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Ian Mandell

BBC News - Taliban detainee 'met Bin Laden this year' - 0 views

  • Taliban detainee in Pakistan claims to have information about Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts in January or February of this year.
  • His claims cannot be verified but a leading American expert says his account should be investigated.
  • The sheikh doesn't stay in any one place. That guy came from Ghazni, so I think that's where the sheikh was."
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  • he province of Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan has an increasingly strong Taliban presence. Large parts of the province are no-go areas for coalition and Afghan forces.
  •"button"); Programmes Have Your Say In Pictures Country Profiles Special Reports Related BBC sites Sport Weather On This Day Editors' Blog BBC World Service Languages Urdu Hindi Bengali Pashto Nepali Tamil Sinhala More Page last updated at 01:28 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009 E-mail this to a friend Printable version Taliban detainee 'met Bin Laden this year'
Ian Mandell

BBC News - Egypt starts building steel wall on Gaza Strip border - 0 views

  • Egypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned.
  • The land beneath Egypt and Gaza resembles a Swiss cheese, full of holes and tunnels through which the Palestinians smuggle the everyday items they are denied by the blockade. But the Israelis say the tunnels are also used to smuggle people, weapons, and the components of the rockets that are fired at southern Israeli towns. The wall is not expected to stop all the smuggling, but it will force the Palestinians to go deeper and it will likely cut the hundreds of superficial tunnels closer to the surface that are used to move the bulk of the goods.
  • Egypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned.
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  • gypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned.
  • Egypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned
  • Egypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned.
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  • When it is finished the wall will be 10-11km (6-7 miles) long and will extend 18 metres below the surface
Ed Webb

Raqqa's dirty secret - BBC News - 0 views

  • three days of hard driving, carrying a deadly cargo - hundreds of IS fighters, their families and tonnes of weapons and ammunition
  • The deal to let IS fighters escape from Raqqa – de facto capital of their self-declared caliphate – had been arranged by local officials. It came after four months of fighting that left the city obliterated and almost devoid of people. It would spare lives and bring fighting to an end. The lives of the Arab, Kurdish and other fighters opposing IS would be spared. But it also enabled many hundreds of IS fighters to escape from the city. At the time, neither the US and British-led coalition, nor the SDF, which it backs, wanted to admit their part.
  • the BBC has spoken to dozens of people who were either on the convoy, or observed it, and to the men who negotiated the deal
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  • He and the rest of the drivers are angry. It’s weeks since they risked their lives for a journey that ruined engines and broke axles but still they haven’t been paid. It was a journey to hell and back, he says.
  • As soon as we entered, we saw IS fighters with their weapons and suicide belts on. They booby-trapped our trucks. If something were to go wrong in the deal, they would bomb the entire convoy. Even their children and women had suicide belts on
  • We took out around 4,000 people including women and children - our vehicle and their vehicles combined. When we entered Raqqa, we thought there were 200 people to collect. In my vehicle alone, I took 112 people.
  • the convoy was six to seven kilometres long. It included almost 50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 of the Islamic State group’s own vehicles
  • Ten trucks were loaded with weapons and ammunition
  • It was also understood that no foreigners would be allowed to leave Raqqa alive. Back in May, US Defence Secretary James Mattis described the fight against IS as a war of “annihilation”.“Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to north Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We are not going to allow them to do so,” he said on US television. But foreign fighters – those not from Syria and Iraq - were also able to join the convoy, according to the drivers
  • In light of the BBC investigation, the coalition now admits the part it played in the deal. Some 250 IS fighters were allowed to leave Raqqa, with 3,500 of their family members. “We didn’t want anyone to leave,” says Col Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Western coalition against IS. “But this goes to the heart of our strategy, ‘by, with and through’ local leaders on the ground. It comes down to Syrians – they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations,”
  • According to Abu Fawzi, there were three or four foreigners with each driver. They would beat him and call him names, such as “infidel”, or “pig”. They might have been helping the fighters escape, but the Arab drivers were abused the entire route, they say. And threatened. “They said, 'Let us know when you rebuild Raqqa - we will come back,’” says Abu Fawzi. “They were defiant and didn’t care. They accused us of kicking them out of Raqqa.” A female foreign fighter threatened him with her AK-47.
  • “A one-eyed Tunisian fighter told me to fear God,” he says. “In a very calm voice, he asked why I had shaved. He said they would come back and enforce Sharia once again. I told him we have no problem with Sharia laws. We're all Muslims.”
  • Despite the abuse they suffered, the lorry drivers agreed - when it came to money, IS settled its bills.
  • IS may have been homicidal psychopaths, but they're always correct with the money
  • Along the route, many people we spoke to said they heard coalition aircraft, sometimes drones, following the convoy.
  • When the last of the convoy were about to cross, a US jet flew very low and deployed flares to light up the area. IS fighters shat their pants
  • Past the last SDF checkpoint, inside IS territory - a village between Markada and Al-Souwar - Abu Fawzi reached his destination. His lorry was full of ammunition and IS fighters wanted it hidden. When he finally made it back to safety, he was asked by the SDF where he’d dumped the goods. “We showed them the location on the map and he marked it so uncle Trump can bomb it later,” he says.
  • “Those highly placed foreigners have their own networks of smugglers. It’s usually the same people who organised their access to Syria. They co-ordinate with one another.”
  • battle-hardened militants have spread across Syria and further afield – and many of them aren’t done fighting yet
Ed Webb

BBC News - Saudis Arabia 'insulted' by UK inquiry - 1 views

  • Saudi Arabia says it is "insulted" by a parliamentary inquiry into how the UK deals with the country and Bahrain. Saudi officials have told the BBC they are now "re-evaluating their country's historic relations with Britain" and that "all options will be looked at".
  • In September, the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) announced it would be opening a wide-ranging review into the UK's relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
  • The FAC said its new inquiry would look closely at how the UK balances its various interests in these countries in defence, trade, security, counter-terrorism and human rights.
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  • Saudi Arabia, long sensitive to western criticisms of its human rights record, believes the inquiry has been prompted by Shia activists from Bahrain, including those striving to overthrow the Sunni monarchy there
  • "Saudi Arabia's relations with the GCC is an internal matter among the six countries and we will not tolerate or accept any foreign interference in the workings of the GCC"
  • Saudi Arabia is a huge trading and defence partner for Britain with nearly £4bn of bilateral trade last year. According to the UK Trade and Investment Office there are approximately 200 UK/Saudi joint ventures with total investment of more than £11bn. Defence deals include the £7bn BAE Systems contract supplying the next tranche of Typhoon jets. Thousands of British expatriates work in Saudi Arabia and British companies involved there include Shell, GlaxoSmithKline, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Marks & Spencer
    The FAC inquiry may embarrass both the British and Saudi governments. There's not much to be done about that, though. It will be drawing attention to well-known existing tensions and contradictions in western, including British, policies toward the MENA region, rather than revealing anything new. The old bargain, propping up dictatorships in return for stability, has shown itself to have been based on false premises. The GCC states are very different from Tunisia or Egypt. But the demographic factors are there, and the transnational public sphere overlaps significantly. Choppy waters ahead, whether or not the FAC proceeds with tact.

BBC News - Pentagon condemns 'war on Islam' US training class - 0 views

  • The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, said the course was "totally objectionable" and "against our values".
  • course has now been suspended.
  • "It was just totally objectionable, against our values, and it wasn't academically sound," Gen Dempsey said
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  • "We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as 'moderate Islam'," Lt Col Dooley said in the presentation last July.
Ed Webb

Censure for reporter over Gaza tweet sparks BBC rethink over social media - TV & Radio ... - 0 views

    If you report on Israel/Palestine and are not getting attacked by people on both "sides," you are almost certainly not doing your job as a journalist.
Ed Webb

Iraq and Syria opinion poll - the world's most dangerous survey? - BBC News - 1 views

  • how do you set about conducting field research in an IS-controlled area?"In the IS-controlled areas of Raqqa for each survey we visit the head of the town and ask him for permission to randomly interview people," Mr Heald says. "His response is 'so long as you are not an international media station and pull out video cameras, I don't mind you doing this'." "Why is this his reaction? Because, as the data verifies, many of those living in Raqqa now are happier since IS took over. "They welcome the security, they see IS trying to help the people with electricity, with food, with petrol. In many respects it is a story they are keen to tell."
  • "the majority in both countries are opposed to IS but that they also think that IS is a product of foreign countries… which to you and I may seem like some crazy conspiracy theory but to them it is a common perception."Widespread opposition to the coalition bombing, should also make policymakers reconsider their strategy. I think the official British government line is that coalition air strikes are 'degrading' IS. "But while we can accept that it may be slowing them down," he says, "there is little evidence to suggest they are losing the war. People aren't leaving Raqqa now because of IS - they are leaving because of the coalition air strikes."
  • IS have an incredibly well-oiled strategic communication operation. Politicians and military leaders need to track public opinion to see where hearts and minds are and how they are shifting
Ed Webb

BBC News - Ayatollah Fadlallah tributes divide opinion - 0 views

  • Ayatollah Fadlallah opposed the concept of Velayat-e-faqih, an Iranian invention which gives unchallenged authority in politics and theology to the Supreme Leader - currently Ali Khamenei. Iran, meanwhile, never recognised Ayatollah Fadlallah as a marjaa'. So while Ayatollah Fadlallah did not hold an official position and cannot be replaced in the same way that a judge or minister would be, Iran will likely seek to promote its own favourite to lead Lebanon's Shias. "Admittedly, US policymakers have typically not been players in the arcane world of Shia clerical politics," wrote David Schenker from the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy. "How ironic, though, that Fadlallah - a man who Washington labelled a terrorist in 1995 - stood as the last bulwark against near total Iranian hegemony in Lebanon."
nate grefe

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran's arsenal of missiles - 0 views

  • Iran's missile programme has hit the headlines again with the announcement that it has successfully launched a new medium-range rocket, capable of reaching Israel and southern Europe.
  • Analysts have previously suggested that Iran staged missile tests to reinforce the message that it was ready to hit back if Israel or the US - or both - launched any kind of military strike on its nuclear facilities
  • However, London-based defence analyst Christopher Pang told the BBC that despite the attention it attracts, Iran lags far behind in its missile development.
    Article detailing Iran's missile capabilities
Ed Webb

BBC News - Barack Obama condemns Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's UN speech - 1 views

  • "This is not a matter of us choosing to impose punishment on the Iranians," he told the BBC. "This is a matter of the Iranian government ultimately betraying the interests of its own people by isolating it further." And he pointed out that countries such as Russia and China had also backed the UN sanctions. "Most of these sanctions are targeted at the regime, at its military, and we think that over time, hopefully, there's enough reflection within the Iranian government, that they say to themselves, you know, 'This is not the best course for our people. This is not the best course for Iran.'"
    • Ed Webb
      This is similar to the language the Bush I and Clinton administrations used about Iraq in the 1990s.
  • the Iranians "seem to be talking about talks about talks".
Ed Webb

BBC News - US 'disappointed' as settlement building ban ends - 0 views

  • Analysis Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor It was only last week in New York that President Obama told delegates at the UN General Assembly an independent state of Palestine could be joining them a year from now. Even then, his words didn't sound like a blueprint for the future laid down by the most powerful man in the world. They were more like a plea to both Israelis and Palestinians to keep talking. The crisis over Jewish settlements has been waiting to happen ever since Mr Obama inaugurated this latest round of peace talks in Washington three weeks ago. Mr Netanyahu leads a coalition government dominated by parties supporting the Jewish settler movement. It's the most dynamic political force in Israel, determined that the freeze will not continue. A major reason why the settlements were started after Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967 was to make it politically impossible for Israel to give up what it claimed as Jewish land to the Palestinians. More than 40 years on that strategy is working in the way the founders of the settlement movement intended.
Ed Webb

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | No covering up Egypt's niqab row - 0 views

  • religion is expanding, he explains. It has morphed with custom and tradition; the boundaries are disappearing.
    • Ed Webb
      Such 'boundaries' are always fluid, always contingent, always changing, always (only) a matter of convention. Historically they ebb and flow. The very categories of 'religion' 'custom' 'tradition' are similarly in motion, not always even present, depending on which historical era one is discussing.
Ed Webb

BBC NEWS | Americas | Envoy urges no US troop increase - 0 views

  • a leaked cable
  • Gen McChrystal was "fuming" about Mr Eikenberry's intervention
    Seems like President Obama is being pulled in every direction. Why can't there ever be a definitive 'best-choice' in political science? So speculative is this crazy world of international relations. I suppose that's what makes it so much fun.
Ed Webb

BBC News - Egypt recalls Algerian envoy as football row deepens - 0 views

  • The Egyptian government has recalled its ambassador to Algeria following complaints about violence towards football fans, reports say.
  • Violence between Egypt and Algeria fans flared up across four countries.
    bah you beat me by an hour! I forgot to check Diigo first, oh well.
Jim Franklin

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US view on settlement 'unchanged' - 0 views

  • appeared to endorse an Israeli position that talks could start before a settlement freeze which the Palestinians are demanding.
  • Washington has changed tack, saying the most important thing was to get the negotiations going again.
  • The Palestinian refusal to acquiesce in this means the chances appear slimmer than ever that these talks about talks can be turned into substantive negotiations, BBC Jerusalem correspondent Paul Wood said.
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  • They refused a direct appeal from Mrs Clinton to enter substantive talks immediately and the final status negotiations remain a long, long way off.
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