UN wants Gaddafi’s death probed

The United Nations and two human rights groups are pressing for an investigation into the death of Muammar Gaddafi.

U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville from the Office of the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights said in a statement on Friday that “there seem to be four or five different versions of how he died,” and that “more details are needed to ascertain whether he was killed in the fighting or after his capture.”

A photo of Muammar Gaddafi in 2009. Image: U.S. Navy.

Specifically pressed on the possibility Gaddafi was executed whilst detained, he said, “It has to be one possibility when you look at these two videos. So that’s something that an investigation needs to look into.”

“Summary executions are strictly illegal under any circumstances. It’s different if someone is killed in combat. There was a civil war taking place in Libya. So if the person died as part of combat, that is a different issue and that is normally acceptable under the circumstances,” Colville said.

“But if something else has happened, if someone is captured and then deliberately killed, then that is a very serious matter,” he said.

Amnesty International, a human rights group, has urged the National Transitional Council to reveal the circumstances surrounding Gaddafi’s death.

Questions have lingered about the true cause of Gaddafi’s death, with two seperate videos showing him wounded and bloodied but alive and another showing him already dead with a bullet wound on his head.

Iran continues to lash out at film industry

An Iranian court in Tehran yesterday confirmed film director Jafar Panahi’s sentence to six years in jail, and a twenty-year ban on filmmaking. Charges against the award-winning director were summarised by state media as, “[…] acting against national security and propaganda against the regime”.

2007 file photo of Jafar Panahi. Image: Cines del Sur Granada Film Festival.

In September, before the original sentence was handed down, Panahi lamented, “[w]hen a film-maker does not make films it is as if he is jailed. Even when he is freed from the small jail, he finds himself wandering in a larger jail”. With the ban now in-place, the filmmaker’s This is not a Film, which premièred at Canne Film festival, may be his last work for two decades. The handheld-shot documentary covers Panahi’ struggle with censorship whilst being prosecuted.

Panahi’s is the second high-profile case this week; actress Marzieh Vafamehr was sentenced to 90 lashes and one year in jail for starring in the controversial Australian-produced film My Tehran For Sale, directed by Iranian-Australian Granaz Moussavi. The film is about a young Tehrani actress whose work is banned by the government.

Iranian commentators heavily criticised the film, which is being distributed illegally in Iran, and in July Vafamehr was arrested. Producers Julie Ryan and Kate Croser state they “did not set out to produce a political film.” Stressing, “[w]e definitely didn’t set out to make a film that criticised the government”. The role played by Vafemehr shows her with a shaved head, and without a hijab.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s office issued a statement condemning Vafemehr’s sentence.

Iran president takes over oil ministry temporarily

PTI: Tehran, May 16 (AFP) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has temporarily assumed the duties of the oil ministry, as the oil cartel OPEC prepares for a biannual meeting in Vienna.

“For now, I myself am the caretaker of the oil ministry,” Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech yesterday, without elaborating.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 On Saturday, Ahmadinejad dismissed oil minister Masoud Mirkazemi, alongside two other ministers, whose portfolios are expected to be merged with other departments as part of a cabinet streamlining.

Then yesterday, he appointed caretakers for the industry and social affairs ministries, but did not name anyone for the oil ministry which is to be integrated with the energy portfolio.

His decision to take charge of Iran’s most-strategic sector came shortly before the 159th OPEC meeting scheduled for June 8 in Vienna, where the oil producers are represented by their ministers.

Al-Qaeda says bin Laden death will ‘not be wasted’; Pentagon releases videos of terrorist leader in compound

Al-Qaeda has said it will continue to launch more terrorist attacks on the U.S. and warned the death of their leader Osama bin Laden, would “not be wasted”. The statement from the organization, posted on jihadist internet forums, came as the Pentagon released videos filmed inside the terrorist leader’s compound which was raided last weekend. Intelligence officials said at a briefing in Washington, D.C. that the videos showed that bin Laden was still playing an active role in al-Qaeda plotting.

Although the video tapes have no audio, they show bin Laden watching news coverage of himself on television and preparing to record a propaganda film. The tapes are the latest intelligence to emerge from computer equipment seized from bin Laden’s compound during the raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by U.S. special forces last weekend. Earlier this week it emerged bin Laden had been planning an attack on the American rail network on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacksthis year. U.S. officials yesterday stressed that the al-Qaeda plot was only “aspirational”, but involved derailing multiple trains by damaging rail lines at various sites.

Osama bin Laden making a video at his compound in Pakistan.

Tonight one intelligence official said the information gleaned from the computers was the “single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.” The computer equipment also revealed that there were hopes of attacking major transportation hubs, and that during the six years he lived at the compound in Pakistan, bin Laden stayed in close contact with senior affiliates and played an active role in developing terrorist plots. An unnamed U.S. official told The New York Times that bin Laden “wasn’t just a figurehead,” but “continued to plot and plan, to come up with ideas about targets and to communicate those ideas to other senior al-Qaeda leaders.”

Confirming the death of bin Laden in a statement this week, al-Qaeda said his killing would be a “curse” on the U.S. and its allies. “Their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears. We call upon our Muslim people in Pakistan, on whose land Sheikh Osama was killed, to rise up and revolt.” The revelation that al-Qaeda was planning more attacks against the U.S. comes only several days after officials warned the terrorist group was likely to be plotting a revenge attack to avenge the death of bin Laden.

‘We will never forget’

Four days after the raid on the compound, U.S. president Barack Obama visited Ground Zero in New York on Thursday to pay tribute to the 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks, for which al-Qaeda was found responsible. Bin Laden is believed to have masterminded the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” Obama told firefighters in the city. He laid a wreath made from red, white and blue flowers after meeting with relatives of the victims of the attacks. “We are going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act will see justice,” he said. After the wreath was laid, he stood with his head bowed for a moment of silence.

Barack Obama visited Ground Zero in New York on Thursday. Image: Chris Bridges.

The news of bin Laden’s death after a team of U.S. Navy Seals descended into the compound was greeted with celebrations across the U.S. on Sunday night, but concerns have been raised as to whether the killing was lawful after the terrorist leader’s daughter told Pakistani authorities that he had been captured and then killed. But Attorney General Eric Holder contradicted the statement, saying: “If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate.”

Obama’s visit came a day after he announced he would not be releasing images of bin Laden’s body. In an interview to be aired on CBS News, the president said: “It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool.” The images—described as “very gruesome”—are reported to show bin Laden shot above the left eye, with parts of his brain exposed.

Growing rift in relations

As Obama travelled to New York, the growing rift between the relations of the U.S. and Pakistan was continuing to grow after officials in Islamabad said the U.S. president may have breached U.N. rules by ordering the raid, because Pakistan was not told in advance. Senior officials within the Pakistani army also ordered the number of American military personnel in the country to be cut to “minimum essential” levels. Salman Bashir, the Pakistani foreign secretary, strained relations further at a press conference when he said there were serious concerns that the U.S. had breached U.N. resolutions on sovereignty, and said Pakistan is determined to “uphold our sovereignty and safeguard our security”. Pakistani army officials risked tautening relations between the two countries again on Thursday as they announced they would consider cutting ties with Washington, D.C. if the U.S. mounted another unannounced raid on their soil, and said they would be expelling U.S. military personnel in retaliation.

The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, attacked "baseless speculation" that Pakistan was harboring bin Laden.

The conflict stems from the raid during the weekend on the Abbottabad compound. Pakistan says it was not informed about the raid, which involved U.S. helicopters flying into Pakistani airspace to drop commandos who raided the house. The rift has grown further after U.S. officials questioned how Pakistani intelligence allowed bin Laden to live in the compound, a short distance from a military training academy, and suggested the terrorist leader may have been harbored by the government. The director of the CIA said earlier this week that Pakistan was not informed about the raid because of fears he was being harbored by Pakistani officials who might warn him about the raid. The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, dismissed “baseless speculation” that his administration was sheltering bin Laden.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted tension between Washington and Pakistan over the raid had been exaggerated, and said she was keen to keep relations with Islamabad. “It is not always an easy relationship. You know that,” she said. “But, on the other hand, it is a productive one for both our countries and we are going to continue to cooperate between our governments, our militaries, our law-enforcement agencies, but most importantly between the American and Pakistani people.”

Cquote1.svg Their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears. Cquote2.svg

—al-Qaeda statement on Osama bin Laden’s death

Pakistani Taliban threaten revenge attack after bin Laden death; CIA says retaliation is likely

The Pakistani Taliban has threatened a revenge attack on the U.S. and senior Pakistani politicians after the killing of Osama bin Laden as Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, warns al-Qaeda will “almost certainly” attempt an attack on the U.S. to avenge their leader.

U.S. officials warned Americans to ensure they were careful in traveling to unspecified countries where there could be violent retaliatory attacks. “Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not,” Panetta said. “The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must—and will—remain vigilant and resolute.”

A notice from the U.S. State Department advised travelers that, “given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation”, they should try to stay inside homes or hotels and avoid large crowds in countries where there is “the enhanced potential for anti-American violence.” White House officials have not yet raised the homeland terrorism threat level, but an anonymous source at the Department of Homeland Security said the agency was maintaining a “heightened state of vigilance”.

Osama bin Laden With Gun.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced bin Laden had been killed in a television address last night; shortly afterwards, crowds began celebrating outside the White House and Ground Zero, where the twin towers of World Trade Center collapsed after the attacks of September 11, 2001 which have been attributed to bin Laden. However, analysts warned al-Qaeda will “undoubtedly” launch a retaliatory attack.

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence agent, has warned it is likely al-Qaeda has the resources to mount an attack as deadly as 9/11 again because U.S. officials have done “very little” to prevent terrorist groups carrying weapons across its borders. “I think it’s very likely that over time we will see an al-Qaeda counter-punch, not specifically to avenge bin Laden, but to show that al-Qaeda still is on the ground and still can hurt the United States,” Scheuer said. “I’m not sure if it’s gonna be in the near term or a year from now or two years from now, but it’ll come.”

The warning from Scheuer and the CIA came shortly after the Pakistani Taliban said they would attack Pakistani and American targets. “Now Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target,” a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan said.

Bin Laden was killed during a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan near the capital Islamabad. Four others in the compound were reportedly killed in the raid; although a U.S. helicopter crashed, no U.S. forces were killed. His body was buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic scriptures and because no other country would accept his body.

John Gearson, director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College London, also said the killing of bin Laden was very significant, and a retaliatory strike is likely. “There will be concerns that there could be some sort of retaliation, that al-Qaeda may well want to demonstrate that they are still strong and still in the game,” he said, and warned that U.S. officials may “lose their focus” after such a major victory, “and that will provide an opportunity for the remnants of al-Qaeda to reform and grow stronger.”

Cquote1.svg Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must—and will—remain vigilant and resolute. Cquote2.svg
—Leon Panetta, director, CIA
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