Friday, June 18, 2010

Thousands protest in Kosovo against hijab ban

PRISTINA (Reuters)

Around 5,000 people protested in Kosovo on Friday against a government decision to ban pupils from wearing Muslim headscarves (hijab) in public schools.

Around 90 percent of Kosovo's population are Muslims but the former Serbian province, which declared independence in 2008, remains a largely secular country.

Protesters, who came to the capital from all over the country, urged the government to withdraw its decision and not to "discriminate against Muslims."

"We will continue the protests until they will allow our daughters to go to school with headscarves," said organizer Halil Kastrati.

Angry protesters with banners that read "Don't use our state against us" and "Communism is over" marched to the ministry of education, which had approved the ban.

"This is not a uniform but my religious obligation. I respect my religion but I also want to go to my faculty," said student Fitore Abazi.

Kosovo has so far been recognized by 69 countries, mainly in Western Europe, the United States and a few Muslim countries, but has not become a member of the United Nations. Serbia opposes its independence and has filed a suit to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Iraqi asylum seekers claim they were beaten on flight to Baghdad

UN to investigate claims that British security officers and Iraqi officials punched and drag asylum seekers off the plane

Owen Bowcott and Sam Jones

The United Nations is to investigate claims that deported and handcuffed Iraqi asylum seekers were beaten by British security officers during a charter flight to Baghdad.

As many as 25 of the 42 men deported from Heathrow on Wednesday evening were reported to be under detention in Baghdad airport today despite having been screened in advance by Iraqi officials at detention centres in the UK.

Iraqi officials were alleged to have boarded the flight when it touched down early yesterday to help security staff employed by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) punch and drag reluctant failed asylum seekers off the plane.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has repeatedly condemned Britain and other EU countries for returning failed asylum seekers to Baghdad, maintaining that the country's central provinces are unsafe.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic revealed that its staff in Baghdad had interviewed deportees and now planned to investigate.

"We are concerned and are looking into the accounts that these people are making," he said. "Fourteen of the 42 were interviewed by UNHCR lawyers in Baghdad.

"The men claim that they were beaten while being forced on to the plane. We met with six of the men and we saw fresh bruises that indicate mistreatment."

Those who declined to cooperate were handcuffed at Heathrow before being put on the aircraft. The accompanying security staff were from the firm G4S which is employed by the UKBA to help enforce removals. Similar allegations of excessive force have been made in the past.

"During the flight I took my seat belt off," said Abdullah, a Kurd from northern Iraq. "The officers jumped on me and grabbed me by the neck so I couldn't breathe.

"Baghdad is dangerous for Kurds. People hunt Kurds in Baghdad for kidnapping or to kill them. When we landed Iraqi officials came on to the plane and said that if anybody did not come out [voluntarily] 'we will kick you and beat you'.

"Some people were scared and went out. Then the [British security] officials and Iraqi officers started beating us. They were hitting us with punches and grabbing our necks.

"I am still bruised around my neck. They were saying: 'This is your country. Go back to your country.' I had my old Iraqi ID card so they eventually released me after holding me for many hours. Those without ID cards they said they would hold until their families came."

Abdullah, who only wanted to give his family name, was speaking from a friend's house in northern Iraq.

The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR), which closely monitors deportations, said it had received a text message from deportees being held in custody. It read: "We have been in Iraqi since 4.30am [yesterday] but we have been locked up since. 25 people in one small cell even we can't breathe. Some of us are seriously ill because of the hunger and the heat."

One of those deported, Zed Karam, from Baghdad, warned before his departure that his life would be at risk. "I have lived [in the UK] for three years," he said. "I had a good business in Iraq, I didn't want to leave but I had to when I was threatened by the sectarian violence. If they put me on this flight they are sending me to my death."

Refugee groups fear the mass return of failed asylum seekers marks the beginning of an accelerated programme of expulsions.

An abortive flight last autumn resulted in most of the deportees being returned to the UK by angry Iraqi officials. Since then intensive diplomatic negotiations - including allowing Iraqi officials unprecedented access to interview detainees in Britain - have improved coordination between London and Baghdad. Wednesday's flight was the second this month.

Richard Whittell from the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq said: "We fear this shameful act will lead to even more deportations to Iraq ... The Foreign Office says Iraq is not safe to travel to so why force Iraqi refugees there? Are their lives less important than British people's?"

Dashty Jamal, of the IFIR, commented: "The new government is playing politics with the lives of Iraqi refugees, many of whom had to leave because of the war David Cameron and his party supported. Iraq continues to suffer from the effects of this war and people should not be sent back there."

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "We only ever return those who both the UK Border Agency and the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and refuse to leave voluntarily.

"A minimum use of force is an absolute last resort, and would only ever be used when an individual becomes disruptive or refuses to comply.

"Even then, force is only carried out by highly trained officers, and should be carefully monitored, proportionate, and used for the shortest possible period to ensure compliance."

The case of Pascal Ntarh

This is not the first time that G4S has been criticised. Last December, a failed asylum seeker, Pascal Ntarh, 34, from Cameroon told the Guardian he had been beaten and racially abused by British security guards during an unsuccessful attempt to deport him.

He told G4S officers he was terrified of what would happen to him in Cameroon. They responded, he alleges, by calling him a "******* monkey", knocking him off his feet and beating him. Ntarh said he was kicked and punched, had a finger jammed into his ear in an attempt to burst the eardrum, and was tightly cuffed at the hands and feet despite offering no resistance.

He was eventually sent back to the UK after Kenyan immigration officials decided they were not happy for him to travel to Cameroon because of the threat he could face there.

Dr Frank Arnold, the clinical director of the Medical Justice Network, examined Ntarh at Colnbrook on 18 December. He told the Guardian that he had noted that Ntarh "was walking with a limp, and had significant injuries to both wrists and hands and pain in the chest [and] neck".

G4S declined to comment on either the latest Iraqi deportation or the removal of Ntarh in December.

Obama to be given the right to shut down the internet with 'kill switch'

By Paul Thompson

President Obama will be given the power to shut down the Internet with a 'kill switch' in a new law being proposed in the US.

He would be able to order popular search engines such a Google and Yahoo to suspend access their websites in times of national emergency.

Other US based Internet service providers as well as broadband providers would also come under his control in times of a 'cybersecurity emergency.' Any company that failed to comply would be subject to huge fines.

Critics of the new law, which has been proposed by former presidential candidate Joe Liebermann, said it would be an abuse of power to let the White House control the internet.

TechAmerica, one of the largest U.S. technology lobby groups, said the new law had the 'potential for absolute power.'.

The proposed legislation, introduced into the US Senate by Lieberman who is chairman of the US Homeland Security committee, seeks to grant the President broad emergency powers over the internet in times of national emergency.

A sustained terror attack on multiple cities would be considered a national emergency as would a cyber attack by 'hackers' on the US financial system.

The director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair warned earlier this year that the US is 'severely threatened' by malicious cyber attacks.
The number of attacks on Government departments has increased by 400 per cent in the last three years.
Under the proposed bill, which has been dubbed an Internet kill switch', the US Government would effectively seize control of access to the internet.

Lieberman argued the bill was necessary to 'preserve those networks and assets and our country and protect our people'.

He said: 'For all of its 'user-friendly' allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets.

Traders work on the New York Stock Exchange floor. US senators fear a cyber-attack on the US could paralyse the nation

'Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies--cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals.'

His bill is formally titled the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, or PCNAA.

While the US Government would not be able to control the internet in other countries access to the most popular sites would be cut off.

Google,Yahoo and YouTube, the top three most visited sites, are all based in the US.
Google logs an estimated two billion hits a day from 300 million users.

Under the cyber law any company on a list created by Homeland Security that also 'relies on' the Internet, the telephone system, or any other component of the U.S. 'information infrastructure' would be subject to command by a new National Centre for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) that would be created inside Homeland Security.

Google, the world's most popular search engine, refused to comment. A spokesman said the law was not yet Government policy.

Poll: Obama's Popularity in Islamic World Plunges


WASHINGTON - A year after President Barack Obama sought a new beginning with the Islamic world in a speech from Cairo, confidence in the U.S. leader has dropped sharply in many Muslim countries, according to surveys released on Thursday.

U.S. favorability ratings in allies Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan hover at about 17 percent, while confidence in Obama in those three countries was 33 percent, 23 percent and 8 percent respectively, surveys by the Pew Global Attitudes project found.

Obama's favorability ratings in each of the Muslim countries fell between 2009 and 2010 as his plans for advancing the Middle East peace process stalled and he continued ahead with wars in two Muslim countries: Afghanistan and Iraq.

The sharpest declines came in Turkey and Egypt, where confidence in Obama dropped 10 percentage points and 9 points respectively. Confidence in Obama dropped 5points or less in the other Muslim countries surveyed.

Other Muslim countries viewed the United States more favorably. Fifty-nine percent of Indonesians had a favorable view of the United States, as did 52 percent of Lebanese. But only 21 percent of Jordanians saw the United States in a positive light.

By comparison, people in Egypt and Jordan gave al Qaeda a higher favorability rating than the United States. Thirty-four percent of Jordanians had a positive view of the group that carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks, versus 19 percent of Egyptians.

Sixty-seven percent of Indonesians had confidence in Obama to do the right thing in international affairs, 43 percent of Lebanese and 26 percent of Jordanians, the surveys found.

The United States and Obama fared better among non-Muslim countries involved in the 22-nation survey. U.S. favorability ratings were 73 percent in France, 65 percent in Britain, 63 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Japan and India and 58 percent in China, the Pew surveys found.
Obama's ratings were lower generally than the previous year.

The surveys were carried out in April and May in 22 different countries. Researchers questioned between 700 and 3,262 people in each country. Some of the surveys were conducted by telephone, others face-to-face. The margins of error ranged between 2.5 and 5 percentage points, Pew said.

Kyrgyz ethnic violence: death toll 'rises to 2,000'

Kyrgyzstan's interim president has said the death toll from the ethnic unrest that has rocked the country's south could be near 2,000.

The country's health ministry figures place the number of killed in the rampages led mainly by ethnic Kyrgyz at 191.

"I would increase by ten times the official data on the number of people killed," said Roza Otunbayeva, the interim president, according to her spokesman, Farid Niyazov. She said current figures did not take into account those buried before sundown on the day of death, in keeping with Muslim tradition, according to the spokesman.

Mrs Otumbayeva arrived early on Friday by helicopter in the central square of Osh, a city of 250,000 where the violence began late last week. Parts of the city have been reduced to rubble by roving mobs of young Kyrgyz men who burned down Uzbek homes and attacked Uzbek-owned businesses.

About 400,000 people have been displaced by the unrest, according to UN estimates, with up to 100,000 Uzbeks fleeing into Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyz authorities have said the violence was sparked deliberately by associates of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the president who was toppled in April in a bloody uprising. The UN has said the unrest appeared orchestrated but has stopped short of apportioning blame.

Ethnic Uzbeks on Thursday accused security forces of standing by or even helping ethnic-majority Kyrgyz mobs as they slaughtered people and burned down neighbourhoods.

Col. Iskander Ikramov, the chief of the Kyrgyz military in the south, rejected allegations of troop involvement in the riots but said the army didn't interfere in the conflict because it was not supposed to play the role of a police force.

Turkey to cut 'all ties' with Israel

After an Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine Turkish citizens dead, Ankara has introduced a roadmap to "completely" cut its ties with Israel.

After Israel failed to apologize or pay compensations for the killing of the Turkish citizens in its attack on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, Turkish Defense Industry Implementation Committee (SSIK) reviewed the country's military agreements and joint projects with Israel on Thursday.

The SSIK held a meeting chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday and decided to shelve 16 military agreements with Israel, including a $757 million plane and tank modernization project and a missile project worth over $1.5 billion.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul had earlier announced that a roadmap was to be prepared on the issue of sanctions against Israel.

"The roadmap details a process through which Turkey will completely cut its ties with Israel" in several stages, Turkey's Today's Zaman reported on Thursday.

According to the roadmap, the first step would be that Turkey's ambassador to Tel Aviv, who had been previously recalled, will not be sent back unless Israel sends a member to a UN investigatory commission that aims to look into the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Furthermore, the roadmap requires all military training and cooperation with Israel to be halted and states that an internal Israeli inquiry into the attack will in no way be recognized by Turkey.
Ankara announced, however, that joint projects between Turkish and Israeli private sectors are excluded from the plan that will put an end to all Turkey's ties with Israel.

Indian preacher Zakir Naik is banned from UK

Mr Naik is the first person excluded from the UK by Theresa May An Indian preacher has been banned from entering the UK for his "unacceptable behaviour," the home secretary says.
Zakir Naik, a 44-year-old television preacher, had been due to give a series of lectures in London and Sheffield.

Theresa May said that visiting the UK was "a privilege, not a right".

The home secretary can stop people entering the UK if she believes there is a threat to national security, public order or the safety of citizens.

But she cannot ban people simply because of their views.

Ms May said: "Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour.

"Coming to the UK is a privilege, not a right and I am not willing to allow those who might not be conducive to the public good to enter the UK.

"Exclusion powers are very serious and no decision is taken lightly or as a method of stopping open debate on issues."

This is the first person who has been excluded from the UK since Ms May became home secretary last month

US, Philippines rethink anti-terror tactics

By Fabio Scarpello

ZAMBOANGA CITY - A decade after United States troops landed to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) fight against the small, but tenacious, terrorist-cum-criminal Abu Sayyaf group in the south of the country, limited achievements have prompted a rethink to the AFP's approach.

Washington worried that the island of Mindanao, and particularly the adjacent and remote Sulu Archipelago where the Abu Sayyaf maintains jungle bases, could become a safe haven for jihadi cadre who fled Afghanistan after the 2002 US-led invasion. The US declared Southeast Asia as the ''second front'' in its global ''war on terror'' campaign, with a strong focus on the Philippines.

United States-Philippine military cooperation currently takes place under the so-called Visiting Forces Agreement, signed in 1998. As early as 2002, at least 1,300 US military personnel were providing support to the AFP in the Abu Sayyaf's stronghold of Basilan as part of Operation Balikatan. The role of the US is restricted to non-combat operations, despite offers from Washington of more direct involvement.

Since August 2006, the bilateral cooperation has worked under the codename Operation Ultimatum, which aims to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf's threat through the ramped up deployment of roughly 7,000 government troops. Although weakened and partly leaderless, the group has proved surprisingly resilient. There are indications that it is gaining strength again through a string of successful kidnappings and terror bombings since the last quarter of 2009.

Lieutenant General Ben Dolorfino, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) based in Zamboanga City and largely responsible for combating the Abu Sayyaf, said in an interview, "The Abu Sayyaf has been militarily contained, but the threat remains." He said that this theater in the "war on terror" could not be won with only guns ablaze.

Although the Abu Sayyaf's numbers are reduced, local conditions meant that the group - better considered a collection of several autonomous gangs - could always lure new recruits. Dolorfino, the most senior Muslim general in the AFP, noted that the Sulu Archipelago was among the poorest regions of the Philippines.

According to the Philippine Human Development Report, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, the three provinces that comprise the Sulu Archipelago, rank among the bottom five provinces in the country in terms of the Human Development Index, a measure of basic needs such as health, education and livelihood. "They can recruit because the area is extremely poor and they offer material inducements," said Dolorfino.

At its peak, the Abu Sayyaf was estimated to have more than 1,200 members. According to recent military intelligence cited by Dolorfino, the number was down to 390 as of December 2009. The figure, however, increased to 445 by April 2010, according to a report on CTC Sentinel by Rommel Banlaoi, the executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

Abu Sayyaf ''leaders have mastered the skills of conniving with ordinary criminal groups in their operational areas to mount kidnapping and other criminal activities," the report said.

Dolorfino said that in response the AFP has adopted a more comprehensive civil-military approach to counter the threat. He metaphorically likened the Abu Sayyaf to a tree with the branches and leaves representing different groups and their members, and the roots the multi-dimensional causes of their struggle. "Military force can only go as far as cutting the branches and removing the leaves, but unless you eliminate the roots, new branches and leaves will grow with time," he said.

"We are embarking on a campaign design that has an operational mix of 20% intelligence-driven combat operations and 80% civil-military operations and nation building. This is complemented with non-military operations such as legal warfare, information operation and counter-organization."

Dolorfino said this new approach was being implemented in tandem with the US, which has deployed some 600 troops (mostly marines) to WESTMINCOM as part of the so-called Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. Most US operatives are now situated in the Sulu Archipelago, he said.

Dolorfino said that increased civil-military operations now include infrastructure projects such as the building of schools, potable water supplies and roads. "When people start seeing development, then they will start siding with the government," he said.

Dolorfino claimed military operations against the Abu Sayyaf were now more intelligence-driven and carried out strictly with the welfare of the local citizens in mind. "One thing that we want to avoid for sure is large-scale military operations that lead to large displacements of people. Those are counter-productive," he added.

According to the National Disaster Coordination Council, in late April 16,620 people in Basilan and 9,463 in Sulu left their homes in the wake of intensified fighting between troops and rebels. Abu Sayyaf rebels are often concealed in the local population, which was evident when nearly 500 families fled their homes in Basilan when police and military forces began combing the jungles of Sumisip and nearby towns in early June.

Despite official talk of hearts and minds campaigns, the deployment of an additional 700 Philippine Marines and Ranger Scouts, as well as a naval task force, in March to reinforce existing troops in Sulu indicates that the military component of the AFP's counter-insurgency campaign is still considerable. WESTMINCOM is the larger of the two commands based in Mindanao, with some 15,000 personnel divided between the army's 1st Infantry Division, three Marine Corps battalions and army Special Forces detachments.

Alih Aiyub, a representative of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, a group that promotes inter-religious understanding in Mindanao and Sulu, said that he had not yet seen signs of change in the negative perceptions that locals generally have about the military presence. "But the fact that the military acknowledges that there is need for a change and for cooperation with civil society is a positive sign."
Fabio Scarpello is the Southeast Asia correspondent for Adnkronos International.

Danish MP to face charges over anti-Muslim comments

COPENHAGEN - The Danish parliament voted Wednesday to remove a far-right politician's immunity from prosecution so he can face charges over anti-Muslim comments, parliamentary sources said.

Jesper Langballe, a veteran member of the Danish People's Party (PPD), a crucial ally of the centre-right government, wrote in a newspaper column published in January that "Muslims kill their daughters (over crimes of honour) and turn a blind eye while they are raped by their uncles".

The column, which discussed the status of women in Islam and the "Islamisation of Europe", triggered a political storm and his comments were condemned by Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen.

The Crown Prosecutor decided to pursue Langballe, on the grounds that his comments broke anti-racism laws, and sought the lifting of his parliamentary immunity.

The PPD, with the exception of Langballe, abstained from Wednesday's vote, split between a desire to respect the law and its opposition to the anti-racism provisions, which it says go against freedom of expression.

Langballe himself voted for the lifting of immunity, as he wishes to prove the truth of his comments in court, according to Danish parliamentary television.

The date of the trial has not been set.

Fears Kyrgyzstan death toll much higher than official line


After days of ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan there are fears the number of dead may be much higher than the official toll of more than 190.

According to security officials in the country, the actual figure may be 10 times more.

The violence between ethnic Kyrgs and Uzbeks has eased, but now the challenge for governments on both sides of the border is to care for more than 100,000 refugees.

It is not a disaster yet but aid agencies say the sheer number of refugees now jammed into camps in Uzbekistan has far surpassed that country's ability to cope.

Pierre-Emmanuel Ducruet from the Red Cross is trying to coordinate aid delivery with Uzbekistan's government.

"They have some means, but their means are limited and the international aid is very much needed," he said.

"The conditions for the first days were acceptable but unfortunately since this situation is lasting, the refugees on the Uzbek side of the border need food, also drinkable water and shelter."

More than 100,000 refugees fill camps meant for half that number.

Almost all are ethnic Uzbeks who fled violent rampages by ethnic Kyrgs in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government has accused supporters of the former president, who was ousted in April, of sparking the violence.

United Nations Human Rights Commission spokesman Rupert Colville says there are signs the latest violence was not random.

"We heard basically similar things from a number of different sources that there were clear signs of orchestration, that it wasn't just some spontaneous inter-ethnic problem that flared up," he said.

Kyrgyzstan - a former Soviet republic - has called on Russia to send peacekeeping troops to help stabilise the country.

Moscow has been reluctant and together with other former Soviet states has offered only helicopters and trucks to help Kyrgyzstan's army.

Irina Zvyagilskaya from the Moscow Institute of Foreign Relations says there is a real threat the ethnic violence could morph into something much more dangerous.

"I'm talking about very bad scenario which we cannot exclude completely," she said.

"If, God forbid, there is a civil war, it will involve the north and the south of Kyrgyzstan because the main clans represent the south and the north.

"Without international assistance it might happen."

Russia may not want to wade into the middle of Kyrgyzstan's ethnic conflict. But if the violence does not stop, it may have no choice.

UK watchdog says teach sex to kids from age five


(Reuters) - Sex education should be taught to children from the age of five to give them the skills and confidence to delay sexual intimacy until they are ready, a British health watchdog said on Thursday.

Inadequate sex education at a young age is widely seen as contributing to Britain's steep rate of teenage conception, still amongst the highest in Europe despite a 13 percent fall over the past decade.

The latest guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is in draft form and will not be compulsory, but the agency said it expected local authorities and others to follow it.

NICE said school governors should ensure education about sex and relationships and alcohol starts in primary school, which British children attend from the age of five.

"Topics should be introduced and covered in a way that is appropriate to the maturity of pupils and is based on an understanding of their needs and is sensitive to diverse cultural, faith and family perspectives," it said.

For the youngest children, this would involve learning about the value of friendships and having respect for others.

"All children and young people are entitled to high-quality education about sex, relationships and alcohol to help them make responsible decisions and acquire the skills and confidence to delay sex until they are ready," NICE said.

It cited research from the UK Youth Parliament showing that 40 percent of young people rated their sex and relationships education in school as poor or very poor.

The previous Labour government, which was ousted in a general election last month, had drafted legislation to make sex education compulsory in primary and secondary schools but abandoned the provisions at the last minute.

Those proposals would also have removed the right of parents to withdraw children from sex education once they turned 15.

The changes had been fiercely criticized by anti-abortion and religious groups, who want more emphasis placed on encouraging abstinence from sex before marriage.

(Editing by Steve Addison)

Survey reveals depth of child crime


More than twice as many children fell victim to crimes last year than adults, according to the first comprehensive survey of 10 to 15 year olds about their experience of violence and theft.

The provisional findings from the British Crime Survey, viewed by many statisticians as the most reliable indicator of crime trends, were seized on by the coalition government as lending credence to long-standing Conservative claims that violent offences in particular have been under-recorded.

Nick Herbert, the policing and criminal justice minister, said the new figures backed the Tory belief that previous measures – which excluded children – only offered “a partial or confused picture”. “However you look at these statistics, they reveal... that crime affecting young people is a serious problem,” he said.

The headline figures showed that as many as one in four children were a victim of theft or violence last year on a strict legal basis. However, Home Office statisticians pointed out that this included incidents such as children having their dinner money taken, pushing and shoving in the street and siblings breaking each others toys.

When stripping out such incidents – where the value of items stolen were low or the hurt caused was minor – to achieve a “normalised” figure, it was estimated that 14 per cent of children fell prey to theft and violence. Over the same period, only 6 per cent of adults were victims of similar personal crimes.

John Flatley, the report’s editor, said the study, based on interviews with 3,700 children confirmed what statisticians had suspected about youth crime. “We expected that children would have higher levels of victimisation than adults and that most of it would be dominated by low level violence and that the serious stuff is relatively rare.”

The study, which could be carried out every year, offers the first snapshot of British children’s experience of crime, though it excludes important areas such as domestic and sexual abuse, cyber bullying and drug use.

Successive home secretaries have been under pressure to make statistics available on child crime after a string of stabbings and shootings involving youth gangs, particularly in London.

The normalised figures showed 9.5 per cent of 10 to 15 year olds were victims of violence last year, though only 2.3 per cent were wounded. This compares to just 3 per cent of adults who suffered violent attacks last year, and just 1 per cent who were wounded.

The study also found, however, that many children did not preceive themselves as being victims of crime, even where the officials conducting the survey determined that offences had taken place. Only 6 per cent overall thought they had been the victim of a police recordable crime, with just 3 per cent thinking they had been victims of violence and 1 per cent wounding.

Global poll shows Muslims leery of US and Obama


WASHINGTON — Muslims around the globe remain uneasy about the U.S. and are increasingly disenchanted with President Barack Obama, according to a poll that suggests his drive to improve relations with the Muslim world has had little impact.

Even so, the U.S. image is holding strong in many other countries and continues to be far better than it was during much of George W. Bush's presidency, according to the survey.

There is one glaring exception: Mexico, where 62 percent expressed favorable views of the U.S. just days before an Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants was signed in April, but only 44 percent did so afterward.

The findings by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted in April and May in the United States and 21 other countries by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, come amid a global economic downturn and U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The poll has been measuring the views of people around the world since 2002.

Among the seven countries surveyed with substantial Muslim populations, the U.S. was seen favorably by just 17 percent in Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan and 21 percent in Jordan. The U.S.'s positive rating was 52 percent in Lebanon, 59 percent in Indonesia and 81 percent in Nigeria, where Muslims comprise about half the population.

None of those figures was an improvement from last year. There were slight dips in Jordan and in Indonesia, where Obama spent several years growing up. Egypt saw a 10-point drop, even though Obama gave a widely promoted June 2009 speech in Cairo aimed at reaching out to the Muslim world.

In all seven of those countries, the percentage of Muslims expressing confidence in Obama has also dropped since last year. Only in Nigeria and Indonesia do majorities of Muslims voice confidence in him; in Obama's worst showing, just 8 percent in Pakistan do.

The survey found that majorities of the public in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon and Pakistan say the U.S. could someday be a military threat to their country.

"You get a sense of Muslim disappointment with Barack Obama," said Andy Kohut, the Pew president, who attributed it to discontent with U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to expectations raised by Obama's Cairo speech.

The surveys were taken before Israel's deadly May 31 clash with a flotilla of boats trying to break the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, which sparked widespread condemnation of Israel.

In the rest of the world, the U.S. and Obama generally fare better.

The 6 in 10 in Germany and Spain who view the U.S. favorably has doubled from the lows reached under Bush. The U.S. image is also significantly better than it was under Bush in Russia, China, France, Argentina, South Korea and Japan. Obama is broadly supported, but the percentages expressing confidence in him have ebbed in 14 countries polled.

In only five countries do majorities think the U.S. considers other nations when setting its foreign policy. Support for U.S. anti-terrorism efforts and Obama's handling of economic problems is generally strong, but there is significant opposition to American involvement in Afghanistan and little faith that a stable government will emerge in Iraq.

The poll also found that:

In the seven Muslim nations polled, the portion of Muslims saying suicide attacks are sometimes justified ranged from 39 percent in Lebanon to 5 percent in Turkey. Nowhere did Muslims give majority support to Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaida terrorist group.

_In every nation but Poland, China and Brazil, most are unhappy with how things are going in their country, though dissatisfaction has grown in only three countries in the past year. Attitudes about each country's economic situation are similarly negative, though a bit brighter than a year ago.

Nine in 10 Chinese are happy with their country's economy, by far the highest mark of any nation polled. China is seen more positively than negatively in 15 countries, and in eight countries China is viewed as the world's leading economic power — up from two who said so last year.

Only in Pakistan does a majority favor Iran having nuclear weapons. In most countries, economic sanctions against Iran's nuclear program get higher support than military action. But significant numbers are prepared for a showdown: In 16 countries, more people who oppose Iran's nuclear program consider stopping Tehran from getting such weapons more important than avoiding a military conflict.

More people in every country except Egypt and Jordan said the environment should be a priority, even at the cost of economic growth and jobs. But only in nine countries are half or more willing to pay higher prices to address global warming.

Three-fourths of Brazilians say their team will win this year's World Cup soccer tournament, easily the most confident showing of the countries polled. Just 13 percent of Americans picked the U.S.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project was conducted by the Pew Research Center in 22 countries from April 7 through May 8, though the exact dates varied by country. Interviews were mostly conducted face-to-face, though telephone interviews were used in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Japan.

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U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan


WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.

“The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.”

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.

The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

“On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”