Day: April 16, 2017

The Trumpster Dumpster Bowl

http://www.renegadetribune.com/trumpster-dumpster-bowl/

 

Trash fighting over trash is really an all-American pastime. It was quite entertaining to see the ZOG Patriotards win this epic battle.

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Migrations to Libya: An Enslavement Operation From Start to Finish

http://www.renegadetribune.com/migrations-libya-enslavement-operation-start-finish/
By Russ Winter of The New Nationalist

The Crime Syndicate’s “humanitarian” intervention in Libya involved capturing a stable, prosperous country with rule of law and turning it into a hell hole rife with a full-blown slave-trade market. The International Organization for Migration says Libya is “living off the trade.”

The Guardian: West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home. New testimony from the International Organization for Migration suggests that the trade in human beings has become so normalised that people are being traded in public. Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s head of operation and emergencies describes the situation as dire.

We do have some serious observations, however. For what purpose were these detained African men’s faces blurred out in news agency France 24’s photos? Logically, loved ones and relatives might be in a position to at least make some identifications. Takeaway: This is extremely fishy story treatment and an action that further contributes to covering up slave trafficking.

This slave trade has been underway for several years, but finally, in February of this year, UNICEF issued a report on it. An open-source search on the report reveals it received only passing mention by western faux-media rags.

Journey to the Hell Hole of Libya

Much of it just doesn’t pass the smell test. First and foremost, why are Africans from countries like Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Nigeria trekking thousands of miles across scorching desert to go to Libya, where there is no security nor rule of law, living conditions are hard and violence is commonplace? And they have done this for three or four years. What is the inducement? Somalia as a fonte makes some sense, but livability indexes show Lagos, Nigeria, at 39.7, which is about the same as Tripoli, Libya, at 40.0. Dolua, Cameroon, rates 44.0; Dakar, Senegal, rates 48.3; and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, is 49.7. By most accounts, the latter two countries are stable and improving.

Assuming you survived the long trek to Libya — and no one really knows how many perish along the way — you will be greeted by armed militia thugs who make their own rules, control border crossings and detain migrants for exploitation, slavery and rape. Every step of this dangerous journey, refugees and migrants are easy prey. Simply put, the odds of making it out of Libya are not good.

The UNICEF report states that 92% of all children who arrived in Italy last year were unaccompanied. Imagine that! That figure is either staggering or implausible bullshit. As always, The New Nationalist (TNN) leaves it to you to decide.

Once in Europe more squalor awaits as just 34,000 migrants out of 1.2 million who arrived in Germany were working after two years in country.

The lure or bait into these perilous conditions should be laid squarely at the feet of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are assisting with migrants’ transport from hell-hole Libya to Italy. They have blood on their hands.

There are some intrepid investigative reporters who have gone into the field to look into this. One is Ross Kemp, who followed the migrants’ pathways in September 2016. The migrants have been subjected to incredible human suffering and look licked throughout [see video below].

TNN takeway: The criminal NATO forces responsible for the takedown of Libya are doing next to nothing to improve and assist with Libyan coast guard interdiction, help with conditions in the detention camps and return migrants to their homes.

There is a hidden nexus here that is only hinted at and points to much more than neglect. It doesn’t feel organic but rather a sinister and organized weaponized migration. At one point in Kemp’s film, an imprisoned smuggler spoke of middlemen. At long last a Sicilian prosecutor is moving against the German NGO Seawatch, utilizing two ship flying under Dutch flags. The prosecutor is attempting to prove a nexus between the Libyan smugglers and this NGO. In sum, it looks like organized Luciferian human suffering and, ultimately, an enslavement operation.

The UNICEF report focuses on the plight of women and children, but there is little reason to believe men fair much better. According to the report, three quarters of the migrant children interviewed said they had experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults. Nearly half the women interviewed reported suffering sexual violence or abuse during the journey. Most children and women indicated that they had to rely on smugglers, leaving many in debt via “pay as you go” arrangements and vulnerable to abuse, abduction and trafficking.

The primary hazards are sexual violence, extortion and abduction. Nearly half the women and children interviewed experienced sexual abuse during migration – often multiple times and in multiple locations.

The report is vague on where exactly the problems were; but after several years of this, one would think good intelligence on where criminality is rampant would be well known and that observers and security could be deployed. Yet, no real help in this regard is mentioned in the report. It does note, however, that more than a third of the women and children interviewed said their assailants wore uniforms or appeared to be associated with military and other armed forces. These violations usually occurred at security checkpoints within cities or along roadways.

The story gets even more bizarre as most of the married women (representing three quarters of those interviewed) brought at least one child with them, but more children were left behind. You decide if this makes much sense.

Once in western Libya, women are held in detention centers in harsh conditions, such as poor nutrition and sanitation, significant overcrowding and a lack of access to health care and legal assistance. Most children and women said they expected to spend extended periods working in Libya to pay for the next leg of their journey, which would either be a return to their home country or to destinations in Europe.

The migration and slave routes are shown on the map below. As of September 2016, an estimated 256,000 migrants have been identified in Libya, of which 28,031 are women (11%) and 23,102 are children (9%), with a third of this group including unaccompanied children. The real figures are believed to be at least three times higher. The number who died en route is unknown and undetermined in the report.

After parsing the report carefully, our antennae deployed. Consider the recruitment of these slaves at the point of origin. The report states, “Although very little information about human trafficking was gathered through the IOCEA interviews [why not?], other research confirms that Libya is a major transit hub for women being trafficked to Europe for sex.

“Trafficked Nigerian girls are being sent to Europe on the same route that the smugglers use. Nigerian criminal groups typically ‘offer’ victims an irregular migration package to Europe for an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Nigerian naira (roughly 250 euros) during the recruitment in Nigeria. Once at destination, the debt is converted into 50,000 to 70,000 euros to be paid in the form of forced prostitution for a period that could last up to three years or longer.

TNN takeway: So after several years of this trafficking, when almost the whole world has access to internet cafes and cell phones, news of the journey’s perils involving sexual exploitation and slavery hasn’t found its way back home to Africa? There are no cousins, brothers, sisters or friends who have gone through this misery to warn of this criminal racket? It makes little if any sense.

The Armed Militia Detention Centers: Smelling a Rat? 

UNICEF identifies 34 “unofficial detention centers” where “armed groups hold migrants.”

A Libyan government official is quoted as saying, “There are dozens of illegal prisons over which we have no control. There are at least 13 in Tripoli. They are handled by the powerful armed militias that are playing a ‘double game’. With one hand they ask money from official government sources to keep the migrants, to buy food, water and clothing. With the other hand they directly control human trafficking, using the prisons to keep migrants waiting, until they are allowed to leave. These militias are the armed wing of the traffickers.”

The report also notes that migrants “were at a loss for words when attempting to explain why the torture or punishment was taking place,” and they were “were rarely addressed by name but instead were referred to using dehumanizing terms.”

TNN Takeaway: So we are asked to believe that there were sufficient resources to topple the powerful Qadhafi regime, and yet a ragtag group of criminals is allowed to set up 34 defacto concentration camps and conduct slave markets throughout Libya? And that there are large, international, philanthropic organizations just neglecting the situation and not alerting migrants to the realities and perils — and if someone is stupid enough to get sucked in, not help them escape any point along the process? Really?

Do we have “stupid” written all over our faces? Unlike “investigative reporters” in the Crime Syndicate media, TNN doesn’t have the resources to get to the precise bottom of these questions. All we can do is analyze the story line with the information made available. And from what see, something is off kilter with this script. It stinks to high heaven. It smells like organized chaos.

Erdogan Claims Victory in Turkey Vote Giving Broad New Powers to President

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey claimed victory by a narrow and still-contested margin in a referendum that grants sweeping powers to his office, in a watershed moment that the country’s opposition fears may cement his one-man rule.

With just under 99 percent of ballots counted, “Yes” had 51.33 percent of votes cast, and “No” had 48.67 percent, according to the state-run news agency, Anadolu.

But the country’s election commission has yet to announce official results, and Turkey’s main opposition party said they would demand a recount of about 37 percent of ballot boxes, containing around 2.5 million votes.

The constitutional change, if it stands, will allow the winner of the 2019 presidential election to assume full control of the government, ending the current parliamentary political system.

Its ramifications, however, would be immediate. The “yes” vote in the referendum would be a validation of the current leadership style of President Erdogan, who has been acting as a de facto head of government since his election in 2014 despite having no constitutional right to wield such power as the office of the president was meant to be an impartial role that lacks full executive authority.

The result would tighten Mr. Erdogan’s grip on the country, which is one of the leading external actors in the Syrian civil war, a major way station along the migration routes to Europe and a crucial Middle Eastern partner of the United States and Russia.

The referendum was conducted in an atmosphere of fear, with the campaign characterized by prolonged intimidation of opposition members, several of whom were shot at or beaten while on the stump by persons unknown.

A supporter of Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, cried as she watched the polling results in Ankara on Sunday. CreditErhan Ortac/Getty Images

The opposition questioned the legitimacy of the referendum after the election board made a last-minute decision to increase the burden needed to prove allegations of ballot-box stuffing. At least one instance of alleged voter fraud appeared to be captured on camera.

“We are receiving thousands of complaints on election fraud; we are evaluating them one by one,” said Erdal Aksunger, the deputy head of the Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P.

Since a failed coup last summer, Turkey has been under a state of emergency, a situation that allowed the government to fire about 130,000 people suspected of being connected to the failed putsch, and to arrest about 45,000.

The new system will, among other changes:

• Abolish the post of prime minister and transfer executive power to the president.

• Allow the newly empowered president to issue decrees and appoint many of the judges and officials responsible for scrutinizing his decisions.

• Limit the president to two five-year terms, but give the option of running for a third term if Parliament truncates the second one by calling for early elections.

• Allow the president to order disciplinary inquiries into any of Turkey’s 3.5 million civil servants, according to an analysis by the head of the Turkish Bar Association.

Members of the opposition are concerned that the new system will threaten the separation of powers on which liberal democracies have traditionally depended.

Backers of the “yes” vote waved flags during celebrations in Istanbul on Sunday. CreditEmrah Gurel/Associated Press

“It represents a remarkable aggrandizement of Erdogan’s personal power and quite possibly a death blow to vital checks and balances in the country,” said Professor Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington think tank. “Judicial independence was already shockingly weak before the referendum; the new system makes that worse.”

Mr. Erdogan’s supporters say the new system will not limit political and judicial oversight. If opposition parties win control of Parliament, they could override the president’s decrees with their own legislation, while also asserting greater control over judicial appointments, supporters of the new Constitution contend.

The victorious “yes” camp also argues that a strong, centralized government will make Turkey better able to tackle its many challenges, including a troubled economy, the world’s largest Syrian refugee population, two terrorism campaigns, a civil war against Kurdish insurgents and the Syrian war across Turkey’s southern border.

“Stable governments have been able to handle crises more effectively, implement structural reforms in due time and render the investment climate more favorable by increasing predictability,” Mr. Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote in a commentary piece for CNN’s website.

The fearful environment in which the referendum was conducted has led watchdogs to question the fairness of the campaign. In addition to the vast purges of perceived opposition members, the authorities also often prevented “no” campaigners from holding rallies and events. And Mr. Erdogan and his allies frequently implied that their opponents were allied with terrorist groups or the suspected leaders of last year’s failed coup.

Analyses of television coverage showed that the “yes” campaign received disproportionately more airtime than its opponents.

Hundreds of election observers were also barred from monitoring the vote, and thousands of Kurds displaced by fighting in southeastern Turkey may not have been able to vote because they have no address, according to the Independent Election Monitoring Network, a Turkish watchdog.

“The current political climate and the atmosphere of fear makes the timing of the referendum a worrisome one,” the network said in a report published on the eve of the poll.

Now that Mr. Erdogan has won the referendum, analysts are divided about what he will do next.

Some believe he may initially try to rebuild his relations with the West, which were severely damaged during the referendum campaign as he sought to manufacture diplomatic crises in order to energize his base at home.

After Germany and the Netherlands blocked Turkish officials from campaigning in those countries, Mr. Erdogan said that both nations had demonstrated Nazi-like behavior, drawing a rebuke from leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the director of the Ankara office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a think tank, said he expected a victorious Mr. Erdogan to lead “a charm offensive towards Europe and the U.S. to gain validation of the new system — and such a charm offensive might include correcting some of the democratic backsliding that we’ve seen in Turkey.”

“On the other hand, if his charm offensive is not reciprocated,” Mr. Unluhisarcikli added, “then he might start initiating a Plan B, which involves tightening his grip on Turkish society.”

But Professor Eissenstat said it was unlikely that Mr. Erdogan would spend any time repairing relationships with the opposition.

“Some people have imagined that Erdogan might reboot after a ‘yes’ victory and reach out to the opposition,” he said. “I don’t think that is likely. The purges will continue; Erdogan’s instinct is to crush opposition, not co-opt it.

“The question is whether further centralization of power and increased repression can bring stability and allow Erdogan to reboot a troubled economy,” Professor Eissenstat added. “The record of the past 10 years is that the opposite is true.”

IS HOLOCAUST COMEDY TABOO?

 

 

Comedians regularly come under fire for jokes which seem tasteless, offensive or “too soon.” But where are the red lines? It it possible to make humor about one of the most horrible atrocities in human history?

These are the questions director Ferne Pearlstein asks in her newest documentary, The Last Laugh, which will premier on US public television next Monday. The film, which opened in theaters in New York and LA last month, features an all-star cast of comedians discussing the taboos of Holocaust humor.

 

While the movie’s premise is a jarring thought for many, it is handled with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, provoking discussion as opposed to offering answers.

“The Holocaust itself is not funny, there’s nothing funny about it,” said comedian and director Rob Reiner. “But survival and what it takes to survive – there can be humor in that.”

Filmmaker Mel Brooks, known for The Producers – the film and later Broadway show satirizing Hilter – echoed Reiner.

“Anything I could do to deflate Germans, anything, I did,” he said. But he always stopped short of other Holocaust humor, though he didn’t castigate those who did not.

“Comedy puts light onto darkness, and darkness can’t live where there’s light,” said Sarah Silverman, who offered some of the most jolting humor in the film. “So that’s why it’s important to talk about things that are taboo.”

From Reiner and Brooks to Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, Jeff Ross, Judy Gold, Susie Essman and more, a wide range of comedians offer differing viewpoints.

But none have the impact of the comments from Holocaust survivors Renee Firestone and Robert Clary, who were both imprisoned at concentration camps and who both lost most of their immediate family members.

One of the film’s most poignant moments involves the pair of them arguing about being cremated once they die. Firestone is horrified by the idea, but Clary insists it is what he wants. “The rabbi told me, ‘You cannot do that,'” he said. “‘What about my parents?’ And that cut him down.”

Firestone serves as a moral compass of sorts throughout the film, scoffing at some jokes she deems unfunny, and providing chilling testimony of her own experiences.

While laughing, she recounts meeting with the infamous Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz.

“‘If you survive this war, you really ought to have your tonsils removed,’” he told her. “Is he insane? Tomorrow I may die, I’m worried about my tonsils?”

The comedians debate some intriguing topics, including if it is “too soon” to make jokes about the Holocaust.

“Time makes a difference,” said Essman. “Obviously, nobody cares if you do inquisition jokes.”

But for Gottfried, “Somebody once said tragedy plus time equals comedy. And I always said, ‘why wait?'”

The comedians also discuss the ability to poke humor at a much more recent atrocity: September 11. Many agreed with Gottfried’s feeling that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, they felt there will “never be comedy again.”

Other figures weigh in alongside comedians, including the ADL’s Abe Foxman, Israeli novelist Etgar Keret and Roz Weinman, former head of standards and practices at NBC.

Weinman, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, laments one of her decisions, which allowed the now-famed “Soup Nazi” story line on Seinfeld.

“I think the notion of ‘Nazi’ being used as a very mild pejorative does trivialize that experience,” she said. “And I had no clue at the time that that would enter the lexicon the way that it has.”

The film offers no conclusions, content with provoking thought and offering varied ideas on such sensitive matters.

No moment was more sobering than watching Firestone in a gondola ride in Las Vegas with fellow survivor Elly Gross.

“Always I remember the children screaming… the selection… You cannot forget!” Gross says.

But Firestone interjects:”You cannot live in the shadow of those cries. You have to remember it. But you cannot live in those shadows.”

“I don’t live in the shadow, but the shadow is following me all of my life,” Gross replies.

“You know I speak about the Holocaust all the time, but I enjoy life,” Firestone says. “I’m so happy that I have three great grandchildren. Could Hitler imagine that I will survive and have three great-grandchildren? I mean, that’s my revenge.”

UK ORTHODOX JEWISH MAYORAL CANDIDATE APOLOGIZES FOR BURNING NEW TESTAMENT

 

An Orthodox Jewish candidate for mayor of Manchester apologized after burning what he called a “missionary bible” and posting images of it on social media.

Shneur Odze, who is a candidate for the right-wing populist UK Independence Party, or UKIP, on the eve of Passover found the Hebrew-language New Testament produced by a proselytizing Christian group in his synagogue.

He took it out into the street and set it alight, according to reports. He then posted photos of the book burning and wrote on Twitter: “Grateful to whoever put a missionary bible amongst our synagogue’s books. Was wondering what I’d burn my Chametz with.” The post has since been removed from his Twitter feed though it appears on other places on Twitter.
Odze is running against popular former British Health Secretary Andy Burnham for Manchester mayor. “While we understand the act, it was ill-advised to put a picture of it on social media which was also provocative and likely to be misunderstood,” A UKIP spokesman told The Daily Mail, which reported the incident.

Odze told the newspaper that he felt he had no choice but to burn the book because he did not want to pass on what he believes is false religion to someone else and said that throwing a religious text in the garbage was distasteful, especially because it also contains the Five Books of Moses.

Odze, a member of Chabad-Lubavitch, is a former city councilman for north London for the Conservative Party.

Odze raised hackles in 2014 as a candidate for the European Parliament from the UKIP party, after refusing to shake women’s hands while campaigning

CHABAD RABBI BEATEN IN UKRAINE DIES OF INJURIES 6 MONTHS AFTER ATTACK

 

A Chabad rabbi who was severely beaten six months ago at a train station in the western Ukrainian city of Zhitomir has died.

Rabbi Mendel Deitsch was 64. He died in Israel where he was airlifted and treated following the attack days after Rosh Hashanah, which he spent in the Ukrainian town of Haditch, the resting place of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad-Lubavitch. He was robbed of his cell phone and money and beaten at the train station, and was not discovered until hours later, suffering from multiple head injuries and brain trauma.
Four arrested in beating of Chabad rabbi in Ukraine

Two men and two women were arrested for the assault two weeks later.

Deitsch was a longtime Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in France and later served in Israel.

He had been in a coma since the attack at Tel Hashomer hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel, and never regained consciousness, according to Chabad.org.

He is survived by his wife and 11 children, and three brothers.

Rouhani: Iran does not need ‘permission to build missiles’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Iran does not need “permission to build missiles,” in an apparent response to recent sanctions by the United States on the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.

“Iran will ask no soul’s permission to build missiles,” the state-run Press TV quoted him as saying.

Speaking at a defense ministry event to show off new Iranian-made weapons, Rouhani claimed that the country’s development of ballistic missiles and other advanced arms is strictly for defensive purposes.

“We have repeatedly declared that strengthening the defensive prowess of Iran’s Armed Forces is only aimed at defending the country and will never be used against another country,” he said.

In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, an Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile is displayed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard during a military parade, in front of the shrine of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Despite Rouhani’s claim that Iran’s development of weapons is for strictly peaceful purposes, Israel and the US have accused the Islamic Republic with arming a number of terror groups and Shiite militias in the region engaged in offense operations, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis in Yemen and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In his remarks Saturday, Rouhani also said that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was necessary to prevent “the crimes and acts of aggression” of the US and other regional powers.

“Even if our region were completely secure and major powers were not present there, a country still needs deterrent power and the region requires balance,” he said.

He also warned than any attempt to upset the regional balance of power would lead to problems, which he said has long been undermined by the “powers’ intervention and the cancerous tumor of Israel,” Press TV reported.

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, April 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

After Iran test-fired a ballistic missile in January, the US imposed sanctions on a number of entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, and US President Donald Trump warned the Islamic Republic it had been “put on notice.”

Although Iran maintains that the testing of ballistic missiles is not banned by the 2015 nuclear deal designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the US said that the sanctions were imposed for Iran’s violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2331, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Since January’s test-firing of a ballistic missile, Iran has carried out a number of other tests of ballistic, cruise and submarine-based missiles, while in March state television said Iran successfully tested the S-300 missile defense system delivered to it by Russia following the 2015 nuclear deal after years of delay.

In addition to disagreements over Iran’s missile program, tensions between the two countries were further ratcheted up after the US struck an airfield with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles belonging to the Syrian regime — of which Iran has lang been a key backer — in response to a chemical weapons strike carried out by the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces earlier this month, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei labeling the US strike as a “strategic mistake.”

Assad retains hundreds of tons of chemical weapons, says defected general

Syrian President Bashar Assad still possesses hundreds of tons of chemical agents which he hid from the international community, a former Syrian general who specialized in chemical warfare told the Telegraph Friday.

Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat, who defected from Assad’s forces in 2013 and currently resides in an undisclosed European country, told the newspaper the Syrian leader had deceived United Nations inspectors sent into the country to destroy his chemical stockpiles.

Assad had agreed to turn in his entire chemical weapons inventory in 2013 when the US threatened military action after hundreds were killed in a deadly chemical attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus.

But Sakat, who was head of chemical warfare in the Syrian army’s Fifth Division, has long claimed that Assad secretly held on to much of his stash. And after an April 4 suspected chemical attack killed at least 87 people, the defector has said the regime still has hundreds of tons of chemicals at hand.

“They admitted only to 1,300 tons, but we knew in reality they had nearly double that,” Sakat told the Telegraph. “They had at least 2,000 tons. At least.”

Sakat said that according to his contacts inside Syria, Assad has not manufactured new weapons since 2014, but “they don’t need any more, they have all they need already.”

Sakat has said in the past that he himself was ordered to carry out chemical strikes on three different occasions before he defected. In those instances he switched out the deadly agents in the bombs for harmless chemicals.

“I couldn’t believe at the beginning that Assad would use these weapons on his people,” he said. “I could not stand and watch the genocide. I couldn’t hurt my own people.”

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former commander of the UK’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regimen, said Sakat’s claims of Assad’s retained stockpiles were “plausible.”

He told the Telegraph that the recent alleged chemical strike on the town of Khan Sheikhoun appeared to use old sarin gas.

“Eighty-six people were killed in the attack, which is not a lot for sarin,” he said. “Sarin degrades fairly quickly and becomes less toxic over time, so we could be looking at an attack using old sarin.”

In this June 7, 2016 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses the newly-elected parliament in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP)

Assad this week said the reports on the recent chemical strike were “a “fabrication” to justify a US strike on his forces.

The Syrian president insisted his forces had turned over all their chemical weapons stocks years ago and would never use the banned arms.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said of the incident.

Assad said evidence for the attack came only from “a branch of Al-Qaeda,” referring to a former jihadist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhoun is located.

Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, sent shockwaves around the world.

This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, shows victims of a suspected chemical attack, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib Media Center, via AP)

But Assad insisted it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.”

“We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun. Were they dead at all?”

He said Khan Sheikhoun had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.

“This story is not convincing by any means.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation into the alleged attack, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syria cooperate with the probe.

And Assad said he could “only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes.”

He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013. “There was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.

“Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”

The OPCW has blamed Assad’s government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine.

The Khan Sheikhoun incident prompted the first direct US military action against Assad’s government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.

3,000 migrants said rescued off Libya coast Saturday

ROME — The Italian coastguard and other boats rescued some 3,000 migrants from unseaworthy boats off the Libyan coast on Saturday, as the numbers of those attempting to reach Europe from Africa rises amid good weather, a participating NGO said.

In all, 35 rescue operations were launched during the day, with 15 of them still underway as night fell, the coastguard said.

German NGO Jugend Rettet, which took part in the rescue operations on Saturday, said 3,000 people had been plucked to safety during a particularly busy day due to the calm spring weather in the Mediterranean.

Jugend Rettet spokeswoman Pauline Schmidt told AFP that a further 1,000 people remained to be rescued from inflatable dinghies and other craft, with the rescue ships reaching capacity.

Other, mainly non-governmental, boats were expected to arrive in the area to help the rescue operations, she said. “We have never had to deal with so many people at the same time.”

On Friday, rescue vessels worked tirelessly to rescue over 2,000 people from flimsy dinghies.

The Italian coast guard and five privately-run rescue boats plucked migrants from 16 overcrowded dinghies and three wooden vessels packed with people hoping to make a new life for themselves in Europe.

African migrants whose boat sank off the Libyan coast gather upon their rescue at the Tripoli branch of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority, in the Libyan capital on April 13, 2017. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)

The European Union’s border control agency Frontex has accused donor-funded vessels of doing more harm than good by sailing off Libya and acting “like taxis,” and Italian prosecutors have suggested they may have links with traffickers — a charge they have fiercely denied.

Distressing images of African migrants being plucked from heaving seas or the coffin-strewn aftermath of major sinkings have become a regular feature of television news bulletins since the migrant crisis began spiraling out of control four years ago.

So far this year, 666 people have been logged as dead or missing off the Libyan coast.

However that figure is well down on the death rate seen last year when more than 5,000 people perished, according to the International Organization of Migration.

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