Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Islamists Crimes Against Humanity: ‘Slaughtered like sheep’: Eyewitnesses recount massacre in Adra, Syria
New details of atrocities carried out by Islamist rebel fighters in the town of Adra, 20 kilometers north of Damascus, continue to pour in from survivors of the massacre there, in which reportedly at least 80 people lost their lives. "The decapitators" is how the Adra residents, who managed to flee the violence there, now call the people who currently have the town under their control. Adra, a town with a population of 20,000, was captured by Islamist rebels from the Al-Nusra front and the Army of Islam last week, following fierce fighting with the government forces. The town’s seizure was accompanied by mass executions of civilians. Following alarming reports of the massacre, RT contacted international rights groups including the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). However, none of them were able to provide any information. While the HRW told RT that it “cannot comment at this stage as our research is still ongoing and it has been very difficult to get accurate information about what is happening in Adra and who is responsible for the abuses,” the ICRC said they “don’t have access to this area and can neither confirm nor deny any information circulating.” RT Arabic has managed to speak to some of the eyewitnesses of the atrocities. Most of them have fled the town, leaving their relatives and friends behind, so they asked not to be identified in the report for security reasons. An Adra resident said he escaped from the town “under a storm of bullets.” He later contacted his colleagues, who described how the executions of civilians were carried out by the militants. “They had lists of government employees on them,” the man told RT. “This means they had planned for it beforehand and knew who works in the governmental agencies. They went to the addresses they had on their list, forced the people out and subjected them to the so-called “Sharia trials.” I think that’s what they call it. They sentenced them to death by beheading.” A woman, hiding her face from the camera, told RT of the beheadings she had seen. “There was slaughter everywhere,” she said. “The eldest was only 20 years old; he was slaughtered. They were all children. I saw them with my own eyes. They killed fourteen people with a machete. I don’t know if these people were Alawites. I don’t know why they were slaughtered. They grabbed them by their heads and slaughtered them like sheep.” It’s been reported that 80 civilians were killed in the massacre. The death toll could still grow, as currently the information coming from Adra is scarce. The town has been surrounded and isolated by the Syrian army, who have been trying to force the extremists out. “Civilians told us that the workers of an Adra bakery were all executed and burned during the first hours of the attack. Whole families were massacred. We do not have an exact estimation of the number because we are unable to get into the town, but the number is high,” Kinda Shimat, Syria’s Social Affairs Minister, told RT. Details of the executions are trickling out of the town as eyewitnesses tell their stories. “They killed everyone at the Adra Ummalia police station,” another fugitive from the town told RT. “And they killed everyone at the Adra Ummalia hospital where my sister works. She stayed alive only because she didn’t show up for work that day. There are about 200 people at the police station. They are civilians. The militants are hiding among them, using them as a shield to prevent the Army from bombing the police.” The events in Adra are a further example of the shift that has taken place within the Syrian rebel forces which has lately been dominated by Islamist extremists, according to Michel Chossudovsky, director of the Centre for Research on Globalization. “The so-called moderate opposition forces are virtually non-existent from the military standpoint,” Chossudovsky told RT. “The only force which has funding and weapons are the Islamists, particularly Al-Nusra. And their rebel brigades are the ones committing atrocities. The divisions are occurring precisely because segments of the opposition realize that these terrorist brigades do not belong to the so-called opposition movement.” Both the Adra massacre and the latest Aleppo bombing have signaled the escalation of violence in the war-torn country ahead of the UN-mediated continuously postponed peace talks on Syria, now set to take place in Geneva on January 22. On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire ahead of the talks. "We must have a cessation of hostilities before we begin political dialogue on Syria in Geneva," he said. More than 100,000 people have died during the three-year-old civilian war in Syria, according to UN estimates.
Russia agreed a $15 billion bailout for Ukraine and slashed the price of gas exports on Tuesday under a deal that keeps the cash-strapped country in Moscow's orbit but fuelled street protests in Kiev. Vladimir Putin's lifeline to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was a triumph for the Russian leader in a geopolitical battle with the Europe Union. But the deal saddles Russia with a heavy financial burden and he failed to lure Ukraine into a customs union with other ex-Soviet republics. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Kiev within hours of the agreement and accused Yanukovich of selling his country to the highest bidder after walking away from a trade deal with the EU. "He has given up Ukraine's national interests, given up independence and prospects for a better life for every Ukrainian," Vitaly Klitschko, a protest leader and heavyweight boxing champion, told crowds on Kiev's Independence Square. The United States said the deal would not address the concerns of the protesters, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Kiev should not be forced into allying itself with Moscow or the EU, to the exclusion of the other. "At the moment it seems to be an either-or proposition. ... We need to put an end to this. Ukraine can't do this alone. Europe and Germany must continue to talk with Russia," she told ARD TV. "A bidding competition won't solve the problem." The leaders of Ukraine and Russia clinched the deal at talks in the Kremlin that appeared to begin frostily but ended with them rubbing shoulders and laughing at a ceremony where documents were signed on reducing trade barriers for Ukraine. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Moscow would tap the National Welfare Fund, a rainy day fund, to buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds. The deal boosted the price of Ukraine's dollar debt, a sign of investors' confidence. Underlining the urgency of Kiev's problems, Interfax news agency quoted Siluanov as saying Russia may buy $3 billion in two-year Ukrainian bonds as soon as the end of this week. Moscow also offered relief on the gas price. Ukraine's Naftogaz energy company will pay Russia's Gazprom $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, on which it is heavily dependent. The previous price had been about $400. "Ukraine is our strategic partner and ally in every sense of the word," Putin said after the talks, with Yanukovich sitting beside him in a gilded Kremlin hall. "This (assistance) is not tied to any conditions," he added. "I want to calm you down - we have not discussed the issue of Ukraine's accession to the customs union at all." INVESTORS ENCOURAGED BUT SEE RISKS Ukraine had been seeking help to cover an external funding gap of $17 billion next year - almost the level of the central bank's depleted currency reserves. Investors said the deal would stave off the immediate threat of default or a currency crisis but said there were also risks for Russia, whose own economy is stuttering. "This is a rescue. Without that money, Ukraine would have defaulted sometime before the middle of next year ... And the cheap gas will provide a significant stimulus," said Chris Weafer, senior partner with consultancy Macro-Advisory. "The next move is for the protesters in Kiev." Ukraine, which had fears fuel supplies could be hit during the financial crisis, is caught between Western powers, keen to anchor the country in a friendly embrace on the EU's borders, and its former Soviet masters in Moscow. Yanukovich has been seeking the best possible deal for his country of 46 million but faces calls to resign at home and has been criticized in the West after police used force against the protests in the heart of Kiev. The deal appears to preclude Ukraine looking West in the near future, though its leaders say they still see building ties with the EU as a possible long-term goal. Commentators saw the bailout as Ukraine's reward from Moscow for scrapping the planned pact with Europe last month. "This refusal had a cost, and Russia has paid," Russian former economy minister Andrei Nechayev told Ekho Moskvy radio. Moscow now has a financial hold over Ukraine: If it withdraws its money and alters the gas price, it could pull the plug on its neighbor. Putin appeared to underline this by saying the agreements on the gas price and $15 billion investment were temporary. Russia also agreed to resume oil supplies to a refinery in Ukraine following a three-year break, traders said. But Putin will be disappointed if he cannot bring Ukraine into the Eurasian Union he plans to build with Kazakhstan, Belarus and other former Soviet republics to match the economic might of the United States and China. Ukraine is by far the most populous ex-Soviet republic after Russia, and with its large market, mineral resources and borders with the EU, is vital to that project. Yanukovich may be withholding Ukraine's membership to seek more concessions. People at anti-government demonstrations in Kiev that have at times attracted hundreds of thousands fear Ukraine will now be stuck in Moscow's orbit, more than two decades after the fall of Soviet communist rule. "With what has been signed now in Moscow, we can forget about Europe. Yanukovich made a massive mistake. He'd better not come back here, he'd better stay in Moscow," said Deni Deyak, a businessman at the pro-Europe protest in Kiev.
PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the blast occurred near a Imam Bargah in Gracie Line, Rawalpindi. The Patron-in Chief of PPP expressed profound grief over the loss of precious lives of innocent people and injured in the blast. He further expressed sympathy with the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and early recovery of injured. He also stressed that special arrangements should be made for timely treatment to all those injured in the blast.
http://dunyanews.tv/At least three persons including a police sub-inspector died and several others injured in a blast near Imambargah in Gracy Lane here on Tuesday. According to police, the suicide blast occurred near a procession that was being taken out from the Imambargah. A number of vehicles and motorcycles were also damaged in the explosion. Law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area and rescue teams and Bomb Disposal Squad reached at the site of the incident. The injured were shifted to hospital for treatment. Police have started investigation into the incident.
Information Minister Hasnanul Haq Inu has asked Pakistan to refrain from making comments on the execution of war criminal Abdul Quader Molla, terming the hanging Bangladesh’s internal matter.He communicated Bangladesh’s position a day after a resolution was passed in Pakistan’s National Assembly, expressing concern at Molla’s hanging and calling him a supporter of the ‘United Pakistan’.
Bangladesh has lodged ‘a strong protest’ against the resolutions Pakistan’s National Assembly adopted on Monday, summoning its High Commissioner in Dhaka, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.Mian Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi Qureshi was summoned on Tuesday evening. Secretary (bilateral) Mustafa Kamal conveyed the government’s protest and handed the High Commissioner an “Aide Memoire”. According to a media release, the foreign ministry said Hashmi Qureshi was called to lodge the protest against the resolutions adopted by the Pakistan National Assembly and the Punjab Provincial Assembly. Dhaka also protested the remarks made by a senior Cabinet Minister of Pakistan on the verdict of the war crimes tribunals in Bangladesh. The Secretary conveyed in “unequivocal terms” that the war crimes trial in Bangladesh was “an internal matter” and as such “the uncalled for resolutions on the verdicts of the war crimes trial tantamount to interference in the domestic affairs of Bangladesh”. The Pakistan national and provincial assemblies adopted resolution expressing concern over the hanging of Bangladesh’s war crimes convict Abdul Quader Molla. Molla was executed last Thursday night for his crimes against humanity including mass murder during the war of independence against Pakistan. Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971 after nine months of bloody war. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami of which Molla was a leader had sided with Pakistan during the war. Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami earlier opposed the execution saying Molla was hanged to death because “he was loyal to Pakistan and supported Pakistan army during the 1971 war”. The resolution was moved by the Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami. Pakistan interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also expressed “deep grief” and concern over his execution. Newspaper ‘Dawn’ earlier reported that the minister in a statement said: “Till the very end before creation of Bangladesh, he (Molla) remained a supporter of a united Pakistan and today every Pakistani is saddened and grieved by his death”. Secretary Kamal reminded the Pakistan High Commissioner of the campaign of genocide launched against the peaceful and innocent Bangladeshi by its army and its cohorts which consisted of convicted war criminals like Abdul Quader Molla on March 25 midnight in 1971 and the reign of terror unleashed in the subsequent months. He said that the establishment of the war crimes tribunal was Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s 2008 election campaign pledge. “The war crimes trials are not being conducted with any specific intention to rake up memories of 1971 as misconstrued by some quarters in Pakistan but to put a legal closure to the injustice and pain suffered by the victims’ families and the Bengali nation as a whole,” he said. He also conveyed that this had been the “longstanding demand and aspiration of the people of Bangladesh”. Taking questions from the media later, Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said it was not right for Pakistan National Assembly to interfere in the war crimes trial issue which was internal affair of Bangladesh. He said Bangladesh had now reached a stage where “we are not afraid of anyone”.
Six U.S. soldiers serving with the NATO International Security Assistance Force were killed when their Sikorsky UH-60 'Black Hawk' helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said. The cause of the crash is under investigation, NATO said in a statement. NATO did not disclose the nationalities of the victims but a senior U.S. defense official said they were American. There were no reports of enemy fire in the area the when helicopter went down, the NATO statement added. The helicopter crashed in the Shahjoi district of the Zabul province, according to its deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari steps out of mother Benazir's shadow by launching festival in Pakistan People's party's Sindh heartland
Two people were killed and four others were injured in two separate blasts in Parachinar, Kurram Agency on Tuesday, Express News reported. The first blast took place on Hamzai Road, killing two people and injuring three others. “A vehicle hit a landmine in Pewaar leaving two dead,” a local intelligence official told AFP. Another local intelligence official also confirmed the incident. The injured were taken to a nearby hospital for medical attention. Police cordoned off the area and started their investigation. The second blast took place in the Yousaf Khel area, injuring one person. There has been a rise in sectarian violence in the country after November’s deadly clashes in Rawalpindi. Previous blast On July 26, two suicide bombings, hardly a minute apart, had tore through two busy marketplaces in Parachinar killing at least 48 people and injuring nearly 200 more. The death toll from the twin suicide bombings had risen to 57 as nine more people had died of their wounds at different hospitals a day later.
Ahmadiyya TimesAn additional district and sessions judge on Monday dismissed the after-arrest bail petition of a doctor accused of preaching Ahmedi beliefs and distributing books containing derogatory remarks against some prophets. Dr Masood Ahmed said he had been implicated in a false case for ulterior motives. Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, counsel for the complainant, said Dr Ahmed had been nominated in an FIR with a specific role and the complainant had audio and video evidence to back his allegations. Chaudhry said Dr Ahmed had preached Ahmedi beliefs to a patient and given him books containing blasphemous material. Earlier, a magisterial court had previously dismissed Dr Ahmed’s post-arrest bail application. The magistrate had said that prima facie, sufficient material was on record to connect Dr Ahmed with the offence. Thus he was not entitled to bail at that stage. The FIR registered under Section 298/C at the Old Anarkali police station on behalf of Maulana Muhammad Ehsan states that when he and some friends visited Dr Ahmed’s clinic a few days back the doctor preached Ahmedi beliefs and gave them some books containing derogatory remarks against some prophets.
In the vast expanse of Balochistan there is an arid area, its topography marked by low hills whose stones have been worn smooth by the millennia. Settlements are few and far between, the vegetation is sparse, and links to modernity next to non-existent — except, that is, for the dozens of trucks that ply the rough roads, billowing diesel fumes and thick black dust into the air. This is Spin Karez, a 30-minute drive from Quetta and a hub of activity for labourers and truckers; deep under the earth lies coal. Spin Karez is where some 60 trucks a day are loaded to take to other parts of the country the coal that is increasingly in demand in a gas-starved nation. The bustle of the loading station masks a world of inequity. In the coal mines of this area, hundreds of lives are put into daily jeopardy both by an exploitative system and the state’s silence. One such miner is the grey-bearded Asmatullah. Face stained black, he spends his days in the dark, deep underground, digging for and then transporting coal. The working conditions for him are pitiful, severely compromising his health and quality of life. But “we earn in the day so we can eat at night,” he tells Dawn. “It is a very hard job, but poverty brought me here. What choice do I have?” Like Asmatullah, hundreds of miners labour over 10 hours a day to earn their bread. Indeed, coal mining has become a family business: once too sick to work, the father is replaced by the son who is in due course replaced by the grandson. Most of the miners come from the Swat district, or from volatile southern Afghanistan. They start off in this line of work as young as 13 but their expected working life is only about 20 years — young miners with unpolluted lungs are always sent into the deepest part of the mines. By the age of 30, most have tuberculosis and can no longer work long or deep. The beneficiaries are the owners of the mine; the miners themselves work for a pittance, with no safeguards in place. More than 40 miners died in a blast inside a mine on March 20, 2011, and official sources acknowledge that more than a hundred miners have died in such explosions over the past three years alone. According to Iftikhar Ahmed, an official of the Balochistan Mines and Mineral Development Department and a former chief inspector of mines, there are about 250 coalmines employing over 12,000 people. This figure is disputed by labour leader Pir Muhammad Kakar, who puts the number at about 50,000. Other estimates put the number of mines at about 400 and the workers at over 100,000. Kakar alleges that official records show a low number of miners since most are uninsured and are not registered with employees’ old-age benefit institutions. What there is no dispute about is that lives are risked every day even though — on paper — a supervisory system is in place. Ahmed claims that mines’ inspectors are bound to visit each mine 10 times a month. “Their job is to check the working conditions of the miners,” he says. “In case of violations, the inspector has the power to seal it.” Nevertheless, he admits that mine-owners are influential people and the government department often faces political pressure over the closure of a mine. And the story told by the miners themselves puts into serious doubt the effectiveness of the supervisory system.
Miner Muhammad Shafi, for example, says that even over the course of a year, inspectors will not be seen at a mine. “Officials only show up if there’s a blast,” he says. Alongside the men looking aged beyond their years are children collecting and transporting coal. Ten-year-old Azizullah says that he earns Rs200 a day, and goes to a mosque in lieu of school. The same story is told by 9-year-old Sher Ali, who has been working in Spin Karez for the past two years. There are dozens like them, mostly from Afghan refugee families. What their future will be like can be gauged easily. Even leaving aside the brutal manual labour, coal mining is extremely hazardous. “The dust enters their lungs and results in several diseases, most commonly the inability to take a breath,” says chest-physician Dr Shireen Khan. The Geological Survey of Pakistan says that coal is amongst the 106 minerals found in resource-rich Balochistan. But that matters little to the miners, in whose experience officialdom is unconcerned about the violation of labour laws and the abysmal working conditions in coalmines. The trucks from Spin Karez lumber away to supply coal to industrial cities that have been badly hit by gas shortages; meanwhile, there is criminal silence over the exploitation that produced it.
The Express TribuneAn Iranian firm has expressed interest in completely financing and constructing Pakistan’s segment of a gas pipeline that will come from Iran, an offer that comes after cancellation of a $500 million loan by Tehran earlier. According to sources, Pakistan has got the offer from Jahanpars Engineering and Construction, which could undertake entire engineering, procurement and construction work and provide $1.8 billion for the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project. The company has expertise in engineering works and has the capacity and reputation to engage in mega infrastructure projects. However, the gas pipeline is a project between governments of the two countries, which will be implemented through their nominated entities. Therefore, Pakistan has asked the management of Jahanpars to contact government authorities in Tehran to press on with the plan. “Working groups of the two countries will consider the financing and construction offer from the company,” a source said. Earlier, the two sides had agreed to give the pipeline construction contract to Tadbir Energy of Iran, which in response would provide a $500m loan for laying the pipeline in Pakistan. However, Pakistan insisted that the contract price negotiated with Tadbir was higher and the contract could not be awarded to it. During a visit of a Pakistani delegation to Tehran last week, Iran also refused to provide the $500 million loan. When approached, former adviser to prime minister on petroleum and natural resources Dr Asim Hussain, who had pursued the project, said they had convinced the Iranian government to provide $500 million for the pipeline. “We had also left $470 million in the national exchequer to fund the project,” he said, adding now the new government should develop required infrastructure. “Although the contract price was higher, there was no other option. This is not a time to scrap the deal,” Hussain remarked. In the long term, the deal would have a positive impact on the country’s economy when compared to consumption of furnace oil, he added. According to a report prepared by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, if furnace oil-based power generation is replaced with imported gas, it will lead to annual savings of $2.4 billion. It said IP gas would cause just 20% increase in the average gas basket price in the country if 750 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) is imported. Under the project, Pakistan will import 750 mmcfd, which could be increased to one billion cubic feet. The Balochistan government seeks 250 mmcfd for consumption at the Gwadar Port and the Centre can go for increased supplies to meet the needs of the province.
Pakistan People's Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has made arrangements for hosting the popular festival in this port city in February. For the first time in years, Karachi will host Basant on the beach as part of a "Sindh festival" aimed at promoting, protecting and preserving the Indus Valley Civilisation.
The joint general secretary of the ruling Awami League, Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif, on Monday alleged that the BNP-Jamaat coalition, under the leadership of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia, was conspiring to turn the country into a failed state. He was addressing a pre-procession rally in front of the Institution of Engineers in the city. The AL joint general secretary alleged that the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami staged the Gayebena Namaj-e-Janaza for the execution of Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah, which makes it clear that they are still conspiring to destabilise Bangladesh and that BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia is playing the role of a Pakistani agent. Hanif said: “The BNP is killing people, hurling bombs on them in the name of enforcing a political programme when we are observing Victory Day. So it is clear that the BNP–Jamaat alliance wants to turn the country into Pakistan.” Referring to the war crimes trials, the AL leader said the rest of the verdicts of the war crimes trials would be executed under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to free the nation from the curse of the country’s 30 lakh martyrs. “We promised the nation that we would try the war criminals who committed crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. We went a step ahead in fulfilling our commitment by executing war criminal and Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah,” Hanif claimed. Vowing to build up a ‘Rajakar’-free Bangladesh, the AL leader said: “We got the country after millions sacrificed their blood and we shall save the country, sacrificing our last drop of blood, if necessary.” The AL leader said BNP-Jamaat’s anarchy would not be tolerated any more. The leaders and workers of the AL-led 14-party alliance would resist their destructive activities across the country. Among others, Dhaka city AL acting president MA Aziz, Awami League central leaders Shahara Khatun, Jahangir Kabir Nanok, advocate Qamrul Islam, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Ahmed Hossain, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and Asim Kumar Ukil were present at the rally. Meanwhile, as in previous years, thousands of Awami League supporters, including many from its frontal organisations, brought out a victory procession carrying banners, festoons, placards and portraits of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, from the vicinity of the Institution of Engineers shouting the slogan ‘Joy Bangla… Joy Bangabandhu’, to observe the 43rd Victory Day. With a vow to resist anti-liberation forces, the leaders and workers of the ruling Awami League marched through the city’s main streets, throwing traffic out of gear, to converge at Dhanmondi 32.