Female suicide bombers kill 70 Iraqis (Iraq)

Al Qaeda in Iraq conducted two successful strikes in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk. At least seventy Iraqi civilians were killed and more than 300 wounded in four suicide attacks, CNN reported. The attacks were carried out by female terrorists.

The attacks in Baghdad occurred in three separate locations as the female bombers targeted Shia pilgrims traveling on foot to a shrine in the Kadhamiyah district. The three bombers waded into the crowds and detonated their suicide vests within thirty minutes of each other. Thirty-two Iraqis were reported killed and 102 were wounded.

In Kirkuk, a female suicide bomber detonated her vest in the middle of a crowd of more than 5,000 Kurds who gathered to protest the delay of provincial elections in Kirkuk. Just after the detonation, gunmen opened up on the crowd. Thirty-eight Iraqis were killed and 178 were wounded in the deadly attack. Five more were wounded after a clash broke out between “unknown gunmen” and security forces outside the headquarters of the Turkmen Party. A curfew was immediately imposed on the province.

Kirkuk remains a flashpoint for violence as Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen vie for political power in the northern city. The Kurds seek to bring the oil-rich city into the political sphere of the Kurdistan Regional Government while Kurds have retaken lands from Arabs settled in the region during the rule of Saddam Hussein. Last week, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law delaying provincial elections and setting up a power-sharing agreement between the parties. The Kurdish political parties walked out of Parliament in protest.

Today’s attacks demonstrate that while al Qaeda has suffered major setbacks in Iraq, the network still maintains the capacity to conduct high-profile, mass-casualty suicide strikes. The last major attack occurred on July 24, when a female suicide bomber killed eight Awakening fighters and wounded 15 during an attack in Baqubah.

Al Qaeda suicide bombers also struck in Diyala province on July 15. Two suicide bombers detonated their vests within the Saad military camp as Iraqi Army recruits gathered. Twenty-two recruits were killed and more than 55 wounded.

The last major bombing in Baghdad occurred on June 18, when a car bomb detonated in the Shia neighborhood of Hayy Hurriyah in Baghdad’s Kadhamiyah district. The US military determined the attack was carried out by cell run by a Mahdi Army leader named Haydar Mahdi Khadum Al Fawadi.

US, Iraqi forces target al Qaeda’s networks

The US and Iraqi military have heavily targeted al Qaeda networks in the central and northern provinces over the past two days. Eighty-eight al Qaeda operatives were captured and four were killed during operations.

Today, Coalition special forces captured 30 suspected al Qaeda fighters during raids in Abu Ghraib and Mosul. An al Qaeda cell leader and a bomb maker were captured in Abu Ghraib and a financier for Ninewa province was captured in Mosul. Also, Coalition forces surrounded “a hideout for AQI facilitators and smugglers coming in from Syria” in a village southwest of Mosul, and captured 15 terrorists.

Yesterday, US and Iraqi forces killed four al Qaeda fighters and detained 58 suspects during search operation in Ninewa province. Four Iraqi soldiers were killed during gun battle.

Iraqi and US forces are massing for a major offensive in Diyala province, where al Qaeda still maintains sanctuaries in the rural regions. The operation is expected to begin in early August.

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A Tale Of Two Afghan Women (Graphic)

Face covered Taliban militants pose before they execute two Afghan women in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on Saturday, July 12, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Face covered Taliban militants exercise before they executed two Afghan women in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on Saturday, July 12, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Two unidentified Afghan Women chat with each other a few minutes before they were executed by Taliban in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on late Saturday, July 12, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Local people watch two Afghan women shot and killed by Taliban in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on Sunday, July 13, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Danish-Pakistani Woman Murdered In Honour Killing

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A man in a small Pakistani town killed his Danish sister-in-law because he suspected her of having a “bad character”, police Tuesday said.

Faisal Bashir shot dead 31-year-old Tahira Bibi, who was of Pakistani origin, local police official Mohammad Shahbaz Cheema told Agence France-Presse.

“It’s a case of honor killing as Faisal suspected his brother’s wife had bad character,” Cheema said.

He added that police arrested Faisal, his two brothers and father after a complaint by the parents of Tahira, who settled in Kharian — 150 kilometers (93 miles) northwest of Lahore — after marrying Mohammad Shehbaz 10 years ago.

Her parents accused Shehbaz of asking his family to kill Tahira for not delivering him a baby boy.

“However, Faisal told us during interrogation that he shot dead his brother’s wife in June after receiving numerous anonymous phone calls that she had a bad character,” Cheema added.

He said the police had yet to complete investigations. “We are investigating the murder on scientific lines and hope to expose real culprits very soon.”

Death Penalty for Internet ‘Crimes’

Iran’s parliament is set to debate a draft bill which could see the death penalty used for those deemed to promote corruption, prostitution and apostasy on the Internet, reports said on Wednesday.

MPs on Wednesday voted to discuss as a priority the draft bill which seeks to “toughen punishment for harming mental security in society,” the ISNA news agency said.

The text lists a wide range of crimes such rape and armed robbery for which the death penalty is already applicable. The crime of apostasy (the act of leaving a religion, in this case Islam) is also already punishable by death.

However, the draft bill also includes “establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy”, which is a new addition to crimes punishable by death.

Those convicted of these crimes “should be punished as “mohareb’ (enemy of God) and “corrupt on the earth’,” the text says.

Under Iranian law the standard punishments for these two crimes are “hanging, amputation of the right hand and then the left foot as well as exile.”

The bill — which is yet to be debated by lawmakers — also stipulates that the punishment handed out in these cases “cannot be commuted, suspended or changed”.

Internet is widely used in Iran despite restrictions on access and the blocking of thousands of websites with a sexual content or deemed as insulting religious sanctities and promoting political dissent.

Blogging is also very popular among cyber-savvy young Iranians, some openly discussing their private lives or criticising the system.

Human rights groups have accused Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty but Teheran insists it is an effective deterrent that is carried out only after an exhaustive judicial process.

The number of executions soared last year to 317 amid a campaign which the authorities said was aimed at improving security in society, and was sharply up on 2006 figures when Amnesty International recorded 177 executions.

All legislation in Iran has to be rubber-stamped by a conservative clerical watchdog before it is written into law. The Guardians Council vets bills to see if they are in line with the constitution and Islamic law.

Islamic group attacks religious tolerance rally

Hundreds of members of a radical Indonesian Islamic group armed with batons have attacked moderate Muslims in the capital, Jakarta, who were holding a rally calling for religious tolerance.

Authorities say about 100 members of the National Alliance for Religious and Faith Freedom had gathered in central Jakarta to rally against a possible government ban on the minority Ahmadiyah sect.

About 500 members of the hardline Front for the Defenders of Islam infiltrated the protest, attacking demonstrators with batons until about 50 policemen intervened, but no arrests were made.

The Ahmadiyah group has about 200,000 followers in Indonesia and believes Mohammad was not the final prophet, contradicting a central tenet of Islam.

AFP

Boy Killed By Muslim Cleric for Not Memorising Koran (Pakistan)

A student of a religious seminary in Pakistan’s Punjab province has died after he was punished by his teacher, police say.

Atif, seven, was hung upside down from a ceiling fan by Maulvi Ziauddin for not memorising his Koran lessons, his fellow students told the police.

Atif’s condition deteriorated quickly and he died in the teacher’s room. Maulvi Ziauddin has been arrested.

Human rights organisation say Pakistani children are often exposed to abuse.

Arrested

The students told the police in the town of Vehari that Atif was punished on Wednesday by Maulvi Ziauddin who left him hanging from the fan for some time.

The son of a farm labourer, Atif lived in the seminary with about 20 other students, including a cousin.

“When his cousin did not see Atif on Wednesday night or the next morning, he informed the family,” a Vehari police official, Mohammad Afzal, told the BBC.

“Members of the family found Atif’s body in Maulvi Ziauddin’s room, but the cleric himself was missing,” he said.

He was arrested from a nearby village later on Thursday.

The police said they would file formal charges after an autopsy report is issued by the local hospital.

In a report published in January, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) – an organisation which monitors and compiles cases of child abuse and kidnapping – said children in Pakistan were increasingly exposed to abuse, kidnapping and violence.

The number of reported cases involving children has more than doubled from 617 in 2006 to 1,595 last year, the report said.

It blamed poor law enforcement and old social attitudes towards children’s rights as some of the reasons for the problem.

Somalian Islamists Kidnap and threaten Aid Workers

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Dozens of heavily armed gunmen kidnapped two Italian aid workers and their Somali colleague in southern Somalia on Wednesday in what a government official described as a “terrorist act.”

Police are pursuing the kidnappers, government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon said.

“The kidnapping of two Italian aid workers and a Somali aid worker is a terrorist act. We condemn this barbaric act,” Gobdon told The Associated Press.

The gunmen, armed with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades, surrounded the aid workers’ house in Awdhigle, village elder Ahmed Yunis said.

The gunmen then blindfolded the relief workers — an Italian man and woman and a Somali man — and took them away, Yunis said. He said it was not clear who the gunmen are or why they abducted the aid workers.

The village is about 45 miles south of the capital, Mogadishu.

Islamic insurgents vowed to target foreign aid workers after a U.S. missile strike killed the head of the Islamist al-Shabab militia, Aden Hashi Ayro, and 24 other people earlier this month. Ayro was reputed to be the top al-Qaeda commander in Somalia and was linked to a string of attacks on foreign aid workers and journalists.

Italy’s ambassador in neighboring Kenya, Pierandrea Magistrati, said that the Italian aid workers were taken from their home Wednesday morning and worked for the Italian aid organization Cooperazione Italiana Nord Sud.

“They’ve been kidnapped and we do not know where they are. We are checking with our contacts there (in Somalia),” Magistrati told The Associated Press. The ambassador said that so far the kidnappers have not made contact.

No country has an embassy or diplomats based in Somalia because of security reasons, and most embassies in neighboring Kenya are also responsible for dealing with Somalia.

Last month, a Briton and a Kenyan worker contracted to an aid agency were kidnapped and remain missing. Earlier this year, Doctors Without Borders pulled out its foreign staff from Somalia after two of them were kidnapped, and three foreigners and a Somali were killed when their car hit a land mine.

A German aid worker was also seized in February but released unharmed.

The insurgents have been battling the shaky transitional government since Somali soldiers and their Ethiopian allies ousted them from the capital in December 2006. The Islamists had ruled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia for six months.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and turned on each other. The conflict between the government and the Islamists is complicated by a web of clan loyalties and the involvement of archenemies Eritrea and Ethiopia, which use Somalia as a proxy battleground.