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Thursday
Sep302010

President Obama Meets with American Hiker After Her Imprisonment in Iran

Photo Courtesy -- The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Late Thursday evening, the White House announced that President Obama met privately with American hiker Sarah Shourd, who was released after more than a year’s imprisonment in Iran, and with the families of the two American men, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who are stilll being held.

The White House said in a statement, “We remain hopeful that Iran will demonstrate renewed compassion and do the right thing by ensuring the safe return of Shane, Josh and all the other missing or detained Americans in Iran."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Districts Ready for Security Transition in Parts of Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy -- U.S. Department of Defense(AFGHANISTAN) -- July 2011 is the date the Obama administration has selected to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and begin the transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government. 

The process, termed "security transition," will mean pulling U.S. troops out of secure areas, known as districts, that make up the provinces of Afghanistan, then redistributing them elsewhere and eventually not replacing them.

ABC News has learned that the other 47 countries there under NATO control want to eventually turn over security in their areas where the situation would allow.

The NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal that begins Nov. 18 is going to begin the NATO process of security transition.  Gen. Petraeus is compiling a list of districts that will be eligible to turn the security responsibilities over to the Afghans.  The leaders at the NATO Summit will then approve some of those on the list for what are expected to be a small number of districts where security will transition from NATO to the Afghans.

U.S. officials have said they expect areas to the west and northern part of the country to be ready for such a transition, but not likely in the East and South, where the U.S. is engaged in active combat, though those areas are not completely out of the question.  Consequently, areas under the control of NATO allies will likely be the first to transition next year.

Officials also say that eligibility will be based on more than just security, but a whole range of conditions such as whether there’s enough Afghan civilian capacity to meet the population’s needs if NATO was to leave a district.

Officials say the timelines for transitioning could take six to nine months.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thursday
Sep302010

Ecuador Unrest: President Correa In Danger?

Photo Courtesy -- Getty ImagesUPDATE:  1 Casualty Reported In Ecuador Protests

(QUITO, Ecuador) -- One person has been reported dead and several more injured following protests in the Ecuadorian capital Quito.

The security minister said the casualties followed an all-out riot near a hospital where President Rafael Correa is now holed up after being shoved and tear-gassed by police officers – angry at proposed pay and benefits cuts.

The airport has since re-opened and there is reported looting.

(QUITO, Ecuador) -- According to a message released from the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador on Thursday, "a large nationwide strike by all levels of police, including military police, is developing at this time." 

The message, addressing U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Ecuador, warned that airports and possibly major highways may be closed as a result of the unrest and that "the security situation has degraded significantly."  The message further urged American citizens to stay inside their homes as "even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence." 

According to officials, the U.S. remains supportive of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, as well as the institutions of Ecuador's democratic government. 

Ecuadorian police and a number of military personnel began protesting against attempts by President Correa to cut their pay and benefits as part of austerity measures.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thursday
Sep302010

Passengers Forced to Stand for Five-Hour Flight

Photo Courtesy - Airline Tatarstan(RUSSIA) -- Airlines aren't known for treating their coach customers luxuriously. But a Russian airline has apparently taken spartan transportation to new heights, forcing six passengers to stand during a recent flight.

The six passengers were apparently without their own life vests or oxygen masks, let alone seatbelts in case of a rough landing, turbulence or a crash.

The Tatarstan Airlines flight last week from Antalya, Turkey to Ekaterinburg, Russia was fully booked with a tour group. At the last second, a Boeing 737 with 148 seats was replaced with another one that only had room for 142 passengers. The tour company, according to local media reports, offered the passengers a choice: wait seven hours for another flight or stand for the five hour flight back to Russia. All chose to stand, although they are now seeking $4,700 in compensation. The tour company offered about $200.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration requires all passengers to be buckled into their seats from the moment a plane leaves the gate until it reaches calm air at cruising altitude.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

Airstrike Closes Supply Lines, Lawmakers Condemn Attack

Photo Courtesy - NATO(ISLAMABAD) -- The Pakistani Foreign Minister’s spokesman says the NATO supply line through Pakistan has been closed for security reasons.  Local officials at the Torkham gate say they believe the supply line has been halted as retribution for Thursday morning’s NATO airstrike, which Pakistani officials say killed three of their troops, and, perhaps, for the three airstrikes over the border that have occurred in the last week.  While there may be security risks to the NATO supply trucks driving between Karachi and the border, there’s clearly no security risks to the trucks that have been stopped right before they cross the border.

In the senate in Islamabad, lawmakers condemned Thursday's NATO helicopter attack.  Some of them called for shooting the helicopters down.  One senator said, “What are our troops doing at the border when they can’t even shoot down a helicopter!? We should call them back.”  The governor of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa, who administers the tribal areas, also condemned the attack.  Pakistan’s interior minister says the U.S. ambassador will be called to the foreign office to explain what happened.  Speaking on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, he said, "We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies."  All this is happening while CIA Chief Leon Panetta is in Pakistan meeting the top civil and military leadership.

Thursday
Sep302010

Russians Plan To Put Space Hotel in Orbit

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- A Russian company has announced it plans to launch a spacecraft into orbit in the next six years that will serve as a hotel for space tourists.  Orbital Technologies said the proposed Commercial Space Station (CSS) will offer an alternative to non-astronauts who until now have been limited to visiting the International Space station (ISS).

"The ISS was designed to carry out scientific and research work at the request of the government. We plan to create a space hotel," company CEO Sergei Kostenko told news agency RIA Novosti.  "Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes."

Orbital Technologies is teaming up with state-run Rocket and Space Corporation Energia and Russian space agency Roscosmos for the project.  Kostenko said he expects the first clients to be private citizens, professional crews and corporate researchers doing their own experiments.  He added they'll be chosen by an American company, Space Adventures, that currently selects the paying passengers on Roscosmos missions.

The first module launched into orbit will be 706 cubic feet with four cabins that can hold a total of seven passengers.  They hope to have a module built sometime in 2012 to 2013, and have it launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket in late 2015 or early 2016.  Orbital would not say how much the project will cost, beyond saying that it will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Kostenko said that American and Russian investors have already signed on.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep302010

'Key Facilitator' to Alleged Times Square Bomber Held

Photo Courtesy - US Marshals(ISLAMABAD) -- A man described as a 'key facilitator' to the suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing attempt has been detained for his alleged involvement in the May 2010 plot. Faisal Abbasi was apprehended on his way back from Waziristan and has been in custody for some time, ABC News has learned. Suspect Faisal Shazhad has pleaded guilty to his involvement in the bombing and is due to be sentenced Oct. 5 in New York.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep292010

15 Children Kidnapped in Nigeria

Photo Courtesy -- ABC News Radio(NIGERIA) -- The hunt continues in Nigeria for the 15 elementary and pre-school children kidnapped on Monday after their school bus was hijacked by gunmen. There are reports that the abductors are in ransom negotiations with the school principal and are now asking for an amount close to $130,000. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has called the act “utterly callous and cruel” and has vowed that government will do all it can to help free the children. Kidnapping in the oil-rich Niger Delta region is commonplace, and the Nigerian parliament is considering a bill that would make the act punishable by death, hoping the sentence will curb the problem.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep292010

Amid Jitters of New Terror Threat, Two American Jihad Leaders Resurface

Image Courtesy - FBI via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two radical Islamic clerics with American roots have resurfaced Wednesday, even as officials in Europe and the US are already on high alert because of a "credible but not specific" threat of commando-style terror attacks by militants with Western passports.

American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whom authorities have linked to both the Fort Hood shooting and the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest flight 253, will soon be releasing a new video. Authorities consider Awlaki an Al Qaeda recruiter, and his online videos inspire young Westerners to jihad. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni affiliate of Al Qaeda, posted images from the forthcoming video on the internet overnight.

At the same time Adam Gadahn, the Orange County metalhead turned Al Qaeda spokesman, has released a new internet video about the Pakistan floods.

Authorities say the Yemen-based AQAP is currently the most serious threat to American cities.

But US and European authorities are already searching for a team of commandos allegedly planning attacks in Britain, France, and Germany, all based on the interrogation of a German jihadi who was captured over the summer and is now being held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

US law enforcement officials say they have been told the terrorists were planning a series of "Mumbai-style" commando raids on what were termed "economic or soft" targets in the countries. Pakistani militants killed 173 people with guns and grenades during the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.

The captured German reportedly said several teams of attackers, all with European passports, had been trained and dispatched from training camps in Waziristan and Pakistan. Officials say the German claimed the attack plan had been approved by Osama Bin Laden.

Officials consider the threat credible, although not specific, and said that an attack in Europe seemed more likely that one in the US.

Among those being sought are a group of radicalized Germans who have been training at terror camps in Pakistan, producing videos in German to gain more recruits. Some of the German-speaking militants may have come from the same Hamburg mosque where Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers gathered.

Guido Steinberg, a counter-terrorism analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said German jihadis have been recruited from mosques in Berlin, Bonn and Hamburg, including the former Al Quds mosque, where Ramzi Binalshibh, Atta, hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi and other conspirators joined forces.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep292010

Europeans Jumping into Mideast Peace Effort

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) -- The European Union will be joining the US effort to broker Mideast peace, its high representative Catherine Ashton told reporters today. Ashton will be cutting a trip to the US short in order to travel to the region overnight, joining U.S. envoy George Mitchell in his meetings there.

It’s no secret that European countries have wanted to be part of this latest effort, and felt left out after not being invited to the White House for the launch of talks in early September. The EU is one of the biggest funders of the Palestinian Authority and has complained that they’re only being used for their money while not being allowed a role in the peace process.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to credit the EU for its support of the Palestinians. Clinton was asked about reports that the U.S. is offering assurances to both sides, including a beefed-up arms package to Israel, as an incentive to remain in talks. She didn’t address the matter in her response.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio