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NightWatch 20110502

NightWatch

For the Night of 2 May 2011

North Korea: For the record. North Korea has started a drive to confiscate mobile phones smuggled from China in an attempt to suppress news from the outside world, according to reports from defectors. North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said in its latest newsletter police in North Hamkyong and Yangkang provinces, both of which border Russia and China, have started urging residents to voluntarily surrender mobile phones or face punishment.

The police warned that special devices to detect mobile phone use had been brought in to punish "those spreading capitalist ideas and eroding socialism," the group quoted one of the sources as saying.

North Korea strictly controls access to outside information and fixes the tuning controls of radios and televisions so that they can only receive official stations.

But many residents in border areas that can receive mobile reception from China are known to use smuggled phones to talk to relatives and friends who escaped the impoverished state to settle in China or South Korea. At present users restrict conversations to five minutes, the minimum time authorities need to trace a call, said the source.

Comment: The regime leaders know that information control is essential to the survival of the regime, almost as much as its monopoly of weapons. North Koreans know the government media lie about outside conditions and how good life in North Korea is by comparison, but lack a frame of reference for processing information about South Korea and the outside world in general.

The regime is determined that the "Arab Spring" does not contaminate spring planting in North Korea. There is no possibility of cell phone activism because the cell phone system is a state-controlled enterprise and constantly monitored.

Pakistan: Reaction. Pakistan's Foreign Office said militant leader Usama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. operation conducted in accordance with declared U.S. policy to eliminate bin Laden by direct U.S. action wherever he was found.

The Foreign Office said Pakistan effectively shares intelligence with many agencies, including the United States, and it will continue to support international counterterrorism efforts. Pakistan welcomes bin Laden's death as a major setback to militant organizations and as a signal of international and Pakistani resolve to fight and eliminate militancy.

Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and whole nation remain united behind an end to militancy and Islamabad reiterates its stated policy that its soil will not be a haven for militants to launch attacks on any country.

Comment: For bin Laden's cohorts, the US announcement that the US Navy SEALS seized his computer hard drives must be unsettling. Their contents have not been described and will take some time to process. But anyone connected to bin Laden or who provided finances and whose name might be on his computer hard drives probably will go to ground for a while.

Update. Six children and two wives of Usama bin Laden were arrested along with his four of his close friends in a search operation launched early on 2 May by Pakistani forces in the mountainous region 60 kilometers north of Islamabad.

Yemen: UBL. A Yemeni member of militant group al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said militant leader Usama bin Laden is dead, adding AQAP confirmed his death with its contacts in Pakistan, Agence France-Presse reported 2 May. The AQAP member said the news has been a catastrophe for the group, adding its members did not believe it at first until making contact with the Pakistani counterparts

Politics. On 2 May, thousands of protesters in various cities called for President Saleh to step down after he refused to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal. Yemeni security forces fired gunshots to disperse a crowd of protesters in Aden, killing a bystander who was watching the march from his balcony and injuring a woman, an activist said. In the city of Bayda, protesters called for Saleh to be tried and asked for the deal proposed by the GCC to be scrapped, another activist said.

Comment: Saleh's refusal to sign the transfer of power agreement has given him a bit of an advantage in that his double cross maneuver has left the opposition and the GCC delegates in disarray. After a brief time for regrouping, they will recover their balance and move against Saleh again.

If Syria's Asad resigns, Saleh also will resign. Neither looks likely, yet.

Syria: Comment: There is not much news to report. News services have related vague statements about continuing arrests in Daraa and in a northern suburb of Damascus. Those reports indicate that the Asad regime continues to tough it out.

Libya: The Libyan government said it shelled the port city of Misrata to stop NATO from delivering weapons to the rebels there, Reuters reported on 1 May. NATO naval ships tried to breach the blockade on the port to deliver arms and supplies to the rebels, but heavy bombardment caused them to flee the city, according to state television.

A NATO air strike hit pro-Qadhafi forces near the rebel-held city of Zentan, a Libyan rebel spokesman said on 1 May.

Comment: The Middle East and South Asia have gone briefly into a holding pattern, adjusting to a world without bin Laden. North Korea and China are more worried about the potential spread of protests against authoritarian government, corruption and lack of basic human rights.

End of NightWatch for 2 May.

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