Archive | May, 2011

Breaking News: Ireland May Need More EU/IMF Cash Says Government Minister

29 May

 

A sculpture showing the euro currency sign is seen in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in FrankfurtEnlarge Photo

PHOTO:  A sculpture showing the euro currency sign is seen in front of the European Central …

DUBLIN/ATHENS (Reuters) – Ireland may have to ask for another loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund because it will struggle to return to debt markets to raise funds next year, a government minister said on Sunday.

In comments to The Sunday Times newspaper, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar became the first cabinet member to cast doubt in public on Ireland’s ability to raise cash on the bond market because of punishing yields demanded by investors.

“I think it’s very unlikely we’ll be able to go back next year. I think it might take a bit longer … 2013 might be possible but who knows?” Varadkar was quoted as saying.

“It would mean a second programme (of loans from the EU/IMF),” he said. “Either an extension of the existing programme or a second programme. I think that would generally be most people’s view.”

Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore told broadcaster RTE that fears of a domino effect from Greece’s problems were overblown. The possibility of a Greek default has sent bond yields rocketing for indebted Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

“It’s not a situation that if Greece defaults then there are immediately implications for Ireland,” Gilmore said.

“If Greece defaults there are implications for the wider euro zone and obviously we are part of that.”

“It is wrong to put Ireland in the same basket as Greece.”

PRIVATISATION AMBITIONS

Greece’s hopes of averting default dimmed over the weekend amid fears the country, whose debt burden stands at around 330 billion euros (286.4 billion pounds), may have missed fiscal targets set by its creditors.

The IMF has dismissed reports that an international inspection team had found that Greece had missed all its fiscal targets. But the current mission to Athens has stayed far longer than on previous occasions and is locked in talks with the government to get economic reforms on track.

Athens’ creditors are increasingly focussed on the possibility of raising more funds from privatisations and a poll on Sunday showed that an overwhelming majority of Greeks are in favour of selling and developing state assets to raise 50 billion euros.

The European Central Bank and the IMF, however, don’t believe the privatisation programme is ambitious enough. ECB board member Juergen Stark said Greece could raise six times more than the 50 billion euros planned from asset sales, echoing earlier views from the IMF.

A Greek paper reported on Sunday that the government was considering setting up a Spanish-style “bad bank” to clean up its lenders’ accounts from “toxic” Greek bonds and make them more attractive to potential buyers.

Athens is in a race against time to secure political consensus on fiscal reforms before the EU and the IMF will free up more cash to plug funding gaps in the next two years.

Ireland, meanwhile, wants to tap investors for funding in 2012 before its 85 billion euros EU-IMF bailout runs out the following year.

But investors believe Ireland will be unable to return to the market and instead will have to tap the European Union’s permanent rescue fund in 2013, which might require some restructuring of privately held sovereign debt.

Reflecting this medium-term risk, Ireland’s two-year and five-year paper are yielding close to 12 percent, more than its 10-year bonds on the secondary market.

Some 50 billion euros of the existing EU-IMF bailout has been earmarked for sovereign funding requirements with the remainder set aside to prop up the country’s ailing banks.

Earlier this month, the IMF said whatever was left over after recapitalising the banks could be channelled to the sovereign if there was a delay in returning to markets.

At the end of March, the Irish government said the banks needed 24 billion euros to bulletproof their balance sheets but Dublin hopes some five billion euros can be raised from imposing losses on junior bondholders and asset sales, meaning that 19 billion euros of the 35 billion would be tapped.

A member of the communist's labour union walks beside graffiti outside of Greece's industrialists union offices during a rally against a new austerity package in Athens

Enlarge Photo

A member of the communist’s labour union walks beside graffiti outside of Greece‘s …

 

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AMSTERDAM: Dutch Government To Ban Tourists From Cannabis Selling Coffee Shops

28 May

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government on Friday said it would start banning tourists from buying cannabis from “coffee shops” and impose restrictions on Dutch customers by the end of the year.

The Netherlands is well known for having one of Europe‘s most liberal soft drug policies that has made its cannabis shops a popular tourist attraction, particularly in Amsterdam.

Backed by the far-right party of anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders, the coalition government that came into power last year announced plans to curb drug tourism as part of a nationwide program to promote health and fight crime.

“In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end,” the Dutch health and justice ministers wrote in a letter to the country’s parliament on Friday.

Under the new rules, only Dutch residents will be able to sign up as members of cannabis shops.

Dutch customers will have to sign up for at least a year’s membership and each shop would be expected to have only up to 1,500 members, a justice ministry spokesman said.

The policy will roll out in the southern provinces of Limburg, Noord Brabant and Zeeland by the end of the year and the rest of the country next year, the spokesman said.

Amsterdam, home to about 220 coffee shops, is already in the process of closing some in its red light district. Some officials have resisted the measures, saying they will push the soft drug trade underground.

Some Dutch border towns including Maastricht and Terneuzen have already restricted the sale of marijuana to foreigners.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

London: “Killer Cucumber” Bug From Spain Now Discovered In Britain

28 May

 

'Killer Cucumber' Bug From Spain Hits Britain

‘Killer Cucumber’ Bug From Spain Hits Britain

A person in Britain has been diagnosed with a lethal strain of E.coli, believed to originate in organic cucumbers.

The bacteria has killed nine people in Germany, with almost 300 people being admitted to hospital. Cases have also been reported in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The outbreak is believed to have originated in organic cucumbers grown in Spain, although there are suggestions that the bacteria has been found in cucumbers grown in the Netherlands.

The advice now to people travelling to Germany is not to eat cucumbers, raw tomatoes or lettuce.

The British Health Protection Authority has confirmed that three German nationals currently in Britain have fallen ill. One of those cases has been confirmed as having the infection which is causing this outbreak.

A spokeswoman for the HPA said the outbreak in Germany was “very, very serious” and although the bug was infectious, there had been no reports of secondary infection yet in the UK.

Dr Dilys Morgan, head of the gastrointestinal, emerging and zoonotic infections department at the HPA, said: “The HPA is actively monitoring the situation very carefully and liaising with the authorities in Germany, the European Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation as to the cause of the outbreak. E.coli bacteria like these are responsible for the outbreak across Europe.

“We are keeping a close watch for potential cases reported in England and are working with colleagues in the devolved administrations to recommend they do the same.
“In addition we are in the process of alerting health professionals to the situation and advising them to urgently investigate potential cases with a travel history to Germany.”

In Germany concern is growing. The country’s National Disease Control Centre has confirmed 60 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours.

A spokesman for the German consumer affairs minister Ilse Aigner said: “The European Union internal market has very strong safety rules and we expect all EU states to observe them.”

He added that, for the moment, “one can only speculate about the causes” of the outbreak.

 

In Spain, a spokesman for the AESA food safety agency said investigations were also under way.

“The Andalusian authorities are investigating to find out where the contamination comes from and when it took place,” he said.

“This type of bacteria can contaminate at the origin or during handling of the product.”

There has been no report of contamination within Spain, AESA said.

Those worse hit by the infection contract HUS, a condition which can have severe effects.

British microbiologist Ron Cutler told Sky News: “It contains some very nasty toxins which can go straight to your kidneys and cause kidney failure, and it’s very difficult to treat.

“For those who are treated, around 90% of treatments can be successful, but one in 10 of those people could have damaged kidneys in later life.”

The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that the offending cucumbers have not been on sale at any outlets in the UK.

Manor Kilbride, Co Wicklow: Two Arrested As Gardai Raid Polydrug Production Facility

15 May

Two men in their 30s have been arrested following the discovery of what gardaí described as a polydrug facility in a rented house in Manor Kilbride, Co Wicklow.

Tallaght Garda Station - Where men are being held

Tallaght Garda Station – Where men are being held

The Garda National Drugs Unit found two pill making machines in a converted garage, a cannabis grow house with plants in another room and a cannabis nursery with seedlings in a third room.

Two pill-making machines were discovered.

Customs officers were also involved; their investigations established the machines had been imported from Holland.

The cannabis nursery in the house had seedlings in one room and 170 plants estimated to be worth €70,000 in another.

The men are being questioned at Tallaght Garda Station.

NEWS UPDATE:

A cannabis growing factory has been uncovered by gardai in Wicklow

A cannabis growing factory has been uncovered by gardai in Wicklow

A cannabis growing factory has been uncovered by gardai in Wicklow.

About 170 cannabis plants, with a street value of 65,000 euro, were seized in the house in Manor Kilbride.

Gardai said the plants were being cultivated at the house.

Two men, aged 35 and 37, were arrested at the scene and are being detained at Tallaght Garda Station.

Elsewhere a man in his 40s remains in garda custody in Limerick where two semi automatic pistols and ammunition were seized.

A large quantity of heroin worth an estimated 700,000 euro was discovered in an apartment on the Ennis Road, as well as smaller quantities of cocaine, cannabis herb and ecstasy.

The man is being held at Henry Street Garda Station.

Dublin: Record Number Of New Psychoactive Drugs Available Across Europe:EMCDDA 2010 REPORT:UPDATED

11 May

A record number of new psychoactive drugs are becoming available across Europe according to the EU drugs monitoring agency.

Legal Highs - New psychoactive drugs become available

Legal Highs – New psychoactive drugs become available.

 

44 headshops now operating in Ireland

A record number of new psychoactive drugs are becoming available across Europe, according to the EU drugs monitoring agency.

These drugs mimic the effects of cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine and are often referred to as ‘legal highs’ and sold in head shops and online.

41 new substances, including synthetic cannabinoids and derivatives of well-established drugs such as Ketamine and PCP were identified last year.

The agency says this is a considerable increase on previous years.

The European Police Agency Europol says the emergence of these ‘legal highs’ is a major feature of Europe’s drugs problem today.

It says organised crime groups are increasingly active in producing and distributing drugs which can be associated with ecstasy.

More than 16 European Countries including Ireland have banned so called ‘spice’ products and related compounds on health grounds.

NEWS UPDATE:

New psychoactive substances are becoming widely available at an ‘unprecedented pace’. This is according to the EMCDDA–Europol 2010 annual report on new drugs entering the European market released today in Lisbon (1). In 2010, a record number of new drugs were officially reported to the EMCDDA and Europol via the EU early-warning system (EWS) on new psychoactive substances (2).

A total of 41 new psychoactive substances were officially notified for the first time to the two agencies in 2010. This represents the largest number of substances ever reported in a single year, considerably up on 2009     (24 substances) and 2008 (13 substances). The full list of substances notified, annexed to the report, shows a ‘rather diverse’ group, including: synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones, synthetic derivatives of well-established drugs, as well as one plant-based substance.  

Under the so-called ‘Spice’ phenomenon (3), 11 new synthetic cannabinoids were picked up in 2010, bringing the total number of these substances monitored by the EWS up to 27. Responding to health concerns, at least 16 European countries have now taken legal action to ban or otherwise control ‘Spice’ products and related compounds.

The report gives an account of the 2010 risk assessment of the synthetic cathinone derivative, mephedrone, which led to the decision for Europe-wide controls on the drug in December 2010 (4). A further 15 synthetic cathinone derivatives were detected during the year. Also documented is the first-time appearance of derivatives of two established drugs: ketamine and PCP (phencyclidine).

With a large number of new unregulated synthetic compounds marketed on the Internet as ‘legal highs’, the report describes the EMCDDA’s monitoring of online shops selling these substances.

Commenting on this year’s findings, EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz said: ‘Given the speed at which new developments occur in this area, it is important to anticipate future challenges. While our early-warning system has recently upped its operational capacity to react rapidly to new substances and products identified, it currently lacks the ability to anticipate emerging threats. This could be addressed by actively purchasing, synthesising and studying new compounds and by improving our capacity for investigative forensic analysis and research at European level’.

The European Commission is currently in the process of assessing the functioning of the mechanism through which Europe monitors and acts on new substances (Council Decision 2005/387/JHA). This is aimed at ensuring that Europe’s responses in this area are up-to-date and fit for purpose.

Europol Director Rob Wainwright adds: ‘The emergence of “legal highs” is a major feature of Europe’s drugs problem today. This issue was recently highlighted in Europol’s Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2011.  We also notice that organised crime groups are increasingly active in producing and distributing drugs which can be associated with ecstasy. Together with our law-enforcement partners in the EU, Europol is determined to combat this phenomenon’ (5).

The EMCDDA–Europol 2010 annual report on new drugs was released on 11 May at the 11th Annual meeting of the EMCDDA–Reitox early-warning system (EWS) network and ahead of the First international forum on new drugs (11–12 May, Lisbon). The forum is closed to the media, however a full programme and other information will be available at: www.emcdda.europa.eu/events/2011/new-drugs-forum

Notes

(1) ‘EMCDDA–Europol 2010 annual report on the implementation of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA in accordance with Article 10 of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA on the information exchange, risk-assessment and control of new psychoactive substances’.

The 2010 report is available in English at:
www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/implementation-reports                                          

See Annex 2 for list of substances.

For more on the Council Decision, see www.emcdda.europa.eu/drug-situation/new-drugs

Article 10 of the Council Decision stipulates that: ‘The EMCDDA and Europol shall report annually to the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on the implementation of this Decision. The report will take into account all aspects required for an assessment of the efficacy and achievements of the system created by this Decision. The Report shall, in particular, include experience relating to coordination between the system set out in this Decision and the pharmacovigilance system’.

(2) The EWS provides EU Member States with an information exchange mechanism for reporting on the emergence of new psychoactive substances. It is a key element in the European fast-track system for assessing and responding to new drugs. Over 140 substances have been reported by Member States to the EMCDDA and Europol since the EWS was created in 1997.

For more, see www.emcdda.europa.eu/themes/new-drugs/early-warning and brochure at www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index40105EN.html

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is a key player in this early-warning mechanism.

(3) www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/thematic-papers/spice

(4) Available in English at: www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/risk-assessments
See also www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/drugnet/online/2011/73/article2

(5) Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2011 (launched 4.5.2011)

Allenwood, County Kildare: Army Bomb Disposal Experts Dismantle Three Explosive Devices

2 May

The Defence Forces have said three viable improvised explosive devices were made safe by Army Bomb disposal experts in Co Kildare last night.

Kildare - Army called to scene

Kildare – Army called to scene

The devices were found next to a bus stop on the Allenwood to Carbury road.

The scene was declared safe at 10.20pm

ABBOTTABAN, PAKISTAN: US SPECIAL FORCES ACTING ON THE SECRET ORDERS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES HAVE KILLED OSAMA BIN LADEN

2 May

NEWS UPDATE:

President Barack Obama has announced that the mastermind of the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people has been killed in Pakistan by U.S.-led forces.

The following is the text of Mr Obama’s statement to America:

Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory. Hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky.

The Twin Towers collapsing to the ground. Black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon. The wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table.

Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace.

Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11th, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other and our love of community and country.

On that day, no matter where we came from, what god we prayed to or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family. We were also united in our resolve, to protect our nation and to — to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice.

We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda, an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda, to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.

In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet, Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda. Even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat his network.

Then last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain. And it took many months to run this thread to ground.

I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside Pakistan.

And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abad Abad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.

After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies.

The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

And his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. I’ve made clear just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11 that our war is not against Islam. Bin laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries including our own.

So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done.

But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.

These efforts weigh on me every time I, as commander in chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.

And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done.

Tonight we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work nor know their names, but tonight they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11, that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete, but tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history. Whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people or the struggle for equality for all our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

 
An image made from Geo TV video shows flames at what is thought to be the compound where terror mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday, May 1, 2
AP – An image made from Geo TV video shows flames at what is thought to be the compound where terror mastermind …

Reaction to Bin Laden's death Play Video Pakistan Video:Reaction to Bin Laden’s death Reuters

Small Crowd Gathers At Capitol After News Of Bin Laden’s Death Play Video Pakistan Video:Small Crowd Gathers At Capitol After News Of Bin Laden’s Death CBS 13 / CW 31

Osama bin Laden (AP)  
 
By NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press Nahal Toosi, Associated Press ;
 
ABBOTTABADOsama bin Laden was holed up in a two-story house 100 yards from a Pakistani military academy when four helicopters carrying U.S. forces swooped early Monday, killing the world’s most wanted man and leaving his final hiding place in flames, Pakistani officials and a witness said.

They said bin Laden’s guards opened fire from the roof of the compound in the small northwestern town of Abbottabad, and one of the choppers crashed. However U.S. officials said no Americans were hurt in the operation. The sound of at least two explosions rocked Abbottabad as the fighting raged.

Abbottabad is home to three Pakistan army regiments and thousands of military personnel and is dotted with military buildings. The discovery that bin Laden’s was living in an army town in Pakistan raises pointed questions about how he managed to evade capture and even whether Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership knew of his whereabouts and sheltered him.

Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan’s security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied this. Army and government officials gave no formal comment Monday.

Most intelligence assessments believed bin Laden was holed up somewhere along the lawless border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, possibly in a cave and sheltered by loyal tribesmen. That region is remote, homes to soaring mountains and the Pakistan state has little or no presence in much of it.

It was not known how long bin Laden had been in Abbottabad, which is surrounded by hills and is less than half a days drive from the border region with Afghanistan and two hours from the capital, Islamabad.

It was also unclear how much of a role — if any — Pakistani security forces played in the operation. A Pakistani official said the choppers took off from Ghazi air base in northwest Pakistan, where the U.S. army was based to help out in the aftermath of the floods in 2010.

Pakistani officials said a son of bin Laden and three other people were killed.

Other unidentified males were taken by helicopter away from the scene, while four children and two woman left in an ambulance, the official said.

Abbottabad resident Mohammad Haroon Rasheed said the raid happened about 1:15 a.m. local time.

“I heard a thundering sound, followed by heavy firing. Then firing suddenly stopped. Then more thundering, then a big blast,” he said. “In the morning when we went out to see what happened, some helicopter wreckage was lying in an open field.”

He said the house was 100 meters (yards) away from the gate of the Kakul Military Academy, an army run institution where top officers train. A Pakistan intelligence official said the property where bin Laden was staying was 3,000 square feet.

A Pakistani official in the town said fighters on the roof opened fire on the choppers as they came close to the building with rocket propelled grenades. Another official said four helicopters took off from the Ghazi air base in northwest Pakistan.

Last summer, the U.S. army was based in Ghazi to help out in the aftermath of the floods.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Pakistan has in the past cooperated with the CIA in arresting al-Qaida suspects on its soil, but relations between its main intelligence agency and the CIA had been very strained in recent months amid tensions over the future of Afghanistan.

In late January, a senior Indonesian al-Qaida operative, Umar Patek, was arrested at another location in Abbottabad.

News of his arrest only broke in late March. A Pakistani intelligence official said its officers were led to the house where Patek was staying after they arrested an al-Qaida facilitator, Faisal Shahzad, who worked at the post office there.

NEWS UPDATE:

Raw Video: Fire at poss. bin Laden raid compound

Play Video AP  – Raw Video: Fire at poss. bin Laden raid compound

Osama bin Laden Slideshow:Osama bin Laden

Raw Video: Crowds cheer outside White House Play Video Video:Raw Video: Crowds cheer outside White House AP

Obama: Pakistan aided US in bin Laden operation Play Video Video:Obama: Pakistan aided US in bin Laden operation AP

Barack Obama
AP – President Barack Obama reads his statement to photographers after making a televised statement on the …

 

 
By JULIE PACE and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Julie Pace And Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press :

 

WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden, the glowering mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed thousands of Americans, was slain in his luxury hideout in Pakistan early Monday in a firefight with U.S. forces, ending a manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade.

“Justice has been done,” President Barack Obama said in a dramatic announcement at the White House.

A jubilant crowd of thousands gathered outside the White House as word spread of bin Laden’s death. Hundreds more sang and waved American flags at Ground Zero in New York — where the twin towers that once stood as symbols of American economic power were brought down by bin Laden’s hijackers 10 years ago.

Another hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon on that cloudless day, and a fourth was commandeered by passengers who forced it to the ground — at cost of their own lives — before it could reach its intended target in Washington.

The United States attacked Afghanistan within months, pursuing al-Qaida, and an invasion of Iraq followed as part of the Bush administration’s global war on terror.

U.S. officials said the CIA tracked bin Laden to his location, then elite troops from Navy SEAL Team Six, a top military counter-terrorism unit, flew to the hideout in four helicopters. Bin Laden was shot in the head in an ensuing firefight, these officials said, adding that he and his guards had resisted his attackers. U.S. personnel identified him by facial recognition, the official said, declining to say whether DNA analysis had also been used.

The U.S. team took custody of bin Laden’s remains, which American officials said were being handled in accordance with Islamic tradition. Obama said no Americans were harmed in the operation.

Three adult males were also killed in the raid, including one of bin Laden’s sons, whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden’s sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al-Qaida. U.S. officials also said one woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant, and two other women were injured.

The operation occurred in pre-dawn darkness on Monday in Pakistan — Sunday afternoon in Washington. Obama went on television late Sunday night to make the announcement.

Bin Laden’s death marks a psychological triumph in a long struggle that began with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and seems certain to give Obama a political lift. But its ultimate impact on al-Qaida is less clear.

The greatest terrorist threat to the U.S. is now considered to be the al-Qaida franchise in Yemen, far from al-Qaida’s core in Pakistan. The Yemen branch almost took down a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas 2009 and nearly detonated explosives aboard two U.S. cargo planes last fall. Those operations were carried out without any direct involvement from bin Laden.

Obama provided few details of the operation beyond to say that he had personally ordered it be carried out. Other officials said it was so secretive that no foreign officials were informed in advance, and only a small circle inside the administration was aware of what was unfolding half a world away.

But within hours of the announcement, Pakistani officials and a witness said bin Laden’s guards had opened fire from the roof of the building, and one of the choppers crashed. The sound of at least two explosions rocked the small northwestern town of Abbottabad, where the al-Qaida chief made his last stand.

Flames were visible after the attack on the building, which was located about 100 yards from the gates of a Pakistani military academy — certain to raise questions about al-Qaida’s ability to build a custom-made hideout in such close proximity.

Abbottabad, surrounded by hills and with mountains in the distance, is less than half a day’s drive from the border region with Afghanistan, where most intelligence assessments believed bin Laden was holed up.

The White House said Obama convened at least nine meetings with top national security officials in the lead-up to Sunday’s raid.

The president spent part of the day on the golf course, but cut his round short to return to the White House for a meeting where he and top national security aides reviewed final preparations for the raid.

Two hours later, Obama was told that bin Laden had been tentatively identified.

CIA director Leon Panetta was directly in charge of the military team during the operation, according to one official, and when he and his aides received word at agency headquarters that bin Laden had been killed, cheers broke out around the conference room table.

Halfway around the world, in Abbotabad, one witness described a military raid carried out under darkness.

“I heard a thundering sound, followed by heavy firing. Then firing suddenly stopped. Then more thundering, then a big blast,” said Mohammad Haroon Rasheed. “In the morning when we went out to see what happened, some helicopter wreckage was lying in an open field.”

A Pakistani official in the town said fighters on the roof opened fire on the choppers with rocket-propelled grenades. Another official said the four helicopters took off from the Ghazi air base in northwest Pakistan.

The U.S. and Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Obama said he gave the order for the operation after receiving intelligence information that he did not further describe.

Former President George W. Bush, who was in office on the day of the attacks, issued a written statement hailing bin Laden’s death as a momentous achievement. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” he said.

Senior administration officials said the terrorist mastermind was found inside a custom-built compound with two security gates. They said it appeared to have been constructed to harbor one high-value target and that for undisclosed reasons, officials believed the hideout was bin Laden’s.

The stunning end to the world’s most widely-watched manhunt came just months before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, orchestrated by al-Qaida, that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The attacks a decade ago seemed to come out of nowhere, even though al-Qaida had previously struck American targets overseas.

The terrorists hijacked planes, flew one of them into one of Manhattan’s Twin Towers — and, moments later, into the other one. Both buildings collapsed, trapping thousands inside and also claiming the lives of firefighters and others who had rushed to help them.

A third plane slammed into the Pentagon, defacing the symbol of America’s military night. Officials have speculated that the fourth plane had been heading for the U.S. Capitol or perhaps even the White House when it crashed in Pennsylvania.

Based on statements given by U.S. detainees, intelligence officials have known for years that bin Laden trusted one al-Qaida courier in particular, and they believed he might be living with him in hiding. In November, intelligence officials found out where he was living, a huge fortified compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad. It was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet high, topped with barbed wire. There were two security gates and no phone or Internet running into the house.

Intelligence officials believed the $1 million home was custom-built to harbor a major terrorist. CIA experts analyzed whether it could be anyone else, but time and again, they decided it was almost certainly bin Laden.

Obama spoke with Bush and former President Bill Clinton Sunday night to inform them of the developments.

The president struck a less than boastful tone in his brief announcement, although he said the death of bin Laden was “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida.

“His death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant,” he added.

Moments after Obama spoke, the State Department put U.S. embassies on alert and warned of the heightened possibility for anti-American violence. In a worldwide travel alert, the department said there was an “enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counterterrorism activity in Pakistan.”

____

Associated Press writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.

NEWS UPDATE:

By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press :

WASHINGTON – Helicopters descended out of darkness on the most important counterterrorism mission in U.S. history. It was an operation so secret, only a select few U.S. officials knew what was about to happen.

The location was a fortified compound in the affluent Pakistani suburbs of Islamabad. The target was Osama bin Laden.

Intelligence officials discovered the compound in August while monitoring an al-Qaida courier. The CIA had been hunting that courier for years, ever since detainees told interrogators that the courier was so trusted by bin Laden that he might very well be living with the al-Qaida leader.

Nestled in an affluent neighborhood, the compound was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet, topped with barbed wire. Two security gates guarded the only way in. A third-floor terrace was shielded by a seven-foot privacy wall. No phone lines or Internet cables ran to the property. The residents burned their garbage rather than put it out for collection. Intelligence officials believed the million-dollar compound was built five years ago to protect a major terrorist figure. The question was, who?

The CIA asked itself again and again who might be living behind those walls. Each time, they concluded it was almost certainly bin Laden.

President Barack Obama described the operation in broad strokes Sunday night. Details were provided in interviews with counterterrorism and intelligence authorities, senior administration officials and other U.S. officials. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation.

By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Obama wanted to “pursue an aggressive course of action,” a senior administration official said. Over the next two and a half months, Obama led five meetings of the National Security Council focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him, the official said.

Normally, the U.S. shares its counterterrorism intelligence widely with trusted allies in Britain, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. And the U.S. normally does not carry out ground operations inside Pakistan without collaboration with Pakistani intelligence. But this mission was too important and too secretive.

On April 29, Obama approved an operation to kill bin Laden. It was a mission that required surgical accuracy, even more precision than could be delivered by the government’s sophisticated Predator drones. To execute it, Obama tapped a small contingent of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six and put them under the command of CIA Director Leon Panetta, whose analysts monitored the compound from afar.

Panetta was directly in charge of the team, a U.S. official said, and his conference room was transformed into a command center.

Details of exactly how the raid unfolded remain murky. But the al-Qaida courier, his brother and one of bin Laden’s sons were killed. No Americans were injured. Senior administration officials will only say that bin Laden “resisted.” And then the man behind the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil died from an American bullet to his head.

It was mid-afternoon in Virginia when Panetta and his team received word that bin Laden was dead. Cheers and applause broke out across the conference room.

___

Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier, Adam Goldman and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report; Kathy Gannon contributed from Islamabad.

NEWS UPDATE:

BIN LADEN

AP – FILE – In this 1998 file photo, Osama bin Laden speaks to the journalists in Khost, Afghanistan and made …

 

 
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press :

 

WASHINGTON – A U.S. official says Osama bin Laden has been buried at sea.

After bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan, senior administration officials said the body would be handled according to Islamic practice and tradition. That practice calls for the body to be buried within 24 hours, the official said. Finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world’s most wanted terrorist would have been difficult, the official said. So the U.S. decided to bury him at sea.

The official, who spoke Monday on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security matters, did not immediately say where that occurred.

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