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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drone Strike Kills Pakistani Taliban Leader

Waliur Rehman, the second-in-command of the Pakistani Taliban, is suspected to have been killed in a drone strike early this morning. The Pakistani Taliban has not yet issued a statement on his death, but sources within the Taliban, as well as local Pakistani Police, have confirmed that Rehman was among the seven killed when missiles hit a house outside of Miranshah in North Waziristan, Pakistan. The town of Miranshah, located just 10 miles (17km) from the Afghan border, has been a hot bed of Taliban activity and is the target of regular drone strikes. Today’s strike, the first in nearly six weeks, comes days after U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech suggesting the U.S. drone program would be subject to higher scrutiny and more strict targeting rules. And while the Pakistani government had at one time tacitly encouraged U.S. drone strikes on militants, the current government has denounced the strikes. This morning Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, while not commenting on this specific strike, said, “The government has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.”

U.N. Court Convicts Six Bosnian Croats of Ethic Cleansing

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has convicted six Bosnian Croat leaders of persecuting, expelling, and murdering Muslims during the Yugoslav Wars. The court, which just passed its 20th year, also found that late-Croat President Franjo Tudjman was a key member of a plan to create a Croat mini-state in Bosnia, with the aim of later uniting it with his country to create a greater Croatia, or leaving it as a separate independent state. Tudjman died in 1999 and was never charged with crimes committed during the Balkan wars. The court’s lengthy ruling found that Croat leaders in Bosnia and Croatia engaged in ethnic cleansing once Tudjman and others found “it was necessary to modify the ethnic composition of the territories” in order to create their new Croat nation. The ruling also laid specific blame for the destruction of the Mostar Bridge on Bosnian Croat armed forces, saying that while the bridge was a viable military target, “its destruction constituted disproportionate damage for the Muslim civilian population of Mostar.” Croatia’s prime minister, Zoran Milanovic, disagreed with today’s ICTY ruling, saying it “does not correspond with the truth.” Milanovic maintains that Croatia was a co-victim of Serbian aggression during the war. “Croatia made some mistakes in Bosnia, but it was also a partner and helped a lot.” The ICTY, which was formed in 1993, has indicted 161 people; 94 Serbs, 29 Croats, and nine Bosnians. Two dozen cases are ongoing. The tribunal is set to finish by 2016.

ACLU Sues Arizona Over Abortion Law

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona sued the state of Arizona today over a 2011 law banning abortions based on the race or sex of a fetus. Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro says the law was designed to prevent discrimination. “This has to do with protecting the dignity of life and not allowing abortions to be performed based on the sex of the baby or the race of the baby.” But Miriam Yeung, director of National Asian Pacific American Women Forum (NAPAWF), who worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the ACLU to file the lawsuit, says the “law is cloaked in the language of civil rights and equality for women, but it is clearly a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Rather than lifting the status of women, this law is nothing more than another hypocritical attempt to ban abortions in this country.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks U.S. abortion laws, Arizona is the only state in the U.S. that bans race-based abortions.

U.S. Soldier to Plead Guilty to 16 Murders

Staff Sargent Robert Bales’ attorney has indicated that that he will plead guilty to the 2012 murder of 16 Afghan villagers, in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Bales allegedly snuck away from his post in Camp Belambay at 3am on March 11th last year. Dressed in traditional Afghan clothing, he entered two nearby Afghan villages and killed 16 people—lighting several corpses on fire. The staff sergeant was serving his fourth tour in a combat zone and had been drinking alcohol, snorting Valium, and taking steroids before the attack. Protests over the attack were so massive that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan. News of the plea deal in Afghanistan was met with rage and consternation. Said Jan, whose wife was murdered along with many of his relatives, was polemical, “A prison sentence doesn’t mean anything. I know we have no power now. But I will become stronger, and if he does not hang, I will have my revenge.” The U.S. military justice system has not executed a soldier in more than 50 years.

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