Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hamburg Prepares For Hooligans With New Temporary Jail

In anticipation of trouble at this summer’s World Cup, authorities in the northern German city of Hamburg are building a special temporary jail to hold hooligans on the site of a former car wash.

The prison will be able to hold up to 150 prisoners and the cells will be outfitted like those found in the city's main police station but will be specifically for people who have been "temporarily taken into custody" in order to avert violence, police spokesman Marco Haase said in a statement.

The jail is expected to cost 3.8 million euros ($4.6 million) to build and will be part of the 8.8 million euro budget the city has set aside for security during the month-long soccer tournament. The budget is specifically for covering the cost of police and fire department overtime and the employment of additional personnel.

Possible volatile quarter-final scenarios

Hooligans arrested at the World Cup can be held for up to two weeks in the most extreme of cases. "We want a peaceful World Cup and we hope that these rooms aren't going to be necessary," Haase said.

Five of the 64 World Cup matches are to be played in Hamburg although none of the clashes in the group stage, except maybe the June 22 match between the Czech Republic and Italy, are classified as high risk.

The quarter final to be played in the city on June 30 could potentially feature a more volatile match featuring two teams from hosts Germany, England, the Netherlands and Argentina.

Deutsche Welle 03/2006

EU Blacklists Unsafe Airlines

The European Union approved on Wednesday the first joint blacklist of nearly 100 mostly African airlines considered to be unsafe, in a move spurred by a spate of fatal crashes last year.

The list, which goes into effect on Saturday, bans 92 airlines from flying EU skies all together and puts restrictions on another three from flying certain types of airplanes into the 25-nation bloc.

"The European Union now has a coherent approach to banning airlines," Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said.

"This blacklist will keep dubious airlines out of Europe. It will also make sure that all airlines operating in Europe's skies meet the highest safety standards."

EU member states were stung into action after a string of deadly accidents last year that highlighted the fragmented approach to air safety in the 25-nation bloc.

The blacklist will work on the principle that an airline banned in one EU member will be outlawed in the whole bloc and the European Commission is to be charged with keeping the roster up to date.

Majority are Africa-based

Most of the carriers on the list are based in Africa and there are blanket bans on airlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Swaziland.

The few companies not from Africa are based in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea and Thailand.

Although some of the banned companies do not currently fly to the EU, the list will have a "preventive effect" by keeping them from trying to enter the European market in the future by such means as offering their planes for charter flights, said Barrot's spokesman Stefaan De Rynck.

To draw up the list, member states submitted their individual roster of companies considered unsafe and experts then voted on which airlines should be included on an overall EU list.

The airlines were singled out on the basis of "checks carried out in European airports, the use of poorly maintained, antiquated or obsolete aircraft (and) the inability of the airlines to rectify the shortcomings."

Harmonizing rules

Currently there is a patchwork of rules on suspect airlines in Europe with France and Belgium introducing lists of banned carriers last year, following examples set by Britain and Switzerland.

"We're protecting Europe from companies that try to register in one country after having been banned in another," Barrot said.

"We're protecting Europe from practices which involve sending good planes to the big markets and leaving the flying coffins for less viable destinations," he added.

The incoherence of the current rules was exposed last May when a Turkish airline, suspended by four European countries, simply redirected its flights to Belgium which had no ban.

Deutsche Welle 03/2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Report: Germany Believes Hostages in Iraq Alive

The German government believes that two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq in January are still alive and are being held for criminal not political purposes, public broadcaster ARD reported Tuesday.

More than two months after two German engineers in Iraq were seized by unknown assailants, the German government says it's convinced that the two are still alive.

Citing German security sources, public broadcaster ARD reported on Tuesday that "there are indirect signs of life" from Rene Bräunlich and Thomas Nitzschke. It added that the government however had not made any direct contact with the kidnappers.

It cited unnamed government sources as saying the captors were demanding a ransom and that the affair had no political motives. The longer such kidnappings last, the more optimistic one can be "though naturally very cautiously," the television station quoted a government source as saying.

The crisis team in the German foreign ministry trying to secure the release of the two men said they could not comment on the report because they did not want to compromise their safety.

Kidnappers issue ultimatum

The two engineers were kidnapped in northern Iraq on Jan. 24 near the town of Baiji, which is located about 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Baghdad.

A militant group called Ansar al-Tawhid Wa-Sunna had issued a final ultimatum last month. The captors have issued two videos in which they threatened to execute the men unless Germany closes its embassy in Baghdad and ends cooperation with the Iraq government. The last video was aired on Feb. 11.

On Monday, around 400 people in the eastern German city of Leipzig, where Rene Bräunlich and Thomas Nitzschke come from, paid tribute to the two kidnapped engineers during a candlelit demonstration to mark the third anniversary of the US-led Iraq war.

Kidnappings not the first

The kidnappings are just the latest in a spate of recent abductions of German nationals.

In December, German archeologist Susanne Osthoff was released in Iraq after having been kidnapped and held for three weeks. According to reports, the German government allegedly paid the kidnappers $5 million (4.2 million euros).

Deutsche Welle 03/06