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JFP 7/19: Indian fishermen challenge US Navy claim; India presses investigation
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 19 July 2012 - 4:26pm
Just Foreign Policy News, July 19, 2012
Indian fishermen challenge US Navy claim; India presses investigation
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: A Great Week to Cut the Pentagon Budget and End the War!
The 2013 "Defense" Appropriations Bill is expected to be voted on in the House this week. Members of Congress are introducing amendments to cut the military budget and to end the war in Afghanistan. Urge your Rep. to support these amendments.
For Barney Frank's Legacy: Pass the Mulvaney Amendment
Frank is retiring from the House this year after thirty-two years of service. In the cause of working to rein in America's out-of-control military spending, Frank has stood out from his colleagues. Now Frank is trying to do something about the fact that, despite all the bloviating about the deficit, the House is on track to pass a military budget that busts the spending caps of the Budget Control Act.
*Action: Ask the Times of Israel to correct the record
An article in the Times of Israel claimed that "President Barack Obama has repeatedly pledged that he will not allow the Islamic Republic to acquire nuclear weapon capabilities." That's not true: Obama promised he would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear *weapon*. The distinction is crucial. Ask the Times of Israel to correct the record.
The article is here:
And the ToI contact page is here:
FAIR: Another 'Palestinian Gandhi' Ignored by U.S. Media
U.S. media pundits are looking for a 'Palestinian Gandhi." But as the case of Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak shows, they aren't looking very hard.
642 days of cholera in Haiti
642 days, 7457 dead, 584,253 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still the UN refuses to apologize or take responsibility.
1) Indian fishermen who survived a hail of gunfire from a U.S. Navy boat off the coast of the UAE disputed U.S. claims that their boat drew fire after ignoring warnings to steer clear of the US vessel, Reuters reports. One Indian was killed and three others injured on Monday when the USNS Rappahannock fired on the fishing vessel. The fishermen said they received no warning before the U.S. craft opened fire, and that their craft had attempted to avoid any contact with it.
"We had no warning at all from the ship, we were speeding up to try and go around them and then suddenly we got fired at," Muthu Muniraj told Reuters from hospital. "We know warning signs and sounds and there were none."
The incident highlighted the potential for a rapid escalation of tensions in Gulf waters, where U.S. forces are expanding their presence as Washington ramps up pressure on Iran, Reuters notes.
2) India says that it has opened a "full investigation into the circumstances" in the UAE into the July 16 incident, Time Magazine reports. The U.S. said it was conducting its own investigation.
The incident could call into question the efficacy of emergency communication between large and small vessels on the high seas, Time says. The shooting follows a similar incident in February, in which Italian marines on a commercial vessel opened fire on Indian fishermen, thinking they were pirates. Two fishermen were killed in that incident. Then, too, the Italians said that the crew of the small boat did not heed multiple warnings before they were compelled to open fire, bringing into question whether the boats were aware of or had the technology to receive the warnings that were issued.
3) After 18 months of having its funding nearly completely cut off by a payment industry blockade, WikiLeaks says it's found a workaround that allows it to receive credit card donations, Forbes reports. WikiLeaks says the Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality (FDNN) has agreed to accept donations on behalf of WikiLeaks, and that the group can receive payments through the French payment card system Carte Bleue. WikiLeaks says Visa and MasterCard are contractually obligated to allow payments through Carte Bleue. While the companies have ignored contractual obligations in the past, Visa just lost a court case in Iceland over the dispute, and WikiLeaks is confident it can beat the companies legally in France as well. [Information on how to donate is here: http://wikileaks.org/ -JFP.]
4) For the first time, an Afghan military court convicted an Afghan soldier this week of killing troops from the US-led coalition in a "green-on-blue attack," the New York Times reports. Afghan officials said the man was sentenced to death. The case showed that the rule of law was taking hold in Afghanistan, a Western official claimed, despite the fact that the trial was closed to the public, and Afghan military officials offered conflicting accounts of where it took place and would not provide details about the trial such as how long it lasted or what kind of evidence was introduced.
5) CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen - a director of the New America Foundation - claims that no civilians have been killed in Pakistan this year by US drones, writes Chris Woods for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Yet there are credible reports of civilian deaths in Pakistan this year. Up to July 16 for example, between three and 27 civilians have been reported killed in Pakistan this year. Some were actively defined as civilians by news organisations including Reuters and AFP. Bergen's claim of zero reported civilian deaths this year is therefore factually inaccurate.
6) The Taliban killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers in a pair of attacks in the country's south and east, the New York Times reports. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said a total of 227 Afghan soldiers had been killed in insurgent attacks in a period of the Afghan calendar that runs roughly from March to June. Coalition deaths totaled 162 for the same four months. The Taliban also threatened to exact revenge on the judges and prosecutors who took part in a trial that this week resulted in an Afghan soldier being convicted of murder and sentenced to hang for gunning down four French soldiers in January.
7) New details about what local Syrian activists called a massacre of civilians near Hama indicated that it was more likely an uneven clash between the heavily armed Syrian military and local fighters bearing light weapons, the New York Times reported. Activists from the area contacted Saturday stuck to the narrative that there had been a massacre in Tremseh, the Times says. After the high toll was initially reported from Tremseh, as was the case with Houla and other similar episodes, Western leaders lined up to condemn the mass killings of civilians. But although what actually happened in Tremseh remains murky, the evidence available suggested that events in Tremseh more closely followed the Syrian government account, the Times concluded.
8) About 100 Indian workers stranded in Bahrain for six years will be able to return home after an agreement between the Indian embassy and the Nass Corporation construction firm, the BBC reports. The workers had been legally barred from leaving because they had left the firm before completing their contract terms. The workers' visas were sponsored by the company, a requirement under Bahrain law for anyone leaving the country. In 2009 Bahrain's own labor minister criticized the visa sponsor system, saying it was akin to slavery.
1) Indian fishermen say U.S. boat fired without warning
Amena Bakr, Reuters, Tue, Jul 17 2012
Dubai - Indian fishermen who survived a hail of gunfire from a U.S. Navy boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates disputed U.S. claims that their boat drew fire after ignoring warnings to steer clear of the American vessel.
One Indian was killed and three others injured on Monday when the USNS Rappahannock, a refueling ship, fired on the fishing vessel, which the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet said approached at high speed and ignored repeated warnings.
The incident highlighted the potential for a rapid escalation of tensions in Gulf waters, where U.S. forces are expanding their presence as Washington ramps up pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
The fishermen, hospitalized with gunshot wounds after the incident near Dubai's Jebel Ali port, said on Tuesday that they received no warning before the U.S. craft opened fire, and that their craft had attempted to avoid any contact with it.
"We had no warning at all from the ship, we were speeding up to try and go around them and then suddenly we got fired at," 28-year-old Muthu Muniraj told Reuters from hospital, his legs punctured by the rounds of the U.S. craft's .50-caliber gun.
"We know warning signs and sounds and there were none; it was very sudden. My friend was killed, he's gone. I don't understand what happened."
In Monday's incident, other members of the boat's crew, which consisted of six Indians and two Emiratis, said their boat had come under fire as it returned from trawling in waters off Jebel Ali.
"We were fishing and then on the way back they started shooting at us, so many shots, like a storm," said 35-year-old Muthu Kannan, who had a gunshot wound to the abdomen and a lower leg wired into place with metal rods.
"This is not the first time for us to go out in the boat and we all know what a warning is," said 26-year-old Pandu Sanadhan. "All I can remember is a lot of shooting."
An Indian government spokesman said he had assurances that Washington would provide a full account of the incident, and the Indian foreign ministry said it had no position on the issue of whether the fisherman were warned before the shooting.
But in the UAE, Indian ambassador M.K. Lokesh told Reuters after meeting with the fishermen: "Obviously if they were warned they would not go close to such a big vessel. Even if shots were fired in the air, these fishermen would have moved away."
Asked if the Indian government would press for legal charges to be lodged against the U.S. sailors involved, he said: "We have to wait for the inquiry to be completed by the Dubai police before we move any further. But we are pushing for quick completion for the investigations."
Some Indian media appeared to blame the United States for the incident; one television channel ran headlines reading "Murder on the High Seas" and "No Regret, No Apology from America". In a statement, the U.S. embassy in New Delhi expressed its condolences to the families of the boat's crew.
2) U.S. Navy Shooting Incident: India Calls for an Investigation in the U.A.E.
After marksmen aboard an American naval vessel shot and killed an Indian fisherman in the Persian Gulf, Indian officials and media are demanding a proper investigation
Krista Mahr, Time Magazine, July 18, 2012
This is not how to treat an ally. Survivors aboard an Indian fishing vessel claim they had received no warning before being fired upon by the U.S. Navy on Monday, the Indian press reported. Several news outlets have quoted M.K. Lokesh, the Indian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, as saying that—contrary to American insistence that several warnings were issued before the USNS Rappahannock opened fire on the vessel—survivors said they were taken by surprise. Said Lokesh: "There are many versions of the incident. We have to wait for the details to emerge."
To get those details, India says that it has opened a "full investigation into the circumstances" in the UAE into the July 16 incident in which the naval oil-supply vessel fired shots on a small fishing boat off the coast of Dubai, killing a 29-year-old Indian fishermen and injuring three more. The rest of the crew – two Indians and two Emiratis – were uninjured. In a statement released on Tuesday, the Indian government said: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of life of the Indian fisherman and the injuries sustained by the others. Our thoughts are with their families." All of the Indian crew were from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Millions of Indians currently work in the Gulf region.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi also issued condolences "to the families of the crew of a small motor vessel, which came under fire from the USNS Rappahannock on July 16, after the vessel disregarded non-lethal warnings and rapidly approached the U.S. ship." The press release, issued the day after the incident, added that the U.S. was conducting its own investigation into the incident. It was no apology. The U.S. says that its resupply ship opened fire after issuing repeated warnings to a small vessel that was rapidly approaching it, interpreting the behavior as aggressive. The UAE-based National interviewed one of the injured fisherman, who was shot in the leg, who told the paper: "When we came close, we slowed down to let [the USNS Rappahannock] pass to avoid any accidents. Once we crossed them from behind, they started firing at us. Usually, we know alarms and sirens are sounded by ships. But there were no warnings."
The incident could call into question the efficacy of emergency communication between large and small vessels on the high seas. The shooting follows a similar incident in February, in which Italian marines on a commercial vessel opened fire on Indian fishermen, thinking they were pirates. Two fishermen were killed in that incident. Then, too, the Italians said that the crew of the small boat did not heed multiple warnings before they were compelled to open fire, bringing into question whether the boats were aware of or had the technology to receive the warnings that were issued. Those kinds of details are likely to emerge from the multiple probes into this week's event. The U.S. has told India it will share the results of its own investigation.
3) WikiLeaks Reopens Channel For Credit Card Donations, Dares Visa And MasterCard To Block Them Again
Andy Greenberg, Forbes, 7/18/2012 @ 8:31AM
After 18 months of having its funding nearly completely cut off by a payment industry blockade, WikiLeaks says it's finally found a new workaround that allows it to receive credit card donations. And after a legal victory against Visa in Iceland, the group is literally daring the card companies to shut down payments to his site again.
In a statement to press Wednesday morning, WikiLeaks writes that the Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality (FDNN) has agreed to accept donations on behalf of WikiLeaks, and that the group can receive payments through the French payment card system Carte Bleue. WikiLeaks claims that Visa and MasterCard are contractually obligated to allow payments through Carte Bleue and thus prevented from blocking the new channel to the site as they've done with others in the past.
Contractual obligations haven't necessarily stopped the card companies from cutting off WikiLeaks before. Following its release of classified State Department cables in late 2010, PayPal, Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard and Western Union all blocked payments to the site, some claiming that it had violating their terms of service by engaging in illegal activities despite the fact that no WikiLeaks staffer had been charged with a publishing-related crime. In July of last year, the Icelandic firm Valitor, then Visa Iceland, briefly opened payments to WikiLeaks through its partner firm DataCell. Visa blocked that payment channel again within less than 24 hours.
Then last week, an Icelandic court ruled that Visa Iceland had violated its contract with DataCell by unilaterally blocking payments to the firm, and ordered Valitor to re-open payment before July 26 or pay fines of more than $6,000 per day.
Valitor plans to appeal. But Assange, emboldened by the initial win, hopes to press his advantage and open WikiLeaks' faucet of donations again–or at least draw more attention to Visa and MasterCard's legally questionable embargo.
"We beat them in Iceland and, by God, we'll beat them in France as well," reads a quote from Assange in the group's statement. "Let them shut it down. Let them demonstrate to the world once again their corrupt pandering to Washington. We're waiting. Our lawyers are waiting. The whole world is waiting. Do it."
4) Court Convicts Afghan Soldier in Attack on Allies
Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, July 17, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - For the first time, an Afghan military court convicted an Afghan soldier this week of killing troops from the American-led coalition in what is known as a green-on-blue attack.
Afghan officials said on Tuesday that the court had convicted and sentenced to death a man who gunned down four French soldiers in January in Kapisa Province, east of Kabul, on a base shared by French and Afghan forces. The attack prompted France to speed up the withdrawal of its combat forces from Afghanistan, which is now scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Word of the conviction in the case was unlikely to prompt France to reverse that decision, but it did open a rare window on what happens after Afghan soldiers and police officers attack coalition partners. Such attacks were once uncommon, but they have multiplied over the past three years and now pose a significant challenge for the allied forces fighting in Afghanistan and trying to train the country's nascent army and police. Since the start of 2010, there have been 52 green-on-blue attacks resulting in 82 deaths.
Coalition officials have said they believe most of the attackers are motived by personal animus and are not Taliban infiltrators. Yet amid the increasing violence, coalition and Afghan officials have remained circumspect about the attacks, often releasing only the barest of details after each episode. The statement disclosing the Jan. 20 attack on the French troops, for instance, was only 43 words.
In most cases, according to coalition statements, the attackers are killed in the firefights that ensue after they start shooting at coalition forces. What becomes of the attackers who are not killed - or do not manage to flee, as has happened in a number of instances - is rarely disclosed.
Gen. Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said on Tuesday that the conviction in the January shooting was handed down on Monday and that it was the first for a green-on-blue attack. He identified the convicted soldier as Abdul Basir. General Azimi said that other Afghan soldiers implicated in such attacks were also being held, but he declined to give an exact number or say whether any other trials were in progress.
The American-led coalition said in a statement that it was aware of the court-martial and that it supported the Afghan government's "continuing efforts to bring criminals to justice in accordance with the principles of Afghan law and due process."
A Western official echoed that sentiment, saying the trial should increase confidence in the ability of Afghan authorities to tackle the green-on-blue problem. The case also showed that the rule of law was taking hold in Afghanistan, albeit imperfectly, the official said.
"I think the impression for us has really been that these guys disappear into the Afghan prisons - we all figured they got beat up - tortured, really," said the official, who did not want to be quoted by name as suggesting that torture was a problem in Afghan prisons.
The trial was closed to the public, and Afghan military officials offered conflicting accounts of where it took place. General Azimi said it was held at a military court here in Kabul, but another senior army officer said the trial was conducted by the Afghan Army's 201 Corps, to which the soldier belonged, at a base east of Kabul. The officer asked not to be named for fear of angering his superiors by discussing a delicate matter.
Neither officer would provide any other details about the trial, like how long it lasted or what kind of evidence was introduced.
But General Azimi said that the conviction was "preliminary" and that the soldier would have the chance to appeal.
It has become standard practice for the Afghans and the coalition to say little or nothing publicly about suspects detained after green-on-blue attacks. For instance, what has become of an Afghan soldier detained after a 52-minute firefight on a joint Afghan-American base in March remains a mystery.
At the time of that episode, the coalition and the Afghan government said only that two Afghan attackers were killed during the gun battle; neither side made any mention of a third attacker who was taken alive and detained. His existence was disclosed later, and when questioned about his fate, Afghan and American officials would each say only that the other side was holding him.
5) Analysis: CNN expert's civilian drone death numbers don't add up
Chris Woods, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, July 17th, 2012
Following recent revelations by the New York Times that all military-aged males in Waziristan are considered fair game by the CIA in its drone strikes, many US journalists have been reassessing how they report on deaths in the attacks.
So when CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen produced a graph claiming that no civilians have been killed in Pakistan this year by US drones, his views were bound to attract criticism. Conor Friedersdorf, a columnist at The Atlantic, accused CNN and Bergen of running 'bogus data', for example.
Bergen is also a director of the New America Foundation, which for more than three years has run a database on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and produces estimates of numbers killed. That data is the most frequent source of statistics for the US media, including CNN itself. So the accuracy of its material is important.
Yet there are credible reports of civilian deaths in Pakistan this year. And unlike the New America Foundation the Bureau actively tracks those claims.
Up to July 16 for example, between three and 27 civilians have been reported killed in Pakistan this year, out of 148 – 220 deaths. Some were actively defined as civilians by news organisations including Reuters and AFP. But these are not necessarily the only civilian deaths. Ambivalent reports might sometimes refer only to 'people' or 'local tribesmen' killed. More research is needed. And of the remaining alleged militants killed, we have so far been able to name just 13 individuals.
Bergen's claim of zero reported civilian casualties this year is therefore factually inaccurate.
To be so categoric is also problematic. The Bureau's own data shows that of at least 2,500 people killed by the CIA in Pakistan since 2004, we publicly only know the identities of around 500. Most of the others were reported to be alleged militants by local and international media. We can say no more than that.
It is not just in NAF's 2012 data that credible reports of civilian deaths have been missed or ignored. NAF's Pakistan data also contains many other inaccuracies. A number of confirmed strikes are omitted, for instance, and its overall estimates of those killed are significantly below even the CIA's own count. The consequence is a skewed picture of drone activity which continues to inform many opinion-makers.
On July 13 Peter Bergen responded to his recent critics in a CNN article which stated that reported civilian casualties in Pakistan are in decline – as the Bureau itself recently noted. He also repeated his claim of no civilian casualties in Pakistan this year. And he attacked the Bureau for its own recording work in this area:
"The Bureau of Investigative Journalism's high estimate of 24 civilian deaths in 2012 came in part from reports provided by an unreliable Pakistani news outlet as well as the claims of a local Taliban commander, which contradicted all other reports."
It's worth unpicking Bergen's claims in some detail.
His comments appear to refer to a CIA drone strike on February 9 in which local Taliban commander Badar Mansoor died. Citing just four sources, NAF's data reports only that three to five 'militants', including Mansoor, died in the attack.
But this is a misrepresentation which ignores credible claims of civilian casualties, as the Bureau's own Pakistan database makes clear.
Among 18 unique sources we cite, the Bureau links to a story by Reuters, the international news agency. Reuters notes a Taliban commander's claims that Mansoor's wife and child died in the February 9 attack. Local paper The News also reported that Mansoor's wife and children were either injured or killed; and a Bureau field researcher reported anecdotal claims from the town that some of the leader's family had died.
As the Bureau notes, these overt claims of civilian deaths on February 9 remain contested. We state that between zero and two civilians reportedly died in the strike. It is not clear either way. What cannot be stated is that no civilians died.
Bergen's reference to an 'unreliable Pakistani news outlet' is also confusing. Dawn, The Nation and The News are all reputable Pakistani dailies, cited on occasion by CNN and NAF themselves. And Central Asia Online states clearly that 'a woman and a girl child were injured' in the strike, not killed.
In fact Bergen's comments undermine further the credibility of the NAF data he constantly cites. A partial list of media reports has not been updated since the day of the attack – despite a number of salient facts since emerging. And as Bergen notes in his CNN article, the Reuters report of civilian deaths is rejected as a NAF source on the (inaccurate) grounds that it involved 'the claims of a local Taliban commander, which contradicted all other reports.'
In their CNN article Bergen and co-reporter Jennifer Rowland make no mention of a second strike in which civilians were also reported killed in Pakistan this year. According to credible media, along with a number of alleged militants between three and eight worshipers died when a mosque was struck (possibly accidentally) on May 24.
That claim is independently supported by Britain's Channel 4 News; by Pakistan's The News (generally the most accurate local source for information on casualties); and by French news agency AFP. The Bureau cites 17 unique sources overall in its coverage, noting reports of damage to the mosque and of civilian casualties.
Bergen's New America Foundation, relying on just four sources, says only that 10 'militants' were killed in a 'compound.'
NAF's claims of 'zero civilians killed' by the CIA in Pakistan in 2012 is reached by the simple expedient of not including in its data any of the credible reports of civilian deaths.
When the Bureau began looking in earnest at US drone strikes in summer 2010, we started to work with NAF's data, and that of the Long War Journal. At that time we had no interest in the time-consuming (and expensive) effort of compiling and maintaining accurate data on covert US strikes.
But the more we worked with NAF's material, the more troubled we became. In February 2011 for example, the Bureau wrote to NAF noting a number of errors.
We pointed out a strike that it had missed entirely (November 5 2005). The Bureau also drew NAF's attention to a number of date errors. The Foundation claimed a strike had taken place on May 14 2005, for example. In fact that attack took place on May 8th.
Bergen personally acknowledged the email, saying 'thanks for drawing attention to these.' Yet almost 18 months on those errors – easily verifiable – remain uncorrected.
Our concerns about the data – particularly on the question of civilian deaths – ultimately compelled us to start from scratch, re-examining every US drone strike in Pakistan to try and understand what had really been going on.
We now know, for example, that eight years in to the CIA's bombing campaign in Pakistan, NAF still lists the wrong date (June 18 2004) for the very first strike. Citing just one source, NAF also makes no reference to the civilians killed that day, including two children.
That first attack actually took place on Thursday June 17 as CNN and many other sources correctly noted at the time. Militant commander Nek Mohammed died along with up to eight others. These included, it was widely reported, the two young sons of Sher Zaman Ashrafkhel.
On another occasion in October 2006, an attack on a seminary killed at least 81 people. New America Foundation does not count these 'militants' in its data, reporting that the attack was
"Allegedly conducted by Pakistani military, but may have been conducted by US forces. Noted here for the record but not included in above fatality totals."
Claims that the Pakistan military carried out this attack were long ago dismissed. A senior aide to Pakistan's then-leader Pervez Musharraf told the Sunday Times within weeks that 'we thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US.' Last August former ISI director General Asad Durrani confirmed in an interview that the CIA carried out the strike. And just weeks ago General Musharraf himself pointedly refused to deny US involvement.
There are also reports that up to 69 children died in the October 2006 attack. While some contest this claim, local media has listed the full names, ages, family details and home villages of every child reported killed.
Bergen and New America Foundation continue to make no reference to any of these salient facts. Nor do they count these 81 deaths in their figures.
The New America Foundation regularly publishes definitive numbers on the overall civilian death tolls in Pakistan.
On March 27 for example, Bergen and co-worker Jennifer Rowland claimed that 'according to our data, 7% of the fatalities resulting from drone strikes [in Pakistan] in 2011 were civilians.' The duo lowered that estimate on June 10, now claiming that civilian deaths in Pakistan 'averaged 5.5% in 2011.'
The Bureau has been unable to replicate either of NAF's recent statistical claims from the Foundation's published data.
In contrast, our own data shows that between 465 and 659 people died overall in 2011. Of these between 75 and 127 were reportedly civilians. Since we cannot know where, within these ranges, accurate figures lie, the best that can be said is that reported civilian deaths account for between 11% and 27% of all of those killed by the CIA in Pakistan last year.
6) Taliban Step Up Attacks, Killing 11 Afghan Soldiers
Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, July 18, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - The Taliban on Wednesday kept up its steady campaign of bombings and shootings against Afghanistan's still unsteady security forces, killing at least 11 Afghan soldiers in a pair of attacks in the country's south and east, officials said.
With the American-led coalition increasingly ceding a greater role in the fight to Afghan forces, one of the chief aims of the Taliban and its insurgent allies has been to show that the Afghan Army and police force are incapable of protecting themselves, never mind ordinary people.
The bombings and shootings appear to have taken their toll: Gen. Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said Wednesday that a total of 227 Afghan soldiers had been killed in insurgent attacks in a period of the Afghan calendar that runs roughly from March to June.
The vast majority of them died in roadside and suicide bombings, he said in a statement.
Coalition deaths totaled 162 for the same four months. While General Azimi offered no comparative data for Afghan casualties during the same period in previous years, the Afghan Army has in the past often suffered fewer deaths than coalition forces because its soldiers tended to back away from fighting the Taliban.
Apart from targeting the security forces, the Taliban have also sought to plant infiltrators within the army and the police and to encourage defections. The strategy appeared to pay off overnight in the southern province of Helmand, where an Afghan soldier ran off with Taliban fighters after a raid on an army checkpoint, said Dawoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial government.
The Taliban also threatened Wednesday to exact revenge on the judges and prosecutors who took part in a trial that this week resulted in an Afghan soldier being convicted of murder and sentenced to hang for gunning down four French soldiers in January.
"The judges and prosecutors who are involved in this case will be targeted, and strong revenge will be taken," the insurgents said in a statement.
7) Details of a Battle Challenge Reports of a Syrian Massacre
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, July 14, 2012
Beirut, Lebanon - New details emerging Saturday about what local Syrian activists called a massacre of civilians near the central city of Hama indicated that it was more likely an uneven clash between the heavily armed Syrian military and local fighters bearing light weapons.
The United Nations observers still on the ground in Syria sent a team in 11 vehicles to the village of Tremseh on Saturday to investigate what had happened, said Sausan Ghosheh, the spokeswoman for the monitors in Damascus, the capital.
Their initial report said the attack appeared to target "specific groups and houses, mainly of army defectors and activists," Ms. Ghosheh said in a statement. It said a range of weapons had been used, including artillery, mortars and small arms.
The report seemed to indicate that some people had been killed at close range - it said there were pools of blood and blood spatters in several houses along with bullet cases. The team also found a burned school and damaged houses.
The number of casualties remains unclear, it said, but the United Nations team planned to return on Sunday to continue investigating.
Before the United Nations team entered the town, a combination of videos, televised confessions of numerous captured fighters and reports from activists outside the area all indicated that a battle on Thursday between the military and local fighters in Tremseh, a village of 11,000 people about 22 miles northwest of Hama, resulted in a slaughter of rebel forces.
The videos that have emerged so far online, the source of much of the information on any fighting that is available outside Syria, have shown the victims to be young men of fighting age. One showed 15 bodies. Another one, said to show a group of reinforcements being sent to Tremseh, also showed a group of young men in civilian clothes carrying their personal weapons.
There were also new questions about the death toll, with initial figures from activists of more than 160 and other reports putting the toll at more than 200. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in Britain that has a network of contacts in Syria, said that it had been able to confirm only 103 names, and 90 percent of them were young men. There were no women's names on the list of 103 victims obtained from activists in Homs.
An initial roster of 20 names published by the Syrian National Council, the main umbrella opposition group in exile, was mostly a list of men between 19 and 36, although it included the name of a 6-year-old boy. Activists from the area contacted Saturday stuck to the narrative that there had been a massacre in Tremseh.
In previous massacres, however, like the one in Houla in late May, there was the immediate synchronization between the long lists of civilian names, the gruesome videos of dead women and children, and corroboration by United Nations observers who faulted the Syrian Army for using tank shells and other heavy weaponry against a civilian area. That is missing in the case of Tremseh.
After the high toll was announced from Tremseh, as was the case with Houla and other similar episodes, Western leaders lined up to condemn the mass killings of civilians. Col. Riad al-Assad, based in Turkey as the ostensible leader of the loose coalition of fighters called the Free Syrian Army, told the Arabic television network Al Jazeera on Thursday that there had been no opposition fighters in the town.
Although what actually happened in Tremseh remains murky, the evidence available suggested that events on Thursday more closely followed the Syrian government account.
8) Bahrain firm allows stranded Indian workers to leave
BBC, 18 July 2012
About 100 Indian workers stranded in Bahrain for six years will be able to return home after an agreement between the Indian embassy and the Nass Corporation construction firm.
The workers were legally barred from leaving because they had left the firm before completing their contract terms.
The company has agreed to withdraw all cases against employees who were accused of "absconding from work".
More than 20,000 people signed an online petition to bring them back.
The petition was launched on the Avaaz online campaign website last month by the brother of a worker who killed himself earlier this year.
In a statement, Nass Corporation said it agreed to withdraw the court cases against the "run-away" Indian workers as a "goodwill gesture".
"The company will not hereafter institute any legal proceedings against run-away workers except in cases of criminal offences, if any, committed by them," the statement said.
The company had accused the workers of "absconding from work" in 2006 after many of them left the company complaining of low wages.
The workers' visas were sponsored by the company, a requirement under Bahrain law for anyone leaving the country.
Nearly 400,000 Indians live and work in Bahrain and campaigners say many live in extreme poverty - they are often not paid the wages they are promised and their passports are taken away from them.
In 2009 Bahrain's own labour minister criticised the visa sponsor system, saying it was akin to slavery.
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