Rohingya militants declare one-month cease-fire: Twitter statement

Sun, 2017-09-10 05:45

YYANGON: Rohingya militants, whose August 25 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 one-month cease-fire.
“The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) hereby declares a temporary cessation of offensive military operations,” it said in a statement on its Twitter handle @ARSA_Official, adding it was to allow for humanitarian aid to reach the battered region.

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N.Korea’s Kim Jong Un fetes nuclear scientists, holds celebration bash

Sun, 2017-09-10 04:30

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hosted a massive celebration to congratulate his nuclear scientists and technicians who steered the country’s sixth and largest nuclear test a week ago, its official news agency said on Sunday.
South Korea had been bracing for another long-range missile launch in time for the 69th anniversary of North Korea’s founding on Saturday, but no fresh provocations were spotted while the North held numerous events to mark the holiday.
Throughout last week, South Korean officials had warned the North could launch another intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of UN sanctions and amid an escalating standoff with the United States.
Washington told the UN Security Council on Friday to call on a meeting on Monday to vote on a draft resolution establishing additional sanctions on North Korea for its missile and nuclear program.
To laud the nuclear scientists and other top military and party officials who contributed to the nuclear bomb test last Sunday, Kim threw a banquet, KCNA said, topped with an art performance and a photo session with the leader himself.
KCNA did not specify when the banquet had been held, but analysts said it had likely been on Saturday.
Photos released on Sunday by KCNA showed the young leader breaking into a broad smile at the People’s Theatre with two prominent scientists: Ri Hong Sop, head of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Institute, and Hong Sung Mu, deputy director of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s munitions industry department.
Ri and Hong have played vital roles in the North’s nuclear program, appearing at close distance to Kim during field inspections and weapons tests, including the latest nuclear test. Ri is a former director of Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, North Korea’s main nuclear facility north of Pyongyang, where Hong also worked as a chief engineer.
North Korea had said the latest test was an advanced hydrogen bomb. There was no independent confirmation but some Western experts said there was enough strong evidence to suggest the reclusive state has either developed a hydrogen bomb or was getting very close.
KCNA said on Sunday the scientists and technicians “brought the great auspicious event of the national history, an extra-large event through the perfect success in the test of H-bomb.”
Kim praised the developers in his own remarks as “taking the lead” in attaining the “final goal of completing the state nuclear force” in line with his parallel pursuit of nuclear and economic development.
“The recent test of the H-bomb is the great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period,” Kim was quoted as saying.
Ri and Hong’s roles have also been noted overseas, prompting the United Nations, the United States or South Korea to blacklist them.
Aside from the elite, rank-and-file North Koreans also commemorated the anniversary on Saturday by visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, which houses the embalmed bodies of founding father Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il.
KCNA said servicepersons and civilians, including children, laid floral baskets and bouquets at the statues of the deceased leaders across the country, while enjoying art performances and dancing parties.

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Pakistan: 12 picnickers drown at Karachi beach

The Associated Press
Sat, 2017-09-09 03:00

KARACHI, Pakistan: Pakistani police say at least 12 people, including women and children, have drowned at a beach near the port city of Karachi after being swept away by strong waves in the Arabian sea.
Police official Ijaz Khokhar says initially two people drowned Saturday after enjoying a picnic at the beach and the others died trying to rescue them.
He said rescuers have transported the bodies of the 12 “ill-fated picnickers” to a Karachi hospital.
Mohammad Tahir Iqbal, an official at Pakistan’s largest private Edhi ambulance service, said at least seven of the dead belonged to the same family.
Such incidents have occurred before at Karachi’s beaches where people often disregard warnings from authorities.
Karachi is the capital of Pakistan’s southern Sind province.

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Mexico mourns 66 dead after twin punch of quake, hurricane

The Associated Press
Sat, 2017-09-09 03:00

JUCHITAN, Mexico: Amid the sounds of snare drums, saxophones and sobbing, Mexicans on Saturday began mourning some of the 66 dead after a one-two punch from a monster earthquake and a Gulf coast hurricane.
Hardest hit was Juchitan, a Oaxaca state city where 36 people died when the magnitude 8.1 quake toppled buildings.
Slow-moving slow-moving funeral processions converged on one of Juchitan’s cemeteries from all directions on Saturday sometimes causing temporary gridlock when they encountered each other at intersections.
The cemetery swelled with mourners and noisy serenades for the dead. Pallbearers carried the caskets around rubble the quake had knocked from the simple concrete crypts. Jittery amid continued aftershocks, friends and relatives of the deceased had hushed conversations in the Zapotec language as they stood under umbrellas for shade from the beating sun.
Paulo Cesar Escamilla Matus and his family held a memorial service for his mother, Reynalda Matus Martinez, in the living room of her home, where relatives quietly wept beside her body.
The 64-year-old woman was working the night shift at a neighborhood pharmacy when the quake struck Thursday night, collapsing the building.
“All the weight of the second floor fell on top of her,” said her son, who rushed to the building and found her under rubble. He and neighbors tried to dig her out, but weren’t able to recover her body until the next morning when civil defense workers brought a backhoe that could lift what had trapped her.
Fearful of crime, the pharmacy kept its doors locked, and Escamilla Matus wondered if that had cost his mother the time she needed to escape.
Scenes of mourning were repeated over and over again in Juchitan, where a third of the city’s homes collapsed or were uninhabitable, President Enrique Pena Nieto said late Friday in an interview with the Televisa news network. Part of the city hall collapsed.
The remains of brick walls and clay tile roofs cluttered streets as families dragged mattresses onto sidewalks to spend a second anxious night sleeping outdoors. Some were newly homeless, while others feared further aftershocks could topple their cracked adobe dwellings.
Rescuers searched for survivors with sniffer dogs and used heavy machinery at the main square to pull rubble away from city hall, where a missing police officer was believed to be inside.
The city’s civil defense coordinator, Jose Antonio Marin Lopez, said similar searches had been going on all over the area.
Teams found bodies in the rubble, but the highlight was pulling four people, including two children, alive from the completely collapsed Hotel Del Rio, where one woman died.
“The priority continues to be the people,” Marin said.
Larissa Garcia Ruiz was grateful to escape with only a broken arm when her house collapsed as she and her family slept.
“I only woke up when I heard screaming,” said the 24-year-old cradling her wrapped arm.
Her mother managed to just push the daughters and her blind husband through the back doorway before a massive section of thick wall fell, trapping her. As Larissa tried to help rescue her mother, another piece of rubble fell, breaking her arm. Other relatives and friends finally managed to release the trapped woman.
All around them people yelled for help that night. “Nobody helped us,” her sister Vicenta said. “Everybody got out as best they could.”
In addition to the deaths in Juchitan, nine other people died in Oaxaca, while 19 people were killed by the quake in neighboring states. Two others died in a mudslide in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz after Hurricane Katia hit late Friday.
Pena Nieto said authorities were working to re-establish supplies of water and food and provide medical attention to those who need it. He vowed the government would help rebuild.
Power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people due to the quake, and authorities closed schools in at least 11 states to check them for safety.
The Interior Department reported that 428 homes were destroyed and 1,700 were damaged just in Chiapas, the state closest to the epicenter.
Just one day later, Hurricane Katia hit land north of Tecolutla in Veracruz state, pelting the region with intense rains and maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120) kph.
Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes said two people died in a mudslide related to the storm, and he said some rivers had risen to near flood stage, but there were no reports of major damage.
Veracruz and neighboring Puebla states evacuated more than 4,000 people ahead of the storm’s arrival.
The Hurricane Center said Katia could still bring 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 centimeters) of additional rain 25 to 37 centimeters) to a region with a history of deadly mudslides and flooding.

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Bangladesh urges UN to create safe zones in Rakhine state

Shehab Sumon
Sun, 2017-09-10 03:00

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh has proposed the setting up of safe zones in Myanmar’s Rakhine State to facilitate the return of displaced Rohingya Muslims, said a senior member of the advisory council of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League.
Such zones should be under the supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said Mohammad Zamir, who is also a former ambassador.
“Bangladesh should push the UN to pass a resolution over the suffering of the uprooted Rohingya,” he added.
“America, China, Russia, India and other countries should come forward with a positive mindset in this regard.”
Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s Minister for Disaster and Relief Management Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya on Saturday said the government is planning to allot 2,000 acres of land in Cox’s Bazar “to accommodate the recent influx of Rohingya refugees.”
During a visit to Teknaf Thana refugee camp, he added that the government is doing its best to address the humanitarian crisis facing the refugees.
Khaled Mahmud, a district magistrate in Cox’s Bazar, said the government is preparing a “biometric database of all the Rohingya refugees who’ve entered Bangladesh.”
The fingerprints of all refugees will be collected, and the database will facilitate relief work and humanitarian aid, he added.
Zamir said the registration process should be coordinated with the UNHCR, the IOM and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), “because Myanmar might refuse to accept these people in future” by claiming they did not come from Rakhine.
Meanwhile, Washington has condemned Myanmar for “atrocities” committed by its army and border police against its Rohingya minority. The US Senate demanded that Myanmar allow the entry of UN observers.

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Philippine troops offer Friday prayers at Marawi’s Grand Mosque

Sun, 2017-09-10 03:00

MANILA: Philippine troops on Sept. 8 offered Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque in Marawi, the first time they were held at the mosque since the military liberated it in August from the Daesh-inspired Maute group, which captured it in May.
Marawi City’s police chief, Superintendent Ebra M. Moxsir — who is also an imam — led the Friday prayers, attended by 42 Muslim personnel from the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“We are happy to allow our soldiers and policemen the time to practice their religious activities even as the battle to liberate Marawi from terrorists goes on,” Senior Superintendent Rolando Anduyan, commander of the PNP’s Joint Task Group, said in a statement.
“It is our Muslim brothers’ chance to pray and seek Allah’s guidance especially as the situation grows critical.”
Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said troops are encouraged to attend religious activities “even if we are at war.”
He added: “As much as time allows it, we permit our troops to practice their religious beliefs since it is also where most of them get their strength and motivation from.”
Meanwhile, to help boost soldiers’ morale, members of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) Zamboanga chapter sent them chocolates and letters of support.
“It is so heart-warming to know that these young boys are well aware of the sacrifices our soldiers are making here in Marawi,” said Galvez Jr.
The soldiers also received sacks of rice from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi, expressed his gratitude for the continued support.

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Pakistan’s graft watchdog files corruption references against Sharifs

Sib Kaifee
Sun, 2017-09-10 03:00

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Court on Friday filed three references against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his three children and son-in-law, with a separate charge against incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
Boxes of evidence were reportedly brought under heavy security from the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) satellite offices to its headquarters in Islamabad.
In compliance with a Supreme Court order on July 28, the NAB’s chairman approved the references on Thursday.
“Our legal team is looking into the charges filed,” MP Maiza Hameed of Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) told Arab News. “Looking at the evidence, it’s clear that Sharif’s family is being politically victimized.”
The four references were accepted by the accountability court, “and the matter has been referred for trial,” said NAB spokesperson Nawazish Ali Khan Asim.
Two clauses invoked from the 1999 NAB Ordinance against the Sharifs refer to illegal funding and undeclared gift exchanges carrying a sentence up to 14 years in prison and a freezing of assets. The reference against Dar concerns allegations of living beyond his means.
If declared guilty, the accused would forfeit positions in public office for life, ending their political careers.
The NAB chairman directed that prosecution of the cases be followed up vigorously in the accountability court. A Joint Investigation Team has asked other countries for legal assistance.
A three-member panel of Supreme Court judges is scheduled to start hearings of petitions filed by the Sharifs and Dar on Sept. 12.
Analyst Qamar Cheema, who teaches international politics at the National University of Modern Languages, told Arab News that as prime minister, “Sharif believed in concentration of power and bypassed institutions while making decisions. He ignored Parliament, but whenever he needed legitimacy he rushed back there for that.”
Cheema added: “If institutions remain steadfast, there’s the probability that some members of the Sharif family may end up behind bars.”

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US man pleads guilty to fighting for militants

Sun, 2017-09-10 03:00

WASHINGTON: A US man who joined Somalia’s Al-Shabab insurgents and allegedly attacked Kenyan peacekeepers in Somalia pleaded guilty Friday to supporting a foreign terror group.
Baltimore native Maalik Alim Jones, 32, was accused of joining the rebels in 2011 where he took small arms training and joined attacks by Al-Shabab’s Jaysh Ayman commando unit against African Union troops sent to help stabilize the long-troubled country.
Jones spent four years in the country and appeared together with other Al-Shabab fighters in videos recovered from a cellphone on the body of a Al-Shabab fighter killed in an attack.
Federal prosecutors presented evidence that he had trained in using assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades while with the Al-Shabab militants, an officially designated foreign terrorist organization by the US.
Jones, who according to the Baltimore Sun grew up in the city’s African-American Muslim community, was arrested by Somali authorities in 2015 as he tried to board a boat to Yemen.
He was then repatriated to the United States where he first pleaded not guilty to terror-related charges.
“As he admitted in court today, Maalik Jones traveled to Somalia, was trained by Al-Shabab in the use of an AK-47 and rocket-propelled grenades and took up arms for four years as a terrorist fighter,” said Acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim in a statement.
“For his allegiance to this lawless, terrorist organization that vows to destroy America and its values, Maalik Jones been held to account in an American court of law.”
Maalik faces a range of charges that bring up to life imprisonment, and a minimum of 30 years on firearms-related charges. He will be sentenced on Jan. 25.

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ICRC shocked by driver’s killing in South Sudan

Sat, 2017-09-09 03:00

JOHANNESBURG: The Red Cross said it was shocked by the killing of one of its staffers in South Sudan as dangers to humanitarian workers rise amid the country’s civil war.
A statement on Saturday by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said driver Lukudu Kennedy Laki Emmanuel was shot and killed on Friday by unknown attackers after delivering aid in Western Equatoria.
The Red Cross convoy had been clearly marked and all parties in the conflict had been notified of the organization’s presence, the statement said.
South Sudan has become one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers, and a new UN report says the situation is worsening. That complicates efforts to reach the estimated 6 million South Sudanese, or roughly half the population, said to be severely food insecure.
At least 84 aid workers have been killed since 2013, including at least 17 this year, the UN humanitarian agency says. Most have been local workers.
Hundreds of incidents of aid restrictions have been reported since January, including attacks on humanitarian compounds and the looting of supplies and convoys, a new report by the UN agency said Friday. About 300 aid workers have been relocated since January because of security issues.
Both the government and rebel sides in South Sudan’s civil war have been accused of restricting aid access. The conflict that began in December 2013 has killed tens of thousands and sent about 2 million people fleeing the country.

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Nigerian president urges calm after herdsmen kill 19 in central Plateau state

Reuters, AFP
Sat, 2017-09-09 13:31

ABUJA: Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari appealed for calm and an end to communal violence on Saturday after police said armed herdsmen killed 19 people in the central state of Plateau.
Local police said Fulani herdsmen attacked Ancha village, in the Bassa local government area of Plateau state, in the early hours of Friday. They said it was thought to be a reprisal attack after a boy from the herding community was killed.
Police provided details of the attack, in which five people were injured, late on Friday.
Fighting between semi-nomadic cattle herders and more settled communities over land use claims hundreds of lives a year in Nigeria’s central and northern states.
“I urge all our communities in the state and the other parts of the country to embrace peace and bring to a stop these painful and unnecessary killings,” said Buhari, in an e-mailed statement.
He said communities and security agencies in Plateau had taken steps to “pull the state back from the brink of anarchy and senseless killings,” adding that it would be “a painful loss to allow these unsavoury acts to return.”
The violence is another security challenge for Buhari in addition to the eight-year Boko Haram nsurgency in the northeast and attempts to maintain a fragile cease-fire in the southern Niger Delta energy hub where militant attacks on oil facilities last year cut crude production by more than a third.
Also on Saturday, militia members and residents said at least seven people were killed when Boko Haram terrorists attacked a camp for people displaced by the conflict in northeast Nigeria.
The attack on Friday evening in Ngala, near the border with Cameroon, came as two people were killed in an explosion outside another camp in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
In Ngala, a civilian militia member, Umar Kachalla, said terrorists in two pick-up trucks fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the camp, which houses some 80,000 people.
“They (Boko Haram) fired an RPG into the camp from behind the fire fence, killing seven people and injuring several others,” he told AFP from the neighboring town of Gamboru.
The attack, which happened at about 8 p.m. (19:00 GMT), was followed by sustained gunfire as the jihadists drove away into the darkness, he added.
Ngala resident Abubakar Yusuf, who corroborated Kachalla’s account, said: “The casualties were relatively minimal because most people had retired for the night.”
The camp in Ngala was set up in January last year after the return of thousands of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon, where they had fled the fighting.
Boko Haram seized the trading hubs of Gamboru and Ngala in August 2014, during the group’s rapid seizure of territory across Borno state and the wider northeast.
Nigerian troops retook both towns in September 2015 with the help of Chadian forces.
But despite the recapture of the area, Boko Haram fighters still launch sporadic attacks, laying ambush to troops and vehicles as well as attacking and abducting farmers.
Nigeria’s military and government maintains the Daesh affiliate is a spent force but continued attacks underlines the lingering threat, particularly to civilians.
Eight farmers were killed in a series of raids on farming communities on Wednesday and Thursday. Four others were shot dead on Tuesday.
Many of the victims had returned home to try to grow crops to alleviate acute food shortages that have left hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of starvation.
Amnesty International said a spurt in Boko Haram attacks has left nearly 400 people dead since April in Nigeria and Cameroon — double the figure of the previous five months.
In Maiduguri on Friday, two people were killed in an explosion outside the Muna Garage camp for internally displaced people (IDPs).
Babakura Kolo, from the civilian militia assisting the military with security, said two women were asked to get out of a taxi laden with bags of charcoal at a checkpoint.
“One of the women tried to run into a crowd nearby but the explosives concealed under her hijab went off prematurely,” he said.
“A female passenger in the taxi and a rickshaw driver trailing behind were killed in the explosion,” he said in an account supported by a militia colleague, Musa Ari.
Five people — the taxi driver, another passenger and three men in the rickshaw — were injured, they added.
Kolo, who was at the scene, said a second female suicide bomber was also killed with the first in the initial blast.

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