Refugees flee to Zambia, accusing DR Congo troops of killings

Thu, 2017-11-09 06:17

NCHELENGE, Zambia: Recounting horrific stories of rape and murder allegedly by government soldiers, thousands of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have sought safety on the Zambian side of Lake Mweru.
About 6,000 Congolese residents have fled across the border since late August, triggering an emergency response from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) which has struggled to provide basic food rations and shelter.
DR Congo’s huge eastern region has long been wracked by violence, but fighting between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as inter-ethnic clashes, has increased this year.
The UNHCR said that the unrest had caused the largest influx into Zambia for the past five years, with many refugees blaming DR Congo President Joseph Kabila’s troops for the worst of the violence.
“I witnessed an incident where one pregnant woman was raped, her stomach ripped open and the baby killed before they killed her,” Kaimba Kazili, 39, a former subsistence farmer, told AFP at the Kenani transit camp in Nchelenge, northern Zambia.
“It is not safe to live in Congo any more because government soldiers are killing people,” she said.
On her journey to the camp, Kazili gave birth to triplets Ari, Kalangila and Kanaila — two boys and a girl — who were born on August 20, before she finally arrived in Zambia on September 14.

“It was not an easy thing but luckily we found a man driving a minibus who gave us a lift,” said Kazili, originally from the Kivu region of DR Congo.
The triplets were shown to Zambian President Edgar Lungu when he visited the camp last week accompanied by UNCHR officials and reporters.
But Lungu had an uncompromising message for the refugees.
“You have run away from lawlessness, so don’t bring lawlessness here,” he told them.
“We have laws which should be obeyed by everyone. If we jail you, when you finish your jail, we will send you back to Congo.”
Despite Lungu’s harsh words, Pierrine Aylara, the UNHCR head in Zambia, told the president that she wanted “to applaud your hospitality toward those displaced by war and conflict.”
For those in the camp, the only priorities have been the safety of their lives and getting enough to eat.
“Thank God that we all arrived safely as a family with my husband and all the four children,” said Mauno Rukogo, 42.
“I will never go back to Congo because war is tough. Kabila’s government was supposed to protect citizens but is killing its people.”
Rukogo said she had been repeatedly displaced inside DR Congo, where the eastern region has been roiled by conflict for more than two decades, before she fled to Zambia on September 9.
The UNCHR said the refugees have fled inter-ethnic violence and clashes between the army and myriad militia groups, particularly in Haut Katanga and Tanganyika provinces since end of August.
Earlier this year, security worsened sharply in the Pweto area of Haut Katanga, which shares a border with Zambia.
Many refugees said that they feel safer in Zambia but that food rations were scarce and children were not getting enough to eat.
“We are also asking for medical clinics for the children,” Rukogo added, with rampant malaria and diarrhea posing major health problems.

The UNHCR has set up tents and grass-thatched shelters at the 56-hectare (140-acre) site, as well as sunk two boreholes and nearly 300 pit latrines.
An agency official said that they provide 400 grams of maize (14 ounces) and 60 grams of rice a day for each family, as well as other food supplies.
“I saw my wife be killed by government troops and I only just managed to run away with my three children,” said Minga wa Minga, a 40-year-old school teacher.
“I had to keep going until I found some Congolese heading to Zambia,” he added.
“The UN have described the situation as a humanitarian crisis but let them do something to stop Kabila from destroying the country.”
Kabila failed to step down after his second and final term last December.
Elections were re-scheduled for this year, but have now been announced for December 2018.
DR Congo’s military spokesman in Kinshasa could not be reached for comment on the refugee’s accusations.

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US expected to name North Korea terror sponsor

Thu, 2017-11-09 04:20

WASHINGTON: It will have to wait until President Donald Trump has finished his tour of Asian capitals, but the United States is expected to return North Korea to its list of state sponsors on terror.
In itself, the designation will not have much practical impact on a pariah state already facing an array of US and international sanctions and intense diplomatic pressure.
But the imminent decision marks another turn of the screw as Washington ratchets up rhetoric designed to convince Kim Jong-Un he will not win his latest nuclear stand-off.
It will also add Pyongyang to a very exclusive list. Only Iran, Syria and Sudan are still blacklisted as terror sponsors, and Sudan is expected to be relieved of the title soon.

Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that no decision will be made before the president returns from his Asia trip, on which he is rallying opposition to Pyongyang.
This would imply no sooner than November 15 after the Southeast Asian summit, but for some in Washington that is already late.
While the White House has been mulling a decision on the designation since coming to office in January, in July Congress passed a bill demanding an answer by October 31.
Lawmakers have been chivvying the State Department for a ruling since then, but officials privately argue Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson needed time to consult allies.

The United States and North Korea have been enemies since the 1950 to 1953 war that split the peninsula between the communist North and the westward-leaning South.
In 1988, Pyongyang was added to the US list of state sponsors of terror after Korean Air Flight 858 exploded in midair on a flight between Baghdad and Seoul in November 1987.
Some 115 people were killed and a North Korean agent later confessed to the bombing.
In 2008, then US president George W. Bush’s administration removed North Korea from the list as an incentive to join a round of negotiations on its nuclear program.
Those talks eventually failed and, since Kim Jong-Un took over as dictator from his late father Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs have made rapid progress.
Foreign policy hawks in Washington now want to tag the North again, citing in particular Pyongyang’s presumed implication in the murder of Kim’s older brother and rival, Kim Jong-Nam.
The elder Kim died in February after suspected agents of his brother’s regime sprayed a nerve agent in his face in an airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“North Korea was removed from the list in 2008 in part because Pyongyang had promised to end its nuclear weapons program, another promise the Kim regime did not keep,” said Anthony Ruggiero, a sanctions expert with the Federation for Defense of Democracies.
“The determination should make it easier for the Trump administration to draw a line with countries, noting that continued business with Pyongyang aids a state sponsor of terrorism.”

All signs point to Trump deciding that North Korea deserves to return to the list.
“The president’s cabinet is looking at this as part of the overall strategy on North Korea,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters last week.
“But a regime who murders someone in a public airport using nerve agent and a despotic leader who murders his brother in that manner, that’s clearly an act of terrorism that fits in with a range of other actions, so this is something that’s under consideration. You’ll hear more about that soon.”
In addition to the assassination, US officials have been infuriated by the death of Otto Warmbier, a young US student who was arrested in North Korea for a petty offense and held for more than a year before he was released in a comatose state.
Warmbier died, aged 22, shortly after his unconscious body was flown home and, although North Korea claimed he had contracted botulism in detention, Trump has since alleged that he was tortured in custody.

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Trump receives elaborate welcome in China

The Associated Press
Thu, 2017-11-09 03:00

BEIJING: President Donald Trump has received an elaborate welcome on his state visit to China. Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) treated Trump to a grand display of Chinese hospitality in the courtyard outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Children waved US and Chinese flags and jumped wildly. A Chinese honor guard played the national anthems of both countries, and Trump and Xi walked along red carpets to review the troops. At one point, Trump started clapping for the kids.
US first lady Melania Trump and Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan (puhng LEE’-yoo-en), also attended the ceremony.
The ceremony opens a day of meetings and business events between Trump and Xi that will culminate in a lavish state dinner in Trump’s honor.

North Korea is responding to President Donald Trump’s tough words in Asia by saying the US should oust him from power.
State-run media in North Korea is referring to Trump as a “lunatic old man.” It says the US should force Trump out “to get rid of the abyss of doom.”
It says the US should heed its advice “if it does not want a horrible nuclear disaster and tragic doom.”
Trump is in China, where he is expected to ask President Xi Jinping to do more to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Before arriving in China on Wednesday, Trump told the South Korean National Assembly that “all responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea.”

President Donald Trump’s visit to China has opened with diplomatic niceties aplenty from Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng), but thorny issues await the two world leaders behind closed doors.
Among them are potential tensions over trade and China’s willingness to put the squeeze on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
Before his arrival, Trump issued a stern message to Beijing, using an address to the National Assembly in South Korea to call on nations to confront the North.
White House officials said Trump would make the same pitch to Xi in private when the two sit down together Thursday.
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and Trump is expected to demand that the nation curtail its dealings with Pyongyang and expel North Korean workers from its borders.

President Donald Trump says his welcome to Beijing was “unforgettable.”
Trump thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) on Twitter on Wednesday. He said: “THANK YOU for an unforgettable afternoon and evening at the Forbidden City in Beijing.” Trump added: “We are looking forward to rejoining you tomorrow morning!“
Trump is on a two-day visit to China. He hopes to press the rising Asian power on trade and North Korea.
The ceremony accompanying the US president’s arrival Wednesday afternoon was elaborate even by China’s lavish standards. Trump and his wife, Melania, were met by Chinese and American dignitaries, soldiers, a band playing martial music and children waving miniature Chinese and American flags.

President Donald Trump’s granddaughter Arabella Kushner has once again played a bridging role in US-China diplomacy.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that Trump played a video of Arabella reciting ancient Chinese poetry and verses from the Confucian text the “Three Character Classic” to Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) after they met at the Forbidden City ancient palace complex in Beijing on Wednesday.
Xi responded that Arabella’s Chinese deserved an “A-plus.”
Earlier this year, a brief video clip of Arabella singing in Chinese circulated to strong approval on the Internet in China. The clip posted by Trump’s daughter Ivanka showed then 5-year-old Arabella singing best wishes for the holiday while playing with a traditional Chinese puppet.
Ivanka Trump and daughter Arabella also made a surprise visit to the Chinese Embassy in Washington in February to participate in Chinese New Year festivities.

President Donald Trump says he’s having a “great time” in China.
Trump commented after he and first lady Melania Trump took in a music-and-dance performance Wednesday in the Forbidden City by young opera students dressed in ornate traditional Chinese costumes.
They were joined by their hosts, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan (puhng LEE’-yoo-en). US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Terry Branstad, the US ambassador to China, are among US officials taking in the performance.
The show is part of an elaborate welcome Xi has planned for Trump that will extend into Thursday.
After the show, the youngsters shouted “Welcome to China! I love you.”

China is pulling out all the stops for Donald Trump’s airport arrival in Beijing.
The ceremony accompanying the US president’s arrival Wednesday afternoon was elaborate even by China’s lavish standards.
Trump and his wife, Melania, were met by Chinese and American dignitaries, soldiers, a band playing martial music and children waving miniature Chinese and American flags.
As Trump’s motorcade pulled away, the children jumped up and down while they waved and chanted.
The US president and first lady appeared pleased, smiling and accepting flower bouquets, with Trump at one point throwing his arms open and appearing to exclaim, “Wow.”

President Donald Trump is touring the sprawling Forbidden City compound in the heart of Beijing.
The 15th century compound was the imperial palace for several dynasties. Access was forbidden to all but the imperial family and those who had business with them.
Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) and their wives walked through the Gate of Supreme Harmony and gazed across a sprawling yet deserted courtyard. They all wore overcoats against the chill. After a guide explained the sites, the couples walked down a flight of stairs and into the courtyard.
They posed for photos, strolled toward the Palace of Supreme Peace and climbed another long flight of stairs.

President Donald Trump will push China on trade and North Korea during a two-day visit in which he will alternately cajole, flatter and scold the rising Asian power.
White House aides view Trump’s visit to China as the centerpiece of his lengthy tour of the region. Trump is mired in consistently low approval ratings at home and will encounter a newly emboldened Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng), who recently consolidated power in his country.
Before arriving in Beijing, Trump used a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly to send China a stern message.
He called on China to stop supporting North Korea, China’s largest trading partner.
Trump said “all responsible nations” must unite to isolate North Korea for its aggressive development of nuclear weapons.

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US tightens travel rules to Cuba, blacklists many businesses

The Associated Press
Wed, 2017-11-08 03:00

WASHINGTON: Americans seeking to visit Cuba must navigate a complicated maze of travel, commerce and financial restrictions unveiled Wednesday by the Trump administration, part of a new policy to further isolate the island’s communist government.
Now off-limits to US citizens are dozens of Cuban hotels, shops, tour companies and other businesses included on a lengthy American blacklist of entities that have links to Cuba’s military, intelligence or security services. And most Americans will once again be required to travel as part of heavily regulated, organized tour groups run by US companies, rather than voyaging to Cuba on their own.
The stricter rules mark a return to the tougher US stance toward Cuba that existed before former President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro restored diplomatic relations in 2015. They come as President Donald Trump tries to show he’s taking action to prevent US dollars from helping prop up the Cuban government.
Still, the policy is only a partial rollback of Obama’s changes. Cruise ship visits and direct commercial flights between the countries will still be permitted. Embassies in Washington and Havana stay open.
The rules are designed to steer US economic activity away from Cuba’s military, intelligence and security services, which dominate much of the economy through state-controlled corporations. The goal is to encourage financial support for Cuba’s growing private sector, said senior Trump administration officials, who briefed reporters on a conference call on condition they not be quoted by name.
To that end, the Treasury Department said it is expanding and simplifying a license that allows some US exports to Cuba despite the embargo. They include tools and equipment to build or renovate privately owned buildings.
“We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Trump announced his new policy in June during a speech in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, the cradle of Cuban-American resistance to Castro’s government. The administration took several months to finalize the details of the new rules, which will take effect Thursday.
The new policy maintains several categories of travel to Cuba that are permitted despite the embargo, which carries on decades after the Cold War’s end. Americans can still travel on educational and “people to people” trips as well as visits designed to support the Cuban people by patronizing privately owned small businesses that have popped up across the island in recent years.
But those traveling to support Cuba’s people must have a daylong schedule of activities designed to expose them to Cubans and steer dollars toward citizens, such as renting rooms in private homes. Those on organized, “people to people” or educational visits must be accompanied by a representative of the US-based group organizing the trip.
There was no immediate reaction from Cuba’s government. But the rules were quickly denounced by travel groups and proponents of closer US ties to the island.
“Cuba is still open for business,” said Charel van Dam of the Cuba Travel Network. “It is still possible for people to travel, but I think these announcements will serve mainly as something to scare off people who want to visit.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, a vocal advocate of improved US-Cuban relations, noted the announcement came as Trump was in China pushing more US business engagement with another communist-run country. “The hypocrisy of the White House ideologues is glaring,” Leahy said.
The rules come amid deep strains in the US-Cuba relationship stemming from invisible, unexplained attacks that have harmed more than two dozen US government personnel in Havana since 2016. The attacks led the Trump administration to order most of its diplomats to leave Cuba in September and issue a sweeping travel warning urging Americans to stay away.
Officials insisted that the new, tougher rules had no connection to the attacks. The US first complained to Cuba’s government about the attacks in February, four months before Trump announced his broader policy intentions.
Some exceptions will accommodate Americans who already plan to visit Cuba. Those who booked “people to people” trips before Trump’s June announcement will be exempt, along with Americans who organized education trips before the rules start on Thursday. Business deals already reached with entities on the prohibited list will be allowed to proceed.
It’s unclear how aggressively the US will police the new rules. Officials said they would use information obtained from several US agencies to catch violators, who could be subject to penalties and criminal prosecution.
The blacklist bars business with the large military-run corporations that dominate the Cuban economy. These include GAESA and CIMEX, holding companies that control most retail business on the island; Gaviota, the largest tourism company; and Habaguanex, which runs Old Havana.
It also targets a new cargo port and special trade zone outside the city of Mariel that has been the focus of Cuba’s efforts to draw foreign investment in manufacturing and distribution.
Blacklisted hotels include the Manzana Kempinski, which opened with great fanfare this year as Cuba’s first to meet the international five-star standard.
The overall impact on American business with Cuba will likely be limited. Trade is sparse. Many American travelers already stay at hotels not on the no-go list, and the company that imports most American food products to Cuba is similarly unaffected.
Bringing home limited quantities of rum and Cuban cigars is still allowed, officials said.

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UK aid minister Patel resigns over secret Israel meetings

Thu, 2009-11-12 06:00

LONDON: Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel quit on Wednesday over unauthorized meetings in Israel, becoming the latest Cabinet member caught up in a whirlwind of scandals rocking Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.
The issue has raised fresh questions about the UK government’s impartiality in mediating conflict in the Middle East, according to the Palestinian ambassador in London.
A total of 14 previously undisclosed engagements between Patel and Israeli representatives, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cast doubt on the UK’s integrity as a peace broker, Ambassador Manuel Hassassian told Arab News.
“The consequences of (Patel’s) act will definitely now make the Palestinians question the intentions of the British government,” he told Arab News.
Aside from Patel failing to disclose to the public her contact with Israeli officials, Hassassian said the unevenness of her trip spoke volumes about the British government’s priorities.
“She did not even meet with any of the Palestinian authorities,” he said, accusing Downing Street of “not playing a fair hand” in its approach to the two sides.
“I question the sincerity of this government (when it comes to) a two-state solution,” he added.
The scandal came to a head on Wednesday when it was revealed that Patel had visited a field hospital run by the Israeli Army in the occupied Golan Heights.
While Israel seized the region from Syria in the 1967 War, the British government does not recognize the Jewish state’s claim to the territory, which has been condemned as illegal by the UN. British diplomats are not normally permitted to travel there under official Israeli auspices.
Following her visit to the disputed territory, Patel suggested that British aid money be allocated to a humanitarian project there managed by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Number 10 was forced to deny knowledge of the plan.
Prime Minister Theresa May summoned Patel back from Kenya to answer questions about the unofficial trip.
By the time Patel’s flight landed on Wednesday afternoon, analysts and pundits were already debating her most likely replacements.
Revelations about Patel’s meetings, 12 of which took place during a family trip to Israel, raise serious questions about May’s ability to maintain discipline in her Cabinet, said Yossi Mekelberg, a professor of international relations at Regent’s University, London.
“There probably should have been someone from the embassy involved … If you’re talking about serious matters with implications for the foreign policy of the United Kingdom, you can’t have (these meetings) on the side,” he said.
The incident comes just a week after the resignation of Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, who had been mired in allegations of sexual harassment. Fallon was known as a staunch ally of Prime Minister May.
Mekelberg joined a chorus of voices who questioned whether May’s government would be able to survive another resignation. “The balance within the government is so delicate right now,” he added. “The prime minister is in dire straits.”
The diplomatic debacle comes as the British government is already under fire for hosting Netanyahu as guest of honor at an event marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration last week.
Hassassian has said that the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which Britain officially lent its support to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, was the first step in dispossessing the Palestinian people of their land.

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Working group could help solve Rohingya refugee crisis

Shehab Sumon
Thu, 2017-11-09 03:00

DHAKA: The formation of a joint working group will be an important step in managing the Rohingya refugee crisis, hopes Asaduzzaman Khan, home affairs minister of Bangladesh.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group, have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in their home territory of Rakhine state in Myanmar.
Khan met his counterpart Lt. General Kyaw Swe and the state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar at the end of October. He said in an exclusive interview with Arab News that the repatriation process of Rohingya refugees will be governed by a working group comprising an equal number of representatives from Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmud Ali is also scheduled to visit Myanmar on November 20 where he will discuss the group. Both sides have agreed to finalize the terms of reference by Nov. 30 to proceed with the proposed repatriation plan, Khan said.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that around 625,000 Rohingya Refugees have entered Bangladesh since the violence escalated in Rakhine State on August 25.
The violence targeting Rohingyas, which the UN describes as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” has put the Myanmar government under pressure from the international community.
Khan urged that international community play its due role in addressing the issue. “I think that if the international community shifts eyes from the Rohingya issue, they [Myanmar] will not take any steps on repatriation of the Rohingyas. The international community needs to keep up the pressure in this regard.”
Several news reports published recently suggest that Myanmar will accept only 150 Rohingyas per day after due scrutiny; however, Khan could not verify that, saying no such proposal was formally shared with Bangladesh.
Khan said Dhaka’s stance on refugee repatriation was made clear during his meeting with Myanmar officials.
“Repatriation will have to be based on the decision by the Joint Working Group, the Annan Commission Report (which recommended scrapping restrictions on movement by the Rohingya), and the five points mentioned by our Prime Minister,” he said.
Both countries agreed on “ten points regarding the repatriation process which included the full implementation of the Annan Commission’s report and taking initiatives to stop the Rohingya exodus toward Bangladesh,” claimed Khan, while adding that Myanmar later issued a separate statement and excluded the “agreed” points.
“As they excluded full implementation of Annan Commission issue, I asked the Bangladeshi ambassador not to sign the joint statement.”
Khan expressed hope that the issue of joint statement will be resolved soon. “We are still working on it,” he said.
Bangladesh has been affected by the Rohingya refugee issue for the past four decades. Rohingyas are confined to Rakhine State and have very little scope of trade and livelihood, which makes their life very difficult. The minister said he also discussed this aspect with Suu Kyi and found her “very positive in this regard.”
“At one point Suu Kyi said she was thinking of making some villages for the Rohingyas which would include all the living facilities for rehabilitation.”
Khan added: “I told Suu Kyi that if the Rohingyas stay in Bangladesh for longer, it will be a problem for both Bangladesh and Myanmar. Suu Kyi assured me that she has started working on the implementation of Annan Commission report which recommended the repatriation of Rohingyas.”

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Indonesian counterterrorism agents to investigate Marawi siege suspects

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
Thu, 2017-11-09 03:00

JAKARTA: Indonesia has sent five special counterterrorism agents to the Philippines on Tuesday to investigate the two Indonesians arrested last week in connection with the siege of Marawi by the Daesh-backed Maute group.
Indonesian National Police spokesman Inspector General Setyo Wasisto said the five-member delegation from Densus 88, the counterterrorism squad, will coordinate with its Philippine counterparts to seek access to Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, the Indonesian militant who fought alongside the Maute group in Marawi and was arrested on Nov. 1, and Minhati Madrais, the wife of slain Maute group leader Omarkhayam Maute who was arrested on Sunday in Iligan city, northern Mindanao.
“We want to gain more information from them regarding their roles, especially Ilham Syahputra. He was reported dead in May but now, apparently, he is still alive,” Wasisto told Arab News.
Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the director for protection of Indonesian nationals abroad, said representatives from the Indonesian Embassy in Manila had been granted access to Syahputra and were verifying his nationality using a biometric facial recognition system.
“It’s going to take a while to verify. We can’t identify him using his fingerprints as the skin on his fingertips is damaged,” Iqbal told Arab News.
He said that Jakarta received information from Manila earlier this year that a passport bearing Syahputra’s identity was found next to a militant’s body which led to the belief that he was dead.
“According to the Philippines authority, he entered the Philippines in January but never left. So it is unlikely that he would have a new identity or a new passport, otherwise he would have been recorded to have applied for a new one in our embassy,” Iqbal said.
He added that embassy officials had also been granted access to Madrais and were checking if she had applied for Philippines citizenship since her Indonesian passport expired in January.
The siege of Marawi ended when leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute were shot dead as troops launched an assault to rescue hostages.
Wasisto said the police, Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the immigration office were continuing to monitor the possible returns of Indonesians who fought alongside Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and with the Maute group in the Philippines.
He said the authorities maintained a watchlist of individuals who went to Syria or the Philippines and were suspected to have fought as foreign militants there.
“The problem is that we can’t prosecute them with our counterterrorism law, since it lacks the provisions to criminalize those who act and support terrorism acitivities abroad. Maybe, though, we can still prosecute them under other laws,” Wasisto said.
Lawmakers are in the process of amending the law and a proposed provision has been debated which would strip those who commit terror acts abroad of their Indonesian citizenship.
Irfan Idris, a senior official in charge of the deradicalization program at BNPT, told Arab News that those returnees would be ”enrolled in a socialization program.”
In September, the BNPT released a 12-minute video featuring testimonies of eight Indonesians, out of 18, who returned from Syria after escaping Daesh in June. In the video, the returnees recount their horror and disappointment during their stay in Raqqa for two years, which they said was a stark contrast to the promises they had been made.
“We continue to receive information from various channels about the movement of Indonesian nationals in Syria,” Iqbal said. “We have not had new returnees from Turkey for some time and we haven’t received information of an outflux of Indonesians from Raqqa lately.”

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Mattis heads to NATO for key talks on ME, Afghan crisis

Wed, 2017-11-08 06:01

BRUSSELS: With Daesh crumbling in Iraq and Syria, Afghanistan mired in crisis and Russia looming large, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has plenty of pressing issues to tackle with NATO allies this week.
The Pentagon chief arrived at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters Wednesday for two days of talks with fellow NATO defense ministers and a separate meeting with partners from the coalition fighting Daesh in the Middle East, where the militants continue to lose territory.
The North Korean nuclear crisis and efforts to revamp NATO to help it better combat the rising threat from Russia will also be high on the agenda.
As he flew to Europe, Mattis told reporters that coalition partners are looking to the US for a clear plan about what follows the physical defeat of Daesh.
“Maybe three-quarters of the questions I am getting asked now is (about) going forward. It’s not about are we going to be able to stop ISIS (Daesh), are we going to be able to overcome ISIS. They are now saying: ‘What’s next? How is it looking?’” Mattis said.
Following back-to-back losses, including of their Syrian and Iraqi strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul, Daesh are down to defending their last holdouts along the Euphrates River valley.
America’s military involvement in Syria has until now been focused solely on fighting Daesh, but with the militants on the ropes, Washington must articulate its longer-term interests and what role, if any, US forces will play in Syria.
Mattis supports a UN-backed effort in Geneva, which has run in parallel to a Russian and Iranian-led process, to reach a diplomatic solution.
America has armed and trained Kurdish and Syrian Arab fighters who are battling Daesh on the ground, but the weapons provided to the Kurdish YPG are a source of huge angst for NATO ally Turkey, which views the group as terrorists.
Mattis declined to say whether the US would be asking for those weapons back, though Washington has previously said it keeps tabs on the equipment. Mattis will meet his Turkish counterpart at NATO to discuss ongoing concerns.
NATO has been in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in late 2001 to dislodge the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Despite a 16-year war and hundreds of billions of dollars in investment in Afghan institutions and security forces, the country remains beset by corruption and an ongoing security crisis that is killing thousands of local soldiers and civilians each year.
NATO will boost its training mission to the local troops from around 13,000 troops to around 16,000, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.
According to diplomatic sources, the US would contribute around 2,800 troops, while other NATO allies and partner countries would supply around 700 more.
On North Korea, Mattis said he has received calls from EU leaders concerned about the recent escalation in tensions, following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test — and its most powerful to date.
He arrives in Brussels from Helsinki, where he attended a forum called the Northern Group, a little-known meeting of northern European nations focusing on the continent’s military and security challenges, particularly from Russia.
Moscow frequently sends warplanes into the skies around the Baltics and Europe remains anxious about Russia’s military intentions, especially after the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Mattis’s initial visits to Europe and NATO were overshadowed by doubts among allies, nervous about President Donald Trump’s campaign statements that he thought NATO was “obsolete.”

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Gunmen kill 11 traders in central Nigeria

Wed, 2017-11-08 15:08

JOS, Nigeria: Gunmen have killed at least 11 traders in central Nigeria, police said Wednesday, in the latest violence in the region, which has been hit by decades of ethnic and sectarian strife.
The traders were returning from a rural market in the Riyom district of Plateau state when they were ambushed by “unknown assailants” on Tuesday, said police spokesman Tyopev Terna.
“Eleven people who were returning from a weekly village market in Makera village were shot dead at about 7:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) yesterday,” he told AFP.
Four other traders were injured in the attack, which happened some 30 km south of the state capital, Jos, he added.
An investigation has been launched to establish the motive for the attack and to identify the victims, who are believed to be from the Fulani ethnic group.
Plateau state lies in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt that separates the predominantly Muslim north from the largely Christian south.
It has long been a hotbed of ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions between indigenous Christian farming communities and the Muslim settler Hausa/Fulani cattle herders.
Tensions typically boil over into tit-for-tat violence over access to land and resources, and the struggle for political control.
Nura Abdullahi, head of cattle herders union in Plateau, said: “We don’t have an idea who the victims were and whether the attack was ethnically motivated or the work of bandits who abound in the area. “It is too early to draw any conclusion.”
Riyom district has been hit by waves of violence between farmers and herders.
Last month, two people were killed in Jol village in the area after a young herder’s body was found nearby. The cattle drivers were blamed.
At least 29 were killed in an attack targeting people sheltered in a rural primary school in nearby Bassa district.
The attack was apparently in revenge for the death of six Fulani herders who were killed by unidentified assailants in the area.

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Tension escalates as Catalan strike demands leaders’ release

Wed, 2017-11-08 15:28

BARCELONA: Protesters blocked roads and train lines across Catalonia on Wednesday, provoking commuter anger in a strike called by a pro-independence union after separatist leaders were detained in Madrid over their divisive secession drive.
More than 50 routes including major motorways were cut, causing widespread disruption in the region, which has been plunged into uncertainty over its now-deposed government’s bid to split from Spain.
The crisis has shaken a EU still getting to grips with Britain’s decision to leave the bloc, and raised fears of social unrest and prolonged disruption to the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy.
Huge banners were draped across at least one tunnel in Barcelona, blocking entry, and activists also cut off main roads linking the region of 7.5 million people to France and to the Spanish capital.
“Warning. Big problems at the heart of the commuter train system due to an invasion of people and objects on the tracks,” Rodalies de Catalunya, which manages commuter trains in the region, said on Twitter.
At one protest in Sitges, southwest of Barcelona, demonstrators set up banners, deckchairs and a table-top game of chess as long queues of motorists formed.
But the walkout appeared to be less followed than a general strike on Oct. 3 that followed the banned referendum, in which 90 percent voted to break from Spain.
During that strike most shops and tourist attractions closed down in Barcelona while most remained open on Wednesday, though activists were blocking access to the Sagrada Familia basilica.
Lawmakers in Catalonia, a region with its own language and culture accounting for a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP), declared independence from Spain on Oct. 27.
Madrid responded by revoking the region’s autonomy, dismissing its government and Parliament, and organizing new regional elections for next month as it tries to stem the fallout from Spain’s deepest political crisis in decades.
A judge in Madrid last week ordered eight separatist politicians to be remanded in custody for their secession drive.
Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is in Belgium facing extradition to Spain, on Tuesday criticized the EU for backing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the crisis.
“Will you accept the result of the Catalan referendum or will you continue to help Mr. Rajoy in his coup d’etat?” Puigdemont said in Brussels.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on Wednesday denied that his government was “in crisis” over Puigdemont’s presence, which risks reigniting communal tensions in Belgium.
“There is a political crisis in Spain and not in Belgium,” Michel told Parliament, after Flemish separatist members of his coalition government spoke out in support of Puigdemont.
More than 2,000 businesses have moved their headquarters out of the region as the turmoil drags on.
Wednesday’s walkout was called by the pro-independence CSC union but lacked support from Spain’s two largest unions.
Waving pro-independence banners and Catalan flags, demonstrators called for the release of sacked government officials and separatist lobbyists.
Local police, who now take their orders directly from Madrid after Spain suspended Catalan autonomy, removed some protesters who sat in rows across roads and blocked a main Barcelona bus station.
Authorities said high-speed train links with France were disrupted, with a Barcelona-Lyon train forced to turn back, but commuter trains were running as normal.
A central government source in Barcelona said participation in the strike was “negligible.”
“There are only transport problems making it difficult for people to get to work,” the source told AFP.
Reacting to the closure of the main AP-7 motorway linking Catalonia with France, one Twitter user said “30 idiots are imposing their craziness on all the others, this is VIOLENCE, it’s an IMPOSITION, it’s ILLEGAL, and the passivity of the (police) is OUTRAGEOUS.”
New elections will be held in Catalonia on Dec. 21 and Rajoy called on Wednesday for “massive participation” in the vote.

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