By Nick Tattersall and Ayla Jean Yackley
ISTANBUL | Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:41am EDT
Turkish riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at hundreds of protesters armed with rocks and fireworks on Tuesday as they tried to regain control of a central Istanbul square at the heart of anti-government demonstrations.
Prime Miniaster Tayyip Erdogan struck a defiant note, declaring he would not yield to the protesters, while in a further sign of the effects the 10-day-old crisis has had on markets, the central bank said it would intervene if needed to support the lira.
“They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?” Erdogan said after the action started. “If you call this roughness, I’m sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won’t change.”
Riot police backed by armored vehicles moved into Taksim Square, epicenter of more than ten days of protest, soon after dawn. Bulldozers began removing barricades made of paving stones and corrugated iron.
What began as a protest at redevelopment plans for Gezi Park, a leafy corner of the square, has grown into an unprecedented challenge to Erdogan, who has governed for over 10 years. Victor in three consecutive elections, he says the protests are engineered by vandals, terrorist elements and unnamed foreign forces.
“A comprehensive attack against Turkey has been carried out,” Erdogan told parliamentary group meeting of his AK Party.
“The increase in interest rates, the fall in the stock markets, the deterioration in the investment environment, the intimidation of investors – the efforts to distort Turkey’s image have been put in place as a systematic project,” he said
Mexican authorities rescued 165 kidnap victims who had been held for weeks in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, the country’s Interior Ministry said Thursday.
A majority of the victims — 150 — are Central American migrants. Another 14 are Mexican nationals, and one is from India, the ministry said.
They were held captive for as many as three weeks, officials said.
Drug cartels that operate in the area are known to have kidnapped migrants in the past and requested ransoms for their release.
Amnesty International has said that immigrants in Mexico “face a variety of serious abuses from organized criminal gangs, including kidnappings, threats and assaults.”
During a six-month period in 2010, Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights said, at least 11,333 migrants were kidnapped.
That same year, authorities found the bodies of 72 slain immigrants from Central and South America on an abandoned ranch near the Mexico-U.S. border.
The Central American migrants freed Thursday included 77 Salvadorans, 50 Guatemalans and 23 Hondurans.
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Alissa de Carbonnel, Reuters
The United States will deploy Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and F-16 fighter jets to Syria’s neighbor Jordan this month, Jordan said on Tuesday, drawing swift condemnation from Moscow which accused the West of sending weapons to fuel Syria’s civil war.
Jordan said the planes and missiles will be sent as part of an annual exercise to begin in the last week of June. Military sources said the exercises would involve armies from at least 18 countries with more than 15,000 troops.
“These annual exercises will increase the preparedness of the Jordanian army. This year we are in need of more advanced weapons,” Jordan’s Minister of Information Mohammad al-Momani told Reuters.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday voiced concern over “reports of excessive use of force” by Turkish police in clashes with demonstrators in Ankara and other Turkish cities.
Kerry stressed that the United States supported the right to peaceful protests and said Washington was “deeply concerned about the numbers of people injured,” urging all sides to “avoid any provocations or violence.”
“We are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police,” Kerry told reporters after talks with his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski.
“We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force with respect to those kinds of incidents.”
Rights groups say hundreds have been wounded in clashes nationwide that have pitted stone-throwing protesters against riot police firing tear gas and water cannons since Friday.
AFP photographers in Ankara on Monday saw police fire tear gas and use water cannon to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators on the fourth day of violent protests that have swept scores of Turkish cities.
The protests started as a small campaign against the redevelopment of Gezi Park near Taksim Square, a rare green spot in central Istanbul.
But a harsh police response set off a wave of fury directed at the decade-long rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Turkey is a key regional ally for the United States, and the two countries have been working together closely, particularly over the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Washington has made its concerns known to Turkish officials and updated its travel warnings for U.S. citizens.
But Kerry insisted: “We don’t say these things to interfere in another country’s choices or events, but we say these things to reaffirm what we believe are universal principles and values that are essential to the practice of democracy.”
He also stressed that despite the upheaval he believed Turkish officials remained fully engaged in trying to resolve the crisis in Syria.
By Ian Johnston, Staff Writer, NBC News
The FBI has appealed for help in finding Armando Torres III, a U.S. Marine who was kidnapped in Mexico along with his father and uncle.
In a statement on its website, the FBI said Torres had gone just across the border to visit his father’s ranch in La Barranca, Tamaulipas, on May 14, when he was abducted.
His father Armando Torres II and uncle Salvador Torres, both Mexican citizens, were also taken.
“Shortly after he (Torres) arrived at the ranch, armed gunmen entered the ranch and took all three Torres family members by force. They have not been seen or heard from since this event,” the FBI statement said.
A criminal investigation is underway in Mexico and the FBI said it was also conducting an “international kidnapping investigation and is vigorously pursuing all investigative leads.”
The statement said Armando Torres III was a U.S. Marine and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His sister Cristina Torres, 24, who lives in Virginia, told The Monitor newspaper, which is based in McAllen, Texas, that the family thought the kidnapping was related to a land dispute as drug traffickers have been trying to get the property because of its position close to the border.
She also said that her cousin witnessed the kidnapping.
“She saw a white truck with people in it and they just went in the house and got my brother and my dad and my uncle and just put them in the truck and took off,” Cristina Torres said. “They took a lot of their belongings in the house and they took the cars, as well.”
The Monitor said the kidnapped Marine, of Hargill, Texas, has two children, aged 4 and 3.
Friends and fellow Marines have started a Facebook group called “Get Our Brother Back” in support of Torres. It had 1,372 members at 6:40 a.m. ET Tuesday.
Mexico City sees its share of protests, but this one was unusual.
One woman wept. Other protesters shouted at the tops of their lungs, demanding answers. Still others showed pictures of their relatives to puzzled passersby.
The protesters who gathered Thursday are relatives of 11 partygoers who went missing more than a week ago from a bar in a posh Mexico City neighborhood known as “Zona Rosa,” or Pink Zone. The area has a vibrant night scene with bars, nightclubs and upscale restaurants on every street.
The protesters say their relatives were kidnapped on May 26 as they were partying at Heaven, an after-hours bar in the neighborhood. All 11 disappeared between 10 a.m. and noon, they say.
The bar is only steps away from Paseo de la Reforma, an iconic avenue in central Mexico City. The emblematic Angel of Independence monument is nearby, as are the U.S. Embassy and the financial district.
Guadalupe Dominguez, a relative of one of the missing, said a witness told her the 11 people were kidnapped by armed men who showed up in SUVs, but authorities say there’s no evidence of such an incident.
“A young fellow who managed to escape was the one who told us about it, but we don’t really know anything else,” Dominguez said.
The military leader of al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch says Americans will not be safe unless their leaders respect the security of other nations and do not attack or oppress them.
In a message addressed “to the American nation,” Qassim al-Rimi, commander of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, said: “your security is not achieved by despoiling other nations’ security or by attacking and oppressing them.”
The six-minute English-subtitled audio, posted on a militant website late Saturday, implored Americans to “leave us with our religion, land and nations and mind your own internal affairs.”
Al-Rimi said the bombing of the Boston marathon in April, and the recent sending of ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg “indicate that the control of your security has broken away.” The video was produced by al-Qaida’s media arm, al-Malahem Foundation.
By Ian Johnston and John Newland, NBC News
A senior Israeli defense official warned on Tuesday that Russia’s plan to send sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons systems to Syria’s President Bashar Assad was a “threat” and signaled Israel could take some form of unspecified action in response.
Israel has launched airstrikes inside Syria that it says were designed to stop weapons shipments getting to the Assad-allied Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
Russia on Tuesday reiterated its intention to go ahead with the arms deal. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said it would “restrain some hotheads from escalating the conflict to the international scale,” according to Russia Today.
In the wake of an alleged terrorist attack on one of its soldiers, Britain is forming a task force that will examine the forces behind extremist groups in the country, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office announced Sunday.
The group, led by Cameron, will “have a general focus on extremist groups, but accept that in practice the greatest threat is from Islamist extremists,” a statement from Downing Street said.
The Muslim Council of Britain said the task force needs to look at “extremism from all quarters” while forming an effective strategy.
“In doing so, we hope wisdom prevails as we reflect on the response of these past few days and the missed opportunities of previous years,” said a statement from the council’s secretary-general, Farooq Murad. “We must be vigilant and ensure we do not inadvertently give into the demands of all extremists: making our society less free, divided and suspicious of each other. Lessons from the past indicate that policies and measures taken in haste can exacerbate extremism.”
Like millions of other Americans, Dan and Sally Sligh packed up their vehicle and headed out for a Memorial Day weekend trip. As they crossed the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River outside Seattle, Washington, the bridge gave way and their pickup truck plunged into the frigid waters.
Luckily, everyone survived Thursday’s incident.
When a bridge fails, such as the I-5 bridge in Washington state, it raises questions about the safety of millions of travelers. Where are America’s risky bridges? Are interstate bridges being properly inspected? What will it take to make the nation’s bridges safer?
We shouldn’t be worried, but we should be wary: that’s the message from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which puts out a “report card” on the safety and maintenance of U.S. bridges.
Right now, America’s got a C+.