Archive for July, 2013

Kuwait gets $1 billion from Iraq invasion fund

2013-07-25

GENEVA – A United Nations body that handles war reparations for Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait said Thursday it had handed over a further $1.07 billion (810 million euros) to the emirate.

The payment, related to damage to oil facilities and resulting financial losses, brings to $42.3 billion the total sum handed out by the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC).

Some $10.1 billion awarded by the UNCC to a string of claimants still remains to be paid out.

In addition to Kuwait, more than 100 governments and international organizations have been allocated funds by the UNCC for distribution to 1.5 million successful claimants.

The UNCC was set up by the UN Security Council in 1991, the year that a US-led coalition drove then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait.

Its funds are drawn from a UN-mandated levy of five percent on Iraqi oil exports, whose continued existence has come in for criticism given that Saddam was ousted in 2003 in the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60342.

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Kuwait opposition breaks up into oppositions ahead of divisive election

2013-07-25

Majority of political groups are boycotting election for Kuwait’s 50-seat parliament, while few are participating in it.

KUWAIT CITY – Ranging from advocates of Islamic law to Western-style liberals, a majority of political groups are boycotting Saturday’s election for Kuwait’s 50-seat parliament, while a few are participating in it.

Political parties remain banned in the oil-rich Gulf emirate, although these groups act as de facto parties.

Those boycotting are doing it for the second time in a row in protest at the government’s amendment of the electoral law, although the change was confirmed by the constitutional court in June.

These opposition groups along with independent opposition members held no seats in the predominantly pro-government parliament elected in December, but had as many as 36 seats in parliament after February 2012 polls. Both houses were nullified by Kuwait’s top court on procedural flaws.

Kuwait’s parliamentary system is unique as candidates contest polls individually, and the government is normally formed from outside parliament and its unelected ministers automatically become MPs and can vote like elected members.

Among the main political groups boycotting the polls is The Islamic Constitutional Movement, political arm of Kuwait’s Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. The ICM has called for political and economic reforms despite advocating a stricter social order. It has not fielded any candidate and is urging voters to shun the ballot.

The Islamic Salafi Alliance (ISA), a purist Sunni religious group with hardline views on morality, is divided on the issue of taking part in polls as one section is participating and the other is boycotting.

The Islamic Ommah Party is the only party in Kuwait but it is not recognized by the state. With its radical and progressive views on reforms, including an elected government and a full parliamentary system, the party has stayed away from the polls.

The Popular Action Movement is also boycotting. It brings together former legislators headed by veteran former speaker Ahmad al-Saadun. The group focuses on populist issues such as housing and salary increases, besides calling for radical democratic reforms.

Another political group boycotting the polls is The Democratic Forum. It is a liberal group and strong advocate of political and economic reforms with a priority on development. A few of its members defected and are running.

Among the groups that are taking part is The National Democratic Alliance, an umbrella of a number of moderate liberal groups and individuals close to the merchants. It had boycotted December polls but this time has decided to take part after the court’s ruling. Some of its members are still staying away.

The National Action Bloc, a liberal grouping which is not a part of the main opposition, has decided to participate after boycotting last polls.

The National Islamic Alliance, a Shiite group, has publicly supported the election and is fielding five candidates, one in each electoral constituency.

The Justice and Peace Alliance, also a Shiite group, is taking part.

Almost all Bedouin tribes, which boycotted December polls, have decided to take part. Analysts, however, are not expecting a high turnout from tribes.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60345.

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Seven Madinah mosques popular with visitors

MADINAH: YUSUF MUHAMMAD

Thursday 25 July 2013

Of the many historical and archaeological sites in Madinah, visitors are most likely to visit a group of small mosques, commonly known as “The Seven Mosques.”

People visit six small mosques in the region, but add a seventh one, known as the “Mosque of the Two Qiblas” which is about a kilometer away from the others.

The largest of the seven mosques is Al-Fath on a hilltop near the western side of Sal’ mountain. It was built when Umar ibn Abd Al-Aziz was governor of Madinah in the years 87 to 93 after Hijrah (705 CE to 711 CE). It was rebuilt in 575 H (1179 CE). It was then rebuilt again during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abd Al-Majid I in 1851.

The Salman Al-Farisi Mosque is located south of Al-Fath Mosque, 20 meters from the base of Sal’ mountain. It is named after Salman, the companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who recommended digging a trench to fortify the city from an invasion. It has one hall at 7 meters long and 2 meters wide. It was also built while Umar ibn Abd Al-Aziz was governor of Madinah. In 575 H (1179 CE) it was rebuilt on the orders of minister Said Al-Deen Abu Al-Haija. It was rebuilt again during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abd Al-Majid I.

The Abu Bakr Al-Siddeeq Mosque is 15 meters to the southwest of Salman Al-Farisi Mosque. It was reported that Abu Bakr, when he was caliph, prayed Eid prayer there. This is why it was named after him. It was also reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed the Eid prayer there.

The Umar ibn Al-Khattab Mosque is 10 meters to the south of Abu Bakr Mosque, opposite Al-Ghamamah mosque and close to the Prophet’s Mosque. There is not much historical detail about the mosque, but there is speculation that it could be the ancient mosque at Al-Durrah place where Umar may have prayed during his reign as caliph. This would explain why it was named after him. It has an open yard and is eight steps above the ground. Its structure is similar to Al-Fath Mosque, which indicates that the two structures may have been built and renovated together.

The Ali ibn Abi Talib Mosque is east of Fatimah Mosque on a high rectangular hilltop. It is 8.5 meters long and 6.5 meters wide. It has one small step. It is likely to have been built and renovated with Al-Fath Mosque.

The Fatimah Al-Zahra Mosque is known as Mus’ad ibn Mo’az Mosque. It is the smallest of the group and measures 4 meters by 3 meters. It has one small step. It has a similar structure to other mosques in the area and may have been built during the Ottoman era, most likely during the reign of Sultan Abd Al-Majid I in 1851.

Source: Arab News.

Link: http://www.arabnews.com/news/459112.

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Oman ruler pardons protesters in 2011 unrest

July 23, 2013

MUSCAT: Oman’s ruler pardoned Tuesday 14 protesters jailed for Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in 2011 calling for more job opportunities and a greater public voice in the tightly run country.

The protests touched off a series of confrontations with authorities, including labor strikes and sit-ins.

The official Omani News Agency said Sultan Qaboos bin Said ordered the pardons to take effect Tuesday for the prisoners. Their sentences ranged from 30 months to five years.

Oman responded to the protests with some reforms such as elections for local councils that have no direct powers but will serve in an advisory role.

Strategic Oman shares control of the Strait of Hormuz with Iran. The narrow waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is the route for one-fifth of the world’s crude oil.

Source: The Daily Star.

Link: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Jul-23/224745-oman-ruler-pardons-protesters-in-2011-unrest.ashx.

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Iraq: Al-Qaida claims prison raids

July 23, 2013

BAGHDAD (AP) — Al-Qaida’s arm in Iraq has claimed responsibility for deadly raids on prisons on the outskirts of Baghdad this week that set free hundreds of prisoners, including some of its followers.

The statement issued in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was posted on an online jihadist forum Tuesday. The group dubbed the prison assault operation that began late Sunday “Conquering the Tyrants,” and says it involved 12 car bombs and help from prisoners who had managed to obtain weapons on the inside.

It claims to have freed hundreds of prisoners, including more than 500 mujahideen, or holy fighters. Iraqi officials have said the raids killed dozens and set free more than 500 inmates.

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Al Qaeda militants flee Iraq jail in violent mass break-out

By Kareem Raheem and Ziad al-Sinjary

BAGHDAD/MOSUL, Iraq

Mon Jul 22, 2013

(Reuters) – Hundreds of convicts, including senior members of al Qaeda, broke out of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail as comrades launched a military-style assault to free them, authorities said on Monday.

The deadly raid on the high-security jail happened as Sunni Muslim militants are re-gaining momentum in their insurgency against the Shi’ite-led government that came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

Suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives to the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night and blasted their way into the compound, while gunmen attacked guards with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Other militants took up positions near the main road, fighting off security reinforcements sent from Baghdad as several militants wearing suicide vests entered the prison on foot to help free the inmates.

Ten policemen and four militants were killed in the ensuing clashes, which continued until Monday morning, when military helicopters arrived, helping to regain control.

By that time, hundreds of inmates had succeeded in fleeing Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers.

“The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of al Qaeda and had received death sentences,” Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament, told Reuters.

“The security forces arrested some of them, but the rest are still free.”

One security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “It’s obviously a terrorist attack carried out by al Qaeda to free convicted terrorists with al Qaeda.”

A simultaneous attack on another prison, in Taji, around 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, followed a similar pattern, but guards managed to prevent any inmates escaping. Sixteen soldiers and six militants were killed.

CONVOY ATTACK

Sunni insurgents, including the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, have been regaining strength in recent months and striking on an almost daily basis against Shi’ite Muslims and security forces among other targets.

The violence has raised fears of a return to full-blown conflict in a country where Kurds, Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable way of sharing power.

In the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives behind a military convoy in the eastern Kokchali district, killing at least 22 soldiers and three passers-by, police said.

Suicide bombings are the hallmark of al Qaeda, which has been regrouping in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city and capital of the Sunni-dominated Nineveh province.

A separate attack in western Mosul killed four policemen, police said.

Relations between Islam’s two main denominations have been put under further strain from the civil war in Syria, which has drawn in Shi’ite and Sunni fighters from Iraq and beyond to fight against each other.

Recent attacks have targeted mosques, amateur football matches, shopping areas and cafes where people gather to socialize after breaking their daily fast for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Nearly 600 people have been killed in militant attacks across Iraq so far this month, according to violence monitoring group Iraq Body Count.

That is still well below the height of bloodletting in 2006-07, when the monthly death toll sometimes exceeded 3,000.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Suadad al-Salhy in Baghdad; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: Reuters.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/22/us-iraq-violence-idUSBRE96J09I20130722.

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Iraqis lose patience with government inability to prevent violence

2013-07-21

By Ahmed al-Rubaye – BAGHDAD

With 10 days still to go, July is already second deadliest month of 2013 with death toll significantly higher than those of January and February combined.

Iraqis roundly condemned the authorities on Sunday for failing to prevent a wave of deadly violence including attacks that killed dozens of people the day before.

Another five people were killed in bombings on Sunday as the country struggles against a surge in violence that has plagued it since the beginning of the year.

More than 530 people have been killed in attacks so far this month, and almost 2,800 since January 1, making it the worst year since 2008, according to figures based on security and medical sources.

On Sunday, the death toll continued to mount.

In Taji, north of Baghdad, two roadside bombs exploded near an army base, killing three people and wounding at least 10.

And a bomb exploded in the garden of a house in Besmayah, southeast of the capital, killing two people and wounding four, all from the same family.

The blasts came a day after Baghdad was hit by 12 car bombs, a roadside bomb and a shooting, while another bomb blew up south of the capital. A total of 67 people were killed.

Attacks elsewhere killed another three people on Saturday.

The Baghdad attacks came as residents turned out to shop and relax in cafes after iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On Sunday, Iraqis sharply criticized the authorities for failing to prevent the bloodshed.

“This is a cartoon government and its security forces cannot protect themselves, let alone protect the people,” one man said sadly near the site of one bombing in central Baghdad.

In Tobchi, a north Baghdad area hit in the Saturday attacks, another man resorted to sarcasm.

“These car bombs come to us from Mars, because the security forces are implementing strict regulations to prevent their entry here,” he said.

A third slammed the aloof attitude of the political elite, who rarely comment on the spiraling violence.

“Iraqis are being protected only by God, because the politicians only care about their positions and personal interests,” he said.

In the first 12 days of Ramadan, 334 people have been killed in Iraq violence.

And with 10 days still to go, July is already the second deadliest month of 2013 with a death toll significantly higher than those of January and February combined.

In May, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a shake-up of senior security officers, but the violence has continued unabated.

Iraq has faced years of attacks by militants, but analysts say widespread discontent among members of its Sunni minority, which the government has failed to address, has fueled this year’s surge in unrest.

In addition to security problems, the government in Baghdad is also failing when it comes to other basic services including electricity and clean water, and corruption is also widespread.

Political squabbling has paralyzed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60242.

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