freelancer

Experience the World's Best Obstacle Race Series! Sign up for a Reebok Spartan Race Today! Freelance Jobs 336x280

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Islamic fighters kill scores of Yazidi men in Iraq

A US Navy F-A-18 launches off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf waters on August 15, 2014.: A US Navy F/A-18 launches off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf waters on August 15, 2014. Mazen Mahdi, EPA

A US Navy F/A-18 launches off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf waters on August 15, 2014.


IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Islamic extremists shot scores of Yazidi men to death in Iraq, lining them up in small groups and opening fire with assault rifles before abducting their wives and children, according to an eyewitness, government officials and people who live in the area.
A Yazidi lawmaker on Saturday cited the mass killing in Kocho as evidence that his people are still at risk after a week of U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes on the militants.
Meanwhile, warplanes targeted insurgents around a large dam that was captured by the Islamic State extremist group earlier this month, nearby residents said.
In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the airstrikes Saturday were launched under the authority to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect U.S. personnel and facilities.
Central Command says the nine airstrikes conducted so far had destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle.
The U.S. began airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group a week ago, in part to prevent the massacre of tens of thousands of Yazidis in northern Iraq. They fled the militants by scrambling up a barren mountain, where they got stranded. Most were eventually able to escape with help from Kurdish fighters.
Islamic State fighters had surrounded the nearby village 12 days ago and demanded that its Yazidi residents convert or die. On Friday afternoon, they moved in.
The militants told people to gather in a school, promising they would be allowed to leave Kocho after their details were recorded, said the eyewitness and the brother of the Kocho mayor, Nayef Jassem, who said he obtained his details from another witness.
The militants separated the men from the women and children under 12 years old. They took men and male teens away in groups of a few dozen each and shot them on the edge of the village, according to a wounded man who escaped by feigning death.
The fighters then walked among the bodies, using pistols to finish off anyone who appeared to still be alive, the 42-year-old man told The Associated Press by phone from an area where he was hiding. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.
"They thought we were dead, and when they went away, we ran away. We hid in a valley until sundown, and then we fled to the mountains," he said.
A Yazidi lawmaker, a Kurdish security official and an Iraqi official from the nearby city of Sinjar gave similar accounts, saying Islamic State fighters had massacred many Yazidi men Friday after seizing Kocho.
All of them said they based their information on the accounts of survivors. Their accounts matched those of two other Yazidi men, Qassim Hussein and Nayef Jassem, who said they spoke to other survivors.
It was not clear precisely how many men were killed. Iraqi and Kurdish officials said at least 80 men were shot. Yazidi residents said they believed the number was higher, because there were at least 175 families in Kocho, and few were able to escape before the militants surrounded their hamlet.
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community settle at a new camp outside the old camp of Bajid Kandala at Feeshkhabour town near the Syria-Iraq border, Iraq, Aug. 15, 2014.AP Photo: Khalid Mohammed
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community settle at a new camp outside the old camp of Bajid Kandala at Feeshkhabour town near the Syria-Iraq border, Iraq, Aug. 15, 2014.
Jassem said he was in touch with two wounded men, including a cousin, who fled the village. They called Jassem from the phone of a sympathetic shepherd and described what happened. On Saturday morning, Jassem's cousin called again, pleading for help.
"I can't walk, and we will die," Jassem said his cousin told him, his voice breaking. The 55-year-old said he called Yazidi rebels in the mountains, pleading with them to try to save the men. "They need first aid. Send them a donkey they can sit on, something to carry them." But Jassem said his cousin was a six-hour walk from the rebels and would die before help came. By evening, he lost contact with his relative.
The Yazidis are a centuries-old religious minority viewed as apostates by the Islamic State, which has claimed mass killings of its opponents in Syria and Iraq, often posting grisly photos online.
Yazidi lawmaker Mahma Khalil said the Yazidis in Kocho were given the choice to abandon their religion for that of the fighters. When they refused, "the massacre took place," he said.
Halgurd Hekmat, a spokesman for Kurdish security forces, said the militants took the women and children of Kocho to a nearby city.
Elsewhere in northern Iraq, residents living near the Mosul Dam told the AP that the area was being targeted by airstrikes.
The extremist group seized the dam on the Tigris River on Aug. 7. Residents living near the dam, which is Iraq's largest, say the airstrikes killed militants, but that could not immediately be confirmed. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity out of fears for their safety.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled earlier this month when the Islamic State group captured the town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border.
The plight of the Yazidis motivated U.S. and Iraqi forces to launch aid drops. It also contributed to the U.S. decision to launch airstrikes against the militants, who were advancing on the Kurdish regional capital Irbil.
But the Islamic State group remains in control of vast swaths of northeastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, and the scale of the humanitarian crisis prompted the U.N. to declare its highest level of emergency earlier this week.
Some 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting since the Islamic State's rapid advance began in June.
The decision to launch airstrikes marked the first direct U.S. military intervention in Iraq since the last troops withdrew in 2011 and reflected growing international concern about the extremist group.
Khalil, the Yazidi lawmaker, said the U.S. must do more to protect those fleeing the Islamic State fighters.
"We have been calling on the U.S. administration and Iraqi government to intervene and help the innocent people," Khalil said. "But it seems that nobody is listening."
The United States was not alone in its efforts to ease the dangers in the region.
On Saturday, Britain's Ministry of Defense said it deployed a U.S.-made spy plane over northern Iraq to monitor the humanitarian crisis and movements of the militants. The converted Boeing KC-135 tanker, called a Rivet Joint, was to monitor mobile phone calls and other communication.
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Baghdad on Saturday, where he announced his government would provide more than 24 million euros ($32.2 million) in humanitarian aid to Iraq.
Also Saturday, two British planes landed in the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil carrying humanitarian supplies.
___
Yacoub reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writers Vivian Salama in Baghdad, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

Official: Amish girls sexually abused in abduction

These images provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office shows the booking photo of Stephan Howells II, 39, left, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, who was arraigned late Friday Aug. 15, 2014 on charges they intended to physically harm or sexually abuse two Amish sisters after abducting them from a roadside farm stand.: These images provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office shows the booking photo of Stephan Howells II, 39, left, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, who were arraigned late Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, on charges they intended to physically harm or sexually abuse two Amish sisters after abducting them from a roadside farm stand.

These images provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office shows the booking photo of Stephan Howells II, 39, left, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, who were arraigned late Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, on charges they intended to physically harm or sexually abuse two Amish sisters after abducting them from a roadside farm stand.


CANTON, N.Y. (AP) — Two young Amish sisters were sexually abused after their abduction from a roadside farm stand in northern New York, a prosecutor said Saturday.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain's disclosure came hours after the county's sheriff said the couple charged in the kidnapping were prowling for easy targets and may have planned to abduct other children.
Stephen Howells Jr. and Nicole Vaisey, both of Hermon, were arrested and arraigned Friday on charges they abducted the 7-year-old and 12-year-old sisters with the intent to physically or sexually abuse them.
"We felt that there was the definite potential that there was going to be other victims," St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said.

2 charged in abduction of Amish girls

2 charged in abduction of Amish girls
Duration: 1:03 Views: 48k CNN
The sisters were abducted Wednesday from the farm stand in front of the family's home in Oswegatchie, near the Canadian border. They were set free by their captors about 24 hours later and turned up safe at the door of a house 15 miles from where they were taken.

The sheriff said Howells, 39, and Vaisey, 25, "were targeting opportunities" and did not necessarily grab the girls because they were Amish.

"There was a lot of thought process that went into this," Wells said. "They were looking for opportunities to victimize."

The suspects are being held without bail. A preliminary court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
Vaisey's lawyer, Bradford Riendeau told The New York Times that Howells had abused Vaisey and treated her submissively. He said she made a "voluntary statement" to investigators after her arrest and was obtaining an order of protection against him.

"She appears to have been the slave and he was the master," Riendeau told the newspaper.
There was no answer Saturday at the St. Lawrence County Conflict Defender's Office, which is representing Howells.

Wells said the girls were able to provide details to investigators about their time in captivity.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who may be victims of sexual abuse.
The kidnappings touched off a massive search in the family's remote farming community. Searchers scoured the community of about 4,000 people, but were hampered by a lack of photos of the girls.
The Amish typically avoid modern technology, and the family had to work with an artist who spoke their language, a German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch, to produce a sketch of the older girl.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Pro-Palestinian activists march to UN headquarters

Supporters of ending the violence in Gaza yell at a rally near Columbus Circle during a protest in New York, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. AP: Craig Ruttle

Supporters of ending the violence in Gaza yell at a rally near Columbus Circle during a protest in New York, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014.


NEW YORK (AP) — A sea of Palestinians and their sympathizers lined Manhattan streets Saturday, marching to the United Nations and shouting that Israel's response to missile attacks was genocide that took children's lives.
"What they're doing is wrong," said Ayia Mustafa, 12, of the New York borough of Bronx. "I'm here to protest what's going on in Gaza. What's going on is wrong — bad things like killing children."
She was among about 500 demonstrators who walked to the United Nations on Manhattan's East Side after gathering behind police barricades off Columbus Circle to protest Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, which the United States and other countries consider a terrorist organization, governs much of Gaza.
In midtown Manhattan, police on motorcycles stood by, engines revved up to accompany the marchers before they peacefully headed toward the United Nations building.
"We are all Palestinians and because of the occupation there is no justice in Gaza," said Zouleikha Ban, 57, a native of Algeria who lives in the borough of Staten Island.
Supporters of ending the violence in Gaza pass through Times Square during a protest march in New York, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014.AP: Craig Ruttle
Supporters of ending the violence in Gaza pass through Times Square during a protest march in New York, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014.
Several days previously, hundreds of Palestinian supporters marched and demonstrated in front of a midtown Manhattan office building after a 72-hour humanitarian cease fire broke down in Gaza. They said then they would hold more rallies as the conflict continues.
Behind metal police barricades at Columbus Circle on Saturday, demonstrators chanted: "Free, free Palestine! Occupation is a crime!" Organizers called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.
Allaa Mustafa, Ayia's 14-year-old sister, said they're both American citizens. "But if we went to Gaza, we'd have more rights than Palestinians there," she said.
Some tapped into the history of the region.
Mostafa Asadi, an engineer from Philadelphia who came to New York for the protest, said the current violence in the Middle East started more than six decades ago.
"The Zionists took Palestinian land and expelled them in 1948, and now Israel is trying to control the area," said Asadi, 55, an Iran native who hoisted a sign that said: "Stop the U.S.-Israeli blockade of Gaza."
"The Israelis are racist," said Asadi.
Later Saturday, a social media movement aimed at uniting Jews and Arabs planned a silent protest and candlelight vigil in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near U.N. headquarters.