|GATES REBUKES NATO
|Warns of ‘dismal’
|BRUSSELS (AFP) – US Defence Secretary Robert Gates
issued a stinging rebuke to NATO allies Friday, warning
their reliance on US military might is putting the Libya
mission and the alliance’s very future at risk.
Gates painted a bleak picture of the state of the 28-nation
transatlantic alliance, saying it risked a “dismal” future
after years of shrinking budgets that were leaving them
short of munitions in the Libyan air war.
“Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines (in
Libya) do so not because they do not want to participate,
but simply because they cannot. The military capabilities
simply aren’t there,” Gates said in a speech to the Security
and Defence Agenda think-tank in Brussels.
He said the NATO-led ground war in Afghanistan had scored
important accomplishments but said the mission, along with
the Libya war, had reflected chronic underinvestment and at
times a lack of political backbone.
In Afghanistan, Gates said it was worrying that an alliance
with two million in uniform has “struggled, at times
desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000
troops” and faced shortages of helicopters, transport
aircraft, maintenance and surveillance planes.
Gates acknowledged that the Libyan mission has met its
initial military goals of grounding Moamer Kadhafi’s air
force and limiting the regime’s ability to launch attacks
But he said many allies lacked intelligence and surveillance
aircraft and specialists, which meant the US military had to
step in to ensure that allied fighter jets could identify
and strike targets.
“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks
into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a
sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning
to run short of munitions, requiring the US, once more, to
make up the difference,” Gates said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Africa for trade
talks, moved to soften the rebuke, saying the outgoing
Pentagon chief’s remarks “underscored how this alliance, the
greatest alliance in history, cannot get complacent.”
“We all have to step up and share the burdens that we face
in responding to 21st century threats.
Many members are doing just that,” she said, acknowledging
that the United States and its NATO allies are all under
|Kadhafi offered exit
‘guarantees’ amid deadly clashes
– Turkey has offered Moamer Kadhafi guarantees to leave
Libya but has yet to receive a reply, as rebels say loyalist
forces killed 20 people in a fierce assault on Misrata.
Fresh NATO-led strikes sent up plumes of smoke Friday in
Tripoli, where the strongman has his residence and
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his
government had offered exit “guarantees” to the embattled
Libyan leader, whom rebels have been trying to oust since
February following a bloody crackdown on pro-reform
Kadhafi “has no other option than to leave Libya – with a
guarantee to be given to him,” Erdogan said on NTV
“We have given him this guarantee. We have told him we will
help him to be sent wherever he wants to go,” he added,
“Depending on the reply we will get from him, we will take
up the issue with our (NATO) allies, but unfortunately we
have received no reply so far.”
His comments came after a day of deadly fighting near the
port city of Misrata, the rebels’ most significant enclave
in western Libya, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from
Kadhafi’s forces had bombarded the Dafnia area on Misrata’s
outskirts with Grad rockets, heavy artillery and tank
shells, a rebel said.
“Twenty people, both civilians and rebels, were killed and
more than 80 wounded,” in the sector, 35 kilometres (22
miles) from Misrata city centre, he added.
But they had beaten back an attack by loyalist troops,
leaving “dead and wounded among the Kadhafi forces,” he
In the Libyan capital Tripoli, two loud blasts were heard at
about 3:00 pm (1300 GMT), coming from the eastern suburbs of
Tajura and Ain Zara, residents told AFP.
Three powerful explosions shook the city centre at around
midnight. Other more distant blasts followed.
Tripoli has over the past two days been subjected to the
most intense NATO air raids since the international military
campaign was launched on March 19 under a UN mandate to
protect Libyan civilians.
In Paris, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s daughter Aisha
filed a second war crimes complaint against NATO and France
over air strikes that killed family members, including three
infants, her lawyer said.
In Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s special envoy
Mikhail Margelov said he would be visiting Tripoli to try to
find a solution to the conflict, having met the opposition
in their Benghazi stronghold.
commander killed in suicide attack
|KHOST (AFP) – The commander of a provincial Afghan
police rapid reaction force was killed on Saturday in a
suicide attack that also claimed another officer’s life and
wounded 23 people, police said.
The bomber blew himself up in front of the police unit’s
base in the eastern province of Khost on Saturday morning,
Khost deputy police chief, Mohammad Yahqoob Mandozai, told
“The commander of the the unit, Colonel Zaher, along with
one policeman has been killed and 23 others, the majority of
them civilians, have been injured,” Mandozai said.
“The suicide attacker who was waiting outside the base
detonated himself as the vehicle carrying the police
commander exited the base.”
arrest ‘Robin Hood’ burglar
DHAKA (AFP) – A “benevolent burglar” hailed as a
modern-day Robin Hood for donating his ill-gotten gains to
local orphanages has been arrested in southeastern
Bangladesh, police said.
Badiul Haq Nasir, 45, who had earned millions in
well-planned heists, was revered in dozens of villages for
making large donations to orphanages and mosques, local
police chief Babul Akhter told AFP.
“The villagers say he’s a benevolent man – he would help
anyone who needed it,” Akhter said, adding though that Nasir
lived in a “palatial” house and also owned a lot of
The burglar had donated part of the booty of two million
taka ($27,000 dollars) from one recent robbery to a mosque
in his village, Akhter said.
“Nasir is probably the most efficient burglar in the
country. He can break any lock, get into any vault or gold
shop by using a screwdriver and wrench,” Akhter said.
Nasir was arrested on Wednesday following a week-long
manhunt after he was caught on a security camera breaking
into a shop in Bangladesh’s port city of Chittagong.
|CIA chief in bridge-building talks
|ISLAMABAD (AFP) – CIA chief Leon Panetta held talks with
top Pakistani military and intelligence officials in Friday,
an official said, amid a crisis in relations after the
unilateral US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The difficult relationship between the two countries –
allies in the “war on terror” – has come under severe strain
since US commandos swooped on the Al-Qaeda chief’s compound
in city of Abbottabad, home to a military academy.
Panetta’s visit to Islamabad came on the day when the United
States said it had nearly completed a drawdown in military
personnel from Pakistan as demanded by Islamabad after
relations plummeted over last month’s killing of bin Laden.
The CIA chief discussed the security situation with Pakistan
army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Lieutenant General
Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the director general of Pakistan’s
powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, according a
Pakistani security official.
The official confirmed that issues arising out of the bin
Laden operation were also discussed at Friday’s meeting.
There was no official word from the Pakistan army while a
spokesman from the US embassy in Islamabad declined to
Vice Admiral Michael LeFever, US defence representative in
Pakistan, made the announcement about the troop drawdown in
a statement released by the US embassy, but left the door
open to future security assistance.
“We recently received a written request from the government
of Pakistan to reduce the number of US military personnel
here and we have nearly completed that reduction,” said
The United States confirmed on May 25 that it had begun
pulling some American troops out of Pakistan after the
Pakistani military asked for a scaling back.
Most of the US personnel are special forces that train and
advise Pakistani troops as part of a long-running effort to
counter Al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants, who are
concentrated largely in the northwest on the Afghan border.
The withdrawal underscored the crisis between Washington and
Islamabad in the aftermath of a unilateral US raid that
killed bin Laden on May 2, despite US diplomatic efforts to
smooth over tensions.
Pakistan faces mounting American pressure to open a ground
offensive against insurgents in its lawless tribal region.
Washington has called the semi-autonomous region the most
dangerous place on Earth and the global headquarters of
Al-Qaeda, where Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked networks
have carved out strongholds.
|Somali interior minister killed in
|MOGADISHU (AFP) – Somali Interior Minister Abdishakur
Sheikh Hassan was killed Friday in a suicide attack at his
home, apparently carried out by a woman, senior security
officials told AFP.
“The minister died in hospital,” Adan Mohamed said. “The
information we have so far indicates that a young woman, the
minister’s niece, carried out the attack.”
The statement was confirmed by other security sources, who
said the woman had stayed at the minister’s Mogadishu home
for the last three days.
“The minister passed away and was killed in a terrorist
attack,” Information Minister Adulkarim Jama told Radio
A number of other people were also wounded in the explosion
which happened as the minister hosted a meeting with other
colleagues, said a second official, Ibrahim Siyad.
The suicide attack was the third in Mogadishu in less than
two weeks, all claimed by Somalia’s Islamist Shebab rebels,
who are engaged in a protracted battle with the country’s
weak, western-backed government for control of the Horn of
“The leader of the Shebab declared on the Islamic radio
station Alfurqan that they were the perpetrators of the
attack that killed the interior minister,” the station
The Shebab are currently facing an unprecedented offensive
launched the by the transitional government and backed by
the African Union peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu
Soldier were immediately deployed to reenforce the areas of
Mogadishu currently under government control in case of
further attacks, residents said.
counterintelligence agents to Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US military is sending 80
counterintelligence agents to Afghanistan to help stem the
threat of Taliban infiltration in the Afghan security
forces, The New York Times reported late Friday.
They will enhance the vetting of recruits, review profiles
of soldiers being trained, the paper reported, citing
unnamed military officials.
They will also generally work to improve procedures to
identify those most vulnerable to recruitment by the Taliban
and its supporters.
Some of the agents have already arrived, and the rest are
expected soon, the newspeper noted, citing Lieutenant
Colonel David Simons, a spokesman for the NATO Training
Mission in Afghanistan.
Fighting between the Taliban and US-led NATO troops in
Afghanistan has become deadlier each year since the 2001
Washington sent an extra 30,000 American troops onto the
battlefield last year in a bid to deliver a decisive blow.
The 130,000 international troops today in the country are
due to start limited withdrawals from July, with the Afghan
police and army scheduled to take control of security
gradually before the end of 2014.
surgery in Cuba
CARACAS (AFP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
underwent surgery in Cuba on Friday to treat an abscess in
his pelvic area and is recovering, Foreign Minister Nicolas
According to Maduro, the surgery was performed early Friday
in Havana and had “satisfactory results for the health” of
the Venezuelan leader, who had already “begun the recovery
Chavez has been on an official visit to Cuba since
Maduro said the abscess was discovered during a medical
check-up performed on Chavez “by a trustworthy medical
The check-up “revealed the existence of an abscess in the
pelvic area, which prompted President Hugo Chavez to decide
to immediately undergo a corrective surgical procedure,” the
Chavez also urged the Venezuelan people to “continue
consolidating the Bolivarian Revolution” during his
Last month, the 56-year-old Venezuelan leader was sidelined
by a knee injury that forced him to stay away from public
events for nearly a month.