TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Holds Mass Funeral for Shi‘ites Killed in Bus Attack

People light candles to protest and show solidarity with the victims of a bus attack in Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015
Shakil Adil—AP People light candles to protest and show solidarity with the victims of a bus attack in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 13, 2015

Pakistan is observing a day of national mourning while hundreds of Pakistanis pay their respects at a mass funeral for 45 Shi‘ites killed

(KARACHI) — Amid tight security, hundreds of Pakistanis paid their respects at a mass funeral on Thursday for 45 minority Shi‘ites killed in a militant attack on a bus the previous day in the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistan was observing a day of national mourning and state-run television was broadcasting live footage, showing mourners attending the last rituals for the victims of Wednesday’s assault.

The callous attack, in which gunmen stormed the bus with members of the Ismaili Shi‘ite branch, then ordered them to bow their heads and shot them dead, shocked many in Pakistan and prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to rush to Karachi hours after the attack and order an investigation.

It was unclear who was behind the assault. Both a Pakistani Taliban splinter group and an Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for it. Pakistani Sunni militant groups view Shi‘ites as apostates and have targeted them in the past.

According to a statement from the prime minister’s office, Sharif appealed on all Pakistanis to “join hands against these barbaric terrorists.” He said the whole nation “stands united to eliminate these enemies of Pakistan and enemies of humanity.”

Activists from the Ismaili community demanded Thursday that those involved in the attack be quickly apprehended and executed.

“Catch them. Execute (them) the next day,” said Piyar Ali, one of the activists at the mass funeral. He asked the government to “wipe-out” militants to ensure that no such attack takes place in the future.

Police say at least six gunmen were involved in the attack — the deadliest in Pakistan since December, when Taliban militants killed 150 people, mostly young students, at an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

The Pakistani Taliban have been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow the government and impose a harsh version of Islamic law, killing tens of thousands of people. They often target Shi‘ites, but attacks on Ismaili community are rare.

TIME Afghanistan

14 Killed in Afghanistan as Taliban Attacks Kabul Hotel

Afghan policeman stands guard at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan
Mohammad Ismail—Reuters An Afghan policeman stands guard at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan May 13, 2015.

At least two Indian nationals and an American were among the victims

Fourteen people, including 9 foreigners, were killed in an attack in Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul on Wednesday night after at least one gunman opened fire on a guesthouse, a government official said.

Fifty-four other hostages were rescued in the attack that only ended in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Associated Press reported. The assault began at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, when a gunman or gunmen opened fire at the restaurant of the Park Palace Hotel, according to Kabul’s chief of police General Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

U.S. embassy spokesperson Monica Cummings told the AP in an email that a still unidentified U.S. citizen had been killed.

At least two of the other victims were Indian, and three other Indians were rescued and were being sheltered at the Indian embassy, a diplomat told Reuters.

The Taliban claimed responsibility on Thursday, with the militant group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claiming in an email to media that they had targeted the hotel because of the presence of Americans and other foreigners there.

A majority of the guests were at the hotel, located in the same neighborhood as a U.N. compound and the Indian embassy, for a party honoring a Canadian citizen, American attendee Amin Habib told the AP.

A Canadian spokesperson said all its embassy staff were “safe and accounted for.”

Mujahid said in the email that there was only one attacker wearing a suicide vest and armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and a pistol, contrary to the three attackers cited by the Afghan security authorities.

The attack bears similarities to two others carried out by the Taliban in Kabul in 2014, at a hotel and a Lebanese restaurant respectively, and is one of the most blatant assaults since the extremist group announced its spring offensive this year.

TIME Burundi

Protests in Burundi Precede Celebrations After Coup Attempt

A general claimed on Wednesday to have deposed President Pierre Nkurunziza

Protesters clashed with police in the capital of Bujumbura on May 13 amid continued unrest that began April 26 over the nomination of President Pierre Nkurunziza for an unconstitutional third term. The Associated Press reports that violence subsided after a general claimed to have deposed Nkurunziza, who was in neighboring Tanzania at a summit, but uncertainty remained into Thursday as to who exactly was in charge.

Read next: Burundi Leadership Uncertain After Coup Attempt

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Turns Away Boat With More Than 500 Migrants

Three days after more than a thousand refugees landed in nearby Langkawi island

(LANGKAWI, Malaysia) — Malaysia has turned away a boat with more than 500 Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis after providing them with fuel and provisions, a government official said Thursday.

The boat was found Wednesday off the coast of northern Penang state, just three days after more than a thousand refugees landed in nearby Langkawi island.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar said Malaysia cannot afford to have immigrants flooding its shores.

“What do you expect us to do? We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely but they cannot be flooding our shores like this,” he told the Associated Press.

“We have to send the right message that they are not welcome here,” he said.

Thousands of migrants are still believed stranded in the Malacca Strait and surrounding waters, after captains tied to trafficking networks abandoned ships, leaving behind their human cargo.

Indonesia, which has taken 600, also turned a boat away earlier this week. But a foreign ministry spokesman denied Wednesday it had a “push back” policy, saying the Malaysian-bound vessel strayed into its waters by accident.

Wan Junaidi said Southeast Asian governments must do more to press Myanmar to address the Rohingya crisis.

“You talk about democracy but don’t treat your citizens like trash, like criminals until they need to run away to our country,” he said.

Malaysia, which is not a signatory of international conventions on refugees, is host to more than 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority who are from Myanmar. More than 45,000 of them are Rohingyas, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Southeast Asia, which for years tried to quietly ignore the plight of Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya, now finds itself caught in a spiraling humanitarian crisis that in many ways it helped create.

In the last three years, more than 100,000 members of the Muslim minority have boarded ships, fleeing persecution, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

But no countries want them, fearing that accepting a few would result in an unstoppable flow of poor, uneducated migrants. But governments at the same time respected the wishes of Myanmar at regional gatherings, avoiding discussions of state-sponsored discrimination against the Rohingya.

Denied citizenship by national law, the Muslims are effectively stateless. They have for years faced attacks by the military and extremist Buddhist mobs. They have limited access to education or adequate health care and cannot move around freely.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have worsened the Rohingya crisis “with cold-hearted policies to push back this new wave of boat people that puts thousands of lives at risk.”

“The Thai, Malaysia and Indonesian navies should stop playing a three-way game of human ping pong, and instead should work together to rescue all those on these ill-fated boats,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Increasingly over the years, Rohingya boarding boats in the Bay of Bengal have been joined by neighboring Bangladeshi, most of them seeking an escape from poverty.

For those fleeing, the first stop, until recently, was Thailand, where migrants were held in jungle camps until their families could raise hefty ransoms so they could continue onward. Recent security crackdowns forced the smugglers to change tactics, instead holding people on large ships parked offshore.

Initially they were shuttled to shore in groups on smaller boats after their “ransoms” were paid. But as agents and brokers on land got spooked by arrests — not just of traffickers but also police and politicians — they went into hiding.

That created a bottleneck, with migrants stuck on boats for weeks, even months.

Chris Lewa of the non-profit Arakan Project estimates as many as 6,000 may still be on boats, waiting to find a chance to land or hoping to be rescued. Several international agencies consider her figures to be the most reliable.

In recent days, captains have started abandoning their ships, leaving passengers to fend for themselves, survivors say.

The United Nations has pleaded for countries in the region to keep their arms open and help rescue those stranded. Several navies said they were scouring the seas.

Wan Junaidi said the home ministry will soon call for a meeting with diplomats from Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well as from developed countries, including the United States and the European Union to urge them to take in U.N. refugees in Malaysia waiting to resettle to third countries.

“We want to tell the source countries that they must tell their people back home that Malaysia cannot welcome them,” he said.

“We also want to tell other countries not to blame Malaysia while they just talk to the gallery. Open your doors and take these refugees in. Don’t be selective,” he said.


Associated Press writers Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Thanyarat Doksone om Bangkok, Thailand, contributed to this report.

TIME Burundi

Burundi Leadership Uncertain After Coup Attempt

The attempted coup took place while President Pierre Nkurunziza was away

(BUJUMBURA, Burundi) — Burundi’s capital was quiet Wednesday night but it was not clear who was in charge after a tumultuous day in which thousands of people celebrated an attempted coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza.

The military is divided between those supporting Nkurunziza and those backing the coup, said a senior military official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. The two sides of the military were holding negotiations Wednesday night to determine the way forward, he said.

The attempted coup took place while Nkurunziza was in neighboring Tanzania for a summit on his country’s troubles. An army general announced on a private radio station that the president had been relieved of his duties.

Police withdrew from the streets of Bujumbura, the capital, after the general’s coup statement and thousands of people celebrated the apparent coup. People thronged Bujumbura’s streets and applauded soldiers who rode by in tanks and trucks. Some of the troops smiled and one raised his rifle to acknowledge the cheering crowd.

But some officials remained loyal to Nkurunziza. His office said in the evening that the coup attempt was unsuccessful, posting a statement on the president’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“A group of soldiers mutinied this morning and made a fantasy declaration of a coup d’etat,” said the statement. “This attempted coup was foiled and these people … are sought by defense and security forces so they are brought to justice.”

It was not clear where Nkurunziza was on Wednesday night. After leaving the Tanzanian summit, Nkurunziza did not return to Bujumbura and landed at Uganda’s Entebbe airport, said a top Ugandan official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. He could not say if Nkurunziza stayed in Uganda or if he returned to Tanzania.

Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term as president sparked street protests in the capital in which 15 people have been killed.

During almost three weeks of unrest, the military acted as a buffer between police and protesters who oppose Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, saying it violates the Constitution and Arusha peace accords that ended a civil war here.

The demonstrators rejoiced after the announcement of the coup Wednesday by Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare broadcast by Bonesha FM radio.

“Given the necessity to preserve the country’s integrity … President Pierre Nkurunziza is dismissed from his functions,” Niyombare said. He announced the creation of a temporary ruling committee to re-establish stability which he will head.

Soon after, the police melted away and people thronged the streets in celebration.

In February, Nkurunziza fired Niyombare as the director of the national intelligence service, replacing him days later with Brig. Etienne Ntakirutimana.

Earlier Wednesday police fired tear gas and water cannons to repulse protesters trying to enter Bujumbura’s central business district. A group of women protesters managed to infiltrate the police cordon and entered the central business district. An Associated Press journalist was present when a police officer fired around five single shots at the protesters in Bujumbura. Whether there were casualties was unclear.

The White House on Wednesday called on all sides in Burundi to end the violence and expressed full support for the ongoing work by regional leaders to restore peace and unity in the country.

The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, had also traveled to Dar es Salaam to contribute to the emergency meeting, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.

In addition to the 15 fatalities, more than 220 have been injured in the protests, according to Burundi’s Red Cross. More than 50,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries fearing violence ahead of the elections, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The protests started on April 26, a day after the ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to run for re-election.

Burundi’s Constitution states a president can be popularly elected to two five-year terms. Nkurunziza maintains he can run for a third term because parliament elected him for his first one, leaving him open to be popularly elected to two terms.

TIME olympics

U.S. Relay Team Stripped of Olympic Medal in Tyson Gay Doping Case

In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, USA's Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey celebrate after receiving their silver medals for the men's 4x100-meter during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London.
Matt Slocum—AP In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, USA's Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey celebrate after receiving their silver medals for the men's 4x100-meter during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London.

Entire men's sprint relay team stripped of silver medal from London 2012

(LONDON) — The entire U.S. men’s sprint relay team was stripped of its silver medal from the 2012 London Olympics on Wednesday as a result of Tyson Gay’s doping case.

The International Olympic Committee notified the U.S. Olympic Committee by letter that the 4×100 relay team has been disqualified and all the medals withdrawn. The letter asks the USOC to collect the medals and return them to the IOC.

“As expected, following USADA’s decision in the Tyson Gay case, the IOC today confirmed that the U.S. team has been disqualified from the 4×100-meter race that was part of the athletics competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement.

“We will begin efforts to have the medals returned, and support all measures to protect clean athletes.”

The USOC statement came after The Associated Press broke the news of the disqualification.

Gay returned his own medal last year after accepting a one-year doping suspension and the loss of results going back to July 2012, but the status of the U.S. second-place finish in London and the medals of Gay’s relay teammates had remained in limbo until now.

Under international rules, an entire team can be disqualified and stripped of medals because of doping by one member.

Gay was a member of the American team that finished second in London behind a Jamaican team anchored by Usain Bolt. The Americans set a national record in the final with a time of 37.04 seconds.

The other U.S. team members losing medals are Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Ryan Bailey, Jeffery Demps and Darvis Patton. Kimmons, Gatlin and Bailey ran in the final with Gay.

Gatlin, who is in Qatar for the opening Diamond League meet of the season on Friday, told the AP he was not aware of the decision and had no comment. Gatlin, who won the 100-meter gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games, served a four-year doping ban from 2006.

Gay tested positive for steroids at the U.S. championships in 2013. He received a reduced suspension — rather than a two-year ban — because he cooperated with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation that led to an eight-year ban for his former coach, Jon Drummond.

Gay’s results were annulled going back to July 15, 2012, the date when he first used a product containing a banned substance.

If the London medals are reallocated, the silver will go to Trinidad and Tobago, which finished third in 38.12 seconds. The bronze would go to the French team which placed fourth in 38.16 seconds.

The rules of track and field’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, mandated that the entire U.S. team be disqualified, but the final decision was up to the IOC.

Drummond was the coach of the U.S. relay team in London and placed Gay on the team. According to the USADA decision in Drummond’s case, the athlete took a banned substance in July 2012 with the coach’s knowledge.

The IOC has previously stripped U.S. relay teams of medals retroactively for doping, including three teams from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The U.S. was stripped of gold in the women’s 4×400 and bronze in the 4×100 following Marion Jones’ admission of doping. Jones returned her medals, but her teammates appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to keep theirs and won their case in 2010. The court said IAAF rules at the time did not allow entire teams to be disqualified because of doping by one athlete.

The IOC also stripped the U.S. men’s 4×400 relay of their Sydney gold after a doping admission by Antonio Pettigrew.

In 2012, American runner Crystal Cox was stripped of her gold medal from the 4×400 relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics after admitting to doping. The IOC did not disqualify the rest of the team because it was unclear which rules were in effect at the time.


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray in Doha, Qatar, contributed to this report.

TIME United Kingdom

Newly Released Letters Reveal Prince Charles’ Passions

The Prince Of Wales Undertakes A Prince's Trust Awayday
Alastair Grant—WPA Pool/Getty Images Prince Charles, Prince Of Wales attends a Prince's Trust 'Make your Mark' visit to retailer Marks and Spencer, May 13, 2015 in London, England.

He writes about climate change, fishing, the military and more

(LONDON) — Britain’s government on Wednesday published a series of letters between Prince Charles and senior officials, written about a decade ago, that have been kept private until now.

The correspondence provides a glimpse of Charles’ writing style, as well as his efforts to influence officials on topics from badgers and albatrosses to climate change.

Here are some excerpts:


Charles mostly stayed away from hard politics, but did on one occasion raise his concerns about cuts to the defense budget.

Writing about the delayed replacement of military aircraft, he said: “I fear that this is just one more example of where our Armed Forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources.”

— To Tony Blair, Sept. 8, 2004


“Every support must be given to beef farmers so that they can seize the new opportunities and cope with the reduction in support — in other words they must be encouraged to co-operate and learn about marketing. … I wondered if it would be possible for the government to channel funds specifically to help the beef sector …?”

“So much depends on the consumer demanding British produce and I only wish that more could be done to encourage people to buy British … it would be splendid if the Government could find innovative ways to give the necessary lead.”

— To Tony Blair, Sept. 8, 2004


“I do urge you to look again at introducing a proper cull of badgers where it is necessary. I, for one, cannot understand how the ‘badger lobby’ seem to mind not at all about the slaughter of thousands of expensive cattle, and yet object to a managed cull of an over-population of badgers — to me, this is intellectually dishonest.”

— To Tony Blair, Feb. 24, 2005


“I particularly hope that the illegal fishing of the Patagonian Toothfish will be high on your list of priorities because until that trade is stopped, there is little hope for the poor old albatross, for which I will continue to campaign.”

The decline of the albatross is thought to be linked to unregulated fishing.

Charles also raised the question of whether the Royal Navy could play a role in tackling illegal fishing.

“I am probably being very ignorant about all this, so please forgive me, but is the Royal Navy, for instance, included in the discussions on this issue? I daresay you will tell me there are all sorts of legal problems that prevent any worthwhile action…!”

— To the Fisheries Minister, Oct. 21, 2004


“Do rest assured that you have a great deal of support and all I would say is that you may find it worthwhile to explore not just what industry can do to cut emissions, but also the wider community. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference and would engage the public in the whole subject in a way that simply focusing on industry’s role will not.”

— To Tony Blair, Feb. 24, 2005


Charles, long known as a champion of alternative medicine, complained about a European Union directive on herbal medicines.

He wrote that the directive “is having such a deleterious effect in this country by effectively outlawing the use of certain herbal extracts.”

“I think we both agreed this was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

— To Tony Blair, Feb. 24, 2005

TIME Colombia

Experts Fear Surge in Cocaine Supply to U.S. as Colombia Mulls Ending Coca Eradication

A soldier provides security to peasants eradicating coca plantations in the mountains northeast of Medellin, Colombia in 2014. Uprooting coca plants is an alternative to aerial eradication.
Raul Arboleda—AFP/Getty Images A soldier provides security to peasants eradicating coca plantations in the mountains northeast of Medellin, Colombia in 2014. Uprooting coca plants is an alternative to aerial eradication.

American officials are trying to persuade Colombia to continue spraying coca crops with herbicide despite fears that it damages human health

To destroy the raw material for cocaine, Colombian police crop dusters have sprayed herbicide on more than 4 million acres of the country’s coca fields over the last two decades. But the controversial U.S.-backed program could soon be grounded in the wake of a new World Health Organization finding that glyphosate, the active ingredient in that herbicide, may cause cancer.

Citing the WHO report, President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday urged the country’s National Narcotics Council, which is made up of government ministers, to phase out aerial spraying within a few months, a decision that the council could make as soon as Thursday. “The risk does exist,” Santos said. “We need a system that is more efficient and less damaging.”

But amid signs that cocaine production is once again surging in Colombia, a top U.S. counterdrug official staunchly defended aerial eradication. He also dismissed the WHO report on glyphosate — the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up herbicide used by agro-industry around the world — as bad science.

“Glyphosate is today perhaps the world’s most commonly used herbicide,” William R. Brownfield, who heads the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told TIME. “There is not one single verified case… of cancer being caused by glyphosate.”

However, a March report by the cancer-research arm of the WHO noted that glyphosate has been linked to tumors in mice and rats and that there is some — though limited — evidence that people working with glyphosate face a greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that glyphosate “is probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Unlike the controlled agricultural use of glyphosate, the Colombian aerial eradication program uses a higher concentration of the herbicide which is sprayed over populated zones and sometimes lands on people, says Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. The result has been a flood of health complaints. A nationwide study of hospital visits that was conducted by the Drug and Security Research Center at the University of the Andes in Bogota found a higher incidence of skin rashes, respiratory problems and miscarriages in coca-growing regions sprayed with glyphosate between 2003 and 2007.

“This is very solid evidence,” says Daniel Mejia, who directs the center and is also president of the Colombian government’s drug policy advisory commission.

In the coca fields of southern Colombia, peasant farmers these days tend to blame all their ailments on glyphosate. Leaning on his machete, Nittson Cuacialpud says he developed a permanent case of face acne a few years ago after crop-dusters swooped over his one-hectare coca field near the town of La Hormiga.

His neighbor, Sandra Trejo, remembers getting hit by a rain of herbicide which made her hair sticky. But she says it was hard to tell whether glyphosate was dangerous. La Hormiga and surrounding communities lack clean drinking water, overall health conditions are poor, and farmers handle a wide variety of powerful weed killers and precursor chemicals when growing coca and processing the leaves into cocaine.

“People get sick, but we don’t know why,” Trejo says.

Despite the growing controversy over glyphosate, it’s an awkward time for Colombia to be holstering a key drug war weapon. Last week, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released data showing the coca crop in Colombia had expanded 39% between 2013 and 2014 — the country’s first big jump in drug cultivation since 2007. That translates into an increase in potential cocaine production from 185 tons to 245 tons.

Although the 2014 White House numbers are not yet in for Peru and Bolivia, the world’s two other big cocaine producers, the sudden spike in Colombia is troubling. “A 39% jump in coca cultivation will likely increase cocaine supplies, thus lowering street prices,” Isacson said.

Brownfield pointed out that many areas of Colombia, such as the southern border with Ecuador, national parks and Indigenous reserves, have recently been placed off limits to aerial eradication and that coca growers have taken advantage. During its peak years in the mid-2000s, Brownfield said the spray program helped reduce Colombia’s coca crop by 60%,

Yet critics slam aerial eradication as costly and counterproductive. In fact, Colombia is the only country that allows it. In Peru and Bolivia, coca plants are uprooted by anti-drug agents with shovels and machetes. In Colombia, similar efforts have left 62 people dead and hundreds injured because left-wing FARC guerrillas, who are deeply involved in drug trafficking, often protect the fields with land mines and snipers. That’s why Colombia opted for air raids.

But in a 2011 study, Mejia estimated that keeping 1 kilogram of cocaine out of the United States costs $163,000 in coca eradication efforts. By contrast, that cost dropped to $3,600 per kilo by attacking smugglers getting the drugs into the U.S.

There has also been diplomatic and legal fallout. In 2013, Colombia paid a $15 million settlement after Ecuador filed a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice claiming that the herbicide drifted across the border, causing environmental damage, livestock deaths and health problems in humans.

In calling for an end to aerial eradication, President Santos insisted that other counter-narcotics efforts would continue. However, his overriding strategy is to disarm the FARC guerrillas. The two sides are negotiating in Cuba to end the 51-year-old war and if a final peace treaty is signed, the government has agreed to halt aerial eradication while FARC has promised to get out of the illegal drug trade.

So in spite of his strong support for the air raids, Brownfield, a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia who was once doused in glyphosate while observing a spray operation (and remains cancer free), acknowledges they may end soon. “Change is not necessarily a bad thing,” he says.

TIME migrants

ISIS Makes a Fortune From Smuggling Migrants Says Report

Migrants on a packed wooden boat wait to be rescued off the coast of Malta on May 3, 2015.
Jason Florio—MOAS Migrants on a packed wooden boat wait to be rescued off the coast of Malta on May 3, 2015.

Migrants pay thousands of dollars to armed groups in Africa and the Middle East on their journey to Europe

The movement of migrants across the Middle East and Africa towards Europe has generated up to $323 million for the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other jihadist groups, a new report has revealed.

Many of the migrants embark from Libya on unseaworthy boats which have foundered with thousands drowning and thousands being rescued by European navies. At least 170,000 refugees made the sea journey last year, and that number looks likely to increase this year, according to the European Union’s border-surveillance organization Frontex.

European Union and African officials are scrambling to find ways to stop the migration. On Wednesday the Guardian revealed a 19-page E.U. strategy report to crack down on the smugglers, which included air strikes on boats and possibly the use of troops in Libya.

But while E.U. officials anguish over the plight of people crossing the Mediterranean to get to Europe, the migration has proved an invaluable business opportunity for groups like ISIS. So valuable that international crime experts believe ISIS might have launched some attacks specifically in order to drive people to flee, and then profit from their flight. “They [ISIS] were looking desperately for new funds,” says Christian Nelleman, director of the Norwegian Center for Global Analysis, or RHIPTO, who co-authored this week’s report with the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a consortium of organized-crime experts. “Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS needs a totally different scale of funds because they run an army and provide social services,” he says.

ISIS’s sources of funding appear to have changed markedly since 2014. For much of last year, ISIS brought in funds from oil smuggling — a key reason why its fighters seized oil facilities in Syria and Iraq —with oil trading earning up to $3 million a day, according to U.N. estimates. But those earnings have crashed, perhaps by half, since last August, when the U.S. and its allies began bombing ISIS oil facilities, according to a Western intelligence report from last January, which was shared with TIME this week. The report estimates that ISIS needs between $523.5 million and $815.3 million a year to run its operations, including to pay its fighters, run social services, and buy weapons and ammunition.

Aside from oil, ISIS has recently earned between $22 million and $55 million a year taxing antiquities smugglers, who traffic looted objects out of Syria and Iraq, and between $168 million and $228 million a month taxing small businesses and residents in ISIS-controlled areas, according to the January intelligence report, which said ISIS has “a robust budget for a group numbering in the 30 to 40,000 range.”

In fact, the most robust new business is migrant smuggling, with funds going not only to ISIS but also al-Qaeda-linked groups around the Sahara and militias in Libya, which seized the capital Tripoli last August. Smugglers typically charge each migrant between $800 and $1,000 to reach Libya, either from across the Sahara or from the Middle East, and then between $1,500 and $1,900 to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, according to this week’s report.

In an interview with TIME last month, one migrant described being forced to pay different armed groups along each step of his four-month journey, from his home in Senegal until he squeezed aboard a migrant boat off Libya’s coast in mid-April, bringing the total cost of his journey to about $2,150. That is typical of the smugglers’ operation across the Middle East and Africa, according to this week’s report. “The value of this trade dwarfs any existing trafficking and smuggling businesses in the region, and has particularly strengthened groups with a terrorist agenda, including the Islamic State (ISIS),” the report says. “This growing business now provides what is possibly now the largest and most easily accessible threat finance opportunity for both organized crime networks and armed groups to purchase arms, establish larger and more regular armies, and demand taxation.”

The report suggests ISIS has recently driven Syrians and Iraqis from their homes in a deliberate attempt to increase their control over smuggling routes, and to drive up the numbers of those trying to cross the Mediterranean. Syrians now comprise the largest number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, followed by refugees from the East African nation of Eritrea. The surge in Syrian refugees crossing the Mediterranean since last year appeared to follow ISIS attacks on refugee camps. “Why would they want to attack refugee camps near the Syria-Jordan border?” Nelleman says. “The purpose was to drive refugees out.” Many of those refugees made their way to Libya to take dangerous boats to Europe.

TIME Aviation

MH370 Search Uncovers Shipwreck in Indian Ocean

The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield is departing Rockingham, Australia for the MH370 search area on May 10, 2014.
Paul Kane—Getty Images The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield is departing Rockingham, Australia for the MH370 search area on May 10, 2014.

The discovery is "of potential interest, but unlikely to be related to MH370"

The painstaking search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has finally found wreckage on the ocean floor — just not the wreckage it was looking for.

The Australian government, which is coordinating the multi-million-dollar search, announced Wednesday it had found a previously uncharted shipwreck almost 13,000 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Investigators’ hopes were raised when the Fugro Equator, one of the ships tasked with looking for the aircraft, detected “a cluster of small sonar contacts,” according to an update from the Australian government’s Joint Agency Coordination Center.

Although analysis found these findings were “of potential interest, but…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

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