|Deaths rise as fresh
protests rock Syria
|Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 17
people, including a 16-year-old boy, during fresh
anti-government protests, activists say.
The Local Co-ordination Committee, a group that documents
the demonstrations, said nine people were killed in the
central city of Homs, two in Harasta, a suburb of the
capital Damascus, and one in the northern city of Aleppo,
while a teen died in the southern village of Dael.
Fresh protests were also reported from Hama, Deraa, Der
al-Zour, Jableh and other cities after morning prayers on
An activist said security forces had opened fire on
protesters in the coastal city of Baniyas.
“There was intense firing to disperse the demonstrations in
Baniyas and there were casualties” among the protesters,
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian
Observatory of Human Rights, told the AFP news agency.
Other activists reported that heavy machine gunfire had been
heard in the Bab Tudmor area in Homs, and witnesses said
security forces had dispersed a protest in Latakia.
Syrian state television reported that a policeman was killed
and more than 20 were wounded when “armed groups” opened
fire at them.
Six police officers were also wounded in the eastern town of
Deir el-Zour when gunmen attacked a police station there,
the report said.
Tensions were also reported in neighbouring Lebanon, where
about 200 people protested against Bashar al-Assad, the
Syrian president, in the northern city of Tripoli.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, the Lebanese
capital, said four people were killed in clashes that broke
out amid the Tripoli demonstration.
Earlier, Mustafa Osso, a Syria-based rights activist, said a
large numbers of soldiers had entered the northern town of
Maarrat an-Numan early on Friday morning.
Omar Idilbi, another activist, said troops were in full
control of the town, which the army surrounded a day earlier
along with nearby Khan Shaykhun on the main north-south road
linking Damascus and Aleppo.
The military action came as European Union officials
confirmed they were planning to add more firms and a dozen
people to a list of targeted asset freezes and travel bans
that already includes President Assad and key allies.
“France supports an expansion of the European sanctions
against Syria to economic entities,” Bernard Valero, a
French foreign ministry spokesman, said.
He said Syrian banks and private firms linked to regime
figures could be hit.
Earlier, Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, appealed to the Syrian
president to halt the crackdown on demonstrations. - (Al
|Radiation spike halts Fukushima
|Operator of Japan’s stricken nuclear power unable to
remove pools of radioactive water at risk of spilling into
|(Al Jazeera) – The operator of Japan’s stricken
Fukushima nuclear power plant has suspended an operation to
clean up radioactive water only hours after it had begun as
radiation levels rose faster than expected.
The plan had got under way on Friday after being delayed by
a series of glitches.
“The level of radiation at a machine to absorb caesium has
risen faster than our initial projections,” a spokesman for
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), said on Saturday.
“At the moment, we haven’t specified the reason so we can’t
say when we can resume the operation. But I’d say it’s not
something that would take weeks.”
The official said teams working at the plant believed the
radiation rise could be linked to sludge flowing into the
machinery intended to absorb ceasium. Another cause could be
pipes surrounding it.
A resumption, the official said, was critical to deal with
the highly radioactive water is stored there.
“Unless we can resume the operation within a week, we will
have problems in disposing of the contaminated water,” the
“But if this is caused by the reasons we are thinking, we
can resume the operation within a week.”
The official said TEPCO foresaw no delay in its overall plan
to bring the Fukushima Daiichi plant fully under control by
the end of the year. The plan calls for a shutdown of its
three unstable reactors by January 2012.
|S Korea troops fire at passenger plane
Troops shoot at jet flying from China with 119 people on
board after mistaking it for a N Korean aircraft
|(Al Jazeera) – South Korean troops have fired at a
passenger airliner flying from China with 119 people on
board after mistaking it for a North Korean aircraft, South
Korean military and aviation officials say.
Soldiers manning a guard post on Gyodong island, off the
western coast of South Korea, fired their K-2 rifles towards
the jet, which was descending as it approached Seoul’s
Incheon International Airport, the officials said on
“The firing continued about 10 minutes but the plane was too
far off the rifle’s range and it did not receive any
damage,” the South’s Yonhap news agency quoted a Marine
Corps official as saying.
“When the plane appeared over Jumun island, soldiers mistook
it as a North Korean military aircraft and fired.”
The aircraft was flying southeast over Jumun island, 12km
south of Gyodong, towards Incheon. Gyodong lies just 1.7km
south of the North Korean coast.
An aviation controller told the AFP news agency that the
Asiana flight from was following a normal route. Asiana is a
S Korean owned airline.
“It was flying normally. It did not deviate from its normal
route,” the controller said.
The incident on Friday took place close to the tense sea
border between the Koreas amid heightened tensions between
Seoul in the South and Pyongyang in the North.
South Korean soldiers had been alerted to possible
provocative acts by North Korea amid simmering cross-border
Don Kirk, from Christian Science Monitor, based in Seoul,
told Al Jazeera that S Korean troops claimed the plane was
off course, that they couldn’t identify it so fired at it.
“They fired 99 shots, the aircraft was not damaged as it was
well out of range,” he said.
|Karachi ‘video killers’ in court
(BBC News) – Seven men, six of them soldiers, have appeared
in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court in connection with the
killing of an unarmed man in the city of Karachi.
The killing of Sarfaraz Shah was filmed by a TV cameraman
and widely broadcast by Pakistani channels.
The soldiers belong to a paramilitary unit and are in jail
awaiting formal charges. Pakistani prosecutors say they will
pursue murder charges.
A security guard from the park where Shah was killed is also
Police say they have completed their investigation into the
incident and the case now rests with the prosecutors.
“We have been handed over the charges against the men by the
police,” public prosecutor Arshad Iqbal Cheema told the BBC.
“We are examining them and will present them in court once
we have been satisfied.”
The strongest piece of evidence is the video footage
recorded by a cameraman for Awaz (The Voice) TV, a local
The footage, which surfaced last week, showed Sarfaraz Shah,
wearing a black T-shirt, being dragged by his hair in a
public park by a man in plain clothes and pushed towards a
group of Sindh Rangers who are in uniform and armed.
He pleads for his life as one of the Rangers points a gun at
his neck and a little later a Ranger shoots him twice at
close range, hitting him in the thigh. The young man is seen
writhing on the ground, bleeding heavily and begging for
The paramilitaries did nothing to help him. He died from his
The Rangers say he was caught trying to rob someone. His
family denies this.
Police said they recovered a fake pistol, which Shah was
carrying, as well as the two bullets which killed him. They
have also interviewed 17 witnesses.
The video prompted further widespread criticism of the
Pakistani security establishment, which is already under
fire for the recent killing of a journalist, Saleem Shahzad.
Journalists, politicians and rights activists have accused
the army’s intelligence service, the ISI, of the murder, a
charge which the ISI denies.
|Libya unrest: Government claims talks
Libya’s prime minister has said his
government has been in talks with the rebels, despite
denials from the other side.
Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi called for new negotiations between
the government and rebel leaders to resolve the conflict.
He also accused Nato of crimes against humanity in its
attacks on Libya.
Earlier, Libyan rebels said that 10 civilians had been
killed and 40 wounded in a rocket attack by Col Gaddafi’s
forces on Misrata.
“Our doors are open to all and we are in contact with all
the parties,” Mr Mahmudi said, according to Agence
He said meetings had taken place in Egypt, France, Norway
and Tunisia, and that he could “name the persons” who
attended from the rebels’ side.
But Mahmoud Jibril, the head of international affairs in the
rebel National Transitional Council, said earlier on Friday
that there had been “no negotiation” between the council and
Speaking in Naples after meeting Italian Foreign Minister
Franco Frattini, he said that were negotiations to take
place, the TNC would “announce it out of commitment to our
friends all over the world.”
He added: “We pursue every means possible, whether
political, whether military, to liberate our country and
establish democratic government based on a constitution and
The prime minister’s comments came as Nato planes carried
out further raids on the capital, Tripoli, attacks which Mr
al-Mahmudi said constituted war crimes.
He called for “an urgent meeting” of the United Nations to
examine “these crimes committed by Nato against Libyan
On Friday, Libyan government forces bombarded the western
rebel-held city of Misrata and territory held by rebel
fighters between Dafniya and Zlitan.
These are the next towns on the road to Tripoli from
Misrata, as the rebels continued trying to advance westwards
following weeks of being besieged by Gaddafi forces.
Ambulances ferried wounded rebel fighters from the front
line west of Misrata
The rebels returned fire from the front line, about 32km (20
miles) from Misrata, with their own artillery and rocket
A rebel commander, Mohammed Ali, said they had been aiming
at tanks and munitions stores in Naima, near Zlitan, but the
plan had gone awry.
“They shot when they weren’t supposed to shoot and they have
ruined it,” he told the Reuters news agency.
Nato military spokesman Wing Cdr Mike Bracken told reporters
that there were “some positive signs that civilians are
unifying against the Gaddafi regime” in the area.
What started as a peaceful uprising against Col Gaddafi’s
41-year-rule four months ago has grown into a civil war,
with the rebels now holding a third of the country in the
east and pockets in the west, including Misrata.
Tripoli remains firmly under the control of the government,
despite Nato launching more daytime air strikes.
Following fresh air raids on Friday, Libyan state TV
broadcast an audio message from Col Gaddafi, in which he
shouted: “We are in our country and we are determined to
stay and defend it. We are staying, we are staying. Let them
even use nuclear bombs.”
|Morocco reforms to cut monarch’s
King Mohammed VI proposes
constitutional changes that will whittle down his powers,
but keep his role as power-broker
|(Al Jazeera) – Morocco’s king has announced a series of
proposed changes to the country’s constitution, including
amendments that would strip him of some of his political
The changes, announced by King Mohammed VI in a live address
to the nation on Friday, will be put to a referendum on July
“We have managed to develop a new democratic constitutional
charter,” the king said, adding that the constitution
“enshrines a citizenship-based monarchy”.
The proposed amendments would provide for the strengthening
of the authority of the country’s prime minister and
The prime minister would become the “president of the
government”, and would be able to appoint government
officials – an authority previously held only by the king.
The new “president of the government” would also be able to
dissolve parliament, the king announced, another role
previously accorded only to Mohammed VI.
The new constitution ensures the prime minister is selected
from the party that received the most votes in election,
rather than just chosen by the king.
The reforms also strengthen parliament, allowing it to
launch investigations into officials with the support of
just one-fifth of its members or to begin a censure motion
against a minister with the backing of a third, rather than
needing the unanimous approval demanded by the current
The judiciary, which has long been criticised for lacking
independence, would be governed by a supreme council
composed of judges and the head of the national human rights
council. The justice minister would not be on the council.
“We encourage a parliamentary authority that is ready to
make sure that parliament makes final legislative
decisions,” the king said. “This parliament has the ability
to question any official in the country.”
However, the king would remain a key power-broker in the
security, military and religious fields.
The king will continue to chair two key councils – the
Council of Ministers and the Supreme Security Council –
which make security policy. The prime minister can chair
these councils, but only using an agenda set by the king.
Nabila Ramdani, a writer and analyst on North African
issues, told Al Jazeera that the address was an attempt by
the king to defuse popular anger in the country.
“There are bleak socio-economic conditions in Morocco, as
well as a lack of fundamental human rights, and he is trying
to avoid an expression of the anger we have seen on the
streets of many Arab countries,” she said.
“There is also a gap between how the world views Morocco,
and the largely dismissed internal problems of illiteracy,
corruption, and unemployment.”
The king’s speech comes in the wake of nationwide pro-reform
demonstrations that began in February, inspired by other
popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.