TIME isis

Watch Iraqi Forces Advance on ISIS-Held Tikrit

The movement towards the city has been slowed by roadside bombs

BAGHDAD — Officials in northern Iraq say troops are clashing with Islamic State militants south of the militant-held city of Tikrit, as roadside bombs have slowed an offensive launched to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

The two local officials say fierce clashes were underway Tuesday outside the town of al-Dour, south of Tikrit.

They say government forces backed by Shiite militias and Sunni tribal fighters have made little progress on the second day of a large-scale military operation to recapture Tikrit, which fell to the Islamic State group last summer. They say troops are shelling militant bases inside the city but their advance has been slowed by roadside bombs.

The officials spoke anonymously as they are not authorized to brief media.

READ MORE: Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

TIME isis

Hear Jihadi John Defend Himself Against Charge of Extremism

Mohammed Emwazi, the Londoner who has become the face of ISIS, describes being interrogated

Mohammed Emwazi denied he was an extremist and denounced extremism in a 2009 interview he gave to an advocacy group.

The man who became known as Jihadi John and the masked face of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) after appearing to kill hostages in a series of videos, complained that he was victimized after he was deported from Tanzania and questioned by the security services.

Emwazi went to the London-based group CAGE, which works with people affected by what they call “the war on terror,” after being questioned by an British counterterrorism officer. In the recording of the interview with CAGE, Emwazi recounts the interrogation: “He started telling me what do you think of 9/11? I told him: ‘This is a wrong thing. What happened was wrong. What do you want me to say? If I had the opportunity for those lives to come back then I would make those lives come back.”

He added, “I told him everything that’s been happening is extremism. Everything — the bombs or whatever — that’s happening have been from extremists.”

The recording ends with Emwazi alleging that the agent threatened him and said, “We are going to keep a close eye on you, Mohammed.”

Last week, after Jihadi John’s identity was revealed, CAGE issued statements suggesting the U.K. authorities’ treatment of Emwazi was the cause of his radicalization. CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said in a statement on Feb. 26, “We now have evidence that there are several young Britons whose lives were not only ruined by security agencies, but who became disenfranchised and turned to violence because of British counter-terrorism policies coupled with long standing grievances over Western foreign policy.”

READ MORE: Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

TIME Asia

Seven Out of 10 Kids Across Five Asian Nations Experienced Violence at School

Indonesia reported the worst rate of school violence, with 84% of children having experienced it

Seven out of 10 children in Asia have experienced violence in school, a study of over 9,000 students across five countries revealed.

Conducted by children’s-rights group Plan under its Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools initiative, the study collected data from male and female students ages 12 to 17, as well as others involved in their education like parents, teachers and headmasters, in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and Nepal.

The study has several disturbing implications, with emotional violence being the most prevalent form of school harassment, followed by physical violence. More boys reported facing physical violence than girls did, and regressive gender attitudes are a significant contributor to school violence overall.

Indonesia showed the highest rate of gender-based violence in schools out of the five countries surveyed, with 84% of students having experienced violence, while Pakistan had the lowest at 43%. “Even the bottom end of the scale — 43% in Pakistan — is unacceptable,” said Mark Pierce, Plan’s Asia regional director.

The prevalence of the problem in the Southeast Asian nation is illustrated by shocking videos uploaded to YouTube, like the one below that shows a girl at a primary school in West Sumatra’s Bukittinggi being kicked and beaten by her classmates.

Another video, uploaded as recently as last month, shows another girl being held in a choke hold by a male peer while another jumps in and out of the frame to punch her and make suggestive motions — culminating in an all-out brawl.

Several other causes and factors contributing to school violence — perpetrated by both peers and authority figures — exist even within the limited scope of the study, such as students’ lack of trust in existing reporting mechanisms, traditional and cultural norms, and a low rate of intervention by observers.

With reporting by Yenni Kwok

TIME portfolio

Meet the Sulfur Miners of Eastern Java

Photos reveal the hazardous work of sulfur miners at Kawah Ijen, a crater in eastern Java, Indonesia

Looming 2,799 m (9,183 ft.) above sea level, Gunung Ijen in Indonesia’s eastern Java is a volcanic wonder that attract hundreds of foreign and domestic tourists daily. During daytime, they climb the mountaintop to reach Kawah Ijen, the volcano’s crater lake famous for its mesmerizing turquoise hue. When darkness descends, hikers clamor to witness the glowing blue liquid fire that streams from the crater down the mountainsides. It isn’t lava, but the sulfur for which Kawah Ijen is renowned.

It is also sulfur that brings hundreds of miners to Kawah Ijen every day. They make the perilous journey climbing 9,000 ft. to the summit and then 3,000 ft. down into the crater. The miners descend to the womb of the volcano, defying scorching heat and rarefied air, in search of the precious material that is used to manufacture countless products — from matches, rubber, insecticides and fertilizer to cosmetics, batteries, sugar and film.

Rome-based photographer Luca Catalano Gonzaga traveled to Indonesia in late last year and spent 10 days at Gunung Ijen to capture the miners’ daily toil. Many of the photos were taken after dark, as many men prefer to work when the heat is more tolerable.

Gonzaga titles his project “Devil’s Gold,” a biblical allusion to hell as the fiery lake that burns with brimstone — the ancient name for sulfur. Sulfur mining at Kawah Ijen is certainly a hellish job. Not much has changed since mining officially began here in 1968. Every day, around 300 men leave the base camp carrying traditional equipment like torches and metal poles to break the sulfur slabs, though with little protective gear. Only a few men are given gas masks, while the rest rely on wet scarves or rags to cover their mouths, in a largely futile attempt to protect themselves from the caustic gas that singes the eyes, throats and lungs, and can even dissolve teeth.

Once the miners collect their sulfur, they haul the fully loaded baskets, weighing between 70 kg (150 lb.) and 90 kg (200 lb.), out from the crater, climbing 60-degree slopes, and then down to the base camp. They get 10,000 rupiah (78¢) for 10 kg (22 lb.) of sulfur. Suwono, 33, works four days a week, from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., to support his wife and son. Carrying 70 kg of sulfur twice a day earns him 140,000 rupiah ($11) — but it also comes with a price: Suwono has a disfigured back. Deformed spines and bent legs are disturbingly common among miners.

Such physically demanding and hazardous work means miners’ average life expectancy barely reaches 50 years. More than 70 people have died in work-related accidents at Kawah Ijen in the past four decades, many due to the toxic fumes that billow suddenly from the rock’s fissures.

Aware of the risks they face daily, the miners don’t want their children to follow in their footsteps. “They want to throw off the shackles of a destiny,” Gonzaga says, “for this reason, they push their kids to go to school and have an education.”

“Devil’s Gold” is part of a wider project called Invisible People, which is funded by Nando Peretti Foundation.

Luca Catalano Gonzaga is a photographer born in Rome. He co-founded Witness Image and focuses on covering human rights issues.

Michelle Molloy, who edited this photo essay, is a senior international photo editor at TIME.

TIME celebrities

No, It’s Not a Crime to Make the Face on a Canadian $5 Bill Look Like Spock

Nimoy poses at the party for the release of the Blu-Ray DVD of "Star Trek Into Darkness" at the California Science Center in Los Angeles
Mario Anzuoni—Reuters Leonard Nimoy poses at a party celebrating the DVD release of "Star Trek Into Darkness" at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California on Sept. 10, 2013

However, officials said defacing banknotes was “inappropriate"

Canadians honoring the memory of Leonard Nimoy by altering older versions of the country’s $5 bill to look like Star Trek’s Spock are not breaking the law, according to officials.

Canucks have long been touching up Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s features with black ink to make the country’s seventh Prime Minister resemble the famed Vulcan.

But following Nimoy’s death last week, Canadians have been posting images of their own revamped $5 notes online en masse, sparking fears that an untold number were breaking the law.

On Monday, the Bank of Canada dispelled rumors that it’s illegal to deface or even “mutilate” the country’s currency, according to a report in the Canadian Press.

However, the country’s fiscal authorities pointed out that marring the national currency could be deemed disrespectful.

“The Bank of Canada feels that writing and markings on banknotes are inappropriate as they are a symbol of our country and a source of national pride,” Josianne Menard, a spokesperson from the Bank of Canada, told the Canadian Press.

TIME North Korea

Canadian Pastor Feared Detained in North Korea

Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim had previously traveled to North Korea on many occasions without incident

Fears are growing for a Canadian pastor currently in North Korea who has not been heard from since Jan. 31 when he was invited by officials to the capital Pyongyang, according to a well-known South Korean activist.

Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, has been to North Korea “hundreds of times,” a fellow church member in Canada said, but has never been out of communication for this long before, the AFP reports.

Initially, friends thought the 60-year-old’s lack of communication was due to the 21-day quarantine imposed on foreign visitors due to the Ebola virus, but that time period has now expired.

“As far as I know, he was asked by officials to come to Pyongyang on Jan. 31 before he went incommunicado,” Reverend Chun Ki-Won, a personal acquaintance of Hyeon’s, told AFP.

It is now feared that his disappearance is connected to some of the food-related humanitarian efforts he was involved in, as these projects had been tied to associates of Jang Song-Thaek, national leader Kim Jong Un’s late uncle, who was arrested and executed in 2012.

Religious freedom is severely restricted in North Korea, and foreign missionaries are often treated with strong suspicion. A few have been allowed in to help humanitarian efforts, but those caught proselytizing or participating in unauthorized activities are immediately arrested.

The Canadian government has not yet confirmed Hyeon’s disappearance.

[AFP]

TIME Egypt

Bomb Blast in Downtown Cairo Kills 1, Wounds 10 People

An masked policemen stands at the site of a bombing in front of the Egyptian High Court, in Cairo, Egypt, March 2, 2015
Amr Nabil—AP A masked policeman stands at the site of a bombing in front of the Egyptian High Court, in Cairo on March 2, 2015

A little-known group took responsibility for the attack

(CAIRO) — A midday bomb blast in a boulevard in downtown Cairo killed one person and wounded 10 on Monday, the health ministry said. Shortly afterward, a little-known group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bomb was hidden under a car parked near the High Court – the country’s highest criminal court – and went off in Cairo’s Ramses neighborhood. The area is very crowded, with dozens of street vendors selling their ware on stalls set up on the asphalt. Nearby are several bus stops, a railway station and a subway station.

Egyptian private The Seventh Day TV broadcast footage of the site, showing hundreds of onlookers around cars with smashed windows and blood on the pavement. Police cordoned off the area and state TV later reported that a second bomb was dismantled before it went off.

The Interior Ministry and the Health Ministry earlier had said no one was killed, despite a previous state TV report mentioning that one person died. The wounded included seven policemen, the health ministry said.

Egypt has seen a wave of attacks, mostly targeting the country’s security forces, since the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. A Sinai-based militant group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State extremists fighting in Syria and Iraq, has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings and larger attacks. Other groups have claimed responsibility for attacks carried out by small, homemade explosive devices that caused few casualties.

A group calling itself “Revolutionary Punishment” claimed responsibility on its Twitter account for Monday’s attack, saying they targeted a police checkpoint. The group is believed to mostly consist of Islamist youths seeking revenge for the ongoing crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group has been branded as a terrorist organization and its members are either underground, on the run or in jail, awaiting trial.

The attacks have raised fears ahead of a major economic conference in Egypt later this month, aimed at attracting foreign investment.

On Sunday, a bomb went off near a police station in the southern city of Aswan, killing two civilians and wounding a soldier and four others.

TIME China

Britain’s Prince William Handles His China Visit With Polish

The Duke Of Cambridge Visits China - Day 2
WPA Pool—Getty Images Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on March 2, 2015 in Beijing, China.

Pretty impressive, when you consider the diplomatic line he has to tread

Diplomacy is full of awkward moments. But the fact that an English prince met yesterday with “red princeling” Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and the President of the People’s Republic of China, is still, if you think about it, strikingly odd. What could the symbolic heir to the British empire and China’s avowedly anti-imperialist new leader have to talk about?

Not history. Since coming to power in 2013, Xi has spoken at length about the great “rejuvenation” of the nation. The message is that after suffering centuries of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, the country, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, is once again on the rise. So while Prince William toured Beijing’s Forbidden City, his handlers probably did not mention the fact that the British burned the city’s other great palace, Yuanmingyuan, on Oct. 18, 1860. Or that Anglo-French forces looted its treasures.

Nor can they talk about Hong Kong. The fate of the former British colony returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 might be old news by now, if not for the months-long protests that shuttered parts of the Chinese Special Administrative Region last fall. Many, including the protesters themselves, say the movement was a grassroots push for genuine universal suffrage. Beijing blamed “hostile foreign forces.” A British delegation sent to look into the protests was turned away, prompting a rather pointed editorial from the Chinese ambassador to the U.K.

And they certainly can’t talk about family. Prince William and Xi Jinping are both royalty in their own right — the former, a Windsor, the latter, a scion of China’s red royalty. (Xi’s father Xi Zhongxun was a contemporary of Mao and a hero of the Long March.) But don’t expect either to bring that up. Xi rarely trades on his pedigree, at least publicly, preferring to cast himself as just another cadre. And William, if he’s wise, will know that royalty is a touchy subject in China, not least because his grandfather, the racist-gaffe-prone Prince Philip once warned an exchange student about “slitty-eyed” Chinese, and his father Prince Charles once called China’s leaders “appalling old waxworks.”

It’s safe to guess that absolutely none of this came up during the first two days of the tightly choreographed three-day tour. After landing in Shanghai, the prince opened a festival and met with business leaders including Alibaba’s Jack Ma. On Tuesday, local time, he watched Chinese students play soccer (football) to mark the addition of the sport to the Chinese curriculum. “I also gather you’re quite a football fan,” the prince reportedly told the President. On Tuesday evening, he will take in the premiere of Paddington, a kid’s film about a stuffed bear.

So how did young Prince William do? “Defter diplomat than Dad,” judged NBC.

And that, really, is all there is to say.

TIME Australia

Ex-Principal at Prestigious Australian School ‘Sorry’ for Alleged Sex Abuse 

Former students at Knox Grammar include Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and ex-Australian PM Gough Whitlam

The former, longtime principal of one of Australia’s most elite private schools has expressed regret for the alleged sexual abuse that occurred during his tenure.

Ian Paterson apologized Tuesday during a Royal Commission hearing that is investigating institutional responses to sex abuse at Knox Grammar in Sydney, reports the Agence France-Presse.

The ongoing abuse allegedly occurred between the 1970s and 2012, and Paterson served as principal for three decades up until 1998. One former student describes Knox Grammar during these years as having harbored “a large pedophile cohort.”

“I should have known and I should have stopped the events that led to the abuse and its tragic consequences for these boys in my care and their families,” Paterson said.

“My abject failure to provide for you a safe and secure place at Knox strikes at the very heart of a responsibility of a headmaster.”

Although Paterson has not been charged with abuse personally, the commission did hear evidence that in 1989 he inappropriately touched a female student during rehearsals for a stage show with another school.

Paterson is due to give evidence to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about how he managed the teachers accused of abusing students. The body was formed in April 2013 to probe accusations of sexual misconduct in state institutions including schools, orphanages and places of worship, and was extended in September 2014 to deal with the thousands of victims who have come forward.

TIME Nepal

Nepal Official Says Human Waste on Everest a Major Problem

A trekker stands in front of Mount Everest at Kala Patthar in Solukhumbu District on May 7, 2014.
Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters A trekker stands in front of Mount Everest at Kala Patthar in Solukhumbu District on May 7, 2014.

Human waste left by climbers has caused pollution and threatened to spread disease on the world’s highest peak

(KATHMANDU) — Human waste left by climbers on Mount Everest has become a problem that is causing pollution and threatening to spread disease on the world’s highest peak, the chief of Nepal’s mountaineering association said Tuesday.

The more than 700 climbers and guides who spend nearly two months on Everest’s slopes each climbing season leave large amounts of faeces and urine, and the issue has not been addressed, Ang Tshering told reporters.

He said Nepal’s government needs to get the climbers to dispose of the waste properly so the mountain remains pristine.

Hundreds of foreign climbers attempt to scale Everest during Nepal’s mountaineering season, which began this week and runs through May. Last year’s season was canceled after 16 local guides were killed in an avalanche in April.

Climbers spend weeks acclimatising around the four camps set up between the base camp at 17,380-ft. and the 29,035-ft. summit. The camps have tents and some essential equipment and supplies, but do not have toilets.

“Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there,” Tshering said, adding that the waste has been “piling up” for years around the four camps.

At the base camp, where there are more porters, cooks and support staff during the climbing season, there are toilet tents with drums to store the waste. Once filled, the drums are carried to a lower area, where the waste is properly disposed.

Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been leading Everest cleanup expeditions since 2008, said some climbers carry disposable travel toilet bags to use in the higher camps.

“It is a health hazard and the issue needs to be addressed,” he said.

Nepal’s government has not come up with a plan yet to tackle the issue of human waste. But starting this season, officials stationed at the base camp will strictly monitor garbage on the mountain, said Puspa Raj Katuwal, the head of the government’s Mountaineering Department.

The government imposed new rules last year requiring each climber to bring down to the base camp 18 pounds of trash the amount it estimates a climber discards along the route.

Climbing teams must leave a $4,000 deposit that they lose if they don’t comply with the regulations, Katuwal said.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay.

Hundreds of others have died in the attempt, while many have succeeded only with help from oxygen tanks, equipment porters and Sherpa guides.

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