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In Iraq, at least 50 people have died in a large suicide bombing at a police recruitment center in the Kurdish city of Erbil. 150 people were also wounded. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq in over two months. The suicide bomber reportedly entered the recruitment center posing as a volunteer recruit. He then set off the explosives. Over 200 people have now died in Iraq since Friday when the Iraqi resistance launched a new wave of attacks.
Today’s bombing in Iraq came less than 24 hours after the swearing in of the new Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. The ceremony took place even though at least six cabinet spots remain open including the key posts to head the oil and defense ministries. Tension is rising inside Iraq over what role Sunnis will have in the new government. On Tuesday, most Sunni politicians–including the country’s Vice President Ghazi al-Yawar — boycotted the swearing-in ceremony. Yawar is the highest ranking Sunni in the new government,
The Washington Post is reporting that the Iraqi resistance likely learned some of their bomb-making techniques indirectly from the U.S. Army. In 1965 the Army issued a detailed booklet on how to build and hide booby traps. The manual included detailed diagrams illustrating various means of wiring detonators to explosives. It also gave advise on the best locations for concealing deadly bombs. In 1987, Saddam Hussein distributed an Arabic version of the manual to the Iraqi military. The manual was translated at a time when the Reagan administration was supplying Iraq with military assistance in its war against Iran. One U.S. official estimated that ten percent of the bombs planted in Iraq use the pressure-detonation techniques detailed in the U.S. document.
On Tuesday — journalists across the globe marked World Press Freedom Day. Reporters Without Borders warned of the increasing threats facing journalists–especially in Iraq. The group reported 53 journalists were killed in action last year around the world — that’s more than in any year since 1955.
Reports are coming out of Iraq that Iraqi reporters are facing increasing threats and intimidation from Iraqi officials. According to the Knight Ridder News Agency, two newspaper editors in southeastern Iraq were jailed for several months for criticizing the local governor of the Wasit province. Their newspaper was also shut down. In Baquoba, a tv cameraman has been detained since early April after he was arrested for filming inside a mosque. In Baghdad a photographer was arrested for taking pictures of long lines at gasoline stations. The photographer Ahmed Abed Ali said “We’ve become hated because we say the truth, and the truth is that Iraqi police make a lot of mistakes.” Another tv reporter says she’s lost count of how many times Iraqi authorities have confiscated her cameras and smashed her tapes.
In Britain, the families of 10 soldiers killed in Iraq are threatening to sue Prime Minister Tony Blair for waging what they described as an illegal war and for lying to the public in the lead up to the invasion. The group — Military Families Against War — said they would seek a judicial review of Blair’s actions unless he agrees to a public inquiry into the legality of the war within the next two weeks. In addition the group announced it is filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the use of cluster bombs by British forces in Iraq.
This comes as voters are preparing to the polls for Britain’s national elections on Thursday. Blair is seeking his third term as prime minister. Iraq has been the main focus of the election–in part because a series of leaked documents have recently emerged outlining how Britain set the groundwork to justify the war.
On Sunday the London Times revealed that it had obtained the minutes to a secret meeting that proves Blair had privately committed by July 2002 to wage war with Iraq. A secret briefing for the meeting said Britain and the U.S. had to “create” conditions to justify a war. Earlier during the campaign it was revealed that Blair’s own attorney general questioned the legality of the invasion.
Here at home, support for the war in Iraq is at an all-time low. The latest CNN/USA Today/ Gallup poll shows 57 percent of the country believes the war in Iraq is not worth fighting. Just 41 percent of respondents said the war has been worth it.
The opposition to the war is also being felt at military recruiting centers. The U.S. Army revealed Tuesday that during the month of April the Army missed its recruiting goal by 42 percent. The Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent. The Army has now missed its monthly recruiting goals three months in a row.
In Afghanistan, 20 suspected insurgents and an Afghan police officer have been killed in the southeastern mountains in what is being described as one of the country’s bloodiest battles in months. Six U.S. soldiers were injured. On Monday, 34 people died northwest of Kabul after an arms depot exploded blowing up a village. The explosives were being secretly stored in the home of a former Afghan commander.
Meanwhile the Pakistani government has announced it has arrested one of the highest ranking leaders of Al Qaeda. The man — Abu Faraj al-Libbi–was wanted for trying to assassinate Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. He is believed to be the highest ranking Al Qaeda member captured since Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003.
In Fort Hood Texas, the sentencing for Private Lynndie England has begun. England pleaded guilty for her role in the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A doctor testified in her defense that she was cognitively impaired due to oxygen deprivation at birth. The doctor said this resulted in a speech impairment, a reading disability and her inability to resist peer pressure. Because of a plea bargan, England faces a maximum of 11 years in prison.
At the United Nations, Iranian officials declared it would resume its plan to build nuclear plants despite U.S. opposition. The announcement came during the second day of a review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful means. It accused the Bush administration of using the fear of nuclear weapons proliferation to deny peaceful nuclear technology to developing countries.
In Kuwait, women have faced another setback in their attempt to win the right to vote. The Kuwaiti Parliament has effectively killed a measure that would have allowed women to participate in municipal elections for the first time.
The state of Florida announced Tuesday it would not continue to try to block a 13-year-old girl from having an abortion. Since the girl was a foster child, the state had been claiming that as her legal guardian it had the right to deny her right to an abortion. Florida state law however allows minors to chose to have abortions. Howard Simon of the American Civil Liberties Union compared the state’s action with that of the Terri Schiavo case. Simon said “You’ve got to be blind not to see a pattern here. The pattern is the state’s hostility to the exercise of personal freedom … when that personal freedom is not consistent with the prevailing ideology of the state government.”
The Bush administration has announced it will soon close one third of the regional offices run by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. The Commission currently has six regional offices — the offices in Denver and Kansas City will soon be closed due to budget cutbacks.
And in Phoenix, a 24-year-old man died Tuesday after being shot by police with a Taser stun gun. The man was reportedly fighting with a police officer at the time of the incident. The Arizona Republic reports that at least 109 people have died in the United States and Canada following police Taser strikes since 1999.