THE REAL-LIFE SIDESHOW BOB?: Fundraising clown criminalised by UK council

 

Manchester – VIJAY SHAH via SWNS digital

A man dressed as a clown who was fundraising for victims of terrorism found himself accosted by council workers who confiscated his donations bucket, SWNS news agency reported this Friday.

Pensioner Tommy Armstrong, from Greenock in Inverclyde, Scotland, had visited the city of Manchester in England to collect spare change for victims of the recent suicide bombing there, when employees of the Manchester city council approached him while he was about to collect donations for a special charity 10-kilometre fun run he was due to take part in. The council staff demanded to see Tommy’s fundraising permit, which he did not have. They then allegedly emptied his bucket and confiscated the donations. Armstrong was said to have been left ‘close to tears’ by the incident. At that time, he was dressed in full clown costume and face make-up.

 

 

Armstrong has raised nearly £200,000 for charity in a fundraising career spanning thirty years and has frequented the streets of Manchester for the past decade. He was renowned in his native city for his habit of dressing in complete clown regalia to entertain shoppers and tourists and gather money for charity. He had even appeared on a daytime TV show ‘This Morning’ with the ITV terrestrial station last year. He told SWNS: My race didn’t start until 3pm, so I went to St Ann’s Square first to see the flowers that have been left there in tribute to the victims.

‘I was wearing my clown’s gear and pushing my usual pram with the bucket on it.’

‘I didn’t ask anyone for money at that stage, but many people had put notes and coins into the bucket.’

‘Two officials came up to me and asked if I had a permit to raise money for the fund.’

‘I told them I had been raising money at Manchester and other big races around the country like the London Marathon for years, and I had never heard anything about a permit.’

‘They took my bucket and counted all the money on a wall. People were walking past wondering what was going on.’

‘It was really embarrassing and made me feel like they thought I was trying to collect money for myself. They were very rude and treated me like a criminal.”

The donations confiscated by Manchester council was believed to be in the region of £44. Tommy Armstrong also told SWNS that he felt the council’s rough treatment of him was unwarranted and that they should offer an apology. He added: They gave me a piece of paper with their names and a phone number for Manchester Council, asked for my name and address and said they would send a receipt, but I still haven’t received a thing.

‘These guys hounded me. I was really angry about it and close to tears. They even took my sign away from me.’

‘I travelled down there at my own expense on an overnight bus to try and help, but their attitude seemed to be that I was dressed as a clown so they would treat me like a clown. I think I should get an apology.”

Manchester City Council said that they had required fundraisers collecting money for victims of the Ariana Grande concert attack to carry officially issued permits after a number of fraudulent fundraising drives were reported to them in the days after the atrocity, in which local man Salman Abedi detonated an improvised shrapnel bomb at the Manchester Arena, killing himself and 22 concertgoers, many of whom were parents and children.

A spokesperson for the council told SWNS: “Difficult though it is to countenance, some unscrupulous individuals do exploit the name of charitable funds for their own personal gain.

‘To protect the public from these bogus collectors, people wishing to collect cash donations at public events need to apply for and carry an official permit.’

‘Members of our team spoke with Mr Armstrong to explain that because he did not have a permit, the money he had collected from the public would be taken and deposited with the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund on his behalf.’

‘There is no suggestion that Mr Armstrong’s motives were anything other than good, and we hope that he will understand that the permit process exists with the important aim of protecting the public from rogue collectors.’

‘The money he raised will help to support those who have been injured or bereaved by the attack.”

SOURCE:

“Charity Clown Treated Like a “Criminal” By Council Workers” – SWNS digital/72Point (9 June 2017) http://www.swnsdigital.com/2017/06/charity-clown-treated-like-a-criminal-by-council-workers/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Hobo the Clown” – Shawn Tron (12 November 2011) https://www.flickr.com/photos/shawntron/6346752662/

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LONDON BRIDGE ATTACK: Van steered into pedestrians, several killed

London – VIJAY SHAH via BBC News

Six people have been murdered and at least 48 have been injured after a terrorist atrocity on the world-famous London Bridge and Borough Market late yesterday, the BBC reports. Police gunned down the three attackers, all men, after a white van was deliberately crashed into pedestrians out and about on the bridge at 10.00 pm. The vehicle was then said to have proceeded to nearby Borough Market, where the three attackers got out and began stabbing random people, including one identified as a police officer.

Little is known about the assailants at this point, but eyewitnesses reported that they were wearing fake bomb vests.

The UK’s prime minister Theresa May described the events as ‘dreadful’, while opposition party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who heads the Labour party, condemned the incident as ‘brutal and shocking’, the BBC reported. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan said that the attack was a “deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners”.  The mayor also said that London would always be a safe global city and that Londoners would not be cowed by terrorism.

 

 

The country is still recovering from a suicide attack in Manchester last month that saw 22 people killed by a lone bomber at a Ariana Grande pop music concert at the city’s Manchester Arena. Many of the victims were children. In March this year, six people died in London after a lone wolf terrorist rammed his car into bystanders at Westminster Bridge, before stabbing a brave police officer to death as he tried to attack the UK’s parliament in central London.

London’s Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said it was believed there were only three attackers involved and the explosive vests they were wearing were “hoaxes”.

One of the dead terrorists was reported by an eyewitness lying on the ground near a Borough Market drinking establishment, the vest visible in the body’s vicinity.

The BBC also reported that eighty medics were sent to the scene of the attacks, which were closed off and swarming with police and ambulances, according to television news coverage witnessed by the author of this article at around 11.00 pm last night.

A reporter working for the BBC, named as Holly Jones, saw a van being driven at 50 to 60 miles per hour head across the bridge just before the incident. She told the BBC: “He swerved right round me and then hit about five or six people. He hit about two people in front of me and then three behind”

Another eyewitness, identified only as Robbie, was sitting in a taxi opposite the Barrowboy and Banker pub on London Bridge. He told BBC Radio 5 Live, a national radio station: I saw about 20 or 30 people rushing to get back into the pub and five seconds later a big white van came screeching down the pavement,” 

“Two or three people jumped out. Initially, I thought it was a road traffic incident and the people had jumped out to see if anyone was injured, but I could tell immediately, they looked very aggressive.”

His friend Josh came out of the pub a few seconds later and saw people running up to the bridge from Borough Market.

“A chap (man) ran up and I heard him shout, ‘He’s got a knife, he’s stabbing people.'”

Another witness, Gerard, told the BBC: “They were running up shouting, ‘This is for Allah.’ They stabbed this girl maybe 10 times, 15 times. She was going, ‘Help me, help me.'”

Gerard said he chased the attackers, who were running into pubs and bars, and threw bottles, chairs and other items to try to stop them.

Steven Gibbs, who was drinking in St Christopher’s Inn, just metres from the scene, told the BBC: “A black cab drove past and the driver shouted, ‘Terrorist attack, run!’

“I stood up to take a look and then all of a sudden there were gunshots. Lots of people were screaming.”

Many of the injured, some in ‘critical condition’, have been sent to five nearby hospitals. The city’s police have set up hotlines and a casualty bureau for people to check up on loved ones. The bureau can be reached by calling 0800 096 1233 and 020 7158 0197 (+44 20 7158 0197 from outside the UK).

The area around Borough Market and the bridge was hastily placed on lockdown, with local pubs, bars and restaurants remaining closed. A police bomb disposal team was drafted in for fear the attackers had explosives with them. London Bridge itself and nearby Southwark Bridge are closed, along with major local thoroughfares such as Borough High Street and Lower Thames Street. Trains have been barred from stopping at the nearest Underground station, also called London Bridge.

Police investigations are still ongoing.

SOURCES:

Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/

“London attack: Seven killed in vehicle and stabbing incidents” – BBC News – UK (4 June 2017) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40146916

IMAGE CREDIT:

tabi3live, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/6_basharrdp

UK TERRORISM SCARE: Four-year-old threatened with ‘counter-terrorism measures’ after mispronouncing word

gb

Luton, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via DAVID BARRETT & The Telegraph

A British four-year-old child was allegedly threatened with counter-terrorism measures after mispronouncing the word ‘cucumber‘ as ‘cooker bomb’ as a wave of hysteria permeates the U.K. in the light of ongoing terrorism threats, national newspaper The Telegraph yesterday. 

The unidentified boy was at nursery when teachers overheard him say ‘cooker bomb’ instead of cucumber during play and workers at the nursery have said the child should be referred to a de-radicalisation and counter-terrorism project, despite the fact that many children of his age regularly mispronounce longer words.

The boy, said to be of ‘Asian‘ heritage, also allegedly drew a picture of a man chopping up a cucumber, technically a fruit, but used widely as a vegetable in both British and South Asian cooking, with a large knife, which triggered further concerns in the worried nursery workers.

Staff at the nursery in Luton, Bedfordshire, around 33.5 miles from central London, spoke with the boy’s mother and said he commented ‘cooker bomb’ when asked about the subject of his picture. They also expressed a wish to refer the incident to the ‘Prevent’ deradicalisation scheme, run by the Home Office government agency. Instead the case was referred to police and social services, who decided no further action would be taken, according to the BBC Asian Network.

The little boy’s mother, who was not named in the Telegraph report, told the newspaper “[The member of nursery staff] kept saying it was this one picture of the man cutting the cucumber, which she said to me is a ‘cooker bomb’.

“I was baffled. It was a horrible day.”

The mother also expressed fears that her child would be taken away from her into care once social services became involved. The case echoes that of a 10-year-old boy, also British Asian, who was visited by police at his home, after he wrote ‘terrorist house’ instead of ‘terraced house’ for a school assignment, triggering a radicalisation alert from his teacher.

Since July 2015, as part of the UK government’s strategy to combat extremism and radicalisation among young people and the voting in of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, teachers have been required to report any incidents alluding to terrorism and violence amongst their pupils, but this has led to numerous mistakes, many almost farcical, as teachers complained that the reporting rules were not clear enough. Many teaching unions have said that the government measures have been poorly laid out to the educational community. 

Alex Kenny from the National Union of Teachers said: “Teachers are scared of getting it wrong.

“They think Ofsted is going to criticise them if they haven’t reported these things, and you end up [with] the boy making the spelling mistake, or the boy saying something in Arabic – that then gets reported on.”

Figures published by the Telegraph state that just under 2,000 under-15s were referred to counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation initiatives such as Prevent in the period between January 2012 and December 2015.

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
AsianWorld Newspaper, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AsianWorldNews
“Four-year-old who ‘mispronounced the word cucumber’ threatened with counter-terrorism measures” – David Barrett, The Telegraph – Home – News – UK News – Terrorism in the UK/Telegraph Media Group Limited (11 March 2016) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/12191543/Four-year-old-who-mispronounced-the-word-cucumber-threatened-with-counter-terrorism-measures.html
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

PARIS MASSACRES: 150 believed killed in terrorist atrocity

Paris, FRANCE
VIJAY SHAH via Rediff News & Google News

The French capital is in mourning today after a coordinated attack by terrorists said to be allied with the so-called Islamic State on bars, restaurants and the Stade de France left around 150 people dead. Most of the fatalities occurred at a Cambodian restaurant where terrorists armed with AK-47s gunned down diners and tourists as they dined. Suicide bombs were also set off at one of Paris‘ largest stadia, the Stade de France, where a football match between France and Germany was taking place. Gunmen also targetted a death metal concert, shooting at concert goers as they fled screaming.

The news has sent ripples of shock and disgust throughout the world, and social media posts urged people to pray for Paris and France, as well as the victims. Another 180 people have been hospitalised, many of them with serious injuries.

(c) Sebastien Amiet/Wikimedia Commons

Indian news service Rediff.com reports that sets of terrorists, some carrying guns and others wearing bombs strapped to vests, attacked seven sites around central Paris. One of these is believed to be the Avenue de la Republique, popular with tourists and packed as Paris gears up for the Christmas season.

Rediff reported that the worst carnage took place on yesterday night (Friday 14th November) as gunmen stormed a concert where am American death metal band were performing. Dozens of fans were taken hostage, and the terrorists were reported as hurling grenades at panicked concertgoers as they tried to flee the venue. The Parisian gendarmerie later stormed the Bataclan concert hall building, killing three attackers, reeling in horror at the bloody scenes that unfolded before them last night. Pictures taken after the siege show police securing the road just outside the Bataclan and establishing a perimeter.

The prosecutor of Paris, Francois Molins, said that five attackers have been killed. Other reports said six militants had been taken down, but no-one has yet determined how many took part in the atrocities or if any gunmen are still at large.

In five other shootings, it was reported that 38 were murdered. These took place in the 10th and 11th arrondissements (districts) of Paris, an area comparable to outlying parts of central London. Two explosions occurred outside the Stade de France, where the France vs. Germany match was in attendance by the country’s president Francois Hollande. Reports of casualties at the stadium have not yet been confirmed by police or the prosecutor’s office, but spectators were seen vacating the stadium in droves.

It is not yet known who exactly was behind the attacks, but the president believes that IS were responsible. Some reports claim that IS have claimed responsibility, hours after British IS member Mohammed al-Emwazi, popularly known as ‘Jihadi John’ was allegedly killed in a drone rocket strike in Raqqah, Syria.

Following the attacks, Hollande declared a nationwide state of emergency, the first in many years and today also instituted a three-day period of mourning for the many who lost their lives going about their daily business. President Hollande also ordered the closing of France’s borders to prevent any remaining gunmen from fleeing. Paris has gone into virtual shutdown with the city’s Metro train service as well as schools, universities and government building closed down today.

Hollande who was led to safety as the Stade de France attack unfolded, spoke on French television to say that the country would stand firm and united.

“This is a terrible ordeal that again assails us,” he said. “We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”

He later visited the Bataclan hall, and said that France would wage a ‘merciless’ fight against terrorist forces. Thousands of police, paramedics and doctors were put on immediate emergency duty and all leave of absence was cancelled. Around 1,500 army reinforcements were brought into Paris and hospitals were getting ready for the influx of injured.

  • IS have claimed responsibility, saying that the attacks were in revenge for Western and Arab state-led strikes against their operatives in Syria. They have lauded the atrocity as an ‘act of war’.
  • All sporting fixtures in Paris have been cancelled.
  • Several cities including London, Melbourne in Australia, New York and Dublin, Ireland have lit up buildings in the colours of the French tricouleur in solidarity with Paris.
  • UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent a telegram stating that the Paris teror attacks are against all of humanity. Governments, including those from the UK and US have also expressed their horror at the atrocities.
SOURCES:
Francois Gautier, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/francoisgautierofficial/?fref=nf
“Bloodbath in Paris: Over 150 dead as terrorists plan Mumbai-style attacks” – Rediff News/Rediff.com (14 November 2015) http://www.rediff.com/news/report/pix-bloodbath-in-paris-hundreds-dead-in-mumbai-style-attacks/20151114.htm
Google News.
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Marche hommage Charlie hebdo et aux victimes des attentats de janvier 2015 (31).jpg” – Sébastien Amiet (sébastien amiet;l), nikleitz2009 & Paris 16, Wikimedia Commons (11 January 2015) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marche_hommage_Charlie_hebdo_et_aux_victimes_des_attentats_de_janvier_2015_(31).jpg

INDO-PAK DIALOGUE: New trade talks stutter over conditions; hostilities

A new round of talks on commerce and security between South Asian neighbours and bitter enemies India and Pakistan, designed to facilitate links and friendship has ground to a halt over tensions during the high-level government meetings, the Voice of America reported yesterday.

In Pakistan‘s capital Islamabad, the Pakistani delegation called off the talks after the two sides began ‘trading barbs’ over the meeting’s agenda, VOA reports. The national security advisors of both countries were due to meet in India‘s capital New Delhi today and tomorrow, but the reluctance of the two nations to step away from their pre-conditions for the meetings has hampered dialogue.

Jammu, June 25. Pakistan Ranger stands near th...
Jammu, June 25. Pakistan Ranger stands near the flags of India and Pakistan during the ancient shrine of ‘Dalip Singh’ Baba Chamliyal annual fair at zero line international border in RamGarh sector about 45 KM’s from Jammu on Thursday. Pix by Vishal Dutta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Indian position wanted the bilateral talks to focus on cross-border terrorism, in particular incursions of Pakistan-sponsored militants across the heavily fortified border of the disputed region of Kashmir. They wanted assurances that Pakistan would rein in the militants and help maintain peace in the restive northern region. Pakistan however, wanted to also communicate on other issues, in particular resolving the Kashmir dispute which has seen the two neighbours go to war three times since their joint independence in 1947 after the dismantling of the British Raj.

The foreign affairs minister of India, Sushma Swaraj, told her opposite number, NSA adviser Sartaj Aziz that he could only participate in the New Delhi phase of the talks if he was prepared to address the terrorism issue.

“If you want to come, I have two messages for you,” Swaraj told Aziz via a press conference in the Indian capital. “Don’t create a third partner, the talks should be between India and Pakistan. And keep them limited to terrorism. If you do so, you are welcome to come.”

The ‘third partner’ that the Indian foreign minister was referring to are the numerous Kashmiri separatist factions such as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who are agitating for complete independence for Kashmir or its annexation to Pakistan. Pakistan itself had originally invited leaders of the region’s separatist factions to meet with Sartaj Aziz before Aziz was to travel to New Delhi to meet the Indians, angering Indian politicians whose patience has been worn thin from separatist agitated violence in the Kashmir area over the past fifteen years or so.

A previous round of meeting with separatists from Kashmir by the Pakistanis caused India to call off talks between their foreign secretaries. Pakistan considers the Kashmiris to be ‘legitimate stakeholders’ in the ongoing debate over their region’s status, and has met with them as a matter of course for many years. India in turn regards the separatists as troublemakers and their position is that Kashmir and the wider Jammu and Kashmir state is an integral part of India without dispute. India regards the meetings between Pakistan and the Kashmiris as a violation of the 1972 Shimla Agreement, a document that implores both sides to bilaterally settle their differences.

The security meeting was a follow-up to a previous Indo-Pak meeting which took place in Ufa, in the Bashkiria region of Russia. On the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Council summit, which was taking place at the same time, the prime ministers of the two nations reached an agreement to discuss bi-national security arrangements and issues.

Both sides accused each other of trying to re-interpret that agreement and violating its spirit.

“We were clear that if we say all outstanding issues then Kashmir is included… Ask anyone sitting here what is the biggest outstanding issue between the two countries, everybody will say Kashmir,” Aziz said referring to the joint communiqué issued at the Ufa meeting.

“All outstanding issues will be discussed once violence and terrorism end. This meeting was supposed to discuss how to end those,” Swaraj retorted. The foreign minister also said that Aziz had not referenced the communiqué properly, only referring to what was noted in its preamble, rather than the main actionable body of the document from Ufa. Tensions over the exact agenda of the NSA meeting were further exacerbated by recent incidents of cross-border firing between Indian and Pakistani troops over the Line of Control, which separates Pakistani-occupied Kashmir from India’s autonomous Jammu and Kashmir state.

The good news is that despite the tensions over cross-border terrorism and security concerns, India and Pakistan have said that the talks will still continue, and despite the hard-hitting rhetoric between Swaraj and Aziz, the door has been left open for further negotiations between the Asian subcontinent’s two largest nations. According to Sartaj Aziz, however it is too early to say if the parties will meet again on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session to be held in New York next month.

Swaraj in turn commented of her hope that talks will persist, stating to the VOA that despite the difficult and complicated Indo-Pak relationship, the two sides have had worse falling-outs and was confident the problems could be negotiated.

“In diplomacy, there’s never a full stop, only commas or semi-colons,” she said.

SOURCES:
newsmap, Marcos Weskamp, Newsmap http://newsmap.jp/
“Pakistan: No High-level Talks With India” – Ayesha Tanzeem & Anjana Pasricha, Voice of America – News – Asia (22 August 2015) http://www.voanews.com/content/india-pakistan-trade-blame-as-proposed-talks-falter/2928347.html
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Baba Chamliyal Mela at Indo-Pak international Border, near Jammu.jpg” – Vishal Dutta, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (14 August 2009) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Baba_Chamliyal_Mela_at_Indo-Pak_international_Border,_near_Jammu.jpg

 

SULLEE J: Rebel Nation – a message against terrorism

Since its formation in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war, the militant group ISIS, which labels itself as Islamic State, has unleashed a mindless and bloodthirsty war against the people of Iraq and Syria. Its horrific beheadings, mass killings and other vile crimes have reviled the world, and rightly so. As ISIS continue their barbaric rampage across the Middle East, Muslims across the world are bearing the brunt of the backlash, even though many have condemned and spoken out against the terrorists in the strongest possible terms. Many have signed up to the Twitter campaign “#NotInMyName” to show that they do not identify with ISIS’ blatant disrespect and insult to their religion. Others have joined anti-ISIS protests or sent aid to civilians caught up in the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

Rebel Nation Flyer - Sullee J

An American Muslim, the rapper Sullee J has added his own voice to the global Islamic community’s uprising against the twisted ideologies of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, the revolutionary warrior poet and philanthropist is one of a new breed of Muslim rappers using their message to counteract not only the terrorist groups who claim to speak for Muslims but also to fight against the Islamophobia which has become widespread in many Western countries as a result of those same terrorists. Sullee J has collaborated with numerous stars from the broader Baltimore hip-hop scene, including Royce Da 5’9, Crooked I, Canibus, Cashis, Cyssero and K-Rino. He has also been the talk of hip-hop magazines and fan sites and also made a hefty impact in the mainstream media too, featuring on the CBS and Fox television networks. Sullee J is far from just another rapper with a big medallion and bigger swagger dropping tracks to fill his bank account. He has a more spiritual purpose – being a light of the hip-hop genre, using his music to illuminate the masses with positive and uplifting tunes. Just as importantly, Sullee J takes hip-hop back to what it is used to be about – messages on and against the injustices of the world, life and society.

His latest track to get dropped via his label Venom Musik is exactly that kind of hip-hop with a profound message. Rebel Nation is a response to those groups that claim to represent Muslims but are anything but. It is a track is very much influenced by the whole ISIS situation, and a fitting reply to those who say that the voice of the international Muslim community is not loud enough against terrorism. Fast-paced and powerful, Sullee J disregards both Islamist terrorists and biased Islamophobes in one fell swoop, exposing their misguidance and lack of knowledge. Featuring Arabic verses from the holy book of Islam, the Qur’an, alongside the forceful street lyrics characteristic of alternative hip-hop, Sullee J remains proud of his faith, yet exposes the malevolent doctrines of groups like ISIS, and the false propaganda from certain quarters that is degrading and disrespecting the worldwide Muslim community.

“Dear ISIS, you are not my religion

Dear Al-Qaeda, you are not my religion

Dear Sudden Jihad Syndrome, you are not my religion

Dear Terrorism, you are not my religion”

– Sullee J

Official website – http://www.officialsulleej.com/

Youtube – http://youtu.be/ZSdia1cGixA

Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/baltimore-ullee-j/sullee-j-rebel-nation-prod-tha

Hulkshare – https://www.hulkshare.com/8fnvng54k1s0

SOURCES:
Sullee J Management.
Sullee J official website http://www.officialsulleej.com/
“Rebel Nation LYRICS Sullee J” – Rap Genius/Genius Media Group Inc. http://rap.genius.com/Sullee-j-rebel-nation-lyrics
IMAGE CREDIT:
Sullee J Management.

TALIBAN PRISON BREAK: Inmates flee prison in Afghanistan, three guards killed.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn has reported that several Taliban militiamen have broken out of a prison in Afghanistan yesterday. According to a report delivered by the English-language publication via the news agency Associated Press, an official with the Faryab provincial government said that three men escaped from the jail after getting hold of weapons. The weapons had been smuggled into the prison grounds by Taliban sympathisers. The resulting mêlée which lead to the jailbreak saw three prison guards die in the line of duty.

The official, Ahmad Jawad Dedar, told media today (Friday 18 April) that the breakout took place yesterday and that a fourth inmate who also tried to escape was shot dead in a gunfight with security forces who were called to the scene. Dedar said that the Taliban men were not cell leaders but low-level operatives who were imprisoned for setting up roadside explosives. These homemade explosives are often aimed at the thousands of foreign soldiers stationed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban government following the United States-led invasion in 2003. The Taliban, a theocratic militia who developed from the ‘mujahideen’ that faced the Soviets in the 1980s Russian invasion of Afghanistan, ruled the country with an iron fist before they themselves were toppled in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Their name means ‘students’ in Arabic, but they are widely reviled by the West and ordinary Afghans for their frequent bombing and shooting attacks on both occupying forces and civilians. The north of Afghanistan has largely escaped the attention of the Taliban, who are mostly active in the capital Kabul and some restive southern provinces.

English: HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 8,...
English: HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 8, 2009) – An Afghan National Police officer picks up a bag of opium. Afghan National Police officers, along with U.S. Special Operations Soldiers, discovered 600 pounds of opium May 7, 2009, during a cordon and search operation of a known Taliban safe house, collection center and trauma center in Babaji Village, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Photo by Cpl. Sean K. Harp, U.S. Army. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(c) Mapquest
(c) Mapquest

The location of Faryab province in north Afghanistan, where the latest Taliban jailbreak took place. The province is marked with the purple pointer.

The four inmates allegedly used grenades which were thrown at guards as the nightly roll call of prisoners was in progress. They were also believed to have shot at prison personnel with a smuggled pistol,  before making their escape into the local area. Authorities are still on the lookout for the three prisoners, whose names and appearances were not identified by either Dawn or the Faryab provincial government.

The Taliban have a frequent habit of escaping from poorly run, insecure and little funded Afghan prisons. A forged letter from an attorney-general was used by twelve inmates with alleged links to the Taliban who walked out unchallenged from Sarposa prison in Kandahar in early March. The escape was aided by corrupt prison staff who added the prisoners’ names to a list of people to be freed after completing their sentences. Two were later recaptured. Two years earlier, in June 2011, 500 detained Taliban personnel escaped en masse in the central jail in Kandahar city after digging a 1,000 feet tunnel prisoners’ cells. The tunnel was constructed over a period of five months right under the noses of prison officers and bypassing security checkpoints manned by both Afghan and international forces. Sixty-five were recaptured and two were shot dead after resisting arrest. 

Neighbouring Pakistan which has its own equally vicious version of the Taliban, has also borne the brunt of both terrorist attacks and jailbreaks. Militants stormed a prison in the north-western town of Dera Ismail Khan in July 2013 and freed 248 of their comrades. Armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and bombs, the hundred attackers in police uniforms blew up the prison walls before quickly streaming inside. Thirteen people died as a gun battle raged on for several hours, while the militants allegedly used a loudhailer to call out the names of their jailed fellow fighters. A similar attack at a correctional facility in the nearby town of Bannu, also in the militancy-infested Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, saw the freeing of almost 400 prisoners two weeks earlier, reported the BBC. 

SOURCES:
HEM News Agency, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter LINK
Dawn Media Group, Twitter LINK
“Taliban inmates break out of Afghan prison” – AP, Dawn.com/DAWN MEDIA GROUP (18 April 2014) LINK
“Forged letter frees 12 Afghan prisoners” – Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian/Guardian News and Media Limited (2 March 2014) LINK
“After 500 Taliban prisoners are freed through Great Escape-style tunnels in Afghanistan – forces fight back by recapturing 65” – David Gardner, Mail Online News/Daily Mail/Associated Newspapers Ltd (24 June 2011) LINK
“Pakistan jailbreak: Taliban free 248 in Dera Ismail Khan” – BBC News Asia/BBC (30 July 2013) LINK
IMAGE CREDITS:
“File:ANA soldier shows opium captured in an alleged Taliban safe house in Helmand.jpg” – Sean K. Harp, Wikimedia Commons (8 May 2009) LINK
“Map of Afghanistan” – Mapquest LINK

 

 

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YEMEN AIR STRIKES: Al-Qaeda militants killed by drone

Five militants believed to be allied with Al-Qaeda have been killed in an air strike in Yemen, according to a report today by The Guardian newspaper.

Map of Yemen showing Abyan governorate.
Map of Yemen showing Abyan governorate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A general map of Yemen’s governorates. Abyan, where five AQAP fighters died last week, is shown in bright red.

The men were targeted by an unmanned drone while travelling in the southern area of Abyan, said to be a stronghold of Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch. A missive from the Yemeni interior ministry stated that the five were killed in two air strikes this past Thursday, but did not say whether it was Yemen or the United States that ordered the strikes or whether any intelligence on the men’s movements came from an informer or observations by local armed forces.

Local officials in Abyan, an operation base for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as well as other militant groups, however claimed it was in fact an American drone which targeted the AQAP five. The Abyan governorate lies about 20 miles from the port of Aden on Yemen’s southern coast.

AQAP is a particular threat to Western interests in the southern Arabian peninsula as far as United States terrorism observers have determined, especially to oil tanker traffic travelling through the Red Sea. Yemen is one of the poorest of the Gulf Coast countries but still makes considerable treasury revenues from its crude oil industry, in co-operation with major international oil firms. The country however has been under the grip of insurgency with both Al-Qaida and local tribal militant groups waging war against Sana’a which saw the bombing of the USS Cole missile destroyer as well as the killing of Yemeni soldiers and abduction of tourists. The USS Cole was a missile destroyer targeted by suicide bombers in 2000, in which 17 U.S. sailors died.

Last year, the Yemeni army, with the help of U.S. military advisers and gun-power, flushed out AQAP militants and sympathisers from a part of the country’s more populated south. The militants have since regrouped and strengthened their numbers. They have also intensified attacks on government buildings and officials.

Yemen division 2011-7-7
Yemen division 2011-7-7 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another map indicating the split in Yemen between government and rebel forces, as of July 2011.

The Americans regularly use drones to target militants in various countries, including Yemen. Last week, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a similar drone strike in north Waziristan after missiles were fired at his compound. The US policy of using unmanned drone strikes in the ‘war on terror’ have been criticised as invasions of other countries’ sovereignty. Innocent people have perished in earlier drone attacks in Pakistan, and human rights groups have described the use of drones as summary execution of suspects without trial. Supporters point to the heavy involvement of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the use of such aircraft reduces the need for soldiers on the ground, and therefore less deaths of military personnel.

AQAP have yet to respond to the attack, but in previous assassinations of their operatives by drones, Al-Qaeda have threatened retaliation against Westerners and their interests as well as pro-Western governments in the Middle East.

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SOURCES:
The Half-Eaten Mind on Twitter LINK
The Guardian on Twitter LINK
“Yemen air strikes kill al-Qaida militants” – Reuters & The Guardian/Guardian News and Media Limited (10 November 2013) LINK
“USS Cole bombing” – Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. LINK