July 4th, 2011
08:55 AM ET

Security brief – July 4, 2011

Compiled by Tim Lister

Syrian security forces enter Hama after massive protests; two shot dead in Damascus suburb

UK soldier missing in Afghanistan

More Af-Pak border clashes

Pakistani forces launch offensive in tribal agency

Libyan rebel leader's conflicting messages on "internal exile" for Gadhafi

Yemen: Islamists infiltrate Aden as army unit besieged in nearby city

Egypt-Israel pipeline sabotaged again

Bahrain: national dialogue underway – and street protests

Syria: Massive protests in Hama lead to clashes with military 

Dozens of security forces began raiding homes and arresting tens of activists on the outskirts of Hama, Syria, at dawn on Monday, an opposition activist and a human rights group said Monday. Angry residents took to the streets and began throwing stones at the security forces that instigated clashes that ensued for several hours, said Omar al Habbal, a member of the Local Coordination Committees of Syria in Hama. The LCC is an opposition group seeking "freedom, democracy and a free country for all the people of Syria."

Rami Abdelrahman, president of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said security forces arrested 25 to 30 activists before residents went out and retaliated. The city of Hama has been the scene of large demonstrations, and the outpourings there have been compared to the gatherings in Cairo's Tahrir Square - where daily demonstrations earlier this year led to the removal of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The city was the scene of a brutal military crackdown targeting Sunni Muslims by the Alawite-dominated government of Hafez al-Assad, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's late father, in 1982. Thousands were killed.

Reuters adds: Syrian troops stormed houses in the city of Hama on Monday as thousands of residents took to the streets shouting "God is greater" in defiance of a government crackdown on recent large protests, residents said.

"At least 30 buses carrying soldiers and security police entered Hama this morning. They are firing randomly in residential neighborhoods," one of the residents, a workshop owner who gave his name as Ahmad, said by telephone.

He said he had seen dozens of soldiers surround a house in the Mashaa neighborhood and make arrests. Young men, some carrying stones, blocked roads leading to central neighborhoods with burning tires and garbage containers. The troops took up positions yesterday after rallies in Hama during the previous two days drew as many as 400,000 people, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone from the Syrian capital.

This video was purportedly filmed in Hama today. Gunfire can be heard, smoke can be seen rising in the distance and towards the end of the video a man can be seen with his face covered with blood.

Financial Times adds: A representative of Syria’s Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) in Hama, which has helped organize nationwide protests, told the Financial Times that there had been some small clashes in the city between protesters and security forces but said the situation was now "stable".

Other activists reported hearing shots in the early hours of Sunday morning, and that electricity to parts of the city had been cut. Speaking from Hama, one activist said the regime was "working to spread fear" in the city but added: "We are not afraid, only of God."

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hama, congregating in the central Aasi Square in the largest protest against the regime since the uprising began in March in the southern city of Deraa. Local activists said up to 500,000 residents from the city and surrounding villages took part, calling for Assad to leave power. "All of Hama is out on the streets," one protester said.

Two shot dead in Damascus suburb

Security forces killed at least two demonstrators late yesterday in the Damascus suburb of Hajar Aswad.

Reuters reports, citing a resident, that Syrian security forces shot dead two residents who were protesting against Bashar al-Assad's rule. "It was a usual night demonstration when a hail of bullets hit. Many were also injured," the resident, who gave his name as Abu al-Nour, told Reuters by phone from the poor suburb where thousands of refugees from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights live.

A protester who died in custody was buried yesterday in the Damascus district of al-Muadamiya, Merhi said. Hundreds were also arrested in Idlib, Hama, Harasta, Douma and the southern area of Daraa, where the rallies against President Bashar al- Assad’s rule began in mid-March.

Shocking video footage has emerged from the Syrian city of Homs in which a young man filming gunfire in the streets appears to be shot dead in cold blood by the sniper he zooms in on.

A clip circulating on YouTube (which CNN cannot authenticate) begins with a male voice describing "someone shooting at citizens in Karm al-Sham on 1 July without any reason and no demonstrations."

The cameraman is filming from an upper floor against a background of slogans being chanted. Jerky images of the street and balconies are followed by a blurred glimpse of a man in olive green, standing in the shadows, carefully moving forward and raising and firing a weapon – followed by a single shot, moaning, and distraught voices pleading for help.

The cameraman's identity is not known.

Yemen: diplomat says Saleh "politically dead"

The National from Saudi Arabia reports: A Western diplomat said yesterday that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was "politically dead" and would not return to Yemen for at least two months because of his injuries.

Mr Saleh is recovering in Riyadh from wounds he sustained during a bomb attack in a mosque in his Sana'a compound on June 3. There has been widespread speculation on when Mr Saleh would return to Yemen and how serious his injuries are. Even if Mr Saleh wanted to return to Yemen tomorrow, "it is impossible because his burns are serious and he needs to stay at a specialized clinic for treating burns. Being a diabetic makes it difficult for his burns to heal quickly", the diplomat said. He also said Mr Saleh inhaled heat and dust from the blast and is barely able to speak. Also, he is unable to stand because of an injury to one of his legs.

Even if Mr Saleh makes a full recovery, his days in power are already over, the diplomat said.

Yemen: youth militia formed to fend off al Qaeda 

Associated Press: Yemeni officials say the government has formed special youth militias to prevent militants linked to al-Qaida from gaining a foothold in the strategic southern port city of Aden. The officials said Sunday there are signs that the presence of al-Qaeda linked militants in Aden is growing. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

An army brigade in south Yemen, trapped on its base since Islamist militants seized a nearby town, appealed for help on Sunday and said it needed troop reinforcements, weapons and water.

“We have been blockaded for over a month and have not received reinforcements, equipment, or even a drop of water in over two weeks,” an officer at the embattled base said by telephone. The latest clashes near a local football stadium left at least a dozen people injured. The clashes in Zinjibar have forced thousands of families to flee to the southern city of Aden.

Sanaa gas lines miles long as Yemen starves of fuel

Yemen's petrol crisis has seen the loss of thousands of jobs because people cannot get to work.Yemenis are forced to either wait more than a week in front of petrol stations or buy it for six times the price on the black market.

With the petrol crisis entering its second month, people have become impatient. Mansoor Rajeh, a car owner who waited six days in front of a gas station to fill his car up, said: "We can't afford the petrol and this is making our life difficult. Politicians are not working for the people. We are dying and they are looking."

Mr Rajeh was forced to buy it from the black market in the end. "Prices of oil in Yemen are the highest worldwide while the Yemeni people are one of the poorest worldwide," he said.

British soldier missing in Afghanistan 

A British soldier has gone missing in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defense has confirmed. A search involving aircraft and ground troops has been launched in the south of the country after he went missing from his base in central Helmand. Military sources said he had left the base on Monday morning alone, a move which is described as "highly unusual". The Taliban has told the BBC it has killed a soldier in the area.

Clashes across Af/Pak border continue 

Dozens of suspected Taliban militants from Afghanistan on Monday crossed into Pakistan's tribal region to attack a border post, killing one soldier and injuring one more, security officials said.

The raid took place in early morning hours in Bajaur, one of the seven districts of Pakistan's militancy-plagued tribal region. A local intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that around four dozen attackers entered from the Afghan province of Kunnar and attacked a border post in Kit Kot area of Bajaur district.

'According to the initial information, one soldier from FC (Frontier Corps paramilitary force) was martyred and one soldier was wounded,' said the official.

Pakistani troops launched an offensive in the Kurram tribal district near the Afghan border, forcing thousands of families to flee, security officials and relief workers said Monday.

The operation was aimed at Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella organization of more than a dozen militant outfits believed to be behind the killings of thousands of civilians and security personnel since 2007, reported DPA.

A senior officer at the paramilitary Frontier Corps Force said troops backed by tanks, artillery and gunship helicopters moved into the district.

ISAF op in eastern Afghanistan kills 15 Taliban 

A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed more than 15 insurgents during a security operation in Sherzad district, Nangarhar province, yesterday.

The operation was to locate an insurgent weapons cache and disrupt the flow of insurgent fighters and weapons across western Nangarhar. The Afghan-led security force was commencing a search when they encountered multiple groups of armed insurgents. The force attempted to detain the individuals peacefully, but was met with hostile fire. A series of engagements followed, resulting in more than 15 insurgents killed.

Leading senators voice doubts on drawdown

Two leading voices in the Senate on foreign policy continued their criticism of President Barack Obama's plan to withdraw roughly 30,000 American troops from Afghanistan over the next 14 months.

Republican Sen. John McCain, speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, said Sunday the president's plan creates an "unnecessary risk" in the region.

"What I have seen and heard here, both from Afghans as well as a number of Americans, is that it is an unnecessary risk, it's not recommended by any of the military," McCain said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And I hope that it will work out, but it certainly deprives us of the necessary troops that we need for the second fighting season."

The Arizona Republican and ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee said the president's decision created uncertainty in the region with Afghans now wondering if the United States will stay in their villages. "That can undermine the whole effort and sacrifice that has been made ever since this important surge began," McCain said.

Senator Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said it was important to reassure Afghans they would continue to receive help long after the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of American combat troops. "We’re certainly going to be here in great numbers until the end of 2014, and I hope as a result of a strategic long-term partnership with Afghanistan that we will have a military presence here and cooperation here with our Afghan partners for a long time after that," he said.

The senators were skeptical about Western efforts to reach a negotiated peace with the Taliban’s leadership and suggested that political compromises with the insurgents could betray Afghans. "I don’t think there will be serious negotiations with the Taliban until they are convinced that they cannot succeed" in attaining their goals, Mr. McCain said, "through the force of arms on the battlefield."

Pak military nurturing insurgent groups – ex-commander

The Pakistani military continues to nurture a broad range of militant groups as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies against its neighbors and American forces in Afghanistan, but now some of the fighters it trained are questioning that strategy, a prominent former militant commander says.

The former commander said that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence, he gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed.

Militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning, he said.

Bahrain: dialogue begins – clashes erupt 

Violent clashes in a Shia village outside the Bahraini capital at the weekend overshadowed the launch of the Gulf kingdom’s national dialogue amid fears that the talks will not satisfy protesters’ demands for reform.

Hundreds of Shia youths on Saturday marched towards the site of Pearl roundabout in Manama, the epicenter of the protests, which was cleared and destroyed in March by security forces backed by Saudi troops. Met by a barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets, the ensuing running battles next to a sports club on the way towards the roundabout underline the challenges facing the main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which has angered supporters by joining the dialogue.

Bahrain's pro-government Gulf News reports: *The spokesman for the national dialogue has rejected charges by Al Wefaq, Bahrain's largest opposition society, that organizers have dropped "significant issues" from the talks. On Sunday, the society said that the talks would not include issues related to a genuine constitutional monarchy and to the constitution. Al Wefaq had not handed in its visions after it missed the deadline and announced its participation only hours before the dialogue was launched at a special ceremony on Saturday.

The late decision was attributed to the intense standoff within the society between those who supported joining the talks and those who refused them. The dialogue is bringing together around 300 delegates from 18 political societies, 12 women's societies, 25 social groups, eight youth formations, 31 professional groups, eight major trade unions, 11 companies, five newspapers as well as the 21 MPs, the 40 Shura Council members, the five chairmen of the municipal councils and 76 public figures.

Libyan rebel leader says Gadhafi can stay – and then says he can't

Libya's rebel leader says he does not have a problem with Moammar Gadhafi remaining in the country, once he resigns and as long as he remains under supervision, according to a television report.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil contradicted earlier opposition statements that Gadhafi's exit from the country was an absolute prerequisite to bring about the end of the months-long conflict. It signaled a possible willingness to negotiate with the Libyan leader to bring about an end to the fighting. In a Reuters Television report Sunday, Jalil made the comments while reacting to a proposal put forward by the African Union, which rebels have interpreted to mean Gadhafi should have no further role in the country's leadership.

Jalil told Reuters once Gadhafi resigns, "At that point he can decide if he would stay in Libya or abroad.....If he desires to stay in Libya, we will be the ones to determine the place and there will be international supervision on all his movements and communications," he said during an interview in the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi.

The head of Libya's rebel council said there was now no possibility of Moamer Kadhafi being granted internal exile in Libya, in the wake of an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest. In a statement, Mustafa Mohammed Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, said: "There is absolutely no current or future possibility for Kadhafi to remain in Libya."

Jalil confirmed that such an offer had been made but said it was now null and void. "There is no escape clause for Kadhafi - he must be removed from power and face justice."

Gadhafi son strikes defiant note 

Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam has rejected calls for his father to step down in exchange for peace with Libyan rebels. Western powers attacking Libya have made themselves "legitimate targets" for retaliation, the son of Moammar Gadhafi has warned. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi rejected calls for his father to quit Libya as the price of peace with the rebels fighting to overthrow him.
"To tell my father to leave the country, it's a joke, he told the French TV channel TF1. "We will never surrender. We will fight. It's our country. "We have to fight for our country and you are going to be legitimate targets for us."

*Turkey froze Libya’s holdings in a Turkish bank on Monday, a day after it recognized Libya’s rebel leaders as the country’s legitimate representatives. Turkey’s banking regulatory fund said it was temporarily taking hold of Libyan Foreign Bank’s 62 percent shareholding in Turkey’s Arap Turk Bankasi A.S. in line with U.N. Security Council decisions to freeze Libya’s foreign assets.

Since the beginning of the uprising in Libya, the European Union also has frozen the accounts of the country’s state-controlled companies and investment funds, as well as those of key members of the Libyan regime. EU states also said they would not provide the Gadhafi regime with any new funding by buying up oil and gas from the country.

Egypt-Israel pipeline sabotaged again 

A pipeline that supplies gas from Egypt to Israel exploded Monday in the northern Sinai Peninsula near Bir el-Adb, an Egyptian security official said. The explosion appears to be an act of sabotage, said Gen. Saleh al-Masri, the head of security in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula.

"It is an act of sabotage, but the army and members of Egyptian Natural Gas Company are on the scene trying to understand what happened," al-Masri said.

The explosion has shut off the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan, said Ayman Jahin, a general manager at the gas company. It is the third such attack on Egyptian pipeline infrastructure since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak's government earlier in the year. The first two attacks resulted in a halt in the flow of gas to Israel, which receives about 40% of its natural gas from Egypt.

Us-Saudi relationship "in pretty good shape" – Donilon 

The US-Saudi relationship has remained "in pretty good shape" through the turmoil of the Arab Spring movements, US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said Sunday.

"I think that coming out of the beginnings of the Arab Spring so much uproar (was) so much turmoil and... so much change that we did have some scratchy periods with some partners in the region who are wrestling with this and trying to work through their own views on this," Donilon told CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

He added that despite reports that King Abdullah is unhappy with the US response to Arab Spring movements, the two countries have common interests such as regional stability, restrictions on weapons of mass destruction and counterterrorism operations.

"Our conversations with our partners in the region, including the Saudis I think, have become very constructive and productive. And I can tell you that from personal conversations with King Abdullah," Donilon said. He added that movements toward a more representative and responsive government "is the healthiest and most stable way" to address long-term Saudi political reforms.

To mediate or prosecute?

Financial Times opinion piece: On the evidence of this month’s Oslo Forum, the annual "retreat" of professional peace negotiators hosted by Mr Store’s ministry, the Arab turmoil has opened fissures between the mushrooming industry of those who mediate for a living and the Arab protagonists of these uprisings, who insist there is nothing to negotiate with their autocratic tormentors.

"Everybody knows by now that it is not possible to mediate with Gadhafi," said one Libyan activist. "It is not acceptable to us to offer him any form of immunity; that is a red line for any Libyan." Lectured on the need for "inclusion", and told (by a South African official) that "unless we can see through the lens of others" there can be no peace, she replied: "We are willing to sit round a table with his people, but not with him. There is no question of Gadhafi remaining on the political scene."

Just as a successful strategy in Afghanistan would need to divide the forces loosely branded as Taliban, the best way to wear down the Gadhafi and Assad regimes is to split them – and bodies like the ICC can help. As the isolation of the dictators and their inner circle grows, their henchmen increasingly confront the choice of whether they should defect, or risk ending up against the same wall or, at best, in the same dock, as their masters.

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