|FINALLY, MUBARAK GOES
|Egypt’s military takes over
Cairo’s streets exploded in joy when President Hosni Mubarak
stepped down after three-decades of autocratic rule and
handed power to a junta of senior military commanders.
A grim-faced and ashen vice-president Omar Suleiman
announced the handover on state television after an
extraordinary national outpouring of rage brought more than
a million furious demonstrators onto the streets.
“Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the
country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
has decided to leave the post of president of the republic
and has tasked the supreme council of the armed forces to
manage the state’s affairs,” Suleiman said.
A free and fair presidential election has been promised for
September after a momentous 18 days that rocked Egypt.
Earlier, the 82-year-old strongman had flown out of Cairo to
his holiday retreat at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea, his
ruling party said.
As news spread cries of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and
howls of victory rang out in the streets of the capital and
World oil prices slid and European stock markets bounced
following news of the resignation of Mubarak.
In Tahrir Square, several protesters fainted with the
emotion of the moment following two weeks of protest. The
plaza has become a focal point of the revolt since it was
occupied by protesters in late January, and earlier in the
day had been thronged by hundreds of thousands of Egyptians,
who prayed and chanted abuse at Mubarak.
“People here don’t care if he’s in the palace or not. We
want him to quit the presidency,” said 40-year-old Mohammed
Hamdan, who works for an oil firm.
On Thursday night, hundreds of thousands had crowded into
the square to hear a speech that was widely expected to be
Mubarak’s last as president.
Instead, he delegated some of his powers to Suleiman, while
vowing he would stay in office until September and one day
die in Egypt, ruling out a flight into exile.
Mubarak had also been on a collision course with the
international community, and in particular Egypt’s key ally
and donor, Washington.
US President Barack Obama reacted with a flash of anger of
his own, saying Mubarak had failed to map out “meaningful or
sufficient” change, or to speak clearly enough to Egypt and
|Switzerland to freeze assets of ousted
The announcement, which gave no details
as to what assets Mubarak or his family might have in the
country, will send shock waves through the presidential
palaces of other Middle Eastern countries.
“The government wants to avoid any risk of misappropriation
of state-owned Egyptian assets,” a statement by the foreign
Stories of Mubarak’s personal wealth, ranging up to wild
estimates of $70 billion (£44 billion), long suppressed by
state media, began to circulate among the crowds from the
beginning of protests.
His family is said to own property around the world,
including London, Paris, Dubai, and the United States. He is
understood to have money in bank accounts in Britain, the
US, and France as well as other western countries.
But the control of resources by the regime’s leaders is
mirrored across the region, whether through military
dictatorship, as in neighbours such as Libya, or oil-funded
feudal rule, as in the Gulf.
|S Asia rivals resume
(BBC) – India and Pakistan say they
have agreed to resume peace talks “on all issues.”
Peace moves were put on hold after Pakistan-based militants
attacked Mumbai in 2008, although the sides have met a
number of times in the past year.
The nuclear-armed rivals’ decision to discuss key issues in
the dispute came after top officials met at a summit in
Pakistan’s foreign minister will visit India by July to
review progress in the dialogue, a joint statement said.
Before then, senior officials from both sides will get
together to discuss a range of issues which have harmed
relations for decades.
“They have agreed to resume dialogue on all issues following
the spirit of the Thimpu meeting between the two prime
ministers,” a joint statement said, referring to weekend
talks in the Bhutanese capital.
BBC correspondents say no-one is expecting swift progress on
issues at the heart of the dispute.
“The two countries will work to narrow the trust deficit so
that we can discuss all bilateral issues,” Indian Ministry
of External Affairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash told The BBC.
“We are picking up the threads again, we have to move
forward step by step. We are taking baby steps.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said he welcomed
“the important decision taken both by Pakistan and India to
resume [a] full spectrum of dialogue”.
In a statement, Gilani said the peace negotiations had
resulted from his talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
As well as the main disputes over counter-terrorism and the
Himalayan territory of Kashmir – which both countries claim
– the talks teams will look at economic issues and a number
of other, smaller, territorial disagreements.
Before the Mumbai attacks, the two sides held formal peace
talks known as a “composite dialogue” for several years but
made little headway, apart from a number of
|7 of Somali pirates seem to be minors
|Stating that seven of the 28 Somali pirates arrested off
the Lakshadweep coast on February 6 appeared to be minors,
the metropolitan magistrate’s court, directed the police to
collect evidence to prove their ages.
Though described to be over 18 years of age by the police,
metropolitan magistrate of Ballard Pier court, C W Meshram,
observed that seven pirates — Ibrahim Noor, Ahsan Mahmood,
Mahomed Musee, Atoor Bare, Noor Xersi, Madar Abdi and Shafee
Maxammed — appear to be below 18 years of age.
The Indian Coast Guard had arrested the 28 Somali pirates
who attacked the Greek-flagged merchant ship Chois off the
Lakshadweep coast. They were apprehended when after
approaching a Coast Guard ship they tried to return to
Prantalay 11, a fishing trawler hijacked by them last year.
The 24 Thai and Myanmar residents taken hostage by the
pirates were released and all the apprehended pirates were
subsequently handed over to the Yellow Gate police at
The fact that the pirates purportedly understand only their
mother tongue and none of the languages known to local
police is adding to the hurdles.
“We are facing difficulties as the language barrier is
leading to obstacles in verifying their nationality, address
and recording statements,” said Quaiser Khalid, deputy
commissioner of police (port zone). “We have asked the
African Studies Department of the University of Mumbai to
provide us with translators to assist in the investigation.”
Moreover, as the incident occurred off the Lakshadweep
coast, collecting evidence from the crime scene too is
becoming tough, said a senior police official.
The police also divulged that they plan to house the 24
hostages from the current operation and 20 from the previous
operation on January 29 on Pranatalaya 11, the trawler that
is currently anchored along the Mumbai coast.
|Algeria forces prepare for rally
(BBC) – Riot police have been deployed in the centre of the
Algerian capital, Algiers, ahead of a planned
The government has banned the protest, but opposition and
rights groups say they intend to go ahead with the march.
Algeria – like other countries in the region – has recently
witnessed demonstrations for greater freedoms.
On Friday, police stopped people from gathering to celebrate
the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.
The BBC’s Chloe Arnold in Algiers says the authorities want
to avert any popular uprising similar to those in Tunisia
“We are ready for the march,” Mohsen Belabes, a spokesman
for the small Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD)
opposition party, said.
“It’s going to be a great day for democracy in Algeria,” he
told Reuters news agency. Demonstrations are banned in
Algeria because of a state of emergency which has been in
place since 1992.
A heavy police presence is normal in Algeria but far more
officers than usual were in place hours before the start of
the protest at 1100 local time (1000 GMT), Reuters reports.
At least 15 police vans, jeeps and buses were lined up at 1
May Square, where the march is due to start, and about the
same number on a nearby side-street outside the city’s
Small military-style armoured vehicles were also parked at
junctions around the city.
|US man shot Pakistan pair ‘in cold
(BBC) – A Pakistani police chief has
said a US citizen in custody over the deaths of two men in
Lahore last month was guilty of “cold-blooded murder.”
Lahore city police chief Aslam Tareen told a news conference
that one of the men was killed while running away. He spoke
after Raymond Davis was remanded for another 14 days
following an appearance in a Lahore court.
Davis, 36, has admitted he shot the men, but says he acted
in self-defence because they were trying to rob him. The
court has ordered the Pakistani government to clarify US
embassy claims that Davis has diplomatic immunity. He is
charged on two counts – murder and possession of illegal
Tareen told a news conference: “The police investigation and
forensic report show it was not self-defence.
“His plea has been rejected by police investigators. He gave
no chance to them to survive.
Tareen also said that forensic evidence did not support
Davis’s claim that one of the motorbike riders had
approached his car window, cocked his gun and pointed it at
him. No fingerprints had been uncovered on the triggers of
the pistols found on the bodies of the two men, he said.
And tests had shown that the bullets remained in the
magazine of the men’s gun, not the chamber. “It was
cold-blooded murder,” said Tareen. “Eyewitnesses have told
police that he directly shot at them and he kept shooting
even when one was running away. It was an intentional
Police officials have previously said that the two men were
street robbers, although conspiracy theorists have suggested
that the pair were members of Pakistani intelligence.
|Sudan detains opposition leader
KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudanese security services arrested
prominent government critic Mariam al-Mahdi, daughter of the
prime minister whom veteran President Omar al-Bashir ousted
in a 1989 coup, a member of her Umma party said.
Mahdi was arrested as she went with a group of activists to
petition the security forces for the release of protesters
detained nearly two weeks ago, Habab Mubarak, the daughter
of another leading Umma party member Mubarak al-Fadil, told
“The minute we stepped out of the car they arrested her,”
“They also violently grabbed the placards that we had in the
back of the car showing pictures of those people who were
detained on January 30,” she added.
She said the incident took place after around 30 women,
among them the mothers of those still being held after
anti-government demonstrations last month, set off to
present their petition to the head of the Sudan’s National
Intelligence and Security Services Mohammed Atta.
They had gathered at the home of Fadil and were just leaving
when the security forces arrested Mariam al-Mahdi, daughter
of Sadeq al-Mahdi, the premier Bashir overthrew.
|Scandal-hit Japan politician refuses
to leave party
TOKYO (AFP) – A split within Japan’s centre-left
government deepened when veteran powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa
rejected a demand by the prime minister to leave the party
as he faces trial in a funding scandal.
Ozawa, dubbed the “Shadow Shogun” of Japanese politics, is
the biggest faction boss in the ruling Democratic Party of
Japan (DPJ) and narrowly failed in a bid last September to
oust Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
He denies personal wrong-doing in the funding scandal, which
has led authorities to raid his offices, indict three of his
former aides and, forced by a citizens’ review panel, to
indict Ozawa himself late last month.
Kan – who is battling plunging opinion poll ratings and the
threat of legislative gridlock in a split parliament –
Thursday met 68-year-old Ozawa, who commands the loyalty of
many first-time lawmakers he picked and coached.
After the hour-long one-on-one talk with Kan, Ozawa told a
news conference: “He asked me whether I can leave the party
until the trial is over... I have made up my mind to
continue my activities under my current status.”