French foreign minister: Troops to leave Mali soon

Updated 30 January 2013
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French foreign minister: Troops to leave Mali soon

SEVARE, Mali: France’s foreign minister said Wednesday that French forces would depart Mali “quickly” following their success in taking control of the airport in Kidal, a key position in the last remaining urban stronghold of Islamist extremists in northern Mali.
French and Malian troops have recaptured two of the other provincial capitals, Timbuktu and Gao, in recent days. Once France, with its thousands of troops, fighter planes and helicopters, leaves, Mali’s weak army and soldiers from neighboring countries Islamists might be hard-pressed to retain control of northern Mali’s cities if the Islamists attempt a comeback from their desert hideouts.
“Now it’s up to African countries to take over,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Parisien newspaper. “We decided to put the means — in men and supplies — to make the mission succeed and hit hard. But the French aspect was never expected to be maintained. We will leave quickly.”
Haminy Maiga, the interim president of the Kidal regional assembly, said French forces met no resistance when they arrived late Tuesday.
“The French arrived at 9:30 p.m. aboard four planes, which landed one after another. Afterwards they took the airport and then entered the town, and there was no combat,” said Maiga, who had been in touch with people in the town by satellite phone as all the normal phone networks were down.
“The French are patrolling the town and two helicopters are patrolling overhead,” he added.
In Paris, French army Col. Thierry Burkhard confirmed that the airport was taken overnight and described the operation in Kidal itself as “ongoing.”
On Tuesday, a secular Tuareg rebel group had asserted that they were in control of Kidal and other small towns in northern Mali. Maiga said those fighters had left Kidal and were at the entry posts on the roads from Gao and Tessalit.
France, the former colonial ruler, began sending in troops, helicopters and warplanes on Jan. 11 to turn the tide after the armed Islamists began encroaching on the south, toward the capital. French and Malian troops seized Gao during the weekend and took Timbuktu on Monday. The Islamists gave up both cities and retreated into the surrounding desert.
In Gao’s main market, women returned to work on Wednesday without the black veils required by the Islamists. They wore vibrant patterned fabrics and sported makeup.
While most crowds in the freed cities have been joyful, months of resentment toward the Islamists bubbled into violence in Gao.
Video footage filmed by an amateur cameraman and obtained by The Associated Press shows a mob attacking the symbol of the extremists’ rule, the Islamic police headquarters.
Some celebrate cheering “I am Malian,” while others armed with sticks and machetes attack suspected members of the Islamist regime. The graphic images shot Saturday show the mob as they mutilate the corpses of two young suspected jihadists lying dead in the street.
Gao’s mayor and governor met Wednesday with community elders in an attempt to bring a halt to the vigilante attacks.
There are 3,500 French troops involved in the operation and 2,900 Africans, according to the latest figures from the French Defense Ministry.
Mali’s military was severely affected by a military coup last year coup and has a reputation for disorganization and bad discipline. Malian soldiers have been accused of fatally shooting civilians suspected of links to the Islamists. The military has promised to investigate the allegations.


Mother of ‘nut rage’ Korean Air heiress questioned

Updated 4 min 8 sec ago
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Mother of ‘nut rage’ Korean Air heiress questioned

SEOUL: The scandal engulfing the Korean Air dynasty widened Monday as 69-year-old matriarch Lee Myung-hee faced police questioning over allegations she assaulted employees including household staff and construction workers renovating her home.
Lee’s two daughters, who held management positions at South Korea’s top carrier, became viral sensations for their own temper tantrums which were dubbed the “nut rage” and “water rage” scandals online.
“I am sorry for causing trouble,” a bespectacled Lee said with her head lowered as she walked past throngs of journalists before entering a Seoul police office.
Lee is accused of assaulting drivers and housekeepers from her personal staff as well as construction workers renovating her home and building a Korean Air-affiliated hotel.
The alleged abuses range from cursing and screaming at employees to kicking, slapping and even throwing a pair of scissors at them.
A video that emerged last month showed a woman, reportedly Lee, shoving a female construction worker and throwing a pile of documents on the ground.
Only last week, Lee’s daughter Cho Hyun-ah was summoned before immigration authorities over allegations she hired 10 Filipino maids to work at her family home on false pretenses, by claiming they were working for Korean Air.
It is illegal in South Korea to hire foreigners as domestic helpers.
Cho Hyun-ah made global headlines in 2014 for kicking a cabin crew chief off a Korean Air plane in a fury over being served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than a bowl. She later served a short prison sentence.
Earlier this year, her younger sister Cho Hyun-min was accused of throwing a drink at an advertising agency manager’s face in a fit of rage during a business meeting.
Authorities have since launched a flurry of official probes into the family’s reported abuse of workers, as well as smuggling and immigration law violations.
Their father, Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, issued a public apology over the “immature” behavior of his offspring and removed his two daughters from their management roles.
But that has done little to placate employees. Hundreds of Korean Air workers have held weekly protests in Seoul demanding the ouster of the Cho clan from the country’s flag carrier — a rare act of defiance in the country that prizes loyalty among workers.
The current chairman’s late father founded the Hanjin Group — the South’s 14th-largest business group that runs logistics, transport and hotels businesses as well as Korean Air.