by RAY LILLEY, Associated Press Writer
53 minutes ago
Armed police stormed into this quiet village at dawn, threw up roadblocks, shot out truck tires and forced families out of their homes at gunpoint.
The rare show of force, with its dark subscript of terrorism and assassination plans, stunned this placid nation where beat cops don't even carry guns. It has since sparked charges of racism and inflamed historical resentments.
The October raid was part of a nationwide sweep in which 16 people were arrested and authorities said they shut down military-style camps on Maori ancestral lands where both Maori militants and environmental activists trained.
But a bid to charge 12 of the 16 with terrorist activities unraveled on technical grounds, triggering complaints of police heavy-handedness. While the facts remain unclear, the way police handled the case has strained relations with the 540,000-strong Maori community, which makes up 15 percent of the country's population.
What many found most appalling were the tactics used to arrest three of the suspects in Ruatoki and the nearby town of Whakatane, both home to the uncompromising Tuhoe — the only Maori tribe that still rejects the government's sovereignty, 167 years after the British colonized the islands. For some, the raids stirred memories of repression of Maori more than a century ago.
"They came in here like in a B-grade film," said Tame Iti, a well-known Tuhoe activist arrested in the Ruatoki raid. "It was an attack on the community. It was an attack on me as a freedom fighter, and as a sovereign person of this country."
The town of Ruatoki is dotted with small houses, some just sheds, that lie in flat fields by a rural highway on the northern of New Zealand's two main islands.
Iti said police stormed in and held his family including children at gunpoint, firing two shots into tires on his truck to immobilize it.
After the arrests, protests broke out in a dozen towns and cities and abroad in the United States, England and Australia, itself home to 250,000 Maori.
The police actions against the Tuhoe "set back relations between Maori and the government 100 years," said Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Maori Party and a member of parliament.
Authorities said that during 18 months of covert monitoring, they had heard armed activists at the camps — in the forested hills of Te Urewera, the Tuhoe ancestral lands — talking of political assassinations and bombing power plants. The arrested included some white New Zealanders.
In a controversial move, local newspapers published police intercepts of those conversations. In them, the suspects discuss using "sudden" and "brutal" attacks to divide "Aotearoa," the Maori name for New Zealand. The suspects also surmise that foreign terror groups would be blamed, according to the newspaper accounts.
Iti said the camps he was involved in taught bush survival skills and firearms safety, something he has been doing for Tuhoe and other youth for 30 years. He rejected any connection to terrorism.
Iti was charged last year with reckless use of a shotgun and desecrating the New Zealand flag at a Maori ceremony on Tuhoe lands. The charges were dropped after he pointed out that it was an Australian flag and that he had fired into the ground.
The Tuhoe said four weapons were seized in the raids, but Detective Inspector Bruce Good told The Associated Press there were 20, including AK-47 assault rifles, shotguns, rifles and pistols, plus silencers, scopes, ammunition and firearms parts.
The government planned to charge 12 suspects under the Terrorism Suppression Act, enacted following the 9/11 attacks. But Solicitor General David Collins, the country's top justice official, ruled the anti-terror law was too complex to apply in this case.
The arrested, now free on bail, face lesser charges of illegal possession and use of firearms.
The Maori are descendants of Polynesians who migrated to New Zealand about 1,000 years ago.
Tuhoe, the most isolated and poorest of the Maori tribes, are proud that their ancestors refused to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which created New Zealand under British sovereignty.
The treaty guaranteed the Maori could keep their lands, forests, fisheries and culture — commitments Maori say were broken as European settlers flooded in.
In 1867, colonial troops invaded Tuhoe territory and confiscated much of its land. Twenty years of guerrilla fighting ensued.
The Tuhoe resistance has won wide respect from other Maori, who remain proud of their fierce warrior heritage. Other Maori have been "colonized" by European culture, the Tuhoe say.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said police and the government will need to start building bridges over the divide. They face an uphill battle, particularly with the Tuhoe.
Sharples, the Maori Party co-leader, said invoking the Terrorism Suppression Act has branded all Maori as possible terrorists with international links.
It "could create repercussions on peoples' attitudes to authority and the police in the future," he said. "It's created further mistrust by Maori of the authorities."
by Shwan Mohammed
Sun Dec 16, 6:16 AM ET
Turkish planes bombed villages inside northern Iraq on Sunday targeting Kurdish rebels in at least the second such operation this month even as Ankara held back from launching a ground assault.
"According to our preliminary reports, eight Turkish warplanes bombed some villages along the border near the Qandil mountains early today," said Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish militia that provides security in northern Iraq.
In Ankara the Turkish army confirmed its warplanes had carried out air strikes on Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq.
The planes hit the "regions of Zap, Hakurk and Avasin as well as the Qandil mountains", the general staff said in a statement.
The rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984, maintains a network of rear-bases in the rugged Qandil mountains near where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet.
The Turkish military said the bombardment began at 1:00 am (2300 GMT) and all its aircraft had returned safely to base by 4:15 am (0215 GMT). Artillery continued to pound the targets once the planes had left.
Turkey's CNN-Turk television said more than 20 planes took part in the air strikes, while the NTV news channel said that some 50 planes had taken part.
The Anatolia news agency said "many F-16 fighter jets", equipped to carry out night-time missions, took off from a base in Diyarbakir province in southeastern Turkey and returned about three hours later.
The military stressed that the raids targeted the PKK, not Iraqi Kurds.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek warned Ankara would carry out more cross-border strikes, if necessary.
"Such operations will continue if need be," the Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.
"The government, working in harmony with all state institutions, primarily the armed forces, is determined to take this scourge off the country's agenda."
Yawar said the air strikes damaged some bridges connecting villages near the Qandil mountains.
"Some familes are fleeing from the villages attacked today. We have dispatched our border teams to check the casualties and damage," he added.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan denied that any civilian areas had been hit.
"You should trust statements made by the Turkish armed forces," Babacan said in televised remarks.
The air strikes were at least the second Turkish operation against the PKK inside Iraq this month, Turkish helicopters pounded suspected rebel rear-bases on December 1.
The Turkish parliament gave the army authorisation to launch cross-border operations in October but Ankara has so far held back from any ground assault amid strong lobbying by Washington.
The vote by MPs followed a PKK ambush against Turkish troops in which 12 soldiers were killed and eight captured. The captives were released in November.
The United States has expressed concern that any ground incursion might unsettle the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq which is the most stable area of the country.
But Turkey has warned Iraq that it reserves the right to resort to a ground assault.
In recent weeks Turkey has deployed around 100,000 soldiers along its 380-kilometre (235-mile) border with Iraq.
Baghdad has promised to rein in the PKK, and in early November President George W. Bush said Washington would provide Ankara with "real-time" information on rebel movements from its satellites.
The pledge was widely regarded as tacit US approval for Turkey to carry out air strikes and limited cross-border operations against PKK targets.
The United States, like the European Union, blacklists the PKK as a terrorist organization.
More than 37,000 people have been killed since the rebels took up arms against Ankara in 1984, drawing a scorched earth response from the military in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Kurds straddle the borders between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and form significant minorities in all four countries.
When will the colonialist powers evolve and leave behind their blood lust and greed?
When will the mega-nations understand that they need a more organic approach towards their view of the world?
When will the occupying armies stop labeling resistance fighters as "terrorists"?
When will humankind put the crimes committed by the colonialist powers into the correct perspective?
When will nation-states will embrace different cultural expressions and stop killing people over their obsession with one nation, one language and one cultural standard?
When will the voices of those who claim for freedom will be heard?
When will the Maori, the Kurds, the Basques, the Palestinians, the Corsicans, the Catalonians, the Guanche, the Mapuche, the Bretons, the Tibetans and so many others be allowed to be what they are?