Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The scenes came on the sixth day of a blockade of Gaza, imposed by Israel and backed by Egypt, in response to a spike in rocket attacks on Israeli border towns.
Later Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said Israel would not ease its grip on Gaza.
"We will continue to strike at the leaders of terror in the Gaza Strip, even at the cost of the quality of life of its residents," he said.
"We will not prevent food for children, medication for those who need it and fuel for the instutitions that are involved in the saving of human lives.
"But there is no justification," he said, "to demand that we allow residents of the Gaza Strip to live a normal life at a time when from their streets rockets arnd shells are fired into Sderot and other communities in the south."
Mass break out
Before dawn on Wednesday, Palestinian fighters set off at least 15 explosions on the wall running through Rafah separating the two territories, Hamas security forces said.
The security forces later closed most holes, but left two open to allow the flow of human traffic.
Amr El-Kahky, Al Jazeera's correspondent, reporting from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, said that Egyptian security forces did not take any action over the entry of Palestinians.
Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, later said he had ordered his troops to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt because they were starving.
"I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons," he said.
El-Kahky said: "Those crossing over have thanked Egypt for not confronting them. Many have bought with them containers for much needed fuel.
"They have also been told by the Hamas leadership in Gaza that they should respect Egyptian security forces, get what they need, and return to Gaza."
Al Jazeera correspondent Samir Omar said all shops in Rafah were open on Wednesday morning to enable Palestinians to buy food and medicines.
Omar said quoting witnesses that some Palestinians came only to stock up on basic necessities, but others might stay back in Rafah for some time to meet their relatives stranded in the Egyptian city of Arish.
On foot, in cars or riding donkey carts, the Palestinians went on a massive shopping spree, buying cigarettes, plastic bottles of fuel, and other items that have become scarce and expensive.
Israel expressed concern that fighters and weapons might be entering Gaza amid the chaos, and said responsibility for restoring order lay with Egypt.
The previous day, dozens of Hamas protesters had stormed the Rafah crossing, demanding that the terminal be opened to ease the blockade imposed on the territory by Israel.
Several protesters were wounded as Egyptian police opened fire in the air and used batons and water cannons to push them back.
Palestinians had complained that Gaza was under siege from both Israel and neighbouring Arabs.
Um Ahmad, a Palestinian woman demonstrating at the Rafah crossing, told Al Jazeera: "The Arabs should be united with us and not against us.
"This is an appeal to all the Arabs. They should help us lift the blockade, they should stand with us."
Talks to continue
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Tuesday that he would not pull out of peace talks with Israel because of the Gaza situation.
"Halting contacts with Israel is useless," he said in his first comment since the latest round of Israel-Hamas fighting erupted last week.
Israel normally supplies 60 per cent of the electricity for Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants
Gaza needs around 240 megawatt of electricity, but normally receives only about 200 megawatts, with 8 per cent from Egypt
Israel is the only source of industrial fuel for Gaza's power station
Israel stopped supplying industrial fuel supplies to Gaza on January 19
The EU pays Israel around $10m per month for Gaza's industrial fuel
"On the contrary, we should intensify our contacts and our meetings to stop the suffering of our people."
Abbas also renewed his criticism of rocket fire against Israel from Gaza.
He said: "It is not the people who fire these rockets. We have condemned these futile launchings in the past and we continue to do so. They must stop."
For her part, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said on Tuesday that US officials had spoken to their Israeli counterparts "about the importance of not allowing a humanitarian crisis to unfold".
Israeli officials were receptive, she said.
Rice blames Hamas for the situation in Gaza.
Arye Mekel, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry, pledged that the humanitarian shipments would go on.
"We will continue [on Wednesday] and the coming days to deliver more aid to Gaza until all promised supplies get across," he said.
On the ground, two lorries carrying cooking gas and three with diesel for generators passed through Israel's Nahal Oz border crossing, east of Gaza City, early on Tuesday.
Palestinian rockets are crude homemade weapons fired by Hamas and other fighters from Gaza into Israel, with a maximum range of 10km
The rockets have killed 10 Israelis since 2005, while more than 700 Palestinians have died in Israeli raids over the same period
Rocket attacks have increased sharply since April 2006
Between 2,500-3,000 residents, out of 23,000, have fled Sderot because of the near-daily attacks
The main impact of the rockets is psychological torment
It marked the first time supplies had entered Gaza since late on Thursday, when Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, ordered the territory sealed off in response to rocket fire.
Gaza City was plunged into darkness after its only power plant was shut down on Sunday, as fuel supplies dried up under the Israeli blockade.
But with Israel allowing limited supply, electricity was back in most of Gaza City by Tuesday afternoon.
Israeli tankers brought in 700,000 litres of fuel, enough to provide electricity to Gaza City for two days.
The Israeli defence ministry ruled late on Tuesday that 250,000 litres of diesel fuel could be transferred into Gaza daily.
However, the crossings would remain closed to other goods and people until further notice.
Israel has maintained all along that Hamas created an artificial crisis.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Hamas responded to Wednesday's deaths by launching more than three dozen rockets into Israeli territory and demanding an end to peace talks.
The killings came as George Bush, the US president, expressed optimism that peace would come to the region as he wrapped up his Middle East tour.
They also came a day after 18 other Palestinians were killed, in an attack Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, termed a "massacre" against his people.
As Palestinians held a general strike over Tuesday's killings, an aircraft missile aimed at fighters from the Palestinian armed group, Islamic Jihad, in Gaza City hit the wrong car and killed a 13-year-old boy, his father and an uncle.
Medics said the bodies were so mutilated that it was hard to identify them.
Major Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said the civilians' car destroyed in the earlier attack had been "unintentionally hit".
Israeli officials said another vehicle had been the intended target of the attack.
Islamic Jihad said that one of its cars was hit in the attack, but that its fighters had escaped.
A second Israeli air strike on a car killed two Palestinians in the central Gaza Strip, the ruling Palestinian faction, Hamas, said. A third raid, soon after, left no casualties.
Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Gaza, said residents were constantly looking up in the sky, fearful of more attacks.
West Bank firefight
In the West Bank town of Qabatiya, near the city of Jenin, Israeli forces killed Walid al-Ubaidi, the leader of Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades, in a gunfight and wounded and arrested two other fighters.
An Israeli army spokesman said al-Ubaidi was killed during an exchange of fire with troops who came to arrest him.
The al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad group, confirmed his death.
Gaza was at a standstill on Wednesday as Palestinians held a general strike in mourning for 18 people killed in an Israeli raid the day before, the enclave's bloodiest day since Hamas seized control of the territory in June last year.
In a rare show of unity, both Hamas and the Fatah faction led by Abbas declared three days of mourning for those killed in Tuesday's raids, ordering the closure of government offices, businesses, shops and schools.
"The strike shows that we and Gaza are one people in the face of Israeli massacres," said Majdi Maraqa, a shop owner in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Abbas had on Tuesday described the killings as "a massacre" and "a slaughter against the Palestinian people".
"Our people cannot keep silent over these massacres. These massacres cannot bring peace," he had said.
Abbas said the Gaza operation on Tuesday, had severely damaged the peace efforts relaunched by Bush in the US city of Annapolis less than two months ago.
Tuesday's attack also killed Hussam al-Zahar, the son of Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader and the foreign minister in the unity government that Abbas sacked when Hams took over Gaza.
That killing prompted the first official contact between Abbas and Hamas since June.
A Hamas spokesman said Abbas called al-Zahar to offer his condolences.
He said the "conversation was very friendly and the two leaders spoke at length about the current political situation and they both stressed the unity of the Palestinian people regardless of the differences".
Hamas said it was Bush's presence in the region that was spurring the violence.
Khaled Meshaal, the group's exiled political chief, said he held Bush and Israel accountable for the deaths of the Palestinians killed during Israel's raids on the Gaza Strip.
"We would like to tell George Bush that this is the real terrorism. Arabs and Muslims are not the terrorists," Meshaal said at a press conference in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Wednesday.
He said: "An Israeli official said that Bush gave Olmert the green light to launch a full scale military incursion on Gaza.
"Therefore I hold the American administration responsible for what happened yesterday in Gaza. Bush is a man of war and crime, not peace and security."
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Earlier on Saturday, the 70,000 residents of the city centre had been placed under curfew, saying it was to protect civilians living in the area where the arrests were made.
The Israeli army said that the operation was aimed at "terrorist infrastructure" and that troops found a "weapons cache with rocket manufacturing materials, explosive substances and military equipment".
Palestinian medics said about 40 people were wounded by rubber bullets during the incursion.
"These are essential defensive measures being taken against an ever-growing terrorist infrastructure, one which continuously plans and perpetrates attacks against Israelis," David Baker, Israeli government spokesman, said.
Dozens of Israeli army jeeps entered the town on Thursday, where the Palestinian Authority has recently deployed hundreds of security force personnel as part of a security crackdown.
Although it supports the Palestinian security plan, Israel has neverthless said it reserves the right to launch its own operations inside Palestinian towns and villages.
"This was one of the most aggressive raids"
Massoud Kalboneh, Nablus resident
As Israeli troops pulled out of Nablus on Saturday, tear gas and concussion grenade canisters littered the streets of the Old City, where dozens of shops had been forced open using explosives or cutting gear.
Food supplies dwindled as the operation continued because shopkeepers were unable able to get into the city to replenish stocks. The Palestinian Red Crescent had to distribute food to people confined by the curfew.
Massoud Kalboneh, a 35-year-old construction worker, told the Associated Press news agency that soldiers had roughed up his five-year-old nephew thinking he was trying to escape after he dived under a bed.
"This was one of the most aggressive raids" Nablus has known, he said.
After the raid ended, Jamal Muheisin, the city's governor, was jeered by residents of the Old City angered by the authorities failure to prevent the incursion despite mounting its own operations against Palestinian armed groups.
'Israel in control'
Ohood Yaish, a 52-year old social worker who was been trapped at home by the curfew, said she was surprised by the Israeli raid after the increased deployment of Palestinian security forces in Nablus.
"Israel is the one in control, it is the one that decides and it has decided that we should stay at home all this time," she said.
Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, said he had called off a trip to Egypt to attend to the situation in Nablus.
"The current Israeli operation aims to heat up the atmosphere before Bush's visit," he told al-Najah Radio. "They are trying to sabotage the Palestinian Authority's successes in the city."
Bush will arrive in Israel on January 9 before meeting Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Fayyd in Ramallah the following day.
The two soldiers were on a joint US-Iraq patrol in Mosul in northern Iraq when they were killed last week.
It is the first time such a killing has been confirmed by the two forces.
"Two US soldiers killed during a combined Iraqi army and coalition operation in Nineveh province on December 26 were allegedly shot by an Iraqi soldier," the US military said in a statement on Saturday.
Three other US soldiers and a civilian interpreter were wounded in the incident.
The team had been setting up a combat outpost.
"The Iraqi soldier who allegedly opened fire fled the scene but was identified by other Iraqi army personnel and was then apprehended" the military statement said.
Two soldiers arrested
Two Iraqi army soldiers are now being held in connection with the incident.
The US military said it was not clear why the Iraqi soldier had opened fire, but two Iraqi generals told the Reuters news agency that the attacker had links to Sunni Arab fighters.
The patrol "was attacked by gunmen and the soldier abused the situation and killed the two soldiers. The soldier was an insurgent infiltrator," Brigadier-General Mutaa al-Khazraji, commander of the Iraqi army's second division, said.
Brigadier-General Noor al-Din Hussein, commander of the Iraqi Army's fourth Brigade, second division, said that the Iraqi soldier had been in the army for only one year and was an Arab from the Jubouri tribe.
"There is some penetration [by insurgents] and we want to purify the Iraqi army. Our soldiers are good and doing well. This is the first time something like this has happened," he said.
In June 2004, two US soldiers were killed by Iraqi civil defence officers patrolling with them. The Iraqi civil defence corps was created after the US invasion in 2003 and was the forerunner of today's Iraqi army.
The deaths come as a new video of the Baghdad sniper, also known as Juba, was posted on the internet.
The video appeared at the end of December and, like the first two films, is a compilation of footage showing US soldiers being shot dead by the sniper.
Juba is said to be from the Islamic Army in Iraq but he never appears in the videos.
The commentary says it aims to tell "the truth to the American people" about their military losses in Iraq.
Juba, a nom de guerre, first appeared on the internet in 2005 in a poor quality film. With his own internet site at www.baghdadsniper.net, Juba is one of the most successful media outlets of those fighting against the US-led forces in Iraq.
Small arms casualties
According to a tally by the independent website www.icasualties.org, 338 US soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war by "small arms fire" - eight per cent of total US casualties.
At least 48 of them were shot by snipers.
General Kevin Bergner, a US military spokesman, said that sniping "has been a threat to the security environment here for quite some time".
"It is one we deal with on a recurring, routine basis.
"It is one that we have periodically seen in greater numbers at times, and obviously in those circumstances we target our operations accordingly to counter that threat."
Meanwhile a spate of roadside bombs on Saturday in Iraq's Diyala province killed seven people, according to Iraqi officials.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
At least 16 others were also killed in Thursday's attack with another report saying at least 20 bodies were seen after the explosion which triggered violent protests across the country.
Bhutto,54, was proclaimed dead after she was taken to the Rawalpindi General Hospital. "
At 6:16pm [13:16 GMT], she expired," Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), present at the hospital, said.
Police said a suicide bomber fired at Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up.
"The man first fired at Bhutto's vehicle. She ducked and then he blew himself up," Mohammad Shahid, a police officer said.
Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, reportedly chaired an emergency cabinet meeting after the blast.
Bhutto's supporters vented their anger
after her killing [AFP]
He later appealed to the nation to remain calm "so that the evil designs of terrorists can be defeated," state TV reported.
But as news of Bhutto's death spread, supporters at the hospital in Rawalpindi smashed glass doors and threw stones at cars.
Angry supporters also took to the streets in the northwestern city of Peshawar as well other areas, and raised anti-Musharraf slogans.
Thousands also gathered on the streets of Karachi, the capital of Bhutto's native Sindh province.
In Rawalpindi, at the site of the attack, Bhutto's supporters burned election posters from the ruling party and attacked police, who fled from the scene.
The interior ministry respondend by putting its forces on red alert.
Following the blast, body parts and flesh were strewn across Liaqat Bagh park where Bhutto had spoken.
Police cordoned off the street with white and red tape, and rescue workers rushed to carry victims in to ambulances.
Nawaz Sharif, also a former Pakistani prime minister, told grief-stricken Bhutto supporters outside the hospital: "I assure you that I will fight your war from now on."
He said he shared the grief of "the entire nation".
Javaid Manzoor, the president of Bhutto's PPP party, told Al Jazeera: "We are shocked. We are stunned. Every single one of us is mouring the loss of our leader."
Al Jazeera's Sohail Rahman said questions would now be raised about security there.
The killing is likely to deepen the political crisis in Pakistan, where radicals had vowed to disrupt the vote and Musharraf's opponents, including Bhutto, accused him of planning to rig the result.
Manzoor said he believed the poll, sheduled for January 8, would now be cancelled.
Bhutto had served twice as Pakistani prime minister between 1988 and 1996.
She had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on October 18.
Her homecoming parade in Karachi was also targeted by a suicide attacker, killing more than 140 people.
On that occasion she narrowly escaped injury.
Earlier on Thursday, four people were shot dead and three wounded at an election rally of Sharif in Rawalpindi.
Sharif blamed supporters of the party that backs Musharraf.
The attacks are the worst directly related to the January 8 polls since campaigning intensified in mid-December.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy scheduled a court hearing on the tapes for Friday.
The federal judge had in June 2005 ordered the administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay".
Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos.
The recordings involved al-Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
The justice department argued that the videos were not covered by the order because the two men were being held in secret CIA prisons overseas, not at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Lawyers for a group of Guantanamo Bay inmates contesting their detention had requested the hearing to learn whether the government had complied with the preservation order.
They cited reports that information obtained from the interrogations implicated five unnamed Guantanamo detainees.
"We hope to establish a procedure to review the government's handling of evidence in our case ... and generally to require an accounting from a government that has admitted that it destroyed evidence," said David Remes, a lawyer for the group of inmates.
The CIA, pre-empting a news report, admitted on December 6 that it had destroyed hundreds of hours of interrogation tapes, prompting an outcry from congressional Democrats and human rights activists.
The tapes are believed to have shown interrogation methods that included simulated drowning known as waterboarding, which has been condemned as torture.
The CIA said it destroyed the tapes lawfully and did so out of concern for the safety of agents involved if the recordings were ever made public.
The White House has repeatedly denied that the US uses torture.
The justice department declined to comment on the judge's hearing order but the department last week urged Kennedy not to investigate the videotapes.
It also said that in light of other government probes into the tapes, a judicial inquiry into the destruction was inappropriate.
The government has also sought delays in congressional attempts to investigate the tapes' destruction, saying they would hamper a joint investigation by the justice department itself and the CIA.
"Plainly the government wants only foxes guarding this henhouse," Remes wrote in a court filing.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The move comes as large rallies were held in the country both in support and opposition of Evo Morales, the president.
Thousands of Morales supporters marched through the city of La Paz to celebrate the unveiling of a new constitution that has divided public opinion in the country.
"This is a historic day ... the people will never again be marginalised," Morales told crowds outside the presidential palace after the president of the constitutional assembly submitted a copy of the new charter.
Morales accused his opponents of seeking to split the nation. "We're not going to let anyone divide Bolivia," he said.
The president has said a declaration of autonomy in the eastern city of Santa Cruz is illegal and unconstitutional.
Led by the economic hub of Santa Cruz, the four provinces oppose the new constitution and made separate declarations of autonomy to extend the power of their regional governments.
A Santa Cruz "autonomy statute," which voters in the state would have to approve in coming months, would create a separate police force and insist on state control of lands.
In Santa Cruz, hunger strikers called off their days-old protest against the constitution and headed to a city park for a rally to celebrate the declaration of autonomy.
A similar event was staged in natural gas-rich Tarija, and others were planned in the Amazon provinces of Beni and Pando.
"We're going to celebrate the birth of the autonomous regions," Roberto Gutierrez, a pro-autonomy leader in Santa Cruz, said.
The constitutional reform has deepened long-standing divisions between the more affluent east and the highlands, where the indigenous population strongly supports Morales, the country's first leader of Indian descent.
Leaders of the four lowland regions, home to Bolivia's natural gas fields, have called the new constitution an illegal power grab since it was passed by Morales supporters during an opposition boycott.
"In no way do we accept that the text that's being submitted represents the Bolivian people, because not all Bolivians have taken part in its drafting," Lourdes Millares, an opposition member of parliament, said.
Tensions rose ahead of Saturday's declarations of autonomy and Morales, has ruled out declaring martial law but government officials have said he could use force if any attempt is made to divide the country.
It was unclear whether the autonomy declarations would be ratified in provincial referenda.
The new national constitution, which lets presidents seek two consecutive terms and increases the state's role in the economy, must still pass two referenda to take force.
Morales says the constitutional rewrite will empower the poor, Indian majority.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Contamination from South Korea worst-ever oil spill has spread to affect more than 50 kilometres of coastline, killing wildlife and devastating communities that rely on fishing and tourism.
Reporting from the hard-hit fishing town of Eui Hang, Al Jazeera's correspondent Marga Ortigas said that by early Monday the length of coastline affected had more than doubled overnight as tons of crude was washed ashore.
Earlier South Korea's environment minister warned the huge clean-up effort was likely to drag on for at least two months
The area around Mallipo relies
heavily on fishing and tourism
Kang Moo-Hyun said the spill, caused by a collision between a tanker and barge on Friday, had caused serious contamination along a large stretch of coastline, with the oil sludge either glued onto beaches or sinking to the seabed.
The pollution has devastated wildlife and dozens of businesses along the coast of Taean county, where fishing, seafood farming and tourism are the major industries.
Oyster farms say they have seen their stocks completely destroyed while hotels which rely on tourist trade to what had been some of the country's most scenic beaches are reporting cancelled bookings.
Ortigas said that it will take at least a decade to rebuild the oyster farms which had lost their stocks.
Many people are now calling for the government to provide urgent compensation.
South Korea oil slick numbers
10,500 tons of oil leaked into the sea from supertanker Hebei Spirit
263,000 tons of crude carried on the tanker
50 km of coastline affected by slick
$6.5m in initial clean-up funds released by government
8,800 police, troops and volunteers involved in clean-up efforts
138 ships working to contain remaining slick at sea
5,000 tons of oil leaked in South Korea's previous worst spill in 1995, costing $104m to clean up
At Mallipo, one of South Korea's best known beaches, waves of contaminated sea water have dumped a thick, stinking slick of crude oil along the shore.
The area is an important stopover for migrating birds and conservationists say the spill is likely to kill thousands of them.
About 10,000 tons of oil have leaked from the Hong Kong registered supertanker, Hebei Spirit.
The tanker was holed on Friday in a collision with a South Korean-owned barge which came unmoored from its tug in rough seas.
The Hebei Spirit is a single-hulled tanker, considered less safe than modern double-hulled tanker which are more difficult to hole.
An international ban on single-hulled tankers is due to take effect in 2010.
By Sunday officials said the holes in the Hebei Spirit had been plugged and the remaining oil removed from the ship.
Offshore coast guard, navy and fishing boats, backed up by helicopters, led efforts to contain the remaining slick.
Government officials have said they are considering declaring the region a special disaster area.
Such a move would enable the central government to give financial aid to the local government to cover the cost of the clean-up, provide tax cuts to residents and allow them to delay loan payments to banks.
The slick is the word's biggest oil spill in more than four years, since the taker Tasman Spirit leaked about 27,000 tons at the port of Karachi in Pakistan in 2003.
Friday, December 7, 2007
The CIA has admitted destroying video tapes showing what is described as the "harsh interrogation" of al-Qaeda suspects.
The interrogations of two suspects were taped in 2002 and the tapes were destroyed in 2005, after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq surfaced.
Michael Hayden, the CIA director, told his staff on Thursday that the tapes were destroyed so identities of interrogators would not be compromised.
Scrutiny and scandal
Hayden said congressional intelligence committee leaders were informed of the existence of the tapes and the CIA's intention to destroy them.
He said the agency's internal watchdog had watched the tapes in 2003 and verified that the interrogation practices recorded were legal.
But Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the methods were actually torture and the fact that the CIA had the tapes but did not surrender them when a US commission to look into the 9/11 attacks and congress asked for such information, raised questions about whether the CIA obstructed justice.
The destruction of the tapes comes amid scrutiny over the CIA's "rendition" programme, where suspects were allegedly detained and interrogated in secret locations outside the US.
Amnesty International on Firday called for the destruction of the tapes to be part of that inquiry.
The rights group said in a press release that "the destruction of the tapes falls into a pattern of measures taken by the government that block accountability for human rights violations".
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mark Agrast, of the Centre for American Progress, said: "The timing is very disturbing because they [the tapes] appear to have been destroyed at precisely the time that the Abu Ghraib photographs had come out and the stories of highly coercive interrogation practices were becoming known."
During the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004, leaked pictures of US forces abusing Iraqi prisoners caused an international outcry.
Members of the US 9/11 commission and congress have expressed surprise that the tapes existed, saying that the CIA repeatedly claimed it did not record the interrogation of detainees.
Agrast told Al Jazeera: "There will be congressional investigations, because this story was not shared with the house and senate intelligence committees that by law are supposed to be informed of activities of this kind."
Hayden's revelation appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt the New York Times, which informed the CIA on Wednesday evening that it planned to publish a story about the destruction of the tapes.
Hayden said he was informing staff because the press had learnt about the destruction of the tapes.
Protesters outside the US justice department
re-enacted waterboarding in November [EPA]
Hayden's revelation comes a day after the US congress agreed to ban techniques such as waterboarding – where a detainee undergoes similar conditions as drowning – a method of interrogation believed to be filmed on the tapes.
He said the CIA began taping the interrogations as an internal check on the programme after George Bush, the US president, authorised the use of harsh questioning methods.
The methods included waterboarding, government officials said.
"The agency was determined that it proceed in accord with established legal and policy guidelines. So, on its own, CIA began to videotape interrogations," Hayden said in a written message to CIA employees.
The CIA - headed at the time by Porter Goss - also decided to destroy the tapes in "the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them", Hayden wrote, adding that videotaping of the interrogations stopped in 2002.
"The tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the programme, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and its sympathisers," Hayden's message said.
The CIA says it only taped the interrogation of the first two suspects it held, one of whom was Abu Zubaydah, who told CIA interrogators about alleged September 11 accomplice Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bush said in 2006.
Al-Shibh was captured and interrogated and, together with Zubaydah's information, he led to the 2003 capture of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the suspected al-Qaeda operative held at Guantanamo who has claimed to be behind the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.
Meanwhile, witness testimony has been heard for the first time since the US began prosecuting Guantanamo suspects.
A US major testified that Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, was driving a car that contained two small rockets when he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001.
The hearing will determine whether Hamdan, who says he is not an al-Qaeda member or fighter, an "unlawful enemy combatant" who should be tried before a military tribunal.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
One Iraqi civilian has been killed and another three wounded after US troops opened fire on a car north of Baghdad, the US military shas aid.
The US military said in a statement on Tuesday that the shooting took place a day earlier after a vehicle approached troops at Tarmiyah, 60km north of Baghdad.
"Coalition forces fired warning shots to get the vehicle to stop, but it continued to maneouvre towards them at a high rate of speed," it said.
"A second set of warning shots was fired, but the driver again did not comply."
'Perceived hostile intent'
The statement added: "Perceiving hostile intent, coalition forces engaged, wounding the four passengers inside the vehicle.
"The four individuals were evacuated to a military medical facility to receive treatment, but one died during transport."
Major Anton Alston, US military spokesman, said the deaths were "regrettable".
The incident came one week after nine civilians, including three women and a child, were reported killed by US forces firing on vehicles in three separate incidents.
Meanwhile, the SITE Intelligence Group said that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, had ordered in a new bombing campaign in an audio message broadcast on the internet.
"This campaign should be based on explosives and its target should be the apostates ... wearing uniforms and all those who fight alongside the occupiers," he said.
"Every soldier is to detonate at least three bombs by the end of the campaign."
The message is his first since Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, in October called on the leaders of Iraq groups to bury rivalries and unite to fight against the US-led coalition.
The US military has said that the group only exists on the internet and al-Baghdadi was a "fictitious leader" created to give an Iraqi face to an organisation led by foreigners.
Al-Qaeda-linked fighters have been facing increased opposition from Sunni "Awakening Councils" in recent months as they have formed neighbourhood police forces supported by the Americans.
Casualties have dropped sharply in the past two months and attacks have reportedly fallen by 55 per cent.
The US military says the improvement is partly as a result of 30,000 extra US troops which became fully operational in mid-June.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Dozens of youths clashed with police in a Paris suburb on Sunday night after two teenagers were killed in a traffic accident with a police car.
The authorities boosted security in Villiers-le-Bel, a town north of the capital, where youths set fire to the town's police station. Another police station in neighbouring Arnouville-les-Gonesse was ransacked.
Two teenagers aged 15 and 16 riding a stolen motorcycle were killed in a collision with a police vehicle in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday, triggering the unrest.
Police said there were reports of looting and of "small groups attacking shops, passers-by and car drivers".
Firemen doused flames that engulfed a garage in Villiers before it could spread to a neighbouring garage and a nearby petrol station.
Nicolas Carrier, the mayor's chief of staff, told Reuters: "The situation is tense tonight. We do not know how it will evolve during the night."
French television showed burning rubbish bins and the charred wreckage of a car at the scene, while witnesses said they saw Molotov cocktails being prepared.
At least seven policemen and a fireman were injured in the incident, a local official said, adding that a youth has been arrested for suspected robbery.
In November 2005, two immigrant youths fleeing the police in Clichy-Sous-Bois a suburb northeast of Paris died after being electrocuted in an electrical sub-station, sparking the worst urban unrest France had seen in 40 years.
But a police union source said the circumstances in Sunday's case were different.
"It was not a chase but apparently a traffic accident," he said.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
More than a dozen fires blazed from north of Los Angeles to the Mexican border, 240km south, destroying more than 1,500 buildings, blotting out the sun with smoke and raining ash on the streets.
Most of the destroyed homes were in the southern end of the state near San Diego, where three major wildfires burned.
The flames, fanned by fierce desert winds, claimed their second victim as they burned for a third day.
|California in flames|
More than 500,000 people evacuated
Emergency declared in most of
Emergency declared in most of
Two dead and dozens more injured, including firefighters
Kirk Humphries, San Diego Fire Captain, said: "If it's this big and blowing with as much wind as it's got, it'll go all the way to the ocean before it stops."
"We can save some stuff but we can't stop it."
|A satellite image showing fire hotspots|
across California [Reuters/Nasa]
Schwarzenegger also asked George Bush, US president, to upgrade the wildfires to a "major disaster", which would trigger federal help.
According to Ron Lane, San Diego county emergency services director, damages from the wildfires are expected to exceed $1bn.
He said: "Based on initial estimates, just the homes damaged will be over $1 billion."
State officials estimate that the fires have covered at least 1,510 sq kilometres.
"All of us across this nation are concerned for the families who have lost their homes and the many families who have been evacuated from their homes," he said.
"We send the help of the federal government."
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
At least 11 members of one Afghan family have been killed in a Nato-led air raid in Wardak province near the capital Kabul, according to local officials.
The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said on Tuesday that it was probing the claims, while the Afghan defence ministry said it was "12 enemies" that had been killed.
"In the bombardment ... 11 people from one family, including women and children were killed," Haji Janan, provincial council leader, told Reuters news agency.
"The only survivor from the family is a man who is hospitalised and can't speak."
Janan also said that eleven of the family's neighbours were wounded in the air raid in the town of Jalrez, 30km west of the capital.
"As of this moment we don't have reports of civilian casualties," Major Charles Anthony, Isaf spokesman, said.
He said about 50 "anti-government militants" were trying to set up an ambush before fighter aircraft dropped two bombs on their position on Monday.
Anthony said soldiers had been on the ground to guide the bombs to their targets. He said Isaf had "no evidence" that the bombs hit a housing compound.
A US-funded survey meanwhile said that Afghans feel that security has deteriorated since last year and is the biggest problem facing the country.
Afghanistan is experiencing its worst bout of violence since the Taliban were removed from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
About 46 per cent of adults identified the ongoing violence, which has killed a reported 5,200 people since the start of the year, as Afghanistan's main problem, while 29 per cent said it was unemployment.
"In the 2006 survey, it was unemployment first, followed by security and corruption, and this time around it is security first followed by unemployment and poor economy," the Asia Foundation said in the survey funded by the US agency for international development.
"This further underlines the deterioration in security in the eyes of the common Afghans."
However, despite concerns about the rise in violence, many people thought Afghanistan was heading in the right direction and that life had improved since the Taliban's rule in the 1990s.
About 80 per cent of the more than 6,000 respondents also said that they had confidence in the Afghanistan's national army and the country's police force.
The survey was conducted in all of Aghanistan's 34 provinces and was the largest comprehensive opinion poll ever conducted in the country
Friday, October 19, 2007
An explosion in a crowded shopping centre has killed at least eight people and wounded 80 more in the Philippine capital, Manila, police say.
Police initially thought the lunch-time blast at the Glorietta centre had been caused by an exploding cooking gas cylinder, but later discounted that theory.
They said bomb squad detectives were trying to ascertain what caused Friday's explosion.
Norberto Gonzales, the Philippines national security adviser, described it as "the biggest bombing" in Manila so far.
He told Al Jazeera that police and military experts were looking into what kind of bomb was used to give an indication of what group could be behind it.
"We have fielded more than 2,000 police officers in the entire national capital region to increase the security measures," he said.
Speaking from the site after the blast, Al Jazeera's correspondent Marga Ortigas said: "The shopping mall lights are completely shut. The people are not being allowed in.
"Very few rescue workers are now working as they are afraid the foundation of the bomb site might collapse.
"They are worried there are still people buried under piles of rubble."
A general alert was issued for the rest of the city and for the international airport, officials said.
Jonjon Binay, a city councillor, said four people died immediately and four more died in hospital.
Blocks of cement had fallen from an upper storey of the shopping centre, hitting cars parked below and spreading a film of dust. Scores of windows in nearby shops were shattered.
A security guard said: "I was eating lunch when the ground shook. I thought it was an earthquake. Then the electricity went off."
Manila has largely been spared a spate of bomb attacks by
Muslim separatists have been fighting in the southern Mindanao region, but few attacks have been carried out in the capital. A series of bomb blasts in 2000 killed at least 22 people.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Foreign security guards have killed two Iraqi women by opening fire on their car in the capital, Baghdad.
too close to the convoy
and police said warning was given
before the firing [AFP]
An Iraqi government spokesman said an investigation was under way.
The shooting came the same day as Iraq's government demanded that a US security company, Blackwater, pay $8m each to families of 17 people killed in a shooting in September. An Iraqi investigation into that incident found that the guards were unprovoked when they opened "deliberate" fire.
Tuesday's shooting occurred near Unity offices in central Baghdad's Karradah district.
Michael Priddin, Unity's chief operating officer, issued a statement saying: "We deeply regret this incident and will continue to pass on further information when the facts have been verified and the necessary people and authorities notified."
The company further said: "The first information that we have is that our security team was approached at speed by a vehicle which failed to stop despite an escalation of warnings which included hand signals and a signal flare.
"Finally shots were fired at the vehicle and it stopped."
Iraqi police said guards threw a smoke bomb in an apparent bid to warn the car against coming forward.
Several witnesses said the car had moved too close to the convoy.
Ammar Fallah, a shopkeeper and witness to the shooting, said that the guards, who were escorting a civilian convoy through the streets, signalled for a woman driving a white Oldsmobile car to pull over as they passed.
"When she failed to do so they opened fire, killing her and the woman next to her," he said. "There were two children in the back seat but they were not harmed. The women were both shot in the head."
Another witness, Sattar Jabar, said the car had "tried to avoid the convoy of four white SUVs of the foreigners, but it came close to the last vehicle, which then opened fire immediately".
Jabar confirmed that two women were killed, but said a third woman in the back seat had been wounded in the shoulder and one of the children had been struck by flying glass.
Reining in 'gangsters'
A policeman who heard the shots and came running to the scene said that after the shooting the security guards "rode away like gangsters".
The Iraqi government said on Monday it was determined to rein in private security contractors following the Blackwater shooting.
"We have set strict mechanisms to control the behaviour of the security companies and their conduct in the streets," Abdul Karim Khalaf, an interior ministry spokesman, said.
The role of private security companies operating in Iraq has been under investigation since September 16, when Blackwater guards escorting a convoy of US diplomats opened fire in Baghdad's Nisoor Square.
An Iraqi government probe of the incident, which it said killed 17 civilians, found that the guards were not provoked and accused them of a "deliberate" crime.
"Employees of the company violated the rules governing use of force by security companies. They have committed a deliberate crime and should be punished under the law."
The Iraqi government would now take "judicial measures to punish the company", the statement added.
Blackwater, one of the biggest security firms working in Iraq with around 1,000 employees, is employed to protect US government personnel in the country.
It maintains its men were legitimately responding to an ambush while escorting a US state department convoy.
Iraqi and US officials have set up a joint commission
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Israeli radio reported: "The military censor has authorised for the first time the publication of the fact that Israeli combat planes attacked a military target deep inside Syrian territory on September 6."
David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in
Chater reported: "No other details about the scale of the mission, the intent or what intelligence it was based on have been released."
Israeli military censors continue to withhold details, but
at least four Israeli warplanes crossed into
With the Israeli blackout on information in place, most of the speculation on the raid has come from foreign media.
Chater said: "Press speculation - in the foreign press, not in the Israeli press - has said perhaps there was nuclear technology imported from
A North Korean ship was reported as docking in
"This kind of speculation is bound to increase now," said Chater.
Faruq al-Shara, the Syrian vice-president, said on Saturday that the raid was meant to provide justification for future aggression against his country.
"Those who continue to talk about this raid and to invent inaccurate details are aiming to justify a future aggression [against
Some earlier reports had suggested that the raid may have targeted Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah in
Peace talks between the two powers collapsed in 2000 over the scope of an Israeli pull-out from the Golan Heights, which
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Despite talk of progress in
His father, his mother and his sister - herself a mother of four young children - were killed, he says, by US marines.
When they came to this street, the Americans may have been looking for those they call "insurgents" and "terrorists".
But by the time they had left, an elderly couple and a 30-year-old woman were dead.
"When I turned to my mother, she asked me: 'Where is your father?' I told her he is dead," Amar told Al Jazeera.
"She screamed and ran to the front gate [because] his body was just one metre in front of the gate. When my mother got there the American soldiers opened fire again [and] she was shot dead."
The family live in
For the last four years, the Americans have mounted frequent raids here looking for armed fighters - supporters of the Shia cleric Muqtadr al-Sadr.
It is easy to see on the streets of the neighbourhood what is left behind after one of those raids - lines of cars mown down by American armour.
"Seeking compensation is useless," one man tells Al Jazeera.
"They have no respect for humanity, the civilian population, Islam or Muslims."
Al Jazeera has spoken to other people who, like the Khadim family, have claimed that innocent relatives have been killed by Americans raids.
However, they were too scared to appear on camera.
But more than two months after their relatives were killed and despite approaching the
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The UN has urged
| || |
The Israeli move to cut off the power, water and fuel supplies on which
The Israeli prime minister's office said Ehud Olmert's security cabinet had approved the "enemy entity" classification and there would be "limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity".
The move is seen as retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire.
| || |
"Such a step would be contrary to
Ban said 1.4 million people in
At the same time he said continued rocket fire from
Rice assured "innocent Palestinians in
Israel's move on Gaza was backed by the US on Wednesday, with Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, saying the Hamas was "a hostile entity to the US as well".
Speaking in a joint press conference with Livni in occupied
"We will not abandon the innocent Palestinians in
Rice is on a visit to the
The Israelis and Palestinians, however, have very different expectations of the talks.
Israeli leaders are seeking a softer joint declaration rather than a binding deal while the Palestinians are pushing for a firmer "framework agreement" on core issues of borders, the status of
'Declaration of war'
Tensions have been on the rise in the area since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. Hamas responded to the Israeli government's announcement saying the move amounted to a "declaration of war".
But Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator and spokesman for the West Bank-based government, told Al Jazeera the Israeli move was "illegal and null and void".
"At the end of the day, it will not end the cycle of violence but complicate matters and breed more violence," he added.
Sunday, September 16, 2007