U.N. Report Accuses Syrian Jihadists of Mass Executions

The report claims that both the rebels and government forces have been deliberately targeting civilians

Jihadist rebels in Syria committed mass executions of civilians, according to a new U.N. report released Tuesday.

The U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry report was brought out just before a debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, reports the BBC. It accused the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) of carrying out mass slaughter in places such as a children’s hospital in the city of Aleppo, where people were detained before being executed.

The report also accused the Syrian government of increasingly using methods of killing that aim to deliberately target civilians, such as barrel bombs.

The civil war in Syria has been ongoing since March 2011 when violent clashes occurred between forces loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and those seeking to topple it. Since then allegations of imprisonment, torture and death have become commonplace, with international organizations accusing both sides of extreme human rights violations.



Egypt Jails Policeman For Role In Islamist Deaths

37 men were killed by asphyxiation in the back of a cramped police van while they were being transported to a prison on the edge of Cairo

A court in Cairo sentenced a police officer to 10 years in jail Tuesday for his part in the deaths of 37 Islamists last year.

Lieutenant Col Amr Farouk was jailed for his role in the asphyxiation deaths of members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as their supporters. Three other police officers were also convicted and given one-year suspended sentences, reports Reuters.

The Interior Ministry claimed at the time that the prisoners had died from gas suffocation while attempting an escape. However it was later confirmed the men were killed by asphyxiation in the back of a cramped police van while they were being transported to a prison on the edge of Cairo.

Since the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 in response to widespread protests against his rule, the Egyptian government has been cracking down heavily on the Islamist movement. The Muslim Brotherhood has accused them of committing systematic human rights abuses. However the government has denied the allegations and labeled the Brotherhood a terrorist group.



China Dismisses U.N. Report on North Korea Abuses

Chinese representatives to the U.N. confirm fears that Beijing will shield Pyongyang from international condemnation

The Chinese government has dismissed a U.N. report published in February that accused North Korea of committing major human rights abuses against its citizens.

The report detailed many allegations of abuse in the pariah state, including state-sanctioned torture and executions. But a counselor at China’s mission in Geneva, Chen Chuandong, told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday that it was questionable whether the inquiry could be “truly credible” when much of the information was gathered from victims, defectors and witnesses had come from outside of North Korea’s borders.

The gesture confirmed the international community’s fears that Beijing will try to prevent Pyongyang from prosecution, reports Reuters.



Mexican Cartel Finds Iron Ore More Lucrative Than Drugs

Mexican government admits Knights Templar are expanding operations to alternative trades including mining and logging

The notorious Knight Templar drugs cartel in western Mexico no longer counts drug trafficking as its top source of income. Instead, iron ore is now their main source of revenue.

A special envoy to the Mexican government told the Associated Press that the cartel’s main sources of income are now mining, logging and extortion. It is the first major acknowledgement by the Mexican government that a powerful organized crime group has gone further than trading drugs.

The Knights Templar had started out as major generator and transporter of methamphetamine and have for the last few years controlled the Mexican state of Michoacan.

The implications of the group expanding their operations beyond drugs are serious, as it is a sign of organized crime in Mexico becoming entrenched within the country’s economy. The Mexican state has admitted to the existence of at least 12 major cartels along with many smaller ones.

“I’ve never looked at them as drug-trafficking organizations,” said Samuel Logan, director of the security consulting firm Southern Pulse. “They’re multi-national corporations that do what they have to do to stay in business.”


TIME europe

2 Women Arrested for Hand Gestures at Turkish Leader

Erdogan expresses distaste that those making the gestures are women

The Turkish authorities have detained two women who they believe made derogatory hand gestures at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan in an anti-government protest Sunday.

Police described the charges as “insulting a statesman,” AFP reports. Erdogan was en route to an election rally in the western city of Izmir when he reacted strongly to a woman in the crowd apparently making “ugly” gestures at him. A second woman was accused of doing the same from a balcony. He said that he would have understood “if it was a man, but I do not understand how a woman could do it,” AFP reports.

Erdogan has been buffeted by on-going street protests since December.


TIME Africa

Weapons Expert Testifies Pistorius Has ‘Love’ For Guns

Oscar Pistorius was said to collect guns and clear the house with his weapon drawn when he heard noises

A firearms expert testifying in the murder trial of former Olympian Oscar Pistorius said Monday that the double-amputee accused of killing his girlfriend had “a great love and enthusiasm” for guns.

Sean Rens, who runs a firearms training academy and trained with the man known as “Blade Runner” in 2012, recalled Pistorius looking to collect guns at the time, the Associated Press reports. He said that in one conversation, Pistorius told him that noise in his home prompted him to go through all the rooms with his weapon drawn.

‘‘He went into what we call ‘code red’ or combat mode,’’ Rens said. ‘‘When he came to the source of the noise, it was the laundry or something.’’

Pistorius is accused of murdering Reeva Steenkamp in South Africa after the two argued. He says he shot at her accidentally through a bathroom door thinking she was an intruder. If convicted, he could face a life sentence in prison. Gory images of her displayed in court and other testimony have often made Pistorius sick during the trial.


TIME europe

Unnamed British Soldiers From WWI Get New Burial

The inhabitants of a grave full of unidentified British soldiers were re-buried in France

Twenty British soldiers found in a common grave in 2010 were re-buried on Friday with full military honors in the part of northern France where they died during World War I.

The men were killed in the 1915 Battle of Loos, with only one being identified, as Private William McAleer, the Associated Press reports. It was not possible to identify the rest. During the ceremony on Friday, representatives were present from the British regiments the soldiers were linked to.

The bodies were only discovered when the grave was found by construction workers building a new prison in an area east of Loos-en-Gohelle in northern France. It also contained 30 German soldiers and was thought to have been dug by the German side during the war. More than 700,000 soldiers killed in the conflict were never found, but remains still appear regularly along the 600-kilometer route comprising the former Western Front.


TIME Africa

Pistorius Vomits Upon Seeing Images of Dead Girlfriend During Murder Trial

Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court on March 13, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa.
Getty Images Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court on March 13, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa.

The double-amputee Olympian, on trial in South Africa for the murder of model Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013, vomited after gruesome images of her body shortly after he shot her were inadvertently shown in the courtroom

The murder trial of South African olympian Oscar Pistorius turned gruesome again Thursday, when images displayed of his former girlfriend shortly after her death prompted the double-amputee known as “Blade Runner” to vomit in court.

The photos of Reeva Steenkamp appeared briefly on a number of TV screens as part of the prosecution’s case, seemingly by accident as a police official was moving through various images, the Guardian reports. They shocked Steenkamp’s supporters in the courtroom and made Pistorius, who has frequently appeared anguished and sick during the trial, distraught once again.

Pistorius is facing murder charges and the possibility of life in prison if he is found guilty. Prosecutors say he murdered his girlfriend after a fight, but Pistorius says he killed her by accident by shooting his gun through a bathroom door at what he thought was an intruder.



Egyptian Soldier Killed in Cairo

The military has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for an attack on an army vehicle

Masked gunmen in Cairo shot dead a soldier Thursday after opening fire on an army bus.

Gunmen attacked the bus in the eastern district of Cairo, reportedly the first attack on Egyptian military in the country’s capital. Three journalists were also injured in the attack.

Although no militant group has claimed responsibility, the Egyptian military blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, reports the BBC. The army posted a message on its Facebook page accusing “armed men belonging to the terrorist Brotherhood group of targeting an armed forces company.”

It is the most recent in a series of attacks on the Egyptian military. The government is attempting to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood, denouncing it as a terrorist group and arresting many of its members since the imprisonment of President Mohamed Morsi last year.



TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Establishes National Guard Ahead of Crimea Vote

As many as 60,000 national guardsmen will bolster country's defenses ahead of Sunday's referendum in Crimea

Ukraine’s parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to establish a National Guard of 60,000 military personnel in order to boost the country’s defenses.

The vote happened ahead of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea on whether it should leave Ukraine to reunite with Russia, reports the BBC.

Russian forces occupied Crimea in late February after violent demonstrations led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the installation of a new, interim parliament in Ukraine.

Both Europe and the U.S. have threatened sanctions and other actions if Russia does not pull its troops out of the Crimea. President Barack Obama welcomed interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the White House on Tuesday, and said the U.S. would “stand with Ukraine.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday that “if Russia continues on its course of the past weeks, it will not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine.”


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