January 08, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
Somalia’s interim president arrived in Mogadishu today…for the first time in more than a decade. Abdurrahman Warsameh reports.

The interim Somali president’s return comes only hours after a surprise attack killed two Ethiopian troops and destroyed an armored military vehicle. On Saturday, violent protests against the Ethiopian troop presence killed four people, including a 12 year old school boy, and wounded dozens more. Another demonstration took place in Beletwein, the provincial capital of the central Somali region of Hiran, 330 KM north of Mogadishu. The Somali government was based in Baidoa since it was formed back in 2004 as a result of a national reconciliation conference in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Mogadishu was ruled by warlords and then Islamists who opposed the government. Ethiopian tanks and combat helicopters loaded with thousands of troops crossed over the Somali border to back the internationally-recognized transitional government when the base of the Somali government was attacked by the Islamists last month. Many Somalis regard Ethiopia as an enemy because Somalia has twice gone to war with Ethiopia over the disputed territory of Ogaden. For FSRN, this is Abdurrahman Warsameh in Mogadishu.

Peruvian photojournalist Jaime Razuri has been released unharmed by his Gaza kidnapers. Unidentified gunmen abducted the Agence-France Press worker on New Year’s day near the media outlet’s office in Gaza City. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

A surge of violence in the Indian state of Assam has killed at least 70 people since Saturday. PC Dubey reports.

All of the victims were Hindi-speaking migrants from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Authorities blame the separatist group, the Untied Liberation Front of Assam – or ULFA – for the killings. The Indian army has launched operations throughout Assam state. A 24 hour curfew is in place. Despite this, militants have killed at least 9 others today and no arrests have been reported. Hindi speakers, the targets of the attacks, constitute almost 25 percent of the state’s population of 30 million. Some fear that the Hindi-targeted killings could trigger a mass exodus and retaliation against Assamese people living in the Hindi heartland. Political observers say the massacre may be part of an ULFA strategy to force the Indian government back to the negotiating table. Peace talks between the two parties collapsed last September. The ULFA has yet to deny or claim responsibility for the killings. ULFA has been fighting for a sovereign status for Assam since 1979. Some 30,000 people have been killed during the insurgency, including some 10,000 guerrilla fighters. I am PC Dubey for Free Speech Radio News.

A group of peace activists has arrived in Cuba to call for the closure of the detention center at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay. Among the 12-member delegation is an attorney who took the cases of Guantanamo detainees to the US Supreme Court, a retired US Army Colonel, a former Guantanamo detainee, and the mother of a current prisoner. The group will hold a conference on prison conditions and international law on Wednesday and will march to the prison’s gates on Thursday. Worldwide actions calling for the closure of the jail will take place on January 11th – five years after the first prisoners arrived in Guantanamo.

The leader of Batasuna, the political party linked to the Basque group ETA has called on the armed separatist group to maintain a 9 month old ceasefire with the Spanish government. From Granada, Andrew Stelzer has more.

Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi’s call for ETA to maintain the ceasefire follows a week of peace rallies throughout Spain, including in Basque country in the North. The widespread Basque condemnation of the bombing, coupled with the fact that ETA has not claimed responsibility, is fueling speculation that the attack was carried out by a splinter group of ETA. Political opponents of Spanish Prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero have been using the bombing to criticize Zapatero’s policy of negotiating with ETA. The Spanish government reportedly held their first ever meeting with ETA less than two weeks before the bombing. In the days after the airport blast, Zapatero said the talks have been suspended, but he did not call them off permanently. Meanwhile, On Saturday, in the Basque city of San Sebastian, Spanish police tear gassed a demonstration in support of Basque prisoners. Despite a judge’s ruling that the rally was illegal because the organizers were part of an outlawed group, several thousand people came out to try and march in support of Amnesty for the prisoners, and organizers say it will be rescheduled and held in the next few months. For FSRN, reporting from Granada in Spain, I’m Andrew Stelzer.

Bush Wants More Troops (4:00)
The President will make his announcement regarding his new Iraq strategy Wednesday night. A leaked report reveals that he plans to increase troops by 20,000. If that leaked report is correct, Democrats on Capital Hill promise to challenge his decision. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Maliki Security Plan (4:00)
At least 15 people have been killed and another 15 wounded today in Baghdad after armed men ambushed a bus carrying dozens of cleaners and other workers from a Shia district. The bush was traveling through a Sunni district on its way to the city’s airport. The attack comes as Iraqi leaders announce a new plan for creating security in Baghdad. Salam Talib and David Enders report.

Land War in West Bengal (3:30)
Police attacked and arrested hundreds in West Bengal, India today during demonstrations paralyzing the city. The upheaval comes in response to the killing of farmers Sunday in the village of Nandigram about 100 miles north of the capital Kolkata. The farmers were protesting development of Special Economic Zone on their agricultural land, created by the Communist Party of India for Indonesian corporations. The demonstrations gripped the country and stretched as far as New Delhi. FSRN’s Vinod K. Jose reports.

Blockade in Bangledesh (3:30)
Tensions are flaring in Bangledesh, where police and military troops attacked protestors with batons, rubber bullets and tear gas as a three-day transportation blockade was launched Sunday. The demonstrations were organized by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and his Awami alliance to protest the interim government’s handling of the upcoming national elections. The alliance accuses the interim government of rigging the voter rolls in favor of Hasina’s opponents and wants the election delayed until a more neutral, caretaker government can be installed. But interim president Iajuddin Ahmed maintains his hands are tied, as the constitution requires elections to be held by January 22nd.

Early Monday morning Bangladesh time, FSRN spoke to Zahid Newaz Khan, city editor for Radio Podey. Zahid Newaz Khan is in Dakha, the Capitol of Bangladesh. He described what happened during the first day of the blockade.

ZNK: The first day, Awami Alliance started a 72 hour blockade Sunday. The Alliance clashed with police in different areas and scores of people have minor injuries. Activities at the ports remain suspended. The transport and communications between Dakha and other parts of the country remain flat. Military patrol the city and streets . . .

FSRN: Can you talk about the military and police presence. You mentioned people were injured, how were they injured?

ZNK: The police conducted house to house raids before the blockade starts and picked up over 3,000 people. Also, I saw military patrolling streets in different parts of the city. I found elite battalion checking people on the streets and the Alliance asked the military not to act at the directive of the advisor of the interim government. The alliance and human rights groups say it’s mass arrests and there is an order from the high court that no go government with mass arrest.

FSRN: And the blockade is supposed to continue all day Monday, is that correct?

ZNK: Yes, Monday and Tuesday. But the Alliance also announced that on the last day of the blockade, they will lay siege to the Presidential Palance and on January 10, they will hold a grand rally announce a new course of action program.

That was Zahid Newaz Khan from Radio Podey speaking to FSRN from Dhaka, Bangledesh. The Awami Alliance and its allies have vowed to continue the blockade, boycott the polls and withdraw more than 2000 candidates if the interim president refuses to step down and postpone the January 22 elections.

No Child Left Behind Anniversary (3:30)
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act. Congress has to reauthorize the legislation this year or let it expire. Five years ago, President Bush received applause from both Democrats and Republicans for signing the Act into law. But now, as our Washington DC reporter Yanmei Xie reports, this sweeping education reform initiative faces oppositions from both parties.

Mumia on Ford’s Legacy (2:30)
From his cell on death row, a commentary from Mumia Abu Jamal

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