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17 August 2014 – The United Nations mission assisting Libya today condemned the “grave escalation” in the fighting in the capital, Tripoli and its suburbs and urged all parties to work to put an end to the security deterioration, which forebodes serious consequences on the humanitarian level.
In a statement from Tripoli, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it “strongly denounced the shelling of residential neighbourhoods, which has inflicted casualties among civilians, forced them out of their homes and caused damage to property.”
The Mission said it deeply regrets that there has been “no response to the repeated international appeals” and its own efforts for an immediate ceasefire. Continued fighting poses a serious threat to Libya’s political process, as well as to the security and stability of the country.
UNSMIL would continue to work “in spirit of impartiality and transparency, and to ensure Libya’s national interest.” To that end, it appealed to all parties to cooperate with efforts to end the bloodshed and stave off further losses. Tackling the current crisis starts with an immediate cessation of hostilities, the mission said.
Libya has been embroiled in some of the worst fighting since the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and set the North African nation on a path to democratic transition.
UN humanitarian agencies have recently warned that living conditions in the country are steadily deteriorating. Food, fuel and electricity are in diminishing supply while indiscriminate shelling of heavily populated areas in both Tripoli and Benghazi have resulted in the death or injury of civilians, including children.Read more
18 August 2014 – The United Nations refugee agency said today it has, for the first time, begun sending aid into western Libya from Tunisia to help some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by weeks of fighting in Tripoli.
A first convoy carrying urgently needed medical supplies and relief items from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was organized by the International Medical Corps (IMC) on Saturday.
The two trucks set off from Medinine and crossed the border at Ras Ajdir before heading to the town of Zawiya, where some 12,000 people have sought shelter from the fighting in Libya’s capital.
The IMC also sent a second convoy later Saturday of essential medicines and medical supplies to the displaced, who are living in very difficult conditions, UNHCR said. Members of the Taher Al Zawia Organization have been distributing the aid.
“This weekend’s operation is crucial and, we hope, paves the way for other humanitarian aid to reach affected populations who are stranded and in dire need of assistance,” said Saado Quol, UNHCR’s acting chief of mission in Libya.
UNHCR has a warehouse in Tripoli with stockpiles of critical relief items, but the agency cannot access these supplies because of the unstable security situation, which has hampered all its operations in the country since early July, including the provision of assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers.
Tripoli is facing severe fuel and power shortages and this has disrupted services and the distribution of basic goods and supplies, including water, food, cooking oil, baby milk, supplies, and access to banking, said UNHCR.
According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, at least 2 million people may be at risk of food shortages if the fighting continues in Libya.
The North African nation has been embroiled in some of the worst fighting since the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and set the country on a transition to democracy.
Yesterday, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned the “grave escalation” in the fighting in Tripoli and its suburbs and urged all parties to work towards an immediate cessation of hostilities.Read more
Thursday, 21 August 2014 07:38The IGAD Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development (ICPALD) in collaboration with AUIBAR recently organized the above regional meeting on August 11-12, 2014 in Mombasa, Kenya. The development of regional framework for the progressive control of peste des petit ruminants (PPR) and other small ruminant diseases (SRDs) in the IGAD region is an activity being financed under the “Improving animal disease surveillance in support of trade or surveillance for trade-sensitive diseases (STSD) project” that is jointly coordinated and implemented by IGAD and AU-IBAR in the IGAD member states. The specific objectives of the meetings were; to share the results of review of continental strategy and available strategies from Member states to identify and agree on a list of additional priority diseases as per country specific needs, to agree on outline of the regional framework for progressive control of PPR and other SRDs and prepare draft regional framework for progressive control of PPR and other SRDs.Read more
The welcoming remarks were made by Dr. Henry Wamwayi, on behalf of the AU-IBAR Director while opening remarks were made by Dr. SJ Muchina Munyua, Acting Director of ICPALD. The participants of the consultative meeting were technical committee drawn from the IGAD Member States as well as from AU-IBAR, AU-PANVAC, FAO-ECTAD, IGAD-ICPALD, ILRI and the OIE. Other documents reviewed included the PPR control effort in South East Asia; the South African Development Community (SADC) region strategy for PPR control, the global strategy development efforts by FAO and OIE; and the global FMD strategy developed by FAO and OIE.
The participants reviewed and agreed on priority diseases identified by the countries, on the outline of the regional framework and a draft regional strategy for the progressive control of peste des petit ruminants (PPR) and other small ruminant diseases (SRD). The way forward is that the technical committee and the consultant continue to work on the draft document to further enrich the draft regional framework before the planned validation workshop in September 22, 2014.
IGAD/ICPALD and AU-IBAR are appreciative and grateful to the European Union (EU) for having financed this event under STSD funding.
LAF: Israeli reconnaissance plane violates Lebanese airspace
Wed 20 Aug 2014 at 21:47
NNA – The Lebanese Army Command – Orientation Directorate issued on Tuesday a statement in which it reported an Israeli violation to the Lebanese airspace.”An Israe…Read more
– Successful Live Fire Testing Establishes New MD 530G Gunship as the Latest Addition to the World’s Most Cost Effective Fleet of Scout Attack Helicopters MESA, Arizona, Aug. 21, 2014 / PRNewswire / Asianet-Pakistan — MD Helicopters Inc. (MDHI) announced the successful completion of Live Fire Qualification Exercises at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, for its […]Read more
21 Aug 2014
David Nabarro. UN Photo/Mark Garten
The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to ramp up its responses to the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease that has claimed more than 1, 000 lives in West Africa.Read more
The United Nations …
2:17 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing.
MS. HARF: Thank you, Said. I just have one item at the top and then I will open it up for your questions.
As you heard President Obama say today and Secretary Kerry in a written statement just moments ago, I would also like to express our heartfelt and deepest condolences on the tragic loss of James Foley. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and to all whose lives he touched. As the President said, Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. ISIL has rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence.
Let’s be clear that ISIL speaks for no religion. No faith teaches people to massacre innocents. As the President said, when people harm Americans anywhere, we will do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. And the United States will continue to do what we must to protect our people.
So with that, Matt, let’s open it up for questions.
QUESTION: Okay. Just before we get to the statement from the President and also the Secretary, I just want to know – I’m wondering if you have or are able to share any more than the White House, than the NSC, your colleague Caitlin was able to share, about the authentication of the video, if your intel people have been able to figure out the when and the where of when this video was made, with – that kind of thing.
MS. HARF: Well, as the NSC did say, we have – the intelligence community has completed its authentication of the video. There are a variety of ways we go about doing that, many of which we don’t talk about publicly because we’d like to be able to use them if, unfortunately, they’re needed in the future. We’re looking at all of those issues right now. Our intelligence community is evaluating that to see if there’s any information that we can use to either bring to justice those responsible or – of course, you saw the other American citizen, Mr. Sotloff, in the video as well, and we remain very deeply concerned about his safety and whereabouts.
QUESTION: Right, okay. Does that mean that the jury is still essentially out on determining where and when and who actually did this?
MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. I’m not – well, let’s do a couple of points on that. I’m not saying that. I’m just not going to specifically outline what we do or don’t know from the video, given much of that is used for intelligence purposes. Prime Minister Cameron did speak a few moments ago as well, and he said that we have not identified the individual responsible, but from what we’ve seen, it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen. We agree, of course, with that assessment, are working very closely with the United Kingdom, our partners there, to determine who may have been in the video.
QUESTION: Sorry, you agree with Prime Minister Cameron’s assessment that —
MS. HARF: That it seems increasingly likely that it is a British citizen.
QUESTION: Then this is just the person who was on the video, not anyone off-screen or any —
MS. HARF: Correct, and obviously, the intelligence community —
MS. HARF: — is looking to get anything they can to possibly use from this video.
QUESTION: All right. Can I ask two brief ones on both – first the President’s statement and then on the Secretary’s statement?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, you can.
QUESTION: One of the – what seems to be one of the main operative paragraphs of the President’s statement is the one that begins, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of this kind of nihilistic ideology.”
How is that going to translate in policy terms? What exactly is the Administration going to do to make sure that there is, from governments and peoples across the Middle East, a clear rejection of this kind of thing?
MS. HARF: Well, there’s a couple things at play here, and that is a key part in this statement because we have talked to a number of partners who understand how serious the threat ISIL is, not just to Syria and Iraq, but to their countries as well. And countries in the region are very, very concerned about this. We’ve worked with them on working to cut off financing, working to cut off the flow of foreign fighters so we can start to deprive ISIL of the oxygen that it’s had and has really allowed it to flourish.
But we’ve also been clear, separate and apart from that, that we will, no matter how long it takes, find people responsible for hurting Americans and bring them to justice. That’s a key part of what the President said and what the Secretary said. I think we’ve shown – very committed to doing that, and that certainly is the case here.
QUESTION: The statement suggests that you aren’t – at the moment, at least, the Administration is not entirely happy, satisfied with all of the governments and peoples of the Middle East, that you believe that there are some peoples and governments that could do more or aren’t really behind this effort.
MS. HARF: I think —
QUESTION: Is that correct?
MS. HARF: I think what today and the last 24 hours really underscores is that we all need to be doing more.
QUESTION: All right. Well, is —
MS. HARF: And I would caution you from reading too much into that one line about anyone specifically.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: We have been working closely with our partners in the region on this.
QUESTION: So in other words, this does not indicate or herald a new policy initiative to get people on board on the anti-ISIL –
MS. HARF: That’s been an ongoing policy initiative. Obviously, the – what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours underscores how critical that effort is, but it has been an ongoing effort.
QUESTION: All right. My last one: From the Secretary’s statement, one – the line in here says that “We will confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred.”
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Does that include Syria? And if it doesn’t why does he say, “Wherever it tries to — ”
MS. HARF: Well, he meant what he said in his statement. Obviously, I’m not going to outline what tactical, military, or intelligence options are at our disposal to respond here, and don’t want to get ahead of any discussions in that regard. But we have the ability to hold people accountable for what they’ve done. We have reserved the right to take action to protect our people, including when our people have been harmed. That principle will guide what we do going forward. The President was very clear that we will continue doing what we’re doing in Iraq. Today, the U.S. military took an additional 14 strikes around the Mosul Dam. So those are all ongoing conversations about the best way to fight ISIL.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that it is possible that the U.S. could take action, some kind of action, against ISIL either generally or to bring the perpetrators of this murder to justice inside Syria?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to specifically rule anything in or out from this podium in terms of policy options. What I will say generically is that the United States reserves the right to hold people accountable when they harm Americans. What that looks like going forward, those conversations will be happening.
QUESTION: All right. Well, then it sounds like you’re leaving – you’re now saying that it is possible that there could be some kind – I don’t know, maybe like a bin Ladin-type raid or something like that.
MS. HARF: I’m not ruling anything in or out.
MS. HARF: I’m not ruling anything in or out in terms of policy options. One of my main jobs here is not to rule in or out policy options, but again, these are principles that guide what this Administration has done when other Americans have been harmed, and that will guide what we’re looking at going forward.
Let’s go around the room here one at a time. Yes, go ahead, Said, and then we’ll go down the row.
QUESTION: Of course, first of all, our heart goes out to —
MS. HARF: Thank you.
QUESTION: — James Foley’s family. Do you have a figure on the number of journalists that are actually kidnapped by ISIL at the present time in Syria?
MS. HARF: Did you say journalists?
QUESTION: Yes. There is allegedly some 20 journalists from all over the world —
MS. HARF: I don’t have a number for you. We are aware of other American citizens, including, as you saw, Mr. Sotloff being held in Syria. I don’t have a number beyond that. We also know that ISIL has, as you point out, taken a number of journalists hostage, including many Syrian journalists who are just trying to shed light on the horrific situation there. So we know it’s a constant threat, and it’s one that we’re very cognizant of.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, is it true – isn’t it true that basically, you were looking the other way while the sources of financing were going to ISIL in, let’s say, a year or a year and a half ago from Kuwait, from Qatar, from Saudi Arabia, from the Gulf countries by individuals?
MS. HARF: Not at all. We have been very focused on the ISIS threat as it’s evolved in Syria, as it’s evolved in Iraq over the past weeks and months as well. It’s a threat we’ve been very focused on. And we have worked with our partners in the region to try, as I said, to deprive it of oxygen that it really needs here. We’re doing that in a number of ways, but we have been very focused on it for some time.
QUESTION: And hasn’t the Syrian regime, like it or not, been on the forefront of the fight against ISIL? I mean, some bloody fighting?
MS. HARF: Not at all. I don’t want to in any way put us on the same page as the Syrian regime. It is because the Syrian regime has allowed them to flourish that ISIS or ISIL is what it is today. They are directly responsible for the growth of this terrorist group. So I think we need to be very careful. While on the right hand, the Syrian regime might be bombing them, on the left hand, everything they’ve done has allowed this group to flourish. So it’s fairly disingenuous.
QUESTION: Okay. I just want to understand “allowed them to flourish.” Do you mean facilitated them, gave them weapons, gave them money, gave them transportation? Or were they actually —
MS. HARF: Facilitated their movement to Iraq, as we’ve seen. They’ve fostered the growth by facilitating the flow of al-Qaida’s foreign fighters during the Iraq conflict, which was really the precursor in some ways to what we’ve seen today. They encouraged violent extremists to transit through Syria to Iraq for the purpose of fighting coalition forces there. This history goes back quite a way with some of these same guys who were part of that group and now have morphed into something even more, if that’s possible, barbaric.
QUESTION: Okay. And my last question: On Kuwait, there is a focus on Kuwait that a great deal of financing comes from that small country which you liberated back some 23 years ago and so on. And in fact, the Kuwaitis arrested a cleric on Sunday, Shafi al-Ajmi, and they released him thereafter. He was propagating, basically, for ISIL. So would you call on the Kuwaitis to re-arrest people like that to stop the —
MS. HARF: I’m not aware of his case, Said. I’m happy to look into it. But we’ve called on all the countries in the Gulf, who themselves understand how serious the threat is, to crack down on financing – and not just in the Gulf; I should say in the region writ large – to crack down on private citizens trying to finance this group. There is – if there is anything we’ve learned about ISIL, and we’ve learned a number of things, unfortunately, about them over the past weeks and months, it’s that they will kill Sunni Muslims, they will kill Shia Muslims, they will kill Yezidis, they will imprison and rape women – it doesn’t matter where they’re from or what religion they belong to. So I think people realize this is a threat to everyone in the region, and we would encourage people to do more accordingly.
QUESTION: Just – Kuwait —
MS. HARF: Yes. Let’s go across the row. We’re going to get – we’ll get to everyone. Go ahead, Lucas.
QUESTION: Just going back to other Americans being held, did you have a number specifically on that?
MS. HARF: We’re not giving a number. We’re aware of other Americans, but for their safety and security, aren’t going to be providing details.
QUESTION: And was Mr. Foley being held in Raqqa, do you think, the northern province in Syria?
MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – we’re not going to be giving more details about those kinds of issues, Lucas.
QUESTION: Okay. In addition to the statement yesterday from the NSC, you said that “generally, we are appalled at the brutal murder.” Is that all? Just appalled?
MS. HARF: I think you saw the President be very clear what his feelings are on this, as the Secretary was as well.
QUESTION: Marie, French Foreign Minister Fabius has pressed all countries in the region, including Iran and Arab countries, to join Western states in fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Can we imagine or expect that the West states plus Syria and Iran in the same front fighting ISIL soon?
MS. HARF: I think that’s a fairly simplistic reading of the situation there on the ground. What we have said is anyone who is willing to help degrade ISIL’s capabilities, that that would in the long term be a step in the right direction. But when it comes to a country like Syria, for example, the regime there, the Assad regime, by their actions has allowed this group to flourish. So what we’re focused on is building capable partners, particularly in Iraq, and among the moderate opposition in Syria, that can increasingly go after this group on their own. We have these kind of partnerships around the world, whether it’s a place like Yemen, for example, where we’ve really helped them build their own capacity to do this, stood by them as we did. But that’s really the kind of effort we’re focused on.
QUESTION: And what about Iran?
MS. HARF: Well, I think all countries in the region understand that ISIL is a threat to them. And if they are interested in playing a constructive role in helping to degrade ISIL’s capabilities, then I’m sure we can have that conversation then.
QUESTION: Fabius added that the international community bears a heavy responsibility in Syria, and he said if two years ago we had acted to ensure a transition, we would not have had Islamic State. What do you think about that?
MS. HARF: I think there’s no one who would rather have had a political transition in Syria a year or so ago than – other than the Syrian opposition – than the people working on Syria in this building and in this Government, if it were only that easy. I’m very hesitant about people who say if only we did X or Y, everything would be different. It’s very complicated.
We have consistently supported the Syrian opposition. As we have provided them with additional assistance, we have to make sure we’re vetting them, because there are a number of groups in Syria that we don’t want our assistance to fall into the hands of. We’ve continued that process; we will continue doing even more. But this is quite complicated, and we are very committed to putting in place in the long term a way we can really degrade ISIL even further.
QUESTION: Last question for me —
MS. HARF: Last question from you, okay.
QUESTION: — regarding French foreign minister’s statement. He said that the French will – or France will arrange a conference in September on the threat posed by ISIL. Are you aware of this conference?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t heard of that conference specifically. As I think somebody asked me about the other day, the President will be chairing – let me just pull this up here, because we weren’t able to talk about this the other day – if I still have it. Very quickly, somewhere in here – the President will be chairing on the – at the UN General Assembly – hold on. Let me just pull it up here.
Yes. The week of September 22nd, he will host a head of – heads of government-level Security Council summit to focus on the acute threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. We will work through our U.S. mission to the UN with partners on a resolution to address the phenomenon, emphasize the need for states to have the tools and mobilize the resources to help prevent it. This will be the first head of government-level Security Council session since the President hosted one on nonproliferation in 2009. Obviously, the threat of terrorists traveling to foreign conflicts is not a new one, but the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have highlighted this threat. We believe there are an estimated 12,000 foreign terrorist fighters that’ve joined those conflicts.
QUESTION: Are you coordinating with the French Government?
MS. HARF: I am sure we are. I just don’t have any specifics for you on that, and I don’t have the details behind that proposal.
QUESTION: You mentioned the 14 strikes from Central Command around Mosul Dam —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — in the last 24 hours. Were those strikes conducted after the video was released or obtained by the U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: It is my understanding that they were, yes. I believe they happened today.
QUESTION: Right. Is there a concern – today as in our time or today as in Iraqi time? I guess —
MS. HARF: Today Iraqi time.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there a concern that these airstrikes – I mean, given the threats that were laid out in the video that were pretty explicit, is there a concern that the continued airstrikes around Mosul Dam on ISIL targets will lead directly to the death of Mr. Sotloff?
MS. HARF: Well, let me make a few points here. First of all, there is no justification for these kind of barbaric acts, period. None. Second, we don’t make concessions to terrorists. The United States Government has a longstanding policy that we feel very deeply about that we do not do that. The President was clear we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. And I would also note that, as I said earlier, ISIL has been willing to kill and rape and enslave anyone who gets in their way, regardless of what country they’re from, regardless of the policies of that country. They’ve been – shown themselves very willing to kill Christians and Muslims and Yezidis and people from all across Iraq and Syria. So again, while highlighting that there is absolutely no justification for this in any way, we have seen them be very willing to kill people – really anyone who gets in their way.
QUESTION: And you call on ISIS, I assume, to release Sotloff, even though —
MS. HARF: To immediate release Mr. Sotloff, yes.
QUESTION: And in terms of the video, was the Secretary and the President – they were briefed on the video. Did they watch the video?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I’m happy to check. I have not watched the video and don’t intend to.
QUESTION: This horrific event – would this event is going to trigger any kind of assessment of your policy for the last 18 months when the ISIL spread very rapidly without any real check on it?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you’ve seen us, as ISIS – and ISIL now in Iraq – has gained in strength, that we have continued to assess our policy and use the tools at our disposal to work to degrade their capabilities. You’ve seen that with the airstrikes that the U.S. military has taken beginning about a week and a half or two weeks ago now. They’ve taken – I think I have the number here – 84 total airstrikes since August 8th.
So in that vein, we are constantly looking at how we can further degrade their leadership, their financing, their capabilities. We know they’re a threat. We have known that for some time, and that’s what we’ll be focused on going forward.
QUESTION: Would you be able to tell us, is there any regret on your part that the U.S. Government did not take more robust action in Syria to stop ISIL?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, I think to Michel’s question, I’m hesitant when people say if only we had done X, everything would be different or everything would be fixed. I think we have constantly looked at ways in Syria, in a very complicated situation where there are no easy answers, to improve the capabilities of the moderate opposition to fight not only the regime, but also terrorist groups like ISIL and Nusrah.
So this is an ongoing process here. We are committed to fighting this in the long term. I can assure you we are putting all the resources of this Government – military, diplomatic, intelligence – towards finding Americans who are being held and bringing them home, and towards, in the long term, taking out the capabilities of ISIL, because we’ve seen what they can do. As the President said, there’s no place for this kind of group in the modern world, and that is what many, many people are working on every single day.
QUESTION: So it’s safe to say that you don’t have any regrets? That’s what we should —
MS. HARF: Just not – I think I made very clear what my position was.
QUESTION: Marie, can I just clarify something as it relates to Syria?
MS. HARF: You can.
QUESTION: For the last three years, the policy of the Administration has been that all options are on the table except for boots on the ground.
MS. HARF: Boots on the ground, correct.
QUESTION: Is that no longer the case?
MS. HARF: That is still the case.
QUESTION: Well then, how can you say that – okay. So then I want to make sure that I understand this. You’re —
MS. HARF: We’ve always said all options except for boots. And what I was saying in response to your questions was I’m not going to rule in, beyond that, any specific policy options – either in or out. That’s not what I’m going to be doing today. What I am saying is we are committed to bringing these people to justice. We are committed at fighting ISIL long-term. We are determining the best way to continue our efforts to do that.
QUESTION: All right. But you also just said that you would go to no – to every length possible to find and free, I think —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Bring home.
QUESTION: Bring home, find and bring home —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — Americans —
MS. HARF: — who are either being held —
QUESTION: — American captives or —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: So does that mean you’re not ruling out some kind of a rescue operation?
MS. HARF: I’m not ruling anything in or out specifically. I don’t – I’m not going to have more specifics to share with you right now on that. But I just want to be very clear that we – no effort is spared in trying to bring our people home. While we can’t always talk about it publicly for obvious security and safety reasons of the remaining people being held, I just want to make very clear that we are taking and will continue taking steps.
QUESTION: All right. And also just on this, and that presumably applies to Mr. Foley’s remains as well, right, to bring him home? Does that —
MS. HARF: Correct. It does. Yes.
Lucas, go ahead.
QUESTION: Will the Administration be taking a law enforcement approach to bringing Mr. Foley’s killers to justice?
MS. HARF: Well, there will be, if there’s not already, an FBI investigation, given he’s an American citizen. But it’s broader than that. As I just said, we have intelligence resources, we have diplomatic resources, we have military resources; we will spare no effort to hold accountable those people responsible for his death.
QUESTION: And you directed me to the President’s remarks earlier —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and the President said one thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has, quote, “no place in the 21st century.”
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: Isn’t it self-evident that they do have a place? Of course, a nefarious place.
MS. HARF: Not any place any of us want to live in.
QUESTION: Marie, can you confirm whether Mr. Sotloff was actually kidnapped in Libya?
MS. HARF: Where?
QUESTION: Yes. Was he —
MS. HARF: Mr. Sotloff?
QUESTION: Sotloff, right. There were reports that he was actually —
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: — kidnapped in Libya.
MS. HARF: I can check, Said. I’m sorry, I don’t have that in front of me.
QUESTION: Will this military operations in Iraq go beyond the two goals you were talking about yesterday?
MS. HARF: Well, the President, as you said, outlined two goals. We’ve talked about those since August 8th now, and that’s what we’re operating under. So I don’t have anything further to announce than that or to speculate on, I should say instead. But we’ve said we are very committed to protecting our people, and we’ve always said – even before this recent action – that we reserve the right to bring people and hold them accountable when American citizens are harmed. So we’re focused on the two goals the President outlined, but one of those is protection of American citizens, which speaks directly to what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours and to the remaining hostages.
QUESTION: On this one, Marie, U.S. officials have said minutes ago that military planners are weighting the possibility of sending more Americans forces to Iraq mainly to provide additional security around Baghdad. Do you have anything on this?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those comments. I don’t have anything to announce at this point in terms of any additional folks.
QUESTION: You don’t know if the State Department has requested additional troops?
MS. HARF: I can check. I can check.
QUESTION: Talking about 300 soldiers.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Just one more question. According to Iran foreign ministry spokesman, dialogue between Iran and European Union about ISIL has begun. Do you know any —
MS. HARF: I think the EU and Iran would probably know more than I would about that.
Yes, go behind you. Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can I change the topic, please?
MS. HARF: No, I think we have a few more on this.
QUESTION: One more.
MS. HARF: Yes, go back here and then we’ll go to Catherine, and then to Indira.
QUESTION: I have been saying many times in the past as far as these terrorists are concerned, mostly they are from the Muslim or Arabic world and operating from there and supported by some of those governments in the name of charity. And today, President is saying that those nations are not speaking against those terrorists, harming them also, but those nations want you to speak on their behalf and go after those terrorists. My question is: Are you also now going after those nations who are supporting them or wherever they are? And also, this is not the first American journalist beheaded by those terrorists, another one in Pakistan by the ISI and those terrorists operating there also, Wall Street Journal journalist.
MS. HARF: Daniel Pearl?
QUESTION: What I’m asking you: Where do we go? Those nations are enjoying in the name of that America will go after those terrorists.
MS. HARF: Well, look, the President wasn’t intending or meaning to speak for other countries in the quotes that we’ve read today from what he said. And I think the other countries in the region do understand the threat and most of the funding, unfortunately, for ISIL has come from kidnappings and ransoms and criminal acts. So that’s part of what their modus operandi has been, and that’s part of the reason we want to deprive them of funds.
But we are working with governments in the region where we believe there are private citizens funding ISIL to get them to clamp down even further to cut off those sources of funding. We need to attack ISIL on a variety of fronts, one of which is the bombs that the Pentagon folks are dropping on them right now. One of them is not letting them have access to resources. So that’s something we’re very focused on, and we will certainly continue with that effort.
QUESTION: One more.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Trust me, many nations in the name of charity or God or Islam, they give money, they give in the name of charity to many charity groups, but much of the funds ends up in the hands of terrorists and they use that money against innocent people.
MS. HARF: Well, we look at any way to cut off funding. I know there are a variety of ways these groups end up with money, and we look at any way we can to really starve them of these resources. And as the President said and as I said at the top of this briefing, ISIL does not operate in the name of any religion. The President was very clear about that, and I think the more we can say that and underscore that point, I think the better.
QUESTION: What has the State Department contact been with the Foley and Sotloff families? We saw President Obama call the Foley family. Has Secretary Kerry reached out to either family?
MS. HARF: We have had regular interactions with both of the families since the kidnapping of their loved ones. We have regularly met with the families, both representatives from the State Department, also the FBI, the intelligence community, and the White House. So we have been in constant communication with them. I don’t have any details on communications today, but if there are some to share, I am happy to read them out.
As you saw in the Secretary’s statement as well, he had met James Foley and the Foley family when he was a senator, knew them. The Foley’s are from the state right next door to his, and so obviously has been very focused on this case.
QUESTION: And there are also reports that Steven Sotloff’s mother is in Washington D.C. today. Is she meeting with anyone at the State Department?
MS. HARF: Oh, I don’t know. I can check. I’m sorry, I can’t confirm that. Let me check on that.
Indira, yes. Hello.
MS. HARF: A welcome addition to the briefing.
QUESTION: Thanks. So a couple of questions. First, I’m really interested in the funding streams. I know you’ve been answering the various people’s questions about that, but can you give us a little bit more on how the ISIL funding streams differ from what your people are already used to dealing with in terms of al-Qaida and some of the other groups? What are the challenges that make their funding streams different or harder to cut off, or will you be targeting them with sanctions, or it’s not really a group where you sanction its funders?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve designated them as an FTO —
MS. HARF: — which carries with it some – I don’t know if the official term is “sanctions,” but – I think it is – but which attempts to cut off any possible funding that could come from the United States or any assets they may have here. I don’t know, quite frankly, if – what the extent of their assets is there, but certainly, we’ve taken the steps that we can under our financial system to cut off their funding.
I do think that one of the challenges is that much of their funding comes from criminal activity, whether it’s stealing money from banks, like we’ve seen in Mosul and elsewhere, whether it’s kidnapping for ransom, which is a huge problem, which is, again, another reason the United States does not make concessions to terrorists, because we don’t want them to get more funding. So those are not unique challenges, but a little different than some of the other terrorist groups we’ve seen in terms of financing.
We are also concerned about financing from private citizens from other places in the region. We have worked very hard – and I don’t have more details for you – but we’ve worked very hard with partners in the region and countries to really – because they understand the threat to get them to crack down on this financing.
QUESTION: And so are there individuals in these countries who you’re aware of who are funneling money that you can go after them, or does their government have to go after them?
MS. HARF: I believe the Treasury Department has actually – may have designated some people individually for their support to ISIL, but let me check on that and see if I can get you some more after the briefing.
QUESTION: Okay. And then —
MS. HARF: We would obviously – if there were someone that we could individually sanction, I think we’d certainly be looking at those options.
QUESTION: And then – clarification – earlier you referred to 12,000 fighters who had joined —
MS. HARF: Foreign fighters who —
QUESTION: Foreign fighters.
MS. HARF: — have gone to join Iraq and Syria.
QUESTION: So it’s not necessarily just ISIL? It’s all different groups?
MS. HARF: Correct, correct, including Nusrah and others as well, I’m sure.
QUESTION: So foreign fighters. And are those mostly from Europe? Is that your understanding?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I think many are probably from the region, some from South Asia, some from Europe. I can check and see if there’s more of a breakdown.
QUESTION: And do you have an idea of how many of those are Americans?
MS. HARF: I believe some officials have spoken to this recently. Let me see if I can get you some numbers on that.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on the question of this video that was released, is there anyone in this building or in the Administration who is of the view that in some ways this video may be self-defeating for them, because they show themselves in many ways – this is just one example – to be so brutal that it could turn more support against them, that maybe some of those who were supporting them either tacitly or actively might stop doing so? Is there any – a view of that?
MS. HARF: Well, I think – not just this video, but what we’ve seen them do – I mean, it’s not, unfortunately, just limited to this video. We’re very focused on it, of course, because it’s an American citizen. But if you look at the pictures and the stories coming out of northern Iraq, coming out of Syria – stories, by the way, that James Foley was there to tell and wanted to bring to the world – their barbarity is really boundless. And all peace-loving Muslims have to do around the world is look at these photos to know they don’t represent their religion. And I’d note that the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, that nation’s highest religious authority, yesterday said that the Islamic State and al-Qaida were the enemy number one of Islam and not in any way part of the faith. So I certainly don’t want to speak for him, but he was very clear about how, at least, Muslims in his country should view what ISIL is doing, period.
QUESTION: Now, I know you said that you had not seen that report that’s come out during the briefing about the State Department requesting an additional 300 troops for Iraq.
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Can – is it possible to get confirmation during the briefing about that?
MS. HARF: It’s – that – unfortunately, we don’t have a system where we can confirm things during the briefing, but afterwards we’ll see. We’re constantly looking at what our security posture looks like but I’m unaware of specifics of that nature. But again, happy to check after the briefing.
QUESTION: I thought the system was sending someone running outside into the hallway.
MS. HARF: No. Have you ever seen someone pass me a note up here? I should start doing that. I’m going to send Matt to go find out. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Another one? Can I —
MS. HARF: Let’s continue on this. Yes, and then we’ll go around.
QUESTION: Yeah. I just wondered very quickly, I mean, seeing that most of these ISIL fighters are actually foreign fighters in terms of —
MS. HARF: That’s true. That’s true.
QUESTION: — Syria and Iraq, they cross borders and they cross —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — borders of countries that are friendly to you, like Turkey, like Jordan. I mean, because —
MS. HARF: We are working with those countries and others to cut down on financing but also the flow of foreign fighters, absolutely.
QUESTION: So you think these countries were lax in controlling their borders?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to say that, Said. I’m going to say it’s a tough challenge. It really is. And so we’re working with them on it. We’re working to help improve their capacity to monitor these things as well.
Yes. Yes, and then I’ll go to you, Lucas.
QUESTION: Yeah. You said —
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: You said there are individual providing fund for those —
MS. HARF: Private citizens.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you nominate some of their country or for which country?
MS. HARF: Let me see if there’s more specifics to share with you. Let me see. I’m not – I don’t have that in front of me. And I think we actually have designated some individuals, but let me check on that and maybe have more details to share later.
QUESTION: Marie, on this one – sorry (inaudible).
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: But on this one, Germany’s development aid minister has accused today Qatar of financing ISIS. He is not saying individuals as you are saying, but he said —
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we don’t have evidence that governments are supporting this group. I said that over and over and over again in this briefing room. We’re constantly looking at ways to cut off financing to them. I don’t have many more details on that to share.
QUESTION: Does that mean if you don’t have evidence that governments are – what does the President mean when he says, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be — ”
MS. HARF: That we all need to work together to fight – you’re reading something into that statement that I don’t think is actually there. He was saying that we need – and I haven’t —
QUESTION: Well, I’m reading into this that you’re actually going to do something. Are you saying – I mean do something to get the – to get countries that you don’t believe —
MS. HARF: To help —
QUESTION: — are —
MS. HARF: No, you’re just – you’re just linking that to the financing piece. What the President was referring to – and I have it right in front of me here as well – is that all of the countries need to come together to fight ISIL in any way we can. You’re linking it to a specific piece and think – and reading into an accusation in it that I don’t actually think is there. It was a broad statement about the fact that this isn’t a U.S. fight against ISIL. This is a fight that every country should feel deeply about and should take on.
QUESTION: Well, I guess I’m just wondering then: Why did he feel compelled to say something like this if, in fact, everything is going along swimmingly, according to —
MS. HARF: Well, I think —
QUESTION: — I mean —
MS. HARF: — we would be the last people to say everything’s going along swimmingly today.
QUESTION: No, no, but —
MS. HARF: But —
QUESTION: But if you’re already happy with what the people and governments around the Middle East are doing —
MS. HARF: I didn’t —
QUESTION: — to extract the cancer —
MS. HARF: To be clear —
QUESTION: — why would —
MS. HARF: — nobody is happy today —
QUESTION: — he say it?
MS. HARF: — about anything related to this.
QUESTION: No. Well – all right. Happy is not the right word. If you’re already satisfied or believe that everyone in governments and peoples across the Middle East are already doing everything they can —
MS. HARF: That’s not —
QUESTION: — to extract —
MS. HARF: That’s also not what I said. Those are – you’re —
QUESTION: No, I’m trying to find out what —
MS. HARF: I know. But what I said to his —
QUESTION: — the President means and I can’t —
MS. HARF: — answer was we don’t have evidence that governments are financially supporting ISIS. Okay. But we need all the governments in the region to work together with us to fight ISIS in any way —
QUESTION: Okay. But —
MS. HARF: — because clearly, it’s a threat that’s grown and clearly – I think what —
QUESTION: I understand this. I’m not trying to be confrontational. I’m just trying to figure out if you need —
MS. HARF: What the President was trying —
QUESTION: — all the governments to work together —
MS. HARF: — to say —
QUESTION: — do you think that they’re not all working together now?
MS. HARF: Clearly, there’s more we can all do to fight ISIL.
QUESTION: All right. So there’s no specific country or specific —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — people or governments —
MS. HARF: That was not intended for any specific country.
MS. HARF: It was intended – and I think this is an important point. I think ISIL wants to make this about the United States and our actions. And I think what the President was trying to say is that this is not about the United States and what we do; this is about countries in the region coming together to fight a shared threat, and this is not about us. And I think that’s the point he was trying to make and was not singling out any country or any specific thing with that statement.
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: Yesterday —
MS. HARF: Guys, one at a time.
QUESTION: Yesterday —
MS. HARF: One at a – one at a time. One at a time. Lucas is going to go first.
QUESTION: Yesterday you said that —
MS. HARF: Like a schoolteacher in here.
QUESTION: — the U.S. mission was to dismantle ISIS.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And if that’s the case, are you going to start targeting ISIS leadership?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, long-term how you deprive a terrorist group of its operational capacity is to degrade its leadership, to degrade its operational capability, and degrade its financing. How we do all of that is a longer-term conversation. A lot of that is going to be building the capacity of our partners on the ground, as we’ve done other places to go after terrorist groups.
MS. HARF: I didn’t. I said I couldn’t confirm those reports.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you perceive that there’s a bigger threat around Baghdad right now?
MS. HARF: I think there is – from ISIL or in general?
MS. HARF: I think there’s a threat from ISIL in many parts of Iraq, and I think that’s why particularly where our people are in Baghdad and Erbil we’re very focused on protecting them.
QUESTION: So that includes Baghdad?
MS. HARF: That includes Baghdad, yes.
QUESTION: Marie, very quickly, the President said – I’m paraphrasing here – he said that the Syrians should have a choice, not the regime or the terrorists.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you – or there is a need to go after both with the same vigor, with the same intensity —
MS. HARF: Well, there are different —
QUESTION: — with the same targeting?
MS. HARF: — there are different tools —
MS. HARF: — for each. But clearly, we believe that neither should be in control of what people in Syria do, how they live their lives; that both have shown themselves to be incredibly brutal. Tomorrow is the year anniversary of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people in the suburbs of Damascus. So I think that neither have shown themself able to have control of anyone in Syria.
QUESTION: So you’re not assigning who is more evil than the other in this case, are you?
MS. HARF: I think both have shown themselves at times to be incredibly evil, Said.
QUESTION: New subject?
QUESTION: No, no.
MS. HARF: Just a few more on this, guys.
QUESTION: On financing ISIS, you said that you don’t have any evidence that Arab states are funding ISIS.
MS. HARF: Their governments.
QUESTION: But to what extent are you confident that these governments are not funding ISIS?
MS. HARF: I can only tell you what evidence we have or don’t have, and I don’t have many more details to share on the financing issues.
QUESTION: Do you think those – that those governments are aware about – do they know anything about those individual?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to speak for those governments. We are working with them —
QUESTION: Did you —
MS. HARF: — and talking to them. We are talking directly to them about how we can all do more to cut down on the financing for ISIL here.
QUESTION: And they’ve been denying, or what?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: They’ve been denying, or —
MS. HARF: I don’t have details of those conversations to read out for you.
Any more on this?
QUESTION: Yes, on this.
MS. HARF: Elliot, yes.
QUESTION: You mentioned the increasing assessment that the perpetrator in the video was British. And sort of falling along those lines, we’ve seen a lot of social media coming out of Europe in support of ISIS. To what extent are you concerned that the – about the radicalization of Muslims in Europe and their flow into the region, and —
MS. HARF: I think —
QUESTION: — what are you doing to work with leaders in the region —
MS. HARF: Yeah, no, it’s a good question. I think we’re very concerned about it, not just in Europe but elsewhere. I think the Internet, for all of the good things it brings with it, does bring it – with it a very quick, instantaneous way for these kind of brutal groups to share their ideology. And that’s something we’re very focused on. We’re working with governments – the United Kingdom, as we’ve talked about today, very, very closely, but others as well, because we are concerned about Westerners with passports, even possibly Americans, who might go to the fight and then in the worst case return. So that’s something we’re very focused on and really are working with our partners on it.
MS. HARF: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Well —
MS. HARF: Wait. Hold on, Matt. And then to you. Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the report that a Japanese man is also likely to be detained by ISIL in Syria?
MS. HARF: Let me check on those reports. I had seen some press reports, but let me check to see what we can say about that.
QUESTION: Sorry. I asked this question before and apparently this Department is aware of the reports. The question that I wanted to ask and which I had asked before was, is the United States willing to work with Japan on this issue of either finding this man or rescuing this man?
MS. HARF: Let me check with our team on those details.
QUESTION: Thanks, Marie.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry I don’t have those for you today.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on – you mentioned the Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is a country in which beheading is actually the legal form of execution. And it’s a country that has – you – this Department has long criticized for its human rights record.
MS. HARF: That is true. I was just highlighting comments made by their chief religious leader.
QUESTION: I understand. Right, and I understand that, but do you think that they are able to join this cause that the President is talking about in a full way if they, at the same time, have similar – have issues that you have —
MS. HARF: Well, they —
MS. HARF: To be clear, though, they have been an incredibly close counterterrorism partner. All you have to do is look at the partnership we’ve had and how – the success they’ve really had when they went after al-Qaida in their own country and really degraded its ability to operate there; how they’re helping us fight AQAP, for example; how we have information sharing. So they’ve been a very, very close counterterrorism partner and absolutely will continue to be.
Look, when we have concerns with some of their practices, we raise those. But that’s wholly separate from our counterterrorism cooperation. And I would say I was bringing up the Grand Mufti in response to what publics around the world and who people should listen to and think about when they’re looking at what ISIL is doing.
QUESTION: And can you point to any other Islamic religious leader in the Gulf or in Turkey —
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: — in Qatar to see —
MS. HARF: I just noticed his comments because they were so prominent.
QUESTION: Right. No, I did too yesterday. And I was going to ask about them, but I forgot. But – and also they probably weren’t as relevant yesterday as maybe they are today.
MS. HARF: Unfortunately.
QUESTION: But in terms of Saudi Government, I suspect – I mean, King Abdullah has been speaking out very strongly on this.
MS. HARF: Incredibly close counterterrorism – absolutely. The Saudis are very focused on the threat here.
QUESTION: Okay. And how about the Turks?
MS. HARF: Very focused. The Turks are as well.
QUESTION: President-elect Erdogan?
MS. HARF: The Turks are very focused on this. As we know, there are a number of Turkish hostages being held right now as well. So they’re certainly focused on the threat that ISIL poses. We’re talking to them as a NATO ally and partner about how they can help in the fight, how they can help cut off the foreign fighter flow, help cut off financing. Those are conversations ongoing too.
QUESTION: And in Qatar – same?
MS. HARF: We’re having the same conversations.
QUESTION: You’re – your new ambassador’s having the same conversations?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. You’d have to ask her, but —
MS. HARF: — I don’t have any conversations to read out for you.
QUESTION: All right. There is a school of thought, or a suspicion, in places like Russia, in places like Syria, in places like Iran, and also in places like Israel – but for much different reasons than the first three I mentioned —
MS. HARF: Interesting group you just lumped together.
QUESTION: — well, exactly – that the Saudis, that the Qataris, and that the Turks are not really fully on board in this fight. Would you – you would reject that?
MS. HARF: Well, look, we’re talking to them every day about what more we can all do. We know there’s more that needs to be done. We know this is a long-term fight, and we know it’s a tough one. So we’re having those conversations.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Matt’s point.
MS. HARF: Yes. And then Michael, I’ll go to you after that.
QUESTION: Today, the – some unnamed diplomat from Saudi Arabia said that during the last meeting – in the GCC meeting, Qatar refused to sign on to the Riyadh Agreement, which is – bans or bars all members from supporting terror groups. Are you aware of that?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I’m going to wade into internal GCC politics.
Yes, Michael. Let’s go to Michael in the back. I think he has a quick one, and then —
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry. Just —
MS. HARF: Popping in and out of the briefing.
QUESTION: Yeah. Deadlines are crazy (inaudible).
MS. HARF: I know.
MS. HARF: Yeah. I’ll do that very quickly, and then if we have a couple more – we need to finish on Mr. Foley.
We remain very concerned about developments in Gaza, condemn the renewed rocket fire; and as we have said, Israel has the right to defend itself for – against such attacks. We call for an immediate end to rocket fire and hostilities, and a return to ceasefire talks. We hope that the parties can reach an agreement – as we’ve said, ideally on a sustainable ceasefire, but if not, then agree to an extension. I don’t have much more of an update for you than that.
QUESTION: The president and CEO of the Associated Press has called —
MS. HARF: Oh, uh-oh. Matt, are you listening?
QUESTION: I am listening, yes.
QUESTION: — has called Mr. Foley’s death a war crime. Do you – what’s your response to that?
QUESTION: I believe he called it a crime of war.
QUESTION: Thank you for the clarification.
MS. HARF: Oh, this is collaboration. I think you heard the President and the Secretary speak very, very strongly about what has happened here. I’ll let those words speak for themselves, and I don’t have much more analysis of what words other people are using about it.
QUESTION: Would you be in favor of an international court adjudicating this murder?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any analysis to do on that hypothetical. What I have said is that the United States takes very seriously its responsibility to hold those terrorists accountable who do these kind of things to Americans.
QUESTION: Is this like an Abu Khatallah situation where you want him brought back to the United States and tried?
MS. HARF: Well, look, no matter how long that takes, I don’t have anything to say about what that might look like. But if you look at Usama bin Ladin, if you look at Anwar al-Awlaki, if you look at Abu Khatallah, no matter how long it takes, we put resources behind finding and bringing to justice people who kill Americans.
QUESTION: So are you saying there’s going to be increased airstrikes, increased drone strikes?
MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. I’m saying we are looking at how we can do that.
MS. HARF: Any more on this? No. Let’s go to Gaza.
QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, the Israelis basically said that they are entitled to go after the families of the leaders of Hamas as well as the leaders of Hamas. Do you agree with that –
MS. HARF: I didn’t see those comments.
QUESTION: — with that premise?
MS. HARF: We have said they need to be careful and take moreRead more
EbolaEbola poses no risk in U.S.: ExpertsPublished 21 August 2014
Ebola has infected nearly 2,000 people in West Africa because the disease is spreading in populated areas with poor public health infrastructure, and where health workers might not be taking proper infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves, experts say. These experts note that Ebola can be contracted only from patients who have the symptoms, not those who are infected, and even then infection occurs only when coming into contact with bodily fluids. They say that SARS and the flu are more contagious than Ebola.
Dr. Diane Weems, the acting director of the East Central Health District, at last week’s meeting with the Richmond County Board of Health, acknowledged that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been of serious concern to American health workers, but she explained that it takes more than casual contact to cause an infection, adding that Richmond County has faced far bigger public health threats in the past and will likely deal with worse in the future.
Ebola has infected nearly 2,000 people in West Africa because the disease is spreading in populated areas with poor public health infrastructure, and where health workers might not be taking proper infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves. “We know it is not passed through the air, like a cold or like the flu,” Weems said. “It’s by infected body fluids. Health care workers who are not using good infection control, not wearing gloves, are disproportionately being impacted there, in those communities.”
Health workers in the United States are not at risk. “Here, we know how to protect ourselves,” Weems said. Hospitals with travelers from West Africa are being advised to take precaution if patients show up with a fever. The Augusta Chronicle reports that in Georgia, the points of entry, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and the ports in Savannah and Brunswick have screening stations to check travelers and crewmen coming from West Africa, said Weems, who is also Coastal Health District director in Savannah.
Dr. Keith Woeltje, a professor of infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis and the former hospital epidemiologist at Georgia Regents Medical Center, distinguishes the risk of contracting Ebola from those who are infected and those who show symptoms. “SARS is actually way more contagious than Ebola,” he said. “The people who have gotten Ebola really have had direct contact with blood and body fluids. So casual contact is really unlikely to spread Ebola.”
Patients with Ebola are not contagious until they start showing symptoms. The flu is more contagious and cause more damage than Ebola, Woeltje said. “In terms of deaths, every year the flu season causes way more deaths worldwide than Ebola does,” he said. “And we have a vaccine for it, which granted is not perfect. But it’s still effective and we can’t get people to take the vaccine.”
Ebola poses little risk to U.S. public health. “(Mosquito control) would tell you we have more to worry about with chikungunya,” a mosquito-borne virus that causes joint pain and can persist for years, Weems said. “There is a concern that chikungunya will start to spread in the U.S. like West Nile (virus) did,” Woeltje said, warning that the current attention on Ebola have struck fear in the American public. “People are not good assessors of risk, really,” he said.More Stories: