U.S. recognizes rebels: The U.S., along with more than 30 other nations meeting in Istanbul last week, agreed to recognize the Libyan rebels as the country’s legitimate government. Just days later, U.S. officials met with representatives of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime in neighboring Tunisia. Qaddafi aides said that the meeting was a “first step” toward repairing relations, but a U.S. State Department official said its purpose was simply to deliver an ultimatum to Qaddafi: Step down now. Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued around the oil port of Brega. “We will turn Brega into hell,” said Qaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim. “We will not give Brega up even if it causes the death of thousands of rebels and the destruction of the city.”
South Kordofan, Sudan
War crimes alleged: A U.N. report accuses the Sudanese government in Khartoum of war crimes, including aerial bombing of villages, in South Kordofan state. The oil-rich state, which is populated mainly by blacks and borders the newly created nation of South Sudan, has been the scene of weeks of fighting between Khartoum’s Arab-dominated government and rebel militias. The U.N. report, leaked this week, said that while both government and rebel forces have committed atrocities, the army’s were “especially egregious” and had caused some 70,000 people to flee.
Israel seizes boat: The Israeli navy has seized control of a French boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Commandos boarded the ship without resistance and directed it to an Israeli port. The ship was the only one of a planned 10-vessel flotilla that had sailed; the rest were stuck in Greek ports after Greek authorities banned their departure. It’s the first large-scale attempt at a flotilla since last year, when an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish ship leading an aid flotilla left nine people dead. Activists who support the flotilla movement say they are trying to deliver vital medical aid to Palestinians. Israel says such aid can be delivered over established land crossings. It says the naval blockade is necessary to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.
Karzai aide murdered: In another blow to President Hamid Karzai, one of his top advisers was killed this week when two gunmen stormed his walled home. The murder of Jan Mohammed Khan, former governor of Oruzgan, comes just a week after the assassination of Karzai’s powerful half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. The Taliban took responsibility for this week’s attack, calling Khan “a big stooge of American invaders.” The violence was a grim welcome for Gen. John Allen as he took over command of the Afghan war this week from Gen. David Petraeus, who is leaving to head the CIA. “There will be tough days ahead,” Allen said, “and I have no illusions about the challenges we will face together.”
Cops kill protesters: Chinese officials are calling a clash at a police station in Xinjiang province this week an “organized terrorist attack.” Officials said rioters carrying grenades stormed a police station, killing four people before being gunned down by police. But Uighur activists said police opened fire on a group of more than 100 unarmed Uighur demonstrators, who were demanding to know where their arrested relatives had been taken. According to accounts of witnesses passed on to the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, police killed at least 20 of the peaceful protesters. It’s the worst violence in Xinjiang since the 2009 riots that left nearly 200 dead. Ethnic Uighurs, who are Turkic-speaking Muslims, are seeking self-rule in the province.
Radioactive beef: Japan has banned shipments of beef from cattle raised in Fukushima Prefecture because it is contaminated with radiation from the nuclear plant crippled by the March earthquake and tsunami. Officials initially tried to downplay the dangers after it emerged that some beef already sold was tainted with cesium. “If you eat the meat every day, it might be dangerous,” Goshi Hosono, minister for food safety, said last week. “But if you eat just a little, there should be no big effect.” The Japanese public was horrified, and the government has now announced a ban pending inspections of cattle feed. “It’s finished,” farmer Akio Takahashi told The New York Times. “Nobody will ever want to eat beef from Fukushima again.”