Monthly Archives: September 2011

Two Die in U.S. Embassy Shooting in Kabul

An Afghan employee of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan opened fire Sunday evening in a CIA annex at the embassy, killing a U.S. citizen and wounding another, a U.S. government official said. Security personnel used a flash-bang round to stun the shooter and then killed him, the official said. The gunman shot indiscriminately, and he is not believed to have targeted the victim, who was working for the U.S. government, the official said.

One or two civilians suffered minor wounds as people went running for cover, the official said, speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the information and the ongoing investigation. Investigators are looking into whether the shooter was a disgruntled employee or whether he was inspired by militants.

All Afghan employees go through a background security check and must pass through a metal detector each time they enter the embassy, the official said. “We have no information as to whether the individual was authorized to carry a weapon or if he seized a weapon,” the official said. (CNN)

Afghan troops guard the outer perimeter of the embassy, while embassy contractors and members of the U.S. military guard the inside.

The CIA building is several hundred yards from the embassy compound and has its own entrance and security, another U.S. official said. Embassy personnel usually travel in armoured cars for meetings in the CIA facility.

“It’s not possible to stop everything from happening. You can only limit it, make it highly unlikely,” said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “The job of soldiers and diplomats and spies is to be amongst the people, getting work done. You have to have some level of trust to get anything done. There is a calculated risk” for U.S. personnel working in countries like Afghanistan, the official said. (CNN)

Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall said the Afghan employee, a lone gunman, killed a U.S. citizen and wounded another. The wounded American was evacuated to a military hospital with non-life threatening injuries. “There was a shooting incident at an annex of the U.S. embassy in Kabul last night involving an Afghan employee who was killed. The motivation for the attack is still under investigation at this time,” Sundwall said. (Reuters)

Sundwall declined comment on whether the annex housed the CIA, but Kabul Police Chief Ayub Salangi said there had been an exchange of fire at the Ariana hotel, which he described as a CIA office. He declined further comment on what happened in an area where access is restricted even for Afghan forces.

The annex area is known as a place where embassy personnel both live and work, some in intelligence operations. A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the attack.

Meanwhile, a source in the nearby Afghan presidential palace told the BBC: “After the explosion was heard, an Afghan National Army (ANA) vehicle was passing. CIA-employed guards opened fire on the vehicle, thinking it had attacked them.” The sources said that two ANA soldiers, one CIA guard and one presidential guard were injured.

Afghanistan has been the site of several high-profile attacks of late, including strikes at the NATO headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Rabbani had been leading efforts for reconciliation talks. The latest shooting is not believed to be related to any other attacks in Kabul, the U.S. government official said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid could not immediately be reached for comment, but a senior Taliban commander reached by phone from Pakistan said the man had secretly joined the insurgents after a group of Taliban approached him to remind him “of his moral and religious duty as an Afghan.” “He used the enemy’s weapons against the enemy and that’s what we have been doing everywhere in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban commander, who is operating in Afghanistan and asked for anonymity for security reasons. “This place is at the heart of Kabul and we wanted to tell the Americans that we can chase them anywhere,” he added. (Reuters)

In December 2009, a Jordanian informant detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, killing seven CIA employees and two others. A CIA review of the incident found that some people within the CIA and the Jordanian intelligence service were skeptical about the attacker’s reliability, but those concerns had not been passed on to officers on the base.

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Fighting in Yemen Escalates as Pro-Regime Forces Kill 9

Rapidly escalating street battles between opponents of Yemen’s regime and forces loyal to its embattled president spread to the home districts of senior government figures and other highly sensitive areas of the capital on Tuesday. A third day of fighting, including a mortar attack on unarmed protesters, killed nine people, medical officials said.

The latest death took to at least 60 the number of people killed since Sunday, as anti-regime protesters step up their campaign to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a key military unit supporting them is drawn deeper into fighting. Saleh’s forces have hit back with attacks by rooftop snipers and shelling of protest encampments.

In Geneva, the United Nations said Tuesday that four children were killed by live ammunition during the unrest on Sunday and Monday. Marixie Mercado, a spokeswoman for the U.N. children’s fund, also said that 18 minors were injured. Mercado told reporters in Geneva that the casualties were confirmed by UNICEF’S local partners in Yemen.

Yemen’s turmoil began in February as the unrest spreading throughout the Arab world set off largely peaceful protests in the deeply impoverished and unstable corner of the Arabian Peninsula that is also home to an al-Qaeda offshoot blamed for several nearly successful attempts to attack the United States.

The government has responded with a heavy crackdown. President Saleh went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after a June attack on his Sanaa compound and has not returned to Yemen, but has resisted calls to resign.

Abdul Rahman Barman, the executive director of a local human rights organization, said President Saleh’s regime is attacking with no limits and does not differentiate between civilians, protesters or gunmen. “All are targets for the oppressive Saleh regime,” Barman said. (CNN)

Government spokesman Abdu Ganadi said that “government troops are attacking armed militants who claim to be unarmed.” (CNN)

After the dawn Muslim prayer on Tuesday, Saleh’s forces lobbed mortar shells at Change Square, a plaza at the heart of the city where protesters have held a sit-in since the uprising began in February.

Manea al-Matari, a protester, told Reuters news agency: “We were walking back from prayers. All of a sudden a rocket hit close by from out of nowhere, and some people fell down. And then a second one came and that’s when we saw the two martyred.” (BBC)
Medical officials said the shelling killed three protesters, three rebel soldiers and a bystander. Clashes between protesters and security forces in the southern city of Taiz left two more people dead, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information.

Elsewhere in the capital, clashes between protesters and security forces erupted in several districts, with gunfire raging out in areas close to Saleh’s residence and the office of his son and one-time heir apparent, Ahmed, commander of the elite loyalist Republican Guards and Special Forces.

In the upscale district of Hadah, home to senior government official as well as tribal leaders opposed to Saleh, gun battles were raging between forces loyal to the president’s son and bands of tribal fighters opposed to the regime.

The violence is forcing more of the capital’s residents to flee to the relative safety of rural Yemen. Scores of pickup trucks and sedans loaded with families and personal belongings could be seen headed out in early Tuesday morning after a night in which loud explosions repeatedly shook the city. Most of those staying put in the capital are not leaving their homes for fear of snipers or getting caught up in gunfights, leaving the city looking increasingly deserted on Tuesday morning, with most stores shuttered.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed its alarm at reported gunfights inside in al-Gomhori hospital – one of Sanaa’s main medical centres.

Aid agencies warn that the country is suffering a severe humanitarian crisis with about 7.5 million Yemenis – one third of the population – going hungry.

Update

A ceasefire has been agreed in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. It was apparently negotiated by Yemen’s vice-president and Western envoys. The city fell quiet before sunset after hours-long gun battles between government troops and armed opponents spread into the wealthiest suburbs.

Only sporadic bursts of gunfire could be heard after Tuesday’s ceasefire came into effect at 16:00. The truce was negotiated by Vice President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and several foreign envoys, including the US and British ambassadors in Sanaa, unnamed officials were quoted as telling the Associated Press news agency.

Everyone will now be watching to see if the calm lasts, says BBC Middle East Correspondent Jon Leyne from Cairo – and whether it provides space for negotiations over a handover of power currently being mediated by international representatives. Envoys from the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council arrived in Yemen on Monday to try to sort out a deal to end the bloodshed.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the violence and called on all those involved in it to exercise restraint. “The United States continues to support the Yemeni people’s aspirations for a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to their aspirations for peace, reconciliation, prosperity, and security. A political solution is the best way to avoid further bloodshed,” she said in a statement. (CNN)

Abdul Ghani al-Shamiri, a media representative for Gen. Ali Mohsen, who defected from the government six months ago, said Tuesday: “The defected military is not fighting the government. We are defending and and not attacking. We cannot watch government troops attack innocent protesters and not help them. We will insist that the revolution remains peaceful but in the same time ensure that unarmed protesters are safe.” (CNN) Al-Shamiri told CNN that since defected military members were fighting only to defend the protesters, the violence would stop once the government troops stopped attacking.


Tension Ripples in Central Kabul amid Taliban Assault

Fighting that raged for hours in Kabul Tuesday afternoon after a dramatic Taliban attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO’s command calmed down greatly during the evening hours, a military spokesman told CNN. But the strike in central Kabul and two other brazen assaults across the city left residents unnerved, and security forces braced for more. Gunfire continued to ring out.

Three police officers have died and others have been injured in the violence across Kabul, police said. The Afghan Public Health ministry said one civilian was killed and at least 18 were wounded, but none seriously.

The central Kabul strike occurred amid intelligence that insurgents might launch a high-profile attack in the capital around the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, a coalition officer and a senior official of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force confirmed to CNN. The strike directed at the ISAF headquarters and the embassy was the most dramatic

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN that his group targeted “the U.S. Embassy, governmental organizations and other foreign organizations.” (CNN)

Militants stormed a building under construction and set up positions there to launch the attack, U.S., ISAF and Afghan officials said. ISAF said the insurgents attacked the “vicinity” of the embassy and the ISAF headquarters using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. An ISAF official said there were initial reports that some rounds hit the NATO base and caused minor damage.

Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for ISAF, said a small number of “terrorists” used high-elevated positions around the area to strike with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. He said the group failed to inflict ISAF and U.S. casualties but he noted the strike was “carefully planned.” (CNN) A senior ISAF official said the attacks were launched from an area outside the secure zone surrounding both areas.

ISAF said Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces immediately were sent to the scene. Coalition forces were providing air support. The Afghan Interior Ministry said four suicide attackers entered the building site from which the attack was being carried out. Three of them have been killed, it said.

“The attackers were wearing burkas. They were traveling in a minivan,” police chief General Ayub said. “We don’t have female police officers to search females.” (BBC)

CIA Director David Petraeus, testifying at a congressional hearing in Washington Tuesday, said Afghan forces were clearing the building. The building is next to Abdul Haq Square, a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy, an intelligence officer told CNN.

An embassy spokeswoman said staff at the U.S. facility had been told to take cover. “The U.S. Embassy can confirm an attack has occurred in the area of the U.S. Embassy” by people armed with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, spokeswoman Kerri Hannan said.   (CNN) She said four Afghans – three visa applicants and a local contract guard – were hurt in the attack on the embassy compound, but none had life-threatening injuries. “Our thoughts are with these individuals and the other victims of the terrorist attacks that happened today in Kabul. We appreciate the response of the Afghan National Security Forces whose operations stopped the attack on the embassy compound,” Hannan said. (CNN)

A U.S. Embassy worker, who asked not to be named for security reasons, called the assault “well-coordinated” and said there was incoming fire around every corner of the building. (CNN) After a few hours of loud and intense fire, he said, the situation appeared to calm down. He said the people at the embassy were well-protected by the guards there.

As gunfire pounded, loudspeakers at nearby embassies kept repeating: “This is not a drill, this is not a drill. If you are in a secure location, do not move.” (New York Times)

One witness, a Briton who asked to be identified only as Mike, was working nearby at the time. “About 13:10 local time there were some… shots fired,” he said. “You think, ‘Okay, it’s Kabul.’ Five minutes later, there was more coming from slightly different directions. Gunfire got heavier: until I could get out, it was about three hours. At times, there were heavy machine guns.” Everyone in his office got out safely, he said. (BBC)

Another eyewitness, Himanshu Sharma, told the BBC: “I thought it would be over in a few minutes, but then one hour and then two hours and then three hours passed – it was just not stopping. The gunshots were increasing and their intensity was increasing. They were using more deadly weapons.” He went on: “There is no security at all in Kabul. This is the safest area, and if we are not safe here, then we are not safe anywhere in Afghanistan.” (BBC)

ISAF’s Jacobson also said the situation calmed down by early evening. Pentagon spokesman George Little said the attacks were “less than spectacular” and despite their high-profile nature “one of the things we’re seeing this fighting season is a less effective insurgency.” (CNN)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there were no reports of U.S. casualties and the country “will take all necessary steps” to secure the area and keep personnel safe. She said the “dedicated, brave men and women” from the United States who work for the Afghan people “will not be intimidated” by this cowardly act. (CNN)

Central Kabul is considered a high-security area, and it is protected by police and other security forces. ISAF said that it doesn’t appear insurgents breached the sector around the sites. ISAF personnel currently were told to stay indoors and take cover but there are no casualties, the official said. Gen. John Allen, ISAF commander, remains on the compound, ISAF said.

The Afghan National Directorate of Security and the Interior Ministry spokesman said the insurgents were using rocket-propelled grenades and light weapons. A hospital official said two injured civilians were being treated and the hospital expected to handle more casualties.

The area was cordoned off, according to Gen. Mohammed Zahir, the head of criminal investigation for the Afghan police. The coalition and ISAF officials pointed out that while this attack is considered to be high-profile because of the U.S. Embassy and ISAF targets, it is so far not considered a “spectacular” attack because of the small number of gunmen and limited weapons involved.

Other violence also was reported. In a Twitter message, ISAF said a “suicide attacker was identified and killed by ANP before reaching target near Kabul airport,” making reference to the Afghan National Police. There were no further details. (CNN)

The Taliban said a suicide attack targeted a police compound in the western part of the city, but the Interior Ministry said the attacker – clad in an explosive vest –  was shot before he entered the compound. Another attacker set off a bomb in front of a high school, the ministry said. Casualties were reported in both incidents.

The U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message about the series of attacks across Kabul Tuesday, saying “the situation is uncertain and ongoing. There are media reports that many roads are closed in Kabul.” (CNN) It said appointments for visas or U.S. citizen services have ben canceled for now and it said Americans in Afghanistan should monitor the websites of the embassy and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs for the latest information. “We urge U.S. citizens to shelter in place, avoid unnecessary movement, and to avoid the neighbourhood around the U.S. Embassy: Wazir Akbar Khan, Microrayon, and Massoud Circle,” it said. “The Embassy also urges U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and avoid areas where Westerners congregate. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers, or in public. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and always travel with mobile phones or appropriate communication equipment.” (CNN)

The attacks by the Taliban continue what has been a violent period. Over the weekend, two Afghan labourers were killed while 77 U.S. troops and 25 Afghan workers were wounded in a Taliban truck bombing on an ISAF base in Afghanistan’s Wardak province.
Last month, Taliban suicide bombers killed at least eight people in Kabul when they attacked the British Council, a British-government-affiliated body that fosters cultural and academic exchanges.

The Taliban harboured the al Qaeda network that launched the 9/11 strike. A U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban and has been fighting militants in Afghanistan for nearly 10 years. NATO is drawing down and handing over security control to national forces. Some 10,000 troops are scheduled to depart by year’s end, with all U.S. military personnel out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Vygaudas Usackas, head of the European Union mission in Afghanistan, were among those who condemned the attacks.

NATO Secretary-General Andres Fogh Rasmussen said the Taliban attacks in Kabul Tuesday were an attempt to derail plans to hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces in Afghanistan. “We are witnessing that the Taliban try to test (the) transition but they can’t stop it. Transition is on track and it will continue,” Rasmussen said. (CNN)


Remembering 9/11/01

This weekend remember those who were lost, those who sacrificed their lives that day, and those who have sacrificed their lives in the ten years since.

I remember where I was when I heard the news. I was in grade 9 at the time, just starting high school. I didn’t know much about world politics back then and I wasn’t nearly as engaged in the events of the world as I am now. I remember sitting in class and my English teacher came in and told us what had happened. We all went to the gym and watched on the TVs as the news broadcasts showed us the images of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

For the past ten years, I have been writing on this blog. My news blog is more of a hunting/gathering type of site – I’ve searched for the top story of the day and then collected information from seven major newspapers to form one cohesive article with all viewpoints represented.

Not only is it important that we understand what is happening in our own country, but as Christians we have a huge responsiblity to share hope to the world around us. The internet has made this possible through Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms, online gaming, and other various social networks. I have met some amazing people online in the past ten years, including some soldiers and marines who are risking their lives right now for this very cause. The internet has made the world a bit smaller and brought news events right to our own backyard.

There have been threats of impending attacks this weekend on the United States from al-Qaeda. CNN has warned of these attacks and President Obama is taking them very seriously. I realize that as Canadians this doesn’t affect us directly, but I’m sure that we all know Americans who were either around New York on 9/11 or who are serving their country right now.

Take some time this weekend to reflect, remember, and praise God for the good things he’s given us. As Canadians, we’re truly blessed to live in a free country that doesn’t fight intolerance with war and violence. Yes violent acts do still happen and we do have tragedy here in the north, but our neighbours to the south are struggling economically as well as in the realm of security.

I encourage you to keep the United States in our prayers this weekend and do what you can to reach out to those who need us.

I’m posting a couple of songs/videos on the bottom of this article. Take some time to watch them and reflect. The lines from the one song are what I want to leave you with this weekend:

“But I know Jesus and I talk to God and I remember this from when I was young. Faith, hope, and love are some great things you’ve given… but the greatest is love.”

\”Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning\”

 

\”Stuck In a Moment That You Can\’t Get Out Of\”


Russian Jet Carrying Top Hockey Team Crashes, Kills at Least 43

A Russian jet carrying a top hockey team crashed just after takeoff Wednesday, killing at least 43 people and leaving two others critically injured, officials said. It was one of the worst plane crashes ever involving a sports team. The pilot may have overshot a runway takeoff abort line before he lifted his plane into the air and crashed it into a beacon tower.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane dropped into a riverbank on the Volga River immediately after leaving an airport near the western city of Yaroslavl, 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow. It was sunny at the time.

The plane was carrying the Lokomotiv ice hockey team from Yaroslavl to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the team was to play Thursday against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of the season for the Kontinental Hockey League. The ministry said the plane had 45 people on board, including 37 passengers and eight crew.

Officials said Russian player Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a crew member.

Eleven foreign players were reportedly onboard the jet. A Czech embassy official said Czech players Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek and Jan Marek were among those killed, and Latvian officials confirmed the death of Latvian defensemen Karlis Skrastins.

The plane that crashed was relatively new, built in 1993, and belonged to a small Moscow-based Yak Service company.

Swarms of police and rescue crews rushed to Tunoshna, a picturesque village with a blue-domed church on the banks of the Volga River. One of the plane’s engines could be seen poking out of the river and a flotilla of boats combed the water for bodies. Russian rescue workers struggled to heft the bodies of large, strong athletes in stretchers up the muddy, steep riverbank.

Witnesses described the fuselage engulfed in fire, and the blackened forms of bodies nearby on the ground.

One resident, Irina Pryakhova, saw the plane going down, then heard a loud bang and saw a plume of smoke. “It was wobbling in flight, it was clear that something was wrong,” she said. “I saw them pulling bodies to the shore, some still in their seats seat belts on.” (Washington Post)

Aleksandr Kanygin, a 65-year-old resident of the village the plane flew over, said he heard two explosions while it was airborne, and then a louder explosion when it struck the ground. “The air shook,” he said. (New York Times)

“I heard a big bang and then a louder one 10 seconds later,” said Andrei Gorshkov, a 16-year-old Tunoshna resident. “Flames shot high and a column of black smoke rose into the air.” He said he had seen the plane about 300 meters over the village, its nose pointing at a downward angle, then lost sight of it as it fell. When he ran to the site, he said, “The wheel assembly was burning, half the plane was in the water, seats were floating and two people lay dead.” (Reuters)

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately sent the nation’s transport minister to the site, 10 miles (15 kilometers) east of Yaroslavl. President Dmitry Medvedev also planned to tour the crash site.

Lokomotive Yaroslavl is a leading force in Russian hockey and came third in the KHL last year. The team’s coach is Canadian Brad McCrimmon, who took over in May. McCrimmon was a native of Saskatchewan, and he was 52 years old. He was most recently an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, and played for years in the NHL for Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix.

A spokesman for Lokomotiv, Vladimir N. Maklov, said in a telephone interview, “We have no team anymore, they all burned in the crash.” (New York Times) “At first we didn’t believe it. But right now, there is no hope. The team is gone,” a Lokomotiv official said soon after the accident on a Twitter feed.

A Kontinental Hockey League statement said: “We are only beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy affecting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club on the friend’s we’ve lost and the international hockey community. First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families of the players, coaches and staff lost in today’s tragedy. We know that there are many in the KHL family who will be grieving with us.” (CNN)

The Russian team also featured several top European players and former NHL stars, including Slovakian forward and national team captain Pavol Demitra, who played in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks. Demitra’s agent Matt Keator said he found out about his death through the player’s Russian agency. “I’m just kind of stunned, the whole hockey world is stunned,” Keator told CBC News. “It’s senseless and awful. I’ve been trying to reach his family, but obviously it’s a tough time for them right now.” (CBC)

The Canucks released a statement on Wednesday afternoon confirming Demitra’s death, praising him for his passion for his young family and the game of hockey. “Pavol was a valued teammate and member of our organization and will sorely missed,” the team said. “We send our deepest condolences to the entire Demitra family and their friends so affected by this tragedy.” (CBC)

Other top names on the team include Russian defensemen Ruslan Salei and Swedish goalie Stefan Liv. Former Toronto Maple Leaf Igor Koralev and Alexander Karpotsev were listed as team members but there is no word yet if they were on the plane.

The KHL is an international club league that pits together teams from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia. Lokomotiv was a three-time Russian League champion in 1997, 2002-2003. It took bronze last season.

A cup match between hockey teams Salavat Yulaev and Atlant in the central Russian city of Ufa was called off midway after news of the crash was announced by Kontinental Hockey League head Alexander Medvedev. Russian television broadcast images of an empty arena in Ufa as grief-stricken fans abandoned the stadium. “We will do our best to ensure that hockey in Yaroslavl does not die, and that it continues to live for the people that were on that plane,” said Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak. (Washington Post)

One Lokomotiv fan, Dmitri Shorikov, arrived in a sports jersey to stare glumly at the flashing lights and commotion. “I still haven’t taken it in,” he said. “I just cannot believe it.” (New York Times)

In recent years, Russia and the other former Soviet republics have had some of the world’s worst air traffic safety records. Experts blame the poor safety record on the age of the aircraft, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.

Medvedev has announced plans to take aging Soviet-built planes out of service starting next year. The short- and medium-range Yak-42 has been in service since 1980 and about 100 are still being used by Russian carriers.

“In such a situation, after their friends and colleagues died, the players of both teams considered playing to be absolutely impossible,” Medvedev told reporters. (BBC)

Interviewed by Ria-Novosti news agency, Vyacheslav Fetisov said there was an urgent need to support the team and its fans. “We now need to take a very calculated step towards creating a team in Yaroslavl – perhaps a new draft or a re-draft.” (BBC)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the crash “represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world – including the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, teammates and friends who at one time excelled in our league. Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished.” (CNN)

Vladislav Tretiak, the great Soviet net minder now president of the Russianas well as for international [ice]hockey. Several internationally well-known players, a Canadian coach, all of them had a remarkable career in the big sport, have died in that crash,” Tretiak told The Star. “We are all deeply shocked with the loss of such a great team,” he said. (The Star)

In June, another Russian passenger jet crashed in the northwestern city of Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people. The crash of that Tu-134 plane has been blamed on pilot error.

In other plane crashes involving sports teams, 75 Marshall University football players, coaches, fans and airplane crew died in a plane crash in Kentucky on Nov. 17, 1970 on the way home from a game. Thirty members of the Uruguayan rugby club Old Christians were killed in a crash in the Andes in 1972. The entire 18-member U.S. figure skating team died in a crash on their way to the 1961 world championships in Brussels.


Gaddafi Not Believed to be in Niger Convoy

Two Libyan convoys have passed through Niger this week, officials in that country said Tuesday, fueling renewed speculation about the whereabouts of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and members of his family.

The U.S. State Department said it viewed the two sets of vehicles as parts of a single convoy – and that Gaddafi is not believed to be on it. “Apparently a convoy has entered and it does not include some senior members of the Gaddafi regime, but we do not believe that Gaddafi himself was among them,” department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. (CNN)

“Vehicles carrying gold, euros and dollars crossed from Jufra into Niger with the help of Tuaregs from the Niger Tribe,” Fathi Baja from the National Transitional Council told Reuters. (BBC)

One convoy was on its way Tuesday to the capital, Niamey, a military captain in Niger said. Another convoy reached Niamey a day earlier, an official with Niger’s Interior Ministry said. That convoy included six high-ranking Libyan officials close to Gaddafi, including Gen. Mansour Daw, the source said. Daw is said to be the head of the Revolutionary Guard and is responsible for the security of Gaddafi and his family. The sources did not want to be identified because neither is authorized to speak to the media.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said officials believe Gaddafi is on the run. “I don’t have any information as to exactly where he’s located,” Penetta said. (CNN)

Abdoulaye Harouna, an owner of a local newspaper in the northern Niger town of Agadez, said the convoy consisted of more than a dozen pickup trucks bristling with well-armed Libyan troops, said Harouna, who saw the arrival. At the head of the convoy, Harouna said, was Tuareg rebel leader Rissa ag Boula, a native of Niger who led a failed war of independence on behalf of ethnic Tuareg nomads a decade ago. He then sought refuge in Libya and was believed to be fighting on behalf of Gaddafi. (CBC)

Bisa Williams, U.S. ambassador to Niger, spoke with that country’s government about the convoy, Nuland said. “We have strongly urged the Nigerian officials to detain those members of the regime who may be subject to prosecution, to ensure that they confiscate any weapons they have found and to ensure that any state property of the government of Libya – money, jewels, etc. – also be impounded so that it can be returned to the Libyan people.” (CNN) Williams told the Niger government that the United States expects it to comply if the new Libyan government requests anyone seeking refuge in Niger to be returned to Libya, State Department officials said.
Niamey is in Niger’s southwest corner, near Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso’s government said Tuesday that it has not offered Gaddafi asylum, contrary to news reports. If Gaddafi were to enter the country, Burkina Faso would “respect our obligation in the context of the International Criminal Court,” said government spokesman Alain Edouard Traore. (CNN)

Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and the former head of military intelligence, Abdullah Al-Senussi, face charges in the court at The Hague for crimes against humanity related to the regime’s violent crackdown against anti-government protesters. The court issued warrants for their arrests. Niger and Burkina Faso are signatories to the Rome Statute, meaning they recognize the court’s authority.

The NTC spokesman in London, Guma el-Gamaty, told the BBC that Niger would be penalized if it was proven to have helped Col. Gaddafi escape. “Niger is a neighbour of Libya from the south and should be considering the future relationship with Libya,” said Mr. Gamaty. “This – if confirmed – will very much antagonize the future relationship between Libya and Niger.” (BBC)

Niger Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum told AFP news agency: “This is not Gaddafi and I do not think the convoy had the numbers attributed to it.” (BBC)

In August, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, Yipene Djibril Bassolet, announced his country was recognizing the rebels’ National Transitional Council as Libya’s government. When asked what would happen if Gaddafi came to the country, Bassolet responded that Gaddafi could come, but that the government would respect its obligations with the International Criminal Court, Traore said.

The African Union has called on its member states – which include Burkina Faso – to refuse the International Criminal Court arrest warrants. In July, the AU called on the U.N. Security Council to activate Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which prevents any investigation of prosecution for a year. The Au argued that the court’s arrest warrants seriously complicated efforts to find a negotiated political solution in Libya. Traore told CNN that despite the AU position, Burkina Faso would “respect our obligation in the context of the ICC.” An AU representative could not be reached immediately Tuesday. Gaddafi has historically been a strong supporter of the African Union and has channeled large sums of money its way.

Traore said Gaddafi was not in Burkina Faso and that the government was not expecting him and doesn’t know where he is.
Abdallah Kenshil, chief negotiator for the Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council, said Tuesday a convoy left the pro-Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid three days ago. “We believe that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was part of that convoy,” Kenshil said. (CNN)

NATO said Tuesday that while it “continuously receives reports” about weapons, vehicles and even convoys of vehicles moving throughout Libya, “we do not discuss the intelligence and surveillance information we collect… To be clear, our mission is to protect the civilian population in Libya, not to track and target thousands of fleeing former regime leaders, mercenaries, military commanders and internally displaced people,” a NATO official said in an e-mailed statement. (CNN)

On Monday, Gaddafi spokesman Musa Ibrahim told Syrian al-Rai TV by phone that Gaddafi was “in excellent health” and that “no one will be able to know where he physically is.” (CNN) Ibrahim said that the Libyan leader was “in high spirits.” “He is in a place that will not be reached by those fractious groups, and he is in Libya,” Mr. Ibrahim told Syrian-based Arial TV. (BBC) “We are fighting and resisting for the sake of Libya and all Arabs,” Ibrahim said. “We are still strong and capable of turning the tables on NATO.” (CBC)

“We don’t have any evidence that Gaddafi is anywhere but in Libya at the moment,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, adding there was also no evidence his family members were in the group. (CBC)

Meanwhile, talks aimed at handing the rebels control of Bani Walid broke down Tuesday. Elders were negotiating with representatives of the transitional leadership returned to Bani Walid and reportedly were fired upon by pro-Gaddafi elements inside. They were forced to leave, said Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, spokesman for the National Transitional Council in the area.

As far as the council is concerned, negotiations have ended, Aziz said. The council no longer believes the problem can be solved peacefully. The council worries that those in Bani Walid who were willing to negotiate could be killed, Aziz said.

Earlier, chief negotiator Kenshil said people in Bani Walid did not need to worry that the council would harm or kill anyone if they drop their weapons. He added that the NTC made clear there will be no retribution for residents of Bani Walid and that the new leadership of Libya will respect property rights. “We follow the law and order,” he said. “This is the new Libya.” (CNN) Kenshil said rebels believe there are “several big fish” from the Gaddafi regime in Bani Walid.

A member of the rebel transitional council said by telephone Tuesday he was in a village near Bani Walid called al-Manasser that had just raised the rebel flag. “We want the rest of the tribes to do like al-Manasser to avoid bloodshed and to realize that the regime is over and it will not come back,” said Mubarak Sabah, who is from Bani Walid and represents the town on the transitional council. “They should realize that their brothers around the country are enjoying freedom and that they can follow them.” (CBC)

Mr. Tarhouni, the rebel official, made his initial comments about the convoy at a ceremony handing over control of the Mellitah oil and gas complex on the Mediterranean coast to the rebel administration. It was handed back without any equipment damaged or missing, said workers at the complex. Mr. Tarhouni said the handover showed that rebels were not only capable of protecting the country’s wealth but that “we are capable of managing it.” He said he hoped the refinery would go back to full production including 25 million to 30 million cubic meters of natural gas exported daily to Italy through the pipeline, within a few weeks and said the handover was a signal to international oil and gas companies that “your investment here is safe.” “I’m so grateful to the Zintan rebels who liberated the Western mountains and secured this important complex,” Mr. Tarhouni said, standing alongside rebel commanders at the end of a jetty that extends a mile into a calm, bright blue sea, where he said oil tankers would once again be taking delivery within weeks. The facility exports crude oil as well as natural gas. (New York Times)

For more than six months, Libyans have demanded democratic reforms and an end to Gaddafi’s 42-year rule. The unrest exploded into a civil war, and Gaddafi’s regime crumbled after anti-Gaddafi fighters stormed the capital of Tripoli in late August.

Gaddafi’s wife, two sons and other relatives fled to Algeria recently, deepening mistrust between the new LIbyan leadership and its neighbor. Algeria has said it acted on humanitarian grounds.