The ‘Package Plot’ – From Yemen without Love

San'a View of the City

San'a View of the City

If you’ve followed the story of the bombs sent in packages from Yemen to the United States, you can’t help but wonder about a few things.

David Cameron says according to the BBC:

Home Secretary Theresa May has confirmed that a device sent from Yemen and found on a US-bound cargo plane was a bomb.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he believed the device was designed to explode on board the aircraft.

Obviously, the didn’t explode or were intercepted before they could, but if that is forensically secured knowledge, why then were they addressed to Jewish synagogues in Chicago and why are some still saying the synagogues were the target? As the New York Times does today, for example:

CHICAGO — Even to a block that is arguably one of the safest and most secure in the country, the news that two parcels containing explosives were shipped from Yemen and addressed to synagogues or Jewish community centers in the city gave some residents pause on Saturday.


Reports that Chicago-area synagogues or Jewish community centers were likely targets of a terrorist attack and the return of President Obama to his hometown this weekend brought attention to the city’s security.

You can’t have it both ways. The bombs either were designed to explode on the planes, or were targeted at the Jewish synagogues they were addressed to, but it can’t be both.

There is more that doesn’t add up – at least not yet. In the Berner Zeitung, a Swiss newspaper, we read today:

A human rights organisation in Yemen doesn’t believe that the young woman detained in relation with the packets containing explosives and addressed to the United States have anything to do with it. He didn’t believe in the official version, according to which the accused had left here mobile number on the packet slips, Abdel Rahmane of the organisation Hood told APF on Sunday.  “We know for sure that al-Qaeda never leaves traces”.


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Bahrain Government Crackdown on Opposition

Map of Bahrain

Map of Bahrain (Google)

The men will face trial on October 28 on the charge of “spreading false information and forming an illegal group,” said Prosecutor General Abdul-Rahman al-Sayed on Wednesday.
The Shia activists could face sentences as harsh as life imprisonment if convicted.
Bahrain’s Sunni-dominated government has intensified its crackdown on the country’s majority Shia population, arresting dozens of opposition figures on the allegation of planning to topple the Bahraini government.
Amnesty International says more than 250 people, believed to be in detention, are at the risk of being tortured.
A little background about Bahrain is in order. The Kingdom of Bahrain is situated on a relatively small island – actually several islands – of 750 sq km situated in the Persian Gulf close to Saudi Arabia and  Qatar. It’s capital is Al-Manamah, which holds an U.S. Naval Base. Bahrain has a population of some estimated 730’000 among which are 235’000 non-nationals (Source: CIA Factbook, Wikipedia has slightly different numbers). Ninety-nine percent of the population is Muslim, of which some estimated 80% are Shi’ites.
Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy ruled by the Al-Khalifa family whose members are Sunni Muslims. In 2001 it was hoped that there would be a “dawn of democracy” in Bahrain, but as the Bahrain Center for Human Rights wrote in 2006, it was a false dawn for Shia Muslims:
Bahrain had its “dawn of democracy” in 2001, several years before Washington looked hopefully for a thaw across the Arab world. But for the Shia who make up about two-thirds of the island’s 470,000 native population, it has proved false.
Rather than hastening change, the empowerment of Iraq’s Shia majority and muscular assertion of Iran’s influence in the region have made Bahrain’s ruling Sunni minority more cautious.
After inheriting power in 1999, King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s Sunni ruler, released political prisoners and welcomed back pro-democracy activists forced into exile when his father crushed a wave of unrest in the 1990s.
He then invited Bahrainis to vote on a new social contract. But the resulting constitution, with the absolute powers of the ruling al-Khalifa family unchecked by a new and toothless parliament, fell short of expectations the king himself had raised.
As parliamentary elections approach for the second time in four years, hopes for a political system that gives the Shia a fairer share of wealth, land and power have faded and for young Shia, the prospect of earning a decent wage remains bleak.
High unemployment especially among Shia Muslims is also due to the fact that only 18% of senior public sector and government positions are held by Shia, and that they are in fact barred from the security services, whose ranks are filled with Sunni recruits from Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Pakistan, as the Bahrain Center for Human Rights writes in the article part of which is cited above.
Of course, not only jobs are carefully distributed, the property is also mostly in the hands of the ruling family. With the help of Google maps Bahrain Land Ownership is very impressively explained in detail.
In recent month there has been a crack down on Shia Muslims and the opposition, which prompted Amnesty International to issue this media communication on October 8, 2010 (excerpt, full version here):
Around 250 individuals at risk of torture
Around 250 individuals in Bahrain are believed to have been detained as part of a clampdown against Shi’a political opposition and activism ahead of parliamentary elections on 23 October.
Since the arrest of 23 Shi’a political and human rights activists in August, the government has arrested what Bahraini activists estimate to be a further 230 individuals, all of them said to be Shi’a, in connection with anti-government demonstrations and riots held in Shi’a towns and villages. Official figures have not been made public. During these events some demonstrators set fire to tyres and threw Molotov cocktails at security forces.
During the first few weeks all detainees were held incommunicado; however, some have now been allowed visits by family members. Some in the first group of 23 detainees have seen their lawyers only once, when they were brought to the Public Prosecutor several weeks ago, but were not allowed to talk to them. The rest of the detainees have had no access to lawyers at all. This denial of contact exacerbates the risk of possible torture and other ill-treatment and the families and lawyers of some of the 23 men arrested in August have alleged that the detainees have been tortured. The government has denied this and has prohibited the publication of any information on the cases of the around 250 detainees. The ban is enforceable with a penalty of up to one year’s imprisonment.. Human Rights Watch requested access to some of the detainees, but the authorities have rejected these in the past few days.
Since the first arrests took place, the Bahraini authorities have arbitrarily restricted the activities of a number of human rights activists and organizations. In September the Bahraini government suspended the board of the legally registered Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), accusing it of “legal and administrative irregularities” and co-operating with “illegal organizations”, after it had publicly criticized the government for violating the human rights of the 23 people arrested in August. An official from the Ministry of Social Development has been appointed as a temporary administrator. In recent weeks three human rights activists were temporarily prevented from travelling abroad to attend meetings and workshops on human rights, among other things, but were later told they could travel without restriction.
These are the 23 mentioned in the PressTV article cited at the beginning of this post. As AI further stated in a media release on October 13, 2010, that the number of people detained since August is now closer to 250 and includes clerics, students, members of human rights organisations and charities, and opposition activists.
The Bahraini royal family is obviously good friends with the US – or at least with certain right-wing elements in the US. As you could recently learn, Bahraini banks are funding the American Chamber of Commerce, which in turn is pumping money into the (upcoming) US elections, as was revealed recently by ThinkProgress.
As a side note, the American Chamber of Commerce has a branch in Bahrain, see here for Board Members (Citigroup, American Express, Microsoft among others).

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections 2010 Final Results

The official final results of the Kyrgyzstan parliamentary elections 2010 are available from the Central Elections Commission in Kyrgyzstan. According to their data, 1’679’538 – or 55.9% – or the eligible voters have cast their vote and the count is as follows (I’ll only list the five parties with more than 5% of the popular vote since only they make it into the parliament. The full list – in Russian – is available here):
Votes: 266’923
Percent: 8,88
Votes: 241’528
Percent: 8,04
Votes: 232’682
Percent: 7,74
Votes: 217’601
Percent: 7,24
Votes: 168’218
Percent: 5,6
In terms of seats in the Jogorku Kenesh this would give – according to my calculation (the total number of seats is 120):
Ata-Shurt: 28
SDPK: 26
Ar-Namys: 25
Since the absolute majority is 61, at least three parties are needed to form a viable government. Even the three parties with the least seats would be able to form a government and the three parties with the most seats would fall short of the two-thirds majority by one vote.
Please note, that this is my calculation of the attribution of seats, the official figures may be different.

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections 2010 Results

Preliminary results of the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan are, according to AKIPress, which bases its analysis on data from “Shailoo”, the state election system, the situation looks as follows:

Results from 2001 (85.77%) of the 2333 polling stations indicates the following distribution of seats in the 120 seat Kyrgyz parliament (named Shogorkoo Kenesh):

  1. Ata Shurt – 29 seats;
  2. SDPK – 26 seats;
  3. Ar-Namys – 23 seats;
  4. Respublika – 23 seats;
  5. Ata Meken – 19 seats.

It seems like at least three parties are necessary to form a government and that all combinations of three or more are mathematically possible to arrive at an absolute majority.

Kyrgyzstan Elections Going Smoothly

According to AKIPress elections are going smoothly and up to 11:00 local time around 11% of voters eligible to vote hat already voted. In additions, the vote was going smoothly in all districts. As previously announced by the Kyrgyz government, there will be no official exit poll be held this year. The poll’s 2289 poll stations had opened at 8:00 local time to let the 2’836’508 voters vote.

Helicopter Crash in Tadjikistan – 28 Dead

According to the Kazakh news agency Khabar – which cites the Tajik news agency “Asia-Plus” as a source – a helicopter of the Tadjik national guard crashed leaving all 28 passengers dead. The crash happened on the morning of October 6, 2010 during an “anti-terrorist operation” 190 km east of Dushanbe, the capital of Tadjikistan. In addition to the crew of four, 21 members of the elite unit “Alpha” were also killed. Preliminarily the cause is attributed to technical problems of the helicopter, however the incident is under investigation.

Only recently, in September 2010 23 Tadjik soldiers were killed in a ‘terrorist attack’ writes The Telegraph:

The attack occurred on Sunday afternoon 150 miles east of the capital Dushanbe, in the moutainous and inaccessible Racht valley, where the
soldiers were to rejoin a security post.

Military forces are leading operations in the region to try to find 25 fugitives with suspected links to al-Qaeda, who escaped from a Dushanbe prison in
August after killing six prison guards. The fugitives were believed to have headed to the Racht valley, authorities said.

Does look like a new front, doesn’t it.


Parliamentary Elections 2010 in Kyrgyzstan

This Sunday, October 10 2010 parliamentary elections will be held in Kyrgyzstan. According to the Kyrgyz government, no exit polls will be held this time.
The OSCE in a pre-election report considers the campaign to be fair as all 29 parties have been able to campaign freely. That doesn’t keep an US group from complaining about undue Russian influence in this election. According to the Telegraph, the group is Freedom House:

Last week, Freedom House, a non-governmental organisation which receives more than half of its funding from the US government, began saturating Kyrgyz television with three 30-second television commercials on corruption, rights, and inter-ethnic tolerance, starting on Wednesday.

You can’t beat Americans as far as arrogance and hypocrisy is concerned. Only they would call an organisation that receives a large part of its funding from the government a non-government organisation, and only they would complain about the influence of others while heavily influencing themselves by running US government-funded election commercials in a foreign country.

Freedom House, according to Wikipedia, receives about 66% – or two-thirds – of its budget from the US government, while various other sources, including the Dutch government provide the rest. Hardly an NGO.