World News




Bulgarian airmen released by captors in Sudan

Three Bulgarian airmen kidnapped in Sudan nearly five months ago have been freed, and appear to be in good health, the United Nations World Food Programme said in a news release Monday.
WFP Regional Director Amer Daoudi thanked the government of Sudan "for its tireless efforts in securing the release of the three men who... were working to help the most vulnerable people in Darfur," a region of Sudan blighted by civil war since 2003.
The WFP said it did not pay any ransom.
The three men were working for WFP's United Nations Humanitarian Air Service in Darfur when they were abducted by armed men at a landing strip on January 13.
The former captives will be flown to Khartoum, then back home to Bulgaria, the WFP said.

Libyan civil war: An opening for al Qaeda and jihad?

Libyan youths walk past a burnt out building in this file picture in the eastern Libyan town of Derna on February 23, 2011.

The town of Derna is not much to look at -- a heap of Soviet-style concrete buildings in a deprived and windswept corner of eastern Libya.

But it has a rich history -- fought over and colonized since Roman times -- and a stunning location on the Mediterranean. It has also gained a reputation as a hotbed of jihadists. And that has diplomats and analysts asking whether the unrest in Libya might provide an opening for al Qaeda and fellow travelers, just a short hop from Europe.

Derna even made it into U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks. A cable from 2008 describes it as a "wellspring of Libyan foreign fighters" for al Qaeda in Iraq. High youth unemployment, discrimination by the Gadhafi regime and the influence of veteran Libyan jihadists from Afghanistan all played a role in radicalizing a new generation.


Dozens of Syrians reported killed in Daraa



Click to play
Syrian protests small but spreading

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Accounts surface of at least 37 dead, including 2 children, during past week
  • NEW: State-run news agency reports spontaneous pro-government rallies in Daraa
  • Activist says 9 were killed in Daraa's main square
  • A child is killed in Latakia, official says
(CNN) -- Violent protests erupted Friday in Syria, with dozens of people people killed in and around the restive city of Daraa and a boy slain in the coastal town of Latakia, reports said.
"The situation in Syria has worsened considerably over the past week, with the use of live ammunition and tear gas by the authorities having resulted in a total of at least 37 people being killed in Daraa, including two children," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Among the dead were 15 people who tried to march to Daraa, sources said, and nine others who died when security forces fired on demonstrators in Daraa's main square, said Wissam Tarif, a human rights activist.
There were many casualties in Daraa, said Abdullah, an eyewitness who asked that his full name not be reported due to security concerns. He said he saw Friday's events in the city, where deadly clashes have taken place in recent days between security forces and protesters.
Iran accelerates space and missile launch projects


Jane's first reported this new tower's existence in March 2010. Recent imagery indicates a new effort to build a second tower adjacent to the first. Historical analysis is inconclusive regarding the nature of this facility; it is highly similar to the rocket engine test stand at North Korea's new space launch vehicle base in Tongchang-Pongdong, but the facility here may be equipped to handle more than just engine-stage testing and conduct actual launch operations. (GeoEye)
Iran is rapidly and significantly expanding capabilities to accommodate larger missiles and satellite launch vehicles (SLVs), including the Simorgh 3 SLV in construction at Semnan space centre, according to Jane's analysis of satellite imagery of the site.

The construction begun in mid-2010 is aggressive even by Iranian standards, with a number of very complex facilities nearing external completion only months after they were started. The site is likely to assume operational readiness by 2013, judging by the pace of construction. Rapid construction – which prevents extended overhead analysis – could underscore the secretive nature of the site, the strategic importance of the facilities, and Iran's inclinations towards space readiness.
The first new project is at the launch/engine test facility, where a launch pad or engine test stand is in the early stages of construction. The flame trench that funnels rocket blast exhaust away from the tower is roughly the same size and shape as one first identified by Jane’s in 2010, but is situated 73 m to the north.
15 killed in clashes between protesters, security forces in Syria

Escalating violence between Syrian security forces and anti-government protesters claimed 15 people Wednesday in the city of Daraa, witnesses and rights activists said. Syrian state television reported the government fired the governor of Daraa province, a flash-point of anti-government protests.
There was no breakdown on the casualties. According to activists and witnesses, seven people died shortly after dawn prayers near al Omari mosque when security personnel tried to storm the area where protesters took positions to demand government reforms, an opposition spokesman said.
Later, about 3,000 protesters from neighboring towns gathered outside Daraa and clashed with an army unit known for its loyalty to President Bashar al-Assad, activists and witnesses said. The army unit is headed by a family member, Maher al-Assad, said the opposition spokesman.
Eight more people died in the later clashes, bringing the death toll Wednesday to 15, according to the sources. Overall, at least 21 people have died in unrest in the city since Friday.
F-35 jet a waste of taxpayers' dollars, say McCain, Gates



An F- 35 fighter jet simulator in Tukwila, Wash. Defense Sec. Robert Gates, the Pentagon, the White House and Sen. John McCain have asked the Senate to eliminate funding for the F-35 jet engine program. Elaine Thompson/AP/File
Sen. John McCain all say development of a second F-35 jet engine is a waste of taxpayer dollars.Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged U.S. senators on Thursday to join the U.S. House of Representatives in eliminating funding for a second engine for the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.The Pentagon scored a victory on Wednesday in its five-year battle to kill that program when the House voted 233 to 198 to eliminate $450 million in fiscal 2011 funding for the engine being developed by General Electric Co (GE.N) and Britain's Rolls-Royce Plc (RR.L) as an alternate to an engine built by United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) unit Pratt & Whitney.


Leaked Reports Detail Iran's Aid for Iraqi Militias

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, one of them covering his chest with a portrait of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, in 2006. American field reports underscore the seriousness with which Iran's role in the Iraq War has been seen by the American military.

On Dec. 22, 2006, American military officials in Baghdad issued a secret warning: The Shiite militia commander who had orchestrated the kidnapping of officials from Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education was now hatching plans to take American soldiers hostage. What made the warning especially worrying were intelligence reports saying that the Iraqi militant, Azhar al-Dulaimi, had been trained by the Middle East's masters of the dark arts of paramilitary operations: the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese ally. "Dulaymi reportedly obtained his training from Hizballah operatives near Qum, Iran, who were under the supervision of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officers in July 2006," the report noted, using alternative spellings of the principals involved.
15 killed in clashes between protesters, security forces in Syria

Escalating violence between Syrian security forces and anti-government protesters claimed 15 people Wednesday in the city of Daraa, witnesses and rights activists said. Syrian state television reported the government fired the governor of Daraa province, a flash-point of anti-government protests.
There was no breakdown on the casualties. According to activists and witnesses, seven people died shortly after dawn prayers near al Omari mosque when security personnel tried to storm the area where protesters took positions to demand government reforms, an opposition spokesman said.
Later, about 3,000 protesters from neighboring towns gathered outside Daraa and clashed with an army unit known for its loyalty to President Bashar al-Assad, activists and witnesses said. The army unit is headed by a family member, Maher al-Assad, said the opposition spokesman.
Eight more people died in the later clashes, bringing the death toll Wednesday to 15, according to the sources. Overall, at least 21 people have died in unrest in the city since Friday.