Tajikistan blocks leading independent news website

Tajikistan blocks leading independent news website

The Associated Press

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — Internet service providers in Tajikistan have blocked access to leading local independent news website Asia-Plus at the government’s request.

The move came into effect Tuesday after the state communications agency ordered the block for what it described as technical reasons.

Servers for Asia-Plus, which frequently publishes material heavily critical of the Central Asian nation’s authoritarian government, are based abroad and the site can still be accessed worldwide.

In March, service providers blocked Facebook and several opposition sites at the government’s behest, following wide online circulation of an article predicting unrest in the impoverished former Soviet nation.

Tajikistan has low levels of Internet penetration, but authorities have nonetheless proven nervous at signs government opponents could use online media to mobilize.


U.S. accuses Syria of ‘new horrific tactics’

Kofi Annan says he is ‘gravely concerned’ about the escalation of fighting in Syria

The Associated Press 

This image taken from amateur video and broadcast by Bambuser/Homslive shows a series of devastating explosions rocking the central Syrian city of Homs, Syria on Monday. AP is unable to independently verify the authenticity, content, location or date of this image.

This image taken from amateur video and broadcast by Bambuser/Homslive shows a series of devastating explosions rocking the central Syrian city of Homs, Syria on Monday. AP is unable to independently verify the authenticity, content, location or date of this image. (Bambuser/Homslive/Associated Press)

The United States accused the Syrian government of using “new horrific tactics” Monday, as UN observers reported Syrian helicopters were firing on rebellious areas and concerns mounted that civilians were trapped in besieged cities.

Violence in Syria has spiked in recent weeks, as both sides ignore an internationally brokered ceasefire that was supposed to go into effect April 12 but never took hold.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed concern about reports the regime “may be organizing another massacre” in Latakia province, where UN monitors have been impeded.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Nuland warned, “People will be held accountable.”

Activists reported more than 50 people killed across Syria on Monday, with clashes between military forces and rebel fighters in Homs, Idlib and Latakia provinces. The death toll and the online videos were impossible to independently verify.

According to videos posted online, fireballs of orange flame and black rubble exploded in the air as waves of shells pounded residential buildings in the central city of Homs Monday. The sounds of shells whooshed through the sky amid sporadic machine-gun fire.

Syrian soldiers chased down and killed rebels who set fire to one of their tanks in a farming area close to the Orontes river in the Idlib province, said Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of sources on the ground.

The attack killed seven soldiers and a civilian, he said. There was no confirmation from state media.

Another three men and two women were killed while trying to flee, Abdul-Rahman said.

In the nearby village of Laj, another 11 slain men lay in a room, their names scrawled on papers tucked into their clothes, according to amateur video.

A car bomb exploded in the city of Deir al-Zour, killing 10 people, Abdul-Rahman said.

“What we are seeing right now are fierce clashes as the Syrian army tries to take back positions held by the rebels,” Abdul-Rahman said. “There are many deaths in the rebel ranks,” he said.

Annan ‘gravely concerned’

International envoy Kofi Annan said Monday he was “gravely concerned” about the escalation of fighting in Syria, citing the shelling of opposition areas in central Homs province and reports of mortar, helicopter and tank attacks in the town of Haffa and its surrounding villages in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast.

Annan demands both sides “take all steps to ensure that civilians are not harmed,” said his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi. “There are indications that a large number of civilians are trapped in these towns,” the statement said.

Syrian activists say 13,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011. The situation has grown increasingly chaotic in recent months, and it is difficult to assign blame for much of the bloodshed. The government restricts journalists from moving freely, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts from either side.

Nuland said, “We are calling this out now in the hope that we can stop what could be a potential massacre.” Nuland declined to say if Washington or anyone else in the international community might take proactive measures.

There are no prospects for a NATO intervention like the one that helped topple Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi — in part because Russia has promised to veto such a plan.

The bloodshed has led to broad condemnation of the regime, although Russia, Iran and China have stood by President Bashar Assad. Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions that threatened sanctions against Syria.

On Monday, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin defended his country’s arms sales to Syria.

“Under no circumstances can the arms supplied to Syria be used against the civilian population,” Rogozin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.

“Weapons do not shoot all by themselves. It is people who shoot from them,” he said.

Despite Russia’s strong stance, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday the U.K. will not rule out the use of an international military intervention.

“Each day reports emerge of savage crimes,” Hague told lawmakers at the House of Commons. “These deliberate military tactics are horrifyingly reminiscent of the Balkans in the 1990s.”

He said Britain was focused on diplomatic efforts, but would “not rule out any other option which could at any stage stop the bloodshed.”

The U.S. and its allies have shown little appetite for getting involved in another Arab nation in turmoil. There also is a real concern of a spillover effect for other countries in the region.

In Israel, the deputy military chief warned that Syria’s large chemical weapons stocks could be trained on the Jewish state. According to Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, Syria has the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the world. If the Syrians had the chance, he said, they would “treat us the same way they treat their own people.”

Syria has not acknowledged possessing chemical weapons, so the size of its arsenal is not known.

Lapdog Press Documents Atrocity Case Against Syria By Misquoting UN Officials

[This reported “news” is just more neo-liberal press bullshit, produced using “facts” from a biased UN agency, both working on the secret Imperial agenda.  UN Special Rep. for children, Radhika Coomaraswamy is an old-hand in working the Imperal UN agenda, from her former inside seat on the Sri Lankan Human Rights organization, where she is most known for helping to humanize the image of the female Tamil Tigers, who, in her opinion, were moving away from the feminist neo-liberal ideals which were allegedly being defended by the Sri Lankan revolutionaries.   She felt that their short haircuts, masculine looks and violent aggression promoted ideas which were the opposite of feminism (SEE: Tiger Women and the Question of Women’s Emancipation ).]

“Unless feminism is linked to humanism, to non-violence, to hybridity and a celebration of life over death, it will not provide society the alternatives that we so desperately seek”. 


“Rarely, have I seen such brutality against children as in Syria, where girls and boys are detained, tortured, executed, and used as human shields,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special representative for children in armed conflict, told AFP before releasing the report, Children and armed conflict.

[The politicized report, now being elevated in the Western press to the point of unchallenged “fact” is another compilation of agenda-driven information, that has so far been gathered on the ground in Syria, from anonymous witnesses.  The allegedly factual human rights violation, about the Syrian Army using children as human shields, is contained in Item#119.   Item#122 reveals the source of that testimony–ONE anonymous witness.  The press misinformation piece on this startling revelation continues below the references being cited.  

Children and armed conflict

119. The United Nations has received reports of grave violations against children in
the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 and throughout the reporting period,
continuing into 2012. In response to the need for United Nations verified
information, my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict sent a
technical mission to the region to conduct interviews with victims and witnesses in
refugee camps, villages and hospitals in the region in March 2012. In almost all
recorded cases, children were among the victims of military operations by
Government forces, including the Syrian Armed Forces, the intelligence forces and
the Shabbiha militia, in their ongoing conflict with the opposition, including the
Free Syrian Army (FSA). Children as young as 9 years of age were victims of
killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including
sexual violence, and use as human shields.

122.  “In the village of Ayn l’Arouz in March 2012, a witness stated that several dozen
children, boys and girls ranging between the ages of 8 and 13 years, were forcibly
taken from their homes. These children were subsequently reportedly used by
soldiers and militia members as human shields, placing them in front of the
windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on the village.”

[Meanwhile, even though UN bureaucrats continue to paint the Houla massacre as mass-murder by heavy artillery, the UN investigators on the ground, who were sent to investigate have not yet claimed that the Houla massacre was committed with artillery and tanks.  General Robert Mood, the head of the UNSMIS mission, tried to report the truth.  The Western press cited the UNSMIS report on the massacre (which also confirmed a secondary issue, that heavy artillery has been used in the area), but they treated the two issues as one.]   

The following is taken from the UN website:

An UNSMIS delegation convoy drives througn a neighbourhood of Homs in early May. UN Photo/N. Kaddoura

UNSMIS personnel“confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighbourhood,” which does not tie artillery fire to the Houla incident.  It isn’t even clear what the name of the “residential neighborhood” is.

General Robert Mood, the head of UNSMIS, was also quoted as saying:

The circumstances that led to these tragic killings are still unclear. 

“This indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is unacceptable and unforgiveable. The killing of innocent children and civilians needs to stop.” 

[Nothing there about the massacre being the result of heavy shelling, but in the lapdog press two reports become one “Atrocity.”]

Children used as human shields by Syria army: UN

DAMASCUS: The United Nations on Tuesday accused Syrian troops of using children as “human shields,” as UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded access to the town of Al-Heffa amid fears of a new “massacre” by regime forces.

Branding Damascus as one of the worst offenders on its annual “list of shame” of conflict countries, the UN said in a report that Syrian children as young as nine had been victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence.

“Rarely, have I seen such brutality against children as in Syria, where girls and boys are detained, tortured, executed, and used as human shields,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special representative for children in armed conflict, told AFP before releasing the report.

Ban said in a statement meanwhile that “intensive military operations” by government forces against the central province of Homs and firing from helicopters on other towns had caused heavy civilian casualties.

Residents and activists said government helicopter gunships have strafed rebel positions in Al-Heffa, a town of 30,000 near the border with Turkey, and tanks were parked on the outskirts.

The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said it had received reports of “a large number of civilians, including women and children trapped inside the town and are trying to mediate their evacuation.”

One Syrian activist broke down in tears as she told AFP via Skype that tanks were parked on the edge of Al-Heffa.

“They have never come this close before,” Sem Nassar said.

Nassar said there is only one doctor working to treat the wounded in the town and that most residents had fled.

Ban joined UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in demanding that unarmed military observers from UNSMIS be let into Al-Heffa.

Such reports prompted Washington to voice concerns Assad’s regime is planning to carry out new atrocities, after the massacre of 55 people last week in Al-Kubeir and at least 108 near Houla on May 25-26.

“The United States joins joint special envoy Kofi Annan in expressing deep alarm by reports from inside Syria that the regime may be organising another massacre,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Nuland said the tactics showed the Assad regime, cracking down on the most severe threat to his family’s four-decade rule, was “increasingly desperate.”

Human rights groups estimate that about 1,200 children have died during the 15-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, whose brutal crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests has been widely condemned.

The UN report said that Syrian government forces rounded up dozens of boys aged eight to 13 before an attack on the village of Ain al-Arouz in Idlib province on March 9.

The children were “used by soldiers and militia members as human shields, placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on the village,” it said.

Quoting witnesses, the UN report said Syrian military and intelligence forces, as well as pro-government shabiha militiamen, surrounded the village for an attack that lasted more than four days.

Among the 11 dead on the first day were three boys aged 15 to 17. Another 34 people, including two boys aged 14 and 16 and a nine-year-old girl, were detained.

“Eventually, the village was reportedly left burned and four out of the 34 detainees were shot and burned, including the two boys aged 14 and 16 years,” the Children in Armed Conflict report said.

The report was completed before the Houla massacre on May 25, when 49 of the 108 victims were said to be children, some as young as two and three, who were shot in the head or had their skulls smashed with blunt instruments.

On the ground on Tuesday, 10 civilians were killed when the Al-Jbaible neighbourhood of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor was hit by mortars fired by regime forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The mortar attacks come a day after 12 people were killed, including three children, when a car bomb exploded in Al-Joura neighbourhood of Deir Ezzor, the Britain-based group said.

It said that Hreitan in the northern province of Aleppo was subjected to violent shelling on Tuesday morning, adding that clashes with rebels at the entrances to the town have led to “heavy losses among regime troops.”

Syrian army helicopters fired on rebel stronghold towns on Monday, leaving at least 106 people dead nationwide, including 77 civilians and 23 Syrian troops, activists said.

Reports of high daily death tolls are becoming the norm in Syria where over 14,000 people have been killed since the anti-regime revolt erupted in March 2011, according to the Observatory.

– AFP/fa