Afghanistan: Italian workers held in assassination plot

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Afghan authorities have arrested three Italian medical workers in a plot to assassinate the governor of the southern Helmand province.

The three workers were arrested Saturday along with six Afghans from a hospital run by Milan-based Emergency in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.

Emergency is one of the few foreign-run clinics in the city.

The nine were planning to conduct suicide attacks in the province, said Daud Ahmad, the provincial governor’s spokesman.

Authorities said the suspects had taken $500,000 from the Pakistan Taliban to launch their attack in a crowded location when Gov. Gulab Mangal was present.

Authorities found two suicide vests, two pistols and explosives hidden in medicine cartons at the clinic, Ahmad said.

Emergency has maintained a presence in Afghanistan for more than a decade, with its Lashkar Gah clinic treating more than 66,000 people, the group said.

via Italian workers held in Afghan assassination plot –

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UK: Charity praised by PM and Prince Charles, linked to Hamas

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A CHARITY praised last week by Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales has channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to groups linked to Hamas, the banned terrorist organisation, according to security sources.The Prime Minister and the heir to the throne personally praised Muslim Aid, whose own accounts show it has paid at least £325,000 to the Islamic University of Gaza, where leading Hamas figures teach, and £13,998 to the al-Ihsan Charitable Society, designated by the US government as a “sponsor of terrorism” and a front for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

Security sources also claim that Muslim Aid has helped channel a further £210,600 to six other organisations in the Gaza Strip since July 2009, all of which they say are linked to Hamas.

Muslim Aid is banned from the West Bank by the Israeli government, which says it is a member of the Union of Good, an alliance of charities that raise money for Hamas. Hamas is banned throughout the EU as a designated terrorist organisation.

… Muslim Aid, based at the hardline East London Mosque, has close links to the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), a fundamentalist Muslim group based in the same offices.

Muslim Aid raised more than £24 million last year and has been given at least £830,000 of public money. It claims to serve humanity “regardless of political affiliation” and only supports lawful organisations.

via Muslim Aid: the Hamas connection – Telegraph Blogs.

IFE is the organization which boasts of having penetrated Labour party in Tower Hastings (more here), a borough near London (see Channel 4’s Dispatches program here).

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Kyrgyz: New government to shut US base? (U)

Roza Otunbaeva

This is an update on this story:

Kyrgyzstan’s self-proclaimed new leaders thanked Russia on Thursday for helping to oust President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and said they aimed to close a US air base that supplies forces in Afghanistan.

Omurbek Tekebayev, a former Kyrgyz opposition leader who took charge of constitutional matters in the new government, said that “Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev.”

“You’ve seen the level of Russia’s joy when they saw Bakiyev gone,” he told Reuters.

“So now there is a high probability that the duration of the US air base’s presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened.”

…Russia’s top general said 150 paratroopers had been sent to Russia’s Kant base in Kyrgyzstan, and Medvedev’s office said they would protect Russian citizens at its embassy and other diplomatic facilities.

via New Kyrgyz government to shut US base – Arab News.

So, it’s clear that Russia (Mr. Putin particularly) played an important role in yesterday’s riots. Has Obama something to say about this?

(U) La Russophobe has more about the acknowledged support for the “revolt” by Russia.

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Kyrgyzstan riots: opposition protesters seize power

National emblem of Kyrgyzstan

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Activists seized the parliament building and laid siege to the government headquarters. The deputy prime minister was taken hostage and there were reports from police that the interior minister had been killed. The main state television station was overrun and by early afternoon the president had declared a state of emergency.

Reports suggested about 100 people were killed and hundreds more wounded, although the death toll was expected to rise with witnesses describing piles of dead bodies in the streets.

Last night a Kyrgyz opposition leader announced on state radio that Daniyar Usenov, the prime minister, had signed a letter of resignation. It was also announced that a provisional government had been formed with a former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva, at its head.

…The US State Department later said it had no information that the government had fallen and for the moment they believed Mr Bakiyev was still in power. Last night a US military official said flights had been suspended from the airbase amid the riots.

…“Russia and the United States have been competing for influence for a long time and have airbases just a few miles apart, so it is an active centre of the Great Game right now between the powers of Russia, China and the US,” said Chris Weafer, the chief strategist at Uralsib bank in Moscow.

He said living standards in Kyrgyzstan, where many families depended on money sent back from relatives working in Russia, had fallen sharply because of the economic crisis and that had probably triggered the unrest.

via Kyrgyzstan riots: opposition protesters seize power – Telegraph.

Russia has had to deny that they have triggered the unrest. Speaking about meddling in foreign affairs… More about this in TIME:

The struggle (between US and Russia) came to a head in February of last year, when the Kyrgyz handed the U.S. military base an eviction notice just weeks after Russia provided the impoverished country with a $2 billion loan and $150 million in aid. Russia denied any link between the two events, but U.S. officials saw it differently. Washington soon reached a deal with Kyrgyz leaders to keep the base open — in exchange for a tripling of the yearly rental to $60 million, among other conditions.

… Putin vehemently denied the allegation at a press conference in the Russian city of Smolensk on Wednesday, saying the events in Kyrgyzstan had caught him by surprise. He added, however, that Kyrgyz President Bakiev had made many mistakes since coming to power in what is known as the Tulip Revolution five years ago. “When President Bakiev came to power, he very harshly criticized the deposed President, [Askar] Akayev, for his family values, for the fact that his relatives had positions throughout the Kyrgyz economy. I have the impression that Mr. Bakiev has been stepping on the same rakes,” he said, alluding to the fact that Bakiev appointed his family members, including his son, to top government posts. A Kremlin source told Russia’s Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Bakiev “would not be welcome in Moscow.”

The U.S. State Department was quick to issue a statement saying its air base in Kyrgyzstan was “functioning normally.” “We are continuing to monitor the circumstances. We continue to think the government remains in power,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement on Wednesday. But that view is beginning to seem untenable: Bakiev has already fled the country, and the opposition says it is forming a new government. How amenable that government would be to the U.S. presence in Kyrgyzstan remains to be seen. What is certain is that the struggle for influence between Russia and the U.S. may again heat up in Central Asia.

NYT worries about the fate that awaits to the US military base.

Also this can have some effects on the drug trafficking route thoughout Central Asia.

EUReferendum says that the protests were “largely spontaneous” and were caused by the high prices of energy:

“The violent rolling protests appeared to be largely spontaneous rather than a premeditated coup,” it says, eventually telling us that a “leading expert” has said the government had triggered the protests by imposing punitive increases on tariffs for water and gas. “In the last few months there has been growing anger over this non-political issue,” said Paul Quinn-Judge, central Asia project director of the International Crisis Group.

So has Russia meddle here or not? It’s difficult to tell by now, we’ll see the future developments in this country.

The death toll has risen to 74.

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Germany: country shocked by Taliban ambush, Defense Minister speaks about "Afghanistan war"

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 05:  German Defence...
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The German government for the first time spoke of being at war in Afghanistan after a heavy firefight with 80 Taliban insurgents left three German troops dead.

It was a terrible Good Friday for the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan: First a German patrol was ambushed near Kunduz by two groups of 40 Taliban insurgents. The heavy firefight, which lasted for several hours, left three Germans dead, severely wounding eight more.

Shortly after the clashes began, another German unit was sent to help their comrades. Yet en route to the ambush, the Germans opened fire on two vehicles that officials in Berlin said would not stop approaching them despite warnings. Six Afghan troops in the vehicles were killed. While Germany says the troops approached in civilian cars, Kabul says they were military vehicles.

The ambush and the so-called “friendly fire” incident sparked concern in Germany, where popularity for the Afghanistan mission is waning.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to apologize for the friendly fire incident, which is being investigated by NATO as well as the German and Afghan defense ministries.

In a televised news conference Sunday, Germany’s Defense Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg broke with a longtime mantra — for the first time ever, a German official spoke of war in Afghanistan.

via Germany shocked by Taliban ambush –

This happens while Afghan president Karzai has threatened to join the Taliban. Experts consider that he is positioning himself for a post-NATO scenario.

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Putin: Russian arms to Venezuela may be $5B

Venezuela continues buying weapons, making Putin very happy indeed:

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Image by Globovisión via Flickr

Arms exports to Venezuela may reach as much as $5 billion, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday, a few days after he traveled to the country.

Putin visited Venezuela late last week to meet with President Hugo Chavez and pledged to sell more weapons to the country but gave no concrete figures.

“Our delegation has just returned from Venezuela, and the total volume of orders may exceed $5 billion,” Putin said in televised remarks.

Russia on Friday agreed to lend Venezuela up to $2.2 billion for the new arms deals.

Hugo Chavez's government has already bought more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005, including helicopters, fighter jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles.

via Nation & World | Putin: Russian arms to Venezuela may be $5B | Seattle Times Newspaper.

Read it all. Specially the last paragraph…

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Dubai: jail sentence upheld for UK kissing couple

The current ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa...

The current ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Image via Wikipedia

Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams — both in their 20s — were arrested after an Emirati woman claimed they exchanged a passionate kiss in a restaurant where she and her daughter were having dinner.

Najafi and Adams attended Sunday’s hearing, but did not speak. Their lawyer, Khalaf al-Hosany, told the court in a previous hearing that they kissed on the cheek as a greeting and “never intended to break the law.”

Appeals court judge Iysar Fouad upheld the conviction, the jail time and a fine of 1,000 dirhams — about $270 — each. They will be deported after serving their sentences.

The couple has 30 days to appeal Sunday’s ruling in a higher court.

Their lawyer said Najafi and Adams were not in a relationship, but knew each other before they met in Dubai.

Najafi worked for a marketing firm in Dubai and Adams was visiting the Muslim city-state with a Western outlook that has become famous for its beaches, ever-taller skyscrapers and anything-goes attitude.

via – Dubai jail sentence upheld for UK kissing couple.

More here.

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