At least 500 people are now feared dead from Tuesday’s massive suicide bombing in northern Iraq. The initial toll of 250 had already made it the deadliest attack of the Iraq War. Rescue workers continue to pull bodies from the rubble of more than 30 destroyed buildings, including several homes. The bombings targeted a Kurdish area home to followers of the Yazidi religion. Three suicide trucks carrying two tons of explosives attacked almost simultaneously.
In Peru, at least 300 people have been killed and 200 injured in an earthquake off Peru’s central coast. The worst damage came in the southwestern cities of Ica and Pisco.
Iran is brushing off the Bush administration’s vow to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a “terrorist” group. A Revolutionary Guards spokesperson said the Iranian force will continue to grow in size and prepare to retaliate in the event of a U.S. strike. The Washington Post reports European and Arab allies are expressing alarm at the administration’s new policy. Critics inside Iran have long claimed unilateral U.S. actions are strengthening the Iranian government’s control while isolating pro-democracy activists. But State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said the move is justified.
State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack: “They now have tentacles into a range of different activities, into business activities, banking activities. We all know about their support for those groups going after our troops in Iraq. We’ve also talked about the supplying of arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and there have also been reports about their linkages to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations.”
One of the world’s largest international charities has announced it will stop accepting millions of dollars in U.S. food aid over concerns American methods are doing more harm than good. CARE International says aid efforts are hampered by U.S. requirements on “monetized food aid.” Instead of directly going to needy communities, U.S. grains are shipped on condition charities sell them on the local market and then use the proceeds for their activities. CARE says the program is inefficient and results in food shipments to those who can afford them, not those in need. The U.S. program has also been faulted for shuttering local producers unable to compete with subsidized American prices. Several CARE officials involved in the American program have criticized the practice. CARE employee George Odo said: “If someone wants to help you, they shouldn’t do it by destroying the very thing that they’re trying to promote.”
Newly released documents show the Pakistani government gave pivotal military support to the Taliban in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. According to the National Security Archive, Pakistan sent arms and soldiers into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.
In other Pakistan news, The New York Times reports the Bush administration is pressuring General Pervez Musharraf to share power with his main rival. The administration is reportedly concerned popular pressure will force Musharraf to step down. White House officials are said to have asked Musharraf to share power with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
In Sudan, U.N. officials say the Sudanese government has agreed to let an ailing Darfur rebel chief travel to Kenya for medical treatment. Suleiman Jamous was the humanitarian coordinator for the Sudan Liberation Army when he was arrested more than a year ago. He’s been confined to a U.N. base since.
In other Darfur news, African Union countries have begun pledging troop numbers towards a joint peacekeeping force with the U.N.
African Union-U.N. joint representative Rodolphe Adada: “Many African countries are ready to contribute troops, and the pledges are very high, but they have to meet the standards of the United Nations, so at the moment we cannot say how long it will take. Anyway, the troop-contributing countries have to make the pledge until the 30th of this month.”
A U.S. district court judge has rejected oil giant Chevron’s final attempt to avoid trial for its alleged role in attacks on villagers in Nigeria. Nine Nigerian plaintiffs accuse Chevron of recruiting and supplying Nigerian military forces involved in shooting and killing protesters. Chevron is also accused of complicity in an attack on two villages that killed four people. On Tuesday, Judge Susan Illston said the case should proceed based on evidence showing direct links to Chevron officials.
An online travel firm has become the first of its kind to be fined for breaking the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Travelocity.com has paid more than $180,000 in penalties for booking trips between Cuba and the United States.
The Bush administration has approved measures that will greatly expand the spying capabilities of domestic law enforcement and other agencies. A new program will allow state and local officials to view data from satellite and aircraft sensors that can penetrate cloud cover, buildings and underground facilities. Most of the surveillance technology has previously been limited to foreign surveillance. Civil liberties groups are raising concerns. Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies called the program “Big Brother in the Sky.” She added: “They are laying the bricks one at a time for a police state.”
In military news, a new Pentagon report shows Army suicides are at their highest rate in 26 years. At least 99 servicemembers took their own lives last year. More than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A grand jury has decided not to indict a soldier who admitted to paying a friend to shoot him in the leg so he could avoid redeploying to Iraq. Private Jonathan Aponte paid $500 to be shot the day he was scheduled to report to duty. Although Aponte avoids charges, both his wife and the gunman have been indicted for their roles.
Newly released documents show Donald Rumsfeld stepped down as defense secretary earlier than publicly disclosed. Rumsfeld’s departure was announced one day after the Democratic victory in last November’s midterm elections. But his resignation was actually submitted one day before voters went to the polls. The delay reportedly angered some Republican lawmakers who believed their electoral chances could have improved had voters known Rumsfeld stepped down.
In Washington, D.C., city officials have threatened a $10,000 fine to the antiwar group ANSWER unless it removes posters promoting an upcoming peace march. Several hundred yellow posters have been posted around the city announcing the September 15th event. The protest is timed to coincide with the release of a Pentagon report on the so-called troop surge in Iraq. D.C. officials say the posters are illegal because they don’t meet city standards on adhesive use. ANSWER calls the fine threat a political move aimed at silencing the march.
And the CIA has turned up on a list of groups that have edited entries on the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia Scanner, a user logging on from the CIA’s web domain made edits to the entry for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The controversial voting-machine company Diebold has also been caught making changes. In 2005, a Diebold computer was used to remove paragraphs describing chief executive Walden O’Dell as a top fundraiser for President Bush. Paragraphs and links referring to voter fraud in the 2000 elections were also taken down.