Khamis, 26 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: World Updates

Iranian dissidents say rockets hit their Baghdad camp, kill three

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 08:40 PM PST

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A camp of Iranian dissidents in the Iraqi capital was hit by rockets on Thursday in an attack the group said killed three residents and seriously wounded several others.

A Shi'ite militia claimed responsibility for the attack on the Mujahadin-e-Khalq (MEK) camp in western Baghdad, which has repeatedly been the target of mortar and rocket attacks in recent months.

The group, which calls for the overthrow of Iran's clerical leaders and fought on Iraq's side during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shi'ite-led government that came to power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

A Paris-based spokesman for the MEK, Shahin Gobadi, said three people had been killed when "Camp Liberty," located in a former U.S. military compound, was hit with dozens of missiles.

Several of the wounded were in a critical condition, said Gobadi, adding that more than 50 had been reported injured. The group accused the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of being behind the attack in an attempt to win support from Iran's government ahead of elections next year.

Iraqi authorities have repeatedly denied involvement in attacks on the group.

In a rare claim of responsibility for attacks on the MEK, Wathiq al-Batat, commander of the al-Mukhtar Army militia, told Reuters his group had fired 20 Katyusha rockets and mortar rounds at the camp.

"We've asked (the government) to expel them from the country many times, but they are still here," he said, accusing the group of communicating with Sunni and Shi'ite politicians he said were linked to al Qaeda.

The U.S. State Department condemned the attack "in the strongest terms." In a statement, it urged the Iraqi government to take additional steps to secure the camp against further violence and "to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable for the attack."

Al-Mukhtar Army is a relatively new Shi'ite militia, which has said it is supported and funded by Iran. Batat is a former leader of the more well-known Kata'ib Hezbollah militia.

Shahriar Kia, another spokesman for MEK who lives in the camp he said houses about 3,000 Iranian dissidents, said two men were killed when a rocket fell near their caravan.

"I saw two caravans set ablaze and black smoke billowing," he said. "We are still taking shelter inside the caravans out of fear of more shelling."

Police sources confirmed the camp had been targeted by mortars and said four wounded Iranians had been transported to a hospital in western Baghdad.

More than 50 people were killed at a separate MEK camp north of Baghdad in September. The attack drew condemnation from the United States and Britain.

(Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed and Kareem Raheem; Additional reporting by Peter Cooney in Washington; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by David Evans and Bill Trott)

China media slams Japan PM for paying homage to 'devils'

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 08:15 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese newspapers blasted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, describing his visit to Yasukuni Shrine as "paying homage to devils" and warning that China has the ability to crush "provocative militarism".

Abe visited Yasukuni on Thursday, a shrine where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after World War Two are honoured along with those who died in battle. The move has infuriated China and South Korea, both of which were occupied by Japanese forces until the end of the war, and prompted concern from the United States about deteriorating ties between the North Asian neighbours.

In an editorial headlined "Abe's paying homage to the devils makes people outraged", the military's People's Liberation Army Daily said Abe's actions have "seriously undermined the stability of the region".

"On one hand, Abe is paying homage to war criminals, and on the other hand, he talks about improving relations with China, South Korea and other countries," the newspaper said. "It is simply a sham, a mouthful of lies.

"Today, the Chinese people have the ability to defend peace and they have a greater ability to stop all provocative militarism."

In a separate commentary published under the pen name "Zhong Sheng", or "voice of China", the Communist Party's People's Daily said: "History tells us that if people do not correctly understand the evils of the fascist war, cannot reflect on war crimes, a country can never (achieve) true rejuvenation."

The Global Times, an influential nationalistic tabloid owned by the People's Daily, urged China to shut its door to Abe and other Japanese officials who have visited the shrine this year.

"If condemnations are China's only recourse, then the nation is giving up its international political rights easily," the newspaper said. "Ineffective countermeasures will make China be seen as a 'paper tiger' in the eyes of the rest of the world.

"In the eyes of China, Abe, behaving like a political villain, is much like the terrorists and fascists on the commonly seen blacklists."

A survey on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site on Thursday showed that almost 70 percent of respondents would support a boycott of Japanese goods, with many users expressing outrage at the shrine visit. The survey was later removed.

However, the topic was not one of the most talked about on Weibo, with people being more distracted by the latest celebrity gossip and the upcoming new year.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Additional reporting by Li Hui and Huang Yan; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Dozens of bodies recovered after violence in Central African Republic

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 06:10 PM PST

BANGUI (Reuters) - Red Cross workers have recovered 44 bodies from the streets of Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, they said on Thursday after inter-religious fighting in the last two days.

Six Chadian peacekeepers have also been killed in the former French colony, while judicial authorities said they had uncovered a mass grave with 30 bodies, many of them showing signs of torture, near a military base used by Seleka rebels.

The rebels seized power in March, unleashing a wave of looting and killing on the mostly Christian population. Thousands of French and African troops have struggled to contain a flare-up in violence in the last week.

The mostly Muslim Seleka and Christian self-defence militias have carried out tit-for-tat attacks on each other and on the local population.

Georgios Georgantas, head of an International Committee of the Red Cross delegation, said the 44 bodies were probably only a fraction of those killed in Bangui in the last two days, given that his team had been unable to go into parts of the city.

"Violence has been at extremely high levels," Georgantas told Reuters by telephone. "We have information about more bodies in certain parts of town which we have been unable to access because the fighting was so intense."

A representative of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres at Bangui's main hospital said it had seen more than 50 people since Wednesday night with gunshot or machete wounds from the fighting that raged for hours across Bangui.

A spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA) said Chadian peacekeepers were attacked by gunmen in the Gabongo neighbourhood near the airport on Wednesday.

"The number of Chadian soldiers killed has risen to six because one of them died from his wounds this morning," Elio Yao told Reuters. He could not give a precise total for the number of African peacekeepers killed so far in the crisis.

Two French troops were killed just days after Paris deployed a 1,600-strong peacekeeping mission in its former colony in early December under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Thursday that he was appalled by the continued violence, including the reports of dozens more bodies found on the streets of Bangui.

Ban also said he was saddened by the deaths of the six peacekeepers. "Their mission is to provide desperately needed security. They are not part of the conflict between Central Africans," he said.

Ban is drafting plans for a possible U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was alarmed by this week's attacks on civilians by both Seleka and Christian militia fighters, and "deeply disturbed" by the discovery of the mass grave in Bangui.

"The continued sectarian fighting only deepens the country's wounds and makes reconciliation more difficult," Kerry said in a statement. "The United States calls on the CAR transitional authorities to immediately end the violence, end the use of torture, and investigate and prosecute all those implicated in grave human rights abuses."

The violence eased on Thursday as French peacekeepers took up positions on main roads near the airport and in troubled neighbourhoods, although sporadic shooting was reported in several areas during the morning.

Many say the bloodshed has little to do with religion in a nation where Muslims and Christians have long lived in peace. Instead, they blame a political battle for control over resources in one of Africa's most weakly governed states.


Bangui's public prosecutor, Ghislain Gresenguet, said authorities on Wednesday discovered some 30 bodies clustered near the Roux military camp by a hill on the edge of Bangui. The corpses were scattered over a 200-metre (yard) area.

"Some of the bodies were tied up. Others had big gashes and wounds which showed that they had been tortured," Gresenguet told Radio France International. "They were likely killed somewhere else and dumped there."

The Christian militia, known as 'anti-balaka,' which means anti-machete in the local Sango language, accuse Chadian forces of supporting the Seleka rebels. Chad strongly denies this.

MISCA's commanding officer, Martin Tumenta Chomu, said on Tuesday that Chadian troops would be moved outside the capital to northern Central African Republic. The 4,000-strong MISCA force is scheduled to reach 6,000 soldiers by the end of January.

Colonel Gilles Jaron, spokesman for the French military, said France was deploying troops to flashpoints in the city, such as the Gabongo and Bacongo neighbourhoods.

France's force, code-named Sangaris, has between 1,000 and 1,200 men in Bangui, with the rest deployed in the interior.

"The Sangaris force has not been the target of coordinated attacks. We are the target of sporadic shooting, which we respond to each time," he said.

(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier in Paris, Daniel Flynn in Dakar, Michelle Nichols in New York and Peter Cooney in Washington; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Ruth Pitchford and Ken Wills)


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