Iraqi workers cleaning a statue of a winged bull at Nimrud in 2001. The country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said Thursday that Islamic State militants had damaged the archaeological site with heavy vehicles.
By ANNE BARNARD
BAGHDAD — The Islamic State militant group attacked the ancient archaeological site of Nimrud in northern Iraq and damaged it with heavy vehicles, Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said Thursday.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on ancient structures and artifacts in Syria and Iraq that the group has destroyed in the name of its harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Last week, Islamic State militants videotaped themselves destroying statues and artifacts in the Mosul Museum and at the Nergal Gate entryway to ancient Nineveh. The militants captured the city during its offensive blitz through much of Iraq last June. “The terrorist gangs of ISIS are continuing to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity after they committed a new crime that belongs to its idiotic series,” the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page, referring to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.
Nimrud is the sprawling site of a city founded by the Assyrian King Shalamansar I, who died in 1245 B.C. Among the most impressive objects at Nimrud are the colossal statues known as “lamassu,” mythological creatures that depict either lions or winged bulls with bearded human heads. Pairs of the 17-ton statues are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum.
Many of the massive Nimrud statues remain buried at the site. But the ISIS video from the Mosul Museum clearly shows at least one statue from Nimrud being defaced. And the site has many areas that archaeologists have not yet explored.
George C. Papagiannis, the Unesco world heritage officer in charge in Iraq from 2009 to 2011, said the loss of any artifacts from Nimrud was a dark blow to historical preservation. “These extremists are trying to destroy the entire cultural heritage of the region in an attempt to wipe the slate clean and rewrite history in their own brutal image,” he said.
He added that Nimrud was recently nominated by the Iraqi government to be placed on Unesco’s list of world heritage sites, locations chosen for their “universal value.”
Ihsan Fethi, a member of the Iraqi Architects Society, said, “I cannot even describe the immensity of this loss.” He added, “This is one of the most famous and probably one of the most important sites in the world.”
Nimrud is also famous for its bas-reliefs and steles that depict scenes of war and hunting as well as fantastical figures like bird-headed genies. Many of those are in museums. As well, Nimrud was the site of extensive excavations that yielded carved ivory, jewelry, crowns and other artifacts that are stored in the archaeological museum in Baghdad, which in recent days reopened to the public.
But the Nimrud site itself has suffered since the United States-led invasion in 2003, when it was virtually abandoned as Iraqi state structures collapsed. Looters stole and damaged many sculptures. However, Mr. Fethi said, the site was partly safeguarded by its remote location, and until now, its major structures were in good condition.
“Leaving these gangs without punishment will encourage them to eliminate human civilization entirely, especially the Mesopotamian civilization, which cannot be compensated,” the ministry added in its statement.
It called on the United Nations Security Council to come to Iraq’s aid.
The destruction also comes on the heels of several years of wholesale ransacking of Syria’s ancient sites by many parties in the country’s chaotic conflict.
Mohammad Rabia Chaar, a Syrian writer and journalist now living in Belgium, said he had returned to Syria to support the uprising against Bashar al-Assad but became disillusioned in part because of the looting and destruction, and was eventually driven out by threats from Islamic State militants, before they in turn were largely driven from that province last year.
”Go and see Idlib, how all the ancient hills have been destroyed and looted, how bulldozers are digging.” he said. “The feeling of sickness is growing more and more, day after day, against these imperialist Muslims. Daesh wants people with no memory, with no history, with no culture, no past, no future.”
He said that while human lives were worth more than statues, erasing history and civilization was “killing them not physically but because of their thoughts.”
North Korea’s state media praised the knife attack and said it showed anti-US sentiment in South Korea. Ambassador Mark Lippert is recovering after surgery on his face and hand.
By Robert Marquand,
A knife-wielding South Korean man who attacked US Ambassador Mark Lippert today is a well-known nationalist who previously threw a chunk of concrete at the Japanese ambassador and once tried erect a memorial to former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Seoul.
At a breakfast seminar in the South Korean capital, Kim Ki-jong attacked Mr. Lippert with a wooden-handled fruit knife while calling for the unification of North and South Korea. The attack on the ambassador, a rarity in South Korea, a US military ally, took place against the backdrop of annual military exercises between the two nations.
North Korea stoutly opposes the joint exercises. It launched two small missiles into the ocean earlier this week in apparent displeasure. In a statement it released via state media, North Korea hailed the assault on the ambassador, calling it “a knife attack of justice,” according to CNN, and saying that it reflected “anti-US sentiments.”
South Korean president Park Geun-hye countered that the “incident is not only a physical attack on the US ambassador, but an attack on the South Korea-US alliance and it can never be tolerated.”
At the breakfast event, which was hosted by the Korea Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, Mr. Kim approached Lippert’s table and the two men struggled. Kim slashed the ambassador’s face and hand. He shouted “I carried out an act of terror” as he was pinned to the floor by onlookers.
After extensive stitches the ambassador tweeted that he was recuperating and “will be back ASAP.” He added in Korean, “Let’s work together.”
The attacker is known by South Korean security as part of a group of Korean nationalists opposed to an American presence in the South, according to Yonhap news agency. More than 10 years ago when families from North and South began reconciliation meetings, the group organized anti-US protests in Seoul. Their interests were seen as similar to those of North Korea, which advocates for the unification of the Korean peninsula under the rule of the Kim family dynasty – with the departure of the Americans a first step.
Yet protests and civic activism in the South began to wane after the North conducted a nuclear test in 2006, and after it was revealed that the South was paying large amounts of cash for diplomacy with the North with often no visible reciprocation. Civic protests against the US have also slowed as many South Koreans feel US forces are still needed. The US maintains some 29,000 troops in the country.
Reuters reports today that Lippert, a former assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, is known “for his open, informal style …and can often be seen walking his basset hound, Grigsby, in Seoul. His wife recently gave birth to a son, who was given a Korean middle name.”
Kim is a member of the group that supports Korean unification that hosted the event, police said. He has also staged one-man protests against Japan over disputed islands known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, and, according to his blog, he led a protest outside a U.S. army base in Seoul last November.
“The guy comes in … He yells something, goes up to the ambassador and slashes him in the face,” witness Michael Lammbrau of the Arirang Institute think-tank.
Citing South Korean intelligence agencies, Yonhap said the attacker had reportedly visited North Korea six times and once set himself on fire in front of the president’s office:
The suspect shouted his opposition to the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises that started Monday as he was being taken into a police car, authorities said. The exercises are part of Seoul and Washington’s efforts to better deter threats from North Korea. …
On Tuesday, Kim wrote a post that condemned the military drills between South Korea and the U.S., calling it “the reason why the reunion between family members (separated by the 1950-53 Korean War) couldn’t take place.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to bring the killer of Nemtsov to justice.
By Malia Zimmerman
Enemies of Vladimir Putin have a way of winding up dead.
Whether they are poisoned, gunned down on the streets of Moscow or blown to bits in their homes, people who have crossed or merely criticized the Russian president have turned up dead around the world. Putin political adversary Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed near the Kremlin last week, is only the latest in a long line that includes hundreds of journalists, human rights activists and businessmen.
“I believe Vladimir Putin is a stone-cold killer,” said Bill Browder, author of “Red Notice, A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice.” “Anyone who gets in the way seems to be arrested, exiled or killed.”
Browder, a Russia-based investor in the 1990s, recounts in his book details of the consequences he and his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, suffered at the hands of the Putin regime. Magnitsky was murdered in prison in 2009, after being arrested for exposing a $230 million tax fraud scheme involving law enforcement and government officials.
Nemtsov, like many others whose murders have been blamed on Putin, had other enemies who may have been capable of killing. The Russian president, a former KGB agent, has vowed to bring Nemtsov’s killer to justice and implied that the hit may have been aimed at destabilizing his cash-strapped regime by framing it.
But critics within Russia and the international community say too many of Putin’s enemies have been killed for the 62-year-old, who has run the country through the posts of either prime minister or president since 1999, to claim his hands are clean.
Among the more notable cases:
Sergei Yushenkov was gunned down in front of his home in April 2003. Yushenkov was part of a commission that investigated claims the KGB orchestrated bombings to ignite support for Putin’s war against Chechnya. A second member of the commission was fatally poisoned, a third nearly lost his life after being severely beaten, and the attorney for the commission was imprisoned for espionage.
Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov was shot to death in Moscow in July 2004, after he reportedly uncovered a money-laundering scheme that reached the highest levels of the Kremlin. Two suspects were charged, but later acquitted. He was one of more than 300 journalists in Russia who have disappeared or been murdered since 1993, according to a June 2009 report from the International Federation of Journalists.
In June 2004, human rights advocate and professor Nikolai Girenko was assassinated in his home.
Andrei Kozlov, a top official at Russia’s Central Bank who dedicated his career to eliminating money laundering, was killed in September 2006.
Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote books and articles accusing Putin of human rights violations in Chechnya, was executed in an elevator in her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006.
Human rights attorney Stanislav Markelov was shot in the head in January 2009, as he left a press conference where he announced plans to sue the Russian government. Journalism student Anastasia Barburova was killed as she tried to intervene.
Human rights journalist Natalia Estemirova, was killed in July 2009, after being kidnapped from her home in Chechnya.
Two well-known cases of the poisoning of Putin adversaries involved former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.
The world saw the effects of dioxin poisoning on the face of Yuschenko in 2004, when he was running for the office he held until 2010. The poisoning followed an assassination attempt, and although no one was ever charged, suspicion focused on the Kremlin which, in a twist that foreshadowed by a decade the current tension between Moscow and Kiev, may have feared Yuschenko would take Ukraine toward better relations with western Europe.
Litvinenko, who authored the Kremlin expose “Blowing up Russia,” and was living under asylum in Great Britain, was given a fatal dose of Polonium in November 2006. The main suspect is reportedly former KGB agent and Putin crony Andrey Lugovoy, who has since been elected to Russia’s Duman, putting him out of reach of extradition laws.
Litvinenko, who lingered for three weeks in a British hospital, was loyal to the end to Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, a onetime billionaire who was also in exile in Great Britain and leading a campaign against Putin when he, too, turned up dead. Russian officials say he hanged himself, but an independent autopsy found Berezovsky was attacked and hanged.
Nemtsov, 55, one of the most famous critics of Putin, had just left a restaurant with his girlfriend, Anna Duritskaya, a 23-year-old model and Ukrainian national, when he was murdered. Duritskaya claims she did not see the shooter. Earlier, Nemtsov had made an appearance on Ekho Moskvy — or Echo of Moscow — a radio station where he called on Moscow residents to attend a march against Putin’s administration and the war in Ukraine Feb. 27.
“There is already a list of unsolved political murders and attacks in Russia,” Amnesty International said in a statement this week. “We cannot allow Boris Nemtsov to become just another name on this list.”
Whether Putin is directly involved or simply the beneficiary of so many untimely deaths of his enemies will probably never be seriously investigated, say Kremlin watchers. By some measures the richest and most powerful man in the world, Putin appears beyond the reach of any prosecution.
“Putin gets away with it because the Russian state controls the media in Russia, it rules with an iron fist, and Russians are deeply afraid of their own government,” said Nile Gardiner, of the Heritage Foundation. “Putin sits atop a vicious tyranny. Ordinary Russians won’t stand up to the state. There is a climate of fear with the Putin regime exercising a vise-like grip over the Russian people.”
Browden believes Putin was behind the murder of Nemtsov, and says the killing may be the Russian leader’s most brazen yet.
“The murder of Boris Nemtsov means that the gloves are off in Russia,” said Browden. “It used to be, for very high-profile politicians, they were imprisoned or put into exile. But the assassination of Boris Nemtsov within feet of the Kremlin means Putin and his cronies have no shame and international and domestic opinion means nothing to them.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a packed House chamber on Capitol Hill Tuesday, arguing for a harder line in nuclear negotiations with Iran.
But despite the friction with the White House caused by his appearance, Netanyahu may strike a more conciliatory tone. He told a pro-Israel lobbying group that he “deeply appreciates” all that President Obama has done for Israel.
“Let me clarify what is not the purpose of that speech. My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both,” Netanyahu said Monday.
Instead, Netanyahu said, “the purpose of my address to Congress tomorrow is to speak up about a potential deal with Iran that could threaten the survival of Israel.”
The United States and five other world powers are negotiating a deal with Iran that would seek to put at least a decade-long halt to its nuclear program. Members of Congress want to enact tougher sanctions in order to force a harder line against Iran, but President Obama has threatened to veto any such legislation, saying it could derail the talks.
On the eve of Netanyahu’s speech, the Obama administration sought to allay fears that the Iran negotiations would result in a bad deal for Israel or the United States. The goal, he told the Reuters news agency in an interview Monday, would be to ensure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one.”
But while Obama said he and Netanyahu shared the same goal, he also said there’s “substantial disagreement” about how to get there. “I’m less concerned, frankly, with Prime Minster Netanyahu’s commentary than I’m with Congress taking actions that might undermine the talks before they’re completed,” Obama said.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Monday that a permanent halt to Iran’s nuclear capability was unrealistic because negotiating partners on the United Nations Security Council don’t support that. “If that is our goal, our partners will abandon us, undermining the sanctions we have imposed so effectively together. Simply put, that is not a viable negotiating position.”
But she, too, tried to smooth over differences between Obama and Netanyahu. In her speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Rice lauded the close relationship between the two leaders, saying security cooperation between the two countries is “unprecedented,” and noting that Obama has met with Netanyahu “more times than with almost any other world leader.”
At least 30 and as many as 60 Democrats are boycotting the speech, saying they thought the invitation was inappropriate. House Speaker John Boehner bypassed the White House in inviting Netanyahu just two weeks before his party faces a reelection in Israel.
Boehner will have no trouble filling those empty seats. The speaker’s office says it has had 10 times more interest for tickets to the public galleries than any other event in his four-year speakership — including State of the Union addresses.
With his speech to Congress Tuesday, Netanyahu joins Winston Churchill as the only foreign leaders who have addressed Congress three times. And all told, Israel joins the United Kingdom and France as the only countries that have been invited eight times.
Russian marchers commemorted the memory of murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was gunned down on Friday near the Kremlin.
It’s possible that Vladimir Putin didn’t order the murder of Boris Nemtsov, a political opponent and one of his most prominent critics. Even for a leader as proudly thuggish as Mr. Putin, it would be quite a step to have an opponent gunned down Mafia style while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin.
Still, no one’s going to believe he’s innocent, either. If you build a criminal state, people will act like criminals, and Mr. Putin has been diligently turning Russia into a personal fiefdom where he makes the laws, and breaks them as he sees fit. It should come as no surprise that one of his acolytes, admirers or allies would feel free to take the law into their hands to get rid of a perceived thorn like Mr. Nemtsov.
Since he first took office as president in 2000 there has been a steady escalation in the brazenness of Mr. Putin’s disregard for legal niceties or basic rights. In 2003 he felt free to arrest businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and steal his commercial empire for himself and his cronies. It was taken for granted he either ordered or approved the 2006 poisoning of former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. He seized the Crimea and destabilized Ukraine with a fine disdain for protests. He has had critics and opponents harassed or jailed. Now they can be murdered in the streets as well.
Mr. Putin must know it looks bad to have his opponents bumped off so brazenly. He apparently still feels the need to put on a show of running a country that respects human life. In the wake of the murder he issued a statement professing his outrage, as if he couldn’t conceive of such thing such happening in his Russia. He took the investigation under his personal control, presumably to demonstrate his determination but which also ensures he can prevent any ugly details from leaking out. He even sent a personal message to Mr. Nemtsov’s mother, assuring her, “Everything will be done so that the organizers and perpetrators of a vile and cynical murder get the punishment they deserve.”
Maybe he thinks she’ll believe him. It’s entirely possible someone will indeed be arrested and charged with the murder, and duly convicted. Maybe there’ll even be a trial. Trials are always good for the image, giving the impression the nation is governed by law. Mr. Khodorkovsky was given a trial after being dragged off a plane and accused of tax evasion. Members of the rock group Pussy Riot were also accorded a trial for singing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral. Both trials ended as expected, with opponents of Mr. Putin tossed in jail. The semblance of justice is still there even if the results are preordinaed.
Meanwhile the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office has already floated a number of fantastical theories for the killing, all carefully distanced from Mr. Putin. Perhaps his own supporters killed him to produce a wave of support. Maybe he was targeted by Islamic extremists in some obscure act related to the Charlie Hebdo killings. Or maybe it was related to Ukraine, since his girlfriend is Ukrainian and was with him at the time he was shot, and is still being diligently questioned by police. Any doubts about the efficacy of the investigation are being denounced as another western plot to disrupt Russia’s sovereignty and insult its patriotic glory.
Under the Soviet regime Russians pretended to believe whatever obvious falsehoods they were fed by the state, because it was too dangerous to do otherwise. Mr. Putin is reviving that state of mass make-believe. Everyone knows Moscow is the power behind Ukraine’s well-armed, well-financed rebel fighters, but Mr. Putin blithely insists he has nothing to do with the revolt and expects people to profess their belief. Otherwise they might end up like Mr. Nemtsov. He approves ceasefires with no intention of honouring them, he mocks opponents for trusting in his word, he seizes one territory after another while maintaining he has no intention of doing so.
Now he demands the world pretend to take seriously the investigation into Mr. Nemtsov’s murder. But, as Mr. Khodorkovsky says, he’s a “naked king.” People understand the reality. If Mr. Putin thinks otherwise, he’s the only one being fooled.
March 1, 2015: People carry portraits of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 near the Kremlin, with words reading ‘he died for the future of Russia!’ in Moscow, Russia .
MOSCOW – Carrying flowers, portraits and signs that said “I am not afraid,” thousands of Russians marched Sunday in Moscow to mourn opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, whose slaying on the streets of the capital has shaken Russia’s beleaguered opposition.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has marginalized and intimidated his political opponents, jailing some and driving others into exile, since mass anti-Putin protests swept Moscow in 2011 and 2012. Nemtsov, 55, was among the few prominent opposition figures who had refused to be cowed.
The mourners on Sunday marched to the bridge near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was gunned down shortly before midnight Friday. The mood was somber, with a heavy police presence.
Ilya Yashin, a friend and fellow opposition leader, said he hoped the killing would not frighten people.
“Essentially it is an act of terror. It is a political murder aimed at frightening the population, or the part of the population that supported Nemtsov and did not agree with the government,” Yashin told The Associated Press. “I hope we won’t get scared, that we will continue what Boris was doing.”
The march could energize the opposition, but it could also prove to be a brief expression of emotions that dissipates in a climate of fear.
Russia’s federal investigative agency said it was looking into several possible motives for Nemtsov’s killing.
The first possibility, the Investigative Committee said, was that the killing was aimed at destabilizing the political situation in Russia and Nemtsov was a “sacrificial victim for those who do not shun any method for achieving their political goals.”
This suggestion echoed comments by Putin’s spokesman and other Russian politicians that the attack was a “provocation” against the state. The consensus of political commentators on state television was that the killing served the interests of Russia’s enemies.
Yashin, however, said Russia’s leadership and specifically Putin bore full political responsibility for Nemtsov’s death.
“It was President Putin who created this atmosphere of hate in our country, the atmosphere of intolerance, which one way or another materialized in the bullet that killed my friend Boris Nemtsov,” Yashin said.
As a former deputy prime minister and longtime politician, Nemtsov retained strong ties among Russia’s political and business elite, making his killing additionally shocking.
He was killed just hours after a radio interview in which he denounced Putin’s “mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war against Ukraine.” Nemtsov was working on a report presenting evidence that he believed proved that Russian servicemen were fighting with the separatists in Ukraine, despite official denials.
Yashin said it was unlikely the report would ever be published because investigators who searched Nemtsov’s apartment after his death took away his laptop.
Kremlin propaganda had identified Nemtsov as among the leaders of a “fifth column,” painting him as a traitor in the service of a hostile West.
TV Center, a station controlled by the Moscow city government, showed a poor-resolution video taken of the bridge from a distance at the time of the killing, which it says shows the suspected killer jumping into a passing car. A snowplow that moved slowly behind Nemtsov and his female companion as they walked on the bridge blocked the view of the shooting.
Another mourning march for Nemtsov was held earlier Sunday in St. Petersburg, drawing what police estimated was 6,000 people.
Nelly Prusskaya, a 66-year-old doctor, said she came to pay her respects to Nemtsov. “I also came to say that I’m against the war in Ukraine,” she said. “I’m against political murders.”
Most Russians support Putin’s policy in Ukraine. Since the annexation of Crimea a year ago, support for Putin has been more than 80 percent.
How has ISIS, a 21st-century terrorist organization with a retrograde religious philosophy, spread from Iraq to Syria, Libya and beyond? Video by Quynhanh Do on Publish Date December 13, 2014.
By STEVEN ERLANGER
LONDON — Mohammed Emwazi was 6 when his parents moved to West London from his birthplace in Kuwait, and he seems to have lived a normal life, studying hard and graduating in computer sciences from the University of Westminster in 2009.
But he came to the attention of the British intelligence services in May that same year, detained as he landed in Tanzania with two friends on what he described as a celebratory safari. British officials thought he and his friends were headed to Somalia, to fight with the terrorist group Al Shabab, and allegedly tried to recruit him as an informant before shipping him back home.
Continue reading the main story
The Islamic State militant identified on Thursday as Mohammed Emwazi, shown in a propaganda video released last year.Mohammed Emwazi, in His Own WordsFEB. 26, 2015
The father of Jejoen Bontinck, a young Belgian who spent three weeks in the same cell as James Foley and other hostages, showed a picture of the prison where they were held.ISIS Hostages Endured Torture and Dashed Hopes, Freed Cellmates SayOCT. 25, 2014
The head prosecutor in Paris said Monday that a Frenchman, Maxime Hauchard, right, had been identified in the Islamic State video that announced the beheading of Peter Kassig.Briton and Frenchman Tentatively Identified in Islamic State Execution VideoNOV. 17, 2014
German officials have shielded the full identity of Kreshnik B., left, who confessed to fighting in Syria with the Islamic State.Memo From Europe: Nations Ponder How to Handle European Fighters Returning From Jihad NOV. 23, 2014
Mr. Emwazi was identified on Thursday as the masked Islamic State fighter called “Jihadi John,” and his journey from computer student to a murderous spokesman for the Islamic State is only beginning to come clear. How and when he was radicalized, and whether the British intelligence services were at fault — either dealing with him too harshly or not identifying him as a serious threat soon enough — are already the subject of hot debate.
The question for security services is the same all over the West, whether in Britain, France or now in the United States, as some young Muslims are becoming radicalized or seeking to join a jihad. Given important constitutional and legal protections, how do counterterrorism and police officials draw the line when they find enough evidence to suspect someone, but do not have enough to prosecute them, or even to keep them under legal surveillance?
“Doing nothing is not practical or acceptable under today’s conditions,” said Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at Royal United Services Institute, a British research institution.
Mr. Emwazi was called “Jihadi John” by the foreign hostages he guarded, a number of whom he apparently beheaded in widely circulated videos. He was first identified on Thursday by The Washington Post website, and his name was confirmed by a senior British security official. The official said that the British government had identified Mr. Emwazi some time ago but had not disclosed his name for operational reasons. The identification was also confirmed in Washington by a senior United States military intelligence official.
Information is still vague about Mr. Emwazi, with Britain officially refusing to confirm that he is indeed “Jihadi John” because of what are described as continuing operations.
But Mr. Emwazi appears in 2011 court documents, obtained by the BBC, as a member of a network of extremists who funneled funds, equipment and recruits “from the United Kingdom to Somalia to undertake terrorism-related activity.”
Mr. Emwazi is alleged to be part of a group from West and North London, sometimes known as “the North London Boys,” with links to the Somalia-based terrorist group Al Shabab, organized by an individual who had returned to London in February 2007 and whose name was redacted in court documents.
Another person associated with that group was Bilal al-Berjawi, who was born in Lebanon but brought to West London as a baby. He fought in Somalia and rose through the ranks of Al Shabab and Al Qaeda in Africa before being killed in a drone strike in January 2012, according to Raffaello Pantucci, also a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
Mr. Berjawi traveled to Kenya in February 2009, telling his family he was heading for a safari; he and a friend were detained in Nairobi and shipped back to London, but made it to Somalia in October that year.
The neighborhood group “is a tight community and it’s very probable that they knew each other and were part of the same crew,” Mr. Pantucci said.
So it is likely that Mr. Emwazi’s own safari a few months later in May, from Britain to Germany to Tanzania, using the name of Muhammad ibn Muazzam, set off alarms with the British security services, and that he had started on the road to radicalism even before his encounter with MI5 in 2009.
Asim Qureshi, research director at CAGE, a British advocacy organization opposed to what it calls the “war on terror,” met with Mr. Emwazi in the fall of 2009. Mr. Emwazi was very angry over his treatment at the hands of British security services, Mr. Qureshi said, and the two stayed in contact for two years.
Mr. Qureshi said he is not 100 percent sure that Mr. Emwazi, whom he described as “extremely kind, extremely humble and extremely soft-spoken,” is the masked Islamic State terrorist.
But he nonetheless blamed Mr. Emwazi’s treatment for his radicalization, describing harassment by police officers at airports, pressure on Kuwait to cancel a visa and on one occasion, Mr. Emwazi being “roughed up” and “strangled by a police officer” before being sent home.
“This is not somebody who ever said, ‘I hate the system, I reject the system,’ ” Mr. Qureshi said. “It’s someone who said, ‘I don’t like the environment but I’ll work within the system to effect change.’ ”
As ever, there are conflicting interpretations, with some seeing a young Muslim man treated badly, put into a headlock, barred from traveling and induced to betray his friends, and those who say that such treatment is not any excuse, or reason, for repeatedly cutting off the heads of civilians taken hostage.
Roland S. Martin
Congress has always run D.C. like a plantation. But now, GOPers want to jail the mayor over a law the voters overwhelmingly passed?
I’m desperately trying to understand how getting marijuana laws passed nationwide has become today’s Selma, but if there is one thing that is intolerable it’s the shameful way congressional Republicans are bullying the residents of Washington, D.C., to not blaze in the comfort of their homes.
Possessing marijuana in the nation’s capital became legal at midnight Wednesday, yet Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz and his Republican compadres are literally threatening to jail D.C.’s elected leaders for implementing a law that was overwhelmingly approved at the ballot box by the residents of the District of Columbia.
Residents will be allowed to possess no more than two ounces of weed. They can’t sell, but are more than allowed to smoke it in the privacy of their home. Outdoor places and cars are forbidden.
Yet Chaffetz is fuming, literally threatening to jail Mayor Muriel Bowser or any D.C. elected official or employee who moves forward on the law.
“The penalties are severe, and we’re serious about this. Nobody’s wishing or wanting that to happen, but the law is clear,” Chaffetz told ABC News.
Yes, Washington, D.C., residents, who can shed their blood on the battlefield for America, pay their fair share of taxes, and partake of everything this country has to offer don’t have the damn right to determine their own destiny because members of Congress, oftentimes Republicans, want to always butt into their business.
Why? Because the Constitution designated the federal capital to be under federal jurisdiction so it therefore can’t become a state. Never mind that 700,000 people are actual residents of Washington, D.C. Never mind that they have an elected mayor and city council to run the affairs of the city. Never mind that marijuana is legal in Alaska, Colorado, and the state of Washington. Congress has oversight of the city and can force its will whenever it pleases.
This, folks, ain’t just a GOP thing.
When President Barack Obama hit the Oval Office, he did away with the DC Opportunities Scholarship, an educational voucher program for residents of the district. The initiative was a pet peeve of the GOP, and they used their will to make it happen.
Republicans tried to pass a measure attaching abortion restrictions to D.C. residents, but that was beaten back by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was elected by the people but who has no vote in Congress.
Congress has always used the power of the purse strings to try to control Washington as much as it could, and frankly, it is a shame.
I would love nothing more than to see Mayor Bowser fly to Utah and tell residents of that state they should ignore certain laws passed by elected officials. If she did that, I’m sure Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz would issue a “how-dare-she” press release, blasting her for ignoring the will of the people of the state of Utah.
And therein lies the problem. Washington, D.C., residents have a right to be a state. They have a right to determine their own will instead of being threatened by Congress.
I’ve never smoked weed; don’t like the smell of weed; would never allow it to be smoked in my presence. But I stand with D.C. leaders who have pledged to defy congressional Republicans when it comes to the voter-approved marijuana law.
I guess the will of the people only applies to non-D.C. residents.
In this Feb. 8, 2015, file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office. Netanyahu on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, turned down an invitation to meet privately with Senate Democrats next week during his visit to Washington, saying the session “could compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his trip.
By JULIE PACE
A top adviser to President Barack Obama sharply criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress next week, calling the move “destructive” to the ties between the U.S. and Israel.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Netanyahu’s March 3 speech, which was arranged by Republican congressional leaders, has “injected a degree of partisanship” into a relationship that should be above politics.
“It’s destructive to the fabric of the relationship,” Rice told the Charlie Rose show Tuesday. “It’s always been bipartisan. We need to keep it that way.”
Rice’s statements were among the Obama administration’s toughest public criticism of Netanyahu’s speech and the negative impact it could have on the close alliances between the U.S. and Israel. The Israeli leader’s speech was arranged without the White House or State Department’s knowledge, a move the administration blasted as a breach of diplomatic protocol.
Rice’s comments came as Netanyahu turned down an invitation to meet privately with Senate Democrats during his trip to Washington, saying such a session could “compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his visit.
“I regret that the invitation to address the special joint session of Congress has been perceived by some to be political or partisan,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “I can assure you that my sole intention in accepting it was to voice Israel’s grave concerns about a potential nuclear agreement with Iran that could threaten the survival of my country.”
U.S. officials believe Netanyahu’s trip is aimed primarily at derailing a nuclear deal with Iran, Obama’s signature foreign policy objective. While Netanyahu has long been skeptical of the negotiations, his opposition has increased over what he sees as Obama’s willingness to make concessions that would leave Iran on the brink of being able to build a nuclear weapon.
U.S. and Iranian officials reported progress in negotiations this week on a deal that would clamp down on Tehran’s nuclear activities for at least 10 years but then slowly ease restrictions. Israeli officials warned this week that such a deal would allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state.
The White House has been weighing ways to counter Netanyahu’s address to Congress, as well as separate speech to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The administration is still weighing whom to send to the conference, with some officials pushing for a lower level representative than normal.
There are no plans for Obama to meet with Netanyahu next week, with the White House officially citing its practice of not engaging with world leaders in close proximity to elections. Israel’s elections are set for March 17.
Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry will be traveling abroad on trips that were only announced after Netanyahu accepted lawmakers’ invitation to speak to Congress.
More than a half-dozen House and Senate Democrats have said they will skip the speech, calling it an affront to Obama and the administration as they engage in high-level negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Durbin, the Illinois senator, said in a statement that he regretted that Netanyahu could not meet with the Democrats.
“We offered the prime minister an opportunity to balance the politically divisive invitation from Speaker (John) Boehner with a private meeting with Democrats who are committed to keeping the bipartisan support of Israel strong,” Durbin said. “His refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades.”
Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the medical marijuana farmers market in Los Angeles, Calif on July 11, 2014.
By Steve Benen
Colorado and the state of Washington broke new legal ground when they legalized use of marijuana, but they haven’t had much company. Voters in the District of Columbia soon followed, though congressional Republicans, ignoring their own principles about local control, had other ideas.
Today, however, the very small pot club gets a third member. The Alaska Dispatch News reported this morning:
Feb. 24, 2015, is a historic day in the Last Frontier: Alaska becomes the third state in the U.S. in which recreational cannabis use is legalized. […]
State and local governments are tasked with redefining the parameters of marijuana as it is brought out of the shadows and into well-lit, regulated territory. Much remains to be seen.
There was a period of transition and confusion in Colorado and Washington after state laws changed, and it’s likely Alaska, which legalized pot by popular referenda, will have similar short-term issues. Broadly speaking, though, the bottom line is pretty straightforward: Alaskans who are 21 and over can legally “possess, transport and display up to 1 ounce of marijuana and accompanying accessories.” They can also “possess, grow, process and transport up to six marijuana plants, three of which may be flowering.”
There are restrictions on sales, quantities, driving under the influence, and partaking in public. Private businesses can, if they choose, still impose drug tests on employees and fire those who test positive.
A public-education campaign is already under way to “encourage responsible consumption” – the tagline: ”With great marijuana laws comes great responsibility” – and in the coming months, the state intends to develop a state agency responsible for regulating commercial production and sales. Marijuana businesses, such as those in Colorado and Washington, will soon follow.
As for which state may be next, keep an eye on Vermont, where legislation is already pending. It’s not likely to be voted on until next year, but the Green Mountain State, if it moves forward, would be the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process.
It’s worth noting that federal drug laws have not changed, and these state experiments are permitted, in effect, because Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration have endorsed them. A change in administrations in 2017 could, in theory, jeopardize these state initiatives.