker complex in downtown Tripoli that was used to coordinate attacks against civilian populations.”

In the eastern city of Benghazi, headquarters for the opposition movement trying to topple Gadhafi, rebel spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga claimed that anti-Gadhafi residents in the Tripoli area were staging peaceful demonstrations in many neighborhoods, prompting the regime to deploy troops and tanks in the streets that may have been diverted from other regions.

Ghoga, who did not specify the source of his information, said anti-Gadhafi militants had burned a police station in one suburb, and were setting up night patrols and checkpoints in other neighborhoods. There was no immediate independent confirmation of his claims; the foreign journalists in Tripoli are assigned government minders and limited in their movements.

After the early-morning airstrikes, medics arrived at Khadra Hospital with the bodies of two men they said were killed in the attack. One of bodies was charred; the other was covered by a green blanket, a leg dangling from the stretcher.

From a bus ferrying reporters to the hospital, smoke could be seen rising from part of the Gadhafi compound. Skid marks left from screeching vehicles crisscrossed the roads around it.

The medics said others had been killed by the airstrikes and were still being retrieved from the compound.

Gadhafi’s compound has been a frequent site of recent airstrikes, including one on April 30 that killed the leader’s son, Seif al-Arab. Officials said Gadhafi — Libya’s autocratic leader for 42 years — was in the compound when that strike occurred but escaped unharmed.

NATO has repeatedly said all its targets in Libya are military and that it is not targeting Gadhafi or other individuals. In its latest update Thursday, NATO denied targeting the North Korean Embassy in Tripoli — a response to a report by the Libyan state news agency JANA that the embassy had been damaged during one of this week’s strikes.

Gadhafi had seven sons and one daughter. He also had an adopted daughter who was killed in 1986 when a U.S. airstrike hit the Bab al-Aziziya residential compound in retaliation for a bombing attack on a German disco in which two U.S. servicemen were killed..

In an apparent effort to dispel rumors that Gadhafi himself had been killed, Libyan state TV showed him meeting tribal leaders, but did not record him speaking. To authenticate the scene, the camera zoomed in on the date on a TV monitor in the room, which read Wednesday, May 11. It was apparently recorded at the hotel where foreign correspondents must reside in Tripoli. Gadhafi did not make himself available to them.

The last time Gadhafi had been seen in public previously was April 9, when he visited a school in Tripoli.

Intensified NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s forces across Libya have given a boost to rebels fighting to oust the regime, with the opposition claiming Wednesday that it had captured the airport in the western city of Misrata. In all, NATO said, the alliance has carried out more than 2,400 airstrikes since March 31 as part of the effort to assist the rebels and pressure Gadhafi relinquish power.

Even though some of the recent reports of ground combat are difficult to confirm, they seem to represent a major boost for the rebels’ military prospects after weeks of stalemate on several fronts.

The rebels control most of eastern Libya, but Misrata — about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli — is the only rebel stronghold in the west. Local doctors say more than 1,000 of its residents have been killed in the fighting and shelling during the siege by Gadhafi’s forces.

In Tripoli, a government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, denied the Misrata rebels’ claims of success, saying regime forces still held the airport.

Ibrahim did acknowledge that the war was creating severe shortages of many commodities in Tripoli.

“The NATO airstrikes and the sea embargo … are badly influencing the lives of daily Libyans,” he said. “We have some shortages in fuel, food and medicine. It makes it difficult to go to schools, hospitals and factories.”

A potential humanitarian crisis was reported Thursday by the World Food Program in the mountain region of western Libya. Josette Sheeran, the WFP executive director, said fighting in the area between rebels and regime forces has prevented aid from reaching civilians trapped in some hard-to-reach villages.

She appealed for a cease-fire so deliveries could be made safely.

Britain said Thursday that it will supply police officers in rebel-held eastern Libya with uniforms and body armor, and help establish a public radio station. The announcement came after Prime Minister David Cameron and other ministers met in London with Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council.

Cameron said he had invited Abdul-Jalil to open a permanent office in London to help cement contacts with Britain, although Britain has not followed France and Italy in recognizing the council as Libya’s legitimate government.

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Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in Benghazi and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

AP IMPACT: How rebels held Misrata

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110504/ap_on_bi_ge/ml_libya_battle_for_misrata

By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Ben Hubbard, Associated Press Wed May 4, 5:40 am ET

MISRATA, Libya – Tripoli Street is a bullet-scarred wasteland — littered with charred cars and tanks, its cafes and offices shattered. Yet for Misrata’s civilians-turned-fighters, the boulevard is a prized trophy, paid for in blood, won with grit and guile.

It took five weeks of fierce street battles — on rooftops, in alleyways — for Misrata’s inexperienced rebels to wrest control of their city’s commercial heart from forces loyal to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Up against armored units and professional sniper squads, they turned bottles, tires and trailer trucks into tools of war.

When they finally succeeded in pushing government forces out of Libya’s third-largest city in late April, it was the greatest head-to-head military victory yet in the uprising that threatens Gadhafi’s 42-year hold on power. The opposition controls much of eastern Libya, but Misrata is the only city in the west rebels have managed to hold.

“Our fighters weren’t fighting from experience,” said the local military spokesman, Ibrahim Beatelmal, noting that most had never touched a gun before joining the fight. “They had to make it all up as they went along.”

The city remains surrounded, accessible only through its port and subjected to daily bombardments. After two months of siege, cemeteries accommodate rows of new graves and hospitals have transformed into battlefield clinics; doctors estimate that the siege’s death toll has passed 1,000.

Yet amid the carnage, residents have organized to stave off hunger, allocate fuel and protect the city. They’ve erected sand berms along streets to absorb blasts, hacked down palm trees to delineate ambulance fast lanes, formed an array of administrative committees — all with a community spirit that revealed itself in many ways during an Associated Press reporter’s weeklong stay.

Misrata is a merchant city, with a large professional class whose expertise has paid off in distinctive ways. Dermatologists treat blast victims. University students master street-fighting tactics.

“All of a sudden I became responsible for macaroni and onions,” said Majdi Shibani, a telecommunications professor put in charge of food distribution — a daunting task in a sprawling city where all phone lines have been cut. His team oversees distribution of 400 tons of food per week from a room in the back of a hookah lounge, where customers smoke water pipes.

Donations of food have streamed in on boats from the Libyan diaspora, foreign countries and international organizations. There’s little coordination, resulting in huge surpluses of, say, canned corn — which Shibani said Libyans hate.

The stalemate in Misrata mirrors the situation nationwide. Soon after the uprising against Gadhafi broke out on Feb. 15, the opposition took over Benghazi and other eastern towns, but its patchwork forces proved unable to make further gains even after U.S. and NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s troops began in late March.

Meanwhile, government forces surrounded Misrata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tripoli, cutting it off and attacking from three sides. Unlike fighters in eastern Libya, who retreat across stretches of desert when attacked, Misrata’s rebels can’t run; their backs are to the Mediterranean Sea.

After several failed attacks on Misrata, government commanders sent a column of tanks blasting its way down Tripoli Street on March 16. Residents fled, and regime sniper teams moved in, building nests on a dozen of the city’s tallest buildings, notably a nine-story insurance building. Gunfire from the rooftops killed and wounded scores of civilians.

The city’s youth organized resistance. Led by a handful of retired army officers, they formed brigades of dozens of fighters, each assigned to a side street, said Samir al-Hadi, a grocer who led a group at Tripoli Street’s southern end.

Local youths used their intimate knowledge of the area to dodge sniper fire, serving as scouts, gunmen, messengers and supply runners. Over walkie-talkies, group leaders let others know when tanks or supply trucks arrived so they could attack them with Molotov cocktails or rocket-propelled grenades.

They first fought with only light arms. With each ambush, they captured more — mostly anti-aircraft and heavy artillery guns — which they welded to the backs of pickup trucks.

The Gadhafi regime imported the pickups — cheap Chinese imitations of name-brand trucks — in 2007, but they sat unwanted in a lot until the war. Now, the rebels have registered about 2,000, even issuing photo IDs to their drivers to prevent theft.

The fleet is essential to the rebel cause, ferrying fighters to battle, aid to families, and casualties to hospitals. Although the trucks often break down, the rebels call them a blessing.

“The bad cars Gadhafi brought us we now use to fight him,” said Hisham Bansasi, who helps coordinate the fleet. “You can call it a joke of destiny.”

Bigger trucks were used when the rebels — unable to blast the snipers from their positions — decided instead to cut their supply lines. While rooftop gunmen provided cover, rebels drove trucks full of sand onto Tripoli Street, dumped their trailers and shot out their tires, forming heavy roadblocks.

“When we blocked the road, there was no way to get supplies to the snipers,” al-Hadi said.

The rebels then circled in, closing off back routes with destroyed cars and concrete sewage pipes.

Street battles raged while they besieged the snipers. Government forces peppered the area with mortars, killing many rebels. Al-Hadi guesses that about 400 died in the fighting on Tripoli Street alone, although no one has exact figures.

Among the victims were two Western photojournalists who had accompanied rebels to the street — Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, and British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo” about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

As the snipers gradually weakened, rebel fighters went building by building, clearing them any way they could.

Near the battle’s end, a team of snipers held out in a multistory furniture store called “Make Yourself at Home,” al-Hadi said. Rebels fired on the building with anti-aircraft guns, forcing the snipers into the basement.

Gunmen then stormed the building and rolled burning tires down the stairs. Days later, its stairwell was charred black, and the smell of burnt rubber and dead bodies fouled the air.

The battle turned in late April, al-Hadi said, as government troops ran low on supplies and fled from the high-rises to nearby homes. The rebels raised their flag on the insurance building on April 21.

Rebel fighter Mustafa Zredi, 18, said he watched one of the last sniper groups seize a house on April 26 and punch holes for their rifles in the stairway walls.

“We knew we could easily put gas in a bottle and throw it over the wall to burn them out,” Zredi said.

Before doing so, the fighters asked permission from the owner, 66-year-old Mohammed Labbiz. With regret, he said OK.

“That was the only way to get those dogs out,” Labbiz recalled, standing in the charred shell of his home of 30 years. “I hope that God will reimburse me.”

Two days later, curious families walked down Tripoli Street, snapping photos of their children next to burned-out tanks.

The fighting has caused massive displacement throughout Misrata. Thousands of residents now squat in schools or crowd in with family members.

The Refayda family, from a semi-rural area to the east, evacuated into the city in mid-April after a surge of sniper fire and bombardments.

Some 70 clan members now stay in an unfinished, four-room house near the ocean. They’ve divided the rooms by age and gender — women in the bedrooms, girls in the living room, boys in the garage. The oldest is 77, the youngest 4 months. About 30 of the clan’s grown men are on the battlefield but visit regularly.

Demand is high for the home’s three bathrooms; three children shower at a time.

Ali Hameida built the house in 2003 for his wife and five children, never imagining so many guests.

“If I had known, I’d have dug a basement,” he said.

It’s been impossible to keep a precise count of Misrata’s death toll; doctors’ estimates range between 1,000 and 2,000. The central hospital, Hikma, has registered more than 550 dead since mid-February, but others were brought to outlying clinics or buried straightaway.

The Libyan government has provided no information on how many soldiers it has lost, further blurring the picture.

Hikma, originally a private clinic, has been transformed by the war. A tent in the parking lot houses the triage unit. Another serves as a mosque. Wards are crowded around the clock, and doctors bed down in alcoves hidden behind sheets. Outside, families cluster to await news, erupting in tears and chants when a new death is confirmed.

Dr. Ali Mustafa Ali, like many of his colleagues, often sleeps at Hikma but returns home to his wife and children during lulls, snipping a few roses from his garden to bring back to work.

“The severity of the situation has made everyone pull together in a way I’ve never seen before,” Ali said.

A group of men emerged from the hospital carrying a wooden coffin covered in a blanket — the first of 11 “martyrs” who would reach the hospital before nightfall.

“God is great,” Ali said as the men passed. Then he entered the hospital to put the flowers on his desk.

“They’re for the people inside,” he said, “to keep their spirits up.”

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

Air strike flattens building in Gaddafi compound

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

By Lin Noueihed Lin Noueihed Mon Apr 25, 5:46 am ET

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – NATO forces flattened a building inside Muammar Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound early on Monday, in what a press official from Gaddafi’s government said was an attempt on the Libyan leader’s life.

Firefighters were still working to extinguish flames in part of the ruined building a few hours after the attack, when foreign journalists were brought to the scene in Tripoli.

The press official, who asked not to be identified, said 45 people were hurt in the strike, 15 of them seriously, and some were still missing. That could not be independently confirmed.

Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam said the Libyan government would not be cowed by such attacks.

“The bombing which targeted Muammar Gaddafi’s office today… will only scare children. It’s impossible that it will make us afraid or give up or raise the white flag,” he was quoted as saying by the Jana state news agency.

“You, NATO, are waging a losing battle because you are backed by traitors and spies. History has proved that no state can rely on them to win.”

Gaddafi’s compound has been hit before, but NATO forces appear to have stepped up the pace of strikes in Tripoli in recent days. A target nearby, which the government called a car park but which appeared to cover a bunker, was hit two days ago.

The United States, Britain and France say they will not stop their air campaign over Libya until Gaddafi leaves power.

Washington has taken a backseat role in the air war since turning over command to NATO at the end of March but is under pressure to do more. Last week it sent Predator drone aircraft, which fired for the first time on Saturday.

MISRATA BOMBARDED

Government troops bombarded the western rebel bastion of Misrata again on Sunday, two days after announcing their withdrawal following a two month siege.

An engineer who works for a dissident radio station in Misrata told Al Arabiya television that at least 30 people had been killed and 60 wounded by the shelling in the coastal city.

The number of dead could not be independently verified.

“There is very intense and random shelling on residential areas. Burned bodies are being brought into the hospital,” Ahmed al-Qadi told Al Arabiya.

A doctor in a hospital in Misrata said that among the dead from what he called heavy artillery and mortar shelling was a 10-year-old boy killed while he was sleeping at home.

A government spokesman said the army was still carrying out its plan to withdraw from the city, but had fired back when retreating troops were attacked.

“As our army was withdrawing from Misrata it came under attack by the rebels. The army fought back but continued its withdrawal from the city,” Mussa Ibrahim told reporters.

The government says its army is withdrawing and sending in armed tribesmen instead. Rebels say the announcement may be part of a ruse to mask troop movements or stir violence between rebels and locals in nearby towns.

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told a news conference in Kuwait that the Gulf state had agreed to give 50 million Kuwaiti dinars ($177 million) to his rebel council to help pay workers in the eastern part of the country under its control.

“This amount will help us a lot in paying the salaries of employees who did not receive their little salaries for two months,” he said. “We are capable of only covering 40 percent of this amount. We are in need of urgent aid.”

The rebels have been seeking international recognition as well as material support from the west and the Arab world.

Hampered by their lack of firepower, equipment and training, they have been unable to advance from eastern Libya but are fighting back and forth with Gaddafi’s troops on the coast road between the towns of Ajdabiyah and Brega.

Abdel Jalil also said the rebels had received weapons from “friends and allies,” but did not name them.

At least three people were killed in the mountain town of Zintan, around 160 km (100 miles) southwest of Tripoli, by fire from Gaddafi’s tanks and rockets, residents said.

(Additional reporting by Guy Desmond and Maher Nazeh in Tripoli, Alexander Dziadosz in Benghazi and Sami Aboudi in Cairo; writing by Peter Graff and Myra MacDonald; editing by Tim Pearce)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110423/wl_nm/us_libya

By Michael Georgy Michael Georgy 33 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan troops captured by rebels in Misrata said on Saturday the army had been ordered to retreat from the western port, and a rebel spokesman said soldiers had booby trapped bodies and buildings as they fled.

The last large city held by rebels in western Libya, Misrata had been under a brutal government siege for nearly two months and hundreds of civilians have died in the fighting.

“We have been told to withdraw. We were told to withdraw yesterday,” one army soldier, Khaled Dorman, told Reuters.

Lying in the back of a pickup truck, he was among 12 wounded soldiers brought to a hospital for treatment in Misrata, which is about 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli. Blasts and machine gun fire were heard in the distance.

Another serviceman, asked by a Reuters correspondent if the government had lost control over Misrata, said “yes.”

Rebel spokesman Gemal Salem later told Reuters by telephone from Misrata that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces had left the city but remained outside and would be in a position to bombard it.

“Misrata is free, the rebels have won. Of Gaddafi’s forces, some are killed and others are running away,” he said.

Salem said the rebels in Misrata would now help those elsewhere in western Libya against Gaddafi’s forces, who cracked down on the west early on in the uprising against the Libyan leader’s 41-year-old rule after the east fell to the rebels.

The Libyan government acknowledged late on Friday the siege had been broken when rebels seized the port and air strikes had taken their toll. “The tactic of the Libyan army is to have a surgical solution, but it doesn’t work, with the air strikes it doesn’t work,” Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said.

“The situation in Misrata will be eased, will be dealt with by the tribes around Misrata and the rest of Misrata’s people and not by the Libyan army,” he told reporters in Tripoli.

Another rebel spokesman in Misrata, Abdelsalam, said pro-Gaddafi tribes were in a minority in the area:

“There are two small pro-Gaddafi settlements outside Misrata. They make less than one percent of the population of Misrata and the surrounding area.”

“Those people know that when Gaddafi’s regime falls, they will fall with it,” he added, predicting the government would boost their strength by paying mercenaries to pose as tribesmen.

Salem said rebels were now combing Misrata and clearing the streets. Before leaving, he said, Gaddafi’s forces had booby-trapped bodies, houses and cars.

“One man was opening his fridge when he went to his house after the Gaddafi forces left it this morning and it blew up in his face. Bodies the same. When the rebels are trying to lift a body it blows up,” he said.

“We have had three people killed because of that and 15 wounded.”

WESTERN PRESSURE

Western countries, which began U.N.-mandated air strikes last month to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces, have vowed not to stop bombing Libya until he leaves power.

Their air war has so far failed to tip the balance and the top U.S. military officer said on Friday it was approaching a stalemate.

Earlier, NATO bombs struck what appeared to be a bunker near his Bab al-Aziziyah compound in central Tripoli.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said three people were killed by the “very powerful explosion” in a car park.

Reuters reporters said the area was surrounded by a wall and guarded by watchtowers and soldiers. They saw two large holes in the ground where the bombs had torn through soil and reinforced concrete, to pierce what appeared to be an underground bunker.

Smoke was rising from one of the craters and ammunition crates lay nearby. Ibrahim said the area was disused and the ammunition boxes were empty.

On Friday, rebels in Misrata seized control of a downtown office building that had been a base for Gaddafi’s snipers and other troops after a furious two-week battle. On Saturday, captured soldiers said rebels had attacked as they retreated.

“The rebels attacked us while we were withdrawing from Misrata near a bridge this morning,” said Ayad Muhammad, a young soldier. As he spoke, other uniformed soldiers in the hospital moaned in pain, some saying “My god, my god.”

On Friday, U.S. Senator John McCain became the highest-profile Western politician to visit Benghazi, where rebels who control eastern Libya have set up a government.

He expressed impatience with Washington’s cautious use of military power and said the United States should deploy ground attack aircraft and recognize the rebel government.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s joint chiefs of staff, told U.S. troops in Baghdad that Western-led air strikes had degraded between 30 and 40 percent of Gaddafi’s ground forces. Referring to the conflict, he said: “It’s certainly moving toward a stalemate.

McCain said Washington should recognize the rebels’ Transitional National Council as the official government of Libya, a step already taken by France.

“They have earned this right and Gaddafi has forfeited it by waging war on his own people,” he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked about McCain’s appeal, replied: “We think it’s for the people of Libya to decide who the head of their country is, not for the United States to do that.”

Sources close to French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he planned to visit Benghazi, probably in the first two weeks of May, and that he wanted British Prime Minister David Cameron to accompany him.

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Alexander Dziadosz in Benghazi, Lin Noueihed in Tripoli, Joseph Nasr in Berlin; writing by Peter Graff and Maria Golovnina; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Obama OKs use of armed drone aircraft in Libya

Robert Gateshttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110421/ap_on_re_us/us_us_libya

By LOLITA C. BALDOR and ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press Lolita C. Baldor And Robert Burns, Associated Press 20 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed drones in Libya, authorizing U.S. airstrikes on ground forces for the first time since America turned over control of the operation to NATO on April 4.

It also is the first time that drones will be used for airstrikes since the conflict began on March 19, although they have routinely been flying surveillance missions, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Thursday.

He said the U.S. will provide up to two 24-hour combat air patrols each day by the unmanned Predators.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the drones can help counteract the pro-Gadhafi forces’ tactic of traveling in civilian vehicles that make it difficult to distinguish them from rebel forces.

“What they will bring that is unique to the conflict is their ability to get down lower, therefore to be able to get better visibility on targets that have started to dig themselves into defensive positions,” Cartwright said. “They are uniquely suited for urban areas.”

He added, “It’s very difficult to pick friend from foe. So a vehicle like the Predator that can get down lower and can get IDs better helps us.”

Gates rejected the notion that the approval of drone strikes means that the U.S. will slowly get pulled back into a more active combat role, despite Obama’s promise to merely provide support for NATO.

U.S. forces played a lead role in the early days of the conflict, launching an onslaught of cruise missiles and bombs on Gadhafi’s surface-to-air missiles sites and advancing regime troops.

But with American forces stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the humanitarian operations in Japan, the Pentagon turned the mission over to NATO, saying it would only do limited airstrikes to take out air defenses. The U.S., said Obama, would no longer do airstrikes to protect the civilian population.

Gates said that bringing in the Predators will give NATO a critical capability that the U.S. can uniquely contribute.

“I think this is a very limited additional role on our part, but it does provide some additional capabilities to NATO,” said Gates. “And if we can make a modest contribution with these armed Predators, we’ll do it. … I don’t think any of us sees that as mission creep.”

He said Obama has been clear that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground and that the main strike role would belong to the allies.

The first Predator mission since Obama’s go-ahead was flown Thursday but the aircraft — armed with Hellfire missiles — turned back due to poor weather conditions without firing any of its munitions, Cartwright said.

Gates, who publicly expressed skepticism about getting involved militarily in Libya before Obama endorsed the limited intervention, said “the real work” of overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi will have to be done by the Libyans themselves.

While he acknowledged the conflict “is likely to take a while,” Gates also said the ongoing sanctions, arms embargo and NATO-led offensive have weakened Gadhafi’s military and eaten away at his supplies and cash. Over the long term, Gates said, that will hurt the regime’s ability to strike back at oppositions forces, if they rise up again in other cities.

At the same time, however, Gates said the administration’s decision to provide $25 million in nonlethal military assistance to the rebels did not signal a deeper U.S. commitment to anti-Gadhafi forces whose makeup, objectives and motives are still not fully understood in Washington.

The aid, he said, is not high-end military equipment but rather a hodge-podge of things like uniforms and canteens.

“I’m not worried about our canteen technology falling into the wrong hands,” he joked.

Asked how long he believes it will take the NATO-led air campaign to succeed, Gates replied, “The honest answer to that is, nobody knows.”

In other comments, Gates did not rule out major military program cuts to meet Obama’s goal to slash another $400 billion from the country’s national security spending over the next 12 years. But he laid out some programs he believes are vital, including the new Air Force refueling tanker and the replacement of some Navy ships.

“The worst of all possible worlds, in my view, is to give the entire Department of Defense a haircut — basically (saying) everybody is going to cut X percent,” Gates said, adding that he’s had one meeting with staff on the issue.

Instead, he said the Pentagon must lay out options and the risks involved if particular cuts are made and how they would affect military missions.

He added that he does not know how much of the cut the Pentagon will be expected to take.

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