Nation World

DHAKA: Bangladeshi civilians and army take part in a funeral of victims of the mutiny in Dhaka, two days after a fierce gun battle broke out inside the headquarters of Bangladesh’s border security force from a mutiny by soldiers against their officers (AFP)

Second mass grave in military compound

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladeshi soldiers searching for dozens of officers still missing after a revolt by border guards uncovered a second mass grave in a compound in the capital Dhaka on Saturday, an official told AFP.
Fire service operations chief Sheikh Mohammad Shahjalal said it was not immediately clear how many bodies were in the grave.

“We have found another mass grave. This one is in a garden. It’s in a corner and well hidden. We have just started digging and have removed two dead bodies but we are sure there are more. We are not sure how many,” he said.

“It’s beyond comprehension how one human could have done this to another. They not only shot them dead but some of the bodies were badly mutilated with bayonets.”
Rescuers on Friday uncovered a first mass grave in the military compound that contained 38 bodies, and Shahjalal said he feared the second grave was bigger.

Another 28 bodies have been recovered in other parts of the compound including in drains and sewers following a 33-hour revolt by rank-and-file border security troops that began early Wednesday.
Most of the dead are senior military personnel.

In a national television address delivered early Saturday, the army’s second-in-command said the rank-and-file guards who turned on their superiors would be punished.

“The BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) troops who took part in these barbaric and grisly acts cannot be pardoned and will not be pardoned,” said Lieutenant General M.A. Mubin.

“They will be given exemplary and quick punishment by a special tribunal. The martyrs will be buried with state honours.”

B’deshi soldiers hunt for
missing officers

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh’s military on Saturday resumed the search for dozens of officers still missing after a revolt by border guards, as the army promised those responsible for the bloodshed would be punished.

The grim search continued after rescuers on Friday found 38 bodies buried in a mass grave, including the chief of the border security force, taking the confirmed death toll from the mutiny to 66, with about 70 others still missing.

In a national television address delivered early Saturday, the army second-in-command said the rank-and-file guards who turned on their superiors in Wednesday’s rebellion would be punished.

“The BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) troops who took part in these barbaric and grisly acts cannot be pardoned and will not be pardoned,” said Lieutenant General M.A. Mubin.
“They will be given exemplary and quick punishment by a special tribunal. The martyrs will be buried with state honours.”

Tensions in the BDR had been simmering for months but erupted into violence early Wednesday when senior officers rejected appeals for more pay, subsidised food and holidays.

The guards agreed to put down their arms only after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – who took office only two months ago – appeared on national television and threatened to put down the mutiny by force.
Rescue team chief Sheikh Mizanur Rahman said no stone would be left unturned in the hunt for the dozens of missing senior military personnel.

“We are uncovering every manhole, looking at every piece of land,” he said, adding that soldiers were not ruling out the possibility of finding more mass graves.
A joint funeral for the military personnel was expected to be held once all bodies had been recovered, and three days of national mourning began Friday.

Many who survived the 33-hour ordeal told how they took cover down sewerage manholes.
“It was dark and smelly. I jumped into it and kept the lid shut but could hear the sound of gunshots. I stayed there without any food and light. I could not separate day from night,” Major Munir told reporters.

More than 200 members of the BDR were arrested Friday and police and army were conducting a nationwide search for those behind the revolt and subsequent killings.

Sheikh Hasina, who had promised a general amnesty for those who surrendered, said severe punishments would be handed to those responsible for the killings.

“These senior military personnel have been killed in a planned and calculated manner. It’s a grisly slaughter. We will punish these criminals,” cabinet minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak told reporters.
The violence was the first major crisis faced by the prime minister since her landslide election victory on December 29 ended two years of army-backed rule.

Ataur Rahman, a professor at Dhaka University, said the new government could not afford to ignore the underlying causes of long-term discontent in Bangladesh, especially the twin scourges of poverty and corruption.

“There are so many issues facing this country that it can be daunting for leaders, but they should not forget the issues facing the people,” Rahman said.



Iraq says its forces can fill US pullout gap

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq believes its own forces have the muscle to ensure security as US President Barack Obama on Friday set an 18-month deadline for the end of American combat operations in the war-torn country amid doubts from foreign advisers.

Only a day before Obama’s announcement, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said: “We have faith in our armed forces and our security services, to protect the country and consolidate security and stability.”

Laying out a new strategy at a US Marines base in North Carolina, Obama said: “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010 our combat mission in Iraq will end.”

“I intend to remove all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011,” he said, adding that the post-2010 interim force would number between 35,000 and 50,000.

There are currently 142,000 American troops stationed in Iraq.
The White House said Obama, an early opponent of the Iraq war, briefed Maliki and his predecessor George W. Bush on the new plan by telephone shortly before making his speech.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Obama heeded military advice in deciding to postpone by three months the pullout of most troops.

Commanders in Iraq, “particularly General (Raymond) Odierno,” expressed concern that pulling out under the 16-month timeline by May 2010 could leave US forces short-handed at a sensitive time after crucial national elections in December, he said.

Under a military accord signed with Baghdad last November, Washington had already agreed to withdraw all of its combat troops by the end of 2011.

Following the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the United States entirely dismantled Iraq’s armed forces and police, and rebuilding began amid a violent insurrection and sectarian killings.

Today, after the expulsion of around 24,000 people with links to Islamist militias, the official police strength stands at 560,000.


Myanmar, Cambodia bar rights activists from talks

HUA HIN, Thailand (AFP) – Myanmar and Cambodia blocked leading activists from attending talks with Southeast Asian leaders Saturday, campaigners said, embroiling the bloc in a fresh row over human rights.

Leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were set to hold rare talks with so-called civil society representatives on Saturday at the summit in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin.

But Thein Sein, the prime minister of military-ruled Myanmar, and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen said they would not take part if activists from their own countries were present, a leading rights body said."

“We heard that they were not happy with the possible attendance of these two activists and they threatened to not be present in today’s meeting if the two attended,” Yap Swee Seng, executive director of the Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development, told AFP.

“We are really disappointed and regret such a decision taken by the two countries, because we are of the view that dialogue will help understanding between the two sides and to forge cooperation to resolve issues together.”

The row blew up just a day after ASEAN foreign ministers discussed a proposed regional rights body that is to be set up under the bloc’s landmark new charter, which came into force in December.


QUANTICO, United States: US Marine Corps martial arts instructors demonstrate techniques taught to Marine Corps officers at The Basic School(TBS), at the USMC base in Quantico, Virginia. At TBS, Marines spend six months training and developing the professional knowledge and skills necessary to effectively lead other Marines that will be under their command. Courses will include, but are not limited to: leadership, marksmanship, land navigation, communications, infantry tactics, weapons, drill, military law, logistics, personnel administration, and Marine Corps history (AFP)


India names Pakistani colonel in connection with Mumbai terror attacks

Indian police have named a Pakistani colonel who they say was connected to November’s Mumbai terror attacks which left 164 people dead.

An 11,509-page charge sheet filed by the Mumbai police yesterday named the officer as Colonel Sadatullah, the highest-ranked Pakistani to be implicated in the three-day siege of two luxury hotels and other sites that strained tensions between the two neighbours. Sadatullah is a colonel in the special communications organisation (SCO), a telecommunications agency of the Pakistani government run by officers from the army’s signal corps. The SCO operates only in the Pakistani side of the divided province of Kashmir and Pakistan’s restive northern region.

According to the Times of India, a total of 284 calls totalling 995 minutes were made to Pakistani handlers by the terrorists using mobile phones from the Taj Mahal hotel, Oberoi-Trident and Nariman House, a Jewish centre.

Indian investigators say the calls were made using voice over internet protocol, or VoIP, a cheap way of making international calls. They were traced to an IP address created with CallPhonex, a VoIP service provider based in New Jersey, in the US. Payments for the calls were made by opening an account in the name of Kharak Singh, from India.

However, payments to the account were made by wire transfer through MoneyGram and Western Union Money Transfer by two Pakistani nationals, Javed Iqbal and Mohammed Ishtiaq. The two used the email address ID kharak_telco@yahoo.com to communicate with CallPhonex. Indian investigators say there was contact between this email address and Sadatullah’s official email, pmit@sco.gov.pk, which police say is the email service for all SCO officers.

Indian officials have charged a Pakistani national, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, 21, who was captured in the early hours of the attacks. The sole surviving attacker faces 12 criminal charges, including murder and waging war against India. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The other nine attackers were killed. India’s special public prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam, said he expected the trial to begin in the coming weeks and conclude within six months, but the legal process could drag on for decades. The trial for the country’s deadliest terror attack, the 1993 Mumbai bombings which killed 257 people, lasted 14 years. The Kasab trial could further inflame tensions with Pakistan as it sets out the role of Pakistani groups in the assault.

India blames the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist militant group widely believed to have been created by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the 1980s to fight Indian rule in Kashmir. But the charges do not mention Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency.

India says all 10 attackers were from Pakistan. Pakistani officials have acknowledged that the attacks were partly plotted on Pakistani soil and announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects. The case against Kasab includes his confession, accounts from more than 2,000 witnesses and closed circuit television footage that shows him and an accomplice walking into Mumbai’s crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji train station and opening fire.
(The Guardian)


Hezbollah demands Lebanese generals be freed

BEIRUT (AFP) – Hezbollah demanded on Saturday the freeing of four Lebanese generals who have been held without trial for years in connection with the 2005 murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Their continued detention “is for political reasons ... given that they have not even been questioned in three years,” said a statement from the powerful Shiite movement. “That confirms the arbitrariness of their detention.”

The statement calls on investigating Judge Sakr Sakr to “take the right decision of freeing the four generals as quickly as possible and not give in to political pressures.” On Friday, two days before a UN tribunal into the assassination opens in The Hague, Sakr rejected demands to free the generals for the second time this week.

A similar request was rejected on Wednesday on the grounds that the authorities had not completed their investigation, a source close to the case told AFP.

But Sakr on Wednesday did free on bail three other suspects held in connection with Hariri’s murder in a February 2005 car bombing.

The generals are the former head of the presidential guard Mustafa Hamdan, security services director Jamil Sayyed, domestic security chief Ali Hajj and military intelligence chief Raymond Azar.

They were arrested in August 2005, six months after Hariri’s assassination. He was killed along with 22 other people when a massive car bomb exploded as his convoy passed by the Beirut waterfront.

Their lawyers have repeatedly argued that their detention is “illegal” and “unfounded” and that their clients are being held on false testimony that was later retracted.


Cooler weather a relief for Australian firemen

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian fire crews took advantage of cooler conditions Saturday to prepare for dangerous weather forecast for early next week.
Four major blazes continued to rage in the scorched southeastern state of Victoria, where 210 people lost their lives in a devastating firestorm three weeks ago.

More than 100 extra firefighters have been flown to Victoria amid fears that forecast higher temperatures and winds could boost the fire threat.

But authorities said cooler weather late Friday had given the crews a much-needed reprieve.
“It provided us a good opportunity to keep building and strengthening containment lines in those existing fires,” an environment department spokesman said.

“With the cool temperatures we have seen fire activity slow down, which allows us to get in and do a lot of work and containment before Tuesday... (which) is predicted to be very warm, with strong to gale-force winds.”
Police said a small fire that broke out Friday at Arthurs Seat, east of the state capital Melbourne, appeared to have been deliberately lit, with a number of others sparked by lightning strikes.

As emergency agencies worked with chainsaws, bulldozers and spades to carve out buffer zones around the fires, the Country Fire Authority’s Allan Rankin said communities would also have time to “take that collective sigh of relief and regroup.”


US will not take part in UN racism conference

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States has decided against taking part in a UN-led conference on racism after it quit the previous session in 2001 over claims of anti-Semitism, US officials said.

“We’re not going to further engage in Durban II,” a senior State Department official told AFP on the condition of anonymity, referring to the conference scheduled for April 20-24 in Geneva.

A US delegation took part in the preparatory talks in Geneva on February 16 and made proposed changes to a resolution expected to be adopted at the conference, which Canada and Israel have said they would boycott.

According to a statement issued by State Department spokesman Robert Wood later Friday, the “document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable.

“As a result, the United States will not engage in further negotiations on this text, nor will we participate in a conference based on this text,” he said.


Netanyahu says Obama ‘interested’ in his ideas

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said, in an interview published Saturday, that US President Barack Obama was “interested” in his ideas on moving the Middle East peace process forward, but offered no specifics.

“I’ve had two excellent meetings with President Obama,” Netanyahu told The Washington Post newspaper and Newsweek magazine.

“I’ve found him open to new ideas and seeking new ideas and a new path to achieve a successful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and in the Middle East as a whole. He was very much interested in the ideas that I put forward to him on advancing a new path for peace.”

The Israeli leader said he had been assured by Obama that Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons was unacceptable to the United States.

“The arming of Iran with nuclear weapons would cause a great threat not only to Israel’s security but the stability of just about every Arab government in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said.

“Many Arab governments would enter into a nuclear arms race, and this is something that is inimical to the interests of all those who seek peace and security.”

Netanyahu is trying to form a coalition government after his Party Likud won 27 parliamentary seats in the last election.