The Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for the shooting of a police officer in Craigavon in Northern Ireland, in what was the second fatal attack by dissident republican groups in the last 48 hours. The officer, Pc Stephen Carroll, was killed investigating a crime report on a council estate. In a separate incident yesterday, two soldiers were killed at their barracks in Anterim by gunmen belonging to the rival militant group the Real IRA.
The toD verdict: While the timing of the two attacks has prompted fears of a return to the daily bloodshed of "the Troubles", it seems unlikely that either fringe group can sustain such levels of violence. Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde was keen to emphasise to reporters that the Continuity IRA were "criminal maniacs" and that he did not require the army to maintain order in Northern Ireland. Any large-scale deployment of the British military would be likely to spread dissatisfaction among more moderate Republicans who still harbour resentment of alleged oppressive measures by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Army.
Gordon Brown also promised that there would be "no return to the old days" of the Troubles, during which time 300 police officers were killed. Significantly, the attack was also strongly condemned by Republicans. Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and former Provisional IRA commander, cancelled a visit to the Washington and flew instead to London to denounce the militants as "traitors to the island of Ireland". Brian Cowen, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Northern Ireland, condemned the attack as a "despicable murder". Despite the condemnation of the killing by the leaders of every major political party in the North, the murder still has the potential to spark communal polarisation, fierce debate and even further violence, and the peace of Northern Ireland depends on the delicacy of the response to the attack on all sides. Already, Gerry Adams has sparked controversy by linking the killing to the recently announced deployment of an undercover army unit to monitor dissident republicans.
It is the first fatality suffered by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which was created in 2001 to replace the controversial Royal Ulster Constabulary as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Several previous assassination attempts against the PSNI launched by the Real IRA have been foiled, and the service will be determined to maintain its impartiality in its response to the attack
Sri Lanka suicide attack kills ten and injures minister
A suicide bomber struck a congregation of Muslims commemorating the prophet Mohammed's birthday outside a mosque in the town of Akuressa in southern Sri Lanka. At least ten people were killed and twenty injured in the blast, including the government minister for post and telecommunications, Mahinda Wijesekara. Six other ministers in attendance escaped unharmed. The Sri Lankan military have blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. The attack follows continued fighting in the North of the country where the army have claimed to have killed 200 Tamil fighters since Thursday. Tamilnet, a pro-Tamil news website, claimed 300 civilians had also been killed in recent artillery attacks by government forces. The army has denied shelling civilian areas.
Protests mark the fiftieth anniversary of Chinese occupation of Tibet
Major security operations are taking place in Tibetan provinces of China. Soldiers were deployed along China's southern borders and police blocked roads and restricted the movements of foreign journalists. In a speech given in India, the Dalai Lama condemned the history of Chinese rule in his homeland, claiming it had created "hell on earth" and warning that Tibetan culture faced extinction if repressive policies continued. World wide protests have marked the anniversary. Four protestors were arrested in Canberra after clashes with police outside the Chinese embassy. In Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, stringent security measures were taken to safeguard the Chinese embassy and businesses in the city. Yesterday, Chinese media stated that explosives were hurled at a police car and fire engine but no casualties were reported.
Chinese navy confront US vessel in international waters
A US defence spokesman claimed Chinese warships harassed a US naval vessel in international waters in the South China Sea on Sunday. The US Naval Ship Impeccable, an unarmed surveillance vessel, used its fire hoses to soak the crews of approaching Chinese civilian and military vessels, who in retaliation closed to within 25 feet, undressed and made lewd gestures to the US crew. Behind the comic exchange however is a serious conflict of interest. The Impeccable, a submarine detection vessel, was deployed 75 miles south of the main Chinese submarine base on Hainan Island, from which increasing forays by Chinese submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles have been reported by military analysts. The Pentagon has claimed that half a dozen cases of Chinese military harassment have occurred in the area in the past week alone. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed the Pentagon's description of the incident as ‘totally inaccurate' and claimed the Impeccable was engaged in illegal surveillance within China's Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends 200 miles from its southern shores.
Suicide bomber strikes peace conference in Abu Ghraib district of Bagdad
At least 33 people were killed including journalists, tribal leaders, police and a senior military officer in a suicide attack in western Bagdad. The attack targeted officials leaving a conference promoting national reconciliation, close to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison where US soldiers were convicted of abusing Iraqi prisoners in 2004. Although levels of violence have declined over the last two years, this is the third major attack in recent days. A suicide bombing killed ten at a market in Babel on Thursday. A second attack targeted a police recruitment centre killing 30 people on Sunday, within hours of a US announcement that 12,000 troops would be withdrawn from Iraq within the next six months.
Kenya swept by violent protests
Thousands of students marched through Nairobi today demanding the dismissal of the police commissioner in a protest which erupted into violence. The protestors, numbering around 5,000, blocked traffic, looted shops and restaurants, threw stones at policemen, uprooted trees and beat journalists with sticks. Protesters were marching against the police in reaction to the shooting of a student on Thursday. The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters in neighbouring Tanzania that he was confident the coalition government would survive the crisis but criticised its inaction over widespread corruption.
Gaza was host to three prestigious international visitors on Sunday as pressure mounts to speed Gaza's reconstruction. Tony Blair made his first visit to the territory as international envoy to the middle east. Blair called for a change of international strategy and asked Israel to lift its economic blockade of the territory. He was joined in Gaza by DouglasAlexander, Britain's international development secretary, who announced a £30m aid package from Britain and seconded Blair's calls for unfettered access foraid to the region. The UN Secretary-General's Special Humanitarian Envoy, Abdul Aziz Arrukban, also arrived to discuss the challenges of aid distribution inthe territory with relief workers. All avoided any contact with Hamasofficials.
The toD verdict: The reconstruction of Gaza remains the most pressing problem facing the international community in the region. Over 34,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed and 50,000 Palestinians remain withoutdrinking water in the aftermath of the recent Israeli incursion, operation Cast Lead.
Although much aid seeks to alleviate immediate humanitarian suffering, there is a growingrecognition that the longer-term security situation in Gaza is inextricably tied to the territory's economic development. This was in part the motive behind the creation of Blair's post, which largely dealt with issues of economic reconstruction. However in attempting to keep aid and politics separate, Blair faced inevitable friction when attempting to deal with thorny issues such as restrictions on the movements of goods and people, which are inextricably political. Thus, the tangled web of economic concerns, security and international diplomacy continue to paralyze recent efforts to build a stable Palestinianstate.
Blair, Alexander and Arrukban's visits coincide with an international conference on reconstruction in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, which began on Monday. Governments pledged $4.4 billionin aid to Palestine, including a $900 million US pledge announced by Secretaryof State Hilary Clinton. While the sums have exceeded even the hopes ofPalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the challenge of distribution isalmost as great as that of raising funds. Aid was pledged to the Palestinian Authority, whereas it is Hamas, despite being battered during the Israeli offensive, that remains in control of the Gaza Strip. The move may be seen as an attempt to strengthen the hand of Fatah, which has been engaged in simultaneous negotiations in Cairo on the possibility of cooperation with Hamas.
Gunmen attack Sri Lankan national cricket team in Lahore
Twelve fighters armed with assault riffles, grenades and anti-tank missiles attacked the motor convoy of the Sri Lankan cricket team near Lahore's main cricket ground earlier today. Six policemen were killed and six cricketers wounded in the attack. Lahore'schief of police described the attackers as bearded young men who he believed were Pathans, native of the North West Frontier Province which includes Taliban-dominated tribal areas. The attack heaps further pressure onthe beleaguered government of Asif Ali Zardari. It also ensures that cricket-obsessive Pakistan will not see international cricket on its own soil for the indefinite future.
President of Guinea-Bissau assassinated
Joao Bernardo Vieira, the president of Guinea-Bissau has been assassinated byrogue soldiers in an apparent revenge attack for the killing of general Tagme, army chief of staff, on Sunday night. The role of senior military figures in the killing remains unclear. An army spokesman accused Vieira of ordering Tagme's murder, but radio broadcasts by the military have denied that a coup is underway. The assassination follows a similar failed attack by renegade soldiers on the presidential palace in November 2008.
Iran's first nuclear reactor will open on schedule
Iran's first nuclear power plant, built with Russian consultation, will begin generating power on schedule, a spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Monday. The US has engaged in urgent negotiations with Russia in an attempt to forestall the plant's opening. Barack Obama offered concessionson the US missile shield programme, which is officially aimed at Iran but which Russia sees as an act of aggression.
Mounting tension follows the alarming statements made in an interview with CNN on Sunday by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff,that Iran had sufficient nuclear material to make a bomb. Several Obama advisors contributed to a hawkish report that called for a toughened embargo on Iran and supported improving Israeli capabilities to target possible nuclear sites. Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also criticised the Iranian regime's lack of co-operation in a speech at the Agency's headquarters in Vienna on Monday.
Pakistani Taliban warlords join forces tofight US in Afghanistan
Three rival forces in Waziristan, Pakistan's tribal borderland with Afghanistan, have united their efforts to fight the US under the new banner of the Council of UnitedHoly Warriors. One of the three, Baitullah Mehsud, is accused of organising the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and had launched a series of attacks against Pakistani forces. It is possible that he will now redirect his efforts against NATO troops in compliance with an order of ceasefire against other Muslims from Mullah Omar, the founder and ultimate leader of the Afghan Taliban.is visit coincides
Japan readies interceptor rockets in case of North Korean missile launch
Japanese Minister of Defence, Yasukazu Hamada, announced today that naval forces armed with interceptor rockets were being deployed to the seas off North Korea. The defensive measures come amid widespread anticipation that Pyongyang will imminently test a long-range nuclear-capable missile. North Korea held urgent talks with the UN, the first in almost seven years, in the demilitarised zone separating it from South Korea on Tuesday. The North feared that US military exercises south of the border were provocative and warned they would further destabilise the region.