Wednesday, 2 September 2015

11 migrants drown, 5 missing when boats sink on way to Greek island from Turkey

A Turkish media report says at least 11 migrants have died and five others are missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized.

The private Dogan news agency says a boat carrying 16 people sank in international waters after leaving from the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday. Seven of them drowned while four were rescued.

Hours later, a second boat carrying six migrants sank off the coast of Bodrum. A woman and three children drowned while two migrants in life vests made it to shore half-unconscious, the report said.

Coast Guard officials would not immediately comment.

The route between Bodrum and Kos is one of the shortest from Turkey to the Greek islands. Thousands of migrants are attempting the perilous sea crossing despite the risks.

Wednesday 02 September 2015

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Mexico asks Austria lab to test missing students' clothes

Mexican authorities delivered on Tuesday clothing and objects linked to last year's disappearance and presumed massacre of 43 students to an Austrian laboratory in a new bid to identify the victims.

The 53 items were handed over to the University of Innsbruck, which has only managed to confirm the identity of one of the students among 17 sets of charred remains sent by Mexico late last year.

The pieces of clothing and other objects were sent to Austria on a request by international experts of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which has been conducting its own investigation into a case that caused international outrage.

The items were "reviewed and catalogued" by prosecutors and members of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

The Argentine team has worked on the case at the request of relatives of the missing because they do not trust the authorities.

In a July report, the Inter-American commission sharply questioned why prosecutors had not used clothing that was found of the missing students as evidence.

The commission's experts asked the authorities to process the items, photograph them and undertake genetic tests, which were conducted in late July.

Prosecutors say the 43 students were abducted by corrupt police in the southern Guerrero state town of Iguala on Sept 26 and delivered to a drug gang, which slaughtered them and incinerated their bodies.

International human rights groups criticised the government's conclusion, saying it relied too much on the testimony of suspected criminals instead of physical evidence.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

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Mass grave found in northern Mexico

A mass grave has been found in northern Mexico, authorities said Tuesday, as a rights group indicated it could contain 31,000 bone fragments corresponding to at least 31 bodies.

The pit was discovered on a ranch in the town of Salinas Victoria, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of the industrial hub of Monterrey, said a spokeswoman for the Nuevo Leon state prosecutor's office, Priscila Rivas.

"The ranch was found through statements by detained criminals, information from victims and investigations by the prosecutor's office," Rivas told AFP.

The spokeswoman declined to say how many pieces of bones were unearthed or how many bodies they could represent.

But Consuelo Morales, who heads the Citizens Supporting Human Rights (CADHAC), said authorities told her organization that 31,000 bone fragments were found since the grave was detected earlier this year.

"The genetic profiles of 31 people have already been identified. It's what the prosecutor's office told us," said Morales, whose group represents relatives of missing people.

She said that her organization had told the authorities back in January that the ranch named "Las Abejas" (The Bees) may contain a clandestine grave. The fragments have been found over the course of several months.

Authorities have cordoned off the ranch as they continue to search for remains, objects or pieces of clothing that could help identify the victims.

The bones have been taken to the University Hospital of Monterrey, where DNA tests are being conducted, Morales said.

Mexican drug cartels often dump the bodies of their victims in mass graves. In 2013, for instance, 64 bodies were unearthed between the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan.

Nuevo Leon state has been the scene of brutal turf wars between the Zetas and Gulf cartels in recent years.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed across the country since the drug war intensified in 2006, while 20,000 more have disappeared.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

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20 years after Chechen war, families still searching for missing bodies

Zura Batayeva carefully holds a small black-and-white photograph between her fingers. Creased and faded, it shows an earnest man with curly black hair.

The picture is all that remains of her son, Visit Batayev, who disappeared without a trace shortly after Russian tanks rolled into Chechnya more than 20 years ago – launching the first of two devastating wars against separatist rebels in the North Caucasus republic.

“The worst is not knowing what happened to him,” she says. “Only the thought that we will be together after I die brings me solace.”

This agonising uncertainty is shared by many Chechens.

Rights groups say an estimated 5,000 people are still missing from the two wars – the first of which began in December 1994, when federal forces launched a bloody attack on the capital, Grozny.

Like the Batayevs, many families still searching for their relatives accuse authorities of turning a blind eye to their plight.

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s Kremlin-appointed leader, has overseen a massive campaign to rebuild Grozny with the help of cash injections from Moscow. But as glistening skyscrapers go up around the city, the grim task of laying the war dead to rest has fallen chiefly to human rights activists.

“No one needs us. The government has left us with our problem,” says Batayeva’s husband, Abuyezid Batayev. “We have received a lot of help from ordinary people, but they have their own problems. Many have missing relatives, too.”

Rights groups say there are still unopened graves in fields, courtyards, and basements throughout Chechnya.

‘These bodies need to be identified’

Visit Batayev was 27 years old when he disappeared, along with his neighbour, Musa. Witnesses say the two men were seized by Russian soldiers as they hid from shelling in the basement of a Grozny hospital.

Musa’s body eventually surfaced in a morgue in Moscow, and although the circumstances of his death remain unknown his parents were able to give him a proper funeral in Chechnya.

Visit Batayev’s continued absence, however, has prevented his parents from coming to terms with their loss. “Sometimes I close my eyes and I see my son. It’s as if he had returned,” Batayeva says. “I see him speaking to me. I see us having lunch together under the summer canopy of our house. I see him in my dreams, too.”

Zainap Mezhidova, a rights campaigner whose own son is missing, knows of at least three mass graves that she says contain the remains of hundreds of people.

“These bodies need to be identified. We know where they are located,” she says. “The authorities should be looking for our children.”

‘When I hear a child calling for his mother in the street, I turn around’. Zura Batayeva remembers her son.

Promises Despite Kadyrov’s repeated promises, Chechnya still has no forensic lab of its own. Remains exhumed from mass graves are sent either to Moscow or Rostov-on-Don for identification before being returned for burial in Chechnya.

Batayev says he has combed through numerous mass graves in search of his son, sifting through human remains with his bare hands.

He was once told that the body of a man matching his son’s description had been found in a mass grave close to Grozny’s cannery. Documents on the body gave Visit as the man’s first name.

The Batayevs immediately rushed to the site. “There were about 250 bodies there,” Batayeva recalls.

The body, however, did not belong to their son. “That day I collapsed and I hit my knee very hard,” she says. “It still hurts today.”

Desperate to find his son, Batayev travelled to a forensic lab in distant Rostov-on-Don. He says he saw many bodies there, but his son was nowhere to be found.

Today, he and his wife no longer have the strength to search for his body.

But Batayeva, despite the odds, refuses to give up hope of finding him alive. “When I hear a child calling for his mother in the street, I turn around,” she says. “I still have some hope of being reunited with my son one day.” Wednesday 2 September 2015

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2 more bodies retrieved from Benguet landslide

The remains of two miners were recovered by a team of volunteers digging through mud and rocks in a landslide-hit area in Mankayan, Benguet province, on Monday, police said.

The bodies were recovered at 10 a.m. in Barangay Taneg, said Insp. Joyce Ann Dayag, information officer of the Benguet police office.

She said volunteers composed of miners, residents, soldiers and policemen were still looking for six people out of 16 miners and their family members who took shelter in a mining camp in Sitio Elizabeth. The camp was buried by a landslide triggered by heavy rain dumped by Typhoon “Ineng” on Aug. 22.

Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said the landslide hit a nearby mountain slope, and not the slope where the camp had been put up.

“The loose rocks and mud fell toward the slopes of the camp. It was so sudden. The eroded area was heavily vegetated so our experts tell us it was triggered by oversaturation from the rains,” Fongwan said during a meeting last week of the Benguet Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The bodies recovered on Monday raised to 19 the typhoon’s death toll in Benguet, 15 of whom died in Mankayan town. Landslides also killed two persons in Bakun town and a person each in Atok and Buguias towns.

Wednesday 2 September

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