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Daily Archives: October 6, 2008

Turkey buries soldiers slain in bloody Kurdish attack

by Hande Culpan*

Turkey yesterday began burying 15 soldiers slain in a bloody attack by Kurdish rebels as the country's civilian and military leaders vowed that crushing them would be a top priority.
President Abdullah Gul is scheduled to attend one of the funerals to be held in the western city of Eskisehir while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen will participate in ceremonies in the central city of Kirikkale and Mersin province in the south, respectively.
Dozens of mourners attended the first funeral of the day in the southeastern city of Siirt, waving Turkish flags and shouting slogans against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) blamed for the attack, the Anatolia news agency said.
"Damn the PKK, the martyrs are immortal," roared the crowd.
There were emotional scenes in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast, where one of the soldiers was buried late Saturday with weeping relatives condemning the violence, the CNN-Turk news channel reported.
Funerals will also be held in nine other provinces later yesterday.
The soldiers were killed Friday when PKK rebels attacked a border post under cover of heavy weapons fire from neighbouring northern Iraq, killing 15 soldiers.
Twenty-three rebels were killed in the ensuing fighting during which Turkish forces responded with artillery fire and attack helicopters to pound rebel positions.
Artillery units and fighter jets also struck a group of rebels across the border in Iraq, about 10 kilometres from the station which was attacked, the army said Saturday.
The fighting, the bloodiest this year, prompted calls for Ankara to hit back at the militants who use the Kurdish-run autonomous north of Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets across the border.
After emergency talks in Ankara late Saturday, civilian and military leaders vowed to destroy the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
"Our struggle against terrorism will be pursued under all conditions and above all other concerns through effective cooperation between state bodies and every measure will be implemented with determination," they said in a statement.
The foreign ministry has called on Baghdad to catch the perpetrators of the attack and curb the rebels operating out of its territory while Gul urged his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani to take the necessary action against what he called an "international act of terrorism".
"We are investigating how this treacherous attack took place, who facilitated it. These will be followed up on and everyone will be held to account," Gul said in a video message.
Friday's attack came just before the Turkish parliament was set to vote on extending by one year the government's mandate to order military strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq.
Under a one-year parliamentary authorisation obtained last October, the army has carried out several air strikes and a week-long ground incursion against PKK targets, using intelligence passed on by NATO ally United States.
The current authorisation expires on October 17 and lawmakers are expected to vote on extending the mandate in the coming weeks.
The PKK has been fighting for a separate state in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey since 1984, in a bloody conflict that has claimed some 44,000 thousand lives.


Tobacco, whales await as US Supreme Court gets back to work

by Lucile Malandain*

The US Supreme Court resumes work today, weighing a raft of social and environmental issues from light cigarettes to whales, amid uncertainty over the future of the oldest judge on its bench.
Forty-nine cases are before the nine seasoned jurists of the highest court in the United States who are to decide within days or weeks whether to delve into the constitutionality of the Bush administration's "war on terror."
If they chose to do so, they would notably rule on whether the president has the power to detain someone indefinitely on mere suspicion of terrorism.
For four years, the court has been politically divided right down the middle, leaving Anthony Kennedy — appointed 20 years ago when Ronald Reagan was in the White House — to play the role of an often unpredictable tie-breaker.
Of the six justices who are more than 69 years old, however, John Paul Stevens — a native of Chicago appointed to the court in 1975 and who turned 88 in April — could soon stand down.
Who replaces him will depend on who wins the race for the White House.
Democratic hopeful Barack Obama would likely favor a liberal jurist to replace Stevens, while Republican rival John McCain would likely appoint a more conservative successor.
The court begins its work today hearing arguments from Altria Group — the makers of Marlboro cigarettes among other brands — with three smokers challenging the tobacco giant for branding some of its products as "light."
By doing so, the plaintiffs contend, Altria — formerly known as the Philip Morris Companies — misled smokers into thinking that light cigarettes, with less tar and nicotine, were less hazardous to health.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the three smokers, who enjoy the support of the US government and Federal Trade Commission, the result could be a tsunami of lawsuits that could cost the tobacco industry billions of dollars.
On Wednesday, the court will turn its attention to a plea from environmentalists for the US Marine Corps to cease using underwater sonar they say threatens the life and well-being of whales in the Pacific Ocean off California.
Three lowers courts have already ruled in favor of the whale-lovers, but the US Navy — with support from President George W. Bush — refuses to switch the sonar off, on grounds the judiciary cannot interfere with the executive in military matters.
In another environmental case, the Anglo-Dutch oil conglomerate Shell is to learn during the upcoming session whether it must pay for cleaning up pollution for which it was not directly responsible.
Cases related to freedom of expression coming up this autumn deal with limits of strong language on live television, and the right of a religious group to force local authorities to erect a monument promoting its beliefs.
More politically-charged cases involve one plaintiff challenging the US government over his arrest on suspicion of terrorism after the September 11 attacks in 2001, and another who wrongly spent 24 years in prison.
The nine justices — one of them a woman and one an African-American — have yet to say if they will consider demands for a new trial for death-row inmate and black activist Mumia Abu Jamal, a symbol for global opponents of capital punishment, and Troy Davis, another African-American on death row in Georgia who claims his innocence.