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Even Other Terrorists Denounce Taliban School Attacks In Pakistan

December 17th, 2014 No comments

Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks) | —

“”In one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s history, militants belonging to the Pakistani Taliban on Tuesday launched a brazen attack on a military-run school in the city of Peshawar. Officials said the eight-hour siege left at least 141 people dead, most of them students.

Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly assault, saying the attack was a response to the military’s recent offensive against the militants. “We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” Muhammad Umar Khorasani told reporters. “We want them to feel the pain.”

Tuesday’s attack started around 10 a.m. local time, when gunmen entered the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar and opened fire on students and teachers. Security forces quickly rushed to the scene.”* The Young Turks hosts Cenk Uygur breaks it down.”

The Young Turks: “Even Other Terrorists Denounce Taliban School Attacks In Pakistan”

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‘The Struggle for Pakistan’ (Ayesha Jalal)

December 17th, 2014 No comments

By Joseph Richard Preville and Julie Poucher Harbin (ISLAMiCommentary)

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville| —

struggleforpakistan-197x300Pakistan is a nation with a strong will to survive. It has endured political upheavals, ethnic discord, military dictatorships, and the challenges of religious extremism. In her new book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), Ayesha Jalal examines Pakistan’s history from its creation in 1947 to the present. “Pakistan’s tumultuous history,” she writes, “exhibits a daunting combination of contradictory factors that must affect any decisions made about its future. More than six and a half decades since its establishment, Pakistan has yet to reconcile its self-proclaimed Islamic identity with the imperatives of a modern nation-state.”

Ayesha Jalal is Mary Richardson Professor of History and Director of the Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at Tufts University. Born in Pakistan, Jalal was educated at Wellesley College and the University of Cambridge. She was a MacArthur Fellow from 1998-2003. Jalal is the author of many books, including The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan (1985) and Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia (2008).

Ayesha Jalal discusses The Struggle for Pakistan in this interview.

Ayesha Jalal

Ayesha Jalal

How did Pakistan become a major focus of your scholarly work?

As I explain in the Preface to The Struggle for Pakistan, I was a teenager in New York in 1971 and had difficulties reconciling the official narratives of the Pakistani state with daily news reports of atrocities perpetrated by the Pakistan army in East Pakistan. This led me to ask questions about Pakistan’s history and self-representations, which in time came to define my research interests.

What are the enduring myths about the founding of Pakistan?

There are many. But perhaps the most enduring has been the notion that Pakistan was created solely in the name of religion. This ignores the critical role of regional political dynamics, most notably in Punjab and Bengal, and has led to blanket justifications of giving religion a central role in the affairs of the state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had explicitly stated in his first speech to the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947 that religion had nothing to do with the affairs of the state and Pakistanis regardless of their religion or sect were equal citizens of the state.

What is the “two-nation” theory and how was it used to justify the establishment of Pakistan?

According to the “two-nation” theory the Muslims of India were always an identifiable community that had resisted assimilation into the Indian environment. So Pakistan was the logical culmination of this Muslim distinctiveness. This theory ignores the fact that several Muslims were converts from Hinduism and cannot explain why so many of the Faithful were left in predominantly Hindu India after the establishment of the Muslim homeland of Pakistan.

How is founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah represented in the official narratives of Pakistan? Is his vision for Pakistan relevant today?

Representations of Jinnah at the level of the state have depended on the agendas of incumbent governments. In the initial decades after independence, Jinnah’s political legacy provided the pretext for rejecting a theocracy run by the religious divines (priests). Under General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime in the 1980s Jinnah himself was transformed from being a Westernized secular lawyer-politician into a religious divine. This changed under General Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation” when Jinnah’s secular credentials were emphasized. The appropriation of Jinnah by all shades of political opinion in Pakistan is evidence of his ongoing relevance to debates about the present and future of the country. It is another matter whether these gestures are symbolic or based on substantive engagement with Jinnah’s thought and political practices.

Is the military too entrenched in Pakistani politics? How has the army misruled Pakistan?

The military is firmly entrenched in the political economy of Pakistan and remains the ultimate arbiter of its destiny when it comes to defense and foreign affairs. Military rule in Pakistan has exacerbated tensions between the central government dominated by Punjabis and the non-Punjabi provinces. The breakaway of Bangladesh in 1971 was simply the most dramatic manifestation of the problems created by extended periods of military authoritarianism. There have been continuing tensions between the center and the provinces, most notably in Balochistan.

If Benazir Bhutto (assassinated in 2007) were alive and in office today, how might things be different in Pakistan?

Well for one thing the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) would not be in the shambles that it is after a dismal show of governance between 2008 and 2013. Benazir was unequivocal in her opposition to militancy and support for the rights of minorities and women. Her absence from the political scene has constricted the space for powerful voices of moderation to influence debates on the pressing issues confronting Pakistan.

Are you optimistic about the future of democracy in Pakistan?

Pakistan’s turbulent history reveals that democracy, however flawed, is a necessity rather than a matter of choice. Military governments too have needed to give themselves a civilian face in order to claim a semblance of legitimacy. Even as it is grappling with religious extremism, regional dissidence and a swarm of political and economic challenges, this is the moment when there are appear to be some prospects of Pakistan leaving the state of martial rule behind.

Military regimes in particular have used Pakistan’s geostrategic location at the cross hairs of competing dynamics connecting South Asia with the Middle East and Central Asia to claim a pivotal role in international affairs. But with the Cold War now over, the military’s ascendancy is more of a liability than an asset in negotiating global politics. How well a nuclearized Pakistan is able to make the necessary adjustments in civil-military relations will have large implications for its internal stability as well as global peace.

The 2013 elections marking the first ever constitutional transition from one elected civilian government to another is an important milestone in Pakistan’s history. Rejecting Taliban terror and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s edict declaring elections un-Islamic, the endorsement of democracy by the largest voter turnout in four decades was an encouraging sign. But the voters have also registered a stern warning: they want elected governments to urgently attend to the task of governance and will not hesitate to protest and vote them out if they falter and fail.

How can Pakistan shed its reputation as “a hub of extremism”?

(They can do this) by confronting the truths of history and changing the security driven narratives of national interest that have justified meddling in the affairs of Afghanistan and sustaining a proxy war in Kashmir to the grave detriment of country’s political stability.

A negotiated peace on the disputed border with Afghanistan and concrete steps to resolve the Kashmir conflict with India can go a long way toward helping Pakistan overcome its insecurity complex that has over the past three decades only created greater insecurity for its people.

A recent piece in The Economist noted that you believe America “should keep on engaging and funding nuclear-armed Pakistan.” Is it true? What should be America’s priorities in its engagement with Pakistan?

I did not propose that the United States should fund Pakistan and thereby perpetuate an untenable dependency relationship. What I suggested is the importance of continued engagement with a geo-strategically located nuclear state. Throughout the Cold War the United States provided more funding to military dictatorships in Pakistan than to civilian governments. In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, American support for Pakistan was based on understandings with General Pervez Musharraf’s military government. The United States needs to recalibrate its approach to Pakistan and focus on helping strengthen the democratic process to ensure eventual civilian control over the military.

What can Pakistan learn from Turkey and Egypt as it charts its course for the future?

Turkey’s success in establishing a functioning democracy after a history of military authoritarianism is a model for Pakistanis seeking an end to the recurrence of military interventions. Egypt’s experience since 2011 is a telling lesson for Pakistanis who are struggling to overcome their own history of military authoritarianism but are disillusioned with the performance of their elected governments. Ineffective governments can at least be voted out of office unlike military governments.

Joseph Richard Preville is Assistant Professor of English at Alfaisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Tikkun, The Jerusalem Post, Muscat Daily, Saudi Gazette, and Turkey Agenda. He is also a regular contributor to ISLAMiCommentary.

Julie Poucher Harbin is Editor of ISLAMiCommentary

ISLAMiCommentary is a public scholarship forum that engages scholars, journalists, policymakers, advocates and artists in their fields of expertise. It is a key component of the Transcultural Islam Project; an initiative managed out of the Duke Islamic Studies Center in partnership with the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations (UNC-Chapel Hill). This article was made possible (in part) by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author(s).

Mirrored from IslamiCommentary

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Related video added by Juan Cole

Times Now: “Exclusive report from Peshawar, Pakistan”

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Naguib Mahfouz’s Widow Has Passed Away

December 16th, 2014 No comments

Just days after what would have been Nobel Laureate Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz’s 103rd birthday (see here for my post on the 100th three years ago, interviewing his translator and biographer),his widow,  Atiyatallah Ibrahim Rizq, has reportedly passed away. (Link is in Arabic).

Mahfouz kept his family life extremely private, and this has received little attention.


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Desperate Pakistani Taliban, on the ropes, attack Army School in Peshawar: Large scale Casualties

December 16th, 2014 No comments

By Juan Cole | —

On Tuesday, six members of the Movement of Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan or TTP) invaded a school for children run by the Pakistani army in Peshawar

The Pakistani military counter-attacked, with early reports of dozens killed and wounded in the cross fire. Some of the Taliban were wearing suicide bomb vests, and a loud explosion was heard from one of the school buildings.

Unlike the hostage-taking in Australia, which was just a tragedy produced by a lone nut-job, the attack in Peshawar has geopolitical implications and really is the work of persons organized to pressure civilians on policy by routinely blowing them up–the very definition of terrorism.

The Pakistani “Taliban” are a little bit of a misnomer. The word means ‘seminary student,’ and many of those Afghans who flocked to Mulla Omar in the late 1990s actually studied Muslim law and other disciplines. But the so-called Pakistani Taliban are just uneducated men from the Mahsoud tribe in southern Waziristan, an agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA]. People in Waziristan are Pushtuns, an ethnic group with its own language. Most Taliban derive from that ethnicity. Pakistan’s dominant ethnic group is the Punjabis.

Some of the tribesmen of Mahsoud only declared themselves members of the “Pakistani Taliban” in the early zeroes, whereas the Afghan Taliban went back to the 1990s. Many observers believe that the TTP or Pakistani Taliban were behind the assassination on Dec. 27, 2007, of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Also in North Waziristan is the Haqqani group of terrorists, who had been with the US against the Soviet Union but in 2001 turned on the US as occupiers.

The ambiguities of FATA are enough for a hundred John LeCarre novels. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence is accused of having used or wanted to use the militant Pakistani Taliban and Haqqani group for its own purposes, laying down a marker on the future of Afghanistan.

In 2009, soon after he came to office, President Barack Obama twisted the arm of then Pakistani prime minister Asaf Ali Zardari (the widower of Benazir Bhutto). He succeeded in getting Zardari to launch a major operation against the Pakistani Taliban for the first time. The Pakistani military targeted many of the Mahsoud in South Waziristan, driving others to North Waziristan. The campaign secured some urban areas.

Since July of this year, the Pakistani air force has been bombing positions of the TTP or Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan. The more aggressive policy was adopted by Prime Minsiter Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim League. He appears to be trying to build bridges to Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani.

It is amazing that the US finally got what it wanted, a Pakistani government willing to send fighter jets to bomb the Pakistani Taliban. But that there has been almost no television coverage of this sea change.

*North* Waziristan had always been protected by military intelligence and so had become a haven for al-Qaeda offshoots. But in the past 6 months Pakistani army troops have killed nearly 2000 fighters and deeply disrupted what is left of the Pakistani Taliban. The group that took over the school complains of the perfidy of the government’s bombing.

So this school attack was the Pakistani Taliban taking revenge for the government’s disruption of their terrorist activities. This is not a sign of strength but of weakness, and they lashed out at a soft target. They are facing a major defeat. That is its significance.

Related video:

RT: “Taliban takes hundreds of students hostage in Pakistan school, scores killed”

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Now that’s Cold: Sydney Siege selfies provoke outrage at ‘Terror Tourists’

December 16th, 2014 No comments

RT | —

“While Sydney cafe siege continues, some people have decided to use the opportunity…to take some selfies. Pictures have emerged on social networks, with what are said to be tourists taking photos of themselves with police cordons or the cafe itself behind.”

RT: “Sydney siege selfies: Outrage at ‘terror tourists’ smiling & snapping at Lindt cafe”

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“President Authorized Torture Techniques”: Cheney and Rove throw Bush under the Bus

December 16th, 2014 No comments

Cenk Uygur “The Young Turks” | —

“”Former President George W. Bush knew about and authorized the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other controversial tactics, according to Karl Rove, Bush’s former top political adviser.

A report released last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee asserted that Bush was kept in the dark about the agency’s rough treatment of detainees until 2006.
Rove on Sunday disputed that claim.

“No. In fact … his book describes how he was briefed and intimately involved in the decision,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to the former president’s book, Decision Points.”* The Young Turks hosts Cenk Uygur breaks it down.”

The Young Turks: “Cheney & Rove Pin Torture On Their Old Boss – Why Is Amazing”

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The Sad Fate of Planet Earth: Lima’s COP20 showed World’s Governments not Serious about fighting Climate Change

December 16th, 2014 No comments

By Roberto Savio

ROME (IPS) – It is now official: the current inter-governmental system is not able to act in the interest of humankind.

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima – which ended on Dec. 14, two days after it was scheduled to close – was the last step before the next Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, where a global agreement must be found.

In Lima, 196 countries with several thousand delegates negotiated for two weeks to find a common position on which to convene in Paris in one year’s time. Lima was preceded by an historical meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which the world’s two main polluters agreed on a course of action to reduce pollution.

This is an act of colossal irresponsibility where, for the sake of an agreement, not one solution has been found. The “big idea” is to leave to every country the task of deciding its own cuts in pollution according to its own criteria.

“Lima has produced a draft climate pact, adopted by everybody, simply because it carries no obligation. It is a kind of global gentlemen’s agreement, where it is supposed that the world is inhabited only by gentlemen”

And everybody is aware that this is most certainly a disaster for the planet. “It is a breakthrough, because it gives meaning to the idea that every country will make cuts,” said Yvo de Boer, the Dutch diplomat who is the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). ”But the great hopes for the process are also gone.”

To make things clear, all delegates knew that without some binding treaty to reduce emissions, there is no way that this will happen. But they accepted what it is possible, even if it does not solve the problem. It is like a hospital where the key surgeon announces that the good news is that the patient will remain paralysed.

The agreement is based on the idea that every country will publicly commit itself to adopting its own plan for reducing emissions, based on criteria established by national governments on the basis of their domestic politics – not on what scientists have been indicating as absolutely necessary.

This, of course, is the kind of treat that no country in the world objects to. The real value of the treaty is not the issue. The issue is that the inter-governmental system is able to declare unity and common engagement. The interests of humankind are not part of the equation. Humankind is supposed to be parcelled among 196 countries, and so is the planet.

This act of irresponsibility is clear when you look at all the countries producing energy, like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, Iran or Ecuador, Nigeria or Qatar, whose governments are interested in using oil exports to keep themselves in the saddle. And take a look at what the world’s third largest polluter, India, is doing in the spirit of the Lima treaty.

Under the motto: “We like clean India, but give us jobs”, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is moving with remarkable speed to eliminate any regulatory burden for industry, mining, power projects, the armed forces, and so on.

According to the high-level committee assigned to rewrite India’s environmental law system, the country’s regulatory system ”served only the purpose of a venal administration”. So, what did it suggest? It presented a new paradigm: ”the concept of utmost good faith”, under which business owners themselves will monitor the pollution generated by their projects, and they will monitor their own compliance!

The newly-appointed Indian National Board for Wildlife which is responsible for protected area cleared 140 pending projects in just two days; small coal mines have a one-time permission to expand without any hearing; and there is no longer any need for the approval of tribal villages for forest projects.

[Indian] Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar boasted: ”We have decided to decentralise decision making. Ninety percent of the files won’t come to me anymore”. And he said that he was not phasing out important environmental protections, just “those which, in the name of caring for nature, were stopping progress.” He also plans to devolve power to state regulators, which environmental expert say is akin to relinquishing any national integrated policy.

In this column, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, argues that – in the light of the agreement reached at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima – the world’s governments have once again demonstrated their irresponsibility by failing to come up with a global remedy for climate change.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

Licensed from Inter Press Service, where you can read the full essay.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Democracy Now!: ” Emissions-Cutting Deal Reached at COP 20 Lima, But Will It Help Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change?”

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Erdo?an’s Ottoman Script Revival and the Legacy of Kemalism

December 16th, 2014 No comments

I haven’t commented Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an announcement last week  that he intends to institute the teaching of Ottoman Turkish as a requirement in high schools. Those unfamiliar with the history of Modern Turkey may wonder why the idea of teaching people the language used in the early 20th century is provoking a backlash in Turkey.

It is not just a sign of Erdo?an’s “neo-Ottoman” proclivities as well as his continuing efforts to dismantle the secular “laicist” aspects of Turkish society; it is also one of his most direct assaults to date on the Kemalist legacy.

Of all of Kemal Atatürk’s reforms aimed at radically transforming Turkey — abolition of the Sultanate and Caliphate, declaring the republic, instituting secularism and a Western work week, adoption of regularized surnames, banning traditional headgear like the Fez and the veil — perhaps none more thoroughly undercut traditional Ottoman ways more than the language reform of 1928, which abandoned the ArabiC/Persian script used to write Ottoman Turkish and adopted a modified Latin script. At the same time and after (with the founding of the Turkish Language Association in 1932), efforts were made to purge the language of the large vocabulary of Arabic and Persian loanwords and to replace them with Turkic words.

The Kemalist reforms made much linguistic sense: Turkish is an agglutinative language in which vowel harmony plays a major role, but the Arabic script is usually written with few or no vowels. But the other side of the reform was to cut modern Turks off from their heritage; only scholars and historians still learned Ottoman, so most Turks could not read materials written before 1928 unless they were transcribed into Modern Turkish.

So by seeking to require the teaching of Ottoman and the Arabic-Persian script in secondary schools, Erdo?an is directly attempting to reverse perhaps the most sweeping of the Kemalist reforms and thus the whole Kemalist legacy, which he has been  chipping away at as long as the AKP has been in power.
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Haaretz on "The Forgotten Jews of Sudan"

December 15th, 2014 No comments

Haaretz’ title sums it up: “The forgotten Jews of Sudan even researchers haven’t heard of.”

Excerpt:

In its heyday, the Jewish community in Sudan had fewer than 1,000 members – a drop in the sea compared to the 260,000-strong Moroccan-Jewish community, the 135,000-strong Algerian community, the 125,000 Jews living in Iraq, the 90,000-strong Tunisian community, and the 75,000 Jews who lived in Egypt before Israel was established.

The Jewish community in Sudan dissolved after 1956, when the country became independent and joined the Arab League. An estimated 500 Jews came to Israel, while the rest dispersed around the world.


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The Banality of Terrorism: Sydney’s other Hostage Crisis, of 1984

December 15th, 2014 No comments

By Juan Cole | –

IC doesn’t usually cover hostage-taking, since it is an artificial and manipulative criminal act. Any two-bit thug can grab someone off the street and push them into a car, and subsequently kill them. It doesn’t take intelligence or any other admirable quality, just brutishness.

One’s heart goes out to the Sydney hostages. But it is distressing to see the hostage-taker made 10 feet tall by the media and to have Daesh (which is what most Arabs derisively call ISIL or ISIS) invoked. He is likely not mentally well, and he is not evidence of Daesh’s reach. Just that sadists are willing to franchise just like purveyors of hamburgers.

In fact, Sydney had another hostage crisis, in 1984, in a bank. A formerly wealthy (secular) Turkish-Australian became unhinged at losing his fortune. Today’s incident is not more important than that one, which few now remember. Both of these hostage-takers were common criminals. Neither is a “terrorist.” Today’s Sydney hostage-taker is not representative of a new activity. He isn’t important, and ordering a black flag won’t make him so. The only one who can bestow recognition on this criminal is the mass media and the press. They shouldn’t do it.

Nor are Australia’s Muslims responsible for this maniac. All white people aren’t responsible for motorcycle gangs or white supremacist groups. No one has ever asked a white person on television, ‘why don’t you condemn the Aryan Nation?’” The mainstream or ‘unmarked’ ethnic identity in a society doesn’t suffer from guilt by association. It is only the minorities who do.

Criminals and gangsters should not be fetishized as “terrorists.” It is just a way for them to inflate their egos. People are violent and sadistic because they are violent and sadistic, not because they have any particular ideology. Sociologist Max Weber posited “elective affinity,” that two phenomena find one another. Maybe sadists and killers are attracted to groups with deviant ideologies that permit wanton violence.

Daesh is just a bunch of gangsters. They are smugglers and human traffickers and mass murderers. It is secondary that they deploy a language of political Islam. The Ku Klux Klan in the US thought of itself as Protestant White Knights. One reviewer of my book, Engaging the Muslim World, complained that I compared the Taliban to the KKK, on the grounds that the latter is a small group. But it wasn’t in American history always a small group. It captured the governorship of Indiana in the 1920s.

Nor is Daesh popular, nor does it find ideological acceptance. Almost nobody in the Middle East likes it, and the tiny percentages who do tell pollsters they approve may not even agree with many of its actions. The Bangalore food company executive who did massive twitter propaganda for Daesh, when presses, admitted he did not agree with all their policies, and allowed how he couldn’t go join up because he had to take care of his parents (didn’t the kids he encouraged to go die in Syria have parents?) A 2012 poll of Iraqi Sunnis found that 75% said religion and state should be separate. They are likely the most secular people in the Middle East. Just because Daesh has taken over Sunni Arab Iraq does not mean they have changed their mind on this issue. They just chose an assertive Sunni group like Daesh over being ruled by equally fundamentalist Shiites.

It is really unfortunate that the magnificent city of Sydney had its peace disturbed by this maniac. But he isn’t important, least of all geopolitically, and shouldn’t be built up otherwise.

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Related video:

AP: “Gunman Holding Hostages in Sydney Cafe”

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