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| FRIDAY MAY 22 2009

news without borders

Pakistan captures Taliban base, struggles with refugees
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday boasted of a military victory in a small Taliban stronghold but struggled to provide for 1.5 million people who fled its onslaught as fears grow of a lengthening crisis. The military ordered the offensive last month under US pressure to crush rebels in the northwest, which Washington said threatened the very existence of the Muslim country and posed the greatest terror threat to the West. Government troops have been battling fighters around Sultanwas – a small town under Taliban control in Buner district – for some time, but the military claimed to have regained control and killed 80 rebels in a fierce assault. “Security forces cleared Sultanwas last night after intense clashes. Reportedly 80 militants were killed,” the military said in a statement. Witness reports of heavy fighting in Buner this week have embarrassed claims from the interior minister on Sunday that operations there had ended. As the conflict ploughs on, concerns are mounting about how to cope with the displaced, uprooted in what rights groups have called Pakistan’s biggest movement of people since partition from India in 1947. Tens of thousands of people are living in government-run camps, crammed into tents in the scorching summer heat with poor sanitation. “Life in this camp is even worse than the life of animals,” said Amna Rashid, a student sheltering at a camp near the town of Mardan. “When I leave my tent, camp staff look at me as if I were a call girl. It is really disgusting and painful,” she said by telephone. “Neither we nor the government expected this number of refugees, of IDPs (internally displaced persons),” said Rienk Van Velzen, a spokesman for aid group World Vision. The US defence People displaced from representative in Isrestive Buner region of lamabad, Rear Admiral Malakand agency, return Michael LeFever, said to their native villages Pakistani authorities after the army cleared expected large numbers the area of militants. of displaced people would remain at the temporary camps to the end of the year. “It appears that this will last, they say they anticipate this population in IDP camps to last through December,” LeFever told reporters in Washington in a teleconference. The United Nations said that around 1.5 million people left their homes this month and NEW YORK: Four men appeared in a US federal registered with authorities, joincourt yesterday to face charges linked with planing about 550,000 IDPs who fled ning attacks against a Jewish synagogue and US previous bouts of fighting in the warplanes based at a New York military base, troubled northwest. – AFP prosecutors said.

Four arrested for planning terror attacks in New York
were Muslim and that some had converted to Islam in prison. In their efforts to obtain weapons for the attack, the defendants dealt with an informant from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who provided the group “with an inactive missile and inert explosives.” In June 2008, Cromitie told an FBI informant about his anger over the US-led war in Afghanistan. The suspect then “expressed an interest in doing ‘something to America’,” the complaint said. Beginning in October 2008, the informant began meeting with the four men at a house in which the FBI had concealed video and audio equipment. The group “expressed desire” to attack targets in New York, and Cromitie “asked the informant to supply surface-to-air guided missiles and explosives,” court documents said. In April 2009, the group agreed on the synagogue they intended to attack and proceeded to conduct surveillance, including taking photographs of the warplanes at the military base. “As alleged in the complaint, the defendants wanted to engage in terrorist attacks,” said acting US attorney Lev L Dassin. “Fortunately, the defendants sought the assistance of a witness cooperating with the government. While the weapons provided to the defendants were fake, the defendants thought they were absolutely real.” – AFP

Egyptian tycoon gets death for murder
CAIRO: Egyptian construction magnate Hesham Talaat Moustafa (pix) was sentenced to death yesterday for the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim in Dubai, court sources said. Moustafa, former chairman of the Talaat Moustafa Group and a prominent politician, had been accused of paying security man Muhsen el-Sukkari US$2 million (RM 7.2 million) to stab Tamim to death at her house in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on July 28. Sukkari was also sentenced to death in the case, and the men’s files were referred to Egyptian religious authorities for review, as normal in capital cases in Egypt. The indictment had accused Sukkari of killing Tamim after tricking her into opening the door of her Dubai apartment by posing as a representative of the building owners. He then attacked her with a knife. It accused Moustafa of participating in the crime through “incitement, agreement and assistance” in the killing. The evidence included tape recordings of telephone calls between Moustafa and Sukkari, security video footage from the Dubai apartment and DNA from the bloodied clothes that Sukkari was accused of leaving close to the scene of the crime. – Reuters

The group, residing in New York, where Al Qaeda extremists with hijacked commercial airliners destroyed the World Trade Centre on Sept 11, 2001, were arrested on Wednesday on charges of plotting to detonate explosives near a synagogue in the Bronx borough of New York, according to court documents. The men, who according to a US congressman were all born in the United States, also “planned to shoot down military planes located at the New York Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, with Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles,” officials said. The suspects – identified as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen – were all residents of Newburgh and had been tracked for over a year, officials said. They were set to appear in federal court in White Plains, New York yesterday. The charges hold a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Three of the men were of Arabic descent and one of Haitian descent, according to New York Governor David Paterson. They all used Arab aliases. New York Representative Peter King said the men

Intruder had ‘vision’ Suu Kyi in danger: Lawyer
YANGON: The American man at the centre of the trial against Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi swam to her house after having a vision that her life was in danger, Suu Kyi’s lawyers said yesterday. Yesterday’s session heard the first hint of a motive for John Yettaw’s bizarre actions two weeks ago that could see Suu Kyi jailed for up to five years if she is found guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest. Nyan Win, a member of her defence team, said Yettaw had made the comments on Tuesday as the court heard testimony from a police officer who had questioned the American. “I had come to Myanmar to warn Myanmar authorities and Suu Kyi against that danger,” Nyan Win quoted the 53-year-old as saying. – Reuters

yesterday, as an opposition lawmaker was forced to quit after claiming £1,600 (RM8,800) for a “duck island”. Senior Conservative MP Sir Peter Viggers bought the wooden structure – providing a comfortable retreat for ducks in the middle of a garden pond – for his home in Hampshire, southern England, The Daily Telegraph newspaper said. “I spoke to him and I said ‘you are going to announce immediately your retirement or I will remove the Conservative whip’ and he has announced immediately his retirement,” Conservative leader David Cameron said. – AFP

Obama defiant on Gitmo closure, slams Bush ‘mess’
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama yesterday vowed no retreat on closing Guantanamo Bay despite raging debate, branding the camp a “mess” and charging Bush-era anti-terror tactics were rooted in fear and ideology. In a major speech designed to grab back control of an acrimonious debate over national security policies, Obama also raised the prospect of holding the most dangerous Al Qaeda detainees indefinitely in US “super-max” jails. Minutes after the speech, former vice-president Dick Cheney defended Bush policies in his own televised speech, saying he would make the same decisions again “without hesitation”. – AFP

‘Duck island’ sinks Tory in British expenses row
LONDON: Britain’s political expenses row threw up a new embarrassing revelation