Charges laid over failed plane bombing

The man accused of attempting to blow up an American airliner on Christmas day has been indicted on six counts.

Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, faces charges including the attempted murder of the other 289 passengers and crew and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The explosives were concealed in his underpants which he tried to detonate as the plane was approaching Detroit from Amsterdam. People sitting near him managed to restrain him and extinguish the flames.

Since then, US intelligence has been heavily criticised for a series of blunders that led to Abdulmutallab managing to board the plane despite being on a list of suspected terrorists.

It was also revealed the explosive device had been provided by al Qaeda in Yemen. In response, the US has named several countries it considers high risk and whose nationals will be subjected to tighter security checks.

Full body scanners are set to become common place in many international airports.


Attacks force closure of Pakistani schools

The Pakistani authorities are no taking no chances following the suicide bombings at Islamabad’s Islamic University, and all schools are being closed for a week around the country.

Millions of pupils and students from both the private and public sectors will get an extra holiday, although the hope is they will be able to reopen next Monday.

“This step the government has taken to close schools is both good and bad. It’s good because it may help save many lives; it’s bad because the children’s time is being wasted. Some proper steps should be taken to end terrorism,” said one student.

The Interior Minister today recognised his country was in a state of war, and blamed the Taliban in Waziristan for the university attack.

The army’s offensive continues to grind on. Heavy fighting continues around Kotkai, and senior army commanders admitted the rough terrain and heavier resistance meant progress would be slower than first thought.

The first pictures to arrive from the combat zone show little is being spared in the onslaught. The shattered villages and demolished farms may struggle to support life when and if the civilians are allowed to return.

French police arrest two ETA suspects at arms dump

Police in the French city of Montpellier have arrested two men suspected of being members of the Basque separatists group ETA.

The two were were stopped near Ales after being chased in their car by police.

Iurgi Mendinueta is thought to be the number two in ETA’s military wing. He was arrested with Joanes Larretxea.

The arrests come as a result of a police surveillance operation on a suspected arms cache in a nearby wooded area.

In a separate development a 29-year-old Spanish man was detained near Pau in southwest France after turning himself in with an apparent gunshot wound to the hand.

Earlier in the Spanish town of Alicante, a hiker found a suspicious container on a hillside which police have since reported contained bomb-making equipment.

Terror warning on new form of suicide bombs

Airports across Europe are being warned about a new form of terror attack. French experts have raised concerns about what they have dubbed suppository bombs – explosives which are either swallowed by the terrorist or introduced into the body manually.

euronews channel-Experts fear this latest form of suicide bombing can foil security checks and is a way in which terrorists can get closer to their intended target.

“The attack will have a localised affect. The fact that it is a suppository means the quantity of explosive will be limited in any case – a couple of hundred grammes. The human body is made up mostly of water and water absorbs part of the force of the blast,” explained Charles Lauby, a security specialist.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the deputy interior minister in Saudia Arabia’s government, was the target of such an attack at the end of August. He survived while the bomber, a member of al Qaeda, who had been the subject of security checks, did not.

“That man was searched and nothing was found on him so there is a perversity of al Qaeda to target people who are symbols of the fight against terrorism,” said terror expert Louis Caprioli.

That incident prompted Interpol to alert police forces throughout Europe to this new threat which they believe is the next generation of suicide bombers.

European terror victims seek recognition at Paris gathering

“People reach out, but little by little they forget,” said Angeles Pedraza, whose daughter died in the 2004 Madrid attacks, as she joined other terror victims Friday to demand justice and recognition.

Pedraza was one of several dozen European survivors, relatives and terror experts at a two-day congress in Paris, held exactly 20 years after the bombing of a French UTA airliner over Niger claimed 170 lives, on September 19, 1989.

Catherine Vannier, whose 17-year-old daughter Cecile was killed in an attack on a Cairo bazaar in February, trembled as she took the microphone.

“I am here for her, to make sure she is not forgotten, and that we really find out what happened that day,” she told the room. “Alone I am powerless. But it is very, very hard. The pain is still so raw.”

“People see terror attacks as an event on the news. But for us it is never over,” said Melanie Berthouloux, one of 24 students wounded in the Cairo blast, for which seven alleged Al-Qaeda militants were detained in May.

Event organiser Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, who lost his father in the UTA bombing, was head negotiator with Libya in a historic deal in 2004 that secured a million dollars in compensation for each victim’s family.

Last year he founded the French association for the victims of terrorism, part of a European network offering help in coping with the scars but also a chance to join forces.

Nathalie Fustier survived a massive attack on the UN mission in Baghdad in 2003, but was left unable to take the underground, watch a fireworks display or spot a package in a street without panicking.

“For years you stop living, you are simply surviving.” she said. “I owe my survival to the help I received, though it came much too late.”

Like her, Pamela White narrowly survived an IRA car bomb attack in Northern Ireland in 1983, while she was working as a policewoman.

She was 12 feet (three metres) from a 30-pound (14-kilo) bomb when it went off, killing six other people.

“I lost confidence, my health, my career, my sanity,” said White, who received no help at the time and says she was only able to move on, years later, by reaching out to ex-militants and sharing with other victims.

“When you have been a victim of terrorism, it changes you for ever. It’s like stepping through the looking glass. And no one apart from other victims can really listen to you,” Denoix explained.

“But our idea is to put forward practical proposals. From passive victim, you take hold of your destiny and become an active player.”

As part of the European Network of Victims of Terrorism, an umbrella group of associations set up with EU funds last year, Denoix is pushing for Europe-wide legislation to guarantee victims recognition and support.

Current legislation across the 27-member bloc is piecemeal at best, with few states distinguishing between victims of attacks and regular crime, according to the group’s head Maria Lozano.

Other European projects include drawing up guidelines for media or emergency services in dealing with victims, while the French group hopes soon to have the ability to act as a plaintiff in terrorism trials.

Targeted in the first place as political pawns, many victims feel held hostage to politics again in their quest for justice, says Denoix.

“Investigations move slowly, and families are rarely kept informed. In cases of terrorism, national security interests are never far away, but it is very important that the victims’ right to know the truth is respected.”

“In terrorism cases, the real target is the state — though not necessarily the one of the victim,” said Denoix. “That makes it all the more painful when the state fails to acknowledge them.

Outside Europe, the picture is far bleaker with victims often struggling to obtain any official recognition at all.

Congolese father Adrien Mbouandji, who lost seven members of his family in the 1989 UTA crash, says: “Now the money issue is sorted, no one in Congo wants to talk about the attack any more.”

Sherifa Kheddar, an Algerian campaigner who lost a brother and sister in an Islamist attack in 1995, says victims are seen as a bothersome obstacle as Algiers pursues a policy of amnesty and reconciliation for ex-militants.

“The Algerian authorities don’t care about the victims. They say it is time to turn the page.”

Three British men guilty of aircraft bomb plot

Three British citizens have been found guilty of plotting to kill thousands of people by blowing up transatlantic aircraft in mid flight.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, Tanvir Hussain, 28, and Assad Sarwar, 29, were convicted at Woolwich Crown Court.

Bombs containing liquid explosives were to have been used in the suicide attacks. Four other men were found not guilty of the plot.

The bombers had intended to destroy at least seven airliners simultaneously, as they flew between London and the US and Canada. Each of the planes would carry an average of 250 passengers.

The conspirators were arrested following the biggest surveillance operation carried out by British police. Prosecutors say the explosives were to have been hidden in soft drinks bottles.

The suspected al Qaeda plot led to tight worldwide restrictions on the amount of liquids passengers could take on board flights.

Bomber kills Afghan intelligence chief.

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan has killed the country’s deputy intelligence chief and around two dozen civilians.

Dr Abdullah Laghmani is one of the highest ranking officials in the government of Hamid Karzai to be killed.

Witnesses say the bomber rushed out of a shop with his explosives just as officials were getting into their motorcade – militants proving yet again they can strike at will even within tight security.

Dr Laghmani was on an official visit to the town of Mehtar Lam in Laghman province. The attack happened outside the city’s main mosque.

A local governor claimed the attack was the work of the Taliban who are trying to destabilise the country in the aftermath of recent Presidential elections.

Violence in Afghanistan this year has reached its highest peak since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.
Afghan politics have been in limbo since August 20th.

Partial results put incumbent President Karzai in front, but but not by enough to avoid a run off against rivals.