Friday, May 28, 2010

Ahmadis, a persecuted minority, targeted At least 25 killed in Lahore attacks

Bombing attacks in Pakistan targeting houses of worship for a persecuted religious minority have killed at least 25 people, officials said on Friday.The strikes took place at two mosques in Lahore belonging to the Ahmadi religious group.
At least 20 people were killed at the Baitul Noor place of worship in the Model Town region after two attackers on motorbikes fired at the entrance of the building and tossed hand grenades, a rescue official told CNN.

Police have since cleared the scene, and one of the attackers is critically injured. The other clad in a suicide jacket was detained.
In the other location, Garhi Shahu, at least five bodies were recovered, the official said. One witness there told CNN he saw two attackers armed with AK-47s and another witness said he saw at least four gunmen.
Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslim. But the government says they aren't and many Muslim extremists have targeted them.
The group, which is thought to number between 3 and 4 million people in the country, endures "the most severe legal restrictions and officially-sanctioned discrimination" among Pakistan's religious minorities, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government commission, said in its latest annual report that "Ahmadis may not call their places of worship 'mosques,' worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms which are otherwise open to all Muslims, perform the Muslim call to prayer, use the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quote from the Koran, or display the basic affirmation of the Muslim faith."
The agency says it's illegal for the group to preach publicly, pursue converts, pass out religious material, restricted from holding public conferences and traveling to Saudi Arabia for the hajj pilgrimage

Ahmadis' worship places attacked, 10 killed

LAHORE: Firing incidents have been reported at religious places of Ahmadi sect in Garhi Shahu and Model Town areas of Lahore on Friday.Security forces have completed the operation at Model Town.Ten people have been reported killed and several injured in the attack at this place. Seven terrorists attacked Model Town mosque and police
have killed five one of them.One attacker was arrested during operation.TTP Punjab has claimed the responsibility for the attack, Geo News reported.Terrorists entered into the worship places where at least 1500 wereoffering Friday prayers.Explosions also heard in these localities, Geo News stated.Heavy police contingents have reached the scene.

Firing, explosions hit Lahore

LAHORE : Blasts and firing hit Garhi Shahu and Model Town areas of Lahore on Friday, Aaj News reported. According to sources religious sermon was underway in both the areas when some unknown gunmen opened fire and threw grenades on the people gathered there.
Police have cordoned off the area, rescue team and ambulances have been reaching the spot, sources said.
Sources also said that Tehrik e Taliban Punjab has claimed the responsibility for the attack.

Kalam awaiting tourists after restoration of peace

After recovering from the violent spell of militancy that engulfed Swat for over three years, the picturesque Kalam valley is all set to welcome tourists.
No step has been taken to again attract the thousands of regular visitors to Kalam. Most started going to Nathiagali, Kaghan and Murree after militants played havoc with the peace of Swat. The government and administration is yet to convince people from across the country that Kalam is as peaceful as it used to be three years back.
The area had remained under curfew for several months when military operation was underway in Swat Valley last year. Militants had captured many buildings in Kalam, including some owned by the government. The lone police station in the town was razed to the ground after terrorists bombed it.
Kalam wore a deserted look as a small number of tourists were coming there. However, Bahrain and Madyan were relatively crowded with some families from parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other provinces, were seen hesitantly reaching there and seeking advice about the security situation.
Law and order situation is no more a problem for the tourists intending to visit Kalam. From Landaki checkpost at the entrance to Swat up to Kalam, one has to go through 24 security checkposts jointly manned by army and police personnel. In some areas, soldiers of the Frontier Constabulary are also deployed.
“We are sorry for inconvenience but checking is for your own security,” read the billboards on Mingora-Kalam Road. Outsiders are supposed to enter names of all the passengers of the vehicle while entering Madyan, Bahrain and Kalam for security reasons. Every hotel providing accommodation to tourists also keeps a record of the guests. Police patrolling cars check every hotel to know who are staying there at night.
“Though many feel bothered at these checkpoints, these steps are a must for ensuring peace in the area. The practice, however, would create problems once people in large numbers start coming,” said a tourist Shaukat Ali.
He criticised the condition of road from Bahrain to Kalam, saying tourists in large numbers would never be attracted until the road was constructed properly. The 35 kilometres distance between Kalam and Bahrain takes two hours.
In summers when the entire country suffers from scorching heat, temperatures in Kalam remain around 20 centigrade. The streets and forests of Kalam used to bustle with life as tourists played loud music in vehicles and held parties in hotels. The main attractions were the River Swat, thick forests, glaciers and natural lakes.
“This town used to be crowded whenever I visited Kalam. Today, I see only a few outsiders,” said a disappointed Mohammad Iqbal, who came from Karachi along with his brother and two female members of his family. He, however, asked the authorities to take measures to attract the old visitors of Kalam.
“Tonight only two of our 74 rooms are booked,” said Asim, manager of a luxury hotel in Kalam. He said they had held meetings with the authorities and were planning to hold a cultural festival and a music concert in Kalam in coming months to send the message that Kalam is peaceful and ready to receive guests.
The authorities had offered 10-day free stay in hotels at Kalam during February. “The decision was taken in haste. This package should have been announced for the current month,” said a hotel owner.

Ahmadis mosques attacked in Lahore...Another Act of terrorism.

Firing incidents have been reported at religious places of Ahmadi sect in Garhi Shahu and Model Town areas of Lahore on Friday.
Terrorists entered into the worship places where at least 1500 were offering Friday prayers.Explosions also heard in these localities, Geo News stated. Heavy police contingents have reached the scene.TTP Punjab has claimed the responsibility for the attack, Geo News reported.

Sprint Getting Apple's New iPhone 4G???

All indications are that Apple and AT&T have a loyal and cozy partnership with the iPhone. But sporadic reports suggest a crack in the armor.
The latest is a tech blog that reports a commenter, supposedly a Best Buy employee from Pennsylvania, who said, "Sprint will be carrying the iPhone, beginning in June. They've begun to grease the wheels for advertising."
The commenter then cited rumors that Apple made a deal with AT&T to continue its U.S. iPhone contract in exchange for iPad Wi-Fi coverage with no contract as Apple launched its groundbreaking tablet device.

4G Up and Running
Sprint Nextel is the only carrier that currently has a 4G network up and running, so a compatible iPhone could potentially provide better connectivity and faster data speeds than AT&T currently offers. Published reports said AT&T has blocked employees from taking vacation time in June and the company has quietly confirmed that an iPhone release is imminent.
Apple didn't respond to our request for comment in time for publication, and a spokesperson for Sprint said "we don't comment on rumor and speculation."
According to Information Week, Sprint Chief Financial Officer Robert Brust recently told investors that the company, which didn't have much success with Palm's Pre phones, longs for an iPhone deal. "We'd love to have it," he reportedly said, while acknowledging that it was unlikely to happen soon.
Current Analysis consumer-devices analyst Avi Greengart said any report of a Sprint iPhone is greatly exaggerated. "I think that all these rumors are equally credible," he said cynically.
But analyst Gerry Purdy of MobilTrax said since only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of AT&T users have bought an iPhone, it may be only a matter of time before Apple seeks out other U.S. carriers.
"I think it is in Apple's best interests to have a CDMA offering, whether it is Sprint or Verizon or both," Purdy said.
Acknowledging that Apple may have renegotiated with AT&T to extend their contract because of market dynamics, Purdy said it "seems destined" for Apple to add new carriers because of "billions of dollars of marketing opportunities out there."
Whither the 3G?
Meanwhile, amid reports that Wal-Mart is offering a rock-bottom $97 price for the 16GB iPhone 3GS, Apple has removed the "select" button from the iPhone 3G in the Apple Store, a sign that it is winding down sales of the older device with 4G on the horizon.
"You've seen that happen with prior products when there is significant volume and models change; you want to flush out the inventory through the channel so you don't have the inventory coming back," said Purdy. "In Apple's case, it would mean taking back their own inventory from themselves."

Apple's store sells the 16GB iPhone 3GS for $199.

Obama to visit Gulf, defends oil spill response

President Obama is expected to visit Louisiana on Friday to observe cleanup efforts and speak to local officials about capping the undersea oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.His visit will be the second to the region since the spill occurred on April 20. His visit also comes amid criticism that his administration has been slow in its response to the environmental disaster."I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down," Obama said Thursday at a White House news conference. "That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. That doesn't' mean it's going to happen right away or the way I'd like it to happen. That doesn't mean we aren't going to make mistakes."
Obama insisted that the federal government was fully engaged, adding "and I'm fully engaged."
The president even said his 11-year-old daughter, Malia, weighed in on Thursday.
"You know, when I woke up this morning and I'm shaving, and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, 'Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?'" he said.
New federal estimates Thursday determined the spill is likely the largest in U.S. history, with oil already coating parts of the Louisiana coast and the eventual impacts still unclear.BP announced Thursday that it had suspended its "top-kill" procedure for more than 16 hours before it was restarted later that afternoon.
The "top kill" involves pumping heavy drilling fluid into the head of the leaking well at the sea floor. The manufactured fluid, known as drilling mud, is normally used as a lubricant and counterweight in drilling operations. Officials hope the drilling mud will stop the flow of oil. Cement then would be pumped in to seal the well."When we did the initial pumping (Wednesday), we clearly impacted the flow of the well. We then stopped to monitor the well," said Doug Suttles, the company's chief operating officer. "Based on that, we restarted again. We didn't think we were making enough progress after we restarted, so we stopped again."
"I probably should apologize to folks that we haven't been giving more data on that," Suttles said when asked why it took so long for BP to announce it had suspended the top kill. "It was nothing more than we are so focused on the operation itself."
The revelation that the procedure had gone on a break angered local officials and observers. Neither President Obama or Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is leading the government's response to the oil spill, appeared to be aware of the break when they addressed reporters at separate news conferences Thursday.
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who has been extremely critical of the federal response to the spill, said the delay in information from BP was "par for the course."
"We've been dealing with this from day one, and the information has not flowed on anything," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
A White House official told CNN that people inside the White House knew about the temporary delay in the "top kill," but it wasn't clear if Obama was aware of it.
The official said the president wouldn't micromanage every decision made by BP and government officials working the disaster site. The White House didn't announce the break because it didn't seem to be a major issue -- the operation had continued throughout the delay and the pumping of the liquid resumed later in the afternoon, the official said.
"It would have been a bigger deal if the entire operation stopped -- and they want to make that distinction," CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry reported.
BP officials say the procedure could take another 24 to 48 hours to complete, though whether the top kill will successfully stop the flow of oil is uncertain.
The spill claimed a job in Washington on Thursday as Elizabeth Birnbaum stepped down as head of US Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling. However, two Obama administration sources told CNN that she was fired.