KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai gave the go-ahead to a major security crackdown in the Taliban birthplace of Kandahar, assuring residents the operation was aimed at battling corruption and bad government as much as insurgents.
Hundreds of tribal and religious leaders, sitting cross-legged in a steamy conference hall, publicly endorsed the plan Sunday.
Afghan and international forces already have started to ramp up security, raising fears among the estimated half-million people living in and around the city that military action will lead to more bloodshed. Karzai worked to allay those fears, saying the operation would not resemble a heavy military offensive replete with tanks and airstrikes.
“The cleaning-up operation will start first inside Kandahar city and then we will go to the districts,” Karzai said, urging those in the audience to put aside fears of retaliation and join him in retaking control of the city from insurgents, criminals and wealthy power brokers.
Blasts kill five
at political rally
NAIROBI, Kenya – Two explosions ripped through Uhuru Park in Kenya’s capital during a packed political rally late Sunday, killing five people and wounding 75, officials said.
The rally was held to protest a draft constitution the country will vote on in August. The country’s president and prime minister support it, but several prominent political leaders do not.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said officials don’t yet know the cause of the blasts. The campaign against the draft constitution opposes a clause that would allow abortion to save a mother’s life. Opponents also don’t like a clause that would recognize informal courts used by Kenya’s Islamic community.
gains in Belgium
BRUSSELS, Belgium – A separatist party that advocates independence for the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, leaving the country’s Francophones to fend for themselves, scored an unprecedented win in Sunday’s general election.
Final results gave the Dutch-speaking New Flemish Alliance – a fringe faction until now – 27 of the 150 legislative seats, up 19 from the 2007 vote.
The election outcome was seen as a clear warning to Francophones to negotiate seriously about granting Dutch- and French-speakers more self-rule, or Dutch-speakers will bolt.
The Alliance’s success marked the first time a Flemish nationalist movement overtook traditional parties.
Today, King Albert is expected to begin talks with key politicians on what sort of government can be formed.