Gunmen burst into a university complex in Azerbaijan's capital Baku on Thursday and killed at least 13 people in a shooting rampage, officials said. Details of the incident were unclear, but unconfirmed reports from local television said two gunmen had gone on a shooting spree at the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, one of the most prestigious universities in the oil-rich former Soviet republic. Officials refused immediately to provide any details of the incident other than the number of dead and wounded. "According to the current information, 13 are dead and 10 are wounded," a spokesman for the general prosecutor's office, Eldar Sultanov, told journalists at the scene. Police said the incident had ended but refused to comment further. "The operation is over," Azerbaijani interior ministry spokesman Ekhsan Zaidov told Russia's state news agency RIA-Novosti. ANS television reported that two gunmen had burst into the school during morning lectures and made their way up a staircase, shooting as they went. The channel reported that one of the gunmen had killed himself. It said that both students and professors were among the dead. Quoting unnamed police sources, the Azeri Press Agency identified one of the gunmen as Nadir Shirkha, a Georgian citizen of Azerbaijani descent. Other reports said one of the killers had been of Syrian origin. Courtesy:MSN NEWS
Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam's third holiest location. Israel is constructing 50 more synagogues and dozens of security centers near al-Aqsa Mosque in move viewed as an attempt to judaize Jerusalem (al-Quds). The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage revealed that Israel was encircling al-Aqsa Mosque with fifty more synagogues, adding to the already-constructed synagogues surrounding the mosque. The Foundation presented a documentary showing testimonies of a number of citizens and researchers disclosing information about the scheme. According to the Foundation, the 40-million-dollar plan aims to construct the largest synagogue in the Tankeziya School ,one of the buildings in the al-Aqsa complex. The leader of the Islamic movement in the occupied territories, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, warned against the expansion of the synagogues and called on Arab and Muslim countries to stand against the plan. Salah urged Muslim countries to mark the seventh of June as an occasion to support the occupied city and the mosque. This was the date Jerusalem (al-Quds) and the al-Aqsa mosque fell into the hands of Israel. The Archbishop of the Orthodox Church in al-Quds, Atallah Hanna, also condemned the plan, calling it a violation of rights of followers of other religions including Muslims as well as Christians. The Archbishop said the building of synagogues aimed to provoke anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim sentiments, calling it in line with Israel's indirect campaign to force Palestinians out of the region. Tel Aviv has already ordered the evacuation of a large number of Palestinians living in Eastern Jerusalem in a bid to provide for more Israeli settlements despite vowing to halt the expansion of the settlement activities in the Annapolis confab. Israel rejects any political motives behind the construction of synagogues, arguing they are only built for religious reasons. courtesy: Press TV
At least 20 people have been killed and 24 others injured in clashes in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, local hospital officials say. KARACHI, Pakistan : Waseem Ahmed, the city police chief, said the clashes on Wednesday were the result of a dispute between the city's ethnic groups Mohajirs and Pashtuns. Violence erupted in different parts of the port city after an unidentified man opened fire in a Mohajir neighbourhood in the centre of the city. Officials from two major hospitals in the city said they had received 10 bodies each of people shot in the riots.
Dozens of cars and several shops were burnt in the riots. Al Jazeera's Sohail Rahman, reporting from Islamabad, said two supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a party generally representing the Mohajirs, had been found shot in the northern suburbs. "There has been indiscriminate firing in the northern suburbs of the city with six police officers wounded," he said. "It is very unsure how the police will be able to respond to the violence." Karachi, Pakistan's financial capital, has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence but has been relatively peaceful in recent years. Courtesy: Al Jazeera
Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug speaks during a media briefing in Ankara, Wednesday.
Turkish military chief Gen. Ilker Basbugsaid Wednesday that he is not concerned about Israel's reaction to a joint drill involving Turkish and Syrian soldiers. Responding to news of the joint exercise, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that it was "definitely a disturbing development. But I believe that the strategic relationship between Israel and Turkey will overcome Turkey's necessity to participate in this drill as well." Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an expert on Arab political discourse at BESA. , who served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence, added that the exercise came about due to a convergence of Turkish and Syrian interests. "Turkey appears as a regional power, and Syria is willing to play this game to give Turkey that recognition, because it wants to prove that it is Turkey's friend," Kedar said. Basbug told reporters Wednesday he was "not concerned by Israel's reaction," and Turkey was not seeking any other country's consent. The drill, the first-ever between Turkey and Syria, ends Wednesday and marks improvement in once strained ties between both countries.
Critics say Specter's move is more aboutpolitics than principles
A veteran Republican senator has switched allegiances to the Democrats, a boost for Barack Obama as he prepares to mark 100 days as US president. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania senator, said: "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," although critics say the move was made to boost his chances of re-election. The move takes the Democrats to within one seat of a 60-vote super-majority needed to stop Republicans using filibusters, a stalling tactic used to delay or defeat legislation. One vacancy remains from the state of Minnesota, where Democrat Al Franken holds a narrow lead in a race being disputed in court. Specter had also faced a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, a conservative rival, in a forthcoming senate primary polls ahead of a 2010 election. Recent polls said that Specter, 79, was losing to Toomey and would fare better as a Democrat. Specter, who faced conservative anger over his vote in favour of Obama's nearly $787bn economic stimulus package, denied that he would rubber-stamp Democratic legislation. "My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans," said Specter, who was first elected in 1980. Harry Reid, the Democratic senate majority leader, praised Specter as a "a man of honour and integrity and a fine public servant" and welcomed him to the party. Courtesy: Al Jazeera
KUALA LUMPUR: As the swine flu threatens to become a pandemic with the World Health Organisation warning that no region was safe from the outbreak, Malaysia's National Preparedness Plans for Pandemic Influenza is being primed for activation. Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican will chair a NPPPI meeting with officers from all relevant ministries, departments and agencies. Dr Ismail was responsible for drafting the NPPPI in 2006 after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and high pathogenic avian influenza. Malaysia was commended by the WHO for the NPPPI and also effectively putting in place containment measures during the outbreak of SARS and avian influenza. Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia averted major outbreaks because of close collaboration among the government agencies, especially between the Veterinary Services Department and the Health Ministry. "Each time an outbreak occurs, we immediately swing into action and implement our Preparedness Plan, including culling and detecting people with symptoms of the diseases," he said. Liow said Dr Ismail would coordinate the entire operation again as many of those, especially in other ministries and departments were new and need to be briefed and guided on the NPPPI "To avert an outbreak, we need to have a contingency plan which comprises stringent surveillance at all entry points including airports, ports and borders, a national operations centre, medical service, public health and laboratory responses and media updates," he said.
Karalyan said Ankara had tried to turn the Iraqi Kurdish regional government against the PKK A Kurdish group that has led an armed struggle against the Turkish government for more than two decades has told Al Jazeera it is ready for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Murad Karalyan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), said his organisation remains on alert against the Turkish military, but is also open to resolving the conflict peacefully. "Now, the situation is very delicate and dangerous. There are two possibilities, and we are ready for both; a big war or a peaceful resolution to the conflict," he told Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr from a secret location in Iraq's Qandil mountains. About 40,000 people have died in the 25-year conflict between the Turkish authorities and the outlawed PKK, which is fighting for autonomy for Kurds living in southeast Turkey. The PKK is closer than ever before to a negotiated solution with Ankara, Karalyan said."Turkey wasn't able to get rid of us militarily and they also tried politically and they failed. That is why a political solution is close," he said. The PKK has bases ranged across Iraq's Qandil mountains, in an area where the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) does not have a presence. The group's attempts to win self-rule for Turkish Kurds has been frustrated by a lack of support from other nations in the region, who each fear that recognising their own Kurdish communities' claims for autonomy could provoke instability. But in the Kurdish heartland in southeast Turkey, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), a party which the PKK supports, won in local elections last January. "If they get rid of the PKK in northern Iraq, it doesn't mean we are finished because we are inside Turkey and we are strong," Karalyan said. The United States and Turkey have both designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation, and Ankara has tried to use the Iraqi Kurdish political parties to help them crush their opponents.
PATTANI, Thailand - The Thai army says suspected Muslim insurgents killed eight civilians in a flurry of attacks in insurgency-plagued southern Thailand. Col. Parinya Chaidilok says at least six gunmen in a pick-up truck stormed into a house in Yala province late Monday.They opened fire on a Muslim family of five. Four people were killed. One was wounded. Parinya says two Muslim rubber plantation workers were later found dead outside a nearby mosque. Thai security officials blamed Islamic insurgents bent on stirring up communal tension between Buddhists and Muslims. In the latest attack, a Buddhist government official was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting Tuesday in Pattani, Parinya said. In a separate incident Monday evening, gunmen fatally shot a Muslim who served as a government-hired security volunteer in Yala province. Another Muslim man was killed in a drive-by shooting in the same province Monday evening.
In another district of Yala province, suspected militants fatally shot a Buddhist rubber plantation worker Tuesday. Insurgent attacks which include drive-by shootings and bombings are believed intended to frighten Buddhist residents into leaving the area. They also target Muslims who they believe have collaborated with the government, including soldiers, police, informants and civilians.
Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro (R) shakes hands with his Palestinian counterpart Riad Al Malki during the inauguration of a Palestinian embassy in Caracas. The latest Israeli war against the people of Gaza has pushed Venezuela diplomatically closer to the Palestinians and away from Tel Aviv. Venezuelan and Palestinian officials signed a document on Monday and formally established diplomatic ties; a Palestinian embassy was also inaugurated in Caracas. Palestine-Caracas relations have warmed since the Israeli war on Gaza when Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez broke off relations with Tel Aviv in protest at the aggression. Chavez believes Israeli leaders committed 'genocide' in Gaza. "The people of Palestine can count on our eternal and permanent solidarity with their just and humane cause," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki thanked Chavez for his support adding that Palestinian officials hope the embassy in Caracas will help the country extend its diplomatic relations across South America. "We also hope to open more Palestinian embassies all over the continent because for us it's a great priority... to focus on this continent due to the political importance it has," Riad al-Malki said. Courtesy: Press TV
Filipino Muslims' Grievances and the Difficult Path to Peace
Manila: President Gloria Arroyo will visit Egypt and Syria starting May 1, to ask for assistance on the Philippine government's effort to forge a peace settlement with a Muslim separatist group in the southern Philippines, a senior official said. "Her visit to Egypt and Syria is an acknowledgment of the important roles the two Arab nations play in the peace process between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," said Press Secretary Cerge Remonde. Arroyo considers Egypt and Syria as "two of the most influential members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC)," said Remonde, hinting that Arroyo is asking another OIC-member country, apart from Malaysia, to broker the talks which began in 1997.
Last August, renegade MILF commanders attacked Christian-dominated villages in the southern Philippines when the Supreme Court prevented negotiators of the Philippine government and the MILF to sign an agreement that would allow the expansion of an existing autonomous region for Muslims in the southern Philippines. Arroyo's visit to Egypt would be the first by a Philippines president in 30 years, said Remonde.
On May 3, Arroyo will proceed to Damascus for a two-day state visit, said Remonde, adding, "The Syrian government will shoulder most of her expenses in the state visit." She will be meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and will sign several agreements that will strengthen bilateral ties between the Philippines and Syria.
Newly-minted prime minister Najib Abdul Razak praised for his 'One Malaysia' concept. Economists and analysts have been watching closely, whether the government would gradually liberalise more sectors, particularly the more sensitive sectors such as retail and banking, which also have certain ownership requirements but the government is seen as trying to avoid liberalising these sectors to avoid a political backlash. However, judging from the speed and determination of the new administration, it seems that they are all out for liberalisation in this sector to turn the nation into a more attractive place for investment. “In fact, we are very encouraged, quite a number of far-sighted decisions are now being undertaken at a very quick pace since he assumed premiership. This is very encouraging. If it follow through, it will have a positive impact on the sentiments, more importantly the investor confidence,” said Chief Economist, RAM Consultancy Service Dr Yeah Kean Leng. “Less than 100 days, there are breathtaking changes. If we can follow through, it can be achieved in less than 100 days,” he added. Political analysts said Najib was smart and bold in continuing this anti-affirmative-action jag, as they said he was aware of its political implications and knew that it was also the only way forward, particularly in the current bad global economic situation. More importantly, Najib’s breathtaking reforms are what the public has been expecting all this while as the way forward for this multiracial but small country which is still very much dependent on natural resources, plantation and manufacturing as the main sources of income. “It’s a practicality. You have no choice. Either you do something to give it a chance, or you wait till it dies naturally,” said James Wong, a former politician and political analyst. Courtesy: The Malaysian Insider
Israel resumes its anti-Tehran war talk in spite of stiff US opposition to the launch of go-it-alone air strikes on Iranian nuclear sites. With less than a week having past since Israeli military plans against Iran received the brush-off in Washington, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the allegedly new US policy toward Tehran would be a "waste of time" without a threat of military action. Ya'alon who is wanted in several countries for war crimes over his involvement in the massacre of civilians and the assassination of senior Hamas official Salah Shehade urged Western countries to confront Iran and refrain from making any concessions on its nuclear program. "I have no doubt that the Iranians will use any dialogue to stall for time if there will not be a clear time frame and clear benchmarks like telling them that they have two months to stop the enrichment," Ya'alon reasoned. The former Israeli military heavyweight refused to comment on Tel Aviv's military agenda for Tehran but inarticulately warned that if the Obama administration fails to put an end to Iranian enrichment activities, a unilateral strike against the country's nuclear infrastructure would be looming on the horizon. "We need to hope that the job will be done by someone else and at the same time, as the Talmudic sage Hillel said, 'If I am not for myself who will be?'" he asked, signaling Israeli willingness to go to war with or without White House support.
Photo: Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Former Umno presidents Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi have been urged to use the proper channels to voice out their concerns for the party. KUALA LUMPUR: Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who is also an Umno supreme council member, said both leaders should consider Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s “humble request” to both men to speak to the new party president if they had anything to say about Umno. “Datuk Seri Najib is willing to meet either one of them if they have any issues to bring up. “If there is anything that they are unhappy about, please don’t make it public, because making open statements will not be good for the Government and the party,” Shabery told reporters.
He was asked to comment on Dr Mahathir’s criticism that some of Najib’s Cabinet members should not have been appointed due to their backgrounds. On Saturday, Abdullah had said that problems could occur if one refused to accept changes and do things which were not proper. On Dr Mahathir’s claim that the Western media was making a concerted effort in demonising Najib, Shabery said Umno would need to look into the allegations seriously.
However, he said such demonisations against Malaysia’s leaders were not new. “Some of the media make news reports on happenings or make commentaries, which are fine.But, if their reports are based on certain agendas, then we have to look into that,” he added.
NABLUS,WAFA: Israeli woman visiting her Palestinian family in Nablus arrested at Huwwarra checkpoint. Neta Golan, an Israeli citizen and Palestinian solidarity activist, was arrested by Israeli forces, at Huwawarra checkpoint, south of the city of Nablus. Golan has been taken to the police station inside Ariel colony. Golan was visiting her Palestinian husband's family with her children and husband. She was taken despite being 5 months pregnant. The Israeli government enforces apartheid laws which restrict families with Israeli and Palestinian members from being able to visit one another. Under Israeli law, Israeli citizens are not allowed to visit places in the West Bank designated as Area A, which includes Palestinian cities. This law prohibits Israelis from getting to know Palestinians and see the reality of how the occupation affects their lives. Golan, who lives in the West Bank with her family, is one of the several Israeli citizens with Palestinian spouses who face legal dilemmas as to how their families can live together. Courtesy: Al jazeera
The British government has said it will allow 4,300 more Gurkha veterans to settle in the country, changing immigration restrictions on the Nepalese soldiers. But advocates for the soldiers say the criteria for eligibility introduced by the government means only 100 Gurkhas would actually qualify. To be allowed to stay, the veterans must meet one of five conditions, including having served for at least 20 years in the brigade, suffered one injury or more, or received awards for bravery. The announcement has sparked outrage from campaigners, who have demanded all 36,000 Gurkhas who served with the British army before 1997 be allowed to live permanently in the UK. Gurkhas have fought for Britain for the last 200 years, with 200,000 fighting in the two world wars.About 3,500 Gurkhas currently serve in the British Army, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Speaking on Friday, Jacqui Smith, Britain's interior minister, said: "Over 4,000 ex-Gurkhas and around 6,000 spouses and children will qualify for settlement rights in the UK." Jagat Bahadur Limbu, 51, who served in the brigade between 1976 and 1992 said the decision was "shocking"."I have been waiting three years to be allowed to stay in Britain," he said. The government issued the revised immigration guidelines after a high court judge ruled last October that the existing policy, which states only Gurkhas who retired after 1997 can settle in the UK, was unlawful. Ministers say that without the restrictions, up to 100,000 former Gurkhas and their families could seek to come to Britain. Courtesy: Al Jazeera