Heavy Fighting in Khyber Agency, Pakistan
More than 100 Taliban fighters have been killed in heavy fighting with the Pakistani army around the Tirah Valley of Northwest Pakistan. Twenty-three members of the Pakistani army have been killed since the battle started four days ago. The Pakistani military began the offensive move to gain control of the Tirah Valley in order secure the nearby city of Peshawar, but the group has been unable to dislodge the Taliban or Talibani allies Lashkar-e-Islam from the area. According to a senior military official, “the valley has not been cleared of the militants yet even though jet fighters and helicopter gunships pounded their positions.” He also suggested that the militants may have fled into nearby semi-autonomous tribal regions near the Afghan border in order to avoid capture or destruction. Together, about 200,000 Taliban and Lashar-e-Islam members are located in Khyber, Pakistan, and both groups are dedicated to the overthrow of the Pakistani government.
North Korea Asks Foreigners to Leave South Korea
The North Korean government has officially requested that all foreigners leave the Korean Peninsula, as they might be caught in “a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war”. In a statement issued today on the North Korean official news station, the government asked that “all foreign institutions and enterprises and foreigners, including tourists… are requested to take measures for shelter and evacuation in advance for their safety.” A spokesperson for the South Korean government commented, “we understand that not only South Koreans, but also foreigners residing here remain unfazed as they have great trust and confidence in our military and the Republic of Korea.” The Japanese government, however, has begun to take precautions. By order of defense minister Itsunori Onodera, antimissile batteries have been deployed to shoot down any North Korean missiles that threaten to hit Japanese territory. North Korea has violated Japanese airspace several times with its missile tests in the past.
Iran Restarts Uranium Mining Programs
Today Iran announced it would mark its annual National Nuclear Technology Day by opening two uranium mines. In a televised statement, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said that while Western governments have “tried their utmost to prevent Iran from going nuclear, Iran has gone nuclear.” IRNA, the state news agency, said Iran has opened the Saghand 1 and 2 mines in the central province of Yazd as well as a uranium yellowcake plant in the nearby town of Ardakan. Yellowcake is processed into enriched uranium, which can be used as a fuel for power plants or as a component of nuclear weapons. Iranian atomic energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said, “we have started the design of a 10-megawatt reactor and the process for determining the location is under way.” He hopes to begin construction this year. These announcements come after diplomats from the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the so-called P5+1, failed to convince Iranian diplomats to suspend their nuclear ambitions during a meeting in Kazakhstan last week. Iran has been the subject of significant economic and political sanctions for a decade but has thus far been determined to join the world’s nuclear powers.
Serbian Man Kills 13
A 60-year-old Serbian man shot and killed 13 people today, about 50km outside of Belgrade. Among the victims were his adult son, his mother, and several neighbors. No motive is known for the killings and the shooter has no history of mental illness. The gunman Ljubisa Bogdanovic, a veteran of the Balkan wars, attempted to kill himself and his wife but was unsuccessful. He is being treated in a secure hospital in Belgrade. The Serbian government met at an emergency session after the news came to light and will declare a day of mourning. The Serbian prime minister Ivica Dacic expects to focus on gun control laws in the coming days. Personal gun ownership is widely enjoyed in Serbia, but this is the first mass murder since 2007.