In Iraq, at least 2 US soldiers were killed today in separate attacks after their convoys were hit by roadside bombs in Baghdad.
One soldier from Task Force Iron Horse died and four others were wounded when a bomb exploded this morning in the center of Baqouba, just north of Baghdad.
The deaths brought the number of US soldiers killed in combat since Washington invaded Iraq in March to at least 543.
Meanwhile in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, 17 Iraqi police officers and at least four civilians were killed over the weekend in a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen on three police stations, a civil defense base and the mayor’s office. At one of the police stations, up to 87 prisoners were freed. Four of the attackers died in the raids. Iraqi and U.S. officials claimed two of the dead attackers were Lebanese and one was Iranian. The attack raised new concerns over the strength of Iraq’s police forces. Over the past week 125 Iraqis have died in attacks on army and police stations.
On Sunday Iraqi police arrested former Ba’thist member Muhammad Zimam. He was number 41 on the U.S. most wanted list.
At a regional summit over the weekend in Kuwait, Iraq and its Middle East neighbors called on US-led occupation forces to leave Iraq as soon as possible. The group of eight nations also called for the United Nations to assume what they called “central responsibilities” in Iraq’s transition to self-rule.
Countries participating in the summit were: Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Bahrain.
Also at the summit Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said that the Iraqi Governing Council plans to ask the U.S. to hand over Saddam Hussein and remove his status as a prisoner of war.
U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that nearly all of the intelligence provided by Iraqi defectors connected to the Iraqi National Congress was either exaggerated or made up. This according to a report by the Knight Ridder news agency.
The Iraqi National Congress had close ties to the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office but was largely not trusted by the CIA or State Department.
Defectors had told the United States that Saddam Hussein had built mobile biological weapons facilities, was rapidly rebuilding his nuclear weapons program and had trained Islamic warriors near Baghdad.
None of those allegations turned out to be true.
The U.S. now believes the INC coached the defectors as to what to say before they were interviewed by intelligence officers.
Meanwhile a new Washington Post/ABC poll has found that 54 percent of the country now believes President Bush either exaggerated or lied about pre-war intelligence. And for the first time the poll has found that less than half the country believes the war was worth fighting.
In Madrid up to 100,000 anti-war protesters gathered in the Spanish capital Sunday to demand an end to the occupation of Iraq. The event also marked the anniversary of last year’s Feb. 15 anti-war protests that saw at least 10 million people gather across the globe in what is believed to have been the largest day of international protest the world has seen.
On Saturday, in an attempt to improve its image in the Middle East, the U.S. government began broadcasting its new Arabic satellite TV station Al-Hurra into 22 Middle Eastern nations. President Bush said the station, which in Arabic means “the free one”, is needed to counter, “the hateful propaganda that fills the airwaves in the Muslim world.”
According to the New York Times, at a cost of $62 million, the news station is the most ambitious government-sponsored international media project since the Voice of America began broadcasting in 1942.
In Jordan a spokesperson for the country’s Muslim Brotherhood movement charged the new station was “part of the American media and cultural invasion of our region.”
In an interview with the New York Times, the station’s news director Mouafac Harb attempted to show that the station would be more objective and balanced than Al Jazeera. He said if the station were to report on an Israeli raid on Palestinians that his station, unlike Al Jazeera, would see no need to note that the Israelis were flying U.S.-made aircraft. Harb asked, “Why say that? You can feel which way they are leading you.”
The U.S. government is hoping Al Hurra will become more popular than the leading Arabic satellite station Al Jazeera which has been critical of U.S. policies in the Middle East.
The New York Police Department has take unprecedented measures to develop emergency plans if the city is attacked with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. This according to a report in the New York Times.
The city has been working with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop equipment that can automatically detect and monitor a biological attack.
The city’s health department has developed a plan to open 200 sites to give emergency vaccinations to the city’s 8 million residents in the case of an attack.
And the city recently changed its health code to allow police to detain anyone who is suspected of having been exposed to a deadly infectious pathogen.
On the campaign trail, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry won caucuses on Saturday in Nevada and Washington D.C. giving him victories in 14 of the first 16 run-offs. In Washington D.C., Kerry won with 47 percent of the vote, followed by the Rev. Al Sharpton with 20 percent. In Nevada, Kerry received 63 percent of the vote and Howard Dean placed second with 17 percent.
On Tuesday voters in Wisconsin go to the polls. Dean vowed Sunday he will stay in the race even if he loses Wisconsin but the New York Times is reporting that his own national campaign chairman Steven Grossman plans to shift his support to Kerry if Dean loses in the primary.
While the Democratic presidential candidates were in Wisconsin for a debate on Sunday, President Bush appeared in Florida for the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest car race of the year. The Washington Post reports the White House described the visit as non-political which means taxpayers will pay for the trip’s expenses. But analysts say the trip was a clear political attempt to reach out to a demographic known as NASCAR Dads. At the race track, the Republican National Committee set up a large voter registration drive.
On Friday at 6:30 in the evening after much of the White House staff had already left for the long weekend, the press office released hundreds of documents pertaining to the president’s service in the National Guard.
According to the Washington Post the new documents did little to answer questions about Bush’s military history. According to the paper the only definitive documentation that places Bush at a National Guard Base in Alabama in 1972 or 1973 is a single dental exam. And only one person has vivid recollections of serving with Bush in Alabama. John Calhoun said he saw Bush sign in at eight to 10 times for about eight hours each from May to October 1972. But Callhoun said he saw Bush at the base months before October 1972 when the White House claimed Bush began drills in Alabama.
Also on Friday the White House announced President Bush would meet privately with members of the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, attacks. But it is not clear if he will meet with the full commission or if he will testify under oath.
Government watch-groups including the Center for Public Integrity are criticizing a White House decision not to release financial and employment background information on members of the new committee to review intelligence failures in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
One member of the commission, William Studeman, is a former official at the CIA and the National Security Agency and is now a senior executive at the military contractor Northrop Grumman. Another commissioner, lawyer Lloyd Cutler, founded a law firm that has done work for the Carlyle Group. The chair of the commission Judge Lawrence Silberman has pledged to release his personal financial information but many critics are concerned that he is too close personally to the administration. According to the New York Times he is friends with both Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, two of the most prominent advocates for invading Iraq.
The Washington Post is reporting that the nuclear weapon plans obtained by Libya from a Pakistani smuggling network originated from China. According to the Post, documents written in Chinese were found that contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missile. The U.S. believes any cooperation between China and Pakistan likely ended in the 1980s. Even with foreign help, the U.S. says Libya had made minimal progress toward building nuclear weapons.
In Afghanistan, four Afghan aid workers who were helping the United Nations remove landmines were killed in an ambush Saturday. Meanwhile a U.S. soldier was killed and nine others were wounded when a mine went off under their Humvee. The incident occurred near the eastern Afghanistan city Ghazni where eight U.S. soldiers died on Jan. 30 in an explosion at an arms depot.
U.S. officials are now saying security concerns and voter-registration problems may force the postponement of Afghan elections scheduled for June.
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that a 12-year-old boy named Asadullah Rahman has returned home to Afghanistan after spending 17 months locked up in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The boy says he was just 10 years old when he was jailed by the U.S. He was one of three detainees under the age of 16 that were recently released from Guantanamo.
And the New York Times is reporting that senior U.S. defense officials have said the government might never release some of the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.
In Israel, a military court has indicted an Israeli soldier in the death of British peace activist Tom Hurndall who was shot in Rafah in April of last year. Hurndall died in January.
In San Francisco, demand for same-sex marriage licenses has been so great that City Hall stayed open on Sunday and still officials had to turn away hundreds of gay couples who had lined up outside. By the end of the weekend, city officials were expecting to have married 1000 couples in defiance of state law.