Past Meets - The Professional Car Society
On December 19, , the last day of Kabila's . that she had been thrown into a car, blindfolded and beaten. . Local civil society activists reported that many were Two members of a pro-government youth league in during a meeting in Kinshasa on December 18 with. Car cesenahotel.info Professional Car Society Meets in video and pictures. PCS Meet Show Day & NMFH, Houston, TX · PCS Sound and Light. It was March 18, , in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave near Damascus. . Zahran Alloush (C) delivers a speech during a meeting in the eastern The pro-opposition Syrian American Medical Society counted some subterranean roads, large enough to drive a car under the front line.
A witness described how Republican Guard soldiers fired on demonstrators in Kisenso neighborhood on December 20, soon after UN peacekeepers drove by: Just after they passed, Republican Guard soldiers stormed into the neighborhood and began firing live bullets to chase the demonstrators who fled into houses to take cover. I was looking out from the window of my home. I got really scared. He was bleeding terribly. His family found his body three days later in one of the morgues, after having searched for him in prisons and hospitals across the city.
The Republican Guard soldiers had been deployed in our neighborhood since the day before [December 19]. Then that morning, as the protests were happening, they started harassing the population, stealing phones, watches, and other valuables from people in the neighborhood.
When a man resisted as the soldiers tried to steal his phone, the soldiers started firing their guns. My son, who had gone out to buy bread, was hit by a bullet in the forehead, and he died on the spot. My son was eating breakfast on the corner of the avenue. Then at about 10 a. My son was hit by a bullet in his right leg. He later died of his wounds. Beni was finally released on January 11, after 29 days of secret detention in Kinshasa, first at the military camp and later at an intelligence agency detention center.
Sengha later said that she had been thrown into a car, blindfolded and beaten. We will kill you, since you want to make Kabila leave [power].
She received little food and water until her release on December Tshibanda was released on February 8, Security forces arrested him and his colleagues after they had apprehended three men who, according to Diongo, were Republican Guard soldiers wearing civilian clothes.
Diongo said he feared they had been sent to attack him. According to Diongo and his lawyers, this amounted to torture. One of the people with me in the taxi pointed a gun at me, before putting a hood over my head. They then brought me to a house where they interrogated me about my origins.
They eventually let me go and told me to stop writing articles that upset the authorities and to stop saying things that annoy them.
Republican Guard and army soldiers fired on protesters, some of whom threw rocks at security forces and looted or set fire to police offices and cars, ambulances, trucks, and other buildings in Gecamines, Kisanga, and Katuba neighborhoods.
In total, security forces fatally shot at least 16 protesters and wounded 40 others. Protesters had erected barricades along the road. The police shot in the air to try to disperse them. I myself saw six dead bodies while I was trying to flee. A young man I knew was shot in his throat and died on the spot.
This angered the crowd of protesters who then set the Katuba courthouse on fire. The soldiers first fired in the air to disperse the looters at the hospital. As the looters fled into the surrounding neighborhood, the soldiers followed them. Hearing the gunshots nearby, the mechanic, who was with a client, decided to go home. Despite this, they shot him in the head. The soldiers then took his body and brought it to one of the public morgues. Just after that, we started hearing gunshots. People were fleeing in all directions.
Some people ran towards us and said that [my brother-in-law] was shot. My husband got the courage to search for him, but in vain. We later learned that soldiers had taken his body to the morgue. This seems to have had an important deterrent effect in preventing large-scale protests from going forward on December They were released on December 28, with no charges brought against them.
They were arrested in the presence of a team of UN human rights observers and transferred to the police intelligence prison. The human rights observers were later denied access to them. They distribute food to us — just a large bowl of beans — once every other week.
Most people here sleep on the floor. The situation is really appalling. They were released on December An international journalist observing the protest was detained for several hours. Several witnesses said that they heard soldiers tell the protesters: Here, we will exterminate you one by one.
Many of those targeted had not participated in the protests, but were hiding in homes, seeking shelter from the gunfire. Some of those targeted were taking advantage of the chaos to loot in Kalamu neighborhood. One resident said that his wife was killed on December 20 when a soldier followed her to the house where she had taken shelter, to flee the soldiers who were firing on protesters in their neighborhood: My wife was inside [the house], and the soldier arrived soon after.
He first fired warning shots and demanded that the door be opened. The owner of the house refused to obey. The soldier then counted out loud to three, and then he fired two shots into the house. One of the bullets hit my wife in the head. My son was shot by a bullet in the head. As he fell down, I immediately bent down.
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A bullet then passed right above my head and hit the window. If I had remained standing, I too would have been killed. This soldier aimed and fired at us with the intention of killing us. My son has now left [the world] just like that, for no reason at all. They also conducted door-to-door searches in Mvuzi and Nzanza neighborhoods, arresting several people. Some protesters engaged in looting.
A woman said that her grandson was killed during the protests on December My grandson went out about 9 a. Local civil society activists reported that many were mistreated in detention.
They were released the following day. Six of them were released the next day while two others, Jean-Paul Mualaba Biaya and Nicolas Mbiya Kabeya, were eventually acquitted on February 1,and then released. They were released the same day. The person responsible for each group was given a revolver.
The same day, in Lubumbashi, protesters ransacked or burned several government buildings, including health and environment ministry offices, a courthouse, police stations, and a local administration office.
In Boma, protesters in the Kalamu neighborhood looted or ransacked shops, including some owned by individuals linked to government officials, Chinese-owned shops China is perceived as a close ally of Kabilaand government buildings in Kalamu neighborhood.
In Matadi, protesters also looted privately owned shops, while others clashed with security forces. At least 10 police officers were injured by stones that were thrown by protesters, and one soldier had a broken leg after being attacked by a machete, apparently to avenge the death of a protester who had been killed by the security forces.
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Bosco Ntaganda, who is now on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he faces 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.
The CNDP had purportedly been established to defend, protect, and ensure political representation for the several hundred thousand Congolese Tutsi living in eastern Congo, and several tens of thousands of Congolese refugees, most of them Tutsi, living in Rwanda.
Over the years, many former commanders and individuals close to the various Rwandan-backed rebellions have been given senior posts in the Congolese security forces and government.
International attention on the crisis grew when the M23 seized the main eastern city of Goma in late Novemberagain with significant Rwandan military support.
The M23 withdrew from Goma on December 1, when the Congolese government agreed to peace talks. The signatories — including Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda — agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring countries; not to tolerate or provide support of any kind to armed groups; neither to harbor nor provide protection of any kind to anyone accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, acts of genocide or crimes of aggression, or anyone falling under the UN sanctions regime; and to cooperate with regional justice initiatives.
Most were eventually released, but not all. Abu Ali Khibbiyeh, a prominent anti-Islamist leader who had been fighting to keep Alloush off his turf and out of his smuggling business, was convicted in a secret tribunal of trading in narcotics, collaborating with the Islamic State and the Assad regime, and being a homosexual.
Through winter and spring —15, Alloush proceeded to root out the Eastern Ghouta wing of the Islamic State, while press-ganging a series of small rebel groups into the ranks of the Islam Army, already several thousand strong. In Februarythe Unified Military Command decreed a ban on the creation of new rebel groups in the Eastern Ghouta, which put a lid on rebel fragmentation and helped the insurgency to congeal around its four main factions: The consolidation of opposition forces came at an opportune time.
Prisoners in their enclave, they struggled to cope with the mounting costs of the siege. Prices of basic goods rose sharply through In Marcha bag of flat bread, which is a staple food in Syria, could be bought for the state-regulated price of 35 Syrian pounds in Damascus about 12 cents but reportedly sold for close to Syrian pounds in the Eastern Ghouta.
Hunger spread, and at times starvation was near, but it was the shortage of medicines and hospital equipment that seemed the most lethal threat. Though it was at times very harshly enforced, the blockade on the Eastern Ghouta was never airtight.
It sometimes seemed designed to be leaky, and while always strict enough to cause shortages, it was also porous enough to create markets where shrewd middlemen could thrive.
Much like in the Gaza Strip, the blockade served to empower a new class of siege-busting smugglers who found ways to move goods across the front lines, often by working with regime commanders. Rebels and smugglers entered into a symbiotic relationship, incentivizing corruption and competition among the insurgents—a threat to your smuggling profits was also a threat to your military posture. The Syrian regime eagerly exploited its newfound leverage.
It would sometimes choke off the enclave entirely, which sent prices skyrocketing. Then it would allow deliveries through a particular checkpoint, either to reward behavior or simply to collect bribes. On their side of the checkpoints, the rebel leaders jockeyed for control and were drawn into murky deals with their counterparts on the regime side and with each other, which slowly fused the insurgency and the siege economy into an inseparable whole.
It was demoralizing, and it did much to fuel tension in the enclave.
War-weary and hungry civilians bristled at the sight of ostentatiously pious Islamist leaders who hoarded food, money and fuel for their own use—and, in some cases, for profit. At some point inthe Syrian government had opened a checkpoint there to allow a Ghouta-born businessman with friends in the presidential palace to bring in food, alongside a small-scale trade in other goods.
Though the Islam Army jealously guarded its control over the crossing, it denied making any money off of the Wafideen-Douma trade. For all its economic and political importance, however, the Wafideen Crossing mainly brought in food and other civilian items, like cigarettes. To get hold of guns, ammunition, fuel, medicine and other banned or undersupplied goods, and to smuggle people in or out of the enclave, the rebels had to find other ways.
Rebel fighters, reportedly belonging to the Faylaq al-Rahman brigade, wait in a concrete pipe during an operation in the area of Marj al-Sultan's military airport, three days after it was recaptured by the Syrian troops, on December 17, in the rebel-held region of Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus. Getty In earlythe Syrian army had forced the eastern Damascus suburbs of Barzeh and Qaboun to sign separate truce deals. Local fighters remained in charge of their neighborhoods, and both areas remained under siege, but civilian traffic and trade resumed through a maze of regime and rebel checkpoints.
Almost immediately, Barzeh and Qaboun transformed into transit depots for the Eastern Ghouta by way of tunnels reaching into the rebel-controlled suburbs. Rebel-connected entrepreneurs turned the tunnels—originally dug for military and logistical purposes—into a business, hiring unemployed local men to do the dangerous underground work. Most tunnels were crudely carved dirt corridors barely one-man wide, but some were professionally constructed subterranean roads, large enough to drive a car under the front line.
The most important of these tunnels passed between Barzeh and Harasta, a working-class suburb on the western edge of the Eastern Ghouta. Apparently untouched by the army, the tunnel operated around the clock in triple shifts, moving everything from food and people to medicine and livestock, and also, almost certainly, weapons and ammunition. The man in charge of the tunnel was Abu Khaled al-Zahteh, a local boy from Harasta who had wriggled his way up through rebel ranks to become the ruler of his neighborhood.
A man of uncertain ideology but evident ambition, Abu Khaled at one point ran a minor Free Syrian Army faction backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, but in he entered into a complicated on-off relationship with Ajnad al-Sham, a much larger group of conservative Sufi militants.
He seized Harasta in the winter of —15, initially by aligning himself with Alloush to grab the tunnel from one of his rivals, and then by using his newfound economic power to buy off competitors. Once in charge of the Harasta-Barzeh route, Abu Khaled began to extort other commanders who depended on the trade for their supplies; they tried to compensate by opening rival smuggling tunnels from nearby neighborhoods.
By summerthe Eastern Ghouta was trapped in a vicious circle of competitive smuggling, profiteering and pricing disputes. Though the Islam Army ran its own tunnels, it was left with too thin a slice of the trade to support its hopes for hegemony, and a frustrated Alloush began to flex his military muscles. When Money Ran Out As he sat glumly on his podium in March watching the soldiers and tanks of the Islam Army file past him, Zahran Alloush resembled nothing so much as a traditional Arab president.
But Alloush knew that to finally subdue internal resistance and unify the enclave, he first had to gain control over the tunnel economy that propped up his rivals. Others knew it, too. Foreign support also seems to have tapered off, partly because of U. According to reports in the Arabic press, Alloush was eventually forced to borrow money from local merchants to make ends meet.
In Maythe Islam Army leader had himself smuggled out of the enclave to go on a panhandling trip through Turkey and Jordan, where he met with Islamist benefactors and officials from Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Safely back in the enclave, Alloush decided to make a move on the tunnels. That summer, Alloush ordered tanks to the outskirts of Harasta, but, with impeccable timing, Abu Khaled had just rediscovered his interest in religion and was accepted back into the ranks of Ajnad al-Sham, which told Alloush to back off. The Islam Army leader was furious, but he could do nothing unless he wanted to trigger a major battle with several factions at once.
He withdrew the tanks. In an enclave now teeming with distrust and accumulated ill will, all sides began to prepare for the coming confrontation. To the population of the Eastern Ghouta, the bickering rebel leaders looked like vultures feeding from a carcass. All the while, Assad kept up a relentless drumbeat of airstrikes against the Eastern Ghouta, killing hundreds of civilians and creating an intolerable state of paranoid suspense and terror.
That summer, the enclave was rocked by street protests of hungry civilians, who accused the rebels of profiteering and of seizing food for themselves.
In response to the protests, rebel fighters kicked downs doors and arrested troublemakers, and on at least one occasion, troops from Failaq al-Rahman fired into the crowds, wounding and killing demonstrators.
In late summer, Ajnad al-Sham and Failaq al-Rahman decided to boycott meetings of the Unified Military Command, arguing that the Islam Army was merely using it as cover to pursue its own political and financial interests. Alloush reacted as if he had been betrayed. At a gathering of Ghouta notables in a bunker-like basement a few days later, a leaked video recording showed the Islam Army leader hurling accusations at his rivals, a streak of unhinged desperation creeping into his voice.
The leaders of Ajnad al-Sham and Failaq al-Rahman were profiting from starvation, he screamed, and the criminal Abu Khaled had hoarded a thousand tons of food in his Harasta warehouses. They were the exact same charges that his rivals had leveled at him. Things went from bad to worse in Septemberwhen Russia suddenly threw its military might behind Assad, sending its own air force and vast amounts of military equipment to aid his beleaguered regime.
The government went back on the offensive all over Syria, including in the Eastern Ghouta. As bombs rained down over the enclave, killing hundreds of insurgents and civilians, local activists called out for unity and a counterattack. Instead, they got another fight over tunnel profits—now involving the Nusra Front, which had decided to sell food at cut-rate prices, thus threatening the financial base of its rivals.
Zahran Alloush who was killed on December 25, On Christmas Day,a volley of missiles slammed into a nondescript farm building near Hammouriyeh in the Eastern Ghouta.
Later that day, the Islam Army solemnly announced the martyrdom of Zahran Alloush. The strongman of the Eastern Ghouta was gone. Now it slammed shut. The Eastern Ghouta was no different. But the start of the siege in and the consequent rise of Zahran Alloush had changed the game. His charisma, leadership skills and powerful backers, combined with an unswerving dedication to the war against Assad and a seemingly boundless thirst for power, briefly seemed to set the Eastern Ghouta on a path to centralized control.
But Alloush, too, found himself bogged down in the siege economy, unable to suppress his rivals and end the centrifugal tendencies of the rebellion. Religious hard-liners began to drift out of control, roaring threats toward other groups. Some weeks later, the one-time Sufi moderate Abu Khaled al-Zahteh decided that he was now a jihadist and brought his Harasta brigade into an alliance with the Nusra Front. In a matter of weeks, the factional landscape of the Eastern Ghouta had been whittled down to three big groups, two of which plotted their revenge on the third.
The Islam Army lashed out to protect its position, and in MarchFailaq al-Rahman accused it of trying to assassinate its leaders. This set in motion a spiral of tit-for-tat violence that escalated into a civil war within the civil war.
In a surprise attack on April 28, Failaq al-Rahman and its allies robbed the Islam Army of its two main smuggling tunnels in the Damascus suburbs and of large stockpiles of weapons; the group would never recover from the blow. Internecine violence raged for weeks, during which Assad retook the southern part of the enclave and threatened to march deep into the Eastern Ghouta. A rebel cease-fire was brokered by Qatar on May 24, but, although major infighting stopped, the two camps refused to reconcile.
Indeed, the enclave was now two enclaves, and the Syrian regime cleverly exploited the new situation by focusing its firepower solely on the Islam Army-controlled eastern end of the Ghouta, while allowing U. Just as it calculated, no rebel reinforcements found their way across the divided enclave before it was too late. In FebruaryAssad raised the stakes by launching an offensive on Qaboun and Barzeh, attempting to plug the tunnels and finally strangle the insurgency.
The rebels put on a brave face in interviews conducted earlier this year. Indeed, the attacks on Qaboun and Barzeh touched off a violent rebel counteroffensive against eastern Damascus, and fighting still rages in late March. But it is unlikely to save the rebellion. Two years after the day when Zahran Alloush watched his forces march past the viewing stand, the once-fearsome Islam Army is struggling for survival, the Eastern Ghouta gasps for air, and the Syrian opposition is trapped in a spiral of disintegration and defeat.