WW4 Report

One year later, Syrians recall chemical massacre

Aug. 21 marked the one-year anniversary of the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, found by international investigations to have been the work of the Bashar Assad regime. The Syrian diaspora around the world held protests and vigils marking the event, the one in New York's Times Square the evening of Aug. 22 drawing some 200 wearing matching t-shirts reading "CHEMICAL MASSACRE IN SYRIA: WE WILL NEVER FORGET." Amid Syrian flags (the pre-Assad version used by the rebel forces), protesters laid white-shrouded effigies representing the dead, and as the sun set lit rows of small candles that formed the number 1,476—the sum of those killed in the attack. At the climax of the ceremony, hundreds of the victims names were read aloud. The protest, co-organized by Save Syrian Children, was dubbed One Year of Breathing Death, in recognition of the fact that chemical attacks in Syria have continued. Organizers said activists have confirmed 27 separate cases of chemical gas use since the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 2118, calling for the destruction of all chemical weapons and chemical weapons facilities in Syria. (WW4R on the scene)

Iraq: Shi'ite militia blamed in mosque massacre

Gunmen opened fire inside a Sunni mosque in Iraq's eastern Diyala governorate, killing at least 68 people, Aug. 22. A suicide bomber broke into the Musab bin Omair Mosque during Friday prayers in the village of Imam Wais and detonated his explosives. He was followed by gunmen, who rushed in and opened fire on the worshippers. Initial reports blamed ISIS in the massacre, but reports later in the day blamed an unnamed Shi'ite militia, suggesting it was retaliation for a roadside bomb attack at a recruitment event organized by the militia. Last month, Shi'ite militiamen executed 15 Sunni Muslims and hung them from electricity poles in a public square in Baquba, Diyala's capital. In the wake of the mosque massacre, two influential Sunni politicians—deputy prime minister Saleh Mutlaq and parliament speaker Salim al-Jibouri—announced they are pulling out of talks on forming a new government until the investigation into the attack is completed. (RT, LAT, IraqiNews.com, Aug. 22; Reuters, July 30)

Turkey: clashes over monument to PKK leader

Tens of thousands of people joined the funeral ceremony Aug. 19 for Mehdin Taşkın, who was killed by Turkish troops who attacked local Kurds trying to protect a statue of PKK guerrilla leader Mahsum Korkmaz AKA Egît at Yolaçtı in Lice district of Diyarbakır (Kurdish: Amed) province. Taşkın was laid to rest at the same cmetery where he was shot by soldiers that advanced in helicopters and armored vehicles that same morning. His coffin covered with the PKK flag. (ANF, Aug. 19) A local court ruled the previous day that the statue erected at the entrance to the cemetary for PKK martyrs should be demolished following a complaint by the Diyarbakır government. Korkmaz, an early PKK leader, was killed in 1986 in a clash with Turkish security forces, and was recently buried at  Yolaçtı. (Today's Zaman, Aug. 18)

Libya: who bombed Tripoli?

Unidentified warplanes carried out air-strikes on a small arms depot and other targets  controlled by Islamist militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Aug. 18. At least six were killed in the strikes. The strikes were beyond the capacity of the limited Libyan Air Force, and Libyan authorities said the planes had come from a foreign state. The US, France, Italy and Egypt all denied responsibility. Also hit in the raid were camps along the road to Tripoli's airport, which is contested by rival militias. Another taregt was Tripoli's Mitiga air base, also controlled by Islamists. At least 100 have been killed in fighting in Tripoli over the past month. (NYTXinhua, Aug. 19)

Aruba frees wanted Venezuelan 'narco-general'

Venezuela has scored a win in its ongoing diplomatic and propaganda war with Uncle Sam. The most recent flare-up started July 24, when authorities in Aruba arrested Gen.Hugo Carvajal, a top Venezuelan official wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges. Carvajal had been military intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and was accused by the US Treasury Department of using his position to protect cocaine shipments for Colombia's FARC guerillas. He had just arrived in Aruba after being appointed Venezuela's consul there—and was promptly detained at Washington's behest. Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro called the detention a "kidnapping," and demanded Carvajal's immediate release. And three days later, a judge on the island found that since Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, his arrest was illegal. He was sprung and quickly made the short flight back to Venezuela. "He's returning free and victorious. It's a triumph for sovereignty and legality," president Maduro said, praising the "bravery" of the Dutch government. (The Guardian, July 28; BBC News, July 27; Maduradas, July 24)

Iraq: atrocities mount against Yazidis

ISIS on Aug. 19 released a video purporting to show a mass conversion of hundreds of members of the 4,000-year-old Yazidi religion. The "conversion" is clearly forced, undertaken on pain of death. The video was published shortly after ISIS released a video showing one of its members beheading US journalist James Foley, sparking outrage around the world. (IraqiNews.com) More than 90,000 Yazidi refugees who fled Mount Sinjar to the Kurdish-governed Dahouk governorate live in horrific conditions, according to Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. Thousands are without even rudimentary shelter, seeking refuge form the blazing sun under trees and bridges. He said many of the refugees who made it to Dahouk are now struggling "to get food and water for their families and many have no access to medical care." (Azzaman)

Iraq: ISIS sells Yazidi women; Iran intervenes?

After the abduction of more than 500 Yazidi women and girls by ISIS fighters at Sinjar, the jihadist group has established a special office in the Quds neighborhood of Mosul city where the women are being sold, according to Evar Ibrahim, head of the Women's Committee in the Kurdistan Regional Government's parliament. Ibrahim said the girls are being sold for 30,000 dinars, or about $26. "Despite selling them, the Yazidi girls have been raped by the IS insurgents," Ibrahim added. (BasNews) An official spokesman of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Khanaqen district, Hemin Mansour, charged that ISIS militants are evicting any remaining Kurdish families from Jalawla (Diyala governorate), and have demolished some houses belonging to Kurdish residents of the town. The evictions are being justified on the grounds that the Kurdish families were collaborating with the Peshmerga. The ISIS flag is also being raised over seized Kurdish homes to make them a target for air-strikes. (BasNews)

ISIS massacres in Syria; Assad to aid Kurds?

ISIS fighters shot and beheaded some 700 members of the Shueitat tribe in eastern Syria over the past two weeks, crushing a local uprising against the jihadi forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. Tribesmen expelled ISIS fighters from the villages of Kishkiyeh, Abu Hamam and Granij in Deir el-Zour governorate earlier this month before the jihadists launched their counter-offensive. "They considered all members of the Shueitat tribe apostates because they rose against them," said a Turkey-based activist who is from the region and in touch with residents there. "Some men were taken out in the fields and beheaded while others were shot in the head." Syrian warplanes are bombing ISIS positions in an attempt to halt the militants' advance on an army base in the area. (AP, Aug. 18)

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