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In Iraq, fierce fighting has broken out in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf as US soldiers backed with tanks have moved onto an ancient cemetery that is considered sacred ground by Shiite Muslims. The cemetery, which is called the Valley of Peace and is the largest in the Muslim world, is located near the Imam Ali Shrine and is close to where Shiite cleric Muctada al Sadr has taken sanctuary. . Images of the US invasion into the holy Najaf cemetery are being broadcast today around the Arab world. One Najaf resident said, “The cemetery lost its holiness in the early hours of today when the U.S. forces started to attack. Many of the graves have been destroyed. But we can say that people are dying and nice buildings are being destroyed also today. Who cares right now about graves?” The U.S. said Sadr’s forces were using the cemetery to stage attacks. It also appears the US has cut off the main road between Najaf and Kufa where Sadr delivered his Friday sermon. He lashed out at President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling them “the heads of tyranny.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz went before Congress Thursday asking for $25 billion more to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and he warned far more money may be needed. He said, “It will sure be much larger than 25 billion dollars.” Wolfowitz was widely criticized because the Bush administration has not outlined how the money will be spent. US Senator Carl Levin said, “The administration has acted too unilaterally in many ways in the Iraq war. They’ve failed to budget for the costs of the war. Now they want, apparently, as I read these letters, what amounts to a blank check for the supplemental costs.” Meanwhile at the same hearing Wolfowitz admitted that some of the country’s interrogation techniques used in Iraq were “not humane.” He had been asked by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed if he thought placing a hood over a detainee’s head for 72 hours to be humane treatment. In Iraq 300 Iraqi detainees have been released from Abu Ghraib prison.
Two British men who were detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years have written to President Bush charging that they had been stripped naked, physically abused and humiliated while detained at the base. The men wrote “From the moment of our arrival in Guantanamo Bay and indeed from long before, we were deliberately humiliated and degraded by the use of methods that we now read U.S. officials denying.” A spokesperson for US Southern Command claimed the men’s allegations were untrue. But last week the Washington Post revealed that in April 2003, the Pentagon OK’d the use of 20 interrogation techniques at Guantanamo including reversing some detainees’ normal sleep patterns, exposing them to heat, cold and “sensory assault,” including loud music and bright lights.
In Gaza, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting that Israeli forces plan to demolish dozens and possibly hundreds of Palestinian homes near the Egyptian border. The demolitions were approved Thursday at a high-level meeting attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Earlier in the week the United Nations reported that home demolitions have already left more than 1,000 Palestinians homeless this month. One opposition Israeli lawmaker said Sharon’s plan would be a war crime and he warned against Israel razing half of the town of Rafah. The decision comes after a deadly three-day period in Gaza that has seen at least 27 Palestinains and 11 Israeli soldiers killed in fighting.
The father of Nicholas Berg, the American businessman who was beheaded in Iraq, blamed the Bush administration Thursday for his son’s death. Michael Berg said, “My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this.” Berg was apparently murdered by Islamic militants in response to the prison abuse scandal in Iraq. A video of the beheading appeared on the internet earlier this week. The Berg family also released the text of an email from the State Department that confirmed their son was detained by the US shortly before he disappeared. The email was from a US consular officer. It read: “I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the US military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up … one week ago.” The US has denied it ever held Berg and said he was being detained by Iraqi police. Three days after his release from detention he was never seen from again.
Scientists have found the amount of sunshine reaching the surface of the Earth has diminished by as much as 10 percent since the 1950s even though the sun remains as bright as ever. In Hong Kong the amount of sunlight decreased by 37 percent. Pollution is seen as the main reason for what some call global dimming.
240,000 pages of declassified documents were released Thursday that show the US allowed some former Nazi war criminals to live in the United States after World War II. In addition the U.S. government paid other former Nazis to work for West Germany’s secret service. According to historian Norman Goda, who wrote “US Intelligence and the Nazis”, FBI Director J Edgar Hoover backed allowing former Nazis to live here so they could help report on any Communists inside immigrant communities here in the United States.
Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has commuted the death sentence of a convicted murderer from Mexico in a case that has gotten international attention. In March the International Court of Justice in The Hague found Osbaldo Torres and 50 other Mexicans on death row had their rights violated because they were never informed they could contact the Mexcian Consulate after their arrest.
In South Korea, the country’s high court has reinstated president Roh Moo Hyun two months after he was impeached by parliament.
Ousted Haitian president Jean Betrand Aristide is planning to move to South Africa now that the country has given him temporary asylum. South African President Mbeki said “Aristide remains an absolutely vital player if there is going to be a democratic outcome in Haiti.”