Dozens of people have been killed in central Italy, after the area was struck by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake. The mayor of the town of Amatrice, which was at the epicenter of the quake, says that the village is completely destroyed. Rescuers, first responders and teams from the Red Cross have been making their way to the areas affected by the disaster, but in some cases, they have had difficulty reaching victims because of the remote locations of some areas.
Back in 2009, another large earthquake killed more than 300 people in central Italy. Following the large earthquake last night, more than 40 tremors and other earthquakes—including a 5.5-magnitude—took place over the next three hours.
Nonprofit and humanitarian organizations in the region are asking for blood donations, as rescuers continue to pull injured victims from the ruble. In a statement from the Vatican, Pope Francis said:
I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted. I also express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid. Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened.
At least 54 people were killed and dozens were injured this weekend when a suicide bomber—who was reportedly just 12 - 14 years old—blew himself up at a Kurdish wedding party in the Turkish city of Gaziantep this weekend. According to the BBC, more than half of the victims were just children themselves.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ISIS is responsible for the attack, and according to early investigations, the type of bomb used is similar to ones ISIS has used in previous attacks on Kurdish communities. ISIS has recently faced significant losses in territory in the region (the area around the Turkish and Syrian border) thanks to the military efforts of Kurdish forces. Discuss
Last year around this time, an image captured the world's attention: a child who was the victim of the ongoing war in Syria. It was Aylan Kurdi, a toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish shore after the boat his family tried to escape on capsized.
This year, another evocative image (and video) is reminding the world of the horrors of the war. It's of a young Syrian boy who is bloodied, wounded and dazed in the aftermath of an airstrike, released by Aleppo Media Center.
Omran Daqneesh was pulled from the rubble of his bombed home in Aleppo, Syria this week. He is no older than 5 years old—which means that the war in Syria is as old as he is. Video shows Omran sitting silently in an ambulance waiting for help after he's just been pulled from the rubble of his home.
According to reports by CNN, everyone in Omran's immediate family—his parents, a brother and sister—all survived.
A new report from the U.S. State Department has found that religious freedom violations are rampant around the world, with nearly 74 percent of the entire global population living in countries that have “serious restrictions on religious freedom,” according to David Saperstein, the US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
The report specifically called out Muslim countries that enforce anti-blasphemy laws and anti-conversion laws. From the report:
In many other Islamic societies, societal passions associated with blasphemy – deadly enough in and of themselves – are abetted by a legal code that harshly penalizes blasphemy and apostasy. Such laws conflict with and undermine universally recognized human rights. All residents of countries where laws or social norms encourage the death penalty for blasphemy are vulnerable to attacks such as the one on Farkhunda [Malikzada, a woman killed after being accused of burning a Quran].
This is particularly true for those who have less power and are more vulnerable in those societies, like women, religious minorities, and the poor. False accusations, often lodged in pursuit of personal vendettas or for the personal gain of the accuser, are not uncommon. Mob violence as a result of such accusations is disturbingly common. In addition to the danger of mob violence engendered by blasphemy accusations, courts in many countries continued to hand down harsh sentences for blasphemy and apostasy, which were used to severely curtail the religious freedom of their residents.
At an event last week when the report was released, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told reporters that though “bigotry and intolerance” are every where in the world,” state-sponsored religious persecution is unacceptable: “Every country has an obligation to respect religious liberty and freedom of conscience.” Discuss
A series of bomb explosions have killed at least four people and injured dozens of others at popular tourist areas in Thailand. Over the course of 24 hours, multiple bombs went off in the town of Hua Hin and the island of Phuket, both areas that attract foreign tourists.
Dissidents? Insurgents? The Thai government says it doesn't know who was behind a series of bombings https://t.co/5b3ufGMtbT
It’s not clear yet who is behind the wave of bombings, but an Islamic separatist insurgent group in the country is responsible for nearly 6,000 deaths since 2004, though officials haven’t found links to any terrorist organization at this point. And, up to now, the separatists haven’t directly targeted foreign tourists. As the BBC notes, the timing falls on a national holiday that marks the queen’s birthday. Discuss
GOP Vice Presidential candidate and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was recently a guest on The Charlie Sykes Show radio program, and was asked for some details about Trump’s controversial plan to ban anyone from certain countries that have been home to terrorism from coming to U.S. Trump has previously called for banning Muslims from entering the United States, and, recently called for suspending immigration from “any nation that has been compromised by terrorism.”
Pence, who previously called for suspending Indiana’s participation in the nation’s Syrian refugee program which allows specially-selected victims of ISIS and Syria's on-going civil war, to find new homes in the United States, was asked for details about Trump's ban. Specifically, he was asked if the ban would extend to Christians and Jews from those countries, many of whom are specifically targeted by ISIS.
Gov. Mike Pence: We should temporarily suspend immigration from countries that have been compromised by terrorism, which I think is altogether fitting and appropriate. When you look at the Syrian refugee program—we had another incident in Belgium over the weekend—the simple fact is that both our homeland security and FBI have said there are countries like Syria where people are coming in through routine means, the refugees program and otherwise, and we can simply not know who they are for sure. So suspending that program from those countries, I think, is in the best interest of the security of our people.”
Charlie Sykes: So there’s no longer a proposed temporary ban on Muslims? It would be anyone from those countries, including Christians, Jews?
Gov. Pence: I think what you heard in the convention speech, what we talked about out on the stump is that we would temporarily suspend from countries or from territories if you will—the caliphate obviously of ISIS expands beyond one country—but to say that individuals that come from regions or countries that have been compromised by terrorism, that we would expand that immigration. I think that’s appropriate until we develop a new vetting system.”
ISIS has killed thousands and displaced millions in parts of the Middle East. Most of their victims are fellow Muslims, but they also regularly target religious minorities. Discuss