Pakistan army kills Swat rebels
(NSI News Source Info) August 23, 2008: A suicide bomber drove a vehicle at a police checkpoint. The Pakistan army says it has killed at least 35 militants in clashes in the north-western Swat Valley. At least two soldiers also died, the army said.
The fighting came hours after a suicide bomber killed at least eight policemen in the region by driving a vehicle laden with explosives at a check-point.
Taleban forces said they had launched the attack and would carry out more if the army did not halt its operations.
Militant violence is a major challenge for Pakistan's new leaders.
The ruling coalition is struggling to nominate a candidate for president to replace Pervez Musharraf, who resigned on Monday after nearly a decade in power.
The biggest party, the PPP, nominated its leader, Asif Zardari, but its main coalition partner, the PML-N, is not in favour of giving him the job.
So powerful was the blast in Swat that it severely damaged adjacent shops and houses, Pakistani TV channel ARY OneWorld reported.
Severed limbs lay scattered at the scene, the Dubai-based private channel says.
A spokesman for the Islamist militant group Tehrik-e-Taleban told the Associated Press his group had carried out the attack.
"We had warned the government to target police and the army if it didn't stop operations against us in Swat," Muslim Khan said by telephone.
"The government ignored and continued attacking our position."
The spokesman vowed more attacks if the government did not halt army operations in the area, once a popular tourist destination.
Thursday's twin suicide bomb attacks on the ordnance factory in the town of Wah, near the capital Islamabad, were the deadliest attack on a military site in Pakistan's history.
On Tuesday, 32 people were killed in a suicide attack on a hospital in the northern town of Dera Ismail Khan.
Pakistan's president is chosen by the two chambers of the national parliament and the country's four provincial elections.
An election will be held on 6 September.
Senior PPP members reached a unanimous decision to nominate Mr Zardari on Friday.
The PPP and PML-N have been discussing ways to reduce the power of the presidency but if Mr Zardari gets the job, it is not clear if such reforms will go ahead.
He took over as PPP leader after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in December.
Nawaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N, prefers what he calls a consensus president.
Russian troops to patrol Georgian port of Poti - Gen.Staff
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - August 23, 2008: Russian troops will patrol the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff said at a news conference Saturday. "These patrols were envisaged in the international agreement," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said. "Poti is outside of the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers." Two more NATO ships, a Polish frigate and a U.S. destroyer, passed through the Bosporus strait and entered the Black Sea on Friday evening to boost the alliance's presence in the Black Sea, where it is delivering humanitarian cargoes to Georgia, a source in the Turkish navy said.
Nogovitsyn said with confidence that Georgia was restoring its military potential for a new act of aggression.
"Now that Georgia has actually acknowledged being an aggressor, and is asking for the potential of its armed forces to be restored, it can be restored only for another act of aggression," the Defense Ministry official warned.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Batu Kuteliya, Georgian deputy defense minister, said that Georgia had decided to attack South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali, despite the insufficient amount of anti-tank and air defenses to protect its armed forces against potential serious resistance.
"I didn't think it likely that a member of the UN Security Council and the OSCE would react like this," Kuteliya told FT.
Georgia lost 215 of its nationals in the conflict, including 13 policemen, 133 military personnel and 69 civilians, Givi Targamadze, who heads the Georgian parliament's defense and security committee, said Wednesday.
Nogovitsyn said 64 Russian servicemen had been killed in the recent conflict, with more than 370 injured.
"We do not gather statistics on the death toll among civilians, but according to South Ossetia's Interior Ministry... 2,100 people were killed in the conflict," he said.
The General Staff deputy chief also warned that Russia could increase the number of its peacekeepers in Georgia's two breakaway republic of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Washington helped Georgia to beef up its military potential.
At a news conference on Friday, Nogovitsyn said Russia would deploy 2,142 peacekeepers in Abkhazia, but that the number of peacekeepers in South Ossetia would be fixed at a later date.
The military official also said Russia had set up 18 peacekeeping posts in South Ossetia and would build as many in Abkhazia "in order to avert looters and the transportation of arms and ammunition."
Russian security source says Georgia planned attack year ahead
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - August 23, 2008: Georgia planned the military operation against its breakaway republic of South Ossetia a year in advance, a source in one of Russia's security bodies said Saturday.
The source also told RIA Novosti that the operation was coordinated with NATO's plans to strengthen its naval presence in the Black Sea.
"The statements of some NATO representatives that the maneuvers of the alliance's ships in the Black Sea were planned a year ago are evidence that attacks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia were planned earlier, maybe even last year," the source said.
A NATO representative earlier said that the three-week deployment - which includes stops at Romanian and Bulgarian ports - was planned at least a year ago, well before the conflict in Georgia.
Already under strain due to NATO's courting of Ukraine and Georgia, and over U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe, relations between the alliance and Russia have frayed badly since Georgia's attack on South Ossetia and Russia's subsequent military operation.
In the opinion of the source, NATO's buildup of naval force in the Black Sea under the cover of providing humanitarian aid to Georgia, sets a dangerous precedent and may sharply destabilize the situation in the region.
Speaking Friday at RIA Novosti news conference, the deputy chief of the Russian military's general staff expressed doubts whether it is necessary to have NATO vessels in the Black Sea delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia.
"Now that the conflict [with South Ossetia] is exhausted, there are NATO vessels [in the Black Sea]. What for and with what aim?" Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.
He also said Russia would reply swiftly to all provocations against its Black Sea Fleet.
Russian ship returns from Georgian coast to base in Ukraine
(NSI News Source Info) SEVASTOPOL - August 23, 2008: One more Russian ship returned Saturday from Georgian waters to the Black Sea Fleet's base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol. The mine-sweeper Turbinist had taken part in Russia's "peace enforcement" operations in Georgia.
It entered the Russian naval shipyard in the Crimea, which Russia leases from Ukraine, without incident and was welcomed by locals waving Russian flags and cheering the Black Sea Fleet.
Similar scenes greeted the guided missile corvette Mirazh when it returned to base on Friday.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree this month requiring prior notification from Russia of all movements by naval vessels and aircraft from the country's Black Sea Fleet base in the Crimea.
Ukraine even threatened to refuse Russian vessels entry to the Sevastopol naval base.
The decree is not yet being enforced, and Russia views it as a provocation and is likely to resist any Ukrainian limits on the deployment of its navy.
"I think all issues, including similar provocations, have been discussed under bilateral agreements between Russia and Ukraine on the status of the Black Sea Fleet. We will give a prompt response if anything happens," said Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff.
Investigation launched into highway attack in Ingushetia
(NSI News Source Info) NAZRAN - August 23, 2008: A criminal case was launched Saturday over an attack on vehicles in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia that left one person dead and several others injured, a local investigation spokesman said.
A pickup truck carrying fireworks and an accompanying police car came under gunfire on the Kavkaz federal highway at around 21:40 Moscow time (17:40 GMT) on Friday. A passenger on board the pickup was killed and the driver hospitalized with burns, while two policemen in the other car were also hospitalized with injuries.
The driver of a passing-by car received a minor wound, and a Lada car that followed the pickup was destroyed by fire, although the driver was unharmed.
An investigation is under way.
Earlier Friday, a policeman received two wounds when trying to arrest a hooligan on the premises of a local school in the village of Ekazhevo, near the province's largest city of Nazran.
In a separate incident, two blasts shook the Ingush town of Malgobek on Saturday. No casualties were reported.