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December 18, 2014

Nation mourns, world condemns Taliban attack on Pakistan army school

Nation mourns, world condemns Taliban attack on Pakistan army school

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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In the wake of Tuesday’s high-school attack by the Pakistani Taliban (TTK) on an army public school, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a three-day period of official mourning. In addition to condemnation from world leaders — who include UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, and Deputy director David Griffiths of Amnesty International — news agency Reuters are reporting the Afghan Taliban have also issued a statement condemning the attack.

The statement carried by Reuters, claiming to be from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, reads: “The intentional killing of innocent people, children and women are against the basics of Islam and this criteria has to be considered by every Islamic party and government.” Tuesday’s attack on the Army Public School in Pakistan‘s north-western city of Peshawar claimed the lives of 132 children, and nine staff from the school.

Official reports, following police and military action against the attackers, insist seven people took part in the school attack; although a statement, issued by the TTK, insists there were only six, their targets being older pupils. The attack began in the mid morning local time, with the assailants observed entering the compound wearing suicide vests. Shortly thereafter, shots were heard with survivors reporting the gunmen were shooting people indiscriminately, going from classroom to classroom, killing teachers and students as they found them.

The massacre sparked a public outcry, both national and international; which, press speculate, led to the TTK stressing the intent to only target older students at the army school.

Turkey announced one day of national mourning. Described as impossible to justify and “blood-curdling” by the UN Secretary-General, EU Parliamentary President Schulz labelled the attack “abominable and cowardly [demonstrating] the inhuman attitude of the Taliban, their inhuman ideology, their remorseless fanaticism”, and Indian Nobel Prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi, condemned the attackers as “enemies of Allah” and stated: “The militants, be they Taliban or any other militants, who kill children, are the enemies of humanity. This attack is a blot on humanity”.

In addition to a three-day period of national mourning, President Sharif reintroduced Pakistan’s death penalty.



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February 11, 2014

Wiki loves the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Wiki loves the European Parliament in Strasbourg

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg
Image: Ralf Roletschek.

A special Wikinews video report from the parliament visit
Image: Brian McNeil.

Last week fifty volunteers, from nine countries covering nineteen languages, spent four days at the European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg photographing and filming members of the parliament (MEPs). This being an effort to significantly increase the audio-visual content available in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia Foundation projects.

Members of the team, who were all granted guest press accreditation, began arriving at the hotel in the small town of Kork, not far from the France–Germany border, on Saturday. The team base, Hotel Ochsen, has an interesting history. Placards on the courtyard wall explain it served as headquarters for Field marshal Kollowrat-Krakowsky battling Napoleonic forces in the 1796 Siege of Kehl.

Those arriving later came directly to the Louise Weiss building, which hosts the parliament’s plenary sessions and all voting on EU matters. Whilst staying in the hotel, the Wikimedian group met two MEPs who chose it in-preference to dramatically more-expensive Strasbourg accommodation. One of the ushers from the parliament also chatted with volunteers at the hotel, self-depricatingly describing his ceremonial attire as a “penguin suit” due to the long-tailed jacket.

One of the first day’s MEPs to introduce themselves to the visiting Wikimedians was Christian Engström; delivering copies of his book, The Case for Copyright Reform, co-authored with Swedish Pirate Party founder Rickard Falkvinge. Engström explained that, in the book, he argues Wikipedia is one of the losers under current copyright legislation. One of numerous MEPs who recorded video introductions in multiple languages, he was more-confident than some colleagues — the most-challenging taking thirteen takes to successfully record.

Wikimedia volunteers pose for a group photo in the parliament
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

Planning meeting in Hotel Ochsen, prior to travelling to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

Something to tempt MEPs into allowing their photos be taken
Image: Marcus Cyron.

Travelling by bus to the parliament
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

Unpacking and setting up in the parliament
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

MEP Michel Barnier talking to the mainstream press in the parliament
Image: Ralf Roletschek.

Elmar Brok giving a press conference in the parliament
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

The Wiki loves parliaments photography ‘booths’ in the parliament
Image: Texaner.

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano addressing the parliamentary chamber
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

The parliament’s Sakharov Exhibition, adjacent to where Wikimedians set up photo editing stations
Image: Brian McNeil.

French journalist Serge July inside the parliament during a press conference where it was demanded journalists held in Syria be released
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

MEPs in makeup prior to being photographed
Image: Marcus Cyron.

Portrait photo of Hungarian MEP Livia Jaroka
Image: Leila Paul.

Interior shot of the parliament’s Louise Weiss building
Image: Brian McNeil.

Wikimedians uploading photos, and editing articles, in the parliament
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

Banner in the courtyard of the parliament, calling for release of journalists held hostage in Syria
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth, MEP for South West England
Image: Leila Paul.

Wikimedian Manuel Schneider (in background) filming a statement from MEP Bruno Gollnisch in the parliament
Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc.

Re-packing equipment after the Wiki loves parliament event
Image: Brian McNeil.

Wikimedians have a final shared meal after the event
Image: Brian McNeil.

Over 1,000 new, high-quality, photographs were taken and uploaded for use on Wikimedia projects during the visit. The second and third days in the parliament saw the highest number of MEPs coming to see the visiting Wikimedians and have their photographs taken. Once photographed, MEPs were encouraged to make video introductions in languages they were comfortable speaking in. In excess of 200 video clips of MEPs introducing themselves were captured; this providing freely-reusable audio and video records available via Wikimedia Commons.

A medley of MEPs introducing themselves
Image: Brian McNeil, Manuel Schneider.

Parliamentarians became more-enthusiastic about the project in its later days, with significantly more turning up to be photographed and filmed. Given some turned up as Wikimedians were packing up on the last day, some still lack freely-licensed photographs for their Wikipedia entries. French MEP, and National Front member, Bruno Gollnisch was amongst those disappointed when turning up after much of the equipment was packed up; although Gollnisch has already provided some video recordings, he had returned with additional prepared texts — including Japanese — for use in a video introduction.

Despite much of two levels within the parliament set aside for the press, the event received little coverage from mainstream media. France TV‘s channel three broadcast a report on the Thursday, making footage available via their website on the Friday.

In contrast the Voice intro project (WikiVIP) started by Andy Mabbett, and brought to a far-wider audience with Stephen Fry‘s endorsement, saw Mabbet give an interview from one of the parliament’s radio studios with United States‘ public radio network NPR. With Fry’s recording catching the attention of the press, that project has received coverage from as-far afield as Italy, Russia, and Japan.

Audio for use on Wikipedia is to be extracted from video recordings of MEPs for use on Wikimedia projects. As available storage and bandwidth increases, it is a longer-term goal of the Wikimedia Foundation to increase freely-available, and reusable, multimedia content across all projects hosted by the Foundation.

The project also served as an opportunity to emphasise that all Wikimedia content is created through people donating their time and effort. Whilst MEPs knew anyone could edit Wikipedia, meeting a group representing all ages, and much of Europe, served as an effective public-relations exercise.



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March 3, 2013

Liberal Democrats hold onto Eastleigh in by-election as UKIP vote soars

Liberal Democrats hold onto Eastleigh in by-election as UKIP vote soars

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

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A photo of David Cameron with Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne.
Image: Office of Nick Clegg.

The Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton won the Eastleigh, United Kingdom parliamentary by-election on Thursday with a slim majority of 1,771 votes, with the Conservative Party finishing in third place after a voting surge for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who finished in second.

Thornton, who lives in Bishopstoke and has been a local councillor since 2007, said in his victory speech, “The people of Eastleigh recognise that the Liberal Democrats have always had a superb record of delivery, we’ve always listened to what people want, and we always make sure that we do a good job.” Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg celebrated with Mike Thornton and party supporters; in a statement he said: “We held our nerve, we stood our ground. We overcame the odds and won a stunning victory”.

At the last general election in 2010, Liberal Democrats won with 46.5% of the vote, holding a 3,864-vote majority over the Conservative Party, who gained 39.3%, and the constituency has been in the Liberal Democrats’ control since another by-election in 1994. The party’s share of the vote dropped by 14.4 percentage points as UKIP posted their best-ever election results.

A map of the Eastleigh constituency.
Image: Wereon.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said that after their success in the by-election they will “take the tremor that [they] have created at Eastleigh and turn it into a national political earthquake” in the European Parliament election in 2014. Farage said of Prime Minister David Cameron, “He’s talking about gay marriage, wind turbines, unlimited immigration from India. He wants Turkey to join the European Union. The Conservatives’ problems are not because of UKIP, it’s because of their leader”.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said “We’ll be fighting the next election providing a clear choice between David Cameron as PM or Labour Party leader] Ed Miliband.” David Cameron played down suggestions that UKIP pose a big threat to the Conservative Party at the 2015 General Election. He said, “It is a disappointing result for the Conservative Party, but it is clear that, in mid-term by-elections, people want to register a protest”.

The Labour candidate John O’Farrell ended up fourth with 9.82% of the vote. Ed Miliband responded by saying, “Clearly I would have preferred to get more votes but this was always going to be a tough fight for Labour”.

Chris Huhne, the former Secretary of State for Energy, triggered the election when he resigned as the MP after admitting perverting the course of justice by asking his wife to take speeding penalty points for him in 2003.



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January 28, 2012

Wikinews Shorts: January 28, 2012

Wikinews Shorts: January 28, 2012 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: January 28, 2012

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A compilation of brief news reports for Saturday, January 28, 2012.

If you believe any of these stories deserves more in-depth coverage, feel free to write a full article on the issues raised.

EU official resigns over anti-piracy treaty

Rapporteur to the European Parliament Kader Arif has resigned yesterday in protest over the signing of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) by 22 members of the European Union on Thursday. He said “I will not participate in this masquerade.”

Reaction to the signing treaty, which has still to be ratified, was strong in Poland; thousands protested in Poznan and Lublin, and in the Polish Parliament members of the Palikot’s Movement donned Guy Fawkes masks in protest.

The European Commission website maintains that “Anything you can do legally today is still legal after the ratification of ACTA.”



French troops to end Afghan combat role a year early in 2013

Speaking yesterday after a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced France will end its Afghan combat missions in 2013 — a year earlier than planned.

Following the death of four French soldiers at the hands of an Afghan soldier last week, Sarkozy had threatened early withdrawal of French troops.



United States and Philippines discuss enhanced defense cooperation

The United States and the Philippines are discussing the possibility of enhanced defense cooperation, according to officials of both countries. However, there are no plans for bases along the lines of the former United States bases at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base.

The talks come in the context of a shift of United States strategic focus toward Asia, and Chinese claims in the South China Sea.





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November 19, 2011

EU increases 2012 budget by two per cent

EU increases 2012 budget by two per cent

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

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The European Union budget for 2012 has been increased by two per cent, despite European authorities targeting a budget increase of approximately five per cent for next year. The budget will now stand at 129,000,000,000 (US$174,000,000,000 or £110,000,000,000).

Negotiators at the EU reached this decision after fifteen hours of discussions on the matter. The European Commission had wished for a budget increase of 4.9% for 2012. At the same time, the European Parliament was aiming to achieve an increase of 5.2%. Such targets were objected to by the governments of various EU member countries; they were considered “unrealistic”.

Cquote1.svg We have stopped the … inflation-busting proposals and have delivered on the [UK] government’s promise to freeze the EU budget in real terms Cquote2.svg

Mark Hoban, UK Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The UK government welcomed the result, describing it as “excellent”. British Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban explained: “We have stopped the European Commission and European Parliament’s inflation-busting proposals and have delivered on the government’s promise to freeze the EU budget in real terms”. One argument the British government has maintained for objecting to the European Commission and European Parliament’s requests is, “with member states facing tough decisions on spending at home, we could not afford these unrealistic demands”, according to Hoban.

Janusz Lewandowski, EU Budget Commissioner, has described the outcome as “clearly an austerity budget” and has expressed concern about the “serious risk that the European Commission will run out of funds in the course of next year, and will therefore not be able to honour all its financial obligations towards beneficiaries of EU funds”.

Now, concern should be given towards the discussions about the long-term budget of the EU between the years 2014 and 2020, Hoban believes. BBC News Online has reported that the British government is anticipated to reject proposals from the European Commission to raise the long-term budget by five per cent. According to the Press Association, the Commission wants to increase the budget by eleven per cent in comparison to the seven years prior.



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June 28, 2011

Chinese political dissident Hu Jia freed as Chinese Premier Wen visits Britain

Chinese political dissident Hu Jia freed as Chinese Premier Wen visits Britain

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hu Jia
Image: Stevenliuyi.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

The Chinese government released human rights activist Hu Jia from prison on Sunday after he had served over three years for subversion. His release, which had been scheduled in advance, occurred just days after controversial artist Ai Weiwei was unexpectedly released on bail after three months of detention.

Hu was released on the same day that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao began his visit to Britain, the first country on his three-nation Europe trade tour.

Described by the Irish Times as a “mild-mannered, slight figure who suffers from liver ailments”, the 37-year-old Hu is a prominent Chinese dissident who had spent years campaigning for civil liberties, environmentalism, and on behalf of suffers of HIV/AIDS before his imprisonment. He was imprisoned in April 2008 for “inciting to subvert state power” by writing articles about human rights in the period before the 2008 Olympic Games. He had also given many interviews to foreign news media and government embassies. He was first detained in December 2007 and his arrest came after he had spent more than 200 days under house arrest. In 2008 while in prison, he won the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, awarded by the European Parliament.

Hu’s wife Zeng Jinyuan said via Twitter that her husband lost his political rights upon his release and cannot speak to the media for a period of one year.

Cquote1.svg (My parents) have told me to just be a normal citizen and don’t confront the system because this system is very cruel, using the country’s absolute power to violate people’s dignity without restraint. But I can only tell my parents I will be careful. Cquote2.svg

—Hu Jia, human rights activist

Hu was briefly interviewed on Sunday via telephone by Hong Kong’s Cable TV, and indicated that despite the danger, he would not give up his work. “(My parents) have told me to just be a normal citizen and don’t confront the system because this system is very cruel, using the country’s absolute power to violate people’s dignity without restraint. But I can only tell my parents I will be careful”, he said.

Although recent releases of high-profile dissidents such as Hu and Ai may seem to some that China is loosening its repressive policies against dissidents, activists and academics said yesterday that the determination of the Chinese government to silence dissent has not lessened and those speaking up continue to be rounded up and detained.

Huang Qi, a dissident released this month from prison and interviewed by telephone, said, “We closely follow dozens of rights’ defense cases, and I’ve found that that at the grassroots and lowest levels of society in China, the rights defense environment has not seen any fundamental improvements.” He warned, “One cannot count how many ordinary people are being locked up or taken away every day.”

However, Wan Yanhau who is a Chinese activist living in the US said there might be a short term diminishing of the crackdowns on human rights activists. He suggested the government could be realizing that the harsh treatment of dissidents has not stopped recent episodes of unrest. The riots by migrant workers in the Guangdong province and protests by ethnic Mongolians are recent examples. Further, China is receiving harsh criticism from European countries with which it wants to increase trade.

But illegal detentions are increasing, according to Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch, and are signs that China is not moving toward compliance with international norms.



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June 21, 2011

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner dies aged 88

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner dies aged 88

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

File:BonnerAndSakharovAndKallistratova1986.jpg
Yelena Bonner (left), Andrei Sakharov and Sofiya Kalistratova in Moscow, 1977.

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner died of heart failure in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday at the age of 88, her daughter Tatiana Yankelevich said in a statement. She had been hospitalized since February 21.

Bonner gained fame by smuggling the papers of her late husband, the nuclear physicist and Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov, out of Siberia and was prominent in her own right for her human rights activism.

Leaders and politicians paid Bonner tribute. “The world has lost one of the most inspiring and dedicated human rights defenders,” said Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament.

Cquote1.svg The world has lost one of the most inspiring and dedicated human rights defenders. Cquote2.svg

Jerzy Buzek, President European Parliament

Bonner was born in Turkmenistan February 15, 1923 to a family of Communist Party officials; her father was later killed and her mother sent to a gulag in Joseph Stalin‘s purges of the late 1930s.

In 1941, she became a nurse for the Soviet military on the front during World War II. She suffered a severe wound to the chest, and serious head injuries in 1943 from which she nearly lost her sight, and received decorations for valor. Bonner returned to the front in 1945, advancing with the army to Potsdam. While studying medicine when the war was over, she married a fellow student, Ivan Semyonov and they had a son and a daughter. But as she became increasingly politically active, they lost their common interests and divorced in 1965.

She was an active Soviet dissident in the 1970s, and a leader of a group that monitored Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The Washington Post describes her at this time as “[h]eadstrong and sharp-tongued with a no-nonsense voice deepened by years of chain-smoking acrid Russian cigarettes”.

Bonner married Sakharov in 1972, whom she had met through her political activities. He was also fierce critic of the lack of civil liberties and human rights in the Soviet Union, and their tiny Moscow apartment became the meeting place for the Soviet dissident movement in the 1970s. They traveled around Russia together visiting imprisoned dissidents and working for their legal rights.

When Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, she traveled to Oslo to receive it on his behalf as Soviet authorities refused to allow her husband to leave the country.

Cquote1.svg We note with profound sadness the death of Yelena Bonner, an extraordinary voice among human rights defenders in the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. Cquote2.svg

—Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department

Sakharove was arrested in 1980 and exiled to Siberia, and Bonner, Sakharove’s sole contact with the outside world, smuggled his writings to Moscow and ensured that they were published. Soviet authorities conducted campaigns of personal attacks against her, accusing her of being a foreign agent who turned Sakharove against his country. In 1984 she was convicted of “anti-Soviet agitation” and was exiled to Siberia with her husband, both continually harassed by authorities. She published her memoir in 1986 of the years in exile, described by the Washington Post as partly “a love story of mutual sacrifice.”

In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the Sakharoves to return to Moscow where they continued to agitate for human rights and were constantly harassed for their activities.

When the Soviet Union collapsed two years after Sakharov’s death in 1989, Bonner continued her human rights and political activities. She initially supported President Boris Yeltsin‘s government and served on his state human rights commission, but became critical of his government at the beginning of the war in Chechnya. She was also critical of Yeltin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, and was the first person to sign a petition against him in March 2010.

As her health deteriorated, she became less active, and she moved to the United States to be with her daughter.

Bonner received the Rafto Prize in 1991 for her promotion of human rights in the former Soviet Union and in contemporary Russia. She published at least four books and edited her husband’s memoirs which were published in 1997.

U.S. State Department‘s spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement: “We note with profound sadness the death of Yelena Bonner, an extraordinary voice among human rights defenders in the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.”



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May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden killed in U.S. operation in Pakistan, White House says

Osama bin Laden killed in U.S. operation in Pakistan, White House says

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Monday, May 2, 2011

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File photograph of Osama bin Laden.
Image: FBI.

U.S. officials last night said Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader and orchestrator of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and embassy bombings in 1998, had been killed by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan near the capital Islamabad.

White House officials say that four others were killed in the forty-minute raid that began at 2000 UTC yesterday—including a woman said to have been used as a human shield. One of those shot is thought to be bin Laden’s son. An American helicopter was lost due to mechanical failure, but no U.S. forces or civilians were killed.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced the news in a statement late last night. “I can report to the American people and to the world, that the U.S. has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” Obama said. He confirmed he had been told in August of a lead to the location of bin Laden, and approved the operation last week. The operation involved a “small team of Americans”, Obama said.

The operation, led by the CIA, occurred nearly ten years after the 9/11 attacks. CIA director Leon Panetta notified U.S. legislators Sunday about the news. His body was verified using several methods, including DNA testing with DNA from a dead sister’s body, stored in a Boston, Massachusetts hospital, as well as facial recognition. However, staff at the hospital in question—Massachusetts General Hospital—have not been able to “find any evidence” of the body ever being stored there. U.S. officials said his body was then buried at sea at around 0600 UTC today, “in accordance with Islamic law and traditions” and because of the difficulty of finding a country that would accept the remains of the world’s most wanted man. Saudi Arabia, the country in which Osama bin Laden was born, refused a U.S. offer to take the body.

Celebrations in U.S.; European Parliament says world is ‘safer’

Following the President’s announcement, people started gathering in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., Times Square and Ground Zero—the site of the World Trade Center—in New York, to celebrate; singing the national anthem. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, said he hoped the death of bin Laden would “bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001”.

The U.S. government is reportedly expecting al-Qaeda to soon release what they are likely to call a “martyr tape”—an audio recording made by bin Laden to be broadcast after his death.

Although the death of the 54-year-old bin Laden, who was the most wanted person in the world, was greeted with celebration in the U.S., analysts have warned that al-Qaeda will “undoubtedly” launch a retaliatory attack. “I think the significance of what has happened cannot really be overstated,” John Gearson, director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College London, said.

President Obama’s announcement of the news.

“There will be concerns that there could be some sort of retaliation, that al-Qaeda may well want to demonstrate that they are still strong and still in the game.” He warned that U.S. officials may “lose their focus” after such a major victory, “and that will provide an opportunity for the remnants of al-Qaeda to reform and grow stronger.”

Cquote1.svg I can report to the American people and to the world, that the U.S. has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden. Cquote2.svg

—Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, appealed to Islamic militant fighters to use the opportunity of bin Laden’s death to abandon their groups. “Our message to the Taliban remains the same, but today it may have even greater resonance: you cannot wait us out,” she said. “You cannot defeat us. But you can make the choice to abandon Al Qaeda and cooperate in a peaceful political process.”

The president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, said that “we have waken up in a safer world”, with the news bringing “safety to millions of people”, whilst U.S. senator John McCain sought to remind the American people to “be mindful that al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies are still lethal and determined enemies”. The Kremlin reiterated that “revenge is inescapable for all terrorists”, and that “only a joint struggle against global terrorism can bring a result”.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, sought to remind people bin Laden was “the world’s most prominent leader”, going on to say that “it was of great importance that he was still alive and active, and it is unequivocally a good thing that he is no longer able to pursue terror, murder and mayhem in the world”. Mentioning that security at British embassies worldwide have been increased in the wake of the news, he reiterated that the death of the al-Qaeda leader was a “serious blow”, and that, “like any organisation that has suffered a serious blow, they will want to show in some way that they are still able to operate”.

Americans gather at Ground Zero—the site of the World Trade Center—in New York to celebrate the death of bin Laden.
Image: rxb.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, welcomed the news, along with many other European countries. He praised the “tenacity” of the U.S. attack, congratulating the “major blow” the move dealt to al-Qaeda. Eight French citizens were killed last week in a bomb blast in Marrakesh, and, although no group has yet claimed responsibility, it is speculated that al-Qaeda were behind the attack. Sarkozy paid homage to them, as well as other around the world, saying the “victims received justice today and France has thoughts for them and their families”.

Cquote1.svg It is unequivocally a good thing that he is no longer able to pursue terror, murder and mayhem in the world. Cquote2.svg

—William Hague, British Foreign Secretary

Pakistani involvement

Pakistani officials were not informed of the planned raid, with the White House saying this was “essential to the security of the operation and our personnel”. However Obama emphasised that cooperation with Pakistan had helped in finding bin Laden. The operation, described by one senior White House official as “a surgical raid by a small team designed to minimise collateral damage”, was not intended to take bin Laden alive. “It was a kill mission”, said one security official. Bin Laden died after being shot in the head.

Witnesses in Abbottabad have described how the U.S. forces carried out the raid on the compound, which had significant security features, including walls up to 18-foot high topped with barbed wire. “We saw four helicopters at around 2am. We were told to switch off lights of our homes and stay inside,” one witness, who lives in the town of Bilal in Abbottabad, said. The man confirmed he had seen the wreckage of the U.S. military helicopter which crashed after experiencing mechanical difficulties.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the U.S. “operation was conducted [by] U.S. forces in accordance with declared U.S. policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the U.S. forces, wherever found in the world”, noting that almost “30,000 Pakistani civilians” had been killed in terrorist attacks in recent years, with the “nation fully united in [its] resolve to eliminate terrorism”.

Cquote1.svg We saw four helicopters at around 2am. We were told to switch off lights of our homes and stay inside. Cquote2.svg

—Witness in Abbottabad, Pakistan

However, Pervez Musharraf, a former president of Pakistan, criticised the U.S. involvement, describing the operation as a “violation of [Pakistani] sovereignty,” and saying the raid was a “a failure of both Pakistani and U.S. intelligence”; he stressed it would have been “far better” if the Pakistani Special Services Group had carried out the attack. Musharraf went on to say he was “surprised” bin Laden was found in Abbottabad, but added the terrorist leader “had declared war against Pakistan”, and that the news came as a “victory for the people of Pakistan and all the peace loving people of the world”.

The news that bin Laden was hiding just a few hundred metres from Pakistan Military Academy, a similar institution to the U.S. West Point Academy or the UK Sandhurst, has been met with embarrassment on behalf of the Pakistani government, and scepticism from others. “This is a serious blow to the credibility of Pakistan”, according to one Pakistani security analyst. Earlier today, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai maintained he knew bin Laden was in Pakistan: “For 10 years we told NATO and the world community but for ten years they didn’t listen to our voice. They burned Afghanistan for ten years but Osama was in Islamabad.”

Photograph of Obama and his national security team awaiting updates on the strike mission, yesterday.
Image: The White House.

Whilst many governments worldwide welcomed the death of bin Laden, more than 800 people marched in the Pakistani city of Quetta, paying homage to bin Laden and burning a U.S. flag. According to the organizer, “Bin Laden was the hero of the Muslim world and after his martyrdom he has won the title of great mujahed“. At the march, pro-Taliban and anti-United States sentiments were chanted, before the protesters dispersed peacefully.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan have denied that bin Laden has been killed, although in a conference call to several Pakistani media outlets, a rebel spoksperson threatened to seek revenge: “If Bin Laden attained martyrdom, then we will avenge his death and we will attack the governments of Pakistan and the United States and their security forces”.

Although no images of bin Laden’s body have been released, the Obama administration is, according to ABC News, in possession of gruesome photographs: a “massive head wound” where he took a bullet, with “blood and brains clearly visible”.

The price of oil has dropped following the announcement after speculation that the death of bin Laden will lower the risk of supply disruption in the Middle East, with a barrel of crude oil for June delivery falling by $1.92.



Related news

  • “”Osama to Obama”: Bin Laden addresses US President” — Wikinews, January 25, 2010
  • “Pakistani prime minister says Osama Bin Laden not in the country” — Wikinews, December 3, 2009

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May 31, 2010

Nineteen activists killed by Israeli commandos aboard aid convoy bound for Gaza

Nineteen activists killed by Israeli commandos aboard aid convoy bound for Gaza

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Monday, May 31, 2010

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Image: Freegazaorg – Flickr.

Between nine and nineteen Free Gaza Movement activists died today in international waters when Israeli Defense Force commandos boarded vessels attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu gave the death toll to be at least 10. Israeli television says that 19 people were killed and 36 were wounded in the confrontation.

The six vessels, called the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, were carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid destined for the Gaza Strip, including water purifiers, prefabricated homes and medical equipment. Passengers include several European members of parliament and MPs from Germany, Belgium, Algeria and Israel.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that “the organizers are well-known for their ties with global jihad, al-Qaida and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror.” The Israeli military had declared it would not allow the ships to reach Gaza and said the activists were a “provocation intended to delegitimise Israel”. The Israeli Navy had been transmitting messages throughout the night ordering them to turn back, stating: “If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade,” and that the Gaza region was a protected military zone.

Huwaida Arraf, one of the organizers, had said that the flotilla was “fully prepared for the different scenarios” that might arise, and organizers were hopeful that Israeli authorities would “do what’s right” and not stop the convoy. She said, “we fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation of threats of violence against us,” and that “they are going to have to forcefully stop us.”

The pre-dawn boarding took place in international waters around 150 kilometres (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza. Footage from on the flotilla’s lead vessel, the MV Mavi Marmara, and video released by the IDF, showed armed Israeli commandos boarding the ship from helicopters and fighting with activists. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the activists attacked the commandos with batons, knives and axes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said;

Cquote1.svg They were mobbed. They were clubbed, they were beaten, stabbed. There was even a report of gunfire and our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives or they would have been killed. Cquote2.svg

A spokesman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin accused Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. Israel said troops found weapons aboard the Gaza flotilla which were used against the IDF. The allegations were rejected by both the Free Gaza Movement, IHH and Egypt’s foreign minister, who said the boats had been searched before they left port.

Cquote1.svg The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities Cquote2.svg

—Binyamin Ben-Eliezer Israeli trade and industry minister.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon said he was “shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on boats carrying supplies for Gaza” and called for “a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place” and urged Israel to “urgently provide a full explanation”. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ called for three days of mourning to commemorate what he called the “massacre” of protesters. Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has dubbed the Israeli action as “a crime”.

Turkey’s prime minister describes Israeli raid as ‘state terrorism’ and said Israel violated international laws. Some of the ships were sailing under Turkish flags and media reports indicate that Turkish nationals are among the dead. Turkey demanded an “urgent explanation” from Israel and warned of “irreparable consequences” after the incident. Netanyahu said the raid was self defense. Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador to Israel and is calling on the U.N. Security Council to convene in an emergency session about Israel.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has called on Israeli authorities to launch a “full inquiry” into the killing. She “reiterates the European Union’s position regarding Gaza – the continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was “deeply concerned” and France said “nothing can justify” the incident. Sweden, Austria, Greece and Spain have said it was important to “quickly establish” what happened, and have summoned the Israeli ambassadors.

Gaza flotilla clash demonstration in Belfast.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Government of Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza and said Israel should “address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians‪.” Russia calls attention to the fact that the Israeli interception of a Gaza-bound international aid flotilla took place in international waters, which it said represents a gross violation of international law.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has urged the international Middle East mediators Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to persuade Israel to end its blockade of Gaza. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Europe. In Greece and France there was clashes with police. There were protests in cities around the Ireland, UK and Italy. In the Middle East there were protests in Turkey, Lebanon and Iran.

The White House said that the United States “deeply regrets” the loss of life and injuries and was working to understand the circumstances surrounding this “tragedy”. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, comprising of 57 countries, described the flotilla incident as “a serious escalation and a flagrant violation of the international law and human values.”

The media has not been given access to the politicians, activists and journalists who were in the convoy or information about deaths and injuries. Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld police say it will deport the roughly 50 of the 671 activists in the flotilla except those who refuse to cooperate. The other activists have been sent to jail in the southern desert town of Beersheba after refusing to identify themselves and will remain in detention.

Irishman Dennis Halliday, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations and the Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, are aboard the only boat left in the convoy, the Irish MV Rachel Corrie vessel, named after Rachel Corrie. The vessel is now on the way to the Gaza Strip. The Irish Prime Minister Mr Cowen said he believed Israel’s blockade of humanitarian assistance to Gaza was illegal under international law.



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December 20, 2009

Eurostar suspended due to cold weather

Eurostar suspended due to cold weather – Wikinews, the free news source

Eurostar suspended due to cold weather

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

File photo of a Eurostar train at St Pancras Station
Image: Oxyman.

Eurostar trains have been suspended today due to cold weather, and further snowfall is predicted in the United Kingdom, while the rail company attempts to work out what caused a series of electrical flaws on Friday.

On Friday night, more than 2,000 people were trapped in the Channel Tunnel for sixteen hours after the cold weather and condensation caused a number of electrical faults.

Calais port, in the French city where the Channel Tunnel terminates, was also closed yesterday, causing traffic problems on the roads around the English cities of Dover and Folkestone, near the tunnel’s British entrance.

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The Conservative Member of the European Parliament for the south-east of England, Nirj Deva, has called for Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown to resign, saying that it would be the “decent thing” to do in the light of “astonishing incompetence”. Brown has apologised for the incident, and said it was “absolutely unprecedented”, and conceded that “it took too long to get the trains out”.

Kent Police say that there is now very little traffic waiting for a place on the Channel Tunnel, with more than 3,500 vehicles having crossed the English Channel on ferries. Supt. Andy Rabey made a statement on the suspension: “Overnight we’ve been working very hard with our partners to clear the queues and help people get away for Christmas. If you have a crossing booked and haven’t set out yet, check with your operator before leaving home.” A Eurostar spokeswoman issued an apology, in which she said that “it’s not possible” to run services.


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