TIME conflict

Read an Eye-Witness Account of Mussolini’s Final Moments

Benito Speech
Fox Photos / Getty Images Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini giving a speech in 1935

"In death, Mussolini seemed a little man"

Seventy years ago on this day, April 28, 1945, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was executed after a failed attempt to flee Italy with his mistress. In his report on Mussolini’s last days, TIME correspondent Reg Ingraham recalled one of the dictator’s famous lines from earlier in World War II: “If I retreat, kill me!”

Ingraham’s report shows how that instruction played out in ways that Mussolini surely did not mean. A timeline presented in TIME’s May 7, 1945, issue begins on April 22, with the first wave of strikes against the fascists and their German allies. By April 25, the dictator’s retreat had begun, when the Swiss denied an asylum request for Mussolini’s family.

Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, attempted to escape to the north. They were foiled when a partisan known only as Eduardo found Mussolini in the town of Dongo and sent men to arrest him and sentence him and Petacci to death by firing squad.

After the execution — and before his body was hung from a scaffold to give the crowds a better view — Mussolini’s corpse was laid out on the ground in the Piazzale Loreto. TIME described the moment as “one of history’s raw spectacles,” and Ingraham described what he saw thus:

While I watched, a civilian tramped across the bodies and dealt Mussolini‘s shaven head a terrific kick. Someone pushed the twisted head into a more natural position again with a rifle butt.

Although the Duce’s upper teeth now protruded grotesquely, there was no mistaking his jaw. In death, Mussolini seemed a little man. He wore a Fascist Militia uniform — grey breeches with a narrow black stripe, a green-grey tunic and muddy black riding boots. A bullet had pierced his skull over the left eye and emerged at the back, leaving a hole from which the brains dripped. Mistress Petacci, 25 -year-old daughter of an ambitious Roman family, wore a white silk blouse. In her breast were two bullet holes ringed by dark circles of dried blood.

The mob surged and swayed around the grisly spot. One woman emptied a pistol into the Duce’s body. “Five shots!” she screamed. “Five shots for my five murdered sons!” Others cried: “He died too quickly! He should have suffered!” But the hate of many was wordless. They could only spit.

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Death in Milan

TIME photography

See the Photographs from Vietnam That Changed a Veteran’s Life

"Looking at the pictures put me right back into the jungle as if I were a 21-year-old soldier again"

When Christopher Gaynor returned home from the Vietnam War, on Feb. 6, 1968, he didn’t leave with memories alone. He had spent his 13 months in the field artillery creating pictures, too. Untrained but inspired by combat photographers, he brought one of the era’s ubiquitous Brownie cameras—before investing $94 in an Asahi Pentax SLR—to record his experience. To develop each roll of film, he took it to the Post Exchange on the base camp, they mailed it to Kodak for processing, Kodak mailed it back to Vietnam and, finally, Gaynor mailed the pictures home.

But the world he encountered when he got back to the United States wasn’t exactly ready to look at them, and neither was he. The anti-war movement was strong and attitudes toward veterans were, he found, hostile. Before the year was up, he decided to leave the country. He spent the following years in England and Spain, and didn’t return until the year the war ended, which happened 40 years ago this month on April 30, 1975.

“I put [the photos] in a box, a box from Lavoris mouthwash. I didn’t look at them, I put them in the box, sealed it up, and they stayed in that box until 2007,” Gaynor, now 70, recalled. “I didn’t want to deal with it.”

Even after his return to the United States, decades passed before he decided that he should do something with that box. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which he thinks is related to his exposure to Agent Orange during the war, and facing an illness motivated him to think about his legacy. At the time, the VFW post on Vashon Island, Wash.—where Gaynor still lives with his husband—was sponsoring a Boy Scout troop; one of the troop members wanted to scan Gaynor’s photos as part of his Eagle Scout project. Though Gaynor admits that his expectations for the results were low, he went along with the idea.

To say that he’s glad he did would be an understatement.

“I looked at them and they all came alive again,” he said. “It was completely overwhelming. All my buddies from 40 years previously [were] looking at me from these pictures, even the guys who weren’t with us anymore. Looking at the pictures put me right back into the jungle as if I were a 21-year-old soldier again.”

Gaynor notes that most of his photos, some of which can be seen above, aren’t of the dramatic scenes familiar from war photography. Rather, he captured the off times, with soldiers relaxing, playing ball, hanging out. It was portraiture, not fighting scenes, that brought back the memories.

And it wasn’t just a matter of remembering moments long buried. After opening the box, Gaynor began to investigate his own memories, digging out the letters he had sent home. He started to talk about his experiences and began to get more involved in the VFW and the American Legion. (He is the only openly gay officer of the American Legion of whom he knows, he said.) He reached out to younger veterans who had been in Iraq and Afghanistan. He established relationship with the families of his friends who had died in Vietnam. He became a consultant on the Vietnam-reenactor documentary In Country, which is out on video on demand on April 28. Though he does not want to make any money from the images, he tried to get his exposure for his photos in order to help other veterans connect with their memories, self-publishing a book of his photos and letters from the war.

The memories and images that had been buried for decades became the opposite of hidden, motivating Gaynor to reorganize his life around a new mission.

“It’s a difficult emotional stress [to revisit that time] but I had to do it,” he says. “Finding the pictures completely changed my life. There are no words to describe how it affected me. They’ve continued to reward me and live on.”

TIME conflict

Turkey and Armenia Host Clashing Centennial Memorials

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Alain Jocard—AFP/Getty Images Armenian president Serge Sarkissian (2-R), his wife Rita (2-L) and their children arrive for a ceremony at the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on April 24, 2015.

Commemorations of two 1915 events—the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey and the Turkish stand at Gallipoli—have caused tension

More than 60 leaders and representatives from around the world converged on the Armenian capital on Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of a period during which more than 1 million Armenians were killed in Turkey. Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President François Hollande both attended the ceremony, while the White House dispatched Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

The anniversary of the 1915 killings, in what was then the eastern edge of the Ottoman Empire, has coincided with a surge in international awareness. In the past month, global icons ranging from Pope Francis to Kim Kardashian (who has Armenian ancestry) have ruffled Turkish feathers by shedding light on the killings and using the term “genocide,” which the Turkish government rejects. And as world envoys gather in Yerevan, similar ceremonies will be held in cities around the world.

On April 24, 1915, the Ottomans rounded up Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul in the beginning of what historians widely consider a genocidal act of bloodshed. In an article years later about a violent Armenian campaign for vengeance, TIME described the killings like this:

During World War I, the Turks exterminated or deported virtually their entire Armenian population because they held the unfounded suspicion that members of the ethnic group were disloyal. The decision to undertake the genocide was communicated to the local leaders by the Interior Minister, Talaat Pasha, in 1915. One of his edicts stated that the government had decided to “destroy completely all Armenians living in Turkey. An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to age, or sex, or to scruples of conscience.”

The Turkish authorities rounded up all able-bodied men in the Turkish army and bludgeoned them to death. Intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul were herded aboard ships, then drowned at sea. Armenian babies were thrown live into pits and covered with stones. Women, children and old people were forced to march hundreds of miles, over mountains, presumably to a place of deportation in Syria, but actually to their deaths. Forbidden supplies of food and water, they were waylaid by brigands. Turkish gendarmes raped and sometimes disemboweled or cut the breasts off women before finally killing them. While the horrified U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau Sr., appealed in vain to the Turks to stop the slaughter, hundreds of thousands of Armenians could be seen, as Morgenthau put it, “winding in and out of every valley and climbing up the sides of every mountain.”

But even today, the Turkish government still rejects the “genocide” label and says the killing of Armenians was a casualty of the World War. And to the dismay of Armenians, Turkey is hosting a separate centennial ceremony on Friday: a commemoration of the World War I Gallipoli military campaign, the unsuccessful British and French-led invasion of Turkey that also began in 1915.

The naval operation off the coast began on March 18, a day that is traditionally associated in Turkey with the onset of the campaign. Then, following the failure of the naval bombardment, the allies landed troops on Ottoman beaches on April 25, beginning the ill-fated land offensive. Today that date is observed in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac day, a national remembrance day.

Though the centenary events were bound to be close together, some observers say the timing of the Gallipoli memorial appears to be a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the Armenian anniversary, as it forces the world’s dignitaries to choose one or the other. “It certainly looks like an intentional move by Turkey,” said Thomas de Waal, a historian with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of Great Catastrophe, about the genocide and its aftermath.

Fatih Öke, a spokesperson at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, denied that charge, noting that Turkey has held a Gallipoli commemoration on April 24 since 2003. This year, because of the centennial anniversary, he said, the government invited foreign leaders. “Sorry, we already have this date,” he said.

Still, no matter the motivation, appearances count. “This may rebound against the Turkish government,” said de Waal. “Whereas if they for example had had it on the 25th, then a lot of officials could have gone to Yerevan one day and to Turkey on the next, and that would have been quite elegant.”

A dozen heads of state and five prime ministers were slated to attend the Gallipoli centennial celebration, including Australian Premier Tony Abbott. But with the exception of the British royalty and Irish President Michael Higgins, none are from Western Europe. Hollande’s presence at the Armenian memorial, rather than the Turkish memorial, is particularly conspicuous given France’s central role in the Gallipoli campaign. And though U.S. ambassador to Turkey John Bass was set to attend the Gallipoli memorial, the U.S. is not sending a separate representative from Washington.

Under rising pressure from the international community, the government in Turkey has recently appeared to ease its approach. On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed “deep condolences” to descendants of the Armenians who suffered during that time.

But activists in the U.S. are skeptical that the Premier’s statements represent a long term change in attitude.

“Davutoglu was just trying to deter or derail recognition efforts. There’s no expression of regret, there’s no acceptance of responsibility,” said Aram Hamparian, the executive committee of the Armenian National Committee of America. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they organized this Gallipoli thing to detract attention from the Armenian genocide centennial.”

To be sure, Turkey continues to pressure foreign countries on the use of the term “genocide.” President Recep Erdogan warned the Pope not to repeat the “mistake” of using the word, and the White House remains reluctant to risk relations with a key ally in a tumultuous region. On Tuesday, White House officials informed Armenian American leaders that President Barack Obama would not use the term in remarks on Friday, despite a 2008 campaign pledge and vocal past support from people within his administration.

“While it is essential to ensure that Turkey continues to ‘treat the Americans all right,’ a stable, fruitful, 21st century relationship cannot be built on a lie,” Samantha Power, now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in TIME in 2007.

Read Power advocate for recognizing the Armenian Genocide in October, 2007: Honesty Is the Best Policy

TIME Yemen

Airstrikes Hit Yemen After Saudi Arabia Declares Operation Over

Yemen Conflict
Hani Ali—Corbis A boy looks at the Saudi-led airstrikes on a military camp in Sanaa, Yemen, on April 21, 2015.

(SANAA, Yemen) — Saudi-led airstrikes targeted Iran-backed rebels and their allies in Yemen on Wednesday, hours after Riyadh declared an end to a nearly monthlong air campaign that has claimed hundreds of lives but left the Shiite rebels in control of the capital and much of the country’s north.

The continuing strikes suggest that the U.S.-backed offensive, aimed at restoring Yemen’s internationally recognized president, is entering a new phase in which military action will be scaled back but not halted.

The air raids hit rebel positions in the southern port of Aden and central city of Taiz as ground fighting between the rebels and supporters of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi continued in both areas, Yemeni officials said.

The capital, Sanaa, was calm however, as residents experienced their quietest night in almost four weeks and did not wake up to new scenes of devastation.

The strikes in Taiz hit the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, as they gathered at a military headquarters they control near the old airport to the city’s southeast, the officials said. Also targeted was the southern port city of Aden, where aircraft blasted rebel forces in outlying districts.

Street fighting continued in both cities, especially Taiz, where the officials said pro-government forces control most of the city but have been in heavy combat with the rebels, leaving dozens killed on both sides. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Houthis have called for a massive rally, urging supporters over their Al-Masirah TV network to take to the streets of Sanaa later Wednesday to mark the end of the bombardment and to denounce the Saudi “aggression.”

Iran has provided political and humanitarian support to the Houthis, but both Tehran and the rebels deny it has armed them. On Wednesday Iran welcomed the Saudi decision to halt the operation codenamed “Decisive Storm” and launch a new one titled “Renewal of Hope.”

“We believe this was a positive step,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, adding that “political cooperation” by all parties is needed to resolve the Yemen crisis.

The U.S.-backed air campaign, launched March 26, was aimed at crushing the Houthis and allied military units loyal to former autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had taken over Sanaa and much of northern Yemen.

But the rebels and their allies have lost little ground, and Hadi remains in exile in Saudi Arabia. Aden, where he had established a temporary capital before fleeing the country last month, is gripped by fierce fighting, and al-Qaida’s powerful local affiliate has exploited the chaos to seize the southeastern port city of Mukalla.

The U.S. welcomed the conclusion of the Saudi-led operation, saying it looked forward to a shift from military operations to a quick resumption of negotiations.

“We strongly urge all Yemeni parties, in particular the Houthis and their supporters, to take this opportunity to return to these negotiations as part of the political dialogue,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

“The Yemeni people deserve the opportunity to hold a peaceful debate about their new constitution, to participate in a credible and safe constitutional referendum, and to vote in free and fair national elections,” she said.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia declared “Decisive Storm” over and announced the start of a more limited military campaign aimed at preventing the rebels from operating.

Speaking at a news conference in Riyadh, coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said the heavy airstrikes would be scaled down, but did not confirm whether they would stop altogether.

“There might be less frequency and the scope of the actions might be less, but there will be military action,” Asiri said. He added that Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies, mainly Gulf Arab countries, were concluding this phase of the operation upon the request of the “legitimate” Yemeni government led by Hadi.

He said the goals of the new operation are to prevent Houthi rebels from “targeting civilians or changing realities on the ground.”

In an apparent goodwill gesture on Wednesday, the rebels released from detention the country’s Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaih, the brother of the embattled President Hadi and a third military commander. The three were held for nearly a month by the Houthis.

The move could reflect an imminent political deal between Hadi and the rebels and their allies.

Pakistan, a close Saudi ally which did not join the coalition but said it supported the campaign, welcomed the end of the airstrikes and expressed hope this would “pave the way for political solution of the crisis in Yemen.”

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the violence in Yemen has killed 944 people since the start of the airstrikes and wounded 3,500.

Yemeni security officials meanwhile said a suspected U.S. drone strike killed seven al-Qaida fighters in the country’s east on Wednesday.

They said the militants were travelling in a car in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, where al-Qaida has recently made advances and struck deals with local tribesmen. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Yemen’s chaos has forced the U.S. to scale back drone strikes on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the local affiliate is known. AQAP has carried out a number of failed attacks on the U.S. and claimed the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine earlier this year. It has long been seen as the global network’s most potent local affiliate.

___

Rohan reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Najran, Saudi Arabia, Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

TIME conflict

Saddam Deputy Killed Near Tikrit, Iraqi Officials Say

Iraqi Vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri salutes during a ceremony at the Martyrs Monument in Baghdad, Iraq on Dec. 1, 2002 Gov. Raed al-Jabouri says soldiers and allied Shiite militiamen killed al-Douri on April 17, 2015 in an operation east of the city of Tikrit.
Jassim Mohammed—AP Iraqi Vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri salutes during a ceremony at the Martyrs Monument in Baghdad, Iraq on Dec. 1, 2002 Gov. Raed al-Jabouri says soldiers and allied Shiite militiamen killed al-Douri on April 17, 2015 in an operation east of the city of Tikrit.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri remained a wanted fugitive since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials said Friday they believe that government forces killed Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the former deputy of Saddam Hussein who for over a decade was the top fugitive from the ousted regime and became an underground figure involved in Sunni insurgencies, most recently allying with Islamic State militants.

It was not the first time Iraqi officials have claimed to have killed or captured al-Douri, who was the “king of clubs” in the deck of playing cards issued to help American troops identify key regime fugitives after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam. DNA tests were underway to confirm whether a body recovered from fighting around the city of Tikrit was al-Douri’s.

Reports of al-Douri’s death came as Iraqi forces are trying to push back Islamic State group fighters in Salahuddin province, where Tikrit is located. Government troops took back several towns near the country’s largest oil refinery at Beiji in the province, officials said.

Further north, a large car bomb exploded Friday afternoon next to the U.S. Consulate in the northern city of Irbil, a rare attack in the capital of the Kurdish autonomy zone. Iraqi police officials said three people were killed and five were wounded in the bombing. U.S. officials said there were no American casualties or casualties among consulate personnel or guards.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the powerful blast went off outside a cafe next to the building in Irbil’s Ankawa neighborhood, setting several nearby cars on fire. Shortly afterward, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Irbil attack, reported the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant websites.

According to the governor of Salahuddin province, Raed al-Jabouri, al-Douri was killed by Iraqi troops and Shiite militiamen in an operation in the Talal Hamreen mountains east of Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, which was retaken from the Islamic State group earlier this month.

Troops opened fire at a convoy carrying al-Douri and nine bodyguards, killing all of them, Gen. Haider al-Basri, a senior Iraqi commander, told state TV.

The government issues several photos showing a body purported to be al-Douri. The body had a bright red beard, perhaps dyed, and a ginger-colored moustache. Al-Douri was a fair-skinned redhead with a ginger moustache, making him distinctive among Saddam’s inner circle.

DNA tests were underway to confirm the identity of the body, Iraqi intelligence officials told The AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. In 2013, the Iraqi government said it arrested al-Douri, circulating a photo of a bearded man who resembled the former Baathist. It later said it was a case of mistaken identity.

Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. has no information to corroborate the reported death of al-Douri.

Al-Douri was officially the No. 2 man in Iraq’s ruling hierarchy. He served as vice chairman of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council, was one of Saddam’s few longtime confidants and his daughter was married briefly to Saddam’s son, Odai, who was killed with his brother, Qusai, by U.S. troops in Mosul.

When Saddam’s Baathist regime collapsed as U.S. troops occupied Baghdad, al-Douri disappeared. He was No. 6 on the most-wanted list of 55 Iraqis after the invasion. When Saddam was killed months later and more regime figures were caught, al-Douri became the most prominent fugitive — and U.S. authorities soon linked him to the Sunni insurgencies that erupted against the American occupation and the Shiite-led government that replaced Saddam.

Early in the war, U.S. authorities linked al-Douri to Ansar al-Islam, a militant group with ties to al-Qaida, and he was accused of being a major financier of the insurgency. Sunni former officers from Saddam’s military and police were believed to have played large roles in the insurgency, whether with al-Qaida or other factions.

Al-Douri emerged as a leader of the shadowy Army of the Men of the Naqshabandi Order. The group depicts itself as a nationalist force defending Iraq’s Sunni minority from Shiite rule and as an alternative to the extremist version of Islam championed by al-Qaida. But last year, when the Islamic State group — the successor to al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq — launched a blitz across much of western and northern Iraq, al-Douri, the Naqshabandi Army and other former Saddam-era officers reportedly entered a shaky alliance with it.

When Tikrit was overrun by the Sunni militant group last June, witnesses said fighters raised posters of Saddam and al-Douri. Fighters loyal to his Naqshabandi Army as well as former members of Saddam’s Baath Party were the main militant force in Tikrit at the time of its capture, local residents told The AP at the time. Still, the Naqshabandi Army criticized IS atrocities, including the persecution of religious minorities and the burning of a Jordanian coalition pilot in Syria.

Iraqi security forces recaptured al-Douri’s hometown of Dawr in March as part of its large-scale offensive to retake Tikrit. Government forces seized control of Tikrit on April 1.

In Washington, Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said there were no U.S. casualties among consulate staff or local guard staff in the Irbil attack.

Also Friday, Iraqi security forces gained full control over a contested area south of the Beiji refinery as part of their push to secure the rest of Salahuddin province.

General Ayad al-Lahabi, a commander with the Salahuddin Command Center, said the military, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and Shiite and Sunni militias dubbed the Popular Mobilization Forces, gained control of the towns of al-Malha and al-Mazraah, located 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) south of the Beiji oil refinery, killing at least 160 militants with the Islamic State group.

Al-Lahabi said security forces are trying to secure two corridors around the refinery itself after the Sunni militants launched a large-scale attack on the complex earlier this week, hitting the refinery walls with explosive-laced Humvees.

Extremists from the Islamic State group seized much of Salahuddin province last summer during their advance across northern and western Iraq. The battle for Tikrit was seen as a key step toward eventually driving the militants out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the capital of Nineveh province. In November, Iraqi security forces said they had recaptured the town of Beiji from the militant group. The refinery had never been captured by the militants but has been subjected to frequent attacks by the group.

In Iraq’s western Anbar province, Iraqi special forces maintained control of the provincial capital, Ramadi, after days of intense clashes with the Islamic State group left the city at risk. Sabah Nuaman, a special forces commander in Anbar, said the situation had improved early Friday after airstrikes hit key militant targets on the city’s fringes.

Sabah al-Karhout, head of Anbar’s provincial council, said there were no major attacks on the city Friday but that the militants still maintained control of three villages to the east of Ramadi, which they captured Wednesday, sending thousands of civilians fleeing for safety.

In Baghdad, a series of bombings ripped through the city on Friday, mainly targeting public places and killing at least 40 people, Iraqi officials said. No group claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, though the Islamic State has taken credit for similar attacks in the past, especially those targeting Shiites, as well as Iraqi security forces and government buildings.

TIME conflict

Why It Took So Long for the World to See How Phnom Penh Fell

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Sjoberg / AFP / Getty Images The young Khmer Rouge guerrilla soldiers enter Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975

The Khmer Rouge took the Cambodian capital 40 years ago

When the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communist forces, seized the nation’s capital of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, it was no surprise. In the years since the nation had been drawn into fighting in the region, the insurgents had continued to gain power. With the end of the U.S.’s involvement on the horizon—that would come before the month was up—it seemed clear that Phnom Penh would fall sooner or later.

In fact, as TIME reported in the days after April 17, the very leaders who had pledged never to stop fighting seemed to know that there was no point in a last stand. The surrender of the Khmer Republic to the Khmer Rouge was, the magazine noted, the first time a capital city had fallen to Communist forces since Seoul in the early 1950s.

But, even though the regime change was no surprise, the world watched with apprehension to see what the nation’s new rulers would do. In that initial report, TIME noted that at first “there was none of the carnage that some government officials had predicted”—one of the main fears was that widespread retribution would be exacted—even though “there were, to be sure, some ominous notes.”

A few weeks later, it became clear that those fears were not misplaced. “The curtain of silence that has concealed Cambodia from Western eyes ever since the Khmer Rouge capture of Phnom-Penh on April 17 opened briefly last week, revealing a shocking portrait of a nation in torturous upheaval,” TIME reported. “Eyewitness reports by the few Western journalists who stayed on in the Cambodian capital after the closing down of the American embassy indicated that the country’s new Communist masters have proved to be far more ruthless, if not more cruel and sadistic in their exercise of power than most Western experts had expected.”

Those eyewitness reports, as relayed by TIME, told a tale of Phnom Penh (stylized with a hyphen at the time) being emptied of its inhabitants, as urban Cambodians were forcibly relocated to grow rice in the countryside, despite the fact that there would be no rice harvest for months and there was no other plan to feed them. Foreigners who took refuge in the French embassy were stuck inside the compound, with no running water, for nearly two weeks. Cambodians among them—many married to the foreign citizens—were removed from the group before the outsiders were driven by truck to the Thai border and allowed to walk across.

The journalists among the roughly 1,000 people who escaped in that way agreed to hold their stories until everyone who would be allowed to leave was out, but by mid-May they told what they had seen.

In the years that followed, the details, as they emerged, only got more harrowing.

In 1978, David Aikman, who had been a TIME correspondent who left Cambodia mere days before Phnom Penh fell, wrote in an essay that what had happened in Cambodia since that day was “perhaps the most dreadful infliction of suffering on a nation by its government in the past three decades”:

On the morning of April 17, 1975, advance units of Cambodia’s Communist insurgents, who had been actively fighting the defeated Western-backed government of Marshal Lon Nol for nearly five years, began entering the capital of Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge looted things, such as watches and cameras, but they did not go on a rampage. They seemed disciplined. And at first, there was general jubilation among the city’s terrified, exhausted and bewildered inhabitants. After all, the civil war seemed finally over, the Americans had gone, and order, everyone seemed to assume, would soon be graciously restored.

Then came the shock. After a few hours, the black-uniformed troops began firing into the air. It was a signal for Phnom Penh’s entire population, swollen by refugees to some 3 million, to abandon the city. Young and old, the well and the sick, businessmen and beggars, were all ordered at gunpoint onto the streets and highways leading into the countryside.

…The survivors were settled in villages and agricultural communes all around Cambodia and were put to work for frantic 16-or 17-hour days, planting rice and building an enormous new irrigation system. Many died from dysentery or malaria, others from malnutrition, having been forced to survive on a condensed-milk can of rice every two days. Still others were taken away at night by Khmer Rouge guards to be shot or bludgeoned to death. The lowest estimate of the bloodbath to date–by execution, starvation and disease–is in the hundreds of thousands. The highest exceeds 1 million, and that in a country that once numbered no more than 7 million. Moreover, the killing continues, according to the latest refugees.

Aikman’s essay confirmed that news of what was happening in Cambodia had reached the rest of the world, without a doubt—but, he wrote, the response confirmed that somehow knowing the truth didn’t mean believing it and responding appropriately. “In the West today, there is a pervasive consent to the notion of moral relativism, a reluctance to admit that absolute evil can and does exist,” he wrote. “This makes it especially difficult for some to accept the fact that the Cambodian experience is something far worse than a revolutionary aberration. Rather, it is the deadly logical consequence of an atheistic, man-centered system of values, enforced by fallible human beings with total power, who believe, with Marx, that morality is whatever the powerful define it to be and, with Mao, that power grows from gun barrels.”

Read the full 1978 essay, here in the TIME Vault: An Experiment in Genocide

TIME Yemen

The U.N. Envoy to Yemen Has Quit

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MOHAMMED HUWAIS—AFP/Getty Images Jamal Benomar, UN envoy to Yemen, speaks during a press conference conference in Sanaa December 24, 2013.

Moroccan diplomat Jamal Benomar had lost the support of the Gulf countries in his mission

The U.N. envoy to Yemen has resigned, citing “an interest in moving on to another assignment.”

Jamal Benomar, who has served as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy to the Middle Eastern country since 2012, reportedly threw in the towel due to lack of support from Gulf countries for his peacekeeping endeavors, reports the AFP.

“A successor shall be named in due course,” read a statement from the U.N. “Until that time and beyond, the United Nations will continue to spare no efforts to relaunch the peace process in order to get the political transition back on track.”

Benomar had already mentioned the possibility of resigning in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, saying he had already expressed his desire to step down to the Secretary-General.

The conflict in Yemen is continuing to escalate as Shi‘ite Houthi rebels march on the country’s major port Aden after capturing the capital city of Sana‘a. The fighting has reportedly killed over 700 people and wounded more than 2,700 others.

The U.N. Security Council earlier this week adopted a resolution calling for the resumption of peace talks, even as coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia continued to carry out air strikes. The Saudi offensive has been criticized by other countries in the region, with Iran — whom it accuses of arming the Houthis — calling it “genocide.”

Iran’s neighbor Iraq also traded barbs with the Saudis on Wednesday, when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said there was “no logic to the operation at all in the first place.” The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. later said there was “no logic” to al-Abadi’s remarks, and denied reports that Yemeni civilians had been killed in some of the air strikes.

Benomar’s successor, meanwhile, has been tipped as Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who currently leads the U.N. Ebola mission in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

TIME conflict

Drone Attack Kills Top Cleric, al-Qaeda Branch Says

Ibrahim al-Rubaish
U.S. State Department Rewards For Justice/AP This wanted poster from website of the U.S. State Department's Rewards For Justice program shows a mugshot of Ibrahim al-Rubaish, the top cleric of Yemen's al-Qaida branch.

Yemeni and U.S. officials had no immediate comment on the claim

(CAIRO) — Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch announced on Tuesday that its top cleric, a Saudi-national who has had a $5 million bounty on his head, has been killed, allegedly in a drone attack.

Al-Qaeda said in a statement posted on Twitter that Ibrahim al-Rubaish was killed, along with other, unnamed members of the group, by a drone late Sunday. The statement did not specify the location of the drone attack.

Yemeni and U.S. officials had no immediate comment on the claim.

Al-Rubaish, believed to be in his late 30s, was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2006, after which he joined al-Qaeda in Yemen. He was considered the group’s the main ideologue and theological adviser and his writings and sermons were prominent in its publications.

Last year, he hailed the seizure of large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria by al-Qaeda’s rival, the Islamic State group. “I ask God that efforts are united to target the enemies of the religion,” he said in a video recording at the time.

If the drone attack is confirmed, it would be the first use of unmanned aircraft since Yemen sank further into turmoil last month, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to launch airstrikes on March 26 in an attempt to halt Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis who have taken over much of the country.

The Houthi advance has also forced Yemen’s Western-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country as his government crumbled.

U.S. officials have said the collapse of Hadi’s government could undermine Washington’s counterterrorism strategy against al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Washington considers the branch to be the most powerful in the terrorist network.

In late March, about 100 U.S. military advisers withdrew from the al-Annad air base where they had been leading the U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Yemen.

Washington rarely comments on drone attacks. U.S. officials had been concerned their counterterrorism capabilities would be diminished because of the withdrawal of their staff. However, they said the al-Qaeda branch will likely be drawn toward the internal Yemeni conflict, and away from plotting to go after Western targets.

Al-Qaeda is a staunch rival of the Shiite rebels, and has already waged a number of attacks against their advances.

U.S. officials also said that CIA drone strikes would continue but that there will be fewer of them.

TIME conflict

Boko Haram Violence Has Forced 800,000 Children From Homes, Report Says

Civilians who fled the fighting in Bama and the surrounding areas in recent days walk at a makeshift camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria on March 25, 2015.
Nichole Sobecki—AFP/Getty Images Civilians who fled the fighting in Bama and the surrounding areas in recent days walk at a makeshift camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria on March 25, 2015.

"Children have become deliberate targets"

(LAGOS, Nigeria) — The children’s drawings show men with guns, a coffin, a car exploding. One picture has stick-like figures of eight siblings missed by their teenage sister.

The disturbing images come from some of an estimated 800,000 children forced from the homes by Boko Haram extremists, according to a UNICEF report published Monday.

It says the number of refugee children has doubled in the past year, making them about half of all the 1.5 million Nigerians made homeless in the Islamic uprising.

“Children have become deliberate targets, often subjected to extreme violence – from sexual abuse and forced marriage to kidnappings and brutal killings,” the report says. “Children have also become weapons, made to fight alongside armed groups and at times used as human bombs.”

The number of children absent from primary school in Nigeria has increased from 8 million in 2007 to 10.5 million- the highest figure in the world, it says. Boko Haram has targeted schools, destroying or severely damaging more than 300 and killing 314 students and 196 teachers, UNICEF says.

The nickname of Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, means “Western education is forbidden” or sinful.

One picture in the UNICEF report shows stick figures of the eight siblings missed by Rita, a 14-year-old living in a refugee camp in neighboring Chad with her mother, father and one younger sister. They became separated when Boko Haram attacked the Nigerian town of Baga, and she knows how worried they must be.

“When you have your mother around, you (are) not worried about anything. But if she is missing … you are worried the whole time,” the report quotes Rita as saying.

Called “Missing Childhoods,” the report was published ahead of the first anniversary of the mass kidnappings the night of April 14-15, 2014, of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok. Dozens escaped on their own but 219 remain missing.

TIME movies

These Men Are Reenacting a War Many Others Want to Forget

The new documentary 'In Country' introduces a group of Vietnam War reenactors

As the sesquicentennial of the Civil War winds to an end, the hundreds of Americans who regularly reenact that conflict are likely to get plenty of attention. The reenactment at Appomattox is going on right now, in fact.

But the Civil War isn’t the only American conflict that draws citizens, decades later, to replay its battles. In their new documentary In Country (in theaters April 10 and VOD April 28), filmmakers Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara follow a group of men who, for one weekend a year, recreate the Vietnam War.

They wear the uniforms. They carry the weapons. They even, as shown in the clip above, use the lingo that would have been heard on those battlefields (even when some of that language is offensive). The experience is so immersive that Attie and O’Hara had to dress as war correspondents in order to get approval to film the weekend.

But the time-travel aspect of war reenactment is, the filmmakers say, a little stranger when the war is still relatively fresh. As the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon approaches — the war concluded at the end of April, 1975 — Vietnam remains raw.

“When I heard it I couldn’t believe it,” Attie recalls. “Why would someone want to recreate this war that was so divisive? Both Meghan and I were born after the war ended, but it still seemed like something that was fresh and controversial.”

Whereas Civil War and Revolutionary War reenactments are often family-friendly events, a Vietnam reenactment lacks the distance that neuters the violence. Attie says there was a joke in his high school that the school year would conveniently end before history class got to the Vietnam War, because nobody wanted to talk about it. It felt, he says, like a conflict that people didn’t want to remember — even though the men in his new film are proof otherwise.

And their remembering is not just a matter of learning about the history, obsessing over details like how long the soldiers’ hair would have been in one year versus another. It’s also an exercise in empathy, the movie posits, as veterans in the group are able to revisit their real experiences or, in one particular case, impart their wisdom on a soon-to-be Marine along for the ride.

“It made me think, when does history become History with a capital H, and have the teeth taken out of it a little bit?” O’Hara says. “These men are trying to wrestle with it and it seems so soon.”

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