A Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan may be saved by a presidential pardon and the case - which last week drew a plea for clemency from the Pope - is expected to reignite the debate about repealing the Draconian law.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minority Affairs, said Monday he is convinced that Asia Bibi, accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed and sentenced to hang, "is innocent." Mr. Bhatti is to submit a report to President Asif Ali Zardari on the case this week.
Ms. Bibi's case provoked international concern and even criticism inside Pakistan, where sensitive Islamic issues rarely lead to dissension or debate. Mr. Zardari is now expected to overturn her sentence and officials indicated Monday that a pardon is likely within the next couple of weeks.
While Ms. Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, looks set to gain her freedom after languishing in jail for a year-and-a-half, it will take a huge effort to change the blasphemy law itself.
"Asia Bibi's release will not stop the injustice. That won't end until this heinous law is repealed," said Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. "The blasphemy law has become an instrument of coercion used to terrorize minorities."
The blasphemy accusation itself is often enough for vigilantes to take matters into their own hands. Last week, a 22-year-old man was shot and killed outside his home in Lahore after being granted bail on a blasphemy charge.
Mr. Zardari's top representative in the Punjab province, Salman Taseer, said: "The President has made it clear that she [Asia Bibi] will not be punished. He will grant her a pardon. "This is a disgraceful case, it is a disgraceful law. It has to be repealed," he added.
But I bet it won't be. not any time soon. Note the picture attached to the Globe and Mail report - even in Prison, while brought before a government official, a Christian woman also has to cover her face.
Nothing, answers Aryn Baker and Abigail Hauslohner for Time:
If Ghania were campaigning for one of Egypt's mainstream secular parties, her progressive platform would hardly merit notice. But she is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned but widely popular group that Egypt's ruling party insists is too religious and too conservative to be allowed to exist as a fully legal party in a fledgling democratic system. For that reason, Ghania, whose father is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, must run as an independent.
When Egyptians go to the polls Nov. 28, they won't find the country's largest opposition group on the ballot. All of the Brotherhood's candidates will, like Ghania, be standing as "independents," a transparent subterfuge that allowed the group to win one-fifth of parliamentary seats five years ago. To make things harder for the Brotherhood this time around, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which is largely perceived as corrupt and nepotistic, has rolled back some of the reforms that had made the 2005 election the most unhindered of President Hosni Mubarak's 29-year rule.
The government justifies the ban on the Brotherhood by arguing that religion has no role in Egyptian politics. Increasingly, however, Egyptians are starting to wonder if the Brotherhood's popularity is less a threat to Egyptian society than it is to the ruling party's grip on power. "They are good guys, not terrorists," says travel agent Ahmed Barakat. "But the government won't let them campaign, not even in student elections, [because] they will win."
The Brotherhood's dogged survival presents the question: What would happen if it were allowed to compete in a free democracy? Its opponents have no doubt about its nature. General Fouad Allam, a former chief of Egypt's internal security services who spent decades monitoring the Brotherhood, says it is similar in scope to the international communist movement but "more organized and more engaged."
The Brotherhood rejects such claims as politically motivated fearmongering, while Egypt's secular opposition argues that the government stokes fear of the Brotherhood to quash real democratic change. "This is the myth that Mubarak has been selling for 30 years," says Ibrahim Issa, the former editor of the influential newspaper al-Dustour, who was recently dismissed because, he says, of his overt criticism of the regime. (The newspaper's owners say the dismissal was due to an internal dispute.) "He is using the Muslim Brotherhood as a scarecrow. Mubarak says, 'It's either me or the jihadists.' [It's] his only guarantee for staying in power."
Yes, Mubarak is a dictatorial thug, as was Shah Rezah Pahlavi of Iran, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, Bashir Assad of Syria, and all the other dictatorial thugs in all the other Islamic thugocracies. But is does not follow that the Muslim Brotherhood, in their opposition to these not-Muslim-enough-Muslims, are after "real democratic change", or "modernization", or "freedom". Their goal is to install sharia, which is incompatible with all of those concepts.
Mubarak isn't alone in making a bogeyman of the Brotherhood: governments across the Arab world regard it with varying degrees of suspicion. In Syria, for instance, the group has clashed with the secular Baathist regime and now operates almost entirely underground. Western governments aren't always sure how to view it. Since the Brotherhood gave up violence 40 years ago, says Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "there are no grounds for calling them a terrorist organization. But they do strongly support Hamas financially and politically."
Just how scared should we be of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood? In numerical terms, it doesn't present much of a threat. Membership is in the low hundreds of thousands, and in a fair election, the Islamists would not be expected to win - in 2005, only 3% of the population voted for the Brotherhood. And some of those votes were in protest of an inept regime rather than wholehearted endorsements of the Islamist cause.
And so on. This is a new low in journalism: a veritable advocacy puff piece for a banned terrorist organization. So, What's So Scary About Muslim Brotherhood? Time doesn't think it worth mentioning, but here is an excerpt from a 1991 document by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Akram:
The general strategic goal of the Brotherhood in America which was approved by the Shura [Leadership] Council and the Organizational Conference for 1987 is "enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims' causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base; aims at unifying and directing Muslims' efforts; presents Islam as a civilization alternative; and supports the global Islamic state, wherever it is." ... The priority that is approved by the Shura Council for the work of the Brotherhood in its current and former session is "Settlement."
The process of settlement is a "Civilization-Jihadist process" with all that the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slackers and the Mujahidin be equal.
I disagree with framing the issue as whether or not Muslim Brotherhood is "scary", but at any rate these are certainly not the type of activities and goals that we should be supporting and promoting in our national publications. The Muslim Brotherhood are not a bunch of freedom fighters valiantly struggling to free their nations from oppression. By their own words, they wish to destroy our form of government and enslave us all to their Allah. If they mean to accomplish this through deception and corrupt influence rather than through direct violence, that does not make them any more palatable.
Yedioth Interview with Wilders: "Israel Is Fighting Our War”
A tip of the hat to Baron Bodissey of the Gates of Vienna blog that published this translation from the Hebrew of an interview with Dutch MP Geert Wilders that appeared in the Friday, November 19, 2010 print edition of Israeli publication Yedioth Ahronoth.
Many thanks to DarLink for translating it from the Hebrew:
Even a journalist from a friendly country such as Israel does not escape invasive hands of the security guards who protect Geert Wilders. At the entry point to the interview with Holland's extreme politician, founder and leader of the anti-Islamic "Party for Freedom" [PVV], bodyguards do not hold back, and run extensive security checks. Time and again they recheck my identity, making sure that I possess nothing that could potentially turn into a weapon.
Wilders, on the other hand, looks disconnected from the security turmoil around him. It seems that he must be used to it. That's the way it is if you are one of the most threatened persons in the world.
"To tell the truth, yes, I fear for my life," he admits.
"I am just a man. The danger does not come only from Holland. It is outside too. There are very serious threats from various terror groups, and when one is aware of the extent of the danger, it is only human to think that something bad will happen. But I cannot allow these thoughts to affect my work. If I moderate my voice because of the threats, stop saying what is on my mind, or quit being a politician, those people will have used anti-democratic means, threats and murders to silence others. They will win. I am not going to let them".
He has reason to fear. His statements against Islam, his demands to stop immigration of Muslims to his country, the building of new mosques or wearing the veil in public - all that did the job. Although in Europe he is recognized as the most prominent leader of the anti-Islam movement, imams in the Muslim world have sentenced him to death. Terror groups promise to murder him - a man who until recently was an obscure politician with hardly any influence, but now, thanks only to his support, a new Dutch government was formed a few weeks ago.
Wilders says aloud what many Dutch and EU citizens probably think, and he pays a very heavy price for that. He lives under around-the-clock tight protection in a "safe house" provided by the Dutch government. He is the only parliamentary representative with an "unknown" home address.
"It is sad that while fighting for my country's freedom I lost my own," says Wilders in a special interview for Yedioth. "I have only freedom of speech and thought. Threats to my life prove that my arguments are just. I am sure that if I spoke with criticism about Christianity or Judaism, there would be no such radical response. There would be no demonstrations in Vatican. The Dutch flag would not be burnt. A million and a half people who voted for us in the last elections do not see me as a fascist or a racist."
In two weeks Wilders is coming for a visit to Israel as a guest of a parliament member Ariel Eldad. He is invited to participate in a conference against the two-state solution.
"Israel is the lighthouse and the only democracy in this backward and dictatorial part of the world," he proclaims. "Israel is very close to us, to our European identity. Israel fights our war."
It Is Not About Color
Just a few days ago Dutch court decided not to punish a Muslim rapper who wrote in one of his songs that he is going to attack Wilders. "Geert, this is not a joke. Last night I had a dream about taking off your head," the rapper sings and promises "Anyone who talks about Muslims will be killed."
There are many rumors about Wilders' way of life. They say that he does not sleep in the same place twice in a row, that he does not see his wife for months.
At first, six years ago, when the government did not have "safe houses", "My wife and I stayed for a few months in a prison," he says. "The cells we lived in had been previously occupied by two Libyan agents, responsible for "Pan Am" plane slaughter. We were not there as prisoners, but as protected personas. We also slept on military bases around Holland and military planes took us, if need be, to our meetings. It was insane. There were times when I had to put on a wig, a false mustache, and a pair of sunglasses to prevent others from recognizing me."
Wilders stands out as a leader of anti-Islamic movement in Europe. Six years ago he left the Liberal Party [VVD] and founded an independent fraction. His party's unpredicted success in last year's elections to EU Parliament stunned the political arena.
In last summer's elections to the Dutch parliament, The Party for Freedom tripled its numbers and became the third largest party in The Hague's House of Representatives [Tweede Kamer]. The latest polls show that if new elections were held today, his party would be the largest, with 31% of the vote.
The standoff between the two largest parties - Liberals [VVD] and Social-Democrats [PvdA]- left the coalition negotiations stranded until they decided in a surprising move to form a minority government that will be supported by the Party for Freedom. From now on Wilders is an officially recognized and accepted part of Dutch politics.
Extreme right? Racist? Fascist? "I am the direct opposite of all this," protests Wilders. "We use democratic means only. We are definitely not racists; we do not care about the people's skin color. It is ridiculous to claim that all of our voters are fascists. It is an insult - not just to me, but to them as well. There are not that many insane people in Holland. But the political elite, who failed to solve the problems we talk about openly - massive immigration, crime rates, Islam - still thinks that it is not politically correct to talk about that. They see us getting wide support and they demonize us in response."
Wilders says that well-established parties around Europe have no idea how to treat parties like his. "They try to stick all kinds of labels on us and then they copy what we do. A few weeks ago I made a speech in Berlin. I told Germans "Please forget your past. New generations are not responsible for what happened. Get rid of your past, because it prevents you from speaking freely about problems created by mass immigration and Islam.
"Angela Merkel and half of the government ministers criticized my speech and stated that I had no right to say things like that. A few weeks later, when surveys showed that if a party similar to mine were to be founded in Germany, it would get 20% of the voters' support, Merkel changed direction and proclaimed the failure of the multicultural society."
By the way, Islam is not a religion, in Wilders' opinion. "It is a totalitarian ideology. There is no place in it for anything but Islam itself. It wants to control not only one's private life, but the society's life as well. If you are an atheist, a Christian, or a Jew living in a society where Islam is dominant, your life is very difficult. That's why comparisons must be made between Islam and other totalitarian ideologies like communism and fascism.
"I have nothing against Muslims as human beings. Most of them are law-abiding people like you and me. But I am against mass immigration from Muslim countries, because immigrants will bring their culture here, which, if permitted to be dominant, will change our society. Already in countries with a sizable Muslim minority, those changes for the worse can be seen."
In your struggle, you find yourself in the company of some very problematic parties such as Party for Freedom of Austria or France's National Front.
"We do not have and never will have anything in common with those extremist parties. They are very different from us. We are conservative on issues concerning our culture and liberals on many other issues. The majority of Holland's gays vote for us - they would never do that if we were extremists."
Ariel Sharon As An Example
Wilders (47) is one of the most ardent and loud of Israel's supporters in Europe, and contrary to many others he does not bother to hide this. He had even insisted on including in the platform of the new Dutch government the intention to improve relations with Israel.
"I am very glad that Israel is the only country mentioned by name in the platform; this will get it the needed attention," he said "We are Israel's best friends and we will support it in any way possible." He bursts out laughing when asked about allegations of his being an "Israeli agent".
"Common!" he says "It is obvious that I am not an Israel's spy. It is insane. I am a Dutch politician and I work for Holland and what is best for its citizens. But I am a friend of Israel, and I am not afraid to say so. Because of my open support of Israel, people who do not like me invent these stories. The Iranian press states that I am a Mossad agent. Jordanians call me Shabak's man. It's nonsense."
His romance with Israel started when he was 17 years old and came here to work as a volunteer for a year. "I enjoyed it very much, and not only because of the beautiful Israeli girls," he recalls. "I was not involved in politics back then at all. I worked in the tourist industry in Eilat, a bakery plant in Jerusalem, and the cooperative settlement Tomar in the Jordan Valley. I went through some tense times in Tomar because the border with Jordan was not very secure. We had to take shelter from time to time when terrorists managed to cross over. We saw the arrival of IDF helicopters - for someone from the south of Holland who went to Amsterdam just a few times, those were very impressive experiences."
Over the years Wilders visited many Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia and Afghanistan. "I've met with some very friendly people over there, too," he clarifies, "but the power in those countries is in the hands of the dictators. These people deserve better living conditions."
He has many friends in Israel, and some of them are politicians. He had a very warm relationship with Ariel Sharon for example, whom he still admires. "Sharon was demonized in the West, too, but he was a great politician, and I take an example from him," Wilders emphasizes.
"I believe that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not territorial. Anyone who claims otherwise has no idea what he is talking about. If you gave up Western Bank and East Jerusalem and let the Palestinians have it, that would not end the conflict. It will take some time - a month, a year, ten years - but they will demand the rest of your country, because it is an ideological conflict. The solution therefore could not be territorial; it has to be ideological.
"Palestinians believe - and this is the nature of Islam - that Israel is theirs, and through the struggle with Israel they fight the non-Muslim West. The fight against Israel is the fight against us. We are Israel. The reason for Dutch parents' good night sleep with no worries for their children is that parents in Israel go through sleepless nights because their children are in the Army. It does not mean that Israel cannot be criticized, but I am not ashamed to fight for Israel."
At the conference Wilders will try to convince the public that Palestinians already have a country of their own. "Jordan is Palestine," he states. "This was true in the past after Sykes-Picot agreement, and thus it is a solution to the conflict. Even the Jordan kings, Abdulla and Hussein, said so in the past. Only after they realized that these statements could endanger their reign, because Palestinians are a majority in Jordan, did they change their minds. I am against the idea of transfer or ethnic cleansing, but if Jordan became Palestine, it would be possible to encourage Palestinians to move there. Of course I will not be the one who decides how to end this conflict. Israel is a democracy and will decide for itself which solution is best for it. It is your decision."
What is your opinion on Israel's debate concerning the "loyalty oath"? Could it be implemented in Holland too?
"I think it is a good idea. Even though the background in Holland is different, I think that a pledge of allegiance to the country is a good thing. We will not be able to pass such legislation with the current government in Holland. I talked in the past about an integration agreement between the state and the immigrants or a loyalty oath, which will show their commitment first of all to our country and our values, our constitution, and our culture. It would be a positive step to take. The people of Europe have no idea who they are anymore, that's why they do not know what to fight for. We have to reinvent our identity. In France, for example, before every speech by the president, the French flag is displayed and the national anthem is played. If someone tried to do that in Holland, everyone would think that he was out of his mind. We do not have a flag even in Parliament. You are not a racist if you are proud of your national uniqueness and fight to preserve your culture. The idea that all cultures are equal was forced on us by the left and the liberals, and is in fact the Europe's worst sickness. People cannot see any difference between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam anymore despite the fact that they are worlds apart and are different in a thousand ways. We are fighting this idea, and we are slowly winning."
Europe Is Not a Friend
Wilders does not hide his support for military action against Iran. "Iran is the biggest geopolitical threat to Israel, to the stability of the Middle East region, Europe, and the whole world," he says. "That country is ruled by insane, religious lunatics like Khamenei or other crazies like Ahmadinejad. We can see some changes over there these days. Even the Revolutionary Guard is voicing criticism. Iran could explode from the inside. The danger in countries that deal with such an internal threat is that their regime may react violently and unpredictably. I am afraid of that. Because of the growing internal unrest, we cannot allow them to implement any program that could potentially be put to a military use. They will look for the common external enemy, and Israel would be the first to pay the price. I hope that diplomacy will lead to a peaceful resolution, but if Israel decides it has no other option but to strike Iran militarily in order to defend itself against this existential threat, I will understand. The alternative is the destruction of Israel."
Is Turkey on its way to becoming a new Iran?
"Turkey is a very complex country. We have good relations with Turkey. It is a respected NATO member. But at the same time it is a country which can easily turn to the ways of Islam. I am against the American pressure on the EU to grant membership to Turkey. Europe does not need such a large country, where Islam is dominant, as a member. A good neighbor is not the same as a family member. If Turkey were to become a EU member, it would be required to fulfill certain criteria, one of which is to dismantle the army. I am quite uneasy about this. The army is Turkey's only balancing power. If the army is dismantled, people like Erdogan could accelerate the Islamization process, which will turn Turkey into the Trojan horse in the heart of Europe. I also would not want to have a common border with such criminal countries as Iran and Syria."
And what is your opinion on Israel joining the union?
"I would advise my friends in Israel not to consider such an option. The Union has always supported Palestinians. Israel has a lot of friends in Europe, but Europe is not a friend to Israel."
While The American Government Continues Idiotically To Be Preoccupied -- In All The Wrong Ways -- With Afghanistan (Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Your Wretched Muslim Country Here), Elsewhere Things Are Happening
North Korean dictator-in-waiting linked to deadly artillery attack
John Garnaut HERALD CORRESPONDENT
November 24, 2010
Flashpoint . . . smoke billows from houses on Yeonpyeong island after the North Korean artillery barrage. Photo: AFP
NORTH KOREA has burnished the leadership credentials of its 26-year-old dictator-in-waiting with a deadly artillery attack on South Korean territory, causing its neighbour to return fire and scramble F-16 fighters.
Two South Korean marines died, and at least 12 were wounded. There were reports of civilian injuries and houses were set ablaze as scores of shells fell on Yeonpyeong island.
A North Korea expert at Beijing's Central Party School, Zhang Liangui, told the Herald that Kim Jong-un was deliberately destabilising the environment in order to mobilise the military and consolidate his power.
The South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak, held an emergency meeting and told officials to 'respond sternly' but to avoid aggravating the situation. The military were placed on high alert.
North Korea accused South Korea of firing first. 'The South Korean enemy, despite our repeated warnings, committed reckless military provocations of firing artillery shells into our maritime territory near Yeonpyeong island,' the military supreme command said.
The north's military 'will continue to make merciless military attacks with no hesitation if the South Korean enemy dares to invade our sea territory by 0.001 mm', it said in the statement carried by the official news agency. 'It is our military's traditional response to quell provocative actions with a merciless thunderbolt.'
There have been previous skirmishes along the border - including the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors when the corvette Cheonan was torpedoed on March 26 - but the stakes are getting higher.
The exchange follows the revelation last week of a hitherto unknown North Korean uranium enrichment plant to a visiting US scientist. Siegfried Hecker, who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told The New York Times he had been 'stunned' by the plant's sophistication. North Korea said it was operating 2000 centrifuges.
If verified, this would take Pyongyang towards creating a far more powerful arsenal than the estimated eight to 12 plutonium-based warheads that have been built over the past five years.
The US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, arrived in Beijing last night to brief officials on North Korea's new enrichment facilities.
Chinese North Korea specialists believe the brinkmanship is designed to mobilise the country around the anointed successor of Kim Jong-il, his son Kim Jong-un.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed 'concern' at yesterday's attack and warned against further escalation. He said it was 'imperative' that six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions be resumed.
A French diplomatic source said the United Nations Security Council would hold an emergency session.
The White House said it was 'firmly committed to the defence' of its ally, Seoul.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was briefed on the situation last night. She condemned the attack and said Australia was consulting closely with South Korea, Japan and the US.
Professor Zhang said the latest incident was unlikely to escalate because the North was mainly 'venting anger'.
Beyond the succession, he said the North wanted concessions from the South and to be acknowledged internationally as a nuclear state.
Jeff Buske has created a special kind of underwear with strategically placed fig-leaf designs he says will shield TSA scanners from viewing fliers' private parts and keep travelers safe from radiation emitted from the notorious "backscatter" x-ray machines.
Buske, an engineer, said his briefs, bras and inserts, which he's marketing under the name Rocky Top Gear, use a special metal that protects people's privacy when undergoing medical or security screenings.
"The object is...to protect the public, educate people and ultimately see these X-ray machines put in the Dumpster," Buske told CBS4 Denver.
The undergarments come in designs featuring a pair of women's hands modestly clasped together and inserts shaped like shields and stop signs.
The gear is currently for sale online at some ominously cryptic prices.
A pair of fig-leaf themed tighty-whiteys is available for a "special" offer of $19.84, while a women's bra insert costs $9.11 and women's briefs costs $17.76.
While the gear won't protect fliers from a TSA frisking, Buske says his undies should achieve a happy medium between what travelers want to keep hidden and what security officials need to see.
"If someone is trying to hide something large under the thing, it's going to show up as a bulge, visible to the eye," Buske told CBS4.
There is an old crossword joke that depends, crucially, on a reliable straight man:
Crossword clue: The overloaded postman
Straight man: How many letters?
Cunning cruciverbalist: Too many
If you think crosswords are difficult, read this hadith and try to work out the number of letters and total reward:
The Messenger of Allah S.W.T. said: "Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that "Alif, Laam, Meem" is a letter, rather I am saying that "Alif" is a letter, "laam" is a letter and "meem" is a letter."
Reported by at-Tirmidhi on the authority of 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud and it is a sound hadith.
But if "laam" is a letter, what's "l" and what's "a"?
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Practically exhaustive solution ideas sleep furiously. But what does Ideation TRIZ actually do?
"Ideation's modern version of TRIZ is unique. It helps to crystallize the interplay of causes and effects between useful and undesired functions in any system, business or engineering effort, leading to an exhaustive set of solutions to sub-problems that, if implemented, increase system ideality. As a brainstorming tool it is very effective. The automated formulation process quickly generates a high number of prototypical directions in which solutions can be sought, with the potential to create significant concepts that were previously missed or unimplemented. The generality of the new approach is surprising for those who believe I- TRIZ is only relevant in hard-core engineering. (Howard Smith, Computer Sciences Corporation)
Counter-terrorism police across Europe have rounded up 10 suspects accused of planning attacks on targets in Belgium. The individuals were detained in swoops on addresses in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Belgian prosecutors said those arrested were suspected of planning a possible attack in Belgium, but no targets were specified. Others were suspected of involvement in recruiting for a Chechen terrorist group called the Caucasus Emirate.
The suspects were of Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan and Russian nationality. Other arrests have previously been made in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Belgian prosecutors said "there was talk of plans for an attack in Belgium by an international jihadist organization" which used the website Ansar al-Mujahideen, a leading jihadi forum. The police also targeted "the recruiters, candidate jihadists and financing" for the Caucasus Emirate, which aims to establish an Islamic emirate in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.
Seven suspects were arrested in Belgium, two in the Netherlands and one in Germany. Pictures on Belgian television showed heavily armed police making a dawn raid in the northern port of Antwerp and detaining at least two people, including a woman.
Germany's Federal Criminal Police said one person was arrested near Aachen at the request of Belgian authorities, in connection with suspicion of recruiting young men in Belgium to fight in Chechnya.
Dutch prosecutors said they had detained three men aged 25, 26 and 28 in Amsterdam at the request of Belgian authorities on suspicion of involvement in international terrorism. The Dutch National Prosecutor's Office said Austria was also involved in the operation.
Meanwhile in Germany security is being tightened ahead of the opening of the traditional Christmas markets which draw tens of thousands of international visitors each year, many from the UK. Germans are facing the prospect of seeing armed troops on the streets for the first time since Hitler's armies were destroyed in WW2 as police leaders tell politicians they cannot contain the mounting terror threat alone.
Klaus Jansen, head of the Professional Police Association, said; "We must assume that the exceptional circumstances for police through the acute terror danger will last long into the next year. Law enforcement personnel alone will not be capable of sustaining that level of protection.' He said the Bundeswehr, the German army, must be drafted in to help.
This would involve the breaking of a massive taboo in Germany that has been in place since the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945 and the start of a pacifistic streak which now runs deep through society. Deploying troops on to the streets - a regular sight at Paris rail stations and tourist magnets - would be a massive jolt to the German psyche and would require a change in the current law which forbids such actions. Lower Saxony Interior Minister Uwe Schuenemann of the conservative CDU backed the police calls and said it was time for Angela Merkel to get the troops out of the barrack and on to the streets.
Since interior minister Thomas de Maziere's warning of a terror plot last week security has spiked at dozens of locations across Germany. On Monday the world famous glass dome of the Reichstag parliament building was closed to tourists, fuelling fears that this was one of the targets for a Mumbai-style massacre of innocents which has been mooted in the media.
Fofana, The Head Torturer And Killer Of Ilan Halimi, Will Not Be Heard In Court
From Le Monde:
Procès du gang des barbares : la cour renonce à entendre Fofana comme témoin
Le président des assises des mineurs du Val-de-Marne, qui rejuge en appel le gang des barbares, a renoncé à entendre comme témoin Youssouf Fofana, condamné à la perpétuité pour le meurtre d'Ilan Halimi en 2006, en raison de ses provocations, a-t-on appris mardi 23 novembre auprès d'avocats.
"Le président (Olivier Leurent) a annoncé lundi que Fofana ne serait plus amené devant la cour jusqu'à la fin du procès en raison de son silence et du risque qu'il ne se livre à de nouvelles provocations", a indiqué l'un d'eux.
Jusqu'à la fin des débats, le "cerveau" du gang des barbares ne sera donc plus extrait de la prison de la Santé où il purge une peine de réclusion à perpétuité pour avoir enlevé et assassiné Ilan Halimi, jeune homme de 23 ans d'origine juive, en 2006.
Ayant renoncé à faire appel de sa condamnation en 2009, il était cité comme simple témoin devant la cour, qui rejuge 17 de ses complices présumés. Lors de sa première apparition à Créteil, Youssouf Fofana s'était d'abord muré dans le silence, vêtu d'un tee-shirt floqué de l'inscription "Allah Akbar", avant d'annoncer qu'il n'avait plus "rien à dire" et qu'il emporterait ses secrets "dans la tombe".
Deux personnes qui ont participé à l'enlèvement d'Ilan Halimi, ciblé parce que juif, en janvier 2006 n'ont jamais pu être identifiées. Par la suite, Youssouf Fofana avait affirmé devant la cour qu'il ne sortirait de son silence qu'à la condition qu'une vidéo de lui soit mise en ligne sur le site internet You Tube.
Dix-sept personnes comparaissent à huis clos à Créteil jusqu'au 17 décembre pour plusieurs projets d'enlèvement et pour avoir, pour certains, séquestré Ilan Halimi pendant trois semaines au début 2006 à Bagneux (Hauts-de-Seine). L'un des accusés, mineur au moment des faits, est jugé avec la circonstance aggravante de l'antisémitisme.
Iran's nuclear-fuel production facilities were temporarily suspended this month, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said, in the latest sign of the difficulties Tehran is facing in advancing its atomic work.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency believe the brief stoppage of centrifuges at the Natanz uranium-enrichment site, which started on November 16, was related to the infection of the facility's control systems by the Stuxnet computer worm, according to diplomats briefed on the report.
The development, said officials with knowledge of the nuclear program, has compounded problems Iran is already facing in running and scaling up the centrifuge cascades at the site in central Iran.
Tehran's first generation of centrifuges are operating at only 60% of their designed capacity, said these officials. Tehran has so far been unable to employ more advanced equipment at Natanz, probably because of difficulties it is facing in obtaining high-end raw materials.
"This is clearly showing that they're having technical problems with their machines," said Olli Heinonen, who served as the IAEA's top nuclear inspector until August.
U.S. officials in recent weeks have said sanctions are making it difficult for Iran to obtain the equipment to advance its nuclear work. The problems at Natanz could prevent Iran from rapidly enriching its uranium stockpile to the levels needed for an atomic bomb.
Still, American officials Tuesday said the latest IAEA report shouldn't reduce the international drive to use financial pressure to force Iran into negotiations to end its nuclear work. They also noted fears that Iran could be hiding some of its nuclear installations.
"It seems like they're struggling," said a senior U.S. official. "But North Korea is an instructive case for Iran: Every time they've faced a failure they've somehow found a way to work things out."
Beginning in June, Iran reported computer attacks on its industrial nuclear installations, including Natanz and the nuclear power reactor in Bushehr.
Independent computer engineers have, subsequently, reported that the Stuxnet worm had been designed to attack computer operating systems of sophisticated machinery-and most of the systems affected by the worm have been in Iran. Speculation has focused on either Israel or the U.S. as the source of the worm, something neither country has confirmed or denied.
On Tuesday, the head of the Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, denied that his country's nuclear program had been significantly harmed by the Stuxnet computer worm. "Fortunately the nuclear Stuxnet virus has faced a dead end," he told Iran state media.
The IAEA reported that Iran has produced over 3,100 kilograms of low-enriched uranium at Natanz, approximately enough for two atomic weapons if the material is processed further into weapons grade.
Details of Iran's temporary halt in enrichment were contained in a nine-page report released Tuesday by the IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano that was prepared in advance of the U.N. agency's Board of Governors meeting next week.
Mr. Amano also said the opportunity to resolve key questions about Iran's nuclear program is increasingly in jeopardy as time passes. An IAEA report on Syria's alleged nuclear activity, also released Tuesday, aired the same concern.
Mr. Amano wrote it is "essential" that Iran grant the agency access to key people, documents and facilities. "The passage of time and the possible deterioration in the availability of some relevant information increase the urgency of this matter," the report said.
The IAEA says Iran since August 2008 has declined to cooperate with the agency's investigation into whether it has engaged in "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile." These activities "may have continued beyond 2004," the IAEA report says.
Iran says it is fulfilling its international obligations to cooperate with the IAEA and its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.
Diplomats from Russia, China, France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. have proposed talks with Iran to discuss outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear program, including details for the delivery of fuel for Iran's medical research reactor, which produces medical isotopes. So far, no date and venue have been set.
Also on Tuesday, the IAEA said Syria's failure to cooperate with the agency's investigation of activity at four locations have prevented progress in resolving questions about alleged undisclosed nuclear activity. In 2007 Israeli planes bombed one of the sites, Dair Alzour, before international inspectors could determine whether the site contained nuclear facilities.
Syria denies the site contained nuclear facilities.
"With the passage of time, some of the information concerning the Dair Alzour site is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely," an IAEA report on Syria's nuclear program says. The agency says Syrian cooperation is "critical, to resolving "safeguards implementation issues" in Syria.