In Afghanistan, ten French soldiers have died after clashes with the Taliban near Kabul. It was the deadliest incident for French troops since 1983. France has 3,000 troops in Afghanistan. Prior to today, twelve French troops had died in the Afghan war. The Taliban ambush on the French troops was one of several violent attacks on foreign troops over the past twenty-four hours. Earlier today, US forces repelled an attack by several suicide bombers on an American base in eastern Afghanistan. NATO said seven militants died in the attempted attack. On Monday, a suicide bomber outside the same US base killed ten Afghan civilians and wounded thirteen others. Monday’s bombing occurred as Afghanistan celebrated its Independence Day. Due to security concerns, the country’s official Independence ceremony had to be held inside a fortified military compound in Kabul.
A federal judge has ruled that a suit alleging human rights violations against Exxon committed in Aceh can be heard in a US court. Eleven villagers from Aceh say Exxon should be held liable for alleged violent crimes by military units of the Indonesian national army hired by Exxon to protect its facilities. According to some estimates, ExxonMobil has extracted some $40 billion from its operations in Aceh.
In Algeria, at least forty-three people have died in a bombing east of the Algerian capital, Algiers. The attack took place at a paramilitary police training school. Witnesses said the attacker drove a car full of explosives into the school’s entrance.
The White House praised former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Monday following his resignation. Since seizing power in a coup nine years ago, Musharraf had been one of Washington’s closest allies. White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe said President Bush appreciates what Musharraf did as Pakistan’s ruler.
Gordon Johndroe: “President Bush is committed to a strong Pakistan that continues its efforts to strengthen democracy and fight terror. President Bush appreciates President Musharraf’s efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan as well as his commitment to fighting al-Qaeda and extremist groups.”
Pakistan’s government has started the process of choosing a new president. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said Musharraf’s resignation is good for the country.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari: “I see that the biggest hurdle in the way of democracy has been removed. And I am sure we can get on with solving all the issues of our country. The Pakistan Peoples Party is — wants to have an independent judiciary and is firm behind that stance, and I’m sure we’ll move forward with that issue, as well.”
In India, opposition leader Yashwant Sinha said Musharraf’s resignation may improve Indian-Pakistani relations.
Yashwant Sinha: “Musharraf’s quitting was in the air for a long time. He has met the fate of all dictators. He ruled Pakistan for over eight years, and I can say that he has not been particularly friendly towards India during this period. Many of the problems in our bilateral relationship were entirely because of him. So his quitting should generally be regarded a good news for India and South Asia.”
Earlier today in Pakistan, a bomb blast outside the emergency gate of a hospital in northwest Pakistan killed at least twelve people and wounded fifteen others.
At an emergency meeting in Brussels, NATO members have called on Russia to respect their peace deal with Georgia and pull out its troops. Russian troops continues to occupy parts of Georgia, and Russian checkpoints now block Georgia’s main east-west highway. At the NATO meeting, the Bush administration suggested punishing Russia by suspending alliance ministerial meetings with Moscow. On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Russia is playing a “very dangerous game” with the US and its allies. But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev defended Russia’s response to Georgia’s aggression in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Dmitry Medvedev: “If anyone thinks that they can kill our citizens and escape unpunished, we will never allow this. If anyone tries this again, we will come out with a crushing response. And we have all the resources at our disposal for such a response: economic, political and military.”
In campaign news, Senator Barack Obama is expected to announce his choice of running mate in the coming days. The New York Times reports Obama is focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed to make expanded offshore oil drilling part of a new Democratic energy bill. Pelosi’s proposal comes just weeks after she described a Republican vote on drilling as a “hoax on the American people.” In recent weeks both Pelosi and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama have reversed their stances on offshore drilling.
In other energy news, Reuters reports the Iraqi government is likely to abandon plans to sign short-term contracts with foreign oil companies. Iraq had been hoping to sign six no-bid, short-term technical support contracts with international oil firms earlier this year. But the contract process has moved more slowly than expected, due in part to disagreement over payment terms.
In Pennsylvania, a district judge has thrown out first- and second-degree murder charges against a pair of teenagers accused of beating to death a Mexican immigrant in the town of Shenandoah last month. Instead, the teenagers are now being tried on counts of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation in the death of Luis Ramirez. A third teenager has been charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other counts. On Monday, a fourth teenager testified in court that one of his friends kicked Ramirez in the head while he lay motionless in the street. After the teenagers beat Ramirez, one of them told an eyewitness, “Tell your Mexican friends to get out of Shenandoah, or you’ll be laying next to him.”
In Denver, local activists are criticizing the city’s plan to use an abandoned warehouse that has no air conditioning to hold jailed protesters during next week’s Democratic National Convention. Last week, it was revealed the city had set up dozens of metal cages topped with razor wire inside a city-owned warehouse. A sign posted in the makeshift jail reads, “Warning! Electric stun devices used in this facility.” On Friday, demonstrators gathered outside the building to condemn the city’s plans. The weekly newspaper Westword has revealed the city once used the warehouse to store voting machines, but the facility had to be abandoned because temperatures became too hot inside.
Peru’s government has declared a state of emergency in three northern provinces following nine days of protests by indigenous groups in the Amazon basin. Members of sixty-five Indian tribes are protesting a law that would make it easier for communal land to be sold to developers. The protests began when the Indians blocked an important natural gas installation and oil pipeline. Peru’s Environment Minister Antonio Brack condemned the protests.
Antonio Brack: “The indigenous groups have occupied the Corral Quemado bridge, closed the marginal motorway and threatened to shut off the oil and gas pipelines in Camisea, and the Peruvian state can’t allow this to happen.”
But indigenous activists vowed to keep fighting to protect their land.
Indigenous activist: “We conserve the environment. We are not ignorant. We are prepared. We know that foreigners want to buy our Amazon lands, because they know they are the world’s lungs. We will not allow this. We will die fighting for our rights.”
In Olympic news, the New York Times reports the Chinese government has yet to permit a single demonstration in any of the three official protest zones in Beijing. Since August 1, seventy-seven applications for protest permits were submitted to the government, none of them were approved. At least four activists were arrested and detained after they sought a protest permit. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said the International Olympic Committee should be held accountable for not pressing China on the issue. Bequelin said, “The IOC seems oblivious to the fact that they’re holding the Games in a repressive environment.”
The Washington Post reports F. Chase Hutto III, a senior aide to Vice President Cheney, is the leading contender to become a top official at the Energy Department. The promotion would put one of the administration’s most ardent opponents of environmental regulation in charge of forming department policies on climate change. Officials say Hutto has played a prominent behind-the-scenes role in shaping the administration’s environmental policies for several years and has been one of the oil and gas industry’s key points of contact for energy and environmental issues.