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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi spotted inside Mosul

Defence/Far East di

Two huge pieces of news emerged from Iraq midway through last week, as the mission to free the surrounding areas of Mosul began to unfold.

First off, on the 20th of September a source within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Iraq revealed to Iraqi broadcast company Al-Sumaria that IS’ current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been spotted inside the city of Mosul just a few days earlier.
Al-Baghdadi was reportedly seen in public gatherings and while driving a white car in the streets of Mosul, escorted by four armed men. According to international sources, IS’ most prominent figure reached the Iraqi capital city of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” to try and diminish discontent within the residents of the area, allegedly caused by the imminent offensive for the liberation of Mosul of the government forces and their allies.
Experts are still trying to understand whether the photograph provided to Al-Sumaria network, which portraits al-Baghdadi meeting people in a mosque or at a market, is authentic or not – and if it was actually taken in the recent past. Meanwhile, the government source asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
The latest news on IS chemical weapons are equally worrying. The Pentagon held a press conference on Thursday and stated that laboratory tests and in-depth analysis carried out immediately after IS’ attack on Qayyara military base (which occurred two days earlier) confirmed the use of so-called “mustard gas”. This is a very powerful chemical weapon firstly exploited during World War I, which contains yprite.
Despite IS certainly hit with chemical weapons in the past, the US Department of Defense confirmation of the use of mustard gas is the first one coming from a very reliable and influential source, and it raised concerns among the international community.
Federico Trastulli

The Philippines: Duerte accused of hundreds of murders

Asia @en/BreakingNews @en/Far East di

Duerte Rodrigo Roa, born in 1945, in May of 2016  won the presidential elections in the Philippines after a campaign by the exalted tones in which he spent its reputation of strong and unstoppable man, built from 1988 onwards occupying the chair of the Mayor of Davao, Capital the large island of Mindanao, in the southern archipelago.

Today, the statements released by a former death squad member, in front of the legislative assembly of the Senate, called Duerte into question as the inspirer and instigator of hundreds of killings during the years when he held the post of First Citizen of Davao.

Came to power with 39% of the votes, Duerte never rejected the nicknames that the press had attributed to him: Executioner, Punisher and other American B movie titles were obviously referring to the brutal and arbitrary methods with which the former mayor Duerte led his personal battle against corruption and drugs. On several occasions the local and international organizations for human rights expressed dismay and concern for the hundreds of extrajudicial executions carried out in the city of Davao during the long years of his government, whose victims were pusher, drug users, but also simple citizens.

Despite criticisms came even from the Vatican, the Filipinos, deeply Catholic, decided to grant their trust in Duerte, whose workhorse during the election campaign was the promise to kill 100,000 drug dealers and criminals in the first six months of Presidency. Five months after his elections, the 100,000 goal is still far away but organizations for Human Rights denounced the killing of about 3000 people and a substantial withdrawal of the state of law in large areas of the country. The police, which now seems to enjoy almost total impunity, has actually confirmed these figures.

The popularity of Duerte, during these five months of blood and violence, continued to grow, waterproof to complaints from NGOs and the many testimonies that prove the killing of civilians with clean records, including children, in the course of police operations.

Today, however, the testimony given before the Senate by Edgar Matobato, former member of a Davao death  squadron, opens even more disturbing scenarios and puts the president Duerte in an extremely awkward position.

The Lambada Boys, as the group of hit men was called, of which Matobato, 57 and fifty murders on his record, was member, would be responsible for hundreds of targeted killings, perpetrated in Davao in the last decades. The witness, called to speak in front of the gathered Senate by Senator Leila de Lima, former director of the Committee for Human Rights of the Philippines, said that Duerte was the instigator of these executions, whose victims were many local criminals and political opponents of the Mayor Duerte. Matobato spoke of bodies thrown to the crocodiles, torn bellies to prevent the appearance of the bodies buried in the sea and other brutalities attributable to orders came directly from Duerte, whose image appears now closer to that of a gangster then to that of a successful politician.

Leila de Lima, a great opponent of President and, according Matobato, missed target in 2009, when the hitmen team failed to complete her murder, will use the testimony to impeach Duerte and to create a logical and symbolic link between the violence that bloodied the city of Davao during his tenure, between 1988 and 2013, and today’s suspension of basic human rights, the basis of the war of the President to eradicate drug trafficking and exterminate the members of the small crime linked to the world of drug dealing.

Duerte, for now, did not answer the charges, but his spokesman have already begun to erect a defensive wall, questioning the credibility of Matobato and claiming that de Lima, who will soon have to appear before a parliamentary committee of inquiry, is embroiled in illicit activities related to drug trafficking.

The battle moves, therefore, in the open field and there are many who fear that a Duerte wounded, but still strong of popular support, could react in a disorderly way, dragging the country with him in a new era of violence and suspension of rights.

 

Luca Marchesini

The Indo-Afghan “friendship dam” and the Pakistan variable

The long wave of war that ushered in the era post 11/9 has come to seriously damage the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose common border, weak and porous, has for years been the scene of Taliban militia incursions and growing tensions between Kabul and Karachi.

In the space created by the slow process of removal gradually entered the historic enemy of Pakistan, the India Narendra Modi. The unprecedented cooperation between India and Afghanistan now travels on a dual track, military and economic, with supplies of armaments and infrastructure investments for a billion dollars. New Dheli put on the plate the resources to build a new National Assembly in Kabul, renew the road network and enhance the power lines of the nearby Asian country battered by decades of conflict, also investing resources on humanitarian initiatives.

The emblem of this renewed relationship, which Pakistan looks to with obvious hostility, was the inauguration, two days ago,  of the “Friendship Dam” (Salma Dam), with the presence of President Modi and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani. The largest hydroelectric plant in the province of Herat, severely damaged during the civil war of the 90s, has been completely rebuilt. The project was funded with an investment of $ 300 million and for its realization 1,500 Afghan and Indian engineers worked together.

High more than 100 meters and long more than half a kilometer, the dam will be capable of generating 42 megawatts of power and will help the irrigation of 75,000 hectares of agricultural land, according to a statement released from the President Modi. The electricity generated by the plant will illuminate the houses and the streets of 560 villages and 260,000 households in the region.

The two presidents officially inaugurated the dam pressing together the starting button. The dam, President Ghani wrote in a post after the ceremony, ” another big step in deepening and broadening the relationship between Afghanistan and India “. For Modi will be the symbol of friendship between the two great neighbors and  will ” usher in hope, light up homes, nourish the fertile fields of Herat and bring prosperity to the people of the region”.

In the triangle of Central Asian relations it remains the unknown factor of the third element, the friend removed that sees his enemy take over his place. Afghanistan has long been subjected to the sphere of influence of Pakistan and India has often preferred to keep its distance. This rapprochement between New Dheli and Kabul, also on the level of military cooperation, can only put in stirring the Pakistani government and the powerful military service system, which for years have considered Afghanistan as its backyard. Also on the long-standing issue of Kashmir repercussions could occur, since Afghanistan, with its eastern offshoots, looks onto the disputed region.

 

Luca Marchesini

Luca Marchesini
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