14 Dead, 225 Hurt as Israeli Troops Fire on Naksa Day Protesters in Golan

14 Dead, 225 Hurt as Israeli Troops Fire on Naksa Day Protesters in Golan

by Naharnet Newsdesk


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Israeli gunfire killed 14 people and wounded about 225 others on Sunday as demonstrators on the Syrian side tried to cross the ceasefire line on the annexed Golan Heights, Syrian state television reported.

“Fourteen people were killed, including a woman and a child, and 225 others were wounded by Israeli gunfire near the Golan,” the report said.

“The protesters, hundreds strong, were both Syrian and Palestinian,” state news agency SANA said.

The protesters rushed towards the ceasefire line, attempting to cut through a line of barbed wire and head into the Golan Heights in a repeat of demonstrations last month, which saw thousands mass along Israel’s north.

Similar protests were held in the West Bank, where hundreds demonstrated at the Qalandia checkpoint near Ramallah, and in Gaza, where several hundred gathered in the north of the coastal enclave.

In Majdal Shams, on the occupied Golan, Israeli troops opened fire as demonstrators sought to push through the mined ceasefire line, which has been reinforced with two lines of curled barbed wire blocking access to a fence.

“Despite numerous warnings, both verbal and later warning shots in the air, dozens of Syrians continue to approach the border and IDF (Israel Defense Forces) forces were left with no choice but to open fire towards the feet of protesters in efforts to deter further actions,” an Israeli army spokesman told Agence France Presse.

Israeli public radio reported that several protesters were injured when a landmine exploded near Quneitra, which lies in no-man’s land between Israel and Syria, but there was no immediate confirmation from either side.

Updating an earlier toll, Syrian state media reported that 14 people were killed and 225 wounded.

An AFP photographer saw at least 20 people with injuries, some soaked in blood as they were evacuated from the scene, while the Israeli military said it was aware of 12 casualties.

Syrian television showed footage of protesters trying to scale the barbed wire as Israeli soldiers atop a tank opened fire.

“Our aim is to plant the Syrian flag on the occupied land,” one of the protesters, Mohammed Shaiber, said in the television report.

On the Israeli side, Majdal Shams locals pleaded with soldiers to stop firing as troops used loudspeakers to warn demonstrators in Arabic that “anyone who comes close to the fence will be responsible for their own blood.”

Israel forces were placed on high alert after activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in Arab nations bordering the Jewish state, called for protesters to march on Israeli checkpoints and border areas.

Israeli military spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovitz accused Syria of orchestrating the latest Golan protest to deflect attention from deadly anti-regime demonstrations in the Arab country.

“We believe that the Syrian regime is focusing the world’s attention on the border with Israel instead of what is happening there,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the protests, calling demonstrators “extremist elements” who “are trying to break through our borders and threaten our communities and our citizens.”

In the West Bank on Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators marched to the Qalandia checkpoint by Ramallah, and threw stones at Israeli troops who fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Ten demonstrators were taken to hospital with light wounds from rubber bullets, while another 20 were treated at the scene for tear gas inhalation.

Elsewhere, around 100 people demonstrated in central Hebron in the southern West Bank, while dozens of protesters tried to march from the northern West Bank village of Deir al-Hatab to the Elon Moreh settlement nearby.

In Gaza, several hundred demonstrators gathered at the entrance of the northern town of Beit Hanun, with Hamas police preventing them from marching on the Erez border crossing with Israel.

Tens of demonstrators who tried to break away and march north clashed with Hamas police, who detained at least a dozen.

Sunday’s protests, timed to coincide with the 44th anniversary of the Six-Day War when Israel captured the Golan from Syria as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, were intended to be a repeat of massive demonstrations last month.

On May 15, thousands of protesters massed on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, trying to force their way across on the anniversary of Israel’s creation.

Israeli troops opened fire on demonstrators as they stormed the borders from Syria and Lebanon, leaving six dead on the Lebanese side of the border and four dead on Syria’s side.

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees on Sunday staged a day of mourning but the Lebanese army banned any gatherings at the border with Israel to avoid a repeat of the violence.

Chemical Suppression of Bad Memories

Metyrapone (Trade Name: Metopirone) Novartis

At the University of Montreal, researchers have found a drug that seems able to decrease a person’s recall of a bad memory. It’s not exactly Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but it’s a pretty remarkable step down the road to active memory modification. And it worked out so well in the movie, right? I haven’t watched the whole thing but it really did seem like Jim Carrey was going to be happy with his new memories.

The drug is actually not a new creation: Metyrapone is often used to diagnose adrenal insufficiency, but these researchers found that its effect on stress hormones might be its most useful attribute. Metyrapone decreases the levels of cortisol, which is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. These early trials suggest that by messing around with the levels of cortisol in a person’s body at the time of a stressful event, memories of that event might be impaired–possibly permanently. It’s a very different technique than the neurological manipulations we explored a few years back. There is a sort of reverse of this process that’s used to increase memory–at least, in elderly mice.

The researchers conducted a trial in which men were given a dosage of metyrapone and taught a story with both neutral and negative elements. The subjects were then asked to remember as much of the story as possible at two separate occasions: immediately after they learned it, and four days later. They found that the men who received a dose of metyrapone were unable to remember the negative elements of the story in as much detail as the neutral elements, while the placebo group could remember both neutral and negative elements equally well.

While these tests are certainly in the very early stages, the research shows serious promise, especially as they might provide the ability to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome–though with metyrapone no longer being manufactured, it may be tricky to continue the research.

[PsychCentral via Daily Intel]

Gates Hints At Continued US Expansion In Asia

Gates sees wider US military presence in Asia

By Robert Burn, Associated Press

In a parting pitch to Asian allies, retiring US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today that the Pentagon is considering steps to widen its military presence across the Pacific Rim. He said budget woes won’t interfere.

“America is, as the expression goes, putting our money where our mouth is with respect to this part of the world — and will continue to do so,” Gates told Asia’s premier security conference, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

On his final overseas trip before stepping down June 30 — and his seventh to Asia in the last 18 months — Gates insisted that Americans’ war weariness and debt worries should not be seen as setting the stage for a shrinking of US commitments in Asia. On the leading sources of US security concerns in Asia — North Korea and China — he made only brief mention.

But he did highlight a Pentagon commitment to developing ways of countering “anti-access” technologies of the kind that the US says China is working on — advanced anti-ship missiles, for example, that could make it harder for US aircraft carriers and other warships to operate in Asia seas.

Yesterday evening, Gates met with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Liang Guanglie. Gates told Liang that he believes the military-to-military relationship is “on a positive trajectory,” after a series of setbacks in recent years.

Liang said he agreed that defence ties are getting better and that they deserve still more attention.

The main elements of friction remain, however. China still claims control of waters the US considers international. Chinese ambition for influence in Southeast Asia and elsewhere still makes smaller nations uneasy, while Beijing dislikes the heavy US naval presence in Asian waters and builds up its military with weaponry only logically intended for use against the US.

A new irritant was introduced this week, with allegations that computer hackers in China had compromised the personal Gmail accounts of several hundred people, including US government officials, military personnel and political activists.

The Chinese military tried to direct the spotlight off those allegations, with accusations that the US is launching a global “Internet war” to bring down Arab and other governments.

The FBI said it was investigating Google’s allegations, but no official government email accounts have been compromised. Google said all the hacking victims have been notified and their accounts have been secured.

US officials said the Google matter did not arise in Gates’ meeting with Liang .

Facebook/”Arab Spring” Moves To Vietnam and China–[updated]

Facebook Call Spurs Vietnam Marches Over Dispute With China

Bloomberg

June 5 (Bloomberg) — Hundreds of young Vietnamese, spurred by calls on Facebook and other social media, staged a march through Hanoi to protest China’s recent actions in disputed territories in the South China Sea.

Holding signs that read “Stop Chinese Invasion of Vietnam Lands” and singing the national anthem, a crowd of mostly Vietnamese college students demonstrated on Hanoi’s streets today after police blocked their path to the Chinese embassy.

The protests, announced last week on Facebook, blogs and chat forums highlight growing tensions in the South China Sea as Vietnam, the Philippines and China are unable to reach a consensus on renewing a joint exploration agreement in the disputed area.

For the Vietnamese demonstrators, it was an unusual public opportunity to engage politically. Most said they heard about the protest on Facebook, which is routinely blocked in Vietnam. The marchers were often flanked by security police.

“I’m marching for peace,” said Nguyen Ly Hien Nga–[correction, editor NoSunglasses], a 21 year-old university student. “If we allow China to continue its bullying behavior, it will upset world peace. This dispute needs to be solved through foreign affairs channels not with Chinese boats provoking us.”

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week formally protested a recent incident in which Chinese naval ships used weapons to threaten Vietnamese fishermen in the area of the Spratly Islands, according to a statement on the government website. Vietnam also protested Chinese ships cutting survey cables of a boat operated by Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, or PetroVietnam, last month.

Chinese Embassy

Messages this week on the Internet also called for simultaneous protests in Ho Chi Minh City. In 2007, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi over the Spratly and Paracel islands.

Vietnam and China have verbally sparred over the disputed territories in recent weeks ahead of the annual IISS Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, that took place yesterday and today in Singapore.

The Spratly Islands group are claimed all or in part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

–K. Oanh Ha in Hanoi. Editors: Paul Tighe, Lily Nonomiya

The American Co-Opting of India

India-U.S. partnership to help stability in South Asia: Robert Gates

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivers an opening address on the Emerging Security Challenges In the Asia-Pacific at the IISS Shangri-la Security Summit, in Singapore, on Saturday.
AP
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivers an opening address on the Emerging Security Challenges In the Asia-Pacific at the IISS Shangri-la Security Summit, in Singapore, on Saturday.

 

The India — U.S. partnership, which is based on shared democratic values and vital economic and security interests, will be an indispensable pillar of stability in South Asia and beyond, American Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said.

“The United States and India are working more closely together than ever before. During the Cold War there was an uneasy co-existence between the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest,” Mr. Gates said in his speech to the Shangri—La Dialogue in Singapore.

Now, there is a partnership based on shared democratic values and vital economic and security interests, he noted.

“A partnership that will be an indispensable pillar of stability in South Asia and beyond whether countering piracy, increasing participation in multilateral venues, or aiding the development of Afghanistan, our partnership is playing a vital role,” Mr. Gates said in his speech in which he emphasised on the need to have engagement with top Asian countries.

He said the U.S. is a Pacific nation, and that requires it to sustain its allies while maintaining a robust military engagement and deterrent posture across the Pacific Rim.

“Indeed, one of the most striking — and surprising — changes I’ve observed during my travels to Asia is the widespread desire across the region for stronger military-to-military relationships with the United States — much more so than during my last time in government 20 years ago,” he said.

The U.S. engagement in Asia has been guided by a set of enduring principles that have fostered the economic growth and stability of the region, Mr. Gates said.

These principles, supported by both major political parties in the U.S., include free and open commerce; a just international order that highlights rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law; and open access by all to the global commons of sea, air, space, and now, cyberspace.

“I believe our work in Asia is laying the groundwork for continued prosperity and security for the United States and for the region,” he said.

The U.S. will do more and expand into other areas in non-traditional ways, he added.

“We’ve taken a number of steps towards establishing a defence posture across the Asia-Pacific that is more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable,” Mr. Gates said.

The military posture proposed will maintain American presence in northeast Asia while enhancing U.S. presence in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean area, he noted.

Egypt Fails To Keep Rafah Crossing Open

Hamas shuts Egyptian border crossing

 The Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The ruling Hamas militant group has closed the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt to protest what it says are repeated delays at the crossing since Egypt permanently opened it last week.

Ayoub Abu Shaer, director of the Rafah terminal, says the Palestinians are upset over what he calls the Egyptian “mechanism” at the crossing.

With great fanfare, Egypt last week said it was permanently opening the crossing, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world. But the number of travelers has been limited, and on Saturday, Egypt closed the crossing without notice.

Egypt’s new government has promised to reopen the crossing since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February. Mubarak cooperated with Israel during a four-year blockade of Gaza meant to weaken Hamas.

Looking To Kill the Next Nasser

[If another Arab Nasser-type rises-up and unites all the anti-monarchy protestors, then the Saudis are toast.]

Gamel Abdel Nasser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arabs see Yemen as turning point for uprisings

* Party official says Saleh will return to duties

* Tunisia, Egypt presidents already tossed out by protests

* Other rulers turned to military to quash demonstrations

By Yasmine Saleh and Edmund Blair

CAIRO, June 5 (Reuters) – Many ordinary Arabs claimed another scalp on Sunday in their quest to oust the region’s autocrats and dismissed the idea that Yemen’s president would ever return to power after treatment in Saudi Arabia.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, wounded in an attack on his palace in the Yemeni capital last week, underwent surgery to remove shrapnel on Sunday. A party official said he would return to Sanaa to resume his duties. Few believe he will.

“This signifies the fall of the third Arab authoritarian regime and will give a massive boost to those fighting in Syria and Libya,” said 27-year-old Egyptian banker, Hussein Khalil, who was among protesters who brought down Egypt’s president.

In January, Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after stepping down. About a month later, on Feb. 11, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak quit amid protests. He vowed not to leave Egypt and now faces graft and murder charges.

Protests have spread, notably to Yemen, Syria, Libya and Bahrain, where other Arab rulers have been in power for decades. But protesters in these states have come up against rulers determined to hold on and ready to use military might.

Some now hope that could change.

“The departure of Saleh is a turning point not just for the Yemeni revolution but also is a huge push for the current changes in the Arab region and is the start of the real victory,” said Zaki Bani Rusheid, a leading figure in Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Saleh was wounded when shells struck his palace in Sanaa, killing seven people and wounding the president, the prime minister, his deputy and the parliament speaker. He left for Riyadh on Saturday to receive treatment.

“This is a face-saving move to let him abandon power. Maybe he realised that in the next attack he will not be able to save his life,” said Alfred Samaan, the head of Iraqi Writers Union.

‘ARAB SPRING’

Saudi Arabia has headed off restiveness in its own population with huge cash handouts. But it has been involved in the ‘Arab Spring’ in other ways: providing a haven for Ben Ali, sending troops to support Bahrain’s rulers and now treating Saleh.

“If they want to get Saleh an exit based on his injuries, they have to first address the issues of demonstrators and opposing tribes,” said Sami Alfaraj, president of Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies.

Yemen, a mountainous country where possessing a gun is commonplace, is riven by tribal rivalries that Saleh had for 33 years proved adept at juggling to stay in power. That changed as protesters rallied against him, inspired by the ‘Arab Spring’.

“It is in Saudi Arabia’s interest to end the events in Yemen because it does not want the trouble spilling across the borders,” said Abdel-Rahman Hussein, 30, an Egyptian journalist.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, shares a 1,500-km (1,000-mile) border with Yemen. Until recently, with the United States, it had backed Saleh as an ally against a Yemen-based arm of al Qaeda.

Egyptian political scientist Hassan Nafaa said Saudi Arabia would not face criticism from Arab people for giving refuge to ousted leaders provided the deposed rulers did not use the kingdom “to interfere in their countries from there.”

“The ‘Arab Spring’ will continue, Arab people are in a state of total rejection of their current ruling systems … The only challenge is what the new rulers and political systems will be like,” he added. (Additional reporting by Amran Abocar in Dubai, Suleiman Khalidi in Amman and Waleed Ibrahim in Baghdad; Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Myra MacDonald)

Yemeni gunmen attack 2nd presidential palace

Yemeni gunmen attack 2nd presidential palace

Embattled president to return ‘within days’

CBC News

Anti-government protesters shout slogans while holding a defaced portrait of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a demonstration in Sanna on Saturday. Anti-government protesters shout slogans while holding a defaced portrait of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a demonstration in Sanna on Saturday. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Dozens of gunmen have attacked the presidential palace at Yemen’s second largest city, military officials and witnesses said Sunday, after the country’s embattled leader went to Saudi Arabia to receive medical treatment for wounds sustained in a rocket attack.

One attacker and four soldiers died in the latest fighting in Taiz, according to officials.

The United Nations is investigating reports that about 50 people have died in clashes between pro-reform demonstrators and security forces since last Sunday in the southern city.

The attackers who acted on Sunday belong to a group set up recently to avenge the killing of anti-regime protesters at the hands of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s security forces.

Saleh left the country overnight after he was wounded Friday in an attack on his compound in the capital, Sanaa, a senior Yemeni official said early Sunday.

As morning came, protesters danced and sang in the central square of the capital to celebrate Saleh’s departure.

However, an official with Yemen’s ruling party insisted Saleh plans to return “within days,” Reuters said.

The president was wounded by a piece of shrapnel that rested under his heart and suffered second-degree burns to his face and neck, the BBC reported, though Yemeni officials said his injuries were only minor.

At least five senior government officials were also injured in the attack, which left 11 bodyguards dead.

Al-Jazeera reported late Saturday that Yemen’s vice-president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, is now acting president and supreme commander of the country’s armed forces.

Hadi met Sunday with U.S. Ambassador Gerald Michael Feierstein, the strongest indication yet that he is in charge.

Yemen’s conflict began as a peaceful uprising that the government at times used brutal force to suppress. It transformed in recent weeks to a more violent struggle for power when formal tribal allies of President Ali Abdullah Saleh turned against him and transformed the streets of the capital Sanaa into a war zone.

Saleh Arrives In Riyadh, As Saudis Take Charge

["Mr Saleh has left his son Ahmed, who commands the elite Republican Guard, and three of his nephews behind in attempt to maintain control."]

Yemeni Gunmen Kill 13 Soldiers In Two Attacks

Gunmen have killed 13 Yemeni troops in two separate attacks as President Ali Abdullah Saleh undergoes an operation in Saudi Arabia to remove shrapnel from his chest.

Armed men attempted to storm the presidential palace in Yemen’s second city Taiz, killing four soldiers, according to witnesses.

Another nine were killed in Abyan, in the south of the country, when a military convoy was attacked.

Violence has also erupted in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where heavy gunfire and explosions were reported, and in the southern city of Aden.

The assaults come as President Ali Abdullah Saleh undergoes an operation in Saudi Arabia to remove shrapnel from his chest, after he was injured in a rocket attack on Friday.

week-long, Saudi-brokered ceasefire had been agreed on Saturday, just hours before Mr Saleh left for Saudi Arabia.

Guards hatsGuards’ hats on the ground after the rocket attack

The president was injured when a rocket hit a mosque in the grounds of his palace in Sanaa.

The assault marked an escalation in the uprising’s violence and killed 11 of his guards as well as injuring a further eight senior officials.

Deputy information minister Abdu al-Janadi originally said Mr Saleh, who is 69, had only suffered “scratches to his face”.

But his departure for treatment Saudi Arabia suggested the wounds were more severe.

When news broke of the president’s departure, people in the capital took to the streets, dancing, singing and slaughtering cows in celebration.

However, Mr Saleh has left his son Ahmed, who commands the elite Republican Guard, and three of his nephews behind in attempt to maintain control.

An Arabic news station claims acting president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is due to meet with members of the military and Mr Saleh’s sons, however this has not been confirmed.

Crowds in SanaaProtests in Yemen have become more violent in recent weeks

After arriving at King Khalid Air Base in Riyadh, Mr Saleh was transferred to a military hospital.

Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront in efforts by Gulf states to negotiate the president’s resignation after nearly 33 years in power.

But he has several times backed away from agreements at the last moment.

Speaking defiantly after Friday’s attack, Mr Saleh pointed the finger of blame at the Hashed tribe which has been battling Saleh loyalists.

“I salute our armed forces and the security forces for standing up firmly to confront this challenge by an outlaw gang that has nothing to do with the so-called youth revolution,” he said.

Govt. Claims Security Reestablished In Upper Dir Areas

Forces retake control of Upper Dir areas from militants

UPPER DIR: Pakistani security forces have regained the control of two Upper Dir areas Brawal and Nusrat Darra after the militants from Afghanistan stormed the security check posts and took over the border areas.In the pre-dawn raid last Wednesday in Dir region, up to 400 militants crossed over from Afghanistan’s Kunar province in the raid which have killed 75 militants, 28 personnel and eight civilians.

DIG Malakand Qazi Jameel-ur-Rehman told Geo News that 15 policemen and 12 levies personnel have embraced martyrdom during the clashes.

Search operation was underway in the area and more check posts have been established.

Fighting was concentrated around the Shaltalu police checkpoint, surrounded by mountains and forest about six kilometres (four miles) from the border with Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

Pakistan in turmoil after bin Laden raid–MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Pakistan in turmoil after bin Laden raid

NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press
  • FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses a news conference at U. S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a bloody militant siege of a naval base and allegations that spy agencies killed a well-known journalist have left Pakistan's security establishment facing unusual criticism at home and abroad, and given the United States fresh leverage to push for more action against extremists. Photo: B.K.Bangash / AP
    FILE – In this May 27, 2011 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses a news conference at U. S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a bloody militant siege of a naval base and allegations that spy agencies killed a well-known journalist have left Pakistan’s security establishment facing unusual criticism at home and abroad, and given the United States fresh leverage to push for more action against extremists. Photo: B.K.Bangash / AP

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s powerful security establishment, reeling from the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden and a series of other humiliating setbacks, is facing threats to its authority not felt in years.

Some are comparing it to other low points in the country’s history, including the loss of its eastern flank, what is now Bangladesh, in a 1971 war with India.

Squeezed between international pressure and strong anti-U.S. sentiment inside the country, it remains unclear, however, if the leadership in the nuclear-armed nation can or will take the “decisive steps” to fight terrorism that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for in a recent, tense visit to Islamabad.

Some commentators say Pakistan should seize the moment to make tough decisions, including ending its policy of nurturing militant groups for use as proxies against India and reducing the role of the military in governance. Most, however, doubt the current leadership will do much beyond squabble and appeal to nationalist sentiments.

“We need a change of guard, both political and military, the coming of some rebels to the fore,” wrote Ayaz Amir, a columnist and lawmaker, in an op-ed that called Pakistan an “ostrich” state for its unwillingness to tackle its many problems.

While nominally under civilian rule, the country’s military is still the main force in defense and foreign policy. Operating largely outside the law, it is feared and loathed, and yet respected by Pakistanis who view it as the only public institution that truly functions in the country.

But even pro-military commentators have raged against the army for its inability to detect the May 2 U.S. raid against the al-Qaida chief, not to mention its apparent blindness to bin Laden’s presence in the garrison city of Abbottabad. Many army officers and soldiers have also been angered by the raid.

A 17-hour siege of a naval base in the southern city of Karachi that began on May 22 by militants further tarnished the military’s image, raising questions about how the insurgents managed to evade the facility’s security and whether they had inside help.

Most recently, suspicions have surfaced that the military-run spy network killed a Pakistani journalist who told friends he’d been threatened by intelligence agents. Pakistan’s top spy agency took the rare step of publicly denying the charge, an indication of the pressure it is under.

Clinton and other U.S. leaders have said they have no evidence that anyone in Pakistan’s top military or civil leadership knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts. But they have stressed they are stilling examining material seized in the May 2 raid.

The knowledge that some evidence might yet surface and the proven willingness to act unilaterally has given Washington the upper hand in what has always been a difficult partnership. American leaders have made it clear they expect Pakistan to take more action against al-Qaida and Afghan Taliban targets inside the country.

The army has accepted U.S. demands for further access to bin Laden’s compound and agreed to keep sharing intelligence. But it has also shown its anger at the bin Laden raid by demanding U.S. military trainers leave the country.

Army commanders stated this week they had no imminent plans to carry out an operation in North Waziristan, pushing back at a key U.S. demand. The tribal region is home to several militant groups who focus on attacking Western forces in Afghanistan.

The sustained Pakistani criticism of the military suggests it is unable to control the message as it did in decades past when there were fewer media outlets and much of the reporting was under state control. Even opposition parties seen as close to the military have demanded rare accountability from the generals.

“I think there has been significant permanent loss as far as the army’s prestige is concerned,” said Najam Sethi, the editor of prominent weekly magazine.

But Pakistani civilian leaders also have appeared unable to present a united front. Any faint hopes that the civilians would exploit the military’s present vulnerability to take some power away from the generals have been largely dashed.

The reality is that even if the army is weaker than before, it is still far stronger than President Asif Ali Zardari‘s ruling party, which is unpopular and whose primary goal appears to be surviving in office till elections in 2013. Even the party’s agreement to an independent commission to investigate the U.S. raid has run into obstacles as opposition leaders say they were not properly consulted.

Political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi said Pakistan’s domestic politics were witnessing a “perfect storm” — with widespread demands for more limits on the military’s power in governance. But he warned that pushing back too hard, too fast against the security establishment could backfire, noting that all it takes to get Pakistanis united behind their soldiers is a convenient conflict somewhere.

“It’s a unique moment,” he said. “It’s probably good for Pakistan in the long run if this generic and amorphous demand for change that we’re seeing articulate itself can be coherently converted into sharp public policy.”

___

Nahal Toosi has covered Pakistan for The Associated Press since 2008.

___

http://twitter.com/nahaltoosi

An AP News Analysis

 

NATO Helicopter Shot-Down Near N. Waziristan Border

Helicopter crashes in Afghanistan’s east, two troops killed

KABUL | Sun Jun 5, 2011

(Reuters) – Two service members from the NATO-led force in Afghanistan were killed when a helicopter crashed in a volatile eastern area on Sunday, the coalition said, with the Taliban claiming to have shot the aircraft down.

“I can confirm a helicopter has crashed in eastern Afghanistan,” said British Major Tim James, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“We have no indication of any enemy activity in the area at the time,” he said.

ISAF soon after released a statement which said two service members had been killed in the crash. It gave no other details.

Most of the foreign troops fighting in the east are American, although there are also troops from other countries.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said by telephone from an undisclosed location that one of the Islamist group’s fighters had brought the helicopter down in the Sabari district of eastern Khost province, not far from the Pakistan border, using a shoulder-fired rocket.

Residents in Sabari district said they saw a helicopter catch fire, with black smoke pouring from the aircraft before it crashed in a mountainous area of the district.

Khost and surrounding provinces have seen some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan in recent months as the Taliban and other insurgents push back against ISAF gains made in the south over the past 18 months.

Fighting across Afghanistan has spiked since the Taliban launched their spring offensive at the beginning of May.

At least 230 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, according to figures kept by independent monitor http://www.icasualties.org and Reuters.

Of those, 57 were killed in May, the bloodiest month of the year for the NATO-led force. Another 13 have been killed in the first five days of June.

(Reporting by Paul Tait and Hamid Shalizi, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

“NATO, by not stopping these attacks, was, actually, supporting the Taliban.”

KP asks Karzai to rein in Taliban

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has demanded the Afghan president stop Taliban from attacking Upper Dir district while criticising the NATO for ignoring terrorists’ cross over from Afghanistan.

“We have demand President Hamid Karzai to take steps against attacks from Afghanistan by Taliban in Upper Dir district,” said the provincial government’s spokesman Mian Iftikhar Hussain while briefing media on a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti. The meeting discussed Wednesday’s cross-border attack launched from the territory of Afghanistan. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police chief Fayaz Toro briefed the cabinet on the situation in Upper Dir where security forces suffered casualties in clashes with the Afghan Taliban last week.

The provincial cabinet also questioned the NATO’s ability to stop such attacks, according to the government’s spokesman. “The NATO could have stopped these attacks, if it had liked doing so,” he maintained. and said, “We may conclude that the NATO, by not stopping these attacks, was, actually, supporting the Taliban.”

This was the first time when Hussain was seen using strong words against the NATO.

In the attacks, the Taliban torched schools and damaged other infrastructure while overrunning security checkposts and killing over two dozens security officials. The provincial government also demanded the federal government that all Frontier Constabulary officials serving outside the province should be called back to beef up security in the northern districts which are under the threat of further offensives by the Afghan Taliban.

Hussain said that the meeting was of the view that the frontiers should be guarded by the army instead of the Levy. “Police and paramilitary forces cannot guard the borders. The FC is a provincial force and it should not be used by the federal government in Islamabad and Karachi,” said the spokesman, adding that “without wasting any more time, Islamabad should send all FC personnel back to Balochsitan.”

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government also expressed anger over the delay in giving teeth to anti-terrorism laws as detained terrorists were freed on bail due to “toothless laws”. “We need strong laws to deal with terrorism.” He said the provincial government would encourage lashkars in Dir and Chitral to check attacks by the Taliban.

Pakistan drone attacks split US officials

Pakistan drone attacks split US officials

* US ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in CIA’s aggressive pace of strikes 

WASHINGTON: Fissures have opened within the Obama administration over the drone programme targeting terrorist in Pakistan, with the US ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in the Central Intelligence Agency’s aggressive pace of strikes.

Such a move would roll back, at least temporarily, a programme that US President Barack Obama dramatically expanded soon after taking office, making it one of the US’s main weapons against the Pakistan-based terrorists fighting coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The programme has angered Pakistan. The debate over drones comes as the two sides try to repair relations badly frayed by the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January, a wave of particularly lethal drone strikes following Davis’s release from Pakistani custody in March, and the clandestine US raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

The White House’s National Security Council debated a slowdown in drone strikes in a meeting on Thursday, a US official said. At the meeting, CIA Director Leon Panetta made the case for maintaining the current programme, the official said, arguing that it remains the US’s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies. The result of the meeting – the first high-level debate within the Obama administration over how aggressively to pursue the CIA’s targeted-killing programme – was a decision to continue the programme as is for now, the official said.

Another official, who supports a slowdown, said the discussions about revamping the programme would continue, alongside talks with Pakistan, which is lobbying to rein in the drone strikes.

Most US officials, including those urging a slowdown, agree the CIA strikes using the pilotless aircraft have been one of Washington’s most effective tools in the fight against terrorists hiding out in Pakistan. The weapons have killed some top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and left terrorists off balance in a swath of mountainous territory along the Afghan border with Pakistan where they once operated with near impunity. No one in the administration is advocating an outright halt to the programme.

Yet an increasingly prominent group of State Department and military officials now argue behind closed doors that the intense pace of the strikes aggravates an already troubled alliance with Pakistan and, ultimately, risks destabilising the nuclear-armed country, said current and former officials familiar with the discussions.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, backed by top military officers and other State Department officials, wants the strikes to be more judicious, and argues that Pakistan’s views need to be given greater weight if the fight against terrorism is to succeed, said current and former US officials.

Defenders of the current drone programme take umbrage at the suggestion that the programme isn’t judicious “In this context, the phrase ‘more judicious’ is really code for ‘let’s appease Pakistani sensitivities,’ “ said a US official. The CIA has already given Pakistani concerns greater weight in targeting decisions in recent months, the official added. Advocates of sustained strikes also argue that the current rift with the Pakistanis isn’t going to be fixed by scaling back the programme.

The debate has largely been muted until now, in part because the details of the programme are classified and because drone strikes against terrorists have generally been popular with the White House and most Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Pakistani officials have always publicly condemned the drone programme; only in private have they consented to the campaign and acknowledged to having helped the CIA pinpoint targets.

Now Islamabad is lobbying Washington in public and private to curtail the strikes because of Pakistani complaints that they take a high civilian death toll.

Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik, who commands Pakistani forces in the country’s northwest, said in an interview that drone strikes are making it harder to win allies among tribal leaders. wall street journal