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from Photographers' Blog:

Flashback to the Bali blasts of 2002

By Beawiharta

A ceremony to remember the victims of a bomb blast that struck a busy street on a Saturday night in 2002, killing 202 people.

Today's ceremony carried me back to 10 years ago, where shops were burned and damaged. The bomb had left a big hole in Legian Street. That Sunday morning in 2002 was bright, with good weather and a blue sky as I entered Kuta beach's Hard Rock Hotel. It was a different atmosphere; the situation wasn't relaxing on the resort island. It was on high alert with security personnel covering the streets. Police, local security people called “pecalang” always asked for ID. If someone didn't have ID, they couldn't enter the hotel area or walk the streets.

I arrived at the bomb blast site shortly after landing from Jakarta but the destroyed area was already closed off by police. Security was very tight and no one could enter the bomb blast area so I went to the hospital, to try to get access to the victims. The hospital was not a comfortable place to be, especially after the violence of the night before. There were many burned bodies lying on the floor covered with white fabric, and the smell was bad. It’s already been 10 years since that day but some of the visuals of the 2002 Bali bombing are still in my mind.

Firstly, I took pictures of an injured woman lying on a hospital bed as her injured friend tried to comfort her. Just one click and go; it was a difficult time to photograph not because of security or limited access to the recovery room. I was already there, standing next to her bed, it was because I didn't want to take that picture. For a moment I didn't do anything, I couldn't do anything. The visual wasn't great, as the injuries weren't too visible but how two women communicated by touching each other in the difficult situation; that touched me.

from India Insight:

India no angel in dangerous neighbourhood

By Annie Banerji

Perhaps the finger-pointing at neighbouring Pakistan and the talk of Afghan militancy destabilising the region that New Delhi so often rolls out should be reconsidered. The neighbourhood may well be dangerous, but India is no model pupil.

According to the 2011 Global Peace Index, an initiative of the Institute of Economics and Peace, which evaluates 153 countries based on the level of ongoing conflict, safety and security and militarisation, India is the world's 135th most peaceful country, falling seven positions from last year.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the enemy within

m1Steve Coll, the president of the New America Foundation and a South Asia expert, has raised the issue of the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the wake of the assassination of the governor of most populous Punjab state by one of his bodyguards. It's a question that comes up each time Pakistan is faced with a crisis whether it a major act of violence such as this or a political/economic meltdown or a sudden escalation of tensions with India obviously, but also the United States.

Pakistan's security establishment bristles at suggestions that it could be any less responsible than other states in defending its nuclear arsenal, and its leaders and experts have repeatedly said that the professional army is the ultimate guardian of its strategic assets.

from FaithWorld:

India says local Islamists bombed Hindu pilgrim city Varanasi

varanasi 1 (Photo: After the blast in Varanasi December 7, 2010/Stringer)

India said Wednesday a home-grown Islamist group with ties to Pakistani militants was behind a bomb attack in one of its holiest cities, Varanasi, and local media reported two people were questioned over the attack. Home Secretary Gopal Pillai said traces of explosives were found at the site of Tuesday evening's blast in the northern city that killed a two-year old girl and injured 37 Hindu worshippers and foreign tourists.

Pillai said the crude bomb was set off by the Indian Mujahideen (IM), a local group India says has been trained by militants based in Pakistan, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The IM claimed responsibility for the attack in an email to local media, police said. That email was traced to a Mumbai suburb and two people were questioned over it, local media said.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and the narrative of shame

lahore mosqueManan Ahmed has a piece up at Chapati Mystery which should be essential reading for anyone interested in the current state of Pakistan and its prickly relations with the west, particularly with the United States. 

Starting off with a re-reading of Salman Rushdie's "Shame" (one of those books that I expect many of us read in our youth without properly understanding) he returns to the original inspiration for the title - "Peccavi", Latin for "I have sinned."   According to an apocryphal, yet widely believed, story of British imperial conquest, "Peccavi" is the message that General Charles Napier sent back to Calcutta when he conquered Sindh (nowadays one of the provinces of Pakistan) in the 19th century. He then discusses how the modern-day view of Pakistan is defined by shame, or by a perception which over-simplifies it to  "Peccavistan".

from FaithWorld:

Christian-Muslim crisis response group to defuse religious tensions

wcc 1 (Photo: Christian and Muslim leaders at Nov 1-4, 2010 Geneva conference/WCC - Mark Beach)

Christian and Muslim leaders agreed on Thursday to set up "rapid deployment teams" to try to defuse tensions when their faiths are invoked by conflicting parties in flashpoints such as Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt or the Philippines. Meeting this week in Geneva, they agreed the world's two biggest religions must take concrete steps to foster interfaith peace rather than let themselves be dragged into conflicts caused by political rivalries, oppression or injustice.

Among the organisations backing the plan were the World Council of Churches (WCC), which groups 349 different Christian churches around the world, and the Libyan-based World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a network with about 600 affiliated Muslim bodies. They would send Christian and Muslim experts to intervene on both sides in a religious conflict to calm tensions and clear up misunderstandings about the role of faith in the dispute.

from FaithWorld:

Al Qaeda offers to free French hostages if burqa ban ended – TV

veilAl Qaeda's north African arm wants a repeal of a ban on the Muslim face veil in France, the release of militants and 7 million euros to free hostages who include five French, Al Arabiya TV said on Monday.  Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is holding seven foreigners in the Sahara desert after kidnapping them last month. (Photo: A woman protests outside the French Embassy in London against France's veil ban, 25 Sept 2010/Luke MacGregor)

The sources did not specify which militants the hostage-takers wanted released. France's Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as one of several "rumours" since the kidnappings in mid-September.

from FaithWorld:

Ghost of Hindu-Muslim riots haunts upcoming Babri mosque verdict in India

ayodhyaA court will rule on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a judgement haunted by memories of a 1992 riot, some of the country's worst violence since the partition.

The case over the 16th century Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

from FaithWorld:

Q+A – Why are militants attacking Shi’ites, Pakistan now ?

lahore 1 (Photo: Men gather near dead bodies after bomb attack on Shi'tes in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

Suspected Islamist militants exploded three bombs at a Shi'ite procession in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing 33 people and piling pressure on the government already overwhelmed by floods.

Here are some questions and answers on implications of the attacks which came after a lull in violence during floods.

from FaithWorld:

FACTBOX – Lashkar-e-Taiba charity wing in Pakistan flood relief work

dawaThe Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the humanitarian wing of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, has been providing relief to those hit by Pakistan's floods.

It is operating in flood-hit areas under a different name, the Falah-e-Insaniyat, after the JuD was blacklisted by the United Nations following the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, which was blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan has said  it will clamp down on charities linked to Islamist militants amid fears their involvement in flood relief could exploit anger against the government and undermine the fight against groups like the Taliban.

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