EGYPT’S ISIS TARGETS MILITARY
At least 26 people were killed yesterday in a series of attacks by an ISIS-affiliated group in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, Al Jazeera reports. Most of the victims were Egyptian troops, but civilians were also among the victims. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cut short his visit to Ethiopia, where he was attending an African Union summit. The attacks suggest Cairo’s crackdown on regional militant groups, which included the razing of much of the town of Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip, has failed, The New York Times notes.
ON THIS DAY
On this day in 1948, Gandhi was assassinated. Time for your 57-second shot of history.
TALIBAN BEHIND KABUL MURDERS
The Taliban claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack on a military base at Kabul’s airport in which one Afghan and three American civilians were killed. The American victims were Defense Department contractors who were training the Afghanistan air force, AFP reports.
HOLLANDE AS HITLER ON FRONT PAGE
The Jan. 29 front page of Morocco's weekly magazine Alwatan Alane features French President Francois Hollande wearing a Nazi outfit, complete with a swastika armband and Adolf Hitler's trademark mustache. The controversial photomontage is accompanied by the title, "Will the French revive Hitler's concentration camps to exterminate Muslims?"
Read more about it here: Extra! Moroccan Weekly Features Francois Hollande As Hitler.
FATE OF ISIS HOSTAGES UNKNOWN
An ISIS-imposed deadline for a prisoner swap passed yesterday at sunset, but Jordan refused to play ball after the terrorist group failed to provide proof that the Jordan pilot hostage is still alive. It’s unclear what, if anything, happened to the pilot and a second hostage, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto. Speaking for the first time since the hostage crisis started, Goto’s wife begged Tokyo and Amman to save her husband. Read more from The Japan Times.
Two pilots, American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev, have set a new world record for the longest distance flown in a helium balloon after crossing the Pacific Ocean. The duo is expected to land in Mexico tomorrow and could also break the record for duration.
AFRICAN UNION VS. BOKO HARAM
In its bid to secure support from the UN Security Council in the fight against Boko Haram, the African Union has agreed to plans for the creation of a regional task force of “7,500 women and men” to battle the Islamist sect, France 24 reports. As the terror group’s gains in Nigeria and Cameroon suggest, it could soon pose a regional threat. African Union Commission Chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said it had been decided at yesterday’s meeting that “no efforts should be spared” to defeat Boko Haram.
As Les Echos’ Laurence Albert writes, wine-loving France used to be a beer haven too, before shrinking to just 22 breweries three decades ago. Today it's up to more than 700 microbreweries, even if industrialists continue to dominate. “‘The resurrection of breweries is especially linked to the regional sphere,’ says Pascal Chèvremont, executive director of the Association of French Brewers. ‘It actually started in regions with strong identities, such as Corsica or Brittany. New brewers integrated flavors such as chestnut, nougat or cranberry. And regional structures that promote specialties helped them.’”
Read the full article, The Hoppy Comeback Of French Microbreweries.
PAROLE FOR “PRIME EVIL”
Eugene de Kock, South Africa’s apartheid death squad leader, was granted parole today after spending 20 years in jail “in the interests of nation-building,” Justice Minister Michael Masutha said. The date and location of his release will not be made public. De Kock, who was nicknamed “Prime Evil” for his role in the torture and murder of black South African activists in the 1980s and early 1990s, expressed remorse at his crimes and had helped authorities recover the remains of some of his victims, Masutha said. Read more from South Africa’s daily The Mail & Guardian.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
ISRAEL TO EXPAND IN WEST BANK
The Israeli government has published its plans to build an extra 450 illegal settlement units in the West Bank, ending a months-long freeze on new construction in Palestinian territories, Haaretz reports. NGOs have denounced the move as “pre-election opportunism” from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
DOUBLE VICTIMS OF UNDER-REPORTED CONFLICTS
Ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine have attracted a lot of media coverage, and their predominance is putting people affected by at least 30 other conflicts in even greater danger, experts from the think tank International Crisis Group told Reuters. “The horrific violence you still see in South Sudan is because there is no pressure from public opinion,” the think tank’s president said, adding that 2.4 million people have been displaced in Darfur alone. Similarly, an estimated 7 million people need aid in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“In the heat of the moment you can say stuff that you regret,” British tennis player Andy Murray said after his fiancée Kim Sears was caught on camera swearing during Murray’s hard-fought victory against Tomas Berdych in the semi-final of the Australian Open. While lip readers can’t seem to agree on exactly what she said, they agree there were a lot of F-words.
With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.
When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.
And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.
Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan
The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan
According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.
In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.
The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.
Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.
View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA
Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!
The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.
Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.
Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain
Old Belchite, Spain
Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…
That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.
Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.
If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.
Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan
Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.
The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.
Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."
Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.
Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden
The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).
Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.
Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia
Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia
During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.
Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.
Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy
Poveglia Island, Italy
Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).
During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.
In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.
Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.
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