Nation World  


Standoff persists in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Ivory Coast’s UN-recognised President Alassane Ouattara enforced a blockade around his rival Laurent Gbagbo’s Abidjan residence, as the United Nations said it had found more than 100 bodies in the west of the country.
Reports of massacres in west Ivory Coast emerged as Ouattara’s forces swept through the region on their way to confronting Gbagbo in the economic capital, where the humanitarian situation was dire Friday, with bodies lying on the streets and shortages of food, water and medicines.
“The human rights team investigating... in west Cote d’Ivoire found more than 100 bodies in the past 24 hours in three locations,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva.
“All the incidents appear to be ethnically motivated,” he said, while adding that “one has to be a little bit cautious of assigning responsibilities”.
Ouattara promised in a televised address that “light will be shed” on reports of massacres and other crimes.
“The authors of the crimes will be punished,” he said, calling on his troops “to be exemplary in their behaviour and to abstain from any crime, any violence against the population or any act of pillage.”
Several hundred people were reportedly massacred in the western town of Duekoue last week, with forces loyal to Gbagbo and Ouattara blaming each other and the International Criminal Court in The Hague announcing a formal probe.
In Abidjan, residents reported gunfire and explosions. Gbagbo was still holding out in a bunker in the presidential residence after Ouattara’s forces failed to remove him in an aborted assault on Wednesday.
French forces later bombarded Gbagbo’s positions in a bid to destroy heavy weaponry, and a Western source said the aim was “to hit a maximum of objectives in order to reduce the potential for resistance”.
“We have entered the post-Gbagbo era. The end is now in sight,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists in Paris. “The Gbagbo era is now over.”
Valero said Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had spoken with Ouattara, the man deemed to have won a November presidential run-off.
In Washington US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN chief Ban Ki-moon issued an alert on a potential humanitarian crisis while denouncing attacks on UN peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme and other UN relief agencies on Friday called for humanitarian corridors to allow safe access to thousands of people who have fled the fighting.

Clashes erupt around Cairo’s Tahrir Square

Hundreds of protesters demanding that Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, be put on trial for alleged corruption, have retaken Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, hours after security forces attempted to disperse them.
By 7a.m. (local time) on Saturday morning, army and central security troops appeared to have withdrawn, leaving the square to protesters who set vehicles on fire and began setting up barricades made of furniture and left-behind barbed wire.
Hundreds of army and security forces troops had stormed the square earlier, in an attempt to disperse the thousands of protesters.
In scenes reminiscent of the violent 18-day uprising that ousted longtime President Mubarak in February, protesters and riot police threw rocks at each other, and security forces responded by firing tear gas, witnesses said.
Groups of protesters rallying around the southeast corner of the square threw bottles and possibly petrol firebombs at riot police, Michelle May, a freelance journalist, told Al Jazeera.
One of the main roads running east from Tahrir Square towards Talaat Harb Square was virtually empty, and gunfire seemed to have subsided, a witness said.
The military in a statement released through the state MENA news agency, said that security forces were attempting to enforce a 2am to 5am (local time) curfew.
“Elements from the interior ministry along with some noble citizens confronted the riotous actions and enforced the curfew without any losses,” the statement read. “The armed forces stress that they will not tolerate any acts of rioting or any act that harms the interest of the country and the people.”
A separate statement carried on the military’s Facebook page blamed “remnants” of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party for the clashes, and ordered the arrest of four party members it accused of “thuggery” during the sit-in.
(Al Jazeera)

Death toll mounts in Gaza strikes

Three Hamas militants have been killed in an Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza Strip.
The deaths bring the toll from several days of Israeli strikes to at least 17, including several civilians. Dozens of people have been wounded.
Israel says it is responding to a Hamas missile fired at a school bus, an attack it said had “crossed the line.”
The military wing of Hamas said that attack had been in response to the killing of Hamas leaders last week.
Israel’s strikes and the dozens of rockets and mortars fired by militants across the border represent the worst violence in Gaza in two years.
Israel’s early morning attack on a vehicle in the south of Gaza killed a senior Hamas commander and two of his aides, both Hamas and Palestinian medical workers said.
Hamas named the commander as 29-year-old Tayser Abu Snima, a leader of the militant group in Rafah.
The Israeli military also said it targeted a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border and a lorry carrying ammunition.

Blast kills leading Kashmir separatist

SRINAGAR (AFP) – A leading Muslim cleric and moderate separatist was killed by a powerful explosion outside a mosque in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir, police said.
Moulvi Shoukat Ahmad Shah was entering a mosque in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar for Friday prayers when the blast took place, leaving him critically injured, a police officer told AFP.
Shah, who had survived several previous attempts on his life, was rushed to hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility but police blamed the killing on Islamic rebels fighting New Delhi’s rule in the Himalayan territory. Police said the killing had sparked tension in Srinagar, summer capital of Kashmir and known as the urban hub of the rebel movement.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced heightened security in Kashmir following the attack.

Libya rebels want ‘explanation’

Not apology from NATO

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) – Libya’s rebels are “not seeking an apology but an explanation” from NATO after a friendly fire incident that killed four of their members, a spokesman said.
“We are not questioning the intention of the NATO,” Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, told AFP.
“It appears that there has been a breakdown of communication, perhaps due to the visibility on the ground... and that the positions of our tanks have not make clear to the NATO,” he said.
A NATO air strike hit rebel tanks west of the town of Ajdabiya, killing two rebel fighters and two medics in the second friendly fire incident in a week.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rassmussen expressed regret over the deaths caused in the “very unfortunate incident.”
But the deputy commander of the alliance’s mission over Libya, British Rear Admiral Russell Harding, refused to apologise for the incident, saying NATO was unaware the tanks belonged to the rebels.
Yet, General Abdelfatah Yunis, the rebel commander, said in Benghazi that the insurgents had informed NATO that they were moving T55 and T72 heavy tanks from Benghazi to Brega.
A source close to key Western envoys in Benghazi who are in regular contact with the opposition Transitional National Council said, “The problem is there are no official direct links” between the rebel military leadership and NATO.
“It would make sense to get a NATO situational awareness team on the ground” to gather information that would “cut down the chances of situations like yesterday (Thursday),” the source said.
The source added that com

African leaders set for key visit

A team of African leaders, headed by South African President Jacob Zuma, is heading for Libya on a key diplomatic mission.
The five heads will visit both Tripoli and the rebel-held city of Benghazi to push for a truce between the forces of Col Muammar Gaddafi and the opposition.
The EU is pressing for a humanitarian mission to be allowed into the city of Misrata, which has seen heavy fighting.
Clashes are continuing between the two sides near Ajdabiya in the east.
Mr Zuma will head an African Union team that will also include leaders from DR Congo, Mali, Mauritania and Uganda.
The South African foreign ministry said: “The committee has been granted permission by Nato to enter Libya and to meet in Tripoli with the Libyan leader.
“The AU delegation will also meet with the Interim Transitional National Council in Benghazi on 10 and 11 April.”
It added: “Key on the agenda of both meetings will be the immediate implementation of a ceasefire from both sides and the opening of a political dialogue between the two parties.” (BBC News)

Russia begins refuelling Iran nuclear plant

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia resumed loading fuel into Iran’s first nuclear power plant after it had to be removed because of an apparent technical fault, news reports said.
The Atomstroyexport agency which oversaw the Bushehr plant’s construction said in a statement that the refuelling operation began after the plant had been re-checked and its various pieces “washed through,” news agencies reported.
It was not immediately clear from the statement when the Bushehr plant would be commissioned.
Russia last month blamed the delay on internal wear-and-tear at the plant, whose construction was initially launched with the help of Germany’s Siemens company in the 1970s.
It also blamed Iran for forcing Russian engineers to work with outdated pieces in the plant, whose construction has been bitterly opposed by Iran’s arch-foe Israel.

Teen says 400 Pakistan suicide bombers in training

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – A teenager arrested as an accomplice to Pakistan’s deadliest suicide bombing of the year has said that up to 400 suicide bombers are being groomed to wage carnage in the nuclear-armed nation.
Umar Fidayee, 14, said the would-be bombers were being trained in North Waziristan, the premier Al-Qaeda and Taliban fortress in Pakistan’s tribal belt where US officials want Pakistan to flush out militant strongholds.
He made the remarks in an interview from his hospital bedside, where he is being treated after detonating a hand grenade in the April 4 attack that killed 50 people at a 13th century Sufi shrine.
It was Pakistan’s deadliest bomb attack since November.
Police arrested Fidayee as an alleged accomplice and said they removed his own suicide vest, which he failed to detonate in a crowd of hundreds in Dera Ghazi Khan just minutes after two other bombers blew themselves up.
Shown covered in tubes and bandages, the teen appeared to express remorse and lifted the lid on harrowing details of his training at the camp in the Mir Ali district of North Waziristan, which lies on the border with Afghanistan.
“Three hundred and fifty to 400 would-be suicide bombers are getting training in Mir Ali in North Waziristan,” he said in the interview broadcast by Pakistani television channels Samaa, Express, ARY and Geo.
“I was trained for two months and saw many boys being trained there,” he said, going on to appeal on Pakistanis to “please forgive me”.
“God has given me a new life but I am sad that we killed innocent people, innocent children,” he said.
Fidayee said he was initially recruited on the understanding that he would be smuggled into Afghanistan to kill non-Muslims.