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White House declines to confirm death of Taliban chief in Pakistan

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File photo of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2004. The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike, Aug. 7, 2009.

White House declines to confirm death of Taliban chief in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) — The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike.

“The United States cannot confirm that he has been killed in a drone attack, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

However, the spokesman said that “There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead.”


1bFile photo of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2004. The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike, Aug. 7, 2009.

“Baitullah Mehsud is somebody who has well earned his label as a murderous thug. … He has killed scores of innocent men, women and children and is supposed to have plotted the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. If he is dead, without a doubt, the people of Pakistan will be safer as a result,” Gibbs said.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in Islamabad on Thursday that the Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mahsud was killed in the missile attack on Wednesday. He said “We have some information, but they don’t have material evidence to confirm it.”

Mehsud has been the leader since 2007 of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a coalition of Taliban factions loyal to Afghanistan’s Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. An ally of al-Qaida, Mehsud commands as many as 20,000 fighters in Pakistan’s rugged northwestern frontier region and has directed or supported numerous suicide bombings in Pakistan, including a deadly attack in 2008 on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

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Kyrgyzstan – ‘At least 142 arrested’ in Kyrgyzstan protests

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Kyrgyzstan – ‘At least 142 arrested’ in Kyrgyzstan protests

Kyrgyzstan‘s opposition said at least 142 demonstrators were arrested on Wednesday at protests in and around Bishkek, the capital of the volatile Central Asian country.

An opposition spokesman said that 80 people were arrested at a march from a Bishkek automobile market to the presidential palace, while 42 people were arrested at a separate march on the palace from a livestock market.

In addition, 20 opposition supporters were arrested in the village of Besh-Kungei outside Bishek, said the spokesman, Ulan Manayev. The protestors had organised various protests in and around the capital in a bid to thwart a police crackdown.

They had hoped to march on the presidential palace to protest alleged fraud in last week’s presidential election, which ended in a landslide victory by incumbent Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Meanwhile the opposition said other protests were taking place throughout the country: “They are also arresting our people in the regions,” Manayev said. Initial reports said that 200 people were arrested in the march from the automobile market to the presidential palace, but the opposition later said that the number was much lower.

Many people in the 200-strong crowd turned out to be plainclothes police masquerading as demonstrators, while some of the protestors there managed to flee, Manayev said.

Manayev initially said 42 people were arrested in the march leaving from the automobile market, but then clarified that 80 were arrested there and that the figure of 42 applied to the march from the livestock market.

The protestors were supporters of main opposition candidate Almazbek Atambayev, who has denounced last Thursday’s election as illegitimate.

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Nicolas Sarkozy in hospital after being taken ill

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Nicolas Sarkozy in hospital after being taken ill

The French president Nicholas Sarkozy has been rushed to hospital in Paris after being taken ill while exercising.

A spokesman for the Elysee palace said that Mr Sarkozy is undergoing medical tests after reporting feeling unwell. Mr Sarkozy, 54, is a fitness enthusiast with no serious illness in his medical history. A keen cyclist and jogger, he has repeatedly been photographed running with his security detail during international summits and while on holiday.

In a two-sentence statement issued by his office, a spokesman said that Mr Sarkozy “felt faint” while he was engaged in sports activities and that his personal doctor immediately took charge of him.

The statement said the president is currently undergoing tests. No other details were available, and Elysee officials would not comment on the telephone. The Elysee statement said that further details will be made available later.

Mr Sarkozy promised before he was elected in 2007 that he would be open about his medical hiostory and was given a clean bill of health. His doctor said at the time that his health was “good and fully compatible with the exercise of presidential duties”.

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