In Iraq, more than 250 people were killed this weekend in a wave of violence across the country. At least 150 people died Saturday in a massive truck bombing in the northern town of Tuz Khormato. Locals compared the aftermath to scenes of an earthquake. More than 100 shops and homes were destroyed, with dozens of bodies feared dead beneath the rubble. It was the second-deadliest insurgent bombing attack since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, witnesses say U.S. forces shot dead six Iraqi civilians in a raid on the Shia area of Sadr City. Two brothers aged 11 and 15 years old are believed among the dead.
Sadr City resident Abu Haider: “We do not know why they were killed by the Americans. We do not know the reasons behind attacking those poor, innocent men who worked to earn their livings. Islam and Christianity cannot accept this!”
Villagers in a remote western area of Afghanistan are claiming at least 100 civilians were killed in U.S.-led NATO airstrikes over two days last week. The attack was said to take place in the Bala Buluk district. Residents of another area in the northeast province of Kunar say 25 villagers were killed in a separate attack. The claims were impossible to verify because both areas are out of reach to journalists and independent researchers. Recent figures show more Afghan civilians have died in NATO airstrikes than in Taliban attacks this year.
In Pakistan, the standoff continues between government forces and Islamist militants at a mosque in the capital Islamabad. At least 21 people have died since the military surrounded the Red Mosque last week in a crackdown on hard-line clerics. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has come under heavy criticism for relying on military force during the crisis.
Imran Khan, leader of the opposition Justice Party: “To resort to such violence, to use your army against, when you know there are children there, I think it’s despicable. I think it’s an attempt — firstly, it was drawn out. We all suspect that this could have been sorted out immediately. This was drawn out for six months because General Musharraf wants to portray himself as some sort of bastion against extremism so he can get help for his illegitimate regime from the West.”
Khan was speaking at a meeting of Pakistani opposition leaders in London. Some of Musharraf’s opponents fear he’ll use the mosque standoff to postpone presidential elections later this year.
In Indonesia, prosecutors have filed a billion-dollar corruption lawsuit against the former dictator Suharto. Suharto was forced to step down in 1998 after more than 30 years of U.S.-backed rule. Prosecutors are seeking more than $400 million in money that disappeared from a scholarship fund.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli Cabinet has agreed on a deal that would release 250 prisoners linked to the Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Some 10,000 Palestinians remain in Israeli jails. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum criticized Israel’s refusal to release Hamas members.
Fawzi Barhoum: “Abu Mazen supports the division between Gaza and the West Bank, and now he wants to isolate Gaza completely from the Palestinians’ lands. We are in Hamas against any type of division, against any type of isolation, against any type of distinguish.”
Here in the United States, a federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s domestic spy program. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed the suit on behalf of journalists, academics and lawyers who feared they had been targeted. In a two-to-one ruling, the court ruled the plaintiffs can’t challenge the program because they can’t prove they’ve been monitored. The ACLU says it will consider an appeal to the Supreme Court.
A new poll shows record public support for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. According to the American Research Group, 45 percent of Americans would back impeachment proceedings against Bush, while 54 percent would back the same against Cheney. A measure to impeach Cheney has attracted nine co-sponsors since Ohio Democratic Congressmember Dennis Kucinich introduced it earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the peace mom Cindy Sheehan has announced she may run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if Pelosi fails to introduce articles of impeachment against President Bush. Sheehan set a deadline of July 23rd — the same day she arrives in Washington, D.C., from a two-week caravan starting at Sheehan’s former protest site near President Bush’s Crawford estate.
In media news, The New York Times has come out in favor of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. In an editorial published on Sunday, the Times editors write: “It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.” The Times was widely criticized in the lead-up to the Iraq War for its coverage mirroring the Bush administration’s claims on Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.
A military court has issued a new judgment in the case of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to serve in the Iraq War. On Friday, Lieutenant Colonel John Head ruled military officials have the right to charge Watada for a second time. Watada’s lawyers had argued a second trial would amount to double jeopardy. Watada’s first trial ended in a mistrial. Watada faces six years in prison if convicted.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is claiming he tried to dissuade President Bush from invading Iraq. Speaking at the Ideas Festival in Colorado, Powell said he tried to avoid the war by explaining to Bush “the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.” Powell delivered the infamous speech alleging Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction at the U.N. in February 2003 just one month before the war.
In campaign news, a pro-abortion family planning group has revealed it once hired Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson to lobby on its behalf. Thompson has openly campaigned as an abortion opponent in his bid for the Republican nomination. But the the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association has revealed it hired Thompson to pressure President George H.W. Bush to ease a ban on abortion counseling at federally funded clinics. Thompson’s representatives are denying the claim despite several documents showing his involvement.
In Alabama, a civil trial begins today accusing the coal company Drummond of ordering the killing of three Colombian union leaders. In a sworn statement submitted to the trial, a former senior official at Colombia’s executive intelligence agency testifies he saw Drummond officials hand over a suitcase full of money to pay for the assassinations of two labor leaders in 2001.
And finally, nine cities around the world played host to “Live Earth” on Saturday. Former Vice President Al Gore spearheaded the event to raise awareness on global warming. Concerts were held in London, New York, Washington, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Shanghai and Hamburg. At the New York show, Gore asked audience members to agree to a seven-point pledge on saving the Earth.
Al Gore: “I pledge to demand that my country join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth. I pledge to take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution and offsetting the rest to become carbon neutral. I pledge to fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without safely trapping and storing the CO2.”