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Good Reads: Libyan rebels' push on Sirte, Nigeria's Boko Haram, Clooney's satellites

Today's stories feature a look at the Libyan rebels' final push on Qaddafi's hometown, Nigeria's Boko Haram, and how George Clooney's satellite project may affect Sudan.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / August 31, 2011

Front pages tend to love war zones, but good reads can also come from quieter places – air-conditioned boardrooms covered with pie-charts and figures and grainy photographs. Today, Monitor editors are highlighting examples of both.

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● There are two great things about reporting on fallen regimes. One is finding souvenirs in the abandoned homes of dictators – Muammar Qaddafi’s creepy photo album dedicated to former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice comes to mind. (Eww.)

The other great thing is finding a treasure trove of official documents that tell us about the policies and mindset about a regime. The Washington Post’s Thomas Erdbrink and Joby Warrick filed a piece from Tripoli yesterday that promised an inside look into how the Qaddafi regime fretted about and dealt with Al-Qaeda-influenced Islamist terror groups on its own turf, but it didn’t actually do a lot of quoting from documents it has obtained.

Instead, the reporters focused on the former Islamist commander, Abdelkarim Belhadj, the self-proclaimed former leader of the Tripoli Brigade that fought against Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

IN PICTURES: Rebels take Tripoli

It’s conceivable that the reporters concluded that printing information from the documents might people individuals at risk, and that’s a legitimate concern. But the writers don’t say that, and this reader felt a bit let down. Perhaps there is more to come?

● The Monitor’s Kristen Chick continues strong frontline reporting with a piece today on the rebel force’s “final push” to take the Libyan city of Sirte, one of two major cities still in the hands of pro-Qaddafi forces.

As Ms. Chick explains, “Victory in Sirte is crucial because it would unite rebel-held territory from Tripoli in the west to the eastern city of Benghazi, giving the rebels uninterrupted control of the country's long coastal area and its many oil facilities. Taking Sirte would also pose a key test of rebels' ability to persuade Qaddafi loyalists to admit that a 42-year era of dictatorial rule is over, lay down their arms, and integrate themselves in the new Libya.”

In Nigeria, political rivalries between the mainly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south have taken a violent turn, most recently with the suicide bombing of a UN compound in the Nigerian capital of Abuja last Friday. Time Magazine’s Karen Leigh writes a fine profile of the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, that claimed responsibility for that attack, and that may have carried out the attack as a way of gaining the attention and respect of that “other” Islamist militant group, Al Qaeda.


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