Archive for August, 2014

Qadri supporters clash with Pakistan police

Deadly violence erupts as supporters of anti-government cleric Tahir ul-Qadri try to march on his headquarters.

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Supporters of a Pakistani anti-government cleric have clashed with police in the country’s second largest city resulting in at least four deaths, 500 arrests and six police officers missing, officials said.

Violence began on Friday and continued on Saturday as supporters of populist leader Tahir ul-Qadri, attempted to march on his headquarters in the city of Lahore, in Punjab province.

Following the flare-up, Qadri called off a large protest rally planned for Sunday, and instead urged his supporters to hold smaller protests in their home towns.

In a televised address, he called on his supporters to “protest peacefully,” but slammed the government for orchestrating a “massacre in the name of a crackdown.”

Qadri has accused the government of being corrupt and complict in protester deaths.

The violence, started on Friday when police fired tear gas and baton charged a protest crowd after a shipping container used to block a road leading to Qadri’s house in Lahore was removed.

The supporters brought a crane to remove the shipping container and allegedly threw stones at police who tried to stop them.

About 500 of Qadri’s supporters had been arrested and more than 100 police officers injured, according to provincial police spokeswoman Nabeela Ghazanfar.

Rana Mashhud Ahmad, a law minister for Punjab province, told the Associated Press news agency that protesters abducted six policemen during the melee.

‘Peaceful revolution’

Qadri has been rallying support against the intimidation of more than 500 of his followers from the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) movement.
On Thursday, he threatened to march on Islamabad and overthrow the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should the arrests of his followers continue.

In a statement released by PAT, Qadri was quoted as saying the group would have “no choice other than giving a final call of revolution to the entire nation to come out on streets and march towards Islamabad and provincial capitals to topple [the] government.”

Qadri, who is normally Canada-based, returned to Pakistan in June to lead what he terms a “peaceful revolution”.

A religious moderate, Qadri commands tens of thousands of followers and held a disruptive four-day sit-in protest against the government in 2013, months before the election that saw Sharif come to power for the third time.

A separate protest, led by opposition politician Imran Khan, is planned for the capital on Thursday to protest alleged election irregularities.

The planned demonstrations have unnerved Pakistan’s political scene which has been blighted by coups and street protests.

August 9, 2014 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Kurds rescue Yazidis from Iraqi mountain

Kurdish forces tell they have opened a road to Sinjar, reaching more than 5,000 Yazidis besieged by IS group.

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Iraqi Kurdish security forces have opened a road to Sinjar Mountain in northwestern Iraq, rescuing more than 5,000 Yazidis trapped there after running away from fighters from the Islamic State (IS) group, a Kurdish army spokesman has told.

“I can confirm that we succeeded in reaching the mountains and opening a road for the refugees,” said Halgord Hikmet, a spokesman for the peshmergas the Kurdish security forces.

Hikmet said that recent air strikes on the IS targets by US warplanes had allowed the peshmergas to open a route to the mountain.

The IS, which has captured large areas of Syria and Iraq, see Shia Muslims and minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community, as infidels.

The Yazidis, a minority that follow a 4,000-year-old faith, had taken cover in Sinjar Mountain for the past five days in searing heat, and with no supplies, after fleeing advancing IS fighters.

US warplanes have launched several waves of air strikes against IS group fighters in northern Iraq since Friday.

Aerial drones and F-18 fighter jets attacked fighter positions close to the Kurdish capital of Erbil.

‘US troops will not fight in Iraq’

Barack Obama, the US president, said on Saturday that Washington was proud acting by friends and allies in Iraq during the air strikes and in the process of reaching Iraqi civilians trapped in Sinjar Mountain.

He said that the US was working with allies to help Iraqis running away from the IS.

Obama also called on the Iraqis to come together to form a legitimate Iraqi government and get over the political crisis that has been going on for weeks.

He also said that there was no particular timetable regarding the air strikes, adding that they would take place as long as it was necessary to protect Iraqi civilians and US citizens, diplomats and military advisers in Iraq.

In a different statement earlier on Saturday, he said he would not allow his country to be dragged into another war in Iraq, making it clear that American combat troops will not return to fight in the country.

The air strikes are the first in the embattled country since Obama put an end to the US occupation in 2011 and come after the IS made massive gains on the ground, seizing a major dam and forcing a mass exodus of religious minorities.

The air strikes seek to allow the federal and Kurdish governments to claw back areas lost in two months of conflict.

On Friday and Saturday, the US dropped food and water for the Yazidis hiding on Sinjar Mountain.

The UK is also delivering aid and has announced it is sending medics to northern Iraq.

August 9, 2014 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Gaza fighting resumes after ceasefire ends

Five Palestinians including ten-year-old boy killed after three-day truce between Israel and Palestinian factions ended.

Israel hit the Gaza Strip with missiles and artillery for the first time in three days, while Palestinian fighters launched a barrage of rockets at Israel, just hours after a ceasefire between the two sides expired.

Five Palestinians were killed and at least 31 others wounded in Friday’s air strikes, said Ashraf al-Qudra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman. Among the dead was a 10-year-old boy.

The Israeli army said that as of Friday afternoon, more than 45 rockets were fired into southern Israel after the truce ended. Three of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. Two Israelis were wounded, the army said.

“Following renewed rocket launching at Israel, the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] targeted terror sites across the Gaza Strip,” a statement from the military read.

Thousands of Palestinians fled their homes east of Gaza City amid the renewed Israeli attacks, witnesses reported.

At least one teenager was also killed in the West Bank. More than 2,500 people demonstrated in the Palestinian territory on Friday against the Gaza operation, Al Jazeera’s Dalia Hatuqa, reporting from Ramallah, said.

The ceasefire expired as no progress was made in the Egyptian-mediated talks aimed at finding a durable solution to the month-long fighting.

Talks among the main Palestinian factions in Cairo were still ongoing on Friday.

“They are discussing with the Egyptians the demands that haven’t been met and the sticking points in the negotiations,” Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from West Jerusalem, said.

She added that Israel had pulled out of the talks early on Friday, before the ceasefire expired.

Among the top demands are the lifting of the blockade in Gaza and the opening of the Gaza port.

Earlier this week, Israel had said it was ready to “indefinitely” extend the ceasefire.

“We understand from senior Israeli officials that Israel would not continue the negotiations while it is coming under fire, and that these negotiations would remain frozen as long as Hamas and other Palestinian factions are firing rockets,” our correspondent said.

“It seems that the Israelis, for now, are boycotting the talks,” she said.

‘Deeply distressed’

The Palestinian side is also demanding the release of around 125 key prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Initial estimates suggest it could cost $6bn to rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure and homes
Despite the withdrawal of all its troops from Gaza by the time the three-day truce began early on Tuesday, Israel has retained forces along the border, ready to respond to any resumption of fighting.

Four weeks of military assault on Gaza has claimed the lives of at least 1,893 Palestinians, according to Gaza officials. UN figures indicate that 73 percent of the Palestinian victims were civilians. Of that number, at least 429 were children.

On the Israeli side, three civilians were killed by rockets fired from Gaza while at least 64 soldiers died in the fighting.

Ayman Taha, a former spokesman for Hamas – the son of one of the group’s founders – was found dead on Thursday in a neighbourhood of Gaza City that was heavily bombed by Israel, the movement said.

Speaking in Jerusalem after a visit to Gaza, International Committee of the Red Cross president Peter Maurer said he was “deeply distressed and shocked” at the impact of violence, saying the scale of the civilian losses must not happen again.

He also suggested there may have been violations of international humanitarian law.

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August 9, 2014 Posted Under: News update   Read More