Monday, September 14, 2009

Suspected US Missile Kills 4 in Northwest Pakistan

By VOA News
Pakistani officials say a suspected missile strike from a U.S. drone (unmanned aircraft) has killed at least four militants in the North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The officials say the missile was fired early Monday at a Taliban vehicle in a village near the region's main town of Miran Shah.

Pakistani officials say U.S. unmanned aircraft are believed to have fired more than 40 missiles at suspected al-Qaida and Taliban strongholds in northwest Pakistan in recent months.

American officials rarely discuss the missile strikes, which Pakistan has publicly criticized as counterproductive and a violation of its sovereignty.

On Sunday, a roadside bomb killed three soldiers in western Khyber region, where Pakistani forces launched an offensive against Taliban militants earlier this month.

Taliban militants frequently attack convoys that travel through the Khyber Pass to deliver supplies to U.S. and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan has faced strong U.S. pressure to crack down on the militants.

In other news, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik says Pakistani forces are closing in on the commander of the Taliban in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah.

Pakistani forces have retaken control of much of the Swat Valley from the Taliban since beginning an offensive there in April.

In other violence Sunday, two women and two children were killed in a landmine blast in the Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan. Authorities say the landmine had been planted near a house.

U.N. rights boss targets Gulf states, Afghanistan

GENEVA - Women around the world are denied fundamental freedoms, the top United Nations human rights official said on Monday, citing in particular the Gulf states, Sudan and Afghanistan.

"Women's rights continue to be curtailed in too many countries," and efforts must be made to address this, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

She pointed to a "severe backlash against women's rights" in the contested Afghan elections and urged authorities there to take care to stamp out violence related to the vote.

In its latest three-week session, which Pillay opened on Monday, the Council will assess violations around the world, including allegations of war crimes during Israel's invasion of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in December and January.

It will be the first session of the 47-state body in which a U.S. delegation participates as a voting member, following its election in May.

Washington is expected to back Israel, a close ally, during the Gaza debate set for September 29.

While citing some positive developments in the Gulf region -- including the election of four women to Kuwait's parliament and the appointment of the first female deputy minister in Saudi Arabia -- Pillay said "the overall situation of women falls well short of international standards."

Gulf countries must remove the many exceptions they invoked when ratifying key international human rights treaties, and grant full rights and freedoms for women, she said.

In Sudan, which has signed many rights pacts, a pattern of discrimination against women nevertheless persists, according to the U.N. rights chief who grew up in apartheid-era South Africa.

Lubna Hussein, a former U.N. staff member in Sudan, was sentenced to prison last week by a Khartoum court on charges of dressing indecently in trousers.

Pillay welcomed her subsequent release, after a journalists' union paid her fine, but called on Sudan to "take all necessary steps to address the equality gap".


She also voiced alarm that migrants who pay traffickers to attempt to cross the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden are risking their lives in search of a better life.

"Today, on the assumption that boats in distress carry migrants, ships pass them by ignoring their pleas for help, in violation of international law," Pillay said in her remarks prepared for the session.

"In many cases, authorities reject these migrants and leave them to face hardship and peril, if not death, as though they were turning away ships laden with hazardous waste," she said.

Migrants are turned away without being given a chance to lodge their requests for asylum, she said. Italy was accused by the U.N. refugee agency this year of mistreating Africans who were stopped from crossing the sea to Europe and diverted to Libya.