TIME Syria

Syrian Rebels, Government Clash in Golan Heights

Mideast Israel Palestinians
U.N. soldiers observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point near the border with Syria on Sept. 1, 2014 Sebastian Scheiner—AP

Syria's state news agency says the military killed "many terrorists"

(BEIRUT) — Syrian rebels clashed with government troops on Monday in the Golan Heights, where al-Qaida-linked insurgents abducted U.N. peacekeepers last week, activists said.

The fighting was focused around the town of Hamidiyeh in Quneitra province near the disputed frontier with Israel, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory said there were casualties on both sides but did not have exact figures.

Syria’s state news agency said the military killed “many terrorists” and destroyed a heavy machine gun in the fighting. The government refers to those trying to oust President Bashar Assad as terrorists.

Heavy clashes have raged in the area since Syrian rebels captured a border crossing near the abandoned town of Quneitra on Wednesday. One day later, fighters from al-Qaida’s Syria branch, the Nusra Front, abducted 45 Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded two Filipino contingents serving in the U.N. mission that monitors the buffer zone between Israel and Syria.

The Filipino troops escaped over the weekend, while the Fijians are still being held by the Nusra Front. The United Nations says that it is seeking the Fijians’ immediate and unconditional release. It says it has not established where the peacekeepers are being held.

Fiji’s military commander said Tuesday that the Nusra Front has issued three demands for the release of the Fijian peacekeepers.

Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the Nusra Front wants to be taken off the U.N. terrorist list, wants humanitarian aid delivered to parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, and wants compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with U.N. officers Tikoitoga said the U.N. has sent hostage negotiators to Syria.

The rebels’ targeting of the U.N. mission has touched off criticism among some nations contributing troops to the peacekeeping force about how the Golan Heights operation functions.

Ireland, which contributes a 130-member armored rapid response unit to the U.N. mission, warned Monday it would not replace its troops next month if U.N. leaders in New York do not agree on strengthening the force’s firepower, command and control, and rules of engagement.

“I’ve made it very clear that I’m not going to continue to commit Irish troops to this mission unless there’s a very fundamental review of how it’s going to operate. Clearly this is no longer a demilitarized zone,” Irish Defense Minister Simon Coveney told RTE state radio in Dublin.

“We need to get a significant reassurance from the U.N., and the Syrian side, that we can operate a mission safely. The risk levels, given what’s happened over the last three days, are not acceptable.”

He said Irish troops in armored vehicles exchanged fire with rebels Saturday as they rescued Filipino troops from one of the besieged border posts. The Indian-led, 1,250-member force includes soldiers from Fiji, India, Nepal, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

Coveney said the Irish unit remained on standby for a potential rescue of the seized Fijian troops. Ireland’s current military deployment has been in the Golan Heights since March and is supposed to be replaced by other Irish soldiers next month.

An Irish withdrawal could deal a final blow to the U.N. mission, which has already seen Austria and Croatia pull their forces last year over fears they would be targeted. The Philippines, meanwhile, has said it would bring home its peacekeepers after their tour of duty ends in October.

The group that abducted the peacekeepers, the Nusra Front, published a statement online on Sunday that included photos showing what it said were the captured Fijians, along with 45 identification cards. The group said the men were “in a safe place and in good health.”

The statement mentioned no demands or conditions for the peacekeepers’ release.

The Nusra Front accused the U.N. of doing nothing to help the Syrian people since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. It said the Fijians were seized in retaliation for the U.N.’s ignoring “the daily shedding of the Muslims’ blood in Syria” and even colluding with Assad’s army “to facilitate its movement to strike the vulnerable Muslims” through a buffer zone in the Golan Heights.

The group is one of the two most powerful extremist factions fighting in Syria’s civil war, which the U.N. says has killed more than 190,000 people. However, the Nusra Front has been eclipsed by the Islamic State group, which broke away from al-Qaida earlier this year and has since carved out a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

Human Rights Watch said Monday that it has credible evidence that the Islamic State group has used ground-fired cluster munitions in at least one place in northern Syria. These weapons explode in the air, releasing hundreds of tiny bomblets. Those that fail to explode pose a long-lasting danger to civilians.

The New York-based rights group said that reports from local Kurdish officials as well as photographs indicate the extremists fired cluster munitions on July 12 and Aug. 14 during clashes with Kurdish forces around Ayn Arab near the Turkish border. Five people were killed in the attacks, Human Rights Watch said.

It was no clear how Islamic State fighters had acquired the weapons, the group said.

The Syrian government has used at least 249 cluster munitions since mid-2012, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Any use of cluster munitions deserves condemnation, but the best response is for all nations to join the treaty banning them and work collectively to rid the world of these weapons,” said HRW’s Steve Goose.

TIME Iceland

Look at These Incredible Close-Ups of a Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Among the first scenes from Bardarbunga's latest activity

Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson has been photographing volcanoes in Iceland for four decades, so it makes sense that he’s keeping a close eye on the latest activity at Bardarbunga, which rests on the northwestern edge of the Vatnajokull ice cap.

Bardarbunga, which is classified by Iceland’s meteorological office as its second highest mountain, is topped with glacial ice. The current bout of seismic activity began on Aug. 16 after a gradual intensification over the past seven years, say officials.

While this volcano has not yet led to the same transportation mayhem that the Eyjafjallajokull eruption did in 2010, when more than 100,000 flights were canceled and Europe’s airspace was closed for six days over fears that billowing ash could harm aircraft engines, travel warnings have been elevated to “orange,” which means the volcano “shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.”

Sigurdsson, 56, of Arctic Images, is based near the Icelandic capital, Reykjavík. He and a friend traveled an hour and a half in a two-seater plane from Akureyri, in the north, to Bardarbunga and the nearby Holuhraun lava field. No one lives at this barren location, but heavy seismic activity to the north has led to closed roads and the evacuation of tourists.

“We flew as close as we possibly could — and legally permitted,” Sigurdsson tells TIME. Officials had briefly raised the warning to “red” after a fresh lava eruption, which barred their aircraft from descending lower than 6,000 ft.

Sigurdsson seated himself behind the pilot and opened a window to shoot. Heavy turbulence made for a rough session, though. “I was strapped down into my seat and was still thrown up to the ceiling,” he says. In terms of gear, Sigurdsson used a Canon 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm lens, as well as two Sony cameras with a 24-70mm lens.

“We would stay upwind at all times,” he says, adding that the plane could only spend just less than an hour at the site. “We did some circles around the volcano, and then we had to leave because the weather was getting so much worse.”

Sigurdsson knows the scenes look intense but relishes working in such extreme environments. “It looks like we are daredevils or Indiana Jones or something,” he says, “but we were playing it safe. We knew exactly what we were doing.” Still, with thousands of earthquakes over the past few weeks, there are concerns that a big one could open up another fissure, which could lead to a large eruption.

He plans to return under better weather conditions and hopes to make long exposures of lava spewing up against the blue sky.

TIME will be publishing more exclusive images from Sigurdsson as events progress.

TIME Military

The U.S. Should Not Wage War Against ISIS Like Afghanistan and Iraq

Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militias advance towards town of Amerli from their position in the Ajana
Some of the Iraqi security forces who helped free the town of Amerli over the weekend with help from U.S. air strikes Reuters

But those two campaigns offer clues on how it should be done

The U.S. waged two effective short-term wars following 9/11. Unfortunately, the nation then grafted them onto far more ambitious enterprises that not only drove their costs, in American blood and treasure, through the roof, but also sowed the seeds for failure.

That’s the key takeaway to keep in mind as President Obama weighs what to do about the rampage now being conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in both of those nations.

Over the Labor Day weekend, U.S. airpower, combined with Iraqi help on the ground, broke a two-month ISIS siege of the village of Amerli in northern Iraq. The militants had been tightening a noose around the farming town, cutting off water, food and power, and residents had begun dying. Finally, beginning late Saturday, a handful of U.S. air strikes let Iraqi forces and militias break the siege.

While President Obama said the strikes would be “limited in their scope and duration,” their success offers a template, in miniature, for a broader U.S.-led campaign against the Islamist militant group.

It would mark a departure from recent U.S.-led wars. “No one is advocating unilateral invasion, occupation or nation-building,” Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wrote in a weekend op-ed column in the New York Times, urging stepped-up U.S. military action against ISIS. “This should be more like Afghanistan in 2001, where limited numbers of advisers helped local forces, with airstrikes and military aid, to rout an extremist army.”

In Afghanistan, the U.S. waged a monthlong campaign that drove the Taliban from Kabul. It relied on U.S. airpower and special operators on the ground, working with local anti-Taliban forces. Then, the U.S. launched a 13-year effort, still under way, to build an Afghan government immune to the Taliban.

Many Taliban fled to Pakistan, where they continue to plot to retake power in Afghanistan once U.S. combat units pull out at the end of 2014. There’s an echo of that Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan in ISIS’s presence in Syria. Any beefed-up campaign against ISIS militants is going to have to attack their targets in both nations.

In Iraq, the U.S. military pushed Saddam Hussein from Baghdad less than three weeks after invading the country. But the U.S. soon became mired in an eight-year nation-building effort that failed to build a nation. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S., despite its best intentions, helped install leaders who have done little to lead their countries to a better place.

And that exposes the futility of the so-called Pottery Barn rule. Retired Army general and then Secretary of State Colin Powell summed it up by saying the U.S. had responsibility for the nations it invaded: “If you break it, you own it.”

But war isn’t always about creating something better. Sometimes it’s simply about ridding the world of terrorists whose zealotry compels them to kill innocents.

For a warrior-diplomat renowned for his earlier guidelines on going to war — the so-called Powell doctrine required a clear and obtainable objective before the first bombs fell — the Pottery Barn rule proved daunting.

Actually, Pottery Barn doesn’t have such a rule. If a customer stumbles into a vase and sends it crashing to the floor, the company writes it off as a cost of doing business. It’s past time for the U.S. government to scrap its misinterpretation of the so-called rule.

War isn’t a positive experience for anyone, and all involved are ill served by pretending otherwise.

If the U.S. deems ISIS to be a threat to U.S. national security, the U.S. military, backed by presidential order and a congressional declaration, should wage unrelenting attacks against it. Instead of embracing Powell’s view, the nation would be better served thinking of war as 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes viewed human life without government: “nasty, brutish and short.”

TIME Science

Russia’s Zero-G Sex Geckos Died Before Returning to Earth

Gecko
Getty Images

Russia's attempt to find out how organisms reproduce in space did not end with a bang

Russia’s troubled experiment to study how geckos, fruit flies and other organisms reproduce in weightlessness ended with a huge downer: When the Foton M-4 satellite containing the creatures returned to Earth on Monday and the hatch was opened, researchers found that all five geckos had died.

“We can’t say yet at which stage of Foton’s space flight it happened,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source at the Russian Academy of Sciences as saying. Interfax quoted an unnamed source as saying the geckos were mummified and may have frozen to death.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Germany

Bavarian Bakers Threaten Oktoberfest With Pretzel Strike

Sale of Oktoberfest Pretzels
A pretzel seller in a beer tent at the Oktoberfest in Munich on Sept. 26, 2012 Peter Kneffel—dpa/Corbis

Munich gastronomy union may strike over wages before famous beer festival

Beer tents at the world-famous Munich Oktoberfest may face a pretzel shortage this year after local bakers threatened to go on strike. Munich’s NGG gastronomy union, which represents nearly 50,000 members of the Bavarian bakers’ guild, is demanding a 6.5% wage increase.

Talks stalled in the past week and the union threatened to strike during the world’s biggest beer festival, which is due to start on Sept. 20. “The offer from the employers is far too low and therefore we have to put more pressure behind our demands,” Walter Linner from the NGG union told NBC News.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME U.K.

Britain Gives Police Powers to Seize Passports of Suspected Jihadists

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a range of sweeping antiterrorism measures on Monday

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British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a range of new antiterrorism measures Monday to tackle the threat of “homegrown” jihadists in the U.K., just days after the country raised its terrorism-threat level from “substantial” to “severe.”

The U.K. police are to be granted sweeping new powers to seize the passports of suspected jihadists planning on traveling to Iraq or Syria to fight alongside militant groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), or returning to the country afterward.

Cameron will also permit law-enforcement authorities to issue temporary travel bans on citizens whose names are “flagged” by intelligence, in the hopes of tackling the flow of British-born extremists traveling to and from the U.K. Airlines will be required to hand over information about passengers traveling to and from conflict zones.

“We need stronger powers to manage the risk posed by suspected extremists already here in the United Kingdom,” he said.

The British government has acknowledged that there is no intelligence to suggest an imminent threat, but the ongoing conflict in northern Iraq and Syria has prompted concerns about the involvement of British nationals, who reportedly number over 500 of those fighting on behalf of ISIS. The American journalist James Foley was killed on camera by an ISIS fighter who appeared to have a British accent.

In a statement in the House of Commons, Cameron announced that the new discretionary powers given to the police would not only help to stem the influx of extremists back into the U.K., but also strengthen their capacity to monitor suspects in the U.K. “Dealing with this terrorist threat is not just about new powers, it is about how we combat extremism in all its forms,” he said.

Cameron’s assessment of the problem as “a greater threat to our security than we have seen before” has placed renewed pressure on President Obama to provide a more coherent U.S. response to the growing crisis in the Middle East. However, U.S. officials said Friday that there was no specific threat against the U.S. and there were no plans to raise the terrorism-threat level, underlining recent efforts designed to improve U.S. national security.

TIME

Aid Flows Into Iraq Shi‘ite Town After Siege Broken

Outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, center, is surrounded by residents and security forces after his arrival in Amirli, some 105 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 1, 2014.
Outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, center, is surrounded by residents and security forces after his arrival in Amirli, some 105 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 1, 2014. AP

After Siege, Aid Comes To Iraqi Town

(BAGHDAD) — Iraq’s outgoing prime minister travelled to a small northern Shiite town Monday, praising its residents for fending off attacks by Sunni militants who had besieged them for more than two months until security forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias and U.S. airstrikes broke the siege a day earlier.

Jubilant security forces, Shiite fighters and residents of Amirli greeted Nouri al-Maliki with hugs and Shiite slogans when he arrived in the town, where some 15,000 Shiite Turkmens had been stranded.

In footage aired on state TV, al-Maliki was shown sitting at a wooden desk in front of a large poster of Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistsani, ordering promotions and awards for forces who took part in ending the siege.

“I salute you for your steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers,” he told a gathering of fighters in the large hall, as they chanted Shiite religious slogans.

Hours before the visit, aid began to flow to the town.

Ali al-Bayati, who heads local NGO the Turkmen Saving Foundation, said that four trucks loaded with foodstuffs, medicine and fruit had entered the town. The aid was sent by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Red Crescent, he said, adding that soldiers had begun bringing food to families in their houses Sunday night.

“The situation is getting back to normal, but gradually,” al-Bayati told The Associated Press. “Some people have come out from their houses and walk in the street. Shops are still closed, but people are happy to see their city secured by Iraqi security forces,” he added.

Since early this year, Iraq has faced a growing Sunni insurgency led by an al-Qaida-breakaway group, the Islamic State, and allied militants have taken over territory in the country’s north and west. The crisis is Iraq’s worst since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

A summer offensive stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away and withdrew as the Islamic State in June overran the northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit, as well as small towns and villages on their path.

Since then, Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias have been fighting the militants without achieving significant progress on the ground.

Thousands of fighters from Iranian-backed Shiite militias have answered a call by al-Sistani to join government forces in the fight against the Sunni insurgents.

The U.S. airstrikes that helped liberate Amirli were the first to hit areas where the Iranian-backed militias fought Sunni militants, possibly outlining an unlikely alliance between the U.S. and Shiite militiamen who once fought American soldiers in Iraq.

The strikes supported forces backed by Iran, whose Revolutionary Guard military advisers have been guiding Shiite militiamen in artillery attacks on Sunni positions.

Shiite Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi told the AP that the U.S. airstrikes and Iranian support to Iraqi forces “have played a positive role in defeating the terrorists,” although he said the U.S. strikes “came late” in the battle.

Since Aug. 8, the U.S. has carried out at least 120 airstrikes with aircraft and unmanned drones. It has focused on areas bordering the self-ruled northern Kurdish region where Kurdish forces have been fighting the militants.

Also Monday, the United Nations said that at least 1,420 Iraqis were reported killed in violence in August, down from the previous month.

The U.N. mission to Iraq, known as UNAMI, said in its monthly statement that the death toll includes 1,265 civilians and 155 members of Iraq’s security forces. It added that 1,370 were wounded, including 1,198 civilians.

July’s death toll stood at 1,737 people. In June, 2,400 were killed as Sunni militants swept across the country, the highest figure since at least April 2005.

The statement said the figures are the “absolute minimum” number of casualties and they do not include deaths in the western Anbar province or other parts of northern Iraq that have been held by militants for months. It added: “The actual figures could be significantly higher.”

 

TIME North Korea

Americans Detained in North Korea Call for U.S. Help

Kenneth Bae, Jeffrey Fowle and Mathew Miller call for a U.S. representative to come to North Korea to make a direct appeal

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(PYONGYANG, North Korea) North Korea gave foreign media access on Monday to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and — watched by officials as they spoke — called for Washington to send a high-ranking representative to negotiate for their freedom.

Jeffrey Fowle and Mathew Miller said they expect to face trial within a month. But they said they do not know what punishment they could face or what the specific charges against them are. Kenneth Bae, who already is serving a 15-year term, said his health has deteriorated at the labor camp where he works eight hours a day.

The three were allowed to speak briefly with The Associated Press at a meeting center in Pyongyang. North Korean officials were present during the interviews, conducted separately and in different rooms, but did not censor the questions that were asked. The three said they did not know they were going to be interviewed until immediately beforehand.

All said they believe the only solution to their situation is for a U.S. representative to come to North Korea to make a direct appeal.

That has often been North Korea’s bargaining chip in the past, when senior statesmen including former President Bill Clinton made trips to Pyongyang to secure the release of detainees.

North Korea says Fowle and Miller committed hostile acts which violated their status as tourists. It has announced that authorities are preparing for the trial, but has not announced the date.

Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29. He is suspected of leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin. Christian proselytizing is considered a crime in North Korea. Fowle, 56, lives in Miamisburg, Ohio, where he works in a city streets department. He has a wife and three children aged 9, 10, and 12.

“Within a month I could be sharing a jail cell with Ken Bae,” he said, adding that he hasn’t spoken with his family for three weeks. “I’m desperate to get back to them.”

North Korea says Miller, 24, entered the country on April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. Miller refused to comment on whether he was seeking asylum.

Bae, a 46-year-old Korean-American missionary, has been held since November 2012. He was moved from a work camp to a hospital because of failing health and weight loss but last month was sent back to the work camp outside of Pyongyang, where he said he does farm-related labor. He said he has lost 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) and has severe back pain, along with a sleep disorder. His family has said his health problems include diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain.

“The only hope that I have is to have someone from the U.S. come,” he said. “But so far, the latest I’ve heard is that there has been no response yet. So I believe that officials here are waiting for that.”

Bae said he did not realize before the trial that he was violating North Korean law, but refused to go into details.

He said the lead up to his trial lasted about four months, but the trial itself only took about an hour. He said he elected not to have a defense attorney because “at that point there was no sense of me to get a lawyer because the only chance I had was to ask for mercy.”

“It was very quick,” he said.

The U.S. has repeatedly offered to send its envoy for North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, to Pyongyang to seek a pardon for Bae and other U.S. detainees, but without success. Washington has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and no embassy in Pyongyang. Instead, the Swedish Embassy takes responsibility for U.S. consular affairs.

Fowle and Miller said they have met with the Swedish ambassador and have been allowed to make phone calls to their relatives.

Though a small number of U.S. citizens visit North Korea each year as tourists, the State Department strongly advises against it. After Miller’s detention, Washington updated its travel warning to note that over the past 18 months, “North Korea detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours.”

North Korea has been strongly pushing tourism lately in an effort to bring in foreign cash. But despite its efforts it remains highly sensitive to any actions it considers political and is particularly wary of anything it deems to be Christian proselytizing.

In March, North Korea deported an Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity after he apologized and requested forgiveness.

TIME Ukraine

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Says It’s Time to Arm Ukraine

Robert Menendez
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., questions State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2014. Susan Walsh — AP

“We have to give the Ukrainians the fighting chance to defend themselves” says Sen. Robert Menendez

The Senate’s top foreign policy official was unequivocal on Sunday: Ukraine needs weapons from the West to defend itself against Russian aggression.

During an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Robert Menendez said Kiev needed both sophisticated weapons and stronger sanctions to help repulse Moscow’s incursions.

“We should be providing the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin for further aggression,” Menendez told CNN from Kiev, where he is on a fact-finding mission. “We have to give the Ukrainians the fighting chance to defend themselves.”

Menendez went on to describe the Kremlin’s incursions in Ukraine as a “direct invasion.”

The Democrat from New Jersey stopped short of suggesting that American or NATO troops should be deployed in Ukraine.

The senator’s words come as President Barack Obama prepares to visit Estonia next week, before heading to the U.K. for a NATO summit, where the alliance’s representatives will discuss the increasingly violent conflict in Ukraine.

The Obama administration continues to advocate for the isolation of Russia through targeted economic sanctions, while providing the embattled government in Kiev with non-lethal aid.

On Aug. 6, Obama said that if Russia were to launch an invasion of Ukraine, the White House’s calculus might change.

“Now if you start seeing an invasion by Russia, that’s obviously a different set of questions. We’re not there yet,” Obama told reporters at the time.

However, last week NATO published satellite images that appeared to show Russian armored columns fighting in Ukrainian territory in a bid to prop up the pro-Moscow insurgency that has been taking place since April.

In the face of mounting evidence, more politicians are advocating that the U.S. take firmer action against the Kremlin.

“I think it is appropriate to up that level of aid, to make them a more capable fighting force to resist this incursion and to make it as painful as possible for Putin to make any progress in the Ukraine,” Congressman Adam Smith, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistani Protesters Storm State TV Station as Fresh Clashes Erupt

PAKISTAN-UNREST-POLITICS
Pakistani supporters of politician-cleric Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri and cricket turned politician Imran Khan shout antigovernment slogans after storming the headquarters of the state-owned Pakistani Television in Islamabad on Sept. 1, 2014 Aamir Qureshi—AFP/Getty Images

The attack comes just hours after the military calls for a peaceful solution to the political stalemate

Protesters stormed the headquarters of Pakistani Television (PTV) in Islamabad on Monday, taking it off air and beating up the station’s journalists, according to Reuters. The attack follows a bloody weekend in the Pakistani capital.

“They have stormed the PTV office,” an anchor said just before the transmission abruptly ended, Reuters reported. “PTV staff performing their journalistic duties are being beaten up.”

Paramilitary forces and soldiers later secured the station, which resumed broadcasting. Protesters left peacefully.

The storming of PTV came as fresh clashes erupted between stick-wielding protesters and police on Monday morning, just hours after the nation’s powerful military called for a peaceful solution to the political stalemate, according to Agence France-Presse.

Demonstrations against the government have been led for weeks by cricket icon turned opposition politician Imran Khan and outspoken politician-cleric Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, in a bid to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power.

Khan insists that Sharif’s government finagled its way into office through rigged elections last year, and insists that the Prime Minister must resign, and fresh elections set, before the protests end.

The demonstrations that commenced in normally sleepy Islamabad on Aug. 15 have increasingly turned violent.

At least three people were reportedly killed over the weekend as protesters attempted to move deeper into the so-called red zone, where Parliament and executive offices, along with the Prime Minister’s residence and several embassies, are located.

On Monday, Khan urged his supporters to refrain from further violence in the wake of the recent bloodshed, according to Reuters.

“I call upon my workers to remain peaceful,” said Khan, addressing crowds from the top of a shipping container serving as a makeshift stage. “Do not carry out any acts of violence. God has given us victory.”

Domestic news outlet Dawn reports that the embattled Prime Minister and Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif are meeting in Islamabad to discuss the crisis.

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