Monthly Archives: November 2015

Istanbul police fire tear gas, water cannon at protest over killing of top Kurdish lawyer

Police fire tear gas and water cannon at protesters in streets of Istanbul in violent clashes following death of high-profile Kurdish lawyer

  • Prominent Kurdish lawyer shot dead in Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey
  • Tahir Elci, 49, was facing a prison sentence for supporting Kurdish rebels
  • Protesters and police are clashing violently tonight in streets of Istanbul
  • Police used tear gas and water cannon in attempt to disperse protesters 

Police and protesters are clashing in violent skirmishes in the streets of Istanbul tonight, following the ‘assassination’ of a prominent lawyer and human rights defender today.

Tahir Elci, who was facing a prison term on charges of supporting Kurdish rebels, was killed in an attack in southeast Turkey which also killed at least one police officer.

The high-profile lawyer was shot while he and other lawyers made a press statement, according to the mayor of Diyarbakir city, Firat Anli.

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Berlin May Send 1,200 Military to Syria to Participate in Air Campaign

The German armed forces may send up to 1,200 servicemen to enable the country’s Air Force take part in combat missions in Syria, Inspector General of the Bundeswehr Volker Wieker said.

Germany is a member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State militant group, but it is not currently launching airstrikes against the group’s positions, only providing logistical and technical assistance.

“From the military point of view, to ensure the operation of aircraft we need about 1.200 military personnel,” Wieker told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.

According to him, the beginning of the overseas mission depends on the receipt of a respective mandate.

Earlier this week, Henning Otte, the German lawmaker of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party said Berlin was considering the possibility of sending Tornado reconnaissance aircraft to Syria to contribute to the struggle against the ISIL extremists.

The debates in the German parliament on the possibility of the Bundeswehr participation in the military operation in Syria are due to begin next week.

Al-Sisi launches harbour project in Port Said

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President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi launched the East Port Said harbour development project in Port Said Saturday, giving the starting signal for digging to begin on a side channel to be used in the project.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi welcomed the president upon his arrival.

The implementation of the large sea port on the eastern side of the city is part of the overall Suez Canal Axis Development Project. The new port will include industrial, logistics, and residential zones as well as one dedicated to fish-farming.

A road tunnel will also be built under a channel to the south of the city.

During his speech, Al-Sisi announced the project’s features, along with the planned conclusion date. The Armed Forces Engineering Authority will lay out the various stages of implementation, along with details of development projects in the province.

Al-Sisi, during the celebration, interrupted General Kamel Al-Wazir, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority and the general supervisor of the new Suez Canal project, during his statements about the East Port Said development projects, when he said the project would end in three years. Al-Sisi said the project could be completed in two years instead.

Al-Sisi added that the government is working hard for future generations. He further confirmed that the project will include “the establishment of a coastal city”.

The president said there is an urgent plan to tackle drainage and irrigation problems within two years: “No one can ever prevent us from building our country,” he said.

“We spoke two years ago about the world’s sufferings due to not confronting terrorism,” he said. “But the whole world realised this recently and it will face the problem militarily, economically, and religiously. There is no way to eliminate terrorism unless it is with confrontation and we will fight this phenomenon that is hostile to humanity and religion.”

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Al-Sisi confirmed that the government has succeeded in accomplishing energy and gas projects in Egypt. “We do not have any problems in these projects at all,” he said.

“I have some doubts and concerns about the businessmen, why are you sceptical about our intentions? I assure you this is not accurate. Work and build; why are you afraid?” Al-Sisi continued.

“I salute all of you. I appreciate and thank all those who contributed in any accomplishment, and we will meet in other projects. We must challenge ourselves before challenging the world.”

The new channel dredging will cost $36 million, of which $7.5 million will be financed by the Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT), Memish said. SCCT is 55 percent owned by APM Terminals, part of Maersk Group.

“We are building the side channel which will allow the ships to enter from open waters directly into East Port Said,” said Memish at a news conference in Ismailiya.

Currently vessels that come through East Port Said have to be coordinated with the Suez Canal convoy.

“There was a problem with the ships that enter East Port Said which have to wait between seven to 10 hours to enter the port,” Memish said, adding that he expects the new channel to increase traffic at the port by 2020 to reach 12 million containers.

The new channel will be 9.5 kilometers long, 17 metres deep, and 250 meters wide and the total cost of the project will be $60 million, according to a statement from the SCCT.

In August Egypt launched an $8 billion Canal extension project which it expects to bring in $13.23 billion in annual revenue by 2023 from just over $5 billion in 2014.

Egypt ‘90% sure’ there are hidden chambers in King Tut’s tomb

Search for hidden chamber in Luxor, once the pharaonic capital, points to chamber that some say could hold remains of Queen Nefertiti

British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves believes Tutankhamum may have been rushed into the outer chamber of Nefertiti’s tomb.

British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves believes Tutankhamum may have been rushed into the outer chamber of Nefertiti’s tomb.

Egypt has said there is a 90% chance that hidden chambers will be found within King Tutankhamun’s tomb, based on the preliminary results of a new exploration of the 3,300-year-old mausoleum.

Researchers say the discovery of a new chamber could shine fresh light on one of ancient Egypt’s most turbulent times, and one prominent researcher has theorised that the remains of Queen Nefertiti might be inside.

One of the most mysterious and powerful women in ancient Egypt, Nefertiti, right, was queen alongside Pharaoh Akhenaten from 1353 to 1336 BC

One of the most mysterious and powerful women in ancient Egypt, Nefertiti, right, was queen alongside Pharaoh Akhenaten from 1353 to 1336 BC

Egypt began the search for the hidden chamber last week. Announcing the results of three days of testing in the southern city of Luxor, the antiquities minister, Mamdouh el-Damati, said the findings would be sent to Japan for a month-long analysis before the search is resumed.

Luxor, in southern Egypt, served as the pharaonic capital in ancient times, and is home to sprawling temples and several ancient tombs.

British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves theorises that Tutankhamun, who died at the age of 19, may have been rushed into an outer chamber of what was originally Nefertiti’s tomb.

Reeves reached his theory after high-resolution images discovered what he said were straight lines in King Tut’s tomb. These lines, previously hidden by colour and the stones’ texture, indicate the presence of a sealed chamber, he said. The images were later broadcast live on national television last September.

Nefertiti was the first wife of Akhenaten, who unsuccessfully attempted to switch Egypt to an early form of monotheism. Akhenaten was succeeded by a pharaoh referred to as Smenkhare and then Tut, who is widely believed to have been Akhenaten’s son.

Tut, Nefertiti and Akhenaten’s family ruled Egypt during one of its most turbulent periods, which ended with a military takeover by Egypt’s top general , Horemheb. The whole family’s names were wiped out from official records later on. Reeves believes that Smenkhare is actually Nefertiti.

This is the second find to be announced this week. On Tuesday, Damati said the Austrian Archaeological Institute had discovered a giant fence dating back more than 3,500 years at the site of another ancient capital city, Avaris. The sandstone fence is least 500 metres long and seven metres thick.

 

Russian Ocean Research Ship Leaves Egypt’s Suez Port for Red Sea

Oceanographic research ship Admiral Vladimirsky of the Russian Baltic Fleet has completed the two-day visit to the Egyptian port of Suez and put out to the Red Sea, Russia’s Navy spokesman said Sunday.

MOSCOW — The Admiral Vladimirsky left Russia’s Kronstadt port near St. Petersburg on November 6 in a hydrographic campaign.

“The Russian Navy’s ship, the Admiral Vladimirsky, has finished the business docking at the Suez port, stipulated by the plan of the Antarctic expedition route. Having replenished supplies in Suez to the required standards, the ship advanced into the Red Sea and continued its way, crossing the southern latitudes,” Сapt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo stated, citing data obtained from the vessel.

The ship is expected to go over 30,000 nautical miles and visit Antarctica for the first time in 30 years, before it returns to Kronstadt in April 2016.

Don’t Bomb Syria! Thousands protest against proposed UK military action

Demonstrators listen to speakers at a rally against taking military action against Islamic State in Syria, held outside Downing Street in London, November 28, 2015.

Demonstrators listen to speakers at a rally against taking military action against Islamic State in Syria, held outside Downing Street in London, November 28, 2015.

Mass protests have taken place in London and many other cities across the country urging the government not to conduct airstrikes in Syria.

‘Don’t Bomb Syria’ signs were plentiful, as thousands of protesters took to the streets of the British capital to make their voices heard, in a rally organized by the Stop the War coalition.

The demonstration in London started outside Prime Minister David Cameron’s residence at 10 Downing Street. The rally was against a planned vote in Parliament about whether to support a motion for the UK to starting bombing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in Syria.

“We are very much opposed to David Cameron’s plans to have a vote in Parliament to bomb Syria. The bombing has already been going on for more than a year by other forces. ISIS is as strong as it was before the bombing started and also we have the record of 14 years of bombing, and every single country we have bombed, the wars are still going on there,” said Lindsey German, of Stop the War, during the demonstration.

Labour MP Diane Abbott spoke to the crowd saying Prime Minister Cameron was too busy trying to phone Labour MPs to get them to vote in favor of bombing Syria, than to make a concrete case for undertaking military action in the Middle Eastern country.

A list of UK musicians, politicians, academics and artists, including Brian Eno and Frankie Boyle wrote a letter to David Cameron urging him not to bomb Syria, saying a bombing campaign would not help in the fight against terrorism, but would rather aggravate the situation.

“Rather than ignoring this recent history by joining the long list of countries that have bombed Syria in the last year, we urge the government to stop arming reactionary and aggressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that sponsor terrorist groups and look for political solutions as the only viable way to end the conflict,” the letter read, which was delivered 10 Downing Street.

Speaking in front of demonstrators in London, Eno said, “We’ve created a system which gives the biggest rewards to the greediest & worst to the most generous,” while he also condemned the likes of Saudi Arabia and Turkey for helping to fund Islamic State.

Demonstrations have also taken place in Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Oxford, Bristol and other cities around the country.

French President Francois Hollande has urged the British to join the French in carrying out airstrikes against IS in Syria. He made the appeal two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, which killed 130 people in the French capital.

“On November 13, a day we will never forget, France was hit at its very heart,” Hollande told a somber commemoration in the Invalides, the 17th century complex housing Napoleon’s tomb on Friday, as cited by AFP.

“To all of you, I solemnly promise that France will do everything to destroy the army of fanatics that committed these crimes,” he said.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was instrumental in sending UK troops to fight in the US-led Iraq invasion in 2003, also supported British intervention in bombing Syria.

However, it would seem the majority of people in the UK are not in favor. An opinion poll suggested that 48 percent of Britons would support military strikes against IS, while 30 percent are opposed. The survey was carried out by the Daily Mirror newspaper.

 

What is Russia’s S-400 Air Defense System Set to Do in Syria?

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Moscow has deployed its most advanced S-400 air defense system, said to have no equals globally, to guard the skies over Syria after a Turkish F-16 fighter shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber over Syrian territory on Tuesday.

The S-400 Triumf (NATO codename SA-21 Growler) is an anti-aircraft and anti-missile system, which is capable of intercepting all types of modern air weaponry, including fifth-generation warplanes, as well as ballistic and cruise missiles at a maximum range of nearly 250 miles. It has a tracking range of over 370 miles.

The system uses three types of long- and medium-range missiles and can simultaneously engage as many as 36 targets.

In addition, the S-400 is the only missile complex in the world capable of hitting targets located beyond the horizon, defense expert Konstantin Sivkov told Radio Sputnik. The system is also well protected against electronic warfare.

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Turkish F-16 attacked Russian Su-24 without warning, both were above Syria – commander

A Turkish fighter jet launched a missile at a Russian bomber on Tuesday well ahead of the Su-24 approaching the Turkish border, the chief of Russia’s Air Force said. The bomber remained on Turkish radars for 34 minutes and never received any warnings.

The attack on the Russian Su-24 bomber was intentional and had been planned in advance, Viktor Bondarev, the chief of Russia’s Air Force, announced Friday, calling the incident an “unprecedented backstab.”

The commander shared with the media previously unknown details of what happened on Tuesday.

On November 24, a pair of Russian Sukhoi Su-24 tactical bombers took off from Khmeimim airbase in Latakia at 06:15 GMT, with an assignment to carry out airstrikes in the vicinity of the settlements of Kepir, Mortlu and Zahia, all in the north of Syria. Each bomber was carrying four OFAB-250 high-explosive fragmentation bombs.

Ten minutes later, the bombers entered the range of Turkish radars and took positions in the target area, patrolling airspace at predetermined heights of 5,800 meters and 5,650 meters respectively.

Both aircraft remained in the area for 34 minutes. During this time there was no contact between the crews of the Russian bombers and the Turkish military authorities or warplanes.

Some 20 minutes after arriving at the designated area, the crews received the coordinates of groups of terrorists in the region. After making a first run, the bombers performed a maneuver and then delivered a second strike.

Immediately after that, the bomber crewed by Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Peshkov and Captain Konstantin Murakhtin was attacked by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet operating from the Diyarbakır airfield in Turkey.

To attack the Russian bomber with a close-range air-to-air missile, the Turkish fighter jet had to enter Syrian airspace, where it remained for about 40 seconds. Having launched its missile from a distance of 5-7 kilometers, the F-16 immediately turned towards the Turkish border, simultaneously dropping its altitude sharply, thus disappearing from the range of Russian radars at the Khmeimim airbase.

The Turkish fighter moved two kilometers into Syrian airspace while the Russian bomber at no stage violated Turkish airspace, Bondarev stressed.

The crew of the second Su-24M had a clear view of the moment the missile was fired from the Turkish F-16, and reported this to base.

Commander Bondarev noted that a pair of Turkish F-16Cs had been in the area close to the attack zone for more than an hour prior to the attack, which explains their presence in the area. The time needed to get the aircraft ready at the Diyarbakır airfield and travel to the attack zone is an estimated 46 minutes.

One of Turkish F-16Cs stopped its maneuvers and began to approach the Su-24M bomber about 100 seconds before the Russian aircraft came closest to the Turkish border, which also confirms the attack was pre-planned, Commander Bondarev stressed.

The chief of Russia’s Air Force also called attention to the readiness of the Turkish media, which released a professionally-made video of the incident recorded from an area controlled by extremists a mere 1.5 hours after the Su-24 was downed.

Commander Bondarev also mentioned the memorandum of understanding regarding the campaign in Syria, signed by Moscow and Washington on October 26. In accordance with this agreement, the Russian side informed its American counterparts about the mission of the two bombers in the north of Syria on November 24, including the zones and heights of operation.

Taking this into account, the Turkish authorities’ statement on not knowing which aircraft were operating in the area raises eyebrows, Bondarev said.

The Turkish military not only violated all international laws on protecting national borders, but never delivered an apology for the incident or offered any help in the search and rescue operation for the Su-24 crew.

The Su-24’s pilot, Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Peshkov, was shot dead by militants while parachuting to the ground, having ejected from the stricken aircraft. His partner, navigator Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, survived being shot at while parachuting and managed to stay alive on the ground in an area full of terrorists.

The rescue operation took several hours and eventually recovered Murakhtin, although one Russian Marine in the team was killed when the rescue helicopter was destroyed by a US-made tank missile launched by the extremists – an incident they filmed and published online.

Commander Bondarev specifically stressed that the Russian pilot who survived the attack was actively looked for not only by the jihadists, but also by a number of unidentified and technically well-equipped groups.

After Captain Murakhtin was rescued, the Russian Air Force delivered “more than massive, devastating” airstrikes against the militants in the region where the operation had been taking place, Bondarev reported.

 

Russia to deploy S-400 defense missile system to Khmeimim airbase in Syria – defense minister

An S-400 “Triumf” antiaircraft missile system.

The Russian Air Force base in Latakia will be reinforced with S-400 SAM system, which will soon be deployed there, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Wednesday.

S-400 will be deployed on Khmeimim airbase in Syria,” Shoigu said at a Defense Ministry meeting.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Su-24 was shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet near the Turkish-Syrian border. One pilot died in the incident. The second one was rescued and brought to the Russian airbase in Latakia.

Moscow maintains the jet did not violate Turkey’s airspace. It ditched on Syria’s territory four kilometers from the border.

Shortly afterwards, the MoD announced three steps to be taken following the attack on the Russian Su-24 bomber, including providing aerial cover by fighter jets for every airstrike, boosting air defense by deploying guided missile cruisers off the Latakia coast, and suspending all military-to-military contacts with Turkey.

 

Russia to consolidate anti-terror efforts with Egypt – Defense Minister

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he branch of Islamic State that has been terrorizing the Sinai peninsula in Egypt was also involved in the October bombing of the Russian A321 passenger jet, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said, vowing to boost anti-terror cooperation with Egypt.

“We know well how acute for Egypt the problem of terrorism is. It triggers concern that the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) affiliate, the so-called Wilayat Sinai, who spilled the blood of innocent people including our compatriots, has been operating on the Sinai Peninsula for more than a year,” the minister said during talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“We are ready for close cooperation to fight this evil,” the minister added, as cited by RIA Novosti.

Shoigu said that the so-called Arab Spring has resulted in too many unresolved problems, but pointed out that “owing to political consciousness and the decisive stance of armed forces Egypt managed to escape many troubles”.

Chaos in the region led to the rise of terrorist organizations such as IS, “which is seeking today to seize more territories outside Syria and Iraq to establish its caliphate there, arose and strengthened,” Shoigu said.

“The attack on the Russian jet, the recent wave of attacks on Paris, Beirut, Ankara as well as threats of attacks in other countries proved that terrorism poses a threat not only to Middle East and North Africa but to the whole world,” he added.

The minister pointed out that the main task today is to consolidate efforts in the fight against terrorism. Shoigu also said that Egypt is a key Russian partner in the region.

“Egypt has been and remains Russia’s strategic partner in North Africa and the Middle East,” the minister said as cited by TASS.

“We are determined to continue effective cooperation with Egypt in the political, economic and, of course, military and military-technical spheres,” he added.

Russian flight 7K9268,a Metrojet (Kogalymavia) A321, crashed on October 31, as the result of a bomb explosion. All 224 people on board, mostly Russians, were killed in the attack, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Russia has vowed to find and punish the culprits behind the Sinai plane attack, with President Putin pledging to strengthen the anti-terror operation in Syria “in such a way so that the terrorists will understand that retribution is inevitable.”