SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Motor Authority
SHAFAQNA(Shia International News Association)--Four Chinese workers abducted at the weekend in Sudan's western Darfur region have been released, officials and diplomats said on Wednesday.
Unknown gunmen had kidnapped the Chinese - one engineer and three drivers working for a road construction company - together with five Sudanese colleagues on Saturday near al-Fasher in North Darfur.
"The Sudanese government managed to release the four Chinese in Darfur after intensified negotiations with the kidnappers," China's ambassador to Sudan, Luo Xiaoguang, told Reuters. "They are in good health."
Mohammed Suleiman Rabih, commissioner of al-Kuma administration in North Darfur, said the Chinese had been handed over to the international peacekeeper force UNAMID.
Officials refused to give any details of the release. UNAMID confirmed the Chinese had arrived at a one of its compounds in South Darfur, but also would not give details.
Law and order has collapsed in Darfur since mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms in 2003 against the government in Khartoum, which they accuse of neglecting them. Gunmen often kidnap foreigners in Darfur to demand a ransom for their release.
China is Sudan's biggest ally and largest investor in the oil industry there, as it is also in Khartoum's arch-rival South Sudan. Chinese firms are ever-present in Sudan, as most Western firms shun the African country due to a U.S. trade embargo.
Sudan has sought to assure China that it would protect its firms after rebels in Sudan's main oil-producing state of South Kordofan kidnapped 29 Chinese workers in January 2012. They were released almost two weeks later.
In December, a Sudanese court handed out life sentences to four Sudanese for killing a Chinese worker during a raid on a workers' oil camp, the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre said. It gave no details.
Beijing has tried to help Sudan overcome the loss of most oil reserves, the lifeline of the economy, when South Sudan became independent in 2011.
Last week, Sudan's Finance Minister Ali Mahmoud told Reuters China had granted the country a $1.5 billion loan at a time when Sudan is trying to stop a slide of its currency.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A controversial Muslim religious leader is to be freed on bail after he won an appeal in Britain against his deportation to Jordan, where he faces convictions over terrorist offences related to two alleged bomb plots.
Judge John Mitting granted Qatada bail on Monday and said he would be freed from prison on Tuesday, despite a claim from a government lawyer that he poses a major security theat.
Britain has been attempting since 2001 to expel the Palestinian-born Jordanian, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, after he was convicted in his absence in Jordan over terror plots in 1999 and 2000.
Qatada, dubbed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, was to face a retrial if he was deported to Jordan.
Britain had insisted that it had won assurances from Jordan, including from Jordan's King Abdullah II, who met David Cameron, UK prime minister last week, over how Qatada's case would be handled.
But judges said there was a real risk that evidence obtained through torture would be used against him.
Qatada's release is subject to bail conditions including being allowed out of his house only between 08:00 and 16:00, having to wear an electronic tag, and being restricted in who he meets.
Angry media reaction
The British tabloid, The Sun ran with front-page headline "Abu Hiss", a heckle aimed at "soft judge" Mitting while the Daily Mirror carried the headline "Laughing in our Faces" below a picture of Abu Qatada.
The Daily Telegraph called the decision "a mockery of justice".
"Yet again, the extremist cleric - regarded as a serious threat to national security - has exposed the limitations of the British state to decide who can and cannot stay within its borders," its editorial said.
"Why should Britain stand as guarantor for the rectitude of the Jordanian legal system? Would any other country in the world have been willing to demonstrate its judicial impotence in such a humiliating fashion?"
'Most restrictive' bail
In Monday's ruling, Britain's Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which handles major terrorism and deportation cases, said it was not convinced that Jordan would guarantee Qatada a fair trial.
It endorsed the January ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which said that "not only is torture widespread in Jordan, so too is the use of torture evidence by its courts".
Theresa May, UK Interior Secretary, struck back, saying her government "strongly disagrees" with the ruling and believes Mitting "applied the wrong legal test" in ruling in Qatada's favour, given the assurances from the Jordanians over his trial and treatment.
"Qatada is a dangerous man, a suspected terrorist, who is accused of serious crime in his home country of Jordan," she told British lawmakers.
"The government has been doing everything it can to get rid of Qatada, and we will continue to do so."
The British government will press for the "most restrictive" bail conditions possible for Qatada, she said.
She intends to appeal the court's decision.
Jailed without charge
British government lawyers have accused Qatada of links with Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the US over the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and with shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Audio recordings of some of Qatada's sermons were found in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, used by some of the September 11 hijackers.
Authorities first tried to deport Qatada in 2001, then detained him in 2002 under anti-terrorism laws which at the time allowed suspected terrorists to be jailed without charge.
Though he was released in 2005 when the law was overturned, he was kept under surveillance and arrested again within months to be held in custody pending his deportation to Jordan.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Pakistani photographers have released photos showing victims of US assassination drone strikes being treated in local hospitals in northwestern Pakistan, Press TV reports.
The photos, which were made public on Saturday, show the victims of a recent US attack near the village of Ghundai in North Waziristan after they were admitted to hospitals in Peshawar and other cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The photos show members of a family, including children, who were injured when a US missile struck close to their house in late October.
Despite the Pakistani government’s repeated requests that Washington cease and desist, the US government continues the drone strikes on Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the official name for the tribal areas.
Washington claims its drone strikes target militants, although casualty figures show that Pakistani civilians are the main victims of the non-UN-sanctioned attacks.
Over 200 people have been killed in drone attacks in northwestern Pakistan's tribal areas since the beginning of this year.
The slaughter of Pakistani civilians, including women and children, in US drone strikes has strained relations between the two allies, prompting Pakistani officials to send warnings to the US administration.
Last month, a report by the Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law gave an alarming account of the effect that assassination drone strikes have on ordinary people in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The report noted, “The number of ‘high-level’ targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low -- estimated at just 2%.”— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Police say six people wounded in a shooting outside the Empire State Building have been treated at a hospital and released.
The New York Police Department says three other victims are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. One of them is being treated for elevated blood pressure.
A laid-off clothing designer fatally shot a former colleague near the skyscraper Friday morning. He then was shot dead by police officers during a confrontation that wounded the nine bystanders, who suffered graze wounds or other minor injuries.
Dramatic surveillance video shows the confrontation lasted only a few seconds.
Police say the officers responded appropriately when shooter Jeffrey Johnson pointed his gun at them.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Jeffrey Johnson hid behind a car in his business suit and tie near the Empire State Building, waiting for the man he blamed for costing him his job. He put a gun to the executive's head and fired five times, then walked off with his briefcase into the morning rush of midtown Manhattan.
Minutes later, Johnson was dead in front of the landmark skyscraper, killed by police Friday in a chaotic confrontation that sent bullets ricocheting, wounded nine other people and left sidewalks near one of the world's best-known landmarks spattered with blood.
Police released dramatic surveillance video that showed the confrontation lasted only a few seconds. Johnson was walking rapidly down the street trailed by two police officers when he stopped, wheeled around and pulled out a gun.
About a dozen people ran for their lives, including two small children who were just feet away from Johnson. He pointed the gun at the officers, who quickly fired at him.
Johnson dropped his briefcase, fell to his knees and then collapsed on the ground.
The bystanders likely were hit by police officers' stray gunfire, some of it bullets that rebounded off planters in front of the skyscraper and grazed pedestrians. The two officers fired 16 shots. The surveillance video shows Johnson pointing his weapon at police, but it's likely he did not get a chance to fire, investigators said.
Startled New Yorkers looked up from their morning routines in the crowded business district to see people sprawled in the streets bleeding and a tarp covering the body in front of the tourist landmark.
"I was on the bus and people were yelling `get down, get down," said accountant Marc Engel. "I was thinking, `You people are crazy, no one is shooting in the middle of midtown Manhattan at 9 o'clock in the morning."
It was over in seconds, he said - "a lot of pop, pop, pop, pop, one shot after the other." Afterwards he saw sidewalks littered with the wounded, including one man "dripping enough blood to leave a stream."
Johnson, who neighbors had seen leave his apartment in a suit every day since he was laid off a year ago, had worked for six years for Hazan Imports and was let go when the company downsized, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Police were looking into his RELATIONSHIP with the victim, Steven Ercolino, the company's vice president of sales, who had traded accusations of harassment with Johnson when he worked there. Johnson, 58, also blamed Ercolino for his layoff, saying that he hadn't aggressively marketed Johnson's new T-shirt line, police spokesman Paul Browne said.
After waiting for Ercolino, 41, to come to work, Johnson walked up to him, pulled out a .45-caliber pistol and fired at his head, Kelly said. After he fell to the ground, Johnson stood over him and shot four more times, a witness told investigators.
"Jeffrey just came from behind two cars, pulled out his gun, put it up to Steve's head and shot him," said Carol Timan, whose daughter, Irene, was walking to Hazan Imports at the time with Ercolino.
A construction worker who saw the shooting followed Johnson and alerted two police officers, a detail regularly assigned to patrol city landmarks such as the 1,454-foot skyscraper since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, officials said.
Kelly said the officers who caught up to Johnson had "a gun right in their face" and "responded quickly, and they responded appropriately."
"These officers, having looked at the tape myself, had absolutely no choice," Kelly said.
A witness had told police that Johnson fired at the officers, but authorities say ballistics evidence doesn't support that. Johnson's weapon held seven rounds, they said. He fired five times at Ercolino, one round was still in the gun and one was ejected when officers secured it, authorities said.
Another loaded magazine was found in Johnson's briefcase.
Johnson legally bought the gun in Sarasota, Fla., in 1991, but he didn't have a required permit to possess the weapon in New York City, police said.
"New York City, as you know, is the safest big city in the country, and we are on pace to have a record low number of murders this year," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "But we are not immune to the national problem of gun violence," he said of the shooting, following mass shootings a Colorado movie theater and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Robert Asika, who was shot in the right arm, said he was "100 percent positive" that a police officer had shot him. Asika, 23, sells tickets for the Empire State Building's observatory.
"When I woke up this morning, I didn't even want to go to work," he said. "Something told me not to go to work."
The wounded victims were five women and four men, authorities said. All were from New York City, except a woman from Chapel Hill, N.C. They suffered graze wounds or other minor injuries.
Ercolino's profile on the business networking site LinkedIn identified him as a vice president of sales at Hazan Import. It said he was a graduate of the State University of New York at Oneonta.
He had recently moved to New Jersey after living for a time in Warwick, just north of New York City, said his eldest brother, Paul Ercolino. He grew up in Nanuet.
"He was in the prime of his life," Paul Ercolino said.
His brother was a gregarious salesman - known to nieces and nephews as Uncle Ducky because of his nearly blond hair - who had followed his father into the garment industry, then later worked in women's handbags and accessories.
He never mentioned to the family that he had any problems with a co-worker, Paul Ercolino said.
Hazan Import Corp. imports women's clothing and accessories, according to public records. Calls to its executives weren't immediately returned
Even after he was laid off, Johnson would leave his Upper East Side apartment building each morning in a suit, and often returned about a half hour later after going to get breakfast at McDonald's, his neighbors said.
"He was always alone," said Gisela Casella, who lived a few floors above him. "I always felt bad. I said, `Doesn't he have a girlfriend?' I never saw him with anybody."
Internet records list him as administrator of the website for a business called St. Jolly's Art, which sold iron-on art for T-shirts, including stylized drawings of fighter planes, muscle cars and ships.
Johnson was also part of a community of bird watchers and photographers who document hawks and other wildlife living in Central Park, a few blocks from his home. In an email to another bird watcher, who works at The Associated Press, Johnson wrote tenderly about spending a winter night watching ducks in the park.
"Near midnight by the Harlem Meer I watched a little `flotilla' of Mallards swimming and softly honking ...fifteen degree temp and they were carrying on unfazed. Just remarkable," he wrote.
Gunshots so close to one of the city's leading tourist attractions immediately prompted fears of terrorism, but federal officials said that wasn't the case, and a guard at the skyscraper said it didn't involve the parts of the building where tourists gather to visit the skyscraper.
Metal detectors and bag searchers have been standard at the 102-story skyscraper since 1997, when a gunman opened fire on the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, killing one tourist and wounding six others before fatally shooting himself.
The skyscraper remained open Friday throughout the mayhem, although the tourist attraction's workers became witnesses.
"We were just working here and we just heard bang, bang, bang!" said Mohammed Bachchu, a worker at a nearby souvenir shop.
He said he rushed from the building and saw seven people lying on the ground, covered in blood.
Queens resident Rebecca Fox said she saw people running down the street and initially thought it was a celebrity sighting but then saw a woman shot in the foot and a man dead on the ground.
"I was scared and shocked and literally shaking," she said.
She said police seemed to appear in seconds.
"It was like `CSI,'" she said, "but it was real."—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: Associated Press
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —The released Iranian national, Shahrzad Mir-Qolikhan, who was in a United States prison for five years over unfounded allegations, tells Press TV that she had “the most horrifying experience” there as a political hostage.
“It was the most horrifying experience that anybody could have in life,” Mir-Qolikhan said in a Thursday interview.
Referring to the ordeal of her five-year incarceration, she said, “It was politically motivated. I was a political hostage.”
“The whole trial, the whole prosecution was all false. It’s like when you are in a spider web and you are hunted there and there is no way out and you cannot do anything,” she pointed out.
Mir-Qolikhan was reportedly kidnapped by US agents in December 2007.
She was detained and sentenced to five years in prison by a Florida federal court. She has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
She gave several interviews to Press TV during her time in prison, speaking of her terrifying ordeal and mistreatment at the hands of prison staff. She said that she had been harshly treated and tortured by prison officials.
Mir-Qolikhan pointed out that the US officials subjected her to “mental torture” by constantly warning her that she will face a 65-year prison sentence if she fails to submit to all their demands.
Pointing to instances of physical torture she had been subjected to, Mir-Qolikhan went on to say that the prison officials kept her “all in chain” in “freezing-cold cells” for 18 hours in an attempt to “exhaust you and break you until you say: Ok. Enough is enough. [I will submit to] whatever you say.”
“During the course of my trials, there were times when I would say: God, I would rather be given death penalty by them…, but I cannot go back in there anymore,” she added.
Mir-Qolikhan lashed out at the US administration for not notifying the Iranian government of her arrest during the first three years of her incarceration, saying Washington concealed the fact from Tehran in an attempt to “cause confusion for the Iranian government.”
“I wrote over 20 letters to President [Barack] Obama, but I never got any response. I wrote many letters to [US Secretary of State] Mrs. Hilary Clinton,” she added.
The Iranian national slammed the US Federal Bureau of Prisons as an apparatus that merely seeks to make money, and added, “At the US prisons, the inmates, not only me, even the American inmates” are treated with no respect. “There is no value. You are not considered a human.”
“Everything that you see from the outside is an image that they create to show to the world. However, if you take your camera inside the prison, you will witness how, even the American citizens, are suffering from the lack of [respect] for human rights…,” she added.
Mir-Qolikhan reiterated her resolve to file a lawsuit with international courts against the US for her illegal detention, saying, “I am still fighting for my case. I am collecting all the falsified documents to have the proof to take the case to the International Court of Justice.”
According to Iran’s Ambassador to Oman Hossein Noushabadi, the Iranian government has also filed complaints with international courts and human rights organizations about the abuse of Mir-Qolikhan’s rights and has even submitted a request for redress.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: WR NEWZ
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Shahrzad Mir-Qolikhan, an Iranian woman imprisoned in the United States has been freed and arrived in Muscat on Tuesday reportedly thanks to the mediation of the Sultanate of Oman.
Mir-Qolikhan and her husband were arrested by the Austrian police on charges of purchasing dual-use equipment. She was released from prison after completing her sentence and returned to Iran.
But Mir-Qolikhan was then arrested during a trip to Cyprus in 2007 and was extradited to the United States in response to a request by the U.S. government.
She was sentenced to five years in prison and had been incarcerated in the United States since December 19, 2007.
An unidentified U.S. State Department official said that Mir-Qolikhan completed her prison sentence and left the country, AFP reported.
An Omani official thanked the U.S. government for releasing Mir-Qolikhan “on humanitarian grounds and following efforts made by Oman”, Oman News Agency (ONA) said.
“This humanitarian initiative will serve the interests of both countries and stability in the region,” the unidentified official added.
Upon her arrival at Muscat International Airport, Mir-Qolikhan thanked Sultan Qaboos of Oman for mediating her release.
She said that she was “happy to be free again… and to start a new life”, ONA quoted her as saying.
“I am looking forward to be(ing) with my mother and my two daughters that I have missed five years of their precious lives and spent innocently in prison in the United States,” she said.
Sultan Qaboos had already mediated in certain cases, including the cases of the people who had illegally entered Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on September 22, 2011, saying that Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, the two U.S. citizens who were arrested in Iran in 2009, had been released in an act of Islamic clemency and in response to requests by a number of senior foreign officials, including Sultan Qaboos.
U.S. citizens Sarah Shourd, Bauer, and Fattal were arrested by border guards on July 31, 2009 after illegally entering Iran’s territory from Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The three were charged with illegal entry and espionage.
Shourd was released on a bail of $500,000 on September 14, 2010 in an act of Islamic clemency, while Bauer and Fattal were released on a bail of $500,000 each on September 21, 2010.—www.shafaqna.com/englis
Source: Tehan times
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Armed insurgents have kidnapped 48 Iranians near the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to reports from Syrian media.
The Iranian pilgrims were traveling on a bus to Damascus International Airport, located some 30 kilometers outside the capital.
The Iranian Embassy in Damascus has confirmed that they were abducted by unknown insurgents but the Syrian state officials are yet to comment on the abduction.
This is not the first time that Iranians have been kidnapped by armed gunmen in Syria.
In January, a group of armed assailants attacked a bus and abducted 11 Iranian pilgrims on the road connecting Damascus to the northwestern city of Aleppo.
In December 2011, armed insurgents also kidnapped five engineers in the city of Homs while they were on their way to work at the city's Jandar power plant that is under construction by Iranian technicians. Two other Iranians, trying to determine the fate of the engineers, were also abducted.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011.
Damascus says ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists’ are behind the unrest while the West and the opposition accuse the security forces of killing protesters. —www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Tens of Thousands Saudi protesters have once again taken to streets in the eastern town of Qatif to demand the immediate release of a prominent Shia cleric.
At least three people have been killed and many others injured in Riyadh's crackdown on demonstrations against the detention of al-Nemr.
There has been no word on al-Nemr's condition and whereabouts. The cleric was injured when regime forces attacked his car in Awamiyah to arrest him.
Since February 2011, Saudis have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in the Kingdom's Eastern Province, mainly in Qatif and Awamiyah, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the eastern region.
However, the demonstrations have turned into protests against the Al Saud regime, especially since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in the province..— www.shafaqna.com/english/
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — If you’ve been keeping up with movie news, you probably know that there’s a new Robocop movie on the way. The well-loved cyborg policeman from 1994 will be coming back next year but this time with a brand-new all-star cast of Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson and Hugh Laurie. I haven’t heard much about the movie but from what I know it sure sounds like it’s going to be awesome (if you can’t tell, I’m a fan of the older movies).
For those of you who want a glimpse of what’s coming next year, you’re in luck – a short teaser video for the new Robocop movie was just released and we get to see ED-209 as well as a bit of Robocop himself. It doesn’t let on much (it is a teaser after all), but we’re pretty sure it’s not going to be the last sneak peek we get. Check it out above.— www.shafaqna.com/english/