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Syrian Government accused of committing slow-motion ‘Slaughter’ of People Trapped by War

Physicians for Human Rights said many others suffered avoidable deaths because military forces stripped medical supplies from aid convoys that did manage to enter besieged and hard-to-reach areas

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ADVANCE TO GO WITH STORY UNITED NATIONS-SYRIA-HUMANITARIAN AID BY EDITH M. LEDERER, FILE -- This Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 file photo, hundreds of Syrians mingle amid rubble before going out of town to buy food and other essential materials as they wait in line at a military checkpoint in the town of Beit Sahm, south of the capital, Damascus, Syria. A new report by Physicians for Human Rights accuses the Syrian government of "slow-motion slaughter" of unknown numbers of Syrians trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas by willfully denying them food and health care, which it calls a war crime. (AP Photo, File)
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The Syrian government committed “slow-motion slaughter” of unknown numbers of Syrians trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas by willfully denying them food and health care, according to a new report Tuesday from a civil rights group.

Physicians for Human Rights says in the report that the Syrian government consistently exploited a new U.N. aid delivery system, depriving millions of Syrians unable to leave their towns and cities of critically needed food and medicine. The group called that a war crime.

Officials in Damascus declined to comment.

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The New York-based advocacy group said a new two-step approval process for aid convoys that Syrian and U.N. officials agreed to in April 2016 “fell abysmally short” of its aim of ensuring access to all Syrians in need because the government in Damascus retained “unilateral authority” over who received assistance.

Besides the unknown numbers of Syrians that have starved to death, Physicians for Human Rights said many others suffered avoidable deaths because military forces stripped medical supplies from aid convoys that did manage to enter besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

“Still others bleed to death from war-related injuries – or die in childbirth, or from other preventable causes – because their besiegers refuse to allow the sick and injured to be evacuated to medical care,” the rights group said.

The report called on the United Nations to carry out deliveries to the most difficult areas without prior government approval, and to document and quickly report attempts to restrict or block convoys. And it called on the Syrian government not to block, restrict or delay aid convoys.

PHP cited data from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs saying that by early December 2016, 4.9 million Syrians lived in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, “including about 975,000 under active siege, most of them – about 850,000 – by Syrian government forces.”

In 2015, U.N. agencies completed 32 convoy deliveries to just 620,500 people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

Physicians for Human Rights analyzed the U.N. data from OCHA for 2016 and reported that the number of aid convoys to those areas increased significantly to 131 – but it said “the increased deliveries were vastly insufficient to meeting rapidly growing needs across the country.”

Only 24 percent of the people living in besieged and hard-to-reach areas received aid between May and December, after the two-step process took effect, it said.

One factor, the report said, was the Syrian government’s rejection from May through December of access to one-third of the people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas that the U.N. sought to help, which left, on average, nearly 340,000 people without aid every month, “many for months on end.”

While the government approved aid to two-thirds of the areas requested from May through December, Physicians for Human Rights said U.N. convoys only reach 38 percent of the approved population.

“On average, U.N. agencies were unable to deliver aid to more than 500,000 people for whom Syrian authorities had approved access each month during this time period,” the report said.

The data analysis showed that on average the U.N. actually reached a decreasing number of people each month in 2016.

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“Thus, the increased approval rates throughout 2016 were meaningless at best, as they failed to produce increased aid deliveries,” the report said. “At worst, this pattern reflects an effort by Syrian authorities to appear cooperative while still ensuring that access to besieged areas remained blocked.” (VOA)

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Akayed Ullah, the Bangladeshi suspect in New York bombing described as cocky and weird

Recently a bombing had occurred in the Time Square of New York city and a Bangladeshi has been suspected in the bombing who lived in New York for 7 years.

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Law enforcement officials in New York City work after a bomb blast near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017
Law enforcement officials work following an explosion near New York's Times Square on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in New York. Police said a man with a pipe bomb strapped to him set off the crude device in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
  • The bomb blast occurred on December 11, 2017 in New York
  • Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi has been suspected the cause for the bomb blast
  • The suspect has been described as cocky and weird

New York, December 12, 2017: Neighbors described a Bangladeshi man suspected of setting off a bomb Monday near New York’s Times Square as “cocky” and “weird,” but were surprised to hear he was involved in what local authorities called an “attempted terrorist attack.”

The suspect and three other people were injured in the explosion during the morning rush-hour in an underground subway passage about 200 feet from a busy bus terminal in Manhattan, officials said.

Authorities arrested Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Brooklyn resident, after he allegedly detonated an improvised explosive device that was strapped to his body, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

The explosion left Ullah “with burns and wounds to his body” and injured three others, officials said.

“He wasn’t very nice. He was kind of cocky,” Ullah’s longtime neighbor, Alan Butrico, told BenarNews. “He was often blocking my driveway.”

Butrico, owner of a locksmith and hardware in Brooklyn’s Flatlands neighborhood, said he was Ullah’s next-door neighbor for about seven years.

“I would ask him to move the car whenever he was blocking my driveway and he would react like he was giving me a favor,” Butrico said.

But Butrico, who lived in the neighborhood for 27 years, said he was surprised to hear that Ullah, whom he described as a former cab driver and electrician, was involved in a terrorist attack.

“I’m glad he didn’t blow up my store,” Butrico said. “I’m glad he went to Manhattan.”

The bomb exploded at around 7:20 a.m. (local time) in a subway corridor on 42nd Street, between 7th and 8thavenues, police said.

“This device was intentionally detonated by the subject,” O’Neill, the police commissioners, said in a statement posted on the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Twitter page.

Three people in the immediate area suffered minor injuries and the suspect, who suffered severe burns, was placed in custody and transported to a hospital, O’Neill said. Fire officials said Ullah had burns to his hands and abdomen.

A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff.

“Let’s be also clear this was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “The only injuries we know at this point were minor.”

Kat Mara, who works at a real-estate company near Ullah’s home, said the Bangladeshi suspect was “very aloof.”

“He’s like a loner, like there’s always something in his mind,” Mara, 63, told BenarNews, saying that she often saw Ullah at a bagel store across the street from her office.

“He’s very aloof,” she said. “I would say hello and he wouldn’t say anything. He just seemed a little weird.”

No criminal record in Bangladesh

In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque said Ullah had no criminal record in Bangladesh and that he last visited his home country on Sept. 8.

Hoque told the Reuters news service that the information was based on Ullah’s passport number, and said the suspect was from the southern Bangladeshi district of Chittagong.

New York daily newspapers, quoting unnamed law-enforcement sources, said Ullah arrived in the United States from Bangladesh on Sept. 21, 2011 on an F-4 Visa, which is for siblings of American citizens. He is currently a permanent resident, according to officials.

Shamim Ahmad, a spokesman at Bangladesh’s embassy in Washington, did not confirm to BenarNews during a phone interview that Ullah was a Bangladeshi.

Consular officials in New York were awaiting an official report from the NYPD, Ahmad said.

He later on issued a statement saying that the Bangladesh government “is committed to its declared policy of ‘zero tolerance’ against terrorism, and condemns terrorism and violent extremism in all forms or manifestations anywhere in the world, including Monday morning’s incident in New York City.”

“A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice,” the statement said.

Ullah lived with his father, mother and brother and worked as a driver in New York for a few years until his license lapsed in 2015, officials said. Neighbors said he lived with his family on the first floor of a two-story home.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill holds a news conference outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan with Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after a pipe-bomb strapped to a man exploded in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017. [AP]
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill holds a news conference outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan with Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after a pipe-bomb strapped to a man exploded in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017. [AP]
Six weeks, two terrorist incidents

Monday’s bombing occurred nearly six weeks after a deadly terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan.

A man killed eight people and injured a dozen others as he drove a pickup truck down a bicycle path near the World Trade Center on Oct. 31. An officer shot and wounded the suspect.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the suspect, identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was indicted last month on murder and terror-related charges.

John Miller, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said authorities had thwarted 26 terrorist plots in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

“We have prevented a significant number of plots,” Miller told reporters Monday.

“Your intel operations are looking for indicators,” he said. “They don’t have an X-ray for a man’s soul.”

The blast on Monday also happened two months after U.S. authorities accused a 37-year-old Filipino doctor of providing funds to support a foiled plot last year to carry out bombings and shootings in crowded areas in New York City, including the subway system and in Times Square.

Russell Salic, a surgeon, was arrested in April 2017 in the Philippines and is awaiting extradition to the United States. Authorities said those thwarted attacks were to be carried out by the suspects under the name of the extremist group Islamic State during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan last year.

Akayed Ullah
Akayed Ullah [Reuters]
Kazi Nishat Tarana, a Bangladeshi living in New York, told BenarNews she was shocked to hear reports that the suspect in Monday’s explosion could be a Bangladeshi.

“I want to say very clearly, he doesn’t represent Bangladesh,” she said. “The people of our country is peace loving and this man no way is influenced by our great tradition of peace and harmony. We are deeply upset. I hope no Bangladeshi student or immigrant will be judged differently after this incident.”

In Dhaka, Sohaili Ferdous, an assistant inspector general of police, said the department would investigate any possible ties between the latest New York attack and Bangladesh.

“Right now, we cannot give information about him. We have to check with our database whether he had any militant or criminal background,” Ferdous told BenarNews.

Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report. (BenarNews)