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Daily Archives: April 23, 2008

Zawahiri criticises Muslims for not backing insurgencies

Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri criticised Muslims for failing to support Islamist insurgencies in Iraq and elsewhere in a new audiotape posted yesterday on the Internet.
Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant also blasted Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas over their reported readiness to consider a peace deal with Israel.
"I call upon the Muslim nation to fear Allah's question (at judgement day) about its failure to support its brothers of the Mujahedeen (holy Warriors), and (urge it) not to withhold men and money, which is the mainstay of a war," he said.
He also used the two-and-a-half hour message to urge Muslims to join militant groups, mainly in Iraq, where he claimed that the insurgency against the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition forces is bearing fruit.
"I urge all Muslims to hurry to the battlefields of Jihad (holy war), especially in Iraq," Zawahiri said in the message, the second in a two-part series to answer about 100 questions put to him via online militant forums.
"The situation in Iraq heralds an imminent victory of Islam and the defeat of the crusaders and those who stand under their flag," he said.
Turning his ire on Hamas, he said the Palestinian group's reported willingness to hold a referendum on any peace deal with Israel flew in the face of Sharia, or Islamic, law.
"How can they put a matter that violates Sharia to a referendum?" he added.
Former US president Jimmy Carter said on Monday that Hamas told him it would recognise Israel's right to live in peace if a deal is reached and approved by a Palestinian vote.
Hamas exiled chief Khaled Meshaal later told a press conference in Damascus that Hamas would not recognise the Jewish state and would insist on the right of some 4.5 million Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.
Meshaal ruled out any direct talks with Israel but said Hamas was ready to hold discussions with US officials.
He said Hamas would recognise a peace deal negotiated by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on condition that it was subject to a referendum.
In his message, Zawahiri also called on the various jihadist groups operating in the country to unite behind the "more advanced" Al-Qaeda-backed "Islamic State of Iraq".
In the first part of the message released last Friday, Zawahiri commemorated the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq with a call to Muslims to make Iraq a "fortress of Islam".


Sudan begins key census despite difficulties

*Sudan yesterday shut down for its first census in 15 years, a milestone in the peace deal that ended Africa's longest civil war but clouded in dispute threatening to undermine the accord further.
In the 2005 agreement signed by the former warring north and south, the two-week census is crucial to prepare constituencies for national elections and confirm or adjust the wealth and power-sharing ratios in central government.
But the undeveloped south has refused to be bound by the results and rebels in Darfur will boycott the count, both accusing the Arab north of manipulating the census to maximise its control and marginalise the African majority.
Khartoum, assisted greatly by the United Nations, says it has prepared the most comprehensive population count ever held in Sudan, almost constantly engulfed in civil war since independence from Britain in 1956.
"The planning and field work in the south has been the best possible… They have every enumerator in place and (we have) the international resources to get the best possible census," said Yasin Haj Abdin, director of the central bureau of statistics.
Around 60,000 enumerators, monitored by 200 observers, will count the estimated 40 million population, costing Sudan and the international community 103 million dollars.
Rain fell in Khartoum on Tuesday — almost unheard of in April — and parts of the city were left without electricity but the census began on time.
"So far everything is going smoothly," said Ibrahim Abbas, head of the census in the north. "We are not predicting any problem either today or in the coming days".
But discontentment and disillusionment run deep in the south, where the legacy of the war that killed two million people and displaced another four million, is keenly felt despite a flood of refugees returning for the count.
"The level of preparedness was very low and even if counting takes place (Tuesday) its not going to produce the desired results," south Sudan information minister Gabriel Changson Chang told AFP.
His government said it was unlikely to accept the results after the north insisted the survey go ahead. It was delayed for the fourth time last week when the south complained that ethnicity and religion were not included.
The Arab domination of power in what is Africa's largest country was a major reason for the two-decade civil war between north and south, as well as for the separate five-year conflict still raging in the west.
International observers have raised concerns that significant parts of Darfur — a region the size of France — will be excluded from the count owing to fierce opposition from rebel groups.
"Before peace there is no census," said Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement, the strongest rebel group militarily in Darfur.
"My people are not there at home, many of them crossed borders. They're in Chad and concentrated in IDP camps, under trees here and there, in mountains and villages, so what they're doing is meaningless," he added.
The authorities claim that only three percent of Darfur will be left out of the census but international observers fear far more will be excluded.
The Egyptian-occupied Halayib triangle in the northeast and remote areas in the south are likely to be excluded, although Isaiah Chol, the head of the southern census, said enumerators have 55 boats to access flooded areas.
The schedule for implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, under which general elections should have been completed by July 2009, is slipping. Under the accord, the census should also have been finalised last year.
Borders between north and southern Sudan have not yet been demarcated and political tensions remain high in the contested oil-rich state of Abyei.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that further delay of the census "could have considerable political and financial implications".
The International Crisis Group has warned that the electoral timetable is severely behind schedule and that problems in Darfur will either require a contingency plan or the entire electoral timetable will need to be reworked.
The central bureau of statistics expects census results as early as September, but other officials have quoted Christmas as a more realistic date.