Colombo cracks down on protesters

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Updated 14 November 2013
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Colombo cracks down on protesters

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s military stopped scores of ethnic Tamil protesters from entering the capital on Wednesday before a Commonwealth summit as a British TV crew also faced problems traveling around the island.
Roman Catholic priest Emmanuel Sebamali, who organized the visit by minority Tamils to the capital, said their buses were stopped initially by police and later by troops who forced them to return.
“We have been forced to turn back,” the priest told AFP by telephone. “They’ve refused to give us a reason. They just won’t allow us to travel to Colombo.”
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), set to begin on Friday, was hit by a new pullout Tuesday as the prime minister of Mauritius joined those of India and Canada in boycotting the event.
Sri Lanka had hoped the three-day summit would showcase its post-war revival but it is turning into a PR disaster as some of the 53 Commonwealth members and rights groups focus attention on the island’s human rights record.
Sebamali said that about 200 Tamils were en route to a meeting to draw attention to the plight of thousands who lost loved ones in a decades-long separatist war which ended in 2009. The final government offensive has been dogged by war crimes allegations, with Sri Lankan troops accused of murdering surrendering rebels and shelling hospitals. Colombo denies any wrong doing.
There was no comment from police or the military on the Tamil protest, but Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the authorities prevented them from traveling to Colombo fearing a “breach of the peace.”
“There were intelligence reports that this is a politically motivated protest and these (Tamil) people came to Colombo during the summit, it would have led to a breach of the peace,” Rambukwella told reporters.


Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

Updated 2 min 6 sec ago
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Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

THE HAGUE: Dutch police on Tuesday arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of committing war crimes as a commander of the Al-Nusra Front militant group, prosecutors said.
The 47-year-old man, identified only by his nom de guerre Abu Khuder, was detained in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands, the Dutch federal prosecutor said.
“The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle as a commander or a terrorist Jabhat Al-Nusra battalion,” the prosecutor said in a statement, using another name for the Al-Nusra front.
It said he was held “on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria,” adding that he had fought in a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan).
The arrested Syrian has lived in the Netherlands since 2014 and was granted a temporary asylum permit, the statement said.
Police searched the suspect’s house and recovered documents, a computer and a smartphone, it said, adding that he was due to appear in court on Friday.
He was arrested based on information provided by German police, where six homes belonging to suspected members of the same battalion were raided, it added.
German police “provided witness testimonies against the suspect,” the Dutch prosecutor said.
The Al-Nusra Front was allied to Al-Qaeda but renounced ties to the group. Under a new name, it now dominates the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which holds administrative control of the Syrian city of Idlib.
The arrest of the Syrian comes as the Netherlands grapples with the problem of what to do with home-grown radicals who went to fight in Syria.
At least 315 people left the Netherlands since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 to join militant groups, according to Dutch media reports quoting official figures.
Around 85 have been killed in the fighting and 55 have returned.
The issue was highlighted in March when the Dutch husband of a British-born teenager who fled to join Daesh said he wanted her to live with him in the Netherlands along with their child.