Morning Report: January 17, 2005

New Jersey family slain. A family of Coptic Christians - Hossam Armanious, his wife Amal Garas, and their two daughters - were murdered last week in their New Jersey home. The motive for the killings is still the subject of much speculation, but possible motives may include robbery, religious hate, or terrorism. Dreams Into Lightning is monitoring developments here.

Journalist says Iran attack planned. Seymour Hersh, a veteran journalist, has stated that the Bush administration is already planning attacks against the islamist regime in Iran. 'Hersh said Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld view Bush's re-election as "a mandate to continue the war on terrorism," ' according to the CNN report. The New York Post reports: 'U.S. commandos are hunting for secret nuclear and chemical weapons sites and other targets in Iran, and have a plan to turn the hard-line Islamic country into the next front in the war on terrorism. "It's not if we're going to do anything against Iran. They're doing it," an ex-intelligence official tells this week's issue of The New Yorker. Since at least last summer, the U.S. teams have penetrated eastern Iran, reportedly with Pakistan's help, the magazine said.' Hersh's article in the New Yorker reveals that 'The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term.' (various)

Zhao Ziyang dies. China's reformist leader Zhao Ziyang died on Monday at the age of 85, the BBC reports. Zhao was purged from the Chinese regime after opposing the use of force against pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989, and he remained under house arrest until his death. The nonviolent 1989 demonstrations ended with a bloody crackdown by the government in early June, which left hundreds and possibly thousands dead. (BBC)

India train fire was accidental, committee finds. A fire that claimed 59 lives on an Indian pilgrim train was accidental and not caused by a gasoline bomb, according to a committee headed by retired Supreme Court Justice U. C. Banerjee. The Press Trust of India reports: 'Contrary to Sangh Parivar's contention that the Godhra train blaze that killed 59 Kar sevaks triggering wide-spread communal riots was a pre-planned conspiracy, a retired Supreme Court Judge has said it was "accidental" fire.
Heading a high-level committee appointed by the UPA Government, Justice U C Banerjee also ruled out the possibility of any inflammable liquid thrown from outside the coach.' The February, 2002 tragedy was believed by some to have been caused by a bomb thrown by Muslims targeting the Hindu pilgrims; the incident sparked widespread anti-Muslim riots that killed more than 1,000 Muslims. The Hindu nationalist party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) was quick to object to the Banerjee committee's findings. The Times of India says: 'Disproving the claims of Gujarat Police and right-wing groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, Justice UC Banerjee committee said on Monday there is no evidence to prove that the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was set on fire from outside. ... Survivors of the accident told the commission that the kar sevak s, who had crowded into the compartments, were also cooking food within the train. Banerjee said most people died due to asphyxiation in the over-crowded train.' Dreams Into Lightning will continue to follow this story. (Press Trust of India, Times of India)

Debka: Al-Qaeda vs. Fatah. The March, 2003 liquidation of al-Qaeda cell leader Farouq (Abu Mohammed) al-Masri in southern Lebanon was rumored at the time to have been the work of Israeli agents. Fast-forward to January 15, 2005: a new Debka report claims that 'an unusual al Qaeda communiqué appeared on various jihadist websites asserting that an exhaustive probe conducted into the murder of “our brother Muhammed Al Masri” had elicited ironclad proof of an assassination conspiracy by Lebanese domestic security service and the Fatah’s Ein Hilweh command. The former was said to have provided the bomb vehicle, while Fatah smuggled it into the camp and parked it along al Masri’s route from mosque to store, detonating it by remote control. Having assigned guilt, the al Qaeda statement added, “We warn Fatah-Lebanon that we intend very soon to avenge the blood of our brother Al Masri. This warning is addressed to the entire Fatah command and leadership hierarchy in Lebanon - from the highest to the lowest commander.' Analyzing the communique, Debka concludes that 'The statement is therefore taken as a declaration of war by the global jihadist al Qaeda on the Palestinian Fatah for control of Ein Hilweh, a strategic location commanding South Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast. It was issued the day that the new Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in to take Arafat’s place in Ramallah.' (Debka)