Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Iraq attacks on security forces kill four

Attacks on security forces north of Baghdad killed three soldiers and a policeman on Wednesday, police and medics said, the latest in an uptick in violence less than two weeks ahead of elections.

In the main northern city of Mosul, gunmen attacked a military checkpoint, killing the soldiers.
In the Diyala provincial town of Muqdadiya, a roadside bomb killed the policeman.
Violence left 271 Iraqis dead last month, the highest monthly figure since August, according to an AFP tally, and comes ahead of provincial elections due on 20 April.
The polls will be the first in Iraq since 2010, and come after the withdrawal of US forces at the end of 2011.
Attacks on candidates have left at least a dozen election hopefuls dead, according to an AFP tally. That, and the fact that only 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces will vote due to a government postponement has drawn the credibility of the elections into question.

New allegations against Bassem Youssef

Egyptian prosecutors have begun an investigation into three new complaints against TV satirist Bassem Youssef. He is accused of harming diplomatic ties between Egypt and Pakistan, promoting atheism and insulting the attorney-general.

Youssef is accused of harming diplomatic ties with Pakistan for his comments mocking President Morsi's speech at a Pakistani university in March.
Youssef hosts the popular weekly satirical show El-Bernameg on private satellite channel CBC.
He said Egyptians could not understand the speech, only the Pakistanis could.
The second allegation is based on Youssef's comments about religious obligations, such as prayers, which allegedly promote atheism.
The third allegation is over comments Youssef made at the prosecutor-general's office that allegedly mocked the attorney-general.
On 31 March, Youssef was interrogated by prosecutors over allegations that he insulted the president and Islam. He was released on bail.
During the interrogation Youssef tweeted: "Police officers and lawyers at the prosecutor-general's office want to be photographed with me, maybe this is why they ordered my arrest?"
The complaints were filed by 12 people after an episode of El-Barnameg on 1 March in which Youssef mocked the president's performance in an interview with TV anchor Amr El-Leithy.
In January, a number of Islamist lawyers filed a separate lawsuit against Youssef for "undermining the standing of the president" during his show, but the charges were dropped before the case reached court.

Egypt's religious endowments ministry cleared after bomb scare

Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments (awqaf) in Cairo's downtown district evacuated its employees on Wednesday afternoon following reports that two bombs had been planted inside the building, Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website has reported.
The interior ministry has dispatched police armed with sniffer dogs to inspect the building, while ambulances remain stationed outside ministry premises.
As of 5:30pm, police were still in the process inspecting the building.

Egyptians march against sectarianism

Hundreds of people marched in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday to condemn sectarianism and call for unity between Muslims and Christians.
The march began at Al-Fath Mosque in downtown Cairo and ended at St Mark's Cathedral, the headquarters of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, in the Abbasiya district.
Two people were killed and at least 90 injured on Sunday when unknown assailants attacked mourners outside St Mark's Cathedral where a funeral service was being held for four Copts killed on Saturday in sectarian violence in Qalioubiya, north of Cairo.
It was one of the worst flare-ups of sectarian violence since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
At Tuesday's protest, angry crowds condemned President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's Islamist-led government, the Muslim Brotherhood and the interior ministry.
"The people want the downfall of the regime," the crowds chanted.
Some protesters held a copy of the Quran in one hand and a cross in the other.
Others chanted, "Cross and crescent are one, mosque and church are one."
"The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party hired thugs to attack the cathedral [on Sunday] with the help of the Central Security Forces," claimed Lilyan Saber of the Maspero Youth Movement.
Several political forces and public figures have blamed the interior ministry for the violence on Sunday, with some calling for the dismissal of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.
Karima El-Hefnawy, a leading member of the opposition National Salvation Front, attributed recent sectarian violence to the "inflammatory climate" which the Islamist-led government had allowed to grow.
"The regime is held responsible because of its silence about the rise of hard-line extremists who ignite strife and violence," El-Hefnawy alleged.
She added, "Any violence nowadays takes place at the hands of the Islamist groups' militias, namely the Brotherhood, who first shed blood outside the presidential palace [in December 2012]."
Egypt's Christian minority, around 10 percent of the population, has felt under increasing pressure following the electoral success of Islamist parties and Mohamed Morsi. Christians have long complained of discrimination, particularly in the fields of employment and law.
Sheikh Emad Taha of Al-Azhar condemned the attacks on the cathedral and said, "No nation is built by one faction."
Protesters carried the sheikh on their shoulders at one point during the march.
Egyptian Socialist Party Secretary-General Ahmed Bahaaeddin Shaaban said, "[The Brotherhood] seeks to spark internal strife in order to drain people's energy and distract them from standing up to authority. The Brotherhood is failing. It is sectarian and anti-democratic."
He went on to say there are now extremists in parliament and the cabinet.
"Egypt is witnessing the promotion of sectarianism and the rise of extremist groups," Shaaban added. "The decision to allow religious campaigning in elections will, I say, lead Egypt into civil war."
Omm Ali, a 52-year-old working-class woman, told Ahram Online she had attended the funeral service at the cathedral on Sunday.
"When they attacked us, I refused to leave. I phoned my husband and my kids to come and join us to protect the cathedral.
"Morsi's regime does not care about a cathedral or a mosque," she said, in reference to recent attacks on Al-Azhar Sheikdom after a mass food-poisoning incident which some claim was a Brotherhood plot to discredit Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb. "Morsi only cares about his people and clan."
"[The Brotherhood] seeks to provoke strife in order to tighten its grip on all state institutions," her 12-year-old son added before shouting "thugs" at a passing Central Security Forces vehicle.
Omm Abdel-Rahman, wearing a full Islamic face veil (typically worn by ultra-conservative Islamists), led chants calling for unity.
"There is no such thing as Muslim and Christian. We are all one hand," she said.
Actress and political activist Taysir Fahmy also joined the march.
"I am calling on all Egyptians to take to the streets to topple this regime which has sold the country," she said. "This is a terrorist regime that wants to intimidate people because they speak out. We don't want them. All their ploys have been unmasked."
A number of political parties and movements took part in the march, which was called for by the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. The participants included the Constitution Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Free Egyptian Party, the Popular Current, the Maspero Youth Movement, Youth for Justice and Freedom, and the Women's Organisations Alliance.