French hostage executed: Somali rebels

Updated 18 January 2013
0

French hostage executed: Somali rebels

MOGADISHU: Somali militants linked to Al-Qaeda said yesterday they had executed a French agent who French commandos had tried but failed to rescue at the weekend.
Al-Shabab rebels have said the death sentence imposed on Denis Allex was to avenge what it called France’s growing persecution of Muslims and its military operations around the world against militants, including in Mali.
“Let us enjoy his execution and the French cry,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabab’s spokesman for military operations, told Reuters by telephone.
The militants said Allex, held hostage since mid 2009, had been killed at 16:30 GMT on Wednesday.
France’s line has been that Allex was killed in Saturday’s failed rescue mission when helicopter-borne French troops swooped into southern Somalia under the cover of darkness.
The raid, in which two French commandos were killed, coincided with the launch of French air strikes against rebels in Mali in West Africa.
The Paris government had been concerned the lives of various French hostages held in Africa would be at risk if it intervened militarily against the Al-Qaeda-aligned combatants in Mali, but said on Saturday the two military operations were not connected.
Al-Shabab’s decision to kill Allex had been unanimous, it said on Wednesday, in light of France’s military operations in Afghanistan and Mali and support for “African invaders in Muslim lands”.
Troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia are battling Al-Shabab on several fronts in Somalia and have forced the rebels to give up significant territory in southern and central areas of the Horn of Africa country.
The militants merged with Al-Qaeda in February last year, launched their campaign against the government in early 2007.
Allex was one of two officers from the DGSE intelligence agency kidnapped by Al-Shabab in Mogadishu in July 2009. His colleague, Marc Aubriere, escaped a month later but Allex had been held ever since.
After Allex’s abduction, Al-Shabab issued a string of demands. These included an end to French support for the Somali government and a withdrawal of the 17,600-strong African peacekeeping force propping up the UN-backed administration.
In October, the militants uploaded a video of Allex pleading with French President Francois Hollande to negotiate his release and save his life.
There was no immediate comment from France after Al-Shabab’s statement it had carried out the execution.
Hollande said on Wednesday he took responsibility for the failed rescue of Allex. He said, however, he stood by the operation because it sent out a message France could not accept its nationals being taken hostage.


Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

Updated 5 min 29 sec ago
0

Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

  • Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014 coup
  • The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis

BANGKOK: Anti-government protesters began marching in Bangkok on Tuesday from a university in the Thai capital to Government House to demand that the military government hold a general election by November.
Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014, coup and have warned protesters not to defy a junta ban on public gatherings.
Police set up barriers along some roads near the university and carried out security checks on Tuesday.
More than 100 demonstrators walked in a line behind a truck with loudspeakers as police looked on, according to Reuters reporters at the scene.
One of the protest organizers, Sirawith Seritiwat, also known as Ja New, said protesters planned to march peacefully.
“I hope they will let us walk out. We have no intention to prolong today’s activities. I think they will try to stop us ... we will not use violence,” Sirawith said.
Police said around 200 protesters had gathered.
“Authorities will use the law 100 percent. If they walk out we will use the law immediately. We have put forces all around Government House ... if they come in to these areas there will be a prison sentence of up to 6 months,” deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul told reporters.
“Police have no weapons. They are carrying only batons,” he said.
Activists complained of a military crackdown ahead of the gathering.
On Monday, Sunai Phasuk, Thai researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, said two activists had been held incommunicado at a secret detention center.
“Their alleged ‘crime’ is providing loud speakers for anti-junta rally,” Sunai wrote on Twitter.
They were later released.
The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis, according to international and domestic polls that say corruption is as endemic as ever.
The government has also repeatedly delayed the general election, which was first tentatively set for 2015, with the latest date now February 2019.
Some fear the date could be pushed back again.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters gathered at Government House the protesters were welcome to send a representative to the prime minister’s office.
“The prime minister works hard ... the NCPO these four years has worked every day ... All NCPO members have worked hard,” Prawit said.
Suchada Saebae, 55, a market vendor, disagreed.
“I came since 6 a.m. this morning because I think the NCPO has done a rubbish job these past four years,” Suchada said.
Some protesters held Thai flags and others held signs with cartoons of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as Pinocchio.
Protests against military rule have taken place intermittently in Bangkok since the start of the year.
Some of them have been led by young activists. Others have been attended by former “red shirts,” or supporters of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in 2006 and fled abroad.
His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted in the 2014 coup and also fled abroad before being convicted in absentia of corruption.
Thailand has been rocked by pro- and anti-government street protests for more than a decade, some of them deadly.
The military says it carried out the 2014 coup to end the cycle of violence.