Iraqi authorities have for a second time this month inspected an Iranian cargo plane heading to Syria, but allowed it to continue as no prohibited items were found on board.
The search of the Iranair cargo flight was conducted at Baghdad International Airport on Saturday.
“The plane was allowed to proceed to Syria after verifying that there are no weapons or any banned items on board,” Iraq’s Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority Nasser al-Bandar said.
“Our experts found that the plane was carrying only medical supplies and foodstuff, “he added.
On October 2, Iraq stopped and inspected a Damascus-bound Iranair cargo plane from Tehran upon the illegal request of the US officials, who claimed that Tehran uses Iraq’s airspace to send weapons to the Syrian government. No weapons were found in that search, either.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011 and many people, including a large number of security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
Damascus says ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists’ are behind the unrest, but the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the insurgents are foreign nationals.
The United States has recently announced that it would allocate an additional $45 million to foreign-backed armed groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Alleging “al-Qaeda” presence in Mali, the United States has vowed to make the West African country, the next stop in its so-called war on terror.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta vowed, at the Pentagon, to eliminate the threat from “al-Qaeda” in northern Mali, Reuters reported on Saturday. He said that he would ensure that al-Qaeda has “no place to hide.”
“Our approach is to make sure that al-Qaeda and elements of al-Qaeda have no place to hide. And we’ve gone after al-Qaeda wherever they are – whether it’s in [the northwestern Pakistan] FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]; whether it’s in Yemen; whether it’s in Somalia; and whether they’re in North Africa,” he noted.
The comments came amid reports that the CIA is currently flying some surveillance drones over northern Mali, and that France is also reportedly sending surveillance aircraft to the African country.
A study, conducted by Stanford and New York Universities, has showed that only one in 50 people killed by US assassination drones in Pakistan — one of the several countries where the US has carried out drone strikes — are militants.
- Britain to support African force in bid to recapture northern Mali (phantomreport.com)
In their fervent struggle, a Syrian rebel group has “arrested” a Lebanese journalist in Aleppo saying his “presence as a journalist no longer receives approval in areas controlled by the rebels.”
Fidaa Itani, who works for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBCI) and several other news outlets, was travelling though Aleppo under protection of a rebel group when he was arrested and handed over to another rebel group which controls a small town some 30km away from the besieged port-city.
The rebels said on their Facebook page they found Itani’s work “incompatible with the path of the Syrian revolution and rebels.”
They promised to free the reporter who is now in rebel custody “shortly” – after the necessary documents and information are acquired.
Itani was seized after he raised suspicions, taking pictures and videos of “large amounts of operations” in Syria’s second largest city. The content of his reports also seems to have fallen afoul of how the rebels want the popular uprising against Bashar Al-Assad’s government to be covered.
“Reports and videos have not proven yet Itani’s involvement with any party that works against the revolution, but his presence as a journalist no longer receives approval in areas controlled by the rebels,” the group said in a statement.
LBCI, as well as Lebanese MPs, are in contact with the group and their leader, Abu Ibrahim. They expect Itani to be set free in a couple of days.
Abu Ibrahim and the Azaz rebel group have abducted Lebanese nationals before. Eleven Lebanese pilgrims, who were returning from Iran through Syria, were kidnapped by the group in May. Only two of them have been released so far.
The rebels have used the term “detained” to describe the abduction of the journalist, but they in fact have committed “a criminal action” and “kidnapped” him, Manuel Ochsenreiter, editor-in-chief of the German monthly news magazine Zuerst, told RT.
“Indeed this is an alarming development but this is not new,” he said. “He is not the first journalist to have been kidnapped in Syria. We see a huge number of journalists that were killed by the rebels in Syria, who were killed by the Al-Qaeda related groups. I just want to remember the journalists of the Syrian TV channel, Syrian News TV where some journalist were killed and where the building was attacked at the end of June this year.”
At the same time the Syrian government does not prevent journalists making reports that disagree with the official line, says Ochsenreiter, who himself had visited Damascus during the conflict.
“I was in Damascus and what I can say is that I met a lot of journalists who were not filing reports consistent with the official line of the Syrian government’s cause and they were not detained, they were not kidnapped, they were free to work in the country,” he said. “So, you see that there is a huge difference how journalists work in Syria and there is a monster huge difference in the risk.”
Itani was kidnapped just hours after the release of a video in which Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawari had called for Muslims to kidnap Westerners as a bargaining chip, to win the release of its members held captive around the world. In a new video posted online he also urged Islamists to support Syrian rebels with “all that they can.”
This is not the first time that a foreign reporter has gone missing in the Arab country since it plunged into civil unrest in March 2011. In one of the most recent incidents, Ukrainian reporter Anhar Kochneva disappeared several weeks ago and has not yet been freed. In total, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, three international reporters remain unaccounted for in Syria, while over 20 have been killed adding to more than 20,000 casualties suffered by Syria.
Sri Lanka has closed down its only refinery, Sapugaskanda, as the sanctions imposed against Iran’s energy sector by the US have taken a toll on the South Asian country’s crude imports.
“Since August due to strict adherence to US sanctions, our letters of credit for imports have stopped being accepted,” Sri Lanka’s Petroleum Minister Susil Premjayantha said on Wednesday.
The Sapugaskanda refinery, which has a capacity of 50,000 barrels a day and is geared only to process Iranian crude, shut down its operations earlier this week due to not receiving oil supplies from Iran.
Premajayantha said this week that Sri Lanka’s cumulative loss from the US sanctions against importing Iranian crude was a staggering $1.2 billion.
At the beginning of 2012, the US and the EU approved new sanctions against Iran’s oil and financial sectors. The embargoes aim to prevent other countries from purchasing Iranian oil or transacting with the Central Bank of Iran.
The US and the EU have declared that the bans are meant to force Iran to abandon its nuclear energy program, which they claim includes a military component.
Iran has vehemently refuted the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful objectives.
- No oil; Sapugaskanda runs dry! (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
One Palestinian was killed and another critically wounded Sunday morning in an Israeli strike on southern Gaza.
The two men, who were reportedly members of Hamas’ Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, were on a motorbike near the southern town of Khan Younis when they were hit.
Israel confirmed the airstrike, claiming the attack was in response to Palestinian fire on Israeli tanks that had crossed into Khan Younis earlier that morning.
Palestinian fighters launched at least four rockets into southern Israel later on Sunday in retaliation for the killing.
Israeli forces frequently cross into Gaza, prompting retaliatory fire from Palestinians.
The latest fighting took place following a three-day lull in violence after an Egyptian brokered truce went into force at midnight on Wednesday.
The agreement was aimed at ending a 72-hour spike in cross-border fighting, which began on Monday, with Israeli strikes killing eight Palestinians.
The fighters responded by firing more than 100 rockets across the border, seriously wounding two Thai workers.