Irish police say they have seized nearly $5 million in a series of raids on suspected Republican safehouses across the country, uncovering what hardline Justice Minister Michael McDowell called a "colossal crime machine, laundering huge sums of money." One suspected IRA militant was reportedly caught burning a pile of British currency in his backyard. But authorities admitted they were unable to determine if any of the money came from December's massive Belfast bank heist which British and Irish officials alike have blamed on the IRA, leading to a breakdown of peace talks. (AP, Feb. 19)
Six are dead and over 40 injured following a car bomb attack in the southern Thai city of Sungai Kolok. The bomb went off in a hotel parking lot hours after newly-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had completed a visit to the restive Muslim-majority region. The government blamed relatives of wanted insurgent leaders for the blast.
In the global outcry over the slaying of US nun Dorothy Stang, a local crusader for the Amazon rainforest and its threatened peasants and Indians, Brazil's President Luis Inacio da Silva signed a decree Feb. 17 creating two vast protected areas in the forest. Part of the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) initiative sponsored by the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund, the new protected area includes the 8.3 million-acre Terra do Meio Ecological Station and the 1.1 million-acre Serra do Pardo National Park in the eastern sector of the central Amazon. "Conservation in the Amazon takes a giant step forward with this decree," said Carter Roberts, WWF's chief conservation officer. (WWF press release, Feb. 18)
You read it here first, but now its official. Iran's government has officially blamed US spy drones for a wave of UFO sightings, and warns that it will shoot the craft down. Information Minister Ali Yunessi threatened that if the craft come within range, "they will definitely meet our fire." (NYT, Feb. 18)
John Negroponte has been named by Bush to be the first Director of National Intelligence, a post created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act, recommended by the 9-11 Commission and signed into law in December. If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte will oversee some 15 agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, Homeland Security Dept., etc. (LAT, Feb. 17)
Two weeks ago, WW4 Report cited a little-noted UPI story that the US Air Force has already started flying misions over Iran, to "grid" the country's military and industrial infrastructure for bombing raids. Today comes a report from Israel's Haaretz that bombing may have already begun—even if by accident. "A powerful explosion was heard this morning on the outskirts of Dailam in the Bushehr province. Witnesses said that the missile was fired from an unknown plane 20 km from the city," Iran's Arabic language Al-Alam said. Ominously, the site of the explosion was just 180 kilometers from the Bushehr nuclear reactor, Iran's first, built with Russian assistance. No immediate accusation of a US attack was made, and a spokesman for Iran's Interior Ministry even raised the possibility of "friendly fire"—that an Iranian plane could have accidentally dropped a fuel tank. US officials were circumspect. "We've seen the reports and we're looking into it," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
In a case being compared to that of Chico Mendes, the Amazon defender killed in 1988, US missionary Sister Dorothy Stang was shot dead by unknown assailants at a remote jungle settlement near Anapu in the Brazilian state of Para Feb. 12. Stang, 74, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, had been a campaigner for human rights and forest protection in the Amazon for three decades, and had reported receiving numerous death threats from land speculators and cattle barons.
Pakistan's restive province of Baluchistan was hit with devastating floods when torrential rains burst the Shadikor Dam near Pasni, sweeping people, homes and livestock into the Arabian Sea. A smaller dam also burst elsewhere in the province, while landslides also claimed casualties in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The confirmed death toll has reached 360, with 1,500 more missing. (The Scotsman, Feb. 14)