Showing posts from January 26, 2014

Ocalan Letter Asks Barzani Support in Rojava, Peace Process

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has asked Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani to back Kurdish autonomy in Syria and the PKK’s peace process with Ankara, the head of Turkey’s largest Kurdish party disclosed. Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) that brokered the peace deal between Ocalan and Ankara last year, said the appeals come in a letter to Barzani. “The letter asks Barzani to support the Kurds in Syria and the peace process in Turkey,” Demirtas told MPs from his party on Thursday. Ties between the Kurdistan Region and the pro-PKK Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has declared unilateral autonomy in Syria’s Kurdish regions (Rojava), have been strained. The PKK and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have also been traditional rivals. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil has rejected the declaration of autonomy by the PYD. Leyla Zana, a Kurdish MP from the city

South Sudan will release four rebels, clearing way for peace process (+video)

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia In what appears to be a significant change of position,  South Sudan says it will release four remaining political prisoners it arrested for an alleged coup in December – a move that would clear the highest hurdle for peace process in warring South Sudan. Three days ago,  President Salva Kiir ’s government freed seven of 11 prisoners, who promptly flew to Kenya, where authorities had volunteered to take custody of them. At the same time, however, the justice ministry in Juba said it would put the remaining four on trial for treason. Rebel forces led by former Vice President Riek Machar , accused by Mr. Kiir of scheming to topple him, have demanded the release of all 11 prisoners as a necessary and agreed-upon step toward formal peace talks next month. Last week, a tentative “cessation of hostilities” agreement was finally signed Jan. 23 after some 40 days of sudden, brutal fighting that killed thousands, displaced 700,000, and leveled towns in the oil-producing na

Peace process negotiators: We’re hard on issues but soft on people

“We have crossed the barrier.” That’s how government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer described the dinner thrown by the Inquirer for her and her counterparts from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday night. It was the first time that members of the two panels  found themselves breaking bread with each other at a venue that was not part of the formal peace process. Earlier on Thursday, they did saw each other in Malacañang when the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which is drafting the Bangsamoro basic law, paid a courtesy call on President Benigno Aquino III. The Transition Commission is headed by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. Later, at the Inquirer offices in Makati City, Ferrer and Iqbal may not have sat at the same table while having dinner but they did share the floor with government negotiator Senen Bacani and lawyer Raissa Jajurie, also of the Transition Commission and a member of the MILF technical working group on the wealth-sharing annex when th

Boot Soles Save Lives By Detecting Land Mines

Due to Colombia’s longtime guerrilla war with anti-government rebel groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and drug cartels, its jungles and fields are littered with active landmines. Since 1990, mines have injured more than 10,000 people, 2,000 of whom were killed. Only Afghanistan ranks higher in terms of such victims. PHOTOS: 12 Ways We’ll Keep High and Dry When Oceans Rise While programs exist to locate and destroy the mines, a Bogota-based design firm has a new solution. Lemur Studio created a shoe or boot insert that alerts wearers if they come within 6.5 feet of a landmine. Dubbed SaveOneLife, the mine-detectors are designed for soldiers, farmers and those tasked with destroying illegal crops. The boot insole includes a planar coil printed on thin conductive material that acts as a metal detector. Along with a microprocessor and a radio transmitter, this detects the presence of other electromagnetic fields, produced by, say, a large metal object like a lan

Landmines injure eight security personnel

Bihar,Terrorism, Mon, 27 Jan 2014 IANS Ranchi, Jan 27 (IANS) Eight security personnel were injured Monday when Maoists set off landmines in Jharkhand's Giridih district, police said. The attack took place near Dholkatta village when security forces were conducting an operation to free four people abducted by Maoists, a police official told IANS. The security personnel were in a vehicle at the time of the blasts. Two of the injured security personnel were said to be in serious condition. Maoists abducted five people in Giridih Saturday but later freed the driver of their vehicle. Three of the abducted people were members of the Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellowship Programme. Maoists are active in 18 of the 22 districts of the state. Source

5 million landmines pose threat to civilians’ lives in Amara

Aswat Al Iraq MISSAN / Aswat al-Iraq: Five million landmines from the Iraqi-Iranian war have not been removed so far as demands are growing on the central government to end this lurking danger that claimed the lives of nearly 6,000 people, according to a local health official in Missan. “The eastern areas of the city of al-Amara, namely al-Tayyib area, are repeatedly witnessing accidents of blasts of landmines left from the Iraqi-Iranian war,” Maytham Lafta al-Fartusi, the chairman of the Missan Provincial Council’s health & environment committee, told Aswat al-Iraq news agency. He said about five million landmines left in those areas are jeopardizing the lives of citizens, particularly shepherds and workers for the Missan Oil Company, holding organizations he did not name “legally and humanly responsible” for failing to deliver on pledges to remove landmines in the province. Ali al-Allaq, the director of the medical operations section in the Missan Health Department, said the rece

Giant rats put noses to work on Mozambique's landmines

A small army of landmine-detecting rats is to be redeployed in Mozambique in a push to meet a deadline to have the country declared free of mines this year. Belgian non-governmental organisation Apopo trains African giant pouched rats to sniff out the explosives in landmines by conditioning them to associate the scent with rewards of food. The rodents, which weigh about as much as a small domestic cat, are light enough to move over terrain without setting off the mines. They are followed by a team of mine-removal experts with metal detectors. Last year,  Apopo received international funding  of $4.5m (£2.7m) from various donors and cleared 618 acres of mined land in Mozambique. This year it is redeploying 78 rats to continue the work. Eradicating landmines from the country this year would mean Mozambique would fulfil its obligations under the Ottawa treaty, an agreement it signed in 1997 and which came into effect in March 1999. Signatories were required to clear all mines from their l

Once enemies, two former child soldiers become friends in Sierra Leone’s peace

Written by Sarah Mills When I told friends I was going to Sierra Leone for three months in 2013, they thought I was mad. Why would anyone go to a dangerous war-torn country? I don’t blame them - the only things Westerners really associate with the small West African country are blood diamonds and child soldiers. And I admit, when I touched down in the capital Freetown at 4 a.m. one morning in May, I did feel a bit anxious. Was I about to get ripped off and robbed? Why did I bring my expensive camera? How soon could I get a flight back? But I was pleasantly surprised: The people are welcoming and the scenery is beautiful. Remember the 1970s ad for Bounty chocolate bar - “The taste of Paradise”? It was shot on a beach in Sierra Leone. Still, life there is tough. Despite the diamond and iron ore riches under their soil, about 70 percent of the population lives in poverty, in part an economic hangover from the country’s 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002 and saw about 50,000 people kil

Colombia looks to reunite ex-child soldiers with parents

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Reuniting Colombia’s former child soldiers with their parents is a key challenge the country faces in helping children traumatised by the war to return to civilian life, according to the head of the government’s child protection agency. Illegal armed groups from both sides of Colombia’s 50-year war - leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries - along with drug-running criminal gangs have all recruited and used children in their ranks, the government says. “The big, big difficulty we have is reuniting children with their families. At the moment, we can’t do this because if we bring back these children to their families, they become military targets (of illegal armed groups) or we put them in situations of high risk,” Marco Aurelio Zuluaga, head of Colombia’s child and family protection agency (ICBF) told journalists in Bogota on Tuesday. Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), forcibly recruits more c

Child soldiers among 53 dead as Philippine troops

MANILA (AFP) - Three child soldiers recruited by rebels were among 53 people killed in a week of fighting with the Philippine army, a military official said on Friday. Regional spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso said the offensive against members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) group in the strife-torn southern island of Mindanao had resulted in the deaths of 52 rebels, including the children, and one soldier. "They are employing child soldiers with guns and camouflage uniforms. When we encounter them, we cannot discriminate if they are children or not," he told AFP. He said that soldiers and local residents confirmed the three child soldiers were among the guerrillas buried soon after their deaths, according to Islamic custom. The offensive came after the main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), successfully concluded peace talks with government negotiators last week aimed at ending a decades-long insurgency that has killed tens of thousan

Army officer claims to have found photos of 'child soldiers' in overrun BIFF camp

By:   Agence France-Presse February 1, 2014 8:16 PM A young BIFF fighter (InterAksyon file photo) InterAksyon.comThe online news portal of TV5 SHARIFF SAYDONA MUSTAPHA, Philippines -- Photographs of child soldiers were among the items left behind as the military overran a camp of the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Fighters in Maguindanao province, a military commander claimed Saturday. Colonel Edgardo Gonzales said he found the photos when he inspected the 7.5-hectare BIFF camp in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town. "There were pictures of children carrying rifles. Some looked like they were 12 years old," Gonzales told AFP as he searched through the abandoned camp. "They were showing off their capability. There were four kids posing with guns. I believe it was not just for show. I believe those rifles were issued to them," he said. The military launched an offensive against the BIFF on Monday, just two days after the government successfully concluded peace talks with the

Israeli missile defence system shoots down rocket aimed toward Eilat from Sinai Peninsula

  JERUSALEM - The Israeli military says its missile defence system has shot down a rocket launched toward the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, near the border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The military said the rocket was intercepted late Friday. No injuries or damage were reported. It didn't elaborate further. Rocket attacks on Eilat are relatively rare. Islamic militants in lawless Sinai have been behind several such attacks on the city in recent years. Some caused minor damage and several people have been treated for shock. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a jihadi group that has been behind many attacks on Egyptian targets and has fired rockets at Israel before, claimed responsibility for firing the Friday rocket. Source

Triage for Treasures After a Bomb Blast

CAIRO — A man in a white lab coat sat alone among piles of blown-off ceiling, mangled metal and splintered wood here on Thursday inside the Museum of Islamic Art — home to a world-renowned collection that covers centuries of art from countries across the Islamic world. He carefully separated ochre-tinted pieces of old glass from the clear shards of modern showcases. The precious glass came from exquisite medieval lamps — or meshkawat — from some of Cairo’s most important mosques. They were among the biggest material losses from a truck bomb  blast  on Jan. 24 that tore through this 111-year-old museum, blowing out windows and sending metal and glass flying through its halls. The bombing, which was aimed at Cairo’s police headquarters across the street, killed four people and injured 76. It occurred a day before the third anniversary of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak. The museum’s staff was struggling to cope with the devastation wrought on this collection of artifacts, man

Suspected Filipino rebels set off bomb; 12 wounded

MANILA, Philippines (AP) A homemade bomb that was likely set off by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines on Saturday wounded 12 people, including six soldiers and two television journalists, the military said. The blast happened near an area where government troops have been battling Muslim insurgents who broke away from a larger rebel group after it signed a peace deal with the government. The victims, including two TV journalists, were hit by shrapnel in Maguindanao province's Datu Saudi Ampatuan township, but their injuries were not life-threatening, said regional military spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso. A reporter and a cameraman for the local TV5 network were reporting near the site of an earlier explosion, which flattened the tires of a military armored vehicle. They were following soldiers in two other armored vehicles when a second bomb exploded about 45 minutes later, wounding the journalists, six soldiers, and four civilians. The network said in a statement that the

Israeli intelligence chief says threats remain

TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Threats against Israel remain, even if its neighbors show little interest in war, the country's military intelligence chief said Wednesday in Tel Aviv. Speaking at the annual conference of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi noted 170,000 rockets and missiles currently surround Israel from all sides. "For the first time the enemy now has the ability to hit Israeli cities hard," he said, although he added neighboring countries "are busy with themselves. They have less funds to start a war. There is no question there is a decrease in threats, but they have not given up." Kochavi cautioned the threat of cyberwarfare is growing significantly, and many attacks on the country's cyber-security establishment have occurred, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday. Source

African nations meet to raise cash for Central Africa force

Addis Ababa: African countries met Saturday to raise cash for the peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn Central African Republic amid warnings the violence there could tear the country apart and destabilise the region.   The pledging conference comes after African leaders called for urgent solutions to the crisis in Central Africa, a landlocked, resource-rich but impoverished nation where weeks of sectarian violence have killed thousands.  "Clearly the collapse of law and order is a threat to the very existence of the Central African state, it has the potential to seriously impact on regional security and stability," said Smail Chergui, the top African Union peace and the security official, told the conference.  "The security situation is of utmost concern, with continued attacks against civilians that in turn heighten religious and inter-communal tensions," he said.  The Central African Republic descended into chaos 10 months ago after rebels overthrew the govern

Egypt air strike kills 7 Sinai militants: Army

Cairo: The Egyptian army said it killed seven militants in an air strike in the Sinai Peninsula less than a week after jihadists downed a military helicopter in the restive region. The army said the Thursday night air raid hit militants linked to the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, which the military-installed authorities have designated a terrorist organisation despite its repeated condemnation of jihadist attacks against the security forces.  The air strike targeted four houses of "dangerous extremists linked to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group" south of the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zwayed, the army said, adding that seven militants were killed and five wounded.  On January 25, militants shot down a military helicopter in the Sinai, killing five soldiers as Egyptians marked the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising that toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak. Al-Qaeda inspired group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) claime

LeT militant killed in Pulwama gunfight

 - A  Lashkar-e-Tayiba militant was killed in a gunbattle with security forces in south Kashmir's Pulwama district overnight, police said. Acting on an intelligence input about presence of ultras in village Kangan, 35-km from Srinagar, security forces launched a search operation in the area last evening, they said. As they zeroed in on their target, the militants fired at security forces who retaliated, police said. In the ensuing gunfight, a militant identified as Ajaz Ahmad Bhat was killed, they said. Bhat, affiliated to the LeT outfit, was involved in a number of terrorist activities including the firing incident at Awantipora market in which two civilians, including a woman, were injured, police said. Some arms and ammunition were recovered from the scene, they said. Source

Shots, blasts as Thai protest rivals clash on election eve

Bangkok — Explosions and heavy gunfire rattled Bangkok Saturday as pro- and anti-government protesters clashed on the eve of controversial Thai elections seen as unlikely to end a cycle of violence in the kingdom after months of opposition rallies. Bystanders, security personnel and journalists raced to take cover in a shopping mall after a masked gunman man began spraying bullets from an assault rifle during confrontations between government supporters and opposition demonstrators, according to an AFP reporter. At least six people were injured as a busy intersection in a northern suburb of the capital was turned into a battle zone with volleys of sustained gunfire ricocheting off buildings for over an hour in a daylight attack that sent shockwaves across the city. Tensions are high in the capital ahead of snap elections on Sunday, which opposition demonstrators have vowed to block as they seek to prevent the likely re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Bangkok has been ro