May 11, 2009
- US soldier kills 5 troops in Iraq
- Thousands flee to refugee camps as Pakistani military strikes Taliban
- Obama anti-trust proposal changes past course
- MI journalist charged with felonies and facing 4 years in jail
- Immigration raid sparks review of laws
Sri Lanka: UN calls civilian casualties over weekend a “bloodbath”
The UN says a week-end artillery attack in northern Sri Lanka that killed hundreds of civilians was the “bloodbath” it had feared in the continuing fighting between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam has the story.
UN’s spokesperson Gordon Weiss, said over 100 children were among the dead.
The rebels, along with medical professionals in the war zone, say the army fired artillery shells into a no-fire area demarcated by the government for the safety of civilians in the conflict zone. The government has denied the charges, claiming it was the rebels who fired heavy weapons in the civilian areas and then blamed government forces. Civil officials serving in the war zone say hundreds of dead bodies of civilians were seen scattered all over the roads, in makeshift houses, and trenches. Doctor Thurairajah Varatharajah is the top medical officer in the war zone.
“During the last 48 hours we received 1347 casualties and 433 dead bodies. According to the civilian reports more than 1000 people were killed.”
The Army says the rebels have been confined to tiny bit of land and its operation is intended to rescue thousands of civilians held hostage by the rebels to slow down the army’s advance. But the rebels say they were not using civilians as human shields. For FSRN, Ponniah Manikavasagam, in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.
Canadian Tamil’s protest calling for intervention in Sri Lanka
Shocked by the news of yesterday’s escalating violence in Sri Lanka, last night Toronto’s Tamil community took to the streets by the thousands. FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has more.
On Sunday evening, an estimated 2000 members of Toronto’s Tamil community blocked the city’s Gardiner expressway, one of Canada’s busiest stretches of highway, to demand that the Canadian government intervene in the worsening situation in Sri Lanka. Shortly after 7pm, a crowd consisting of adults, children, and the elderly defied police lines and marched up the on-ramp of the Gardiner, completely shutting down traffic in both directions until well after midnight. Toronto police chief Bill Blair characterized the action as “unsafe and unlawful”, while the crowd remained peaceful and no one was hurt. In the end, the demonstrators decided to disperse after Canadian leader of the opposition, Michael Ignatieff, agreed to bring up their concerns in a caucus meeting in Ottawa today. Aaron Lakoff, FSRN.
Allegations of white phosphorus in last weeks US airstrikes that killed up to 140 people
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today asked for the resignation of the top U.S. military leader in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, saying the move was in the interest of national security. Last week’s US airstrikes in Afghanistan’s western province of Farah stirred protests around Afghanistan. According to Afghan officials, as many as 140 civilians were killed. The US government has rejected these numbers, angering many and increasing calls to end the US airstrikes. Asma Nemati reports for FSRN from Kabul.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s call to end airstrikes was met with a bleak rejection from White House National Security Adviser James Jones, noting that it would be irresponsible to cease the airstrikes altogether. Jones also said that the US military will do its utmost to ensure that civilians are not killed. The US military continues to lose support amongst the Afghans. Chanting “death to America,” about a thousand Kabul university students protested the recent airstrikes on Sunday. Malalai Joya, an outspoken and elected member of the Parliament from Farah province, is also calling for an end to the airstrikes. Joya asked for further investigation in the number of the killed civilians. Doctors who have been treating the wounded from last week’s US airstrikes have also noted strange burns on their patients. Along with several American and Afghan investigations underway, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission is looking into the possible usage of white phosphorous in the attacks, a chemical that usually leaves a yellowish color on burned skin. White phosphorous, which is used to light up the night sky, is allowed under certain circumstances in the Chemical Weapons Convention and the US military does use it. However, this usage is only permitted outside of civilian areas. The US military has denied using white phosphorous. For Free Speech Radio News this is Asma Nemati reporting from Kabul.
Iranian-American journalist freed from Iranian prison
Roxana Saberi, the American-Iranian journalist convicted in Iran of spying for the United States, has been released from jail. Saberi has consistently denied the charges. Her father, Reza Saberi, says she will not leave the country today, but will in the very near future.
“She is in good condition, and we are very happy that they gave us such a break…”
Saberi’s eight year sentence was overturned on appeal. The Iranian court reduced her sentence to two years, and suspended the balance in what they called a gesture of Islamic mercy. 10
Maoists continue to launch attacks during India’s national polls
Attacks by Maoist militants continue to overshadow the ongoing national elections in India. In yet another deadly strike last night, the rebels killed 13 in the central state of Chattisgarh. FSRN’s Bismillah Geelani reports.
Authorities say more than 150 heavily armed militants attacked a 40-member police team late Sunday night when they were on their way to the state’s Kanker district for a search operation. The militants first blew up the police vehicle with a landmine and then opened indiscriminate fire killing 12 policemen and a civilian. This is the second Maoist attack in Chattisgarh in less than a week and the deadliest since the beginning of India’s general elections. The Maoists have called for a boycott of the polls and have intensified their attacks on security forces. More than 35 people have been killed since voting began on April 13. Bismillah Geelani, Free Speech Radio News, New Delhi.
US soldier kills 5 troops in Iraq
A US soldier has shot dead five of his colleagues at a base in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The Pentagon says at least two other people were hurt in the shootings and the gunman is in custody. Details are still coming in, but the incident reportedly happened at a stress clinic where troops get help for personal issues or combat stress. Aaron Glantz has more.
Thousands flee to refugee camps as Pakistani military strikes Taliban
The Pakistani military continued its assault on Taliban militants in the mountainous Swat Valley today and claims to have now killed some 700 militants. The violence has caused one of Pakistan’s largest internal migrations with the UN estimating more than 360,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. In the first part of a two-part series, FSRN’S Catherine Komp reads for our correspondent in Pakistan Gabe Matthews, who went to an internally displaced person’s camp in the North West Frontier Province.
Obama anti-trust proposal changes past course
President Obama is claiming success on the first stage of health care reform- cost reduction. Interested parties that range from doctors to health insurance providers to PHARMA to the labor union SEIU have pledged to reduce $2.0 trillion in health care costs OVER the next decade, an estimated savings of $2600 per family, according to the administration.
“This is an historic day. A watershed event in the long and elusive quest for health care reform. And as these groups take the steps they are outlining and as we work with Congress, my administration will continue to working to reduce health care costs to achieve similar savings,” Obama said in a press conference.
The administration hasn’t released the details of the cost savings measures.
The Obama administration also announced today increased enforcement of anti-trust laws. It’s a reversal from the Bush administration’s policy, which said anti-trust enforcement would stifle competition and innovation. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell has more.
MI journalist charged with felonies and facing 4 years in jail
In Michigan, a community journalist is fighting a possible four-year jail sentence after being arrested while covering a high speed chase that ended in two fatalities on election day. When Diane Bukowski, a reporter for the newspaper “The Michigan Citizen”, arrived at the scene of the accident she took some pictures and showed her press credentials. But what happened next is unclear. Bukowski says she was standing at least 70 feet from the dead bodies and in an authorized area. Police say she was obstructing justice and suggested she was even standing in the blood of the victims. Police arrested her and confiscated her notebook and camera. A jury recently found Bukowski guilty of two counts of obstruction for crossing yellow police tape. FSRN spoke to Bukowski earlier today about her arrest, the trial and what it all means.
Immigration raid sparks review of laws
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the landmark immigration raid in Postville, Iowa. But a lot has changed in the last year. Tanya Snyder brings us the story on why raids like the one in Postville might not happen so much anymore.