U.S. forces killed up to 54 Iraqis Sunday in Samarra in one of the bloodiest battles since the fall of Baghdad. Pentagon officials claimed all of the Iraqis killed were fighters but Agence France Press reports that local medics said at least eight of the Iraqis were civilians including an Iraqi woman and child. The Los Angeles Times also reported that local residents said some of the victims worked at a pharmaceutical factory which was hit accidentally by U.S. tanks. The U.S. said the killings came in response to Iraqi attacks on three U.S. convoys near Samarra.
It came at the end of a weekend that saw coalition forces suffer 14 deaths including seven Spanish intelligence agents, two Korean contractors, two Japanese diplomats, two US soldiers and a Colombian contractor. A total of 111 coalition forces died in November marking the deadliest month since the U.S. invaded Iraq. In Spain, calls for the return of all Spanish troops increased. Polls show 85 percent of the country believe the war in Iraq was a mistake. The newspaper El Mundo editorialized “Nobody who saw the glee with which passersby trampled the corpses of our countrymen can still maintain that the majority of Iraqis consider coalition troops to be their liberators.” WeÂ’ll have more on the reaction in Spain and Japan later in the show.
In Northern Ireland, the future of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement is in jeopardy following last week’s elections. One of the hard-line Protestant parties that opposed the agreement, the Democratic Unionist Party, won the elections. The party’s head Ian Ian Paisley has called for the renegotiation of the peace treaty. His son Ian Ian Paisley Jr. said the peace agreement was Â”dead in the water.Â” Ian Paisley has also ruled out working with Sinn Fein, the political party which secured the most seats among the Catholic political parties.
Time Magazine is reporting that the U.S. plans to release 140 of the 660 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Time reported the government has accelerated its efforts to release prisoners after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the detentions. None of the foreigners at Guanatanamo have been charged with a crime and they have been denied the right to legal counsel. The U.S. has refused to consider them prisoners of war which would award them some legal rights under international law.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warns in a new report that Israel’s construction of a massive security wall in the West Bank could “damage the longer-term prospects for peace by making the creation of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state more difficult”. Annan said the wall is expected to cut off 240,000 Palestinians from their communities and leave 160,000 Palestinians in areas almost entirely surrounded by the barrier which has been described as an apartheid wall and has been compared to the Berlin Wall. In October the UN General Assembly voted 144 to 4 to demand Israel tear down the wall. [ Download Report] In related news the Israeli army has killed a nine-year-old Palestinian and three suspected members of Hamas today during a large raid in Ramallah. Dozens of Palestinians were also arrested.
The Bush administration is expected to soon announce the repeal of most of the countryÂ’s tariffs on imported steel. This comes after the World Trade Organization threatened to levy $2.2 billion in trade sanctions against the U.S. The tariffs are considered to be illegal under international trade agreements. The tariffs were put in place to help keep jobs in the steel belt states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
In China, three dissident writers have been reportedly released from prison a year after they published online articles criticizing the government. The release of the prisoners comes one week before the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is scheduled to make his first state trip to the United States.