An excavation has begun in Tokyo to try to find human remains linked to a programme of biological warfare experiments inflicted on prisoners of war during World War Two. At a base in occupied northern China, the Japanese ran an operation known as Unit 731, in which thousands of prisoners were supposed to have been injected with agents causing diseases like typhus and cholera.
The unit is also alleged to have dissected victims alive and to have frozen prisoners to death. It is believed that some of the remains of those killed were taken back to Tokyo for analysis. In 2006, a former nurse, now aged 88, said that she and colleagues at an army hospital at the site now being investigated were ordered to bury numerous corpses, bones and body parts before the Americans came, following Japan’s surrender in August 1945.
According to a history professor at Kanagawa University, the site was the research headquarters of Unit 731. The slowness in looking into the former nurse’s claims will be seen as another example of Japan’s lack of enthusiasm for investigating the crimes the regime perpetrated during World War Two.
Fragments of bone, many showing saw marks, were found at a site nearby in 1989, but the government said they were not linked to Unit 731. In 2002, a Japanese court rejected claims for compensation from 180 Chinese people who claimed they had been victims of Japan’s biological warfare unit.
At least 32 people have been killed in a series of explosions at munitions depots at an army base in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. The blasts at the Gongola Mboto base went on for several hours.
Most of those killed were people living near the base, as debris flew through the air. The explosions caused panic because residents had no clear information on what was happening. At least 4,000 are said to be sheltering at the National Stadium.
Two years ago, explosions at the Mbagala army base, near Dar es Salaam, killed more than 20 people.
An even more devastating explosion at an army base was the one that ripped through the Ikeja cantonment, near Lagos in Nigeria, on 27 January, 2002. Houses were flattened, and shells, grenades and bullets set off. Perhaps 2,000 people died. For more details, see A Disastrous History of the World.
*This is a television report that I did in 1975 that has just turned up on the net!
The carnage unleashed by Messrs Blair and Bush when they plotted their invasion of Iraq nearly 8 years ago still continues. The death toll from a suicide bomb yesterday aimed at Shi’ite pilgrims near the city of Samarra has risen to 48. Another 80 people have been injured.
The bomber detonated his explosives at a bus depot as Shi’ites were gathering to commemorate the death of one of their most revered imams. Some are blaming al-Qaeda.
Hardly a day goes by in Iraq without a bombing or some other terrorist attack. Last month, dozens of Shi’ite pilgrims were killed in attacks near the holy city of Kerbala, while last Wednesday, at least seven died in the northern city of Kirkuk.
* I was going to keep this under my hat a little longer, but the all-seeing internet has revealed that I’m writing a new book - Britain’s Worst Military Disasters: from the Roman Conquest to the fall of Singapore. Here are a couple of links:-
A Chechen warlord, Doku Umarov, has said that he ordered the suicide bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport last month which killed 36 people. He said the attacks would continue until Russia left the Caucasus.
Russian investigators say the bomber was a 20 year old man from the North Caucasus. Umarov, who was a minister in the Chechen separatist government of the 1990’s, also claimed responsibility for an explosion on the Moscow Metro in March of last year in which 39 people died.
The two wars that the Chechens fought with Moscow to try to secure their independence resulted in their capital Grozny being turned into what the United Nations described as ‘the most destroyed city on the planet’. The first caused the deaths of up to 100,000 people – mainly Chechen civilians.
The Chechens have since mounted a number of terrorist attacks. One resulted in the deaths of 120 people in a Moscow theatre in 2002, while the seizing of a school in North Ossetia in 2004 cost the lives of 330, including 150 children. (See also my blog of April 16, 2009.)
*This is the latest review of my book A Disastrous History of the World.
One month ago today (Jan 6, 2011), I blogged about the Philippines floods, which had been forgotten as the world watched what was happening in Australia. The world also seems to have overlooked the current monsoon floods in Sri Lanka.
At least 14 people have been killed, and more than a million have had their homes flooded. A quarter of a million are now living in shelters provided by the government. Roads and fields are under water across the east, centre and north of the island.
Those areas were also hit by floods caused by heavy rain last month, when 43 people were killed. The United Nations appealed for 51 million dollars in emergency aid to help the victims.
Perhaps the deadliest monsoon flood of all time was the one that struck India in September 1978, and was made even more disastrous by a cyclone the following month. An estimated 15,000 people were killed.
More than 30 years after the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970’s, three people accused of plotting it have appeared at the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh.
Nuon Chea, now aged 84, was second-in-command to the notorious Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, and known as Brother Number Two. The other two are the former head of state, Khieu Samphan, and the ex-social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith. Also awaiting trial is Ieng Thirith's husband Ieng Sary, who was the Khmer Rouge foreign minister.
The defendants have been in detention since 2007. A date for the trial has not yet been set, but it is due to begin by the middle of this year. The court which was set up in 2006 has so far tried only one person, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Comrade Duch, who ran the notorious Tuol Sleng ‘special interrogation centre’ in the Cambodian capital. Of 15,000 people held there, only seven are thought to have survived. Duch was found guilty of crimes against humanity.
The latest trial is expected to last for three years, and there are worries about how it will be funded. (See also my blogs of 7 Jan, 4 March, 29 June, and 22 Nov, 2009, and 16 Sept, 2010.)