EDITORIAL: Islamic State’s crime must not go unpunished

Asahi Shimbun

February 02, 2015

An incredibly monstrous act by the Islamic State militant group has dashed many people’s hopes for the release of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

It posted a video online on Feb. 1 purporting to show the slaying of Goto, a freelance journalist it was holding hostage. It was another heartless announcement of murder, coming one week after the apparent killing of another Japanese hostage–Haruna Yukawa.

The hostage crisis that came into the public eye on Jan. 20 did so as a threat to Japan during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tour of the Middle East.People walk past television screens displaying a news program about Japanese journalist Kenji Goto on a street in Tokyo

The Islamic State expressed revile for the Japanese government, which had announced humanitarian assistance for those who had been displaced to flee the rule of the group, and threatened to kill the hostages if its demands for ransom or a prisoner exchange were not met. The group’s statements and actions were extremely self-righteous and lacked all sense.

We strongly denounce the merciless, cruel killers and their organization.

BRING PERPETRATORS TO JUSTICE

The fact that this crisis ended in the worst possible way underscores many challenges confronting the international community and Japan.

The Islamic State is notorious for its cold-blooded crimes of capturing foreigners and killing them after issuing warnings. The group usually posts online videos showing its brutal acts.

The group’s deeds are the ultimate violation of human rights and international crimes. It is hard to imagine holding a dialogue or negotiating with an organization that continues to perpetrate such inhuman acts.

However, it is clear that military operations, including U.S.-led air strikes against the group’s strongholds, alone cannot resolve problems caused by the militants.

The question that needs to be asked is why such an organization, whose behavior and thinking are beyond understanding, came into being in the first place.

We cannot help but point out that the war against Iraq led by the United States and Britain despite opposition from other major countries created conflicts among religious sects in the Middle East, compounding the security situation in the region.

The international community has been adhering to the principle of nation-specific efforts to resolve problems, with the United Nations serving as the principal forum for discussions on such initiatives.

However, despite its name, the Islamic State does not fit the widely accepted definition of a modern state. The group seeks to expand areas it rules through the use of violence and flagrant disregard for national borders. The latest hostage incident involving the group underscores afresh the formidable challenge of how to respond to this entity.Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who was held captive by Islamic State militants, speaks to reporters at her house in Tokyo

A report drawn up last year by a U.N. fact-finding committee painted a gruesome picture of the list of atrocities committed by the Islamic State in its rule of terror, including violent thought control and organized sexual violence against women. The report called for the prosecution of the group’s commanders and other members involved in these acts for war crimes and crimes against humanity with the International Criminal Court.

This is no easy task. Still, we believe steps should be taken to increase international pressure to prosecute and punish the Islamic State militants responsible for the atrocities, including the killings of the two Japanese hostages and the earlier beheadings of U.S. and British hostages.

JAPAN’S RESPONSE NEEDS REVIEW

According to remarks made by Abe and other administration officials at the Diet and other venues, a liaison office was set up last August under the prime minister’s office after Yukawa was captured.

In November, the government became aware that Goto had gone missing after entering Syria. The incident was put on a list of cases that required government response.Japan's PM Abe speaks next to Defence Minister Nakatani and Foreign Minister Kishida during an upper house committee session at the parliament in Tokyo

We must face up to the fact that the two hostages were not saved despite all of these actions by the government.

In the first threatening video of the hostage crisis that was posted online, the terrorists set a short 72-hour deadline to meet their ransom demand. However, a considerable amount of time had already passed since the government realized the two had been captured.

In similar hostage cases involving French and Spanish journalists who were eventually released, it is believed that negotiations for their freedom were in progress before reaching the stage at which the hostage takers needed to publicize their threats to kill them.

Discussing Japan’s handling of the case during a Feb. 1 news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government had not made contact with the Islamic State.

Why is this? What was the role of the national security bureau, a new entity established last year, in the government’s response to the crisis?

To prevent similar tragedies, the government should fulfill its responsibility to disclose as much information as possible with regard to these questions, and examine and thoroughly assess how it handled the crisis.IMG_8028

OPEN UP TO DISPLACED REFUGEES

Since the end of the Cold War, the Middle East has become continuously riddled with wars and conflicts.

Unlike many Western nations, Japan has focused on non-military and humanitarian measures, such as aid to refugees, in its restrained involvement in international efforts to deal with situations in the region.

In its video claiming Goto had been killed, the Islamic State issued a threatening message lambasting Abe and identifying Japan as its enemy.

Yet Japan has not taken part in the military campaign against the Islamic State. Its longstanding focus on humanitarian assistance in its efforts to provide support in the Middle East has been widely accepted in the region.

Despite the irrational threat from the Islamic State, Japan should stick to its principle of providing aid to people in the region who have lost their homes and are facing hardship.

As a journalist with a great deal of experience covering the conflict zone, Goto focused his attention not on the outcome of battles but on the lives, joys and sorrows of local people.

The announced killings of the two Japanese hostages are utterly outrageous acts. Such gross outrages are a daily occurrence in the region.

However, these atrocities are not taking place in a far-off place with no serious implications for Japan. It has become a challenge that Japan needs to confront and tackle.

People fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq are flooding into neighboring countries. The situation is increasing the burden on countries in Europe and elsewhere that accept refugees.

It is clearly time for Japan to open its doors to refugees.

The vast majority of Muslims are moderate, peace-loving people. We must get to know each other more. We then need to offer help to those who need it.

Japan should overcome this hostage tragedy and act in accordance with this principle.

Woman holding a placard reading "Free Kenji" during a vigil in front of the PM Abe's official residence in Tokyo

Military Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria and Iraq

February 1, 2015

SOUTHWEST ASIA – On Jan. 31, U.S. and Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, using attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct eight airstrikes. Separately, U.S. and Coalition military forces conducted 26 airstrikes in Iraq, using bomber, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists. All strikes took place between 8 a.m., Jan. 31, and 8 a.m., Feb. 1, local time.US Iraq

The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:

Syria
* Near Kobani, seven airstrikes struck an ISIL staging area and four ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL fighting positions.
* Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

Iraq
* Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
* Near Al Qaim, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL staging area.
* Near Hit, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
* Near Kirkuk, 19 airstrikes struck four large ISIL units and 11 ISIL tactical units and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL staging position, eight ISIL vehicles, two ISIL armored vehicles, an ISIL building, and an ISIL tank.
* Near Mahkmur, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
* Near Sinjar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL buildings, an ISIL heavy weapon, an ISIL shipping container, and an ISIL modular structure.
* Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group’s ability to project terror and conduct operations. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Iraq, Syria

From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 1, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.APTOPIX Mideast US Iraq

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

— Near Kobani, seven airstrikes struck an ISIL staging area and four ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL fighting positions.

— Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

Airstrikes in Iraq

— Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

— Near Al Qaim, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL staging area.

— Near Hit, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

— Near Kirkuk, 19 airstrikes struck four large ISIL units and 11 ISIL tactical units and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL staging position, eight ISIL vehicles, two ISIL armored vehicles, an ISIL building and an ISIL tank.

— Near Mahkmur, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

— Near Sinjar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL buildings, an ISIL heavy weapon, an ISIL shipping container and an ISIL modular structure.

— Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group’s ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

UN Casualty Figures for January 2015

Baghdad, 1 February 2015 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 1,375 Iraqis were killed and another 2,240 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in January*.A woman walks past the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's Sadr City

The number of civilians killed was 790 (Including 59 civilian police), and the number of civilians injured was 1,469 (including 69 civilian police).

A further 585 members of the Iraqi Army were killed and 771 were injured.

Civilian Casualties (killed and injured) per governorate

Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,014 civilian casualties (256 killed, 758 injured). According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, up to 31 January inclusive, the Governorate suffered a total of 779 civilian casualties (195 killed and 584 injured). This includes 49 killed and 375 injured in Ramadi and 146 killed and 209 injured in Fallujah. Diyala suffered a total of 114 killed and 49 injured; Salahuddin 100 killed and 52 injured; Ninewa 85 killed and 12 injured; and Kirkuk 14 killed and 6 injured.

*CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas.  Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted below. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents.  UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care.  For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.MIDEAST-CRISIS/IRAQ-CASUALTIES/ C

Iraqi libraries ransacked by Islamic State group in Mosul

January 31, 2015

SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press
SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — When Islamic State group militants invaded the Central Library of Mosul earlier this month, they were on a mission to destroy a familiar enemy: other people’s ideas.

Residents say the extremists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded around 2,000 books — including children’s stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science — into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic texts.

The rest?A fighter from the Islamic State, formerly known as the ISIL, mans an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the rear of a vehicle in Mosul

“These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah. So they will be burned,” a bearded militant in traditional Afghani two-piece clothing told residents, according to one man living nearby who spoke to The Associated Press. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation, said the Islamic State group official made his impromptu address as others stuffed books into empty flour bags.

Since the Islamic State group seized a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria, they have sought to purge society of everything that doesn’t conform to their violent interpretation of Islam. They already have destroyed many archaeological relics, deeming them pagan, and even Islamic sites considered idolatrous. Increasingly books are in the firing line.

Mosul, the biggest city in the Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate, boasts a relatively educated, diverse population that seeks to preserve its heritage sites and libraries. In the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, residents near the Central Library hid some of its centuries-old manuscripts in their own homes to prevent their theft or destruction by looters.

Mosul University under Islamic State control; all women must wears full Islamic scarf

Mosul University under Islamic State control; all women must wears full Islamic scarf

But this time, the Islamic State group has made the penalty for such actions death. Presumed destroyed are the Central Library’s collection of Iraqi newspapers dating to the early 20th century, maps and books from the Ottoman Empire and book collections contributed by around 100 of Mosul’s establishment families.

Days after the Central Library’s ransacking, militants broke into University of Mosul’s library. They made a bonfire out of hundreds of books on science and culture, destroying them in front of students.

A University of Mosul history professor, who spoke on condition he not be named because of his fear of the Islamic State group, said the extremists started wrecking the collections of other public libraries last month. He reported particularly heavy damage to the archives of a Sunni Muslim library, the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library with works dating back to 5000 BC.

Citing reports by the locals who live near these libraries, the professor added that the militants used to come during the night and carry the materials in refrigerated trucks with Syria-registered license plates. The fate of these old materials is still unknown, though the professor suggested some could be sold on the black market. In September, Iraqi and Syrian officials told the AP that the militants profited from the sale of ancient artifacts.

The professor said Islamic State group militants appeared determined to “change the face of this city … by erasing its iconic buildings and histor

In this Friday, Jan. 23, 2015 photo, Iraqis look at books on al-Mutanabi Street, home to the city’s book market in central Baghdad.

y.”

Since routing government forces and seizing Mosul last summer, the Islamic State group has destroyed dozens of historic sites, including the centuries-old Islamic mosque shrines of the prophets Seth, Jirjis and Jonah.

An Iraqi lawmaker, Hakim al-Zamili, said the Islamic State group “considers culture, civilization and science as their fierce enemies.”

Al-Zamili, who leads the parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, compared the Islamic State group to raiding medieval Mongols, who in 1258 ransacked Baghdad. Libraries’ ancient collections of works on history, medicine and astronomy were dumped into the Tigris River, purportedly turning the waters black from running ink.

“The only difference is that the Mongols threw the books in the Tigris River, while now Daesh is burning them,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “Different method, but same mentality.”

In this Friday, Jan. 23, 2015 photo, Iraqis look at books on al-Mutanabi Street, home to the city's book market in central Baghdad.

In this Friday, Jan. 23, 2015 photo, Iraqis look at books on al-Mutanabi Street, home to the city’s book market in central Baghdad.

PICTURE OF THE DAY / KOBANI

A mortar shell is pictured in a street of the northern Syrian town of Kobani January 28, 2015. Kurdish forces battled Islamic State fighters outside Kobani on Tuesday, a monitoring group said, a day after Kurds said they had taken full control of the northern Syrian town following a four-month battle. Known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, the mainly Kurdish town close to the Turkish border has become a focal point in the international fight against Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has spread across Syria and Iraq. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

A mortar shell is pictured in a street of the northern Syrian town of Kobani