TIME brazil

Brazil’s Presidential Race Upended by a Dark Horse

BRAZIL-CAMPAIGN-MARINA SILVA
Marina Silva, the presidential candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party Miguel Schincariol—AFP/Getty Images

The campaign has only just begun, but Marina Silva, who was handed the Brazilian Socialist Party's nomination after her running mate died in a plane crash, is now the candidate to beat

On the streets of central Rio de Janeiro this week, a man pushed a wheeled garbage bin that had been converted into a mobile sound system and was blasting a hip-hop-style campaign jingle. Two unsmiling clowns handed out election leaflets for a state deputy. Campaigning has officially begun in Brazil for Oct. 5 elections, and the noise level has significantly increased.

But this time around, there is little attention being paid to the habitual joke candidates — the three bin Ladens, Jesus, or São Paulo state-deputy candidate Paulo Batista, who flies through his homemade campaign video, zapping communists with red laser beams fired from his eyes.

Instead it is the gale of popular support whipping up behind environmentalist Marina Silva that is making all the news. The latest poll on Aug. 29 put Silva neck and neck with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff — both have 34%, leaving third-placed Aécio Neves with 15%. In a second-round simulation, Silva had 50% to Rousseff’s 40%.

It has been an extraordinary turnaround. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) has run Brazil since 2003, and the President looked like a sure thing for re-election until Aug. 13, when a small plane carrying then third-placed presidential candidate Eduardo Campos crashed, killing all seven on board. At the time, Rousseff led with 38%, and Campos, a former governor of Pernambuco state who was pushing a third-way platform for his Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), had just 9%.

His death catapulted Silva, his running mate, into the election. She had polled nearly 20 million votes in the 2010 election as a Green Party candidate and accepted a role as Campos’ vice-presidential candidate when attempts to found her own Sustainability Network party foundered. Now this former Environment Minister, who was raised in an illiterate, desperately poor family of rubber tappers in the Brazilian Amazon, is favored to win. Her name was chanted by some of the 130,000 mourners at Campos’ funeral.

The extent of her rise is all the more remarkable given PT’s status as a formidable political machine. Its large umbrella of coalition parties is campaigning with over five times the allotted television advertising time of Silva’s PSB.

“It is a public-opinion phenomenon … an epidemic,” says Jairo Nicolau, a political scientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “This is the first time this happened in a presidential election.”

Rousseff is also facing a perfect storm of negative coverage. Not only has Brazil’s economy retracted for the second quarter running, putting the country technically in recession, but she was also embarrassed by comments alleged to have been made by a disgraced member of her party last week.

José Dirceu, former chief of staff to PT’s phenomenally popular ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — known simply as Lula — recently called her “Lula in a skirt,” according to a blog written by Fernando Rodrigues on the UOL news site. Dirceu, jailed with other PT bosses last year in a major vote-buying scandal, has denied the comment, but the phrase has stuck.

Memories of that scandal haven’t helped. In a recent interview on TV Globo’s prime-time Jornal Nacional news program, Rousseff refused to condemn party workers who had hailed Dirceu and other jailed PT bosses as heroes. “Perhaps the biggest PT mistake is not to have criticized themselves over corruption,” says Nicolau.

That’s especially pertinent given Rousseff’s party’s ambitious reform proposals. The PT wants to form a constituent assembly to carry out political reform with public financing for campaigns to avoid “strategies based on purchasing power.”

Silva’s reforms are no less ambitious. Her “new politics” agenda seeks a five-year mandate instead of the current four, and she says she will not stand for re-election. Her party’s program promises transparency in the funding of electoral campaigns and easier rules for referendums. “One of the most important projects, at this moment in the history of Brazil, is that we can renew politics,” Silva said in her own Jornal Nacional interview.

Silva is picking up support from disaffected urban voters who flooded Brazilian streets in protests in 2013, and a middle class tired of corruption scandals like the one that saw Dirceu jailed. “Society does not recognize itself in the parties, and does not recognize itself in the way politics is going,” says Ricardo Ismael, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

She has also been polling well among Brazil’s increasingly influential evangelical Christians. She is herself evangelical — although there is also an evangelical candidate, Everaldo Dias Pereira, better known as Pastor Everaldo, who is trailing with 2%.

(Her desire to appeal to religious voters seems to have affected her agenda, somewhat. When the PSB program was launched on Aug. 29, it included proposals to legalize gay marriage and criminalize homophobia. That might have angered evangelicals but could have given Silva more support among liberal urban voters. A day later, however, Silva withdrew the proposals as a “mistake.”)

But perhaps the most important issue in this election is the economy. Rousseff and PT have been buoyed, in recent years, by the stable economy and economic growth it enjoyed for a decade. The party used that economic growth to fund programs like the Family Purse income-support scheme to end social exclusion. A generation of poorer Brazilians advanced to a lower-middle class, called Class C. GDP growth peaked at 7.5% in 2010.

Brazil isn’t growing anymore, though, and the economy’s stagnation is now one of Rousseff’s biggest problems. “This is an extremely vulnerable point in Dilma’s campaign,” says Paulo Fábio Dantas Neto, political scientist at the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador.

It’s one that Silva has been able to capitalize on. Markets rose this week on what is being called the “Marina effect” — the market-friendly PSB manifesto promises an independent Central Bank and more public-private partnerships to promote more much needed investments in infrastructure.

While Neves and his center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) have tried to take a business-friendly approach, voters are now primed to dismiss him as business as usual. “The electorate does not want more PT and will not vote for Aécio,” says Ismael. “Marina fills a space for those who want to change but do not want the PSDB.”

So is Silva a sure thing? Not necessarily, says Nicolau, who advises that Brazilian public opinion has shown itself volatile in recent years. The mass street protests of June 2013 dissipated rapidly. World Cup disappointment just prior to the tournament turned to pride once the tournament began.

“It is very volatile for some feelings, some perceptions. Today Marina is a phenomenon, but she could deflate,” he says.

TIME France

Jihad Jeanette? French Teen Arrested En Route to Syria

The 16-year-old girl was attempting to join Islamist rebels, the French Interior Minister said

A 16-year-old girl suspected of trying to travel to Syria to join Islamist rebels was arrested at an airport in France, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Sunday.

Cazeneuve said in a statement that the teenager was arrested Saturday at the Nice airport, in southeastern France, before she was able to board a flight to Turkey.

A 20-year-old man was also arrested for allegedly recruiting the girl and paying her airfare, the statement said. The girl’s family “knew nothing of her intentions,” Cazeneuve said.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Iraq

Liberated Iraqi Town Vows to Carry On Struggle Against ISIS

Mourners carry the coffins of Iraqi Shi'ite volunteers, who were killed during clashes with militants of the Islamic State in Amerli. during a funeral in Khalis
Mourners carry the coffins of Iraqi Shi‘ite volunteers who were killed during clashes with militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria in Amerli, during a funeral in Khalis, Iraq, on Aug. 31, 2014 Reuters

Residents of Amerli refuse to join the stream of Iraqi refugees fleeing the north of the country, after Iraqi forces, Shii‘te militia and Kurdish peshmerga break siege by Sunni militants

Iraqi forces and Shi‘ite militiamen entering the formerly beleaguered town of Amerli were greeted with joy and relief by its mostly Shi‘ite Turkmen residents Sunday, after breaking an 80-day siege by Sunni militants with the help of U.S. air strikes overnight.

“First came the Shi‘ite fighters and then the Iraqi army,” says Qasim Jawad Hussein, a 45-year-old schoolteacher and father of five. He also says local residents shot in the air to celebrate as the city was liberated. When Hussein spoke with TIME one week ago, his small community was surrounded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants, and he could see their black flags flying just a few miles away. Now, he says, “their flags are gone.”

For weeks, residents and Turkmen leaders have been asking for American assistance against ISIS forces around Amerli, hoping for the kind of aerial support that Yedizis trapped on Mount Sinjar received earlier this month. The siege was broken Sunday after days of helicopter evacuations and humanitarian air drops by the Iraqi army.

Hussein was one of many Amerli residents who fought back against the militants when they first approached the village in June. But this weekend, it took the cooperation of three armed forces — the Iraqi national army, the Kurdish peshmerga and Shi‘ite militias — to break this siege, aided by U.S. air strikes.

The threat is not over, however. ISIS still controls the area to the west of Amerli and Kurdish peshmerga forces continue to clash with the militants. “The fighting is still ongoing,” says Major General Marwan Mohamed Amin, who controls a peshmerga unit fighting ISIS in Suleiman Beg to the north of Amerli and Khasa Darli to the west. He says the fighting there remains heavy and they will need more U.S. air strikes to defeat those positions.

“We also need more ammunition,” says Amin, adding that his unit had yet to receive any new American weapons. While today’s operations are being touted as a success, ISIS still controls swaths of Iraqi territory. “We are still fighting with the old weapons we took from Saddam Hussein’s army.”

Villagers say what they need most is supplies. The U.S. dropped around 7,000 ready-to-eat meals and 10,500 gallons of clean drinking water last night, as well as conducting air strikes. Australia, France and the U.K. also dropped humanitarian aid, but this village has been under siege for more than two months and supplies of everything are low.

“People are not going out from Amerli, we just need food, water and medical supplies,” says Mahdi Taqi, a local Turkmen official in Amerli. The village is out of fuel and while yesterday’s humanitarian drops feed hungry mouths, fuel is needed to run the generators, required to produce much-needed electricity.

Despite the shortages, and the fact that local forces have managed to open a corridor to Tuz Khormato, a nearby Turkmen village, Hussein and other residents say they are not leaving to follow the over 1 million Iraqis who have fled their homes since ISIS began its rampage across northern Iraq in June. “No, I will stay in my city. Why should I leave?” Hussein asks.

“We suffered and we resisted and we managed to get the victory,” Taqi adds. “Our moral is high. We just need supplies.”

TIME Libya

Militia Says It ‘Secured’ U.S. Compound in Libya

Mideast Libya
Damage is seen in the front yard of a building at the U.S. Embassy compound in Tripoli, Libya, Aug. 31, 2014. AP

The Islamist-allied militia group in control of Libya’s capital has “secured” a U.S. Embassy residential compound there, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting, one of its commanders said Sunday.

The Islamist militia’s move likely will reinvigorate debate in the U.S. over its role in Libya, more than three years after supporting rebels who toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It also comes near the two-year anniversary of the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the U.S. Embassy compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The journalist saw treadmills, food, televisions and computers still inside.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week, a day after it has seized control of the capital and its international airport after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia was in the compound before his troops took it over.

The Dawn of Libya militia is not associated with the extremist militia Ansar al-Shariah, which Washington blames for the deadly assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed Stevens and the three other Americans.

On July 26, U.S. diplomats evacuated the compound and the capital to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort as fighting between rival militias intensified. The State Department said embassy operations would be suspended until the security situation improved. The fighting prompted diplomats and thousands of Tripoli residents to flee. Dozens were killed.

A video posted online surfaced Sunday showing men playing in a pool at the compound and jumping into it from the roof. Voice heard in the video identified it as the U.S. Embassy compound.

In a message on Twitter, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones said the video appeared to have been shot in at the embassy’s residential annex, though she said she couldn’t “say definitively” since she wasn’t there.

“To my knowledge & per recent photos the US Embassy Tripoli chancery & compound is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked,” she wrote on Twitter. She did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate. State Department officials in Washington also declined to immediately comment.

Tripoli is witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since Gadhafi’s ouster in 2011. The militias, many of which originate from rebel forces that fought Gadhafi, became powerful players in post-war Libya, filling a void left by weak police and a shattered army. Successive governments have put militias on their payroll in return for maintaining order, but rivalries over control and resources have led to fierce fighting among them and posed a constant challenge to the central government and a hoped-for transition to democracy.

Following weeks of fighting that brought the capital to a standstill, the Dawn of Libya militia said last week it managed to seize control of Tripoli’s airport and drive a rival militia from the mountain town of Zintan out of the capital. It is now deployed around the capital and has sought to restore normalcy in the city. The group called on foreign diplomats to return now that the fighting has subsided.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Protesters Clash With Police as Calls for Sharif’s Ouster Grow

Supporters of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), carry an injured fellow protester during the Revolution March in Islamabad
Supporters of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), carry an injured fellow protester during the Revolution March in Islamabad, Aug. 31, 2014. Zohra Bensemra—Reuters

Three die in violence as opposition leaders demand Pakistani Prime Minister resign over electoral-fraud claims

There is an old joke about Islamabad, the sleepy and verdant capital of Pakistan: It is half the size of Arlington National Cemetery, it goes, but twice as dead. On Saturday night, however, the quiet streets near the government buildings in Islamabad were transformed into what many observers compared to a war zone, as anti-government protesters clashed for hours with the police amid clouds of tear gas. Three people are reported to have died, and hundreds wounded.

The clashes have dimmed hopes of an agreement being reached between the embattled government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the tens of thousands of protesters led by former cricket legend turned opposition leader Imran Khan and his ally, cleric Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri.

Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, contends the elections last year that brought Sharif to power for a third time were rigged. He is demanding the resignation of Sharif and fresh elections. Qadri wants nothing less than a complete overhaul of the political system through a “revolution.” Until Saturday, authorities had generally tolerated the crowds of protesters who began gathering in Islamabad on Aug. 14 for mostly peaceful demonstrations.

But as Khan and Qadri make clear that they will not settle for anything short of Sharif’s resignation, the deadlock has raised the prospect of an increasingly dangerous confrontation that could bring down the 15-month-old civilian government.

The two sides blame each other for the violence. Late on Saturday, Khan and Qadri urged their followers to enter the highly fortified “red zone” of the capital, a security-sensitive area at one end of Islamabad that is home to the presidential palace, Parliament, the Prime Minister’s house, the Supreme Court and many foreign embassies. The government says it was forced to respond after the protesters cleared away shipping containers used as barricades and advanced toward the Prime Minister’s residence.

Doctors treating the injured said the police had used several rounds of tear gas, baton charges and even rubber bullets. Images circulating on social media showed the bodies of protesters bearing bloody and livid scars from the apparent use of rubber bullets. At the same time, the police said they were confronted with a contingent intent on carrying out violence against state institutions, armed with large sticks, hammers and iron rods. Some of the protesters cut the gates at Parliament, letting hundreds enter into its lawns and parking area.

Pakistan’s journalists were caught in the middle of the clashes. Geo TV, one of Pakistan’s largest news channels, claimed that its offices were attacked by protesters, broadcasting images of large holes in its glass building. The standoff between the government and the protesters has sharply polarized Pakistan’s lively and excitable news media, with prominent news anchors taking vocal positions on both sides of the divide.

Sharif’s government has attempted to engage with the demonstrators. Earlier in the week, the army chief General Raheel Sharif — no relation to the Prime Minister — had been asked by the government to step in and mediate an end to the protests. But neither Khan nor Qadri seem prepared to compromise on anything short of their exacting demands.

The government says it is prepared to give Khan all he has asked for, including a high-profile judicial inquiry into allegations of electoral fraud, except Sharif’s resignation. But on Sunday morning, the onetime cricket star appeared emboldened by the protests, calling on supporters around the country to convene on Islamabad for a fresh night of protests.

Not all of Khan’s allies believe that’s the best approach. Javed Hashmi, a widely respected member of Khan’s party, spoke out Sunday against the decision to advance on the Prime Minister’s residence and Parliament. “This kind of behavior is not seen in any country in the world, where people pick up sticks and protest outside the Prime Minister’s house,” Hashmi said. He added that if martial law is imposed in the country, Khan will bear the blame for leading Pakistan to that fate.

Sharif, meanwhile, remains determined to stay in power. But Saturday night’s violence, with the threat of another confrontation Sunday, may have eroded his authority further. Up to now, analysts believed that Sharif’s premiership would withstand the demonstrations, despite being weakened by them. On Sunday morning, however, several commentators on Pakistani news channels have been drawing comparisons with 1977, when anti-rigging protests and police brutality against the backdrop of failed negotiations led to a military coup.

TIME Germany

Last Known Survivor of Hindenburg Flight Crew Dies at 92

Kubis Franz
Werner Franz, with fellow survivor Heinrich Kubis, a steward, in Lakehurst, N.J., on May 7, 1937 AP

Werner Franz jumped out of the flaming airship as it crashed to the ground

A German man thought to be the last surviving flight crew member of the Hindenburg airship that crashed 77 years ago has died at the age of 92.

Werner Franz suffered a heart attack on Aug. 13 in his hometown of Frankfurt, Germany, the Associated Press reports.

Franz was working as a cabin boy at the age of 14 when the Zeppelin caught fire and crashed into Lakehurst, N.J., on May 6, 1937, killing a total of 36. The incident has become one of the most iconic aircraft accidents in history, partly due to broadcast coverage of the disaster and Herbert Morrison famously crying out, “Oh, the humanity!” during his eyewitness report.

Franz jumped out of the aircraft as it was falling to the ground and escaped “without a scratch on him,” historian and friend John Provan said.

“Werner was most fortunate because he was in the officers’ mess cleaning up,” Provan told the AP. “Above him was a large tank of water that burst open and drenched him, which protected him a bit from the flames and the heat.”

Three other survivors of the crash are believed to be still alive, according to Navy Lakehurst Historical Society president Carl Jablonski: Werner Doehner and Horst Schirmer, both passengers, and Robert Buchanan, a member of the ground crew that had been waiting to secure the airship.

[AP]

TIME Hong Kong

China Rules Out Open Election in Hong Kong, Setting Stage for ‘Occupy’ Protest

Pro-democracy protesters switch on their mobile phones during a campaign to kick off the Occupy Central civil disobedience event in Hong Kong
Pro-democracy protesters switch on their mobile phones during a campaign to kick off the Occupy Central civil-disobedience event near the Central financial district in Hong Kong at Aug. 31, 2014 Bobby Yip—Reuters

Demonstrators vow to paralyze Hong Kong's financial district after Beijing refused to allow unfettered nominations for the territory's top job

On democracy, there will be no compromise. That’s the message Beijing sent the city of Hong Kong on Sunday. After months of rallies calling for free and fair elections, China’s legislature effectively shut the door on full democracy, ruling out open nominations for the planned 2017 election of the city’s Chief Executive, the local government’s top leader.

Since Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, the Chief Executive has been chosen by an electoral commission dominated by establishment figures. In 2017, the Chief Executive will be elected by Hong Kong voters. But the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing has now confirmed that it will retain its gatekeeper role, making sure candidates are first vetted by a committee to gauge whether they demonstrate, among others things, sufficient “love for country.”

The announcement sets the stage for renewed conflict in the city of 7 million. On Sunday evening, local time, several thousand people gathered at government offices to protest. On an open-air stage framed by the People’s Liberation Army’s Hong Kong headquarters and lighted by the city’s skyscrapers, democracy campaigners denounced the CCP and vowed to push ahead with plans to shut down the city’s financial district. The group behind the push for civil disobedience, Occupy Central With Love and Peace, did not say when, or how, the “occupation” would start.

“We’re telling Beijing this is the start of a movement,” said Joseph Cheng, professor at City University and convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, an umbrella group advocating an open nomination process. “We don’t want to be just another Chinese city.” Beijing warned that if democratic legislators did not support its 2017 plan, the territory would revert to the current system of the choosing the Chief Executive, which has been criticized by many in Hong Kong as unrepresentative and undemocratic.

Becoming “just another Chinese city” is at the heart of the activism, and counteractivism, currently shaking Hong Kong. It has been 17 years since the territory was returned to Chinese sovereignty. Under a political conceit called “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong retained certain freedoms, but was to be beholden, on matters of security, to Beijing. Over the years, however, many Hong Kong citizens say their relative autonomy has been eroded with Beijing pressuring the city’s politicians, businesspeople, journalists and even judges to get its way.

Fears about Hong Kong’s status as a Special Administrative Region of China have brought together wide swaths of Hong Kong society to either oppose, or support, the diktats of the CCP. In late June, some 800,000 people voted on a civil-society-backed monthlong plebiscite on electoral reform that Beijing deemed illegal. Shortly afterward, on the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, tens of thousands of people (estimates ranged from under 100,000 to more than 500,000) marched to show their support for democratic reform. The pro-Beijing camp held their own hundreds-strong counterprotest and issued a petition signed by 1.3 million supporters of their own.

The latest ruling will only deepen divisions, further widening the gap between those who welcome China’s influence (or believe there is no practical choice but to accept it), and those who see it as a threat. It may also lead to polarization within the pro-democracy camp, as the movement wrestles with how to move forward. For some, the civil disobedience spearheaded by Occupy Central is looking more attractive. “We have to stand up for ourselves,” says Bobby Chan, a 50-year-old private investor who attended Sunday’s protest. “Enough is enough.”

Other self-styled democrats are wary of plans to paralyze Central, the city’s financial district and lifeblood. They worry that blocking a vital part of the economy, and disobeying Beijing, will hurt, not help, Hong Kong’s cause. In a much discussed editorial for the South China Morning Post, titled “The Logic of Beijing’s Vision for 2017 Chief Executive Election,” lawmaker Regina Ip argues that the Chinese plan was based on international law and left room for democratic reform in the future. Progress will come with time and trust in the authorities, she reasons. In a telephone interview with TIME, Ip says Occupy Central’s “damage” to the city would depend on how many people take part and how many participants represent the “hard-core element.”

“Hard-core,” or, to use Beijing’s language, “extremist” elements, figure heavily in the CCP’s opposition to Hong Kong protest movements. In recent weeks, state-backed media have stepped up their rhetorical battle, claiming the democracy movement was a threat to the stability of the territory and the country. Citing an unnamed government source, state media also warned against foreign interference, saying central authorities will not allow anyone to use Hong Kong “as a bridgehead” to subvert, or infiltrate the mainland. “The Chinese government is convinced that there are forces in Hong Kong that want to undermine China,” says David Zweig, director of the Center on China’s Transnational Relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Many activists are unbowed. “We fought for democracy for over three decades,” said Lam Cheuk-ting, chief executive of the Democratic Party, at Sunday’s demonstration in Hong Kong. “We have tolerated an undemocratic government for more than 15 years.” The people, he said, are “extremely angry.”

As heavy rain soaked Lam and his fellow protesters, some of whom were in tears, an advertisement flashed above them. From the heights of a tower bearing the name of a Chinese state-owned investment company, CITIC, beamed a fluorescent slogan, in English and Chinese; it read: “A New Chapter.” Not for Hong Kong.

— With reporting by Zoher Abdoolcarim, Charlie Campbell and David Stout / Hong Kong

TIME Iraq

Iraqi Forces Break ISIS Siege After U.S. Air Campaign

A woman and children react in a military helicopter after being evacuated by Iraqi forces from Amerli
A woman and children react in a military helicopter after being evacuated by Iraqi forces from Amerli, north of Baghdad, Aug. 29, 2014. Reuters

U.S. and allied aircraft staged humanitarian drops and targeted air strikes on Sunni militant groups

The Iraqi military announced Sunday it had broken a siege of the town of Amerli by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, hours after the United States launched an air campaign to assist Iraqi civilians there.

Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen had liberated the Shiite Turkmen town on Sunday, the AP reported, bringing to an end a months-long siege by Sunni militants.

U.S. and allied aircraft conducted humanitarian airdrops to assist thousands of Shiite Turkmen who had been surrounded by ISIS militants for weeks and had been running low on food, water, and medical supplies, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. American aircraft also launched three airstrikes against ISIS positions near the city.

“At the request of the Government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to thousands of Shia Turkmen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by [ISIS],” Kirby said. ‘The United States Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom who also dropped much needed supplies.”

The U.S. airstrikes, though limited, had been a decisive factor in the breaking of the siege, The Washington Post reported, allowing Iraqi forces and militia to stage a coordinated assault on ISIS-held towns in the area. About 15,000 Shiite Turkmen residents of the town of Amerli had entrenched themselves to resist the march of ISIS forces across northern Iraq.

Saturday’s airdrops were the second U.S. humanitarian effort in Iraq, following deliveries of aid to ethnic Yazidis trapped near Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in early August. That mission ended after a week of nightly drops and strikes allowed most of the trapped Iraqi refugees to escape to safety. President Barack Obama specifically authorized the effort to assist the people of Amirli, a White House official said Saturday.

“Two U.S. C-17s and two U.S. C-130s airdropped the supplies, delivering approximately 10,500 gallons of fresh drinking water and approximately 7,000 meals ready to eat,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The airstrikes destroyed three ISIS Humvees, one ISIS vehicle, one ISIS checkpoint and an ISIS tank, the statement said.

Separately, American forces carried out five airstrikes Saturday near the Mosul Dam, a critical piece of infrastructure recaptured from ISIS hands by Iraqi forces earlier this month, CENTCOM announced, bringing the total number of American strikes in Iraq to 118 since Aug. 8.

Obama is weighing expanding the American campaign against ISIS in Iraq and extending it into Syria following the killing of American journalist James Foley, but the president indicated Thursday a decision was not imminent. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to the region this week to build an international coalition to take on extremist group.

U.S. operations in Iraq are costing more than $7.5 million per day, Kirby told reporters Friday.

TIME Ukraine

Putin to Ukraine: Begin Immediate Talks on East

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks to the media after his talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 27, 2014. Alexander Zemlianichenko—AP

Despite the use of the word "statehood, Putin did not envision sovereignty for the two separatist eastern regions

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called on Ukraine to immediately start talks on a political solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

Putin’s comment, made to national TV network Channel 1 and reported by Russian news agencies after they were broadcast in Russia’s Far East, said Ukraine should “hold substantive, meaningful talks, not about technical issues but about the question of the political organization of society and statehood in southeast Ukraine, with the goal of safeguarding the legitimate interests of those people who live there.”

Despite the use of the word “statehood, Putin did not envision sovereignty for the two separatist eastern regions that style themselves as “Novorossiya” (New Russia ), his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later, according to a Russian news report.

Russia previously has called for talks between the central government and the separatist rebels in the east, which Ukrainian forces have been fighting since April and Russia has pushed for federalization that would devolve more powers to the regions.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko released a peace plan in June that proposed an unspecified level of decentralization of executive powers and budgetary matters. But rebels so have rejected any talks unless Ukrainian forces halt their offensive.

Rebel representatives couldn’t immediately be reached Sunday and Poroshenko’s spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, said he had no immediate comment.

Although Kiev and Western countries allege Russia has sent in troops and equipment to bolster the pro-Russia rebels, Moscow firmly rejects the accusations and distances itself from suggestions that it can wield influence on the rebels. Last week, after his first extensive meeting with Poroshenko, Putin rejected any suggestion that Russia could be involved in negotiating a cease-fire in the conflict, which has killed nearly 2,600 people according to the United Nations.

Putin said Ukraine should stop the offensive.

“If anybody believes that in a situation where the cities and villages of east Ukraine come under direct fire that the militiamen will have no reaction to that, but will simply wait for the promised talks, then these people are prisoner to some illusions,” he said.

The Russian leader’s statement comes as Ukrainian forces battle against newly strengthened resistance from the rebels. After making gains in recent weeks, Ukraine has been forced to pull out of several towns over the past week. In addition, rebels have opened a new front along the southeast Azov Sea coast which could indicate the intention to establish a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed in March.

Ukraine says Russian tanks and troops took part in the move against the coast and NATO claims there are at least 1,000 Russian troops in Ukraine.

This week, Ukraine seized 10 Russian soldiers well inside the country. On Sunday, Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the national security council, said nine of them had been given back to Russia in exchange for 63 Ukrainian servicemen.

“Ukraine has made a step forward,” Lysenko said of the release. “This is one of the major steps towards the Russian Federation — they were not taken to court, they were transferred.”

TIME Pakistan

3 Killed as Protesters Clash With Pakistan Police

Pakistan
A Pakistani protester throws tear gas shell back towards police during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 31, 2014. B.K. Bangash—AP

The overnight violence has raised the stakes in the two-week sit-in led by opposition politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Thousands of anti-government protesters tried to raid the official residence of Pakistan’s prime minister, sparking clashes with police that killed three people and wounded nearly 400 amid cries for the premier to step down, officials said Sunday.

The overnight violence has raised the stakes in the two-week sit-in led by opposition politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, which earlier saw demonstrators march past roadblocks to set up camp outside of Pakistan’s parliament. They demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down over their allegations of massive voting fraud in the election that brought him into office last year in the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

Backed by parliament and many political parties, Sharif has refused to step down as negotiators have tried to convince Qadri and Khan to end their protests.

Late Saturday night, protesters headed toward the prime minister’s residence. When the crowd started removing shipping containers used as barricades, police fired salvos of tear gas that forced the crowds back. Authorities have said they had no choice but to use force.

Scores of protesters carrying hammers and iron rods also broke down a fence outside of parliament late Saturday, enabling hundreds of people to enter the lawns and parking area. Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak said the protesters were armed with large hammers, wire cutters, axes and even a crane.

The protesters started regrouping at daybreak Sunday and made repeated attempts to make their way through heavy deployment of police and barricades to reach the premier’s residence. Police strengthened their lines and responded by lobbing tear gas canisters.

Nearly 400 people — including women, children and police officers — were admitted to local hospitals, officials said. The injured had wounds from tear gas shells, batons and rubber bullets, said Dr. Javed Akram, who heads the capital’s main hospital.

One person drowned in a ditch after he was in a crowd bombarded with tear gas while two others died from wounds related to rubber bullets, said Dr. Wasim Khawaja, a senior official at the hospital.

Police also beat local journalists covering the protests with batons, injuring some, Railways Minister Saad Rafiq said. Rafiq said he intervened to stop the police assault and said that he would ask the government to investigate the officers’ conduct.

The protests began with a march from the eastern city of Lahore on Pakistan’s Independence Day on Aug. 14. Khan and Qadri had called for millions of protesters to join, but crowds have not been more than tens of thousands.

The protesters’ presence and heightened security measures have ground life in much of the capital to a halt.

Both Khan and Qadri stayed overnight at the protests, spending most of their time in the containers that they have been living in for days.

Khan called for demonstrations across Pakistan and described the police actions against the crowd as illegal. Qadri said he’d been up all night praying and monitoring the situation.

“If they think their brutality will force us back, they are wrong,” he said in a choked voice.

The demonstrations signify the starkest threat to Sharif’s third term as prime minister. His previous term ended with a military coup and his eventual exile. This turn in office has seen equally contentious relations with the country’s powerful army. He’s clashed with the military over the prosecution of the former army chief for treason, accusations the country’s powerful spy agency was behind the attempted killing of a top TV anchor, and a military operation in the tribal areas.

Sharif vowed Saturday he would not step down, but if the violence continues it could severely undermine his authority.

“The biggest question: Can Nawaz Sharif survive? The answer, in these frantic hours, must surely be a miserable, despondent no,” read an editorial in Dawn, one of the country’s leading English-language newspapers.

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