Terror organisation al-Shabaab have claimed an attack that killed 28 people on a bus in Northern Kenya.
Around 100 gunmen, who are believed to have travelled over the border in Mandera county from Somalia, took the bus off the road before separating the passengers.
It is believed they asked travellers to recite passages from the Koran, shooting dead those who were unable to prove they were practising Muslims.
A statement on a website linked to the extremist organisation said the attack was carried out in retaliation for security raids on mosques in the coastal city of Mombassa earlier this week.
Kenya’s Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government claimed on their official account earlier today: “Attackers camp has been destroyed by KDF using helicopters and jets, many killed, operations continue.”
The bus was travelling to the Kenyan capital Nairobi when it was stopped in the northern county that borders Somalia.
Around 60 people were on the bus at the time of the attack, and it is thought that among the dead are Kenyan public servants – including four police officers – who were heading to the capital for the Christmas holiday.
Mandera East deputy County Commissioner Elvis Korir said the passengers were then separated into two groups. The Somali passengers watched in horror as non-Somalis were herded away from the bus and then killed.
Mr Korir added that many details over the attack remain unclear, but the deaths underscore fears over the lack of security, especially in the remote parts of northern Kenya.
Abdullahi Abdirahman, the Arabiya Ward Representative, told the Daily Nation: “This place has been prone to attacks, this is not the first time the government has totally ignored us, and you can now see the how many innocent precious lives have been lost”.
In early November, gunmen killed 20 police officers and two police reservists in an ambush in Turkana county in the northwest of Kenya.
The northern region of Kenya is awash with guns due to its proximity with Somalia and Ethiopia, from where the armed Oromo Liberation Front has made incursions into Kenya.
Since 2011 the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, have carried out a series of attacks in Kenya, including the Westgate Mall attack in which 67 people were killed.
Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) — A 40-year-old mother of two was burned alive in central Nepal after she was accused of being a witch, police said Saturday.
Dhegani Mahato was attacked and set on fire by family members and others after a shaman allegedly accused her of casting a spell to make one of her relatives sick, Police Officer Hira Mani Baral said.
The attack occurred Friday in Bagauda in Chitwan district, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, Baral said by telephone.
Police arrested 10 people, including two shamans, five women and an 8-year-old boy, in connection with the burning.
“Those arrested have confessed to their crime and will be charged with murder,” Baral said.
Mahato had just finished cleaning a cowshed early in the morning when she was attacked, Baral said.
She was beaten with sticks and rocks before being doused with kerosene and set afire, an attack witnessed by her 9-year-old daughter, according to the local police report.
Neighbors told police they were alerted to the attack but by then it was too late to save her.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai appealed to the people not to heed to shamans and faith healers.
The government announced 1 million Nepalese rupees (about $14,000) in compensation for Mahato’s two children.
This makes me so angry.
A 35-year-old Iranian web programmer is facing imminent execution in connection with developing and promoting porn websites, charges that his family insist are trumped up.
Saeed Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada who was arrested in October 2008 after his arrival in Tehran, is convicted of designing and moderating adult content websites, acting against the national security, insulting and desecrating the principles of Islam, and agitating the public mind.
Speaking from Toronto, Malekpour’s wife, Fatemeh Eftekhari, said her husband has been informed of the verdict and has been transferred to solitary confinement for the sentence to be administered if the supreme court sanctions it. She says her husband was a web programmer who had written photo uploading software that was used in a porn website without his knowledge.
Human rights groups have expressed alarm over a sharp increase in the use of capital punishment in Iran. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), 121 people have been hanged between 20 December 2010 and 31 January this year. An ICHRI report published in mid-January said that Iran has hanged an average of one person every eight hours since the beginning of the new year.
Last week prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told reporters in Tehran that two people had been sentenced to death for running porn websites, without naming the convicts.
“Two administrators of porn sites have been sentenced to death in two different court branches and the verdicts have been sent to the supreme court for confirmation,” Dolatabadi was quoted by IRNA state news agency as saying.
Malekpour, who has been kept in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for the past two years, was arrested by plainclothes officers and was initially kept in solitary confinement for almost a year without access to legal representation.
“For a long period we even didn’t know that he was arrested,” Eftekhari said. According to Eftekhari, Malekpour’s arrest was in the face of a new crackdown by Iranian government on “indecent” websites in 2008 to fight what they had described as “the campaign launched by western governments to corrupt Iranian youth”.
A year after his arrest Malekpour was put on state television to confess. He later retracted the confessions in a letter sent from inside prison in which he said they were taken under duress.
“A large portion of my confession was extracted under pressure, physical and psychological torture, threats to myself and my family, and false promises of immediate release upon giving a false confession to whatever the interrogators dictated,” he writes in the letter.
“Once in October 2008 the interrogators stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a bottle of water.” He went on to say: “While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with cables, batons, and their fists struck and punched me. At times, they would flog my head and neck. Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to write what the interrogators were dictating, and to compel me to play a role in front of the camera based on their scenarios.”
Eftekhari said: “Even if my husband’s charges were true, which they are not, it’s hard to imagine why he should be sentenced to death. I think Iran is trying to intimidate the opposition or any sign of protest by sentencing an unprecedented numbers of prisoners to death.”
Malekpour’s sentence has prompted reactions from human rights activists and organisations who have launched a campaign to save his life. Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, has also expressed concerns over his sentence.
Gloria Nafziger of Amnesty International in Canada, an organisation which has sought for Malekpour’s sentence to be commuted said: “Amnesty International is very concerned that Saeed Malekpour is facing a death sentence in Iran after an unfair trial and reports that he was tortured in order to confess to his crimes.”
Last month Iran executed Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian woman convicted of drug smuggling, which resulted in a freeze of the Dutch diplomatic contacts with Iran.
KARACHI, PAKISTAN — Kainat Soomro is a 17-year-old Pakistani girl who has become a local celebrity of sorts in her battle for justice in the Pakistani courts, a daring move for a woman of any age in this country, let alone a teenager.
She is fighting to get justice for a gang rape that she insists happened four years ago in Mehar, a small town in Pakistan.
We first met her in the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. A colorful traditional Pakistani shawl covered her head. Her father sat next to her as she recounted the 2007 incident.
“I was walking home from my school and I went to the store to buy a toy for my niece,” she said, staring at the floor of the office. “While I was looking at things a guy pressed a handkerchief on my nose. I fainted and was kidnapped. Then four men gang raped me.”
As she shared details of her days in captivity and multiple rapes, she kept repeating, “I want justice, I will not stop until I get justice.” After three days, she was finally able to escape she said. As she spoke, her father gently tapped her head. He said he tried to get Kainat’s alleged rapists arrested, but instead he was rebuffed by the police.
According to the Kainat family’s account, the tribal elders declared her kari, (which literally means black female), for losing her virginity outside marriage.
In Pakistan, women and men who have illicit relationships or women who lose their virginity before marriage are at risk of paying with their lives.
“These are matters of honor and the leaders call a jirga and they declare that the woman or the couple should be killed,” said Abdul Hai, a veteran field officer for the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan. These acts of violence are most commonly labeled as “honor killings.”
The most recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted that in 2009 roughly 46 percent of all female murders in Pakistan that year were in the name of “honor.” The report noted that a total of 647 incidences of “honor killings” were reported by the Pakistani press. However, experts say that actual incidences of “honor killings” in Pakistan are much higher and never get reported to the police because they are passed off by the families as suicides.
Kainat said that despite the pressures her family refused to kill her.
“It is the tradition, but if the family doesn’t permit it, then it won’t happen. My father, my brother, my mom didn’t allow it,” she said.
And that defiance has left the family fearing for their lives. The family’s new home in Karachi has been attacked a number of times.
But, according to Abdul Hai, Kainat is lucky: “The woman or the girl usually gets killed and the man gets away,” he said. “Over 70 percent of the murdered victims are women and only 30 percent of victims of honor killings are male.”
In Karachi, Kainat and her family are now sharing one room in a run-down apartment block, and they have to rely on charities to help them pay for food.
“We go hungry many nights,” said Kainat’s older sister.
But their fight might never pay off. A local judge has already ruled against Kainat in the case. “There is no corroborative evidence available on record. The sole testimony of the alleged rape survivor is not sufficient,” the judge said in a written decision.
Another problem is that material evidence is usually not collected in rape cases in Pakistan since the police rarely believe rape victims and therefore don’t order rape kits in a timely manner.
Without medical tests to corroborate her story, it remains Kainat’s word against the alleged rapists. But even having lost her case at the local court, Kainat insists, “I am not giving up, I will take this all the way to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Twelve people were killed Friday in an attack on a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan that followed a demonstration against the reported burning last month of a Quran in Florida, authorities said.
The fatalities comprised seven U.N. workers and five demonstrators, officials said.
Another 24 people were wounded, said Abdul Rauof Taj, security director of Balkh province.
Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the police in Mazar-e-Sharif, told reporters that a number of suspects “who might be the main organizers” had been arrested.
U.N. Peacekeeping Director Alain Le Roy said the seven U.N. fatalities were international staffers — three civilians and four international security guards. No Afghan U.N. staff members were among the dead, he said.
“I understand there were hundreds, if not thousands, of demonstrators. Some of them were clearly armed and they stormed into the building.”
He said the security guards tried their best to halt the demonstrators’ advance, but were overwhelmed.
Le Roy said it was not clear that the United Nations was the target. “It happened to be the U.N. because the U.N. is on the ground.”
Five demonstrators were killed in the violence; one person’s throat was cut, he said.
A U.N .source said the dead included four Nepalese security guards as well as U.N. workers from Norway, Sweden and Romania.
The U.N. Security Council met Friday and issued a statement condemning the attack, which occurred at the operations center of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and calling on the Afghan government to investigate.
Haji Sakhi Mohammad, a businessman in Mazar-e-Sharif, said that the incident began after Friday prayers, when many people joined a protest against the burning of the Quran. People calling “Death to America” marched to the U.N. compound and broke in, he said. At that, gunfire broke out and “I saw protesters shot to death.”
A student in Mazar-e-Sharif said he and his friends joined the protesters, who numbered in the hundreds. “When we reached the UNAMA office, we came under gunfire by Afghan security guards. Protesters became angry and stormed the building.”
The student said some of the protesters found several loaded AK-47s and used them to kill security guards and other people inside the building.
The attack followed a demonstration against the reported burning of a Quran by Florida pastor Terry Jones, who gained international attention last year when he announced that he was planning to burn a Quran, the U.N. source with knowledge of events said.
Jones is the pastor of the 60-member Dove World Outreach Center church near Gainesville. Last year, after an outcry followed his announcement of plans to burn a Quran on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he canceled them. Last month, however, he reportedly did burn Islam’s holy book.
The church says on its website that it planned to put the Quran on trial on March 20, and, “if found guilty of causing murder, rape and terrorism, it will be executed!” Another post on the website, which uses an alternative spelling for the book, says “the Koran was found guilty” during the mock trial and “a copy was burned inside the building.”
On Friday, Jones said in an e-mailed statement that the attack in Afghanistan shows that “the time has come to hold Islam accountable.”
“We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities,” he said.
Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of Balkh province, said the attackers had used the protests against the burning “as a cover for this violence.”
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai called the attacks “an act against Islam and Afghan values.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the victims were only trying to help the Afghan people.
“In targeting them, the attackers have demonstrated an appalling disregard for what the U.N. and the entire international community are trying to do for the benefit of all Afghans,” he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama also condemned the attack. “We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue,” he said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said he would not speculate on the motivation behind the attack, but added that it was “in no way justified, regardless of what the motivation was.”
The Council on American Islamic Relations also released a statement condemning the attack. “Nothing can justify or excuse this attack,” said the group, which describes itself as America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.
Fuck everything about this.
Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN) — Hena Akhter’s last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.
Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh’s Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.
Hena dropped after 70.
Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.
Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Hena’s family insisted her body be exhumed. They wanted the world to know what really happened to their daughter.
Hena’s family hailed from rural Shariatpur, crisscrossed by murky rivers that lend waters to rice paddies and lush vegetable fields.
Hena was the youngest of five children born to Darbesh Khan, a day laborer, and his wife, Aklima Begum. They shared a hut made from corrugated tin and decaying wood and led a simple life that was suddenly marred a year ago with the return of Hena’s cousin Mahbub Khan.
Mahbub Khan came back to Shariatpur from a stint working in Malaysia. His son was Hena’s age and the two were in seventh grade together.
Khan eyed Hena and began harassing her on her way to school and back, said Hena’s father. He complained to the elders who run the village about his nephew, three times Hena’s age.
The elders admonished Mahbub Khan and ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines to Hena’s family. But Mahbub was Darbesh’s older brother’s son and Darbesh was asked to let the matter fade.
Many months later on a winter night, as Hena’s sister Alya told it, Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.
Hena struggled to escape, Alya told CNN. Mahbub Khan’s wife heard Hena’s muffled screams and when she found Hena with her husband, she dragged the teenage girl back to her hut, beat her and trampled her on the floor.
The next day, the village elders met to discuss the case at Mahbub Khan’s house, Alya said. The imam pronounced his fatwa. Khan and Hena were found guilty of an illicit relationship. Her punishment under sharia or Islamic law was 101 lashes; his 201.
Mahbub Khan managed to escape after the first few lashes.
Darbesh Khan and Aklima Begum had no choice but to mind the imam’s order. They watched as the whip broke the skin of their youngest child and she fell unconscious to the ground.
“What happened to Hena is unfortunate and we all have to be ashamed that we couldn’t save her life,” said Sultana Kamal, who heads the rights organization Ain o Shalish Kendro.
Bangladesh is considered a democratic and moderate Muslim country, and national law forbids the practice of sharia. But activist and journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who documents such cases, said sharia is still very much in use in villages and towns aided by the lack of education and strong judicial systems.
The Supreme Court also outlawed fatwas a decade ago, but human rights monitors have documented more than 500 cases of women in those 10 years who were punished through a religious ruling. And few who have issued such rulings have been charged.
Last month, the court asked the government to explain what it had done to stop extrajudicial penalty based on fatwa. It ordered the dissemination of information to all mosques and madrassas, or religious schools, that sharia is illegal in Bangladesh.
“The government needs to enact a specific law to deal with such perpetrators responsible for extrajudicial penalty in the name of Islam,” Kamal told CNN.
The United Nations estimates that almost half of Bangladeshi women suffer from domestic violence and many also commonly endure rape, beatings, acid attacks and even death because of the country’s entrenched patriarchal system.
Hena might have quietly become another one of those statistics had it not been for the outcry and media attention that followed her death on January 31.
Monday, the doctors responsible for Hena’s first autopsy faced prosecution for what a court called a “false post-mortem report to hide the real cause of Hena’s death.”
Public outrage sparked by that autopsy report prompted the high court to order the exhumation of Hena’s body in February. A second autopsy performed at Dhaka Medical College Hospital revealed Hena had died of internal bleeding and her body bore the marks of severe injuries.
Police are now conducting an investigation and have arrested several people, including Mahbub Khan, in connection with Hena’s death.
“I’ve nothing to demand but justice,” said Darbesh Khan, leading a reporter to the place where his daughter was abducted the night she was raped.
He stood in silence and took a deep breath. She wasn’t even old enough to be married, he said, testament to Hena’s tenderness in a part of the world where many girls are married before adulthood. “She was so small.”
Hena’s mother, Aklima, stared vacantly as she spoke of her daughter’s last hours. She could barely get out her words. “She was innocent,” Aklima said, recalling Hena’s last words.
Police were guarding Hena’s family earlier this month. Darbesh and Aklima feared reprisal for having spoken out against the imam and the village elders.
They had meted out the most severe punishment for their youngest daughter. They could put nothing past them.
THE BIBLE: IMMORAL AND IRRATIONAL
Wayne Everett Orgar
Last year I sent a letter to a church elder that I have been corresponding with. Some excerpts from this letter are as follows:
“I’m not sure why you quote the Bible to me. No other book has caused more confusion and needless suffering among nations. The thinker has to reject the Bible as nonsense if considered in its entirety and in context. Examine the three versions of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, 34 and Deuteronomy 5). Exodus 34 is very different from the other two. How could a god forget its own commandments? No super-intelligent being would allow such errors in its holy book. Exodus 34 is the only version that says it is the Ten Commandments in text (Exodus 34:28 KJV). Christians don’t quote this version. They probably don’t know it exists and it reads like embarrassing nonsense.***
I remember the story of the devil taking Jesus up on a mountain to see all the kingdoms of the world to tempt him (Matthew 4:8-9). No such mountain is possible, given that the earth is a sphere! This would only work on a small, flat Earth. Of course, since Christians believe that Jesus was god, this temptation would be absurd. A god would already own the kingdoms of earth. The devil would obviously know this. Add to this the belief in the supernatural nature of the devil and Jesus and it becomes apparent that it would have been entirely unnecessary to go up on a mountain to see anything on earth. This story is irrational even if you don’t believe it literally.
Let’s be analytical about the alleged Jesus cursing a fig tree (Mark 11:12-14) because it didn’t bear fruit when he was hungry. Why did he not know that it wasn’t the season for fig trees to bear fruit? He was god, he was supposed to know all things. Why make the tree wither? This would highly irrational behavior for a god or a human.
Take a look at II Kings 2:23-24 (KJV). The context is a story of Elisha (not a parable or an example of what is not appropriate punishment) being teased by 42 children. The god sends two bears to kill (tare/devour) the kids. All kids tease and so do adults. No one deserves death for teasing, no matter how impolite it is. This is not an example of justice and morality. This is not the behavior of a rational, loving god. Why not just ground the kids for a week or make them wash Elisha’s feet for a month?
Flip back to Leviticus 21:16-24 (KJV). The context is god, telling Moses, to tell Aaron who can’t approach the altar in the sanctuary. This is one of the most despicable passages in the Bible. It essentially trashes people with disabilities and disfigurement and says that they are a “profanity”. Maybe I’m sensitive since I have spent a good deal of my life helping people with disabilities. This language is not loving, moral, or rational in any context.”
If these words were written in any other religious book, would you respect that book? Why respect the Bible? I could write much more about the many vulgar, irrational, and immoral passages in the Bible. However, it is up to the believer to read the Bible for himself or herself and discover what this book really says. After all, if you are claiming that this book gives you meaning in life, you’d better know what it really says.
When I was young, I was led around these passages. This is the way that young people are brainwashed. Once they believe, it is almost impossible for them to face the truth in adulthood. It is too difficult emotionally. I have found that when Christians are confronted with such passages, they become angry and attempt save face with weak excuses about the Bible containing good passages also. Nothing excuses the thinking demonstrated in the above passages.
I am still waiting for a response to my letter. What could the elder say to defend such language? What would you say to me?
***HINT, 11/25/2000 – Almost any public library has the information that can explain to you why this glaring contradiction exists. Find a book written in the past 10 to 15 years that summarizes the past 1000 years of Bible scholarship. Read for yourself what we have learned about the many people who wrote the Bible, when they wrote it, and why. Your life will not be the same.