In Iraq, eight U.S. troops died over the weekend bringing the total number of U.S service men and women killed in Iraq to over 1600.
Over the past 10 days some 300 Iraqis have been killed in some of the deadliest attacks by the Iraqi resistance in months. On Saturday, two suicide car bombers rammed into a U.S. convoy killing 22 people. Two U.S. contractors were killed in the attack. Meanwhile the death toll from Friday’s suicide car bombing in Suwarya has topped 58. And on Sunday gunmen assassinated a senior transport ministry official in Baghdad.
The U.S. military has revealed that the Iraqi resistance set off a total of 135 car bombs during April–more than in any month of the U.S. occupation.
Amidst the violence, Iraq’s Parliament approved the new government’s final six cabinet seats. The minister of oil will be Shiite Muhammed Bahr Uloum. He held the same post in the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. A Sunni named Sadoun Dulame was picked to become defense minister. He is a former security police official who defected from Iraq in 1991. Still vacant is the human rights minister seat — a Sunni was selected for the job but he declined to take it.
Meanwhile several former Iraqi officials who served under prime minister Iyad Allawi are reported to be fleeing the country. According to the Independent of London, they are leaving to escape possible prosecution for corruption and for their personal safety.
In Washington, 88 members of Congress have signed a letter calling on the Bush administration to respond to reports that the U.S. and Britain had a secret agreement to attack Iraq. Last week the Sunday Times of London revealed the text of the minutes to a secret briefing from July 2002 by the head of Britain’s MI-6. In the briefing Richard Dearlove told Prime Minister Tony Blair that the U.S. had already made plans to attack Iraq. According to the leaked minutes, Dearlove said the US attack would be QUOTE “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.” He went on to say QUOTE “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
In Afghanistan, two U.S. Marines were killed in a battle Sunday near the city of Jalalabad.
Meanwhile women’s rights groups have been staging rallies in Kabul following the murder of three young Afghan women. The women were found last week dumped on a roadside — they had been raped and hanged. A note found with the bodies said they were killed for working for international aid groups.
In Russia, dozens of world leaders, including President Bush, are gathering today to mark the 60th anniversary of the Allies victory over Nazi Germany and the end of World War II. The events however are being boycotted by the Baltic states because that victory resulted in the Soviet Union seizing control of the region.
Meanwhile Algeria is marking an anniversary of its own this week–60 years ago French troops massacred up to 45,000 Algerians who took to the streets demanding independence. On Sunday Algeria’s president called on France to admit its part in the massacres.
A federal court of appeals has agreed with the Bush administration that a suit by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds should not proceed because it could expose national secrets and jeopardize national security. In her suit, Edmonds accused the FBI of firing her after she complained about security breaches within the agency.
The Vatican has forced the editor of a prominent New York-based Catholic magazine to resign because he had published articles critical of church positions including gay marriage and the use of condoms. Father Thomas Reese — a Jesuit — had served as editor of the weekly magazine “America” for the past seven years. He is one of the most prominent commentators in the country on issues related to the church. The order to dismiss him was issued in March by the section of the Vatican then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who has since become Pope. Meanwhile in North Carolina, a small Baptist church has voted to kick out nine members of its parish because they didn’t support President Bush in November’s election.
In Haiti, the U.S.-backed government is ignoring international pressure to release former prime minister Yvon Neptune from jail–he has been on a hunger strike for over three weeks and said to be near death.
California-based labor organizer Miguel Contreras has died at the age of 52. As secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, he helped revive the power of organized labor in Southern California. Born to migrant farmworkers he began working on farms at the age of five. As a teenager he began working with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers union.
And longtime peace activist Elmer Maas has died. He was a lifelong anti-nuclear activist and a founder of the Plowshares movement. In 1980, along with Phil and Dan Berrigan and five others, he hammered on nuclear warheads at the General Electric plant in King of Prussia Pennsylvania. The action became known as the Plowshares Eight. He would have turned 70 in August.