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Thursday, March 31, 2011

USGS finds 2,000-year-old coral near BP Gulf well

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Cain Burdeau, Associated Press – Thu Mar 31, 8:18 am ET
NEW ORLEANS – Federal scientists say they have dated coral living near the site of the busted BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico at 2,000 years old.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday it had determined the age of the black coral in the Gulf for the first time. Scientists had been studying the ancient slow-growing corals before BP's well blew out on April 20, 2010. The corals were found about 21 miles northeast of the BP well living 1,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf.

"They're extremely old and extremely slow-growing," said Nancy Prouty, a USGS scientist. "And there are big questions about their vulnerability and their ability for recovery."

Black corals feed on organic matter sinking to the sea floor and it could take decades, or even centuries, to recover from "a disturbance to these ecosystems," Prouty said.

She said scientists were looking at whether the ancient coral had been damaged by the BP oil spill, but the damage assessment had not been completed.

The location of the black coral is important because computer models and research cruises have mapped much of the deepwater oil moving to the southwest of the BP well, away from the black coral colony. Scientists have found dead coral southwest of the well.

However, Prouty said the surface oil slick was over the black coral colony during the spill.

BP's well leaked more than 200 million gallons of oil after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.

Black corals, which resemble deep-sea bushes or trees, are found throughout the world and are an important marine habitat for fish and other forms of marine life. They grow very slowly — a human fingernail grows 200 times faster than black coral, USGS said.

Most of the Gulf's bottom is muddy and the coral colonies that pop up every once in a while are vital oases for marine life in the chilly ocean depths.The USGS study was part of a larger federal survey of fragile reef ecosystems.


==

BP says no impact from oil sheen at Thunder Horse

17 Aug 2011 19:20

Source: reuters // Reuters

HOUSTON, Aug 17 (Reuters) - A 2-by-30-foot (0.7 by 9.144 metre) sheen spotted at BP Plc's Thunder Horse oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico has not impacted operations, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo declined to comment further on the National Response Center website's report of an oil and water spill Tuesday. The report said the release was stopped and a treatment system adjusted.

"Operations at Thunder Horse are normal," said Beaudo. (Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by Marguerita Choy)


======

BP gets $4bn from Anadarko for oil spill costs

17 Oct 2011 11:12
Source: Reuters // Reuters

* Andarko will pay BP $4 billion

* Anadarko will not pursue gross negligence allegations vs BP

* BP shares jump 4.3 pct (Updates shares, recasts first paragraph)

By Tom Bergin

LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - BP Plc has accepted a $4 billion payment from partner Anadarko Petroleum towards the Gulf of Mexico oil spill clean-up, far less than it might have won in court, but a deal that could reduce the overall cost of the disaster for the British group.

While BP has given up around $5 billion in potentially recoverable costs, the deal also removes a vocal and potentially damaging opponent from the field, thereby potentially reduced the final bill for the United States' biggest every offshore oil spill by tens of billions of dollars.

The London-based oil company's shares jumped on the news, to trade up 4.8 percent at 1110 GMT, outperforming a 1.2 percent rise in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index .

"This is good progress," said one dealer.

BP said on Monday that as part of the deal, Anadarko will no longer pursue its allegations of gross negligence against BP and that the deal excludes possible government fines the parties may have to pay.

As a 25 percent partner in the Macondo well, Anadarko is on the hook for 25 percent of the costs of cleaning up the spill, compensating those affected, and paying government fines.
It could only avoid this responsibility if it proved BP had been grossly negligent -- something which could, potentially, have added around $18 billion to the total amount of fines BP faced.


Fines for leaking oil into U.S waters are levelled at a level of $1,100 per barrel, or $4,300 if gross negligence is proven. The government has said the Macondo well leaked almost 5 million barrels into the sea.

BP has said the total bill for the oil spill, including government fines, for which it has taken charges of $3.5 billion and research grants of $500 million, will be $42 billion.

This suggests Anadarko could have faced a total bill of up to $9.5 billion.

LESS LIKELY

Investors have priced in a final cost to the company from the spill that is far in excess of BP's estimate. Analysts say deals such as the one announced Monday make the worst-case scenario -- a final bill in excess of $70 billion -- look less likely.

"We maintain our view that the ultimate cost to BP could fall ... substantially below the cost inferred by the share price fall since the accident," Richard Griffith, oil analyst at Evolution Securities said.

In May, BP agreed to accept $1.1 billion from the third partner in Macondo, Mitsui & Co., to cover its 10 percent share of cleanup costs.

The company is still suing the companies it hired to help drill the well, Transocean and cement specialist Halliburton, to pay towards the cost of the spill.

Key to forcing Transocean to meet the cleanup bill -- BP has sought the full amount from the drilling contractor -- is convincing a court that Transocean was grossly negligent.

If BP does recoup cash from Transocean or Halliburton, it will pay a portion of this -- up to $1 billion Anadarko under the terms of the deal .

Two lengthy government inquiries have laid the lion's share of the blame for the blowout at BP's door.

The rig blast killed 11 men and caused more than 4 million barrels of oil from the Macondo well to spill into the sea. (Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and Andrew Callus)


======

No longer in the deep end
BP's spill woes start to clear, but not disappear
17 October 2011 | By Fiona Maharg-Bravo

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BP has closed out one big legal front, but the Macondo saga is still far from over. In the months following the accident, the UK oil major’s partners in the well blamed BP and refused to pay any of the bills. Now Anadarko, with a 25 percent stake in the well, has agreed a $4 billion settlement. The move follows a $1.1 billion BP deal with Mitsui, a 10 percent partner in the well, in May.

The $4 billion settlement is a fraction of the $41 billion that BP estimates the spill will eventually cost. The comparison isn’t quite right, since that number includes BP’s legal bills, voluntary initiatives and estimates of fines, which are excluded from the settlements. BP is also getting less than the $6.1 billion it had billed Anadarko so far. But it is still more than BP received from Mitsui. Had Anadarko paid in the same proportion as the Japanese, BP would only have received about $2.7 billion.

Together, BP now has $5 billion more in cash to pay for the spill. Yet the really critical question still hangs. Was BP grossly negligent under the Clean Water Act? If it was, potential fines could be over $17 billion. That particular legal battle starts next year in a New Orleans court, where all the claims will be decided. It is not clear how long it will last, but is likely drag until 2013 at least.

The fact that Anadarko has dropped these allegations of gross negligence suggests the burden of blame, if it comes to that, will be shared. That, as much as the cash involved, led BP shares upward. Investors may also be betting that BP will extract some cash from two key contractors involved in the well construction and rig equipment – Transocean and Halliburton. So is Anadarko: it has asked for a portion of the claims recovered by BP from third parties.

Some welcome clarity is beginning to emerge from the inevitable legal wrangling that resulted from the Macondo spill. But the troubles, all round, are far from being settled.




P has reached a $4 billion settlement with Anadarko, its 25 percent co-owner of the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo oil well. The money will be paid in to the $20 billion trust set up by BP to meet claims and damages arising from the accident. Anadarko has agreed to drop allegations of gross negligence against BP.

The oil major’s market capitalisation added around 3.5 billion pounds in morning trading on Oct. 17, or $5.5 billion.

Anadarko will retain the rights to 12.5 percent of claims recovered from third parties above $1.5 billion, up to a total of $1 billion. On Oct. 17 BP said the settlement excluded punitive damages and fines.

As part of the deal BP and Anadarko agreed to cooperate on claims made against them. BP called on contractors in the well, including Transocean and Halliburton, to meet their obligations. BP has estimated the total bill will amount to $41 billion.


====

US oks BP's return to deepwater drilling in the Gulf

26 Oct 2011 16:43
Source: Reuters // Reuters

* Govt says BP met all regulations, voluntary standards

* BP's permit is for well in its Kaskida field

* BP has said it hopes to have 5 rigs in Gulf this year

(Adds comments from BP, background)

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - BP passed its final hurdle to returning to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, receiving its first permit to drill a new well since its role in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved the permit after backing BP's exploration plan last week.

An explosion last year on Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and ruptured BP's Macondo well, unleashing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Since then, BP has gradually worked towards resuming its offshore drilling program, including promising to adhere to self-imposed standards more stringent than government regulations. [ID:nL3E7IF207]

"After several months of hard work developing and implementing our new drilling standards and sharing those standards with industry partners and regulators, we are pleased to have received a permit to drill another appraisal well in the Kaskida Field," the company said in a statement.

The permit approval comes after BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said on Tuesday that the company has turned the corner after last year's disaster. [ID:nL5E7LP0NQ]

The drilling agency said BP's permit application met all of the rules issued since the Gulf spill, as well as BP's voluntary guidelines.

"This permit was approved only after thorough well design, blowout preventer, and containment capability reviews," said BSEE head Michael Bromwich.

The permit is for a well in BP's Kaskida field in the Gulf of Mexico, a 2006 discovery that could hold up to 3 billion barrels of oil. An early appraisal well in 2009 confirmed oil was present in the field.

The field is in the highly touted Lower Tertiary trend in the Gulf of Mexico, a huge 300-mile (482-km) swath across the basin that is estimated to hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil, the largest oil trend in the U.S. since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay was discovered the late 1960s.

While the company's Gulf drilling program may be moving forward, BP still faces a slew of lawsuits from the spill, as well as the threat of the federal fines for the accident.

BP currently has three drilling rigs in the Gulf doing plugging and abandonment work, but this marks the first new permit the company has received to explore a major oil discovery.

Dudley said on Tuesday the company hopes to have five deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf by the end of the year.

The company hopes to have seven or eight deepwater rigs by 2012 and expects to return to around the historical level of new well delivery the following year.

Dudley said the company was not planning to do a long-term production test at the Kaskida field just yet.

"What we want to do is look at the structure and see the size of the structure, that will help us assess the reserves resource sites," Dudley said on a call discussing the company's quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said he thought it was too early to let BP back in the Gulf.

"The fact that BP is getting a permit to drill without yet paying a single cent in fines is a disappointment, and does not serve as an effective lesson of deterrence for oil and gas companies," Markey said in a statement. (Additional reporting by Kristen Hays; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Asma slams ‘judicial dictatorship’

Published: March 30, 2011
SCBA says judiciary under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is becoming a judicial dictatorship.
LAHORE:
Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir has said the judiciary under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is becoming a judicial dictatorship, as reflected in the Supreme Court’s orders on the National Accountability Bureau chairman and judges’ extension cases.

The judiciary is reaching for powers that belong to parliament, Jahangir told reporters on Tuesday. Referring to the removal of Deedar Hussain Shah as NAB chairman, she said the SC had ruled that the chief justice must be consulted on the appointment.

“That means absolute authority to make the appointment will go the CJP, not the the parliament, which is a serious matter,” she said.


Jahangir said she agreed that the appointment should be made after consultations, but questioned how Shah could be disqualified from being reappointed to the post. “Procedural flaws in an appointment do not disqualify a person,” she said.
She said the SC decision on the extension of six additional judges rejected by the parliamentary committee on the appointment of judges had made the committee redundant.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2011.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Future of Iraq's non-sectarian bloc in doubt

30 Mar 2011 16:20

Source: reuters // Reuters


* Iraqiya won most votes in last year's election

* Eight parliament members have since quit

* Bloc is "losing its non-sectarian character"


By Waleed Ibrahim

BAGHDAD, March 30 (Reuters) - A decision by former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to refuse a post in Iraq's government has cast doubt over the future of his non-sectarian political bloc a year after it won the most seats in parliament.

Some analysts say Allawi is facing the fact his attempt to lever Iraq out of sectarian-based government is doomed to fail.

Allawi's Iraqiya is the only big political bloc in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq that enjoys support across sectarian and ethnic divides. It won 91 of parliament's 325 seats last year, but failed to build a coalition to unseat Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

When it became clear that Maliki, a Shi'ite from a party with religious roots, had cobbled together enough support to stay in power, Iraqiya agreed to join the governing coalition. Allawi was offered the post of head of a national advisory body, but this month he rejected it, saying it lacked real power.

Iraq's politicians are looking ahead to a June deadline set by Maliki last month after street protests, for members of his new cabinet to show results or be sacked. Only then will the final makeup of Iraq's government become clear.

Allawi's decision has left his bloc split, with some members enjoying the perks of power and others, like Allawi himself, seeming more comfortable in opposition. Eight Iraqiya lawmakers say they are leaving the group and other defections are expected.

Seven of the eight are Shi'ites. They complain the bloc is losing its non-sectarian character and becoming a vehicle for Sunnis, setting back its goal of bridging the divides in Iraq that fuelled eight years of war.

Allawi, who briefly ran Iraq under a U.S.-installed interim administration from 2004-05, is himself a Shi'ite. But the bloc earned much of its support from Sunnis who felt excluded from a government dominated by overtly Shi'ite and Kurdish groups.

Under the new coalition deal hammered out in December -- nine months after the election -- Iraqiya was mostly given posts reserved for Sunnis in the previous government. Most of those jobs went to figures who joined Iraqiya from Sunni factions.

"The bloc lost its secular character when it accepted joining the government on a sectarian basis, not secular," said Hassan al-Alawi, one of the Shi'ite lawmaker's who quit Iraqiya.

"Look at the top posts that were given to the bloc. They are the same as the ones given to the Sunni Accordance bloc in the election of 2005."


SETBACK

Allawi remains Iraqiya's leader for now, but he lacks the clout that would come from an official post such as that of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a veteran Sunni politician who folded his National Dialogue Front into Iraqiya.

Allawi himself is often abroad, and critics see him as little engaged in the day-to-day wrangling of Iraqi politics.

The walkout by eight members has set Allawi's non-sectarian project back and shows his own role weakening, but does not necessarily hurt Iraqiya, said Yahya al-Kubaisy, an Amman-based researcher for the Iraqi Center For Strategic Studies.

"This withdrawal has weakened Allawi, rather than the Iraqiya bloc. Those lawmakers who withdrew are from Allawi's faction. In practical terms, Allawi is no longer the most powerful figure inside the bloc. He is still the head of it, but this only gives him moral authority inside the bloc," he said.

In a move that made political waves, Allawi travelled this month to Najaf to meet anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose decision to support Maliki for a second term proved decisive in last year's scramble to form a government.

Some Iraqiya lawmakers have suggested Allawi could seek to lure Sadr into opposition at the end of the prime minister's 100-day deadline and expected cabinet shakeup in June.

An alliance with Sadr, whose now-suspended Mehdi Army militia was one of the most feared forces at the height of sectarian fighting, hardly seems like a step forward for Allawi's dream of a non-sectarian basis for Iraqi politics.

Kubaisy said Allawi was simply coming up against reality.

"Maybe he is starting to realise that the Iraqi political scene is still governed on a sectarian basis. And any manoeuvre out of this basis will certainly fail." (Editing by Peter Graff and Douglas Hamilton)

India v Pakistan: Cricket World Cup 2011 live

India v Pakistan: Cricket World Cup 2011 live
Follow over-by-over commentary of the second World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan in Mohali. Latest: India win the toss and will bat first. Latest: IND 260/9; PAK 118/4 (29).


Image 1 of 2
On the run: Kamran Akmal begins Pakistan's run chase after India set them 261 to win in their World Cup semi-final Photo: REUTERS
Image 1 of 2Flying start: Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar set off at over nine runs an over Photo: AFP
By Mike Norrish and Jonathan Liew 4:03PM BST 30 Mar 2011
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2011-03-30 16:36:51.0
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/cricket-world-cup/8414157/India-v-Pakistan-Cricket-World-Cup-2011-live.html?service=artBody
This page will automatically update every 60 secondsOn Off Email jonathan.liew@telegraph.co.uk to share the love ...

OVER 32: PAK 141/4 Misbah 8* Akmal 28*
"I can't help but think Raina's innings was worth its weight in gold," writes Chanthiran Inthirarajah. "Pakistan are facing the pressure of the run rate now." Dhoni perseveres with Yuvraj, giving him his seventh over on the (lack of) bounce. And that's more like it from Akmal, cutting Yuvraj from off the stumps and getting his little legs motoring to scramble back for a second run. And that's six! A wondrous strike from Akmal, straight back over Yuvraj's head and into the sightscreen! Yuvraj pulls his length back, and Akmal can cut an easy single. Nine off the over.

OVER 31: PAK 132/4 Misbah 8* Akmal 19*
Nehra maintains a good line, offering the odd single into the leg side but nothing more. Two off the over. These two need to do a better job of knocking the singles and hustling the twos. Too many shots going straight to fielders, and the Pakistani running is putting themselves rather than the fielders under pressure. 129 to win from 19 overs. It really would be a heist if Pakistan could pull it off, but has anyone seen who's coming in next? It's only a Mr B. B. Afridi. This one's not over yet, not by a long leg.

OVER 30: PAK 130/4 Misbah 7* Akmal 18*
Akmal dances down the pitch and lofts Yuvraj over cover for four runs! The first boundary in 13 overs, and desperately needed by Pakistan. The run rate's hefty, but not unmanageable yet, as long as Pakistan can break the back of it at some stage. And now Akmal goes over mid-wicket! Six runs! Fabulous shot! Just a touch short from Yuvraj, and Akmal simply threw everything at it, practically wrenching it over the infield, and over the rope. A couple of singles complete a good over for Pakistan, who are now halfway to their target at the 30-over stage. If they had one or two more wickets in hand, you'd make this an even game. As it is, these two and the lower order somehow have to muster 131 from 120 balls under the utmost pressure.

OVER 29: PAK 118/4 Misbah 6* Akmal 7*
It's getting harder for Pakistan. Just one off that over as Nehra returns. The noise level is rising here. Well, in the stadium, but here too. People are glancing at TV screens, barely even pretending to work. India sense they've got their man on the ropes here, though, and are straining every joint in search of a new breakthrough. Vikram Singh Chauhan writes: "Could you ask Prasad Bhat what was the name of my first dog? If he can answer that correctly, he's a mystic with unmatched powers. If he can't, he's fixing the match." Over to you, Prasad...

OVER 28: PAK 117/4 Misbah 6* Akmal 6*
Now, is this a run out? Calamitous running by Umar Akmal after a sweep by Misbah. Akmal turned at the end of his second run and wanted a third, coming about halfway down the pitch before realising his partner was not reciprocating. The ball came back to Dhoni, who immediately fired the ball at the other end with Akmal really struggling, but Yuvraj dislodged the bails with his hands rather than the ball, and Akmal survives. For all the super batting and bowling so far today, some of the fielding's been worthy of an office game.

OVER 27: PAK 112/4 Misbah 3* Akmal 4*
Misbah and Akmal make a good fist of the reconstruction effort, knocking six runs off Harbhajan's over. Struggled with his length a little there, Harbhajan, dropping a couple short and offering the batsmen easy ones and twos. Prithvi Karthikeyan describes the mood in Chennai: "I was at work in London when India beat Oz and followed the match with you (and as I try to follow winning routines, I'm doing it again) - now I'm at home in Madras and hopefully Mumbai for the big week. Every screen has the match on and my parents are so stressed about the result they are taping as it is simply too emotionally charged. The whole country is in suspense - restaurants shut, doctors are out - you can smell everyone bleeding blue!"

OVER 26: PAK 106/4 Misbah 1* Akmal 0*
Yuvraj completes a wicket maiden, and some of his bowling this tournament has been a real rejoinder to those who reckon he's just a routine part-time trundler whose only use is to get out Kevin Pietersen. He's really developed his flight and thinks hard about his trajectory, and he's successfully out-thought far more patient batsmen than Pietersen. Like Younus Khan, for example. Nic Kieft writes: "Not to be outdone by Dallas, following you here in a very sunny southwest Florida. The design for a new car park at the airport has been put to one side. Hope India wins."

WICKET! Younus Khan c Raina b Yuvraj 13 (32) PAK 106/4
The pendulum swings further towards India! Yuvraj frustrates Younus with a magician's touch, holding the ball back, pushing it through, and when he holds one back, Younus is suckered into the drive, spooning it up for Raina at extra cover! He takes the catch comfortably above his head with both hands. Pakistan really up against it now. Umar Akmal the new batsman, with the run rate heading north quickly.

OVER 25: PAK 106/3 Younus 13* Misbah 1*
This is a crucial partnership for Pakistan. These two are the most experienced batsmen remaining. Three singles off that over, and a shout of alarm from Harbhajan as Misbah gets an inside edge onto the pad and just short of the man at leg slip.

OVER 24: PAK 103/3 Younus 11* Misbah 0*
Misbah, a late bloomer at international level - he's actually 36 - blocks his first ball. Now. What a moment this is. Pakistan have stagnated just a little, and that run rate is just creeping up. Usman Haider from Pakistan (he doesn't say whereabouts) writes: "I'm uber-excited. Streets are literally empty and I feel like a criminal wasting my time emailing. But you are doing great keeping up with the match. I can definitely see my team is passionate, considering there might be around two or three people cheering for Pakistan in the crowd, the rest is all India." You can tell how few Pakistan fans there are in the crowd, actually. Whenever Pakistan score a boundary, the TV director always cuts to the same bunch of cheering Pakistan fans. Or, as I suspect, the only bunch of cheering Pakistan fans.

WICKET! Asad Shafiq b Yuvraj 30 (39) PAK 103/3
Middle stump! Out of the ground! India strike again at a crucial time! It was a straight, good length ball from Yuvraj, and Shafiq simply took a bit of a liberty with it, backing away, trying to cut off the back foot when he should have been on the front foot, and losing his middle stump as the ball clattered into the top of it. Misbah-ul-Haq comes in at a challenging time. Another wicket and India would be right on top here

OVER 23: PAK 100/2 Shafiq 29* Younus 9*
More sloppy fielding, this time by the substitute Chawla at square leg, allowing Younis a single. Shafiq then picks up a couple of twos, and it's a good over by Pakistan, milking Zaheer for six runs and reaching their hundred in the process. Whisper it, but I think Prasad Bhat's time in the sun may well be over. 161 to win off 27 overs, and we're almost at a run a ball now.

OVER 22: PAK 94/2 Shafiq 24* Younus 8*
We've got an email from Dallas. "Thanks for doing an awesome job," writes Vinutha Thallam. "I woke up this morning and Googled... guess what? I found your link. Sitting in my office and reading your online commentary is making my day go so well so far. I am all for India team to WIN! GO TEAM INDIA!" Well, quite. Not sure I'm doing an 'awesome' job, though. Nurses, firefighters, the complaints department at O2. They're the real heroes. Yuvraj bowls a fine over, excellent control of flight and line, and there's just a single off it. By the way, who started humming the Dallas theme tune as soon as they read the word 'Dallas'? Next over, I bring you an email from a U. Bulgaria of Wimbledon Common.

OVER 21: PAK 93/2 Shafiq 23* Younus 8*
Zaheer Khan, a man who rivals Graeme Swann for first-over breakthroughs, is restored by Dhoni with Pakistan 172 short of victory. Younus drives his second ball wide of mid-off for a single. Khan then strays onto Shafiq's pads, and gets flicked away pleasantly for two runs. Quick single off the last, and Harbhajan at mid-off fumbles again! Not sure how tight that would have been, but that's the second sloppy bit of handiwork under pressure by Harbhajan so far. Tried to gather the ball like a child wearing oven gloves.

OVER 20: PAK 89/2 Shafiq 20* Younus 7*
Yuvraj's first ball bears the unmistakeable hallmark of a man whose level of physical exertion so far today has been modest at best. He was out first ball, remember, and as for practice - well, here's a man who refers to fielding practice as 'Haribo time'. It's a horrible half-tracker that he gets away with, really, Younus pulling the ball mightily but straight to Zaheer at deep square leg. He gets it sorted, though, and four more singles result from the over. We're approaching 90, the score at which Mystic Prasad of Bhat predicted two wickets would fall. The police are watching, Prasad.

OVER 19: PAK 84/2 Shafiq 18* Younus 4*
Harbhajan comes in to bowl his fifth over, and he's been tidy without being too threatening so far. Pakistan have played him well, and they get another four singles there, the most notable of which was a little paddle sweep by Shafiq down to fine leg. We're going to see Yuvraj Singh now, and when his name was announced at the stadium the cheer from the crowd was loud enough to drown out that horrible Yahoo noise they play whenever there's a change of bowling. (NOTE TO YAHOO: DO YOU KNOW WHY EVERYONE USES GOOGLE NOW? BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE A NOISE.)

OVER 18: PAK 80/2 Shafiq 16* Younus 2*
Nehra returns after an opening spell of four overs for 16. Shafiq shuffles across and flicks him uppishly through square leg, where they take a second run to the puffing Zaheer. The next ball is flicked again, but straight to Zaheer this time. A single for that, three off the over. Meanwhile, Nick Hoult tweets that the ECB have confirmed that Andrew Strauss will not return to cricket until Middlesex's match against Sri Lanka starting on May 16. Disappointment for Loughbourough University, then, who are scheduled to play a three-day match against Middlesex in ten days' time. He deserves his break, though, after the winter he's had. I suspect he's already been on Expedia this morning.

OVER 17: PAK 77/2 Shafiq 13* Younus 2*
Shafiq drives Harbhajan back over his head for four! It was a ferocious hit, but straight into the ground, so it wouldn't have been a catch. Zaheer at mid-off gazes forlornly at the ball as it races past him. Another single down to long on, and whether it's the new responsibility brought on by Hafeez's wicket or simply the face that he's getting used to the conditions, Shafiq looks a mite more comfortable now after that queasy start. 184 needed from 33 overs. Don't ask me what the required rate is It's five something. 5.6 or thereabouts.

OVER 16: PAK 72/2 Shafiq 8* Younus 2*
Actually, looking back at that delivery from Munaf, it was practically a wide outside off-stump, or at least it would have been if Hafeez had done virtually anything else but step across his stumps and try and sweep it. Genuinely. Anything. He could have mooned it, and he'd still be at the wicket now. Younis gets off the mark with a hasty two through the covers. Quite a few of you have pointed out that Prasad Bhat's prediction from Over 8 is looking spookily accurate so far. Shwetha Jain writes: "Can't believe the 50/1, 70/2 prediction is coming true. Indian bowlers doing a good job. Still there is a hope. This is the true beauty of India v Pakistan matches. The pressure is equal on both sides!"

WICKET! Mohammed Hafeez c Dhoni b Patel 43 (59) PAK 70/2
Oh, that's a huge wicket! A huge wicket! Hafeez loses his mind and surrenders his wicket in one of the meekest ways imaginable! It was a good length delivery outside off stump by Munaf, and Hafeez tried to sweep it. Let me repeat that for you. He tried to sweep it from outside off stump, over his shoulder, and ended up getting a thin piece of the ball. Easy catch for Dhoni, and Hafeez has thrown it down the well! The players take drinks as Younus Khan strides to the crease.

OVER 15: PAK 70/1 Hafeez 43* Shafiq 8*
Shafiq finally gets going! Filthy delivery from Harbhajan, short and wide, and crunched through the covers by Shafiq to break the tension. A slip and leg slip in for Harbhajan, and with a few gaps around, the batsmen take three more singles without too much trouble. Good over for Pakistan. What a fascinating contest this is shaping up to be. 23 off the fielding Powerplay, as the fielding restrictions are lifted.

OVER 14: PAK 63/1 Hafeez 41* Shafiq 3*
A maiden! Patel delivers a super over to Shafiq, who must be feeling the pressure in only his 16th ODI. He's sort of a Jonathan Trott figure at number three for Pakistan - solid technique, decent temperament, but he does take his sweet time about things. Patel beats him outside off stump as Shafiq prods at it, and then again as Shafiq tries to drive. After a fairly rambunctious start by Pakistan, India have successfully pulled them back. Pakistan have been fairly risk-averse so far, aware of the need to keep wickets in hand so as to make the eventual collapse far more dramatic. Always thinking of their public, Pakistan. The people's team.

OVER 13: PAK 63/1 Hafeez 41* Shafiq 3*
While Nick Hoult considers asking the stadium PA to put out a message for a Mr G Boycott of Barnsley, Harbhajan continues, with four singles coming from the over. Both batsmen fairly happy to play fairly straight, although Shafiq has half a second of alarm when his chip down to long-on flies perilously close to Harbhajan.

Nick Hoult on Twitter: "@Aggerscricket Aggers, could you please nudge Boycs and ask him to call me when he can? We need a column tonight and I cant get through to him"

OVER 12: PAK 59/1 Hafeez 39* Shafiq 1*
Short from Munaf. Pulled fine by Hafeez. Four! Another easy single through the covers, and it's five off the over. Hafeez has batted beautifully so far, but he really does need to go on. The required rate is still in the sort of area where it can climb quite quickly if the batsmen get bogged down. What Hafeez has managed so well so far is to keep the score moving. Shafiq's only had to face three balls since he came in.

OVER 11: PAK 54/1 Hafeez 34* Shafiq 1*
Ah ha ha ha ha, we're going to see some Harbhajan in the 11th over. He's a sight to watch, isn't he? Pirouetting in like the world's podgiest ballerina, the arm wheeling over like a trick of the light, the ball spinning and dipping and Harbhajan's hands invariably flying upwards to his turbanned head as the batsman prods at it uncertainly. It's that kind of over, really. Shafiq works the ball down to long-on to get off the mark, and then Hafeez gets a life as he chips the ball straight back to Harbhajan. That was around three inches away from being a return catch.

OVER 10: PAK 52/1 Hafeez 33* Shafiq 0*
Hafeez is looking increasingly like Pakistan's best chance of winning this game. That's another sensational shot, check-driven through extra cover for four with wonderful placement to beat Harbhajan at mid-off. This is controlled aggression by Hafeez, carefully selecting which ball to hit. But he almost goes there! It was the right ball to hit - a shorter one from Munaf, and Hafeez connects well with the pull shot, but it drops around three feet short of Zaheer at deep mid-wicket! If he's fully committed to it, Zaheer could probably have put the dive in and had a go, but he would have been risking a faceful of cricket ball if he'd done so. The ball bounces over his tumbling shoulder for four, and Pakistan's fifty comes up off 60 balls. Powerplay One ends; Dhoni takes the fielding Powerplay immediately.

OVER 9: WICKET! Kamran Akmal c Yuvraj b Zaheer 19 (21) PAK 44/1
Zaheer makes the breakthrough! Mohali comes to life! Dhoni brought Zaheer back to try and break this partnership, and he duly delivered! Kamran with a loose drive outside off stump - feeling for it, really - and Yuvraj takes the thick outside edge at gully. It went to him at a comfortable height, at a comfortable speed, and really not even a Pakistan player could have dropped that. Asad Shafiq is the new batsman.

OVER 8: PAK 43/0 Kamran 19* Hafeez 24*
Strewth, that's a good shot. Nothing at all wrong with that delivery from Nehra, on off stump and possibly around three inches short of a perfect length. But Hafeez simply turned his wrists on it and sent it flying in between mid-wicket and mid-on and away for four. In the air again, but Hafeez has the temperament to back himself, and the talent to pull it off a good deal of teh time. He adds a single in a similar area. Now: a freakishly detailed prediction. "I enjoy your commentary," writes Prasad Bhat. "To win this formula for India is simple. 50/1, 70/2, 90/3, 90/4, 125/5. Bhajji is the key, ably assisted by sleepy Munaf." If that comes off, Prasad, you're either going to be revered as a visionary or hauled in front of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit.

OVER 7: PAK 38/0 Kamran 19* Hafeez 19*
Width from Munaf, and Hafeez cuts for four! Didn't bother trying to keep that one down, and that was a carbon copy of a shot he played against the West Indies a week ago. He's a stylish operator, Hafeez, an intelligent batsman who picks the gaps and manipulates the field. There he is, identifying and picking out one of the slowest fielders in the Indian team (sorry, Sachin, but you're not exactly Leroy Burrell, are you?) and taking a quick single to mid-off. And Kamran gets lucky off the last ball of the over! Tries the big booming drive, doesn't quite time it, but the ball sails in the air in between cover and mid-off, and away for four. NIne off the over to continue Pakistan's good start.

OVER 6: PAK 29/0 Kamran 15* Hafeez 14*
Just three runs off the last two overs, then, as Nehra finds a good, testing length. Not too straight either, so Hafeez has to pick and choose which ball to work to leg. He chooses the last, and gets a single.

REVIEW (Kamran Akmal)
Hafeez knocks the ball straight back down the pitch, Nehra gets fingers on it, and it thwacks straight into the stumps. Kamran looked to have got his bat down in time, but Ian Gould decides to have a look anyway, getting the crowd all excited and everything in the process. And Kamran did get his bat down. Not out.

OVER 5: PAK 28/0 Kamran 15* Hafeez 13*
Munaf Patel replaces Zaheer after just two overs. No swing, a fairly true pitch, and already the predictability of the Indian attack looks to be a factor. Whither Ravichandran Ashwin? But Patel almost snares Kamran third ball! It's short, Kamran swings his arms and tries to pull it for six, and it flies up in the air, just out of the reach of the two men running back! The batsmen jog back for a second run. Decent over by Munaf, fairly tight line, nothing much to drive.

OVER 4: PAK 26/0 Kamran 13* Hafeez 13*
Cracking shot by Hafeez, stroking Nehra through the covers for four. Both batsmen have been timing the ball expertly so far, which just shows how good the pitch is. It's pressure that will be Pakistan's biggest hurdle, you feel. Devyesh Patel, an Indian fan, writes: "I am very worried, as the pie-chucker Nehra will go for 10-15 an over. Recall 2003. Me and other fans will be subjected to some abuse and Dhoni needs to be wary that the BCCI are planning the next captain Mr Gambhir! Par score plus dew factor will have to wait and see my lunch is churning with nerves jangling." Rather lost its thread towards the end, did that email. Still, many thanks, Dev. Loved you in Slumdog. Less so in Skins.

OVER 3: PAK 20/0 Kamran 12* Hafeez 8*
So, 260. Par? It looked a 300 pitch, and if India had held themselves together, they would have got that at least. Still they were also staring 240 in the face at one stage. Kamran looks mightily comfortable, though. Zaheer comes round the wicket to him, and Kamran just leans on it, sending it through the covers for three runs. And that's lovely from Hafeez! Four runs! It looked like nothing more than a simple push off his legs, but it raced away like any number of things India and Pakistan have pointed at each other ('a tracer bullet', 'an Exocet', 'a US-made Patriot missile', etc). Hafeez pushes to mid-off and sets off for a run. Harbhajan could have him hurrying here if he picks up and hits, but he doesn't pick up. Kamran's next to come within half a second of running himself out, haring down the pitch and then scrambling to make his ground again as Tendulkar's throw narrowly misses. Nerves.

OVER 2: PAK 12/0 Kamran 9* Hafeez 3*
Nehra to share the new nut. Little more than medium pace really, and if he doesn't get it right on line, he's in danger of disappearing. Hafeez is off the mark, running it down to third man. Short now to Kamran, who doesn't connect properly with his pull shot but still gets one for it, behind square. Short again to Hafeez, who clips it off his hip - a little airily, and there was a speculative shout of catch as that left the bat - but he gets two runs down to deep square leg. End of the over. Peter Andre's 'Mysterious Girl' pounds over the PA system. In the dressing room, Shoaib Akhtar shakes his head sadly. He knows a little bit about mysterious girls, if his medical history is anything to go by...

OVER 1: PAK 8/0 Kamran 8* Hafeez 0*
Thanks, Mike. Hello, everyone. Oh, this is poised. A beautifully delicate situation at the halfway stage. Zaheer takes the new ball, bowling over the wicket to Kamran, who greets him with a punch through the covers for four! Zaheer responds well, a slightly slower one that keeps low, beats Kamran and grubs through to Dhoni. This opening Powerplay is going to be absolutely crucial. And such pressure! It's a pressure most of us can't even compute. Imagine bowling with 1.1 billion guns pointed at your head. Kamran finds the boundary again! Four more, driven straight back down the ground! Sure-footed start by Pakistan. One way or another, this is going to be a breathless evening.

14.15: Right, quick change out there - just a 25 minute break because of the over rate, and Hafeez and Akmal are back out there. I'm handing you over to fresh and fired-up Jonathan Liew. Thanks for the emails...

INDIA 260/9 off 50 overs. Pakistan require 261 to win and reach the World Cup final.

14.10: So how do you rate that Inida score of 260/13, eh? Not sure what they were thinking putting Kamran in charge of fielding practice, but there you have it. That's Pakistan, eh? Baffling, moody and terrifying - a premenstrual cricket team, if you will.

Amazing.

Some recent tweets:

Infostrada: Wahab Riaz became the first Pakistan player to take 5 wickets in a World Cup semi final and only the fourth player ever.

Shane Warne: Par score from India – Pakistan fought well – can they upset the local favourites ? Sleep time now – let me know result – close game.

Tim Bresnan: Ari Gold is my hero! The man is a genius.

Good old Bresser...

OVER 50 IND 260/9 Zaheer has a swing, but he's nicked it to Kakmal! Gone! And that's five wickets for Riaz.

WICKET!! Z Khan c †Kamran Akmal b Wahab Riaz 9. Riaz's down on his knees kissing the pitch and offering his prayers. What a day he's had – and to think Pakistan were considering bringing old Sho-pony back! And that's another wicket as the India innings peters out.

WICKET!! Nehra run out 1. Good from Akmal – gets the ball in his gloves and pings it back down to the non-striker's end, nice and composed and Nehra's comfortably out of his ground as Riaz whips off the bails. And there's two from the final ball for Raina – and that's that! India 260/9 off 50 overs. Raina 36* – could be a vital knock that...

OVER 49 IND 256/7 So penultimate over. Gul to Raina, and that's a top bit of fielding from Hafeez to cut off the boundary. Wonderful dive and snatch. Full toss from Gul – bunted over mid-on by Raina, but it's off the bottom of the bat and it's just a one. Gul will need a couple of tailend scalps here to massage his X-rated figures. But you ain't getting like that sunbeam, another full toss is hit well by Zak to long-off, but it's straight at the fielder. Good running as they get back from a couple – again off the low full toss. Raina's managed to smash his bat, and a new one's on its way out. It works too! That's four. Attempted yorker, but it's on leg stump and with fine leg up Raina's steers it to the fence. Can they get 270?

OVER 48 IND 246/7 Here's Wahab, after his five-fer. There's a cracking yorker first up which Raina just about squirts out for a single. Zaheer – who's shifting all over his crease and swinging wildly, gets a spooned two, and then slices one for four! All precious, precious runs, and India might just get 260 now. Could not be set up better.

OVER 47 IND 238/7 Ajmal now to Bhajji. And that's pretty ordinary. He's gone. Stumped by Akmal. Absolutely clueless.

WICKET!! Harbhajan Singh st (although to be honest, it could've been a run-out) Kamran Akmal b Saeed Ajmal 12 Brilliant from Ajmal. He was too good for Sachin earlier, and he's certainly too good for Harbhajn here. Went for the mahoosive swipe over cow – head up, expecting to see it sailing into the stands – and he's done by the doosra. Ajmal's done now – 2/44 of 10.

OVER 46 235/6 BIG OVER! Ohh that's class from Raina! Fantastic straight drive, lofted off Gul straight down toward the sight screen. Helluva shot. And that's four more! Full toss from Gul – who's had an absolute shocker of a day – and Raina drives that through cover for four.J just picked his gap. And four more! Bhajji this time. Gul's single-handedly keeping India in this game. 14 off the over.

That four from Harbhajan was India's first boundary in 15 overs

OVER 45 221/6 Four from Bhajji breaks the shackles! That's more like it. And suddenly it becomes apparent that there is, in fact, a crowd in there today. Good shout – swept from off stump behind square for four. Didn't look in complete control – he's all arms and elbows and angles – but his eye's pretty damn good. "I have never seen Indian batsmen bamboozled like this by the spinners" says Boycs on TMS. "And I've never seen Tendulkar dropped four times. They haven't seen Pakistan for a while and they've been caught out by the doosra bowling and by Afridi." He's right, too, I feel...

Andrew Holgate mails: "Isn't negative energy technically dark matter or the Higg's Boson? All that money spent on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to find the God Particle and it was at the tip of your appendage all the time." Yeah, are you listening, haters?? It wasn't me wot jinxed it – the science man said so!

Here's the batting powerplay! If this goes pear-shaped then India really are doomed... (or as doomed as you can ever be against Pakistan).

OVER 44 213/6 Bit wild here from Riaz. Couple of leg side wides which Kakmal does ery well to stop going for five wides. Nothing batsh*t crazy about Kakmal there (see over 25-ish). Wow, have just realised there's only six overs left! Terrible second half to the innings from India, this...

OVER 43 207/6 What are India doing out there! There's a horrible mix-up in the middle, and though Raina survives – he needed a full length dive mind you – it's clear the pressure is getting to them. Not getting to Afridi though – he's loving it, absolutely revelling in this moment. And thinking clearly too – there's two slips in for Bhajji. "Mike," mails Sunaina. "I agree with Archana. "You did cast a negative energy towards our beloved Sachin." My hands – and indeed whatever appendages one needs to emit negative energy – are clean.

OVER 42 205/6 Dhoni hit in front by Riaz! And he's given by Taufel! He's going to review it.....but Dhoni's walking! And the skipper goes!

WICKET!! Dhoni lbw b Wahab Riaz 25. IND 205/6. Brilliant from Riaz again – he's given them all the hurry up today. And that's his fourth wicket. Four for 27 in a World Cup semi. Just brilliant. You can see why Dhoni reviewed that – it pitched just in line, but Taufel, again, was spot on. And you think Dhoni knew it really, he was pretty quick to start trudging off. What a game. Are Pakistan favourites now? Long-ish tail, India, remember. And it is quiet out there now. Wow. Time for Bhajji.

OVER 41 203/5 Ajmal again, and just three off the over. 1/31 off his 7. Bowled a bit better than that, to be fair.

OVER 40 200/5 Afridi up with a huge appeal after he drifts one into Dhoni's pads. Big shout! Afridi's up on his toes, arms flailing, staring at the ump with his back to the bowler and back-pedalling towards Dhoni with delicate, slightly mincing little steps. Not out. But they're reviewing it! Still not out.

Archana says "You jinxed Sachin's hundredth hundred (gosh, I am having an incredible feeling even in just writing it!) by constantly mentioning it! Boooooo!!" Nonsense, Archana! Think I mentioned it sparingly, given the monumentalness of the achievement, and it's proximity. Think I did all I can to insure it happened actually – much like Pakistan's fielders.

OVER 39 195/5 Another good over from Ajmal – probably the pick of the bowlers so far. "It's definitely a 300 pitch" says Sanjay Manjrekar on TMS.

OVER 38 189/5 Raina in now to join Dhoni. What are India looking at here, now? 270? My OBO compadre Jonny Liew tweets: "Been spending the last hour putting together a stats package for Tendulkar's 100th hundred. That's the seventh and last time I'm deleting it."

OVER 37 187/5 Sachin goes this time! F.I.N.A.L.L.Y! And it's Afridi who takes the catch himself.

WICKET! Tendulkar c Shahid Afridi b Saeed Ajmal 85 IND 187/5 I haven't heard a silence like that since Botham and Chappelli were stuck in the lift together. Have to say that is the worst 85 I've ever seen the great man play. Never looked comfortable against the spinners, which suggests it's going to be a touch pitch to chase on, obviously. Because if SRT can't play the spinners on here then most will struggle, it's fair to say. Damn shame he didn't get there, really, but Mumbai? In the final?

OVER 36 185/4 Well, we may as well start celebrating that Sachin hundred now, no? If he offers a catch Pakistan will drop it, if he's out leg before it'll get overturned. He needs to protect his stumps – I'm not sure how he'd survive being bowled – but I'm sure he can manage that. Good stuff from Afridi, though – tight over. He must be FURIOUS with his fielders.

OVER 35 182/4 SACHIN DROPPED A-GAIN! It's Umar Akmal this time! Oh no. Well, whatever happens now, they are going to have to answer some horrible questions after this game, if you know what I mean. This was a backfoot whip off the stumps and he didn't get it properly and it goes high to Umar at mid-on, who got a hand to it. And again, down it went.

We've had a ball change.

OVER 34 177/4 Right, we've had a quick drink (water for me, thanks. Driving) and it's Gul to Sachin, who's on 76. He's averaging about 19 runs per dropped catch, so you'd think Pakistan might get another chance before he gets to That Mythical Hundredth Hundred. Gul oversteps again – and that's a free hit for Sachin! He walks across his stumps and tries to scoop it down to fine leg, but it's just a thigh pad thump out to the leg-side for a single. Rather wonderfully, Werner – he of the batsh*t crazy gem, has now invited me to go wine tasting in Franschoek! Wine, sun, batsh*t, I'm there! "Dear sir. I have nothing to say," mails Waheedullah Stanikzai, encouragingly. "I hope India win."

OVER 33 173/4 Two runs now from the Hafeez over. It's almost like they're content to play him out. And this is Pakistan's opening bat.

Tom Godrey asks."Do you think Kamran Akmal behaves in the same way around the house? I like to think so. Kids not doing their homework? "Shabash shabash shabash! Homewoooork!" Breakfast not on the table quick enough? Kamran whacks his thighs and claps his gloves together. "Breakfaaast! Shabash shabash shaBAAASH!" I'm not sure what good old Batsh*t Crazy gets up to in the kitchen. Dropping plates, probably.

OVER 32 171/4 Gul couldn't find a security guard who'd let him sneak quietly out of a side exit and he's back on to bowl. Bit of reverse will help him of course. And you don't have to field when you're bowling, which will appeal as well. He's better this spell, one from the over. "Mike, do you speak Afrikaans?" mails Werner, rhetorically. “Kak Mal” means “batsh*t crazy” in the language here in SA. Cannot possibly be a coincidence". Comfortably the best email I've ever received, that.

OVER 31: 170/4 Two off the Hafeez over. Dhoni sweeps well for one but there's nothing really to hit. Certainly no width. SRT 75. Dhoni 12.

OVER 30: 168/4 Sachin dropped again! Afridi could've had him three times! It's a more understandable drop this time – good old Kakmal – but Afridi's hands are still on his head. Drew the edge by beating ST in the flight. Defensive push, really and a genuine edge which hit Kakmal on the knee. Oh, no. That makes it worse. Four for Sachin, cut away through point. Shot.

OVER 29: 161/4 Hafeez again on the money. One from the over. Nice combination Afridi's got going here with Riaz and Hafeez – not many picked this pair as Pakistan's match-winners but they're doing brilliantly thus far.

"Pray tell me", mails Narendra Nayak. "Are you biased in favour of Pakistan". Two hours in and that's the first bias-related mail. Good. I'm happy with that. But yes Nayak, totally, utterly biased. Down with India!

OVER 28: 160/4 Gul's day from hell continues with a comedy slide and fumble at fine leg which turns a routine leg glance from Sachin into four. Really poor. And the crowd and giving him plenty down there, poor sap. "Yuvraj Singh," tweets someone statty: "Was out for golden duck for only the 2nd time in ODIs and the 1st in 10 years (since v Kenya in 2001)"

OVER 27: 150/4 Hafeez's bowling is a little oasis of sanity in this nuthouse of a game. There's four for Dhoni – edged, unconvincing, but Hafeez is tidy and dangerous. "To compensate for Nehra’s pie chucking India need 300," mails Devjesh Patel. Not sure they'll get them Dev...

OVER 26: IND 145/4 Silence....which means wicket. But not THAT wicket. Kohli goes!

WICKET! Kohli c Umar Akmal b Wahab Riaz 9 IND 141/3 A catch – finally – at backward point. Poor shot, just guided to the fielder.

AND ANOTHER!! TWO IN TWO. YUVAJ GOES!

WICKET! Yuvraj Singh b Wahab Riaz 0 141/4 First ball is bang on target and Yuvraj loses his middle peg. Low full toss and he just fell over in his crease and is done all ends up. So much for the hometown hero act. Dhoni's in now in full crisis mode – and he plays and misses first ball! Almost the hat-trick. And there's four now for Dhoni! What an over. Game on. Sachin should really be long gone by now, remember as well.

OVER 25: IND 141/2 Halfway then, and Pakistan would be right in this if they could catch. Hafeez is going nicely – but this pair pick up five from that over, without any real alarms.

OVER 24: IND 136/2 Riaz is back. Kohli plays a vile waft outside off which prompts Afridi to bring a slip in, with good reason. Tendulkar gets inside the line and uppercuts one down to third man. Stylish shot, just for one though. Shows you how good the deck is, how consistent the bounce is.

OVER 23: IND 133/2 Kohli prodding his way in. Hafeez has bowled well, finding a bit of turn but it's his length which has been really impressive. Rahul mails: '"Are you worried about how the young players in your side are going to cope?" Afridi was asked. "After this match," he replied, "we will all be old men anyway." How can you not like him'. You're right, Rahul – was a great quote. SRT 57 Kohli 4

OVER 22: IND 130/2 That's 50 for Sachin. A streakier half-century you're unlikely to see from one so gilded. In fairness, he brings his 50 up with a lovely lofted shot over the head of cover off Afridi. Got inside out and levered it over the head of Younis. And there's four more, brilliantly, beautifully, cut down to the third man. Hit that so late. Class.

OVER 21: IND 120/2 So that's four lives, now for Sachin. Incredible. Hafeez's over is tidy. Just going to be an absolute thriller this, isn't it. You can tell. Spinners have been brilliant. Makes you wonder about the wisdom of Dhoni's decision to leave out Ashwin, doesn't it?

OVER 20 IND 119/2 Sachin's dropped again! What are Pakistan doing? Sachin miscues a drive and it's into the hands of Younis at cover. It's a tough-ish chance – hand to jump and hands above his head. But it's takeable. Poor drop. That's twice Afridi should have had his man. So Younis dropping catches and Akmal taking stumpings – whodathunkit?

OVER 19 IND 116/2 Gambhir goes! Stumped off Hafeez!

WICKET! Gambhir st Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Hafeez 27. IND 116/2. Oh well bowled – Gambhir beaten all ends up. Came down to the offie but backed out of the big shot and just tried to get something on it, but Hafeez pushed it a little wider, and dragged it a little shorter, and Akmal did the rest. Pretty unlucky mode of dismissal – stumped K Akmal – and a setback for India who were starting to looking more settled.

OVER 18 IND 114/1 Afridi's bowling well – getting that drift and dip which makes him so difficult to work square of the wicket. Sachin picks up four more with a chipped, straight drive which should really have been cut off. Poor. Boycott on TMS: It's the first time I've not seen Sachin pick the bowling.

OVER 17 IND 110/1 Hafeez on now, and there's four for Gambhir. My word he plays that cut shot well. Can't give him any width whatsoever. GG 26 SRT 39

OVER 16 IND 102/1 Afridi continues, and he's hard as ever to get away. But that's India's hundred! Significant base this, with hometown boy Yuvraj and the rest still to come. "Sitting here in Queensland looking for somewhere to follow the cricket and found your blog," mails Ian Heydon. "The Australian reporting is pathetic – all about Ponting and Clarke when there is actually a very important and very intriguing cricket game happening (politically, socially and sportingly)." Hear you Ian. The Pup and Punter handover has been drearily predictable hasn't it...

OVER 15 IND 99/1 That's more like it, Sachin. Sweeps Ajmal for four fine – all touch and timing. And there's four more! Edged this time, but no slips in place. Ajmal's getting the better of him here, without a shadow of doubt. Afridi needs to keep him on, and give him a slip. That would have dropped straight into first slip's lap.

OVER 14 IND 90/1 Afridi to Sachin – and he's dropped! Pulled it to midwicket and Misbah has binned it! What a chance. Having said that, the great man looks like a walking wicket at the moment. Amazing change in temperature since the spinners came on – Tendulkar could have been out three times in four overs! Time for drinks break...

"Hi Mike", mails Asma Ahmed. Hello Asma. "I am a maths teacher and teaching and watching at the same time. every 60 sec when the score is refreshed I stop my teaching. Not easy being at work today." I won't tell you which school Asma's at, in case your kids are there. But I'm sure the bits between the breaks are good...

OVER 13 IND 84/1 Ajmal's back on – bowling really well – and I'm not entirely such that Sach is picking his doosra. Good over spoiled with a sixth ball which is just a touch too short and allows Gambhir to cut it deftly, stylishly for four.

OVER 12 IND 79/1 Afridi makes his entrance now into this utterly captivating game. Tendulkar's watchful against the Pakistani captain, who most teams have found pretty-much unplayable thus far. Three singles off the over. Derek Pringle: "Even technology fears giving tendulkar out in India."

OVER 11 IND 76/1 Ajmal to Gambhir, and that's a leg-side wide. Bit of turn, is there? Not much. But hang on! Tendulkar's trapped in front, huge shout, and Gunner Gould has triggered him! But it's been turned down on review! Wow. Tendulkar looked dead there, to the naked eye, and nearly didn't even go for the replay. But he went upstairs eventually and it was overturned – missing leg-stump on the replay. That is interesting, really interesting, because both Athers and Sunil Gavaskar on the commentary were convinced that was out and there was a sharp intake of breath when it was overturned. A genuine shock. And mutterings, indeed. And now there's a stumping appeal! Kamran Akmal has whipped off the bails as Tendulkar lunges forward! This will go upstairs as well....it's close! But Tendulkar is JUST home. Foot was up, but the toe came down. By inches. What an over. Brilliant doosra from Ajmal, by the way, which caused the stumping chance.

Rob Key: 'Unbelievable. That looked stone dead on Sachin'.

Pakistan have taken the bowling powerplay, and it's Ajmal to continue...

OVER 10 IND 73/1 Pakistan have pulled it back a touch, but Riaz is punished when he strays onto the pads of Sachin. Four leg-byes. And that's the powerplay done. "Arrogant review from Sehwag," tweets Nick Hoult. "Didn't consult Tendulkar. All about the individual."

OVER 9 IND 68/1 Gul's hauled off – got the big build-up before this game and has bloused it up completely to be fair. Ajmal comes on, and starts well against Gambhir, there's a nudge for two and a single to keep the strike.

OVER 8 IND 65/1 Tendulkar takes eight off the over without breaking sweat. There's that effortless back-foot punch/clip through off which looks like it's going for one and then flies over the rope in the blink of an eye. Then there's four more – just gorgeous – with a square drive on one knee. An absolute privilege to watch. 77 needed for his 100th hundred for India.

OVER 7 IND 57/1 Time to catch the breath. Gul, who'll be even happier than Riaz about the fall of that wicket, nips one across Gambhir dangerously. Tendulkar, who was humbly happy to play second fiddle to Sehwag, flicks Gul for four with a delicate leg glance. And there's three more, just pushed through the covers. Amazing grace that he shows in giving Sehwag -essentially a younger, flashier tribute act – the strike early on, isn't it? You can't imagine Keith Richards letting Ronnie Wood play the intro to Satisfaction, can you?

OVER 6 IND 49/1 Riaz to Sehwag – hits him in front. Given out! We're going for the review.....and it's upheld! Sehwag goes!

WICKET! Sehwag lbw b Wahab Riaz 38. IND 48/1 What a start from Riaz. Slowed the rate, and stuffed a daffodil in the end of Sehwag's shotgun. A quite mesmeric innings comes to an end, and full credit to Afridi for the bowling change. Switched the angle of attack with the left armer Riaz, and Sehwag couldn't adjust. Went straight up for the review, Sehwag, who was jumping up when he was hit. Just trying to work it off his pads. Poor review, actually, because a) it was Taufel b) he didn't even asked Sachin whether the ball pitched in line. Which it did.

OVER 5 IND 47/0 That's just brilliant from Sehwag. Wrists like you would not believe. Takes this one from off stump? Maybe just outside? And it's whipped through midwicket with incredible power. And finally there's the bouncer! Good one, too, and Sehwag ducks under it.They have to mix it up and ball short. That's the Aussie tactic. But don't bowl short AND wide! Uppercut for four to end the over. Razzaq's having a blow – Riaz gets the nod. Need to work on your hiding, Wahab son. This is not the time to come on first change...

Crytal Lundt is a New Indian Supporter: "I am a South African, currently at work (supposed to be working hard), but am logging on and reading the commentary every 10 minutes. I'm still shell-shocked about SA's defeat. Walked around the whole weekend in an absolute daze, I still can't believe we lost!!!!

OVER 4 IND 39/0 Razzaq gets the treatment now. Plants his front foot and smashes it through cover. Cracker. And Afridi's taken both slips out now. No choices I guess. This is damage limitation already. Now Sachin joins in. Awww man that's just a great shot. Full, flowing cover drive on the up. Placed perfectly, obv. Best opening partnership you will ever see.

Steven Finn: 'Sehwag looks like he's on a mission here! Changethefieldeveryball.com.' Good gags for a big man!

OVER 3 IND 27/0 Gul strays, and Sehwag tucks in. Just a touch too straight and the punishment is penal. There's four crashed high and handsome over the rope at midwicket. And four more, gentler this time, just clipped off his pads but still with expert timing, beating the man at fine leg comfortably. And four more! Aaah that's poor from Umar, just feeding that Sehwag clip and it's an identikit boundary past fine leg's left hand. And four more! Carnage! Gul goes outside off, trying to keep it off the pads and Sehwag just waits for the slower ball to reach him....and slaps it past point for four. Dismissive. AND FOUR MORE! FROM A BLOODY NO BALL! Gul's lost it completely. Oversteps and it's just a juicy half volley, which Sehwag smites through extra cover for four. 21 off the over – and that's including a dot ball from the free hit! Sehwag 25 Sachin 1

Steve Walters: "All this chat about Tendulkar vs Bradman, and who is the best of all time. How can you possibly leave Viv Richards out of the debate ??? Even Botham was quoted as saying he found it hard to believe there has ever been a better batsman than the great man from the West Indies....." Fair point, although I'm not sure 'Even Botham' will win you many cricket arguments in my house...

OVER 2 IND 6/0 Oof! Scare for Sachin as he scurries through for a single, as Riaz gathers and offloads. Just misses. A run-out there wouldn't have gone hugely well. Good start for Pakistan though, lively in the field and a decent line from both openers.

OVER 1 IND 4/0 Sehwag's off and running with a gorgeous four through the covers. Wow. Took him two balls more than he usually takes to get that first boundary, but just typical Sehwag, no foot movement, perfect timing, elegant flow of the arms, and a noise like a rifle shot. steady start from Gul – everything on off stump or thereabouts, and there's a pretty packed off-side field. Good pace from Gul, forcing Sehwag onto the back foot. It'll be Razzaq from t'other end. No spin first and this pair. Wise.

Vikram Mangla reckons: India would've been better to play sreesanth as both nehra and munaf patel were struggling. If India were to take gamble, I think Sree's selection would have been better. Well, not too sure about that Vikram. I'd be slightly worried that Sree would spontaneously combust with hypertension if you put him in a game like this. Agree about Munaf and Nehra though.

0959: Here come the boys. Sehwag taking guard and will take the first cherry from....Umar Gul, I think. Destructive against everyone, Sehwag. Particularly savage against Pakistan though, over the years. Yep, Gul with the new nut. Two slips in. Very green looking deck. Whatever grass is there has been rolled in though.

Simon Hughes: Nos 6 & 7 crucial on each team. Raina & Dhoni v Umar & Afridi. India have the better combination.

0955: Anthems! Not exactly Six Nations style tear-jerkers, you have to say, but we'll be at it soon enough. Trying not to focus on the politics today, but It's the first meeting of the two heads of state since the Mumbai massacres in 2008. Dignitaries are shaking hands with both teams – Afridi's got a massive smile on his face. Dhoni and Sachin look cool as a cucumber yogurt dip.

0950: Ashwin decision is "stunning", according to Rahul Nayyar in my inbox. We'll see when India bowl whether Dhoni's messed that one up. It's India's batting first, and the greatest opening partnership of all time, Sachin and Sehwag. In fact, it's quite hard to imagine I'll ever see a greater opening partnership in my lifetime. OK, anthem time. Manmohan Singh, the Indian PM is shoulder to shoulder with Zardari, the Pakistani president in the posh seats. Extraordinary stuff.

Kevin Pietersen: I think after seeing who's batting first, India to win if they score 260.

0947: The Analyst, of course, is completely right about the toss. 10 of the day-nighters in Mohali have been won by the side batting first. Dew-related difficulties, you see.

0935: India have dropped Ashwin, their lanky spinner, and brought in Ashish Nehra. Pakistan are unchanged, so no Shoaib.

Simon Hughes: Unbelievable decision by India to prefer Nehra (ave 56 in last 10 games) to the excellent Ashwin. But great toss to win for India.

India: V Sehwag, SR Tendulkar, G Gambhir, V Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni*†, SK Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan, MM Patel, A Nehra

Agree with those teams? Big call to bring back Nehra – Ashwin's bowled great but Dhoni obviously figures he's either a) too green for this match, which seems a little odd given that he opened the bowling against Australia b) not as likely to trouble the Pakistani batsmen.

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal†, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi*, Abdul Razzaq, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajma

0930: OK HERE WE GO....Afridi. Coin. Toss. Tail......India will bat!

0925: Weather still set fair. Hot and humid, but no thunder. Here's a few emails before the toss...

"Cricket is not the national game of India and Pakistan. Can anyone guess what it is?" says Rahul Nayyar. Easy. Rugby league. Next? "I love my Pakistani cricket team," says Asim Khan. "We have done very well to get to this stage and God-willing we will defeat India today. All the best to both sides, may the best team win." Aaah.

Gurinder Grewal says: "Sorry to hear about Derek Pringle being kicked out of his hotel," so is he Gurinder, let me tell you. "It amazes me that every time Indian bureaucracy has a chance to make India shine, it manages to get some sort of negative publicity or a black spot of some sort."

0905: Here's my two rupee's worth on today, before we get distracted by news and teams and whatever.

1. There has to fairly decent chance that this game could be a massive disappointment. The Pakistan side that beat Australia and annihilated West Indies is capable of beating India. The Pakistan crushed by New Zealand is capable only of beating itself.

2. Even if Good Pakistan show up, however, India should still have the edge. Their experience alone is a huge advantage. Five of India’s starting line-up played in the 2003 World Cup final in Jo’burg, and two more played in the T20 victory over Pakistan at the same ground four years later. These players haven’t been kept beyond their sell-by dates, though. Of India’s senior players, only Bhajji appears to be past his best. For many of them – Tendulkar, Dhoni, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer Khan, Gambhir – this game comes at the perfect moment. They are ready.

3. Dhoni is right to be worried about his attack (Munaf in particular). But the comparative weakness of India’s bowling is offset by the depth and dynamism of their batting.

4. The Pakistani spinners that devastated West Indies will surely find India’s middle order an entirely different prospect, particularly now Suresh Raina has replaced Yusuf Pathan.

Simon Hughes: "Times of India has exceeded itself with 12 different comment pieces from former international players. More columns than the Parthenon..."

0903: Shoaib, apparently, has been bowling in the nets this morning. He's a contender for Pakistan. Certainly wouldn't be rattled by the occasion. If he plays, Wahab Riaz will probably miss out, but can Afridi really gamble on his fitness? Dhoni's got choices to make too, not least about the participation of Munaf Patel, who seems to have got worse with every game.

0850: Teams, toss and the rest as soon as we have it. Before then, why not ping us a mail. where are you, what are you reckoning etc. Or unload a memory or two? Ever been to an Indo-Pak game?

First, some gentle scene-setting:

Chandigarh is unlike any other Indian city. Designed by Le Corbusier, the controversial French architect and urban planner, the Punjab state capital is divided into uniform ‘Sectors’ of 800 by 1200 metres. Its wide roads are separated by carefully-tendered gardens, making life in the city feel calm and orderly. Boring, even. Can't imagine Sector 64, in the south-western suburb of Mohali, will feel boring this morning, however. Indeed, when yer man Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar walks out to open the batting this morning, I’m not sure a cricket ground anywhere in the world will have heard a noise quite like it.

0835: Good afternoon India, good afternoon Pakistan, and hello diaspora, wherever you are diasporing. This humble live blog will do its damnedest today to capture to true scale of this "Moon-Landing Match". Failing that, we will definitely bring you the scores and print some emails.

The good news this morning is that it's not raining in Mohali. What sounded like a ripple of thunder across south Asia this morning was actually Telegraph Cricket Correspondent Derek Pringle being kicked out of his hotel in Chandigarh this morning because "government bigwigs" needed the room.

If it's important enough to kick Pringle out of a hotel room, it must be quite a game, eh folks?

Required reading:

Simon Hughes says is thinking the unthinkable and arguing that "Sachin is better than Bradman". That's some big talk. But he backs it up rather well. And when you think about it, he's not Ian Ward is better than Bradman, is he?

Simon Briggs has a tale of the tape type preview-thing.

And Geoffrey Boycott (try kicking him out of hotel room, jobsworth!) says Captain Cool MS Dhoni is just the man for a ludicrously overblown occasion. Read the CWC Email here ...
===
Pakistan require another 209 runs with 9 wickets and 40 overs remaining to win against India.



Earlier, India set 260 runs target against Pakistan to win in the match being played at Mohali Stadium. India won the toss and elected to bat first at a flat batting wicket but Wahab Riaz’s 5-wicket haul didn’t allow them to put a huge total. Sehwag provided the much-needed flying start but Wahab magic bowling pushed India into a defensive mode. After Sehwag, he bowled out Kohli and Yuvraj, the two inform batsmen.



Hafeez tossed the ball that enticed Gambhir to come forward but he missed and Kamran did the job. Gambhir made 27 off 32 and hit two boundaries in his innings. Bad fielding and dropping of five catches once again allowed Tendulkar to score 85 runs. Raina, at the end, grabbed India to past 250 scores. Pakistani spinners bowled superbly against strong Indian batting. Ajmal picked two wickets while Hafeez took one wicket.



After winning the toss, Indian Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that he was not sure if this match was the biggest match he had ever played. He said that they had made one change in the team and Ashish Nehra has been called in place of Ravichandran Ashwin.



Pakistan Captain Shahid Afridi said that winning or losing the toss did not matter. He said that they had made no change in the squad. In the World Cup 2011, India and Pakistan each have won four of their last five games but this will be the first time Pakistan is going to face India in semi-finals. Collectively, both the teams have faced each other four times in the World Cups, with India winning all four matches.



In the cricket ground in Mohali, Pakistan has played twice against India and won both the matches. Pakistan also has a better record in the One-Day-International matches as they have won 69 out of a total of 119 games while India only managed to win 46 matches.



Any team that wins today’s match will face Sri Lanka in the final of the World Cup on April 2. This will be the first World Cup final in which two Asian teams will be fighting for the top prize. Regardless of who wins the match, the World Cup trophy will return to Asia after 12 years.



===

World Cup 2011: India tumble as Tendulkar, Dhoni fall India scored 205 runs in 42 overs at loss of 6 wickets in 2nd semi-final against Pakistan.


India won the toss and elected to bat first at a flat batting wicket. Sehwag provided the flying start. Something extra ordinary was required to remove the pressure of Sehwag’s onslaught and Wahab did the magic with back to back strike and pushed India into a defensive mood.


First it was Kohli, who cut the ball only to hand a catch to Umar Akmal at point. Then came the stunner, Yuvraj Singh - the strongest contender for the player of the tournament – was back on his way after facing just one ball. It was full, it was straight, it was quick and it rattled the stumps.


Hafeez tossed the ball that enticed Gambhir to come forward but he missed and Kamran did the job. Gambhir made 27 off 32 and hit two boundaries in his innings. India 119/2 after 20 overs. Tendulkar got the second life as Younis dropped a catch that must be taken when you were plying the World Cup semi-final. Tendulkar has already been dropped by Misbah and Afridi’s was the poor bowler at both occasions.


Afridi introduced offspinner Saeed Ajmal in the ninth over in search of break through and he almost picked Tendulkar twice in his second over. First he won an LBW decision in his favour only to get it overturned on a referral.

One ball later, Karman Akmal dislodged the bails but the batsman again proved lucky as just manage to land his foot on time.

Carrying the momentum of Sehwag’s blistering start, India cruise at 73/1 in 10 overs.

Sehwag went for the referral but the on field call stood as he was hit on the middle.



The right hander struck five boundaries to Gul in the third over of the innings. Gul kept pitching half-volleys and Sehwag taking full advantage. He hit two more boundaries, this time on the off side. Razzaq also went for 12 in his second over.




After winning the toss, Indian Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that he was not sure if this match was the biggest match he had ever played. He said that they had made one change in the team and Ashish Nehra has been called in place of Ravichandran Ashwin.


Pakistan Captain Shahid Afridi said that winning or losing the toss did not matter. He said that they had made no changes in the squad.
The semi-final match of the cricket world cup is being played at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali.


In the World Cup 2011, India and Pakistan have won four of their last five games but this will be the first time Pakistan is going to face India is semi finals. Collectively, both the teams have faced each other four times in the World Cups, with India winning all four matches.


In the cricket ground in Mohali, Pakistan has played twice against India and won both the matches. Pakistan also has a better record in the One-Day-International matches as they have won 69 out of a total of 119 games while India only managed to win 46 matches.


If Pakistan loses the match, this will be the last time Shoaib Akhtar will be a part of the Pakistani cricket team as he earlier announced his retirement from international cricket.


Pakistan Captain Shahid Afridi is regarded as a danger man as he is the leading wicket taker in the tournament with 21 wickets. He is also the first bowler in World Cup history to take four wickets in a match on four different occasions in a tournament which include two five wickets and two four wickets hauls. Umar Gul is also among the top 10 wicket taking bowlers in the tournament.


On the other hand, India has a strong batting line up with Sachin Tendulkar, the leading Indian run scorer with 379 runs which includes two centuries and a half century. Tendulkar is yet to score a century against Pakistan and if he does so he will have a record 100 centuries.


Apart from that, there are three Indian batsmen in the top 10 of most runs scored in the World Cup. Umar Akmal is the only Pakistani batsmen to score beyond 200 runs and the best placed Pakistani batman is ranked at number 28 for most number of runs scored in the tournament.


Any team that wins today’s match will face Sri Lanka in the final of the World Cup on April 2. This will be the first World Cup final in which two Asian teams will be fighting for the top prize. Regardless of who wins the match, the World Cup trophy will return to Asia after 12 years.




===

High-octane showdown begins in Mohali
By AFP / Reuters
Published: March 30, 2011
India's Sachin Tendulkar plays a shot watched by Pakistan's Younus Khan and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal (L-R) in Mohali March 30, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOHALI: India’s Sachin Tendulkar was made to wait for his 100th international hundred when, after being dropped four times, he was out for 85 against Pakistan in the World Cup semi-final Wednesday.

The ‘Little Master’ — who has 51 Test centuries and 48 in one-day internationals — led a charmed life, seeing an lbw decision overturned in his favour when he was on 23 before poor Pakistan fielding saw him reprieved on 27, 45, 70 and 81.

He was finally out caught by Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi off Saeed Ajmal in the 3th over.

Mohali madness

The sleepy town of Mohali turned into the centre of “cricket diplomacy” as fierce rivals India and Pakistan began their high-octane World Cup semi-final clash on Wednesday.

The 28,000-strong crowd erupted in joy when the Prime Ministers of both countries — India’s Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Yusuf Raza Gilani — walked out to shake hands with the cricketers after the national anthems had been played.

The contest between the neighbours, who have fought in three wars since their 1947 independence, also attracted a multitude of Indian business tycoons and Bollywood razzmatazz at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.

Liquor and aviation mogul Vijay Mallya, accompanied by his son, joined film actors to cheer on the co-hosts who, like Pakistan, are chasing their second World Cup title.

With such high-profile VIPs in attendance, the town in the northern Indian state of Punjab went into lockdown.

But no one was complaining.

“I tell everybody ‘you should not fight at the border, rather the battles should be fought on the cricket grounds.’ That’s what people from both countries love to see,” Mohammad Bashir Khan, a Pakistani supporter from Chicago, told Reuters after flying into India for the showpiece event.

Khan was so desperate to watch the match first hand, he even defied his wife to be in Mohali.

“My wife told me that I will get beaten up and land up in trouble if I support Pakistan here in India. But I told her ‘you can’t stop me. Forget me for the next one month’,” said Khan, who has lived in the States for the last 35 years.

“Victory and defeat are part of the game. I am here to enjoy the atmosphere.”

Thousands of fans, many draped in the Indian tri-colour, lined up outside the stadium gates more than seven hours before the start, blowing mini vuvuzelas and whistles.

Some of them stopped to get the Indian flag painted on their cheeks and barely seemed to notice the dozens of police vans and beaconed vehicles patrolling the roads.

The paths leading up to the arena were still glistening from Tuesday night’s rain showers but nothing could dampen the spirits of those who had gathered in Mohali for what is being billed “as the mother of all World Cup clashes” by local media.

The roads which are usually jam packed with cars were virtually deserted barring the security vehicles which circulated the perimeters of the stadium.

“With so many detours (because of road closures), who would want to take out the car?” Amarjeet Singh, a cab driver, told Reuters.

“Besides, giant screens have been installed at sector 17, sector 35 and some other places. Either people will watch the match at home or throng those areas.”
An unprecedented security blanket has been thrown in and around the stadium with state and central security agencies joining hands to make sure the match, featuring two nuclear-armed neighbours suspicious of each other, passes without any untoward incident.

Rampant black-marketing has been reported and eight people have been arrested so far ahead of the match.

The huge influx of tourists have caught Chandigarh and Mohali by surprise and accommodating the fans has become a huge issue with the city authorities.

Hoteliers sniffed a perfect opportunity to do some brisk business and some have even tripled their tariffs after accepting bookings at lower rates.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Iraqi Dinar: Is It Your Best Retirement Option?

March 29, 2011 By Christine Jackson Leave a Comment
The Iraqi government has come a long way since the overthrow of Saddam back in 2003. Sadly, there is a long way to go before Iraq and the infrastructure is back to what it was before U.S. invasion. I’ve been keeping with progress since 2003 and have been an investor in Iraq ever since. Provided the current economic collapse worldwide, what has gotten the attention of the investment world is the stability of the Iraqi Dinar over the last six years.

As one of the main goals announced early on, Iraq has accomplished the stability of currency concerns, as well as they’ve managed to control inflation which was also a goal set by Iraqi leaders. We just hear about the negatives in Iraq, terrorist attacks, sectarian killing, no electricity or adequate fuel for vehicles or generators to power homes and businesses. It seems only the negative news was announced by the major media outlets given the liberal slant well known by everyone given the press loved attacking the Bush administration.

Politics as usual, both here in the U.S. as well as in Iraq. Politics is the same throughout the world, and given the U.S. is forcing democracy upon Iraq, it only reasons that the same dirty politics and party divisions would be adopted also by the Iraqi Parliament. All the delays we’ve witnessed are all caused by the sectarian divide between Shiite’s, Sunni’s and Kurd’s that represent the main powers in Iraq. Provided the hatred between the sectarian parties, similar to the hatred between the democrats and republicans, no wonder no one can agree on important issues in Iraq.

What we see now after 6 years is progress towards partial agreement between parties, not almost what would be hoped given the wealth of Iraq, and the need to help its citizens that are mostly poor people who’re desperate for change. If this sectarian divide didn’t exist, Iraq would be well on its way to being the wealthiest middle east country by now. Unfortunately, these parties have squandered years fighting over who gets what with regards to oil proceeds. Even after parties agreed to share equally, it wasn’t enough for a few.

With elections scheduled for January 2010, there was even a delay on the election law that was held up for months leading up to the second most important election in Iraq. Will it go off as planned, it finally looks like it’s passed, and this is one of the last issues that required to be resolved before any hope of a revaluation or restoration of the dinars value.

For those who have already invested in the Iraqi Dinar from the start, they’ve already seen more than 50% return on investment, but if you’re like most who follow this closely, 50% is a pittance to what the potential will be if you can just remain patient. With stock market collapse, markets rising and falling every day, housing collapse, banking collapse, we’ve seen it all over the past year, so considering the small amount needed for a potential retirement windfall, everyone should be researching the Iraqi Dinar for their retirement plan.

As we approach the end of the year with election law now passed, much of Iraq’s former debt forgiven, oil law passed and major companies lining up for oil contracts, I know from my contacts that Iraq has the largest oil reserves in the world. They have not been confirmed yet, but when they are, which will be early next year given the recent progress, there is no way the Iraqi Dinar will remain at these artificially low rates. With much of the infrastructure in oil and electricity still far from complete, Iraq will need to purchase billions from outside of Iraq, and it’ll not happen with an artificially depressed current value of the dinar. It must be revalued prior to these major expenditures start, so I predict it will happen early next year, perhaps even before the elections given politics as usual of paying for votes. Maliki in not assured the election given so little has been done for the bad voters, so the same as in U.S. politics, you are able to buy an election, so Maliki simply may push an interim revaluation awaiting full revaluation when GCC is enacted in middle east with new universal currency. Either way, all it takes is patience.

With current Iraqi Dinar being stable at 1170 for over a year while all other currencies have been fluctuating up and down, mainly down, as with the U.S. dollar now at lowest exchange rates in decades, you can’t ignore the fact the Iraqi Dinar has been rock solid all through the economic meltdown of banking in U.S. With major press on MSNBC and Erin Burnett and Jim Cramer speaking about it for the first time, the secret is out, there are couple of other investments that could come close the ultimate potential of the Iraqi Dinar. Of course, never invest what you cannot afford to lose, but when you do decide to not invest in the Iraqi Dinar, simply never look back or you may be sorry for the rest of your life.

If you want more information on iraqi dinars, don’t read just rehashed articles online to avoid getting ripped off. Go here: Iraqi Dinar ========================= Banking in Iraq – The Need for Change (Part II) In order for Iraq’s banking system to develop, the first steps must not come from private enterprise but from government. The majority of Iraq’s banks are privately owned businesses. There are a few government owned enterprises. Rafidain, Iraq’s largest bank which was established over seventy years ago is owned by the state. Also, Trade Bank of Iraq, a commercial bank that writes letters of credit for the central government’s purchases and setup by Paul Bremer is owned by Iraq’s Ministry of Finance. The problem that exists today is that the few state-owned banks hold over eighty percent of Iraq’s bank assets. Putting it plainly, the government controls what the banking sector looks and feels like. The government should not be in the bank-owning business but in the bank-regulating business. With the right legislation in place, Iraq could create a law which governs Iraqi banks and also international banks that operate inside Iraq. Chartered banks, rather than state-owned financial institutions could begin to operate with confidence and serve Iraqis. This law would not be complete without the creation of a deposit insurance corporation. This corporation is common in western countries and helps alleviate the fears that the public may have about depositing their funds at a financial institution. In the United States of America the deposition insurance corporation will insure an American’s deposit at a bank for up to $250,000 USD should the bank holding the funds go under. In Canada the figure is $100,000 CAD. One of the issues addressed in Part I was the need to provide Iraqis education on financial literacy. In addition to increasing their knowledge, they will also need the assurance that if they save their hard-earned money in a bank, it will not disappear should the bank fail. If the deposit insurance corporation is structured correctly and managed properly, it can also act as an independent institution with oversight responsibilities. With government oversight and deposit insurance in place, the final piece will be a couple of the most important acronyms in retail banking which are AML and KYC. Chartered banks are required by law to be on the lookout for money laundering and terrorist financing. This is why Anti Money Laundering and Know Your Customer rules are strict yet help both the financial institution and the individual complete transactions. These policies are in place to make it a straight forward process for an individual to create an account at any chartered bank. If these institutions want Iraqis to deposit their savings in accounts, they will need to make the process of creating and maintaining an account easy to understand while complying with international banking standards to avoid money laundering and terrorist financing. The last thing Iraqis need is more bureaucracy. But if these are privately owned businesses and not state owned institutions, then the problem of bureaucracy and needing an endless number of forms and stamps to do something basic like open a bank account should be diminished. Finally, Iraqis will need convenience to go along with their new financial products. As things stand, an Iraqi can only complete transactions at the branch that s/he opened the account. This includes simple transactions such as deposits and withdrawals. If Iraqis are to go from carrying wads of cash in their pockets to a single debit card that can access cash at any branch and even competing banks, then the infrastructure needs to be implemented by chartered banks that will allow such transactions to take place. Iraq is becoming an increasingly powerful economic player in the region and the global oil market. In order for Iraqis to reap the rewards of this economic relevance, they must demand change from their government and their financial institutions. With the right legislation, oversight and regulation, Iraq’s banking system can finally begin to serve the general public and not the government. Hassan Hadad is an economist and works in retail & small business banking at one of Canada’s largest financial institutions. The views expressed here are solely his own and do not reflect those of his employer. You can follow him on twitter (@Abufellah). =============================

56 killed in Iraq provincial council attack

http://www.reuters.com/news/video/story?videoId=199092695&videoChannel=1
Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Iraq's Tikrit attack
02 Apr 2011 10:09

Source: reuters // Reuters


* Attack was a response to crimes against Sunnis-Qaeda

* Militants stormed provincial council HQ, took hostages


BAGHDAD, April 2 (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate on Saturday claimed responsibility for a siege at a provincial council headquarters in Saddam Hussein's hometown in which 58 people were killed.

Tuesday's attack in Tikrit, a former stronghold of al Qaeda, was the deadliest in Iraq this year. The assailants, who wore security uniforms and set off bombs, stormed the building and grabbed hostages, local officials said.

Hostages who did not die as a result of explosions were executed by the gunmen, they said.

In a statement posted on a website often used by Islamist radicals, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), a local al Qaeda umbrella group, said the attack was a response to what it said were crimes committed against Sunni prisoners.

Five al-Qaeda militants carried out the attack using a car bomb, explosive belts and hand grenades, the statement said.

The sectarian conflict between minority Sunnis and majority Shi'ites unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion has largely subsided but a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency opposed to Shi'ite dominance of Iraq persists and attacks continue.

Al Qaeda has been strategically weakened by the deaths of leaders, and both its numbers and the territory in which it can manoeuvre have shrunk since 2006-07, when Sunni tribal chiefs turned on it and joined forces with the U.S. military.

But they are still able to carry out attacks aimed at grabbing attention and rattling the population at a time when Iraqi forces take centre stage as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw by year-end.

(Reporting by Muhanad Mohammed; editing by Rania El Gamal)



Journalist for Reuters killed in Iraq attack
29 Mar 2011 22:12

Source: reuters // Reuters


(Updates, edits family details)

BAGHDAD, March 29 (Reuters) - A freelance journalist who worked for Reuters was among more than 50 people killed on Tuesday when gunmen attacked a local government building in Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Sabah al-Bazee, 30, who had contributed to Reuters in Iraq since 2004 and also worked as cameraman for several other media organisations, suffered shrapnel wounds in an explosion, said his cousin Mahmoud Salah, who confirmed his death.

Bazee was a native of Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.

"On behalf of the entire team at Thomson Reuters, I wish to convey our sadness at the untimely death of Sabah al-Bazee," said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler.

"He was a valued member of our team in Iraq and will be much missed by colleagues. This tragic incident shows yet again the risks journalists face daily in doing their jobs and to bring news to the world.

"Our thoughts are with Sabah's family and friends."

The building housing the provincial council in Tikrit was the target of an armed group, some wearing Iraqi forces uniforms, who set off car bombs, explosive belts and grenades to storm in and take hostages.

"We urge Iraqi authorities to do their utmost to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice," Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the Committee to Protect Journalists Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, said in a statement.

The New York-based media rights group ranked Iraq at the top of its Impunity Index last year, which lists countries where journalists are regularly murdered and governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute their killers.

It said that since 1992, not including Bazee, 147 journalists and 54 media workers have been killed in Iraq. (Reporting by Rania el-Gamal in Baghdad and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Eric Walsh)





=============
Mar 29, 7:07 PM EDT


Gunmen kill 56 in grisly Iraq hostage siege
By LARA JAKES
Associated Press

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Gunmen wearing military uniforms over explosives belts charged into a government building in Saddam Hussein's hometown Tuesday in an attack that left 56 people dead, including 15 hostages who were shot execution-style.

The five-hour standoff in Tikrit ended only when the attackers blew themselves up in one of the bloodiest days in Iraq this year.

American troops who were nearby as part of an advising mission with Iraqi forces responded to the attack, and some U.S. soldiers received minor wounds, said military spokesman Col. Barry Johnson. The U.S. troops dropped back after Iraqi forces took control, Johnson said.

The assault was reminiscent of the bloodshed that was common during the worst days of the conflict as Iraq was pushed to the brink of civil war. Attacks have ebbed in recent years, but the looming deadline for the U.S. troops to withdraw from the country along with political unrest elsewhere in the Mideast have raised fears the country could return to violence.

The standoff in Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin province 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, began around 1 p.m. when the attackers blew up a car outside the council headquarters to create a diversion before launching their raid.

Wearing military uniforms - including one with a high rank - the gunmen identified themselves as Iraqi soldiers at a security checkpoint outside the government compound but opened fire on guards when they were told they needed to be searched.

They later set fire to the bodies of the three slain provincial councilmen in a defiant show of how insurgents maintain the ability to carry out brutal attacks despite years of U.S.-Iraqi military efforts against them.

"Why did they shoot him and set fire to his poor body?" said Salahuddin government spokesman Mohammed al-Asi, trying not to weep when confirming the killing of lawmaker Mehdi al-Aaran, an elderly man who headed the council's religious affairs committee.

Speaking in a muted voice, Salahuddin Gov. Ahmed Abdullah called the attack "a tragic incident carried out by ruthless terrorists."

Iraqi officials were quick to blame al-Qaida in Iraq for the slaughter, noting that execution-style killings and suicide bombers are hallmarks of the extremist group. A senior intelligence official in Baghdad likened the attack to al-Qaida's hostage raid last fall on a Catholic church in Baghdad that left 68 dead and stunned the nation.

Tuesday's attack left 56 people dead and 98 wounded, including government workers, security forces and bystanders, said Salahuddin health director Dr. Raied Ibrahim. Many died in the volleys of gunfire and explosions.

Among the dead were councilman Abdullah Jebara, a vocal al-Qaida foe; the council's health committee chairman, Wathiq al-Sammaraie; and Iraqi journalist Sabah al-Bazi, a correspondent for Al-Arabiya satellite TV channel and a freelancer for CNN and Reuters.

Members of Iraq's parliament immediately called for an investigation into how the band of eight or nine insurgents could pull off the attack and paralyze a mostly Sunni Muslim city that was once a hotbed for al-Qaida in Iraq and Saddam sympathizers.

Officials are particularly sensitive about the ability of Iraqi security forces to protect the country as U.S. troops plan to leave at the end of the year.

"We denounce this sorrowful act, where insurgents with military uniforms could break into the council building," said parliamentarian Suhad al-Obedi, who represents Salahuddin province. "This is a security breach."

It's not hard to buy uniforms on Iraqi streets, and the ease and deadliness of the attack demonstrated sophisticated planning by the gunmen.

"The gunmen were armed with grenades and began their raid by firing at random at a reception room," said Ali Abdul-Rihman, a spokesman for the governor. "Then they opened fire inside."

The provincial council meets at the headquarters every Tuesday, but Abdul-Rihman said local lawmakers ended their discussion early because there was little on their agenda. As a result, he said, most of the lawmakers had already left the headquarters when the assault began.

Al-Asi, the provincial spokesman, said 15 people were taken hostage on the headquarters' second floor, where the gunmen hurled grenades and fired at security forces below. The hostages, including three lawmakers, were each shot in the head, al-Asi said.

Parliament lawmaker Qutayba al-Jabouri said security forces did not try to negotiate with the gunmen since they were under assault. Gov. Abdullah described a fierce shootout between the gunmen and Iraqi security forces who surrounded the building.

Baghdad University political analyst Hassan Kamil called Tuesday's attacks "another indication that the insurgents are no way thinking of giving up the struggle in Iraq."

"It is a show of force aiming at convincing people that despite the setbacks, the insurgency is still active," Kamil said. "Security is still fragile."
---

Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed, Mazin Yahya and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Sameer N. Yacoub in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.







============
29 Mar 2011 13:52

Source: reuters // Reuters


BAGHDAD, March 29 (Reuters) - At least 20 people were killed in an attack by gunmen on the provincial council headquarters in former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's home city of Tikrit, a health official said.

Jasim al-Dulaimi, head of the health operation centre in Salahuddin, said at least 65 were wounded.

Gunmen used car bombs, explosive belts and hand grenades in the attack as they stormed into the building and held people hostage, officials said earlier. (Reporting by Aseel Kami; writing by Rania El Gamal)

===

BAGHDAD – Gunmen wearing military uniforms and suicide bomb belts stormed a local government headquarters in northern Iraq on Tuesday in an attempt to take hostages that killed at least 21 people, officials said.

Three lawmakers who were inside the Salahuddin provincial council building in Tikrit when the gunmen overran the compound are missing, said provincial governor Ahmed Abdullah. He said the lawmakers were not answering their mobile phones and could not immediately be located — indicating they may be held hostage.

"We've lost contact with three provincial council members who were inside the building when the attack took place," Abdullah said in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan, where he was receiving updates on the assault via mobile phone.

He described a fierce shootout between at least eight gunmen, who have overtaken the council headquarters' second floor, and Iraqi security forces who surrounded the building. He said the attackers were hurling grenades at Iraqi forces.

Salahuddin province media adviser Mohammed al-Asi said 21 have been killed in the siege, which was still ongoing more than three hours after it began. Sixty-five people have been wounded, he said.
Among the dead was journalist Sabah al-Bazi, a correspondent for Al-Arabiya satellite TV channel and a freelancer for CNN, according to the two news outlets.
A senior intelligence official in Baghdad the gunmen were holding some hostages inside the building but did not know how many.

"The goal of the attackers was apparently to take hostages," Salahuddin government spokesman Ali al-Saleh said. At least some officials and government employees escaped before they the gunmen could capture them, he said.

Tikrit is 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Authorities said the attackers blew up a car outside the council headquarters to create a diversion before launching their raid. Wearing military uniforms — including one with a high rank — the gunmen identified themselves as Iraqi soldiers at a security checkpoint outside the government compound but opened fire on guards when they were told they needed to be searched.
The provincial council meets at the headquarters every Tuesday, but a spokesman for the governor, Ali Abdul Rihman, said local lawmakers called off their discussion early because there was little on their agenda. As a result, he said, most of the lawmakers had already left the headquarters when the assault began.

"The gunmen were armed with grenades, and began their raid by firing at random at a reception room," Rihman said. "Then they opened fire inside."

Police immediately imposed a curfew to prevent all road and pedestrian traffic in Tikrit as security forces moved into the building. The senior intelligence official said forces began an operation to free any hostages about two hours after the start of the siege.

He likened the attack to a horrifying hostage raid last fall on a Catholic church in Baghdad that left 68 dead and stunned the nation.

Tikrit, which is Saddam Hussein's hometown, is mostly populated by Sunni Muslims and is was a hotbed for insurgents and anti-American extremists at the height of the Iraq war.

City policemen said U.S. troops were at the scene to assist Iraqi forces but a spokesman for the American military in Baghdad could not immediately verify that information.

___

Yacoub reported from Amman, Jordan. Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.


====


Hostages killed execution-style in Iraq siege
By LARA JAKES and SAMEER N. YACOUB
Associated Press

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Gunmen wearing explosives belts under military uniforms took hostages at a local government headquarters in Saddam Hussein's hometown, killing 15 of them execution-style before blowing themselves up in a fiery end to an hours-long siege, Iraqi officials said. In all, 45 people were killed.

The attackers set fire to the bodies of three slain councilmen at the Salahuddin provincial council headquarters in Tikrit, said the province's media adviser, Mohammed al-Asi. Among the lawmakers was an official who was known for his tough stance against al-Qaida in Iraq, which some officials blamed for the attack. Another was an elderly politician who headed the council's committee on religion.

"He was just an old man - he did nothing," al-Asi said in an interview, trying to keep from weeping. "Why did they shoot him and set fire to his poor body?"

Salahuddin Governor Ahmed Abdullah called the attack "a tragic incident carried out by ruthless terrorists."

Also among the dead was Iraqi journalist Sabah al-Bazi, a correspondent for Al-Arabiya satellite TV channel and a freelancer for CNN and Reuters, according to the three news outlets.

Officials said the standoff in Tikrit, located 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, began around 1 p.m. when the attackers blew up a car outside the council headquarters to create a diversion before launching their raid.

Wearing military uniforms - including one with a high rank - the gunmen identified themselves as Iraqi soldiers at a security checkpoint outside the government compound but opened fire on guards when they were told they needed to be searched.

The provincial council meets at the headquarters every Tuesday, but a spokesman for the governor, Ali Abdul Rihman, said local lawmakers ended their discussion early because there was little on their agenda. As a result, he said, most of the lawmakers had already left the headquarters when the assault began.

"The gunmen were armed with grenades, and began their raid by firing at random at a reception room," Rihman said. "Then they opened fire inside."

The governor described a fierce shootout between at least eight gunmen, who overtook the council headquarters' second floor, and Iraqi security forces who surrounded the building. He said the attackers were hurling grenades at Iraqi forces.

Salahuddin Health Director Dr. Raied Ibrahim said the attackers killed 45 people and wounded 98 in the attack that lasted more than five hours.

Officials were quick to blame al-Qaida in Iraq for the siege, noting that executions and suicide bombers are hallmarks of the extremist group.

A senior intelligence official in Baghdad likened the attack to a horrifying hostage raid last fall on a Catholic church in Baghdad that left 68 dead and stunned the nation. An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for that massacre on Oct. 31, which drove thousands of Iraq's already dwindling Christian population from their homeland in fear.

Tikrit, which is Saddam Hussein's hometown, is mostly populated by Sunni Muslims and was a hotbed for insurgents linked to al-Qaida and anti-American extremists at the height of the Iraq war.

City policemen said U.S. troops were at the scene to assist Iraqi forces but a spokesman for the American military in Baghdad could not immediately verify that information.
---

Yacoub reported from Amman, Jordan. Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed, Mazin Yahya and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.


==


TIMELINE-Deadliest attacks in Iraq in last year
30 Mar 2011 09:38

Source: reuters // Reuters


March 30 (Reuters) - Here is a timeline of some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq in the last year:

Jan. 25, 2010 - Three suicide bombs hit the Babylon, the (Sheraton) Ishtar, and al-Hamra hotels in Baghdad. At least 36 are killed. Al Qaeda-linked insurgents claim responsibility. Feb. 1 - A female suicide bomber blows herself up among Shi'ite pilgrims starting a trek to Kerbala for the religious rite of Arbain. At least 41 people are killed and 106 wounded.

April 23 - Thirteen blasts hit different areas of Baghdad around the time of Muslim prayers, mostly near Shi'ite mosques and at a marketplace, killing at least 56 people. Eight people are killed by bombs in the Sunni west of the country.

May 10 - Two suicide car bombers drive into the entrance of a textile factory in Hilla, 100 miles (60 km) south of Baghdad, killing at least 35 people and wounding 136.

-- Earlier, a suicide bomber wearing a vest laden with explosives and another driving a car kill at least 13 people and wound 40 in al-Suwayra, 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

-- In all, around 125 people are killed across Iraq with more than 200 wounded.

July 18 - A suicide bomber attacks government-backed Sunni militia as they line up to be paid on Baghdad's southwestern outskirts, killing at least 39 and wounding 41.

-- Four other anti-al Qaeda militia members are killed by a suicide bomber in western Iraq, near the Syrian border.

Aug. 7 - At least two explosions strike the popular market in the centre of Basra killing at least 45 and wounding up to 200 people.

Aug. 17 - Suicide bombers strike outside an army recruitment centre near Maidan square in Baghdad, killing at least 57 people and wounding 123. On Aug 20, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an al Qaeda umbrella group, claims responsibility.

Oct. 31 - Gunmen linked to an Iraqi al Qaeda group seize hostages during Sunday mass at the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad during Sunday mass. Around 52 hostages and police are killed and 67 wounded in the incident that ended when security forces raid the church to free around 100 Iraqi Catholics. Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claims responsibility for the attack on "the dirty den of idolatry". Nov. 2 - A series of bombs rocks mainly Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, killing at least 64 people and wounding around 360 people.

Jan. 18, 2011 - A suicide bomber attacks Iraqi police recruits in Tikrit, killing 50 people and wounding over 100.

Jan. 27 - A car bomb explosion at a funeral wake in a Shi'ite neighbourhood in Baghdad kills more than 45 people and wounded scores of others.

March 29 - At least 53 people are killed and 98 wounded when gunmen take hostages at a provincial council headquarters in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, precipitating a battle with security forces who swept in to end the siege. (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;)

====

Iraqi PM Maliki vows to punish Tikrit attackers
30 Mar 2011 12:28

Source: reuters // Reuters


* Iraqi officials say al Qaeda behind assault

* Analysts blame weak Iraqi security forces

* Committee is investigating attack - prime minister


By Khalid al-Ansary

BAGHDAD, March 30 (Reuters) - Iraq's prime minister vowed on Wednesday to punish those behind an attack on a provincial council headquarters in Saddam Hussein's hometown in which 58 people were killed after gunmen stormed in and took hostages.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki did not say who was behind the attack. But officials and analysts pointed fingers at al Qaeda.

"All initial indications show that it is al Qaeda, but maybe there are also other elements cooperating with them," said Ali al-Moussawi, a media adviser to Maliki, adding that Iraqi security forces may have been infiltrated by militants.

Tuesday's attack in Tikrit, a former stronghold of al Qaeda, was the deadliest in Iraq this year. It was also the first hostage-taking since 52 people were killed in a Baghdad church raid by al Qaeda-linked gunmen last October. "Once again the terrorist murderers commit an atrocious crime by targeting innocent civilians in Salahuddin province," Maliki said in a statement.

"The criminals who planned and carried out this crime will not escape punishment and the investigation committee must submit its findings as soon as possible."

The attackers set off car bombs, explosive belts and hand grenades as they stormed into the building and grabbed hostages, local officials had said. Hostages who did not die as a result of explosions were executed by the gunmen, they said.

The death toll stood at 58 with 98 people wounded, said Jasim al-Dulaimi, head of the health operations centre in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin, on Wednesday.

Sabah al-Bazee, a freelance Iraqi journalist who worked for Reuters and other media, was among those killed [ID:nLDE72S1ZW]


AL QAEDA DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Al Qaeda has been strategically weakened by the deaths of leaders, and both its numbers and the territory in which it can manoeuvre have shrunk since 2006-07, when Sunni tribal chiefs turned on it and joined forces with the U.S. military.

But they are still able to carry out lethal attacks eight years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam, a Sunni, who was hanged in 2006.

Their assaults are aimed at grabbing attention and rattling the population at a time when Iraqi forces take centre stage as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw by year-end, analysts say.

Iraqi political analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie blamed a weak Iraqi security force and warned such attacks may happen again.

"It was expected that al Qaeda would stage a big show to attract attention after a reconciliation between the government and some Sunni armed groups, who were close to al-Qaeda," Sumaidaie said. "They wanted to say that the reconciliation announced by these groups are baseless."

Salahuddin province continues to suffer frequent attacks by suspected Sunni Islamist insurgents opposed to the Shi'ite-led authorities in Baghdad. Tikrit is dominated by Sunni Muslims, a minority in Iraq who were favoured under Saddam.

Overall violence in Iraq has declined sharply since the peak of sectarian slaughter in 2006-07, but bombings and killings remain a daily occurrence.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Aseel Kami; writing by Rania El Gamal; editing by Mark Heinrich)

==

Gunmen kill 6 Iraqi security officers
Sat Apr 2, 2011 4:41PM
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Iraqi security forces stand guard outside the provincial council building in Tikrit after gunmen attacked the building and killed 58 people on Wednesday, March 30, 2011.Six Iraqi security officers have been killed in an attack on a control post in al-Anbar Province 200 kilometers west of the capital, Baghdad.


Three soldiers and three police officers were killed in the dawn attack in the city of Kabisa on Friday. Eight other people, including four civilians, have also been injured, DPA reported.

None of the gunmen were killed or captured.

The interior ministry has also reported a bomb attack close to Al Mustansiriya University, which left one soldier dead and wounded three others in Baghdad.

Last week, 58 people were killed and nearly 100 more were wounded in an attack on the provincial council headquarters of Tikrit in the province of Salahuddin. Gunmen stormed the government building, using car bombs, explosive belts and hand grenades.

Iraq has witnessed growing violence since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003. Since the war began, more than one million civilians have lost their lives and about five million children have been orphaned according to recent research.

A security agreement between Baghdad and Washington specifies that all American troops will leave Iraq by 2012.

Some analysts believe that in an attempt to portray the country as unstable, the US has continued to fuel violence in the country in order to extend its stay in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline.