Sabtu, 5 Mac 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates

Leader of Russia's Chechnya gets new 5-year term

Posted: 05 Mar 2011 07:14 AM PST

GROZNY, Russia (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Russia's Chechnya region handed strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov a new five-year term on Saturday, unanimously approving the Kremlin nominee in a vote whose outcome was never in doubt.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's nomination of Kadyrov for a new term earlier this week underscored the Kremlin's reliance on the former rebel who rights activists say rules the volatile region by intimidation and abuse.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (L) listens to Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev in the parliament in Grozny October 19, 2010. Lawmakers in Russia's Chechnya region handed strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov a new five-year term on Saturday. (REUTERS/Stringer/Files)

In power since 2007, Kadyrov will start a new term in April after the unanimous vote in Chechnya's 41-member parliament.

The Kremlin credits Kadyrov with maintaining a shaky peace and rebuilding Chechnya, devastated by two separatist wars since 1994, and relies on him to keep a growing Islamist insurgency across the North Caucasus in check.

But his critics say Kadyrov rules the republic of 1.1 million as a personal fiefdom and directs campaign of violence against his opponents, claims he has repeatedly dismissed as attempts to blacken his name.

"We have built roads, schools, hospitals and homes... We are transforming the republic into one of the best and most prosperous territories not only in the North Caucasus, but in all of Russia," Kadyrov told lawmakers after the vote.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin scrapped popular elections of regional leaders in 2004, during his presidency, moving to strengthen Kremlin control after the Beslan school siege in the North Caucasus, in which 331 people were killed.

Regional leaders are now appointed by the president, subject to approval from local legislatures dominated by Putin's ruling United Russia party.

Analysts say that Kadyrov, 34, is also allowed by the Kremlin to implement his radical vision of Islam, which at times contradicts Russia's secular constitution.

A spate of attacks last year on women for not wearing headscarves on city streets in Chechnya angered women who said being forced to dress a certain way violated their rights.

Assailants who said they were under instructions from spiritual authorities targeted some women with paintball pellets. Kadyrov later said he was grateful to the attackers.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Libyan rebels nurse wounds and vow to fight on

Posted: 05 Mar 2011 06:43 AM PST

AJDABIYAH, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebels watched corpses being brought to a hospital in this eastern town and vowed to avenge their "martyrs". Inside, those wounded pledged on Saturday to return to battle once they had recovered. L Rebels in the east have been galvanised by their latest victory. On Friday they drove Muammar Gaddafi's forces out of the oil town of Ras Lanuf.

Rebels inspect a destroyed weapons dump near Benghazi March 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

They are also counting the cost.

Eight corpses, two of them Gaddafi loyalists, have arrived in Ajdabiyah's main hospital so far. Some were riddled with bullet wounds and huge gashes which fighters said were caused by fire from anti-aircraft guns.

When two bodies reached the hospital late on Friday, men gathered outside the morgue and fired guns in the air, chanting: "There is no God but God. The martyr is beloved of God."

Inside the hospital on Saturday, fighters were unperturbed.

"When I get better, I'll go out again, it's no problem," said Bashir Worshafany, 30, as he lay in bed, recovering from his wounds in the Ras Lanuf battle.

"We stayed and kept up the resistance while aircraft bombed us from above. After that they opened fire on us with heavy guns. I was hit by a machine gun," he said.

Much of eastern Libya fell without much of a fight after protests erupted in mid-February. In some areas such as Benghazi there were clashes, but many of those proved short-lived. Gaddafi's forces swiftly retreated or soldiers deserted to rebels.

But resistance has become stiffer as rebels move west.

Brega, a town with a key oil terminal about 780 km (490 miles) east of Tripoli, was raided by Gaddafi loyalists on Wednesday. It has been bombed since then from the air, as has Ajdabiyah, about 75 km (47 miles) further east of Brega.

Friday's fight for Ras Lanuf, 660 km (410 miles) east of Tripoli, was one of the fiercest yet in the east. Flashes and thuds resounded from fighting in the area.


Up ahead lies the coastal town of Sirte, seen as a Gaddafi stronghold, 450 km (280 miles) from Tripoli. Rebel forces said they were moving up the road towards Sirte and said they would gather at Bin Jawad as a staging post.

Fighter Worshafany is a veteran of the clashes in Benghazi, now the main seat of power of the rebel movement. He also saw action in Brega.

Like others, he said Gaddafi had employed mercenaries to defend Ras Lanuf and used aircraft to attack rebel lines amid a sandstorm on Friday.

"These are war crimes," Worshafany said. "We're fed up with this dictator, really. He's mad, he's hallucinating."

Gaddafi has dismissed reports of protests against his rule, variously blaming armed gangsters or al Qaeda for the problems. He has also said that youths were high on a Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs.

Zeeban Ali, a 34-year-old businessman from Brega, lay in a bed near Worshafany. A hospital worker tended a large wound. Ali said shrapnel cut through his leg and torso after his car was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade near Ras Lanuf.

"There were mercenaries shooting randomly. Anyone they saw, they shot at," he said, also vowing to return to the front.

Outside the hospital morgue, Mohamed Gedraboh, 47, showed visitors a blood-soaked scrap of cardboard and the shattered rear window of his pick-up truck. His friend Hassan was shot dead next to him in the car near Ras Lanuf, he said.

"When we were riding, he told me, 'God willing, I'll die as a martyr today'. That's what you should tell the world," Gedraboh told Reuters.

Several hospital workers said they were volunteers who came from other eastern cities or from abroad to reinforce the staff in Ajdabiyah. Some showed graphic footage of injuries they had taken with cell phone cameras.

"Have you ever seen anything like this man, Gaddafi, before?" said Fawzy, an anesthesiologist, as he smoked a cigarette in a break room on Friday. "He is not a human being, he is something else, unclassified."

(Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Trevelyan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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