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Monday, August 31, 2009

31st anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr

Rabab Sadr, the sister of Imam Musa al-Sadr, attends a rally by members of the Amal movement to mark the 31st anniversary of the disappearance of al-Sadr, who was the founder and leader of the Amal movement in Lebanon, in Beirut's suburbs August 31, 2009. REUTERS/ Sharif Karim (LEBANON CONFLICT POLITICS)

Shi'ite House Speaker Nabih Berri (R) and Shi'ite Mufti Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan attend a rally organised by members of the Amal movement to mark the 31st anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr, who was the founder and leader of the Amal movement in Lebanon, in Beirut's suburbs August 31, 2009. REUTERS/Sharif Karim (LEBANON POLITICS CONFLICT)

Relatives of suspects accused of plotting attacks on behalf of Lebanon's Hezbollah group leave a court in New Cairo, August 23, 2009. Egypt began the trial on Sunday of 26 men suspected of links with Lebanon's Hezbollah and who face charges that include planning attacks inside Egypt. The charges against the 26, read out in the emergency state security court, included giving information to a foreign organisation, planning attacks inside Egypt on tourist sites and the Suez Canal and possession of explosive material. REUTERS/Stringer (EGYPT CRIME LAW POLITICS CONFLICT)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Young boy Umit Hussein Nejad reciting Quran like Qari Abdul Basit

Download this video from: http://www.al-masumeen.com/quran/umit-hussein-nejad/surah-dhuha-a-kawther.html Name of child: UMIT HUSSEIN NEJAD A recitation in Pakistan by an Iranian young boy The boy recites ...

Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef suffers superficial injuries but escapes assassination in Jeddah

Saudi anti-terror chief escapes bombing

Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef suffers superficial injuries but escapes assassination in Jeddah.

RIYADH - Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a member of the Saudi royal family who is responsible for the kingdom's anti-terror fight, escaped a suicide bomb attack in Jeddah, official news agency SPA said Friday.

The deputy interior minister suffered only superficial injuries after the suicide bomber got close to him and detonated his explosives on Thursday evening, the agency said quoting a royal court statement.

The Saudi wing of Al-Qaeda was swift in claiming responsibility.

In a statement posted on a website late Thursday, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said it was behind the bomb, according to the US-based monitoring group, SITE Intelligence.

The bomber was the only casualty. Prince Mohammed was receiving guests at the end of the day's fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, SPA said.

The royal court said the bomber was a wanted terrorist who had approached the prince under the pretext he wanted to give himself up.

Saudi television showed images of the prince after the attack. The anti-terror chief did not seem affected by his ordeal.


Saudi security official survives attack -agency
28 Aug 2009 07:06:59 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Bomber was wanted militant

* First member of royal family to be targeted by al Qaeda

(Adds claim of responsibility in paragraph 5)

RIYADH, Aug 28 (Reuters) - A top Saudi security official has survived a suicide attack in his office in the Red Sea port of Jeddah, the state news agency SPA reported on Friday.

The attack was the first to directly target a member of the royal family since the start of a wave of violence by al Qaeda sympathisers in 2003 against the U.S.-allied monarchy.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, deputy interior minister in charge of security, was meeting well-wishers for the Moslem fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday when a man blew himself up with explosives he was carrying, the agency said.

The suicide bomber was a wanted militant who had insisted on meeting the prince to announce he was giving himself up to authorities, SPA added. It said the man, whom it did not name, was the only casualty.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudi arm of the group, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a message posted on Islamist internet forums and translated by SITE Intelligence Group.

Saudi-owned al Arabiya television showed Prince Mohammed, apparently slightly injured, meeting King Abdullah later.

"This will only increase our determination to eradicate this (militancy)," said Prince Mohammed, who is the son of Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz.

The prince has been largely credited with the government's recent success in crushing the violence.

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 44 militants close to al Qaeda and the seizure of explosives, detonators and firearms.

In 2004, militants rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into the entrance of the Interior Ministry headquarters in the capital Riyadh.

(Reporting by Souhail Karam and John Irish in Dubai; editing by Michael Roddy)


FACTBOX-Saudi crackdown on Muslim militants
28 Aug 2009 14:53:48 GMT
Source: Reuters
Aug 28 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber failed in his attempt to kill the prince who heads Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism campaign, the first attack on a member of the royal family since the start of a wave of violence by al Qaeda six years ago.

Following is a chronology of incidents since the first major assault in Saudi Arabia in 2003, when triple suicide bombings gutted three Riyadh housing compounds and killed 35 people, including nine Americans.


May 12 - At least 35 people, including nine Americans, are killed and 200 wounded in al Qaeda suicide bombings in Riyadh.

June 14 - Saudi police kill five militants and arrest seven others in a shootout in Mecca. Five police are also killed.

June 26 - The mastermind of the Riyadh attacks, is arrested.

July 3 - A key suspect in the Riyadh bombings and three other "wanted terrorists" are killed in a shootout.

Oct 22 - Nearly 600 have been arrested since the May attack.

Nov 4 - Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef says his country has thwarted a militant attack on pilgrims to Mecca.

Nov 9 - Al Qaeda suicide bombers kill up to 30 people in Riyadh, a day after the United States warned of terrorist raids.

Dec 6 - Saudi names 26 top suspects wanted in connection with "terrorist" operations and offers a $1.9-million bounty.


Jan 29 - Saudi forces capture a militant and other suspects after a firefight in Riyadh in which five policemen are killed.

Apr 8 - One of Saudi Arabia's most wanted al Qaeda militants calls on Muslims to kill Americans everywhere and vows attacks against Arab leaders allied to Washington.

Apr 21 - Suspected al Qaeda suicide car bomb destroys a security forces building in Riyadh, killing four people and wounding 148 in the first major attack on a government target.

May 1 - Workers at a petrochemical site kill five Western engineers in a shooting spree in the Saudi oil city of Yanbu.

May 29 - Suspected al Qaeda militants killed 16 people, including Westerners, and seized 50 foreign hostages.

June 6 - Saudi gunmen kill an Irish cameraman for the BBC, and seriously wound BBC correspondent Frank Gardner in Riyadh.

June 8 - Gunmen kill an American employee of U.S. contracting firm Vinnell in Riyadh.

June 12 - Al Qaeda shoots dead an American in Riyadh.

June 18 - Kidnappers behead an employee of U.S. defence contractor Lockheed Martin.

Aug 3 - An Irish civil engineer who worked for a Saudi firm is shot dead in his office in Riyadh.

Sept 15 - A British engineer employed by electronics company Marconi is killed in Riyadh in al Qaeda attack.

Sept 26 - Al Qaeda shoots dead a Frenchman in Jeddah.

Dec 6 - Militants storm the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, killing five local staff and four Saudi security personnel. Three militants are killed and two captured.

Dec 29 - Two huge car bombs explode after militants try to storm the Interior Ministry and a security unit.


April 5 - Two of Saudi Arabia's most wanted militants are killed by security forces in three days of clashes in Al-Ras. Twelve other militants also killed in the battles.

Apr 21 - Two suspected militants and two Saudi security personnel were killed in a gunfight in Mecca.

June 29 - Saudi security services issues two new lists of wanted persons after only two remain on original 26-man list.

Aug 8 - U.S. and British embassies among several Western embassies to close after intelligence reports of attacks.

Aug 18 - Security forces kill Saleh al-Awfi, believed to be the leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, in Medina.


Feb 24, 2006 - Security forces foil two suicide bomb attacks at huge oil facility in the east.

Dec 2 - Saudi detains 136 suspected Islamist militants including a would-be suicide bomber.


Feb 26 - Four French expatriates working in Saudi Arabia shot dead during a desert trip.


Mar 3 - Saudi arrests 28 people suspected of seeking to regroup al Qaeda and carry out a "terror campaign".

Oct 21 - Saudi indicts 991 suspected al Qaeda militants for carrying out 30 attacks since 2003, the accused include clerics.


Feb 7 - A former Guantanamo detainee who became an al Qaeda commander turns himself in to Saudi authorities.

July 8 - Saudi court condemns one person to death in first publicly reported sentences since 2003. The rulings involved 323 suspects in 179 cases with other sentences ranging from a few months to 30 years in jail.

Aug 19 - Saudi Arabia arrests 44 militants who planned to carry out attacks and seize weapons and electronic detonators.

Aug 28 - Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, deputy interior minister in charge of security, survives a suicide attack in Jeddah. (Compiled by John Irish; Editing by Jon Hemming)


ANALYSIS-Saudi attack to raise influence of senior prince

30 Aug 2009 12:05:54 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Attack raises profile of Prince Nayef and allies

* Nayef is seen as a conservative close to the clergy * Nayef opposes reforms backed by Western governments

By Souhail Karam

RIYADH, Aug 30 (Reuters) - A failed attempt on the life of Saudi Arabia's security chief could strengthen the position of his conservative father, Interior Minister Prince Nayef, in jockeying within the royal family over who becomes king next.

The attack by a suicide bomber posing as a repentant militant has refocussed attention on the government's fight against Islamist insurgents, which Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has led since 2003, winning plaudits from U.S. officials.

"The security apparatus, embodied by Prince Nayef and even his son, will wield greater influence on the kingdom's policy agenda," a Western diplomat in Riyadh said.

The world's biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament or rights to form political parties, where clerics of an austere school of Sunni Islam control mosques, education, courts and their own public policing body.

King Abdullah is seen as a supporter of Western-friendly reforms which aim to reduce the religious establishment's hold on the country that produced al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

But diplomats say he has been stymied(# An obstacle or obstruction.) by conservative princes like Nayef, who maintains close ties to the clerics and does not want to upset the traditional balance of power between the religious establishment and the Saudi royal family.

Liberals fear for the fate of reforms if Prince Nayef were to be put in charge of the country, diplomats say.


Prince Nayef, believed to be 76, was appointed second deputy prime minister earlier this year, leaving him in charge of the country when King Abdullah and his appointed successor Crown Prince Sultan -- who are both in their 80s -- are abroad.

Prince Sultan has been out of the country since November because of unspecified illness and surgery, creating uneasiness over succession.

King Abdullah has set up an "Allegiance Council" of senior princes to vote on future kings and their deputies, but analysts say rivalry and jockeying for position in advance is intense.

The fight against al Qaeda raises Nayef's profile.

Newspapers in recent days were full of panegyric (A formal eulogistic =High praise or commendation> composition intended as a public compliment) articles about Prince Mohammed, with advertisements of thanks featuring the portraits of the king, crown prince, Nayef and his son.

"This attack adds to the credit of the interior ministry. It confirms the fact that Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has become the foe to beat for al Qaeda," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi politics professor. "It should get (his father) Prince Nayef a lot of credit among the senior royals."

The attack was claimed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has regrouped in neighbouring Yemen. Saudi officials had talked of their concern that Yemen could become the launchpad for a revival of the militant campaign in Saudi Arabia.


Nayef has had mixed success in persuading clerics to discourage radical ideology, which espouses violence against Muslims and Muslim governments seen as a un-Islamic.

Hundreds of suspects have been arrested since 2006 for seeking to form cells and Nayef admonished hundreds of clerics in 2007 for tacit or overt support for Saudis heading to Iraq. He said they were being used as fodder for suicide attacks.

"The level of trust between Prince Nayef and the clerics is unmatched elsewhere," a senior Arab diplomat said. "He has repeatedly criticised them for not toning down the rhetoric that breeds radicalism, yet they have always been like honey on butter."

Christopher Boucek, an associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, wondered: "Will the attempted assassination of his son lead him to be more direct in dealing with the clergy? It will be very interesting to see how that plays out."

A stronger Prince Nayef could also embolden clerics in their opposition to reforms, since many of them argue that moves towards "Westernisation", such as relaxing the kingdom's system of public gender segregation, encourages a zealous reaction.

The secrecy of the ruling family and political system means there could still be surprises, the Western diplomat said.

"(Nayef) is becoming the strong man of the regime. But whether this is because of the opacity that surrounds the succession issue remains to be seen," he said.

(Editing by Andrew Hammond and Elizabeth Fullerton)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Facebook tightens safeguards after Canada talks

Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:52am EDT

By Wojtek Dabrowski

TORONTO (Reuters) - Facebook agreed on Thursday to give its worldwide users better protection over their personal information as the result of negotiations with Canada's privacy commissioner.

The changes will give users of the social networking website more transparency and control over the information they provide to third-party developers of applications such as games and quizzes, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart announced.

As well, Facebook will make it clear that users can delete their accounts, not just deactivate them, if they do not want their information kept indefinitely. And information about nonusers will be better protected.

"These changes mean that the privacy of 200 million Facebook users in Canada and around the world will be far better protected," Stoddart said in a statement.

She had ruled in July that Facebook had serious gaps that breached Canadian privacy laws. The company swiftly agreed to address them in a way that meets her concerns and will also apply to developers and subscribers around the world.

"This is a global change," Stoddart told reporters.

"We're satisfied that, with these changes, Facebook is on the way to meeting the requirements of Canada's privacy law," she said, noting the popular website has a year to make the changes.

Facebook, which lets users share pictures, videos, news stories, opinions and private and public messages, has 12 million Canadian users.

Canada is the first country to complete a full investigation of Facebook's privacy practices. Stoddart said European and Australian regulators had also begun looking at social networking issues.

The outcome of Canada's investigation could influence the practices of other social networking websites, such as MySpace. Stoddart said another major site has already approached her office to discuss its approach.

She plans to release a paper in coming weeks analyzing the practices of other sites as well.

"We believe that these changes are not only great for our users and address all of the commissioner's outstanding concerns, but they also set a new standard for the industry," said Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice-president of global communications and public policy.

However, analysts and officials cautioned that users still needed to be careful about how much information they put on Facebook.

"All the personal information that the privacy commissioner is worried about advertisers stealing -- we (users) put it up there in the first place," said Duncan Stewart, an analyst with DSAM Consulting.

The regulator first started its investigation of Facebook as a result of complaints by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

The assistant commissioner who negotiated with Facebook, Elizabeth Denham, said her office had been alarmed by the lack of safeguards applied to the more than one million developers of third-party applications around the world.

"The notion that some teenager working in a basement halfway around the globe could have access to all this personal information was unsettling, to say the least," Denham said.

(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)

ISI , Saudi Prince funded Pakistani Politicians- Cost of Pakistani Sell-out Politicians/Parties

Abida Hussain admits to taking ISI money

LAHORE: I was information minister in Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi’s cabinet and received Rs 5 million from the Inter-Services Intelligence to join the IJI, Abida Hussain told a private TV channel on Thursday. Talking to the channel, Abida said she was told that Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia had sent this money through Mahmood Haroon. She also revealed that Nawaz Sharif, [Zafarullah] Jamali and Mir Afzal Khan were also beneficiaries. daily times monitor

I got 5 lacs, not 5 million: Abida

LAHORE: Apropos a news item in Daily Times (Abida Hussain admits to taking ISI money, August 27, 2009), Begum Abida Hussain has clarified that she received Rs 500,000 (and not Rs 5 million) from Syed Ijlal Haider Zaidi, then advisor to the president, from the election funds of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). She says she did not have any idea that this money came from anywhere other than the IJI. She says that since she was already contesting elections from the IJI’s platform, she did not need any persuasion to join the party. daily times monitor


Affidavit names politicians who took money from ISI

* Former CJP quotes affidavit submitted by former ISI chief Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani in court
* List of recipients includes Nawaz Sharif, Abida Hussain, Pir Pagaro, JI

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) gave millions of rupees to different politicians during former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s regime and no one has ever denied receiving money from the agency, former chief justice of Pakistan Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui said on Wednesday.

Talking to a private TV channel, he said the ISI was an intelligence agency and should not interfere in politics, or be used against politicians. He said former ISI director general Lt Gen Asad Durrani had informed the Supreme Court that he had given money to politicians, ostensibly to ‘convince’ them to join the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI).

Justice (r) Siddiqui told the channel that he had said at that time that the ISI’s role should not be political. He said the case was still pending in the Supreme Court at the time of the 1999 coup. He said Lt Gen (r) Durrani had presented an affidavit in court, giving details of the money distributed to different politicians.

According to the affidavit, then chief of army staff General (r) Mirza Aslam Baig had advised the intelligence agency in September 1990 that it should give logistic support to the transfer of funds from the business community in Karachi to the IJI during the 1988 election.

According to the written affidavit of July 24, 1994, Lt Gen (r) Durrani said he was informed at the time that the step had the government’s complete support. After the orders, he said he opened a number of accounts in banks in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Quetta.

A man from Karachi named Younas Habib had deposited Rs 140 million in a bank account and the rest of the money was transferred to a special fund.

According to the affidavit, acquired by the TV channel, former caretaker prime minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi received Rs 5 million,
former Sindh chief minister Jam Sadiq Rs 5 million,
former prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo Rs 2.5 million,
Nawaz Sharif Rs 3.5 million,
senior politician Pir Pagaro Rs 2 million,
the Jamaat-e-Islami Rs 5 million,
Mir Afzal Khan Rs 10 million,
Abida Hussain Rs 1 million,
Lt Gen Rafaqat Rs 5.6 million for managing the media campaign,
Humayun Marri Rs 1.5 million,
former prime minister Zafarullah Jamali Rs 4 million,
Kakar Rs 1 million,
Jam Yousaf Rs 0.7 million,
Hasil Bizenjo Rs 0.5 million,
Nadir Mengal Rs 1 million,
Altaf Hussain Qureshi and
Mustafa Sadiq Rs 0.5 million,
Salahuddin Rs 0.3 million,
smaller groups Rs 5.4 million and others received Rs 3.339 million. ========== http://www.zemtv.com/2012/10/20/agar-from-power-to-supreme-court-victim-20th-october-2012/ ===============

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Iran's Khatami says trial confessions invalid

Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:49pm EDT

By Zahra Hosseinian

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Former President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday trial confessions by moderates accused of fomenting post-election unrest were made under "extraordinary conditions" and were invalid, an Iranian news agency reported.

At Tuesday's trial, the fourth since June polls denounced by moderates as fraudulent, senior reformer and
Khatami ally Saeed Hajjarian was reported as saying he had "made major mistakes during the election by presenting incorrect analyses."

"I apologize to the Iranian nation for those mistakes."

A prosecutor demanded maximum punishment for Hajjarian who is accused of acting against national security, a crime which can carry the death sentence.

"These confessions are invalid and have been obtained under extraordinary conditions ... such claims are sheer lies and false," Khatami, who backed the main moderate candidate in the election, was quoted as saying by the ILNA news agency.

Also in the dock on Tuesday were several other moderate figures, including former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh and former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh -- both of whom held their positions under Khatami.

All were charged with fomenting huge street protests that followed the June presidential election that returned hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; some confessed to "mistakes."

Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was also accused of acting against national security and espionage at Tuesday's trial, charges likely to anger Washington.

Tajbakhsh also told the court that Khatami had met with billionaire financier George Soros in New York, Iranian media reported, but Khatami said this was also a "lie."

Iranian officials have portrayed the post-election protests as a foreign-backed bid to topple the clerical establishment.

The June 12 vote has plunged Iran into its most serious internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and has exposed deep divisions in the establishment's ruling elite.


Defeated moderate candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi say the vote was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's re-election, a charge the authorities deny.

Analysts see the mass trials as an attempt to uproot the moderate opposition and put an end to opposition protests.

Rights groups say hundreds of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists and activists, have been detained since the election. Many are still in jail.

Moderate politicians and influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of Ahmadinejad, have called for the detainees' immediate release.

One of those in the dock in Tuesday's trial accused Rafsanjani's son of encouraging moderates to allege that the poll was rigged. Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani denied the claims.

In a televised debate before the election, Ahmadinejad accused Rafsanjani's family of corruption. The official IRNA news agency said on Wednesday Rafsanjani's family had issued a complaint to the judiciary against Ahmadinejad, but it did not give details.

Karoubi has also angered hardliners by claiming some imprisoned protesters were raped and abused in jail, a charge government officials have rejected as "baseless."

But a parliamentary committee set up to investigate the cases of detainees said it would be ready to consider any evidence submitted by the pro-reform cleric.

Karoubi was quoted as saying this week that four people who say they were sexually abused in jail were ready to provide testimony to parliament, but that they did not feel secure.

Committee member Farhad Tajari said the judiciary chief and the speaker of parliament had "given the necessary security guarantees to those who are ready to testify about sexual abuse in prison" but that he did not see the claims as reliable.

The reformist website Norooz said last week "tens" of people were buried in unnamed graves in the largest cemetery in Tehran on July 12 and 15 -- about a month after the election, suggesting those buried had been protestors.

But a former head of the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery said no "mass burial" had ever taken place there. A lawmaker said on Tuesday a parliamentary committee was looking into a rumor of burials at the site.

The losing candidates say 69 people were killed in the unrest but the authorities put the death toll at 26.

(Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Reza Derakhshi; Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Ah Iraq lost ISCI’s ailing leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim

BBC Just reported, the last search for Al-Hakim re-produced here.

Inna Lillah wa Inna Elyah Raji`oun

Struggles for power are already going on within ISCI and the Badr forces; they look set to intensify in the case of a succession crisis after Hakim.

Iraq Shia leader dies of cancer
breaking news

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of one of the most powerful Shia Muslim parties in Iraq, has died, his aides say.

Hakim had been suffering from cancer and had been receiving treatment in hospital in the Iranian capital Tehran.

Correspondents say the death of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) leader adds further uncertainty ahead of national elections next January.

He led the SIIC from 2003 when his brother was killed after his return to Iraq following the US-led invasion.



Al-Jaafari, al-Maliki's predecessor, read a statement, noting that the ailing leader of the Supreme Council, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, was absent because he has been hospitalized in Iran.

"We wished that al-Hakim could be with us, but he is sick," al-Jaafari said. "We pray he will feel better soon but he will be with us spiritually," al-Jaafari said.

Al-Hakim, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007, has wielded enormous influence since the 2003 U.S. invasion, maintaining close ties to both the Americans and his Iranian backers.

He has groomed his son, Ammar, as his successor. Ammar al-Hakim also missed the news conference because he had rushed to Iran as his father's health deteriorated, officials said.

By that time, ISCI – which had been punished particularly hard by voters in the January polls – had taken over the initiative, and within weeks several dozen key UIA members paid their visits to ISCI’s ailing leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim at a convalescent home in Tehran where details of the new alliance were discussed. Reportedly, Muqtada al-Sadr also made the journey from Qum to reconcile with Hakim, a long-time opponent, apparently seeing the symbolic change of name as a “Sadrist demand” that could justify their return to the UIA.

Agreement on the new alliance seems to have been arrived at in Tehran, and it is basically a case of Shiite Islamists with long-standing Iranian sympathies like Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim and Abd al-Karim al-Anizi reaching an understanding with other Shiite Islamists whose turn to Iran is of far more recent date (and probably is still disputed by many of their adherents in Iraq), as in the case of Muqtada al-Sadr. Already in May, full lists of the new alliance circulated; they included the entire old UIA, with unspecified “independent” and “tribal” Sunnis forming a beautifying addendum ( “Look we are a national party, we are not excluding our brothers from Western Iraq ”).

As for the reasons for the sudden haste in declaring the alliance – with the apparent use of a deadline to put pressure on a Maliki – we can only speculate. But at least two factors stand out. Firstly, in Tehran, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim’s health once more seems to be deteriorating, with reports that he has been transferred to a more intensive form of hospital care. Secondly, from Qum, there are rumours that Muqtada al-Sadr may be about to return to Iraq, possibly even with enhanced scholarly credentials.


By Waleed Ibrahim

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The leader of one of Iraq's most powerful Shi'ite Muslim political groups and most important religious dynasties died on Wednesday, adding to political uncertainty in a violent run-up to an election next January.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who headed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), a major partner in the Shi'ite-led government, died while undergoing treatment for cancer in Iran, ISCI said.

"It is a painful event and a great tragedy," the ISCI-owned television station quoted Ammar al-Hakim, his son and likely successor as party leader, as saying.

ISCI officials said two funerals would be held, in Iran and in Iraq.

Born in 1950, Hakim lead ISCI since 2003 after his brother, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim, was killed by a car bomb.

ISCI is part of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite alliance, which includes Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa party, but it said this week it would lead a new group to compete in January's polls without Maliki.

Hakim's "death at this sensitive stage that we are going through is considered a big loss," Maliki said in a statement.

Anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a fellow member of the new, mainly Shi'ite alliance said: "This is a promise from me to all his followers...to be brothers and partners in this life and the next as they ask for the liberation of Iraq."

State television displayed a black banner of mourning and passages from the Quran in Hakim's honor.

Political analyst Hazim al-Nuaimi said the loss of ISCI's chief peacemaker could lead to infighting.

ISCI must take care to line up behind the new leader, whoever he may be, in the five months before what are sure to be fiercely contested elections.

"Anyone who sees ISCI as vulnerable will try to take its place," said Mohammed Abdul Jabar, a former Shi'ite politician who now edits a weekly magazine.

Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, who heads ISCI's parliament bloc, said Ammar al-Hakim would be interim party chief and that a permanent leader would be chosen soon by senior clerics.


The leadership change at ISCI occurs at a turbulent moment in Iraq as the sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion fades but bomb attacks pick up again.

Iraq regained some sovereignty when U.S. forces pulled out of urban centres in June, but a spate of bombings in recent weeks has undermined public confidence in local security forces.

The bombings, including two on August 19 that devastated the foreign and finance ministries and killed +100 people, also dealt a blow to Maliki's efforts before the January election to claim credit for a fall in overall violence.

The overtly religious ISCI became a major political player in majority Shi'ite Iraq after the U.S. invasion ousted Sunni Muslim dictator Saddam Hussein.

It was founded in neighboring Shi'ite Iran, where many ISCI leaders lived for years in exile during Saddam's rule. But despite their close ties to Tehran, an arch foe of Washington, ISCI leaders also enjoy U.S. support.

Iranian media said a ceremony would be held on Thursday outside Iraq's embassy in Tehran and Hakim's body would then be taken to the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, in Iraq, for burial.

Although ISCI lost ground to Maliki's Dawa in provincial elections last January, the well-organized and well-funded party has major clout and will be a formidable competitor in January.

ISCI has several members in top ministerial posts and has influence in Iraq's security forces.

ISCI derives much of its support from the Hakim family name, revered among Shi'ites for its lineage of scholars and sacrifice in the face of assaults by Saddam and other violence.

Ammar al-Hakim appears to have been groomed for succession, but there are other key figures in the party.

In May, Hakim entrusted top ISCI member Humam Hamoudi to repair the ruling Shi'ite alliance. One of Iraq's two vice presidents, Adel Abdul-Mehdi, is also an important ISCI member with strong support within the party.

(Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy, Khalid al-Ansary and Aseel Kami in Baghdad, and by the Tehran bureau; Writing by Mohammed Abbas and Missy Ryan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)


FACTBOX: Key facts about Iraqi Shi'ite leader Hakim

(Reuters) - Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of the most influential religious and political figures in majority Shi'ite Iraq, died on Wednesday of cancer.

Following are some facts about Hakim:

* Hakim, born in 1950, was the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), a major Shi'ite political party in Iraq's Shi'ite-led government. He received a religious education in the Hawza, a pre-eminent seminary in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.

An influential cleric and powerbroker, Hakim took over as head of the council after his elder brother, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim, died in a car bombing that killed 80 people after prayers at Najaf's Imam Ali mosque in August 2003.

* While living in exile in Iran in the 1980s and 90s, Hakim was a leader of the Badr group, the military wing of the ISCI, which fought on Iran's side in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

* The ISCI, formerly known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was founded in Iran during Hakim's years there when Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq.

* Despite its origins in Iran, an arch foe of the United States, the ISCI has had good ties with Washington. Hakim went to Washington to meet U.S. leaders and was a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

* Hakim, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung tumors and treated for lung cancer in Iran and the United States. In public appearances, he had appeared increasingly frail and unwell.

* Hakim's party this week announced a new, mainly Shi'ite political alliance to contest the next election, including Moqtada al-Sadr, another cleric who holds wide sway among Iraqi Shi'ites. Significantly, the alliance does not include Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, an increasingly assertive leader now seen as a potential rival rather than an ally.


Aug 27, 4:39 AM EDT

Iranians mourn Iraqi Shiite leader al-Hakim

Associated Press Writer

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Thousands of mourners offered prayers and wept Thursday during a memorial for the Iraqi Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who spent nearly two decades in Iran during Saddam Hussein's rule before returning to his homeland to become a key political power broker.

The ceremony for al-Hakim, who died Wednesday in Tehran of lung cancer, was attended by many Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in a sign of his deep ties to Iran.

Hundreds of Iraqi expatriates joined the procession, as al-Hakim's coffin was carried from the Iraqi Embassy to begin a trip for burial in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in Iraq. Many women wept and waved posters of al-Hakim.

Al-Hakim's political bloc, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, became the most influential Shiite political force following Saddam's collapse through its broad connections - able to work with American forces in Iraq while keeping its ties to Iran as the Islamic regime expanded its influence with Iraq's Shiite majority.

The Supreme Council suffered setbacks in provincial elections in January, but has sought to shore up its foundations with new alliances that include some Sunni groups that had been highly suspicious of al-Hakim's Iranian links.

In recent months, the 59-year-old al-Hakim had turned over most political duties to his son and political heir, Ammar.

According to al-Hakim's political party, his body will be flown from the Iranian city of Qom, a seat of Shiite learning about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Tehran, to Iraq where he will be buried in Najaf.

There was no official public mourning announced in Iran, but his deep connections to Iran were widely noted.

In Iraq, the top two U.S. officials in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno and Ambassador Christopher Hill, offered condolences in a joint statement Wednesday, praising al-Hakim for "contributing to the building of a new Iraq."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said "his death at this sensitive stage that we are undergoing represents a big loss to Iraq." Parliament elections in Iraq are scheduled for January.

Al-Hakim was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2007 after tests at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He chose to receive his chemotherapy treatment in Iran.

Al-Hakim's father, Grand Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim, was among the most influential Shiite scholars of his generation.

The family fled to Iran in 1980 following a crackdown by Saddam on the Shiite opposition. Al-Hakim and his brother, Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, returned to Iraq soon after Saddam's fall. A bombing on Aug. 29, 2003, in Najaf killed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and more than 80 others. Abdul-Aziz then stepped into the leadership of the Supreme Council.


Iraqis mourn Shiite leader Hakim in Baghdad

by Salam Faraj Salam Faraj – 1 hr 47 mins ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqis on Friday mourned the death of powerful Shiite politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, with wailing crowds touching his coffin as it was carried through Baghdad after an official homecoming ceremony.

Hakim, whose body arrived by plane from Iran, where he died in hospital of lung cancer two days ago, was hailed as "a devoted fighter" and "leader of the fight" against the tyrannical reign of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

The mourners were led by his son, Ammar, dressed in black robes and a black turban and who is seen likely to take over his father's duties as leader of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Iraq's largest Shiite political party.

Hakim's body was carried down a plane's steps by six pallbearers dressed in ceremonial uniform for a service at Baghdad airport.

"He was a leader, a devoted fighter of Iraq," said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who was first to address the ceremony.

"We are confident that the void left in his family and in the Supreme Council will be filled by the men of his family, such as (his son) Ammar al-Hakim."

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, also paid tribute to Hakim's role in opposing Saddam.

"He was a symbol and a leader of the fight against the dictator's regime," Maliki told a crowd of hundreds, comprised of SIIC members, tribal chiefs, US ambassador Christopher Hill and his British counterpart Christopher Prentice.

Hakim, 60, a former chain-smoker who died after a 28-month battle against cancer on Wednesday, was one of the principal leaders in exile of the opposition to Saddam, who mounted a devastating 1980-88 war against Iran.

In 1982, Hakim helped to establish an opposition movement in exile in Iran to battle Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime and only returned to Iraq following the US-led invasion of 2003.

The SIIC swept Shiite areas in the first provincial elections after the invasion, but in polls seven months ago the party suffered major losses.

The one hour ceremony at the airport was followed by Hakim's body being moved to Buratha mosque in the capital, where the prayer of the dead was read, signalling the start of three days of official mourning.

The coffin, draped in an Iraqi flag and carrying Hakim's black turban, said to have belonged to a descendant of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, was then carried through the streets of Khadimiyah, a Shiite stronghold. Hundreds of screaming followers, some of them crying, reached out to touch it as a mourner carrying a framed Hakim portrait led the procession.

Although Hakim was seen as the Iraqi politician with the closest ties to Iran he also managed to build a rapport with Tehran's arch-foe the United States and even met then president George W. Bush at the White House in 2006.

Hakim's body then left Baghdad and was headed south to the Shiite shrine city of Karbala. He will be buried in nearby Najaf on Saturday.

The bespectacled Shiite cleric had been in Tehran for treatment for more than four months and had also visited America in the past to consult lung cancer specialists.

A scion of one of the traditional leading families among Iraq's Shiite majority, Hakim took over the leadership of his party in August 2003 after his brother Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim was assassinated in Najaf.

Their father, Grand Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim, was one of Shiite Islam's top spiritual leaders between 1955 and 1970.

The family has had to contend not only with the rising influence among poorer Shiites of the radical movement of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr but also with Maliki's increasing power.

Hakim's death came just days after the Iraqi premier confirmed he was breaking ranks with the SIIC alongside which he fought the last parliamentary elections in 2005. Maliki's faction will now go it alone in January's polls.

The decision leaves the SIIC facing an uphill struggle to retain its power at the political centre, contesting the elections with its remaining Shiite allies in a new National Iraqi Alliance.

U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy dies at age 77

26 Aug 2009 09:33:22 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Death marks twilight of a political dynasty

* Kennedy's presidential aspirations were dashed

* His healthcare reform drive topped a liberal agenda (Adds Obama, details)

By Scott Malone

BOSTON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party who took the helm of one of America's most fabled political families after two older brothers were assassinated, died at age 77, his family said.

"Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts)," the Kennedy family said in a statement early on Wednesday.

One of the most influential and longest-serving senators in U.S. history -- a liberal standard-bearer who was also known as a consummate congressional dealmaker -- Kennedy had been battling brain cancer, which was diagnosed in May 2008.

His death marked the twilight of a political dynasty and dealt a blow to Democrats as they seek to answer President Barack Obama's call for an overhaul of the healthcare system.

Kennedy was a longtime advocate of healthcare reform, a signature issue of Obama's presidency. Obama said on Wednesday he was heartbroken to hear of the death of Kennedy, a crucial supporter of his presidential candidacy. [ID:nN26248334]

"I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom," said Obama, who was elected last November and took office in January.

Kennedy had recently urged Massachusetts lawmakers to change state law so the governor, if necessary, could quickly fill a Senate vacancy as the chamber debates the contentious healthcare issue.

Known as "Teddy," he was the brother of President John Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, Senator Robert Kennedy, fatally shot while campaigning for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, and Joe Kennedy, a pilot killed in World War Two.

When he first took the Senate seat previously held by John Kennedy in 1962, he was seen as something of a political lightweight who owed his ascent to his famous name.

Yet during his nearly half century in the chamber, Kennedy became known as one of Washington's most effective senators, crafting legislation by working with lawmakers and presidents of both parties, and finding unlikely allies.

At the same time, he held fast to liberal causes deemed anachronistic by the centrist "New Democrats," and was a lightning rod for conservative ire.

He helped enact measures to protect civil and labor rights, expand healthcare, upgrade schools, increase student aid and contain the spread of nuclear weapons.

"There's a lot to do," Kennedy told Reuters in 2006. "I think most of all it's the injustice that I continue to see and the opportunity to have some impact on it."

After Robert Kennedy's death, Edward was expected to waste little time in vying for the presidency. But in 1969, a young woman drowned after a car Kennedy was driving plunged off a bridge on the Massachusetts resort island of Chappaquiddick after a night of partying.

Kennedy's image took a major hit after it emerged he had failed to report the accident to authorities. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene and received a suspended sentence.

Kennedy eventually ran for his party's presidential nomination in 1980 but lost to then-President Jimmy Carter.

His presidential ambitions thwarted, Kennedy devoted himself to his Senate career.

A 2009 survey by The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, found that Senate Republicans believed Kennedy was the chamber's easiest Democrat to work with and most bipartisan.

Republican Senator John McCain called Kennedy "the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results."

In January 2008, Kennedy endorsed Obama, who was serving his first term as a senator, for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many saw the endorsement as the passing of the political torch to a new generation. A year to the day before his death, Kennedy made an electrifying speech to the Democratic convention that nominated Obama for president.


Kennedy had been largely sidelined in Congress since becoming ill. The "Lion of the Senate" began to use a cane and often looked tired and drained as he mixed work with treatment.

Yet colleagues and staff said he remained determined to fulfill what he called "the cause of my life," providing health insurance to all Americans. He helped draft legislation to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.

Kennedy's interest in healthcare dated from his son's bout with cancer in the 1970s. More recently, he cited his own illness as he made a case for reform.

"I've benefited from the best of medicine, but I've also witnessed the frustration and outrage of patients and doctors alike as they face the challenges of a system that shortchanges millions of Americans," he wrote in a May 28, 2009, issue of the Boston Globe.

His charisma as "the last of the Kennedy brothers" was such that draft-Teddy drives were a feature of U.S. presidential election years from 1968 through the 1980s.

But he never fully escaped the cloud of the Chappaquiddick accident. A decades-long argument arose about whether he tried to cover up his involvement by leaving the scene while Mary Jo Kopechne's body remained submerged and whether police helped sweep such questions under the rug. All involved denied any cover-up.

Later crises involving younger Kennedys, notably the 1991 Palm Beach rape trial of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith, caught a bloated and weary-looking Uncle Ted in a media glare. Reports of heavy drinking and womanizing led to a public apology for "the faults in the conduct of my private life."

Kennedy was remarried soon after that to Victoria Reggie, a 38-year-old lawyer with two young children from her first marriage. He poured renewed energy into the Senate, where he would become the third-longest serving senator in history.

Even his Republican foes recognized Kennedy's dedication as he worked to protect civil rights, give federal help to the poor, contain the spread of nuclear weapons, raise the minimum wage, expand health coverage and improve America's schools.


Born on Feb. 22, 1932, Edward Moore Kennedy was the last of four sons and five daughters born to millionaire businessman Joseph Kennedy, who would later be ambassador to Britain, and his wife, Rose.

The Boston Irish family combined the competitive spirit of nouveau riche immigrants with acquired polish and natural charm. The sons were expected to mature into presidential timber and were groomed for that starting with the oldest, Joseph Jr., a bomber pilot who died in World War Two.

"I think about my brothers every day," Kennedy told Reuters. "They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don't."

Like his brothers, Kennedy was known for his oratory, delivered in a booming voice at rallies, congressional hearings and in the Senate.

He drew praise from liberals, labor and civil rights groups and scorn from conservatives, big business and anti-abortion and pro-gun activists. His image was often used by Republicans in ads as a money-raising tool.

Tragedies dogged Kennedy throughout his life. They included a 1964 plane crash that damaged his spine and left him with persistent pain; bone cancer that cost son Teddy a leg; first wife Joan's battles with alcoholism that contributed to their divorce, and drug problems involving nephews, one of whom died of an overdose. His nephew, John Kennedy Jr., died in July 1999 when his small plane crashed into the ocean near Cape Cod.

In May 2008, Edward Kennedy collapsed at his Cape Cod home and was flown to hospital in Boston, where he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Brain cancer kills half its victims within a year.

Kennedy's illness kept him from attending the funeral of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a leading advocate of the mentally disabled, who died on Aug. 11 at the age of 88. (Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro in Washington and Patricia Zengerle in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts; Editing by Peter Cooney)

At least 43 dead as massive bomb blast rocks Afghan city

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 10:31 AM on 26th August 2009

A massive bomb has killed at least 43, and wounded 65 after it exploded last night in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.

The explosion ripped through a central area of Kandahar city just after nightfall, according to the Interior Ministry.

It took place as the first preliminary results were released from last week's presidential vote.
Attack: An Afghan soldier stands guard at the site of the explosion which took place in the southern city of Kandahar last night

Attack: An Afghan soldier stands guard at the site of the explosion which took place in the southern city of Kandahar last night

A Taliban spokesman today denied any responsibility for the attack, saying that the militant group condemns the attack.


* British soldier dies in hospital a week after he was wounded in Afghanistan explosion
* President Karzai takes slender lead in Afghan presidential election as four more NATO troops are killed

Spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said: 'We are denying responsibility, and condemn this attack in which innocent civilians were killed.'


* British soldier dies in hospital a week after he was wounded in Afghanistan explosion
* President Karzai takes slender lead in Afghan presidential election as four more NATO troops are killed

The bombing, which flattened buildings and sent flames shooting into the sky, occurred in a district that includes U.N. facilities and an Afghan intelligence office.

Rescue workers were still pulling injured people from the rubble this morning.

Rescue worker Mohammad Darwish said: 'There are some people still trapped in the buildings and we are trying to get them out.'
Condemned: A Taliban spokesman has denied responsibility for last night's bombing, which killed 43 and wounded 65

Condemned: A Taliban spokesman has denied responsibility for last night's bombing, which killed 43 and wounded 65

The Interior Ministry said the blast was from remote-controlled explosives planted in a truck.

Local officials said a cluster of vehicle bombs detonated almost simultaneously close to a Japanese construction firm that involved in reconstruction efforts in the city.

The company recently took over a contract to build a road that insurgents had stalled for several months.

Innocent victims: Rescue workers say civilians remain trapped in the rubble, and are continuing to rescue injured people this morning

Innocent victims: Rescue workers say civilians remain trapped in the rubble, and are continuing to rescue injured people this morning

The violence came as Afghans heard preliminary results of last week's presidential vote, putting President Hamid Karzai and his main rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, virtually equal.

Meanwhile, a provincial official was killed in northern Afghanistan today by a bomb planted in his car, authorities said.

Sayed Jahangir, the justice ministry director for Kunduz province was driving to work in the provincial capital when his vehicle exploded, said Ahmad Sami Yawar, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Mr Yawar said he did not know why Mr Jahangir would have been targeted, other than his role as a government official.

Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban and the city was hit by rockets on the morning of election day as Taliban militants attempted to disrupt last Thursday's polling with violence.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1209121/Bomb-kills-43-injures-65-massive-Afghanistan-attack.html?ITO=1490#ixzz0PHZ77DH9

ABC Appache Blackhawk Chinook Dumped Dictated Democracy of DoD

This is called ABC Dumped Dictated Democracy of DoD

These helicopters are means of transportation of State Department, installing/removing/transporting dictators from 1 neighborhood/region to another and to/from military bases/forts to US Embassy/Mission. As anyone with American attachment is hated on local streets.While Americans haved crossed skies and landed on moon 40 years ago but American human being involved to fulfill OilGasMineWar Neocon's/Cartels agenda are not allowed to walk freely on earth in Obama's World of 2009.

A U.S. military helicopter carrying ballot boxes packed with votes from last week's Afghan election accidentally dumped some of them somewhere over the rugged mountains of Nuristan, officials said on Wednesday.

Some 50 ballot boxes were being carried in a "sling load" beneath a Chinook helicopter from the provincial capital Paroon when the accident happened, they said.

"During transport, apparently some of the materials came out of the load as it was travelling," U.S. army Lieutenant Tommy Groves told Reuters.

This is called ABC Dumped Dictated Democracy of DoD

These helicopters are means of transportation of State Department, installing/removing/transporting dictators from 1 neighborhood to another and to/from military bases/forts to US Embassy/Mission. As anyone with American attachment is hated on local streets.While Americans haved crossed skies and landed on moon but American human being involved to fulfill OilGasMineWar Neocon's/Cartels agenda are not allowed to walk freely on earth in Obama's World of 2009.

U.S. helicopter accidentally dumps Afghan ballot boxes

26 Aug 2009 07:51:33 GMT
Source: Reuters
(For more on Afghanistan, click on [ID:nAFPAK])

KABUL, Aug 26 (Reuters) - A U.S. military helicopter carrying ballot boxes packed with votes from last week's Afghan election accidentally dumped some of them somewhere over the rugged mountains of Nuristan, officials said on Wednesday.

Some 50 ballot boxes were being carried in a "sling load" beneath a Chinook helicopter from the provincial capital Paroon when the accident happened, they said.

"During transport, apparently some of the materials came out of the load as it was travelling," U.S. army Lieutenant Tommy Groves told Reuters.

He said 15 of the 25 boxes that fell were recovered. The Independent Election Commission said the votes had already been counted and the totals added to the national tally.

A partial tally based on 10 percent of the votes counted has President Hamid Karzai and rival Abdullah Abdullah running neck-and-neck, suggesting a close race headed for second round.

(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/afghanistanpakistan) (Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Nick Macfie)


Parachuting cowboy-style democracy!

In Afghanistan, the Americans and their European allies are trying to get support for their agents, Hameed Kharzai or Abdullah Abdullah in order to give a form of legitimacy to their brutal occupation. The irony of the election is eloquently expressed by ballot boxes carried on donkeys to illiterate people while under the protection of sophisticated warplanes firing precision bombs. The result of parachuting cowboy-style democracy on primitive societies will be divisions, rivalries and violence. The divisions in Iraq and the fragmentation of the country under the brutal American occupation have led to violence that Iraq has never seen in its history. No matter how the Americans want to portray their costly efforts, they have entirely failed in getting popular support for their imperialistic projects on behalf of international cartels. Their client regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan are besieged inside heavily-protected one square mile inside their respective capitals frequently attacked by resistance movements rejecting the anti-Islamic crusaders and their agents in governments, albeit ‘democratically elected’.
Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation Times


Following the collapse of the hated Saddam rule, most Iraqis gave the Americans the benefit of the doubt, went along playing the political game by US rules and hoped for the best. But instead of understanding the aspirations of Iraqis, the arrogant and uncivilised Americans cowboys continued their strong-arm policies, which included the establishment of a client regime, fragmenting Iraq and unleashing their agents and mercenaries to detain, rape, torture and to kill Iraqis with impunity. That is at the time when the US encourages Israel to carry out its Nazi-style atrocities against Palestinians and to impose sanctions on Muslim countries like Syria, Iran and Sudan. Despite Obama’s empty gestures to Muslims, visitors with Muslim names continue to be humiliated at US borders check points. With this record, it is no wonder that US client regimes of Al-Maliki and Kharzai regimes are being exposed and rejected while the national resistance movements continue to get wide support and to rake havoc on US military personnel and US-paid mercenaries. In every possible way the Afghanis and the Iraqis continue to ensure that American project and USraeli designs will fail. Obama proved himself to be spineless and a fraud.

1. In 1947, Jewish gangs of Stern, Irgun and Haggana hanged the entire male population ( Over 180) of Deir Yassin in one afternoon. This was meant to fighten the popultion which many compared to Himmler's practices in the former Soviet Union.
2. Israel has established its own SS (Stafel Schutz,Defence Force) and called it IDF; which carries out arbitary arrests, torture and killing.
3. Israel has concentrations camps with Israeli doctors carrying out routine medical experiments similar to those of the infamous Nazi Doctor Mengle.
4. Israel carries out ethnic cleansing and remove Arabs from their homes and lands.
5. Like the Nazis, the Israelis disregard international law and human right conventions.

Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation Times


Afghan president says helicopter crash kills 31 US, 7 Afghan troops

06 Aug 2011 09:37

Source: reuters // Reuters

KABUL, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday 31 U.S. soldiers and 7 Afghan troops had been killed in a helicopter crash overnight, one of the worst incidents of its kind in the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan.

a NATO helicopter crashed in the east amid fighting with insurgents, police and the NATO-led coalition said on Saturday.

Taliban fighters said they had brought down the helicopter, but it was not immediately clear why it had crashed or whether there were any casualties.

The statement from the presidential palace said the helicopter had crashed in central Maidan Wardak province, just to the west of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the troop-carrying helicopter.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force confirmed a helicopter had crashed but gave no further details. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Tait)


NATO helicopter crashes, airstrike kills 8 Afghans

06 Aug 2011 08:31

Source: reuters // Reuters

An Afghan shepherd walks with his herd of goats near Bagram, Parwan province, 50 km (31 miles) from Kabul August 2, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

(Adds detail of helicopter crash)

By Abdul Malik

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan Aug 6 (Reuters) - A NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed eight civilians, adding to a 2011 toll that is the deadliest for civilians in the decade-old war, and a NATO helicopter crashed in the east amid fighting with insurgents, police and the NATO-led coalition said on Saturday.

Taliban fighters said they had brought down the helicopter, but it was not immediately clear why it had crashed or whether there were any casualties.

Violence is at its worst in Afghanistan since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with high levels of foreign troop deaths, and record civilian casualties during the first six months of 2011.

The NATO airstrike, with eight dead, took place on Friday afternoon in southern Helmand province.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO-led troops hunting Taliban fighters and other insurgents have long been a major source of friction between Kabul and its Western backers.

The airstrike occurred in Helmand's Nad Ali district after insurgents had attacked troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the area, said Nad Ali district police chief Shidi Khan.

ISAF confirmed an airstrike was carried out after a coalition patrol came under attack and said it was investigating the incident after meeting local leaders.

In eastern Afghanistan, ISAF said a helicopter had crashed overnight and it was in the process of recovering it.

Nawaz Haqyar, police chief of Maidan Wardak province, said the helicopter had come down in the province, which is west of the country's capital Kabul.

The Taliban said in a statement that its fighters had brought down the helicopter. It said eight insurgents from the Islamist group had been killed in the fighting.


The victims of Friday's airstrike in Helmand were members of a family that had fled fighting in a neighbouring province, police said.

ISAF said the civilians may have been held hostage by the insurgents.

"Shortly after the (airstrike), coalition forces received reports that civilians were being held captive by the insurgents and may have been present during the airstrike," an ISAF spokesman said.

A gradual transition of security control to Afghan forces began last month, when areas were handed over by the ISAF. Afghan forces are to take full control across the country by the end of 2014.

The most contentious of the first seven areas to be handed over was Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah.

Helmand province has been the site of some of the most vicious fighting of the war. Far more foreign troops have died there than in any other province and there are still several Helmand districts dominated by the Taliban.

In the past month, insurgents have carried out a string of destabilising assassinations of high-profile southern leaders, including President Hamid Karzai's younger brother, and several large attacks killing police and civilians.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that the first six months of 2011 had been the deadliest period for civilians since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

It said 1,462 civilians were killed in conflict-related incidents, up 15 percent on the first half of 2010. It blamed insurgents for 80 percent of those deaths.
(Additional reporting by Mustafa Andalib in GHAZNI and Mirwais Harooni in KABUL, writing by Michelle Nichols, editing by Ron Popeski)


NATO helicopter crashes in east Afghanistan


The shadow of a medevac helicopter from the U.S. Army's Task Force Shadow "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-52, comes in to land on a mission on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Friday Aug 5, 2011.(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A NATO helicopter crashed overnight in east Afghanistan following an operation against Taliban insurgents, the coalition and Afghan officials said Saturday.

Afghan provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the helicopter crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.

NATO said the alliance was conducting a recovery operation Saturday at the site and investigating the cause of the crash, but did not release details or a casualty figure.

"We are aware of an incident involving a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman. "We are in the process of accessing the facts."

NATO said insurgents were in the area at the time of the crash.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed the downed aircraft was a U.S. military helicopter and that the Taliban fighters had brought it down with a rocket attack.

In a written statement released Saturday, Mujahid said that NATO attacked a house in Sayd Abad where insurgent fighters were gathering Friday night.

Mujahid says the Taliban fired on NATO and downed the helicopter, killing all the crew. He says eight insurgents also died.

The Taliban often exaggerates casualty numbers in their statements to the media.

Aircraft crashes are relatively frequent in Afghanistan, where insecurity and difficult terrain make air travel essential for coalition forces transporting troops and equipment.

There have been at least 17 coalition and Afghan aircraft crashes in Afghanistan this year.

Most of the crashes are attributed to pilot errors, weather conditions or mechanical failures. However, the coalition has confirmed that at least one CH-47F Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade on July 25. Two coalition crew members were injured in that attack.

Associated Press
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Copter shot down, killing 30 US troops, 7 Afghans
APBy KIMBERLY DOZIER - Associated Press,SOLOMON MOORE - Associated Press | AP – 48 mins ago


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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Insurgents shot down a U.S. military helicopter during fighting in eastern Afghanistan, killing 30 Americans, most of them belonging to the same elite Navy SEALs unit that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as seven Afghan commandos, U.S. officials said Saturday. It was the deadliest single loss for American forces in the decade-old war.

The downing was a stinging blow to the lauded, tight-knit SEAL Team 6, months after its crowning achievement. It was also a heavy setback for the U.S.-led coalition as it begins to draw down thousands of combat troops fighting what has become an increasingly costly and unpopular war.

None of the 22 SEAL personnel killed in the crash were part of the team that killed bin Laden in a May raid in Pakistan, but they belonged to the same unit. Their deployment in the raid in which the helicopter crashed would suggest that the target was a high-ranking insurgent figure.

Special operations forces, including the SEALs and others, have been at the forefront in the stepped up strategy of taking out key insurgent leaders in targeted raids, and they will be relied on even more as regular troops pull out.

The strike is also likely to boost the morale of the Taliban in a key province that controls a strategic approach to the capital Kabul. The Taliban claimed they downed the helicopter with a rocket while it was taking part in a raid on a house where insurgents were gathered in the province of Wardak overnight. Wreckage of the craft was strewn across the crash site, a Taliban spokesman said.

A senior U.S. administration official in Washington said it appeared the craft had been shot down. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the crash is still being investigated.

"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan," President Barack Obama said in a statement, adding that his thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who perished.

The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement that 30 American service members, a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos were killed when their CH-47 Chinook crashed in the early hours Saturday. A current U.S. official and a former U.S. official said the Americans included 22 SEALs, three Air Force combat controllers and a dog handler and his dog. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because military officials were still notifying the families of the dead.

Geneva Vaughn of Union City, Tennessee, told The Associated Press on Saturday that her grandson Aaron Carson Vaughn, a Tennessee native, was one of the SEALs who was killed.

Jon Tumilson of Rockford, Iowa, was also among the SEALs killed in the attack, his father George Tumilson told The Des Moines Register.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the number of people killed in the crash and the presence of special operations troops before any other public figure. He also offered his condolences to the American and Afghan troops killed in the crash.

The deaths bring to 365 the number of coalition troops killed this year in Afghanistan and 42 this month.

The overnight raid took place in the Tangi Joy Zarin area of Wardak's Sayd Abad district, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Kabul. Forested peaks in the region give the insurgency good cover and the Taliban have continued to use it as a base despite repeated NATO assaults.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that the helicopter was involved in an assault on a house where insurgent fighters were gathering. During the battle, the fighters shot down the helicopter with a rocket, he said.

An American official in Brussels said the helicopter was a twin-rotor Chinook, a large troop and cargo transporter.

The casualties are believed to be largest loss of life in the history of SEAL Team Six, officially called the Navy Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. The team is considered the best of the best among the already elite SEALs, which numbers 3,000 personnel.

NPR and ABC News first reported that those aboard were believed to be Navy SEALs. The AP withheld the report at the request of their sources until they believed the majority of families of those lost had been notified.

The death toll surpasses the previous worst single day loss of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 — the June 28, 2005 downing of a military helicopter in eastern Kunar province.

In that incident, 16 Navy SEALs and Army special operations troops were killed when their craft was shot down while on a mission to rescue four SEALs under attack by the Taliban. Three of the SEALs being rescued were also killed and the fourth wounded.

Afghanistan has more U.S. special operations troops, about 10,000, than any other theater of war. The forces, often joined by Afghan troops, carry out as many as a dozen raids a night and have become one of the most effective weapons in the coalition's arsenal, also conducting surveillance and infiltration.

From April to July this year, special operations raids captured 2,941 insurgents and killed 834, twice as many as those killed or captured in the same three-month period of 2010, according to NATO.

The coalition plans to increase its reliance on special operations missions as it reduces the overall number of combat troops.

Night raids have drawn criticism from human rights activists and infuriated Karzai, who says they anger and alienate the Afghan population. But NATO commanders have said the raids are safer for civilians than relatively imprecise airstrikes.

The loss of so many SEALs at once will have a temporary impact on the tempo of missions they can carry out, but with an ongoing drawdown of special operations forces from Iraq, there will be more in reserve for Afghan missions.

The site of the crash, Tangi, is a particularly dangerous area, the site where many of the attacks that take place in the province are planned, said Wardak's Deputy Gov. Ali Ahmad Khashai. "Even with all of the operations conducted there, the opposition is still active."

The U.S. army had intended to hand over its Combat Outpost Tangi to Afghan National Security Forces in April, but the Afghans never established a permanent base there. "We deemed it not to be stategic and closed it," said coalition spokesman U.S. Army Maj. Jason Waggoner. "The Taliban went in and occupied it because it was vacant."

Western military commanders have been debating moving forces from other areas in Afghanistan to reinforce troops around the capital and in the east, where the Taliban is often aided by al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Earlier this year, the U.S. military closed smaller outposts in at least two eastern provinces and consolidated its troops onto larger bases because of increased insurgent attacks and infiltration from the Pakistan border.There have been at least 17 coalition and Afghan aircraft crashes in Afghanistan this year.

Most of the crashes were attributed to pilot errors, weather conditions or mechanical failures. However, the coalition has confirmed that at least one CH-47F Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade on July 25. Two coalition crew members were injured in that attack.


Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, and Rahim Faiez and Patrick Quinn in Kabul contributed to this report.


NATO helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, killing 38

06 Aug 2011 23:01

Source: reuters // Reuters

An Afghan shepherd walks with his herd of goats near Bagram, Parwan province, 50 km (31 miles) from Kabul August 2, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

* Single highest death toll for foreign troops

* Taliban say they downed chopper, although case unclear

* Crash comes two weeks after start of security handover

(Corrects number of dead in headline)

By Michelle Nichols

KABUL, Aug 6 (Reuters) - A NATO helicopter crashed during a battle with the Taliban in Afghanistan, killing 30 U.S. soldiers, an interpreter and seven Afghans, the Afghan president said on Saturday, the deadliest single incident for foreign troops in 10 years of war.

The Taliban quickly claimed to have shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, although the Islamist militant group often exaggerates incidents involving foreign troops or Afghan government targets. They also said eight insurgents were killed in fierce fighting.

In Washington, a U.S. official said the helicopter was thought to have been shot down. The Pentagon has said the cause of the crash is being investigated.

A U.S. official said some of the dead Americans were members of the Navy's special forces SEAL Team 6 -- the unit that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May in Pakistan, but that none of the dead were part of the bin Laden raid.

Officials initially said 31 Americans were killed but the Pentagon revised the toll to 30 Americans, seven Afghans and an interpreter, whose nationality was not immediately known.

A brief statement from Afghanistan's presidential palace said the troop-carrying Chinook helicopter had crashed in Syedabad in central Maidan Wardak province, just west of the capital, Kabul.

U.S. and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials in Kabul confirmed a helicopter had crashed on Friday night but gave no details.

"ISAF is still assessing the circumstances that resulted in these deaths and recovery operations are currently underway," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement.


U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement the United States would "stay the course" to complete the mission in Afghanistan, a sentiment echoed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"The incident is under investigation right now as this helicopter belongs to international forces," Afghanistan's Defense Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimy told Reuters television. "Obviously they will provide details of the crash and the reason."

He said the Afghans killed also were from a commando unit.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai "shared his deep sorrow and sadness" with his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, and the families of the victims, the palace statement said.

The deaths come two weeks after the start of a gradual security handover from foreign forces to Afghan troops and police, and at a time of growing unease about the increasingly unpopular and costly war.

The helicopter crash likely will raise more questions about the transition process and how much longer troops should stay. All foreign combat troops are due to leave by the end of 2014 but some U.S. lawmakers question whether that is fast enough.

The crash was the deadliest incident of the war for foreign troops. In April 2005, another CH-47 Chinook crashed, killing 15 U.S. servicemen and three civilian contractors. Another Chinook crash in June of the same year killed 17 U.S. troops.

U.S. and other NATO commanders have claimed success in reversing a growing insurgency in the Taliban's southern heartland, although insurgents have demonstrated an ability to adapt their tactics and mount attacks in other areas.


Any gains against the Taliban have come at a high price, with 711 foreign troops killed in Afghanistan in 2010, the deadliest year of the war since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed foreign troops in late 2001.

The crash in Maidan Wardak, where the majority of foreign troops are American, means at least 375 foreign troops have been killed so far in 2011. More than two-thirds were American, according to independent monitor www.icasualties.com and figures kept by Reuters.

Another three ISAF soldiers were killed in the south over the previous 24 hours, the coalition said.

Earlier on Saturday, Afghan police said a NATO air strike killed eight civilians in the Nad Ali district of southern Helmand province on Friday.

Nad Ali district police chief Shidi Khan said the air strike was called in after insurgents attacked ISAF troops in the area. Those killed in the strike were members of a family that had fled fighting in neighboring Uruzgan province, police said.

ISAF confirmed there had been an air strike in the district and said it was investigating whether civilians had been present at the time. It said it had received reports civilians were being held hostage by insurgents. [ID:nL3E7J601M]

Civilian casualties caused by foreign troops hunting Taliban fighters and other insurgents have long been a major source of friction between Kabul and its Western backers.


Despite the growing military toll, Afghan civilians have continued to bear the brunt of the war, with casualties hitting record levels in the first half of this year.

A U.N. report last month said 1,462 civilians were killed in conflict-related incidents in the first six months of 2011, up 15 percent on the first half of 2010. It blamed insurgents for 80 percent of those deaths.

Helmand province, where the Taliban still dominate several districts, has been the scene of some of the most vicious fighting of the war and far more foreign troops have died there than in any other province. Its capital Lashkar Gah was the most contentious of the first seven areas to be handed over.

In the past month, insurgents have carried out a string of assassinations of high-profile southern leaders, including Karzai's half brother, and several large attacks which have killed police and civilians. (Additional reporting by Mustafa Andalib in Ghazni Mirwais Harooni and Haseeb Sadat in Kabul, Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels and David Alexander in Washington; Editing by Paul Tait, Bill Trott and Sophie Hares)


Second NATO helicopter crashes; Afghans protest over killings

08 Aug 2011 09:23

Source: reuters // Reuters

An Afghan woman and her children walk past a destroyed building at the old part of Kabul August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

By Paul Tait and Michelle Nichols

KABUL, Aug 8 (Reuters) - A NATO helicopter crashed in Afghanistan's east on Monday but there were no apparent casualties, officials said, a reminder of the dangers of the war after 38 people were killed in an air incident two days ago, the largest single loss of foreign forces in 10 years.

A worrying surge of military deaths is being matched by record casualties among civilians, who continue to bear the brunt of a war that appears to have become bogged down despite claims of success from both sides.

On Monday, three hundred angry Afghans took to the streets in central Ghazni province carrying the bodies of two people they claimed had been killed during a raid by ISAF troops.

Civilian casualties caused by foreign troops hunting insurgents have long been a major source of friction between Kabul and its Western backers. U.N. figures show such casualties hit record levels in the first six months of 2011, although it blamed 80 percent of them on insurgents.

NATO officials are still investigating the cause of a helicopter crash two days ago that killed 38 people, including 30 U.S. soldiers, seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter.

The Taliban claim to have shot down that troop-carrying CH-47 Chinook helicopter in central Maidan Wardak province and a U.S. official in Washington, who asked not to be identified, said that helicopter was believed to have been shot down.

"We're still not aware of the cause of the incident, this is a very vital part of the investigation," said Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen, senior spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

"The area in which the helicopter was operating was known to be not free of insurgents," he told a news conference.

ISAF has imposed a security crackdown on the area while the grim task of recovering the aircraft and the bodies of those killed is completed, although some residents have complained about some of the measures that have been taken.

"I can only advise (civilians) not to try to approach the site of the crash while the investigation is ongoing," Jacobsen said .

Separately, another ISAF helicopter made a "hard landing" in Paktia province, a volatile area in Afghanistan's east, on Monday, other officials said.

"There were no casualties," another ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel David Doherty said. An investigation was underway but it appeared there was no enemy activity in the area at the time.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in a text message sent to Reuters that the Islamist group had shot down the helicopter, another Chinook, in the Zurmat district of Paktia, killing 33 American soldiers.

The Taliban often exaggerate claims in attacks against foreign troops and Afghan security forces and government targets, although they correctly identified the number killed in the weekend's Chinook crash in Wardak.


At least another seven ISAF troops were killed in a ghastly 48 hours for the coalition. Four were killed in two separate attacks on Sunday, including two French legionnaires.

The spike in casualties -- at least 383 foreign troops have been killed so far this year, almost 50 of them in the first week of August -- comes at a time of growing unease about the increasingly unpopular and costly war.

U.S. and NATO officials issued statements vowing to "stay the course" in Afghanistan after the deadly weekend Chinook crash but the recent devastating death toll will likely raise more questions about how much longer foreign troops should stay in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama by telephone overnight and shared condolences over the Wardak crash, Karzai's palace said in a statement.

"The U.S. president thanked the Afghan president and emphasised the fight against terrorism, which is a threat for security in the region and the world, and said the people of Afghanistan and the U.S. unitedly stand against the terrorists and their sacrifices will be never forgotten," it said.

The deaths came barely two weeks after foreign troops began the first phase of a gradual process to hand security responsibility over to Afghan soldiers and police.

That process is due to end with the last foreign combat troops leaving at the end of 2014, but some U.S. lawmakers are already questioning whether that timetable is fast enough.

Karzai has already said "enemies of Afghanistan" -- the Taliban and other insurgents -- want to disrupt the process.

In Ghazni, deputy police chief Mohammad Hussain said almost 300 people had gathered to carry the bodies of what they said were two civilians to the provincial governor's office after an overnight raid by ISAF in the Khogyani district.

ISAF earlier said there were no reports of civilian casualties but Jacobsen said a man had fired on an ISAF patrol from inside a house with his family around him.

"We are very much certain that ISAF could not be aware that the man was shooting from a house where his family was inside," Jacobsen said, adding that an investigation was underway.

On Sunday, Karzai ordered an investigation into a NATO air strike that allegedly killed eight civilians in volatile southern Helmand province on Friday.

U.N. figures show that 1,462 Afghan civilians were killed in conflict-related incidents in the first six months of 2011, the deadliest period for civilians since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

Foreign military deaths also hit record levels in 2010 with 711 killed, with 2011 following a similarly bloody trend. (Addional reporting by Mirwais Harooni in KABUL and Mustafa Andalib in GHAZNI; Editing by Ed Lane)

Leave a comment:
mimi jacques 39 minutes(s) ago

The terrain in Afghanistan is trecherous for aviation (wind factors,turbulence pockets,dust etc). I'd like to know why US is buying from Russia 21 MI-17 helicopters (Soviet workhorse choppers in Afghanistan) for Afghan forces instead the Chinooks- US has had equipment troubles with them. The second question- why to fly spec.ops forces in one Chinook instead of 2,3 choppers? If my memory serves me correct Hamid Karzai was part of the Afghan Taliban prior 9/11. The Afghan civilians will be antiwestern and uncooperative since they have had so many collateral damages and sneering insults of making up their civilian losses by the brass of western forces. If there ever was a comparison - it is the far out mini fortresses reminescent of Indochina and French forces under attack.Furthermore there azre crumblings by other members who are teaching policed etc. that US is starting to be a Wild Westerner- shoot and don't ask.

NATO helicopter crash kills 16 people in Afghanistan
Fri, Mar 16 06:48 AM EDT

By Hamid Shalizi and Jack Kimball

KABUL (Reuters) - A NATO helicopter crashed into a house on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Friday, killing 12 Turkish soldiers on board and four Afghan civilians on the ground, Turkey's military and a senior Afghan police official said.

The crash came amid growing unease among NATO partner countries about the increasingly unpopular and costly war nearly 11 years into the conflict as most foreign combat troops set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

"Twelve of our military personnel on board the helicopter have been martyred," the Turkish general staff said in a statement in Ankara. A team had been sent to the scene to investigate, it said.

Wreckage as well as corpses and body parts littered the site. Relief workers and Turkish soldiers covered bodies with red and purple blankets on a ground in front of a smoking hole in a two-storey house.

Two women and two children were among those killed when the helicopter crashed into the house, an Afghan police officer said.

The officer said the cause of the crash appeared to be a technical fault. NATO's International Security Assistance Force said earlier that the cause of the crash was still unknown but that there had been no reports of insurgent action in the area.

Turkey's foreign minister also said the cause was apparently a technical fault.

"Both the location and the way the crash happened makes the impression that it's due to technical failure," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Istanbul.

"It's a cause of great pain, I am sending my condolences once again to the families and the general staff."

Turkey's mission in Afghanistan is limited to patrols and its soldiers do not take part in combat operations. It has more than 1,800 soldiers serving in the country, most of them around the capital.

Unlike other NATO countries, public opinion in Turkey has been less critical about having troops in Afghanistan, given their non-combat role. Nor is there as much resentment among Afghans over the Turkish presence, because they are fellow Muslims and due to the historical links between the countries.

In January, six U.S. Marines were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan, which followed the death of 30 American personnel, including 22 Navy SEAL commandos, in eastern Afghanistan in August last year.

An investigation into the August incident confirmed the Taliban had fired a rocket-propelled grenade that hit one of the rotary blades and exploded, sending the helicopter plummeting to the ground and bursting into flames.

On Thursday, in a blow to NATO hopes of a negotiated end to the decade-old war, the Afghan Taliban said they were suspending nascent peace talks with the United States, following the massacre of 16 civilians by an American soldier.

The U.S. government said it remained committed to political reconciliation involving talks with the Taliban but progress would require agreement between the Afghan government and the insurgents.

(Additional reporting by Reuters TV in Kabul, and Jon Hemming and Ece Toksabay in Turkey; Editing by Rob Taylor and Robert Birsel)