Greater Middle East
At least 20 Kurdish guerilla fighters are dead in an assualt by Turkish army troops backed up by US-made Cobra attack helicopters near the Iraq border, AP reported April 15. Three Turkish soldiers and a village guardsman were also killed in the fighting in Siirt and Sirnak provinces. Turkish authorities said the guerillas infiltrated Turkish territory from Iraq, where they had taken refuge across the border.
Lebanon's Omar Karami has resigned a second time, after Parliament refused to accept his February 28 resignation. This time Najib Mikati, a Sunni perceived as a moderate, has been chosen to succeed him. Mikati hailed the opposition--especially Druze leader Walid Jumblatt--for breaking a boycott of the political process to approve his nomination, and said he wanted to "personify national unity." The opposition is said to have supported his nomination because he is less pro-Syrian than his chief rival for the post, Abdel-Rahim Mrad.
Scores are dead in Yemen, where security forces are battling Islamist forces led by Badruddin Al-Houthi in and around the northwestern town of Saada. A group of opposition parties is calling for the nation's pariliament to immediately launch an investigation into "extra-judicial killings" by government forces in the operation. (Arab News, April 9) The fighting has left at least 70 this week, and 170 over the past month.
The April 7 nail-bomb attack on a bazaar jammed with foreign tourists in Cairo left three dead, including a French national and a U.S. citizen. A previously unknown group, the Islamic Brigades of Pride, has claimed responsibility. (Al-Jazeera, April 9) The incident harkens back to the wave of terror in Egypt in the '90s led by the underground Islamic Group.
The opposition is threatening a new wave of protests in Lebanon, with the country still in political deadlock. Parliament has refused to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami (which had been a key victory of the protests), and now Karami is accused of procrastinating on calling new elections, as pledged. (Lebanon Daily Star, April 6)
By any objective standard, the wave of deadly gunplay in Saudi Arabia in recent days is an internecine dispute between rival Wahhabi fundamentalist factions—although that is not how it is being portrayed in the media. Today's claims by Saudi authorities that two al-Qaeda bigwigs are among the 15 killed in three days of fierce gun-battles in Riyadh and al-Qassim will doubtless grab big headlines in tommorrow's papers—although al-Qaeda commander for Saudi Arabia, Saleh al-Oufi, is said to remain at large.
A musician from Turkey's Laz minority group said the country's public television refused to allow him to perform his songs, claiming that new laws adopting democratic European standards exclude the Laz language.
The Laz musician, Birol Topaloglu, said he had been invited to participate in a musical special on March 18 in Ankara on the national television station TRT-INT. He has been involved since 1997 in trying to preserve the culture of the Laz community of about 250,000 people in northeast Turkey.