US jets targeted terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pounding one of his suspected hideouts Friday in Fallujah in a strike that US officials said killed up to 25 people. Iraqi leaders warned of more insurgent attacks after a wave of bloodshed blamed on al-Zarqawi. \nSeveral strong explosions were heard early yesterday in central Baghdad but the origin was unclear. \nMeanwhile, some influential Muslim clerics who had been sharply critical of the American occupation spoke out Friday against the bloody attacks of the previous day, which killed more than 100 people, most of them Iraqis. Three American soldiers were among the dead. \n"What sort of religion condones the killing of a Muslim by another Muslim?" asked Sheik Abdul-Ghafour al-Samarai, a member of the influential Sunni group the Association of Muslim Scholars, during a sermon in Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque. "We must unite and be heedful of those who want to drive a wedge among us under the cover of Islam." \nSheik Ahmed Hassan al-Taha said at Baghdad's al-Azimiya mosque, Iraq's foremost Sunni place of worship, that "it makes me sad to see that all the victims yesterday were Iraqis. \nThe Friday airstrike was the third against al-Zarqawi's network in Fallujah in a week, and it came as US tanks exchanged fire with militants on the outskirts of the city, 60km west of Baghdad. \nUS and Iraqi officials say al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda-linked movement was behind highly coordinated assaults Thursday against police stations and other buildings in five cities. A claim of responsibility in al-Zarqawi's name was posted on an Islamic Web site. \n"With God's help we will pursue these people and keep the Iraqi people safe," interim Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan told reporters. "The time has come for a showdown." \nUS and Iraqi authorities have long predicted that the insurgents would seek to derail the transfer of sovereignty, set for Wednesday. \nAfter nightfall Friday, six mortar shells exploded near the Green Zone headquarters district of the US occupation, the US military reported. There were no reports of casualties. A bomb also went off outside the home of an Iraqi deputy defense minister, though the official and his family were unhurt, the military said. \nUS officials estimated 20 to 25 people were killed in Friday's strike in Fallujah. Omar Majeed, 40, who lives in the Fallujah neighborhood which was attacked, said missiles struck a house that was vacated by the owners the day before. \nAl-Jazeera television, in a report from Fallujah, said US missiles struck a vacant house but the blast injured four people next door. The report could not be independently confirmed. \nCNN cited a US official saying al-Zarqawi may have been in the house and narrowly escaped the strike. The official said a man who may have been al-Zarqawi was thrown to the ground by the blast as he fled, then was helped up by colleagues and driven away in a convoy. \nIn Washington, several Pentagon officials with access to information about the airstrike said they could not confirm the CNN account. \nAl-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant, has also claimed responsibility for kidnapping and beheading American businessman Nicholas Berg and South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il. \nBut a senior administration official acknowledged that intelligence about al-Zarqawi's network was limited. \n"I don't think we have, really, any idea how broad it is," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, though he added that al-Zarqawi likely has "some kind of command and control" role. \nAl-Zarqawi was known previously to have had a "small but very lethal network," but now may be working with other groups of fighters. "It's a little hard to know whether what's really happening is that you have networks that are being joined together," he said. \nCoalition officials believe Fallujah has emerged as a center of the insurgency and Islamic extremism since the US Marines abandoned their siege of the city in late April and handed over security to an Iraqi force, the Fallujah Brigade. \nHanding over security to the brigade is widely seen now as a failure because control has fallen into the hands of hardline Muslim clerics and their fanatical followers. \nUS commanders believe al-Zarqawi is planning a wave of car bombings in Baghdad, said Colonel Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade. \nNew US military checkpoints have been set up around the city of 5 million people, and large numbers of Iraqi National Guard troops in combat fatigues and body armor were deployed into the streets and main squares Friday. \n"We expect there will be more attacks," Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib said Friday. \nViolence across the country diminished Friday from the bloodshed of the day before. One Iraqi policeman was killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb that exploded in a Baghdad residential district.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference