Iranian Envoy Underlines Expansion of Ties with Africa

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran's Ambassador to Uganda Ali Akbar Dabiran reiterated Iran's resolve to expand its relations with the countries of the South, specially with those in Africa.

Speaking to FNA, Dabiran noted Iran's good relations with the African countries, and said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran's policy consists of expanding relations with the countries of the South and these countries are pursuing development of cooperation with Iran as a main ground of their development."

He further noted Iran's activities in Uganda, and said the Iranian private sector has a major role in many developmental projects in the African country.

According to the envoy, the Iranian private sector is implementing several projects in Uganda in the various grounds of agriculture, cattle-breeding, clinic construction, building of slaughterhouse and meat processing plants, furniture and handicrafts manufacturing and medical and pharmaceutical cooperation.

Yet, the diplomat reiterated Uganda's large capacities, calling it as among the pioneering African countries in area of development and industrial growth.

"Uganda is a member of the South Africa Economic Cooperation Organization and a member of the South Africa Cooperation Conference and our country attaches special importance to relations with the member states of these two bodies," the ambassador reiterated.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration has striven hard to maximize Iran's relations with the African continent.

Tehran has prioritized promotion of its economic and political ties with the African states and the country is now considered as one of the African Union's strategic partners.

Tehran's efforts to boost ties and cooperation with Africa have led to its acceptance as an observing member of the African Union (AU), where it has shown an active presence in the AU summit meetings.

Ahmadinejad reiterated on August 21 that Tehran is determined to expand its ties with all African states.

"Iran is seriously pursuing the development of its ties with all African countries … through solid steps," Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with Senegalese Foreign Minister Madicke Niang here in Tehran.

BAHRAIN: Sa'ar and Al Dair Boys Primary Schools attacked

Manama, Dec. 30 (BNA)—Sa'ar Boys Primary School has been attacked today. Unidentified people set fire to a dustbin near the school's fence. No damage has been reported and security authorities were informed to take the necessary measures.
Similarly, a number of saboteurs broke into Al Dair Boys Primary School and started hurling stones and Molotov cocktails from inside into the street.These acts are part of a series of acts of vandalism committed by the outlaws against educational establishments.

BAHRAIN: Security forces today intervened to disperse an illegal rally in Manama

Interior Ministry / Statement

Manama-Dec30 (BNA)Security forces today intervened to disperse an illegal rally on Budaiya Avenue. Up to 40 women staged an unlawful sit-in at the Abu Subea roundabout after a legal march called for by Al-Wefaq had ended.
They refused orders to disperse prompting riot police to intervene as their numbers increased to around 250, which disrupted the traffic and compromised people's interests. "Apart from refusing the order to disperse, the rioters attacked security forces", North Police director-general said, pointing out that the riot had been dealt with in accordance with the law.

BAHRAIN: Torture Case Referred to Grand Criminal Court

Manama, Dec. 29. (BNA) – Following its examination of alleged cases of torture and mistreatment reported by the Interior Ministry, the Public Prosecution decided to refer one of them (cases) to the Grand Criminal Court, in line with the Military Court's ruling, Head of the Public Prosecutions Nawaf Hamza today stated.
Five security officers have been accused –two for beating two detainees to death and the others for failing to report the incident, he added.
The court session is set be held on January 9, 2012.

Report: Bahrain adopts zero tolerance torture policy

December 29, 2011
|By the CNN Wire Staff

Bahrain is adopting a zero tolerance policy toward "torture, inhuman treatment and degrading detention" practices toward political prisoners -- one of a number of recommendations made by an independent commission looking into claims of abuse during a crackdown on protesters earlier this year.
The government announced the policy in a statement released by the state-run Bahrain News Agency on Wednesday evening.
The moves follows last month's report by an independent commission that found police tortured and used excessive force against civilians arrested during a crackdown on the protests that followed successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Bahrain: video of the massive march today

Media of Truth | Bahrain
‎#Bahrain: video of the massive march today, west of the capital Manama. Dec30,2011
فيديو للمسيرة الحاشدة اليوم غرب العاصمة المنامة 30ديسمبر2011

Opposition mass march in Bahrain www.youtube.com
Opposition mass march From Muqshaa area to Jannosan- west of the capital Manama 30-12-2011


Two aid workers shot dead in Somalia


Doctors Without Borders staff killed by former employee in shootout at agency's office in Mogadishu.
Two international aid workers have been shot and killed in the Somali capital, a police and medical officials said.
The workers were employees of the aid group Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym, MSF), and were shot by a disgruntled former employee of the same organisation during an incident on Thursday.
Ahmed Ali, a security guard for the aid group, said the two were attacked by a Somali employee who was dismissed from his job running the groups' logistics on Wednesday.
"We confirm that a serious shooting incident has taken place in the MSF compound in Mogadishu," said spokeswoman Maimouna Jallow. "At this point we don't have more information about the scale and the extent of the incident. MSF is doing everything it can to ensure the security of its staff."
Somali security forces arrested the man, a witness told the AFP news agency. The gunman will be questioned on Friday, Mohamed Ibrahim, a Somali security officer, said.
The first victim died shortly after the attack. The second victim was taken to a hospital for treatment, but succumbed to his wounds, doctors said.
"The second victim died at the hospital as doctors were trying to save him," said Dumiya Ali, deputy director of the Medina hospital.
The nationalities of the aid workers were not immediately known, but reports indicated that one was French and the other Indonesian.

Place of danger
Mogadishu remains one of the most dangerous locations for aid workers to operate in, with many groups not allowing international workers to stay in the capital for extended periods.
International aid workers face potential attacks from rebel fighters and kidnappings for ransom.
Such incidents are often blamed on the al-Shabab group, but it is unclear if they were responsible for Thursday's attack. The group's media office sent out a series of tweets [https://twitter.com/#!/HSMPress] as the attack was taking place.
They said a "fierce battle is now raging" inside the MSF building in Mogadishu. "A gunman has stormed the building & opened fire on MSF staff inside."
In the last such attack on international aid workers in Somalia, three somali aid workers were killed in the central Hiran region. In mid-October, two Spaniards working for MSF were seized by gunmen in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, about 100km from the Somali border.

Commander Underlines Iran's Firm Resolve in Confrontation with US

TEHRAN (FNA)- Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Hossein Salami underlined Tehran's resolve to utilize all its capabilities and possibilities to defend itself against enemies, and said Iran does not ask for the US permission to close the Strait of Hormuz.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not ask for the permission of any country for implementing its defensive strategies," Salami told reporters in Tehran on Thursday.
He underlined that Americans are not in a position to allow or not allow Iran to do what it wants. "The US is not in a position to affect Iran's decisions," he said, and added, "The Americans are not qualified to give us permission for carrying out our military strategy."
"Whenever the vital interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran are threatened, we will use threat against threat as we have not doubt about implementing our defensive strategies for defending our vital values and we will act more resolutely than ever," the General added.
Salami made the remarks in response to the comments by a US Navy commander who had claimed that Washington will not allow Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Iranian officials have recently warned enemies that Iran is entitled to the right to close the strategic oil lifeline as a defensive option against foreign invasion or sanctions on its oil exports.
Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned this week that "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz" if the West followed through with planned additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
A US Defense Department spokesman replied with a declaration Wednesday that "interference with the transit... of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated."
Israel and its close ally the United States have recently intensified their war rhetoric against Iran. The two arch foes of the Islamic Republic accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Both Washington and Tel Aviv possess advanced weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warheads.
Iran vehemently denies the charges, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
Iran has, in return, warned that it would target Israel and its worldwide interests in case it comes under attack by the Tel Aviv.
The United States has long stressed that military action is a main option for the White House to deter Iran's progress in the field of nuclear technology.
Iran has warned that in case of an attack by either the US or Israel, it will target 32 American bases in the Middle East and close the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
An estimated 40 percent of the world's oil supply passes through the waterway.

Bahrain: video must watch for the random shots of the mercenary forces

Leader's Top Aide Lauds Syria as Main Arm of Resistance against Israel

TEHRAN (FNA)- Senior Advisor of the Iranian Supreme Leader for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati praised Syria's resistance against enemies' plots and conspiracies, and said certain states are striving hard to weaken Damascus as a main arm of resistance against the Zionist regime.

"The chain of resistance against Israel by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, the new Iraqi government and Hamas passes through the Syrian highway," Velayati said, addressing a conference in Isfahan city dubbed 'Islamic Awakening and the Role of Universities' on Thursday.
"Syria is the golden ring of the chain of resistance against Israel," he added.
Velayati also reiterated that any possible problem which leads to the collapse of Syria will be a blow to the aforementioned countries and resistance groups as well.
Many political analysts had earlier warned about the enemies' attempts to create problems in Syria for its resistance against the US and the Zionist regime.
"Enemies intend to weaken Syria to cut this main arm of resistance in the region, but they will certainly fail in their efforts," Secretary-General of Lebanon's Al-Tauhid Al-Arabi Party Wiam Wahab said in November.
Also in the same month, a senior figure of the Lebanese Hezbollah Movement had praised the resistance and wisdom shown by Syria against the US plots and schemes.
A conspiracy is underway against Syria but the country has powerfully resisted the US plots, Head of Hezbollah Sharia Board Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek said.
Yazbek further referred to the popular uprisings in the Arab and Islamic states in recent months, and added that Arab Spring means spring of resistance and uniting efforts against the US plots.

Syrian Forces Kill 25 as Monitors Visit More Regions


Activists say Syrian forces killed at least 25 people on Thursday as Arab League monitors fanned out across the country to check the government's compliance with a pledge to end its crackdown on dissent.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma, killing at least four people. Some residents said Arab League observers were in the area at the time.
Activists say Thursday's violence also includes at least six deaths in Hama. The central city has been a flashpoint of anti-government unrest.
Meanwhile, the government says Arab League monitors “met a number of citizens” in neighborhoods in Damascus and Homs as well as the Daraa and Hama regions.
About 60 monitors are in the country to check the government's promise to halt violence against protesters and release political detainees. The monitors say they will make some unannounced visits.
On Wednesday, activists and rights groups said government forces had killed at least 39 people since the monitors arrived Monday, including six people shot in Hama.
Some residents and activists raised concerns that the Arab observers were neither properly qualified nor independent. Residents of the hard-hit district of Baba Amr in Homs refused to allow observers in because army officers were with them. The standoff ended when the officers withdrew.
Syrian authorities agreed to the Arab League observers under international pressure and threats of Arab sanctions. The plan requires Syrian authorities to give the monitors freedom of movement except for sensitive military sites.
The United Nations estimates 5,000 people have been killed since March in violence linked to Syria's unrest. Syria says armed terrorists are driving the revolt. It accuses them of killing 2,000 security personnel since March.

Egypt unrest: NGO offices raided in Cairo


Egyptian soldiers and police have raided the offices of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Cairo.
At least 17 US-based and local groups receiving foreign funding were targeted, according to activists and Egyptian state media.
An official said at least one of the US-based groups was operating without proper permits.
The US state department said it was "very concerned" and urged authorities to stop the "harassment" of NGO staff.
Some civil society activists have reported that employees were prevented from leaving while searches continued.
"This is not appropriate in the current environment," state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, adding that senior US officials had been in touch with Egyptian military leaders to express their concern over the raids.
Egypt's military has vowed to investigate how pro-democracy and human rights organisations are funded and has said repeatedly it will not tolerate foreign interference in the country's affairs.

"The public prosecutor has searched 17 civil society organisations, local and foreign, as part of the foreign funding case," official news agency Mena cited the prosecutor's office as saying.
"The search is based on evidence showing violation of Egyptian laws including not having permits."
The US-based groups targeted include the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), loosely associated with the US Democratic and Republican parties.
'Guardians of freedom'
Documents and computers have been seized as part of the investigations and one report said that the IRI's doors had been sealed with wax.
"Security forces who said they were from the public prosecutor are raiding our offices as we speak. They are grabbing all the papers and laptops as well," an NDI employee, who gave her name as Rawda, told Reuters.
Both pro-democracy groups, who say they take a neutral political stance, run programmes to train members of nascent political parties in democratic processes.
The Arab Centre for the Independence of Justice was also among those being investigated, its head, Nasser Amin, told AFP.
Civil society groups have responded angrily to the raids.
"[Former President Hosni] Mubarak's regime did not dare to undertake such practices prior to the uprising," the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said in a statement.
The group said the authorities were "aiming to intimidate activists and rights advocates, gag their mouths and freeze their activities in support of human rights and against repression and torture".
Nobel peace laureate and Egyptian reformist Mohamed ElBaradei said any attempt to stifle such groups would surely backfire.
"Human rights organisations are the guardians of nascent freedom. Efforts to suffocate them will be a major setback," he wrote on his Twitter account.


Syria monitors visit Damascus amid continuing violence


Arab League monitors overseeing compliance with a peace plan for Syria have been visiting the capital, Damascus, and other cities but killings show no sign of abating.
Activists say some 40 people were killed by security forces on Thursday, mostly in areas where monitors are visiting, including a Damascus suburb.
The activists have called for massive street protests on Friday.
The UN says more than 5,000 civilians have died in 10 months of unrest.
The Arab League peace plan calls for a complete halt to the violence, the withdrawal of all armed forces and the release of all detainees.
However, after two days of monitoring, more questions were being asked about the head of the Arab League mission, Sudan's Gen Mustafa al-Dabi, who Amnesty International said was responsible for "torture" and "disappearances" in 1990s Sudan.
'Only God can help us'
After starting in the flashpoint city of Homs on Tuesday, the Arab League monitors have moved to Idlib in the north, Deraa in the south, Hama and Damascus.
Activists have reported violence and killings in all those areas.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least four people were killed when security forces opened fire outside a mosque in Douma, a suburb of the capital.
Monitors were arriving at the city hall there when security forces fired on "tens of thousands" of protesters outside the Grand Mosque, the UK-based group said.
It reported further deaths in other suburbs of the capital - Aarbin and Kiswah - as well as in Idlib and Hama.
It also said security forces had raided a private hospital in Hama to arrest the wounded.
Casualty figures and other information are hard to verify as most foreign media are barred from Syria.
The BBC's Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says that far from diminishing the violence, it seems the presence of the observers may actually be causing it to increase.
One activist in Hama told Reuters: "People really hope to get to reach them. We do not have much access to the team.
"The people stopped believing anything or anyone now. Only God can help us now."
Another, in Idlib, asked where the monitors were, saying: "We worked very hard for this visit. We got witnesses and documented deaths and sites of shelling. People wanted to march but the monitors are missing.
"The security presence is really strong - it looks like they have been preparing as much as we have."
Our correspondent says virtually none of the peace plan's objectives have yet been met, although Syria on Wednesday did release 755 of the 14,000 people the UN says have been detained during the uprising.
Activists have been using social media to call for massive protests on Friday - the traditional day of demonstration.
The Syria Revolution 2011 group said: "We will march as we did in Homs and Hama where we carried olive branches only to be confronted by [President Bashar al-Assad's] gangs who struck us with artillery and machinegun fire."
'Positive statements'
Meanwhile, more questions were being asked of Gen Dabi, after his initial comments on the mission were criticised as favouring the Syrian government.

Gen Dabi was the head of military intelligence for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his actions over Darfur.
Amnesty International said that under Gen Dabi, the military intelligence in the early 1990s "was responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance and torture or other ill-treatment of numerous people in Sudan".
Gen Dabi's first comments in Syria were that he had seen "nothing frightening", though he later said he needed more time to make an assessment.
One Arab League official in Cairo told the Associated Press Gen Dabi had the support of all its members, saying: "The mission and its final report will decide the future of Syria and this is not a small matter."
Damascus says it has allowed the monitors "all the facilities they need".
Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi said this was "reflected in the positive statements made by the Sudanese chief of observers".
President Assad says government forces are fighting armed gangs and that more than 2,000 security personnel have been killed.

BAHRAIN: Progress Update on Implementation of BICI Recommendations

Manama: Dec. 28 -- (BNA) The Government of Bahrain is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Report in their entirety. In the month since the Report was published, significant progress has been made. Action has been taken in relation to every recommendation.
In order to ensure that international best practices are adopted, and that these are institutionalized, assistance has been sought from prominent experts and leading organisations from around the world. Assistance Agreements have already been concluded with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Further agreements are due to be signed imminently with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other eminent international experts and organizations. A number of UN organisations have already conducted visits in the country in the past month, which has been extensively reported upon by the press.
Key achievements of the Government to date include taking the following important steps:
1. Accountability is an important part of the Government’s commitment. For this reason the world’s leading jurists and political and social scientists have been gathered to formulate an effective independent mechanisms to determine accountability as envisaged in several recommendations of the BICI Report, including the recommendations in paragraphs 1716, 1717, 1718(b) 1722(b). These jurists are already in the country studying the environment to tailor the necessary solutions.
2. A decree will shortly be issued setting out the mechanism for the National Victims Compensation Fund, which represents international best practices of administration of redress mechanisms (recommendation 1722 j and k). This Fund will incorporate the best practices gained from the ICC Fund, and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Redress and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.
3. Instituting a demonstrable zero tolerance policy towards torture, inhuman treatment and degrading detention practices. This includes:
a. Transferring all pending cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment from the Ministry of Interior to the Attorney General’s office. Legislative amendments are being drafted so that all such cases will automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the Attorney General (recommendation in paragraph 1719).
b. Ordering audio visual equipment to ensure that all official interviews with suspects, witnesses or detainees will be recorded (paragraph 1722 g).
c. Instructing the Inspector General to take all necessary steps to ensure the rights of all suspects, including their right to: not be detained incommunicado; be shown a warrant upon arrest; be given prompt access to their lawyers; and allowed family visits in accordance with the Bahrain Code of Criminal Procedure. Many other amendments to the procedures for arrest, detention and training required for security personnel are currently underway (paragraph 1722 d).
d. Instructing the Chief of Public Security to facilitate the following with the aid of international experts and specialists (paragraph 1722 c):
i. To design and carry out a legal training course for public security personnel in order to enhance the protection of human rights, especially in the context of public order, detention and interrogation.
ii. To prepare and issue the police code of conduct in compliance with UN best practices, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
e. Training security force personnel with the assistance of newly appointed police experts John Timoney (from the United States) and John Yates (from the United Kingdom). The Bahrain Defence Force is working to develop similar programmes.
4. Cultivating a discernible civic spirit of free people expressing their opinions without fear or favor. This includes:
a. Dropping all charges relating to free speech, with cases only being pursued against those persons accused of violent crimes as confirmed by the Attorney General. This decision benefits 343 people (paragraph 1722 h).
b. Reinstating all public sector employees by 1 January 2012 charged with free speech activity (paragraph 1723 a).
c. Signing contracts with leading international and regional news and feature channels and broadcast outlets guaranteeing a pluralist, inclusive media environment that encourages responsible journalism while minimizing speech inciting hatred, and sectarianism. This is just the start, with amendments to the legal framework to follow (1724 a b c)
5. Ensuring an inclusive society where fundamental human freedoms endure. This includes:
a. Reinstating all students not charged with criminal acts and readmitting those charged after a reasonable period of time and in accordance with international best practices (paragraph 1723 c) .
b. Rebuilding demolished religious structures. A Committee to review the question has been formed. One area (Hamad Town) has already been reviewed and construction has started on four sites, with more to come (paragraph 1723 d).
6. Instituting civilian control over law enforcement and conviction powers. This includes:
a. Limiting the mandate of the National Security Agency to intelligence gathering with no law enforcement and arrest powers (paragraph 1718).
Bahrain Government is looking forward to implement the BICI recommendations and implementations with full support from all the Bahraini and international community.

AFRICA: Bomb Wounds 7 at Nigerian Arabic School

Police in southern Nigeria say assailants have thrown a bomb into an Arabic school, wounding seven people days after a string of deadly church bombings across the country.

Authorities in Delta state say the homemade bomb went off after it was thrown from a car late Tuesday.  Six children were among the wounded.

The attack follows a string of four coordinated bombings Sunday that killed at least 39 people.

The radical Muslim sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attacks.

Christians in northern Nigeria have warned that increased violence could lead to a religious war.

In other violence, gunmen shot and killed a young girl and her parents late Tuesday in a Christian-dominated village near the central city of Jos.  Officials suspect the attack was carried out by Muslim tribesmen.

Jos is the site of frequent clashes between Christians and Muslims.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education in sinful" in the Hausa language, wants to establish a strict Islamic state in Nigeria. It does not recognize the government or the country's constitution.

The country of 150 million is about evenly divided between Muslims, who mostly live in the north, and Christians who dominate in the south.

Hundreds of others have died this year in bombings and shootings blamed on Boko Haram.

10 photographers to watch in 2012

US warns Iran over threat to block oil route


The US Navy has said it will not tolerate disruption to a vital oil-trade route, following an Iranian threat to close it.
Iran warned it would shut the Strait of Hormuz if the West imposed more sanctions over its nuclear programme.
The US and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon - a charge Tehran denies.
Reacting to Iran's warning, a US Fifth Fleet spokeswoman said it was "always ready to counter malevolent actions".
The Strait of Hormuz links the Gulf - and the oil-producing states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - to the Indian Ocean. About 40% of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through it.
The US maintains a naval presence in the Gulf, largely to ensure the transport of oil remains open.
The strait "is not only important for security and stability in the region, but also is an economic lifeline for countries in the Gulf, including Iran", Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
"Raising the temperature on tensions in the Gulf is unhelpful", he said, but added that he was unaware of any hostile action directed against US vessels.
US Fifth Fleet spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich told the BBC the navy would be ready to act if required: "The US Navy is a flexible, multi-capable force committed to regional security and stability, always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation."
Closure 'easy'
Western nations recently imposed new sanctions against Tehran following a UN report that said Iran had carried out tests related to "development of a nuclear device".
Further measures being considered to target Iran's oil and financial sectors have brought a furious response from Tehran.
Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz" if sanctions are widened and Iran's navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayari said that closing the strait would be "easy".
"The enemies will only drop their plots when we put them back in their place," Mr Rahimi was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the official news agency Irna.
Adm Sayari later told Iran's Press TV that closing the Strait of Hormuz would be "really easy" for Iran's armed forces "or, as Iranians say, easier than drinking a glass of water".
"But right now, we don't need to shut it as we have the Sea of Oman under control, and we can control the transit," he added.
Iran's threats to close the strait have not flustered markets and oil prices actually fell after a senior Saudi oil official said that Gulf Arab nations were ready to offset any loss of Iranian crude.
Earlier, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the Iranian threats were simply "another attempt... to distract attention from the real issue, which is their continued non-compliance with their international nuclear obligations".
Map locator
Iran's navy has been staging wargames in international waters to the east of the strait.
Adm Sayari said the manoeuvres were designed to show Gulf neighbours the power of Iran's military over the zone.
Washington and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if sanctions and diplomacy fail.
Iran has vowed to respond by attacking Israeli and US interests in the region.
An embargo on Iranian oil exports has been considered before but dismissed as it could also drive up global oil prices and harm Western economies, particularly in Europe.
It is believed the new measures could cut Tehran off from global energy markets without raising the price of fuel.

US Warns Iran Not to Close Key Oil Route

The United States has sharply warned Iran against any move to close the vital Strait of Hormuz, after Tehran threatened to block oil shipments coming through the waterway if the West imposes sanctions targeting the country's crude oil exports.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said Wednesday that “interference with the passage of vessels through the Strait…will not be tolerated.”
Separately, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet told VOA in an email that the flow of goods through the strait is “vital to regional and global prosperity.” Lieutenant Rebecca Rebarich said the U.S. Navy is ready to “counter malevolent actions” to ensure navigation freedom.
Earlier, Iran's top naval officer, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, said closing the Strait of Hormuz would be “very easy” for his forces, although he added that no immediate action is “necessary.”
Sayyari is the second Iranian official this week to raise the possibility of closing the entrance to the Persian Gulf in response to Western threats to put sanctions on Iran's petroleum exports because of its controversial nuclear program.
On Tuesday, Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said that if Iranian oil is banned, “then not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz.”
Iran's warnings come as its naval forces continue a 10-day exercise in the strait and nearby waters that began on Saturday.
Iran contends its uranium enrichment program is for civilian purposes, but a United Nations report issued last month said Tehran appears to be secretly working on designing a nuclear weapon.
European Union ministers have said that a decision on further economic sanctions – including a boycott of Iranian oil – will be made in the coming weeks. The vast majority of Iran's foreign revenue comes from oil exports.
More than one-third of the world's tanker-borne oil supply passes through the Strait of Hormuz. A closure could temporarily cut off some oil supplies and force shippers to use longer, more expensive routes. It could impact the price of oil worldwide.
But after an initial spike following the Iranian threats, oil futures edged lower on Wednesday. The Associated Press quoted a Saudi oil ministry official as saying Gulf oil producers would be ready to step in, if necessary, to make up for any losses of Iranian crude.

Volvo Race Boats Shipped to Next Leg Over Piracy Concerns


Organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race are shipping five sailboats through the Indian Ocean on an armed transport vessel due to piracy concerns.
The 15-ton yachts with 31-meter masts were loaded onto a ship Wednesday at an undisclosed location before leaving on a journey to Sharjah off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
Organizers of the around-the-world race say they decided not to allow the event to sail parts of the Indian Ocean due to increased threats by pirates.
Three more loading-unloading operations will have to be completed at other stages of the event.
The Volvo Ocean Race started in Alicante, Spain in October and ends in Galway, Ireland next July.

Bahrain arrests anti-regime protesters

Bahrain arrests anti-regime protesters
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The Bahraini police attacked demonstrators in the Ma'ameer village, the eastern town of Sitra and the village of Dair, located on the northern coast of the Muharraq island on Tuesday evening.
Protesters chanted slogans against the Al-Khalifa regime.
Meanwhile, Bahraini workers, sacked previously by the government, once again gathered outside the Interior Ministry in the capital, Manama, on Tuesday to demand reinstatement.
Dozens of people have been killed, some in custody, and thousands more have been arrested or fired from their jobs in Bahrain since the beginning of the uprising in February.
Moreover, many health workers, teachers, opposition and human rights activists are still facing trial or serving prison terms over participation in anti-regime demonstrations in the country.
State media announced on Saturday that Bahraini authorities had dropped charges relating to the freedom of expression against “343 individual suspects in 34 cases” linked to anti-regime demonstrations in February and March.
However, Matar Matar, a member of the main opposition group, al-Wefaq, censured the announcement, saying that it is “a media show.”
Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Bahraini authorities to “urgently take confidence-building measures including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals or are still awaiting trial for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

AFRICA: Merchant ship crews held hostage in Somalia


Iran threatens to block Strait of Hormuz oil route

Iran says it may close a vital oil-trade route if the West imposes more sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme.
Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz" if sanctions are widened.
Iran's navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayari later said closing the strait would be "easy".
The US and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
Oil and finance
Western nations recently unveiled new sanctions against Tehran following a UN report that said Iran had carried out tests related to "development of a nuclear device".
Further measures being considered to target Iran's oil and financial sectors have brought a furious response from Tehran.
"The enemies will only drop their plots when we put them back in their place," Mr Rahimi was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the official news agency Irna.
Adm Sayari later told Iran's Press TV that closing the Strait of Hormuz would be "really easy" for Iran's armed forces "or as Iranians say, easier than drinking a glass of water".
"But right now, we don't need to shut it as we have the Sea of Oman under control, and we can control the transit," he added.
US presence
The Strait of Hormuz links the Gulf - and the oil-producing states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - to the Indian Ocean. About 40% of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through it.
Map locator
The US maintains a naval presence in the Gulf, largely to ensure the transport of oil remains open.
Washington played down the Iranian threat.
US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said: "I just think it's another attempt by them to distract attention from the real issue, which is their continued non-compliance with their international nuclear obligations."
Iran's navy has been staging wargames in international waters to the east of the strait.
Adm Sayari said the manoeuvres were designed to show Gulf neighbours the power of Iran's military over the zone.
Washington and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if sanctions and diplomacy fail.
Iran has vowed to respond by attacking Israeli and US interests in the region.
An embargo on Iranian oil exports has been considered before but dismissed as it could also drive up global oil prices and harm Western economies, particularly in Europe.
It is believed the new measures could cut Tehran off from global energy markets without raising the price of fuel.
The UN has ratified four rounds of sanctions against Iran over its failure to halt uranium enrichment and co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).


Bahrain police 'attack Shia opposition headquarters'


Bahrain security forces have attacked the headquarters of the country's Shia opposition, the group says.
Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at protesters at its offices west of Manama, Al-Wefaq said.
More than 40 people died in a crackdown against protesters in Bahrain in the spring. An independent commission concluded "excessive force" was used.
The violence has fuelled anger against the Sunni ruling family and political elite in majority Shia Bahrain.
Al-Wefaq said that several people, including children, had been wounded in Friday's crackdown, which reports said happened after opposition supporters attempted to defy a government ban on demonstrations.
"We are a people that won't be broken. All this repression and brutality is the source of our strength and determination to continue the struggle and defend our national rights," Al-Wefaq's vice-president, Sheikh Hassan Al Daihi, said in a statement.
According to the Associated Press, Shia clerics also held prayer services on Friday on the rubble of mosques that had been bulldozed by authorities earlier this year.
"We will start a campaign to defend our religious sites and the first such activity starts with a protest at the end of the prayer at Diraz grand mosque," senior Shia cleric Sheik Isa Qassim said during his Friday sermon, the news agency reports.
Diraz is an opposition stronghold north-west of the capital.
More than 1,600 people have been arrested during the protests this year in Bahrain, which have continued sporadically since the peak of the unrest eight months ago.

Navy's Wargames Enter Tactical Phase

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Navy started the tactical phase of the military exercises underway in the international waters in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean, a Navy commander said on Tuesday. 

Iran's naval forces started massive wargames, dubbed as Velayat 90, in an area stretching from the East of the Strait of Hormoz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden on Saturday.
"After the accomplishment of the initial and expansion phases of Velayat 90, the tactical phase of the wargames was started this morning in the wargames general zone," Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Navy Admiral Seyed Mahmoud Moussavi said.
He added that Iranian naval forces exercised confrontation against chemical attacks of the hypothetical enemy as part of the plan to boost their defense power in modern warfare.
Moussavi, who is also spokesman of the wargames, said that Iranian navy vessels embarked on fortifying the country's coastal waters to prevent infiltration of hypothetical enemy vessels and submarines.
The commander noted that Iranian forces also conducted tests in electronic warfare field using modern home-made electronic jamming equipment to disrupt enemy radar and contact systems.
Iran stages several air, land and sea wargames each year to test its newly produced weapons and equipments.
Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran's wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor, specially at a time of heightened threats by the US.

10 photographers to watch in 2012

 By Sean Jacobs and Tom Devriendt – Africa is a country

As part of a series of year-end posts–we’re taking a break from Friday, December 23, till January 5, 2012–we’re planning to post at least 10 “Lists of 10″ this week. (We’re trying to be cool by calling it “10×10″). So two lists per day. Orlando Reade, who blogs for us from London, starts us of with his list of 10 photographers to watch in 2012. He’s picked five African artists and five Europeans who have been working in Africa.

Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo’s (born Burkina Faso, 1978) L’enfer du Cuivre (image above) and Pieter Hugo’s (born South Africa, 1976) Permanent Error series both document life in and around the technology dump in Agbobloshie, Ghana.
Lien Botha’s (born South Africa, 1961) 2009 Parrot Jungle series, exhibited at this year’s Bamako biennial, explores the iconography of natural history. Her images, carefully and oddly juxtaposed objects, possess the aura of an old cabinet of curiosities.
Nii Obodai’s (born Ghana, 1963) work, From the Edge to the Core, was exhibited at the Bamako biennale. The 2009 series, Who Knows Tomorrow, a collaboration with the Algerian-French photographer Bruno Boudjelal explored the political legacies of Kwame Nkrumah’s independent nation through landscape portraits of urban and rural Ghana.
Daniel Naudé (born South Africa, 1984) makes portraits of animals in strange relation to their landscapes. His Africanis series focused on the wild dogs of the Karoo.
Cecile Mella’s (born France, 1983) series ‘Fictional Cape Town’, captures the misfigured and fantastical portraits of the city at the edges of advertising photo-shoots and film-sets.
Jordi Cami’s (born Spain, 1955) images of the industry of manual transporting at the border of Spain and Morocco, and infant refugees in Sudan, make intimate reportage of physical life in these communities.
Four years ago, Yan Gross (born Switzerland, 1981) started making a series on a group of skateboarders in Kitintale, a suburb of Kampala, who built what Gross claims is the first skatepark in East Africa. The project is ongoing.
Andrea Stultiens (born Holland, 1974) has been working and teaching in Uganda for the last few years, engaging with local artists through the Bayimba Photography Workshops. The Kaddu Wasswa Archive is a series devoted to one man’s life, compiling documents from his past with new photographs. This work, made in collaboration with Wasswa’s grandson, the photographer Arthur C. Kisitu, indirectly makes a history of the first fifty years of independent Uganda.
Alfredo d’Amato’s (born Italy) series, ‘The Sound of Kuduro’, explored the Kuduro (translated as “hard ass”) music scene in Luanda, Angola. It was exhibited at this year’s Lagos Photo. Amato’s ‘Early Days of Spring’ contains eloquent portraits of Tunisia after the end of Ben Ali’s regime. His recent work in Mozambique can be seen here.

Big rush to cash in on Somalia, protect Uganda, save Sudan 0

By Charles Onyango-Obbo – The East African

World and regional powers are now in a big rush to simultaneously tackle three big and intractable East African problems — the Somalia war, the crisis in eastern DR Congo, and the risk of South Sudan imploding.
For the first time in a very long, diplomats appear to be optimistic that lasting peace in the Greater East Africa region may be closer than it has been expected. This has set off a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at boosting peacekeeping efforts and paying for the reconstruction in some of the trouble spots.
In the past one week, China, which has traditionally chosen to concentrate on its economic interests in Africa and had stayed away from Somalia, announced that Beijing was keen to work with other parties “to play a constructive role in pushing forward a resolution to the Somali humanitarian crisis.”
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council sat to consider a proposal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to expand the Amisom force strength. If Mr Ki-Moon gets his wish, Amisom could grow from the approved force of 12,000 to 20,000, the standard required of a UN peacekeeping mission.
On the same day, the World Bank Group working closely with Norway, Turkey, and the United Kingdom; the African Union; the European Union; the United Nations and the Corporate Council on Africa hosted a donor conference that will eventually fund the start-up nation of South Sudan. Since 2005, this donor group has funded South Sudan to the tune of $540 million.
Now billions of dollars are needed urgently to pull Africa’s newest nation from the brink of crisis. The African Development Bank has also been in discussions about funding the reconstruction of South Sudan. A similar effort is also underway for the reconstruction of Somalia.
In the same week, the European Union offered $1.2 million that will be used to help efforts by Uganda’s military and American special forces hunt for the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony.
On the diplomatic front, two weeks ago, Mr Ki-Moon and the President of the UN General Assembly, Qatar’s Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser made a brave visit to the Somalia capital Mogadishu, and pressed the flesh with Transitional Federal Government (TFG) leaders.
Ki-Moon and Al Nasser were the most high profile international diplomats to visit Somalia in over 20 years and their stop was seen as an early Christmas present for the fledgling TFG, and a boost for the African Union peacekeeping effort AMISOM.
Gaining ground
In recent months, AMISOM has pushed the Al Shabaab out of all the 16 districts of Mogadishu, unifying the capital under the authority of one government for the first time since 1991.
However, there were concerns that AMISOM’s gains could be threatened by Uganda increasing attention to old enemies — the regrouping of the anti-Kampala Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and other once-defeated Uganda rebel groups in eastern DR Congo.
Uganda and Burundi are the only two countries that have contributed troops to AMISOM so far, with Uganda providing the most. Diplomatic sources told The East- African that they were “picking up signals that Uganda was about to send a large force into eastern DR Congo.” According to our sources, Uganda was “weeks, if not days away,” from reopening a front in DR Congo. Not only were there concerns that that would distract it from Somalia, but some diplomats are also worried that a messy campaign inside DR Congo would rob Kampala of the moral authority to remain in a peacekeeping mission.
Other sources told The EastAfrican that the flare up of fighting between (north) Sudan and South Sudan, and the eruption of communal violence in parts of the South, threw up the worst nightmare many governments had had about South Sudan Independence — a new state that fails on arrival.
One of the most lethal instruments that Sudan has to destabilise the South is the LRA, which for years was a proxy force for Khartoum, which it used to punish Uganda for its support for the SPLA.
The hawks in the Uganda military and intelligence still maintain that the LRA is being kept alive by the Omar Al Bashir regime. It was probably no surprise then, that two weeks ago Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni became the first regional leader to warn Khartoum to “back off” South Sudan.

Official Cautions about West's Plot to Stir Tension in Iran as Elections Near

TEHRAN (FNA)- The West is trying to spark tension in Iran on the verge of the parliamentary elections, Iran's state-prosecutor said, adding that the West is using different means to stage its anti-Iran plots. 

Addressing a gathering of Iran's top judiciary officials here in Tehran on Tuesday, Iran's Prosecutor-General and Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeii stated that the West has always sought to undermine the Islamic establishment.
"According to reports by (Iran's) security apparatus, the westerners are seeking to stir tension in the country's atmosphere on the verge of elections," Ejeii noted.
"To that end, the westerners are using cyber space in a bid to spread the atmosphere of pessimism and insecurity," Ejeii underscored.
Earlier this month, member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Zohreh Elahian told FNA that Tehran holds strong intelligence showing that a number of western countries are trying to disturb security during the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran.
"According to the reports that we received months ago, a number of western countries have drawn plans for the elections in a bid to challenge the 9th parliamentary elections just like (June) 2009 (presidential) election," she said.
Registration for the ninth parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to be held on March 2, 2012, began with an opening ceremony attended by the interior minister and several other senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Saturday.
Candidates for the next parliamentary elections have until December 30, 2011 to register, and officials have announced that the deadline will most probably not be extended.
The Guardian Council, which is tasked with supervising the election, will then evaluate the competence of the people who have registered.

Bahrain | The real inducer of Bahrain's revolution

Media of Truth | Bahrain
‎#Bahrain | The real inducer of Bahrain's revolution
لميس ضيف: رسالة لملك البحرين

The real inducer of Bahrain's revolution لميس ضيف: رسالة لملك البحرين

Pro-Assad Forces Kill 30 in Homs as Monitors Arrive in Syria

Syrian security forces have intensified their attacks on the opposition protest hub of Homs, killing at least 30 people as human rights activists urged Arab League monitors to quickly visit the city.
Fifty monitors and 10 other league officials arrived in Syria from Egypt Monday, to track promises by President Bashar al-Assad's government that it would withdraw its tanks and troops from cities and release political prisoners.
The Arab League said observers from at least eight Arab countries will visit several Syrian cities Tuesday, including Homs, Idlib, Hama and Daraa. France joined Syrian activists in calling for the observers to enter Homs immediately.
Syria's leading opposition figure told reporters in Paris Monday that some observers already have reached Homs, but that local officials refused to allow them to travel freely within the city. Syrian National Council head Burhan Ghalioun also called on U.N. Security Council to take over the international effort to stop the violence plaguing the country.
Meanwhile, activists and witnesses said government tanks and security forces ravaged Homs' Bab Amr district Monday with heavy shelling and gunfire. Amateur video posted on YouTube shows bodies lying in pools of blood in front of a house apparently struck by a shell. Another video shows tanks prowling the streets of the district, an army defector stronghold.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said forces loyal to Mr. Assad also opened fire on a protest in neighboring Hama province, killing three people. The group said four army defectors also were killed Monday by troops in a town near the Turkish border.
Rights activists and the opposition SNC say the government's agreement to the Arab League plan is a farce. Some anti-government protesters have criticized the league's stance to the point of accusing it of complicity in the killings. Sudanese General Mustafa Dabi is leading the observer mission.
Activists say hundreds of people have been killed this month in attacks by Syrian security forces on civilians and in fighting between pro-Assad troops and army defectors. It is not possible to confirm casualty figures independently because Syria bars foreign journalists from operating freely.
Syria agreed to the Arab League plan under international pressure and threats of Arab sanctions. The plan requires Mr. Assad to give the monitors freedom of movement everywhere except sensitive military sites. Members of the team say they will avoid disclosing their travel plans in advance in order to maintain the element of surprise.
Syrian opposition activists have called on the observers to abandon the mission if the government blocks access to centers of anti-Assad protest such as Homs.
The United Nations estimates 5,000 people have been killed in violence linked to the uprising since it began in March. Syria says “armed terrorists” are driving the revolt. It accuses them of killing 2,000 security personnel during that period.

Al-Wefaq Headquarter Attacked In Manama

Media of Truth | Bahrain 2011.12.25
Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have attacked the headquarters of the country’s main opposition bloc, al-Wefaq, in the capital, Manama.
Al-Wefaq party was holding its weekly meeting at the time of the attack. The meeting was forcibly broken up by regime forces.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry on Thursday banned al-Wefaq leaders from holding their weekly meeting.
“I was really shocked to see tear gas and rubber bullets hit our offices,” said vice president of the Al Wefaq party, Sheik Hussain Al Daihi. He said he was inside the building with foreign journalists when the security forces attacked and that a 13-year-old girl among those hurt had a serious injury to her thigh.
“We are a people that won’t be broken. All this repression and brutality is the source of our strength and determination to continue the struggle and defend our national rights,” Al Daihi said later in a statement.
Activists say several people, including an American journalist, were injured after regime troops attacked the building on Friday using tear gas.
“We will start a campaign to defend our religious sites and the first such activity starts with a protest at the end of the prayer at Diraz grand mosque,” senior Shiite cleric Sheik Isa Qassim said during his Friday sermon. Diraz is an opposition stronghold northwest of the capital.
“We demand democracy for one people, Sunni and Shiite, and we understand the approach of the government that aims to divide our people. We are the ones who insist on unity, and because of this we are targeted by the government,” he said.
Qassim called on international allies of Bahrain to exert pressure on the government because of what he said was it lack of will to reform.
Bahrain is a key U.S. ally in the Gulf and is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Since February, at least 40 people have been killed.
Regime forces also attacked anti-government protesters in several towns and villages near Manama, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Bahrainis have been holding street protests demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty since mid-February. Peaceful demonstrators are attacked with live rounds and tear gas.
On November 23, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate reports of rights abuse during the crackdown, announced that the regime had used ”excessive force” to crush the uprising.
Bahraini opposition say nothing has changed since the government-authorized international investigation publicized last month found numerous human rights abuses.


Yemen protest in Sanaa 'leaves eight dead'

At least eight people have been killed and scores wounded by security forces who opened fire on a protest in the capital, Sanaa, doctors say.
Tens of thousands of protesters had marched on the capital over four days from the southern city of Taiz.
They want a deal giving immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh scrapped.
Mr Saleh has transferred power to his deputy and will stand down in February. He said on Saturday he would go to the US soon to help ease the tension.
Mr Saleh signed a peace deal last month after a government crackdown on months of protests had left hundreds dead.
'Out of sight'
The protesters had arrived from Taiz, about 270km (165 miles) to the south, on Saturday.
Reports said they were marching on an avenue containing the presidential palace when the Republican Guard and Central Security forces fired on them with automatic weapons, tear gas and water cannons.
Mr Saleh's son runs the Republican Guard and his nephew leads Central Security.
 Ali Abdullah Saleh came to power in 1978
Thousands of protesters in Change Square, where anti-government protests have been centred, tried to get to the scene but were blocked off.
Tanks and artillery were seen being deployed to the area but the clashes have now reportedly stopped.
Mr Saleh said he would leave for the US "in the coming days... to get out of sight... to calm the atmosphere for the unity government to hold the presidential election" in February.
But he said he would return later as "an opposition figure".
The unity government is headed by independent politician Mohammed Basindwa.
He has vowed to restore public services, security and stability.

Sudan Reports Death of Darfur Rebel Group Leader


The Sudanese army says it has killed the leader of the main rebel group in the war-torn Darfur region.
A statement released by Sudan's official news agency says Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), was killed in fighting Sunday near Wad Banda in North Kordofan state.
The army gave no further details, and Ibrahim's death has not been independently confirmed.
Sudanese news outlets say clashes broke out in North Kordofan Friday. The Sudanese army accused rebel fighters of attacking civilians in three areas. The Sudan Tribune newspaper says a JEM spokesman dismissed the accusation as false.
On Thursday, the JEM said its forces have begun advancing toward the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, with the goal of toppling President Omar al-Bashir.
JEM attacked the capital and its twin city Omdurman in May 2008. More than 200 people were killed before government forces repulsed the attack.
Darfur rebel groups launched an uprising against the government in 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting their region.
President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes against civilians in the region.

Bahrain: Today Appeal Court

Media of Truth | Bahrain
‎#Bahrain: Today Appeal Court supports life-sentence for 5 and commutes it for 2, still ignore torture evidences via @BahrainRights
محكمة الاستئناف اليوم أثبتت حكم المؤبد لخمسة وتم تخفيفه لـ 15عاماً لاثنين آخرين مع تجاهل لأدلة التعذيب


AFRICA: At Least 10 Killed As Blast Strikes Nigerian Church


A large explosion struck a church in Nigeria's capital during a Christmas service Sunday, killing at least 10 people.
The explosion happened during Christmas mass in the St. Theresa Church, located in the Abuja suburb of Madalla.
Police soon cordoned off the area as rescue teams arrived to evacuate the wounded to hospitals and pull bodies from the debris. Officials who gave the death toll warned the number is likely to go higher.
Witness report tension in the area after the blast, with angry youths setting up burning roadblocks, and police trying to disperse them by firing into the air.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blast, and there has been no claim of responsibility. Nigeria has endured a wave of deadly violence in recent months, much of it blamed on the radical Muslim sect Boko Haram.
Authorities say at least 68 people have been killed over the past few days in the country's north, in clashes between Boko Haram and government security forces.
Nigeria has also witnessed periodic bouts of fighting between Muslims and Christians, often in the central city of Jos. The country of 150 million is about evenly divided between the two religions.
Media of Truth | Bahrain

الغازات الخانقة تطلق في البلاد القديم بكثافة 23 -12-2011

Iran Starts Massive Naval Wargames in Int'l Waters

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's naval forces started massive wargames in international waters in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean on Saturday.

The naval maneuvers dubbed Velayat 90 are due to cover an area stretching from the East of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden for 10 days.
During the wargames, the Iranian naval forces will display their latest equipment, achievement and tactics.
Earlier, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari had said that the exercises will manifest Iran's military prowess and defense capabilities in the international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to the regional countries, and test the newest military equipment among other objectives.
He said that the newest missile systems and torpedoes will be employed in the maneuvers, adding that the most recent tactics used in subsurface battles will also be demonstrated in the maneuvers.
Sayyari also said that Iranian destroyers, missile-launching vessels, logistic vessels, drones and coastal missiles will also be tested.
Iran stages several air, land and sea wargames each year to test its newly produced weapons and equipments.
In the last naval drills staged by the Iranian Army's Navy Force, a six-staged naval maneuver, codenamed Velayat 89, was conducted in the Strait of Hormuz and Northern Indian Ocean in May 2010.
Spokesman of the military drills Admiral Qassem Rostamabadi announced at the time that the Iranian Navy deployed destroyers, missile-launchers, heavy and light submarines and flight units in specified areas and provided security of shipping lines during the drills.
The second phase of the wargames pertained to confrontation against chemical attacks of the enemy through using locally-made equipment, Admiral Rostamabadi added.
Also home-made systems were used to successfully confront enemy's divers and guerillas who penetrated into Iranian coasts, the spokesman stated.

BAHRAIN: The Security Forces today intervened to disperse a group of saboteurs in Manama

Interior Ministry / Statement


Manama-Dec23(BNA) The Security Forces today intervened to disperse a group of saboteurs who emerged from behind the headquarters of Al-Wefaq headquarters in Al-Zinj and started hurling stones.
The security forces also dispersed another group of saboteurs, preventing them from reaching an Al-Wefaq-led rally at Tubli Bay. "The Interior Ministry banned the rally as it was close to a vital highway to ensure the flow of traffic and citizens' interests are not disrupted", Capital Police director-general said. AHN


Bahrain: Appeals to human rights bodies for serious intervention

Media of Truth

As the people’s revolution continues unabated, Bahrainis have appealed to the international human rights bodies and political leaders to take a stand and force the Al Khalifa regime to release the prisoners of conscience. Among these victims of the tribal terror, Mr Hassan Mushaima, the leader of Haq Movement and who had served numerous jail terms in the past quarter of a century, stands out as a seriously sick man who is being persecuted for his political views. He suffers from Cancer for which he had been treated last year in London. Since his detention in mid-March Mr Mushaima has complained of various ailments due to lack of medical care and abusive language and violent treatment. He has been man-handled in aggressive ways and denied proper medication for his own ailment. He is also being subjected to psychological torture by forcing his son to cry out as they tortured him. Mr Mushaima’s condition is said to be causing serious alarm among the senior figures of the opposition who have been behind bars since mid-March when the Saudis illegally invaded the country.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had dispatched an assessment team to Bahrain. Its members had met officials of the regime who denied any wrongdoing and members of the opposition and victims and their families. The team listened to two totally opposite stories but came back to Geneva with a stark message; Investigate the claims before it is too late. The team had found evidence of serious maltreatment of prisoners and protestors and suggested that there should be a new page of trust between the people and the ruling family. The Bissioni commission had concluded similar facts that condemn the regime and make him unable to move around. The government-financed and controlled BICI has itself indicated that senior figures, including the dictator himself could be liable for crimes against humanity. However, the regime’s tools of deception have twisted the facts and procedures to present the criminals as worthy of praise. Both UK and USA have “commended” the dictator for permitting a fact-finding commission led by Charif Bissioni to investigate his crimes. When the commission confirmed those crimes, instead of condemning him and his regime they praised them. A Bahraini human rights activist said: Can a murderer be praised? Does it matter how the guilt is proven, whether by voluntary confession or intensive interrogation?

Meanwhile the killing has continued along with the people’s revolutionary activism. Last week, an elderly person, Abd Ali Al Mawali, 68, was gassed to death. Ali Ahmad Al Qassab was killed by a passing car when the police shot him with a shotgun while crossing the road. The people were so outraged that they have now become more determined to pursue their revolutionary goals to achieve a regime change. In all towns and villages daily protests have been held. People’s favourite slogans are: People wants regime change” and “Down with Hamad, Down with Hamad”. The response by the regime’s brutal forces has been so vicious that many people are injured every day. Security forces have been instructed to deploy intensive amounts of chemical and tear gases that have led to serious injuries. Thick coloured clouds hoover over towns and villages during persistent attacks by those forces. The attackers have often targeted homes packed with women and children using poisonous gases. Bahrainis have appealed to the World Health Organisation (WTO) to send a team of investigators to assess those chemical gases that have caused people to vomit blood.

On another level, the Al Khalifa regime, backed by the Saudi occupiers have refused to release the political prisoners despite the recommendations by Bissioni’s commission and Navi Pillay. The senior opposition figures such as Hassan Mushaima are suffering serious ailments due to ill-treatment. It has been reported that the life of Mr Mushaima is in grave danger as he is continuously denied proper treatment and medication. He suffers from lymphoma cancer and needs special medication according to the doctor who had treated him at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Navi Pillay has been personally urged to intervene and ask for the immediate release of those prisoners in accordance with the recommendations by Bissioni and her own team who recently conducted a field visit. She is also urged to dispatch a fact-finding mission and an inquiry to reveal the extent of the regime’s violations.

Bahrain Freedom Movement
23rd December 2011

US $10m bounty for 'al-Qaeda man' based in Iran


The United States has offered a reward of $10m (£6.3m) for information leading to the arrest of a man they say is a key al-Qaeda facilitator and financier.
Yasin al-Suri, the US state department said, is a Syrian operating from Iran.
The bounty aims to disrupt a financial network that, it said, has operated from within Iran's borders since 2005.
State department official Robert Hartung said it was the first time a "terrorist financier" has been targeted in such a way.
"He is a dedicated terrorist working in support of al-Qaeda with the support of the government of Iran," Mr Hartung said, according to AP.
"As a key fundraiser for the al-Qaeda terrorist network, he is a continuing danger to the interests of the United States."
He added that Mr al-Suri - who is also known as Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil - operated under an agreement between al-Qaeda and the government of Iran, moving money and recruits through the country to the network in neighbouring countries - specifically Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
He was blacklisted along with five other members of his network by the US treasury department in July.
Mr Hartung said that, since 1984, the US Rewards for Justice programme has paid more than $100m to more than 70 people who provided credible information that either prevented attacks or helped bring those accused to justice.


BAHRAIN: Ministry of Education to reinstate suspended workers

Manama, Dec. 22 (BNA) -- Following the directions of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness the Prime Minister in implementing the recommendations by the BICI to reinstate the suspended workers from the Civil services bureau for disciplinary reasons, and the directions of the deputy prime minister president of the Civil Services Bureau, the Human Resources department at the Education Ministry announced its complete commitment to reinstating the 79 disciplinary suspended.

The ministry noted that employees would be back at work by January 1. 2012 after all investigations had been completed; pointing out that those employees had been suspended in connection with the unfortunate unrest that stormed the government schools, where students were denied their right of education and threatened their safety.

Bahrain defies UN word on violence

Bahrain has defied a recent call by the UN to end its brutal crackdown on the popular protests in the Persian Gulf island.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Bahrain has defied a recent call by the UN to end its brutal crackdown on the popular protests in the Persian Gulf island.
The regime forces fired teargas canisters to disperse a protest in the central Bahrain island of Sitra. The demonstrators were calling for the ouster of the Al Khalifa regime.
Any possible casualties from the clashes are yet to be reported.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had on Wednesday urged the Bahraini authorities to end the suppressive campaign and release the prisoners jailed for supporting anti-regime protests.
She had said that, according to a report issued by a UN delegation, which paid a five-day visit to Bahrain on her relevant order last week, Manama has almost lost its people's trust.
"My team has come back with the message that there is a profound lack of trust in the government, and this mistrust has deepened as a result of the violent crackdown on protesters, destruction of mosques, the lack of fair trials and the lack of progress in providing redress for violations," Pillay had said.
In a popular revolution, Bahrainis have been holding street protests, demanding an end to the rule of Al Khalifa dynasty since mid-February. Scores have been killed during regime attacks, which have seen peaceful demonstrators being attacked with live rounds.
On November 23, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate reports of rights abuse during the crackdown, announced that the regime had been responsible for numerous instances of such abuses and that it had used 'excessive force' to crush the revolution.
The Bahraini opposition says nothing has changed since the publication of the probe's results.

UN Condemns Beating of Women Protesters in Egypt


The United Nations is condemning the beatings of peaceful women protesters by Egyptian soldiers during marches this week against military rule.
The U.N.'s director for gender equality, Michelle Bachelet, Thursday called on Egyptian political and military authorities to guarantee civil rights for women and hold accountable those who violate those rights.
Bachelet says women have been one of the primary engines that drive respect for human rights and public participation in decision-making.
Video emerging from Egypt shows troops brutally beating unarmed women marchers with sticks, even after they had already fallen to the ground. Some of the soldiers were seen kicking women in the head and pulling off their clothes .
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls the attacks shocking and says they dishonor the Egyptian revolution that drove Hosni Mubarak from power.
Egyptian military officials have said they regret the attacks on women and will punish those responsible.
Thousands of Egyptians have been demanding an end to military rule, accusing the army of manipulating the transition to civilian rule in order to hold on to power.

Human rights: Washington is unsure but UN shows gumption

Media of Truth | Bahrain
‎#Bahrain, the close American ally with one of the worst recent records of violence against pro-democracy protestors, received a formal a warning on Wednesday from the UN Human Rights chief.

A team from the High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Bahrain from 13 to 17 December and concluded that the repression was unacceptable. It insisted the government should immediately and unconditionally release protestors convicted by military tribunals or still awaiting trial. Failing action, the Human Rights body may try to drum up support for more diplomatic pressure.


Bahrain, the close American ally with one of the worst recent records of violence against pro-democracy protestors, received a formal a warning on Wednesday from the UN Human Rights chief.
A team from the High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Bahrain from 13 to 17 December and concluded that the repression was unacceptable. It insisted the government should immediately and unconditionally release protestors convicted by military tribunals or still awaiting trial. Failing action, the Human Rights body may try to drum up support for more diplomatic pressure.
The warning is significant because the king in Bahrain is propped up by Salafi Islamic hardliners in Saudi Arabia who fear its Shiite Muslim majority. The Pentagon supports the royal family with huge amounts of military hardware and a large US Navy base.
The situation in Bahrain symbolizes the ambivalence in Washington about the so-called Arab Spring, despite its rhetorical support of freedom and democracy. Heading into 2012, optimism is waning as tensions grow almost unmanageable in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen among right wing militarists, Islamic forces and the mostly young pro-democracy liberals who have energized the people’s rebellions since January 2011.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the region is at an inflection point in history. All is changing. The old rules are breaking down and the emerging new order is unknown.
Social media-savvy young people seeking dignity and jobs in Tunisia and Egypt were the unexpected pioneers of rebellions. They did not gain much despite unprecedented democratic elections in their countries but they triggered a wider global phenomenon. Articulate middle class people have risen up in non-violent protest movements against unequal societies and corruption from rich countries like Switzerland and the US through Russia, Brazil and China to poorer ones like India and Kenya.
A vast social experiment organized and aided by social media like Facebook and Twitter is spreading through the world and the end is not yet in sight. Barack Obama seems behind the curve because the US government and State Department are still being cautious about disturbing the status quo built on cozy alliances like the ones with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The other key American allies in the wars on terrorism, Egypt and Yemen continue to be in turmoil although the regimes Washington supported for decades have fallen.
Will systematic violations of the human rights of protestors ever stop? A year after it all began, the answer seems to be “no”. The prodemocracy liberals in each of the Arab Spring countries are fractious and disjointed. They know what they do not want but do not know how to build what they want.
The military rulers seem interested only in preserving the power they have enjoyed for decades and are unable to overcome their disdain of the rabble. They cannot believe that the street may have something intelligent to say about preserving and growing the nation.
The Islamic parties, whether conservative or moderate, see opportunities to wrest power and have their moments in the sun. They fear both the militarists and the liberals because neither accepts the divine right of religious leaders to rule an entire nation.
The only good news is that ordinary people are not yet pointing guns at one another. But the peace is fragile. Even after the departure of dictators as in Egypt and Yemen, military councils are killing peaceful protestors. In countries like Libya and Iraq, which are emerging from war, peaceful coexistence among rivals for power is far from certain.
Washington disapproves but does little more than making declarations when its friends are involved. Against Bahrain, it is waving a straw not a stick.


Bahrain frees blogger on bail, to reinstate workers

by Firouz Sedarat
DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain, under pressure to improve its right record to secure a purchase of U.S. arms, said on Tuesday it freed on bail a Shi'ite female blogger arrested last week and would reinstate state employees suspended following pro-democracy protests.
The arrest of Zainab al-Khawaja, a blogger and human rights activist, and another activist, Masoma al-Sayyid, at a protest on Thursday had drawn protests from rights groups.
Khawaja, the daughter of a jailed opposition leader, and Sayyid were released on Tuesday pending a trial, a government statement said. "An investigation has been opened to review the arrest and legal procedures relating to the two women," it said.
Images of a policewoman dragging Khawaja on the ground by the handcuffs she had placed on the blogger had received wide coverage on media and the Internet.
"Khawaja's arrest ... demonstrates the authorities' utter contempt of freedom of expression and peaceful protest," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, a regional deputy director at Amnesty International, said in a statement earlier.
Washington has said a pending $53 million arms sale to Bahrain will hinge partly on the monarchy halting the abuses inflicted on protesters outlined in a report by a government-appointed fact-finding commission of international lawyers.
Separately, authorities said on Tuesday they would reinstate the last group of state employees suspended during protests mostly by majority Shi'ite Muslims earlier this year.
"In accordance with the recommendations made by (the commission), an order reinstating the remaining (180) suspended employees to their jobs in the public sector has been issued," an official statement said.
Bahrain is important to Western interests in the Middle East because it hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet and faces Shi'ite giant Iran on the other side of the Gulf. Iran has denied Bahraini government accusations that it has incited the protests.
Inspired by "Arab Spring" uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of mainly Shi'ite Bahrainis took to the streets in February and March demanding curbs on the power of the ruling Al-Khalifa family and an end to perceived discrimination.
The broader pro-democracy movement was suppressed with the help of military forces brought in from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But small, low-level protests have persisted on an almost daily basis.

Senior Lawmaker: US Intelligence Awe Shattered by Arresting CIA Spy in Iran

TEHRAN (FNA)- A prominent Iranian legislator praised the country's security forces for arresting a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent who was tasked with infiltrating the Iranian intelligence apparatus, and said Washington's intelligence awe was shattered by this success.

"The Islamic Republic's intelligence dominance in controlling and guiding the US spy drone and arresting the CIA spy has impaired the US intelligence hegemony seriously," Rapporteur of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Kazzem Jalali told FNA on Tuesday.

"The world public opinion has now understood the US lack of intelligence and security dominance after the collapse of the US political hegemony in the past," he added.

Jalali said that the US is now resorting to the hues and cries and untrue media stories to cover its failures in the political and security fields.

Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced on Saturday that it has arrested an agent of the CIA in Iran immediately after he started his spying activities inside the country.

The arrested spy has been born in Arizona of US and has a track record of ten years of training as a professional spy. Amir Mirza Hekmati was employed by the US Army's intelligence section in August 2001.

In his confession that was broadcasted by Iranian TV on Sunday night, Hekmati explained his secret mission in Iran.

Switzerland Welcomes Publication of BICI Report

Bern, Dec. 20. (BNA) – Switzerland has welcomed the publication of the final report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), established by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
In a statement issued by the Swiss Foreign Affairs Ministry, Switzerland also called upon all parties to implement the recommendations featuring in BICI report, praising HM the King's decision to set up the National Victims' Compensation Fun and the National Commission Charged with implementing BICI recommendations.

BAHRAIN: National Commission Holds Meeting

National Commission Holds Meeting

Manama-Dec20 (BNA) The sacked public employees will be reinstated early next month, National Commission charged with the recommendations cited in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Report President Ali Saleh Al-Saleh said. He pointed out that the measure would not include cases referred to the Public Prosecution pending court verdicts.
He was speaking as he chaired the 3rd meeting of the National Commission.
The panel discussed contacts and correspondences with the Government to implement the recommendation 1723 relating to the reinstatement of sacked public and private workers, readmission of expelled students and the reconstruction of worship facilities.
Mr. Al-Saleh announced that serious steps would be taken soon regarding sacked private sectors and expelled students.
He expressed the hope that private sector would respond with the directives and reinstate sacked employees.

Bahrain must release activist dragged away from peaceful protest

The Bahrain authorities must release a prominent activist dragged away along the ground in handcuffs from a peaceful protest, Amnesty International said today. 
Blogger and activist Zainab al-Khawaja, whose father and husband are both in prison in the aftermath of popular protests this year, has been charged with taking part in an illegal public gathering, showing contempt of the regime and assaulting a police officer.
Video and photographs of her sitting in protest on her own at a roundabout on 15 December, then being handcuffed and dragged along the ground by the handcuffs into a police car contradict the contention that she assaulted the arresting officer.
“The Bahraini authorities must immediately release Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ma’suma Sayyid Sharaf, and drop the specious charges against them,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the North Africa and the Middle East Programme.   
Amnesty International has received reports that al-Khawaja was beaten by police officers while out of sight of cameras, and a friend of the activist, Ma’suma Sayyid Sharaf, was arrested while trying to intervene. Sharaf is also being held under the same charges. 

“Zainab al-Khawaja’s arrest at all demonstrates the authorities’ utter contempt of freedom of expression and peaceful protest and puts into question the will of the Bahraini authorities to take seriously the findings of  the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 
The anti-government sit-in at the roundabout was organized by several women on the eve of celebrations marking Bahrain’s national day (16 December).  After the police used teargas and sound bombs, the other protesters dispersed but al-Khawaja, a seasoned demonstrator, did not move. 
After the arrest, al-Khawaja was taken to al-Budaiye’ police station on the outskirts of Manama, where she was reportedly beaten further.

Zainab al-Khawaja, who blogs and tweets under the name ‘Angry Arabiya’, is the daughter of prominent human rights and opposition activist Abdelhadi al-Khawaja.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court in June in a politically motivated trial of 21 opposition activists, seven of whom were tried in absentia. He has alleged that he was severely tortured in detention, that his jaw was shattered, and that he was threatened with rape.

“Given the horrendous mistreatment of her father Abdelhadi al-Khawaja, we have grave fears for Zainab’s safety while she is in detention,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui.
Al-Khawaja’s lawyer told Amnesty International that she is being held in detention in 'Issa Town, South-west of Manama, and no visitors have been permitted.  Both she and Sharaf were questioned at the Public Prosecutor’s Office after their arrest until 5:00am on 16 December.
They were both referred to a doctor on Saturday at the request of lawyers, with Zainab reportedly suffering bruising on her arms and hands, and experiencing headaches from being beaten in the head.
The two women will reportedly appear before a judge in the coming days.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report released in November and welcomed by the King of Bahrain was deeply critical of the authorities’ handling of demonstrations this February and March, and of excessive force and other abuses against peaceful demonstrators in the following months.
“The Bahraini authorities must demonstrate that the report of the Commission is more than a public relation exercise and start implementing the recommendations of the report. Foremost they need to start taking the rights of protesters seriously,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.