Wednesday, March 31, 2010

View on the News 24-03-2010

Secret unit finds Muslims and non-Muslims blaming UK government for using terror attacks to justify aggressive foreign policy
The Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), has published for the first time some of the reports from focus groups it has conducted on the attitudes of Muslims and members of the public to terrorism. The unit was started three years ago to provide better information across government departments on how their messages on terrorism have been received. A report, called Understanding Perceptions of the Terms ‘Britishness’ and ‘Terrorism’ found that many in the focus groups could “understand why some UK Muslims resort to extreme violence.” It found that many Muslims believed terrorists were themselves victims who had been manipulated by others into believing it was their religious duty to fight back against British policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The research also found that many Muslims believed that the British and US governments are themselves “terrorists” for invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Some argued that terrorists could be labeled “freedom fighters” and a small number who participated in the groups said they believed al-Qaeda was a “media or US government creation used to demonise Muslims.” Worryingly for the UK government, both Muslims and non-Muslims said they believed the Government “used terrorist attacks to justify aggressive foreign policies in Iraq and Afghanistan” and several added that it had “increased rather than diminished the threat of terrorism within the UK” by increasing the risk of reprisals.

Lebanese army fires on Israeli jets

The Lebanese army says it has opened fire on two Israeli warplanes that were violating the country’s airspace at medium altitude. “The army’s anti-aircraft guns fired at two Israeli warplanes overflying Hasbaya in southeastern Lebanon,” the Lebanese army said in statement. Israel’s regular overflights across southern Lebanon are in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the statement added. The resolution calls on Tel Aviv to stop invading Lebanon’s sovereignty by land, sea and air. Resolution 1701 was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council in August 2006 that brought to end Israel’s 33-day war on Lebanon, during which Israeli forces failed to achieve any of their objectives. The violation occurred amid Israel’s escalating war threats in the region. The army says Israeli warplanes have entered Lebanese airspace on an almost-daily basis during the past months.

Turkey presses for major constitutional changes

Turkey’s pro-American governing party and the country’s staunchly secular judiciary traded insults on Tuesday over whether to overhaul the country’s Constitution. Senior judicial bodies, responding to constitutional changes proposed Monday by the leadership of the governing Justice and Development Party, called the proposals unlawful and a direct challenge to the judiciary’s independence. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, argued that the proposals derived from international practices and would promote a more democratic state. The party has proposed major structural changes to the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, both strongholds of the secular state; these would give the government more oversight authority over the courts. Both bodies have been critical of the governing party’s ‘roots in political Islam’ and criticized what they called government infringement on the judiciary.

British military intelligence ran renegade torture unit in Iraq

Fresh evidence has emerged that British military intelligence ran a secret operation in Iraq which authorised degrading and unlawful treatment of prisoners. Documents reveal that prisoners were kept hooded for long periods in intense heat and deprived of sleep by defence intelligence officers. They also reveal that officers running the operation claimed to be answerable only “directly to London”. The revelations will further embarrass the British government, which last month was forced to release documents showing it knew that UK resident and terror suspect Binyam Mohamed had been tortured in Pakistan.The latest documents emerged during the inquiry into Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker beaten to death while in the custody of British troops in September 2003. The inquiry is looking into how interrogation techniques banned by the Government in 1972 and considered torture and degrading treatment were used again in Iraq.Lawyers believe the new evidence supports suspicions that an intelligence unit – the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) which operated in Iraq – used illegal “coercive techniques” and was not answerable to military commanders in Iraq, despite official denials it operated independently.In a statement to the inquiry, Colonel Christopher Vernon said he raised concerns after seeing 30 to 40 prisoners in a kneeling position with sacks over their heads. He said those in charge said they were from the Defence and Intelligence Security Centre, based at Chicksands, Bedfordshire, the British Army’s intelligence HQ.

Taliban say not involved in Kabul peace talks

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said his movement, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the country's name when it ruled from 1996-2001, had not altered its position: that no talks could be held until troops withdraw. "The Islamic Emirate has a clear position. We have said this many, many times. There will be no talks when there are foreign troops on Afghanistan's soil killing innocent Afghans on daily basis," Mujahid said. Although direct contacts between the government and senior Taliban officials have been denied by both sides, Western officials say they believe indirect and lower-level contacts have taken place throughout eight years of war. The outgoing U.N. mission chief in Kabul, Kai Eide, said last week he had held meetings with Taliban representatives over the past year, which ended abruptly this year when Pakistan arrested the number two Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Some Afghan officials have said the government had made contact with Baradar, and blame Islamabad for arresting him to ensure that it has leverage over any future talks. Karzai's spokesman has said the government had no "direct" contacts with Baradar, but declined to comment on whether it had had "indirect" contacts.

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