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Yemen faces all-out war
Yemen’s embattled president survived an apparent attempt to kill him on Friday as fighting intensified in Sana’a amid warnings that the country is sliding inexorably into all-out war.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, emerged lightly injured but defiant from his compound in the capital after shells or a missile hit a mosque inside, killing three guards and a cleric and injuring two other senior government figures.
The incident fuelled growing anxieties that the Arab uprisings, which have brought dramatic changes to Egypt and Tunisia, are turning Yemen – the Arab world’s poorest country – into something far more volatile and dangerous.
The government accused Saleh’s bitter rival, Hamid al-Ahmar of the opposition Islah party, of launching the attack, and government forces immediately shelled his mansion in Sana’a.
“The al-Ahmars have committed a great crime, and crossed a red line,” said Tareq al-Shami, a government spokesman. “This was an attempted coup, and the government will take all necessary measures.”
Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the powerful Hashid tribal federation, blamed Saleh himself for the shelling, saying it was carried out to help justify the government’s escalation of streetfighting in the capital.
Saleh, who was treated at a military hospital, was reported to be preparing to give a press conference later. An opposition TV station initially reported him dead, which made headlines around the world.
Abdul Ghani al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst, told al-Jazeera TV it was “quite reasonable to assume” that Ahmar’s fighters were behind the palace attack. “[The tribesmen] probably wanted him to know that [Saleh] can no longer attack them with impunity, and that they can reach him as he can reach them,” Iryani said.
Other regional analysts say the chances for a democratic or peaceful transition of power in Yemen are slim.
It was a violent end to a violent week. On Thursday government jets strafed roads and villages north of Sana’a as thousands of tribesmen tried to enter the capital to fight Saleh loyalists. Residents described an atmosphere of fear and alarm at food shortages and rising prices.
Saleh has reneged on a deal brokered by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states under which he would step down in return for an amnesty and free elections.
The US, which has leaned on Saleh in its fight against al-Qaida, has increased pressure for him to go, blaming the bloodshed on his backpedalling from the agreement. Britain and the EU are also pushing hard for him to implement the deal.
The latest violence is likely to persuade Saudi Arabia, which has strong ties with the Yemeni tribes, to press Saleh to step aside, to avert disaster in a country where half the population owns a gun.
The attack on the president came after Friday prayers, with heavy artillery repeatedly striking the presidential compound and shaking nearby buildings.
The streets were deserted after many residents fled the city for the safety of nearby villages.
(The Guardian)

NATO launches helicopter strikes in Libya

NATO has for the first time used attack helicopters in Libya, striking military vehicles, military equipment and forces backing embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi, the military alliance has announced.
“Attack helicopters under NATO command were used for the first time on June 4, 2011 in military operations over Libya as part of Operation Unified Protector,” NATO said in a statement on Saturday.
“The targets struck included military vehicles, military equipment and fielded forces” of the Gaddafi regime, said the statement, without detailing exactly where the strikes had taken place.
“This successful engagement demonstrates the unique capabilities brought to bear by attack helicopters,” Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, commander in chief of the NATO mission in Libya, said.
“We will continue to use these assets whenever and wherever needed, using the same precision as we do in all of our missions,” he added.
France was contributing four Tiger attack helicopters for the NATO operation while Britain offered four Apaches, officials said, adding that the helicopters were being prepared to fly over sea and desert conditions.
The NATO offensive came as Libyan opposition fighters made a major advance towards the capital, Tripoli, after claiming victory in western Libyan towns against forces loyal to Gaddafi.
An opposition military leader said on Friday that local fighters won control of four towns in the western Nafusa mountain range, where government forces had besieged and randomly shelled rebel-held areas for months.
Fighters who had fled then used their knowledge of the area to chip away at the government forces, Colonel Jumaa Ibrahim of the region’s rebel military council told the Associated Press news agency via Skype.
“They know all the hills and valleys, so they were able to trick the brigades and destroy some of their vehicles,” he said.
Opposition fighters also pushed government troops from Shakshuk and Qasr al-Haj, two towns near a key road that runs along the mountain range’s northern edge, Ibrahim said.
After a brutal siege by pro-Gaddafi forces, Misurata, Libya’s third largest city, is now in opposition hands. Opposition fighters there have now pushed halfway to the town of Zlitan, on the way to Tripoli, after taking control of Zintan.
At one stage, their advance came to within 60km of Sirte but the government troops held their line and repelled the attack.
(Al Jazeera)

Iraq has most unsolved murders of journalists: Watchdog
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Unsolved violence against media in Mexico rose sharply in 2010 but Iraq remained worst in the world when it comes to punishing murders of reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists said recently.
The war-wracked country topped the list, published by the New York-based press watchdog to spotlight countries where media killings often go unpunished, for the fourth year running with an unsolved murder rate more than three times that of Somalia, which was next worst.
The CPJ, whose “Impunity Index” calculates the number of unsolved murders of reporters in each country per one million residents, noted grimly that “the countries at the top of the index – Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines – showed either no improvement or even worsening records.”
Overall, 13 countries made the list with five or more unsolved journalist deaths from 2001 until the end of 2010.
Iraq, which has sat a the top of the list since the CPJ first compiled it in 2008, had 92 deaths, equating to a rate of 2.921 unsolved media murders per one million residents.
Somalia, with 10 unsolved murders, was next with 1.099, while the Philippines was third with 56 deaths and a rating of 0.609.
The rest of the list included Sri Lanka with nine unpunished media killings, Colombia with 11, Afghanistan with seven, Nepal with six, Mexico with 13, Russia with 16, Pakistan with 14, Bangladesh with five, Brazil with five and India with seven.
The CPJ in particular noted that anti-press violence was on the rise in Mexico, “Where authorities appear powerless in bringing killers to justice.”

Bombers kill 24 at Iraq mosque, hospital
TIKRIT (AFP) – Bombers killed 24 people in attacks on a mosque in central Iraq frequented by provincial officials and later at a hospital where the victims were being treated, officials said on Saturday.
The attacks came a day after a spate of coordinated bombings in west Iraq killed 10 people, raising questions over the capabilities of Iraqi security forces just before all US forces must pull out.
Friday’s violence in Tikrit, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad, also 75 wounded people including two members of Salaheddin provincial council, a senior policeman and a judge.
“The first attack killed 19 people and we treated 72 wounded,” said a doctor at Tikrit hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A suicide bomb attack on the hospital, timed to coincide with an MP’s visit with the victims, killed a further five and wounded three, he said, adding the lawmaker was unscathed but two of his bodyguards were among the dead.
A provincial security official, who also did not want to be named, confirmed both tolls. An interior ministry official in Baghdad said 23 people were killed and 60 wounded in the two attacks.
The first bomb, hidden inside a fuel canister, detonated as worshippers were leaving the mosque in the tightly secured area of central Tikrit that is home to provincial government offices on the main Muslim day of prayer at around 12:45 pm (0945 GMT).
The suicide attack occurred about eight hours later in the evening, as lawmaker Mutasher al-Samarrai visited victims at the hospital.
Friday’s violence was the worst in Tikrit since a March 29 Al-Qaeda raid on the city’s provincial council offices, which led to a bloody hours-long gun battle with security forces that left 58 people dead.
Tikrit was the hometown of now executed dictator Saddam Hussein and is the capital of mainly Sunni Arab Salaheddin province, which was a key battleground in the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

UN urges Sudan’s immediate pullout from Abyei

Security Council considers Khartoum’s military control over Abyei a “serious violation” of north-south peace accords

The UN Security Council has called on the Khartoum government to withdraw its forces immediately from the Abyei region, a key area of dispute in the north-south division of Sudan next month.
There has been no agreement on which country the oil-producing region should belong to when south Sudan becomes independent on July 9, but the northern military seized it on May 21, sparking fears of a renewed civil war.
“The council demands that the government of Sudan withdraw immediately from the Abyei area,” said a unanimous formal council statement read out at Friday’s meeting of the 15-nation body by Gabon Ambassador Nelson Messone, this month’s president.
The north’s move into Abyei followed an attack the day before on northern troops and UN peacekeepers that the Security Council itself has said was carried out by southern forces. The council has already deplored that attack.
But in its statement on Friday, the council condemned Khartoum’s continued maintenance of military control over Abyei, which it called a “serious violation” of north-south peace accords. The two parts of Sudan ended a 20-year civil war in 2005 and southerners voted for independence in January.
The council warned that failure by Khartoum to comply with the 2005 peace deal could undermine benefits it was due to receive. However, it did not elaborate.
The council’s statement was held up for several days by disagreements between member states over how toughly it should be worded, diplomats said.
(Al Jazeera)

Mladic appears before UN court

THE HAGUE (AFP) – Former Bosnian Serb Army Chief Ratko Mladic Friday faced down war crimes court judges at a first appearance, calling the charges against him “obnoxious” and said he was “simply defending his country.”
“I am General Ratko Mladic,” the markedly thinner, older, yet still defiant former military leader told the Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague.
Mladic, 69, faces 11 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
“I do not fear any journalists or any nation or any country, I defended my country and my people, I now defend Ratko Mladic before you,” he told judges before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
He called charges against him “obnoxious” and told the court he was “gravely ill.”
“I would like to read and receive these obnoxious charges against me,” the man known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” said following his arrest last week after 16 years on the run.
Better known from media images as a stocky commander in combat fatigues, Mladic appeared before a panel of three judges in a grey suit and gold and black tie, and brandishing a sky-blue cap.
“I defended my people and my country,” the ex-general, charged with Europe’s worst atrocities since World War II, insisted from the dock.
“I did not kill Croats as Croats,” Mladic added after saluting the judges with his left hand.
He said he was “a gravely ill man” and needed more time to study the “monstrous words” in the indictment before entering a plea.
But he insisted he did not need help to move around after court guards offered to take his arm and guide him to the dock.