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Daily Archives: 07/26/2010

Sarkozy Says French Hostage Killed By Al-Qaida in North Africa

French Enmilal aid group member Michel Germaneau (2007 File)

July 26, 2010
(KATAKAMI / VOA)  French President Nicolas Sarkozy has confirmed that a French hostage was killed by al-Qaida’s branch in North Africa.

President Sarkozy said Monday during a television broadcast he condemned the “barbarous act” against Michel Germaneau, a French aid worker.

In an audio message broadcast Sunday on the Arabic network Al-Jazeera, a man identified as the leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said Germaneau was killed in retaliation for the death of six al-Qaida members during a raid last week in Mali.

The al-Qaida leader said Mr. Sarkozy was unable to free Germaneau through a “failed” military operation.

Mr. Sarkozy also urged French citizens to avoid traveling to Africa’s Sahel region.  Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has carried out numerous attacks and kidnappings across the Sahara and Sahel regions.

Germaneau, a 78-year-old engineer, was kidnapped with his Algerian driver near Niger’s border with Algeria and Mali in April.  The driver was later released.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had given France until Monday to arrange a prisoner exchange for Germaneau’s release.  The group said in an Internet statement that Mr. Sarkozy would be responsible for Germaneau’s life.

The terrorist group operates across a vast desert region that includes Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

President Sarkozy confirms death of French hostage Germaneau

French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech during a limited security and defence council at the Elysee Palace, Monday, July 26 2010. (Getty Images)
July 26, 2010
(KATAKAMI / FRANCE24)  French President Nicolas Sarkozy has condemned the “assassination” of Michel Germaneau, a French national kidnapped in Niger in April and held in Mauritania by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed to have killed the 78-year-old aid worker in a televised statement on Sunday.

Sarkozy holds security meeting over al-Qaida claim

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.COM)  PARIS French President Nicolas Sarkozy has convened an emergency government meeting to discuss security after an al-Qaida offshoot claimed to have killed a French hostage in Africa.

The leader of al-Qaida’s North African branch said in a message broadcast Sunday that the 78-year-old French engineer was killed in retaliation for the killing of six al-Qaida members in a raid.

That raid last week was led by Mauritanian forces aided by the French military.

Humanitarian worker Michel Germaneau was abducted April 22 in Niger.

Sarkozy’s office and other French officials would not confirm or comment on the audio message.

But Sarkozy is meeting several of his Cabinet ministers Monday morning.

Al-Qaeda says Frenchman killed after failed rescue


Nicolas Sarkozy (Getty Images)

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / THEAGE.COM.AU)  French President Nicolas Sarkozy convened a crisis meeting Monday after an Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Sahara said it had killed a 78-year-old French hostage to avenge a deadly but failed rescue raid.

French authorities said they were trying to verify the claim, made by the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in an audio statement broadcast by Al-Jazeera.

“We announce that we executed the French hostage Michel Germaneau on Saturday July 24, 2010, to avenge the killing of our six brothers in the cowardly French raid,” on Thursday, AQIM chief Abu Musab Abdul Wadud said.

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// “Sarkozy failed to free his compatriot in this operation but he has, without any doubt, opened for his people and for his country one of the gates of hell,” Wadud warned.

“In a rapid and just response to the ignoble actions of France, we announce that we have executed the French hostage.”

The emergency meeting at 9:00 am would include Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defence Minister Herve Morin, the president’s office announced.

The French presidency said it had received “no confirmation” of the killing of Germaneau, who was kidnapped in northern Niger on April 19, adding that it was trying to verify the claim.

But a senior French official who asked not to be named told AFP Sunday that Paris was convinced that Germaneau had “been dead for several weeks.”

On May 14, his abductors issued a photo of an exhausted-looking Germaneau, together with a taped message in which he appealed to Sarkozy to work for his release.

He said he suffered from a serious heart illness and had no more medication and that he was struggling with the heat.

Germaneau’s Algerian driver, who was also abducted, was later released. He said the Frenchman was being held in a desert zone in Mali.

AQIM on July 11 gave France a 15-day deadline to help secure the release of its members in the region, warning that Germaneau would be killed if Paris failed to comply.

The looming deadline saw between 20 and 30 French soldiers involved in a raid Thursday on a remote camp in the Malian desert by Mauritanian forces.

Six members of AQIM, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s network, were killed in the operation, officials have said.

Documents, bomb-making equipment, guns and ammunition were found during the pre-dawn assault but soldiers found no evidence that Germaneau had been held there.

Earlier on Sunday, Mali security sources expressed growing fears for Germaneau’s fate after the failed raid and the mayor of the Paris region where he lived said he believed the hostage’s chances of survival were slim.

“Either Michel Germaneau has been executed, or the terrorists are about to do it,” Olivier Thomas, the mayor of Marcoussis, told AFP.

Germaneau was working with the Enmilal aid agency to improve health services and schools at the time of his kidnap.

France has said it had received no direct demands from Germaneau’s kidnappers but was taking their reported threat to kill him seriously.

AQIM is also holding two Spaniards in the region after kidnapping them more than seven months ago: Albert Vilalta, 35, and 50-year-old Roque Pascual.

France had “consulted” Spain over Thursday’s operation, said a French defence ministry source.

The raid had prompted “anxiety” in Madrid over how it might affect the Spanish hostages, according to Spanish media reports.

AQIM has also been held responsible for the murder of British hostage Edwin Dyer, 60, who was kidnapped by Islamic extremists in the Sahel region bordering the Sahara desert in January 2009.

Malian authorities blamed that killing on AQIM cell leader Abou Zeid, also known as Abib Hammadou, a 43-year-old Algerian who is listed on United Nations documents as a known Al-Qaeda member.

Medvedev expresses condolences to Merkel over Germany’s Love Parade stampede deaths

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, gestures as she walks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during their an annual meeting in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 15, 2010.

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI)  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel over German music festival deaths caused by a stampede, Russian presidential press-service said on Sunday.

At least 19 people were killed and over 340 injured at the event. The panic at the Love Parade in the western German city of Duisburg started on Saturday evening near the only entrance to the area of the music festival when crowds of the arriving fans of techno music surged through an already jammed entry tunnel.

“[I] have found out about the tragedy that happened in Duisburg with sorrow,” Medvedev said in a statement send to the chancellor. “I express my deep condolences to the families and friends of the victims. I wish speedy recovery to the injured.”

The founder of the Love Parade, Matthias Roeingh, known by the name Dr. Motte, has put the blame on the organizers of this year’s festival saying they made a number of mistakes that inevitably led to the tragedy.

“How can you expect to let so many people in through a single entrance? It is scandalous and I am very sad [that it happened],” he said.

The organizers of the festival said about 1.4 million people were supposed to attend the event this year.

Love Parade is an annual techno music festival that was originated in 1989, four months after the demolition of the Berlin wall.

Each year it gathers an increasing number of techno music fans. The Love Parade is considered to be one of the loudest festivals due to the special water-cooled sound equipment producing extremely loud sounds.

David Cameron: A Staunch and Self-Confident Ally


Editor’s note: This article by British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared in The Wall Street Journal last week, before Cameron’s meeting in Washington with President Obama. It is reprinted here with permission.

July 26, 2010

LONDON (KATAKAMI / TIMES DISPATCH / WALL STREET JOURNAL)  No other international alliance seems to come under the intense scrutiny reserved for the one between Britain and the United States. There is a seemingly endless British preoccupation with the health of the special relationship. Its temperature is continually taken to see if it’s in good shape, its pulse checked to see if it will survive.

I have never understood this anxiety. The U.S.-U.K. relationship is simple: It’s strong because it delivers for both of us. The alliance is not sustained by our historical ties or blind loyalty. This is a partnership of choice that serves our national interests.

There are three sets of critics who seem to fret incessantly about the relationship: those who question the whole concept, those who say it is no longer “special,” and those fixated on form rather than substance. Each of them is misguided.

The first group seems to view America as some sort of “evil empire,” a country that is too powerful, that does nothing but sow discord in the world. They say Britain should have much less to do with America. I say they are just plain wrong.

The U.S. is a formidable force for good. Together we fought fascism, stood up to communism, and championed democracy. Today we are combating international terrorism, pressing for peace in the Middle East, working for an Iran without the bomb, and tackling climate change and global poverty.

Then there are those who claim the U.S.-U.K. relationship was special once but not any longer. They argue that the U.S. doesn’t care about Britain because we don’t bring enough to the table. This attitude overlooks our unique relations across the world — throughout the Gulf States and with India and Pakistan, not to mention the strong ties with China and our links through the Commonwealth with Africa and Australia. There’s also the professionalism and bravery of our servicemen and women who have spent much of their careers serving alongside Americans in the world’s combat zones. And the skill and close relationship of our intelligence agencies.

Finally, there are those who over-analyze the atmospherics around the relationship. They forensically compute the length of meetings; whether it’s a brush-by or a full bilateral; the number of mentions in a president’s speech; dissecting the location and grandeur of the final press conference — fretting even over whether you’re standing up or sitting down together. This sort of Kremlinology might have had its place in interpreting our relations with Moscow during the Cold War. It is absurd to apply it to our oldest and staunchest ally.

I know how annoying this is for Americans, and it certainly frustrates me. I am hard-headed and realistic about U.S.-U.K. relations. I understand that we are the junior partner — just as we were in the 1940s and, indeed, in the 1980s. But we are a strong, self-confident country clear in our views and values, and we should behave that way.

The U.S. is a global power, with shorelines facing the Pacific and Atlantic, so of course it must cultivate relations with Indonesia, China, and others, just as it has to with Europe. We’re living in a new world where the balance of power in different regions is shifting, and the U.S. is strengthening its ties with rising powers. Britain is doing the same thing. That’s why I’m off to Turkey and India shortly and why we have a strategic relationship with China. In a world of fast-growing, emerging economies, we have a responsibility to engage more widely and bring new countries to the top table of the international community. To do so is pro-American and pro-British, because it’s the only way we will maintain our influence in a changing world.

When I see President Obama this week we have a very clear common agenda: succeeding in Afghanistan, securing economic growth and stability at home and across the world, fighting protectionism. And on one issue in particular, Lockerbie, let me be absolutely clear there’s no daylight between us. I have the deepest sympathies for the families of those killed in the bombing. Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was found guilty of murdering 270 people. I never saw the case for releasing him, and I think it was a very bad decision.

There will inevitably be areas where we have differences of emphasis, such as trade. As I made clear at June’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, promoting trade will be a huge priority for my government. It’s the real stimulus our economies need, and Britain is open for business — especially to the U.S., where our close ties already deliver jobs and prosperity for both our peoples.

Trade isn’t a zero-sum game. Just because another nation’s exports grow doesn’t mean your own have to fall. When we import low-cost goods from China we’re not failing, we’re benefiting — from choice, competition, and low prices. Where there are potential issues between us we must work at them and deal with them.

One of the reasons why I find this whole debate around the special relationship puzzling is because it’s clear to me that the partnership is entirely natural. Yes, it always needs care and attention, but it is resilient because it is rooted in strong foundations. My grandfather worked on Wall Street, then fought alongside Americans after D-Day. My wife Sam, then pregnant with our first child, was in New York on 9/11 opening a new store she had designed and worked on for months. I worked for a business for seven years that owned Technicolor, the California-based firm which printed almost half the films that came out of Hollywood.

Every aspect of our daily lives on either side of the Atlantic owes something to each other. Each day a million people in America go to work for British companies. And a million people in Britain go to work for American companies. Teenagers in the U.S. play music by British bands and our kids listen to rap.

As this is my first visit to America as prime minister, let me emphasize that I am unapologetically pro-America. I love this country and what it’s done for the world. But I am not some idealistic dreamer about the special relationship. I care about the depth of our partnership, not the length of our phone calls. I hope that in the coming years we can focus on the substance, not endlessly fret about the form.

Indonesians Sweep Four Gold, 1 Silver at International Physics Olympiad

Indonesian student Fernaldo Richtia received gold medal in 40th International Physics Olympiad in Mexico, 2009. In this year’s competition, held in Zagreb, Croatia Indonesian team swept up 4 gold medals and 1 silver medal. (Photo TOFI)

July 26, 2010

Zagreb, Croatia (KATAKAMI / THE JAKARTA GLOBE) Indonesia won four gold medals and one silver medal at the 41st International Physics Olympiad in Zagreb, Croatia, over the weekend. The olympiad is an annual physics competition for secondary school students.

The Indonesian Physics Olympiad Team (TOFI) consisted of Christian George Emor from North Sulawesi, David Giovanni from Tangerang, Banten, Kevin Soedyatmiko from Jakarta, Muhammad Sohibul Maromi from East Java, and Ahmad Ataka Awwalur Rizqi from Yogyakarta.

The team leader, Hendra Kwee, told online news portal kompas.com that this year’s achievement was much better compared to the results from last year’s competition in Merida, Mexico.

“Last year, Indonesia won one gold, three silver and one bronze,” Hendra said.

This year, 376 students from 82 countries joined the olympiad. The number of participating countries was up from last year’s 70.

According to Hendra, the Indonesian team started to train intensively eight months before the competition.

Yohanes Surya, the team’s adviser, said that the achievement earned Indonesian students international respect.

TOFI had its beginnings at the US College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1992. Yohanes Surya and Agus Ananda, who were both physics graduate students at the college, took the initiative to invite a team from Indonesia to participate in the 24th International Physics Olympiad, which was hosted at the college in 1993.

In Indonesia, about 75 students took part in the qualifying examination to select candidates for the olympiad. Most of the students were from Java. The five best students were invited to Virginia for two months of intensive training and to familiarize themselves with the academic environment in the United States.

Two Indonesian students stood out among the two hundred top students from 41 countries taking part in the 1993 olympiad. Oki Gunawan received a bronze medal and Jemmy Widjaja received an honorable mention. The year’s winner was Russia, with three gold medals and two silver medals.

Tehran ready for nuclear talks after Ramadan


Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki gives a press conference at the Iranian embassy in Madrid, on July 13, 2010. (Getty Images)

July 26, 2010

ISTANBUL (KATAKAMI / DAILYSTAR.COM)   Iran will be ready to hold negotiations with world powers on its nuclear program after the month of Ramadan ends in early September, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Sunday.

Separately, Mottaki said technical discussions could begin immediately in Vienna on the details of a proposed nuclear fuel swap and a letter to this effect would be delivered to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday.

The West fears Iran’s secretive uranium enrichment program is a veiled quest to develop nuclear weapons capability. Tehran insists it seeks only electricity from enrichment.

Mottaki said the talks after Ramadan would be between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France – as well as Germany (P5+1), which have been locked in a protracted standoff with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. “That belongs to 5+1 with Iran,” he said of the talks.

Earlier on Sunday, Mottaki met the foreign ministers of Turkey and Brazil, their first meeting since the three struck a tentative swap accord in May that failed to prevent fresh UN sanctions against Iran.

Brazil and Turkey have characterized the proposed fuel deal as a way to build confidence for the broader negotiations involving the six world powers, represented for now by the EU’s foreign policy chief, on an overall nuclear settlement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier Mottaki had confirmed Iran was ready to start negotiations with Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief.

Ashton wrote to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili last month inviting him to resume talks. The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in the first half of September.

Iran agreed in May to send some of its enrichment uranium stockpile abroad in exchange for medical reactor fuel, reviving a deal in principle which the IAEA, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, brokered in October, only to see Tehran back out of it.

On Saturday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  dubbed his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev the “mouthpiece” of Iran’s enemies, in the latest tirade born of rising differences between Tehran and Moscow.

“In a meeting with his ambassadors, he [Medvedev] said we have knowledge that Iran is moving toward the bomb,” Ahmadinejad was shown saying in footage broadcast by state television.

“We regret that Medvedev has become the mouthpiece for the plans of Iran’s enemies,” the hardline president said in the footage filmed at a gathering in Tehran on Friday.  (*)

Angelina Jolie wows Moscow with Russian ‘hero spy’ film


Actress Angelina Jolie waves while arriving for the Russia’s Premiere of her feature film “Salt,” Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 25, 2010, with a Russian poster of the movie in the background. (Getty Images)

July 25, 2010

(KATAKAMI / THE SYDNEY MORNING HEARLD)  Hollywood star Angelina Jolie on Sunday delighted Russians as she arrived in Moscow to promote her thriller movie where she plays a “big hero” Russian spy two weeks after a real-life espionage swap fascinated the world.

In Moscow on the heels of the biggest spy exchange between Russia and the United States since the end of the Cold War, Jolie said her playing a Russian in the spy thriller movie “Salt” was a good thing for the country.

“Maybe there are some bad guys that are Russians but if you look closely the big hero is Russian,” Jolie, wearing a red halter dress that revealed some her famous tattoos, said at the premier in central Moscow.

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// “So I think it’s very positive for Russia,” she said.


Actress Angelina Jolie waves while arriving for the Russia’s Premiere of her feature film “Salt,” Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 25, 2010. (Getty Images)

With her latest fast-paced action movie, Jolie is essentially bucking the Hollywood trend by playing a good Russian.

She plays CIA officer Evelyn Salt, who turns out to be a Russian spy. Her real name is Chenkov and she was trained since childhood for a mission which has the ultimate goal of preparing for war against the United States.

Dedicated to the mission, Chenkov-Salt however turns against her Russian spy master and fellow sleeper spies when they kill her German husband whom she is deeply attached to.

For the movie — and the premier — Jolie had to learn some Russian, she said.

“Dobry vecher!” (Good evening), she greeted the audience before the start of the film. “I tried to speak a bit of Russian. Hope I did OK.”


US actress Angelina Jolie poses for a photo while arriving for the Russia Premiere of her feature film “Salt,” Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 25, 2010, with a Russian poster of the movie in the background. (Getty Images)

The spy movie hits the screens just two weeks after the spy swap between Russia and the United States during which Washington busted and deported 10 real-life Kremlin sleeper spies.

Jolie spoke just hours after Russia’s high-profile Prime Minister Vladimir Putin revealed he gave a heroes’ welcome to the 10 spies, meeting them for a heart-to-heart talk.

Putin and the sleeper spies sang Soviet-era patriotic songs, the premier said.

The film’s crew said they were fascinated with the notion of the Russian sleeper agents.

“There?s something really mysterious and sexy about the notion that somebody could lie in wait — for decades, if necessary,” producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura was quoted as saying by Sony Pictures. (*)

Iran agrees to nuclear talks under threat of EU sanctions


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attend the United Nations 2010 High-level Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at U.N. headquarters May 3, 2010 in New York City.

July 25, 2010

(KATAKAMI / DEUTSCHE WELLE)  Iran, under pressure from proposed European Union sanctions, agreed Sunday to reopen discussions with Western powers concerning a nuclear swap deal it signed in May.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters that Tehran would on Monday respond to questions raised by the Vienna Group, comprised of France, Russia and the United States.

“Tomorrow this…letter will be conveyed to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, and then we can immediately start negotiations for the details of exchanging fuel,” he said.

Sanctions expected to have a ‘material impact’

The EU had intended on Monday to hammer Iran with its toughest-yet sanctions against the country’s oil and gas industry. The proposed measures, which respond to the United Nations Security Council’s fourth set of sanctions passed early last month, were intended by EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton to bring Iran back to the discussion table with the countries of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US – as well as Germany.

The proposed sanctions would cut off the country’s access to so-called “dual-use goods” – materials that could be used to develop weapons. They would include a measure to stop banks with Iranian ties from opening European branches.

According to the International Energy Association (IEA) in Paris, the sanctions were “expected to have a material impact on the country’s energy industry.” Though Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of crude oil, it imports 40 percent of its own fuel needs due to lacking refining capabilities.

Reviving talks

The last high-level talks between Iran and the six world powers took place in Geneva last October when the two sides approved a nuclear power swap that has since been delayed.

In May of this year, Turkey and Brazil persuaded Iran during a meeting in Tehran to store 1,200 kilograms of its low enriched uranium in Turkey until the fuel for Tehran’s research reactor is delivered – an agreement the countries touted as a peaceful resolution to Iran’s nuclear issue but which world powers deemed an insufficient solution.

Germany to Investigate Deaths in ‘Love Parade’ Stampede

Associated Press

People place flowers and candles in a street near the accident site in Duisburg, Germany, on Sunday.

July 25, 2010

(KATAKAMI / THE WALLSTREET JOURNAL)  Local authorities and organizers of Europe’s biggest electronic-music event faced harsh criticism for their handling of a massive crowd after at least 19 people died and 342 were injured in a stampede at the “Love Parade” techno festival in Germany on Saturday.

The death toll continued to climb Sunday as organizers, German officials and police defended their decision to use a narrow roadway tunnel as the lone entrance for hundreds of thousands of revelers trying to reach the festival grounds in the western German city of Duisburg.

The tragedy has stunned Germany, a safety-conscious country usually adept at organizing large street parties and other public events without mishap.

As hospitals treated many of the injured, German public prosecutors opened an investigation into what caused the crowd of young partygoers to panic and stampede in the vicinity of the tunnel.

Emergency workers administer first aid to revelers who collapsed at Germany’s Love Parade.

“This absolutely didn’t need to happen,” said Matthias Roeingh, a DJ known to most Germans as Dr. Motte, who founded the Love Parade festival in Berlin in 1989.

“I put a lot of blame on the organizers,” said Mr. Roeingh, who wasn’t involved in this year’s event and didn’t attend. “This entry street, which brought people together at the tunnel, and the security at the entrance created a pileup. People couldn’t move forward or back. Those were the conditions that let this panic break out,” he said.

“I think now we need a very thorough investigation of how it came to this,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday. “We have to do everything we can so that something like this isn’t repeated.”

Duisburg city officials approved the use of the site, planned the crowd flow and were responsible for managing it. Duisburg’s mayor, Adolf Sauerland, appealed at a news conference on Sunday for the public “to give the investigating officials the time they need to do their work, and not to assign blame hastily.”

As many as 1.4 million people descended on Duisburg for the party Saturday, according to German media reports, and the stampede started around 5 p.m. local time, shortly after police closed the tunnel because the festival grounds were too full. Police told those in the tunnel over loudspeakers to turn around and walk out from the direction they came, according to German media reports.

Duisburg police chief Detlef von Schmeling declined to confirm the size of the crowd or that police sealed off the tunnel and told people to turn around just before the stampede. He said none of the victims—who include citizens of Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain as well as Germans—died in the tunnel itself, but that they fell from metal steps or were crushed against a billboard on the hillside outside as they tried to climb away from the swelling crowd.

Footage on broadcaster N-TV showed people clambering over metal barricades and up a steep hillside outside the tunnel.

German police union leader Rainer Wendt said in an interview on the Bild newspaper’s website that he warned Love Parade organizers more than a year ago that Duisburg was “too narrow, too small to handle this mass of people.”

Ms. Merkel said she was “horrified and saddened by the suffering and the pain…The young people came to celebrate, and instead there are dead and injured.”

Pope Benedict XVI, a native German, expressed his sorrow during his weekly blessing from Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence south of Rome, and said he was praying for the victims.

The Love Parade was a Berlin institution during the 1990s, drawing techno fans and party-seekers from around the world to follow semitrailers converted into rolling dance clubs. From spontaneous beginnings, the parade grew into a major commercial event that consistently drew over a million people.

Financial troubles and a dispute with Berlin officials brought an end to the event in 2007, but organizers revived it in the industrial Ruhr region that year.

Last year’s Love Parade in Bochum was cancelled after city officials determined that they didn’t have a site large enough to hold the potential crowd. This year was the first time the festival was held in Duisburg.

At a news conference on Sunday, Rainer Schaller, one of the organizers, said it would be the last Love Parade.

“It will always be overshadowed by yesterday’s events,” said Mr. Schaller, part of a small group of people who handle funding for the Love Parade. “It’s over for the Love Parade.”  (*)

Benedict XVI remembers victims of German techno festival tragedy

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Jul 25, 2010 / 11:21 am  (KATAKAMI / CNA/EWTN News).- After Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Benedict remembered the victims of a tragic incident during a celebration in Germany this weekend.

Nineteen people died as a result of a “stampede” at a musical festival called the “Love Parade” in Duisburg, Germany on Saturday night. According to Reuters, after closing the only entrance to the festival, a tunnel, in an attempt to better organize the massive crowd, “mass panic” broke out.

Pope Benedict expressed his “sorrow” for the “tragedy,” entrusting the deceased, injured and their relatives to the Lord. For all of them, he asked the “comfort and the closeness of the Holy Spirit.”

The techno dance festival drew an estimated 1.4 million young people from all over Europe. It was originally an event to promote peace, with the first parade taking place in the German capital city just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Reuters reported that police have opened an investigation to determine the cause of the panic that led to the fatal stampede which also injured more than 300 people.