Saturday, 29 January 2011

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Egypt: End Use of Live Fire at Peaceful Protests | Human Rights Watch

Live updates from Egypt >>
(Cairo) - The Egyptian government should order security forces, especially police and plainclothes agents, not to use live fire against peaceful protesters and bystanders, Human Rights Watch said today. Following reports that dozens have been killed at demonstrations, Human Rights Watch confirmed at least 33 dead in Alexandria and heard plausible reports of at least 50 to 70 dead at a single morgue in Cairo.

Human Rights Watch urged the Egyptian army to continue to exercise restraint in the face of legitimate protests and warned that soldiers and police could face prosecution if they open fire on demonstrators without justification or give orders to do so. The authorities should immediately open investigations into the live fire in Alexandria and elsewhere by police and plainclothes agents and prosecute those responsible for unjustified killings and injuries, Human Rights Watch said.

"We hope the Egyptian army will not follow the ruthless brutality of Egyptian riot police in their confrontations with demonstrators," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Police and plainclothes agents seem to be shooting people without justification, using live bullets or firing teargas canisters straight at protesters. Those giving the orders to shoot, no matter how senior, should also be held to account."

Human Rights Watch urged the United States to immediately suspend all assistance to and cooperation with Egyptian law enforcement agencies because of the suspicion they opened fire on peaceful protesters. Washington should also suspend licensing of crime control equipment, including teargas, Human Rights Watch said.

There are reports of looting in Cairo and also in the Sidi Bishr, Bokkla, and Assafre neighborhoods of Alexandria. If security forces are trying to control looters, they may use reasonable and proportionate force to prevent crimes under international standards, as set out in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. But these state that firearms should only be used in situations of grave and imminent threats of death or serious injury.

In Alexandria, residents told Human Rights Watch they are setting up neighborhood committees to protect their houses; at least one group asked the army for help in protecting them from looters, but was told the army is overstretched and could do nothing for now. The army in Alexandria has asked locals to coordinate a Popular Committee for Protection of Property and said reinforcements will arrive on January 30. In Cairo there were reports of looting in the middle-class areas of Heliopolis and Mohandessin, as well as in Maadi and Shoubra, and in several areas there are reports of locals setting up neighborhood patrols to protect their homes.

A Human Rights Watch researcher in Alexandria saw the bodies of 13 men in the morgue at the Alexandria General Hospital and a lawyer told Human Rights Watch he had seen 20 bodies at a second morgue in the city. Many people with gunshot wounds were waiting to be treated in the hospital's emergency room. Several of the wounded told Human Rights Watch they had been shot with live ammunition by uniformed police and plainclothes security agents. Some said they were in their homes at the time they were shot, but that police thought they were throwing objects.

A doctor at the Qasr al Aini hospital told Human Rights Watch researchers who visited the hospital that he had seen nine dead from gunshot wounds to the head, saying there were "at least 50 to 70 bodies" in the hospital on the night of January 28, 2011. The doctor, who did not want to be identified, also said he had treated a man who had been hit by a teargas canister and then died, apparently of cardiac arrest from teargas asphyxiation.

A lawyer told Human Rights Watch that he had seen 20 bodies at the morgue in the Com al-Dikka hospital in Alexandria after he went to try to identify the body of a cousin shot dead. There is a third morgue in Alexandria, but Human Rights Watch was not able to get information from there.

Human Rights Watch said that uniformed police and plainclothes intelligence agents appear to have used live fire in two situations in Alexandria, most often by police when protesters went to attack police stations and also by plainclothes agents who believed citizens were throwing objects at police from their windows. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that most of the live fire came from plainclothes agents rather than uniformed police. Human Rights Watch also witnessed officers firing teargas canisters directly at the heads of protesters, and later saw the body of at least one man apparently killed when he was hit in the face by a canister.

One man who had been shot in his leg told Human Rights Watch he had been drinking tea in a cafe with friends at 6:30 p.m. on January 28 when police ordered them to leave because of the curfew. When the men walked past the police station about 30 minutes later, officers threw stones at the group and then opened fire without provocation, injuring the man.

Another man interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that plainclothes intelligence agents came to his apartment, accused him of throwing things at police from his windows, and then shot at him.

By late afternoon on January 29 the atmosphere in Alexandria was very tense, with large protests ongoing. Many police stations in the city were burned down on January 28, and demonstrators tried but failed to burn down the intelligence services building. The army was present on the streets of Alexandria but by nightfall had not intervened.

According to media reports and information from other sources, demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square and on the Corniche were attacked overnight by police who returned to the areas, despite having earlier handed over control to the Egyptian Army. The army does not appear to be helping to put down the protests; some television images showed soldiers helping demonstrators to put up banners.

A woman who was outside Cairo's Qasr al Aini hospital with her relatives told Human Rights Watch her son, who was on the streets at night, had been shot through the neck, damaging his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Human Rights Watch researchers at a private hospital in the Dokki neighborhood of Cairo saw a 31-year-old taxi driver who was badly wounded with what appeared to be shrapnel in his right shoulder, hand, and ribs. He said he had been shot, but it was not clear what projectile had caused his wounds.

By late afternoon, at least 10,000 peaceful demonstrators had gathered in Tahrir Square despite a curfew, observed by soldiers in tanks, in a festive atmosphere. But Human Rights Watch researchers could hear gunfire near the Interior Ministry, and sources at the scene saw at least four people carried away with gunshot wounds.

Human Rights Watch urged the United States and the European Union to reconsider their strategy of supporting repressive regimes and instead put maximum pressure on the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, to start an immediate transition to a government that respects basic human rights. The first step should be an immediate repeal of the emergency laws, which have underpinned repression and attacks on human right in Egypt for decades. The next steps should include accountability for egregious abuses by the security forces, including the systematic use of torture.

"The strategy of supporting repressive regimes in the Middle East is well past its sell-by date and is now a major cause of instability," said Stork. "The US and the EU should pressure the Egyptian government to end the emergency laws at once. The next step will be to hold to account the security forces who have abused Egyptians for so long."

Human Rights Watch also said the Obama administration should suspend military aid to Egypt if the Egyptian army's role in dealing with the protests becomes abusive.

Live Updates from Egypt | Human Rights Watch

Peter Bouckaert(Alexandria, January 29, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director:
Looting is reported in Alexandria, in the low-income neighborhoods of Bokkla, Sidi Bishr and Assafre.
  • Every street has men armed with sticks and knives to procte their shops and homes. they told us to stay out of poorer neighborhoods because security is very bad, lots of looting. Egyptians keep telling us they want to determine their own future, not one imposed by other countries, very much like Tunisia.
  • Reports that large numbers of criminals escaped or were released in alex during unrest, adding to looting and criminality.
  • Just got a call from a Popular Committee member in Sidi Basr neighborhood of Alexandria to say looting is going down because of Popular Committee members defending neighborhoods.a
  • We hear men armed with knives are looting empty homes in Bokkla. Locals are forming neighborhood committees to protect their homes. We were talking to the army when one group asked for help but the soldiers said they were overstretched and couldn't do anything today. Later we heard the army has asked people to coordinate the Popular Committee for Protection of Property and said reinforcements are coming tomorrow. Many people stuck in Alexandria far from their homes without transport home.

(Alexandria, January 29, 2011) - Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director:
I went to the Morgue at the Alexandria General Hospital, where I saw 13 bodies of dead people - all men, young and old, but mostly young. Also visited the hospital's emergency room and saw many people who had been shot and were still waiting to get treatment. Live bullets seem to have been used by police yesterday evening when protesters went to attach police stations, but also by security services against people even in their homes. One man who told me that thugs (whom he referred to as "mukhabarat," the Egyptian security services) showed up at his apartment, accused him of throwing things on police from his windows, and shot him.

The Egyptian government has got to rein in its security forces on the streets of Egypt's cities today.

Things are very tense in Alexandria. Large protests are ongoing. The police stations appear to have all been burned. Yesterday, demonstrators tried to burn down the building of intelligence services, but seem not to have succeeded. The army is not intervening -- so far.

Egyptian Protesters Return to Streets, Mubarak Names Vice President | The Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour | PBS

By: News Desk

Protesters returned to the streets of Cario and other cities in Egypt Saturday, renewing calls for embattled President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

State television reports that Mubarak has named a vice president for the first time in his 30-year rule, choosing his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Tanks and military vehicles deployed in the Egyptian capital to keep order and guard government buildings. Media reports indicate that some Egyptian troops are intermingling with protesters, letting them climb on their tanks and take photos.

The allegiances of the Egyptian military, police and special security forces are all under close watch as the protests continue for a fifth day. Analysts examined that issue and the frustrations driving the demonstrations in this discussion from Friday's NewsHour:

The death toll from the uprising is at least 48, medical and security officials told the Associated Press. Some 17 police stations in Cairo have been attacked by protesters.

As Mubarak promised in a televised statement Friday, his cabinet ministers resigned Saturday. But many protesters were not satisfied with the long-time Egyptian leader's pledges of reform.

"What we want is for Mubarak to leave, not just his government," Mohammed Mahmoud, a demonstrator in the city's main Tahrir Square, told the AP Saturday. "We will not stop protesting until he goes."

We've gathered several sources for tracking the ongoing developments in Egypt online, including this wiki from Wired on how to follow developments on news sites and social media.

As Egypt's Protests Spread, All Eyes on Army's Allegiance, Next Moves | PBS NewsHour | Jan. 28, 2011 | PBS

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we come back to the turmoil in Egypt.

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs repeated pleas for both sides to avoid violence and said now is the time for the Mubarak government to reform.

But he went further, with a warning that Washington will review its financial assistance to Egypt. The U.S. provided $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid in fiscal year 2010.

Gibbs spoke to reporters before President Mubarak addressed his country this evening.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS: The security personnel in Egypt need to refrain from violence. Protesters should refrain from violence as well.

The legitimate grievances that have festered for quite some time in Egypt have to be addressed by the Egyptian government immediately, and violence is not the response.

QUESTION: What's the United States doing about aid?

ROBERT GIBBS: Obviously, we will be reviewing our assistance posture based on -- based on events now and in the coming days.

QUESTION: I'm wondering why this message that you are delivering from the podium, or we heard from Secretary of State Clinton earlier today, why the president isn't himself making those same comments on the phone call? I mean, it seems that it would be more powerful if the president can pick up the phone, call President Mubarak, and make the same remarks?

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, again -- again, I think it's important to understand that we have -- we are in continual contact with -- throughout levels of our government, with the Egyptian government.

And I think what's also very important is we have not waited for the events of the past several days to bring up our concerns and the concerns of the Egyptian people about -- about what I said: association, assembly, freedom of expression, freedom -- Internet freedoms.

Those are discussions that are had at every opportunity when anybody from our government meets with the Egyptian government.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: You have repeatedly said that the U.S. is urging for reform in Egypt.


QUESTION: But, concretely, what types of reforms are you urging for? And also is this realistic, I mean given that the same regime has been in power there for 30 years?

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, I -- let me -- I outlined a couple of things yesterday and repeated them today, the types of things that we certainly would envision.

I think -- and I will repeat those. Obviously, I mentioned free and fair elections. I mentioned our condemnation of the extension of emergency law and that that should be ended.

But the grievances of the people have to be addressed directly by the government, and I think there has to be a significant and thorough dialogue to address, again, a whole host of individual rights that the people rightly believe are lacking.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The State Department, meanwhile, issued warnings urging U.S. citizens to postpone nonessential travel there and said Americans in Egypt should stay indoors.

For more on this very dramatic day, we turn to Steven Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations -- he just returned last night from a trip to Egypt, where he met with members of the government, as well as protesters; Samer Shehata, assistant professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University; and Mary-Jane Deeb. She is chief of the African and Middle East Division at the Library of Congress. The views she expresses here are her own.

Thank you all for being with us.

Let me start with you, Steven Cook, because you are just back. You have listened to President Mubarak's statement. What did you make of it? He's staying in place. He's defiant.

STEVEN COOK, Council on Foreign Relations: My first reaction is that it's stunningly deluded.

From the very beginning, when these protests began on Tuesday afternoon in Cairo, the first demand of these protesters is that Mubarak must go. When I was in Tahrir Square on Tuesday night, they were screaming that Mubarak should join Ben Ali in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

This is not about the government. It's not about Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. It's not about the ministers. It's about President Mubarak, his son Gamal Mubarak and the ruling National Democratic Party. The vast majority of Egyptians who are now out on the streets want significant change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Mary-Jane Deeb he is saying he wants reforms. He wasn't specific about what he wants. He talked about dealing with poverty, economic reform. But he kept stressing security.

MARY-JANE DEEB, Library of Congress: Well, that's -- that's the way he is protecting himself. He's claiming that all the -- all the things that he's doing, the clamping down on people, is for security and law and order.

But the Egyptians know that this is a way of preventing them from getting what they want. So, they're not giving in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Samer Shehata, when you listened to President Mubarak, did you hear anything different, anything out of character for him?

SAMER SHEHATA, Georgetown University: There was a little bit of out-of-character statements.

I mean, it was interesting that he began immediately by expressing some sadness about the death of the protesters. And he also said and confirmed, supposedly -- but of course no one believes this -- his commitment to peaceful protest and the right to do so.

So, I think that was an interesting out-of-character remark. But with regards to credibility...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Wait a minute. Let me stop you there. Why do you say no one believes this?

SAMER SHEHATA: Well, the Mubarak regime lacks credibility, and Mr. Mubarak lacks credibility.

As Steven was saying, the demand has been that Mr. Mubarak leave, an end to this regime. This is a president who in 1981 said that he would only be a one-term president. This is a president who has repeatedly said that the emergency law would be rescinded time and time again. This is a law that has been in place for over 30 years.

And this is a president who has promised on multiple occasions to have free and fair elections. And the only things that are certain, unfortunately, about Egyptian elections is that they are not free and fair.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Steven Cook, the military is in the -- the police were in the streets, security forces. Now the military is in the streets. We were just seeing on the wires that the tanks have moved into the central square in Cairo. What further can the protesters do?

STEVEN COOK: Well, they can continue to protest.

As we heard in the reports, some protesters are continuing to oppose the -- the -- the army, and others are welcoming them, as a shield between them and the reviled police. Now Mubarak is really doubling down by sending the army out.

The army is a professional organization. It does not relish keeping the streets of Egypt quiet. But they are deeply entwined with this regime. They have benefited from this regime. And clearly, they maintain the trust in President Mubarak. And that's why they're willing to go out into the streets and try to calm this situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mary-Jane Deeb, who is Mubarak listening to now? How is he making these decisions?

MARY-JANE DEEB: Well, he has advisers around him.

But with the issue of the army -- and I think it's a very important issue -- it depends who is advising the president. And the top -- the top brass of the army are advising him.

But the rest of the army is really a cross-section of the Egyptian people. Because of conscription, young men from all classes, from all groups of society, educated, and, you know, past high school, get into the army. So, which way the army is going to go will define this uprising.

If the young people in the army go with the protesters, then Mubarak is going to fall. If the top brass succeeds in keeping the army fighting the young people in the street, then Mubarak stays.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any way to know, Samer Shehata, which way the army will go?

SAMER SHEHATA: Well, there's no way to know right now. I think we're going to see tomorrow, however, because the protesters are going to continue to protest.

People were expecting in Egypt this evening, listening to President Mubarak, for him to say that he was going to either resign or not run in the scheduled presidential elections in 2011. That was the minimum that people might be willing to accept.

So, the question now is -- because people are going to go out into the streets tomorrow and continue their protest until something major happens, until this regime possibly falls, so, the question now becomes is what will the army do tomorrow when the protesters are out there? Are they going to do what they are doing now, which is guarding public buildings, or are they going to open fire on their countrymen?

And this is not what the Egyptian army does. They're not deployed on to the streets. And that's why they have a great deal more respect and admiration among ordinary Egyptians. They're a national institution. They are not the boot of the regime against the Egyptian people, which is what the Interior Ministry, the police and the security forces are.

STEVEN COOK: It's interesting. The military has gone out into the streets before in 1977, during the bread rise that shook the Sadat regime. But they extracted a concession from Sadat.

He had wanted to cut subsidies. And before going out into the streets, the military said, you must restore those subsidies before we put down this popular unrest. In 1986, they came out into the streets to put down riots by the security forces.

But this is not, as Samer said, the jackboot of the regime. It is the Interior Ministry forces that have done the dirty work of keeping Egypt's streets quiet.


JUDY WOODRUFF: You're shaking your head.

SAMER SHEHATA: There's a major difference between the army's presence on the street in '86 and earlier with the food riots. Those were not politically motivated demonstrations and protests. Those were economically based...

STEVEN COOK: That's correct.

SAMER SHEHATA: ... and in the case of the security forces -- these demonstrations, unlike any we have seen in Egypt over the past three or four decades, are political in nature. They are about removing this regime, a regime that has been in place for 29 years, three months and 20 some days.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mary-Jane Deeb, you know, we keep hearing there's very little organization among the protesters. We heard the correspondents in Cairo saying they didn't seem to know what they are going to do tomorrow.

Are they as disorganized and spontaneous as what we are watching?

MARY-JANE DEEB: Not really. We have been looking at some of the blogs. And some of the blogs have manifestos. They try to define who they are, what they want. They have specific demands.

The first, of course, is the political demand, to get rid of the government, to have free and fair elections. But they also address economic issues. They also address issues of poverty. They address the issue of young people coming, graduating from universities and not finding jobs. And they want a safety net for those young people coming out.

So, they are addressing specific issues. And they are coming out in blogs, and then calling -- calling neighbors to organize. They even have maps where demonstrators should be going down and demonstrating. They have specific locations that need to be attacked. So, I have seen some of the blogs, and they're fascinating.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if they're organized, are there -- who are the leaders of the opposition?

STEVEN COOK: Well, that's the thing. There is no central organizing group or node here.

This -- what transpired on Tuesday and continued on Wednesday was essentially flash-mob protests. It was done through social media. It was done through Facebook and blogs and Twitter, in which people were communicating with each other where to go, where people were meeting up, and then suddenly...

JUDY WOODRUFF: And now that's been shut down, a lot of that.

STEVEN COOK: And now that has been shut down. So -- but that was a much smaller crowd. Now you have a wider and deeper section of Egyptian society out on the streets. There isn't real need for coordination.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Final question about the roll the U.S. is playing in all this. We heard Robert Gibbs saying very clearly, we're looking at aid to Egypt in how President Mubarak handles this.

What bearing will that have on what happens there?

SAMER SHEHATA: Well, I hope it has a bearing, but, so far, from listening to President Mubarak's speech, it seems not to have had a bearing. The U.S.'s position has seemed to have evolved on this over the last few days.

You will remember Secretary Clinton said that she believed that the Egyptian government was stable, and then somehow said that both sides need to show restraint. President Obama's remarks yesterday showed a focus -- the importance of this issue. And then Mr. Gibbs's remarks emphasized the need of peaceful protest and -- and emphasized the right of Egyptians to protest.

And it was really a warning to Mr. Mubarak, I think.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm just being told that there's a new wire report that President Obama did speak with President Mubarak today, I'm told, for half-an-hour. And we're also told to expect a statement from President Obama shortly. So, we will see where that heads.

Well, it's clearly a fast-moving story, and we want to thank all three of you for being with us.

Mary-Jane Deeb, Steven Cook, Samer Shehata, thank you very much.

STEVEN COOK: You're welcome.


MARY-JANE DEEB: Thank you.

Stop the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive Petition

Stop the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive
57244 Signatures 

Published by Heidi Stevenson on Oct 12, 2010

Category: Civil Rights
Region: Europe
Target: European Union Committee on Petitions
Background (Preamble):
The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) is presented as a service to European citizens and as simple to apply. However, close examination of its methods in practice demonstrates that the reality will be an egregious abridgement of the rights of individuals to obtain and use the health treatments they choose.

While it benefits citizens for governmental agencies to advise on efficacy and safety of products that have been commonly and freely used by utilising a particular method of inquiry, that information may not address the needs of individuals and presumes that there is only one system for obtaining accurate and beneficial information. That is equivalent to allowing only one religion as the accepted source of truth.

The costs and systems required by THMPD are generally not manageable by small manufacturers, which are the predominant suppliers of herbal products. This results in an unfair competitive advantage to multinational corporations, which ultimately limits the individual's access to quality and selection in herbal medicinal products.

With THMPD, the European Union has overstepped and is severely restricting the unwritten rights of each human being to choose and access methods of managing health. It is a dangerous usurpation of civil rights that assumes the individual does not have the ability to make proper health decisions. Self-determination in matters of health must be treated as an inherent civil right, and THMPD is an abrogation of it.

Read this to see the sort of madness that the EU Commission is already enacting--and that you may help stop by signing this petition.

Please note that the EU requires valid addresses and birthdates. If you do not include your address or birthdate, your signature may not be counted. All information is kept private. Addresses and birthdates are not visible to the public, and you may also choose to keep your name private.

All signatures are welcome, though ones without all requested information may not be counted and non-EU signatures will not be counted. However, we welcome all signatures as supportive of this cause.

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Save your right to medicinal herbs!

Answers to Questions & Comments

We call on the European Commission to stop the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD), Directive 2004/24/EC, which is set to remove access to the vast majority of herbal medicinal products beginning 30 April 2011.

THMPD abridges the rights of each European citizen to self-determination in managing health. It goes far beyond reasonable controls over dangerous products, and enters the realm of coercion by limiting options for treating health issues.

The public's access to herbal products that have traditionally been freely available must continue uninterrupted.

The Stop the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive petition to European Union Committee on Petitions was written by Heidi Stevenson and is hosted free of charge at GoPetition. Contact author here. Petition tags: , , ,

Click here to Like this petition or Add/View Comments

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If Egypt falls, Syria must follow | Analysis & Opinion |


By Farid Ghadry, a Syrian-American who co-founded the Reform Party of Syria (RPS) dedicated to freedom and human rights in his native country, blogs at The opinions expressed are his own.

When watching the riots in Tunisia and Egypt, the question on everyone’s mind is, what outcome will these organic and popular uprisings will produce?

The world may be witnessing a new dawn in the Middle East fostered by enlightenment or a new Egyptian government trailing behind Syria as the latest conquest the Mullahs of Iran can claim is the result of their wise policies.

With Hezbollah’s latest dismantlement of a Lebanese government, aided by the complicity of the Assad regime and an Egypt whose future remains uncertain, it is essential for US and European policy makers to view Syria as a clear and present danger rather than the country stabilizing the region. No matter what happens, Egypt is a changed country. If it falls in the “L” column, Syria and Iran will play an essential role in supplying Egypt, as they did to Hezbollah, with the necessary tools to destabilize North Africa. This outcome will place a heavy military burden on Israel, the result of which may engulf the region with intermittent wars for many years to come.

As the world watches images of Egypt erupting, similar images are being reproduced in Syria. We have witnessed today many demonstrations in Damascus, Aleppo, and Qamoshli. With 10,000 IRGC (the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) personnel residing permanently in Syria, we also witnessed them, mixed with Syrian Army Battalions, deploy in several cities around the country. Yet, the international media, and al-Jazeera especially, have gone dark on Syria.

Instead of supporting a similar organic uprising by a people whose 65% of its citizens were born enslaved living in total misery, the world seems oblivious to the pain Assad inflicts on our people. I believe this is a major mistake. One that Syrians, Israelis, Lebanese, and Americans will pay a dear price for.

With Syria becoming free and falling into the hands of its people, a major supply line to Hezbollah and possibly Egypt will be disrupted. The fall of Syria might also save Egypt from a possible takeover by the Mullahs. This scenario is basked in pessimism but when was the last time the west received good news from the Middle East?

Al-Hurra, a US-funded TV station, has been slow in responding to any threats affecting the Syrian regime. Why? Because planted within its Virginia offices are sympathizers and supporters of Assad and Hezbollah. The last time al-Hurra broadcasted a negative story on Syria was in 2005 due to pressure from the Bush administration.

If al-Hurra covers the demonstrations happening in Damascus, it will encourage Syrians to rise against Assad. And while many pundits and experts will capitalize on Assad’s propaganda that his alternatives are hardcore Islamists, the reality is that Syrians are mostly secular people. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood cannot possibly muster more than 10% of the votes but the mere thought that some analyst could be wrong has frozen our intellect to the point where we view Assad’s evil as a stabilizing factor. The question becomes: Are you really willing to bet Egypt on Assad’s stability? The time has come for true leadership in the region.

Photo caption: A protester walks in front of a fire in downtown Cairo January 28, 2011. President Hosni Mubarak ordered troops into Egyptian cities on Friday in an attempt to quell street fighting and growing mass protests demanding an end to his 30-year rule. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

LinkedIn rides in on Facebook’s hype | Analysis & Opinion |

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

LinkedIn is riding in on Facebook’s hype. The smaller, professionally focused networking site has plenty to offer in the IPO prospectus it just filed. LinkedIn boasts 90 million users, quick growth and even a little profit, at least for now. Yet its model looks a bit more like’s than Facebook’s. Hungry Web 2.0 investors may overlook the difference.

The business does appear solid. Even though most users access LinkedIn for free, sales nearly doubled in the first nine months of 2010, to $161 million. Moreover, the money comes from multiple sources. LinkedIn charges companies to search profiles and to place recruitment ads. It also provides broader advertising space. And it sells premium subscriptions. The balanced revenue blend provides some stability to the growth.

The gray market values LinkedIn at $2.5 billion. That’s baking in a lot of future profit. The parent company of somewhat comparable online job search sites and has a market capitalization of $2.2 billion, yet generates nearly four times the revenue LinkedIn does.

Of course, LinkedIn is growing much faster. And while it is largely used for employment purposes, LinkedIn does have a social networking element, which means users visit it often and give the site more data. That adds value for advertisers.
Yet the company isn’t very profitable yet. Net income is just 6 percent of sales, and LinkedIn says it will probably be in the red in 2011 due to heavy investment. Margins in Web companies are highly dependent on scale. Unfortunately, LinkedIn’s specialty means it can’t hope to attract Facebook-sized traffic — and therefore probably won’t come close to the social giant’s 30 percent net margins.

Then again, LinkedIn isn’t gunning for a $50 billion valuation either. But a $2.5 billion price tag puts LinkedIn at about 10 times estimated 2010 sales. That looks rich — Google went public at a roughly comparable multiple. It was growing faster at the time and its net margins were almost three times as high and rising. None of that may matter, though, for investors desperate to connect with social networking shares.

Iran hangs Iranian-Dutch woman for drug smuggling | Reuters

Iran hangs Iranian-Dutch woman for drug smuggling

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    TEHRAN | Sat Jan 29, 2011 3:14am EST


    (Reuters) - An Iranian-Dutch woman, arrested after taking part in anti-government protests in Iran in 2009, has been hanged for drug smuggling, the semi-official Mehr news agency said on Saturday.

    "A woman smuggler named Zahra Bahrami, daughter of Ali, has been hanged today for the possession and selling of narcotics," Mehr reported, quoting the court.

    The 45-year-old woman's daughter was quoted by the New York-based rights group International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran as saying the drug charges were fabricated.

    Mehr reported that she had been found guilty of smuggling cocaine into Iran from the Netherlands and was found with 450 grams of the drug in her possession. Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.

    Bahrami, who according to the International Campaign for Human Rights, lived in London but visited her family in Iran, took part in opposition demonstrations marking the Shi'ite Muslim festival of Ashura in December 2009.

    That was six months after the disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which was followed by the biggest street protests since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

    The government stamped out the protests which it says were the work of foreign-backed seditionists. Thousands of people were detained after the election. Most of them have since been freed, but more than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years and at least five have been sentenced to death.

    As in the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman whose sentence to death by stoning was suspended after an international outcry, Iranian authorities accused foreign governments of trying to interfere in judicial proceedings.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said last week: "It is expected from the Western countries to appreciate Iran's efforts to combat drug trafficking and even cooperate accordingly. Unfortunately, however, we are witnessing their support for Zahra Bahrami and they have even called for her release."

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    Highlights: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's speech | Reuters

    Highlights: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's speech

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    CAIRO | Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:09pm EST


    (Reuters) - President Hosni Mubarak sacked his cabinet but refused to step down in an address broadcast shortly after midnight on Saturday after a day of unprecedented violent protests.

    Mubarak said Egypt needed dialogue not violence. Here are excerpts of his speech:

    "I have been closely following the protests and what they were asking for and calling on. My instructions to the government have stressed on providing it with an opportunity to express the opinions and demands of the citizens ...

    "I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives among protesters and police forces ...

    "The government stayed committed to those instructions and that was obvious in the way police forces dealt with our youth, in taking initiative to protect them ... before those protests turned into riots that threaten the system and obstruct the daily life of citizens ...

    "There is a fine line between freedom and chaos and I lean toward freedom for the people in expressing their opinions as much as I hold on to the need to maintain Egypt's safety and stability ...

    "Fellow citizens, those protests came to express the legitimate expectations for more speed in halting unemployment and enhancing living conditions, fighting poverty and standing firmly against corruption ...

    "Egypt's youth are its most valuable asset and looting of public and private property, destroying what we have built, is not the route to follow ...

    "My conviction is still set to continue political, economic and social reforms for the sake of a free and democratic Egyptian community ... I am convinced that the economy is too big and serious to be left to economists alone ...

    "What happened throughout these protests extends beyond looting, chaos and fire to a larger scheme aimed at shaking stability and an attack on legitimacy ...

    "It is not by setting fires and by attacking private and public property that we achieve the aspirations of Egypt and its sons, but they will be achieved through dialogue, awareness and effort ...

    "The path of reform which we have chosen is irreversible and cannot go backward. We will proceed with new steps that affirm our respect for the independence of the judiciary ... new steps toward more democracy and freedoms ... new steps to face unemployment and increase the standard of living and services ... new steps to stand by the poor and those with limited income. Our choices and our goals are what will determine our fate and our future ...

    "I carry the foremost responsibility in protecting the security of the nation and the people ...

    "I have asked the government to present its resignation today (Friday) and I will name a new government starting from tomorrow ... to effectively deal with the priorities of this current phase ...

    "I will defend Egypt's safety and stability and its people's wishes, for that is the responsibility and the trust endowed in me when I swore an oath in front of God and the nation to protect it."

    (Reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Dina Zayed)

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    New Invisibility Cloak Closer to Working "Magic"

    Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins, take note: Scientists are a step closer to conquering the "magic" of invisibility.

    Many earlier cloaking systems turned objects "invisible" only under wavelengths of light that the human eye can't see. Others could conceal only microscopic objects. (See "Two New Cloaking Devices Close In on True Invisibility.")

    But the new system, developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre, works in visible light and can hide objects big enough to see with the naked eye.

    The "cloak" is made from two pieces of calcite crystal—a cheap, easily obtained mineral—stuck together in a certain configuration.

    Calcite is highly anisotropic, which means that light coming from one side will exit at a different angle than light entering from another side. By using two different pieces of calcite, the researchers were able to bend light around a solid object placed between the crystals.

    "Under the assembly there is a wedge-shaped gap," said MIT's George Barbastathis, who helped develop the new system. "The idea is that whatever you put under this gap, it looks from the outside like it is not there."

    Invisibility Cloak a Boon for Drivers?

    The new invisibility cloak still has its drawbacks: For one, it works best under green light. The researchers designed the cloak this way because the calcite can only be configured for a very narrow wavelength of light, and human eyes are most sensitive to green, Barbastathis said.

    (Related: "'Electromagnetic Wormhole' Could Make Objects Invisible.")

    In addition, the cloaking effect works only if you look at the hidden object from a certain direction. Viewing the object from another angle will make it "reappear."

    Also, the system can only cloak objects that fit under the mineral wedge, which in this case is just two millimeters tall. Still, a larger piece of calcite should be able to hide larger objects.

    Barbastathis is confident that his team or another group will come up with a true, three-dimensional invisibility cloak soon. In the meantime, he can think of at least one practical application from the system as it stands. (Also see "Acoustic 'Invisibility' Cloaks Possible, Study Says.")

    "I live in Boston, and in Boston a lot of streets converge at very sharp angles, so when you look at the traffic light, it's confusing whether you're seeing the traffic light for you or the light that is for the other street," he said.

    With the current cloak, "you could hide certain lights from drivers so they do not get confused."

    The new invisibility cloak is described in a paper published last week in the journal Physical Review Letters.

    Egypt supporters rally worldwide - Europe - Al Jazeera English

    Egypt supporters rally worldwide
    Protests held across globe in a show of solidarity with Egyptian demonstrators attempting to oust president.

    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2011 15:36 GMT

    Several hundred people held a rally outside a mosque in Istanbul reiterating calls for Mubarak to step down [Reuters]

    Demonstrations are taking place around the world in a show of unity with protesters fighting for political change in Egypt.

    In Turkey between 200 and 400 protesters held a demonstration outside the Fatih Mosque in central Istanbul after Friday prayers to lend their voices to the Egyptian cause.

    Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Turkey, said the mosque had become a focal point for activism since Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship headed to Gaza last year.

    "It is very much the organisations that we saw rise to prominence following the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara that have taken on the streets today to lend their voices in solidarity with the Egyptians," she said.

    A simultaneous rally of about 50 people was also held in Ankara, the Turkish capital, where up to 50 people gathered outside the Egyptian embassy.

    Tunisian solidarity

    In London, Britain's capital, around 50 protesters are gathering outside the Egyptian embassy to add their voices to those calling for Hosni Mubarak, the president, and his government, to step down.

    Abdullah Ali, a 26-year-old demonstrator at the rally in London, told Al Jazeera they were asking for "free democratic elections".

    "I think the Egyptian population have had enough. They've seen what happened in Tunisia and how you can bring about a change. What we are asking for is Mubarak, father and son, to leave."

    Many Tunisians, who saw major and violent protests topple the leadership of its president earlier this month, have also expressed solidarity with Egypt, saying that they hoped their revolution would spark events around the Arab world.

    Around 50 people are holding a demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy in Tunis, the capital, brandishing placards with slogans reading "Mubarak Out!" and "Freedom".

    "We are here to say that the Tunisian people are behind the Egyptian people. They have suffered in the way that we suffered. It's time for change," Monia Mechri, one of the protesters, was quoted by the AFP news agency.

    The Progressive Democratic Party, a former opposition group that has now joined Tunisia's interim government, said Egypt had "called in the hour of change for an end to injustice and dictatorship".

    "The Egyptian people supported the Tunisian people's revolution. Our heart is with you and our voices never cease to pray for victory," it added in a statement.

    Ahmed, a blogger and activist at the rally told Al Jazeera that what has happened in Egypt is "very great".

    "Now democracy will be ... one effect in the Arabic world," he said.

    He said activists in Tunisia had used Facebook to message people in Egypt with advice on how to tackle police tactics during their protests.

    Demonstrations have also been held outside the Egyptian embassy in Doha, the Qatari capital, where political demonstrations are a rare event.

    Mubarak dismisses government - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

    Mubarak dismisses government
    Embattled Egyptian leader says he will name a new government on Saturday.

    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2011 23:16 GMT

    Egyptian President says he will not allow protests to jeopardise reforms

    The Egyptian president has dismissed his government, saying that he will replace it with a new one on Saturday.

    "I have asked the government to resign and tomorrow there will be a new government," Hosni Mubarak said in an address to the nation late on Friday after four days of deadly protests.

    The president said that change can not be achieved through chaos but through dialogue.

    Saying he understood that the people of Egypt wanted him to address poverty, employment and democratic reform, he promised to press ahead with social, economic and political reforms.

    "We will not backtrack on reforms. We will continue with new steps which will ensure the independence of the judiciary and its rulings, and more freedom for citizens," Mubarak said.

    He said new steps will be taken "to contain unemployment, raise living standards, improve services and stand by the poor."

    Reacting to the protests that have erupted in the capital and other cities, Mubarak urged calm, adding that only because of his own reforms over the years, were people able to protest.

    'Not enough'

    His words, however, are likely to be interpreted as an attempt to cling to power rather than take concrete steps to solve some of the more pressing problems facing many Egyptians, primarily unemployment and rapidly rising food prices.

    Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Cairo, said many Egyptians calling for change would say the sacking of the government is not enough.

    "Ultimately in Egypt, the power lies with the president," he said.

    "On paper, you have an independent parliament and an independent judiciary but every Egyptian will tell you that at the end of the day, power is concentrated in the hands of the president.

    "Very few institutions can challenge his authority so the sacking of the cabinet is not going to end the grievances of the people."

    A somber looking Mubarak called anti-government protests "part of a bigger plot to shake the stability and destroy legitimacy" of the political system.

    He also defended the security forces' crackdown on protesters, saying he had given them instructions that the protesters be allowed to express their views. But, he said, acts of violence and vandalism left the security forces with no choice but to react to restore order.

    The tragic life of a street vendor - Features - Al Jazeera English

    The tragic life of a street vendor
    Al Jazeera travels to the birthplace of Tunisia's uprising and speaks to Mohamed Bouazizi's family.

    Last Modified: 20 Jan 2011 15:00 GMT

    A town not previously recognised outside of Tunisia is now known as the place where a revolution began [Al Jazeera]

    In a country where officials have little concern for the rights of citizens, there was nothing extraordinary about humiliating a young man trying to sell fruit and vegetables to support his family.

    Yet when Mohamed Bouazizi poured inflammable liquid over his body and set himself alight outside the local municipal office, his act of protest cemented a revolt that would ultimately end President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year-rule.

    Local police officers had been picking on Bouazizi for years, ever since he was a child. For his family, there is some comfort that their personal loss has had such stunning political consequences.

    "I don't want Mohamed's death to be wasted," Menobia Bouazizi, his mother, said. "Mohamed was the key to this revolt."

    Simple, troubled life

    Mohamed Bouazizi was 10 years old when he became the main provider for his family, selling fresh produce in the local market. He stayed in high school long enough to sit his baccalaureate exam, but did not graduate. (He never attended university, contrary to what many news organisations have reported).

    Bouazizi's father died when he was three years old. His elder brother lives away from the family, in Sfax. Though his mother remarried, her second husband suffers from poor health and is unable to find regular work.


    Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin profiles the man whose suicide launched a revolution

    "He didn't expect to study, because we didn't have the money," his mother said.

    At age of 19, Mohamed halted his studies in order to work fulltime, to help offer his five younger siblings the chance to stay in school.

    "My sister was the one in university and he would pay for her," Samya Bouazizi, one of his sisters, said. "And I am still a student and he would spend money on me."

    He applied to join the army, but was refused, as were other successive job applications. With his family dependant on him, there were few options other than to continue going to market.

    By all accounts, Bouazizi, just 26 when he died earlier this month, was honest and hardworking. Every day, he would take his wooden cart to the supermarket and load it would fruit and vegetables. Then he would walk it more than two kilometres to the local souk.

    Police abuse

    And nearly everyday, he was bullied by local police officers.

    "Since he was a child, they were mistreating him. He was used to it," Hajlaoui Jaafer, a close friend of Bouazizi, said. "I saw him humiliated."

    The body of the man who started a revolution now lies in a simple grave, surrounded by olive trees, cactuses and blossoming almond trees.

    The abuse took many forms. Mostly, it was the type of petty bureaucratic tyranny that many in the region know all too well. Police would confiscate his scales and his produce, or fine him for running a stall without a permit.

    Six months before his attempted suicide, police sent a fine for 400 dinars ($280) to his house – the equivalent of two months of earnings.

    The harassment finally became too much for the young man on December 17.

    That morning, it became physical. A policewoman confronted him on the way to market. She returned to take his scales from him, but Bouazizi refused to hand them over. They swore at each other, the policewoman slapped him and, with the help of her colleagues, forced him to the ground.

    The officers took away his produce and his scale.

    Publically humiliated, Bouazizi tried to seek recourse. He went to the local municipality building and demanded to a meeting with an official.

    He was told it would not be possible and that the official was in a meeting.

    "It's the type of lie we're used to hearing," said his friend.

    Protest of last resort

    With no official wiling to hear his grievances, the young man brought paint fuel, returned to the street outside the building, and set himself on fire.

    For Mohamed's mother, her son's suicide was motivated not by poverty but because he had been humiliated.

    "It got to him deep inside, it hurt his pride," she said, referring to the police's harassment of her son.

    The uprising that followed came quick and fast. From Sidi Bouzid it spread to Kasserine, Thala, Menzel Bouzaiene. Tunisians of every age, class and profession joined the revolution.

    In the beginning, however, the outrage was intensely personal.

    "What really gave fire to the revolution was that Mohamed was a very well-known and popular man. He would give free fruit and vegetables to very poor families," Jaafer said.

    Tunisian president paid a visit to Bouazizi in hospital [AFP]

    It took Ben Ali nearly two weeks to visit Mohamed Bouazizi's bedside at the hospital in Ben Arous. For many observers, the official photo of the president looking down on the bandaged young man had a different symbolism from what Ben Ali had probably intended.

    Menobia Bouazizi said the former president was wrong not to meet with her son sooner, and that when Ben Ali finally did reach out to her family, it was too late - both to save her son, and to save his presidency.

    He received members of the Bouazizi family in his offices, but for Menobia Bouazizi, the meeting rang hollow.

    "The invite to the presidential palace came very late," she said. "We are sure that the president only made the invitation to try to derail the revolution."

    "I went there as a mother and a citizen to ask for justice for my son."

    "The president promised he would do everything he could to save our son, even to have him sent to France for treatment."

    The president never delivered on his promises to her family, Menobia Bouazizi said.

    Contagious uprising

    But by the time Menobia Bouazizi's son died of his burns on January 4, the uprising had already spread across Tunisia.

    Fedya Hamdi, the last police officer to antagonise the street vendor, has since fled the town. She was reportedly dismissed, but her exact whereabouts are unknown.

    Meanwhile, the body of the man who started a revolution now lies in a simple grave outside Sidi Bouzid, surrounded by olive trees, cactuses and blossoming almond trees.

    He is sorely missed by his family, whose modest house is now one of the busiest in Sidi Bouzid, with a steady flow of journalists who have only just discovered the town where it all began.

    "He was very sincere," Basma Bouazizi, his shy 16-year-old sister, said. "We are like soulless bodies since he left."

    "We consider him to be a martyr," Mahmoud Ghozlani, a local member of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), said in an interview metres away from the spot where the street vendor set himself on fire.

    Proof itself of the progress made in four short weeks: such an interview with an opposition activist on the streets of Sidi Bouzid would not have been possible until the day Bouazizi inspired the revolt.

    Part One of a two-part series. See also: How the people of Sidi Bouzid launched a revolution.

    Follow Yasmine Ryan on Twitter @yasmineryan.

    Egypt protests: America’s secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising | Philip Brennan

    Editor's Note: I offer this out into the mix of information and disinformation from the Western Main Stream Media, but this does not mean that this article is necessarily true or accurate. Reader discretion is most strongly advised...

    The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

    Tim Ross, Matthew Moore & Steven Swinford | The Telegraph | 28 January 2011:

    The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

    On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

    He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.

    The crisis in Egypt follows the toppling of Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, who fled the country after widespread protests forced him from office.

    The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police.

    Click here for the full article...

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    U.S. consular employee arrested after 'shooting dead two motorcyclists in high-speed chase' | Mail Online

    U.S. consular employee arrested after 'shooting dead two motorcyclists in high-speed chase'

    By Daily Mail Reporter
    Last updated at 1:33 PM on 28th January 2011

    A U.S consular employee in Pakistan is facing murder charges following a high-speed chase in which two gun-toting motorcyclists who may have been intent on robbing him were shot dead.

    Raymond David told police he shot the two men in self-defence as they pursued his car. 

    A third Pakistani man was also killed, allegedly after being hit by a U.S. vehicle rushing to the aid of the American on the bustling Lahore street.

    Pakistani police escort Raymond David to a court in Lahore following his arrest. Mr David told police he shot two men in self-defence as they pursued his car

    Pakistani police escort Raymond David to a court in Lahore following his arrest. Mr David told police he shot two men in self-defence as they pursued his car

    Police officer Umar Saeed said today that David had told officers he had withdrawn money from an ATM shortly before the incident, raising the possibility the two men were following him.

    Others Pakistani officers have said the men were likely to be robbers and both were carrying pistols.

    The issue of American diplomats or their security detail carrying weapons inside Pakistan was a hot-button subject last year among certain politicians and sections of the media purportedly worried about the country's sovereignty.

    Pakistani security officials inspect the car of the US consular employee, who is accused of shooting dead two motorcyclists during a high-speed chase

    Pakistani security officials inspect the car of the US consular employee, who is accused of shooting dead two motorcyclists during a high-speed chase

    People look at blood stains on the busy Lahore road where the men were shot. Pakistani officers have said the men were likely to be robbers and both were carrying pistols

    People look at blood stains on the busy Lahore road where the men were shot. Pakistani officers have said the men were likely to be robbers and both were carrying pistols

    Many Pakistanis regard the United States with suspicion or outright enmity because of its occupation of neighbouring Afghanistan and regular missile attacks against militant targets in Pakistan's northwest.

    '"American Rambo" goes berserk in Lahore' read the headline in The Nation, a right-wing newspaper that often publishes anti-U.S. conspiracy theories.

    Western diplomats travel with armed guards in many parts of Pakistan because of the risk of militant attack, although David may not have been one of the foreign security personnel allowed to carry firearms, according to the Pakistani authorities.

    Lahore has seen frequent terrorist bombings and shootings over the last two years, though the city's small expatriate population has not been directly targeted.

    Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the American was formally placed under arrest after a complaint from a brother of one of the victims.

    Pakistani people look at the motorbike of a man who was killed in the shooting yesterday

    Pakistani people look at the motorbike of a man who was killed in the shooting yesterday

    The case is being investigated as a potential murder, and the American may face that charge, Sanaullah said.

    Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the American may also face a charge involving illegally carrying a weapon, a Beretta pistol.

    'Diplomatic staff usually enjoy a certain type of immunity, but I am not sure about murder,' Tareen said.

    'We will consult the Foreign Office and legal advisers in this regard.'

    In a two-sentence statement today, the U.S. embassy confirmed that a consulate staffer 'was involved in an incident yesterday that regrettably resulted in the loss of life.'

    The U.S. was working with Pakistanis to 'determine the facts and work toward a resolution,' it said.

    People protest outside a police station in Lahore following the killing of the motorcyclists

    People protest outside a police station in Lahore following the killing of the motorcyclists

    Robbers on motorbikes pulling up alongside cars and holding them up is a common crime in Pakistani cities.

    A newspaper editorial in The Express Tribune said it was reasonable for Western diplomats to travel armed, but noted that in America shooting in self-defence can result in a conviction, especially if it can be proved that the accused used excessive force.

    Americans and other foreigners have also been frequently targeted by Islamist militants in Pakistan.

    In the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2008, gunmen shot and killed a U.S. aid worker as he drove to work.

    Suspected militants also opened fire on the vehicle of the top American diplomat in the city the same year, but she survived the attack.

    Explore more:

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    The comments below have been moderated in advance.

    Have our conspiracy theorist friends got any wacko comments about this story that they would like to regale us with? Usually anything remotely connected to the USA on the one hand and Muslim states on the other usually brings them out in droves.

    - Zak, London, 28/1/2011 13:06

    Click to rate     Rating   40

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    Hes a consular official - he gets diplomatic immunity.

    - Fergus Mac Brunstrom, Pantigirdl, Wales, 28/1/2011 13:05

    Click to rate     Rating   78

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    Im not the biggest fan of Americans, however in this case this was a US diplomat faced with two gun carring thugs. Thier intention was unknown with robbery, kidnap or even murder on thier minds. It was his right to defend himself and he did so, and before anyone starts on about shooting in the leg or shooting to wound, this is not hollywood or fantasy, you always shoot into the body as the biggest area, adreniline is rushing through you along with fear, shoot to wound and you will miss and they will shoot back and wounding will be the last thing on thier mind.

    - christopher, london, 28/1/2011 11:46

    Click to rate     Rating   177

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    Yeah right, there's a man who will get a "fair" trial in that country. I can just see the Kangaroo court that would ensue. Good on him that he took care of the robbers, shame that he did not make it to his Embassy safely to begin with. And it's a shame that the pedestrian was also killed by the other car. I don't have much faith in the thought of fair justice for a Westerner from that lot.

    - Ted, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 28/1/2011 11:37

    Click to rate     Rating   149

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