Saturday, November 21, 2015

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Surrounded by war, Yemen’s students suffer

By Ashraf al-Falahi

The war in Yemen is taking a huge psychological and material toll on young students as their schools are being intentionally targeted, officials say.
Education officials there estimate the war has destroyed more than 1,300 schools, required hundreds of others to be converted into shelters and created a black market for, of all things, school supplies.
“The UN stood helpless as schools are targeted by all parties to the Yemeni conflict,” Paolo Lembo, UN resident coordinator in Yemen, said in October. “We cannot compel any of the parties to refrain from targeting schools, as imposing such a condition upon them by force is extremely difficult.”
The war has taken a terrible toll in Yemen as Houthi rebels loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and backed by Iran battle troops loyal to UN-recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Hadi troops are backed by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab troops.
The fighting, which began in late March, has damaged all levels of the education sector. The children of Yemen, numbering in the millions, are being deprived of their basic right to an education. They are suffering great mental anguish as the fighting continues unabated, accompanied by air strikes launched by the Saudi-led coalition.
“The repercussions of the aggression waged by the Saudi-led coalition are grave, particularly upon the education sector, leading to the abrogation of given childhood rights,” Deputy Minister of Education Abdullah al-Hamidi confirmed to Al-Monitor, adding that damage inflicted on the vital sector is massive. “Hundreds of schools [have been] destroyed, while the remaining standing few were converted to shelters for refugees fleeing a number of Yemeni cities.”
He noted that “six and a half million children have been affected by this war.”
Moreover, Hamidi explained that the ministry is “unable to furnish educational material due to a lack of paper used to print textbooks and the impossibility of importing such paper as a result of the siege imposed by the aggressors against our country.”
In a phenomenon seldom seen anywhere else in the world, many Yemenis are being driven to purchase their educational essentials on the black market that has emerged in the capital of Sanaa and other provincial centers. The market is driven by demand and a lack of official action against the trade of educational material.
Yet, Hamidi said there are reasons to be optimistic. Parents seem determined to uphold educational standards by encouraging their children to attend schools. Also, ministry representatives who have visited many schools in Sanaa said primary and secondary students expressed their desire to continue their studies despite the raging war.
Salem Mughallis, Education Office general director in Aden, described the specific situation in that city.
“Armed confrontations taking place in the city between government forces and the Houthis have caused extensive damage to educational infrastructure, with 148 schools destroyed and some converted to refugee centers.”
He added, “The education sector suffered greatly in the city due to the violence of the confrontations there. Many students lost their families and are in a dire psychological state. We have also lost teachers and students who have gone off to fight.”
Mughallis explained that, for various reasons, Aden has yet to begin its school year officially, despite the ministry in Sanaa announcing otherwise. Aden’s refusal to adhere to the ministry’s set schedule could reflect the fact that, because of all the fighting, Aden has become the de facto capital of the country.
Yet, Mughallis said there is still a glimmer of hope that the education sector will regain some normalcy through the humanitarian efforts of the United Arab Emirates’ Red Crescent to rebuild what was destroyed by war. So far 54 schools have been rebuilt, and the Emirati organization has vowed to restore all Aden’s schools.
“The city’s local inhabitants are eager to see their children return to school,” he noted.
But, he added, “There are still hurdles standing in the way of education returning to normal.” Among those challenges, Mughallis said, is the need to relocate the families forced to live in the schools when their homes were lost to war.
Like others, Mughallis emphasized that the damages of war are not limited to material losses, but extend to the psychological impact on students and teachers alike.
In that regard, Sanaa schoolteacher Abed Abdelghani told Al-Monitor, “Many families were forced to leave their homes in Sanaa and move to other areas in search of security. As a result, refugee students were compelled to adapt to new realities in the areas to which they fled. Students, predominantly children aged between 7 and 10, are the segment of society most affected by this war.”
Abdelghani stressed “the urgent need for Yemen to psychologically rehabilitate its students, thus allowing them to return to school.”
“Some have lost their fathers or other family members in addition to the [other] psychological traumas that they have endured due to the indiscriminate shelling of heavily populated areas.”

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Belgium turned blind eye on Molenbeek for years

Annabell Van den Berghe

The streets of this Brussels neighbourhood are now quiet. Only a few days after the Paris attack and the discovery that many of those involved prepared the attacks from the heart of Molenbeek, the usual traffic and busy street vendors have vanished from the public sphere. Locals are speechless.
Sylvie Vandamme, who has lived in Molenbeek for more than five years, was one of the few people in the street late this week, taking her young daughter to school.
“Molenbeek is a notorious neighbourhood, it has always been like that,” she told Middle East Eye. “Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere else. The cultural diversity is exactly what I like about it.”
In the main street of Molenbeek shops filled with fashion for Muslims alternate with traditional Belgian shops that have been here for decades. Vandamme is almost a minority as a Flemish-speaking Belgian in Molenbeek where the majority of the population has Moroccan roots, and the languages most often spoken are French and Arabic.
Vandamme’s daughter goes to school right behind the corner of what is believed to be the stronghold of the Paris attackers. One of the suspects, 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, managed to flee from Paris and was believed to be hiding here.
For several hours on Monday, the police closed off the street to evacuate everyone from a gray townhouse - one like most of the homes on that street - where Abdeslam was believed to hide, but without great success. Although Abdeslam was spotted in Molenbeek after the Paris attacks, he seemed to have left again. Up until now, nobody knows where he is. And with the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged "mastermind" behind the attacks, who was killed in a Paris raid early on Wednesday, Abdeslam is the most wanted Belgian terrorist at the moment.
The Abdeslam family's apartment in Molenbeek (AFP)
Both national and international media have gathered around the building, leaving residents in dismay.
“Molenbeek is a quiet place, safe even, and it has its issues just like any other town,” said Gerard Lebon, a neighbour who came to look at the camera crews. “Nobody cares for Molenbeek. Only when there is bad news, the media alights here. When will they come here to tell a positive story? That’s what we need.”
Lebon is not the only one who’s upset, although many for different reasons than his.
Researchers, aid workers and journalists who have been reporting on Molenbeek for decades said that, although this week’s news has put Molenbeek in the spotlight, they are not fresh revelations.
“When I came here for the first time, in the eighties, Molenbeek was already a breeding place for criminality,” said Johan Leman, chairman of the integration centre, Le Foyer.
“The police are understaffed, the population almost entirely consists of youth and the unemployment reaches the highest peak here,” Leman explained. He said that he repeatedly reported dangers and urged the government to invest in the integration of the neighbourhood and, in his opinion, the government hadn’t done enough to prevent the youth of Molenbeek from isolation and even radicalisation.

Seeing it coming

Teun Voeten is a war photographer and an anthropologist who lived in Molenbeek for nine years before he moved away because he couldn’t deal with its problems any longer. Last year, he published a photo reportage on the neighbourhood, berating Molenbeek as “an ethnic religious enclave of a closed and narrow community’”.
His stand evoked turmoil in the neighbourhood, but he was not the first one to criticise Molenbeek. A decade ago, the Belgian investigative journalist Hind Fraihi warned in her reports of the dangerous rise of Salafism in the streets of Molenbeek. She didn’t get an audience. Instead, locals in Molenbeek insulted her and policymakers and politicians didn’t want to hear what she was saying.
Last Saturday, when Voeten stood in Paris on the Boulevard de Voltaire near the Bataclan where the catastrophe happened, taking photos of the crime scene, he heard rumours of the involvement of a car with Belgian license plates. "Molenbeek" was the first thing he thought of.
A candle light vigil held in Molenbeek this week for the victims of the Paris attacks (AFP)
It didn’t come as a surprise when the news of Molenbeek’s youth involvement was confirmed. But if he saw it coming, why couldn’t state security prevent it, some will ask. Voeten believes that the reason for Molenbeek’s transformation into "the jihadist capital of Europe" is a result of its physical infrastructure, the ungovernability of Belgium and a policy of looking away which has led to ignorance about the neighbourhood.
The question is often raised about whether the suspects of these crimes were already known within the state security - and they were. Both Salah and his brother, Brahim, had been arrested earlier this year as there were signs that both were being radicalised, according to Eric Van der Sypt, spokesperson at the Belgian federal police.  
Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers near the Stade de France, had also been on Belgian police radar since January, according to a spokesperson for the country's minister of justice. 
But above all, the people of the neighbourhood knew them, and they knew them as exemplary boys. None of the boys had lived in poverty or came from dysfunctional families. Their radicalisation appears to have happened despite a lack of socio-economic reasons. Neighbours and friends are not the only ones who didn’t see this coming. Mohamed Abdeslam, the brother of two of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, told reporters this week that he has never noticed anything special or alarming.
Many have warned that this type of thing could happen in Molenbeek, and both the current government and the former one are blamed for not taking the terror threats serious enough.
"The regime of Philip Moureaux (the former mayor of Molenbeek) lasted for 20 years, and was equal to 20 years of keeping the eyes closed," Jan Gypers, an alderman from Molenbeek, said. "There were no controls and no following up whatsoever." 
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West supplying arms to Saudi Arabia unethical: Expert

Press TV has interviewed Saeed Shehabi, a Middle East expert in London, to discuss Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military aggression against Yemen.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Protesters today in Yemen were talking about the arms that are set to go towards Saudi Arabia - the western arms and ammunition. Do you think that will change the calculus on the ground?
Shehabi: First of all this is an outrageous move by the western countries, by the United States to supply Saudi Arabia with more than a billion dollar worth of weapons of death is simply outrageous and unethical and immoral.
Now whether they are going to change the status on the ground is not clear but what is clear is that the Saudis after eight months of continuous bombardment of that poor country have failed disastrously in dislodging the people of Yemen from their position. The Yemenis simply do not want the Saudi hegemony, domination, influence but the Saudis have their own imperialist and expansionist policies in the region. They are outrageous designs and the Yemenis have done well in standing firm against those designs. The West would have been morally taking position if it stopped supplying the Saudis with these arms. It is outrageous.
Only few days ago the British foreign minister said that we will stop supplying Saudis with arms if it is proven that they have committed war crimes in Yemen. Now Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, all of these organizations have confirmed that war crimes have been committed by Saudis in Yemen so what else do these countries want in order to stop the bloodshed in that country?
Press TV: I am wondering, does the West see the likes of Saudi Arabia like a cash cow where they can just go and sell their weapons and they will stand by the Saudis regardless politically because the Saudis are spending so much money?
Shehabi: I think they are making their calculations wrong. Yes, they may get some money now, they may get a billion dollar here, a billion dollar there but then they have to pay heavily in terms of terrorism.
They are aware, they know that Saudis are supporting terrorism. They know that now it is coming to haunt the West as we have seen recently in France, so these billions here and there are not going to make the western economy strong. In fact they are only supplying and supporting those who are supporting terrorism.
So I think these double standards are going to haunt the West and only the poor people in the streets of the western capitals are going to pay the price for this illogical and immoral policy.

IS calls Bangladesh new battleground

In the latest edition of the militant group's online propaganda magazine, IS calls for strategic expansion to Bangladesh or as it refers to the country " Bengal"

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has warned that it is preparing for fresh attacks in Bangladesh “to rise and expand in Bengal.”
The group dedicated a full article to their activities in Bangladesh or "Bengal" as it refers to the country in the latest edition of its online propaganda magazine Dabiqwhere its strategic expansion to countries like Bangladesh is discussed at length.
The article titled The Revival of Jihad in Bengal claimed that while IS was busy preparing for further attacks, the secular Awami League government continued to “twist the facts” on the ground and play a blame game. That perhaps refers to the claims by the Bangladesh government that there was no Islamic State presence in the country and that elements out to destabilise it were behind the murders of two foreigners.
The IS also referred to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat alliance as a ‘coalition of murtaddin (apostates)’.
“The former government, which consisted mainly of a coalition of murtaddin from both the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, foolishly thought that the call of tawhid, jihad, and khilafah would be crushed by the martyrdom of a few righteous scholars,” read a paragraph of the article.
However, the IS article calls the banned Islamic militant outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) a “proper jihad organisation in Bangladesh based on the Kuran and Sunnah.”
“A security cell belonging to the soldiers of the Khilafah in Bengal assassinated an Italian crusader named Cesare Tavella on the streets of Gulshan in the city of Dhaka … only days later another security cell targeted a Japanese citizen in the northern region of Rangpur,” the magazine said reiterating its claim earlier circulated by the U.S. based monitoring website, SITE, of carrying out the attacks.
“These back-to-back attacks have caused havoc among the citizens of the crusader nations and their allies living in Bengal and forced their diplomats, tourists and expats to limit their movements and live in a constant state of fear,” it claimed.
The article claimed that Bangladesh had been drowned in “shirk and bidah” - polytheism and religious innovation for hundreds of years due to the “effects of both European colonisation and Hindu cultural invasion.”
It concluded by saying that the soldiers of the so-called caliphate would continue to rise and expand in “Bengal” and would continue to carry out acts of terrorism.
'Boasting' about Paris attacks
In the magazine, IS boasted that its “brave knights” brought Paris “down on its knees.” The issue of the English-language online magazine also talked about the horrific multiple attacks in Paris which claimed over 130 lives.
“France haughtily began executing air strikes against the Khilafah. Like Russia, it was blinded by hubris [arrogance], thinking that its geographical distance from the lands of the Khilafah would protect it,” the magazine read.
IS also put out images of what it claims to be the bomb that downed a Russian jet last month, killing over 220 people. The photograph shows a soft drink can and two components that appear to be a detonator and a switch.
Quoting the article, USA’s NBC News reported that the militant group IS is displaying a “voracious appetite” for conventional military conquests, an expansion into countries such as Bangladesh. It also said U.S. and allied counterterrorism officials are scrutinising the publication for indications of what IS might do next.
It mentioned that, in a separate article, IS described Bangladesh as a new battleground as it continues its strategic expansion.


These two had earned special places in the ruthless killing fields of 1971 Bangladesh. Then, after the liberation, they went on to become ministers of the very country they had stabbed and made to bleed. Theirs were the pitiless, feared faces of genocide in 1971.
In a free Bangladesh, they became the face of insolence and mockery in politics. Forty-four years after their brutal crimes against humanity, justice finally caught up with them with their hangings early hours today.
They not only opposed the notion of Bangladesh but brutally killed those who loved freedom, who could think with an open mind and who dared to take up arms to fight the Pakistan army that had plunged the people and the country in a nine-month bloody war.
One of them, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, raised the most fearsome gang Al-Badr to exterminate the intelligentsia of the country.
The other, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, was a terrifying young goon in Chittagong who led his gang along with the Pakistani forces into Hindu populated villages and killed at will because he thought the Hindus did not vote for his father and that Hindus were enemies of Pakistan.
Bangladesh won its freedom, but these people, after a brief respite of three and a half years, got back their might and the ladder to power following the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
Salauddin, who openly mocked the Liberation War and its martyrs and gloated over his role as a Razakar, also became adviser of parliamentary affairs of Khaleda Zia in her 2001-06 government.
Mojaheed made a most audacious comment in 2007 that there were no war criminals in the country, drawing widespread criticism.
With the hangings of these two convicted war criminals at the Dhaka Central Jail at 12:55am today, Bangladesh once again proved that it would not forgive these unrepentant murderers, that they have no place in a country whose birth they opposed and that justice shall prevail.
With their executions, the country once again paid back a little bit of the immeasurable debt it owe the three million martyrs and the millions more who went through a harrowing time to snatch victory.
Mojaheed, 67, is the third Jamaat leader to have died for war crimes, after Abdul Quader Mollah in December 2013 and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman in April this year.
Salauddin, 66, is the first BNP leader to have walked the gallows for war atrocities.
This is for the first time in the country that two ministers have been hanged for war crimes.
There was no immediate reaction from the BNP, but Jamaat called a countrywide daylong hartal for tomorrow, protesting the hanging of Mojaheed.
"They [Mojaheed and Salauddin] walked the gallows around 12:55am about the same time," Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin, inspector general (prisons), told The Daily Star by phone minutes after the hanging.
Four ambulances, two of them carrying the bodies of Mojaheed and Salauddin, came out of the Dhaka Central Jail under police protection around 2:50am and headed for their village homes in Faridpur and Chittagong.
Mojaheed will be buried at Ideal Cadet Madrasa premises at Pashchim Kabashpur area of Faridpur, said Nazim Uddin, officer-in-charge of Faridpur Sadar Police Station.
Salauddin will be buried at his family graveyard at Gohira in Raozan, said Pradip Kumar Das, officer-in-charge of Raozan Police Station. 
As the news of their executions reached the Shahbagh intersection, Gonojagoron Mancha activists, who were there since yesterday morning, erupted into joyful cheers.
The executions came three days after the Supreme Court rejected their petitions for reviewing the death sentences on Wednesday, bringing an end to a five-year-long legal battle.
In her instant reaction, Shyamoli Nasrin Alim Chaudhury, the widow of martyred intellectual Alim Chaudhury, said, "The agonising wait for 44 years has finally come to an end. We were deprived of justice. Finally we got that with their executions."
She said Mojaheed was the kingpin of Al-Badr responsible for killing the intellectuals. "As a member of the martyred intellectual family, I am very happy to see the first-ever execution of a murderer of intellectuals."
Prafulla Kumar Sinha, whose father Nutan Chandra Sinha was killed by Salauddin and Pakistan army, said, "My father's soul will now find peace. We are relieved of the agonising pain we have been in for the last 44 years."
He expressed his gratitude to the prime minister and people, including lawyers and investigators involved in the trial process.
Mojaheed was the president of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then Jamaat-e-Islami's student wing, and towards the last part of 1971 and became the chief of infamous Al-Badr Bahini.
During the war, he visited many districts and held meetings with his followers and instigated them to annihilate freedom fighters as well as pro-liberation people, according to court documents.
And only days before the liberation, Al-Badr men, under his leadership, traced houses, systematically rounded up, tortured and brutally killed the brightest of the luminaries -- professors, litterateurs, journalists and doctors -- to cripple the country intellectually once and for all.
After independence, Mojaheed went into hiding and resurfaced after the political changeover in the country with the assassination of Bangabandhu. In time, his political clout would grow, and would become minister.
Salauddin, a self-proclaimed brigadier of Chittagong in 1971, was not involved in politics in 1971, but he actively took part in the election campaign of his father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, the then president of anti-liberation Convention Muslim League in 1970.
During the war, Salauddin, along with his men and Pakistani occupation forces, unleashed a cold-blooded savagery on five Raozan villages in Chittagong, killing 111 Hindu men. His father and he blamed the Hindu men for his father's defeat in 1970.
Salauddin did not even spare Natun Chandra Sinha, a social worker and philanthropist. He and his men killed Natun, dragging him out of a temple where he was praying at the time. He also accompanied the Pakistan army men when the abducted Awami League leader Mozaffar Ahmed and his son, who were later found dead.
Turing their Goods Hill house as a torture centre, Salauddin and his men tortured freedom fighters and pro-liberation people during the war.
Towards the end of the war, he first fled to Pakistan and from there went to London. He returned to Bangladesh in 1974 and joined politics after 1975 political changeover and became lawmakers several times. He became a minister during the Ershad regime.
The countdown of their execution began after the Supreme Court dismissed their review petitions. Members of both the families met them at Dhaka Central Jail the following day.
On Friday, when the jail authorities asked Mojaheed and Salauddin if they would seek presidential clemency, they took time to give their decisions. Lawyers of both the convicts filed petitions to meet them but the jail authorities did not allow them.
Since yesterday morning, there had been indications that the two would be executed by last night.
Security was tight throughout the day around the Dhaka Central Jail where the two convicts were kept, and it was further beefed up in the evening when additional police and Rab and members were deployed.
All shops and establishments around the jail area were ordered to shut down by 8:00pm and onlookers were asked to clear the area. The road leading to the prison from Chawkbazar was closed around 7:40pm. Only journalists were allowed to pass through the area to go near the jail gate, that too after verifying their ID cards.
The convicts sought presidential clemency yesterday, which was turned down by President Abdul Hamid, said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
Around 8:00pm, the jail authorities called family members of the two to meet the Salauddin and Mojaheed. The family members went to the Dhaka Central Jail around 9:00pm.
Finally, they were hanged at 12:55am.

Bangladesh executes two opposition leaders for 1971 war crimes


Bangladesh executed two opposition leaders on Sunday for war crimes committed during the 1971 war to break away from Pakistan, a senior police official said, in a move likely to draw an angry reaction from supporters.
"Both of them were hanged simultaneously on two separate platforms," the police official said.
Islamist opposition leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, former legislator from former premier Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), were hanged shortly after President Abdul Hamid rejected their appeals late on Saturday for clemency.
Mujahid, 67, of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, and Chowdhury, 66, were hanged at Dhaka Central Jail. The Supreme Court had previously rejected their appeals against a death sentence imposed by a special tribunal for genocide and torture of civilians during the conflict.
The Border Guard Bangladesh paramilitary force has been deployed across the country to tighten security.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh, until 1971 East Pakistan, has seen a rise in Islamist violence in recent months, with two foreigners and four secular writers and a publisher killed this year.
Mujahid was found guilty on five charges including torture and the murders of intellectuals and minority Hindus while he commanded Al Badr, an auxiliary force of the Pakistani army, during the war to break away from Pakistan.
Chowdhury, former legislator from former premier Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was convicted in October 2013 on charges of genocide, religious persecution, abduction and torture during the war.
"While we are saddened that we have lost our father by way of a motivated and predetermined trial and where the country is gagged from speaking out, we find hope in the fact that the international community recognizes the injustice and that fairness and truth shall be restored in Bangladesh," Humam Quader Chowdhury, a son of Chowdhury, told Reuters.
"We fought for them under the law and we have been defeated in the legal fight," defense councillor Khandker Mahbub Hossain told Reuters.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened an inquiry into crimes committed during the war in 2010, paving the way for prosecutions by a war crimes tribunal that Islamists have denounced as part of a politically motivated campaign aimed at weakening Jamaat-e-Islami's leadership.
Two Jamaat leaders have been executed, one in December 2013 and another in April. They declined to seek clemency from the president.
BNP spokesman Asaduzzaman Ripon said: ”Salauddin has fallen victim to persecution because of his political identity, and he has been denied justice.”
Moqbul Ahmed, acting Amir of Jamaat, said in a statement that Mujahid was a victim of government conspiracy. He called a day long general strike on Monday across the country.
The government denies accusations of interference in the judiciary.
East Pakistan broke away to become independent Bangladesh after a war between India and Pakistan. About three million people were killed.

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#PBSNewsHour - US Media Shows Footage of Russian Airstrikes Passed Off as American

The PBS shows footage of Russian airstrikes against ISIL targets, passing them off as US airstrikes

PBS NewsHour, a daily US television news program shown on the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), used footage of Russian airstrikes against ISIL targets, claiming that they were US airstrikes, an Information Clearing House article revealed.
Earlier this week, the US government said it would intensify anti-ISIL airstrikes and bomb the terrorist organization's oil infrastructure, which is ISIL's primary source of income.

After that, on November 16, the US military said it destroyed 116 trucks carrying illegal oil in ISIL-controlled territories.

"On Monday, 295 trucks were in the area, and more than a third of them were destroyed, United States officials said. The A-10s dropped two dozen 500-pound bombs and conducted strafing runs with 30-millimeter Gatling guns. The AC-130s attacked with 30-millimeter Gatling guns and 105-millimeter cannons," the New York Times colorfully described the US military operation that allegedly took place on November 16.

Well, it sure sounded like a major anti-ISIL operation in the wake of the Paris attacks. But so far, these are just claims, not backed by any evidence.

Two days later, on November 18, the Russian Air Force destroyed 500 oil trucks that had been illegally transporting oil from ISIS-controlled territories.

Unlike the US Air Force, which didn't provide any video evidence from their alleged operation, the Russian Defense Ministry promptly released videos of what exactly happened to terrorists and how the operation unfolded.

On November 19, PBS NewsHour ran a program on ISIL and "showed" how their oil trucks were destroyed by US airstrikes.
It's all fine and dandy, but the US public broadcaster used the footage of Russian airstrikes, passing them off as US airstrikes, without revealing the true source.
"For the first time the US is attacking oil delivery trucks," the voice-over said between 2:30 — 2:35, while showing a clip of exactly the same video published by the Russian Defense Ministry the day before.

The PBS program neither mentioned the Russian military operation nor revealed the source of the footage.
What the US channel did was just outright lying, because millions of viewers would certainly think the video footage showing the explosions of oil trucks was from US airstrikes about which the New York Times ran an article on Monday.    

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Mali terror attack rooted in "export of democracy" to Africa - Russia’s foreign ministry

The terror act in Mali is rooted in "the export of democracy" and the toppling of governments in the Middle East and Africa, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said on Russia’s TV Tsentr television in comments on causes of the terror attack in Mali.
"Why Mali? But over the past decade we have been witnesses of how new and new experiments - each one following another - have been carried out in the region: changes of regimes and changes of power," Zakharova said. "I cannot call this even an export of ideology as it is an export of havoc."
On Friday, extremists attacked the Radisson hotel in the capital of Bamako taking hostage 170 people - 140 guests and 30 employees of the hotel. Special units of the armed forces of Mali, with the support of the French security services began to assault the building and pushed the attacking troops to the upper floors, where an intense battle continued. At that time, the armed forces with the assistance from dozens of US militaries withdrew hostages from the hotel. The Al-Mourabitoun group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said that 19 people were killed in the terror attack and another seven injured. Two gunmen were shot dead.
Earlier on Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the deaths of six Russian nationals, employees of the Volga-Dnepr airline. All the victims are residents of the Russian Ulyanovsk region located in the mid-Volga area, some 880 kilometres (547 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Journalist who returned from Islamic State HQ tells RT how jihadists can be defeated

RT spoke to Jurgen Todenhofer, the first Western journalist who was allowed to enter territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State. A year ago, he spent 10 days among the terrorists, also visiting Raqqa, the capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate.
To arrange the journey, Todenhofer held Skype discussions with Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) for six months before they agreed to his visit.
Finally, the jihadists gave him official guarantee safety. “It was in their interest to fulfill their promises that I would come back alive – and I came back alive,” he said.
After spending several days with ISIS militants, having long discussions with them and observing their daily life, the German journalist said: “They don’t care if we call them terrorists.”
The streets of Raqqa are full of people, cars and functioning businesses, life seemed to be completely normal, Todenhofer said, but one should keep in mind that the Islamists had killed or driven off all the Shias and Christians, so the only people there were Sunnis.
The jihadists are not interested in picking on ordinary people as long as they abide by the Sharia law, they are after important people, the journalist said.
Yet the fear is out there. “If you make a mistake, you can be killed,” Todenhofer said, recalling people being punished with jail terms for offenses such as paying a visit to a girlfriend or using sleeping pills, which are prohibited.
“People know it is dangerous,” Todenhofer said, but an ordinary person there does not care, because “his life was not [much fun] before, under the control of the Shia government, which they did not like either.”
There are not too many women on the streets of Raqqa, and those few are completely covered with a veil. Only very old women do not have to wear a veil, Todenhofer recalled.
“Because if they are not nice and pretty anymore – they are allowed to show their face.”
Todenhofer told RT's Neil Harvey that on ISIS’s territory, he met people from Russia’s Caucasus, but also from Germany, France, Britain and of course he asked all of them why they had come.
He said he had the impression that all the Muslims who joined ISIS used to be completely unimportant in their countries, were not accepted there and were considered second-class citizens.
“They are told that in Islamic State they will fight a historic fight, a final fight between good and evil,” he said.
“Those young people who were completely unimportant in their countries will be very important [here]. And for the first time in their life, somebody is telling them that they are important,” the journalist said.

Those young men are told they are going to be real stars and heroes, they will have a Kalashnikov and fight against the Americans and so on.
They are brainwashed, of course, it’s a very successful combination of fanaticism and a very clever military drill they get from Saddam Hussein’s former officers,” Todenhofer said, adding: “They think that they are in a big story now and they are playing a very important role.”
For those European youth who come to Islamic State, the way back is effectively closed, because those who want to return home are considered traitors who have to be killed.
Also, those who believed they were going to fight American and British troops have realized that in reality they are killing innocent Muslims.
“They are realizing that the story they were told is completely wrong. They don’t live in luxury like they were told in Germany, [instead] they live a very simple life, they don’t have food every day, not even water, it is cold in cheap apartments where they live, so life is completely different – and they have to kill Muslims. This is not what they were promised,” Todenhofer said.
The journalist believes the Islamists are killing hostages such as innocent American journalists to sow fear and to provoke Washington to send ground troops to the Syrian battlefield - because they want to fight against the Americans.
“I think now they would like to fight also against the Russian ground troops, because they have this story that they have to be a hero and fight against the champions, while the Muslims they have killed up until now were not champions and [the ISIS fighters] want to fight powerful people,” he said.
Naturally, the militants did not tell him everything, yet Todenhofer had the impression that Islamic State is still getting money and weapons from Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia.
The weapons are also bought on the black market, where European-made guns are available as well, sometimes those supplied to the Kurdish Peshmerga or the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“They told me,’Even if we don’t conquer these weapons, we can buy them, because everything has a price. Most of our ammunition we get from the Free Syrian Army.’”
This is the ammunition that Americans supplied to the FSA, which is now not important, or those groups which said they belong to the FSA, Todenhofer said.
ISIS is using guerilla warfare tactics, so bombing them is a hard task, because they disperse when the danger is close.
“I cannot judge the Russian army but I can judge the Western armies. The American Marines and special forces have no chance in a fight against guerilla fighters, because these fighters are ready to die, and Americans Marines do not want to die,”Todenhofer said.
To create real problems for ISIS, the West should do several things: stop the delivery of weapons, ammunition and money from the Gulf monarchies and close the Turkish border used to transit new fighters to ISIS, Todenhofer said, recalling how easy it was to cross the Syrian-Turkish border.
The third important thing is promoting reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, because ISIS finds support among those dissatisfied with the governments and existing state of things.
Fighting ISIS needs an intelligent strategy, Todenhofer said.

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Video - MOFA on South China Sea: China pays high attention to Japan's move

China - Commentary: It is Washington that violates int'l law in South China Sea

The recent U.S. maneuvers on the South China Sea issue have been carried out in the name of the so-called freedom of navigation (FON), which the United States argues is defended by international law.
However, such an excuse will not disguise the fact that it is the United States that blatantly abuses the freedom of navigation rights, defying and violating international law and undermining regional peace and stability, as it threatens China's sovereignty and security interests.
As ironic as it is, Washington has always defended its arbitrary move by referring to international law, but it has so far not approved the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes legal order and regulations on international waters.
The calculation behind such a move is crystal clear: The United States is unwilling to be bound by an international treaty, which it claims is severely flawed, because the sole superpower has already controlled such maritime resources as oil and gas deposits through military power.
Another irony is that Uncle Sam asserts that it maintains freedom of navigation in the South China Sea on the legal basis of international law, but it applies standards unilaterally defined by itself.
The U.S. government issued a document this year, saying the first target of the U.S. action is "excessive maritime claims that are defined by the U.S. side."
The document reveals that Washington substitutes its own standard for international law and attempts to unilaterally impose its own idea upon other countries.
Moreover, the U.S. action itself to maintain so-called freedom of navigation under international law is a threat to the principles of international law.
The Law of the Sea Treaty stipulates that any resorting to the threat or use of force against coastal sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence, or any resorting to the threat or use of force that violates purposes and principles of the UN Charter, are all regarded as actions destabilizing the peace, order or security in coastal states.
However, the United States has defied the law by sailing two warships over the past weeks, including one carrying Defense Secretary Ashton Carter through the South China Sea in what the Pentagon claimed as "freedom of navigation" operations.
Even worse, U.S. President Barack Obama visited a Philippine naval frigate on Tuesday ahead of a major meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Manila. The provocative gesture is meant to hype up the South China Sea issue at the meeting, which focuses on regional economic affairs.
As Bruce Fein, a Washington D.C.-based attorney, put it, "At this stage, the United States is almost concocting an excuse to project itself militarily in that area, South China Sea, East China Sea, whatever, so that they can justify the so-called 'pivot to Asia,' and maybe make conflict where there otherwise wouldn't exist."
It is strongly desired that Washington abandon its own standards to observe international laws and act as a responsible power, rather than stirring up trouble in the South China Sea and then making a false countercharge against others.

UN resolution on Syria tainted by geopolitics

The UN General Assembly's human rights committee on Thursday adopted a resolution condemning Syria's human rights record, as well as other countries who assisted in the infringement of human rights.

The non-binding resolution, penned by Saudi Arabia, was adopted with 115 votes in favor, 15 against, and 51 abstaining. China and Russia voted against it.

Who should be held responsible for the deterioration of human rights in Syria, and the outpouring of refugees to Europe? The answers remain disputed. The West used to consider Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the origin of the chaos. The flood of refugees and the terrorist attacks in Paris have shaken some Westerners. Assad is not responsible for the emergence of the Islamic State (IS). And the troubles the IS has brought are only part of the chaotic situation in the Middle East. 

Syria before 2011 was not a perfect country, but still much better than today's country torn apart by various forces and militants. The civil war has its domestic reasons, but the outside influence of the "Arab Spring" played an important role. The Assad administration enjoyed relatively better public support than other political groups, which is why the various opposition factors still cannot bring him down after years of military conflicts.

Now there are Syrian government forces, opposition forces supported by the West, and the IS. Among the three, it is hard to believe that the government troops treated the civilians worse than the other two did.

The UN resolution has been largely affected by geopolitics. We support China's decision to vote against the resolution, which are often twisted by geopolitical factors. It often resulted in disrupting a country's economic foundations to develop human rights, and failed to improve the situation. 

Syria is a typical example. In 2011, Syria did have human rights problems. But when Assad vowed to reform and began acting on it, the West turned a blind eye to him and continued to arm up the opposition. 

This is no longer aimed at human rights, but aimed at knocking out a country that is close with Russia and Iran.

The world will be in disorder if the West can label any country it chooses as violating human rights and deserving to be punished.

The direction of the Syrian government should be decided by its own people. 

China has been learning the concept of human rights from the West. But when it is attached to political interests of the West, we shall be able to say no. It would be wise for the rising China to develop human rights both ideally and realistically.