September 19, 2007

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A powerful car bomb killed a Lebanese Parliamentarian in a Christian suburb of Beirut today, adding to tensions just one week before heated Presidential elections. Jackson Allers has more from East Beirut.

The bomb went off at approximately 5 in the afternoon at the height of commuter traffic, and appeared to have targeted Antoine Ghanem, a Christian MP aligned with the ruling pro-Western government. The blast killed Ghanem and at least five others and wounded more than 20 by-standers. Government supporters have accused Syria of orchestrating a series of assassinations since 2005. The Lebanese opposition is accusing Fateh al Islam for orchestrating today’s bombing. In early September, the Lebanese Army wrapped up a fierce three month battle with the group in a Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon. Meanwhile, the Lebanese legislature has failed to meet for more than 10 months, and the opposition and ruling coalition must meet on September 25 to elect a new president. Failure to vote for a new president threatens the already fragile political situation — this year has seen the worst internal political strife since the end of the 15 year Lebanese civil war in 1990. Reporting from East Beirut, this is Jackson Allers for Free Speech Radio News.


The future of private security firm Blackwater in Iraq is at the crux of diplomatic talks between the Iraqi government and the US Embassy in Baghdad. Conflicting accounts have emerged over just what provoked Blackwater personnel to open fire in a Baghdad square on Sunday. Official accounts range from blaming a car bomb to small weapons fire for triggering the deadly response from Blackwater personnel guarding a US diplomatic convoy. Some survivors of the incident say the shooting was unprovoked. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said today that Sunday’s shooting was the seventh criminal incident involving Blackwater that the Interior Ministry has on record.


The Israeli cabinet today declared Gaza an “enemy entity” and announced new measures for the coastal region. Palestinian officials called the measures a policy of collective punishment. FSRN’s Rami Al-Meghari has more.

The Israeli government is considering measures such as cutting off Gaza’s electricity and fuel supplies and further reducing working hours at the crossing points into the Palestinian coastal territory. Gaza has already been suffering a strict closure of travel and commercial crossings since Hamas took over the region in June. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and the Hamas government in Gaza have both called the Israeli move a “policy of collective punishment”. The Israeli announcement comes as U.S Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice is in the region to prepare for the Washington-backed conference on Middle East peace, scheduled for November. Tension in the coastal region has been high recently. Israel says the policies are in response to homemade rocket fire from the Palestinian armed resistance in Gaza. The armed groups say the rockets are a response to continued Israeli attacks against Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank. For Free Speech Radio News and, this is Rami Almeghari in Gaza.


A former top official from Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime has been charged with crimes against humanity. Nuon Chea was second only to Pol Pot and is the highest ranking Khmer Rouge figure still alive. During the Khmer Rouge’s brutal reign from 1975 to 1979, at least 1 million Cambodians died in so-called “killing fields”, prisons, or in summary executions. Some figures put the death toll as high as 2 million. The UN backed war crimes tribunal for Cambodia will likely begin hearing cases next year.


The Asian Human Rights Commission has urged the United Nations to urgently intervene to stop extra judicial killings and disappearances in Sri Lanka. Ponniah Manikavasagam reports.

The Hong Kong-based rights group has released a report blaming members of Sri Lanka’s security forces and intelligence units for widespread abuses, including extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and abductions. The report also criticizes the authorities for failing to take appropriate actions against the alleged perpetrators. The government has denied the charges. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Asian Human Rights Commission have called on the UN to establish a monitoring committee in Sri Lanka. The government rejects the notion, saying it compromises national sovereignty. Aid groups are urging donor countries to apply political and economic pressure on the government to accept outside monitoring of the human rights situation. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Ponniah Manikavasagam in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

Senate Democrats Look to Limit War Funding(4:08)

The Senate is once again debating the war in Iraq. Although the debate is largely focused on policy and mission changes for US troops, Senate Democrats, for the first time, are looking to limit war funding. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell has more.

Senate Rejects Moving Forward to Allow Guantanamo Detainees(3:50)

The Senate came up four votes short today to move a bill forward that would have allowed detainees held by the US military at Guantanamo Bay to go before a federal judge to challenge their detention. FSRN’s Karen Miller reports from the Capitol.

ACLU Sues Government Over Delayed and Incomplete FOIA Request(3:32)

The ACLU of Southern California has filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the Department of Justice more than a year after a group of Muslim Americans filed a Freedom of Information Act request that the FBI turn over basic information about its surveillance in Southern California. So far, the agencies have only turned over four pages of information. The ACLU says the delayed and incomplete response violates the Freedom of Information Act. FSRN Host Aura Bogado spoke with Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, and one of the plaintiffs named in the suit.

Violence Grips Pakistan After Exiled Prime Minister’s Deportation(5:18)

Increased political violence has hit most parts of Pakistan recently. Police battled with supporters of exiled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as he was prevented from returning home last week. And a leading mullah was murdered in the north-west, which was also the scene of a suicide-bombing which killed 15 commandos. There’s fighting with separatists in Baloochistan and with the Taliban along the Afghan border. And in the port-city of Karachi, seven students and two lawyers were shot dead, amid controversy over the role of the leading party in the coalitions which rule the city and the surrounding province. Tony Cross reports.

Jewish Settlers Reroute Palestinian Village’s Drinking Water to Fill Swimming Pool(4:05)

Jewish settlers in the West Bank have rerouted a pipe carrying water to a nearby Palestinian village – in order to fill up a swimming pool. The pipe channels fresh spring water into the pool and drains dirty water back to the village. Palestinian villagers say they use this water for all their needs, and are demanding that the Jewish settlers take down the pool and stop polluting their drinking water. FSRN’s Irris Makler reports from the northern West Bank.

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