Showing posts from April 19, 2015

Angelina Jolie criticizes UN failures on Syria crisis

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Actress Angelina Jolie on Friday criticized the UN Security Council's failure to end the war in Syria, as she appealed for urgent help for the growing ranks of Syrian refugees. The Hollywood star spoke at the council in her role as special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has seen her visit camps hosting victims of the Syrian crisis 11 times. An estimated 3.9 million people have fled the country in four years of civil war. "The purpose of the UN is to prevent and end conflict, to bring countries together, to find diplomatic solutions and to save lives," said Jolie, dressed in a white blazer. "We failed to do this in Syria." She fumed at the stalemate, as ambassadors and ministers gathered for a debate on the humanitarian crisis tearing the country apart. "The crisis is made worse by division and indecision within the international community preventing the Security Council from fulfilling its respon

UNICEF welcomes final release of child soldiers by armed group in South Sudan

24 April 2015 – Militants in South Sudan have handed over to the United Nations Children's Fund ( UNICEF ) a final group of 283 children in what the agency described as “a small piece of good news in what is otherwise a terrible situation for children in other parts of [the country],” where many boys and girls have been abducted and forcibly recruited as child soldiers. The release of 282 boys and one girl by the so-called 'Cobra Faction' took place in Labrab, a village in a remote corner of Jonglei state in South Sudan, bringing to 1,757 the number of children who have been released by the militant group this year. During the release ceremony, the children handed in their weapons and uniforms in exchange for civilian clothes. The boys and the one girl will stay at the interim care centre where they will receive food, shelter, medical and psychosocial support until their families are traced and they can return home. “It is the last chapter in a series of releases that have

Vatican downplays terror threat, says not really concerned

MILAN: The Vatican is downplaying the significance of an alleged planned attack against the Vatican, saying the threat dates from 2010 and therefore is not relevant or of particular concern today. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement after prosecutors in Sardinia revealed details of the purported plot Friday. Lombardi said: "From what it appears, this concerns a hypothesis that dates from 2010 which didn't occur. It has therefore no relevance today and no reason for particular concern." Source:

Bombings in Iraq near market and courthouse kill 7

BAGHDAD: Iraqi officials say two bombings, one near a marketplace and the other near a courthouse, have killed seven people. Police officials say the first of Friday's attacks took place in the morning, when a bomb exploded near an outdoor market in the Sunni town of Tarmiyiah, killing four people and wounding eight. Tarmiyah is 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad. A bomb near a courthouse killed three people and wounded nine in the town of Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad. Medical officials confirmed the death toll. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Sunni extremist Islamic State group has claimed scores of past attacks targeting security forces and Iraq's majority Shiites Source:

Iran ships 'turn back' from Yemen as fighting rages

SANAA: An Iranian ship convoy suspected of carrying weapons for Shiite rebels in Yemen has turned back, US officials said, as Saudi-led warplanes kept up air strikes on the anti-government forces. The conflict has sent tensions soaring between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, which backs the Huthi rebels, raising fears Yemen could become a new front in a proxy war between Middle East powers. Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin on Thursday accused Tehran of trying to break a naval blockade on his country, describing the war as an "Iranian plot implemented by the Houthi militia." A US official said Thursday the nine-ship Iranian convoy that had been heading for Yemen is "no longer on the same course". The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and other American warships have deployed off Yemen's coast to track the Iranian flotilla and possibly prevent any arms deliveries to the Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels. The flo

Warren Weinstein Family Blasts U.S. Government Over Al Qaeda Hostage Crisis

President Obama personally took responsibility Thursday for the death of an American and an Italian hostage killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation in January, but his words appear to be little comfort to the family of the American, who said the U.S. government as a whole has been "inconsistent and disappointing" for years in their time of need. “I want to thank Congressman John Delaney, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Senator Ben Cardin -- as well as specific officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- for their relentless efforts to free my husband,” Elaine Weinstein, wife to slain hostage Warren Weinstein , said in a statement shortly after the White House's grim announcement. “Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years. We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will fin

San Diegan accused of hiding ISIS links

Mohamad Saeed Kodaimati, 24, of San Diego, was arrested and charged in a federal criminal complaint with two counts of providing false statements involving international terrorism. Courtesy U.S. Attorney's Office Rancho Bernardo resident accused of lying about role in strife in Syria, on Sharia court San Diego — A San Diego man who returned from Syria a few weeks ago was arrested in Rancho Bernardo Wednesday, accused of hiding from the FBI his participation in gunbattles alongside al-Qaeda-backed fighters, his role on a Sharia court and several other alleged connections to terrorist activity during his time overseas, according to a complaint filed Thursday. Mohamad Saeed Kodaimati, 24, was arrested by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force officers at his home near Caminito de la Gallarda and Pomerado Road and charged with making false statements involving international terrorism.

South Sudan opposition leader says under 'house arrest'

Juba (AFP) - A South Sudanese opposition leader who has spoken out against both sides in the civil war said Friday he appeared to have been placed under house arrest. Opposition politician Lam Akol said his home in the capital Juba, which is under the control of the government loyal to President Salva Kiir, was surrounded by security personnel during the night. "My house was surrounded by security forces last night and they closed the road leading to the house. But nobody has come inside to tell me directly if I am under house arrest or anything," he told AFP by telephone from inside his home. "It is not pleasant, it is scary," Akol said. South Sudan's government, however, dismissed the complaint, with government spokesman Michael Makuei accusing Akol of attention-seeking. "If we want to arrest him, I will take him to prison. These are his usual claims," Makuei said. Akol is the leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movemen

Italian police stage raids on group linked to suspected Pakistan plot

ROME (Reuters) - Italian police said on Friday they were staging a "vast anti-terrorism" operation against an armed organization inspired by al Qaeda whose members were ready to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan A series of raids across the country was targeting 18 people, they said. Some had been arrested in Italy, including the group's suspected spiritual leader, but others were believed to have left the country. The group had "an abundant amount of weapons and numerous faithful willing to carry out acts of terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan before returning to Italy," police said in one of a series of statements. All the suspects are Pakistanis or Afghans, anti-terrorism police official Mario Carta told Reuters, adding that the operation was still in progress. European governments are increasingly worried about the threat of "sleeper" militants apparently

Yemen conflict: Over 115 children killed in month - UN

At least 115 children have been killed and 172 maimed in a month of fighting and air strikes in Yemen, the UN children's agency Unicef says. About half were killed by coalition bombing, the agency said, and others by mines, gunshots, and shelling. The Saudi-led coalition has continued air strikes on rebel forces, despite announcing the end of its air campaign. Houthi rebels and allied forces have been fighting forces allied to the government for several months. Saudi Arabia and allied Arab states have been carrying out air strikes since March with the declared aim of restoring exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The UN said on Friday that at least 551 civilians had been killed in the conflict - more than half the overall estimated death toll. "There are hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen who continue to live in the most dangerous circumstances," Julien Harneis, Unicef's Yemen representative, said. "The number of child casualties show

U.N. invites Syrian parties to peace talks in Geneva in May

GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has invited Syria's government and opposition groups for separate talks in Geneva next month in the latest bid to end the four-year-old civil war, a U.N. spokesman said on Friday. De Mistura, who is due to brief the U.N. Security Council later on Friday, plans for "low-key" talks with each of the main stakeholders over four to six weeks in the Swiss city, Ahmad Fawzi told a news briefing. "There will be no big meeting at the end. There will be no fanfare at the conclusion," Fawzi said. Major powers and regional players have been invited, but not the militant groups Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra, which are classified as "terrorist organizations", he said. Some of those present at the talks would be able to communicate with them, he added. Fawzi said De Mistura hoped to report back to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by June 3

Adam Gadahn: California rocker turned Al-Qaeda mouthpiece

Washington (AFP) - Adam Gadahn, the Al-Qaeda spokesman believed killed in a US operation, was a teenage rock music fan who grew up on a Californian goat farm before he was drawn into radical Islam. The White House announced Thursday that US intelligence thinks Gadahn died in January in a "counterterrorism operation" in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The 36-year-old was apparently not deliberately targeted in the raid, but he has long been one of the most wanted jihadist figures on the US hit list, with a $1 million bounty on his head. As an English speaker and senior Al-Qaeda propagandist, he was one of the most high-profile figures in the global jihadist movement and a regular online presence, taunting his homeland and inciting attacks. After the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, he played a leading role in the movement's shift in focus to an effort to inspire "lone wolf" radicals to mount spontaneous attacks in t

Vatican link in 'al-Qaeda' arrests

Suspected extremists being investigated in Italy over links to al-Qaeda may have been planning an attack on the Vatican in 2010, prosecutors say. A militant ring was found to be operating in Sardinia, and there had been possible plans to target the Holy See, according to investigators. Police issued 20 warrants and made nine arrests in raids on Friday. Some of the suspects are believed to have organised the 2009 market bombing in Peshawar in Pakistan. Local media said two of the men had provided protection for Osama Bin Laden. Prosecutor Mauro Mura told a press conference in Cagliari, Sardinia, that wiretaps indicated the suspected terrorists had been planning a bomb attack at the Vatican in March 2010. Police earlier said those arrested came from Pakistan and Afghanistan and the operation was ongoing. Source:

Nigerian troops forced to retreat from mined Boko Haram stronghold

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Nigerian troops were forced to retreat from Boko Haram's Sambisa Forest stronghold in the restive northeast after a landmine blast killed one soldier and three vigilantes, security sources said Thursday. Military top brass said on Wednesday that soldiers were conducting offensives "in some forest locations" in the area after it was announced last week that operations were imminent. The Sambisa Forest is located in the state of Borno, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the town of Chibok, from where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in April last year. It has been claimed the 219 schoolgirls still being held were initially kept in the former game reserve, although others have said they may have been split up and moved to Chad or Cameroon. Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a statement that a senior Boko Haram commander was killed, as well as a number of militants who attacked a patrol. "The operations especiall

Chechnya leader gives 'shoot to kill' orders on Russian forces

Moscow (AFP) - Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on Thursday ordered his troops to "shoot to kill" if they encountered any unauthorised Russian forces on the territory of the small republic in the volatile North Caucasus region. "I am officially stating that if (a soldier) appears on your territory without authorisation, whether he comes from Moscow or Stavropol, shoot to kill," the Kremlin-loyal strongman said in a video broadcast by the local Grozny TV station. "They need to take us into account," he added. Kadyrov appeared to be speaking at a gathering of representatives of the special forces in the mainly Muslim autonomous region, where separatists fought two wars against Russia in the 1990s. "We don't have the right to leave our territory to conduct anti-terrorist operations against extremists in Ingushetia," Kadyrov said, referring to a neighbouring region. "If you are the masters of your territory, then you need to w

Racism fuels terrorism recruiting, says visiting French justice minister

OTTAWA – The marginalization caused by racism has an alienating effect that makes people more vulnerable to terrorist recruiters, says France’s visiting justice minister. Christiane Taubira knows of what she speaks: as France’s most prominent black politician, she has faced repeated public racist slurs in her country. Taubira made it clear that she doesn’t see being discriminated against as an explanation or excuse for terrorism. “I’m not sure I want to understand the causes of terrorism,” she said in an exclusive interview Thursday at the French Embassy in Ottawa. “Terror is terror, just absolute.” But Taubira said there is a link between a young person being pushed to the margins of society and “how easy” that makes it for a terrorist to recruit them, especially using the Internet. “Because it’s so easy for (terrorists) to say, ‘You will be very important because you will be very powerful, you will be able to kill, and afterwards you will be happy,'” she said. “The link is there.

For mothers of terrorism suspects, nothing but sorrow

  One by one, the Somali women filtered into an office of the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis to tell their stories. Each appeared exhausted. One hadn't slept in days. Their sons were among  six men arrested  in a major counterterrorism sweep Sunday and charged by federal authorities with trying to join ISIS, one of the cruelest terrorist groups in the world. Now the three Twin Cities mothers find themselves grappling with an unimaginable future in the United States. • Monday:  Informant's role emerges as key in counterterror sweep • Complete coverage:  Called to Fight "My life has turned upside down," said Ayan Mohamed Farah, who has two sons facing terror-related charges. "I am a mother who came here to seek peace." In interviews with MPR News, the mothers say they depended on their first-born sons to be the bedrock of their families. Instead, the young men face years or even decades in prison if convicted. Four of the men charged will appear in federal