Guerillas of the Baluchistan Liberation Army threatened to blow up Pakistan's most important oil and gas facility at Dhodak, in the central province of Punjab. The statement, phoned into several newspapers Feb. 6 by a spokesman called Azad Baluch (an apparent nom de guerre meaning Free Baluchistan), was the first threat by the rebels to strike outside Baluchistan province. The previous day, rebels reportedly struck a gas pipeline at Mangrotha in Dera Ghazi Khan district, 90 kilometers west of the central Punjab city of Multan. Bombings of rail lines and other government targets are now taking place nearly every day in Baluchistan, the largest and poorest of Pakistan's four provinces. (AFP, Feb. 7)
Newly-confirmed US Atttorney General Alberto Gonzales may begin his term as an indicted war criminal. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed new documents January 31 with the German Federal Prosecutor looking into war crimes charges against high-ranking US officials, including Donald Rumsfeld. One includes new evidence that the Fay report on Abu Ghraib protected Administration officials--a comprehensive and shocking opinion by Scott Horton, an expert on international law and chair of the International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. The second is a letter detailing how Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms his role as complicit in the torture and abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.
Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Feb. 5 protesting a "smear campaign" against Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet, who has been accused of "treason" in numerous pro-government media outlets since he ran a piece in the Spanish daily El Mundo on his visit to bases of the Polisario Front guerilla organization, and an interview with Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz in the UK-based Arabic newspaper al-Moustakillah.
The UN's IRIN news agency reports that Nigerian troops shot and killed four villagers who were protesting at the main export terminal run by ChevronTexaco in the Niger Delta Feb. 4. Over 200 protesters from the village of Ugborodo near Warri occupied the Escravos plant just before dawn to demand a fairer share of revenues from the 300,000 barrels of crude oil that are pumped out every day. "Soldiers shot at them, killing four and injuring three others," said Helen Joe, one of the protest leaders.
The largely invisible suffering of Afghanistan's internal refugees made a rare appearance in the US media Feb. 4 with a NY Times story and front-page (below-the-fold) photo. The article noted that eighteen people have died in the refugee camps outside Kabul since severe cold descended on the country two weeks ago. The most recent death was that of a new-brn boy at the Chaman-e-Babrak tent camp. Temperatures fall as low as 5 degrees F. at night. There are some 4,000 living in the two main camps outside Kabul, described by the Times as "homeless rural people who cannot be relocated to the countryside" and "landless poor from rural areas who have no homes to go back to." The Times did not emphasize that most of these rural areas continue to be controlled by local warlords who persecute and even force out their perceived ethnic enemies.
The Irish Republican Army announced Feb. 2 it is withdrawing from the Northern Ireland peace talks and rescinding its disarmament proposal, accusing both London and Dublin of bad faith by blaming the IRA for a $50 million Belfast bank heist in December. "We do not intend to remain quiescent within this unacceptable situation," said a press release signed P. O'Neill, the psuedonym siginifying official IRA positions. "It has tried our patience to the limit." Unionist leader Ian Paisely predictably responded by claiming the IRA never intended to disarm in the first place. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams declined to comment, saying he would let the IRA speak for themselves, but Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the raid blame "scuttles disarmament." The US State Department called the IRA's move "un-welcome." This could be the final crisis for the 1998 Good Friday accord, which established a local legislature to share power between Catholics and Protestants. The legislature has been suspended since 2002 because of allegations of IRA activity. (NYT, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 4; UK Guardian, Feb. 5)
Indian Country Today, the national weekly run by the Oneida Nation in upstate New York, ran a story Feb. 3 casting doubt on Ward Churchill's claims to be a Native American. The account by Indian Country Today staff writer Jim Adams again aired accusations by national Indian leaders that Churchill has no real Indian ancestry. The report found: