In Iraq, up to 13 people have died and over a dozen more wounded after a powerful suicide car bomb exploded at a checkpoint outside the Green Zone earlier today.
Meanwhile fighting has resumed in and around Fallujah. On Sunday US forces dropped 10 precision-guided bombs on parts of the city and seven Marines died in the region making it the deadliest day for US troops since October. Nearly 1,300 US troops have now died in Iraq.
The US also bombed parts of Mosul over the weekend. In the city of Hit, Iraqi fighters ambushed members of the Iraqi National Guard killing 7. In separate attacks in Baghdad and Kirkuk, three high-ranking Iraqi police forces were killed.
Today Marks One Year Since Hussein Capture
Today is the one-year anniversary of the capture of Saddam Hussein. Several of Hussein’s top aides have reportedly gone on a hunger strike to protest their jail conditions. A year after his capture, Hussein has appeared only once in public during a brief court proceeding. He is being kept in a secret location and still has not met with any of his attorneys. Iraqi officials say they don’t expect his trial to begin until early 2006.
Iraq’s interim president Ghazi Yawar has accused the Bush administration of making a huge mistake by dismantling the Iraqi army after topping Saddam Hussein. In an interview with the BBC, Yawar said that the move has led to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. In a separate interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Yawar warned that the growing instability and lack of security in Iraq could give birth to a “Iraqi Hitler.” Yawar said “This could in the long term create an environment in which an Iraqi Hitler could emerge like the one created by the defeat of Germany and the humiliation of Germans in World War I.”
Meanwhile U.S. Staff Sgt. Johnny Horne has been sentenced to three years in jail for the killing of an unarmed, injured 16-year-old Iraqi. Horne plead guilty to unpremeditated murder.
USA Today has determined that part time soldiers in the Army National Guard are about one-third more likely to be killed in Iraq than full-time active duty soldiers in part because of lack of training and lack of proper equipment.
Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has withdrawn from the race to be president of the Palestinian Authority. Barghouti had been the most popular contender challenging Mahmoud Abbas. There was intense pressure on Barghouti to drop out both from within his Fatah party and the international community. Secretary of State Colin Powell called his nomination “problematic”, while European donors had quietly threatened to slash aid to the Palestinian Authority if he were to win.
Meanwhile in Rafah, five Israeli soldiers died Sunday when a booby-trapped tunnel blew up under their army post along the Egyptian border. Six soliders were wounded in the blast. Hamas and a faction of Fatah known as the Fatah Hawks claimed joint responsibility for the attack.
The White House is in search of a new homeland security director following Friday’s surprise announcement from former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik that he was withdrawing his name. Kerik officially claimed he was not seeking the post after he learned that he had employed an undocumented worker as a nanny and that he had not paid income taxes. But there has been wide speculation that the nanny issue was just the tip of the iceberg. Hours before his announcement, Newsweek had uncovered that an arrest warrant was issued for Kerik in 1988 over a dispute involving unpaid bills. The Daily News has since reported that Kerik had illegally accepted thousands of dollars in cash and gifts while a public official. The Wall Street Journal raised questions about his connection to the stun gun manufacturer Taser and how he made millions in a recent stock sale. Questions were also raised about his failure in Iraq to train a new Iraqi police force as well as his misuse of police power while the head of the New York police department. Despite Kerik’s past, his announcement Friday still came as a surprise in part because no top Democrat had opposed his nomination. New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer had both repeatedly praised his qualifications. Kerik reportedly will now return to working for Rudolph Giuliani’s firm Giuliani Partners. Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman has been named as one possible candidate to take the security post.
The Bush administration has begun spying on the head of the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency in an attempt to uncover information that could lead to his ouster. This according to the Washington Post. The US reportedly has tapped Mohammad ElBaradei’s phones and intercepted dozens of calls. The Bush administration has been at odds with ElBaradei since he rightly stated there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This is the third report over the past two years of the Bush administration or its allies spying on officials at the United Nations. In March 2003, the Observer newspaper revealed that the National Security Agency had ordered increased eavesdropping on UN diplomats ahead of the Security Council vote on Iraq. Earlier this year former British cabinet minister Clare Short revealed British spies had eavesdropped on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
In Britain, new questions have emerged over whether foul play was involved in the death of a top government scientist last year. The scientist, David Kelly, was found dead shortly it was revealed that he was the source of a BBC report that questioned the veracity of the government’s report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Officials at the time said he had committed suicide by slashing his wrists. But now the two paramedics who treated Kelly at the scene have come forward to tell the Observer newspaper that Kelly could not have died from the wound they saw on his wrist.
Doctors in Vienna have confirmed that Ukrainian opposition leader and presidential hopeful Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned several months ago. Doctors said he has 1,000 times the normal amount of dioxin in his body. The poisoning has disfigured his face over the past few months. The candidate fell sick Sept. 6, a day after meeting with the head of the Security Service of Ukraine and others. Two weeks after the meeting Yushchenko first suggested that there had been an attempt on his life.
In other Ukraine news, the Associated Press is reporting the Bush administration spent more than $65 million over the past two years in the lead-up to last month’s election in Ukraine. Russian president Vladimir Putin has charged Washington with interfering with Ukraine’s internal affairs. Some of the money was spent to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to Washington to meet US leaders as well as to underwrite the exit polls that indicated he won the disputed election. No money was spent directly on Yushchenko’s political party but officials acknowledge money was sent to help train groups and individuals opposed to the Russian-backed government candidate.
The Department of Homeland Security has begun experimenting with a massive privately-run computer database that allows investigators to match financial transactions against a financial watch list of some 250,000 people and firms. The New York Times reports the watch lists reportedly contains people with suspected ties to terrorist financing, drug trafficking, money laundering and other financial crimes. The program is being developed by a British company called World-Check that gathers data from 140,000 public sources. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said the government likely outsourced the project to a private firm in order to circumvent US privacy laws. Rotenberg said “There’s a real risk in a situation like this because there’s really no accountability. People can find themselves on a watch list incorrectly, and the consequences can be very serious.”
In Afghanistan, 18,000 U.S. forces are taking part in a major new offensive dubbed “Lightning Freedom” to hunt down members of the Taliban.
The Pakistani government is denying a report in today’s New York Times that the US has set up a set up a series of secret CIA posts in Pakistan to help in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
President Bush has nominated Samuel Bodman to serve as the country’s next Secretary of Energy. He has been working for the Bush administration since 2001, first as deputy commerce secretary then deputy treasury secretary. The Sierra Club criticized his hands-off position on global warming when he oversaw the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency as deputy secretary of Commerce. The Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said, “He was literally in charge of watching the polar ice caps melt.” Prior to coming to Washington Bodman headed the chemical company Cabot. The Knight Ridder news agency reports that during Bodman’s tenure at Cabot, the government twice fined the company for failing to report hazardous spills and not complying with federal cleanup orders.
And in Alaska, a Malaysian freighter carrying soybeans has split in two and leaked out thousands of gallons of heavy fuel. Six crew members are believed to have died in the accident. The ship was carrying about 500,000 gallons of fuel. Officials fear it could be Alaska’s biggest oil spill since the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989. Bad weather has so far hampered clean-up efforts. The accident occurred near the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, a nesting haven for 40 million seabirds and numerous marine mammals.