Monday, September 30, 2013

"Nobody Is Left In The School Now"

"Although there is (an) increase in troop movement and military hardware deployment in the northeast, people are yet to see the kind of action on the ground that effectively nips criminal and terrorist activities in the bud."
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, Yobe State, Nigeria
"Sometimes you need courage" in the face of such challenges as the slaughter of thousands of innocents, cautioned Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan who condemned a deadly attack that took place on Sunday night on an agricultural college, killing 50 students as they slept, in the belief that their nation's military was protecting them from any such deadly onslaughts.

Courage, then, trumps the actual presence of protection. Courage to face the reality of impending threats to life and limb. From a terrorist group which takes its name from what is forbidden: Western knowledge and education. Forbidden, that is, by their standards. Holding that what is pure must now be defiled; Islamic teaching is not to be corrupted by exposure to Western ideas.

A screengrab taken on Sept 25, 2013 from a video distributed through an intermediary to local reporters and seen by AFP, shows a man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau. A man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram appeared in a video Wednesday taunting world leaders after the military said he may have been killed. -- PHOTO: AFP 

Because of previous such atrocities when Boko Haram, the country's look-alike Islamist militia to Somalia's al-Shabab, attacked another such college on an earlier occasion, those agricultural schools based on Western models of farming techniques vital to the country's economy and future, shut their doors.

Provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture bemoaned that no security forces were present to protect the college.

When only several weeks earlier the state commissioner for education had beseeched schools and colleges to re-open in reflection of their duty to educate and prepare for the future. And promised that all such schools and colleges would be guarded by soldiers and police, against the possibility of any such further attacks.

Boko Haram has stated its pride in having been responsible for the killing of 50 young people, after having attacked and killed 29 pupils and a teacher, burning some of them alive in their hostels at Mamudo outside Damaturu on July 6. This new attack will be adjudged by Boko Haram as being more successful than the last, encouraging them to continue their successful trajectory.

"They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels. They opened fire at them", said Yobe State College of Agriculture Provost Idi Mato. Most of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 22. Forty-two bodies were recovered, along with 18 wounded students, taken to Damaturu Specialist Hospital. Where two of the wounded died later. Almost all killed were Muslims, reflecting the majority make-up of the college's student body.

The attackers came in all-terrain vehicles and on motorcycles, some of them in Nigerian military uniforms, according to a surviving student. The terrorists seemed to be knowledgeable of the college layout, choosing to attack the four male hostels, bypassing the one hostel that was reserved for women. "We ran into the bush, nobody is left in the school now", said Ibrahim Mohammed.

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Smiley-Face Campaign

"I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles. Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of the State of Israel."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The bearer of a tediously unpopular message, Benjamin Netanyahu once again headed to Washington, yarmulke held beseechingly in hand, to attempt to counter a charm offensive that had American and European authorities lapping up the smiles like kittens entranced by clotted-cream offerings.

In this Sept. 26, 2013 file photo, seated at the table from left, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton attend a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File) 

What threat to world peace? Which concerns exactly are being spoken of? Couldn't be the threat of nuclear weapons finally in the hands of a fanatical theocratic regime which has distinguished itself as a sponsor of violent terror attacks in various parts of the world, surely? Not the Islamic Republic of Iran whose notoriety as the funder and trainer of Islamist militias geared to destroy a Middle East member-country of no real account in the world...?

Concern misplaced, most obviously by a country unfortunately plagued with the dread of persecution. These are not scowling, threatening faces, voices raised in high-pitched rhetoric of defiance and vengeance against those who stand in their way.  Those who caution that words are well and fine, but wait for matching action as proof positive of a 360-degree turn in intention, are, well, spoil-sports.

Everyone is just fine.

A good time being had by all; tensions relieved, handshakes all around; almost -- but good-natured satisfaction overwhelmingly tickling the funny-bone. It took 34 years, some might say, but better late than never, responds President Obama, confident in his repeated overtures to reason, addressing a national interest that eschews reason for the passion of conquest.

Deeper ties are in the offing; America and Iran, two great nations identified as such by the new president of Iran, are set to become bosom pals, and European diplomats are utterly thrilled at the "very significant shift" in attitude and tone. On the part of Obama, the Nobel Laureate finally earning his medal; from Iran, reasonableness and the promise of normalcy.

And there's Israel's politicians, trying to spoil it all, to grab the limelight of attention, what a drag. The prime minister of Israel keeps repeating that tired old slogan: Rouhani's 'outreach' a mere superficiality, a visible ploy to ease international sanctions for the vital result of buying time for Iran's nuclear program to progress beyond the point of return ... an imminent juncture.

"Negotiations are on the table to discuss various aspects of Iran's enrichment program. Our right to enrich is non-negotiable" announced Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Sunday. The United States must take steps to end the crippling economic sanctions. Or no deal. AT other times in other venues this might be described acerbically as the tail wagging the dog; no longer.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has declared nuclear weapons contrary to Islamic law. It is merely coincidental and of no account whatever and certainly not of any business of the international community that Iran has its national aspiration and the right to develop its uranium enrichment program.

And everyone -- almost -- seems deliriously happy.

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Al Qaeda Quickly Constructing Main Mideast Base in Syria

Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria, is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed. Jihad will spread outwards to the region, then threaten global security -- possibly with biological and chemical weapons.
Al Qaeda is quickly constructing its main regional Middle East base in Syria, from where it plans to export terrorism and Islamic radicalism to neighboring states, then to the West, a new report released by an Israeli security research institute warned.

The jihadis later aspire, according to the report, to turn "Greater Syria" -- an old geographic term encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories -- into an Islamic caliphate.
The exhaustive study took a year to compile, according to researchers at the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which released it.

The Center itself is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.

The report identified the Al Nusra Front as Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria; they added that the organization is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed.

Fighters from Al Nusra Front pose for a photograph.

According to Dr. Reuven Erlich, the head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the Al Nusra Front is entrenching itself in Syria at a rate several times faster than the time it took Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to become a serious international terrorist presence.

Erlich, who served in several posts in IDF Military Intelligence, also cautioned that Syria's location in the heart of the Middle East, its proximity to Europe, and its border with Israel mean that geopolitically, the jihadi threat from Syria is more central than the one from Afghanistan or Pakistan.

He compared Al Nusra's activities in Syria today to the incubation period of a virus, before it begins spreading and infecting other hosts. Later, Erlich warned, the plague of jihad will spread outwards from Syria to the region, then go on to threaten global security.

The researchers who composed the report assessed the chances of Al Nusra realizing its goal of building a caliphate as low, due to Syria's diverse sectarian, ethnic, and religious population, and strong tradition of secular Arab nationalism.

Nevertheless, they said, the group is on course to become one of the most prominent rebel entities, and will play a key role in shaping a post-Assad Syria, while using its growing presence as a springboard to launch international terrorist attacks.

At the moment, Al Nusra's most urgent goal is toppling President Assad; its members are therefore not yet focusing on enforcing Shari'a law in Syria. They show a pragmatic willingness to work with other rebel organizations, including the main Free Syrian Army. But once the Assad regime falls, a violent campaign by jihadis might begin to cement their control over any new government formed by rebels in Damascus.

A second jihadi organization operates in Syria, the researchers said, called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, formed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, though Al Nusra is the only one to have received official recognition by Al Qaeda's central leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in June this year.

"The two branches together have an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 operatives in our assessment, and the number is growing," the report stated.

Erlich said the influence of the group is out of proportion to its numbers, due its operational capabilities and influence on the population.

The Al Nusra Front is led Abu Muhammad al-Julani, who possibly hails from the Syrian Golan, and rules over a network of fighters and local subordinates in Syria's districts.

He is a veteran of jihadist battles against US forces in Iraq, and a former follower of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who set up Al Qaeda in Iraq in the previous decade.

Rank and file members of the group are a mix of Syrians and foreign volunteers from the Arab and Muslim world, the report said, adding that foreign volunteers number in the thousands. Additionally, between 500 and 600 European Muslim volunteers are in the organization, mainly hailing from the UK and France. They are expected, after returning from the battlefields, to spread jihad in their home countries, the report said.

The Al Nusra Front's most senior body is called the Consulting Council of Jihad Fighters. Its leadership is made up of staff dealing with military operations, fundraising, weapons acquisitions and smuggling, religious affairs and public relations. Fighting units are usually called battalions or companies.

The report mapped out the Al Nusra Front's presence in Syria, noting that it was strongest in the north and east, where the Assad regime has collapsed. In these areas, called "liberated zones" by the jihadis, Al Nusra and affiliated groups provide public services, maintain health, legal, and policing systems, and distribute food, clothing and blankets.

In some places, residents have complained about a strict code of Shari'a-based conduct being enforced.

According to the report, the group is weakest on the Mediterranean coast, where the minority Alawite population -- of which the ruling Assad regime is mostly composed -- is located.

Most of Al Nusra's attacks are focused on greater Damascus and on northern and eastern Syria, in places such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor. Its actions are guerrilla-terrorist campaigns against the regime's bases, facilities and individuals.

Tactics include suicide car bombings, roadside bombs, suicide bombers on foot, and firing on bases and airfields with light arms and mortars. Security checkpoints are a frequent target.

"Suicide bombings are a signature brand" of Al Nusra and are operationally effective, but have resulted in negative public relations among other Syrian rebels, said the report.

The Al Nusra Front plans to attack Israel from the Syrian Golan, according to an assessment that appeared in the report. It "can be expected to establish an operative terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights, a continuation of military infrastructure it is currently constructing in Deraa," the southwestern city where the anti-Assad uprising began in 2011.

"In our assessment, Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist organizations may integrate themselves into terrorist attacks from the Golan Heights despite the fundamental ideological differences between them," it added.

Al Nusra can also be expected to link up with fellow jihadis who follow Al Qaeda's ideology in neighboring Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Western Arab states are on the target list too, the report said, adding that Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, all of which support the rebels, might be targeted by Al Nusra in the form of subversive, radical Islamists entering them and setting up terrorist cells.

In northern Syria, Al Nusra and its allies have seized key national resources such as oil and gas fields, oil pipelines, dams, power plants and grain silos.

These sites are now operated by jihadis, who sometimes sell oil and gas to the Assad regime for profit, enabling the organization to pay its operatives a monthly salary, purchase more weapons, and run assistance programs in "liberated areas."

As Al Nusra fighters raid Syrian weapons depots, the fear remains, the report stated, that "in the absence of the considerations of restraint that influence other terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist organizations," they could obtain chemical and biological weapons, and use them in terrorist attacks.

Related Topics:  Syria  |  Yaakov Lappin

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Netanyahu can't hope to regain Israel’s voice in headlong US-Russian-Iranian nuclear diplomacy

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis September 30, 2013, 11:09 AM (IDT)
An earlier encounter
An earlier encounter
Although a face to face between prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama is obviously worthwhile for both countries, the prime minister need not expect to deflect the president from his pursuit of a nuclear deal with Tehran when they meet Monday, Sept. 30. At best, he will come away with soothing assurances that any new intelligence he presents will be seriously looked into. But he can’t hope for real substance for two reasons: 
1. Obama can no longer turn away from the path he has set himself, because he is driven by the ambition to prove that international problems can be solved without military force and solely by good will, negotiations and diplomacy.

2.  After convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin that he means what he says and is not planning to repeat his “mistaken” US military involvement in the 2011 Libyan civil war, Obama removed a major obstacle in the way of a US-Russian deal on Syria’s chemical weapons.

It is now the turn for Washington, Moscow and Tehran to continue the process with a parallel consensual deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

From Tehran, the US and Russia might be seen to be preparing to impose a nuclear settlement on Iran in the same way as they did for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons. However, if that is what is contemplated, Obama and Putin will soon find Tehran is not Damascus, and the ayatollah in Tehran is a completely different proposition from his Syrian ally.

The wily supreme leader Ali Khamenei in fact sees his chance of turning the situation around to the Islamic Republic’s advantage. He grasps that the American and Russian leaders are in a hurry to reap the results of the Obama administration’s decision to forswear a military option for bringing Tehran round. Their headlong quest for quick results gives Tehran the leverage for extracting previously withheld concessions on its nuclear program, such as extreme flexibility on its enriched uranium production and stocks.

Netanyahu may hear Obama promising to stand by his demand that Iran stop enriching uranium and export the bulk of its stocks, or surrender it for destruction like Syria’s chemical weapons. But he will also discover that Obama and Putin are running ahead together at breakneck speed after dropping Israel by the wayside.  And the negotiations with Iran behind the scenes - and continuing in Geneva on Oct. 15 with the five Security Council powers and Germany - are more than likely to produce a compromise unacceptable to Israel.

Iran and Russia will have to make some concessions for a deal. But so too will the United States, and the uranium enrichment issue will loom large in the way of an agreement unless Washington gives way on that point. Obama has already covered much of this ground in secret contacts with Tehran.
The tempo of the negotiations, dictated by Obama and Putin, will make it easy to blur facts and the present minor concessions as major achievements.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are already smoothing the way for the understandings to come with messages that fit neatly into world media headlines. Sunday, Kerry echoed President Rouhani’s [statement] of a nuclear accord achievable in months. At the same time, mindful of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting Monday, the US Secretary said in a TV interview, “A bad deal is worse than no deal,” while US Ambassador Dan Shapiro assured Israelis in a radio interview Monday morning “The US and Israel share the same goals – preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Meanwhile, last month’s buzz phrase for the Syrian accord, which called for “a credible military option” to underpin the understanding, has been quietly mothballed in both the Syrian and Iranian WMD context

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Journalist: Saudis, Gulf States 'Shocked' By Obama-Rouhani Chat

Saudi Arabian officials have sharply criticized President Obama for conducting phone conversation with Iranian President Rouhani.

By David Lev  -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 9/30/2013, 4:18 PM

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Israelis are not the only ones concerned with the apparent warming of relations between Iran and the United States; Saudi Arabia has leveled sharp criticism against U.S. President Barack H. Obama for conducting a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

That conversation, which took place last Friday, will be taken the wrong way by Iran, Saudi officials said. Saudi journalist Abdel Rahman Rashad said that he has spoken to government officials who said that they expect the U.S. to take a much tougher stance against Iran, lest Tehran take advantage of what it sees like American “softness” to continue and even expand its nuclear program.

“If the Americans do not take the necessary steps against Iran, the states of the Middle East will have to deal with a nuclear Iran,” Rashad wrote in an op-ed in the London-based Arabic a-Sharq a-Awsat newspaper.

“The phone call between Obama and Rouhani shocked the Gulf states, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, and other countries,” he wrote.

According to the New York Times, Obama and Rouhani "agreed to accelerate talks aimed at defusing the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and afterward expressed optimism at the prospect of a rapprochement that would transform the Middle East."

According to the Iranians, it was Obama that sought to speak to Rouhani, but Rahman said it did not matter who sought to speak to whom.

“What is important to know is what stands behind the conversation and how deep the ties are between America and Iran.”

The Saudis are very concerned about Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, fearing they will be aimed at the Sunni country by an aggressive Shi'ite competitor. At a recent meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said that Iran could threaten to attack Saudi Arabia – and thereby interfering with shipments of oil to the West – if it achieved nuclear weapons. This, he said would increase the chance of war, conventional or otherwise.

"Any threat to our interests or security will force us to use all available options to defend our interests, and national and regional security," Faisal was quoted as saying by the Al-Arabiya news channel. "The mounting escalation and persistent tensions might end up in an adventure with unpredictable consequences or in an unwanted military confrontation."

Iran has warned Western governments that it will close the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, a strategic choke point for much of the world's oil supplies, if they press ahead with sanctions against its key crude exports.

"Iran must not fuel this conflict and must not threaten us when we commit to international decisions," Faisal said. "It must safeguard the security of the Strait of Hormuz and that of the world energy supply."

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Baghdad hit by wave of deadly car bombs

BBC News online -- 30 September 2013
Footage shows the aftermath of the 13 rush hour blasts, as the BBC's Rafid Jaboori reports from Baghdad
A series of car bomb blasts in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has killed at least 47 people and injured many more, officials say.

The blasts targeted markets and car parks in mainly Shia Muslim districts of the city.
There has been a recent upsurge in sectarian violence, sparking fears of a return to the bloodletting of 2008.

More than 5,000 people have been killed so far this year, according to United Nations data.
Monday's blasts struck during Baghdad's morning rush hour, with reports of 13 bombs, most of them in Shia neighbourhoods.

Groups of labourers gathering ahead of the working day were among the bombers' targets.


The upsurge of violence is taking place against the backdrop of a stumbling political process.
Two weeks ago leaders of a group of main political parties signed an agreement aiming to stop the bloodshed. They dubbed it a Code of Honour. But violence continued and dozens of people have been killed since.
There have been widespread protests in Sunni areas of Iraq against the Shia-led government. Sunnis accuse the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of discriminating against them, something the government vehemently denies.
After Monday's bombings, the ministry of interior's spokesman told me that violence in Syria is spilling over to Iraq. The challenge was huge, he said, and an unstable political process in Iraq only makes it worse.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist organisation, claims responsibility for most of the attacks that target Shia areas. But no mainstream Sunni political party approves violence against Shia.
One of the deadliest attacks was reported from the eastern Sadr City district where seven people were killed and 75 injured in a crowded vegetable market.

Another six were reported killed in Shuala, a mainly Shia area of north Baghdad.

The city neighbourhoods affected also included New Baghdad, Habibiya, Sabaa al-Bour, Kazimiya, Shaab and Ur, as well as the Sunni districts of Jamiaa and Ghazaliya, the Associated Press news agency reports.

No-one has claimed responsibility for Monday's attacks, but Sunni Muslim insurgents have been blamed for much of the most recent violence.

The interior ministry accused rebels linked to al-Qaeda of exploiting political divisions and regional conflicts to sow violence.

"Our war with terrorism goes on," interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told AP.
The recent upsurge in violence was triggered in April by an army raid on a Sunni Muslim anti-government protest camp near Hawija, north of Baghdad.

Many in the country's Sunni Muslim minority complain of being excluded from decision-making and of abuses by the security forces. Recent raids in Baghdad on suspected al-Qaeda hideouts in mainly Sunni districts are thought to have worsened grievances.

Major attacks this month

  • 30 September: At least 42 killed in car bombs in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad
  • 21 September: At least 60 killed at funeral in Sadr City, Baghdad
  • 15 September: More than 40 killed in blasts across Iraq mostly targeting Shia areas
  • 3 September: At least 60 killed in mainly Shia districts of Baghdad
One of the bloodiest attacks over the past few weeks was a double bombing in a funeral marquee in Sadr City on 21 September, which left more than 60 people dead. 

Several dozen people died in a wave of attacks on Sunday, including another explosion at a funeral.
A suicide bomber attacked a Shia Muslim mosque south of the city, causing the roof to collapse. More than 40 people are now known to have been killed in that incident.

Irbil, the normally stable capital of Iraq's autonomous province of Kurdistan, was hit by a series of bombings on the same day, killing six members of the security services. Officials said that violence could be linked to fighting between jihadists and Kurds in Syria.

Graphic showing deaths in Iraq

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Syria: Agony of victims of 'napalm-like' school bombing

"Ghostly fragments of what happened here are strewn across the playground": Ian Pannell's report contains distressing scenes
Footage of a napalm-like attack on a school in Syria filmed by a team working for Panorama shocked the world. Now the BBC has returned to find out what happened to the children who suffered horrific burns.

We had travelled to Syria to film two British doctors from the UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria providing care to parts of the country where the medical system is barely functioning.

The British medics had stopped off at a hospital in Aleppo Province. It was set up by the charity to provide general medical care, but in a climate of war it is just as likely to be casualties of the conflict who are carried through the door.

Within an hour of being there we received the first sign of what was to come.
A seven-month old baby boy arrived, his pink face was blistered and raw. His father was also burnt and sat helplessly on a stretcher clutching his son as the staff rushed to help.

The British doctors were hearing rumours that there were more cases on the way.
Soon, dozens of people, mostly teenagers, were being rushed in on stretchers with napalm-like burns. Their clothes were burnt, their bodies charred and in some cases their hair had melted.

Their faces were brutally disfigured with huge blisters forming over their bodies. Almost in slow motion they lumbered in; shocked and in pain. The smell of burnt flesh was overpowering.

Within minutes the hospital was overwhelmed. Dr Rola Hallam and Dr Saleyha Ahsam began treating the casualties.
Syria hospital overwhelmed after bomb attack The field hospital was overwhelmed by the number of casualties brought in
There were no shrapnel injuries or loss of blood typical of most aerial bombs.
We did not know for sure what the device contained but it caused appalling burns consistent with an incendiary device, containing a substance like napalm or thermite.

The pressure group Human Rights Watch has documented the use of similar bombs elsewhere in Syria.

All of this unravelled in a climate of fear. It happened just days after the chemical attack in the eastern suburbs of Damascus that killed hundreds of people and many were terrified that the same had just happened here.

Doctors ripped open packets of saline fluid and poured the liquid over the victims. The few beds in the emergency room quickly filled up and many of the teenagers were writhing in agony on the floor.
Thick white cream was applied to their bodies to treat the burns, while yet more patients were brought in.

Outside in the hospital courtyard, a water tanker sprayed the crowd so they could clean themselves - terrified that this had been a chemical attack.

Fathers and mothers desperate for news fought to be allowed into the hospital, cursing their president, Bashar al-Assad.

Eyewitnesses described the same thing - a fighter-jet circling overhead, apparently looking for targets. A large crowd had gathered at the school where the incendiary bomb was dropped.

Eighteen-year-old Siham Kanbari had terrible burns to much of her body.
She had been in a maths class when the blast ripped through the window.

One of the youngest victims was 13-year-old Ahmed Darwish.
When he arrived at the hospital he was shaking uncontrollably. The emergency ward was so full he was told to wait in the corridor.
Aleppo field hospital Casualties had to travel to Turkey for intensive care 
Dr Saleyha described the scene.
"Out of all the war zones I have ever been to, today has been by far the worst," she said.
"I have never seen anything like that - the fact that they were children, teenagers, same ages as my nieces and nephews."
The hospital admitted 30 patients that day.

Most had more than 50% burns - which meant their chances of survival were less than half.
The injured needed intensive care therapy but none was available in Aleppo's field hospital.
By dusk the chaos began to subside as patients were rushed across the border to Turkey for treatment. Some died on the way.

"I thought it was never going to end," Dr Rola said. "We lost a gentlemen on transfer to Bab-al-Hawa, he had extensive third degree burns.

"We tried to stabilise him and refer him as soon as possible but we weren't able to rescue him. I've never seen a burn that bad.
"I think his face is going to stay with me for quite a long time."
School in Syria after bomb attack Children were in the school's playground when the bomb landed
Two days after the attack we went to the school.
It had been one of the few to remain open in this part of northern Syria. But when we visited the classrooms were empty.

Ahmed suffered 40 per cent burns in Syria bomb attack
I'm in a lot of pain. I had a fever all last night, I'm in pain on my neck and my shoulder. Why bomb us while we are at school? Why?” 
Ahmed, 13 Victim of the attack
The smell at the scene and the debris suggest it was an incendiary bomb. It is not a chemical weapon but is classed as a conventional one. 

More than 100 countries have banned their use against civilians but Syria has not signed the treaty.
The air at the scene was still thick with the smell of whatever was dropped that day; it is hard to imagine or to describe the horrors of what the pilot did.

The headmaster said he felt helpless. He was too afraid to give his name.
"The worst thing in life is for someone to die before our eyes.
"People burning in front of you. People dying. People running. But where will they run to?
"They're not safe anywhere. This is the fate of the Syrian people."

Ten children died in the attack and many more have been left struggling to survive terrible burns.
'Please let it be over'
We visited Ahmed, in a Turkish hospital, a few weeks after the incident. Described as a hard working boy with a smiley face, he now has 40% burns to his body.

"I'm in a lot of pain," he said. "I had a fever all last night. I'm in pain on my neck and my shoulder.
"Why bomb us while we are at school. Why?"
Syria victim after hospital attack Siham had been in a maths class when the attack happened
When we last saw Siham, in the Aleppo hospital, she was screaming in pain. She is now in a ward alongside Ahmed, in Turkey. She told us the day we visited that her body still feels like it is burning.
She was in her final year of school. Described as one of the smartest in her class she is now suffering with 70% burns.

"Please let it be over now", she said. "We need to find a way out. We've had all we can take."
As the controversy over chemical weapons dies down, the world's attention will once again move on from Syria.

But for those whose lives are being torn apart by war, the suffering continues.

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Executing Terror

"Just before the cookery event, I was with about 35 kids including two of my own. Then a grenade went off and then the shots started coming in. One hit the kid beside me. I tried to stop the bleeding, but I didn't know what I was doing... I couldn't save him. They threw quite a few grenades at us. Eventually a gentleman came running towards us with a handgun, and he told us to get up and get out. I saw someone carry my daughter away. I helped all of the kids jump over the wall."
Kamal Kaur

"They came from the basement of the mall and started firing in all directions. Within minutes the floor was littered with bodies. Whoever survived was running helter-skelter in search of cover; it was pure chaos."
Shashikant Sanghani
NBC News

Precisely noon on Saturday, when the Westgate mall in Nairobi was certain to be at its most popularly crowded is when the three-pronged invasion of armed terrorists from al-Shabab made their explosive entrance. Shoppers crowded into the mall's 80 stores; perfect timing. Three assaults on three different levels to cut off escape and push the crowds into a chaotic mass of desperate-to-escape people.

One group in black with turbans, armed with assault weapons at the main entrance. The second group entering the second floor through the rooftop parking lot. The third group down a ramp to the basement. The questioning of the panicked people; Muslims over there, all others remain where you are; reminiscent of the selection process at Nazi concentration camps; Muslims to be spared, non-Muslims slaughtered.

Security forces and the police response was agonizingly slow, but the rescue of people commenced as gunfire and explosions continued. The Kenyan forces, despite the words of confidence and having everything under control, were outmatched, outgunned. They had pistols and tear gas. The intruders had assault rifles guaranteed greater accuracy and penetration. Pistols in the hands of police, useless against the bulletproof vests worn by the jihadists.

A woman was reported to have been giving orders which the others, armed men, obeyed. A shop had been rented by the jihadists for storage of belt-fed heavy machine guns, used against Kenyan troops in the open-aisle supermarket. At the back of every store service entrances where any among the attackers who meant to escape, could.

The initial attack against civilian shoppers by AK-47s and grenades replaced by machine guns used against the military.

Saturday's attack turns into Sunday's hostages and a holding situation along with a search for people remaining in hiding, to be led to safety. Command and control were less than optimum; photos of mall patrons not being cautionary-vetted and processed until latter attack stages. Security perimeter finally established but some of the attackers thought to have left, leaving behind others meant to stay on.

On Tuesday, Kenyan government claims a fire set by the terrorists was responsible for the parking roof collapse. Eventually admitting to an incredulous public that Kenyan soldiers caused the parking garage collapse, firing rocket-propelled grenades into the structure. Firing RPGs into sustaining columns not thought to represent the best of all possible defence-and-secure methods.

This photo released by the Kenya Presidency shows the collapsed upper car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.
AP Photo/Kenya Presidency    This photo released by the Kenya Presidency shows the collapsed upper car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.

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Portrait of a Leader

"What he's got left is a sort of meaner, leaner al-Shabab. He has consolidated a much-diminished al-Shabab. So on the one hand it is a weaker al-Shabab, but on the other, it is more cohesive, tightly knit, more secretive and more violent.
"Everybody is very much loyal to him. He has set up an organization that is highly disciplined, and well organized.
"He is popular amongst a certain group of people who believe in his values and the value that al-Shabab is holding"
Cedric Barnes, regional director, International Crisis Group

Al-Shabaab fighters conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia in October 2010. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File) - See more at:
Al-Shabaab fighters conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia in October 2010. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File) - See more at:
 Under leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, heavily armed al-Shabab fighters have become more disciplined and committed to a global Islamic caliphate. Farah Abdi Warsameh/The Associated Press Files

Al-Shabaab fighters conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia in October 2010. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File) - See more at:
And those values? So odiously murderous that Osama bin Laden himself was reputed once to have chided him for his psychopathic dedication to slaughter. When Ahmed Abdi Godane, the now-secretive leader of Al-Shabab proposed linking with al-Qaeda, he was rejected by the former leader of al-Qaeda. Once Ayman al-Zawahri took the leadership role with the death of bin Laden, however, al-Shabab was welcomed into the organization.

"We will fight and the wars will not end until Islamic Sharia is implemented in all continents in the world", he vowed. His leadership led al-Shabab to specialize in suicide bombings and large scale terrorist attacks.  "Godane is completely uncompromising. He is not a pragmatist. He is not interested in negotiating. It is not even clear that al-Shabab has a vision of national leadership, or that they aspire to become leaders", explained director of Sahan Research, Matt Bryden.

The al-Shabab leader's agenda, said Mr. Bryden, is "a very vague sort of nebulous commitment" to jihad, the caliphate, global Islamism. "The expression of that agenda is nihilistic violence." He is not often seen in public and uses audio-recorded messages to communicate with his troops. Emulating, perhaps, Osama bin Laden. He made his home in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates -- living there since 2008, with his wife and children.

He belongs to a tribe from the northern regions of Somaliland. He won a scholarship from a Saudi Arabian religious foundation to study economics in Pakistan. The perfect country to be introduced to violent jihad. And to be trained in the execution of his duties as a pious Islamist jihadist. He received additional military training in Afghanistan.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dread Existence

"If we were to help these prisoners in any way or be compassionate, we would be executed and our families as well, and we were given the right to kill any prisoner who attempted to escape. I remember a colleague dragging a prisoner who was working in the field and executing this prisoner.
"The best way to put it is they were the slaves, and we were the slave owners.
"They would be told they were there to pay for the crimes of some distant relative that they had never met. I saw even two-year-olds and four-year-olds sent to the prison camp, and what crime did these children commit?"
"I'm very sorry and apologize for the fact I was part of that system."
An Myeong Chul, former North Korean Prison Camp 22 guard
Tyler Anderson /  National Post
Tyler Anderson / National Post      An Myeong Chul and Kang Cheol-hwan, a former guard and a former prisoner in a North Korean prison gulag, pose for a portrait in Toronto, Ontario, September 27, 2013. 
"I myself almost died three times. I remember burying with my own hands about 300 prison inmates."
"It actually depended on the prisoner themselves and how much effort they put into trying to survive -- if they made an effort to catch insects or rats or snakes to supplement whatever food they were getting."
Kang Cheol-hwan, prisoner, Yoduk camp, North Korea
Himself now a survivor of North Korea's gulag -- within which an estimated 150,000 North Koreans are being held in various camps -- Mr. An and Mr. Kang, a former gulag prisoner, now campaign internationally against human rights abuses within North Korea. They experienced those abuses and know of what they speak, as witnesses and sufferers.

The Council for Human Rights in North Korea, a group they are members of, arranged a conference in Toronto at which three former prisoners spoke of their experiences. They represent North Korean defectors, people who fled the odiously repressive regime to find haven in South Korea. Most of those defectors are ex-prisoners; Mr. An is a relative rarity; a former prison guard.

Mr. An's father was a local Party official; his influence was instrumental in his son finding such a position viewed as favourable within the society. He spoke of "a lot of deaths" that he had witnessed resulting from violence, starvation, overwork, or accidents from the coal mines where the notorious Camp 22 prisoners worked. Prisoners so weak from starvation they succumbed to infectious diseases that became lethal to them.

About 90% of those prisoners, an inquisitively curious Mr. An discovered, were arrested in the middle of the night. They were given no information respecting the grounds for their imprisonment. Then came the time when his father blamed the famine wracking the country on top Communist leaders, and not the local officials who were held to be responsible by supreme leader Kim Jong-il, and his fate was sealed.

Knowing that, his father committed suicide, his mother, sister and brother were arrested and sent to the gulag, but he escaped and made his way across the border into China, and from there eventually to South Korea. Mr. Kang wrote a memoir of his years in Yoduk, The Aquariums of Pyongyang, in which he described conditions in the camps. For example, that 10% of the 35,000 or more people imprisoned at Yoduk, died every year.

They died of malnutrition, mistreatment, overwork, or a combination of all those factors. He too now lives in South Korea having successfully escaped from the dread life of an imprisoned, abused North Korean. He was only nine years old when he was first sent to Yoduk, one among several relatives imprisoned after his grandfather had been accused of being a Japanese agent.

He described the "very harsh" conditions with forced labour from early morning to nine at night, the torture rooms, and the prevailing "massive malnutrition", that took the lives of thousands of North Koreans. Kim Jong-un has continued in his father's tradition, and enlarged upon it. Under the new leadership purges result when powerful factions jockey for power; the losers go to the gulag.

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Russia, Iran, Damascus may crank up border tensions to weaken Netanyahu’s hand in America

DEBKAfile Special Report September 29, 2013, 9:08 AM (IDT)
A chemical weapons store
A chemical weapons store
Western military sources predict an upsurge of tension this week along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus may be planning to embarrass Binyamin Netanyahu when he sits down with President Barack Obama at the White house Monday, Sept. 30, and addresses the UN General Assembly the next day, Oct. 1. 
They see an opportunity to push Israel further out in the cold after the Obama administration’s brush-off in his rush to pursue relations with Tehran. Israel is seen as hitting a weak streak as a result of Washington’s cold shoulder and its own lack of military impetus as Netanyahu arrives in America to present Israel’s case to the US President and the international community.

Those sources therefore predict that Russian, Iranian and Syrian strategists may be planning to goad Israel into an ill-judged and badly-timed military response at this moment. They can then fit the Netanyahu government into the frame of the neighborhood warmonger and disrupter of the hopeful US-Russian partnership for solving the Iranian and Syrian chemical weapons issues by diplomacy.
All that needs to be done is to place a shipment of advanced or chemical weapons on the road from Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon to draw forth an Israeli air strike and start a blaze in a highly explosive sector.

The world would then turn round and say that Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani was correct when he defamed Israel in New York last week as the sole cause of Middle East wars in the last 40 years – without encountering a single dissenting voice in America – and the only nation in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

debkafile’s sources report that, although President Obama stated last Friday, Sept. 27,  that he informed  America’s allies, including Israel, of his landmark phone call to Rouhani, the truth is that he has kept Jerusalem in the dark on the contacts he initiated on the Iranian and Syrian issues, although Israel is most vitally affected.

The US-Russian deal for the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal was sprung on Jerusalem from Geneva on Sept. 14 without warning, as were the Washington-Tehran exchanges and understandings on Iran’s nuclear program.

Saturday, Sept. 28, US Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated their Geneva duo performance by announcing that the UN Security Council had unanimously adopted Resolution 2118 requiring the elimination of Syria’s chemical stockpile.

All the 15 Council members present appreciated that the motion was toothless after the US and Russia had agreed to omit penalties for non-compliance.

The text said: “No party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer chemical weapons.” This wording strongly recalls Security Council Resolution 1701 which was enacted seven years ago and banned any transfer of weapons to Hizballah as the aggressor in the Second Lebanese war against Israel.

This ban was never upheld. In fact, the flow of Iranian and Syrian arms shipments to Hizballah increased from that day on, providing the Shiite terrorist organization with one of the most powerful advanced rocket arsenals in the Arab world.

Even before its enactment, Resolution 2112 was already heading for its first prevarications Friday with two separate steps by Washington and Moscow:

1.  Two weeks after Kerry’s thunderous rhetoric on the size and threat to the region of the Syrian chemical stockpile, considered the third largest in the world, US officials including the State Department told the media that since most of the stocks are “unweaponized” and exist in liquid precursors, the entire arsenal could be neutralized in a shorter period than thought, about nine months.

debkafile’s sources point out that this factoid has been known for months. It doesn’t address the real difficulties of locating the stocks Bashar Assad has hidden or transferred, or the difficulty of inspectors reaching them in areas under combat. At present, UN experts are not even free to move around Damascus without coming under fire.

2.  Lavrov reiterated Saturday that the new resolution absolutely rules out the use of force or any application of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Any possible use of force n the future under Chapter 7 would require a new resolution, he said.

Moscow has offered to provide troops to “guard workers and facilities.” The message is that if any foreign troops are to be allowed in Syria, they can only be Russian.

As for the “transfer of chemical weapons,” which is barred under the new resolution, suspicions by Western intelligence that Syrian plans to sneak part of its arsenal to Hizballah in Lebanon, or has done so already, apparently reached Beirut. Friday, President Michel Suleiman hastened to declare: “Syria’s chemical weapons have not been smuggled to Lebanon and there is no evidence of their presence in the country.

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Pakistan explosion: Dozens killed in Peshawar market

BBC News online -- 29 September 2013
The attack came just one week after a deadly blast at a church in the city, as Rajesh Mirchandani reports
An explosion has ripped through a market in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar, leaving at least 33 dead and dozens wounded, officials say.

Police said a bomb had exploded in the Kissa Khwani market, with shops and vehicles set alight.
The blast comes a week after a double suicide bombing that killed at least 80 people at a church in the city.

On Friday, at least 17 people were killed in the bombing of a bus carrying government employees near Peshawar.

Peshawar, the main city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been hit by numerous bomb and gun attacks blamed on Taliban insurgents in recent years.

Police said they suspected the explosion was caused by a car bomb.
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted the health minister as saying that the main Peshawar police station may have been the main target.
However, bomb disposal chief Shafqat Malik said it appeared the blast had taken place some way from the station.
He told Agence France-Presse that a parked car had been "converted into a remote controlled bomb".

One shop owner, Nazar Ali, told Associated Press: "It was a huge blast that was followed by fire in vehicles. Thick black smoke covered the air and splinters spread all over. I saw people lying dead and bleeding."

An emergency situation was declared at the Lady Reading Hospital as it received the injured, many of them badly burned. Officials said 76 people had been hurt.
Anxious relatives gathered outside the hospital for news.

Rising violence has hindered new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's overtures to end the insurgency through peace talks with the Taliban.

On 21 September, Pakistan released from the jail the co-founder of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

But the Pakistan Taliban have consistently rejected the country's constitution and demand the imposition of Sharia law.
Peshawar blast, 29 Sept Scores were hurt in addition to those killed in the blast
Peshawar blast, 29 Sept A remote-controlled car bomb was used, officials said
Peshawar blast, 29 Sept This was the third deadly attack in Peshawar in a week
Peshawar blast, 29 Sept PM Nawaz Sharif said the bombing was an attack on humanity
Mr Sharif is in New York at the UN and is to meet Indian PM Manmohan Singh later on Sunday.
Mr Sharif strongly condemned the Peshawar bombing in a message from New York, saying: "Those involved in the killing of innocent people are devoid of humanity and all religions."

Ahead of the talks, Mr Singh said Pakistan must stop being "the epicentre of terrorism".
Last Sunday's attack on the historic All Saints church - thought to be the deadliest attack against Christians in Pakistan - sparked angry protests nationwide.

Two Islamist militant groups with Taliban links said they had ordered the attack to hit back at US drone strikes.
More than 120 people were wounded.

Friday's bus bomb targeted government employees returning home in the Gulbela area, some 15km (9 miles) north-east of the city.
In addition to those killed, at least 34 people were injured.

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Nigeria attack: Students shot dead as they slept 

BBC News online -- 29 September 2013
School in Mamudo, Aug 2013 Militants regularly target schools in Yobe, such as this one in Mamudo
Suspected Islamist gunmen have attacked a college in north-eastern Nigeria, killing up to 50 students.
The students were shot dead as they slept in their dormitory at the College of Agriculture in Yobe state.

North-eastern Nigeria is under a state of emergency amid an Islamist insurgency by the Boko Haram group.

Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow Nigeria's government to create an Islamic state, and has launched a number of attacks on schools.

Casualty figures from the latest attack vary, but a local politician told the BBC that around 50 students had been killed.

The politician said two vanloads of bodies had been taken to a hospital in Yobe's state capital, Damaturu.

Boko Haram at-a-glance

  • Founded in 2002
  • Official Arabic name, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad"
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education
  • Nicknamed Boko Haram, a phrase in the local Hausa language meaning, "Western education is forbidden"
  • Launches military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state across Nigeria
  • Founding leader Mohammed Yusuf killed in same year in police custody
  • Succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, who the military wrongly claimed in 2009 had been killed
  • Suspected to have split into rival factions in 2012
  • Military claims in August 2013 that Mr Shekau and his second-in-command Momodu Bama have been killed in separate attacks; no independent confirmation
A witness quoted by Reuters news agency counted 40 bodies at the hospital, mostly those of young men believed to be students. 

College provost Molima Idi Mato, speaking to Associated Press, also said the number of dead could be as high as 50, adding that security forces were still recovering the bodies and that about 1,000 students had fled the campus.

A Nigerian military source told AP that soldiers had collected 42 bodies.
The gunmen also set fire to classrooms, a military spokesman in Yobe state, Lazarus Eli, told Agence France-Presse.
The college is in the rural Gujba district.

In May, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered an operation against Boko Haram, and a state of emergency was declared for the north-east on 14 May.

Many of the Islamist militants left their bases in the north-east and violence initially fell, but revenge attacks quickly followed.

In June, Boko Haram carried out two attacks on schools in the region.
At least nine children were killed in a school on the outskirts of Maiduguri, while 13 students and teachers were killed in a school in Damaturu.
In July in the village of Mamudo in Yobe state, Islamist militants attacked a school's dormitories with guns and explosives, killing at least 42 people, mostly students.

Boko Haram regards schools as a symbol of Western culture. The group's name translates as "Western education is forbidden".

Boko Haram is led by Abubakar Shekau. The Nigerian military said in August that it might have killed him in a shoot-out.

However, a video released last week purportedly showed him alive.
Other previous reports of his death later proved to be unfounded.

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Syria Rejects Possibility that Assad will Step Down

President Bashar Al-Assad's future is "not up for discussion," Syrian Foreign Minister declares.

By Elad Benari -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 9/29/2013, 5:31 AM

President Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad
AFP photo
Syria is “comfortable” with a UN Security Council resolution on destroying its chemical weapons and will not discuss the future of President Bashar Al-Assad, the country’s foreign minister said Saturday, according to AFP.

The foreign minister, Walid Muallem, told reporters the resolution voted by the 15-nation council late Friday meant the opposition could be the target of UN sanctions.

“I am comfortable with the resolution,” Muallem was quoted as having said at the UN headquarters where he will give Syria’s address to the General Assembly on Monday.
“It calls for Chapter VII against the terrorists,” the foreign minister added.

Assad’s government habitually calls the opposition groups battling to overthrow him “terrorists.”
The UN resolution allows the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to start a mission this week to collect and destroy Syria’s arms.

It does not allow for immediate sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in Syria, but there could be a new vote on measures if the disarmament accord is violated.

The UN says chemical weapons were used in an August 21 attack in Damascus that left hundreds dead. The United States and other western nations blame government forces for the killings. Assad’s government says opposition rebels were behind the sarin gas attack.

Muallem said he was “worried” that opposition groups have chemical weapons.
On Wednesday, UN chemical weapons inspectors returned to Syria to continue investigating allegations of chemical weapons use in the country’s two-and-a-half-year conflict.

At the time of the August 21 attack, the inspectors had been in Damascus preparing to investigate three earlier cases of suspected chemical weapons use, including one in March in the northern town of Khan al-Assal.

American and Russia experts have voiced optimism over the Russian-initiated plan to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program in order to fend off the prospect of western military intervention
The UN is also hoping to organize a Syria peace conference in mid-November to negotiate a transitional government. But Muallem signaled that there could be no talk of Assad’s departure, as the opposition and Western nations have demanded.

“There can be no discussion of the future of President Assad. It is in the constitution,” Muallem declared, according to AFP.

U.S. President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly again this week that Assad would have to quit.

Muallem said Assad was determined to see out his term and would stand for re-election. Assad has said there will be an election in 2014.

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India PM Singh in 'terror' warning to Pakistan ahead of talks

BBC News online -- 29 September 2013
Indian PM Manmohan Singh speaks at the UN General Assembly. Photo: 28 September 2013 Manmohan Singh stressed that Kashmir was "an integral part of India"

Indian PM Manmohan Singh has said Pakistan must stop being "the epicentre of terrorism", ahead of talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Singh also stressed that he shared Mr Sharif's hopes for better relations between the two Asian rivals.

Ahead of their meeting in New York, Mr Sharif called for a "new beginning" with Delhi.
The bilateral ties have been strained over continuing deadly clashes in the disputed region of Kashmir.

On Thursday, at least 10 people were killed when militants stormed a police station and an army camp in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Delhi has also blamed Pakistan-based militants for the deadly attacks in Mumbai in 2008, urging Islamabad to punish the perpetrators.

Indian army soldiers gather behind a wall during an attack by militants on an army camp at Mesar, Kashmir. Photo: 26 September 2013 Indian soldiers said they shot dead three gunmen in this week's attack
"For progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilised for aiding or abetting terrorism," Mr Singh said in a speech at the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

"It is equally important that the terrorist machinery that draws its sustenance from Pakistan be shut down."

Mr Singh also said he reciprocated Mr Sharif's hopes for better relations, but stressed that Delhi viewed Kashmir as "an integral part of India".

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by the Line of Control.
India in the past has expressed concern over Mr Sharif's perceived ties to radical Islamic groups operating in Pakistan, correspondents say.

In his speech at the UN, Mr Sharif said he was looking for a "purposeful dialogue" with Mr Singh during their Sunday's meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

"Our two countries have wasted massive resources in an arms race. We could have used those resources for the economic well-being of our people," he said.

Despite tense relations between the two countries, they may be an opening, the BBC's Nick Bryant in New York reports.

Mr Singh, 81, is not expected to contest next year's elections, and this could be his last chance to revive the stalled peace process, our correspondent says.

Mr Sharif swept to power in May with pledges to improve ties with India.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Manic Euphoria

"While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.
"I do believe there is a basis for a resolution."
American President Barack Obama

"I want it to be the case that this trip will be a first step, and a beginning for better and constructive relations with countries of the world as well as a first step for a better relationship between the two great nations of Iran and the United States of America."
Islamic Republic of Iran President, Hassan Rouhani
There were constraints. It could not be otherwise, after all. Hostility has raged between the country of Iran since the Iranian Revolution took the country into theocratic totalitarian status, and the democracy of the United States of America which suffered the outrage of a violent attack against its diplomatic mission in Tehran. A level of hostility emanating from the Republic of Iran that has never been mitigated, toward the country it names the "Great Satan".

A country which is demonized within Iran, with shouts of the faithful resounding from time to time on cue from the government of "Death To America!" Iran's intransigence on its perceived threat to peace and the societies that surround it with its determination to develop nuclear weapons, despite its claims to no such aspirations, has awarded it with international sanctions against its economic interests.

Those sanctions and the assault on its reputation as a terrorist-sponsoring country that specializes in the oppression of its own people and its intentions toward domination of the region through the coercion of fear and violence, appear to have persuaded the leading Ayatollahs that it might be in their best interests to employ a change in tack.

Not to alter their ambitions or their governance, but to use a more sophisticated, genial and cosmopolitan attitude toward the outside world. A well-considered gambit.

And it has gambled wisely. For, without altering one iota of their devastatingly vile human-rights agenda, or committing to responding positively to the demands of the United Nations and the IAEA that it open its nuclear technology environment to international scrutiny, it has scored a huge success in charming the haplessly trusting West by coyly smiling rather than employing its usual harsh scowl.

It doesn't, after all, take much to disarm those whose own agenda is to be collegial, congenial and co-operative; three baseline Cs that have always offended the Islamic Republic of Iran.

And so, finally, though an initial handshake of courtesy and civility was not on the books at the United Nations, and nor was a meeting between the two presidents of the United States and Iran, a brief telephone conversation was, as Mr. Rouhani left the land of evil to return to the land of piety. A brief conversation of no moment aside from a cursory facade of courteous pretense.

Talks will continue, stated President Obama. If the talks are of the substance and ilk that he exchanged in that conversation they are less than worthless. If the verbal promissory notes that were proffered by Iran to the world are as trustworthy as its balefully malicious activities of violence and horror have been predictable in the so-recent past, little will be produced of any value to the world in the sham that is detente presented for world consumption, latterly.

The reality is that we live in an uncertain world governed in part by those would do good and those who have no such intention, squaring off against one another. The other is that the former tend to be trusting while the latter know better. And the cunning manipulation of the former by the latter appears to take the world stage with perfect aplomb.

In whose mirror image the United Nations presents itself.

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The Honourable UN Member Republic of Iran

"[Canada is committed to] sustained international attention and pressure that will foster change [in Iran]. We therefore encourage you to support the Iran human rights resolution when this item is considered by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in November."
"Such a dialogue would enable us to meet, discuss and collaborate on issues of mutual concern, and to advance our shared interests in support of stability and prosperity."
[Canada believes it is "in the global interest for the GCC to take on an increasing role in both regional security matters as well as global economic ones."
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird
Canada's John Baird has been meeting with his Persian Gulf counterparts with a view to establishing more usefully close relations there, proposing a strategic dialogue between Canada and the Gulf Co-operation Council. The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These are all Arab states, and are majority-Sunni Islam populated and Sunni-ruled.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not Arab, but Aryan, Persian. And it is largely Shiite-dominated and certainly Shia ruled as a theocratic totalitarian state. Iran envisions itself with a return to a dominant Islamist social-political role in the Middle East. And, as a Middle East power it knows how military might is vital to achieving such an end. It is well aware also that as a Shiite-led nation it represents a minority whose government is loathed by its neighbours.

There is rich social-political pasturage for Canada -- which deplores the abysmal human rights record of Iran, and its status as a terrorist-supporting country whose citizens are oppressed by their government -- to graze within for nourishment of its plan to continue outlawing the Republic and shaming it for its disgraceful record, within the United Nations.

Human rights within Iran are universally recognized as being basely violated under the administration of the Iranian Revolutionary government and its viciously militant Revolutionary Guard Corps. Violations of human rights within the country are rampant, including the oppression of religious sects, crackdowns on opposition parties, protesters and the media. The country is infamous for its use of torture, arbitrary detention and execution, along with the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities.

The Government of Canada has committed itself to the presentation of an annual resolution condemning Iran's human rights record before the United Nations. A putative and hugely celebrated breakthrough in relations from hostile to humbly accepting within the international community primarily of the West has not caused Canada to hesitate in its intentions.

There may be a thaw in relations between the United States and Iran, but those between Canada and Iran remain frozen, for nothing has changed to make it otherwise. The Government of Canada seeks real proof that Iran is prepared to embark on meaningful change in its programs, attitudes, values and relations both internally and externally. Fundamental to that would be proof that it is reconsidering its intention to continue its nuclear program, and opening it completely to external scrutiny.

The sham of the new president of Iran presenting himself and his country as having turned away completely from the confrontational style of his predecessor appears to have charmed many within the international community, but Canada continues to recognize the Iran it knows. And it knows that Iran is a past master at buying time, throwing suspicion off its intentions and managing through a process of sly promises it has no intention of keeping, to triumph over its adversaries.

Iran and Syria were the first countries that the Government of Canada listed as sponsors of terrorism since the enactment of Canada's Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act became legal in March 2012. Nothing between then and now has occurred to alter that status; if anything, the actions of the two countries have given solid proof that they are rightly named as terrorism sponsors and countries directly engaged in terror.

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