Global News Wrap

July 1, 2009

A short whirl around the world

Gaza

Victims of Israel’s Gaza invasion give evidence to UN mission” (Independent)

Moteeh Silawi, an imam from Jablaya, graphically described leading his blind father, aged 91, across scattered body parts after 17 worshippers were killed by flying shrapnel from an explosion just outside its door during evening prayers on 3 January. Mr Silawi, who lost three brothers and two nephews, including a four year old, said: “I saw bloodshed in the mosque. Can you imagine such a shock? I never thought it would be possible [for] a house of God, a house of worship, to be targeted by missiles.”

Rights group: IDF failed to verify drone targets in Gaza” Ha’aretz, Amira Hass

UN agency urges end to Gaza blockade” AFP

“People can’t live a normal life (in Gaza),” Karen Koning AbuZayd, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told journalists in Vienna…”They need lightbulbs, washing powder. Children need new shoes. (But) shoes are not allowed. There is a shortlist of what is allowed and nothing else is allowed,” she added.

Israelis intercept Gaza aid ship” BBC

Israeli forces have boarded a ship trying to carry aid and pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip in defiance of Israel’s blockade of the territory…The 20 passengers include former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire.

West Bank

Israeli troops wound four Palestinians in West Bank” Reuters

Israeli soldiers shot and wounded four Palestinian youths on Wednesday while firing at protesters throwing stones at Israeli civilian vehicles, an Israeli military spokesman and medics said.

PA: Israel planning to expropriate another 2% of West Bank land” Ha’aretz

Iraq

June is deadliest month for Iraqis this year” AP

At least 447 Iraqi civilians were killed in June, double the toll from the previous month, according to an Associated Press tally, as insurgents took aim at crowded areas to maximize the number of casualties.

Bomb in Iraq’s Kirkuk kills 20 as U.S. troops leave” Reuters and, last week, “Death toll from Iraq’s Kirkuk blast rises to 73” also Reuters

BP agrees cut-price Iraq oilfield deal” The Times

BP and its Chinese partner secured access to Iraq’s biggest oilfield yesterday in a televised auction that descended into near-farce..The British oil group and CNPC accepted a contract to develop the 17 billion-barrel Rumaila field near Basra — but all other foreign companies involved in bidding for a total of eight fields, including Royal Dutch Shell, rejected what were considered to be punitive terms on offer from the Iraqi Government. In total, nearly 30 overseas companies withdrew.

Army faces 20 more abuse claims from Iraqi civilians” The Independent, Robert Verkaik

..Among the claims is an allegation that a group of eight Iraqi men were “violently beaten” when a home was visited by British soldiers in August 2003..The following year a son and his father allege they were shot and wounded by soldiers after a raid on their home. The son subsequently died of his injuries and his father lost his arm. Eight of his other sons were beaten “so ferociously by the soldiers that at least one brother lost consciousness,” say the lawyers who took witness statements from the men this year.

A few days ago.. “Sadr City market bomb that killed 78 heralds return to violence” The Times

Meanwhile, in Kurdistan, “Iraqi MPs slam planned Kurdish constitution” AFP

On June 24, Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan passed the new constitution in which it laid claim to the disputed oil-rich province of Kirkuk, a move likely to increase ethnic tension…The text also said that areas within Nineveh and Diyala provinces were part of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is to be put before Kurdish voters for ratification on July 25.

Pakistan

U.N. team begins inquiry into Bhutto’s killing” Reuters

Sources: U.S. resumes Pakistan drone flights” CNN while “Pakistan targets Taliban after rebels kill soldiers” AFP

On Sunday, rebels armed with rocket launchers and machine guns ambushed a military convoy in North Waziristan, killing 12 soldiers, while another four died of their injuries on Monday, Abbas said…”In the recent past, we haven’t suffered that kind of casualties. It’s a huge loss,” the spokesman told AFP.

Pakistan tribal leader killed: officials” AFP

Guli Shah, 60, had strongly criticised militants operating in lawless Khyber tribal district, which borders Afghanistan, and was an intermediary between his tribe and the Pakistani government.

And “Pakistan militants abandon peace deal” AP

The decision by insurgents in North Waziristan raises the prospect of wider unrest now that the army is stepping up offensives against the Taliban…The peace pact was reached in February 2008, but few details have been publicly released about it. It was struck with a Taliban faction led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur…Bahadur spokesman Ahmadullah Ahmadi said Monday that U.S. missile strikes and army operations prompted the Taliban faction to end the accord.

One killed in blast in northwest Pakistan” Times of India after “Bomb kills four in Pakistan: police” AFP and, on the other border last week, “Pakistan troops killed in Kashmir“, BBC.

The Taliban has said it carried out the attack, the AP news agency reported…Militants have launched deadly attacks on soldiers across Pakistan, but it is thought to be the first such bombing in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Afghanistan

Blast kills 2 NATO troops in Afghanistan” AP

An explosion in southern Afghanistan Wednesday killed two NATO troops and wounded six others, the military alliance said…NATO did not reveal the troops’ nationalities or the exact location of the blast.

Afghan police kill 5 Taliban militants in S. Afghanistan” Xinhua

Afghan police eliminated five Taliban militants and wounded two more in a clean-up operation in the suburban area of Lashkar Gha city, capital of southern Afghan province Helmand, said a police official on Sunday.

Afghans lose US support for opium strategy” AP

The Afghan counter-narcotics minister has defended his country’s drug policy, after the US said it would withdraw support for efforts to eradicate opium cultivation...General Khodaidad said Afghanistan had achieved a lot of success with its anti-drug strategy, which relies heavily on the manual destruction of poppy fields, monetary incentives and public relations campaigns to persuade farmers not to plant poppies.

Touchingly, “Romania to increase troops in Afghanistan” Xinhua

Stalemate in Afghan ghost town shows task ahead” AP

Three years after its residents fled, the once bustling town of Now Zad is the scene of a stalemate between a company of newly arrived Marines and a band of Taliban fighters. The Americans have plenty of firepower. What they don’t have is enough men to hold seized ground…”We would just be mowing the weeds,” said Capt. Zachary Martin of any move to drive out the Taliban.

Afghan police chief killed in Kandahar: officials” AFP

An Afghan provincial police chief and up to nine of his men were killed in a shoot-out with armed guards from a private security company in the southern city of Kandahar Monday, authorities said…The gunfight erupted outside the offices of the provincial attorney general in Kandahar, which has suffered heavily from violence linked to a Taliban-led insurgency…The Afghan guards went to the offices to free a prisoner when the attorney general’s staff called for police help, said interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary.

Air raid kills 32 Taliban insurgents in E Afghanistan” Xinhua

Air raids against Taliban’s hideout in the restive Paktia province of eastern Afghanistan claimed the lives of over three dozens of insurgents on wee hours of Tuesday, an official said..“Gunships of U.S.-led forces in wee hours of Tuesday targeted insurgents hideouts in Waza Zadran district, leaving 32 militants dead,” Abdul Wali Zadran told Xinhua.

Opium crop haul just a hill of beans, admits MoD” the Guardian (Warning: this is a funny one)

Across the border into Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan says kills suspected Islamist militant” Reuters

Police in Kyrgyzstan shot dead a suspected Islamist militant who threw a grenade at them in the latest in a rash of armed clashes that has shattered a three-year lull, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday…Interior Ministry spokesman Rakhmatillo Akhmedov said police found the suspected militant on Monday while searching a sunflower field close to the scene of a fire fight that killed three suspected rebels on Saturday in the south of the country.

Kyrgyzstan to maintain US base to defend interests: Bakiyev” Times of India

“The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is worse every day, and that impacts the whole of Central Asia,” Bakiyev said in televised comments…
“Based on its national interests, Kyrgyzstan agreed to open a centre for merchandise transit in its Manas airport” where US troops are based “to support international efforts in Afghanistan”, he added.

And some more good fortune, “George Soros to grant $100M to Kyrgyzstan, other post-Soviet states” 24 News Agency, “Switzerland helps Kyrgyzstan to develop trade” also 24, “Turkey renders $700 thousand military assistance to Kyrgyzstan” 24.

And Tajikistan

Tajiks arrest alleged Islamic group members” AP

Tajikistan said Wednesday that the alleged leader of a banned Islamic movement and dozens of followers have been arrested on charges of inciting religious hatred..Security Service officers detained Mullo Sirodzhiddin, leader of the ultraconservative Salafiya movement, and about 40 followers Tuesday during a sermon at a mosque in the capital, Dushanbe, the Interior Ministry said.

And… “U.S.-built bridge is windfall for Afghan drug trade” McClatchy

In August 2007, the presidents of Afghanistan and Tajikistan walked side by side with the U.S. commerce secretary across a new $37 million concrete bridge that the Army Corps of Engineers designed to link two of Central Asia’s poorest countries…Today, the bridge across the muddy waters of the Panj River is carrying much more than vegetables and timber: It’s paved the way for drug traffickers to transport larger loads of Afghan heroin and opium to Central Asia and beyond to Russia and Western Europe.

Into Xinjiang

ADB lends China 100 mln dlrs for Xinjiang” AFP

The loan will be to build or upgrade more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) of roads, install traffic signals and other road safety systems, and construct public toilets and other sanitation facilities, the ADB said in a statement from its headquarters in the Philippines…The newest loan will complement other ADB programmes to improve urban infrastucture in Xinjiang, which shares borders with eight countries and serves as a gateway between China and Central Asia, the ADB said.

Man held over China ethnic clash” AFP

China’s official news agency Xinhua said the man had posted a message on a local website claiming six Xinjiang boys has “raped two innocent girls”…Police say the false claim sparked a vicious brawl between Han and Uighur ethnic groups at the Guangdong factory [in SE China].

NW China gas blast leaves three dead, three missing” Xinhua

Three people are dead and three more are missing Tuesday after a gas explosion and a second accident occurred at a coal mine in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region…The explosion occurred at 9 a.m. at Dihu coal mine, 40 km northeast of Shanshan County seat, trapping all of the five miners who were working underground, said the Xinjiang coal mine safety bureau.

Coca-Cola Accelerates Expansion in China” Press Release

From today consumers in China’s westernmost province, Xinjiang, will be able to consume locally-produced Coca-Cola products with the establishment of the new COFCO bottling plant, located along the historic Silk Road. The bottling facility will provide a strategically important platform for continuous growth of Coca-Cola in the Northwestern China where Xinjiang, with over 20 million consumers, is the largest province.

Across China, but particularly Inner Mongolia, southern China and around Beijing

Extreme weather continues in China” Xinhua

Prolonged drought and a heat wave continued to plague north China Wednesday while at least 10 central and southern provinces are on flood alarm...In Beijing temperatures have hovered around 35 degrees Celsius for nearly 10 days, and there is still no sign of a drop of temperature. The weather bureau has forecast no showers until Saturday…Beijing has reported the hottest June in nearly four decades, with the maximum temperature reading 39.6 degrees Celsius last Wednesday. Beijing’s temperature rarely topped 39 degrees in June and the previous record was in 1972, when the maximum June temperature reached 39.2 degrees Celsius.

In contrast to the thirst in the north, at least 10 central and southern provinces are on flood alarms Wednesday…Parts of Hubei Province have been hit by the worst rainstorm in 100 years, with daily rainfall reaching 313 mm in Hefeng County alone. Nearly 10,000 residents were evacuated when a dam burst Tuesday, the local government said..Heavy rain began to hit the central province Sunday and has flooded 45 counties in 12 cities as of 10 am Wednesday. Five people were confirmed dead and one was reported missing.

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