SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

US forces zero in on Najaf shrine 
Clashes with Shi’ite rebels leave 40 dead
Najaf, August 22
The US tanks had rumbled to within 800 mt of a holy shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf as fierce clashes with Shi’ite rebels in a nearby town killed at least 40 Iraqis, officials said.

An Iraqi  militiaman, loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, looks through the scope of his sniper rifle during clashes with coalition and Iraqi forces in the southern city of Basra on Sunday. An Iraqi militiaman, loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, looks through the scope of his sniper rifle during clashes with coalition and Iraqi forces in the southern city of Basra on Sunday.
— Reuters photo


Thai Sikhs divided over Guru Granth Sahib celebrations
Bangkok, August 22
The Thai Sikh community stands divided over the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Guru Granth Sahib. Though the preparations for celebrations, arranged at the behest of Akal Takht and SGPC, had already been completed at “Sardar House”, the local Singh Sabha Gurdwara Committee has chalked out “parallel functions”, which would begin on September 1.

4 Maoists, soldier die in gunbattle
Kathmandu, August 22
Security forces foiled an attempt by more than 1,000 Maoists to capture the district headquarters in Nepal’s northwestern Jumla district by killing four rebels and losing one of their personnel in a six hour-long gunbattle, the police said today.

Supporters of Nepal's main political parties demonstrate against the road blockade imposed by the Maoist rebels Supporters of Nepal's main political parties demonstrate against the road blockade imposed by the Maoist rebels, in Katmandu on Sunday. An estimated 20,000 people rallied in Katmandu to demand an immediate ceasefire. — AP/PTI



A Palestinian woman holds a picture of her relative, currently jailed in Israeli prisons, during a protest rally in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday
A Palestinian woman holds a picture of her relative, currently jailed in Israeli prisons, during a protest rally in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday. The number of hunger-striking Palestinians in Israeli jails has almost doubled to 2,900. — Reuters


EARLIER STORIES
 

An opposition activist rests a red flag on the spot where one of his comrades and supporters of opposition Awami League Party died in Dhaka  during a rally adressed by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on  Saturday.Bangladesh blast toll mounts to 18
Dhaka, August 22
Security was tightened in the Bangladesh capital today as the toll in the series of explosions that rocked an Opposition rally addressed by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina climbed to 18. Four more persons succumbed to their injuries in a hospital here taking the toll to 18 and 300 were injured. The toll is expected to rise as many of the injured are in a critical condition, hospital sources said.


An opposition activist rests a red flag on the spot where one of his comrades and supporters of opposition Awami League Party died in Dhaka during a rally adressed by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday. — Reuters photo

Plot to target Pervez’s office foiled
Islamabad, August 22
Pakistan’s security agencies have arrested five Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists who were plotting suicide attacks on senior leaders and key installations in the country, including the Presidential Palace, Parliament building and the US Embassy here.
In video: (28k, 56k)

Aziz to be sworn in as Pak PM on Aug 27
Islamabad, August 22
Mr Shaukat Aziz will be sworn in as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister on August 27. Mr Aziz, the Prime Minister-designate, will be elected as the Leader of the House in a special session of the National Assembly on August 27, The News said today.

My only crime is greed, says Lakhani
London, August 22
British businessman of Indian origin Hemant Lakhani, who was arrested on charges of trying to smuggle a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile into the USA, has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the “informant” who led to his arrest and said his only crime was greed.
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US forces zero in on Najaf shrine 
Clashes with Shi’ite rebels leave 40 dead

Najaf, August 22
The US tanks had rumbled to within 800 mt of a holy shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf as fierce clashes with Shi’ite rebels in a nearby town killed at least 40 Iraqis, officials said.

Talks to end a near three-week Shi’ite Muslim uprising led by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr appeared to have stalled on Sunday after negotiators failed to agree on how to surrender control of the Imam Ali shrine, where Mehdi militias remain holed up.

In Najaf’s old city, Mehdi militias fired mortars at the US positions and the sound of gunfire crackled from near the shrine. The US helicopter gunships clattered above the labyrinth of narrow streets not far from the gold-dome mosque.

Near Najaf, clashes between the US troops and militias on Saturday killed 40 persons in the town of Kufa, a Shi’ite stronghold from where Sadr had led Friday prayers. Interior Ministry officials said the dead were militiamen and civilians.

Earlier on Sunday, a US military AC-130 gunship unleashed rapid cannon and howitzer fire on rebels in Najaf.

The escalation of violence came as negotiators try to hammer out the terms of a handover of the mosque by Sadr’s forces to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most respected Shi’ite cleric.

Sadr, a firebrand cleric in his 30s, had insisted that the 73-year-old Sistani should send a delegation to take an inventory of precious items in the mosque — thought to include jewellery, relics and carpets — to head off any claim that Sadr’s men had stolen anything from the shrine.

Sistani, who was in London recovering from surgery, said he could not form the committee in the current circumstances. Sadr’s aides had earlier said that his militia would continue to guard the mosque after any handover, defying calls from the interim government to disband and vacate the mosque.

The uprising, in which hundreds have died, has helped drive world oil prices to a record high and is a brazen challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who took over from the US-led occupiers only two months ago. — ReutersTop

 

Thai Sikhs divided over Guru Granth Sahib celebrations
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Bangkok, August 22
The Thai Sikh community stands divided over the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Guru Granth Sahib.

Though the preparations for celebrations, arranged at the behest of Akal Takht and SGPC, had already been completed at “Sardar House”, the local Singh Sabha Gurdwara Committee has chalked out “parallel functions”, which would begin on September 1. The “Sardar House” is named after Sardar Singh, father of Mr Narotam Singh Narang, who remained president of the local gurdwara for a long time. Interestingly, Mr Narang and Mr Jaspal Singh, president of the local Gurdwara Committee are first cousins.

Some prominent Thai Sikhs have criticised both the SGPC and the Sikh clergy for allegedly ignoring the local Gurdwara Singh Sabha Committee while arranging the 400th celebrations here. It is pertinent to mention here that the SGPC had appointed Mr Narang as the international convener to celebrate the event in Thailand. Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar Akal Takht and Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, SGPC member, had personally participated in the celebrations. Mr Birdevinder Singh, a Congress MLA and former Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, had attended the function on behalf of the Punjab Government. The division came to the fore when Jathedar Vedanti and other dignitaries paid a quiet visit to the 75-year-old gurdwara here and nobody from the gurdwara management side was there to receive them. This is perhaps the first time that the division in the Thai Sikh community is discernible .

It is more than a century that the Sikhs had established their foothold in Thailand. One Ladha Singh was the first Sikh to come to Thailand in 1890. The flow picked up in 1927-28 when many Sikhs brought in their relatives from Punjab. In 1934 constitutional rule was introduced in Thailand, giving people a lot of freedom. Later, many Sikhs from Gujranwala (now in Pakistan) thronged Thailand and settled in the country permanently. Interestingly, most of the Thai Sikhs are closely related to each other.Top

 

4 Maoists, soldier die in gunbattle
Shirish B. Pradhan

Kathmandu, August 22
Security forces foiled an attempt by more than 1,000 Maoists to capture the district headquarters in Nepal’s northwestern Jumla district by killing four rebels and losing one of their personnel in a six hour-long gunbattle, the police said today.

The Maoists also kidnapped six policemen after the gunbattle that began at 11pm last night, it said.

The District Administration Office, the District Land Revenue Office and Agricultural Development Bank were damaged in the Maoist attack, it said.

There was panic all around as hundreds of Maoists attacked various government offices with guns and explosives, it added.

The security forces have recovered four bodies of Maoists and one of a soldier after they conducted a search in the area, the police said.

However, details are still sketchy.

Additional security forces have been sent from the mid-western police headquarters in Jumla to fight back the Maoists.

Helicopters and ground forces have been mobilised to conduct massive search operations. —  PTITop

 

Bangladesh blast toll mounts to 18

Dhaka, August 22
Security was tightened in the Bangladesh capital today as the toll in the series of explosions that rocked an Opposition rally addressed by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina climbed to 18.

Four more persons succumbed to their injuries in a hospital here taking the toll to 18 and 300 were injured.

The toll is expected to rise as many of the injured are in a critical condition, hospital sources said.

Ms Hasina escaped unhurt in the attack, which her party claimed was targeted as her. However, many of the Awami League MPs and senior leaders were hospitalised following the explosions after several granades were hurled at the party rally in front of its headquarters in downtown Dhaka.

Ms Ivy Rahman, Women Affairs Secretary of the party, was in a critical condition at Dhaka’s military hospital after her legs were amputated after being injured in the attack, family sources said.

The Awami League was holding mass prayers today and has called for a two-day nationwide protest strike on Tuesday and Wednesday in protest against the attack.

Security forces were patrolling the streets as tensions were high in the capital. — PTITop

 

Plot to target Pervez’s office foiled
K.J.M. Verma

Islamabad, August 22
Pakistan’s security agencies have arrested five Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists who were plotting suicide attacks on senior leaders and key installations in the country, including the Presidential Palace, Parliament building and the US Embassy here.

Information Minister Shiekh Rashid Ahmed told reporters at a hurriedly called press conference here last night that the gang had planned to attack the President’s office, the Prime Minister’s House, the Convention Centre, the US Embassy in Islamabad and the General Headquarters, the Chief of the Army Staff House and Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi.

The arrests were made over the past week in different parts of the country.

The gang was being masterminded by two Egyptian nationals identified as Qari Ismael and Sheikh Essa, who continued to be at large and a nationwide hunt was on to arrest them, he said.

The two Egyptians belonged to Al-Qaeda, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said.

“We hope to catch him and the rest of the gang members soon,” he was quoted as saying by the official APP newsagency in Lahore.

A huge cache of arms and ammunition, including bombs, grenades, rockets, rocket launchers, detonators and around 50 other explosive devices had been seized, Rashid said. — PTITop

 

Aziz to be sworn in as Pak PM on Aug 27

Islamabad, August 22
Mr Shaukat Aziz will be sworn in as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister on August 27.

Mr Aziz, the Prime Minister-designate, will be elected as the Leader of the House in a special session of the National Assembly on August 27, The News said today.

President Pervez Musharraf will administer the oath of office to Mr Aziz the same day, it added.

On August 28, the new Prime Minister will secure a vote of confidence from the National Assembly, which will be a smooth exercise, The News reported quoting a senior official.

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition comprising the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), the PML (Functional), the National Alliance and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, has asked all of its MNAs to be present in the capital during the next week for ascertainment of Leader of the House and the subsequent vote of confidence.

The newspaper said the government wants to ensure that no MNA remains away for being abroad or due to any pressing preoccupation at home. — UNITop

 

My only crime is greed, says Lakhani

London, August 22
British businessman of Indian origin Hemant Lakhani, who was arrested on charges of trying to smuggle a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile into the USA, has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the “informant” who led to his arrest and said his only crime was greed.

After a year in custody, Lakhani (69) has broken his silence about his arrest on terrorist offences, the FBI sting that exposed his alleged arms dealing, and his doubts about the legitimacy of the informant who led the secret services of America, Russia and Britain to his door. — PTITop

 
BRIEFLY


A Palestinian youth hurls stones in front of posters of Palestinian militants killed by Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus
A Palestinian youth hurls stones in front of posters of Palestinian militants killed by Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus, on Sunday. Palestinians accused the US of destroying the Middle East peace process after Washington signalled it could accept some growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. — Reuters

Gunmen attack police station
MOSCOW:
Gunmen opened fire on a police station in the centre of the Chechen capital, killing and wounding several persons, a Russian news agency reported. At least 5 to 7 persons were killed when assailants opened fire from a car on the police station in the Oktyabrsky region of Grozny, the Interfax news agency said on Saturday. “I can confirm that in Grozny in the region of Minutka Square, there was an attack. Some of the gunmen were destroyed. There were also losses among some servicemen,” a spokesman for Russian forces in Chechnya said. — AP

11 injured in Thailand blasts
YALA:
Three simultaneous bomb blasts injured 11 persons in Thailand’s largely Muslim south where over 300 persons have been killed since the spate of violence erupted in January, officials said on Sunday. The bombs exploded at a bar and two hotels on Saturday in the city, Yala. “The bombs did not kill anyone and all injured persons have left the hospital,” Yala police chief said. “There is no doubt these were linked to the recent spate of violence,” he said. — Reuters

Italian reporter missing in Iraq
ROME:
A freelance Italian journalist who had been working in the troubled Iraqi city of Najaf is missing and his driver has reportedly been killed, government and aid officials said. Enzo Baldoni has not been heard from since Thursday when he was in Najaf, according to Italy’s Foreign Ministry, which said it had no further information. — Reuters
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