Sunday, October 04, 2015

Ethiopia Stalls Negotiations With Egypt and Sudan Over Renaissance Dam
Ahram Online
Sunday 4 Oct 2015

Future of negotiations remains unclear as Ethiopia asks to postpone the tripartite meeting of 4 October

A tripartite meeting that was supposed to be held in Egypt on Sunday has been postponed upon the request of Addis Ababa in the latest setback to efforts to reach a compromise over Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam.

Egypt had invited Ethiopian and Sudanese officials, along with representatives from the consultancy firm studying the impact of the dam, to a meeting headed by the Egyptian National Committee of the Grand Ethiopian Dam (TNC).

The meeting was arranged to discuss the recent differences between the countries over the building of the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia.

The tripartite meeting was scheduled to take place in Egypt on Sunday 4 October, a date that was confirmed during President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during the UN General Assembly meeting.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York last week and confirmed that negotiations over the controversial dam would continue on 4 October.

This is not the first setback since the three countries signed the declaration of principles in March, which aims to safeguard the interests of all parties involved.

In September, Egypt expressed its concern after the two foreign consultancy firms failed to deliver their reports to the tripartite committee on time.

They had also missed a deadline in August, forcing the tripartite committee to re-schedule for 5 September.

The Dutch consultancy firm, Deltares, then withdrew from the assessment of the dam in September. The firm reasoned that the conditions set by the TNC did not provide Deltares with the opportunity to carry out an independent, high quality study.

The continuous stalling by Ethiopian officials and the withdrawal of the Dutch firm has put future negotiations in jeopardy.

Ex-irrigation minister Mohamed Nasr Allam has called on the Egyptian government to appeal to the United Nations to resolve the matter due to the failure of negotiations with Ethiopia.

Egypt, with its share of 55 billion cubic meters, is currently suffering from a water deficit of 20 billion cubic meters which it compensates through water recycling, a process that is not viable in the long run.

The dam, scheduled to be completed in 2017, will be Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant with a storage capacity of 74 billion cubic meters of water.
Assad Says Coalition of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq Needed to Save Middle East Region
October 04, 16:49 UTC+3

The Syrian authorities, according to Assad, do not trust the United States due to the policy that country and its allies are pursuing in the Middle East

TEHERAN, October 1. /TASS/. The coalition of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq has no other choice but to win, otherwise the entire Middle East region will be ruined, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel.

"The coalition consisting of Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq must succeed or the region will be destroyed," he said.

The Syrian authorities, according to Assad, do not trust the United States due to the policy that country and its allies are pursuing in the Middle East.

He said the damage done to the country’s infrastructure in the five years of the warfare is estimated at more than 200 billion U.S. dollars. As many as 250,000 people gave been killed in the conflict and six to seven million more have been driven out of their homes.

When asked to comment of the West’s changing position, which now doesn’t rule out Assad’s possible participation in an interim government, the Syrian leader said, "I am saying clearly and resolutely, no foreigner can bear responsibility for Syria’s future, for the future of its political system." "Only the Syrian people has the right to express its views on these issues, so all these Western comments are useless for us," Assad stressed.

He said the Syrian people had paid an excessive price to agree to become a dependent nation "implementing the will of foreign states." As for the West’s position, it has begun to change after Europe came to face manifestations of terrorism and refugee influx, he added.

Refugee problem will be solved after extermination of terrorism

The problem of Syrian refugees will be solver after extermination of terrorism in Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel.

He said that to solve the problem of Syrian refugees it was necessary first to defeat terrorism and stop helping terrorists with weapons and fiancing from Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Syria’s future will be decided in political dialogue

Syria’s future will be decided on the basis of political dialogue and nationwide referendum on a new constitution, Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Sunday in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel.

He pledged to be committed to this path. "But dialogue could be started only after defeat of terrorism," he said.

When asked whether contact between Russia and the United States on Syria could be seen as interference into Syria’s domestic affairs or whether Russia’s assistance could end up in such interference, Assad said the sixty-year history of his country’s relations with the former Soviet Union and Russia as its successor had demonstrated that Russia had never interfered into Syrian domestic affairs. "On the contrary, Russia and other countries of the BRICS group are trying to prevent such interference and violation of relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council on Syria," he said. "These states have always been insisting that matters of Syria’s future political system and its future president are domestic affairs of Syria that are to be decided by the Syrian people," he stressed.

Terrorism in Syria provoked from outside

Terrorism in Syria has been provoked from outside, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel on Sunday.

He said it was clear from the very beginning that terrorism in Syria had been provoked from outside to wreak havoc and destabilize the country. In his words, the Syrian government had learnt the lessons from the political crisis and a wave of protests on March 2011 and was committed to the efforts to counter terrorism.

When asked by an Iranian correspondent why the anti-terrorist efforts of the Western coalition were to no avail, Assad noted drew a parallel, saying that a thief could never be a police hand. He said the alliance supporting terrorism can never succeed in exterminating it. "After several months of bombardments by the Western coalition, we saw no results, moreover, the result was just the opposite - the geography of terrorism has only expanded and the number of people who joined terrorists was only growing," he said.
US Military Presses to Keep Troops in Afghanistan Beyond 2016 - Report
1 Oct, 2015 03:41

Following a battle between the Taliban and Afghan forces in the northern of city of Kunduz, the US military has resurrected a proposal to keep at least a few thousand American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, the Associated Press reported.

If the plan is approved it would represent a reversal for President Barack Obama, who has pledged to remove all American troops from Afghanistan by the time he leaves office.

For now, Afghan special forces have taken back the main areas of Kunduz from the Taliban in an overnight offensive on Wednesday, according to the Afghanistan Interior Ministry. The US had also conducted airstrikes around Kunduz and conducted two more airstrikes on Tuesday night to aid in the recapture.

"AFG Special Security Forces now controls Kunduz City, it is retaken and being cleared from terrorists, heavy causality to the enemy," Interior Ministry Spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said in a Tweet.

The rapidness of the Taliban’s takeover of Kunduz, a city of 300,000 people, marked the group’s first offensive capture of a major city since the US invaded 14 years ago in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The takeover also highlighted the fragile security situation in Afghanistan and prompted speculation by military leaders about whether a complete drawdown of troops is the best plan.

Under the present plan, President Obama was working towards having about 1,000 military personnel left in Afghanistan as embassy-based security next year, down drastically from the 9,800 soldiers there currently. This would meet his foreign policy goal, announced during his second term, of ending the US war in Afghanistan and removing American troops by the time he left office in 2016.

The top US Commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Campbell, has given the administration several options for gradually reducing the number of troops over a 15-month period. US officials told the AP that the options all call for retaining a higher-than-planned troop presence to sustain the Afghan army and prevent losing more ground.

General Campbell’s options, according to US officials, would be to postpone any major cuts in troop levels this year, “keeping as many as 8,000 troops there well into next year” and “maintaining several thousand as a counterterrorism force in 2017.”

The AP said the proposition of a counterterrorism force was first raised in March during top-level meetings at a Camp David presidential retreat. It is a position favored by the Republican-controlled Congress and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

General Campbell is due to testify to Congress next week on the situation in Afghanistan. Republican lawmakers have been critical of Obama’s approach – transitioning from wartime occupation to full Afghan security control – and have said the fall of Kunduz was a natural consequence of his plan.

In a statement, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said the Kunduz attack “is the latest manifestation of this dangerous reversal,” reported Fox News.

McCain noted that Obama is "still on pace to withdraw all US combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016," but urged the president to "abandon this dangerous and arbitrary course and adopt a plan for U.S. troop presence based on conditions on the ground."
Philly Woman One of Six Airmen Killed in Afghanistan Plane Crash
By Wire Reports
NBC10 Staff

Friends and family are mourning a local woman who was one of the six airmen killed when a U.S. Air Force military transport plane crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

Airman 1st Class Kcey Ruiz, 21, who was originally from Philadelphia but moved to Georgia in 2004, according to her family members, died Friday after an American C-130 transport plane crashed after midnight local time (3:19 p.m. ET) at Jalalabad airfield in Afghanistan.

The other airmen killed in the crash were Capt. Jonathan Golden, 33, of Camarillo, California, Capt. Jordan Pierson, 28, of Abilene, Texas, Staff Sgt. Ryan Hammond, 26, of Moundsville, West Virginia, Senior Airman Quinn Johnson-Harris, 21, of Milwaukee and Senior Airman Nathan Sartain, 29, of Pensacola, Florida.

Golden, Pierson, Hammond and Johnson-Harris were based at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. Sartain and Ruiz were based at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

In a memorial for the airmen, Maj. Met Berisha,  455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander, described Ruiz and Sartain as "the type of Airmen every commander sought to have on their team."

"I knew that without a doubt, that when our nation sent an aircraft into harm's way into an unsecured and dangerous Afghan airfield that the aircrew and aircraft were defended by the finest security forces Airmen our Air Force could possibly deliver," Berisha said. "Simply put, Ruiz and Sartain loved securing and projecting combat airpower for our nation. Their families not only raised fine American patriots, but they raised heroes that we all had the humble honor and phenomenal privilege to serve alongside with here."

Five civilian passengers who were contractors and two Afghan civilians were also killed in the crash.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Read more:
Follow us: @nbcphiladelphia on Twitter | nbcphiladelphia on Facebook
Medical Charity Urges Independent Inquiry After Afghan Hospital Blown Apart
By Masoud Popalzai, Ben Brumfield, Steve Almasy and Jason Hanna, CNN
Sun October 4, 2015

Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent investigation of the deadly bombing of its hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, which it says is no longer operational.

Aerial bombardments blew apart the medical facility about the time of a U.S. airstrike early Saturday, killing at least 22 people, officials said.

The blasts left part of the hospital in flames and rubble, killing 12 staffers and 10 patients -- including three children -- and injuring 37 other people, the charity said.

As the United States said it was investigating what struck the hospital during the night, the charity expressed shock and demanded answers, stressing that all combatants had been told long ago where the hospital was.

Doctors Without Borders says that no one inside the hospital was reporting fighting and that a completely independent investigation is needed.

"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body," said Doctors Without Borders, which is known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF. "Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient."

The bombing was a violation of international humanitarian law, the organization said. It added that MSF international staff member were evacuated to Kabul and critical patients were sent to other facilities. "The MSF Afghan staff who were not killed are either being treated in health facilities in the region or have left the hospital," the organization said.

The bombardments continued even after U.S. and Afghan military officials were notified the hospital was being attacked, the charity said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, en route to Spain Sunday night, told reporters that there was a "determination ... as far as the United State is concerned and as far as our forces are concerned that we be full and transparent about our investigation and also that we hold accountable -- if there is someone to be accountable -- anyone responsible for doing something they shouldn't have done."

Carter said that his reaction to reports of the incident "was the same that anybody's would (be), that this is a tragic loss of life. Your hearts can only go out to innocent people who are caught up in this kind of violence."

Earlier Sunday, the White House released a statement from President Barack Obama offering condolences to the charity from Americans.

"The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy," the President said. "I ... expect a full accounting of the facts and circumstances."

Humanitarian law
But Christopher Stokes, MSF's general director, told CNN that an independent inquiry was needed.

"We need an investigation that's as independent and as transparent as possible, and we don't only want the findings to be shared, we want -- as well -- to be able to read the full report," he said.

"(T)he results of this investigation are I think important for us but also for the ability of humanitarian actors to continue working and provide lifesaving assistance in Afghanistan."

The NATO mission in Afghanistan issued a statement saying it had directed a "preliminary multinational investigation known as a Casualty Assessment Team."

"We anticipate having the results of this initial assessment in a matter of days. Additionally, the U.S. military has opened a formal investigation, headed by a General Officer, to conduct a thorough and comprehensive inquiry," it said.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, strongly condemned the attack and said that it was essential to ensure that any investigation of it is "independent, impartial, transparent and effective."

"This deeply shocking event should be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated and the results should be made public," he said, according to a U.N. statement issued Saturday. "The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime."

Reporting from Kabul, CNN's Nic Robertson said MSF's real concern was one of impartiality, as well as transparency.

"The concern that Doctors Without Borders have at this time is that essentially at this stage, the U.S. is investigating something that the U.S. is possibly involved in," he said.

Taliban presence?

Robertson said a representative of the police chief in Kunduz said that when the attacks happened, a number of Taliban were hiding in the hospital compound. But he said MSF believed there were no Taliban there with weapons.

"The Taliban themselves are saying that that night, there was fighting going on very close to the compound ... and that their fighters went inside the compound to escape the fighting. The impression they're giving is that they weren't engaged in combat," Robertson said.

Stokes earlier said that any wounded patients being treated by MSF could not legally be treated as targets.

"If somebody is wounded, they're a noncombatant, and under international humanitarian law, they should be treated as such and they're not legitimate targets," he said.

Stokes said MSF had been forced to close the hospital since the attack. "There is no access to trauma care now for the civilians and for the wounded in the whole area of Kunduz, which is some kind of battleground for the moment."

An Afghan Health Ministry spokesman later tweeted that surgical teams and medical supplies would soon be arriving in Kunduz by road and air.

Later Sunday, Stokes released a statement saying, "MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities ... (who) imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present. This amounts to an admission of a war crime."

Patients burning

The incident occurred on roughly the sixth day of fighting between Afghan government forces -- supported by U.S. air power and military advisers -- and the Taliban, which invaded the city early this week.

What do ordinary Afghans think about the Taliban's resurgence?

According to MSF, the compound is gated, and no staff members saw any fighters there or nearby.

"If there was a major military operation going on there, our staff would have noticed. And that wasn't the case when the strikes occurred," Stokes said.

The charity, which had had been caring for hundreds already hurt in days of fighting, said it had told all warring parties the exact location of the trauma center, including most recently on Tuesday.

It said that when the aerial attack occurred, 105 patients and their caretakers had been in the hospital. More than 80 MSF international and national staff were present.

One worker described seeing patients burning in their beds.

"We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the (intensive care unit), six patients were burning in their beds," nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs said.

U.S. Army Col. Brian Tibus said the U.S. military had been conducting an airstrike in Kunduz at the time the hospital was hit.

Tibus said a "manned, fixed-wing aircraft" conducted a strike "against individuals threatening the force" at 2:15 a.m. local time, and the strike "may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. military official said the Pentagon is investigating whether a U.S. AC-130 gunship -- which was firing on Taliban positions to defend U.S. special operations troops advising Afghan forces -- is responsible. The official stressed that the information about the probe was preliminary.

Afghanistan said it reclaimed most of the city Thursday in a big operation backed by U.S. airstrikes.

But hours later, there were signs that the Taliban were back in Kunduz, a resident told CNN.

Kunduz is a strategic hub on the main highway between Kabul and Tajikistan, and its incursion was a major setback for Afghan forces.

Why the Taliban takeover of Kunduz is a big deal

CNN's Kevn Bohn, Barbara Starr, Archith Seshadri, Vasco Cotovio, Christine Theodorou, Ashley Fantz, Jethro Mullen and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.
Doctors Without Borders Says It Is Leaving Kunduz After Strike on Hospital
New York Times
OCT. 4, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — The situation in the war-torn Afghan city of Kunduz became more precarious for residents caught between government troops and Taliban militants after the withdrawal Sunday of an aid group that was one of the last providers of medical services there.

The aid organization, Doctors Without Borders, said it was leaving Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, after a catastrophic airstrike on its hospital there on Saturday that killed 22 people, including 12 staff members, and destroyed the intensive care unit.

The Pentagon, which has said it may have inadvertently struck the hospital during a military operation, said in a statement on Sunday that a preliminary investigation of the episode would be completed in a matter of days. The Afghan government also vowed to investigate the airstrike.

A senior American military official said Sunday that there was heavy gunfire in the area around the hospital at the time of the airstrike, and that initial reports indicated that the Americans and Afghans on the ground near the hospital could not safely pull back without being dangerously exposed. American forces on the ground then called for air support, senior officials said.

The closing of the hospital will leave not only the residents of Kunduz, but also those of neighboring districts and provinces, with scant medical care. It was the only free trauma care hospital in northern Afghanistan, according to Doctors Without Borders. The group said that in 2014 more than 22,000 patients received treatment at the hospital and more than 5,900 surgical procedures were performed.

Trauma care is a much needed specialty in Kunduz, which has been plagued by intense fighting for at least the past six years. The medical staff regularly treated gunshot and shrapnel wounds and traumatic injuries caused by bombs. In 2009, the hospital treated scores of people wounded when a convoy carrying fuel to the north was hit by an airstrike called in by the German commander in the region; 142 people died in the strike.

The medical workers were overstretched in recent days, caring for nearly 400 people between Monday, when the Taliban occupied Kunduz, and the early hours of Saturday when the airstrike hit. The doctors and nurses said they cared for any wounded person, regardless of which side of the conflict.

With that hospital closed and the regional hospital bereft of staff, the wounded will have to find their way to hospitals in neighboring provinces. While there are a few clinics in Kunduz, they are not equipped to do surgery or handle the severe wounds inflicted by bombs, mortars and missiles.

Getting to the hospitals in neighboring Takhar Province or in Baghlan Province can take as long as two hours on a good day. Now, with Taliban and Afghan security checkpoints, it seems all but certain that some victims will not reach medical help in time for doctors to save them.

Despite an international outcry, the attack, which appeared to have been carried out by American aircraft, has not stirred the same public resentment here as have past civilian casualties caused by the Americans, which were quickly denounced in searing terms by Hamid Karzai, who stepped down as president last year, and many others.

Many residents of Kunduz, as well as people in Kabul, seemed willing to believe the accusations of some Afghan officials that there were Taliban fighters in the hospital shooting at American troops.

Doctors Without Borders, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, issued a sharp statement Sunday saying it was “disgusted” by statements by Afghan authorities trying to justify the strike on the hospital and called for a transparent and independent investigation.

“These statements imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital — with more than 180 staff and patients inside — because they claim that members of the Taliban were present,” the group’s general director, Christopher Stokes, said in the statement. “This amounts to an admission of a war crime.”

Still, some Afghan officials continued to suggest that the attack was justified. “I know that there were civilian casualties in the hospital, but a lot of senior Taliban were also killed,” said Abdul Wadud Paiman, a member of Parliament from Kunduz.

More than half of those killed were hospital workers, and three of the patients killed were children, but that did not alter Mr. Paiman’s view.

His defense of the bombing suggests a growing fear that the Taliban are back and strong enough to take over much of the country, which makes many Afghans reluctant to criticize one of the few nations still offering military support against them.

“Everyone, including the international community, is afraid of the Taliban,” Mr. Paiman said.

Patricia Gossman, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Afghanistan, said many human rights abuses might be ignored because Afghans feel they have no choice but to support an ally.

“Kunduz falling to the Taliban, however briefly, is deeply demoralizing to many Afghans, who may therefore be reluctant to criticize anyone — Afghan security forces or the U.S. — who can hold the ground against them, even if they commit human rights abuses,” Ms. Gossman said.

“There’s a real fear that if the U.S. doesn’t provide air support, or if militias are not deployed, or the Afghan forces not given free rein, the Taliban will keep advancing,” she said.

Privately, many Afghans expressed disapproval of the carelessness involved in hitting a hospital, but neither the Afghan government nor Afghan television fanned anti-American sentiments as they might have just two years ago.

Tolo News, one of the most successful Afghan television channels, posted on Twitter footage of Afghan soldiers handing out food to civilians with the headline “Life gets back to normal in Kunduz.”

However, interviews with a half-dozen people in Kunduz suggested that in much of the city the situation was anything but normal.

“The situation is very, very bad, so bad that one cannot imagine it,” said Fazel Ahmad, a resident who said that there had been 25 families on his street, but that now he and one other family were the only ones left.

“There is no bread,” Mr. Ahmad said. “No shop is open, so that even the man who has money in his pocket and goes to purchase something can find nothing to bring home.”

“There is no drinking water and no electricity,” he said, adding that as he walked around on Sunday he could tell which families still had working wells. “Any house which still has a working well,” he said, “you can see a queue of people from 20 homes waiting to fetch water for themselves.”

Several residents reported by phone that for several hours on Sunday, government forces managed to raise their flag in one of the main city squares, but several hours later the Taliban had retaken the territory.

Despite the promises of a quick investigation, some American officials said that military investigators’ access to the hospital site was hampered by the presence of a significant number of militant fighters in the area, which was likely to slow the inquiry.

At the Doctors Without Borders hospital, the remaining staff members prepared to evacuate, and relatives came to claim the dead.

An Afghan radio journalist, Zabihullah Pashtonyar, 28, who was in the hospital when it was hit by the airstrike, died there, according to his boss, Zarghona Hassan, founder of Radio Kayhan.

The survivors included a day laborer, Abdul Kareem, 28, and a grocery store owner, Abdul Qadeer, 45. Both were being treated in the hospital after they were wounded in the cross-fire between Afghan forces and the Taliban during the earlier fighting for the city. Mr. Kareem was wounded again in the airstrike, and both men were evacuated to the hospital in Baghlan Province.

Their description of a city with firefights erupting unexpectedly made it clear why so many families were fleeing.

Mr. Kareem said he was caught in the middle of a firefight last week after the Taliban took over the city. “Everyone was just running here and there, including me, but with the first explosion I was hit with shrapnel,” he said. “An airplane was maneuvering above me targeting enemies.” He said six other civilians were also wounded in the same episode.

Then overnight between Friday and Saturday, the hospital was struck, and Mr. Kareem was wounded again.

Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper from Madrid; Eric Schmitt and Matthew Rosenberg from Washington; Jawad Sukhanyar and Ahmad Shakib from Kabul; and an employee of The New York Times from Baghlan Province, Afghanistan.
Bodies of 95 Migrants Washed Ashore in Libya
Tribune wire reports

The bodies of at least 95 migrants have been found washed ashore in Libya over the past five days, a spokesman for Libya's Red Crescent said Sunday.

Mohamed al-Masrati said Red Crescent scouts found 85 of the corpses near Libya's capital Tripoli and 10 near Sabartha, a Libyan coastal city that is a main launching point for smugglers' boats headed to Europe. He says most of the deceased are migrants from other African countries and search efforts continue.

Thousands of migrants seeking a better life in Europe cast off from Libya on rickety boats, hoping to reach Italy. The International Organization for Migration says that more than 2,600 migrants have died in 2015 so far on the Central Mediterranean route that includes Libya.

Smugglers have exploited Libya's internal turmoil to ship thousands of desperate migrants into the Mediterranean.

At the same time, the number of Libyans displaced by the fighting continues to rise.

"Up to today there are more than 550,000 internally displaced people in Libya due to the current conflict in Benghazi and other places, and we believe this number will increase to at least 600,000," said al-Masrati.

The United Nations is pressing Libya's rival governments to form a national unity government. Meanwhile the U.N. says an estimated 2.44 million people in Libya — nearly 40 per cent of the country's population — are in need of protection and some form of humanitarian assistance.

Associated Press
Abuja Blasts Expose Those Behind Them – Buhari
By Isiaka Wakili, Ronald Mutum, Muideen Olaniyi & Abubakar Sadiq Isah
Nigeria Daily Trust
Oct 4 2015 5:02AM

Rescue officials remove the remains of a victim yesterday from the scene of Friday night’s bomb blast in Nyanya, Abuja. PHOTO Abubakar Yakubu

President Muhammadu Buhari, condemning yesterday the latest terrorist attacks in Abuja, Maiduguri and Yola, asserted that the attacks have exposed the real faces of their perpetrators.

Buhari, in a statement he personally signed, said the attacks were “apparently timed to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations when Nigerians would be commemorating” the nation’s independence.

According to him, it is clear that the battle is not ideological but an act between the forces of peace and order as well as the evil forces of murder and destruction.

“These cowardly attacks expose the real faces of the planners and perpetrators of these crimes. What quarrel do they have with the good people of Nyanya motor park? What issue do they have with innocent people in market places in Maiduguri, Yola and Kuje? It is clear this battle is not ideological. It is between the forces of peace and order and the evil forces of murder and destruction”, Buhari said.

The president added that the security forces and other local authorities had been instructed to maintain extra vigilance to forestall future attacks, just as he assured that the Armed Forces had been empowered to crush “what remains of Boko Haram”.

He said his government was determined to stamp out the Boko Haram and “all other terrorists of whatever persuasion and bring all sponsors to justice”, and reiterated that despite the fresh attacks, the defeat of Boko Haram was in sight.

In a separate instance, the president stressed that Nigeria must first tackle the prevalence of violent extremism in order to make the nation safe.

He spoke at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday after receiving a briefing from a fact-finding team he sent to the parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) bombed by terrorists Friday evening. The team comprised the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir David Lawal, Chief of Staff to the President Abba Kyari, and permanent secretaries in the ministries of health and FCT and FCT police commissioner Mr. Wilson Inalegwu.

Buhari reiterated the determination of his government to rid the country of extremism, saying, “The defeat of Boko Haram insurgency is in sight but to remove violence and make the country safe, we must tackle the prevalence of violent extremism. In doing this, we will learn from the experience of the international community.”

In a related development, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Malam Garba Shehu said in a statement yesterday that Buhari had directed the security services to raise their surveillance activities in order to meet the challenges of retreating members of desperate terrorist army.

The statement said the president sympathised with the families of the victims of the latest Abuja bombings and those of over 100 others killed in similar incidents few days ago in Borno State.

The president’s fact-finding team visited the Kuje and Nyanya bombing sites and victims of the incidents at the National Hospital and the Maitama General Hospital. The team also inspected the wards and mortuaries of the hospitals and consoled with grieving family members on behalf of Buhari.

Speaking during the visits, the police commissioner described the incidents as unfortunate.

Also reacting to the blasts in Nyanya and Kuje Friday night, Senate President Abubakar Saraki said the incidents were sad, especially “at a time we are making progress tackling insurgency problem.”

He called on Nigerians to “support our army and pray for the victims and their families.”

Similarly reacting to the incidents, the House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara expressed his condolences in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan. The statement said that with the successes being recorded by the military in the North-east, Boko Haram members faced imminent defeat, adding that the attacks were meant to instil fear in the minds of the citizens.

Dogara called for inter-agency intelligence gathering and sharing, urging people to be vigilant and security-conscious.

It would be recalled that in the latest multiple bomb attacks, no fewer than 18 people lost their lives.

The explosions, according to eyewitnesses, were carried out by a female suicide bomber around the Kuje police station at about 9:45 pm, while the second bomb, from a male suicide bomber on a motorcycle, was detonated in front of Kuje main market about 15 minutes later.

An eyewitness, Suleiman Yahaya, said the female suicide bomber unsuccessfully attempted to gain entrance into the police station through the fence, but the bomb strapped to her body exploded and killed her instantly. He said that about 15 minutes later, a young man on a motorcycle rode close to the entrance of the Kuje main market and detonated his explosives, killing 14 people, mostly traders, on the spot.

He added that 17 people who sustained various degrees of injuries were evacuated to the National Hospital in Abuja by officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

“At least, about 14 people died on the spot because I counted the bodies when officials of NEMA and civil defence corps came that night to evacuate the corpses,” he said.

However, a police corporal, Mr. Samuel Ocheche said it was only the female suicide bomber who targeted the police station that lost her life after she was prevented from gaining entrance through the main gate.

Another witness, Mr. Abraham Gabriel, said it was about 9:47 pm when he heard the sound of the bomb blast, adding: “When I first heard the sound, I thought it was a transformer that exploded, until I went there and discovered that it was a bomb blast and I saw dead bodies that littered the place.”

He said that together with some security agents, they evacuated 20 bodies into an ambulance, praising the security agents for coming to the scene about 15 minutes after the explosion.

NEMA yesterday said via Twitter: “Following a coordinated rescue operation at the scene of multiple explosions in both Nyaya and Kuje which are satellite towns of FCT Abuja, so far 15 persons lost their lives and 41 injured were evacuated to Nyaya and Asokoro general hospitals and the National Hospital in central Abuja.”

When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the scenes of the blasts in the morning of yesterday, a combined team of soldiers, police and civil defence corps had cordoned off the area while some NEMA officials were busy picking pieces of charred bodies into waste bags.

The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Kuje General Hospital Dr. A.M Terbunde told newsmen that 18 victims were brought to the hospital by NEMA officials, saying 12 others were transferred to the Abuja National Hospital while others had been treated and discharged.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase has ordered random stop-and-search operations by police detectives in and around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

This followed the multiple bomb explosions in Nyanya and Kuje towns of Abuja Friday night.
Rescue officials have confirmed 15 dead and 41 injured in both blasts.

 In a statement yesterday, the police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Olabisi Kolawole said, “Preliminary investigations revealed the bomb blasts were carried out by two suicide bombers - a male and a female.”

She said that following the incidents, the police ordered the deployment of explosives ordinance disposal units to the scenes to prevent further destructions.

She assured residents of Abuja and the entire country not to panic, saying the Nigeria Police would protect their lives and property.
In Burkina Faso, All Eyes On How Post-coup Leaders Handle the Old Guard
For those who want to bolster democracy, the arrest of Gen. Gilbert Diendere and disarmament of the presidential guard are key to untangling 27 years of former President Compaore's regime.

By Julia Steers
OCTOBER 3, 2015

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO — Rene Kabore was serving food at a street-side cafe nearly two weeks ago when four members of Burkina Faso's presidential guard burst in.

A coup attempt was getting under way in the capital, and the elite force, known as the RSP, was accusing him of building a barricade that blocked the street.

“They said to him, ‘Boy, we won’t kill you but we will make you suffer',” says Jean Baptiste Djiguemde, the cafe owner, as Mr. Kabore protested his innocence.

Recommended: Think you know Africa? Take our geography quiz.
Now nursing three bullet wounds in his left leg, Kabore demands that the unit, which operated unchecked under the regime of former President Blaise Compaore for decades and also forced the coup, be brought to justice.

“I want them to go to prison,” he says. “Even after everything, we must not kill them.”

On Thursday, coup leader Gen. Gilbert Diendere was taken into custody by the Burkinabe security forces after trying to seek refuge at the Vatican embassy. Earlier in the week, the Army forced the disarmament of RSP guardsmen who had refused to surrender.

The coup was short-lived, with the civilian government regaining control in a week's time. The transitional government acted quickly to dissolve the elite squad in the days after the deal, a decision supported by the population but criticized by regional players as one that could further provoke the highly trained killing force.

But the coup also put a spotlight on the institutions that remain in place after Mr. Compaore was overthrown last year and replaced by an interim government, and stands as a stark reminder that dismantling the former president's repressive power structure could be a long-term fight.

For Kabore, and many here in Burkina Faso who protested to ensure that the coup leaders and the RSP would not receive amnesty under a regionally brokered deal, what happens next to the RSP – and other members of the old guard – will gauge how well Burkina Faso is taking steps toward true democracy after nearly three decades under Mr. Campaore's strongman rule.

“The RSP is the elite army of Blaise Compaore… It’s the same family,” says Smockey, a musician and leader of the Balai Citoyen movement that helped topple Compaore. “If they’re still here, democracy is not here in Burkina Faso.”

Eliminating the old guard

A key issue in prompting the coup was the upcoming elections. Despite the recommendations of the international community to hold inclusive elections in October, the transitional government installed after Compaore’s removal supported a decision to ban former ruling party candidates from running in the October elections.

“This was one of the sparks that primed Diendere and the presidential guard to stage the recent coup,” says Brian Klaas, a comparative politics fellow at the London School of Economics. “It was becoming increasingly clear that there would be no room for the old guard in the elections.”

Elections will likely be rescheduled for November, but regional analysts agree that Burkina Faso must undergo at least two to three election cycles before it can be declared a country unlikely to slide back under the thumb of a strongman leader.

“Globally, more than half the attempts at democracy fail,” says Jay Ulfelder, former research director for the Political Instability Task Force. “The data alone suggests that [the first attempt at democracy] would fail and that you’d get a return to authoritarian rule.”

When you eliminate the old guard from the voting process, the likelihood of turmoil increases, he adds, pointing out that political transitions in Libya and Iraq failed after the old regimes were completely barred from the political process.

“A transition to democracy can only be successful if you do not take a wrecking ball to everything that came before,” says Mr. Klass.

Compaore economy

But it is does not appear that the reinstated transition government will take the recommendation. In response to popular pressure and in an effort to reassert control, they have so far ignored mediators' suggestions to offer amnesty to Mr. Diendere and the guard, and to open the election to candidates from Compaore's party.

But even with exclusion of former party candidates and the apparent dissolution of the RSP, many who took part in the institutions of the former regime – in varying degrees– will still play a role in the political process.

“The big challenge will be whether this newly elected regime can separate itself from the authoritarian practices of their former regime,” says Daniel Eizenga, a research associate at the University of Florida’s Sahel Research Group.

This includes the heavy cronyism under Compaore that contributed to a sputtering economy and a 46 percent poverty rate in the world’s third-poorest nation. According to Mr. Eizenga, it will be difficult to do away with that tradition since most candidates were heavily integrated and benefited from the Compaore economy.

“Under Compaore, if you wanted to open a business, to succeed in life, to do anything – you had to be part of the regime,” says Cynthia Ohayon of the International Crisis Group. “It was not just political but total economic domination.”

If a successful transition to democracy does occur under these terms over the next decade, the Burkinabe must still heal a national psyche collectively traumatized by the reign of the presidential guard and compounded by 27 years of impunity.

A brief drive through downtown Ouagadougou is a lesson in this history of impunity: “Justice for Zongo,” “Justice for Sankara,” “Justice for Diallo” – names of murdered political leaders, journalists, and students remains spray-painted across the city.

Trials and prosecutions will be on the agenda of the newly-elected president, but already the transitional government has made strides to prove to the population that justice will be a priority in the post-Compaore era. They have frozen the bank accounts of 14 individuals suspected to have orchestrated the coup and arrested some in connection with the plot, including Djibril Bassole, the former foreign affairs minister under Compaore

For Kabore, moving forward with members of the old regime is not an option.

“I need justice in my country," he says. "If we don’t have justice, we have nothing."
More Than 500 Children Killed Since Start of Yemen Conflict: UN
Saudi-led coalition, Yemen loyalists retake coastal areas near key strait

More than 500 children have been killed since the upsurge in violence in Yemen in March, while some 1.7 million youths are at risk of malnutrition, the United Nations said Friday.

During the six months since Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels began in March to defend embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, at least 505 children have died and 702 have been injured, said Christophe Boulierac, spokesman for the UN children's agency.

"These are conservative figures," he told reporters in Geneva.

He said the children were being killed in the bombing campaigns but also amid street fighting.

"The situation for children is deteriorating every single day, and it is horrific," Boulierac said, urging all parties with influence to bring an urgent end to the violence.

He also lamented a sharp increase in the recruitment of children as fighters in the war-ravaged country, with 606 verified cases so far this year.

That is four times the 156 cases verified in 2014, he said.

"Children in Yemen are being used by armed groups, manning checkpoints or carrying arms," he said, adding that "the recruitment is happening on both sides."

In the impoverished country, where 80 percent of the population is under 18, some 10 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, Boulierac said.

The dire humanitarian situation, along with underfunding of aid organisations and difficulty accessing those in need could prove deadlier for Yemen's children and the violence, he warned.

"We know that more children (could) die from preventable disease than from bullets and bombs," he said.

The nutrition situation, which already before the conflict was dire in Yemen, has meanwhile worsened significantly, he said, pointing out that 1.7 million children were at risk of malnutrition.

The number of children under five at risk of severe acute malnutrition has tripled this year to 537,000, up from 160,000 before the conflict, Boulierac warned.

The United Nations says at least 2,355 civilians have been killed in Yemen's conflict since late March, and another 4,862 injured, Colville said.

Some 1.4 million people have meanwhile been forced to flee their homes.

Meanwhile, a European-backed resolution calling for a UN investigation into rights abuses committed during the conflict was withdrawn this week due to pressure from Saudi Arabia.

The Dutch-drafted UN rights council proposal had called for a full inquiry into violations in Yemen since September 2014.

Saudi Arabia, which was totally opposed so such a probe, introduced its own watered-down proposal on Yemen, which instead supported a domestic probe.

After securing the support of the US and Britain, the Saudi resolution was adopted by the UN's top rights body on Friday by consensus.

Yemen loyalists retake coastal areas near key strait

Yemeni loyalists retook coastal areas near the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait from Shiite rebels Thursday and were besieging a city further north, officials said.

The troops, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, seized Bab al-Mandab and Dhubab in the southern province of Taez near the strait at the entrance to the Red Sea, loyalist military official Abedrabbo al-Mihwali told AFP.

"A member of the Saudi forces stands to attention at the Saudi-led coalition military base in Yemen's southern embattled city of Aden on September 28, 2015"

"We managed today to take back Bab al-Mandab and Dhubab with heavy fighting after having received reinforcements from Aden," Yemen's second city 150 kilometers to the south, he said.

Up to 23 rebels and 15 loyalists died in the fighting, Mihwali said.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and his government returned to Aden last month following six months in exile, after loyalists regained control of the city and four other southern provinces from the rebels.

The rebels still control the capital and northern provinces near the border with Saudi Arabia.

Loyalists and coalition forces then pursued the rebels and their allies, soldiers who remain loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, north to the Red Sea port city of Mokha, he said.

Fighting broke out Thursday afternoon as loyalists and coalition forces surrounded the city, he added.

Loyalist military sources, including an officer, confirmed that the areas of Bab Al-Mandab and Dhubab had been retaken.

"The Yemeni army and coalition forces are now seeking to retake Mokha and the rest of the Taez province to better secure Aden," another military source said.

Last month, loyalist forces began a major ground offensive in the central Marib province east of the capital.

Meanwhile, the Emirati army announced Thursday that one of its soldiers died in a German hospital after he was wounded in Yemen.

He had been fighting in Marib, news agency WAM quoted the army as saying.

So far, the United Arab Emirates have lost 62 soldiers fighting as part of the coalition, including 53 who died after a single missile attack in Marib early last month.

Looking the Other Way in Yemen
The U.S. allowed the Saudis to block a UN inquiry into the thousands of deaths in Yemen’s civil war
OCT 2, 2015

Overshadowed by its relative smallness and obscured by its relative complexity, the six-month-old civil war in Yemen is the middle child of Middle East conflict. Recently, its most prominent mentions in the U.S. have been in the Republican debates as candidates have placed the rebellion by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government on the list of Iran’s regional evildoings.

This is true, but it also overlooks the fact that great devastation is being wrought at least in part with the tacit blessing of the United States, which has aligned itself with the Saudis. This past week has been particularly tragic, not only on the ground in Yemen, but in the diplomatic realm outside where efforts to contain and reckon with the human suffering in Yemen have fallen short.

On Monday, an airstrike by Saudi-led, American-supported coalition mistakenly hit a wedding party that killed more than 130 people. According to reports, the death toll was exacerbated by a supply shortage, which kept some victims from receiving critical medical treatment.

“This is warfare,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir explained to CBS News, in describing the efforts to defeat the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. He added: “We are very careful in picking targets. We have very precise weapons. We work with our allies including the United States on these targets.”

His unapologetic invoking of the United States on Tuesday had a timely ring to it. On Wednesday, the Justice Department formally denied an apology to Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni man who lost two family members in 2012 in an American drone strike gone wrong. Spencer Ackerman notes that the family members of two Westerners who were mistakenly killed in similar strikes did receive notes of condolence from American officials.

Since the Saudi-led coalition started its offensive in March, much has been made of its status as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia and very little of the way the battle has been conducted and its consequences.

“Six months of civil war and hundreds of coalition air strikes have killed more than 5,400 people in Yemen, according to the United Nations, and exacerbated widespread hunger and suffering,” Reuters reported. The United Nations also estimates that more than 2,300 of the dead are civilians.

This week, Dutch diplomats were stymied at the United Nations as they sought to create a UN-led investigation into human-rights abuses in the six-month-long civil war. The efforts failed in large part because the United States and other Western powers did not strongly endorse the independent investigation and sided with the Saudis. As Samuel Oakford notes:

Faced with total opposition from the Saudis and their allies, and de-facto instructions from the US to compromise, the Dutch announced on Wednesday that they had withdrawn their text entirely, likely ending efforts to get an international inquiry.

On Friday, a weaker resolution proposed by the Saudis gained unanimous approval at the United Nations. However, outside the United Nations, it was heavily critiqued. Human Rights Watch called it “deeply flawed.”

“The U.S., U.K., and France appear to have capitulated to Saudi Arabia with little or no fight, astoundingly allowing the very country responsible for serious violations in Yemen to write the resolution and protect itself from scrutiny,” one HRW official said.
U.S. Dodges Responsibility For Saudi Airstrikes That Kill Yemeni Civilians
At the same time, the U.S. provides Saudi Arabia with targeting assistance and bombs.

Foreign Affairs Reporter, The Huffington Post
10/03/2015 07:35 PM EDT | Edited: 4 hours ago

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is moving to distance itself from the mounting civilian casualties in Yemen’s civil war, while simultaneously providing targeting assistance to a Saudi Arabian-led coalition that has been conducting airstrikes over Yemen for the past six months.

United Nations officials say the coalition is responsible for the majority of the country's civilian deaths, which recently surpassed 2,300.

Last Saturday, airstrikes targeting Taiz, a city about 170 miles south of the capital, killed over 130 people attending a wedding. Yemen’s International Red Crescent Society reported that two of its volunteers, Qaed Faisal, 28, and Omar Fareh, 31, were killed by the shelling in a neighboring area on the same day.

Riyadh’s bombing campaign began in March, as Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled the country under assault from a Shiite Houthi insurgency. The U.S., eager to prevent the impoverished country from falling under control of al Qaeda fighters there, has backed the Saudi Arabian effort to restore Hadi’s rule.

But human rights groups accused the Saudi coalition of conducting indiscriminate airstrikes and unnecessarily endangering the civilian population. The International Red Crescent Society has already lost eight staff members and volunteers from the shelling.

A Saudi-led airstrike that hit a wedding party in Yemen's central Taiz province killed at least 131 people, making it the deadliest single incident since the start of the country's civil war, medical officials said.

White House officials said they were “shocked and saddened” by last week’s wave of civilian deaths, but said they were not responsible. “The United States has no role in targeting decisions made by the Coalition in Yemen,” said White House spokesman Ned Price in a statement on Friday night. “Nevertheless, we have consistently reinforced to members of the Coalition the imperative of precise targeting,” he added.

Friday’s statement seemed to contradict earlier news reports, where U.S. Central Command officials said they provide “targeting assistance” to the Saudi-led coalition. When asked about the discrepancy, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post, "There is a clear distinction between logistical and intelligence support, which we have provided, and taking part in targeting decisions, which we do not do.” The official noted that the support the U.S. provides to the coalition is intended to increase accuracy of airstrikes conducted by its allies and minimize civilian deaths.

A recent Congressional Research Service report said the U.S. sold $90 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia between 2010 and 2014, including fighter aircraft, helicopters, missile defense systems, missiles, bombs and armored vehicles. The report noted that the U.S. has supplied the Saudis with American-made weaponry for its military intervention in Yemen and has shared intelligence to support Riyadh’s targeting decisions.

The White House’s effort to distance itself from the most recent round of civilian deaths in Yemen comes two days after Saudi Arabia successfully resisted a Dutch effort at the U.N. Human Rights Council -- a body now led by Riyadh -- to send an independent human rights team into Yemen to investigate human rights violations committed by all parties during the civil war.

Instead, the Saudis offered a resolution that puts the U.N. in a supporting role in an inquiry headed by Hadi, the exiled Yemeni president -- who is a party to the conflict.

While the U.S. supported the initial Dutch resolution, they made no public effort to block the Saudi government from killing the independent investigation. Keith Harper, the U.S. representative to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, told The Associated Press that while he supported the Dutch initiative, he preferred a consensus outcome, meaning one that had the backing of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was named head of the Human Rights Council last month, prompting observers to question the propriety of giving the country such a position while its government commits flagrant human rights abuses, both in its military intervention in Yemen and by beheading activists at home. When asked if the U.S. was troubled by the move, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, “We would welcome it. We’re close allies.”
Shaaban: The West Has Always Been Mistaken Towards Syria
3 October، 2015

Damascus, SANA- Presidential Political and Media Advisor Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban stressed that the West has always been mistaken towards Syria, adding it is time Western countries reconsidered their positions.

Shaaban added in an interview with BBC News Channel that ISIS is not the only terrorist organization in Syria, but also Jabhat al-Nusra which is designated a terrorist organization by the UN Security Council.

“It is important not only to defeat ISIS but also to defeat every armed terrorist who is committing massacres against the Syrian people,” she added.

Syria has repeatedly declared that it welcomes any party which wants to join it in combating terrorism in cooperation with the Syrian army and the Syrian government. “This is what we called for when the United States announced that they formed a coalition to fight terrorism and we said that we would like a broader alliance but in cooperation with Syria and the Syrian army,” Shaaban said.

Shaaban explained that in light of arming and funding large numbers of terrorists coming from more than 80 countries to Syria, it was normal for the Syrian government to ask the Russian government for help in combating terrorism.

Shaaban stressed that the West does not care about civilians and if they truly do, they would have listened to what the Syrian government said since 2011when the terrorists began to destroy schools and hospitals and to kill the Syrian people.

Shaaban pointed out that investigations refuted all Western allegations about the Syrian government using chemicals and chlorine which is proven to have been used by terrorist organizations, emphasizing that the ”explosive barrels” is a phrase invented by the West and is being used only to justify the wrong positions which were taken since the beginning of the crisis.

Shaaban also stressed that Syria’s position is clear that the Syrian people have the right to decide the future of the country, adding that the battle of the Syrian people and army is against terrorism.

She pointed out that the crisis is neither related to President Bashar al-Assad nor to the Syrian government, but to Syria and its heritage and aims at obliterating its identity and undermining its security and stability.

Asked about the US designation of part of the Syrian opposition as “moderate”, she described the term as bizarre and unacceptable, adding that the Syrian government would welcome any political opposition that does not use weapons and massacres as a means for political gains.

Qabas/ Manal

Omani FM: Oman supports peace efforts in Syria

بن علوي
3 October، 2015

New York, SANA- Yusuf bin Alawi, Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, emphasized Oman’s firm position condemning terrorism in Syria, considering that this phenomenon constitutes a threat to the regional and international security.

During his speech on Saturday before the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, Bin Alawi called for supporting the efforts made by the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura for restoring security and stability in Syria.

Bin Alawi stressed the importance of maintaining a global system for prevention of nuclear proliferation which can only be achieved through disarmament and non-proliferation and allowing countries to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.


Russian operation in Syria aims to fight terrorist organizations, President Putin says

3 October، 2015

Moscow, SANA- Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting his French counterpart Francois Hollande on the sidelines of Normandy Four Meeting, stressed that the military operation, carried out by the Russian Air Force in Syria, aims at countering terrorism and preserving the territorial integrity of Syria, according to Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov told journalists that President Putin has emphasized that the Russian mission in Syria is carried out in strict accordance with the international law.

He added that President Putin indicated that the Russian mission aims to fight the terrorist and extremist organizations, namely the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria “ISIS”, Jabhat al-Nusra and others, indicating that supporting the operations of the Syrian Arab army aims at preserving Syria’s territorial integrity.

The Russian President underlined the necessity of the participation of other countries in the work of the information center newly established in Baghdad.

Earlier, the Russia Air Force started a military operation against the terrorist organizations in Syria at the request of Syria after Russia’s Federation Council agreed on that.

For his part, President Hollande underlined the necessity of Russia’s work with the US, the EU and Iran side by side with the regional countries to solve the crisis in Syria.

In turn, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, in joint press conference with Hollande after the Normandy Meeting that “the military operation in Syria will not lead to solving the crisis,” calling for activating the political process.


Legal status of 700 wanted and armed men in Daraa settled

3 October، 2015

Daraa, SANA- Over 700 armed and wanted persons had their legal status settled on Saturday in the framework of national reconciliations in Daraa province.

Including 250 wanted people and more than 450 gunmen, those had earlier turned themselves in and handed over their weapons to the authorities.

SANA reporter in the southern province said the weapons included LAU rockets, PKC machine guns, a P90 gun and 332 rifles, sniper rifles and pistols, in addition to an amount of ammunition.

The reporter noted that the authorities also settled the legal status of 43 detainees within the reconciliation efforts.

Two days ago, 70 wanted persons from Damascus and its Countryside and from Homs, Daraa and Idleb turned themselves in to authorities to have their legal status settled.

Field sources told SANA’s correspondent that between 2,600 and 3,000 gunmen who were in Daraa fled Syria and escaped to Turkey after Jordan closed its borders to them following their resounding defeat at the hands of the Syrian Arab Army.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Al-Abadi: Iraqi-Syrian-Russian-Iranian Cooperation in Counter-terrorism Benefits All Four States
3 October، 2015

Baghdad, SANA – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that Iraq’s cooperation with Russia, Syria, and Iran in the field of counter-terrorism benefits all four countries, and that the four sides are currently exchanging security and intelligence data.

At a press conference held in Baghdad on Saturday, al-Abadi stressed the necessity of eliminating ISIS and other terrorists and finding a political solution for the crisis in Syria.

He also criticized the United States’ program for arming and equipping those it refers to as “moderate opposition” in Syria and allocating USD 500 million for this, noting that the fact that those individuals turned over their weapons and equipment to Jabhat al-Nusra proves Iraq’s viewpoint which says that terrorism benefits from those funds, adding that sending funds and providing more weapons and training increases destruction in Syria.

The Iraqi Premier said that the U.S.-led alliances airstrikes that are carried out in Syria without the Syrian state’s permission constitute a problem in terms of international law, adding that Iraq has no problem with the Russian Air Force carrying out airstrikes on ISIS sites in Iraq as long as it receives approval from the Iraqi government, and that all those who want to cooperate with Iraq to fight terrorism are welcome.

He called on the international community to work towards putting a stop to the funding of terrorists and their flow from across the world to Iraq and Syria.

Al-Abadi also denied that any foreign combat forces are active on the ground in Iraq, save for a very small number of consultants and training personnel, adding that there is no agreement to have foreign ground forces in Iraq in the future.

Hazem Sabbagh
Russia Announces 50 ISIS Facilities Hit in 60 Flights
هيئة الأركان
3 October، 2015

Moscow, SANA-Russian jets had made more than 60 sorties over 50 ISIS targets in the course of three days of air strikes against the terrorist organizations’ positions, the Russian General Staff announced.

“Over the past three days we have managed to undermine material and technical resources of the terrorists and significantly reduce their combat potential,” Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, said Saturday.

“We will not only continue the strikes by our air force but also will increase their intensity,” he added.

He said Russia had managed to destroy ISIS command posts, warehouses storing ammunition and explosives, communication hubs, training camps as well as “mini-factories that made weapons for suicide bombers”.

The Russian official said the Russian air strikes have caused “panic”, forcing some 600 militants to abandon their positions and head to Europe.

Kartapolov said Russian officials had contacted their foreign counterparts and recommended that they pull their personnel from the region.

Russia also recommended that Washington pull out “those valuable employees who were trained at the expense of American taxpayers,” Kartapolov said in a comment laden with irony.

“By the way, during these contacts Americans informed us that no one but terrorists are present in this region,” the Russian official added.

He hailed the recently-established intelligence-sharing center between Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria which is based in Baghdad to coordinate the four countries’ counter-terrorism efforts, expressing regret that that the West had not moved to share intelligence.

“We have to admit openly that as of today we are receiving such data only from our colleagues at the centre,” Kartapolov said.

“We are still open for dialogue with all interested parties,” the Russian official added.

The Hajj Journey of Black Americans 50 Years After Malcolm X
Oct 3, 2015
By Aya Batrawy
Associated Press Writer

In this Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 photo, American Muslims Zainab Nasir, left, Shahidah Sharif, Jamila Rashid, second left, and an unidentified friend walk outside the grand mosque on their way to circle the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. For American black Muslims, this year brought a significant landmark, the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s death. A year before his assassination, Malcolm X underwent a transformative experience on hajj, seeing the potential for racial co-existence after witnessing, as he wrote, pilgrims “of all colors displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood.” (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ As Shahidah Sharif, an African-American Muslim, joined millions of fellow pilgrims from around the world on the hajj this year, she felt a renewed connection. To her own “Blackness,” she says, but also to humanity as a whole.

“When the human family becomes more important than just myself and my needs, nothing can get in the way of building relationships,” she told The Associated Press in Mecca. “It doesn’t matter if we have different faiths, different races, different nationalities, I can find something in common with you.”

For American Black Muslims, this year brought a significant landmark, the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s death. A year before his assassination, Malcolm X underwent a transformative experience on the hajj, seeing the potential for racial co-existence after witnessing, as he wrote, pilgrims “of all colors displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe could never exist between a white and a non-white.”

This year’s hajj, which ended Saturday, came at a time when the debate over race in the United States is at its most heated in decades, with the Black Lives Matters movement arising after the deaths of a number of Black men at the hands of police were captured on camera and seen widely by the public.

The AP spoke with a number of African-Americans about their hajj experience. For Muslims, the pilgrimage is not just a duty, it’s a moment to reflect on oneself and on community. It’s an intensely personal experience. In Islam, each pilgrim presents him or herself directly to God, seeking forgiveness of sin, while performing rituals that include circling the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure in Mecca. At the same time, it’s communal: more than 2 million pilgrims performing the same rites, underscoring unity and equality.

The scale is exhausting. The population of a city packs into tents, walks simultaneously from site to site in the desert in broiling heat for five days. A stampede this year that killed at least 769 pilgrims underscored the dangers of the crowds.

For the African-Americans who spoke to the AP, all those factors weighed on how hajj affected their faith and their sense of community back home in America.
Sharif draws inspiration from Hagar, the wife of the prophet Ibrahim _ Abraham, as he’s known in the Bible. In Islamic tradition, Hagar and her son Ismail _ the Bible’s Ishmael _ were left in the desert at what is now Mecca, and Hagar ran through the hills searching for water for her thirsty child until God opened the spring of Zamzam. Pilgrims re-create her search in a hajj rite.

For Sharif, the mother of two young children, it’s a lesson in sacrifice. “Who am I in this scheme of history that I can’t make a sacrifice for the greater good, in particular for our community?” she said.

The hajj helps make her a better American, she said, by instilling her with compassion.

The 38-year-old Sharif and her husband, Suleimaan Hamed, run Hajj Pros, a company based in Atlanta, Georgia, organizing hajj trips. This year they came with more than 30 African-Americans.

Her parents were members of the Nation of Islam, but like Malcolm X, they moved to more mainstream Sunni Islam. Still, she says current activists can learn from the Nation of Islam of the 1960s.

“We need to remove the idea of seeking permission from someone to give us what’s inherently ours,” she said. “No one needs to validate who we are. We know who we are, and we’re inherently created by God.”
“Pack your patience, and wear it,” Sharif’s husband Hamed always tells the American pilgrims he guides. Patience is key to dealing with the crowds. Another piece of advice: “Take off your American glasses.”

“We see everything through the lens of America, and those glasses are dirty. Everything’s racism, everything’s oppression,” he said. While he says this is the reality in the U.S., he says there are other cultural factors that could be at play in Saudi Arabia during the hajj.

For him, hajj provides a model in Abraham, who in Islamic tradition built the Kaaba. “All the lessons for life are in him … how to build a community,” said Hamed, who is also the imam, or preacher, at the Atlanta Masjid mosque.

His final advice to pilgrims: Trust that God “has an experience for you as an individual in the midst of 3 million people … He has something for you individually.”
Praying in the Grand Mosque housing the Kaaba with people from all over the world, Jamila Rashid felt “how beautiful the human family is and that you’re all essentially human beings.”
But, she added, that can be “a little dangerous.”

“It can lull you into thinking that color doesn’t matter, that race doesn’t matter and that our goal should be to be color-blind,” she said. Everyone “has their own story … their own struggle,” she said, “so if we as Black people aren’t going to stand up and talk about the fact that our lives matter just like everybody else’s, who’s going to do that?”

She’s glad Americans are talking about race, though with so much of it on social media, she’s concerned how much depth it has.

She said a lesson must be taken from the earlier generation, when the civil rights movement had clear demands. “Okay, black lives matter, so what are we asking for?” she said.

Rashid describes herself as “a minority trifecta”: a woman, an African-American and a Muslim. She brings those perspectives into her work in Atlanta, as founding director of My World, a non-profit that teaches teens leadership skills and cross-culture citizenship.

Having just turned 40, she says the pilgrimage builds her “spiritual muscles” for whatever comes next, so “I’m really able to perform my purpose, understanding that God does not give you more than you can bear.”
At 66, Habeebah Muhammad Abdul-Wali has lived through many phases of the civil rights struggle.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, she marched in protests. She was in the Black Power movement. And in 1972, she converted and joined the Nation of Islam, though now she’s a mainstream Sunni.

She says “history is repeating itself” with the current protests in the U.S. But, for her, there’s a difference: Back then, she saw greater seriousness, greater sincerity.

Seeing stories of young Black men killed by police makes her stressed. “I just turn to Allah to give that calmness.”

Now on her first hajj, the retired school-teacher sought to “purge” herself of negativity and become a
more patient, kinder person _ “because I’m getting over the hill, now it’s my time. … I want to try to be good, stop making frowns.”

She talked about the hardships of the pilgrimage, of sleeping one night outside on the ground, of sharing bathrooms with strangers. “Allah is showing me that everybody is not the same, so you have to learn to tolerate people.”

As she circled the Kaaba, she thought, “This is what Malcolm X must have experienced, seeing people from different walks of life … and I just said `Wow, Allah chose us to be here in this circle of Islam.”
Zainab Nasir wiped away tears as she spoke of her pilgrimage. “You’re going to have to excuse me because I’m very emotional with this.”

She compared it to a baby emerging from the womb. “I’m coming closer and closer to being reborn,” the 59-year-old from Oakland, California, said. “Inshallah, all my sins will be removed.”

Nasir has six sons and a daughter. She worries about her younger sons, aged 21 and 25. If they get stopped by police, she said, “they need to know how to react in a way that won’t get them sent to jail or possibly killed.”

One of her older sons, Yusuf, is with her on the hajj. “I’m praying that, you know, we will be the good example for my younger children.”

“Allah has given me a second chance … So what am I going to do with this when I get home?” she said. She says she knows that, being human, she can always fall back into sin and will need God’s forgiveness.

“You fool yourself if you think `OK I’m changed,’ because you’re not. It’s a transition.”
Follow Aya Batrawy on Twitter at
Doctors Without Borders Says U.S. Airstrike Hit Hospital in Afghanistan; at Least 19 Dead

Photos from social media show the aftermath of an incident in Kunduz, Afghanistan where U.S. forces may have mistakenly bombed a hospital, killing at least nine people. Officials warned the death toll could rise as dozens of people remain unaccounted for. (Médecins Sans Frontières Global)

By Tim Craig October 3 at 9:10 PM

KABUL — An airstrike apparently carried out by U.S. forces heavily damaged a charitable hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 19 people — three of them reportedly children — in an incident that a senior U.N. official equated to a war crime.

The airstrike occurred before dawn when a Doctors Without Borders trauma center in war-torn Kunduz was struck while doctors were treating dozens of patients. Hospital officials said they were assaulted from the air for 30 to 45 minutes, resulting in a large fire that burned some patients to death in their beds. Among those killed were 12 of the charity group’s staff members, the group said.

“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” said Meinie Nicolai, the group’s president.

While the charity’s workers reported waves of bombs hitting their facility, the U.S.-led military coalition in Kabul issued a statement confirming one American airstrike that may have caused “collateral damage” to a “medical facility.” Authorities said it was launched against “insurgents who were directly firing upon U.S. servicemembers” who had traveled to Kunduz to advise Afghan security forces.

The hospital disaster came at the end of a week in which U.S. forces had to step up their involvement in Afghanistan’s chaotic 14-year war, despite President Obama’s pledge to reduce the U.S. role and remove most American troops from the country by the end of 2016.

Afghan hospital hit by airstrike: Map of Kunduz, where the conflict stands now VIEW GRAPHIC
U.S. fighter jets and Special Operations troops were dispatched to the area after Taliban militants on Monday overran Kunduz, Afghanistan’s sixth-
largest city.

It was unclear how close Taliban fighters may have been to the hospital Saturday or whether the U.S. military didn’t realize the building was a hospital. Afghan security officials said Taliban fighters had been pouring into the facility in recent days seeking treatment for gunshot wounds and other injuries.

The charity and other international organizations reacted with outrage, and the hospital’s management said it had repeatedly informed the U.S.-led coalition of the facility’s precise GPS coordinates over the past few months. The location of the hospital was last conveyed to the international coalition three days before the airstrike, officials added.

Independent probe sought

In a statement, the United Nations’ top human rights official called for an independent, public investigation.

“This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable and, possibly, even criminal,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-
Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, adding that “if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States, said hospital officials in Kunduz immediately reached out to U.S. military officials when the airstrike occurred.

“The bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed,” the organization said in a statement.

A U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, said the strike appears to have been carried out by an AC-130 gunship, a heavily armed warplane.

Late Saturday, Obama extended his condolences to those killed and injured and said in a statement that “the Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy.”

‘The only advanced hospital’

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Army Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, called him Saturday to offer condolences. But U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter was cautious in a statement issued Saturday, saying that “a full investigation” was underway and that he was extending prayers to those affected. “We are still trying to determine exactly what happened,” his statement said.

In all, at least 12 Doctors Without Borders staff members were killed along with seven patients, three of them children, the group said. At least 37 other people were seriously injured, including 19 staff members. The hospital was “partially destroyed” in the attack, which began shortly after 2 a.m., the group said.

“The bombs hit, and then we heard the plane circle round,” said Heman Nagarathnam, who is the charity’s head of programs in northern Afghanistan. “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again. When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames.”

Those who could, Nagarathnam said, hid in the hospital’s bunker. Medical staff and critically ill patients, however, were left exposed to the ensuing fire.

A nurse working at the hospital, Lajos Zoltan Jecs, said that when she and other staff members emerged from a safe room after the attack, they looked into the intensive care unit, which was on fire.

“Six patients were burning in their beds,” she said in a statement issued by Doctors Without Borders. “There are no words for how terrible it was,” she said.

Mirza Laghmani, a local resident, said Afghan soldiers were battling militants near the hospital when Saturday’s airstrike took place.

“The Taliban are taking and evacuating their wounded fighters to the hospital for treatment,” said Laghmani, who said the militant group still controls most of the city. “It was the only advanced hospital” in the area.

Abdul Qahar Aram, spokesman for the Afghan army’s 209th Corps in northern Afghanistan, on Saturday said Taliban fighters are now hiding in “people’s houses, mosques and hospitals using civilians as human shields.”

Sultan Arab, a local police commander in Kunduz, said the hospital came under an airstrike “because the Taliban had shifted their command center inside the hospital.”

Doctors Without Borders, which operates in 20 countries and was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, prides itself on treating any patient in need of assistance.

Throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has faced criticism over civilian casualties and “friendly fire” incidents. Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai repeatedly accused the U.S. military of being reckless in how it carried out airstrikes. But after Ghani replaced Karzai last year, relations between the Afghan government and coalition officials improved dramatically.

Ghani, who is hoping that Obama rethinks his timetable for removing troops from Afghanistan, did not directly criticize the United States for the tragedy.

The U.S. military official said Special Forces soldiers were on the ground advising Afghan forces when they detected incoming fire from Taliban fighters. They received authorization to return fire at an area that was apparently close to the hospital, the official said.

The AC-130 gunship, commonly known as the Spectre, can stay above a target for long amounts of time and carries a number of weapons, including a 105mm cannon.

On Saturday, as the main hospital building was still smoldering, Doctors Without Borders circulated photographs showing the aftermath of the bombing. In one photo, a health-care worker in blood-stained scrubs huddled in a corner with another man.

Later in the day, hospital officials began evacuating patients to another facility about two hours’ drive away, a risky undertaking because fierce fighting continues across swaths of northeastern Afghanistan.

There are mounting concerns that an already grim humanitarian situation in Kunduz will worsen in the coming days.

“The dead bodies are lying on the streets, both the Taliban and also civilians, and no one is allowed to pick up the bodies,” said Laghmani, the local resident. “There is also an electricity shortage, a water shortage plus a bread shortage.”

There have been several incidents in the past in which U.S. airstrikes inadvertently caused large numbers of civilian casualties.

In 2002, the U.S. military mistakenly bombed a wedding in Afghanistan’s central province of Uruzgan, killing more than 35 people. In 2009, the U.S.-led coalition bombed two tanker trucks in Kunduz, igniting a fireball that killed 74 civilians, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission.

Missy Ryan and Thomas Gibbons-Neff in Washington, and Mohammad Sharif in Kabul contributed to this report.