A former Algerian agent revealed that the Algerian intelligence services were behind the planning and execution of the attack on the Hotel Asni in the Moroccan city of Marrakech back in August 1994, according to the London-based Quds Press International News Agency. The attack, which left a number of tourists and locals killed, led the Moroccan king at the time, Hassan II, to enforce visa requirements on Algerian citizens wishing to visit Morocco. The Algerians responded by taking a similar measure against Moroccan citizens. As a result, the land borders between the two neighbouring countries have been closed ever since.
"I was dispatched by Algerian intelligence to Morocco in April 1994 with the mission of initiating some security breaches in order to foment instability in the country, which I did," the Algerian agent, Karim Moulay, told the press agency. He stressed that this was the first time that he was revealing this information to a media outlet. Mr Moulay said that he wasn't aware that the goal was to bomb the hotel and kill tourists. He explained that it took him so long to blow the whistle because, even after quitting th Algerian intelligence service, he hesitated to chip away at the already fragile relations between Rabat and Algiers.
Shockingly, last year's Unesco report on human languages that are in danger of extinction by the end of the century included Arabic, a language that many Arabs think is alive and kicking, wrote Hashem Saleh in the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat. The international body predicted that half of the 6,700 modern languages spoken around the world will die out unless concerned governments and speaking communities take action to safeguard them.
"We Arabs have been losing all battles over the past years. And now, the language. That can't be right. Shame on Unesco to lump Arabic together with marginal languages spoken in Australia and Africa." Surely, Arabic has faced fierce competition from French in Maghreb countries and English in the Gulf and the Levant. But the language is more victim to inside attacks from Arabs themselves. There are those who dismiss it as a "folkloric" language fit only for theological studies and literature, and purists who manage to put off even the keenest learners with their pedantries. "What we need now is a moderate form of Arabic, neither colloquial nor classical; a third breed of Arabic that is flexible, enlivened everyday by the media and the works of Arab authors. That is our only hope."
Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, lashed out at the Palestinian Authority on Monday, accusing it of waging a war on Islam, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi reported.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a new police headquarters, Mr Haniyeh said the West Bank, which is under the authority of Mahmoud Abbas's government, is targeting the "religious drive" in the upcoming Palestinian generation, acting thus as a proxy for the US-Israeli project. Mr Haniyeh accused the government in Ramallah of taking a series of anti-Islamic measures since the beginning of Ramadan. He claimed that these included: barring the Al Aqsa Mosque preacher Sheikh Hamid al Baytawi and "thousands" of other mosque preachers from giving sermons, leaving a hundred mosques without muezzins and shutting down a thousand Quranic schools and zakat councils.
"They won't be able to snatch away faith from people's hearts and they will not succeed in their war on Islam because it is Allah they have to contend with," Mr Haniyeh was quoted as saying. "Political normalisation [with Israel] was not enough for them, now they want to enforce religious normalisation on Muslim clerics." The newspaper's report did not include any form of response from a Palestinian Authority official regarding the allegations.
Last week the chief of staff of the Iraqi army, Lt Gen Babaker Zerbari, declared that the Iraqi military is unprepared to assume the responsibility of protecting the country. This did not come as a surprise, commented Samir Saeed in the opinion page of the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej. Lt Gen Zerbari's declaration was indeed seconded by the Iraqi defence minister, Qader Obeidi, and other senior officials. There are some whose interests are better served under a US presence.
It is odd that the US administration did not respond to those concerns and carried on with its confirmations that US troops will be leaving the country by the end of 2011. What is even odder is that Iraq's outgoing prime minister and supreme commander of the armed forces, Nouri al Maliki, said that the Iraqi military is fully prepared to take over after the US pullout and will be capable of enforcing law and security.
Unfortunately, Mr Zerbari and Mr Obeidi's statements are closer to the truth. "One wonders whether Mr al Maliki was referring to his safety alone or did he really meant that the whole Iraqi people, who bleed everyday, will be protected?" * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org