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Dailies and Weeklies, a project of Raul Marroquin for “Inside the City” Weserburg Museum für moderne Kunst, Bremen July 18 – October 12 2015.

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Afghan leader condemns NATO airstrike; U.S. defense secretary visits Kabul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will cut short his China trip to return to Afghanistan after a NATO strike reportedly killed civilians

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned a NATO airstrike this week that a provincial official says killed women and children, in a statement that came just as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived Thursday in Kabul for talks.

A provincial official has said civilians were among the dead in the airstrike, while the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said initial reports revealed only two injuries.

ISAF is aware of the claims of civilian casualties and is looking into what took place, a spokesman for the coalition said.

The NATO airstrike Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan’s Logar province, along the volatile Pakistan border, is likely to strain already tense relations with the United States.

In the statement, Karzai said he was cutting short a trip to China, where he has been attending a summit.

“NATO operations that inflict human and material losses to civilians can in no way be justifiable, acceptable and tolerable,” he said.

Panetta did not address the controversy over the airstrike in his public remarks while in Kabul.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on Thursday condemned “in the strongest terms” the deaths of civilians in Logar and in militant attacks in Kandahar, Faryab and Paktika a day earlier.

Together, the attacks killed 40 civilians, including 10 children, and injured at least 67 others, the U.N. body said, in what was the single deadliest day for civilian deaths in 2012.

While militant attacks have caused by far the greatest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, its statement said, “UNAMA has also repeatedly expressed concern that aerial operations have resulted in more civilian deaths and injuries than any other tactic used by pro-government forces since the present armed conflict began.”

Sahib Khan, a member of Afghan parliament from Logar province, told CNN he believed four insurgents also were killed in the NATO airstrike in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province.

He said the bodies of 18 civilians, including women and children, had been brought to the provincial capital, Pule Alam, but that the bodies of the four insurgents had been taken elsewhere.

An investigation team has gone to the area to determine how many militants were in the building hit in the airstrike, said Khan. He said insurgents had fired on a U.S. military convoy from the house.

Panetta: U.S. running out of patience with Pakistan on militant havens

The allegations of civilian casualties came ahead of discussions between Panetta and U.S. Army Gen. John Allen, commander of ISAF troops, and Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak.

The training of Afghan security forces was likely to be high on the list of discussion topics.

With American troops due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 under a timetable announced by President Barack Obama, the U.S. military is beefing up its training of Afghan forces. At that time, security duties will be fully turned over to the Afghan government, although some U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 as military advisers.

The latest allegations of civilian casualties also come at a critical time for the United States.

While U.S. military and political officials have said publicly that Afghanistan will be ready to take over security of its country by the time NATO troops depart, critics have said there are questions about whether Afghan forces can stand on their own.

Violence has increased in recent weeks, coinciding with the start of the Taliban’s summer fighting season.

On what was his fourth visit to Afghanistan, Panetta praised the efforts of U.S. forces, saying that thanks to them, a “turning point” had been reached after 10 years of war.

He acknowledged that there had been an “uptick in violence,” but said that was because ISAF forces had taken the fight to the Taliban.

“We’ve been able to put this country in the right direction. The reality is we have weakened the Taliban,” the defense secretary told an audience of U.S. troops.

But while Afghan forces are gaining in strength and capability, he said, international forces still have work to do. “This is still not going to be an easy fight. We still have a lot of challenges to confront. We have a resilient enemy that will use any tactic they can to come at us.”

Panetta said that ISAF forces would continue to support Afghanistan beyond the agreed troop drawdown, with an “enduring presence” past 2014, and that the goal was to ensure a safer future for the United States as well as for the Afghan people.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met Thursday with Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak.

Asked what message U.S. troops should give to Afghan commanders concerned about what would follow the transition to Afghan control, Panetta said: “We are not going anyplace. We are committed to an Afghanistan … that can secure and govern itself.

“We have lost a lot of people in battle, and we continue to lose people. One thing we have to make damn sure of is that those lives were not lost in vain.”

Panetta’s brief trip to Kabul did not include a meeting with Karzai, who was en route back to Afghanistan at the time the U.S. defense secretary was wrapping up his trip.

The last meeting between the two, in March, came on the heels of allegations that a U.S. soldier left his base in southern Kandahar province and went on a shooting spree in two villages that left 17 people dead.

At the time, Karzai called the shootings a cruel act against the people of Afghanistan, and told Panetta that Afghans have lost trust in international forces.

The shooting spree followed revelations that U.S. troops inadvertently burned copies of the Quran and other Islamic religious materials, which sparked massive, violent protests.

Military officials said the materials had been seized from Afghan prisoners because they contained extremist messages.

CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoom and Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report.

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Global manhunt on for accused killer porn star

A manhunt is on for a Canadian porn star accused of murdering a man and mailing the victim’s dismembered body parts to Canada’s liberal and conservative political parties. The torso of the body was left to rot near the accused killer’s apartment complex.

What’s even more shocking is that Montreal Police Commander Ian Lefreniere says Luka Rocco Magnotta filmed himself in the act and posted the 10-minute video online for the world to see.

Montreal Police have identified the victim as 33-year-old Lin Jun. He was from the east-central Chinese city of Wuhan and was attending the University of Montreal. Police say there are videos that indicate the two men knew each other, but it is unclear whether they were dating.

Lefreniere says there is reason to believe Magnotta has fled the country, and Interpol has issued a worldwide 190-country alert for the suspect.

The Toronto Star newspaper is reporting that the suspect’s birth name is Eric Clinton Newman, and that he changed his name to Magnotta in 2006. Lefreniere said Magnotta is deranged, inhuman, and gross.

Animal activists aren’t fans of Magnotta either.

Activists started a Facebook page in December 2010 that calls Magnotta a “Vacuum Kitten Killer,” and asks for help in tracking him down. Lefreniere says he is aware Magnotta has been accused of animal cruelty.

A post on the page from this week says: “We are patiently waiting for more information on the case and have faith in the Montreal Police… Members of this group have spent over a year searching for this individual, who we believe is also responsible for several videos where animals were killed. Information gathered by group members was passed onto the authorities in Canada, and we were informed that they were actively working on locating the person seen in the videos hurting animals.”

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Activists: Syrian troops shell Houla, site of last week’s civilian massacre

(CNN) — Syrian forces shelled Houla early Thursday, opposition activists said, days after shadowy men went door-to-door in the town, slaughtering families with knives and guns.

The attacks started shortly after United Nations observers left the town, said a local resident whom CNN is not naming for safety reasons.

Government troops fired dozens of mortars and rockets, killing two people, opposition activists said.

An additional young boy was killed by sniper fire, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

CNN cannot confirm death tolls or reports of violence from Syria because the government limits access to the country by foreign journalists.

The reported attacks highlight a conflict that has spiraled out of control as the call for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster that began in March 2011 has devolved into a brutal crackdown against the protesters by the government.

In the massacre in Houla on Friday, most of the more than 100 victims killed were children and women, sparking international outrage that led Western nations to expel Syrian diplomats in a coordinated move against the regime.

The United States, the Netherlands, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Bulgaria, Turkey and Canada announced that they are expelling Syrian diplomats.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the massacre was carried out by Shabiha militias or local gangs acting on behalf of the regime.

Syria has repeatedly denied involvement. Bashar Jaafari, the nation’s U.N. ambassador, said the government will finish its investigation into the massacre this week.

“And all of us will know for sure the identity of the perpetrators,” he said.

Since the conflict began, the government has blamed the violence against civilians on armed terrorist groups.

Syria, Sarajevo and Srebrencia: When outrage isn’t enough

Alex Thompson, chief correspondent for Channel 4 News, visited Houla and expressed skepticism about the government’s claim.

“The question you have to ask is, ‘How was it 100 armed militia were able to come in and slaughter family after family, in an area which was an intensive shelling zone prior to them arriving, and yet when they came in the area, no shells fell on them?'” he told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Wednesday night.

Syrian opposition fighters issued the government a Friday afternoon deadline to cease fire, pull out troops from residential areas and allow humanitarian aid.

The Free Syrian Army, which mainly comprises of military defectors, did not say what will happen if the government fails to comply.

“Our national, moral and humanitarian duty make it necessary for us to defend and protect our civilians and their cities, towns, blood and dignity,” the group said in a statement.

The ultimatum lists a series of demands in a peace plan implemented last month and brokered by United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan.

“Immediately halting gunfire and all violence, pulling out all the troops, tanks and machinery from residential areas, allowing humanitarian aid to reach all stricken areas, releasing all prisoners and allowing media access,” said Col. Qasim Saad Eddine, the group’s spokesman.

Eddine also called for freedom to demonstrate, an end to attacks on U.N. monitors in the nation and a dialogue on power handover.

Despite the Annan peace plan, violence has continued almost daily.

Clashes continue unabated, with regime forces and police shelling a Homs neighborhood Thursday, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

A day earlier, at least 74 people were killed nationwide and 13 bound and shot bodies were discovered in eastern Syria, the head of the U.N. observer mission said.

The United Nations estimates 9,000 people have died since the protests began last year, while activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.

Meanwhile, Syrian authorities freed 500 prisoners arrested for their alleged involvement in the 15-month uprising against the government, state TV reported Thursday. No more information was immediately available.

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Workers again among the victims as factories collapse in Italy’s latest deadly earthquake

SAN FELICE SUL PANARO, Italy — Workers at the small machinery company had just returned for their first shift following Italy’s powerful and deadly quake earlier this month when another one struck, collapsing the roof.

At least three employees at the factory — two immigrants and an Italian engineer checking the building’s stability — were among those killed Tuesday in the second deadly quake in nine days to strike a region of Italy that hadn’t considered itself particularly quake prone.

By late Tuesday, the death toll stood at 16, with one person missing : a worker at the machinery factory in the small town of San Felice Sul Panaro. Some 350 people also were injured in the 5.8 magnitude quake north of Bologna in Emilia Romagna, one of Italy’s more productive agricultural and industrial regions. Originally government officials had put the death toll at 17, and there was no immediately explanation for the lowered figure.

The injured included a 65-year-old woman who was pulled out alive by rescuers after lying for 12 hours in the rubble of her apartment’s kitchen in Cavezzo, another town hard hit by the quake. Firefighters told Sky TG24 TV that a piece of furniture, which had toppled over, saved her from being crushed by the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The building had been damaged in the first quake, on May 20, and had been vacant since. The woman had just gone back inside it Tuesday morning to retrieve some clothes when the latest temblor knocked down the building, firefighters said.

Factories, barns and churches fell, dealing a second blow to a region where thousands remained homeless from the May 20 temblor, much stronger in intensity, at 6.0 magnitude.

The two quakes struck one of the most productive regions in Italy at a particularly crucial moment, as the country faces enormous pressure to grow its economy to stave off the continent’s debt crisis. Italy’s economic growth has been stagnant for at least a decade, and the national economy is forecast to contract by 1.2 percent this year.

The area encompassing the cities of Modena, Mantua and Bologna is prized for its super car production, churning out Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis; its world-famous Parmesan cheese, and less well-known but critical to the economy — its machinery companies.

Like the May 20 quake, many of the dead in Tuesday’s temblor were workers inside huge warehouses, many of them prefabricated, that house factories. Inspectors have been determining which are safe to re-enter, but economic pressure has sped up renewed production — perhaps prematurely.

Seven people were killed in the May 20 quake. In both, the dead were largely and disproportionately workers killed by collapsing factories and warehouses.

Co-workers of Mohamed Azeris, a Moroccan immigrant and father of two who died in the just-reopened factory, claim he was forced back to work as a shift supervisor or faced losing his job. A local union representative had demanded an investigation.

“Another earthquake — unfortunately during the day — that means people were inside working, so I think that an investigation will need to be opened here to check who cleared as safe these companies to understand who’s responsible for this,” Erminio Veronesi told The Associated Press.

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Fatal School Bomb Attack Raises Fear of Strife in Italy

BRINDISI, Italy — A bomb exploded Saturday in front of a school in this southern city, killing a 16-year-old student and wounding at least five others, local officials said, raising fears of a return to the kind of violence that shook Italy decades ago.

The explosion occurred near a vocational school named after Francesca Morvillo, a magistrate who was killed with her husband, Giovanni Falcone, an anti-Mafia prosecutor, by a Cosa Nostra bomb on May 23, 1992, an event Italy planned to commemorate on its 20th anniversary.

The bomb went off as students were preparing to enter the school on Saturday morning before classes. It consisted of three gas canisters tied together, set off by a rudimentary timer. They had been placed next to a wall not far from the school’s main gate, said an Italian official who asked not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Witnesses described the panic that followed the explosion as “an inferno,” while television stations broadcast the eerily silent aftermath, with knapsacks, textbooks and notebooks strewed across the asphalt in front of the school, pages flapping in the wind.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and the authorities said Saturday that investigators would examine all possibilities, including links to the Sacra Corona Unita, the organized crime syndicate rooted in the southern region of Puglia, and domestic or foreign terrorism.

“It’s difficult to form an idea because killing students is without precedent, and doesn’t correspond to any of the models of Italian terrorism,” said Salvatore Lupo, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Palermo. “There’s no logic, but with terrorist attacks there is no logic.”

Piero Grasso, the prosecutor who leads the anti-Mafia judicial agency, described the bombing as an act of “pure terrorism,” because, he said, “Every parent will think when they send their child to school: could they be in danger?”

In recent months, Italy has experienced a level of political economic turmoil that has unsettled people, with some linking the government’s austerity measures to a rash of suicides. There has also been a rise in violence against tax collection offices — mostly carried out by indebted and frustrated taxpayers — as well as other institutions, like the military and the aerospace group Finmeccanica, which has been singled out by radical groups that pattern themselves after the terrorists that kept Italy under siege in the 1970s and 1980s.

A senior executive for a Finmeccanica-owned company was shot in the leg on May 7, and the group’s chief executive was the target of a death threat recently.

On Thursday, the government announced that it would redeploy the nearly 25,000 police officers and soldiers that currently protect more than 14,000 potential targets and 550 people, after analyzing the recent spate of attacks throughout the country.

Since November, Italy has been governed by a caretaker government of technocrats, led by Prime Minister Mario Monti, a respected economist called in to stave off financial disaster caused by the fallout from the euro zone crisis. Although Mr. Monti has broad bipartisan support in Parliament, that is more a function of the need to assure financial markets that Italy is getting its economy in order, rather than any real political conviction.

Several lawmakers on Saturday spoke of the bombing as an attack on the state. “We must all be united in the face of this massacre, this attack on institutions,” Antonio Di Pietro, a politician with the Italy of Values Party, told the ANSA news agency. “Either we immediately stem this terrorist phase, or our country is destined for a civil war.”

Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri said Saturday that she had been struck by the fact that the school, which specializes in fashion and tourism courses, was named for the prosecutor and his wife killed by the Sicilian Mafia 20 years ago, but she said in an interview with Italian Sky News that this form of attack “was not usual for the Mafia.”

In 1993, Cosa Nostra planted bombs in Rome, Milan and Florence, killing some civilians, but more typically the Mafia kills people that get in the way of its business, as Mr. Falcone did.

Condemnation of the attacks was immediate and widespread. President Giorgio Napolitano spoke of a “barbarous attack” and called on the government to be vigilant and firm to root out “subversive violence.”

The explosives went off just before 8 a.m., next to a group of girls. One, Melissa Bassi, 16, was killed by the blast, and another was seriously wounded. Four others also suffered injuries.

Remembering the violence of the so-called Years of Lead, a period of social and political turmoil marked by dozens of acts of terrorism carried out by left-wing and right-wing radicals, Italians took to the streets on Saturday in impromptu demonstrations and held sit-ins in many cities. Sporting events stopped for a minute of silence, and an all-night museum jamboree in Rome, which usually draws tens of thousands of visitors, was canceled.

At a rally in Brindisi on Saturday, Miriam Maggio, 23, a volleyball coach, said: “This is a quiet place where there are criminals, but such things have never happened, at least not since we were born. I fear it’s the beginning of something monstrous.”

Martina Carpani, a representative of the Union of Students, said that despite their fear, students must not be afraid of going to school. “They want to use fear as a form of control,” she said, “but we can’t let that happen.”

Bishop Rocco Talucci of Brindisi said he was both anguished and angry. “This is not just an offense to life, but especially to young innocent lives” in a city struggling to distance itself from local organized crime, he said on the state RAI Radio.

Speaking to those who carried out the attack, the bishop called for an end to the violence. “Because we have to build, not destroy,” he said.

Gaia Pianigiani reported from Brindisi, and Elisabetta Povoledo from Rome.

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7 Afghans Die as Suicide Attacker Strikes in Kabul

New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — Less than two hours after President Obama left Afghanistan airspace on Wednesday, explosions shook the capital and the Interior Ministry said a suicide attacker had exploded a large bomb at the gates of a compound used by foreigners in the east of Kabul, killing seven Afghans.

The dead included four civilians who were passing in a car when they were caught by the blast, a security guard at the compound, a student and another person who was on foot nearby, said Sediq Sediqqi, the Interior Ministry spokesman. Hospital officials said 18 other people had been hospitalized with injuries, including seven schoolchildren who were at a nearby school, and one person was in a critical condition.

The attack took place at the gate of a large compound called the Green Village, which houses private security guards, some foreign diplomats, United Nations employees and other foreign workers in the city, the spokesman said.

The attacker struck at about 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning and at least two loud consecutive explosions sounded across the city. Kabul was already on edge following a series of coordinated attacks by insurgents on April 15 when three groups of attackers breached the capitals security cordons and launched rocket attacks on areas including the Parliament and the embassy district.

Residents living near to the Green Village and people within the compound reported Wednesday hearing a number of blasts, mortar explosions, and ensuing gunfire.News reports said the attack involved a number of insurgents and was continuing more than three hours later. Residents also reported hearing heavy gunfire.

The the situation was confusing. Mr. Sediqqi said there had been a single attack, and that the consecutive blasts had been caused by a number of explosives placed in the same car. “We strongly believe there was one explosion,” he said. He said the gunfire could have been caused by security guards firing after the attack.

President Obama made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, including a visit to Kabul, and met with President Hamid Karzai to sign a strategic partnership agreement.

But he had left the country before the explosions hit, the American Embassy said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a “message” to President Obama.

In a telephone interview, Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said: “As soon as the mujahedeen learned about Obama’s trip to Kabul we planned to conduct an operation at the heart of the city to send a message to Obama that instead of signing strategic partnerships and instead of imposing a corrupt and unpopular government over the people of Afghanistan, he should think of ways to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan.”

He said a group of insurgents had led the attack on the compound.

A local resident in the east of the city reached by telephone phone said the compound is located near a school and that parents could be seen taking their children out of the building.

Some of the explosions were loud enough to be heard easily on the opposite side of the city.

By about 7:15 a.m. local time, the local resident said that flames and black smoke could be seen rising from the area but that the smaller explosions and gunfire had diminished.

The United Nations sent out warning to its employees, warning them to remain under cover but said all of its personnel had been accounted for.

A Western diplomatic official speaking by telephone from the Green Village said: “I am not sure what happened. We heard a big explosion about 6:15 a.m. We moved to the bunker. We heard a few shots. Since then there have been a couple of explosions.”

She said the Green Village was a varied community, mainly of foreigners, who were used to the security situation in Afghanistan. “They are being pretty sober about it,” she said.

Stephen Mackenzie, an American who works in Afghanistan and lives at the Green Village where he is also a security warden for the compound, said by e-mail that two large explosions had hit the area right outside the compound and some rocket-propelled grenades had struck nearby.

“Lots of small-arms fire,” he said.

He said there was heavy security surrounding the compound, mainly Afghan National Army officers.

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