Gabby Ogbechie, TPG.
For the umpteenth time, I have captivatingly watched the riveting report on CNN Africa regarding the Libya Slave Trade. On arrival, the CNN crew was taken to the location where an ad-hoc slave auction was taking place. Three apparently able-bodied men were the subject of the ongoing auction. ‘’ Four hundred, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred, .… twelve hundred, … sold’’. And the three men were sold for twelve hundred dollars at four hundred dollars apiece. Apparently, the men were Nigerians, as the report by Nima Elbagir, of CNN indicated.
The next humiliating stop in the report was a warehouse in Italy in which the rescued migrants were housed. As would be expected, there was a shortage of everything: no food, no water, and so on and so forth. One of the inmates, whose opinion was sought regarding the fact that some of the inmates had been sold in slave markets responded, ‘’I was sold’’. He then went on to show the CNN crew evidence of the ill-treatment sustained at the hands of their ‘‘captors/owners’’; scars on backs, feet, and punctures in inaccessible parts of the human anatomy. ‘’We want to go home, let them take us home,’’ they chorused.
Evidence that slavery, the selling and buying of human beings for different purposes in the modern, twenty-first Century world was being practiced surfaced a few years ago when ISIS traded young Yazidi and Christian girls as sex slaves. The older women, like their male counterparts, were given the option of either converting to Islam, or be slaughtered with butchers’ knives.
One could argue, at the time, that the Islamic State was a place far removed from reality, because of the barbaric state of affairs imposed on people in the ISIS occupied areas of Iraq and Syria. But, with ISIS apparently gone, the world is faced with the reality of the fact that places like Libya have become as bad as whatever state ISIS thought it was creating, in redrawing the map of the Middle East.
It is therefore no wonder that the protest by people of Black African descent happened in Paris, France around the premises of the Libyan Embassy. But one may ask, why in Paris alone? Why not in all the capital cities in all African nations? Why not in all other nations of the world?
The answer may lie in the fact that most Western nations would not want to offend their Muslim and Arab citizens and guests by staging, allowing, or getting involved in such protests. On the contrary, whenever issues bothering on the ill-treatment of Palestinians by Israeli Defence Forces crop up for whatever reasons, Muslims and Arabs easily hoodwink and railroad the West and the rest of the world into condemning Israel, and boycotting Israeli made goods.
This is in spite of the fact that the Muslim world, for whom ISIS/Islamic State speaks, has made it abundantly clear that that Western civilization, which the rest of the world has embraced, is haram, and that all who do not convert to Islam are enemies who must be slaughtered. The taunts of Muslims to Britons that they are taking over Britain and all of Europe is yet to strike a chord, but the advance is unrelenting.
The testimony of Nadia Murad, the Yazidi girl from northwest Iraq whose village, Kocho was overtaken by ISIS in August, 2014 and was captured and turned into the sex slave (sabiyya) of Hajji Salman, a high ranking ISIS judge. When she eventually dared to escape, her owner had her gang-raped all night by six of his bodyguards until she became unconscious. She was then passed to six other men who beat and raped her in turns before she eventually escaped. Meanwhile, her father, mother, five brothers had been executed.
The members of the Security Council of the United Nations before whom she testified passed a resolution to appoint independent investigators to collect evidence of ISIS crimes, the first step towards holding the group accountable for its mass executions. Murad, who has written a book, ’’The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight against the Islamic State’’ has dedicated the proceeds thereof toward supporting ISIS survivors and bringing ISIS to justice.
Thus far, ISIS and Muslim fundamentalists have gotten away with murder because the governments that should lead the charge against the excesses of radical and fundamentalist Islam have been shut up by oil dollars; most western leaders are still towing the path defined by President Obama; and African leaders are in no position whatsoever to protest because they are either fellow Moslems, or stooges of either Saudi Arabia or Iran.
Now that Nadia Murad has declared her personal war with ISIS, let us hope that the rest of the world would wake up from its slumber, and for the sake of their children and loved ones, do all it can to ensure that there never again would be another ISIS. If a young woman could mortgage the rest of her life toward holding ISIS accountable, Christendom, the United Nations, African Union, etc. should wake up to ensure that never again should young men with hopes and dreams be slaughtered like rams; that never again should young women with hopes and dreams be enslaved for the pleasure of some idiots who still dwells in their own defined barbaric, pre-historic era; and that never again should anyone dare to enslave another, at whatever price.
“With the unity of this council, or alone, unrestrained by Russia’s obstructionism, we will continue to fight for justice and accountability in Syria,” Haley said, blasting Russia’s vetoing of the draft resolution on the extension of the Syrian chemical weapons probe on Friday.
The draft, proposed by Japan, envisioned the “technical extension” of the probe for another 30 days. Explaining Russia’s decision to block the resolution, Russian UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya said that there is no sense in prolonging the mission if some glaring flaws in its work are not amended.
“There can be no other way after the JIM’s [the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism] leadership disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation into the sarin use incident in Khan Shaykhun and signed off on baseless accusations against Syria,”he said.
Haley went on to accuse Russia of showing no flexibility in negotiating the conditions of the probe, claiming that Moscow had only “dictated and demanded” while the US had “incorporated elements of the Russian draft” into its own in the hopes of reaching a consensus.
Russia vetoed the US draft on Thursday, with Nebenzya calling it “unbalanced” and solely designed to discredit Russia and its role in the Syrian settlement. Haley subsequently accused the Russian mission of ignoring the US delegation’s attempts to contact it before the vote.
Haley’s remarks on the impossibility of reaching the Russian mission provoked an angry reaction from Moscow, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calling it “fake diplomacy.” Lavrov said that “it seems we are witnessing a new phenomenon in international relations, as now, apart from fake news, there is also fake diplomacy.”
The rival draft was co-sponsored by Russia and China, and “aimed at the extension and qualitative improvement” of the fact-finding mission, according to Nebenzya. However, it also failed, gaining the support of only four Security Council members.
While both Russia and the US used their veto powers on the respective resolutions, Haley accused Moscow of obstructing the work of the UNSC and its efforts to find “the truth.”
Russia has repeatedly criticized the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM)’s report on the chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun as being filled with “omissions, inconsistences and contradictions.” It also says it does not follow standard procedures for an impartial inquiry as it relies on questionable testimonies provided by rebels and NGOs, some of which are suspected of links to terrorists. In particular, it pointed to experts’ refusal to visit the site of the attack despite security guarantees.
In 2011, the US intervened in the region to curb the violence in the ongoing civil war in Libya. Under the pretext of a UN mandate to establish a no-fly zone in the country and save civilian lives, the US-led NATO coalition waged a full-fledged campaign that eventually resulted in the slaughter of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and multiple civilian deaths, the number of which varies from 72, according to Human Rights Watch, to more than 1,000 in unconfirmed reports. The country is still in tatters and the war involving tribes and militants is ongoing.
Despite the UN not giving the greenlight for a full-fledged campaign in Syria, US Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed that the organization sanctioned action there, justifying it with the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists. Damascus has repeatedly blasted the US for operating on Syrian territory without its consent and in violation of international law, and views the US presence as an invasion.
The blast occurred near the city of Deir ez-Zor, according to SANA state news agency. It took place near the al-Jafra area, which is controlled by the Syrian government. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) confirmed the incident on their Facebook page, calling it a “massacre.”
Earlier this month, the Syrian Army announced the fight against IS in Syria was coming to a close, after the city of Abu Kamal – considered to be the last terrorist stronghold in the country – was liberated. The takeover of the area in eastern Syria close to the border with Iraq also prevented the militants from moving freely between the two countries.
However, strikes continue to target certain positions where terrorists gather. This month, Russian Air Force long-range bombers have carried out a number of successful missions in eastern Syria, destroying IS hideouts where armored vehicles and other military equipment were located.
Scores of displaced people from the latest fighting in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province have been killed in a car bombing. The blast follows the Syrian army’s recapture of the last major city held by the jihadists.
Saturday evening’s blast struck refugees who had fled the fighting in the oil and gas-rich Syrian province and who had gathered on the east bank of the Euphrates River, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least 75 civilians were killed and many others and some 140 were injured, the monitor said. IS fighters detonated the car bomb at close range, the Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told news agencies.
Syria’s state news agency SANA later described the blast as a suicide car bombing.
The blast happened in an area between the Conoco and Jafra energy fields controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and close to the city of Deir el-Zour, which last week was captured by Syrian regime forces from the “Islamic State” (IS) armed group.
The largest city in eastern Syria, Deir el-Zour is a center for the country’s oil extracting industry.
Refugees still in danger
Save the Children estimates that 350,000 people have fled the recent fighting in Deir el-Zour.
“The situation in the city, and surrounding countryside, has been especially bleak with civilians trapped between the fighting and all too often caught in the crossfire,” explained Sonia Khush, the charity’s Syria director.
The Observatory, which gets its information from a network of Syria-based activists, said civilians were stranded on an island on the Euphrates directly facing Deir el-Zour and where some jihadist pockets remained.
IS is facing an onslaught by both Syrian government troops and the SDF alliance for the few remaining areas it controls in eastern Syria.
Having been driven from about 96 percent of territory they once captured in Syria and Iraq, the jihadists still control a small stretch inside the war-ravaged country and some desert regions along the Iraq-Syria border.
Last IS areas remain
After taking full charge of Deir el-Zour city, the Syrian army said IS militants were now isolated and encircled in the countryside east of the city.
Meanwhile, Kurdish-led SDF forces were reported to be making fresh gains further north in Deir el-Zour province.
Syrian regime forces, backed by intensive Russian air strikes, are now attempting to retake Abu Kamal, the last urban center controlled by the jihadi group in Syria, and close to the Iraqi border.
Last month, Syrian Kurd-led forces, allied with the US, captured Raqqa, once the de-facto capital of IS’ self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria.
Also on Saturday, reports suggested that US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart may discuss a settlement to the 6-year Syrian civil war in the next few days.
Russia’s RIA news agency said the talks could take place on the sidelines of the Asian economic summit in Vietnam.
Washington and Moscow remain on opposing sides in the conflict and ties remain frosty over allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.
mm/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Italian police have seized more than €50 million worth of opiates trafficked by the terror group “Islamic State,” authorities say. They said some of the profits would have been used to finance terrorist activities.
Italian police have seized some 24 million tablets of a synthetic opiate used by “Islamic State” (IS) militants to fund both terrorist attacks and to prepare fighters for combat, authorities said on Friday.
The Tramadol pills, with a street value of €50 million ($58 million) were intercepted at the southern port of Gioia Tauro (top photo), customs police said in a statement. The shipment came from India and was destined for Libya, they said.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration collaborated in the investigation.
Tramadol, a powerful painkiller normally available only on prescription, is known as the “fighter’s drug” and is widely used by IS militias as a stimulant and to increase resistance to physical effort, according to Italian authorities.
The chief prosecutor for the city of Reggio Calabria, Federico Cafiero De Raho, said illegal drug sales were also used “to finance the terrorist activities planned and carried out around the world.”
A similar seizure was made in Greece last year, while an even larger shipment was discovered in Italy’s northern port of Genoa in May.
Gioia Tauro, located north of Reggio Calabria, is Italy’s largest container port and a node for traffic to and from the Far East.
tj/rt (dpa, Reuters)
The Syrian army retook the city of Deir el-Zour from the “Islamic State,” on a day the militants also lost al-Qaim in Iraq. The twin blow means the jihadis have lost almost all their urban strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Syrian government forces have taken full control of the city of Deir el-Zour from the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group, Syrian state television said on Friday, confirming a report a day earlier by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The city is completely liberated from terrorism,” the television report said.
Read more: Syria: What do key foreign powers want?
“Regime forces and allied fighters … with Russian air support have full control of Deir el-Zour city,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said on Thursday.
A statement from the Syrian military also said the army was in full control of the city and was now removing booby traps and mines that the extremist group has left behind.
Deir el-Zour is the capital of an oil-rich province of the same name and is the largest and most important city in eastern Syria.
It has been largely controlled by IS since 2014 except for one large pocket of government resistance.
The Syrian army reached the city in September, breaking a three-year siege by IS militants with the aid of Russian airstrikes and Iran-backed militia groups.
The city’s strategic importance to IS was due to its proximity to the Iraq border, where the group also controlled territory. Its recovery underscores the extent to which President Bashar al-Assad has re-established control over eastern Syria.
The city’s fall marks another key defeat for IS jihadis, who have in recent months lost most of the territory they seized in their 2014 advance across Syria and Iraq.
The regime offensive against the jihadi group has been waged largely on the western side of the Euphrates, which cuts diagonally across Deir el-Zour province.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by a US-led coalition, is waging a second, separate offensive against the jihadis in the east of the province.
Iraqi forces retake al-Qaim
The so-called caliphate was dealt another blow on Friday when Iraqi forces recaptured the district of al-Qaim in Iraq, one of the last towns held by the jihadis in the country.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated Iraqi forces and hailed the “liberation of al-Qaim in record time.”
Al-Qaim, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Baghdad in the Euphrates River Valley, sits along a key supply route used by the IS to move fighters and supplies between Syria and Iraq.
Having lost control of al-Qaim, IS fighters in Iraq now hold only the neighboring town of Rawa and surrounding pockets of barren desert along the Euphrates river.
ap, tj/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Government troops have turned to the terrorists’ last bastion on the Syrian border, having already recaptured 90 percent of Iraqi land from IS. At the same time, Baghdad was rekindling conflict with the country’s Kurds.
Iraqi troops launched an offensive on Thursday to retake the last “Islamic State” (IS) stronghold in their country, the western towns of al-Qaim and Rawa in Anbar province.
“Daeshis have no option but to die or surrender,” said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, using Arabic shorthand for IS militants.
According to Iraqi media, the US-led air alliance was assisting in the assault up the Euphrates valley toward the two Sunni Arab towns. For years, al-Qaim has been a bastion of Sunni Arab insurgency.
Military sources said a key regional army base and an airbase had been found abandoned by the IS. Iraqi forces had also retaken half a dozen villages.
Last IS bastion
That left the jihadists confined to a small stretch of the valley linked to remnant territory in Syria where they also face Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
Ahead of the onslaught, thousands of Iraqis had fled the region to displacement camps near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, said the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which provides aid in the region.
Bitter fighting in recent months has already handed Baghdad several victories against IS, most importantly driving them from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in July.
Last month, Iraqi troops liberated the town of Hawija, the group’s last foothold in the country’s north. In total, government fighters have retaken 90 percent of the vast swaths of its land, which IS seized in their 2014 sweep through Iraq and Syria.
Armed conflict with Kurds
However, the new offensive on al-Qaim and Rawa came as Baghdad seemed to be reigniting armed conflict with the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. On Thursday, Kurdish authorities said government soldiers had begun assaulting their forces in the disputed and oil-rich Nineveh province.
“They are advancing towards peshmerga positions,” the regional government said.
That assault was close to the route of a strategic oil export pipeline sought to reestablish direct central Iraqi government oil exports via Turkey.
US urges focus on defeating IS
Since 2014, when IS swept through northern and western Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga fighters played an integral role in the fight against jihadists, with the US-led alliance often relying on their regional expertise.
As the Iraqi government has made strides against IS, it has also tried to tighten federal control over pro-independent Kurdish areas, forcing the Kurdish authorities to abandon its key source of funds, the rich oil fields of Kirkuk, in a massive blow to the region’s self-sufficiency.
The top US general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk called on Thursday for an end to “Iraqis killing Iraqis, when we’ve got Daesh to kill out in the west.”
Another US army spokesman, Ryan Dillon, said that fighting had “negatively impacted Coalition efforts to defeat ISIS [another acronym for IS], specifically the inability to move military equipment and supplies to our partners both in Iraq and Syria.”
es, ipj/ng (AFP, AP, dpa)