Archive for July, 2013

Egypt’s president ousted, constitution suspended

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s armed forces overthrew elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on Wednesday and announced a political transition with the support of a wide range of political, religious and youth leaders.

After a day of drama in which tanks and troops deployed near the presidential palace as a military deadline for Mursi to yield to mass protests passed, the top army commander announced on television that the president had “failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people”.

Flanked by political and religious leaders and top generals, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the suspension of the Islamist-tinged constitution and a roadmap for a return to democratic rule under a revised rulebook.

The president of the supreme constitutional court will act as interim head of state, assisted by an interim council and a technocratic government until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held.

“Those in the meeting have agreed on a roadmap for the future that includes initial steps to achieve the building of a strong Egyptian society that is cohesive and does not exclude anyone and ends the state of tension and division,” Sisi said in a solemn address broadcast live on state television.

After he spoke, hundreds of thousands of anti-Mursi protesters in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square erupted into wild cheering, setting off fireworks and waving flags. Cars drove around the capital honking their horns in celebration.

But a statement published in Mursi’s name on his official Facebook page after Sisi’s speech said the measures announced amounted to “a full military coup” and were “totally rejected”.

The Arab world’s most populous nation has been in turmoil since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak as Arab Spring uprisings took hold in early 2011, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty.

The Muslim Brotherhood president, in office for just a year, was at a Republican Guard barracks surrounded by barbed wire, barriers and troops, but it was not clear whether he was under arrest. The state newspaper Al-Ahram said the military had told Mursi at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) that he was no longer head of state.

“TERRORISTS AND FOOLS”

Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by protests over Mursi’s Islamist policies, earlier issued a call to battle in a statement headlined “The Final Hours”. They said they were willing to shed blood against “terrorists and fools”.

Armored vehicles took up position outside the state broadcasting headquarters on the Nile River bank, where soldiers patrolled the corridors and non-essential staff were sent home.

In another show of force, several hundred soldiers with armored vehicles staged a parade near the presidential palace, and security sources said Mursi and the entire senior leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood were banned from leaving the country.

Security sources told Reuters the authorities had sent a list of at least 40 leading members of the Brotherhood to airport police.

In a last-ditch statement a few minutes before the deadline, Mursi’s office said a coalition government could be part of a solution to overcome the political crisis. But opposition parties refused to negotiate with him and met instead with the commander of the armed forces.

The Brotherhood’s Egypt25 television station had broadcast live coverage of a rally of tens of thousands of Mursi supporters, even as the army moved tanks into position to prevent them from marching on the presidential palace or the Republican Guard barracks.

U.S. oil prices rose to a 14-month high above $100 a barrel partly on fears that unrest in Egypt could destabilize the Middle East and lead to supply disruption.

The massive anti-Mursi protests showed that the Brotherhood had not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamic rule, notably in a new constitution, but had also angered millions of Egyptians with economic mismanagement.

Tourism and investment have dried up, inflation is rampant and fuel supplies are running short, with power cuts lengthening in the summer heat and motorists spending hours fuelling cars.

Earlier, Mursi’s spokesman said it was better that he die in defense of democracy than be blamed by history.

“It is better for a president, who would otherwise be returning Egypt to the days of dictatorship, from which God and the will of the people has saved us, to die standing like a tree,” spokesman Ayman Ali said, “Rather than be condemned by history and future generations for throwing away the hopes of Egyptians for establishing a democratic life.”

Liberal opponents said a rambling late-night television address by Mursi showed he had “lost his mind”.

The official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood said supporters were willing to become martyrs to defend Mursi.

“There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president,” Gehad El-Haddad told Reuters at the movement’s protest encampment in a Cairo suburb that houses many military installations and is near the presidential palace.

The country’s two main religious leaders, the head of the Al-Azhar Islamic institute and the Coptic Pope, both expressed their support for the army’s roadmap in speeches after Sisi, as did the main liberal opposition leader, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif, Alexander Dziadosz, Shaimaa Fayed, Maggie Fick, Alastair Macdonald, Shadia Nasralla, Tom Perry, Yasmine Saleh, Paul Taylor, Ahmed Tolba and Patrick Werr in Cairo, Abdelrahman Youssef in Alexandria, Yursi Mohamed in Ismailia and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Peter Millership and Giles Elgood)

July 3, 2013 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Drone strike kills 16 in northwest Pakistan

Unmanned US aircraft fired four missiles at a house in northwest Pakistan before dawn, killing 16 suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strike elicited a swift condemnation by the Pakistani government, which released a statement saying the strikes are a violation of its sovereignty.

The strike in the Sarai Darpa Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region also wounded two suspected militants, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The suspected militants who were targeted were believed to be from the Afghan Haqqani network.

US officials consider the Haqqani network to be one of the most dangerous militant factions fighting American troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

The leadership of the Haqqani network pledges allegiance to Taliban chief Mullah Omar but operates fairly independently.

US drone strikes have become a serious source of tension between Washington and Islamabad.

The Pakistani government regularly denounces the strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, even though senior officials are known to have supported some of the attacks in the past.

‘‘The Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications,’’ the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

‘‘These drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region,’’ the ministry said.

US officials rarely provide details publicly about the covert CIA drone program in Pakistan.

Elsewhere in northwest Pakistan, militants attacked a police post before dawn Wednesday and killed six policemen, said a local government administrator, Habibullah Khan.

Ten policemen were wounded in the attack about 25 kilometres southeast of the city of Peshawar, said another government official, Feroz Shah.

The post was staffed by both paramilitary police from the Frontier Constabulary force and also by tribal policemen.

Khan said policemen retaliated in a gunbattle that lasted several hours and killed several militants.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. But the Pakistani Taliban have carried out many similar attacks against security personnel in the area.

July 3, 2013 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Suicide attack in central Kabul thwarted: officials

kabul

KABUL: Afghan security forces shot dead a would-be suicide bomber in central Kabul on Monday outside an intelligence agency office and close to the EU mission, officials said.

The attacker, who was wearing military uniform, was killed as he approached the National Directorate of Security (NDS) office early in the morning.

The Afghan capital has been targeted regularly in recent weeks, with Taliban suicide attacks on the presidential palace, the Supreme Court, the airport and an international aid group.

“A suicide attacker wearing military uniform… who was intending to attack the Kabul branch office (of the NDS) in Chara-i-Sidarat was identified and brought down by security forces,” the spy agency said in a statement.

“With the killing of this suicide attacker, a bloody terrorist attack was prevented.”

The incident took place in one of the most high-security areas of Kabul, close to the interior ministry and Chicken Street, a popular shopping area for foreigners until the insurgency worsened several years ago. The European Union’s mission is nearby.

Taliban rebels have stepped up attacks at the same time as the United States tries to revive a stalled peace process before 100,000 Nato troops leave Afghanistan next year.

July 1, 2013 Posted Under: News update   Read More