Monthly Archives: December 2015

More Blood on Ankara’s Hands as Kurdish Civilian Death Toll Mounts

More than 100 civilians have been killed and many more injured in Kurdish areas in Turkey’s southeast since July, Human Rights Watch said, warning that civilian casualties are likely to rise in the coming days.

The region has been the scene of clashes between Turkish security forces and fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) following the collapse of a ceasefire between the two groups in July.

A report by the Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Turkish authorities to scale back security operations in the southeast.

“The Turkish government should rein in its security forces, immediately stop abusive and disproportionate use of force, and investigate the deaths and injuries caused by its operations,” HRW senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said.

The group documented 15 civilian deaths during several 24-hour curfews in September and November, noting that these were only a “sample” and called for a full investigation. HRW cited a local rights group who put the civilian death toll since July at over 100.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged in November to continue operations until every PKK militant was defeated.

“To ignore or cover up what’s happening to the region’s Kurdish population would only confirm the widely held belief in the southeast that when it comes to police and military operations against Kurdish armed groups, there are no limits – there is no law,” Sinclair-Webb said.

The group called on Kurdish armed groups to stop digging trenches, planting explosives and putting up barricades.

HRW said that while Turkey has a right to defend itself from armed groups, the police and military have to ensure their operations respect the lives of non-combatants in the affected areas.

The Turkish state government and the PKK have fought an ongoing three-decade conflict that has killed more than 30,000 people.

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French Security Agency Thwarts Terror Attack in Orleans – Interior Minister

The French General Directorate for Internal Security foiled a terrorist attack on police officers in the central French city of Orleans, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Tuesday.

PARIS (Sputnik) – As a result of an investigation, which lasted for several months, two suspects were detained last week in the French north-central city of Orleans, the minister said, according to Europe 1 radio station.

Both suspects had been in contact with a French national who is currently in Syria, he added.

The suspected plotters of the attack are described by the Europe 1 radio station as young men aged 24 and 25, originating from Morocco and Togo respectively.

It is the tenth terrorist attack that was prevented by the French intelligence agencies within two years.

France has recently beefed up security and started active nationwide searches for Islamist jihadists and terror acts’ masterminds in the wake of the deadly November 13 attacks in Paris that claimed lives of 130 people.

 

Trump: Hillary Is a Liar — ‘She Lies Like Crazy About Everything’

Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” while responding to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton saying in the debate last night that he is “becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared that to be “just another Hillary lie.”

Trump said, “Nobody has been able to back that up. It’s nonsense. Just another Hillary lie. She lies like crazy about everything. Whether it’s trips where she was being gunned down in a helicopter or an airplane, she’s a liar and everybody knows that. But she just made this up in thin air.”

He continued, “I think my words represent toughness and strength. Hillary’s not strength. Hillary’s weak, frankly, she’s got no stamina, she’s got nothing….she couldn’t even get back on the stage. Nobody even knows what happened to her. It’s like she went home and went to sleep….She couldn’t get back on the stage last night I’ll tell you why. Because we need a president with great strength and stamina and Hillary doesn’t have that. We can not have another bad president like we have right now. We need a president with tremendous intelligence, smarts, cunning, strength, and stamina.”

He added, “She may have traveled a lot but she didn’t do the job because the entire world blew up around her. So she wasted a lot of time and energy and money and frankly she wasted a lot of lives because her policies were disaster for the world. The Middle East has blown up around her. Her decisions were horrible. and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed because of her faulty decisions.”

 

‘Fake bomb’ forces Air France flight into emergency landing

A bomb scare that forced an Air France flight into an emergency landing in Kenya on Sunday (December 20) turned out to be a hoax.

Flight AF 463 from Mauritius to Paris was diverted and evacuated at Mombasa airport after a passenger found a suspicious item in the toilets.

The package was taken away for examination. It turned out it was a fake bomb made of cardboard and a timer, the French airline said.

The Boeing 777, with more than 470 people on board, had been checked before take-off, Air France said.

“As usual the crew had carried out a safety check of all the cupboards in all the lavatories, including where the suspicious package was found,” the airline’s chief executive, Frédéric Gagey, told reporters.

Asked if the device was placed in the restroom during the flight, Gagey said that sounded like the most plausible scenario, but did not give more details.

The pilots decided to land at the nearest airport, in Kenya. The plane was evacuated using the emergency slides. Some passengers were later questioned by Kenyan police.

It’s the third Air France plane bound for Paris to be diverted over a bomb scare since the attacks that killed 130 people in the French capital last month.

 

Russia’s position on Syria is strong for its honesty and persistence – Putin

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin explained strength of the Russian position on Syria by honesty and persistence.

“Not only openness, but persistence and, I can say, honesty of the position (of Russia on Syria) – make it strong,” he said in an interview for the World Order film by Vladimir Solovyev, which Rossiya1 broadcasted in its Vesti Nedeli programme on Sunday.

While speaking about the crisis in Syria, Putin said for Russia it is “easy to be working both with President Assad and with the U.S. side. I have discussed it recently with President Obama, and with our counterparts from Saudi Arabia, from other Arab countries,” Putin said. “Why easy? We are not waving tail and do not change the position.”

While explaining Russia’s position on the Syrian settlement, the president added: “First, we asked the people: this way or not, do you agree or not.”

“In fact, on basic parameters of the settlement everyone said “Yes,” and then we worded our position on the components, which are common and acceptable, and now we do not have to be jumping back and forwards as a ‘lassoed flea’.”

The Russian position, he said, “is based on our dialogues, which making our position strong.”

The president said he always tries not to breach the undertaken obligations, “not to breach the obligations we claim to be obligations of this country.”

He explained he behaved so not that much for the moral principles, but rather for pragmatic reasons. “This way it is easier to work,” he said.

 

Iraqi army urges civilians to leave IS-controlled Ramadi ahead of possible assault

The Iraqi army has called on civilians to leave the Islamic State-controlled (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) city of Ramadi within 72 hours, which may mean the military is preparing to launch an assault on the city.

Iraqi military jets dropped leaflets carrying the warning on Ramadi on Sunday. The leaflets also show safe routes for civilians to take when leaving and ask residents to carry identification documents with them.

“All security forces were instructed on how to deal with civilian approaching them,” joint operations spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told Reuters.

The notice for civilians may mean that the Iraqi army is getting ready to launch a large-scale military operation to recapture Ramadi.

“It [dropping leaflets] is an indication that a major military operation to retake the city center will start soon,” an unnamed officer told Reuters.

The Iraqi army has been on an offensive to retake Ramadi for several weeks. The Iraqi army had dropped leaflets on the city on November 30 as well, which also called on local residents to leave the city within 24 hours because of a coming assault.

Government troops managed to seize more than 60 percent of the city and take control of its center in early December. IS terror group has blown up bridges over the Euphrates in an attempt to stop the advance of the Iraqi army.

The US has said it is ready to provide the Iraqi army with extra assistance in liberating Ramadi from IS terrorists.

“The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi Army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers, if circumstances dictate and if requested by Prime Minister Abadi,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on December 9, as cited by Reuters.

Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province, was captured by IS terrorists in May – the last significant military achievement of the jihadists in Iraq.

 

Assad makes surprise Christmas visit to Damascus church

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Syrian President Bashar Assad (C-L) and his wife Asma al-Assad (C-R) posing for a picture with a Syrian man as they attend a Christmas choral presentation at the Lady of Damascus Catholic Church in the Syrian capital on December 18, 2015.

A Christmas choir had a surprise visitor overnight after Bashar Assad made an appearance at a church in the Syrian capital of Damascus where rehearsals were taking place.

The Syrian president and his wife, Asma, visited the Notre Dame de Damas Church, an ancient cathedral located just 2 kilometers from the rebel-held neighborhood of Jobar in the eastern suburb of Ghouta in Damascus.

Assad and his wife chatted with the men and women of the “Joy Choir,” who were practicing ahead of a performance on Christmas Eve, state media said Saturday.

The couple were seen smiling and posing for pictures with the group and also listened to the recital of Christmas poems at the church, which was hit by mortar fire on Friday.

Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) and his wife Asma al-Assad (3rd-R) attending a Christmas choral presentation at the Lady of Damascus Catholic Church in the Syrian capital on December 18, 2015.

Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) and his wife Asma al-Assad (3rd-R) attending a Christmas choral presentation at the Lady of Damascus Catholic Church in the Syrian capital on December 18, 2015.

The visit coincided with the adoption of Friday’s UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria, which was unanimously adopted. The resolution refrained from mentioning the Syrian leader.

 

Beijing rebukes Washington after B-52 bomber strays over artificial island in South China Sea

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Beijing has described as a “provocation” the flight of a US nuclear-capable B-52 bomber over a man-made island in the South China Sea that China claims sovereignty over. The warplane reportedly did so by mistake rather than to challenge China, as was the case with other missions.

China filed a complaint with the Pentagon over the incident, the US DoD reported Friday, adding that the flight was not part of the so-called Freedom of Navigation effort to undermine China’s territorial claims in the sea.

“The Chinese have raised concerns with us about the flight path of a recent training mission,” Navy Commander Bill Urban said. “We are looking into the matter.”

Beijing called the flight “a provocation” in a statement released by the Defense Ministry on Saturday. It urged the United States “to immediately adopt measures to put an end to such kind of dangerous actions, in order not to impact the two countries’ military relations.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the incident happened last week near the Cuarteron Reef in the Spratly Islands, an archipelago contested by China and several other regional nations. The newspaper cited a US military official as saying that the bomber had mistakenly come within a 12 nautical mile zone of the island – as close as 2 miles, according to the Chinese complaint.

Over the past years China has reclaimed several islands in the area and built infrastructure on them capable of supporting combat missions of the Chinese Air Force. Beijing insists that the effort is primarily civilian and is meant to make South China Sea, the region with one of the heaviest maritime traffic in the world, most of it China-bound, a safer place.

The US rejects Beijing’s claim and occasionally sends its warplanes and warships through the 12 nautical mile area around the artificial islands, which China sees as its exclusive zone. In late October the US guided missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed close to Subi Reef with one such mission, provoking an angry rebuke from China.

Washington insists that the missions are fully legitimate as they pass through international space, but Beijing warned that the standoff may lead to a minor incident escalating into a major confrontation.

 

Vladimir Putin attended gala reception to mark Security Agency Worker’s Day

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, comrades, friends, veterans. I would like to congratulate you on Security Agency Worker’s Day.

This is a holiday of strong and courageous people, true professionals who are reliably protecting Russia’s sovereignty and national integrity and the lives of our citizens, who are ready to perform the most complicated, responsible and dangerous assignments.

These have always been the qualities that distinguished employees of Russia’s security services. On this day, we invariably remember the many generations of our predecessors who served our Motherland with honour.

This year, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to our veterans. Both in the difficult war years and later you remained true to your oath and your duty and did everything within your power to develop the potential of the special services. Your heroism and courage will always serve as an example for us.

Comrades. Today the security services possess great operational, combat and analytical capabilities. We are counting on you, your competence, expertise and, wherever necessary – on your courage and valour.

The current situation in the world is complicated. Tension is growing in the Middle East and other regions of the world; terrorists have declared war on civilisation, on the entire global community – their actions pose a direct threat to this country as well. The Russian Armed Forces are fighting militants at the forward defence lines, destroying their infrastructure, their camps and bases in Syria.

I would like to stress that these decisive measures should be coordinated with equally rigorous efforts of all our special services. I am referring to exposing the terrorists’ plans and to foiling attempts on the part of terrorist and extremist groups to step up their subversive activities on the territory of the Russian Federation.

I would like to note that this year through the efforts of the Federal Security Service we managed to prevent more than 30 crimes of a terrorist nature. I expect you to retain this high level of concentration and mobilisation and to perfect all aspects of your anti-terrorist efforts.

We should give special attention to the neutralisation of all sorts of recruiters and terrorist emissaries who are trying to involve Russian citizens in militant groups. First of all, we should definitely focus on young people.

Our counterintelligence service bears a great responsibility. This year they have exposed 320 foreign special services employees, agents and accessories. We can see that the intelligence services of a number of countries are building up their ‘work on Russia”, as we say. I am certain that our security service officers are prepared to meet this challenge.

I am also counting on your efficient work in such areas as the defence of the national borders, combatting corruption and economic crime, ensuring reliable work of national security and military control agencies. You need to coordinate your efforts to enhance the capabilities of our Armed Forces.

I have already mentioned Syria. We can see the efficient work of our pilots and intelligence officers, good coordination even between different forces – the Army, the Navy and aviation, and the use of the most up-to-date armaments. I would like to note that our capabilities are not limited to this. We are not using everything we have there. We have additional means and we will use them if necessary.

In view of this, the Foreign Intelligence Service, which is marking its 95th anniversary tomorrow, is facing complicated tasks. Early detection of any external threat to Russia is of great importance, as well as providing exhaustive analytical data and making timely reports on the state and possible development of regional conflicts.

The service of the State Guard deserves a high assessment, particularly their work during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory, as well during the SCO and BRICS summits in Ufa and other large-scale international forums and meetings.

Friends. I am certain that you will do your utmost to resolve the tasks facing you and will reliably defend Russia and its people. Whatever the difficulties, whatever challenges we may be facing — we will definitely overcome them and will continue moving forward with confidence towards success.

I congratulate you once again on your professional holiday. I wish you and your families happiness.

Thank you.

Turkish police use water cannon against pro-Kurd protesters in Diyarbakir

Riot police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators, Diyarbakir, Turkey.

Police have deployed tear gas and water cannon against several thousand protesters gathered in the streets of the Turkish city of Diyarbakir to condemn security operations against Kurdish militants, Reuters reports. T

he massive protest in Turkey’s southeast coincided with a conference at which Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), urged public “resistance” against the operations.

Diyarbakir Province is a stronghold of the Turkish Kurds. The city of Diyarbakir has been repeatedly flooded by anti-government protests. The latest was held on Monday, when people rallied against round-the-clock curfews being imposed in the region. At least seven Kurds were killed following clashes with Turkish security forces.

Dozens of Kurds have been killed in recent months following clashes with police in the province. Earlier, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey reported of a total of 52 curfews imposed since mid-August across seven provinces in the region, affecting areas where some 1.3 million people live.On Thursday, reports emerged that the Turkish Army had sent military vehicles, including tanks, into civilian areas in its predominantly-Kurdish southeast. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has been publishing photos of what it says is a fresh raid by the Turkish Army ever since the incursion began.