Saleh’s Forces Shell Opposition Leaders’ Homes in Yemen Capital

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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Fighting broke out again in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a Saturday, with the forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh shelling the homes of anti-government leaders.

Sporadic rocket fire and firefights erupted in the al-Hasaba district of northern Sana'a, the home base of dissident tribesman Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar. He is a leader of what Mr. Saleh said was a “gang of outlaws” that carried out a rocket attack on the presidential compound Friday. Thousands fled the city on Saturday and roads were clogged at daybreak.

Seven people were killed in the rocket attack Friday, including key government officials, while Mr. Saleh was “lightly wounded” as the group attended prayers at a mosque inside the presidential compound.

Several top government officials wounded in the attack were flown to neighboring Saudi Arabia for treatment. Al Arabiya TV reported that Mr. Saleh was among them, but a Yemeni spokesman said the report was not true and that he was still in Yemen.

The ongoing warfare between forces loyal to Mr. Saleh and anti-government protesters seemed to leave the country on the brink of a civil war. Mr. Saleh has three times promised to end his 33-year reign in a deal brokered by neighboring countries, but so far has reneged on the agreement.

Nearly 400 people have been killed since a popular uprising began against Mr. Saleh in January.

6 NATO Troops Killed in Afghanistan

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 6:45 am (UTC-5)
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NATO says a bomb blast has killed four of its service members in Afghanistan.

The international coalition say the foreign troops were killed Saturday in the eastern region of the country.

Earlier in the day, NATO said two of its members were killed Friday in separate attacks in southern Afghanistan.

At least 220 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year.

The U.S. commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, warned last month of a tough summer ahead as insurgents bid to show they are still a potent force amid what he said was crucial progress made by the international coalition.

The Taliban announced the start of its spring and summer fighting season at the end of April.

Supporters of US Hiker Held in Iran Fast for His Birthday

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 6:40 am (UTC-5)
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Supporters of a U.S. hiker detained in Iran are fasting on his birthday Saturday, in his hometown outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Josh Fattal turns 29 Saturday. He and 28 year old Shane Bauer have been held on spy charges in Iran for almost two years.

A third hiker, Bauer's fiancee Sarah Shourd was arrested with them and released last year.

The trio was taken into custody after crossing into Iran from Iraq in July of 2009.

The two men were set to go on trial last month, but they not taken to court, and no explanation was given to their families.

Friend and relatives of Fattal say Saturday's fasting is show of solidarity with the arrested men's mothers who began a hunger strike last month.

Obama Hails Auto Industry Turnaround

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 5:35 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama is celebrating the resurgence of the “Big Three” automakers – Ford, GM and Chrysler.

During Saturday's weekly address recorded at a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, Mr. Obama said Chrysler and GM are all adding jobs since his administration stepped in with a taxpayer financed bailout.

The president says Chrysler has repaid its loan six years ahead of schedule.

Mr. Obama also says the government this week reached a deal to sell its stake in Chrysler, meaning the company will be returning to all private ownership.

Ford has also recovered from the recession and is adding jobs. Its turnaround came without a government bailout.

In the Republican address, Senator Lamar Alexander criticized Obama administration efforts of keeping jobs in the country.

Senator Alexander blamed the National Labor Relations Board and unions for making it more difficult to create private sector jobs in the United States.

Mexican Military Finds Huge Weapons Cache

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 4:50 am (UTC-5)
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Mexican soldiers have discovered a huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition buried in an underground chamber, apparently hidden by one of the country's warring drug cartels.

Authorities said they found more than 150 rifles and shotguns, 92,000 rounds of ammunition, four mortar shells, two rocket-propelled grenades and assorted other weaponry. The cache was found at a ranch near the industrial city Monclova in the northern state Coahuila that borders the United States.

They believe the cache belonged to the Zetas cartel, which has been battling the Sinaloa cartel and other drug gangs for control of Coahuila.

Mexican authorities have seized more than 102,000 handguns and high-powered rifles in the past four years but some experts believe that 2,000 weapons are being brought into the country each day.

Drug-related violence has become commonplace in Mexico, with about 37,000 people killed since the government launched an anti-drug crackdown in 2006.

India Warns Pakistan Against New Terror Attacks

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 4:50 am (UTC-5)
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India's defense minister says India would likely retaliate if Pakistan-based militants launched an attack similar to the Mumbai assaults that killed more than 160 people.

M.M. Pallam Raju said Saturday at a security conference in Singapore that India, if attacked again, would have difficulty justifying what he called “the self-restraint” it showed in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

India has long suspected that members of Pakistan's intelligence agency were involved in the Mumbai attack. The Pakistani government has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani-American man has recently confessed in a trial in Chicago that he scouted the Mumbai sites and received weapons and other training from the Pakistan militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. David Headly said Lashkar has links with Pakistan intelligence.

Laskhar terrorists took over a hotel, a Jewish center and other buildings in Mumbai for three days in November 2008. The attack killed 166 people.

Massive Arizona Wildfire Prompts Expanded Evacuation Warning

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
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One of the largest wildfires in Arizona's history grew bigger late Friday, prompting officials to issue a new evacuation warning.

Arizona authorities say the Wallow Fire has consumed more than 40,000 hectares since Sunday.

They say the blaze is now threatening the community of Greer, where sheriffs issued a pre-evacuation order Friday.

The nearby Alpine community was ordered to evacuate on Thursday.

The U.S. Forest Service says properties have been consumed by the fires, but there are no reports of casualties.

A second record size wildfire in the White Mountains near the New Mexico border has destroyed property and consumed 35,000 hectares.

NATO Sends Helicopters on Libyan Attacks for First Time

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 4:10 am (UTC-5)
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NATO boosted its bombardment of Libya Saturday, for the first time sending attack helicopters on low-altitude missions against military installations loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

NATO said British Apache and French Tiger and Gazelle helicopters carried out the assaults. Military officials said about 20 targets were destroyed, including a radar site and an armed checkpoint, in the first deployment of the aircraft since British and French leaders approved their use in recent days. All three aircraft are equipped with missiles, such as the Hellfire missiles that skim low across the landscape toward targets that are pre-set by radar before the missiles are launched.

The commander of NATO's forces in Libya, Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, said the successful assault “demonstrates the unique capabilities” of the attack helicopters. The use of lower-flying helicopters for attacks could diminish the possibility of civilian casualties, although they also could be vulnerable to strikes by surface-to-air missiles.

In recent days, rebels trying to oust Mr. Gadhafi have been waiting for use of the attack helicopters. One rebel leader in Misrata, Fatih Bashagha, said the fighters are happy about their use, and other rebels said it showed a renewed NATO commitment to assisting them.

The increase in the military campaign came even as new diplomatic efforts were seen in the effort to get Mr. Gadhafi to give up power.

China says its ambassador to Qatar has met with the head of Libya's rebel council, the first time China has revealed such contacts. Chinese officials said they stand by their position that the Libyan crisis should be resolved politically and that the country's future must be decided by its people.

Also, Russia is sending a special presidential representative, Mikhail Margelov, to Benghazi, to meet with the rebels. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Friday that Mr. Gadhafi is “increasingly isolated.” Juppe also said that France is working with those close to the Libyan leader to persuade him to leave.

For the last several nights, NATO warplanes have bombed targets in Tripoli, including Mr. Gadhafi's sprawling residential and command compound. Mr. Gadhafi has rarely been seen in public since a NATO airstrike killed one of his sons in April.

On Friday, United Nations officials criticized Qatar's forcible deportation of a Libyan woman, Imad al-Obeidi, who says she was gang-raped by troops loyal to Mr. Gadhafi.

US, Taiwan Call for Accountability on Tiananmen Anniversary

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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The United States and Taiwan have pressed China to release dissidents and fully address the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations around Tiananmen Square 22 years ago.

The U.S. State Department issued its statement Friday, on the eve of the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown — when China's government sent tanks and troops into Tiananmen Square to crush weeks of student and worker protests. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died.

The State Department called for the fullest possible public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, and a halt to ongoing harassment of those who participated in the demonstrations and the families of victims.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said China should follow Taipei's example and reform politically.

Thousands of Chinese and foreign tourists packed Tiananmen Square Saturday, where security was particularly tight amid a harsh, four-month crackdown on activists, lawyers and bloggers.

The group Chinese Human Rights Defenders said Saturday that security officers took former government official Bao Tong to an unknown location this week. And, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said liberal intellectual Chen Ziming and many others have been placed under house arrest.

Beijing has never admitted responsibility for the Tiananmen killings. The subject is particularly sensitive this year, after online calls for an Arab-style “jasmine revolution in China.”

Gates: Possibility of Taliban Peace Talks

Posted June 4th, 2011 at 3:10 am (UTC-5)
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The U.S. defense secretary says there could be peace talks with the Taliban within a year.

Robert Gates said Saturday at a security conference in Singapore that the talks would be a result of NATO's ground advances in Afghanistan that have put pressure on the insurgents.

The defense secretary said if the international coalition can sustain its successes, then the possibility of political talks and reconciliation might be “substantive enough” to offer some “hope of progress.”

However, Secretary Gates stressed the Taliban will have to cut ties with al-Qaida and surrender all arms if the Taliban is to have any role in the future of Afghanistan.

The U.S. has set next month as the start date for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO forces are scheduled to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

It has been nearly 10 years since U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government, which sheltered al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden, who orchestrated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., was killed last month by U.S. commandos who raided his hideout in Pakistan.