Amnesty International claims "horrific evidence" of repeated chemical weapons attacks carried out by Sudanese government forces against civilians, including young children. Using satellite imagery, more than 200 telephone interviews with survivors, and analysis of dozens of "appalling images showing babies and young children with terrible injuries," Amnesty's new report, "Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air," indicates that at least 30 likely chemical attacks have taken place in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur since January. The most recent was Sept. 9 Amnesty estimates that between 200 and 250 people may have died as a result of exposure to chemical weapons agents, with many or most being children.
Colombia's long civil war came to an official end Sept. 26 as President Juan Manuel Santos met with FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri AKA "Timochenko" to sign a formal peace pact at Cartagena's convention center. The ceremony, with dignitaries and attendees all clad in white, was witnessed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and 15 Latin American heads of state. A place of honor was held by Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz, whose country has hosted the peace dialogue with the FARC over the past two years. On Oct. 2, the deal will go before Colombia's voters in a national plebiscite. but Timochenko has publicly stated that even if the accord is not ratified by voters, there will be no return to war. Santos is more equivocal, telling reporters in the prelude to the ceremony: "If 'No' wins, we will return to what we had at the start of this government six years ago. We return to armed conflict. That would be a catastrophe for the country."
The latest in continuing reports of chemical weapons attacks by the Bashar Assad regime comes from besieged Aleppo Aug. 11. The UN is investigating evidence of an apparent chlorine attack on a rebel-held area of the city, which reportedly left several dead and many injured. The UN special envoy for Syria said a chlorine attack, if confirmed, would amount to a "war crime." Footage obtained by the BBC shows people with breathing difficulties being treated at a hospital. Men, women and children are shown being fitted with oxygen masks by medical staff. This at one of the few hospitals still functioning in Aleppo following the vicious campaign of bombing hospitals by the Assad regime and its Russian partners.
Just after announcing an investigation into air-strikes that apparently claimed scores of civilian casualties at the north Syrian town of Manbij, the US military last week said that more civilians may have been killed in another strike around the same town. Reports indicate up to 70 may have been killed in the new strike. (The Guardian, July 28; ABC, July 27) But at least when the US does this kind of thing, it makes headlines. The ongoing aerial terror of the Assad regime and its Russian accomplices is exacting a similar toll on a near-daily basis—to comparative media silence. The latest entry in their atrocious campaign of bombing hospitals was registered just two days after the new US strike on Manbij. A maternity hospital in rural Idlib governorate was hit in what Amnesty International called "part of a despicable pattern of unlawful attacks deliberately targeting medical facilities." (AI, July 29) But of course there was no talk of an investigation from either Damascus or Moscow—and you had to turn to Amnesty for the details. There was little coverage from the mainstream media, and for the so-called "alternative" media in the West—not a peep.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) this week released its latest figures on coca cultivation in the Andean nations—to the pride of Peru but chagrin of Colombia. Most dramatic was the bad news from Bogotá. The new Colombia Coca Survey (PDF), jointly produced by UNODC and the country's government, shows a nearly 40% increase in coca crop area—from 69,000 hectares in 2014 to 96,000 in 2015. This is twice the 48,000 figure for 2013. Coca leaf reached its highest price in Colombia in 10 years, shooting up 39.5% to $1.02 per kilogram (3,000 pesos). Bo Mathiasen, the UNODC representative in Colombia, told reporters the country is now cultivating more coca than Peru and Bolivia combined. (InfoBae, July 9; UNODC, July 8)
Russian and US warplanes are each backing rival sides as the Assad regime and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) race to take the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa. The Kurdish-led forces are in the lead. SDF fighters this week entered the ISIS-held city of Manbij, a key step toward Raqqa. (Al Jazeera, June 23) ISIS is meanwhile reported to have taken back large areas of territory in Raqqa governorate that had recently been taken by regime forces. (Al Jazeera, June 21) The Russian air-strikes in support of the regime forces, as ever, are more indiscriminate. Local monitoring group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (which operates "underground" in ISIS-controlled territory) reports that 32 civilians were killed and 150 injured in Russian strikes on Raqqa city. (Al Jazeera, June 22)
We've long considered Jill Stein, presidential candidate of the Green Party, too inconsequential to be worth calling out. But we are seeing her stuff being promoted more and more—particularly her calls for Bernie Sanders to ditch the Democrats if (when) he doesn't get the nomination and run with the Greens. See, for instance, the pathetically gushing interview with her on Democracy Now. We doubt Bernie would be so monstrously reckless as to split the anti-Pendejo vote, fortunately. But leave it to Democracy Now's pusillanimous Amy Goodman to not throw Stein a single hard-ball—either about the wisdom of tempting a Pendejo presidency, or about the Green candidate's atrocious politics. Stein is getting this kind of free ride everywhere. Check out this glowing account on AlterNet about Jill's defense of anti-pipeline actvists protesting outside the home of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman. This from the woman whose party is practically a stateside propaganda organ of the Bashar Assad regime, which has serially massacred protesters and is now escalating to genocide against the Syrian people.
Supposed antagonists Bashar Assad and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are both in the process of reducing cities to rubble: Aleppo in northern Syria and Cizre in eastern Turkey. The world is just starting to take note of the disaster in Cizre, which has been laregly invisilbe but won a flurry of coverage this week with the release a report by Turkish human rights group Mazlumder (PDF) finding that army campaigns turned the predominantly Kurdish city into a "war zone," with over 200 people killed and more than 10,000 homes destroyed over the past months. Officially, the troops were there to enforce a round-the-clock curfew in place between December and March, but it quickly became a counterinsurgency war to pacifiy (or destroy) neighborhoods under control of PKK youth organizations. "Cizre has witnessed unprecedented destruction following clashes which took place during a curfew lasting over 78 days, and unlike in curfews before, the curfew in Cizre saw mass killings," Mazlumder said. The worst single incident was the Feb. 19 massacre, in which some 150 Kurds sheltering in basements burned to death when the buildings were set on fire by military forces. Lawyers from the local bar association told Mazlumder that "following the deaths in the basements in Cizre, there was no crime scene investigation and no judicial authority was allowed to enter the basements." (BBC News, May 23; DW, May 18)