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Anarchists claim responsibility for Rome bombs

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 6:26 am

 An Italian anarchist group claimed responsibility for parcel bombs on Thursday that wounded two people at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, a reminder of Europe’s home-grown threats at a time of political instability.

A Swiss man was seriously wounded and rushed to hospital. An employee at the Chilean embassy was less seriously hurt. A note was found stuck to his clothing, claiming responsibility for the attack on behalf of the FAI, or Informal Anarchist Federation.

“We have decided to make our voice heard with words and with facts, we will destroy the system of dominance, long live the FAI, long-live Anarchy,” said the note, written in Italian, which was released in the evening by the police.

The incidents bore similarities to an episode in Greece last month in which far-left militants sent parcel bombs to foreign governments abroad and to embassies in Athens.

Firefighters walk out of the Swiss embassy downtown in Rome, December 23, 2010

The note was signed by the “Lambros Fountas revolutionary cell” of the FAI, named for a Greek anarchist killed in a clash with Athens police in March. It also made reference to anarchist movements in Chile, Mexico, Spain and Argentina.

“Greece, Italy and Spain have seen the presence of anarcho-insurrectionalist groups that are tightly linked,” Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said before the note was found. “They are very violent.”

The FAI is well known to Italian authorities. Intelligence services said in a report to parliament last year that it was “the main national terrorist threat of an anarchist-insurrectionalist type.”

In December 2009 the group claimed responsibility for a bomb that partially exploded in a tunnel under Milan’s Bocconi University at 3 am, causing no casualties.

No note was found at the Swiss embassy, but police said the packages that exploded were almost identical.

The explosions came at a time of tension in Italy. Last week saw an anti-government student protest that descended into some of the worst street violence in Rome for many years.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini condemned the incidents, which he said were a serious threat to diplomatic missions in Rome. He urged caution and warned against alarmist reactions.

The attacks, like those in Greece, focused attention on Europe’s domestic security threats at a time when authorities had otherwise been warning of the risk of attacks by al Qaeda.

“It doesn’t look like a typical jihadist thing. It looks more like the act of a leftist, fringe group,” said Stephan Bierling, professor of International Politics at Regensburg University in Germany.

Spending cuts caused by the financial crisis have led to demonstrations and strikes around Europe, and experts expect a rise in political violence by far-left groups.

“Given the similarities with the recent parcel bombs in Greece following anti-austerity protests, this could be a copycat incident by domestic activists,” said Samantha Wolreich, European risk analyst at advisory firm AKE.

A Greek police official said they had so far not received a request for help from Italian police. He said Greek authorities had stepped up checks of parcels at airports across the country following the attacks in Italy.


Bomb disposal experts searched the Swiss embassy offices but staff remained in the building following the incident, which occurred at around midday (1100 GMT).

Firefighters conducted checks of the Chilean embassy, in the same prosperous neighborhood, after the explosion of the package the size of a document. Other inspections were carried out at foreign missions across the Italian capital.

A source in the Rome prosecutors’ office said the package in the Chilean embassy had been sent from Italy, while the package in the Swiss embassy had been completely destroyed.

“We are reviewing our security posture in Rome in light of incidents today,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington.

Chilean ambassador Oscar Godoy said there had been no indication that an attack was likely.

“This is an absolutely irrational and brutal act of terrorism,” he told reporters.

The explosions follow the discovery of a rudimentary device in an empty underground train in Rome on Tuesday. However, police said that it lacked a detonator and tests showed it contained no explosive.

Source: SGGP

Former New Zealand PM denies Iraq troops-for-contracts claim

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:33 am

WELLINGTON, Dec 22, 2010 (AFP) – Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark on Wednesday denied sending non-combat troops to Iraq in 2003 to ensure one of her country’s largest companies retained lucrative UN contracts.

A US diplomatic cable released by the WikiLeaks website this week reportedly cited New Zealand defence officials saying Clark opposed the Iraq deployment until she was told dairy giant Fonterra might lose UN “oil-for-food” contracts.

Clark, whose left-leaning Labour government was defeated in 2008 and who now heads the UN Development Programme, told Radio NZ she was “flabbergasted” at the “ridiculous” claim.

“I am absolutely incensed at the suggestion that some defence ministry personnel seem to have made to various diplomats that there was any connection between my support for sending engineers to do humanitarian work in Iraq with the interests of Fonterra,” she said.

“I mean this is simply preposterous.”

Two rotations of 61 New Zealand military engineers spent a year in Basra from September 2003 performing engineering and humanitarian tasks.

Clark said she always opposed the war in Iraq and would never allow commercial considerations to sway her decision-making on the issue.

She said the engineers were sent to Iraq in response to a UN Security Council request for help in reconstruction efforts following the US-led invasion.

Clark also defended the decision to keep secret a move to tighten military ties with the United States in 2007 following a rift dating back to the 1980s over New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy.

She said she did not want to create expectations in New Zealand that the country was resuming the full military alliance with the United States that was in place before the anti-nuclear row erupted.

The former prime minister supported her conservative successor John Key’s choice to maintain the secrecy when New Zealand and Washington restored full intelligence ties last year without telling the public.

“There’s always secrecy around intelligence relationship and I guess that’s where I part company with the founder of WikiLeaks (Julian Assange) and others,” she said.

“I actually believe that you do have to have areas of communication between governments and officials which aren’t on the front pages of newspapers.”

Questioned about WikiLeaks revelations that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked US officials to spy on UN officials, Clark said the international organisation “takes a very a dim view” of such activities.

However, she was not concerned such snooping would reveal anything that was personally embarrassing to her.

“My life is an open book, it has been for so many years. If there’s anything more they can find out, good luck to them,” she said.

Source: SGGP

Police lay claim to slum in Rio crime crackdown

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2010 at 11:22 am

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 25, 2010 (AFP) – Armored vehicles rumbled through a sprawling Rio slum on Thursday as police said they had pried it back from drug gangs after a five-day assault that killed at least 30 people.

Gunfire had crackled through the streets and residents took cover during the day as six M113 armored personnel carriers armed with .50 caliber machine guns drove through Vila Cruzeiro, a shantytown in northern Rio de Janeiro.

Riot policemen get ready to enter Vila Cruzeiro shantytown on an armoured personnel carrier on November 25, 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AFP

“At this moment, Vila Cruzeiro belongs to the state,” police spokesman Rodrigo Oliveira said late Thursday, adding that forces remained on alert.

The gangs had fought back by spraying police posts with machine gun fire and torching buses, sending dark smoke high above the ramshackle skyline.

TV helicopters orbiting above the fighting had meanwhile shown scores of men with packs and automatic rifles scrambling up the hills beyond the slum ahead of the operation, while others fled in cars and motorcycles.

Many had come to Vila Cruzeiro to escape fighting in nearby districts, and it was not immediately clear whether the police had defeated the gangs or merely sent them scattering off to fight another day.

“We’ve taken an important step, but nothing’s been won,” state security chief Jose Beltrame told reporters, warning that operations would continue on Friday.

“It’s important to arrest people, to gather up drugs and ammunition, but it’s more important to get them out of the territory,” he said, referring to the drug traffickers that rule many of Rio’s largest slums.

Residents expressed shock at the scale of the operation, but many welcomed what they said was long-overdue action to combat the gangs and, in a sign the crackdown may be working, spoke out openly in support of the police.

“I’ve never seen anything like this! It’s a real war operation,” said Elias, a 44-year-old principal. “But it is necessary. This is the only way to confront the drug traffickers.”

“Many will die, but we need things to change here,” said Jefferson, a 27-year-old bartender.

At the same time, he blamed local authorities for allowing the situation to fester, and attributed their new-found urgency to the city’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics two years later.

Police say they have killed 30 suspected drug traffickers since the operation began on Sunday.

Their armored vehicles were backed by helicopters, snipers and thousands of heavily armed men from the military police and navy, with another 17,500 reinforcements “on alert” for the operation, police said.

The armored tracked vehicles, also known as Gavins, are nimble enough to climb the steep hills where the slums are located and can “roll over any obstacle they face,” a police spokesman told local media.

Police said they were battling two factions of drug dealers that have joined forces seeking to disrupt a two-year-old pacification program aimed at wresting the densely populated areas from the gangs’ grip.

But Marcelo Freixo, a state deputy from Rio and longtime critic of local police tactics, said the operation would accomplish little.

“The police can enter Vila Cruzeiro and kill another hundred, but that won’t solve the problem in Rio de Janeiro,” he told AFP.

“The finger that pulls the trigger is not the same as the one that counts the money from arms smuggling, and in that sense the government appears to be concerned with only one of them.”

Violence erupted late Sunday when gang members attacked police stations in northern Rio.

At least 180 people have been detained since then, including many who were caught holding bottles of gasoline, according to police, who said they had also seized weapons and drugs.

At least 60 vehicles, including nearly a dozen city buses, have been set ablaze since the violence began, they said.

The urban warfare has paralyzed a large part of Rio, as local television has been dominated by images of buses engulfed in flames and heavily armed police and special forces fighting their way through the slums.

Police have meanwhile erected checkpoints across neighborhoods seized earlier in the week where they keep a tense watch over mostly empty streets.

Around two million of Rio’s inhabitants — a third of the population — live in more than 1,000 slums, locally known as “favelas.” Authorities hope to pacify 100 of the most violent ones by 2014.

In October 2009 drug gangs shot down a police helicopter near the Maracana stadium — one of the main sites of the upcoming World Cup — killing three officers.

Source: SGGP

Rebel troops claim Madagascar government suspended

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2010 at 6:27 am

Floods claim six lives in southern central Vietnam

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 7:41 am

Foreign doctors executed, Afghan Taliban claim killing

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

KABUL (AFP) – The Taliban said Saturday they had killed “Christian missionaries” working in remote northern Afghanistan where the bullet-riddled bodies of two American and six German doctors were found.

US soldiers patrol with Afghan soldiers in Kandahar province on August 6. AFP

The police chief in northern Badakhshan province said the group of foreign eye doctors had been lined up and shot in dense forest, according to the testimony of a sole Afghan survivor. The Taliban later claimed responsibility.

“Yesterday at around 8am, one of our patrols confronted a group of foreigners. They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all,” said Zabihullah Mujahed, a spokesman for the Taliban.

Christian aid group “International Assistance Mission” said it was “likely” the dead had been working for their organisation.

“It is likely that they are members of the International Assistance Mission (IAM) eye camp team,” said the organisation in a statement on their website.

“If these reports are confirmed we object to this senseless killing of people who have done nothing but serve the poor,” it said.

Mujahed said the group consisted of five men and four women foreigners, and one Afghan national, but provincial police chief Aqa Noor Kintoz said there were only only three female foreigners and three Afghans among them.

The Taliban spokesman said the group had been lost in the forest and were killed as they tried to escape.

“They were carrying Persian language bibles, a satellite-tracking device and maps,” he said.

Kintoz said they were shot by armed men in a remote area of Badakhshan province, according to the testimony of “Saifullah”, an Afghan who survived.

The group of eight ophthalmologists had been travelling with three Afghans between Badakhshan and Nuristan provinces and spent a few nights in the forest, he reported Saifullah as saying.

“On the last day they were confronted by a group of armed men who lined them up and shot them. Their money and belongings were all stolen,” said Kintoz.

He said that according to Saifullah’s testimony he had escaped death by reading verses of the Quran, prompting the men to realise he was a Muslim and release him in neighbouring Nuristan province.

The police chief said local villagers had warned the group not to enter the dangerous forested area, but they had insisted they would be safe because they were doctors, according to Saifullah’s statement.

He said the bodies had been found in Kuran wa Minjan district, an area on the border with Nuristan province, one day’s drive from the provincial capital Faizabad.

A US Embassy spokeswoman said “several” American citizens were believed to be among the dead, found on Friday, but could not give further details.

“We have reason to believe that several American citizens are among the deceased…. (We) are actively working with local authorities and others to learn more about the identities and nationalities of these individuals,” the spokeswoman said.

There was no immediate response from German authorities.

Source: SGGP

Federer’s imposing claim for another Slam win

In Vietnam Sports on January 13, 2010 at 8:34 am

MELBOURNE, Jan 13, 2010 (AFP) – A resurgent Roger Federer is again the man to beat in next week’s Australian Open as he shoots for his 16th Grand Slam crown in the year’s opening major.

Just when his rivals appeared to have closed the gap on the Swiss, the world number one had another stellar season in 2009, winning his first-ever French Open and a sixth Wimbledon title.

(File) Roger Federer (AFP photo)

The 28-year-old great became the all-time Grand Slam leader in men’s tennis in the process, passing the 14 won by American Pete Sampras.

Federer was duly crowned the International Tennis Federation (ITF) champion for the fifth time and finished the year-end ATP top-ranked player for the fifth time in six years.

Underlining his incredible consistency, Federer has only missed playing in one of the last 18 Grand Slam finals, his sole slip-up coming when he lost to Russian Marat Safin in the semi-finals of the 2008 Australian Open.

When it comes to determining the likely winner of this year’s tournament it is hard to go past Federer.

“If I’m healthy this year I can win many more tournaments and that could also help get me more confidence, more momentum,” he said ahead of the Open.

Federer will be chasing his fourth Australian Open victory and takes a 47-7 match record into the Melbourne event.

If there is to be an upset it looks likely to come from defending champion Rafael Nadal, the 2008 champion Novak Djokovic, British hope Andy Murray or Federer’s conqueror at last year’s US Open final, Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro.

Nadal, who toppled Federer from the number one ranking in August 2008 and held it for 46 weeks until handing it back to the Swiss last July, admits to suffering a crisis of confidence heading into his title defence.

He has had increasing problems with arthritic knees, suffered from an abdominal injury, and reportedly been affected by the recent break-up of his parents’ marriage.

“I have had a lot of problems in the head,” Nadal said. “But that’s life. You have to accept problems and you have to come back. I am trying. We will see what happens in the next six months.”

Nadal, who will be seeded to face Federer in the 2010 Australian final, holds an impressive 13-7 record over him, but a disrupted 2009 season may count against the Spaniard over the next two weeks.

Djokovic finished third on the year-end rankings by a big space ahead of Del Potro and Murray, and has shown a liking for the court and the conditions of Melbourne with his win here two years ago.

“Last year I ended my title defence in the quarter-finals with the retirement (against Andy Roddick),” Djokovic said.

“That was what you would call the ugliest way that I could have finished that tournament.

“I always try to set up in the best possible shape and form for the Grand Slams and I have all the reasons to believe I can perform my best tennis this year.”

Del Potro has leap-frogged Murray into the fourth ranking spot and although his Australian Open record is modest with just a quarter-final appearance at three attempts, his epic win over Federer at Flushing Meadow last year earns him respect.

Murray is burdened with the national expectation of becoming the first British player to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry’s 1936 US Open triumph.

“I think I’m ready to win it,” Murray said at last week’s Hopman Cup in Perth.

“I feel like I’m serving well, moving well and playing the ball better than I have done for a long time at the back of the court and I am volleying well.”

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

President, challenger both claim victory in Romania vote

In World on December 7, 2009 at 3:52 am

 Both candidates in Romania‘s presidential run-off vote claimed victory on Sunday, although most exit polls put Social-Democrat Mircea Geoana ahead of incumbent Traian Basescu.

Romanians went to the ballot box hoping for an end to a political standoff that has held up crucial international aid for the recession-wracked European Union member.

“Our victory, my victory is a victory for all Romanians who want a better life,” Geoana said in a speech to supporters just after polling stations closed.

But Basescu insisted he was the winner, telling his supporters: “I have won. I assure you that the correct polls show that I have beaten Mircea Geoana.”

Initial exit polls carried out by the Insomar institute put Geoana’s victory at 51.6 percent while another poll by the Curs institute showed Geoana with 50.8 percent.

Presidential candidate Mircea Geoana celebrates the results of exit polls, which place him first, at the end of the voting day in Bucharest

But later polls for Insomar gave Geoana a narrower 51.2 percent and a CSOP poll even gave Basescu victory with 50.4 percent.

The first official results are not expected before Monday 06H00 GMT.

Romania’s farmers hope new president will end rural neglect

Basescu claimed that the vote of tens of thousands of Romanians living abroad could change the results and called on his supporters to remain “calm” until final results are released.

Geoana called on Basescu to overcome “this moment of bitterness” in order to ease the transfer of power.

Basescu, a former sea captain promising tough state reforms, and Geoana, an ex-diplomat who pledged to maintain jobs and “reunite Romania” after years of political squabbling finished almost neck-and-neck in the first round of voting two weeks ago, with Basescu winning 32.4 percent of ballots and Geoana 31 percent.

But Geoana won the support of the PNL liberal party, Romania’s third main political force.

Turnout was 57 percent, slightly higher than the first round’s 54 percent, for a poll that had been billed as the most important since the fall of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu 20 years ago.

Florica Marinescu, a Bucharest pensioner, said she voted in the hope that “someone new will emerge in five years’ time because we are fed up with always seeing the same politicians”.

But in the countryside, people were more worried about their day-to-day life.

“We are still using mules to plough the land, its unbelievable,” said 63-year-old Valentin Ghetea in Udeni, a town 30 kilometres (19 miles) west of Bucharest.

“Life has always been like that. People who are born in the countryside have fewer chances to succeed than those born in the city,” said Dumitru, 52, a farmer who added he was pessimistic about the future.

Whoever wins will have no time to lose in appointing a prime minister, with Romania stuck in one of the European Union‘s worst recessions. The country has been led by a caretaker government since October.

The International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank, which in March agreed on a 20-billion-euro bailout plan, expect immediate steps to cut public spending after the economy shrank by 7.4 percent in the first nine months of 2009.

Geoana said on Sunday that he would keep his promise of a new government before the end of the year, to be led by independent Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German who is mayor of the Transylvanian town of Sibiu.

His government would be able to count on the support of a majority of the parties in parliament.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Islamists claim Russian train bombing: rebel website

In World on December 3, 2009 at 2:35 am

Islamists from the North Caucasus have claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing of a Russian passenger train, according to a statement posted Wednesday on a website linked to Chechen rebels.

Rescue workers inspect a damaged carriage of a train which derailed as it travelled between Moscow and Saint Petersburg

“This operation was prepared and executed along with other acts of sabotage, planned from the start of this year and successfully carried out against a set of strategically important sites in Russia, on the orders of Caucasus Emir Dokku Umarov,” said the statement on the website

Umarov is the self-proclaimed leader of the “Caucasus Emirate,” which has sought to unite various Islamist groups in Russia’s North Caucasus and establish Islamic Sharia rule in the region.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share