Fourteen survivors and victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 filed suit against Iraq in federal district court in Washington, D.C., last week, claiming that Iraqi officials gave money and training to Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh was executed last April; Nichols, convicted of manslaughter and given a life sentence in federal court, is awaiting trial in Oklahoma state court, where survivors are determined he get a death sentence.
Nearly a year after McVeigh's execution, the case remains controversial. Families of victims have accused the federal government of shoddy detective work, and some even have claimed that government dicks knew from the git-go about the bombing but did nothing to prevent it, then tried to cover their asses by hiding information after the blast.
Immediately after the bombing, federal lawmen focused on possible Middle Eastern terrorists, and Stephen Jones, McVeigh's trial attorney, said in his book Others Unknown that his client was a patsy of Middle East interests. Others have long insisted that the mysterious "John Doe No. 2" came from somewhere in the Middle East and that two accomplices seen with McVeigh before the blast looked dark and could have been Arabs.
Jones even speculated on the possibility that Nichols was involved at some level with Osama bin Laden. Jones's theory goes like this: in the 1990s, Nichols made several trips to the Philippines, once for as long as six months. Nichols always said he spent the time trying to turn up "business opportunities."
In the Philippines, Jones met with an official of an intelligence service who was known only as "the Director," who coyly put him on to a guy in jail. There, Jones found Edwin Angeles, a supposed cohort of Ramzi Yousef, being held in protective custody by the Filipino police. At first, Angeles wouldn't talk, but he eventually told police in a filmed interview that he had been at a meeting in the early 1990s in Davao, on Mindanao, where he met an American who called himself "the Farmer." Angeles produced a sketch that resembled Nichols. Also at this meeting were Ramzi Yousef, Yousef's friend Abdul Hakim Muradand, and a man called Wali Khan Amin Shah. Angeles said in a statement that the group had discussed bombing activities, providing firearms, ammunition and training in making and handling bombs. All three were subsequently convicted of a plot to blow up 12 U.S. jetliners.
Shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, the feds investigated Nichols' activities in the Philippines, but his ties to the Middle East were never proven. Judge Richard Matsch didn't allow Jones to introduce his Middle Eastern foray into evidence, and there the matter rested until Sept. 11 got everybody thinking again.
NEW POLES HINT OF DOOM
The new northwest passage
The huge block of ice that split off from Antarctica last week is just another sign that the poles are melting at an unexpectedly rapid rate—so fast that the famed Northwest Passage will be open to commercial shipping within a decade, creating new problems for the U.S. military.
When this happens, there will not only be a boom in shipping—because the passage cuts by one-third the distance from Europe to East Asia—but also commercial fishing boats will be able to get at vast schools of fish hitherto unreachable because of the ice. The world's stock of fish has long been predicted to decline due to overharvesting.
At the same time, it will open yet another wild frontier in the far, far north, with nations fighting one another over fishing boundaries—not to mention environmentalists trying to save the poles from marine pollution and pirates skulking behind ice floes to prey on unarmed passing ships. Both Russia and Canada consider their northern sea routes as national territory, but the U.S. views them as international waterways.
The U.S. Navy is worried that it can't police this new Arctic route. A study by the Office of Naval Research points out that policing the area will be difficult because there are no good communications satellites in orbit that cover the North Pole.
The area of the Arctic pack ice is diminishing at the rate of 3 percent to 4 percent every 10 years, according to Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University. Submarine data show that the Arctic ice thickness in the central Arctic and Eurasian Basin in summer has diminished by a staggering 40 percent in the past 30 years, and some scientists expect that winter ice will be gone from the Barents Sea by 2030 to 2050 and summer ice from the entire Arctic by the 2080s.
In the face of enormous public protests, a regional tribal government in northern Nigeria has grudgingly relented and spared the life of Safiyatu Husaini, a 35-year-old divorced woman who had been sentenced to death by stoning under strict Muslim law. Her crime was having sex with a man. In the eyes of the religious court, she committed adultery even though she was divorced.
Religious courts are superseding civil sectarian justice in several African nations, as Muslim orthodoxy creeps in from Asia. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in northern Nigeria, where fundamentalist Muslims are having a field day straightening out straying parishioners.
The Muslim court that sentenced Husaini to be stoned did show mercy by allowing her to wean her eight-month-old girl and stay home with her family before the sentence is exacted.
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Residents in her village of Tungan Tudu, in the state of Sokoto, first reported the case to the police when they discovered that Husaini was pregnant. The man in the case, 60-year-old Yakubu Abubakar, a cousin of Husaini, got off; he was acquitted by Judge Alhaji Muhammad Bello Sanyinlawal. Three local cops testified that the cousins had sex three times, but the judge threw out their testimony because under religious law, there have to be four witnesses, the BBC reports. During the trial, the court was packed to overflowing, while Husaini sat in the dock, nursing her squalling baby.
Sokoto is one of more than a dozen states in predominantly Islamic northern Nigeria that have adopted Shariah, the Muslim code, in the past two years. A teenage mother received 80 lashes for committing adultery, and an elderly man was sentenced to be stoned to death because he sodomized a minor. Two people convicted of stealing had their hands cut off. Hundreds have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims in the area.
The Husaini case has shocked Europe—in Spain alone, 650,000 signatures have been collected against killing her. The Nigerian government, which oversaw installation of the Muslim code, now says it is unconstitutional.
Additional reporting by Gabrielle Jackson, Meritxell Mir and Michael Ridley.