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Archive for June, 2012

Rubber bullets, tear gas fired in Sudan protests.


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Sudanese police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of peaceful protesters on Friday, the 14th day of anti-regime demonstrations sparked by inflation, witnesses said.

Protesters had gathered in the capital’s Hijra Square beside the mosque of the opposition Umma party in Khartoum‘s twin city of Omdurman. Police said the crowd numbered in the thousands and one person was reported injured.

One witness said demonstrators carried Sudanese flags and banners reading “The people want the regime to fall,” a slogan used by protesters during the Arab Spring uprisings against regional strongmen over the past year.

After the tear gas and an unknown number of arrests, demonstrators burned tyres and threw stones at police before running for cover, the witness said.

Similar running battles between protesters and police occurred in the Bahri district of Khartoum, where tear gas was also fired, the witness added.

Demonstrators planned major protests for Friday and Saturday, the 23rd anniversary of a coup by President Omar al-Bashir.

Human rights groups say scores of people have been detained since the protests against high food prices began on June 16 at the University of Khartoum.

Among those held Friday was Sudanese journalist Talal Saad, who had brought some freelance photos of the protests to the AFP bureau in Khartoum. Armed national security agents raided the bureau, ordered AFP’s correspondent to delete the photos and took Saad away.

After Bashir announced austerity measures, including tax hikes and an end to cheap fuel, the protests spread to include a cross-section of people in numerous locations throughout the capital and other parts of Sudan.

Demonstrators, typically in groups of 100 or 200, have burned tyres, thrown stones and blocked roads in a call for regime change which has almost universally been met by police tear gas.

Bashir has played down the demonstrations as small-scale and not comparable to the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere, maintaining that he himself remains popular.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

AFPAFP 

Ex-U.S. agent who helped cartels gets 30 months in prison.


TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) – A former U.S. federal immigration agent was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Friday for accessing police databases and passing on sensitive information to family members with ties to Mexican drug cartels.

              Jovana Deas was accused of illegally obtaining and disseminating classified government documents while working as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent in Nogales, Ariz., a city on the border with Mexico. She also was charged with obstruction and lying to investigators.

              In February, she pled guilty to seven felonies and 14 misdemeanors in the case.

              “I ask my family to forgive me. I’m sorry for what I did. It was a horrible mistake. I feel like I betrayed my country and my agency,” a sobbing Deas told a federal court in Tucson before U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson handed down her sentence.

              “I’m asking for your mercy your honor, so I can go back to my family.”

              Prosecutors said Deas, who resigned from ICE last year, passed information pulled from restricted crime and immigration databases to her former brother-in-law, Miguel Angel Mendoza Estrada, a Mexican cartel associate with ties to drug traffickers in Brazil.

              Some of the information – concerning the prior criminal history and immigration status of a convicted Mexican national – was later discovered on Mendoza Estrada’s laptop by Brazilian police, according to court documents.

              U.S. Attorney James Lacey unsuccessfully pushed for a 10-year prison term, arguing that Deas’ crimes made her a “mini-Aldrich Ames” – a reference to the CIA agent who was convicted for spying for the Soviet Union and Russia in 1994.

              Deas’ career with the federal government began in 2003 when she became a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspector assigned to the Nogales port of entry. In 2008, she became an ICE special agent in the city.

              Also named in the indictment was Deas’ sister, Dana Maria Samaniego, a former Mexican law enforcement official with alleged ties to drug trafficking organizations who remains a fugitive.

              Corruption cases involving federal officers and agents have increased in recent years as the U.S. government has ramped up recruitment in a drive to secure the southwest border with Mexico.

              Between October 2004 and May of this year, 138 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents were arrested or indicted for corruption, including drug and illegal immigrant smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

              Investigations by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility last year resulted in the arrest of 16 ICE and U.S. Customs and Border protection employees. It was not clear how many of those cases have resulted in a conviction.

              (Editing by Tim Gaynor and Paul Simao)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

ReutersBy Paul M. Ingram | Reuters 

Obama’s Weekly Address: Coming Together to Put Out the Colorado Wildfires.


After         visiting the areas ravaged by the Colorado wildfires, President Obama is urging Americans to pitch in and contribute to the recovery effort, saying “this is a good reminder of what makes us Americans. We don’t just look out for ourselves; we look out for each other.”

“One of the things that happens here in America is when we see our fellow citizens in trouble and having difficulty, we come together as one American family, as one community,” the president said in his weekly address.

“You see that spirit and you see that strength here in Colorado Springs, where people are working together, promising each other to rebuild.  We’ve got to make sure that we are there with them every step of the way, even after this fire is put out,” he said.

On Friday, the president toured some of the areas devastated by the worst wildfires in Colorado’s history. He personally thanked the firefighters and first responders for working hard to control the blaze.

In his address, the president urged Americans to contribute to the American Red Cross, saying, “they’re very active in this community.”

“We’re going to continue to make sure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Forest Service, our military and National Guard and all the resources that we have available at the federal level are brought to bear in fighting this fire,” he added.

The president said it’s important for Americans to understand and appreciate the important work done by firefighters and first responders all across the country.

“It’s important that we remember what they do each and every single day, and that we continue to provide support to our first responders, our emergency management folks, our firefighters, our military – everybody who helps secure our liberty and our security each and every day,” he said.

“I hope you guys remember the[se] folks during these times of need.  I know this is a little bit unusual – we don’t usually do weekly addresses like this, but I thought it was a good opportunity for us to actually focus attention on a problem that’s going on here in Colorado Springs.  We never know when it might be our community that’s threatened, and it’s important that we’re there for them,” the president said.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Mary Bruce | ABC OTUS News 

Mali Islamists threaten nations that join intervention force.


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  • A still from a video taken with a mobile phone shows a convoy of Islamists patrolling the streets of Gao on June 26. An Islamist militant group in lawless northern Mali, MUJAO, Friday threatened countries that would join a military intervention force. (AFP Photo/)A still from a video taken with …

An Islamist militant group in lawless northern Mali, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Friday threatened countries who would join a military intervention force.

Mali has been gripped by chaos since disgruntled troops swarmed the capital Bamako in the south in March and ousted the elected president of what had been seen as one of Africa’s model democracies.

In the ensuing weeks, Tuareg rebels and Islamist hardliners have taken over a stretch of northern Mali the size of Afghanistan.

The Islamists, also including Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have since imposed an austere version of sharia law in northern Mali, and they have fallen out with the Tuareg.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, were meeting in Ivory Coast Friday in a bid to end the crisis. The grouping is considering sending a military force of 3,300 troops to Mali.

MUJAO warned that its branches “in several countries are ready to strike the interests of countries that intend to participate in the force of ECOWAS”, spokesman Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui said in a written message.

“The MUJAO is committed to providing all kinds of material and military support for young Muslims determined to raise the banner of Islam. The scene today is open” for jihadists, said the statement sent to an AFP correspondent in the capital Bamako.

The West African leaders gathered Friday in Yamoussoukro meanwhile called on the UN Security Council to speed up the adoption of a resolution authorizing the regional force.

The force requires international support for such an operation, and logistics support from the United States and France.

A first draft was considered too imprecise by the UN Security Council, and ECOWAS is reviewing the proposal.

The heads of state meeting in the Ivorian capital renewed their “commitment to a peaceful settlement” but reiterated their decision to use armed intervention if necessary, according to the final statement.

The MUJAO, for its part, claimed responsibility on Friday for an attack in Algeria — against the regional headquarters of the paramilitary police in the town of Ouargla in which one person was killed and three were wounded.

It said in a text message to AFP in Bamako that a young Algerian from the southern town of Ouargla had carried out the attack, using a Toyota 4×4 car with “almost 1,300 kilograms of explosives”.

“The cells of the MUJAO branch in Algeria succeeded in carrying out a rapid punishment for the Algerian authorities,” spokesman Sahraoui said.

The MUJAO spokesman said the group accused Algeria of encouraging Tuareg rebels to go to war with it, although the secular MNLA Tuaregs had three months ago fought together with the Islamists to take control of north Mali.

The Islamists chased the MNLA out of Gao in the northeast on Wednesday after vicious fighting that left at least 20 dead, witnesses said.

On Friday the Islamists were reinforced by jihadists who arrived from Algeria, various sources said.

Source; YAHOO NEWS.

AFPAFP

1,000 held, hundreds hurt in Sudan demos: activists.


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  • Smoke rises from burning tyres during protests in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on June 22. About 1,000 people were detained and hundreds injured during anti-regime protests on June 29, a Sudanese activist group said on the anniversary of President Omar al-Bashir's coup. (AFP Photo/Ian Timbarlake)Smoke rises from burning tyres …
  • Sudanese queue in a petrol station to fuel their vehicles in the capital Khartoum on June 21. About 1,000 people were detained and hundreds injured -- many by tear gas -- during anti-regime protests in Sudan, an activist group told AFP on the anniversary of President Omar al-Bashir's (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)Sudanese queue in a petrol station …

About 1,000 people were arrested and hundreds hurt, many by tear gas, during anti-regime protests in Sudan on Friday, an activist group said on Saturday’s anniversary of President Omar al-Bashir‘s coup.

The information minister called the protesters “rioters” who threaten the country’s stability.

“Some were arrested and released,” said an official from the Organisation for Defence of Rights and Freedoms.

The group’s figures indicate a dramatic rise in the number of arrests on Friday, the 14th day of anti-regime demonstrations sparked by inflation.

“The figure of those arrested before yesterday (Friday) was about 1,000 in the whole country,” said the official who asked not to be identified because of the tense situation.

Many are still being held in prisons or “ghost houses,” the location of which is unknown, he alleged.

“They don’t tell you where they are. You are not even allowed to ask,” he said.

One of those detained was Sudanese journalist Talal Saad, who had taken some freelance photos of the protests to the AFP bureau in Khartoum on Friday.

Armed national security agents raided the bureau, ordered AFP’s correspondent to delete the photos and then detained Saad for almost 24 hours.

Saad called AFP on Saturday evening to say he had been released and was fine.

Police said “some of the rioters” were arrested and would be brought to trial after “small groups” demonstrated in Khartoum and elsewhere.

Police contained the situation “with a minimum use of force,” they said.

The Organisation for Defence of Rights and Freedoms said “a few hundred” people were injured during the Friday protests.

Many elderly people were affected by tear gas, but other injuries came from rubber bullets, tear gas canisters or beatings, the rights group official said.

Information Minister Ghazi Al-Sadiq issued an appeal for people “not to allow the rioters to undermine security and stability of the Sudan.”

In a statement on the official SUNA news agency, he said Sudanese have the right to peaceful expression without resorting to violence “to allow the enemies to exploit these protests to carry out foreign agendas against the country.”

Activists had called for a major day of protest on Friday.

In one key disturbance, witnesses said police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered in Hijra Square beside the mosque of the opposition Umma party in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.

One witness said demonstrators carried Sudanese flags and banners reading “The people want the regime to fall,” a slogan used by protesters during the Arab Spring uprisings against regional strongmen over the past year.

They burned tyres and threw stones at police before running for cover, the witness said.

Similar running battles between protesters and police took place elsewhere in Khartoum, the witness added.

International criticism of Sudan’s crackdown increased, with Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird condemning “the arrests of bloggers, journalists and political activists”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has urged the government to avoid “heavy-handed suppression” of protests and to immediately release those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

Britain and the United States have also sought the release of those detained for peaceful protest.

On June 30, 1989, Bashir seized power from democratically elected prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who currently leads the Umma party.

Bashir was declared winner of a multi-party election in 2010, but observers from the European Union and the US-based Carter Centre said the ballot failed to come up to international standards.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide allegedly committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

He has played down the demonstrations as small-scale and not comparable to the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere, maintaining that he himself remains popular.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

AFPBy Ian Timberlake | AFP 

Egypt seizes Grad rockets ‘smuggled from Libya’.


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  • A Libyan paramilitary checks his Grad rocket launcher during clashes on the outskirts of Sirte in September 2011. Egypt has seized a large weapons consignment -- including Grad rockets -- that had been smuggled from Libya and could have been headed to the Gaza Strip, according to local media reports. (AFP Photo/Francisco Leong)A Libyan paramilitary checks his …

Egypt has seized a large weapons consignment, including Grad rockets, that had been smuggled from Libya and could have been headed to the Gaza Strip, press reports said on Saturday.

The haul, which included 138 Grad rockets and a further 139 Grad warheads, was made in the Mediterranean coastal town of Marsa Matruh, not far from the Libyan border, Egyptian newspapers reported.

The interior ministry said that police were searching for two men suspected of trafficking weapons “to the Sinai Peninsula or towards Palestine.”

Libya has been awash with weapons since last year’s armed rebellion which led to the ouster and killing of veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi, and Egyptian authorities have made a string of seizures near the porous desert border.

On May 10, the security forces said they had seized a large cache of weapons, including 50 rockets, in Marsa Matruh.

Israel has expressed concern that such shipments are intended for the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, through the extensive network of smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border.

It has also voiced concern that Islamic militant groups might be taking advantage of what it sees as the growing lawlessness of the neighbouring Sinai.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

AFPAFP

Egypt’s new leader vows support for Palestinians.


 

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  • In this image made from Egyptian State Television, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi makes remarks after he was sworn in at the Supreme Consitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 30, 2012. Islamist Mohammed Morsi has been sworn in before Egypt's highest court as the country's first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago. (AP Photo/Egyptian State TV)In this image made from Egyptian …
  • In this image made from Egyptian State Television, judges from Egypt's Supreme constitutional court applaud Mohammed Morsi, center, after he was sworn in as President in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 30, 2012. Islamist Mohammed Morsi has been sworn in before Egypt's highest court as the country's first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago.(AP Photo/Egyptian State TV)In this image made from Egyptian …

CAIRO (AP)Egypt’s newly elected president has sent an implicit message of reassurance to Israel in his first major address after taking office, but he also pledged support for the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians.

Islamist Mohammed Morsi said Saturday that his administration will continue to honor its international treaties — a thinly veiled reference to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

Relations between the two neighbors have become particularly tense since last year’s overthrow of Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, who had forged close ties with the Jewish state during his 29-year rule.

Morsi was sworn in Saturday as Egypt’s first freely elected president and the Arab world‘s first Islamist head of state.

The rise to power of Egyptian Islamists has been a source of alarm among many Israelis.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Associated PressAssociated Press 

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