Scores of Iraqis died over the weekend as the country’s civil war intensified. The worst bloodshed occurred around the town of Balad where 17 Shiite laborers were kidnapped and beheaded on Friday. In response Shiite militias poured into the area and went on a killing spree. According to the Washington Post, hospital workers were overwhelmed by the violence. By Sunday, a total of 80 bodies were stacked up in the hospital morgue. Most had been shot in the head. Residents reported many more bodies remained in the street but the hospital was unable to pick them up.
The northern oil city of Kirkuk was largely shut down on Sunday after a wave of car bomb attacks. At least 12 people died and another 56 were injured. One car bomb exploded outside a girls high school, killing two students and injuring 25. Earlier today a car bomb exploded outside an Iraqi bank in the town of Suweira killing 10 people and wounding 15.
On Sunday, the Iraqi government indefinitely postponed a highly publicized national reconciliation conference that was to begin this week. Officials said the conference had to be put off because of unspecified “emergency reasons.”
The Times of London is reporting that calls are increasing to oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and replace the current government with a group of five strongmen who would impose martial law. According to the paper, the proposal to suspend the democratic process in Iraq is being widely discussed in political and intelligence circles. Last week one prominent Sunni politician traveled to Arab capitals to seek support to replace the current government with a hardline “government of national salvation”.
A network of militant Sunni groups have declared a separate Islamic republic inside Iraq stretching from Anbar province in the west to Baghdad to as far north as Kirkuk. The Sunni groups said the move was needed as Kurdish and Shiite groups moved to set up their own republics.
Journalists in Iraq also continue to come under increasing attacks. On Saturday an Iraqi reporter working for the government-run al-Iraqiya TV channel was killed in a drive-by shooting in southern Baghdad. Another journalist with the TV channel Nahrain was kidnapped. On Friday a radio announcer on the Voice of Iraq was shot while driving to work. On Thursday 11 people were assassinated at a TV station in Baghdad in the deadliest attack on journalists in the war so far.
The U.S. death toll is also soaring. 53 U.S. soldiers have died so far in October, putting this month on pace to be one of the deadliest of the war for US forces. At least 428 US troops have been injured since Sept. 28.
The United Nations refugee agency is estimating more than 1.5 million people are now displaced in Iraq. Many have been displaced since the first Gulf War but more than 365,000 have fled their homes since February. The Iraqi government estimates that at least 50,000 Iraqis are now leaving their homes each month due to the increase in violence.
In Australia, the country’s former defense chief has acknowledged that the Iraq war has increased the threat of Islamic militancy around the world. Peter Cosgrove’s comments came one day after Britain’s army chief made similar statements. Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the British staff, said on Thursday that the presence of British troops in Iraq exacerbates the security problem and that they should get out some time soon. He went on to warn that the Iraq war could break the British army. Dannatt has come under intense criticism from Tony Blair’s government as well as the Bush administration, but public opinion polls show he has the support of the British people. One poll found 74 percent of respondents believed Britain should pull out of Iraq sometime soon.
An Italian photojournalist has been kidnapped in Afghanistan. Gabriele Torsello was seized on Thursday from a public bus by five gunmen. He has been working in Afghanistan since 2005 and has also covered conflicts in Kashmir and Nepal.
The United Nations Security Council has unanimously agreed to impose new sanctions against North Korea following the country’s nuclear test. The sanctions ban the importation of materials related to weapons of mass destruction, as well as ballistic missiles, some conventional weapons, and luxury goods.
The New York Times called the sanctions the toughest international action against North Korea since the end of the Korean War. North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations Pak Gil Yon criticized the UN’s vote.
A British coroner has ruled that U.S. troops should be prosecuted for the unlawful killing of journalist Terry Lloyd in Iraq in March 2003. Lloyd was a well-known foreign correspondent for the British television network ITN. The coroner ruled that Lloyd was shot in the back by Iraqi soldiers. Then as he was being driven to a hospital in a civilian minivan, Lloyd was shot in the head by US troops.
Daniel Demoustier — the ITN cameraman who survived the incident — said the U.S. forces should be prosecuted for war crimes.
A U.S. Marine was charged on Friday with murdering and kidnapping an Iraqi man. Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate Junior is one of eight servicemen accused of kidnapping and killing an Iraqi civilian in the village of Hamdania. He has been ordered to remain in a Camp Pendleton brig until his trial in February.
Israel has stepped up its attacks on the Gaza Strip killing at least 22 Palestinians since Thursday. This comes as tensions remain high between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. On Sunday Hamas accused Fatah of accepting over forty million dollars in aid from the Bush administration as part of a US effort to topple the Hamas-led government.
Israeli President Moshe Katsav faces possible indictment for rape, sexual harassment, fraud and wiretapping. The Israeli police said Sunday they have uncovered enough evidence to charge Katsav with the crimes. Police have received complaints from 10 women against Katsav. As president, Katsav is immune from prosecution but he could be charged if impeached by the Knesset.
Here in this country, the FBI is investigating Republican Congressman Curt Weldon to determine whether he illegally helped his daughter’s company win over one million dollars in contracts from foreign clients. The FBI has been investigating the Pennsylvania Republican for months but it only came to light over the weekend after the FBI referred the matter to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section.
Republican Congressman Bob Ney has pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy and making false statements in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Despite the guilty plea, Ney remains a member of Congress but he said he would resign in the next few weeks. Ney faces up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
In New York — hate crime victim Michael Sandy has died. The 29-year-old gay man was brutally beaten up last week after chatting online with two men who convinced him to meet them for sex at a Brooklyn parking lot. Police say Sandy, an African-American, was met by four white males who robbed and beat him. The men chased Sandy onto a nearby street where he was hit by a passing car. The men beat him again as he lay on the road.
In Ecuador, the leftist economist Rafael Correa will face off against one of the country’s wealthiest mean Alvaro Noboa in presidential run-off next month. Early results from the first-round of voting showed Noboa had a slight lead over Correa. Correa is seen as a close ally of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, while Noboa is openly pro-Washington.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet returned on Saturday to the secret detention center where she was imprisoned and tortured more than 30 years ago under the Pinochet regime.
Michelle Bachelet’s trip marked the first presidential visit to Villa Grimaldi, one of the country’s most infamous secret prisons. In September, Chile’s Supreme Court cleared the way for Augusto Pinochet to face possible charges of murder, torture and rights abuses at Villa Grimaldi.
New questions are being raised over whether the United States is continuing to operate secret overseas prisons. The Spanish newspaper El Pais is reporting the Bush administration is holding a Spanish citizen in a secret CIA prison. The man — Mustafa Setmarian — has been accused of being involved in the September 11 attacks and planning the 2004 Madrid train bombings. He was captured in Pakistan a year ago but his whereabouts are unknown.
The Guardian newspaper reports that college professors and staff in Britain may soon be asked to spy on “Asian-looking” and Muslim students they suspect of involvement in Islamic extremism. The paper obtained an 18-page document that reveals Britain’s Department of Education has drawn up a series of proposals on how the spy program should work. Teachers are likely to be asked to report suspicious students to a special branch of the government. Wakkas Khan, the president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, said the program is potentially the widest infringement of the rights of Muslim students ever in the country.
In Bangladesh, thousands of people greeted the new Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus on Sunday when he visited the city of Jobra, the birthplace of his pioneering micro-credit scheme. Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
In California, a 14-year-old girl was pulled out of school last week and questioned by federal agents over a posting on her MySpace webpage. The agents approached Julia Wilson after she published a cartoon with the words “Kill Bush.” On Wednesday the agents removed the teenager from her biology class and questioned her for 15 minutes without her parents present. Julia said she her intent was to protest the Iraq war — not to threaten the president.
The legendary New York club CBGBs has closed its doors after 30 years. Last night the poet and singer Patti Smith played the final set at the club hailed by many as the birthplace of punk music. The owner of CBGBs says he now wants to reopen the club in Las Vegas.
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