January 11, 2007
The interim president of Bangladesh today declared a state of emergency, imposed an 11pm -5am curfew, and then announced his resignation as the head of the caretaker government. The announcements came shortly after the United Nations and the European Union decided to withdraw their observers for the upcoming presidential elections. An ongoing political crisis in Bangladesh has recently reached a fever pitch as a large alliance of opposition parties decided to boycott the elections, scheduled for January 22nd. They say the process has already been marred by irregularities and official bias. In the past week, the opposition alliance has carried out a national strike and a series of transportation blockades calling for free and fair elections. Under the current state of emergency, protest or even criticism of the government is forbidden.
NATO troops in Afghanistan claim to have killed some 150 Taliban insurgents in an attack today close to the border with Pakistan. Masror Hussain reports from Islamabad.
The Taliban spokesperson, Dr Hanif called NATO’s announcement of insurgent deaths an American propaganda campaign to boost the morale of troops faced with high casualties not reported by Afghanistan’s American-controlled media. NATO did not say how it came up with the figure of 150. One Islamabad-based defense expert pointed out to FSRN that the Taliban militias are a guerrilla force and therefore send fighters in much smaller groups. Last month NATO claimed it had killed 70-80 fighters in the southern Afghan province of Helmand but days later said that only seven to eight were killed. According to a tribal journalist based in North Waziristan, adjacent to the Afghan province where this incident is said to have taken place, a large number of Afghan civilians were also killed in the fight. NATO has been making appeals to its member nations to boost troop numbers, but has been receiving a lukewarm response. Masror Hussain, Free Speech Radio News, Islamabad.
The Sudanese government and rebels in the Western Darfur region today agreed to a 60-day ceasefire as part of a new peace process. Khartoum has also indicated that it will ease travel restrictions currently faced by humanitarian aid workers. More than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and some 2 million have been displaced in just over 3 years of fighting. The Sudanese government has repeatedly rejected plans to send a UN peacekeeping force to the region, but the UN hopes that the new peace talks will lead to the acceptance of a 20,000 member force.
NOLA (online version only)
Thousands of New Orleans residents converged on City Hall today to protest a wave of deadly violence and to demand action from the city’s leadership. Mayaba Liebenthal reports.
Since the beginning of the new year, 8 New Orleans residents have been shot dead and a total of 12 people have been killed in the past 2 weeks. Last night, Mayor Ray Nagin announced new measures to combat crime, including a voluntary curfew and the installation of overnight checkpoints to search for drunk drivers. Five separate marches converged on City Hall today, to show widespread shock and outrage over the murder spree. The demonstrations were organized by the deaths of close friends and local artists, including a teacher and well-known musician who was murdered while driving with his wife and two children, and an independent filmmaker, who was killed in her home on January 4th. March organizer, Ken Foster (audio): “Everyone was standing saying what do we do, and we said let’s march on City Hall next Thursday. In addition to changes in management on the city’s side, we as neighbors need to be coming up with solutions as well.” For FSRN, this is Mayaba Liebenthal in New Orleans.
Pressure is mounting against the administration of Peru’s president to release 8 small farmers arrested last month on terrorism charges with no evidence. Pamela Cueva reports from Lima.
Peru’s Ombudsman yesterday called for the immediate release of the eight campesinos who have been jailed on charges stemming from an ambush that killed five police and three civilians in December. The Home and Defense secretary told Congress yesterday that the weapons used in the ambush did not belong to the 8 men and and that they have no link with terrorist groups, as had been previously claimed. Despite the lack of evidence, the accused have been held in a maximum security prison for suspected ties to the Shining Path guerrilla group. The wives of the eight campesinos have been on hunger strike in front the provincial Supreme Court building in Ayacucho for the past week. Hundreds of people have mobilized in the rural province where they were more arrested to demand their immediate and unconditional release. For FSRN, I’m Pamela Cueva with Alfredo Cuadros in Lima, Peru.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at the Camp X-Ray prison at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay. Protesters chose the anniversary for a worldwide day of action to call for the closure of the detention center. To many, the camp represents an unprecedented twisting of international law, where neither habeas corpus nor the Geneva Conventions apply. Only ten of the more than 750 detainees that have been at Camp X-Ray have ever been charged with a crime. Former prisoners have testified about cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment by interrogators and guards at the camp. Since the prison’s opening, the Bush Administration has created a new category of detainee; the so-called “unlawful combatant”, backed legislation that revokes the 800 year old legal right of prisoner to challenge their own detention, and signed into law the Military Commissions Act, a measure widely criticized for its lax policy on torture. To date, approximately 395 prisoners remain in Camp X-Ray.
Bush Faces Stiff Opposition to Iraq Strategy (5:00)
President Bush is facing stiff opposition against his new plans for Iraq which include an increase of more than 20,000 troops. Some lawmakers are concerned that the President didn’t just escalate the war in Iraq, but has now brought Iran into the picture; and some of that alarm is coming from key Republicans. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.
Iraqis Resent Bush’s Speech, US’s Allies Look Forward to More Support (3:00)
If Bush’s speech last night went against the collective political feeling inside the US, it was certainly not in line with the political situation in Iraq, where fighting has continued and grown fiercer despite continued US and Iraqi military operations. Iraqis see little connection between the assertions Bush made in his speech and the realities on the ground. Until now, joint US and Iraqi military efforts to secure Baghdad have failed. David Enders, Salam Talib and Hiba Daoud report on reactions from Baghdad.
House of Representatives Moves in Embryonic Stem Cell Research (3:45)
The House of Representatives passed legislation today that could lift the federal ban on Embryonic Stem Cell Research, but the bill failed to pass with the two-thirds majority needed to override a Presidential veto. A vote on the same bill in the Senate is expected within a few weeks. Nan McCurdy has more from Capitol Hill.
Human Rights Watch Issues 17th Annual World Report on Guantanamo Anniversary (2:00)
Human Rights Watch launched its annual World Report today, to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the onset of first detainees at the US Military Prison at Guantanamo Bay. The report calls for the European Union to fill the international human rights leadership void left by the United States. Kenneth Roth is the Executive Director for Human Rights Watch; he says that because the United States condones human rights abuses at home, it sets a bad example for the rest of the world.
Human Rights Violations Against Oaxaca’s APPO Supporters (4:15)
The Human Rights Watch Annual Report also criticizes Mexico’s use of military soldiers to perform police duties. Mexico’s Interior Secretariat unexpectedly suspended this week’s round of negotiations with the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) – but instead made an appointment with the state’s embattled governor, Ulises Ruiz. In yesterday’s meeting with the Interior Secretary, Ruiz reportedly requested additional federal police in Oaxaca, as organizations calling for his removal recover from a brutal crackdown administered in late November. The APPO has outlined an agenda of mobilizations and activities for the coming weeks. Meanwhile, family members of those still imprisoned during the political conflict have been upping the ante for the release of their loved ones. Vladimir Flores reports from Oaxaca City.
Colombian Government Officials Linked to Right Wing Paramilitaries (3:30)
In Colombia, revelations of government officials’ links to outlaw right-wing paramilitary organizations have produced the biggest crisis yet in the government of President Alvaro Uribe, Washington’s closest ally in South America. Mike Ceaser reports from Bogota.