EU pushes Libya peace as IS claims deadly blasts

EU pushes Libya peace as IS claims deadly blasts

Tunis (AFP) – The EU urged Libyan politicians to back a unity government Thursday, as the Islamic State group claimed suicide bombings that killed dozens and sparked fears of a jihadist expansion on Europe’s doorstep.

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini also said the EU would give Libya 100 million euros ($108 million) to battle IS, saying the security situation “needs to be tackled immediately”.

She told reporters the funds would be available from the first day the unity government comes to power.

Mogherini met separately in a Tunis suburb with Fayez al-Sarraj, a businessman who was named in a UN-brokered national unity government as prime minister designate, and Libyan lawmakers.

IS said one of its members, Abdallah al-Muhajer, “detonated a truck bomb in the middle of a base belonging to the apostate Libyan forces in the city of Zliten… killing nearly 80 of them and wounding 150”.

A security source had said more than 50 people were killed in the attack on a police training school, which left buildings charred and turned cars into twisted wrecks.

It was the deadliest single attack in Libya since the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

IS, which launched an offensive against Libya’s oil heartland this week, also said it was behind Thursday’s suicide bomb attack on a checkpoint in Ras Lanouf, home to a key oil terminal on the country’s northern coast.

..View gallery Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (L) and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (R) attend …The Red Crescent said six people, including a baby, died in that attack.

– ‘IS taking advantage’ –

Fears the jihadists are establishing a new stronghold on Europe’s doorstep have added urgency to efforts to bring together warring factions in a country beset by chaos since 2011.

Libya has had rival administrations since August 2014, when an Islamist-backed militia alliance overran Tripoli, forcing the government to take refuge in the east.

In December, after months of negotiations, a minority of lawmakers from both sides signed on to the UN-brokered national unity deal which has yet to win the full support of the two legislatures.

Analysts say these divisions are bolstering the position of IS.

“The situation has become very worrisome… with IS taking advantage of the chaos, the collapse of the central authorities and wars by proxy,” said Karim Bitar, head of research at the French Institute of International Relations.

..View gallery Libyans inspect the site of a suicide truck bombing on a police school in the coastal city of Zliten …The international community has been pleading for months with Libya’s rival parliaments to embrace the UN-brokered deal.

Mogherini said she had “fruitful and concrete” talks with Libyan politicians on how the EU can help the future government in the “fight against terrorism and namely against Daesh (IS)”.

“The best response to terrorism especially to Daesh will be a Libyan response” and a government to unite Libyans, she said, adding that the EU could help provided “training and advising”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Thursday’s attacks and also urged unity among Libyans.

“These criminal acts serve as a strong reminder of the urgency to implement the Libyan political agreement and form a government of national accord,” Ban said.

– ‘Unity the best way’ –

“Unity is the best way for Libyans to confront terrorism in all its forms.”

Bitar said the establishment of a national unity government was a matter of “urgency” but he warned international efforts could fail due to “numerous suspicions” on the ground.

Mohamed Eljarh, a non-resident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Hariri Centre, agreed.

He said the latest attacks claimed by IS “would not end the feud in Libya, but could at best result in reducing the trust deficit between the various armed and political groups as they attempt to cooperate and help each other in the face of IS’s expansion”.

The heads of Libya’s parliaments have warned the UN-brokered deal has no legitimacy and that the politicians signing the agreement represented only themselves.

The chaos in Libya since 2011 has also led to its rise as a stepping stone for migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

The IS offensive against the oil terminals in Ras Lanouf and nearby Al-Sidra in Libya’s so-called “oil crescent” came as IS has tried for weeks to push east from its stronghold in Sirte.

Officials have warned the already crumbling state could be paralysed if IS, which is reported to have at least 3,000 fighters in Libya, seize control of oil resources.

In a report to the UN Security Council in November, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said IS was responsible for at least 27 car and suicide bombings in Libya in 2015

Who Runs the Islamic State Group?

Who Runs the Islamic State Group?

by Benjamin Bahney and Patrick B. Johnston

In the past year, the Islamic State group has become an international phenomenon for its ambition, its cruelty and its striking military successes. Most terrorism experts agree that the Islamic State group has eclipsed al-Qaida as the world’s preeminent jihadi terrorist organization. But despite the group’s notoriety, a wide range of theories are still circulating about who really runs the Islamic State group.

Recent reports have revealed that the Islamic State group’s leadership contains former high-level Iraqi military and intelligence officials from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. These accounts attribute the Islamic State group’s rise to the skilled hand of these former regime elements, which the United States displaced by disbanding Saddam’s security services in 2003. To some, the presence of these former regime elements in high-ranking Islamic State group positions suggests that the group’s formidable capabilities, repression and brutality are the result of the Islamic State group having a Sunni nationalist, not a Salafi-jihadist, outlook.

But this story woefully misinterprets the facts.

While it is true that there are many former Baathist regime elements within the Islamic State group, the group’s organization and ambitions bear little resemblance to the Saddam-era Baathist state. Ironically, the Islamic State group’s organization and aims much more closely resemble its most bitter rival in the Sunni Arab world: al-Qaida. The Islamic State group derived both its blueprint for building an Islamic state and its Salafi-jihadist ideology from al-Qaida, not from Iraqi Baathists associated with Saddam Hussein’s former regime.

The group that evolved into the Islamic State group was formed, trained and indoctrinated in al-Qaida-sponsored training camps in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. There, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, founded a Salafi-jihadist organization named Jamaat Tawid Wal-Jihad. Zarqawi’s group moved to Iraq in 2002 and became al-Qaida’s official arm in Iraq in 2004. The internal documents of both core al-Qaidaand al-Qaida in Iraq show that their goal was to establish an Islamic state. These documents also show that al-Qaida’s organizational principles were directly handed down to the Islamic State group.

Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in mid-2006. But al-Qaida’s plan to establish an Islamic state with the “intended goal … of a caliphate” moved forward: al-Qaida in Iraq and a coalition of other Sunni jihadi groups in Iraq formally declared the “Islamic State of Iraq” even before the U.S. surge began in 2007.

It would be a mistake to misread the presence of former Baathists within the Islamic State group as a sign that the group has a moderate wing. The presence of former Baathists in the Islamic State group is not new. In fact, the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq, especially under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has long obsessed over their subversive influence. Long before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Saddam had, for political purposes, cultivated extremist elements within his officially secular government. After the United States disbanded the Iraqi security services, many former regime elements joined al-Qaida in Iraq or other Islamist insurgent groups. Further, the Islamic State group formally consolidated control over the Sunni nationalist insurgent groups in 2006, meaning that the remaining Baathists in the Islamic State group are likely true believers in the group’s worldview.

While well-trained and highly skilled former Baathist military and intelligence officials have long bolstered the lethality of the Islamic State group, they did not design the Islamic State group to be the organization it is today — al-Qaida did. Declassified documents show that the Islamic State’s organizational structures are — and always were — almost identical to the organizational blueprint devised by al-Qaida’s founders (PDF) in the 1990s. The main impact of the former Baathists has arguably been to enhance the Islamic State group’s ability to conduct full-scale military operations. They have increased the Islamic State group’s ability to carry out the vision of al-Qaida, only helping to make the group more extreme and more powerful than al-Qaida ever was.

Sectarian and ideological differences will continue to make any sort of peace settlement difficult in Iraq; the Islamic State group talks the talk of a Salafi-jihadist group, and it walks the walk of one too. There may be former Baathists in leadership positions inside the Islamic State group, but it’s likely that they only now seek Sunni nationalism through the vehicle of jihadi domination.

There is no hope of trying to negotiate with the Islamic State group, nor is there much hope of finding political fissures to manipulate inside of the group. The skill and depth of the Islamic State group’s security forces also make it difficult to imagine how winning the minds of locals could really turn the tide.

But there is hope that the Iraqis can militarily defeat the group in Iraq and the coalition can help to contain it within Syria. The United States and its coalition partners can also help to empower moderate Syrian militants to chip away at the Islamic State group’s areas of control. If the Iraqi government handles the military campaign prudently and makes the political concessions that Iraq’s Sunnis demand, the Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may eventually be able to stand up and resist the Islamic State group’s control. And with luck, the slow demise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria will degrade its global brand, helping to eventually sweep the group to where it belongs: the dustbin of history.

Benjamin Bahney is an adjunct researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and author of An Economic Analysis of the Financial Records of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Patrick Johnston is an associate political scientist at RAND.

This commentary originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report on May 22, 2015.

Russia urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Ukraine

Russia urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Ukraine

Russian foreign minister says peace talks should be devoted to agreeing on an immediate ceasefire without conditions.
Last updated: 01 Sep 2014 09:56

Lavrov also said the Ukrainian forces must pull back from positions where they can hit civilian targets [Reuters]

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the talks on Ukraine crisis taking place in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, should seek an immediate ceasefire in the conflict.

The statement came on Monday ahead of the Ukraine “contact group” talks that includes representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the Vienna-based OSCE security and rights organisation and separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov said that the Ukrainian forces must pull back from positions from which they can hit civilian targets.

“They must leave positions from which they can harm the civilian population,” Lavrov told students in Moscow.

“I very much count on today’s negotiations being devoted above all to the task of agreeing an immediate ceasefire, without conditions.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the stakes in the conflict on Sunday by calling for the first time for statehood to be discussed for the restive east of the former Soviet state.

“We need to immediately begin substantive talks… on questions of the political organisation of society and statehood in southeastern Ukraine,” the Russian leader said in an interview with Channel 1 state television.

However, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no new endorsement from Moscow for rebel independence. Asked if “New Russia”, a term pro-Moscow rebels use for their territory, should still be part of Ukraine, Peskov said: “Of course.”

“Only Ukraine can reach an agreement with New Russia, taking into account the interests of New Russia, and this is the only way to reach a political settlement,” he added.

Moscow has previously only called for “federalisation” that would grant greater rights to the eastern regions of Ukraine, where predominantly Russian speakers live.

Past talks by the “contact group” have covered technical issues such as access to the crash site of a Malaysian airliner shot down in July, but not political questions. Kiev rejects direct talks with the rebels.

Struggle for key airport

Ukraine’s military said on Monday that its forces were battling a Russian tank battalion for control of a vital airport in the east of the country.

Fighting continued to rage near Luhansk, the region’s other main city, for control of the main civilian airport just to its south, the military said in a statement.

“Ukrainian paratroopers are fighting a tank battalion of the Russian armed forces to hold the airport,” it said.

In the past 24 hours, the separatists had lost 80 fighters, some armoured vehicles and a missile system, the military said, giving no figures for Ukrainian losses.

In a statement on Monday, President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of “direct and open aggression” against his country.

Poroshenko, speaking at a military academy in Kiev, said Russia’s direct involvement in the war against the separatists in eastern Ukraine had tipped the balance on the battlefield and was the main reason for recent reversals.

The past week has seen Ukrainian forces flee in the path of a new rebel advance, drawing concern from Ukraine’s Western allies, who say armoured columns of Russian troops came to the aid of a rebellion that would otherwise have been near collapse.

Meanwhile, the EU leaders agreed on Saturday to draw up new economic sanctions against Moscow. The US and EU have gradually tightened economic sanctions against Russia, first imposed after Moscow annexed Crimea following the ousting of Kiev’s pro-Russian president by protesters in February.

Source: Agencies

Low expectations for Ukraine Russia peace talks

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 01/09/2014

Reporter: Emma Alberici

Europe correspondent Philip Williams reports on the latest developments in Ukraine.

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: Joining us from London with the latest news about Ukraine is our Europe correspondent, Philip Williams.

Phillip, who exactly is now in control of Luhansk Airport?

PHILIP WILLIAMS, EUROPE CORRESPONDENT: Well that’s a good question. But the announcement from the Ukrainians that they were withdrawing basically means that whether they have actually done that or not, the forces, the pro-rebel forces are about to or already have complete control of that airport. That’s a big blow, it’s another blow in a series of setbacks for the Ukrainian forces that stretch all the way from Luhansk to Donetsk and down to the Sea of Azov, where the pro-rebels – pro – the rebels are pushing towards Mariupol, the key port town of Mariupol. So on all fronts at the moment, the Ukrainians are on the back foot.

EMMA ALBERICI: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has again been talking to the media tonight. What realistically can NATO do to confront Russian aggression in Ukraine?

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Well it’s rather limited in the sense that if you’re in the club, you get the protection of everyone, but they’re not in the club, the Ukrainians are not in that club. They may well try and push to be part of that, and in fact, Rasmussen said just a few moments ago that he understood that the Ukrainians would be pushing something through Parliament so that they – which removed their non-aligned status and that could be a precursor – that’s seen as a precursor to the application for NATO membership. But for NATO, there are dangers there. Do they necessarily want to admit a new member at this perilous time? That would automatically trigger a response from NATO members against the largest military bloc in the world, or one of the largest. So, it’s a dangerous balancing act that’s being considered now by NATO. They’ve got their major conference later in this week. I’d expect something concrete coming out of that conference, whether that is perhaps beyond mere moral support, we’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps they could possibly offer some armaments to the Ukrainians, but they are very, very careful about exactly how far they go in what is a very, very dangerous situation.

EMMA ALBERICI: What do both sides of the conflict, Ukraine and Russia, hope to achieve at the peace talks at Minsk?

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Well, the Russians have said there’s nothing short of an immediate unconditional ceasefire. The Ukrainians say they want the Russians out – the Russians of course say they’re not in there – and they want all the support from Russia for the rebels to be ended. Now, both sides are highly unlikely to get what they want. Whether there is a compromise there is going to be very hard to see. Because from the Ukrainian point of view, this reversal of fortunes militarily is due entirely to Russian troops, Russian materials. Of course, the Russians say those people don’t exist, those trucks and all the tanks, etc. have been sourced by the rebels within – somehow within the Ukrainian area that they occupy. So, there’s very little area you can see for negotiations.

From the rebel of point of view, there’ve been two very different messages coming out of their camp today. One is, yes, we are going to insist still on full independence, and another message coming from another area saying, “No, we’ll look at some sort of federal association with Ukraine and we could possibly stay within Ukraine, but have a lot of independence.” So, really, there’s an inconsistency there. So you’ve got three very different disparate desires there, but at the core of it, the Russia versus the interests of Ukraine – that hasn’t changed, it’s just a question of how that washes out in these peace talks. I would have fairly low expectations, low hopes for any significant progress there today.

EMMA ALBERICI: Philip Williams in London, we’ll be talking about this for some time to come, I suspect. Thank you very much.

Twice Raped in Syrian Prisons

Twice Raped in Syrian Prisons
DAMASCUS – Last December, Alaa was laid down on an interrogator’s bed, her hands tied and her legs spread apart.

He climbed on top of her, his body against her small frame, and whispered in her ear, “It’s time for you to redeem your sins. You have done injustice to the motherland.”  And so, she says, she was raped by a 50-year-old interrogator at the Military Security Branch in Homs.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has already recorded the deaths of 11,000 women in Syria as a direct result of the three-year conflict.  During this time, there have been more than 7,500 recorded cases of sexual violence.

In 2011, the then 20-year-old Alaa and her family moved from Homs to Damascus. There, she volunteered to deliver aid to internally displaced Syrians – a decision she says led to her two rapes in government prisons.

On July 11, 2012, she was arrested in the Baramkeh area of Damascus while returning from work. On her first day in detention at Branch 215, she says was beaten black and blue by the head of the branch. He was enraged when he saw that she had an expensive mobile phone, while his was simple and cheap. “All of this [beating] is because of your protests,” he screamed.

Alaa worried that she would incriminate other opposition members; she was still carrying the papers of displaced families. In prison, a 50-year-old female detainee agreed to help her tear up the documents and eat them. Alla was then taken to the search room, undressed and delivered to the 60-year-old interrogator’s room where she was forced to perform oral sex, she says, “until he was satisfied. I walked into cell number 13 and I found three women, all of whom were crying. There was Hiba from Daraa, who became like a mother to me. There was Duaa from the Midan area in Damascus, and there was Hanan who had been taken hostage by the security apparatus and detained for over 100 days to force her brothers and father to give themselves up after they defected from the Syrian army,” she says.

“The women knew what had happened to me because they were also sexually assaulted by the same interrogator. That was until he was replaced with a maniac who used to feed his birds while torturing me. He wanted me to confess that I was responsible for the [May 2012] Qazzaz bombing in Damascus [that killed at least 55 people]. For 26 days, they used the most brutal torture and extortion methods to make me confess, but to no avail.”

In August 2012, Alaa was transferred to the Military Security Branch in Homs. At one point, she was hung by the arms for an entire day to force a confession that she had played a role in the bombing of the Malaeb neighborhood in Homs. Not able to stand the pain any longer, Alaa decided to talk. She was taken to the interrogation room where she was asked to admit harboring the families of armed groups and masterminding the bombing.

But she would only confess to carrying aid and taking photographs.

Ten days later, a new interrogator accused Alaa of having a hand in the riots that broke out in the Homs central prison. She says it was then that she was raped for the first time, after being handcuffed and forced to lie on his bed, to endure his assault until he was done with her. Soon, that same interrogator sent her to another man whom she could not identify. She says that he too handcuffed her – to his chair – and raped her. She was sent back to her cell unconscious.

“We heard them dancing in their drunkenness celebrating the New Year. They used the most brutal methods of torture and rape on their detainees, as if they enjoyed our suffering. I wasn’t the only one to be raped,” Alla says. “During my time in prison, I met 28-year-old Khawla who was raped twice: once by the prison guard and once by the interrogator. She became pregnant but refused to share the details of her story as they threatened to kill her if she said anything about it.”

She says that the women’s own bodies were often used to humiliate them. Left without any sanitary products, blood would seep down their legs as other prisoners offered their old, lice-filled shirts as an alternative. She calls it the “ultimate humiliation.”

Last January, her body thin and face sallow, Alaa was released as part of a prisoner swap between the Assad regime and the opposition forces. She now suffers from depression and isolation. Her family remains unaware of her status as a rape victim – she says she does not want to add to their misery.


The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Members Rape Christian


The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Members Rape Christian \

Mother and Daughter, Kill Four Christian Women for Not Wearing



The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has begun to brutally enforce Islamic laws in Mosul, Iraq, which it overran on June 10.

According to a story from the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), Dr. Sallama Al Khafaji, a member of the Iraq High Commission for Human Rights, told the news organization that on June 21 ISIS began demanding a poll tax (jizya) from Christians in Mosul .

In one instance, ISIS members entered the home of an Assyrian family in Mosul and demanded the poll tax. When the Assyrian family said they did not have the money, three ISIS members raped the mother and daughter in front of the husband and father. He was so traumatized that he committed suicide.

“The Christians have told me that they cannot pay this tax,” said Al-Khafaji, “and they say ‘what am I to do, shall I kill myself?'”