15 June 2008

* Lebanese convicted on US terror charges: "hayda illi na2isna"

A federal jury in Ohio convicted two American citizens and a Lebanese man Friday of plotting to attack US troops in Iraq, the US Justice Department said. Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 28, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 45, and Wassim Mazloum, 27, were found guilty of conspiracy to kill or maim persons outside the United States and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Amawi, a dual US-Jordanian citizen, and El-Hindi, a US citizen born in Jordan, were also convicted of distributing information on making or using suicide bomb vests and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Prosecutors had charged that the three Ohio residents had conducted firearms training and accessed instructions on building and using explosives.

The defendants had also conspired to recruit others to participate in "jihad training," solicited funds to pay for the training and proposed sites to train potential recruits in the use of firearms, explosives and hand-to-hand combat.

Amawi traveled to Jordan in August 2005 with laptop computers for insurgents who were preparing to cross into Iraq, the Justice Department said.

The accused also distributed a guide on how to make chemical explosive compounds and a video entitled "Martyrdom Operation Vest Preparation," the department said.

For his part, El-Hindi distributed a slide show demonstrating how to make and use IEDs against apparent US military vehicles and soldiers and the same suicide vest video, it said.

They face life in prison for conspiracy to kill or maim persons outside the United States, 20 years for distributing information on explosives and 15 years for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

"Today's verdicts should send a strong message to individuals who would use this country as a platform to plot attacks against US military personnel in Iraq and elsewhere," said Patrick Rowan, acting assistant attorney general for national security. "This case also underscores the need for continued vigilance in identifying and dismantling extremist plots that develop in America's heartland," he said.


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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.