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Tuesday
May102011

Osama Bin Laden's Matchmaker: Real Housewives of Abbottabad

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Yemeni cleric who helped arrange Osama bin Laden's fifth marriage said that the world's most wanted man had only one stipulation for his youngest wife: that she be of high moral value.

The cleric, Sheikh Rashad, told ABC News he helped arrange 54-year-old bin Laden's marriage to Yemeni 29-year-old Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah when the girl was just a teen.  During the marriage, Rashad said Fatah never complained and never made the al Qaeda leader upset.

Manal Omar, author of Barefoot in Baghdad and expert on the role of women in Islam, said that Fatah, along with the other two older wives also discovered in bin Laden's compound, would be called to do almost anything bin Laden wanted.

"Fulfilling the desires of the male leader or husband in the family is a very important duty for women," Omar said.

It was no surprise to Rashad that Fatah apparently tried to defend bin Laden to the last, rushing the Navy SEALs before she was shot in the leg in the same room where bin Laden was killed.  As a Muslim woman, she wanted to die a martyr, Rashad said.

U.S. investigators have been promised access to bin Laden's three wives who are currently in Pakistani custody, one U.S. official said, and they hope to learn from the them key details about life with bin Laden in the Abbottabad compound.

But Imam Omar Saleem Abu Namous of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York said it's possible U.S. intelligence could learn much more than details of bin Laden's day-to-day life in Abbottabad.

"I think Osama bin Laden maybe was intelligent enough or smart enough to give each wife a duty to do," Namous said.

Um Khalid, meaning the mother of Khalid, and Um Hamza, the mother of Hamza, are both from Saudi Arabia and have been described as highly educated and apparently content with sharing a husband.

"Women clearly are attracted to the message of Osama and to have the opportunity to be within his family would be appealing, even for some of the educated women," Omar said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Pakistan Might Allow US Access to Osama Bin Laden's Wives

ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Pakistani government officials have since told their U.S. counterparts that they soon will get access to bin Laden's three widows, who are in custody in Islamabad, a U.S. official told ABC News Monday evening.

The White House had said earlier that Pakistan declined to provide access to the widows or to the material that Pakistani authorities seized after the raid on bin Laden's hideout. But that didn't mean, officials added, that access would never be granted, saying that they were working on gaining access.

"We're going to have those conversations, and we hope and expect to make progress," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today. "We think the relationship's important, the cooperation's important. We've had differences in the past and overcome them, and we think we can overcome them now."

Gaining access to bin Laden's compounds and his wives are among the United States' key demands to Pakistan, and officials say the denial is another disappointment from that nation. Local authorities also have in custody eight of bin Laden's children and five other children, according to a senior Pakistani military official.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani spoke publicly Monday about the raid for the first time since it took place, rejecting accusations that Pakistani officials aided bin Laden, who had been hiding in Pakistan for several years. He warned the United States not to carry out a similar secret mission again.

"Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force," Gilani said. "No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland."

In another indication of Pakistan's anger with its U.S. ally, Pakistani newspapers published the name of the CIA station chief in the region, usually a closely-guarded secret. The name was misspelled, but was phonetically accurate. It is the second time in recent months the CIA station chief has been unmasked, something that is seen as Pakistani retaliation for its treatment by the Obama administration.

The CIA is currently studying the trove of information seized at bin Laden's compound, which is enough information to fill the library of a small college, officials say. Among the mysteries they are hoping to uncover is what the Pakistani government knew and did not know.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Iranian President Linked to Black Magic, Summoning Genies

ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran's powerful clerics have accused associates of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of witchcraft, including summoning genies, amid an increasingly bitter rift between Ahmadinejad and the country's supreme religious leader. In recent days, some 25 confidants of Ahmadinejad and his controversial but loyal chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei have been arrested and charged with being "magicians."

One aide, Abbas Ghaffari, was described by conservative Iranian newspaper Ayandeh as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with unknown worlds." Ghaffari has reportedly been accused of summoning a genie, who caused his interrogator to have a heart attack.

The arrests are the latest window into the growing rift between Ahmadinejad, Iran's elected secular president, and Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, the country's appointed religious supreme leader.

They also offer a view on how dynamic religious practice is inside the Islamic Republic. If the clerics hope to smear their opponents with supernatural claims, their plan might backfire, said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

As clerical dogma loses traction, traditional beliefs that incorporate ideas about a coming messiah, the end of the world, and traditional magic motifs like djinns, or genies, are becoming increasingly popular especially with Ahmadinejad's base.

The president himself has made supernatural claims, telling followers in 2005 that he was surrounded by a halo of light during a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, in which the foreign leaders in the hall were transfixed, unable to blink for a half hour.

The religious establishment has long had its eye on Mashaei, the man behind much of Ahmadinejad's political and religious thinking, because he practices an alternative Messianic -- though no less fundamentalist -- version of Islam that includes aspects of the occult and a more limited role for clerics.

Mashei, is Ahmadeinjad's chief of staff and closest advisor. It is widely believed that Ahmadinejad wants Mashaei to succeed him as president.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Russia Celebrates Annual Victory Day with Military Parade

Mark Harris/Photodisc/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Russian military celebrated Victory Day, the annual commemoration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, on Monday.

The event involved upwards of 20,000 uniformed men parading alongside missiles. The troops sported new uniforms introduced earlier this year.

President Dmitri Medvedev spoke at the ceremony, reminding citizens that Russia's military might serves "global stability."

Victory Day was first celebrated at Stalin's behest on June 24, 1945.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Austrian Swimmer Nearly Buried Alive in Sand Pit

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(POMPANO BEACH, Fla.) -- To Austrian national swim team member Jakub Maly, it seemed like a good idea at the time: spend the day on Pompano Beach digging a huge pit, and then jump into it.

Turns out, sand pits 7-feet deep and 6-feet wide -- big enough to gobble up a Volkswagen -- are not that stable. The pit collapsed on the 19-year-old, covering him entirely. Friends scrambled towards him, frantically trying uncover his head.

They managed to get Maly's head above sand, and called for help. Maly had done such a thorough job excavating the hole, however, that it took a team of 60 rescuers two hours to extract him.

"It was the perfect hole, until he decided to jump into if for fun. Then the walls caved in on him," said Sandra King of Pompano Beach Fire Rescue.

Rescuers had to buttress the collapsing sand by building makeshift walls in the pit.

"I started breathing, just to get enough oxygen," said Maly. "I just thought, oh my God, what do I have to do now?" Did he think he was going to die? "Maybe after the first hour or so," said the Austrian.
King said Maly was in danger of being crushed by the pressure from the sand.

Maly was freed long after dark and carted off to a hospital and released in less time than it took rescuers to dig him out of his hole. The swimmer is fine and flew with the rest of his team back to Austria.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Chinese Stealth Fighter Could Rival U.S.'s Best: Report

F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)(WASHINGTON) -- The next generation stealth fighter under development by the Chinese military could rival America's best fighters in speed, stealth and lethality, according to a new private report.

Details on the Chinese J-20 fighter are scant as the project has been developed under extreme secrecy, but an analysis conducted by the conservative Washington D.C.-based defense policy think tank The Jamestown Foundation based on the little publicly available information concluded that the fighter "will be a high performance stealth aircraft, arguably capable of competing in most cardinal performance parameters...with the United States F-22A Raptor, and superior in most if not all cardinal performance parameters against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter."

The F-22 Raptor, which cost the U.S. government $77 billion for 187 planes from defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, has never seen combat in any of America's three simultaneous major combat operations, but is considered by the Air Force and Lockheed Martin to be a stealth fighter without match. The slightly cheaper F-35, an all purpose stealth fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, is not meant to focus on air-to-air combat like the F-22, but on air-to-ground attacks and is expected to work in tandem with the F-22.

The Jamestown Foundation report, written by defense analyst and F-22 proponent Carlo Kopp, was first published last week just days after America's entire fleet of F-22s was grounded due to oxygen system concerns and a new video surfaced online, purportedly showing a rare test flight by a prototype J-20. The report noted the Chinese planes would not have the range to make unsupported strikes against the continental U.S., but U.S. military bases and allies in the region are well within the potential target zone -- including air bases that have been home to the F-22 fighters. It also says that due to its larger size, the J-20 could potentially carry more or bigger payloads than the F-22.

Though the Defense Department declined to comment on the Jamestown Foundation report, in response to the J-20 video, a Pentagon spokesperson told ABC News last week the U.S. has been "carefully monitoring China's comprehensive and sustained military modernization and its implications for the region."

But as early as January, shortly after a test flight of what appeared to be the J-20, Department of Defense Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters, "We don't know, frankly, much about the capabilities of that plane" and urged observers to "slow down a little bit on our characterizations of the J-20 at this point."

China is still in the development stage for its fighter, whereas once the oxygen system issues are sorted out, the U.S. Air Force will return to having more than 160 operational F-22s. The last of the 187 planes are still being delivered by Lockheed Martin.

As more information has surfaced about the secretive J-20, the Defense Department spokesperson would only say the Pentagon has not been taken by surprise.

"The fact that China has developed a prototype for this program is not surprising and is consistent with the direction we have seen China's military taking over a number of years," the spokesperson said.

According to Lockheed Martin, which is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to upgrade current F-22s, the J-20 "shows that other nations are seeking to develop the capability to challenge the F-22, and by extension, our capacity to attain air superiority in future conflict.

"Such emerging threats illustrate the need to continue enhancing the F-22's capabilities so that it stays ahead of evolving threats," a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the $143 million-a-pop F-22s have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed specifically to dominate the air against rival sophisticated air weapons like the J-20, not small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said in 2009 did not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Before the decision was made to cut the F-22 program at 187 planes -- rather than the more than 600 that were originally part of the deal -- dozens of supporters in Congress and state governments sent letters to President Obama arguing that the full force of the F-22s would be needed to counter the next generations planes being developed by China and Russia. Gates dismissed the idea, saying the F-22s and newer F-35s would greatly outnumber any adversaries' forces for the next 15 years at least.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Japan's Hamaoka Nuclear Plant to Halt Operations

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The operator of Japan's Hamaoka nuclear power plant agreed to temporarily shut down three reactors Monday, amid rising concerns about their ability to withstand a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

The decision came days after Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged Chubu Electric, Japan's third-largest power producer, to halt the plant's operations, citing a government study that forecast a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the Hamaoka area in the next 30 years.

The aging plant located in Shizuoka, 125 miles southwest of Tokyo, sits on an active earthquake fault where nearly 80,000 people live within a six-mile radius.

Safety activists have long questioned Hamaoka's inability to protect its reactors from large waves, but those concerns have grown louder since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami devastated the northeast coast, crippling reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Chubu Electric currently relies on sand dunes to block waves, and has said it would take a few years to build a seawall.

"We understand that the prime minister's request is based on increased concerns over nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident," said Chubu Electric president Akihisa Mizuno at a news conference.

Nuclear energy provides more than one-third of Japan's electricity, with Hamaoka's three reactors accounting for more than 10 percent of Chubu's power supply.

Shutting down the plant is likely to further strain the country's energy supply, already hurting from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant.

Hamaoka supplies power to about 16 million people in regions that include Aichi, home to Toyota Motor Corps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Al Qaeda Stalls on Naming Osama Bin Laden Successor 

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One of the reasons that al Qaeda has not yet named a replacement for Osama bin Laden is because there's possible confusion within the ranks as to who was actually second-in-command during the slain leader's long tenure.

It was reported in The Wall Street Journal that the person assumed to be bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, actually "parted ways" with his boss six years ago.

According to a senior Pakistani intelligence official quoted by the newspaper, al-Zawahiri was "marginalized" and lost popularity because he didn't have the funds to continue helping underwrite al Qaeda operations.

However, the The Wall Street Journal also cites U.S. officials as questioning any rift between al-Zawahiri, the group's chief ideologue and operational commander, and bin Laden.

The 59-year-old is still believed to be the logical choice to run al Qaeda, which indeed may have cash-flow problems, U.S. counterterrorism officials told the Journal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Taliban Targets Afghan Government and Security Buildings 

U.S. State Department(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan) -- The Taliban's spring offensive in Afghanistan began in earnest over the weekend as militants attacked various government and security offices inside the southern city of Kandahar.

Authorities said the deadliest assault occurred Saturday, as 18 people were killed and at least 50 wounded in the latest offensive by the Taliban, which continues its attempts to undermine the Afghan government.  Most of the dead were insurgents who brandished guns and rocket-propelled grenades, while some wore suicide vests as they attacked the governor's office, police stations and the local intelligence headquarters.

Afghan security forces were able to repel virtually all of the invasions although two civilians and two security personnel were killed in the onslaught.  By Sunday, there were reports of scattered skirmishes, while the streets of the city were virtually abandoned by pedestrians and business people.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the violence, which he claimed was in retaliation for the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.  However, Taliban leaders insisted the Kandahar operation was planned weeks ago, before bin Laden was killed in Pakistan one week ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Over a Dozen Killed After Iraqi Prisoners Attempt Jailbreak

Darrin Klimek/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Inmates at an Iraqi jail in Baghdad who tried testing the security system in a daring bid to escape the facility Sunday were ultimately no match for guards who foiled their efforts.

However, the bold impromptu plan left at least 17 people dead, including both detainees and police.

According to police sources, a prisoner in the process of being transferred was able to grab one of the guards' revolvers and began firing wildly, killing several police officers as other inmates joined in the scheme to bolt from the Interior Ministry compound.

The escape plan ended violently as the inmates in the group, including the detainee who started it, were slain when security reinforcements arrived at the scene to quell the uprising.

Later, Iraqi officials said that some of the dead prisoners were part of a terrorist plot that resulted in the deaths of 68 people at a Christian church in Baghdad last October.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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