ROTTERDAM, September 29 -- Five spectators remained in critical condition on Monday, a day after they were injured when a giant pick-up truck span out of control during a stunt show in a Dutch town, killing three people.
The driver of the "monster truck" was being questioned in custody by police, a spokesman said. Dutch media questioned on Monday whether safety measures, which were limited to a single metal crowd control barrier and a 10-metre (30 foot) buffer, were adequate.
Source: De Peet Journal
DONETSK, September 29 -- Shelling has killed at least seven Ukrainian soldiers in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, in the worst reported bout of violence since a ceasefire between separatist rebels and Ukrainian troops began on September 5.
Security officials said on Monday that the troops were killed when a rebel shell hit their armoured personnel carrier late on Sunday near the main airport at Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
Yuri Biryukov, an adviser to President Petro Poroshenko, said on his Facebook page that the rebels had also injured nine soldiers in the attack. In a statement published online, the Donetsk City Council said more than a dozen buildings in the north of the city were damaged by the shelling.
"The situation in the city is very tense" and artillery was heard throughout the night, the statement said.
The rebels hold key points inside the city itself, an industrial hub with a pre-war population of about one million. Ukrainian security forces and the pro-Moscow separatists have clashed repeatedly in recent weeks, with residential areas caught up in fighting centered on the government-held airport.
The ongoing violence is threatening to imperil the shaky ceasefire. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been at pains to insist that his peace plan is working to a skeptical audience at home.
According to a UN human rights official, more than 3,500 people have been killed in the fighting and almost 350,000 others forced to flee their homes.
HONG KONG, September 29 -- Riot police advanced on Hong Kong democracy protesters in the early hours of Monday, firing volleys of tear gas in the worst unrest there since China took back control of the former British colony two decades ago.
Protesters erected barricades to block security forces amid chaotic scenes still unfolding as the city centre - one of the world's major financial districts - opened for business.
Several Hong Kong financial firms advised staff to work from home or go to secondary offices, as Standard Chartered and Bank of China suspended some of its banking operations, due to "situations in certain areas". Many roads leading to the Central business district remained sealed off as thousands defied police calls to retreat.
Also on Monday, the popular photo-sharing app Instagram was blocked in mainland China. Reports from Beijing confirmed the outage saying "many photos from the protests were being posted on the app, and it seems that China wants to starve this story of oxygen". Added that other blogs that mention the words "occupy" and "central" were also having problems.
Earlier the same day, police baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings that the demonstrations were illegal. Several scuffles broke out between police in helmets, gas masks and riot gear, with demonstrators being angered by the firing of tear gas, last used in Hong Kong in 2005.
Thousands of protesters were still milling around the main Hong Kong government building, ignoring messages from student and pro-democracy leaders to retreat for fear that the police might fire rubber bullets. The protests fanned out to the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay and across the harbour to Mong Kok, posing a greater challenge for authorities to contain, local media reported. The protesters also brought traffic to a halt and called on Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying to step down.
Police, in lines five deep in places, earlier used pepper spray against activists and shot tear gas into the air.
The crowds fled several hundred metres, scattering their umbrellas and hurling abuse at police they called "cowards".
OTTAWA, September 29 -- A Canadian jihadist once thought to be dead has re-emerged to declare that ISIS is prepared to attack the United States at any moment.
Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a 21-year-old former movie theater employee from Calgary, told Vice News last week that 'a lot of brothers are mobilizing there right now in the West, thanks to Allah.' Shirdon, who was declared dead in widespread news reports in August, said the ultimate goal of the militant Islamic group is to fly the black IS flag above the White House.
'God willing, we will make some attacks in New York soon,' Shirdon said. 'Mobilizing for a brilliant attack, my friend.'
Vice conducted the interview September 23 via the internet after tracking the terrorist down through social media. 'I know so many people, thousands upon thousands upon thousands, that are living in the West that are ready right now to make an operation in your land,' he said from Iraq.
Shirdon, one of many Somali-Canadians believed to have traveled to the Middle East to fight for IS, is seen in one YouTube video burning his passport along with other foreign fighters.
'This is a message to Canada and all the American tyrants,' he said in the April video. 'We are coming and we will destroy you, with permission from Allah the almighty.'
In the interview, Shirdon makes clear that it's his beliefs--not the influence of other men--that led him to fight alongside IS.
'No one recruited me,' he told Vice. 'All I did, I opened the newspaper, I read the Koran. Very easy.' Shirdon said he was interviewed by Canadian authorities just days before he was able to slip out of the country. 'All their intelligence workers are imbeciles,' he said.
Shirdon's interview came as the U.S. and its allies ramped up aerial assaults on Syria cities occupied by IS. Shirdon said he's under assault 'day and night,' notes the National Post.
'You attack one of us, we will attack one of you,' he said. 'We will stop when we behead the kuffar [disbelievers] and when we turn his children into our slaves.'
Source: VICE News
ASTRAKHAN, September 29 -- President Putin has arrived in Astrakhan to attend the fourth summit of Caspian states which opens on Monday.
The heads of the five Caspian states - Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, are attending the summit.
First, the leaders of the five Caspian states will meet in a narrow format "to discuss the most sensitive problems on the agenda: the legal status of the Caspian Sea and a military component of the aspect of security," Putin's aide Yuri Ushakov told journalists.
Then the talks will continue in an extended format to be followed by a signing ceremony of joint documents and a statement for the press, Ushakov said. In an informal part of the summit the leaders of the five states will take a stroll on the embankment of the Volga river and will watch a symbolic release of young sturgeon fish into the river.
On Monday evening President Putin will have separate talks with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and President of Azerbaijan Ilkham Aliyev. President Putin will meet his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev in a bilateral format in the city of Atyrau in Kazakhstan on September 30 in the framework of an inter-regional forum of the two countries.
The Caspian Sea status issueThe Russian leadership hopes that the Caspian summit will help make headway in a long process of negotiations on the status and delimitation of water areas of the Caspian Sea. A joint political statement to be made by the presidents of the five Caspian states will be a cornerstone of the future Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Ushakov said.
The Caspian sea is a unique water area in terms of its bio and ecological resource, which includes more than 500 kinds of sea plants and 854 kinds of fish species, including the Caspian sturgeon which accounts for 90% of the world stock of sturgeon fish.
A predicted amount of Caspian hydrocarbon resources has been estimated at around 18 billion tons, with the proved reserves put at four billion tons, which brings the Caspian Sea to second position after the Persian Gulf in the rating of the world biggest oil and gas reserves.
WASHINGTON, September 29 -- US intelligence agencies have underestimated the activity of armed groups inside Syria, which has become "ground zero" for them worldwide, according to US President Barack Obama.
Conversely, the US overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight the groups, Obama said in the interview taped on Friday and aired on Sunday, days after the US president globally made his case for action in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Citing earlier comments by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, Obama acknowledged that US intelligence underestimated what had been taking place in Syria. Fighters went underground when US Marines quashed al-Qaeda in Iraq with help from Iraq's tribes, he said.
"But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos," Obama said.
"And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world."
US and its allies, including Gulf and Western countries, has been conducting air strikes on the self-declared jihadist Islamic State (IS) group, which controls large parts of land and oil fields in Iraq and Syria. The strikes aim at supporting the Kurdish and central Iraqi forces fighting against the IS on the ground.
Obama last week expanded US-led air strikes on the IS fighters, which began in Iraq in August, to Syria and he has been seeking to build a wider coalition effort to weaken the group. The IS has killed thousands of people and beheaded at least three Westerners. Clapper told a Washington Post columnist earlier in the month that US intelligence had underestimated the IS and overestimated Iraq's army.
"I did not see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming," Clapper was quoted as saying. "I did not see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable."
'Political solution necessary'
In the interview, Obama outlined the military goal against the IS: "We just have to push them back, and shrink their space, and go after their command and control, and their capacity, and their weapons, and their fuelling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters."
However, Obama said a political solution was necessary in both Iraq and Syria for peace in the long term.
"I think there is going to be a generational challenge. I do not think that this is something that is going to happen overnight," Obama said, citing an environment in which young men "are more concerned whether they are Shia or Sunni, rather than whether they are getting a good education" or a good job.
Saying a solution involved "how these countries teach their youth," Obama continued: "What our military operations can do is to just check and roll back these [fighter] networks as they appear and make sure that the time and space is provided for a new way of doing things to begin to take root."
Obama added that he recognised the contradiction in opposing the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while battling IS fighters who have been fighting Assad's government.
"For Syria to remain unified, it is not possible that Assad presides over that entire process," Obama said.
"On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, IS, Khorasan Group, those folks could kill Americans."
COLOMBO, September 29 -- A Buddhist cleric accused of inciting violence against Muslims in Myanmar says he is joining forces with a group in Sri Lanka to fight what he says is the "serious threat from jihadist groups".
Ashin Wirathu, the leader of Myanmar's 969 group, told hundreds of monks in the Sri Lankan capital on Sunday that his group would support the Bodu Bala Sena group in its "struggle to protect Buddhism in Asia".
Muslim groups had protested against Wirathu's entry into Sri Lanka, saying his visit would only cause further divisions. His group has been accused of inciting violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
"To protect and defend the threatened Buddhist the world over, my 969 movement will join hands with the BBS," Wirathu said at a 5,000-seat stadium packed with monks and their lay supporters. "Buddhists are facing a serious threat today from jihadist groups," he said, without giving details. "The patience of Buddhists is seen as a weakness. Buddhist temples have been destroyed. There is a jihad against Buddhist monks."
The president of the Bodu Bala Sena, Kirima Wimalajothi, told the meeting that Sri Lanka was "not a multi-cultural country but rather a nation for the Sinhala Buddhists" and threatened to topple the government unless it stopped "Muslim extremism". He added that a policy statement compiled by the group would be presented to the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and that it would act to remove him if he failed to implement the changes.
The group's general secretary, Galaboda aththe Gnanasara, urged the monks to "return to the temples and rally the people", and said the government had a week to answer the group's demands before it acted. Muslims leaders on Friday petitioned Rajapaksa to request that Wirathu be refused a visa on the basis that he had been accused of inciting violence in Myanmar. No official response was given to the request.
Azath Salley, leader of the Muslim Tamil National Alliance, told Al-Jazeera that Wirathu’s visit would only serve to cause further divisions in the country.
"The government’s willingness to provide Wirathu with a visa shows they have ulterior motives in relation to the minorities”, he said. "Wirathu promotes violence against minorities, an issue that Sri Lanka is trying to move past. His presence will harm any form of reconciliation taking place".
HONG KONG, September 29 -- A mobile messaging application enabling users to communicate without internet access has seen large numbers of new sign-ups from Hong Kong as pro-democracy demonstrators in the territory scrambled for alternative means of communication amid the weekend’s protests.
Hong Kong protest organisers called on participants to download the application on Sunday, when rumours circulated that the city’s government would shut down cellphone networks in Admiralty.
While the cellular networks were not deactivated in Hong Kong on Sunday, some protesters reported bad cellphone reception.
FireChat, launched only in March this year, allows smartphone users to communicate via Bluetooth or WiFi, an alternative to cellphone networks. Its chat-rooms, dubbed “firechats”, allow users to communicate without exchanging data with traditional cellular networks. These live and anonymous discussion groups can gather as many as 10,000 people simultaneously, according to Open Garden.
Benoliel declined to reveal the application’s total number of users.
Groups in support of Hong Kong’s protests in Australia, Canada, the US and the UK have also turned to FireChat to communicate on the protests, Benoliel said.
Source: De Peet Journal
TOKYO, September 29 -- About 550 Japanese military, police and firefighters launched on Monday an operation at the summit of a Japanese volcano that started erupting on Saturday, to reach 27 people showing no signs of life.
The teams are climbing three separate routes. Plans are to airlift the bodies down on army helicopters. On Sunday, the rescue operation was suspended due to a high concentration of toxic gases. At present, Mount Ontake volcano continues emitting smoke and hot volcanic stones are scattered within a radius of4km. Earlier, four bodies were found on mountain slopes.
Several hundred climbers were caught by the sudden eruption of Mount Ontake. Most of them managed to descend, but several dozen people were blocked on top because of poor visibility and a concentration of toxic gases in the air.
Most of them were rescued. More than 70 people sought medical aid and more than 40 were hospitalized in a grave condition.
Mount Ontake is the second tallest volcano in Japan after Mount Funi and is a popular destination for hikers. It is located 200km west of Tokyo. The last major eruption took place in 1979, while the latest smaller scale activity occurred in 2007.
DONETSK, September 29 -- The mass grave was found near the village of Nizhnyaya Krynka where a battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard had been stationed two weeks ago.
Militias in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have found another burial site near Donetsk, DPR First Vice-Premier Andrei Purgin said on Sunday.
The mass grave was found near the village of Nizhnyaya Krynka where a battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard had been stationed two weeks ago. “Another burial site has been discovered. It is located near the village of Nizhnyaya Krynka. Exhumation will help establish how many bodies are there and how these people died,” Purgin said.
This is not the first mass grave discovered by the Donetsk self-defense fighters on the territory earlier controlled by the Ukrainian troops, Purgin said. Mass graves found on Ukrainian National Guard positions in eastern Ukraine
Other mass burialsOn September 23, reports came that Ukrainian people’s militia found mass burials in the area of mine No 22 “Kommunar” outside Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Medical examiners made a conclusion that the bodies found in one of the graves were killed by point-blank shots in the head.
This area was previously controlled by the Ukrainian security forces and fighters of the Aidar battalion of the National Guard. The whole area will be examined. The militia say they found other graves that have not been opened up.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry believes the mass burial of civilians near Donetsk is a military crime that could have been committed by Ukraine’s National Guard, and insists on an urgent and comprehensive international probe into the case. Kiev has rejected the claims.