News in Brief: Torture Allegations at Secret US Prison and More

The Red Cross has confirmed a secret “second jail” at the US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan, separate from the main prison, reported the BBC. Nine former prisoners have told the BBC they were held at the site, known as the “black jail” and subjected to abuse. The US military denies the existence of a second facility on the base, but has said it will look into the abuse allegations.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has arrived in Washington for talks with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Obama administration has abandoned its publicly tough approach to Karzai seen in previous negotiation sessions, and instead is working on a new charm offensive that includes personal walks with Clinton and a private dinner at the vice president’s mansion. According to Democracy Now!, this trip comes only weeks after Karzai said he would join the Taliban if there was continued foreign interference in his government. Obama, Clinton and Karzai will also discuss an upcoming peace jirga the Afghan president plans to hold, to reach out to low- and mid-level members of the Taliban to join his government.


Pope Benedict XVI has issues his most direct condemnation of the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church, reported The New York Times. Benedict attributed the widespread abuse of children by Catholic priests around the world to “sins inside the church” which posed the greatest threat to Catholicism, adding that “forgiveness does not substitute justice.”

“Attacks on the pope and the church come not only from outside the church, but the suffering of the church comes from inside the church, from sins that exist inside the church. This we have always known but today we see it in a really terrifying way,” Benedict told reporters on his plane to Portugal, addressing several themes of his papacy: the threat of secularism within Europe, the divide between faith and reason and the role ethics plays in economics.


Iraq’s former prime minister Iyad Allawi, who recently won the general election, warned that Iraq risks descending into a sectarian war, according to The Guardian UK. In an interview with The Guardian, Allawi said feuding politicians were attempting to sideline his attempts to build a united government and were regressing into sectarianism since the contested March 7 election, in which Allawi’s Iraqiya party won 91 seats.

As the US-appointed transitional prime minister, Allawi led the country for nine months from early 2004. He also said that he felt the international community had failed his country, and unless America and its allies took action to safeguard Iraq’s democracy a renewed conflict could infect the region.

“Now Iraq is at center stage in the region. But it is boiling with problems, it is stagnant and it can go either way,” he said. “It will spill over and it has the potential to reach the world al large, not just neighboring countries … This conflict will not remain within the borders of Iraq.”


Russia has announced it may help build a nuclear power plant in Syria, a move expected to anger Washington, which has, in the past, accused Syria of constructing nuclear facilities in secret, reported Reuters. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made the first state visit to Syria by a Kremlin head since the Bolshevik Revolution Tuesday, saying nuclear power cooperation was a prospect and pushing the Obama administration to work harder for peace in the Middle East.

In 2007, Israel bombed what Washington thought to be a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in the works in Syria’s desert. Russia recently signed a new nuclear treaty with the United States, pledging to work toward reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.