|Yemen faces all-out
|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
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
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.
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
“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
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
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
At one stage, their advance came to within 60km of Sirte but
the government troops held their line and repelled the
|Iraq has most unsolved murders of
|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
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
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
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
The suicide attack occurred about eight hours later in the
evening, as lawmaker Mutasher al-Samarrai visited victims at
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
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
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.
|Mladic appears before
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
“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