Daily Archives: December 15, 2015

‘We see Syria fundamentally very similarly’ – Kerry after talks with Putin, Lavrov

Russia and the US have agreed on a number of ‘critical’ issues, particularly with regard to Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following talks in Moscow.

The US stands ready to work with Russia,” Kerry told journalists after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday. He added that the two countries’ officials had had “a productive day” and the discussions had been “constructive.”

“Despite our countries’ differences, we demonstrated that when the United States and Russia pull together in the same direction, progress can be made,” Kerry said.

Calling the effort “good diplomacy,” the top US diplomat said that the whole global community benefits from such cooperation.

Moscow and Washington confirmed their previous agreements to work together to fight “the evil” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, Lavrov told journalists, adding that some “practical steps” to advance this effort had been agreed upon at the meeting.

We confirmed the agreements reached by the Russian and US militaries, including the agreements that also apply to the US-led coalition working against ISIL, and in practical terms agreed on some further steps which will help make our parallel work more coordinated and effective,” Russian foreign minister said.

“We see Syria fundamentally very similarly, we want the same outcomes, we see the same dangers, we understand the same challenges,” Kerry said. He added that the two nations have been “honest with differences,” but in general agree that the crisis in the Middle Eastern country “requires political process.”

Russia and the United States agree that you can’t defeat Daesh without also deescalating the fight in Syria,” the Secretary of State said, adding that both Moscow and Washington are “focused on political process” and that “Syrians will be making decisions on the future of Syria.”

Kerry also said that Moscow and Washington have found “common ground” on which opposition groups should participate in the Syrian peace talks.

Meanwhile, Lavrov has confirmed that a meeting of world powers on Syria penciled in for New York on Friday would go ahead.

A project for a resolution on Syria is expected to be ready for presentation to the UN Security Council after Friday’s meeting, Lavrov said.

We met here today not as Russia and the US behind the back of other members of the international group on Syrian support, but as co-chairs of this group,” Lavrov said, adding that only an “inclusive format” and the collective efforts of all the members of the Syria group can lead to success in solving the crisis in the region.

Russia and the US are seeking solutions to the most critical crises together, Putin said earlier at the start of the meeting, adding that he “is happy for the opportunity to meet and talk.

“Today you’ve had comprehensive talks at Russia’s Foreign Ministry,” Putin said to Kerry, referring to an earlier meeting with Lavrov. “Minister Lavrov has reported to me in detail on your proposals and on some issues that require additional discussions. I’m very happy with the opportunity to meet with you and talk.”



30 dead, 20 injured in cutthroat Boko Haram attack in Nigeria

Boko Haram militants attacked three villages in northeast Nigeria, killing 30 people and injuring 20, AFP reported, citing a local who is helping out the national army. The Islamists reportedly used machetes to “slaughter” their victims.

“Most of the victims were slaughtered and most of the wounded [had suffered] machete cuts,” said Mustapha Karimbe, a civilian who has been helping the Nigerian national military fight Boko Haram.

The attacks on the three villages – Warwara, Mangari and Bura-Shika – happened on Saturday. All of the villages are located in the state of Borno, near Buratai, which is the hometown of Nigeria’s highest military chief – Tukur Yusuf Buratai.

Details of the attack are coming to light only now, as communication posts had been damaged in previous Boko Haram attacks.

Most of the victims, a total of 20, were killed in Warwara village, another six were murdered in Bura-Shika, and four died in Mangari, according to another witness.

The Nigeria-based Boko Haram terrorist group has killed more people than Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL), claiming 6,644 lives compared to 6,073 killed by IS, revealed the Global Terrorism Index recently published by the Institute for Economic and Peace (IEP). The Nigerian jihadists pledged allegiance to IS in March 2015.

This latest attack comes as Boko Haram fighters have intensified their attacks on Buratai and nearby settlements. Attackers usually come into a village, raid it, and burn it down.

Locals told AFP that they see the attacks as retaliation for the army chief’s ongoing fight against Boko Haram militants.

The radical terror group’s six-year insurgency, which aims to create an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria, has left over 17,000 people dead.

Last week, Boko Haram brutally killed 14 people in the village of Kamuya, which is the hometown of the mother of Nigeria’s army chief.


All Los Angeles schools closed over terror threat; prelim assessment is “hoax” – US rep

The Los Angeles Unified School District closed all schools after a bomb threat was called in to a school board member, the LA Police Department has confirmed. The LAUSD is the nation’s second largest, with 640,000 students in over 1,000 schools.

The threat was made to “students at school,” LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said at a press conference Tuesday morning.

“It was a message,” he said refusing to elaborate while the investigation is underway.

A number of people on the school board received a “very specific threat… via email” late Monday night, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters. It was traced back to an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany, according to LAUSD spokeswoman Ellen Morgan.

“After reviewing that threat, we became very concerned, contacted the FBI and began to work jointly… to try to vet that threat and to be able to give the school board and the superintendent our best advice on moving forward,” Beck said.

The district is asking parents not to send children to any of the more than 900 public and 187 charter schools in the city. Parents who have already dropped their kids off should pick them up at the reunion gates.

The “credible threat” was “not one school, two schools, three schools. It was a threat to many schools,” Cortines said.

This is a rare threat. We get threats all the time,” he added. “I want every school, every early education center, every adult school searched.”

The threat mentioned backpacks and other packages, Cortines said.

The FBI is assisting the LAPD and the school police force in the investigation, KCBS reported.

The decision to close all schools was made to be sure that every child and employee is “absolutely safe,” Board of Education President Steve Zimmer said.

However, by the afternoon, several members of Congress doubted the veracity of the threat, the LA Times reported.

“The preliminary assessment is that it was a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities. The investigation is ongoing as to where the threat originated from and who was responsible,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California), who represents Los Angeles and is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reviewed the roughly 350-word message, and said that it “lacks the feel of the way the jihadists usually write.” He added that the ‘from’ line in the email contained a pornographic term to reference a male body party and that the body of the message referenced Liechtenstein.

Parents were notified early Tuesday about the closure.

“I literally woke up to the call,” parent Jim Alger told KNBC. “There’s this element of fear. Things like this are kind of reminiscent of the post-9/11 days. But I guess it’s better safe than sorry.”

All students were picked up by 12:15 p.m. local time, the school district said on its webpage.

School buses were called back to their depots after the decision to close, so most students were not at schools.

The threat comes amid the final exam period for high schools, the Los Angeles Times reported.

New York City Public Schools also faced a threat on Tuesday morning, but the New York Police Department ‒ working closely with the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force and the LAPD ‒ deemed it was a hoax.

“We are very comfortable that this is not a credible threat… concerned with people overreacting to it,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a NYPD tweet.

After Bratton, who once served as the LAPD chief, criticized Los Angeles’ reaction to the emailed threat and residents complained of a potential overreaction online, several city officials blasted those comments.

“It is very easy for people to jump to conclusions… usually what people think in the first few hours is not necessarily how it plays out in later hours,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “But decisions need to be made in a manner of minutes.”

“The school district safeguards three quarters of a million lives every day. When they make a decision, they have to take into account the safety of the children of Los Angeles,” Beck said. “I think it’s irresponsible, based on facts that have yet to be determined, to criticize that decision at this point.”

“These are tough times. These communities, our communities, Southern California has been through a lot in the recent weeks,” he added. “Should we risk putting our children through the same?”

Garcetti also noted that he supported Cortines’ decision to close schools, even if it makes life difficult for many parents who “still have to continue to get to work and can’t even afford to miss one day.”

The city activated the its emergency operations center at level 1, the lowest level, Garcetti said.

The LAPD has taken the lead role on the investigation, according to normal protocol.

The president has been informed of the threat against LAUSD, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at the daily briefing.