World War 4 Report editor and chief blogger Bill Weinberg will be in Peru on assignment for the next weeks. The Daily Report will be updated as time and logistics allow, including on-the-scene reports from indigenous and campesino struggles for land and water in the Andean sierras. So please be patient with our slower pace of activity, and continue to check in on us. Daily updates and our weekly e-mailing of headlines will resume the last week of May. To sign up for the e-mail list (just one mailing a week, and your address will be kept in the strictest confidence), please be in touch.
Israeli missiles struck a research center near Damascus, setting off explosions and causing casualties, Syria's state news agency reported May 5. If confirmed, it would be the second Israeli strike on targets in Syria in three days. Two previous Israeli air-strikes, one in January and one on May 3, targeted weapons reportedly bound for Hezbollah. (AP, May 5) On May 4, a former senior official in the Bush administration said the use of chemical weapons in Syria might have been an Israeli-instrumented "false flag operation." Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, told Current TV: "We don’t know what the chain of custody is. This could’ve been an Israeli false flag operation, it could’ve been an opposition in Syria... or it could've been an actual use by Bashar Assad. But we certainly don’t know with the evidence we’ve been given. And what I'm hearing from the intelligence community is that that evidence is really flakey." (JP, May 4)
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian detained at Guantánamo since August 2002, had portions of his handwritten prison-camp memoir published in Slate on April 30. Slahi wrote the 466-page journal from 2005-2006, and it has just become unclassified, although many sections are redacted. Slahi mostly grew up in Germany and went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet-backed regime in 1990, where he apparently fell in with al-Qaeda. He repudiated al-Qaeda in 1992 and returned to Germany to study, later moving to Canada. In 2001 back in Mauritania, he was detained "for questioning" by police at US behest—and promptly renditioned to Jordan. There, he was tortured for months on suspicion of involvement in the 2000 "Millennium Plot"—on the specious grounds that a member of his Montreal mosque was caught with plot-related explosives. The Jordanians concluded he wasn't involved, but the US sent him to Bagram and then to Guantánamo. That's when the nightmare really began.
Iraqi special forces are said to be closing in on the most senior member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle still on the run, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, head of the now-outlawed Ba'ath party. Al-Douri, who was the king of clubs in the US military's famous playing-card deck of wanted Iraqis, is said to be hiding near Saddam's home town of Tikrit. He is believed to be leading an armed unit called the "Men of the Army of the Naqshbandi Order," known by its Arabic acronym JRTN, drawn from followers of one of Iraq's oldest Sufi orders. In a January video, Douri, surrounded by men in uniform, urged resistance to Iraq's Shi'ite-led government. April was the bloodiest month since 2008 in Iraq, with sectarian violence claiming more than 700 lives. (PBS News Hour, May 2; The Guardian, April 18)
Egyptian police arrested 12 "Black Bloc" protesters in clashes outside Cairo's presidential palace April 27. Protesters hurled rocks and fire bombs at the walls of the presidential palace in the Heliopolis suburb, and torched a police vehicle. The clashes come days after the detainment of 22 suspected Black Bloc members on court order. On May 1, a court refused an appeal to release the young men, who have been ordered to remain in custody for a second 15-day period. On their Facebook page, the Blac Bloc say they are a "generation born of the blood of the martyrs" from the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Prosecutor general Talaat Abdallah has accused the group of "terrorism."
The Guatemalan government declared a state of emergency and banned public gatherings May 2 in four municipalities in the eastern highlands following clashes between police and anti-mining protesters. The 30-day "state of siege" effects Jalapa and Mataquescuintla (Jalapa department), and Casillas and San Rafael las Flores (Santa Rosa department). (See map.) Constitutional guarantees are suspended, and the powers of local municipalities dissolved, placing them under the direct control of Pesident Otto Pérez Molina. Clashes between local residents and National Police and security guards this week left one officer dead, six residents wounded, and police cars burned near the Escobal silver mine at San Rafael las Flores. Protesters also briefly detained 23 police officers. The government says the protesters are armed with guns and explosives. The mine's owner, Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc., said protesters armed with machetes "turned hostile" at the gate on on April 27, and security guards fired tear gas and rubber bullets, setting off days of angry protests.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, an angry May Day march descended on the city center with drums, red flags, and chants of "Hang the killers, Hang the Factory Owners!" In Jakarta, Indonesia, some of the tens of thousands of marchers were dressed as ants—complete with bright red outfits and antennae—to depict the exploitation of workers. In Hong Kong, the ranks of marchers were swollen past 10,000 by striking dockworkers and their supporters. In Greece, transport came to a halt as thousands of public-sector workers walked off the job in a one-day strike. May Day protests in downtown Seattle turned violent, with police using pepper spray to disperse anarchists who pelted them with rocks, bottles, metal pipes, fireworks and a skateboard. (CSM, CNN, AFP, SCMP, May 1)
President Barack Obama said April 30 he will wait until he meets with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto this week to discuss Mexico's decision to curtail access of US security agencies. "I'm not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I've heard directly from them to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish," Obama said in Washington. Mexico confirmed days earlier that it has ended direct access by US law enforcement agents to their Mexican counterparts; now all communication is to be routed through the federal interior ministry, Gobernación.