Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Somali officials say US struck where al Shabaab were meeting <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>An air strike by US military forces struck an area where leaders of Somalia&#39;s al Qaeda-linked militants were meeting, intelligence sources said on Tuesday, but it was unclear whether any insurgent commanders were killed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The strike prompted rumors among Somali government officials that it had targeted al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and other leaders who were suspected to have been at the location, but there was no confirmation they were hit.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>If he were killed, it would be a major victory against the group.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Since taking charge in 2008, Godane has restyled the group as a global player in the al Qaeda franchise - a transformation that was highlighted when it killed at least 67 people in an attack on a Kenyan shopping mall in September.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The militants have also staged guerrilla attacks in parts of the capital, as well as in neighboring Kenya and Uganda.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Godane&#39;s close associate, Ahmed Mohamed Amey, was killed by a US air strike in January.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>After the Westgate assault, Navy SEALS stormed ashore into the al Shabaab stronghold of Barawe, where a regional official said the air strike was launched against, but failed to capture or kill their target.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The US Department of Defense said late on Monday that its forces had carried out the operation against al Shabaab and would provide more information &quot;when appropriate&quot;. The Somali government and al Shabaab officials could not be immediately reached for comment.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;There was an air strike at a base where senior members of al Shabaab had a meeting last night,&quot; a senior intelligence official who gave his name as Ahmed told Reuters on Tuesday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;So far Godane&#39;s death is a strong rumor that may or may not turn to be true. What we know is that the militants were bombarded. However, it is difficult to know how many of them or who particularly died,&quot; he added.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Abdiqadir Mohamed Sidii, governor of Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, where the strike occurred, some 245 km (150 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, said he believed Godane and other senior al Shabaab members had been killed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We understand a US drone killed Ahmed Abdi Godane and other seven senior members last night near Hawaay area around Barawe town,&quot; Sidii told Reuters by phone.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Sidii did not say how he got the information on the attack, given the location is in an area still under al Shabaab control.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Residents in Haaway said they heard loud explosions late on Monday in an area they described as a densely forested.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Al Shabaab, which aims to impose its own strict version of Islam, controlled Mogadishu and the southern region of Somalia from 2006 to 2011. It was forced out of the capital by peacekeeping forces deployed by the African Union.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>African Union forces launched a new offensive this year to drive the Islamists out of towns and other areas they still control, in response to a surge in gun and bomb attacks in Mogadishu by the militants whose fighters have targeted legislators and the presidential palace.</div> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:23:00 +0000 Reuters 2438267 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/09/02/94/5._al_shabaab_soldiers_sit_outside_a_building_during_patrol_along_the_streets_of_dayniile_district_in_southern_mogadishu_march_5_2012..jpg Hamas popularity surges as Palestinian rivalry flares <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Militant group Hamas would sweep Palestinian elections if they were held today after its support soared during seven weeks of war with Israel in Gaza, an opinion poll published on Tuesday found.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research said the poll showed Islamists clearly leading presidential and parliamentary polls for the first time since Palestinans last voted eight years ago, when Hamas won power in Gaza.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Most Palestinians surveyed said they preferred Hamas&#39;s strategy of armed struggle against Israel rather than peace negotiations, which are favored by Fatah, once the dominant Palestinian political movement and one backed by the West.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The views, collected among over 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, show an unprecedented popular shift towards Hamas as tensions with Fatah boil.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hamas&#39;s former premier Ismail Haniyeh would win 61 percent of votes in a two-way race against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, with the Fatah chief taking just 32 percent of the vote, the survey found.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>More than half (53 percent) of respondents said an armed approach would help gain a Palestinian state, as opposed to 20 percent who said they supported non-violent means.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fatah, a largely secular party that governs from Ramallah in the West Bank, accused Hamas on Saturday of putting hundreds of its supporters in Gaza under house arrest during the war and shooting at those who tried to flee Israeli bombings.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The two parties fought street battles in Gaza in 2007, a year after Hamas won parliamentary polls. The fighting left hundreds dead and hardened animosity between the parties.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There have been no national elections since the split and there are no plans for any despite steps taken in April to forge a unity government, including a consensus on policies.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ensconced in Gaza, Hamas has waged three wars against Israel while Fatah has pursued on-off talks, mediated by the United States, which have so far failed to secure an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hamas&#39;s charter does not recognize Israel and seeks a state in the whole of ancient Palestine, including Israel.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Suspicion between Fatah and Hamas grew earlier this month after Israel&#39;s internal security service said it foiled a Hamas plot to launch a coup in the West Bank. Abbas has called for an investigation, while Hamas denies any plot.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A rare rally by thousands of Hamas supporters in Ramallah on Saturday passed without incident under the watchful eyes of plain-clothes Fatah forces, although the Islamists complained that several of its backers were arrested afterwards.</div> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:08:00 +0000 Reuters 2438264 at sites/default/files/photo/2012/02/24/228/255661-01-02.jpg Pakistan parliament backs embattled prime minister as crisis deepens <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Pakistan&#39;s parliament threw its weight behind embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday as a deepening crisis over violent protests demanding his resignation prompted fears of an army intervention.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Sharif, who enjoys a solid majority in the chamber, convened a joint session of parliament as he seeks to reaffirm that he is fully in control more than two weeks after mass protests seeking to bring down his government erupted in the coup-prone nation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>His office said parliament would be in session all week to allow all members of parliament to express their views. A string of politicians took stand during the first day on Tuesday, most of them expressing their resolute support for Sharif.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;This is not a protest, a sit-in or a political gathering. This is a rebellion. It is a rebellion against state institutions. It is a rebellion against the state of Pakistan,&quot; Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told parliament.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Clear guidance from this parliament would give strength to the police. ... They are not revolutionaries, they are intruders and terrorists,&quot; he said of the protesters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Aitzaz Ahsan from the opposition Pakistan People&#39;s Party said: &quot;As you have said, you will not resign, no one can force you to resign. The entire parliament is with you.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Sharif, wearing traditional Pakistani clothes, made no remarks, taking notes and listening to the speeches. A spokesman said he might speak later in the week after all the lawmakers made their speeches in alphabetical order.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Pakistan has been in turmoil since mid-August when tens of thousands of protesters led by Imran Khan, a former hero cricket player, and outspoken cleric Tahir ul-Qadri flooded into the capital Islamabad, refusing to leave unless Sharif resigns.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The protesters accuse the government of corruption and Sharif of rigging an election last year. He denies that.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The demonstrations turned violent over the weekend as protesters armed with clubs and wearing gas masks to protect themselves against teargas tried to storm Sharif&#39;s residence. At least three people were killed and hundreds wounded.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the capital was quiet on Tuesday, with no reports of violence. As deputies made their impassioned speeches, a crowd of a few thousand protesters massed peacefully just outside in the so-called Red Zone - a central area where Sharif&#39;s office, ministries and many embassies are located.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But, raising the specter of more confrontation, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the government was considering taking action including &quot;selective use of force&quot; and arrests.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The chaotic scenes in the usually orderly capital have unnerved a nation where power has often changed hands though military coups rather than elections, prompting speculation that the military was prepared to intervene again.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Convening the week-long parliamentary session appears to be part of Sharif&#39;s attempts to divert attention from the streets and shift the conflict into the political arena.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Few expect the army to actually seize power this time but many believe it is using the protracted crisis to weaken Sharif and consolidate exclusive control of key security and foreign policy issues such as relations with India and Afghanistan.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Divisions</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Seriously denting Khan&#39;s support among his ranks, the head of his own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said that Khan was effectively acting on the orders of the army, suggesting that the crisis was akin to a soft coup.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Javed Hashmi, Khan&#39;s right-hand man and a veteran politician, has fallen out with his leader and condemned protesters&#39; attempt to storm Sharif&#39;s house over the weekend.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>During his speech in parliament, Hashmi criticized Sharif&#39;s policies but stopped short of calling on him to quit.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;For the last four months, I have been trying to control each and every individual in my party, I could see the situation,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The army has denied it had anything to do with the protesters, saying it was entirely neutral and apolitical, but some in the government have long accused it of orchestrating the demonstrations to destabilize civilian rule.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Sharif, who was ousted in an army coup in 1999 during an earlier stint in office, has been at odds with the army since he swept to power last year in Pakistan&#39;s first democratic transition of power.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He has displeased the top brass by calling for better diplomatic and trade relations with India and Afghanistan as well as resisting the army&#39;s plan to mount an offensive against Islamist Taliban insurgents in Pakistan&#39;s northwest.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The treason trial of a former army chief and president, Pervez Musharraf, who launched the 1999 coup against Sharif, has also angered the military.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Anti-Sharif protests began to simmer in June when several of Qadri&#39;s activists were killed in clashes with police in the city of Lahore.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In Islamabad, its center largely paralyzed by the protests with many streets blocked off and businesses suffering losses, the atmosphere remained tense with police and troops protecting government buildings.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On Monday, hundreds of people storming and ransacked the state television headquarters, prompting the army to step in to clear and secure the building.</div> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:52:00 +0000 Reuters 2438263 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/09/02/94/anti-government_protesters_cheer_after_they_remove_a_container_barricade_during_the_revolution_march_in_islamabad_september_2_2014..jpg UN: At least half a million displaced by Ukraine conflict <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1409655817926_1347">Fighting in Ukraine has forced over half a million people to flee their homes, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday, warning that the spiralling crisis could &quot;destabilize the whole region&quot;.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1409655817926_1349">At least 260,000 have been displaced within Ukraine, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said, adding that Moscow has reported that another 260,000 people have sought asylum in Russia.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1409655817926_1351">Those numbers were meanwhile believed to be an underestimate, he said, pointing out that &quot;many are staying with families and friends and choose not to register with the authorities.&quot;</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1409655817926_1353">On August 20, UNHCR put the number of people displaced inside Ukraine at 190,000, while Moscow said some 197,400 had fled to Russia.</p><p>UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres warned of dire consequences if the spiralling crisis in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 2,600 people since mid-April, is allowed to continue.</p><p>&quot;If this crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences, but it also has the potential to destabilise the whole region,&quot; he said in a statement.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1409655817926_1370">&quot;After the lessons of the Balkans, it is hard to believe a conflict of these proportions could unfold on the European continent,&quot; he added.</p> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:14:00 +0000 AFP 2438260 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/01/21/484151/ban_ki-moon.jpg