Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts

Saturday, March 10, 2012

NINETY Iraqi students killed for having 'strange hair and tight clothes'

NINETY Iraqi students killed for having 'strange hair and tight clothes'
This unnamed teenager was brutally killed by religious police for having an 'emo' hairstyle

More than 90 Iraqi students have been stoned to death for their Emo haircuts by religious extremists in Baghdad in the past month after Iraq's  interior ministry dubbed it 'devil worshipping'.

Iraq's Moral Police released a statement on the interior ministry's website condemning the 'emo phenomenon' among Iraqi youth, declaring its intent to 'eliminate' the trend.

The move is part of a wider clampdown on young people taking on what government officials call 'Western appearances' in Iraq.

'The Emo phenomenon or devil worshipping is being followed by the Moral Police who have the approval to eliminate [the phenomenon] as soon as possible since it's detrimentally affecting the society and becoming a danger,' the statement read.

'They wear strange, tight clothes that have pictures on them such as skulls and use stationary that are shaped as skulls. They also wear rings on their noses and tongues, and do other strange activities,'.

Since the statement was published religious extremists have been harassing and killing teenagers with 'strange' or 'emo' appearances.

A group of armed men dressed in civilian clothing led dozens of teenagers to secluded areas a few days ago, stoned them to death, and then disposed their bodies in garbage dumpsters across the capital, according to activists, activists told the Cairo-based al-Akhbar website.

The armed men are said to belong to 'one of the most extremist religious groups' in Iraq.

'First they throw concrete blocks at the boy's arms, then at his legs, then the final blow is to his head, and if he is not dead then, they start all over again,' one person who managed to escape told Al-Akhbar.

Iraq's moral police was granted approval by the Ministry of Education to enter Baghdad schools and pinpoint students with such appearances, according to the interior ministry's statement.

The exact death toll remains unclear, but Hana al-Bayaty of Brussels Tribunal, an NGO dealing with Iraqi issues, said the current figure ranges 'between 90 and 100.'

'What's most disturbing about this is that they're so young,' she said.

Al-Bayaty said the killings appear to have been carried out by extremist Shia militias in mostly poor Shia neighborhoods and said she suspected 'there's complicity of the Ministry of Interior in the killings.'

Photos of the victims were released on Facebook, causing panic and fear among Iraqi students.

A young man with long hair was among those fearful at the  government-ordained harassment of teenagers with Western appearances.

'I have long hair but that doesn't mean I'm an Emo. I'm not less of a man if I have long hair. Let's not say that if I have long hair, I'm a homosexual, but I have long hair because this is my style, this is me,' he told Iraq's Al-Sharqiya television network.

Safiyyah al-Suhail, an MP, said on Thursday that 'some students have been recently arrested because they were wearing American jeans or had Western haircuts.'

The interior ministry has not disclosed the number of teenage victims, but released a follow-up statement on Thursday warning extremists 'not to step on public freedom of Iraqis.'

News of the gruesome deaths drew a stern reaction from Iraq's prominent Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who criticised the stoning of the young men as 'an act of terrorism.'

He added: "The Ministry of Interior took this situation very seriously and received an approval from the Ministry of Education to set a plan under my full supervision and to allow us to enter schools in the capital."

'There are some cases of the spread of this phenomenon specifically among schools in Baghdad, but we are facing great difficulty in the lack of women on the force who would allow us to carry the investigation more accurately since the phenomenon is more popular among girls between the ages of 14 and 18.'

News by Dailymail

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pentagon budget cuts will reshape U.S. military

US Army
The Pentagon
(Reuters) - The Pentagon unveiled a 2013 budget plan that would cut $487 billion in spending over the next decade by eliminating nearly 100,000 ground troops, mothballing ships and trimming air squadrons in a bid to create a smaller, agile force with a new strategic focus.

The funding request, which includes painful cuts that will be felt across the country, comes at a historic turning point for the military as it winds down 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and shifts its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

The budget plan, sharply criticized by some lawmakers, sets the stage for a new struggle between President Barack Obama's administration and Congress over how much the Pentagon should spend on national security as the country tries to curb its trillion-dollar budget deficits.

"Make no mistake, the savings that we are proposing will impact all 50 states and many districts, congressional districts across America," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a news conference at the Pentagon on Thursday.

"This will be a test of whether reducing the deficit is about talk or action."

Panetta, previewing a budget to be made public February 13, said he would ask for a $525 billion base budget for the 2013 fiscal year, the first time since before the September 11, 2001, attacks that the Pentagon has asked for less than the previous year. That compares with $531 billion approved this year.

Panetta said he would seek $88.4 billion to support overseas combat operations, primarily in Afghanistan, down from $115 billion in 2012 largely due to the end of the war in Iraq and the withdrawal of U.S. forces there at the end of last year.

Congress ultimately controls the Pentagon's purse strings and regularly intervenes to change the size and detail of military spending as it sees fit. The Defense Department's budget accounts for about 20 percent of total federal spending.

Republican lawmakers who oversee military affairs on Capitol Hill sharply criticized the plan.

Senator John McCain said it "ignored the lessons of history" by imposing massive cuts on the military, and Representative Buck McKeon said it reflected "Obama's vision of an America that is weakened, not strengthened, by our men and women in uniform."


The 2013 budget is Panetta's first as defense secretary and is the first to take into account the Budget Control Act passed by Congress in August that requires the Pentagon to cut $487 billion in projected spending over the next decade.

The budget plan does not take into account an additional $600 billion in defense cuts that could be required after Congress failed to pass a compromise agreement to cut government spending by $1.2 trillion. The Pentagon could face cuts of another $50 billion a year, starting in 2013, unless Congress changes the law.

Panetta said he hoped once lawmakers understood the sacrifice involved in reducing the defense budget by almost a half a trillion dollars, they would make sure to avoid another $500 billion in additional cuts that would "inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations."

The budget begins to flesh out a new military strategy announced by the Pentagon earlier this month that calls for a shift in focus from the ground wars of the past decade towards efforts to preserve stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

"To ensure an agile and ready force, we made a conscious choice not to maintain more force structure than we could afford to properly train and equip," Panetta said.

The budget plan would provide new challenges for the Pentagon's top suppliers, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. The Arca index of defense stocks closed Thursday down 0.7 percent.

The plan retains but slows the purchase of weapons like Lockheed's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon's largest procurement program, as well as submarines, amphibious assault ships and other vessels. It would retain a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers.

The Pentagon would boost its emphasis on special operations forces like those who carried out the raid in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last year and rescued two aid workers this week from kidnappers in Somalia.

It would also increase its emphasis on cyber operations, expand its work on drone aircraft, go ahead with a long-range bomber and proceed with other weapons that would allow it to project power from a greater distance.

Those capabilities are needed as countries like Iran and China develop arms that could threaten U.S. aircraft carriers in international waters near their shores.

General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military officer as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned against "parsing through each cut, each change, to look for a winner or loser," saying the plan should be judged for how it adapts the military to a changing security environment.

While the cuts announced on Thursday would affect all major defense contractors, consultant Loren Thompson said shipbuilders would be hit particularly hard because of the plan to cut 16 vessels from the total planned for the next five years.

The plans could affect work flow at Huntington Ingalls' shipyards in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Newport News, Virginia.

The size of the active-duty Army would be trimmed to 490,000 over five years from its wartime peak of 570,000 in 2010 and the size of the Marine Corps would fall to 182,000 from its high of about 202,000.

Military pay increases would begin to slow after two more years of growth, and fees would be increased on healthcare benefits for military retirees, those who served more than 20 years, both above and below the age of 65.

In addition, the Pentagon would:

- Delay development of a new ballistic missile submarine by two years.

- Eliminate six of the Air Force's tactical-air fighter squadrons and retire or divest 130 aircraft used for moving troops and equipment.

- Retire seven Navy cruisers and two smaller amphibious ships early, postpone the purchase of a big-deck amphibious ship by one year and postpone the planned purchase of a number of other vessels for several years.

- Eliminate two Army heavy brigades stationed in Europe and compensate by rotating U.S. based units into the region for training and exercises.

- Study the possibility of further reducing the size of U.S. nuclear arsenal.

- Begin a new round of talks on closing bases made unnecessary by the smaller force.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wave of attacks kills dozens amid Iraq's upheaval

bomb attack in baghdad
Bomb Attack in Baghdad
Baghdad (CNN) -- A wave of explosions in Baghdad Thursday killed at least 63 people and wounded 185, authorities say, raising fears about the stability of the country amid political upheaval that threatens to undo Iraq's government just days after U.S. troops withdrew from the country.

Nine car bombs and six roadside bombs went off and a mortar round was fired in a two-hour period, targeting residential, commercial and government districts in the Iraqi capital, two police officials told CNN.

The deadliest attack was a suicide car bombing outside the offices of the Integrity Commission, the country's main anti-corruption body. At least 23 people were killed and 43 others were wounded in the explosion, which also damaged part of the building, police officials said.

The attacks targeted civilians across all walks of life. One took place at a market. Another, at a school as children were arriving.

CNN's Arwa Damon in Baghdad described it as a "nightmare scenario," eerily reminiscent of earlier days of the Iraq war.

The violence comes as Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders square off over a warrant issued for the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is accused of organizing his security detail into a death squad that targeted government and military officials.

Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has demanded that Kurdish lawmakers hand over the Sunni vice president, who has denied the charges and refuses to return to Baghdad from northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi told CNN he does not believe the violence is directly connected to the latest political developments, "but there is a good environment for terrorists to be active in these bad circumstances."

Terrorists "will justify their criminal activities" and argue that the solution to Iraq's woes "isn't in the political process," said al-Issawi, a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya minority political bloc.

The seemingly coordinated explosions Thursday struck during the height of morning rush hour, hitting a number of Baghdad's primarily mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods.

There have been no immediate claims of responsibility, though the attacks resemble previous bombings that have been claimed by both Sunni and Shiite insurgents as well as al Qaeda in Iraq.

At the Medical City hospital in central Baghdad, doctors treated the wounded whose bodies were peppered with what appeared to be shrapnel from explosions.

Images of bloodied, battered bodies and destroyed storefronts and homes were broadcast on Iraqi television stations.

While violence in Iraq has fallen off in recent years, the latest spate of attacks are among the worst since August when a series of coordinated bombings killed at least 75 people in 17 Iraqi cities.

The attacks come amid heightened sectarian tensions, raising fears that the political turmoil in Iraq could spark a return of sectarian bloodshed that nearly ripped the country apart during the height of the war.

Al-Hashimi has denied the charges against him, saying the accusations are politically motivated amid the rivalry between his Sunni-backed Iraqiya minority political bloc and al-Maliki's Shiite majority bloc.

The warrant for al-Hashimi's arrest was issued just days after Iraqiya suspended its participation in Parliament, claiming it was being cut out of the political process by al-Maliki.

The prime minister has said failing to hand over al-Hashimi or allowing him to flee to another country "could cause problems."

Al-Issawi, the finance minister, told CNN that before U.S. troops left, Iraqi officials made clear their fears of what could happen.

"So many times we warned the Americans, both the political and security situation (are) very fragile. Unfortunately, no one listened."

In a speech this month about bringing the U.S. troops home, President Barack Obama said, "Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. "

"There can be no fuller expression of America's support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are," Obama added.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last U.S. troops leave Iraq, ending war

us army
Last U.S. convoy leaves Iraq
(Reuters) - The last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq on Sunday, ending nearly nine years of war that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and left a country grappling with political uncertainty.

The war launched in March 2003 with missiles striking Baghdad to oust President Saddam Hussein closes with a fragile democracy still facing insurgents, sectarian tensions and the challenge of defining its place in an Arab region in turmoil.

The final column of around 100 mostly U.S. military MRAP armored vehicles carrying 500 U.S. troops trundled across the southern Iraq desert from their last base through the night and daybreak along an empty highway to the Kuwaiti border.

Honking their horns, the last batch of around 25 American military trucks and tractor trailers carrying Bradley fighting vehicles crossed the border early Sunday morning, their crews waving at fellow troops along the route.

"I just can't wait to call my wife and kids and let them know I am safe," Sgt. First Class Rodolfo Ruiz said as the border came into sight. Soon afterwards, he told his men the mission was over, "Hey guys, you made it."

For U.S. President Barack Obama, the military pullout is the fulfillment of an election promise to bring troops home from a conflict inherited from his predecessor, the most unpopular war since Vietnam and one that tainted America's standing worldwide.

For Iraqis, though, the U.S. departure brings a sense of sovereignty tempered by nagging fears their country may slide once again into the kind of sectarian violence that killed many thousands of people at its peak in 2006-2007.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government still struggles with a delicate power-sharing arrangement between Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni parties, leaving Iraq vulnerable to meddling by Sunni Arab nations and Shi'ite Iran.

The intensity of violence and suicide bombings has subsided. But a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency and rival Shi'ite militias remain a threat, carrying out almost daily attacks, often on Iraqi government and security officials.

Iraq says its forces can contain the violence but they lack capabilities in areas such as air defense and intelligence gathering. A deal for several thousand U.S. troops to stay on as trainers fell apart over the sensitive issue of legal immunity.

For many Iraqis, security remains a worry - but no more than jobs and getting access to power in a country whose national grid provides only a few hours of electricity a day despite the OPEC country's vast oil potential.

U.S. and foreign companies are already helping Iraq develop the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, but its economy needs investment in all sectors, from hospitals to infrastructure.

"We don't think about America... We think about electricity, jobs, our oil, our daily problems," said Abbas Jaber, a government employee in Baghdad. "They (Americans) left chaos."


After Obama announced in October that troops would come home by the end of the year as scheduled, the number of U.S. military bases was whittled down quickly as hundreds of troops and trucks carrying equipment headed south to Kuwait.

U.S. forces, which had ended combat missions in 2010, paid $100,000 a month to tribal sheikhs to secure stretches of the highways leading south to reduce the risk of roadside bombings and attacks on the last convoys.

Only around 150 U.S. troops will remain in the country attached to a training and cooperation mission at the huge U.S. embassy on the banks of the Tigris river.

At the height of the war, more than 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq at more than 500 bases. By Saturday, there were fewer than 3,000 troops, and one base - Contingency Operating Base Adder, 300 km (185 miles) south of Baghdad.

At COB Adder, as dusk fell before the departure of the last convoy, soldiers slapped barbecue sauce on slabs of ribs brought from Kuwait and laid them on grills beside hotdogs and sausages.

Earlier, 25 soldiers sat on folding chairs in front of two armored vehicles watching a five-minute ceremony as their brigade's flags were packed up for the last time before loading up their possessions and lining up their trucks.

The last troops flicked on the lights studding their MRAP vehicles and stacked flak jackets and helmets in neat piles, ready for the final departure for Kuwait and then home.

"A good chunk of me is happy to leave. I spent 31 months in this country," said Sgt. Steven Schirmer, 25, after three tours of Iraq since 2007. "It almost seems I can have a life now, though I know I am probably going to Afghanistan in 2013. Once these wars end I wonder what I will end up doing."


Iran and Turkey, major investors in Iraq, will be watching with Gulf nations to see how their neighbor handles its sectarian and ethnic tensions, as the crisis in Syria threatens to spill over its borders.

The fall of Saddam allowed the long-suppressed Shi'ite majority to rise to power. The Shi'ite-led government has drawn the country closer to Iran and Syria's Bashar al-Assad, who is struggling to put down a nine-month-old uprising.

Iraq's Sunni minority is chafing under what it sees as the increasingly authoritarian control of Maliki's Shi'ite coalition. Some local leaders are already pushing mainly Sunni provinces to demand more autonomy from Baghdad.

The main Sunni political bloc Iraqiya said on Saturday that it was temporarily suspending its participation in the parliament to protest against what it said was Maliki's unwillingness to deliver on power-sharing.

A dispute between the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Maliki's central government over oil and territory is also brewing, and is a potential flashpoint after the buffer of the American military presence is gone.

"There is little to suggest that Iraq's government will manage, or be willing, to get itself out of the current stalemate," said Gala Riani, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.

"The perennial divisive issues that have become part of the fabric of Iraqi politics, such as divisions with Kurdistan and Sunni suspicions of the government, are also likely to persist."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Iranian president targeted by shoe thrower

Iranian President
Iranian President
Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- A 45-year-old textile worker who has been out of work for a year threw his shoes Monday at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to protest not having received unemployment benefits, an Iranian website reported.

He missed, striking a banner behind the president instead, said Ghased News, an unofficial website. CNN has not been able to confirm the report independently.

Ghased News said the incident occurred in the northern city of Sari during a memorial ceremony for a former oil minister who died last year.

Attendees beat the man until security forces intervened, the site reported. The man had been fired from his job at a weaving factory and said he had not received unemployment benefits for a year, it said.

Ghased News identified the man as Rashid S., a resident of Sari who was once jailed for throwing eggs and tomatoes at former President Mohammad Khatami.

The audience apologized to Ahmadinejad and chanted slogans in his support, Ghased News said.

Ahmadinejad's website,, posted a picture of the president at the event but made no mention of the flying footwear.

Throwing shoes is a sign of profound disrespect in Arab countries, but not in Iran. In December 2008, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a news conference in Baghdad. He, too, missed. As he was pushed to the floor, the reporter shouted that his act was a "farewell kiss" to the "dog" who launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The reporter, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, was released after nine months in jail.

Though many Iraqis hold Bush in low esteem, opinions were mixed in Iraq following the incident. Some viewed al-Zaidi as a hero, with thousands taking to the streets calling for his release; others said his act went against Arab traditions of honoring guests.

According to the CIA World Factbook, citing official government figures, Iran's unemployment rate last year was 13.2%. But many Iranians believe the true figure to be much higher.