Marines probed over body burning photos

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

CNN’s Brian Todd reports on a military investigation into what appears to be photos of Marines burning bodies in Iraq.

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Argentina’s president goes off the grid

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner hasn’t made a public appearance for nearly a month, prompting speculation about her health. She’s not the first world leader to go off the grid. Check out some others:

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika suffered a ministroke in April and hasn’t appeared as much in public since then. State media reported on January 14 that he’s in Paris for a routine checkup and that his health is improving.

As he battled cancer, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba for treatment and stopped his once-frequent TV appearances. He died in March at 58.

Pregnancy rumors swirled when North Korean first lady Ri Sol Ju disappeared for months in 2012. Officials never announced whether the rumors were true. But former basketball star Dennis Rodman has called President Kim Jong Un a “good dad” and said he cradled the couple’s baby girl last year.

Rumors about health problems, car crashes and even assassination surged when China’s then-Vice President Xi Jinping disappeared from public in 2012. Xi, now China’s President, reappeared two weeks later.

When Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa wasn’t seen publicly in August 2012, rebels claimed he’d defected. But al-Sharaa resurfaced at meetings in Damascus more than a week later, making it clear that he hadn’t left the government.

Former President John Atta Mills of the West African nation of Ghana scaled back public appearances and made a medical trip to the United States shortly before he died in July 2012.

Former Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua went to Saudia Arabia to be treated for inflammation of tissue around his heart in 2009. No further news came from him until almost two months later, when he gave the BBC an interview from his hospital bed. He died several months later.









Buenos Aires (CNN) — Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is no wallflower when it comes to public speaking.

She’s known for passionate proclamations on national television and rapid-fire online posts about her work.

But it’s been almost a month since her last public appearance and 33 days since her last Twitter post, prompting critics to question who’s in charge of the South American country. Close aides to Fernandez have dismissed such concerns, stressing that she’s the one making the government calls.

“The President is present every day, working with us,” Cabinet Secretary Jorge Capitanich told reporters earlier this month, according to the state-run Telam news agency.

Fernandez went on medical leave in October so doctors could perform emergency surgery to remove a blood clot on the surface of her brain. She officially returned to work in November and appeared at a series of events in December.

But now, with Fernandez largely out of public view once again, speculation has surged about her whereabouts, and her health.

“If we hadn’t had the President’s illness just a few months ago, one would discard it. But the problem is the rumor has been established, and the sense of uncertainty of not knowing why,” said Orlando D’Adamo, director of the Center of Public Opinion at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires. “Is it a political strategy? Is she making room for a new candidate for 2015? Is it because she does not want to face difficult situations for the government? We do not know.”

Others think Fernandez is taking a break to take care of her health and not face a similar fate as her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, who died in 2010 after suffering a heart attack.

“I think she does not want to repeat that story,” said Enrique Zuleta, another political analyst.

As Argentina has faced high inflation and other challenges in recent weeks, Capitanich was the public face of the government.

On the streets of Buenos Aires, residents say they have felt the President’s absence.

“There are many problems that require a solution, and there is no clear response from her,” worker Gabriel Blanco said.

Merchant Nelida Jorquera said she was worried about the situation.

“But I think she is a serious person, and she would not deceive the people,” she said.

CNN’s Jose Manuel Rodriguez reported from Buenos Aires. CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Atlanta.

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Russian gay parents fear losing kids

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

CNN’s Phil Black reports on why some gay parents in Russia fear they could lose custody of their children.

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Marines probed over body photos

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

CNN’s Brian Todd reports on a military investigation into what appears to be photos of Marines burning bodies in Iraq.

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Migrant worker wins Israeli ‘X Factor’

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — There are moments when reality television can highlight a country’s sensitivities.

And Israel’s version of the “X Factor” has done just that — won not by a Jewish Israeli, but a migrant worker from the Philippines.

Filipina caregiver Rose Fostanes won the country’s version of the talent show, Wednesday, making it through the early rounds singing tunes by Tina Turner and Christina Aguilera among others, before her rendition of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra in the grand finale.

“Thank you so much for all the Israelis who support me, thank you so much,” said Fostanes on winning the competition. “Thank you so much also for giving us the chance to join in a competition like this.”

Israel refuses to grant refugees asylum

Arab Idol winner goes on U.S. tour

For a migrant worker to have any kind of public profile is highly unusual in Israel, but for one to win ones of the country’s most popular talent shows is a surprise to many, including Fostanes.

Read more: All-American wows judges on ‘Arabs Got Talent’

“I was surprised to be on ‘X Factor.’ First, I’m not an Israeli, and I don’t even have residency,” she said.

Most ‘X Factor’ winners can expect a record deal and a shot at being a professional singer, but Fostanes is in a different situation.

Her visa status means that despite being the most high-profile singer in the country at the moment, she cannot make money performing or recording in Israel, unless an exception is made.

If nothing else Fostanes says that she has received “a lot of love and care” from her fans in Israel.

However that is very different to how many migrant workers in the country feel. In recent weeks, there have been regular protests by activists, demanding greater rights for migrants, accusing the authorities of discrimination, and turning a blind eye to abuse.

According to a 2012 survey by the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics there were 109,000 foreign workers in Israel.

Read more: ‘Arab Idol’ winner takes on the U.S.

The winner, who has been working in Israel for the past six years, says she has also experienced prejudice in the country and is unsure if her win might help change negative perceptions.

“I don’t know. But I think there are good communications between employers and the caregivers now, since they saw me on ‘X Factor,’”

At least for Fostanes — singing her way into the hearts of Israelis — attitudes have indeed changed.

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Vatican grilled by U.N. over sexual abuse

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

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People pray after learning of the newly elected Pope Francis at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 13. The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has made history as the first pontiff from Latin America.

Catholics take part in a Mass in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Thursday, March 14. The faithful celebrated the election of the first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years of church history.

Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart leads celebrations at St Paul’s Cathedral in the Australian city on March 14 after the Vatican announcement.

Parishioners react to the announcement of the new pope at a midday Mass on March 13 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.

People cheer the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina as Pope Francis at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires on March 13.

Employees of the evening newspaper La Hora in Guatemala City, Guatemala, review printed editions with the announcement of the election of Pope Francis.

A young man waves a flag of the Vatican after the announcement of the election of Argentina’s cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, as Pope Francis in Guatemala City.

Fortunatus Nwachukwu, in white, the Vatican’s ambassador to Nicaragua, applauds as he watches a local television station announcing the new pope with others in Managua, Nicaragua.

Argentinians celebrate after the announcement that former Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires.

The faithful celebrate at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires.

A woman is overcome with emotion at the Metropolitan Cathedral after the election.

President Barack Obama answers a question about the new pope after attending the House Republican Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

People gathered outside the Se Cathedral in in Sao Paulo listen to the announcement of the new pope on March 13.

Shelly Guadelupe of Puerto Rico cries at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Florencia Silva, right, of Trumbull, Connecticut, and Valentina Bruner of Peru tune in to a webcast of newly elected Pope Francis at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Parishioners ring the 100-year-old bells in the tower of Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver in honor of the new pope.

The faithful listen as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is announced as the new pope at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez celebrates the midday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in recognition of the new pope.

Catholic Monsignor Michael McPartland gestures his approval outside St. Mary’s church after learning of newly elected Pope Francis in Stanley, Falkland Islands.




















(CNN) — A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is “no excuse” for child sex abuse, as he and others were grilled by a U.N. committee about the Catholic Church’s handling of pedophile priests.

It’s the first time the Vatican has been forced to answer allegations at the United Nations that it enabled the sexual abuse of children by protecting such priests.

The committee questioned a handful of Vatican officials — including Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, and Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief sex-crimes prosecutor — in the first of two sessions Thursday morning in Switzerland.

In his opening remarks, Tomasi said, “There is no excuse for any form of sexual violence or exploitation of children. Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programs, in religious organizations and structures.

“This is the longstanding policy of the Holy See.”

He said the body would welcome any suggestions on promoting and respecting children’s rights from the panel, the U.N. Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

How will Pope Francis handle sex abuse?

Scandals cast dark cloud over Vatican

New pope, new legacy

CNN’s senior Vatican analyst, John Allen, said the committee’s questions were likely to focus on both the past and the present.

With regard to the past, the questioners may look for additional details on where the breakdowns occurred, allowing abusers to be protected, Allen said.

As for the present, they will want to know how the church’s avowed commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on child sex abuse is being implemented and whether sufficient safeguards are in place, he said.

The Holy See ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 but has been accused by critics of failing to abide by its provisions.

Pope: ‘Act decisively’

“It’s a first step,” Joelle Casteix, a regional director for SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — said of the hearing.

“Five years ago we never thought that something like this would even be possible.”

Since taking the helm of the Roman Catholic Church in March, Pope Francis has told a senior Vatican official to “act decisively” against sexual abuse and carry out “due proceedings against the guilty.”

In April, Francis recommended that the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse, first of all by promoting measures for the protection of minors, as well as in offering assistance to those who have suffered abuse, carrying out due proceedings against the guilty,” the Vatican said at the time..

The statement does not specify who “the guilty” are.

But in recent years, priests, nuns and other people connected to the Catholic Church have been accused of sexually abusing children.

Francis called for the church hierarchy to “formulate and implement” the necessary directives to address an area he described as “so important” to the church’s credibility and worship.

The pope said that the “victims of abuse are present in a particular way in his prayers for those who are suffering,” the Vatican said.

‘Most vulnerable’ victims

Even with the inroads, SNAP would like to see more action from the Vatican.

“Pope Francis has been a very popular pope but when it comes to child sexual abuse, he has followed the same strategies as his predecessors,” Casteix said.

His predecessor, Benedict XVI, said many times that abusers should be prosecuted, but was accused by SNAP and other victims’ groups of doing too little.

Benedict spoke with some victims of sexual abuse by priests on papal visits to countries including the United States and the United Kingdom, where he expressed his “deep sorrow” over the scandal. The Vatican selected those he met.

The challenge for Francis is to do more, Casteix said.

“This is a man who has a rock star-like popularity. He has reached out to the poor, he has reached out to the desperate and the vulnerable — but he has continually ignored the sex abuse victims, those are are the most vulnerable and who were hurt by his clerics,” Casteix said.

“It is time, it is a simply easy thing for him to do. And I believe that this hearing will really prove to him and the world how important it is that he take decisive action to stop abuse and cover-up.”

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Dane says gang-raped in Delhi

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

New Delhi (CNN) — A Danish woman has filed a police complaint saying she was gang-raped and robbed near a train station in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Tuesday night, authorities said.

The 51-year-old woman said she lost her way while sightseeing in the city. She asked for directions from some men who accosted her and subsequently robbed and raped her, CNN’s sister network IBN reported.

The woman has since returned to Denmark, police said.

Before she left, she refused to undergo a medical checkup required to confirm sexual assault, said Alok Kumar, deputy commissioner of New Delhi police.

“She didn’t have injuries that required medical attention,” he said, declining to provide further details on the woman’s complaint.

Kumar said they arrested two homeless men, ages 22 and 25, Police recovered an iPod and a phone cable that belonged to the woman. Police also expect a medical report from Danish authorities that will be used as evidence.

Three men convicted in gang rape of American tourist in India

Denmark’s Ambassador to India, Freddy Svane, said Wednesday that a rape complaint had been filed by a Danish citizen, saying that the woman was receiving the support normally provided in such situations.

4 men sentenced to death in New Delhi gang rape case

Violent crimes against women have been in the spotlight in India since a 23-year-old woman was raped and beaten by several men on a bus in December 2012.

Being female in India

The victim later died in a Singapore hospital. The shocking attack provoked outrage across India, leading to calls for improved safety and treatment of women.

Since then, the Indian media have intensified their focus on rape cases. Attacks against foreign women have also been reported.

Last year, six men were sentenced to life in prison for the rape and robbery of a Swiss woman in central India.

The girl whose rape changed a country

The Swiss woman and her husband were on a cycling tour across India in March and had set up camp near a forest. A group of men from a local tribe assaulted them, beating the husband and raping the wife.

The couple decided to stay in India to pursue charges against the men.

Earlier this month, a Polish woman told police that she was abducted at knife point in in Mathura, south of New Delhi, by a taxi driver who later drugged and raped her, according to IBN. The woman said that when she awoke, she was in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi.

Opinion: Victims blamed in India’s rape culture

CNN’s Harmeet Shah Singh reported from New Delhi, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Sumnima Udas and Susannah Palk contributed to this report.

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413,000 displaced in South Sudan: U.N.

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

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A boy rests on the fender of a water truck Tuesday, December 31, at a United Nations compound on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan. The compound has become home to thousands fleeing the recent fighting in South Sudan. Fighting broke out December 15 between President Salva Kiir’s government and supporters of political rival Riek Machar.

South Sudanese government soldiers man a tank near the airport in Malakal, South Sudan, on Monday, December 30.

Displaced women wait in line inside a U.N. camp in Malakal on December 30.

South Sudanese refugees carry relief supplies an a U.N. camp in Juba on Sunday, December 29.

Moveable stairs used for passengers to board aircraft are repurposed into makeshift shelters at a U.N. compound in Juba on December 29.

A child plays with a tire next to a large puddle of muddy water inside the U.N. compound in Juba on December 29.

A girl carries a bowl of water after filling it from a truck at the U.N. compound in Juba on December 29.

A man walks in a ward where most patients are soldiers with gunshot wounds inside the Juba Military Hospital in Juba on Saturday, December 28.

South Sudan Vice President James Wani Igga, center left, arrives to visit patients at the Juba Military Hospital on December 28.

A displaced boy carries a cardboard box inside a U.N. compound in Juba on Friday, December 27.

Displaced people bathe and wash clothes in a stream in a U.N. compound in Juba on December 27.

A woman carries items on her head through the U.N. compound in Juba on December 27.

One-month-old Nhial Hoan Malual receives treatment for dehydration and chest pains in a medical tent run by Doctors Without Borders at the U.N. compound in Juba on December 27.

South Korean soldiers provide water at a refugee camp in South Sudan on Thursday, December 26. Hundreds of South Korean soldiers are stationed in the town of Bor as part of United Nations peacekeeping forces.

A mother displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan rests on top of her belongings in a makeshift U.N. shelter on Monday, December 23.

Families seek refuge in U.N. camp warehouse on December 23.

People gather to receive emergency food rations from the World Food Programme at a makeshift camp on December 23.

The United Nations relocates noncritical staff from Juba to Entebbe, Uganda, on Sunday, December 22.

A South Sudanese girl puts her family’s laundry out to dry on a barbed-wire fence at a makeshift U.N. camp in Juba on December 22.

The World Food Programme distributes food for displaced people at a U.N. compound in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity state, on December 22.

South Sudanese women carry water at a U.N. camp in Juba on December 22.

People take refuge December 22 near a camp of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, which is part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Juba.

South Sudanese civilians take shelter at a U.N. mission on Tuesday, December 17.

South Sudanese civilians seek shade at the mission’s base on December 17.

Tens of thousands of civilians have taken refuge in U.N. bases in South Sudan. These civilians were photographed at one of the bases December 17.

A young child takes shelter at a U.N. base on December 17.



























(CNN) — A month of conflict has displaced about 413,000 people in South Sudan, the United Nations said Wednesday, after a major surge in the number of people fleeing violence in the past week.

Representatives of the government and rebels have been holding talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but fighting continues to wrack the world’s newest country.

Hundreds of people have been wounded and thousands displaced by heavy fighting over the past few days, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said Wednesday.

The group, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said its teams had treated 116 people suffering from gunshot wounds in the towns of Malakal and Nasir in Upper Nile state amid clashes there and elsewhere.

Peace talks set to begin in South Sudan

On patrol with the U.N. in South Sudan

State of emergency declared in South Sudan

The violence has also forced about 78,000 to flee to neighboring countries, the United Nations said, on top of the hundreds of thousands displaced within South Sudan’s borders. Many are women and children.

More than 42,000 people are now in Uganda’s West Nile region, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, while about 18,600 have sought refuge in Ethiopia.

Nearly 6,800 people from Jonglei have fled to Kenya, many of them children. And an estimated 10,000 have fled into Sudan’s volatile West Kordofan and South Kordofan states.

The U.N. refugee agency warned Tuesday that with fighting still reported in parts of South Sudan, particularly Jonglei and Upper Nile states, it expects more displacement both within and beyond its borders.

The exodus has been fueled by the fighting and people’s fears, combined with worsening living conditions and a lack of food in some places, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Many South Sudanese men are taking their families to the Ugandan border and leaving them there before returning to their country, he said.

“From the refugees we have spoken to, we are hearing eyewitness accounts of killings, houses being burnt and shooting,” Edwards said.

Within South Sudan, about 65,000 people have sought sanctuary at U.N. bases.

The country erupted into violence on December 15, when rebels loyal to ousted Vice President Riek Machar tried to stage a coup. Since then, militia members loyal to Machar have battled government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir.

Malta foreign minister: Country ‘cannot offer’ migrants opportunities

Fleeing families drown

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned anti- and pro-government forces for stealing food and vehicles used by the humanitarian community.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, his spokesperson said Ban was “alarmed by the rising number of fatalities resulting from the continuing fighting in South Sudan” and reiterated those responsible for attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and UN personnel will be held to account.

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan reported heavy fighting Tuesday between pro- and anti-government forces in Malakal, in Upper Nile state in the northeast of the country.

Stray shots injured dozens of displaced people who’d sought refuge at a nearby U.N. base, the mission said.

MSF said the medical needs of the displaced are placing existing health facilities under increasing pressure, with some clinics and hospitals already overwhelmed. The group added it was reinforcing emergency teams to deal with the rising health and humanitarian needs.

“While we continue to treat more wounded patients in our hospitals every day, we are also concerned about the living conditions of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people across the country, most of whom fled their homes with nothing and have little food, water, or access to health care,” Raphael Gorgeu, MSF head of mission in South Sudan, said in a statement.

“The fighting in Malakal over the past few days has limited our ability to reach displaced people where they are gathering, preventing people from receiving the medical and humanitarian assistance they desperately need.”

Between 200 and 300 women and children who were fleeing fighting drowned when an overloaded ferry overturned on a river near Malakal over the weekend, an army spokesman said.

On Tuesday, Ghana said it was preparing to send 850 troops to join a U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization appealed this week for $61 million to help it provide food assistance to those in need.

Even before the violence broke out last month, about 4.4 million people were expected to face food insecurity this year, an agency news release said. Now, many more are at risk of hunger.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war.

READ: South Sudan: What’s going on?

READ: South Sudan ferry accident kills women, children fleeing fighting

CNN’s Antonia Mortensen, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report.

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Wounded Syrians pour into Turkey

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) — Wounded Syrians streamed across the Turkish border seeking first aid Wednesday after a car bombing in a border town that’s become a battleground in the fight between Syrian rebel factions.

The blast in the Syrian town of Jarablus shook windows about a kilometer away in the Turkish village of Karkamis, said Selami Yilmaz, a Karkamis resident.

“We don’t even have enough ambulances to keep up with how many wounded are coming across,” Yilmaz told CNN. He said he has lent his car to authorities to help get the wounded to hospitals.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the car bomb exploded near a cultural center controlled by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. That al Qaeda-linked force has taken control of much of northern Syria amid that country’s bloody civil war. The Syrian Observatory said heavy clashes were still going on in Jarablus.

Haunting images of Syria’s abandoned homes

FSA: Negotiations are only propaganda

ISIS, which has also taken control of parts of western Iraq, has attempted to impose strict Islamic law in towns where it holds sway. Rebel troops who had been battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an effort to push back the Islamists two weeks ago, but that offensive appears to have faltered after hundreds of deaths on both sides, observers report.

Yilmaz said the Free Syrian Army, the leading Western-backed rebel force, has been losing ground in Jarablus. Dozens of its fighters have fled amid intense fighting, while wounded FSA troops have been pouring across the border into Turkey for treatment.

Palestinian refugees starving to death in Syrian camp

Human rights groups reported 183 deaths across Syria on Tuesday alone, all but 40 of them combatants on one side or the other. Heavy fighting between ISIS and rebel factions was under way around Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, as well as the ISIS-held city of Raqqa and the border town of Saraqeb, where a Belgian man who had become the regional ISIS “emir” was among the dead, the Syrian Observatory reported.

The group also said ISIS executed two civilians from a Kurdish village last week after they left their homes to buy bread in a nearby city. Their bodies were found with their hands tied behind their backs “and marks from torture evident on their bodies,” the London-based organization reported.

CNN cannot independently verify daily death tolls, but the United Nations has said more than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt against al-Assad began in 2011.

U.S. announces $380 million in humanitarian assistance for Syria

CNN’s Raja Razek in Beirut contributed to this report.

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Islamic charity raided by Turkish police

Posted by MereNews On January - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

CNN’s Ivan Watson explains why Turkish police raided a humanitarian aid group in Turkey.

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