Khamis, 20 Januari 2011

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The Malaysian Insider :: World


Tunisia observes three-day mourning period

Posted: 20 Jan 2011 06:32 PM PST

At least 78 people have been killed since the start of Tunisia's uprising. – Reuters file pic

TUNIS, Jan 21 – Tunisia observes three days of national mourning from today for the dozens of people killed during protests before and after the ouster of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, state television said.

In a statement released after a cabinet meeting yesterday, the government said schools and universities, closed since last week, would reopen on Monday.

Mohamed Aloulou, minister for youth and sport, told reporters after the cabinet meeting that sporting events, also on hold since last week, would resume "very soon".

At least 78 people have been killed since the start of Tunisia's uprising and the unrest has cost 3 billion dinars (RM6.4 billion) in damages and lost business, Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa told state TV this week.

The new government, faced with violent street protests for retaining members of the deposed president's cabinet, offered a blanket amnesty to all political groups, including the banned Islamist opposition.

The pledge was issued at the ruling coalition's first cabinet meeting yesterday. Protesters have complained that despite a promised amnesty, only a few hundred of those imprisoned for political reasons during Ben Ali's 23-year rule had been released.

"We are in agreement for a general amnesty," said Higher Education Minister Ahmed Ibrahim, an opposition party leader who joined the coalition after Ben Ali's removal.

The announcement followed another day of protests, with police firing shots into the air to try to disperse hundreds of demonstrators demanding that ministers associated with the rule of Ben Ali leave the government.

The protesters, who gathered outside the Tunis headquarters of the RCD, Tunisia's ruling party for several decades, refused to move back when police fired shots from behind a metal fence.

Protests also took place in other towns.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday after weeks of unrest spurred by anger over poverty, unemployment and repression. The first popular revolt in generations to topple an Arab leader has sent shockwaves through the Arab world.

OFFICIALS QUIT PARTY

The prime minister and caretaker president are both veteran former RCD members who quit the party this week. Protesters have kept up pressure for a government free of ties with Ben Ali and the old guard.

Other ministers in the interim government have resigned from the RCD in a bid to restore credibility after four opposition ministers quit the cabinet in protest.

Shooting and looting have declined in recent days but a resident in the Mouroudj neighbourhood, 5km from Tunis city centre, said police and the military intervened on Wednesday night after gunmen began shooting.

Helicopters flew overhead and security forces told people to stay indoors, the resident said.

With police lacking public credibility after playing a role in cracking down on unrest before Ben Ali's departure, the interim government is dependent on the army to maintain order.

Authorities say they have seized some assets from Ben Ali's family. State TV said a bank owned by Ben Ali's son-in-law had been placed under the control of the central bank.

The central bank yesterday moved to reassure international creditors, saying it held enough foreign currency reserves to meet financial and commercial obligations.

It said it held 12.6 billion dinars in reserves, enough to cover 143 days of import needs. – Reuters

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119 arrested in biggest Mafia bust

Posted: 20 Jan 2011 05:57 PM PST

Observers say the arrests are mostly of older mobsters for crimes committed a long time ago. – Reuters pic

NEW YORK, Jan 20 – Authorities arrested 119 organised crime suspects yesterday in what the FBI called the largest single-day operation against the Mafia in history.

The roundup, conducted with the help of former mobsters turned informants, shows the Mafia remains a threat despite decades of crackdowns that have sent its hierarchies to prison but also that the famed "omerta" code of silence is largely a myth, officials said.

More than 800 federal and local law-enforcement officials detained suspects in at least four states plus one in Italy, targeting New York's five Mafia "families," one in New Jersey and one in New England.

Sixteen grand jury indictments charged 127 suspects with murder, drug trafficking, extortion, gambling, loan-sharking and other crimes going back 30 years, US Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference in New York.

Five of those indicted were already in prison, putting the total number detained at 124, and three others were not in custody, the Justice Department said.

The Italian-American Mafia, also known as La Cosa Nostra with its roots in Sicily, maintains a hold on American popular culture thanks to decades of movies and television shows including "The Godfather" in 1972.

Some of the suspects were known by colourful nicknames typical of the Mafia such as "Tony Bagels," "Vinny Carwash" and "Junior Lollipops," according to the indictments.

But Holder called them "among the most dangerous criminals in our country."

"Some allegations involve classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals. Others involve senseless murders. In one instance, a victim allegedly was shot and killed during a botched robbery attempt. And two other murder victims allegedly were shot dead in a public bar because of a dispute over a spilled drink," Holder said.

The FBI said it worked with the Italian National Police to apprehend and charge one suspect in Italy.

STRENGTH OF MOB DISPUTED

Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Division, sought to dispel the notion that the Mafia had been debilitated or was less violent than in the past.

"Arresting and convicting the hierarchies of the five families several times over has not eradicated the problem," Fedarcyk said.

New York-based criminal defense attorney Bruce Barket disputed that claim, saying much of the strength of La Cosa Nostra was eliminated long ago and has been replaced by others such as Albanian and Russian organisations.

"Privately, law enforcement officials will tell you there isn't anybody left," Barket said. "Many of today's arrests are of older mobsters for crimes committed a long time ago."

Among those charged in New York were leaders of the Colombo and Gambino families including the Colombo street boss Andrew Russo, 76, acting underboss Benjamin Castellazzo, 73, and consigliere Richard Fusco, 74, authorities said.

Two of the Gambinos charged included consigliere Joseph Corozzo, 69, and ruling panel member Bartolomeo Vernace, 61. New England boss Luigi Manocchio, 83, was also arrested.

Howard Abadinsky, an organized crime expert from St. John's University in New York, said the sweep would likely only have a short-term effect.

"There are definitely dangerous people that have been taken off the streets," Abadinsky said. "But the sweeps provide an opportunity for the up-and-comers that have been toiling in the trenches to move up." – Reuters

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