First story today?
London police find 2 bomb-rigged cars
By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer
LONDON - Police in London's bustling nightclub and theater district on Friday defused a car bomb that could have killed hundreds after an ambulance crew spotted smoke coming from a Mercedes filled with a lethal mix of gasoline, propane and nails. Hours later, police confirmed a second explosives-rigged car was found nearby.
The first car bomb, found near Piccadilly Circus, was powerful enough to have caused "significant injury or loss of life" at a time when hundreds were in the area, British anti-terror police chief Peter Clarke said.
Clarke said Friday evening that the second car — another Mercedes — was originally parked illegally on nearby Cockspur Street, but had been towed from the West End to an impound lot near Hyde Park.
"The vehicle was found to contain very similar materials to those that had been found in the first car," he said. "There was a considerable amount of fuel and gas canisters. As in the first vehicle, there was also a quantity of nails. This like the first device was potentially viable."
The discoveries came just ahead of the second anniversary of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings that killed 52 people on three London subways and a bus.
"We are currently facing the most serious and sustained threat to our security from international terrorism," Britain's new home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said after an emergency meeting of top officials.
In Washington, two officials said British authorities found no link between the defused car bomb and any terrorist group during the early hours of the investigation. The officials, who were briefed on the inquiry, said the investigation had yielded no suspects and no definitive description of anyone leaving the vehicle. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
Police were examining footage from closed-circuit TV cameras, Clarke said, hoping the surveillance network that covers much of central London will help them track down the drivers of the cars.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee who was briefed on the investigation, said British authorities had recovered a cell phone that they believed was to be the trigger for the explosion.
"They found a cell phone and it was going to be used to detonate the bomb," he said.
The events unfolded when an ambulance crew — responding to a call just before 1:30 a.m. about a person who had fallen at a Haymarket nightclub — noticed smoke coming from a car parked in front of the building, Clarke said.
The crew alerted police, and a bomb squad manually disabled the device, Clarke said.
Photographs of the metallic green Mercedes discovered first show a canister bearing the words "patio gas," indicating it was propane, next to the car. The back door was open with blankets spilling out. The car was removed from the scene after a bomb squad disabled the explosives.
The Haymarket thoroughfare is packed with restaurants, bars, a cinema complex and West End theaters, and was buzzing at that hour. "Phantom of the Opera" is playing at Her Majesty's Theater down the street.
It was ladies' night Thursday, nicknamed "Sugar 'N' Spice," at the Tiger Tiger nightclub, a three-story venue that at full capacity can pack in 1,770 people and stays open until 3 a.m.
Police also were investigating the possibility that the planned attack could have been criminal in nature. Authorities closed the Piccadilly Circus subway station for eight hours and cordoned off a 10-block area around the scene.
The incident triggered a series of security scares across central London, and police closed Park Lane, Fleet Street and nearby Chancery Lane to investigate other suspicious vehicles.
Gordon Brown, who only Wednesday succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister, called it a reminder that Britain faces a serious and continuous threat of terrorist attacks: "I will stress to the Cabinet that the vigilance must be maintained over the next few days."
There had been no prior intelligence of planned attacks from the al-Qaida terror network, a British government official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
Londoners were relatively unfazed by the news. People crowded onto buses and subway trains during the afternoon rush hour, shopping streets were busy and sidewalk cafes did brisk business.
"Sure, it's disturbing, and obviously it reminds everyone of 7/7," said Ian Hiskos, 32, eating at a cafe across the block from the police cordon on Haymarket. "I try not to think about these things."
The terror threat level in Britain has remained at "severe" — meaning a terrorist attack is highly likely — since last August.
On Friday, Metropolitan Police said it sent more officers on the streets of central London. Authorities also stepped up security at Wimbledon.
One analyst said the bombers could be trying to send Britain's new leader a message.
"It's a way of testing Gordon Brown," said Bob Ayers, a security expert at the Chatham House think tank. "It's not too far-fetched to assume it was designed to expedite the decision on withdrawal (from Iraq)."
The U.S. government urged Americans abroad to be vigilant but officials said they saw no potential terrorist threat in the United States ahead of next week's July 4 Independence Day holiday.
"At this time we are characterizing this as a localized incident in London," said Laura Keehner, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security.
New York strengthened its already tight security as a precaution, putting additional police in Times Square and the mass transit system.
"We're going to ramp up a little bit, but nothing dramatic," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "We'll take a little bit of extra precaution. Some of you will notice, some of you won't — but we have to be cognizant."
I have to wonder how many more days we will have scares like this. How many more cities will be paralyzed with terror. That is their objective, right? To have us live in a constant state of terror, fear? I, for one refuse to live in that state. I refuse to give them power over me. I refuse! Perhaps if more of us stand up and say, "You don't scare me anymore, Kill me, it doesn't matter, we will never give in to the fear you so desperately want us to feel." then their scare tactics become useless. If they can't instill fear into us, they have no power. NONE. Quit giving them power over your life! What will be, will be. There is not a damn thing we can do to change what will happen. That is the cycle of life. I know that sounds harsh, but it's the truth. If it's your time to go, it's your time....
Plane carrying Ivorian PM attacked
By PARFAIT KOUASSI, Associated Press Writer
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - A plane carrying Ivory Coast's prime minister came under heavy gunfire as it landed Friday at an airport in the country's north but the leader was not harmed, his spokesmen said.
Three other people were killed by the force of the landing at Bouake airport, roughly 250 miles from the country's commercial capital, Abidjan, two spokesmen for Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said.
"You heard the sound of heavy explosions and then several volleys of shots," Sidiki Konate, who was with Soro on the plane, told French radio. "Many were also injured seriously. The prime minister was unhurt," he said.
Alain Lobognon, another spokesman traveling with Soro, said the prime minister was taken to a safe place after the attack. Lobognon confirmed three were killed in the landing.
Following a brief civil war in 2002, Ivory Coast was divided into a rebel-controlled north and a government-ruled south. Before becoming prime minister, Soro had headed the New Forces rebels from Bouake, while President Laurent Gbagbo governed the south.
Soro became prime minister in April following a peace deal between his New Forces rebels and the government. But Friday's attack could set back the nascent accord under which Soro joined in a government with his former enemy Gbagbo.
About 9,000 U.N. troops and 3,500 French soldiers are deployed in Ivory Coast to ward off all-out civil war. Many used to patrol the giant buffer zone that runs east to west, dividing the country in half.
Since the signing of the peace deal on March 4, Ivorians have begun dismantling the buffer zone, and some of the international peacekeepers stationed in the country were preparing to leave.
The world's largest cocoa producer has embraced a series of peace deals in recent years, but so far none have taken hold. The most recent, known as the Ouagadougou accord after the capital of Burkina Faso where it was signed, has been seen as the most promising.
I only have one thing to say about this, It better not stretch us more thin than what we are. I know 12,500 troops isn't that many, but I surely don't want the "higher" guys deciding we need to send more people in. I think the majority of the U.N. based countries are tapped out enough as far as troop strength. If they want to have a civil war, then by all means let them...
Iraq ambush caps bloodiest months for US
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD - A huge bomb exploded near an American patrol and five U.S. soldiers died in the blast and the hail of gunfire and grenades that followed, the U.S. military said Friday. The attack came as the Pentagon tallied up the deadliest three-month period for Americans since the war began.
Seven soldiers were wounded in the attack Thursday in the Rasheed district, a mixed Sunni-Shiite area of southern Baghdad where U.S.-led forces recently stepped up pressure on extremists. The commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad suggested the ambush could be part of an escalating backlash by Sunni insurgents.
Those deaths brought to 99 the number of U.S. troops killed this month, according to an Associated Press count. The toll for the past three months — 329 — made it the deadliest quarter for U.S. troops in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. That surpasses the 316 soldiers killed during November 2004 to January 2005.
Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., who heads U.S. forces in the Iraqi capital, said U.S. casualties had mounted because Sunni extremists are "starting to fight very hard" as U.S. forces press into areas of the capital where militants once had free rein.
"This is a skilled and determined enemy. He's ruthless. He's got a thirst for blood like I've never seen anywhere in my life," Fil told reporters. "And he's determined to do whatever he can."
During a teleconference with Pentagon reporters, Fil described the Thursday attack as "very violent," displaying a "level of sophistication that we have not often seen so far in this campaign."
He said a blast from a "very large" bomb buried deep in the ground triggered the attack, which was followed by volleys of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Four soldiers were killed in the attack and a fifth died Thursday night of his wounds, Fil said.
"As far as the assessment, we believe that we are into an area" of south Baghdad "where we're seeing a very strong al-Qaida cell," Fil said. "Those areas are now denied to them ... They are starting to fight very hard and that's what we saw yesterday."
Sunni insurgents have used similar "swarming" tactics for years, mostly in rural areas to the north and west of the capital. Militants have also been burying explosives deep in the ground, making them difficult to detect and triggering them as vehicles pass by.
Such "deep buried bombs" have been especially effective against U.S. vehicles, including Humvees, Bradley fighting vehicles and Strykers, prompting commanders in some areas to shift to foot patrols to avoid losing so many soldiers in a single blast.
U.S. casualties have been rising since President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq in a major push to pacify Baghdad and surrounding areas. The goal was to curb the violence so Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders can strike agreements to share power in this fractious country.
But progress toward agreements to share oil wealth, provide a greater political role to the Sunni minority and shore up local governments has been slow because of deep suspicions after four years of bloodshed.
In a hopeful sign, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called off a July 5 march to a bombed shrine in Samarra north of Baghdad after appeals from the government, which feared Sunni extremists would attack marchers along the way.
Sheik Asad Al-Nassiri, an aide to the cleric, told a congregation at Friday prayer services in Kufa that al-Sadr canceled the march because of "the government's inability to secure the route and many officials' appeals for a postponement."
At the same time, however, anger has been welling up among Sunni Arabs, who complain they are being marginalized in the Shiite-dominated government.
A Sunni political party said Friday that four Sunni Cabinet members will refuse to attend government meetings to protest the way Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki handled legal proceedings against the fifth Sunni minister.
Earlier this week, an arrest warrant was issued for Culture Minister Asad Kamal al-Hashimi and security forces raided his Baghdad home after allegations he masterminded an assassination attempt against a politician two years ago.
Sunni politicians considered the move politically motivated and asked al-Maliki, a Shiite, to do something to stop it. The prime minister refused, saying he would not intervene in the work of the judiciary.
"The ministers have decided to suspend their participation in government meetings because they consider the stance of the prime minister and the government unsuitable," Ayad al-Samarraie, a leading member of the Sunni bloc the Iraqi Accordance Front, told AP.
"Had this minister been a member of his (al-Maliki's) party, would he have dealt with the matter the way he did?" al-Samarraie asked.
Muhannad al-Issawi, a spokesman for Accordance Front leader Adnan al-Dulaimi, said the boycott of the 37-member Cabinet "will continue until a compromise is reached."
Al-Issawi said the Sunnis were also protesting the dismissal this month of the Sunni speaker of parliament, who was voted out by the legislators because of erratic behavior.
In April, six Cabinet ministers loyal to al-Sadr quit the government to protest his refusal to call for a timetable for American troops to leave. They have not been replaced.
The boycotts are likely to complicate efforts to enact key "benchmark" legislation that the U.S. is demanding, since the Cabinet must sign off on such proposals before they go to parliament.
Even if the other Shiite and Kurdish members give their endorsement, the absence of key constituencies from the decision-making process would raise doubts whether such legislation would contribute to the goal of national reconciliation.
Elsewhere Friday, a suicide truck bomber attacked an Iraqi army post 20 miles north of the capital Friday, killing six soldiers and wounding five others, police said. Two civilians were also killed in a barrage of gunfire that followed, they said.
The blast occurred at a railway station in Mishada, an officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Iraqi police said a bomb exploded under a pipeline south of Baghdad, spilling crude oil and sparking a huge fire. The pipeline carries oil from Iraq's southern oil fields to the Dora refinery in the capital.
I can't write much about how Iraq has affected my love these last few weeks, because that is not my story to tell. I have links to his blog on here in a couple of different places. (On the left side menu & in my last blog) I will say this from the perspective of a loved one, everyday you fear, as much as you don't want to fear, that fear remains. Even though, I know in my heart that he will be home safe in a few months, there is always a glimmer of fear that tries to force it's way forward. (As you can tell by my last few posts.)
I just wish, I wish, I wish we could just wipe our hands clean and leave...
Sweetie, I know you read this, remember you are in my thoughts always, I love you more than words could ever express. Keep your eyes and ears open, and stay safe...