Police in India are hunting for clues as to who was behind Tuesday’s deadly bomb attacks on Mumbai’s train network that killed at least 183 people and injured over 700. The near-simultaneous blasts happened at the height of the evening rush hour. Seven explosions ripped through commuter trains and stations within 15 minutes of each other. The blasts all happened in fast trains and inside first class carriages. Train cars were blown apart and witnesses reported body parts littering the railway tracks. Television images showed footage of bystanders carrying victims in the rain to ambulances and searching through the wreckage for survivors and bodies.
Hundreds of thousands of people were stranded overnight after the trains shut down. An eighth bomb was reportedly defused in a Mumbai suburban station. The attacks are the worst in Mumbai for more than a decade.
Israel is threatening a heavy response following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by the group Hezbollah along the Lebanon-Israel border. The soldiers were seized after Hezbollah launched rocket attacks at Israeli border posts and a nearby town. Four Israeli civilians were wounded. A reported two Lebanese civilians were killed when Israel bombed three bridges in Southern Lebanon. Hezbollah is demanding the release of all Lebanese prisoners inside Israel. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting IDF officials are warning “Lebanon’s clock will be turned back twenty years” unless the soldiers are returned.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian death toll from Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip continues to rise by the day. Earlier today, seven people where killed when an Israeli strike destroyed a three-story building in Gaza City. The dead included a mother and three children. At least twenty-four people were wounded in the attack, among them top Hamas commander Mohammed Deif. Israel says it was targeting a meeting of Hamas activists who had taken part in the capture of soldier Gilad Shalit. Witnesses said additional victims might still be buried beneath the rubble. Another three Palestinians —-— two militants in a police officer — were also killed today. Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered for a funeral procession for recent victims of Israeli attacks, including a one-year old girl who died last week. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh repeated Hamas’ call for a negotiated prisoner swap.
Meanwhile at the United Nations, the US continues to block a Security Council resolution demanding Israel’s immediate withdrawal from Gaza and emergency aid to the Palestinians. The resolution also calls for the release of the Israeli soldier and an end to all rocket attacks on Israeli towns. US Ambassador John Bolton said: “Our position remains the same — we don’t see at this point any utility in council action at all.”
In Iraq, at least fifty people have been killed in the latest violence in Baghdad. Earlier today, seven people were killed and twenty wounded in a suicide attack on a restaurant. Other deaths were reported in a double suicide bombing near the US-run Green Zone and an attack on a bus of Shiite mourners returning from a funeral.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Iraq on an unannounced visit. Speaking to reporters en route from another surprise stop in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said the Iraqi government is not ready to decide on a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. He also rejected Iraqi calls for revoking the immunity granted to US forces in Iraq. His comments came one day after Iraq’s human rights minister said he will bring the request to revoke US immunity to the United Nations.
In other Iraq news, the Washington Post is reporting the Pentagon is discontinuing its multi-billion dollar logistics contract with Halliburton. The decision will affect most of Halliburton’s operations in Iraq. The company has come under intense scrutiny for its close ties to the Bush administration and a series of well-publicized accusations of incompetence, corruption and fraud. Government audits of Halliburton’s Iraq services have found more than $1 billion in questionable costs. No company has been awarded more money in contracts from the Iraq war. Halliburton pulled in over $7 billion last year and is expected to make at least $4 billion this year.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary committee opened hearings Tuesday on the legal rights of Guantanamo prisoners.
The hearings come as a response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling against the Bush administration’s forming of military tribunals to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The court said the tribunals violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. The court ruled that the Geneva Conventions must apply to detainees captured in the war on terror. The hearings came one day after the Pentagon announced it would grant prisoners minimal rights under the Geneva Conventions. White House legal advisor Stephen Bradbury defended the White House position.
Meanwhile, Senator Patrick Leahy criticized the Bush administration’s conduct in the so-called war on terror.
The Judiciary Committee is one of at least three Congressional panels taking up the issue. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday.
This news on the CIA leak case: Columnist Robert Novak has revealed White House aide Karl Rove was a confirming source in his story outing the CIA operative Valerie Plame. Novak did not reveal who first told him of Plame’s identity.
In health news, the Senate voted Tuesday to ban the seizure of prescription drugs that Americans bring in from Canada. Thousands of people have turned to Canadian pharmacies to seek out cheaper alternatives to US medications. Both chambers of Congress must agree on a final version before the measure becomes law. The Bush administration and leading Republicans have opposed the effort. They argue imported Canadian drugs could be harmful and could be used to hide dangerous chemicals for terror attacks. Critics say the Bush administration is trying to protect drug industry profits.
The White House has released data showing top staffers have received a raise of more than $4,000 this year. The staffers include chief strategist Karl Rove, National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, and counselor Dan Bartlett. The news comes on the same day House Republicans voted for the fifth time in two weeks against considering a proposal to raise the minimum wage. The Bush administration is also opposed to the minimum wage increase.
And in Wisconsin, a twenty-nine year old man was killed Sunday when police officers shocked him with a Taser gun. According to his family, the victim, Nickolos Cyrus, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia ten years ago. The killing occurred after police found him trespassing in a home under construction. They hit him with two shots when he ignored orders to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. Cyrus’ family is outraged. His parents had reported their son missing the night before and say police were aware of his condition. According to Amnesty International, one hundred and fifty people have been killed by tasers since 2001.