Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has led a triumphant homecoming for the latest Palestinian prisoners to be freed by Israel as part of the US-sponsored Middle East peace effort.
Some 26 inmates were released in this third batch – 18 returning to the West Bank and the rest rejoining their families in Gaza and East Jerusalem.
After greeting ex-inmates at his headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas pledged more of the same. He said: “We will not sign a final peace deal with Israel before all the prisoners are released.”
While Palestinians rejoiced for the men, many of whom were serving long terms for murder, their liberation prompted protests by relatives of Israeli victims.
But the prisoners’ own families are euphoric.
“I’m so happy today,” said Jamila Salman at Bet Lahiya in the Gaza Strip. “I did not see my husband for 22 years. This is the best day of my life, a great joy.”
Convicted of killing an Israeli soldier, Mahmoud Salman spared a thought for those still imprisoned by Israel.
“I can’t describe how I feel,” he said. “I feel great but it is still hard because we left prisoners behind, especially the sick and others serving life sentences.”
Israel’s plans to build 1,400 new homes for settlers in the West Bank are more problematic for peace.
Palestinians say such settlement building could jeopardise talks, giving US Secretary of State John Kerry plenty to think about as he visits the region this week.
Pictured above is the Masjid Ar-Rahman at W 15 St BC V7P 1N2 +1 604-250-2710 northvanmasjid.com. There was no picture available for the Al Ghadir Masjid Mosque in Vancouver.
by, Vancouver Sun | h/t Blazing CatFur
NORTH VANCOUVER, British Columbia: Mounties evacuated gatherers at a North Vancouver mosque Monday evening after police received a call there was a bomb in the building.
Officers and a police dog searched the building in the 300-block of Lynn Avenue into the night but have not yet found any trace of explosives, said North Vancouver RCMP Spokesman Cpl. Richard De Jong.
The threat came in around 5:50 from an unknown caller, he said. Police were told the bomb would go off at a certain time.
This mosque is the:
351 Lynn Ave
North Vancouver, BC V7J 2C4
The sword is historically used for beheading in Saudi Arabia although there are considerations to move to a firing squad due to lack of proper swordsmen.
by, Jennifer James | Al Bawaba
What is beheading?
To get technical, the accurate definition of beheading “typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation as a means of murder or execution. It may be accomplished, for example, with an axe,sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine.”
To get “un-technical”, it sounds like one of the worst ways to die…ever. Through recent use of the charming death experience as a radical killing method which screams “I have a bigger agenda here than this person’s head”, beheading has become synonymous with extremism, specifically in the Middle Eastern regions.
With so many agonizing ways to kill someone, why is beheading the chosen method of demise for so many in the Middle East regions? In addition, who is keeping this quick and painless (that’s questionable and we will get to that later) process at the top of the killing charts?
Where did it originate?
The Romans, who moved to beheading as a more honorable and obviously quicker way to die than crucifixion, were some of the first to adopt this style of prescribed killing. This method was used regardless of class. Turns out, rich or poor, we all die the same when our heads are cut off.
Eventually, beheading was passed over for more effective and less inhumane ways of death. By inhumane, we mean, not only horrible for the person losing their head but also ridiculously traumatic and graphic for those watching. That being said, judicial beheading is legal today in the Middle Eastern states of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran.
What seems to get reactions from people the most are the various tools which can be used to perform the beheading. While an ax or sword were, and still are in most areas, the preferred weapon of choice, it’s the crude weapons that garner the most shock.
In recent news and videos, beheadings by radical Muslim groups can be seen using rudimentary objects like blunt pocket knives to literally saw their victims heads off.
Even when something as “clean” as an ax or sword is used, this still takes some skill on the part of the executioner to ensure a “quick” death. If you have ever tried to cut down a tree or chop wood, then you know that your blade does not always hit the mark. Often times, it would take an executioner more than one swing to completely sever the head from the body which makes that whole dying process take even longer. We really hate when that happens.
Thank goodness for the guillotine!
On pro-executioners first attempt at streamlining the beheading process, this little gem made for some happy(er) victims. Crowds, on the other hand, were really bummed out that no “heads would roll” in the future. Thanks to the handy basket catcher, this invention really turned down the pomp and circumstance around the family beheading night.
The Guillotine itself is not actually named after it’s inventor but rather one of the earliest human rights activist who fought for a more humane death, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a French physician. France had its Guinness World Book of Records beheading run in the 1700’s in which one year of guillotine use claimed the lives of 30K people. France had its last beheading in 1977, only 36 years ago.
For those countries that still use beheading as the primary source of execution, swords seem to be the chosen weapon. In Saudi Arabia, still globally known as being one of the few countries that hosts public executions, the government is considering a move to firing squads due to a shortage in swordsmen. Anyone up for the job, please email Saudi Arabian officials at firstname.lastname@example.org. (This is a joke, please do not email anyone about executioner positions)
The ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom beheaded 76 people in 2012, according to an AFP tally based on official figures while Human Rights Watch (HRW) actually put the number at a lower 69.
Does it hurt?
OF COURSE it hurts! However, based on lab results of beheadings done on rats, the brain is only able to function for about four seconds after the spinal cord is severed from the brain. Not bad. Only four seconds of consciousness can be proven to exist…in rats, once the decapitation process is complete. Keep in mind that those are results for a clean swipe. No sawing. No interruptions. No squirming-to-get-away victims.
Why is beheading associated with Islamic countries?
In a region where Sharia law trumps governments in many cases, public shows of punishment are not only allowed, they are promoted. Sharia law states that teachings should come from the Quran and examples of Mohammed.
While “sharia law is only applicable to Muslims,” living in a country that is under Islamic rule means that there is no separation of church and state. The government IS your God…and God is your government.
The Quran also mentions several times that forgiveness is also a completely viable option however, that act is not quite as publicly renowned as the whole beheading thing. (5:45, 2:178)
Not only does this explain why public executions are still held in traditionally conservative Muslim countries, it also explains why radical Islamists tend to choose this option for their spectacular home movies. It is only suitable that Infidels should die from the prescribed method of the Quran, naturally.
Beheading and the Media: Killing with Kindness
As radical groups have risen, so have the methods in which the efforts to behead and the beheadings themselves have been shared with the world. As mentioned earlier, Saudi hosts public executions. People can see what happens to “criminals” in that region if they are given the death sentence. Videos of those same beheadings can be found on the interwebs in various “secret” sites such asLiveLeak.com. In the US and other regions, however, executions are not public. In fact, they are kept quite secret.
Using social media like Facebook and Twitter, supporters of radical Islamist groups have gone so far as to share videos of how one should “handle the beheading of an infidel”. An active member of Al Qaeda shared a video of the best way to hold someone while cutting their head off. He called it “killing with kindness”.
Ah…those extremists…so thoughtful.
Maybe they should look into Dr. Guillotine’s technological advances. It is quite possible these men may have, in all their internet usage, heard about Google. There are certain to be more mobile, desert ready versions of the trendy neck splitter online somewhere. I’ve heard Amazon delivers pretty much anywhere these days. Insha’Allah.
Russian firefighters and security personnel inspect the trolleybus destroyed in a bomb attack in Volgograd on December 30, 2013 (AFP)
by, Stuart Williams | AFP | h/t Blazing CatFur
Moscow — At least 14 people were killed Monday when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a packed trolleybus in Volgograd, raising new concerns about security at the Sochi Olympics a day after a deadly attack on the southern Russian city’s train station.
President Vladimir Putin, under pressure to show that Russia can assure the security of tens of thousands of guests when the Winter Games open on February 7, ordered stepped up security across the country.
The twin suicide attacks on Volgograd, which until this year had no record of recent unrest, have stunned Russia and troubled the authorities as people prepare for mass New Year celebrations. At least 17 people died in Sunday’s attack blamed on a suspected female suicide bomber.
The force of the blast destroyed the number 15A trolleybus, which was packed with early morning commuters and was turned into a tangle of wreckage with only its roof and front remaining.
Health ministry spokesman Oleg Salagai told Russian state television that 14 people were killed in the trolleybus bombing and 28 wounded.
Russian investigators have opened a criminal probe into a suspected act of terror as well as the illegal carrying of weapons, the Investigative Committee said.
“The explosives were detonated by a male suicide bomber, fragments of whose body have been found and taken for genetic analysis to establish his identity,” said spokesman Vladimir Markin.
He said that some four kilogrammes (nine pounds) of TNT equivalent had been used in the blast and noted the explosives were identical to those used in Sunday’s train station bombing.
“This confirms the theory that the two attacks are linked. It is possible that they were prepared in the same place,” he added.
Concerns over Olympic security
The new attack will further heighten fears about security at the Winter Olympic Games in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, which lies 690 kilometres (425 miles) southwest of Volgograd.
Putin ordered security stepped up across all of Russia after the bombings, with a special regime to be imposed in Volgograd, the national anti-terror committee announced.
Russia is already preparing to impose a “limited access” security cordon around Sochi from January 7 which will check all traffic and ban all non-resident cars from a wide area around the city.
State television said that after the latest blast in Volgograd commuters were abandoning buses and trolleybuses and going to work on foot in fear of a new attack.
Speculation swirled on social networking sites that there had been more blasts but the local authorities insisted that was not the case, the RIA Novosti news agency said.
The search for the perpetrators of the blast is expected to focus on Russia’s largely Muslim North Caucasus region where Islamist militants have for years been fighting the Russian security forces.
Doku Umarov, the leader of militants seeking to impose an Islamist state throughout Russia’s North Caucasus, has ordered rebels to target civilians outside the region and disrupt the Games.
Hitting the Russian heartland
The Moscow city hall’s security chief Alexei Mayarov said security would be stepped up in the capital ahead of New Year, the biggest holiday of the year in Russia and traditionally marked by mass outdoor gatherings.
Reports said that Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg had already cancelled its planned New Year fireworks display.
Militant strikes have become part of daily life in the North Caucasus. But the Volgograd blasts will be a particular concern to the authorities as the bomber struck a city of more than one million people in the Russian heartland.
The city, known as Stalingrad in the Soviet era, is of huge importance to Russians as the scene of one of the key battles of World War II that led to the defeat of invading Nazi forces.
The city was already attacked on October 21 by a female suicide bomber with links to Islamists who killed six people on a crowded bus.
Russia’s double Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva, Volgograd’s best known current inhabitant, told ITAR-TASS she felt “terrible, simply terrible” after the attacks.
The blasts are the deadliest in Russia since a suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport killed 37 people in January 2011.
Investigators said the suspected female suicide bomber who caused Sunday’s bombing set off her charge after being stopped by a police officer at the metal detectors of the central entrance to the station.
Unconfirmed news reports identified the bomber as a Dagestani woman named Oksana Aslanova, a so-called “Black Widow” who had been married to two different Islamists killed in battles with federal forces.
However, amid conflicting reports, the Investigative Committee said they were examining a theory that the explosion could also have been set off by a male.
by, Reuters | h/t Blazing CatFur
XINJIANG, China: Chinese police shot dead eight people during a “terrorist attack” in the western region of Xinjiang on Monday, the government said, raising the death toll from violent clashes there to at least 35 since November.
The attack happened in Yarkand county close to the old Silk Road city of Kashgar in Xinjiang’s south, the regional government said in a statement on its news website (www.ts.cn).
“At around 6:30 a.m., nine thugs carrying knives attacked a police station in Kashgar’s Yarkand county, throwing explosive devices and setting police cars on fire,” it said.
“The police took decisive measures, shooting dead eight and capturing one,” it added, labeling the incident a “violent terrorist attack” which was being investigated.
Xinjiang is home to a Turkic-speaking, Muslim people known as Uighurs, some of whom resent what they see as oppressive treatment by the government.
At least 91 people, including several police officers, have been killed in violence in Xinjiang since April, according to state media reports.
This month, police shot and killed 14 people during a riot near Kashgar in which two policemen were also killed.
In a similar outburst of violence, at least nine civilians and two policemen were killed when a group of people armed with axes and knives attacked a police station, also near Kashgar, last month, state media has said.
China has previously blamed some of the violence in Xinjiang on Islamist militants plotting holy war.
The latest attack showed the serious threat posed by separatism, extremism and terrorism, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a regular press briefing.
“The Chinese government will strike hard against them in accordance with the law,” Qin said.
Many Uighurs chafe at restrictions on their culture, language and religion, though the government insists it grants them broad freedoms.
Rights groups and exiles say police often use often heavy-handed tactics against the Uighur community. Violence has broken out previously when groups of Uighurs protest at police stations, they say.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the main Uighur exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, said the international community should prevent China from continuing its “repressive policies” against Uighurs.
“Directly firing on and killing protesters and accusing them of so-called terror is currently China’s post-judicial reform means of repressing the Uighur people. Uighurs endure China’s discrimination and humiliation and are facing a crisis for survival and faith,” he said in an emailed statement.
China has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a vehicle ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October, killing three people in the car and two bystanders.
China said the attack was carried out by Islamist militants.
Xinjiang has been the scene of numerous incidents of unrest in recent years, which the government often blames on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement, even though many experts and rights groups cast doubt on its existence as a cohesive group.
Many rights groups say China has long overplayed the threat posed to justify its tough controls in energy-rich Xinjiang, which lies strategically on the borders of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel)
The flash of an explosion illuminates the entrance to Volgograd railway station. Photo / AP
by, Associated Press AP | The New Zealand Herald
VOLGOGRAD, Russia: A suicide bomber has struck a busy railway station in southern Russia, killing at least 15 people and wounding scores more, officials said, in a stark reminder of the threat Russia is facing as it prepares to host February’s Olympics in Sochi.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Volgograd, but it came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for new attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including the Sochi Games.
The bombing highlights the daunting security challenge Russia will face in fulfilling its pledge to make the Sochi Games the “safest Olympics in history.”
The government has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers, police and other security personnel to protect the games.
Through the day, officials issued conflicting statements on casualties.
They also said that the suspected bomber was a woman, but then reversed themselves and said the attacker could have been a man.
The Interfax news agency quoted unidentified law enforcement agents as saying that footage taken by surveillance cameras indicated that the bomber was a man. It also reported that it was further proven by a torn male finger ringed by a safety pin removed from a hand grenade, which was found on the site of the explosion.
The bomber detonated explosives in front of a metal detector just beyond the station’s main entrance when a police sergeant became suspicious and rushed forward to check ID, officials said. The officer was killed by the blast, and several other policemen were wounded.
“When the suicide bomber saw a policeman near a metal detector, she became nervous and set off her explosive device,” Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the nation’s top investigative agency, said in a statement earlier in the day. He added that the bomb contained about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of TNT and was rigged with shrapnel.
Markin later told Interfax that the attacker could have been a man, but added that the investigation was still ongoing. He said that another hand grenade, which didn’t explode, was also found on the explosion site.
Markin argued that security controls prevented a far greater number of casualties at the station, which was packed with people at a time when several trains were delayed.
Markin said 13 people and the bomber were killed on the spot, and the regional government said two other people later died at a hospital. About 40 were hospitalized, many in grave condition.
Suicide bombings have rocked Russia for years, but many have been contained to the North Caucasus, the center of an insurgency seeking an Islamist state in the region.
Until recently Volgograd was not a typical target, but the city formerly known as Stalingrad has now been struck twice in two months suggesting militants may be using the transportation hub as a renewed way of showing their reach outside their restive region.
Volgograd, which lies close to volatile Caucasus provinces, is 900 kilometers (550 miles) south of Moscow and about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort flanked by the North Caucasus Mountains.
Earlier in the day, Lifenews.ru, a Russian news portal that reportedly has close links to security agencies, even posted what it claimed was an image of the severed head of the female’s attacker. It even said the attacker appeared to have been a woman whose two successive rebel husbands had been killed by Russian security forces in the Caucasus.
Female suicide bombers, many of whom were widows or sisters of rebels, have mounted numerous attacks in Russia. They often have been referred to as “black widows.”
In October, a female suicide bomber blew herself up on a city bus in Volgograd, killing six people and injuring about 30. Officials said that attacker came from the province of Dagestan, which has become the center of the Islamist insurgency that has spread across the region after two separatist wars in Chechnya.
As in Sunday’s blast, her bomb was rigged with shrapnel that caused severe injuries.
Chechnya has become more stable under the grip of its Moscow-backed strongman, who incorporated many of the former rebels into his feared security force. But in Dagestan, the province between Chechnya and the Caspian Sea, Islamic insurgents who declared an intention to carve out an Islamic state in the region mount near daily attacks on police and other officials.
Rights groups say that authorities’ tough response involving arbitrary arrests, torture and killings of terror suspects has fueled the rebellion.
The Kremlin replaced Dagestan’s provincial chief earlier this year, and the new leader abandoned his predecessor’s attempts at reconciliation and his efforts to persuade some of the rebels to surrender in exchange for amnesty.
Security camera images broadcast by Rossiya 24 television showed Sunday’s moment of explosion, a bright orange flash inside the station behind the massive main gate followed by plumes of smoke.
“As soon as I walked up to the station entrance, all hell broke loose people, flesh
“All the doors, windows scattered. I got a concussion and smoke billowed from inside.
Another witness, Roman Lobachev, told Rossiya television that he was putting his bags on a belt for screening when he heard the sound of an explosion. “I heard a bang and felt as if something hit me on the head,” said Lobachev who survived the attack with minor injuries.
The bombing followed Friday’s explosion in the city of Pyatigorsk in southern Russian, where a car rigged with explosives blew up on a street, killing three.
Following Sunday’s explosion, the Interior Ministry ordered police to beef up patrols at railway stations and other transport facilities across Russia.
Russia in past years has seen a series of terror attacks on buses, trains and airplanes, some carried out by suicide bombers.
Twin bombings on the Moscow subway in March 2010 by female suicide bombers killed 40 people and wounded more than 120. In January 2011, a male suicide bomber struck Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, killing 37 people and injuring more than 180.
Umarov, who had claimed responsibility for the 2010 and 2011 bombings, ordered a halt to attacks on civilian targets during the mass street protests against President Vladimir Putin in the winter of 2011-12. He reversed that order in July, urging his men to “do their utmost to derail” the Sochi Olympics which he described as “satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.”
A group calling itself Anonymous Caucasus said in a statement Friday on the Caucasus rebel website, kavkazcenter.com, that it would launch cyber-attacks to avenge Russia’s refusal to acknowledge the 19th-century expulsion of Chirkassians, one of the ethnic groups in the Caucasus.
The International Olympics Committee expressed its condolences over the bombing, but said it was confident of Russia’s security preparation for the games.
“At the Olympics, security is the responsibility of the local authorities, and we have no doubt that the Russian authorities will be up to the task,” it said in a statement.
Russian authorities have introduced some of the most extensive identity checks and sweeping security measures ever seen at an international sports event.
Anyone wanting to attend the games that open on Feb. 7 will have to buy a ticket online from the organizers and obtain a “spectator pass” for access. Doing so will require providing passport details and contacts that will allow the authorities to screen all visitors and check their identities upon arrival.
The security zone created around Sochi stretches approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) along the Black Sea coast and up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) inland. Russian forces include special troops to patrol the forested mountains towering over the resort, drones to keep constant watch over Olympic facilities and speed boats to patrol the coast.
The security plan includes a ban on cars from outside the zone from a month before the games begin until a month after they end.
35-Year-old Man Recipient of 7-Year-old Girl
by, Tamkin | RAWA News
Afghanistan: A father sold his minor daughter to a 35-year-old man in return for some animals and food items, officials said Thursday.
The sale of Ghancha Gul, 7, in northern Jawzjan province drew denunciation from human rights campaigners, attorneys and law-enforcement officials.
Officials of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) condemned the act as an outrage and blamed provincial authorities for failing to prevent it.
Ewaz Ali Sabiri, an AIHRC official, said Ghuncha Gul was sold to Asadullah — a drug addict — by her father in return for 200 kilograms of wheat, 70 kg of rice, two goats, a donkey and some other goods.
Sabiri said Asadullah later secretly arranged tied the knot with the girl. He has been arrested but the Imam who solemnised the marriage is yet to be detained.
Salamat Azami, another AIHRC official, promised to do all he could to resolve the issue if the provincial government failed to deal with it.
Meanwhile, the provincial attorney office said the issue had been addressed to a large extent and they would update the rights watchdog on the progress made.
“Islam is a lie. Mohamed is a criminal. The Koran is poison.”
by, Marvin Hokstam | NL Times – Netherlands
Google has deactivated the islamsticker@gmail Gmail account politician Geert Wilders was using to spread his anti-Islam stickers. The deactivation was probably prompted by the many complaints Wilders’ umpteenth anti-Islam initiative had prompted.
It was the politician himself who reported via Twitter on Boxing Day that his account had been closed. “Unbelievable; Google just blocked the account. It seems Mohammed Rabbae’s complaint was successful,” he tweeted. Rabbae had complained at Google that Wilders was abusing its service.
The Arabic Inscription Reads: “Islam is a lie. Mohamed is a criminal. The Koran is poison.”
His complaint –on behalf of the National Council of Moroccans- had been among many complaints that were lodged against Wilders after he came out with his anti-Island sticker a week ago; it read “Islam is a lie. Mohamed is a criminal. The Koran is poison.”
The politician claimed the sticker was not meant as an action against Muslims as the majority of people of this faith is not violent. He has since launched a new account where people may order his sticker.