24/04/2014

War correspondent kidnapped

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Madrid (CNN) — A veteran Spanish war correspondent has been kidnapped by insurgents in Syria, his newspaper reported Tuesday.

The reporter, Marc Marginedas, has been missing since Sept. 4, the last day that he contacted the newspaper, El Periodico de Catalunya, which is based in Barcelona.

The newspaper reported that it appears that Marginedas, 46, was kidnapped by jihadi combatants near the city of Hama, in western Syria.

“According to various sources, Marginedas was traveling by car with his driver when they were intercepted by jihadi combatants,” the newspaper said. “Since then, it has not been possible to contact him.”


Life as a journalist in Syria not easy


Amnesty: Journalists targeted in Syria


Journalist escapes from Syria

No group in Syria has claimed responsibility for his kidnapping, it said.

Marginedas has reported from conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Lebanon, Darfur and Algeria. This was his third trip to Syria since the civil war began there in 2011, the newspaper said.

It is the first time in his long career as a war correspondent that he’s been kidnapped, the newspaper’s communications director, Montserrat Baldoma, said by phone from Barcelona.

A dangerous place

An Amnesty International report published this year named Syria as the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

The report highlighted serious abuses committed by government and opposition forces against professional and citizen journalists, both Syrian and international.

Marginedas entered Syria on Sept. 1 through Reyhanli, in southern Turkey, accompanied by fighters from the Free Syrian Army, who are trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the newspaper said.

He sent his last story to the paper on September 2 from Qasr ibn Wardan, near Hama, reporting on the disappointment among rebel fighters that a potential U.S. military strike on Syria — in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack there on August 21 — seemed to be growing more remote.

Baldoma said the newspaper “waited a prudent time” before announcing Marginedas’ kidnapping publicly on Tuesday.

El Periodico de Catalunya has been working to secure his release, Baldoma said.

Earlier this month, a veteran Italian war correspondent was released after being held captive in Syria for several months.

READ: Two French journalists missing in Syria


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/0Vkj1YYEi78/index.html

Turning point for U.S., Iran?

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Watch Amanpour’s interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on CNN International on Wednesday at 14:00 ET / 20:00 CET

(CNN) — This week’s United Nations meeting could mark a turning point in the acidic relationship between Iran and the United States.

Will U.S. President Barack Obama shake the hand of newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani? Will the two presidents even hold a meeting?

Those are key questions after Rouhani’s “we must work together” opinion piece published by the Washington Post’s website last week.

His comments have sparked optimism on the streets of Iran’s capital, where residents are hopeful as they take note of their new president’s unprecedented charm offensive pushing for better relations with Washington.

But the Iranian president’s new approach hasn’t played as well in Israel.


An olive branch from Iran?


Will U.S. and Iran meet?


U.S. relations with Iran changing?


Diplomacy gets early win in Syria, Iran

The New York Times reported Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up an effort to blunt Iran’s diplomatic offensive, and plans to warn the United Nations that overtures toward a nuclear deal could be a trap.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy, but the United States and others suspect it’s for atomic bombs.

The dispute about why Iran is seeking nuclear capability has prompted international sanctions and escalated concerns about additional warfare in the Middle East.

In his op-ed, Rouhani wrote that he wants “a constructive approach” between his country and the world, including about Iran’s nuclear program.

“We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart,” Rouhani said.

Analysts are divided about Rouhani and his sincerity in addressing his country’s nuclear program. But there’s one thing all analysts agree on: the op-ed was a jumping off point for a very high-profile public relations push.

And this week, Rouhani could take things a step further.

Analyst: Rouhani needs to strike a deal quickly

In many ways, Rouhani’s recent election is like Obama’s in 2008: Rouhani enjoys enormous political capital, offering an opportunity to renew U.S.-Iran relations.

Rouhani overcame hard-line conservatives by campaigning as a centrist and a reformer, using a “hope and prudence” slogan.

To keep hard-liners at bay, Rouhani now must deliver something — namely, economic relief as Iran strains under global sanctions — or his critics will prevail as they did against Obama in 2009 when his own venture on U.S.-Iran diplomacy foundered, one analyst said.

“Now the roles are reversed: Rouhani needs to strike a deal quickly,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, who authored “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran.”

This week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting “could be quite decisive,” Parsi said.

“That’s going to be the moment where the two sides have to invest the political capital needed. Otherwise it will go nowhere. It’s going to be costly politically to strike a deal. There’s going to be critics on both sides,” Parsi said. “There is a need for a huge dose of political will to be injected into the process.”

Will the two presidents meet?

Obama delivered a speech Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly, and Rouhani is scheduled to as well. But it’s unclear whether the two presidents will meet.

Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Monday that no meeting has been scheduled with Rouhani for this week, but the White House remains open to diplomacy that serves American interests.

Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama shouldn’t meet with Rouhani during the U.N. gathering, though shaking hands in a corridor would be appropriate.

Abrams says that’s because while Rouhani is Iran’s president, he is not the country’s leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader of Iran.

“They are not counterparts, they are not equal,” said Abrams, who also supervised U.S. policy in the Middle East under former President George W. Bush. “So for the president to meet with him, I think confers too great a recognition on him.”

Abrams said Rouhani was a skilled political tactician when he was the country’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005.

“Remember this is the guy — Rouhani — who wrote several years ago with pride how he tied us up in negotiations while the nuclear program (of Iran) was going forward,” Abrams said. “So we should approach this with skepticism.”

Asked Monday whether the two presidents may just shake hands, Rhodes replied, “I don’t think anything will happen by happenstance on a relationship this important.”

White House weighs in

The Obama administration has welcomed Rouhani’s published column.

“But the fact of the matter is actions are what are going to be determinative here,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “The Iranians, for a number of years now, have been unwilling to live up to their obligations to the international community as it relates to their nuclear program.”

The international community’s economic sanctions against Iran has “taken a significant toll on their economy and put pressure on them to come back to the bargaining table,” Earnest said.

He did acknowledge that Rouhani now enjoys a window of opportunity against his hard-line adversaries at home, but Iran must “demonstrate their seriousness of purpose” and show “their nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful means.”

For now, Obama’s schedule this week doesn’t contain any meetings with Rouhani.

Asked if the United States is willing to ease sanctions against Iran, Earnest said such economic pressure “is what has brought the Iranians to the table.”

Optimism in Tehran

On the streets of Iran’s capital, many appear to be hopeful that their president’s overtures toward the United States are a good sign. But they’re also realistic that 34 years of mistrust will not disappear overnight.

“I am 99% sure things will be better,” said Tehran resident Syed Ali Akbar. “I can just feel it.”

Barber Hassan Ahmadi said he wants sanctions to end.

“I want to see better relations,” he said, “so we can live a little easier.”

Ali Hayati wasn’t even born the last time Iran and the United States had diplomatic relations. But now, he feels like there’s a chance for change.

“I want to see Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Obama sit in front of each other and speak about life,” he said.

At the House of Persian Carpets in the famous Tehran Bazaar, merchant Sadegh Kiyaei said he’s optimistic.

“We believe that two nations — Iran and America — they realize that they need each other. They like each other,” he said. “And they feel that it’s the right time to get together and to start talking at least.”

CNN’s Reza Sayah in Tehran, Kevin Liptak in Washington and Catherine E. Shoichet in Atlanta contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/BhkMoyVJaAw/index.html

Jane Austen ring bought back

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS


A ring that once belonged to 19th century English author Jane Austen.

(CNN) — A ring once owned by the 19th century novelist Jane Austen is to remain in Britain after a museum successfully raised funds to buy it from American singer Kelly Clarkson.

The gold and turquoise ring is one of just three pieces of jewelry in existence known to have belonged to Austen, the author of novels including “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma.”

Jane Austen’s House Museum, in Chawton, southern England, said it had been unable to meet the sale price of £152,450 ($231,227) when the ring was auctioned by Sotheby’s last year. Clarkson, a “long time Austen devotee” bought the item instead, it said. The sale price was more than five times the estimate Sotheby’s had placed on the ring.

In August, UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey placed a temporary export bar on the ring “on the grounds that it is so closely connected with [Britain's] history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune.”

Read more: Clarkson purchase of ring hits snag

The Jane Austen’s House Museum launched an appeal to buy the ring. It said its fundraising “was given a great boost with an anonymous donor coming forward immediately with a pledge of £100,000.”


The business of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

The museum has now announced that its offer to buy the ring has been accepted and that the item will be put on display in the new year.

“The museum has been stunned by the generosity and light-footedness of all those who have supported our campaign to meet the costs of acquiring Jane Austen’s ring for our permanent collection,” curator Mary Guyatt said.

Read more: Walking in the footsteps of Jane Austen

Clarkson also welcomed the news, saying in a statement: “The ring is a beautiful national treasure and I am happy to know that so many Jane Austen fans will get to see it at Jane Austen’s House Museum.”

The other two items of jewelry known to have belonged to Austen — a topaz cross and a turquoise and ivory bracelet — are already on display at the museum, in the building where the author spent the last eight years of her life.

Read more: 200 years of ‘Pride and Prejudice’


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/AaWUL-1HEgM/index.html

Turning point between U.S., Iran?

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Watch Amanpour’s interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on CNN International on Wednesday at 14:00 ET / 20:00 CET

(CNN) — This week’s United Nations meeting could mark a turning point in the acidic relationship between Iran and the United States.

Will U.S. President Barack Obama shake the hand of newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani? Will the two presidents even hold a meeting?

Those are key questions after Rouhani’s “we must work together” opinion piece published by the Washington Post’s website last week.

His comments have sparked optimism on the streets of Iran’s capital, where residents are hopeful as they take note of their new president’s unprecedented charm offensive pushing for better relations with Washington.

But the Iranian president’s new approach hasn’t played as well in Israel.


An olive branch from Iran?


Will U.S. and Iran meet?


U.S. relations with Iran changing?


Diplomacy gets early win in Syria, Iran

The New York Times reported Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up an effort to blunt Iran’s diplomatic offensive, and plans to warn the United Nations that overtures toward a nuclear deal could be a trap.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy, but the United States and others suspect it’s for atomic bombs.

The dispute about why Iran is seeking nuclear capability has prompted international sanctions and escalated concerns about additional warfare in the Middle East.

In his op-ed, Rouhani wrote that he wants “a constructive approach” between his country and the world, including about Iran’s nuclear program.

“We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart,” Rouhani said.

Analysts are divided about Rouhani and his sincerity in addressing his country’s nuclear program. But there’s one thing all analysts agree on: the op-ed was a jumping off point for a very high-profile public relations push.

And this week, Rouhani could take things a step further.

Analyst: Rouhani needs to strike a deal quickly

In many ways, Rouhani’s recent election is like Obama’s in 2008: Rouhani enjoys enormous political capital, offering an opportunity to renew U.S.-Iran relations.

Rouhani overcame hard-line conservatives by campaigning as a centrist and a reformer, using a “hope and prudence” slogan.

To keep hard-liners at bay, Rouhani now must deliver something — namely, economic relief as Iran strains under global sanctions — or his critics will prevail as they did against Obama in 2009 when his own venture on U.S.-Iran diplomacy foundered, one analyst said.

“Now the roles are reversed: Rouhani needs to strike a deal quickly,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, who authored “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran.”

This week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting “could be quite decisive,” Parsi said.

“That’s going to be the moment where the two sides have to invest the political capital needed. Otherwise it will go nowhere. It’s going to be costly politically to strike a deal. There’s going to be critics on both sides,” Parsi said. “There is a need for a huge dose of political will to be injected into the process.”

Will the two presidents meet?

Obama delivered a speech Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly, and Rouhani is scheduled to as well. But it’s unclear whether the two presidents will meet.

Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Monday that no meeting has been scheduled with Rouhani for this week, but the White House remains open to diplomacy that serves American interests.

Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama shouldn’t meet with Rouhani during the U.N. gathering, though shaking hands in a corridor would be appropriate.

Abrams says that’s because while Rouhani is Iran’s president, he is not the country’s leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader of Iran.

“They are not counterparts, they are not equal,” said Abrams, who also supervised U.S. policy in the Middle East under former President George W. Bush. “So for the president to meet with him, I think confers too great a recognition on him.”

Abrams said Rouhani was a skilled political tactician when he was the country’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005.

“Remember this is the guy — Rouhani — who wrote several years ago with pride how he tied us up in negotiations while the nuclear program (of Iran) was going forward,” Abrams said. “So we should approach this with skepticism.”

Asked Monday whether the two presidents may just shake hands, Rhodes replied, “I don’t think anything will happen by happenstance on a relationship this important.”

White House weighs in

The Obama administration has welcomed Rouhani’s published column.

“But the fact of the matter is actions are what are going to be determinative here,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “The Iranians, for a number of years now, have been unwilling to live up to their obligations to the international community as it relates to their nuclear program.”

The international community’s economic sanctions against Iran has “taken a significant toll on their economy and put pressure on them to come back to the bargaining table,” Earnest said.

He did acknowledge that Rouhani now enjoys a window of opportunity against his hard-line adversaries at home, but Iran must “demonstrate their seriousness of purpose” and show “their nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful means.”

For now, Obama’s schedule this week doesn’t contain any meetings with Rouhani.

Asked if the United States is willing to ease sanctions against Iran, Earnest said such economic pressure “is what has brought the Iranians to the table.”

Optimism in Tehran

On the streets of Iran’s capital, many appear to be hopeful that their president’s overtures toward the United States are a good sign. But they’re also realistic that 34 years of mistrust will not disappear overnight.

“I am 99% sure things will be better,” said Tehran resident Syed Ali Akbar. “I can just feel it.”

Barber Hassan Ahmadi said he wants sanctions to end.

“I want to see better relations,” he said, “so we can live a little easier.”

Ali Hayati wasn’t even born the last time Iran and the United States had diplomatic relations. But now, he feels like there’s a chance for change.

“I want to see Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Obama sit in front of each other and speak about life,” he said.

At the House of Persian Carpets in the famous Tehran Bazaar, merchant Sadegh Kiyaei said he’s optimistic.

“We believe that two nations — Iran and America — they realize that they need each other. They like each other,” he said. “And they feel that it’s the right time to get together and to start talking at least.”

CNN’s Reza Sayah in Tehran, Kevin Liptak in Washington and Catherine E. Shoichet in Atlanta contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/BhkMoyVJaAw/index.html

From status symbol to palace of terror

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS


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A Kenyan soldier runs through a corridor on an upper floor at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, September 24, shortly before an explosion was heard. Sounds of heavy gunfire erupted from the mall Tuesday, even as authorities said they had the building under their control. But four days after Al-Shabaab terrorists stormed the swanky mall, several gunmen -- including snipers -- were still inside, two senior officials said.A Kenyan soldier runs through a corridor on an upper floor at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, September 24, shortly before an explosion was heard. Sounds of heavy gunfire erupted from the mall Tuesday, even as authorities said they had the building under their control. But four days after Al-Shabaab terrorists stormed the swanky mall, several gunmen — including snipers — were still inside, two senior officials said.

Ann Gakii reacts at the Nairobi City Mortuary after identifying the body of her father, who was killed in the mall attack on Saturday. Ann Gakii reacts at the Nairobi City Mortuary after identifying the body of her father, who was killed in the mall attack on Saturday.

Kenyan Defense Forces walk near the mall on Monday, September 23.Kenyan Defense Forces walk near the mall on Monday, September 23.

Kenyan Defense Forces leave the mall on September 23.Kenyan Defense Forces leave the mall on September 23.

Stephen, center, is comforted by relatives as he waits for the post mortem exam of his father, who was killed in Saturday's attack at the mall. Stephen, center, is comforted by relatives as he waits for the post mortem exam of his father, who was killed in Saturday’s attack at the mall.

A Kenyan police officer guards the entrance of a building near the mall on September 23.A Kenyan police officer guards the entrance of a building near the mall on September 23.

A Kenyan security officer takes cover as gunfire and explosions are heard from the mall on September 23.A Kenyan security officer takes cover as gunfire and explosions are heard from the mall on September 23.

Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Shopping Mall on September 23.Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Shopping Mall on September 23.

Medics take cover behind a tree as gunfire and explosions are heard from the Westgate Mall on September 23.Medics take cover behind a tree as gunfire and explosions are heard from the Westgate Mall on September 23.

A Kenyan police security officer runs for cover as heavy smoke rises from the mall on September 23.A Kenyan police security officer runs for cover as heavy smoke rises from the mall on September 23.

A paramedic runs for cover outside the mall on September 23.A paramedic runs for cover outside the mall on September 23.

People run for cover outside the mall after heavy shooting started on September 23.People run for cover outside the mall after heavy shooting started on September 23.

Kenyan security forces crouch behind a wall outside the mall on September 23.Kenyan security forces crouch behind a wall outside the mall on September 23.

Soldiers take cover after gunfire near the mall on September 23.Soldiers take cover after gunfire near the mall on September 23.

Kenyan paramilitary police officers patrol the area near the mall on Sunday, September 22.Kenyan paramilitary police officers patrol the area near the mall on Sunday, September 22.

Soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces arrive outside the Westgate Mall on September 22.Soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces arrive outside the Westgate Mall on September 22.

A woman shields a baby as a soldier stands guard inside the Westgate Mall on Saturday, September 21.A woman shields a baby as a soldier stands guard inside the Westgate Mall on Saturday, September 21.

A rescue worker helps a child outside the mall.A rescue worker helps a child outside the mall.

People who had been hiding inside the mall during the gunfire flee the scene.People who had been hiding inside the mall during the gunfire flee the scene.

An armed official takes a shooting position inside the mall.An armed official takes a shooting position inside the mall.

An armed official crouches on September 21.An armed official crouches on September 21.

Bodies lie on the ground inside the mall.Bodies lie on the ground inside the mall.

Men help a wounded woman outside the mall.Men help a wounded woman outside the mall.

Officials carry an injured man in the mall.Officials carry an injured man in the mall.

Soldiers move up stairs inside the Westgate Mall.Soldiers move up stairs inside the Westgate Mall.

Armed police leave after entering the mall. At least one suspect has been killed, a government official said. Police have said another suspected gunman has been detained at a Nairobi hospital.Armed police leave after entering the mall. At least one suspect has been killed, a government official said. Police have said another suspected gunman has been detained at a Nairobi hospital.

Armed police take cover behind escalators as smoke fills the air. Witnesses say tear gas was thrown in the corridors.Armed police take cover behind escalators as smoke fills the air. Witnesses say tear gas was thrown in the corridors.

A woman who had been hiding during the attack runs for cover after armed police enter the mall. A woman who had been hiding during the attack runs for cover after armed police enter the mall.

A body is seen on the floor inside the smoke-filled four-story mall.A body is seen on the floor inside the smoke-filled four-story mall.

An injured person is helped on arrival at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi after the attack at the upscale mall. An injured person is helped on arrival at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi after the attack at the upscale mall.

A soldier directs people up a stairway inside the Westgate on September 21.A soldier directs people up a stairway inside the Westgate on September 21.

An injured man is wheeled into the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi.An injured man is wheeled into the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi.

People run from the Westgate Mall.People run from the Westgate Mall.

A Kenyan woman is helped to safety after the masked gunmen stormed the upscale mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff. A Kenyan woman is helped to safety after the masked gunmen stormed the upscale mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff.

Crowds gather outside the upscale shopping mall. The interior ministry urges Kenyans to keep off the roads near the mall so police can ensure everyone inside has been evacuated to safety. Crowds gather outside the upscale shopping mall. The interior ministry urges Kenyans to keep off the roads near the mall so police can ensure everyone inside has been evacuated to safety.

A policeman carries a baby to safety. Authorities said multiple shooters were at the scene. A policeman carries a baby to safety. Authorities said multiple shooters were at the scene.

Bodies lie outside the shopping mall.Bodies lie outside the shopping mall.

A security officer helps a wounded woman outside. A security officer helps a wounded woman outside.

Elaine Dang of San Diego is helped to safety after the attack. The military asked local media not to televise anything live because the gunmen are watching the screens in the mall.Elaine Dang of San Diego is helped to safety after the attack. The military asked local media not to televise anything live because the gunmen are watching the screens in the mall.

Paramedics treat an injured man outside the mall. Paramedics treat an injured man outside the mall.

Medical personnel carry a body away. Medical personnel carry a body away.

A body lies outside the mall. Gunmen shot people outside the mall as they entered itA body lies outside the mall. Gunmen shot people outside the mall as they entered it

A woman is pulled by a shopping cart to an ambulance.A woman is pulled by a shopping cart to an ambulance.

A wounded man is escorted outside the mall. A wounded man is escorted outside the mall.

A police officer carries a baby as people keep low and run to safety. Crowds dashed down the streets as soldiers in military fatigues, guns cocked, crawled under cars to get closer to the mall. A police officer carries a baby as people keep low and run to safety. Crowds dashed down the streets as soldiers in military fatigues, guns cocked, crawled under cars to get closer to the mall.

People run away from the scene. People run away from the scene.

Armed Kenyan forces take position to secure the area around the shopping mall as ambulances move in to carry the injured. Armed Kenyan forces take position to secure the area around the shopping mall as ambulances move in to carry the injured.

A woman reacts after she is rescued from the mall. A woman reacts after she is rescued from the mall.

A couple flee the area. As night fell, authorities said they had cornered the gunmen in the mall.A couple flee the area. As night fell, authorities said they had cornered the gunmen in the mall.


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Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) — A safe distance from Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, several Kenyans stare through a stand of trees at the site of one of the nation’s worst terrorist attacks.

The opulent mall has proudly stood for six years — like a glittering city within a city in the popular enclave of Westlands, about 15 miles from slums where residents struggle daily to survive.

But Saturday’s attack by Al-Shabaab terrorists has left dozens dead, turning the 350,000 square foot, five-story shopping complex into a symbol of a very different kind.

Related story: Kenya mall shooting enters fourth day

Among the onlookers Tuesday gathered at a cordoned off area near the scene of the attack, cab driver Benjamin Kamau said he doesn’t feel safe anymore. The tragedy has shaken him. It will take a long time to return to any sense of safety or normalcy.

Westgate Mall has made its name as a place to see and be seen — where shoppers sipped frozen yogurt, caught a movie and shopped for the latest fashions amid an extravagant waterfall and casino. For the nation’s wealthy, it was a taste of the West in their own backyard: 80 stores including Samsung, Nike and Adidas — lined its pristine, peach colored marble hallways.


Is situation under control in Kenya?


Behind the Kenya mall massacre


Escaping the Nairobi massacre

For Kenya’s expatriate community, the mall was a taste of familiarity in a land far from home.

Related story: Kenya tourism suffers another blow

Now, pools of blood have smeared once shiny floors. Coffee shops that were once filled with lively chatter have been littered with half-empty latte cups left by shoppers trying to escape with their lives.

On the day of the attack, my cousin, Charles Mugo, and his two daughters, ages 6 and 3, found themselves with about 40 other shoppers in the mall parking garage. They’d just returned from a grocery store to pick up food for the family dog, Muthaka, when gunmen stormed in, AK-47 rifles blazing.

Mugo came face-to-face with one of the terrorists, a lanky, 6-foot man, wearing a black scarf-like cloth on his head and magazines of ammunition around his waist.

“Just like Rambo does in the movies,” Mugo recalls.

“We’re not here to rob you, we’re here to kill you,” the gunman announced to the crowd.


Inside the Kenya mall terror attack


See how Kenya mall shooting unfolded


Reporter: Inside mall a scene of terror

“You’ve been killing our women and children in Somalia.”

When the gunmen demanded to know if they were Muslim, Mugo hesitated just long enough for the attackers to turn their attention to a man nearby.

The man stared at them blankly when one attacker tested him by asking who the Prophet Muhammad’s mother was. They shot at him — the bullet ripping through his coat — but leaving him unharmed.

The interaction lasted long enough for Mugo to push his two girls under a parked car, and for him to stoop low behind it. They waited, and waited.

“Girls, did you pray today?” he whispered. “I’ve prayed five times already,” the older daughter told him. “I don’t want to die today.”

Ninety minutes passed. By then, the gunshots did not sound as close. They felt confident enough to make a run for safety.

“Westgate bad, blood,” the younger daughter told me later. She showed me scratches on her face from laying flat on the ground. “I ran, ran, ran.” Eventually, the Mugos escaped unharmed.

Kenyans and foreigners died in attacks scattered across the complex. It was the deadliest terror attack in Kenya since al Qaeda blew up the U.S. Embassy there in 1998, killing 213 people. Terrorism experts say the attack bears eerie similarities to the 2008 siege of a hotel in Mumbai, India — another upscale target with Western appeal. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terrorist group that attacked the hotel for more than three days, killing 166 people.

Related story: Could Kenya mall shooting happen elsewhere?

The Nairobi attack targeted non-Muslims at a stylish mall. “This is a soft target. It’s in a high profile area,” said CNN military analyst retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona. “There’s going to be a lot of foreigners there, a lot of wealthy there. This is — this was well-planned and well-thought out.”

CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend said, “There is no sort of hard perimeter by which you could screen for security purposes, and so it’s difficult to protect.”

The tragedy has changed many who’ve been touched by it. Four days after the attack, Mugo is still trying to sort out his feelings. “You have to take time to let it sink in. I think I’m still in shock,” he said. “All I keep thinking of was what if they were different scenarios. What if I had parked at a different place. What if I had not gone to that mall. At the time, all I kept thinking was I just couldn’t let these girls die.”

Outside the mall, the Kenyans keep watch.

From a distance.

Kamau, the taxi driver, shakes his head. “I won’t be going back in there. Never, ever, ever.”

Related story: Attack ‘fits the new al Qaeda playbook’


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/Ef61pugKnUk/index.html

Typhoon Usagi slams South Asia

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS


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Filipino residents rescue a woman from rising floodwaters in Las Pinas City, Philippines, on Monday, September 23. More than a dozen people were killed in the Philippines on Monday as heavy rains from Typhoon Usagi battered the main island of Luzon. The storm forced the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people, the cancellation of hundreds of flights and the closing of a major shipping lane. Also, at least 25 people are reported killed in southern China.Filipino residents rescue a woman from rising floodwaters in Las Pinas City, Philippines, on Monday, September 23. More than a dozen people were killed in the Philippines on Monday as heavy rains from Typhoon Usagi battered the main island of Luzon. The storm forced the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people, the cancellation of hundreds of flights and the closing of a major shipping lane. Also, at least 25 people are reported killed in southern China.

A resident using an inner tube as a makeshift raft paddles through chest-deep floodwaters along a street in Manila on September 23.A resident using an inner tube as a makeshift raft paddles through chest-deep floodwaters along a street in Manila on September 23.

A resident closes the gate of his flooded home in Manila after torrential rains pounded Luzon island on September 23.A resident closes the gate of his flooded home in Manila after torrential rains pounded Luzon island on September 23.

Residents wade through a flooded street in suburban Quezon City, northeast of Manila, on September 23.Residents wade through a flooded street in suburban Quezon City, northeast of Manila, on September 23.

A passenger sleeps at Hong Kong's international airport as flights are delayed on September 23.A passenger sleeps at Hong Kong’s international airport as flights are delayed on September 23.

Soldiers rescue trapped residents northwest of Manila, Philippines, on September 23.Soldiers rescue trapped residents northwest of Manila, Philippines, on September 23.

Rescued residents wait for floods to subside after torrential rains pounded the island of Luzon on September 23.Rescued residents wait for floods to subside after torrential rains pounded the island of Luzon on September 23.

People walk through a flooded residential area in Shantou, China, on September 23.People walk through a flooded residential area in Shantou, China, on September 23.

Police officers check for damage caused by Typhoon Usagi at a construction site in Hong Kong on September 23.Police officers check for damage caused by Typhoon Usagi at a construction site in Hong Kong on September 23.

A man runs from a huge wave on a wharf in Shantou, China, on Sunday, September 22.A man runs from a huge wave on a wharf in Shantou, China, on Sunday, September 22.

Typhoon Usagi floods streets in Manila, Philippines, as it sweeps through the Luzon Strait that separates the Philippines and Taiwan on September 22. Typhoon Usagi floods streets in Manila, Philippines, as it sweeps through the Luzon Strait that separates the Philippines and Taiwan on September 22.

A banana vendor crosses a flooded street on September 22 as monsoon rains from Typhoon Usagi pound Manila, Philippines.A banana vendor crosses a flooded street on September 22 as monsoon rains from Typhoon Usagi pound Manila, Philippines.

Tourists hang on to their umbrellas near the waterfront in Hong Kong on September 22.Tourists hang on to their umbrellas near the waterfront in Hong Kong on September 22.

With thousands of passengers stranded, airlines and airport authorities were scrambling to deal with the backlog of flights at Hong Kong International Airport on September 22.With thousands of passengers stranded, airlines and airport authorities were scrambling to deal with the backlog of flights at Hong Kong International Airport on September 22.

Typhoon Usagi's torrential rains caused landslides at a southern Taiwanese resort, sending mud and rocks crashing through the windows late Saturday, September 21.Typhoon Usagi’s torrential rains caused landslides at a southern Taiwanese resort, sending mud and rocks crashing through the windows late Saturday, September 21.


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(CNN) — At least 25 people have died after Typhoon Usagi slammed into the coast of southern China, state media reported Monday.

Bringing strong winds and heavy rain, Usagi forced the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people, the cancellation of hundreds of flights and the closing of a major shipping lane.

“Usagi has devastated the eastern part of Guangdong,” where it made landfall late Sunday, the state-run news agency Xinhua said.

The storm trashed construction sites, damaged hundreds of homes and cut off power and water, the news agency reported. Twenty-five people have so far been confirmed dead, it said.


Typhoon Usagi strikes southern China

At one point the most powerful storm so far this year, Usagi has menaced the region for days. It left at least two people dead and three others missing in the Philippines and at least nine people injured in Taiwan.

The typhoon weakened Sunday as it got nearer to the Chinese coast, but was still packing sustained winds of around 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph) when it hit land. By Monday afternoon, it had faded to become a tropical depression.

The densely populated financial center of Hong Kong, which had appeared to be in the storm’s path before it began to track in a more northerly direction on Sunday, avoided the worst of its fury.

Seventeen people in the territory sought medical attention, eight of whom were admitted to hospitals, authorities said.

Flights disrupted

Usagi, which means rabbit in Japanese, also wreaked havoc on transportation, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Hong Kong International Airport, according to airport officials.

With thousands of passengers stranded, airlines and airport authorities were scrambling to deal with the backlog as flights resumed Monday.

Major Chinese airlines, including China Southern Air, canceled flights into the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, Xinhua reported.

In preparation for the storm’s arrival, four of six reactors at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station in Shenzhen reduced their operating capacity, Guangdong authorities told Xinhua.

A total of 226,000 people were relocated in Guangdong, the news agency cited the local civil affairs bureau as saying.

The typhoon severely damaged or destroyed 7,100 houses, it reported.

In neighboring Fujian Province, more than 80,000 people were evacuated and 50,000 disaster-relief personnel were deployed, Xinhua reported.

A major shipping lane between Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Taiwan was closed Saturday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival.

More than 22,000 fishing boats in Fujian and another 48,000 in Guangdong have been ordered into port, authorities told Xinhua.

East Asia is buffeted for several months a year by heavy storms that roll in from the Pacific. At its peak, Usagi eclipsed Super Typhoon Utor, which hit the Philippines and South China last month, as the strongest storm of the year so far.

About 50 people died as result of Utor in China, and 11 people were killed in the Philippines.

CNN’s Anjali Tsui, Jethro Mullen and Pamela Boycoff contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/VQoO0XgCDDI/index.html

Several killed as bus, train collide

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Ottawa, Ontario (CNN) — Frantic cries from passengers didn’t prevent an Ottawa double-decker bus from plowing into a moving train on Wednesday, a horrific morning crash that left six dead and at least 34 others injured.

Hours later, investigators offered few insights, including whether the bus driver applied brakes, if the crossing signal worked properly and, more generally, what caused the collision.

Yet some who had been on the bus, like Rebecca Guilbeault, painted a jarring picture of the moments before, during and immediately after the crash, which ended with people thrown through the air as the vehicle’s front few rows sheered off.

An Ottawa, Ontario, double-decker bus plowed into a moving train on Wednesday, September 18, in a horrific morning crash that left six dead and at least 34 others injured. The bus is towed away from the site of the crash on Thursday, September 19. Click through for more images from the crash:An Ottawa, Ontario, double-decker bus plowed into a moving train on Wednesday, September 18, in a horrific morning crash that left six dead and at least 34 others injured. The bus is towed away from the site of the crash on Thursday, September 19. Click through for more images from the crash:

Emergency crews respond to the scene where the city bus collided with a Via Rail passenger train at a crossing in Ottawa on September 18.Emergency crews respond to the scene where the city bus collided with a Via Rail passenger train at a crossing in Ottawa on September 18.

A rescue worker inspects the scene of the crash on September 18.A rescue worker inspects the scene of the crash on September 18.

 A woman holds her head while sitting on a bus transporting those who were involved in the crash on September 18. A woman holds her head while sitting on a bus transporting those who were involved in the crash on September 18.

The train sits derailed as officials work at the scene on September 18.The train sits derailed as officials work at the scene on September 18.

Train passengers are escorted away from the crash site on September 18.Train passengers are escorted away from the crash site on September 18.

A man carries a child past the scene of the crash on September 18.A man carries a child past the scene of the crash on September 18.

Police officers look under a tarp at the scene on September 18.Police officers look under a tarp at the scene on September 18.

People stand next to the destroyed bus on September 18.People stand next to the destroyed bus on September 18.

Members of the media watch as emergency crews respond to the crash on September 18.Members of the media watch as emergency crews respond to the crash on September 18.

People comfort one another after the crash on September 18.People comfort one another after the crash on September 18.

The Via Rail passenger train sits on the tracks on September 18.The Via Rail passenger train sits on the tracks on September 18.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada officials work at the scene on September 18.Transportation Safety Board of Canada officials work at the scene on September 18.

An injured passenger is taken to an ambulance on September 18.An injured passenger is taken to an ambulance on September 18.

Emergency crews respond to the scene of the crash on September 18.Emergency crews respond to the scene of the crash on September 18.

Officials respond to the scene in Ottawa on September 18.Officials respond to the scene in Ottawa on September 18.

Damage to the front of the VIA Rail passenger train is seen on September 18, in this photo released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Damage to the front of the VIA Rail passenger train is seen on September 18, in this photo released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.


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Bus, train collide in OttawaBus, train collide in Ottawa


Train collides with double-decker bus

“Everyone shouted, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!,’ and then, as I looked up the bus (hit) the gate,” an emotional Guilbeault told reporters as she held her young son, echoing other passengers on the bus. “(It) all impacted at once. … Everyone flew, and there was dust everywhere.”

While the VIA passenger train — which was heading from the Canadian capital to Toronto — partly derailed, there were no reports of injuries to those aboard.

See a train passenger’s photos of the scene

But it was a different, gruesome story aboard the ill-fated bus, which OC Transpo chief John Manconi said can carry 90 passengers. He did not know how many were on it at the time of the crash.

Five people were pronounced dead at the scene, with another dying at a hospital, according to Ottawa paramedics Chief Anthony Di Monte.

As of Wednesday night, Ottawa police had released the identity of only one of those killed: David Woodard, a 45-year-old native of the Canadian capital, who was driving the OC Transpo bus when it crashed.

Di Monte said authorities initially assessed 11 bus passengers in critical condition, but he added that the number fell later. He did not give a firm figure, though several underwent surgery. Community members held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to remember the victims and those struggling to recover physically and emotionally from the ordeal.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the crash’s sudden nature makes it especially difficult to fathom.

“We’ve lost six of our neighbors, people who started off this bright, sunny day as we all did — heading from their homes and loved ones to go about their daily lives,” he said. “And then this terrible tragedy struck.”

The collision occurred around 8:50 a.m. as the VIA train — part of Canada’s national railway system — slowed while approaching its next stop in the Barrhaven neighborhood, about 10 miles from downtown Ottawa.

Heather Hogan, 26, of Kingston, Ontario, was waiting for that train on the platform when she heard “a thud, a loud metal-on-metal screech.”

“Everyone said, ‘What just happened?’ recalled Hogan, who was about 500 feet from the crash site. “Everyone was just standing there in shock.”

Mark Cogan told CTV he was driving nearby when he saw the bus “going and going and going” before it struck the train, knocking it off its rails and setting off “complete mayhem.”

“There was people coming out of the windows and stuff,” Cogan recalled of what was left of the bus, before he parked and ran over. “It was just a pretty devastating scene.”

Within six minutes, the first of what would be 19 ambulances converged on a scene Hogan described as frantic.

First responders found “bodies and debris pretty much everywhere at the impact site,” Ottawa Fire Service’s Marc Messier told CTV.

They were eventually followed by members of Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation.

In addition to interviewing witnesses, investigators will look at event recorders on the train, GPS data from the bus and details that might indicate if the crossing gates and signals were working properly.

Officials said Wednesday there had been no known crashes at the crossing since it opened in 2005.

Jean Laporte, the safety board head, estimated the probe could take months to complete, though authorities will be notified promptly if it’s determined any public safety changes are needed.

“Our job is to determine what happened and why,” Laporte told reporters on Wednesday, “with the aim of ensuring that it does not happen again.”

Insufficient’ braking on deadly runaway train in Canada

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Driver on phone when Spanish train derailed

CNN’s Greg Botelho reported and wrote this story from Atlanta, and Paula Newton reported from Ottawa. CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/mDuW_qsFUhw/index.html

Russians tow Greenpeace ship

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — The captain of a Greenpeace icebreaker carrying 30 activists protesting Arctic drilling has declined a demand made at gunpoint by Russian authorities to sail it toward the Russian port city of Murmansk, a Greenpeace spokeswoman said Friday.

“Captain Pete has refused to sail the ship, so they’re towing it,” Molly Dorozenski told CNN in a reference to Pete Willcox, captain of the Arctic Sunrise. Late Thursday, about 15 members of the Russian coast guard seized the ship and those aboard by sliding down a rope hanging from a hovering helicopter.

The guards, armed with handguns and rifles, took the activists to the ship’s canteen and broke down the door to the communications room, smashing the equipment, said Ben Stewart, head of media for the group. The captives were told they were going to be taken to Murmansk, in northwest Russia, he said.

The group documented the incident in tweets:

“Russian authorities onboard with guns,” said one. “They are breaking into the comms room now.”

Another one said this: “Latest from the deck: Crew are sitting on their knees on the helipad with guns pointed at them.”


Greenpeace on Beijing’s hazardous smog

And yet another: “This is pretty terrifying. Loud banging. Screaming in Russian. They’re still trying to kick in the door.”

More than 12 hours later, Greenpeace International reported that its communication with those aboard the ship had been cut off.

But it also reported that some activists were able to conduct interviews by satellite phone from the ship’s mess, where they were being held.

“Greenpeace International has not received any formal confirmation of possible charges, and the activists have been denied access to legal or consular assistance,” it said in a statement. “Over 20 Greenpeace offices are organizing protests at Russian embassies around the world today.”

“They have done nothing to warrant this level of aggression and have been entirely peaceful throughout,” said Ben Ayliffe, the head of Greenpeace International’s Arctic oil campaign.

“The real threat to the Russian Arctic comes not from the crew of the Arctic Sunrise but from Gazprom, one of the most reckless oil companies in the world today,” he said.

Willcox, who grew up in South Norwalk, Connecticut, is the son of a yachtsman and has been a skipper for Greenpeace since 1981, according to a posting on the Greenpeace website.

He was at the helm of the group’s Rainbow Warrior in 1985, when it was bombed, Dorozenski said. “So, he’s been around the block a few times.”

A media officer with the border patrol in Murmansk said that none of the activists was under arrest and that the ship was being escorted to Murmansk, where crew members will be questioned about the possibility that they broke the law related to exclusive economic zones.

The Dutch have demanded that those aboard, including two Dutch nationals, be released immediately, said Friso Wijnen, a spokesman for consular affairs with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dutch officials were in contact with Russian Embassy staff in Holland, and their own embassy staffers in Moscow were in contact with Russian officials, he said.

The other detainees are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, France, Italy, Turkey, Finland, Switzerland, Poland and Sweden, the group said.

The ship was sailing under the Dutch flag, RIA Novosti said.

The state-run Russian news agency said that Moscow had announced it gave a note to the Dutch ambassador expressing concern about a protest Wednesday in which the activists scaled an oil rig operated by a Gazprom subsidiary to call attention to its drilling plans.

“Gazprom is using out of date kit to drill in one of the most extreme environments on the planet,” the group said in a tweet on September 17. “We can’t let that happen.”

Russian border guards fired warning shots at the environmentalists’ ship and detained two activists — Finnish and Swiss nationals — but returned them during Thursday’s standoff, RIA Novosti said.

No official comment from the guards was available, it added.

“The violators’ actions were of an aggressive and provocative nature and had the appearance of extremist activity capable of causing human deaths and other grave consequences,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website, according to RIA Novosti.

CNN’s Ross Levitt, Saskya Vandoorne and Alla Eshchenko contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/juQPp1aa_xQ/index.html

Blair’s daughter held at gunpoint

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Report: Egypt court bans Brotherhood activities

Posted by MereNews On September - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — An Egyptian court Monday ordered a ban on activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and froze its finances, according to state-run news website EgyNews.

The move is the latest in an anti-Muslim Brotherhood crackdown that began when the military ousted President Mohamed Morsy, who was backed by the Brotherhood, in early July.

The country’s Ministry of Social Solidarity said earlier this month that it was considering punishing the group, accusing it of violating a law regulating non-governmental groups, EgyNews reported. The law prohibits such groups from operating as political organizations and forming militias.

The Brotherhood has a political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, and the current government has accused the Brotherhood of inciting violence.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman, in response to a question at a briefing in Washington, said the department is looking for more information about the court’s ruling.

“A transparent and inclusive political process that preserves the rights of all Egyptians to participate and leads back to a civilian-led government is critical to the success of Egypt’s political and economic future,” said Jen Psaki. She added that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy had discussed the matter when they met Sunday in New York.


Egypt: Protesters get new logo and salute


Mixing football and politics in Egypt

Opinion: Why the Muslim Brotherhood can’t back down

Egypt has been in turmoil since Morsy’s ouster, with the military and Morsy opponents battling Muslim Brotherhood members and others.

In August, hundreds of people — citizens as well as members of security forces — were killed. Many of the deaths occurred when the military used force to clear two pro-Morsy sit-in sites in Cairo. Violence raged after pro-Morsy supporters staged demonstrations a few days later.

Read more: What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Brotherhood was underground during the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, who had banned the group. But after Mubarak’s ouster in 2011, the group’s Freedom and Justice Party got into gear and fielded parliamentary candidates.

The Freedom and Justice Party won about half the seats up for election in December 2011, and its presidential candidate, Morsy, won in 2012.

Egyptian security forces lately have rounded up high-profile members of the group. Last week, they arrested a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, who was a frequent guest on Western media.

He was arrested at an apartment in a Cairo suburb, Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported. He was accused of inciting violence and murder. El-Haddad was active on social media, notifying supporters of rallies.

Egyptian police official killed in clashes on outskirts of Cairo


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/7LbvCn7MYnA/index.html

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