Alleged al-Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has apparently confessed to plotting the 9/11 attacks and a series of other crimes. In a transcript released by the Pentagon, Mohammed says: "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z." He also laid claim to attacks including the 2002 bombings of a Kenyan beach resort and a Bali nightclub that killed hundreds of people. Mohammed also claimed involvement in planning several attacks that never occurred, including assassination attempts on former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and bombings of several landmarks in the U.S. and around the world. The Pentagon blacked out some of Mohammed’s remarks, including his response to a question on whether he was tortured in U.S. custody. The Associated Press is reporting the Pentagon also redacted a section in which Mohammed confesses to the beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
A Senate Republican has joined growing calls for the dismissal of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. In an interview with the Associated Press, Republican Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire said: "We need to have a strong, credible attorney general that has the confidence of Congress and the American people. Alberto Gonzales can’t fill that role." Sununu’s comments came hours after President Bush defended Gonzales’ performance. Bush also tried to explain his role in the controversy. The president admitted to discussing the prosecutors with Gonzales but said he didn’t mention individual names. Meanwhile in Washington, White House Counsel Fred Fielding met with lawmakers to discuss possible subpoenas of top administration officials, including chief presidential adviser Karl Rove. Emails and documents released this week show the White House and the Justice Department began discussing firing the prosecutors more than two years ago.
In other news from Washington, the Senate has opened debate on a measure that would withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by April of next year. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it’s approved.
The Pentagon has for the first time said some of the violence in Iraq could be described as a "civil war." The assessment came in a quarterly report that called the last three months of 2006 the deadliest period since the U.S. invasion. U.N. figures show more than 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed or wounded in December alone.
In India, at least 12 people were killed after police opened fire on villagers opposing the forced expropriation of farmland in West Bengal. The Indian government wants to use the land to create a tax-free industrial park for an Indonesian chemical firm. More than 500 police were deployed. Authorities had not tried to enter the area since January due to local opposition.
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair has won approval for a call to renew Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines despite a revolt from nearly 90 members of his Labour Party. The program, Trident, has drawn widespread protest. On Wednesday, an unidentified protester spoke out at a naval base in Scotland.
Unidentified protester: "I feel we face the kind of danger that has more to do with changing people’s attitudes and changing people’s attitudes to how they deal with conflict. And in that case I don’t think Trident’s any help whatsoever. It is 75 billion that we could put into education and that we could put into changing attitudes around the world."
In the Occupied Territories, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have agreed on the makeup of a cabinet in their new coalition government.
Hamas spokesperson Ghazi Hamad: "I can confirm that all the procedure, all the procedures, all the consultations are now over, and because we are ready now for a declaration of a national unity government. Today we have an agreement about all the names of the ministers, including the minister of interior. Tomorrow I think that all the organizations and the factions who join the government, they will give the name of the ministers to the prime minster, and on Saturday there will be a meeting for the PLC, in order to give a program to the government."
Palestinians hope the unity deal will help end the international boycott on their government. The U.S. and Israel have rejected the Hamas platform of a long-term truce and want Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and respect previous peace agreements. Palestinians say the conditions are unfair because Israel refuses to accept the same toward Palestinians.
In Ukraine, the head of the U.S. Missile Agency was met with protest Wednesday as he defended plans for the controversial U.S. missile shield in parts of Europe. Lt. Gen. Henry Obering was speaking to journalists when several protesters heckled him. Demonstrators held anti-nuclear signs and chanted slogans before they were removed from the room. The Bush administration wants to install a battery of up to 10 ballistic missiles in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic. Recent polls show majority opposition in both countries.
The Vatican has rebuked one of El Salvador’s leading dissident priests over writings advocating liberation theology. Reverend Jon Sobrino has played a key role in El Salvador’s political struggles. He escaped death in 1989 in the well-known murders of six Jesuit priests, along with their cook and her daughter, at the hands of U.S.-backed Salvadoran troops.
Back in the United States, the state of Florida has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of a 14-year-old who died after guards at a juvenile "boot camp" beat him last year. The teenager, Martin Lee Anderson, was initially said to have died of a complication from sickle cell blood disease. But a second autopsy later concluded he suffocated to death. Video footage shows Anderson collapsing to the ground after one of the guards hit him from behind. Seven guards and one nurse have been charged with aggravated manslaughter.
One of the world’s largest banana producers has agreed to plead guilty to paying a Colombian right-wing paramilitary group. Chiquita Brands International will pay a $25 million fine as part of a settlement for making payments to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. The Justice Department says Chiquita paid out more than $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004. Nearly half came after the group was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2001. Chiquita has previously admitted to making unspecified "protection" payments following what it says were threats from militant groups. Chiquita — formally United Fruit Company — has seen several accusations of ties to criminal activity in its Latin America dealings.
In other Colombia-related news, a federal judge has rejected an attempt to dismiss a civil suit against the Alabama-based coal company Drummond for the killing of three Colombian union leaders. The suit says company executives directly paid assassins to commit the slayings.
And in California, a judge has dismissed charges against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Patricia Dunn. Dunn had been charged in connection to Hewlett-Packard’s surveillance of journalists and board members in an attempt to discover the source of information leaked to the media.
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