- - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

EGYPT

Ex-spy chief testifies in Mubarak trial

CAIRO — One of the most secretive figures of Hosni Mubarak’s inner circle testified Tuesday at the ousted leader’s trial under a complete media blackout, facing questions over whether his former boss ordered the use of lethal force against protesters.

Omar Suleiman, who was Mr. Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief and was named vice president during the last weeks of his rule, is the first in a string of members of the ousted leader’s senior leadership to appear in the court.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s current military ruler, who was Mr. Mubarak’s defense minister, was due to testify on Sunday but failed to appear.

It is unprecedented for a court in Egypt to summon such high-level figures - particularly authorities from the highly secretive military and intelligence services.

The judge closed the court for the testimonies, barring anyone from attending except lawyers. Not only are journalists forbidden to attend, they are not allowed to report anything on the testimony or even quote lawyers who attended the session.

The session lasted nearly four hours.

The 83-year-old Mr. Mubarak, his former interior minister and six senior police officers face charges of complicity in the deaths of the protesters during the 18-day uprising that led to Mubarak’s Feb. 11 ouster. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

More than 850 protesters were killed by police and security forces.

Mr. Suleiman, 74, was Mr. Mubarak’s point man in dealing with the protesters.

SYRIA

Regime troops raid neighborhoods near capital

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces riding in vehicles mounted with machine guns raided neighborhoods outside the capital, Damascus, before dawn Tuesday as Turkey’s prime minister said he was concerned Syria could descend into a sectarian civil war.

Tuesday’s raids were the latest assault on dissent in Syria as the regime tries to crush an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule using deadly force that the U.N. estimates has killed 2,600 since March. But the protesters have refused to give in, setting the stage for a drawn-out stalemate.

“I fear that matters will end in civil war between the Alawites and the Sunnis,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk in Tuesday’s edition.

Civil war is perhaps the most dire scenario facing Syria, a fragile jigsaw puzzle of Middle Eastern backgrounds. Syria’s ruling elite belong to the minority Alawite sect, although the country of 22 million is mostly Sunni Muslim.

Mr. Erdogan addressed the Arab League in Cairo later Tuesday, telling Arab foreign ministers that the legitimate demands of the people in the region should not be repressed by force.

LIBYA

NATO airstrikes pound pro-Gadhafi targets

TRIPOLI — NATO warplanes pounded targets in several strongholds of support for fugitive dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the alliance said Tuesday, as an offensive by revolutionary forces on a key loyalist town stalled.

The military alliance said that airstrikes struck one radar system, eight surface-to-air missile systems, five surface-to-air missile trailers, one armed vehicle and two command vehicles Monday near Col. Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast.

NATO, which has played a crucial role in crippling Col. Gadhafi’s military capabilities over the seven-month Libyan civil war, said it struck six tanks and two armored fighting vehicles in Sabha in the southern desert.

Those two cities, along with Bani Walid, southeast of the capital, are the primary bastions of Gadhafi loyalists remaining in the country more than three weeks after revolutionary forces captured Tripoli on Aug. 21, effectively bringing an end to Col. Gadhafi’s nearly 42-year rule.

In a brief message read Monday on Syria’s Al-Rai TV, the ousted dictator, whose whereabouts are unknown, urged his followers to keep fighting.

YEMEN

U.N. cites government in Yemeni deaths

GENEVA — Hundreds have died and thousands more have been injured in violence in Yemen, a team of U.N. officials said Tuesday, pointing to allegations against government security forces of killing civilians, random detention and torture.

Officials from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded in an on-the-ground assessment that many Yemenis peacefully demonstrated for greater freedom but were “met with excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by the state.”

The report calls for an independent investigation into human rights abuses.

The Tunisian revolution in January inspired mass protests demanding that longtime Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh step aside.

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