We would be hard pressed to find one.

If you have difficulty viewing the photos above, please click here.

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Israel vs Gaza

Allen West on Obama

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Thomas Wiktor offers video and documentary evidence:

The self-inflicted massacre at Shijaiyah
 

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Julia Gorin has the story.
 

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Tokyo Stands With Israel

by Gramfan on August 4, 2014

in Gramfan (team member), Israel, Japan

On YouTube:

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Published on Aug 3, 2014 by cockneydoll
They don’t just support Israel in Tokyo, they come out and show it! — in Tokyo, Japan.
Support for Israel – Operation “Defensive Shield” July/August 2014

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Breitbart: LEAKED CBP REPORT SHOWS ENTIRE WORLD EXPLOITING OPEN US BORDER

LUBBOCK, Texas — A leaked intelligence analysis from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveals the exact numbers of illegal immigrants entering and attempting to enter the U.S. from more than 75 different countries. The report was obtained by a trusted source within the CBP agency who leaked the document and spoke with Breitbart Texas on the condition of anonymity. The report is labeled as “Unclassified//For Official Use Only” and indicates that the data should be handled as “Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU).”

The numbers provided are in graphics and are broken down into “OFO” and “OBP.” The Customs and Border Protection agency is divided into the Office of Field Operations (OFO) and the Office of Border Patrol (OBP). The OFO numbers reflect anyone either turning themselves in at official U.S. points of entry, or anyone caught while being smuggled at the points of entry. The OBP numbers reflect anyone being caught or turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents between the points of entry, or anyone caught at interior checkpoints by Border Patrol agents. The “OFO Inadmissible” designation to any individual from a nation other than Mexico or Canada means that U.S. authorities took the individuals into custody. Whether they were deported or given a Notice to Appear is unknown. It is important to note these numbers do not include data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The unavailable ICE data are in addition to these numbers.

The report reveals the apprehension numbers ranging from 2010 through July 2014. It shows that most of the human smuggling from Syria and Albania into the U.S. comes through Central America. The report also indicates the routes individuals from North Africa and the Middle East take into the European Union, either to illegally migrate there or as a possible stop in their journey to the United States. The data are broken down further into the specific U.S. border sectors where the apprehensions and contact occurred.

Among the significant revelations are that individuals from nations currently suffering from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014.

As of July 20, 2014, 1,443 individuals from China were caught sneaking across the porous U.S. border this year alone, with another 1,803 individuals either turning themselves in to U.S. authorities at official ports of entry, or being caught attempting to illegally enter at the ports of entry. This comes amid a massive crackdown by Chinese authorities of Islamic terrorists in the Communist nation.

Twenty-eight individuals from Pakistan were caught attempting to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 211 individuals either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.

Thirteen Egyptians were caught trying to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 168 either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.

Four individuals from Yemen were caught attempting to sneak into the U.S. by Border Patrol agents in 2014 alone, with another 34 individuals either turning themselves in or being caught attempting to sneak through official ports of entry. Yemen is not the only nation with individuals who pose terror risks to the U.S. that the report indicates travel from. The failed nation of Somalia, known as a hotbed of Islamic terror activity, was also referenced in the report. Four individuals from Somalia were caught trying to sneak into the U.S. by Border Patrol agents in 2014. Another 290 either turned themselves in or were caught attempting to sneak in at official ports of entry. This reporter previously covered the issue of illegal immigration into the U.S. from Somalia and other nations in the Horn of Africa.

More here.

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Panikhida (warning, some graphic images)

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Published on Aug 1, 2014 by Vera Narishkin
Looks great in full-screen mode.

Panikhida – A Panikhida is a memorial service which is a liturgical solemn service for the repose of the departed, in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Dedicated to all those killed in Eastern Ukraine (Novorossiya): Children, women, old people, men, militia and soldiers.

On July 2nd 2014, Ukrainian planes attacked and destroyed the villages of Lugansk Cossack and Kondrashovka.

The city of Lugansk also was attacked with mortars and by Ukrainian soldiers.

On May 2nd 2014, 114 people were killed by Pravy Sektor in the House of Trade Unions, Odessa. They were shot, burnt to death, and a near-term pregnant woman was raped and strangled.

Photo credits:

Валерий Мельников
РИА Новости
Valery Melnikov
RIA Novosti

Станислав Красильников
ИТАР-ТАСС
Stanislav Krasilnikov
ITAR-TASS

And various other photos found on the internet.

Music – Russian Orthodox choirs:

Chesnokov – Panikhida Op. 39-15 Memory eternal

Chesnokov – Panikhida Op. 39-02 Alleluia

Gospodi Pomilui! – Lord, have mercy!

Produced and directed by Vera Vadimovna Narishkina on August 1st, 2014.

Lord have mercy!

Appeal by Metropolitan Hilarion for Peace in Ukraine

In light of the violence and civil unrest in Kiev and throughout Ukraine, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, issued the following call for peace and calm:

“As faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church, we cannot remain indifferent to the troubles plaguing Her cradle – the Mother of Russian Cities, Kiev. We call on all of the faithful of the Russian Church Abroad around the world to pray for the cessation of all violence, that God might prevent all bloodshed and speedily restore brotherly love and understanding.”

His Eminence further decreed that all parishes and monasteries of the Eastern American Diocese add the following petition to all augmented litanies at Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy:

“Again we pray Thee, O Almighty Lord, that Thou mightest grant peace to Kiev, the Mother of Russian cities which is shaken by civil strife, and the entire country of Kievan Rus’, and by the power of the grace of Thy Holy Spirit extinguish all enmity and violence therein; O Source of goodness and Abyss of love for mankind, quickly hearken and have mercy.”

A printable version for insertion in service books is available here.

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia Addresses the Fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I appeal now to the Fullness of our Church, to all the peoples of historic Rus.

There can be nothing more important for us today than the continuing fratricide which is blazing on the territory of Ukraine, taking away more and more lives.

What is happening today, primarily in the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts, and how are the members of our Holy Church, to assess it?

In the southern regions of historic Rus, internecine strife has now flared up.

The consequences of the bloody conflict are horrifying. No longer only a hundred, like in Kiev over the winter, but many, many hundreds have died, thousands have been wounded and left homeless. Only the devil can celebrate victory, when brothers take up arms against each other, destroy each other, maim each other, weaken the life-force of the people.

And of course, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Church of the spiritually indivisible Rus, cannot divide the united people of God along political, national, social or any other principle. The Church fulfills the mission entrusted to her by the Lord Jesus Christ, and not the instructions or orders from elsewhere, from one political force or another. That is how she differs from some nominally religious but in actuality worldly organizations.

Internecine battles have occurred more than once in our history. They caused the weakening of Kievan Rus and to the fall of the divided principalities under the assault of Khan Baty, they led to the terrible Time of Troubles in the Russian state in the seventeenth century, to the monstrous, elemental bloodletting and establishment for many years of the godless regime in the twentieth century.

The lessons of history also show that internecine struggle always gives rise to the defeat of the Fatherland by outside forces. Both in the days of old and today, we face the danger of losing true sovereignty of the people. Sovereignty which is expressed in the possibility and ability to arrange one’s life on the basis of those moral, spiritual and cultural values which were adopted, together with Divine grace, by our ancestors in the Kievan font of the Baptism of Rus, which blossomed and were made our own over the course of many centuries of our history.

I appeal to all who are in a position to make decisions: immediately end the bloodletting, enter into real discussions for establishing peace and justice. The can be no winners in fratricidal war, there can be no political victory more valuable than human lives.

As far as the Church is concerned, her weapon and her shield are prayer and the Word of God, which “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).

I call upon all the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church to enhanced prayer, to extra zeal in observing the Lenten period of the Holy Apostles which now begins. A special call to the monasteries: pray now to the Lord as our pious ancestors were able to pray in the days of strife; the ascetics of Russian monasticism, SS Anthony and Theodosius of the Kievan Caves, how they prayed for the end of hateful enmity in the world, the peacemaker of the Russian lands, St Sergius of Radonezh, how St Tikhon, Patriarch of All Russia, called to the Lord during the bloody chaos and civil war, as did Holy Hieromartyr Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kiev.

May special prayers for peace and the overcoming of internecine war tirelessly be made in all our churches, the text of which I gave my blessing today.

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Press Service of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

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Published on Aug 2, 2014 by Coffee with Sr. Vassa
Subtitles: ENGLISH. Coffee-mugs are available at www.healthyweb.net. A weekly, brief reflection on the church calendar, hosted by Dr. Sr. Vassa Larin of the University of Vienna, Austria. This episode is on Sts. Joachim and Anna, parents of the Theotokos.

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On YouTube:

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Published on Jul 25, 2014 by Simon’s Cat
Here is a glimpse into the development process of ‘Off to the Vet’!

YOU CAN STILL HELP!
Go to – http://igg.me/at/simonscat

Perks include Limited Edition Signed Books, Simon’s Cat Plushies, T-shirts and Art Prints!

Our campaign is for ‘Fixed Funding’, meaning if we don’t reach our target, we won’t receive funds (everyone will be refunded), and the film won’t be made!

If you have any other questions about our campaign please email igg@simonscat.com

‘Off to the Vet’ FAQs (Also available at http://igg.me/at/simonscat)

Q. Is this the end of black and white episodes?
A. No. The black and white episodes will still be made and released online for free! ‘Off to the Vet’ is a special, new format with longer, more complex story that we would really like to make. Fans who help make it will get exclusive, early access before it’s main release.

International Payments & Shipping

Q. How do I contribute?

A. If you would like to help fund ‘Off to the Vet’, please follow these steps;
1) Go to – igg.me/at/simonscat
2) Click ‘Contribute Now’
3)Choose a perk, click ‘Continue to Payment’ at the bottom of the page.
4) Or, if you select ‘No Perk’, simply click ‘Continue’
5) Please read Indiegogo’s message and the breakdown of your perks. If you are happy with everything, please click ‘Go to Paypal’. (Please note: Payments are only powered by Paypal. You don’t need a Paypal account to contribute)
6) By clicking ‘Go to Paypal’, you’ll be redirected to PayPal’s site where you can pay with your PayPal account OR your credit or debit card.
7) Simply login to your Paypal account, or, choose ‘Pay with credit or debit card’ and follow the onscreen instructions.

Q. I live outside the UK, can I still contribute? And how much will it cost in my currency?

A. Yes! Simon’s Cat fans from around the world can support Simon’s Cat in ‘Off to the Vet’!
Our perks and shipping costs are listed in £ Great British Pounds as we are based in the UK. Please check live currency conversions at – www.xe.com before purchasing a perk.
International shipping is to be paid via our web shop and is not due until the perks are ready to be shipped.

Q. How do I check international shipping costs?

A. If you would like your items delivered outside of the UK, please check international shipping costs before you complete your transaction, by visiting our Web Shop (http://simonscat.theofficialwebshop.com/index.php/indiegogo-perks.html)
You do this by adding one or multiple perk packs to your cart (Perks are a combination of one or two physical items with digital perks, so add-ons can be calculated choosing the perk that contains the add-on you would like).

Q. When will I receive my items?

A. Perks will be sent out throughout 2015. We have listed our ‘Estimated Delivery’ date as December 2015 as this is the date for the last item to be sent, but we will be working hard to send all perks as soon as we can. All Limited Edition items are to be developed alongside the film production. We will keep funders updated at every step.

PERK ADD-ONS & UPGRADES

Q. I’d like a single item that’s not in my Perk Pack. Can I ‘Add-On’ individual items?

A. Anyone who has PURCHASED A £35 and up PERK , can ‘Add-on’ individual items at the below prices;

Individual Character Cards (multiply to get the full set!) – £1
Unsigned Book – £15
Plush – £25
T-Shirt – £35
Small Art Print – £70
Medium Art Print – £110

Q. Can I upgrade my perk?

A. If you simply want to upgrade your perk from your original selection, please add the difference between the two perk packages by using the ‘Contribute Now’ button, selecting ‘No Perk’ and then send an email to igg@simonscat.com to confirm your Upgrade.

If the campaign is successful, we will contact you to make sure your request is properly processed.

If the campaign is unsuccessful, your money will be refunded by Indiegogo / Paypal.

VIDEO CREDITS

Featuring: Simon Tofield
Directed, filmed and edited by: Chris Gavin
Main Body Music: ‘Mischievous Magic’ by Sam Clunie (Stockmusicsite.com)
End Title Music: Shrooty

The official Simon’s Cat website and shop:Official Website: http://www.simonscat.com
Official webshop: http://www.simonscat.com/Shop
Stay connected with Simon’s Cat on your favourite websites:
Facebook: http://facebook.com/simonscat
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+SimonsCat
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SimonsCat
Tumblr: http://simonscat.tumblr.com/
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/simonscat
If you want to email us: contact@simonscat.com

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Published on Jul 19, 2014 by kedar yekutiel
http://jtf.org/e
Please join the exciting forum of the Jewish Task Force (JTF)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jewish-Task-Force-JTF/460701807304711
Please join our great JTF Facebook page

http://hayamin.org/f
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אנא הצטרפו לעמוד הפייסבוק שלנו

תורה בראשית במדבר דברים ויקרא שמות נביאים יהושע שופטים מלכים שמואל ירמיהו ישעיהו יחזקאל תרי עשר חמש מגילות איכה אסתר קהלת רות שיר השירים כתובים איוב דברי הימים דניאל משלי נחמיה אזרא תהילים
תנ”ך דוד המלך שלמה משה רבנו אברהם יצחק יעקב אדם נח משנה זרעים מועד נשים נזיקין קדשים טהרות קדושים הלכה הלכות מסכת מסכתות משניות
תלמוד בבלי ירושלמי גמרא אמוראים תנאים סבוראים גאונים ראשונים אחרונים רבנים ישיבה ישיבות

יהודה שומרון עזה ירושלים רמת הגולן ארץ ישראל השלמה חברון יצחר איתמר בית אל שמעון הצדיק גוש קטיף עמונה מאחזים גירוש נוער הגבעות תג מחיר הצפון הגליל הדרום הנגב סיני ימית התישבות ישובים התנחלות מתנחלים

חיים בן פסח תנועת הימין האמיתי הרב מאיר כהנא כהניסטים ליכוד ישראל ביתנו נתניהו ליברמן משה יעלון פייגלין יש עתיד יאיר לפיד הבית היהודי נפתלי בנט כנסת בחירות ש”ס המפד”ל יהדות התורה אגודה לבני שרים ממשלה צה”ל צבא חיילים קרבות מלחמה הצבעה קולות תעמולה תקשורת תשקורת שמאל קיצוני

איראן גרעין מצרים סוריה לבנון ירדן טורקיה פת”ח אש”ף חיזבאללה חמאס קוראן חדית ערבים מוסלמים סונים שיעים שיעה מוחמד אל קאעידה איסלאם ערפאת אבו מאזן מחמוד עבאס מחבלים טרוריסטים רוצחים נאצים אנטישמיים שואה היטלר גרמניה אירופה האו”מ האיחוד האירופי

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Published on Jul 15, 2014 by kedar yekutiel
http://jtf.org/e
Please join the exciting forum of the Jewish Task Force (JTF)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jewish-Task-Force-JTF/460701807304711
Please join our great JTF Facebook page

http://hayamin.org/f
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אנא הצטרפו לעמוד הפייסבוק שלנו

תורה בראשית במדבר דברים ויקרא שמות נביאים יהושע שופטים מלכים שמואל ירמיהו ישעיהו יחזקאל תרי עשר חמש מגילות איכה אסתר קהלת רות שיר השירים כתובים איוב דברי הימים דניאל משלי נחמיה אזרא תהילים
תנ”ך דוד המלך שלמה משה רבנו אברהם יצחק יעקב אדם נח משנה זרעים מועד נשים נזיקין קדשים טהרות קדושים הלכה הלכות מסכת מסכתות משניות
תלמוד בבלי ירושלמי גמרא אמוראים תנאים סבוראים גאונים ראשונים אחרונים רבנים ישיבה ישיבות

יהודה שומרון עזה ירושלים רמת הגולן ארץ ישראל השלמה חברון יצחר איתמר בית אל שמעון הצדיק גוש קטיף עמונה מאחזים גירוש נוער הגבעות תג מחיר הצפון הגליל הדרום הנגב סיני ימית התישבות ישובים התנחלות מתנחלים

חיים בן פסח תנועת הימין האמיתי הרב מאיר כהנא כהניסטים ליכוד ישראל ביתנו נתניהו ליברמן משה יעלון פייגלין יש עתיד יאיר לפיד הבית היהודי נפתלי בנט כנסת בחירות ש”ס המפד”ל יהדות התורה אגודה לבני שרים ממשלה צה”ל צבא חיילים קרבות מלחמה הצבעה קולות תעמולה תקשורת תשקורת שמאל קיצוני

איראן גרעין מצרים סוריה לבנון ירדן טורקיה פת”ח אש”ף חיזבאללה חמאס קוראן חדית ערבים מוסלמים סונים שיעים שיעה מוחמד אל קאעידה איסלאם ערפאת אבו מאזן מחמוד עבאס מחבלים טרוריסטים רוצחים נאצים אנטישמיים שואה היטלר גרמניה אירופה האו”מ האיחוד האירופי

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Published on Jul 31, 2014 by Malkiel Shimshon
http://jtf.org/e
Please join the exciting forum of the Jewish Task Force (JTF)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jewish-Task-Force-JTF/460701807304711
Please join our great JTF Facebook page

http://hayamin.org/f
אנא הצטרפו לפורום המרתק של תנועת הימין האמיתי

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תורה בראשית במדבר דברים ויקרא שמות נביאים יהושע שופטים מלכים שמואל ירמיהו ישעיהו יחזקאל תרי עשר חמש מגילות איכה אסתר קהלת רות שיר השירים כתובים איוב דברי הימים דניאל משלי נחמיה אזרא תהילים
תנ”ך דוד המלך שלמה משה רבנו אברהם יצחק יעקב אדם נח משנה זרעים מועד נשים נזיקין קדשים טהרות קדושים הלכה הלכות מסכת מסכתות משניות
תלמוד בבלי ירושלמי גמרא אמוראים תנאים סבוראים גאונים ראשונים אחרונים רבנים ישיבה ישיבות

יהודה שומרון עזה ירושלים רמת הגולן ארץ ישראל השלמה חברון יצחר איתמר בית אל שמעון הצדיק גוש קטיף עמונה מאחזים גירוש נוער הגבעות תג מחיר הצפון הגליל הדרום הנגב סיני ימית התישבות ישובים התנחלות מתנחלים

חיים בן פסח תנועת הימין האמיתי הרב מאיר כהנא כהניסטים ליכוד ישראל ביתנו נתניהו ליברמן משה יעלון פייגלין יש עתיד יאיר לפיד הבית היהודי נפתלי בנט כנסת בחירות ש”ס המפד”ל יהדות התורה אגודה לבני שרים ממשלה צה”ל צבא חיילים קרבות מלחמה הצבעה קולות תעמולה תקשורת תשקורת שמאל קיצוני

איראן גרעין מצרים סוריה לבנון ירדן טורקיה פת”ח אש”ף חיזבאללה חמאס קוראן חדית ערבים מוסלמים סונים שיעים שיעה מוחמד אל קאעידה איסלאם ערפאת אבו מאזן מחמוד עבאס מחבלים טרוריסטים רוצחים נאצים אנטישמיים שואה היטלר גרמניה אירופה האו”מ האיחוד האירופי

In this interview, the anti-Semite Hillary Clinton defends the Hamas terrorist mass murderers who are sworn to destroy Israel, America and all non-Muslim “infidels”.

Clinton justifies Hamas using their own women and children as human shields by stating that the reason the Muslim terrorists place their missiles in schools and hospitals is because “Gaza is small and densely populated”. You mean the terrorists have to place their missiles among their children because “Gaza is small”?! Why do they need missiles at all? Why do they have to murder Jews and seek to destroy Israel?

The Muslims have 66 nations while the Jews have only one tiny country. The Muslims have 3000 times the territory that the Jews have. Yet they seek to annihilate little Israel and exterminate 6 million Israeli Jews. In this interview, Clinton repeatedly makes excuses for the Muslim terrorists. She says the Hamas murderers have “their backs against the wall”. Clinton again and again demands an immediate one-sided ceasefire in order to protect Hamas. Indeed the disastrous “ceasefire” that preceded the current Hamas terrorist attacks was negotiated by Clinton when she was Secretary of State. So she caused this problem to begin with.

According to the national polls, the Jew-hater Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the Presidency in 2016, G-d forbid. If you want to prevent Clinton from becoming the next President, then join JTF and together we will work to defeat her.

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Daily Mail (UK): The Islamic State Killing Fields: Terror group releases horrifying video showing drive-by shootings, suicide bombings and dozens of other victims rounded up and executed

  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
  • Jihadists release video in sick celebration to mark Muslim festival of Eid
  • Shows prisoners huddling in trucks before being driven to their deaths
  • Film cuts to them lying face down in dirt as they are shot one by one
  • Suicide bomber brags about becoming a martyr in truck full of explosives
  • Video shows him driving down street before detonating vehicle by building
  • Other prisoners are led to jetty where they are shot and tossed in water

Story here.

Also see:

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NYT has the story:

BAMAKO, Mali — The cash filled three suitcases: 5 million euros.

The German official charged with delivering this cargo arrived here aboard a nearly empty military plane and was whisked away to a secret meeting with the president of Mali, who had offered Europe a face-saving solution to a vexing problem.

Officially, Germany had budgeted the money as humanitarian aid for the poor, landlocked nation of Mali.

In truth, all sides understood that the cash was bound for an obscure group of Islamic extremists who were holding 32 European hostages, according to six senior diplomats directly involved in the exchange.

The suitcases were loaded onto pickup trucks and driven hundreds of miles north into the Sahara, where the bearded fighters, who would soon become an official arm of Al Qaeda, counted the money on a blanket thrown on the sand. The 2003 episode was a learning experience for both sides. Eleven years later, the handoff in Bamako has become a well-rehearsed ritual, one of dozens of such transactions repeated all over the world.

Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe.

While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.

In news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.

These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funneled the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.

In its early years, Al Qaeda received most of its money from deep-pocketed donors, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans.

Put more bluntly, Europe has become an inadvertent underwriter of Al Qaeda.

The foreign ministries of Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland denied in emails or telephone interviews that they had paid the terrorists. “The French authorities have repeatedly stated that France does not pay ransoms,” said Vincent Floreani, deputy director of communication for France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Several senior diplomats involved in past negotiations have described the decision to pay ransom for their countries’ citizens as an agonizing calculation: Accede to the terrorists’ demand, or allow innocent people to be killed, often in a gruesome, public way?

Yet the fact that Europe and its intermediaries continue to pay has set off a vicious cycle.

“Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a 2012 speech. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.”

And business is booming: While in 2003 the kidnappers received around $200,000 per hostage, now they are netting up to $10 million, money that the second in command of Al Qaeda’s central leadership recently described as accounting for as much as half of his operating revenue.

“Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.”

The stream of income generated is so significant that internal documents show that as long as five years ago, Al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan was overseeing negotiations for hostages grabbed as far afield as Africa. Moreover, the accounts of survivors held thousands of miles apart show that the three main affiliates of the terrorist group — Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in northern Africa; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen; and the Shabab, in Somalia — are coordinating their efforts and abiding by a common kidnapping protocol.

To minimize the risk to their fighters, the terror affiliates have outsourced the seizing of hostages to criminal groups who work on commission. Negotiators take a reported 10 percent of the ransom, creating an incentive on both sides of the Mediterranean to increase the overall payout, according to former hostages and senior counterterrorism officials.

Their business plan includes a step-by-step process for negotiating, starting with long periods of silence aimed at creating panic back home. Hostages are then shown on videos begging their government to negotiate.

Although the kidnappers threaten to kill their victims, a review of the known cases revealed that only a small percentage of hostages held by Qaeda affiliates have been executed in the past five years, a marked turnaround from a decade ago, when videos showing beheadings of foreigners held by the group’s franchise in Iraq would regularly turn up online. Now the group has realized it can advance the cause of jihad by keeping hostages alive and trading them for prisoners and suitcases of cash.

Only a handful of countries have resisted paying, led by the United States and Britain. Although both these countries have negotiated with extremist groups — evidenced most recently by the United States’ trade of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — they have drawn the line when it comes to ransoms.

It is a decision that has had dire consequences. While dozens of Europeans have been released unharmed, few American or British nationals have gotten out alive. A lucky few ran away or were rescued by special forces. The rest were executed or are being held indefinitely.

“The Europeans have a lot to answer for,” said Vicki Huddleston, the former United States deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, who was the ambassador to Mali in 2003 when Germany paid the first ransom. “It’s a completely two-faced policy. They pay ransoms and then deny any was paid.” She added, “The danger of this is not just that it grows the terrorist movement, but it makes all of our citizens vulnerable.”

A Letter Under a Rock

On Feb. 23, 2003, a group of four Swiss tourists, including two 19-year-old women, woke up in their sleeping bags in southern Algeria to the shouts of armed men. The men told the young women to cover their hair with towels, then commandeered their camper van and took off with them.

Over the coming weeks, another seven tour groups traveling in the same corner of the desert vanished. European governments scrambled to find their missing citizens.

Weeks passed before a German reconnaissance plane sent to scan the desert floor returned with images of their abandoned vehicles. More weeks passed before a scout sent on foot spotted something white through his binoculars.

It was a letter left under a rock.

In messy handwriting, it laid out the demands of a little-known jihadist group calling itself the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

Armed with a few hunting rifles and old AK-47s, the kidnappers succeeded in sweeping up dozens of tourists over several consecutive weeks, mostly from Germany, but also from Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. Though they planned the first few ambushes, they appear to have grabbed others by chance, like a pair of hapless 26-year-olds from Innsbruck, Austria, who were spotted because of the campfire they had lit to cook spaghetti.

[...]

Beyond the initial grab, the kidnappers did not seem to have a plan. The only food they had was the canned goods the tourists had brought with them. The only fuel was what was in each gas tank. They abandoned the cars one by one as they ran out of fuel, forcing their hostages to continue on foot.

A 47-year-old Swedish hostage, Harald Ickler, remembers being so hungry that when he found a few leftover Danish butter cookie crumbs, he carefully scooped them into the palm of his hand and then let them melt in his mouth.

“Once they had us, they didn’t seem to know what to do with us,” said Reto Walther of Untersiggenthal, Switzerland, who was in one of the first groups to be grabbed. “They were improvising.”

Despite the operation’s amateur nature, the jihadists had hit a soft spot. Almost none of the hostages had resisted, simply putting up their hands when they saw the gunmen. And although the Europeans outnumbered their captors, the hostages never tried to run away during what turned into a six-month captivity for some of them, and described the foreboding desert surrounding them as an “open-air prison.”

Crucially, although the European nations had firepower superior to that of the scrappy mujahedeen, they deemed a rescue mission too dangerous.

The jihadists asked for weapons. Then for impossible-to-meet political demands, like the removal of the Algerian government. When a 45-year-old German woman died of dehydration, panicked European officials began considering a ransom concealed as an aid payment as the least-bad option.

“The Americans told us over and over not to pay a ransom. And we said to them: ‘We don’t want to pay. But we can’t lose our people,’” said a European ambassador posted in Algeria at the time, who was one of six senior Western officials with direct knowledge of the 2003 kidnapping who confirmed details for this article. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information remains classified.

“It was a very difficult situation,” he said, “but in the end we are talking about human life.”

‘Not Just Normal Criminals’

The exploits of the band of fighters in the Sahara did not go unnoticed.

A year later, in 2004, a Qaeda operative, Abdelaziz al-Muqrin, published a how-to guide to kidnapping, in which he highlighted the successful ransom negotiation of “our brothers in Algeria.” Yet at the same time, he also praised the execution of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was grabbed in Pakistan in 2002 and beheaded nine days later by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a senior Qaeda member believed to be one of the architects of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Within a few years, there was a split within Al Qaeda, with the group’s affiliate in Iraq grabbing foreigners specifically to kill them.

In Algeria, the kidnappers of the European tourists followed a different path.

They used the €5 million as the seed money for their movement, recruiting and training fighters who staged a series of devastating attacks. They grew into a regional force and were accepted as an official branch of the Qaeda network, which baptized them Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. As kidnapping revenue became their main lifeline, they honed and perfected the process.

By Feb. 2, 2011, when their lookouts in southern Algeria spotted a 53-year-old Italian tourist, Mariasandra Mariani, admiring the rolling dunes through a pair of binoculars, they were running a sleek operation.

Her tour guide was the first to spot them, and screamed at her to run. As their cars sped toward her, she sprinted to her nearby desert bungalow and locked herself inside. She could do nothing but sit frozen on the mattress as they broke down the door. They threw her in a waiting car, handcuffing her to the dashboard. Before they sped off, they made sure to place a rolled-up blanket next to her, so that the jihadist sitting next to her would not accidentally make contact with a woman.

“Who are you?” she asked them.

“We are Al Qaeda,” they replied.

If previous kidnapping missions did not seem to have a thought-out plan, the gunmen who seized Ms. Mariani drove for days on what appeared to be a clearly delineated route. Whenever they were low on fuel, they would make their way to a spot that to her looked no different in the otherwise identical lunar landscape.

Under a thorn bush, they would find a drum full of gasoline. Or a stack of tires to replace a punctured one. They never ran out of food.

Ms. Mariani would later learn they had an infrastructure of supplies buried in the sand and marked with GPS coordinates.

One afternoon they stopped just above the lip of a dune. The fighters got down and unfastened a shovel. Then she heard the sound of a car engine. Suddenly a pickup truck roared out. They had buried an entire vehicle in the mountain of sand.

“It was then that I realized, these aren’t just normal criminals,” Ms. Mariani said.

The Sounds of Silence

Weeks passed before Ms. Mariani’s captors announced that they were going to allow her to make a phone call. They drove for hours until they reached a plateau, a flat white pan of dirt.

Years earlier, their strategy for broadcasting their demands had been to leave a letter under a rock. Now they had satellite phones and a list of numbers. They handed her a script and dialed the number for Al Jazeera.

“My name is Mariasandra Mariani. I am the Italian who was kidnapped,” she said. “I am still being detained by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”

The Italian government scrambled to create a crisis unit, including a 24-hour hotline for the kidnappers.

During her 14-month captivity, whenever the kidnappers felt that attention had flagged, they erected a tent in the desert and forced Ms. Mariani to record a video message, showing her surrounded by her armed captors.

A total of 11 former hostages grabbed by Qaeda units in Algeria, Mali, Niger, Syria and Yemen who agreed to be interviewed for this article reported a similar set of steps in the negotiations, beginning with an imposed period of silence. Video messages and telephone calls were infrequent, often months apart. The silence appeared purposeful, intended to terrorize the families of the captives, who in turn pressured their respective governments.

In the Italian village of San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Ms. Mariani’s 80-year-old mother stopped sleeping in her bedroom, moving permanently to the couch in front of the television. Her aging father would burst into tears for no reason. In France, the frantic brother of a hostage held for a year in Syria developed an ulcer.

All over Europe, families rallied, pressuring governments to pay. Ms. Mariani was ultimately released, along with two Spanish hostages, for a ransom that a negotiator involved in her case said was close to €8 million.

Qaeda Supervision

The bulk of the kidnappings-for-ransom carried out in Al Qaeda’s name have occurred in Africa, and more recently in Syria and Yemen. These regions are thousands of miles from the terror network’s central command in Pakistan.

Yet audio messages released by the group, as well as confidential letters between commanders, indicate the organization’s senior leaders are directly involved in the negotiations.

As early as 2008, a commander holding two Canadian diplomats angered his leaders by negotiating a ransom on his own.

In a letter discovered by this reporter in buildings abandoned by the jihadists in Mali last year, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb blamed the commander, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, for securing only the “meager sum” of €700,000 — around $1 million — saying the low amount was a result of his unwillingness to follow the instructions of the group’s leadership in Pakistan.

In his last broadcast before his death in 2011, Osama bin Laden spoke at length about the case of four French citizens held by Al Qaeda in Mali, making clear that he was keeping close tabs on individual kidnappings.

Hostages held as recently as last year in Yemen say it was clear the negotiations were being handled by a distant leadership

How Much Countries Have Paid
Total amount paid to Al Qaeda and its affiliates in ransom money since 2008 for kidnappings that have been reported. In 2014 dollars.

  • France: $58.1 million
  • Qatar and Oman: $20.4 million
  • Switzerland: $12.4 million
  • Spain: $11.0 million
  • Austria: $3.2 million
  • Source could not be determined: $21.4 million

Atte and Leila Kaleva, a Finnish couple held for five months by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2013, deduced this from the voluminous correspondence they saw being delivered to their captors.

“There were lots of letters back and forth,” Mr. Kaleva said. “It was clear that they had a hierarchy, and they were consulting their leaders about what to do with us.”

A Valuable Commodity

In the dozens of kidnappings that Al Qaeda has carried out, the threat of execution has hung over each hostage, reinforced in videos showing the victim next to armed and menacing jihadist guards.

In fact, only a minority of hostages — 15 percent, according to an analysis by The Times — have been executed or have died since 2008, several of them in botched rescue operations.

The potential income hostages represent has made them too valuable to the movement. In a 2012 letter to his fellow jihadists in Africa, the man who was once Bin Laden’s personal secretary, and who is now the second in command of Al Qaeda, wrote that at least half of his budget in Yemen was funded by ransoms.

“Thanks to Allah, most of the battle costs, if not all, were paid from through the spoils,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. “Almost half the spoils came from hostages.”

Mr. Kaleva realized his captors did not intend to kill him when he became ill with what he feared was a giardia infection, and his worried kidnappers immediately brought him medicine.

When Ms. Mariani fell ill from violent dysentery in the burning sands of the Malian desert, a jihadist doctor hooked her up to an IV, nursing her back to health.

Elsewhere in the Sahara, the jihadists trucked in specialized medication for a 62-year-old Frenchwoman who had breast cancer.

“It was clear to us,” Mr. Kaleva said, “that we are more valuable to them alive than dead.”

But hostages from countries that do not pay ransoms face a harsh fate.

In 2009, four tourists were returning to Niger from a music festival in Mali when kidnappers overtook their cars, shooting out their tires. The hostages included a German woman, a Swiss couple and a British man, Edwin Dyer, 61.

From the start of the negotiations, the British government made clear it would not pay for Mr. Dyer’s release. Al Qaeda’s North African branch issued a deadline, then a 15-day extension.

“The British wanted me to send a message saying one last time that they wouldn’t pay,” said a negotiator in Burkina Faso, who acted as the go-between. “I warned them, ‘Don’t do this.’ They sent the message anyway.”

Sometime after, the public information office of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb published a communiqué: “On Sunday, May 31, 2009, at half past seven p.m. local time, the British captive, Edwin Dyer, was killed,” it said. “It seems Britain gives little importance to its citizens.”

The Swiss and German nationals held alongside Mr. Dyer were released after a reported ransom of €8 million was paid, according to one of the Swiss negotiators who helped win their release. The same year, lawmakers in Bern, the Swiss capital, voted on a national budget that “suddenly had an extra line for humanitarian aid for Mali,” the official said.

Mr. Dyer was a British citizen, but he had spent the last four decades of his life in Austria, a country that pays ransoms. In his early 20s, he settled in the mountain village of Attnang-Puchheim, a one-hour drive from the home of an Austrian couple who were released in Mali a few months before Mr. Dyer was killed. Austria paid €2 million to the couple’s Qaeda captors, according to Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, a Malian parliamentarian who negotiated their release.

In England, Mr. Dyer’s grieving brother, Hans, said his brother’s citizenship had cost him his life.

“A U.K. passport is essentially a death certificate,” he said.

Europe’s Outsize Role

Negotiators believe that the Qaeda branches have now determined which governments pay.

Of the 53 hostages known to have been taken by Qaeda’s official branches in the past five years, a third were French. And small nations like Austria, Spain and Switzerland, which do not have large expatriate communities in the countries where the kidnappings occur, account for over 20 percent of the victims.

By contrast, only three Americans are known to have been kidnapped by Al Qaeda or its direct affiliates, representing just 5 percent of the total.

“For me, it’s obvious that Al Qaeda is targeting them by nationality,” said Jean-Paul Rouiller, the director of the Geneva Center for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, who helped set up Switzerland’s counterterrorism program. “Hostages are an investment, and you are not going to invest unless you are pretty sure of a payout.”

Mr. Cohen, the United States under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said information gathered by the Treasury Department suggested that Al Qaeda may no longer want to kidnap Americans, a tectonic shift from a decade ago.

“We know that hostage takers looking for ransoms distinguish between those governments that pay ransoms and those that do not, and make a point of not taking hostages from those countries that do not pay,” he said in a 2012 speech to the Chatham House think tank in London. “And recent kidnapping-for-ransom trends appear to indicate that hostage takers prefer not to take U.S. or U.K. hostages, almost certainly because they understand that they will not receive ransoms.”

Western countries have signed numerous agreements calling for an end to ransom paying, including as recently as last year at a G8 summit, where some of the biggest ransom payers in Europe signed a declaration agreeing to stamp out the practice. Yet according to hostages released this year and veteran negotiators, governments in Europe — especially France, Spain and Switzerland — continue to be responsible for some of the largest payments, including a ransom of €30 million — about $40 million — paid last fall to free four Frenchmen held in Mali.

A presidential adviser in Burkina Faso who has helped secure the release of several of the Westerners held in the Sahara said he routinely dealt with aggressive Western diplomats who demanded the release of Qaeda fighters held in local prisons in an effort to win the release of their hostages, often one of the additional demands kidnappers make.

“You would not believe the pressure that the West brings to bear on African countries,” he said. “It’s you, the West, who is their lifeblood,” he said. “It’s you who finances them.”

The suitcases of cash are now no longer dropped off in the capital of the respective country, he said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons, went on to describe how the money was transferred. European governments send an escort, he said, who travels with the money several hundred miles into the desert until the last safe outpost, usually leaving from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, or Niamey in Niger. The negotiator and his driver then continue driving all day, and sometimes all night, traversing a roller coaster of undulating dunes.

Once the negotiator arrives at the meeting point, he waits until his satellite phone beeps with a text message. In the message is a pair of GPS coordinates.

He drives another five to six hours until he reaches the new address in the sand and waits for the next text, containing another set of coordinates. The process is repeated a minimum of three times before the jihadists finally show themselves.

The money is counted on a blanket on which the fighters sit cross-legged, their guns at their sides, the official said. The millions are then divided into stashes, wrapped in plastic and buried in holes hundreds of miles apart, a detail he was able to glean after repeated meetings with the terrorist cell. They mark the location on their GPS, keeping track of it just as they track their buried cars and fuel drums.

The money is written off by European governments as an aid payment, or else delivered through intermediaries, like the French nuclear giant Areva, a state-controlled company that a senior negotiator said paid €12.5 million in 2011 and €30 million in 2013 to free five French citizens. (A spokesman for Areva denied in an email that a ransom had been paid.)

In Yemen, the intermediaries are Oman and Qatar, which pay the ransoms on behalf of European governments, including more than $20 million for two groups of hostages released in the past year, according to European and Yemeni officials.

Almost a year into her captivity in 2012, Mariasandra Mariani thought she could not take it anymore. Her captors were holding her in a landscape of black granite in northern Mali, which amplified the suffocating heat. When the wind blew, it felt as if someone were holding a blow dryer inches from her skin. She spent all day next to a bucket of water, sponging herself to try to keep cool.

She told her guard that her modest family, which grows olives in the hills above Florence, did not have the money, and that her government refused to pay ransoms. Her captor reassured her.

“Your governments always say they don’t pay,” he told Ms. Mariani. “When you go back, I want you to tell your people that your government does pay. They always pay.”

Much more here.

The take-home lesson: No matter what passport you hold, don’t travel to countries where kidnapping takes place. Vote with your feet and with your wallet.

 

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