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ISSUE: . 95. February 2004








"To read without military knowledge or good maps accounts of fighting which were distorted before they reached the Divisional general and further distorted before they left him and then 'written up' out of all recognition by journalists, to strive to master what will be contradicted the next day, to fear and hope intensely on shaky evidence, is surely an ill use of the mind."

CS Lewis on why he didn't read the newspapers in World War I, from Surprised by Joy, 1955, p. 159


by Bill Weinberg
with Steven Wishnia, Robert Knight, David Bloom and Wynde Priddy, Special Correspondents

1. Unrest, Chaos and Resistance
2. Torture Claimed in U.S. Prison Camps
3. Journalists Arrested, Claim Torture
4. Halliburton Admits Kickback Charges
5. Shi'ites Demand Direct Elections
6. Uneasy Truce With Shi'ite Militia
7. Terror in Kurdistan
8. Wolfowitz: Crackdown on PKK
9. Ruling Council Backs Sharia; Women Protest
10. Mandeans Face Persecution
11. Red Cross Demands Access to Saddam
12. Did Saddam "Bribe" Foreign Powers?
13. WMD Scandal: Kay, Hutton and the Israeli Connection
14. Human Rights Watch: "No Cause for War"
15. U.S. Army Cites Emergency Powers to Boost Troop Levels

1. Lebanon, Syria Next?
2. Rebellion Smolders in Saudi Arabia
3. U.S. Planned '73 Arab Invasion: British Intelligence

1. Loya Jirga: Karzai Grabs Sweeping Powers
2. Afghan High Court Imposes Sharia Censorship
3. U.S. Air Attack Kills Another Family: Afghans
4. U.S. Troops Killed in Explosion
5. ISAF Troops Killed in Suicide Attacks
6. Serb Ethnic Cleansing Unit to Afghanistan
7. U.S. Planning to Invade Pakistan?
8. Pakistan Proliferation Role Eyed
9. Israeli Arrested in Pakistan Nuclear Probe

1. Bangladesh: Ahmadiyyas Face Persecution

1. Malaysia: Al-Qaeda Bio-War Program Thwarted?
2. Philippines: NPA Vows New Offensive

1. U.S. Sends Anti-Terror Team to West Africa
2. Who Controls Liberia's Rebels?
3. Sudan Bombs Refugees in Chad
4. Ethiopian Army Charged in Tribal Massacre
5. U.N. Emergency Appeal for Eritrea
6. Rwanda: Tribunal Defense Lawyers Strike
7. Central Africa Free Trade Zone
8. Cheney May Face Charges Over Halliburton Nigeria Scam

1. Colombia: Para Massacre in Cimitarra Valley
2. Sur de Bolivar: Civilians Caught in FARC-Para Battle
3. Caqueta: Army Targets Civilians
4. Cauca: Civilians Arrested in Anti-Guerilla Sweeps
5. More Sweeps in Antioquia, Sucre
6. Putumayo: Guerilla Attacks Suspend Oil Operations
7. 73 Colombian Unionists Assassinated in 2003
8. "Demobilized" Paras Still in Action
9. Paras Plague Venezuelan Border
10. Terror Alert in Venezuela
11. FARC Leader Captured in Ecuador
12. Peru: CIA to Testify in Montesinos Trial?
13. Scandal Shakes Peru Cabinet
14. Chile: Mapuche Leader Arrested
15. Brazil: Guarani And Kaiowa Take Back The Land

1. Police Occupy Autonomous Village in Morelos
2. Prisoners on Hunger Strike
3. Cover-Up in Guerrero "Dirty War" Case?
4. Narco Bigs Free in Jailbreak
5. Freed Political Prisoner: "I Am Still Zapatista"
6. Violent Land Conflict in Chiapas
7. Chiapas Simmers Ten Years After Uprising
8. Military Evicts Campesinos from Chiapas Rainforest

1. Rigoberta Menchu Takes Guatemala Peace Post
2. Honduras: Lenca Indian Leaders Get 25 Years
3. El Salvador: Sugar Workers Block Roads
4. Costa Rica Joins CAFTA

1. Global Warming Could Spark New Ice Age
2. White House Launches New Bid for ANWR
3. Halliburton Eyes Mars

1. 9-11 Widow Files Suit Against Bush
2. 9-11 Panel Investigates its Own Director
3. Army Chief: "War is Useful"

1. Syria Torture Survivor Sues U.S.
2. SOA Protesters Get Federal Prison Term
3. FBI Gets Your Personal Financial Records
4. High Court Lets Stand Secret Detentions
5. Media Joins Appeal on Secret Immigration Case
6. Military Lawyers Blast Tribunals
7. 13-Year-Old Boy Released from Gitmo


President George Bush is officially holding to his announced plan to establish a interim government and pull most US troops out of Iraq by June 30. But continuing violence and chaos has the White House seeking assistance from the UN in policing Iraq. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has agreed to send a team to Iraq to help resolve the dispute over how to set up a provisional government. Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds remain at odds over how power should be divided in the new order. (VOA, Feb. 4) Meanwhile, armed attacks on coalition troops and Iraqi police working with them continue on a nearly daily basis--as does violence against the civilian population, by both resistance and occupation forces.

On Jan. 3, two pilgrims on their way to Mecca were killed and an undisclosed number wounded in an ambush between Ramadi and Baghdad. A coalition spokesman said several convoys of Hajjis (pilgrims) were attacked, and pledged that security would be provided for the pilgrimage, the first since harsh Saddam-era restrictions on travelling abroad were lifted. (Baghdad, daily newspaper of the Iraqi National Accord, Jan. 4)

On Jan. 10 in the southern city of Amarah, six protesters demanding jobs were killed and several wounded in clashes with police and British troops. The next day, protesters--many armed with sticks and makeshift bombs--rushed British troops guarding the city hall. British troops drove the crowd back from the compound, which also houses the 1st Battalion of Britain's Light Infantry. (AP, Jan. 11)

On Jan. 12, US troops opened fire on a civilian car in Baghdad, killing the driver and a ten-year-old boy. The incident came shortly after a bomb attack near the Oil Ministry. (NYT, Jan. 13)

On Jan. 13, a US Apache attack helicopter was shot down--the third downed in less than two weeks. The crew escaped unharmed. The attack took place near Habbaniyah, where a week earlier a US Army medevac helicopter was shot down, killing all nine soldiers aboard, and where a Kiowa Warrior chopper was downed Jan. 2, killing the pilot. (AP, Jan. 13)

On Jan 13, witnesses in Fallujah said four civilians were killed in two incidents in which US troops opened fire wildly after coming under attack. Hundreds of Fallujah residents protested, shouting "Bush, you coward!" after US forces detained a young woman while searching for a Saddam Hussein loyalist. The woman, who relatives acknowledged was handled only by female soldiers, was released after several hours. That same day, Ukrainian troops opened fire to disperse the a crowd of several hundred protesters demanding jobs in the southern city of Kut. One man was killed and two others wounded in the second straight day of violent protests in the Shiite city. (AP, Jan. 13)

On Jan. 14, a suicide car bomb exploded outside the police headquarters in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, killing two bystanders and wounding several Iraqi officers. (NYT, Jan. 15) On Jan. 18, a suicide bomber killed at least 20, overwhelmingly Iraqi civilians, in a blast at the entrance of the US occupation headquarters in central Baghdad. Most of the victims were workers lining up for a security check to enter the US compound, site of Saddam's former Republican Palace. Three US troops were among the wounded. (Newsday, Jan. 19)

On Jan. 21, two US troops were killed in a mortar attack on a base north of Baghdad. (NYT, Jan. 23) On Jan. 23, two US pilots were killed when their Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed in northern Iraq. (NYT, Jan. 24)

On Jan. 28, a suicide bomber killed three, all apparently civilians and one a South African, outside Baghdad's Shaheen Hotel. Several were wounded and the ground floor of the hotel severely damaged. (AP, Jan. 29)

On Jan. 31, a car bomb outside a police station in Mosul killed at least nine--including both officers and civilians--and injured 45. Some 300 Iraqi police have been killed by presumed resistance fighters since the US-led coalition took control. (BBC, Jan. 31)

Also Jan. 31, a roadside bomb exploded between Kirkuk and Tikrit, killing three US soldiers in a passing convoy. The day's attacks took place on the eve of a major religious holiday--the four-day Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. (BBC, Jan. 31)

524 US service members have been killed since start of the Iraq campaign. (NYT, Feb. 3) The Pentagon counts at least 22 G.I. suicides in the Iraq conflict. (CBS, Jan. 29) The web site Iraq Body Count continues to monitor world press reports to arrive at a daily update of the total Iraqi civilian dead from war-related causes since the US campaign began last March. At press time, the minimum estimate stands at 8,100 and the maximum at 9,938.

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

Abd al-Rahman, a minor official at Baghdad's agriculture ministry, claims he was repeatedly tortured during three months he spent in detainment following his arrest by coalition forces last June. Rahman says he was beaten, given shocks with an electric cattle-prod and had one of his toenails pried off. Rations were often laced with pork--forbidden to Muslims--and scorpions menaced the area around his tent. Like many of the thousands of Iraqis held by the US forces, Rahman does not know why he was arrested. He suspects a colleague with a grudge falsely denounced him as a member of Saddam's Fedayeen militia. His release was as unexpected as his arrest. "They drove me to the middle of Baghdad near the Al Rasheed hotel and dumped me out of the car, shouting 'Go! Go! Go!'" he said. Too weak to walk, he had to be helped into a taxi by a traffic policeman. "I am free and healthy now but I no longer have a job and many of my friends and relatives are still detained," he told representatives of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a US-based rights group now active in Iraq.

In response to such claims, Lt-Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US forces in Iraq, has ordered an inquiry into the "reported incidents of detainee abuse at coalition forces detention facilities." The announcement came just over a week after three soldiers were found guilty of kicking prisoners in the head, abdomen and groin in an incident at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq last May. They were discharged from the US Army. Another officer, Lt. Col. Allen West, a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division, resigned after admitting he fired a weapon near a detainee suspected of plotting attacks on US troops.

Some of the worst allegations concern Camp Cropper, a makeshift prison at Baghdad's airport where hundreds of Iraqis were crowded in tents throughout the summer. Although US authorities insisted conditions were in line with international law, the camp was closed in October. Equally notorious is Abu Ghraib, one of the most feared prisons of Saddam's regime, which has been taken over by US forces. Najim Abdulhussein, 52, a grocer arrested with his son, claimed he had been ordered to stand upright for 13 hours until he collapsed. He also said interrogators spat in his face and burnt his arm with a cigarette. The coalition is believed to be holding some 12,800 detainees in Iraq. (London Times, Jan. 17)

See also WW3 REPORT #91 stories:

Iraq 2 Iraq 6 [top]

On Jan. 7, the US military released three Iraqis working for the Reuters news agency and one employed by NBC who had been arrested while attempting to cover the downing of a US helicopter in Fallujah three days earlier. The US claimed its troops came under attack by a group of men wearing vests marked "press." Reuters has not commented publicly, but the UK Guardian reports that the journalists were "brutalized and intimidated" by US troops, who put bags over their heads, told them they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and whispered: "Let's have sex." Reuters has made a formal complaint to the Pentagon. (UK Guardian, Jan. 8)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Halliburton has fired two employees who allegedly took $6 million in kickbacks from a Kuwaiti subcontractor helping to supply US troops in Iraq, the company admitted. Spokeswoman Wendy Hall said the company reported the "irregularities" to Pentagon auditors and criminal investigators. "We do not tolerate this kind of behavior by anyone at any level in any Halliburton company," she said in a statement. The allegations involve Halliburton subsidiary KBR's contract to supply US Army troops in Iraq, not its separate contract to rebuild Iraqi oil facilities and deliver gasoline to civilians. Pentagon auditors are seeking a criminal probe into findings that KBR and Kuwait's Altanmia Marketing Co. overcharged by $61 million for fuel deliveries. Halliburton has denied overcharging on that contract. The new disclosure is the first admission by Halliburton that its employees are under suspicion of corruption involving Iraq contracts. (AP, Jan. 23)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

Tens of thousands of Shi'ite protesters marched in Basra Jan. 15 against US plans for a transitional Iraqi government. An aide to Iraq's highest Shi'ite cleric said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani could issue an edict banning Iraqis from supporting a US-appointed interim government if Washington did not acede to demands for direct elections. "If [US administrator Paul] Bremer rejects...Ayatollah Sistani's opinion, he would issue a fatwa depriving the US-appointed council of its legitimacy," Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Mohri told Abu Dhabi TV. Protesters chanted "Yes to Islam; No America, No Saddam!" (Reuters, Jan, 15)

On Jan. 28, 10,000 followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr marched in Nasiriyah, chanting "No to imperialism! No to America!" The US-appointed provincial governor was forced to flee his office when it was beseiged by the protesters, who insisted they would only recognize elected leaders. (AP, Jan. 28) Some 5,000 Shi'ite protesters in Baghdad Jan. 20 also demanded the execution of Saddam Hussein. (AP, Jan. 20)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Iraq's most powerful armed Shi'ite faction continues to hold back from armed resistance against US forces, even as it opposes the occupation. But signs indicate that it has more power on the ground than the official government in Iraq's Shi'ite enclaves. On Jan. 1, hundreds of angry motorists in Kufa took over a gas station and ran off the police after officers allowed some drivers to jump the lines. The situation was resolved the next day when the police were replaced by militiaman from the Imam Mahdi Army, loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "People wanted any other authority [except the police] to maintain order," said station manager Mohammed Rida. (AP, Jan. 8)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

On Feb. 1, two suicide bombers blew themselves up within minutes of each other during festivities marking the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha in the Kurdish city of Erbil, killing over 100 and injuring hundreds more. The bombings targetted the offices of Iraqi Kurdistan's two leading parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Both parties were hosting festivities at their offices during the attacks. Key leaders of both parties were among the killed. Officials immediately blamed Ansar al-Islam, a fundamentalist militia which has been active in Iraqi Kurdistan. (Newsday, NYT, Feb. 2; BBC, Feb. 4)

The attacks came just as Kudish leaders were negotiating how much autonomy their northern zone would retain, and how the two parties would share power in this region. The New York Times reported Jan. 5 in a front-page headline "Kurdish Region in Northern Iraq Will Get to Keep A Special Status." The piece noted that this policy was embraced by the occupation administration despite the fears of neighboring governments with their own Kurdish populations--especially Turkey.

See also WW3 REPORT #94

For more on Ansar al-Islam, see WW3 REPORT #88 [top]

US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told CNN-Turkey he pledged a crackdown on the Kuridstan Workers Party (PKK), a separatist group active in eatsern Turkey which has established a foothold in northern Iraq. "We won't let them behave as a different organization by changing their name," Wolfowitz said. In 2002 the PKK, which is on the US "terrorist organzations" list, was reorganized as the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK)--which in turn announced in November that it is to be replaced by a broader body, KONGRA-GEL, that would seek a peaceful solution with Ankara. Both Ankara and Washington rejected the move, claiming it was a mere name change. Wolfowitz reassured Ankara--which fears that the Kurdish autonomous zone in Iraq sets a precedent for Turkey--that Iraq would not adopt a federal system based on ethnic lines. "We are in complete agreement with Turkey on the issue," Wolfowitz said. (Turkish Daily News, Feb. 1)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

For the past 40 years, Iraq's women have enjoyed one of the most modern legal codes in the Islamic world, with prohibitions on child marriage, arbitrary divorce and male favoritism in child custody and property inheritance disputes. The Iraqi Governing Council has now voted to wipe these protections out, ordering that family laws be "cancelled" and such issues be placed under the jurisdiction of Islamic legal doctrine, or sharia. The order, sponsored by conservative Shi'ite members, was narrowly approved by the 25-member council in a closed-door session Dec. 29. Outraged Iraqi women--including judges and cabinet ministers--denounced the decision in street protests and press conferences. "This will send us home and shut the door, just like what happened to women in Afghanistan," said Amira Hassan Abdullah, a Kurdish lawyer. "Iraqi women will accept it over their dead bodies." Added Zakia Ismael Hakki, a female retired judge: "This new law will send Iraqi families back to the Middle Ages. It will allow men to have four or five or six wives. It will take away children from their mothers. It will allow anyone who calls himself a cleric to open an Islamic court in his house and decide about who can marry and divorce and have rights. We have to stop it." (WP, Jan 16) [top]

Baghdad jeweller Ivan Bader sold his comfortable home and moved to an unknown location after being kidnapped last summer and released after his family paid thousands of dollars ransom. Neighbors say he was targetted because he belonged to the Mandaeans, a religious sect that traces its lineage to pre-Christian times. Baghdad's Mandaean community has suffered ten murders and 13 kidnappings in the past three months. Some are getting weapons and taking self-defense training in anticipation of more attacks.

Jordan is said to be the original home of the Mandaeans, but they were forced by persecution to flee to what is now Iraq and Iran centuries ago. There are now perhaps 200,000 Mandaeans worldwide, mostly in Iraq, Iran, Australia and Sweden. Some 100,000 reside in Baghdad. The Mandeans revere water, and often settle near rivers and lakes, which have a key place in ritual life. But in Baghdad, rituals at the Tigris River have been abandoned. "We practice our ceremonies inside the Mendi [temple] now because of our fear that someone will attack us," said Baghdadi Alaa Dahla, a member of the sect's affairs council.

The Mandaeans are targets partly because they believe that God alone has the right to take a human life, and traditionally don't carry weapons. The Mandaeans also are seen as wealthy since they traditionally own jewellery stores and work as goldsmiths. Said Mauid al-Sawady, a journalist with the Mandeans' Afaq Mandaia magazine: "They target us because we don't have clans or tribes to protect us, so they consider us weak people." Police inaction has caused the Mandeans to stop reporting attacks to the authorities. Said Kalid Amin, chairman of the high council of the Mandaeans: "All this has made the jewellers close their shops, or else they pay bodyguards to protect them." Sheik Satar Helo, the sect's world president and its leader in Iraq, is seeking the help of the Australian government. More than 700 Mandaean families live in Australia, and Helo wants Canberra to allow their relatives to enter the country.

(Luma al-Shumary for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Jan. 22)

The number if Mandaeans (alt: Mandeans) is contested, with the on-line Encylopedia of the Orient putting it at "no more than 20,000 adherents," with their main center at Nasiriyya. Also known as the Christians of Saint John, the Mandeans are considered the last surviving Gnostic religion. Their name is Aramaic for "knowledge"--a translation from the Greek "gnosis." Their central religious book is the Ginza, "Treasure," mainly written in East Aramaic (or Mandean), shortly after the time of the Prophet Mohammed. Therefore the Mandeans fit into the Koranic concept of the "Sabians"--the 4th "book-religion"--which can be translated as "baptizers." Baptism is central to Mandeans ritual, and the Mandean sanctuary, or Mandi, is a small house in front of a pool formed by a diversion from a nearby river.

Mandeans see the cosmos as made up of two forces--the world of light, located to the north, and that of darkness, to the south. Man is created by the forces of darkness, but within every human is a "hidden Adam," the soul, with its origin in the world of light. Some claim John the Baptist founded the sect, or it could be a continuation of the Jewish sect that John the Baptist belonged to (believed to be the Esseneans). One text tells of the flight of a group called the Nasoreans from areas probably in today's Jordan, to the Mesopotamian region during the Jewish wars following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The Mandeans first gained a strong position in Babylon, but lost this with the rise of the Sassinid Empire in 226. There may have been contacts between the Mandeans and the Prophet Mani, founder of the Manichean proto-Gnostic cult, who was executed by the Zoroastrian Sassanids in 274.

With the arrival of Islam in Iraq in 636, the Mandeans were considered the fourth "people of the book," the mysterious Sabians of the Koran. But the Mandeans would face persecution under Islam, and Mohammad is in their writings called the "Demon Bizbat." Under the Caliphs, the Mandeans moved from the cities to the marshlands in southern Iraq. It is only in modern times that the Mandeans have moved back to the cities, especially Nasiriyya, Baghdad and Basra, where many work as gold, silver and iron smiths or boat builders. Writes the Ecyclopedia of the Orient: "Mandean theology is seriously threatened, as recruiting new priests is difficult, and many offices are vacant. Mandean laymen are often highly educated, but know little of the old language and the scripts, and they attend ceremonies only seldom, as in weddings. Yet, there is a strong feeling of pride of their heritage, and they often claim to belong to a religion older than Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

See also WW3 REPORT #67 [top]

The International Committee of the Red Cross has submitted a request to occupation authorities in Iraq to visit Saddam Hussein, who is being held at an undisclosed location. Saddam has been classified by the US as a prisoner of war, entitled to all the rights under the Geneva Conventions. Negotiations for the visit are part of a "confidential, bilateral process," ICRC spokesman Muin Kassis told the BBC in Jordan. Kassis said the ICRC would assess the conditions former Iraq leader is being held in, his state of health, and whether he had been tortured. The ICRC said it would also press for the prisoner to be able to communicate with his remaining family, a right protected under the Geneva Conventions. (UPI, Jan. 10)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

The US-backed Iraqi Governing Council is opening an investigation into claims that dozens of foreign politicians--including some from prominent anti-war countries such as France--took bribes to support Saddam Hussein in the prelude of the US attack. The claims emerged when an independent Baghdad newspaper, al-Mada, published a list which it said was based on Oil Ministry documents. The 46 individuals, companies and organizations on the list were given cupons for millions of barrels of oil, the documents indicate. Thousands of papers were looted from the State Oil Marketing Organisation after Baghdad fell to US forces on April 9. "I think the list is true," said Council member Naseer Chaderji. "I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted."

The list quoted by al-Mada included members of Arab ruling families, religious organizations, politicians and political parties from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Sudan, China, Austria, France and other countries. Organizations named include the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Communist Party, India's Congress Party and the Palestine Liberation Organization. No names of individuals were listed in the English-language accounts (e.g. UK Independent, Jan. 29).

A Jan. 31 broadcast by the Shi'ite radio station Voice of the Mujahedeen claimed that the published list was only partial, and that numerous officials--up to the sons of presidents--were being protected. (BBC Monitoring) [top]

Chief US weapons inspector in Iraq David Kay resigned Jan. 23, saying he doubted Saddam had any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). "I don't think they existed," Kay said. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last [1991] Gulf War, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the nineties." The CIA announced that former UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer would succeed Kay as Washington's chief arms hunter. (Reuters, Jan. 23)

Nearly simultaneous with Kay's Congressional testimony and resignation came release of the so-called Hutton Report in the UK, which cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair's government of "sexing up" evidence on Iraq's WMD program. But the Hutton Report meets with widespread skepticism. Opined former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter in the UK Guardian Jan. 30:

"A review of testimony submitted to the inquiry elicits a single reference to Operation Rockingham, a secretive intelligence activity buried inside the Defence Intelligence Staff, which dealt with Iraqi WMD and activities of the UN special commission (Unscom). This acknowledged that Rockingham managed the interaction between David Kelly, the weapons expert whose suicide led to the Hutton inquiry, and the UN. But Lord Hutton dug no further into this. If he had, some interesting insight would have been provided on several issues of concern, including the possibility of the 'shaping' of UN intelligence data by Rockingham to serve the policy objectives of its masters in the Foreign Office and the joint intelligence committee. Dr. Kelly became Rockingham's go-to person for translating the often confusing data that came out of Unscom into concise reporting that could be forwarded to analysts in the British intelligence community, as well as to political decision-makers. Rockingham was in a position to know that, increasingly, the facts emerging from inside Iraq supported Baghdad's contention that there was no longer a biological weapons programme in Iraq, or any hidden biological weapons or agents. But this data received little or no attention inside Rockingham... Any probing of Rockingham by Lord Hutton would have exposed it for what it had become--a big player in the shaping of information regarding Iraq's WMD inside the government and, through its media connections, in shaping public opinion as well."

The Hutton Report does document how a survey of Iraq's WMD potential by Britain's intelligence services, ordered by Blair in September 2002, was sent back to the Joint Intelligence Committee for rewrite because it was too soft. A tougher-sounding version--eliminating words such as "might"--was hashed out by Blair's aides. Exonerating Blair, the Report lambasted the BBC for reporting that intelligence had been "sexed up." A Feb. 1 Toronto Star opinion piece by Linda McQuaig, "BBC Takes Bullet Meant for Blair," warned that the Hutton Report was scapegoating the BBC for likely official intelligence distortions:

"The BBC got an aspect of its reporting wrong, and it acknowledged the error. It deserves some criticism. But fascinating documents made public at the Hutton inquiry show that the BBC accurately reported something of crucial importance--that senior political aides repeatedly pressed top intelligence officials to come up with a more dramatic dossier on Iraq's weapons in order to bolster the government's case for war against Iraq. On the basis of these documents, one could conclude the government pushed for the Iraq dossier to be 'sexed up,' which was the essence of the BBC's reporting. In going after the BBC, Hutton unfairly tarnished the broadcasting corporation's worldwide reputation and helped create a climate--in Britain and in North America--where media outlets will be even more timid in challenging those with power."

The UK Guardian reported Jan. 26 that the BBC has already taken measures reining in reporters in response to the Hutton Report--such as requiring them to log all bids for interviews with government ministers. Reporters are also restricted from writing for outside publications--reflecting concern over BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's piece in The Mail on Sunday last year naming Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell as having "sexed up" the dossier.

Meanwhile, a Feb. 1 opinion in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz points to a Tel Aviv connection in the web of deceit. Major Gen. Amos Gilad, formerly a senior officer in Israeli Military Intelligence and now head of the political-security branch in the Defense Ministry, raised an alarm about Saddam's WMD threat in the prelude to the Iraq invasion, leading to a special Israeli civil defense program. Wrote Ha'aretz: "This intelligence error...resulted in billions of shekels being spent for a deployment against a threat that didn't exist."

For more on the WMD search, see WW3 REPORT #85

For more on the David Kelly suicide, see WW3 REPORT #91

For more on Amos Gilad, see WW3 REPORT #46

For more on Israeli intelligence links to the Iraq campaign, see WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

In its annual World Report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said that ousting Saddam Hussein was "no cause for war," accusing the US and UK of exploiting the issue of human rights. Said the group in a statement announcing the report: "Only mass slaughter might permit the deliberate taking of life in using military force for humanitarian purposes. Brutal as Saddam Hussein's reign had been, the scope of the Iraq Government's killing in March 2003, was not of the exceptional and dire magnitude that would justify humanitarian intervention. The Bush administration cannot justify the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention, and neither can Tony Blair." (BBC, Jan. 26)

The report, "War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention," outlines several critical standards for a legitimate "humanitarian intervention" which the Iraq campaign failed to meet. [top]

The US Army, strained by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, will use emergency powers to increase its forces by 30,000 beyond troop limits set by Congress, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the House Armed Services Committee. "Right now, I've been given the authority by the secretary of defense to grow the army by 30,000 people within the authority he has under the emergency powers," Schoomaker said. He said the authority from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to last for four years.

The army has started its biggest rotation of troops since World War II, preparing to reduce forces in Iraq from about 130,000 to 105,000 by the spring. The army is already about 11,000 troops over the 482,000-soldier limit authorized by Congress under the emergency provision the Pentagon invoked. This is largely due to "stop-loss" orders that block soldiers from leaving or retiring. (International Herald Tribune, Jan. 30)

NOTE: In May 2003, after the fall of the Saddam regime, the Pentagon announced that US troop levels in Iraq, then at 135,000, would be reduced by over 100,000 in the next four months, leaving only a division to control Baghdad. Now, nine months later, troop levels are only some 5,000 lower, and the number slated to be reduced is only 25,000. See WW3 REPORT #84 [top]


In a new report by the London-based Jane's Intelligence Digest, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is quoted as saying that Washington. is considering "multi-faceted attacks" against Hezbollah positions in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, controlled by Syria. According to the report, the move would "almost certainly involve a confrontation" between US Special Forces and Syrian troops. (CNN, Jan. 23)

See also WW3 REPORT #58 [top]

The Saudi province of al-Jouf, bordering Iraq, has seen the assassination of a deputy governor, police chief and a sharia court judge in recent months. Saudi officials admit the attacks are linked and that the seven arrested in these cases may have been aided by up to 40 others. Al-Jouf is the historic power base of the al-Sudairy branch of the Saudi royal family, which includes King Fahd and his six full brothers. Known as the Sudairy Seven, they include Interior Minister Prince Nayef, Defence Minister Prince Sultan, and Riyadh Governor Prince Salman. The province's capital Sakaka is now deserted after dusk, with secret police screening the populace from permanent roadblocks. Locals say discontent was enflamed in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, when US troops took control of the airport in the nearby town of Arar, the official border crossing with Iraq. This was deeply resented, because many local residents have historic links to Iraqis across the border. Thousands of Saudis are believed to have sneaked into Iraq to join the resistance against the US-led forces. (UK Independent, Jan. 28)

On Jan. 29, five security service agents were killed and two others injured in a shootout in a raid on a suspected militant safe-house in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Two hand grenades, two machine-guns and five pistols were found at the house, the Interior Ministry said. (BBC, Jan. 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

87 45 [top]

British spy chiefs warned after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war that the US was considering invasions of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi to seize their oil fields, according to newly-released records. The December 1973 UK Joint Intelligence Committee report said that seizing oil-producing areas in the region was "the possibility uppermost in American thinking." Details of the report were released under rules requiring some secret documents be made public after 30 years.

Other released records showed that Prime Minister Edward Heath was furious at US President Richard Nixon for failing to tell him US forces were placed on a worldwide alert during the 1973 war. Heath learned of the alert--considered a high point in Cold War tensions--from news reports while he waited in the House of Commons for Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home to make a statement on the Middle East crisis. Britain's intelligence listening post, Government Communications Headquarters, had learned of the alert but did not tell Heath or the Foreign Office because officials assumed they already knew about it, the papers showed. The alert covered US forces stationed in Britain. Nixon later said he put US forces on high alert six days starting Oct. 25, 1973 to show the USSR that Washington would not allow it to send forces to aid Arab states. Wrote Heath in a memo at the time: "Personally I fail to see how any initiative, threatened or real, by the Soviet leadership required such a world wide nuclear alert. We have to face the fact that the American action has done immense harm, I believe, both in this country and worldwide." (AP, Jan. 1) [top]


Veteran Afghanistan journalist John Jennings, writing for the January edition of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (MEIB), says fears of warlordism and chaos were exploited by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to push through a constitution granting him sweeping powers. States Jennings:

"Earlier this month, Afghanistan's 502-delegate loya jirga approved the draft of a new constitution that concentrates power in the hands of a directly-elected president, with no prime minister as an alternate source of executive authority and only limited legislative oversight. In light of the country's multi-ethnic makeup and long history of tyranny, such weak checks on the presidency would appear to be utterly inappropriate. On Jan. 20, however, the New York Times editorialized: 'Debates about...the division of powers between the central and provincial governments seem secondary when people are afraid to sow their fields or transport their crops to market.'

"Afghanistan's largely agricultural economy could not have grown by 30% during the last year, as the IMF recently reported, if most farmers were afraid to sow their fields or transport their crops to market. The editorial is not an isolated case of poor fact checking. It reflects a broader trend in the Western media, which portrays the new Afghanistan as 'sliding back into chaos, poverty and despair' two years after the ouster of the Taliban. [Newsweek, Sept. 8, 2003] This view is said to reflect 'a consensus' on a 'deteriorating security situation' among 'officials of the UN, the European Union, other US allies, aid agencies, US officials in the field, and Afghans loyal to Mr. Karzai.' [Ahmed Rashid and Barnett Rubin in the WSJ, June 1, 2003] The purported anarchy is blamed on misrule by regional 'warlords,' portrayed as savage robber barons who exploit their unholy alliance with the Pentagon to brutalize the helpless populace... Such portrayals merit special scrutiny because they mirror official statements by one of the country's main political factions--interim President Hamid Karzai and other returned exiles in his government, who have exploited the notion that Afghans are suffering under the iron grip of evil 'warlords' to enlist foreign support for creating a strong presidential system of government. The draft constitution Karzai presented in November--dubbed a 'a murky blueprint for a repressive state' by Paul Marshall, senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom--gave the president sweeping powers to rule by decree. Although some minor changes were made during the recent loya jirga, Karzai largely succeeded in getting his way."

See also WW3 REPORT #94

NOTE: Middle East Intelligence Bulletin is published jointly by Ziad K. Abdelnour, president of the US Committee for a Free Lebanon, and professional Islamophobe hawk Daniel Pipes. The chairman of the Center for Religious Freedom cited in the article is former CIA director James Woolsey, and the board of advisors includes ex-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, ex-US Ambassador to the UN Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and and conservative autor Samuel P. Huntington.

See also WW3 REPORT #79 [top]

In an setback for moderates in Afghanistan's US-backed government, authorities re-imposed a ban on women singing on state television just days after it was lifted. The decision to restore the ban followed a protest to Information and Culture Minister Sayed Makhdoom Raheen from the Supreme Court, dominated by religious conservatives. The court said lifting the ban was in defiance of its rulings. The issue was sparked when Kabul TV featured old footage of Parasto, a well-known singer who now lives in the West, performing without a headscarf. (Reuters, Jan. 15)

Under Afgahnistan's new constitution, the country is officially renamed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. There is to be a system of civil law, but no law is to be contrary to precepts of Islam. (NYT, Jan. 5) [top]

A US helicopter attacked a house in Saghatho village in southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, killing 11 people, four of them children, Afghan officials said. Abdul Rahman, chief of the local Char Chino district, told the AP: "They were simple villagers, they were not Taliban. I don't know why the US bombed this home. We have informed our authorities." Uruzgan Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan confirmed Rahman's account that four men, four children and three women were killed in the raid. US military authorities confirmed air attacks in the area, but said they had no information about civilian casualties. (AP, Jan. 19)

President Hamid Karzai backed the reports of local officials, and called for the bereaved families to visit him in the capital Kabul. The US continues to reject the reports. (BBC, Jan. 31)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

94, 93 41 [top]

A weapons cache exploded Jan. 29 near Ghazni in southeastern Afghanistan, killing seven US troops and wounding three others and an interpreter. Another soldier is said to be missing. The cause of the blast is under investigation. Some 8,500 US troops are among the 11,500 international troops remaining in Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban/al-Qaeda forces. Separately, 5,000 troops under NATO command act as peacekeepers in the capital, Kabul. (CNN, Jan. 29) At least six US troops were also wounded in fighting with presumed Taliban/al-Qaeda forces in January. (NYT, Jan. 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On Jan. 27, a Canadian soldier was killed and three others wounded when a man blew himself up beside their jeep in Kabul. The next day, a British soldier was killed and four others wounded when a car bomber slammed his taxi into their vehicle. The soldiers were serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which is policing Kabul. (NYT, Jan. 29) [top]

Serb paramilitary troops who last saw action in the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo in 1999 are being trained for a tour of duty in Afghanistan--beside some of the US forces who helped expel them from the Yugoslav province. The 1,000-strong force includes some ex-members of the "Red Berets", a feared paramilitary unit that helped spearhead the campaign to drive the Albanian majority out of Kosovo and wipe out Kosovo Liberation Army resistance fighters. The US has provisionally accepted the offer of the Serb battalion to relieve the strain on its overstretched garrison in Kandahar, and help hunt Taliban/al-Qaeda fugitives in the mountains east of the city.

Gen. Goran Radosavljevic, the battalion's proposed commander, led anti-guerrilla teams in Kosovo. His forces are alleged by Human Rights Watch to have committed numerous atrocities against civilians, including the massacre of 41 villagers at Cuska in May, 1999. A New York court is also considering charges against Radosavljevic, alleging that he and other officials were responsible for the execution of three Albanian-Americans. Radosavljevic's contingent for Afghanistan would be under direct US command. (Glasgow Herald, Jan. 9) [top]

Citing anonymous military sources, the Chicago Tribune reported Jan. 28 that the Bush administration "is preparing a US military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network." The upcoming "spring offensive" would place Special Operations troops in tribal regions of northeast Pakistan, with a Navy aircraft carrier deployed in the Arabian Sea to provide air cover.

The hard-line Islamic coalition that governs Pakistan's tribal region warned that tribesmen could fire on US troops. Riaz Durrani, spokesman for the opposition coalition Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal that controls two Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan, said any move by Washington to deploy forces there would be an "historic mistake." (CNN, Jan. 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:


91 [top]

Concern is growing that US ally Pakistan may have spread nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Pakistani authorities in December detained two top nuclear scientists and questioned the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Pakistani officials said they were acting on information from Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. At issue are high-speed centrifuges that separate uranium into its highly enriched form to be used in nuclear weapons. Khan reportedly helped start Pakistan's program when he stole uranium centrifuge designs in the 1970s from Urenco, a European consortium. Centrifuges and centrifuge parts found in both Iran and Libya are similar to the Urenco designs, US officials say. The US last year sanctioned Pakistan's Khan Research Laboratory, its main nuclear weapons lab, for cooperating with North Korea on missile technology. The US also sanctioned Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program, even before it went public with a 1998 nuclear test. Bush lifted most of those sanctions after the 9-11 attacks, when Musharraf agreed to help fight al-Qaeda. (AP, Jan. 14)

Federation of American Scientists on Pakistan's nuclear program

At least eight other nuclear scientists and engineers have been detained for questioning. Family members gathered outside the Parliament building in Islamabad Jan. 21 holding signs reading "Where is my husbad?", "Where is my father?" and "Why are you disgracing national heroes?" (AP, Jan. 21)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

A federal judge is to decide whether an Israeli citizen accused of conspiring to send 200 US-made nuclear weapons detonators to Pakistan will be freed on $75,000 bail. Asher Karni, 50, was arrested Jan. 2 at Denver airport when he arrived for a ski vacation. Karni, who lives in South Africa, is charged with conspiring to traffic in "triggered spark gaps." Spark gaps, which can send a synchronized electronic pulse to detonate a nuclear weapon, are also used by hospitals to destroy kidney stones. No special permission is needed if the devices are sent to a hospital. The US charges Karni falsely listed a hospital in South Africa as the receiver. If he had listed Pakistan as the destination, a special export permit would have been needed. Court papers show Karni ordered the triggers, which are made by Perkin Elmer Optoelectronics of Massachusetts, through a New Jersey export company. A shipment of 66 triggers, deliberately disabled by Perkin Elmer, was sent to Karni's South African company, court records show. An e-mail purportedly from Karni to the New Jersey company said he had forwarded the triggers to "the customer." (Reuters, Jan. 15) [top]


The government of Bangladesh has banned all publications of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, an unorthodox Islamic sect, a day before the end of an ultimatum by fundamentalists to declare the sect "non-Muslim." The demands came from the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), a partner in the government's ruling coalition, and its affiliated Hifazate Khatme Nabuwat Andolon (HKNA), fundamentalist organizations that consider the Ahmadiyya movement heretical. Abdul Awal of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Bangladesh, said: "We are shocked. The government has bowed down to religious terrorists." IOJ/HKNA is calling for Ahmadiyya mosques to be shut down, and is accused of contributing to an atmosphere of terror. On Oct. 8, 1999, a time bomb exploded at the Ahmadiyya mosque in Nirala during Juma prayers, leaving seven worshippers dead and 27 injured. Sale, publication, distribution and posession of Ahmadiyya literature is banned under the new decree. "The ban was imposed in view of objectionable materials in such [Ahmadiyya] publications which hurt or might hurt the sentiments of the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh," said a Home Ministry press release. The government has not yet actually declared the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims. (The Daily Star, Bangladesh, Jan. 9)

See also WW3 REPORT #86 [top]


Malaysian officials claim an al-Qaeda program to develop chemical and biological weapons was in the "conceptual stages" in the Afghan city of Kandahar when it was cut off by the US invasion in 2001. Officials said the program was run by Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian army captain and US-trained biochemist, under the direction of Riduan Isamuddin, or "Hambali," an Indonesian accused of heading al-Qaida's operations in Southeast Asia. Both men are suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Malaysia-based extremist group. Yazid was arrested in December 2001 as he returned to Malaysia from Afghanistan. Hambali was arrested in August 2003 in Thailand and is in US custody at an undisclosed location. (AP, Jan. 26)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

92 56 [top]

Four government troops and three guerillas were killed when the Philippines' New People's Army (NPA) attacked a power plant at Calaca, some 50 miles south of the capital, Manila, the military said. Shortly after the attack, another group of rebels ambushed a convoy of soldiers in the nearby town of Balayan. There were no reports of casualties. NPA spokesperson Gregorio Rosal vowed to intensify attacks ahead of May elections in hopes of bringing down President Gloria Macapagal and punish her for her closeness to the US President George Bush. (AP, Jan. 10)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

72 47 [top]


Claiming information of threats against US interests in the West African nations of Mauritania and Senegal, the Pentagon has dispatched an anti-terror team to the region. A State Department official said the team will guard desert borders against Islamic extremists and train local government forces for border patrols. Pamela Bridgewater, deputy undersecretary of state for Africa, told reporters, "Other specialized teams are expected in the region in coming months." US officials have long worried that little-policed frontiers in West Africa's Sahara could serve as crossing points for armed extremist groups. Bridgewater said "there are indications of such threats" in Mauritania and Senegal, but declined to elaborate, saying, "the question is very sensitive." (AP, Jan. 14) (Wynde Priddy) [top]

Asha Keita-Conneh, wife of Liberia's main rebel leader, announced that she is taking power back from her husband, Sekou Conneh. While Conneh insisted he was still in charge, Keita-Conneh--with the open backing of dozens of his former battlefield commanders--said: "I put him there as chairman. If you open a big business and put your husband in charge, if you see that things are not going the right way, you step him aside and straighten things up." She also said that unlike her husband, "I want peace." Keita-Conneh has long been believed to be the power behind the guerrilla movement officially headed by her husband. But the family feud over leadership of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy rebel group threatens to destabilize Liberia's six-month-old peace. Sekou Conneh insisted on Liberian state radio that it was a mere family squabble, saying that he remained head of the insurgency. "I am chairman, even if there was problem between me and my wife, it has been resolved and I am the chairman." It remains unclear who enjoys greater support among the rebels. (AP, Jan. 21) (Wynde Priddy)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Even as a peace deal seems to be within reach, Sudan's civil war is spilling over the border into neighboring Chad. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) corroborated reports that Sudanese aircraft have crossed the border to bomb refugees fleeing Sudan's western Darfur province. A man and his two-year-old daughter were killed in the air strikes, said a UNHCR spokesperson, citing Chad officials. An estimated 113,000 Sudanese refugees have crossed the border since early last year, when fighting broke out in Darfur between forces loyal to the Sudanese government and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). (BBC, Jan. 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

The US, which gave Ethiopia $32 million in foreign aid last year, is investigating reports of a massacre, in which eyewitnesses say uniformed Ethiopian troops took part in the murder of over 400 members of the Anuak tribe in December. The charge is made by dozens of refugees who live in the US, who spoke by telephone to surviving relatives. During the last decade more than 2,000 Anuak have settled in the US after fleeing ethnic violence--apparently carried out by rival tribes backed by the Ethiopian government. December's massacre, by far the worst single-day killing of Anuak, was the first time Ethiopian soldiers were widely witnessed leading such an attack. It took place in Gambella, capital of the state of that name, near the Sudanese border. Witnesses say the soldiers were joined by dozens of members of the Amara, Oromo and Tigray tribes, who attacked the Anuak with machetes.

The violence was sparked when a vehicle carrying UN and Ethiopian officials was ambushed near Gambella and the eight occupants killed. Anuak militants were blamed in the attack, and rival tribesmen--reportedly backed by army troops--set upon Anuak villages. An Ethiopian embassy spokesman in Washington said accounts of uniformed Ethiopian soldiers killing Anuak were "completely false and unfounded."

There are active gold and oil reserves on the Anuak's ancestral land, and for the past decade the Anuak have pressed the national government in Addis Ababa for a share in the projected development of these resources. Also over the past decade, some 20,000 Anuak have fled into refugee camps in Kenya and Sudan. Ironically, they were forced to flee in part by an influx of Nuer refugees from Sudan, who settled on traditional Anuak lands and were armed by the Ethiopian government. (Doug McGill for In These Times, Jan. 19) [top]

UN officials have announced that Eritrea, which has some of the highest malnutrition rates in Africa, needs food and other aid urgently to contain a deepening humanitarian crisis. The 2003 crop failure (due to drought) left the Horn of Africa with only enough supplies to feed 20% of its 3.5 million inhabitants. The UN has appealed for emergency humanitarian assistance for Eritrea.

Eritrea, still recovering from a 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, claims around 60,000 internally displaced people, some of whom were unable to go home because of the continuing border dispute with Ethiopia, UN Development Programme representative Simon Nhongo told journalists. (Reuters, Jan. 21) (Wynde Priddy) [top]

Attorneys representing defendants in the special international tribunal on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda launched a three-day strike Jan. 29 to press a list of demands, including the right to bail, to subpoena defense witnesses and to know the identity of secret prosecution witnesses. The court, based in Tanzania, says it needs to protect witnesses from potential reprisals. (Reuters, Jan. 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

The Community of Central African States (CCAS) has announced the launch of a "free regional market" to begin in July, which officials say will strive for commercial integration in accordance with the World Trade Organization (WTO). George Chicoty, Angolan vice-minister for foreign affairs, said that the decision was made at the CCAS 11th Summit in Congo-Brazzaville . (Angola Press Agency, Jan. 28) (Wynde Priddy) [top]

A French prosecutor is considering charges against US Vice President Dick Cheney over complicity in the abuse of corporate assets when he was head of Halliburton. The case stems from a contract by a consortium including Halliburton subsidiary KBR, and a French company, Technip, to supply a gas complex to Nigeria. Since October, a Paris magistrate has been investigating complaints that $180 million was paid in secret commissions from the late 1990s to 2002 from funds established by the consortium. Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995 to 2000. Magistrate Reynaud van Ruymbeke has ruled out directly prosecuting Cheney on a charge of bribing foreign officials but has not excluded prosecution on the grounds of complicity in the misuse of corporate assets. (Democracy Now, Jan. 6)

See also WW3 REPORT #85 [top]


More than 200 paramilitaries arrived Jan. 10 in an area known as La Ratonera in the rural village of El Porvenir, Remedios municipality, in the Cimitarra Valley region of the Colombian department of Antioquia. According to witnesses, among the paramilitaries were army troops from the Tacines and Palagua battalions. Two local campesinos were murdered, and one 60-year old campesino, German Gil, was tortured and murdered after having his beard shaved off to intimidate other villagers. The paramilitaries took all Gil's property, including 70 head of cattle. One campesina was raped and another 10 remain disappeared. The attack was presumably in retaliation for a Jan. 2 attack by leftist rebels in the area against paramilitaries. The massacre was reported by the Campesino Association of the Cimitarra Valley (ACVC).

The civilian residents of Remedios and Segovia municipalities in eastern Antioquia were already suffering under paramilitary blockades. Much of the population has been displaced to Medellin or Barrancabermeja, while the rest remains trapped by the blockades. The Colombian Army has now imposed its own blockade along the Cimitarra River, previously one of the few escape routes for local residents fleeing the violence. (ACVC, Jan. 14, via Colombia Indymedia)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 25

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

Several houses were destroyed in the hamlet of Pozo Azul, Simiti municipality, in the Colombian department of Sur de Bolivar, when paramiliataries attempted to use the residents as "human shields." The incident began when a combined guerilla force of fighters from the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) overran a nearby paramilitary base. The paras seized Pozo Azul, drawing the battle into the hamlet. The FARC reported some 50 paramilitary fighters and 10 guerillas were killed before the para forces fled the hamlet. (ANNCOL, Jan. 12) [top]

Two campesinos were left dead, 25 detained and dozens of families displaced after the Colombian army's 12th Brigade conducted a sweep of suspected guerilla collaborators in Union Penaya, Caqueta department. Residents reported that the two unarmed campesinos, Argemiro Munoz Valencia and William Gonzalez Cardozo, were cut down with machine gun fire by army troops, and their bodies were later dressed in camouflage and paraded before the community to portray them as guerilla fighters. Several homes were also put to the torch in the incursion. The Union Penaya Junta of Communal Action is demanding the release of the 25 detained, and an end to military incursions in the region. (Prensa Rural, Jan. 26) [top]

Between Dec. 20 and 29, some 50 civilians were arrested without warrant in sweeps of suspected guerilla collaborators in the southern Colombian department of Cauca. The arrested include campesinos, urban workers, small business owners, students, teachers, medical workers, municipal council members and leaders of popular organizations. Local activists claim they were targetted for participating in civil organizations, and that property and homes were damaged or confiscated in the raids. (Peasant Movement of Cajibio, via Colombia Indymedia, Jan. 16; Colombia Support Network action alert, Jan. 28)

Among the detained is indigenous leader Carlos Dario Tote, arrested Dec. 26 in Popayan, the department capital. Tote's 80-year mother was also arrested, and her home raided. Tote is a member of the Central Committee of the Colombian Communist Party (PCC). (PCC Urgent Action, Dec. 29, via Colombia Indymedia, from Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 4)

See also WW3 REPORT #92 [top]

On Dec. 23 combined forces from Colombia's army and National Police arrested 40 in the municipalities of Angostura, Campamento and Yarumal in Antioquia department for allegedly collaborating with guerillas. The arrested include Campamento mayor-elect Leonidas Piedrahita, who was due to take office Jan. 1, as well as municipal officials, ranchers and business owners. (Miami Herald, Dec. 25; AP , Dec. 24)

On Dec. 13, government security forces arrested 57 campesinos in Galeras municipality, Sucre department. Many of those arrested were linked to the farmworker union federation Fensuagro-CUT. On Dec. 21, Navy infantry forces arrested another six campesinos affiliated with a local agricultural union in Salitral municipality, Sucre. (Comite de Solidaridad con los Presos Politicos Seccional Atlantico, via Indymedia Colombia, Jan. 2)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 4) [top]

FARC guerillas have launched a sabotage campaign against oil facilities in the Colombian Amazon department of Putumayo. The department government has registered 57 attacks on the pipeline linking Putumayo to the Tumaco terminal on the Pacific coast since the FARC's Frente 48 launched the campaign in late November. Tanks and oil wells have also been blown up, with the operations of the Canadian company Petrobank Energy Resources of Calgary especially targetted. The trans-Andean pipeline, which normally carries 5,000 barrels a day, has been closed pending further notice. Petrobank began operations in Putumayo in April 2002. (ANNCOL, Jan. 15)

See also WW3 REPORT #92 [top]

Colombia's main trade federation, the Central Workers Union (CUT), reports that 73 unionists were assassinated in 2003, and hundreds more received death threats or were illegally detained. 350 illegal detentions of trade unionists were reported in Bolivar department alone. Also assassinated in 2003 were 30 "survivors" of the Patriotic Union, a leftist party which was largely forced to disband by a wave of paramilitary terror in the 1990s. (ANNCOL, Jan. 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

On Dec. 14, paramilitaries shot to death Juan Camilo Cardona Monsalve, a council member for San Carlos muncipality in Antioquia department. Cardona was killed in Las Balsas, a rural area of San Carlos. Police confirmed in a communique that the murder was carried out by members of the Cacique Nutibara Bloc (BCN), a unit of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The BCN "demobilized" 855 of its members in a formal ceremony in Medellin on Nov. 25.

Cardona was the third municipal council member killed in Colombia in eight days. On Dec. 6, unidentified assailants shot to death conservative legislator Edison Ivan Rodriguez at his home in Doradal, a village in Puerto Triunfo municipality, Antioquia. On Dec. 8, gunmen firing from a motorcycle shot to death Jose Belisario Soler, a council member from Saravena, Arauca department. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Dec. 15)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 4)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

On Jan. 7, paramilitaries wearing armbands identifying them as members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) entered the community of El Salado in El Tarra municipality, in the northeastern Colombian department of Norte de Santander, near the Venezuelan border, where they shot to death at least four people. (Initial reports gave the death toll as seven.) The paramilitaries told some relatives of the victims that if they reported the massacre, they too would be killed. Some 52 families were said to have fled the area. (El Colombiano, Medellin, Jan. 8; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Jan. 9)

Tensions along the border have increased since Dec. 20, when presumed Colombian paramilitaries murdered four Venezuelan National Guard members in an ambush near a border post in Venezuela's Zulia state, across from Norte de Santander. Three other National Guard soldiers were killed in a similar attack--presumably by AUC--on Dec. 18 in Venezuela's Tachira state, which also borders Norte de Santander. Residents of Norte de Santander's Tibu municipality, who survive by fishing in the Sardinata River (which forms the international border), say Venezuela's National Guard has responded to the attacks by detaining and beating them. The fishers say they live in fear of paramilitaries, leftist guerillas and the National Guard. (El Tiempo, Bogota, Jan. 7; La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 21)

On Dec. 28 in Tame municipality, in the eastern department of Arauca--which also borders Venezuela--unidentified assailants shot to death Rosa Adelina Parales, Rosa Casas Parales and a 10-month old baby. The victims were the mother, sister and daughter, respectively, of Tame municipal council president Angel Demetrio Casas, who had reported receiving threats from armed groups. On Dec. 29, assailants believed to be from a leftist guerilla group killed Julio Acosta Perez and Jose Joaquin Perez, two young men from a single family, in Tame. The latest killings brought to 175 the number of people murdered in Tame in 2003, according to the Joel Sierra Regional Human Rights Committee Foundation. (Joel Sierra press release, Dec. 30)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 11)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

In a Jan. 16 statement, the US Embassy in Venezuela said it had declared a security alert after receiving information about "a possible threat against US interests in Caracas" which could take place between Jan. 18 and 20. According to the communique, the British and Spanish embassies in Caracas received similar threats. (CNN en Espanol, Jan. 17)

The information about the threats apparently came from the Caracas Metropolitan Police, controlled by opponents of President Hugo Chavez. Metropolitan Police chief Lazaro Forero said a new armed group supportive of the Chavez government, the "Nestor Cerpa Cartolini Tactical Unit," had claimed responsibility for the threats. Forero said the group also took responsibility for a Jan. 16 sniper attack against Metropolitan Police agents in the 23 de Enero neighborhood of Caracas, in leaflets distributed at the scene. The rebel group is named for a leader of Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Cerpa and 13 other guerillas were killed in an April 1997 government assault on the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, where MRTA had been holding hostages for over four months.

On Jan. 14, Venezuelan prosecutor Gilberto Landaeta asked Interpol to help locate four Venezuelan retired military officers who are accused in connection with bombings on Feb. 25, 2003 at the Spanish and Colombian embassies in Caracas, in which four people were wounded. The fugitives are National Guard Gen. Felipe Rodriguez, Army Col. Yussepe Piliery and army lieutenants Jose Colina and German Varela. All four are believed to be in Florida, according to a statement from the Venezuelan attorney general's office.

Rodriguez, Piliery, Colina and Varela belong to a group of about 100 dissident officers who occupied a Caracas plaza in early 2002, hoping to spark a rebellion against the Chavez government. In November 2003, the attorney general charged the four with responsibility for the February attacks, alleging they expected the bombings would be blamed on Chavez supporters and would turn the Spanish and Colombian governments against the Venezuelan regime.

US immigration officials announced in December that Varela and Colina were taken into custody after arriving in Miami on a commercial flight from Colombia. The two sought political asylum, claiming they were framed merely for oppossing Chavez. (El Diario-La Prensa, NYC; El Nuevo Herald, Miami; La Republica, Lima, Jan. 17, 18)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 18)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On Jan. 2, police in Quito arrested FARC leader Ricardo Ovidio Palmera Pineda, better known as "Simon Trinidad." He was quickly handed over to Colombian authorities. Trinidad is one of seven members of the FARC's secretariat and the highest-ranking guerrilla leader to be arrested in over 40 years of armed conflict in Colombia. Interpol reportedly issued an international arrest warrant for Trinidad on Dec. 31 after military intelligence detected his presence in Quito, where he was said to be seeking treatment for prostate cancer. Colombian officials indicated that the US played a role in Trinidad's capture, but declined to give details. (Miami Herald, Jan. 4)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 4)

On Jan. 4, the Colombian military released a video purportedly showing Trinidad while he was being followed days before his arrest, contradicting a statement by Ecuador's police that he was detained during a routine check. Colombian Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe said the US had provided "key support" in the capture. A spokesman for the US Embassy in Bogota declined to comment. (Reuters, Jan. 4) [top]

Peru's former presidential security adviser Vladimiro Montesinos went on trial Jan. 20 for the 1999 sale of 10,000 AK-47 assault rifles to Colombia's FARC guerillas. Montesinos and 17 co-defendants are on trial in a court adjoining the Callao Naval Base, where he is jailed. Security advisor for ex-president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), Montesinos also faces some 70 other charges ranging from corruption of public officials and illicit enrichment to murder.

During the first day's hearing, Montesinos asked the court to call CIA Director George Tenet as a witness in his defense, to explain the agency's purported role in the purchase of the weapons from Jordan. According to Peruvian prosecutors, Montesinos purchased the AK-47s with the help of Lebanese arms trafficker Sarkis Soghanalian. The weapons were reportedly then dropped to guerillas in the southeastern Colombian department of Vichada from a Ukraine-registered cargo plane in four shipments in 1999. The FARC paid more than $750,000 in cash, prosecutor Ronald Gamarra claims, with the money coming from an $8 million cocaine deal cut with Brazilian traffickers.

After deliberating for a half hour, the three-judge panel of the Special Criminal Court agreed to call Tenet as a witness. The court had already admitted testimony to the prosecutor's office by CIA representative in Lima George Gorelick and first secretary of the US Embassy Thomas Sanchez. The testimony concerned a meeting the two officials held on the case with Humberto Rosas, former chief of Peru's National Intelligence Service (SIN). (La Republica, Lima, Jan. 21; NYT, Jan. 21; AP, Jan. 18)

US intelligence officials have said Jordanian officials told the CIA in Amman that the government was planning to sell rifles to the Peruvian military. Officials say the CIA signed off on the sale and learned only later that the weapons had been diverted to the FARC. (NYT, Jan. 21) But on Dec. 18, the Lima daily El Comercio cited prosecutor Gamarra as saying that the CIA had supported the arms sale to the FARC with the goal of justifying stepped-up US intervention in Colombia. He said these claims were based on the testimony of Soghanalian and Atef Halasa, chief of protocol for the Jordanian Foreign Relations Ministry. Halasa told a Peruvian Congress member who traveled to Jordan to investigate the case: "The US government knew about this. The CIA had authorized it." Gamarra added that his suspicions were also fed by the CIA's refusal to collaborate in the Peruvian investigation; in contrast, the US FBI and DEA have offered their assistance. (AP, Jan. 18)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 25)

See also WW3 REPORT #76 [top]

Peru's labor minister Jesus Alvarado resigned on Jan. 3, becoming the fourth official in two months to quit the cabinet of the increasingly unpopular President Alejandro Toledo over nepotism allegations. Alvarado is under investigation over media claims he got jobs for family members in state institutions. (Reuters, Jan. 3) [top]

Chilean carabineros arrested Mapuche indigenous leader Pascual Pichun in the Temulemu community of Araucania region on Jan. 14, a day after raiding his home and that of Mapuche leader Aniceto Norin. Pichun and Norin were sentenced on Sept. 22 to five years and a day in prison for the crime of "terrorist threat." The Supreme Court upheld their sentences on Dec. 15. They had been acquitted earlier in the year on other charges relating to arson attacks on estates in the region. Norin has not been captured. (El Mostrador, Chile, Jan. 15)

The estate targetted in the earlier case belonged to former agriculture minitser Juan Augustin Figueroa. The government's key witnesses included police agents who provided security at the estate, and at least two "faceless" witnesses whose identity was kept secret. (Weekly News Update, April 13, 2003)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 18) [top]

Up to 3,000 Guarani and Kaiowa Indians have invaded 14 ranches in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul in recent weeks. Violence had been feared after they ignored a judicial eviction order, but an agreement was reached Jan. 31. The Indians will retain a presence on three of the farms, while the government prepares to have the whole area declared a reservation. The agreement is said to anger local ranchers, who stand to lose their lands, and will only be able to claim compensation for "improvements" which they have made. 90 square kilometres (35 square miles) are to be demarcated as an Indian reserve. Anthropologists agree that the lands belonged to the two tribes before they were appropriated by settlers. The tribes now only inhabit about 1% of the state where they roamed freely until the 1940s. The rachers counter that they bought the land in good faith after its appropriation, and have threatened to take matters into their own hands if the government does not address their complaints. (BBC, Feb. 3) [top]


The village of Tlalnepantla, south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos, was occupied by the state police Jan. 14, with agents limiting access and harassing rights observers when they tried to visit. The occupation started when over a thousand state police agents stormed the main plaza and the town hall, under the control of an "autonomous" government the residents had declared on Jan. 11. One Tlalnepantla resident, Gregorio Sanchez Mercado, was shot dead in the operation, and dozens were injured. 23 were arrested and a number remained in hiding.

Until last July the largely indigenous town had always elected its leaders in an open council consisting of the entire adult population. In July, electoral authorities rejected this tradition and recognized the election of Elias Osorio Torres, mayoral candidate of the formerly-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), by a minority of voters. After months of discussion Tlalnepantla residents declared the town "autonomous" and installed a new council in the town hall. Tlalnepantla joined 38 self-declared autonomous indigenous communities in the southeastern state of Chiapas, and a number in other southern states.

A coalition of local and national indigenous and human rights groups have called for an end to the police occupation, immediate release of the prisoners, restoration of the autonomous government, punishment of those responsible for the violence and the impeachment of Morelos governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal, who ordered the attack. Some 2,500 people marched in Cuernavaca, the state capital, on Jan. 17 in support of these demands. The US-based Mexico Solidarity Network is calling for emails to Gov. Estrada ( and calls to local Mexican consulates to protest the occupation. (La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 15, 18; Red de Comunicacion de Morelos communique, Jan. 15; Mexico Solidarity Network Urgent Action, Jan. 16; Coordinadora de Pueblos, Comunidades y Organizaciones Sociales y Civiles communique, Jan. 15)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 18)

The US-based weekly Indian Country Today cited reports from locals in Tlalnepantla Jan. 20 that two had been killed in the Jan. 14 violence. One anonymous eye-witness told the weekly: "Snipers and police gunmen filled the air with bullets, beat women and men over 80 years of age, and left two dead, many wounded and scores of people disappeared and as of yet unaccounted for. Illegal searches were conducted in dozens of houses in the town."

Indian Country Today also noted that the violence came just as George Bush was in the Mexican City of Monterrey for a summit with Latin American leaders. [top]

Over 350 prisoners in Mexico's maximum-security La Palma prison went on hunger strike on Jan. 6 to protest the arbitrary transfer of two political prisoners in November to facilities far from their families, and to demand improved medical service and food, as well as an end to harassment and the use of solitary confinement as a punishment. A prisoner died due to lack of medical attention in December at the prison, which is in Mexico state and was formerly known as Almoloya de Juarez.

Two well-known political prisoners joined the hunger strike: Jacobo Silva Nogales, supposed "Commander Antonio" of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI), who was on hunger strike for 61 days in the spring of 2002; and Antonio Cerezo Contreras, one of three brothers arrested for allegedly setting off three small bombs at a bank in Mexico City in August 2001. The Vancouver-based Group of Relatives and Friends of Political Prisoners in Mexico (GRFPPM) is asking for letters supporting the strikers, to be addressed to President Vicente Fox and Governance Secretary Santiago Creel at, with copies to GRFPPM at (GRFPPM urgent action, Jan. 11)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 18)

See also WW3 REPORT #90 [top]

During the week of Jan. 5 authorities in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero arrested five campesinos for the November murder of Horacio Zacarias Barrientos Peralta, a star witness in a federal probe into the government's "dirty war" against suspected leftists in the 1970s and 1980s. The suspects are Barrientos' wife, her alleged lover, her uncle (who is in his 80s and is also a witness in the probe), another witness, and campesino leader Ramiro Rosas Contreras. Guerrero state prosecutors described Barrientos' murder as a sordid crime of passion. Human rights workers immediately questioned the investigation, while family members said the suspects were tortured into confessing.

Barrientos had been giving testimony to Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, head of the Special Prosecutor's Office for Social and Political Movements of the Past (FEMOSPP), which is investigating 532 disappearances, mostly in Guerrero in the 1970s, which occurred during counter-insurgency operations against leftist rebels.

Carrillo has repeatedly encountered problems getting warrants for the arrest of dirty war suspects. His first success was a warrant for former Guerrero police commander Isidro Galeana Abarca, issued on Nov. 26, the same day Barrientos' body was found near Acapulco. But Galeana was never arrested. He reportedly died of a heart attack on Jan. 2 while at home in Acapulco--even though authorities had said he was in hiding. There is speculation that he is still alive and that his death was faked. (Reuters, Jan. 3; Miami Herald, Jan. 9)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 11)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

In the early morning of Jan. 5 some 25 heavily armed men wearing military and federal police uniforms broke into a penitentiary in Apatzingan, Michoacan, and released a number of inmates. The target of the operation appeared to be five men believed to be hired killers for the so-called Gulf Cartel: Cipriano Mendoza, Jose Julio Mendoza, Alberto Guizar, Eleuterio Guzman and Marco Aurelio Bejarano. They had been arrested in November on murder and kidnapping charges.

About 20 other prisoners escaped in the incident, and some were later recaptured or turned themselves in. One prisoner, Fernando Coria Huerta, was shot dead by a guard as he attempted to escape. Officials of the federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) have speculated that the operation was carried out by a group known as the "Zetas," made up of former troops from the US-trained Airborne Special Forces Group (GAFE). A group of men dressed as soldiers freed Gulf Cartel members from a prison in Tamaulipas state in a similar operation at the end of 2002. (La Jornada, Mexico, Miami Herald, Jan. 16)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 11) [top]

"I will always be a part of civil zapatismo," declared Jeronimo Sanchez Saenz as he was freed from San Jose El Alto prison in Queretaro state Dec. 25, after serving six years for painting a slogan on a wall. Sanchez says he was actually targetted for his activism with Independent Front of Zapatista Organizations (FIOZ), and his liberty was adopted as a precondition for peace by the rebel Zapatista Army in Chiapas. Sanchez credited Queretaro's new governor, Francisco Garrido Patron of the center-right PAN, with breaking from the hardline policies of his predecessor Ignacio Loyola Vera of the PRI political machine. Sanchez called the new governor's move to free him "a good sign." (La Jornada, Dec. 26)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

At least 120 local residents were detained by state police at La Huasteca agricultural community (predio) in La Trinitaria, Chiapas, after two groups of campesinos fought with sticks, rocks and machetes in a land dispute. The conflict left 20 injured, five seriously. Indicative of the internecine warfare now widespread in Chiapas, authorities said the conflict was between the rival "Che Guevara" and "Lucio Cabanas" factions of the Emiliano Zapata Proletarian Organization (OPEZ). The "Che Guevara" faction accuses the "Lucio Cabanas" faction of cooperating with the authorities and land-owners, and of violent attacks on "Che Guevara" loyalists, including the torching of homes. (Milenio, Jan. 13) On Jan. 22, over 100 OPEZ families were evicted from occupied lands at Rancho Alegre in Suchiate municipality. On Jan. 23, over 500 state police troops were called in to evict OPEZ campesinos from contested lands at predios Los Cerros and Los Cerritos, also in Suchiate. (Proceso, Jan. 23) The evicted OPEZ militants staged an occupation of the Suchiate municipal building Jan. 23, taking the mayor's wife, son and chauffer hostage. (Orbe, Jan. 23)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Ten years after the Zapatista uprising, 10,000 mostly indigenous campesinos remain internally displaced in Chiapas, according to the human rights group associated with the Catholic diocese of San Cristobal. The overwhelming majority were forced to flee their homes by pro-government paramilitary groups. (Proceso, Jan. 5)

Much of the state's highland and rainforest zones remain under the control of pro-Zapatista "autonomous" local governments, despite ongoing conflicts. Autonomous Tzotzil Maya authorities in the Chiapas highland village of San Andres Larrainzar threw up roadblocks Jan. 21 to demand reparations for damages to potable water sources and drainage channels by construction of the new Santiago El Pinar-San Andres highway. Two government officials are also being held to press the demands--the Chiapas state liason to Chenalho municipality and a representative of the federal Communications and Transport Secretariat (SCT). (Orbe, Jan. 21)

100 Chol Maya marched in Tila Jan. 22 to demand the dismantling of a military camp near their communl lands (ejido), and warned that they would physically occupy lands now controlled by the military if their demands were not met. (Proceso, Jan. 26)

But many indigenous communities in Chiapas face violent internal divisions as well as government militarization. "What is most painful is that now Indians are confronting Indians, Zapatistas [against] non-Zapatistas, the poor against the poor," Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal said in his New Year's message, published by the diocese. (, Jan. 7)

The federal government still refuses to accept the San Andres Accords, the Zapatista peace plan which would constitutionally protect autonomous indigenous communities. The administration of Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar is walking a fine line--using security forces against militant campesino groups, while officially calling for a negotiated settlement to the conflicts. The Chiapas state Secretary for Indian Peoples, Juan Vazquez Lopez, announced that his office had translated the San Andres Accords into ten indigenous languages, and is having them distributed in indigenous communities throughout the state. Admitted Vazquez: "Of more than 20,000 communities in Chiapas, some 200 are in resistance and rebellion"--although he emphasized that many of these are very small settlements or hamlets. (La Jornada, Jan. 11)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Federal Navy troops and state police agents were mobilized to the Chiapas rainforest Jan 23 to forcibly evict indigenous families from the community of Nuevo San Rafael in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. 23 houses were burned down in the operation, according to the human rights group associated with the Catholic diocese of San Cristobal. The troops were officially led by the Federal Prosecutor for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA). Nuevo San Rafael, one of several communities in the reserve facing threat of eviction, is made up of Chol Maya who had moved to the rainforest after being displaced from their traditional lands at El Calvario, Sabanilla municipality, by big landlords. (Orbe, Jan. 23)

See also WW3 REPORT #78 [top]


Conservative former Guatemala City mayor Oscar Berger was inaugurated as Guatemala's new president on Jan. 14. In attendance were Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, and a US delegation was headed by Florida governor Jeb Bush. Berger, of the Grand National Alliance (GANA), pledged to promote fulfillment of the 1996 accords that ended a bloody 36-year civil war. On Jan. 16 indigenous human rights activist Rigoberta Menchu Tum, winner of the 1992 Nobel peace prize, accepted a government position as "goodwill ambassador" to help oversee application of the accords. Menchu noted that this was the first time she had been directly invited to work with the Guatemalan government. (Prensa Libre, Guatemala; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Jan. 15; Guatemala Hoy, Jan. 17; BBC News, Jan. 19)

As Berger was being sworn in, the old session of Congress officially ended, and with it the immunity from prosecution that former dictator Efrain Rios Montt had enjoyed as a legislative deputy. Rios Montt headed the government in 1982-83 during the worst period of war crimes against civilians and is the target of several legal actions. One was filed by Menchu in December 1999 in Spain, in an effort to circumvent Rios Montt's immunity in Guatemala; another was filed in a Guatemalan court in June 2001 by the Association for Justice and Reconciliation. (Miami Herald, Jan. 14)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 18)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

On Dec. 16 Honduran judge Atiliano Vasquez handed down 25-year prison sentences for Lenca indigenous council members Marcelino Miranda Espinoza and Leonardo Miranda Espinoza for the alleged homicide of Juan Reyes Gomes in the community of Montana Verde in Gracias municipality, Lempira department. In a communique dated Dec. 23, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) points to numerous irregularities in the case: ballistics evidence did not support the conviction; testimony from 10 Montana Verde residents in defense of the Miranda brothers was ignored, while the prosecution's two witnesses, both from distant towns, were given credence even though they incorrectly identified the crime scene in a reconstruction of the events; and the judge handed down the sentence on Dec. 17, a day after the court closed for the holidays, without informing the defendants or their attorney. COPINH says the men were framed with the connivance of big landowners and the authorities because they challenged the encroachment of cattle ranches onto traditional Lenca lands.

Police arrested the Miranda brothers during a violent raid on Montana Verde in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 8, 2003 and subsequently tortured them in custody. Three months later, on April 6, armed agents from the COBRA security force unit beat and tortured the brothers in their jail cells. The Montana Verde community brought charges against 28 police agents and paramilitaries for the Jan. 8 raid, but the charges were dismissed. (COPINH statements, via Chiapas Indymedia)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 18)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

On Dec. 30 sugar workers from the Colima sugar plantation in El Salvador used tree trunks, boulders and banners to block the Troncal del Norte highway for four hours in a protest against layoffs. More than 380 contract harvest workers and 1,000 transport and agricultural workers were laid off from the Colima plantation, in Suchitoto municipality, Cuscatlan department, because the Economy Ministry reduced a domestic market quota assigned to the company. (La Prensa Grafica, Dec. 31)

(From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 4)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]

After a month-long delay following Washington negotiations, Costa Rica agreed to join the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). At least 80% of US exports to the five Central American nations will immediately become duty-free if the pact is approved. In the remaining 20% are such staples as corn, rice and potatoes, for which duties will be phased out gradually. The compromise announced Jan. 25 would allow Cosat Rica a gradual opening of its telecoms and other key sectors. Critics point out that the US sugar industry remains largely protected from Central American competitors under the deal, and US demands for protection of "intellectual property" could limit the availablity of inexpensive medicines. (NYT, Jan. 26)

See also WW3 REPORT #94 [top]


Al Gore's recent press conference on global warming during one of the coldest days of recent years provided joke fodder for conservative talk show hosts. But the latest research shows that the phenomenon may be no laughing matter--and could paradoxically spark a new ice age. Writes Thom Hartmann in a Jan. 30 commentary for

"In quick summary, if enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age--in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset--and the mid-case scenario would be a period like the 'little ice age' of a few centuries ago that disrupted worldwide weather patterns leading to extremely harsh winters, droughts, worldwide desertification, crop failures, and wars around the world."

Northern Europe's moderate climate is the result of ocean currents that bring warm surface water up from the equator-- often referred to as "The Great Conveyor Belt," and including the Gulf Stream. Shaped by the Coriolis effect of the Earth's rotation, the Conveyor Belt is driven by the greater force created by differences in water temperatures and salinity. Cool waters settle to the bottom of the sea, mostly at a point a few hundred kilometers south of the southern tip of Greenland, producing a sub-ocean whirlpool 5 to 10 miles across. This, in turn, forms an "undersea river" (actually 40 times larger than all the rivers on land combined), flowing south around the southern tip of Africa, and finally reaching the Pacific. The water is so deep and dense (due to cold and salinity) that it often doesn't surface in the Pacific for up to a thousand years after it first sank off Greenland.

As the underwater river sends cold water down to Africa and beyond, it draws in a strong surface current of warm, fresher water from the Pacific--forming the Gulf Stream, and ending up off the coast of Europe. The Great Conveyor Belt is only thing between warm summers and a permanent ice age for Europe and the eastern coast of North America.

Recent studies of ice core samples from remote Greenland glaciers have challenged previous assumptions that the transition from past temperate eras to ice ages took hundreds of yeras. The new research indicates it often happened in as little as three years. It appears that small variations in solar energy happen in roughly 1500-year cycles. This cycle brought us the "Little Ice Age" that started around 1400--we're now in the warming phase, recovering from that. When the Arctic Ocean and Greenland are full of ice, this natural variation warms and cools the Earth in a comparatively small way. In millennia past, however, before the Arctic froze up, these 1500-year variations created periods of total glaciation in the northern hemisphere--because the Great Conveyor Belt had shut down by an influx of too much cold water into the North Atlantic by melting Arctic ice. When the summer stopped in the north, the rains stopped around the equator: As Europe was plunged into Ice Age, the Middle East and Africa were ravaged by drought and wind-driven firestorms. If this were to happen today, two billion humans would starve or freeze to death. Vast areas of the Earth would become uninhabitable, and ivilization as we know it probably end.

As author William H. Calvin points out in his book "A Brain For All Seasons: Human Evolution & Abrupt Climate Change," there are already signs that the Great Conveyor Belt is becoming destabilized:. "In the Labrador Sea, flushing failed during the 1970s, was strong again by 1990, and is now declining. In the Greenland Sea over the 1980s salt sinking declined by 80 percent. Obviously, local failures can occur without catastrophe--it's a question of how often and how widespread the failures are--but the present state of decline is not very reassuring."

Concludes Hartmann: "When a critical threshold is reached, the climate will suddenly switch to an ice age that could last minimally 700 or so years, and maximally over 100,000 years... Preliminary computer models and scientists willing to speculate suggest the switch could flip as early as next year, or it may be generations from now. It may be wobbling right now, producing the extremes of weather we've seen in the past few years. What's almost certain is that if nothing is done about global warming, it will happen sooner rather than later."

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

93, 62, 42 [top]

The White House has again asked Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling--this time with a portion of the profits going to funding for renewable energy programs. The request is part of the Interior Department's 2005 budget. ( Environment News Service, Feb. 3)

See also: WW3 REPORT # 93 [top]

President Bush's recent announcement that the US should send a manned mission to Mars may actually be based in more earthly political calculations, writes Joe Conason in an on-line commentary for Salon. Halliburton, the firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has long harbored ambitions to drill for minerals on Mars and the moon. In 1998, a handful of top firms, including Halliburton, Shell and Schlumberger, showed up for a NASA "workshop" at Los Alamos, NM, to discuss the prospects. Research seems to have intensified since 2001, with Halliburton and other firms engaged in proprietary research on such advanced technologies as laser-powered drills. Conason quotes a February 2001 clip from Petroleum News on the joint program launched by Halliburton, Shell, Baker-Hughes and Los Alamos National Laboratory to explore the possibilities of drilling for water on Mars. The report said: "The earliest drilling opportunity would be 2007 ... Deeper drilling, into the multi-kilometer range, might occur as part of a 2014 Mars mission which would put astronauts on the planet to assist." [top]


Ellen Mariani, whose husband died on Sept. 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 175 was flown into the south tower of the World Trade Center, has filed suit in a US District Court alleging Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and other co-defendents had sufficient warning to stop the attacks but failed to either warn or protect the public. Mariani, 65, made headlines for refusing to accept settlement money from the government compensation fund for 9-11 survivor families. She refused to take the money, estimated at $500,000, because doing so would have prevented her from filing lawsuits against the airlines and federal government. "I want to be able to sleep at night knowing I did everything in my power to get to the bottom of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001," Mariani said. (Portsmouth Herald, Jan. 25) [top]

Philip Zelikow, executive director of the independent commission investigating intelligence failures around the 9-11 attacks is being questioned by his own staff about his involvement in shaping Bush administration counter-terrorist startegy as a member of the Bush transition team in 2001. The panel's commission, Jamie Gorelick, has also come under scrutiny for her role as a deputy to Attorney General Janet Reno in the mid-1990s. (NYT, Jan. 15)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, head of the US Army, said in an interview with AP that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have provided a "tremendous focus" for the military, helping instil its soldiers with a "warrior ethos." Referring to the 9-11 attacks, he said: "There is a huge silver lining in this cloud... Now we have this focusing opportunity, and we have the fact that [terrorists] have actually attacked our homeland, which gives it some oomph." He added that it is no use having an army that does nothing but train. "There's got to be a certain appetite for what the hell we exist for," he said. "I'm not warmongering, the fact is we're going to be called and really asked to do this stuff." (BBC, Jan. 22) [top]


On Jan. 22, Syrian-born Canadian citizen Maher Arar filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Brooklyn, NY, charging US Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former INS Commissioner James Ziglar, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other US officials with violating legal strictures against torture by deporting him to Syria. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the suit on Arar's behalf under the Torture Victims Protection Act. Lawyers said it is the first time US officials have been charged under that statute.

Arar was arrested in September 2002 while waiting for a connecting flight to Canada at JFK airport in New York. Interrogated in New York for 13 days, he was then flown via Jordan to Syria--where he was held for over 10 months and repeatedly tortured in what he called a "dark, damp hole." He was finally freed in October 2003. Arar, now in Ottawa, spoke by phone at a New York press conference announcing the lawsuit. "I believe that the persons who sent me to Syria knew that I would be interrogated under torture there," said Arar.

CCR says the suit is the first to challenge the US government's "extraordinary renditions" program, under which foreign suspects are handed over to a third country for interrogation. "Federal officials intentionally deported Mr. Arar to Syria, precisely because that country can and does use methods to obtain information from detainees that would not be legal or morally acceptable in this country," CCR deputy legal director Barbara Olshansky said at the news conference.

In a Jan. 22 statement, the Justice Department said it has information indicating that Arar is a member of al-Qaeda, but that the information is classified and cannot be made public. Arar's suit seeks a court declaration clearing him of any association with terrorist organizations or suspected terrorists; a declaration of the unconstitutionality of his detention and rights violations; and unspecified monetary damages for economic losses and emotional and physical injuries. He is barred from entering the US for five years. (NYT, Jan. 23; Toronto Star, Jan. 24)

(From Immigration News Briefs, Jan. 24)

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a Jan. 21 raid by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on the home and offices of an Ottawa Citizen journalist who was covering Arar's case. "I cannot really comment on the specific details of the investigation," said RCMP Sgt. Jocelyn Mimeault, who said that search warrants were executed but have been sealed. Mimeault said police were investigating possible violations of Canada's Security of Information Act by reporter Juliet O'Neill. The law makes it illegal to report on the contents of leaked secret documents. Ottawa Citizen editor-in-chief Scott Anderson said the search concerned a Nov. 8 story O'Neill wrote on the Arar case. Police seized notebooks, computer hard drives, address books and documents, he said.

( CBC News, Jan. 21)

In response to an application by O'Neill and her employer, supported by the Toronto Star, Ottawa Justice Lynn Ratushny issued a sealing order that puts most of the seized information off-limits to police investigators pending litigation. (Toronto Star, Jan. 30)

See also WW3 REPORT #63 [top]

Eighteen people who participated in November's protest at Ft. Benning, GA, were sentenced to up to six months in federal prison for trespassing. Almost 170 have been sentenced for trespassing at the army base in the 14 years that protesters have targeted the military training facility there, formerly known as the School of the Americas. The school, now officially the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, has trained foreign officers who went on to commit torture, murder and other crimes in Latin America, protesters charge. (AP, Jan. 26)

Among those sentenced to three months was Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, the group which violated the sanctions against Iraq as a civil disobedience. ( Voices in the Wilderness press release, Jan. 26)

For more on the School of the Americas, see SOA Watch

For more on the SOA protests see WW3 REPORT #93

For some current activities of SOA graduates, WW3 REPORT #s:

94, 89, 30 [top]

The Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge. Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI had to submit subpoena requests to a federal judge. Intelligence agencies and the Treasury Department could obtain some financial data from banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without a court order or subpoena if they had the approval of a senior government official. The new law (Section 374) lets the FBI acquire these records through an administrative procedure whereby an FBI field agent simply drafts a so-called "national security letter" stating the information is relevant to a national security investigation. The law also broadens the definition of "financial institution" to include insurance companies, travel agencies, real estate agents, stockbrokers, the US Postal Service and even jewelry stores, casinos and car dealerships. The law prohibits subpoenaed businesses from revealing to anyone, including customers who may be under investigation, that the government has requested records of their transactions. Bush signed the bill on Dec. 13, a Saturday, which was the same day the US military captured Saddam Hussein. (Free Internet Press, Jan. 7)

See also WW3 REPORT #84 [top]

On Jan. 12, without comment, the US Supreme Court issued a one-line order refusing to hear the case of Center for National Security Studies v. Department of Justice. The ruling lets stand a policy under which the government kept secret the names of at least 750 men detained following the 9-11 attacks. "I think they are covering up their misconduct in arresting hundreds of innocent men," said Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, a public interest group which had filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit seeking the names of the detainees.

In response to the lawsuit, the Justice Department did release the names of 129 detainees who were charged with a criminal offense. In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the Center for National Security Studies was joined by Amnesty International, People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and 23 media organizations. The Department said 74 of the over 750 men detained originally for immigration violations were still in custody as of June 2002. (LAT, Jan. 13; NYT, Jan. 12)

(From Immigration News Briefs, Jan. 17)

See also WW3 REPORT #93 [top]

On Jan. 2, a coalition of over 20 news organizations and media companies asked the Supreme Court to let them join an appeal in a secret immigration case, M.K.B. v. Warden. The news groups are siding with Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel, an Algerian immigrant who challenged his detention following the 9-11 attacks. The government has insisted on keeping Bellahouel's case secret. His name is only known because a brief docketing error led a reporter for the Daily Business Review of Miami to reveal it in an article published last last March 12. Bellahouel worked as a waiter in Florida. The FBI said he may have served meals to 9-11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi in the weeks preceeding the attacks. (AP, Jan. 2; CSM, Oct. 30)

(From Immigration News Briefs, Jan. 4) [top]

Five US military lawyers assigned to defend prisoners captured in Afghanistan before the new military tribunals filed a brief with the US Supreme Court, arguing against the tribunal's legitimacy. The brief accuses the Bush administration of attempting to have the judicial branched "usurped." "If there is no right to civilian review, the government is free to conduct sham trials and condemn to death those who do nothing more than pray to Allah," the brief states. It adds that if the Bush administration's treatment of the prisoners is not challenged, "the government is free to label virtually any person on the globe an enemy alien and deprive recourse to the civilian court." The Supreme Court agreed to hear the "habeas corpus" case, al-Odah v US, in November. (UPI, Jan. 15)

For more on the military tribunals, see WW3 REPORT #s:

43, 38, 26, 17, 12, 11 [top]

On Jan. 29, the US military released three teen-aged boys--said to be between 13 and 15--held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. The boys were sent back to their home country--which was not identified--following a determination that they no longer posed a threat to the US, the Pentagon said. The official statement said the boys' identities are being kept secret for fear of reprisals against them. (South Africa Independent, Jan. 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

83, 48, 47 [top]


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