Entries in Military Force (3)


Egyptian Army Vehicles Crush Christian Protestors

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CAIRO, Egypt) -- A leading human rights organization accused the Egyptian military Tuesday of trying to cover up its responsibility in the deaths of two dozen Christian protestors and called for an independent investigation.

Video circulating via social media and the Internet shows an Egyptian armored personnel carrier (APC) plowing into a crowd outside Cairo's State Television building on Oct. 9.

"This had been an essentially peaceful protest until the military used excessive force and military vehicles ran over protestors," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. According to HRW, preliminary autopsies showed that of 23 protestors killed during the demonstration, "eight of the people had died of bullet wounds, two from blows to the head, and 13 from injuries and fractures inflicted by the vehicles."

After weeks of mounting sectarian tension, thousands of Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, had taken to the streets in Cairo on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 9 to protest an attack on a Coptic church. Though most of the protestors were unarmed, the situation degenerated into violence. In addition to the civilian deaths, at least one Egyptian military officer died.

After the violence, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) promised a military investigation into the incident, but publicly absolved soldiers of intentionally targeting protestors. In an Oct. 12 press conference, the SCAF denied that APCs had been used intentionally to harm protestors. "The soldiers driving armored vehicles were trying to avoid protestors, who were throwing stones and Molotov cocktail bombs at them," said General Adel Emara of the SCAF.

During the protests themselves, Egypt's official state television network, which is housed in the State Television building where the protests were taking place, called for "honorable citizens" to "defend the Army against attack." State television also claimed that armed Coptic demonstrators had shot and killed three military officers.

Human Rights Watch criticized the actions of the state broadcaster Tuesday, saying that such calls "would have amounted to incitement to discrimination and violence against Copts."

The New York-based organization called on the SCAF to transfer its investigation into the Oct. 9 violence "from the military prosecution to a fully independent and impartial investigation" and urged an investigation into whether the military had manipulated state media coverage.

In Egypt, military prosecutors and judges are subject to the military chain of command headed by Defense Minister Field Marshall Tantawy, head of the SCAF, which has been governing Egypt since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last February.

Since the SCAF took power on Feb. 11, ending the country's 18-day mass uprising, activists charge that the military has clamped down on discontent and opposition in a manner comparable to the Mubarak regime. While laws curtailing the freedom of Christians to build houses of worship date back more than a century, the number of attacks on Christian communities and places of worship has increased since the transfer of power.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Officials See 'United Front' on Syria, but No US Military Intervention

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senior administration officials characterized Thursday’s announcement on Syria as part of a “completely united front” of U.S. allies coming after weeks of careful consultations over how and when to urge President Bashar al-Assad to go.
Officials said President Obama has been in regular contact with his counterparts in Europe and the Middle East, noting that he spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Aug. 5 and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Aug. 13, among others, to explicitly coordinate their announcements on Assad to have the strongest effect.

The officials also praised the “unusually strong role” of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab League in issuing similar statements condemning the Assad regime.

But with the new pressure on Assad, the administration faces questions as to why it’s taken five months to reach this point when, facing a similar situation in Egypt earlier this year, the president took one week to go before the cameras and demand President Hosni Mubarak, a close U.S. ally, leave his post.

Officials insist they’ve been consistent on U.S. values and goals from the beginning of the Arab Spring movement, but the contrast with respect to Syria has disappointed many activists and may add to the sense in the region that the U.S. has been slow and inconsistent responding to what have admittedly been unprecedented events.

On Thursday, Obama cautioned that it will “take time” for Assad to step down, but he expressed confidence that it will happen soon with the added pressure from around the globe.

“Bashar Assad is on his way out. That is our assessment,” a senior administration official told reporters at the White House.

“We believe that the balance has shifted within Syria, that the Syrian people won’t accept his rule anymore, and having that balance shift means that Basar Assad’s time in power is limited, his days are numbered.”

Officials said the Executive Order signed by the president imposing “unprecedented” financial sanctions against Syria will “choke off further the resources that are necessary for the regime to carry out its crackdown.”

They did not specify whether other U.S. allies would follow suit on the sanctions front, noting only, “we expect there to be additional pressures brought to bear by our allies.”

Is a possible U.S. military role in Syria on the table to help hasten the fall of the regime?

“I don’t think anybody believes that that is the desired course in Syria -- not the U.S. and our allies or the Syrian people themselves,” an official said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'No-Fly Zone' Would Require Military Force

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Gen. James Mattis, told Congress Tuesday that setting up a "no-fly zone" over Libya would be no easy task and would involve taking out Libyan air defenses.

Asked by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about the feasibility of enforcing a "no-fly zone," Mattis replied, “My military opinion is, sir, it would be challenging.”

He explained, “You would have to remove the air defense capability in order to establish the 'no-fly zone' so it -- no illusions here -- it would be a military operation. It wouldn't simply be telling people not to fly airplanes."

At a Pentagon briefing Monday Joint Chiefs  Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen added that establishing a "no-fly zone" is “an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.”  He echoed Mattis in saying that if there is a decision to establish a "no-fly zone" that “we'd have to work our way through doing it in a -- in a safe manner and certainly not put ourselves in jeopardy in doing that. ”

Despite all the talk of establishing a "no-fly zone" over Libya, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that there is “no unanimity within NATO for the use of armed force.”

If anything Gates and Mullen sounded hesitant about extending support for a "no-fly zone" over Libya.  Gates said that “the kinds of options that have been talked about in the press and elsewhere also have their own consequences and second- and third-order effects. So they need to be considered very carefully.”

A "no-fly zone" has become a topic of international discussion to protect Libyan civilians from attacks from the air, but both Gates and Mullen said Tuesday that they could not independently confirm the reports of such attacks beyond what they had seen in press reports. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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