Hundreds Rally in Canberra for Save Haven for Assyrians in Iraq

Canberra (AINA) — Wednesday, 27 August 2014, marked a historic day in Australia’s capital city Canberra. Over 500 people travelling distances of over 400 miles descended on Parliament House in a public demonstration demanding a self-administered safe haven and international protection and opposing the brutal atrocities currently taking place against the Assyrian Christians in Iraq and Syria.

The demonstrators called out to the government and media to take action and help stop the genocide of Assyrian Christians in their homeland, and called for the protection of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq and said a safe haven is the only solution. The rally began at 11:00 AM. The demonstrators carried signs and Australian and Assyrian Flags.

The rally was organized by the Assyrian Council of Australia.

Participants in the protest were mainly from the Assyrian communities in Sydney and Melbourne, but many came from different ethnic and religious backgrounds in a show of solidarity against the radical actions undertaken by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS). There was representation from the Coptic Orthodox Church, H.G. Bishop Suriel from Melbourne, who delivered a speech supporting the Christians of Iraq and Syria as well as several other Christian organisations and groups such the Christian Democratic Party and Christian faith and Freedom.

The protest was attended by many members of federal parliament as well as members of the NSW parliament. They delivered speeches to a crowd giving total support to the demands of the Assyrians in Iraq.

Speakers were: The Hon. Chris Bowen MP, Federal Member for McMahon, Shadow Treasurer of Australia; The Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Member for Berowra; The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Member for Kingsford Smith; Mr Craig Kelly MP, Federal Member for Hughes; Mr Chris Hayes MP, Member for Fowler and Shadow Government Whip; Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, MLC, President of the Christian Democratic Party; Mr Andrew Rohan MP, member for Smithfield and Mr Rob Mitchell MP, Federal Member for McEwen.

Mr Hermiz Shahen, the Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance of Australia, said in his welcoming speech “In what is being called a modern day genocide, Assyrian Christians who had lived in the city of Mosul for thousands of years have been targeted, they were told to ‘leave, convert or pay ‘Jizia’ — a tax for not being Muslim — and failure to do so would result in ‘death by the sword.’ Under these threats, many have suffered the ultimate price in barbaric executions and beheading, or have fled the ancient city.”

Mr Shahen went on to explain “Thousands of the Iraqi Assyrian population are currently displaced and forced out of their homes and towns. Women, children and the elderly are continually on the move-from city to city and village to village, seeking safety for their lives. People are living in great fear and confusion, without any hope for a brighter and better future. Jihadists moved in overnight to claim several Christian towns, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee, having pushed back Kurdish Peshmerga troops, who are stretched thin across several fronts in Iraq. Assyrian towns in the Nineveh Plains region, which is the homeland for the indigenous Assyrians, have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants.”

Mr Shahen also presented a letter on behalf of the Assyrian Council to the Hon Philip Ruddock MP to be hand-delivered to the Hon. Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia.

The call was made for immediate intervention by the United Nations, the international community and the Australian Government, and for assistance in the establishment of a self-administered safe haven in the Assyrian heartland in Northern Iraq in support of the indigenous Christian Assyrian and many other ethnic and religious minorities fleeing the sectarian conflict. In addition, they called on the Australian government and the international community to provide the Assyrians who are willing to defend their lands with arms and training to enable them to protect themselves.

Assyrian International News Agency

Hundreds of Yazidis Arrive in Turkish Tent City

Hundreds of Yazidis Arrive in Turkish Tent City

Posted 2014-08-18 07:13 GMT

Midyat refugee camp is set to accept thousands of Yazidis after the completion of medical check-ups.Hundreds of Yazidis who fled the conflict in Iraq arrived Sunday in a refugee camp in southeastern Turkey, officials said.

The tent city in the Midyat district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin received as many as 1,750 Yazidis, who will be accepted into the camp after the completion of health check-ups, district governor Oguzhan Bingol said.

“All kinds of opportunities and social activities are being provided for Yazidis at this camp in order to ensure that they take shelter in a comfortable setting,” Bingol said.

An onslaught by self-styled ‘Islamic State’ fighters on the traditional Yazidi town of Sinjar and surrounding villages near Mosul city forced thousands of Yazidis from their homes.

According to Iraq’s human rights minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, the IS killed hundreds of Yazidis and buried some alive, including women and children.

As well as those massacred by the militants, many died of thirst and starvation before a rescue operation was launched.

Assyrian International News Agency

Kurdish Militants Train Hundreds of Yazidis to Fight Islamic State

SERIMLI MILITARY BASE, Syria (Reuters) — Kurdish militants have trained hundreds of Yazidi volunteers at several camps inside Syria to fight Islamic State forces in Iraq, a member of the armed Kurdish YPG and a Reuters photographer who visited a training camp said on Sunday.

The photographer spend Saturday at the training camp at the Serimli military base in Qamishli, northeastern Syria on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, where he saw 55 Yazidis being trained to fight the Islamic State.

Dressed in green military fatigues, young and old men were taught how to use assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades by the Syrian Kurds, sweating in the 40 degree Celsius heat.

“The Yazidi civilians want to stay in Syria because it is safer but the volunteers really want to go back to Iraq to fight,” he said by phone.

Iraq has been plunged into its worst violence since the peak of a sectarian civil war in 2006-2007, with Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State overrunning large parts of the west and north, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for their lives and threatening ethnic Kurds in their autonomous province.

Thousands of Yazidis have also been trapped in searing heat on the mountain near the Syrian border. They fled there this month to escape the Islamic State, who deem Yazidis “devil worshippers”. Yazidis follow an ancient faith derived from Zoroastrianism.

Some have been airlifted out by Iraq’s Air Force and others fled into Syria with the help of Kurdish militants.

In Syria, the Yazidi volunteers train in weapon use and fighting tactics for several days before being sent back to Mount Sinjar to fight, a member from the media office of the Kurdish YPG told Reuters.

“There are several training camps for Yazidi men who have volunteered,” Anas Hani said from eastern Syria. “In the past ten days, hundreds have graduated. And we are training more.”

“On the top of the Singar mountains, in cooperation with locals and the YPG, the Yazidis have established what they call the Singar Resistance Units,” he said by phone.

The YPG, or the People’s Defence Units, says it has no political affiliations but analysts say it has close ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, who have waged a guerrilla war in Turkey for decades and which the U.S. lists as a terrorist organisation.

The IS advances have drawn the first U.S. air strikes on Iraq since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011.

Iraqi Kurdish officials have sought to play down the role of the YPG in Iraq and spotlight the actions of their own peshmerga forces, who are already being supplied weapons by the United States.

Ethnic Kurds in Syria have a complex role in nearly four years of conflict that started when President Bashar al-Assad cracked down on a pro-democracy uprising.

The ensuing civil war has pitted Sunni Muslims against Assad’s Alawite minority and different Kurdish militia have fought on both sides, normally over territory or power disputes.

The YPG are one of the few militant groups that have been able to stem the advance of the Islamic State, the most powerful rebel group in Syria and Iraq.

Assyrian International News Agency

Hundreds of Missing Yezidis Feared Dead, Says Village Chief

Hundreds of Missing Yezidis Feared Dead, Says Village Chief

Posted 2014-08-05 17:18 GMT

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A tribal chief said he is deeply worried about the fate of more than 2,000 Yezidi villagers who were believed to have returned to their village on Sunday after receiving assurances from the Islamic militants.

Khalaf Elias, chief of the Issa clan said that local Arabs had told him that the Yezidi families had returned to their village of Wardi, but that he wasn’t sure of their fate or whereabouts.

“Through local Arabs the ISIS asked the Wardi village chief to let his people return to their homes and that they will be safe,” Elias explained. “They returned and now their fate is unknown.”

Elias who has taken refuge on a rocky mountain with hundreds of other Yezidi families told Rudaw by phone that the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had captured and taken away more than 50 Yezidi families.

“What I know now is that all those families have been killed,” he reported.

Elias said that unless help reaches them soon “the lives of 10,000 Yezidis on the mountain is at grave risk.”

According to this tribal chief, the Islamic militants who advanced into Zumar, Shangal and other Yezidi villages have an official decree to annihilate the Yezidi population of the region.

“Thousands of Yezidis are stuck on this mountain and the ISIS can come to them at any moment,” he said. “We don’t have any weapon to defend ourselves.”

On Sunday afternoon thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga forces were dispatched to the frontline at Shangal, armed with advanced weapons.

Anwar Haji Osman from the Peshmerga Ministry said that their forces will soon deal the ISIS “a deadly blow,”

“This is not only talk, people will see it for themselves soon,” he said.

Assyrian International News Agency

Hundreds of Iraqis seek asylum at the UN in Turkey

On Wednesday a representative from the Union of Iraqi Refugees in Turkey confirmed that every day hundreds of Iraqi citizens go to the United Nations in Turkey to seek asylum, indicating that the deteriorating security situation has pushed Iraqis to seek refuge in Western countries.

The representative of the Union of Iraqi refugees in Turkey, Rose Aziz said, in an interview for IraqiNews.com, that “the deterioration of the security situation in a number of Iraqi cities pushed Iraqi citizens to seek asylum in foreign countries,” asserting that “hundreds of Iraqi citizens are visiting the United Nations Headquarters in Ankara in order to conduct interviews to seek asylum.”

Aziz said, “Most of the asylum seekers are from the families of hot security zones or under the control of militants of the organization of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” noting that “between 100 to 200 Iraqi people register their names daily so as to book an appointment to meet with the United Nations to seek asylum.”

Aziz pointed out that “the Iraqi asylum-seekers are from various ethnic groups such as the Iraqi Arabs, Kurds, Shabak, Turkmen, Christians, Muslims and the Yazidi,” asserting that “most of them are living in difficult economic situations, and humanitarian organizations did not provide them with assistance so far.”

Aziz predicted that “the acceptance of the request of some Iraqi refugees against the backdrop of the deteriorating security situation and sectarian violence in their areas.”

Turkey has thousands of Iraqi refugees, the majority of them went to it after 2003, and most of them used Turkey as a station to reach the Western countries.

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Hundreds Bid Farewell To Late Russian Activist Valeriya Novodvorskaya

Hundreds of Muscovites bid farewell on July 16 to prominent political opposition figure and Soviet-era dissident Valeriya Novodvorskaya.

People came to the Andrei Sakharov Center to say their last goodbyes to the outspoken Kremlin critic and activist.

Journalists, politicians, rights defenders, and ordinary residents of Moscow were among those who paid their last respects.

Novodvorskaya, 64, died on July 12 in a Moscow clinic. She will be cremated later on July 16.

Novodvorskaya was imprisoned for her anti-Soviet views in a Soviet psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis given to many Soviet dissidents at the time — “sluggishly progressing schizophrenia.”

In recent years, she had been openly critical of Russian government policies, including the wars in Chechnya, the internal policies of President Vladimir Putin, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Mexico rescues hundreds of ‘abused’ children

Mexicon authorities have rescued 458 children from a vermin-infested refuge for abandoned boys and girls, some of whom they believe were sexually abused.

The attorney general’s office said police and army troops raided a home known as “La Gran Familia” (The Big Family) in the city of Zamora on Tuesday after at least 50 complaints were made about its operators.

Infested with rats, bedbugs and fleas, the refuge in the western province of Michoacan was run by Rosa Verduzco, who is now being questioned by authorities, the government said.

The refuge was home to 278 boys, 174 girls and six infants as well as 138 adults aged up to 40, the government said.

“We found that there were around 500 children in truly terrible conditions,” attorney general, Jesus Murillo, said.

Five complaints by parents that the home would not return their children to them prompted authorities to act, he added.

The children in the refuge had to beg for money on the streets, eat unsanitary food and sleep on the floor among vermin, officials said. Some suffered sexual abuse, they added.

Babies born in the refuge were registered as children of Verduzco, and their parents were given no say in their upbringing, said Tomas Zeron, director of the attorney general’s criminal investigation unit.

One desperate parent even offered Verduzco $ 770 to return her young daughters, Zeron said.

La Gran Familia was founded in 1947 and looks after children abandoned by troubled parents, the refuge says on its Facebook page . It also provides schooling for the children.

Its funding came from charitable donations, as well as companies and the government, it said.

No one could be reached at the refuge via a telephone number on the Facebook page.

Authorities are treating the children for psychological and sexual abuse as well as seeking out suitable homes for the victims, the government said.

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Hundreds of Iraqi Civilians Flee From Brutal ISIS Assaults

Refugees fleeing from Mosul head to the self-ruled northern Kurdish region in Irbil, Iraq, 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad, Thursday, June 12, 2014 (Photo: AP).KALAK, Iraq (AP) — Hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children crammed into vehicles have fled their homes, fearing clashes, kidnapping and rape after Islamic militants seized large swaths of northern Iraq.

The families and fleeing soldiers who arrived Thursday at a checkpoint at the northern frontier of this largely autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq were among some half-million people who have fled their homes since Monday, according to a U.N. estimate.

Workers were busily extending the Khazer checkpoint in the frontier area known as Kalak, where displaced women hungrily munched on sandwiches distributed by aid workers and soldiers rushed to process people.

The exodus began after fighters of the al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized the northern city of Mosul in a stunning assault Monday. Since then, the militants have moved southward toward the capital, Baghdad, in the biggest crisis to face Iraq in years.

“Masked men came to our house and they threatened us: ‘We will get to you.’ So we fled,” said Abed, a laborer who abandoned his home on the edge of Mosul Thursday. “They kidnapped other people. They took away some people for interrogation.”

The young man said rumors were quickly spreading that Islamic State fighters — as well as masked bandits taking advantage of the chaos — were seizing young women for rape or forced marriage.

“They are destroying the honor of families,” said Abed, who, like many of the displaced, wouldn’t give his full name, fearing the Islamic State fighters.

Many of the displaced said they were on the move because they feared retribution by Iraq’s military — underscoring the grave sectarian tensions that have allowed the Islamic State fighters, who are Sunni extremists, to conquer so fast and deeply.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is mostly Sunni, and many residents have long complained of discrimination and mistreatment by the Shiite-dominated central government.

“We were worried the struggle would get bigger, that Maliki’s army would shell us,” said a middle-aged Sunni woman, referring to the country’s Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

“Whoever will rule us — let them rule us,” said her husband Talal Ahmad, 62. “We just want our children to be safe.”

Many waiting to be processed at the Khazer checkpoint, set among golden wheat fields, echoed similar concerns. Most hadn’t seen fighting but heard occasional gunshots. They saw other people fleeing and so joined the exodus.

Many said they panicked after hearing Iraqi army soldiers had abandoned their posts, sure it meant that heavy shelling to drive out the insurgents would follow.

“We left after we saw everybody else leaving,” said Abir, a 33-year-old teacher who fled with her husband and three children.

The chaos of the fighting, just some 60 miles away, was evident in Kalak.

Kurdish forces, which act as a de-facto military in the largely autonomous region, took possession of at least a dozen Iraqi military vehicles abandoned by soldiers as they fled their posts ahead of the advancing Islamic State fighters.

The Kurdish soldiers could be seen driving the dirty yellow Humvees, with the national flag emblazoned on them, toward the regional capital, Irbil.

One fleeing Iraqi soldier said he was ordered by his officer to abandon his post, even before Islamic State fighters reached the area.

“We didn’t even raise our weapons. This isn’t even unimaginable — it’s madness,” said 38-year-old Shaker Karam. “We didn’t even see a terrorist.”

At the checkpoint, Kurdish workers erected shelters in anticipation of the arrival of more displaced Iraqis.

Four men measured out an area amid a whipping dust and rain storm to protect the long lines of Iraqis from the sweltering heat. Beside them lay a large pile of water bottles to distribute. Just hours before, they set up a row of public toilets and erected a tent for exhausted women to rest in privacy.

Those who reached the Khazer checkpoint were among the lucky ones.

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said thousands of displaced, particularly children, were sheltering in schools, hospitals and mosques outside Mosul, many of them without adequate water, sanitation, or shelter. The Red Cross said it had already distributed food and relief to 8,000 people near Mosul.

Many fled with little more than the clothing on their backs and, arriving without money said they would have to rely on donations.

Abed’s extended family, including his elderly mother and young nieces, said they didn’t know where they would sleep Thursday night.

Talal Ahmad’s family of 12 was sleeping in the back of a pickup truck that was lined with thin mattresses.

Abir, the teacher, said her middle-class family had enough money for a hotel for a month.

“But we hope to be back before then,” she said anxiously.

Assyrian International News Agency

Hundreds Rally In Western Iraq Following Female Student Killing

RAMADI — RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq reports that hundreds of university students in Iraq’s western Anbar Province have taken to the streets to express anger after the killing of a fellow female student.

Sama Laith, a student at Ramadi University, was killed by a stray bullet on June 1 while doing her final exams at the Faculty of Agriculture.

Local security forces promised to investigate the killing.
 
The protest came as government forces continued their battle to recapture parts of Ramadi, Anbar’s regional capital, from Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

In the city, security forces claim they have regain control over most of the areas previously under the control of insurgents.

In the nearby city of Fallujah on June 1, fighting between Iraqi security forces and insurgents left at least 22 dead.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds Rally In Western Iraq Following Female Student Killing

RAMADI — RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq reports that hundreds of university students in Iraq’s western Anbar Province have taken to the streets to express anger after the killing of a fellow female student.

Sama Laith, a student at Ramadi University, was killed by a stray bullet on June 1 while doing her final exams at the Faculty of Agriculture.

Local security forces promised to investigate the killing.
 
The protest came as government forces continued their battle to recapture parts of Ramadi, Anbar’s regional capital, from Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

In the city, security forces claim they have regain control over most of the areas previously under the control of insurgents.

In the nearby city of Fallujah on June 1, fighting between Iraqi security forces and insurgents left at least 22 dead.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Bangladesh Ferry Carrying Hundreds Sinks

At least six people, including women and children, are dead and hundreds are missing after a heavily laden ferry capsized and sank in central Bangladesh on May 15.

Local officials say the number of passengers aboard the ferry was between 200 and 350.

The ferry was travelling to the southern district of Shariatpur from the capital, Dhaka, when it encountered problems in stormy weather in the Meghna River.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed with more than 230 rivers.

Experts blame poorly maintained vessels, flaws in design, and overcrowding for most of the tragedies.

Storms often hit Bangladesh during the early summer months in the lead-up to the monsoon.
 

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds return home to Syria’s Homs

Hundreds of people have returned to Homs as the Syrian army regained control of the city, according to a correspondent with the AFP news agency.

The residents, displaced by three years of war, climbed over debris and inspected the ruins of their battered neighbourhoods on Friday.

“I had seen on Facebook that my home had been destroyed, but I couldn’t believe it,” Jaqueline Fawwas, a 30-year-old woman, told AFP. “I wanted to see it with my own eyes.”

Another woman, who did not identify herself, said, “I came to check on my house, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t find a roof, I didn’t find walls. I only found this coffee cup, which I will take with me as a souvenir.”

Residents were allowed to return to Homs due to an agreement between the government and opposition fighters that also granted fighters safe exit from the city.

More than 1,700 opposition fighters have left Homs since Wednesday, under the deal.

Bulldozers also cleared rubble from the streets of battle-scarred districts in the central Syrian city on Friday.

Talal al-Barazi, the governor of Homs, said engineering units were combing the old neighbourhoods, including the former opposition stronghold of Hamidiyeh, in search of mines and other explosives.

Syrian state TV reported that two soldiers were killed while dismantling a bomb.

An AP reporter in Homs, on a military-led tour, said soldiers and pro-government militiamen fanned out across the city’s districts to provide security.

The opposition withdrawal, which ended a fierce, two-year battle for the country’s third largest city, marked a major victory for President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war.

For Syria’s opposition, it was a devastating blow.

Fighters are now confined to a single district on the outskirts of Homs, which was once considered “the capital of the revolution” against Assad.

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Venezuela police arrest hundreds in protests

Police in Venezuela have arrested 243 people in a crackdown on camps set up to protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, officials say.

Just before dawn on Thursday, troops broke up four tent camps decorated with Venezuelan flags and signs bearing protest slogans, one of which had been blocking traffic along a main street in the capital, Caracas, for weeks.

I call on the world to help us and to realise that this is a dictatorship.

Francia Cacique, opposition camp leader

Members of the National Guard “impounded drugs, weapons, explosives…all of the things that they were using every day to violently confront security forces“, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Venezuela’s interior minister, said on state television, adding that 243 people were arrested and would appear in court in the coming hours.

Francia Cacique, the leader of the one of the camps, called the raid illegal and denied accusations that students were plotting subversive activities.

“They’ve come up with the excuse of drugs and weapons, which is totally false,” Cacique told the Reuters news agency over instant messaging, adding that the detained protesters were being held at a Caracas military base.

“I call on the world to help us and to realise that this is a dictatorship,” Cacique said.

Fed up

The South American country has experienced waves of demonstrations that have killed 41 people on all sides, and injured 785 others, since February.

Opposition activists launched the protests due to frustrations over soaring prices, chronic product shortages and abuse by security forces.

At least 2,200 people have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations over the last few months.

Maduro’s administration has grown increasingly fed up with the ongoing protests and last week announced that it had arrested 58 foreigners, including an American, on suspicion of inciting violent demonstrations against the government.

Both Maduro and Rodriguez Torres have said the protests are a plot to promote unrest and overthrow the current
administration.

Possible sanctions

The raid on protest camps came on the same day that US state department officials briefed a Senate committee on the ongoing unrest in Venezuela and one day before a house panel is set to finalise a sanctions bill.

Clashes rage as congresswoman voted out of office

The legislation concerns $ 15m in new funds to promote democracy and rule of law in Venezuela. It also bans visas for officials who crushed anti-government protests by students, opposition leaders and others and freezes their assets.

Marco Rubio, a Republican senator and sponsor of the Senate legislation, said penalties would send an important message at a time when human rights groups have accused Venezuelan security officials of arresting, torturing and killing unarmed demonstrators.

Action now would show that the US was “firmly on the side of the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people,” Rubio told the AP news agency in a telephone interview.

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Boko Haram attack kills hundreds in Nigeria

A Boko Haram attack has killed hundreds in Nigeria’s northeast, multiple sources have said, as police offered $ 300,000 for information leading to the rescue of more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by the armed group.

The latest attack reported on Wednesday targeted the town of Gamboru Ngala on the border with Cameroon, where gunmen earlier this week razed scores of buildings and fired on civilians as they tried to flee.

Area Senator Ahmed Zanna put the death toll at 300, in an account supported by numerous residents.

Zanna said the town had been left unguarded because soldiers based there had been redeployed north towards Lake Chad in an effort to rescue more than 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14.

The mass abduction has sparked global outrage and offers of help from the United States, Britain, France and China.

Nigeria’s response to the kidnappings has been widely criticised, including by activists and parents of the hostages who say the military’s search operation has been inept so far.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has sought to appear more engaged with the plight of the hostages in recent days, especially after Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau released a video threatening to sell the girls as “slaves”.

In a second kidnapping, another 11 girls aged 12 to 15 were seized on Sunday from Gwoza, an area not far from Chibok and also in Borno state, Boko Haram’s base.

Boko Haram’s five-year uprising has killed thousands across Africa’s most populous country, with many questioning whether Nigeria has the capacity to contain the violence.

Reward for arrest of armed group

Meanwhile, police on Wednesday offered a $ 300,000 reward to anyone who could provide information leading to the rescue of the schoolgirls.

US joins search for missing Nigerian girls

“The Nigeria police hereby announce a cash reward of 50m naira to anyone who volunteers credible information that will lead to the location and rescue of the female students abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State,” the police said in a statement.

The police also released six phone numbers and urged Nigerians to call.

Abubakar Shekau, a Boko Haram leader, threatened in a video to sell the girls who were taken from the secondary school in the village of Chibok “on the market”.

Nigerian leaders also accepted an offer by the US to send a team to the country to help search for the missing girls.

The US team consists of “military, law enforcement, and other agencies”, US President Barack Obama said in an interview with US broadcaster ABC, and will work to “identify where in fact these girls might be and provide them help”.

Obama also denounced Boko Haram as “one of the worst regional or local terrorist organisations”.

“This may be the event that helps to mobilise the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organisation that’s perpetrated such a terrible crime,” he said.

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Dzhemilev: Hundreds Of Crimean Tatars Prosecuted For Illegal Border Crossing

Published 5 May 2014

Veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, barred by the pro-Russian government in Crimea from entering his homeland, told a news conference in Kyiv that authorities have launched hundreds of criminal cases after about 2,000 Crimean Tatars, who had gone to a border-crossing point near Armyansk to meet their leader on May 3, broke through lines of Russian troops to reach him. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service)

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds feared dead in Afghan landslide

At least 500 people are feared dead and up to 2000 others missing after a landslide buried a village in northern Afghanistan, officials have said.

Heavy rains caused a hill to collapse on the village of Hobo Barik on Friday, Badakshan province Governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb said.

Al Jazeera’s Abdullah Shahood, reporting from Kabul, said the situation was very grim with at least 250 homes buried under 60-metres of rubble and rescue teams unable to reach them. 

“The landslide brought the entire village under rubble. It is hard to say how many people are trapped but government officials are estimating those numbers can be up to 2000 people.” he said. 

Matt Graydon from the International Organisation for Migration echoed the dire picture: “This is a relatively remote area but the scale of this landslide is devastating. Our team has just returned and [according to initial assessments] as many as 2,700 people have died.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has released a statement saying he is deeply saddened by the situation and has ordered the Disaster Management Authority to deal with the situation and deliver aid. 

Difficult to reach

Aid is on its way but the remote village is difficult to reach and the heavy machinery needed to dig those trapped is not easily transported.

Rescue crews are working but do not have enough equipment Governor Adeep said, appealing for more shovels to dig people out. “It’s physically impossible right now. We don’t have enough shovels, we need more machinery.”

The Afghan army has been deployed to the area to help with rescue efforts. 

Meanwhile, local authorities have evacuated nearby villages over concerns of more landslides within the area.

Badakshan province, nestled in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges and bordering China, is one of the most remote in the country.

The province normally has many landslides, but they generally occur in remote areas and produce no casualties, said Mohammad Usman Abu Zar from the Meteorology Department of Badakhshan province.

The most deadly event in the past two years occurred in February 2010, when more than 170 people were killed at the 3,800 metre-high Salang Pass, which is the major route through the mountains that connects the capital to the north.

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Five Killed, Hundreds Displaced By Floods In Afghanistan

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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds of Iraqi Expatriates in the U.S. Not Allowed to Vote

Hundreds of Iraqi Expatriates in the U.S. Not Allowed to Vote

Ms. Mansour, a 104 year-old Assyrian from Iraq, casts her vote at the Iraqi election voting center in Phoenix, Arizona.Chicago (AINA) — Hundreds of Iraqis, mostly Assyrians and a smaller number of Muslims, were blocked from voting yesterday in Iraqi election centers in the United States. New rules adopted by the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) concerning Iraqi identification papers disqualified the prospective voters. IHEC is composed of nine commissioners, none of whom is Assyrian/Christian.

There are approximately 600,000 Iraqis in Unites States, with the largest group being Assyrians (400,000). The Assyrian population of Iraq has declined from 1.4 million in 2003 to approximately 500,000 today because of a low-grade genocide against the Assyrians by various Muslim factions in Iraq (report).

The Iraqi voting center in Chicago, at the Assyrian National Council of Illinois building in Skokie, was overflowing with Iraqis, but dozens were not even allowed to enter the building because election officials claimed they did not have valid identification papers.

Mr. Zaya Spandiary attempted to vote but was disqualified. “The election process seems to be going smoothly,” he said, “but I think there is some foul play because we had been told that any Iraqi ID would be accepted, so I brought my expired Iraqi passport Series B and my Army Service record but was not even allowed to go inside the center. I spoke to at least 15 people that were not allowed to go in to vote and I expect a lot more people will be turned down.”

Mr. Sam Gorial, who was a monitor on behalf of Iraqi List 298 (the Sons of Two Rivers party, Bne Nahrain) said he saw many people who were not allowed to vote because of “improper identification papers.”

Approximately 2400 Iraqis voted in Chicago.

In Detroit there were many who felt they were not given an opportunity to vote, according to Martin Manna, staff president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. “My father was unable to vote because his Iraqi passport was expired. He has not been to Iraq in forty years. How is he expected to travel back to the country to update his records?”

According to Mr. Ismat Karmo, the Chairman of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Coalition of America (CASCA), publicly the Iraqi government was promoting out of country voting as a way to be inclusive of all of its current and past citizens, but in reality many were unable to exercise that right. “This is merely another example of Iraq’s government marginalizing its Christian and other minority communities. We will be discussing the issue directly with Iraq’s Ambassador to the United State this Friday when he visits us in Detroit.”

In San Diego open discrimination against Assyrians and Arabs (both Sunni and Shia) was reported. According to Johnny Sargon Jacob, who was working as a monitor on behalf of Iraqi List 300 (Al-Rafedain), over 60% of Assyrians and Arabs were blocked from voting, while every Kurd was allowed to vote. The Assyrian manager of the election center, Shevan Toma, actively assisted Kurds and openly discriminated against Assyrians and Arabs, said Mr. Jacob. “Mr. Shivan Toma noticeably discriminated against Assyrians and Arabs. This was witnessed by Shia and Sunni monitors as well. Many complaints have been filed against Mr. Toma.”

“I voted,” said Mr. Jacob, “but my son Ashouraia Jacob was not allowed to vote because my Iraqi documents had my last name Jacob in Arabic, but his US documents had his last name as Jacob in English. It is the same name, one in Arabic and the other in English. The election officials said the names ‘did not match.’”

Mr. Edward Anton, who resides in Phoenix, said “My parents were greatly disappointed to be sent away from the election site in San Diego after they presented their American passport and a copy of their Iraqi citizenship paper (jinsiyya). Also, my mother-in-law was not allowed to vote in Phoenix.”

AINA spoke by telephone with the director of the Iraqi voting center in Phoenix, Mr. Steven Ishak, himself an Assyrian. Mr. Ishak said that approximately 1400 Iraqis voted and 300-400 Iraqis were not allowed to vote because of improper identification papers. According to Mr. Ishak, any one original copy of four identification documents was acceptable:

  • Current Iraqi passport
  • Iraqi certificate of citizenship
  • Iraqi National I.D.
  • 1957 Iraqi registration certificate

Many Iraqis had photocopies of these documents or expired passports, which were not accepted.

Ms. Galeta Nano, who heads the Sons of Two Rivers party in Arbel, Iraq stated that she sent a letter to IHEC protesting the voting rules which stipulate that each person must give proof of residents to a province and can only cast votes for candidates hailing from that province. She explained that it is different for the Christian community, because minority votes all fall into one bucket irrespective of province. On Monday afternoon IHEC officials sent her a letter stating Christians in and out of Iraq are allowed to present proof of affiliation to a Christian component and will be allowed to vote without the need to prove provincial residence. Ms. Galeta Nano posted the letter and IHEC circulated the letter by email and web. The relevant point (#4) from the letter states:

With regard to paragraph 2 relating to documents, it is possible to make an exception to the rule of providing proof of residence in a province for the Christian constituency, because their election is based on a single group. To prove that a voter is a member of a Christian constituency he should present identification papers showing affiliation to a Christian constituency.

Iraqis who were not allowed to vote expressed their frustration and anger. Some blamed the IHEC for failing to anticipate the needs of expatriates, particularly Assyrians. Some Assyrians blamed the IHEC for not having an Assyrian/Christian commissioner. Other Assyrians blamed the Assyrian political parties in Iraq for failing to insure elections laws would be fair for the Assyrian/Christian communities in and out of Iraq.

According to Mr. Edward Anton, “My father was an activist against Saddam’s regime for years. He was denied his democratic right to vote — the very thing he advocated for. He is a very disappointed 82 year-old man that had high hopes for his homeland. This is a crime against expatriates living abroad that were chased out of their homeland during the Saddam’s era and were part of the opposition outside Iraq.”

On Tuesday, April 29, the president of the Iraqi Board of Commissioners of the Electoral Commission, Serbst Mustafa Rashid, issued preliminary figures on the number of expatriate votes. He said that 165,532 expatriate Iraqis had voted in twenty countries.

Assyrian International News Agency

Kenya arrests hundreds after deadly blasts

Kenyan police have arrested more than 650 suspects a day after six people were killed in bomb attacks in the capital Nairobi, the interior minister said.

“This act of cowardice perpetrated against innocent and peace-loving Kenyans who were going about their normal activities is barbaric,” Joseph Ole Lenku said in a statement on Tuesday.

“So far 657 suspects have been apprehended,” he added.

Kenyan police regularly arrest scores of people after similar attacks in sweeping security operations, but later release most after questioning.

The three blasts on Monday evening targeted two small restaurants and a local clinic in a particularly densely populated area of Eastleigh, an area often known as “Little Mogadishu” because of its predominantly Somali population.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Church attack

Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from Nairobi, said the city had grown more tense in the last week after the government ordered all refugees, most of whom are Somali, to leave urban areas and head to two designated refugee camps.

The order followed the deaths of six people in a gun attack on a church service a week ago in the port city of Mombasa.

“The government says that’s because some of the people responsible for recent attacks have been refugees,” our correspondent said. 

“The people of Eastleigh argue they are suffering collective punishment for the actions of a few,” she added.

Six people were killed when assailants burst into the church near the port city of Mombasa and opened fire on worshippers.

Kenya has been hit by a series of attacks since sending troops into southern Somalia in October 2011 to battle al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab rebel group.

The armed group claimed responsibility for the most deadly attack, in which they laid siege to Nairobi’s upmarket shopping mall Westgate in September, killing at least 67.

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Hundreds of Kurds in Syria Flee After Jihadist Threat: NGO

Hundreds of Kurds in Syria Flee After Jihadist Threat: NGO

Posted 2014-03-20 18:57 GMT

BEIRUT — Some 600 Kurdish residents of villages in Syria’s Raqa province have fled after an ultimatum from the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an NGO said Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 600 Kurds from the villages of Tal Akhdar, Tal Fandar and the town of Tal Abyad had abandoned their homes after warnings from ISIL.

The NGO said ISIL had also detained dozens of Kurds in the area, releasing them with a warning to leave their village in the northern province, where the jihadist group has a strong presence.

It said more than 500 had entered Turkey, with others fleeing to the nearby town of Ain al-Arab.

ISIL has fought bloody battles against Syria’s Kurds, who have otherwise largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, focusing on building autonomy in majority Kurdish areas.

It considers them infidels and has also sought to take control of oil resources in Kurdish areas.

The jihadists’ stronghold is in Raqa’s provincial capital of the same name, the only capital to fall from regime hands.

ISIL has been consolidating its hold in the province and its capital since earlier this year when it was forced to withdraw from other parts of rebel-held territory when moderate and Islamist opposition groups turned against it.

The group, which began in neighbouring Iraq, is accused by the opposition of carrying out abuses against civilians and rival rebels and imposing its harsh interpretation of Islam by force.

Assyrian International News Agency

Turkmen President Pardons Hundreds Of Inmates

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has signed an amnesty decree for 859 prisoners.

Turkmen media reports said on February 14 that the clemency was granted “in accordance with the noble tradition of our nation, based upon teachings of our great ancestors, and due to State Flag Day observed on February 19.”

No other information on the pardoned inmates was given.

Before Berdymukhammedov’s presidency, his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, issued similar amnesty decrees once a year, in the holy month of Ramadan.

Berdymukhammedov has issued such decrees several times a year, usually on the eve of state holidays.

Berdymukhammedov’s last clemency, announced two months ago, pardoned 630 inmates on the eve of the Day of Neutrality, marked in Turkmenistan on December 12.

With reporting by Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds evacuated from Homs in Syria

Six hundred people – mostly women, children and the elderly – have been evacuated from the Syrian city of Homs, according to non-governmental organisations.

They were brought out by humanitarian assistance teams on Sunday despite mortar attacks and shooting.

More civilians may be rescued as rebels and the Bashar al-Assad government have extended the ceasefire for another three days.

The evacuation of about 600 of the 3,000 trapped people came as representatives from both sides converged on Geneva, Switzerland, for new peace talks.

Spotlight

In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

Sunday’s evacuation was the second after 83 people were brought out on Friday – the first day of the truce.

The Syrian Red Crescent said on Facebook “around 600 people evacuated today, registration is still ongoing. We managed to get 60 food parcels & 1500Kg of flour inside old city”.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 611 were brought out – “210 women, 180 children, 91 men over 55 years old and 130 young men who surrendered to Syrian authorities under UN supervision”.

It said the men “will be released soon”.

Television footage showed women, children and elderly men getting off the evacuation buses.

They appeared visibly exhausted and frail, in a video broadcast by the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel.

Homs, much of which has been reduced to rubble, was dubbed “the capital of the revolution” by activists before an offensive in 2012 by regime forces recaptured much of the city.

Trading blame

The civilians evacuated from Homs on Sunday were aided by UN staff and Syrian Red Crescent volunteers amid a strong Syrian army presence.

State television said the operation took place under fire from “armed terrorist groups” – regime terminology for rebels.

But the Syrian Observatory echoed claims by activists that at least five people were killed in shelling that targeted the besieged Homs district of Qarabis.

Activists accused pro-government fighters in neighbourhoods bordering the besieged districts who opposed the truce, of firing the mortar rounds.

Shelling also targeted a Homs aid convoy on Saturday in an attack that killed five residents and wounded 20 others, the Syrian Observatory said.

Elsewhere on Sunday, at least 25 members of Assad’s Alawite sect were killed by fighters in the Maan area of Hama province, the Syrian Observatory said.

It said most of the dead were pro-regime fighters, but state television reported a “massacre” of 10 women.

And in the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk in southern Damascus, besieged since last June, a man and a woman died of malnutrition, it said.

Since the blockade began, up to 80 people have died because of food and medical shortages, the Syrian Observatory estimates.

On the diplomatic front, the government delegation and members of the opposition National Coalition arrived for the second round of Geneva II, sources close to the delegations told AFP news agency.

Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, again heads the government delegation.

It was not yet clear if Ahmed al-Jarba, the National Coalition head, will be in the opposition delegation.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, is scheduled to hold separate sessions on Monday, with the opposition in the morning and the regime delegation in the afternoon.

It will then be decided whether to hold a joint session on Tuesday or not, an AFP journalist said.

The warring sides seem far from compromise, however.

While the regime insists that the talks focus on fighting “terrorism”, the opposition demands the priority be agreement on a transition that excludes Assad.

The nearly three-year civil conflict in Syria has killed about 136,000 people and displaced millions more.

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Homs evacuation allows hundreds to leave city

More than 600 people have been evacuated from central Syrian city of Homs, with aid agencies battling mortar shells and gunfire to reach stricken civilans trapped by 18 months of fighting between rebels and government forces.

Aid teams have helped 611 people to flee the besieged city since Friday, with the majority exiting on Sunday, and delivering much needed food and medical supplies to those preparing to leave or wishing to stay.

But the evacuation has come at a cost, with the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying that five people were killed by mortar shells and two from gunfire in the Old City on Sunday.

Violence broke out on Saturday and threatened to altogether scupper the humanitarian access that had been eked out during peace talks in Geneva two weeks ago. The explosions and gunshots also violated a three-day ceasefire that began on Friday.

The ceasefire has been extended for another three days, the governor of Homs Talal Barzai told Al Jazeera.

Khaled Erksoussi, head of operations at the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, told Associated Press news agency that Saturday’s attacks left one aid worker wounded. At least nine Red Crescent and UN vehicles were trapped in Homs for several hours, but the team managed to escape shortly before 8:00pm GMT, leaving behind two damaged lorries.

According to its Twitter feed, SARC workers were able to get 60 food parcels and 1500kg of flour inside the Old City on Sunday. Its workers also provided medical assistance and food to evacuees.

Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have prevented the entry of food and medical aid into parts of Homs for more than a year.

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Hundreds drown in South Sudan ferry sinking

At least 200 South Sudanese civilians have drowned in a ferry accident on the White Nile river, an army spokesman said.

Army spokesman Philip Aguer told AFP news agency on Tuesday that the boat had been overloaded with people trying to escape the violence.

“The reports we have are of between 200 to 300 people, including women and children,” he said.

“They all drowned. They were fleeing the fighting that broke out again in Malakal.”

Meanwhile, battles raged in several cities in South Sudan on Tuesday.

Heavy fighting was reported in Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile state, as rebel forces staged a fresh attack to seize the town.

Control of Malakal has already changed hands twice since the conflict in South Sudan began on December 15.

“There is fighting anew in and around Malakal,” United Nations aid chief for South Sudan Toby Lanzer said, adding that the peacekeeping base had been swamped with almost double the number of people seeking shelter, rising from 10,000 to 19,000.

Marching on Bor

The army reported heavy fighting south of Bor, as the government sought to retake the town from rebels, the largest in their control.

“We are marching on Bor, there was very heavy fighting late on Monday,” Aguer said.

However, he rejected rebel claims to have captured the river port of Mongalla, situated between Bor and the capital Juba.

“We are north of Mongalla, we remain in full control there,” Aguer said.

According to the United Nations, about 400,000 civilians have fled their homes over the past month.

The fighting is between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

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Hundreds of Iraqi merchants protest in Basra on application of tariff

1-4-14 Shafaq News / Hundreds of Iraqi traders and residents in Basra province protested on Saturday, against the application of the tariff law , demanding to cancel the law.

“Hundreds of traders and residents protested today in front of Safwan border port in Basra and demanded to cancel the tariff law ,” A local official in Basra province who asked not to be identified told “Shafaq News”.

He added that this event comes one day after the announcement of the deputy Minister of Finance , Safah al-Deen al-Safi during a visit to Basra yesterday to apply the tariff law at all border crossings .

Iraqi ports announced on 28 December of 2013 , that it will begin to apply the new tariff system at early 2014.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers has announced earlier , that the Council of Ministers decided to apply the tariff law No. 22 for 2010.

However, the economic and investment commission in the parliament announced that the tariff will be applied partly in 2014 .

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Italy navy saves hundreds off Sicily coast

Italian and Maltese rescuers have searched for three boatloads of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, after earlier rescuing more than 300 on stricken vessels.

The naval forces rescued more than 120 migrants onboard four other boats struggling in rough seas in just one hour late on Thursday, as the immigration crisis that killed hundreds in shipwrecks in 2013 showed no signs of letting up in the new year.

Hours earlier, they rescued 233 mostly African migrants from one overcrowded 10m boat near Sicily.

The first boat had been sighted by a navy helicopter on Wednesday night as it ran into difficulty off the southern island of Lampedusa.

The fiberglass vessel was packed to overflowing as it tried to make the crossing of the Mediterranean waters near Lampedusa, south of Sicily.

Italy sea arrivals triple

The migrants were transferred on to the navy ship Zeffiro on Thursday morning and they were to be taken to a port near Syracuse, on Sicily’s eastern coast, a statement said.

On board were men and women from Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Zambia and Mali as well as from Pakistan, the navy said.

Sea arrivals to Italy from Northern Africa more than tripled in 2013, fuelled by refugees from Syria’s civil war and
political strife in the Horn of Africa.

Figures from the Italian Interior Ministry show about 25,000 migrants arrived by boat in 2013, 10,000 of them fleeing conflict in Syria.

In October, 366 Eritreans drowned in a shipwreck near the shore of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

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Maliki: oil wealth can cover the budgets of Iraq for hundreds of years

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said his government made ​​strides in the development of the agricultural sector and support workers in this field, and was able to get closer to achieving self-sufficiency through the cultivation and harvesting of some of the major crops in the country.

Maliki said in a speech during the opening of the union laborers and agricultural cooperative Arabs held in Baghdad that “Iraq, which was exported agricultural products turned into the first importer of all kinds of crops.”

He pointed out that agriculture has grown in Iraq and we were able to take back our farm, but he also said he was “still a long road ahead to restore full capabilities of Iraq and increase the product by supporting farmers modern agricultural methods and not traditional.”

He added that in the past year closer to self-sufficiency in grain and in vegetables as well, and this makes us to provide more support for farmers, noting that the Ministry of Agriculture has headed the development of this sector, but we have not only the submissions and stood with her through the activation of the agricultural initiative.

Maliki said that “some Arab countries ask for this agricultural initiative and the achievements and how they started,” stressing that this initiative was a simple idea, but have had a significant impact on all the increase in production in all agricultural wealth

And rejected al-Maliki said Iraq depends on oil wealth cam, saying, “We do not want do not want to keep oil countries but we do not want to be a farmer and the farm parallel to the oil wealth.”

He pointed out that the country that can not secure its food remains a prisoner in the event enable us to secure it, and we try life in this country, “stressing that” we do not want to drain our wealth of oil even though it is enormous and can cover the budgets in the tens of years or even hundreds of years, “.

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Hundreds reported dead in CAR violence

The Red Cross said it has collected the bodies of 281 people killed during two days of violence in the capital of the Central African Republic.

Pastor Antoine Mbao Bogo, the president of the aid organisation, said on Friday that staff found the dead before night fell and the toll was likely to rise significantly when they resumed work at the weekend. 

They are slaughtering us like chicken.

A man who hid with his family as former rebels searched house-to-house

“Tomorrow is going to be a monster of a day, We’re going to work tomorrow and I think we’re going to need a fourth day too,” Bogo said.

The bloodshed started on Thursday as armed Christians raided Muslim neignbourhoods in a country that has been seeing tit-for-tat violence since mainly Muslim rebels, called Seleka, seized power in March and toppled President Francois Bozize.

“They are slaughtering us like chicken,” said Donoboy, a Christian whose family remained in hiding as former rebels searched house-to-house.

French troops rumbled into their former colony on Friday, trying to stop violence in the capital and to stabilise the country.

French ambassador discusses CAR mission

However, French officials insisted the mission’s aims were limited to bringing a minimum of security to Bangui, where people now fear to leave their homes, and to support an African-led force.

“You have to secure, you have to disarm,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, French defence minister, told Radio France Internationale. “You have to ensure that the vandals, the bandits, the militias know they can’t use the streets of Bangui for their battles.”

The streets of Bangui were deserted on Friday morning, with the only vehicles on the road belonging to either international security forces or the rebel fighters who claim control of the government.

There was no repeat of the clashes, Le Drian said.

“Thanks to France and the United Nations who want to save the Central Africans, soon the Seleka attacks on civilians will stop. We have had enough of Seleka killing, raping and stealing,” said Abel Nguerefara, who lives on the outskirts of Bangui.

However, Joanna Mariner, part of an Amnesty International team in Bangui, said that she had reports of pillaging and killing in the third district. “The French are patrolling on the main axes, but the city isn’t yet secure,” she added.

Since 2011, France has intervened in four African countries, in Ivory Coast, on a joint mission in Libya, in Mali and now in Central African Republic.

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Hundreds rescued after Canada child-porn bust

A child pornography bust in Toronto two years ago has led to the arrest of 341 people and rescue of 386 sexually abused children around the world, police have announced.

William Blair, Toronto Police Service chief, on Thursday told a press conference that undercover officers made contact in October 2010 with a Toronto man suspected of sharing child pornography.

Their investigation led to a company believed to be producing and distributing “child exploitation videos and images over the Internet,” said a police statement.

The 42-year-old’s home and business were raided seven months later and he was charged with operating a website that sold and distributed child pornography.

Police said the man “paid various people to film children for the purpose of creating movies for sale on his website”.

The website Azovfilms.com allegedly earned him $ 3.8m annually.

Over 45 terabytes of data were seized. And police subsequently tracked down the website’s customers.

The United States Postal Inspection Service was involved in the probe, as were authorities in Sweden, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, among others.

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Iran Has ‘Hundreds Of Troops’ In Syria

Iranian lawmaker Javad Ghoddusi Karimi has reportedly confirmed there are “hundreds” of Iranian troops in Syria fighting on the side of embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran’s ISNA news agency reported on November 4 that Karimi, a member of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that “Syrian commanders, backed by Iranian forces, are announcing the army’s victories against rebel fighters.”

Reports about Karimi’s comments came the same day Iran’s Mehr news agency reported the death of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Mohammad Jamalizadeh Paghaleh.

Iranian media reported that Paghaleh was killed last week in Syria by “Wahhabi terrorists.”

IRGC spokesman General Ramazan Sharif rejected Karimi’s statements, saying “Iran has only advisers in Syria to transfer its military experience to the Syrian army.”

Based on reporting by ISNA, Trend.az, and Mehr news agency

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Bangladesh convicts hundreds in mutiny case

A Bangladeshi court has convicted more than 300 soldiers at the start of a mass verdict over a 2009 military mutiny in which scores of senior officers were massacred.

At a special court in Dhaka on Tuesday, Judge Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman sentenced 152 people to death – and another 157 to life in prison – for their role in the 30-hour mutiny.

At least 200 soldiers were acquitted.

“The atrocities were so heinous that even the dead bodies were not given their rights,” Akhtaruzzaman said as he started to read out the verdicts.

Up to 823 soldiers allegedly took part in the killing of 74 people including senior army officers who were hacked to death or tortured and burnt alive before their bodies were dumped in sewers and shallow graves.

Security was tight at the specially built court in Dhaka, with police and elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers deployed outside, before the verdict’s announcement.

“We have deployed around 2,000 police and RAB officers in and around the court compound,” Harunur Rashid, deputy police commissioner for Dhaka, told AFP news agency.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for many of the 823 soldiers who are charged with murder, torture, conspiracy and other offences over the 30-hour uprising that started at the paramilitary Bangladeshi Rifles (BDR) headquarters in Dhaka.

Nearly 6,000 soldiers have already been jailed by dozens of special courts over the mutiny that spread to other BDR bases around the country.

In civilian court

The 823 soldiers were singled out for prosecution in a civilian court after they were found guilty in military courts over their role in the mutiny.

Twenty-three civilians have also been charged with criminal conspiracy.

Baharul Islam, lead prosector, said the case was the largest of its type in the world with hundreds of witnesses taking part in the trial that started in January 2011 and finished in October this year.

“So far as we know it’s the largest case in the world’s history. There were 654 prosecution witnesses,” Islam said before the verdict.

The verdict was delayed last week after the judge said he needed more time to finish writing it.

During the uprising, the mutineers stole an estimated 2,500 weapons and broke into an annual meeting of top BDR officers before shooting them at point blank range.

As the mutiny spread, it briefly threatened the new government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which had been elected only one month previously.

The cause of the violence is uncertain but pent-up anger over poor benefits and resentment by soldiers against BDR senior officers, who do not come from within the BDR, is widely seen as the main factor.

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Russia race riot leads to hundreds of arrests

More than 380 people have been arrested after Russian nationalists rampaged for hours in Moscow over the murder of a local man blamed on a migrant.

Crowds on Sunday chanted slogans, including “Russia for Russians” and “white power” in the protest in Biryulyovo, an industrial district of southern Moscow.

Police ordered a city-wide security alert and began making arrests after rioters smashed shop windows, set a shopping centre on fire and assaulted security guards. 

Witnesses said the protesters threw empty beer bottles, clubs and even hammers at a riot police force that rushed to the scene in about a dozen buses.

“I cannot believe this is happening in our city,” one woman told Russian state television. “I am afraid to let my children out on the street,” said another.

A police spokesman told Russian media that the city’s entire active security force had been mobilised several hours into the riot. Five police officers were injured, according to a police spokesman.

Clubs and hammers

The riot broke out in the afternoon when a group of several hundred youths dressed predominantly in black attacked a vegetable market where they thought the suspected killer was hiding.

They were outraged over the murder on Thursday of a 25-year-old local man named Yegor Shcherbakov.

Police said he was stabbed by an unknown assailant in unclear circumstances while his fiancee, identified only by her first name Ksenya, watched.

The killer fled the scene but was caught on surveillance cameras that suggested he could have been from Central Asia or the Caucasus.

“Every measure will be taken to stop the criminal,” Alexandre Polovinko, the district police chief, said at the scene of the protest. “The best investigators have been assigned to the case.”

Ethnic tensions have simmered for years in Moscow and other major Russian that have been flooded by migrant labourers from predominantly Muslim regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Sunday’s riot was the largest since 5,000 football fans and nationalists protested on Moscow’s central Manezh Square in December 2010 over the killing by a man from the Caucasus of an ethnic Russian supporter of a local club.

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Hundreds Of Stray Dogs Put Down In Dushanbe

DUSHANBE — Tajik authorities in the capital, Dushanbe, say some 500 stray dogs were caught and destroyed last month amid a wave of residents’ complaints over the growing number of feral canines roaming the city.

City officials said on October 4 they had recorded at least 80 cases of stray dogs attacking people in 2013.

According to official figures, some 2,500 stray dogs were destroyed in Dushanbe between January and October this year. Authorities say the stray dog population is on the rise in Dushanbe as packs of dogs searching for food have moved from nearby villages to the city’s garbage pits.

Dogs abandoned by owners have also been a cause for the increase of the capital’s feral animal population. There are no animal shelters in Dushanbe.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds unaccounted for in Colorado floods

More than 200 people remain unaccounted for and four people have been confirmed dead after the worst floods for decades hit the US state of Colorado, authorities say.

More than two months’ of rain fell in less than two weeks, cutting off communities from power and clean water. More heavy rain was expected on Saturday across the state.

Search-and-rescue teams used boats and helicopters to pull stranded residents to safety and to try to find residents still missing.

Patrick Von Keyserling, an emergency official in Boulder County, an area heavily affected by flooding, said 218 people were unaccounted for.

“That number will fluctuate as families start locating people and as we pick up people that have been stranded with our helicopter operation,” he told Al Jazeera. “We will continue throughout the day as long as the weather is permitting.

“Certainly the intent is to find all unaccountable people. Some may be at rescue centres or staying with relatives,” Von Keyserling said.

Power cut off

Two small farming communities in eastern Colorado were under evacuation orders as a surge from the flooding was headed in their direction on the plains, the Colorado Office of Emergency Management said on Twitter.

“The town of Orchard is in immediate danger. EVACUATE NOW,” it said. “The town of Goodrich is under an evacuation order.”

Motorists were trapped in their cars with emergency crews scrambling to reach them.  

“Many, many communities in our western mountains are completely isolated. There is no road access, no telephone information, no power, no water, no sewer”, said Sheriff Joe Pelle of Boulder County.

In Lyons County, many residents have had no access to clean water or power for two days. The area lies near the meeting point of two rivers, and days of flash floods have made it resemble an inland sea.

At least four people have been killed, including a couple swept away in floodwaters after stopping their car northwest of
Boulder.

Also killed was a resident whose body was found in a collapsed building near Jamestown, an evacuated enclave north of Boulder, and a man whose body was discovered during flood-watch patrols in Colorado Springs, about 160km to the south, officials said.

The floods are the worst to hit Colorado for more than 30 years, and have prompted President Barack Obama to approve a federal disaster assistance request.

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Hundreds Clash With Police In Turkey After Protester Dies

Hundreds of protesters have clashed with police is southeastern Turkey after the funeral of a protester who died in unclear circumstances.

The outbreak of violence between protesters and police started on September 10 just hours after 22-year-old protester Ahmet Atakan was buried.

Atakan died in the early hours of September 10 in the city of Antakya at a demonstration against the police handling of nationwide antigovernment protests this summer, but the cause of his death was in dispute.

News of the protester’s death sparked protests in other Turkish cities.

Police in Istanbul fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesters rallying in the city center.

A wave of violent and at timse deadly protests, which started over plans to build a shopping center in an Istanbul park, spread through Turkey in June.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds Protest Iraqi Lawmakers’ Pensions

Hundreds of protesters have demonstrated in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities against generous pensions received by lawmakers.

The protests on August 31 show the widespread anger over monthly payments of thousands of dollars and benefits that go to lawmakers and parliamentary officials in a country where many are struggling to get jobs and basic services.

Police in Baghdad closed most bridges connecting the two sides of the capital on August 30.

On August 31, they blocked demonstrators from reaching their declared protest sites.

Security forces also stopped journalists from covering the demonstrations.

Protests also were reported in Basra, in Nasiriyah and in Hillah.

“They promised us a share of the oil revenue for every citizen, but they did not do so. They promised to enact a legislation to allocate a monthly payment for students, but they did not do so,” one protester in Iraq said.

“They promised to compensate us 25,000 Iraqi dinars [about $ 21] as a replacement for our monthly food basket, but they did not do so. The parliament in Iraq is a business, we call on the president to disband the parliament.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan Ibrahim said increased security was aimed at protecting demonstrators.

He said the authorities were concerned suicide bombers might try to attack the rallies.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Police Fire Tear Gas To Disperse Hundreds In Istanbul

Turkish police have fired tear gas in Istanbul to disperse several hundred people protesting against the police crackdown on last month’s antigovernment demonstrations.

Police blocked at least 500 protesters in a busy street near Istanbul’s Taksim Square from marching in support of a teenage boy who is said to be in a coma after being hit in the head by a tear-gas canister during the unrest.

An initially small protest against the planned redevelopment of the city’s Gezi Park snowballed into nationwide demonstrations last month against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused by his critics of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Five people died and thousands were injured in the unrest, which posed the biggest threat to Erdogan’s decade-long rule.

Some isolated demonstrations have persisted in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Turkish Police Fire Teargas to Disperse Hundreds in Istanbul

ISTANBUL (Reuters) — Turkish police fired teargas in Istanbul on Wednesday to disperse several hundred people protesting against the police crackdown on last month’s anti-government demonstrations, local media reported.

Police blocked several hundred protesters in a busy street near Istanbul’s Taksim Square from marching in support of a teenage boy who is said to be in a coma after being hit in the head by a teargas canister during the unrest.

TV footage showed police vehicles firing water cannons and protesters running into side streets.

What started as a small protest against the planned redevelopment of the city’s Gezi Park triggered nationwide protests last month against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, accused by his critics of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Five people died and thousands were injured in the anti-government unrest, which posed the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s decade-old rule.

While the protests have largely died down across the country, some isolated demonstrations have persisted in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall.

Assyrian International News Agency

Police Detain Hundreds In Moscow Market Raids

Moscow police have detained hundreds of mostly migrant workers in raids on city markets in the wake of an attack in which a police officer was injured.

A police spokesperson said some 470 people were detained at three markets.

On July 27, a group of police officers was attacked by two dozen people at the Matveyevsky market in western Moscow as they were detaining a man suspected of raping a 15-year-old girl.

One police officer sustained a severe head injury.

In response, police launched sweeps to check people working at city markets for involvement in crimes and offenses.

The rape suspect and a man suspected of attacking the police officer were detained.

Moscow’s markets employ many migrants from other former Soviet republics and Russia’s Muslim-populated North Caucasus.

Based on reporting by RIAN, Interfax, and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Pakistan Taliban prison raid frees hundreds

Taliban fighters armed with mortars and grenades have attacked a prison in northwest Pakistan, escaping with about 250 prisoners after a gunfight with security forces, officials have said.

At least 12 people, including six police. were killed and eight others wounded in the assault, staged by fighters disguised in police uniforms, officials said.

The attack in the town of Dera Ismail Khan began late on Monday with a huge explosion, intelligence officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to reporters.

The fighters then detonated a series of smaller bombs to destroy the prison’s boundary wall.

Security forces engaged the attackers, who were chanting “God is great” and “Long live the Taliban”.

“Police and other law enforcing agencies are busy in clearing the jail,” senior government official Mushtaq Jadoon said, adding authorities have imposed a curfew in the city and asked residents to stay at home.

Pakistan’s military confirmed that it had deployed forces to respond to the raid.

Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the capital, Islamabad, said: “I would describe it [the attack] as extremely calculated.”

Some of the Taliban fighters were using loudspeakers and calling the individual names of inmates to come out of the badly damaged prison, he said.

Officials have said that 40 to 45 so-called high-profile or high-value prisoners were freed, our correspondent added.

Taliban claim responsibility

Provincial prisons chief Khalid Abbas said the attackers escaped after three-hour long gunfight with security forces.

“Security forces have entered the prison and cleared the building after which we have started counting prisoners with flashlights as there is no power in the prison and it is making our job difficult,” Abbas told AFP news agency.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a spokesperson. The group said that “over 100 fighters” had attacked the prison.

The Taliban have been waging a deadly uprising against the government for years that has killed thousands of security personnel and civilians.

Dera Ismail Khan, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is located on the edge of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal area, the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

The jail, which housed about 5,000 prisoners, is near the bordering town of Tank and adjacent to volatile the South Waziristan Agency, the main area of influence of the outlawed TTP.

In April 2012, Taliban fighters armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades battled their way into a prison in the city of Bannu in northwest Pakistan, freeing close to 400 prisoners, including at least 20 described by police as “very dangerous” fighters.

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Hundreds escape after Iraq prison attacks

A manhunt is under way for hundreds of inmates, including four high-ranking al-Qaeda members, who escaped two Iraqi prisons following deadly attacks.

Fifty-six people were killed in Sunday’s attacks on Taji prison, north of Baghdad, and the Abu Ghraib facility, west of the Iraqi capital.

The dead include 26 members of the security forces and 20 inmates. Ten of the attackers also died.

Most of them were convicted senior members of al-Qaeda and had received death sentences.

Hakim al-Zamili, Senior member of the security and defence committee 

Gunmen fired mortar rounds at the prisons.

Four car bombs were also detonated near the entrances to the jails, while three suicide bombers attacked Taji prison, a police colonel said. Several roadside bombs also exploded near the prison in Taji.

Fighting continued throughout the night as the military deployed aircraft and sent in reinforcements around the two facilities.

“The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of al-Qaeda and had received death sentences,” Hakim al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defence committee in parliament, told Reuters.

Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that this was the most serious challenge from al-Qaeda the government has faced in years.

“This is a group they thought they had dismantled,” our correspondent said.

“There has been surprisingly little public reaction from the government, one would think they would try to reassure their citizens.”

‘Pursuing terrorists’

The situation was eventually brought under control on Monday morning, according to the colonel.

“The security forces in the Baghdad Operations Command, with the assistance of military aircraft, managed to foil an armed attack launched by unknown gunmen against the… two prisons of Taji and Abu Ghraib,” the interior ministry said in a statement late on Sunday night.

“The security forces forced the attackers to flee, and these forces are still pursuing the terrorist forces and exerting full control over the two regions,” it said.

The attacks on the prisons came a year after al-Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate announced it would target the justice system.

“The first priority in this is releasing Muslim prisoners everywhere, and chasing and eliminating judges and investigators and their guards,” said an audio message attributed to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in July last year.

Prisons in Iraq are periodically hit by escape attempts, uprisings and other unrest.

Abu Ghraib became notorious after photographs showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated and abused by their US guards were published in 2004. It also served as a torture centre under Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime.

Deadly violence also hit security forces in northern Iraq on Monday. A suicide car bomber attacked an army patrol in the city of Mosul, killing 12 people and wounding 16, while a roadside bomb wounded a soldier and a civilian near the city.

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Overnight Egypt Clashes Leave Several Dead, Hundreds Wounded

A least seven people have been killed in overnight clashes between the police and supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Muhammad Morsi.

Senior Health Ministry official Khaled el-Khateib said on July 16 that more than 260 people were injured in the violence that broke out late on July 15.

He said the clashes continued early on July 16 in many parts of Cairo.

Muhammad Sultan, head of the capital’s emergency services, told Reuters news agency that two people were killed at a bridge in central Cairo and five more in the Giza district.

Thousands of supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement are protesting to demand his reinstatement.

He was ousted by the military on July 3 after days of mass opposition protests.

On July 15, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns held talks with Egypt’s interim government and military leaders.

Burns also said during a visit to Cairo on July 15 that Washington is “deeply committed to Egypt’s democratic success and prosperity” and that “only Egyptians can determine their future.”

Burns made the remarks after talks with Egypt’s interim president, Adli Mansour, and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the architect of the military ouster of Islamist President Muhammad Morsi.

Burns is the first senior U.S. official to visit Egypt since Morsi’s ouster on July 3.

Burns told journalists in Cairo that Washington would “stand behind certain basic principles” for Egypt, including the protection of “human rights and the rule of law.”

“The United States remains deeply committed to Egypt’s democratic success and prosperity,” Burns said.

“We want a strong Egypt — an Egypt which is stable, democratic, inclusive, and tolerant; an Egypt which addresses the needs and respects the rights of all of its citizens. That is the Egypt that Egyptians deserve, that is the Egypt that can lead the rest of the region into a better future.”

Burns also said the United States would not favor any particular personalities or parties.

He was scheduled to stay in Cairo on July 16 for more talks with Egyptian officials.

There was no word on whether he would meet with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of the ousted Morsi.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds of Families Feared to Be Trapped in Damascus

(AFP) — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported a car bomb detonated outside a police station in Damascus province, causing an unknown number of casualties.

“The toll from shelling on Qaboon rose to 13 people,” the Observatory said, adding three civilians and seven rebels were among the dead, and that three bodies had not yet been identified.

The deaths came after the Observatory warned that hundreds of families were trapped in the northeastern district by fierce fighting between troops and rebel fighters.

“There is a siege because regime snipers are posted on the outskirts of Qaboon and this makes any attempt to leave difficult,” said the group. “The area has also been bombed by the army.”

Regime troops have been trying for months to dislodge rebels from rear-bases they have established in parts of the outskirts of Damascus.

Footage filmed by activists in Qaboon showed smoke rising from the area as the sound of non-stop artillery and mortar fire rings out.

The Observatory said residents of the area were facing a “stifling” siege.

“There’s a major shortage of food and some families have nothing to feed their children with,” it said.

The Observatory also reported that dozens of people detained in an underground makeshift prison near a mosque in Qaboon escaped when regime forces guarding the site left to join the fighting.

Overnight, the opposition National Coalition had urged the international community to act to free “200 people” they say are being held in the mosque.

Rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s government control several neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Damascus from which they are able to shell areas in the city centre, which is still in regime control.

Forces loyal to Assad have for months been trying to uproot those rear-bases, including in Qaboon and Barzeh, in northern Damascus.

Nearby, in Damascus province, the Observatory reported a car bomb detonated outside a police station in the town of Deir al-Attiya.

“There are casualties, dead and injured, including from the police, but we don’t know yet what the details are,” Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

The explosion caused heavy damage to the police station.

The Observatory meanwhile reported that the Red Cross delivered 5,000 rations of food to Aleppo’s central prison, which has been under siege by rebel forces for three months.

“Rebels allowed them to bring in rations for the Muslim month of Ramadan,” the Observatory said.

At least 120 prisoners died in the facility in May alone as a result of shelling and food and medical shortages, according to the Observatory.

Rebel forces have been seeking to capture the prison and free around 4,000 people inside, who include political prisoners as well as common criminals.

The Observatory reported continued fighting throughout Syria on Sunday, including in the northwestern province of Idlib, where a man and his three children were killed by a helicopter gunship raid.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Assyrian International News Agency

Brazil Death Reported As Hundreds Of Thousands Take To Streets

At least one person has been reported killed as hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets for antigovernment rallies.

The male protester was reported killed in Sao Paulo state after a car hit a crowd of demonstrators on June 20.

Elsewhere, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in Rio de Janeiro.

In the capital, Brasilia, security forces fought off protesters who tried to break into the Foreign Ministry.

President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency cabinet meeting for June 21.

The protests began over a raise in transit fares but have escalated into a movement against official corruption and the high costs to Brazilians of hosting international sporting events such as the 2014 World Cup.

Protesters say more funds should be spent on education and health care.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds Of Illegal Migrant Workers Found In Underground ‘Town’ In Moscow

Moscow police have detained more than 200 illegal migrant workers found in an underground “town” hidden beneath the capital’s Cherkizovsky Market.

The workers were apparently locked inside the vast complex to produce clothing.

Russia’s Interior Ministry released a video of the raid on June 4 later the same day.

The footage showed a subterranean factory containing work rooms filled with sewing machines, along with living quarters, a cafe, a cinema, a casino, and a chicken coop.

The migrant workers appeared to be Asian.

In another raid on June 4 in the city of Obninsk near Moscow, police found 450 immigrants from Vietnam in an abandoned hangar, where they lived and worked on sewing clothing.

Last week, Moscow police carried out an operation that resulted in the detention of 952 suspected illegal migrant workers, the majority of whom were from Central Asia.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and RIA-Novosti

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

EU Report Reveals Hundreds Of Problems With European Nuclear Reactors

BRUSSELS — A draft report produced by the European Commission says almost all of Europe’s nuclear reactors have safety shortcomings.

A copy of the report, which will be published on October 4, was obtained by RFE/RL.

It notes hundreds of problems in a majority of Europe’s 143 licensed nuclear power plants.

It estimates that bringing every plant up to a safe standard could cost 25 billion euros ($ 32 billion).

Stress tests of the reactors were carried out in recent months to see how the they might cope with extreme events such as earthquakes, floods, or terrorist or cyber attacks.

France, Europe’s largest nuclear power, fares badly in the report.

None of its 58 nuclear power plants reportedly meets the standards outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ukraine is cited as having inadequate evaluation standards in case of earthquake or extreme weather conditions.

An earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the Japanese east coast in March 2011 in the worst nuclear disaster since Chornobyl, prompting many states to reassess their nuclear safeguards.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds In Crimea Protest Anti-Islam Film

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Hundreds of people have rallied in Simferopol — the capital of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea, to protest a U.S.-made video denigrating the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

The protesters, mainly Crimean Tatars, chanted, “There is No God, but God and Muhammad is His Messenger!”

They were holding placards, one of which read, “America, Muhammad is Clean, You Are Humiliated!”

A similar protest was held by Tatar activists in the capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan, on September 26.

The privately produced film, “Innocence of Muslims,” sparked widespread protests, some of them deadly, in some predominantly Muslim countries this month.

Based on reporting by UNIAN, unn.com.ua, and RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hundreds killed in Karachi factory inferno

Factory fires in two major cities in Pakistan have killed more than 240 people and injured dozens more, including some who had to leap from windows to escape the flames, officials and survivors have said.

The most deadly blaze broke out on Tuesday night in a garment factory in the southern port city of Karachi, where more than 212 bodies have been recovered so far, according to Roshan Ali Sheikh, a senior government official.

At least 25 others were killed hours earlier in a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore.

Firefighters continued to battle the blaze in Karachi on Wednesday.

Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, said the top firefighter in Karachi, Ehtisham-ud-Din. There were no fire exits, and the doors leading out of the basement were locked, he said.

Such safety issues are common throughout Pakistan, where buildings also lack emergency equipment like alarms and sprinklers and municipal rules are rarely enforced.

Workers on higher floors of the five-story building struggled to make it out of windows that were covered with metal bars.

Mohammad Ilyas, a factory worker who was injured as he jumped out of the building, said he was working with roughly 50 other men and women on one of the floors when suddenly a fireball came from the staircase.

“I jumped from my seat as did others and rushed towards the windows, but iron bars on the windows barred us from escaping. Some of us quickly took tools and machines to break the iron bars,” he said. “That was how we managed to jump out of the windows down to the ground floor.”

Managers run

Sheikh said the factory’s managers had fled and were being sought by police. Authorities have placed the name of the factory’s owner on a list of people who are not allowed to leave the country, he said.

“The owners were more concerned with safeguarding the garments in the factory than the workers,” said employee Mohammad Pervez, holding up a photograph of his cousin, who was missing after the fire.

“If there were no metal grilles on the windows a lot of people would have been saved. The factory was overflowing with
garments and fabrics. Whoever complained was fired.”

Pakistani television showed a video of the factory with flames leaping from top-floor windows and smoke billowing into the night sky.Firefighters could be seen pounding on the metal grates covering some of the windows and pulling out smoke-covered bodies.

In Lahore, the fire swept through a four-storey shoe factory and killed 25 people, some from burns and some from suffocation, said senior police officer Multan Khan. The factory was illegally set up in a residential part of the city.

The blaze broke out when people in the building were trying to start their generator after the electricity went out. Sparks from the generator made contact with chemicals used to make the shoes, igniting the fire. Pakistan faces widespread blackouts, and many people use generators to provide electricity for their houses or to run businesses.

A firefighter at the scene, Numan Noor, said the reason most of the victims died was because the main escape route was blocked.

“The people went to the back side of the building but there was no access, so we had to make forceful entries and … rescue the people,” said Noor.

Firefighters broke holes in the factory’s brick walls to reach victims inside. At the morgue, bodies were lined up on a hallway floor, covered with white sheets.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Pakistani prime minister, in a statement expressed his shock and grief over the deaths in both cities.

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Scores Killed In Chinese Earthquake, Hundreds Injured

Chinese officials say that at least 63 people have been killed and some 700 injured in earthquakes that have struck the southwest part of the country.

The quakes centered near the borders of the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces on September 7.

Yunnan’s civil affairs department reported 6,650 houses were destroyed and 100,000 people evacuated.

The death toll was expected to rise as there are still remote communities that rescuers have not been able to reach because of the destruction to roads.

Health officials were also warning of disease outbreaks since thousands of farm animals were killed in the earthquake.

China’s CCTV said authorities were sending thousands of tents, blankets, and coats.

The station also said that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was going to the area.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty