Reader links for Nov. 1 – 2015

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Thank you all for those that take the effort to assist this site in keeping the public informed. Below, typically people can find the latest enemy propaganda, news items of related materials from multiple countries and languages, op-eds from many excellent sites who write on our topics, geopolitics and immigration issues and so on.

About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

48 Replies to “Reader links for Nov. 1 – 2015”

  1. Work starts on UK’s first permanent Middle East base since 1971 (BBC, Nov 1, 2015)

    “Work has begun to construct Britain’s first new permanent military base in the Middle East since 1971.

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and naval personnel attended a ceremony to mark the start of construction of HMS Juffair at Mina Salman Port in Bahrain.

    The establishment is being developed to support Royal Navy deployments in the Gulf through the creation of a permanent and improved base.

    Mr Hammond said it showed the UK’s commitment to the region.

    Mr Hammond said: “The presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain is guaranteed into the future, ensuring Britain’s sustained presence east of Suez.

    “The new facility will enable Britain to work with our allies to reinforce stability in the Gulf and beyond.”

    Bahrain has been criticised over allegations of serious human rights abuses, but Mr Hammond said the UK was helping the Persian Gulf State to change.

    He said: “Bahrain is not perfect by any means, but it at least knows what it has to do and it is taking steps to do it.

    In some cases, he said, the state’s authorities were “seeking our support to help them reform., for example, their police force, their judicial system, their prison service… to gradually improve the standards and bring it closer to what we would expect to see.”

    The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner said the UK’s growing military commitment to the Gulf was “likely to remain controversial”…”

  2. Railway Bombing Kills 3 Passengers in Pakistan (abcnews, Nov 1, 2015)

    “A Pakistani official says a bomb planted on a railway track killed three passengers in a passing train and wounded seven others in the southwest.

    Railways spokesman Maqbool Ahmed says the bombing in Baluchistan province early Sunday targeted a train bound for Rawalpindi, where the military is headquartered.

    He says the powerful explosion damaged the first car and part of the track. He says the track has been repaired and traffic restored.

    No one claimed responsibility, but separatist groups in the region have claimed similar attacks in the past.

    For over a decade, Baluchistan has been the scene of a low-intensity insurgency by ethnic Baluch separatists who want autonomy or outright independence.”

  3. 15 die when militants lay siege to hotel with bombs and guns in Somalia (CNN, Nov 1, 2015)

    “Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN)Gunmen stormed a popular hotel in Mogadishu on Sunday after opening their attack with multiple blasts, Somali officials said.

    At least 15 people were killed, medical and police officials said. Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack via a Somali radio station run by the group.

    Many of the dead were civilians, said interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Yusuf Osman, who was at the attack site, the Sahafi Hotel. The armed men pushed inside the building, then Somali special forces deployed to fight the militants.

    The attack kicked off when a suicide car bomb exploded at the gates of the hotel, which government officials use as a residence, Osman said.

    An intelligence service official, who did not want to be named, said that two more explosions detonated during the attack — one believed to be a bomb remotely targeting first responders. The third explosion was believed to be carried out by a suicide attacker.

    Intelligence services are still investigating the attack.”

  4. New assaults on ISIS in Iraq and in Syria (CNN, Nov 1, 2015)

    “Iraq-Syria border (CNN)A thick column of black smoke hangs over the Iraqi Syrian border near the town of Ash Shaddadi in Syria ‘s Hasakah province. Above the area are the circular contrails of coalition planes.

    Kurdish military sources on the Iraqi side of the border say ISIS strongholds and oil fields are being targeted south of Hasakah city.

    At the same time the new US-backed alliance in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces, has announced a new offensive has begun to liberate areas of Hasakah province occupied by ISIS.

    Coalition airstrikes and land offensives led by Kurdish forces on both sides of the border are aimed at interrupting ISIS supply lines, retaking territory the group has held for over a year and putting pressure on critical towns such as Deir Ezzor.

    Kurdish Peshmerga forces on the Iraqi side of the border – including a brigade of some 5,000 Yazidi fighters – are preparing for what officers describe as an imminent offensive to seize the town of Sinjar. There has been a sharp increase in airstrikes on ISIS-held parts of the town in the last few days.

    If ISIS loses Sinjar, it will be more difficult for it to resupply the city of Mosul, the largest it holds.”

  5. Islamic State takes over town in Syria’s western Homs province: monitor

    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters seized the Syrian town of Maheen in Homs province from government forces on Sunday, a monitoring group said, expanding their presence in Syria’s west despite a Russian-backed bombing campaign against them.

    Islamic State’s strongholds in Syria are in the north and east, but it has increased its territory in Homs province since taking over the historic city of Palmyra earlier this year, and then Qaryatain, 15 kilometers east of Maheen.

    The group began its attack late on Saturday using two suicide car bombs and by Sunday morning had taken over Maheen, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    The assault brought Islamic State to within 20 kilometers (13 miles) of the main highway that links Damascus to Homs and to cities further north.

    The Observatory said at least 50 fighters on the government side were killed or wounded, and that clashes were raging further west on the outskirts of Sadad, a nearby town mostly inhabited by Christians, as Islamic State pressed its advance.

  6. Divided Turkey votes in snap election, security fears loom large

    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turks went to the polls in a snap parliamentary election on Sunday under the shadow of mounting internal bloodshed and economic worries, a vote that could determine the trajectory of the polarized country and of President Tayyip Erdogan.

    The vote is the second in five months, after the AK Party founded by Erdogan lost in June the single-party governing majority it has enjoyed since first coming to power in 2002.

    Since then, a ceasefire with Kurdish militants has collapsed, the war in neighboring Syria has worsened and Turkey – a NATO member state – has been hit by two Islamic State-linked suicide bomb attacks that killed more than 130 people.

    Investors and Western allies hope the vote will help restore stability as well as confidence in the economy, allowing Ankara to play a more effective role in stemming a flood of refugees from neighboring wars into Europe and helping in the battle against Islamic State militants.

    This time, there have been few of the flags, posters and campaign buses that thronged the streets in the build-up to June’s vote. But Erdogan has framed this somber re-run as a pivotal opportunity for Turkey to return to single-party AKP rule after months of political uncertainty.

  7. Russia grounds airline’s A321 fleet after Egyptian crash: Interfax

    CAIRO/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has grounded Airbus A321 jets flown by the Kogalymavia airline, Interfax news agency reported on Sunday, after one of its fleet crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.

    The A321, operated by the Russian airline under the brand name Metrojet, was carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it went down soon after daybreak on Saturday.

    Interfax said the Russian transport regulator Rostransnadzor had told Kogalymavia to stop flying A321 aircraft until the causes of the crash were known. However, RIA news agency cited a Kogalymavia representative as saying that the airline had not received the order from Rostransnadzor.

    Egyptian and Russian investigators will begin examining within hours the contents of two “black box” recorders recovered from the airliner, which crashed into a mountainous area of central Sinai shortly after losing radar contact near cruising altitude.

    (GRAPHIC: accidents by stage of flight

    A militant group affiliated to Islamic State in Egypt said in a statement that it brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land”, but Russia’s Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told Interfax news agency the claim “can’t be considered accurate”.

  8. Kurdish forces prepare for battle to retake Iraq’s Sinjar

    ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Kurdish forces are massing in northwest Iraq for an offensive to retake the town of Sinjar from Islamic State militants who overran it more than a year ago, killing and enslaving thousands of its Yazidi residents and triggering U.S.-led air strikes.

    Sinjar is a symbolic and strategic prize sitting astride the main highway linking the cities of Mosul and Raqqa – Islamic State’s bastions in Iraq and Syria.

    In December 2014, Kurdish forces drove Islamic State from north of Sinjar mountain, a craggy strip some 60 km (40 miles) long, but the radical Sunni insurgents maintain control of the southern side where the town is located.

    Villagers along a main road to the mountain reported seeing dozens of military transport vehicles packed with Kurdish peshmerga fighters pass in recent days.

    Preparations for the offensive have been complicated by rivalry between various Kurdish and Yazidi forces in Sinjar.

    • This is who we should be supporting, not necessarily trusting very far but supporting, they have been fighters throughout all of recorded history, and during most of that time they have been fighting to either keep conquers out of their homeland or to free their homeland from conquers.

  9. NYPD officer ‘converted’ to Islam in order to go undercover and spy on Brooklyn College students which led to the arrest of two women accused of ‘building a bomb and planning to wage jihad in New York’

    Read more:
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  10. Atheist explains honestly why he feels free to criticize Christians

    It’s not that you didn’t know this. But there are times when it seems like no one has the guts to simply say it.

    Phil Zuckerman, a professor of “secular studies” at Pfizer College in Claremont, CA — and avowed atheist — did speak with refreshing candor on this topic in a panel discussion on religious liberty at Georgetown this past week.

    Penny Star of CNS News reports that Kirsten Powers, journalist (and Fox News contributor), was another of the panelists. During the discussion, she asked why Christians are criticized — often brutally — for their beliefs about same-sex marriage, whereas Muslims aren’t.

    Powers cited the hidden video recordings made earlier this year by Steven Crowder, who asked Muslim bakers in Michigan if they would bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and they refused.

  11. Germany: Huge fire destroys planned refugee shelter

    An empty school building that was reportedly going to be used to house refugees was set on fire in the municipality of Grambow in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in the early hours of Friday morning. Nobody was reported injured.

  12. Report: Israeli Air Force attacked Hezbollah targets in Syria

    Israeli fighter jets penetrated Syrian airspace and attacked numerous Hezbollah targets in the South of Syria, according to Syrian media Saturday.

    Estimated targets included a weapons convoy destined for Hezbollah fighters traveling through Syria. According to reports, up to a dozen Israeli war planes conducted the mission close to the Lebenon-Syria border in the Qalamoun Mountains region.

    Defense officials declined to comment on the report.

    This would be the first attack attributed to Israel since Russia began operating in the area.

    Israel has reportedly struck Hezbollah in Syria several times over the past year, although the military regularly declines to comment on foreign media reports.

    Earlier this year, the Israel Air Force reportedly struck a vehicle located in a Druse village in southwestern Syria, killing Hezbollah men and a pro-Assad militiaman, as well as a military base in Lebanon.

  13. Germany: “20 Million Muslims by 2020”

    Germany’s Muslim population is set to nearly quadruple to an astonishing 20 million within the next five years, according to a demographic forecast by Bavarian lawmakers.

    The German government expects to receive 1.5 million asylum seekers in 2015, and possibly even more in 2016. After factoring in family reunifications — based on the assumption that individuals whose asylum applications are approved will subsequently bring an average of four additional family members to Germany — that number will swell exponentially. This is in addition to the 5.8 million Muslims already living in Germany.

    According to the president of the Bavarian Association of Municipalities (Bayerische Gemeindetag), Uwe Brandl, Germany is now on track to have “20 million Muslims by 2020.” The surge in Germany’s Muslim population represents a demographic shift of epic proportions, one that will change the face of Germany forever, “but we are just standing by, watching it happen.”

    Addressing an expo in Nuremburg on October 14, Brandl warned that untrammeled migration will entail heavy costs for German taxpayers and may also lead to social unrest. He said:

    • The USA really isn’t much better, as we’ve allowed invaders from south of the border to literally walk across and colonize us. Mexicans basically control California, and in the Chicago area we have 600K of then. Vdare points out that the myriad of Mexican Consulates are here to provide services for the invaders like Matricula Consular cards, faux IDs that even the Mexican government does not accept. The Hispanic population of the US is larger than the Black population, the result of the powers-that-be deliberately ignoring desires of citizens.

      But at least the possibility of Trump sending the invaders fleeing back with their Anchor Babies is not to be pooh-poohed. Some of us have HOPE.

      20 Million Muslims in Deutchland? If that happens, every MAN there will have earned the enmity of their womenfolk for allowing this to happen. The Volk may get rid of “Humanitarian Superpower” Kaiser Merkel, but that would it would change nothing at ground level. This is what happens when a nation is RULED, rather than governed.

      It is inevitable: Kreig! It is coming, and all the power of the State will be enabled against resistance.

  14. Will Iran Walk Away from Nuclear Deal?

    The world powers are now experiencing what it means to negotiate with Persian theocrats. All is negotiable; nothing is ever finally decided. Words never commit one to action. Changing circumstances vitiate the substance of any prior commitment, leaving the door open to additional demands. Although the Islamic Republic insists that it be recognized as a normal member of the international community, it will continue to behave as if it is not bound by global norms.

    Despite Iran’s apparent acceptance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA}, known as the “Iran Deal,” after the document’s submission to the relevant state bureaucracies, these institutions have agreed to it only on a conditional basis. The JCPOA was approved by Iran’s Consultative Assembly (Majlis), the Council of Guardians, the Supreme National Security Council and by the Office of the Leader. These seeming approvals can tempt those who desire the implementation of the nuclear deal to assume falsely that the bellicose rhetoric of Iran’s leaders and the continued opposition to the JCPOA are just face-saving turns of phrase.

    This same shallow mode of thinking assumes that last week’s launch of an experimental ballistic missile by Iran was a bone thrown in the direction of hardliners who oppose the nuclear deal. Iran’s leaders seem to have calculated that the missile test would not invite a reassessment by the P5+1 signatories, despite the fact that the launch was a clear violation of the JCPOA. Iran’s leaders were proven correct: both Russia and China refused to condemn the missile test at the United Nations.

  15. German Politicians Can’t Agree on Migrant Plan (abcnews, Nov 1, 2015)

    “… German police are reporting more violent attacks against refugees.

    In Magdeburg, a group of 30 people beat up two 26-year-olds and a 35-year-old Syrian man with baseball bats, sending them to the hospital with injuries. Police detained a 24-year-old suspect.

    In another attack, a 26-year-old Syrian man was injured by pieces of glass when explosives were thrown against his window in an asylum shelter in Freital in the eastern state of Saxony. The interior minister of Saxony, Markus Ulbig, condemned the “cowardly and cold-blooded attack,” the German news agency dpa reported.

    In Sehnde near Hannover, a 43-year-old man was detained for allegedly committing an arson attack on a home of a refugee family early Sunday. Nobody was harmed.

    Several arson attacks were also reported on future asylum shelters across Germany, among them an empty hotel in Dresden and a former youth club in Castrop-Rauxel in western Germany….

    Germany’s governing coalition has not been able to agree on how to process migrants near the country’s border who have no realistic chance of gaining asylum.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Merkel’s meeting Sunday on the migrant surge with, Horst Seehofer, the head of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, part of Merkel’s Union bloc, and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, a center-left Social Democrat, ended without finding a solution for the “transit zones.”

    Seehofer wants border “transit zones” to weed out applicants who have little chance of winning asylum in Germany. But Gabriel has said his Social Democrats won’t agree to a plan that could keep large numbers of people in custody at the border while their applications are processed.

    Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said the talks would resume Thursday….”

  16. Australia: Muslims complain that singing anthem is “forced assimilation”

    “It’s not enough that you obey the law, no, you have to adopt our values,” Badar complained.

    Uh, yeah. Because if you don’t adopt our values, eventually you will subvert the law. A nation of people without shared values will eventually collapse into dissolution and probably civil war.

    “Requiring schoolchildren to sing the national anthem, and the citizenship pledge supporting democratic values, are part of an oppressive campaign by Australian authorities of “forced assimilation” of the Muslim community, a conference heard this morning.

    The conference held by Islamist activist group Hizb ut-Tahrir entitled “Innocent Until Proven Muslim” is taking place at Bankstown in Sydney’s west, attended by about 800 people.

  17. Chadian Army: 3 Dead, 14 Wounded in Boko Haram Attacks (abcnews, Nov 1, 2015)

    “The Chadian military says at least three soldiers are dead and 14 others have been wounded in a series of attacks blamed on Islamic militants.

    Col. Azem Abouna Bermandoua blamed the violence early Sunday on the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram.

    Boko Haram militants have been stepping up their attacks this year inside the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon after those countries agreed to help the Nigerian military in its fight against the extremists.

    The Chadian military said the army’s headquarters in Bohama were attacked early Sunday by three suicide bombers. At the same time, an army station in Kaiga Kidjiria also came under attack from militants.

    Authorities said 16 jihadists were killed during the violence that ensued.”

  18. Syrian conflict: Islamic State advances in Homs Province (BBC, Nov 1, 2015)

    “Islamic State (IS) fighters have reportedly captured the Syrian town of Maheen, in central Homs Province, from government forces.

    They launched the offensive with two suicide car blasts late on Saturday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

    Clashes were also taking place in nearby Sadad, a mostly-Christian town.

    The latest development comes amid air campaigns in Syria by Russia and a US-led coalition.

    Islamic State has been expanding from its mainly northern and eastern strongholds towards Homs in central Syria in recent months. The group overran the town of Tadmur – home to the ancient ruins of Palmyra – in May, and later took al-Qaryatain town in August.

    The latest offensive on Maheen and Sadad brings IS to within 20km (13 miles) of the main road that links the Syrian capital Damascus to Homs and other cities further north…”

  19. Police fail to show at Roma camp in Malmö (thelocal, Nov 1, 2015)

    “The controversial “shanty camp” of EU migrants in Malmö was due to be town down at 4pm on Sunday but the eviction deadline passed without any sign of the authorities or police.

    Despite the no-show from police, rumours circulated that the eviction would take place early on Monday morning.

    However, Lars Förstell, information director for Skåne police, told Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, “I don’t understand the word ‘postpone’. 4pm was simply the earliest we could clear the camp. It is the municipality’s business and we will assist them should they require us.”

    The migrants have been living in tents, caravans, shacks and cars in an industrial area for months, sparking an intense debate in the city.

    According to Swedish Radio News (Sveriges Radio) around half of those in the camp, approximately 75 people, had left by 3pm.

    But others had refused to leave and were joined in support by demonstrators outside the camp.

    Simona Tegman of the Network for Roma Rights (Nätverket romers rättigheter) told the Swedish news news agency, TT, “We want to have a peaceful demonstration, a sit-down.”

    Malmö is offering accommodation for five nights for around 50 people, said local councillor Carina Nilsson. They are also trying to find help for the migrants in their home villages in Romania.

    Last Tuesday, Malmö’s environmental committee decided that the camp needed to be emptied and cleaned up and announced that residents had until 4pm today to either leave or face eviction by police.

    On Saturday, the Swedish government’s national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens, Martin Valfridsson, told Swedish radio that there should be zero tolerance for those who camp on private or public property.

    “The state must support the municipalities in a very difficult situation,” Valfridsson said. “Police and private property owners have great difficulty with this situation. I think there should be zero tolerance for those who live without permission on all land in Sweden.”

    “You can’t give special treatment to any group in society,” he says. “We have no national roof-over-your-head guarantee. In large cities we even evict families with children who can’t pay their rent.”

    Under Swedish law both locals and visitors alike currently have the right to walk or camp on almost any land, although this does not include public land that is adjacent to residential property or privately-owned gardens.

    The case of the camp in Malmö is unique because the person who owns the land tolerated the migrants – who are mainly Roma people from Romania and Bulgaria – for six months before launching a trespassing case with police.

    Sweden’s national government recently announced it was set to appoint an investigator to review the country’s regulatory framework for eviction.

    Some municipalities in other parts of Sweden have already evicted groups of Roma from public land including in the capital, Stockholm.”

    • Sweden: Protesters rally in Malmo to thwart proposed Roma eviction

      Hundreds of pro-Roma protesters gathered in Malmo on Sunday to prevent authorities from carrying out a proposed eviction of a Roma camp.

  20. Civilian aid: US project fails to ‘democratise’ Pakistani parties (tribune, Nov 1, 2015)

    “A $21.5 million US government programme to democratise Pakistan’s top political parties and make them responsive to constituents has all but failed due to their reluctance to adopt standards for internal democracy and transparency.

    A recent report by the US Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed that the “programme activities largely stalled and it was doubtful the programme would achieve its objectives”.

    In its mid-term review of the five-year programme, the US auditors also criticised the performance of the USAID Islamabad Mission. One of the reasons for poor performance was USAID’s continued policy to award contracts of programmes financed under the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act to US-based firms that did not have ground experience.

    In this case too, the USAID-hired US-based institutions that according to the report could not hire quality guest speakers, and forums were also ‘poorly organised’.

    To help a dozen top political parties become more effective and responsive to local concerns, USAID awarded the $21.5 million cooperative agreement in July 2011, to the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, is the chairperson of NDI’s Board of Directors.

    The NDI awarded sub-agreements to the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and to Pakistan’s Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO). The IRI, in turn, made an award to the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR), also a Pakistani organisation. Influential Republican Senator John MacCain is the Chairman of IRI’s Board of Directors.

    As of September last year, the US had obligated $14.6 million and disbursed $10.9 million for the programme, according the report. The US decision to award the contract to IRI highlights one of the serious objections on the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act funding. In certain cases, the money benefited the Americans more than Pakistanis.

    The programme is also aimed at providing opportunities to grassroots members of the parties to participate in shaping their parties’ strategies. The stated objective was that the parties could strengthen their democratic credentials.

    However, political analysts believe there is lack of internal democracy in all mainstream political parties and dynastic politics is rampant.

    “Thirty-two months into implementation of the programme, none of 12 parties attended a roundtable designed to help them incorporate reforms into their party bylaws and practices,” according to the report. The political parties did not establish enough research units and policy working groups.

    “The parties did not adopt standards for internal democracy and transparency,” said the report, criticising the NDI for not getting a written commitment from the party leaders at the outset of the programme.

    The report said IRI also did not prepare a Pakistani research entity to be independent as planned. The NDI did not effectively manage award of sub-contract to the SPO. The NDI sidelined SPO after poor performance but continued paying it for full performance. This resulted in ineligible questioned costs amounting to $138,375, stated the report.

    While criticising the USAID mission, the report stated that it did not do effective monitoring of the programme. The report said USAID claimed it conducted site visits but could not provide documents showing that it did.

    The programme did make some gains like training of poll watchers and facilitation of youth and women at the grassroots levels.”

  21. SYRIA – U.S. Backed Moderate Rebels Put Alawite Women in Cages to Protect Themselves from Airstrikes

    In order to deter the Syrian and Russian Air Forces inside the East Ghouta (collection of farms) region of rural Damascus, the U.S. backed moderate rebels from “Jaysh Al-Islam” (Army of Islam) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have placed kidnapped Alawite women in cages to protect themselves from airstrikes.

    The U.S. backed Syrian Opposition’s social media activists posted the photos of the six kidnapped Alawite women on Twitter, adding their extra commentary that included sectarian insults to degrade the helpless women and taunt the Syrian President Dr. Bashar Al-Assad.

    This is not the first time that the U.S. backed moderate rebels have used the Syrian people as human shields in order to deter airstrikes; however, this blatant disregard for human life has contradicted their alleged ethos to protect the Syrian people and put an end to the government of Dr. Bashar Al-Assad.

    The six women were not identified by the U.S. backed moderate rebels, but they were described by the aforementioned Islamists as Alawites, per their sectarian insults they directed towards the kidnapped civilians.

    Last month, the U.S. backed moderate rebels posted pictures that displayed their fighters posing with the mutilated heads of deceased Syrian soldiers; these pictures were followed with multiple videos from the Islamists that contained death threats to the Alawite Muslims of Syria.

    Monitor: Syria rebels using caged captives as ‘human shields’

    A major Syrian rebel group is using dozens of captives in metal cages as “human shields” in the largest opposition stronghold on the outskirts of Damascus, a monitor said Sunday.

    Jaish al-Islam, regarded as the most powerful rebel group near the capital, has put regime soldiers and Alawite civilians it was holding in metal cages, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

    The group then placed these cages in public squares in the Eastern Ghouta region in an attempt to “prevent regime bombardment”, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

    “Jaish al-Islam is using these captives and kidnapped people — including whole families — as human shields,” he said.

    Government forces regularly bombard the Eastern Ghouta area, from where rebel groups fire rockets into the capital.

    On Friday, at least 70 people were killed and 550 wounded in regime bombardment of Douma, a large town in the area.

    A video published by opposition news outlet Shaam Network showed cages of men and women, about five people in each, being transported on the backs of three lorries through war-ravaged streets as young children rode by on bicycles.

    Speaking to camera, both men and women asked government forces to stop shelling Eastern Ghouta.

    “Your women are our women. If you want to kill my mother, you will kill them too,” a dark-eyed teenage boy said outside one of the trucks.
    Abdel Rahman said most of the civilians were kidnapped by Jaish al-Islam two years ago outside Adra al-Ummaliyah, a regime-held neighbourhood in Eastern Ghouta.

    A Jaish al-Islam spokesman was not reachable for comment.

    Both regime forces and rebel groups have been criticized by rights groups for indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Syria’s war, which has killed more than 250,000 people since it began in March 2011.

  22. GERMANY – Merkel strikes migration truce on German right

    Coalition partners agree a common position after weeks of sniping.

    BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and one of its ruling coalition partners sought Sunday to move past their differences over the migration crisis.

    Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU, led by Horst Seehofer, released a joint position paper calling for the implementation of “transit zones” at the country’s border and temporarily freezing family reunification efforts.

    In a concession by Seehofer, the paper did not include an upper limit on the number of refugees allowed in the country, signaling that the CSU has given up demands for such a measure. Seehofer gave an ultimatum to Merkel last week pressing her to set such an upper limit. Merkel strongly opposed the idea.

    The accord follows two difficult months for Merkel, who has taken a hit in opinion polls for her handling of the crisis, while parties like the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) gain in popularity. Merkel’s endorsement of transit zones and a reunification freeze suggest she is trying to regain the confidence of the right without abandoning her left flank. She continues to stand by her decision to temporarily open the borders in September.

    The proposed Sunday truce buys Merkel and Seehofer political breathing space. Both have important party congresses coming up in the next few weeks where they need to show their faithful they can stick together to keep power in Berlin.

    Coming into this weekend, the chancellor wanted to reestablish unity within her right-of-center camp, and differentiate it from the Social Democrats (SPD) on migration. By tacking toward Seehofer on Sunday, Merkel took a risk to quiet the fighting within the political family at the cost of possibly alienating her coalition partners in the SPD.

    The risk seems manageable. The SPD leader and vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, has no incentive to walk away from the government: His standing is considerably weaker than Merkel’s. According to a recent poll, 40 percent of Germans consider the chancellor best suited to deal with the refugee crisis, 28 percent Seehofer and only 8 percent Gabriel.

    And, though Merkel moved to pacify the right, she didn’t give up on her “We can cope with it” stance on Sunday, keeping her firmly on the center and left ground that the SPD might want to claim on this issue. Gabriel could even live with an upper limit on new arrivals as called for by Seehofer.

    The reprieve for Merkel could be temporary. Expect new trouble for her if Austria does not keep its promise to bring refugees to the German (read Bavarian) border in a more orderly fashion and for that or any other reason Seehofer backs away from Sunday’s agreement. Another coalition meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

    Transit zone divisions

    Merkel, Seehofer and Gabriel met earlier Sunday for about two hours but departed without delivering a statement. A Merkel spokesperson told journalists there were still “several open issues that are yet to be solved,” and other meetings were to follow among Gabriel, Merkel and Seehofer.

    Only a few hours later, however, following another meeting between the heads of the CDU and CSU, the two parties released the joint position paper.

    The paper calls for a two year freeze on reunification of refugee families, “in order to manage the current situation.” Earlier this weekend, reports about the CSU planning to push this measure had prompted Gabriel to call the idea “unconstitutional.”

    The position paper also confirms the adherence of the center-right parties to the introduction of “transit zones,” listing them as the first of seven national measures to be implemented and calling them “the most urgent measure to better control our border.”

    “Transit zones” are supposed to allow authorities to detain asylum seekers at the border while their claims are assessed. Originally suggested by the conservative CSU, they also found backing among the center-right CDU, including Merkel, while the left-wing SPD continues to oppose them.

    Following a meeting of the SPD heads on Saturday, SPD’s Malu Dreyer, head of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, told German Press Agency DPA that “transit zones” were both impracticable and “problematic for a state founded on the rule of law.”

    Instead, the SPD favors the creation of so-called Einreisezentren (entry centers) in the federal states, where refugees could instantly be registered and file an application for asylum.
    Renewed vows

    The issue of “transit zones” is helping to bring the CDU and CSU together on migration and to focus its attacks on the SPD, observers in Berlin say, noting that the position paper released on Sunday night was a step in that direction.

    The fighting on the right dominated news here for weeks. Criticism of Merkel’s refugee policy by Seehofer and other Bavarian CSU politicians peaked in late September when Seehofer invited Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, one of the harshest opponents of Merkel’s refugee policy on the European level, to a CSU party meeting in Bavaria.

    The influx of migrants has impacted Bavaria the most of any German region. Seehofer is under pressure from his party and electorate in his home region to assert himself with Berlin and stem the flow of new arrivals.

  23. Turkish president Erdogan: I can’t condemn the Islamic State for shooting down the Russian airplane as it is the natural outcome of Putin’s support for Assad

    According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised eyebrows around the world capitals by justifying ISIS terrorists who brought down a Russian passenger plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula early saturday, killing all 224 people aboard.

    “The Russian airplanes are targeting Mujahidin in Syria and partisans fighting to topple Syrian dictator Assad. In Syria, Moscow seeks to tip the balance on the ground against our brethren. Consequently, there should be no surprise if Islamic State take revenge,” Dubai TV cited the Turkish official as saying.

    Having been isolated internationally for his obstinate support for hard-line Islamist rebels in Syria, the 61-year-old President Erdogan expressed his refusal to condemn Ansar Bait al-Maqdis—infamous Sinai-based jihadist group whose members swore allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — for targeting Kogalymavia Flight 9268, killing 217 passengers including 17 children.

    “How can I condemn the Islamic State for shooting down a Russian plane as its passengers were returning from a happy vacation in a time when our co-religionists in Syria are bombed by Putin’s fighter jets? …it is the natural outcome of Moscow’s actions in Syria and the support for Assad,” said Erdo?an, adding, Turkey will continue to advocate the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and ousted ex-President Morsi in Egypt.

    Earlier today Terror Monitor, an online terrorist monitoring organization, said it had received a statement from Islamic State militants claiming responsibility for the attack.

    The website, which watches terrorist groups around the world, tweeted an image of the Arabic statement and wrote: “IslamicState terror group claims downing of Russian aircraft in Sinai.”

  24. IS claims murders of Syrian activist, friend in Turkey: video

    The Islamic State jihadist group on Sunday posted a video claiming responsibility for the brutal murders of a Syrian anti-IS activist and his friend in southern Turkey last week. The video posted online said IS “slaughtered” Ibrahim Abdul Qader, 20, and fellow media activist Fares Hamadi in Sanliurfa on Friday “after they conspired with the Crusaders against the Islamic State”.

    video on this page :

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