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How America Helped ISIS. | #IslamicState #US #Iraq #Syria #ISIS


New-York-Times-Logo

Andrew Thompson and Jeremi Suri reporting,

Austin, Texas — The Islamic State terrorists who have emerged in Iraq and Syria are neither new nor unfamiliar. Many of them spent years in detention centers run by the United States and its coalition partners in Iraq after 2003. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, spent nearly five years imprisoned at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. A majority of the other top Islamic State leaders were also former prisoners, including: Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, Abu Louay, Abu Kassem, Abu Jurnas, Abu Shema and Abu Suja.

Before their detention, Mr. al-Baghdadi and others were violent radicals, intent on attacking America. Their time in prison deepened their extremism and gave them opportunities to broaden their following. At Camp Bucca, for example, the most radical figures were held alongside less threatening individuals, some of whom were not guilty of any violent crime. Coalition prisons became recruitment centers and training grounds for the terrorists the United States is now fighting.

This process began when coalition forces arrived in Iraq in 2003 and detained alleged terrorists with little preparation or oversight. Although soldiers tried to document the circumstances behind the detentions of Iraqis and foreign fighters, the process broke down under the pressure of fighting, the shortage of trained Arabic speakers, and the fog of war.

Simply being a “suspicious looking” military-aged male in the vicinity of an attack was enough to land one behind bars. There were 26,000 detainees at the height of the war, and over 100,000 individuals passed through the gates of Camps Bucca, Cropper and Taji. Quite a few were dangerous insurgents; many others were innocent.

Small-time criminals, violent terrorists and unknown personalities were separated only along sectarian lines. This provided a space for extremists to spread their message. The detainees who rejected the radicals in their cells faced retribution from other prisoners through “Shariah courts” that infested the facilities.

The radicalization of the prison population was evident to anyone who paid attention. Unfortunately, few military leaders did.

At Camp Bucca, the extremists forced moderate detainees to listen to clerics who advocated jihad. The majority of prisoners were illiterate, so they were particularly susceptible. Prisoners frequently refused medical attention and vocational training for fear of breaking religious rules. The prisons became virtual terrorist universities: The hardened radicals were the professors, the other detainees were the students, and the prison authorities played the role of absent custodian.

Policies changed in 2007, as American military leaders began placing more emphasis on understanding the detainee population. Where possible, the military tried to separate hard-line terrorists from moderates. Prisoners gained more access to programs that taught vocational skills, literacy and a moderate version of Islam.

Some of these reforms worked, but the damage had already been done. The terrorists had four years to network, recruit and impose their extreme version of Islam on thousands of detainees.

One of us served at Camp Cropper in 2009 as a compound intelligence liaison officer with the tasks of collecting information on detainees and disrupting extremist activity. Fulfilling the first priority was relatively easy; the second was nearly impossible.

The compound’s “emirs” controlled the prison population. Detainees, for example, refused to watch television or play ping-pong, lest they face the judgment of the Shariah courts. Moderate detainees suffered repeated physical assaults from radicals. When they fought back, they were punished by the prison authorities.

Insurgents with damning evidence against them were released because of the incompetence of the Iraqi court system and America’s refusal to share classified evidence. Efforts at expediency drove both policies, and the mistakes compounded one another.

By December 2009, only a few thousand detainees remained in the prisons and Camp Bucca was closed. Although American soldiers, backed by intelligence agencies, tried to identify the most threatening detainees, that effort was doomed to failure. Poor record-keeping, limited language skills, detainee obfuscation and the pressure to cut costs prohibited the effective evaluation of prisoners.

The most extreme radicals were never slated for release. A number of them had already been sentenced to death and were awaiting transfer to the Iraqi justice system. But after the United States withdrew, these prisoners found themselves in Iraqi custody. The Islamic State made a priority of freeing these extremists as they conquered large parts of Iraq this past summer. With a new lease on life, these former prisoners are now some of the Islamic States’ most dedicated fighters.

The United States should keep this lesson in mind as it begins another counterterrorism campaign in Iraq and Syria. Large detention facilities only create the seeds for further radicalization and violence. There is strong evidence that the prisons run by the Iraqi and Syrian governments have already had this effect.

The United States must convince its regional partners to avoid mixing radicals and moderates, and provide alternatives to prison for small-scale criminals. If we continue to replay the history of mass incarceration in the Middle East, we will remain stuck in the current cycle where our counterterrorism efforts create more terrorists.

Andrew Thompson,a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, served for eight years in the United States military.Jeremi Suri, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of “Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama.”


The New York Times.

Windows 10: the start menu is back and nine other things to know | #Microsoft #Windows10


Microsoft has pulled a U-turn on its reinvention of the PC, ditching Windows 8 and creating something that blends the old Windows with the new.

Windows 10 is the next version of Microsoft’s Windows computer software for tablets, desktops, laptops and smartphones, which brings back the start menu.Windows 10 is the next version of Microsoft’s Windows computer software for tablets, desktops, laptops and smartphones, which brings back the start menu. Photograph: Microsoft

Samuel Gibbs reporting.

Microsoft has unveiled its next version of the Windows software which presently powers about 1.5bn PCs in use on the planet. Windows 10 will aim to entice users put off by Windows 8, whose lack of a start menu (introduced in 1995 with Windows 95) was more suitable for touch interfaces than a keyboard and a mouse – even though keyboard-reliant users outnumbered touch users by millions to one.

Windows 8 was a radical departure from the tried and tested Windows interface introduced in Windows 95. Users were puzzled at best, and businesses were slower to update than usual. Microsoft hopes Windows 10 will bring users back and entice businesses to ditch the four-year-old Windows 7, seven-year-old Windows Vista and the now-discontinued 13-year-old Windows XP.

1 Start menu

The start menu is back, but it’s still got Microsoft’s live tiles from Windows 8 bolted on to the side.The start menu is back, but it’s still got Microsoft’s live tiles from Windows 8 bolted on to the side. Photograph: screengrab.

After complaints from users about its absence, the start menu is back. Clicking the start button brings up a menu, which – although isn’t exactly the same as Windows 7 or those before it – is more familiar than the full-screen tiled interface of Windows 8. This should be much more useful for desktop users, but the tiled interface from Windows 8 is tacked on to the side.

2 Continuum

When connecting or disconnecting a keyboard Windows 10 will switch between a touch-based interface and a mouse and keyboard-focused interface.When connecting or disconnecting a keyboard Windows 10 will switch between a touch-based interface and a mouse and keyboard-focused interface. Photograph: screengrab.

Windows 10 attempts to blend the best of Windows 7 with Windows 8. One of the smartest things Microsoft has added is Continuum, which detects the state of the computer and presents the right interface depending on whether a keyboard and mouse is being used or the screen is being touched.

For machines like the Surface Pro (which has a detachable keyboard), when the keyboard is attached it behaves like a desktop machine; without it, Windows switches to a more touch-friendly interface with an on-screen back button and other touch elements to make things a bit easier with fingers on a screen.

3 One Windows for all devices

Microsoft is using Windows 10 to attempt to unify its various software platforms across different devices under one Windows brand and software.Microsoft is using Windows 10 to attempt to unify its various software platforms across different devices under one Windows brand and software. Photograph: screengrab.

Microsoft has talked a lot about Windows being more than simply desktop computer software. Windows 10 is meant to unify desktop PCs, Windows tablets and Windows Phone smartphones with one interface, one way of operating and one account.

Apple has taken a similar route with its iCloud accounts and the upcoming Continuity feature between iPads, iPhones and Mac computers – although its iOS software on the iPhone and OS X on the desktop have been kept separate.

4 Universal apps

Microsoft promises that Windows universal apps will run on any Windows product, including smartphones, tablets and desktops.Microsoft promises that Windows universal apps will run on any Windows product, including smartphones, tablets and desktops.

Along with the “one Windows for all devices” idea, Microsoft is pushing what it calls “universal Windows apps”, which is the new name for apps downloaded from the Windows Store. The idea is that one app will be able to run on all Windows platforms, including Windows Phone. Microsoft has been talking about this for over a year.

How it will work is not yet clear, but it is likely that new Windows apps will have a condensed version for Windows Phone and full-size versions for tablets and computers. Apple’s universal apps do something similar between the iPhone and iPad, but are not the same as the desktop OS X apps.

5 No more full-screen; universal apps can be windowed

New Windows Store apps, which previously only operated in full-screen mode, can now be used in traditional windows on the desktop.New Windows Store apps, which previously only operated in full-screen mode, can now be used in traditional windows on the desktop. Photograph: Microsoft

Bringing back the start menu has given the traditional Windows desktop more prominence again. To help merge the Windows 8-style “modern” apps from the Windows Store with the traditional desktop, Windows 10 can now run the newly renamed “universal apps” in windows on the desktop, as though they were any other desktop app.

6 Snap assist

The window Snap feature has been enhanced to size windows for better multi-window productivity.The window Snap feature has been enhanced to size windows for better multi-window productivity. Photograph: Microsoft

The snapping feature, which automatically resizes windows on the desktop to fill part or all of the screen, has been enhanced, allowing tiling of windows, snapping side-by-side and an array of new layouts to including virtual multi-desktop modes to try to help computer and tablet users be more productive with both universal apps and traditional desktop Windows apps.

7 What will it run on? Is Windows RT dead?

Is Windows RT dead?Is Windows RT dead? Photograph: Alamy

Windows 10 will run on most things that Windows 8 can run on. That includes almost any new PC bought in the last couple of years, but will exclude some older PCs, as Windows 8 requires a 64-bit processor.

Processors supporting 64-bit operation have been on sale from Intel and AMD since 2004, so most PCs still in operation will support 64-bit software.

The fate of ARM-based Windows tablets (that is, not running x86 processors) is unclear. Windows RT powers the Microsoft Surface and Surface 2, Nokia Lumia 2520 and the Dell XPS 10, among others. Microsoft has yet to announce whether Windows RT, which only runs on tablets powered by smartphone-class ARM processors, will be upgraded to Windows 10. A question about RT’s future wasn’t answered at the introduction on Tuesday.

8 When will it be available, and what will it cost?

The technical preview of Windows 10 will be available soon, with but Windows 10 won’t be available to buy until 2015.The technical preview of Windows 10 will be available soon, with but Windows 10 won’t be available to buy until 2015. Photograph: Screenshot

Microsoft showed off Windows 10 on Tuesday, but it won’t actually be available to users until 2015, after Microsoft’s developer conference in April called Build. Microsoft will be courting businesses before consumers, but Windows 10 is unlikely to appear in most businesses until the end of 2015 at the earliest.

Most consumers will buy Windows 10 with a new PC, but for those feeling adventurous and wanting to have a poke around Microsoft’s latest and greatest, the company is allowing users to sign up for early previews of the software still in testing.

It is recommended only for those that are happy to deal with and tech savvy enough to cope with buggy software and the potential for data loss, but those interested can check out the Windows Insider Program.

How much the final retail edition of Windows 10 will cost Microsoft hasn’t said. Windows 8.1 costs £100 from Microsoft, but a Windows 10 introductory discount is likely.

10 What’s in a number?

Terry Myerson and Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group unveil Windows 10.Terry Myerson and Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group unveil Windows 10. Photograph: Microsoft

Yes, Microsoft did skip from Windows 8 (or 8.1 to be precise) straight to Windows 10.

What happened to Windows 9? Perhaps Microsoft has been using base 9, so 9 is 10. Or 10 just sounds better? The Xbox 360 (aka the Xbox 2) and its successor the Xbox One (aka the Xbox 3) are proof that Microsoft is happy to throw out conventional numbering when it feels like it.


Technology | The Guardian.

Copying CDs is now legal – but is it too little, too late?


Copying: Tapes were once the devil, to the music industry.Copying: Tapes were once the devil, to the music industry. DavidTB / Shutterstock

Matt Kamen reporting,

Today, copyright law in the UK catches up with what people have been doing for decades — backing up media for personal use is now legal.

Until now, every time you copied media for any reason, you were breaking the law. Even if you weren’t sharing the files online or providing copies of the discs to other people, in the eyes of the law you were a criminal. Thankfully, some sense has prevailed, but it’s taken a ridiculously long time to come into effect.

In March, the UK Intellectual Property Office published a consumer guide on exceptions to copyright, indicating that by the summer, private back-ups would be allowed. The key statement is on page four of the document, saying “The changes will mean that you will be able to copy a book or film you have purchased for one device onto another without infringing copyright.

However, summer came and went, and the move was, perhaps inevitably, delayed while Parliament continued to debate — a discussion that had been going on for years already. A strange half-measure of allowing only disabled people to “make accessible copies of copyright material (eg music, film, books) when no commercial alternative exists” was implemented on 02 June, though.

Today, four months later, the full changes have come into law. You are now permitted to duplicate your legally purchased media, be it audio, video, or books, for your own personal purposes. Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, the UK’s IP Minister, said “These changes are going to bring our IP laws into the 21st century. They will mean that the UK IP regime will now be responsive to the modern business environment and more flexible for consumers.”

While the full list of changes can be read here, one in particular represents arguably the biggest shift in government opinion on copyrighted material in a generation: you can store your legal copies in the cloud.

The guidance reads: “You are permitted to make personal copies to any device that you own, or a personal online storage medium, such as a private cloud. However, it is unlawful to give other people access to the copies you have made, including, for example, by allowing a friend to access your personal cloud storage.

The ramifications of this are huge, not only in how we access, store, and transfer our media, but in how it’s sold to us in the first place. Digital purchases, technically, could be divorced from the ecosystems they’re bought through, if users wished to back them up to an offline device. How this and other, potentially unforeseen consequences of the revised laws will play out in real usage remains to be seen though.

It’s noteworthy that video games are not explicitly mentioned as media that it is legal to back up, something that has the potential to create a loophole in the copyright industry’s favour. Of slightly less technological import, “Fair Use” rights have also been expanded, providing greater protections for satirists or creative works using copyrighted material for parody or reference, so long as the source is recognised. Permission will not need to be sought in advance.

However, the real question left in the wake of today’s changes is why it’s taken so long for the law to reflect what people were already doing. There’s a big difference between ripping a CD to use as MP3s on your personal player, or creating a back-up to use in the car, and uploading those MP3s through BitTorrent in a deliberate attempt to circumvent copyright. The tendency for vilifying anyone for the crime of personal convenience was a disservice to consumers, a luddite’s response to technology allowing simple copying, and a damning PR move for the creative industries themselves. The war on piracy — perceived or otherwise — has been little more than a public image disaster, painting the entertainment industry as little more than a cadre of rich bullies.

The almost tragic fact is that this entire debate, with all the legal challenges, arguments, lobbying and immense costs, has taken literally decades to get to this point. Music labels in particular have claimed the sky was falling for years, and their response has traditionally been to try to impede progress. So while it’s great that British consumers can now rest easy regarding backing up their purchases, the change has come just as they’re on the cusp of making the next format leap to streaming their media diets. Today’s enshrinement of consumer rights is a great step forward, but one that should have been locked in place years ago.


Wired UK.

More bodies found on Japanese volcano; toll now 47 | #Japan #Volcano #MountOntake


Rescuers conduct a search operation near the peak of Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday's surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDITRescuers conduct a search operation near the peak of Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday’s surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Emily Wang and Mari Yamaguchi reporting,

OTAKI, Japan (AP) — One body recovered near the volcano’s peak was in a squatting position and had to be dug out of a thick layer of ash. Another was caught between boulders bigger than large refrigerators. Police who recovered the bodies Wednesday portrayed a painful scene of death around the summit where hikers enjoying an autumn weekend hike were caught by the mountain’s surprise eruption.

Rescuers conduct a search operation near the peak of Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday's surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDITRescuers conduct a search operation near the peak of Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday’s surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

The death toll from Saturday’s eruption on Mount Ontake in central Japan rose to 47, Nagano police said in a statement. While ash and gases were spewing from the crater, searchers wearing surgical masks and helmets carried devices to measure the toxicity of the gases to make sure it was safe to be on the slopes filled with volcanic debris.

Rescuers conduct a search operation near the peak of Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday's surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDITRescuers conduct a search operation near the peak of Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday’s surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

It was the worst fatal eruption in postwar history, exceeding the 43 killed in the 1991 eruption of Mount Unzen in southern Japan.

Ground Self-Defense Forces mobilized CH-47 helicopters to bring the last bodies to the foot of Ontake, known as one of Japan’s 100 best mountains and topped by a shrine that attracts visitors. Prefectural and police officials said most bodies were found around the summit, where many climbers were resting or having lunch at the time of the eruption. Other victims were found at a slightly lower elevation that reportedly had little place to hide.

Nagano police riot unit leader Mamoru Yamazaki described the rescue scene as “severe.”

Rescuers carry a person found on Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday's surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDITRescuers carry a person found on Mount Ontake in central Japan Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Search efforts for people missing since Saturday’s surprise eruption resumed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

His team, part of hundreds of rescuers dispatched Wednesday, found some of the bodies outside of a lodge just below the mountaintop shrine and on a hiking trail leading to the area, Yamazaki said.

Rescuers used a special cutting machine to retrieve the body stuck between the two huge rocks, he said. They recovered four other bodies from slits between rocks.

In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo released by Tokyo Fire Department, firefighters carry an injured by Saturday's initial eruption from the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan. A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday, Oct. 1 near the ash-covered summit of the Japanese volcano as searches resumed amid concern of toxic gasses and another eruption. (AP Photo/Tokyo Fire Department)In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo released by Tokyo Fire Department, firefighters carry an injured by Saturday’s initial eruption from the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan. A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday, Oct. 1 near the ash-covered summit of the Japanese volcano as searches resumed amid concern of toxic gasses and another eruption. (AP Photo/Tokyo Fire Department) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Many victims were half-buried in the ash, others even deeper, he told reporters. One was found curled up in a ducking position toward the crater as if to protect the back of the head from flying rocks and to avoid ash and fumes getting in the face. “My impression is that the person had tried to cover the head, bent over into a ball and then was buried by debris and ash while in that position,” Yamazaki said, trying to emulate the posture.

In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo released by Tokyo Fire Department, Tokyo Fire Department firefighters carry an injured by Saturday's initial eruption from the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan. A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday, Oct. 1 near the ash-covered summit of the Japanese volcano as searches resumed amid concern of toxic gasses and another eruption. (AP Photo/Tokyo Fire Department)In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo released by Tokyo Fire Department, Tokyo Fire Department firefighters carry an injured by Saturday’s initial eruption from the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan. A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday, Oct. 1 near the ash-covered summit of the Japanese volcano as searches resumed amid concern of toxic gasses and another eruption. (AP Photo/Tokyo Fire Department) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Authorities say all of the known victims have been recovered, but the decision on whether to end the search was still being evaluated. In their statement giving the death toll, Nagano police also apologized for an earlier miscount of 48 dead.

In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo released by Tokyo Fire Department, firefighters carry a hiker trapped in the summit area of Mount Ontake during Saturday's initial eruption during rescue operations in central Japan. A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday, Oct. 1 near the ash-covered summit of the Japanese volcano as searches resumed amid concern of toxic gasses and another eruption. (AP Photo/Tokyo Fire Department)In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo released by Tokyo Fire Department, firefighters carry a hiker trapped in the summit area of Mount Ontake during Saturday’s initial eruption during rescue operations in central Japan. A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday, Oct. 1 near the ash-covered summit of the Japanese volcano as searches resumed amid concern of toxic gasses and another eruption. (AP Photo/Tokyo Fire Department) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

The nearly 70 people who were injured in the eruption had bruises, cuts and broken bones indicating flying rocks hit them as they fled down the slope. Survivors described hiding in rock crevasses or inside mountain lodges while smoke blackened the sky and ash covered the ground.

Yaeko Arai, left, 85, delivers a box of surgical masks to her neighbor Emiko Miura, 53, as Mount Ontake continues to erupt in Otaki in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Arai spent the afternoon handing a box of masks to each household as the village distributed more than 400 boxes of masks to 9 districts as a precaution for ash that may fall if eruptions worsen. The Japan Meteorological Agency said levels of toxic gases were too low to cause health problems in distant towns, but cautioned residents that ash could cause eye irritation, particularly among contact lens users, or trigger asthmatic symptoms. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)Yaeko Arai, left, 85, delivers a box of surgical masks to her neighbor Emiko Miura, 53, as Mount Ontake continues to erupt in Otaki in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Arai spent the afternoon handing a box of masks to each household as the village distributed more than 400 boxes of masks to 9 districts as a precaution for ash that may fall if eruptions worsen. The Japan Meteorological Agency said levels of toxic gases were too low to cause health problems in distant towns, but cautioned residents that ash could cause eye irritation, particularly among contact lens users, or trigger asthmatic symptoms. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the levels of toxic gases were too low to cause health problems in distant towns, but it cautioned that ash could cause eye irritation, particularly among contact lens users, or trigger asthmatic symptoms. Surgical masks were distributed in one district of Otaki on Wednesday.

Yaeko Arai, 85, carries boxes of Surgical masks on her trolley as Mount Ontake continues to erupt in Otaki in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Arai spent the afternoon handing a box of masks to each household as the village distributed more than 400 boxes of masks to 9 districts as a precaution for ash that may fall if eruptions worsen. The Japan Meteorological Agency said levels of toxic gases were too low to cause health problems in distant towns, but cautioned residents that ash could cause eye irritation, particularly among contact lens users, or trigger asthmatic symptoms. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda) (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)Yaeko Arai, 85, carries boxes of Surgical masks on her trolley as Mount Ontake continues to erupt in Otaki in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Arai spent the afternoon handing a box of masks to each household as the village distributed more than 400 boxes of masks to 9 districts as a precaution for ash that may fall if eruptions worsen. The Japan Meteorological Agency said levels of toxic gases were too low to cause health problems in distant towns, but cautioned residents that ash could cause eye irritation, particularly among contact lens users, or trigger asthmatic symptoms. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

Before Saturday, seismologists had detected signs of increased seismic activity at Mount Ontake, one of Japan’s 110 active volcanos, but nothing signaled a fatal eruption.

A Nagano Prefectural police officer covered by volcanic ash talks to the media after coming back from his mission to recover bodies still near the summit as Mount Ontake continues to erupt in Otaki in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Police who recovered a dozen bodies on Wednesday portrayed a painful scene of death around the summit where hikers enjoying a weekend autumn hike were caught by the mountain's surprise eruption.A Nagano Prefectural police officer covered by volcanic ash talks to the media after coming back from his mission to recover bodies still near the summit as Mount Ontake continues to erupt in Otaki in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Police who recovered a dozen bodies on Wednesday portrayed a painful scene of death around the summit where hikers enjoying a weekend autumn hike were caught by the mountain’s surprise eruption. AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.


The Associated Press.

IS ‘executioner’ a French pot-smoking clubber | #jihadist #IslamicState #ISIL #Washington


As a teen, Salim Benghalem smoked weed and went out clubbing. Now, the Frenchman is an Islamic State (IS) jihadist wanted by Washington

Prabalta Rijal reporting,

As a teen, Salim Benghalem smoked weed and went out clubbing. Now, the Frenchman is an Islamic State (IS) jihadist wanted by Washington, which accuses him of carrying out executions for the extremist group.The US State Department last week singled him out as one of 10 wanted “foreign terrorist fighters”, describing him as “a Syria-based French extremist and ISIL member” — using an alternative name for IS – as well as an executioner.But this description has left friends and relatives of the 34-year-old, who grew up in Cachan near Paris, baffled. On a condition of anonymity, they acknowledge he is a Muslim who travelled to Syria to pursue “an ideal of justice”, but “definitely not an executioner.”

Described as a happy, “slightly puny” man, Benghalem is the fourth of seven children. He got on with his family but suddenly, unexpectedly left his hometown in 2012, leaving behind a wife and two young kids.

He waited four days before contacting his relatives, telling them he was in Syria and had joined the Islamic State group, which controls large parts of the war-torn country as well as swathes of Iraq.

He gives regular news via Skype or Viber, calling every 10 to 15 days from Internet cafes near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. His relatives say they sometimes see armed fighters in the background. “He didn’t belong in France. He found himself over there,” a person close to him said, wishing to remain anonymous, adding that his task in Syria is to hand out fines on behalf of IS “for illegal possession of cigarettes, or things like that.”

IS executioner, Salim Benghalem.IS executioner, Salim Benghalem.

“But he is not an executioner,” he insisted.

Benghalem last contacted his family in August, from Aleppo, as bombings raged. He had grown a small beard.

‘A non-practicing Muslim’

This is not the first time he has left France. In 2001, he fled to Algeria where his family originates from after being accused of murder and attempted murder as part of a fight between rival gangs.

He remained in contact with his family for a year, finally returning in 2002, when he was detained.

After five years in custody, he was sentenced in 2007 to 11 years in jail, but was partially released from prison and then fully freed in 2010 thanks to his “good behaviour” and “repentance”, said his then lawyer Leon Lef Forster, who is “stunned” by what Benghalem has become.

“He was a non-practicing Muslim, he only observed Ramadan, without any religious excess,” he told AFP.

“The person we’re talking about now does not tally with the young man I knew.”

One of his childhood friends, who also wished to remain anonymous, said Benghalem was “very funny, always teasing.”

“He liked to crack jokes and was fun-loving,” he said.

“And he wasn’t particularly brave. When there was an altercation, he was not on the front line.”

‘A radicalised boy’

Benghalem never finished a vocational training qualification he had started, and went from one job to another: supermarket cashier, electrician, supervisor in a dining hall…

In his spare time, “he went out at night, with everything that entails: girls, some alcohol, but particularly weed,” his friend said.

“When I saw him again after his release from prison, I felt he had matured,” he said, but stressed that nothing pointed to any form of radicalisation.

“I don’t think anyone can explain what happened.”

His name had appeared as part of a French probe that led to the dismantling in November 2013 of a jihadist network in the Val-de-Marne region where Cachan is located, according to a source close to the case.

But by then Benghalem was already in Syria.

The source said he is believed to have “actively participated in fighting” in the country and “is thought to have volunteered around a year ago for a suicide operation.”

But another source, who also wished to remain anonymous, questioned the emphasis placed on Benghalem by Washington.

“He is definitely a radicalised boy who could be dangerous and is known by authorities. But there are others like him.”


The Oslo Times.