ISIS Militants Behead Lebanese Soldier and Hold 18 More

ISIS Militants Behead Lebanese Soldier and Hold 18 More

Posted 2014-08-31 01:29 GMT

BEIRUT (Reuters) — Members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have beheaded a Lebanese soldier who was one of 19 captured when militants seized a Lebanese border town for a few days this month. A video of the beheading was posted on social media sites on Saturday.

The soldier, recognizable as Ali al-Sayyed, a Sunni Muslim from northern Lebanon, was shown blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back, writhing and kicking the dusty ground as a militant announced that he would be killed. Another militant then beheaded him.

The Lebanese Army declined to comment, but security officials and members of ISIS confirmed the beheading.

Hours later, the group posted a second video showing nine other soldiers begging for their lives — urging their families to stage street protests to demand that Lebanese officials release Islamist prisoners, so the soldiers would not be killed.

Earlier this month, Syrian militants, including members of ISIS and the Nusra Front, battled the Lebanese Army after a rebel commander, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, was arrested in Arsal, Lebanon, a town near the Syrian border. Mr. Jomaa was a commander in the Nusra Front who switched his affiliation to ISIS but remained popular among the Nusra fighters.

The militants seized Arsal for five days before withdrawing to a mountainous border region, taking 19 captured soldiers with them. They have demanded the release of Mr. Jomaa and several other Islamists jailed since a 2007 insurrection by a group inspired by Al Qaeda at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

Assyrian International News Agency

Iraqi minority vows death before IS capture

Baghdad – Residents of a besieged Iraqi town say they have prepared graves for their families and will kill their wives and children if the city falls to the Islamic State group.

The Shia Turkmen of Amerli, a town in the north of Iraq, are resisting Islamic State fighters who have surrounded them for two months. On Saturday, the Iraqi army and Shia militiamen launched an offensive to break the siege, but the fate of those inside still hangs in the balance.

Residents told Al Jazeera that they would rather kill themselves than fall into the hands of the Islamic State group, which has been accused of murdering those from religious minorities. The US and its allies last month intervened to break the siege of thousands of Yazidi tribesmen who were besieged on Sinjar mountain by the Islamic State.

“In every three to four houses we have dug graves. If the Islamic State storms our town everyone will be killing their wives and children and they will bury them,” says Mehdi, a government employee reached by phone in Amerli.  

Mehdi, who asked for his real name to be withheld, said their wives had agreed they would rather die than be taken captive by the group. “They say ‘we don’t want to end up in the hands of the Islamic State, being enslaved like those in Sinjar mountain….We don’t want the Islamic State to lay their hands on us.’”

Women who have been airlifted from Amerli to Baghdad this week said the only question among their female relatives was whether they would have someone shoot them or do it themselves.

“All the women will kill themselves – either shoot themselves or use kerosene and burn themselves to death,” said Fatima Qassim, a beauty salon owner from Amerli.

Fatima said her brother was fighting to defend the town and had remained behind with his wife and six children.

“He put eight bullets in his rifle and he said if ISIS enters the town then I will kill my children one by one and then I will kill my wife and myself.”

Her sister Laila said her husband’s sister, Nada, killed herself a few weeks ago after her husband of less than two years died in the fighting.

After 40 days, Nada’s father called to say he was sending her a new husband she believed to be an Islamic State fighter.  She took a pistol and shot herself, Laila said.

If the Islamic State storms our town everyone will be killing their wives and children.

Mehdi, resident of Amerli .

Despite sporadic airlifts by the Iraqi army to rescue residents, between 15,000 to 20,000 remain in Amerli. Two months under siege has left it short of food and wells are running dry.

An estimated 2,000 men, many of them famers or civil servants, have dug trenches and repelled three assaults.

The US military is expected to begin its own airlifts of food and water to Amerli but has been loath to play the same role in fighting IS forces that it has further north.

Amerli falls outside the declared US mandate of protecting US personnel and interests and critical Iraqi infrastructure.  

The United Nations last week said the situation in Amerli was desperate and required immediate action to prevent a possible massacre.

Turkmen officials says they have been the biggest losers in the IS takeover of large parts of northern Iraq.

“More than 40 of the villages surrounding Amerli have fallen to the Islamic State. If the town falls it will be pure genocide,” says Torhan al-Mufti, the outgoing minister of communications.

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Annihilate Islamic State Terrorists: US Lawmaker

Following his capture in Libya in 2011, the late journalist James Foley wrote a letter to Marquette Magazine, published by his alma mater, about his time in captivity. He wrote about the power of prayer: “I prayed (my mom) would know I was OK.” To keep his mind occupied, he prayed the rosary.

Eighteen days into his captivity, he was given the opportunity to call home. He asked his mom, “Haven’t you felt my prayers?” After she read him a list of all the people praying for him, she asked, “Don’t you feel our prayers?”

James prayed. His mom prayed. The power of prayer and their faith in God gave them the strength to continue to hope.

Freedom of religion is a Constitutional right that is often taken for granted over here, but James Foley’s beheading Aug. 19 by the Islamic State of Iraq reminds us that there are extremists around the world who will stop at nothing to take that right away.

When James Foley’s mom witnessed her son’s death via a gruesome YouTube video, she unwittingly joined thousands of mothers of many faiths who have lost their sons and daughters at the hands of the Islamic State.

It showed up on our doorstep, took one of our own and forced America to recognize that, if the Islamic State is not stopped once and for all, this will not be an isolated incident.

I recently joined the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where I am fighting to ensure that the administration does everything possible to protect American lives ensure religious freedom. The “Arab Spring” has turned into a Christian winter. The Anglican Communion News Service is reporting crimes as gruesome as Foley’s and victims as young as 5 years old. The alarming growth and military victories of the Islamic State, a terrorist group even more depraved and bloodthirsty than al-Qaeda, is a clear and present danger to America’s national security and religious liberty around the world. And it is a reminder of how actions –and inactions — abroad affect our lives here at home.

In 2011, our president jeopardized our homeland when he decided that acting on a campaign slogan about troop withdrawal from Iraq, was more important than securing the fragile democracy gained through the Iraq surge. Against the advice of his generals and national-security advisers, President Obama withdrew all American troops from Iraq rather than negotiating a status-of-forces agreement.

I supported the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq, but I disagreed with his unwillingness to leave in place a small contingent of American forces that would have prevented the power vacuum the Islamic State is now filling.

Months ago, President Obama was informed of the Islamic State’s growing strength, but again he chose to ignore reality. Over the past few months, the Islamic State has left a wake of death and destruction, murdering innocents and occupying dams, oil fields and refineries, which further fund its terror. Less than three years after the president’s decision to withdraw American troops, we are back in Iraq — but under far worse circumstances.

Even in the face of this palpable threat, the administration has been lackluster in its response and correctly criticized for following a policy of containing rather than annihilating the Islamic State. I call on our president to engage, lead and develop a credible foreign policy that shows the Islamic State and other wannabe actors in the region that America will not tolerate their evil ideology.

By all accounts, James Foley was a good man and a dedicated journalist. His captors coerced his last words, but we know from his life that his final act was one of prayer to a loving and merciful God — something his executioners could neither stop nor understand.

As we all pray for his family and friends, we also pray for those still in captivity and for all journalists who risk their lives to tell the stories of the oppressed. We also pray for persecuted religious minorities around the world and our brave American soldiers who sacrifice “over there” so that we can keep our freedoms over here.

Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, is a member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he serves on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

Assyrian International News Agency

Euro zone core CPI 0.9% vs. 0.8% forecast

Investing.com – Core consumer price inflation in the euro zone rose unexpectedly last month, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Eurostat said that Euro zone core CPI rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.9%, from 0.8% in the preceding month.

Analysts had expected Euro zone core CPI to remain unchanged at 0.8% last month.

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

EU To Prepare Fresh Russian Sanctions

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy says EU officials will draw up proposals for new sanctions on Russia over its action in Ukraine within a week.

He was speaking early on August 31 after a Brussels summit of EU leaders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that the EU would impose new sanctions if there was no change in the situation in Ukraine or if the situation worsened.  

It was not clear when sanctions might actually be implemented, however.

Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers.

The United States welcomed the EU decision, saying it shows strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the United States is working closely with the EU and other partners to hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine.

The fighting between the Ukraine military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has claimed 2,600 lives, according to UN figures.

NATO estimates at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine. Russia denies that.

So far, Washington and Brussels have imposed sanctions against some Russian officials and companies.

Moscow has fired back by banning food imports.

Merkel said the new sanctions would target the same sectors as previous measures, which included an export ban on some high tech and oil exploration equipment.

Earlier in Brussels, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said a strong response was needed to the “military aggression and terror” facing his country.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Russia’s meddling in Ukraine, meant “Russia is practically in war against Europe.”

On the ground in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said it was pulling back its troops from three towns in the face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said troops had pulled out of Ilovaysk — about 20 kilometers east of the rebel-held city of Donetsk — after being surrounded by rebels there for days.

Lysenko said troops had also been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka and Khryashchuvate — towns on the main road between the border with Russia and Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city.

Meanwhile, Moscow appears to be preparing to send a second convoy of what it says is humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine.

Russian state TV Rossiya 24 on August 30 broadcast images of trucks from the last convoy at the border being loaded with cargo that had been delivered to the area by train.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Besieged Iraqi Town Buoyed By Airstrikes, Launch of Offensive Against Militants

A Iraqi Turkmen Shiite fighter, who volunteered to join the government forces, holds a position on August 4, 2014 in Amerli, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad, as the city has been completely surrounded by Islamic State Sunni militants for more than six weeks (Ali Al-Bayati/AFP/Getty Images).BAGHDAD — The long-suffering residents of Amerli, an impoverished town in northern Iraq that has been besieged by Sunni jihadists for two months, believe help may finally be on the way.

Militia leaders and government officials said a coordinated offensive to clear the Islamic State-controlled towns around Amerli — and eventually the siege’s front line — began after nightfall in Iraq on Saturday.

Amerli residents and local officials said Friday and Saturday that reports of the offensive, as well as rumors of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State militants, have boosted morale in the Shiite town, which has accused Washington and Baghdad of failing to stop the siege.

Karim al-Nouri, a high-ranking official in the Badr Brigades, a large Shiite militia, said that around 7:30 p.m., thousands of the militia’s fighters moved toward the nearby Sunni town of Suleiman Beg, thought to be under the Islamic State’s control. Nouri said the operation was carried out in collaboration with other armed groups, the Iraqi air force and the Iraqi army.

“We are moving from all sides,” he said.

The U.N.’s special representative to Iraq warned last week of a potential “massacre” if the militants manage to enter Amerli, which is home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen ethnic minority.

More than 20 people have died of hunger and dehydration in the town in the past two months as residents struggled to fight off the attackers, local activists say.

On Saturday, Rafid Moussa, a helicopter co-pilot with the Iraqi air force who said he has flown aid drops and evacuation missions into Amerli, described an isolated population of “simple” farmers desperate to escape.

“We open only one door, and we don’t let the stairs down,” Moussa said of the rescue missions. His account was borne out by videos he had filmed showing villagers running between mud-brick homes toward the helicopter, frantic to board it.

The helicopter stays on the ground for five minutes, and the crew takes only women and children, Moussa said.

Rescues and aid drops have been limited, and Iraqi air force strikes have failed to open a humanitarian corridor out of the town. But local residents and fighters in the area described an uptick in attacks targeting militants, with more than half a dozen airstrikes outside the town Friday, raising people’s spirits.

“Even though people are hungry, when they see the airstrikes, they know that someone is doing something to help them, and this will end,” said Mehdi al-Bayati, a local principal-turned-activist.

An Iraqi Defense Ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the ministry said Saturday that the United States had carried out the strikes — a claim also made by Iraqi media and some Amerli residents over the past two days.

The Pentagon says it has carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State in northern Iraq, including an effort early this month to open a humanitarian corridor to a besieged community near the Syrian border. It has not confirmed any strikes in the vicinity of Amerli.

Last week, the Salaam Brigades, a Shiite militia, said it had mobilized thousands of fighters to help break the Amerli siege.

Hazim al-Zamili, a Shiite lawmaker who has acted as a “general coordinator” for the Salaam Brigades, formerly known as the Mahdi Army, said Saturday that the militia’s fighters were starting to attack Sunni towns ringing Amerli, in coordination with the Iraqi military and Kurdish pesh merga forces.

The militia has tried before to end the siege. Zamili predicted its fighters would break through this time in a matter of days.

Erin Cunningham in Irbil, Iraq, and Mustafa Salim in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

US attacks Islamic State near besieged town

The US military has attacked Islamic State positions around the besieged Iraqi town of Amerli, where thousands of Shia Turkmen have been cut off from food and water for nearly two months by the group.

John Kirby, the US department of defence spokesman, said on Sunday that President Barack Obama authorised the “limited” military operation to prevent an Islamic State attack on Amerli and to enable an aid drop to those in the town.

Kirby said the aid came at the request of the Iraqi government and that the US military conducted the raids to support the aid delivery, the AP news agency reported.

He added that aircraft from Australia, France and the UK had joined the US in the aid drop.

The strikes come as Iraq launched a major operation to liberate the besieged town, with support from Shia militias. The AFP news agency reported that Kurdish peshmerga were also involved in the operation.

Residents of Amerli, who are in danger because of their faith and their resistance to the armed group, have vowed to kill themselves rather than risk capture by the group.

Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said on Saturday that any air strikes by the US around Amerli would widen its mandate in Iraq of protecting US personel and critical Iraqi infrastructure.

She said men in the town had taken up arms against the Islamic State and had been resisting the group for weeks.

“They’re backed by Shia militia members who have been flown into the town by Iraqi helicopters – then around that you’ve got the circle of Islamic State fighters and around that from both sides you have the militias and the Iraqi army.”

“If the operation fails the fear is it could lead to even more sectarian violence.”

The Islamic State group, an al-Qaeda off-shoot formerly known as ISIL, has declared an Islamic caliphate in large swathes of territory it seized in recent months in Syria and Iraq.

The Turkmen, ethnically Turkish, are Iraq’s third largest ethnic group after Arabs and Kurds.

357

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

US Air Strikes Target Islamic State Fighters

The U.S. military says fighter aircraft and unmanned drones have struck Islamic State militants near Iraq’s Mosul Dam.

In a statement issued on August 30, U.S. Central Command says the five latest U.S. air strikes were in support of operations conducted by Iraqi security forces.

Officials say the air strikes destroyed an armed vehicle, a fighting position and weapons and heavily damaged an Islamic State building.

Central Command says it has conducted a total of 115 air strikes across Iraq.

Elsewhere, Iraqi army and Kurdish forces closed in on Islamic State fighters on August in a push to break the Sunni militants’ siege of the northern Shi’ite town of Amerli.

At the same time, the Pentagon said the U.S. military has conducted air strikes and dropped humanitarian aid to residents in Amirli.

Armed residents of Amerli have managed to fend off attacks by the Islamic State fighters, who regard its majority Shi’ite Turkomen population as apostates.

More than 15,000 people remain trapped inside.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The goal is to form a new government

8-30-2014 Chattels: Jaafari’s statement said the goal was to form a new government “within the legal timeframe,” but didn’t specify a deadline. While legal mandates aren’t always respected in Iraq, the prime minister by law must form a cabinet within 30 days of his nomination, giving Abadi until Sept. 11 to put together a government. Abadi said last week that the negotiations were positive and that he was eager to “form an inclusive government.” the reality is that the news is always mixed, but on balance there is progress and what you read about failed negotiations are just today’s event and part of the posturing and process. i actually consider myself positive and i just try to manage short term expectations to reduce disappointment.

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Iraqi Christians Report a Decade of Blood

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.Anjilo Fadheel, who was kidnapped and beaten for being Christian in Iraq, now wears the tattoo of praying hands holding a Rosary he had done after he came to the United States. — Howard Lipin The day the statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down in Baghdad’s Firdos Square in April 2003 — a day that was the basis for some of the most iconic and debated images of the war in Iraq — Sam, an Iraqi Christian who had a job at a barber shop just down the street from all of the action, skipped work.

“I saw everything with my eyes. I was there,” he said.

Like many Iraqis, he saw promise in the falling statue, and initially things were more or less OK. Even with the church bombings, the ransom kidnappings, the faith-based killings, the sectarian fighting between Shiite and Sunni militias, and the random atrocities that marked everyday life in occupied Iraq, Sam and his family were getting by.

That started to change in 2006, when militias made life unbearable even for those trying to keep a low profile. In late 2009, he fled to Jordan. That was after a group of women threatened his wife because she was Christian, and soon after a Shiite militia tried to recruit him. He eventually moved his family to San Diego.

In an interview this month at a coffee shop in El Cajon, home to one of the largest Iraqi populations in the U.S., Sam asked that his last name and workplace not be published. Even now, halfway around the world, he fears persecution because of his religion. He has a lingering regret: “We should have come before.”

But he knows he’s among the lucky. “Some people, they suffered more than us,” he said.

ISIS, the shorthand name for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a militant group that wants to create a fundamentalist caliphate, recently claimed much of northern Iraq and has been persecuting Shiite Muslims, Kurds, Christians and other minorities. San Diego County’s Iraqi population — estimated at 70,000 people — has watched with dread and a sense of familiarity because they say this is just the latest chapter in a slow and painful extinguishing of their people in a land they occupied for almost 2,000 years.

Anjilo Fadheel, who was kidnapped and beaten for being Christian in Iraq, now wears the tattoo of praying hands holding a Rosary he had done after he came to the United States (photo: Howard Lipin).

For Iraqi Christians, the past decade has been one disaster after another: first the emergence of violence that touched the lives of Iraqis, regardless of their religion, tribe or ethnicity, followed by violent and political persecution by radical insurgents and a noninclusive government.

Chaldeans [Roman Catholic Assyrians] in San Diego say they are haunted by their own tortured memories, as well as a stream of anguishing updates from their homeland. Now that ISIS has stormed their ancient homeland and killed or displaced Christians in the north, there’s a sense among Chaldeans in San Diego and in Iraq that help is urgently needed, coupled by a fear that any action would already be too late.

Mark Arabo, a Chaldean community leader who’s been pushing for safety measures and humanitarian aid, relayed a message to the international community he received from a man stuck in Iraq: “By the time you guys do everything you’re doing, there will be no Christians left (in Iraq). We’ll all be dead.”

Arabo added: “This is our chance to act. My worst fear is that we’ll look back three years from now and say we could have stopped this genocide.”

Stories from this community, along with blog posts from Iraq and documents from American and exiled Iraqi sources suggest that persecution of minorities and, particularly, of Christians, in Iraq unfolded in several phases, each more severe than the previous one.

When Sam moved to San Diego, he joined tens of thousands of Chaldeans who moved here in waves, drawn by the similar climate and the burgeoning Iraqi community in East County. After a handful of Iraqis settled in San Diego decades ago, others followed, either from refugee camps or after stopping first in another large Iraqi enclave in Michigan.

A large number came last decade, when Christian persecution became increasingly serious. These Iraqis have changed the flavor of El Cajon and Rancho San Diego, lining boulevards with Halal grocers and attending churches with services in Arabic or Aramaic by the thousands. At least a million others worldwide are estimated to have fled Iraq since the start of the war.

With the Chaldean community here, Sam has watched his country struggle to be rebuilt, he has been anguished at reports of worsening violence against Christians there, he’s mourned the dead and prayed for the living, and he has been frustrated by the lack of a solution to get them out of harm’s way.

Their diaspora leaves a void in the cradle of Christian civilization, noted many Chaldeans living here. But, others maintain, it may also be the only way they can survive.

Trouble brewing for years

“What’s happened in the past three months (has) been elevated to a level that’s never been seen before in our Christian history in Mesopotamia,” said John Daiza, a Carlsbad oil executive who was a senior adviser to the transitional government in Iraq from 2003 to 2005. After working on rebuilding the country, he has been angered by the failure of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to protect Iraqi Christians.

Iraqi refugees and scholars said the treatment of minorities can be broken down into several phases, which echo the country’s broader security situation.

In the years immediately after Hussein’s fall, Iraq entered a free-for-all, as groups struggled for control in the absence of a central power. Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups and sectarian militias added to the chaos, with Christians being targeted or getting caught in the crossfire. A U.S. military surge brought a measure of stability after 2008, but the situation for Christians worsened again when ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, entered the north this year.

Long before this summer, Arabo spoke out about his people’s plight, prompted by the U.S. troop pullout and the absence of a status of forces agreement with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which would have left some American troops on the ground. At a luncheon with Obama, Arabo asked for protection for Iraq’s Christians.

“This wasn’t an overnight thing, where ISIS comes and kills Christians. What’s happening in Iraq was slowly but surely a deterioration of (the treatment of) Christians and minorities,” Arabo said in a recent interview.

In 2010, John Eibner, head of an international Christian organization based just north of Los Angeles, wrote to Obama asking for a “comprehensive strategy” to protect Iraq’s Christians.

“The threat of extermination is not empty,” Eibner wrote, detailing the human toll of the post-Hussein era: Hundreds of Christians have been killed, 61 churches bombed and “more than half the country’s Christian population has been forced by targeted violence to seek refuge abroad or to live away from their homes as internally displaced people.”

Michael Youash, with the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project research group, published a law review journal article detailing human-rights abuses in 2008 and warning that Christians will be eradicated at a cost to that nation’s stability, cultural richness and diversity.

Church bombings, priest killings and targeting of Christians “indicates to Assyrian Christians that while Iraq overall may stabilize, their lives will not get better. If the U.S. and Iraqi governments continue to downplay or deny the reality, the insurgents may prove to be right.” (Assyrians and Chaldeans are both Iraqi Christians.)

In 2007, a U.S. State Department report on the heavily Christian Iraqi region of Ninawa stated that Christians were being persecuted there. In the post-Hussein years, the area was a site of friction between minority Christians and Kurds, which were the area’s provincial rulers.

“The Christian minority faces considerable hardship,” the report stated, and referred to a lack of political representation for that population, along with human-rights abuses. The department has also tracked abuses there in annual reports.

Before and after Hussein

Iraq’s Christian population is one of the world’s oldest. A 2000 report by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services painted a complex picture of the treatment of Christians before Hussein was deposed. The Iraqi government tried to assimilate Christians and other non-Arabs, and Christians weren’t allowed to convert Muslims. But they could build churches.

In northern Iraq, the situation was different: Christians were subjected to periodic bombings and “mob violence by Muslims,” the report stated, because of tensions with Kurds or between Kurds, or sometimes for no known reason. (After Hussein’s rule, the north became a relatively safer haven for Christians, as most violence against them was happening in Baghdad and the country’s south. That worsened over time and has completely changed with ISIS.)

The report stated, and Iraqis in San Diego confirm, that persecution in Hussein’s era generally wasn’t done along religious lines.

“Iraq always had minorities. They were all considered Iraqis,” said Wael Al-Delaimy, a UC San Diego professor of global public health. Iraqis were equally crushed under Hussein’s despotic fist and government persecution was rooted in politics and insubordination, not religion, he added.

Iraqis in San Diego of various backgrounds agreed on the benefits of Hussein’s ouster: the end of a draconian and paranoid rule, of chemical weapons used against Kurds, of sanctions and economic hardships. Chinar Hussein, with Kurdish Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group in San Diego, said she believes anyone would be better than the dictator.

The downsides are more debated. One immediate consequence: a power vacuum where radical groups and lawless brigands vied for power and where sectarian clashes spiraled into civil war, said Andrew Bacevich, a political science and military scholar at Boston University.

“When the Americans invaded in 2003, whatever their intentions, or what we may think of their intentions, the effect of the American invasion was to destabilize what had been a relatively stable country. It was not the Americans’ intention to produce a civil war between Sunnis and Shias, and certainly not the Americans’ intention to create a vacuum that al-Qaeda could fill in Iraq. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq under Saddam,” Bacevich said.

Christians’ safety was another casualty. A minority group that had no political heft in 2003 (with one exception, as the foreign affairs minister, Tariq Aziz, was a Christian), Iraqi Christians were not seen as a threat by Hussein. Rather, the dictator trusted them to wash his clothes, cook and taste his food.

Chaldeans in San Diego cited these details as evidence that Christians fared well under Hussein: They were trusted and protected, even if they were not empowered.

Ben Kalasho, a local Chaldean advocate, views that era as a dark one for Iraq’s Christians. The “good life under Saddam” was a refrain of “those who were passive, who did not have ambitions to take on a bigger role … in the government. But the ones that wanted to see the Christian community and the other minorities prosper and gain these other powerful political roles, no, they all left” in the 1980s and 1990s, Kalasho said.

During Hussein’s secular regime — the ruler favored Sunni Muslims like himself over the country’s majority Shiite Muslims but mostly let other religions alone — Iraq’s Christian population began to shrink, from 8 percent in 1987 to 5 percent in 2003, largely because of emigration for economic opportunity. That exodus continued for the rest of the last decade, but the reason shifted to religious persecution, Chaldeans here said.

Daiza, the Chaldean oil executive, was involved in early efforts of post-Hussein nation-building. Incidents of persecution of Christians were “isolated, not systematic,” but there was one early and significant misstep in how the country’s laws were drafted, he said.

“We were imploring our government to understand the dynamic of making sure there were proper legal protection rights for minorities in Iraq,” Daiza said. The Iraqi constitution had language about protecting minorities. “The problem is it didn’t translate into proper actions.” In Iraq, that law had “no teeth, no muscle, no significance or substance whatsoever.”

Church bombings began to send a message to Christians, as described in 2004 by an anonymous blogger at Baghdad Burning.

“It makes me miserable to think that Christians no longer feel safe. … Christians have been suffering since the end of the war. Some of them are being driven out of their homes in the south and even in some areas in Baghdad and the north. Others are being pressured to dress a certain way or not attend church, etc. So many of them are thinking of leaving abroad and it’s such a huge loss.”

From chaos to extermination

“You know you are in Iraq when… / You can’t wear a cross in public…” So began a blog post written in 2006 by a woman who called herself Neurotic Iraqi Wife. She was smitten with her husband (dubbed “hubby”), but he was too busy rebuilding the country. Usually her posts were endearing, tragicomic. Not that one. She described the death of a Christian “killed because of his faith. … The mass media tends to concentrate on just the two sects (Sunni’s, Shia’s) forgetting that Iraq is also made up from Christians, Yazeedi’s, Turkmen, and of course Kurds. … But it is also the Christians that are targets, targets of death. ….”

After the chaotic post-Hussein years, Chaldeans say that proportionally, they bore more of the persecution starting around 2005 or 2006. That is when they fled the country in droves, and many have since settled in the United States, in San Diego, Ohio and Michigan, and globally in Jordan and Syria.

Because they had religion in common with the Americans, Christians were seen as collaborators, according to the article by researcher Youash and conversations with Chaldeans in San Diego. Crimes accelerated and became more serious. Priests and nuns were murdered. Heads of households were kidnapped, tortured or killed. Frequent bombs at churches made public celebrations of faith, from regular Sunday Mass to holy days, riskier and riskier. Orders to convert to Islam or face consequences grew more common.

Anjilo Fadheel, named after the Italian word for “angel,” experienced faith-based violence but survived. Today he’s in El Cajon, but about a decade ago he was a Chaldean teen in Baghdad. He gave himself a homemade tattoo of a cross on his left hand, using cigarette ash, water and a needle. It was small enough that he could hide it when he felt in danger. In 2006, he was kidnapped by a trio of thugs. They surrounded him, dragged him into a car and transported him to a room where he saw blood covering the walls. He prepared for his death.

Instead the men demanded his identification, asked if he was Christian, savagely beat him when he answered yes, and then sent him away with a warning.

Fadheel wasn’t able to leave Iraq until 2009, and eventually he made his way to El Cajon. Here, he got large tattoos that sprawl around both biceps. One shows hands joined in prayer and strung with rosary beads, and another shows a crown of thorns. After years of hiding, he said he finally feels free to profess his faith publicly.

What permitted such crimes without consequences — the kidnapping of Fadheel and the torture or death of other Christians, like the man in that blogger’s post? After the early years of lawlessness, the random acts of violence and religious targeting gave way to something more systematic: al-Qaeda forces were at work in Iraq, wreaking havoc on Christian and Muslim targets alike, while sectarian militias were targeting one another, as well as minorities.

In 2006, a hallowed mosque was blown up in Samarra, north of Baghdad, raising the bar of callousness because it was a cultural and ancestral institution for Shiite Muslims. It echoed the 2003 destruction of a Shiite mosque in Najaf, also by al-Qaeda affiliates.

The Iraqi government’s apparent indifference or inability to respond to the plight of minorities became evident in 2008, with the removal of an article from the constitution that guaranteed a certain segment of seats to minorities on provincial councils. Christians protested, including Iraqi author and activist Rosie Malek-Yonan, who made a speech in Los Angeles that year.

“With the removal of Article 50, so-called ‘democratic’ Iraq will shift back to being a conservative Islamic State that will no longer recognize the rights of its minorities, particularly the Christians. The reconstruction of Iraq cannot succeed when the rights of the country’s minorities are stripped from them,” Malek-Yonan said then.

The impact may be hard to discern: Was the law observed before? Would removing it make a difference? Would it have made a difference to Fady Antoon?

In 2010, Antoon’s aunt and uncle were killed in Baghdad. One of their relatives gained access to their property afterward and walked in to see the words “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” written on the walls, presumably with the couple’s blood. Money and valuables were untouched.

“Both of them were slaughtered inside their house, I think because they were Christian,” said Antoon, who now lives in Ohio after his own father narrowly escaped being murdered in 2007.

Antoon has struggled with forgiveness. Now he says he’s at peace because he thinks forgiveness is the way forward for a unified Iraq. Even as ruthless, stateless terrorists have infiltrated his country this summer and repeated the kinds of faith-based killings that claimed the lives of his aunt and uncle, he made a point to distinguish between Muslims and fundamentalist insurgents.

“There are many wonderful Muslims that I encountered when I was living in Baghdad,” he said. “I believe there are many wonderful Muslims, who love Christians, who love Jews, who don’t agree with the radical theology.”

Fadi Rassam contributed research and Arabic translation.

Assyrian International News Agency

Up To 175 Injured In Islamabad Clashes

At least 175 people have been injured in clashes between police and protesters in the Pakistani capital.

Police in Islamabad fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters trying to storm the residence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on August 30.

Radio Mashaal says police were among the wounded.

Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak said the protesters were armed with big hammers, wire cutters and axes, and even had a crane.

Defense Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif said police later managed to clear most of the protesters from the parliament building’s parking area and lawns.

Protests demanding Sharif’s resignation were also taking place in Lahore, Karachi and other Pakistani cities, according to TV reports.

In Islamambad, thousands of protesters had marched from parliament where they have been camped out for days now, demanding Sharif step down.

The demonstrators claim Sharif won elections in 2013 due to massive voter fraud.

On August 30, Sharif, who has the backing of parliament and many political parties, once again said he will not go.

The demonstration began with a march in the eastern city of Lahore on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day.

Protest leaders Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri have called for millions of protesters to join but crowds have remained in the thousands and mostly peaceful up till August 30.  

Khan, a cricket-legend-turned politician, described the police action against the crowd in Islamabad as illegal.

“Now we will show this government, we will call for countrywide agitation and we will jam the whole of Pakistan,” Khan said.

Sharif’s spokesman Asif Kirmani said the government had to use force after protesters tried to attack the center of state power in the capital.

It was not clear whether Sharif was at the residence on August 30.

“A state can’t be left at the mercy of some thousand people,” Kirmani said in an interview with Geo News TV.

Based on reporting by Radio Mashaal, AP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A new Treasury Secretary

8-30-14 Omegaman: I heard this morning that there is a new TREASURY SECRETARY; FARIFIELD? ALSO, that General Ham Carter is now in control; I heard that there was to be an announcement from the White House today…can anybody confirm…also hear that the Dong is $ 2.11; Zim .11; and Rupiah around $ 9…(Interesting info OM…Did you hear any rate on the Dinar? Thanks.) AROUND $ 3.40 or so I think.

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August 30 Report on North Iraq — Suicides, Squatters, Escapes

August 30 Report on North Iraq — Suicides, Squatters, Escapes

Posted 2014-08-31 02:28 GMT

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.(AINA) — The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization* has issued its latest report, dated August 30, 2014, on the situation in North Iraq.

A joint delegation representing the Ministry of Human Rights in the federal government and the Hammurabi Organization succeeded in recording many of the abuses suffered by refugees from of Mosul, the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar, and who are now Arbel.

The delegation was briefed on the situation and the needs of the refugees, who have called for immediate liberalization of their villages from ISIS, the immediate delivery of wages and and social benefits of employees, the reissuing of lost identification cards and official documents, and financial compensation for material and other losses.

The delegation included Mr. Mujeeb Abdullah, head of monitoring at the Ministry of Human Rights and Ghazwan Yahya, Rafidh Nazim, Azhar Hamed Elias, the delegation included Hammurabi Organization Louis Marcus Vice President of the Organization and William Warda, Public Relations Officer.

Mosul

  • Most homes of university professors who fled Mosul are completely controlled by ISIS and were looted of all valuables, including furniture.
  • New families are appearing in many of Mosul’s neighborhoods. ISIS are bringing Iraqi and non-Iraqi families from other cities and towns and placing them in the empty homes of the Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkoman.
  • There is a transfer of bodies in open cars every morning in Mosul, indicating a campaign to cleanse certain groups from the city. There is a high probability of the existence of mass graves for the bodies of citizens who are executed.
  • A large, crowded market has sprung up, and it is cynically called “Daash Market.” There is much furniture and household items for sale, as well antiques, old cultural heritage goods and a large selection of mobile phones. All of the merchandise is stolen from homes abandoned by fleeing residents.
  • Families continue to suffer from lack of official documents after ISIS stripped them of everything. HHRO has appealed to the government to facilitate the issuance of new documents.
  • Concern is escalating among the refugees that they will not return to their homes before winter. Nearly all of the refugees do not have winter clothing to protect them from the cold and snow.
  • A number of women and girls who had been sold by ISIS were able to escape and some of them have arrived in the city of Dohuk. ISIS has abducted hundreds of women and girls and sold them in Mosul and in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
  • Many suicides have been recorded among the refugees, especially among the ones who were stranded in remote areas and who lacked food, water and shelter. HHRO confirmed the suicide of a Yazidi in Dohuk on August 29.

See all HHRO reports.

* The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO), an NGO based in Baghdad, Iraq, monitors the human rights situation in Iraq, particularly of minorities such as Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis and Shabak. Founded in 2005, HHRO works for human rights observation and documentation, in addition to implementation of humanitarian relief in Iraq.

HHRO works with various Iraqi and international institutions on variety of issues.

HHRO publishes annual reports on Human Rights situations focusing on Minorities. In 2013, HHRO was recognized and awarded as the best NGO by the United States State Department for its major achievements in the most difficult situations for the year 2012 in Baghdad.

Assyrian International News Agency

Pakistan crisis: scores injured in protests

Islamabad - At least 140 people have been injured as police clashed with thousands of anti-government protesters in the Pakistani capital, as the country’s political crisis turned violent outside the Prime Minister’s official residence.

The clashes broke out on Friday night after thousands of supporters of opposition leaders Tahir-ul-Qadri and Imran Khan attempted to remove a barricade as they approached the PM’s residence.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters, some of whom fought back with wooden batons, while others threw stones and the occasional firebomb in the heart of Islamabad’s high-security “red zone”. 

The police came and fired directly on us and on others in the crowd.

Muhammad Imran, a Qadri supporter.

By 3:00am local time on Sunday morning (22:00 GMT on Saturday), protesters had used vehicles to break down the boundary fence around the National Assembly and were occupying the building’s grounds.

“We left to occupy the area outside the PM house in a peaceful way,” said Muhammad Imran, 25, a Qadri supporter who suffered five rubber bullet wounds. “The police came and fired directly on us and on others in the crowd.”

At least 25 police personnel were also injured in the clashes.

“When we fired tear gas to disperse them, they started throwing rocks at us,” said Shakeel Ahmed, a 45-year-old police officer whose leg was injured by a thrown rock. “It was so intense that I had to run away.”

Supporters of Khan and Qadri have been holding a sit-in near the parliament since August 14 call for the resignation of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif over alleged vote rigging.

Earlier on Friday, talks between government negotiators and teams from both Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) broke down, as several earlier rounds had.

On Thursday the military, which has ruled the country for roughly half of its 67 years of independence, stepped into the crisis, assuming a “mediation role” between the protesters and government

Khan alleges vote rigging in the 2013 general election which Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party swept to power.

Qadri, meanwhile, wants a “national government” of technocrats and bureaucrats, who would then draft a new constitution and system of governance for the country.

“There is no question of resignation by Nawaz Sharif, nor any member from the government,” read a statement released by the PM’s office earlier on Saturday.

Sharif is not present at the official residence in Islamabad, preferring to stay at his home in Lahore, where he normally resides. 

In the wake of Saturday’s violence, the government maintained its defiant tone.

“The government will protect the buildings of state institutions. […] We will not negotiate with a gun to our head,” said Khwaja Asif, the country’s defence minister and a senior PML-N figure, while speaking to local media.

Shortly after the violence began, Khan, who remained at the protest site, called on his supporters to continue their move towards the PM’s residence.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from inside his vehicle at the protest site, Qadri confirmed that “negotiations are over”.

“That’s why we decided to move towards the PM house and do a sit-in and then you can see how they rained down rubber bullets and tear gas on us.”

A security source, meanwhile, confirmed to Al Jazeera that the army had been deployed to protect certain government buildings, but that they were not currently engaging protesters.

Follow Asad Hashim on Twitter: @AsadHashim

620

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Obama Faces Criticism for Dithering against Jihadists

NEW YORK– US President Barack Obama faced criticism on Friday after an admission that he did not have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State (IS) jihadists who have overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria and threaten Kurdish zones.

Obama appeared before journalists on Thursday and said he had asked military and security chiefs to brainstorm ideas for defeating IS – which is also known as ISIS and ISIL – and acknowledged that: “We don’t have a strategy yet”.

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, who chairs the House intelligence committee, attacked Obama for dithering against jihadists, whose Blitzkrieg advance began in June. “I’m not sure the severity of the problem has really sunk in to the administration just yet,” he said.

In a press briefing on Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest sought to counter the attacks by asserting that the administration is already launching airstrikes that have stalled the IS advance and is working on long-term solutions.

“Any strike or military action, if ordered, will be a component of a broader strategy for defeating ISIL and mitigating the threat that they pose to the US and Western interests,” he said. “It will be done with our partners in the Iraqi government, governments in the region and countries around the world. This will be a joint effort.”

The US military has carried out aerial surveillance on IS for months and on August 8 launched air strikes against the al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq to counter assaults on Peshmerga forces in Kurdish zones following a rapid advance.

Obama’s decision earlier this week to conduct surveillance flights on IS forces in Syria raised questions about potential US airstrikes there – a controversial move that could necessitate cooperation with the country’s President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of atrocities on civilians.

Another complexity for the White House is the fragility of Iraq, where national forces put up little resistance to IS, new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces sectarian woes and Kurdish leaders express desires for independence.

“The only way to push back on ISIL advances and restore stability and security across the whole country, is through a new inclusive government,” Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s minister for the Middle East, said on Friday after visiting the region. “I urged all Iraq’s leaders to work together urgently to form a new broad based, representative government that is able to respond to the needs of the whole of Iraq.”

Meanwhile in the US, Kurdish-American fundraisers at the Salahadeen Center of Nashville, in Tennessee, will send 600 boxes of donated shoes, clothes and baby products to Kurdish refugee camps that cater to Yazidis and other minorities who recently fled IS terror in Sinjar.

“Everybody here is talking about the crisis and what we can to respond positively and help the situation in our Kurdish nation,” Nawzad Hawrami, a charity organizer, told Rudaw. “The response has been wonderful; it doesn’t matter whether we are trying to help Muslims or non-Muslims.”

LINK

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The Secret Emails Helping to Smuggle Britons Into Syria

Turkish authorities believe up to 20 Britons are currently waiting in safe houses or hotels for the signal to cross over into Syria.

They are among around 100 foreign militants that Turkey says are suspected of being in a network of IS buildings waiting to be told they should move on.

Intelligence officers warn there has been an alarming increase in the number of ‘volunteers’ travelling from the UK since the IS proclaimed it has established a caliphate stretching from Syria into Iraq.

With more than 250 extremists said to have returned to the UK — 200 of them to London — anti-terror specialists are involved in an exhaustive operation to examine the entry records of all Britons entering Turkey with a £20 visa bought on arrival.

They are cross-checking those who have left, how long they stayed and whether they have overstayed the 90-day period of their visa, in a bid to identify who may be in Syria, and who may have returned to the UK.

Some are said to be trading passports with fellow fighters of similar age and appearance to use when leaving Turkey, in order to confuse the security services.

Intelligence agencies have learned would-be jihadists waiting in safe houses are given a password to a free email address, which they access once a day to find instructions left for them as draft messages.

Recruits are told they must never send any emails from the account, but merely read the drafts, then delete them. The sophisticated system allows handlers to pass on information without leaving an electronic hallmark.

According to officials in Ankara, the passwords are changed on a regular basis to ensure the users are not tracked — and in case any new recruits are actually sleeper agents for the security services.

An estimated 500 Britons have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight. Some believe the figure could be twice as high when including residents who are also foreign nationals.

Communications monitoring and analysis by specialists both inside Iraq and at GCHQ, the Government’s spy headquarters in Cheltenham, is said to have provided further evidence relating to Britons joining the IS jihad.

A year ago, potential recruits would travel to Syria from the UK to Turkey, often either as tourists on holiday packages to Istanbul or Ankara. Now they are travelling via one or two other countries in a bid to avoid suspicion at air and sea ports.

Militants are told to travel to central European countries such as Germany, Hungary, Serbia or Bosnia, wait a few days and then travel on, preferably by road or train, to Turkey.

News of IS’s complicated methods emerged amid reports that murdered journalist James Foley was waterboarded during his time as the jihadists’ prisoner.

The American’s captors — believed to be British — appeared to model their technique on that of the CIA, which waterboarded three terrorism suspects captured after the September 11.

The torture involves captives having water poured over their noses and mouths until they feel as if they are suffocating, or being plunged beneath the water in a bath.

Yesterday Home Secretary Theresa May announced the terror threat to the UK has been raised from substantial to severe meaning a terrorist attack in ‘highly likely’, as David Cameron unveiled plans to strip terror suspects of their passports.

Assyrian International News Agency

Dedicated to ALL Dinarians and Dongars

8-30-14 JimBake: This commentary is dedicated to ALL Dinarians and Dongars!

By purchasing and holding Iraqi Dinar (and vietnamese dong), you have done some amazing things. Hopefully, the following will bring to light just how amazing you truly are.

1) You were willing to face the very real possibility of substantial loss of your hard earned money by purchasing a currency with an uncertain future.

2) You were willing to face likely scorn and ridicule from friends and family as you tried to share your hopes and dreams with them.

3) You provided a vital source of funds to assist a newly developing nation, fresh out of years of dictatorship and war, to help them get their feet back solidly on the ground.

4) You linked your future and the future of your family and community to the future of the country and people of Iraq and Vietnam.

5) You used your own money and not a dime of taxpayer money to make your purchase.

6) You helped send a message of support and commitment to the government and people of Iraq and Vietnam… and you sent a message of support to all the troops to help finish the job and purpose they bravely sacrificed to achieve.

7) You endured through months and even years of ups and downs as this incredible global event struggled to completion.

8) You stood together, holding a common goal and desire for yourself and your fellow Dinarians. The desire for a better life!

9) You very likely changed the course of the Worlds future by having the courage and fortitude to stay the course throughout this difficult process.

10) You invested wisely in the future of Humanity and your own life!

So, when you receive your rewards, stand proud and salute yourself for your incredible vision and willingness to do what you did! I wonder what you’ll do next!

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Everything is indeed finished

8-30-14 BlessingGalore: Received call from my sources as well which told me def Tues or Wed of this week. They are saying next week for sure. Grumblings are that everything is indeed finished. Still staying level on this one have been here to many times to count but praying this in for everyone. I know that are a lot of people hurting out there that need this more than me. Blessing Galore to everyone lets pray this one in peeps!

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Report: ISIS Selling Yazidi Women in Syria

(CNN) — It took U.S. airstrikes against ISIS positions, airlifts of U.S. and international aid, and rescue efforts by Kurdish Peshmerga forces to help thousands of Yazidis escape imminent danger from ISIS forces in northern Iraq.

But the nightmare continues for hundreds of Yazidi girls and women, unable to get out of harm’s way, who are being being sold by ISIS to its fighters in Syria, according to a human rights group.

In the past few weeks, ISIS has distributed or sold about 300 Yazidi girls and women it abducted in Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group aligned with the opposition in Syria.

In ISIS’ eyes, the girls and women are “slaves of the spoils of war with the infidels,” the Syria monitors said.

According to the human rights group, the terrorists sold the girls and women for about $ 1,000 each, claiming they had converted to Islam so that they can marry ISIS fighters.

The human rights group documented at least 27 cases of women who were sold and married to ISIS militants in the Aleppo suburbs, Raqqa suburbs and Al-Hassakah.

ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, was previously referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Attacks in Iraq

At least three Iraqi soldiers were killed Saturday in a suicide car bombing south of Iraq’s capital, police said, dealing a blow to the military in that area for a second straight day as government forces fight ISIS militants across the country.

Seven other soldiers were injured in the attack, which happened at an army checkpoint in Yousifiya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim area about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Baghdad, police in Baghdad said.

It wasn’t immediately clear who conducted the bombing.

The blast came a day after nine Iraqi soldiers and Shiite Muslim militiamen were killed in clashes with suspected ISIS militants in nearby Mahmoudiya, a Sunni Muslim community about 29 kilometers south of Baghdad.

During the height of Iraq’s insurgency last decade following a U.S.-led invasion, Yousifiya and Mahmoudiya, along with the town of Latifiya, made up the Sunni area known as the “Triangle of Death” because it was an al Qaeda stronghold and a lair for criminals.

Iraqi forces under a Shiite-led regime, as well as ethnic Kurdish forces, have been battling ISIS, a Sunni Muslim extremist and terrorist group that this year took over large portions of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria for what it calls its new caliphate.

Well before ISIS made gains, Iraq was beset for years by sectarian violence, with Sunnis feeling politically marginalized under a Shiite-led government since the U.S.-led ouster of longtime leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.

CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

Protesters march on Pakistan PM’s residence

Police in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad have fired tear gas and rubber bullets on anti-government protesters attempting to storm Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s official residence, injuring six people, officials said..

Some 25,000 people began to march on the prime minister’s house late on Saturday after talks with the government mediated by the army failed to end the impasse.

Protesters have been camped outside parliament since August 15, demanding Sharif to resign and claiming that the election which swept him to power last year was rigged.

“The police are continuing to fire tear gas to disperse them,” an AFP news agency journalist at the scene reported.

The reporter said the shelling began when the protesters tried to remove some barricades located in front of the residences of the prime minister and president using cranes.

Wasim Raja, a spokesman for the government-run Pakistan Institute for Medical Sciences, Islamabad’s main government hospital, said: “We have received six people, they have rubber bullet injuries.”

Television pictures showed police in riot gear and some bloodied protesters being carried to ambulances.

The government issued a defiant statement saying Sharif would not be stepping down.

“There is no question of resignation or proceeding on leave by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, nor any member from the government side has made such suggestion,” the statement said.

Sharif had earlier dismissed the two-week old impasse as a “tiny storm” that would end soon.

The crisis deepended on Thursday after the government asked the army to mediate, raising fears the military would use the situation to enact a “soft coup” and increase its dominance over civilian authorities.

269

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Hakim calls for accelerated rendering cluster candidates to form the Government as soon as the sensitive stage

The President of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim, on Saturday, the political blocs to expedite the submission of candidates for Cabinet positions, describing the current stage in the important and sensitive.

Al-Hakim said at a press conference held in his Office with House speaker Salim Al-jubouri, we call on the political blocs to precious to be more flexible and expedite the submission of candidates to form a new Government quickly, and the investment of international support “.

Hakim promised stage as “important and sensitive and require a stand together to face the spilling the blood of daash innocent Iraqis.”

The blocks and the political parties are expected to form a Government and has been the scene of some tensions and high ceilings in some demands for the formation of the upcoming Government.

The religious reference has warned of raising claims of blocks leading to obstruct the formation of the Government.

He said Sheikh Abdul Mahdi karbalai representative on Friday 22 August that “being talked to each block of blocks submitted their demands and set conditions for their participation in the Government, and not in the right in principle, but to know that the ceiling requirements and conditions will hinder the formation of the Government, and argue that demanding the rights of audience and popular base must be aware that others also audience and popularity and does not allow them to accept what they consider excess rights.” end quote.

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Hakim calls for accelerated rendering cluster candidates to form the Government as soon as the sensitive stage

The President of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim, on Saturday, the political blocs to expedite the submission of candidates for Cabinet positions, describing the current stage in the important and sensitive.

Al-Hakim said at a press conference held in his Office with House speaker Salim Al-jubouri, we call on the political blocs to precious to be more flexible and expedite the submission of candidates to form a new Government quickly, and the investment of international support “.

Hakim promised stage as “important and sensitive and require a stand together to face the spilling the blood of daash innocent Iraqis.”

The blocks and the political parties are expected to form a Government and has been the scene of some tensions and high ceilings in some demands for the formation of the upcoming Government.

The religious reference has warned of raising claims of blocks leading to obstruct the formation of the Government.

He said Sheikh Abdul Mahdi karbalai representative on Friday 22 August that “being talked to each block of blocks submitted their demands and set conditions for their participation in the Government, and not in the right in principle, but to know that the ceiling requirements and conditions will hinder the formation of the Government, and argue that demanding the rights of audience and popular base must be aware that others also audience and popularity and does not allow them to accept what they consider excess rights.” end quote.

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Hakim calls for accelerated rendering cluster candidates to form the Government as soon as the sensitive stage

The President of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim, on Saturday, the political blocs to expedite the submission of candidates for Cabinet positions, describing the current stage in the important and sensitive.

Al-Hakim said at a press conference held in his Office with House speaker Salim Al-jubouri, we call on the political blocs to precious to be more flexible and expedite the submission of candidates to form a new Government quickly, and the investment of international support “.

Hakim promised stage as “important and sensitive and require a stand together to face the spilling the blood of daash innocent Iraqis.”

The blocks and the political parties are expected to form a Government and has been the scene of some tensions and high ceilings in some demands for the formation of the upcoming Government.

The religious reference has warned of raising claims of blocks leading to obstruct the formation of the Government.

He said Sheikh Abdul Mahdi karbalai representative on Friday 22 August that “being talked to each block of blocks submitted their demands and set conditions for their participation in the Government, and not in the right in principle, but to know that the ceiling requirements and conditions will hinder the formation of the Government, and argue that demanding the rights of audience and popular base must be aware that others also audience and popularity and does not allow them to accept what they consider excess rights.” end quote.

LINK

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Falling on Deaf Ears: Christian Leaders in Iraq Again Plead for Aid

Falling on Deaf Ears: Christian Leaders in Iraq Again Plead for Aid

Posted 2014-08-30 18:41 GMT

The Patriarchs and Church leaders of Eastern rite churches have again denounced what they call “crimes against humanity” committed by Islamic State (formerly ISIS) militants in Iraq and Syria. Meeting outside Beirut, Lebanon, the Patriarchs condemned the persecution and killings of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities, saying the continued existence of Christians in the region is being threatened by the jihadi group’s campaign of terror.

Thanking those who’ve been offering humanitarian assistance to the displaced, the Patriarchs are calling on the international community to stop the “criminal actions” of Islamic State and are challenging Islamic institutions to forcefully condemn the extremist group.

The statement is the latest in a series of actions taken by leaders of the Catholic Church’s most ancient rites which originated in the Middle East some two thousand years ago.

Last week, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai of Lebanon visited Christian and Yazidi refugees in Erbil, in northern Iraqi Kurdistan. He joined calls from the Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Sako, to stop the massacre of innocent civilians.

Earlier in August, the Eastern Patriarchs issued a statement saying “Christians in countries of the Middle East are suffering from harsh persecution, being kicked out from their homes and lands by takfiri extremists amid total international silence.”

“We call upon the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court to take swift, effective and immediate salvaging action,” the statement said.

The Patriarchs appealed to the United Nations to take firm action “to ensure the return of the people to their lands by all possible means and in the quickest possible time.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Mutual cooperation has been discussed between international bank and Basra governor

The governor of Basra Majid al-Nasrawi discussed in Basra on Wednesday with the executive manager of the Standard and Chandler Bank, Ghavin Weshart, the possibility of mutual economic cooperation.

According to a statement, received from Nasrawi’s office, “The meeting discussed means of sustaining economic between the local government and the international banks since Basra is expecting huge strategic projects and these projects require sober international banks to provide financial support.”

The statement concluded, “Basra is expected to have a great economic growth which forces the local government to build a compatible banking system since Basra is qualified to be the economic capital of Iraq.”

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Islamic State Requires Saudi Arabia to Rethink Its Support for Extremism


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Assyrian International News Agency

Kyiv Frees Two Russian Embassy Guards

Moscow says two guards at Russia’s embassy in Kyiv, who were detained by Ukrainian authorities on weapons charges, have been released and returned to Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the release on August 30, saying it followed negotiations with Ukrainian authorities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier that the embassy workers were detained on August 28 on suspicion of carrying grenades as they were leaving a cafe in Kyiv.

It said the employees, including the personal bodyguard of the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, were held despite the fact they carry diplomatic passports.

Moscow had called the incident a “provocation” and demanded the release of the employees.

There has been no official statement regarding the reported incident by Ukrainian officials.

Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

UN peacekeepers in Syria freed in firefight

Thirty-two UN peacekeepers from the Philippines have been rescued from unidentified fighters who had attacked their post on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the United Nations has said.

But another group of peacekeepers, also from the Philippines, remained trapped by the fighters, and a gun battle was ongoing, the UN press office said on Saturday.

“All 32 Filipino personnel from this position have been extricated and are now safe,” the UN said in a statement, adding that the remaining troops, at a seperate border post, were still under mortar and machine gun fire.

“The UN peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position,” it said. Officials in the Philippines told Reuters news agency that there was a total of 72 peacekeepers trapped in the area.

The UN mission, known as UNDOF, has nearly 12,000 troops from six countries – Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines – who monitor the line between the Israeli-occupied area and Syrian-held area of the Golan Heights.

Earlier on Saturday, Philippines Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that Philippine peacekeepers at one UN encampment were attacked, but those at another were “extricated”.

There were 40 Filipino troops in the encampment that came under attack, and 35 in the second, according to the Philippines military.

Al Jazeera’s Mike Hannah, reporting from West Jerusalem, said: “Round about 6 am local time this morning, one of the UN bases in the disengagement zone came under fire. It’s not clear who was firing on the personnel at that particular base, however the UN Rapid Deployment Force secured the route to this isolated base.”

“They then moved through the route reaching the peacekeepers in the base itself safely extracting them and moving them out along the secured route back into the main UN base, which is in the Israel-occupied part of the Golan Heights.”

The UN said that there were no casualties.

The unidentified fighters had also seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers on Thursday. The Fijian peacekeepers were captured at their post about eight kilometres away from the Philippine troops.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from West Jerusalem, said that there was no news on the fate of the Fijian contingent. 

“Up until now the UN have been relying on negotiations to try and get the Fijians out, but as it seems, the troops from the Philippines were released as a result of military action,” said our correspondent.

She added that there was little detail available on who was involved in the fight. 

The Golan is a strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, and Syria and Israel technically remain at war over the disputed region.

UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running about 70 kilometres from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan.

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Government set

Chattels:  [when does government get in place? Is this still delayed?] the constitutional ” deadline ” was and is September 9/10, depending upon which article you read/believe, there has been no change or delay with such. the PM – designate, the ministers and the ministerial program (government framework, National Paper, etc.) is voted upon by the Parliament all at once…it should be done by the 9th, is my thinking, it seems very important to all that the constitutional deadline be honored at a minimum.

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Washington Still Doesn’t Have an Iraq Strategy

In 2006, US Vice-President Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware, proposed a plan to keep Iraq united and bring American soldiers home. The plan called for granting the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiite semi-autonomous federal regions.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post in August 2006, Biden argued that the sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq had led to more bloodshed than the violence inflicted by foreign terrorist organizations.

A long-term solution, he said, should not solely focus on terrorism but needed to address the underlying causes of the violence: the sectarian war and the lack of functioning institutions. Both tasks, Biden argued, could not be tackled solely by the United States.

He criticized the Bush administration for not having a coherent Iraq strategy, while those who were optimistic that the American military presence would control violence criticized Biden’s plan, saying it would divide Iraq.

History has proved Biden correct. The biggest challenge facing Iraq is not the rise of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) but the social, economic and political factors unleashed by a sectarian conflict that has made Iraq a fertile ground for terrorist organizations. Addressing the sectarian conflict requires a broader engagement by the US and its regional allies.

Many at the time dismissed Biden’s vision, but the mood seems to have shifted in Washington. There is a growing consensus among policymakers in Congress and the White House that the sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis lies at the heart of Iraq’s current problems.

Iraqi Kurds loom large in this debate. They are praised for their fight against IS, for protecting persecuted Yezidis and Christians and for creating an island of stability within an increasingly chaotic Iraq.

Critics of Obama’s policy, which advocates for a unified Iraq, argue that the country is already a de facto divided state and the US should back Kurdish aspirations for independence. A strong and stable Kurdistan, the logic goes, could become a reliable US ally in the region.

This new thinking is evidenced by the Obama administration’s decision to bypass Baghdad and directly arm Iraqi Kurds, and the muted response by American policymakers.

Yet, the US still does not have an Iraq strategy.

To provide a long-term solution to the IS threat, Iraq needs a government that embraces Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. Maliki’s sectarian policies have played an important role in igniting the current sectarian conflict and his removal is a welcome development. But it is not enough.

Iraqis must form a united front against IS and create an inclusive government. The country’s biggest challenge will be to carry out out both tasks simultaneously.

Forming a government that represents all ethnic and sectarian groups is no easy task when a radical, well-armed group that has a considerable social base is making steady advances within your borders. It is a task that calls for joint action by Iraqis and international actors.

US airstrikes may have stopped the advance of IS into Erbil and Baghdad, but Washington does not have enough leverage to force Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds into a joint military action against IS and speed up the process of forming a new government. It needs help from other stakeholders.

By mobilizing Shiite militias around Baghdad, Iran played an important role in halting the IS advance toward the capital. Tehran also played a key role in Maliki’s decision to finally relinquish power.

As a result, the US needs to work with Iran to engage Shiites to counter the IS threat and create an inclusive government. The US will need its Sunni allies to play a similar role on the Sunni front.

A key piece of the Iraq puzzle is the Kurds, a group that will play a critical role in determining Iraq’s future course. The US intervention defending Erbil against IS and the arming of the Kurds by the CIA has given Washington enough leverage over Kurds to work toward a long-term solution to the chaos in Iraq.

Iraq’s problems call for a wider and more comprehensive engagement. Despite the shift in Washington’s thinking on Iraq since Biden devised his plan 8 years ago, there is one thing still intact: Washington does not have an Iraq strategy. And as it stands now, the US also doesn’t have the political will to become more involved.

Gonul Tol is Executive Director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute.

Assyrian International News Agency

EU Chooses Tusk, Mogherini For Top Positions

The president of the European Council, Herman Von Rompuy, has said on Twitter that EU leaders have chosen Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as their new chairman and Italian Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini as the new EU foreign-policy chief.

The choice of Tusk and Mogherini to fill the key EU positions came as EU heads of state met on August 30 in Brussels.

Tusk has been Poland’s prime minister for two terms. The 57-year-old center-right politician from what is by far the biggest of the formerly communist EU states is an economic liberal and advocate of free trade.

In the Ukraine crisis, Poland alongside Britain has led the drive for tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Prior to being named Italy’s foreign minister in February, the 41-year-old Mogherini was a member of the Italian parliament since 2008.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Interview: Would A Tusk Presidency Help EU Look East?

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is widely expected to replace Herman Von Rompuy as the president of the European Council as EU leaders gather in Brussels on August 30 to decide on the bloc’s top posts.

RFE/RL’s Rikard Jozwiak speaks to Joanna Wajda, the Brussels correspondent for Polish public broadcaster TVP, about what to expect if Tusk is chosen for the post.

RFE/RL: What would it mean for Poland if Donald Tusk became EU Council president?

Joanna Wajda: It would be a big success for Poland. In Poland, there’s a big demand for this kind of success, especially after the 10th anniversary [this year] of our entering into the European Union. So in Poland, both the opposition and the [ruling] coalition are keeping their fingers crossed.

RFE/RL: Do you think that the EU’s policy toward the Eastern Partnership program would change with Tusk as the EU Council president?

Wajda: This is the question. What could the president of the European Council do? Because he is, in my opinion, more of a coordinator, more of a person who is responsible for preparing the European summit and finding compromises.

But I think he could show all of Europe and the European leaders that, hey, we have the eastern part of Europe as well, and we have to look at them and see their problems. I think it could be a signal to Moscow, if he becomes the new leader, that the European Union is putting pressure on eastern issues as well.

RFE/RL: What sort of leader is Tusk?

Wajda: He is quite successful in Polish politics, because he’s been the prime minister for two terms, something that’s happening for the first time in Polish politics [since the fall of communism]. The opposition in Poland is very strong; there’s a big fight between the opposition Law and Justice party and the ruling Civic Platform, and he’s been quite successful in this fight.

I think he has the ability to build consensus. He has the ability to be liked by other people, because he’s not an angry man or a shouter. He is rather open to compromise. So I think that he has the kind of abilities that can be helpful to him as a new leader in the European Union.

RFE/RL: The main criticism of him seems to be his lack of language skills. What languages does he actually speak apart from his native Polish and German?

Wajda: There are lots of legends out there about whether he can speak English or not. We’ve heard from his people that he’s learning English, that he’s good at speaking it but is a little too shy to speak to journalists. During the last European summit, for example, we could see from some shots from the meeting that he speaks to his counterparts in English.

I don’t know what his level of English is, but I’ve heard that he’s quite good. He’s had lots of lessons, so I think that it’s not a big problem with English, because I think over these next three months he could learn more and more before he takes the post on December 1. With French it’s a bigger problem.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Confusion over coup attempt in Lesotho

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had accused his country’s army of mounting a coup against him as he visited South Africa, but the military denied seeking to oust him and said its soldiers had returned to barracks.

Political tensions have been high in the tiny kingdom since June when there was a power struggle after Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence. At the time, South Africa warned against simmering conflict.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Saturday from an undisclosed location in South Africa, Thabane said the army had taken over government buildings and said that the current situation in Lesotho can be defined as a coup.

“I am talking to you from a venue in South Africa because I left yesterday late and this morning the army commander and the cohorts following him were all over the streets looking for me, what they were going to do – I do not know,” the prime minister told Al Jazeera.

But Lesotho’s deputy Prime Minister Mothet Joa Metsing denied that the landlocked nation, located within eastern South Africa, was undergoing an attempted coup.

“This is not a coup – let us get that straight. I would not still be a deputy prime minister now; the prime minister would not still be the prime minister if a coup [had] taken place in Lesotho,” said Metsing, speaking to Al Jazeera from Mafeteng.

He refused to condemn the actions of the army, saying that the army had given reasons as to why it occupied government buildings.

Metsing had previously vowed to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane after the political situation there escalated in June.

The military had gathered intelligence that the police were going to arm factions participating in a demonstration planned for Monday by one of the coalition parties, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Major Ntlele Ntoi, defence forces spokesman, told the Associated Press news agency.

Police disarmed 

The army disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, to avoid bloodshed, Ntoi said. An exchange of gunfire between the military, youths and police injured one soldier and four policemen, he said.

“The arms have been removed and they are in military custody. The military has returned to the barracks,” Ntoi said,  denying reports of any coup attempt.

“We are not in a position now or in the future to stage a coup. All we do is to carry out our mandate to secure our country and property.”

Diplomatic sources said the army made its move after the prime minister had fired the army commander, Lieutenant-General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli. The army spokesman said Kamoli was still in charge of the military.

But South Africa’s foreign ministry said they were monitoring the situation in Lesotho on Saturday, adding that an unconsitutional change of government would not be tolerated by the region.

“By all accounts the actions of the Lesotho defence force bear the hallmarks of a coup d’etat,” said Clayson Monyela, the spokesman for the ministry.

Since its independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho has undergone a number of military coups. In 1998 at least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died and large parts of Maseru were damaged during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting.

The landlocked country’s first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power. The coalition has since been fragile.

Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002.

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Russian Politician Beaten After Reporting Soldiers’ Funerals

A Russian politician says he has been badly beaten after publicizing the funerals of two soldiers who may have died while fighting in Ukraine.

Lev Shlosberg, a newspaper publisher who represents the liberal opposition Yabloko party in the regional assembly in the northwestern city of Pskov, said he was attacked late on August 29 near his home.

“They attacked me from behind, I did not see any of them,” Shlosberg told media from his hospital ward on August 30.

Shlosberg’s paper published the investigation into the funerals of two Pskov-based paratroopers last week.

The report added to a trail of evidence suggesting that Russian soldiers have been killed in eastern Ukraine, contradicting denials by Moscow that it is lending military support to separatist rebels there.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Russian Service and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Suicide Bomber Strikes Checkpoint South Of Baghdad

A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives has killed at least 11 people and wounded 30 in a town just south of Baghdad.

Police and medical sources said the attack on August 30 targeted a major checkpoint at a northern entrance to the town of Yusifiya, 15 kilometers from the capital.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In recent weeks Iraq has stepped up a military campaign against Islamic State militants, who have seized large swathes of the country.

Based on reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Kerry Calls For ‘Global Coalition’ Against Islamic State

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a “global coalition” to combat Islamic State militants who have seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

In an op-ed published in “The New York Times” late on August 29, Kerry called for “the broadest possible coalition of nations” to confront the jihadists’ “genocidal agenda.”

Kerry’s comments come before a NATO summit in Wales on September 4-5.

Kerry said U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel would “enlist the broadest possible assistance” on the sidelines of the summit.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is still developing a comprehensive plan to combat Islamic State.

Following the summit, Kerry said he and Hagel would travel to the Middle East to build support “among the countries that are most directly threatened.”

Based on reporting by “The New York Times” and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Syrian rebels attack UN peacekeepers in Golan

Syrian rebels holding dozens of Fijian UN peacekeepers hostage have attacked Filipino troops in the Golan Heights, Philippine officials said.

Philippine peacekeepers at one UN encampment were attacked, but those at another were “extricated,” Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters in a series of text messages, adding that the attack started early on Saturday Syrian time.

Philippine military spokesman Ramon Zagala told reporters, “there is an ongoing firefight, but all Filipinos are safe.”

There were 40 Filipino troops in the encampment that came under attack, and 35 in the second, according to the Philippine military.

The Syrian rebels seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers on Thursday.

The rebels then demanded that the 75 Filipinos manning two separate UN encampments 4 km apart surrender their weapons, but they refused.

The situation of the peacekeepers, whose mission monitors a 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel, remains “very, very fluid,” the UN secretary-general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York.

The UN said in a statement that it had received assurances from credible sources that the Fijian peacekeepers “are safe and in good health.”

The statement added that they had been informed “the intention behind holding the peacekeepers was to remove them from an active battlefield to a safe area for their own protection.”

The UN mission, known as UNDOF, has 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines.

But the Philippine government said last week that it would bring home its 331 peacekeeping forces from the Golan Heights after their tour of duty ends in October, amid deteriorating security in the area.

Various Syrian rebel groups have been engaged in intense fighting with the Syrian military in and near the Golan Heights.

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Barroso: EU Ready To Impose ‘Strong’ Russia Sanctions

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says the EU is ready to take “very strong and clear measures” against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Barroso told a joint news conference in Brussels on August 30 with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that he would propose a broad range of options to member states.

Barroso added that the EU was “keeping our doors open to a political solution” and that any tightening of sanctions was intended not to escalate the crisis but to push Moscow to negotiate.

The EU, he said, did not want a “new Cold War,” saying such a scenario would be “detrimental” to Europe.

Poroshenko, condemning Russian intervention in his country, said there were now thousands of foreign troops and hundreds of foreign tanks in Ukraine.

Both were speaking ahead of a summit meeting with European Union leaders.

Based on reporting by Reuters and BBC

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Chilean unemployment rate 6.5% vs. 6.6% forecast

Investing.com – The unemployment rate in Chile remained unchanged unexpectedly last month, industry data showed on Friday.

In a report, Estadisticas de Chile said that Chilean Unemployment Rate remained unchanged at an annual rate of 6.5%, from 6.5% in the preceding month.

Analysts had expected Chilean Unemployment Rate to rise to 6.6% last month.

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For Displaced Ukrainians, A Troubled Return To School

Eduard Leontiyev is gearing up for the first day of school in Ulyanovsk, his new home city.

The teenager moved to this Russian industrial city, 700 kilometers east of Moscow, last month after fleeing the fighting in eastern Ukraine with his parents and four siblings.

The conflict has turned his life upside down, but Eduard is putting on a brave face. He says he’s looking forward to starting school in Ulyanovsk. “It’s a great school, I like it a lot,” he says. “It has new plastic windows, spacious corridors, and two gyms.”

For most families forced out of their homes by the violent clashes pitting the Ukrainian government against pro-Russian separatist rebels, the new school year is fraught with uncertainty. As they scramble to rebuild their lives, many parents still don’t know whether their children will be able to start school on September 1.

“I want my children to go to school, but I don’t have any answer from schools yet,” says Marina Kononova, who recently arrived in the Siberian city of Tomsk and lives in a packed dormitory with other Ukrainian refugees. “This uncertainty is really frightening.”

School supplies are also a major worry. Parents who have secured a spot for their children usually have no money to equip them for school and rely on donations.

Far From Home

According to the United Nations, more than 700,000 people, many of them children, have fled Ukraine for Russia in recent months.

Under the quota system established by the Russian authorities, refugees are being dispatched to cities and towns across the country. With little say in the matter, many have ended up in remote, economically depressed areas thousands of kilometers from home. 

Ukrainian refugees arrive in the Siberian city of Magadan on August 26.

This week, more than 180 refugees arrived on a special flight to the northeastern Siberian city of Yakutsk, known as the world’s coldest city. The plane then dropped off another 200 Ukrainians in Magadan, the capital of an isolated region that once hosted a vast network of Soviet prison camps.

“We were asked to choose between Yakutsk and Magadan, I picked Magadan,” says refugee Irena Gracheva. “It’s still better than sitting in a basement under the bombs with my son.”

Starting Over

In Ukraine itself, the conflict has also displaced scores of children — more than 29,000, according to official figures. And with the fighting showing no signs of abating in Ukraine, internally displaced children there, too, are hastily being transferred to new schools.

Anna Huz fled Donetsk in June with her 12-year-old daughter, Irena. The family has been offered temporary accommodation on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Irena will start school on September 1. “It was very distressing for her at the beginning, she didn’t want to leave Donetsk,” Huz says. “She said that’s where her friends are, that’s where they go to school together.”

Irena has since befriended other displaced children, which has helped ease her fears about the new school year. “When we arrived in Kyiv she was disoriented,” Huz says. “But we live alongside other refugee children, some of whom will go to the same school. So things are a little better now.”

Irena went to a Ukrainian-language school in Donetsk — a city where the majority of pupils are taught in Russian — meaning she can at least continue studying in the same language in Kyiv.

Many Schools In Ruins

Many schools in eastern Ukraine have sustained extensive damage during the fighting. At least 117 schools have been either completely or partially destroyed in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — almost one in 10.

In the areas controlled by Kyiv, local authorities, aid groups, and volunteers have joined forces to fix the damage. “Most schools in Slovyansk are already repaired, work is in full swing,” says Fedir Menshakov, who leads a volunteer initiative to rebuild a local school. “I think most schools will greet students on September 1. In towns that have just been freed, things are not as encouraging.”

Lack of funding, however, is hampering reconstruction efforts. Even in the school Menshakov is helping restore, only the walls, roof, and basic furniture will be ready in time for the new school year.

In addition to being shelled, the building was heavily pillaged — computers, beds, schoolbooks, and even doors were looted. The school has also had to hire new teachers to replace those who fled the region.

Bystanders watch a fire consuming a school in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on August 27.

In large swathes of rebel-held territory, however, the first day of school has been postponed until further notice due to ongoing hostilities. Ukraine’s education minister announced on August 29 that half the schools in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, almost 900 institutions, will not reopen on September 1.

And with many of these schools in ruins, the first day in the classroom remains a distant prospect for thousands of Ukrainian children.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran’s President Condemns ‘Oppressive’ U.S. Sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has condemned the latest round of Western sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The United States on August 29 announced newly imposed sanctions against more than 25 Iranian entities and individuals that Washington accuses of a range of violations — including expanding Iran’s nuclear activities, evading sanctions, and supporting terrorism in the region.

Six Iranian banks, airlines, and a research institute are among the sanctioned entities.

Rohani, in an address on August 30, called the sanctions an “oppression.”

“Sanction is oppression and aggression and we should stand against this aggression, suppress the aggressor, and do not let the sanctions be kept in place and repeated,” he was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Western states have suspected Iran of covertly seeking nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, charges denied by Tehran.

Based on reporting by Fars and AP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Lesotho military in ‘attempted coup’

Military units in Lesotho have surrounded government and police buildings and gunfire has been heard in the small mountainous southern African kingdom, in what diplomats said appeared to be an attempted coup.

The military seized control of the tiny police headquarters and jammed radio stations and phones in the early hours on Saturday, a government minister and member of the ruling coalition told the AFP news agency.

“The armed forces, the special forces of Lesotho, have taken the headquarters of the police,” Thesele Maseribane, sports minister and leader of the Basotho National Party, said, describing a possible coup attempt in the small nation located in eastern South Africa.

“At four o’clock this morning (02:00G MT) they were driving around the residence of the prime minister and my residence,” he said.

“There have been some gunfighting since 4am local time up until 7 or 8. They’ve jammed phones, they have jammed everything.”

South African radio stations also reported that private radio stations were off the air in the nation, which is geographically surrounded by its larger neighbour.

Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from Johannesburg, said: “The army is on the street in vehicles, and appear to have taken control of the police station in the capital.

“This is unhappy news for South Africa’s government who tried to mediate after an attempted coup in June this year, when parliament was closed.

“This could be move by the Lesotho Congress Party to demand the reopening of parliament.”

Feuding coalition

Political tensions have been running high in the landlocked country since June when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended the country’s parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote amid feuding in the two-year-old coalition government.

Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing had vowed to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

South Africa and the regional Southern African Development Community, of which Lesotho is a member, have warned the political rivals in the country that any unconstitutional change of government would not be tolerated.

Since independence in 1966, Lesotho has undergone a number of military coups.

In 1998, at least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died and large parts of Maseru were damaged during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting.

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Forex

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The pound held gains against the U.S. dollar on Friday, but sterling’s upside was expected to remain limited as strong U.S. consumer sentiment data added further support for the greenback.

GBP/USD hit 1.6608 during U.S. morning trade, the session high; the pair subsequently consolidated at 1.6604, up 0.11%.

Cable was likely to find support at 1.6537, the low of August 27 and a five-month low and resistance at 1.6679, the high of August 20.

The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index was revised to 82.5 this month, up from a preliminary reading of 79.2, exceeding expectations for a reading of 80.1.

Data also showed that the Chicago purchasing managers’ index rose to 64.3 in August, from a reading of 52.6 the previous month, beating expectations for an increase to 56.0.

Earlier in the day, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that U.S. personal spending fell 0.1% last month, confounding expectations for a 0.2% rise, after an increase of 0.4% in June.

The report also showed that U.S. personal income rose 0.2% in July, less than the expected 0.3% gain. The change in personal income for June was revised to a 0.5% increase from a previously estimated 0.4% rise.

In the U.K., the Nationwide Building Society said that house price inflation climbed 0.8% this month, exceeding expectations for a 0.1% gain. For July, the change in house price inflation was revised to a 0.2% increase from a previously estimated 0.1% rise.

Sterling was higher against the euro, with EUR/GBP easing 0.09% to 0.7940.

Also Friday, preliminary data showed that euro zone consumer price inflation ticked down to an annualized rate of 0.3% this month from 0.4% in July, in line with expectations.

Core CPI, which excludes food, energy, alcohol, and tobacco, rose to 0.9% in August compared to a year ealier, from 0.8% in July. Analysts had expected core CPI to remain unchanged this month.

A separate report showed that the euro zone’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 11.5% last month, in line with expectations.

In addition, official data showed that German retail sales declined 1.4% in July, disappointing expectations for a 0.1% rise, after a 1.0% gain in June, whose figure was revised from a previously estimated 1.3% advance.

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Iraq Sunni Rebels ‘Ready to Turn on Islamic State’

(BBC) — Stifled by the Islamic State (IS) militants in their own areas, Iraqi Sunni rebels who took up arms against the Shia-dominated government of Nouri Maliki are signalling for the first time that they are ready to turn against IS if Sunni rights are enshrined in a reformed political order in Baghdad.

The rebels, including tribal militants and former army personnel organised in military councils throughout the Sunni areas, see American and international guarantees as crucial to any such deal.

“We don’t want guns from the Americans, we want a real political solution, which the US should impose on those people it installed in the Green Zone,” said Abu Muhammad al-Zubaai, referring to the Iraqi political leaders who took over after the US-led occupation in 2003.

“The IS problem would end. If they guarantee us this solution, we’ll guarantee to get rid of IS,” said Mr al-Zubaai, a tribal leader from Anbar province speaking on behalf of the rebels, using a nom de guerre.

The tribal and military rebels, who had been fighting government forces since January, played a role in the spectacular advances scored after IS – in its previous guise as Isis – erupted into Iraq from Syria in June and captured the second city, Mosul, among other mainly Sunni areas.

But since then, the Sunni groups have been suppressed, with IS ordering them to join its own ranks or disarm.

“Living with IS is like holding burning coals in your hand,” said Mr al-Zubaai. “They do not tolerate any other flag to be raised. They control all Sunni areas now.”

He said tribal militants from the military councils clashed with IS at Garma, near Falluja recently, killing 16 of the Islamic radicals.

“We had to choose between a comprehensive confrontation with IS, or ceding control of that area and keeping a low profile,” he said.

“We decided to stand down, because we are not ready to fight IS in the current circumstances – who would we be fighting for?”

‘Nothing to lose’ Events of the past three weeks have heightened the dilemma of the Sunni rebels.

The lightning IS strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan have drawn the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters into the fray in many areas, imposing economic blockades on Sunni townships because of the IS presence there.

With the Americans and other powers becoming involved, the rebels fear they will simply be tarred as IS terrorists and the Sunni areas reduced to rubble.

“The Sunnis feel that everybody is ganging up on them, that they are targeted by everybody,” said Mr al-Zubaai.

“The worst thing is to realise that you have nothing to lose any more. The situation is very bad and getting worse. It’s enough to make you blow yourself up. This is where the political process has taken us.

“Our biggest concern now is a political solution. A security solution will achieve nothing. The bombing has to stop.”

Sense of betrayal Under Nouri Maliki, who remains as commander-in-chief of the armed forces in a caretaker capacity until the new government is formed, towns like Falluja and many other Sunni areas have been bombed daily, with heavy casualties among civilians.

Caught between two fires, the position of the Sunni rebels has changed sharply since the IS operation began in June.

In the early phases, they hoped a joint effort would carry the Sunni insurgency into the heart of Baghdad, ousting Prime Minister Maliki and overturning the current constitution and political order.

At that stage, they said, they would have turned on the IS militants and driven them out, as they did with al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007.

But they feel bitterly deceived by that earlier process, and betrayed by Mr Maliki, who failed to carry out commitments given to the Sunnis and gradually drove them into a position of outright revolt after the bloody suppression of peaceful protest demonstrations from 2012.

That is why they are seeking international guarantees for a new power-sharing deal. They do not trust the Shia, and fear that under Mr Maliki’s nominated successor Haidar al-Abadi, who comes from the same party, things may not change.

“Appointing someone from the same Dawa party to succeed Maliki is like appointing a Baathist to replace Saddam Hussein,” said Mr al-Zubaai.

Fear of isolation The tribal and military rebels are proposing a national reconciliation conference under international auspices, with all factions invited except for IS and also the Shia militias, which they regard as equally bad as, or worse than, IS.

A similar high-level “national accord” conference was held in Cairo in 2005, but the outcome was never followed up.

They dismiss as unrepresentative the Sunni politicians who are currently involved in intense negotiations in Baghdad over the formation of a new government under Mr al-Abadi, who has until 10 September to present his cabinet.

“These people have been involved in the political process since 2003, and they achieved nothing,” said Mr al-Zubaai.

But as well as pressing for a good allocation of portfolios in the cabinet, the Sunni leaders in Baghdad have been demanding changes to the way power is shared.

If they help hammer out a deal that many Sunnis regard as fair, the rebels may find themselves with no choice but to sign up, or risk finding themselves politically isolated and physically under threat from both IS and a US-backed coalition on the ground.

Growing urgency But the Sunni rebels, who say they can mobilise 90% of the tribes, believe that only they can tackle IS, with outside help.

The Iraqi army has shown little capability or cohesion in the field, and to defend Baghdad, Mr Maliki had to rely heavily on mobilising Shia militias and volunteers.

If such forces are thrown into battle against IS-held Sunni areas with US air support under a new al-Abadi government, the Americans might find themselves doing what they have been trying to avoid – backing one side in a sectarian civil war involving horrendous carnage and destruction.

But if the tribal and military rebels were on board, it would, by their own account at least, be an entirely different affair.

They say they have written to the Americans, but received no substantive response.

Mr al-Zubaai warned against allowing the situation to drift.

“If things stay the same, a new generation will emerge, beyond the control of the US or Iran or Syria – hundreds of thousands of young men will join up with IS,” he said.

“This is a danger the West should be aware of – they have millions of [Muslim] youths, free to embrace the ideology of IS, to wave its flag in the streets.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Taliban storm Afghan intelligence base

A least six people have been reported killed in a Taliban attack on an Afghan intelligence building in the eastern city of Jalalabad, sources have told Al Jazeera.

The attack early on Saturday began with a suicide car bomb. A gun battle between those inside the building and an unknown number of Taliban fighters was reported to be ongoing.

“The attack was carried out by a vehicle bomb on the Nangarhar provincial National Directorate of Security (NDS) office, and then some militants started attacking the office,” Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, told the AFP news agency.

Hospital officials told Al Jazeera that at least six people have been killed in the attack, and 45 wounded. Both civilians and members of the military are among the dead.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming several NDS agents were killed in the attack.

The intelligence service has regularly been targeted by the Taliban.

In December 2012, NDS head Asadullah Khalid was seriously wounded in an attack by a Taliban “envoy” who detonated an explosive device hidden in his underwear.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks on symbols of power in recent weeks, seeing to destabilise the fragile Afghan state which is in the midst of a political crisis over the appointment of a new president to succeed Hamid Karzai, who has led the country for 13 years.

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AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Afghan Attack Kills Six

A suicide bomber has targeted an intelligence office in eastern Afghanistan, killing six people and wounding at least 40.

A spokesman for the governor of Nangahar Province said a truck packed with explosives had blown up at the gate of the Jalalabad office of the National Directorate of Security in the eastern city of Jalalabad early on August 30.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The violence comes amid a political deadlock with rival presidential candidates have been unable to resolve months-long disputes over an election meant to mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghan history.

Most foreign combat troops are due to leave by the end of the year but the deadlock over the presidential election has further delayed the signing a security pact with the United States governing how many troops would remain.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty