Two helicopters that "collided" north of Baghdad, originally reported to be US have been confirmed as UK Pumas, leaving 2 crew dead and one seriously. The Islamic State of Iraqa group said to have al- Qaida links posted a Web statement on Saturday . They have and hold as hostages 20 Iraqi soldiers to avenge the alleged rape of a woman by police. The statement demands the government hand over the alleged rapists within 48 hours.
The BBC reports "heavy" fighting in Basra has broken out and 5 insurgents are reported dead.
Near al-Sarafiyah bridge, collapsed by a suicide truck bomb on Thursday (or by rockets from a US helicopter) killing 11 people, a suicide bomber blew himself up today on a minibus near a courthouse in the al-Utafiyah neighborhood in NW Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding 11.
In Afghanistan 2 French aid workers and 3 Afghans kidnapped by Taliban insurgents appeared in a video broadcast Saturday by the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya. All 5 were seized on April 3rd in Afghanistan's SW Nimroz province they were all said to be employees of the humanitarian group Terre d'Enfance.
Operation Achilles , NATO led offensive supported by Afghan troops more than 5,000 strong was launched last month to flush / kill Taliban militants entrenched in the northern tip of the Helmand.
A series of bomb and gun attacks have killed 11 NATO soldiers since last weekend.
Combined with bombings recently in Morocco, Algeria, in the recent past in Tunisia, and low level activity which is starting in the old CSI states, a pattern of spring resurgence is becoming apparent. One can only expect that soft targets throughout the Mediterranean littoral will increase as summer comes.
This is a critical time for the US as anti war sentiment is growing. The most vocal Republican war sceptic and Dubyas's potential nemesis, Nebraska U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (his 5th visit) and Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and member of the House Armed Services Committe are in Iraq and return on Monday.
Pic : 200,000 march to Ataturks memorial in Istanbul in a pro-secular anti Government (and in public display to discourage Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from making a bid for the presidency) . The principal organisers were retired senior ex Army officers - to date only one candidate has declared - a popular comedian Metin Uca. See also Asia Times for news of Turkish military advances against the Kurds disregarding US advice.
The Islamic State of Iraqa group said to have al- Qaida links posted a Web statement on Saturday . They have and hold as hostages 20 Iraqi soldiers to avenge the alleged rape of a woman by police. The statement demands the government hand over the alleged rapists within 48 hours.Gen. David Petraeus has writen to all deployed toops who are going to extend their tours in Iraq by 25% to 15 months. He expressed appreciation for "the hardship and strain the extension will put on you and your families," and he warned of "an enormous amount of hard work ahead."