- The Washington Times - Monday, January 25, 2010

PAKISTAN

U.S. drone crashes in Waziristan

PESHAWAR | A suspected U.S. drone crashed in Pakistan’s lawless tribal area near the Afghan border Sunday, a rare mishap for a program Washington has increasingly relied on to kill Taliban and al Qaeda militants, said intelligence officials and a local resident.

Local tribesman in North Waziristan were congratulating each other for shooting down the drone, said resident Saudur Rehman. But the Pakistani army rejected similar claims after a drone crashed in neighboring South Waziristan in 2008, saying it was a technical problem.

The crash occurred around 6 p.m. in the Hamdhoni area of North Waziristan, some 2.5 miles northwest of the main town of Miran Shah, two intelligence officials said.

North Waziristan is dominated by militant groups that stage cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. One of those groups, the Haqqani network, an al-Qaeda-linked Afghan Taliban faction, is thought to have helped orchestrate the Dec. 30 suicide bombing at a remote base in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA employees.

In the roughly three weeks following the attack, suspected U.S. drones carried out 12 missile strikes in North and South Waziristan, an unprecedented volley since the covert CIA-led program began in earnest in Pakistan two years ago.

The militants have responded with a wave of killings targeting people they suspect of helping facilitate the drone strikes, including six Pakistani men whose bodies were found in two different areas of North Waziristan on Monday, with notes attached to the bodies alleging they were U.S. spies.

VENEZUELA

Anti-Chavez channel removed

CARACAS | A cable-television channel critical of President Hugo Chavez was yanked from the air early Sunday for defying new government regulations requiring it to televise some of the socialist leader’s speeches.

Venezuelan cable and satellite TV providers stopped transmitting Radio Caracas Television, an anti-Chavez channel known as RCTV, after it did not broadcast Mr. Chavez’s speech Saturday to a rally of political supporters.

RCTV switched to cable in 2007 after the government refused to renew its license for regular airwaves. Mr. Chavez accused the station of plotting against him and supporting a failed 2002 coup.

The new rules, decried by the opposition, journalism groups and viewers, come as Mr. Chavez is confronting domestic problems — including a recession, soaring inflation and electricity shortages. Though he remains Venezuela’s most popular politician, Mr. Chavez has slipped in the polls and is campaigning against an emboldened opposition to keep control of the National Assembly in September elections.

VENEZUELA

Chavez: Send vaccines, not troops

CARACAS | Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that American relief efforts in Haiti had fallen short and told President Obama to “send vaccinations, kid,” instead of armed soldiers.

The left-wing foe of Washington has accused the United States of using the earthquake in Haiti as a pretext for an “imperial occupation” of the devastated Caribbean nation.

“Obama, send vaccinations, kid, send vaccinations,” Mr. Chavez said during his weekly broadcast. “Each soldier that you send there should carry a medical kit instead of hand grenades and machine guns.”

A contingent of 13,000 U.S. troops is helping relief efforts after the Jan. 12, magnitude-7 quake killed up to 200,000 people and left up to 3 million people hurt or homeless and clamoring for medical assistance, food and water.

Venezuela, the fourth-largest exporter of oil to the United States, has sent shipments of fuel, 5,400 tons of food, 6 tons of medicine, and 19 doctors to help with the recovery efforts, state media reported last week.

IRAN

Group calls unrest rights crisis

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Iran’s postelection unrest is a “full-blown human rights crisis,” a watchdog group said Sunday, calling on Tehran to free government critics detained during the crackdown.

Thousands of peaceful protesters, including students, lawyers and prominent human rights activists have been detained following the June presidential election. That has made Iran’s reaction to political dissent “a human rights disaster,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its annual report on violations and abuses worldwide.

Human Rights deputy Middle East director Joe Stork described the “systematic and brutal targeting” of protesters and government critics by security forces. He said it marked “the worst crackdown” in the Islamic republic in decades, and called on Tehran to release whose who were captured in peaceful protests or otherwise demonstrating their right to free expression.

LIBYA

Pro-reform camp suspend dailies

TRIPOLI | Two Libyan newspapers that are closely linked to the country’s reformist camp said they have been forced to suspend publication, but officials denied that politics was involved.

The newspapers are affiliated to Saif al-Islam, a reform-minded son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi who, analysts say, is competing with a conservative old guard for control over the levers of power in the oil-producing country.

The Al Ghad media company, owner of the Oea and Quryna papers, said it had been under pressure from the state-controlled printing press and from officials unhappy about an article in Oea predicting a government reshuffle.

The company’s board decided to suspend the newspapers but will continue publication of the online editions, a statement posted on Quryna’s Web site said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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