-WHERE DID THE ALLEGED PLOTTERS COME FROM?: While New York and Washington ramp up bag checks, and checkpoints, and (as NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly reminded us, there are a lot of measures we cannot see)…and while counterrorism officials chase down hundreds of leads on the alleged plot (credible? yes; specific? yes; corroborated? no)…our Foreign Desk is running checks of our own on where the alleged plotters came from. The plot is said to involve people who traveled to the U.S. from the tribal areas of Pakistan, along the Afghan border. One is believed to be a U.S. citizen. Nick SCHIFRIN in Peshawar, Pakistan, has just done an interview with Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, the commanding general for all of Northwest Pakistan – including the tribal areas. “Al Qaeda was here before 9/11,” Lt. Gen. Malik tells Schifrin. “And a lot of people were captured from here.” Obviously the nightmare scenario for Pakistan is an attack on the U.S. that can be traced directly to Pakistan, and no doubt that country’s commanders are well aware. ”We are in this war longer than anyone else,” Malik said, adding that in this time, the number of terror attacks “will never be zero.”
-PLOT TO FREE BIN LADEN’S WIVES?: Meanwhile, Pakistan is warning that the Taliban are plotting to free Osama bin Laden’s wives and children by kidnapping a government official and then offering to exchange him for the slain al-Qaida chief’s family. At least two of his wives and several children who were living with him have since been detained by Pakistani authorities. Pakistan’s interior ministry warned of the purported plot in a letter marked “secret” that was sent to top security officials around the country. The Associated Press obtained a copy today. The ministry says the information that led to the warning was reliable. It doesn’t say which Pakistani official the Taliban plan to kidnap.
LIBYA: THE ENDGAME
-BREAKING…”RED ALERT” FOR GADDAFI: Interpol has issued so-called “red notices” for the arrest of Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the former head of intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi. Interpol says the notices sent to its 188 member countries will help lead to their capture.
-GADDAFI GENERAL FLEES: A senior general in Libyan ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces has fled to Niger, according the BBC. Officials in the Niger town of Agadez named the commander as General Ali Kana, who led Colonel Gaddafi’s southern troops. He arrived in Niger apparently in a convoy of vehicles with another senior general and several top officials. Several convoys of formerly loyal fighters have streamed over the border with Niger in recent days.
-SCUDS + SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILES – UNGUARDED: On the day Lama HASAN discovered two Libyan bases filled with unguarded weapons, Kirit RADIA reports the U.S. Is sending experts to Libya to help secure these weapons. Lama and team found hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, explosives intact, and the parts for scud missiles, still in their crates, and “there for the taking.” As Kirit reports, “this is exactly what the US has been most worried about since the fighting began earlier this year: that the weapons would simply walk away amid the chaos and could end up in the wrong hands. Most concerning to the United States are reports of missing anti-aircraft weapons. Those deadly weapons could be used by terrorists to shoot down commercial aircraft.”
THE OTHER REVOLUTIONS…
-EGYPT PROTESTS: Per Alex MARQUARDT — There are calls for a large protest on Tahrir Square: Today it’s called “Correcting the Path of the Revolution.” Several prominent groups are participating while others, like the Muslim Brotherhood, aren’t. The military council yesterday issued a statement saying transgressions would be dealt with “sternly.” Mubarak’s former interior minister Habib el Adly was implicated yesterday in the killing of protesters when a police witness testified that he ordered the protesters to be dispersed by any means necessary. The head of the military council, Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi, testifies in a closed session Sunday.
-SYRIA: Big Friday protests expected today amid a crackdown on the flashpoint city of Homs — where Human Rights Watch reports that Syrian security forces “forcibly removed” patients from a hospital and prevented doctors from reaching the wounded. Also notable: comments from Iranian President Ahmadinejad who told a Portuguese interviewer that the violence in Syria should end, “a military solution is never the right solution.”
-BAHRAIN: Young, masked, protesters build a model of Lulu “Pearl” Roundabout out of rubber bullets.
PALESTINIANS & STATEHOOD & MESSAGE TO U.S.: “TOO LATE”
From Alex MARQUARDT again: While the State Department was promising to veto a Palestinian membership bid, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was telling reporters the last ditch effort was too late. “To be frank with you, they came too late,” he told reporters. “If they come now, in this short time, and say, OK, we have a package and don’t go to the U.N., I think it would be a game.” Envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross reportedly had a contentious meeting with Abbas on Wednesday, a Palestinian source said. Abbas was reminded the US would veto in the Security Council and that Congress could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars of funding. Abbas told them it could lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and therefore security in the West Bank, something neither the US nor Israel want. “We told them that we don’t want a confrontation, neither with the Americans nor with anybody else,” Abbas said to the reporters. “They are our friends. We don’t want a confrontation, but let us express our ideas, our hope. We are a people without hope now.” Even if the Quartet offers 1967 borders and land swaps as a basis for negotiations, they will still go to the UN, Abbas said. Even if/when the Security Council bid fails, at the General Assembly the Palestinians can be voted a “non-member observer STATE,” like the Vatican. As a recognized state, they can join bodies like the ICC and ICJ and could theoretically take Israel to court.
FUNERAL FOR MAN WHO SPARKED LONDON RIOTS
Thousands of people are gathering at this hour for the funeral of Mark Duggan, the man whose fatal shooting by police sparked the London riots last month. Duggan was riding in a cab which was stopped by police when he was shot by police.
NEW CASTRO PICTURES
Pictures of a frail but apparently healthy Fidel Castro were posted on a Cuban government website yesterday, following recent rumors he was gravely ill or had died. Castro, who had been out of sight for two months, was shown in what looked to be his Havana home chatting with Venezuelan state television commentator Mario Silva, who said he had come to Cuba to put to rest false reports about Castro’s health.
GLOBAL FOOD PRICES SKY HIGH
The Wall Street Journal reports global food prices remained near record highs last month, raising the prospect food shortages could grip the globe in coming months. In particular, the record-breaking hot, dry summer in parts of the U.S. could hurt this year’s grain crop.
TSUNAMI, 6 MONTHS LATER
Japan is marking September 11 for a very different reason: It’s six months since the triple disasters of the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear crisis that followed. Notes here from Akiko FUJITA:
-THE EVACUEES: In yet another blow to Japan’s rebuilding efforts, a majority of tsunami evacuees say they plan to relocate to another region permanently. A new poll from the Mainichi newspaper confirms what we have witnessed in the months since the disaster – families displaced by the tsunami/nuclear disaster aren’t waiting for the government to rebuild their hometowns. 54% said they planned to relocate permanently, while roughly half of those people attributed the move to radiation fears. This poses a huge challenge for coastal towns that were already coping with an aging and declining population – pre-disaster. With the elderly staying behind, and the younger families moving out, the questions will be…are these towns worth rebuilding? And if so, who will live in them?
-THE CLEANUP: I visited one of the debris dump sites in Sendai yesterday. Along the coastal communities in the city, there are few signs of the tsunami’s destruction. Fields once filled with debris have all been cleared, in a matter of 6 months. There are some excavators out picking up scraps of metal, shells of destroyed homes…but that’s about all we see. I actually had to ask one city official “where the destruction used to be” because everything looked so normal. That isn’t to say, that all the cleanup work is done. All the debris we saw in March has been hauled away to – a waterfront national park that has been turned into a debris dump site. 80,000 tons of debris have been spread out over 85 acres of land …and the organization is remarkable. The debris has been divided into 10 different categories (wood, plastic, concrete, roof tiles, tires, etc). Electronic appliances have been categorized separately – refrigerators have their own pile, washing machines are placed in another corner. Sendai plans to recycle 50% of all the debris over the next 3 years.
-PROTESTS: Large anti-nuclear protests are planned throughout Tokyo Sunday, as Japan marks 6 months since the Fukushima disasters. Demonstrators plan to begin their march at 3:11pm, to remember March 11th. Anti-nuclear sentiment remains high, with 70% of Japanese saying they want to phase out nuclear power. But while former Prime Minister Kan was an outspoken critic of the nuclear industry, new leader Yoshihiko Noda has toned down the rhetoric, raising concerns among anti-nuclear activists.
STORMS ON THE MARCH
While the northeastern U.S. grapples with more floodwaters, new storms are brewing for others in the hemisphere. Tropical Storm Maria is heading toward the Lesser Antilles while Tropical Storm Nate has prompted a tropical storm warning for parts of Mexico’s coast.
“ANGRY BIRDS” THEME PARK
And we have this from Changsha, China: The Window of the World theme park in Changsha got a lot of buzz earlier this month when it opened a new attraction, based on the popular game angry birds. The problem is – they created “The Real Version of Angry Birds” without the permission of game maker Rovio. Instead of taking legal action, Rovio is apparently looking to cash in on the park, by creating a long-term partnership. IDG reports the company is hoping the publicity will help expand the game’s presence in China … where Rovio hopes to reach 100 million downloads by the end of this year. The company hopes to release a Chinese version of Angry Birds by the end of this month, and they’ve already begun selling game-themed T-shirts, iphone cases, and traditional moon cakes.