WW4 Report

Pakistan: probe of PM over protester deaths

An Islamabad court on Sept. 15 ordered police to register a first information report (FIR) against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his cabinet members for killings of protesters on Aug. 31 in Islamabad's Red Zone. The FIR comes as a response to the political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) filing an application to the court requesting a case against the prime minister and other top government officials for the August killings. (Jurist, Sept. 15) The protests were coordinated by PAT and Tehreek-i-Insaf.  (PTI, Sept. 11)

ISIS burns Syrian cannabis fields

The extremist ISIS—now calling themselves the "Islamic State"—have left a bloody trial of mass murder in their advance across large swaths of northern Syria and Iraq over the past three months, slaughtering and enslaving Christians, Shi'ites and others deemed to be heretics. It is hardly surprising that they've been taking a tough line on cannabis. ISIS militants have posted footage on the Internet showing their men burning cannabis fields in the Syrian governorate of Aleppo. The video, online at The Telegraph, shows men cutting down the plants in a large field, making a number of piles, dousing them with a flammable liquid and setting them alight. ISIS claim they discovered the farm after having captured the town of Akhtarin from the rival Free Syrian Army in recent weeks. The militants claim the farm owner fled over the nearby border with Turkey, according to Huffington Post.

Colombia: freed cartel hitman demands protection

Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vasquez AKA "Popeye" is notorious in Colombia as former personal enforcer for late drug lord Pablo Escobar—and is now a free man after 22 years behind bars, two-thirds of his original sentence. But he seems to be more troubled than relieved about his release on parole—just before getting popped from the top-security Cómbita prison in Boyacá, Popeye asked Colombia's official human rights office, the Defensoría del Pueblo, for protection. "Please grant me police security from the moment I leave the prison gate," he wrote. We can imagine that Popeye has made a few enemies over the years. In jailhouse interviews with journalists, he boasted that he personally killed around 300 people and helped arrange for the murder of 10 times that many. A judge granted nonetheless his parole application, and he was sprung on a bond of 9 million pesos ($4,700) Aug. 27. "In his own hand he asked [authorities] to protect his right to life," the Defensoría said of the request, adding that the office has contacted the appropriate authorities to arrange security measures.

AQIM renegades pledge fealty to ISIS

A new armed group calling itself the "Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria" has split from al-Qaeda's North African framchise and sworn loyalty to ISIS. In a communique released Sept. 14, a regional commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said he has from the group, accusing it of "deviating from the true path." Seeming to address ISIS "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he commander, Gouri Abdelmalek AKA Khaled Abu Suleimane, wrote, "You have in the Islamic Maghreb men if you order them they will obey you." The newly created "Caliphate Soldiers" or "Jound al Khilafa fi Ard al Jazayer" is the second group to break with AQIM and pledge loyalty to ISIS, the first one being Mokhtar Belmokhtar's "Those who sign in Blood," which observers say is now likely based in southern Libya. (Reuters, Al Jazeera, Sept. 15)

Libya: 'war crimes' seen in spiraling militia attacks

Libyan militia forces battling for control of Tripoli and surrounding areas have engaged in attacks on civilians and civilian property that in some cases amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said Sept. 8. Thousands of residents fled their homes during five weeks of fighting between the Libyan Dawn alliance, led by militias from the coastal city of Misrata, and a coalition of militias from the inland mountain town of Zintan. Human Rights Watch has documened a series of attacks by Libyan Dawn forces on civilians and civilian property since they took control of Tripoli, beginning with its civilian airport, on Aug. 24. "Commanders on both sides need to rein in their forces and end the cycle of abuses or risk being first in line for possible sanctions and international prosecution," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW. 

Amazon indigenous leaders killed by illegal loggers

Four Asháninka indigenous leaders, well known for their work against illegal logging in the Amazon, were murdered near their home in eastern Peru, authorities admitted this week. The men—Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quinticima Melendez and Francisco Pinedo—were traveling from their community of Alto Tamaya-Saweto, in Masisea district of Ucayali region, to attend a meeting with other Asháninka leaders in Brazil. Their dismembered remains were found Sept. 1 by a local search party that was organized when they failed to return from the meeting. The widows of the men traveled for three days through the jungle, arriving in the regional capital of Pucallpa, arriving late on the night of Sept. 8, to demand immediate action by Peruvian authorities to bring the killers to justice. Vice minister for Interculturaity Patricia Balbuena announced that she will fly to Pucallpa to meet with the survivors. Chota, had received frequent death threats from illegal loggers he sought to expel from traditional Asháninka lands for which his community is seeking title. (Survival International, Sept. 9; El Comercio, AIDESEP, AP, Sept. 8)

Mexico: demand investigation of military massacre

Human Rights Watch on Aug. 22 called on Mexico's government to ensure an "impartial and effective" investigation into the killing of 22 civilians by soldiers on June 30, during an alleged confrontation at an empty warehouse at Tlatlaya, a town in the mountains of central México state. Witness accounts have cast doubt on the official version of events, HRW found. A press release from the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA) said soldiers responded to gunfire when they raided the warehouse. The SEDENA statement said the soliders later found 38 firearms, a grenade, and several cartridges in the warehouse, and liberated three women who had been kidnapped. On July 1, the governor of México state, Eruviel Ávila Villegas, said that the soldiers had acted "in legitimate defense" and "taken down delinquents." However, an Associated Press reporter who visited the area three days after the incident filed a story July 8 saying there was "little evidence of sustained fighting," and that he found only a small number of bullet holes in the warehouse walls. In other words, what happened seems to have been a massacre rather than a shoot-out. Government officials have yet to disclose the names of those killed or the status of the investigation. "It's been two months since soldiers killed 22 civilians in Tlatlaya, and there are more questions than answers about what really took place that day," said HRW Americas director José Miguel Vivanco.

Brazil: deadly prison uprising ends in deal

Brazilian authorities reached a deal with inmates Aug. 25 after a deadly prison uprising at Cascavel in Paraná state. The riot erupted the day before as breakfast was being served, when inmates overpowered guards. In apparent score-settling between rival drug gangs, two prisoners were beheaded, and two others thrown to their deaths off the roof of a cellblock. At least 25 were injured in the fighting. Under the deal, two guards who had been taken hostage are to be freed in exchange for a commitment to improve conditions at the facility and the transfer of some inmates to other prisons. The prison had already exceeded its intended 925 capacity. Negotiations on the specifics are ongoing between prisoners and the Paraná attorney general's office. Some 574,000 are incarcerated in Brazil; only the US, China, and Russia have more people behind bars. It is an open secret in Brazil that with prison overcrowding at unmanageable levels, guards routinely keep the peace by handing control of cellblocks to the inmates. The overcrowding has been exacerbated by a legal reform eight years ago that dramatically increased sentences for drug trafficking. (AFP, BBC News, Al Jazeera, Aug. 25; AP, Aug. 24)

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