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US soldier gives alibis to suppress abuse photos
Mannheim (Germany), August 23
A US soldier at the centre of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal sought today to strike from his court martial potentially incriminating photographs at a hearing before a military judge in Germany.

Six killed in attacks across Iraq
Baghdad, August 23
One Turkish national and five Iraqis were killed in a string of deadly roadside attacks across Iraq, US military and Iraqi police sources said today. “Three workers, two Iraqis and one Turkish citizen, were killed when anti-Iraqi forces attacked them as they were travelling from their work to Kirkuk on August 22,” a military spokesman said.

A plume of smoke rises over the skyline of Najaf on Monday A plume of smoke rises over the skyline of Najaf on Monday. The US military stepped up pressure on the insurgents to quickly hand over the holy site to Shiite religious authorities. — AP/PTI photo

Qaida’s travel service acts as terror conduit: US probe
Washington, August 23
Al-Qaida runs a clandestine travel service, possibly partnered with human traffickers south of the US border, which helps move its terrorists around the world, according to the results of a probe published here.

Karzai visits Pak to step up war on terror
Afghan President Hamid Karzai receives a bouquetIslamabad, August 23
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai began a visit to neighbouring Pakistan today to discuss cooperation in the battle against Islamic militants ahead of his October re-election bid.


Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) receives a bouquet from a girl upon his arrival in Islamabad on Monday. — AP/PTI


Relatives mourn as they show a picture of Fahmi Ahmad in South Jakarta on Monday
Relatives mourn as they show a picture of Fahmi Ahmad in South Jakarta on Monday. Ahmad (27), who worked for a contractor based in Dubai linked to telecommunications giant Siemens, died on Sunday after insurgents opened fire on his vehicle in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
— Reuters

EARLIER STORIES
 
Vietnam war ghosts haunt US presidential campaign
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington
O
ver 30 years since the last US soldiers were pulled out of Vietnam, certain events in that ignominious war are shaping the debate in the 2004 presidential campaign in the USA. While its troops struggle to stabilise the situation in Iraq, the USA’s two contenders for the post of commander in chief lock horns in a dubious demonstration of machismo - with one touting his military service, and the other his wartime leadership.


Pro-democracy students carry torches as they chant anti-government slogans against recent price hike in petroleum products Pro-democracy students carry torches as they chant anti-government slogans against recent price hike in petroleum products, at a protest in Kathmandu on Monday. The protestors also demanded immediate start of peace talks with Maoist rebels, even as guerrillas isolated the capital from the rest of the country for a sixth day to press demands for the release of government-held insurgents. — AP/PTI

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US soldier gives alibis to suppress abuse photos

A sketch of specialist Charles Graner is shown during an Abu Ghraib pre-trial hearing at the US Army Taylor barracks in Mannheim on Monday
A sketch of specialist Charles Graner is shown during an Abu Ghraib pre-trial hearing at the US Army Taylor barracks in Mannheim on Monday. The judge will consider whether to drop the cases or move their trials from Baghdad. Graner and three others are accused of sexually humiliating and, in some cases, beating Iraqi detainees at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison. — Reuters

Mannheim (Germany), August 23
A US soldier at the centre of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal sought today to strike from his court martial potentially incriminating photographs at a hearing before a military judge in Germany.

Specialist Charles Graner and three others are accused of sexually humiliating and, in some cases, beating Iraqi detainees at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

Shocking photos of their tormenting of naked Iraqis sparked worldwide outrage when they emerged in April and sparked criticism that sweeping US anti-terror policies had encouraged the abuses.

Graner, who faces the most serious accusations and who featured prominently in the abuse photographs, was the first to appear, sitting beside his lawyers.

Dressed in desert fatigues, the military policeman answered questions about the long hours in Iraq, sometimes 17 hours a day transferring detainees, and the stress of being under fire.

“We worked every day... Several of our platoon had taken fire. Both my roommates had been injured, took blasts. It was one of the most stressful times,” he said.

Earlier, a military investigator referred to CDs, taken from Graner’s laptop, with hundreds of photographs, featuring detainees being abused Graner’s lawyers said the photographs had been taken without his consent.

They argued that their client had only agreed to have his room searched after being woken in the middle of the night. His bewildered state rendered his consent invalid.

Graner, 35, is accused of photographing a detainee being dragged by Private First Class Lynndie England on a leash, and posing for a picture by a pile of naked detainees in November.

He is also charged with forcing prisoners to strip naked and masturbate in front of each other, and forcing one detainee to simulate oral sex on another, before taking a picture, as well as adultery.

The accused, Specialists Graner and Megan Ambuhl, Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick and Sergeant Javal Davis, will appear in two days of pre-trial hearings at a US base in southwest Germany, chosen to allow easier access for their attorneys.

Judge James Pohl will consider a variety of motions to move their pending court martials from Baghdad, to dismiss one of the cases and to strike out certain statements made by the accused.

Defence lawyers argue their clients were simply following orders to break inmates for interrogation. The US officials say the accused were just a few wayward individuals.

At an initial hearing in Baghdad in June, Graner’s lawyer said US President George W. Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should take the witness stand.

Davis’s lawyers are set to bring a motion compelling Rumsfeld to testify. — Reuters

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Six killed in attacks across Iraq

Baghdad, August 23
One Turkish national and five Iraqis were killed in a string of deadly roadside attacks across Iraq, US military and Iraqi police sources said today.

“Three workers, two Iraqis and one Turkish citizen, were killed when anti-Iraqi forces attacked them as they were travelling from their work to Kirkuk on August 22,” a military spokesman said.

“The workers were from the Tikrit bridge construction team repairing a bridge over the Tigris. The Iraqi police are investigating the incident,” he added.

Separately, a police officer was shot dead by an unknown assailant in the main southern city of Basra today, while further attacks in the north of the violence-ridden country left two other Iraqis dead.

A correspondent saw a masked man walk up to a car at a petrol station in Basra and fire two bullets into the head of the policeman sitting behind the wheel. He tried to shoot a woman next to him but missed.

Police Lieutenant Amar Hamid confirmed the policeman died from two bullets received in the head. — AFP
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Qaida’s travel service acts as terror conduit: US probe

Washington, August 23
Al-Qaida runs a clandestine travel service, possibly partnered with human traffickers south of the US border, which helps move its terrorists around the world, according to the results of a probe published here.

The national commission that investigated the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States disclosed its findings in a new report released over the weekend as its final act before formally disbanding.

“There are uncorroborated law enforcement reports suggesting that associates of Al-Qaida used smugglers in Latin America to travel through the region in 2002, before travelling onward to the United States,” the panel said, without offering specifics.

The disclosure comes as several key financial and government institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington, including International Monetary Fund and World Bank headquarters, remain on heightened security alert, following reports that suspected terrorists were casing the buildings early this year.

The US Border Patrol has also begun using pilotless Predator aircraft to patrol the Arizona stretch of the US border with Mexico, where human trafficking has been rampant for decades.

So far, however, only one human trafficker, known as Salim Boughader-Mucharafille, a Tijuana restaurateur, has been tried, convicted and sentenced. He was found guilty of helping at least 80 Lebanese nationals to cross the US-Mexican border into California since late 1999 and was sentenced to 11 months in jail.

He has since been released and deported to Mexico, where he faces criminal charges along with other alleged members of his smuggling ring.

Determined to send its agents all around the world, Al-Qaida put a premium on creating false travel documents and identity cards, according to the report.

Prior to the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, it operated a secret office in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. — AFP
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Karzai visits Pak to step up war on terror

Islamabad, August 23
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai began a visit to neighbouring Pakistan today to discuss cooperation in the battle against Islamic militants ahead of his October re-election bid.

The related struggle against militants in the two frontline countries in the US-led “war on terror” was expected to top the agenda in talks between Mr Karzai and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf later in the day.

Mr Karzai’s two-day visit comes less than two months before his October 9 re-election bid and he will be looking for Pakistan’s assurances that it will do all it can to prevent infiltration by militants bent on disrupting the vote.

He will also want to discuss the planned registration to vote of up to one million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan. An agreement to register the refugees was reached only in July, too late to enable registration of all the estimated total of between 1.5 and 3 million living in Pakistan.

“The trip is aimed at consolidating ties,” an official of Mr Karzai’s office said. “We have common views with our Pakistani brothers about the campaign against terrorism.”

The security arrangements for the visit will be extremely tight, given that Mr Karzai and Mr Musharraf are prime targets of Al-Qaida network. — Reuters
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Vietnam war ghosts haunt US presidential campaign
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Over 30 years since the last US soldiers were pulled out of Vietnam, certain events in that ignominious war are shaping the debate in the 2004 presidential campaign in the USA.

While its troops struggle to stabilise the situation in Iraq, the USA’s two contenders for the post of commander in chief lock horns in a dubious demonstration of machismo - with one touting his military service, and the other his wartime leadership.

The Democratic Party’s presidential nominee Senator John Kerry has made his military service in Vietnam a key pillar of his campaign. The Massachusetts senator greeted participants at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last month with a smart salute, reporting “ready for duty.”

That strategy appears to have backfired.

Public eviscerations of war records, wounds and valour have turned the presidential campaign into muckraking spectacle — one that has pushed debate on Iraq and a struggling economy into the recesses of news bulletins.

A group with ties to the Republican Party supporters in Texas has been running television advertisements questioning Mr Kerry’s war medals — 3 Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star — and criticising his anti-war activities after he returned from Vietnam.

The Kerry campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission saying the advertisements violated the law with “inaccurate ads that are illegally coordinated with the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.” The Bush campaign denied any involvement.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accuses Mr Kerry of embellishing his war record for electoral gain. The group was formed after Mr Kerry wrapped up the Democratic nomination.

Internal Revenue Service records reveal Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been funded by a Houston homebuilder, Bob R. Perry, who is a known contributor to the Republican Party candidates, including President George W. Bush.

The most serious allegation in the ad is that Mr Kerry received the Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart under false pretenses. The latter commendation allowed him to be sent home early. But Jim Rassmann, the former Army Lieutenant whom Mr Kerry rescued that day, contradicts the Swift Boat veterans’ allegation.

According to the official medal citations, Mr Kerry’s boat was under enemy fire at the time, and he had been wounded when an enemy mine exploded near his own boat. On August 10, Mr Rassmann wrote a vivid account of the rescue in the Wall Street Journal that contradicts the Kerry accusers. “John, already wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to the fire directed at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard,” he wrote.

A close friend of Mr Kerry’s and a prominent Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain had earlier turned down an offer to be Mr Kerry’s running mate. He instead endorsed Mr Bush. But he too has spoken out in Mr Kerry’s defence and called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad “dishonest and dishonorable.”

“Many of his crewmates have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam,” Mr McCain said. “At this point, 35 years later and half a world away, we see no way to resolve which of these versions of reality is closer to the truth.”
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BRIEFLY

Texas varsity names hall after Kalpana
Houston:
The University of Texas, Arlington, has named its $21 million residence hall after India-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who earned her master’s degree there in aerospace engineering in 1984. The three-storey building houses 421 students and was specially designed for a programme that will encourage students to study together. Kalpana Chawla Hall features the Mavericks Scholars Programme, which is designed to develop a community between students in a particular discipline. — PTI

Indian sues Nepal casino
KATHMANDU:
In probably the first such incident of its kind, an Indian origin Canadian has dragged a casino in Nepal to court for violating the norms of a card game. The casino located in the complex of Everest Hotel, a five-star property at Nayabaneshwor in Kathmandu has been sued by Amit Bedi, for violating casino rules while playing Blackjack, a card game, Registrar at the KDC Balabhadra Banstola said. He alleged that the casino uses only three decks of cards as against the conventional rule, which requires the use of four decks. — PTI
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