Police track kidney doctor to Brampton, Canada

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The hunt for alleged kidney harvester, Dr. Amit Kumar, has led investigators to Brampton, a city in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) of Ontario, Canada.

Indian investigators allege that Kumar is the kingpin of a ring that removed kidneys of poor laborers in India for transplantation to the highest bidding patients, usually foreigners. After a request by Indian police via an Interpol “red notice”, Canadian police located a house in Brampton owned by Kumar, who has been dubbed “Dr. Horror” by the Indian press.

The house is occupied by a woman, presumed to be his wife, and two young children. Kumar purchased the 5,600 sq ft (~510 ) home on February 2, 2007 for C$610,000. Reportedly, additional upgrades were performed at the home, including an in-ground pool, at a cost of C$100,000. The family drives an expensive SUV. The children, two boys aged 4 and 5, are said to be enrolled at private schools.

Dr. Kumar, a nephrologist, born Santosh Rameshwar Raut, was known to his neighbors. He told them that he was a cardiovascular surgeon in India, but that he wanted to buy a hotel in Canada and, after one last trip to India to tie up loose ends, permanently relocate to Canada.

“We are completely shocked,” a neighbor told the Toronto Star. “We used to joke at parties that he must be loaded to get such a beautiful wife, but nothing prepared us for this.” Another neighbor told the paper, “It’s very unusual for someone to come here from India and buy a big house like this and a Lexus. Doctors in India just don’t make that kind of money.”

Meanwhile, investigators are no closer to Amit Kumar, than they were a few days ago. It is widely believed that he is trying to flee India for Canada via Nepal, a country for which he is alleged to have a passport.

Police in Mumbai, however, believe he is still in India. “He is very much in India,” commissioner Rakesh Maria said on Tuesday. “We suspect he will never leave.”

“He will stay in India — it won’t be easy to conduct his illegal activities anywhere else,” he said. “In a country like Canada, it would almost be impossible to find [kidney] donors in large numbers.”

They think they can buy the kidney for peanuts. That’s why the likes of [Amit Kumar] can prosper.

However, after a request by the Haryana state government, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will soon take lead in the investigation.

“We haven’t yet received a final word to start investigations,” CBI Director Vijay Shankar said. “We will begin working on the case as per legal process.” Thus far, police in Gurgoan, Moradabad, Mumbai and Rajasthan have been investigating the case separately.

The case has called attention to medical tourism, the practice of traveling abroad for health care at more affordable rates. Kumar is alleged to have charged US$50,000 for a kidney transplant. The donors are said to have been paid the equivalent of US$1,200. Even so, the donors, according to widespread reports and testimonials, may not have realized what they were getting into when they went with a stranger for a well-paying job.

The Toronto Star interviewed a medical tourism travel agent, who operates openly. Aruna Thurairajan, who runs Overseas Medical Services in Calgary, Alberta, says that she frequently gets calls from patients in need of a kidney. Thurairajan refuses to give referrals for transplants because it “gives medical tourism a bad rap.”

“Money is a big factor for people to decide where to go. Often they want to bargain how much to pay the vendor [organ donor]. Some of them can be quite selfish and mean. They think they can buy the kidney for peanuts. That’s why the likes of [Amit Kumar] can prosper. So the patient should also be blamed along with him, because the patient bargains down the price,” said Thurairajan.

But the victims of this illegal trade are not exclusively the poor day laborers but sometimes the clients themselves, according to a report by Hindustan Times. The investigation cited a driver for a close associate of Amit Kumar and claims that at least three foreigners died on Dr. Kumar’s operating table. He was able to name three Turkish nationals who all died in India between 2003 and 2005, officially from cardiac arrest. The driver, Harpal, says that the bodies were brought to a hospital in Ballabgarh, Faridabad, where the local authorities colluded with the doctors to list the cause of death as heart failure.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Police_track_kidney_doctor_to_Brampton,_Canada&oldid=4197281”

Virgin Atlantic jet fire investigation finds faulty wiring in A340 fleet

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Investigators in Ireland have found wiring problems in several Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340s as part of their investigation into a fire on board one such aircraft that was forced to divert to Shannon Airport.

The Virgin jet was headed from London Heathrow Airport to Chicago with 143 passengers and thirteen crew on January 11 this year. A small fire was noticed in a waste bin storage area in the first class section’s bar unit.

A damaged wiring loom could be seen sticking out of a hole in the compartments floor, and there was visible electrical arcing in the area. An attempt was made to control the situation by switching off electrical circuits, but both the fire and the arcing continued unchecked.

The aircraft’s captain declared an emergency and diverted to Shannon, which the airliner reached thirty minutes later. During that time, the crew used five 1kg fire extinguishers upon the fire, but each time the arcing continued and after about five minutes the fire reignited. Witnesses described the fire as consisting of “licks of flame”.

After performing a safe emergency landing the airport’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting department tackled the fire with a 5kg extinguisher but met with similar results. After consulting with the crew the jet’s power was completely shut down, after which the fire was finally put out. Virgin initially claimed the fire had never occurred.

Investigators with Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) inspected the loom and found it to be “completely severed” and exhibiting “strong evidence of burning/arcing” according to a preliminary report released on Friday. The loom was identified as providing power and dimming circuits for mood lighting in the bar.

The AAIU says that it seems the loom had contacted the metal waste bin in the compartment above. There should have been rails to hold up the bin and a protective metal cover, but “no evidence” of these was found and the report notes that “Initial inspection indicated the possibility that they were never fitted.”

The bar unit is a modification exclusive to Virgin. The AAIU ordered all 36 of the airline’s A340s worldwide inspected, with both France and the United Kingdom assisting with this. The UK has identified four other aircraft with faulty wiring, it has now been revealed. Virgin says that “A few minor issues were found and were immediately rectified,” and adds that “The installation of the bar was carried out in accordance with all relevant regulations. Virgin Atlantic continues to assist the AAIU in their investigation and looks forward to the full report with interest.”

The AAIU says that “significant other issues are being examined by the investigation” in addition to the wiring defects. “These include the difficulties faced by the crew in isolating the damaged circuits, the emergency checklist, the design of the modification and the standards relating to such modifications,” said the report.

Virgin’s Boeing 747-400 fleet also has a similar bar installed on it, but there was not considered to be a risk to the aircraft’s wiring on that model. The fire involved a bar added three years ago, with the aircraft manufactured in 1998.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Virgin_Atlantic_jet_fire_investigation_finds_faulty_wiring_in_A340_fleet&oldid=4577504”

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Surgeons reattach boy’s three severed limbs

Tuesday, March 29, 2005A team of Australian surgeons yesterday reattached both hands and one foot to 10-year-old Perth boy, Terry Vo, after a brick wall which collapsed during a game of basketball fell on him, severing the limbs. The wall gave way while Terry performed a slam-dunk, during a game at a friend’s birthday party.

The boy was today awake and smiling, still in some pain but in good spirits and expected to make a full recovery, according to plastic surgeon, Mr Robert Love.

“What we have is parts that are very much alive so the reattached limbs are certainly pink, well perfused and are indeed moving,” Mr Love told reporters today.

“The fact that he is moving his fingers, and of course when he wakes up he will move both fingers and toes, is not a surprise,” Mr Love had said yesterday.

“The question is more the sensory return that he will get in the hand itself and the fine movements he will have in the fingers and the toes, and that will come with time, hopefully. We will assess that over the next 18 months to two years.

“I’m sure that he’ll enjoy a game of basketball in the future.”

The weight and force of the collapse, and the sharp brick edges, resulted in the three limbs being cut through about 7cm above the wrists and ankle.

Terry’s father Tan said of his only child, the injuries were terrible, “I was scared to look at him, a horrible thing.”

The hands and foot were placed in an ice-filled Esky and rushed to hospital with the boy, where three teams of medical experts were assembled, and he was given a blood transfusion after experiencing massive blood loss. Eight hours of complex micro-surgery on Saturday night were followed by a further two hours of skin grafts yesterday.

“What he will lose because it was such a large zone of traumatised skin and muscle and so on, he will lose some of the skin so he’ll certainly require lots of further surgery regardless of whether the skin survives,” said Mr Love said today.

The boy was kept unconscious under anaesthetic between the two procedures. In an interview yesterday, Mr Love explained why:

“He could have actually been woken up the next day. Because we were intending to take him back to theatre for a second look, to look at the traumatised skin flaps, to close more of his wounds and to do split skin grafting, it was felt the best thing to do would be to keep him stable and to keep him anaesthetised.”

Professor Wayne Morrison, director of the respected Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery and head of plastic and hand surgery at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital, said he believed the operation to be a world first.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Surgeons_reattach_boy%27s_three_severed_limbs&oldid=440114”

Canada, EU, UK, US impose sanctions on Belarus over Ryanair hijacking

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

On Monday, Canada, the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom and the United States imposed new sanctions on senior officials and entities in Belarus over the May 23 diversion of a Ryanair flight and subsequent arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, as well as “repressive practices” committed by the Belarusian government.

The joint action was aimed at putting pressure on Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko’s “regime”, a joint statement read, citing “continued attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law”, as well as the “politically motivated” arrest of Mr Protasevich and Ms Sapega.

The statement went on to express support for “the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus”, calling for Belarusian co-operation in investigations into the incident, the release of all political prisoners, adherence to the recommendations of an expert mission by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), of which Belarus is a participating state, and OSCE-facilitated dialogue between the government and opposition.

The circumstances surrounding the forced landing of Ryanair flight FR4978 from Lithuania to Greece in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, are contested. As reported by Sky News, state media says the diversion was due to threat of explosives on board, a claim Global Affairs Canada calls “dubious and still unverified”.

Total restrictive measures varied between the countries and regional organisation. Canada sanctioned 17 new individuals for a total of 72, and five entities described in a press release as being “due to the ongoing disregard for human rights demonstrated”.

The EU, through the Council of the European Union, extended its restrictive measures by 78 individuals and eight entities related either to human rights violations or the “forced and unlawful landing”, to a total of 166 individuals and fifteen entities. Those who are impacted, including judges, businesspeople, university rectors and government ministers, will be subject to an asset freeze, and persons affected prohibited to enter or transit through EU territory.

The measures also prohibit EU citizens and companies from making money available to the designated. According to the Associated Press, EU policy chief Josep Borrell said the measures “are going to hurt […] the economy of Belarus heavily”. The decision to affect entities, not just individuals, foreign minister of Germany Heiko Maas said, will impact the “economic areas that are of particular significance for Belarus and for the regime’s income”; those targeted include the export of fertiliser ingredient potash, and those of tobacco and petroleum.

The United Kingdom furthered sanctions levied with Canada in September on eight Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko, his son, and senior government members. New restrictions include eleven individuals and two entities, which are henceforth subject to asset freezes and travel bans.

Among those targeted includes petroleum exporter BNK (UK) Ltd, which, according to its 2019 report of the director presented to Companies House, “provides intermediate services to oil sector companies” in Belarus. According to a government press release, UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said “cutting off oil export revenue streams” was one way the government would “hold the [Belarusian] regime to account”.

The United States, through the State Department and Office of Foreign Assets Control under the Treasury Department, imposed visa restrictions on 46 Belarusian individuals holding “key positions” in the country, according to a press release, and added 16 individuals and five entities to a designated list. In addition to concerns of the country’s “transnational repression” and “affronts to international efforts”, the US also cited the “fraudulent” 2020 Belarusian presidential election as cause for the sanctions’ imposition.

The timing of the sanctions was questioned by Belarusian Nikolai Shchekin on state media network the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, noting the date June 21 is one day before the anniversary of the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, or the “Great Patriotic War”. According to CNN, the US attempted to announce its sanctions earlier, prior to a meeting between US president Joe Biden and president of Russia Vladimir Putin, but was held up by the EU.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Canada,_EU,_UK,_US_impose_sanctions_on_Belarus_over_Ryanair_hijacking&oldid=4672853”

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed in airstrike

Thursday, June 8, 2006

The head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been killed in an air strike on a building north of Baqubah city, according to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“Today [sic] Zarqawi has been terminated,” he said Thursday, and suggested the man the United States had placed a $25 million price tag on for death or capture was located through intelligence.

“What happened today is a result of co-operation for which we have been asking from our masses and the citizens of our country,” he said.

The leader of coalition forces in Iraq, General George Casey said al-Zarqawi was killed in a two-storey safehouse about 8 km north of the city in Diyala province.

Several aides also died with him in the Wednesday evening raid by U.S. F-16 warplanes, including his key lieutenant and spiritual adviser Sheik Abdul Rahman. Some analysts believe a US counter-terrorism unit, Task Force 145, was involved in the attack.

Al-Zarqawi’s body, recovered after two 500-pound bombs had blown through his cover, was identified through fingerprint, tattoo and scar analysis and head likeness. Al-Zarqawi, whose real name was Ahmed Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, was believed to be in his late 30s when he died of injuries while US forces gave medical aid.

The first munition exploded at 6:15pm was a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb that was shortly followed by the newer GBU-38; both carried 500lb of explosives for total cost of $40,000.

The self-proclaimed frontman for Osama Bin Laden’s activities in Iraq, al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian national, is said to have been involved in the beheading of foreigners, hundreds of suicide attacks, and an insurgency against coalition forces after the Iraq war in 2003.

It had been reported Al-Zarqawi’s most recent campaign was to create problems between Shi’ite and Sunni groups in Iraq with ethnic killings.

For the Iraqi government the killing of the wanted murderer is what they sought but it remains unknown what effect the removal of this known figurehead of the Iraq insurgency will have on levels of violence in the country. Al-Zarqawi was not the only person to oppose the US-backed Iraqi government.

“Zarqawi didn’t have a number two. I can’t think of any single person who would succeed Zarqawi … In terms of effectiveness, there was no single leader in Iraq who could match his ruthlessness and his determination,” was the view of Rohan Gumaratna at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.

Applause was heard as Mr Maliki, with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, by his side, told news reporters “al-Zarqawi was terminated.”

Sources claiming to be Al-Qaeda in Iraq later confirmed that al-Zarqawi had been killed and said that they would fight the United States and the interim Iraqi government despite his death.

United States President George Bush spoke to journalists in the White House Rose Garden about al-Zarqawi’s death. “Zarqawi’s death is a severe blow to al-Qaeda. It’s a victory in the global war on terror, and it is an opportunity for Iraq’s new government to turn the tide of this struggle,” he said.

The US military also confirmed that six people were killed in the strike, including al-Zarqawi, and his spiritual adviser Sheikh Abd al-Rahman The death toll is reported at three men, three women. Some reports had said al-Zarqawi’s wife and daughter died. However U.S. officials state that there is no evidence confirming the death of al-Zarqawi’s wife and daughter.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Abu_Musab_al-Zarqawi_killed_in_airstrike&oldid=4669716”

Albert Pujols ends his worst homerun drought

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dominican baseball player Albert Pujols earned his first home run after joining the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Besides hitting his 446th Major League home run, Pujols ended a personal drought by claiming his first regular-season long ball after 33 games and 139 plate appearances, including his last St. Louis Cardinals at-bats. Pujols snapped back at Anaheim and capped a 4-3 home-team win against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The Dominican first baseman now has a career 1,336 runs batted in and a .326 batting average. Previously, Pujols had played for St. Louis for 11 seasons.

Since playing for the Angels, Pujols has been booed by Anaheim fans after his hits slipped to a .194 average over the past month. Pujols came to his new team with high expectations after signing a contract worth US$240 million.

For his part, Pujols offered the following explanation for his performance: “This game is about making adjustments and being patient…”

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Albert_Pujols_ends_his_worst_homerun_drought&oldid=4517717”

ANZACs remembered ninety years after assault on Gallipoli

Monday, April 25, 2005

Australians and New Zealanders throughout the world stood still for their national war memorial days in remembrance of the failed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps — ANZAC — attack on Gallipoli, Turkey that began on 25 April 1915. The fateful attack was designed to end the First World War more quickly by creating a supply line to Russia. A hundred-thousand died in the battle, remembered every year as ANZAC Day by both nations.

The British-directed battle of Gallipoli is often seen as the defining moment in the ‘birth’ of Australia and New Zealand. With New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark saying “For New Zealand as for Australia it was at Gallipoli that our young nations came of age.” [1]. This being the 90th anniversary of the attack, Clark, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Britain’s Prince Charles are all at Gallipoli to remember that fateful campaign.

Some controversy has been created about Australian Prime Minister John Howard not attending the New Zealand ceremony at Chunuk Bair on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This has upset many people as it is a break in a tradition that the Prime Ministers attend the ceremonies of both countries.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=ANZACs_remembered_ninety_years_after_assault_on_Gallipoli&oldid=1234894”

Broward County Sheriff’s police dog killed in shootout in Florida

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A man shot and killed a Broward County Sheriff’s Office police dog in Miami Beach after a two-county chase in Florida early Thursday morning.

The shooter, Delvin Lewis, 27, was firing shots at his girlfriend during a domestic dispute in Oakland Park. When police arrived, the suspect got into his car and fled, engaging roughly 20 cruisers in a 30-mile chase which ended near Mount Sinai Medical Center’s emergency room in Miami Beach. An exchange of gunfire followed in which Lewis reportedly killed the dog. ER doctors tried to save the animal but it was too late.

The shooter was also struck and has been taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he remains with no life threatening injuries.

According to a Mount Sinai spokeswoman hospital facilities are now accessible after the authorities locked down the area for three hours following the shooting.

Lewis has been arrested 26 times by Florida authorities including one in July 2003 in which he injured a police dog striking him repeatedly on the head with a cellphone.The suspect has been charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer, aggravated fleeing and eluding, resisting an officer with violence and principal in the death of a police dog.

Hitting a police dog is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail, while killing a police officer is a capital offense which can lead to the death penalty.

Miami-Dade Police Department is handling the investigation which involves Broward Sheriff Office and Miami Beach police.

Lewis has been in and out of jail since 2000 and had been arrested for domestic battery in 2000 and 2004, when he beat a pregnant woman.

The dog, whose name was Oozi, was a 7-1/2 years old Belgian Malinois assigned to BSO’s Cooper City district. He was trained in narcotics and helped in hundreds of arrests in his career, including 35 this year.

Oozi and his partner, Deputy Gerald Wengert, were named BSO’s Employees of the month in May for their role in the apprehension of three burglary suspects.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Broward_County_Sheriff’s_police_dog_killed_in_shootout_in_Florida&oldid=3289772”

Syrian citizen journalists risk death, targeted; city of Homs facing starvation

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Syrian forces have been shelling the Baba Amr district of Homs, Syria for almost a month. Civilians and journalists are amongst the dead, and Wikinews spoke to a local citizen journalist, attracting attention both from the world’s media and from the Syrian Armed Forces. According to Wikinews’ source, much of Homs is without water, and a city facing starvation.

Syrian forces began a ground assault on Homs February 4, using troops, and bombarding the city with tanks and artillery. To this day, the bombardment continues. Soldiers frequently clash with anti-government protesters, and ‘freedom fighters’ of the Free Syrian Army in violent, often deadly encounters. In the Baba Amr district of the city, “Omar” [for his safety, we only use his first name, Ed.], a citizen journalist with the Homs Media Center, created an account on the Bambuser website where users can stream live footage from PCs or mobile phones. He then pointed a camera out of his home, overlooking the city, and began broadcasting footage live on the Internet.

The violent, often deadly, events following may have, indirectly, resulted from this action. Journalists discussed in this article put their lives in jeopardy to give the world a record of events; in some cases, dying doing so. But, their deaths may not have been accidental; evidence suggests possible intentional targeting by Syrian government forces.

Omar usually began broadcasting just before sunrise. At 5:18 a.m. (EET) in Homs on February 9, Omar started his live broadcast; the sky still dark, with only a few lights flickering around the area. Sporadic gun and rocket fire between Syrian forces and the Free Syrian Army audible on the live feed. By sunrise, gun battles had ceased, the city silent except for the occasional rooster welcoming the morning sun. As daylight broke tanks inside the city, and artillery on its outskirts, began shelling buildings and other targets. Throughout the morning, rocket fire and tank shelling could be heard getting closer and closer to Omar’s position.

At approximately 07:40 EET, nearly two-and-a-half hours into the broadcast, the camera’s microphone records the audio of the brief, but distinct, ‘whistle’ of a rocket or shell as it sails through the air. It strikes close to the camera’s position, causing it to wobble an shake, nearly tipping over; smoke obscures the camera’s view, debris falling onto it whilst sounds of parts of nearby buildings collapsing are heard.

The camera continues to film, apparently undamaged. Omar’s house isn’t so lucky, suffering a direct hit from a rocket. Out of the camera’s view, people inside the house begin to scream. Less than two minutes later, a second rocket strikes the house just above and behind the camera’s position; again, causing it to shake. The sun casts the rising smoke’s shadow on the house next door as more debris hits the camera. Further screams are heard as rubble collapses around people inside. Those inside, running and shouting, now make up most of the broadcast audio; some begin to pray, whilst others bring round a car to carry out the injured or dead. Moments later another rocket is fired, residents screaming warnings to each other of another possible incoming strike. An explosion is heard, and smoke can be seen rising, center-right of the camera shot, from the rocket striking nearby.

A few minutes later, two men are seen coming out onto their balcony and looking in the direction of the house that was just hit. They talk, looking and pointing in the direction of Omar’s house, with the sound of gunfire in the area. At 07:50, they go back inside and out of sight.

Three minutes later a rocket is fired, striking that house, exactly where the two men were standing. It is unknown if they were killed or injured in the attack, but according to Omar the attacks around his home left five dead, three women and two men; Omar himself survives unscathed.

Despite the deaths in the February 9 attack, Omar kept his camera rolling whenever awake; but, that was about to change.

February 15 was a relatively quiet morning but, as sunrise gave way to the daylight, rockets began hitting targets in the city for the eleventh consecutive day. Shortly before 08:00 EET, a small plume of black smoke appears, left side of the live broadcast, an oil pipeline having sustained its first direct hit. Moments later, a second strike on the pipeline is in-shot, also to the left of the camera’s view. The acrid smoke from this strike quickly begins to grow.

Shortly after the second hit on the pipeline Omar enters the room, moving the camera to show both strikes. Twin plumes of thick black smoke are now visible rising in the distance. Omar states the oil pipeline sustained damage from an attack by Syrian military aircraft. From a United States Department of State satellite photo taken after the bombing, the pipeline is seen near a densely populated area of the city, with farmland lying to the west. The smoke from the pipeline fire blankets nearly all of the populated area, to the east, in range of the photo.

After repositioning the camera, Omar decided to leave his house to undertake some field work; a fortuitous move as Omar stated on his Twitter stream, “after we left the house” a rocket made a direct hit on it, leaving a hole in one of the sides. There were no injuries in the attack, the building being unoccupied at the time.

With sunset closing in and the pipeline still ablaze, Omar turned off his camera, not just for the night — indefinitely. Omar now believes he is in too much danger to broadcast further, tweeting: “[I] really am confused […] am worried to turn the live camera on. It’s become very dangerous.” Omar has since left his home.

Crucial as some of the live footage may be at getting pictures of bloodshed inside Syria out; for now, much of the output which ended up hosted on Bambuser has dried up. On February 17, the Syrian government blocked access to the website and its mobile phone application. Despite government action, some isolated examples of live footage continue making their way out of Syria, mainly from mobile phones.

Bambuser speculate that Syrian authorities’ move to block access may be a result of Omar’s live footage showing the oil pipeline fire on Feburary 15. That footage was rebroadcast on several major news networks, including CNN, BBC News, Al Jazeera and Sky News.

“We believe this footage was the trigger for the Syrian government to block access to bambuser.com and disable the possibility to broadcast live video with mobile phones on Syrian 3G,” said a Bambuser statement on their website. Bambuser has been blocked previously in other countries. Access to the site was blocked by Egypt in January 2011, during their revolution. Bahrain blocked the site six months ago, and it remains blocked to this day.

Bambuser’s statement continues: “Not only have we helped them get their message out, but they also say it means much in terms of morale for everyone in this situation. They [The Syrian people] know the world is watching, sharing and it gives them hope. No matter where in the world there is unrest, we at Bambuser always do our best to support and help observers”.

Omar is not alone in being at-risk; on February 18 a funeral for three men, shot and killed by Syrian forces during an anti-government protest the prior day, was being held in the central Mezzeh district of Damascus.

Over fifteen thousand people, including women and children, filled the streets paying their respects. After a prayer, during which mourners remained completely silent, the procession turned into a mass-protest. With mourners-turned-protesters marching down the streets, the sky over Damascus darkened and snow began falling. With the change of weather appearing to embolden the protesters, their chants grew louder.

Shortly thereafter, Syrian forces surrounded the front of the march, and opening fire with live rounds and tear gas. Panicked people quickly scattered, turning the once-peaceful march into a stampede. At least one was shot and killed. Dozens of others sustained injuries. This was the first time Syrian forces opened fire on protesters in central Mezzeh.Those people are just a small fraction of those who have been killed or injured since the uprisings began. It is estimated that from five thousand to upwards of seven thousand people have been killed since January of last year. As a result, on February 20, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced it was attempting to negotiate a cease fire by all parties “to facilitate swift Syrian Arab Red Crescent and ICRC access to the people in need.”

The ICRC wants troops to halt their attacks in cities that have seen the most fighting in order to deliver care packages. Bijan Farnoudi, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said discussions include “several possibilities” in which the packages can be delivered. Though the organization has been delivering food and supplies to as many cities and citizens as possible, heavy fighting in areas such as the Baba Amr district of Homs has made it increasingly difficult for aid to be delivered. Even while the Red Cross worked to negotiate a cease fire, reports out of Homs on February 20 said Syrian forces were amassing troops and tanks outside the city in preparation for an all-out ground invasion. According to Omar, the shellings continued, but on February 24, the Red Cross announced it was allowed to begin evacuating injured women and children from the city.

On February 21, a member of the Homs Media Center was killed by a rocket as Syrian forces continued their bombardment of the city for an eighteenth straight day. Rami al-Sayed was reported to have been severely injured by a rocket while attempting to evacuate individuals to a makeshift hospital, during what activists call the worst day of bombardment since Syrian forces began their attack on the city on February 4. According to Bambuser, he and three others were inside a car when it was hit by a mortar, immediately killing the others. Sayed bled to death at the hospital.

Sayed was a videographer “crucial in getting the truth out through his videos posted on the Internet. We will really miss him, especially the medical team who relied on him to document all the civilian injuries and deaths on video,” said Omar in an interview with CNN. Sayed also was one of the men affiliated with the account ‘syriapioneer’ on Bambuser. Like Omar, he would broadcast live footage of the events on the ground in Homs. Bambuser published the last known message sent out to friends and family: “Babaamr is facing a genocide right now. I will never forgive you for your silence. You all have just give us your words but we need actions. However our hearts will always be with those who risk their life for our freedom. … In a few hours there will be NO place called BabaAmr and I expect this will be my last message and no one will forgive you who talked but didn’t act.” Sayed, 26, had a daughter of 18 months. In December, a citizen-journalist cousin of Sayed’s, Basil al-Sayed, was also killed. In a statement to Wikinews Omar described Sayed as “my best friend” and they both have worked as citizen journalists for about “10 months”, around the beginning of the uprisings.

The killings didn’t end there. Another two journalists were killed February 22, whilst at the Homs Media Center. Marie Colvin, a Sunday Times journalist, and award winning French photographer Rémi Ochlik, were killed when rockets hit the center. At least two others were injured in the attack, French journalist Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy.

The Syrian government denies involvement, saying their deaths were “absolutely not” caused “by Syrian armies.” The following day Bouvier made a video plea to Syrian forces that she be allowed to leave Homs to seek medical attention. Conroy stated, despite leg wounds, he was “OK.”

Omar was in a Skype conversation with a friend at the media center when the attack took place. He recorded the call’s audio using a web camera and posted the video on YouTube; sounds of explosions and possible gunfire can be heard throughout. Reports strongly suggest the media center attack was deliberate; radio communications between Syrian government forces indicate orders to attack the building — whilst making it appear individuals died caught in a gun battle with terrorists.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What are your thoughts on the situation in Syria?Is the report from the Arab League credible in light of our video footage?How do you believe the international community should respond?
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It is because of situations such as that on February 16, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) voted, “[…] overwhelmingly to call on both the government and allied forces and armed groups to stop all violence or reprisals immediately.” The UN GA press release expressed grave concern at the Syria’s deteriorating situation and, “[…] condemned a raft of violations carried out by the authorities, such as the use of force against civilians, the killing and persecution of protesters and journalists, and sexual violence and ill-treatment, including against children.”

Calling on Syria to abide obligations under international law, the UN GA “[…] demanded that the Government, in line with the 2 November 2011 Action Plan of the League of Arab States, and its decisions of 22 January and 12 February 2012, without delay, stop all violence and protect its people, release all those detained during the unrest, withdraw all armed forces from cities and towns, guarantee peaceful demonstrations and allow unhindered access for Arab League monitors and international media.”

137 nations voted for the General Assembly’s resolution, twelve opposed and 17 abstained. As with many UN GA resolutions, the findings and conclusions are non-binding.

Earlier, on February 4, the United Nations Security Council failed to pass resolution S/2012/77, supporting Arab League actions pursuing peace in Syria. This resolution was vetoed by Security Council members China and Russia.

The Arab League’s goal, according to their report on Syria, “is to protect Syrian citizens through the commitment of the Syrian government to stop acts of violence, release detainees and withdraw all military presence from cities like Homs, and an end to violence in Syria.” The League noted Homs, Dera‘a, Idlib, and Hama as the cities primarily affected by such incidents. The report claims all such incidents were caused by “armed groups” or “entities not mentioned in the protocol [report].”

Despite the League’s claim, live footage broadcast more than a month after the report was filed suggests the opposite as tanks continued to bombard cities like Homs. The League, in their report, go on to say Syrians “believe the crisis should be resolved peacefully through Arab mediation alone, without international intervention. Doing so would allow them to live in peace and complete the reform process and bring about the change they desire.”

Omar disagrees with the League’s conclusion that Syrians do not want international intervention. He believes if “the world” doesn’t act soon, many more will die from starvation. Medical supplies have not been making their way to makeshift hospitals and food is scarce. Much of the city is without water and Syrian forces continue their assault on the city. In a statement to Wikinews on Wednesday, Omar said “if they stay like this [the world] just watching us, people will die not because of the shelling, they will die because of starvation. We are surrounded. There is no food, no water and no medical supplies. If the world doesn’t do anything we will die from starvation. In the coming days I can see a massacre from starving.”

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