Sunday, January 31

If Google News is highlighting Boko Haram attack, why not also the IS one in Syria? (UPDATED 12:30am 2/1)

RT reports on the latest death toll from the Boko Haram attack:
Boko Haram militants killed 86 people, including children in their recent attack on villages in northeastern Nigeria on Saturday. Horrifying details of the attacks emerged on Sunday.

The Saturday night assault on the outskirts of the Nigerian city of Maiduguri – the birthplace of Boko Haram – lasted for hours, targeting villages and camps housing some 25,000 refugees, AP has reported, citing survivors and soldiers at the scene. By Sunday afternoon, 86 bodies had [been]  collected, officials said, adding that another 62 victims were being treated for burns. [...]

As of this time (10:07 PM EST), and for about the last hour, when I began checking the "World Top Stories" at Google News tonight, the site was still featuring a report from Reuters published by Huffington Post at 10:40 AM EST about the terrorist attack likely carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria: 
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Jan 31 (Reuters) - At least 65 people were killed during an attack by Islamist militant group Boko Haram near Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri, a Reuters reporter said after counting bodies at a hospital morgue.
The remains of a dozen victims were burnt beyond recognition in Saturday's attack when militants opened fire on residents, set fire to houses and targeted a crowd with suicide bombers, security and medical officials said.
A Nigerian military spokesman, Colonel Mustapha Ankas, said that Boko Haram militants attacked the community of Dalori, about 5 km (3 miles) east of Maiduguri in Borno state.
But while there was also an attack today in Syria that Islamic State claimed credit for, and which killed by AFP's count 71 civilians including children with scores wounded and by SANA's latest count 45 killed and more than 100 wounded, there is no mention of the Syria attack in Google News headlines. This, despite the facts that the attack:

> occurred near a burial shrine that is important to all Shiites, not only Syrians;
> took place as UN negotiations with Syrian opposition groups got underway; and
> was near Syria's capital of Damascus, which is under government control.

So while the Boko Haram attack was fully as  horrific as the IS one, the latter has very important international ramification at this time.

Yes, by clicking on the Google News Syria headlines link, the report on the attack in Syria is brought up, but if the Boko Haram attack on civilians on belongs on the front page, why not the Islamic State one?  

So were the Google News bots napping? Oddly they did consider the Geneva negotiations worthy of mention as top news -- but wait!  Two reports on the Syrian attacks just popped up on Google News Top Stories (around 10:30 PM EST). One from the Los Angeles Times from 5 hours ago, another from CBS News from an hour ago. 

Step it up, Google. If you're shaping the public's perceptions to support the Obama administration's view of the Syrian conflict, don't make it so obvious. 

And while I'm sure you're not losing sleep over this, just let you know I spend very little time at Google News anymore and I visit the site last after RT, SANASputnikAl-Masdar News (Lebanon) and FARS. That's because I'm looking for news on the Syrian conflict that is not a propaganda effort by American, European, and Saudi-controlled press outlets. 

And I am getting news from those sources that is completely suppressed in the Western outlets. 

In other words, it's one thing to disort a news story or omit key facts from it -- standard practice with propagandists -- but it's quite another if the public doesn't even know about an important incident. That's why I depend now on sites such as Al-Masdar for news on the Syrian conflict. 

Of course the sites I named also feature propaganda, but at least I am getting news on Syria that gives me a more informed accounting of the conflict than I could scrape together from the wall-to-wall propaganda at Western outlets.

Islamic State bombings near Syria Shiite shrine kill 71
January 31, 2015 - approx. 4:30 PM EST
Agence Presse France

Beirut (AFP) - Bombings claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group killed 71 people and wounded dozens more on Sunday near a revered Shiite shrine outside the Syrian capital Damascus, a monitor said.

The blasts, which came as the UN's Syria envoy struggled to convene fresh peace talks in Geneva from which IS is excluded, tore a massive crater in the road, overturning and mangling cars and a bus and shattering windows.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said 71 people were killed in two blasts near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, including five children.

The first blast was a suicide car bomb, followed by a second suicide bomber who detonated his explosive belt when a crowd gathered, the monitoring group said.

Syrian state media earlier reported more than 50 people killed and over 100 injured in what it described as three blasts.

Official news agency SANA said the first blast was caused by a car bomb that detonated at a bus station near the shrine, which both Iran and Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah have vowed to defend.

It said two suicide bombers then set off their explosive belts when people gathered at the scene.

An AFP photographer said the explosions damaged the facade of a nearby building, scorching all of its six storeys.

Sayyida Zeinab, south of Damascus, contains the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed and is particularly revered as a pilgrimage site by Shiite Muslims.

It has continued to attract pilgrims from Syria and beyond, particularly Shiites from Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq, throughout Syria's nearly five-year brutal conflict.

Sunni Muslim extremist groups such as IS consider Shiites to be heretics and have frequently targeted them in attacks.

In the aftermath of Sunday morning's attack, smoke rose from the twisted carcasses of more than a dozen cars and a bus, as ambulances ferried away the wounded and firefighters worked to put out blazes.

In a statement circulated on social media, IS claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying two of its members had detonated suicide bombs.

"Two soldiers of the caliphate carried out martyrdom operations in a den of the infidels in the Sayyida Zeinab area, killing nearly 50 and injuring around 120," it said.

The area around the shrine has been targeted in previous bomb attacks, including in February 2015 when two suicide attacks killed four people and wounded 13 at a checkpoint.

Also that month, a blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims headed to Sayyida Zeinab, killing at least nine people, in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The area around the shrine is heavily secured with regime checkpoints set up hundreds of metres (yards) away to prevent vehicles from approaching.

According to the Observatory, members of Lebanon's powerful Shiite group Hezbollah are among those deployed at the checkpoints.

Hezbollah is a staunch ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and has dispatched fighters to bolster his troops against the uprising that began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Early on, the group cited the threat to Sayyida Zeinab as the motivation for its intervention in Syria's conflict.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which has also displaced upwards of half the country's population internally and abroad.

It has evolved into a complex, multi-front war involving rebels, jihadists, regime and allied forces, Kurds and air strikes by both government ally Russia and a US-led coalition battling against IS.

In a new effort to find a political solution to the conflict, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has invited regime and opposition delegations to Geneva for fresh talks.

But while the opposition agreed to travel to Geneva after days of delays, it has so far refused to engage in indirect talks with the government.

It is demanding that UN Security Council resolutions on ending sieges and protecting civilians be implemented first.

On Sunday, the UN envoy held informal talks with the main opposition delegation, saying afterwards that he remained "optimistic and determined".

The Damascus delegation's chief negotiator, Syria's UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari, accused the opposition of being "not serious" about the talks.

Bomb Site


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