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Archive for December, 2010

Kashmir sees record tourists, hundreds more for New Year

2010-12-31

 

 

Gulmarg, Dec 31 (IANS) The Kashmir Valley welcomed a record 7.25 lakh tourists this year despite the four-month unrest that paralyzed the region in summer. And the popular winter sports destination of Gulmarg, now covered with a pristine white blanket of snow, saw around 500 visitors arriving on New Year’s eve Friday.

 

 

‘We had around 700,000 domestic tourists this year in addition to 25,000 foreigners. This is a record that beats even the number of tourists we had before the beginning of the violence,’ an official of the tourism department said here.

 

 

In 2008, the Valley hosted 5.72 lakh tourists, including 5.50 lakh domestic tourists and 22,000 foreigners.

 

 

‘In 2009, we had 5.77 lakh domestic tourists and 23,000 foreigners. The number of tourist arrivals this year has crossed all previous records with 7.25 lakh tourists,’ the official said.

 

 

He pointed out that the figure does not include the thousands of pilgrims who arrive here each year for the annual Amarnath Yatra.

 

 

‘We had been expecting over one million tourists this year and had the unrest not occurred, we would have hosted such a number,’ the tourism official said.

 

 

And the year ends on a more than positive note for the tourism industry with around 500 sports enthusiasts and snow lovers arriving in this picture-postcard destination, home to the highest ski point and now covered with a fresh blanket of snow.

 

 

‘Gulmarg has recently been categorized as the seventh most sought after winter sports destination in Asia by CNN-International,’ said Farooq Shah, director of tourism.

 

 

‘We have the world’s highest ski point at Afarwat heights, which is 13,500 feet above sea level. Besides, Gulmarg also has the world’s highest Gondola facility that carries skiers to Afarwat, covering a distance of five kilometers,’ he said here.

 

 

Besides skiing, other popular winter sports like ice hockey, skating and snow boarding are also held at Gulmarg, which attracts sports lovers from different parts of the country and the world.

 

 

‘Our main worry so far had been the lack of adequate snowfall to cover the slopes. By the grace of god, Gulmarg had nice snowfall yesterday (Thursday),’ the director said.

 

 

Source: Sify.
Link: http://www.sify.com/finance/kashmir-sees-record-tourists-hundreds-more-for-new-year-news-default-km5nOeedfja.html.

الشباب: جيبوتي تخرب أمن الصومال

31/12/2010 م

عبد الرحمن سهل-كيسمايو

شن أمير حركة الشباب المجاهدين شيخ مختار عبد الرحمن أبو زبير هجوما شديد اللهجة على جيبوتي لرعايتها ما أسماه مخططا جديدا يهدف لتخريب الصومال، كما تحدث عن عودة أمراء الحرب السابقين، وعن شركات أمنية تهدف خلق اضطرابات أمنية في البلاد.

في كلمة صوتية بثتها وسائل الإعلام المحلية الصومالية، قال أمير حركة الشباب المجاهدين “إنه يجري في جيبوتي مخطط، ومؤامرة جديدة تهدف إلى تخريب الأمن وعرقلة تطبيق الشريعة في البلاد”، مشيرا إلى أن السلام قد انتشر وعم في المناطق الخاضعة لسيطرة الحركة.

وذكّر بوجود قوات وصفها بالمرتزقة، وشركات أمنية أجنبية تخطط لخلق اضطرابات أمنية في البلد، مستخدمة عناصر صومالية قال إنها باعت دينها ومبادئها بالمال، ودعا الشعب إلى أن يكون حذرا من أعمال تلك الشركات الأمنية، غير أنه لم يكشف أسماءها.

وكشف أبو زبير في كلمته عن مخطط جديد يهدف إلى إعادة أمراء الحرب السابقين الذين وصفهم بمصاصي الدماء، معربا عن خشيته باستخدامهم مرة ثانية لتدمير الشعب الصومالي.

ورحب أمير الشباب المجاهدين بانضمام الحزب الإسلامي إلى حركته، وأشار إلى أهمية الوحدة وضرورتها في المرحلة الحالية، كما دعا أعضاء الحركة وأنصارها إلى حفظ ورعاية وحدة المجاهدين “بمواصلة الجهاد في سبيل الله”.

المرحلة القادمة

وتحدث أبو زبير عن وسائل عدة للحفاظ على وحدة مجاهدي الصومال، وتقوية صفوفهم، ولخصها في خمس وسائل هي أولاها “الاستقامة على المنهج الصحيح القائم على التوحيد والجهاد، وثانيتها “”تنقية الشبكة الاجتماعية من الشوائب، بتحقيق الأخوة الصادقة بين المجاهدين، ونشر الأخلاق الفاضلة”.

وثالثة هذه الوسائل “إحياء عقيدة الولاء والبراء”، وحذر من القبلية لكونها من الوسائل الهدامة للوحدة”، أما رابعة الوسائل فهي “التضحية والعطاء في الشدائد، والإيثار في السراء، والابتعاد عن الطمع والجري وراء الدنيا، ودعا الجميع إلى مشاركة الأعمال الجهادية في سبيل الله، كما شدد على ضرورة بذل الطاقة لنصرة الإسلام.

وتتمثل الوسيلة الخامسة بالمحافظة على الوحدة في ظل تهديدات من وصفهم بالمرجفين الذين ينشرون الدعاية والإشاعة في صفوف المجاهدين.

مساعدة الفقراء

وتحدث أمير حركة الشباب المجاهدين عن الجفاف الذي يضرب على مناطق واسعة من المناطق الواقعة في الجنوب، والوسطى الخاضعة للشباب.

وطلب من التجار الصوماليين إحياء قيم التكافل بين المجتمع، والتبرع بأموالهم، لتقديم المساعدة العاجلة إلى هؤلاء الفقراء المتضررين جراء الجفاف.

كما وجه دعوة خاصة إلى الولايات التابعة للحركة بأن تلعب دورا محوريا في إدارة الجهود الرامية إلى إيصال المساعدات إلى المتأثرين بالجفاف، كما طلب منها أن تركز من الآن بوضع خطة تهدف بتقديم الخدمات التعليمية، والصحية، وخلق فرص عمل للشعب، وتشجيع الاستثمار.

نذر حرب

تأتي كلمة أمير حركة الشباب المجاهدين بعد انضمام الحزب الإسلامي إلى الحركة، حيث يرى مراقبون صوماليون أن كلمته لخصت الخطوط العريضة للحركة في المرحلة القادمة على الصعد كافة.

ورغم أن معظم الكلمة دارت حول مناسبة دمج الإسلامي بالشباب، والمهددات الخارجية، فإن الجديد فيها –وفق مراقبين- هو التطرق إلى مشاكل المواطنين اليومية، وتقديم حلول لها عبر تقديم الخدمات العامة إليهم.

وتنذر كلمة (أبو زبير) بوقوع مواجهات مسلحة دامية بين أطراف النزاع، في إشارته إلى إعادة أمراء حرب جدد، ومخطط جيبوتي، غير أنه لم يشر إلى الوسائل التي ستتخذها الحركة ضد جيبوتي.

المصدر: الجزيرة.
الرابط: http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/EXERES/AC2F6439-472A-4965-9680-B01369FFF5C1.htm.

Haneya urges Jordan’s king to press to prevent Israeli attack on Gaza

December 30, 2010

 

 

Deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya on Thursday called on Jordan’s King Abdullah II to move to curb possible Israeli military operation against Gaza.

 

 

Haneya made his remarks when he received a Jordanian official delegation in Gaza City.

 

 

“The role of the Jordanian King is important in preventing any escalation by the Israeli occupation,” Haneya said.

 

 

Violence has flared up in recent weeks along the borders, as Palestinian militants stepped up their attacks against Israel, using mortars and short-range crude missiles.

 

 

Israel responded to the Palestinian rocket fire by airstrikes that targeted some Hamas security and military sites for the first time since the end of Operation Cast Lead nearly two years ago.

 

 

Israeli fire killed 17 Palestinians this month in Gaza, including a civilian shepherd and five militants preparing to fire a rocket from central Gaza Strip.

 

 

In the light of escalation, Hamas renewed its commitment to the fragile ceasefire that Israel and the Islamic movement separately announced after the end of the three-week offensive in the winter of 2008 and 2009.

 

 

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said his movement would remain committed to the truce as long as Israel did.

 

 

Source: People’s Daily.
Link: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90854/7247327.html.

Uyghur Student Sentenced to Death

2010-12-30

 

 

A 19-year-old Uyghur becomes the second woman sentenced to die following ethnic violence last year.

 

 

A female Uyghur student in northwestern China was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension following a trial last April on charges of participating in ethnic riots that left hundreds dead, according to a classmate.

 

 

Pezilet Ekber became the second Uyghur woman to receive the death penalty in connection to the unrest. Another woman was executed by Chinese authorities earlier this year.

 

 

“Nobody knows what exactly led to Pezilet Ekber receiving such a heavy punishment, other than her ‘involvement in violence,’ because the trial was secret and her parents were only just informed of the decision,” her classmate, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote in a letter.

 

 

“After the trial, her parents were just given the judgment, and were warned to keep silent and to refrain from telling the content of judgment to anyone,” the letter said.

 

 

Pezilet Ekber, 19, had been enrolled in Russian language classes at Xinjiang University in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) capital of Urumqi just before the violence erupted, her classmate wrote.

 

 

But she had temporarily left the school because of her family’s financial difficulties and was working for a Han Chinese-owned business in the city’s Grand Bazaar as a translator and saleswoman at the time of the riots, the letter said.

 

 

Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar was one of the locations central to Uyghur demonstrations and violence during the July 5, 2009 riots, which left nearly 200 people dead, according to official Chinese estimates.

 

 

Pezilet Ekber was arrested two months after the unrest while visiting her parents in her hometown of Suydung, in the XUAR’s Qorghas [in Chinese, Huocheng] county, Ili prefecture.

 

 

In the letter, Pezilet Ekber’s classmate wrote that the two had met on July 4 last year, and that her friend had no plans to attend the demonstration the following day.

 

 

“Her workplace was at the center of the event so she was probably unable to keep herself away when she saw the demonstrators and witnessed the tragic event of the demonstrators being shot by police,” the letter said.

 

 

“She usually always took a careful approach to such subjects related to the ethnic problem, even if it was a class discussion, because of her family background—being the granddaughter of a former independence fighter.”

 

 

A concerned father

 


Pezilet Ekber’s father, Ekber, 45, was a former state security officer in Qorghas county, but was forced out of his job due to his family background when ethnic tension began to build in the XUAR in the late 1990s.

 

 

Her grandfather had served in Ili prefecture’s Gulja city as a member of the East Turkestan Liberation Army shortly after its founding in 1944, seeking independence from China.

 

 

A friend of Mr. Ekber, reached by telephone, said he had traveled to Urumqi on April 16 to visit his daughter in detention, but police ordered him to leave the city within a day of his arrival.

 

 

“He left without seeing his daughter. It happened just a few days before Pezilet’s trial,” the friend said.

 

 

“After that, I never saw him again—I guess it was in order keep his daughter’s life safe. Now he has isolated himself from the public to avoid leaking ‘state secrets.’ I don’t know whether or not he was able to visit his daughter after the trial.”

 

 

Pezilet Ekber’s boss at the shop in the Grand Bazar, a man surnamed Zhang, briefly answered questions about her detention and subsequent trial.

 

 

When asked if Pezilet Ekber was available to speak, Zhang said she hadn’t worked at the store since September.

 

 

When asked when she would return to work, he answered, “My guess is that will never happen,” but hung up the phone before responding to questions about why she was unable to return.

 

 

Employees who answered the phone at the Urumqi Intermediate Court, which handed down the punishment to Pezilet Ekber, and the Ghalibiyet Police Station, which ordered her father to leave Urumqi in April, both refused to speak with reporters.

 

 

Family a factor?

 


Ilshat Hassan, U.S.-based spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, said Pezilet Ekber may have been singled out by the court due to her family history.

 

 

“Usually family background is the most considered factor at the time of a decision, especially in political and ethnic cases tried by Chinese courts,” Hassan said.

 

 

“A Communist-oriented family background might save your life, even if you are a murderer, while an anti-communist or pro-independence family background can lead to a death sentence, even if you are innocent,” he said.

 

 

“I think Pezilet Ekber’s family background was one of the factors which influenced the decision.”

 

 

Pezilet Ekber is the second woman known to receive the death penalty in the aftermath of the Urumqi unrest, according to information made public by Chinese authorities.

 

 

In January, Hayrinsa Sawut, 20, was executed for committing murder during the riots.

 

 

A third woman, Gulmire Imin, received life in prison for her role as an “illegal organizer” during the 2009 demonstrations.

 

 

Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

 

 

Copyright © 1998-2010 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.

 

 

Source: Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Link: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/death-12302010153000.html.

‘Great Green Wall’ planners meet in Nouakchott

2010-12-26

 

 

A regional meeting on the “Great Green Wall” anti-desertification project opens in Nouakchott on Sunday (December 26th), PANA reported. Along with planting trees to combat desertification, the Senegal-led initiative includes income-generating activities that also protect African ecosystems. Upon completion within the next 5-years, the 15-kilometer wide “Great Green Wall” will cover 7,000 kilometers from Dakar to Djibouti.

 

 

Source: Magharebia.com.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/newsbriefs/general/2010/12/26/newsbrief-04.

U.S. may cut Israel missile shield funds

by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Dec 27, 2010

 

 

Israel’s increasingly troubled missile defense shield has taken another knock with media reports that budgetary problems could force the U.S. administration to delay funding for the system still being developed by Israel’s defense industry.

 

 

The aid could be put back several months, the liberal Haaretz daily reports.

 

 

That’s likely to heighten Israeli concerns over the vulnerability of the country’s cities at a time when the Jewish state faces the growing threat of missile attack on an unprecedented scale from almost every quarter.

 

 

Haaretz said the problem stems from U.S. President Barack Obama’s difficulties in pushing next year’s budget through a recalcitrant U.S. Congress.

 

 

That could result in “a long wait before the weapons can be bought” from the main manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

 

 

The state-owned company, one of Israel’s leading arms manufacturers, has produced one anti-missile defense system known as Iron Dome, and is developing another, David’s Sling, with the Raytheon Co. of Maryland.

 

 

The Israeli government has bought two mobile Iron Dome batteries, each costing around $37 million. It needs at least a dozen more in the near future to provide minimal protection but doesn’t have adequate funds.

 

 

Iron Dome, which was supposed to have been certified operational several months ago, is designed to intercept and destroy short-range missiles and rockets such as the Soviet-designed Katyushas and Grads used by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

 

 

David’s Sling would be used to shoot down medium-range missiles. The third layer in the defense shield, the high-altitude, long-range Arrow-2 system designed to down ballistic missiles, has been deployed since 2000.

 

 

It is built by the flagship Israel Aerospace Industries, which is developing a more advanced variant, Arrow-3.

 

 

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives approved Obama’s decision to provide $205 million in special aid to buy additional Iron Dome batteries.

 

 

The Americans are also jointly funding the Arrow program, although it’s not clear if this will be affected.

 

 

In September, the United States and Israel agreed to advance work on David’s Sling being developed by Rafael and Raytheon. But it isn’t expected to be operational until 2012.

 

 

However, Obama, whose administration has been reeling since Republicans scored heavily in the midterm elections, is seen as having problems getting many of his measures through Congress.

 

 

He signed a presidential order outlining his administration’s plans until March. That covers the current budget and permits him to spend 1/12th of the 2010 budget every month until March.

 

 

Haaretz reported that “under these circumstances, funding for Iron Dome will have to wait until the annual U.S. budget is approved in March.”

 

 

It said the delays will mean the planned increase of overall U.S. military aid to Israel will also be slowed down.

 

 

Israel was to have received $3 billion in 2011 but the aid package will likely remain at this year’s level of 2.775 billion. That will affect the Defense Ministry’s annual planning.

 

 

Haaretz reported the delays mean that “no plan or estimated timetable is in place for producing and purchasing” Iron Dome because there is no U.S. or Israeli funding in place.

 

 

The Israeli government has yet to decide on “additional funding to buy more Iron Dome batteries,” the newspaper said.

 

 

Even without these problems, Iron Dome, and indeed the three-tiered missile defense shield, was facing mounting skepticism about its capabilities against mass salvos of missiles.

 

 

Iron Dome was unveiled with great fanfare in July, two years ahead of schedule after Rafael reportedly had been paid a big bonus to get the system ready before its original 2012 target date.

 

 

And then, surprisingly, the military put the two batteries it had in storage in November, claiming crews needed more training on such a complex system.

 

 

On Dec. 12, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, head of the Northern Command facing Hezbollah, dropped a bombshell: Even though Israeli cities are expected to be primary targets for enemy missiles, the anti-missile systems “are designed to protect military bases, even if this means that citizens suffer discomfort.”

 

 

These developments have fueled suspicions the defense shield is unlikely to protect the civilian population from what many fear will be the most sustained and destructive bombardment unleashed against Israel.

 

 

Source: Space War.
Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_may_cut_Israel_missile_shield_funds_999.html.

Assange vows to release all files in case of death or incarceration

Thu, 30 Dec 2010

 

 

Cairo/Paris – In the event of his untimely death or long- term incarceration, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would make public all the leaked documents his group has, the activist reiterated Thursday in an interview with the broadcaster al-Jazeera.

 

 

“If I am forced, we could go to the extreme and expose each and every file that we have access to,” he said, according to media groups reporting on the interview.

 

 

In the interview, Assange reportedly said that 2,000 websites are prepared to flood the internet with information if it is deemed necessary. Right now, that information is under strong password protection.

 

 

Assange noted that the safeguard showed his group was acting responsibly.

 

 

In the interview, the last part of which was aired in the Arab world on Wednesday night, Assange alleged that many senior Arab leaders have close ties to the United States’ CIA spy agency and that several Arab countries had set up torture centers to which Washington could send suspects for questioning.

 

 

Separately, in France, the latest release from WikiLeaks was causing scandal by alleging that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had in the past received financial support from former Gabonese president Omar Bongo.

 

 

The released documents said that money had been paid to several French political parties, with some of it used to support Sarkozy.

 

 

The Elysee did not comment on the allegations.

 

 

WikiLeaks has been publishing the leaked US cables for more than a month now, based on a trove of tens of thousands of documents the whistle-blower site came into possession of earlier this year.

 

 

Source: Earth Times.
Link: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/360203,case-death-or-incarceration.html.

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