World Briefs

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on January 11, 2011

SOMALIA – Islamists forbid men, women to shake hands

Mogadishu | Somalis say Islamist insurgents have banned unrelated men and women from shaking hands, speaking or walking together.

Residents of the southern Somali town of Jowhar said Saturday that the al-Shabab insurgents threatened to whip, imprison or execute anyone found breaking the recent edicts.  [The militant group has already banned music in areas that it controls, which include most of central and southern Somalia.]

Resident Hussein Ali says he will no longer greet women he knows for fear of punishment.

Student Hamdi Osman says she was once beaten for wearing Somali traditional dress instead of the long, shapeless black robes favored by the fighters.

THAILAND – Thai demonstrators say they’re smarter this time

Bangkok | Thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched Sunday in Bangkok, saying they had learned lessons from chaotic violence last year and had a new strategy for the new year.

About 10,000 “Red Shirt” protesters gathered at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument and clogged traffic as they marched to an upscale shopping area where massive crowds of protesters had camped for weeks last year before soldiers swept through and arrested top protest leaders.

Jatuporn Prompan, a Red Shirt leader who avoided arrest because he has parliamentary immunity, vowed to have “frequent and symbolic gatherings” twice a month – a change from the large sit-in last year that lasted 10 weeks and prompted a violent crackdown.

“We have learned a lesson that big gatherings will not lead to the result we want,” Jatuporn said.

ISRAEL – Comatose Sharon’s stay at home is a short one

Jerusalem | The comatose former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quietly returned to the hospital just days after he was moved home in November, officials said.

Two months ago Sharon was moved with fanfare to his family ranch in southern Israel, but Tel Hashomer Hospital spokesman Amir Marom said Sunday the plan was always for a brief stay and that after 48 hours he was returned to the long-term care unit of a Tel Aviv hospital.

Sharon, 82 is a former war hero who led Israel from 2001 until the 2006 stroke that left him in a vegetative state. Doctors say there has been no change in Sharon’s condition.

PAKISTAN – Marchers support law

Karachi | Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Pakistan’s largest city on Sunday to oppose any change to national blasphemy laws and to praise a man charged with murdering a provincial governor who had campaigned against the divisive legislation.

The rally of up to 50,000 people was one of the largest demonstrations of support for the laws, which make insulting Islam a capital offense. It was organized before the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot dead on Tuesday in Islamabad by a bodyguard who told a court he considered Mr. Taseer a blasphemer.

Although courts typically overturn blasphemy convictions and no executions have been carried out, rights activists say the laws are used to settle rivalries and persecute religious minorities.

TUNISIA – Tunisia’s unemployed riot

Thala | Tunisian police opened fire on rioters in two cities, killing at least eight and wounding nine, in the worst violence in the North African country since unemployment protests began last month.

The shootings took place in the central cities of Thala and Kasserine, the state-run Tunis Afrique Presse [TAP] news agency said, citing an Interior Ministry statement. Several policemen were also injured.

In Thala, demonstrators late Sunday attacked a police station and two government buildings, TAP said. The rioting spread to Kasserine, where a bank was attacked, it said. Al Jazeera TV said 14 people were killed in the unrest.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at: and


SOMALIA:  SOMALIA'S GOVERNMENT AND AL-SHABAAB: (The U.S. State Department has identified al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization.)

THAILAND:  excerpted from a May 2010 article at

ISRAEL:  Ariel Sharon

PAKISTAN:  Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan's most-populous province, and a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, was assasinated by one of his bodyguards, who said he was angered by the governor's opposition to the country's blasphemy laws. Mr. Taseer had become a leading opponent in recent weeks of a court decision in November 2010 to sentence a 45-year-old Christian farm laborer and mother of five, Asia Bibi, to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

Responding to Gov. Taseer's murder, the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan group of scholars, seen as a relatively moderate school of Islam in Pakistan, announced "More than 500 scholars of the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat have advised Muslims not to offer the funeral prayers of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer nor try to lead the prayers. Also, there should be no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy."

TUNISIA:  Protests in Tunisia are demonstrations over unemployment, and the high cost of living, which began in December 2010. Protests are rare in Tunisia and these protests constitute the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in three decades.

For background information on Tunisia and its government, go to