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Monday, August 19, 2019

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

Pakistan Says ‘Unprovoked Ceasefire Violations’ by India Kill Two Civilians in Kashmir

Posted: 19 Aug 2019 01:31 AM PDT

(ISLAMABAD) — Pakistan said Indian troops have fired across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region, killing two civilians and wounding another.

Pakistan and Indian often exchange fire in the Himalayan region, but tensions have increased since Aug. 5 when New Delhi changed the status of Indian-administered Kashmir, which is split between the nuclear-armed and claimed by both.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement Monday that civilian casualties occurred Sunday because of “unprovoked ceasefire violations” by India in the border villages of Hot Spring and Chirikot.

The ministry said Pakistan summoned an Indian diplomat and lodged a protest over continued ceasefire violations, which “are a threat to regional peace.”

Pakistan and India have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.

India has imposed a security lockdown in its portion of Kashmir to avoid violence in reaction to the move to change the territory’s status.

The government has said it was gradually restoring phone lines and easing the lockdown, but changes were slow. Public buses were running in rural areas, but soldiers limited the movement of people on mostly deserted streets in Srinagar, the region’s main city.

The Press Trust of India reported that restrictions were reimposed in parts of Srinagar after violence was reported on Saturday.

About 300 Kashmiris returned to Srinagar on Sunday from a Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Many of them became emotional while reuniting with their family members who met them at the city’s airport. Due to the security and communications lockdown, many travelers were unable to contact anybody in the Kashmir region.

“Neither us nor our relatives here knew if we were dead or alive,” Muhammad Ali said after returning from Mecca.

Afghanistan Vows to ‘Eliminate’ Islamic State Safe Havens After a Horrific Attack Kills 63 People

Posted: 19 Aug 2019 01:02 AM PDT

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Afghanistan’s president on Monday vowed to “eliminate” all safe havens of the Islamic State group as the country marked a subdued 100th Independence Day after a horrific wedding attack claimed by the local IS affiliate.

President Ashraf Ghani’s comments came as Afghanistan mourns at least 63 people, including children, killed in the Kabul bombing at a wedding hall late Saturday night. Close to 200 others were wounded.

Many outraged Afghans ask whether an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of fighting — America’s longest war — will bring peace to long-suffering civilians. The bomber detonated his explosives in the middle of a dancing crowd, and the IS affiliate later said he had targeted a gathering of minority Shiites, whom it views as apostates deserving of death.

Both the bride and groom survived, and in an emotional interview with local broadcaster TOLOnews the distraught groom, Mirwais Alani, said their lives were devastated within seconds.

A sharply worded Taliban statement questioned why the U.S. failed to identify the attackers in advance. Another Taliban statement marking the independence day said to “leave Afghanistan to the Afghans.” More than anything in its nearly year-long negotiations with the U.S., the Taliban want some 20,000 U.S. and allied forces to withdraw from the country.

The U.S. envoy in talks with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Sunday said the peace process should be accelerated to help Afghanistan defeat the IS affiliate.

But Ghani on Monday asserted that the Taliban, whom the U.S. now hopes will help to curb the IS affiliate’s rise, are just as much to blame. His government is openly frustrated at being sidelined from the U.S. talks with the insurgent group, which regards the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet.

The Taliban “have created the platform for terrorists” with its own brutal assaults on schools, mosques and other public places over the years, the president said.

More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade, the United Nations said earlier this year. More children were killed last year — 927 — than in any other over the past decade by all actors, the U.N. said, including in operations against insurgent hideouts carried out international forces.

“We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood,” Ghani declared. “Our struggle will continue against (IS), we will take revenge and will root them out.” He urged the international community to join those efforts.

He asserted that safe havens for militants are across the border in Pakistan, whose intelligence service has long been accused of supporting the Taliban. The IS affiliate’s claim of the wedding attack said it was carried out by a Pakistani fighter seeking martyrdom.

Ghani called on people in Pakistan “who very much want peace” to help identify the IS safe havens there.

Last month after meeting with President Donald Trump, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted he will do his best to persuade the Taliban to open negotiations with the Afghan government to resolve the war.

Trump on Sunday told reporters he doesn’t want Afghanistan to be a “laboratory for terror.” He was briefed on Friday on the progress of the U.S.-Taliban talks, of which few details have emerged.

In a message marking Afghanistan’s independence and “century of resilience,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the weekend wedding bombing “an attack against humanity.” It was one of many international expressions of condemnation pouring in following the attack.

U.K. Government Memos Warn of Food and Drug Shortages in Case of a No-Deal Brexit, a Report Says

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 09:09 PM PDT

(LONDON) — Secret British government documents have warned of serious disruptions across the country in the event that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a trade deal on Oct. 31, according to a report.

The Sunday Times newspaper published what it said was what the British government expects in the case of a sudden, “no-deal” Brexit. Among the most serious: “significant” disruptions to the supply of drugs and medicine, a decrease in the availability of fresh food and even potential fresh water shortages due to possible interruptions of imported water treatment chemicals.

Although the grim scenarios reportedly outlined in the government documents have long been floated by academics and economists, they’ve been repeatedly dismissed as scaremongering by Brexit proponents.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is ready to leave the EU regardless of whether he is able to renegotiate the Brexit deal struck with Brussels by his predecessor, Theresa May.

His own officials, however, have warned that with a no-deal Brexit, the sharing of law enforcement data and the health of Britain’s crucial financial services industry could be in jeopardy after Oct. 31.

The documents published by the Times also quote officials as warning that up to 85% of all trucks wouldn’t be ready for French customs at the critical English Channel crossing that day, causing lines that could stretch out for days. Some 75% of all drugs coming into Britain arrive via that crossing, the memos warned, “making them particularly vulnerable to severe delays.”

The officials foresee “critical elements” of the food supply chain being affected that would “reduce availability and choice and increase the price, which will affect vulnerable groups.”

Britain’s Cabinet Office didn’t return a message seeking comment on the documents, but Michael Gove, the British minister in charge of no-deal preparations, insisted that the files represented a “worst case scenario.”

Very “significant steps have been taken in the last 3 weeks to accelerate Brexit planning,” he said in a message posted to Twitter.

But the documents, which are titled “planning assumptions,” mention a “base scenario,” not a “worst case” one. The Times quoted an unnamed Cabinet Office source as saying the memos were simply realistic assessments of what was most likely to happen.

The opposition Labour Party, which is trying to delay Brexit and organize a government of national unity, held up the report as another sign that no-deal must be avoided.

“It seems to me is what we’ve seen is a hard-headed assessment of reality, that sets out in really stark terms what a calamitous outcome of no-deal Brexit would mean for the United Kingdom,” lawmaker Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sky News television. “The government is reckless in the way it’s been pushing forward with no-deal planning in this way.”

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country is ready for Brexit, even without a deal to smooth the transition.

Merkel said Sunday during an open house at the chancellery in Berlin that she would “try everything in my power to find solutions” and that “I believe that it would be better to leave with an agreement than without one.”

But she added that “should it come to that we are prepared for this eventuality too.”

An Iranian Tanker Sought by the U.S. Is Heading to an Unknown Destination

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 08:25 PM PDT

GIBRALTAR (AP) — An Iranian supertanker hauling $130 million worth of light crude oil that the U.S. suspects to be tied to a sanctioned organization lifted its anchor and begun moving away from Gibraltar late on Sunday.

The trail left by GPS data on Marinetraffic.com, a vessel tracking service, showed the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1, previously known as Grace 1, moving shortly before midnight. The tanker slowly went south before steering eastwards toward a narrow stretch of international waters separating Morocco and the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, confirmed in a post on Twitter that the oil tanker was headed to international waters. Questions to the embassy about where it was going were not immediately returned.

The vessel had been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria. Gibraltar authorities rejected an eleventh-hour attempt by the United States’ to reseize the oil tanker on Sunday, arguing that EU regulations are less strict than U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The tanker’s release comes amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West after President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.

Shortly after the tanker’s detention in early July near Gibraltar — a British overseas territory — Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which remains held by the Islamic republic. Analysts had said the Iranian ship’s release by Gibraltar could mean that the Stena Impero goes free.

Gibraltar’s government said Sunday it was allowing the Iranian tanker’s release because, “The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar – is much narrower than that applicable in the US.”

In a last-ditch effort to stop the release, the U.S. unsealed a warrant Friday to seize the vessel and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, citing violations of U.S. sanctions as well as money laundering and terrorism statutes.

U.S. officials told reporters that the oil aboard the ship was worth some $130 million and that it was destined for a designated terror organization.

The unsealed court documents argued that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are the ship’s true owners through a network of front companies.

Authorities in Gibraltar said Sunday that, unlike in the U.S., the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is not designated a terrorist organization under EU, U.K. or Gibraltar law.

The Iranian ship was detained while sailing under a Panamanian flag with the name Grace 1. As of Sunday, it had been renamed the Adrian Darya 1 and had hoisted an Iranian flag. Workers were seen painting the new name on the side of the ship Saturday.

Iran has not disclosed the Adrian Darya 1’s intended destination and has denied it was ever headed for Syria.

The chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said he had been assured in writing by the Iranian government that the tanker wouldn’t unload its cargo in Syria.

The Astralship shipping agency in Gibraltar, which has been hired to handle paperwork and arrange logistics for the Adrian Darya 1, had told The Associated Press that a new crew of Indian and Ukrainian nationals had been expected to replace the sailors on board.

Washington Is Holding Secret Talks With One of Venezuela’s Top Officials

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 06:29 PM PDT

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The U.S. has opened up secret communications with Venezuela’s socialist party boss as members of President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle seek guarantees they won’t face retribution if they cede to growing demands to remove him, a senior administration official has told The Associated Press.

Diosdado Cabello, who is considered the most-powerful man in Venezuela after Maduro, met last month in Caracas with someone who is in close contact with the Trump administration, said the official. A second meeting is in the works but has not yet taken place.

The AP is withholding the intermediary’s name and details of the encounter with Cabello out of concern the person could suffer reprisals. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the talks, which are still preliminary.

Cabello is a major power broker inside Venezuela, who has seen his influence in the government and security forces expand as Maduro’s grip on power has weakened. But he’s also been accused by U.S. officials of being behind massive corruption, drug trafficking and even death threats against a sitting U.S. senator.

The administration official said that under no circumstances is the U.S. looking to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro. Instead, the goal of the outreach is to ratchet up pressure on the regime by contributing to the knife fight the U.S. believes is taking place behind the scenes among competing circles of power within the ruling party.

Similar contacts exist with other top Venezuelan insiders, the official said, and the U.S. is in a listening mode to hear what it would take for them to betray Maduro and support a transition plan.

Cabello did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But an aide said the U.S. has been increasingly knocking on his door, desperately looking to establish contact. The aide rejected the notion Cabello was somehow betraying Maduro, saying that Cabello would only meet with Americans with the president’s permission and if it contributes to lifting sanctions he blames for crippling the oil-dependent economy. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss political affairs publicly.

A person familiar with the July encounter said Cabello appeared savvy and arrived to the meeting with the U.S.-backed envoy well prepared, with a clear understanding of Venezuela’s political problems. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter.

As Venezuela’s crisis grinds on, a predictable pattern has emerged where Juan Guaidó, who the U.S. and dozens of other countries recognize as Venezuela’s rightful leader, has been unable to woo the military and take power but Maduro lacks enough strength to apprehend his rival or rescue the collapsed economy amid ever-tightening U.S. sanctions. This month, the U.S. slapped a new round of sanctions that seizes all of the Maduro government’s assets in the U.S. and threatens to punish companies from third countries that continue to do business with him.

Talks sponsored by Norway between the opposition and government have been slow-going and were suspended this month by Maduro, who accused Guaidó of celebrating the U.S.’ “brutal blockade.” Neither Cabello, the Venezuelan military or U.S. government are a party to those talks.

To break the stalemate, some conspirators are looking to the U.S. to devise a plan to protect government insiders who turn against Maduro from future prosecution. The U.S. has repeatedly said it would offer top socialists relief from sanctions if they take “concrete and meaningful actions” to end Maduro’s rule. In May, it quickly lifted sanctions against Maduro’s former spy chief, Gen. Manuel Cristopher Figuera, after he defected during a failed military uprising.

As head of the constitutional assembly, Cabello has the power to remove Maduro, a position that could come in handy in any negotiated transition. But to date he’s run the institution, which the U.S. considers illegitimate, as a rubber-stamping foil to the opposition-controlled congress, showing no signs of possible deception.

It’s not clear who initiated the contact with Cabello. But the U.S. official said Cabello was talking behind the back of the embattled socialist despite his almost daily displays of loyalty and frequent harangues against President Donald Trump.

An opposition politician briefed on the outreach said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and Interior Minister Néstor Reverol are among those in indirect contact with the Americans, underscoring the degree to which Maduro is surrounded by conspirators even after an opposition-led military uprising in April was easily quashed. The politician spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the talks. The AP was unable to verify the opposition politician’s account.

Cabello, 56, has long been seen as a rival to Maduro, someone who has more pragmatic economic views and is less ideologically aligned with communist Cuba. He sat to the right of Hugo Chávez when the late socialist designated Maduro, to his left, to be his successor in his last public appearance before dying of cancer in 2013.

By all accounts Cabello was not among the high-placed officials who were in on a plot to remove Maduro in April, when Guaidó and his mentor Leopoldo López appeared on a bridge in eastern Caracas surrounded by a small contingent of armed troops. Since the uprising’s failure, the retired army lieutenant has seen his influence in the government and security forces expand, with the appointment of a cousin to head the army and the placement of another ally atop the feared SEBIN intelligence police.

He also remains popular with the Chavista base, having crisscrossed the country the past five years with a much-watched program on state TV that is a vehicle for pounding the opposition and U.S.

“A fraternal salute, brother President,” Cabello said in the most-recent program, where Maduro called in as a special guest. “We have no secrets, no lies here. Every time we do something we will inform the people, so that with a clear conscience they can take informed decisions and fix positions.”

The U.S. has tried to negotiate with Cabello before. In 2015, Thomas Shannon, who was then counsellor to Secretary of State John Kerry, met with Cabello in Haiti to pave the way for legislative elections that the opposition won by a landslide.

But until now, the Trump administration has shown deep scorn for Cabello, hitting him with sanctions last year for allegedly organizing drug shipments and running a major graft network that embezzled state funds and invested the stolen proceeds in Florida real estate. The U.S. also believes he discussed a plot to kill Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has called him “Venezuela’s Pablo Escobar.”

“Cabello is one of the worst of the worst inside of Venezuela,” said Fernando Cutz, a former senior national security adviser on Latin America to both President Barack Obama and Trump. “If the strategy is to try to negotiate with the mafia boss, he’s your guy. But that’s a strategy that carries some heavy risks.”

‘They Don’t Take Care of Us’: Anti-Rape Protests Vandalize Mexico City’s Famous Angel of Independence Monument

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 02:10 PM PDT

(MEXICO CITY) — Workers erected a wooden wall around Mexico City’s iconic Angel of Independence monument Saturday after feminists defaced it with graffiti during a raucous protest over a string of alleged rapes by police.

The disorder Friday night erupted as part of protests that arose this week over a perception that city officials were not adequately investigating the rape accusations. Both victims were teenagers. The demonstrations have become known as the “glitter protests” after marchers doused the city’s police chief in pink glitter.

Hundreds of city workers spent the wee hours of the morning pressure-cleaning and painting over graffiti.

The deputy director of artistic patrimony at the National Fine Arts Institute, Dolores Martínez, said at the base of the statue that officials were assessing the damage to the Angel and other points in the capital that protesters attacked.

At the same time, Martínez added, the fine arts institute “respects freedom of speech and offers support for actions to eradicate all forms of violence against women.”

Protesters wrote phrases like “They don’t take care of us” and “rape state” in lime green, purple and black spray paint across the base of the Angel monument, which commemorates Mexico’s independence from Spain and is often the site of celebrations by city residents.

The monument was slated for repairs at some point due to damages from the September 2017 earthquake; Martínez said that those restoration plans will be fast-tracked after the vandalism and to show “solidarity” with rape victims and feminists.

Demonstrators also painted the word “rapists” on the wall of a nearby police station and trashed a major bus station. A male television reporter was punched by another man while covering the protest.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, the first woman elected to head the city’s government, said via Twitter that the attorney general’s office of the metropolis will investigate and bring charges against those who attacked journalists, bystanders and public buildings.

The Associated Press witnessed some female protesters assail men during the Friday demonstration.

In a Friday statement, Sheinbaum accused the protesters of trying to provoke authorities into using force, saying “that’s what they’re looking for” and that “violence is not fought with violence.”

The mayor invited “those who legitimately fight for the defense of human rights and the eradication of violence to help generate a climate of peace.”

Protesters have called for Sheinbaum’s resignation, saying she cares more about public property than women’s safety. They have also criticized her choice of language, noting that words like “provocation” are sometimes deployed to blame rape victims for their own assaults.

Violence against women is a serious problem in Mexico.

Human Rights Watch says Mexican laws “do not adequately protect women and girls against domestic and sexual violence.” It said in a 2019 report that provisions in Mexican law, including those that make the severity of punishments for sexual offenses contingent upon the supposed chastity of the victim, “contradict international standards.”

Mexico City’s culture minister, José Alfonso Suárez del Real, expressed sadness over the vandalism at the Angel monument, saying it “belongs to the Mexican people, not to the state.”

The remains of 14 independence heroes rest within the monument, including those of a woman, Leona Vicario.

The monument on Reforma Avenue is a reunion point for protests as well as celebrations. Soccer fans regularly converge around the base to celebrate their teams’ wins, while young girls marking their 15th birthdays —known as quinceañeras — pose for photos on the monument’s base wearing outsized party dresses on weekends.

Spotting the graffiti as she passed in a stretch limo, a quinceañera celebrant in a powder blue taffeta dress gasped in horror. Another, in a voluminous burgundy gown, went ahead with her photo shoot on the grass lawn around the monument despite the wooden barricade in the background.

Art historian Mara Fragoso came to assess the damage to the Angel with conflicted feelings. She said she understands and shares the protesters’ rage over violence against women, but she feels monuments should not be violated.

The Angel in many ways is a monument to women, Fragoso said. In addition to the golden female figure of an angel at the top, stoic bronze female figures are stationed at the four corners of the base.

Below the bronze figures are the words: War, Peace, Law and Justice.

“We’re divided between the indignation that’s evident, but also the indignation over the vandalism,” Fragoso said. “Both things are valid.”

Officials and Climate Change Activists Hold Funeral for Okjokull Glacier in Iceland

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 11:47 AM PDT

(OKJOKULL GLACIER, Iceland) — It was a funeral for ice.

With poetry, moments of silence and political speeches about the urgent need to fight climate change, Icelandic officials, activists and others bade goodbye to what once was a glacier.

Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson pronounced the Okjokull glacier extinct about a decade ago. But on Sunday he brought a death certificate to the made-for-media memorial.

After about 100 people made a two-hour hike up a volcano, children installed a memorial plaque to the glacier, nicknamed “OK.”

This was Iceland’s first glacier to disappear. But Sigurdsson said all of the nation’s ice masses will be gone in 200 years.

Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir called the glacial loss a consequence of the climate crisis.

Alaskan Man Discovers 50-Year-Old Russian Message in a Bottle

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 11:41 AM PDT

(NOME, Alaska) — A man discovered a 50-year-old letter in a bottle from the Russian Navy on the shores of western Alaska.

Tyler Ivanoff found the handwritten Russian letter early this month while gathering firewood near Shishmaref about 600 miles (966 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, KNOM-AM reported Tuesday.

“I was just gathering firewood,” Ivanoff said. “I just happened to stumble across the bottle, and I noticed it was a green bottle and had a cork top. Not really cork, it was a tight cap, and I could see inside the bottle there was a note.”

Ivanoff shared his discovery on Facebook where Russian speakers translated the message to be a greeting from a Cold War Russian sailor dated 1969, officials said. The message included an address and a request for a response from the person who finds it.

Reporters from the state-owned Russian media network, Russia-1, tracked down the original writer, Capt. Anatoliy Botsanenko.

“It looks like my handwriting. For sure! East industry fishing fleet! E-I-F-F!” Botsanenko said.

The message was sent while he was aboard the Sulak, a ship whose construction he oversaw in 1966 and that he sailed on until 1970, Botsanenko said.

When shown pictures of the bottle and note, Botsanenko teared up in joy, officials said.

At one point in his career, he was the youngest captain in the Pacific at 33 years old, Botsanenko said.

Ivanoff was not sure if he would return a message, but considered writing his own letters with his children.

“But that’s something I could probably do with my kids in the future. Just send a message in a bottle out there and see where it goes,” Ivanoff said.

Suicides Among French Police Rise, With 64 So Far This Year

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 07:38 AM PDT

(PARIS) — Three riot police officers, a police commander, a police academy teacher — all are among eight French police officers who have killed themselves recently. That makes 64 so far this year — and the number just keeps on climbing.

Deaths by suicide for French police now outnumber deaths in the line of duty. The protectors need protecting, say police unions, which are demanding more help to stop the problem.

Those who choose to end their lives are from everywhere in France and of all ages, many with young children. The latest death came Wednesday in the Ardeche region in southeast France. Why they step across what one police union calls the “thin blue line” remains a question that French authorities have so far been unable to answer.

A parliamentary inquiry made public in July lists a multitude of reasons for the stress and despair among French police, including overwork since a series of terrorist attacks that started in January 2015 and the weekly, often extremely violent, anti-government protests since November by the yellow vest movement seeking more economic and social justice. It does not single out any one reason.

“Given the situation today, 2019 could be the worst in the last 30 years,” said Denis Jacob, head of the Alternative Police CFDT union.

A Senate report last year said the French police suicide rate was 36% higher than the rate for France’s general population, but also uncovered no single reason behind the suicides.

“We don’t have an understanding” of why, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner conceded in April as he announced yet another prevention plan, the third minister in a row to do so, underlining authorities’ failure to solve the public health problem.

Significantly, Castaner acknowledged that police suicides must not be considered “external to work,” and seen as only the result of personal problems. And National Police Director Eric Morvan broke a taboo, sending a letter to all officers encouraging them to talk “without fear of being judged” and saying discussing distress “is never a weakness.”

While psychological trauma, including encounters with violence, is a risk factor for suicide, there are 10-15 factors that can feed the “acute crisis” which leads to taking one’s own life, Catherine Pinson, a psychologist in charge of the police support service, told the Senate inquiry.

The “hypervigilance” of police in the face of potential terror attacks is a clear stress factor that keeps police in their “bubble” even at home, Amelie Puaux, a psychologist with the support service, told the French senators.

And the 2016 deadly attack on a police couple in front of their small child at their home in Magnanville, west of Paris, dramatically impacted police officers fearful for their families, she said. Some moved, changed services or resigned to protect their loved ones.

Sebastian Roche, a research director at the National Center for Scientific research who specializes in comparing police systems, says there are simply no studies to understand the causes of the French suicides or impact studies to evaluate prevention measures, which he calls a “huge weakness” within the Interior Ministry.

He doesn’t believe that PTSD — with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — is at the root of the problem, noting the dip in police suicides in 2015 when deadly Islamic State attacks in France began in January and culminated in November with the Paris massacres that left 130 people dead.

“All of a sudden, their mission made sense,” he said by telephone. “The population judged them as useful.”

French citizens applauded police as heroes during that stretch in 2015. That image lost its shine over time, then collapsed, as French police matched exceptionally violent yellow vest anti-government protests with harsh containment tactics that maimed some protesters.

At one point, yellow vest protesters, picking up on the suicide wave, even chanted “Kill yourselves! Kill yourselves!” at lines of police.

While suicide among police is a problem in many countries, France’s rate appears exceptionally high.

In the U.S., with a population five times that of France, 167 officers died by suicide in 2018 and 111 so far this year, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a Massachusetts-based organization devoted to preventing police suicides. A U.S. suicide prevention bill signed into law in July will also supply funds for support.

In Italy, a fellow European nation slightly less populous than France, 31 officers have killed themselves this year, according to the police support group Cerchioblu. Britain’s Office for National Statistics counts 21 to 23 police suicides a year between 2015 and 2017, but unlike in France, most British police do not have guns.

The French parliamentary reports laid out a kaleidoscope of deficiencies within the security forces that can eat away at morale and feelings of self-worth, from distant superiors fixated on numbers of arrests to the 23 million hours of unpaid overtime officers had worked as December 2018, according to the parliamentary inquiry.

A lack of equipment and dilapidated police stations and living quarters were also cited. In the Paris region, the inquiry found it “wasn’t exceptional” to find five officers sharing a cramped living space or for some to be sleeping in their cars.

The government pledged to launch a platform of psychologists operating 24/7 by June, but say now that won’t be ready until September.

A hotline is available, but Jacob is among those who think that an emergency number alone won’t solve the French police suicide problem. His union wants police to have access to independent psychological services, not those run by the government, so that seeking help — now widely perceived as a failure — can be discreet. Unions also want deeper investments and a structural overhaul.

Jacob said, despite the arrival of female police officers, a French police officer still “has the image of a macho. He doesn’t cry. He doesn’t suffer. He’s tough. To admit you suffer is to admit you have weaknesses. It’s still taboo with us.”

An officer also risks losing their gun if a psychologist deems the firearm a risk, a development that takes the officer out of the field and holds up their problems for all to see, he said.

“It’s a vicious circle,” a police officer who for 20 years sacrificed family life for work recounted on LCI TV, months after pulling himself away from killing himself.

“One night you go home, look around and it’s empty,” he said. “I was tired. I took my gun and put it in my mouth.”

Yet looking at a photo of his daughter and thinking of bodies he’d removed from suicide scenes stopped him.

“No, I don’t have the right” to kill myself, he said.

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Bombing That Killed 63, Injured 182 at Afghanistan Wedding

Posted: 18 Aug 2019 06:49 AM PDT

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — The suicide bomber stood in the middle of the dancing, clapping crowd as hundreds of Afghan children and adults celebrated a wedding in a joyous release from Kabul’s strain of war. Then, in a flash, he detonated his explosives-filled vest, killing dozens — and Afghanistan grieved again.

The local Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack in the capital this year, with 63 killed and 182 wounded, while outraged Afghans questioned just how safe they will be under an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end America’s longest war.

Stunned families buried the dead, some digging with their bare hands. One wounded survivor, Mohammad Aslim, still wore his bloodied clothes the day after the blast late Saturday. He and his friends had already buried 16 bodies, among them several close relatives, including a 7-year-old boy.

Aslim looked exhausted, and said he was waiting to bury more. Nearby, a man named Amanullah, who lost his 14-year-old son, said in anguish that the explosion had mangled the boy’s face so badly he could no longer recognize it.

“I wish I could find the pieces of my son’s body and put them as one piece into the grave,” he cried.

The emergence of the Islamic State affiliate in recent years might be the greatest threat to Afghan civilians as the U.S. and Taliban seek an agreement to end nearly 18 years of fighting. While the U.S. wants Taliban assurances that Afghanistan will no longer be used as a launch pad for global terror attacks, there appear to be no guarantees of protection for Afghan civilians.

The Taliban, which the U.S. hopes will help curb the IS affiliate’s rise, condemned Saturday’s attack as “forbidden and unjustifiable.”

The blast took place in a western Kabul neighborhood that is home to many in the country’s minority Shiite Hazara community. IS, which declared war on Afghanistan’s Shiites nearly two years ago and has claimed responsibility for many attacks targeting them in the past, said in a statement that a Pakistani IS fighter seeking martyrdom targeted a large Shiite gathering.

The wedding, at which more than 1,200 people had been invited, was in fact a mixed crowd of Shiites and Sunnis, said the event hall’s owner, Hussain Ali.

Ali’s workers were still finding body parts, including hands, in the shattered wedding hall, its floor strewn with broken glass, pieces of furniture and victims’ shoes.

“We have informed the police to come and collect them,” he said.

The bomber detonated his explosives near the stage where musicians were playing and “all the youths, children and all the people who were there were killed,” said Gul Mohammad, another witness.

Survivors described a panicked scene in the suddenly darkened hall as people screamed and scrambled to find loved ones.

“I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn’t find anyone,” said Ahmad Omid, who said the groom was his father’s cousin. “Everyone was lying all around the hall.”

The blast at the wedding hall, known as Dubai City, shattered a period of relative calm in Kabul.

On Aug. 7, a Taliban car bomber aimed at Afghan security forces detonated his explosives on the same road, a short drive from the hall, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians.

Kabul’s huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centers of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of dollars often spent on a single evening.

Messages of shock poured in on Sunday. “Such acts are beyond condemnation,” the European Union mission to Afghanistan said. “An act of extreme depravity,” U.S. Ambassador John Bass said. A deliberate attack on civilians “can only be described as a cowardly act of terror,” U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said.

The explosion came just ahead of Afghanistan’s 100th Independence Day on Monday. The city, long familiar with checkpoints and razor wire, has been under heavier security. A planned event in Kabul marking the anniversary was postponed because of the attack, the president’s office said.

The attack also comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the U.S. and the Taliban appear to be within days of a deal on ending the war after several rounds of talks this year. Afghanistan’s government has been sidelined in those talks as the Taliban refuse to negotiate with what it calls a U.S. puppet.

The U.S. envoy in the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Twitter Sunday that the peace process needs to be accelerated, including holding talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government and other Afghans. He said that will put Afghanistan in a “much stronger position” to defeat the IS affiliate. President Donald Trump was briefed on the talks on Friday but few details have emerged.

Top issues in the talks have included a U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees they would not allow Afghanistan to become a launching pad for global terror attacks. In that, the Islamic State affiliate’s increasingly threatening presence is the top U.S. concern. Other issues include a cease-fire and intra-Afghan negotiations on the country’s future.

Many Afghans fear that terror attacks inside the country will continue, and their pleas for peace — and for details on the talks — have increased in recent days. Few appear to believe that the Taliban will step in to protect civilians from IS or anyone else after years of killing civilians themselves.

“Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists,” President Ashraf Ghani said on Twitter, declaring a day of mourning and calling the attack “inhumane.”

Frustration at the authorities was evident as well, amid a fresh wave of grief.

“We want the government to stop arguing about power and act like a human being to bring peace to this country,” one worker at the wedding hall, Hajji Reza, said. Several of his colleagues remained missing.

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