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NAIROBI: The word went out at 9am. The pipeline had burst, again, and petrol was splashing freely down by the river.The whole slum seemed to spring into action, with men, women and children grabbing buckets, oil tins, battered yellow jerry cans – anything to carry the leaking fuel. Even minibuses raced in from kilometres away, looking for free petrol, a small godsend in a place where most people are unemployed and live in rusty metal shacks that rent for $US25 ($24) a month.
But then the wind shifted, witnesses said, and embers from the garbage fires that routinely burn by the river wafted towards the area where the fuel was gushing out. There was no time to escape. The fuel exploded, sending a giant fireball shooting up over the slum, engulfing scores of people and scattering bodies that were left in various poses of anguish, burnt to the bone.
”All I can say is ‘pole sana’,” said Kalonzo Musyoka, the Vice-President of Kenya, using the Swahili words reserved for condolences. ”These people died like goats.”
Officials estimated that more than 100 people may have perished in the fire on Monday morning. This is not the first time scores of poor Kenyans have died in a fire while scooping up spilled fuel. In 2009, at least 113 people were burnt to death after a huge crowd descended on an overturned petrol tanker, which then blew up.
Several other spills have resulted in infernos and a few weeks ago the Kenyan police were criticised for firing into the air and wounding a woman in an attempt to drive people away from a fuel spill.
Residents of the Sinai slum, where the fire broke out, said fuel spills happened all the time.
”People started saying this morning, ‘There’s a spill, in the usual place; let’s get over there’,” Zackiyo Mwangi, a vendor of pirated CDs said. ”Yeah, I know, it’s dangerous, but that’s how life is here.”
Sinai is a warren of iron-sheeted shacks and muddy footpaths tucked behind Nairobi’s industrial area, not far from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. A main pipeline, that carries petrol, diesel and jet fuel from the port of Mombasa right across Kenya, slices through this tightly packed slum.
In 2008, the pipeline company tried to evict residents, saying it was illegal – and very dangerous – to live right above a high-pressure pipeline, but the people refused to budge.
The blast tore apart kiosks and homes and left a preschool blackened and smoking. It was unclear how many, if any, of the children had been killed
”Maybe the teacher got them all out,” said Grace Waithira, who lives nearby. But her tears seemed to suggest otherwise.
Red Cross volunteers pulled zippers over bodies in white plastic bags, scribbling in blue felt-tip marker ”male, adult,” ”male, child”, or other simple indicators on the plastic.
The air was heavy with the stench of garbage, petrol and charred flesh. While the burning garbage may have lighted this fire, poverty seemed to be the real fuse. ”This just shows you how these people will do anything to generate a coin,” said MP Johnson Muthama. ”Just look at them.” He gestured towards a crowd of thousands of onlookers, mostly young men in grubby clothes, staring gape-mouthed at all the bodies.
”They are ready to risk their lives for anything.”
The Taliban launched a major attack in the center of Kabul on Tuesday, hitting NATO’s coalition force headquarters next to the U.S. embassy in the Afghan capital.
The insurgent group said the ongoing assault began with a suicide attack targeting local and foreign intelligence buildings at a roundabout in the city.
Agence France Presse reporters heard a string of loud blasts while police confirmed one explosion and a gunfight close to the heavily-guarded embassy compound.
An AFP reporter close to the scene saw a string of mortar rounds fired and small arms fire, and heard explosions that seemed to hit multiple targets.
He said that police and Afghan military were attempting to approach the roundabout but were retreating under fire.
“Today at one o’clock at Kabul’s Abdul Haq roundabout a massive suicide attack on local and foreign intelligence facilities is ongoing,” said a spokesman for the insurgent group, Zabiullah Mujahid, in a text message to AFP.
A Western military source confirmed NATO’s International Security Assistance Force headquarters was one of the targets under attack.
“ISAF HQ is under attack at the moment,” the source said.
An ISAF spokesman would not confirm the headquarters was a target but said:
“There is an ongoing attack in the center of Kabul.”
One eyewitness reported that attackers had taken up position in a tall building under construction and were exchanging fire with security forces. An Afghan National Army installation is nearby, as is a Marriott hotel building site, the witness said.
The U.S. Embassy did not immediately have further information.
The Taliban are leading a bloody 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan. There are around 140,000 foreign troops in the country.
Kabul city is under the control of Afghan security forces, along with most of the wider Kabul province and six other parts of the country that were handed over by NATO-led troops in July.
In recent months Kabul has been hit by several high-profile suicide and gun attacks including a deadly assault on the British Council building two weeks ago.
The insurgency, which largely relies on roadside bombs and suicide attacks, has reached its deadliest phase over the past two years.
Last week an American civilian engineer was found murdered in mysterious circumstances in Kabul, a few days before the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that triggered the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
|[Turkey is taking concrete steps, preparing for a military confrontation with Israel.)|
|A Turkish Air Force F-16 jet fighter prepares to take off from an air base in the central anatolian city of Konya in this April 28, 2010 file photo. (Photo: Reuters)|
|Turkey’s Military Electronics Industry (ASELSAN) has produced a new identification friend or foe (IFF) system for Turkish jet fighters, warships and submarines and the new software, contrary to the older, US-made version, does not automatically identify Israeli planes and ships as friends, a news report said on Tuesday.|
|The new IFF has already been installed in Turkish F-16s and is expected to be installed in all Navy ships and submarines, the report, published in Turkish daily Star, said. It will be fully operational when it is installed in all military planes, warships and submarines.
The F-16 jet fighters, purchased from the US, came with pre-installed IFF software that automatically identifies Israeli fighters and warships as friends, disabling Turkish F-16s from targeting Israeli planes or ships. ASELSAN-made IFF will allow Turkish military commanders to identify friends and foes on the basis of national considerations.
Turkey was unable to make modifications to the friend or foe identification codes in US-made F-16s, while Israel was given a different version of the software allowing Israeli authorities to make modifications. Israel was also authorized to view the version given to Turkey, according to Star.
The report comes amid a severe crisis in ties with former ally Israel. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan set the stage for a possible naval confrontation with Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying last week that Turkish military ships will escort civilian ships carrying aid to Gaza, under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
A news report on Monday said three frigates were to be sent to the Eastern Mediterranean to protect aid ships from a possible interception by Israeli warships. The frigates, according to the report, will get as close as 100 meter to any Israeli military ship if those ships are outside of Israeli territorial waters.
Star also suggested that the new IFF system could be linked to a series of suspicious suicides in ASELSAN. Three ASELSAN engineers committed suicide in 2006 and 2007, but the media speculated that the engineers might have been murdered given the families’ testimonies that the suicides seem to come out of the blue with no warning signs. The report added that all three engineers had worked on the new IFF system to be used for F-16 fighters.
These are the most challenging times the Middle East has seen in decades, yet one couldn’t imagine a more inept government for Israel than the one that sits in Jerusalem
Last month, Israel rejected a compromise over the flotilla incident that Israeli and Turkish negotiators reached. The American administration has been applying pressure on Jerusalem and Ankara to reach an understanding prior to the publishing of the Palmer Report. According to recent reports in the local media, both sides to the talks in Geneva had agreed that Israel would apologize for “a military failure” that led to the death of eight Turkish citizens and one American during the attack on the Mavi Marmara, but the legality of the blockade on Gaza will not be questioned. Israel also agreed to compensate the families of the deceased.
Such an understanding would have served Jerusalem’s interests, and allowed for relations with Turkey to be mended (I say that even thought I oppose the blockade and believe it should end immediately). Yet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected the deal, fearing a backlash from the right and political gains by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the only political rival that could hurt him at his base. The result was a rapid deterioration of the diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey.
Following the political failure, the government moved to propaganda, claiming that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has decided to secure his role in the Arab world by going after Israel. Yet the facts don’t add up: If there was no hope in resolving the crisis with Ankara, why send representatives to Geneva and negotiate a deal? And if that wasn’t enough, while the full effect of the rift with Turkey was being revealed, Lieberman decided to start another fire by speculating on giving military aid to the PKK (the anti-Turkish Kurd resistance group) – something similar to a possible Turkish declaration of sending weapons to Hamas. This was too much even for Netanyahu, who rushed to issue a denial, long after the damage was done.
On the very same day of Lieberman’s provocation, troubles started in Cairo, and while military escalation remains unlikely, it seems that the peace treaty with Egypt – Israel’s greatest diplomatic achievement – is about to collapse. The Israeli embassy in Giza was stormed by protesters on Friday night, and the Egyptian commando had to rescue the security team which was at the building. Later at night, the ambassador, most of the diplomats and their families were flown back to Tel Aviv in a military plane.
It looks as if the anti-Israeli mood in Egypt has a lot to do with the frustration many feel due to the tightening of the military control over the country and the failure to make good on many of the promises the revolution made. Israel is perceived as an ally of the army and the old regime; relying on Egypt’s help in placing the blockade on Gaza has come back to haunt Israel. Once again, it’s clear that Jerusalem has failed to understand the local mood in Cairo. This was revealed in Israel’s dealing with the diplomatic fallout following the Eilat attack and the death of five Egyptian soldiers, and with the inflammatory statements that followed the escalation in the South.
At the heart of the diplomatic failure lies Netanyahu and Lieberman’s policy on the Palestinian issue, one that has replaced diplomatic initiative with public relations. Netanyahu sees existential threats everywhere, from Iran to the BDS campaign and from Ankara to Cairo, yet he is unwilling to do the single thing that could get most of the pressure off Israel: Ending the 44 years old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. By using his skillful manipulation of American politics – perhaps his best and only talent – the Israeli prime minister is dragging Washington’s foreign policy with him down a very dangerous path. Netanyahu’s policy plays a big part in making the United States less and less relevant in the Arab world, and ironically, strengthens the forces which do not recognize the legitimacy of any Jewish existence in the Middle East.
When the Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman trio took control over Israel’s foreign policy, there was a debate over the potential damage this cabinet could do. Some even argued that an extreme right government such as this could actually lead the Israeli public to accept concessions it wouldn’t normally, certainly not under the left. Nobody dares present these theories again. As it turned out, the right-wing government didn’t “adjust” itself to the left, but rather the other way around: With its provocative rhetoric and hard-line positions it helped bring about the geopolitical reality in which it could prosper, one of hate and anger.
As the situation around the country deteriorates, Netanyahu and Lieberman thrive, playing on the very real existential fears of Israelis, declaring that “now is not the time for concessions,” behaving as if Israeli actions play no role in the regional dynamics, and preparing the public for nightmare scenarios. With no immediate political threat to their government, it seems that the worse is yet to come.
[As predicted by many of us, the shitty little Zionist state in the Middle East has reached “critical mass” in world popular opinion–the world will no longer tolerate aggression against the relatively helpless Palestinian people, especially those living in Gaza. The “Perfect Storm” of public outrage we are witnessing (SEE: The U.S. Abandons Israel), has been building for a long time, at least since Israel instituted a virtual state of siege on Gaza after the election of the Hamas govt. in 2006. In addition to the building humanitarian outrage, we now see the completely new factor of concerted resistance being offered by Middle Eastern governments to Israeli bullying and aggression. As D-day (decision day) arrives in the UN, it is obvious that it is rapidly coming to a head in Israel/Palestine. The coming UN vote on statehood has been compounded by the Turkish Naval challenge to Israeli attacks on aid convoys and attempts to seize control of the Mediterranean gas fields, pressure from the Arab revolutions, anti-Israeli acts of violence in Egypt, and the fundamentalist colonizers who are seizing more of Palestinian territory by the hour. We may see the entire world gather together (except for the Western Imperialists) against Israel in the next couple of weeks.
This is the only real “existentialist threat” now confronting Israel. It will be their undoing. When it comes, will it be enough to fulfill Zionist threats that, ” Next time we’ll take all of you with us”? (SEE: The Samson Option).]
Saudi dailies criticize Israel for strained ties with Turkey, Egypt and PA; ‘Any measure taken against Israel is consdiered either anti-Semitic or act of terror,’ one daily says.
Prominent Saudi newspapers slammed Israel Monday for its “aggressive” policies in light of the Jewish state’s straining ties with Turkey and Egypt and the impending Palestinian bid for UN recognition.
“Israel has convinced the world that any measure taken against it is either anti-Semitic or an act of Arab or Islamic terror,” the newspaper Alriyadh said in an editorial. “The Arab revolutions have renewed the popular belief that Israel has remained the epitome of aggressive behavior, being an entity propagated by an international plot backed by Europe and the US.”
The editorial addressed Israel’s crisis with Turkey, claiming that Ankara rejected the “contempt that Israel showed towards it.”
The Almadina daily tackled the issue as well, declaring that the Jewish state “is more isolated than ever,” as indicated by the expulsion of its ambassador from Ankara, the attack on its embassy in Cairo and the Palestinians’ insistence on turning to the UN for the recognition of a state within the 1967 lines.
Jerusalem refused to respond to the Saudi reports, but addressed the recent remarks made by King Abdullah the II of Jordan, who claimed that his nation and “the future Palestine are stronger than Israel is today.” Political sources said that the “king’s statements should be monitored due to the internal sensitivities within the kingdom. The situation in Jordan is very delicate.”
A government official said that King Abdullah’s remarks should be taken with a grain of salt. “The king has strong ties with the US, and has strong interests with Israel,” he said. “We should keep that front calm, and follow the developments.”
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report
NEW YORK: An advertisement by Pakistan in America’s leading daily the Wall Street Journalon the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has not gone down well with readers here with some calling the ad a “joke” and questioning how a country where Osama bin Laden was hiding safely for years can “claim to be a victim of terrorism”.
Readers posted their reaction to the half-page advertisement in ‘The Threat Matrix,’ a blog of the Long War Journal, which is a publication focused on providing reporting and analysis on the global war on terror.
“This is quite humorous. They could do a hell of a lot for world peace by destroying their plethora of militant groups. Does any other nation have such an inflated sense of self worth (sic),” reads one of the over a dozen comments posted on the blog.
Another reader comments, “It would be nice if you would purge the ISI of Taliban/al Qaeda sympathisers, then launch assault into the FATA supported by heavy weapons and armour”.
In the advertisement, which has a picture of assassinated former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan asks, “Which country can do more for your peace”.
It goes on to give statistics of bomb blasts, assassination plots against Pakistani leaders and civilian and military casualties that a “nation of 180 million” suffered while “fighting for the future of world’s seven billion”.
“Which country can do more for your peace,” asks the advertisement in the Wall Street Journal.
“Since 2001, a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of the world’s 7 billion.”
The advertisement says that since Sep 11, 2001, 21,672 Pakistani civilians have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in the war against terror.
The Pakistani Army also has lost 2,795 soldiers while 8,671 soldiers have been wounded. More than 3.5 million have been displaced while the country has lost $68 billion due to terrorism, the media report said.
The advertisement noted that despite sacrifices the country was still engaged in “the war for world peace”.
“Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan,” it maintained.
One reader comments, “Still no explanation how Osama bin Laden happened to live comfortably for a decade in a garrison town. Or the Haqqani network or the Quetta Shura, or their fertiliser factory providing the fuel for IEDs in Afghanistan“.
Another says, “a country, which is the epicentre of global terrorism, on record of running terrorist training camps since the 1980s, protecting the Afghan Taliban that kills NATO soldiers, claims to be a victim of terrorism??!!”
“The sheer audacity of this advert comes from the fact that the Pakistani government and military leaders cannot or do not show any inclination to properly protect(ing) their own citizens let alone the worlds, as they continue to clandestinely support radical and extremist groups at the cost of their civilians lives”.
One reader called the ad a “joke” and “downright offensive,” saying if there was one day when Pakistan should stop with the “pretence of being our ally, it was yesterday”.
He said a newspaper of the stature of the Wall Street Journal should not have published such an ad.
“Is this an ad or acceptance of a failed state. If one is not able to contain terrorism it is your own problem not of others. Pakistan has made a mockery of itself by broadcasting such an ad,” read another comment.