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 71 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:31 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Ecuador’s women turn to boxing to fight sexual violence

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 30, 2014 12:24 EDT

After surviving a harrowing rape attempt, Any Hurtado took up boxing — and found herself surrounded by other Ecuadoran women using their fists for protection in a country torn by sexual violence.

Statistics paint a disturbing picture of the threats women face in the South American country: six out of every 10 have been the victims of gender-based aggression, and one girl in 10 suffers sexual abuse before the age of 18.

Hurtado, a 17-year-old nursing student, lived through her own horror story last year.

She was walking home when a group of men surrounded her and tried to rape her.

“They started grabbing me and trying to assault me,” she told AFP.

“As I was struggling against them I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get away. But I found the strength somewhere. I hit the one closest to me and managed to run away.”

After the incident, Hurtado, who lives alone since her father emigrated to Spain four years ago, went to a gym in La Tola, a neighborhood in central Quito, and began learning to box.

There, she found a cohort of other women with stories similar to her own donning gloves and learning to use their fists to defend themselves.

One of them is Tania Lara, a 27-year-old domestic worker whose ex-husband used to beat her.

“Sometimes I wish I could go back in time. I think about what it would have been like then if I were the way I am now, a boxer. I’d have hit him hard,” she said.

Another boxer, Maria Vega, a 30-year-old who sells potatoes at a market in the capital, said she trains with even more passion ever since she first put her boxing to use on the street.

“A guy grabbed my cell phone and I took off running after him. I beat him to the ground until he gave it back,” she said with a grin.

The women put their gloves on, then got into the ring — Vega with no protective headgear.

“There it is Tania! Harder, no fear, don’t let her get you,” yelled Segundo Chango, a local boxing coach who gives free lessons to the women.

Lara and Vega traded hooks and jabs for 15 minutes, moving around the ring gracefully as other boxers looked on.

“You think a woman can’t last a week (boxing), but when you see them in there you realize they’re tough,” said Eric Bone, another of Chango’s trainees.

- Next generation -

The La Tola gym began offering training for women boxers 10 years ago. Since then, a growing number have taken advantage of the classes — about five a day currently, said Chango.

That reflects a natural response to the dangers women face in Ecuador, said Santiago Castellanos, a psychologist at the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty who specializes in gender studies.

“We live in a society where the public space is often safer for men than women. So women turn to self-defense… when society sees them as weak objects,” he said.

These boxers reject the notion held by some that boxing may make them less feminine.

Amarilis Carbos, a 26-year-old office worker, took off her heels when she entered the gym, stored her purse in a locker and removed her make-up.

“My parents never let me box because obviously it was a sport for men,” she said after changing into her workout clothes.

But now Carbos not only practices the sport, she even teaches it to her eight-year-old daughter.

“She has to learn to defend herself too,” she said.

 72 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:30 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Lesotho Military Moves on Police

By ADAM NOSSITER
AUG. 30, 2014
IHT

DAKAR, Senegal — A military coup in the tiny southern African kingdom of Lesotho has chased out the prime minister and apparently put the army in control of the landlocked nation, witnesses and journalists in the capital said on Saturday.

Residents woke to the sound of gunfire before dawn on Saturday, with soldiers storming the seat of government in the capital, Maseru, apparently looking for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, said the publisher of The Lesotho Times, Basildon Peta, in an interview from Maseru.

Speaking with Al Jazeera from South Africa, where he had sought refuge, Mr. Thabane said: “They were all over the State House looking for me. What they were hoping to do, I don’t know.”

The army is “doing what it wants to do without any recourse to lawful authority,” he said. “All these things can only manifest one thing, a government that cannot be regarded as normal. When you put it all together, that leads to a coup d’état.”

Lesotho, a mountainous country of 1.9 million, is surrounded by South Africa. Its political life, turbulent since independence from Britain in 1966, has featured at least three coups, Mr. Peta said. Just this year there was an attack on the residence of Mr. Thabane’s girlfriend, he said.

Saturday morning, army units stormed police stations — the police are thought to be loyal to the prime minister — and confiscated weapons, killing at least one police officer, according to Mr. Peta and news reports.

By late Saturday it was not clear who was in charge. The police stations were deserted, and Mr. Thabane was still in South Africa, although he told Al Jazeera that he intended to return to Lesotho. “There is a major security vacuum,” Mr. Peta said. “Basically there is anarchy.”

The soldiers had apparently returned to their barracks by Saturday evening. “In the morning there were so many soldiers patrolling around here,” said a guard at the United States Embassy in Maseru, John Nkhetse. “Now we are free to move. There are no more now here.”

An official at the embassy who said she was the duty officer declined to comment on the day’s events.

The latest political crisis was precipitated by Mr. Thabane’s dissolution of Parliament in June, according to Mr. Peta and local news reports. Deputies had warned that they would hold a vote of no confidence; the prime minister, under Lesotho’s Constitution, can shut down Parliament for nine months, Mr. Peta said.

Mr. Thabane had threatened to fire the army chief, Lt. Gen. Kennedy Tlali Kamoli. But late Saturday, the general was still in charge, Mr. Peta said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, the deputy prime minister, Mothetjo Metsing, generally thought to be pro-army, denied that there had been a coup. “This is not a coup, let us get that straight,” Mr. Metsing said. “The prime minister would not still be the prime minister if there was a coup that had taken place.”

But it was unclear what authority, if any, Mr. Thabane retained; nor was it clear when he might return. “He’s claiming he is in charge, but you can’t be in charge when you are not on the ground,” Mr. Peta said.

An army spokesman also denied that there had been a coup, according to news reports.

 73 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:28 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Israeli Fire on Gaza Town Raises War Crimes Claim

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AUG. 31, 2014, 8:01 A.M. E.D.T.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The first of August dawned as a day of promise for the Mahmoum clan and thousands of other Palestinians stuck in United Nations shelters in Rafah — thanks to a temporary cease-fire with Israel they could go home for three days.

But the expected respite quickly turned into one of the deadliest and most controversial episodes in the recent war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After just two hours, amid fear that Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier, the Israeli military sealed off the Rafah area and began shelling. By the end of the next day, 190 Palestinians were dead, according to a list of names compiled by two Gaza human rights groups, including 14 members of the Mahmoum family.

The Rafah operation is almost certain to be a focus of U.N. investigators and rights groups looking into possible war crimes because it highlights a key concern: The treatment of civilians.

A Palestinian rights group argues that the Israeli army violated the rules of war, which include giving adequate warning to civilians, using proportionate force and distinguishing between civilians and combatants. Unlike in many other Gaza battles, civilians were caught by surprise by the sudden fire and sealed exits.

"None of the rules of international humanitarian law was observed," said Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Al Mezan rights group.

The Israeli military confirmed that Rafah residents were barred from leaving the area on Aug. 1, but declined comment on the war crime allegations. It denied firing into a densely populated area without regard for civilians, saying precise airstrikes hit targets linked to militants and artillery — though inherently inaccurate — was only aimed at open fields.

Late on Aug. 2, the suspected capture of the soldier turned out to be a false alarm, and the Rafah episode is one of several under internal military review.

"If we accidentally or mistakenly targeted a civilian situation, it was a mistake, and we are very sorry about that," an officer from the army's Southern Command said on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak on the record.

The following account is from interviews with Palestinian survivors and the Israeli military, along with events witnessed by The Associated Press.
___

The cease-fire took effect at 8 a.m. Friday. Mustafa Mahmoum, a municipal bulldozer operator, was at work clearing rubble from previous Israeli strikes. But after weeks in a shelter, his wife Iqzayer, 34, and their seven children returned to the family home in Tannour in east Rafah, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the Israeli border.

A few houses down Ouroba Street, the main thoroughfare, Azizeh, 47, the wife of one of Mustafa's cousins, and her nine children also moved back home into their two-room shack with a roof of corrugated metal.

At 9 a.m., the commander of Israel's Givati Brigade, Col. Ofer Winter, had just dozed off after a sleepless night when he received an alert from the field.

Givati soldiers searching for Hamas' network of military tunnels had been ambushed by Hamas gunmen, he was told. Over the next half hour, it became apparent that Maj. Benaya Sarel, a recon officer, and Liel Gidoni, his radio operator, had been killed, and 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was missing.

At 9:36 a.m., Winter announced over the field radio the word nobody wanted to hear: "Hannibal."

Hannibal is the name for the military protocol to be followed if a soldier falls into enemy hands. The aim is to stop the capture, even if it means loosening open-fire regulations.

Winter ordered all forces to take territory so that the kidnappers couldn't move, he told Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

The officer in the Southern Command, which oversaw the Gaza fighting, told the AP the brigade tried to seal off an area with a radius of 2-3 kilometers (1.5 miles) around the suspected capture point, a mile from the border. Over the next eight hours, soldiers fired about 500 artillery shells, he said. The military said it also launched about 100 airstrikes against targets in Rafah on Aug. 1 and 2, but did not provide a breakdown for each day.

The priority was to rescue Goldin.

"That's why we used all this force," Winter told the newspaper. "Those who kidnap need to know they will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade."

The assault began sometime before 10 a.m., sending Azizeh Mahmoum and her children fleeing from their shack to Mustafa's sturdier brick home. Within minutes relatives gathered. As the fire became more intense, they no longer felt safe. So they ran across Ouroba Street in groups, trying to reach a small, narrow alley for cover. The alley lay next to a supermarket owned by the Bilbesis, a relatively wealthy family, and led toward a hospital.

As they ran, Azizeh's son Hani, 23, was struck by a projectile.

"I saw his body flying into the air in front of me," said his brother, Sami, 20.

That was just the start. His mother and three siblings — Wafa, 25, Asma, 16, and Yehiyeh, 13 — all died.

A cousin, Anam Mahmoum Hamad, had just entered the alley when the wall of a house collapsed from a drone strike. It killed Mustafa's wife, she said, and another four children — Bissan, 10, Hiba, 7, Duaa, 3 and Obada, 2.

Others kept running, including Mustafa's 24-year-old sister, Halima, barefoot over the scorching asphalt. The shells rained all over, in front of her and behind, she said.

By noon, an AP videojournalist saw at least 20 bodies along Ouroba Street.

The Bilbesis administered first aid to the wounded who made it to the basement of their building on Ouroba Street. An ambulance eventually evacuated some of them.

In the meantime, Abu Yousef al-Najar Hospital was filling up with hundreds of people running from the fire or searching for the missing. By the day's end, 63 bodies were squeezed into the morgue, said Dr. Abdullah Shehadeh, the hospital director. At one point he heard shells falling every 10 seconds, he said.

Hamad, the Mahmoum cousin, had been at the hospital for about two hours when medics brought in the lower body of her 4-year-old son, Anas. She said she recognized his clothes.

That evening, with concerns that the Israeli soldier could be smuggled out, the military warned in automated calls to residents that any vehicle trying to leave Rafah would be shot.
___

The next day, Mustafa returned to Ouroba Street to search for the bodies of his wife and four dead children. He found them near the Bilbesi supermarket amid the debris.

"It was hard," he said, struggling to keep his composure.

The heavy Israeli fire continued Saturday, including airstrikes on homes that killed several dozen people, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

By late that day, it had become clear that Goldin, the 23-year-old soldier, had been not captured but killed in a firefight. After forensic analysis of remains found in the tunnel, he was declared dead.

It was not until Sunday that some bodies on Ouroba Street could be retrieved.

"It was a horrible scene," said Ghassan Bilbesi, son of the supermarket owner. "People had lost their hands, their arms."

Mustafa's wife and children were buried on Monday, Aug. 4, in the sandy soil of a new cemetery on the edge of Rafah, in a row of 14 still unmarked, cinder block-lined graves. Hamad has no idea where her son's remains lie.
___

In all, 121 Palestinians were killed in Rafah on Aug. 1 and 69 on Aug. 2, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Al Mezan rights group, which compiled the names. The dead included 55 children, 36 women and five men over the age of 60.

In the Tannour and adjacent Jneineh neighborhoods alone, 37 people were killed on Aug. 1, the rights groups say. The Mahmoum clan lost seven children, six women and a young man.

The losses played into a bigger debate over the uneven death toll in the war. More than 2,140 Palestinians were killed, three-fourths civilians, according to the U.N. On the Israeli side, 72 people were killed, all but six soldiers.

Israel said it warned civilians to leave targeted areas through automated calls and leaflets, and accused Hamas of putting civilians at risk by using them as human shields in crowded neighborhoods. The military said the events in Rafah, along with others, are under review by officers who were not part of the chain of command. The conclusion will be handed to the army's advocate general.

Even if the findings of U.N. investigators are months away, Mustafa Mahmoum is determined to demand justice for his family and trial for Israeli officials who ordered the Rafah attack. Trying to rescue a soldier does not justify killing civilians, he said.

"Even in war," he said, "children are protected."
___

Associated Press writer Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

 74 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:27 AM 
Started by Sunyata - Last post by Rad
Israeli Fire on Gaza Town Raises War Crimes Claim

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AUG. 31, 2014, 8:01 A.M. E.D.T.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The first of August dawned as a day of promise for the Mahmoum clan and thousands of other Palestinians stuck in United Nations shelters in Rafah — thanks to a temporary cease-fire with Israel they could go home for three days.

But the expected respite quickly turned into one of the deadliest and most controversial episodes in the recent war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After just two hours, amid fear that Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier, the Israeli military sealed off the Rafah area and began shelling. By the end of the next day, 190 Palestinians were dead, according to a list of names compiled by two Gaza human rights groups, including 14 members of the Mahmoum family.

The Rafah operation is almost certain to be a focus of U.N. investigators and rights groups looking into possible war crimes because it highlights a key concern: The treatment of civilians.

A Palestinian rights group argues that the Israeli army violated the rules of war, which include giving adequate warning to civilians, using proportionate force and distinguishing between civilians and combatants. Unlike in many other Gaza battles, civilians were caught by surprise by the sudden fire and sealed exits.

"None of the rules of international humanitarian law was observed," said Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Al Mezan rights group.

The Israeli military confirmed that Rafah residents were barred from leaving the area on Aug. 1, but declined comment on the war crime allegations. It denied firing into a densely populated area without regard for civilians, saying precise airstrikes hit targets linked to militants and artillery — though inherently inaccurate — was only aimed at open fields.

Late on Aug. 2, the suspected capture of the soldier turned out to be a false alarm, and the Rafah episode is one of several under internal military review.

"If we accidentally or mistakenly targeted a civilian situation, it was a mistake, and we are very sorry about that," an officer from the army's Southern Command said on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak on the record.

The following account is from interviews with Palestinian survivors and the Israeli military, along with events witnessed by The Associated Press.
___

The cease-fire took effect at 8 a.m. Friday. Mustafa Mahmoum, a municipal bulldozer operator, was at work clearing rubble from previous Israeli strikes. But after weeks in a shelter, his wife Iqzayer, 34, and their seven children returned to the family home in Tannour in east Rafah, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the Israeli border.

A few houses down Ouroba Street, the main thoroughfare, Azizeh, 47, the wife of one of Mustafa's cousins, and her nine children also moved back home into their two-room shack with a roof of corrugated metal.

At 9 a.m., the commander of Israel's Givati Brigade, Col. Ofer Winter, had just dozed off after a sleepless night when he received an alert from the field.

Givati soldiers searching for Hamas' network of military tunnels had been ambushed by Hamas gunmen, he was told. Over the next half hour, it became apparent that Maj. Benaya Sarel, a recon officer, and Liel Gidoni, his radio operator, had been killed, and 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was missing.

At 9:36 a.m., Winter announced over the field radio the word nobody wanted to hear: "Hannibal."

Hannibal is the name for the military protocol to be followed if a soldier falls into enemy hands. The aim is to stop the capture, even if it means loosening open-fire regulations.

Winter ordered all forces to take territory so that the kidnappers couldn't move, he told Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

The officer in the Southern Command, which oversaw the Gaza fighting, told the AP the brigade tried to seal off an area with a radius of 2-3 kilometers (1.5 miles) around the suspected capture point, a mile from the border. Over the next eight hours, soldiers fired about 500 artillery shells, he said. The military said it also launched about 100 airstrikes against targets in Rafah on Aug. 1 and 2, but did not provide a breakdown for each day.

The priority was to rescue Goldin.

"That's why we used all this force," Winter told the newspaper. "Those who kidnap need to know they will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade."

The assault began sometime before 10 a.m., sending Azizeh Mahmoum and her children fleeing from their shack to Mustafa's sturdier brick home. Within minutes relatives gathered. As the fire became more intense, they no longer felt safe. So they ran across Ouroba Street in groups, trying to reach a small, narrow alley for cover. The alley lay next to a supermarket owned by the Bilbesis, a relatively wealthy family, and led toward a hospital.

As they ran, Azizeh's son Hani, 23, was struck by a projectile.

"I saw his body flying into the air in front of me," said his brother, Sami, 20.

That was just the start. His mother and three siblings — Wafa, 25, Asma, 16, and Yehiyeh, 13 — all died.

A cousin, Anam Mahmoum Hamad, had just entered the alley when the wall of a house collapsed from a drone strike. It killed Mustafa's wife, she said, and another four children — Bissan, 10, Hiba, 7, Duaa, 3 and Obada, 2.

Others kept running, including Mustafa's 24-year-old sister, Halima, barefoot over the scorching asphalt. The shells rained all over, in front of her and behind, she said.

By noon, an AP videojournalist saw at least 20 bodies along Ouroba Street.

The Bilbesis administered first aid to the wounded who made it to the basement of their building on Ouroba Street. An ambulance eventually evacuated some of them.

In the meantime, Abu Yousef al-Najar Hospital was filling up with hundreds of people running from the fire or searching for the missing. By the day's end, 63 bodies were squeezed into the morgue, said Dr. Abdullah Shehadeh, the hospital director. At one point he heard shells falling every 10 seconds, he said.

Hamad, the Mahmoum cousin, had been at the hospital for about two hours when medics brought in the lower body of her 4-year-old son, Anas. She said she recognized his clothes.

That evening, with concerns that the Israeli soldier could be smuggled out, the military warned in automated calls to residents that any vehicle trying to leave Rafah would be shot.
___

The next day, Mustafa returned to Ouroba Street to search for the bodies of his wife and four dead children. He found them near the Bilbesi supermarket amid the debris.

"It was hard," he said, struggling to keep his composure.

The heavy Israeli fire continued Saturday, including airstrikes on homes that killed several dozen people, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

By late that day, it had become clear that Goldin, the 23-year-old soldier, had been not captured but killed in a firefight. After forensic analysis of remains found in the tunnel, he was declared dead.

It was not until Sunday that some bodies on Ouroba Street could be retrieved.

"It was a horrible scene," said Ghassan Bilbesi, son of the supermarket owner. "People had lost their hands, their arms."

Mustafa's wife and children were buried on Monday, Aug. 4, in the sandy soil of a new cemetery on the edge of Rafah, in a row of 14 still unmarked, cinder block-lined graves. Hamad has no idea where her son's remains lie.
___

In all, 121 Palestinians were killed in Rafah on Aug. 1 and 69 on Aug. 2, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Al Mezan rights group, which compiled the names. The dead included 55 children, 36 women and five men over the age of 60.

In the Tannour and adjacent Jneineh neighborhoods alone, 37 people were killed on Aug. 1, the rights groups say. The Mahmoum clan lost seven children, six women and a young man.

The losses played into a bigger debate over the uneven death toll in the war. More than 2,140 Palestinians were killed, three-fourths civilians, according to the U.N. On the Israeli side, 72 people were killed, all but six soldiers.

Israel said it warned civilians to leave targeted areas through automated calls and leaflets, and accused Hamas of putting civilians at risk by using them as human shields in crowded neighborhoods. The military said the events in Rafah, along with others, are under review by officers who were not part of the chain of command. The conclusion will be handed to the army's advocate general.

Even if the findings of U.N. investigators are months away, Mustafa Mahmoum is determined to demand justice for his family and trial for Israeli officials who ordered the Rafah attack. Trying to rescue a soldier does not justify killing civilians, he said.

"Even in war," he said, "children are protected."
___

Associated Press writer Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

 75 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:21 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media

By SCOTT SHANE and BEN HUBBARD
AUG. 30, 2014
IHT

The extremists who have seized large parts of Syria and Iraq have riveted the world’s attention with their military prowess and unrestrained brutality. But Western intelligence services are also worried about their extraordinary command of seemingly less lethal weapons: state-of-the-art videos, ground images shot from drones and multilingual Twitter messages.

ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is using every contemporary mode of messaging to recruit fighters, intimidate enemies and promote its claim to have established a caliphate, a unified Muslim state run according to a strict interpretation of Islamic law. If its bigotry and beheadings seem to come from a distant century, its use of media is up to the moment.

A review of its prodigious output in print and online reveals a number of surprises. ISIS propaganda, for instance, has strikingly few calls for attacks on the West, even though its most notorious video, among Americans, released 12 days ago, showed the beheading of the American journalist James Foley, threatened another American hostage, and said that American attacks on ISIS “would result in the bloodshed” of Americans. This diverged from nearly all of ISIS’s varied output, which promotes its paramount goal: to secure and expand the Islamic state. Experts say that could change overnight, but for now it sharply distinguishes ISIS from Al Qaeda, which has long made attacks on the West its top priority.

And while ISIS may be built on bloodshed, it seems intent on demonstrating the bureaucratic acumen of the state that it claims to be building. Its two annual reports so far are replete with a sort of jihadist-style bookkeeping, tracking statistics on everything from “cities taken over” and “knife murders” committed by ISIS forces to “checkpoints set up” and even “apostates repented.”

ISIS media frames its campaign in epochal terms, mounting a frontal assault on the national divisions and boundaries in the Middle East drawn by Western powers after World War I. These “Crusader partitions” and their modern Arab leaders, ISIS argues in its English-language magazine, were a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to prevent Muslims from unifying “under one imam carrying the banner of truth.”

That sense of historical grievance is an old theme for Al Qaeda and more moderate Islamist groups. The difference is that by capturing expansive territory and heavy weaponry, and flush with wealth from kidnappings, oil piracy, bank robbery and extortion, ISIS claims to have taken a major first step toward righting what it sees as this ancient wrong, creating a unified Muslim state that will subsume existing nations.

ISIS carefully tailors its recruiting pitch, sending starkly different messages to Muslims in the West and to those closer to home. But the image of unstoppable, implacable power animates all of its messaging.

The pitch is effective. The militant rebellion in Syria and Iraq has drawn as many as 2,000 Westerners, including perhaps 100 Americans, and many thousands more from the Middle East and elsewhere, though some have returned home. Experts believe most of those remaining today are fighting with ISIS.

“The overriding point is that success breeds success,” said Emile Nakhleh, a former C.I.A. analyst. “The perception of quick victories and territory and weapons and bases means they don’t need to try hard to recruit.”

For two decades, Mr. Nakhleh said, Osama bin Laden talked about re-establishing the caliphate, but he never claimed to have done it. “Young people look at ISIS and say, ‘By gosh, they’re doing it!’ They see the videos with fighters riding on big tanks. They see that ISIS has money,” he said.

Before ISIS captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in June, other factions fighting in Syria were attracting European recruits, said Thomas Schmidinger, a political scientist from Vienna University. “But since the fall of Mosul, nearly everyone is going to” ISIS, he said.

In the evolution of modern jihadist propaganda, Bin Laden, addressing a single static camera with long-winded rhetoric in highly formal Arabic, represented the first generation. (His videos had to be smuggled to Al Jazeera or another television network to be aired.) The most prominent figure of the second generation was the YouTube star Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, who addressed Westerners in colloquial English, had a blog and Facebook page and helped produce a full-color, English-language magazine called Inspire.

ISIS is online jihad 3.0. Dozens of Twitter accounts spread its message, and it has posted some major speeches in seven languages. Its videos borrow from Madison Avenue and Hollywood, from combat video games and cable television dramas, and its sensational dispatches are echoed and amplified on social media. When its accounts are blocked, new ones appear immediately. It also uses services like JustPaste to publish battle summaries, SoundCloud to release audio reports, Instagram to share images and WhatsApp to spread graphics and videos.

“They are very adept at targeting a young audience,” said John G. Horgan, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell who has long studied terrorism. “There’s an urgency: ‘Be part of something that’s bigger than yourself and be part of it now.’ ” Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of “The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global,” said ISIS had so far consistently focused on what militants call “the near enemy” — leaders of Muslim countries like Bashar al-Assad of Syria — and not “the far enemy” of the United States and Europe.

“The struggle against the Americans and the Israelis is distant, not a priority,” he said. “It has to await liberation at home.”

Al Qaeda has often stressed the advantage to the terrorist network of supporters who hold Western passports and can attack in their countries. But a common public rite of passage for new recruits to ISIS is tearing up or burning their passports, signifying a no-going-back commitment to the Islamic state.

One polished ISIS video features a Canadian recruit named Andre Poulin urging North American Muslims to follow him — and even to bring their families. “You’d be very well taken care of here,” he said in the video. “Your families would live here in safety, just like how it is back home. You know we have expanses of territory here in Syria.”

In another English-language video pitch, a British fighter identified as Brother Abu Bara al-Hindi poses the call to jihad as a test for comfortable Westerners. “Are you willing to sacrifice the fat job you’ve got, the big car, the family?” he asks. Despite such luxuries, he says, “Living in the West, I know how you feel — in the heart you feel depressed.” The Prophet Muhammad, he declares, said, “The cure for depression is jihad.”

Such appeals provoke curiosity, and British fighters have answered hundreds of questions about joining ISIS on Ask.fm, a website, including what type of shoes to bring and whether toothbrushes are available. When asked what to do upon arriving in Turkey or Syria, the fighters often casually reply, “Kik me,” referring to the instant messenger for smartphones, and continue the discussion in private.

The English-language videos do not soft-pedal the dangers of the fight; the video of Mr. Poulin, for instance, shows and celebrates his death in battle. But the message to English speakers is nonetheless far softer than the Arabic-language videos, which linger on enemy corpses and show handcuffed prisoners casually machine-gunned.

The message, said Mr. Gerges, is blunt: “Get out of the way or you will be crushed; join our caravan and make history.”

Instead of emphasizing jihad as a means of personal fulfillment, the Arabic media production portrays it as duty for all Muslims. It flaunts violence toward its foes, especially Shiites and the Iraqi and Syrian security services, while portraying the killing as just vengeance.

A recent hourlong ISIS documentary opens with video shot from a drone over Falluja in Iraq and then over a convoy of ISIS gun trucks heading off to battle. A voice-over says that the Islamic state is expanding and that Jerusalem’s Aqsa mosque is “only a stone’s throw away.”

In a later scene, a fighter holding a rifle and his passport mocks his home country, Bahrain, for threatening to withdraw citizenship from those who fight jihad abroad.

“Don’t you know that you, your citizenship, your laws, your constitutions and your threats are under our feet?” the fighter says. “Don’t you know that we are the soldiers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and that our state will expand until it removes the thrones that you sold your religion for?”

Nowhere in the hourlong production — full of threats, drive-by shootings, explosions and gunfights — does an ISIS fighter mention the United States or directly mention or threaten Israel, apart from the allusion to the Aqsa mosque.

Hassan Hassan, a Syrian analyst with the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi, said that ISIS portrays itself as restoring idealized eras of earlier Islamic history in a way that resonates with many of the region’s Muslims.

“ISIS tries to reflect an image of being the continuation of the system of the caliphate,” he said. “In people’s minds, the caliphate is about victory and dignity of Muslims. A caliph is a defender of Muslims against the enemies from within and without.”

ISIS’ emphasis on strict implementation of Islamic law also draws support, he said, as does its portrayal of its battle in staunchly sectarian terms.

Many of the region’s Sunnis have deep sympathy for any force that can challenge the Iraqi or Syrian governments, which they feel have oppressed Sunnis.

ISIS “is the group that is capable of hitting these governments’ security forces and loyalists,” and that has “massive appeal,” Mr. Hassan said.

The State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications has stepped up its efforts to counter ISIS propaganda, publishing a steady stream of ISIS horror tales on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #ThinkAgainTurnAway.

For now, it seems an uphill climb. Last week, an ISIS fighter calling himself Abu Turaab wrote on Twitter, “For those who want to come but are facing obstacles, be patient and keep the desire for Jihad alive within you always.”

The State Department account replied, “ISIS recruits’ 2 choices: commit atrocities & die as criminals, get nabbed and waste lives in prison.” As of Friday, Abu Turaab’s comment had been named as a “favorite” 32 times. The count for the State Department’s response: Zero.

Scott Shane reported from Baltimore, and Ben Hubbard from Baghdad. Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura contributed reporting from London, and Melissa Eddy from Berlin.

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 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:16 AM 
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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warns West will be jihadists’ next target

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 30, 2014 9:39 EDT

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has warned that the West will be the next target of the jihadists sweeping through Syria and Iraq, unless there is “rapid” action.

“If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month,” he said in remarks quoted on Saturday by Asharq al-Awsat daily and Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya television station.

“Terrorism knows no border and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East,” said the king who was speaking at a welcoming ceremony on Friday for new ambassadors, including a new envoy from Saudi ally the United States.

The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group has prompted widespread concern as it advances in both Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of people, including in gruesome beheadings and mass executions.

Lack of action would be “unacceptable” in the face of the phenomenon, King Abdullah said.

“You see how they (jihadists) carry out beheadings and make children show the severed heads in the street,” he said, condemning the “cruelty” of such acts.

“It is no secret to you, what they have done and what they have yet to do. I ask you to transmit this message to your leaders: ‘Fight terrorism with force, reason and (necessary) speed’.”

President Barack Obama has yet to decide whether the United States should launch raids against positions held by the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria to follow US air strikes on IS activities in Iraq.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called Friday for a global coalition to combat Islamic State fighters’ “genocidal agenda”.

Writing in the New York Times, Kerry said he and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet European counterparts on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Wales next week, to enlist assistance.

They will then travel on to the Middle East to build support “among the countries that are most directly threatened”.

“With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries,” Kerry said in Friday’s op-ed piece.

Asharq Al-Awsat said the king urged other countries to join the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre, set up in 2011 to respond to new threats, and to which Saudi Arabia has made a grant of $100 million.

 77 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:15 AM 
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China rules out open elections in Hong Kong

Democracy activists prepare protests after standing committee says it will select candidates for leader of Chinese territory

Associated Press in Beijing
theguardian.com, Sunday 31 August 2014 11.16 BST

China's legislature has ruled against allowing open nominations in elections for Hong Kong's leader, a decision that promises to ignite political tensions in the Asian financial hub.

The legislature's standing committee ruled that all candidates for chief executive must receive more than half of the votes from a special nominating body before going before voters.

Hong Kong democracy activists have held protests calling for genuine democracy in the Chinese territory, over concerns that candidates would continue to be screened to assess their loyalty to Beijing. They see the nominating committee as beholden to Chinese leaders.

Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress's standing committee, told a news conference that openly nominating candidates would create a "chaotic society".

"These rights come from laws, they don't come from the sky," he said. "Many Hong Kong people have wasted a lot of time discussing things that are not appropriate and aren't discussing things that are appropriate."

In its decision, the committee said: "Since the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country are at stake, there is a need to proceed in a prudent and steady manner."

It said the 1,200-member nominating committee would select two or three candidates. After one is selected through universal suffrage, the chief executive-elect "will have to be appointed by the central people's government".

Hong Kong has enjoyed substantial political autonomy since returning from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Chinese leaders agreed then that the chief executive would be chosen by "universal suffrage" in 2017 – language that pro-democracy activists say shows Beijing has not kept its promises.

The most high-profile protest group, Occupy Central, calling for a rally Sunday night in the city centre. It has previously threatened to shut down the city's financial district with a sit-in if Beijing does not allow completely open elections for chief executive.

Pro-Beijing activists held their own march two weeks ago in Hong Kong, denouncing Occupy Central as a threat to stability in the city.

Political tensions spiked in June when Chinese officials released a policy white paper declaring that Hong Kong's "high degree of autonomy … comes solely from the authorisation by the central leadership."

Many read the policy paper as asserting Beijing's dominance of Hong Kong's affairs and took to the streets in protest. Occupy Central drew Beijing's rebuke by organising an online referendum that attracted a reported 800,000 votes on how to pick the city's chief executive.

On Sunday, organisers of a similar referendum in the neighbouring Chinese-controlled city of Macau said 95% of the 8,688 participants had voted in favour of a leader being elected by universal suffrage in 2019. Macau's incumbent leader, Fernando Chui, was elected to a second five-year term by a Beijing-friendly committee on Sunday.

****************

Hong Kong’s ‘Iron Lady’ takes up democracy fight with Beijing

Anson Chan remains one of the most influential political figures in Hong Kong. She talks about her assessment of the fight with China for democratic rights and her vision for the future

William Wan for the Washington Post
Guardian Weekly, Monday 18 August 2014 01.00 BST      

She is often called the “Iron Lady” of Hong Kong. Anson Chan earned respect serving as Hong Kong’s second-highest official when the British were in charge. And when the colony was handed back to China in 1997, Beijing enlisted Chan to help with that transition.

While she no longer holds any official government position, Chan, 74, remains one of the most influential political figures in Hong Kong and has re-emerged in the spotlight amid a growing fight by Hong Kongers for democratic rights.

At the heart of the fight is China’s promise during the 1997 handover that Hong Kong would be allowed a level of autonomy. Many in Hong Kong believe China has broken that commitment – especially when it comes to media freedoms and the process of choosing a chief executive, which is currently done by a committee tightly controlled by Beijing.

Amid the growing polarisation, Chan has staked out a centrist position, supporting pro-democracy activists but pushing them to take a measured, practical approach to negotiating with China.

And she has used her profile to drum up international support for the Hong Kongers’ campaign for democracy. Her recent visits to Britain and to Washington – where she saw vice-president Joe Biden, members of Congress and the state department – secured statements of support even as they drew angry retorts from Beijing.

Chan’s efforts reflect her approach to seemingly intractable problems: identify the best compromise deal possible, then push on every lever possible to achieve that goal.

In a recent interview, Chan talked about her appeals for international support, her assessment of Hong Kong’s fight for democratic rights and her vision for Hong Kong’s future. Here are condensed excerpts from that conversation:

How has Hong Kong’s future turned out differently from what you imagined in 1997?

“Of course, all of us had a bit of apprehension because we didn’t know what actually would happen after the handover. I personally put in a great deal of effort and time to sell the joint declaration, to secure international support and to tell Hong Kong people, ‘All will be well because we have all these promises.’

“I never in my wildest dream predicted 17 years after the handover that Hong Kong would be in this state. Nor did I foresee – and this is particularly disappointing – that all three parties to the joint declaration and the Basic Law [Hong Kong’s equivalent of a constitution] – Beijing, Britain, Hong Kong’s government – would all choose to walk away from their promises to the people of Hong Kong.”

Why have you focused in your proposals on a compromise that gives people in Hong Kong more say in the nominating process for the chief executive, rather than simply “one person, one vote”, as others have proposed?

“Our group, Hong Kong 2020, has listened to all the noise that has been made, particularly by the pro-Beijing forces in Hong Kong and by Beijing officials, and by the liaison office. One message is totally clear, they will not accept civil nomination [allowing voters themselves to nominate candidates for chief executive], because they claim this is a breach of the Basic Law.

“So whilst we dispute this, we say, ‘Let’s try and see whether we can’t broker a compromise solution.’ So we spent one year checking with the different aspects of the community, listening to their views, and we arrived at a set of proposals that are fully compliant with the Basic Law, with no civil nominations but a chance to broaden the representativeness of the nominating committee. Because this is what the Basic Law prescribes.

“But what does the government do? The government keeps telling us that there’s room for negotiation, let’s sit down and seriously talk. But every single compromise proposal – and it’s not just ours, there are several others – one after another, they have been shot down by the government. So where is the sincerity? Where is the commitment towards actually trying to broker a compromise?

“We all know the government is waiting for instructions from Beijing, which are expected sometime in August.”

Why should the international community care what happens in Hong Kong?

“The international community takes an interest in Hong Kong, if for nothing else than their own self-interest. Because they have investments here, they have nationals living here, they have a whole raft of bilateral agreements with Hong Kong, ranging from cooperation in law enforcement, preventing human trafficking, narcotics, protection of intellectual properties. All these have been concluded on the basis that there is a very distinct system in Hong Kong totally different from anything prevailing in mainland China.

“If the two systems go, surely Hong Kong will no longer be in [a] position to honour our treaty obligations.”

How do you see your role in Hong Kong these days? How can you best use that to the advantage of Hong Kong?

“I’ve never been interested in particularly carving out a role for myself. But the reason why I decided to adopt a higher profile starting in 2006 is because I saw things deteriorating very rapidly, both in terms of the government dragging its feet on democratic reforms, but even more importantly on the whole quality of governance.

“One of the things we prided ourselves on was the fact that Hong Kong’s civil servants were a genuine meritocracy. You didn’t have to resort to political patronage. But that’s what has happened ever since [former chief executive] CH Tung introduced the political appointment system in 2002 – which by the way is the reason why I decided to retire early, because I felt that that system was thoroughly, fundamentally flawed.

“Because the chief executive is not popularly elected, to concentrate the power to appoint the top posts within the Hong Kong government in one pair of hands, without having checks and balance, is asking for trouble.”

If the opportunity ever emerged, would you ever run for chief executive yourself?

“I’m a pragmatist above anything else. There are two reasons [I wouldn’t run]: One, I would not be acceptable to China; secondly, this job needs a younger person. I’m already 74.

“I’ll continue to do what I can to encourage people to speak up because it’s very important. I cannot guarantee that even if we speak up and express our concerns, that we will necessarily succeed. But if we remain silent and do nothing, we definitely will lose.”

This article appeared in the Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from the Washington Post

 78 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:11 AM 
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Pakistani Opposition Clashes With the Police

By SALMAN MASOOD
AUG. 30, 2014
IHT

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Clashes broke out in the Pakistani capital on Saturday night after thousands of protesters led by two opposition leaders tried to march toward the residence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The two opposition leaders, Imran Khan, a charismatic former cricket star, and Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, an influential cleric, said they planned to protest outside the prime minister’s home, which is on a hill overlooking the capital. Armed with sticks and batons, many wearing gas masks, the protesters tried to break through police cordons and attempted to remove shipping containers, which had blocked a road leading to the prime minister’s house, with the help of a big crane.

Thousands of protesters have been camping out in Islamabad since Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri led two separate marches on the capital from Lahore. They have been demanding Mr. Sharif’s resignation and the dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies. Mr. Khan is demanding new elections; Mr. Qadri wants an interim unity government to run the country as well as ambitious economic and political overhauls.

The government has agreed to consider changes to the country’s contentious electoral system and open an independent investigation into allegations of rigging in last year’s general elections, one of Mr. Khan’s criticisms of Mr. Sharif. But ruling party members say their opponents need to drop their demands for Mr. Sharif’s resignation.

Mr. Sharif said Saturday that he would not resign and called the demands to do so by his opponents “unacceptable” and “unconstitutional.”

The march on Saturday came after talks broke down between the government and representatives of Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri.

“Nawaz Sharif should step down as prime minister to take the country out of this deadlock,” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a senior leader of Mr. Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, while talking to local news media late Saturday evening. “We want to break the political impasse. The sticking point is the prime minister’s resignation.”

Before their supporters charged toward the heavily guarded government building, both Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri said that they would remain peaceful. “I am a decent man,” Mr. Qadri said in a speech to his supporters. “I have been fighting for peace. I have lived for peace. I will die for peace. There will be no violence at all,” he said. Mr. Khan warned security forces not to stop the marchers from assembling outside the prime minister’s residence.

But violence soon erupted after some protesters tried to enter the premises of the presidency, which is nearby, and clashed with the police; according to some local news media reports, the first tear-gas canisters were used by security forces deployed inside the premier’s official residence. Police officers wielding batons charged the crowd to disperse the protesters. There were also news reports about the use of rubber bullets that could not be independently verified.

Several protesters were seen throwing stones at the police with slingshots. The barrage of tear-gas canisters sent the protesters scrambling for cover as Constitution Avenue, in front of Mr. Sharif’s house, was enveloped in clouds of smoke.

Rescue workers said at least 70 people, including 20 police officials, were wounded and moved to hospitals in the capital.

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Pakistani defense minister, said the government was compelled to use force after protesters tried to storm important buildings that symbolized the state.

“They violated the last line that we had drawn,” Mr. Asif said. “Negotiations cannot go on when a gun is pointed at our temples.”

Mr. Khan condemned the use of force by the police and urged his followers across the country to take to the streets on Sunday in protest.

 79 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:09 AM 
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Iran says US sanctions will hinder nuclear talks

Foreign ministry warning follows US imposition of sanctions on more than 25 businesses, banks and individuals

Kevin Rawlinson and agencies
theguardian.com, Saturday 30 August 2014 13.59 BST   

US sanctions against Iran will hinder talks over the country's nuclear programme, the Iranian foreign ministry has warned. The comments came as Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, said the country should "resist" the measures.

On Friday, the US imposed sanctions on more than 25 businesses, banks and individuals it suspected of working to expand Iran's nuclear programme, support terrorism and help Iran evade existing sanctions.

The measures bar Americans from engaging in transactions with any of the designated parties, freeze their assets and block their property under US jurisdiction.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham said the new sanctions would jeopardise a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, the official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday.

"These actions have a negative and non-constructive impact on the trend of the talks. The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects any unilateral and self-serving interpretation of last year's Geneva deal," she said. "Iran strongly believes that the sanctions are against commitments made by the United States under the Geneva deal."

Rouhani also attacked the sanctions, saying they were an "invasion of the Iranian nation". He said: "We should resist the invasion and put the invaders in their place. We should not allow the continuation and repetition of the invasion."

Iran's state television also said the move violated an interim agreement reached with world powers under which western nations agreed to ease sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear activities. However, Friday's action did not constitute an expansion of the sanctions regime, but rather the enforcement of existing sanctions.

Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly seeking a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, a charge denied by Tehran, which insists its programme is for entirely peaceful purposes, like power generation and the production of medical isotopes.

Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the US, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany – hope to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement by November that would address western concerns about the nuclear programme and lift crippling international sanctions on Tehran.

Rouhani, a reputed moderate, was elected last year after promising to engage the west diplomatically in order to get the sanctions lifted. But he has faced criticism from hardliners who say he has conceded too much in the nuclear talks.

 80 
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:08 AM 
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Dozens of Yazidi women ‘sold into marriage’ by ISIS: NGO

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 30, 2014 12:30 EDT

Several dozen Yazidi women kidnapped by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq have been taken to Syria, forced to convert and sold into marriage to militants, a monitoring group said Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO, said it had confirmed that at least 27 Yazidi women had been sold for around $1,000 each to IS fighters.

The group said it was aware that some 300 Yazidi women had been kidnapped and transported to Syria by the jihadists, but it had so far documented the sale into marriage of 27.

“In recent weeks, some 300 women and girls of the Yazidi faith who were abducted in Iraq have been distributed as spoils of war to fighters from the Islamic State,” a statement said.

The group said it had documented several cases in which the fighters then sold the women as brides for $1,000 each to other IS members after forcing them to convert to Islam.

“The Observatory documented at least 27 cases of those being sold into marriage by Islamic State members in the northeast of Aleppo province, and parts of Raqa and Hassakeh province,” the NGO said.

It added that some Syrian Arabs and Kurds had tried to buy some of the women in a bid to set them free, but they were only being sold to IS members.

The Observatory said it was unclear what had happened to the rest of the 300 women, and strongly denounced the “sale of these women who are being treated as though they are objects to buy and sell.”

Both UN officials and Yazidis fleeing IS advances in Iraq have said fighters kidnapped women to be sold into forced marriages.

UN religious right monitor Heiner Beilefeldt warned earlier this month of reports of women being executed and kidnapped by IS militants.

“We have reports of women being executed and unverified reports that strongly suggest that hundreds of women and children have been kidnapped ?- many of the teenagers have been sexually assaulted, and women have been assigned or sold to ‘IS’ fighters,” she said.

Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who follow an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism, are dubbed “devil worshippers” by IS militants because of their unorthodox blend of beliefs and practices.

The IS emerged from the one-time Iraqi affiliate of Al-Qaeda but has since broken with that group and espouses an interpretation of Islam that has been widely rejected.

It has pressed a campaign of terror in the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, which it deems an Islamic “caliphate,” carrying out decapitations, crucifixions and public stonings.

In June, the group launched a lightning offensive in Iraq, overrunning parts of five provinces.

In August, it captured Yazidi villages in the area of Mount Sinjar, prompting an enormous outpouring of the minority amid reports of executions and the abduction of women.

***************

U.S. Strikes Militants Besieging Turkmen in Iraq

By HELENE COOPER
AUG. 30, 2014
IHT

WASHINGTON — American warplanes launched airstrikes on Sunni militants who have been besieging the town of Amerli in northern Iraq on Saturday, in a broadening of the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon announced the expanded strikes Saturday night. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said that American planes also airdropped food, water and humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege by the militants for more than two months.

Aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom joined the United States in dropping the supplies, Admiral Kirby said in a statement.

Administration officials had characterized the dangers facing the Turkmen, who are Shiite Muslims considered infidels by ISIS, as similar to the threat faced by thousands of Yazidis, who were driven to Mount Sinjar in Iraq after attacks by the militants. The United Nations special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said last week that the situation in Amerli demanded “immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens.”

Admiral Kirby said that the American military would “assess the effectiveness” of the airstrikes and airdrops and work with international organizations to provide humanitarian aid as needed.

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