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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Egyptian Army Chief Threatens to Intervene in Country’s Political Crisis

The chief of the Egyptian armed forces has taken to Facebook to warn that the country’s current political crisis “could lead to a collapse of the state”. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s comments, originally made to students at a military academy and later published on the social network, follow a large military deployment at three cities in the region of the Suez Canal where a state of emergency was declared and can be read as a signal that the armed forces are eager to once again intervene in the country’s government. The country has been gripped by a series of protests in the last five days where 52 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured in clashes against the government of President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt has been ruled by army officers for the better part of its history as a republic. General al-Sisi also said that a potential collapse of the state could “threaten future generations”. When asked by a Guardian correspondent if he feared a military intervention in case of more unrest, a spokesman for the government’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood party, Gehad al-Haddad, said that he knew “enough about the way President Morsi removed General Tantawi to not be worried”. General Tantawi, the previous head of the armed forces, was removed from his post by President Morsi last August.

U.K. Pledges 330 Military Personnel to Support French Forces in Mali

The U.K. government has revealed that it will deploy approximately 300 military personnel to Mali in support of French forces already fighting Islamist insurgents in the region. U.K. Defence Secretary outlined the plans in Parliament and said that “it is not our intention to deploy combat troops. We are very clear about the risks of mission creep. We have defined very carefully the support that we are willing to provide to the French and the Malian authorities.” U.K. shadow defense secretary Jim Murphy replied that the government should indeed be concerned about mission creep, given that the country’s involvement had begun with two transport aircraft and was now growing “to the deployment of perhaps hundreds of troops to the region”. Speaking to the BBC, military analyst Col Mike Dewar said that this initial U.K. support was short-term, but that it constituted a part of a “much more long-term plan”, that it could take years for British troops to make a difference in rebuilding the “ill-trained” Malian army.

Dozens of Bodies Found Strewn in Aleppo

A video uploaded to YouTube by Syrian activists shows the bodies of at least 65 men, all apparently executed on the banks of the Quwaiq river in the western district of Bustan al-Qasr, near the city of Aleppo. The bodies were caked in mud and showed signs of rigor mortis, while some showed signs of blood having poured from their heads. A captain in the rebel Free Syrian Army said some of those executed were teenagers and that he expected the death toll to climb once more bodies were recovered from the river. The AFP news agency also reported that people were gathering at the riverbank to see if they could find missing relatives. “My brother disappeared weeks ago when he was crossing the regime-held zone and we don’t know where he is or what has become of him”, said Mohammed Abdul Aziz. The BBC’s correspondent in Beirut, Jim Muir, reports that the district of Bustan al-Qasr has been hotly contested since fighting erupted in Aleppo last July.

South Africa Police Tracked and Shot Fleeing Miners

New footage uncovered by British television station Channel 4 has sparked new controversy over the activity of South African police officers during a strike at a local platinum mine last August. Thirty-four miners were killed by police officers during protests where union workers asked for a pay rise at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. The mobile phone footage broadcast by Channel 4, already reviewed by members of a commission investigating the killings, shows police officers running after fleeing miners and shooting at least one of them dead. In the video, one of the officers can he heard calling for restraint, “the guy there is running, wait, don’t shoot him, don’t shoot him”. Moments later gunshots are heard and the camera shows a dead body, with another officer saying “that motherfucker, I shot him at least 10 times”. South African police has always claimed to have acted with restraint and in self-defense during the strikes. The government’s inquiry was initially scheduled to conclude its work this month, but has asked for more time and should end proceedings by midyear.

Iraqis Seek Public Enquiry Over British Acts of Brutality During the Occupation

Lawyers representing nearly 200 Iraqis have entered the High Court on Tuesday to allege that British troops committed “terrifying acts of brutality” while in Iraq and were guilty of killing civilians during their presence in the country from 2003 to 2009. An 82-page document handed to two judges stated that women, the elderly and children were among the victims of indiscriminate violence following the invasion of Iraq. “Enough is enough. There must be a public inquiry in relation to the credible and prima facie cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the British military in Iraq from 2003-09″, said Michael Fordham QC, appearing for the victims. A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokeswoman countered that “the MoD takes all allegations of abuse seriously which is precisely why we set up the Iraq Historic Allegations Team to ensure that all allegations are, or have been, investigated appropriately. We await the conclusions of the ongoing IHAT investigations and inquiries and will respond to all of their recommendations in due course”.

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