BAMAKO, Mali: Former rebels are holding child prisoners in their stronghold city of Kidal following clashes with a rival armed group in northern Mali, the UN said Thursday.
Fighting between the ex-rebels of the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) and the pro-government Platform group has worsened in recent weeks in northern Mali, in repeated violation of a 2015 cease-fire.
The CMA said in late July it was holding dozens of prisoners in Kidal, a city it controls, after dismantling a base of the GATIA militia — part of Platform — and killing several of its fighters.
But Guillaume Ngefa, director of the human rights division of the UN mission to Mali, said Thursday that eight of those being held were children and possibly child soldiers.
And he detailed what he said human rights abuses perpetuated by both sides.
“We were able to establish that the armed groups had minors in their ranks,” Ngefa said in a statement.
“What is extremely concerning is that among the 33 people currently held prisoner by the CMA in Kidal, eight are children.”
UN investigators had carried out seven different missions to the north and discovered evidence of mass graves and rampant rights abuses, he added.
These included “summary executions, kidnappings and torture, destruction of property and theft,” he said, elaborating on Saturday’s statement of the discovery of the mass graves.
The number of bodies and the cause of death of those buried remain unknown.
Ngefa also raised the possibility of compensation for the victims of the abuses. The UN would support families wishing to lodge legal cases against the perpetrators, while continuing to investigate 33 outstanding complaints, he said.
The US State Department said on July 31 it was “greatly disturbed at reports of reprisal killings of civilians and the discovery of unmarked grave sites…”
BAMAKO, Mali: Former rebels are holding child prisoners in their stronghold city of Kidal following clashes with a rival armed group in northern Mali, the UN said Thursday.
LONDON: British authorities have convicted more than a dozen sex offenders in a northern English city, but children’s advocates expressed outrage that police paid a convicted rapist to infiltrate specially organized parties where young women and girls as young as 15 were plied with drugs and alcohol before being abused.
The revelations came after 17 men and one woman were convicted of or admitted to charges including rape, supplying drugs and inciting prostitution following a series of trials at Newcastle Crown Court. Reporting restrictions imposed by the court prevented details of the cases from emerging until now.
Chief Constable Steve Ashman of Northumbria Police described exploitation as the challenge of this generation and defended the decision to hire the informant, known only as XY. Because of the evidence provided by XY, those convicted in this case will spend lengthy terms in prison, Ashman said, adding that strong punishments were needed to deal with “vile” individuals who target vulnerable people.
“He was a convicted rapist and to some of us the thought of the police engaging with such a person and paying them for information may appear repugnant,” he said. “However, he proved he was in a position whereby he could, and did, alert police to situations which allowed them to prevent offending and provide safeguarding measures toward potential victims.”
The use of such informants is always overseen by a senior police officer and is subject to independent review, he said.
But child rights advocates said that regardless of police officers’ good intentions, their “misguided actions” violated accepted child protection procedures and could have jeopardized the investigation of these abusers. The victims in this case ranged in age from 15 to their early 20s, according to prosecutors.
“We are appalled to learn that police paid a child rapist and planted him in the midst of vulnerable young girls,” said Jon Brown of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. “You just couldn’t make it up.”
The informant’s role was revealed when defense attorneys challenged some prosecution evidence. XY told the court he had to go along with what was happening so he could continue to gather evidence.
“I was chilling with the boys,” he said during an abuse of process hearing. “I had to make it look like I was their friend.”
MONTREAL: Canada has deployed soldiers to erect tents near the US border to temporarily house hundreds of asylum seekers crossing from New York state, officials said on Wednesday, an influx of mostly Haitians prompted by fear of deportation by the US government.
Around 250 asylum seekers are arriving each day in Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s mainly French-speaking Quebec province. Quebec has opened its Olympic Stadium, a former hospital and a school among other places to house people.
Heated tents will accommodate up to 500 people as Canadian border officials process mainly Haitians walking into Canada from the United States.
Nearly 100 soldiers will be in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, across the border from Champlain, New York, to set up the tents and add to temporary facilities already organized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency.
The Canadian Armed Forces were aware of the difficult situation that requires significant resources, said Daniel Le Bouthillier, a spokesman at the Department of National Defense.
The military would have no role in security matters, Le Bouthillier said in e-mailed statement. “When the site is completed, the military will return to their home base.”
Hundreds of Haitians have crossed into Quebec in recent weeks, spurred partly by false accounts of asylum seekers being able to immediately obtain residency after entering Canada.
“There is an enormous amount of fake information circulating saying that it is easy to come to Canada,” said Marjorie Villefranche, general manager of Maison d’Haiti, a Montreal community center that assists Haitian immigrants.
“They are hearing that Canada doesn’t deport people.”
The Canadian immigration ministry, on its Facebook page on Aug. 5, discouraged illegal entries and noted that messages posted elsewhere online suggesting that Canada is inviting people to seek refugee status were wrong.
Canadian authorities accepted 50.5 percent of the 410 refugee claims by Haitians heard in 2016, government data showed.
Like the United States, Canada had a deportation ban on Haitians after a 2010 earthquake. More than 50,000 people affected by Haiti’s earthquake have been allowed to remain in the United States under “temporary protected status” according to the US Department of Homeland Security.
This year, the department extended their status through next January, but officials said in May that people covered under that status should begin acquiring travel documents to return to Haiti.
Canada’s deportation ban, which was enacted after a 2004 coup and extended after the earthquake, expired in August 2016. Many Haitians who had been living in Canada for years have since raced to get permanent residency on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
In the first half of 2017, more than 4,300 asylum seekers walked across the US border into Canada. Even before the flow of Haitian asylum seekers Canada was on track to have the most refugee claims in almost a decade.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has taken a tougher stance on immigration with plans to cut legal immigration by 50 percent over 10 years.
WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday warned North Korea that the pursuit of its nuclear drive could lead to the collapse of Kim Jong-Un’s regime, as President Donald Trump brandished America’s nuclear might as a powerful deterrent.
The further escalation in Washington’s war of words with Pyongyang came a day after Trump stunned the world with a bold-faced message to Kim, saying his country faced “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
Trump’s comments triggered expressions of concern from China and from US allies, and stock markets and the dollar slipped as investors seek safe-haven investments.
Early Thursday North Korea reacted by saying Trump was not a reasonable man. It also elaborated on a threat to attack the tiny US Pacific territory of Guam.
“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” the official KCNA news service quoted General Kim Rak Gyom of the Korean People’s Army as saying.
The statement said the army would complete by mid-August a plan for the Guam attack, which would involve four rockets flying over Japan, and submit it to Kim Jong-Un for consideration as a “crucial warning to the US.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has often emphasized the devastating costs any conflict with North Korea could have, delivered a statement underscoring his boss’s language.
Mattis said North Korea must stop isolating itself and “stand down” in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and Pyongyang “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
The Pentagon chief also said North Korea’s nascent missile capabilities were “grossly overmatched” by those of the US, and that Pyongyang would lose in any arms race or conflict.
Trump earlier boasted on Twitter that America’s nuclear arsenal was “far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” after North Korea said it was considering a missile strike near the tiny US Pacific territory of Guam.
“Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” Trump tweeted.
Amid reports that Trump’s comments had taken his inner circle by surprise, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the National Security Council and other officials knew the “president was going to respond… with a strong message in no uncertain terms.”
Still, Trump’s tone was at odds with that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said he did not believe “there is any imminent threat” to Guam or other US targets, and expressed hope that diplomatic pressure would prevail in the crisis.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert the Trump administration was all on “the same page.”
“The president is sending a strong message to North Korea in the kind of language that North Korea understands,” she said.
Trump’s language has become increasingly hard-edged since Pyongyang carried out a pair of successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests (ICBM) in July, which put the US mainland in range for the first time.
Pyongyang’s KCNA state news agency reported Wednesday that plans were being drawn up for missile strikes against Guam that could be put into action at “any moment” after Kim gave the order.
Tillerson, who refueled in Guam while flying home from Southeast Asia, said Trump was determined to send an unequivocal message to Kim.
“Because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” he said.
The island’s governor Eddie Calvo reassured residents there was currently no threat to the territory, which has a total population of more than 160,000 and houses two US military installations.
In the capital Hagatna, islanders kept their cool.
“It’s not like there’s anything we can do anyway. This is a small island. There’s nowhere to run to,” resident James Cruz said AFP.
Joseph DeTrani, a former special envoy for stalled “six-party” talks aimed at reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear program, told AFP it was vital to get back to the negotiating table.
“The possibility of miscalculation or stumbling into something that would be catastrophic is real,” he told AFP.
Experts have long differed over the North’s exact capabilities but all agree it has made rapid progress under Kim.
Last month, Pyongyang carried out its first two successful ICBM launches, the first — described by Kim as a gift to “American bastards” — showing it could reach Alaska, and the second extending its range even further, with some experts suggesting New York could be vulnerable.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that intelligence officials think North Korea now has “nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery” — including by its ICBMs.
Bu the North’s current ability to launch an accurate nuclear strike remains open to question, with analysts suggesting it has yet to overcome major technical hurdles.
US officials have repeatedly said military action was an “option on the table,” though Tillerson said nothing had “dramatically changed” in the military equation.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a series of sanctions over the weekend which could cost North Korea $1 billion a year, with even the regime’s main ally China voting for the US-drafted proposal.
LONDON: French police shot and arrested a man following a car chase in the north of the country after an attack on soldiers in a Paris suburb.
A car rammed into a group of soldiers in the northwestern suburb of Levallois-Perret on Wednesday morning, injuring six before speeding off. The area is home to France’s main intelligence service.
Armed police from elite units tracked the man for five hours after the attack before cornering him on a motorway in northern France and shooting him several times.
The suspect was unarmed when he was trapped by police some 260 km north of the capital. One policeman was injured by a stray bullet in the operation.
The daily newspaper Le Parisien named the suspect as 37-year-old Hamou B., originally from Satrouville west of Paris and said that searches had been carried out at his home and those of his associates. The Paris prosecutor’s office declined to comment.
Authorities said it bore the hallmarks of a terror attack. The driver appeared to have waited for the soldiers in the the affluent area where France’s domestic counter-terrorism agency is located.
Several dozen troops from Operation Sentinel, launched in the wake of Islamist attacks in Paris in early 2015, are based there.
France’s Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said the attack was proof there remained an active threat and that the 7,000-strong Sentinel force “was more necessary than ever”.
Three soldiers had minor injuries, Parly said, while three others were more gravely hurt but not as seriously as previously thought.
Patrick Balkany, mayor of Levallois-Perret, told broadcaster BFM TV that it was a “disgusting” act of aggression that was “without any doubt” premeditated. “It all happened very quickly,” he said. “It hurtled at them.”
Jean-Claude Veillant, resident of an apartment building directly above the scene, witnessed part of the attack.
“I heard a loud noise, the sound of scraping metal. Shortly after, I saw one of the badly wounded lying in front of the Vigipirate (army patrol) vehicle and another one behind it receiving treatment,” he told reporters.
More than 230 people have been killed in terror attacks in France, including one attack on Paris and another on the Riviera city of Nice, over the past two years with the capital on maximum alert.
Speaking to Arab News, Raffaello Pantucci, the director for International Security Studies at the Institute for Defense and Security Studies, said there was a myriad of things France could do to prevent these supposed ‘lone wolf’ attacks, but that it would always be tough when faced with a determined attacker.
“Although it’s too soon to talk specifically about this attack, most of the time it’s not a lone wolf, you find the attacker has links to people and there are connections to people who will likely have been investigated in the past,” Pantucci told Arab News.
“So agencies will often have a lot of information in front of them and it’s about linking that information and understanding it.”
With the recent attacks being low tech, where the attackers used everyday items such as knives and cars, Pantucci said among the practical things government and security forces could do was issue more knife vests and erect more bollards in towns and cities.
However longer term solutions are more challenging.
“Radicalism differs from person to person so you have to try combat it at the micro level,” Pantucci added.
“You have to look at specific suburbs to find out the reasons for radicalization — it could be a poor school, a particular preacher, higher levels of deprivation et cetera. You have to focus on those issues and then you might see a change at the macro level.”
More worryingly he claimed the more attacks there are, the more others may be inspired to emulate them.
“France has been a major target for a while now. It has a big radicalized community and its relationship to the battlefield in Syria seems to be different from other countries’.
“Also there have been successful big attacks there before and that has an inspiring effect on those looking to commit these atrocities.”
KABUL: Afghan men are known for not weeping in public during crises, but the carnage inflicted by suspected Daesh sympathizers in a remote valley in northern Sari Pul was beyond their ability.
After four days of captivity, more than 230 villagers — taken hostage during an attack on Mirza Oleng village — were freed late Tuesday. Elderly men were among those freed, who were largely made up of women and children.
Their reunion with their next of kin on Wednesday was full of grief, yelling and crying. Shocked and exhausted, they were initially unable to speak before television crews interviewed them.
“I saw victims with their intestines out, skull blown… Ten or 15 bodies were thrown in one grave,” survivor Sayed Ismail, seemingly in his early 60s, said while tears fell from his eyes.
Another man said the insurgents had taken his 16-year-old son from home, and he has not heard about him since.
Holding her little child, Adela, a burqa-clad woman, said her husband was among the more than 50 people killed.
“My husband was buried alive, and he could not escape because he wanted to protect my children,” Tolo TV quoted her as saying.
Provincial officials said the victims were mostly Shiite, and the assailants, who began their attack by targeting security forces, abducted villagers from wherever they could.
Officials said some victims were beheaded, some had their bodies pierced and others were thrown off a cliff.
The Taliban confirmed attacking and killing government forces, but deny involvement in the civilian carnage.
The attack is part of a series of others against Shiites in the past year in Afghanistan. Daesh, which includes some disaffected Taliban members, has claimed responsibility for attacks against Shiite places of worship.
Embattled President Ashraf Ghani, whose government is deeply divided and facing growing public anger over rising insecurity, condemned the attack in Sari Pul.
Government officials said it was part of an effort to spark sectarian violence in Afghanistan, where tensions appear higher than at any time since the US-led invasion more than 16 years ago.
Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (TSE:RBA) (NYSE:RBA), the world’s largest industrial auctioneer, released its first earnings announcement yesterday after its May 2017 acquisition of IronPlanet for USD 750m. The reported EPS of USD 0.33 and USD 166.19m revenue handily beat the consensus estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, which called for adjusted EPS of $0.31 on […]
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NAIROBI: Four people were killed Wednesday in election-related violence in Kenya, where the opposition claimed massive rigging in a vote that President Uhuru Kenyatta looked certain to win.
The east African nation, keenly aware of post-poll violence a decade ago that left 1,100 dead, was on a knife-edge after a day of isolated protests in opposition strongholds.
The unrest broke out after opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed massive fraud as Kenyatta surged ahead in provisional results, with 54 percent compared to his 44.7 percent. Results from over 96 percent of polling stations were in.
Two protesters were shot dead in the flashpoint slum of Mathare in Nairobi, where police also fired tear gas at crowds who burned tires and blocked roads throughout the day.
An AFP photographer saw one of the victims, a young man with a massive gunshot wound to the head.
Japheth Koome, police chief for Nairobi, said the two who were killed had tried to “attack our officers with pangas (machetes) and that’s when the officers opened fire on them.”
In the southeastern Tana River region, police said five men armed with knives had attacked a vote tallying station and stabbed one person.
“Our officers killed two of them and we are looking for others who escaped,” said regional police chief Larry Kieng.
“We have not established the motive yet, we don’t know if it is political or if it’s a criminal incident but we are investigating and action will be taken.”
The region is prone to attacks by Al-Qaeda linked Shabab militants.
Decrying a “sham” tallying process, Odinga detailed accusations of a major hacking attack on the electronic voting system, saying hackers had gained entry using the identity of top IT official Chris Msando, who was found tortured and murdered late last month.
“This is an attack on our democracy. The 2017 general election was a fraud,” said Odinga, claiming detailed evidence of the hackers’ movements.
The 72-year-old, who is making his fourth bid for the presidency as the flagbearer for the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, accused his rivals of stealing victory from him through rigging in 2007 and in 2013.
“You can only cheat a people for so long,” he said.
Election commission (IEBC) chief Ezra Chiloba denied that the crucial electronic system — seen as key to avoiding fraud — had been compromised.
“Our team has reviewed the system and established that the claims cannot be substantiated,” he told a press conference.
“Our election management system is secure. There was no external or internal interference to the system at any point before, during or after the voting.”
Odinga’s claims led to isolated protests in his stronghold in the western city of Kisumu as well as in slums in Nairobi.
“If Raila is not president, we can’t have peace,” one Kisumu protester told AFP.
Resident Geoffery Omondi, 22 shook his head as protesters lit a new fire nearby. “It is very painful to watch. The problem is the IEBC who did not announce results well.”
In Nairobi, the normally traffic-choked streets were deserted.
Calls for calm
Aside from the alleged hacking, the opposition’s main complaint was that results streaming in electronically had yet to be backed up by a scanned copy of the results from constituencies.
Chiloba assured that these forms were coming in and that candidates’ teams were being given access to them. The IEBC has insisted the results on its public website should not be considered final until they have been cross-checked.
Raphael Tuju, secretary-general of Kenyatta’s Jubilee party, urged the opposition to “look at the figures soberly” and accept the results.
Odinga urged his supporters to “remain calm as we look deep into this matter.”
But he added: “I don’t control the people.”
The heads of nine international observer missions released a joint statement calling on parties and their supporters to remain calm, and turn to the courts with their grievances.
“We appeal to all citizens of Kenya to remain committed to peace and the integrity of the electoral process,” read the statement.
The contest between Odinga and Kenyatta was seen by pollsters as too close to call ahead of the vote.
It is the second time the two men have faced off in a presidential election, a dynastic rivalry that has lasted more than half a century since their fathers Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga went from allies in the struggle for independence to bitter rivals.
Kenyatta, 55, is credited with overseeing steady economic growth of more than five percent. But food prices have soared under his watch, and several major corruption scandals broke out in his first term.
PARIS: The French Parliament was expected Wednesday to fulfill a top campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron, approving legislation to prevent MPs and ministers from hiring family members.
The ethics law is aimed at restoring public trust in elected officials after a series of scandals in which French MPs and ministers have allegedly paid family members for fake jobs.
“Practices… that were probably tolerated, maybe accepted for some time, are no longer accepted today,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told French radio on Wednesday.
A fake jobs scandal torpedoed the presidential bid of conservative candidate Francois Fillon. He was the odds-on favorite in the race until revelations at the end of January that he had employed his wife as an assistant.
But his poll standings plunged as he struggled to convince voters that his Welsh-born wife Penelope and their children had worked to justify their pre-tax income of around €900,000 ($1 million) over 15 years.
The Republicans party nominee was charged with misusing public money in March, just weeks before crashing out of the first round of the presidential election. He denies any wrongdoing.
The passage of the ethics bill will be a welcome achievement for the 39-year-old Macron, who has seen his approval ratings plummet after less than three months in office.
One survey published last week showed just 36 percent of respondents held a positive view of the centrist, who shot to power promising to overcome France’s entrenched right-left divide.
He has since come under fire for his labor reform program, budget and public spending cuts as well as a plan to create an official first lady position for his 64-year-old wife Brigitte.
Proposed defense cuts — part of a plan to trim €4.5 billion ($5.3 billion) to bring France’s budget deficit within EU limits — led to a public spat last month with the head of the French armed forces, Gen. Pierre de Villiers.
Macron rebuked the general after he had complained about the impact of cuts at a time the army was in action in the Middle East and west Africa as well as at home. De Villiers resigned a few days later.
The young president faces more turbulence in September, with some union leaders calling for demonstrations against labor reforms at the center of Macron’s election manifesto.
Parliament last week adopted a bill allowing the government to fast-track changes to the labor code to give employers more power to negotiate working conditions directly with workers.
The hard-line CGT union has called for countrywide strikes and protests on Sept. 12.
Macron has reconsidered plans to give his wife an official status, which he had promised on the campaign trail, backing down in the face of attacks from the left and a petition against the move.
His critics saw a double standard in him pursuing this plan while pushing through legislation to stop deputies hiring their own relatives.
A “fake jobs” scandal struck close to home in June, when Macron’s Justice Minister Francois Bayrou stepped aside to fight allegations that his small MoDem party misused European Parliament funds.
Bayrou had been tasked with crafting the ethics law — measures he himself advocated.
Two other MoDem Cabinet members — then Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard and European Affairs Minister Marielle de Sarnez — also quit over the accusations that MoDem had misused the European Parliament funds to pay assistants actually based in France.
The same practice has embroiled several other MEPs, the most high-profile case involving far-right leader Marine Le Pen, Macron’s presidential rival.
Under the new law, hiring a spouse, partner, parents or children will be punishable by three years in prison and a fine of €45,000 ($53,000), with in some cases an order to refund the sums paid out.
JAKARTA: Indonesia and Russia pledged Wednesday to strengthen cooperation in cyber-security and counter-terrorism as concern grows about the spread of radicalism in Southeast Asia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is on a two-day visit to Indonesia, said the two countries would work together more closely to counter the spread of Daesh ideology.
“The threat that the ISIL (Daesh) is has not vanished. Its members have been spreading all over the world, including areas close to the Russian and Indonesian borders,” Lavrov said, using another acronym for the group.
Hundreds of radicals from Indonesia have flocked abroad to fight with Daesh, and the country has seen a surge in plots and attacks linked to the militants over the past year.
Indonesian officials have also said dozens of Indonesians have traveled to the southern Philippine city of Marawi to fight with militants loyal to Daesh.
The militants seized parts of the city over two months ago and have resisted all attempts by the Philippine army to evict them.
“We have agreed that our special services will pay particular attention to increasing coordination in our joint efforts to fight this scourge,” Lavrov said.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the two countries had strong ties on political and defense issues, and Indonesia wanted to deepen trade ties.
The ministers also discussed tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea and conflict in the Middle East, but gave no details.