YASYNUVATA Ukraine (Reuters) – With his face hidden behind a camouflage balaclava and an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, „Hunter” looks like other separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.What distinguishes him from his brothers in arms in the Vostok (East) battalion, an irregular pro-Russian militia fighting government forces, is his American accent – and English is the only language he knows.”I’m an American. I joined an independence movement,” said Hunter, flashing a U.S. passport as proof of his nationality.Using his „nom de guerre” and refusing to reveal his real name, age or home town, he described himself as a veteran of the American military without a job in the United States. He did not explain the reasons for his commitment to helping the rebels.”I don’t want anybody to think I fight for the Russian government here,” he said, adding that he was in eastern Ukraine to „help” the population demanding a clean break from Kiev.View galleryREFILE – CORRECTING TYPO An American who calls himself „Hunter” (R) holds his battalion flag …Apparently keen to show their cause has attracted support from abroad, the rebels drove him to the interview in the car of one of the Vostok battalion’s leaders.The United States has sided with Kiev in the nearly six-month-old conflict between forces loyal to the government and the separatists in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.The separatists are supported by Russia, although Moscow denies providing the rebels with arms and troops.Making light of his lack of Russian-language skills, Hunter said: „It’s not in-depth discussion or sophisticated conversations but, you know, there is enough conversation to .. move about and do things.”The conflict, in which more than 3,000 people have been killed since mid-April, has attracted foreign volunteer fighters from Europe and elsewhere on both sides but more often among the ragtag rebel units. A fragile ceasefire is now in place.View galleryAn American who calls himself „Hunter” holds his rifle as he walks through a field near th …Hunter spoke beside rebel trenches in Yasynuvata, a town north of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk and a strategic rail hub that has suffered heavy fighting and changed hands several times during the conflict. The Ukrainian forces’ positions are less than two km (one mile) away.Hunter said he had joined the rebel ranks in mid-August but was initially detained and interrogated on suspicion of being a spy because the rebels see the United States as a geopolitical rival for Russia and their own enemy in a Cold War-style standoff over Ukraine.Hunter said used to vote Republican but had become as disillusioned with that party as he was with the Democratic Party of President Barack Obama.He did not appear homesick but misses his favorite burgers.(Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and Anna Willard)
Seven Ukrainian soldiers killed in rebel attack, straining ceasefireBy Natalia Zinets17 hours ago By Natalia Zinets KIEV (Reuters) – Seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed when separatist shelling hit their armoured vehicle near Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine, a military spokesman said on Monday, putting a fragile ceasefire under further strain.It was the largest loss of life among Ukrainian soldiers in a single incident since the ceasefire came into force on Sept. 5 and cast a shadow over President Petro Poroshenko’s upbeat assertion last week that the worst of the war against the separatists was over.Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said tank fire from the separatists struck a large armoured carrier on Sunday night during rebel attempts to storm Donetsk international airport, which is held by government forces.The rebels hold key points inside the city itself, an industrial hub with a pre-war population of about one million.”During the evening attack, the Ukrainian armoured transporter, with its crew and a paratroop unit, took a direct hit from a tank,” Lysenko told journalists.”Intensive fighting broke out. Our paratroopers sustained losses,” Lysenko said, separately telling Reuters that seven soldiers had been killed. He said nine Ukrainian soldiers in all had been killed in the past 24 hours and 27 injured.Under pressure from Western governments, Poroshenko called the ceasefire after his troops suffered big battlefield losses against the separatists in August which Kiev ascribed to the direct intervention of Russian forces.View galleryA Ukrainian soldier stands guard on a road during a prisoners-of-war (POWs) exchange, north of Donet …Moscow, which opposes the pro-Western course pursued by the former Soviet republic, denies its troops have played any direct part in the conflict or armed the separatists despite what Kiev and Western governments say is incontrovertible proof.SEEKING CALM Poroshenko last week lauded the fact that military clashes had diminished and that military casualties had dwindled to zero, showing his peace plan was working.”I do not have any doubt that the main, the most dangerous, part of the war is already in the past,” he told reporters.Poroshenko is seeking to calm the waters in the run-up to a parliamentary election on Oct. 26 from which he wants a mandate from pro-Western forces to press ahead with his plan to end the conflict and pursue reforms designed to make the country fit to join the European mainstream.He will certainly want the ceasefire to be still holding at election time and a relatively calm atmosphere for people to cast their votes.A United Nations human rights official said on Sept. 23 that more than 3,500 people had been killed in the conflict, including 298 people who died when a Malaysian passenger plane flying over Donetsk region was brought down in July.Lysenko accused the separatists and Russian mercenaries of keeping up their attacks. „Despite the ceasefire … the terrorists and Russian mercenaries are continuing to fire on the positions of the ‘anti-terrorist’ forces,” he said.Government forces had destroyed the tank which had shelled the Ukrainian armoured vehicle, Lysenko said.He expressed confidence that Ukrainian forces would hold onto the airport, part of which was modernised to host the European football finals two years ago and which has huge strategic value since it can take big military transporters.”Donetsk airport was and will be under the control of the Ukrainian military,” he said.(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Crispian Balmer)
12 killed in worst east Ukraine shelling in a weekBy LAURA MILLS13 hours agoView gallery KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Eastern Ukraine has suffered the worst violence in more than a week as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and government troops in the region killed at least 12 people and wounded 32, officials said Monday.Col. Andriy Lysenko told journalists in a briefing in Kiev on Monday that at least nine troops had been killed in a day and 27 had been wounded.Meanwhile, the city council of Donetsk said in a statement published online that at least three civilians were killed and five wounded in overnight shelling of a residential area in the northern part of the city, where fighting has centered on the government-held airport. Throughout the day in Donetsk, regular explosions could be heard coming from the north of the city.Violence has continued despite a cease-fire declared on Sept. 5. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been at pains to insist to a skeptical audience at home that his peace plan is working and said last week that he believed „the most dangerous part of the war” is over.Since fighting began in April, the conflict has claimed at least 3,500 lives. On Sept. 20, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels signed another agreement that would require both sides to remove all heavy artillery from the frontline, creating a buffer zone that would allow the cease-fire to be better enforced.German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin said that the situation in east Ukraine was „anything but satisfactory.”View galleryA woman observes damage at a destroyed home after shelling in the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, …”The elementary question of the cease-fire is not yet cleared up, still less the future status and cooperation between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the Ukrainian central government,” Merkel said. „There is no protection of the border along the entire Luhansk and Donetsk region— no control, no buffer zones, and all of that is the minimum condition for us to be able to consider revoking sanctions. Unfortunately, we are a very long way away from that.”The EU imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russian companies and individuals for their role in the east Ukraine conflict. Kiev and the West have repeatedly asserted that Moscow has fueled the separatist insurgency by providing it with arms and personnel, something Russia denies.On Sunday, in the second-largest Ukrainian city, Kharkiv, nationalists tore down an enormous statue of Vladimir Lenin to cheers from the crowd. Across Ukraine, people have torn down statues to the former Communist leader in a symbolic display of anti-Russian sentiment.The authorities in Kharkiv supported the move. Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs and a Kharkiv native, wrote on his Facebook page: „Lenin? Let him fall… As long as nobody gets hurt.”_Geir Moulson in Berlin and Darko Vojinovic in Donetsk, Ukraine contributed to this report.
Thirteen soldiers and civilians were killed in 24 hours, officials said Monday, in the worst violence since the government and pro-Russian insurgents struck a shaky truce in their five-month conflict.The European-brokered peace deal finalised a week ago in Minsk commits the Ukrainian army and rebels to cease fire and to separate themselves with a 30-kilometre (18-mile) buffer zone.The insurgency has already killed more than 3,200 people according to UN figures and, despite the deal, a lasting solution seems no closer.National Security and Defence Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said rebels had killed nine soldiers, including paratroopers travelling in an armoured vehicle.Three civilians were killed in the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk, and another local person died in Makiyivka, a city just northwest of Donetsk, when a shell hit a residential house, local officials said.View galleryA woman observes damage at a destroyed home after shelling in the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, …Military officials said Monday that separatists with tanks staged repeated attacks on the airport outside Donetsk, a strategic flashpoint, which were repelled by the army, despite losses.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed that the army would continue fighting if the insurgents failed to silence their guns and announced Sunday that the army had created a „reliable frontline” in the east.A Russian army delegation of some 70 people arrived last week in eastern Ukraine, headed by the deputy commander of Russian ground forces, Alexander Lentsov. Several members of the delegation travelled to Donetsk to urge the separatists to respect the truce.”We are going to convince (the rebels), use reason with them. That is the most important thing,” Lentsov told Ukrainian television at the weekend, in rare public remarks by a Russian military commander.Moscow denies having sent regular troops to eastern Ukraine, but Kiev argues that large contingents of soldiers and heavy equipment from Russia were behind a rebel offensive last month that seized control of a chunk of territory and forced the government to agree to the ceasefire.View galleryActivists dismantle Ukraine’s biggest bronze monument to Lenin at a pro-Ukrainian rally in a cen …The five-month conflict between Kiev and the separatists of Lugansk and Donetsk has prompted Western states to impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia, whose economy is already flatlining.On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that „if there is a continued violation of basic principles” in the ceasefire, Europe may have to go further and rethink its strong dependence on Russian energy supplies.For the time being, „there is currently no way to remove the existing sanctions. Rather it is still necessary to continue the pressure within a reasonable political process,” she said.- Moscow opens ‘genocide’ probe -For its part Moscow announced an investigation into alleged „genocide” of Russian-speaking people by Kiev’s forces in the east.View galleryThe burned down top floor of the Gymnasium 33 high school in Donetsk, on September 29, 2014 (AFP Pho …The Investigative Committee, Russia’s main crime-fighting body that normally does not have jurisdiction outside the country, announced the probe Monday, saying Ukrainian forces were responsible for killing at least 2,500 people and destroying more than 500 civilian buildings.The splintered country’s election season kicks off Tuesday, the final day of registration for Ukraine’s snap parliamentary polls on October 26.Poroshenko last month called the polls as a way of restoring public trust in the parliament, which was previously dominated by corruption-tainted allies of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych.The rebels say they will boycott the ballot and hold their own votes on November 2.In a symbolic act of defiance against Russia, activists in Ukraine’s second biggest city of Kharkiv toppled the country’s largest statue of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in the main square on Sunday.Statues of Lenin, seen as symbols of the totalitarian Soviet past, were toppled throughout central Ukraine, including Kiev, during last winter’s pro-Europe protests, which led to the ouster of the Russia-leaning Yanukovych.
The Battle of KobaneBy TERRY MORAN9 hours agoView photo The Battle of Kobane (ABC News)It was another surreal day on the hills overlooking the Syrian border, watching the battle for the city of Kobane, located inside Syria.Related Stories
ISIS is tightening its grip here. Kobane is a Kurdish city and it is nearly surrounded. Tens of thousands of residents have fled across the border, and the Kurdish defenders left behind seem both outgunned and outmanned.But they are tough. And this place is their home.Airstrikes ‘Successful’ Against ISIS Targets in Syria, US Military Says ; Syria ‘OK’ With US Airstrikes ; 3 Times Obama Administration Was Warned About ISIS ThreatThis morning, ISIS fighters shelled the city. It was very strange and very sad to stand on a hill less than a mile away and watch the shells fall on the downtown streets and into the neighborhoods of the city. There is no targeting, no military objective here; ISIS is just raining fire on civilians.This whole campaign — now more than a month old — has shown again how ruthless and efficient is the ISIS playbook for taking territory.First, a lightning advance seizes roads, villages and key points and shapes the coming battle. Then, ISIS forces move forward more slowly and engage on the ground, probing the defenses, looking for opportunities to advance further. Next comes the bombardment and that is followed by the final assault — and the slaughter.In the past few days, the city’s Kurdish defenders have finally gotten some help. The U.S. and its allies have carried out air strikes against ISIS — apparently targeting ISIS positions and supply lines. In fact, we saw what seemed to be several air strikes to the west of the city today. Kobane’s defenders say these strikes have not stopped the jihadist advance.Perhaps that is because ISIS may be getting some help here, too, from Turkey.Turkey has long been concerned about Kurdish separatists in its southeastern provinces and their allies across the border in Syria — in Kobane. There were reports earlier this year of arms shipments from Turkey crossing the border into ISIS-controlled Syria. The Turkish government called these shipments „humanitarian aid” — and slapped a court order banning any further press coverage of the issue.The politics are murky. But the progress of the battle is clear.A few miles west along the border, we watched the Kurdish defenders of Kobane try to hold a key approach to the city. As night fell, the ISIS fighters moved forward, trying to flank the Kurdish positions. The fighting grew fierce, as the crack-and-thump of tracer rounds, the thud of mortar fire and the increasingly desperate snapping and pinging of small-arms exchanges filled the narrow valley. The jihadist fighters just kept pushing ahead.In the gathering darkness, we could hear the wind carry across the barren hills chorus after chorus of their ancient, piercing cry: „Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!”
Israel PM warns Iran greater threat than IS jihadistsBy Carole Landry8 hours ago Reuters Videos Netanyahu: Iran poses greater threat than Islamic State NewsUnited Nations (United States) (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Monday at the United Nations that a nuclear-capable Iran would pose the gravest threat to the world, far outstripping the jihadist terror from Iraq and Syria.Related Stories
„Make no mistake, ISIS must be defeated,” Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly, referring to the Islamic State group.”But to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state power is to win the battle and lose the war.”Netanyahu spoke a week after US President Barack Obama took to the UN podium to appeal for international support for the US-led coalition firing air strikes to defeat the IS jihadists.The prime minister took a swipe at Iran’s „smooth-talking” President Hassan Rouhani, accusing him of seeking a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program without scrapping any bomb-making capacity.”The Islamic republic is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement… that will cement Iran’s place as a threshold military nuclear power,” he said.View galleryPrime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a photo of an alleged Hamas rocket near childre …”Allowing that to happen would pose the gravest threat to us all.”A week-long round of talks between Iran and six world powers in New York ended on Friday with no breakthrough toward a deal to ensure Tehran’s nuclear program cannot be used for military purposes.Iran and the so-called P5+1 comprised of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany have set a deadline of November 24 to reach a historic agreement.The six powers are asking Iran to scale back uranium enrichment, which could be used to make a nuclear bomb, but Tehran has long denied that its atomic program would be used to build a weapon.- Rouhani’s ‘phony tears’ -View galleryIranian President Hassan Rouhani answers a question during a press conference in New York on Septemb …The prime minister derided Rouhani, who spoke out against jihadists during his UN address last week, accusing him of shedding „phony tears” while engaging in a „terror campaign” of his own.”To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees,” he quipped, referring to the Yankees captain, who retired to great fanfare at the weekend.”Would you let ISIS enrich uranium? Would you let ISIS build a heavy-water reactor?” he asked.”Iran’s nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled,” Netanyahu told the Assembly, drawing applause.Israel has repeatedly warned the West against making concessions to Tehran in talks on its nuclear program and asserted that it reserves the right to weigh military action to confront the Iranian threat.View galleryPalestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi delivers a speech on Nove …Netanyahu made a splash two years ago when he turned up at the UN General Assembly with a large cartoon drawing of a bomb to illustrate the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.At this year’s gathering, he showed a photograph purportedly of Hamas rocket-launchers with children playing next to them — a scene the Israeli leader said proved that Hamas had used civilians as human shields in Gaza.Netanyahu said jihadists in Iraq and Syria share a radical ideology with the Palestinian Hamas group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, declaring: „ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”Hanan Ashrawi, an executive member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called Netanyahu’s comments a „blatant manipulation of facts” and accused him of using „hate language.”Netanyahu also drew a parallel with Nazis, saying that while they believed in a „master race”, ISIS believes in a „master faith.”- ‘Brazen lies’ -Netanyahu took to the podium of the world’s largest diplomatic gathering, saying he wanted to expose „brazen lies” after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas last week accused Israel of waging a 50-day „war of genocide” in Gaza.In his address on Friday, Abbas called for an end to Israeli occupation, accused Israel of „genocidal crimes” during the Gaza war and said Palestinians living under Israeli rule faced a future of „apartheid”.Netanyahu offered a rebuttal, saying Israeli forces who fought in Gaza „deserve not condemnation but admiration” and said Israel was being „demonized.””In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy civilian population to get out of harm’s way or ensuring that they receive tons of humanitarian aid?” he asked.Abbas’ speech also drew a sharp rebuke from the United States, which said it contained „offensive characterizations” and undermined peace efforts.
Hong Kong protests turn festive after tear gas chaosBy Benjamin Haas7 hours ago Reuters Videos Hong Kong protesters defiant Around The Globe Hong Kong (AFP) – Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters turned parts of Hong Kong into a massive street party on Monday night, with the mood turning festive just a day after riot police fired tear gas in ugly clashes.Related Stories
The huge crowds defied government calls to go home after Sunday’s chaotic scenes, bringing key districts of the Asian financial hub to a standstill as they vowed to stay put until the Chinese government grants them free elections.Sunday’s violence saw riot police fire clouds of tear gas as they struggled to control the protesters, in one of the biggest ever challenges to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous city.The anger gave way to a lighter atmosphere on Monday as riot police retreated, leaving huge masses of protesters in control of at least four major thoroughfares around the city.But although there were few police on the scene, some protesters feared a repeat of Sunday’s clashes, donning goggles and masks to protect themselves against tear gas.”We can’t relax too much,” graphic designer Felix Kan told AFP. „This is still China — you never know what could happen.”The festival atmosphere was tempered early Tuesday as protesters attempted to second guess what the next police move would be, an AFP reporter at the scene said.Organisers also announced to the crowds that water and food supply stations had been targeted in attacks at some of the protest sites, but appealed for calm.In Mongkok, a busy shopping hub, police were called after a car drove at high speed past crowds of protesters, though no one was reported injured.The demonstrators are furious over last month’s announcement by Beijing that while it will allow the city’s next leader to be elected in 2017, it will insist on vetting the candidates, with critics branding the move a „fake democracy”.Public anger over rampant inequality is also at its highest in years in a city once renowned for its stability.View galleryRiot police fire tear gas on student protesters occupying streets surrounding the government headqua …- ‘Umbrella revolution’ -Cantonese pop music filled the air during the second day of what some are dubbing the „umbrella revolution”, as protesters have been using the canopies as shields against tear gas and the scorching sun alike.One British sympathiser won huge cheers as he set up a barbecue and began handing out hamburgers and sausages to the protesters.”I saw everybody was just standing around and just eating bread and bananas and I thought, ‘These guys have been here for 24 hours now, and everybody needs cooked food’,” Daniel Shepherd, a finance broker by day, told AFP.”Firing tear gas at students that are unarmed, I think, seems a bit excessive,” added the 32-year-old.The crowds hoisted up a makeshift copy of the „goddess of democracy” statue that graced the 1989 protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, while lamp posts were adorned with yellow ribbons — which, like the umbrella, have become a symbol of the movement.But many Hong Kongers expressed frustration at the huge disruption the protests have caused, with the crowds blocking key junctions in the busy Causeway Bay and Mongkok shopping districts as well as the biggest protest site in Admiralty.There was chaos on the transport network, shuttering many businesses, with schools in two central districts set to close for a second day on Tuesday.Some social workers and teachers also went on strike after the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) called for members to take action, the South China Morning Post reported.- Political headache for China -Analysts say the protests put the Chinese government in an extremely difficult position.Communist authorities are worried that dealing with the protests too softly could encourage wider protests for greater freedoms on the mainland. But a heavy-handed response could spark an international outcry.”It has the potential to be such a major crisis,” said Christopher Hughes, a China expert at the London School of Economics.He warned to AFP that Hong Kong could see a repeat of China’s violent crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests.”If they did decide to send in the tanks, who could stop them?” he asked.”They did it in 1989 and got away with it and they’re a lot more powerful now. There would be some negative impact, some business confidence, but how long will that last?”The United States urged Hong Kong’s leaders to „exercise restraint”.Former colonial power Britain also expressed concern, calling for „constructive” talks to end the standoff.Beijing moved swiftly to wipe mentions of the protests from Chinese social media — blocking photo-sharing service Instagram altogether — and reiterated its hardline stance, opposing the demonstrators’ „illegal” actions.Hong Kong’s police force defended the use of tear gas, with Assistant Commissioner Cheung Tak-keung saying officers had no other option when „police cordon lines were heavily charged by some protesters”.The mass protests came after a week of increasingly tense student-led demonstrations that saw people mob the city’s leader and storm the central government complex.
Bangladesh arrests Briton for suspected Islamic State recruitmentBy Serajul Quadir19 hours agoView photo A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer By Serajul Quadir Related Stories
DHAKA (Reuters) – A 24-year-old British citizen has been arrested in Bangladesh on suspicion of recruiting people to fight alongside Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, police said on Monday.Samiun Rahman, a resident of London, arrived in Bangladesh in February to recruit for both IS and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of the Detective and Criminal Intelligence Division (DCID) said.”He has plans to recruit and send a team from Bangladesh to fight in Syria,” Monirul told a news conference in Dhaka, the South Asian country’s capital.Police said Rahman had confessed to trying to recruit militants, although it was not yet clear if he had been successful. They added that he was also planning to establish a militant network in Bangladesh and neighboring Myanmar.IS has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks and now faces U.S.-led air strikes.Rahman’s arrest in Dhaka comes amid growing concerns that IS is trying to pull in new fighters from South and Southeast Asia to help in its bid for an Islamic caliphate.IS propaganda material has appeared recently in some parts of Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, according to residents. At least one Pakistan Taliban splinter group declared its support for IS, and the group’s flags and graffiti supporting it have also been spotted in Indian-held Kashmir.In Southeast Asia, over 100 people from Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines are believed by security officials and analysts to have joined Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.BRITISH-BORN, FOUGHT IN SYRIA Police said Rahman was born in the United Kingdom, but his parents were from a town northeast of Dhaka.The man told police he had joined the Nusra Front in Syria in September 2013 and fought with the group until last December.At some point, Rahman returned to Britain, according to police, though they said he visited other countries to recruit jihadis before arriving in Bangladesh to do the same.Police said Rahman had connected with a young man in Bangladesh via Facebook before arriving in the country.Bangladesh has been on alert since the Indian media reported this month that four men, including two engineering students, were arrested in the Indian city of Kolkata trying to make their way to Bangladesh to join an IS recruiter there.Last week, police arrested seven suspected members of the Islamist outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh in a Dhaka suburb who said they had also established contact with IS.The suspects were in possession of materials used to manufacture explosives and planned to attack high-profile individuals, police said.(Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by John Chalmers and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
Turkey deploys tanks to border as lawmakers to consider anti-IS action7 hours ago Reuters Videos Kurdish fighters and Free Syrian Army clash with IS at strategic border town News Mursitpinar (Turkey) (AFP) – Turkey on Monday deployed tanks and armoured vehicles to reinforce its border with Syria amid escalating violence by the Islamic State group, as parliament was set to consider whether to authorise military action against the jihadists.Related Stories
The army moved tanks and armoured vehicles to the border town of Mursitpinar, which lies across from the key Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, after some stray bullets hit Turkish villages, sparking retaliation from Turkey’s military under its „rules of engagement”.The government said Monday it would shortly submit motions to parliament authorising the armed forces to take action in Iraq and Syria, so Ankara can join the US-led coalition against the IS fighters.”The motions have not yet been sent to parliament. They may come tomorrow (Tuesday),” parliamentary speaker Cemil Cicek was quoted as saying by NTV television.Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the motions will be debated on Thursday.- Turkey not in US-led coalition -View galleryTurkish army tanks take position near the Syrian border on September 29, 2014 in Suruc. (AFP Photo/B …Turkey had refused to join a broad anti-IS coalition led by the United States while dozens of its citizens including diplomats and children were being held by IS militants having been abducted from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.After securing their freedom in a top-secret operation which reportedly resulted in the release of 50 IS fighters, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country’s position had changed, signalling a more robust stance towards the IS group.”We will hold discussions with our relevant institutions this week. We will definitely be where we need to be,” Erdogan said on Sunday.”We cannot stay out of this.”The government hopes parliament will approve the military action before the Muslim Eid holiday which begins on Saturday.View galleryTurkish police and soldiers clash with protesters near the Syrian border in Suruc on September 29, 2 …On Monday, Erdogan said the Islamic State — blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara since October 2013 — has nothing to do with Islam, which he said „does not legitimise such savagery or violence”.”Attributing terrorist actions in the Middle East to Islam means nothing other than distorting the truth,” he said in a speech in Istanbul. „Our religion is a religion of peace.”In a rare move, Turkey’s top general, Necdet Ozel, will speak to the cabinet on Tuesday followed by a security summit chaired by Erdogan.Turkey has so far accepted over 160,000 Syrian refugees who fled the IS assault near the town of Ain al-Arab, and has called for creating a safe buffer zone to help civilians inside Syria.Turkey has already taken in more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who fled the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.Up to 15,000 refugees crossed to Turkey on Monday, a Turkish official told AFP, saying that the border was „open to civilians, as well as to their cars and animals.”On Monday, at least three mortar shells fired from Syria landed in Turkish soil — up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the border gate at Mursitpinar, an AFP photographer reported. They caused no damage or casualties.But a mortar shell that hit a house in a Turkish village on the Syrian border late Sunday left three people wounded, the military said on its website, adding that the armed forces had responded in kind.
Army supporters storm Jazeera’s Beirut officeSeptember 28, 2014 5:34 PMView photo A general view shows Beirut skyline from its western waterfront side on June 21, 2012 (AFP Photo/Joseph Eid)Beirut (AFP) – Lebanese army supporters protested outside and then stormed the Beirut offices of Qatar-owned satellite channel Al-Jazeera Sunday, after a journalist published tweets ridiculing the military, the National News Agency said.Related Stories
„A large number of citizens gathered outside Al-Jazeera’s offices in Beirut,” said the agency, adding that some protesters „peacefully entered” the building and „chanted pro-army slogans”.They also demanded that journalist Faisal al-Qassem, resign.The protest came after he published photographs on Twitter showing top Lebanese singers performing in praise of the army, alongside a picture of rows of Syrian men rounded up in a raid on Thursday in the restive border town of Arsal.The pictures carry the headline: „The successes of the Lebanese army.”The photograph of the detained Syrians angered Syrian and Lebanese activists, who criticised the way the detainees had been treated.They were held more than a month after a bloody battle in Arsal between the Lebanese army and jihadists who streamed across the border from Syria.Later the jihadists withdrew, but took with them some 30 hostages from Lebanon’s army and security forces.Three captive soldiers have since been executed.The hostage crisis has sparked a series of protests, particularly by family members of the kidnapped men.A Lebanese army official said Sunday’s protesters were „young citizens who support the army. They are simply carrying Lebanese flags and calling on Qassem and Al-Jazeera to apologise.”He said the army had deployed in the area as a precaution.”There is nothing sectarian or dangerous about what is happening. The army is a patriotic institution.”Lebanon is sharply divided over the war in neighbouring Syria, with many Sunnis supporting the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, and many Shiites siding with his regime.
Iceland announces men-only UN meeting on womenBy CARA ANNA7 hours agoView photo Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, speaks during the 69th session of the …UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iceland is announcing a U.N. conference on women and gender equality — and only men and boys are invited.Related Stories
The country’s foreign affairs minister told the U.N. General Assembly of world leaders on Monday that the January „barbershop” conference will be unique, „as it will be the first time at the United Nations that we bring together only men leaders to discuss gender equality.”Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said the conference convened by his country and Suriname will be an „exceptional contribution” to events marking the 20th anniversary of a landmark U.N. conference on women in Beijing.”We want to bring men and boys to the table on gender equality in a positive way,” Sveinsson said. He said the meeting will have a special focus on violence against women.The unusual conference is part of a global campaign launched this month to get 100,000 men and boys involved in the fight for gender equality, which the United Nations had hoped would be achieved by 2015. That deadline won’t be met; in an interview this year, the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said projections indicate that if things don’t change, achieving gender equality will take 95 years.At the „HeForShe” campaign launch this month, actress Emma Watson explained the urgent need to bring men into the fight for gender equality.”In 1995, Hillary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights,” Watson said. „But what stood out for me the most was that only 30 percent of her audience were male. How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”The 1995 conference featured Clinton, then first lady, galvanizing global leaders with her now-famous declaration that „women’s rights are human rights.” Nearly 190 countries adopted a platform to achieve equality for women, which has become the blueprint for action by the global community on the issue.Iceland and Suriname are now leading a group of countries to stir up support for gender equality as the anniversary of the landmark Beijing meeting approaches.Earlier this year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Clinton will play an important role in next year’s anniversary celebration, and Clinton said she looks forward to working with Ban on an issue „of such great global importance.”At a separate event this year, Clinton said that in the nearly two decades since Beijing, „women and girls still comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unfed and unpaid.” She urged the U.N. to include gender equality at the forefront of its new goals to promote development.Iceland and Suriname fall at nearly opposite ends of global rankings on women’s rights. The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 compiled by the World Economic Forum ranked Iceland top in gender equality in economic, health and other matters. Suriname, the tiny South American country, was ranked 110th.The Forum hosts the annual gathering of global business and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos every winter.
At UN, Syria closes the door on peace talks11 hours agoView galleryUnited Nations (United States) (AFP) – Syria will not begin talks to end the three-and-a-half-year war while Islamist militants are rampaging through the country, the foreign minister told the United Nations on Monday.Related Stories
„We cannot start any political solution while terrorism is still rampant in Syria,” Foreign Minister Walid Mualem told the UN General Assembly.The statement killed off prospects for a resumption of peace talks in the near future despite efforts by UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura, who was appointed in July to re-start negotiations.Mualem dismissed the Syrian opposition recognized by the West to attend the peace talks, saying it lacked credibility and followed „the orders of its Western masters.””We are open to a political solution in Syria, with a real opposition … that does not depend on the outside,” he said.The West is stepping up aid to the moderate Syrian opposition, including military training to be provided by the United States to put more rebel forces on the ground to confront the jihadists.View gallerySyria’s Deputy Prime Minister Walid Mualem addresses the 69th session of the United Nations Gene …Mualem hit out at countries supporting the Islamist groups, in an implicit attack on Gulf countries where the so-called Islamic State (IS) group and Al-Nusra Front have drawn financial and military backing.Combating the Islamist threat „is certainly possible through military strikes,” said Mualem.”But most importantly, to do so through stopping states that arm, support, train, fund and smuggle those terrorist groups,” he said.The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution demanding that countries take action to choke off financial support and the flow of foreign fighters.But Mualem said the resolution was „unimplemented.”He warned that without action to cut off the Islamists from their sponsors a military campaign „will create a whirlpool of which the international community will not exit in decades.”The foreign minister, who is also deputy prime minister, spoke at the UN podium as IS fighters closed in on the key Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab in northwest Syria, known as Kobane to the Kurds.The US-led coalition carried out a fresh round of airstrikes, nearly a week after it began hitting jihadist positions in Syria, expanding an air campaign launched in August in Iraq.
Judge recommends six officers be fired from New York jail for beatingBy Ellen Wulfhorst7 hours agoView photo Rikers Island is seen in this aerial photograph taken in New York on October 31, 2012. The New York City Department of Correction has routinely violated the constitutional rights of male teenagers at the Rikers Island jail complex through a „culture of violence” that relies on beatings, the federal government said in a report released on August 4, 2014. The U.S. Justice Department said the multiyear probe had found a pattern of „conduct and practice” pervading the sprawling Rikers detention facility that violates the rights of young inmates. Picture taken October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES – Tags: CRIME LAW)A New York judge is recommending six correction officers at the city’s largest jail be fired for the hog-tying and brutal beating of an inmate who was handcuffed in a segregated mental health unit, according to a ruling released on Monday.Robert Hinton was seriously hurt in the April 3, 2012, incident at the Rikers Island jail complex, where he suffered facial injuries and a back fracture, according to the ruling by Administrative Law Judge Tynia Richard.Hinton was resisting being transferred to a new cell when he was beaten, the ruling said.The treatment of inmates at Rikers, which holds some 14,000 prisoners, has come under scrutiny and criticism in recent months.A federal government report in August found a pattern of abuse of juvenile inmates, Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised reforms and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has threatened legal action.In the ruling released on Monday, the judge was stinging in her criticism of the Rikers officers.”Individuals who themselves are out of control cannot be made the overlords of any group of inmates,” she wrote.All six should be fired, she said.The officers claimed they uncuffed the inmate who then kicked one of them and put another in a choke hold, the ruling said.The judge wrote that after a hearing, she did not believe their claims and found them guilty of misconduct.”The evidence established that the force was unnecessary, impermissible, and excessive” and the officers „intentionally misrepresented” what happened, she wrote.A Rikers video shows the officers carrying Hinton through a hallway, hands and feet tied behind his back, the judge wrote.There is no video of what transpired in his cell, where Hinton remained shackled and „incapable of defending himself,” she said.The judge was harshest on the highest-ranking officer, Captain Budnarine Behari.”His judgment in these matters was so poor, indeed reckless, as to suggest that Behari intended to engage Hinton or provoke a conflict that day,” the judge wrote.Norman Seabrook, head of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association jail union, said Behari failed to supervise the others.”Correction officers are soldiers, and we follow instructions,” Seabrook said. „The captain was clearly wrong here in ordering these correction officers to use whatever force that they used against this inmate in defense of themselves.”The union will fight the terminations, he said.(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
White House intruder got far past front doorBy ALICIA A. CALDWELL and JOSH LEDERMAN2 hours agoView photo FILE – In this Sept. 22, 2014, file photo, a Uniformed Secret Service police officer stands outside the White House in Washington. The intruder who climbed a fence made it farther inside the White House than the Secret Service has publicly acknowledged, the Washington Post and New York Times newspapers reported Monday, Sept. 29. The disclosures came on the eve of a congressional oversight hearing with the director of the embattled agency assigned to protect the president’s life. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The intruder who climbed a fence made it farther inside the White House than the Secret Service has publicly acknowledged, a Republican congressman said Monday. The disclosures came on the eve of a congressional oversight hearing with the director of the embattled agency assigned to protect the president’s life.Related Stories
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Monday night that whistleblowers told his committee that the intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. They also told the committee that the intruder made it past a female guard stationed inside the White House, Chaffetz said.In the hours after the Sept. 19 fence-jumper incident, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Associated Press that the suspect had been apprehended just inside the North Portico doors of the White House. The Secret Service also said that night that the suspect had been unarmed — an assertion that was revealed to be false the next day when officials acknowledged that Omar J. Gonzalez had a knife with him when he was apprehended.”I’m worried that over the last several years, security has gotten worse — not better,” Chaffetz said.He said his committee’s request for a briefing from the Secret Service on the incident was denied.It was not clear late Monday what Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was told about the extent of the incident.Senate Judiciary Committee staffers who were briefed about the investigation by the administration a week after the incident were never told that Gonzalez had made it deep into the building, said a congressional official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation and requested anonymity. The official said the committee later was told that the suspect had, indeed, made it far beyond the front door.Citing multiple unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that Gonzalez, 42, ran past the guard at the front door, past a staircase leading up to the Obamas’ living quarters and into the East Room, which is about halfway across the first floor of the building. Gonzalez was eventually „tackled” by a counter-assault agent, the Post said.Getting so far would have required Gonzalez to dash through the main entrance hall, turn a corner, then run through the center hallway half-way across the first floor of the building, which spans 168 feet in total, according to the White House Historical Association.The latest details to emerge about the troubling breach were expected to dominate questioning by lawmakers on Tuesday of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson at a House committee hearing — her first testimony since the incident. A Secret Service spokesman declined to comment Monday because of the ongoing investigation.Chaffetz said he planned to question Pierson about concerns raised by whistleblowers that audible alarms intended to alert officers to an intrusion had been muted. He also said the committee learned Monday night that, in a departure from normal practice, Pierson did not submit any testimony in advance.Since the incident, the White House has treaded carefully. Although White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged the president was „obviously concerned” about the intrusion, he also expressed confidence in the Secret Service as recently as Monday.It would be untenable for any president, not just Obama, to pointedly criticize the men and women who put themselves at risk to protect his life and family. That inherent conflict of interest means that Congress, not the executive branch, may be a better oversight authority for the Secret Service, its agents and officers.”The president and the first lady, like all parents, are concerned about the safety of their children, but the president and first lady also have confidence in the men and women of the Secret Service to do a very important job,” Earnest said.Had the intruder been heavily armed and the president and his family at home, the security lapse could have had serious consequences. No one was hurt in the incident, but it’s not the first involving the White House itself, raising the question whether the latest breach is part of a pattern of delayed reactions to threats to the executive mansion. The Secret Service says that is not the case.Yet in another White House incident in 2011, described by the Post over the weekend, the Secret Service did not immediately respond to shots fired at the White House, amid what the agency describes as uncertainty about where the shots originated. Four days later, it was discovered that at least one of the shots broke the glass of a window on the third level of the mansion, the Secret Service said.At the time of that incident, the president and first lady Michelle Obama were away, but their daughters were in Washington — one home and the other due to return that night.Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez of Idaho has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 2011 incident.After the Sept. 19 breach, Pierson ordered a review of the incident and possible changes to security measures at and around the White House. She briefed the president on Thursday.Gonzalez was on the Secret Service radar as early as July when state troopers arrested him during a traffic stop in southwest Virginia. State troopers there said Gonzalez had an illegal sawed-off shotgun and a map of Washington tucked inside a Bible with a circle around the White House, other monuments and campgrounds. The troopers seized a stash of other weapons and ammunition found during a search of Gonzalez’s car.The Secret Service interviewed Gonzalez in July, but were unable to hold him and he was released on bail. Gonzalez was stopped and questioned again on Aug. 25 while walking along the White House’s south fence. He had a hatchet, but no firearms. His car was searched, but he was not arrested.”There’s a misperception out there that we have some broad detention powers,” said Donovan, the Secret Service spokesman. He pointed out that Secret Service, like other law enforcement agencies, must have evidence of criminal behavior before filing charges against an individual._On Twitter follow Alicia A. Caldwell at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap and Josh Lederman at https://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
Battle against Islamic State creates new alliances By KARIN LAUB and ADAM SCHRECK9 hours ago Wochit Battle Against Islamic State Creates New Alliances Wochit Battle Against Islamic State Creates New Alliances AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — On a recent evening, two of Jordan’s top pro-al-Qaida ideologues held court on the rooftop of a villa decorated with strings of lights. Sporting shaggy beards and robes, the Muslim preachers whispered to each other and rose occasionally from plastic chairs to greet supporters.Related Stories
It would have been hard to picture such a scene just a few months ago, with Abu Qatada and Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi then being held in Jordanian prisons on security charges. But Jordan’s priorities appear to have shifted because of the mounting threat posed by the Islamic State group, an al-Qaida offshoot that has seized large areas of neighboring Syria and Iraq, sending shivers through the kingdom.Abu Qatada and al-Maqdisi have denounced some of the group’s practices as un-Islamic — comments some analysts say have turned the preachers into assets in Jordan’s campaign to contain the Islamic State, which is believed to have attracted thousands of followers in the country. Authorities say their release from prison — al-Maqdisi in June and Abu Qatada after an acquittal last week — had nothing to do with politics.But the clerics’ outspokenness points to one of many ways in which the rise of the Islamic State group is upending old assumptions in the Middle East.At the core of the issue: the group is viewed by some regional players as an existential threat and the fight against it has created an unlikely mix of allies and reshaped regional priorities.Longtime foes such as the United States and Iran now find themselves fighting a common enemy, as do Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds — who rarely agree on much. Squabbling Arab states, such as Qatar and its Gulf neighbors, have at least temporarily put aside their differences in the fight against the militants.One-time rivals „view the Islamic State through a similar lens, that it represents a threat to their national security interests,” said Fawaz Gerges, a London-based expert on Islamic movements.View galleryIn this Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 photo, radical al-Qaida-linked preacher Abu Qatada, first left, re …”This tells you the extent to which the Islamic State has really reconfigured regional security and global security,” he added.The coalition has quickly grown since the U.S. first launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq on Aug. 8, followed by bombardments in Syria that began Sept. 21.Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan have participated in attacks in Syria, while Qatar hosts an air base used by the coalition. France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Britain are among European countries contributing to U.S. efforts to hit the Islamic State group in Iraq.President Barack Obama acknowledged that U.S. intelligence agencies underestimated the threat from Islamic State militants in the Middle East and overestimated the ability and will of Iraq’s army to fight such extremists.Obama described the U.S. intelligence assessments in response to a question during a CBS „60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday. Obama also conceded that the U.S.-led military campaign in Syria was helping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, a man the U.N. has accused of war crimes.But Obama said he had no choice but to order U.S. airstrikes on Assad’s enemies, including the Islamic State, because „those folks could kill Americans.”View galleryIn this Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 photo, radical al-Qaida-linked preacher Abu Qatada, left, receives …Just a year ago, the Obama administration appeared on the verge of striking government targets in Syria after blaming Assad for a deadly chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas outside Damascus.Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday his government is satisfied with the U.S.-led bombing campaign, but that airstrikes should be expanded to include all other militant groups in Syria.In an interview with The Associated Press, al-Moallem said the fight has aligned Damascus with its Western and Arab opponents in confronting the same enemy.”We are fighting ISIS, they are fighting ISIS,” he said, referring to the group by one of its acronyms.Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among the most active supporters of the armed opposition seeking to topple Assad, are now part of the coalition that appears to be helping him militarily, even if unintentionally. How long they are willing to do so is unclear.Qatar’s participation in the coalition is significant. It has been under mounting political pressure over its backing of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, its ties with Hamas, which fought a 50-day war with Israel this summer, and for not doing more to stamp out private funding for extremist groups.View galleryIn this Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 photo, radical al-Qaida-linked preacher Abu Qatada, center, listen …It now finds itself allied with three Gulf neighbors who pulled their ambassadors from the country earlier this year to protest Qatar’s perceived regional meddling and support for Islamists. While the diplomats haven’t been formally reinstated, it appears the Islamic State threat is now a more pressing concern.”This is helping to push the GCC (alliance of six Gulf states) together against the Sunni extremists in Syria,” said Theodore Karasik, an analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani predicted a long fight against the Islamic State militants.”They have been trying to infiltrate into our borders, and therefore the threat is there,” he said. „We will continue until we achieve our objective of degrading and finishing the terrorist organization.”The new counterterrorism fight isn’t prompting the Obama administration to ease efforts against other long-term threats to the United States. Washington is still pushing for a nuclear deal with Iran and targeting the financing of Hezbollah and Hamas.But shifting the priority to destroying the Islamic State group is creating new opportunities for indirect collaboration, even with sworn enemies.View galleryIn this Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 photo, radical al-Qaida-linked preacher Abu Qatada, center right, …U.S. and Iranian officials have held discussions on counteracting the Sunni extremists, although they deny direct cooperation.In a sign of the overlap of Iranian and U.S. interests, Iran last week said one of the Islamic Republic’s most senior generals and 70 Iranian soldiers helped Kurdish fighters defend Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq that has been a focus of the American military. The city is home to a U.S. consulate and offices of numerous Western companies, and the approach of Islamic State militants to its outskirts prompted American airstrikes in August.Lebanon’s powerful, Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah militia has used the threat posed by the Islamic State to justify fighting in Syria, alongside Assad’s forces. After sending fighters to Syria last year, Hezbollah had faced mounting criticism at home that it was dragging the country into the civil war there.Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah now argues that Hezbollah’s actions have prevented Islamic State militants from overrunning Lebanon.The new regional climate also helped refocus Egypt’s relations with the West on the issue of terrorism, a conversation President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi appears more comfortable with than Washington’s concerns about human rights violations resulting from his domestic crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.El-Sissi deposed an elected president from the Brotherhood last year and has tried to portray his move against the group as a model for fighting terrorism. Washington remains critical of Cairo, but observers believe the ties between the two are improving.Some in the Arab coalition say they are engaged in an existential battle.”What we are fighting is not just a terrorist organization, but the embodiment of a malicious ideology that must be defeated intellectually,” the vice president and prime minister of the Emirates, Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wrote in an opinion piece Sunday.”I consider this ideology to be the greatest danger that the world will face in the next decade,” he said._Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue and Diaa Hadid in Beirut, Bradley S. Klapper in Washington, Zeina Karam at the United Nations and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report._Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck