Archive for: July 2010

Three charged in Uganda bombings

Ref:A Ugandan court has charged three Kenyans for murdering 76 people during the World Cup final on July 11 in Kampala.

Al-Shabab praise deadly Uganda bombings

Hussein Hassan Agad, Mohamed Adan Abdow and Idris Magondu were charged on Friday before a Kampala magistrate’s court, but were not allowed to enter a plea.

They face 61 counts of murder for those killed in bomb blasts while watching the World Cup at the Kyadondo Rugby Club in the east of the Ugandan capital and 15 counts for those killed at an Ethiopian restaurant. The two blasts had been claimed by al-Shabab,the Somali armed group.

The Chief Magistrate said the accused were not allowed to enter a plea because the court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the crime of terrorism.

The three will reappear at the magistrate’s court on August 27, but will not be permitted to plead to the charges until Uganda’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions decides the case is ready to move to the High Court.

The men were escorted under heavy security to the court where charges were read to them in a session that lasted less than 15 minutes. They were then remanded to prison.

The charge sheet identified Agad as “a preacher of Islam,” while Magondu was identified as an employee of a trading company in Nairobi.

Asked on his way out of the court room if he was involved in the attacks, Magondu smiled and said “no”.

Al-Shabab claims

Friday’s charges were the first in relation to the Kampala bombings earlier in the month.

Police have previously said there was “very strong evidence” that the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

A police spokeswoman earlier on Friday said that several Pakistani citizens are still being held for questioning in connection with the blasts, but they have not been charged with any crimes.

At least one of the Pakistanis was identified in an email obtained by police as the Kampala-based coordinator for al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab said the attacks were carried out to punish Uganda for sending troops to Somalia as part of the African Union mission, which is supporting the fragile transition government of the Horn of Africa country.

Instead of beating a withdrawal, African leaders who wrapped up a summit in Kampala this week approved a troop surge for the Somali force to counter the armed groups seeking to topple the embattled Somali government.

AU commission chief Jean Ping said they had received pledges for 4,000 troops to beef up the force which currently comprises some 6,000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers.

However, some observers argue that more troops risk worsening the near-daily violence in Mogadishu and buttressing the rebels’ cause.

Previous military interventions by the United States and the United Nations in the early 1990s failed to quell Somalia’s conflict that has raged for nearly two decades.

Iraqis to sue US firm at Abu Ghraib

Ref:A US court has given the green light to 72 Iraqis to proceed with a lawsuit against a private contractor accused of complicity in the alleged abuse of detainees at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
US District Judge Peter Messitte ruled that the Iraqis can proceed in their case against L3 Communications and its unit formerly known as Titan Group, which provided interpreters to the US army in Iraq after the US invasion.

In the ruling obtained on Friday, the judge said the alleged actions by the company “arguably violated the laws of war such that they are not immune from suit under the laws of war”.

“Further, the suit does not raise a political question since this is a suit against private actors which does not implicate the separation of powers issues which the political question doctrine is meant to protect,” the judge added.

The 72 former prisoners released after being imprisoned for between one month and four years from 2003 to 2008, accuse L3 employees of beatings, torture, sexual aggression, the use of electric shock, mock executions and hangings from their feet.

‘Profited from misery’

Plaintiff lawyer Susan Burke said that as a result of the ruling “these innocent men are a step closer to completing the true history of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison”.

“These men were senselessly tortured by a company that profited from their misery,” she added.

L3, which had argued the company was immune from litigation because it was acting under the aegis of the US government, may appeal the decision.

Up to now, the only cases that have concluded in the Abu Ghraib affair have been in military courts.

Eleven soldiers have been found guilty and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison in the case which was a huge setback for the United States’ image when photos were released showing naked and hooded prisoners beaten bloody and being made to commit humiliating acts such as human pyramids or simulating homosexual sex.

Soldiers also posed with the prisoners in humiliating positions.

Indonesia mob attacks Muslim sect

Ref:Indonesian police have clashed with about 200 people trying to attack a mosque used by a minority Islamic sect known as Ahmadiya.
The mob hurled stones at the mosque in Manislor village in Kuningan district in West Java, prompting an hour-long confrontation with police, a local Ahmadiya official said.

“About 200 people pelted stones at our mosque and clashed with the police for about an hour. It is not clear yet who was the organiser of the mob,” Nurahim, the local general secretary of the sect, told the AFP news agency.

“The police were able to secure the mosque and handle the people. The situation, however, is still tense now.”

Nurahim said the village’s 3,000 Ahmadiyah followers were ready to help the police if needed but would not respond to the violence.

“We had a similar experience before in 2007, in which our mosque and houses were attacked. A house was burned and several were damaged at the time,” he said.

The Ahmadiyah sect, which claims 500,000 followers in Indonesia, believes that its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the final prophet and not Mohammad, contradicting a central tenet of mainstream Islam.

Ahmad claimed to be a reincarnation of Prophet Mohammad, a claim rejected by Muslim authorities and scholars.

He also claimed to to be the Christian messiah. His sect believes that Jesus did not die on the cross, but he moved to India where he died at the age of 120.

Indonesia’s top Islamic body issued a fatwa in 2008 describing the sect as “deviant”.

Ahmadiyah has had a presence in the country since the 1920s.

Police action subdues RMG protests

Ref:Over 200 people, including at least 20 policemen, were injured in sporadic clashes with readymade garment workers at Ashulia on Saturday.

Dhaka district’s additional police superintendent Mozammel Haque told that he himself, Dhaka’s SP Iqbal Bahar, Savar circle’s assistant superintendent of police Monwar Hossain and Ashulia police chief Sirajul Islam were among the injured.

Traffic has already resumed on Dhaka-Tangail highway from around 2:15pm as the police managed to force the workers off the highway. Read more →

Malaysia hit show picks 'Imam Muda'

Ref:A hit Malaysian television show which has gained international attention has announced a winner in its talent search for an imam, or Muslim religious leader.

Muhammad Asyraf Mohamad Ridzuan, 26, a religious scholar, was named the winner of the Imam Muda (Young Imam) programme on Friday, after he beat Hizbur Rahman Omar Zuhdi, a 27-year-old religious teacher, in the finale.

He won funding for a trip to Mecca to perform the hajj pilgrimage, a scholarship to al-Madinah University in Saudi Arabia, and a job at a Malaysian mosque.

Eight other contestants were eliminated during the 10-week series which began in May and grew hugely popular in the predominantly Muslim Southeast Asian country.

The show – the first of its kind – follows the reality-TV formula similar to “American Idol” in the US and “The X Factor” in Britain, and has apparently ignited new enthusiasm for Islam among Malaysia’s Muslim youth.

“I feel good. Thanks to my parents, my wife and my fellow villagers who have been supporting me,” Asyraf told studio audience at the end of the show aired live over Islamic lifestyle channel Astro Oasis.

Religious youth

Speaking to reporters later Asyraf said: “Our target is not just personal victory but the victory of a society and the victory of Islam itself. It has brought the youth closer to religion,” he said, adding that his immediate plan was to set up a “Young Imam club”.

Stephanie Scawen reports on the show that has won international attention

The 10 finalists, all men chosen from 1,000 contestants, were given a variety of challenges including preparing an HIV-positive corpse for burial and counselling marriage partners.

They faced written and practical tests on religion each week, and were isolated in a mosque dormitory – banned from using phones, the internet and television.

In the finale, the two finalists were tested on reciting the Quran, presenting a sermon, singing religious hymns and answering questions from the programme’s sole judge, a former grand imam of Malaysia’s national mosque.

The show became a major hit, attracting worldwide interest, while the creators of the programme were thrilled by its success in achieving their goal of making Islam more appealing to young people.

“When we talk about imams, the first impression is always someone who is old-fashioned or just does his work in the mosque,” Adam Riyadz, a 21-year-old journalism student, told AFP on the sidelines of the show.

“But with this show, it is easier for me to relate to what the young imams are trying to tell us,” said Adam, who travelled for two hours from another state to watch the finale with five fellow students.

Imams play a broad role in Malaysia – where some 60 per cent of the 28 million population are Muslim – including leading prayers at mosques and offering counselling.

Hasina warns against RMG anarchy

Ref: Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has threatened to take stern measures against those responsible for creating unrest in the readymade garment sector.

Her deputy spokesperson Mahbubul Haque Shakil said that the prime minister had said that there would be zero-tolerance for those who create anarchy in the industry.

Hasina was speaking by teleconference on Saturday at the inauguration at Tungipara’s Bangabandhu Poverty Alleviation Complex of two projects set up by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s (BGMEA) human resource development programme.

“The minimum wage has been increased to Tk 3,000 from Tk 1,600 after making the owner’s agree through my personal initiative. Such activities, even after that, are designed to destroy the country’s garment sector,” she added.

She questioned, “Who will benefit if the industry that earns the bread of workers is destroyed? Workers should not involve themselves in activities that might put their source of income at risk, because if the sector closes down due to the anarchy they will become unemployed.”

“Workers should concentrate on their work after accepting the new minimum wage. Their reasonable demands will be addressed after the effects of the world economic depression are over and exports increase,” Hasina added.

Addressing workers, she asked, “If anyone raises the demand to reimburse damages to privately-owned residences, vehicles and offices from workers pay, what will you say?”

The prime minister added that those who are fuelling this anarchy are enemies of the people and the state.

“Initiatives are being taken to search them out and take steps against them,” Hasina added.

She urged owners to be more understanding and sincere about workers’ problems and said that the government will subsidise supply of rice and wheat for the garment workers’ ration.

Al-Shabab threatens AU peacekeepers

The armed group leading the fight against Somalia’s beleagured transitional government has warned that it will turn Mogadishu into a “graveyard” for extra African Union troops sent to the country.

Al-Shabab, which has been accused of links to al-Qaeda, warned that a decision earlier this week to send extra troops to the Horn of Africa nation would only strengthen their resolve to overthrow the government.

“The extra troops they said are planning to send here will not be different from those they deployed before. By the will of Allah, Mogadishu will be their graveyard, while their families will cry back home,” Ali Mahamud Rage, the group’s spokesman, said on Thursday.

“(Somalia transitional) government initially failed to convince its infidel masters to boost their military presence in Somalia, and now that they are claiming to be sending more troops to Mogadishu, it will only intensify the holy war against them,” he said.

The African Union held a three-day summit in Kampala earlier this week where it agreed to boost its peacekeeping force by sending another 4,000 troops, saying it was important to improve security in Somalia and in surrounding countries.

Broadening reach

The decision came after al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a double bombing in Kampala that left 76 people dead on July 11, which it said was punishment for Uganda’s lead role in the peacekeeping force.

The attack, the first launched by al-Shabab outside of Somalia, demonstrated the group’s increasing influence and broadening reach ahead of the AU summit.

The current 6000-strong AU force in Somalia has been engaged in fierce fighting with al-Shabab, but has been restricted to retaliatory fire by the mandate it has been operating under.

Human rights groups warn that if the troops are allowed to expand their operations, civilians in Somalia will be further exposed to violence. Thousands have been killed in crossfire this year alone as battles between government troops and al-Shabab fighters have raged in the streets of Mogadishu.

Somalia has been wracked by conflict for decades, with the latest bout of fighting erupting after Ethiopean troops, operating with US approval, invaded and overthrew the Union of Islamic Courts, whose rule had brought a period of relative stability to the troubled country.

Afghan leak: Wikileaks' Assange denies 'blood on hands'

Ref: The founder of the website Wikileaks has rejected US claims he has blood on his hands after releasing 90,000 leaked classified documents on the Afghan war.

The documents, which Wikileaks has dubbed the Afghan War Diary, were first described in news reports late on Sunday.

Julian Assange says there is no evidence US informants have been harmed

Julian Assange told the BBC there was no evidence that any informants had died as a result of the leaks.

He accused the Pentagon of trying to distract attention from the thousands of lives being lost in the war.

The White House has appealed to Wikileaks not to publish another 15,000 documents it is thought to hold. Read more →

Flood deaths pass 400 in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Ref: More than 400 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced by monsoon flooding in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Most died in north-west Pakistan, while across the border in Afghanistan at least 60 were killed.

Pakistan flood

Several rivers burst their banks, washing away villages, roads and bridges. Some power supplies have been cut to prevent more electrocutions.

Officials say the floods are the worst the region has experienced in more than 80 years, and further rain is forecast.
‘No drinking water’

Rescue workers and troops were struggling on Saturday to reach the hundreds of thousands of people in north-west Pakistan who have been left homeless or stranded by the flooding.Transport and communication links have been badly affected, even away from the worst-hit areas, says the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool, in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and helicopters have had to be used to deliver essential supplies.

Peshawar, the main city in the north-west, and the districts of Swat and Shangla have been cut off from the rest of the country.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told the Associated Press that 408 people had died there alone, describing it as the worst flooding since 1929.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s relief commissioner Shakil Qadir said the worst-hit area was Malakand, where more than 100 people had died. Many others are missing.

Pakistan’s meteorological department said 312mm (12in) of rain had fallen over the last 36 hours in the north-west – the largest amount for decades.

And 25 people are said to have been killed over the past three days in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Muzaffarabad residents told the BBC there was no electricity or drinking water in parts of the city.
Livestock perish

The government has declared a state of emergency.

While the north-west of the country has borne the brunt of the flooding, the south-western province of Balochistan has also been hit hard, and some crops in Punjab province were reportedly ruined.There was some respite from heavy rainfall on Friday, but more is forecast across much of Pakistan over the weekend.

Many of those hit hardest by the flooding are the rural poor who live in flood-prone areas because they cannot afford safer land.

Pakistani TV channels broadcast footage of vehicles, livestock and people being swept away by powerful torrents.

The army says all available troops have been deployed for relief work.

Those living in low-lying flood-prone areas have been advised to move to higher ground.

Airline officials said the weather was likely to have contributed to the plane crash in Islamabad on Wednesday in which more than 150 people died.
Taliban threat

The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that in Afghanistan’s south-eastern Khost province and the eastern province of Laghman the Afghan National Army has been assisting some people, but locals are saying much more help is needed.

However, our correspondent says that providing assistance is hampered by the rural, mountainous terrain, a lack of good roads and the fact the Taliban is still active in the affected areas.

Much of the arable land and crops on which the locals rely have also been destroyed, our correspondent adds.

Hamas fighter 'killed' in Israel air strikes on Gaza

Ref: Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed a Hamas fighter and wounded several other people, reports say.Missiles struck central Gaza and Gaza City late on Friday; tunnels on the strip’s southern border were also hit.

Several Israeli missiles struck targets in central Gaza and Gaza City late on Friday

The strikes came after a rocket fired from the coastal enclave by militants earlier on Friday hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast. Read more →