Pakistan on August 4 executed a man convicted of killing a child, brushing aside a storm of protests from rights groups that his confession had been extracted by torture and he was a minor at the time of the crime.
Shafqat Hussain was hanged shortly before dawn at a jail in Karachi for killing a seven-year-old boy in the city in 2004, his brother and a prison official told AFP. The case raised grave international concern, drawing protests from the United Nations, as his lawyers and family said he was only 15 at the time of the killing and was tortured into making a false confession.
In Muzaffarabad, the main town of the Pakistani administered part of Kashmir, his family was distraught.
Pakistani Kashmiri Makhni Begum (L), mother of convicted murderer Shafqat Hussain, reacts with her daughters after Shafqat’s execution in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir on August 4, 2015. AFP Photo
“Why did they hang my innocent brother, only because we were poor?” said his sister Sumaira Bibi, beating her chest and weeping. His mother Makhni Begum, looked glassy-eyed, stunned by the news of the execution after seeing her son reprieved
Makhni Begum, right, and Shah Zula, the parents of Shafqat Hussain, are shown after hearing the news of their son’s execution (AFP Photo/Sajjad Qayyum )
from the gallows four times since January. “My son was innocent, only Allah will prove his innocence in his court,” she told AFP. “We can’t do anything but they (executioners) will face Allah on the day of judgement.”
United Nations rights experts said Hussain’s trial “fell short of international standards” and urged Pakistan not to hang him without investigating the torture claims, as well as his age.
Pakistan hangs Shafqat Hussain despite claim he was a child at time of crime
Hussain’s brother Gul Zaman said that in their last meeting, just a few hours before he faced the scaffold, he continued to protest his innocence. Zaman told AFP his brother’s last words to him were: “I never even touched the boy — I want to let the world know this as I lay down my life.”
Abdul Majeed, the brother of Shafqat Hussain, sits beside Hussain’s body in an ambulance after his execution in Karachi on August 4, 2015 (AFP Photo/Asif Hassan )
After receiving the body, another of Hussain’s brothers claimed the hanging had not been carried out properly, telling AFP “half of his neck is separated from his body.”
The Kashmir government made a last-minute plea to President Mamnoon Hussain late on August 3 to postpone the execution, but to no avail. Hussain was originally due to face the gallows in January but won four stays of execution as his lawyers fought to prove he was under 18 at the time of the offence and could therefore not be executed under Pakistani law. An official probe into his age ruled he was an adult at the time of his conviction — though the results have not been published officially. British anti-death penalty campaign group Reprieve said the hanging represented “all that is wrong with Pakistan’s race to the gallows”, while Amnesty International accused the government of “callous indifference” to human life. Pakistan has hanged around 180 convicts since ending a six-year moratorium on executions in December after Taliban militants massacred more than 150 people at a school, most of them children. Hangings were paused during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan but resumed last week.
The European Union last week voiced serious concerns about the “alarming pace” of executions, warning that a prized trade status granted to Pakistan could be threatened if it breached international conventions on fair trials, child rights and preventing torture. Hussain, the youngest of seven children from a remote village in Kashmir, was working as a watchman in Karachi in 2004 when a seven-year-old boy named Umair went missing from the neighbourhood. A few days later Umair’s family received calls from Hussain’s mobile demanding a ransom of half a million rupees ($8,500 at the time), according to legal papers. Hussain was arrested and admitted kidnapping and killing him, but later withdrew his confession, saying he had made it under duress. His true age has proved difficult to ascertain — exact birth records are not always kept in Pakistan, particularly for people from poor families like Hussain’s. A birth certificate circulated in the media several months ago, but it appeared to have been issued only in December and the government said there was no proof of its authenticity. Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process. Supporters argue that the death penalty is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country. But critics say the legal system is unjust, with rampant police torture, poor representation for victims, and unfair trials.
U//FOUO) In May 2015, the wife of a US military member was approached in front of her home by two Middle-Eastern males. The men stated that she was the wife of a US interrogator. When she denied their claims, the men laughed. The two men left the area in a dark-colored, four-door sedan with two other Middle-Eastern males in the vehicle. The woman had observed the vehicle in the neighborhood on previous occasions.
(U//FOUO) Similar incidents in Wyoming have been reported to the FBI throughout June 2015. On numerous occasions, family members of military personnel were confronted by Middle-Eastern males in front of their homes. The males have attempted to obtain personal information about the military member and family members through intimidation. The family members have reported feeling scared.
(U//FOUO) To date, the men have not been identified and it is not known if all the incidents involve the same Middle-Eastern males. If you have any information that may assist the FBI in identifying these individuals, or reporting concerning additional incidents; in Colorado please contact the FBI Fort Collins Resident Agency at 970-663-1028, in Wyoming please contact the FBI Cheyenne Resident Agency at 307-632-6224.
(U) This report has been prepared by the DENVER Division of the FBI. Comments and queries may be addressed to the DENVER Division at 303-629-7171.
In March of this year a group calling themselves the “Islamic State Hacking Division” posted the names, addresses and photos of 100 American service members asking sympathizers in the U.S. to kill them.
CALLING FOR THEIR BEHEADINGS, THE ISLAMIC STATE PUBLISHED A LIST OF ADDRESSES PURPORTEDLY BELONGING TO APPROXIMATELY 100 MEMBERS OF THE U.S. MILITARY. IDENTIFYING THEMSELVES AS THE “ISLAMIC STATE HACKING DIVISION,” THE GROUP CLAIMED TO HAVE OBTAINED THE PERSONAL INFORMATION OF MILITARY PERSONNEL FROM COMPROMISED MILITARY SERVERS, DATABASES AND EMAILS.
THE BLAZE “[W]E HAVE DECIDED TO LEAK 100 ADDRESSES SO THAT OUR BROTHERS RESIDING IN AMERICA CAN DEAL WITH YOU,” THE GROUP WARNED.
“KILL THEM IN THEIR OWN LANDS, BEHEAD THEM IN THEIR OWN HOMES, STAB THEM TO DEATH AS THEY WALK THEIR STREETS THINKING THAT THEY ARE SAFE,” THE “ISLAMIC STATE HACKING DIVISION” ADDED.
IN THE ONLINE DOCUMENT, NAMES AND PHOTOS ACCOMPANIED ADDRESSES PURPORTING TO BELONG TO THE MILITARY PERSONNEL. AN INFORMAL REVIEW OF THE INFORMATION BY THEBLAZE APPEARED TO SHOW MATCHES BETWEEN SOME NAMES, PHOTOS AND LISTED ADDRESSES.
A DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON WAS UNABLE TO AUTHENTICATE THE INFORMATION, BUT SAID THE U.S. MILITARY IS INVESTIGATING. “[W]E ARE LOOKING INTO IT,” THE SPOKESPERSON TOLD THEBLAZE IN A SHORT STATEMENT. “THE SAFETY OF OUR SERVICE MEMBERS IS ALWAYS A CONCERN.”
MARINE CORPS SPOKESMAN LT. COL. JOHN CALDWELL TOLD THEBLAZE IN A STATEMENT THAT “NCIS IS CONDUCTING IN PERSON NOTIFICATIONS TO THE AFFECTED NAVY AND MARINE PERSONNEL REGARDING THIS PRESENTLY UNVERIFIED THREAT/DATA BREACH.”
“IT IS RECOMMENDED MARINES AND FAMILY MEMBERS CHECK THEIR ONLINE/SOCIAL FOOTPRINT, ENSURING PRIVACY SETTINGS ARE ADJUSTED TO LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF AVAILABLE PERSONAL INFORMATION,” HE ADDED. “VIGILANCE AND FORCE PROTECTION CONSIDERATIONS REMAIN A PRIORITY FOR COMMANDERS AND THEIR PERSONNEL WORLDWIDE.”
THE AIR FORCE SAID THEY ARE ALSO REACHING OUT TO MEMBERS LISTED IN THE DOCUMENT.
“THE AIR FORCE IS COOPERATING FULLY WITH THE DOD ON THIS MATTER,” LT. COL. HOLLY SLAUGHTER SAID. “WE ARE TAKING THE APPROPRIATE STEPS TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONE WHO NEEDS TO KNOW IS NOTIFIED. AS ALWAYS, FORCE PROTECTION IS A PRIMARY CONCERN.”
IN JANUARY, THE SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS OF THE U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND WAS COMPROMISED BY ISLAMIC STATE SYMPATHIZERS. HACKERS USED TWITTER TO PUBLISH A LIST OF MILITARY MEMBERS AND THEIR ADDRESSES. AT THE TIME, THE PENTAGON CONTACTED AFFECTED INDIVIDUALS AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT.
Two Turkish soldiers have been killed and 31 people have been injured in a suicide attack carried out in a tractor filled with two tonnes of explosives by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The tractor was driven at a military outpost in the Dogubeyazit district of eastern Agri province, bordering Iran, before it was detonated in the early hours of Sunday, the provincial governor’s office and the army said.
Survivors of the attack – which came amid heightened tensions after Turkey bombed Kurdish militants in northern Iraq – revealed the PKK militants also used rifles.
The Kurdish fighters drove a tractor filled with explosives at the military base in eastern Turkey at 3am
Four soldiers are said to be in a serious condition.
Meanwhile, another soldier was killed in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin when a unit on patrol was attacked by the PKK late on Saturday night, the army said. Seven soldiers were also wounded in the incident.
Armed attacks by PKK militants in southeastern Turkey have increased since mid-July, much more so since Turkey began a campaign of air strikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq on July 24.
In what prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called a ‘synchronised fight against terror’, Ankara has granted access of its bases to the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State.
However, so far the majority of Turkey’s air bombardment has been on PKK targets.
The military outpost was damaged in the bombing, which is the latest in a string of attacks which have increased after Turkey bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq
Turkish officials have said the strikes against the PKK are a response to increased violence.
The two sides have been in opposition for decades, with the PKK insurgency killing 40,000 since 1984.
Until now, a ceasefire, though fragile, had been holding since March 2013.
Sunday’s attacks have brought the number of security forces killed in attacks blamed on the PKK to at least 16 since July 20.
In an opinion piece published in Washington Post on July 31, Davutoglu said the operations would continue.
‘All terrorist organizations that target Turkey must know that their acts will not go unpunished and that we will respond to their acts with full resolve,’ he wrote.
‘This is not to say that the process of seeking a solution is over; on the contrary, I am determined to take it forward,’ he added.
Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Saturday condemned Turkey’s bombardment of a village there which he said had killed civilians, and called for a return to the peace process.
People have taken to the streets to protest against the bombings in Kurdish areas, calling for peace at rallies in Turkish capital Istanbul a week ago (pictured)
In his statement, he has also called on the PKK to distance the war from KRG territory.
‘The PKK forces must move the battlefields away from Kurdistan,’ he said.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said it was working with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to investigate claims of civilian casualties in the village of Zargala on Friday.
Western allies, including NATO and the United States, have supported Turkey’s actions but several have also urged it not to use excessive force or to let years of peace efforts with Kurdish militants collapse.
So Pastor James McConnell is being prosecuted for sending a ‘grossly offensive’ message on the internet by streaming a sermon in which he branded Islam as ‘heathen’, ‘satanic’ and ‘a doctrine spawned in hell’, and also stated: “People say there are good Muslims in Britain – that may be so – but I don’t trust them”.
Yet it is not an offence to attack a religion. In a free society no belief, whether religious or secular, has any more right to immunity or privilege than any other.
Opinions are nobody’s property and stand or fall on their merits, irrespective of the people who believe them
If Islam is satanic, then so too is Catholicism according to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland – it subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith in which the Pope is described as the Antichrist.Why is the Public Prosecution Service not charging Presbyterians with promoting a grossly offensive message?
Then again, as a Catholic, I would be highly critical of Pastor McConnell if he had described Catholicism as satanic, but nevertheless I would defend his right to say so.
If he had described Catholicism in this way, it is extremely unlikely that the PPS would have charged him. So, again, why should Islam be accorded special protection?
And where would art and literature be if they avoided giving offence? Some of the greatest works are offensive, provocative and challenging. Euripides portrayed the gods as screaming idiots. Michelangelo offended popes by painting God’s naked bum pointing down at them in the Sistine Chapel.
Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Planets Artist : MICHELANGELO Buonarroti
Last year, the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s comedy The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) offended some DUP members on Newtownabbey Council, who initially banned the play, though they stopped short of the injunction of Leviticus 24:14 to stone its blaspheming authors.
Islam appears to be a particularly sensitive faith which brooks no criticism. The writer Salman Rushdie had to go into hiding in 1989 after a death fatwa was issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran on the grounds that his novel The Satanic Verses – a work of fiction – was blasphemous. Rushdie rightly said that giving offence cannot be a basis for censorship, or freedom of expression would perish.
Salman Rushdie had to go into hiding in 1989 after a death fatwa was issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeini
In January Islamist gunmen killed 12 of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad and extracts of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission – a vision of France under Islamic rule.
Charlie Hebdo attack: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30708237
Although you can’t offend an idea, you can offend the person who holds it. Saying that Muslims cannot be trusted is an attack on nearly a quarter of the world’s population and some might construe this as more objectionable than saying that Islam is Satanic.
Is it hate speech, though? Under N.Ireland’s 1987 Public Order law, it is illegal to incite hatred or arouse fear on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, religion or national or ethnic origin. McConnell’s stereotyping might be considered by some as ill-advised, especially in a society where hate crimes are frequent, but it arguably falls short of the threshold of criminal offence.
It is reported that the main witness for the prosecution will be Dr Raied Al-Wazzan of the Belfast Islamic Centre, the man who praised barbaric Islamic State militants for being less evil than the Iraqi government and for making Mosul ‘the most peaceful city in the world’.
This statement, on BBC Radio, itself approaches a hate crime. Perhaps Dr Raied Al-Wazzan should be in the dock as well!
Personally I applaud Pastor McConnell as a man of principle,great courage,and determination. A true man of God and a warrior for Christianity …
At the same time, it is bombing Islamic State militants in Syria in an effort to push them back from Turkey’s borders. Turkey had not previously been involved in fighting in Syria’s conflict.
‘Keep battlefield away’
Further Turkish air raids were reported overnight, this time in the Rawanduz area east of Erbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.
At least six people were killed and several more wounded in the town of Zarkel, local officials said. They reportedly included at least two women.
An Iraq-based PKK activist told Associated Press that at least six homes were destroyed and eight civilians were killed.
“We condemn this bombardment that led to the martyrdom of people from the Kurdistan region and call on Turkey not to bombard civilians again,” Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said in a statement.
Urging the PKK to withdraw its fighters from civilian areas in the region, he said the separatists “must keep the battlefield away from the Kurdistan region in order for civilians not to become victims of this war”.
The statement also called on the Turkish government and the PKK to resume peace talks.
The strikes against PKK camps in northern Iraq, which began last week, were the first since March 2013, when a ceasefire was called.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that it was “not possible to continue the peace process with those who threaten our national unity and brotherhood”.
Turkey and a number of Western countries regard the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
A controversial statue unveiled by the Satanic Temple at a secret ceremony in Detroit has attracted protests. But who is the goat-headed figure? And what do the elements of the statue symbolise?
( N.B….this is the interpretation of the symbolism as presented by Lucien Greaves, the group’s co-founder of The Satanic Temple)
The bronze statue is nearly 9ft tall and depicts a winged hermaphrodite known as Baphomet, flanked by two smiling children. It cost $100,000 (£64,000) to make and hundreds of Satanists turned out to see it unveiled.
Long term, the Satanic Temple wants to move the piece 900 miles (1,450km) south-west and erect it opposite a Ten Commandments monument outside Oklahoma City’s Capitol Building.
The Baphomet will “complement and contrast” the Christian commandments which include “unconstitutional prohibitions against free speech and free exercise of religion,” according to the organisation.
“Our statue will serve as a beacon calling for compassion and empathy among all living creatures,” says Lucien Greaves, the group’s co-founder.
He hopes people of all ages will “sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation… It’s a nice little tourist attraction. People would travel a great distance to see it.”
The name Baphomet
The name dates back to the Inquisition and torture of the Knights Templar about 1100 who, according to French chroniclers of the Crusades, confessed to worshipping a heathen idol called Baphometh.
Some scholars believe “Baphometh” was simply a corruption of “Mahomet” – the Prophet Muhammad.
But over the years as the mystery and speculation around the Templars has grown, so too have the interpretations of the word and its meaning.
One elaborate interpretation even drove the plot in Dan Brown’s historical thriller Da Vinci Code, where the word Baphomet is decoded and translated to mean “Sophia” or wisdom.
The best-known modern image of Baphomet was drawn in 1856 by the French occultist Eliphas Levi, in his book Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual.
He envisaged a winged hermaphrodite with a torch between his horns and a pentagram on his forehead.
Its arms bore the Latin words SOLVE (separate) and COAGULA (join together) – the powers of “binding and loosing” usurped from God.
Levi’s drawing was the inspiration for the Satanic Temple’s new monument.
“It contains all these binary opposites – above and below, part animal, part human. Male and female,” says Greaves.
“It embodies opposites and celebrates contrasts.”
Two fingers on the right hand point up and two on the left hand point down, meaning “as above, so below”.
These words and the accompanying gesture are familiar to occultists. They are drawn from the ancient works of Hermes Trismegistus, whose writings became popular during the Renaissance and Reformation.
The phrase is also used in relation to science, the universe and God, but Levi wrote that, by making the gesture, his Baphomet “expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice”.
Two young children
“We hope children will see this as a beautiful work of art – there is nothing to be afraid of. That’s what the children symbolise,” says Greaves.
“The goat’s face has a neutral expression. It’s not demonic, ferocious or monstrous – as people make it out to be – if you look at without the cultural baggage.”
But do children really have nothing to be afraid of from Satan?
“I don’t think children approaching the monument without being primed by propaganda will find anything horrific about it,” says Greaves.
“But we’re about not indoctrinating children. For the most part children are forced into religion. That’s something we definitely don’t care to do.”
On the Baphomet’s stomach is an old Greek symbol of two serpents entwined around a staff – the staff which was carried by Hermes and heralds in general.
The caduceus symbolises trade, negotiation and reciprocity and was co-opted into the Baphomet by Levi.
“For us it symbolises reconciliation of the opposites – such as having a Satanic monument opposite a Christian one,” says Greaves.
“We think that’s a powerful message when it’s sitting opposite the Ten Commandments – you can have these dualities, differences without conflict.”
Levi’s Baphomet was a hermaphrodite, with breasts, “but we took the breasts off,” says Greaves. The Temple did not want to get embroiled in a debate about gender which might distract from what it believes are the more important messages of the Baphomet.
Instead, he says, the boy and girl reflect that “male-female dualism” seen in Levi’s Baphomet.
Seen both on the forehead of the Baphomet and on the throne behind him, the pentagram is a widely recognised Satanic symbol – and often appears inverted.
Saint Peter’s cross is often inverted too – as it was during the Satanic Temple’s unveiling ceremony.
“This inversion is Satan’s perception. It asks people to reconsider their cultural grounding, look at the evidence and reconsider their values,” says Greaves.
“You have this one-sided vision with institutionalised religion as the arbiters of moral correctness.
“It prevents them considering whether they could be incorrect today on issues such as gay marriage and reproductive rights.
“It’s true you don’t have to identify with Satan to take on those causes. But the image of Satan resonates for us.”
Torch between horns
“The torch of knowledge is the middle horn – it glorifies the pursuit of knowledge. We put a high value on that – it’s really central to our beliefs in general,” says Greaves.
As Levi wrote: “The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it.”
These have yet to be added but the Satanic Temple gave details of their plans in a statement last year.
On the front of the statue, above the inverted pentagram, will be one of the Satanic Temple’s seven fundamental tenets: “The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”
The back of the stone slab will display a passage from Lord Byron’s dramatic work, Cain that reads: “Then who was the Demon? He who would not let ye live, or he who would have made ye live forever, in the joy and power of knowledge?”
What is the Satanic Temple?
The group describes itself as “Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty”.
“We understand the Satanic figure as a symbol of man’s inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being.
“We actively provide outreach and participate in public affairs where the issues might benefit from rational, Satanic insights.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu paid a visit to the family of the Palestinian child Ali Dawabsha, who was murdered in an attack on his home in the Arab village of Duma early this morning.
The PM spent time with relatives injured in the firebomb attack, believed to be the work of Jewish extremists, at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.
Speaking following the visit, Netanyahu strongly denounced the “brutal” attack and said he had called Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to vow Israel would track down the killers.
“I just came from the bedside of four-year old Ahmed Sa’ed. Sixty percent of his body is burned. We’re doing everything we can to save this young boy, give him a life,” Netanyahu said. “His two parents are in other parts of the Israeli health system. We’re trying to give them the best treatment to save their lives.”
“When you stand next to the bed of this small child, and his infant brother had been so brutally murdered, we’re shocked, we’re outraged. We condemn this. There is zero tolerance for terrorism wherever it comes from, whatever side of the fence it comes from, we have to fight it and fight it together.”
“I spoke to President Abu Mazen right before I entered the hospital. I told him of this visit and of Israel’s absolute commitment to find the perpetrators, bring them to justice,” Netanyahu continued, while calling for calm.
“We have to calm the spirits and recommit ourselves to our joint battle against terrorism and extremism. It’s something that all parts of the Israeli government and all parts of Israeli society agree on. It’s important that we make a common cause with our Palestinian neighbors to give ourselves a better future – a future free of violence, free of terror, a future of peace.”
New figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office show that the number of people smugglers arrested this year has risen by 25 percent compared to last year. Between January and the end of June almost 350 suspected smugglers were charged. A total of 500 were charged during 2014.
The interior and justice ministries have pledged to step up the fight against people smuggling, and have presented a “five point plan”. This includes an increase in the number of specialized investigative teams, stricter punishments for smugglers, more specialized prosecutors and increased enforcement along Austria’s borders.
Both Austrian and Hungarian officials will be involved in border checks, and controls are already taking place on trains leaving Budapest for Austria, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told Ö1 radio.
She added that she is talking to her Hungarian counterpart about how to facilitate a complete control of all incoming trains from Hungary, and how to monitor Hungarian railway stations.
The Ministry of Justice is planning to establish a team of specialized public prosecutors to deal with people smuggling cases.
Violence has flared in Turkey in the past week, shattering a fragile peace process launched in 2012 with the PKK [FILE – Reuters]
Turkish officials say Kurdish fighters have attacked a police station and fired on railway workers in two separate attacks, leaving five people dead.
Mustafa Buyuk, the governor of Adana province, said Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters opened fire at the police station in the town Pozanti, sparking a clash that left two policemen and two attackers dead.
In the eastern province of Kars, PKK fighters detonated a bomb they had placed on rail tracks and later fired on rail workers sent to repair the line, Adem Unal, the region’s deputy governor, told the state-run Anadolu Agency. One of the workers was killed.
Violence has flared in Turkey in the past week, after the PKK claimed responsibility for the deaths of two Turkish policemen in the Kurdish majority city of Sanliurfa, near the Syrian border, and the government in response launched aerial strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq.
The incidents have shattered the fragile peace process launched in 2012 with the Kurds.
Former UJ Visiting Researcher Ahmet Davutoğlu is Prime Minister of Turkey
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Turkey’s actions against the PKK will continue until its fighters lay down their arms.
Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish political party, the HDP, has called for the resumption of peace efforts – a plea the party’s co-chairman renewed on Thursday.
“The dialogue, slow as it was, must resume,” Selahattin Demirtas said in televised comments. “Fingers must be removed from the trigger.”
Kurdish activists and government critics say Turkey’s toughened stance against the PKK is a tactic aimed at strengthening the ruling party and attracting nationalist votes ahead of possible new elections in November.
Davutoglu’s Justice and Development Party lost its parliamentary majority in June and has until August 24 to form a coalition government, otherwise new elections will be called.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its western allies, launched its armed campaign for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast in 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.
The Kurds declared a ceasefire in 2013 as part of the peace efforts, but halted a planned withdrawal of fighters from Turkish territory, accusing the government of not keeping promises.
No longer a private Obama initiative, but rather official US gov’t policy: Muslim terrorism is simply ‘violent extremism.’
Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson announced the policy this past Friday at Aspen Institute’s annual security forum in Washington, D.C.
He explained that though it was a Muslim terrorist who shot to death four unarmed Marines in Tennessee two weeks ago, the government will call the attack, and other similar ones, “violent extremism” and not “Islamic terrorism” – out of respect for the Muslim community.
Johnson said it is “critical” to refrain from the “Islamic” label in order to “build trust” among Muslims.
The Tennessee murderer, Mohammad Abdulazeez, is officially a “homegrown violent extremist,” according to the government – even though he blogged about his Islamic religious motivations for the attack. He and his family also attended a local mosque controlled by a terror-tied Islamic trust.
Johnson explained that if officials called Islamic terrorism “Islamic,” they’d “get nowhere” in gaining the “cooperation” of the Muslim community.
The moderator of the panel tried to protest: “Isn’t [the] government denying the fundamental religious component of this kind of extremism by not using the word Islamic?”
“I could not disagree more,” Johnson responded, and explained that Islam “is about peace.”
Responses to Johnson’s remarks were fast and furious. The Clarion Project advanced two quick objections: “Putting aside the argument that to be able to fight the phenomenon of Islamic terror, one has to be able to name it,” wrote Meira Svirsky, editor of ClarionProject.org, “it is plainly a strategy that has failed – primarily because the Muslims whom the government is trying to appease are the very ones supporting the same extremist ideology – Islamism — that drives the terrorists.”
In addition, an op-ed by Investor’s Business Daily accused Johnson of failing to understand that the strategy is simply not working. The article notes that the FBI has warned that it can’t keep up with all the homegrown Muslim terrorism cases cropping up now in every single one of the 50 states.
The article states that “pandering to local Muslim leaders” has failed to deliver where it is most needed: “U.S. Attorney Bill Killian helped dedicate [the Tennessee terrorist’s] mosque at its grand opening in 2012, [and] even befriended its leader. Did [that leader] tip him off about Abdulazeez’s radicalization? Did he stop him from driving down the street and opening fire on two military sites?”
Not only that, but in Minneapolis, the local Muslim leaders are “cooperating” by demanding that the FBI release jailed ISIS terrorist suspects. In Boston, congregants of a mosque attended by the Boston marathon bombers are “cooperating” by holding fundraisers and rallies for convicted al-Qaida- and ISIS-tied terrorists.
Investor’s Business Daily urges the passage of a law that will allow local authorities to press legal action not just against terrorists but also any of their supporters in the Muslim community.
Key parts of new legislation to combat slavery in the UK – including life sentences for those guilty of people trafficking – have come into force in England and Wales.
The Modern Slavery Bill has increased the maximum custodial sentence for offenders from 14 years to life.
It also gives courts powers to impose orders to restrict the activities of suspected traffickers.
Major Anne Read of the Salvation Army
Anne Read, of the Salvation Army, said thousands remain trapped in slavery.
The new legislation also gives victims extra protection against prosecutions for offences committed as part of their exploitation and provides slavery victims access to civil legal aid.
Powers to encourage reparation orders, for courts to use seized assets from perpetrators to compensate victims, have also come into force.
The bill – which was given Royal Assent in March – aims to consolidate offences used to prosecute those who enslave others into a single act.
The plans were first unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May in August, last year.
‘Escalation in effort’
Home Office figures estimate there could be between 10,000 and 13,000 people who remain trapped in modern day slavery in the UK.
They including women forced into prostitution, domestic staff who are imprisoned, and people forced to work in fields, factories and on fishing boats.
To coincide with the new legislation, the College of Policing has published new national guidance on investigating slavery and human trafficking.
It says the “primary objective” of investigating allegations is to safeguard and support victims. and includes guidance on how officers can identify people who may be at risk of becoming a victim of trafficking or forced labour.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the guidance warns officers that victims may be experiencing so-called “Stockholm syndrome”, where they have positive feelings towards their captors.
It warns it may take “months to obtain evidence from them”, our correspondent said.
Ms Read, anti-trafficking and slavery director at the Salvation Army, said: “Everyone engaged in this work is pleased that something is being done, there is now an escalation in effort.
“There are thousands of people trapped in situations not of their choosing, doing things they do not what to do and things need to be done to help them and to stop anybody else being sold in to slavery.”
The Salvation Army – which holds the Home Office contract for managing safe houses for adult trafficking victims – says it has helped more than 2,500 men, women and families over the past four years.
Some analysts say the Taliban will be divided by the appointment of Mansour as successor
The Taliban have appointed a successor to Mullah Omar, who led the movement for some 20 years.
The death of Mullah Omar – reported by the Afghan government on Wednesday – was confirmed by the Taliban on Thursday, the BBC has been told.
His deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, will replace him, sources close to the Taliban leadership said.
Correspondents say the move is likely to divide the militants, and that many senior figures opposed the appointment.
A Taliban statement did not say where, when or how Mullah Omar died, only that it was from an illness and that he had remained in Afghanistan since the 2001 US invasion.
This conflicts with the account given by Afghanistan, which said Mullah Omar died in hospital in the Pakistani city of Karachi two years ago. Pakistan has always denied that he was in the country.
The death has disrupted peace talks between Afghanistan and the insurgents, with a second round of negotiations due on Friday postponed.
Pakistan, which had been set to play host, said they were put back at the request of the Taliban’s leadership amid uncertainty over Mullah Omar’s death.
Analysis: Waheed Massoud, BBC Afghan editor, Kabul
The naming of Mullah Mansour as Taliban leader was far from unanimous and followed days of intense debate.
Sources close to the movement’s leading council, or shura, say many senior commanders and other Taliban heavyweights were dismayed by the decision.
They are thought to include the movement’s top military commander, Mullah Qaum Zakir, as well as Tayeb Agha, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, and Mullah Habibullah, a member of the Quetta shura. They would have preferred Mullah Omar’s son, Yaqoob, to succeed him, and accuse pro-Pakistani circles of imposing Mullah Mansour on the rebels.
A Taliban statement distancing the movement from more talks with the Afghan government reflects splits over how to proceed.
Mullah Mansour is pro-talks. He is to be given the title of Supreme Leader – not Leader of the Faithful, the title that Mullah Omar had.
The group appointed Siraj Haqqani, a key leader in another major Afghan military group, the Haqqani network, as Mansour’s deputy, sources said.
Haqqani has a $10m (£6.4m) US bounty on his head for alleged involvement in an attack on a Kabul hotel that left six people dead and for his participation in cross-border attacks on US and coalition forces.
Mansour becomes only the second person to lead the Taliban after Mullah Omar, who founded the group during Afghanistan’s civil war in the early 1990s.
The Taliban also has a new deputy leader, who is wanted by the US
His alliance with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
He had been in hiding ever since, and although was not thought to have significant day-to-day involvement in the group remained a key figurehead.
The failure to prove that Mullah Omar was alive was a major factor behind the defection of several senior Taliban commanders to the so-called Islamic State group, according to the BBC’s former Kabul correspondent, David Loyn.
Who is Mullah Mansour?
Long seen as acting head of the Taliban, and close to its founder Mullah Omar
Born in the sixties, in Kandahar province, where he later served as shadow governor after the Taliban’s fall
Was civil aviation minister during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan
Had an active role in drug trafficking, according to the UN
Has clashed with Abdul Zakir, a senior military commander, amid a power struggle and differences over negotiations with the Afghan government
Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General’s special representative on international migration, said the British reaction to the crisis was “grossly excessive”.
The great majority of migrants heading to Europe are genuine refugees, he said, and Britain receives far fewer applications for sanctuary than other European countries.
He said calls to stop economic migrants entering the UK are “a xenophobic response to the issue of free movement”.
He told the BBC: “In my opinion, the debate in the UK is grossly excessive in terms of Calais. We are talking here about a number of people – a relatively small number in the context of what other countries are having to do – who are in terrible conditions and have to be dealt with by France and/or Britain.”
Thousands making the perilous boat voyage across the Mediterranean to reach southern Europe are “in the main” genuine refugees fleeing violence and persecution, he said.
Britain also receives far fewer asylum applications that other European countries, he said.
“Germany last year received 175,000 asylum applications. Britain received 24,000,” said Mr Sutherland.
Migrants face police officers as they attempt to access the Channel Tunnel, in Calais (AP)
Mr Sutherland said: “I think it is most unfortunate to create an image of hordes of people, when in reality the highest figure I have seen for the actual numbers in the so-called ‘jungle’ around Calais – the place where these unfortunate people are living – is 10,000.”
Kevin Hurley, police and crime commissioner for Surrey, earlier this week called for the 2nd Bn Royal Gurkha Rifles based just outside Hythe, Kent, to be deployed to make sure Britain’s border is secure.
French gendarmes try to stop migrants on the Eurotunnel site in Coquelles, near Calais (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP)
Mr Sutherland said: “The first thing we have to do collectively is to deal with their conditions. Instead of talking about sending Gurkhas or building fences, we should be thinking of the humanitarian crisis.”
Mr Sutherland urged the UK to join the common European approach to the migrant issue, warning: “Anybody who thinks that by erecting borders or fences in some way a particular state can be protected from alleged ‘floods’ – which are anything but floods – of migrants is living in cloud cuckoo land.”
I would suggest Mr. Sutherland is the one living in CLOUD CUCKOO LAND!
The world watched in horror last month as gunman Seifeddine Rezgui killed 38 people at the Tunisian resort of Sousse. Survivors of the attack tell Panorama’s Jane Corbin what it was like to go through the experience.
Holidaymakers on the beach in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel were just about getting ready for lunch. As it neared midday on 26 June, they relaxed on sun loungers. New arrivals had just had their introductory meeting with a tour rep. Some of them walked across the hot sand for a swim. Others tried paragliding. All was calm as temperatures rose towards the low 30s.
I’ve been going on holiday to Tunisia for 15 to 20 years. I like the people. I love the white, sandy beaches. And I don’t think I’ve ever been to a bad hotel, so you’re almost guaranteed a good holiday there.
We got to Tunisia the previous day and, that morning, we had a welcome meeting with Thomson’s. It was very enlightening. My friend wanted to go on the camels, so we arranged a camel trip.
I’d heard good reports about the area and the hotel and that it was safe. The pictures looked nice, so we booked the holiday and off we went.
My son Callum, being a teenager, didn’t want to get up so didn’t join myself and Thomas for breakfast. We got ready, went downstairs, had breakfast and then sat round the pool and read a book.
I was switching between reading a book and listening to music, just sunbathing, trying to catch the rays.
It was lovely, very clear, very nice. White sandy beaches and the water was lovely. It was just like any other morning. We thought we’d go on a walk to the other end of the beach. So we walked for about 40 minutes. When we got back we went into the sea to cool down and went back to the sunbed. I ended up standing up to cool down.
Then I just happened to look to the right-hand side and, all of a sudden, I saw a man with a gun.
Most didn’t notice as a slim figure, dressed in black shorts and T-shirt, turned up on the beach. Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgui removed a Kalashnikov he’d concealed in a parasol.
Ellie: He brought out this massive black gun and started shooting everybody. He shot all around him. People were dropping to the floor so quickly. There are no words to describe how quickly it happened. It was literally split-second, and then we just ran. I ran for my life.
Angela: At first I thought it was fireworks, firecrackers. My friend and I looked up and instantly realised it wasn’t. It was a boy, a young man, dressed all in black with a huge gun. He was systematically going from side to side, shooting people, killing them, people who were lying on sun loungers. He was murdering them. We saw people trying to run. They were just targets to him.
In my time in the Royal Air Force I fired many automatic weapons myself. I knew that that was sustained gunfire.
I started shouting. First of all I said to my wife: “Run back to the hotel. Take cover.” But I couldn’t go with her at that point because there were too many people who were just lazing on the loungers, just looking up, without any sense of urgency. I started shouting at the top of my voice for people to run. I was waving my arms around and I must have stayed there another minute or more.
I was walking as fast as I could. My heart was beating so fast I was trembling. As I started to cry, a lady came towards me with her husband, asked if I was on my own, put her arms round me and gave me a hug.
Panic spread among those on the beach.
Most people around us tried to lie down on the ground. My friend and I were among them. But many people panicked and stood up to see what was going on and they were shot at. Those who were lying down were safer.
Angela: We looked at each other and played dead. We threw ourselves to the ground, put our heads right in the sand. We couldn’t see anything but could still hear. All you could hear was this loud noise. Such a heavy noise it was, and it was coming closer and closer. He was getting nearer.
The gunman kept on firing at holidaymakers.
Ellie: We ran back to the hotel. We could hear shots getting louder and him getting closer. The screaming was awful. It was so loud. It was worse than babies crying 24/7. People’s arms were in the air. You see it on TV and think: “God, that’s awful.” Seeing it yourself, with your own eyes, it was even worse.
For two minutes he was shooting and killing people. People were running. My friend took a little girl and helped her to escape.
It quickly became obvious to the Tunisians on the beach that 23-year-old Rezgui was only trying to shoot Westerners. Some tried to reason with him.
We said: “Please stop shooting.” He didn’t listen to us. He just kept shooting. He didn’t care.
I found two tourists in the water, running away from the bullets. I talked to them and got them into my boat.
The surviving tourists on the beach were in a state of terror and confusion, as the gunman walked within a few metres of them.
Angela: There was no more screaming. [Rezgui] was at the side of me. I was lying down and I could see his feet. At that time you just know you’re going to die in a minute.
Then there was a click and something dropped because the sand came up over me. There was another, louder click, almost a crunch. I suppose he’d run out of ammunition, but he’d refilled.
He was above. He was just there. I just remember thinking: “Oh, God.” Then there was a bang, a big bang. I don’t know what it was, but it was enough for him to turn. I knew he’d turned because of all the sand that came up on me.
Issam: As soon as people started to group together, he started to shoot more intensively. I didn’t move, because he was shooting so close to us. I saw him load the second magazine.
Rezgui, seemingly calm, moved methodically, seeking out more victims. He walked up the beach to the swimming pool in the hotel grounds. Guests there were initially unsure what was going on.
Sam: We were just lying there thinking “we’ll have to go and get some lunch” and heard a loud, continuous banging. I thought: “Why is somebody letting off fireworks?” It really sounded like fireworks. I thought: “That’s a bit silly because it’s light.” And then it stopped for a while.
Tom: A lot of people stopped still and looked up. It was like a deathly quiet, a horrible eerie feel. Everyone was looking around to see what was going on and I heard someone say: “People are running from the beach. People are running from the beach.” So automatically you stand up and look. Then it happened again – more gunfire – and that’s when I turned to my mum and said: “Run. Run. That’s not fireworks. Just run.”
Sam: So we got up, picked up our belongings – I don’t know why – and ran from where we were and just kept running and running and running.
Issam: He was shooting by the pool. He took a lot of time at the pool. He had a grenade that he threw in the pool.
Mohamed: He was shooting. One [victim] and then he’d go to the next one. He was like a professional. We tried to help the people. There were old people and young. What did they do to [deserve to] die?
Sam: He was behind us. We could hear him shooting. It was getting louder. I didn’t look back. I just ran towards the hotel, up the steps to the right of the hotel. There were loads of other tourists there. They were running in the same direction. We knew at that point it was obviously guns but it sounded like there were five or six of them.
Hotel staff attempted to get as many people as possible to safety.
Sam: There was a receptionist waving us through a door, so we ran with some other guests through a door, up a flight of stairs and just kept running down a corridor which was the staff area. The staff there were looking at us saying: “What are you what are you doing here?” And we said: “There’s a gunman shooting. There’s a gunman.” They looked really shocked.
Emboldened by the fact that Rezgui wasn’t shooting at Tunisians, some started to follow him.
Aimen: We encouraged each other and we decided to get in the hotel and kill the terrorist. And I started filming. I was afraid when he was shooting. But when I followed him and filmed him, I didn’t care if I was killed. We must defend our lives and protect ourselves.
He wasn’t a big man. He was armed. It was the Kalashnikov that gave him power.
Angela was still lying on the beach, pretending to be dead.
Angela: I could hear the shootings were going away. You could tell they were moving up to the hotel. And at that point we both looked at each other under the sun loungers.
We got up. We held hands. I said: “Look, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to go.” I knew there was another hotel next door, so we both started running. But I couldn’t run very far and I ended up crawling a lot of the way. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain that fear. I don’t know a word big enough.
I had to go through these [dead and injured] people and this lady. She just said: “Please help me. Please help me.” And it wasn’t like I thought bullet holes [would be]. You think it’s going to be a hole, but they were like gouges out of her body and I could only say, “I’ll be back. I’ll come back.”
There was no one moving. We just had to keep moving until we got to the next hotel.
Angela made her way towards the Imperial’s neighbouring hotel, the Bellevue Park, thinking this would offer safety. Ellie was already inside the lobby.
Ellie: I asked the staff had they rung the police. Had they done anything about it? Was security aware? They said they didn’t know what was going on. They weren’t sure.
[They asked] could they do anything to assure us. I said: “Well, I’m asking you the questions. You should be reassuring me, telling me that there’s police coming.” There was a massive confusion. Everybody was running around.
At the time of the attack I was at another hotel about 1km away. I got the phone call to tell me that the attack had started, that there was a terrorist in the hotel. I thought immediately of my clients and my staff. I was distraught. My first reaction was to ring the minister of the interior while I was still on my way, to inform him of the disaster.
From the Imperial’s outdoor pool area, the gunman walked into the spa complex to the side.
Issam: People in the hotel were screaming. They couldn’t see him. They just heard the sound of him shooting. People were crying and running after him. People were not so far from him.
The gunman made his way into the hotel and up to the first-floor management area where more than 20 tourists, including Sam and Tom, had fled.
Sam: We carried on running down the corridor and we came to a dead end.
Tom: As we turned around, I heard two shots fired. As people parted ways, I saw two people had been shot right at the bottom of the corridor and there was just one gunman stood right at the end of the corridor opposite me. It was like something off a horror movie – the bad guy being at the end of the corridor.
Everyone was trying to get into the nearest door, or down the corridor – scurrying, trying to find anything. As all this happened he must have thrown a grenade and also shot in my direction. It landed about a metre-and-a-half/two metres in front of me.
Sam: I felt the shrapnel hit the back of my leg and that’s when Thomas fell to the floor and said: “I’ve been hit. I’ve been hit.”
Tom: I remember watching it, like in slow motion. I got blown back by the blast of the grenade.
Sam: It happened so quickly. I thought at that point that we weren’t going to survive this.
Tony Callaghan, who’d found his wife Christine after leaving the beach, was also in the corridor.
Tony: The gunman had followed us up and was firing in the corridor. I felt a bullet hit my left calf as I was running. Chris was right behind me. I just turned into this little alcove and the chap in front of me, with another guy, had burst the door open and we all sort of dived into an office.
The first chap was attempting to put a bookcase against the door to barricade it. But I looked round and Chris wasn’t with me. I shouted out my wife’s name and “where is she?” A chap said: “You know we can’t go out. What if the gunman’s there?”
I said I needed to be out there with her. As I said that I heard my wife shouting out: “Tony, please help me. I’ve been shot.” I was inside, relatively safe, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
I couldn’t get outside to help her.
Christine: I was so frightened. I thought they were going to come and finish us off. I was so traumatised.
Tony: The nightmare that I can’t get out of my mind is not being able to help Chris when she was shot. I feel guilty I couldn’t help her. But I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t jeopardise the other five people in that room. That will stick with me. I’ve got to try and come to terms with that.
Zohra: He shot in all directions. It was like a robot shooting everywhere. The staff saved a huge number, dozens, if not hundreds, of clients. Without them there would surely have been a much higher death toll.
In the Bellevue Hotel, next door, Ellie was by now hiding under a bed in case the gunman entered and searched the building.
Ellie: I was texting my parents, saying: “I love you all so much and this is probably going to be the end.” What do you say to family that you don’t think you’re ever going to see again? You just pour your heart out. I was doing that for about 40 minutes, not knowing if I was going home or if I was going to be coming back in a body bag.
The gunman left the staff area of the Imperial and walked back out on to the beach. The Tunisians once again tried to get him to stop.
Aimen: I wanted to stand in his way and hit him with something. When I saw he was thin, I realised I could attack him even if he was armed. He took piece of paper from his bag. I think it showed how to find his way around. Then he prepared a grenade. He picked up his Kalashnikov.
There was a disagreement on the beach.
Mehdi: When I saw the tourist policeman, I said to him: “Why aren’t you shooting the terrorist?” He said to me: “I don’t have a bulletproof vest.”
Mohamed: I told him: “I’ve got no vest, but I’m going.” He said: “It’s your risk if you die.” I said: “OK, no problem, no problem.”
The police were scared. One said: “If he sees me with a police T-shirt, he will shoot me.” So he rolled up the T-shirt in his hand and he ran with the people.
A young Tunisian man in red shorts seized a gun from an unwilling policeman and headed off to try to fire it at Rezgui. He missed him and the gun jammed after two shots.
There were reports from some tourists of seeing a second gunman in red shorts. But Aimen’s video, taken together with Tunisian eyewitnesses, leaves little doubt that the so-called second gunman was in fact the brave Tunisian in red shorts.
Rezgui retaliated to being fired at by throwing a grenade, forcing the group of Tunisians following him to drop back and re-group. He moved back to the beach, to the area in front of the Bellevue hotel.
By now, Angela had crawled along the beach to the Bellevue, where a member of staff hid her in his office.
Angela: There was a lot of shooting going on. I didn’t know if I was ever going to get home. I didn’t know if I was going to get out of the room and if there were a lot of these murderers, whether they were going to come and search everyone out. I did a lot of praying.
Several Tunisians formed a human chain outside the Bellevue to prevent Rezgui entering and killing more tourists.
Mehdi: He asked me: “Why are you here?” So I said to him: “You are destroying my livelihood by murdering people. And you ask me: ‘Why are you here?'”
I pulled two pots from the beach and tried to hit him with them. He wasn’t shooting any Arabs. So I was among those who could get near him and wouldn’t be harmed.
Sam and Tom, both wounded, were still hiding in the toilets in the management area of the Imperial.
Sam: We heard this other girl who followed us in there and she was crying in the toilet next door. I was saying: “Please be quiet. Be quiet.” We didn’t know if he was still in the corridor or if there were more of them. So we brought her into the toilet and she passed out. We had to sit her on the toilet and bring her round.
Tom: She had a massive piece of shrapnel in her leg. I said to her: “I’m going to have to take this out if I’m going to stop the bleeding.” So she said OK, and I pulled it out and packed her leg with tissue paper, and used my top to tie it round to try and stop the bleeding. Then I did the same with my mum’s leg.
Sam: I felt so sick. I thought: “This is it. We’re not going to survive this.” I didn’t even know if my youngest son was OK. We were in sheer panic. Luckily we had our mobiles with us. The lady of the family that had Callum – they’d taken him and barricaded themselves in – rang me and said: “We’ve got Callum.”
The killer was followed along the beach by a human chain, barring him from entering the Bellevue Hotel. He began to run, turning into an alley leading from the beach to a shopping street.
Aimen: We were running behind him. We were all running behind him.
Mark Barlow and Becky Catterick, from Scunthorpe, had already escaped the beach.
Becky was struggling to run in flip-flops and so I was dragging her up the road. She couldn’t even run.
It was fear. I was frozen, basically.
Some shopkeepers offered shelter to terrified tourists.
[Rezgui] came from the beach. I said: “What’s the problem?” Someone told me: “Terrorist, terrorist.” I said: “OK, you come in. Go inside. Go inside.” They came inside and they stayed here, kept quiet. Everyone stayed. I said: “Listen, if something happens, I will protect you until the end.”
Rezgui fired several shots at the door of Ajmi’s shop. Mark and Becky were already taking refuge in another shop nearby.
Mark: We were all silent. You could hear a pin drop in the toilet that we were in. Everything was going on outside. It was just constant gunfire.
Becky: It was getting closer and closer and you could hear it louder and louder. I turned to Mark and [other friends] and said: “You know, I love you guys.”
Mark: I said: “I love you back.” I was quiet and, with my head down, I was holding everybody, arms round everyone, trying to keep calm.
Builder Moncef Mayel was watching from a rooftop above the street.
The tourists were all running, as were the hotel workers. We saw the silhouette of someone running about on the beach but then he came up this street here.
As he came closer, I shouted insults at him, asking him what he was doing, that this was contrary to Islam, that what he was doing was wrong, that he was a terrorist, stuff like that.
He raised his gun and fired but his aim was off because he was tired. I took tiles and threw them down on him. I was throwing down the second lot when my neighbour started shouting: “Stop. He’s fallen. He’s fallen.”
After apparently being shot once by a police officer, Rezgui got up again, started moving and fired at police. But, 38 minutes after he began shooting tourists, police finally cornered him further down the street.
Aimen: He fell down and he stood up again. After that, he started shooting at the police. There were so many policemen there. He tried to run away but he was injured. There were lots and lots of bullets. There were so many policemen.
Rezgui continued to fire his Kalashnikov. Police shot him several times.
Aimen: I was sad because I hoped that they wouldn’t kill him, but arrest him alive. It would have been better if he was arrested – to be accountable and to be asked about the motive behind killing those people.
The gunman was dead, but those back at the Bellevue had no idea what was going on, or whether they were safe.
Angela: There was an awful lot of gunshots, a lot of noise. A man came back into the office to say that the police had killed him and that it was alright now, we could come out. But there was still more shooting. It didn’t make sense. So, again, we wouldn’t come out and he went away. He came back, maybe five minutes later, to try and reassure us we could come out, so we did.
There were scenes of devastation at the Imperial.
Sam: During all this time, there was a lady who was badly injured from the grenade in the corridor [of the Imperial]. I can hear still hear now: “Help me. Help me. I’m dying.” At the end of the day, we were just too scared to come out. That’s still upsetting for me now because I couldn’t go and help her. I was too frightened to go out there. But eventually we heard friendly voices. At that point we went out and had a look and the lady was being attended by the medics, but she was very badly injured. I just feel awful inside that I didn’t go out and help her.
You don’t normally see things like that, the poor, poor people in that corridor. It’ll take a long time to be able to come to terms with a lot of that, that happened there.
Tom: Right at the end of the corridor there were two dead bodies. We had to walk around them to get out.
Sam: It was horrific. How we didn’t die in that corridor is unbelievable.
Tony and Christine were reunited.
Tony: When we thought it was safe enough to go out, we pulled the barricade away and got out. I could then see what carnage had taken place in the corridor.
As soon as I saw Chris I was absolutely overwhelmed by what I saw. It was an appalling sight – Chris’s leg 90 degrees across her body.
I gave her a great big hug and I remember saying if you lose your leg – because we thought her leg might go – it doesn’t matter. We’re alive and we’re actually going to get through this together, no matter what injuries we’ve got. I comforted my wife.
Others were less fortunate.
Tony: A lady obviously had been shot in the back. Her husband was there. He was OK. He was frantic, didn’t know what to do.
In one of the little offices to the right there was a young guy, sitting in a chair, and his girlfriend was dead. He was holding her hand and he said: “What do I do?” I said: “Have you checked for her pulse?” I pulled him out of the way and I checked and there was no pulse whatsoever.
I said: “I’m so sorry. I think she’s passed away.” He said they were meant to be getting married in two weeks’ time.
Once the immediate shock of the attack was over, guests were desperate to know what had happened to their friends and loved ones.
Zohra: It was total chaos. People didn’t know who had died, who was injured. People were looking for their partners, their families, their personal friends. Even among the staff, we didn’t know who was or who wasn’t dead. There were moments of fear, seeing the bodies, seeing this terrible massacre.
Angela: People had no time. They couldn’t do anything. They were just gunned down.
It took police almost three hours to check whether Rezgui was wired with explosives before taking his body away. Only then were Mark and Becky able to leave the shop where they were hiding.
Becky: It didn’t actually hit me until I’d sat down in the hotel reception and my mum answered the phone. I said: “I’m alive. I’m safe.” And she burst out crying. That’s when it hit us all, when we knew we were safe.
The survivors of the Imperial Hotel massacre are trying to come to terms with their trauma.
Tom: I wouldn’t want to ever be in that situation ever again and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Becky: There’ve been terrorist attacks in the UK and people still go to London, on the Tube, where the bombings were. It could happen anywhere, at any time at any location. You’re never really truly safe anywhere. So it wouldn’t stop me from going back to the country.
Tunisia’s tourism industry is expected to be heavily damaged by the attack.
Zohra: The British have always been our friends. I’d like to say to them: “Come back. You’re very welcome here. We’ll battle together to fight for individual freedom, for human freedom.”
Of the 38 people Seifeddine Rezgui killed, 30 were British. All the British tourists interviewed by Panorama are back at home. Sam and Tom are recovering from their injuries and coming to terms with what happened.
Christine is still recovering from being shot – her injuries are described as “life-changing”. She has had three operations on her leg and is due to have another. She is spending time with Tony, her children and grandchildren.
The relative calm of being back in the UK has allowed survivors time to contemplate what happened.
Angela: I have nightmares. I can see and hear it in the daytime. I just hope that it will maybe ease and let me sleep and that every minute isn’t preoccupied with it. The noise, the noise of that gun. It’s still coming towards me.
I went to church the other day. I went to look for answers. Those poor people didn’t even have time to say: “Please help.”
I didn’t get answers. But I realised I was there to ask for them to be looked after.
Two posters, one reading ‘refugees welcome’ and another reading ‘Nobody is illegal’
In response to a wave of recent anti-refugee protests across Germany, a political activist placed pro-refugee posters at bus stops in the small town of Freital, sparking a debate online.
The messages were a mixture of serious and tongue-in-cheek, written in both English and German: “Refugees welcome”, “Nobody is illegal” and “Nazis secretly eat falafel”. They were posted by an anti-racist campaigner who runs a Facebook page called Dies Irae, which translates as Day of Wrath.
The words were intended as messages of support for the refugees who have been housed in the area, which witnessed high-profile demonstrations by far-right groups earlier this month. That was part of the reason it was selected by the activist, who does not live in the town. “Nobody would notice if you posted these in [a big city like] Dresden,” he tells BBC Trending, “but if you take action in a small town like Freital, they get attention.” He declined to give his name, saying he feared reprisals from far-right groups.
The posters themselves, hung last week, lasted less than a day before being removed, but the images have garnered much more attention online. Collectively they have been liked and shared more than 80,000 times on Facebook, and spawned a debate about the stunt.
A poster reading ‘Nazis secretly eat falafel‘
“But illegal immigration is a crime,” wrote one, in response to one of the posters. Others called the campaign “stupid”, motivated by the activist’s sense of superiority. And others took issue with the image of a refugee family, claiming the majority of new residents were men under 25.
But most posts appeared to be supportive. “Very good,” and “We should make T-shirts out of these [designs],” read two comments.
The activist behind Dies Irae describes himself as an “adbuster”. “I’m trying to reclaim the streets by putting useful posters in the public sphere – that’s what it’s for. It’s not for big corporations to sell us products that we don’t need,” he says. He and fellow activists have routinely defaced adverts in other parts of Germany – usually in an attempt to satirise consumer culture.
Freital has seen increasingly heated anti-refugee demonstrations and outbreaks of violence in recent months, since it was announced that 280 refugees would be housed in a former hotel in the town.
Authorities in Niger’s Diffa area, on the border with Nigeria, have banned the full Islamic veil following suicide attacks in countries in the region by women wearing the religious garment, an official said Wednesday.
“Women in the region are forbidden from wearing the full veil until further notice, in order to prevent suicide attacks by Boko Haram,” Diffa mayor Hankouraou Biri-Kassoum told AFP.
The full veil has been banned in several regions of Cameroon after a string of bombings by women and girls, including attackers wearing the garment.
“It’s better to prevent danger,” a security source told AFP, adding that “a growing number of women and young girls are wearing the full veil in Diffa.”
A night-time curfew has been imposed, while February’s ban on motorcycles — the jihadists’ vehicle of choice — has been extended, the mayor said.
Niger has joined a regional campaign alongside Chad, Niger and Nigeria to battle Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed at least 15,000 people since 2009 in the name of founding an Islamic caliphate.
While regional efforts have scored a number of victories in recent months, the militants have unleashed a massive wave of violence since Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in in May.
Dozens have been killed in a string of bombings and raids across the region.
On July 12, the Islamists raided Diffa prison in a likely bid to free detained members, killing a guard, according to local authorities.
Six days later, Boko Haram militants killed 16 civilians in an attack on a southeastern Niger village.
In June, 38 civilians were killed — including 10 children — in a Boko Haram attack targeting two villages close to Diffa.
The German foreign ministry warned on Wednesday about possible attacks on Istanbul’s underground rail network and bus stops in the wake of Turkey’s assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. (File photo: Reuters)
By Reuters | Berlin.
The German foreign ministry warned on Wednesday about possible attacks on Istanbul’s underground rail network and bus stops in the wake of Turkey’s assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.
“There could be increased attack activity by the PKK,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website, referring to the Kurdistan Workers Party.
“Beyond that there are indications of possible attacks on the underground rail network and bus stops in Istanbul,” the ministry added.
The number of foreign visitors to Turkey fell by 2.25 percent to 14.89 million people in the first six months, data from the Tourism Ministry showed on Wednesday.
A long-serving Democratic member of Congress and four associates were indicted for their roles in a racketeering conspiracy to further their political and financial interests, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah Sr., 58, of Philadelphia, was charged in a 29-count indictment, along with his district chief of staff, Bonnie Bowser, his former congressional staffer Karen Nicholas, lobbyist Herbert Vederman and Philadelphia-based technology company founder Robert Brand, for allegedly participating in several schemes.
The crimes include bribery, conspiracy to commit wire, bank, mail and honest services fraud, falsification of records and money laundering.
The charges stemmed from Fattah’s unsuccessful 2007 run for mayor of Philadelphia. The DOJ alleges that Fattah and his associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter and used his educational foundation and charitable and federal grant funds to help repay the campaign loan, said Zane Memeger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Fattah also is accused of using campaign funds to repay his son’s $23,000 student loan debt.
“The conduct that Congressman Fattah engaged in undermines public faith in government, undermines confidence in government,” Memeger told reporters Wednesday at a press conference. “The behavior is something that our public does not expect their public officials to engage in.”
The FBI had been investigating the alleged fraudulent activity since March 2013, Memeger said.
A court date for the individuals has not yet been scheduled.
A man from western New York who allegedly followed the Islamic State, or ISIS, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with attempting to provide material support and personnel to the terrorist organization, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Arafat Nagi, 42, of Lackawanna, is accused of pledging allegiance to ISIS. He allegedly traveled to Turkey in 2012 and 2014 with the intent of meeting with ISIS members and purchasing military combat items.
The FBI was first alerted to him last August, when a resident of Lackawanna told agents that Nagi spoke about violent jihad to people in the community and often verbally argued with others about his jihadi beliefs. The resident reportedly told authorities that Nagi was mad about the killing of rebels in Yemen, which he blamed on the U.S., according to DOJ.
Nagi allegedly attempted to join ISIL and pledge allegiance to the terrorist organization. In two separate trips, Nagi traveled from Lackawanna to Turkey, the criminal complaint alleges, and he purchased items including military combat gear such as night vision goggles and black flags which are sometimes associated with Isil.
His first trip only lasted one day due to a medical issue but the second trip took place last July and lasted 10 days, U.S. Attorney Hochul said on Wednesday morning.
The complaint also alleges that the Lackawnna community said that Nagi espoused violent jihad and believed that he constituted a threat to those in the U.S.
Nagi could face 15 years in jail, a $250,000 fine, or both, if convicted of attempting to provide material support to Isil.
The current Kabul government is investigating reports of his death, a presidential spokesman said Wednesday, amid frenzied speculation about the rumored demise of the reclusive warrior-cleric.
Zafar Hashemi, a deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, made the announcement at a hastily called news conference Wednesday in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“We are aware of the reports of the passing away of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader,” Hashemi said. “We are still in the process of checking those reports, and as soon as we get confirmation or verification, we will inform the Afghan people and the media.”
A Pakistani security official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists, called the circling rumors “speculation” designed to disrupt peace talks.
Updated | KABUL (Reuters) Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Confirmed Dead by Afghan Intelligence Agency – A spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Wednesday that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar died two years ago in a Pakistani hospital.
The statement by National Directorate of Security spokesman Hasib Sediqi came after the Afghan government said it was investigating reports of Omar’s death, just days ahead of an expected second round of peace talks with the Taliban.
The NDS has previously said privately that its intelligence indicated Omar was dead, but it has not provided proof.
Taliban chief Mullah Omar has cast a long shadow over Afghanistan ever since he led a young band of zealots to power almost two decades ago, imposing brutal Islamist rule over the country.
The one-eyed leader outraged the international community with his fundamentalist regime’s treatment of women, its enforcement of Sharia law and strict bans on most sport, television and music.
He incurred the wrath of the United States by giving shelter to Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, prompting a U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
After his government was toppled in Kabul late that year, Omar headed a raging anti-government insurgency from the shadows.
Even though he has not been seen in public since 2001, Omar has remained a unifying figure for Taliban forces attempting to seize power even as the Islamic State group has begun to encroach on their traditional domain.
For one of the world’s most wanted men, relatively little is known about Omar. He was hardly ever photographed and said in rare interviews that he had never flown on a plane and had left Afghanistan just once, to visit Pakistan.
His U.S. State Department website wanted profile, which offers a $10 million bounty, has two indistinct pictures and almost no details except that he is tall and male with a black beard and a shrapnel wound to the right eye.
But a long official biography published online in April — apparently to counter the creeping influence of the Islamic State group which has reportedly welcomed Taliban defectors — described him as “charismatic” and closely involved with the outfit’s military operations.
It also listed his favorite weapon as the RPG-7 and praised his even temper and “special” sense of humor.
An ethnic Pashtun from a humble background, Omar was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat in Kandahar province, according to the Taliban biography, and educated on a diet of Koranic verses at religious schools.
He lost his right eye while fighting with the Afghan mujahideen against the occupying Soviet Army in the 1980s. Taliban legend has it that he cut out the wounded eye himself, while more prosaic accounts say he was treated at a hospital in Pakistan.
After the Soviets pulled out in 1989 he returned to his native area as a prayer leader and teacher.
There, he began to attract a band of religious students — “Taliban” means students in Pashto — and former mujahideen to fight the warlords holding sway over much of Afghanistan.
Omar’s authority was both military and religious, and he enhanced both in April 1996 when he appeared on the balcony of a shrine in Kandahar wrapped in a cloak said to belong to the Prophet Mohammed.
In September 1996, backed by Pakistani intelligence, the Taliban captured Kabul from the Northern Alliance and brutally executed former president Najibullah.
Omar’s relationship with the man who would eventually lead to the regime’s downfall began soon after Bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan in late 1996, following the Saudi’s expulsion from Sudan.
The Al-Qaida supremo reportedly curried favor with the Taliban leader. According to Yossef Bodansky, author of a book on the Al-Qaida founder, they cemented their ties in 1998 when Omar married bin Laden’s oldest daughter.
But as Omar’s profile grew in the Muslim world, so did the opprobrium heaped on him by the West. The Taliban were recognized as the legal government only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Taller Buddha in 1963 (L) and in 2008 (R) after destruction
Omar and the Taliban provoked international outrage in March 2001 by blowing up the giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan.
By the end of the year the Taliban regime, too, lay in ruins following the onslaught by U.S.-led and Northern Alliance forces after 9/11.
While Omar is hailed by supporters for his military prowess, he is said to have endorsed as “legitimate” peace talks that began this month aimed at ending the 13-year insurgency — the last public statement attributed to him.