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Pakistani and Afghan Taliban Unify in Face of U.S. Influx
By CARLOTTA GALL
Published: March 26, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – After agreeing to bury their differences and unite forces, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive in Afghanistan as the United States prepares to send 17,000 more troops there this year.
In interviews, several Taliban fighters based in the border region said preparations for the anticipated influx of American troops were already being made. A number of new, younger commanders have been preparing to step up a campaign of roadside bombings and suicide attacks to greet the Americans, the fighters said.
The refortified alliance was forged after the reclusive Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, sent emissaries to persuade Pakistani Taliban leaders to join forces and turn their attention to Afghanistan, Pakistani officials and Taliban members said.
How the West lost its way in the East
Kabul was taken in days, but then the ‘liberation of Afghanistan’ became a slow-motion disaster. Patrick Cockburn, who has reported on the conflict since 2001, charts the fatal mistakes
Friday, 27 March 2009
After seven long years in which it seemed a sideshow to the bigger conflict in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan has reached a critical point. The US must now choose how far it will become further embroiled in a messy conflict which affects its relations with Pakistan, India and the wider Middle East including Iran. At a moment when the world is convulsed by the worst economic disaster since 1929, Washington will have to decide if it really wants to invest time, money, military and political resources in beating back the ragged bands of Taliban who increasingly control southern Afghanistan.
At the end of last year, the White House was talking about repeating what was deemed to have been the success of the “surge” in Iraq. Some 30,000 extra US troops were sent to Iraq pursuing more aggressive tactics and the Sunni Arab insurgency seemed to wind down soon after. But the real turning point in Iraq was probably the defeat of the Sunni Arabs by the Shia. Nothing of this sort is likely to undermine the Taliban in Afghanistan just as their guerrilla attacks are inflicting more casualties than ever.
Evacuations ordered as Fargo levee cracks form
Red River could crest at 43 feet on Saturday; sandbaggers try to go higher
FARGO, N.D. – Officials ordered the evacuation of one neighborhood and a nursing home late Thursday after authorities found cracks in an earthen levee built to protect the area from the threat of the rising Red River.
Residents were not in immediate danger, and floodwaters were not flowing over the levee, Mayor Dennis Walaker said Thursday night. The evacuation was being enforced as a precaution.
Officers were going door to door to the roughly 40 homes in the River Vili neighborhood and were evacuating Riverview Estates nursing home. Authorities also called for the voluntary evacuation of about 1,000 people who live between the main dikes and backups in various parts of the city. That evacuation could become mandatory, officials said.
Vows of hope for a dwindling Catholic community
One black veil represents a future for Maryland’s Oblate Sisters of Providence, the nation’s oldest religious order of African American women.
By Scott Calvert
March 27, 2009
Reporting from Catonsville, Md. — As incense smoke danced in the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows, Anthonia Nwoga knelt in the hushed chapel for the long-awaited moment. It took but a few seconds. Off came the white veil she had worn for the last year. On went a black one that she may keep for life.
Taking the black veil this week signified Nwoga’s first profession of vows — a key step toward a permanent commitment to the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the nation’s oldest religious order of African American women, founded in Baltimore 180 years ago.
For this Roman Catholic congregation, Our Lady of Mount Providence, based since 1961 in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville, Nwoga’s decision brings a dose of hope at a time of declining numbers at religious orders. In the last year and a half, 10 elderly sisters have died. But Nwoga is one of only a few to don the black veil in recent years.
“Our newly professed sister,” declared the order’s superior general, Sister Annette Beecham, presenting Nwoga to about 80 applauding guests, including a few women wearing vibrantly colored Nigerian head scarves.
Out of Africa
Chris McGreal began reporting from Africa at a time of profound change. He witnessed both the unbridled optimism of Nelson Mandela’s release and the horrors of the Rwandan genocide. Two decades later, in his final dispatch, he relives the moments that affected him most deeply, and asks what the future holds for this great continent
The Guardian, Friday 27 March 2009
They were the best of times in Africa, and the worst. They were the years when South Africa was swept away by the belief that it was a nation blessed, a moral beacon to the world, symbolised by a single moment as Nelson Mandela stood outside a small KwaZulu school in April 1994, dropped his vote into the ballot box with a cross next to his own name, and undid what an entire system had been constructed to prevent.
The world swooned as the great man was sworn in as president a few days later and the white generals, who had built a fearsome military and battled across the hinterland of southern Africa to avoid this day, turned to salute him. True, the ideal of the “rainbow nation” was more a vision than an expectation, some might say a self delusion, given South Africa’s knotty mix of race and history. Yet the belief and hope of those years was contagious and the infection spread across Africa.
Taxi troubles in South Africa
Posted by Shashank
I’ve been in Johannesburg for the past week, and I’ve been reminded of my first time here, back in 2005, just a few weeks after I’d arrived in Africa. I was driving a junker rental car on a mostly empty highway late on a Sunday afternoon, and I was trying to convince my then-girlfriend seated next to me that I’d figured out how to drive a stick-shift (automatic transmission driving is the curse of a Southern California upbringing).
I’d stopped at a red light on a slight incline, and when the light turned green I stalled trying to get into first. A split-second later we were hit from the back and the car lurched forward. I turned around and saw it was a minibus taxi. Your instinct is to get out and inspect the damage, but when I moved to open the door, my girlfriend asked if I was crazy. “Drive,” she ordered, and I did.
This was my introduction to the terror of the South African “taxis,” who routinely run red lights, careen across lanes, clip other vehicles and, occasionally, run people over.
Torture victim Binyam Mohamed: don’t scapegoat MI5 officer
Richard Norton-Taylor and Ian Cobain
The Guardian, Friday 27 March 2009
A British resident who says he was tortured before being sent to Guantánamo Bay said yesterday he may give evidence on behalf of an MI5 officer to ensure that senior figures within the government are held to account for any involvement in his treatment.
Binyam Mohamed spoke to the Guardian after the attorney general called in the Metropolitan police to investigate claims that MI5 had colluded in his interrogation.
Mohamed said he was determined that the officer, known only as Officer B, should not be scapegoated. “It’s very important that we get to the truth, for everyone in the future,” he said.
Women told: ‘You have dishonoured your family, please kill yourself’
As Turkey cracks down on ‘honour killings’, women are now told to commit suicide
By Ramita Navai in Batman, eastern Turkey
Friday, 27 March 2009
When Elif’s father told her she had to kill herself in order to spare him from a prison sentence for her murder, she considered it long and hard. “I loved my father so much, I was ready to commit suicide for him even though I hadn’t done anything wrong,” the 18-year-old said. “But I just couldn’t go through with it. I love life too much.”
All Elif had done was simply decline the offer of an arranged marriage with an older man, telling her parents she wanted to continue her education. That act of disobedience was seen as bringing dishonour on her whole family – a crime punishable by death. “I managed to escape. When I was at school, a few girls I knew were killed by their families in the name of honour – one of them for simply receiving a text message from a boy,” Elif said.
Israel suspected of bombing Sudan arms convoy headed for Gaza
From The Times
March 27, 2009
James Hider in Jerusalem
Israeli jets carried out a long-range bombing mission against a convoy in Sudan that was suspected of bringing arms from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, it emerged yesterday.
Sudan confirmed that an illegal arms convoy was destroyed by an airstrike near the Egyptian border at the height of the war in Gaza in January. It declined to identify which country had launched the attack.
The American news network CBS, citing US defence sources, said that the raid had been carried out by Israeli long-range fighter-bombers at the same time that Israel was hammering the Gaza Strip in an attempt to stop Hamas militants firing rockets into southern Israel.
Seventeen trucks full of weapons were destroyed and 39 people – Sudanese, Eritrean and Ethiopian smugglers – were killed.
Jihadi dispute points to deeper radicalism among youths
A leading jihadi theologian – and adviser to the late leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq – is under fire for ‘moderating’ his views.
By Caryle Murphy | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the March 27, 2009 edition
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – In yet another fissure within radical Islamist networks, one of the world’s most influential jihadi theologians is coming under fire from some former followers for allegedly moderating his views – a claim he denies.
The attacks on Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who was spiritual adviser for the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, are significant because of Mr. Maqdisi’s longtime stature as a revered spiritual mentor who legitimizes violence with his religious interpretations of Islamic sacred texts.
For some outside experts, the bitter verbal dispute in jihadi online forums is alarming because it heralds the emergence of an even more radicalized younger generation of violent extremists.
“There’s a new radical generation growing today” and it “is a product of the American occupation of Iraq,” says Murad Batal al-Shishani, a London-based analyst of Islamic groups.
Indonesia dam burst kills dozens
A dam has burst south-west of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, killing at least 50 people.
Witnesses said a “horrifying” flash flood of water up to 4m (13ft) deep engulfed hundreds of homes in Cirendeu in the Tangerang district.
Officials say they expect the death toll to rise.
It is not clear what caused the dam to burst, but an official said the Situ Gintung lake behind the dam became overloaded after hours of heavy rain.
Thick mud is hampering rescue teams, but the waters have now begun to recede.
The incident happened at about 0200 local time (1900 GMT) in what is a popular tourist area.
A surge of water laden with debris slammed into the suburb of small, poorly built houses, sweeping away cars and toppling telephone lines.
“People were still sleeping and couldn’t do anything,” local official Danang Susanto told the AFP news agency.
In Pakistan, fighting terrorists the five-star way
An attack in September killed 50 people at this Islamabad Marriott. Now it’s open again with intense security, deep discounts and plenty of available rooms.
By Mark Magnier
March 27, 2009
Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan — I’m living on the edge and doing my bit to make sure the terrorists don’t win — from the cloud-like, pillow-swamped bed of a luxury hotel.
As a correspondent, I’ve stayed in some shaky places over the years, from camping beneath Iraqi underpasses during the U.S.-led invasion to tenting it in an abandoned nunnery in East Timor amid civil war. So my hardship post rattling around in the five-star Marriott Hotel in Islamabad recently is about as good as it gets for danger duty.
Room service, please. Oh stop, not another mint on my pillow.
It’s all a cakewalk, as long as you don’t stop and think where you are: the site of a horrific attack in September that killed more than 50 people in the Pakistani capital. Somewhat understandably, the images beamed around the world of an explosives-packed truck ramming the security gate have damped customer enthusiasm.