Nepal's King Gyanendra dismissed the country's government Feb. 1, and declared a state of emergency, closing off his Himalayan kingdom from the outside world as telephone and Internet lines were cut, flights grounded and civil liberties suspended. This is the second time in three years the king has taken control of the constitutional monarchy, a throwback to the era of absolute monarchy before King Birendra, Gyanendra's brother, introduced representative government following a popular pro-democracy movement in 1990.
The right-wing Jerusalem Post was handed a propaganda coup Feb. 1 by one of Iran's official press agencies, which marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz (commemorated by media and political leaders worldwide) in its own typically heartwarming fashion: by calling the Holocaust a Zionist plot.
Bahrain's Gulf Daily News provides a more detailed report on the deadly Jan. 31 firefight in Kuwait than was deemed worthwhile by most US media. The battle raged for nine hours in al-Qurain, just south of Kuwait City, leaving five dead. It was apparently sparked when security forces raided a supposed terrorist safehouse. The house was connected to a mosque, and owned by an imam. "Security forces ...
Following an agreement with Indian authorities, Burma has turned its guns on the Naga separatist rebels it had previously sheltered--bringing the war to its own soil. Fighting is said to be raging in the jungle along the border with India as Burmese troops attack bases of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), a guerilla group which has been seeking an independent Naga state since 1980. NSCN leader Kuhalo Mulatonu pledges his fighters will resist to the end. At least 15 are already reported dead.
In a little-noted but potentially ominous move, Halliburton has announced that is pulling out of Iran, where it has long maintained oil industry maintenance services, exploiting loopholes in the sanctions. The company's CEO Dave Lesar said "the business environment currently in Iran is not conducive to our overall strategy and objectives." (AFP, Jan. 29)
Bahrain's Gulf Daily News reports that Iraq's elections are taking place under a "climate of fear," with at least 30 killed Jan 27 alone in roadside ambushes, twin suicide attacks in Samarra and fighting on Baghdad's Haifa Street, which seems to be an insurgent stronghold. Two US troops were among the dead--just one day after a helicopter crash killed 31 Marines, making the 26th the bloodiest day of the war so far for Iraqi forces.
More violence in Pakistan's semi-autonomous Northwest Tribal Areas. This time rival clans in a land dispute in Miranshah, North Waziristan, decided to settle scores with live fire in the middle of a crowded market, leaving seven dead. (Bahrain's Gulf Daily News, Jan. 27)