Rebel commander wages fight to the death for east Ukraine airport By Simon Valmary19 hours ago Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – From an empty flat overlooking the shattered remains of eastern Ukraine’s biggest airport, Givi is leading an all-out assault against the last government outpost in the main pro-Russian stronghold.Related Stories
The camouflage-clad guerrilla, a Russian tricolour on his arm, heads one of two units tasked with flushing out government soldiers from a site at the heart of the six-month war, which has already claimed 3,400 lives.Despite a five-week truce, his „Somali battalion” has been aiming tanks and rockets at Prokofiev International Airport, inflicting daily losses and reducing the futuristic structure to piles of rubble and twisted steel.Ukrainian soldiers have been confined to the grounds’ vast bunkers and other underground areas, giving the rebels de facto control, Givi boasts.A thin man with sallow eyes and greying temples, Givi has turned into a star of recent battlefield dispatches.He is a native of Abkhazia, which has similarly sought to break away from Georgia with Russian support.Pro-Russian separatist soldiers take a break near Donetsk’s Sergey Prokofiev international airpo …In one separatist video, he calmly chats over a cigarette as a shell sends debris scattering next to him and other fighters run for cover.Above ground, short-range rockets fly back and forth. Some shells land a few metres from the building.According to the gunmen, Ukrainian forces pound the city from outlying villages such as Peski, about two kilometres away.”There are still soldiers underground, but we’ll make them leave one by one. Every day we do some mopping up,” he says.”The airport is under our control.”View of the main terminal of Donetsk’s Sergey Prokofiev international airport taken on October 9 …Asked about the September 5 ceasefire agreement separatist leaders signed with Kiev under Russian pressure, Givi just gives a sarcastic smile.”If there is an attack from them (Ukrainian soldiers), nobody will stop us — neither the OSCE nor anybody else,” he says in reference to the 80-strong team from the European security body monitoring compliance with the truce.As has been the case throughout the uprising, sparked by the February ouster of a Russian-backed leadership, Kiev gives a completely different ground report, saying its troops have repelled the daily raids on the airport and maintained control.- Veteran of August bloodbath -Givi came to Donetsk with a group of separatist fighters, including a man named Motorola who leads another famed rebel unit, after they captured the eastern town of Ilovaysk in August. Ukraine has confirmed it lost at least 100 soldiers in that battle.Picture released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on October 10, 2014 shows President Pet …Analysts believe the loss of Ilovaysk was so devastating and surprising that it convinced Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to sue for peace, and offer rebel-run parts of the east limited autonomy under the September ceasefire deal.But Givi is only interested in total victory, with every last government soldier forced out of the Russian-speaking east.”Together we will succeed,” Givi says, leaning against a small sedan parked outside an apartment block taking over by the batallion, arms folded across his chest.Behind him, a young man in fatigues too large for his frame and a toothless older fighter perch on empty mortar shell boxes, sipping artificial coffee and soaking in the autumn sun.The rebels have taken over several upper floors of the building to give them a line of sight and fire on the airport.Miraculously, several apartments are still occupied by their old residents.On the fifth floor is the command centre used by Givi, who issues orders juggling a phone and a walkie-talkie while stepping over romance novels, tea boxes and other remnants of civilians’ previous lives.”We don’t attack anyone, we merely respond to the fire,” he says. „We do this for the people who live around the airport so that they don’t suffer Ukrainian shelling.”
Russia’s Putin to attend G20 leaders summit: Australia 1 hour agoAustralian Treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed Sunday Vladimir Putin will attend the G20 leaders’ summit in November, despite concerns about Russia’s actions in Ukraine in recent months.Related Stories
Australia’s confirmation that the Russian leader would attend the high-powered summit came after Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said he would also meet Putin next week.”I spoke with the Finance Minister of Russia only yesterday… and he did confirm that President Putin will be coming to the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane,” Hockey told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday morning.”That has certainly been the consensus of other members of the G20 that President Putin should attend. And I think there will be some full and frank dialogue with President Putin at that meeting.”Hockey added that it was „certainly the strong view of the president of the US, the chancellor of Germany and others that he should be attending”.There were question marks over whether Putin’s would take part due to the six-month conflict between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 3,300 people.Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko delivers a speech in front of a new tank at the Malyshev fa …Opposition to his attendance intensified after Malaysia Airlines’ MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, killing all 298 onboard, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.Kiev and the West have accused Moscow-backed separatists of shooting it down with a surface-to-air BUK missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charge and has pointed the finger back at Kiev.But there had been signs of a shift over Russia’s attendance after Hockey said at the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in September that member nations believed its participation would help address the geo-political tensions.Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday that he was „not happy” with many aspects of Russia’s foreign policy, but it was not his nation’s right to „say yes or no to individual members of the G20″.”Russia is a member of the G20 and as such, we’re obliged to accept the Russian leader in this country,” he told reporters.”I think it will be pretty crystal clear that we think that Russia needs to fully cooperate in the investigation into the MH17 atrocity.”Poroshenko said Saturday he would meet Putin while attending the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Milan, but added: „I don’t expect that these will be easy negotiations.”The Milan talks will also include the prime ministers of Italy and Britain as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.Poroshenko’s announcement came as Kiev reported rebel attacks had subsided, signalling the possibility of rescuing a truce in the conflict.The two leaders last met in late August for talks that led to the truce accord. Fighting has continued in several areas along the frontline where the two sides have failed to pull back heavy artillery, as required under the ceasefire.
US drops food, ammunition to embattled Iraqi troops 5 hours ago Reuters Videos Obama: coalition against Islamic State „remains a difficult mission”News Washington (AFP) – US military aircraft have delivered food, water and ammunition to besieged Iraqi troops battling Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said Saturday, as the coalition pursued its air assault in Iraq and Syria.Related Stories
The move marked the first time that coalition aircraft airdropped supplies to Iraqi government forces. Similar drops were previously part of humanitarian missions for civilians, such as Yazidis and Turkmen.The airdrops of vital supplies to troops in northern Iraq on Friday and Saturday came at Baghdad’s request, US Central Command said in a statement.”US military forces conducted multiple airdrops in Iraq in the vicinity of Baiji… to resupply Iraqi security forces operating in the area,” it added.In total, 36 bundles containing 7,328 halal meals, 2,065 gallons of water and 16,000 pounds of ammunition were dropped.While Baiji remains under Baghdad’s control, nearby towns „are contested as ISIL continues to conduct operations in the area,” the statement said, using another acronym to identify the IS group.In this image released by the US Air Force, straps secure water bundles aboard a C-17 Globemaster II …The embattled Iraqi army is facing increasing pressure from IS jihadists in several hotspots.The airdrops come after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described the campaign against IS in Iraq as „difficult,” particularly in the western province of Anbar.”Anbar province is in trouble. We know that,” he said on Friday during a visit to Colombia.”This is a difficult effort. It is going to take time. It won’t be easy. So, yes, there is a lot of uncertainty in Anbar right now.”The US-led coalition also launched fresh air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday and Saturday, Central Command said.Bomber and fighter jets conducted six air strikes in Syria, including four in the battleground town of Kobane near the Turkish border.In Iraq, three air strikes were carried out by attack and fighter jets — one in Tal Afar in the north and two in Hit in Anbar province — with the help of Dutch aircraft.A US-led coalition has been conducting air strikes in Iraq since early August and in Syria since mid-September.IS fighters have beheaded four Western hostages and seized huge swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Kurdish PKK fighters called back to Turkey after protests 9 hours ago Istanbul (AFP) – A leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) warned on Saturday it had called all its fighters back to Turkey and could resume attacks, after protests over the government’s policy on Syria left dozens dead.Related Stories
Cemil Bayik, one of the founders of the PKK which has waged a bloody 30-year insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey, said the peace process with Ankara was in danger of collapse after the deadly unrest.”We have warned Turkey. If the state carries on like this then the guerrillas will resume the war of defence in order to protect the people,” Bayik told German broadcaster ARD in an interview recorded in Iraq.As part of a fragile peace process, the PKK had started withdrawing its fighters from Turkey and moving them to its military base in northern Iraq.But Bayik said these fighters had now returned to Turkey in reaction to the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).”Because Turkey has continued its policies without changes, we have sent back all the fighters who were withdrawn,” he said.ryKurdish protestors clash with Turkish riot policemen in Istanbul, on October 8, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ozan …He did not reveal how many fighters had left the base at Mount Kandil in northern Iraq to return to Turkey. The size of the PKK’s total fighting force is estimated at around 5,000.Kurds are furious that Turkey has not intervened to defend the mainly Kurdish Syrian border town of Kobane from Islamic State (IS) jihadists.Moreover, Turkey has actively prevented Kurds from crossing into Syria to join the fight against IS because it fears it would lead to the creation of an effective Kurdish fighting force at its border.The anger boiled over into violent protests across Turkey last week that according to official figures left 31 dead and 360 wounded.”The AKP is responsible for what is going on in Kobane and Turkey,” Bayik told ARD.Cemil „Cuma” Bayik, one of the main leaders and a founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party ( …- ‘Declaration of war’ -The PKK’s overall leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence in an island prison on the sea of Marmara, has given the government until mid-October to come up with a roadmap to save the peace process.But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Saturday to do everything possible to save the peace process, denouncing those who he said wanted to sabotage the search for a deal.”Everyone must know that the acts of violence, vandalism and pillaging that we saw in the last days have nothing to do with Kobane,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the Black Sea town of Rize.The Turkish government earlier this month obtained authorisation from parliament for military action in Iraq and Syria but Bayik claimed this was aimed more against the PKK than IS.Turkish soldiers on a tank and Kurdish people look at the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Koban …”The IS terror militia is barely mentioned in this authorisation (for military action).” he said. „But the PKK is very much mentioned.”With the passing (of the authorisation) in parliament, Turkey ended the peace process and it amounts to a declaration of war,” he said.However, Bayik’s rhetoric is considerably sharper than that of Ocalan, whom Kurds regard as having the final word on the peace process.New demonstrations took place overnight in Turkey’s largest Kurdish city of Diyarbakir but protests appear to have calmed somewhat, for now, after four days of bloody violence.The world’s largest stateless people, Kurds are spread between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey and make up around 15-20 percent of the Turkish population.The PKK has fought the Turkish authorities since 1984 in a rebellion that has claimed 40,000 lives. It has largely observed a ceasefire since March last year but peace talks are currently frozen.
Six UN peacekeepers injured in C. Africa 4 hours agoUnited Nations peacekeepers in the center of the Central African Republic capital Bangui on October 8, 2014 (AFP Photo/Pacome Pabamdji)Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) – Six UN peacekeepers were injured during an attack by unknown assailants who opened fire on a patrol northeast of the capital Bangui, amid a flareup of violence after months of relative calm.Related Stories
The new UN peacekeeping MINUSCA force, in a statement late Saturday, condemned Friday’s attack, which came a day after another UN peacekeeper was killed near Bangui.The latest attack was carried out by „armed elements who opened fire on a MINUSCA police patrol… leaving four blue helmets injured”.the blue helmets, who come from various places, should become the target of attack,” it added, without giving the nationalities of those injured.A UN peacekeeper from Pakistan was killed, and nine others injured, near the capital on Thursday.It was the first peacekeeper death of the mission that deployed last month in the Central African Republic, taking over from African-led troops that were sent after a March 2013 coup plunged the country into bloodshed and chaos.Bangui has been rocked by days of violence pitting the city’s Muslim and Christian populations, leaving at least seven people dead and many dozens wounded, according to UN sources in Bangui.The fresh spate of violence was apparently ignited by a grenade attack in a Bangui street blamed on a Muslim assailant on a motorbike, followed by the murder of a taxi driver allegedly by Muslim gunmen who set fire to several houses.The UN’s 130,000 troops, police and civilian staff serving in missions worldwide are being drawn into more complex conflicts while being tasked with enforcing fragile peace deals.
Thousands protest police shootings in St. Louis By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER3 hours ago Associated Press Videos Hundreds Rally Against St. Louis Police ViolenceAssociated Press ST. LOUIS (AP) — Thousands gathered Saturday for a second day of organized rallies and marches protesting Michael Brown’s death and other fatal police shootings in the St. Louis area and nationwide.
The events remained peaceful but boisterous gatherings into the night. Vietnam-era peace activists, New York City seminarians and hundreds of fast-food workers bused in from Chicago, Nashville and other cities marched alongside local residents, spurred by a national campaign dubbed Ferguson October.Outside Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, where the Cardinals hosted the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the National League Championship Series, several dozen protesters stood on the sidewalk, chanting and holding signs. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that fans headed to the game mainly went around the protesters without stopping to look, though a few cheered their efforts.Four days of planned events began Friday afternoon with a march outside the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office. Protesters renewed calls for prosecutor Bob McCulloch to charge Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson officer, in the Aug. 9 death of Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old. A grand jury is reviewing the case and the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.”We still are knee deep in this situation,” said Kareem Jackson, a St. Louis rap artist and community organizer whose stage name is Tef Poe. „We have not packed up our bags, we have not gone home. This is not a fly-by-night moment. This is not a made-for-TV revolution. This is real people standing up to a real problem and saying, ‘We ain’t taking it no more.'”On Saturday evening, a smaller group of demonstrators joined Brown’s mother at a prayer vigil and protest outside the Ferguson apartment complex where her son was shot and killed two months ago. The group then marched to the Ferguson police department.Banners celebrating the St. Louis Cardinals’ post season baseball success line Market Street as …St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, who spoke to small groups of demonstrators throughout the day, said the city had enlisted extra officers and was prepared for trouble, though he hoped for the best. Earlier in the week, a small group of protesters verbally clashed outside the stadium with Cardinals fans who support the Ferguson officer.”What I ask is if people come to have their message heard, that they do it in a respectful way,” Dotson said. „And the same thing on the other side (from police supporters). Everybody has a right to have their message heard, whether you like it or not.”He said the city also will bolster its police presence when the St. Louis Rams host the San Francisco 49ers Monday night — the same day protesters are planning acts of civil disobedience they expect will lead to widespread arrests.The crowd early Saturday was significantly larger than the ones seen at Friday’s protests. While the main focus of the march was on recent police shootings, participants also embraced such causes as gay rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Police reported no arrests or violence Saturday afternoon and early evening.”I have two sons and a daughter. I want a world for them where the people who are supposed to be community helpers are actually helping, where they can trust those people to protect and serve rather than control and repress,” said Ashlee Wiest-Laird, 48, a Baptist pastor from Boston.Protesters prepare to march Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St Louis. More than 1,000 gathered Saturday …The situation in Missouri resonated with Wiest-Laird. She’s white and her adopted sons, ages 14 and 11, are black.”What I see happening here is a moment in time. There’s something bigger here,” she said.Organizers said beforehand that they expected as many as 6,000 to 10,000 participants for the weekend’s events. Police were not able to provide a crowd estimate Saturday, but organizers and participants suggested the march’s size may have approached 3,000.Since Brown’s death, three other fatal police shootings of black males have occurred in the St. Louis area. The most recent involved an off-duty St. Louis officer who was working for a private neighborhood security patrol when he shot and killed 18-year-old Vonderrit D. Myers on Wednesday night.The white officer, whose name hasn’t been released, fired 17 rounds after police say Myers opened fire. Myers’ parents say he was unarmed, and many speakers at a Saturday rally echoed those doubts._Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier
Gaza donors meet as US pushes peace talks revival 2 hours ago Cairo (AFP) – Top envoys gather in Cairo Sunday for a conference aimed at raising billions of dollars to rebuild war-battered Gaza, as Washington urges Israel and the Palestinians to revive peace talks.Related Stories
US Secretary of State John Kerry and 30 of his counterparts join UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is seeking a record $1.6 billion (1.3 billion euros) in aid to rebuild Gaza.The Palestinian government has unveiled a 76-page reconstruction plan, calling for $4 billion in funds, with the lion’s share going to build housing for some 100,000 people left homeless by the conflict in July and August.The Israeli military operation killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, while attacks by Gaza militants killed 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.Kerry will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on the sidelines of the conference, State Department officials said.”You will hear the secretary reaffirm the commitment of the United States to helping the parties achieve a negotiated two-state solution and our willingness to re-engage in the negotiations and help facilitate successful negotiations,” a US official said.US Secretary of State John Kerry waves as he boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland …”More broadly we are interested in sort of breaking the cycle we have been in the last six years of war and reconstruction there.”Kerry was the architect of a high-profile resumption of negotiations, which collapsed in April and were followed by the 50-day summer war, the third conflict in the Palestinian coastal enclave in six years.Ahead of the Cairo meeting, the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA described Gaza’s financial needs as „unprecedented.”But it is unclear how generous the world will be given the intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other priorities in the region, such as the fight against Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq.- ‘Considerable donor fatigue’ –Palestinian children play inside a heavily damaged room in a partially destroyed building in al-Tufa …Some estimates suggest that up to $8 billion will be needed to repair damaged infrastructure and homes, and ensure health care, education and clean drinking water in one of the world’s mostly densely populated territories.This year’s conflict displaced more than a quarter of Gaza’s population of 1.7 million.Securing pledges of enough funding is unlikely to be easy. One Western diplomat in Jerusalem warned that there was „considerable donor fatigue.””We have seen infrastructure projects that we have contributed to which have been destroyed,” the diplomat said, adding that scepticism existed even before the latest conflict.Washington has already committed some $118 million, but has not made any pledges of new funds beyond that. European and Gulf nations, however, are expected to make significant pledges.Without immediate action to revive the economy, a return to violence „will remain a clear and present danger,” the World Bank’s Palestinian territories director Steen Lau Jorgensen warned last month.The Palestinians have strived to represent a united front in advance of the Cairo donors’ conference.On Thursday, the unity government held its first cabinet meeting, in Gaza, months after a reconciliation deal between rivals Fatah, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which is in de facto control of Gaza.However, a second diplomat in Jerusalem said the Gaza cabinet meeting was „not enough to reassure donors.”The European Union, a chief aid supplier to the Palestinians, welcomed „positive developments” but also stressed that a lasting peace was needed.”The only durable solution to Gaza is of course a political agreement between Palestinians and Israelis,” John Gatt-Rutter, the EU representative to the Palestinian territories, told AFP.
IS jihadists execute four women in northern Iraq 10 hours agoBaghdad (AFP) – The Islamic State group has executed at least four women, including two doctors and a politician, in their northern Iraq strongholds this month, relatives and rights activists said on Saturday.In the IS hub of Mosul, the jihadists executed three women on Wednesday including two doctors, Hanaa Edwar, a human rights activist who heads the Al-Amal organisation, said.A medical source in Mosul confirmed their deaths and named the two doctors as Maha Sabhan and Lamia Ismail. The third woman was a law graduate.On October 5, Iman Mohammed Yunus, a former Sunni parliamentarian from the Iraq Turkmen Front in the city of Tal Afar, farther west towards the Syrian border, was also executed.”They took her from her home last month and called her family this week to say that she had been executed,” said Ali al-Bayati, who runs a foundation supporting the rights of Iraq’s Turkmen minority.”Then they dumped her body in a water well outside Tal Afar,” he said.An image taken from a video released by Welayat Nineveh Media Office on August 9, 2014 allegedly sho …According to Edwar, who confirmed Yunus’ execution, at least four other women were executed by IS militants in the Mosul area in recent weeks.Among them were a former candidate for the local council and an academic.”Women are easy targets for them. Many of the rights activists from Mosul ran away but some of the women among them had to stay with their children,” Edwar said.IS militants have controlled Mosul since June 10, the second day of a major offensive that saw jihadist fighters seize swathes of land in five Iraqi provinces.They have used the city, Iraq’s second largest, as a de facto capital for the Iraqi half of the „caliphate” which their leadership proclaimed in June and also includes large parts of Syria.”After going after the ethnic and religious minorities, they are now hunting down Sunni members of civil society groups and anyone remotely connected with the government,” Edwar said.She said IS was probably trying to sow maximum fear among the population by openly targeting women.”When you abduct and kill women, you are really spreading horror,” she said.On September 22, IS executed a women’s rights activist, Samira Saleh al-Nuaimi, reportedly because she had condemned the demolition of heritage sites by IS on social media.Edwar also said two men, a judge and a deputy prosecutor, had been executed over the past two weeks.A source at the Mosul morgue confirmed that their bodies had been brought in earlier this month.