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Conflict Map 2013 – aviation source

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 by ecranga

Many deaths as Malians, joined by French, try to beat back Islamist militants – CNN.com

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2013 by ecranga

‘Many deaths’ as Malians, joined by French, try to beat back Islamist militants

By Katarina Hoije, Greg Botelho and Pierre Meilhan, CNN
January 13, 2013 — Updated 0949 GMT (1749 HKT)
Watch this video

Strategies to rid Mali of extremistsBamako, Mali (CNN) — An effort to halt advancing militant Islamist forces has resulted in “many deaths” in northern Mali, a military spokesman said — with the fatalities including Malian soldiers, insurgents and a French pilot killed in a helicopter raid.

Mali is being joined by France — its former colonial ruler, which recently sent troops there — as it tries to beat back advances by forces linked to al Qaeda. Much action recently has focused in and around the key northern city of Konna, which insurgents took on Thursday only to retreat the following day after a combined air and ground assault.

“There were many deaths on both sides, both rebels and government soldiers,” Malian defense ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Diara Kone said Saturday of the fighting in the northern part of the country. The government, in a statement read on state TV, said 11 of its soldiers died and about 60 were wounded in the battle for Konna.

The French pilot died while taking part Friday afternoon in an aerial operation targeting a terrorist group moving on the town of Mopti, near Konna, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The aerial offensive — which includes strikes by French fighter jets — continued through Friday night and into Saturday, the minister added.

“Every means was used in fighting the Islamists, including two attack helicopters. They sent the Islamists fleeing,” Kone told CNN. “This shows that the Malian army is capable to fight.”

French militant operations in Africa

France intervenes in Mali conflict

Source: CNN

French President Francois Hollande also cheered after “a blow was delivered and heavy losses were inflicted,” which he credited in part to the efforts of his nation’s troops.

“But our mission is not over,” he said Saturday.

The Islamist forces’ movement in recent days from their strongholds in the deserts of northern Mali prompted France to help address what Le Drian called a “serious” and deteriorating situation, even as France has resisted efforts to get involved in curbing other rebellions in such former colonies as the Central African Republic.

Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore declared a state of emergency nationwide Friday and called for “a general mobilization” to defend against the radical Islamists’ advance.

State of emergency declared in Mali

“Terrorist groups want to destabilize the country,” the French minister said. “We are determined to prevent them doing so, within the strict framework of international law.”

Radical Islamists make push southward

After decades of military rule, Mali held its first democratic elections in 1992. It remained stable politically until March, when a group of soldiers toppled the government, saying it had not provided adequate support for them to fight ethnic Tuareg rebels in the country’s largely desert north.

Tuareg rebels, who’d sought independence for decades, took advantage of the power vacuum and seized swaths of land. A power struggle then erupted in the north between the Tuaregs and local al Qaeda-linked radicals, who themselves wound up in control of a large area as the Tuaregs retreated.

The United Nations says amputations, floggings and public executions — like the stoning of a couple in July, who’d reportedly had an affair — became common in areas controlled by radical Islamists. They applied a strict interpretation of Sharia law by banning music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television, and damaged Timbuktu’s historic tombs and shrines.

Read more: Northern Mali a ‘magnet for international jihadis’

Map showing French troop movements January 11 t in Mali.
Map showing French troop movements January 11 t in Mali.

Already, the armed groups’ activity — along with a pervasive drought — has led hundreds of thousands of Malians to be displaced.

And the Islamists’ movement southward has raised concerns among leaders in West Africa and elsewhere, some of them calling for swift and decisive military intervention to aid Mali’s government, based in Bamako.

The Economic Community of West African States plans to hold an emergency meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to prepare to send troops to Mali to help government forces, a spokesman for the organization said.

The spokesman, Sunny Ugoh, said West African troops are expected to number 3,500 and will operate in the framework of the United Nations resolutions.

The meeting will also discuss any “additional measures need to be taken,” he added.

Read more: International leaders push for military intervention in Mali

Several hundred French troops have been deployed to Mali, where about 6,000 French citizens live, according to Le Drian.

“Our determination to combat terrorism is total,” the French defense minister said. “France will do all it can to combat the jihadist groups who have launched this offensive in recent days.”

‘The terrorists’ breakthrough must be stopped’

Rebels take key town in northern Mali

Al Qaeda’s new breeding ground: Mali

Mali in spotlight after military coup

Hollande said the influx of troops from his nation and others is to “allow Mali to recover its territorial integrity in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

“France, in this operation, is not pursuing any interest … other than safeguarding a friendly country, and (France) does not have any goal other than fighting against terrorism,” the French president said Saturday. “That is why its action is supported by the international community and saluted by all African countries.”

Though its troops are posted in locations around Africa, French leaders earlier said they wouldn’t send combat troops to Mali and that they’d scale back France’s military interventions on the continent.

So its decision to get involved in Mali, an operation Hollande said “will last as long as necessary,” underlies the seriousness of France’s concern about the situation there. French hostages have been taken in neighboring Niger by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Paris appears intent on containing any further militant expansion in the heart of Africa.

Read more: What’s behind the instability in Mali?

“The terrorists’ breakthrough must be stopped,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, justifying France’s efforts “to train and reshape the Malian army.” “If not, (all of) Mali falls into their hands, with a threat to the whole of Africa and Europe.”

The U.N. Security Council last month authorized a one-year military peacekeeping mission in the country. ECOWAS members pledged thousands of troops, and the Security Council has urged other nations to contribute forces as well.

Hollande spoke Saturday evening with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who consented for the United Kingdom to “provide logistical military assistance to help transport foreign troops and equipment quickly to Mali” — but no “British personnel in a combat role” — a Downing Street spokesman said.

France has been in contact with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the situation, as well as its African and European allies, according to Le Drian.

The U.S. military is weighing its options — which could include logistical support and intelligence sharing with France — said a U.S. defense official, who declined to be named because no decisions have been made.

“This is a serious issue, and … the United States is committed to going after terrorists wherever they may be in order to protect American interests, but also those of our partners and allies around the world,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said this week.

Journalist Katarina Hoije reported from Bamako, while CNN’s Pierre Meilhan and Greg Botelho reported and wrote the story from Atlanta. CNN’s Vladimir Duthiers contributed to this report.

Washed out

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 11, 2013 by ecranga

Washed out

Syria: the story behind one of the most shocking images of the war

Why did the bodies of 110 men suddenly wash up in the river running through Aleppo city six weeks ago? A Guardian investigation found out

Bodies revealed by the Queiq river’s receding waters. Photo: Thomas Rassloff/EPA

Discovery

It is already one of the defining images of the Syrian civil war: a line of bodies at neatly spaced intervals lying on a river bed in the heart of Syria’s second city Aleppo. All 110 victims have been shot in the head, their hands bound with plastic ties behind their back. Their brutal execution only became apparent when the winter high waters of the Queiq river, which courses through the no man’s land between the opposition-held east of the city and the regime-held west, subsided in January.

It’s a picture that raises so many questions: who were these men? How did they die? Why? What does their story tell us about the wretched disintegration of Syria? A Guardian investigation has established a grisly narrative behind the worst – and most visible – massacre to have taken place here. All the men were from neighbourhoods in the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo. Most were men of working age. Many disappeared at regime checkpoints. They may not be the last to be found. Locals have since dropped a grate from a bridge, directly over an eddy in the river. Corpses were still arriving 10 days after the original discovery on January 29, washed downstream by currents flushed by winter rains.

Victims

Just after dawn on 29 January, a car pulled up outside a school being used as a rebel base in the Aleppo suburb of Bustan al-Qasr with news of the massacre. Since then a painstaking task to identify the victims and establish how they died has been inching forwards. The victims, many without names, were mostly buried within three days — 48 hours longer than social custom dictates, to allow for their families to claim them.

Ever since, relatives have been arriving to identify the dead from photographs taken by the rescuers. Each family member who has made the journey to a makeshift office, set up inside a childcare centre, brings with them accounts of when they last saw their father, son, cousin, or brother and where he had travelled before he was murdered.

There are no women on the grisly slideshow of dead men that is replayed in melancholy slow motion every time a relative arrives. Nor are there more than a handful of males aged over 30. Most of the dead dragged from Aleppo’s Queiq River were men of working age.

Another thread strongly unites the fate of the river massacre victims; each of them had either been in the west of the city, or had been trying to get there. They had to pass though checkpoints run by the Syrian army, or their proxy militia, the Shabiha. The process involved handing over identification papers that detailed in which area of the city the holder of the papers lived.

In mid-February, the Guardian interviewed 11 family members of massacre victims in the Bustan al-Qasr area, who all confirmed that their dead relatives had vanished in regime areas, or had been trying to reach them. Two other men who had been arrested at regime checkpoints and later freed were also interviewed. Both alleged that mass killings had taken place in the security prisons in which they had been held. They identified the prisons as Air Force intelligence and Military Security — two of the most infamous state security facilities in Syria.

“If they took you to the park, you were finished,” said one of the men, who had been freed in mid-January. “We all knew that. It is a miracle that I am standing here talking to you.”

The man, in his early 20s, refused to be identified even back in the relative safety of the east of the city. Nowadays, he spends his mornings on the banks of the river, waiting for more bodies to float down.

The concrete ledge from where the bodies were recovered is now covered by waters which, on 29 January, had receded leaving the sodden remains exposed, blood oozing from single bullet wounds to each of their shattered skulls.

Witnesses

Further north, around four kilometres upstream is the park that the man speaks about, a large public space near the Queiq River in west Aleppo. The rebels in the east suspect that the bodies they recovered may have drifted from this point while waters were flowing strongly in the last week of January. Their suspsicions centre on two witnesses who came forward in the days following the massacre.

One of them, Abdel Rezzaq, 19, arrived at the Revolutionary Security office, run from the abandoned daycare centre, in a muddy narrow lane in the heart of Bustan al-Qasr. Together with his parents, he wrote a hand-written statement alleging that, while inside the Air Force intelligence prison, he had heard the sounds of 30 men being shot dead. We found Abdel Rezzaq, now working as a straight vendor selling coffee in Bustan al-Qasr.

“I was living in Bustan area (in the west) and I was working as a carpenter,” he said. “I went downtown (in west Aleppo) to buy a falafel sandwich. The military caught and they started beating me all over my body and they were saying that I am with the Free Syria Army. They beat me for 8 days day and night and demanded I confess. They were transferring me from one base to another airforce base.”

“I was arrested on the 10th of October and stayed (in prison) for about 2.5 months to 3 months.”

“Before I left the prison, they took 30 people from isolation cells and killed them.”

Abdel Rezzaq said he was being held in Block 4, within earshot of the solitary confinement cells and the area where he alleges the prisoners were taken, then executed. “They handcuffed them and blindfolded them and they were torturing them till they died.”

“They poured acid on them. The smell was very strong and we were suffocating from it. Then we heard gunshots. The next day they put me and some of the others in front of men with guns, but they didn’t shoot at us. They freed me later that day.”

“I heard women screaming. They were pouring alcohol on us and cursing us. Only God got us out of there, no-one gets out alive. And only god knows what happened to the rest of the people who were in there. I will fight for this cause because I want the whole world to see what is happening.”

The account of the man who refused to be identified matched Abdel Rezzaq, although he claimed he was held in the Military Security prison.

“I was there for a month,” he said. “Then one night they took us to an area outside, it was near a park and I thought that was it. I was preparing for death by praying and they started shooting along a wall where they had lined people up. There were about four guys next to me, to my right, and they stopped shooting. I heard one officer say ‘let them go’. And here I am. I will stay waiting for these bodies for the rest of the war. I cannot believe I am here.”

Aleppo residents describe finding, recovering and identifying the bodies in the river

Relatives

As the scale of the massacre became clear, Mahmoud Rezk and the unit near the frontline that had first been alerted to what had happened, started to receive bereaved family members.

On 10 February, almost two weeks after the bodies were found, two brothers arrived at the centre to look for their father. Less than five minutes later, both stood sobbing tears of unfathomable grief in front of a wall mural of a red Teletubby. “My father was working in the national bank,” wept Mahmoud al-Drubi. He was married to three women. He was staying with one of his wives (in Ashrafiyeh in west Aleppo) and he told her that he is going to work and it has been 22 days since he disappeared. He was working in an unliberated area. The regime did this to him.”

In the same courtyard of incongruous frivolity, Sheikh al-Aurora sits in front of a Minnie Mouse mural and insists that his family will take revenge for the death of his cousin, Mohammed Hamandush. The Sheikh identified himself as a member of the Free Syria Army, but insisted Mohammed, 18, had not been.

“I am one of the resistance fighters in Aleppo,” he said. “I am fighting the terrorist regime. I used to work with Syrian state television and I left the regime two years ago.

“Mohammed was going to the dentist in Jamilia and he was taken by the military. He was arrested because he was young and the military thought he was with the FSA.

“We knew where he was being held and his father went to see him but the military told him that he will be joining the army now. Several days later, his body ended up in the river “This is a dictator’s regime. They took that kid to join the army and then they killed him. This is because he was a Sunni. This war is obvious. This is a message from the Shia regime to the Sunnis.

“The image of my cousin was horrifying. His face was wrapped with nylon bag and with a tape to make sure he will be dead not only from the bullet but from suffocating. It is heart breaking. Killing Bashar and all of the shabiha won’t be enough revenge.”

Another man, who identified himself as Abu Lutfi, also claimed that his family had tracked down their missing relative, Mohammed Waez to a military prison in West Aleppo “He was a merchant and he was stopped at the checkpoint and was taken.We went to ask about him and the military told us that he was with them and in 10 days he will be released. Instead, 10 days later, we found his body in the river. He was handcuffed and his legs were bound. He was shot in the head.

“I am covering my face because if the regime recognizes my face, I will be dead and every single member of my family will be dead. They will kill us and no one can find us. We are for sure with the revolution. We served the military for 40 years and now this is the army that is attacking and killing us.

“This is a message from the army; every time the FSA will step forward, we will kill more civilians. Now the families of each victim are going to join the FSA.”

Bereaved relatives tell of the last time they saw their loved ones and how they went down to the river to retrieve their bodies

Another man, Amer al-Ali, from Dar al-Izza, about two kilometres west of Bustan al-Qasr, and a member of the FSA, said his family is now also seeking revenge.

“I am working as a fighter in Katibat Majd al-Islam. Two of my cousins, Yassin, 20, and Omar, 14, were tailors. They went missing 5 days before the massacre. I knew the army had a checkpoint in their area and I told them to be careful. They were the main financial supporters to their families. They went to work (in the west) and I saw them on their way to work. It was getting late and their father came to me asking if I saw them and we were searching for them. Several days later, we heard about the massacre and we went to retrieve their bodies.

“Their mother asked if she can join the FSA to take revenge and so did their father. They only have two daughters left and now the whole family wants to join a jihad.”

Burial

Dealing with the dead in Aleppo has a medieval feel. Bodies dragged from the river in the days and weeks after the massacre were laid on footpaths outside the school yard, a simple plastic sheet covering the grey, shrivelling skin. The few who remained in Bustan al-Qasr walk past heads down, no longer stopping to look as they go about life in a city at war.

Some families asked the rebel unit to bury them on their behalf. Such a plea is highly unusual in this war. Here, like in conflicts elsewhere in the world, the final act of burial is akin to closure for grieving families. But, the request illustrated the depth of Aleppo’s divide and the desperate decisions that some families are being forced to make in order to maintain their incomes in a city where most commerce has ground to a halt. Little works in Aleppo anymore. Electricity has been dwindling for months and is now nearly non-existent. Rubbish is piled in football-field sized festering heaps. Even the flow of running water, potable from the tap, has slowed to a trickle.

All the relatives who requested that the rebels bury their relatives’ remains, without them being present, still worked in the west of the city. Some also lived there. Others had to cross from the east through checkpoints on most days.

“One of the (victims) had a mobile shop and they spoke to his father and then took his son away,” said Rezk. The next day, the father came to the river bank and found his son’s body. He decided to bury his son (in the east) because he was worried of taking his son’s dead body to where he lives. He thought they would kill him.”

Rezk displayed a handwritten note, which was a ample authorisation from another father to bury his sons in the east.

“He was still working in an unliberated area and he had three sons, two of whom were dead. He didn’t want to talk about it with us. He just signed the note and left and we put them in the martyr’s grave.”

The graveyard Rezk spoke about was a children’s playground. All semblance of fun in this muddy stretch of rusting green swings and slides had long ago been surrendered to the grim reality of dealing with death in a city that no longer functions. Only a corner of the playground — for now — has been commandeered by grave diggers, men who swing shovels over their naked torsoes in the bitter cold and a small digger that scrapes at the soil, ever so gently for such a strong machine.

The dead are taken to a children’s playground. ‘A playground shouldn’t be turned into a graveyard but we had to,’ one resident says. ‘We had too many martyrs’

In the days following the massacre, Syrian officials blamed ‘terrorist groups’ for the deaths. State television broadcast a ‘confession’ from an alleged member of Jabhat al-Nusra, the jihadist group that shares the worldview of the late al-Qa’ida leader, Osama bin Laden, which has become increasingly prominent on some of the battlefronts of Syria’s civil war, inclusing Aleppo.

The confession was derided by every one of the 11 people interviewed by the Guardian as well as dozens of others that came and went from the Revolutionary Security centre during the week we were there. Jabhat al-Nusra members are visible on the streets of eastern Aleppo and play prominent roles in distributing food and aid to some communities.

They are distrusted by some rebel groups who vie with them for fighting honours and subsequent spoils of war. But they are feared by few on the rebel side.

“They’re not good guys,” said Amhed al-Sobhi, a hospital worker. “They don’t think like me, but they behave respectably. They do not kill civilians. You would have to be willfully blind to not know who did this massacre.”

“Jabhat al-Nusra won’t do such a horrible thing,” said Amer al-Ali. “No muslim can do such a thing but this regime can do it. You call us terrorists. come and fight us face to face.

Sheikh Aurora was emphatic: “Jabhat Al-Nusra is more honest and noble than Bashar and his gang. They would not commit such a crime. It was Jabhat al-Nusra who provided people with food, shelter and clothes. Why would they give them with all of these things and then kill them?”

Please support cancer research

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 4, 2013 by ecranga

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Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2012 by ecranga

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2012, Being a woman in China

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2012 by ecranga

Officials have apologised to a Chinese woman who was forced to have an abortion while seven months pregnant and have suspended three people responsible for the incident.

The move came just days after shocking photographs emerged on the web showing the mother, Feng Jianmei, lying next to her blood-covered baby minutes after the procedure took place.

Officials have apologised in a move to allay public anger over the case, which has triggered renewed criticism of China’s widely hated one-child limit.

Designed to control the country’s exploding population, the policy has led to violent and forced abortions and sterilizations, as local authorities try to meet birth quotas set by Beijing.

In this latest case, Feng, 27, told local media that she was forceably injected with a chemical to induce an abortion and her child was stillborn 36 hours later at a hospital in Shaanxi province.

Local officials said they were investigating the incident, as Chinese law prohibits abortions beyond six months.

The grisly photographs, which were taken by Feng’s sister, have shocked anti-abortion groups in China – and fury is spreading around the world.

source : Daily mail, UK

Do you feel concerned by…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 11, 2012 by ecranga

…reforms in your own country if they seem to touch your neighbor but not you directly, people from the same faith but not the same congregation… Here is what somebody said a few years ago, food for thoughts :

“First they came for the Socialists, and I  did not speak out —   Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,   and I did not speak out —   Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did   not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

– Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime. He spent the last 7 years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.