More than 100 people are believed to have been killed or injured north of Baghdad after an Iraqi National Guard headquarters came under heavy mortar attack earlier today. This according to a report by the BBC. Police later estimated four Iraqis died in over 80 were injured. Since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, 13 Iraqi police officers had already been killed before today’s attacks.
The New York Times is estimating at least 208 Iraqis died last week including two journalists.
22-year-old photographer Karam Hussein who worked for the European Press Agency was shot dead by four masked gunmen in Mosul. And television reporter Dina Mohammed Hassan who works for the Kurdish TV station Al-Hurriya was killed in a drive-by shooting. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates 46 media workers have now died since the U.S. invaded Iraq.
And yesterday an Australian journalist, John Martinkus, was released after being held hostage for 24 hours in Iraq. Martinkus said yesterday, "I was well treated ... I was not hurt and treated with respect once they established my credentials as an independent journalist who did not support the occupation."
Earlier today the humanitarian group CARE International announced its head of operations in Iraq had been kidnapped in Baghdad. Margaret Hassan has been working for the charity for more than a decade and has lived in Iraq for 30 years.
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming under heavy criticism for planning to agree with a request from the Bush administration to dispatch hundreds of British troops to just south of Baghdad to aide U.S. forces. Opponents of the plan said the move is a ploy by President Bush to demonstrate ahead of the November 2 election that there is international support for the Iraq war. The redeployment of British troops would also free up U.S. soldiers for an all-out assault on Fallujah.
Australian government has turned down a request by the United Nations to send more troops to Iraq to protect UN personnel. Instead, Australia offered to train a contingent of Fijian soldiers for the job.
The Washington Post is reporting the scheduled January elections in Iraq could be in jeopardy because of a shortage of election experts from the United Nations. The UN currently has about 35 officials in Iraq and only four or five are election experts. Originally the UN’s top election expert estimated 270 UN advisers would be needed to oversee credible elections. In Afghanistan, the UN had over 250 election experts in the lead-up to last week’s vote there. The United Nations has said it can’t send more workers in until the security situation improves. The US had planned to mobilize troops from Georgia and Fiji to protect UN workers but the force hasn’t been formed yet.
A new Pentagon survey has found that less than half of U.S. Army reservists in Iraq felt their unit was "well prepared for its wartime mission." In addition the survey found the percentage of reservists and National Guard soldiers who planned to stay in the military fell 10 percent from a year before.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group has fired its Washington bureau chief after he publicly criticized the company’s decision to air a documentary critical of John Kerry just days before the November 2 election. The decision came after the journalist, Jon Lieberman, told the Baltimore Sun that the film was "biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election. For me, it’s not about right or left — it’s about what’s right or wrong in news coverage this close to an election." Following his firing Lieberman said "They’re using the news to drive their political agenda. I don’t think it served the public trust." Lieberman’s dismissal came on the same day the company’s stock value plunged nearly 8 percent.
Human Rights Watch yesterday issued a 135-page report accusing Israel of systematically violating international law by destroying the homes of 16,000 Palestinians in southern Gaza. Over the past four years the group estimates 10 percent of the Palestinians in Rafah have had their homes demolished. Human Rights Watch is calling on the United States and European countries to demand Israel pay reparations for victims or compensation to Palestinians who lost their homes. In addition, the report calls on Caterpillar Inc, the US-based company that supplies Israel with powerful bulldozers to suspend sales of equipment used in illegal demolitions.
In Syracuse, the trial of an Iraqi-American doctor charged with sending money to Iraq in defiance of the U.S. sanctions is set to begin today. Rafil Dhafir is the only person to be criminally prosecuted or jailed for violating the sanctions. He has been detained for the past 20 months awaiting trial. On Friday, Dhafir’s defense team was dealt a setback when the presiding judge ruled attorneys could not argue that Dhafir was being selectively prosecuted because he was a Muslim. In addition the doctor’s attorneys will be barred from delving into the government’s original motives for investigating him. When he was first detained, government officials hinted he had ties to terrorists; but no terrorism charges were ever filed — instead the government ended up charging him with violating the sanctions as well as Medicare fraud and tax evasion.
21 Arrested at ACT UP Protest At Bush-Cheney HQ
Police yesterday arrested 21 protesters at the Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters in Virginia participating in a demonstration organized by the AIDS advocacy groups ACT UP and Housing Works. Robert Codero of Housing Works said "We are here to protest the failures of the Bush administration’s AIDS policies. There are 40,000 new infections per year in the United States, more people uninsured, more people who need housing."
Meanwhile last week in Jacksonville Oregon, riot police shot projectiles known as pepperballs at a crowd of protesters who had gathered to protest a campaign appearance by President Bush. The pepperballs have been described like paintballs filled with cayenne pepper. At least one protester, 65-year-old, Richard Swaney, was knocked down after being shot by police. One mother told the Associated Press that she had been pushed by police as she held her six-year-old daughter. The woman, Cerridewen Bunten, said, "Nobody was being violent. We were out of the streets so cars could go by. We were being loud, but I never knew that was against the law."
In election news, the Supreme Court yesterday ordered a lower court to sort out Texas’s controversial redistricting of Congressional districts. Republican legislators redrew the state’s Congressional map last year in a way that will likely give the GOP five or six additional House seats. While the Supreme Court’s decision gives Democrats another chance to get the redistricting plan scrapped — it will not be in time to affect the Nov. 2 election. Republicans are expected to easily retain control of the House after Nov. 2 in part because of the redistricting in Texas.
And this news from Burma, the nation’s military regime has forced out its prime minister and placed him under house arrest. The ousted prime minister, Gen. Khin Nyunt, is reportedly being charged with corruption. He was seen as one of the less hardline voices in the military junta. His removal is expected to further delay the stalled reconciliation process with the opposition led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.