Tag Archive: protests


Missionfuge part 2

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days. So, here’s whats going on. Today after church Bro.Eugene gave us some information about MissionFuge. It was pretty said what we could bring and what not to, and Bro.Eugene wants us to decide what missions we want to be in.(we have to choose three) I have chosen two already but I’m not sure about the last one. That’s about it for now. I’ll update ya’ll when I have more information about Mission Fuge or when my church is having an activity. Bye guys

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Report: Syrian troops shelling residential areas

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110511/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Zeina Karam, Associated Press 22 mins ago

BEIRUT – The Syrian army shelled residential areas in the country’s third-largest city Wednesday, sending people fleeing for cover in a sharp escalation in the government’s attempts to crush a popular revolt against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule, according to activists and witnesses.

Heavy tank- and gunfire rocked at least three residential neighborhoods in the besieged city of Homs, which has seen some of the largest anti-government demonstrations during the seven-week-long uprising.

“There were loud explosions and gunfire from automatic rifles throughout the night and until this morning,” a resident told The Associated Press by telephone, asking that his name not be used for fear of government reprisals. “The area is totally besieged. We are being shelled.”

More than 750 people have been killed in a crackdown on the unrest and thousands of Syrians have been detained, with about 9,000 still in custody, said Ammar Qurabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

Syrian authorities are determined to crush the uprising, despite rising international pressure against it. Assad has dispatched army troops backed by tanks to Homs and other communities across the country, saying soldiers and security forces are rooting out “armed terrorist groups” and thugs he says are behind the violence.

Assad has announced a series of reforms, widely viewed as symbolic overtures to appease protesters since the movement began in the southern city of Daraa in mid-March and quickly spread nationwide.

On Wednesday, he was quoted by Syria’s private Al-Watan newspaper urging Syrians to cooperate with the government so that the reform process may continue. He also pledged a swift solution to the issue of detainees who were jailed during the unrest.

Wednesday’s shelling targeted the Bab Sbaa, Bab Amr and Jouret el Aris neighborhoods, according to activists in Damascus who were in touch with residents in Homs. The city also is home to one of Syria’s two oil refineries.

Syrian television quoted a military official as saying that soldiers and security forces were pursuing “armed terrorist groups” and arrested tens of fugitives and seized large quantities of weapons.

The official, who was not identified, said two soldiers were killed and five wounded during confrontations Wednesday.

Germany, meanwhile, said several European countries were summoning Syrian ambassadors and threatening new sanctions targeting the country’s leadership if it doesn’t halt the repression of protesters.

The European Union already has decided to impose sanctions on 13 Syrian officials, prohibiting them from traveling anywhere in the 27-nation bloc. But the first round of sanctions doesn’t target Assad himself.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said European officials will make clear that “a second package that also includes the Syrian leadership” will follow if Syria does not immediately change course.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also urged Syria Wednesday to allow an international aid assessment team to enter Daraa. He told reporters in Geneva he is disappointed the assessment team “has not yet been given the access it needs.”

Ban added he had been assured by Assad that the team would be allowed into the city.

Despite the government crackdown, small demonstrations and candlelight vigils were reported in several areas in the past few days.

Activists said three protesters were killed late Tuesday when government forces fired on demonstrations in Jassem, one of a cluster of villages near Daraa.

In the coastal city of Banias, where the army has also sent soldiers and tanks and arrested hundreds as part of military operation, rights activists said electricity, water and communications have been restored.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said authorities also released some 300 people Tuesday after making them sign a pledge not to state protests. But he said an army tank was still deployed in the city’s main square were protests were held in past weeks.

Abdul-Rahman said at least seven civilians, including four women, were killed during military operations in the city.

___

Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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

Bomb attack in Morocco tourist cafe kills 15

Investigators work at the site of a blast at a cafe in Marrakeshhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110428/wl_nm/us_morocco_blast

By Youssef Boudlal Youssef Boudlal Thu Apr 28, 3:42 pm ET

MARRAKESH (Reuters) – A bomb killed 15 people including 10 foreigners in Morocco’s bustling tourist destination of Marrakesh, state television said on Thursday, in an attack that bore the hallmark of Islamist militants.

The blast ripped through a cafe overlooking Marrakesh’s Jamaa el-Fnaa square, a spot that is often packed with foreign tourists. A Reuters photographer said he saw rescuers pulling dismembered bodies from the wreckage.

State-run 2M television said the 15 dead comprised six French nationals, five Moroccans and four foreigners whose nationality it did not give.

“Analysis of the early evidence collected at the site of the blast that occurred on Thursday at a cafe in Marrakesh confirms the theory of an attack,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.

Two residents in Marrakesh who were near the square told Reuters the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

If confirmed as the work of Islamist militants, the attack would be the first such major attack in Morocco since 2003, when suicide bombings in the commercial capital, Casablanca, killed more than 45 people.

Morocco’s ruler, King Mohammed, has promised to reform the constitution to placate protesters who have been inspired by uprisings in other part of the Arab world. But a fresh round of protests is planned for this Sunday.

The latest blast is likely to hurt Morocco’s tourism trade — a major source of revenue — which is already struggling to recover from the effects of the global downturn.

A doctor at a Marrakesh hospital said at least one of those killed was a French citizen, and that some of those injured had lost limbs in the blast.

“I heard a massive blast. The first and second floors of the building were destroyed,” said one local woman, who did not want to be identified. “Some witnesses said they have seen a man carrying a bag entering the cafe before the blast occurred.”

The cafe is in the Marrakesh medina, or old city, which is designated by the United Nation’s cultural arm as a World Heritage Site. It is usually packed with stalls, story-tellers and snake-charmers seeking to attract tourists.

“You can’t find a more emblematic target than Jamaa el-Fnaa square,” said a Frenchman who owns a restaurant in the city.

“With this attack and amid the worrying unrest in the region, tourism will hit the doldrums for some time,” said the businessman, who did not want his name published.

The roof over the cafe’s upstairs terrace was ripped off by the force of the explosion and pieces of plaster and electrical wires hung from the ceiling.

The body of one of the victims lay amid the rubble, covered by a blanket, with one hand sticking out. Blood stained the floor of the cafe red in several places.

“I heard a very loud blast in the square. It occurred inside Argana cafe. When I approached the scene, I saw shredded bodies being pulled out of the cafe,” the Reuters photographer said.

“The first floor bore the brunt of the damage while the ground floor was almost intact … There are a lot of police who, with forensics, are sifting through the debris.”

LIMBS LOST

Halim Saidi, a doctor at Marrakesh’s Ibn Tofail Hospital, said one French national died before reaching the hospital and second foreigner died while undergoing treatment.

He said 18 of the wounded had been brought to his hospital, including eight Moroccans, seven French and two Swiss citizens.

“Five of the wounded foreigners are in serious condition. They have lost limbs because of the explosion, endured serious injuries to the abdomen or suffered major fractures.

The eight Moroccan nationals suffered “relatively minor injuries,” he said.

The main stock market, the Casablanca bourse, fell more than three percent on news of the blast but recovered to close down 1.6 percent.

“People are panicking. This is a terrorist act and it will affect the economy and tarnish the country’s image,” said a trader on the exchange.

King Mohammed ordered a speedy investigation into what he described as a “criminal explosion,” MAP reported. An official source had earlier told Reuters it appeared the blast was caused by gas canisters in the cafe catching fire.

Security experts said the attack was in line with Islamist militants’ previous attempts — most of them disrupted by security services — to undermine Morocco’s rulers by targeting the tourism industry.

“The majority of plots are detected in their early stages because Moroccan authorities retain a very effective network of informants right down to street level,” said Anna Murison of Exclusive Analysis, a consultancy.

“However, the regular recurrence of plots …. mean it is likely that a few will slip through the net,” she said.

Last week, men claiming to be Moroccan members of al Qaeda’s north African wing appeared in a video posted on YouTube threatening to attack Moroccan interests.

A masked speaker, who identified himself as Abu Abdulrahman, said the planned attacks were to avenge the detention of Islamists by Moroccan authorities.

(Additional reporting by Souhail Karam and Zakia Abdennebi in Rabat, Catherine Bremer in Paris and William Maclean in Bradford, England; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Bradley Robinett,Glenn Conner | fugitives,Bradley Robinett,Glenn Conner

On June 8, 1998, Bradley Steven Robinett robbed a Seattle First National Bank in Bremerton, Wash., taking off with more than $1,000 cash. A few weeks later, he robbed a Bank of America branch in Tigard, Ohio, but this time he came armed. Cops say he surveyed the bank until he determined exactly when they filled their ATMs. He got away with nearly $50,000.

It would be almost five years before cops were able to pin these robberies on Robinett, a former Marine who was dishonorably discharged after an alleged theft while on base. They discovered that he had been hiding loads of firearms underground in Washington’s Olympic National Forest, and when cops unearthed a few of his spots, they found the firearms and car key duplicates.

In 2003, cops say Robinett came across an unattended police car and stole the pistol and body armor that had been issued to a Seattle police officer.

Robinett eluded capture until a cop in Washington checking license plates at a Bremerton motel came across a set of stolen ones. The motel owner identified the car as belonging to Robinett, who was quickly arrested for car theft.

But when cops ran his name through the system, the two bank robberies popped up. Robinett was convicted of multiple counts of bank robbery, unlawful use of firearms, auto theft and possession of stolen property. He was sentenced to seven years in federal prison.

A Life Of Crime Continues

On Aug. 19, 2009, Robinett was released from prison and was supposed to carry out his probation in Washington state — but cops say Robinett never intended to finish his time.

According to police, Robinett took off for the Northwest and resumed his life of crime. They say he stole a Honda Pilot from a home in Portland, Ore., and a license plate from Vancouver, Wash.  Cops believe Robinett would “borrow” keys just long enough to make a copy and then return them, unnoticed. This way he had a fleet of cars at the ready if he ever needed to make a quick escape.

After replacing the plates on the SUV, cops say he took off for Bainbridge Island, Wash., located just across Puget Sound from Seattle. But his ability to evade the law was about to be put to the test. According to police, an officer passed Robinett in his vehicle and had a hunch that something was not right. The cop followed Robinett and ran the license plate. When he discovered the plate was stolen, he attempted to pull Robinett over, but a chase ensued and ended when Robinett high-centered his Honda Pilot onto a boulder at the edge of a trail. But before cops had a chance to get him, Robinett took off on foot, hijacking a kayak at the water’s edge and paddling 10 miles across the Puget Sound.

Cops searched the car Robinett abandoned and found firearms and body armor. They say it appeared he had been living out of the vehicle.

Robinett was last seen in November 2009 when he had another run-in with police. A dedicated detective checking license plates in a Bellevue parking structure in Bellevue discovered yet another Honda Pilot with stolen plates. The officer camped out near the vehicle, hoping to eventually confront the driver, and that’s when the SUV started backing up: Robinett had been hiding inside all along. A chase ensued inside the garage, but the detective was able to beat him to the exit. But Robinett abandoned his vehicle again and took off on foot, disappearing into a crowd of people outside a community college.

Cops Say He Has Extensive Survival Skills

Bradley Steven Robinett is facing charges of escape, felony possessing firearms, and interstate transportation of stolen vehicles. Cops say he has extensive survival training and may still have hidden stashes of firearms. Robinett is a white male with brown hair and brown eyes, standing about 6 feet tall and weighing 165 to 170 pounds. If you think you see him, check out his right index finger: Cops say the top of it is missing due to a firearm accident from childhood.

Investigators have been hard at work trying to bring in Robinett. If you have any information please call our Hotline right away at 1-800-CRIME-TV. Remember: You can remain anonymous.
 

Wanted For:

  • Escape
  • Felony Possessing Firearms
  • Interstate Transportation of Stolen Vehicles

 

If you have any information please call 1-800-crime tv or post ur tip at www.amw.com

http://www.amw.com/fugitives/case.cfm?id=77711

UN Calls for Cease-Fire in Libya

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/north/UN-Calls-for-Cease-Fire-in-Libya-120054294.html

The United Nations is calling for an immediate cease-fire in Libya as recent heavy fighting left more than a dozen dead in the western part of the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top humanitarian envoy Valerie Amos expressed deep concern over the magnitude of the conflict as well as its toll on civilians.

Shelling and sniper fire by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi killed 17 people in the western city of Misrata Sunday, while rocket and artillery attacks on the eastern town of Ajdabiya sent rebel fighters and civilians fleeing.

In Misrata, at least 47 people also were wounded in the fighting, during which Gadhafi’s forces fired on a makeshift trauma center.

The city has been under government siege for the last seven weeks, leading to a growing humanitarian crisis.

U.N. and Libyan officials say they reached an an agreement Sunday to allow aid workers safe passage to Misrata. Ban says the world body, which is already providing aid in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, will also set up a humanitarian presence in the capital, Tripoli.

Sunday marked one month since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing an international air campaign to protect civilians in Libya. In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain will not send occupying ground forces into the North African country.

The NATO alliance has carried out airstrikes against loyalist forces in Libya to enforce the U.N.-authorized “no fly” zone protecting civilians from attack by Gadhafi’s troops.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

Fighting’s effect on Libya civilians remains murky

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press 5 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s government accused U.S.-led forces of ignoring civilian casualties on Friday, showing journalists a Tripoli neighborhood that has come under attack for at least two nights. U.S. and British officials insisted civilians have been spared and retort that the Libyan leader has engineered his own atrocities.

At the heart of the dispute is the difficulty separating rhetoric and stage-management from the pain of people who may have lost family, homes and sometimes livelihoods. Or maybe not.

On Friday, Libyan officials took foreign journalists to Tripoli’s Tajoura neighborhood, on the outskirts of the city. Two military bases on the way had clearly been hit, their buildings twisted and damaged. Black smoke still rose from one.

The small farm where the bus finally stops was a wreck: The windows were smashed in, the television toppled over. Plaster was everywhere on the floor, but the painted walls were intact. It’s the home of Rajab Mohammed, who said the bomb hit at the base of the palm just outside. Next to the palm was a pit, the size of a large beach ball.

“There were bullets everywhere,” said Mohammed, struggling to explain the source of bullet holes on the outside of the house.

A U.S. official said ships in the Mediterranean launched 15 more Tomahawk cruise missiles overnight, targeting garrisons near Tripoli. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Airstrikes and missiles are unpredictable, and the Gadhafi government’s efforts seem only to muddy the picture. Journalists are taken to the morgue, where bodies are hauled out without identification or circumstances of death.

The U.S. military said coalition jets flew about 150 sorties on Thursday, about 70 of them with American planes.

“I cannot be sure that there have been no civilian casualties. What I can be sure of is that we have been very, very precise and discriminate in our targeting,” Army Gen. Carter Ham said late Thursday at a briefing at the Sigonella air base in Sicily.

“They don’t talk about the thousands of Libyan citizens which they have killed, which we know it is very true. And I’m sorry if I’m a little emotional about this. The people who are killing civilians are the regime of this current government leader in Libya,” Ham said.

On Friday, the British government went farther.

“In fact there are no confirmed civilian casualties so far from the coalition airstrikes, and missile strikes, in all the operations since Saturday. Civilian casualties are being caused solely by the Gadhafi regime,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

Libyan state television showed blackened and mangled bodies that it said were victims of airstrikes in Tripoli. Rebels have accused Gadhafi’s forces of taking bodies from the morgue and pretending they were civilian casualties, an allegation bolstered by a U.S. intelligence report.

The report Monday said that a senior Gadhafi aide was told to take bodies from a morgue and place them at the scene of the bomb damage, to be displayed for visiting journalists. A senior U.S. defense official revealed the contents of the intelligence report on condition of anonymity because it was classified secret.

Human Rights Watch’s London director Tom Porteus cautioned that even confirmed evidence of civilian deaths did not necessarily mean negligence or malice given the uncertainties of aerial bombardment.

“Just because you’ve got a civilian body killed in an airstrike, doesn’t mean there’s been a war crime or even a violation of international humanitarian law,” he said. As for coalition officials, he said that they were “clearly bending over backward to say that they’re bending over backward to avoid civilian casualties.”

___

Associated Press writers Raphael Satter in London and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

Egypt freezes Mubarak’s assets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110221/ap_on_re_af/af_libya_protests

By MAGGIE MICHAEL and HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Maggie Michael And Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press 47 mins ago

CAIRO – Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi on Monday, claiming control of the country’s second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli’s main square for the first time. Moammar Gadhafi’s son vowed that his father and security forces would fight “until the last bullet.”

Even as Seif al-Islam Gadhafi spoke on state TV Sunday night, clashes were raging in and around Tripoli’s central Green Square, lasting until dawn Monday, witnesses said. They reported snipers opening fire on crowds trying to seize the square, and Gadhafi supporters speeding through in vehicles, shooting and running over protesters. Before dawn, protesters took over the offices of two of the multiple state-run satellite news channels, witnesses said.

During the day Monday, a fire was raging at the People’s Hall, the main hall for government gatherings where the country’s equivalent of a parliament holds its sessions several times a year. The pro-government news web site Qureyna said flames were seen leaping from the building, and that the headquarters of the Olympics Committee was also on fire.

Protesters were calling for a new protest at sunset Monday in Green Square, setting up the likelihood of new clashes. Already, armed members of pro-government organizations called “Revolutionary Committees” were circulating in the streets hunting for protesters in Tripoli’s old city, said one protester, named Fathi.

The city on Monday was shut down, with schools, government offices and most shops closed except a few bakeries serving residents hunkered down in their houses, said a Tripoli lawyer, Rehab, who like Fathi spoke on condition she be identified only by her first name.

The protests and violence were the heaviest yet in the capital of 2 million people, a sign of how unrest was spreading after six days of demonstrations in eastern cities demanding the end of the elder Gadhafi’s rule.

Gadhafi’s regime has unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. More than 200 have been killed in Libya, according to medical officials, human rights groups and exiled dissidents.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighboring Egypt, called the Libyan government’s crackdown “appalling.”

“We can see what is happening in Libya which is completely appalling and unacceptable as the regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country — which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic — make progress. The response they have shown has been quite appalling,” he told reporters in Cairo.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi warned of civil war in Libya if protests continue, a theme continued Monday on Libyan state TV, where a pro-regime commentator spoke of chaos and “rivers of blood” turning Libya into “another Somalia” if security is not restored.

Fragmentation is a real danger in Libya, a country of deep tribal divisions and a historic rivalry between Tripoli and Benghazi. The Arab world’s longest ruling leader in power for nearly 42 years, Moammar Gadhafi has held an unquestioned grip over the highly decentralized system of government he created, called the “Jamahiriya,” or “rule by masses.”

Libya’s former ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, Abdel-Moneim al-Houni, who a day earlier resigned from his post to side with protesters, issued a statement demanding Gadhafi “be put on trial along with his aides, security and military commanders over the mass killings in Libya.”

“Gadhafi’s regime is now in the trash of history because he betrayed his nation and his people,” al-Houni said.

The spiraling turmoil in Libya, an OPEC country that is a significant oil supplier to Europe, was raising international alarm. Oil prices jumped $1.67 to nearly $88 a barrel Monday amid investor concern.

Two leading oil companies, Statoil and BP, said they were pulling some employees out of Libya or preparing to do so. Portugal sent plane to pick up its citizens and other EU nationals and Turkey sent two ferries to pick up construction workers stranded in the unrest-hit country. EU foreign ministers were discussing on Monday the possible evacuation of European citizens. Mobs attacked South Korean, Turkish and Serbian construction workers at various sites around the country, officials from each country said.

The Internet has been largely shut down in Libya, residents can no longer make international calls from land lines and journalists cannot work freely, but eyewitness reports trickling out of the country suggested that protesters were fighting back more forcefully. Most witnesses and residents spoke on condition they be indentified by first name only or not at all, out of fear of retaliation.

In Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, protesters were in control of the streets Monday and took over the main security headquarters, known as the Katiba, after bloody clashes Sunday that killed at least 60 people, according to a doctor at the main hospital.

Cars honked their horns in celebration and protesters in the streets chanted “Long live Libya.” Protesters took down the Libyan flag from above Benghazi’s main courthouse and raised the flag of the country’s old monarchy, which was toppled in 1969 by the military coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi to power, according to witnesses and video footage posted on the Internet.

Benghazi’s airport was closed, according to an airport official in Cairo. A Turkish Airlines flight trying to land in Benghazi to evacuate Turkish citizens Monday was turned away, told by ground control to circle over the airport then to return to Istanbul.

There were fears of chaos as young men — including regime supporters — seized weapons from the Katiba and other captured security buildings. “The youths now have arms and that’s worrying,” said Iman, a doctor at the main hospital. “We are appealing to the wise men of every neighborhood to rein in the youths.”

Youth volunteers were directing traffic and guarding homes and public facilities, said Najla, a lawyer and university lecturer in Benghazi. She and other residents said police had disappeared from the streets.

Benghazi has seen a cycle of bloody clashes over the past week, as security forces kill protesters, followed by funerals that turn into new protests, sparking new bloody shootings. After funerals Sunday, protesters fanned out, burning government buildings and police stations and besieging the Katiba.

Security forces battled back, at times using heavy-caliber machine guns and anti-aircraft guns, according to residents. One witness said she saw bodies torn apart and that makeshift clinics were set up in the streets to treat the wounded. Ahmed Hassan, a doctor at the main Al-Jalaa hospital, said funerals were expected Monday for 20 of those killed the day before, but that families of 40 others were still trying to identify their loved ones because their bodies were too damaged.

In some cases, army units reportedly sided with protesters against security forces and pro-Gadhafi militias. Mohamed Abdul-Rahman, a 42-year-old Benghazi merchant, said he saw an army battalion chasing militiamen from a security compound.

After seizing the Katiba, protesters found the bodies of 13 uniformed security officers inside who had been handcuffed and shot in the head, then set on fire, said Hassan, the doctor. He said protesters believed the 13 had been executed by fellow security forces for refusing to attack protesters.

Protest leaders and army units that sided with them were working to keep order in the streets Monday, directing traffic and guarding homes and official buildings, several residents said.

On Sunday night, Gadhafi’s son Seif el-Islam took to state TV, trying to take a tough line in a rambling and sometimes confused speech of nearly 40 minutes.

“We are not Tunisia and Egypt,” he said. “Moammar Gadhafi, our leader, is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him.”

“The armed forces are with him. Tens of thousands are heading here to be with him. We will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet,” he said.

He warned the protesters that they risked igniting a civil war in which Libya’s oil wealth “will be burned.” He also promised “historic” reforms in Libya if protests stop.

Seif has often been put forward as the regime’s face of reform. Several of the elder Gadhafi’s sons have powerful positions in the regime and in past years have competed for influence. Seif’s younger brother Mutassim is the national security adviser, with a strong role in the military and security forces, and another brother Khamis heads the army’s 32nd Brigade, which according to U.S. diplomats is the best trained and best equipped force in the military.

Even as Seif spoke, major clashes had broken out for the first time in Tripoli.

Sunday afternoon, protesters from various parts of the city began to stream toward central Green Square, chanting “God is great,” said one 28-year-old man who was among the marchers.

In the square, they found groups of Gadhafi supporters, but the larger number of protesters appeared to be taking over the square and surrounding streets, he and two other witnesses said. That was when the backlash began, with snipers firing down from rooftops and militiamen attacking the crowds, shooting and chasing people down side streets. they said.

Gadhafi supporters in pickup trucks and cars raced through the suqare, shooting automatic weapons. “They were driving like mad men searching for someone to kill. … It was total chaos, shooting and shouting,” said the 28-year-old.

The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed. One witness, named Fathi, said he saw at least two he believed were dead and many more wounded.

After midnight, protesters took over the main Tripoli offices of two state-run satellite stations, Al-Jamahiriya-1 and Al-Shebabiya, one witness said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_exclusive/20110217/pl_yblog_exclusive/anti-government-protests-spread-key-questions-and-answers

By Steve Clemons

Successful anti-government uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired protesters to demand leadership changes in Iran, Yemen, Jordan, Libya and Bahrain. Riot police stormed a protest camp in Manama, Bahrain, overnight, and medical officials reported four people were killed. There also are reports that more than a dozen demonstrators have been killed in Libya.

The spread of unrest across North Africa and the Mideast raises many questions about where the region is headed and what U.S. policy should be. Here are some answers:

Is the government of any other country likely to be overthrown, as in Egypt?

It’s not easy to see which governments may fall or survive this current trend, but it seems entirely reasonable that many of the regimes in North Africa and the Mideast are going to be seriously challenged and that one or more will probably change leadership in the near term. Much of the region is wobbly right now. Some that seem more wobbly at the moment include Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Jordan, even Iran.  But these states have different government structures and different methods of controlling their publics. Iran’s army, for instance, already has shown an unwillingness to play the same role in these revolts that the Egyptian army did.  While there are many different grievances driving those protesting, one of the key issues is economic. Egypt, for example, has more than 40 percent of its population living at or below world poverty levels, and like much of the region has a “youth bulge” of many young people coming of work age with few or no jobs for them. But basic rights also are part of this widespread ripple that some are calling a “dignity revolution.”

 

In Iran, the government violently quashed similar protests in 2009. Will the protesters have more success this time?

In Iran, the government plays for keeps and seems to have few inhibitions about cracking down on protesters. The key thing to watch in Iran are splits in the leadership and the relative power of factions rather than what the state is doing to the people in the streets. There are mullahs and factional leaders, even in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who feel that President Ahmadenijad and Ayatollah Khamenei have undermined the integrity of the nation, its interests and economy, and even the spirit of the Islamic revolution. It recently was learned from high level Revolutionary Guard deserters that there are major differences of opinion inside the highest ranks of the IRGC and government. Seeing these splits widen and seeing the current leadership constrained and rolled back may give the protesters more of a chance to succeed. It is likely, however, that the Iranian government will be more decisive in deploying violence against protesters and will cling to power more tenaciously than the Mubarak franchise did.

What’s at stake for the United States as protests spread across the Mideast?

The United States has tended to deal with heads of states, oil sheikhs, and generals in the Middle East in order to secure its national security interests, which range from stabilizing Middle East oil and energy production to working against strains of radicalized Islamists to securing partners in stability, if not peace, in an equilibrium with Israel, which is a close strategic ally of the United States. America could lose its dominant role in managing the political and supply dimensions of oil and energy if hostile regimes come to power. The United States has not invested in knowing and engaging with opposition leaders in most of the Middle East, particularly in regimes with which we have close relations. That means that the influence of the United States on aspiring groups who may come into leading government roles in some of these countries may be minor. But this can be overplayed. States typically have core interests no matter who is running the political machinery, so it’s possible to imagine the United States working out relationships with governments that emerge after the people-power revolutions that are under way.

What role is the Obama administration playing as the turmoil grows?

The U.S. government is trying to shore up key “principles” that those governing and rebelling adhere to. The Obama administration consistently has called for no violence on either side of the equation, either by those protesting or by the governments being protested against. President Obama also has demanded that the universal human rights of assembly and protest be respected, and that if the situation is clear that the legitimacy of the older order is washed up, that a credible, inclusive political transition from a totalitarian state to democracy be moved forward. The administration does not want to send a signal, however, that it has become a regime-change fanatic. Obama has stated that these affairs belong to the citizens of these countries, and that the United States cannot affect the outcomes, cannot protect dictators and cannot help assure victory for those in the streets. What Obama is doing is shifting U.S. policy to a “pragmatic democracy agenda” in which the United States continues to stand by key allies, whether illiberal governments or democracies. But, if the core social contract between the governed and those governing explodes, the United States will stand by its principles that people should have the determinative role in their governments.

How might this turmoil affect the Middle East peace process?  Will it bring Israelis and Palestinians any closer to a peace agreement?

This is a very fluid time and all things are possible but few are probable. The Israelis are extremely nervous about what they see in their neighborhood and the increasing empowerment of Islamic political parties and actors who have at the top of their agenda rolling back the occupation of the Palestinian territories or a hostile agenda toward Israel writ large.  It’s unclear whether Israel itself sees that its long-term security interests are helped or hurt by rushing forward a peace arrangement resulting in an independent Palestinian state. It is clear that in the absence of progress on Arab-Israeli peace, the United States decided it needed states such as Jordan and Egypt and heavily invested in them to keep them as peace partners for Israel. Had the Arab Peace Initiative succeeded and Israel secured a deal with Palestine, then Egypt and some of these other totalitarian regimes would “matter less” to the United States as Israel would have normalized relations with some 57 other Arab and Muslim countries. The Middle East peace process remains complicated and muddy, and no progress is possible until the United States and Europe consider a new strategic framework for the region — and place the importance of Israel-Palestine peace inside that framework.  That will take time — even though there is an alternative view that things are so fluid now that Israel’s negotiating position only deteriorates with more time.

One year from now, which countries in the Middle East are the most likely to be on the road to some sort of democratic government?  Which countries are most likely to be ruled by autocrats?  Which countries are most likely to be ruled by fundamental Islamists?

One year from now, nearly all of the governments will continue to be ruled by autocrats or oligarchs, perhaps even in Egypt. There is nowtotal military control in Egypt, high expectations from society for economic improvement, and no more resources to make this happen. The military may very will be running the show in Egypt, and despite a veneer of interaction with opposition groups, there might not be real democracy there for quite a number of years. Jordan is likely to work for reform but keep essentially the same form of government, trying to reach out to some younger leaders in society and reform from within. Lebanon is politically complex but Hezbollah is playing a strong role there. This doesn’t mean that fundamental Islamists are in total control, but Islamists have a lot of power in a functioning democratic context. The Lebanon model, or Turkish model, might be the best it gets for democracy in places such as Egypt and elsewhere. Saudi Arabia and Syria can be expected to continue as they are — and countries such as the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait will be challenged to be more politically inclusive, but it’s hard to imagine stable functioning democracies in these countries at this point, particularly given the huge disparities between the population of national citizens and the number of guest workers who dwarf them. Autocracies are likely to survive in the Emirates, but they are nervous. Yemen, Morocco, Iran, even Iraq are all wobbly with populations that feel disenfranchised. Constant turmoil may simmer in all of these countries with very different political conditions, with the simmering occasionally exploding, but there is no way of saying for sure which will transform into democracies. Democracies need institutions that are able to serve the weak and those in minority in political systems. These take years to build, and the Middle East does not have much experience in the habits of this kind of institution building. Thus, while there will continue to be much disorder and much popular revolt, it’s not clear at all that democracy is the automatic successor.

Steve Clemons is founder and senior fellow of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. He is part of a group of foreign policy experts that the White House consulted with during the anti-government protests in Egypt. He also is publisher of  The Washington Note.

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