Saturday, June 03, 2006

Canada Nabs 17 Terror Suspects in Toronto.


Canadian police foiled a homegrown terrorist attack by arresting 17 suspects, apparently inspired by al-Qaida, who obtained three times the amount of explosives used in the Oklahoma City bombing, officials said Saturday.

The FBI said the Canadian suspects may have had "limited contact" with two men recently arrested on terrorism charges in Georgia. About 400 regional police and federal agents participated in the arrests Friday and early Saturday.
"These individuals were allegedly intent on committing acts of terrorism against their own country and their own people," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "As we have said on many occasions, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism."


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested the suspects, ages 43 to 19, on terrorism charges including plotting attacks with explosives on Canadian targets. The suspects were either citizens or residents of Canada and had trained together, police said.

The group had taken steps to acquire three tons of ammonium nitrate and other bomb-making materials — three times the amount used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injured more than 800, said assistant Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner Mike McDonell.
"This group posed a real and serious threat," McDonell said. "It had the capacity and intent to carry out these attacks."


Luc Portelance, assistant director of operations with Canada's spy agency, CSIS, said the suspects "appeared to have become adherents of a violent ideology inspired by al-Qaida" but that investigators have yet to prove a link to the terror network.
Five of the suspects were led in handcuffs Saturday to the Ontario Court of Justice, which was surrounded by snipers and bomb-sniffing dogs. A judge told the men not to communicate with one another and set their first bail hearing for Tuesday.


Tight security required visitors to the court to remove their shoes to pass through three checkpoints guarded by police carrying assault rifles and submachine guns.
FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko, in Washington, D.C., said there may have been a connection between the Canadian suspects and a Georgia Tech student and another American who had traveled to Canada to meet with Islamic extremists to discuss locations for a terrorist strike.
Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, U.S. citizens who grew up in the Atlanta area, were arrested in March.

Egypt Pays 30% of Palestinian Salaries.





The Egyptian Red Crescent's Relief Committee under Suzanne Mubarak decided Monday to pay 30 percent of the salaries of the Palestinian Authority employees, who have been unpaid the past three months due to the West aid cutoff to the Hamas government.The committee will also send in the coming days food stuffs, medicines and medical kits to the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians have been facing serious shortages of food and medicine since the US and the EU suspended direct aid to the Hamas-led government.Israel has also stopped transferring customs duties worth around $50 million a month collected for the Palestinian Authority.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Abu Hamza Was Allowed to Preach Hate as Authority Looked the Other Way.


Time and time again British officials were given evidence of the radical cleric's involvement in terrorism, but nothing was done to stop him.

NO ONE seemed willing to take responsibility for tackling the Abu Hamza problem.
Government departments pointed the finger of blame at one another; politicians complained that the police and the spymasters did not investigate him properly; Scotland Yard moaned about MI5 and vice-versa. Detectives felt that the Crown Prosecution Service let them down; the CPS moaned that the court system was stacked against them. The judges retorted that they did not make the laws; if anyone was to blame it was the civil servants and politicians at Westminster. The blame game went round and round as Tony Blair banged the table in exasperation.


Every chance there had been to pursue Abu Hamza seemed to have been missed, wasted or blocked.

For more than twenty years there had been a catalogue of bureaucratic foul-ups and a lack of resolve by the British authorities to tackle him, even when presented with a clear opportunity to do so.
The first occasion was in 1980, when Abu Hamza was arrested as an illegal immigrant and brought before the courts for overstaying his visa. Had his case been subjected to a proper investigation, potential offences under the Marriage Act, the Births and Deaths Registration Act and the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act could have been discovered. But the validity of his marriage to Valerie Traverso and the truth about his claim to be the father of her baby daughter were not examined.


He came to the attention of the police again in the mid-1980s, when his bullying behaviour began to alarm the imams and trustees of a number of mosques. Members of the Muslim community in Brighton approached Sussex police, and at Regent’s Park mosque in London trustees took court action to keep him away from the building.

When he returned from Afghanistan and Bosnia in the mid-1990s there was further trouble in Luton. But he was left to carry on with his activities and to seize control at Finsbury Park.
Abdulkadir Barkatullah, one of the management committee ousted by Abu Hamza, said he and community representatives went to the police seven times to complain about assaults and extremist activities inside the mosque. No action was taken.


The Prime Minister had urged the Muslim community to do more about the scourge of extremism within its own ranks but, Barkatullah said, “When we did do precisely that with Abu Hamza, we were ignored.”

Read the rest of this article at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,29389-2205344,00.html

Israeli Army Kills 2 Gunmen on Egypt Border.


Israeli soldiers killed two gunmen dressed as Egyptian army officers who attacked them on Israel's border with Egypt on Friday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.


The gunmen were part of a three-person squad that stormed across the frontier at dawn near Israel's Mount Saguy, opposite the Egyptian border town of Bir el-Ma'in, Lieutenant Michal Luft said. The third gunman fled back over the border, she said.
"The gunmen killed in the clash were in Egyptian military uniforms with officer ranks, which is rare as Egyptian army officers do not generally come to this area," Luft said. She declined to speculate on the identity of the gunmen.
An Egyptian Interior Ministry spokesman said he heard of a clash at Israel's border between three men coming from Egypt and the Israeli military, but said he had not heard they were wearing Egyptian army uniforms. He declined to comment further.
Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace deal with Israel, in 1978, and their desert border is largely unfenced.
The frontier sees regular smuggling and occasional attempts by Palestinian militants from the coastal Gaza Strip to cross into the Egyptian Sinai and from there infiltrate into Israel.
Friday's incident took place 100 km (63 miles) from Gaza, a distance unusual for Palestinian infiltrations, Luft said.
Israeli troops killed an Egyptian smuggler in a border clash on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cairo's Taxis: Time For a Change.




For many visitors to Cairo, their most memorable experience is not their visit to the Giza pyramids or even the Egyptian Museum's Tutankhamen exhibit. It's the city's taxis.
To engage one of these exhaust-spewing cars, you bellow your destination as it careens by. If it stops, you jump in, soon finding yourself bumping along in a rickety, grime-encrusted 1970s vehicle, often lacking rearview mirrors and door handles.
At the end of the ride, the 30-year-old meter is still frozen at 10 cents per kilometer. So the driver determines the fare based on your nationality, fluency in Arabic, and insider knowledge. Arguments are not uncommon.
But this tradition - so much a part of any visitor's experience in this city of pharaonic antiquities and largely ignored traffic lights - may become a thing of the past.
Earlier this year, the Egyptian government launched a fleet of spanking-new yellow taxis complete with air conditioning, credit-card-friendly meters (that work), phones, seat belts, spotless vinyl seating, rear- and side-view mirrors, windows that close, doors that open, and drivers in suits and ties who don't smoke, blast the radio, or yell.
The government hopes that these cars (and drivers) will be more welcoming for the country's citizens and tourists alike.
"We want taxis with a more civilized appearance, to offer our citizens and tourists more comfort," says Gen. Mahmoud Yassin Ibrahim, Cairo's vice governor.
Until the new taxis were introduced, Cairo offered three main public transport options besides the black-and-white cabs with their busted taillights: sardine-stuffed buses, death-defying minibuses, and a surprisingly clean and efficient metro, complete with women-only cars to protect female passengers from jeering males.
In addition to adding an appealing alternative to the mix, the new taxis could also help alleviate the pervasive pollution of desert dust, factory fumes, and car exhaust in this growing megalopolis of 16 million, since the government is considering fueling the vehicles with natural gas.
Plans to gradually replace Cairo's 70,000 black-and-white cabs have been in the pipeline for a while, but it wasn't until Egypt's reform-minded Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif took office in 2004 that implementation began in earnest. The government chose three private companies to operate the 150 new Volkswagen Paratis and Hyundai Elantras - a fleet it plans to increase 10-fold by the end of the year.
Customers pay 60 cents for the first kilometer in the new taxis, and then 17 cents for each additional kilometer. And rather than yelling their destination as these cabs speed past, customers can call for service or go to any of the city's 36 taxi stations.
I went down to Tahrir Square - one of Cairo's loudest, most crowded, and hottest centers - on a recent afternoon to see how this service was catching on.
At the new taxi station there, three glistening yellow cabs stood neatly in line, contrasting starkly with the noisy, dusty haze of jockeying cars, trucks, motor scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Watching a young Egyptian man and woman wait in the suffocating sun for 30 minutes as streams of black-and-white taxis pass them, I can't help but ask why.
"I prefer to wait than take a regular taxi," replies Mohamed Ossama, an engineering student at a nearby university. "They're much more relaxing."
Finally my curiosity - and the heat - get the best of me and I decide to head home in one of these new-fangled cabs. I do so reluctantly. Yes, Cairo's black-and-white taxis are smelly and grimy. Yes, the drivers are abrupt, rude, and money-grubbing.
But these cabs are so much a part of this crazy city that I hate to see them go - especially since I long ago mastered the art of hailing these relics and haggling over the fare.
I take the plunge, though, and settle into the yellow cab, civilly mentioning my destination. The well-groomed driver in a blue suit and tie closes his window and starts the air conditioning.
Instantly I'm transported from Cairo's horn-blasting, traffic-jammed streets, away from the heat, the crowds, the dust and dirt, to this cool oasis of smooth black vinyl, seat belts that quickly snap into place, and a meter that clicks away as methodically and efficiently as a grandfather clock. We glide over the Nile on the Kasr El Nil bridge, sail into the island of Zamalek, and come to a gentle stop at my apartment.
I pay the 6.50 Egyptian pounds ($1.12) shown on the meter - 25 cents more than a regular taxi. There's no Cairo charm, no insider knowledge necessary, nothing that separates me, a 17-year Cairo resident, from the tousled, backpack-lugging budget travelers. But, I decide, as the air conditioner hums away - who cares?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

US Delegate In Cairo.



A delegate comprised of 20 assistants of members of US Congress has started a visit to Cairo by meeting with members of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the People's Assembly. The American delegate has also visited the National Council of Human Rights, and had talks with Dr. Ahmed Kamal Abou El Magd, and a number of the Council members.

During the long meeting with Dr. Abou El Magd, and others, memebers of the delegate have discussed the Copts situation in view of the events of Alexandria, and the role of the National Council of Human Rights in realizing the role of citizenship among all Egyptians, and confirm their sharing in public affairs.

The delegate has also discussed the matter of Dr. Aymen Nour, leader of the "Ghad" opposition party, and his release of prison on health grounds. Sources said that Dr. Abou El Magd has explained that Nour has exhausted all the legal measures available to him and there remains only the two possibilities of release on health grounds or political pardon. Decision regarding these possiblities is in the hands of the Egyptian President alone.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Next Copts Conference.

In an interview posted on the web site of Copts-United, Eng. Adly Abadeer, the well known Coptic advocat, announced that a Coptic conference is being arranged between Copts-United and the International Christian Association, which president is Dr. Mounir Dawood.
It seems that, so far, the date of the Conference wil be June 19, 2006, and it will be held in the building of the United Nations, in New York city, USA.

U.S. Denies Envoy's 'Interfering' Remarks.




"To hell with U.S. assistance"

The U.S. embassy in Cairo denied its ambassador had made comments about Washington's aid to the Arab world's most populous nation that had Egyptian MPs up in arms.
Lawmakers accused the ambassador of interfering in Egypt's domestic affairs after parliament was told of the reported comments by ambassador Francis Ricciardone.


"The U.S. has interests and pays money to the Egyptian government, which must work to achieve those interests," independent MP Kamal Ahmed had quoted Ricciardone as saying.
Ahmed also accused him of describing the Egyptian opposition as "opportunist", triggering harsh criticism of Ricciardone across the political spectrum.

But the U.S. embassy dismissed the claims. "Allegations reportedly raised in the Egyptian People's Assembly regarding statements by the U.S. ambassador have no basis in fact," the U.S. embassy said. "(They) bear no resemblance to public or private comments by the ambassador or other members of the embassy." Washington, it said, "provides economic and military assistance for programs supporting priorities of the government of Egypt, by mutual agreement with the United States, to advance our shared interests in strengthening peace, democracy, and prosperity in Egypt and the region."

Egypt, a leading recipient of US economic and military aid, has received more than $60 billion since 1979, including $34 billion in foreign military financing credits to buy U.S. materiel and services.
But Washington has spoken out recently against Egypt's strong-arm tactics against the opposition, including the jailing of prominent opposition leader Ayman Nur and crackdowns against anti-government demonstrations.

"To hell with U.S. assistance," the state-owned Al-Ahram daily quoted Ahmed as declaring in parliament.
Other MPs, including Haydar Baghdadi of the ruling National Democratic Party said that if true, the comments amounted to interference in Egyptian internal affairs.
"Egypt does not accept interference in its internal affairs from any country, large or small, or from any country that gives us aid or receives aid from us," commented Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mofeid Shehab.
Speaker Fathi Sorur asked parliament's foreign affairs committee to study the allegations, saying if they turned out to be correct, the government should respond.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Giza Pyramids Still Baffle the World.

He pointed excitedly at what he calls its mechanics — every carving, every joint, every scratch — all, he said, part of a fabulously intricate engineering design by ancient Egyptians

THEY have been called mystical, awe-inspiring, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But it is safe to say that in the 45 centuries the great pyramids of Giza have cast their formidable shadow over the desert, they have never before been described as a cuckoo clock.
But that is what Jean-Pierre Houdin said as he lifted his tall lanky body up the steps into the pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the three pyramids high up on the Giza plateau overlooking this teeming, ancient city on the Nile.
"This is not just a pile of rocks," he said, his words curled around a soft French accent. "This is a cuckoo clock."


Then with a short, friendly laugh, he loped through the cool, dank passage and examined his cuckoo clock with the enthusiasm of a child. He pointed excitedly at what he calls its mechanics — every carving, every joint, every scratch — all, he said, part of a fabulously intricate engineering design by ancient Egyptians."It is an engineering project, from A to Z," he said, again with the same friendly chuckle.

People in search of themselves often look to great challenges: running a marathon, climbing a mountain or learning a new language. Mr. Houdin selected the pyramids as his vehicle for personal reflection, as the salve for his midlife crisis. His was an analytical venture, a quest to explain what appears impossible to prove, at least given the current public record: exactly how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids using about 2.5 million stones, each weighing at least several tons.
Now, eight years later, he is ready to present his findings, one step at a time, and in doing so will be remembered either as the man who unlocked the secrets of ancient brilliance or as a bit of an eccentric who merely indulged his imagination.


"When you work every day, your mind is turned off to new ideas," said Mr. Houdin, whose wardrobe seems to be primarily black T-shirts and black jeans. "Then one day you are old. I looked for a new life."
Mr. Houdin says he had a successful business in
France for 20 years designing buildings and homes, when he shut everything down to focus on the pyramid built by Cheops, second ruler of the fourth dynasty. Mr. Houdin thinks he has the answer to how it was built — a series of theories, really — which he says he developed over more than 5,000 hours working with three-dimensional imaging software on his computer. Along the way, he also learned a bit about the challenges of dealing with modern Egypt and a bit about the competitive and ego-laden world of Egyptology.
"It's huge, yes it's huge," he said, staring up at the eastern face. "But it is a cuckoo clock. Everything is precise."


OVER the years, those who study the pyramids have learned a lot about their construction. They know that the bedrock of the plateau was incorporated into the base, so fewer stones were needed than originally estimated. Egyptologists say there is evidence that the stones of the pyramid were cut from the earth south of the base of the pyramid and that some of the granite rafters were transported from Luxor in the south.
What no one is exactly sure of is how the ancient Egyptians managed to move and assemble the stones into a pyramid 480 feet high. There are theories, including one popular one that the builders constructed a huge ramp leading to the very top of the pyramid. (There is another theory, too, that aliens were involved.)


Mr. Houdin says the large ramp theory could not have worked because it would have to be way too long, miles in fact, to avoid a slope that was not too steep. Mr. Houdin's main theory is that the only way to get stones up to the apex would be with a small outside ramp and a second ramp that spirals up the inside the pyramid. By his estimation, the outside ramp went up about a third of the way, while there was an inside ramp that is still there, sealed inside the walls of the pyramid, waiting centuries to be discovered.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Coptic Orphans Helping Children of Egypt.

From the web site of George Mason University's Student Newspaper.

Doris Abdel Messieh, director of public relations for an organization called Coptic Orphans, came Thursday and addressed a group of students at George Mason University. Coptic Orphans exists to provide food, clothing, medicine and educational assistance to orphans in poverty stricken parts of Egypt. The word orphan has a special and specific meaning to the organization. “Kids who have lost their fathers,” Abdel Messieh said. “That is how we define orphans.”
Abdel Messieh said this group is in particular need. “We estimate approximately 100,000 children who are in dire need of help,” she said. “We have only been able to touch the lives of about 7,000.”


To show why students should help these individuals, Abdel Messieh presented the video entitled, “We are the Youth of Our Nation.” American students smiled from photograph to photograph as the song, "We are the Youth of Our Nation,” by the band P.O.D., played in the background. The atmosphere, however, changed drastically from smiles to sorrow. Americans watched Egyptian underage workers, and saw hurt children and homes filled with raw sewage as REM’s song “Everybody Hurts” filled the silent room. “[The video] was very touching," said Hiba Aziz, 18, a sophomore at Mason and president of the Orthodox Christian Students, an on-campus organization that was host to the event. Abdel Messieh agreed. “I think that presentation pretty much speaks for itself,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks, shed for a recent return from Egypt where a boy, with no front door or furniture, still found a way to fight the poverty.
“He has managed to be at the top of his class every year,” she said. In spite of his living conditions and a misdiagnosis that left him addicted to cortisone, he persevered. “He has hope. He has been given hope.”


But the presentation was not just about the orphans. It was about American youth, and what they can do to help these children. “That is what this presentation is about," said Mark Nakhla, 20, a senior and vice president of the OCS. “It’s about hope. To put a smile on someone’s face.”
“That is what Coptic Orphans wants to do,” said Abdel Messieh. “Give them hope.”


How can students help out? “There are many programs there in Egypt,” said Abdel Messieh. However, the one students can get most involved in is “Serve to Learn.” Individuals spend three to six weeks in Egypt teaching English. “They are there to provide a classroom environment and show that it [learning] is enjoyable,” said Abdel Messieh.
“It was a lot of fun, especially if you care about these kids,” said Tony Soliman, a senior at Mason’s Prince William Campus, who returned from Egypt this past August. “I would do it every year if I could.”


For more information on Coptic Orphans, visit their Web site, www.copticorphans.org