Surfer ‘mauled in Australia shark attack’

Sun, 2017-09-10 13:08

SYDNEY: A surfer was thrown into the air and his board snapped in a suspected great white shark attack off Australia’s east coast Sunday that left him with bloody cuts to his right hip.
The man, named in local media at Abe McGrath, was surfing at Iluka in New South Wales early Sunday when his board was hit from below by what he assumed was a shark, police said.
“As a result of the impact, the board has snapped. The injured victim has gone into the air and then re-entered the water,” police said in a statement.
“He has told police the shark began to circle and then turned away.”
McGrath’s friend Bryce Cameron said he was “pretty much the luckiest man on earth right now,” with the marine predator suspected to be a great white.
“He got a good look at it. He said it was a 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) white pointer. In the big scheme of things that is a juvenile but it is still big enough to kill,” Cameron told Brisbane’s Courier Mail.
“Abe was left floating in the water with a couple of teeth marks on his body. He scrambled in the water and got washed in by the next wave.”
The attack took place at Iluka’s Main Beach in northern New South Wales.
The area’s coastline was the site of a spate of attacks in 2015, with authorities trialling shark nets and increasing tagging of the creatures.
There have been 10 encounters off the nation’s vast coastline this year, including the death of a 17-year-old girl mauled by a shark in full view of her parents in Western Australia.
Experts say incidents are increasing as water sports become more popular and baitfish move closer to shore, but fatalities remain rare.

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Floods kill at least five as storms thrash Italy

Sun, 2017-09-10 12:11

ROME: At least five people have died in violent rainstorms sweeping across Italy on Sunday, with the Tuscan city of Livorno taking the brunt of the flooding, fire services said.
Four people from the same family were found dead in a flooded house in the city, where 40 centimeters (one foot, 4 inches) of rainfall in four hours transformed streets into rivers and washed away cars.
The Corriere della Sera daily said the dead were a little girl, her parents and a grandparent.
A fifth body was found in an area devastated by landslides. Three other people were missing, the fire brigade said.
“The situation is very difficult, it’s critical. We fear a disaster,” Livorno mayor Filippo Nogarin said.
Italy’s civil protection service issued a code orange alert for Florence as the storms, which began in northern Italy overnight, swept down the country toward the south.
Underpasses were being closed as a precaution in the capital Rome.
Coldiretti, Italy’s main agricultural organization, said the bad weather was aggravated by coming hard on the heels of a drought which had left the land drier than usual and unable to soak up the rains.
Rainfall in Tuscany in particular had been down 57 percent this summer, it said.
“The tropicalization of the climate is causing an increase in extreme weather events, with heat waves, heavy cloud bursts and violent hailstorms which are damaging the national agricultural production,” Coldiretti said.
It put the cost of the damage at over 14 billion euros ($16.8 billion) in the last 10 years.

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Nancy Hatch Dupree ‘Grandmother of Afghanistan’ dies in Kabul

Sun, 2017-09-10 12:57

KABUL: Nancy Hatch Dupree, a historian from the United States who helped set up the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, has died in the country whose culture she worked for more than five decades to preserve, the university said on Sunday. She was 89.
Dupree arrived in Kabul in 1962 as a diplomat’s wife but soon divorced and married Louis Dupree, an archaeologist celebrated for his adventurous exploits and groundbreaking discoveries of Paleolithic Afghan tools and artefacts.
For the next 15 years, they traveled across Afghanistan by Land Rover as Louis Dupree excavated prehistoric sites and Nancy wrote a series of witty and insightful guidebooks to a country since torn apart by decades of warfare.
“She called herself an old monument and a lot of Afghans called her the ‘Grandmother of Afghanistan,’” said Wahid Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghanistan Center. “She understood and knew Afghanistan much better than anybody else.”
A fixture in the social scene of Kabul during the 1970s, a now-vanished world of smart cocktail parties and mini-dresses, they were forced to leave in 1978 after the Soviet-backed government accused Louis Dupree of being a spy.
Her husband died in 1989 and much of the time before her return to Afghanistan in 2005 was spent in Pakistan, where as well as briefly meeting Osama Bin Laden and working with the growing number of war refugees, she assiduously gathered as much documentation on Afghanistan as she could.
In 2005, after the fall of the Taliban and the installation of a new Western-backed government in Kabul, she returned with some 35,000 documents wrapped up in fertilizer bags, which became the basis for the Afghanistan Center archive.
A prolific writer, she was director of the Center between 2006 and 2011 and continued to go into her office after she stepped down, remaining an institution in the cultural life of Kabul and receiving a stream of visitors.
“It was Nancy’s aim to preserve Afghanistan’s heritage,” said Wafa. “She was a very funny, interesting person who loved to talk to anyone coming to visit. She was kind, she was very giving with the information she had and she was always lobbying for the Afghanistan she first knew.”
While she could be waspishly critical of both blundering Westerners and Afghans she felt were promoting a bigoted version of their culture, she retained her faith in her adopted country to the end, Wafa said.
“Despite the 40 years of war in Afghanistan she was always hopeful of the future and hopeful for the future of the new generation in Afghanistan.”

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What we know about hurricanes Irma and Jose: facts, figures, forecast

Sun, 2017-09-10 08:56

PARIS: Hurricane Irma has pounded the Caribbean, leaving at least 25 people dead, destroying thousands of homes and triggering a mass evacuation in the US state of Florida.
After making landfall in Cuba’s Camaguey archipelago late Friday, Irma is now bearing down on Florida, where authorities have ordered 6.3 million people to evacuate.
Irma, previously a top-rated Category Five storm, weakened Saturday to Category Four and then to a Category Three, packing 125 mile-an-hour winds (205 kilometer per hour).
With near-hurricane force winds lashing the Florida Keys starting around 8:00 p.m. (0100 GMT), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that “Irma is forecast to restrengthen” as it approaches mainland Florida.
A second Category Four hurricane, Jose, followed part of Irma’s track, but spared storm-hit Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, which had already suffered catastrophic damage.
Jose is expected to veer north and pose no threat to the United States.
The death toll stands at at least 25: 12 in the French island of St. Barts and the Dutch-French territory of St. Martin; six in British Caribbean islands; at least four in the US Virgin Islands; at least two in Puerto Rico; and one in Barbuda.
The International Red Cross says 1.2 million people have already been affected by Irma — a number that could rise to 26 million.
The bill for loss and damage could hit $120 billion (100 billion euros) in the United States and Caribbean, according to data modelling firm Enki Research.
Irma hit the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda on Wednesday with winds up to 295 kph. The island suffered “absolute devastation,” with up to 30 percent of properties demolished, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
One person is known to have died on the island of 1,600 residents, apparently a child whose family was trying to get to safer ground.
Irma then slammed into the holiday islands of St. Barts and St. Martin, wielding monster winds and torrential rain.
St. Martin is divided between France and the Netherlands. France said 10 people had died on its side, while the Netherlands said the storm killed two on the Dutch side, called Sint Maarten.
On the Dutch side, 70 percent of the infrastructure has been destroyed.
Debris still clogs the streets, many homes are uninhabitable, communications are still down, tens of thousands are without food, water or power, and the authorities are struggling to prevent looting.
In the British archipelago of Anguilla, one man was crushed to death in a house collapse.
Five people have been killed in the British Virgin Islands, according to the local government.
Just east of Puerto Rico, it is home to roughly 28,000 people and includes British billionaire Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
At least four people have been killed in the US Virgin Islands, officials told AFP.
At least two people were killed in the US territory of Puerto Rico, and more than half of its three million residents were without power after rivers broke their banks in the center and north of the island.
Some 20,000 people were evacuated and more than 2,000 homes affected by floods in the Dominican Republic, the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, which is also shared by Haiti.
Irma brought flooding and caused several injuries in Haiti, but passed further north than had been forecast, sparing the impoverished island the worst. A number of roads were washed out.
Irma made landfall on the island’s Camaguey Archipelago late Friday. Close to a million people have left their homes to stay with relatives or in shelters and the electricity supply cut as a precautionary measure.
Cuba had already evacuated 10,000 foreign tourists from beach resorts and raised its disaster alert level to maximum ahead of Irma’s arrival.
Irma is expected to strike the Florida Keys early Sunday, tracking along the peninsula’s western coast, which faces the Gulf of Mexico, rather than the more heavily populated Atlantic side, according to the US National Hurricane Center.
But the storm is so wide that the authorities have ordered 6.3 million people — more than quarter of Florida’s population — to evacuate and many residents have joined a mass exodus.
The US military is mobilizing thousands of troops and deploying several large ships to help with evacuations and humanitarian relief.
A state of emergency has been declared in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Georgia ordered the evacuation of the city of Savannah and other coastal areas.
Hurricane Jose, after strengthening to Category 4 status, passed 135 kilometers (83 miles) north of St. Barts and 125 kilometers from Saint Martin.
France’s meteorological agency had issued its highest warning, saying Hurricane Jose could become a “dangerous event of exceptional intensity.”
But “thanks to a passage which was further away than anticipated, the effects on the territory were markedly less,” the meteorological agency said.
Another hurricane, Katia, made landfall in eastern Mexico late Friday killing two people, just as the country grappled with damage inflicted by its worst earthquake in a century.

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Rohingya rebels call one-month Myanmar cease-fire as exodus grows

Sun, 2017-09-10 10:55

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Rohingya militants, whose August raids in Myanmar’s Rakhine State sparked an army crackdown that has seen nearly 300,000 of the Muslim minority flee to Bangladesh, on Sunday declared a unilateral cease-fire to allow aid to reach increasingly desperate people displaced by violence.
The United Nations said that 294,000 bedraggled and exhausted Rohingya refugees have now arrived in Bangladesh since August 25, while tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine, after more than a fortnight without shelter, food and water. Three Rohingya are reported to have been killed by a mine near the border.
A further 27,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also fled violence that has unfurled across the northern part of the state.
“The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) hereby declares a temporary cessation of offensive military operations,” it said in an official Twitter statement.
The group urged “all humanitarian actors” to resume aid delivery to “all victims of humanitarian crisis irrespective of ethnic or religious background” during the one-month cease-fire period which runs until October 9.
It called on Myanmar to “reciprocate this humanitarian pause” in fighting.
There was no immediate response from Myanmar’s military, but on Saturday authorities said they would set up three relief camps in Rohingya-majority areas.
Rohingya refugees allege that army operations against the ARSA resulted in mass killings and the burning of hundreds of villages, sending them across the border. International aid programs in Rakhine have been severely curtailed, as the fighting tore through parts of the state.
India has called for an immediate end to the violence, urging the situation “be handled with restraint and maturity,” according to a foreign ministry statement late Saturday.
Thousands of Rohingya are arriving in Bangladesh each day joining already overcrowded camps of Rohingya who have fled Myanmar over decades of troubles. The UN refugee agency UNHCR gave the latest figure of 294,000 for the new arrivals.
The UN has appealed for urgent donations of $77 million.
Bangladesh already hosts around 400,000 Rohingya from previous crises.
The Red Cross in Bangladesh welcomed the cease-fire pledge as aid agencies struggle to meet the needs of an “overwhelming crisis,” battling monsoon rains to deliver relief to people who have fled with few belongings.
“How can you handle such a big influx of people? They want shelter, they want a safe place,” Misada Said, Prevention and Communication Coordinator, ICRC Bangladesh delegation, told AFP.
Better-known locally as Harakah Al-Yaqin (Faith Movement), ARSA launched coordinated raids using hundreds of militants on August 25 on around 30 police posts and state offices in northern Rakhine state.
The kickback by security forces prompted the Rohingya exodus.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say ethnic Rakhine Buddhists joined security forces in the indiscriminate killing of villagers.
In an area split by claim and counterclaim, Rakhine villagers accuse militants of murdering their civilians while the government says fleeing Rohingya set fire to their own homes to forment fear and anti-state anger.
At a makeshift camp near Shamlapur, in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees doubted a cease-fire would allow their return any time soon.
“They (Myanmar army) are saying ‘go away or we’ll burn all of you’. How can we believe a cease-fire will have any effect?” said Hafez Ahmed, 60, told AFP.
But Hashem Ullah, a 33-year-old farmer from a village west of Maungdaw, said he would return if he could.
“I have nothing back there. No house, no village.”
“(But) I would go back, if I got compensation, and they accept us as Rohingya. How can we live like this here?” he said, gesturing to the swampy earth where refugees were clearing trees for shelter.
ARSA, which has as yet shown little interest in the rhetoric of global jihad, says it is fighting to defend the Rohingya from persecution in Myanmar.
But Myanmar labels them “extremist Bengali terrorists” intent on carving out an Islamic enclave in northern Rakhine for the Rohingya.
According to statements and photos released by Myanmar’s army, the militants use primitive weapons, including gunpowder rifles, homemade guns and bombs as well as clubs and swords.
Myanmar’s army says it has killed nearly 400 militants so far, while some Rohingya refugees have complained they were forced to fight by ARSA.
The first ARSA attacks in October last year were less ambitious, but the subsequent military response by a security force notorious for its scorched earth response to insurgency sent 90,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border.
That means over a third of the estimated 1.1 million Rohingya in Rakhine state have fled in less than a year.
Myanmar does not want its Rohingya population.
The government does not recognize them among its official ethnic minority groups and they are instead pejoratively labelled ‘Bengalis’ — illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

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Three Rohingya reported killed by suspected mine in Myanmar

Sun, 2017-09-10 10:58

COX’S BAZAR, Banglades: A suspected land mine planted near the Bangladesh border has killed three Rohingya villagers fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, a Bangladesh border official quoted a survivor as saying.
Border Guard Bangladesh commander Lt. Col. Manzurul Hasan Khan told AFP that troops had heard the blast Saturday night about 100 meters from the border.
“We learnt from the injured survivor that they were four of them. The survivor said the other three died on the spot in an explosion — likely an anti-personnel mine,” Khan told AFP.
He said border guards saw the survivor coming to the demarcation line with multiple injuries to his body and face.
Another Rohingya was injured by a suspected mine in the same place after he had returned to his village to retrieve his cows and bring them to Bangladesh.
Last week two Rohingya including a child had their legs blown off and another person was injured after they stepped onto suspected mines near the border
Bangladesh on Wednesday summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to protest at the planting of land mines along the border.
Aid groups and Bangladesh government officials say they have been planted to deter fleeing members of the minority Rohingya community from returning to Myanmar.
It is the second time Dhaka has summoned the ambassador since an upsurge of violence in Rakhine state triggered a refugee crisis, with 294,000 people flooding across the border since August 25.
Amnesty International said Saturday that Myanmar security forces planted the mines, which are banned internationally.
Based on interviews with witnesses and analysis by its experts, Amnesty said there appeared to be a targeted use of land mines along a narrow stretch of the northwestern border with Rakhine state.
“This is another low in what is already a horrific situation in Rakhine state,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s Crisis Response Director, who is currently near the border.
“The Myanmar military’s callous use of inherently indiscriminate and deadly weapons at highly trafficked paths around the border is putting the lives of ordinary people at enormous risk,” she added.

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India Nobel winner in new campaign for abused and trafficked children

Sun, 2017-09-10 11:24

NEW DELHI: Bruised and battered from previous campaigns against child labor, India’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi hopes one million people will join his latest drive starting Monday — against the sexual abuse and trafficking of children.
“It is a war on rapes, war on child sexual abuse and trafficking because these are not ordinary crimes and they cannot be solved through the business-as-usual approach,” Satyarthi told AFP in an interview.
“Two children are sexually abused every hour. One child goes missing every eight minutes in India and they are not disappearing in thin air,” said Satyarthi.
“These children are trafficked… sold and bought like animals. Sometimes at lesser prices than animals.”
More than 9,000 children were trafficked in India in 2016, up nearly 25 percent from the previous year, according to the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
About 14,000 children were victims of rape and sexual harassment in 2015, data from the National Crime Records Bureau showed.
But those figures may only be the tip of the iceberg, with experts saying the government underestimates the numbers in a country where a shroud of silence surrounds such crimes.
Satyarthi hopes his “India March,” which will kick off from the country’s southernmost tip of Kanyakumari and finish in New Delhi on October 16 after traveling across all 29 states and seven union territories, will open people’s eyes to the mounting epidemic.
“We want to awaken the whole nation, we want to raise the consciousness against child sexual abuse and trafficking because it is a hidden menace,” he said.
Traffickers lure children, mostly from remote villages, with false promises of jobs before selling them off to brothels, factories or gangs which force them into begging.
The soft-spoken 63-year-old has been at the forefront of the drive against child labor in India, where over 10 million children are engaged in work, according to UNICEF.
He blames India’s “failed” law enforcement, weak prosecution and low conviction rates for their plight, and founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save Childhood) to rescue children working in horrifying conditions.
His teams often stage dangerous dawn raids on mills, dank mines and factories — many manned by armed guards — which employ children.
Satyarthi said his social conscience was awoken when he was about five years old and saw a boy his age outside a school, cleaning shoes.
In 1980 he quit his job as an electrical engineer to take up the cudgels on behalf of India’s most vulnerable citizens.
The married father of two recalled his first rescue operation in 1981 — at a time when India had no law against child labor.
After collecting money by selling his wife’s jewelry, he and friends freed 36 children, women and men from a brick kiln in Punjab state where they had been enslaved for 17 years.
“When I was rescuing them, I realized that ‘No, they are freeing me from inside’ and that is a very, very special realization of freedom, of liberation,” he recalled.
“And since then I have never looked back and I have kept on freeing children. And on the other hand, they have freed me, giving me enormous joy and a sense of accomplishment.”
In 2014 Satyarthi jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai.
But his efforts have come at a price. He has been beaten up and faced death threats and attempts at incarceration. Two of his colleagues were murdered.
“Of course, it was very dangerous,” he said.
“I have injuries and scars all over my body. My left foot has been broken, my ribs have been broken, my shoulder is broken and I cannot raise it.”
“But nothing can stop me.”
He proudly says his movement has liberated 86,000 children from bonded labor across India and has activist networks in more than 140 countries.
In the 1990s he organized the Global March Against Child Labour, an international coalition of groups aiming to free millions of children from slavery worldwide.
“Earlier I fought against child slavery and child labor. Now I’m waging this war against rape and sexual abuse,” he said.
“This is not some other person’s problem. This is your problem. It can happen with anyone, anywhere.”

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Daesh holds 11,100 blank Syrian passports: report

Sun, 2017-09-10 11:25

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: German authorities believe the Daesh group holds some 11,100 blank Syrian passports that can be completed with any individual’s details, weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday.
Investigators have assembled a list of serial numbers of the blank passports and the authorities that issued them, the newspaper reported, citing confidential documents from federal police and the interior ministry.
The stolen passports are genuine identity papers that have not yet been filled out with an individual’s details, making them a valuable tool for forgers.
In total, German security services are aware of some 18,002 blank Syrian passports stolen from Syrian government sites, including thousands held by groups other than Daesh.
“Developments in connection with the refugee situation have shown that terrorist organizations are using the opportunity to infiltrate potential attackers or supporters into Europe and Germany undetected,” a spokeswoman for the BKA federal criminal police told Bild am Sonntag.
Members of the group behind a series of coordinated bomb and gun attacks in Paris that claimed 130 lives in November 2015 were found to have used fake Syrian passports.
However, “’Fake or altered passports are mostly used for illegal entry without further motives like carrying out a terrorist attack,” the spokeswoman said.
Some 8,625 passports checked by German migration authorities in 2016 turned out to be fakes according to the documents seen by Bild am Sonntag.
But the files provided no information on how many of the passports were among those that had passed through Daesh’ hands.

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Rohingya refugees in Pakistan fear for relatives in Myanmar

Sun, 2017-09-10 11:29

KARACHI: For an estimated 300,000 Rohingya Muslims living in squalor in Pakistan’s largest city, the news from Myanmar in the past two weeks is reviving painful memories of the violence that drove many of them here half a century ago.
Some say they have got word of relatives being killed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state or are not being able to contact family members.
Karachi’s Rohingya community comprises migrants from an earlier era of displacement dating back to the 1960s and ‘70s. Despite decades in a foreign land, they have stayed in touch with family back home, especially in recent years through mobile phones and social media.
In the past two weeks, nearly 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched an offensive in response to a series of attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police posts and an army base. Hundreds of homes in Rohingya villages have been burned and about 400 people have been killed.
The older members of Karachi’s Rohingya community fled from a repressive military regime that took power in 1962, escaping on foot or by boat to Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan. Eventually, they made their way to Karachi.
Most of the people living in the slum called Arakanabad were born in Pakistan, or fled violence in their homeland decades ago. It’s named for Arakan, which was what Rakhine used to be called.
Raheela Sadiq, a more recent migrant who came to Pakistan 15 years ago, said she has been unable to contact relatives in Rakhine via mobile phone for nearly two weeks.
“I have seen what is happening to people over there on the Internet,” she said as tears filled her eyes.
Videos and pictures depicting violence in Rakhine and shared on social media are passed around quickly in Arakanabad, adding to fears and anxiety about relatives back home.
Fisherman Noor Mohammed, 50, said three members of his family in Rakhine were killed a few days ago.
“My brother, brother-in-law, and nephew were there (in Rakhine). They are all dead now. The army over there killed them,” he said, adding that he heard the news from another nephew who is still alive.
Hoor Bahar, 60, said she left Rakhine with her husband over 30 years ago when her mother and sister were killed.
“I have one sister left who went to Bangladesh seven to 10 days ago,” she added. However, she said, her sister is being held on a beach by boatmen who brought her from Rakhine and are demanding $350 as payment.
Arakanabad smells of fish. The Rohingya who live here largely work on fishing boats, or clean the catch brought by fishermen who set sail from the nearby Qur’angi Creek.
Most of them say they are not able to obtain Pakistani identity cards, essential for opening bank accounts, enrolling children in schools, using public hospitals, and even getting a job. Fishing boats, where identity cards are not asked for, are one of the few employment options left although fishermen can sometimes be asked for identification by coast guards.
“There is no policy in Pakistan for the Rohingya,” said Noor Hussain, the Pakistan head of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, pointing out that the without state-issued identity cards the community cannot progress.
Thousands of Rohingya families are crammed into the one-room cement brick houses that line the narrow streets of Arakanabad.
Children play amidst knee-high garbage, and crowd around to share slices of jello topped with sugar, or other sweetmeats sold by hawkers.
“The community is living in extremely difficult circumstances, and our youth is being destroyed because they cannot get an education,” said Hussain.
Despite the poverty, the community raised around 1.5 million rupees ($15,000) over the Eid Al-Adha holidays earlier this month to help refugees fleeing Rakhine.
“Our community is not a burden on Pakistan,” Hussain said.
“The government of Pakistan is making millions of dollars by exporting the fish our people catch,” he said, adding that giving citizenship rights to the Rohingya would only benefit the country.

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UN appeals for aid as Myanmar refugee exodus nears 300,000

Sun, 2017-09-10 11:29

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: The United Nations has appealed for aid to deal with a humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Bangladesh after the number of Muslim Rohingya fleeing Myanmar neared 300,000, just two weeks after violence erupted there.
The wave of hungry and traumatized refugees is “showing no signs of stopping,” overwhelming agencies in the Cox’s Bazar region already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous spasms of conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the UN said.
“It is vital that aid agencies working in Cox’s Bazar have the resources they need to provide emergency assistance to incredibly vulnerable people who have been forced to flee their homes and have arrived in Bangladesh with nothing,” the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Robert Watkins said.
He said in a statement late on Saturday that agencies urgently needed $77 million to cope with an emergency that was triggered when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base on Aug. 25, prompting a military counter-offensive.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgent group declared a month-long unilateral cease-fire, starting on Sunday, to enable aid groups bring humanitarian aid to those still in the northwestern state of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The impact of ARSA’s move is unclear, but it does not appear to have been able to put up significant resistance against the military force unleashed in Rakhine state, where thousands of homes have been burned down and dozens of villages destroyed.
Thousands of displaced people in Rakhine have been stranded or left without food for weeks. Many are still trying to cross mountains, dense bush and rice fields to reach Bangladesh.
Red Cross organizations are scaling up their operations in Rakhine after the UN had to suspend activities there following government suggestions that its agency had supported the insurgents. The UN has evacuated non-critical staff from the area over the past two weeks.
In its cease-fire statement, ARSA called on the military to lay down arms and allow humanitarian aid to all affected people.
Myanmar says its security forces are carrying out clearance operations to defend against ARSA, which the government has declared a terrorist organization.
Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.
About a dozen Muslim villages were burned down on Friday and Saturday in the ethnically mixed Rathedaung region of Rakhine, two sources monitoring the situation said.
“Slowly, one after another, villages are being burnt down — I believe that Rohingyas are already wiped out completely from Rathedaung,” said one of the sources, Chris Lewa of the Rohingya monitoring group the Arakan Project.
It was unclear who set fire to the villages, located in a part of northwest Myanmar far from where the insurgents launched their attacks last month. Independent journalists are not allowed into the area.
Three Rohingya were killed by land mines on Saturday as they tried to cross from Myanmar, a Bangladeshi border guard said, and an official with a non-government organization said two more were injured on Sunday.
In Cox’s Bazar, a Reuters reporter saw about 40 Rohingya, mainly women and children, arriving early on Sunday after a four-day trek and then a border crossing by fishing boat.
“The sea was very rough but we made it here somehow,” said 25-year-old Rashidullah, one of the group that was looking for temporary shelter on the beach in an area where there is no room left in refugee camps.
The International Crisis Group said in a report that the strife in Rakhine is causing more than a humanitarian crisis.
“It is also driving up the risks that the country’s five-year-old transition from military rule will stumble, that Rohingya communities will be radicalized, and that regional stability will be weakened,” it said.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under international pressure to halt the violence. Critics complain that Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel peace prize in 1991 for championing democracy, has failed to speak out for a minority of her country that has long complained of persecution.

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