Daily Archives: September 14, 2014

Upeksha Swarnamali’s vehicle involved in a collision


An individual has been injured after parliamentarian Upeksha Swarnamali’s jeep collided with his three-wheeler.

The accident occurred on Sunday evening near the Bokalagama junction along the Veyangoda – Mirigama Road.Police said that the injured victim has been admitted to the Wathupitawela Hospital.


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UK’s Cameron calls emergency meeting after killing


Prime Minister David Cameron is summoning military and security chiefs for an emergency meeting Sunday in response to the beheading of a British hostage and a threat against another.

The meeting comes after Islamic extremists released a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines and threatening another with death.

Mike Haines, the victim’s brother, said David Haines had been murdered “in cold blood.” Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it saw no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video.

Haines is the third Westerner beheaded in recent weeks by the Islamic State group, which has seized vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. The first two were U.S. journalists.

Islamic State extremists had threatened Haines’ life in an earlier video released nearly two weeks ago.

The 44-year-old aid worker’s family had issued a plea to his captors the day before the latest beheading video was released. They urged the hostage-takers to contact them. The family said IS had ignored earlier attempts to open communications.

British officials had said they were doing everything possible to protect Haines. An earlier rescue bid led by U.S. forces had failed, however, and it is not clear Western agencies know the precise location of the hostage-takers.

Haines was kidnapped in Syria in March last year when he was working for the charity ACTED to help victims of the fighting there.

After his execution, Haines’ family released a statement praising his passion for charitable work.

Mike Haines said his brother was “most alive and enthusiastic” when involved with humanitarian missions.

“His joy and anticipation for the work he went to do in Syria is for myself and family the most important element of this whole sad affair,” Mike Haines said of his late brother. “He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly.”

President Barack Obama said after the killing that the United States would stand with Britain in an expanded effort against the terror group.

“We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world,” he said.

France, which is holding an international conference Monday to combat IS, also condemned Haines’ killing.

“The odious assassination of David Haines shows once more the need for the international community to mobilize against the base and cowardly Daesh,” French President Francois Hollande said, using the group’s Arabic acronym.

Some British lawmakers called for Britain to launch air strikes against Islamic State forces after the killing.


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IS video shows beheading of British hostage, UK vows action

The Islamic State claimed the beheading of a British aid worker on Saturday, an act slammed as “pure evil” by Prime Minister David Cameron who vowed Britain would do all it could to catch the killers.

President Barack Obama offered US support for its “ally in grief”, while Cameron faced growing calls to allow Britain’s military to help in Washington’s planned assault against the rampaging jihadist group.

The British premier will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee early Sunday in response to the online video purportedly showing a masked IS militant killing hostage David Haines in retribution for the US and British campaign against the group.

Cameron called the attack “a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker” and “an act of pure evil.”

“We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes,” he said in a statement.

Two US journalists have been murdered in similar circumstances in recent weeks.

Obama slammed the latest attack as “barbaric” and said the US “stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve”.

Britain has yet to join US air strikes against IS in Iraq, but has offered to arm Kurdish Peshmerga fighters battling against militants in the north of the country, a move cited in the latest video as a reason for revenge.

Read: Act of pure evil, says Cameron as UK hostage beheaded

Murdered ‘in cold blood’ Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “working as quickly as it could” to verify the two-minute-27-second clip, entitled “A Message to the Allies of America”.

The video opens with a clip of Cameron describing the British strategy of working with the Iraqi government to help arm Kurdish fighters against “these brutal extremist militants,” and to offer aid, diplomacy, and military help to pressure IS.

Haines then appears, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and identifies himself before calmly explaining that he is paying the price for Cameron’s policy.

The attacker — who appears to be the same man as in the previous two beheading videos –tells Britain the alliance with the US will “accelerate your destruction” and will drag the British people into “another bloody and unwinnable war.”

At the end of the clip, he also threatens to execute another captive, identified in a caption by name as another British citizen.

Haines’s brother Mike paid tribute to a “good brother…who was recently murdered in cold blood.”

“He was, in the right mood, the life and soul of the party and on other times the most stubborn irritating pain in the ass,” he said in a statement.

“He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly.”

Scottish-born Haines, 44, was taken hostage in Syria in March 2013 and was threatened in a video released this month depicting the beheading by an IS militant of the US journalist Steven Sotloff.

IS released a video claiming the execution of fellow US journalist James Foley on August 19.

Former head of the British Army Richard Dannatt on Sunday piled pressure on Cameron to let the country’s military join a planned assault against IS, announced by Obama this week.

“What we absolutely need to do is not be cowed in any way by yet another foul murder of a hostage,” he told Sky News.

“We can support them (the US) to confront, attack and defeat the Islamic State jihadi fighters … and make sure this cancer is removed from the region before it spreads more widely.”

Read: US ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Britain after hostage murder

Kerry drums up local support Under pressure himself to tackle the problem, Obama on Wednesday set out a strategy which would include air strikes in Syria and expanded operations in Iraq.

But Cameron will be wary of playing into the hands of the captors by escalating tensions and is also recovering from last year’s humiliation of failing to achieve parliamentary support for air strikes against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

As part of efforts to build up local support for action, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday sought to bolster relations with Egypt during meetings with its leaders.

Egypt’s formidable army is unlikely to take part in a military coalition against IS, but the country boasts the prestigious Sunni Muslim authority Al-Azhar, which Kerry said would fight back against the Islamic State’s use of the religion.

Kerry takes his push to forge a broad coalition against Islamic State jihadists to France on Sunday , on the eve of an international conference in Paris on peace and security in Iraq.

The CIA put the number of IS fighters at 20,000 to 31,500 in Iraq and Syria, up to three times the previous estimate.

US aircraft have carried out more than 160 strikes in Iraq since early August, the US Central Command said Saturday.


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Islamic State’s Twitter silence raises questions

Islamic State’s Twitter users, which have trumpeted the group’s violent acts and worldview on the social media service, have gone abruptly quiet in past days.

Several accounts affiliated with the militant group appear to have gone dormant, according to US government sources, raising questions about whether the government has pressured Twitter to clamp down more aggressively or whether the group has moved to other social media channels.

When contacted, several US officials said on condition of anonymity they were unaware of attempts to quash those Twitter accounts. The sudden silence also came days after reports about Islamic State-linked accounts threatening action against Twitter employees, though there was no evidence to link the two episodes.

Twitter Inc declined to comment on actions the company has taken related to accounts affiliated with the group, which is also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

But it has suspended several accounts affiliated with the group in recent months, including one user who threatened retaliation against Twitter’s employees.

A US official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that as government officials identify people on social media whom they believe to be “terrorists” or “extremists,” they draw them to the attention of companies such as Twitter and Facebook Inc, which act at their own discretion.

“People (in government), but also people outside, are constantly referring these companies to identified terrorists,” the official said. “I wouldn’t say there is a systematic policy that the US government is going around asking (companies like) Twitter to shut these people down. They sprout very fast. They change their handles.”

A second government source familiar with the situation said there was a clear change of social media tactics by Islamic State in the days leading up to President Barack Obama’s Wednesday speech. Obama said then that he had authorized air strikes in Syria and Iraq, in a broad escalation of a campaign against the organization.

Some experts say the militants may have increasingly taken to other online services such as Russia’s VKontakte and Diaspora, a four-year-old social network that relies on a decentralized network of independent computer servers.

Such a tactic is sometimes employed when militants want to evade tracking, the source added.

Cat and mouse The evolving practices underscore the challenges facing government officials and Internet companies as militant organizations discover the power of social media for propaganda and recruiting.

Twitter’s laissez-faire approach to monitoring content, together with an aggressive posture in challenging censorship requests and demands for customer information, have made it the darling of civil liberties advocates and political protesters from New York’s Occupy Wall Street to students in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Twitter, which in general has fewer restrictions on content than its social media rivals, has thus become a vital communications tool for activists, political protesters and militant groups alike.

Of particular appeal to groups like the Islamic State: it can be used anonymously, unlike many other services, and it can be used by any cellphone with a text-messaging function.

Its rules prohibit tweets that include “direct, specific, threats of violence against others,” and the company will suspend accounts that use Twitter for illegal activities.

But accounts that purport to be affiliated with or to support militant groups on the US State Department’s list of designated foreign terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State, might not automatically violate its rules.

“Twitter doesn’t have a real name policy, which makes it difficult to determine a user’s identity. But FTO lists are one of several factors we consider when reviewing a reported account,” a Twitter spokesman said.

Twitter relies on reports from users and government officials. Facebook by contrast has a special team that keeps a lookout for postings by terrorists groups such as Islamic State, which are banned on Facebook.

For instance, Twitter removed videos of American journalist James Foley’s beheading by Islamic State that circulated on its service last month, but relied on a policy of removing images of deceased individuals in response to requests by family members.


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