Turkey Freezes All Ties with Israel

[Erdogan may visit Gaza on his trip to Egypt next week.  Such a bold move would make me tend to believe that all of this wasn't just make believe.  The shitty little Zionist colony may be quaking in their boots, but I kinda doubt it.]

Turkey Freezes All Ties with Israel

by Naharnet Newsdesk
W460

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a total freeze on military and trade ties with Israel and threatened Tuesday to visit Gaza as the one-time allies’ diplomatic spat intensified.

Only hours after Israel said the continued presence of its defense attache at the embassy in Ankara indicated there was no definitive break with Turkey, Erdogan declared a suspension to all military and commercial relations.

And despite pleas from top diplomats at the weekend to end their row over last year’s attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Erdogan risked causing further offence by berating Israel for behaving like “a spoiled child”.

Last week, Turkey announced that the Israeli ambassador Gaby Levy was being expelled and all bilateral military agreements were suspended as it angrily rejected the findings of a United Nations probe into the deadly flotilla raid.

Now in his first official reaction since that announcement, Erdogan went even further.

“We are totally suspending our trade, military, defense industry relations,” Erdogan told reporters.

“Further sanctions” against Israel would follow, he added.

Once Israel’s closest friend in the Muslim world, Turkey has been increasingly critical of the Jewish state since Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002.

There was widespread outrage in May last year when eight Turkish nationals and an American of Turkish descent died on the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of the six-vessel convoy taking aid to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, in a raid by Israeli special forces in international waters.

A new U.N. report has criticized the “excessive” force in the raid but also angered the Palestinians by upholding Israel’s right to impose a naval blockade on Gaza to prevent arms reaching the Islamist movement Hamas.

Unlike other European countries which regard Hamas as a terrorist group, Turkey has refused to blacklist the Islamists who are the rulers of Gaza and Erdogan said he may pay a visit to Gaza, entering via neighboring Egypt.

“We are talking with the Egyptians on this matter … A trip to Gaza is not finalized yet,” Erdogan, who is due to visit Egypt next week, told reporters.

Such a visit would be bound to infuriate Israel but Erdogan seemed in no mood for diplomacy.

“Israel has always played the role of a spoiled child,” he said in reference to Israel’s attitude towards the Palestinians.

Earlier in the day, a senior Israeli defense official had sounded a warning to Turkey while saying that the military attache would remain in place in the Ankara mission.

“There’s no break with Turkey: the proof is that our military attache in Ankara will remain in his office and that consular services there will continue to function,” Amos Gilad told Israeli public radio.

“A solution to this crisis must be found,” he added, saying Israel should seek to resolve it through its European and U.S. connections, as well as through NATO.

“Turkey has a lot to lose with an extremist policy.”

There has been widespread disquiet at the fallout between the two countries with the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon among those expressing fears that it could impact on the wider Middle East peace process.

Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to formally recognize the state of Israel in 1949 and the two countries had held regular joint military exercises.

Turkey has also long been a favorite tourist destination for Israelis who are barred from visiting many other countries in the region.

The spat has already impacted on tourism with Turkish travellers complaining that they were singled out for strip searches while flying out of Tel Aviv over the weekend.

The Israeli foreign ministry also said that 40 of its nationals were held for an hour and a half for questioning at Ataturk International Airport on Monday before they were released.

Nord Stream Gas Ready To Flow To Germany

Photo: EPA
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The Nord Stream pipeline is going to be filled with gas on September 6th . Having delivered a statement to that effect the day before, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stressed that the $7.5 billion project was nearly accomplished to become Russia’s energy “window to Europe”.

September 6th will witness process gas being pumped through the pipes of Nord Stream’s first thread that originates in the city of Vyborg. This will become sort of a robustness test for the entire construction, with first direct supplies of the Russian fuel to European consumers scheduled for late October. Thus, the launch of the pipeline will put an end to the dictate of transit countries, Vladimir Putin said.

Until now, Russia has been transporting its natural gas to Europe only via the territories of Ukraine and Belarus. The new 1,220 km long pipeline laid across the Baltic seabed from Russia’s Vyborg to Greifswald in Germany is capable of satisfying a fourth of Europe’s gas demand, the project’s managing director Matthias Warning estimated. Nord Stream’s first leg has a capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters per year, while the second line planned to be finished by 2012 will increase annual gas supplies to Europe to 55 billion cubic meters.

Moscow’s interest in a speedy launch of the pipeline is understandable – after all, Russia is one of the world’s leading energy exporters. As for European countries, they place major emphasis on the involvement of such Western energy giants as Germany’s E.ON Ruhrgas and BASF/Wintershall, as well as France’s Gaz de France Suez alongside the Russian Gasprom company. The project’s significance is growing in view of Europe’s decision to close its nuclear power plants and a subsequent increase in gas demand. In these circumstances, the Nord Stream will ensure stable supplies that will be never again disrupted by transit countries like it had happened earlier, expert at the National Energy Security Foundation Alexander Pasechnik said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

“The Nord stream will allow Russia to do away with risks accompanying gas supplies to the European Union and bypass such countries as Ukraine and partially Belarus. Thanks to the new pipeline, we will halve our transit dependence on the Ukrainian gate system,” says Alexander Pasechnik.

The solemn ceremony to launch the newly built pipeline at the Portovaya compressor station near Vyborg will be, among others, attended by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Europe is already anticipating the beginning of Russian blue-sky fuel supplies. Gasprom signed long-term contracts with Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Great Britain.

Military Pushing for Covert War After Iraq Pull-Out

U.S. Commanders Pushing for Permission to Run Covert Ops to Counter Iran

U.S. military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq, according to officials quoted Tuesday.

The move comes amid growing concern in the Obama administration about Iran’s attempts in recent months to expand its influence in Iraq and the broader Middle East and what it says is Tehran’s increased arms smuggling to its allies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Compounding the urgency is the planned reduction in the US military presence in Iraq by the end of the year, a development that many fear will open up the country to more influence from Iran, which also has a majority Shiite population.

If the request is approved by the White House, the authorization for the covert activity in Iraq likely would take the form of a classified presidential “finding.” But unlike the secret order that authorized the CIA’s campaign against Al Qaeda in 2001, the current proposal is limited in scope, officials said.

Still, such a step would reflect the U.S.’s effort to contain Iranian activities in the region. Ending the U.S.’s involvement in the Iraqi conflict was a central promise of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, and the administration wants to ensure it doesn’t withdraw troops only to see its main regional nemesis, Iran, raise its influence there.

Officials declined to provide details about the kinds of covert operations under consideration, but said they could include more aggressive interdiction efforts at the Iraq-Iran border and stepped-up measures to stop Iranian arms smuggling after the American drawdown.

The United Nations has blocked Iran from exporting sophisticated arms, guided missiles and nuclear technology. U.N. resolutions don’t ban small arms exports or the kind of primitive weapons Tehran has provided Shiite militias in Iraq, defense officials said.

The U.S. has conducted secret operations against Iran in Iraq before. In recent months its military has quietly boosted efforts to capture Iranian agents and intercept Iranian munitions in Iraq. The U.S. government conducts covert operations when it wants to maintain the ability to deny a secret mission took place for security or diplomatic reasons.

The White House has become more worried about Iranian meddling in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain in recent months and has pushed the military and intelligence communities to develop proposals to counter Tehran.

In Iraq, U.S. officials say they have evidence that Iran has been providing Shiite militias with more powerful weapons and training, helping to increase the lethality of their attacks against U.S. forces — in particular, with the crude but deadly IRAM, or improvised rocket-assisted munitions.

Iran also has stepped up its support of the embattled Syrian government, providing equipment and technical know-how for the crackdown on antiregime protests and has provided backing to Shiite protesters in Bahrain, officials say.

Iranian officials have repeatedly denied that they have played any role in arming militants in Iraq or worked to destabilize other Arab nations. Tehran has claimed the U.S. has leveled charges of arms smuggling to justify a continued American military presence.

Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. and Iranian competition for influence in Iraq was part of an attempt by both countries to preserve their interests in the Middle East amid a reordering of interests under the Arab Spring revolutions.

“From a U.S. viewpoint, containing Iran is critical and our strategic relationship with Iraq is critical,” Cordesman said. “This is one set of moves in a much more complicated chess game.”

China To Build Industrial Park In Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, will create an industrial technology park

Asia Plus

In Tajikistan, will open the technological and industrial park. The agreement was signed between gosunitarnym Enterprise “Tajik Aluminum Company” and the Chinese corporation China National Building Material Group Corporation (CNBMGC).

As reported by “AP” in TALCO, in early September, visited Tajikistan CNBMGCvo led by vice president Guo Chaomin (Guo Chaomin). The purpose of a business trip of Chinese manufacturers was the finalization of documents for the implementation of the agreements reached within the target of investment projects: “The transition TALCO on domestic raw materials” and “Development TALCO.”

According to the press service TALCO, negotiations on the draft were the Tajik aluminum company, and OAO “Saumon Capital” and a half years. As a result of a joint working group had been signed the Framework Agreement on Cooperation between the TALCO CNBMGC and to create technology-industrial park and a strategic cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Energy and Industry of the Republic of Tatarstan and CNBMGC investment and construction Shahritusskogo cement plant.

Under the agreement in Tajikistan will be created the technological and industrial park (Technopark), which will be a set of interrelated industries, focused on the development of the aluminum sector and other industries in Tajikistan.

“As part of the Technopark will be gradually implemented such investment projects as the construction of a cement plant with capacity of more than 1 million tons, the construction of a glass factory,

manufacture of refractory products, gypsum products, equipment and construction in the mining sector and light industry, new building materials supply, production and sale of new assembly housing complexes, the development of mining deposits “, – the press-service.

Under the agreement to build cement plant Shahritusskogo Chinese side is committed to in the near future to prepare feasibility studies and completed in 2013, building its first production line with capacity of more than 1 million tons of cement per year. In the long term productive capacity of the plant as a whole will be at least 3 million tons of cement per year.

Chota Rajan Gangsters Charged for Murder of Investigative Reporter Jyotendra Dey

[SEE:  Chota Rajan Gang Implicated In Jyotendra Dey Killing]

File photo of senior journalist Jyotendra Dey, who was shot dead by unidentified persons near his residence in Mumbai on Saturday.

PTI File photo of senior journalist Jyotendra Dey

Chhota Rajan aide held in J Dey murder case

Mumbai A close associate of the fugitive underworld don Chhota Rajan was today arrested here for his alleged involvement in the killing of senior crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey taking the total number of arrests made in the case so far to 10, police said.

Paulson Joseph was today apprehended from Chembur area in the Dey murder case, Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy told PTI. He would be produced before a local court tomorrow.

“Joseph had provided logistical support in the crime. The shooters, who were earlier arrested in the case, had got SIM cards from him. These SIM cards with fake names were used while executing the crime,” Roy said.

Sources in the crime branch said Joseph, who had been handling the don’s financial matters in the city, was also continuously in touch with Rajan as well as the arrested accused to execute the killing of the senior journalist.

Dey (56), working with the city-based English tabloid Mid Day, was shot dead by four motorcycle-borne assailants in suburban Powai on June 11.

Police had claimed that the scribe was eliminated at the behest of gangster Chhota Rajan, who paid Rs 5 lakh to the accused. However, they said the motive behind the killing was not yet clear.

Earlier, police had over the period of time arrested nine accused, including builder Vinod Asrani and sharp shooters.

Joseph is the same person who had organised the 2009 Christmas-eve bash in Chembur that saw five policemen suspended as the cops were caught on camera while partying with the gangsters.

Only In Pakistan–Protecting Your Home Against Your Neighbor’s Air Force

Deadly weapons: Anti-aircraft guns found in rural Sindh

SUKKUR: The Ghotki police raided a village Jehan Khan Shar, in the limits of  Khenjoo police station, and found an anti-aircraft gun with 1,300 live shells on Wednesday morning. They also arrested five men, Juma Shar, Allah Bachayo Shar, Haji Shar, Pir Bux Shar and Ali Hassan Shar.The aircraft gun was found from an old house. According to SHO Abdul Shakoor Lakho, the police believe that the people of the Loond tribe possess more weapons like this.

Published in The Express Tribune

Energy cooperation: Iran willing to build Pakistan section of gas pipeline

Energy cooperation: Iran willing to build Pakistan section of gas pipeline

Industrialists pin hopes on gas imports from Iran to shore up loadshedding.

ISLAMABAD: Energy cooperation between Pakistan and Iran is expected to receive a boost this week, as Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi will offer Tehran’s help to build Pakistan’s portion of the multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline, an Iranian diplomat said on Monday.

The offer is likely to come as part of a wider dialogue between the two neighbours on a range of economic issues. Sources said on Monday that Pakistan and Iran are expected to sign four agreements, covering energy, financial services, media and technical cooperation.

Salehi is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday (today), leading a 40-member delegation for the Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission’s meeting, which will be held in Islamabad on September 7. The Pakistani side of the talks is expected to be led by Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline is expected to be a key part of the agenda of the JEC talks. The pipeline was originally meant to have India as its terminal location but New Delhi has not been able to make a firm commitment on the project to date.

Iran has already built its portion of the gas pipeline up to the Pakistani border. The Pakistani portion of the pipeline is expected to cost $1.65 billion, little more than a fifth of the total $7.5 billion price tag of the whole project. The total cost may rise after the completion of a feasibility study. It is expected to begin supplying gas to Pakistan by the middle of 2014.

(Read: Iranian gas pipeline – Pakistan seeks financial adviser for project)

At its peak, the pipeline is slated to supply up to 55 billion cubic feet ofgas from Iran’s South Pars field to Pakistan. That amount is expected to cover about 20% of Pakistan’s current demand, and would not be enough for the rising need for gas in the Pakistani economy.

Government officials say all of the supply from the Iranian pipeline will be dedicated for power production and would be expected to generate up to 5,000 megawatts.

Production costs for gas-fired power plants are about 35% less than those for oil-fired power plants.

Tehran is also expected to offer assistance in building three power plants in Pakistan, with a total capacity of 250 megawatts, including a 150-megawatt coal-fired power plant and about 100 megawatts of wind power generation capacity.

Among the more controversial aspects of the visit will be Iran’s request to set up branches of the state-owned Bank Melli in Pakistan. The bank has been placed on several international sanctions lists, including those of the United States. Islamabad is expected to reverse its earlier stance on the request and move forward with Iran’s proposal.

Not having banking operations in other countries has made it difficult for Iranian businesses to conduct trade. The State Bank of Pakistan is expected to begin guaranteeing letters of credit – a necessary tool for global traders to exchange payments – for trade with Iran, which is expected to help increase the volume of commerce between the two nations. An Iranian diplomat said that Tehran is targeting increasing bilateral trade from the current $1.2 billion to $4 billion by 2014.

The two nations are also expected to discuss expanding air travel, including commencing direct flights between Islamabad and Tehran. Currently, there are direct flights from Karachi and Lahore to Tehran and Mashhad.

Iran is also expected to request meat and livestock exports from Pakistan as it tries to switch over from more expensive supplies from Europe. Tehran has already invested in a meat processing plant in Lahore geared to exporting beef and mutton to Iran.

(Read: The rise of Pakistan in the global meat trade)

As a direct corollary of the meat and livestock trade, Pakistan and Iran are also expected to agree to closer collaboration on quality control. A cooperation agreement is expected to be signed between the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority and Iranian Research and Industrial Institute.

A separate agreement is also expected to cover media cooperation between the two countries.

Published in The Express Tribune

Re-Fighting the “Most Successful Army Operations” In Pakistan’s History

[At least Kayani and friends maintained control long enough for a 20 day "Peace Festival."]

Return of militancy: Army launches operation in Swat – again

Security forces have imposed a curfew in Bishban area. PHOTO: REUTERS/ FILE

SWAT: Just as the region seemed to have returned to ‘normal’, clashes between security forces and suspected militants erupted in the Bishban area on Monday.

According to Swat media spokesperson Colonel Arif Mahmood, a search operation by security forces has been under way for the past five days after receiving reports of militants in the area.

In fresh encounters with militants echoing the 2009 Swat military operation, security forces, assisted by a local lashkar, killed one militant. One member of security forces was also killed while two people from the local defence committee were critically injured.

The search operation against militants has entered its fifth day. Security forces have now imposed a curfew in the area.

In a separate incident, local police have arrested a high-profile militant commander in the Kanju area of the town of Kabal, identified as Paye Mohammad. He was wanted in connection with various ‘anti-state activities’. Mohammad was also allegedly involved in recruiting teenage boys for the Taliban in the area.

Security forces, after launching a search operation against suspected terrorists, claim to have killed five men earlier during the operation, including two militants on Sunday. As a result of the search operation, thousands of tourists spending their Eid holidays in Malam Jabba were trapped in the area. Since the clashes started, security personnel have beefed up security on all entrance and exit checkpoints. Tensions heightened in the region after a suicide attack attempt, targeting a mosque in Kabal, was foiled by security agencies.

Earlier, in accordance with the supposed return of harmony to the region, the army had, perhaps prematurely, organised a 20-day-long ‘Peace festival’ in June. Area Commander Brigadier Salman Akbar, who inaugurated the festival, had stated that the celebrations indicated that ‘normalcy’ had returned to the valley.

In April, Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Asif Yasin Malik had announced that the security situation in Swat had improved drastically. The ‘peace’ that appeared to have returned to the region followed a massive counter-insurgency operation carried out by the military in May 2009, known as Operation Rah-e-Rast. The operation was hailed as one of the most successful army operations the country had seen in its history.

Published in The Express Tribune

Surface-to-Air-Missiles–Imperial Bonus for Libyan Terrorist Pawns

Al-Qaeda’s offshoot acquires Libyan air missiles: EU

A Libyan NTC fighter looks at a SAM SA-5 missile at Al-Burkan base (AFP PHOTO/Carl de Souza)

A Libyan NTC fighter looks at a SAM SA-5 missile at Al-Burkan base (AFP PHOTO/Carl de Souza)

BRUSSELS: Al-Qaeda’s north African branch has acquired a stockpile of weapons in Libya, including surface-to-air missiles that are threatening air travel, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator said Monday.

Due to the turmoil in Libya, members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have “gained access to weapons, either small arms or machine-guns, or certain surface-to-air missiles which are extremely dangerous because they pose a risk to flights over the territory,” said Gilles de Kerchove.

At a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, de Kerchove said that while the threat of strikes by mainstream Al-Qaeda followers had decreased, AQIM was taking root both on the Arab peninsula and in Africa, posing a mounting threat.

“It is a group that is Africanising and seeking to extend its area of influence,” he said.

Like other Al-Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan and elsewhere, AQIM had gained support among locals by using ransom money and possibly drug-related income to fund social services unavailable from cash-strapped African governments.

It had extended its area of action from northern Niger, Mali and Mauritania to northern Nigeria and as far south as Senegal, he said.

To put a brake on any further extension of its influence, European Union nations needed to help African countries such as Chad and Niger to reintegrate the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have fled home from Libya in the past months. Mali alone faced the return of 210,000 people, he said.

Plans were underway also to aid information-gathering and counter-terror centres in Algeria and Mauritania, and to back Malian efforts to redeploy seven to 10 military bases in its remote barren north as well as provide basic services for the population there.

- AFP/fa

China’s State-Owned CNPC Wins Bid for North Afghan Oilfield

China’s State-Owned CNPC Wins Bid for North Afghan Oilfield

Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) — China National Petroleum Corp., the nation’s biggest oil and gas company, won a bid to develop an oilfield auctioned in northern Afghanistan, beating rivals from Australia, U.K., the U.S. and Pakistan.

President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet late last month approved the Mines Ministry’s decision to allow state-owned CNPC to drill for oil in three blocks of the Amu Darya basin, a geological zone that extends into Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Jawad Omar, a ministry spokesman, said by telephone today.

The award is China’s second prominent acquisition of Afghan raw materials after the Metallurgical Corp. of China won the right in 2007 to mine the country’s biggest known copper deposit at Aynak, south of Kabul. It may raise concerns within the U.S.- led international coalition that has 130,000 troops fighting against Taliban guerrillas to stabilize the country, said Haroun Mir, a political analyst at the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies in Kabul.

While China’s investments may reinforce its strategic and financial interest in Afghanistan’s stability, “so far, China has made a very small contribution, compared to the coalition countries,” toward Afghanistan’s security and development, Mir said in a phone interview. “It would be good for Afghanistan to give access to some of its assets to coalition countries, but right now Karzai’s relationship with them is confrontational.”

Investors Hesitant

While foreign investors have hesitated to enter Afghanistan because of the decade-long war, the fighting affects the northwest less than most other regions. The blocks awarded to CNPC cover a region of mostly barren hills with few paved roads and one operating oil well at Angot.

“The cabinet has given the Mines Ministry 30 days, beginning Sept. 12, to finalize a contract with CNPC based on the terms of their bid,” Omar said. “If the contract is not agreed by then, we will negotiate with the Australian company,” Buccaneer Energy Ltd., which the cabinet approved as the alternate choice, he said.

The Kashkari, Bazarkhami and Zamarudsay blocks contain an “estimated median crude oil reserve” of 80 million barrels of oil, and the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated a potential for another 80 million barrels, according to the ministry. Afghanistan may hold almost 1.6 billion barrels of undiscovered and recoverable crude oil, plus about 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the U.S. agency said in a 2006 study.

The Mines Ministry earlier approved three bidders besides CNPC and Buccaneer: Tethys Petroleum Ltd., a London-based, Toronto-listed energy company; Shazhad International of Pakistan; and Houston, Texas-based Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oilfield-services provider. Schlumberger pulled out of the running and did not offer a bid, Omar said.

The Amu Darya blocks are Afghanistan’s first to be tendered internationally in four decades and the ministry says it plans to soon offer two other oilfields, near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Herat in the northwest.

–Editors: John Chacko, Indranil Ghosh

Mubarak’s Trial Postponed as Clashes Erupt Outside, Inside Court

W460

The trial of Hosni Mubarak and his two sons’ trial was postponed on Monday after the prosecution and defense lawyers clashed in the court room.

Dozens of the ousted Egyptian president’s supporters and opponents clashed near the Cairo court before he arrived on a stretcher.

The session was to hear witness testimony to try to determine who gave the orders for the killing of hundreds of protesters in the revolt that ousted the former autocratic leader in February.

The hearing was to be held off-camera unlike the first two sessions which saw Mubarak appearing in court bound to a stretcher and caged, in gripping images broadcast live on television.

But footage broadcast by state television on Monday showed the 83-year-old again arriving for the hearing at the police academy in the capital’s outer suburbs in an ambulance on a stretcher.

Before he drew up, demonstrators clashed near the courtroom.

“We have not abandoned you,” the pro-Mubarak protesters chanted, while their rivals shouted, “Punishment, punishment, they killed our children with bullets.”

The decision to stop the live television broadcast was taken by trial judge Ahmed Refaat, who was apparently exasperated by the charged atmosphere in the courtroom at the last hearing as an army of lawyers jostled for position.

Mubarak’s first dramatic appearance in court came as a shock to Egyptians who were glued to watching the proceedings on television, never having believed he would be forced to go on trial.

After the adjournment of the August 15 session, several relatives of victims and some lawyers jumped on a bench and started chanting “Execution!” at Mubarak as he was wheeled out of the cage.

After the earlier two formal sessions, the court was on Monday to begin questioning to try to determine who gave the order for the shooting of protesters during the January-February revolution.

“The court will hear four witnesses, including the head of communications in the central security force and officers responsible for operations from the same force,” the government daily al-Ahram said.

The court would investigate whether the orders to fire on the crowd were given solely by the interior ministry or if Mubarak was also implicated.

More than 850 people were killed in the 18 days that led to Mubarak’s ouster after a three-decade rule and thousands more were wounded, according to official figures.

Former interior minister Habib al-Adli is being prosecuted along with Mubarak for suppressing the popular uprising. Those found guilty for the deaths could face execution.

Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa are being tried for corruption along with their father. They all pleaded not guilty to the graft charges in the first hearing which was held on August 3.

The former president, who suffers from heart problems and depression, is in custody in a hospital near Cairo, while reports that he was also suffering from cancer have been denied.

His sons are being held in the Tora prison complex on the southern outskirts of Cairo.

A wealthy businessman close to the former presidential clan, Hussein Salem, is being tried in absentia in the same trial.

Three Kuwaiti lawyers flew into Cairo on Sunday to join Mubarak’s defense team. Their leader Faisal al-Oteibi told reporters at the airport that two more colleagues would follow.

“We are five Kuwaiti lawyers and have come to defend Hosni Mubarak out of gratitude,” she said, referring to the former president’s support for Kuwait during its occupation by Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1990-1991.

But Egypt’s independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm quoted Justice Minister Abdel Aziz al-Gindi as saying no formal request had been submitted or granted for the Kuwaiti lawyers to take part in the trial.

Mubarak is the most high-profile leader to appear in person in court after having been ousted in this year’s “Arab Spring.”

Tunisia’s ex-president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, in exile in Saudi Arabia since his overthrow in January, was tried in absentia in Tunisia, while Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi has become a fugitive since the fall of Tripoli late last month.

Legal experts say a thorough probe of Mubarak’s alleged crimes should have taken several more months, but Egypt’s ruling military to which he handed power has expedited the process to mollify protesters