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Friday
Oct012010

New Bin Laden Tape Addresses Pakistani Floods

Photo Courtesy - ABC NewsOsama bin Laden released his first audio tape since March on Friday, calling for Muslim relief and charity in places like flood-ravaged Pakistan.

The new message comes despite a record number of drone attacks along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border targeting Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. Both bin Laden and al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in the mountainous border region.

The 11-minute message could not be immediately authenticated, but was released on a variety of known extremist websites with an old still photo of the al Qaeda leader. The message was largely addressed to Pakistani citizens affected by recent devastating floods.

Although there is no date referenced, the recent floods in Pakistan suggest the recording is no more than two months old.

In several recent messages, bin Laden has shifted slightly from militancy and addressed geopolitics, climate change and environmental disasters, seeking to appear as a humanitarian. His previous message, however, threatened the U.S. with violence if 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammed is executed by the U.S. government.

Friday's tape is also the third in a series of recent al Qaeda messages focused on Pakistan and the flooding there. Al Qaeda number two Ayman al Zawahiri and American Adam Gadahn both released recent messages attacking the Pakistani governments' slow and ineffectual response to flooding in that country. The shift reveals al Qaeda's most recent strategy, which is stoking resentment inside Pakistan against the government there.

Although bin Laden doesn't directly threaten the West, the message comes after European and U.S. intelligence uncovered a terror plot personally requested by bin Laden.

According to European and American intelligence officials, bin Laden asked al Qaeda affiliates to attack England, France and Germany using a "Mumbai- style" attack aimed at "soft and economic" targets.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct012010

U.S. to Impose Sanctions on Companies Pursuing Business with Iran

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, the U.S. announced it would take action against international companies doing business with Iran's energy sector.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told reporters Thursday that the new sanctions would be imposed on Naftiran Intertrade Company, a Swiss-based subsidiary of Iran's national oil company, which he said brought major sums of cash into the county.  The State Department said that it was considering similar moves against other companies elsewhere, but would not provide details.

Steinberg added that, as a result of previous sanctions against Iran, an additional four foreign energy companies have said that they were discontinuing doing business with Iran, including France’s Total, Norway’s Statoil, Italy’s ENI, and Royal Dutch Shell.

"People are increasingly reaching the conclusion that it's simply not worth it to engage in activities with Iran," Steinberg said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thursday
Sep302010

Italian Coast Guard Continues Search for Missing American Balloonists

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(VIESTE, Italy) -- The Italian Coast Guard will continue the search for two missing American balloonists throughout the night and into well into Friday.

The couple has been missing since early Wednesday, when they disappeared over the Adriatic Sea.

U.S. and Croatian authorities are also participating in the search.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio.


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







ABC News Radio