British warplanes have bombed a large bunker in Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. British officials said Tornado jets carried out the strike. There is no indication yet that Gaddafi was in Sirte or in the bunker itself at the time of the attack. The bombing comes as reports emerge that British special forces have been on the ground for several weeks helping rebel fighters launch their attack on Tripoli. On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for NATO to keep fighting in Libya.
Ahmet Davutoglu: It is important for NATO to sustain its operation until an environment ensuring physical safety of people prevails. We should redouble our efforts in extending political, economic, financial and administrative support to the NTC.”
At the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council cleared the way for more than $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to be turned over to the rebel-led National Transitional Council. While fighting continues in Tripoli, the NTC has announced it is beginning to move its operations from Benghazi to the capital city.
Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi called on his supporters to march on Tripoli and rid the capital of rebels.
Muammar Gaddafi: “Go out to lead them on to the streets and fight. This is the time of martyrdom or victory. Go out in every area, everywhere where the enemy is weak. The enemy is weak. It relies on NATO. NATO is also weak, and NATO is retreating. NATO cannot go on forever in the air, and damn it if it stays in the air. They are immoral. They are monsters. Don’t leave them what the colonialists taught them. The colonialists are even much worse. Don’t leave Tripoli ever to those rats. Never leave them. Fight them. Destroy them.”
Human Rights Watch has expressed concern that the unrest in Libya could result in the proliferation of Libya’s vast arsenal of arms, landmines and the remnants of its chemical weapons program. Peter Bouckaert told the blog Danger Room that “weapon proliferation out of Libya is potentially one of the largest we have ever documented—2003 Iraq pales in comparison—and so the risks are equally much more significant.” Bouckaert went on to say, “If Gadhafi loyalists decide to mount an Iraqi-style insurgency, they have access to a thousand times the explosives that the insurgents in Iraq had.”
A United Nations building in the Nigerian capital of Abuja has been partially leveled by a massive bomb explosion earlier today. More than 400 people worked in the U.N. complex. Initial reports indicate at least 10 people have died and 60 were seriously injured, but the numbers are expected to rise.
In news from Mexico, at least 53 people have died in the northern city of Monterrey after masked gunmen set ablaze a casino with patrons trapped inside. The incident has been described as one of the worst attacks in a major Mexican city in years.
The New York Times has revealed the Obama administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States. According to the Times, Mexican commandos have traveled to the United States, assembled at designated areas, and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers.
The son of a Pakistani governor who was killed by his bodyguard earlier this year was kidnapped in the eastern city of Lahore earlier today. Four men on motorbikes intercepted Shahbaz Taseer in his car and took him to a nearby street before kidnapping him. Shahbaz’s father, former governor Salman Taseer of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, was killed in January after he came out in support of a woman accused of committing blasphemy. Earlier this year, Democracy Now! spoke with Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of the slain governor.
Amy Goodman: “Are you afraid? Are you afraid about speaking out, for your own life, for your family’s life?”
Sherbano Taseer: “Well, I mean, we’ve certainly seen what — I mean, Pakistan calls itself a democracy, but you’ve seen just what speaking out or thinking or believing in something can do. So, I mean, especially on the topics that I am talking about, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, so I think that there is a very real security threat. But I also feel very strongly, and especially after my father’s death, that you shouldn’t let fear get in the way of what needs to be done and what needs to be said, and it shouldn’t hinder your progress.”
Governors in North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irene. As of 5 a.m. this morning, the hurricane was 420 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. Bloomberg News reports more than 65 million people live in the projected path of the storm. Meanwhile, more than a dozen nuclear reactors along the East Coast are being prepared for potential loss of power and damage from high winds and storm surges due to the hurricane.
The Washington Post is reporting the State Department’s final environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline will affirm an earlier finding that the project will have “limited adverse environmental impacts.” The review is expected to be released as soon as today and would remove a major roadblock to the construction of the $7 billion pipeline that will stretch from Alberta to Texas. Meanwhile, protests continue in Washington, D.C., against the pipeline. Since Saturday, 322 people have been arrested for engaging in civil disobedience outside the White House.
The CIA has forced a former FBI agent to redact extensive sections of his new book called “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda.” The former FBI agent, Ali H. Soufan, is an Arabic-speaking counterterrorism agent who played a central role in most major terrorism investigations between 1997 and 2005. According to the New York Times, Soufan argues in the book that the CIA missed a chance to derail the 9/11 plot by withholding from the FBI information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego. Soufan also gives a detailed firsthand account of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has announced it is releasing tens of thousands of previously unpublished classified U.S. diplomatic cables. The cables appear to be from a cache of more than 250,000 State Department reports leaked to the group. One of the newly released memos shows that the Obama administration coordinated with the Egyptian government to keep the Gaza border with Egypt closed.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has stepped down following months of criticism over how he responded to the nation’s dual economic and nuclear calamities triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. His successor will become the nation’s sixth prime minister since 2006.
More than $350 million was pledged on Thursday by African Union nations to help deal with the devastating famine in East Africa. At the meeting, one United Nations official said that the current death rate of 13 per 10,000 each day in some areas of Somalia means an entire generation of Somalis hangs in the balance.
Jerry Rawlings, African Union envoy to Somalia: “Your presence here today, once again, is therefore not just an opportunity to make pledges, however modest, to the famine afflicting the Horn of Africa, but to send a convincing message to the rest of the world that we are not incapable of supporting our own when the need arises.”
In labor news, the National Labor Relations Board has issued new regulations that require most private sector employers to put posters on their bulletin boards that inform employees about their rights to unionize under federal law. Labor groups praised the decision, while many business groups harshly criticized it.
A new book published in Sweden claims the founder of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, had far closer ties to Nazi groups than previously known. According to the book, IKEA’s Ingvar Kamprad joined the Swedish Nazi party in 1943 at the age of 17 and maintained ties with the Nazis until 1950, long after the war and Adolf Hitler’s defeat. The book reveals for the first time that Swedish security police opened up a file on him in 1943 that identified him as a Nazi and that he worked for years as a Nazi recruiter. Kamprad is now one of the world’s richest people.