US Marines storm south in major Afghan offensive

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (AFP) – US Marines launched a massive offensive into the Taliban heartlands of southern Afghanistan early Thursday as President Barack Obama’s new war plan swung into action.

Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword) involved nearly 4,000 US forces as well as 650 Afghan police and soldiers, the Marine Expeditionary Brigade said, announcing the pre-dawn launch of the drive in southern Helmand province.

Deploying about 50 aircraft, the air and land assault would push troops into insurgent strongholds in what officers on the ground said was the biggest offensive airlift by the Marines since Vietnam.

“What makes Operation Khanjar different from those that have occurred before is the massive size of the force introduced, the speed at which it will insert,” Brigadier General Larry Nicholson said in a Marine statement.

It would also see the troops remain in place “and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces,” said Nicholson, MEB commanding general in Afghanistan.

It was the Marines first major operation since they deployed over the past few months to reinforce the international effort against the Taliban, who are behind a wave of attacks that is peaking this year and control several areas.

The troops were to push south down the Helmand River valley, deep into insurgent-held areas where international forces have failed to establish a presence despite ousting the Taliban from power in 2001.

Military commanders said Operation Khanjar would convince local people that the Afghan security forces — backed by international troops — offered them a better long-term future than the Islamist hardliners.

“This is a big, risky plan,” Nicholson told his men at a briefing at Camp Leatherneck before the battle.

“It involves great risks and amazing opportunities. These are days of immense change for Helmand province. We’re going down there, and we’re going to stay — that’s what is different this time.”

Reflecting the United States’ new strategy in Afghanistan, he stressed that the security needs of Helmand’s residents came before killing members of the Taliban.

“One of the most critical things is to tell people why we’re there, and we are going to have a limited opportunity to gain their trust,” Nicholson said. “A lot of tea is going to be drunk.”

The offensive, which is set to last 36 hours in its first highly aggressive phase, would also bring security to the Helmand valley ahead of elections on August 20, the general said at the briefing last week.

“This will set conditions for the elections in the river valley,” he told commanders as well as reporters embedded with the Marines. “Our actions will allow voter registration in areas where there has been none.”

Key targets of the assault include the districts of Garmsir and Nawa, and a large curve in the river to the south that the military refers to as the “fishhook.”

The area towards the southern border with Pakistan, where many of the insurgents are said to take refuge, is a central stronghold of the Islamist insurgency and the opium trade that funds it.

Officers walking through the battle plan on a large floor map of central and south Helmand said they expected to find 300-500 Taliban fighters in Nawa district.

They also spoke of the key role that would be played by teams clearing roads of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Unmanned aerial surveillance would be used, they said, while loudspeakers would to keep local people informed.US Marines storm south in major Afghan offensive AFP/File – US Marines rest on a convoy at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. US Marines …

Manchester City release former star quartet

Manchester City release former star quartet AFP/File – German World Cup finalist Dietmar Hamann, seen here in 2008, and former England internationals Darius …

57 mins ago

LONDON (AFP) – German World Cup finalist Dietmar Hamann and former England internationals Darius Vassell and Danny Mills were among four players released by bigspending Manchester City on Wednesday.

The trio were joined by former Rangers and Everton defender Michael Ball as club manager Mark Hughes reduced his squad ahead of potentially more big name signings to join those of Roque Santa Cruz and Gareth Barry.

Hamann, who was a member of the German side that lost to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup final and the Liverpool side that won the epic 2005 Champions League against AC Milan, failed to play in the last months of the season because of a toe injury.

Both Vassell and Mills also played in the 2002 World Cup finals, with the former going on to win 22 caps, scoring six goals, but the 29-year-old striker has struggled for his place and has been strongly linked with a move to Turkey with Ankaragucu his favoured destination.

Mills, 32 and capped 19 times, was another of the players to leave cash-strapped Leeds United with City being his destination in 2004 – however he rarely made a first team place his own and found himself loaned out to Hull City, Charlton and Derby.

It was at Derby – during their disastrous one season stay in the Premier League – where he picked up a serious knee injury in January 2008 and he has not played since.

Ball, who began his career with Everton before moving on to Rangers and then to PSV Eindhoven where he won the Dutch title under Guus Hiddink, has been capped once by England but struggled to make an impression once Stuart Pearce was replaced by Hughes’ predecessor Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Teen clung to Comoros plane wreckage for 13 hours

Surrounded by doctors, the only survivor of the Yemenia Airbus 310 jet crash, AP – Surrounded by doctors, the only survivor of the Yemenia Airbus 310 jet crash, 14-year-old Bahia Bakari, …

By TOM MALITI and ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writers Tom Maliti And Angela Charlton, Associated Press Writers 1 hr 47 mins ago

MORONI, Comoros – The lone survivor of a Yemeni jetliner crash, who clung to wreckage for 13 hours before being rescued, lay in a hospital bed with a broken collarbone Wednesday, asking for little — except for a chance to see her mother.

But relatives said 14-year-old Bahia Bakari was too traumatized to be told her mother was feared dead, along with 151 others on board the Yemenia airways flight.

“I have told her that her mother is in the next room,” the girl’s uncle, Joseph Yousouf, told The Associated Press outside a hospital in this former French colony, where the jetliner was attempting to land in fierce winds before dawn Tuesday when it slammed into the Indian Ocean.

He said the girl was coherent and asking for food.

“They were coming to Comoros for vacation,” Yousouf said of Bahia, who lived with her parents and three younger siblings outside Paris. “She was going to be staying with her grandmother.”

The girl’s father, Kassim Bakari, described his daughter as “fragile” and said she could “barely swim,” but still managed to hang on for hours.

Her account of the crash aftermath seemed to indicate others survived the initial impact.

“I spoke to her this afternoon … and I asked her what happened,” Bakari said from his home in a suburb south of Paris. “She said ‘Papa, we saw the plane going down in the water. I was in the water, I could hear people talking, but I couldn’t see anyone. I was in the dark, I couldn’t see a thing.'”

Bakari fingered his wife Aziza’s old passport as he recalled the final moments before she and his daughter boarded the plane in Paris.

“When we arrived at the airport, I kissed both, then my wife turned around, she looked at me and she waved,” he said. “That was the last time I saw my wife alive. My daughter… I will see her again I hope, but for my wife it was the last time.”

The passengers on the downed plane, an aging Airbus 310, were flying the last leg of a journey from Paris and Marseille to Comoros, with a stop in Yemen to change planes. Most on board were from Comoros and 66 were French citizens. Severe turbulence was believed to be a factor in the crash, Yemen’s embassy in Washington said.

For many, Bahia’s survival was nothing short of miraculous.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen people — most of them government officials — crowded into a small room in Moroni’s El Maaruf Hospital where Bahia lay curled in a fetal position, covered by a blue blanket.

She was conscious with bruises on her face and gauze bandages on her right elbow and right foot; at one point, she gamely shook the hand of Alain Joyandet, France‘s minister for international cooperation.

“It is a true miracle. She is a courageous young girl,” Joyandet said of Bahia, who held onto floating debris from 1:30 a.m to 3 p.m. before she was seen by a passing boat, which rescued her.

“She really showed an absolutely incredible physical and moral strength,” he said. “She is physically out of danger, but she is evidently very traumatized.”

Bahia was flown home to Paris late Wednesday aboard a chartered executive jet and was to be taken to a hospital for further treatment, Joyandet said.

French and American recovery crews, meanwhile, continued to search for the plane’s black boxes in deep waters off the Comoros after detecting a distress beacon. Officials hope the flight data and cockpit voice recorders will provide clues to the cause of the crash. Once retrieved, they will be taken to France for analysis, Yemenia said.

It was not immediately clear which section of the passenger cabin the girl had been sitting in. But if the plane flew into the water at speed, the impact damage to the fuselage would have been so violent and extensive that no part of the cabin would have been safer than any other, experts said.

Hassan al-Hawthi, the head of maintenance at Yemenia, told reporters Wednesday that air traffic controllers had instructed the pilot to change course because of the strong wind. He said there was no distress call before the crash.

The London-based International Federation of Air Line Pilots Association said the plane may have been trying to go around for another approach when it hit the sea.

The 9,558-feet long runway at Prince Said Ibrahim International Airport on Moroni island is adequate for modern airliners, but is considered a difficult one due to weather conditions and the surrounding hills. Some airlines provide special training to pilots who need to fly in there.

Pilots coming in from the north, as the Yemenia flight was doing, must land their planes visually and don’t have any all-weather instrument landing system to help them.

“The field in question is thought of as being challenging, and certain operators consider it a daytime-only airport,” said Gideon Ewers of the pilots’ association.

Tuesday’s crash came two years after aviation officials reported equipment faults with the plane.

The French air accident investigation agency BEA was sending a team of safety investigators, accompanied by advisers from Airbus, to Comoros, an archipelago of three main islands 1,800 miles south of Yemen, between Africa’s southeastern coast and the island of Madagascar.

A judicial inquiry headed by three judges was also opened to determine the cause of the crash and those who eventually could be held responsible.

Rescue boats plied the waters north of the main island Wednesday and scores of people gathered on nearby beaches to watch.

“The sea is pretty rough at the present time, the wind is blowing hard and the drift is strong … The bodies of the victims and the debris are drifting rapidly towards the north,” said Christophe Prazuck, spokesman for the French military joint staff.

The tragedy prompted an outcry in Comoros, where residents have long complained of a lack of seat belts on Yemenia flights and planes so overcrowded that passengers had to stand in the aisles.

French aviation inspectors found a “number of faults” in the plane’s equipment during a 2007 inspection, French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said.

European Union Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said the airline had previously met EU safety checks but would now face a full investigation amid questions over why passengers were put on another jet in Yemen for the final leg to Comoros.

“We can’t accept that a plane is banned from Europe but still allowed to fly in Africa. It’s the proof that our world isn’t fair and that human beings don’t weigh the same depending on which side of the Mediterranean they are,” said Gilles Poux, mayor of the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, where Comorans gathered for prayers.

Mohammed Abdul Qader, the Yemenia spokesman and deputy head of civil aviation, said the same plane that crashed had flown to London about a week ago.

Abdul-Khaleq Al-Qadi, chairman of Yemenia’s board, said the company has decided to pay families $28,300 for each death.

He added that maintenance was carried out regularly according to high standards.

“The crash has nothing to do with maintenance,” he told reporters in San’a, adding that the aircraft received maintenance just two months before the crash under the supervision of an Airbus technical team.

___

Associated Press writers Emmanuel Georges-Picot in Paris, Yoann Guilloux in Saint-Denis de la Reunion, Slobodan Lekic in Brussels and Ahmed al-Haj in San’a, Yemen contributed to this report.

berita antarabangsa

‘Bukan kami yang hantar’


KERATAN Kosmo! 30 Jun 2009.


 

KUALA LUMPUR – Seorang lelaki berusia 43 tahun nyaris-nyaris ditipu apabila Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN) mengesahkan khidmat pesanan ringkas (SMS) mengenai pengesahan pinjaman yang diluluskan bukan dihantar oleh organisasi tersebut.

Malah pihak PTPTN sendiri dalam siasatan mereka terhadap isu yang dibangkitkan oleh Kosmo! dalam laporannya kelmarin tidak dapat mengenal pasti sumber SMS misteri itu.

Pemangku Pegawai Perhubungan Awam PTPTN, Mastura Mohd. Khalid dalam kenyataannya semalam menjelaskan, mereka telah membuat laporan polis kelmarin bagi menjalankan siasatan dan menangkap dalang SMS itu.

“SMS itu jelas bukan daripada kami, malah pihak yang menghantarnya juga tidak dapat dikenal pasti,” jelasnya.

Kosmo! dalam laporannya kelmarin menyiarkan dakwaan seorang lelaki yang terkejut menerima SMS pada 9 Jun lalu memaklumkan permohonannya mendapatkan pinjaman PTPTN telah berjaya dan disusuli SMS kedua pada 18 Jun pula meminta beliau datang kepada PTPTN untuk menguruskan pinjamannya.

Bagaimanapun Kosmo! yang melawat pejabat PTPTN mendapati alamat yang diberikan serta pegawai yang bernama Miss Maheran yang dinyatakan dalam SMS itu rupa-rupanya tidak wujud.

Mastura berkata, PTPTN memandang serius kejadian itu kerana ia boleh menjejaskan kewibawaan mereka.

“Kami menasihatkan pelajar, pemohon atau ibu bapa tidak terpedaya jika menerima SMS yang serupa,” ujarnya.

Katanya, jalan yang lebih selamat ialah membuat semakan dengan PTPTN menerusi talian 03-20927788 atau melayari http://www.ptptn.gov.my.

Kami Nak Deris Natang

Nyaris maut ditusuk besi penghadang jalan


ANGGOTA penyelamat memberi bantuan kecemasan kepada pemandu teksi yang terlibat dalam kemalangan di susur masuk pintu tiga Putrajaya dekat Dengkil semalam.


 

DENGKIL – Seorang pemandu teksi nyaris maut apabila besi penghadang jalan tertusuk ke dalam keretanya menyebabkan dia terbabas di susur masuk pintu tiga menghala ke Putrajaya dekat sini pagi semalam.

Dalam kejadian pukul 10.15 pagi itu, mangsa yang hanya dikenali sebagai Mohd. Hanif, berusia lingkungan 40-an, mengalami kecederaan parah di tempat duduk teksi jenis Proton Waja yang dipandunya.

Besi yang tertusuk ke tempat duduk belakang pemandu itu hampir menembusi tubuhnya. Mohd. Hanif kemudian diselamatkan oleh sepasukan anggota bomba dan pengguna jalan raya.

Penolong Pegawai Penyiasat Trafik Cyberjaya, Sarjan Rashid Mohamad berkata, mangsa ketika kejadian sedang dalam perjalanan dari arah Kajang menuju ke Dengkil.

Lepas geram kepada Guan Eng

Oleh NIZHA PERIASWAMY
nizha.periswamy@kosmo.com.my

 


KAMPUNG Buah Pala di George Town yang mempunyai kira-kira 300 orang penduduk yang menghuni 41 buah rumah dijangka hanya tinggal sejarah jika projek pembangunan di situ diteruskan mulai bulan depan.


 

GEORGE TOWN – Kemarahan penduduk Kampung Buah Pala di sini ekoran apa yang didakwa penganiayaan oleh kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat semakin membuak-buak hingga mereka mahu Ketua Menteri, Lim Guan Eng meletak jawatan dan pulang ke Melaka.

Mereka marah kerana mendakwa kerajaan Pulau Pinang seperti berpihak kepada pemaju dan meminggirkan masa depan kira-kira 300 penduduk kampung yang turut dikenali sebagai ‘High Chapparal’ Pulau Pinang itu.

Wakil persatuan penduduk, C. Tharmaraj berkata, Guan Eng sepatutnya menawarkan penyelesaian yang dapat membela kebajikan penduduk dan pada masa yang sama menunaikan janji DAP dan Pakatan Rakyat pada pilihan raya umum lalu.

“Sebaliknya beliau (Guan Eng) enggan berjumpa dengan kami mengenai masalah pengusiran paksa dan tindakan merobohkan rumah penduduk kampung.

“Saya rasa lebih baik beliau (Guan Eng) letak jawatan dan balik ke negeri asalnya di Melaka,” katanya pada sidang akhbar di sini semalam.

Guan Eng sebenarnya dilahirkan di Johor Bahru sebelum membina karier politik awal di Melaka. Beliau bukan orang Pulau Pinang.

Tharmaraj mendakwa Guan Eng tidak pernah menjejakkan kaki ke kampung itu sejak enam bulan lalu.

38 lagi kes baru H1N1 – Ancaman selesema babi makin serius


TIONG LAI (tengah) bersama Ketua Pengarah Kesihatan, Tan Sri Dr. Mohd. Ismail Merican (kanan) dan timbalannya, Datuk Dr. Ramlee Rahmat menunjukkan poster selesema babi
di Putrajaya semalam.


 


 

PUTRAJAYA – Jumlah kes baru selesema babi meningkat hampir tiga kali ganda dalam tempoh 24 jam dengan rekod 38 kes semalam berbanding hanya 14 kes kelmarin, menjadikan jumlah keseluruhan mangsa wabak itu setakat ini 196 kes.

Daripada jumlah itu, sebanyak 33 kes import manakala lima lagi penularan tempatan.

Menteri Kesihatan, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai berkata, mangsa terbaru itu membabitkan 30 orang rakyat Malaysia serta lapan warga asing.

Bercakap pada sidang akhbar di sini semalam, beliau memberitahu, lima kes penularan tempatan itu membabitkan tiga pelajar Sekolah Menengah Tsun Jin, Cheras dan dua lagi kontak kepada kes import terdahulu.

“Dua sekolah, Sekolah Menengah Tsun Jin Cheras, Kuala Lumpur dan Sekolah Tinggi Chung Hwa, Seremban masih ditutup sehingga Jumaat ini dengan 4,668 orang dikuarantin,” jelasnya.

Tiong Lai turut mengumumkan tambahan 29 klinik kesihatan di seluruh negara dan lima hospital swasta di Lembah Klang bagi khidmat pengambilan sampel kes H1N1.

Salah membalak atas tanah sendiri


KAKITANGAN Jabatan Perhutanan memeriksa kayu balak yang ditebang di kawasan Selayang semalam.


 

SELAYANG – Menebang pokok balak walaupun di atas tanah sendiri tetap satu kesalahan.

Itulah yang dipelajari oleh seorang pemilik tanah seluas 99 hektar di paras ketinggian 541 meter dari aras laut dekat Taman Selayang Utama, Batu Caves apabila aduan penduduk yang curiga melihat timbunan kayu balak mendorong siasatan oleh pihak berkuasa semalam.

Siasatan Pejabat Daerah dan Tanah Hulu Selangor serta Jabatan Perhutanan Selangor mendapati pemilik tanah itu tiada permit menebang balak.

Tanah itu adalah tiga lot kawasan seluas 143 hektar yang asalnya dimiliki oleh Yayasan Selangor sebelum akhirnya dibeli oleh pemilik individu.

Pegawai Daerah Pejabat Daerah dan Tanah Hulu Selangor, Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan ketika dihubungi semalam memberitahu, pemilik tanah tinggi tidak boleh membersihkan hutan atau membalak tanpa permit dan kelulusan kerajaan.

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