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Archive for the ‘ABDUCTIONS’ Category

Foley was a ‘martyr for freedom’

The family of American journalist James Foley who was beheaded by Islamic militants says they are haunted by his manner of death.

foleys beheaded body on ground image

The purpose of the horrific video of the beheading of US photojournalist James Foley seems straightforward – to terrify the US into halting its aerial bombardment of the militant group.

But what appears to be a barbaric and blood-soaked ransom note to force a US withdrawal has an entirely different objective, say former national security operatives and terrorism experts.

That is, to generate enough public outrage so the US and its allies expand their military campaign in Iraq and Syria to include ground forces.

James Foley reported in the Middle East for five years image

James Foley: His brutal murder serves as a barbaric and blood-soaked ransom note. Photo: AP

Released by terrorist group Islamic State on Wednesday, it begins with footage of US President Barack Obama announcing air strikes on Iraq before Foley, on his knees in the desert and reciting scripted remarks, blames the US government for his impending death.

A hooded man with a British accent castigates Obama and the Muslim deaths wrought by the air strikes then murders Foley.

The video ends with another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, hauled before the camera with the final words – “the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision”.

“What’s happening is they are trying to get Western intervention in Iraq and Syria,” says Clarke Jones, a former national security operative specialising in counterterrorism now with the Australian National University.

“That would enable them to develop a new and powerful narrative of Western oppression of Muslims that would help them attract a new wave of recruits.”

Renowned Norwegian terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer agrees, questioning whether the attack on the Yazidis, raids into Kurdistan and the beheading of Foley could all be a “deliberate provocation strategy”.

“ISIS seems to be doing everything it can (short of attacks on the West) to draw the US into conflict,” he tweeted.

An angry West suits Islamic State, says Monash University terrorism expert Greg Barton. Hostility to Muslims feeds into their narrative of belittled Muslims persecuted by non-believers. It helps recruiting among their target audience and, at the same time, puts pressure on Western governments to act.

“One of the calculations they have to make is whether the public in the West is ready to back [a bigger military operation in Iraq and Syria],” he said. “An angry public is more likely to call upon their governments to do something drastic.”

The dramatic last moments when the beheading of Sotloff is threatened are chilling considering some 20 journalists have – like Foley and Sotloff – been kidnapped in Syria, many by Islamic State.

A procession of videoed executions could put immense pressure on the West to act with a larger military campaign.

Islamic State are skilled propagandists and a social media powerhouse, using the medium to distribute its message widely and cheaply, while bringing a new dimension to jihad – the intimate experiences and the personalities of the fighters on the ground.

The video is a multi-camera, high-definition production that employs careful editing and scripting.

For more than a decade, grisly videos has been steadily released by militants. They became so ubiquitous that most media ignored them.

But Islamic State and its cadres have taken the genre to a new level of horror.

The images of the children of Australian Khaled Sharrouf holding decapitated heads and the video of an Iraqi police chief being beheaded – which was tweeted during the World Cup with the comment “This is our ball … it is made of skin” – are just two macabre examples among many.

Whether Islamic State’s strategy is a smart is highly debatable. The brutality of its predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq led to communities and tribal leaders that had previously supported the terrorist organisation siding with the US and Iraqi government.

Given the core Islamic State fighters are foreigners, many of them behaving abominably, it is hard to see how the militants – for all their recent military successes – can sustain support among the people they have subjugated.


It was, in the words of one charity boss, “just an ordinary house in an ordinary street”.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland

Yet behind its doors, unbeknown to neighbours going about their daily lives, the elderly home owners were keeping three women as slaves in conditions that belonged to the pre-Victorian age.

For no fewer than 30 years the women had lived in such terror of the 67-year-old couple arrested on Thursday that they did not dare run away, call the police or confide in another living soul.

Physically and mentally abused, they had come to believe that they had no choice but to remain under the control of their captors.

“It was a life of domestic servitude,” explained Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom charity, which eventually secured the women’s release from the house in Lambeth, south London.

“They were there and they weren’t able to leave. They felt they were in massive danger. They were restricted in everything they could do.”

Helped to rescue three women: Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity.
Helped to rescue three women: Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity. Photo: AP

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, of the Metropolitan Police’s human trafficking unit, said: “Their lives were greatly controlled. For much of it, they would have been kept on the premises.”

The oldest of the women was a 69-year-old Malaysian national; her fellow slaves were a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton, thought to have been born in the house and kept in servitude for her entire life.

When they first fell under the control of their captors, who are described as “non-British”, Margaret Thatcher was beginning her second term as UK prime minister, Sally Ride was making history as the first woman in space and Return of the Jedi was filling cinemas.

Almost as shocking as what was to happen to the women over the next three decades was the fact that they felt unable, in 20th and 21st-century Britain, to cry out for help.

Mr Hyland said that they were allowed “some controlled freedom” but the mechanics of how they went outside and how far they were allowed to go remained unclear.

The youngest victim is thought to have been denied the opportunity of going to school. Whether neighbours even knew she existed is another as yet unanswered question.

“I don’t believe the neighbours knew anything about it at all,” said Ms Prem. “It was just an ordinary house in an ordinary street.”

The turning point for the women came on October 4, when they watched a BBC news report featuring Ms Prem calling on Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to track children who did not return to school following the summer holidays.

Although the report was about child kidnappings, it featured the work of the Freedom Charity, and the women decided that they had at last found an organisation that they could trust.

On October 18, taking what they no doubt believed to be a huge risk, the 57-year-old Irish captive managed to evade the attention of her masters long enough to telephone the charity.

“The professionals shone through and made sure that call was taken seriously,” said Ms Prem. It was the first of a series of phone calls over the following week in which she talked to Vineeta Thornhill, the charity’s chief executive.

“We started in-depth talks to them when they could, it had to be pre-arranged. They gave us set times when they were able to speak to us.”

At first, the women were so frightened that they could not bring themselves to tell the charity the address of the house where they were being kept.

But over the course of several calls, the charity’s staff were able to build up a bond of trust with the women, until a clear picture of their terrible circumstances emerged along with the location where they were being held.

As a result, on October 25, the women were able to pluck up the courage to do something they had been unable to do in their 30 years of captivity: walk out of the door of their prison against their masters’ wishes.

The two younger women met charity workers and the police at a pre-arranged location and officers went to the address and rescued the 69-year-old.

“It was planned that they would be able to walk out of the property,” said Ms Prem. “The police were on standby. They were able to leave the property, but it was done in such a way … it was a very, very excellent way it happened.”

She said that the women had been held in a “controlled freedom”.

“I think basically that a controlled freedom would mean that there are part freedoms, but a lot of it can be psychological and a lot of it can be physical as well,” Ms Prem said. The women would previously have been allowed out of the house occasionally, but always escorted by their captors, she added.

It would take another four weeks before police could move in and arrest the alleged captors, such was the difficulty in coaxing hard facts out of the women that could be used as evidence.

“They were deeply traumatised, so information coming out from them was coming out slowly, that is one of the reasons for the gap before the arrests,” said a police source.

Mr Hyland said: “We had to work very carefully with these people who were highly traumatised and it was very difficult to establish the facts.

“We needed professional assistance from outside agencies. The last thing we wanted to do was increase that trauma.

“Until we had facts to justify where we are now, we delayed that arrest.”

He added: “Our unit deals with many cases every year but has never unearthed such a staggering example of people held against their will for their whole lifetime.”

The women – who police say were not sexually abused – are now in the care of a charity, which is helping them to adjust to freedom, a process which is likely to take months.

Ms Prem said: “They are going to be afforded all the help and support that can be given. I’m so grateful they saw the news. Now they will try to rebuild their lives. It was a very, very difficult life they led and all we can hope now is that they can move forward from this.”

The Telegraph, London




abused child pic

Chinese police have rescued 92 children and two women kidnapped by a gang for sale and arrested 301 suspects, state media said on Saturday.

Police simultaneously swooped on locations in 11 provinces on 11 September after a six-month investigation, China Central Television and state news agency Xinhua said, quoting the ministry of public security.

State media did not give a breakdown of how many boys and how many girls were kidnapped or give a reason for the delay in reporting the operation.

A traditional preference for boys, especially in rural areas, and a strict one-child policy have contributed to a rise in the trafficking of children and women in recent years.

Kidnapped women are sold to men in remote areas who are unable to find brides due to a sex imbalance resulting from the one-child policy, which has also encouraged sex-selective abortions.

The government would impose harsher punishment on people who buy kidnapped children, state television said.

Xinhua said the government would also punish parents who sell their children.

China has tried to stop the kidnapping and sale of children and women recently. In 2011, police said they had rescued more than 13,000 abducted children and 23,000 women over the past two years or so.



To the casual observer, it was an ordinary suburban house, the exterior a little weathered and run down, the yard bordering on neglect.


But as police and forensic investigators discovered to their – and the world’s – horror, it was a house that hid dark secrets; a house filled with the vile manifestations of a depraved man who held captive three women for more than a decade. Women he had abducted as young girls. Stolen from their families and thrown into a dungeon. Chained up, beaten, raped and abused over and over. For 11 years

When US prosecutors wheeled a dollhouse replica of Ariel Castro’s home into a Cleveland courtroom, it did little to convey the true horror experienced by his three victims – Michele Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.

Police photographs showed two rooms in which Ms Berry and her child – fathered by Castro – were sometimes kept, with Disney film posters tacked to the pink walls, stuffed animals lined up on the bed.

In horrifying contrast, rusted iron chains were found on the floor and the windows boarded with heavy wooden planks.

The women were rarely given access to the bathroom, instead having to relieve themselves in plastic buckets that were “emptied infrequently”, according to prosecutors.

More than 45 kilograms of chain was found in total throughout in the filthy, darkened house.

Prosecutors told the court how Castro kept a “significant amount of cash” in a basement washing machine, which he would then throw at the victims after raping them.

Ariel Castro breaks down while talking about the child that he fathered with Amada Berry as he addresses the court while seated between attorneys. Photo: Reuters

The women could then use the money to beg him for food and small personal items.

The three women were often chained up for days at a time and were fed just once a day.

Based on diary entries, police told of how the women were chained to poles in the basement, or to a bedroom heater, or kept in a van for days on end.

Chains found in a bedroom are shown during the sentencing phase for Ariel Castro in Cleveland. Castro. Photo: AP

One woman, after she tried to escape, had a vacuum-cleaner cord wrapped around her neck, according to a prosecution memo.

Castro also kept a motorcycle helmet in the basement, which he would force the women to wear, to muffle their screams as he repeatedly raped them.

Relatives and neighbours of the unemployed school bus driver told US media that large sections of the house were padlocked and completely out of bounds to visitors.


Ariel Castro breaks down while talking about the child that he fathered with Amada Berry as he addresses the court while seated between attorneys. Photo: ReutersCastro would sometimes take more than 45 minutes to come to the door, and play loud music if visitors arrived unannounced. Virtually all the doors in the house were shown to have no handles and no access from inside, and the front door was heavily alarmed.

Police also found a scrawled letter written by Castro on April 2, 2004 – two days after he abducted Miss DeJesus – in which he admitted: “I am a sexual predator.”

Inside Ariel Castro’s house of horrors

An image is shown on a courtroom monitor of a letter that Ariel Castro wrote explaining many of his crimes and stating that “I am a sexual predator”, during Castro’s sentencing on kidnapping, rape and murder in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Ariel Castro’s home: it looked like a normal house from the outside. Photo: Getty Images


.Ms Knight – who faced her torturer in court – became pregnant four times during her 11 years of captivity


Castro would sometimes take more than 45 minutes to come to the door, and play loud music if visitors arrived unannounced. Virtually all the doors in the house were shown to have no handles and no access from inside, and the front door was heavily alarmed.

Police also found a scrawled letter written by Castro on April 2, 2004 – two days after he abducted Miss DeJesus – in which he admitted: “I am a sexual predator.”

Ms Knight – who faced her torturer in court – became pregnant four times during her 11 years of captivity.

Ariel Castro made his victims wear this helmet while he raped them. Photo: Reuters

Tragically, Castro terminated her pregnancies by starving her for days, feeding her rotten food and then kicking and jumping on her stomach.

Ms Berry was “allowed” to carry a pregnancy to term, giving birth in a plastic child’s pool on Christmas Day, 2006.

On Thursday, Judge Michael Russo sentenced Castro to life in prison plus 1000 years, with no possibility of parole, for 977 criminal counts relating to multiple abductions, rapes and assaults.

“Sir, there’s no place in this city, there is no place in this country and indeed there is no place in this world for those who enslave others, those who sexually assault others and those who brutalise others,” he said.

Ohio authorities have said the house is to be demolished.

– with AP




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