|Al-Qaeda vows revenge
Obama decorates team that
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Al-Qaeda and Islamic militants vowed
to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden by US commandos,
declaring him a “martyr” and calling on Muslims to rise up
against the United States.
But US President Barack Obama swept aside the militants’
defiant reaction, decorating the team that killed their
inspirational leader and pledging the United States would
“We have cut off their head and we will ultimately defeat
them,” Obama said after meeting in private with the special
forces personnel that raided bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan
on Monday and shot dead the Al-Qaeda leader.
Confirming bin Laden’s death for the first time, the terror
network denounced his slaying urging Pakistani Muslims “to
cleanse their country from the filth of the Americans who
spread corruption in it.”
The Afghanistan Taliban also joined the chorus of
condemnation – as small rallies were held after Friday
prayers in several Islamic nations – saying the loss of the
architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks would only serve
to strengthen its resolve in the fight against “foreign
“We call upon our Muslim people in Pakistan, on whose land
Sheikh Osama was killed, to rise up and revolt to cleanse
this shame,” Al-Qaeda said in a statement released by the
SITE monitoring group.
The Islamist group proclaimed its Saudi-born founder a
“martyr,” adding he had “terrified all the nations of
disbelief.” It vowed the jihadist network would survive, but
did not name anyone to take over as its leader.
The White House said it was on alert for security threats as
Al-Qaeda also vowed to release an audio tape made by bin
Laden just a week before he was shot.
The Obama administration, embroiled in a decade-long war in
Afghanistan, is keenly aware of the dangers facing US
interests and nationals abroad.
US forces ousted the Taliban from power in 2001 following
the 9/11 attacks in retaliation for harbouring bin Laden on
And the Afghanistan Taliban said bin Laden’s death “will
give a new impetus to the current jihad against the invaders
in this critical phase of jihad,” an email statement
released by spokesman Tariq Ghazniwal said.
The leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas,
Khaled Meshaal, also condemned what he called “extrajudicial
|Libya tribal meeting
calls for general amnesty
TRIPOLI (AFP) – Libyan tribal leaders meeting in Tripoli
called for a general amnesty law for those who have fought
in Libya’s ongoing civil war, a statement said.
“The conference will work on a general amnesty law which
will include all those who were involved in the crisis and
took up arms,” said the statement on conclusions from the
National Conference for Libyan Tribes, which ended late on
“The general amnesty law is a means of laying the path ahead
for a new era of peace and forgiveness,” it said, without
providing further details on the law, or a timetable for its
Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim had said the tribal
leaders at the conference represented tribes from across the
country, including those from the rebel-held east.
However, parts of the statement referred to rebels as
“traitors” and pledged not to “abandon” or “forsake” Libyan
strongman Moamer Kadhafi, whose ouster the rebels are
demanding, raising doubts about both calls for
reconciliation and the overall representativeness of the
conference. The statement also called for marches to
“liberate” rebel-held towns.
“The conference also calls all Libyan tribes neighbouring
the towns and cities hijacked by armed groups to move
peacefully in popular marches to liberate those highjacked
towns, disarming the armed rebels,” it said.
It is unclear how disarming the rebels could be accomplished
peacefully, and no further details were provided.
|Tanks storm Syrian
flashpoint city Banias
NICOSIA (AFP) – Syrian troops backed by tanks swept early
Saturday into Banias, a hub of anti-regime protests, as
residents formed human chains in a bid to halt the military
operation, rights activists said.
Electricity and communications were cut as the tanks entered
along three axes heading towards the southern sector of the
city on the Mediterranean coast, the bastion of the
Protesters were resisting by forming human chains, the
activists said, reached by telephone from Nicosia.
Tanks also encircled the nearby town of Baida while an army
boat patrolled offshore, they added.
The military sweep into Banias in northwestern Syria comes
two days after a convoy of 40 military vehicles pulled out
of the southern town of Daraa, another protest centre, which
the military had locked down since April 25.
On Wednesday, residents of Banias said dozens of armoured
vehicles, including tanks and troops reinforcements, had
been deployed on the outskirts of Banias.
“It looks like they are preparing to attack the town, like
they did in Daraa,” one activist said.
Dozens of people were killed during the 10-day military
assault on Daraa, launched with what activists termed
“indiscriminate” shelling of the town.
But General Riad Haddad, the military’s political department
chief, insisted that troops in Daraa “did not confront the
protesters. We continue searching for terrorists hidden in
several places. As the army, we never confronted the
Human rights groups say that more than 600 people have been
killed and 8,000 jailed or gone missing in the crackdown on
protesters since demonstrations erupted in mid-March.
The United States warned Friday it would take “additional
steps” against Syria if it continues its brutal crackdown on
protesters, a week after imposing tough sanctions on the
The White House statement came after rights groups said
Syrian security forces shot dead at least 26 protesters
Friday during a huge “Day of Defiance” against the regime.
|ASEAN’s focus on food,
JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia on
Saturday called on fellow Southeast Asian states to “give
serious attention” to soaring food and energy prices,
warning inflation could drive more people into poverty.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the
start of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) summit that the regional bloc must take steps to
ease the surge in consumer prices.
“We must give serious attention and take concrete measures
to address the soaring of food prices and world energy,
which in turn will negatively affect the prosperity of our
people,” he said in his opening speech.
“History shows that the rise of food and energy prices...
has always caused the increase in the number of people
living in poverty, yet we know very well that decreasing the
poverty level is not an easy task.”
Oil prices surged to a more than two year peak last month,
driven largely by political turmoil in the crude-producing
Middle East and North Africa region.
The increase has sparked fears that inflation could slow
down the recovery from the global recession in 2008/2009.
ASEAN groups 10 disparate nations from oil-rich Brunei and
high-tech Singapore to impoverished countries like Cambodia,
Laos and Myanmar, as well as major rice producers Thailand
and Vietnam and rice-importers such as the Philippines.
Indonesia and Malaysia round up ASEAN’s 10 members.
LONDON (AFP) – British voters
handed the Liberal Democrats a double blow, rejecting their
electoral reform bid in a referendum and punishing them in
local elections for their role in coalition spending cuts.
Final results released on Saturday showed almost 68 percent
of voters had spurned the new system supported by Deputy
Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems.
The Lib Dems also suffered their worst results for a quarter
of a century in elections for local councils, even as Prime
Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, which lead the
year-old coalition, were left largely unscathed.
The separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) meanwhile
secured a historic majority in the devolved national
assembly in Thursday’s elections and vowed to hold a
referendum on independence within the next four years.
Clegg described the voting reform referendum result as a
He said his party had taken the brunt of the blame for the
swingeing public spending cuts introduced by the coalition
to rein in Britain’s record deficit but insisted the Lib
Dems would soldier on in the coalition.
“We’ve clearly had bad results overnight and we now need to
learn the lessons, get up, dust ourselves down and move on,”
The Lib Dems insisted on having the referendum on the
Alternative Vote (AV) system for electing lawmakers – in
which voters rank candidates by preference – as a condition
of joining the coalition after elections in May last year.
Final results from the referendum showed that a total of
67.9 percent of voters – 13,013,123 – had rejected a move to
AV, while just 32.1 percent had supported the idea. Turnout
was 42 percent.
|Euro chiefs rule out
Greek currency exit
|LUXEMBOURG (AFP) – Europe’s inner currency cabal ruled
out “stupid” calls on markets for 340 billion euros of Greek
debt to be restructured, as speculation soared that the
government in Athens could exit the currency area and with
it the EU.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker dismissed
growing claims a write-down would be needed after late-night
talks among G20 eurozone states prompted by worries in the
United States and at the IMF that saw Greek Finance Minister
George Papaconstantinou summoned for what one EU official
described as a dressing-down.
Juncker, the head of the 17-state Eurogroup of currency
partners, said during urgent Friday night talks that
restructuring was “an avenue we would never take.”
“We don’t want to have the euro area exploding without
reason. We were excluding the restructuring option which is
discussed heavily in certain quarters of the financial
markets,” he said.
With yields on Greek government 10-year bonds having leapt
to over 15 percent and on two-year bonds to over 23 percent
on the secondary market, the boomerang nature of the Greek
crisis suggests deep scepticism among investors that they
will be repaid is not going to go away.
Juncker conceded that eurozone finance ministers would
discuss a second re-negotiation of repayment terms on its
year-old 110-billion-euro ($160-billion) bailout -- likely
to stretch well into the next decade at least -- at their
next scheduled talks in Brussels on May 16.
The result will leave ongoing EU efforts to close off a
sorry chapter at a late-June summit looking ever more
Athens owes more than a year-and-a-half of its entire
economic output, which markets consider unsustainable.
‘played ball’ with massacre suspects
(AFP) – Philippine soldiers were accused Saturday of playing
basketball with suspects from the country’s worst political
massacre, causing acute embarrassment to the military.
An inquiry is under way into allegations made by a relative
of one of the 57 people murdered in the November 2009
attack, military spokesman Commodore Miguel Rodriguez said.
“The instructions are, if these people are indeed suspects,
we should arrest them, not play ball with them,” Rodriguez
“The chief of staff (armed forces chief General Eduardo
Oban), was livid and ordered an investigation,” Rodriguez
He said the governor of the southern province of Maguindanao
– whose wife, sister, and several other relatives were among
the massacre victims, had complained to the military over
the alleged incident.
The 2009 killings were an attempt to stop rivals of governor
Esmael Mangudadatu from running for the provincial
Six senior members of Maguindanao’s rival Ampatuan clan,
including the patriarch Andal Ampatuan Snr, are detained
along with 73 other suspects.
But more than 100 others, including three other members of
the Ampatuan clan who were supposedly seen by Mangudadatu
followers playing basketball with soldiers in Maguindanao,
are at large.