US Marine gets 10 years for abusing Muslim recruits

In this Oct., 31, 2017 photo, US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Felix, his wife, and his lawyers exit a courtroom after testimony at Camp Lejeune, N.C. A Marine Corps jury on Nov. 10, is deciding whether Felix should be sentenced to military prison time for choking, punching and otherwise tormenting recruits, especially Muslims, one of whom eventually hurled himself to his death down a stairwell. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2017
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US Marine gets 10 years for abusing Muslim recruits

WASHINGTON: A US Marine Corps drill instructor was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for abusing more than a dozen Muslim recruits, one of whom died in 2016, US media reported.
Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Felix was convicted a day earlier of maltreatment of the recruits during their basic training at the Parris Island, South Carolina base.
A jury of eight fellow servicemen and women considered Felix, an Iraq war veteran, the most to blame of six instructors who ordered and participated in extreme hazing of the recruits, taunting them as terrorists.
Two of them were forced into industrial-sized clothes dryers and in one case the machine was turned on when they did not renounce their faith.
One of the recruits, Raheel Siddiqui died after a plunge over a third-story railing in March 2016 after enduring days of hazing worse than the normal high-pressure treatment given recruits.
The Marines called his death a suicide. In October, Siddiqui’s family sued the Marines for $100 million, saying he was driven by an unnamed superior through a door and onto a balcony where he fell to the ground below.
The sentence decided Friday, which also includes a dishonorable discharge, was harsher than the seven years in prison that prosecutors had recommended.
The case will automatically go to appeal per military regulations for judgments that involve lengthy prison sentences and dishonorable discharges.


Afghanistan’s Taliban announce annual spring offensive

Updated 20 min 35 sec ago
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Afghanistan’s Taliban announce annual spring offensive

KABUL: The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive on Wednesday, in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks.
Operation Al-Khandaq — named after a famous seventh century battle in Medina in which Muslim fighters defeated “infidel” invaders — will target US forces and “their intelligence agents” as well as their “internal supporters,” a Taliban statement said.
The Taliban said the offensive was partly a response to US President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan announced last August, which gave US forces more leeway to go after insurgents.
The annual spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though this winter the Taliban continued to battle Afghan and US forces.
The group also launched a series of devastating attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians.
Al-Khandaq will mainly focus on “crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters,” the Taliban said.
It added the presence of American bases “sabotages all chances of peace” and were key to “prolonging the ongoing war,” which began with the US-led intervention in 2001 that overthrew the Taliban regime.
Afghanistan’s largest militant group has been under pressure to accept Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s February offer of peace talks, but the statement made no mention of the proposal.
Western and Afghan experts said the Taliban announcement was an apparent rejection of the offer and heralded more intense fighting in the drawn-out war.
“We’re in for a hot and busy summer,” a foreign diplomat in Kabul said.
Afghan political analyst Ahmad Saeedi said the Taliban appeared to consider America’s rejection of the group’s own request for direct peace talks with the US in February as leaving them with “no other choice but to fight.”
“This year they will try to weaken the (Afghan) government even further. They will try to derail the election process,” the Kabul University professor said.
“A weak government would eventually mean forcing the US to talk to them.”
Defense ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish dismissed the Taliban announcement as “propaganda.”
The US-backed Afghan government is under pressure on multiple fronts this year as it prepares to hold long-delayed legislative elections even as its security forces struggle to get the upper hand on the battlefield and prevent civilian casualties.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd outside a voter registration center in Kabul, killing 60 people and wounding 129, according to the latest figures from the health ministry.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the bomb, but Western and Afghan officials suspect Daesh receives assistance from other groups, including the Taliban’s Haqqani Network, to carry out attacks.