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BREAKING: Santa Claus Costume-Wearing Attackers; ‘Many Wounded’ in Istanbul’s Reina Nightclub

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Footage appears to show a number of ambulances and police vehicles outside the Reina nightclub, in the Besiktas area of the city.

NTV says two attackers were involved, with CNN Turk reported they were dressed in Santa costumes.

Istanbul had been on high alert for any terror attacks, with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city…

Developing..

Source: BBC News

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Around 50 people injured

Around 50 people have been injured according to the latest reports.

Armed police are on the scene at the Reina club.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Dutch Newspaper Publishes Cartoon Depicting Erdogan as an Ape Crushing Free Speech 

The cartoon appeared on the front page after a Dutch journalist was detained in Turkey.

After a Dutch journalist was arrested in Turkey this weekend for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most-read newspaper in the Netherlands on Monday published a front-page editorial cartoon that shows Erdogan as an ape, apparently crushing Europe’s free speech.

The cartoon, published by the populist daily De Telegraaf, has an ape with Erdogan’s face squashing a woman who appears to be Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday. In the cartoon, the Turkish president is standing on a rock labeled “Apenrots” — a Dutch term meaning “monkey rocks” that is used to refer to the Dutch Foreign Ministry but can also refer to a place where one dominant individual holds power.

The cartoon is titled “the long arm of Erdogan.”

Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday.

Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday.

Umar, a columnist for the newspaper Metro, had been detained by Turkish authorities who were investigating tweets she had sent about Erdogan. Umar was released Sunday, but she says she has been ordered to remain in the country as the investigation proceeds.

[read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

The detention of Umar has added another layer to what many in the Netherlands think is a growing crackdown on free speech within Turkey — and outside its borders, too. Last week, the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam came under fire after appearing to send an email that called for Turkish organizations in the Netherlands to report insults against Erdogan to it. The Turkish Embassy later said that the email had been poorly phrased and misunderstood, but it sparked controversy within the Netherlands, which is one of many European countries that still has “lèse-majesté” laws that prohibit insults against friendly heads of state. Read the rest of this entry »


Byron York: ‘What do you call terrorist organization that has extended its reach, can project power far from base? ‘Contained.’ 

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What do you call terrorist organization that has extended its reach, can project power far from base? ‘Contained.’ https://t.co/MrlpiFN3E9— Byron York (@ByronYork) November 16, 2015


VICE Journalists Charged With Working for ‘Terrorists’ in Turkey

Turkish authorities on Monday charged three Western news reporters in southeastern Turkey with working for a “terrorist organization,” said their employer VICE News on Monday, days after the journalists’ detention caused an outcry among human rights groups.

“Today the Turkish government has leveled baseless and alarmingly false charges of ‘working on behalf of a terrorist organization’ against three VICE News reporters, in an attempt to intimidate and censor their coverage.”

— A spokesman for VICE

Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury, as well as a fixer and a driver were detained by the Turkish authorities while reportedly filming clashes between police and supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the province of Diyarbakir.

On Monday, they were charged in a Turkish court, VICE said. Read the rest of this entry »


Marxists vs Jihadists: Perfect if Both Sides Lose

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SINJAR MOUNTAIN, Iraq—Nine years ago, Zind Ruken packed a bag and left her majority-ethnic-Kurdish city in Iran, escaping a brutal police crackdown and pressure to marry a man she’d never met.

“America’s association with a terror-listed Maoist-inspired militia, even if indirect, shows how dramatically Syria’s conflict has reconfigured regional alliances and eroded once-rigid borders.”

Now the 24-year-old is a battle-hardened guerrilla, using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to fight Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.

She has deployed to reverse their advances on self-governing Kurdish communities. Last summer, she says, she helped rescue Kurdish-speaking Yazidis besieged on Sinjar Mountain. Her unit has fought Islamist insurgents and conventional armies in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq—countries where an estimated 30 million Kurds live.

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant looks through the scope of his rifle in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Though best known for its horrific brutalities _ from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women _ the Islamic State group has proved to be a highly organized and flexible fighting force, according to senior Iraqi military and intelligence officials and Syrian Kurdish commanders on the front lines. (Militant website via AP)

“Constantly shifting alliances in the region mean the PKK’s rise isn’t certain to continue. But the guerrilla group’s growing stature has alarmed Turkey, a crucial North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally of the U.S., with whom the PKK has fought a three-decade war costing some 40,000 lives.”

Ms. Ruken’s journey provides a glimpse behind the remarkable rise of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the cultlike Marxist-inspired group she fights for and whose triumphs against Islamic State have helped it evolve from ragtag militia to regional power player.

The PKK and its Syrian affiliate have emerged as Washington’s most effective battlefield partners against Islamic State, also known as ISIS, even though the U.S. and its allies have for decades listed the PKK as a terrorist group. The movement in the past has been accused of kidnappings, murder and narcotics trafficking, but fighters like Ms. Ruken have presented the world an appealing face of the guerrillas—an image of women battling as equals with male comrades against an appallingly misogynist enemy.

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“Obama administration officials acknowledged the PKK and YPG have links and coordinate with each other in the fight against Islamic State, but they said the U.S. continues to formally shun the PKK while dealing directly with YPG.”

U.S. war planners have been coordinating with the Syrian affiliate—the People’s Defense Units, or YPG—on air and ground operations through a joint command center in northern Iraq. And in two new centers in Syria’s Kobani and Jazeera regions, YPG commanders are in direct contact with U.S. commanders, senior Syrian Kurdish officials said.

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“There’s no reason to pretend anymore,” said a senior Kurdish official from Kobani. “We’re working together, and it’s working.”

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

By contrast, Ankara agreed only on Thursday to allow coalition airstrikes from an eastern-Turkey air base, after months of negotiations in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ’s government resisted international calls to enter the war with Islamic State. U.S. officials said the base deal shouldn’t affect U.S. air support to Kurdish fighters in Syria and may help increase collaboration with the YPG because jets and drones will be closer to the battlefield. Read the rest of this entry »


Onwaarschijnlijk Krijgers: Dutch Biker Gang Joins fight Against Islamic State in Iraq

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The three men are members of an infamous motorbike gang, No Surrender, the biggest biker club in the Netherlands

Anna Holligan, BBC News, The Hague: Three members of a Dutch motorcycle club with military backgrounds have gone to Iraq to help fight Islamic State (IS), a fellow biker says.

“They wanted to do something when they saw the pictures of the beheadings.”

The three left for northern Iraq to help Kurds there after being horrified by news of IS atrocities, Klaas Otto told Dutch media.

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All are trained soldiers who have served abroad in the past, he said.

“They are trained guys with lots of experience – with foreign missions, too. They are extremely disciplined. They don’t drink any alcohol, not even on club evenings.”

Dutch prosecutors told BBC News that they were not necessarily breaking the law by fighting on the Kurdish side.

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Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor’s office, said that signing up with organisations like IS or the Kurdish militant group PKK was banned but joining a foreign armed force was no longer forbidden.

But if there was proof that they were committing murders or rapes then “of course, it would be a different story”, he said.

The Netherlands’ defence ministry said it could not be held responsible for choices made by ex-servicemen.

The story emerged after photos began circulating on social media. One shows a man dressed in green military fatigues, clutching a Kalashnikov, sitting alongside a Kurdish fighter.

The Netherlands has a considerable Kurdish community. Read the rest of this entry »


Report: Kurdish Female Suicide Bomber in Kobane Killed Dozens of ISIS Militants

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With Kurdish fighters under increasing pressure from the ISIS militants seeking to seize Kobane, this is the first time a suicide bomber has been used by Kurdish forces in the conflict. Her name in Kurdish was Dilar Gencxemis but she went under the nom-de-guerre of Arin Mirkan

SURUC, Turkey — Kurdish fighters battling ISIS militants for the Syrian town of Kobane employed a new tactic when a female suicide bomber blew herself up in an attack claimed to have killed dozens of militants. The young woman, a full-time fighter with the Syria-based Kurdish rebel group the People’s Protection Units (YPG), killed herself in the attack on Sunday, Kurdish sources said.

tribune ‏@tribunegr  23h22 hours ago #YPJ fighter #ArinMirkan carried out a suicide bomb attack on an #ISIS tank close to #Kobane

Source: Twitter — tribune ‏@tribunegr 
#YPJ fighter #ArinMirkan carried out a suicide bomb attack on an #ISIS tank close to #Kobane

Her act struck a chord with Kurds and others supporting the opposition to ISIS in Kobane, with #ArinMirkan becoming a popular hashtag on Twitter.

Her name in Kurdish was Dilar Gencxemis but she went under the nom-de-guerre of Arin Mirkan, the YPG said in a statement. She was from the Syrian town of Afrin in the Aleppo province of northern Syria, just south of the Turkish border.

“I don’t know her exact age but she was above 20. She was a fighter from the YPG. “She threw many grenades at ISIS insurgents. After that, she blew herself up.”

With Kurdish fighters under increasing pressure from the ISIS militants seeking to seize Kobane, this is the first time a suicide bomber has been used by Kurdish forces in the conflict. “I don’t know her exact age but she was above 20. She was a fighter from the YPG,” said Mustafa Bali, a Kurdish official in Kobane told in the Turkish border town of Suruc.

“The woman blew herself up for me, for the Kurds and for Kobane.” 

— Mustafa, one of the estimated 186,000 people from the Kobane region who fled the fighting into neighbouring Turkey

“She threw many grenades at ISIS insurgents. After that, she blew herself up,” he said, adding that dozens of ISIS fighters were killed in her assault.

“She killed dozens of gang members and demonstrated the YPG fighters’ determined resistance. If necessary, all YPG fighters will follow her example, and the gangs will not be allowed to achieve their aim of taking Kobane.”

— From a statement issued by the YPG, carried by the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency

The Britain-based Britain-based group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria, also confirmed the attack by the female suicide bomber. Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE: Kurdish Fighter Ceylan Özalp Reported Alive; Contradicts Earlier Unsubstantiated Claims

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editor-commen-deskFor War In ContextPaul Woodward finds growing credibility in the “Ceylan Ozalp is alive” counter-story, bolstered by affirmations by Kurdish journalist Müjgan Halis and PKK defense lawyer Ayla Akat Ata. In his comments, Woodward considers these sources authoritative, and is inclined to think they’re likely true. Which reopens questions about Ozalp’swar-in-context-ozalp-alive-report fate, and should spark interest in this mysterious Kurdish fighter’s whereabouts.

Note: The above photo, purporting to be Ceylan Ozalp, in circulation on Tumblr sites, isn’t new, it appeared around the time of the initial BBC broadcast about Kurdish Women fighters.

Here’s the thing: If Ceylan is not dead, and can identify herself online somewhere, or to a reporter, or to someone with a camera, the best and only evidence that truly can confirm Ozalp is alive is Ceylan Ozalp herself.

At the same time, no one has been able to verify that the dramatic claim that Ceylan Ozalp suicide story is true, either. Which lends a degree of credibility to the challenges made by the growing number of skeptics.

I don’t know enough about the sources, and haven’t explored these new reports enough to have an opinion, other than to say, beware of false or premature conclusions. And be thankful that not everyone believes the first thing they read, and considers it a fact. Because so many readers embraced a sentimental narrative about the bravery of a female Kurdish warrior who happens to be photogenic, this is all the more reason to be wary, and to question how the story is being presented. Good update by Paul Woodward, let’s hope we learn more.

War In ContextPaul Woodward:

“19-Year-Old Kurdish Woman Fighter ‘Kills Herself Rather Than Falling into Isis’ Hands’” is a headline appearing in International Business Times, October 3. I referred to the same story in this post, but it appears not to be true.

The first appearance of this story is thought to be this tweet on September 28 from @cansuipek21.

The tragic image of a nineteen-year-old woman fighter killing herself with her last bullet so that she would not be captured by ISIS, must have seemed iconic to many observers — a graphic representation of the plight Kurdish fighters in Kobane face, surrounded on three sides by ISIS while receiving no support from Turkey and very little from U.S. airstrikes. Sometimes a story conveys a powerful truth even when it turns out not to be true. Read the rest of this entry »


Saving Kobanê: The Town that the World Can’t Afford to Lose to ISIS

http://www.firatnews.com/news/guncel/kobane-ye-donusler-hizlandi.htm

RackMultipart20140616-20920-17w6y1sWilliam Gourlay reports: Few people had heard of the Syrian town of Kobanê until recently. But since coming under sustained attack in the last fortnight by Islamic State (ISIS) militants, the town has attracted international attention as at least 160,000 people have fled across the border to Turkey. Kobanê now stands as a barometer of the success – or possible failure – of the campaign to counter ISIS.

That the US-led coalition is not making a concerted effort to relieve Kobanê is puzzling to say the least. It appears that the PYD, which represents Syrian Kurds, has little direct contact with Western powers, so its appeals are not reaching appropriate ears.

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Ayn al-Arab, known by its predominantly Kurdish residents as Kobanê, is a district on the Syrian and Turkish border. European Commission DG ECHO/Flickr, CC BY-ND  Click to enlarge

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Despite being significantly outgunned, the Kurdish YPG militia have proven highly effective in their fight against ISIS, a struggle they have carried on for almost two years without outside support

Pressed hard against the Turkish border, Kobanê (also known as Ayn al-Arab) is one of several autonomous Kurdish territories within Syria. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia of Kobanê have been defending their homeland doggedly, but, significantly outnumbered and outgunned, they have steadily conceded territory.

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ISIS gangs are within kilometres of the town centre and thousands of Kobanê Kurds have fled into Turkey.

“While most Syrian Kurds are Sunni Muslims, amongst their ranks the YPG count local Syriac Christian units. They also include significant numbers of female fighters, some of whom have attracted the attention of Western media.”

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Kobanê, valiantly resisting ISIS thuggery, has become a rallying point for Kurds across the Middle East, Europe, the US and Australia. Many Turkish Kurds have attempted to cross the border to join to the fight against ISIS. Others maintain a vigil from the uplands around the Turkish border town of Suruç.

http://www.firatnews.com/news/guncel/kobane-ye-donusler-hizlandi.htm“Concerns are also raised about the PYD’s links with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK initiated a terror campaign to establish a Kurdish state in Turkey in the 1980s…”

Turkish armed forces have not taken part in the hostilities, but after several stray ISIS shells landed in Turkish territory, tanks were brought into position at a vantage point overlooking Kobanê.

“…The Turkish government has been in negotiations with the PKK since late 2012, but still classifies the group as terrorist. The US, EU and Australia also list the PKK as a terrorist organisation, largely at the behest of Turkey.”

In the meantime, in a call for international help for the besieged Kurdish forces, activists have initiated a social media campaign and sit-ins in European capitals.

Saleh Muslim, leader of Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, has appealedfor military aid, warning that if it is not forthcoming genocide is at hand. Read the rest of this entry »