Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Saudi Arabia's Shi'ites fear they are at mercy of region's tumult <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>The Shi&rsquo;ite Muslim minority in Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s Eastern Province have long felt marginalised by the Sunni ruling dynasty, and protests for greater rights as part of the 2011 Arab Spring brought a crackdown on both protesters and demands for reform.</p><p>But now, death sentences for three Shi&#39;ite Muslims including a prominent dissident cleric suggest that the region&rsquo;s wider turmoil is further hardening attitudes toward the sect at home.</p><p>The news has not triggered the sort of clashes that left three people dead after the arrest of the cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, in 2012, but it did lead to consecutive nights of protests for the first time in months.</p><p>It also prompted a warning from Iran,&nbsp;the regional Shi&#39;ite power that Riyadh accuses of fomenting unrest among its Shi&#39;ites, and that is vying with Saudi Arabia&#39;s Sunni rulers for influence in conflicts raging from Lebanon to Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain and, most acutely, Syria.</p><p>&quot;There is nothing formal, but when they are angry about Iran, their doubts over Shi&#39;ites increase, and sectarian sentiments rise as well. It certainly affects policy making and behaviour,&quot; said Tawfiq al-Seif, a Shi&#39;ite community leader in Qatif, one of the two main centres of the sect in Saudi Arabia, along with al-Ahsa.</p><p>Saudi Shi&#39;ites, long regarded by the kingdom&#39;s official Wahhabi Sunni school as heretics, have for decades been tarred by many compatriots as more loyal to their coreligionists across the Gulf than to the Saudi ruling dynasty.</p><p>Protests in Qatif in 2011 and 2012 were dismissed by the government as instigated by a &lsquo;foreign power&rsquo;, code for Iran, and Nimr was accused of serving Iranian interests.</p><p>The demonstrators and Iran both denied the accusation. But the encouragement of such protests by Iranian media, and comments such as one last week by a general in Iran&rsquo;s Basij militia that Nimr&rsquo;s execution would make the world into &quot;a hell&quot; for the dynasty, do nothing to allay Saudi fears that Iran is fomenting Shi&rsquo;ite unrest not only in Saudi Arabia but also in Yemen and Bahrain.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:24:00 +0000 Reuters 2439169 at sites/default/files/photo/2013/07/13/5886/shiites.jpg Police: Canada Parliament gunman had planned to travel to Syria <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>The gunman in Wednesday&#39;s attack on Canada&#39;s capital had a criminal record and recently applied for a passport, planning to travel to Syria&nbsp;after undergoing a &quot;radicalization process,&quot; police said on Thursday.</p><p>Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, was a Canadian who may also have held Libyan&nbsp;citizenship, said Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). He said the suspect had no apparent links to another Canadian who killed a soldier in Quebec earlier in the week.</p><p>Zehaf-Bibeau fatally shot a soldier at a national war memorial in the capital Ottawa on Wednesday before racing through the parliament building where he was shot dead near where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was meeting with lawmakers.</p><p>Born in Montreal to a father from Libya and a Canadian mother, Zehaf-Bibeau had gone on to live in Calgary and Vancouver, police said.</p><p>&quot;We need to investigate and understand his radicalisation process. He is an interesting individual in that he had a very well developed criminality,&quot; Paulson said. &quot;There is no one path or one formula to radicalisation.&quot;</p><p>The RCMP had only learned of the suspect&#39;s interest in travelling to Syria&nbsp;when it interviewed his mother on Wednesday, the commissioner said.</p><p>US officials said on Wednesday they had been advised Zehaf-Bibeau was a convert to Islam, the same as the assailant in Monday&#39;s attack, Martin Rouleau, 25, who ran over two Canadian soldiers with his car. Both attackers were shot dead.</p><p>&quot;We have no information linking the two attacks this week,&quot; Paulson told reporters in Ottawa, which remained on high security alert. He said police expected to swiftly determine whether Zehaf-Bibeau received support in planning his attack.</p><p>Zehaf-Bibeau had recently applied for a passport and had arrived in Ottawa on 2 Oct to try to speed that process, but checks by the RCMP did not turn up any evidence of national security-related criminality despite criminal records indicating infractions related to drugs, violence and other criminal activities, Paulson said.</p><p><strong>Questions about Email</strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">The commissioner said Zehaf-Bibeau&#39;s email was found in the hard drive of someone charged with what he called a terrorist-related offence.</span></p><p>&quot;We need to understand what that means and so when we say &#39;a connection&#39; it is a sort of, you know, the weakest of connections. Clearly given what&#39;s happened it&#39;s strengthened by what&#39;s happened,&quot; Paulson said.</p><p>Zehaf-Bibeau was not one of a group of 93 people the RCMP are investigating as &quot;high-risk travellers,&quot; he added.</p><p>Underscoring tensions on Thursday, armed police arrested a man who tried to approach the shooting site just as Harper, the prime minister, was laying a wreath to commemorate the slain soldier.</p><p>Harper said the attack would only strengthen Canada&#39;s response to &quot;terrorist organizations.&quot;</p><p>On Tuesday, Canada sent six warplanes to the Middle East to participate in US-led air strikes against Islamic State militants who have taken over parts of Iraq.&nbsp;</p><p>Harper pledged to speed up a plan already under way to bolster Canadian laws and police powers in the areas of &quot;surveillance, detention and arrest.&quot;</p><p>The attacks prompted US officials to consider steps to tighten controls on the border with Canada and make it easier to revoke the passports of suspected militants, but officials cautioned the talks are in preliminary stages.</p><p><strong>Mother&#39;s Apology</strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">A woman who identified herself as the suspect&#39;s mother issued a statement earlier on Thursday apologizing for her son&#39;s apparent actions.</span></p><p>&quot;No words can express the sadness we are feeling at this time,&quot; said the woman, Susan Bibeau, in a statement provided to the Associated Press. &quot;We send our deepest condolences.&quot;</p><p>Zehaf-Bibeau stayed at a homeless shelter in a downtrodden part of Ottawa for at least a week before the attack, multiple people at the site said on Thursday.</p><p>A friend, Steve Sikich, who had lived with Zehaf-Bibeau at a Vancouver homeless shelter said Zehaf-Bibeau had rambled about wanting to travel to Libya and join the Islamic State. &quot;He didn&#39;t seem like a bad guy,&quot; Sikich said.</p><p>Police have interviewed some of the people who were at the Ottawa shelter but none of the people with whom they spoke said they had any knowledge of his plans.</p><p>Tighter security was evident all over the sprawling parliamentary zone in downtown Ottawa.</p><p>The flag flying over Parliament&#39;s Centre Block, where the gunman had burst in on Wednesday morning, was at half mast and bullet holes could be seen in the carpet just inside the front door and in the masonry in the hallway.</p><p>As police hunted for Zehaf-Bibeau in the parliament building, Harper spent a few terrifying moments hiding in a closet-like space in the building, listening to a barrage of gunshots that one member of parliament thought was machine gun fire, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.</p><p>&quot;Because we heard so many gunshots, the impression I had was there were several gunman outside with machine guns about to enter and spray the caucus,&quot; the paper quoted Jay Aspin, a member of parliament who was present, as saying. &quot;It was pretty traumatic.&quot;</p> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:10:00 +0000 Reuters 2439168 at sites/default/files/photo/2012/04/23/26837/handgun.jpg US: Ground offensive against Islamic State months away in Iraq <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Iraqi forces are months away from being able to start waging any kind of sustained ground offensive against the Islamic State and any similar effort in Syria will take longer, officials at the US military&#39;s Central Command said on Thursday.</p><p>In Iraq, the timing will depend on a host of factors, some out of the military&#39;s control - from Iraqi politics to the weather. Iraqi forces also must be trained, armed and ready before major advances, like one to retake the city of Mosul, which fell to the Islamic State in June.&quot;It&#39;s not imminent. But we don&#39;t see that that&#39;s a years-long effort to get them to a place to where they can be able to go on a sustained counter-offensive,&quot; a military official said, instead describing it as a &quot;months-long&quot; endeavor.</p><p>The officials, briefing a group of reporters, said the priority in Iraq was halting the Islamic State&#39;s advance but acknowledged Iraq&#39;s western Anbar province was contested, despite US-led air strikes.</p><p>Iraq&#39;s main military divisions in Anbar - the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and twelfth &ndash; have been badly damaged. At least 6,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed through June and double that number have deserted, say medical and diplomatic sources.</p><p>Asked about whether US military advisers in Iraq might head to Anbar, the first official acknowledged discussions were underway broadly about efforts to enable the Iraqis &quot;as far forward as we can&quot; but did not disclose details. The official said talks were also underway with coalition partners about where their advisers might be placed.</p><p>Anbar&#39;s dominant Sunni population resented former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki&#39;s Shi&#39;ite majority government but the officials saw positive signs among tribes since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in this September.</p><p>Still, the official cautioned Abadi&#39;s government must still prove itself and added that the US military would not &quot;squander our credibility&quot; by vouching for it now. Instead, it is limiting itself brokering talks between the government and tribes.</p><p>&quot;Until the Abadi government can get on its feet and kind of deliver some small successes, I don&#39;t think, I don&#39;t think we&#39;re in a position to make any promises on behalf of that government,&quot; the official said.</p><p>As the officials outlined a long-term battle in Iraq, they portrayed a longer-term effort in Syria.</p><p>Much of the timing in Syria is wrapped up in a planned training mission for US-backed forces whose first goal, one official said, would be defensive - to ensure more towns do not fall.</p><p>&quot;We&rsquo;re trying to train them initially to be able to defend their towns and villages,&quot; the first official said.</p><p>But training fighters to be able to challenge the Islamic State offensively requires a greater degree of instruction, and it will take longer to get enough fighters ready.</p><p>It might take a year to 18 months &quot;to be able to see an effect on the battlefield,&quot; the official said.</p> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 07:33:00 +0000 Reuters 2439167 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/06/20/484151/volunteer_fighters.jpeg Bangladesh Islamist leader convicted of war crimes dies <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>A Bangladeshi Islamist party leader serving 90 years in prison for crimes during Bangladesh&#39;s 1971 war of independence has died, a doctor said.</p><p>Ghulam Azam, 92, a former leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party suffered cardiac failure, doctor Abdul Mazid Bhuiyan told media shortly before midnight on Thursday.</p><p>Azam&#39;s supporters reacted violently to the sentencing of him and others by a war crimes tribunal that critics say is politically motivated. Protests over his death were not expected though security was tightened at the hospital where he died.</p><p>Azam was sentenced in July last year to 90 years in prison for crimes against humanity during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.</p><p>Critics say Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has used the tribunal to target Jamaat and weaken the opposition. Human rights groups say tribunal&#39;s procedures fall short of international standards.</p><p>Azam had filed an appeal against his conviction and the Supreme Court was due to consider it on 2 Dec.</p> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 07:27:00 +0000 Reuters 2439166 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/01/04/39/bangladesh.jpg