Osama Bin Laden Attempts To Unite Insurgent Groups In Iraq

In an audio recorded message aired by Al Jazeera television to al Qaeda and other groups in Iraq on Monday, Osama bin Laden urged them to unify their forces and speak with one voice, that of the Islamic nation.

"The interest of the Islamic nation surpasses that of a group ... the interest of the (Islamic) nation is more important than that of a state," said a voice which sounded like the al Qaeda leader's.

"The strength of faith is in the strength of the bond between Muslims and not that of a tribe, nationalism or an organization.

"I advise ... our brothers, particularly those in al Qaeda wherever they may be, to avoid fanatically following a person or a group," he said.

Al Jazeera said the tape was entitled "message to the people of Iraq." It was not clear from the part of the tape aired when it had been recorded.

Bin Laden said he was addressing "mujahideen (holy warriors) in Iraq," Sunni Muslim militant groups fighting U.S.-led forces. Al Qaeda belongs to a school of Islam which regards members of Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim majority as heretics.

Al Jazeera said bin Laden urged Iraqi tribes to uphold their "tradition of resisting" occupation, in an apparent reference to the presence of British forces in Iraq in the last century.

The speaker warned insurgents against enemy attempts to drive wedges between groups by planting agents among them, and said such agents should be punished, but only after their guilt was established through thorough investigations.

Iraq's wing of al Qaeda is one of the key groups fighting U.S.-led forces and the Baghdad government. Bin Laden's followers have angered other Sunni groups and tribes through their hardline interpretations of Islam and indiscriminate killing of civilians.

Some Sunni groups have joined forces with al Qaeda to set up what they call an Islamic State in Iraq, but other groups and tribal leaders have rejected the move.

Last month, bin Laden issued three messages, including a video marking al Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington in which about 3,000 people were killed.

Bin Laden said in the video that United States was vulnerable despite its power and insisted only conversion to Islam would end the conflict.

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Mel Gibson Becomes A Grand Father As Home Is Threatened By Inferno

Mel Gibson has become a granddad. The Oscar winner's daughter Hannah had a baby, believed to be a boy. Hannah is the only daughter of Gibson and his wife, Robyn. The joyous event reportedly happened on the 10th of October, but so far there's no official word on whether it's true. Hollywood blogs are in overdrive, talking up the story, but the Gibson clan has been silent so far. It's it's true, Mel's probably happy his large family is growing even more: he's married with seven children.

In an ongoing development, One person was killed, 11 people were seriously injured and several homes were destroyed, forcing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency in seven of the state's counties.

A wall of flames raced to the perimeter of the gated estate where Mel Gibson and Newton-John have multimillion-dollar homes, with local firefighters managing to prevent the blaze from spreading into the evacuated compound.

The fire department currently battling the glamorous star fires of Malibu have warned locals to take cover if Mel Gibson's liquor supply catches fire.

An expert binge drinker said: "Liquor is highly flammable and will explode if introduced to fire. The strength of the explosion will depend on the amount of liquor at the site."

It is not known how much liquor Gibson has at his fire-threatened Malibu home, but Gibson watchers fear it has the potential to be one of the largest non-terror based explosions in US history.

The fire department have established a 50 mile explosion zone with the epicenter at Mel Gibson's residence.

The fire, driven by powerful winds, forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes in the Malibu Hills and briefly threatened a university.

Meteorologist Ken Clark, of AccuWeather, said the winds were expected to get worse today.

Los Angeles County fire Chief Michael Freeman said at least three homes and two commercial buildings were destroyed in the area and nine other homes were damaged.

He said the fire was expected to burn for another two to three days.

Authorities said downed power lines were believed to have started the blaze.

Wildfires had been widely expected in southern California over the weekend as hot weather and strong Santa Ana winds marked the height of the wildfire season after one of the driest years on record.

Malibu's 13,000 residents include Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew McConaughey, Barbra Streisand, Ted Danson, Jane Seymour and director James Cameron.

The community is also home to about 25 rehabilitation facilities, including Promises Residential Treatment Centre, whose guests have included Britney Spears, Ben Affleck, Charlie Sheen, Diana Ross and Matthew Perry.

Summit Centre, the rehabilitation facility which disgraced West Coast Eagles star Ben Cousins was expected to check into this week for treatment, was under threat from flames yesterday.

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Turkey To Strike When Diplomacy Gets To A Deadlock

Thomas Grove

Turkey said on Monday it will exhaust diplomatic channels before launching any military strike into northern Iraq to root out Kurdish rebels, who killed at least a dozen Turkish soldiers in fighting over the weekend.

Turkey has built up its forces along the border with Iraq in anticipation of an incursion against rebel bases but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said he will hold off for a few days to let the United States try to curb the Kurdish separatists.

Washington, in turn, urged the Iraqi government on Monday to act swiftly to stop Kurdish rebels from mounting further attacks in Turkey.

"We do not want to see wider military action on the northern border," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Washington and Iraq have been calling on Turkey to refrain from a military push into the largely autonomous Kurdish region, one of the few relatively stable areas since a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The office of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, told Reuters the rebels would announce a ceasefire on Monday evening.

Erdogan is under pressure from his military and the public to strike in Iraq against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels, who have killed some 40 soldiers in the past month.

After speaking with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday, Erdogan agreed to hold off for a few days and he left for an official visit to Britain on Monday.

Erdogan has been resisting a cross-border operation and his foreign minister, Ali Babacan, was quoted on Monday as saying: "We will try all diplomatic means before carrying out any military operation."

But the decades-long fight against the PKK, which wants an independent homeland in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, is highly emotive and Ankara confirmed eight of its soldiers were missing after the recent fighting.

The pro-PKK Firat news agency said eight soldiers had been captured and gave the names of seven men. Turkey has denied any of its soldiers were captured in the fighting.


The Turkish lira currency fell three percent to 1.2360 against the dollar and the Istanbul stock exchange fell five percent on Monday on the concerns of a cross-border offensive.

Turkey's tougher stance has helped propel global oil prices to record highs over the past week. The PKK has said it might target pipelines carrying Iraqi and Caspian crude across Turkey.

The General Staff said 12 soldiers died in Sunday's fighting and 34 rebels had been killed in an army offensive backed up by attack helicopters and artillery over the past two days.

Turkey has deployed as many as 100,000 troops, backed by tanks, F-16 fighter jets and helicopter gunships along its border with Iraq in anticipation of a possible incursion.

A Reuters reporter said he saw army trucks transporting artillery guns and other weaponry towards the border.

Turkey's tougher stance has helped propel global oil prices to record highs over the past week. The PKK has said it might target pipelines carrying Iraqi and Caspian crude across Turkey.

U.S. President George W. Bush condemned Sunday's attacks.

"Attacks from Iraqi territory need to be dealt with swiftly by the Iraqi government and Kurdish Regional authorities," White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

(Additional reporting by Gareth Jones and Evren Mesci in Ankara and Emma Ross-Thomas in Istanbul)

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