TIME France

Cartoonist Rénald ‘Luz’ Luzier Says He Will Leave Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo caricaturist Rénald Luzier reacts during a press conference about the next Charlie Hebdo edition in Paris, France, 13 January 2015.
Yoan Valat—EPA Charlie Hebdo caricaturist Rénald Luzier reacts during a press conference about the satirical magazine's next edition in Paris on Jan. 13, 2015

The cartoonist designed the magazine’s Prophet Muhammad cover picture after the Paris attacks

The Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Rénald Luzier said Monday that he is leaving the magazine, revealing the job had become “too much to bear” following the deaths of his colleagues.

On Jan. 7, the satirical publication was targeted by two Islamist gunmen who stormed its offices killing 12 people.

Luzier, known as Luz, told French newspaper Libération that his resignation was “a very personal choice,” and that he would be leaving in September.

“Each issue is torture because the others are gone. Spending sleepless nights summoning the dead, wondering what Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous would have done is exhausting,” he said referencing his slain colleagues.

Following three days of attacks in the French capital, during which a total of 17 people were killed, the magazine’s surviving staff put together an issue. Luz drew the cover image featuring the Prophet Muhammad with a sign reading “Je Suis Charlie” under the headline “All Is Forgiven.”

[AFP]

TIME Nepal

Rohingya Say Quake-Ravaged Nepal Is Better Than Life at Home or Death at Sea

Hassan Hassan, left, and other Rohingya refugees on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal
Sabrina Toppa for TIME Hassan Hassan, left, with fellow Rohingya refugees on the outskirts of Kathmandu in July 2014

“In Burma, just being Muslim is like a crime”

After last Tuesday’s magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Nepal, the fear of aftershocks prompted Hassan Hassan to sleep on the street. The temblor sliced off his door, shattered his windows, and cracked the walls of the ramshackle dwelling he shared with almost 30 other refugees on Kathmandu’s outskirts.

Hassan is an ethnic Rohingya Muslim from western Burma, a country now officially known as Myanmar. Along with tens of thousands of Rohingyas, the 22-year-old fled recent pogroms initiated by his homeland’s Buddhist majority in search of a better life elsewhere.

But while most Rohingya escape on rickety boats, facing possible extortion or execution in Thai trafficking camps en route to safety, Hassan instead trundled overland more than 100 km into the snow-capped Himalayas.

And despite the wanton devastation, half-million homes flattened and at least 8,500 lives lost, the recent twin quakes and numerous aftershocks have not stopped Hassan from counting his blessings.

“I am lucky,” he tells TIME. “If I had gone to Thailand, maybe I also would’ve died.”

Out of Nepal’s total 37,000 refugees, some 120 are Burmese, of whom 70% are Rohingya, according to the local U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) office. While the 21,500 camp-based Bhutanese are recognized as legitimate refugees, “urban refugees” like the Rohingya are officially deemed illegal migrants.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim group of 1.3 million that mainly live in Burma’s westernmost Arakan state, and are dubbed “one of the world’s most persecuted peoples” by the U.N. The Burmese government refuses to grant them citizenship and claims they are in fact interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh, even though many have lived in the country for generations. Bangladesh similarly shuns them as non-citizens.

Rohingya in Burma face restrictions on travel, education, marriage and land ownership. However, when politically expedient to the military-dominated government, Rohingyas have occasionally been allowed to vote.

“Many of them have been killed,” says Silvia di Gaetano, a Burma researcher at the Rights in Exile Programme. “Those who remain suffer malnutrition and starvation; severe physical and mental illness; and above all discrimination and persecution.”

Confined to squalid displacement camps, many Rohingya have fled east, potentially to die in the sea on the way to Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia. Now, however, these nations have started turning the boats away. And in recent weeks, mass graves have been uncovered in the thick jungle where Thailand tapers into Malaysia, belonging to Rohingya who fell prey to human traffickers that demand exorbitant ransoms to set them free. Those without wealthy connections are slain as a warning to others.

Activists have raised alarm that the Andaman Sea’s transformation into a “floating graveyard” is imminent, as the world witnesses a startling uptick in Rohingya’s perilous cross-border journeys. The U.N. reports that in this year alone, these voyages have nearly doubled, with almost 25,000 people estimated to attempt the journey, and 300 deaths already projected from unsuccessfully charting it.

As this humanitarian crisis deepens, most Rohingya in Nepal have expressed gratitude for the nation’s willingness to take them in and donate tents and critical relief supplies, despite recent quake-related hardships.

“For Rohingya, Nepal is still better than Burma,” says 30-year-old Zafir Miya, who also traversed South Asia — from Burma through Bangladesh and India to Nepal — in order to find a safe haven.

Hassan, who believes he is Nepal’s first Rohingya refugee, arrived in August 2012 — by mistake. “When I went from Bangladesh to India, the currency changed, so I knew I was in a different country,” he recalls. “But when I entered Nepal, they were still using Indian currency.”

Hassan did not realize Kathmandu was the capital of Nepal, a distinct country. Growing up in the Maungdaw district of Arakan state, Hassan says he lacked access to radio, television — Burma banned Rohingya-language broadcasts in 1965 — or even a SIM card, which before recent reforms would cost over $2,000.

When Hassan made his way to Kathmandu, he first scoured the city’s jails for the familiar faces of his missing kin, as many urban refugees are rounded up by police for illegal stays.

“Most [refugees] have been overstaying in Nepal for years,” says UNHCR Nepal spokesperson Deepesh Das Shrestha. The refugees are subject to a $5 per day overstay fine, possibly accumulating thousands of dollars in debt they cannot pay, because they are not allowed to work.

Without labor privileges in Nepal, most Rohingya are forced to stay idle, surviving on a UNHCR stipend of slightly more than $42 per month. For Hassan, this means his memory is awash with details of family he has not seen since before the 2012 Arakan state riots. He stays awake thinking of his mother Hafiza Begum, 43, whose towering stature distinguishes her from most Rohingya women. Hassan’s black-bearded father of 6 ft. 5 in., Mohammad Amin, 50, is marked by a 1.5-in. scar above his nose. All members of his family, except his 4-ft. 8-in. sister Rubina Aziz, are taller than the average Burmese citizens, including his four brothers: Emrun Faroque, Mojibur Rahman, Mahfujur Rahman and Tareq Aziz.

“If they are in Burma, they are dead,” says Hassan. “But if they escaped, there is a chance I can find them.”

According to UNHCR Nepal, nearly 60% of Nepal’s refugees from Burma are single men searching for family members. When communal riots first erupted in Arakan, Hassan was working in Bangladesh as a seasonal laborer, but planned to return home to observe the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But when he did, Hassan found an empty home amid a forsaken desert of torched houses. A neighbor said his relatives might have fled to Bangladesh during the violence, so Hassan left on a fisherman’s boat under the cover of night to examine Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazaar.

Finding no answers there, Hassan had few options but to follow rumors that his family might have pushed on into India. After searching fruitlessly in Darjeeling and West Bengal, Hassan went to Nepal.

For all its challenges, Nepal pales in comparison to stories Hassan says he hears from those trapped in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia. And Hassan, like the majority of Rohingya, has found a sense of community with Nepal’s minority Muslim community, which accounts for a mere 4% of the population of 30 million.

“In Nepal, they don’t look at the difference between a Hindu or Muslim,” Miya tells TIME.

“In Burma, just being Muslim is like a crime,” Hassan adds.

Yet the nagging question of missing relatives remains. Nepal is a transit point, a temporary shelter before the Rohingya weather the next storm. UNHCR has set up psychosocial counseling for refugees to alleviate earthquake-related anxiety, but the larger problem remains: How does a Rohingya refugee build a life between one location and the next? How does he track down loved ones without papers — lacking any state recognition — that remain in perennial flight, floating in seas, trundling across borders, always fleeing one threat only to face another?

In spite of its seismological perils, Nepal affords the Rohingya an opportunity to carve out a life freer than Southeast Asia, and many hope to bring kin — if they ever find them — to also settle in Kathmandu.

Though far from perfect, quake-ravaged Nepal may offer the best hope to a community whose statelessness remains a source of horrific vulnerability.

“This is the situation of the Rohingya,” says Hassan. “The person who is not a citizen anywhere has no limit to the punishment he can suffer.”

TIME Colombia

At Least 52 Dead in Colombia After Flood and Mudslide Sweep Away Homes

(SALGAR, Colombia) —An avalanche of mud and debris roared over an alpine town in western Colombia before dawn Monday, killing at least 52 people in a flash flood and mudslide triggered by heavy rains.

Residents were stirred from bed in the dead of the night by a loud rumble and neighbors’ shouts of “The river! The river!” as modestly built homes and bridges plunged into the Libordiana ravine. Survivors barely had enough time to gather their loved ones.

“It was rocks and tree trunks everywhere,” Diego Agudelo told The Associated Press, adding that never in 34 years living next to the ravine had he suspected such a tragedy was possible.

“The river took out everything in its path,” the construction worker said, including the back part of his home.

The disaster hit around 3 a.m. local time (4 a.m. EDT; 0800 GMT) in the town of Salgar, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Medellin.

Dozens of rescuers supported by Black Hawk helicopters evacuated residents near the ravine for fear of another mudslide. A red fire truck could be seen hauling away several bodies, their bare feet dangling from an open trunk.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who traveled to the town to oversee relief efforts, said several children lost their parents and the bodies of those killed needed to be transported to Medellin to be identified. As giant diggers were removing debris he vowed to rebuild the lost homes and provide shelter and assistance for the estimated 500 people affected by the calamity.

“Nobody can bring back the dead … but we have to handle this disaster as best we can to move forward,” Santos said.

Authorities said that 52 people were confirmed dead but that the number could rise. Dozens have suffered light injuries and an unknown number of people are still unaccounted for.

Colombia’s rugged topography, in a seismically active area at the northern edge of the Andes, combined with shoddy construction practices, has made the country one of Latin America’s most disaster-prone. More than 150 disasters have struck the country over the past 40 years, claiming more than 32,000 lives and affecting more than 12 million people, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

The tragedy in Salgar appeared to be the single deadliest event since a 1999 earthquake in the city of Armenia that left hundreds dead. A wave of flooding during the 2011 rainy season left more than 100 dead.

Luz Maria Urrego, 74, said she escaped certain death because she had traveled to Medellin for the long holiday weekend. She said her brother was killed along with his children and grandchildren.

“I said to my wife ‘let’s hold each and hope that God saves us,'” said Jorge Quintero, a local resident, describing to RCN TV how he was trapped between two raging currents that had taken with it two homes on either side of his own. “I know God gave us his hand because here we are, alive, still frightened, but alive.”

The flooding destroyed the town’s aqueduct and even areas in less hazardous zones experienced flooding. As a cautionary measure, electricity and other public services were suspended after several utility poles were knocked down.

Authorities called on volunteers to send water, food supplies and blankets to cope with what they described as a humanitarian emergency.

The town of 18,000 lies amid one of Colombia’s major coffee-growing regions. Former President Alvaro Uribe, who spent part of his childhood in Salgar, where his mother was born, rushed to the town to assist in relief efforts.

“It’s very painful what we’ve seen,” he told RCN TV, describing his encounter with a grandmother caring for her 3-day-old grandchild in place of the boy’s parents, who are missing.

___

AP Writers Joshua Goodman, Libardo Cardona and Cesar Garcia contributed to this report from Bogota.

TIME Colombia

Dozens Dead as Heavy Rain Triggers Flood and Mudslide in Colombia

A general view of the municipality of Salgar in Antioquia department after a landslide is seen in this handout image provided by Colombian National Police on May 18, 2015.
Handout—Reuters A general view of the municipality of Salgar in Antioquia department after a landslide is seen in this May 18, 2015 handout image provided by Colombian National Police.

At least 49 people were killed

(BOGOTA, Colombia)—A roaring avalanche of mud and debris devastated a mountainous town in western Colombia before dawn Monday, killing at least 49 people in a flood and mudslide triggered by heavy rains.

Residents were stirred from bed in the dead of the night by a loud rumble and neighbors’ shouts of “The river! The river!” as modestly built homes and bridges plunged into the Libordiana ravine. Survivors barely had enough time to gather their loved ones.

“It was rocks and tree trunks everywhere,” Diego Agudelo told The Associated Press, adding that never in 34 years living next to the ravine had he suspected such a tragedy was possible.

“The river took out everything that was in its path,” he said, including the back part of his home.

The disaster hit around 3 a.m. local time in the town of Salgar, about 60 miles southwest of Medellin.

Rescuers supported by police helicopters were evacuating residents near the ravine for fear of another mudslide.

Maria Ines Cardona, a disaster relief coordinator for Antioquia state, told the AP that 49 people were confirmed dead but that the number was likely to rise. She said dozens had suffered light injuries and an unknown number of people were still unaccounted for.

The flooding destroyed the town’s aqueduct and knocked out electricity and other public services. Even areas in less hazardous zones experienced flooding.

Authorities called on volunteers to send water, food supplies and blankets to cope with what they described as a humanitarian emergency.

The town of 18,000 lies amid one of Colombia’s major coffee-growing regions. Former President Alvaro Uribe, who spent part of his childhood in Salgar, rushed to the town to assist in relief efforts.

“It’s very painful what we’ve seen,” he told RCN TV, describing his encounter with a grandmother caring for her 3-day-old grandchild in place of the boy’s parents, who are missing.

President Juan Manual Santos was reportedly on his way to the town to oversee disaster relief operations.

TIME xiaomi

China’s Would-be Apple Killer is Starting U.S. Sales

Lei Jun, Chairman and CEO of Xiaomi Technology and Chairman of Kingsoft Corp., attends the 121st anniversary of Wuhan University in Wuhan city, central China's Hubei province on Nov. 29, 2014.
Sun Xinming—Imaginechina/AP Lei Jun, Chairman and CEO of Xiaomi Technology and Chairman of Kingsoft Corp., attends the 121st anniversary of Wuhan University in Wuhan city, central China's Hubei province on Nov. 29, 2014.

Will the Chinese manufacturer find success on Apple's home turf?

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has quickly become a major force in Asia. Now it’s making a push into the U.S. and Europe, signaling its big ambitions.

Xiaomi is about to open an online store for the American and European markets. For now, the retail sites are a test bed that offers only four electronic accessories for sale. But the move hints at the company’s bigger ambitions to challenge Apple on its home turf and many of its other key markets.

Xiaomi’s initial products for sale are a $15 fitness tracker, a pair of $80 headphones, a $10 USB power pack for charging mobile devices, and a bigger model for $14. The online stores will open on Monday at 10 p.m. ET in the US, and 1 p.m. CET the next day in the U.K., France, and Germany.

The company first announced in February that it would open its first US sales and that it would only include a few accessories. It’s previously sold some products in the U.K., like the Mi-2 phone.

Founded in 2010, Xiaomi quickly rose in popularity in Asia with its affordable smartphones and other consumer electronics, and became the largest smartphone vendor in China in 2014, according to IDC. Xiaomi sold more than 61 million smartphones in total that year.

In its latest round of venture capital funding, the company was valued at $46 billion.

Xiaomi’s foray into the U.S. market will be watched closely. While the U.S. is the world’s largest smartphone market, sales are largely made through telecom carriers. Therefore, any company that wants to capture a major slice of the market will have to work closely with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Xiaomi would also have to take on market leader Apple [fortune-stock symbol=”AAPL”], which has traditionally stayed away from selling low-end products like those sold by its Chinese rival. Xiaomi’s also been criticized for copying much of Apple’s product designs.

Xiaomi’s test run with its online stores will serve as a barometer for its ability to move into selling devices.

TIME Cuba

Elian Gonzalez Wants to Visit the U.S.

Elian Gonzalez attends an official event with Cuba's President Raul Castro, unseen, in Havana, June 30, 2010.
Adalberto Roque—ASSOCIATED PRESS Elian Gonzalez attends an official event with Cuba's President Raul Castro, unseen, in Havana, Wednesday, June 30, 2010.

He'd like to come back as a tourist

Elian Gonzalez, the boy who made headlines as the center of a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Cuba, would now like to return to the U.S. for a visit, he told ABC News.

Gonzalez was discovered off the coast of Florida at age 6 in 1999 after the boat he was traveling on with his mother and others from Cuba to the U.S. capsized. His relatives in Miami tried to keep him in the United States, but his father wanted him back in Cuba. Eventually, he was taken from his American family members and returned to his father.

“To the American people, first I say thank you for the love they give me,” Gonzalez told ABC News. “I want the time to give my love to American people.” Gonzalez, now 21 years old, said he’d like to visit the U.S. as a tourist.

Read more at ABC News

TIME Iraq

Why ISIS Can Still Defeat the Iraqi Army in Spite of U.S. Help

Iraq security forces withdraw from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 70 miles west of Baghdad on May 17, 2015.
AP Iraq security forces withdraw from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 70 miles west of Baghdad on May 17, 2015.

American air strikes cannot compensate for divisions and distrust between the Shi'ite majority and Sunni minority

The U.S.-led coalition pounded the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) over the weekend near the Iraqi city of Ramadi but that didn’t stop them from taking the city.

On Sunday videos appeared that seemed to show Iraqi soldiers clinging to the sides of vehicles speeding out of Ramadi as ISIS moved in. The black flag of ISIS now flies over the capital of Anbar, one of Iraq’s largest provinces.

“ISIS is still a very potent force,” says Kenneth M. Pollack, a specialist in Middle East political-military affairs and a former CIA analyst.

It’s a clear sign that Iraq’s national forces aren’t ready to take on ISIS despite U.S. training and support and that Sunnis still have little faith in the Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad. The government has now called on the Shi’ite militias to help re-take Ramadi, which could further alienate Sunnis in the city, if the militias harm local people.

“The central government is accountable and is responsible for the ISIS occupation of [Ramadi] because they did not answer our demands,” says Suleiman al-Kubaisi, a spokesperson for Anbar’s provincial council. “They did not send reinforcements — neither ammunition or weapons.”

Ramadi and Anbar province was a battleground between 2003 and 2006 as the Sunnis including al-Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS, took on U.S.-led coalition forces.

After Iraqi forces, flanked with thousands of mostly Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia retook the city of Tikrit from ISIS in March, it seemed like a turning point in the war against ISIS.

“Tirkit was not like Stalingrad,” says Pollack. He says the U.S. needs to make a greater investment in Iraqi ground operations. “We knew all along this was not a war that could be won with air power alone.”

Since Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi took over from Nuri al-Maliki last year, he has been promising reforms for the disaffected Sunni population, but little has changed. “We are waiting, and as we were waiting, Ramadi fell,” says Alaa Makki, a former Sunni member of the Iraqi parliament and senior advisor to the government.

Key to defeating ISIS is getting Iraqi Sunnis to fight with government, but Baghdad has not persuaded them that they are serious. “You’ve got to show the Sunnis that the future of Iraq — the one that they are fighting for — is one that to them is going to be worth fighting for,” says Pollack.

While billions of dollars have been put into military operations against ISIS, little has been invested in political change that could end the sense of marginalization felt by Sunnis and in turn, possibly unite them against ISIS. “There should be real reconciliation among the Iraqis… whatever we bring in forces and weapons won’t matter without a political agreement,” says Makki. “If they continue like this, it’s likely that Baghdad could fall.”

TIME ebola

WHO Vows Reform After Ebola Outbreak Mistakes

The agency is establishing a $100 million contingency fund

The World Health Organization (WHO) is implementing “fundamental changes”—including a establishing a $100 million contingency fund—after the poor response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“The world was ill-prepared to respond to an outbreak that was so widespread, so severe, so sustained, and so complex,” said WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan at the annual World Health Assembly on Monday.”WHO was overwhelmed, as were all other responders. The demands on WHO were more than ten times greater than ever experienced in the almost 70-year history of this Organization.” The assembly is the decision-making body of WHO and the meeting is attended by delegates from the WHO member states.

Chan told those present at the event that the WHO is making changes to ensure it is better equipped for a similar health-related emergency in the future.

First, the WHO says it is developing a new program specifically focusing on health emergencies that will have performance benchmarks for what must happen 24, 48 and 72 hours after the beginning of an outbreak. The WHO is also establishing a global health emergency workforce and will strengthen its trained emergency response staff through a proposed increase in budget. The agency is also streamlining its managerial and logistical procedures. Lastly, Chan said the agency is establishing a $100 million contingency fund that will be financed through voluntary contributions. This, Chan said, is to make sure the WHO has the necessary resources needed.

“I do not ever again want to see this Organization faced with a situation it is not prepared, staffed, funded, or administratively set up to manage,” said Chan. “We will move forward on an urgent footing. I plan to complete these changes by the end of the year.”

TIME South Africa

Former Tennis Champion Bob Hewitt Gets 6 Years in Prison for Rape

Retired tennis player Bob Hewitt sits in the dock in a court east of Johannesburg, South Africa on March 23, 2015.
AP Retired tennis player Bob Hewitt sits in the dock in a court east of Johannesburg, South Africa on March 23, 2015.

The retired tennis star was accused of rape and sexual assault

(PRETORIA, South Africa)—A South African judge has sentenced retired doubles tennis champion Bob Hewitt to six years in prison for rape and sexual assault.

Judge Bert Bam on Monday sentenced Hewitt to eight years in jail for two counts of rape, with two years suspended. He also sentenced Hewitt to two years in prison for a third charge of sexual assault.

Bam says the three sentences will be served at the same time, meaning Hewitt, 75, should spend up to six years in prison.

The judge also ordered Hewitt to pay about $8,500 to state-run campaigns against sexual violence. Hewitt’s accusers say he assaulted them in the 1980s and 1990s when they were minors.

Australian-born Hewitt denied the charges.

TIME Middle East

Iran Challenges U.S. and Saudi Arabia by Sending Aid Ship to Rebels in Yemen

A Saudi border guard watches as he stands in a boat off the coast of the Red Sea on Saudi Arabia's maritime border with Yemen, near Jizan April 8, 2015.
Faisal Nasser—Reuters A Saudi border guard watches as he stands in a boat off the coast of the Red Sea on Saudi Arabia's maritime border with Yemen, near Jizan April 8, 2015.

A Saudi-led coalition is trying to defeat an insurrection against the Yemeni government that they believe is partly funded by Iran

An Iranian aid ship has entered the Gulf of Aden in a direct challenge to Saudi Arabia and the United State’s blockade of Yemeni ports, Iranian media has reported.

The Iran Shahed is carrying 2,500 tons of aid and is bound for the port of Hodeidah, which is controlled by the Shiite Houthi rebels. The ship was chartered by the Red Crescent Society of Iran and its passengers include a medical team, journalists and anti-war activists. Saudi Arabia has vowed that it will not allow Iranian ships to dock in any of Yemen’s ports to prevent the supply of arms to the Houthis.

In April, a convoy of Iranian ships that Iran claimed contained aid turned back from Yemen after their route was blocked by the American aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. A few days later an Iranian aid plane was forced to turn back when Saudi jets bombed the airport in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a’s airport to prevent it from landing.

Saudi Arabia is worried about the increasing influence of Iran in the Middle East. Iran wields great influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq with the help of proxies such as Hizballah.

This time Iran has asked its navy, which has a small convoy on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, to provide special protection for the ship. The Iranian military has warned it will retaliate if the Iran Shahed is prevented from reaching Yemen. “Both the new rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United States should pay attention, if they keep on hindering the Islamic Republic of Iran from sending aid, an inferno will arise that they will most certainly not be able to extinguish,” Masoud Jazayeri, a General in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, told Iranian TV last week. “I am distinctly stating that the patience of Iran has limits, if the Iranian aid ship is prevented from reaching Yemen then they [Saudi Arabians/United States] should expect actions from us.”

The ship is due to meet the Iranian convoy and then head into the Red Sea before arriving in Hoedeidah on May 21. However the ship’s passengers do not seem worried about future conflict. “During the day we all have something to do, in my case send in reports when I can with the unreliable internet we’ve got, but in the evenings we all gather up and play games and have fun. The crew says they can hear our laughter throughout the ship,” said Mehdi Bakhtiari, a journalist with Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Bakhtiari, who was speaking via satellite phone from the deck of the ship, said their vessel was approached by a ship on Sunday morning, which requested information by radio. “It kept a 6-mile distance and asked our port of origin and destination and followed us for some time. But when our ship’s captain asked it to identify itself it just said it is part of the coalition and didn’t say whether it was the anti-piracy coalition or the Saudi-led coalition.”

Bakhtiari said he had seen no arms on board the ship “We asked to be shown the cargo as soon as we got onboard. We went over all of the containers, we even took pictures and film, and it’s just rice, grain, bottled water and antibiotics, there are no weapons on board this ship.”

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