Aletho News


Israel Targets “Hezbollah Cells” in Nigeria

Al-Akhbar | July 2, 2013

In mid-May, Mustafa Fawwaz, a 49-year-old Lebanese living in northern Nigeria, was headed to the Amigo Mall, a property he co-owns with his brother Fawzi. Hours later, police stormed his supermarket and placed him under arrest.

A few days later, 48-year-old Lebanese Ahmad Tahini was arrested at Nigeria’s Kano International Airport before his flight departed to Beirut. On May 26, the police arrested 51-year-old Talal Rawda at his home, in addition to another Lebanese Hussein Noureddine.

The Nigerian police claimed these four men were part of a “Hezbollah cell,” evidence of which was a weapons depot located inside a house in Kano.

After 40 days of detention, Noureddine was released. The court accused the three remaining Lebanese men of committing “terror-related crimes” and “providing direct assistance to a terrorist group.” The indictment stated: “You confessed that you belong to the armed wing of Hezbollah, which is an international terrorist organization. You have therefore committed a crime.”

Trumped-up Charges

The main charge that led to the men’s arrest linked them to a questionable weapons cache. But the weapons found by police were old and rusting, having clearly been stored in inappropriate conditions.

A source close to the defendants said that the house where the weapons were found was originally owned by a former army general who was active in the Nigerian civil war – 40 years ago. He denies that the men are linked in any way to the weapons or any armed activity.

The three Lebanese men have been charged with terrorism by virtue of their membership in Hezbollah even though the Nigerian government does not consider the party a terrorist organization. This is the lawyer’s defense for the upcoming July 8 court date when he’ll ask the court to drop all charges.

As usual, Israel is connected to this debacle. An Israeli security official told a Western newspaper, “The security cell that was arrested is part of a Shia terror campaign targeting the West and Israel.” It is interesting that the Israeli official did not limit his accusations to Hezbollah but rather included the entire Shia sect.

Yet perhaps the strongest evidence of Israeli meddling in the investigation came from a source close to the detainees who claimed that a Mossad team was allowed to interrogate and investigate the defendants.

Israeli Objectives

Israel has always paid special attention to Nigeria, having signed several trade and industrial agreements with the African country. Yet since 2006, visits by Israeli presidents and security officials to Nigeria focused on signing security agreements and finalizing weapons deals. Nigeria specialists say that the Mossad’s close relations with Nigerian security agencies is not concealed in any way.

Israel hopes to accomplish several goals with these accusations. It seeks to pressure international, and especially European, public opinion to list Hezbollah, or at least its so-called armed wing, as a terrorist group. Another aim is to create fissures in Hezbollah by falsely accusing Lebanese businessmen and shutting down their businesses.

The US and Israel have different ways of targeting Lebanese in Africa. While the US treasury department accuses Lebanese of supporting terrorist organizations, Israel colludes with African security agencies to fabricate charges.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Israeli troops kidnap two shepherds in South Lebanon

Al-Akhbar | July 2, 2013

Israeli soldiers on Tuesday kidnapped two shepherds from a southern Lebanese village near the occupied Shebaa Farms, a UN official said.

“We were informed that two shepherds were apprehended by [Israel’s army] in the Shebaa area. The [UNIFIL] force commander is following up on this issue with all the parties … and is trying to secure their release,” Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, told Al-Akhbar.

He said the Israeli army confirmed to UNIFIL that the two shepherds, identified by the National News Agency as Youssef Hussein Rahil and Youssef Mohammed Zahra, are in Israeli custody.

Israel’s motivation for targeting the two men remains unclear. It also wasn’t immediately known if Youssef Mohammed Zahra was the same shepherd as an 18-year-old with the same name who was abducted by Israeli troops one year ago.

“We don’t know what happened at this stage,” Tenenti said. “There is an ongoing investigation.”

Israeli troops on 29 June 2012 kidnapped the teenage shepherd in the Shebaa Farms area before releasing him the next day.

Israel has occupied Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms region since 1967.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Israeli troops kidnap two shepherds in South Lebanon

Kerry: Geneva II peace conference on hold, “August is very difficult for Europeans”

Al-Manar | July 2, 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States and Russia were committed to holding Geneva peace conference on Syria but that it would likely take place after August.

Kerry, speaking after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the annual regional forum of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Brunei, said “we both agree that the conference should happen sooner rather than later” to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian war.

But he said that the conference, originally planned for June, could not happen this month due to US-Russian meetings and that “August is very difficult for Europeans and others,” a likely reference to summer vacations.

“It may be somewhere thereafter,” he said of the timing of the conference.

Kerry also said he did not have substantive discussions with Lavrov on US whistleblower Edward Snowden. The meeting between Kerry and Lavrov follows controversy surrounding Snowden, who leaked details of a US surveillance programme.

Kerry: No Syria Peace Talks Before Sept.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

Iran Calls on Egypt Army to Play Its Role, Respect People’s Vote

Al-Manar | July 2, 2013

Iran urged the Egyptian armed forces on Tuesday to play their role in supporting national dialogue and respecting the people’s vote.

Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdullahian said on Tuesday that Tehran saw the involvement of Egyptian people in the domestic affairs of the country as a national asset, and that paying attention to the popular vote contributed to stability in Egypt.

The Iranian official also commented on the fact that President Mohammad Mursi was chosen through national election, warning the Egyptian people against foreign plots.

“Mohammad Morsi is the incumbent president based on the people’s vote,” Abdollahian told the official IRNA news agency.

He warned against division within Egypt. “Dividing the Egyptian nation yields no gain,” Abdollahian said, adding that respecting people’s vote was of utmost importance for Egypt’s stability.

The Egyptian army on Monday issued an ultimatum to Mursi, the country’s first democratically elected president, threatening to intervene in 48 hours and impose its own “road map” if the Islamist did not meet the demands of the people.

The army’s warning came just a day after millions of protesters took to the streets across Egypt, calling for Mursi to step down.

The Egyptian presidency rejected the ultimatum, insisting that Mursi would continue on his own path towards national reconciliation.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Brazil: Rousseff Offers Protesters a Plebiscite


Weekly News Update on the Americas | July 1, 2013

On June 24 Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff began a week of meetings with various groups—youths, unionists, campesinos, political party leaders, state governors, congressional leaders and Supreme Court members—in response to the massive protests that broke out in the middle of the month [see Update #1181]. Rousseff initially proposed a plebiscite on holding a constituent assembly to reform the Constitution, but she quickly dropped the idea. Instead, she proposed a plebiscite that would allow voters to choose from various options in three areas: public financing of political campaigns, methods of electing legislators and voting by party list. The vote would be held by October.

In a note published on June 28, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) supported Rousseff’s proposal, which he said “has the merit of breaking the impasse on this decisive question, which for decades has entered and left the national agenda without accomplishing significant changes.” Rousseff and Lula are both members of the center-left Workers Party (PT). The opposition parties oppose the plan, which some analysts think could open the way to the sort of political transformation that center-left presidents have carried out in other Latin American countries. In the opposition’s counter-proposal, the National Congress would develop a reform plan and the government would then hold a referendum allowing voters to accept or reject the entire project. (El País (Madrid) 6/28/13 from correspondent; La Jornada (Mexico) 6/29/13 from AFP, DPA, Notimex)

For its own part, the National Congress responded to the protests with legislation, much of which had been stalled for months. On June 26 the legislators voted down a constitutional amendment that would have limited federal prosecutors’ authority to investigate crimes; many protesters considered the amendment an effort by politicians to stymie corruption investigations. In addition, the Senate passed a bill making corruption a crime as serious as murder or rape; the Chamber of Deputies is expected to pass it later. The Chamber passed a bill allocating 75% of revenues from oil production to education programs and the remaining 25% to healthcare.

Meanwhile, the protests continued, although on a smaller scale than the week before. On June 26 some 50,000 people demonstrated in Brazil’s third largest city, Belo Horizonte in the eastern state of Minas Gerais, while Brazil’s soccer team was playing the Uruguayan team; the allocation of funds to international sports competitions rather than education and health has been a major grievance in the demonstrations. Hooded youths threw rocks at the police, who used tear gas to keep the protesters 3 km away from the city’s Mineirão stadium. According to the authorities a young man was seriously injured and at least 24 people were arrested; looting was reported, along with two fires and damage to dozens of stores. In Brasilia, protesters kicked soccer balls towards the police line at the Congress building. (La Jornada 6/27/13 from Reuters, AFP, DPA, Xinhua)

One of the main triggers of the mass protests was a series of small demonstrations early in June by the Free Pass Movement (MPL), a São Paulo-based organization fighting an increase in transit fares. MPL was the first group scheduled to meet with Rousseff on June 24. Before the meeting, they issued an open letter to the president saying they were surprised by the invitation since “social movements in Brazil always suffered repression and criminalization…. We hope that this meeting will mark a change of position by the federal government that will extend to other social struggles: to the indigenous peoples, who, like the Kaiowá-Guaraní and the Munduruku, have suffered various attacks from large landowners and the public power; to the communities affected by evictions; to the homeless; to the landless; and to the mothers whose children were murdered by the police in the peripheral neighborhoods.” (Adital (Brazil) 6/24/13)

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Brazil: Rousseff Offers Protesters a Plebiscite

Boy’s Death in Drone Strike Tests Obama’s Transparency Pledge

By Cora Currier | ProPublica | July 1, 2013

On June 9, a U.S. drone fired on a vehicle in a remote province of Yemen and killed several militants, according to media reports.

It soon emerged that among those who died was a boy – 10-year-old Abdulaziz, whose elder brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, was believed to be the target of the strike. A McClatchy reporter recently confirmed the child’s death with locals. (Update: The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism today reported that there was “strong evidence” it was a U.S. drone strike, but it could not confirm the fact.)

It’s the first prominent allegation of a civilian death since President Obama pledged in a major speech in May “to facilitate transparency and debate” about the U.S. war on al Qaida-linked militants beyond Afghanistan. He also said “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured” in a strike.

So what does the administration have to say in response to evidence that a child was killed?


National security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden would not comment on the June 9 strike or more generally on the White House position on acknowledging civilian deaths. She referred further questions to the CIA, which also declined to comment.

The president’s speech was the capstone on a shift in drone war policy that would reportedly bring the program largely under control of the military (as opposed to the CIA) and impose stricter criteria on who could be targeted. In theory, it could also bring some of the classified program into the open. As part of its transparency effort, the administration released the names of four U.S. citizens who had been killed in drone strikes.

An official White House fact sheet on targeted killing released along with the speech repeated the “near-certainty” standard for avoiding civilian casualties. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated it a few days later, when he told an audience in Ethiopia: “We do not fire when we know there are children or collateral — we just don’t do it.”

But White House press secretary Jay Carney said in late May that “this commitment to transparency…does not mean that we would be able to discuss the details of every counterterrorism operation.”

The new White House statements don’t address what happens after a strike, even in general terms.

CIA Director John Brennan offered one of the few public explanations of how casualties are assessed during his nomination hearing in February. Before his confirmation, Brennan was the White House counterterrorism adviser, and is considered to be the architect of Obama’s drone war policy.

He told senators that, “analysts draw on a large body of information — human intelligence, signals intelligence, media reports, and surveillance footage — to help us make an informed determination about whether civilians were in fact killed or injured.”

Brennan also said the U.S. could work with local governments to offer condolence payments. As we’ve reported, there’s little visible evidence of that happening.

At the hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Brennan if the U.S. should acknowledge when it “makes a mistake and kills the wrong person.”

“We need to acknowledge it publicly,” Brennan responded. Brennan also proposed that the government make public “the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes.”

Neither overall numbers nor a policy of acknowledging casualties made it into Obama’s speech, or into the fact sheet. Hayden, the White House spokeswoman, would not say why.

The government sharply disputes that there have been large numbers of civilian deaths but has never released its own figures. Independent counts, largely compiled from news reports, range from about 200 to around 1,000 for Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia combined over the past decade.

Researchers agree that the number of drone strikes and civilian deaths have dropped during the past year. (Before Obama’s speech, an administration official attributed this partly to the new heightened standards.) The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which generally has the highest tally of civilian dead, has found there were between three and 16 civilians reportedly killed in about 30 drone or other airstrikes in Yemen and Pakistan so far this year. No strikes have been reported in Somalia.

“Official” statistics might not be much help without knowing more about how they were compiled, said Sarah Holewinski, head of the advocacy group Center for Civilians in Conflict.

That’s because it’s still not clear how the U.S. distinguishes between civilians and “militants,” or “combatants.”

In so-called signature strikes, operators sometimes fire on groups of people who appear to be engaged in militant activity without necessarily knowing their identities. The newly instituted drone rules reportedly roll back the military’s ability to use signature strikes, but the CIA can keep firing in Pakistan under the old rules at least through the end of the year.

An administration official told ProPublica last year that when a strike is made, “if a group of fighting-age males are in a home where we know they are constructing explosives or plotting an attack, it’s assumed that all of them are in on that effort.”

The new White House fact sheet contradicts that, stating: “It is not the case that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants.”

From the outside, in a strike like the recent one in Yemen, it’s impossible to know how these things were determined.  McClatchy reported that the target, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, had “largely unquestioned” ties to al Qaida. Yemeni officials said he arranged to bring money and fighters from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.

As for Huraydan’s young brother, “They may not have realized who was in the car. Or they may have realized it and decided collateral damage was okay,” Holewinski says.

The same questions dog the death of another boy that the administration has acknowledged: the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric tied to terror attacks. Awlaki and his son were killed in separate strikes in Yemen in the fall of 2011. The boy, Attorney General Eric Holder has said, was “not specifically targeted.”

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on Boy’s Death in Drone Strike Tests Obama’s Transparency Pledge

Report: 1,790 Palestinians Kidnapped, 16 Killed, In First Half of 2013


By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | July 1, 2013

The Ahrar Center for Detainees Studies and Human Rights have reported that Israeli soldiers kidnapped 1,790 Palestinians in the first six months of this year, including 300 who were kidnapped in June, and added that 16 Palestinians have also been killed by the Israeli military in six months.

The Ahrar Center said that dozens of women, children, elderly, legislators, intellectuals and journalists were among the kidnapped.

The center added that the arrests took place in every part of the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, in addition to 25 arrests in the Gaza Strip, including fishermen and five arrests at border terminals.

Most of the arrests have been carried out in the Hebron district, in the southern part of the West Bank. The second highest number of arrests was carried out in Jerusalem, followed by Nablus.

Ahrar said that February witnessed the largest number of arrests as the soldiers kidnapped 382 Palestinians, while 350 have been kidnapped in January, 300 in June, 263 in May, 259 in April and 236 in March.

The center further reported that the army also kidnapped 7 Palestinian legislators identified as Ahmad Attoun, Hatem Qfeisha, Abdul-Jabbar Foqaha, Imad Nofal, Basem Za’areer, Mahmoud Ramahi, and Mohammad Jamal An-Natsha.

Furthermore, Ahrar said that the army also kidnapped 33 women, including wives and relatives of political prisoners held by Israel, and that 17 of the kidnapped women are still imprisoned by Israel.

The Ahrar Center also said that 14 Palestinians, including 10 from the West Bank, and four from the Gaza Strip, have been shot and killed by the Israeli army since the beginning of this year, in addition to two Palestinian political prisoners who died in Israeli prisons.

Detainee Arafat Jaradat, 33, from Hebron, died of extreme torture by Israeli interrogators, and detainee Maisara Abu Hamdiyya, 64, died of an advanced stage of cancer resulting from the lack of medical treatment in Israeli prisons.

Four more Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military fire in the Gaza Strip.

Head of the Ahrar Center, Fuad Al-khoffash, stated that the center documented daily Israeli military invasions; daily arrests and assaults, and demanded the International Community to act against the ongoing and escalating Israeli violations.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Report: 1,790 Palestinians Kidnapped, 16 Killed, In First Half of 2013