Al-Qaeda has reportedly appointed Egyptian national, Saif al-Adel, as interim leader following the death of Osama bin Laden. According to U.S. prosecutors, al-Adel has served as one of al-Qaeda’s top military commanders. He is believed to have helped plan the bomb attacks against the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, has released a posthumous audio message it says was recorded by bin Laden a week before his death. On the tape, bin Laden praises the uprisings sweeping the Arab world against what he calls “tyrants.” The Pakistani Taliban has also released a new tape vowing to avenge bin Laden’s death within a few months and target Pakistan and U.S. intelligence agencies. At the Pentagon, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he has seen no evidence top Pakistani officials knew of bin Laden’s presence inside Pakistan.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact, I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary, but — and we have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else. My supposition is, somebody knew.”
A prisoner being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has died after apparently taking his own life. The 37-year-old prisoner, identified as Inayatullah, was reportedly found in a recreation yard by guards. The military claims Inayatullah was an admitted al-Qaeda member who helped organize the movement of fighters through Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq. He was one of the last prisoners to arrive at the prison. If confirmed as self-inflicted, Inayatullah’s death will mark at least the sixth suicide at Guantánamo since the United States began detaining foreign prisoners there in January of 2002. At least 171 prisoners remain at Guantánamo despite President Obama’s pledge to shut it down.
At least 12 people have been killed protesting a deadly raid by the U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan. A crowd of some 2,000 people clashed with soldiers in the northern city of Taloqan following the killing of four Afghans by NATO troops. At least 80 people were wounded in the unrest.
A sixth U.S. soldier has been indicted in the case of the U.S. Army “kill team” that murdered three Afghan civilians last year. Staff Sgt. David Bram faces a number of charges, including solicitation to commit premeditated murder. Another soldier sentenced to 24 years in prison, Specialist Jeremy Morlock, says Bram authorized him to commit the first of the three killings in January of 2010. Bram faces up to 21 years in prison.
President Obama is scheduled to deliver an address today billed by aides as his most important on the Middle East since his speech in Cairo in June 2009. Obama is expected to announce billions of dollars in aid for Egypt and Tunisia following criticism of U.S. support for both countries’ former long-term heads of state. A U.S. official said Obama will announce “a single standard,” including the renunciation of violence for groups including Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and others seeking engagement with the United States. In response, the MIT linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky said, “It follows that the U.S. will no longer engage with Israel, which has long relied on violence to impose its will and has highly discriminatory laws and practices targeting [Palestinians]. And the U.S. will not engage with itself, given its longstanding commitment to violence to impose the domestic arrangements of its choice, including political change. Since Obama doesn’t mean that, the 'single standard' is just more of the familiar deceptive rhetoric.”
The wife and daughter of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi have reportedly fled to Tunisia amidst the ongoing NATO bombing. According to Reuters, the two have taken refuge on a southern Tunisian island. The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, indicted Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity this week. On Wednesday, Moreno-Ocampo said Libyan officials could face charges for following Gaddafi’s orders.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo: “Gaddafi himself is committing the crimes. They cannot follow orders of Gaddafi. If they follow orders of Gaddafi, they could be prosecuted. That has to be very clear. Due obedience is not an excuse to commit crimes. They have no due obedience to commit crimes. They have no due obedience to cover up the crimes.”
Four foreign journalists have been released six weeks after their arrest by Gaddafi’s forces in Libya. The reporters include two Americans, GlobalPost correspondent James Foley and freelancer Clare Morgana Gillis, as well as the Spanish photographer Manuel Varela and British journalist Nigel Chandler.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials in response to the Syrian crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. The sanctions freeze any assets held by Syrian officials and bar U.S. individuals and companies from doing business with Syria. Meanwhile, witnesses have reported seeing Syrian troops conducting house raids in the town of Arida on the Syria-Lebanon border. On Wednesday, Assad claimed his forces have made mistakes in their crackdown and said the nation’s turmoil is coming to an end. At the same time, Syrian troops continued to shell the border town of Tel Kalakh. At least 27 people have been killed there since ground troops and tanks raided the town on Saturday. A Syrian villager who fled to Lebanon described widespread destruction.
Villager: '’It is terrorism. They destroyed us, and they destroyed Tel Kelakh. Bodies are on the ground in the streets, and the houses are destroyed and the mosques destroyed. They left nothing. And they turned it into a sectarian issue between Sunni and Alawite. The Sunnis have all fled, and only the elderly are left, and we are taking bread to them.'’
The freed Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz has spoken out about her ordeal since her arrest in Syria late last month. Parvaz was missing for 19 days after arriving in Damascus to report on Syria’s anti-government protests. She was jailed in a Syrian prison before being deported to Iran. On Wednesday, Parvaz said she overheard the beatings of other prisoners in Syria.
Dorothy Parvaz: “I was in a Syrian detention center for three days, two nights, and what I heard were just savage beatings. I was handcuffed repeatedly, blindfolded, taken to a courtyard, left to hear these men being beaten. They all sounded very young. They sounded to be in their late teens, early twenties. So, it was an overall terrifying experience.”
Parvaz says she was treated “relatively fair” after being sent to Iran but that the abuse of Syrian prisoners haunted her thoughts.
Dorothy Parvaz: “At a certain point, you want to cover your ears. You don’t want to hear it anymore, because it becomes that much. I mean, it seemed endless. Mid-morning to late into night, at random times, you would hear just beatings and screams and cries. And you want to cover your ears. But someone should hear these people. Someone should understand what they’re going through. And if we all cover our ears — it seemed to me that Syria just wants everyone to cover their ears.”
The mothers of two American hikers detained in Iran since June 2009 have begun a hunger strike in protest of a delay to the pair’s trial. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were due in court last week, but the Iranian government unexpectedly postponed the case. Laura Fattal said, “Shane and Josh have been denied justice and compassion for far too long. Today we begin a hunger strike and stand with our sons to urge Iran to stop punishing them—and our families—for no reason.”
Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund following his arrest on sex crimes charges in New York. Strauss-Kahn is being held without bail on allegations of attempted rape and sexual assault of a hotel maid. In addition to ending his stint as IMF chief, the arrest has also dashed Strauss-Kahn’s hopes of running for the French presidency next year.
Hundreds of people are gathering in Washington, D.C., today to protest ongoing cuts to education spending and the lack of investment in youth employment. Activists from across the country will march from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters to the U.S. Department of Labor building where they are expected to meet with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. The activists will also meet with Rep. Bobby L. Rush of Illinois, who recently introduced a bill to provide $6.5 billion for youth employment. New York City high school student, Tariq Greene, is among those headed to Washington, D.C.
Tariq Greene: “When we go to D.C., we’re calling for our government to invest more in the youth, to give our schools more money rather than taking money from them. We’re also calling for there to be more jobs available in the Bronx or nationwide, where these people are on public assistance for the simple fact that there are no jobs for them to occupy.”
Education budgets have been slashed dramatically in the face of budget shortfalls, while nationwide youth unemployment is at a record high.