TIME Syria

Video Said to Show Second Japanese Hostage Killed By ISIS

Japanese hostage Kenji Goto Jogo captured by ISIL
In this file photo, dated Oct. 24, 2014, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto Jogo, captured by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and one of two Japanese hostages, is seen in Aleppo, Syria. Ahmed Muhammed—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Video was shared by extremists websites Saturday

An online video released Saturday night purported to show an Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militant behead Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, ending days of negotiations by diplomats to save the man.

The video, released on militant websites and highlighted by militant sympathizers on social media sites, bore the symbol of ISIS’s al-Furqan media arm.

Though the video could not be immediately independently verified by The Associated Press, it conformed to other beheading videos released by the extremists, who now control a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in its self-declared caliphate.

The video, called “A Message to the Government of Japan,” featured a militant who looked and sounded like a militant with a British accent who has taken part in other beheading videos by ISIS. Goto, kneeling in an orange prison jumpsuit, said nothing in the roughly one-minute-long video.

“Abe,” the militant says in the video, referring to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this man will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”

Goto was captured in October, after he traveled to Syria to try to win the release of Haruna Yukawa.

The hostage drama began last week after militants threatened to kill Goto and Yukawa in 72 hours unless Japan paid $200 million.

Jordan and Japan reportedly conducted indirect negotiations with the militants through Iraqi tribal leaders.

National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said the White House was aware of the video. “We are working to confirm its authenticity. The United States strongly condemns [ISIS’s] actions and we call for the immediate release of all remaining hostages. We stand in solidarity with our ally Japan.”

TIME World

French Tourists to Be Deported Over Nude Photo Shoot at Cambodian Temple

CAMBODIA-TOURISM-ANGKOR
The Angkor Wat temple complex at sunrise in Cambodia's Angkor National Park, Siem Reap province, Nov. 8, 2014. Alex Ogle—AFP/Getty Images

Court claimed three men were taking naked photos for use 'in publications such as a calendar'

A trio of tourists from France were arrested for taking nude photos of each other at a world-famous Cambodian temple, and will be deported.

The three men in their early twenties were found Thursday inside Banteay Kdei temple at Angkor Archaeological Park, AFP reports, which houses Angkor Wat — a 12th-century temple and UNESCO World Heritage site.

The trio were arrested by Cambodian authorities and given a suspended prison sentence of six months, plus deportation from Cambodia and a four-year ban on coming back to the country. The men were also fined $750 each.

“They confessed to making a mistake and asked for the Cambodian people to forgive them for their actions,” prosecutor Koeut Sovannareth told AFP. The men claimed that they took the pictures as souvenirs, “but we believe that their intention was to use the photos in publications such as a calendar,” Sovannareth said.

[AFP]

TIME Syria

ISIS Fighters Admit Defeat in Syrian Border Town of Kobani

Syria Islamic State Kobani
A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city Kobani, Jan. 30, 2015. The Islamic State group has acknowledged for the first time that its fighters have been defeated in the Syrian town of Kobani and vowed to attack the town again. AP

Islamist fighters said the airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition were the main reason they withdrew

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has acknowledged for the first time that its fighters have been defeated in the Syrian town of Kobani and vowed to attack the town again.

In a video released by the pro-ISIS Aamaq News Agency late Friday, two fighters said the airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition were the main reason why ISIS fighters were forced to withdraw from Kobani. One fighter vowed to defeat the main Kurdish militia in Syria, the People’s Protection Units known as the YPG.

On Monday, activists and Kurdish officials said the town was almost cleared of ISIS fighters, who once held nearly half of Kobani.

An Associated Press video from inside the town showed widespread destruction, streets littered with debris and abandoned neighborhoods. The video also showed a new cemetery with fresh graves.

The town’s famous Freedom Square, with a statue of an eagle spreading its wings, stood intact in the middle of the destruction. The square is near the so-called Kurdish security quarter — an eastern district where Kurdish militiamen maintained security buildings and offices, and which was occupied by ISIS fighters for about two months until they were forced out earlier in January.

In the newly released ISIS video, the militant fighters acknowledged that they have been driven from the town.

“A while ago we retreated a bit from Ayn al-Islam because of the bombardment and the killing of some brothers,” said one masked fighter, using the group’s preferred name for Kobani. He spoke Arabic with a north African accent.

The failure to capture and hold Kobani was a major blow to the extremists. Their hopes for an easy victory dissolved into a costly siege under withering airstrikes by coalition forces and an assault by Kurdish militiamen.

The United States and several Arab allies have been striking ISIS positions in Syria since Sept. 23. The campaign aims to push back the jihadi organization after it took over about a third of Iraq and Syria and declared the captured territory a new caliphate.

Now Kurdish officials are hailing the retaking of Kobani as an important step toward rolling back the Islamic State group’s territorial gains.

“Kobani Canton is a representative of the resistance against terrorism in the world,” said senior Syrian Kurdish official in Kobani, Anwar Muslim. “We hope that the world will support us to come through our struggle against ISIS.”

Meanwhile the ISIS fighters vowed that their defeat in Kobani will not weaken them.

“The Islamic State will stay. Say that to (U.S. President Barack) Obama,” said the fighter, pointing his finger toward destruction on the edge of Kobani.

The fighters both laid blame for their defeat on the coalition air campaign, seemingly downplaying the role played by Kurdish militiamen — whom they refer to as “rats.”

Another ISIS fighter, also speaking in Arabic, said while standing on a road with a green sign with “Ayn al-Islam” sprayed on it: “The warplanes did not leave any construction. They destroyed everything, so we had to withdraw and the rats advanced.”

“The warplanes were bombarding us night and day. They bombarded everything, even motorcycles,” the fighter said.

ISIS launched an offensive on the Kobani region in mid-September capturing more than 300 Kurdish villages and parts of the town. As a result of the airstrikes and stiff Kurdish resistance, ISIS began retreating a few weeks ago, losing more than 1,000 fighters, according to activists.

More than 200,000 Kurds were forced from their homes. Many fled to neighboring Turkey.

Earlier this week, Kurdish officials said YPG fighters have launched a counterattack to retake some of the surrounding villages around Kobani, many of which remain in ISIS hands.

TIME Spain

March For Leftist Party in Madrid Attracts Thousands

Spain Podemos
People gather in the main square of Madrid during a Podemos (We Can) party march in Madrid, Jan. 31, 2015. Andres Kudacki—AP

Podemos, or 'We Can', hopes to follow in the footsteps of radical leftwing party Syriza, which won power in Greece last weekend

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through Madrid on Saturday in a show of strength by a fledgling radical leftist party, which hopes to emulate the success of Greece’s Syriza party in the Spanish general election later this year.

Podemos supporters from across Spain converged around the Cibeles fountain Saturday before packing the avenue leading to Puerta del Sol square in what was the party’s largest rally to date.

State broadcaster TVE said that hundreds of thousands were at the march, but no official attendance figures were provided.

Podemos (“We Can”) aims to shatter the country’s predominantly two-party system and the “March for Change” gathered crowds in the same place where sit-in protests against political and financial corruption laid the party’s foundations in 2011.

The party’s rise is greatly due to the charisma of its pony-tailed leader, Pablo Iglesias, a 36-year-old political science professor.

Hailing from the Madrid working class neighborhood of Vallecas, Iglesias prefers jeans and rolled up shirt sleeves to a suit and tie and champions slogans such as Spain is “run by the butlers of the rich” and that the economy must serve the people.

“We want change,” Iglesias told the crowd. “This is the year for change and we’re going to win the elections.”

Speaking at a meeting in Barcelona, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he didn’t accept the bleak picture of Spain that Podemos propagated.

“They’re a sad bunch, who go around saying how badly things are going,” he said, giving them no chance of winning the elections. “They’re not going to do it.”

Senior Podemos member Rita Maestre told The Associated Press that their aim was to show that the party is the instrument for change.

“We called the demonstration in the hope of lighting the torch (flame).”

In roughly a year, Podemos has leap-frogged from being the dream of a handful of university professors and activists to a political party.

Opinion polls show the party could possibly take the No.1 spot in upcoming elections and thus trigger one of the biggest political shake-ups in Spain since democracy was restored in 1978 after decades of dictatorship.

“The two-party framework has suffered a change. It now really does seem like a third political force can achieve government, so yes, I think it can have a great impact,” said literature student Alicia Sanchez, 20.

This year, Spain holds elections in 15 of its 17 regions this year followed by general elections.

Podemos’ first battle will be in the southern Socialist heartland of Andalusia in March, followed by regional and municipal elections in the crucial ruling Popular Party stronghold of Madrid in May.

“The political class has lost all credibility,” said unemployed lathe worker Marcos Pineda, 54. “The PP that governs today had its former treasurer in jail for corruption and the banks were bailed out with 40 billion euros ($52 billion) of European money, but the government refused to call it a bailout.”

Podemos has often expressed its support for some of the policies of left-wing governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, which makes many Spanish mainstream politicians bristle.

In Europe, it openly supports Syriza, which won national elections in Greece on Jan. 25 and which has pledged to challenge the austerity measures imposed on the country by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

While there are major political and economic differences between Spain and Greece, both countries have suffered severe economic crises, massive unemployment and austerity measures while simultaneously having to put up with myriad political corruption scandals.

This combination has given rise to a nationwide anti-establishment movement that has boosted Podemos and Syriza immensely.

TIME United Kingdom

Benedict Cumberbatch Backs Call to Pardon Gay Men Convicted in U.K.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, Calif. George Pimentel—WireImage/Getty Images

Alan Turing, whom the actor played in The Imitation Game, was among those convicted

Benedict Cumberbatch has joined 40,000 others in signing an open letter to the British government demanding the pardons of thousands of gay men convicted under historic indecency laws in the UK.

“The U.K.’s homophobic laws made the lives of generations of gay and bisexual men intolerable,” reads the letter published in The Guardian. “It is up to young leaders of today, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to acknowledge this mark on our history and not allow it to stand.”

Cumberbatch played Alan Turing in the Oscar-nominated movie The Imitation Game, which documents the codebreaker’s struggles under the UK’s early twentieth-century anti-gay laws. In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency—one of 49,000 men found guilty under the laws. He was chemically castrated and died by suicide two years later. Homosexual sex was outlawed in England and Wales until 1967.

MORE: The History Behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game

In 2013, Turing was pardoned by the Queen, but 15,000 of the men convicted are believed to still be alive. Cumberbatch—along with many others, some of whom were involved with the film—are demanding for their records to be wiped clean. “We call upon Her Majesty’s government to begin a discussion about the possibility of pardoning all the men, alive or deceased, who like Alan Turing were convicted,” the letter reads.

[The Guardian]

TIME Italy

Italy Has a New President

Sergio Mattarella attends a meeting in Rome
Sergio Mattarella attends a meeting in Rome, in this April 22, 2007 file picture. Italian lawmakers elected Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional court judge and veteran centre-left politician, as president. Remo Casilli—Reuters

The election of the former center-left minister is considered a win for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi

Italian lawmakers elected Sergio Mattarella, a Constitutional Court justice widely considered to be above the political fray, as the nation’s new president on the third day of voting Saturday.

Mattarella’s election as head of state was clinched when he amassed 505 votes — a simple majority. As the count continued, the 73-year-old former minister with center-left political roots went on to garner 665 votes from the 1,009 eligible electors.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pushed hard for Mattarella’s election, and some of Renzi’s rebellious Democrats had protested that the premier had imposed his choice on them. So Mattarella’s victory is also a win for Renzi in his bid to close fractious ranks, including former Communists, in the governing coalition’s main party.

Supporters of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right opposition forces had said they would cast blank ballots in protest. While acknowledging Mattarella’s credentials to be the guarantor the Constitution and arbiter in political crises were acceptable in principle, they resented how Renzi didn’t reach out to Berlusconi to achieve consensus on the candidate.

Mattarella raised largely ignored conflict-of-interest concerns when media mogul Silvio Berlusconi jumped into politics two decades ago, and a few years earlier resigned as education minister in one of Giulio Andreotti’s government because of legislation that helped Berlusconi transform several local TV channels into a business empire including Italy’s three main private TV networks.

Mattarella, a Sicilian, was first elected to Parliament in 1983. His Christian Democrat party was swept away by the Clean Hands corruption probes of the 1990s, but Mattarella was unscathed.

His older brother, Piersanti Mattarella, governor of Sicily, was killed in 1980 by the Mafia.

TIME Saudi Arabia

So This Saudi Prince Didn’t Actually Graduate From Lewis & Clark College

BAHRAIN-GCC-INTERIOR MINISTER
Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in the Bahraini capital Manama on April 23, 2013. Mohammed Al-Shaikh—AFP/Getty Images

The college corrected a statement by the Saudi Embassy

Saudi Arabia’s new deputy crown prince didn’t get a degree from Lewis & Clark College, the college said Friday, contradicting a statement last week by the Saudi Embassy.

The Saudi Embassy said this month that Prince Mohammed bin Nayef graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 1981, the Associated Press reports.

The college said in a statement that the prince completed coursework in the late 1970s but didn’t get a degree. The prince is “remembered fondly by our alumni, faculty, and staff,” the college said, adding it’s proud Nayef studied there.

The Saudi embassy said the error resulted from a mistranslation.

[AP]

TIME Israel

Israeli Critics Sees Netanyahu Putting His Personal Interests First in Addressing Congress

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks during a Likud party election campaign meeting in Tel Aviv on Jan. 25, 2015 ahead of the March 17 general elections.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks during a Likud party election campaign meeting in Tel Aviv on Jan. 25, 2015 ahead of the March 17 general elections. Menahem Kahana—AFP/Getty Images

Israeli PM's proposed trip to Washington has caused controversy in the U.S. and at home

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long found a large welcome mat at the doors of the U.S. Congress, particularly when it comes to his interest in talking about Iran and its nuclear program, When he gave a speech to Congress on the subject in 2011, he was given 29 standing ovations – four more, many noted, than President Barack Obama received in his State of the Union address that year.

The reaction in Israel to Netanyahu’s next visit has been quite different. The Prime Minister was invited by Republican Speaker John Boehner to speak before Congress on Mar. 3, two weeks before the Israeli premier is up for re-election. The focus of the address would be the Iranian nuclear issue, in particular, Netanyahu’s call to Congress to impose further sanctions on Iran. As the Obama administration is pursuing negotiations with Iran, Netanyahu’s intervention is seen as antagonistic.

Obama made clear this week that he would not be seeing Netanyahu during his visit to Washington, telling CNN’s Fareed Zakaria he would never meet with a visiting leader two weeks before their country goes to the polls because he considers it “inappropriate.”

Critics in Israel have attacked Netanyahu for putting his personal political interests above the interests of his country and for jeopardising the U.S.-Israel special relationship by getting involved in U.S. politics.

“Israel’s leaders have always cherished and protected its relations with the United States, understanding that they are of utmost importance for our country’s security,” says Stav Shaffir, a member of Israel’s parliament from the opposition Labor Party, which recent polls show having a slight lead over Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party. “The fact that Netanyahu is willing to jeopardize Israel’s strategic interests for petty electoral gains casts serious doubt on his judgment and suitability to lead the country.”

Amos Yadlin, the former military intelligence chief who has joined the opposition — now running as the “Zionist Camp” as a joint slate of Labor and Tzippi Livni’s Hatnua party — has accused Netanyahu of turning Israel’s relationship with the U.S. into one of allegiance with the Republicans. “When we manage our relationship with the U.S., we have to manage it simultaneously with the President and Congress. The Prime Minister has made it into a partisan issue in the U.S., and we cannot let Israel become a problem for one party or the other,” Yadlin told Ynet, the news website of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Haaretz, Israel’s broadsheet newspaper, carried a front-page article on Friday saying that as far as the Obama administration is concerned, Netanyahu is “toast.” In other words, even if he does win the Mar. 17 election, he can stop expecting automatic U.S. diplomatic support. Just a month ago, the U.S. used its power at the U.N. Security Council to block a vote for Palestinian state.

“You do not want to be ‘toast’ in the eyes of the American administration,” says Gadi Wolfsfeld, an expert in politics and communications who teaches at IDC Herzliya, a university in the Tel Aviv area. “America could turn away when the E.U. puts pressure on Israel. There’s lot of things Obama can do without directly confronting Netanyahu — there are subtle ways of punishing him and punishing Israel for this move, which are not going to be pleasant.”

According to reports, Netanyahu is working to convince Democrats of the importance of his speech, and they are trying to get him to reconsider. That might be wise, Wolfsfeld says.

“Some people have suggested that he should cancel. People would have to spend a few hours thinking of a creative way to do it, but that may be best, because I think both sides already realize that this was not their finest hour,” says Wolfsfeld. “Of course, when Netanyahu is standing there in front of Congress and receiving applause, it’s possible that he’ll once again be received as a powerful speaker and a great diplomat. But right now, considering the amount of backlash, if he had to do it over again, I’d be surprised if he’d do it at all.”

TIME Behind the Photos

The Story Behind the Photo of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh’s Dying Moments

Egyptian photographer Islam Osama captured the moment Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was killed during peaceful protests in Cairo on Jan. 24

In the week since her death, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh has become a symbol against Egypt’s military rule.

The leading member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party died on Jan. 24 after suffering shotgun pellet injuries while peacefully marching to commemorate the hundreds of demonstrators killed during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.

Egyptian photographer Islam Osama, 23, captured her dying moments. His powerful portrait of Sayyed Abu el-Ela holding the severely injured protestor has drawn international attention, taking on an iconic status similar to the footage of Neda Agha-Soltan’s dying breath during the 2009 Iranian protests.

Osama, a photojournalist with the Egyptian Youm El Sabea newspaper, was covering a press conference in Cairo when he heard about the Socialist Popular Alliance Party’s march, and headed over to cover it. “It was an ordinary day,” Osama told TIME. “We didn’t expect any clashes or violence from the police. The streets were almost empty.”

The march was on one side of a street leading to the iconic Tahrir Square, and the police stood on the other side. “[There were] only 25 people, and the demonstration only lasted two minutes,” Osama said. “Suddenly, without any warning, the dispersal began with the shooting of teargas and birdshot [pellets].”

Osama believes the police didn’t purposefully target Al-Sabbagh. “[They] fired in the general direction of the march.” The photographer, who was behind Al-Sabbagh when she was hit, saw her fall to the ground. He took six photos in a sequence.

At first, Osama didn’t realize he had captured such a powerful image. “The most important thing in that moment was Shaimaa herself,” he said. “I realized immediately that I had to leave. I had to send the photos to the newspaper, fast. If I waited a moment too long there was a chance that my camera could be taken and the memory card erased by the police.”

Using a USB data dongle and his laptop, he uploaded the photographs to his editor at Youm El Sabea. “From a human perspective, [my editor] had a strong emotional reaction to the image,” which has dominated the paper’s coverage since the incident.

Osama never expected to see his photograph make international headlines. “It was a big surprise,” he said. “I didn’t expect this kind of reaction. When I see this, of course I feel proud. But the most important thing is that I was able to bring Shaimaa’s message to the world… As a photographer, it’s my job to transmit this reality to the world.”

And, the current political situation in Egypt hasn’t made his job easy. “Photojournalists [here] are not safe. If you carry a camera in the street, you’re a target. People consider anyone with a camera [to be] with Al Jazeera, the Muslim Brotherhood, or a traitor to the nation.”

For Osama, his job is not to take sides, he said. “I’m not against the police. I’ve photographed policemen who [were] injured and killed, who [were] targeted by terrorism. My photos show reality.”

Interview by Jared Malsin in Cairo

TIME conflict

Kurds Repel Major ISIS Offensive in Northern Iraq

Members of the Kurdish security forces inspect the site of bomb attack in Kirkuk on Jan. 30, 2015.
Members of the Kurdish security forces inspect the site of bomb attack in Kirkuk on Jan. 30, 2015. Ako Rasheed—Reuters

At least 36 people were killed in a series of attacks

(KIRKUK, Iraq) — Clashes with Islamic State militants killed a senior Kurdish military commander and eight of his fighters just outside the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Friday, officials said.

Attacks elsewhere killed 27 people, with twin bombs hitting a crowded market in Baghdad and a suicide bomber targeting pro-government Shiite militiamen who were manning a checkpoint outside a city north of the Iraqi capital.

The casualties near the oil-rich Kirkuk were a heavy setback for the Iraqi Kurds, who have been at the forefront of the battle against the Islamic State group, which has captured a third of both Iraq and Syria in its blitz last year.

Also Friday, a car bomb exploded outside an empty, closed hotel near Kirkuk’s police headquarters, wounding two people. Both the Kurdish troops and the city’s security force have been trying to rout the IS group from Kirkuk, about 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad.

After the car bombing, three gunmen took positions inside the hotel, located in the city center, triggering a firefight with the Kurds and the police.

Associated Press footage from the scene showed members of the Kurdish troops and the local police firing at the Qassir Hotel in Kirkuk and then storming it. Officials later said the gunmen were all killed.

The Kurdish Brig. Gen. Shirko Fatih and eight Kurdish fighters died in clashes south of the city earlier in the day, after the IS militants attacked the peshmerga fighters’ positions, said Brig. Khatab Omar.

The U.N. assistance mission in Iraq said Friday it was evacuating its foreign staff from Kirkuk to Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, due to “a rapid deterioration in security in Kirkuk city.”

A UNAMI statement said the mission was also forced to halt its activities and bar employees from moving around freely within the Kurdish region, except for the cities if Irbil, Suleimaniya and Dahuk.

Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, who all have competing claims to the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq’s north, a proposition strongly opposed by Arabs and Turkmen.

After the IS group’s blitz last summer and the quick collapse of the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces took control of the city. Since then, Kirkuk has often come under Islamic State attacks, with the militants likely hoping to seize the oil fields near the city.

Iraq has been facing its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops, with Islamic State militants now in control of about a third of the country.

In the Baghdad market attack, a bomb first exploded near carts selling used clothes in the central Bab al-Sharqi area, followed by a second bomb as people rushed to help victims from the first blast. Police and hospital officials said 19 people were killed and 28 were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Also in Baghdad, mortar shells landed on a residential area in the Shula neighborhood, killing four people and wounding seven others, said police and hospital officials.

Police officials also that said a suicide bomber drove his-explosive-laden car into a security checkpoint manned by Shiite militiamen near the city of Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, killing four militiamen and wounding 10.

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