SEARCH

Tuesday
Feb222011

Libyan Ambassador to US Appeals for Help As Violence Escalates

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Libya's ambassador to the United States described a brutal scene playing out in the streets of Tripoli, where government supporters and parts of the military have been called by Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime to take on protesters demanding the president's exit.

"Tripoli is burning," Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujalisaid told ABC News Tuesday.  "The people are being killed in a brutal way.  The people are armless."

Aujali said Gadhafi's supporters are using tanks and gunfire to kill not just protesters but also the capital's residents, adding that he's seen images of "people cut in half, just like they're being killed by bulldozers."

"Please, please help the Libyan people.  Help them.  They are burning," he appealed to the international community.  "They are being killed in their streets, their houses."

Aujali has resigned from serving the government, but not his ambassador's post.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Libya's Gadhafi: 'I Am Here, Don't Believe the Dogs'

Photo Courtesy - Mustafa Ozer/AFP/ Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Libyan strongman Moammar Gahdhafi made a brief television appearance shortly after midnight Tuesday, just long enough to say he hadn't fled the country.

"I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela," he said.  "Don't believe those misleading dog stations."

As he sat in a vehicle, apparently outside his house, he told a state televsion interviewer that he had intended to go speak to supporters but decided not to because of rain.

Ghadafi's appearance, which had been anticipated all day, came as troops massed in Libya's capital of Tripoli in what many residents fear could turn into a massacre fueled by what an eyewitness in Tripoli told ABC News were foreign mercenaries.

"What I've seen today [Monday] is hundreds, if not thousands of troops" that are gathering along with helicopters, said a Libyan-American who's visiting family and did not want to be identified.  "Men on jeeps and military people in the town are coming in.  There is going to be a massacre."

The military was gathering in the nation's capital as multiple reports described a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.  Demonstrations have rocked the country in recent days and have spread from Libya's second-largest city of Benghazi to Tripoli.

Anti-government protesters are demanding the ouster of longtime dictator Gadhafi, who has ruled the country for 40 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Bahrain Protests Continue; Direct Talks with Crown Prince Looming

Photo Courtesy - Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- Anti-government protesters in Bahrain are expected to take the streets Tuesday following a massive pro-government rally the night before.

Tuesday's protests will be tied to the funeral of 21-year-old Abdul Reada Bomajeed, who died in a hospital Monday from wounds he suffered four days ago.

It is unknown if the opposition forces will be able to muster enough bodies to contend with the estimated 50,000 pro-government protesters that lined the streets on Monday.

Even if the anti-government protesters manage to get over 100,000 people on the streets, it appears the Bahraini government has firmly decided that negotiation and discussion is the best avenue.

Direct negotiations between the crown prince and the politcal opposition have not yet begun.  The crown prince has been meeting with business, political, intellectual and social leaders as a warm up for the talks.

Revered political opposition leader Hasan Moshaimi will return to Bahrain Tuesday from London, where he was undergoing cancer treatment, and plans to address the crowd at Manama's Pearl Square.

Moshaimi's arrival is likely to unite the opposition and provide the voice necessary to begin direct discussions with the crown prince.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Important Differences Between Libya and Egypt

Photo Courtesy - Getty ImagesREPORTER'S NOTEBOOK by CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR

(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- As we watch protests and violent crackdowns unfold in Libya, it is important to keep in mind key differences between Egypt and Libya, and that we should not expect an identical course to unfold there.

One important distinction is how very difficult it is to get information out of Libya about what is really going on. Few journalists are in the country reporting on the events at the moment. And so we must rely on information from Human Rights Watch and other human rights activist groups, along with what we've heard in radio reports from doctors at various hospitals.

Sunday we saw Libyan leader Col. Moammar al-Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, go on television to say his father was still in power. His son threatened that there could be a civil war if the protests continued. And this speech followed the same pattern that we have seen from the leadership of several countries in the face of these protests. They say this is a foreign conspiracy, this is an international conspiracy to get rid of them, that it is being coordinated by Islamists.

But this speech was particularly incoherent and detached. Seif-al-Islam seemed completely out of touch as to what was going on -- at one point threatening to unleash civil war, saying hundreds of thousands could be killed -- and on the other hand, saying we'll have massive across-the-board reforms within 48 hours.

Clearly, they are rattled. This is the most significant threat to Gadhafi's regime ever.

Another element to keep in mind is the very different relationship that Libya and Egypt have historically had with the United States. Certainly, both countries have had longtime leaders in power whom the U.S. has learned to work with. The now-resigned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was in power for 30 years, and Gadhafi has held power in Libya for more than 40 years.

But there is an important distinction. While Egypt was a critical regional ally of the United States, Gadhafi has not been a reliable partner by any stretch of the imagination. All diplomatic ties were cut between the United States and Libya for more than 20 years.

The rift initially started in the 1970s, when a mob set fire to the American Embassy in Tripoli, severely straining relations for many years after that, most notably when Libya was held responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

But after the invasion of Iraq, Gadhafi chose to come back to the diplomatic table and hand over any plans for weapons of mass destruction, and in 2006, diplomatic relations between the two countries were officially restored -- Libya does have heavy oil supplies, which has made the country an important place for business in the region.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

U.S. Officials: Man Held in Pakistan Is a Contractor for CIA

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LAHORE, Pakistan) -- Raymond A. Davis, the American official at the heart of a tense stand-off with the Pakistan government, was working for the CIA as an independent contractor when he shot and killed two Pakistani men, according to two senior U.S. intelligence officials.

In the fullest account yet of how an American official came to be held for the deadly shooting in Pakistan, three current officials have told ABC News who Davis was working for and what he was doing on Jan. 27 when the incident occurred.

According to a current senior U.S. official and a senior intelligence consultant who worked with Davis, the 36-year-old American is a former Blackwater contractor posted to Lahore as part of the CIA's Global Response Staff, or GRS, a unit of security and bodyguards assigned to war zones and troubled countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Members of the GRS most often accompany CIA case officers, who meet with clandestine sources.

Davis and a group of fellow security officers lived in a safehouse in Lahore. The CIA keeps safehouses for security personnel in an effort to limit the ability for militants to track their movements, the intelligence contractor said.

On Jan. 27, Davis left the safehouse and conducted an "area familiarization route," according to the senior U.S. official. He drove through various Lahore neighborhoods for several hours. It was during his route, two U.S. officials say, that Davis stopped at an A.T.M. and possibly drew the attention of two Pakistani men on a motorcycle.

Davis has told police in Lahore that the two men were attempting to rob him when he fired several rounds from his Glock handgun hitting them both. Davis fired multiple rounds from inside his car, killing one man in the street, while the second died later from his injuries.

Davis then called for help from several other CIA security officers who shared his Lahore safehouse, according to the U.S. official and the intelligence consultant. As they arrived near the intersection, they accidentally hit a Pakistani bicyclist, the two officials said. The bicyclist later died of his injuries. Davis' colleagues were unable to get to Davis before the police arrested him. They left the scene and returned to their safehouse.

Within hours, they had destroyed all government documents at the safehouse, abandoned it, and retreated to the US consulate for safety. Both have since returned to the United States, according to a senior U.S. official briefed on the case.

Davis has been held ever since by the local police. Pakistani authorities have said Davis is now in the legal system, which will soon determine if he should stand trial for murder, different crimes, or release him.

The Pakistani government is under significant public pressure to prosecute Davis. The incident has set off massive anti-American protests and calls for Davis to be executed for the murders.

"Our first fear is that the sentiment of the street in Pakistan is, 'Let's take him and hang him,'" said a current senior U.S. official.

According to the official, administration officials fear that the Pakistani government lacks sufficient control over Pakistani municipal police, who have Davis in custody.

U.S. officials have been in a standoff with the Pakistani government over Davis' detention since his arrest. The U.S. asserts that Davis has diplomatic immunity and is protected under the Vienna Convention, which recognizes diplomatic immunity. Pakistani officials have denied that his diplomatic passport protects him from the country's judicial system.

"His continued detention is a gross violation of international law," the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, said in a statement last week. "Under the Vienna Convention and Pakistani domestic law, he is entitled to full criminal immunity and cannot be lawfully arrested or detained."

In recent days the Obama administration has summoned the Pakistani ambassador to the White House to demand Davis' release, while Secretary of State Clinton and the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan have asked senior Pakistani military, intelligence and other government officials to respect Davis' diplomatic immunity.

But the U.S. has refused to elaborate publicly on Davis' position in Pakistan except to say he was a "technical advisor" for the consulate in Lahore and to refer to him as a "diplomat" in public statements.

According to a senior U.S. official, Davis first arrived in Pakistan in December 2008, and was posted at various times in Islamabad, Lahore, and Peshawar. Until last August, Davis was stationed in Pakistan as an employee of the company once known as Blackwater, now called Xe Services, and contracted to the CIA.

According to a former Blackwater executive, the CIA terminated the company's GRS contract in Pakistan, accusing the security company of failing to provide adequate services. The agency then moved to hire all the former Xe/Blackwater security personnel directly as independent contractors.

As a GRS officer, Davis made $780 per day working as a security guard for the agency's clandestine case officers. One official described his job as always being "a few tables away" from a case officer meeting with a clandestine source, and providing security escorts around the country. By 2010, he'd been moved to Peshawar.

In recent years the Pakistani media has asserted that Blackwater was responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in the restive western areas of the country -- attacks attributed by the Pakistani and American governments to the Taliban, al Qaeda and other militant Islamic groups.

According to the intelligence consultant, Blackwater personnel have worked for the CIA in Pakistan since at least 2004, most as security guards, but some as paramilitary operatives working to target militants in the country's tribal regions.

The Pakistani men Davis shot on Jan. 27 were carrying pistols and stolen cell phones, according to the Lahore police. Pakistani government officials have told ABC News that the two were working for that country's intelligence agency, Inter-Service Intelligence, and were also conducting surveillance. American officials deny that the two men worked for the ISI.

"We have no information to suggest Davis was being followed by the ISI," one current U.S. official said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Fear and Tension in Libya: 'There Is Going to be Massacre'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Troops are massing in Libya's capital of Tripoli in what many residents fear could turn into a massacre fueled by foreign mercenaries, an eyewitness in Tripoli told ABC News.

"What I've seen today is hundreds, if not thousands of troops" that are gathering along with helicopters, said a Libyan-American who is visiting family and did not want to be identified. "Men on jeeps and military people in the town are coming in. There is going to be a massacre."

The military was gathering in the nation's capital as multiple reports described a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. Demonstrations have rocked the country in recent days and have spread from Libya's second-largest city of Benghazi to Tripoli.

Witnesses said foreign mercenaries were being used to shoot indiscriminately at protesters.

Libya's UN ambassadors called for the country's dictator Moammar Gadhafi to step down Monday as protesters claimed to have taken control of Benghazi and fighting -- including the burning of government buildings -- spread to the capital of Tripoli where angry demonstrators stormed the state television station, set fire to government buildings and the Olympic Square.

Libyan officials appeared to be defecting from the leader who has ruled the country for 40 years. Two senior Libyan Air Force colonels arrived in Malta on Monday seeking political asylum, saying they fled the country after they were ordered to attack protesters in Benghazi, according to various reports.

Anti-government protesters demanding the ouster of longtime dictator Gadhafi carried placards and signs saying "Free Libya" and "Gadhafi - murderer, criminal," and descended on the nation's capital and its second largest city this weekend despite a government crackdown.

Oil prices surged Monday morning as violence spread across the Middle East. Companies and countries prepared to evacuate their staff and citizens as the United States ordered embassy family members and all non-emergency personnel to depart Libya.

The escalating violence comes a day after Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, insisted in a televised message Sunday that his father is still in the country and in control and warned of a civil war if the protests aren't controlled. He vowed that they would "fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet."

The U.S. State Department said it was "gravely concerned" about the "disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya," and said it had received "multiple credible reports that hundreds of people have been killed and injured in several days of unrest."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Egyptian Names Baby 'Facebook' For Site's Role in Revolution

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Looking for a name for their newborn daughter that celebrated the recent events in Egypt, an Alexandria couple skipped calling her "Tahrir Square" for something a little more trendy -- Facebook.

Baby Facebook's father, Jamal Ibrahim, told Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper that he "wanted to express his gratitude about the victories the youth of Jan. 25 have achieved and chose to express it in the form of naming his firstborn girl," according to a translation by the blog TechCrunch.

Social media played an integral part in coordinating three weeks of protests that ended in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, after three decades in power.

The Egyptian government quickly realized the power of the Internet in fomenting revolution and shut down access across the country. Soon after the protests began on Jan. 25, Wael Ghonim, a Google executive and founder of the country's preeminent dissident Facebook page, was arrested.

The page became a digital Tahrir Square, a central meeting places where protesters could plan and disseminate information about where to meet in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other Egyptian cities.

Facebook, along with Twitter, Google, and YouTube were all used by protesters to organize and broadcast news and images from the ground.

Earlier this month, Facebook reported having 5 million users in Egypt with 32,000 groups and 14,000 pages created in the two weeks after Jan. 25, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The new military government has also discovered the power of Facebook and recently set up a page for the Egyptian Armed Forces.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Suicide Bomb Leaves Dozens Dead, Injured in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - Department of Defense/Getty Images(KUNDUZ, Afghanistan) -- More than two dozen people are dead and several more injured after a suicide bomb exploded in a district commissioner's office in Afghanistan Monday.

According to the police chief of Kunduz province, 28 people were killed and 37 others were injured when the office in Imam Sahib district was attacked.  Some police guards were among those killed, but most of the victims were civilians.

The police chief said the target of the bombing was the district governor, who survived the explosion.

Monday's explosion follows a similar attack that took place in Kunduz province two weeks ago when a suicide bomber, pretending to be looking for a job, set off his bomb, killing the district governor of Chardara.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Royal Wedding Roll Call: Will and Kate's Old Flames on the Invite List

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Filing into the pews at Westminster Abbey on April 29 will be three of Prince William and Kate Middleton's exes. The Sunday Times reports that the couple invited Jecca Craig, Olivia Hunt, and Rupert Finch to the royal wedding.

Hunt is a friend of the couple from their days at St. Andrews and has vacationed with them on ski trips. William was reportedly smitten with her before he began dating Kate.

When William began pursuing Kate, Middleton was already involved with upperclassman Rupert Finch. She soon broke off that relationship to date the Prince.

Talking to the Daily Mail, Finch said in 2006, "It's not something I'll ever talk about. It's between Kate and me and was a long time ago."

Craig was the only one of William's former flames who caused the Palace to issue a statement about their relationship. In 2003, after press reports that the duo had "staged a mock engagement ceremony" at Craig's family home in Kenya, the Palace denied William and Jecca were involved.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Libya Anti-Government Protests Spreading as Death Toll Rises

Photo Courtesy - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Protesters clashed with the police in Libya as the brutal crackdown over the weekend spread to the country's capital, Tripoli, where angry demonstrators stormed the state television station, set fire to government buildings and the Olympic Square.

Anti-government protesters demanding the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi reportedly laid siege to military bases as the unrest in the country spread. The BBC was reporting that Gadhafi ordered the Air Force to bomb his own bases so rebels can't get their hands on weapons, but reports could not be confirmed.

Protesters carrying placards and signs saying "Free Libya" and "Gadhafi - murderer, criminal," descended on the nation's capital and its second largest city this weekend despite the government crackdown.

One witness in Tripoli who identified himself only as Adam, told Al Jazeera English he saw mercenaries driving by in Land Cruisers firing indiscriminately. He said he also heard gunfire in the city's Green Square and heard planes overhead.

Oil prices surged Monday morning as violence spread across the Middle East. Companies and countries prepared to evacuate their staff and citizens as the United States ordered embassy family members and all non-emergency personnel to depart Libya.

The escalating violence comes a day after Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, insisted in a televised message that his father is still in the country and in control and warned of a civil war if the protests aren't controlled. He vowed that they would "fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet."

He also blamed the uprising on Islamic extremists and foreigners, claimed the media was exaggerating casualty figures, and offered his people a deal: constitutional reform and a new government in 48 hours or civil war.

The State Department said it was "gravely concerned" about the "disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya," and said it had received "multiple credible reports that hundreds of people have been killed and injured in several days of unrest."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio