Russian Plane Explode And Crash With 92 People Aboard: No Survivors

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Russian plane headed to an air base in Syria with 92 people aboard, including members of a well-known military choir, crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday minutes after taking off from the resort city of Sochi, Russia's Defence Ministry said.
There were no survivors of the crashed Tu-154, which belonged to the Defence Ministry and was taking the Alexandrov Ensemble to a holiday concert at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Crews found at least one body and ships, helicopters and drones were searching the area for more.
  • A total of 84 passengers and eight crew members were on the plane when it disappeared from radars two minutes after taking off in good weather. Emergency crews found fragments about 1.5 kilometres from shore.
Viktor Ozerov, head of the defence affairs committee at the upper house of Russian parliament, said the crash could have been caused by a technical malfunction or a crew error, but he believes it was not terrorism because the plane was operated by the military.
"I totally exclude" the idea of an attack bringing down the plane, he said.

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Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov Shot Dead In Ankara

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Russia's ambassador to Turkey was shot dead in front of a crowd at a posh art gallery in the capital Ankara as the angry gunmen screamed "don't forget Aleppo".
Police later killed the assailant on Monday night, Turkish station NTV reported.
Andrey Karlov, 62, was several minutes into a speech at an embassy-sponsored photo exhibition when a man who stood directly behind him in a dark suit shot the diplomat in the back from close range multiple times.

  • Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made the announcement of Karlov's death in a live televised statement.
  • The assailant was a 22-year-old off-duty police officer who worked in Turkey's capital, said Ankara's Mayor Melih Gokcek.
  • After the initial shot, the attacker approached Karlov as he lay on the ground and shot him at least one more time at close range, according to an AP photographer at the scene.
  • He also smashed several of the framed photos on exhibition, but later let the stunned guests out of the venue, according to local media.
Several media outlets reported a gunfight later ensued after Karlov was shot.
Local broadcaster NTV television said at least three people were wounded and were taken to the hospital.

Mayor Gokcek told reporters outside the exhibition centre the "heinous" attack was aimed at disrupting newly re-established relations between Turkey and Russia.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone about Monday's attack.
"On behalf of my country and my people I once again extend my condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the friendly Russian people," said Erdogan.  
Putin promised a response to the assassination. 

Source: Al Jazeera...More...
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Saddam Hussein Should Have Been Left To Run Iraq?

Sunday, December 18, 2016
Both President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump believe the United States never should have invaded Iraq in 2003.
The war in Iraq and its chaotic aftermath in many ways prefigure the present moment in the Middle East; it triggered a sectarian unraveling that now haunts both Iraq and Syria and looms large in the minds of an Obama administration wary of further intervention in the region's conflicts.In a new book coming out this month, John Nixon, a former CIA officer who interrogated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after he was captured by coalition forces in December 2003, details his encounter with the toppled despot and the varied discussions that followed.
 Early on, Hussein warned that the occupation of Iraq wouldn't be as much of a "cakewalk" as Washington's neoconservatives assumed at the time.

When I interrogated Saddam, he told me: “You are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq.” When I told him I was curious why he felt that way, he replied: “You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.”
Nixon now reckons Hussein had a point and that a ruthless strongman like him was necessary to "maintain Iraq's multi-ethnic state" and keep both Sunni extremism and the power of Shiite-led Iran, a Hussein foe, at bay.
"Saddam’s leadership style and penchant for brutality were among the many faults of his regime, but he could be ruthlessly decisive when he felt his power base was threatened, and it is far from certain that his regime would have been overthrown by a movement of popular discontent," he wrote. 

"Likewise, it is improbable that a group like ISIS would have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they have had under the Shia-led Baghdad government." (ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.)
This may all be rather true. Trump himself insists that regime change should no longer be in Washington's interest and has embraced dictatorial leaders such as Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.
"Although I found Saddam to be thoroughly unlikeable, I came away with a grudging respect for how he was able to maintain the Iraqi nation as a whole for as long as he did," wrote Nixon. 
"He told me once, 'Before me, there was only bickering and arguing. I ended all that and made people agree!'"
Many Arab commentators, though, reject the simplicity of the assumptions here — that if not ruled by tyrants, their nations would automatically turn into breeding grounds for militancy. 
That's a logic, after all, that serves the autocrats. Moreover, there's a direct connection between the heavy-handed policies of the region's autocrats and the conditions that spawn extremism and deepen sectarian animosities.
Pluralistic, multi-ethnic societies have been the norm, not the exception, for centuries.

Source: Washington Post, Agency
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Two Girls Blow Themselves Up In Nigeria Market, 17 Seriously Hurt

Monday, December 12, 2016
KANO, Nigeria - Two little girls, approximately seven or eight years old, blew themselves up in a northeastern Nigerian market on Sunday, killing themselves and wounding at least 17 others, witnesses said.
The girls "must have been seven or eight", a local militia member in Maiduguri told AFP.
Emergency services on-site in the town, the epicentre of the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency, said 17 people sustained "relatively serious" injuries. 
The attack was not immediately claimed by Boko Haram but bore all the hallmarks of the jihadists, who have regularly used women and young girls to carry out suicide attacks in their 7 year insurgent campaign in 
the troubled region.

Source: AFP
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Deadly Magnitude 6.5 Earthquake Hits Aceh In Indonesia

Thursday, December 08, 2016
An earthquake off Indonesia's northern Aceh province has killed at least 97 people, say local military officials.
The magnitude 6.5 quake struck just off the north-east coast of Sumatra island, where dozens of buildings have collapsed and many people are feared trapped under rubble.
"So far, 97 people have been killed and the number keeps growing," Aceh military chief Tatang Sulaiman said in a live TV interview.
Hundreds of people have been injured.
There was no tsunami after Wednesday's tremor, which the US Geological Survey said struck just offshore at 05:03 local time (22:03 GMT Tuesday) at a depth of 8km.
  • A spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster agency said more than 200 shops and homes had been destroyed, along with 14 mosques. A hospital and school were also badly damaged.
  • "We estimate the number of casualties will continue to rise as some of the residents are still likely [to be] under the rubble of the buildings. The search and rescue operation is still underway," said Sutopo Nugroho, who also said thousands of rescuers, including soldiers, had been deployed.
  • Maj Gen Tatang Sulaiman said four people had been rescued alive from the rubble and he believed there might be four or five more still buried, though he did not say whether they were alive.
  • "Hopefully we would be able to finish the evacuation from the rubble before sunset," he said.
Said Mulyadi, deputy district chief of Pidie Jaya, the region hit hardest by the quake, told the BBC's Indonesian service earlier in the day that the death toll was likely to rise.
He also told the AFP news agency that several children were among the dead and that local hospitals had been overwhelmed.
Heavy equipment is being used to search for survivors, but Puteh Manaf, head of the local disaster management agency, told the BBC's Mehulika Sitepu that more people were needed to help because some staff were busy helping their own families.
Pidie Jaya is along the north coast of Aceh, and has a population of about 150,000.
It is about 110 km (68 miles) from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.
The quake shook Banda Aceh and prompted many people across the region to flee their homes. 
Many are said to be reluctant to go back indoors, amid a number of aftershocks.
Musman Aziz, who lives in Meureudu, another affected town, told AP news agency: "It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than (the) 2004 earthquake... I was so scared the tsunami was coming."
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because it lies on the Ring of Fire - the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.
The island of Sumatra has been hit by several earthquakes this year.

Source: BBC. Agency

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Myanmar Committing ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Rohingyas - UN

Monday, December 05, 2016

A human tragedy approaching ethnic cleansing is unfolding in Burma, and the world is chillingly silent.
In recent weeks, hundreds of Muslim Rohingya people have been killed, and more than 30,000 displaced.
Houses have been burned, hundreds of women raped and many others arbitrarily arrested. Access for humanitarian-aid organizations has been almost completely denied. Thousands have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, only to be sent back. Witness all the hallmarks of past tragedies: Bosnia, Darfur, Kosovo, Rwanda.
  • This isn’t the first explosion of violence against the Rohingyas, who are among the world’s most persecuted minorities. For decades these Burma-based Muslims have been subjected to a campaign of grinding dehumanization. In 1982, they were stripped of their citizenship rights and rendered stateless, with restrictions on movement, marriage, education and religious freedom.
  • The Burmese government and military claims that the Rohingyas are in fact illegal Bengali immigrants. But Bangladesh doesn’t recognize them. As some Rohingyas say, “We are trapped between a crocodile and a snake.”
  • Their plight intensified in 2012 when two severe outbreaks of violence resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid emerged between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbors. Conditions have since become increasingly dire.
The latest episode was sparked by an Oct. 9 attack on Burmese border-police posts, which killed nine officers. 
While no conclusive findings have been made about the attack, Burma’s military alleges that a group of Rohingyas were the perpetrators.
Even if that were true, the military’s response has been grossly disproportionate.
Rounding up suspects, interrogating them and putting them on trial would be one thing. It’s quite another to reportedly unleash helicopter gunships on civilians, rape women and throw babies into a fire.
According to one Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty International, the military “shot at people who were fleeing. 
They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were verbally abusing the people. They were threatening to rape the women.”
Another witness described how her two sons were arbitrarily arrested: “It was early in the morning, the military surrounded our house, while some came in and forced me and my children to go outside. They tied my two sons up. They tied their hands behind their backs, and they were beaten badly. The military kicked them in the chest. I saw it myself. I was crying so loudly. When I cried, they pointed a gun at me. My children were begging the military not to hit them. They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away.” She hasn’t seen them since.
Two people may be able to prevent this crisis from further deteriorating: Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ms. Suu Kyi is already facing increasing criticism for her failure to act, though she faces severe constraints. She won an electoral mandate last year and runs Burma’s first democratically led government in more than half a century, but the military still holds enormous power. Under Burma’s constitution, the ministries of home affairs, border affairs and defense remain in military hands. Her caution is thus understandable, denying the military any pretext to destabilize her new and fragile government. But the priority must be to save lives and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
In September, Ms. Suu Kyi invited former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to head a commission and find solutions to the Rohingyas’ plight. But her response to the latest abuses has been disappointing. At the very least, she should lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid so that people can receive emergency assistance. She should allow access for journalists and human-rights monitors, and set up an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation. She should call for an end to mass attacks on civilians.
As for Mr. Ban, his visit and negotiations to lift the military regime’s block on international aid after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in 2008 saved thousands of lives. In his final weeks in office, he should repeat this strategy: Go to Burma and, using his good offices, bring together Ms. Suu Kyi, the military and the Rakhine state authorities and insist on humanitarian access.
John McKissick, head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the Bangladesh side of the border, has accused Burma’s government of ethnic cleansing. The U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, has condemned the lockdown on Rakhine State as “unacceptable.” It’s time for action from the very top.
It’s also time for the international community to speak out. If we fail to act, Rohingyas may starve to death if they aren’t killed by bullets first. We could end up as passive observers once again wringing our hands belatedly, saying “never again.”
Let us act now before it’s too late.

Source: The Wall Street Journal
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