ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing
Kristen Gillespie


*Al Jazeera reports that hundreds of Yemenis are packing and leaving Sanaa as gun battles continue throughout the city between supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a powerful tribal chief who defected and joined the opposition. Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar is the head of a tribal federation in Yemen that includes Saleh's own tribe. Nevertheless, Saleh has ordered the arrest of al-Ahmar and nine other senior tribesmen on charges of armed rebellion.

*Al-Ahmar told the network in a phone interview: "There is a personal war between Saleh and the Yemeni people." In response to the arrest warrants for him and family members, al-Ahmar called on the men of his tribes "not to delay," adding that "the tribes will understand the meaning of that statement."

*Egyptian op-ed writer Fahmi Howeidi notes the contradictory excuses that Saleh has offered in order to avoid signing a peace deal brokered by Gulf states. "It is clear that his justifications are meant for one purpose only: to prolong his stay in power, clinging to it no matter the cost, betting on the exhaustion of protesters," Howeidi wrote in Egyptian newspaper Al-Sharouq.

*This video "message to the Syrian army" shows a montage of photographs captioned with "I am your brother, "I am your father," "your daughter," "cousin," "friend" over images of Syrians of all ages. The message flashes across the screen: "Are you angry with me?" The clip is a plea to the army to recognize the common humanity of protesters in the hope that they will join the opposition.

*The Syrian Revolution facebook group posted an open letter to the Syrian military. Civilians "were killed by the same hand that killed our honorable soldier," the letter reads, adding that the only "armed gangs' in Syria are the thugs who answer to President Bashar al-Assad.

*Syria's Al Watn newspaper, which seems to have exclusive access to Assad, ran a story about First Lady Asma Assad visiting the families of "martyrs who died in defense of national unity." Maryam Mahmoud, the mother of a martyr soldier who fell in Daraa last month reportedly told the First Lady "how proud she felt to sacrifice her son's life to redeem the nation and President Bashar al-Assad, and how she is prepared to martyr her five other children for the love of her beloved country." The story comes as rumors that Asma Assad fled to her native London with the couple's children as the violence in Syria continues. The paper did not run a photograph of the visit.

May 26, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

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