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The ongoing US assault on the Sadr City area of Baghdad continues to claim civilian lives. At least eight people, including two children, were killed in overnight clashes between US troops and Shia fighters. The deaths come one day after local hospitals reported at least fifty dead and dozens more wounded from US attacks. On Wednesday, funerals were held for some of the victims. A Sadr City resident said the Iraqi government is unable to stand up to the US occupation.
Resident: ’’Isn’t their conscience shaken for this city which has been in siege for more than a month? What have they done? What have they committed? Are they afraid for their chairs, and that’s why they’re not calling for justice? But we tell them, damn them and their government.’’
Hundreds of Iraqis have died in the more than month-long crackdown on fighters loyal to the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Meanwhile, US casualties have also reached their highest point in seven months. At least six US troops were killed in the past two days, bringing the April toll to forty-eight, the highest one-month toll since September.
Today is the fifth anniversary of President Bush’s speech declaring a US victory in Iraq. On May 1, 2003, Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner that read “Mission Accomplished.”
President Bush, speaking May 1, 2003: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
Since those words, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and injured, while 3,900 US troops have been killed and tens of thousands more wounded. Earlier today, nine Iraqi civilians were killed and another twenty-six injured in a car bombing targeting a US patrol in Baghdad.
The US is accusing Iran of being what it calls the “most active” state sponsor of “terrorism.” In its annual report, the State Department also continues to list Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Sudan as the other states backing terror groups. In Washington, State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Dell Dailey said al-Qaeda remains the biggest threat to the United States.
State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Dell Dailey: “Core elements of al-Qaeda are adaptable and resilient, and al-Qaeda and its associated networks remain our greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners. By making use of local cells, terrorists have been able to sidestep many of our border and transportation security measures.”
According to the report, attacks in Iraq accounted for 60 percent of worldwide terrorism casualties. The tally does not include attacks committed by US forces.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo have signed onto an Egyptian proposal for a truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Israel to accept the offer and end its military attacks and economic blockade of Gaza.
Ismail Haniyeh: “Today, with this Palestinian reconciliation under the Egyptian mediation, the ball is in the Israeli court, and the Israelis should stop the aggression, the killing and the collective punishment and give the region a bit of truce and calm.”
The Israeli government has dismissed repeated Hamas truce offers, despite polls showing more than 60 percent of Israelis favor negotiations with the group.
On Wednesday, one Palestinian was killed and three others were wounded in an Israeli attack on the southern town of Rafah. The attack came as the top UN official in Gaza, John Ging, warned the Israeli blockade is bringing Gaza to the “point of explosion.” The UN was forced to suspend aid deliveries to Gaza for the first time last week because of a lack of fuel.
In Somalia, the US military is claiming to have killed ten Islamist militants in an overnight strike. A military commander of the militant group Al-Shabab was reportedly among the dead. This marks at least the fifth US attack on Somalia since US-backed Ethiopian troops invaded in December 2006.
Iran has lodged an official complaint to the UN over recent threatening comments from Senator Hillary Clinton. In an interview with ABC News last week, Clinton said as president she would “‘totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. The Iranian government called the remarks “a flagrant violation” of the UN Charter, which bars threats on member nations.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez marked the eve of May Day by announcing a raise to the national minimum wage.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “Venezuela’s minimum wage, which was in second place in Latin America, moves to first place with $372 a month. It’s necessary that we all know this: the minimum wage in Venezuela is the highest in Latin America.”
Chavez also said he had signed a decree to nationalize Venezuela’s steel industry.
The global protests against rising food prices spread on Wednesday to Peru, where more than 2,000 women demonstrated in the capital Lima. Women from soup kitchens, aid groups and low-income families carried signs and beat on empty pots in a demonstration in front of the Peruvian congress.
The rise in food prices has been linked to several factors, including bad weather, the higher price of oil and the diversion of crops to produce biofuels for cars. The growing unrest over food security comes as major agricultural companies are posting record profits. This week, the grain-processing giant Archer Daniels Midland announced a 42 percent rise in third-quarter profits. Revenues from the distribution of grains including wheat and corn were up 700 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, other major firms, including Monsanto, Deere and Mosaic, have all reported similar windfalls.
In North Carolina, voter suppression is being feared over a new round of automated phone calls targeting black households. The unidentified robocall features an African American voice falsely telling voters they must first send in a “registration packet” before they’re allowed to vote.
Robocall Voice: “Hello. This is Lamont Williams. In the next few days, you will receive a voter registration packet in the mail. All you need to do is fill it out, sign it, date and return your application. Then you will be able to vote and make your voice heard. Please return your registration form when it arrives. Thank you.”
Similar robocalls were used before the Ohio and Virginia primaries earlier this year. North Carolina voting rights advocates are calling for an investigation.
And the world’s largest gold miner, Barrick Gold, has filed suit against a small Canadian book publisher over a new book detailing abuses tied to Canadian-owned businesses in Africa. Black Canada: Plunder, Corruption and Crime in Africa links Barrick Gold to the deaths of fifty-two Tanzanian miners buried alive in 1996. The mine was owned at that time by Vancouver-based Sutton and sold to Barrick in 1999. The authors of the book suggest Barrick acted with Sutton to prepare the deposit for large-scale development. Barrick Gold is seeking $6 million in damages from the book’s publisher, Ecosociety, and an injunction against its distribution.