In Baghdad, at least 35 people died earlier today in a massive car bomb attack outside an Iraqi army recruitment center. Over 140 people were injured and the death toll is expected to rise. A car packed with artillery shells drove into a crowd of about 100 people waiting in line to volunteer outside the recruitment center. Five months ago the same site was targeted by a car bomb killing 47 people.
Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr asked his militia on Wednesday to end their 10-week-old uprising against the U.S. The announcement came a day after the US said it would not oppose a political role for Sadr. Just weeks earlier the US was describing him as an “anti-democratic thug.”
In Saudi Arabia, a group identifying itself as Al Qaeda is threatening to kill an American hostage by tomorrow unless the Saudi government releases jailed militants. Paul Johnson, who works for Lockheed Martin, was taken hostage over the weekend. A video of him being held appeared on the web earlier this week.
The New York Times is reporting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered military officials in Iraq last November to secretly hold an Iraqi man in jail but not list him on the prison’s rolls in order to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring his treatment. Rumsfeld’s order allegedly came at the request of CIA Director George Tenet. In his recent report on prison conditions at Abu Ghraib, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba said the practice of holding so-called ghost detainees was “deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law.”
An Arab specialist at the Library of Congress reports that the fires set by arsonists in April 2003 at the Iraq National Library were targeting sensitive archives from the Saddam Hussein regime. The papers which were brought to the library in the late 1980s were burned using a highly flammable material similar to phosphorus that would not be common among casual looters. Archives from earlier periods of Iraq’s history were not touched.
In the West Bank, the London Independent reports Israel was forced to temporarily halt construction on parts of its massive separation wall after mass protests by Palestinians near the village of Iskaka. One local Palestinian organizer against the wall told the Independent “They have stolen our land, our water. This is a racist segregation. They have taken the best of our land, the most beautiful landscapes in the West Bank.”
In France, power workers cut electricity to President Jacques Chirac’s official residence yesterday in a protest against government plans to partially privatize state utilities.
The British government has barred thousands of former residents of the Indian Ocean island Diego Garcia from returning home 30 years after they were forced from their homeland to make way for a US air and naval base. The order which bars the return of residents to Diego Garcia and 64 other islands overturns a high court order four years allowing for their right of return. The British government says the US, which leases the land for the base, needs the island more now since Sept. 11. The island has been used to launch attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than a dozen nonprofit hospitals across the country were sued on Wednesday on charges that they violated their obligation as charities by overcharging people without insurance and then being overly aggressive in their attempts to collect money from the uninsured. The suit calls for the hospitals to create a trust to provide affordable medical care for the uninsured.
Meanwhile a new report from Families USA has found that 1/3 of Americans under the age of 65 did not have health insurance at some point during the past two years.
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