Sunday, May 15, 2016

Turkey's Erdogan blasts Europe's silence on Bangladesh leader's execution

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday lashed out at Europe's silence over the execution of a veteran Islamist leader in Bangladesh, accusing the West of "double standards."
"If you are against political executions, why did you remain silent to the execution of Motiur Rahman Nizami who was martyred a couple of days ago," Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul.
"Have you heard anything from Europe? ... No. Isn't it called double standards?" Erdogan said.
Nizami, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was hanged at a Dhaka jail late Tuesday for the massacre of intellectuals during the 1971 independence war with Pakistan.
The 73-year-old former government minister was the fifth and the most senior opposition figure executed since the secular government in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation set up a controversial war crimes tribunal in 2010.
The 1971 conflict, one of the bloodiest in world history, led to the creation of an independent Bangladesh from what was then East Pakistan.
Prosecutors said Nizami was responsible for setting up the pro-Pakistani Al-Badr militia, which killed top writers, doctors and journalists in the most gruesome chapter of the war.
The trial heard Nizami ordered the killings, designed to "intellectually cripple" the fledgling nation.
In protest, Turkey on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Bangladesh for consultations.
Since coming to power in 2002, Turkey's ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has sought to boost the country's power in the Muslim world.
Last year, Erdogan condemned a death sentence handed to Egypt's deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was a close ally of Ankara until he was overthrown by the military in 2013.
At the time he condemned the West for turning a blind eye to the "coup" by army chief army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who is now president.


Stunt Pilot Killed When Biplane Bursts Into Flames in Tragic Air Show Crash

Attendees at a Georgia airshow watched in horror Saturday afternoon as a stunt pilot crashed and his biplane burst into flames.

South Carolina native Greg Connell was engaged in a stunt maneuver when he was unable to pull out of a dive and his plane crashed, according to reports.

The tragedy occurred in front of spectators at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport during their annual Good Neighbor Day Airshow.

Read: Woman Shocked When Horrifying Helicopter Ride Turns Into Romantic Marriage Proposal

As a Dekalb County fire crew put out a wall of flames at the site of the crash, an announcer told attendees the show was over.

According to his website, Greg Connell Airshows, Connell began his flight training in 1989.

His site also names "his good friend, Gary Ward (as) his aerobatic instructor."

Ward was performing alongside Connell at Saturday's show. He told WSB-TV he didn't see the crash at the time, however.

"Greg flew underneath me and I had no idea Greg crashed like a second later. So I pulled off and the plan we had," Ward said, "I came back in the show for the next maneuver. We did individual maneuvers at that point, and I went ahead and did my next maneuver, not knowing that Greg had crashed."

Read: 5 People Killed in Fiery Crash of Tourist Helicopter in the Smoky Mountains

Airport officials said this is the first crash they've had at in 30 years of airshows.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board have been called to investigate the cause of the crash.

The flags at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport were lowered to half mast in honor of Connell and the county's interim CEO, Lee May, released the following statement:

"A tragedy occurred as Prof. Pilots entertained & educated thousands today. Our thoughts & prayers are with the family & friends of the pilot."


Netanyahu tells France's Ayrault he still opposes peace conference

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told France's foreign minister on Sunday that Israel remained opposed to a French initiative for an international conference to try to revive peace talks.
Palestinians welcomed the proposal but Israel is concerned that the conference that France seeks to hold in the autumn would try to dictate terms for a peace deal.
In public remarks to his cabinet after meeting France's Jean-Marc Ayrault, Netanyahu said: "I told him the only way to advance genuine peace between us and the Palestinians is through direct negotiations between us and them, without preconditions."
Israel made the same argument in the formal response it gave last month. France hopes an international conference would set out a framework for peace negotiations, after U.S. efforts to broker a two-state deal collapsed in April 2014.
"I know that Netanyahu does not agree (to the French proposal)," Ayrault told reporters after his talks with the Israeli leader in Jerusalem and a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.
Ayrault said France would continue to pursue the initiative and that its ultimate goal was for both sides to return to direct talks, with international intervention laying the groundwork.
"It is very clear to us, and I said this today to both the prime minister and to President Abbas, that we cannot take the place of the two parties," he said at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport at the end of a one-day visit to promote the plan.
"Only they can conduct direct negotiations to achieve a solution," Ayrault said. "But because things are currently stuck ... external intervention is necessary to provide renewed momentum."
An international gathering of ministers, tentatively planned for May 30 in Paris, is set to include the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations), the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council and about 20 countries, without Israeli or Palestinian participation.
Diplomats say that meeting will package all economic incentives and other guarantees that various countries have offered in previous years to create an agenda for an autumn peace conference.
While objecting to the French initiative, Netanyahu, a right-winger, has stopped short of saying Israel would boycott it.
Keeping his options open could help Netanyahu in preliminary contacts with the main opposition Zionist Union party - a centre-left group likely to favour participating - on expanding his ruling coalition that has a mere one-seat parliamentary majority.


Somewhere over the rainbow

A landscape view of a rainbow appearing on Iceland’s Laugavegur trek. (Michael Fersch/Caters News Agency)
A rainbow appears in front of a waterfall in Iceland. (Michael Fersch/Caters News Agency)A landscape view of a rainbow appearing on Iceland’s Laugavegur trek. (Michael Fersch/Caters News Agency)A landscape view of a rainbow appearing on Iceland’s Laugavegur trek. (Michael Fersch/Caters News Agency)A landscape view of a rainbow appearing near a waterfall. (Michael Fersch/Caters News Agency)A landscape view of a rainbow appearing near a waterfall. (Michael Fersch/Caters News Agency)A rainbow appears in front of a waterfall in Iceland. (Michael Fersch/Caters News Agency)These stunning pictures of beautiful rainbows will take your breath away. The amazing images show crystal-clear rainbows forming from cloudy skies over spectacular mountain landscapes and mystical waterfalls.
Photographer and computer scientist Michael Fersch took the incredible series of snaps during trips around Iceland’s Laugavegur trek. (Caters News Agency)
Photography by Michael Fersch


Alleged Islamist militant held for Bangladesh gay activist murders

 Bangladesh police have arrested a suspected Islamist militant over the hacking to death of two gay rights activists, part of a spate of murders of intellectuals, writers and religious minorities, officers said Sunday.
Xulhaz Mannan, an editor of a magazine for Bangladesh's gay and lesbian community, and fellow activist Mahbub Tonoy were murdered in a Dhaka apartment last month by about six men carrying machetes and guns.
Police on Saturday arrested 37-year-old Shariful Islam Shihab, described as a member of a local Islamist militant outfit that has been blamed for a string of similar gruesome murders of secular and atheist bloggers.
"We've arrested one man in connection with the murder of Xulhaz Mannan," Dhaka police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder told AFP.
"He is a member of the Ansarullah Bangla Team," he said, adding that the two activists were murdered on the orders of the ABT leadership.
Washington has condemned the killings of 25-year Tonoy and Mannan, 35, who worked for US government aid organisation USAID, as pressure mounts on Bangladesh to curb the attacks and bring those responsible to justice.
Both men had received threats from Islamists over their championing of gay rights.
At a press briefing in the capital on Sunday, police said Shihab -- who has denied carrying out the killings -- owned one of two guns used in the murders and has also supplied arms and bombs for previous ABT operations.
Police seized Shihab in the western town of Kushtia, where he allegedly heads an ABT unit, after raids on several properties, in what Dhaka counter-terrorism chief Monirul Islam said was a "breakthrough" in the case.
"They killed the gay rights activists because they were creating confusion about Islam," Islam said, adding the investigation was ongoing.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has claimed responsibility for killing the pair, saying the two men had worked to "promote homosexuality" in Bangladesh.
But Bangladesh police chiefs have said their murders have the hallmarks of local Islamists, while the secular government has blamed the opposition.
Several members of homegrown Ansarullah Bangla Team were convicted last year over the 2013 murder of atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.
- Monk murder -
The arrest comes after an elderly Buddhist monk was found hacked to death on Saturday in a temple in the southeastern district of Bandarban -- the seventh such killing since the start of last month.
Two Muslim Rohingya refugees, who fled persecution in Myanmar, and a member of the Chak ethnic community to which the monk belonged are being held for questioning over his murder, local police inspector Anisur Rahman told AFP.
Suspected Islamists have been blamed or claimed responsibility for the scores of murders carried out since last year, as fear grips the Muslim-majority nation over the rising violence.
Last year four secular bloggers and a publisher were hacked to death, while Christians, Hindus and Sufi, Ahmadi and Shiite Muslims have also been killed since.
No one has yet been convicted over those deaths, despite a number of arrests.
The Islamic State group has claimed a number of the killings, but authorities insist there is no evidence of the group's presence in Bangladesh.
A long-running political crisis in Bangladesh has radicalised opponents of the government and analysts say Islamist extremists pose a growing danger.