24.01.2011 France is investigating Ben Ali assets
The Paris state prosecutor’s office has issued a statement that they have opened a preliminary investigation into the property assets belonging to Zine al-Abidine in France when after three rights group filed a legal case against the former President. The groups; Sherpa, Transparency International France and the Arab Commission for Human Rights, accuse Mr Ben Ali of corruption, misusing public funds and money-laundering. Ben Ali, who has sought refuge in Saudi Arabia, has not so far commented on the allegations. Last week, Tunisian prosecutors decided to investigate the foreign assets of Ben Ali and his family, including illegal transactions and foreign bank accounts. 33 members of Ben Ali family were also arrested before they managed to leave the country, under suspicion that they might have plundered the nation’s sources. All this was sparked by Swiss officials who ordered to freeze all the funds Ben Ali had to ensure that a new Tunisian government would be able to retrieve any assets in case they were taken illicitly.
Gaza-based group behind church bombing
Egypt claims that a small Palestinian group with links to Al-Qaeda was behind the New Year’s Day bombing in Alexandria which resulted in 23 people being killed. According to Interior Minister Habib al-Adli, Cairo has “decisive proof” that the group carried out the attack but the group denied all responsibility so far.
Karbala, Iraq – Two separate car bombs kills 25
The attacks in Karbala happened as millions of Shia pilgrims gathered together to mark the end a 40 day of mourning period for the death of one of Shia sect’s most prominent figures, Imam Hussein in a 7th century battle. The first bomb exploded at a bus terminal at the al-Ibrahimi area, 12.5 miles (20km) east of the city killing 7 and injuring more than 18. Four hours later, a second car bomb struck some 9 miles (15km) south of the city killing 18 and injuring more than 50 people. Last week was one of the bloodiest as three suicide bombers killed 56 people and wounded 180 others. During the holy period, police officials have imposed vehicle ban in Karbala, so pilgrims are dropped off in car parks and walks in.
Moscow, Russia – Suicide bomber in Russian airport kills 31
More than 31 people was killed and more than 100 injured on Monday as a suicide bomber hit the busiest airport 40 km (25 miles) South East in Moscow. The blast happened at the baggage reclaim area of the international arrivals hall and Russia’s chief investigator said that the explosion was the work of terrorists and the President has ordered to increase the security across Russia’s capital and at other airports as he called an emergency meeting with top officials. March, last year, Moscow’s underground system was a target when two female suicide bombers from Dagestan region detonated their explosives on the busy metro system during a rush hour killing 40 and injuring more than 80 people.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Kidnapped former Pakistan intelligence agent dies
The once kidnapped former Pakistani agent Col. Sultan Amir Tarar (Col. Imam) who once worked together with the CIA and became a Taliban supporter has died in North Waziristan, one of the districts of Pakistan’s tribal region by the Afghan border. Some Pakistani media have reported that Tarar was killed by his captors but it is not certain how he died. Tarar was kidnapped last year while he was travelling to Pakistan’s tribal region with another former Pakistani intelligence agent, Khalid Khawaja and a Pakistani filmmaker they acted as guides for. The kidnappers demanded the release of three Afghan Taliban leaders in return for the release of three hostages but in April last year, Pakistani officials confirmed that they found Khawaja’s body in a village in North Waziristan. He was shot three times in the chest and a letter was found next to him accused him of being a government spy signed by a little known militant group called the Asian Tigers. “This is Khalid Khawaja who has been working for ISI and the CIA, the biggest enemy of Muslims,” the letter said, referring to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s top spy agency, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
In September, Pakistani government officials said the filmmaker had been released but could not give any details of Tarar’s whereabouts and condition. Tarar was a retired ISI member and played a vital role with the CIA in training the Afghan mujahedeen during the 1980’s against the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union drew out, Tarar became a strong supporter of the Taliban regime in Kabul and criticized the U.S. government and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan after 9/11.
6.1 magnitude earthquakes hit Tajikistan
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit Tajikistan on Monday and the quake’s epicentre was 90 km (55miles) southwest of Karakul, Tajikistan. The earthquake was also felt in parts of Pakistan such as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Kashmir, Islamabad, Lahore and Faisalabad. Monday morning’s quake was not related to an earthquake that hit Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Wednesday.
25.01.2011 Protesters in Egypt clashed with police
Thousands were reported to join the protests after an internet campaign inspired by the same in Tunisia as they marched in Cairo chanting anti-government slogans such as “down with Mubarak”. Some chants also referred to Mubarak’s son Gamal, who is believed to be groomed as his father’s successor. There was a series of violent confrontations including in front of the parliament building where police with riot shields, tear gas and water cannon clashed with protesters who were throwing rockets. There were also reports of protests in Alexandria and Ismailia. Egypt has had many of the same problems that the Tunisians had regarding food prices, high unemployment and frustration over corruption.
Beirut, Lebanon – Hezbollah backed Najib Mikati appointed as PM
Lebanon’s president appointed Najib Mikati who is backed by the Shia Islamist group Hezbollah and its allies as prime minister despite all the demonstrations from thousands of supporters of the outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri. This has raised concern among many Sunni Muslims as they are worried about Hezbollah’s growing political power and accuse Hezbollah for being supported by Iran for staging a coup. Only 68 out of 125 members of the parliament expressed support for Mikati. After his appointment, Mikati said he hoped that the new government would serve all of Lebanon and protect its unity and sovereignty. Lebanon has a power sharing system and the post of Prime Minister is reserved for a Sunni, the President must be a Maronite Christian and the speaker of the parliament, a Shia. “I am not at all related to Hezbollah by any means, I am a moderate politician and I am always at equal distance from everybody,” he said. Hezbollah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, meanwhile urged him to form a coalition including all political and sectarian factions. The protesters anger increased because they think that they have been outmanoeuvred by Hezbollah, and it was triggered by allegations that Hezbollah figures were behind Rafik Hariri’s murder. The question now is what kind of Prime Minister Mikati will be and what kind of government he will head.
Lahore & Karachi, Pakistan – Shias target of a suicide bomber
9 people, including three police officers were killed and over 50 people injured when a suicide bomber detonated his bomb. The victims were taking part in a Shia Muslim procession and the blast took place in a Shia marked to mark the end of their holy month, Muharram. According to a senior police officer, the bomber was around 13-16 year old boy who tried to rush in and throw a bag into the crowd. When he was stopped, he blew himself up. Meanwhile a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed two policemen in the Southern city of Karachi. Two policemen were killed and several casualties were said to be in a critical condition. A police officer said the bomber had tried to hit a bus carrying Shia devotees but the attacker targeted a police Jeep instead after it blocked his way.
Kabul, Afghanistan – 6 Pakistanis accused of plotting attacks arrested
Six Pakistani men accused of being terrorists and planning suicide attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul was arrested according to a statement from the spokesman of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. At a press conference Tuesday, Lutfullah Mashal said the terrorist group was the main group responsible for the biggest attacks in Kabul. “After investigations we found out that all the six terrorists were from Pakistan and they were linked with Sirajuddin Haqani Network,” Lutfullah Mashal said. Sirajuddin Haqqani, or Siraj Haqqani, is a senior Taliban commander and a long-time ally of al Qaeda; the group operates on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “This is not the only terrorist group which was working in Kabul, but we hope with the arrest of this main terrorist group, the level of terrorist attacks will decrease,” Mashal added.
Tehran, Iran – Iran hangs 2 men who made videos of post-election turmoil
Two men were hanged on Monday for their actions during the post-election protests in 2009. The men were described as terrorists and members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) by the Iranian Press TV. Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aqaei were hanged “for distributing placards and photos of the terrorist group, making videos and images during the post-election unrest in Iran in 2009 and chanting slogans in favour of the MKO,” the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. In August 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Iranian government to stop the executions of the men who were “exercising their right to free expression.”
26.01.2011 Kabul, Afghanistan, Parliament opened
President Hamid Karzai failed to delay the opening of the parliament to investigate the September’s disputed election as the elected MPs claimed that it was unconstitutional and they were backed by the international community which was worried the standoff could spill onto the streets. Analysts say that Karzai is not happy with the results of the parliamentary poll, which has produced a lower house with a larger, more vocal and coherent opposition. The 249-member lower house of parliament – the Wolesi Jirga – was originally scheduled to open on Sunday.
“With regard to holding election, safeguarding the people’s votes, preventing abuse and foreign interventions, we have been facing serious problems,” he told MPs.
Tunis, Tunisia – Revolt erupting
About 800 people have been arrested throughout Egypt in the anti-government protests. Police clashed with the protesters in two different cities. One protester and one policeman was killed in Cairo, while in Suez, a government building was set on fire and the interior ministry stated that public gatherings will not be tolerated anymore. Protesters have been inspired by the uprising in Tunisia as they vowed to stay on the streets until the government falls. They have been using social networking sites to call for fresh demonstrations but Twitter and Facebook has been blocked from time to time. The government has denied that they have anything to do with the blocking of the webpage’s. “I want to see an end to this dictatorship, 30 years of Mubarak is enough – we’ve had enough of the state of emergency, prices are going up and up,” Mostapha al-Shafey, Protester.
- Egyptian Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid cancels his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
- Activists have called on protesters to observe “Anger Friday”, by going to rallies after praying in mosques and churches
- In the northern city of Machala, police have cordoned off the headquarters of the Democratic Front opposition party, which is threatening a hunger strike
- Hundreds have been arrested in Alexandria, activists say, as police prevent organised rallies
- Following a “day of revolt” across Egypt on Tuesday, in which four people died, protesters attempted to stage new demonstrations in Cairo on Wednesday.
- Police moved to break up demonstrations as they happened
- There were scuffles outside the journalists’ union building in central Cairo as hundreds of people gathered to protest.
- Police beat some with batons and fired tear gas when they tried to break through a cordon.
- Protesters burned tyres and threw stones at police.
- Reuter’s news agency reported more clashes outside a central court complex in the city.
- Witnesses said riot police had been charging demonstrators throughout the day wherever in Cairo they happened to gather.
- Doctors said a policeman and a protester were killed in the clashes, apparently during stone-throwing in a poor neighbourhood of the city.
- However, security officials said the deaths were unrelated to the protests.
- Meanwhile, in the eastern city of Suez, protesters threw petrol bombs at a government building, setting parts of it on fire, witnesses said.
- The headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party in the city was also attacked.
- Earlier, protests were held outside the morgue where the body of a victim of Tuesday’s protests was being kept. At least 55 people were injured in the city.
- One of Tuesday’s demonstrators, Mostapha al-Shafey, told the BBC he planned to join protests again on Wednesday.
- “I want to see an end to this dictatorship. Thirty years of Mubarak is enough. We’ve had enough of the state of emergency. Prices are going up and up,” he said.
- Demonstrations are illegal in Egypt, which has been ruled by President Mubarak since 1981. The government tolerates little dissent and opposition demonstrations are routinely outlawed.
- Social media’s role
- Tuesday’s protests were co-ordinated through a Facebook page, where organisers say they are taking a stand against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment. One page called for protesters all over Egypt to gather after prayers on Friday.
- However, Wednesday brought reports that Facebook was being blocked inside Egypt.
- Twitter also played a key part, with supporters inside and outside Egypt using the search term #jan25 to post news on Tuesday, but it was blocked later in the day.
- BBC technology correspondent Mark Gregory said that while this clampdown had undoubtedly restricted access to information, technically minded protesters had found ways of evading the restrictions.
- Many have stayed in touch by routing their messages through proxy servers – web facilities based in other countries.
- The government blamed the violence on the banned Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, although this group was reported to have been ambivalent about the protests.
- One opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, had called on Egyptians to take part in the protests.
- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications including on social media sites.
- “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”
- Tunisia’s President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power and fled the country earlier this month, after weeks of protests in which dozens of people were killed.
- Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia – rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption.
- However, the population of Egypt has a much lower level of education than Tunisia. Illiteracy is high and internet penetration is low.
- There are deep frustrations in Egyptian society, our Cairo correspondent says, adding that Egypt is widely seen to have lost power, status and prestige in the three decades of President Mubarak’s rule.
27.01.2011 Baghdad, Iraq – 40 people killed in bombing
A series of bombings left 40 people dead and a dozen wounded in different neighbourhoods. At least 37 people were killed and 78 wounded when a parked car bomb detonated near a funeral tent in the Shiite neighbourhood of Shula in northwest Baghdad. The blasts came after Wednesday night’s assassination of three government employees by gunmen using pistols equipped with silencers in three neighbourhoods in Baghdad. Two of the three government employees worked at Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the third employee worked at the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction. A roadside bomb exploded next to a police patrol in southern Baghdad, killing a civilian and wounding seven people, including three police officers. In another attack in south-eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded near a government convoy. It missed the convoy but killed one civilian and wounded three others. In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded on a busy road, killing one civilian and wounding four others.
Australia – Aftermaths and costs of the flood
The cost of repairing the flood damage in Australia will cost AUS $5.6 billion (US $5.58 billion), according to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who proposed a one-year tax to help fund the reconstruction.”The great floods of this summer have been a national tragedy, not just a natural disaster, because of the awful loss of human life,” Gillard said Thursday. “The great floods of this summer have destroyed billions of dollars of wealth and robbed us of billions of dollars of income. In time they may prove to be the most expensive disaster in Australian history.”
Gillard said the money will come from $2.8 billion (US $2.79 billion) in spending cuts, $1 billion (US $995.6 million) in delayed infrastructure projects and $1.8 billion (US $1.79 billion) raised through a progressive, one-year income tax on people earning more than $50,000. Flooding in Australia, primarily in the state of Queensland, has affected more than 3 million people, making it one of the most costly disasters in the nation, the federal treasurer said over the weekend. The floods have devastated crops, tourism, retail and manufacturing, and have disrupted major urban areas like Brisbane, according to Swan.
Davos, Switzerland – Davos hotel hit by a minor blast
There was a small explosion at the Post Hotel Morosani in Davos which is hosting the high-powered annual World Economic Forum this week. Fon Mahturos, a WEF spokesman, said “a small firework went off at the back entrance” of the hotel. One window was damaged, and police are investigating but the hotel is fully operational and accessible as there were no reports of injuries. Someone at the hotel for a meeting said the blast was so minor that most guests and visitors would not know that anything had happened.
Lahore, Pakistan – Us diplomat kills two Pakistanis
An American diplomat in the Pakistani city of Lahore has shot and killed a Pakistani motorcycle rider and his pillion passenger in self-defence as the men were pursuing the diplomat’s vehicle police said. A pedestrian was also killed by a speeding car from the US consulate which came to help, and the police is now investigating whether the two men on the motorcycle were robbers as weapons has been recovered from the bodies. The American diplomat had stopped at a traffic light when the two men stopped near his car. Local TV has also showed footage of the American official’s car and it had several bullet holes in the windscreen. He had used a wireless radio to call for help immediately after the shooting and a second consular car came to help. The diplomat was taken into custody by the police. Officials at the US embassy in Islamabad said that they are still investigating the incident and cannot comment further. More than 100 people blocked the road after the incident by setting tires on fire to protest against the killing. The protest later moved to picket the police station where the car involved in the incident was impounded. Now this incident may bring more to the anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. Questions are certain to be asked as to why the American was carrying arms and why, if he was a diplomat, he was not provided with armed protection.
Sanaa, Yemen – Thousands in the street demonstrating
Thousands of people were gathered in the streets as they called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after ruling for more than 30 years. This was followed by a mass demonstrating in Tunisia and Egypt. The protesters called for economic reforms and an end to the corruption as well as anti-government slogans. Yemenis has complained long about the increasing poverty growing among the young people and frustration over lack of political freedom. The country has also been plagued by a range of security issues, including a separatist movement in the south and an uprising of Shia Houthi rebels in the north. There are also fears that Yemen will become a leading Al-Qaeda haven because of the high number of unemployed youth seen as potential recruits.
Protesters gathered several locations of the city on Thursday morning shouting that it was time for change referring to Ben Ali. President Saleh, who is a western ally, became leader of North Yemen in 1978 has ruled since the North and South merged in 1990 and he was re-elected in 2006. Yemenis are angry over that Saleh might loosen the rules on presidential term limits and appoint himself as president for life as he also is accused to wanting to hand over the power to his eldest son, Ahmad who rejected this. “We are a republic. We reject bequeathing [the presidency],” he said in a televised address.
Economic and social problems
- Poorest country in the Middle East with 40% of Yemenis living on less than $2 (£1.25) a day
- More than two-thirds of the population under the age of 24
- Illiteracy stands at over 50%, unemployment at 35%
- Dwindling oil reserves and falling oil revenues; little inward investment
- Acute water shortage
- Weak central government
28.01.2011 Kabul, Afghanistan – Kabul’s finest supermarket hit by bomb attack
8 people have been killed when a suicide attacker detonated his bomb in a supermarket that is popular with foreigners in Kabul. The bomber opened fire in the store before detonating his explosives. The market is not far from the British embassy and located roundabout a police checkpoint and many stores that are armed with Afghan guards. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack stating “We claim responsibility for the attack, and it was carried out at a time when foreigners were shopping, including the head of a security company,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.
29.01.2011 Kandahar, Afghanistan – Kandahar deputy governor killed in suicide attack
A suicide bomber attacked Abdul Latif Ashma’s convoy as he was being driven to work in Kandahar city by slamming his motorcycle into the deputy governor’s car. The deputy governor died and three of his bodyguards were wounded.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Explosion in Pakistan
7 people died and 15 were wounded when a car bomb exploded in Kohat tunnel in Northwest Pakistan in the area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in late Friday.
Teheran, Iran – Dutch-Iranian woman hanged
The Dutch-Iranian woman, Sahra Bahrami, 46, was arrested after taking part of anti-government protests in Iran, has been hanged for drug smuggling. She was held in jail for 1 year after being arrested while she visited some relatives. Her execution is number 66 this year. During a search of her house, authorities found 450g cocaine and 420g opium, the Teheran prosecutor stated. They also added that Bahrami was a member of an international drug gang who smuggled cocaine into the country using her Dutch connections. Bahrami’s daughter has said that the drug charges were fabricated against her mother. “She doesn’t even smoke cigarettes, let alone possessing drugs. How could someone who participates in [post-] election gatherings and endanger her life, engage in such actions against her country?” Dutch officials were denied access to her because Tehran does not recognise her dual nationality. A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman has said that they could not yet confirm her death as they had yet to be approached by the Iranian authorities.
Cairo, Egypt – 50 people defy curfew
Tens of thousands gathered at Tahrir Square in Cairo. Al Jazeera has reported that over 100 people have been killed and over 1000 injured as well as cafés and shops have been looted. The police are no longer to be seen in Cairo. Reports have been saying that looters also have used weapons to occupy homes. Residents try to defend themselves and protect their homes. It has been speculated that several of the criminals were released by the authorities. 50 000 people defied the curfew and continued the demonstrations. As the whole city stands still, the authorities are losing control. Criminals also broke into Cairo’s museum and destroyed two Mummies Pharaohs late Friday but didn’t manage to steal anything as some residents blocked the entrance. The former Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei has been seen as a visible leader for the people and as an opposition leader. For the first since 1981, when Mubarak himself went from being vice President to take over power, he now appointed a Vice President. Omar Suleiman was until now the country’s intelligence chief. Previously it has been in the cards that Mubarak’s son Gamal Mubarak, was to be appointed new president ahead of the planned presidential election in years. Now the speculation of whether Suleiman is the Mubarak plan to take over at a later date. Mubarak is trying to meet the demands of the people about the reforms but Suleiman is one of the persons who will be accepting people in Egypt, said a representative from the Mubarak government party. Suleiman has also been a general in the army. In recent days the army has not attacked the demonstrators, unlike the police security forces. Omar Shafeeq, the former commander of Air Force, has been appointed the new Prime Minister.
Cairo, Egypt – Rumors say Mubarak’s family has left the country
There were rumours that Mubarak’s two sons had escaped the country during the ongoing demonstrations demanding their father to step down, but half an hour later this was denied by the Egyptian state channel. According to twitter messages, Gamal Mubarak was based in London planning a demonstration outside where he is believed to owe an apartment. Gamal Mubarak was seen as the successor to his father but after appointing Omar Suleiman, his chances are minor. Now other rumours say that 82 year old Mubarak has a failing health and sources say that he is dying.
Cairo, Egypt – 28 dead after one episode
The employees at the mortuary said that they received 28 dead bodies on Sunday when protesters tried to storm the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Most of them had died from gunshot wounds as the troops from inside the building opened fired. After first having attempted to drive away the protesters with rubber bullets and teargas, the police eventually used live ammunition. Eyewitnesses have also told that the snipers were on the roof of the building, firing at anyone attempting to approach. How many people exactly lost their lives during the fighting around the ministry building, and the violence in general is very uncertain but Al Jazeera has confirmed that at least 100 have died since Friday. The police brutality and they killing dozens of protesters has become a burden to the President. Neither the appointment of a new government cabinet, with his right hand Omar Suleiman as vice president, helped to calm fears as thousands of protesters defied the curfew last night which was introduced as early as at 4 o’clock. “There must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms,” wrote Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a joint request to Mubarak yesterday. “Avoid at all costs the use of violence against unarmed civilians,” admonished the three state leaders Mubarak.
30.01.2011 – The internet is about to run out of IP addresses
At the moment there are only 17,636,446 available IP addresses of the current format, according to calculations carried out by Hurricane Electric. The IP addresses are a group of numbers that make you unique on the internet as a phone number for computers and other Internet devices. It could be read on Hurricane Electric’s Twitter account; “It is about 4 days left to IPocalyse,“ and “the world is basically not ready to move from the current solution, IPv4, to tomorrow’s solution, IPv6.”
Juba, Southern Sudan – 99% wants to divide
Numbers show that 99% of the voters in South Sudan have voted yes to form their own state according to final figures. The official results of the count from the referendum earlier in January were presented by the Election Commission of Southern Sudan on Sunday. They show that a total of 98.83 per cent voted yes to secession. Only the votes from South show 99.57%. There have also been protests in Khartoum that has raised concerns. “Stability in the north is very important for the entire disengagement process. There is a widespread feeling in the world community that Bashir has delivered in relation to the referendum, which he should get “paid” for,” said a Minister. Bashir took power in Sudan in a military coup in 1989 and has ruled with a heavy hand side. The Sudanese president is both indicted for genocide and accused of corruption in the billions.