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Suicide blast kills 14 in Pakistan

September 6, 2010 Comments off

At least 14 people, including five policemen, were killed and more than 50 injured Monday in a suicide blast targeting a police station in Lakki Marwat, a town in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A suicide bomber reportedly rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the rear wall of the police station Monday morning. There were more than 45 police officials present inside the police station at the time of the blast.

The police station, situated in a busy shopping area of the town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that was earlier known as North West Frontier Province, has been severely damaged. At least nine civilians, including four girls, were killed in the blast.

A school and several government buildings adjacent to the police station have also been damaged.

“We’ll only be able to assess the damage completely once the debris are removed,” a police officer said.

Security forces have cordoned off the area and the injured were being shifted to a hospital whose northern wing was also damaged by the deafening blast.

In the fresh spate of terrorist activities in Pakistan, more than 110 people were killed in two separate suicide blasts last week targeting Shia community processions in Lahore and Quetta.

A suicide blast targeting a village close to Lakki Marwat earlier this year had killed over 100 people.

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Categories: World

Bill Clinton”s 64th b”day party leads to Hamptons grumbling

September 4, 2010 Comments off

Former US President Bill Clinton”s birthday bash at a rented Hamptons mansion ended dramatically after an expensive vase was broken and a neighbour complained about parking.

The party, thrown by wife Hillary and Clinton”s longtime aide Doug Band, was held at a house on Deerfield Road in Water Mill for the ex-president”s 64th birthday.

“The Clintons know how to party. A large vase in the front entrance was broken, the front lawn and sprinkler system were shredded, and a neighbour complained,” the New York Post quoted a source as saying.

“The house was rented by Band from women”s golf-wear designer Toby Tucker Peters, who was told it would be a small party, but it ended up being over 100 people,” source said.

Guests at the late-August bash included Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, Pete Peterson, Matt Lauer, Lloyd Blankfein, Christie Brinkley, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters and Vera Wang, who designed Chelsea”s wedding dress.

However, a Clinton source said, “It wasn”t a wild party. It rained heavily, so everyone was confined inside the house. The sprinkler system was not broken and the lawn wasn”t in great shape in the first place.

“If a vase was broken, it will be replaced. One neighbor did come across before the party to complain about a car on his driveway, but it was the housekeeper”s car.”

Neighbor Daniel Beller said: “I was a classmate of Hillary”s in law school. I like and respected her then as I do even more so now.

“During the day I asked the valet service and the hosts to be mindful of where the cars were parked and to avoid parking cars on the grass leading to my house. They said they would do so, and they were good to their word.”

Categories: World

US slaps sanction on HuJI, its chief Ilyas Kashmiri

August 7, 2010 Comments off

The US has declared Pakistan- based HuJI as a foreign terrorist organisation and slapped sanctions on its commander Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, believed to have been in close contact with LeT operative David Headley, for their terrorist activities in India and Pakistan.

HUJI and Kashmiri have been involved in a series of terrorist activities in India, including the attack on a mosque in Hyderabad in 2007 that killed 16 people and the March 2007 Varanasi terrorist attacks that killed at least 25 people and left another 100 injured.

His name also cropped in 26/11 attacks case and Kashmiri is believed to have been in close contact with David Headley, who has pleaded guilty to plotting the 26/11 attacks.

Simultaneously, the UN also announced similar sanctions against HUJI and Kashmiri at its headquarters in New York.

“Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri is at the core of HUJI’s efforts to plan and carry out attacks against US forces and our allies. He is responsible for creating a cadre of militants to act on behalf of HUJI and al-Qaeda,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.

“In acting together, the United States and United Nations are today taking another important step in combating the threat that al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations pose to innocent people around the world,” Levey said in a statement.

Friday’s action against Kashmiri was taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which freezes any assets Kashmiri has under US jurisdiction and prohibits US persons from engaging in any transactions with him.

“The United Nations also took similar actions against HUJI and Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri today,” the US Department of Treasury said in a statement.

As HUJI commander, Kashmiri provides support to al-Qaeida operations, including logistical support for al-Qaieda’s terrorist attacks, the Treasury said.

HUJI is also responsible for terrorist attacks in India, the Treasury said.

Kashmiri has supported attacks against Pakistani government personnel and facilities, including the 2009 attack against the offices of ISI and Pakistani police in Lahore that killed 23 people and left hundreds injured.

He directed the October 2008 assassination of the former commander of the Pakistani Special Services Group, General Amir Faisal Alvi, in retaliation for his role in the fight against militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Kashmiri also led an al-Qaeida-linked cell in planning for the assassination of a Pakistani Army general, a plan that was eventually abandoned due to al-Qaeda’s strategic considerations, the Treasury said.

Since 2001, Kashmiri has led HUJI training camps that specialised in terrorist operations, military tactics, and cross-border operations, including a militant training center in Miram Shah, North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

In January 2009, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois indicted Kashmiri for terrorism-related offences in connection with a terrorist attack against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark.

HUJI’s area of operation extends throughout South Asia, with its terrorist operations focused primarily in India and Pakistan.

HUJI’s relationship with al-Qaeida flourished after the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan.

“It has provided fighters for the Taliban in Afghanistan and training of HUJI members in al-Qaeida training camps. HUJI has carried out a number of terrorist attacks. In March 2006, HUJI was responsible for the suicide bombing of the US Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, which killed four people and injured 48 others,” the Treasury said.

Categories: World

‘Obama has achieved more than anyone in a generation’

July 12, 2010 Comments off

With the November midterm election looming, top aides are claiming that President Barack Obama has achieved more in two years in advancing a solid progressive agenda than anyone else in a generation.

“My admonition would be: Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good,” Obama senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN Sunday responding to criticism that the president has not been aggressive enough in pursuing a progressive agenda.

“We’ve achieved more in these two years – in terms of advancing a solid progressive agenda for this country that will help working families and make this a better, more balanced economy – than anyone has done in you know, in our generation.”

Citing comprehensive reform to the health care system that would extend coverage to more of the uninsured and improve care for those with insurance, Axelrod said: “We’ve been talking about that for a hundred years. Barack Obama got it done.”

“We’ve been talking about financial reform for a long time. We’ve got the deepest reform since the Great Depression.”

Axelrod also mentioned the administration’s move to boost fuel efficiency standards and Obama’s desire to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays and lesbians serving in the US military. “That policy is going to be changed,” said Axelrod.

“And I can go through a long list of things that have languished for years and decades and generations that this president got done in the midst of a very difficult time,” he added.

Axelrod also said the Obama’s slide in approval ratings with independent voters isn’t surprising given the circumstances.

“This is not a big surprise,” he said referring to Obama’s poll numbers which have gone down to 38 percent approval now compared to 56 percent approval same time last year.

Axelrod said that he told Obama in late 2008, as the country’s dire economic situation came into greater focus, that Obama’s poll numbers would not be nearly as good a year later.

“We would have had a tough election in any case in 2010. This will make that election a little tougher. So this is not a big surprise. We’re going through a very difficult time in this country,” Axelrod told CNN.

Categories: World

‘Headley disclosures tie LeT to Pakistani Intelligence’

July 9, 2010 Comments off

Indian investigators’ interrogation of Pakistani American David Coleman Headley has yielded key disclosures linking terrorists behind the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks to Pakistani intelligence, according to a US terrorism research group.

Headley, who in March pleaded guilty to 12 federal terrorism charges including providing material support to the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), also disclosed the names of the terrorist handlers who orchestrated the attacks from Pakistan, said Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).

Headley reportedly told investigators from India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) that LeT worked hand-in-glove with rogue elements tied to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD), the Pakistan-based Islamic charity that serves as a front for the LeT, has also been identified by Headley as the “mastermind” of the Mumbai attacks, IPT said.

The close ties between the Pakistani terrorist group and the ISI have been detailed in the 11th dossier of evidence documenting Headley’s confessions related to the attacks, the research group said.

India has submitted 10 other dossiers to Pakistan in the past citing evidence tying members of the LeT and the Pakistani military and intelligence services to the Mumbai attacks.

The dossier details LeT operative Headley’s meetings with his handlers in Pakistan, including JuD’s Hafiz Saeed, retired Pakistani major Sajid Mir and ISI officials in the Pakistani cities of Muzzaffarabad and Lahore in the months leading up to the Mumbai attacks.

Islamabad has denied that Hafiz Saeed and the JuD were involved, but recently recognised JuD as a terrorist group.

The admission came close on the heels of Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s visit to Islamabad to meet with his counterpart Rehman Malik and hand him the dossier of evidence with Headley’s confessions, IPT said.

The recognition of JuD as a terrorist group is also part of larger Pakistani crackdown on 17 terrorist groups, including the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), following the recent attack on a mosque in Lahore that killed at least 45 people, it said.

Categories: World

Obama congratulates Komorowski in Polish election win

July 6, 2010 Comments off

US President Barack Obama Monday congratulated Bronislaw Komorowski on his win in Poland’s runoff presidential elections.

Komorowski, of the centre-right Civic Platform party, gained 53.01 percent of the vote, besting opponent Jaroslaw Kaczynski, of the right-wing Law and Justice party, official results showed Monday.

In a telephone call, Obama praised the Polish people for their “resilience and resolve” after previous president Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash along with dozens of other officials in Russia in early April, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

“The United States and Poland are close allies and partner together around the world to promote freedom, security, and prosperity,” the statement said, noting Obama thanked Poland for its contributions in Afghanistan.

Komorowski’s campaign pledges include withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2012.

Obama also invited his new Polish counterpart to visit Washington.

Categories: World

Obama ranked 15th best US president

July 2, 2010 Comments off

Barack Obama has been ranked as the 15th best US president, just below Bill Clinton but ahead of Ronald Reagan, in a new poll of leading presidential scholars.

The Siena College poll, which surveyed 238 presidential scholars at US colleges and universities, rated Obama two places below Clinton, who was 13th best, and three better than Reagan, who is ranked as the 18th best.

Franklin D. Roosevelt again earned the top spot, as he has every time since the poll was first conducted in 1982.

He and the Mount Rushmore presidents – Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – have consistently been the top five presidents in the poll’s findings.

Obama’s 15th ranking is slightly higher than other presidents who have taken office since the poll started nearly 30 years ago. Most start out at about number 20, said Siena statistics professor and poll director Douglas Lonnstrom.

“[Obama’s] doing a little better, but he’s generally in the same ballpark,” he said.

While he ranked high on traits like imagination (6th), communication ability (7th) and intelligence (8th), Obama rated poorly ratings on background (32nd), which was composed of traits like family, education and experience.

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, was ranked at number 23 in 2002 – the last time Siena’s presidential expert poll was conducted – but has since dropped to number 39, qualifying him as one of the five worst presidents.

Bush came in at number 42 – second to last – on issues such as handling the US economy, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence. Warren G. Harding was rated the least intelligent president.

Bush joins Harding, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce, all of whom have consistently ranked as the worst presidents since the poll started, in the bottom five.

Several other presidents also saw movement in their ratings this year. Bill Clinton moved up five places, from No. 18 in 2002 to No. 13 today; John F. Kennedy also moved up, from No. 14 to No. 11.

Carter, Reagan and Nixon all dropped in the rankings this year – Carter dropped seven spots, from No. 25 in 2002 to No. 32 now; Reagan dropped two spots, from No. 16 to No. 18; and Nixon fell four spots, from No. 26 to No. 30.

Categories: World