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Attack on Iraqi prisoner convoy kills 60 people

Written By kom nampuldu on Kamis, 24 Juli 2014 | 20.49

BAGHDAD — Gunmen attacked a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad on Thursday, setting off a gunbattle with troops in which scores of prisoners and eight soldiers were killed, brutally underscoring Iraq's instability as lawmakers convened to elect a new president.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Baghdad earlier Thursday, urging lawmakers to "find a common ground" so they can address the crisis sparked by the rapid advance of the Islamic State extremist group and allied Sunni militants across much of northern and western Iraq last month.

At a press conference with embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Ban said Iraq is facing an "existential threat," but one that could be overcome if it forms a "thoroughly inclusive government."

"I am deeply saddened by the senseless death of so many Iraqi people," Ban said. He added that political leaders in Baghdad and the largely autonomous Kurdish region have a "clear responsibility" to work together to protect their citizens.

The dawn attack began with militants firing mortar rounds on Iraqi army bases in the town of Taji, where suspects were being held on terrorism charges, prompting authorities to evacuate the facilities, fearing a jailbreak, officials said.

As the convoy traveled through a remote area nearby, roadside bombs went off and militants opened fire. The ensuing battle left 52 prisoners and eight soldiers dead, with another eight soldiers and seven prisoners wounded, they said. It was not immediately clear if the prisoners were killed by soldiers or militants, or if the Islamic State group was involved.

The town of Taji is located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital.

The officials — two policemen, an army officer and a medical official — spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Islamic State militants have staged several jailbreaks, including a complex, military-style assault on two Baghdad-area prisons in July 2013 that freed more than 500 inmates.

Apparently fearing a repeat of the incident, Shiite militiamen killed nearly four dozen Sunni detainees last month in the town of Baqouba northwest of Baghdad when the facility where they were being held came under attack, according to a report by Amnesty International.

The report documented a "pattern of extrajudicial executions" of mainly Sunni detainees by forces loyal to the Shiite-led government, both in Baqouba and in the north, basing its conclusions on interviews with survivors and relatives of those killed.

The rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and declared a self-styled Islamic Caliphate straddling the Iraq-Syria border, has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.

More than a million Iraqis have been displaced this year, many of them fleeing violence brought on by this latest wave of violence, according to the U.N.

Ban strongly condemned the persecution of religious and ethnic minority groups by jihadi militants in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq, and offered continued U.N. support to the refugees fleeing the violence.

Al-Maliki has come under increasing pressure to step aside, with critics accusing him of monopolizing power and alienating the country's Sunni and Kurdish minorities. He has vowed to remain in the post he has held since 2006, and his bloc won the most votes in April elections.

The vote for president — a largely ceremonial post currently held by Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani — was to take place later Thursday after being delayed the day before when the Kurdish bloc requested more time to select a candidate. They named former deputy prime minister Fouad Massoum as their candidate late Wednesday.

Under an unofficial agreement dating back to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the presidency is held by a Kurd while the prime minister is Shiite and the parliament speaker is Sunni.

Speaking alongside the U.N. secretary-general, al-Maliki said he is committed to quickly forming a government.

"Despite the fact that we have problems…we are moving at a confident pace to implement the mechanisms of the democratic work," al-Maliki said.


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US anti-leadership: Harming our Middle East friends

Maybe US world leadership isn't dead after all: Our government actually led from the front in the Middle East this week. Too bad it was the Federal Aviation Administration, awarding Hamas its first tangible war victory over Israel.

True, Secretary of State John Kerry is still in "leading from behind" mode, pushing an "immediate" Hamas-Israel ceasefire from behind Egypt, the United Nations, Qatar, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority and so on.

Rather than fully supporting America's top Mideast ally in a war against fanatic jihadist terrorists, Kerry's trying to strike a fair balance — consulting Israel and anti-Hamas Egypt one day, and Hamas' top supporters, Qatar and Turkey, the next.

The problem is that a ceasefire is impossible at this point because Hamas is still desperately seeking a victorious photo-op ending for its so-far disastrous war, so it can dictate terms.

Since Hamas' leaders live in posh Qatari hotels, they've got no problem crying, "Damn the dead Gazans, full speed ahead."

But nobody expected the FAA to come to their aid.

On Tuesday, after a Hamas rocket got through Iron Dome to hit near Ben Gurion airport, the FAA stopped all US flights to and from Tel Aviv. European airlines followed suit, stranding summer travelers while EL Al and other Israeli carriers hopelessly try to pick up the slack.

On Wednesday, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleas to Kerry, the FAA extended the ban for another day.

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg said these restrictions "hand Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately."

Bloomberg — what a mensch — bought an El Al ticket Tuesday night and flew to Tel Aviv to show that "Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world, and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely."

He could have added that the war there isn't like the one in Ukraine, where an anti-aircraft missile downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week: If Hamas had such missiles, it would've used them against the Israeli Air Force jets that been bombing Gaza for two weeks.

Yes, that one rocket hit a house in Yahud, near Ben Gurion airport, Tuesday. But Iron Dome has managed to almost flawlessly protect Israel's citizens and its strategic assets.

The odds of a rocket hit on the airport are lower than any other aviation hazard, Israeli Defense Force spokesman Peter Lerner assures me.

You can chalk up the FAA decision to excessive bureaucratic caution. But forgive reporters' skepticism when Washington officials insist that the safety of Americans was the only consideration.

In an administration where the IRS persecutes the president's critics, it's not hard to imagine aviation bureaucrats sending a strong hint to Israel ("Wrap up your Gaza operation or else").

From the start, Obama has stressed that Israel has a right to defend itself. But the dominate theme has already become "Israel must do more to protect civilians."

Why? Kerry, so eager to return to the peace process that he's so clumsily botched earlier this year, is back at it.

In Cairo and Israel, Kerry is competing with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for who could rack up more meetings and consult with more regional leaders.

And it's no longer just a ceasefire they seek. Ban wants to fix "root causes," while Kerry talks about "underlining issues."

Yes, the European Union (and behind it the Obama administration and even Ban) have started to talk about what Israel sees as the root cause – Hamas' arms. All are now making vague references to disarming Gaza.

But America and the rest mostly hint that, after the ceasefire, Gaza's borders will open up for humanitarian goods. (And never mind that, in practice, the goods will also include Kalashnikovs and long-range rockets.)

They're dangling promises of cash for Gaza, too — pouring money through the UN Relief and Works Agency.
Hmm. UNRWA was shocked this week to discover rockets in one of its Gaza schools (for the second time) — so shocked that it gave them right back to Hamas.

So why should Kerry hand UNRWA a large chunk of the $47 million of American aid he's pledging for Gaza rehabilitation? Why can't our own US Agency for International Development handle the funds?
Because this administration's worldview revolves around the "international community."

Oops, that's the same community whose UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday (predictably) launched an investigation into Israel's "war crimes" in Gaza, ignoring (of course) Hamas' firing of missiles at civilians.

Kerry also follows the UN obsession with Israeli "transgressions": More Arabs were killed last weekend in Syria than in the two-week Gaza war, yet he dropped all other world issues to go to Cairo and Tel Aviv.

America became the envy of the world, and its moral leader, by knowing the difference between the Israels and the Hamases.

No more: Now we carelessly (if unintentionally) reward the bad guys while harming the good guys.


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Plane carrying 116 crashes in Africa: official

ALGIERS, July 24 – An Air Algerie flight crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board, an Algerian aviation official said.

There were few clear indications of what might of happened to the aircraft, or whether there were casualties, but Burkino Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said it asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.

"I can confirm that it has crashed," the Algerian official told Reuters, declining to be identified or give any details about what had happened to the aircraft on its way north.

Almost half of the passengers were French citizens, an airline official said.

Two French fighter jets based in the region have been dispatched to try to locate the airliner along its probable route, a French army spokesman said. Niger security sources said planes were flying over the border region with Mali to search for the flight.

Algeria's state news agency APS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso, but other officials gave differing accounts of the times of contact, adding to confusion about the plane's fate.

Swiftair, the private Spanish company that owns the plane, confirmed it had lost contact with the MD-83 operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew.

A diplomat in the Malian capital Bamako said that the north of the country – which lies on the plane's likely flight path – was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.

Whatever the cause, another plane crash is likely to add to nerves in the industry after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed over Ukraine last week, a TransAsia Airways crashed off Taiwan during a thunderstorm on Wednesday and airlines cancelled flights into Tel Aviv due to the conflict in Gaza.

An Air Algerie representative in Burkina Faso, Kara Terki, told a news conference that all the passengers on the plane were in transit, either for Europe, the Middle East or Canada.

He said the passenger list included 50 French, 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two from Luxembourg, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Ukrainian and one Romanian. Lebanese officials said there were at least 10 Lebanese citizens on the flight.

A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain's pilots union, said the six crew were from Spain. She could not give any further details.

Regional search

Swiftair said on its website the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 GMT and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 GMT but never reached its destination.

An Algerian aviation official said the last contact Algerian authorities had with the missing Air Algerie aircraft was at 0155 GMT when it was flying over Gao, Mali.

Aviation authorities in Burkina say they handed the flight to the control tower in Niamey, Niger, at 1:38 a.m. (0138 GMT). They said the last contact with the flight was just after 4:30 a.m. (0330 GMT).

Burkina Faso minister Ouedrago said the flight asked the control tower in Niamey to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the Sahara.

However, a source in the control tower in Niamey, who declined to be identified, said it had not been contacted by the plane, which in theory should have flown over Mali.

Burkinabe authorities have set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to provide information to families.

Issa Saly Maiga, head of Mali's National Civil Aviation Agency, said that a search was under way for the missing flight.

"We do not know if the plane is Malian territory," he told Reuters. "Aviation authorities are mobilised in all the countries concerned – Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain."

Aviation websites said the missing aircraft, one of four MD-83s owned by Swiftair, was 18-years-old. The aircraft's two engines are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies.

U.S. planemaker McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing , stopped producing the MD-80 airliner family in 1999 but it remains in widespread use. According to British consultancy Flightglobal Ascend, there are 482 MD-80 aircraft in operation, many of them in the United States.

"Boeing is aware of the report (on the missing aircraft). We are awaiting additional information," a spokesman for the planemaker said.

Swiftair has a relatively clean safety record, with five accidents since 1977, two of which caused a total of eight deaths, according to the Washington-based Flight Safety Foundation.

Air Algerie's last major accident was in 2003 when one of its planes crashed shortly after take-off from the southern city of Tamanrasset, killing 102 people. In February this year, 77 people died when an Algerian military transport plane crashed into a mountain in eastern Algeria.


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It’s here! ‘Fifty Shades’ trailer drops

It's here! 'Fifty Shades' trailer drops | New York Post
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July 24, 2014 | 9:24am

"Mr. Grey will see you now."

"Fifty Shades" fans, rejoice! The first trailer for the screen adaptation of E.L. James' S&M-fueled novel has finally hit.

Starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, the highly-anticipated flick is set to hit the big screen over Valentine's Day weekend next year.

Laters, baby.

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More than a dozen children dead in train-bus crash in India

HYDERABAD, India — Eighteen children were killed Thursday when a train crashed into their school bus at an unmanned railroad crossing in southern India, police said.

The bus driver also died while another 20 children ages 7 to 14 were injured and hospitalized, 15 of them in critical condition, said Telangana state education minister G. Jagdishwar Reddy.

They were on their way to school Thursday morning when the train hit the bus, dragging it several hundred feet (about 100 meters) along the tracks, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Women cry at the crash site.Photo: Reuters

Hundreds of angry villagers rushed to the scene in Medak district, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana state. Some of them hurled stones at police as shocked parents grieved their loss.

A father who lost both of his children suffered a heart attack and died after hearing the news of the collision, said state Irrigation Minister T. Harish Rao.

Accidents are common on India's railroad network, one of the world's largest with 23 million people riding daily on about 11,000 passenger trains. Most accidents are blamed on poor maintenance and human error.

There are hundreds of unmanned crossings across the country, especially in remote areas. Poor finances limit efforts by rail authorities to staff the dangerous crossings around the clock.


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Air Algerie plane disappears from radar over Africa

ALGIERS, Algeria — An Air Algerie flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers disappeared from radar early Thursday, the official Algerian news agency said.

Air navigation services lost track of the plane after 0155 GMT, or 50 minutes after takeoff, the agency said. That means that Flight AH5017 had been missing for hours before the news was made public.

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," the agency quoted the airline as saying.

The flight path of the plane from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear.

Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

However, a senior French official said it was unlikely that fighters in Mali had weaponry that could shoot down a plane. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak for attribution, said the fights have shoulder-fired weapons which could not hit an aircraft at cruising altitude.

Authorities say a flight operated by Air Algerie carrying 110 passengers and a crew of six has disappeared from the radar on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers.

Swiftair, the private Spanish airline, confirmed that 116 people were aboard.


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Woman arrested in murder, dismemberment of roommate

A Brooklyn woman has been arrested in the gruesome death and dismemberment of her roommate, whose body parts were found strewn all over Long Island, law enforcement sources confirmed early Thursday morning.

Leah Cuevas, 42, was charged in Chinelle LaToya Thompson Browne's death.

Browne's body parts were discovered scattered across Bay Shore and Hempstead from July 8th through the 17th.

Cuevas was Browne's roommate before she was last scene on July 5th, according to cops.

Cops say Cuevas was charged with second degree murder and will be arraigned at the First District Court in Central Islip on Thursday.


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Escort charged with Google exec’s drug death seen in 2012 photo shoot

Escort charged with Google exec's drug death seen in 2012 photo shoot | New York Post
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July 24, 2014 | 5:20am

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A 2012 photo of Alix Tichelman, who allegedly shot a Google executive full of heroin before leaving him to die on a yacht.

Matthew Smith

A 2012 photo of Alix Tichelman, who allegedly shot a Google executive full of heroin before leaving him to die on a yacht.

Matthew Smith

A 2012 photo of Alix Tichelman, who allegedly shot a Google executive full of heroin before leaving him to die on a yacht.

Matthew Smith

A 2012 photo of Alix Tichelman, who allegedly shot a Google executive full of heroin before leaving him to die on a yacht.

Matthew Smith

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You don't need Google Glass to see this femme fatale.

Heroin-shooting escort Alix Tichelman donned leather, fur and stiletto boots during a 2012 photo shoot, in which she bared her red-rose shoulder tattoo.

The 26-year-old sexpot — who was charged with manslaughter earlier this month for injecting Google exec Forrest Timothy Hayes with heroin and leaving him to die on a yacht — planned to use the images to help bolster her modeling career.

This sexy shot was taken in Atlanta, where the raven-haired beauty frequented local bondage clubs and where she dated Dean Riopelle, the owner of a music venue and the lead singer of a rock band called the Impotent Sea Snakes.

Riopelle, too, died of a heroin overdose while he was with Tichelman.

But unlike in the Hayes incident, the sexy siren called 911 in an effort to get her rocker lover some help, officials said.

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Malaysian airliner’s wreckage riddled with shrapnel damage

This piece of wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 vividly shows the devastating power of the Russian-made missile that brought down the passenger plane, killing all 298 people on board.

The remnant of the doomed Boeing 777 is peppered with holes and burn marks that are "consistent" with shrapnel damage from a Buk warhead, weapons experts told the Financial Times.

The large hole in the center was likely punched out from the inside when the aircraft rapidly depressurized at 33,000 feet over eastern Ukraine on July 17, the experts said.

Experts said the blast pattern suggests the missile exploded in front and to the left of the craft.

The radar-guided rocket isn't designed to blow up on impact, but instead streaks to within feet of its target, at which point a "proximity fuse" triggers more than 150 pounds of high explosives inside a pre-fragmented steel shell.

The wreckage was found in a back yard in rebel-controlled Petropavlovka and moved to the roadside by villagers, the FT said.


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Attack on Iraqi prisoner convoy kills 60 people

BAGHDAD — Gunmen attacked a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad on Thursday, setting off a gunbattle with troops in which scores of prisoners and eight soldiers were killed, brutally underscoring Iraq's instability as lawmakers convened to elect a new president.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Baghdad earlier Thursday, urging lawmakers to "find a common ground" so they can address the crisis sparked by the rapid advance of the Islamic State extremist group and allied Sunni militants across much of northern and western Iraq last month.

At a press conference with embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Ban said Iraq is facing an "existential threat," but one that could be overcome if it forms a "thoroughly inclusive government."

"I am deeply saddened by the senseless death of so many Iraqi people," Ban said. He added that political leaders in Baghdad and the largely autonomous Kurdish region have a "clear responsibility" to work together to protect their citizens.

The dawn attack began with militants firing mortar rounds on Iraqi army bases in the town of Taji, where suspects were being held on terrorism charges, prompting authorities to evacuate the facilities, fearing a jailbreak, officials said.

As the convoy traveled through a remote area nearby, roadside bombs went off and militants opened fire. The ensuing battle left 52 prisoners and eight soldiers dead, with another eight soldiers and seven prisoners wounded, they said. It was not immediately clear if the prisoners were killed by soldiers or militants, or if the Islamic State group was involved.

The town of Taji is located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital.

The officials — two policemen, an army officer and a medical official — spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Islamic State militants have staged several jailbreaks, including a complex, military-style assault on two Baghdad-area prisons in July 2013 that freed more than 500 inmates.

Apparently fearing a repeat of the incident, Shiite militiamen killed nearly four dozen Sunni detainees last month in the town of Baqouba northwest of Baghdad when the facility where they were being held came under attack, according to a report by Amnesty International.

The report documented a "pattern of extrajudicial executions" of mainly Sunni detainees by forces loyal to the Shiite-led government, both in Baqouba and in the north, basing its conclusions on interviews with survivors and relatives of those killed.

The rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and declared a self-styled Islamic Caliphate straddling the Iraq-Syria border, has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.

More than a million Iraqis have been displaced this year, many of them fleeing violence brought on by this latest wave of violence, according to the U.N.

Ban strongly condemned the persecution of religious and ethnic minority groups by jihadi militants in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq, and offered continued U.N. support to the refugees fleeing the violence.

Al-Maliki has come under increasing pressure to step aside, with critics accusing him of monopolizing power and alienating the country's Sunni and Kurdish minorities. He has vowed to remain in the post he has held since 2006, and his bloc won the most votes in April elections.

The vote for president — a largely ceremonial post currently held by Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani — was to take place later Thursday after being delayed the day before when the Kurdish bloc requested more time to select a candidate. They named former deputy prime minister Fouad Massoum as their candidate late Wednesday.

Under an unofficial agreement dating back to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the presidency is held by a Kurd while the prime minister is Shiite and the parliament speaker is Sunni.

Speaking alongside the U.N. secretary-general, al-Maliki said he is committed to quickly forming a government.

"Despite the fact that we have problems…we are moving at a confident pace to implement the mechanisms of the democratic work," al-Maliki said.


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