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Al-Qaeda says it has US citizen December 2, 2011

Warren Weinstein has been living in Pakistan for at least five years

Al-Qaeda says it has 70-year-old US aid expert Warren Weinstein, who was kidnapped by armed men in the Pakistani city of Lahore nearly four months ago.

In a video, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said he would be freed if the US stopped air strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other demands.

Mr Weinstein is a former USAID worker who has lived in Pakistan for five years.

US officials have not said publicly who they believed was holding him.

“Just as the Americans detain whomever they suspect may be connected to al-Qaeda or the Taliban even in the slightest of ways, we have detained this man who has been involved with US aid to Pakistan since the 1970s,” Zawahiri said in the 31-minute video.

‘Retaliation’

He also demanded that America stop air strikes on Somalia and Yemen, according to a US monitoring group, Site Intelligence.

Ayman al-Zawahiri became al-Qaeda leader after the death of Osama Bin Laden in May

And he called for the release of al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombers.

Zawahiri confirmed, too, an announcement by US officials in August that his Libyan deputy, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, had been killed in an air strike in Pakistan’s north-western tribal region.

“The retaliation, with permission from Allah, will be taken against those crusader Westerners who killed him [Rahman] and his two sons, and killed hundreds of thousands of our brothers, sons, women, and sheikhs, and occupied our countries [and] looted our wealth,” said Zawahiri.

He took over at the top of the militant network this year after Osama Bin Laden was killed in May by US special forces at his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

In the video, Zawahiri reportedly addressed Mr Weinstein’s family, telling them not to believe any claim by US President Barack Obama that he would try to free the hostage.

“He might say to you, ‘I sought to release your relative, but al-Qaeda was stubborn.’ Do not believe him,” Zawahiri was quoting as saying.

“He might say to you, ‘I tried to contact them and they did not answer.’ Do not believe him.”

Twelve days after Mr Weinstein’s abduction on 13 August, Lahore police said he had been freed, but they then retracted the claim. The US embassy in Islamabad said at the time it had no evidence he had been released.

No leads

Mr Weinstein was snatched before dawn when eight gunmen broke into his home.

In 2002, US reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in Pakistan and beheaded

He was said to be the country director in Pakistan for JE Austin Associates, an American firm that advises a range of Pakistani business and government sectors.

Mr Weinstein reportedly lived mainly in Islamabad, but also travelled to Lahore. He was described on the firm’s website as an “expert in international development with 25 years’ experience”.

Three security guards and Mr Weinstein’s driver were held for three months by police as they investigated whether someone close to him had leaked details of his movements.

However, in mid-November police said they had no leads on the kidnapping.

While the abduction of Pakistanis for ransom is common, only a few foreigners have been targeted by militant and criminal groups.

In 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and later beheaded.

In July, a Swiss couple was kidnapped in the south-western province of Balochistan.

Three months later, the Pakistani Taliban said they did it and a video was released of the couple pleading for their lives. They are still missing.

Five-year-old British boy Sahil Saeed was abducted when visiting his grandmother’s home in Punjab province in March 2010.

He was released 12 days later after his family paid a $180,000 (£114,000) ransom.

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Pakistan has had enough | Simon Tisdall November 28, 2011

Readers of Dawn newspaper, commenting online, were in no doubt how the Pakistani government should respond to Saturday’s killing by US forces of 24 soldiers on Pakistan’s side of the Afghan border. “Pakistan should acquire anti-aircraft defence systems … so that in the future Pakistan can give Nato forces a proper reply,” said Ali. “This is outrageous,” wrote another reader, Zia Khan. “We should cut off all ties with the US. As long as we are getting US [anti-terror] aid … Pakistan will be attacked in such a manner. They can never be trusted.” Another, Obaid, turned his wrath on the Pakistani authorities: “Our self-centred establishment with their fickle loyalties can’t even demand that the killers be tried in a neutral court … What is the ability of our armed forces? If they can’t repel or intercept an attack of this intensity, then what’s their purpose? This is not a time to get mad. It’s time to get even.”

The fury of these respondents comes as no surprise, but Washington should treat it with deadly seriousness all the same, for this latest outrage is another fateful signpost on the road to a potential security and geostrategic disaster that may ultimately make Afghanistan look like a sideshow.

The 10-year-old Afghan war, neither wholly won nor lost, is slowly drawing to a close – or so Washington postulates. But what has not stopped is the linked, escalating destabilisation of the infinitely more important, more populous, and nuclear-armed Pakistan. If Washington does not quickly learn to tread more carefully, it may find the first US-Pakistan war is beginning just as the fourth Afghan war supposedly ends.

Anti-American feeling in Pakistan is becoming institutionalised at the higher levels of government, while opposition figures such as Imran Khan see their popularity rise on the back of diatribes aimed at Washington. Pakistan’s western-educated, secular political elite is under brutal attack from Islamist militants who revile them as Washington’s stooges. The knock-kneed government is mocked and despised for failing to stand up to its infidel paymasters even as Pakistan’s own “war on terror” death toll rises into the tens of thousands.

Since 2001, when the Bush administration bluntly told Islamabad it must take sides, be either “for us or agin us” in the newly declared “war on terror”, Pakistan has struggled under a plethora of imperious American demands, démarches and impositions that are at once politically indefensible and contrary to the perceived national interest.

The last year has been another humiliating one at the hands of the country’s principal ally. Pakistanis have looked on impotently as US special forces flouted its sovereignty and killed Osama bin Laden under the army’s nose; as the US stepped up drone terror attacks in Pakistani territory despite repeated protests; and as people-pleasing US senators and Republican presidential candidates have taken to picking on Pakistan and its aid bill in uninformed foreign policy rants.

Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon top brass have responded to Saturday’s killing with the usual expressions of regret and of determination to “investigate”, without formally admitting responsibility. Their pronouncements are worthless, transparently so.

The belief that weak, impoverished, divided Pakistan has no alternative but to slavishly obey its master’s voice could turn out to be one of the seminal strategic miscalculations of the 21st century. Alternative alliances with China or Russia aside, Muslim Pakistan, if bullied and scorned for long enough by its western mentors, could yet morph through external trauma and internal collapse into quite a different animal. The future paradigm here is not another well-trained Indonesia or Malaysia. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Security Lapses Threaten Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Complex November 15, 2011

The United Nations refugee agency says insecurity continues to affect aid efforts in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex, more than a month after the kidnapping of three aid workers. It says heavy rains and the risk of waterborne diseases are worsening conditions in the camps.

The U.N. refugee agency reports nearly 100 additional Kenyan police have been deployed in the Dadaab camps over the last month.  Nevertheless, it says the situation in the Dadaab camps remains unstable. The agency says refugees and aid workers are uneasy because of what it calls security incidents.

UNHCR spokesman Andrei Mahecic said an explosive device was found next to one of the roads in the Dadaab complex last week. The device did not explode and no one was hurt.

“But, there have been other incidents along the border. There have been incidents reported widely also in the Kenyan media of the attacks on the Kenyan authorities and so on,” said Mahecic. “So, we are talking about a very volatile situation along the border with the situation in Somalia not getting any better… Certainly the kidnappings that have happened in the camps have impacted on our work. We had to resort to essential services. We would like to resume the full services as soon as possible.”  

Mahecic said discussions are underway on the feasibility of resuming full operations in the Dadaab complex, which houses more than 450,000 Somali refugees. He said the UNHCR welcomes the additional troops in the campsite, as this should allow greater freedom of movement and better security for the aid workers.

The spokesman said the unsafe situation is further complicated by an outbreak of cholera in the camps. He said it is likely that newly-arrived refugees from Somalia have brought the disease with them.

“There are now 60 suspected cholera cases in the camps, including 10 laboratory-confirmed cases and one refugee death. To manage the outbreak, we and partners have set up cholera treatment centers for severe cases. Most cases can be managed through oral rehydration solutions that can be given at home or at health posts. We are working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health to train health workers in the community-based management of diarrhea so that patients can begin treatment at home,” said Mahecic.

In another complication, Mahecic said rain and flooding are affecting the trucking of water to parts of Dadaab. He said it is feared some refugees are drinking unsafe water from flooded areas, putting them at risk of waterborne diseases.

He also said aid workers are promoting good-hygiene practices among the refugees, especially the use of latrines and hand-washing with soap.

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Republicans debate foreign policy November 13, 2011

There were no clear winners in the Republican foreign policy debate

The eight contenders for the US Republican presidential nomination have debated foreign policy in the state of South Carolina.

They said they would stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but differed over how to do it.

Mitt Romney, the front-runner so far in the Republican race, vowed to stop Iran by a pre-emptive military strike if needed.

Herman Cain said the only way to stop Iran was through economic means.

The businessman, whose campaign has been dogged by sexual harassment allegations recently, spoke about squeezing Tehran through sanctions and boosting Iran’s opposition movement.

Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said: “One thing you can know is if we elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. If you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.”

Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, came to Spartanburg, South Carolina, riding a new wave of support as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Mr Romney.

He declared he would launch covert operations within Iran.

Mr Gingrich said: “There are a number of ways to be smart about Iran, and a few ways to be stupid. The (Obama) administration skipped all the ways to be smart.”

Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, wanted no part in a military strike. “It’s not worthwhile to go to war,” he said.

The candidates made no major stumbles during the 90-minute debate, but Texas Governor Rick Perry’s belief that the United States should consider eliminating foreign aid to Pakistan stirred debate among the candidates.

Afghanistan

Mr Perry, hurt by a string of poor debate performances, including an embarrassing gaffe on Wednesday that some observers say might have crippled his campaign, was insistent that Washington should consider cutting aid.

While Mr Gingrich agreed, former Senator Rick Santorum was adamantly opposed.

“Pakistan is a nuclear power,” Mr Santorum said. “We cannot be indecisive about whether Pakistan is our friend. They must be a friend.”

The Republican presidential hopefuls also disagreed about the correct course in Afghanistan and the use of waterboarding as a means of interrogation.

On waterboarding, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann, said they would reinstate the technique designed to simulate drowning.

On Afghanistan, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul both said it was time for US troops to come home after an engagement lasting 10 years.

By contrast, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry said military commanders on the ground should take the lead about when to withdraw troops. They criticised President Obama for “telegraphing” the nation’s intentions.

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Man fatally shot on plaza near Occupy Oakland camp November 11, 2011


November 11, 2011

by legitgov

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Man fatally shot on plaza near Occupy Oakland camp 10 Nov 2011 (Oakland, CA) – A man was shot and killed Thursday just outside the Oakland encampment that anti-Wall Street protesters have occupied for the last month, but organizers said the attack was unrelated to their ongoing protest of U.S. financial institutions and that some of their own were the first ones to administer first aid.

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