Showing posts from March 31, 2013

Human rights groups fear impact of draft Egypt law restricting their work

Aid agencies in Egypt helped refugees from Libya during the unrest there in 2011. Egypt's parliament is close to passing a law that campaigners say will severely restrict the activity of human rights groups and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and which is seen as a serious betrayal of the goals of the 2011 uprising that ousted the former dictator Hosni Mubarak. According to Heba Morayef, the Egypt director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), the draft law, if passed unchanged, will "make it almost impossible for international human rights organisations to operate in Egypt". As it stands, the law – which has been condemned by both the UN and the EU, and which might be passed as early as next week – could force international NGOs to seek permission for almost every aspect of every project. Their work would need to be authorised by a new committee that could veto any projects it believed would work against Egypt's national unity, public morals, and developme

WikiLeaks activist in New York to protest US whistleblowers clampdown

Birgitta Jónsdóttir believes that the American public has failed to keep up with the pace of change. Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic MP who was part of a small team of activists that produced the WikiLeaks dump of US state secrets, has arrived in the United States for the first time since the controversy three years ago, to protest against what she sees as a disproportionate clampdown by the US government on internet whistleblowers. Jónsdóttir is marking the third anniversary of the "Collateral Murder" video –which put WikiLeaks on the map on 5 April 2010 by revealing footage of a US apache helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad – by staging an exhibition of still photographs drawn from the video in New York. She hopes the display will draw attention to the plight of Bradley Manning, the US soldier currently facing court martial for being the source of the WikiLeaks material, as well as increase public debate about the treatment of online whistleblowers.

Row over fascist-era statue reveals schism in how Italians deal with past

The statue 'Bigio', which has been in storage ever since being removed from a Brescia piazza in 1945, In 1932, a 24ft marble statue of a young, muscular male athlete was unveiled in Brescia, northern Italy, and given the name Fascist Era. With its rippling torso and hand placed solemnly on hip, it was considered to symbolise the "rejuvenating ideals of the fascist regime", and, when Benito Mussolini came to visit, he was said to have praised it for its strength. Its sculptor, Arturo Dazzi, was reported to have remarked, "even if they want to tear it down, I don't care at all." Some 13 years later, that is what happened when, with the second world war over and Italy's former dictator dead, the Brescia authorities took down the statue and consigned it to a warehouse. There it remained for nearly 70 years. But now, in a move condemned by critics as "overtly ideological", the city's centre-right mayor plans to reinstate the statue in it

Far East smashes human trafficking ring

April 5 2013 Hong Kong - Hong Kong officials said Friday they had smashed a syndicate that used fake documents to smuggle mainland Chinese into Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Australia. The immigration department said 28 arrests were made in a joint operation with mainland Chinese authorities that ended on Friday, adding the ring had smuggled some 50 people since 2011. “During this eight day operation, we have succeeded in neutralising an international human smuggling syndicate,” the immigration department's assistant director William Fung told a press conference. At least half of those arrested were Hong Kong residents, according to Fung. Illegal migrants paid the syndicate 200,000 yuan ($32,250) to leave China through Hong Kong or the southern city of Shenzhen, before they travelled to intermediary countries in the Middle East or Southeast Asia. They then used fake documents to go to their final destination looking for jobs. Hong Kong police in 2009 smashed a vice syn

Refugees and fuel smugglers die in Iran crash

DUBAI - A truck smuggling fuel smashed into a car carrying illegal refugees on Friday in southeastern Iran, killing 15 Afghan citizens and three Iranians, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. Local official Mohammad Sadeq Dadollahpour said the Afghans had been crammed into the car and were killed when the two vehicles caught fire after the crash. The Iranians had been travelling in the truck, Fars reported. Fars said the accident happened near the town of Rigan in the southeastern province of Kerman. Road traffic accidents kill nearly 28,000 people and injure or disable 300,000 people a year in Iran , a country of 75 million people, according to statistics from Unicef , the U.N. children's fund. In October, a passenger bus in southwestern Iran overturned, killing 26 female high school students on board. - Reuters Source

UN funds for Syrian refugees dries up

AFP Syrian refugees children play on a muddy road at an agricultural field where they set camp in Saadnayel in the Lebanese Bekaa valley. GENEVA, April 5 (Reuters) - The United Nations gave its starkest warning yet on Friday that it would soon run out of cash to cope with the vast influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan and other neighbouring countries. “The needs are rising exponentially, and we are broke,” Marixie Mercado, spokeswoman for the U.N. Children's Fund UNICEF, told a U.N. news conference in Geneva. The number of people fleeing in the world's worst refugee crisis has repeatedly outrun the U.N.'s expectations. The 1.25 million refugees, three-quarter of them women and children, is 10 percent higher than had been expected by June. With more than 3.6 million people internally displaced within Syria and no end to the two-year conflict in sight, there is every chance that the exodus could keep growing. “Since the beginning of the year, more than 2,000 refu

Turkey adopts migration and asylum law

AP Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara - Turkey, on a renewed push to join the EU, has adopted a long-awaited law to regulate migration and asylum in a move hailed Friday by the European bloc. The country, which bridges Europe and Asia, is hosting up to 400 000 refugees escaping conflict in neighbouring Syria and is under pressure to regulate their legal status at a time when it is bent on relaunching stalled EU entry talks. Turkey is also a major transit point for illegal immigrants crossing into Europe via Greece, and the bill Ä first introduced last May Ä seeks to fine-tune its dysfunctional refugee system. The new law, adopted by lawmakers late Thursday, will protect refugees from Syria and other non-European nations as “conditional refugees” instead of the previous description of “guests”. “They will be allowed to remain in Turkey until they are placed in a third country,” read the law, which reserves full refugee status for Europeans only. EU Commis

Seven killed in Iraq violence

REUTERS Baghdad - Seven people were killed in Iraq on Friday, as protests by Sunni Muslims continued for a fourth month leading to a widening political crisis with the Shiite-led government. Four people were killed and 14 injured in a blast and two separate gun attacks in the city of Baquba, around 60 kilometres north of Baghdad. In Hilla city, south of Baghdad, three civilians were killed when a bomb went off in a vegetables market. Iraq has witnessed near-daily attacks since US troops withdrew in December 2011, raising fears of a return to the sectarian tensions that drove the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. Thousands of Sunni protesters have been holding protests for more than 100 days to demand that Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki repeal laws they claim target Sunnis. Thousands gathered in the northern city of Mosul demanding the government and security forces stop arresting protesters, Mohamed Abdullah, a cleric, told dpa. “Protesters rej


Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) ordered Al Nour Mohamed Al Nour’s suspension as editor-in-chief of the independent Arabic-language daily Al Sahafa on 3 April. At the same time, the NISS harassed Al Jazeera’s Khartoum correspondent, accusing him of unbalanced coverage and reporting “false information.” “There is this incredible situation in Sudan in which the intelligence services decide how the media are run and who they appoint,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Totally opposed to freedom of information, they call all the shots, censor articles, confiscate newspapers and harass journalists. “President Omar al-Bashir has made some conciliatory gestures in recent days, including an amnesty announcement, the release of some political prisoners and an invitation to the opposition to participate in negotiations about a new constitution, but we have seen no improvement in freedom of information. On the con

Terrorists planning Somali attacks, government warns

The Foreign Office’s website states that attacks in and around Mogadishu continue to be carried out by terrorist group al-Shabaab. Terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the British government has warned. Concerns about a possible attack were highlighted in a statement issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which already advises against all travel to Somalia. The Foreign Office's website states that attacks in and around Mogadishu continue to be carried out by al-Shabaab, a terrorist group, and others opposed to the Somali government. Attacks in the past have targeted government institutions, hotels, restaurants and public transport, including the international airport. An FCO spokesperson said: "We have amended our travel advice for Somalia. Our advice makes clear that there continues to be a high threat from terrorism and that the FCO believes that terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks

Mexico memorial for drug war victims

Last updated 3 hours ago A controversial memorial has been unveiled in Mexico to commemorate the tens of thousands of people killed during the brutal drug war. The massive structure is divided into several steel walls, which feature poems and quotes from famous writers but have no names of victims. It is located next to Mexico City's renowned Chapultepec Park. But the monument has been rejected by some relatives of the dead and missing, who do not feel represented. Officials say no list of the dead exists, but some families feel the memorial does not represent them "This memorial remembers not only those who are gone, but also those who are still here," said Alejandro Marti, the founder of Mexico's SOS group, whose teenage son was kidnapped and murdered in 2008. "This memorial should symbolise a common struggle for all Mexicans to avoid another Fernando, another Hugo Alberto, another Juan Francisco," he added, referring to other victims of the

Bomb attached to donkey kills Afghan policeman

Agence France-Presse | Updated: April 05, 2013 14:20 IST Mihtarlam: A bomb strapped to the back of a donkey killed one policeman and wounded three civilians in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, officials said. The explosives were set off when the animal walked close to a police post in the volatile district of Alingar in Laghman province early in the morning, provincial spokesman Sarhadi Zwak told AFP. "The bomb on the back of the donkey was remotely detonated, one policeman was martyred and three civilians wounded," he said. Provincial governor Fazlullah Mojadidi confirmed the incident and casualties. The officials blamed the attack on Taliban militants who have been waging an insurgency against the western-backed Kabul government since they were overthrown in a US-led invasion in late 2001. Although donkey bombs are rare in Afghanistan, they are occasionally used by insurgents to get close to targets. Last August, a bomb strapped to a donkey blew up in the cent

Bomb kills two top provincial officials in Thai south

Bangkok: A bomb blast killed two top provincial officials on Friday in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, authorities said, a week after the kingdom held its first formal peace talks with rebels. The deputy governor of Yala province, Issara Thongthawat, was killed along with Yala permanent secretary responsible for security, Chavalit Krairisk, after a roadside bomb struck their vehicle, officials said. Issara, 56, was rushed to hospital but later died, southern army spokesman Colonel Pramote Promin said by telephone. He said the deputy governor appeared to have been targeted by militants while on his way to attend a local food fair. "Explosive material was put inside a gas cylinder and hidden under the road," he said. "His driver is still in critical condition." More than 5,500 people have been killed in nine years of bloodshed in Thailand's Muslim-majority south near the border with Malaysia, with shadowy insurgent groups blamed for near-daily

Britain Warns of Far-Right Terror Threat

Britain has warned that far-right extremism poses a real threat to U.K. security. The warning comes as observers note a growing pan-European network of “counter-Jihad’ groups that are actively recruiting vulnerable members. When Anders Breivik went on a killing spree in Norway in July 2011, he said he was motivated by a desire to save Norway and Europe from an Islamic takeover. His target was a summer camp run by Norway’s Labor party, which Breivik blamed for complicity in what he described as multiculturalism. Most of his 77 victims were teenagers. In the wake of the attack, Britain was among those to add far-right extremism to its anti-terror strategy. The U.K. Minister for Crime and Security, James Brokenshire, says one in 10 cases of radicalization now being tackled by the government concerns the far right. “It is not insignificant that the biggest arms cache found in England in recent times had been amassed by a bus driver motivated by such ideology,” he said. “In 2010

KGB finds extremism in Belarus Press Photo album

5.04.2013 “Fabrications about life activities of the people of Belarus” were found in Belarus Press Photo albums. Yulia Darashkevich, a co-organiser of the contest, wrote it on her Facebook account. “The country of unfrightened idiots: Extremism was in the end found in old Belarus Press Photo albums (41 copies seized on the border in November). The KGB summons us to court. Read and cry from the middle of the text,” Yulia writes. The KGB letter (a scanned copy can be seen below) says the photo album “contains intentionally distorted and false fabrications about the life activities of the Republic of Belarus in the political, economic, social and other spheres that denigrate the notational honour and dignity of citizens of the Republic of Belarus.” “The selection of pictures in the photo album as a whole covers only negative aspects of life activities of the people of Belarus combined with the author's concoction and conclusions that denigrate the national honour and dignit

Rising extremism could threaten Maldives’ tourism industry: report

By Minivan News | April 5th, 2013 | Religious conservatism and extremist violence have been increasing in the Maldives over the past decade, while incidents of Maldivians joining overseas jihadist groups are becoming more common, according to a report published in the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel, a publication based out of the West Point military academy in the US. The article entitled The Threat from Rising Extremism in the Maldives, observes that growing religious extremism and political uncertainty could result in more violence and negatively affect the nation’s tourism industry, which would be “devastating” to the Maldives. “This has coincided with a number of violent attacks on liberal activists and other citizens who have expressed outspoken support for moderate religious practices,” the report notes. If current trends continue “extremist incidents may rise, with violence targeted against the country’s more liberal citizens,” it states. According to the re

Pakistan supporting, financing religious extremism in Sindh: Lakhu Luhana

London, April 5 (ANI): Secretary General of World Sindhi Congress Lakhu Luhana has blamed Pakistan for supporting and financing religious extremism in Sindh, which has been in the news for targeted killings and sectarian violence. Describing Pakistan as a country based on religious philosophy, Luhana said: “In recent years, they have been funding lot of madrasas and spending billions. They want to counter the nationalist philosophy, which inheritably is a secular philosophy. To counter that, they have to bring in another philosophy, which is religious philosophy. So, they have been patronizing, sponsoring, supporting and financing religious extremism in Sindh.” With people from other provinces of Pakistan making a beeline for Sindh, the crime graph in the province is on the rise. As per the Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP), the year 2012 recorded 104 cases of sectarian killings, a 352 per cent rise from the year 2011. In an interview given to ANI, Luhana said: “These fo

Cyber Attacks Feared Against Major Israeli Websites

JERUSALEM – Reports are circulating that in the days leading up to Yom HaShoah – to be commemorated this year in Israel next Monday – a group of global cyber-terrorists, many of its members based in Arab countries across North Africa and the Persian Gulf, are readying for major cyber attacks against a large number of important Israeli websites. Being targeted are banks, credit card companies, telecom outlets and government ministries. Additionally, Israel’s intelligence community is concerned about the possibility that hackers might then launch a second cyber attack the next week during the nation’s Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebrations. According to a report in Israel Hayom the coordinated attack, dubbed OpIsrael, is part of a global effort to unite several anti-Israel hacking groups, including Anonymous and AnonGhost, “as one entity and wipe the Jewish state’s presence off of the Internet.” One of the AnonGhost cyber-terrorists, whose moniker is “Mauritania Attacker,” said that the hackin

G-Bissau 'drug lord' captured, sent to US

2013-04-05 07:45 Praia - The former head of Guinea-Bissau's navy, ex-rear admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, has been captured and sent to the United States, which suspects him of drug trafficking, local media and sources said late on Thursday. "Bubo Na Tchuto has been captured in international waters" near Cape Verde during an operation by "north American and Cape Verdian" police, the public television station RTC reported, adding that "he has already been sent to the United States". Na Tchuto has been on a US list of suspected drug barons since 2010. In Guinea Bissau, the head of the national radio, Carlos Gomes Nhafe, a friend of Na Tchuto, told AFP that he had received a phone call from the former navy chief, who told him about the arrest. "He called me this [Thursday] morning from Sal, in Cape Verde, to tell me he had been arrested and that he is en route to the United States," said Gomes Nhafe. No military o

US official warns drug traffickers will expand in Caribbean after Latin America cracks down

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A top U.S. State Department official says the Caribbean will likely see a surge in drug trafficking activity by 2015 as operations shift to the tropics due to a crackdown in much of Latin America. William Brownfield says he believes drug traffickers squeezed out of Mexico, Central America and South America will target the Caribbean because it’s spacious and allows them to remain undercover and take advantage of weak law enforcement in certain countries. Brownfield is assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement. He spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday during an official visit to Puerto Rico. Brownfield also said Congress recently approved $40 million to help boost security in the Caribbean as part of a federal program. Officials haven’t decided how the money will be spent. Source

Drug War Do-Over: Can the U.S. Push Trafficking Out of Central America?

Jorge Cabrera / REUTERS A police officer stands guard as confiscated drugs are being incinerated on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras on July 4, 2012. The headlines in Nicaragua these days have a familiar echo. In what feels like a 30-year high school reunion, the reanimated socialist Sandinista Front, led by president Daniel Ortega, is rekindling its old revolutionary romance with Russia, which has promised its former tovarishch millions of dollars in weapons, uniforms, helicopters, armored vehicles and training. But this time, the Russian arms will be targeted at drug traffickers, not political insurgents. And the U.S., which spent billions of dollars to stop the expansion of Soviet influence in Central America in the 1980s, is welcoming its former cold war nemesis backinto the neighborhood. “The truth is that we want collaboration, and if the collaboration comes from Russia in our hemisphere or if it’s the United States in Russia’s hemisphere, then I think that is posit

Maha govt ready to hold dialogue with Naxals: RR Patil

Mumbai: Maharashtra government is ready to hold talks with those involved in Naxal activities, and also their sympathisers, Home Minister R R Patil said in Mumbai on Thursday. “The state government is ready to engage in a dialogue with people who are directly or indirectly involved in Naxal activities or with those who are supporting Naxal ideologies in urban areas,” Patil said, replying to a point of propriety raised by MLC Kapil Patil in the Legislative Council. These people should come into the mainstream: RR Patil. Reuters The minister also said that the government would lend all possible support to these people and take care of their rehabilitation. “Government is even ready to provide protection to them. These people should come into the mainstream,” Patil urged. Stating that naxalism is a socio-economic issue, Patil told legislators in the Upper House that 3-4 districts in the state are Naxal-infested. “Because of non-development in these areas, unemployment is on a r

Bangladesh blogs blacked out on arrests of atheists

Operators of top Bangladeshi blogs said today they had blacked out their sites to protest against a government crackdown on atheist bloggers in the face of pressure from radical Islamists. The move by eight sites comes after the arrests of four online writers this week on charges of hurting religious sentiment through their Internet writings against Islam. Their secular supporters have blasted the crackdown, accusing the government of kowtowing to Islamists who are planning a march on Saturday towards the capital Dhaka to demand a blasphemy law and the hanging of anti-Islam bloggers. "Bangla Blogosphere begins blackout in protest against harassing and cracking down on bloggers," reads a notice on the home pages of the protesting sites. All of them were inaccessible from noon today. Home minister Muhiuddin Khan yesterday said the government had identified 11 bloggers, including the four detainees, who had hurt the religious sentiments of the nation's majority Muslim

Days after TPC massacre, Maoists kill five cops

Apparently retailiating for the humiliation they suffered at the hands of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) last week, Maoists in Gumla killed five policemen in broad daylight Thursday morning. Their patrol was attacked near a bus shelter in the Chainpur police station area around 11.30 am, police said. An assistant sub-inspector, a havildar and three constables were killed. "ASI Gopal Singh succumbed to injuries at Apollo Hospital in Ranchi. The others died on the spot," Jharkhand Police spokesperson DIG Richard Lakra said. "The Maoists made away with three INSAS rifles, 600 rounds of ammunition and eight hand grenades," he added. The attack followed Tuesday night's bombing of the Sreeram panchayat secretariat building in Lohardaga. 25-30 rebels destroyed the building almost entirely, though no one was killed. The attackers left behind pamphlets saying the attack was retribution for last week's incidents. Ten CPI (Maoist) cadres including some s

Key figures in al Qaeda's North African branch

One of the most overlooked al Qaeda regional affiliates, al Qaeda’s North African branch shot into the international spotlight on January 16, 2013, when the group claimed responsibility for the deadly hostage-taking at Algeria’s remote In Amenas gas facility. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was officially launched in 2006. “Maghreb” is the Arabic term literally meaning “land of the sunset” or the West and refers to the Western-most outpost of the Arab world, a loosely defined region stretching across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and the remote transition belt between the Sahara desert and the African savannah called the Sahel. A hostile, forbidding terrain that straddles national borders, the Sahel has historically been Africa’s badlands, affording shelter to smugglers, traffickers, insurgents and militants of various stripes. The chronic political instability in impoverished West African nations such as Niger, Mali and Mauritania make it a militant haven. The re

US offers $5 million reward for Ugandan warlord Kony

The United States offered $5 million Wednesday for the capture of Lord's Resistance Army chief Joseph Kony, one of the world's most wanted men, and posted rewards for three other rebel leaders evading trial for war crimes. The announcement came just as Uganda and Washington said they had been forced to suspend their two-year hunt for Kony in the jungles of the Central African Republic, after rebels seized power in Bangui. The LRA, a Ugandan rebel group, has waged a brutal insurgency, accused of mutilations and child abductions for two decades across four countries. Kony -- a self-proclaimed prophet who claims his rebels are fighting to establish a government based on the Biblical Ten Commandments -- and other LRA leaders face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Kony's name was added to the State Department's war crimes rewards program along with fellow LRA members Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, and Sylvestre

Al Qaeda in North Africa warns France in first tweet

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, best known by its French acronym AQMI, has opened its own Twitter account, posting five messages since March 28. Its first messages via the popular micro-blogging website have specifically targeted France, threatening to kill French hostages. “Will the French people succeed in convincing [President François] Hollande to save the lives of the hostages?” the debut tweet from the @Andalus_Media account provocatively asked. AQMI had originally opened its Twitter account on March 16, but its first two tweets were subsequently erased, according to the US online terrorism watchdog SITE. The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) said several Twitter accounts claiming links with AQMI already existed, but the new account was recognised as official by the al-Fajr Media Center, al Qaeda’s propaganda group. AQMI’s new Twitter account has gained over 2,000 followers in a few days, while it has only posted five tweets to date. ‘Canno

Pakistan expels three suspected French jihadists

Pakistan has deported three Frenchmen who have been held in secret since they entered the country illegally 10 months ago to fight NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan, officials said Thursday. Investigators are expected to question the men in France, where the case is likely to draw parallels with Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old who shot dead seven people in southwest France in March 2012 after returning from Pakistan. Investigators said Pakistani police arrested the trio on May 28 last year after they entered the country illegally from Iran. They were detained along with Naamen Meziche, another Frenchman of North African extraction previously known to Western security services as a presumed member of Al-Qaeda. "They said they came to Pakistan to deepen their knowledge of Islam and to fight in Afghanistan," one investigator told AFP on condition of anonymity. Meziche's arrest was announced last June but French and Pakistani officials had kept quiet about th

Volunteers crisscross borders as Islamist extremism goes global

Here in the heartland of Libyan extremism, Islamist militia leaders solemnly portray themselves as peaceful guardians of security and stability. But ask them about Syria, and their eyes light up. The Islamists of Benghazi are eager to boast about their fighters who made the long journey to Syria to join the rebels. One heavily armed militia group, Libya Shield, says it sent about 25 members to Syria to train the rebels and battle the government. Five of its volunteers have been killed in combat in Syria, according to Ahmed al-Jarushi, a Libya Shield official. The flow of jihadists to Syria from the stronghold of Libya’s most radical militia groups is just one sign of the rapid internationalization of Islamist extremism, now reaching an unprecedented scale and geographic scope. Thousands of militant volunteers have crisscrossed borders from Senegal in the west of Africa to the vast Sahara wastes of northern Mali and Niger, up to Algeria and Tunisia in North Africa, and across Lib